Monday, February 23, 2015

Calling All (Recent) Expats

So there I was, having a Skype chat with a television producer in New York City and he asks me to do him a favor, so I say, “Joey, baby, anything for you!” and he says, “Don’t call me ‘Baby’ and get your feet off your desk; who do you think you are, Cecil B. DeMille?”

No, this really happened, except for the part about me calling him ‘Baby’ and that Cecil B. DeMille thing.

Here's how it went down.

About a week ago an intern from a film company e-mailed asking if I’d like to be on a popular US travel-type show and provided the name and e-mail of the person to contact if I was interested.

Now, my personal code is this: anyone – that’s anyone – who contacts me that I do not personally know, or who I have not asked to contact me, is, de facto, a swindler, criminal, distant relation looking for handouts or some other person of low cunning whose sole aim is to part me from my money.

It’s great code to live by and I encourage you to adopt a similar one. I find is saves a lot of time and it occasionally allows you to do fun things like hang up on BT or refuse to pick up your father-in-law from the hospital because the discharge nurse can't pronounce the name of the hospital clearly enough to convince you she isn't calling form a boiler-room in Bucharest.

The BT call was classic:
ME: “Hello?”
BT GUY: “Hi there, Mr. Harling. This is BT and we’re calling to ask how you’re enjoying your WiFi.”
“Why on earth would you do that?”
“Well, … we just want to know. You do have WiFi, don’t you?”
“You’re BT?”
“Then you should know if I have WiFi or not.”
BT GUY: (Forced chuckle) “Ha ha, just answer the question.”
ME: (Click)

But as my mouse hovered over the delete button, I noticed several strange things about this e-mail. First of all, it had no words in ALL CAPS and the words that were there appeared to be spelled correctly and were strung together in a way that made me believe the author was not running the text through an on-line translator.

Also, I was not promised billions of dollars or asked for my banks details and the e-mail was sent directly to me, not a mailing list and the sender appeared to know at least a little bit about me. So I Googled the movie company, and the show, and the producer and there they all were, in the IMDB.

Even so, I still felt a twitch of trepidation when I sent back a short reply asking for more information.

A few days later, the producer himself e-mailed me and said, “Let’s skype.”

So we did.

Long story short, I was not what they were looking for. What they want are fresh expats, people who have made the jump less than a year ago, which makes perfect sense; they need to find these folk while the experience is still new and exciting and while they are still filled with the awe and wonder of their new surroundings. You know, like I was when I wrote my first book.

If you stuck a camera in my face these days, I’d probably just complain about the taxes or the chavs with their skateboards chipping up the paving stones.

And so that opportunity slipped away from me (for which my wife, I suspect, is eternally grateful) but as our call drew to a close, he asked if I would mention this on my blog and I told him I would, so here it is:

Hello! My name is Joe Pinzone and I work on a very popular international travel series that documents adventurous individuals’, couples’ and families’ experiences as they make the decision to move abroad. This series is a great opportunity to tell your story and share more about what you like/dislike about your new home. If you think that you or someone you know could be a fit for the show, or if you’d like to get more information, please contact me at JoePinzone ( at ) LeopardUSA ( dot ) com. Thanks!

And that’s the story of how a New York City television producer asked me to do him a favor. Perhaps you, or someone you know, will be a better fit than I was. 

If you do make it to the Skype-call stage, though, let me give you a word of advice: don’t call him “Joey Baby,” he hates that.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Lion, the Witch and the WTF

I just finished reading The Chronicles of Narnia.

This is not, as many might assume, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which is the story most people envisage when they think of The Chronicles of Narnia because that is the only story many of them have read, or even heard of.

In fact, The Chronicles are a series of seven books, but the titles of books 2 thru 7 tend to elude people, like lines 2 thru 7 of God Save the Queen:

God save our gracious queen
Dum dum dum dum the queen
God save the queen
Da dum victorious
Dum dum dum -orious
Something else rhyming with -orious
God save the queen

Anyway, the full line up is:
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Prince Caspian
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
The Silver Chair
The Horse and His Boy
The Magician’s Nephew
The Last Battle

If you are planning to read the entire series, I urge you to look away now, as I am about to give the whole thing up.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock somewhere, you know that The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is about four children – Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy – who venture into a wardrobe and end up in the Land of Narnia. It is a magical, exciting and relatively complex tale that all but beats you over the head with Christian symbolism.

The series, however, flags somewhat after that. The books that follow are an unrelated series of straight-up adventures featuring children other than the original four—or no earthly children at all—and none of them IMHO is as compelling as the first.

But then the narrative picks up. The Horse and His Boy, although another unrelated adventure, is at least more appealing than the others, and The Magician’s Nephew is magical. It takes place before the original book and tells the story of how the link between this world and Narnia came about. It features the actual creation of Narnia, solves the riddle of the famous lamp post, reveals the origins of the White Witch, features the triumph of good over evil, rewards steadfastness and bravery and even explains why the wardrobe in the original book was a conduit to Narnia.

In short, it would have made a delightful ending to the series, leaving one with a sense of completeness and a warm feeling about life and the universe.

Then comes the final book.

In this book, a false Alsan has enslaved the people of Narnia, and the brave young King Tirian—with his small band of loyal followers—seeks to put things right. In his most desperate hour, Tirian calls upon the great kings and queens of the past—the children from this world—to come and save the kingdom.

The children, some now grown, are all together for a reunion, a sort of support group for erstwhile Narnians, and they hear the call. The seven of them (there were eight but Susan, from the original book, grew up into a right goer – as Mr. Lewis quaintly puts it, she discovered high heels, lipstick and invitations – so she wasn’t invited to the reunion) are then transported to Narnia by means of – wait for it – a railway disaster that kills them all (including, just for chuckles, the parents of Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy).

What’s more, only the youngest two—Eustace and Jill—are actually allowed to help because the others have grown too old and are left in a sort of lobby/waiting area.

Eustace, Jill, Tirian and their small but brave band, stand up to the enemy army and are, one by one, picked off and/or thrown into a stable where a demon waits to devour them.

Meanwhile, all of the inhabitants of Narnia are put to the sword. The magic trees are mowed down, the cities destroyed, the land laid waste and Narnia itself ceases to exist.

What the genuine f**k? I thought this was a children’s book!

In the aftermath, all the children, and ex-children, along with Tirian and his band of loyal followers, meet up in the lobby/waiting room where the real Alsan appears to them and explains that, oh, by the by, you’re all dead.

Gee whiz, Mr. Lewis, I know you have an agenda but, really, couldn’t you have left a glimmer of hope at the end of this tale?

So, next time you see a re-run, or a new adaptation, of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, keep in mind—as you watch brave Peter, courageous Susan, plucky little Lucy and the reformed Edmund fight valiantly to save the Land of Narnia—that it is all for naught, and that, in a few year’s time, all of them will end up as a bloody, tangled heap under a splintered railway carriage outside of Bristol.

All except for Susan, of course; who choose to play the tart. More fool, her.