Thursday, December 27, 2007

My Experience on G4tv's Attack of the Show

A few weeks back I did an interview on G4tv's Attack of the Show - Global Loop interview segment. It was an interesting experience doing live television via satellite linkup pulling together a guy in Dubai, a guy in Tokyo, and the show production in Los Angeles, California. Click below for a report on how the early morning went for me that day.

Until about one hour before the interview all my communication with the G4tv people had been via email. No voice contact whatsoever. The guy at G4tv had gotten in touch with me via the comments section of this blog.

The show segment was to take place at 4:30pm Pacific Standard Time which is exactly 12 hours behind Dubai time. So that meant I would have to be in place and ready to go with the interview by at least 4:00am Dubai time. Ugh. But I thought the experience interesting enough to try it at least one time.

A week before the show I knew the general topic of the questions they would ask me. Then the night (LA morning time) before the show they tightened up the questions and narrowed them down. They also made a tentative plan for which of us would get which questions. I also didn't know the location of the Dubai studio until a day before the interview. But I had recommended Media City so I knew the general area.

Last minute changes in the show also included the people being interviewed. Originally it was to be a woman in Argentina, a guy in China, and me. But the satellite setup in Argentina didn't work out and the Chinese government put the brakes on the interview from China. So the show ended up being just me and a guy who runs a Gaming website in Tokyo.

I got an email around 9:30pm Dubai time on some final show details and then I went to bed around 11pm. I slept lightly and woke just before the alarm (unfortunately this seems to happen in middle age :) at 3:15am. I got dressed in a blue dress shirt since I had been instructed to not wear anything green as I would be interviewed in front of a "green screen" in the Dubai studio. The green screen is what you actually sit in front of but then the computers are able to superimpose an image behind you so that I would appear in front of say, a picture of the Burj Dubai. They ended up using an Emirates tower/Shiekh Zayed Road backdrop.

I drove down an almost completely empty Zayed Road (never seen it like that!) and was pulling into Media City when my phone rang and I spoke with the Producer of the show. He just wanted to make sure I was on my way and he asked me to feel free to engage in lively discussion during the interview.

I had a little trouble finding the building but eventually parked just outside the CNBC building where I go for McDonalds sometimes. There were two tech-looking guys standing outside the doors when I walked up and they asked me if I was there for the television interview. A little surprised, I said I was and they escorted me up to the 2nd floor studios.

All the newscaster/reporters desks were empty but all the tv's were turned on and CNBC Arabia was running. We walked past the main newscasters desk with cameras in front of it and huge wrap-around screen behind where I imagined they'd be broadcasting from later that day.

They opened the door to a small back room which had several cameras in it and a blank screen behind the single chair in the middle with bright lights shining down on it. An immediate problem presented itself.

The screen was blue not green! My shirt was blue. This meant that anywhere I had blue on would appear transparent or at least translucent on screen. Argh!

The tech guys asked if I had another shirt with me. No, I didn't! Could I go home and get another? No, interview time was in 30 minutes and a fast round trip run back home would take at least 40 minutes. So they began rifling through the dressing room closets of some of the newscasters! A couple of times there was laughter as they pulled out women's clothing and held it up for my consideration and I waved it off with a snide comment and a smirk. Finally, they found a whitish men's dress shirt that came close to fitting me and I quickly put it on and moved toward the camera room.

There was only about 5-10 minutes left as I settled into the interview chair, got my ear plug speaker adjusted (so I could hear the other interview participants and the interviewer) and my microphone set in place on the front of my shirt. The camera height was adjusted as well. The only thing on a tv screen I could see was my own image in front of me and just off to the side of the camera. I realized then that I would not be seeing anything other than the camera that I could fix my eyes on and respond to... no interviewer nor the other interviewees. In addition, the camera man, after he had adjusted the camera height, told me not to look at myself in the monitor next to the camera. This would be difficult not to do as it was a bright colorful image with some movement set just next to the black, round, and "dead-looking" camera lens. I immediately asked if he could turn the monitor so that I couldn't see it and wouldn't be tempted to look at the image as I spoke. He agreed it was a good idea. :)

Then they all left the room! For some reason I had imagined more personal interaction but it wasn't to be. I was there alone in a empty small room and I was supposed to engage in "lively" discussion with people I couldn't see. Pretty weird.

There were some sound transmission problems just before the show was to go on and it took a few confusing discussions between G4 talking in my ear and the Dubai tech guys just in front of me. Eventually they got it worked out and I could hear the tv show audio in my ear in the last 5 minutes before the show. I also met the show's host over the audio feed as well.

There was one moment that has really stuck in my mind since that early morning. With just a few minutes to go before the airing, G4 did a little promo of an upcoming show they're doing on a pornography convention happening sometime soon in the U.S. It seems they regularly report on the adult media industry and they portray it in a positive light. I don't approve of the pornography industry as I think it's only destructive to those who make it and those who consume it. I had second thoughts of being on the show at that point. Since that time I've thought that I would consider doing more "Global Loop" interviews despite G4's coverage of the pornography industry. I'm still mulling this over though and it's weighed on my mind.

Finally, the were a few minutes before the segment was on and it was clear that the audio feed between Tokyo, LA, and Dubai had some significant latency or delay in transmission. Have you ever tried to have a free flowing conversation over an internet connection with a delay? Yeah, it's kind of impossible. But that's what we had and pretty soon there was one last Dubai tech guy in the doorway saying "30 seconds til broadcast..." and then he backed out the door and closed it.

The rest you can see on the embedded video that I posted a few entries earlier. The delay was difficult to deal with and I found myself a couple times talking over the show host and my other interview partner. It made for awkward conversation as I tried without success to interject comments somewhat spontaneously.

At the end the show host thanked us on air and they went to a commercial. The earplug went silent. I sat there for about 15 seconds and then said, "hello?... anybody there?" No one answered. An inauspicious ending.

The Dubai tech guys asked if it went well and I told them I had no idea since I'd not done it ever before. They shrugged and began to lock up and head out the door. I walked toward the door and drove home in the dark as it was still only 5am.

All in all, it was very interesting and I think I'd do it again if it didn't happen too often. I learned that live television is very difficult and multi-site satellite linkups are even more prone to problems. No surprise there.

Later the show producers emailed me and said they thought it went well all things considered and they'd like to try it again in the future. Let's see what happens.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Eid Al Adha and Hajj Begin

There are two Eid celebrations per year and the second, Eid Al Adha is likely to begin on Tuesday. This is the celebration of when Muslims believe Ibrahim (Abraham), at the command of God, took his son Ishmael to sacrifice him on a mountain. Christians believe the son was actually Isaac and that story is told in Genesis chapter 22.

This is also a time for many Muslims to go on the Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, which is required at least once in the lifetime of all Muslims who are physically and financially able.

I have a friend, Mohammad, who is traveling there today. I wish him well and I'm praying for him.

Here is an interesting slideshow on the Hajj. (The link goes to the multimedia page... the Hajj pics might rotate off soon so check it out soon if you want to see them.)

And below is an interesting (and short) Youtube video on the Hajj. Check it out.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

G4tv Global Loop Interview

Well, I appeared on the cable channel G4tv Global Loop interview. It was a very interesting experience and I'll blog about it in the next couple days. But here is the video of the segment. The segment is an international view on pop culture issues that Americans are interested in. Originally it was to be me from Dubai, a guy from China and a girl from Buenos Aeres. But the Argentina situation had technical difficulties and China had government approval problems (communism!). So it ended up being me in Dubai and guy from Tokyo. We had tech difficulties too as you'll see if you watch but in the end I think it came off ok. As I said, I'll blog more later.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Is Cleanliness Next to Godliness?

I recently had to buy four new tires. As I waited at the local petrol station for the new ones to be put on the car I noticed a sign I'd never seen before in that garage. "Cleanliness is Next to Godliness". Now I've heard that saying before but never seen it posted in a auto garage!

I understand the desire to have the workers keep their work environment clean. It would promote safety in the work place and an image of excellence. But IS cleanliness next to godliness? Does the cleaning of your body or your environment enable you to better draw near to God and be like him?

A few things come to mind.

Jesus said stuff like this on the subject.

Mark 7:14-23 Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “All of you listen,” he said, “and try to understand. It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart.”

Then Jesus went into a house to get away from the crowd, and his disciples asked him what he meant by the parable he had just used. “Don’t you understand either?” he asked. “Can’t you see that the food you put into your body cannot defile you? Food doesn’t go into your heart, but only passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer.” (By saying this, he declared that every kind of food is acceptable in God’s eyes.)

And then he added, “It is what comes from inside that defiles you. For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.”

In Islam, one place and time where physical purity is necessary is during prayer. Muslims must physically cleanse themselves for their prayers to be heard by God and therefore effective. The cleansing procedure is called Wudu. says, "Muslims must have perfect ritual prayers to pray the Salah (ritual prayers). Here is an excerpt from their posting on the subject.

Physical purity means cleanliness of the body, clothing and environment. According to the rules of Islam, Muslims should keep their bodies and clothing clean from any impurities, especially the body wastes of humans and animals.

Islam insists on the use of clean water to cleanse the body of impurities, and only when water is not available can a person use other things. Even the clothing should be perfectly clean from any impurities. For that reason, Muslim bathrooms have a source of running water or pitchers of water next to the toilet.

Similarly, any animal discharges — including the saliva of dogs — are unclean and Muslims should make sure their clothing, environment, and bodies are free of those impurities.

Muslims must have perfect physical purity to pray the Salah (ritual Prayers).

You are in this state of ritual purity of wudu’ until you urinate or defecate, pass wind, sleep, or become unconscious. If you do any of these things before or during the Salah, you must repeat the wudu’.

The history of the phrase itself seems to indicate that it came from ancient Hebrew writings of the 2nd century A.D. In English it appears to have derived from Sir Francis Bacon and then later John Wesley, the famous Christian evangelist, mentions it in a sermon in 1791.

As a follower of Jesus, I tend to think that cleanliness doesn't have much to do with godliness at all. I can see where an understanding that one's body is a creation and gift from God should lead one to take care of your body. And there are some references to working hard with your hands (as opposed to being idle) in the New Testament. But cleanliness is hardly a "doorway" to godliness.

What do you think?

International Interview on G4tv

This is the home page of the cable channel G4tv. I'll be interviewed live on one of their best rated shows Tuesday at 4:30pm PST. The show is called Attack of the Show and the segment is called "Global Loop". There will be someone from China, Argentina, and (me!) from Dubai. We'll be commenting on everything from inflight internet service, the shortage of the Nintendo Wii gaming system, to world opinion and popularity of American movies. It should be fun. I've included an embedded link of the last "Global Loop" episode so you can see what it's like. If you're not able to catch the show on air I'll try to post the segment here later.

Just for Fun... Dubai Ultimate Frisbee Tournament

Ouch. I'm still sore from the Dubai Ultimate Frisbee Tournament. This was the second annual and it took place at the American School of Dubai to raise money for a school in north India. Last year my team came in 1st. This year we settled for 3rd. :( But fun was had by all and we're already looking forward to next year's tournament. (Boy, am I a "white" boy or what?!)

Monday, December 03, 2007

National Geographic's Commercial Motives Are Revealed by New Translation of the Gospel of Judas

Remember that big controversial Gospel of Judas that National Geographic Society released during the Easter Season last spring? The one that supposedly depicted Judas as a hero that Jesus had told to betray him?

Seems that initially the NGS had not released the manuscript for other scholars to translate. They eventually did, under pressure, and now it has come to light that their translation was very very poor. In fact, the meaning of the text is nothing close to what they proposed in their magazine issue. Another scholar has translated the original texts, published the results in the New York Times (and other places), and come up with something much different and ... less controversial of course. A text that would not sell nearly as many magazines certainly.

The text is still said to be Gnostic but portrays Judas as a demon rather than a hero.

Ah but no one will care about it now. The damage is done. The public has moved on to other things and the impressions are left lingering in their minds.

And the reputation of the NGS is further tarnished. This is surely a magazine you only want to buy for the great pictures. :)