My Brush With Reality TV

It’s been several years now. I was still active as an actual shelldigger when all of this transpired, but with my back problems I knew I didn’t have a lot of time left. But anyway…

One day out of the blue a, guy, a fellow diver, who I have known for many years and have nothing but the greatest respect for, dropped by. He informed me that he had been contacted by representatives from the Discovery Channel, they were looking at possibly creating a new reality show about guys in our line of work. That line of work for interested parties is/was (for me) the gathering of freshwater mussels from the Tn. River on Ky. Lake. Kind of confusing, but that’s what it’s called. There is the ancient river channel meandering through the river valley, but they dammed up and flooded this area back in the 40’s creating the enormous Ky. Lake. So we have a great deal of lake area that averages during summer pool anywhere from 5-6 feet on shallow bars, to 15-20 feet in the mudflats between bars, and the old river channel which averages between 45-70 feet in places. The flooded valley can range anywhere from 1/3 of a mile wide to nearly 5.5 miles across (at its widest point) and stretches nearly 75 miles long. Of which 51 miles was accessible to harvesting shell. I have also worked the Cumberland river in Tn., the Mississippi river between Ia. and Ill., as well as the Guadalupe river in Texas. Also a brief stint in E. Tn. where the Tn river begins its life as river.

River diving here is called Blackwater Diving as visibility is exactly that once you get beyond 20-25 feet down. Black as coal, you cannot see your hand in front of your face, darkest dark I have ever experienced. But it is what it is, we do what we do, and we get it done. Back in the early 90’s I had been diving for many years prior, someone came up with the bright idea to mount a sealed halogen 12 v bulb to a helmet and thus blackwater dives became “hey I can actually see” dives. Though visibilty still varied greatly due to silt, current, and an abundance of both during long rainy sessions. Many times you had no visibility at all even with a light, but I digress.

The shell we harvest is of the finest mother of pearl quality in the world. Highly desired for the cultured pearl business. The buyers bought shell from the divers, processed the shell by cooking them, disposing of the meat, and shipping the processed shell to mostly Japan, China and South Sea areas. Once the shell arrive there, the shell are cut into squares through the thickest area. These squares were then rounded into perfect circles. These circular pieces of mother of pearl then become implants into live oysters, which then are then returned to water which enables the oyster to grow its beautiful luster around the implant. A cultured pearl.

Well my buddy informed me that the Discovery reps wanted him to interview a few guys and I got one of the nominations. My friend setup a small video camera and we discussed the job for a while, and that was that for some time.

A few months later I got a call from my friend and the Discovery reps were in town, they wanted to meet. So we met at a motel in town, I was introduced, we talked a while, then these 2 guys (a rep and a camera guy) wanted to ride a round a bit and get the lay of the land, so to speak. So we all loaded up in my truck (crew cab with room for all of us) and headed off towards the closest river access. Well next thing you know the camera guy wants to get some footage so we crossed the river on hwy 70 bridge and he got footage both ways. They told us they were preparing a “sizzle reel” which is basically a compilation of camera footage and descriptions to help sell the idea for a new show to the higher ups at Discovery. We rode around for a while and talked, and filmed, and it soon got dark and the Discovery guys took us out to eat at the Mexican joint in town.

Well again that was that for a while, life went on, and I almost forgot about it. Then I heard from my friend that they had decided to shoot a pilot episode. A pilot is a test run to determine potential popularity for a TV show before they commit to a full series run.

As it turned out I did not get the call to participate in the pilot. They did have me show up one day for some helicopter flyby’s I suppose to build an opening scene. That was the limit of my participation. Though there was a lot of talk about if the show took off they would definately be introducing more guys in the series, which I’d be part of. As it turned out I’m grateful it didn’t work out.

See my buddy was in the pilot, and I had a front row seat to what was going on. I thought the entire time they would be making a show out of our daily adventures highlighting the dangers, the near death experiences, the breakdowns, the storms, the sinking boats, the wind and current, the actual real life struggle of guys committed to supporting their families working through all sorts of brutal conditions that would send many men heading for the river bank crying for their mommies. But that wasn’t the case. They had no intention of REALITY.

Instead they had storylines intended to highlight manufactured drama. My friend was supposed to be the experienced guy who had taken on a little sweetie cutesy gal, to “show her the ropes.” Another guy I know and like had the role of the hard working dad and his good for nothing son. Creating drama between them. So…yeah. I’m glad I didn’t get involved.

We kept hearing that Discovery Channel would air the pilot, but it was always getting put off. And I heard again at some point it did air, but I missed it. I got a copy from the friend I mentioned in the beginning and throughout this tale. Let me tell you it was terrible. Absolutely atrocious. The biggest problem was there was no reality at all to any of it. The second biggest problem was my friends were terrible liars. Had they been better liars this might have made it as a TV show. As it is, I’m glad it did not turn out.

My good friend told me that the entire thing was a fiasco. He had issues with his wife because of the cutesy gal in his boat, team Discovery was always having him show up for shooting and there would be hours worth of delays of them getting there to shoot. Which means my buddy lost a LOT of time he could have been actually working and making money. Instead he lost a great deal of income sitting idle waiting for the cameras to show up. I am glad I missed out on all of that crap.

I have never been much of a fan of reality TV. Too much nonsense to suit me. I admit for a while I watched Deadliest Catch and very little of Swamp People. But now knowing what I know, and how it actually works, I despise so called “Reality TV.” It is an oxymoron of the highest order and worthy only of contempt. Unless you are just really into the manufactured drama thing. If that be the case then more power to you. I guess…   🙂







Check This Out

There is a guy who blogs about pseudoscientific nonsense here at WP that I followed long ago. He consistently puts out great stuff and I love most of his postings. Just thought I’d give Mr. Emil Karlsson @ Debunking Denialism a shout out, and recommend his blog. It is well worth hitting the follow button when you get there.

This post made me do it 🙂 Though probably should have recommended him sooner…

The Brady Factor

Now I know not everyone is into American football. We all have our druthers. But even if you cannot stand the game, Super Bowl Some Chinese Guy (Li) may have been the best performance I have ever seen from a team that was pretty much statistically out of it, that made an incredible comeback for the ages. I urge anyone who had better things to do, to watch the replay bound to air soon. Or stream it.

I have been under the weather with some sort of bug, by the time halftime rolled around I was nauseous, stomach rumbling, and a case of the trots. I was lying in bed ill, but still listening to the game. I could care less how spectacular Lady Gaga must have been. Hell at that point I could care less about the game. Brady and the Pats were down 21-3 and looked completely ineffective against a great Atlanta defense. If I wasn’t already sick to my stomach literally, Id have been sick to my stomach figuratively. This wasn’t a game, it was a blowout. Not what a true fan of the game wants to see no matter who is playing.

Not trusting my body I had one of the boys pick up the wife from work. They rolled in right around the time Brady and co. scored a touchdown in the 3rd quarter. The point after bounced off the right upright and we had a score of 28-9. Nobody comes back from 28-9 deficit in the 3rd quarter. This game was over, done, stick a fork in it. Atlanta had its first Super Bowl victory.

But then it happened. The Patriots defense bucked up, and began making plays against a seemingly unstoppable Atlanta offense. Brady started making great throws, his receivers making great catches. They were all of a sudden moving the ball and scoring TD’s. Still it had to be too little too late. They had an insurmountable hill to climb. They needed at least 2 Td’s AND two 2 point conversions, AND a field goal to even tie the game. Absolutely unheard of. That just doesn’t happen.

Atlanta made an impressive drive late, that if it resulted in a field goal, (3 points) would have likely iced it. But a series of mishaps, a sack, a penalty, they were driven back beyond field goal range. They had to give up the ball to the Pats.

By now I was feeling a bit better and managed to park my ass on the couch in front of the TV…

And then the Pats made a drive that resulted in a field goal. Not good. The score 28-12. Which means that the unheard of neccessity of making 2 touchdowns and two 2 point conversions to tie (16 points), was an unlikely pipe dream even for the most die hard Patriot fans. But the Pats made a drive that resulted in a touchdown and a successful two point conversion with nine minutes left.

Surely the Falcons would drive and score, or at least run some time off the clock to guarantee a win? Nope, they were stopped by a resurging Patriot defense. The Patriots got the ball  and had one last ditch chance to score. They needed the touchdown and the 2 point conversion to force the game into an overtime situation. They proceeded to drive the ball and with 57 seconds left in the 4th quarter scored the touchdown. With the success rate of 2 point conversions in the NFL around 50% I figured the luck of the Pats would run out right here. But damn if they didn’t beat the odds.

Tie game. Atlanta had less than a minute on the clock and could not score. Game tied in regulation.

A coin toss decides who gets the ball in overtime. Surely the luck of the Patriots had run out by now? Not to be, they win the toss and get the ball to start overtime. In overtime the game ends with the score of a touchdown, and the opposing team gets a chance to score if the other team gets a field goal. So a field goal no longer wins as sudden death. It takes the TD.

In an already incredible comeback game, did the Patriots have enough to get the job done? Yes, yes they did. They made an impressive drive and scored the sudden death touchdown in three minutes and fifty eight seconds. Marking what I have to believe the most impressive Super Bowl win I have ever seen. Likely in the history of the game itself.

Football fan or no, this was a moment in history. Cementing the superstar status of Tom Brady and the Patriots. I have to hand it the Falcons, they looked unstoppable on offense and very stingy on defense for the first two and a half quarters of this game. They are a great team worthy of a Super Bowl win, but destiny had other things in mind.

The Brady Factor is for real.

EDIT: So much for statistics!



Swearing And Honesty

I just saw a bit at Science Daily, a study by several researchers across several nations indicates that people who tend to use profanity tend to be more honest overall. An interesting quote:

“The relationship between profanity and dishonesty is a tricky one. Swearing is often inappropriate but it can also be evidence that someone is telling you their honest opinion. Just as they aren’t filtering their language to be more palatable, they’re also not filtering their views. ”

Now a lot of you may have noticed I tend to be a little rough around the edges, but hey I have lived a rough around the edges life and do use my fair share of unapologetic profanity. Does that mean I’m more honest than the church mouse who dare not utter a forbidden word? Hell if I know  🙂  All I can say on the matter is anytime anyone tries to use their religion as a foundation to indicate their honesty, I immediately become doubly suspicious of said persons intentions.

I also noticed this at the the end of the writeup:

“A second survey involved collecting data from 75,000 Facebook users to measure their use of swear words in their online social interactions. The research found that those who used more profanity were also more likely to use language patterns that have been shown in previous research to be related to honesty, such as using pronouns like “I” and “me”. The Facebook users were recruited from across the United States and their responses highlight the differing views to profanity that exist between different geographical areas. For example, those in the north-eastern states (such as Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey and New York) were more likely to swear whereas people were less likely to in the southern states (South Carolina, Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi).”

First things first, who knew Facebook would be a good resource for social studies? With that in mind all I can say is…fuck FB!

The other thing that pops out at me in that paragraph is the geographic trend. It suggests that my northern counterparts tend to swear more than those in the region where I live. Interesting, but not a mind shattering revelation. What does strike me as curious though is the trend for less profane utterences lies smack in the middle of the babble belt.

Correlations anyone?

So, What Does Gravity Look Like?

We can push a book off of a desk and see the effect of gravity, but that leaves a lot to the imagination. We could spend some time under an apple tree as Newton…

Or you can check out this post from one of my favorite blogs, Bad Astronomy. I apologize for a simple redirect, but Mr. Plait’s post is done way better than I could attempt it. It really is pretty cool or I’d not bother to send you off on the internet  🙂


A Bit Of Southern Tradition

I am not a southerner by birth. Wait, I was born in Texas so maybe I am a southerner by birth. I was however raised up in Illinois, which makes me a northerner transplant. But then after moving around to Iowa, then back to Illinois, then to Arkansas, back to Iowa, and then finally to my location for nearly 40 years, Tennessee, I think  I’m just confused.

I guess since I’ve been here that long though, this makes me a southerner by birth, then a northerner transplant, then transplanted back to the south where I probably in some sense belonged anyway.

Well, having been raised for the most part in Iowa and Illinois I had some adapting to do when I arrived in Tennessee. There were things I was unaccustomed to. For instance where I live now they let kids out of school for the fish fry. Whut? Fish fry? Yes, the next town over by 15 miles is billed as having the “Worlds Largest Fish Fry” once a year. The kids get out of school for a fish fry. Unheard of from my perspective!

They also let the kids out of school when the carnival rolls into town. Whut? Fair day? Heck when I went to school we didn’t get out for no damn carnival, nor any fish fry. Hell it took 3 feet of snow and ice to cancel school. I don’t know how many times I walked to school in snow so deep it went over my boot tops. There were no pussies allowed when I went to school dammit! We showed up come hell or high water. Clint Eastwood and John Wayne would have been proud.

So, I eventually adapted. I came to understand these strange customs in a strange land. I still think it ridiculous, but I get it. Or at least shrug it off these days.

Consider it no surprise then when I adopted the custom of the “New Years Dinner” What the heck is that you ask? The New Years Dinner is an unlikely conglomeration of pork jowl, black eyed peas, and greens, usually spinach. You see the jowl is a metaphor for good health. (Healthy as a hog.) The greens a metaphor for wealth. (Greenbacks.) The black eyed peas a metaphor for luck, why I don’t know. Anyway it has become tradition for us to have the customary New Years Dinner.

Well pork jowl, peas, and greens seemed lacking to me. So many years back I added cornbread to the dinner. Which made a perfect addition to the meal. It just rounds it off nicely. So again many years ago, when I was explaining this tradition to someone else, I explained all to them as I just have to you. Then they asked me what the cornbread was for? After 2 seconds of thought I replied, love. So there is our modified New Years tradition for what it’s worth.

But wait! There’s more! My wife was out and about and picked up some jowl for our traditional meal. This was prepackaged stuff “Cumberland Gap Hickory Smoked Jowl” This product was an absolute nightmare to cook. It popped grease 15 inches high and in all directions on low heat! I had to use some cling wrap to cover my jowl flipping arm and use a clear lid as a shield in my other hand. I have grease burns on both hands and arms and damn near lost an eye! I have never had such an unpleasant jowl cooking experience.

Then when it came time to make the cornbread we were short on corn meal. I just quickly adjusted the recipe a bit to compensate, so that particular disaster averted. In the end our traditional New Years meal was accomplished. Our years projection of health, luck, monetary fortune, and love met. Despite the trials, tribulations, and risking an Emergency Room visit.

Clint Eastwood and John Wayne would be proud. Now, where is the Aloe?

Happy New Year to all 🙂