Playing the interview game that has recently sprung up, Elena of My Domestic Church asks:
1. Jeff, I can’t get a take on how old you are. Are you older or younger than me (I was born in the waning months of the Eisenhower administration!)
Probably your younger since my birth occurred nearer to the start of Eisenhower’s second term 1958 (Same as Mark Shea and Dave Armstrong.)
2. Were you the class clown in school?
Now why would anyone ask that? Seriously though the answer is yes. Bad jokes in my grade school were coined "Miller jokes." Like many who are somewhat shy socially I used humor as an ability to deal socially. Being a class clown you are either immediately rewarded with laughter or a groan.
3. Who or what has inspired your wonderful sense of humor? What comedians or satirists do you enjoy?
As far as humor goes I take after my father who is very funny and extremely created. For many years he worked doing children theatre as an actor and puppeteer. The plays were loosely scripted and relied mostly on improvisation so no two shows were exactly the same, though if a joke or bit worked it would normally be in this loose script. I spent a lot of time with him at work especially during the summer and was surrounded by other very talented and funny people. Conversations often included punning wars where one tried to top the other. I remember one time being at a restaurant with my father and some of his friends where the walls were decorated in shingles. I told them I had never been in a shingles bar before. I was also involved in a lot of theater during the summer and as practice for improvisation we use to do a game called one, two, three. First one person would go on the stage to setup the situation, the second person then enters to continue what the first person started. The third person then goes on and tries to end or complete the situation. This was wonderful training since we were always trying to find ways to one up the other person or to totally change around what they had started and the results were often very humorous.
As far as comedy goes I am a traditionalist which means W.C. Fields, The Marx Brothers, and Abbott and Costello. I started doing impersonations at a young age and I believe Fields was first. I played W.C. Fields in a school play and not only have I dressed up like Groucho but I even performed Abbott and Costello’s classic "Whose on first" routine. So my humor definitely goes towards the corny. I also love the English sense of humor such as Monty Python and most anything that Rowan Atkinson does. My youth was also filled with the usual assortment of Mad Magazine, Cracked, and latter the National Lampoon (PJ O’Rourke is still a great satirist). I have also always enjoyed song parodies especially since I use to always listen to the Dr. Demento Show. I am less impressed with most modern comedies. Adam Sandler fills me with the same reaction as looking at a Thomas Kincaid painting after seeing one from Da Vinci.
4. How did you achieve the technical skills for all of the unique things you do on your blog? Are you self taught?
I have been a technical geek from childhood and am largely self-taught. I have always loved science especially growing up during the first Moon missions and have been technically adept. I liked taking things apart and tweaking them and sometimes it actually still worked when I got done. I built electronic kits at home and later wrote programs in Basic on a school computer long before the advent of Personal Computers. I joined the Navy largely because of my interest in electronics and for years worked as a technician where I got to troubleshoot and repair aircraft "black boxes" which I really enjoyed. I loved developing troubleshooting skills and then confirming it when replacing the right transistor, resistor, etc. Unfortunately when I made First Class and later Chief they took me away from what I so deeply enjoyed. By that time though the first IBM computers were out and I ended up doing a lot of programming with them. The same sense of accomplishment and intellectual troubleshooting skills I was able to apply to programming. I started doing some HTML programming back in 1996. I use to have a web site at geocities called "Rage against the Cash Machine" which was a freeware site. I maintained a database of freeware programs and I wrote code to generate the site totally from the database. I mainly did this as an exercise to prepare myself as I left the military.
As far as graphics skills go I do what I am able to do despite the fact that I can’t draw. But this can be no surprise since I write almost daily even thought my writing skills are pretty week. I have played around with graphic programs for years starting on my old Commodore 64, Amiga, and later various graphic programs for the PC. I wish that I could truly draw images because I have had many ideas that I couldn’t fully flush out because of this lack. Even before my blog I use to combine humor with graphics. When I was stationed at Whidbey Island, Wa we had a CO who wanted every bodies haircut to have a tapir in the back and not blocked. I visualized the image of someone having a taper on the back of his head and related it to another sailor with actual graphic skills. He drew the image for me and we posted it on our bulletin board. I got a good laugh when I found it later duplicated throughout the base and later even at the base barber shop.
5. What do you do when you are in a quiet place or a serious situation when something strikes you as funny?
I have been known to totally reverse a serious situation. Once when attached to my first squadron I had to go to the ready room to be interviewed by my division officer and some other officers from my squadron concerning my evaluation. They asked me questions about education, going to school, taking onboard classed etc and most of my replies were in the I haven’t yet got around to it variety. One of the officers quipped "So you belong to the schools of procrastination?", I told him I had not yet got around to registering for it yet. They all started cracking up and it was very difficult to complete the interview after that.
Quiet places also lead me to humorous musing and unfortunately I have to admit coming up with some of my parody ideas when reading the Divine Office or praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament.