Entering the “Live Off Groupon” Contest

Groupon.com is running this crazy contest to find someone who is willing to live off of nothing but their coupon/gift certificates for a year. I thought it sounded really cool and decided to enter, which involved making two YouTube videos, writing an essay and a blog post, and of course being “eccentric” enough to actually want to do it. I’m putting the blog post (about the Brattle Theatre in Harvard Square) up here, along with the two videos. Those of you who know me can judge my eccentricity:

Blog Post: Bogart at the Gym

Fifteen movies in Harvard Square for $2 each! Why did I hesitate on that Groupon?

The Brattle Theatre‘s offer of a year-long membership for just $35 was so popular that they called Groupon after just a few hours to plead “Please shut it off!” Even still, 1250 people got tickets to 15 films, discounted popcorn, and the satisfaction of supporting a 120-year-old cultural center. They would have kept it going, but they’d increased their membership rolls by 25% in less than a day, and they didn’t want to be buried under a mountain of paperwork for months to come.

Of course, I saw this Groupon just minutes before it sold out. Before I clicked “Buy,” I paused to tell a few friends — when I went back, it was gone. Luckily, I didn’t let my disappointment stop me from dropping in on the Brattle’s Creative Director this week. Ned Hinkle has been at the Brattle Theatre for over a decade (he actually built their first website by hand), and he graciously invited me to climb up into the balcony with him for a chat.

The theater started out as Brattle Hall back in 1890, and it’s been in pretty much continuous operation ever since. It started out as a social club and live theater, and had stints as a ballet school and even a police gymnasium along the way. It was retrofitted for movies in 1953, and has spent the almost six decades since then showing art films, classics, and cult favorites. It’s also started a couple of cult traditions, including one that lures Harvard students away from studying for finals to watch Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca or The Maltese Falcon — a tradition that Hinkle said made Bogart the classic icon he is today.

Brattle Hall also houses a great cafe and restaurant, making it a one-stop night on the town, right in the heart of Harvard Square. Even if you missed out on the Groupon, the Brattle is a great place to experience films you’ll never get to see on the big screen — whether they’re classics or current contenders for festival honors.

Brattle Theatre
40 Brattle Street
Cambridge, MA 02138

Video: Interview at the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, MA


Video: “Live Off Groupon” Contest Introduction Video


Testing the Canon 7D with Sennheiser MKE400 Shotgun Mic

Last month, I attended the first MegaTweetup at the N.E.R.D. Center in Cambridge, MA. At the event, I decided to “torture test” my new Sennheiser MKE 400 Shotgun Microphone ($200) in a loud environment. The microphone was mounted in the hot shoe of my Canon 7D, plugged into the built-in input. Here are the results:


This first video is of Joselin Mane, the organizer of the MegaTweetup.  This recording was made in a large, hard-walled room near the end of the event, with probably 30 people talking around us. I was standing about 3 feet from the subject, putting the camera and microphone about 2 feet away. The background sound level was similar to what you’d have in a shopping mall common area on a normal weekday evening.


This video is of Rebecca Corliss, whose a capella group performed at the MegaTweetup.  This recording was made in a large, hard-walled room near the end of the event, with probably 30 people talking around us. I was standing about 3 feet from the subject, putting the camera and microphone about 2 feet away. This time, the background was extremely noisy, similar to a crowed bar with no music playing. It was a situation where you had to speak very loudly to be heard over the crowd.

Overall, I think the microphone performed quite well. I’ll be keeping it, and using it with my 7D quite often.

Robo-Call Reminding Me to Vote TOMORROW

IMG_0319I received a voicemail at 2:23 PM today (November 3, 2009 — election day) encouraging me to vote for Tom Menino for mayor of Boston. Not unusual on election day, right?

Right, except that it asked me to vote tomorrow, not today.

I don’t know if this is a case of computer/operator error or a legitimate case of electoral fraud through misinformation, but I was asked to record and share it by a number of people on Twitter, so here it is.

Because it was left today, I could not figure out how to get the voicemail system to say the actual date it was left. If I wait, I can get a properly timestamped version, but that will take a few days. In the meantime, I’ve included a screenshot of my iPhone voicemail screen taken at 2:41 today. I don’t think iPhone screenshots have EXIF data, but it’s the best I can do.

Did anyone else receive one of these calls?

For the record, I didn’t campaign for or support either mayoral candidate this year, so this isn’t an attack on anyone. I just found it curious and thought it was worth sharing.

Click the play button below to play the message.

Society for Scholarly Publishing: Keynote Reaction Video

I spent last week in Baltimore at the Society for Scholarly Publishing‘s Annual Meeting. The keynote speaker was Adam Bly, Founder, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of Seed Media Group. I thought his speech was excellent, and other attendees thought so as well.

Here’s a video I made of a few reactions from the audience: