Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Houston & the Arts Marketing Conference

Although it's been eons since I posted, I find myself with free time as I sit in the hotel lobby at Hilton Americas-Houston waiting for my Super Shuttle to pick me up and take me to the airport. You see, dear reader, I have been in Houston for the past five days absorbing arts marketing tactics. I was fortunate enough to attend this conference and, truth be told, it has been amazing!

Americans for the Arts hosts the annual National Arts Marketing Project: in short, it's a conference for arts professionals to come and share their proven techniques in marketing, fundraising, development, audience segmentation, Web 2.0 practices, branding, community outreach, pricing, and so on. Leaders from across the country get together to bounce ideas off each other and teach emerging leaders what works and what doesn't. Organizations represented this year include (this is only a list from memory...there are hundreds) Steppenwolf, Arena Stage, Alley Theatre, George Street Playhouse, Wilma, Yale Rep; various (and hugely sought after) consultants provided plenary discussions included Alan Brown, Patricia Martin, Ed Keller; amazing vendors of innovative software consisted of Tessitura, TheatreMania, Patron Mail, Ovation and, my absolute new favorite (and hopefully future software provider) Easy-Ware Systems. My brain has been working overtime and I couldn't be happier.

Last year's conference was in Miami, Florida. It was my first experience with the NAMP conference and, upon returning back to the theatre, I was ENERGIZED and raring to apply what I learned immediately. Now, it's common, I'm told, for one to want to make everything happen instantaneously: it's not possible. There is just TOO MUCH great information to absorb and far too much work involved in applying what has been learned and to do so effectively in a short amount of time. Although I did deploy various techniques immediately, I had to wear blinders so as not to be disappointed that everything couldn't happen at once. It was advised and I'm glad I took baby steps: I would likely have felt defeated if something I couldn't pay proper attention to failed. Well, rest assured, I was not defeated.

I'm anxious to return home to combine my notes from last year with the copious notes I took over the past few days. I'm curious to see what, if any, duplications there are for, you see, I think I added to my arsenal: not only will my organization benefit from everything I learned from last year's conference...I will be even more prepared and "dangerous" with what I took away from this year's. If I sound excited it's because I truly, truly am.

OK. Enough. Let me briefly tell you a little about Houston: It is a wonderfully comfortable and artistic BIG city. I'd never been to Texas before so, when I arrived, I expected to see a lot of big hair, cowboy boots, stetson hats, and hear a deep southern drawl. That's not the case here in Houston. It is an arts mecca with a much more cosmopolitan, artistic feel than I expected. Although I've been in Houston for five days, I've met more non-Texas-born people living here than not. It reminds me of New York or Los Angeles: many of those shaping and growing the community are not actually FROM the community. Yes, they live here now but many of them came from elsewhere. It is reasonable to think that this city is a hub for the creative class. I mean, it is the fourth largest city in the United States. I just didn't expect it.

While here I saw a performance of "Always...Patsy Cline" at Stages Repertory Theatre (it was WONDERFUL) and a performance of "Secret Order" at Alley Theatre (WOW!). The NAMP conference also held their opening reception at the Museum of Fine Art where attendees were treated to lots of Tex-Mex food, wine, a tour of the museum and the musical and dance talents of amazing local artists. Across the street from the hotel (and RIGHT in the middle of the city; surrounded by the convention center, the Minute Maid baseball stadium, the Toyota Center, and many other major attractions I can't presently name) is a PUBLIC PARK designed in part by local artists. It can be compared to a small version of Central Park but with more art installations. Local people were spending time at this park every single day. Let me say that again, EVERY SINGLE DAY. The city turned (what looks like) a whole city block into a commune. A place in the heart of the fourth largest city in the US where, surrounded by art and beautiful gardens, families walk, talk, picnic, play and SPEND the city. My 16th floor room overlooked this "Discovery Park" and I have to say I people watched from my window more than I watched television. It made me very happy.

I am very, very happy to be returning home. To my family; to the cold; to my home; and to return to work. To have a job I increasingly love, and be anxious to utilize what I learned over an intense five day conference is mind-blowing to many reading this post, I know! Nothing pleases me more however than to think that, in whatever small way it might be, I may eventually contribute to the overall betterment of my arts organization and, in turn, hopefully increase awareness of the Arts in Buffalo. I'm aware that it is a lofty goal but one that, because of my passion and what I learned at this NAMP conference, one that I hope is inevitable.

Yee haw, Buffalo, I'm comin' home!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

GEICO is my new bestfriend.

I just saved $929.56/year by switching to GEICO!

I am SO happy!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Carny Jargon.

Jamie and I are going to the Erie County Fair tonight so I thought I'd share with you some of the "carny jargon" I learned.

It's from my How to Be a Proper Carny Rulebook back in the days when I toured with the carnies.

  • Agent - Operator of a joint.
  • Alibi - A technique used where the player has apparently won the game, but is denied a prize when the jointee invents a further, unforeseeable, condition of the game. For example, a player may be disqualified on the grounds of having leaned over a previously undisclosed "foul line."
  • Bally - A free performance intended to attract both tips and visitors to the nearby sideshow.
  • Blow - Cocaine
  • Blow Off - Rush of customers out of an exhibition.
  • Bone yard - Place at which employees stay when not working. (called the bone yard because employees work hard all day long until they're nothing but bones)
  • Burn the lot - To cheat players with little or no attempt to conceal the subterfuge, in the carny's expectation that the same town will not be visited again.
  • Butcher - A carnie that will take every penny from a mark by confusing them and then forcing them to pay
  • Call - The act of yelling out slogans and interacting with passers-by to attract business.
  • Circus "jump" - Term used to describe the need to tear down, drive, set up and work in another town, the very next day.
  • Donniker - Bathroom
  • Flat - A game that is rigged so that you cannot win. Illegal in most states.
  • Flash - To make your joint look ready for business. To make it look "flashy"
  • Forty Miler - A greenie who is willing to travel, but only short distances from their home base. Also used to describe anyone or anything that is perceived to be fake or phony.
  • Gaff - To rig a game so as to make it unwinnable
  • Green Help - Employees hired at a new location that are only temporary (a.k.a. greenies)
  • Hammer-Squash - Used to describe an individual as dumb or stupid (used interchangeably with Larry when used to describe a person).
  • Hey, Rube! - An exclamation used to summon help by a carny in trouble, either from police or disgruntled players. The term was used as the title of a sports column written by Hunter Thompson for in his later years.
  • Ikey Heyman - A wheel of fortune that can be secretly braked by the carny
  • -iz or -erza - Inserted between the syllables of words to serve as a cipher or cryptolect.
  • Key To The Midway - An object a carnival worker will ask a younger customer (or new initiate) for when asked for a free game or prize. The idea is that the 'mooch' will go onto the next game and ask for a "Key To The Midway", only to find out that this new carny has one, but can only give it up for some other far fetched item. Examples of such items include: A cordless extension cord, a solar-powered flash light, an underwater lighter, tack glue, a left handed screwdriver, light bulb grease, purple fuzzy tape, glass hammer etc. The idea is to have fun at the customer's naivety. It's said that the Ferris wheel has been known to be called the key to the midway, as no proper midway should be without one. Others call the Jenny the key, as it's traditionally the first thing encountered when entering the midway. The Ferris wheel is sometimes called the "calling card", a title which can be applied to any high ride which is visible from long distances.
  • The Kitty - Budgeted amount of finance, regulated by the management of a carnival for purchasing food and supplies for its workers. ("We wanted a new tent, but there's no more scratch in the kitty.")
  • Larry - Defective
  • Loc(ation) - Location of a joint or ride as determined by the carnival manager. Usually laid out before set-up.
  • Lot - The Lot is the carnival midway area where the rides & "joints" are set up
  • Lot Lizard - Describes a carny (usually female) who has multiple sexual partners (also carnys) Or one who tends to "sleep-around" or cheat with other carnies on the lot.
  • Mark - A target for swindling, especially one whose gullibility has been demonstrated. Derived from the covert use of chalk to mark the backs of especially ripe targets. The term has entered the popular lexicon, usually as "easy mark."
  • Midway - Center strip of the carnival where the games or rides are located.
  • Money
    - ace ($1)
    - fin ($5)
    - sawbuck/saw ($10)
    - double ($20)
    - half-yard ($50)
    - yard or c-note ($100)
    - large or K ($1000)
  • Mooch - An individual who asks for a free game or prize. It is also used to describe someone who watches others play, but does not play themselves or asks a lot of questions with no intention of playing the game. Sometimes used as an insult between carnies to connote cheapness.
  • New - An insult used by carnies, against carnies (newbie). Used in instances where a carnival worker should know better, with the insulter asking "What are you, new?"
  • The Nut - The sum total (in cash) of a performance, or group of performances. The nut (or kernel) is also sometimes used to refer to the basic operating expense of the joint (including the "patch"). To "make your nut" is to break even, anything beyond that is your profit (or tip).
  • Oats - Stolen money from a concession.
  • Patch money - Money used to induce police officers to turn a blind eye. Also known as juice or ice.
  • Plush - Stuffed animals to be given away as prizes
  • Poke - The Mark's wallet is known as their Poke. When a carnie tries to see how much is in a marks wallet they "Peek their poke"
  • Possum belly (sometimes possum gut) compartment under a truck or trailer
  • Possum belly queen or PBQ - A girl who would have sex in a possum belly.
  • Ride jock (or jockey) - Someone who operates the carnival rides (vs. jointee).
  • Rousty or Roustabout - A temporary or full-time laborer who helps pitch concessions and assemble rides. In the 1930s, American roustabouts would work for a meal and perhaps a tent to share with other workers.
  • Scratch - The revenue from a concession, or money in general.
  • Score - Any scratch won by any means, fair or foul.
  • Sharpie - The opposite of a mark: an experienced player who is wise to traditional carny scams and is skilled at the games themselves.
  • Slough - Tear down your "joint". Get it ready for the road.
  • Slum - Stuff that makes you want to kill the person selling it to you. small cheap "stock"
  • Speak the language - Used as a test to see if someone is really "with it". Many carnies "qualify" outsiders by using the jargon. A string of jargon or carny-talk is spoken to determine if the other person understands. A person who fails the test is said to "not speak the language" indicating "newness". A newbie who is good or looks promising might be said to not speak the language YET, which is more complimentary.
  • Spinning / flying Jenny or Jinny - Carnie slang for merry-go-round.
  • Spring - Open the carnival.
  • Stick Joint - Homemade wooden or metal booth.
  • Stock- Game prizes
  • Straight - A game that is played by the rules
  • Sugar Shack - A concession or food-stand that doubles as a front for drug commerce & trafficking.
  • Store - Can mean any joint, but is usually used to refer to a "straight store" where there's a winner every time. The store is basically selling stock, usually slum, for a handsome profit.
  • Tip - Tip generally has two meanings, depending on who you're talking to and where. Old-timers usually mean the crowd that gathers around a caller or mike-man to hear the spiel before the start of the next show, or the crowd that hangs around a joint, watching others play. A more general meaning is any scratch the agent wins from his game as in "I just won a real nice tip from that last mark".
  • Two-Way Joint - A game that can be quickly converted from a fixed, unwinnable game into a temporarily honest one when police officers come by.
  • With it - A carny, to identify one another, as in "I'm with it", or "Are you with it"? (With the show).

My Possum Belly Queen and I are anxious to visit some stick joints and throw a few fins at a number of sugar shacks. If the butchers from the bone yard blow off too many marks or, on that charge, do too much blow, we’ll be happy to suffer some alibis and not win any plush. I hope not to see any mooches asking for the key to the midway because all that does is waste time. Although that normally doesn’t happen with the Greenies, I’m certain that the Lot Lizards will gaff a few straight games for the sake of their Larry Locs.

OK…we’re off to see the carneys.

Monday, August 04, 2008

One Month/Ten Pounds

I have officially been smoke free for 28 days (read: one month). Although I consider it a huge accomplishment, I'm sorta over the whole "I'm proud of myself" thing. Honest. I mean, yes, I did it - but there is only so much back-patting I'm gonna do. I have a bigger problem than smoking now! I'm gaining weight!!!

Ugh. I'm probably eating more. OK, I'm definitely eating more. And doing less. At least I had to walk outside to smoke! Now I just sit on the couch and watch Food Network. Or I lay in bed reading my teenage vampire romance novels.

I am 5'8" and 170lbs. I just looked online and found that the ideal weight for someone my height, age, and gender is 124-164 with an average weight of 161. My BMI is 25.8. The ideal BMI is 19-25.

So, I'm not obese but I definitely need to lose weight and tone up my belly. (Say "belly" like Fat Bastard in Austin Powers..."get in my belleee!") Hmph.

Please share some weight loss tips with me. How can I regain my svelte self (or at least my svelte self image)? I've never had abs and I really don't care about getting abs, so maybe svelte is the wrong word. I just want to get rid of my "belleee".

Friday, August 01, 2008

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Me and Katie.

Isn't she a cutie?? She's pregnant. (Not in this! She's pregnant now!!!!)

I'm Voting Republican

RE: Facebook

I'm slowly but surely becoming obsessed with Facebook.

I never thought that I would be involved with MySpace-type applications but this online "community" is fascinating! I'm able to connect with people I haven't (and likely wouldn't have) seen in a long time. Friends from Milan, Paris,'s wonderful!

That is all.