20 Questions Tuesday: 210 - Brian Brushwood

I have been getting asked and then eventually asking 20 Questions for a good long time now.  In fact this 20 Questions Tuesday is the 210th that I have done.  So far most of them have been me answering questions rather obtusely with the remaining 33 being 20 Question interviews from people in all walks of life.  I can honestly say, without any pretense, that this 20 Questions is the first one I have done with someone who is pushing the envelope on how we consume entertainment.  Brian Brushwood is an innovator in the Internet cultural landscape. He is the host of 4 popular podcasts. Three for two different podcasting/vidcasting networks (Scam School for Revision 3 and Framerate and NSFW on TWiT) and one that he kind of publishes independently with my previous interviewees, Andrew Mayne and Justin Robert Young called Weird Things.  I rarely get the opportunity to ask questions to someone that is honestly on the cusp of something that feels kind of revolutionary,and I will pride myself on asking this visionary of new media inane random questions.

As I stated, Brian is a podcast host… it seems like he is a bit more than a “podcaster” in my opinion.  He is host/co-host of 4 podcasts and a consistent contributor to a multitude of other podcasts… One would think that would take up all of his time, but one would be an idiotic fool to think that (seriously, One. Don’t bring that weak ass game into my house).  Brian is also an accomplished stage magician and can be found consistently touring the college markets with his trademark golden spikey hair and witty rapport.  So without any further ado…. 20 Questions Tuesday with Brian Brushwood.

I make maps for a living, but I look at maps and geography as a way to tell stories.  I was born at Tinker Air Force Base just outside of Oklahoma City. The fam moved to Maxwell AFB in Montgomery, Alabama when I was 3 (actually ON my third birthday, we celebrated my birthday at a rest area).  Soon after, we moved up to a suburb of Birmingham, Alabama where I lived until I went off to college at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio.  After graduating from KSU, I followed my fiancee down to Ohio State and we have made our lives in Columbus, Ohio ever since…. but enough about me.  Question 1: What is your geographic story?

I was born in Fountain Valley, CA, but moved several times while growing up:  Houston, TX, Denver, CO, and Stavanger, Norway.  I ended up in Austin for college, and I fell in love with the town.  I’ve lived here ever since (though obviously still see a lot of the country on tour).

My family hosted an exchange student from Kongsberg, Norway my senior year in High School.  I lost touch with her when she moved out of my house.  I wish I could get back in touch with her, not being able to is one of the few regrets I have from my life.  

So… Question 2: What was your family doing in Norge?

Dad worked in the Oil business, and Norway does a lot of offshore drilling.  I was 12, and it was easily one of the most important, best experiences of my life.  I was completely uprooted from home, right at the age when American consumerism gets its hooks into you.  Being taken out of the US to a world without TV, shopping malls, or McDonald’s was absolutely extraordinary for me.

So, let’s get into it.  All of my 14 loyal readers want to know… Question 3: Cake or pie? Whichever of these you choose.. what type is your favorite?

CAKE! (unless it’s peanut butter pie.  which is amazing.  Also:  my daughter has peanut allergies, so we make her sunbutter pie, which is made with sunbutter… which is a peanut butter -like substance made form sunflower seeds… yet amazingly better than peanutbutter.  So, I’ll choose “sunbutter pie”…  what was the question again?)

Ooooh we never thought of the sunbutter pie.  That would have been great.  Both my kids had severe food allergies when they were born.  I have actually traded a few tweets with the Invisible Wife about food allergy resources.  Little Man (my almost 9 year old) has grown out of all of his, but he was allergic to dairy, egg, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, and some vegetables.  He held onto the peanut and tree nut allergies until he turned 6-ish.  Q (my 4 year old little girl) was allergic to dairy, egg, soy, and tree nuts, but she has grown out of those yet developed an orange allergy.  Sunbutter is pretty darn tasty, but soy-nut butter sucks ass.  I have tons of recipes for multiple food allergy foods, if you want them.  Sunbutter pie does sound awesome.  Okay, I am on board, how are you going to get that pie to me in C-bus?  Also, I don’t think I have ever had anyone change their mind in mid-stream like this…

You were not always a professional magician, Question 4: Have you always been interested in the magics?

I’ve always been interested in being tricky, and once I got to college I thought that learning some magic would be a good way to spend my free time.  I figured no matter where I ended up in life, it would be good to know a few kickass tricks.  I never thought it would end up being my career, much less a successful one.

I asked you friend and colleague, Andrew Mayne the following question and I am curious as to your response as well….

Question 5:  If you could change the “stage magician” title, which title would you prefer? Magician, Illusionist, Wizard, Charlatan, Sorcerer, Hood-winker, Eldritch Mage, Diabolist, or another of your choice…  Would you choose a different title for other magicians you know? BeeTeeDubs, Andrew Mayne chose “wizard.”  

Definitely Charlatan.  Maybe snake-oil salesman.  Fraud?  Liar?  Those seem appropriate, too…

Charlatan is a completely under-used word.  You should try to add it into your online persona when you talk about the magics.

Question 6: As a magician, excuse me, charlatan, yourself, what type/genre of magic do you enjoy watching most as a spectator? For example, I am completely fascinated by close work.

I’m always interested in performers who use magic to tell a bigger story.  Routines that are about life and death.  About love and loss… something bigger than “where’d that girl vanish to?”

That is interesting because I tend to like the close work because it is typically bite sized without an over-arching theme or story.  There is a local BBQ place,(yes, there is BBQ in Ohio… clearly not as good as what can be found in TX, at this place the pulled pork is good, the brisket is not) that used to hire a magician (Carroll Baker) every Sunday night to entertain the kiddos (whilst the old people eat).  I love watching him work.

Question 7: Let’s get all foodie here… What is the best BBQ in Austin (I have only been to Green Mesquite)?  And what is your particular favorite there? What type of sauce do you like? tell me all things Brian Brushwood and BBQ…  and… go.

I’m gonna piss off the locals here (as my pick originally comes from San Antonio), but I’ll say without reservation that the best BBQ in Austin is at Rudy’s.  The meat itself is great, but it’s their original Sause (spelled that way) that takes their work over the top.  It’s amazing.

I knew I should not have asked this question…. and then I knew I should not have looked at Rudy’s “Country Store” BBQ’s website… I am lucky that in my little burrow of Clintonville has the best BBQ in town in the shape of a food truck, Ray Ray’s Hog Pit.  Yes, I realize that the Columbus food truck scene is severely lacking compared to what y’all have in Austin, but Ray Ray’s Hog Pit is pretty darn awesome.

So, to steer this away from food, of which I need some, let’s talk more about the Internet and the nature of memes, so get your sociologist hat on… With the BBLive show and its current incarnation the NSFW Show, memes and viral videos are a staple of your program. Question 8: Why do you think memes and virals burn so hot and so fast and then are gone? Why don’t they have staying power especially since we, the Internet viewing people find them so enjoyable?

I think just about every facet of real life is mirrored by the internet in some way.  We have analogues for travel, adventure, exploration, workspaces, financial districts…  I think memes are an analog to family jokes or momentary whimsies.  They’re very beloved for the two hours that they’re funny, and then they’re dropped.  But because it happens on the internet, everything takes longer… so it takes 2 weeks to get over it.

Interesting.  What I have found about the memes is that unlike family jokes, most memes you cannot return to.  With family jokes, I have found that I can bring them back up and re-live some of the whimsy… Keyboard Cat is hack now.

So, I subscribe to my Mother-in-Law’s philosophy of “Don’t let the fuckers get you down.”  Question 9: Do you have a saying, adage, credo, motto, etc… that you particularly ascribe?  If so, where did it come from and why does it resonate?

"There’s a million very good reasons why you should wait just a little bit longer before you start your next venture… Ignore all of them.
Don’t wait to get started. Don’t wait to pick up the phone. Don’t wait to start writing new material. Say “Yes” and “Immediately” often.
You’re going to find eight million excuses on why you should wait. Wait for them to call you back. Wait until you buy better props. Wait until you can hire a professional photographer. Wait until your new routine is ready. Wait until know-nothing doofuses who happen to have started their careers before you write you back with sage words of wisdom (that’s me I’m talking about).

Don’t. Wait.

The only thing separating you from having your best show possible is 10,000 hours of live performances. And while that sounds like an unfair, daunting amount of time and effort to put into becoming great, here’s the twist: the time is going to pass anyway. You can either spend it working towards your goal, or waiting.
Whatever’s wrong with your show, it’s nothing that a thousand performances won’t fix. So get out there now and start performing.

I am always impressed by the level of effort and motivation that it takes for people to become independently successful.  That amount of effort seems like levels of self-motivation that I feel like I lack.

So, let’s go a bit deeper for a second on motivational questions.  I used to think that my driving question was “How can I get my professional life more in line with my personal life?”  This does not seem to resonate with me right now.  I think the question I am dealing with right now is “What activity is it that I cannot help but get involved in?”  Kind of a question of what it is that, if it is available, I simply must participate.  I used t think it was fantasy mapping, but I am very disinterested in mapping of all sizes, shapes, and forms right now.  So, Question 10:  What is the question that drives you?  What is the over-arching question you are trying to answer with all of your thoughts, actions, and intentions?

"Where do I belong?"

stated differently:  ”Where do my natural talents make the most sense, give me the most visibility, and allow me to touch the lives of the maximum number of other people?”

THAT is why I do this.  Answers like this are what I live for on this blog.  Digging this answer the most.  I might need to appropriate parts of your question for myself.  It is like you have thought about this before.

So, you are a part of multiple podcasts and you guest on many more.  Question 11:  Do you regularly listen to any specific podcasts (other than your own), and, if so, which ones and why?

Hardcore History, Dan Carlin’s Common Sense, 99% Invisible, Freakonomics Radio, Skeptoid, Smodcast, Stuff to Blow your Mind, Radiolab, Penn’s Sunday School, the PC Gamer podcast, and a few others (more sporadically).

I love Hardcore History, and I have tried out Skeptoid, Freakonomics Radio, and Smodcast before.  I discontinued all of those for various reasons.  

Okay, I know from listening into the Weird Things podcast and the selection of podcasts that you just mentioned that you would classify yourself as a skeptic.  One thing I have noticed about skeptics (enter sweeping generalization here) is that there is a little piece of them that is hopeful that something paranormal out there is, in fact, real.  They are just not swayed by the admittedly flimsy evidence that the unabashed believers tout as truth.  Question 12: supposing that my sweeping generalization is true, what in the whole gamut of the paranormal do you most hope to be true (personally, I am holding out hope for sasquatches)?

Excitingly enough: it seems like we’re drawing in ever-closer to real, technological telepathy.  With transcranial electromagnetic stimulation, we can induce emotions strange feelings.  With fMRI’s, we’re getting closer to reading thoughts as they’re formed.  And of course, we’re all hoping for ever-more immersive, realistic simulations… eventually stimulating the brain directly.  THAT’s some exciting fringe science, right there.

It does seem that we are on the cusp of some very interesting technological times.  

I understand that you, most likely, do not have any superstitions, but this is unlucky Question 13: Do you, instead, have any rituals you adhere to do you can get in the correct frame of mind for some activity? For example, when I played soccer in high school, I had a very specific sequence for putting on socks, shin guards, and cleats.  Similarly, when I fenced in college, I had a specific method for attaching wires, putting on equipment, etc… Or do you have any superstitions?

Oh, man— being a skeptic has done nothing to stop my stupid, animal brain from insisting on the strangest rituals.  If I step on a crack, I feel the strangest urge to step on every crack.  I hold my breath for arbitrary lengths of time, vaguely certain it will affect the outcome of random events.  Before every stage show, I mentally recite the set list as if it’s some kind of litany.

I haven’t found an analog to the soccer and fencing prep in my current life. I think that kind of mindfulness and deliberateness is missing in my life right now, and may be one of the issue impeding me from focus.

Question 14: Fill in the blanks.  A: I find that I am mostly __________.  B: Other people feel that I am mostly ____________.  C: Do these answers differ greatly?  If so, why?

C: Here’s the thing:  the universe is infinitely complex.  Human emotions and thought are infinitely complex.  The best I can hope to do during my entire life is keep learning as much as I can, as fast as I can.  Part of that means bringing as many people up to speed with the crap I’ve learned as fast as I’m able.  And the only way that’s possible, is if you take a student’s mentality to learning.  Spend your whole life thinking of yourself as an empty vessel yearning to be filled.

You are quite the philosophical soul.

Since we started these 20 questions you have had your second digital book published and put on the market.  Question 15: Any surprising lessons learned from your book experiences?

Yes.  When releasing book 2, don’t drop book 1 to 99 cents.  It creates a perverse incentive for people to buy book 1 instead of book 2.

I was curious about that tactic… I imagined that it would either boost combined sales or completely cannibalize your new book sales.

Since you are firmly ensconced in the “new media” model area, and Framerate is a show primarily about the new medias and such, plus you have just published 2 successful interactive e-books… Question 16: How do you see the media market changing in the next 3 years… I ask because we are about to move to a new house and will be cutting the chord when we get into the new digs, and I find this to be a rather interesting topic.

Media will increasingly be judged on its own merit, rather than on the platform it inhabits.

How very egalitarian of you… the cynic in me really wants to giggle at you for your rose colored glasses, but there is a larger part of me that is hopeful as well that the cream will, in fact, rise to the top.

So, Question 17: What song is going through your head right now.  So you don’t feel self conscious about what comes to mind… I am thinking about Divine Hammer by The Breeders…. and go!

I was thinking that it was a bad idea to take an hour long nap this afternoon, because now I’m probably going to be up until 3am.  That’s not bad in and of itself, but it throws me wildly off-schedule from the rest of the family.  At least I don’t need to get up to go to an office.  While it’s terrifying to swing from gig to gig, never knowing how much money I’ll make month to month, it’s comforting to know that I don’t need to show up every single day to a job that eats my soul.  In fact, it was when I realized that I was excited for bathroom breaks that I realized there might be more to life than a job with a steady paycheck.  Man, those were weird days.  Working in a cubicle, dealing with a phone queue…  I remember staying around after work to play Robotron on MAME against my boss.  We used to joke about us hosting the “robotron world championships,” and when he won, I surprised him at the next team meeting by presenting him with an engraved plaque proclaiming him “Robotron World Champion 2000.”  I was really surprised by how excited he was about the award, and that’s when I realized that dollar-for-dollar, you can’t bring more joy to someone than by presenting them with a trophy or award.  I even used it to get to the top of the list for Fear Factor years ago.  Along with my VHS video tape, I sent them a laser-engraved plaque congratulating them on their smart moves and declaring them official “Damn Geniuses” for considering me for the spot.  It didn’t end up getting me on the show, but that same kind of thinking did get me on the tonight show.  Back when nobody knew who I was, I bought 30 tubs of atomic fireballs and put my demo tape in each one.  On the side I wrote “think these are hot?  Try eating FIRE!” and then I sent them to 30 TV shows that I thought might have a place for me.  Those were crazy times.  We had no idea whether I was even making the right move, quitting my day job to do magic.  Hell, it still sounds like a crazy idea to me, and I’m 13 years into this experience.  But it’s crazy, now.  I’ve got kids.  Obligations.  The stakes are higher, but so are the payoffs.  There’s nothing so awesome as getting to survive doing something you love.  I worry about what would happen if I totally fail, but then I just realize “if everything goes to shit, I’ll just make a living doing something else I love.”  And then I don’t feel so bad.

So, you were thinking about the song Mr Roboto by Styx.  That’s easy enough to understand, it is quite a fun song…  So many people get mad at me when I ask if there is a question I should have asked.  I get so many notes about how I am supposed to come up with the questions, and here I am feeling vindicated, because you clearly had a question in mind that I did not ask.

It is time for the tables to be turned… so Question 18: Other than “what do you do?” what question do you have for me?

"No, seriously:  Where are my pants?”

They are in a safe place… You will get to see them again, Mr Brushwood, once we have gotten to Question 20.

Question 19: So, what are you taking away from these 20 questions that you did not bring in with you?

An appreciation for Scott Ryan-Hart’s tenacity.  It’s not easy to get me to focus long-term on anything that doesn’t immediately make me rich. :-)

I will take the kudos on the tenacity… I have not been this tenacious with some other folk, but I was seriously interested in your answers because you seem to be more thoughtful, and I tend to enjoy your “voice,” be it written or spoken.

So, the final sad question that signifies the end of a 20 Questions era, the completion of the Epic Brushwood 20 Questions of 2012.  Now that you will no longer be hounded by me for answers to intrusive questions, Question 20:  What is next for you?  Be as concrete or vague or as philosophical or grounded as you want

I honestly have absolutely no idea.  I know there’s a few things I really love:  performing on stage, working in front of a camera, writing books, interacting with fans…  but I seriously haven’t the slightest idea which one is going to take off.  

And the weirdest part?  What I do next is not really even up to me.  I’m just going to keep doing my goofy dance for the world, chasing rainbows and laughing… and somewhere, someone is going to think that I’m a natural fit for their vision.  Could be a TV show, could be another internet series, could be a new stage show tour…  but whatever it is, I just hope that I’m as passionate as I’ve been about everything else I’ve done up to now.

Knowing you as much as I do, now, (We are BFF’s now BTW)  I don’t see passion as being an issue for you, and I am certain that you will create success for yourself and the people around you.

This has been an absolute pleasure, and I want to thank you for taking the incredible amount of time necessary to complete these here 20 Questions.

Check out Brian’s work with his website, his podcasts (Scam School, NSFW show, Framerate, and Weird Things), follow him on twitter @shwood, and see him live if he comes to town, and buy his books… Scam School and Scam School 2!

To recap:
We are moving out of our beloved home today
We will miss this house terribly
It is a great house and I hope that the new owners enjoy it as much as we did
It was the house that we brought both our babies home to
It was an amazing house
We are now in limbo until the 30th
We do not take possession of the new house until then
But today I am sad at the end of this era of my life
Then again, after packing up all the shit from the house it is time to say goodbye
I think the house is done with us anyway
It needs a young couple who will take care of it like they have free time and no kids
I think they are planning to have some chickens in the backyard though
Suck it crappy ex-neighbors
On another note, the boy turns 9 tomorrow
Leave a happy birthday message here and I will tell him about it
Next week, we will be in the new house
It will be awesome
Have a great week everyone