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Mrs. Mayhew’s Second Baptism

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The following story was written for and read at a fundraiser at First Presbyterian Church of Fairfield, CT on April 1, 2017. Click here to learn more about our church’s ongoing efforts to help the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Ghana build a maternity ward where it is much needed. 

Fiction

Mrs. Mayhew’s Second Baptism

Mrs. Mayhew was ninety years old in 1985 when she was baptized a second time. If she had remembered or if anyone had thought to check the registry at the church campground a hundred miles away in the mountains, they would have seen that she had been sprinkled in 1905. She had just been ten. Her name was Sally, but she had only thought of herself as Mrs. Mayhew for many years. Sally was some girl from childhood.

Charles Alexander Mayhew had been in line next to her and put a hand forward to help her up the stairs where the Reverend and Elders waited. “Lady’s first!” he insisted. Before grabbing hold, she turned to see who it was and their eyes locked. At eleven years old, Charles had an impish grin. He carried that grin with him through their childhood together.

Turned out that he lived a quarter of a mile away and liked to walk. Sally knew this because she could count on a visit most evenings shortly before supper. So, Sally’s mom began a nightly ritual: “Charles, would you mind staying for supper?” She would ask. “We have too much and it just won’t keep.”

That familiar grin infected his whole face, “Happy to help anyway I can, ma’am.” So, Charles became a fixture in Sally’s childhood home.

After dinner one midsummer evening when she was thirteen, they were playing explorers. She was a feisty Pocahontas to his John Smith. After much protestation, she knelt next to the bird bath to be baptized. “I don’t need to be baptized, Charles,” she explained. “I was baptized in front of you.”

“It’s just pretend,” he assured her. “You’re Pocahontas, now.”

She took a deep breath and a long think. Finally, she took another breath and said, “As long as it’s only pretend. You can only get baptized once, Charles Alexander Mayhew.”

Charles placed his right hand in the grimy bird bath water.

Her bright blue eyes peered at him above her red war paint.

“Pocahontas,” he stated firmly. “I baptize thee in the name of the father!” He paused, raising his wet hand and placing it atop her head, next to the tall white feather. Then, he soaked his already damp appendage in the bird bath again. “I baptize thee in the name of the son!” He repeated the first move, only this time emboldened by some hidden power, he brought more water in a slightly cupped hand. Having saturated her brown hair, water trickled down next to her ears. He submerged his hand once again, this time splashing some of the water and spooking an onlooking brown squirrel. Then, with flourish in his voice, delivered the final line, “I baptize thee in the name of the Holy Ghost!” This time more water.

Sally remained still as war paint streaked in places.

But, he continued, “So help me God. Amen and Amen!”

Sally didn’t move; eyes closed, wet hair held in place by a homemade headband for the feather, streaks of war paint now running to her chin. What could possibly come next? She tried to remember what had come next in her actual baptism.

When his lips touched her cheek, she felt a warm sensation in her spine between the shoulders. Her eyes opened to Charles’s sparkling browns. His turned-up lips had a new accent, which took a moment to register, what with all the new sensations going on. She wasn’t aware that her war paint was creating some kind of new fandangled art across her face, just that Charles was wearing lipstick.

So, when he punctuated whatever feelings were going on inside of him by saying a second time, “Amen and Amen,” all she could do was laugh.

He angrily splashed the birdbath and stormed off huffing something under his breath; what, she could not hear.

Moving to dry her face, she finally realized about the war paint and his red lips.

She chased after him around the side of the house and grabbed his hand.

He turned and stared, expressionless.

In what seemed like forever to Sally, they stood eye to eye. She would tell friends for the decades that followed that she didn’t know what possessed her to do it, but she leaned over and whispered into his ear, “Amen and Amen.” And that became their own private affirmation.

Before The Great War, he had asked her to marry him and she answered with “Amen and Amen.”

Before he shipped off to the trenches in Europe, she made him promise to come back to her and he responded with “Amen and Amen.” He wrote while he was there and she could hear his impish grin trying to put a good face on something so terrible. He signed every letter: Amen and Amen, Charles.

When they settled on the name Olivia for their first girl, it started with him asking, “Amen?” and her finishing, “and Amen.” It was a knowing, an understanding, a truth between them.

When soldiers came to their door, explaining that their eldest son William had died a hero on a beach in Normandy, she couldn’t say it. She held it in. She didn’t say anything that day or the next day. Then, on the third day she planned his memorial. The day of, she was strong. People said beautiful things about him, they brought food, and gave her too many hugs. After everyone had left, Charles quietly took her hand and they left for home.

Having raised a family in the house where she grew up, everything was familiar. Everything was home, including Charles. His moist brown eyes peered into hers and he whispered, “Amen and Amen.” She said it too and they wept in each other’s arms.

But now, it was 1985 and Charles had been gone for eighteen years. At ninety years, she had forgotten so many things. So, when the new minister explained that there was no record of her baptism and asked if she wanted to be baptized, she wasn’t sure what to say. She knew there was something, but it wasn’t quite there. So, she said yes.

One of the final things Charles had done for her was purchase a brand new 1967 Cadillac and told her who to trust with its care. That’s what she drove to her baptism. Slowly.

One of the elders, a young professional in his thirties, escorted her to the font at the appropriate time in the service. She didn’t quite fill out the dress she had purchased when Charles was still alive, but she looked appropriate to the occasion. Another elder, a woman in her forties she had always thought had a sweet way with her children, stood on her other side and the two elders helped her kneel.

The minister had said a few things about her life in the church and expressed surprise that no record had been kept. The minister did not know about the church camp and the records there because it had been sold during the Great Depression. The records were probably somewhere, but no one remembered their existence.

The minister then asked her about the basic tenants of faith, “Do you?” To which she answered, “I do.”

The hand at the end of a long black robe dipped into the marble font, “Sally Jean Mayhew, I baptize you in the name of the father.” A few drops of water matted her thinning hair. “The son,” the hand returned with a few more drops of water. “And the Holy Spirit,” the damp hand rested gently on her head.

As the minister prayed, so many images and sounds filled her head. A lifetime of memories. The grandchildren. The children. And Charles. The memories were all present, right up to their last walk on the beach together. Hand-in-hand.

The minister finished, “Amen.”

In that moment, everything was so vivid and present, especially her baptism. Inside she laughed, you can’t get baptized twice. She couldn’t help herself; with as much energy as her frail ninety-year-old lungs could muster she responded, “Amen and amen.”

The congregation was speechless. What they saw was nothing short of miraculous. This quiet old woman was making a statement with these words. These young people saw a smile they had never seen.

The elders helped her to her feet and with tears streaming from her eyes, she felt the war paint on her chin, once again.

It was miraculous. All of it. She remembered.

 

Copyright © 2017, by J. Sibley Law

“If you enjoyed this story, please share the link with someone who you believe would also appreciate a little time with Mrs. Mayhew.  Thank you.”  -Sib

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Written by @SibLaw_Official

April 15, 2017 at 12:20 pm

Launching an A-Lister’s Web Series – Bryan Singer’s H+

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Yesterday Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects, X-Men) released the first two of forty-eight episodes of his dystopian near-future thriller, “H+”. Basic premise is that people now get chips implanted in their bodies. These chips basically replace their mobile devices. In one scene in a parking garage, a driver almost runs into someone. Wife suspects, then states, that he must be still watching the game. He explains that it’s in overtime and that he had “the opacity down to five percent.” Then, people start falling over dead and meyhem ensues.

The headline in The Wrap has Singer claiming, “We will change the way people view online content.” Unless he’s planning on selling the products of H+ himself, the claim is a bit…much. From Caprica’s Hollo Bands to Jesse Cowell’s Status Kill, the notion of accessing another world or transferring one’s device features to something that connects directly to the body/mind experience is nothing new. Don’t get me wrong; Singer is, as always, masterful at telling a story, creating an environment, and delivering very high quality production values.

FIRST EPISODE OF “H+”

I think his quote might have been better stated: we will tap into the way that people view online content, because they certainly do. It has long been understood in the online video industry that every episode is an entry point into a series. In The Wrap article, Singer explains, “You can reorganize the episodes, collect them and interact with the show.” This postmodern, non-linear approach to storytelling may not be completely original, but it’s darn smart. And we can be certain, given his pedigree, that Singer will be the master of it. Prepare to use your YouTube Channel’s playlist function to create your own collections, orders, etc. Going with the notion that a rising tide lifts all boats, here’s to hoping he’s very successful in this endeavor.

A final note on something I usually find valuable: how did they preview and promote the show? Assuming there’s a good PR engine operating in the background (note the article in The Wrap, above and numerous articles on release day), from a purely preview and release standpoint here’s what a quick search on YouTube uncovered:

Videos and Views a Day After Launch

Said another way, that’s essentially nine videos to launch a 48-episode online video series. All that and countless articles in publications ranging from USA Today to Wired Magazine and the view count on the first two episodes the day after launch is at just over 50,000 views. One could begin to fret for Singer at this low view count for what was surely an expensive production by online video standards. However, there are still 46 more episodes coming, who knows how many additional supporting videos, and who knows how many re-orderings of the episodes on how many different viewing platforms? Time will tell if this plotline about something going viral will turn into the series going viral. But, I think we’re only beginning to see what will be a long build for H+ and Singer’s forray into online video.

Copyright © 2012, by J. Sibley Law

Elements of a Hit Web Series

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Branching out to other publications, please see my latest guest column in Tubefilter:

Elements of a Hit Web Series (And the One You’re Probably Missing)

There’s a secret to building a hit web series; to writing the perfect story or cultural commentary that people can’t help but share. It’s elusive and the people who accidentally stumble upon it grow fewer with each…

Continued at Tubefilter:

http://news.tubefilter.tv/2012/02/02/elements-of-a-hit-web-series/

Steeping Success in Online Video

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Blip.tv asked one of the world’s leading research firms to find out more about web series audience behaviors by surveying 1,500 of its users. Then they shared the information with the public. Sweet!  But as a show creator, I want to know what their data means for me! Specifically, I want to know how I can parlay this into increasing the profits of my shows.

“We discovered that people really jump around and watched all kinds of content.”
— Joseph White, Digital Research Manager, Blip.tv

Speaking by phone, Joseph White, Digital Research Manager for Blip.tv, highlighted what jumped out at him from the study. He said this would be the year of cord shaving. In his mind, the general public probably would not cut the cords to their cable boxes or satellite dishes. However, many of them would spend less time watching broadcast programming and more time viewing online video. Of special note was the fact that viewers weren’t just niche viewers. “People and advertisers like to think that video game viewers watch that kind of content, and drama series watchers want only that kind of content. But we discovered that people really jump around and watch all kinds of content,” White explained. “We believed this was happening and the study confirmed it.” He went on to say they discovered that peak viewing happened during prime time, which “makes sense, because the largest bulk of people’s free time comes at the end of the day.”

Advertisers are concerned about when people are watching certain kinds of content. Obviously, if you are Boston Market, knowing that your ads will be seen by the highest number of people during the dinner hour is a tremendous benefit. Dailymotion’s VP of Content, David Ripert, confirmed that his network saw 6-9 pm as their prime hours, but the second highest viewing for them came at lunchtime. However, when trying to ascertain what that means for the creator of online shows, he explained, “Users are looking for entertainment and news; whether in clip form or full length, the quality expectation is higher and higher.”

Digging deeper into data about online video viewership, the Nielsen Cross Platform Report (Q1: 2011) is chock full of information about how people consume media and on which platforms. Though on the whole, television viewership increased by 22 minutes per month, some interesting facts emerge at the edges of the viewership. Generally speaking, the highest consumers of online video watch the least amount of television, and vice versa. To some that may seem like an obvious statistic, the kind worthy of a “doh!” But layered into that fact is who they are: women age 18-49 spend 4:57 watching online video each month, while their male counterparts spend 7:02. However, when broken down by ethnicity, the amount of time spent watching online video showed a wide spread: Asian (10:19), Hispanic (6:24), African-American (5:52), White (3:37). It’s no wonder that shows like Tony Clomax’s “12-Steps to Recovery,” “EastWillyB” created by Yamin Segal and Julia Grob, and “Odessa,” written by Jorge Rivera and James Peoples have found audiences and/or development opportunities. Certainly high production value and great characters help to surface these shows, but so do the racially diverse casts and the multiplicity of issues.

12-Steps to Recovery: EP 13 – Catch Social
[blip.tv http://blip.tv/12stepswebseries/12-steps-to-recovery-episode-13-catch-social-5686793%5D

When asked about the disparity of online viewership by ethnicity, Jorge Rivera said, “I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that in general, audiences are finding stuff online that meets their viewing interests in a way they aren’t on finding on traditional TV… That’s not to say that writing and casting ethno-centric content is the magic bullet, but it’s one small example of the greater experimental spirit of the Internet that makes it creatively more appealing…to everybody.”

East Willy B: EP 1 – You’ve Been Served
[blip.tv http://blip.tv/eastwillyb/east-willyb-you-ve-been-served-episode-1-5304840%5D

For her part Julia Grob suggested, “One reason may be the median age of the Latino population which is 27.4 years, vs. 36.8 median age of the US population as a whole. 22% of the Latino population is under 18! This means, the majority of Latinos are under 30.  We don’t remember a time where there wasn’t the Internet. We are trendsetters, on the cusp of new technology & new media — which would contribute to the higher number of hours spent viewing online video vs. the mainstream populations which is older and more likely to access video through old media methods (cable, dvd).”  While Rivera and Grob are mindful of these issues, Clomax took it a step further, saying, “The most important thing is to make sure that your content and subject matter crosses racial and socio-economic lines. If you’re producing something that everyone can relate to and you are appealing to all these different people, it will contribute to the success of the show.”

If [sci-fi fans] are as technology-forward as many suggest, Nielsen’s data
indicates that they are the super-users when it comes to online video.

Other niches of people also are known to spend copious amounts of time online. Shows like “The Guild” have capitalized on them. Many believe that sci-fi fans comprise their own grouping of technology-forward people who spend more time watching shows online than other groups. If they are as technology-forward as many suggest, Nielsen’s data indicates that they are the super-users when it comes to online video. “Mercury Men” (SyFy), “Ark” (Hulu), and “RCVR” (YouTube/Machinima) delivered their own slants on the genre, while at the same time adhering to a trifecta of high production-values, strong characters, and intriguing stories.

RCVR: Episode 1 – Little Green Men

Blake Calhoun, one of online video’s early and prolific show creators, is betting that he can find this niche and titillate them with his new show “Continuum.” (The first three episodes (of eighteen) are being shown exclusively on the show’s Facebook fanpage.) When asked about his audience, Calhoun said, “Genre shows and/or niche shows seem to work best online. This was definitely a consideration when I was developing “Continuum.’” He explained that releasing the first three episodes is part of a broader buzz marketing plan that includes the good fortune of having had the teaser trailer selected to play at Comic-Con. But is that enough?

Actress Melanie Merkosky as "Raegan" in Continuum

Answering that question, Steve Lettieri, who runs SciFinal.com says, “Character always wins the day for most successful web series, sci-fi or otherwise. Does the series have characters worth watching again and again? If so, then things like production values, visual effects, etc., can help separate you from the pack.”

“Don’t have unrealistic expectations about the early stages.
And, don’t ever, ever, ever stop because one person
—or one hundred people—are not jumping in to lend a hand.”

— Rob Barnett, Founder & CEO, My Damn Channel

In trying to read the tea leaves of this steeping cup of data I turned to Rob Barnett, who has created a lean and extraordinarily successful online video channel. When Time Magazine ran its article on the best websites of 2011, My Damn Channel was prominently featured. Barnett had some interesting things to say about what makes for a successful online video: “The old days of putting up great video and wishing for virality are over. The amount of new online video is growing at a pace too fast to fathom. If you’re in the business of figuring out how to use video to promote yourself, or an idea, or a cause, or a product of any kind, then you’ve got to create a business model and a game plan for every video that includes marketing in every possible way.” He even gave some hard data about what works in terms of length for online videos: 2-3 minutes max. He suggested that show creators need to gain permission from the audience to dive deeper into characters and produce longer episodes, but only after the audience wants it.

My Damn Channel’s: Dicki – The Boyfriend

Julia Grob and her team took that approach when they created the EastWillyB (with episodes in the 2-3 minute range). Then, their fans responded. “After launching the pilot, we received feedback from fans asking for longer episodes and more content,” she explained. Deeper dives into the characters and longer episodes may just be in the offing.

When asked what advice he has for show creators, Barnett’s passion is clear: “the best advice is always to follow your own inner voice. Our road was paved by finding great partners to help get us to every next step on the path. We only hired talent and staff we knew were as intensely committed to creating the best work as we were. Realize that every creative partnership has to have equal shares of trust, hard work, and commitment from every member of the team. Be about the ‘long money.’ Don’t have unrealistic expectations about the early stages. And don’t ever, ever, ever stop because one person—or one hundred people—are not jumping in to lend a hand. Relentless, passionate, constant pursuit of your goal always wins out in the end if you never bail on your desire.” Passion. Commitment. Quality.

[For web series success] “You should focus on five things: produce content regularly,
think about earning your audience rather than deserving your audience, target a niche,
go after a community that will embrace your content, and constantly interact with your fans.”

— Dina Kaplan, Co-Founder, Blip.tv

Back at Blip.tv, co-founder Dina Kaplan punctuated her thoughts saying, “The most exciting thing to us is how savvy producers are getting about producing and marketing shows. Two good examples of series doing things right are “Girl Parts” and “Vinyl Rewind.”

Blip.tv: GirlParts – The Wake Up Call
[blip.tv http://blip.tv/girlparts/episode-04-the-wake-up-call-5501671%5D

Kaplan continued, “They get that shows should have strong enough production values but should also really engage their communities of fans.” To do this Kaplan gave some insightful marching orders: “For a web series producer to be successful in 2011, you should focus on five things: produce content regularly, think about earning your audience rather than deserving your audience, target a niche, go after a community that will embrace your content, and constantly interact with your fans and even let your fans interact with other fans. This is how you will get the great multiplier effect that turns a series from a hope into a successful, sustainable business.”

Easy to say. And as online video begins shaving off bits of traditional broadcast viewership, there are great opportunities for deserving show creators. Those who factor in these many variables will inevitably have greater chances for success.

Written by J. Sibley Law.

Copyright © 2011, by J. Sibley Law, all rights reserved.

Beyond the Whips and Barbed Wire – Interview with Todd Norwood (Meet the Mayfarers)

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Upon first meeting the creator of Meet the Mayfarers, Todd Norwood, I was stuck by this incredibly affable guy with a quirky sense of humor. It was at the LA Tubefilter Meet-up, Tim Street introduced us, and we talked plenty of shop. Then, a month later, deep in conversation with Brian What at Slap House Radio we decided to take a look at the front page of Blip.tv. There was Todd, lying on a bed in a penguin costume next to a very dominant woman. I remember being struck at the juxtapositioning of penguin suit, whips, barbed wire, and mom walking into the room asking, “what is this?” in the episode entitled: Family Revelations. Todd has spent years crafting the many episodes of the series, Meet the Mayfarers, and has promised to keep shooting episodes as long as they keep having fun.

Todd assured Rocket’s Tail that the syndication of his show on Blip.tv has been a real boon to the work they are doing. Shooting along the short coastline of New Hampshire, Todd proves that interesting online video is coming from locations far from those A-list markets of New York and Los Angeles.

Meet Todd in this interview that was conducted in Cambridge, MA:

[blip.tv ?posts_id=3379274&dest=-1]

Ready to Launch

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Screen Shot of Entry to aSiteAboutSomething.com

Tonight Press Forward Publications will launch aSiteAboutSomething.com. Promotional material of the site describe it this way: “Over two years in the making by a small coalition of the willing, talented and inspired and an even smaller budget, the site promotes the diverse novels and songs of Richard Geller.”

Coinciding with the launch of the website, Saxon Mills has produced a music video of one of Richard’s songs. “Wishing” is a song about people helping each other during hard times. It was my pleasure to work with Richard and the team of actors and filmmakers to realize a vision for a video with a powerful message. Releasing this video during what we hope is the bottom of the recession; we are curious to see if the piece touches a note with people, if people hear a call to action. The text “help where you can” flashes on screen at the end of the video.

Whether “Wishing” becomes a large commercial success, or remains an inspiration to a few, we wish Richard Geller and his team much success with their innovative approach to online, viral, and social marketing of Richard’s books and songs.

 

Written by @SibLaw_Official

May 27, 2009 at 10:57 am

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