On The Happy Hour Guys: Passion, History, and Episode #300.

We've come a long, long way.

Yesterday we dropped the 300th video episode of The Happy Hour Guys.

Looking back on GABF 2014: BEER-icon.

300 fully edited, 'have production value' episodes. That's hours, if not days of fully produced shows. And days, if not weeks, of raw footage. 12 years in the making.

How the f*ck did that happen? Well, I've always been a lover of History (bars, booze, and otherwise), so in that spirit, here's some history that I lived:

The McSorley's pilot, 2006.

In 2003 I started my film company, Back40 Films. Around that same time I was playing Thomas Jefferson in a production of 1776 at the Ford's Theatre in DC - and in the cast was a guy named Mark Aldrich. We kept running in to each other at some of DC's best watering holes, including Old Ebbitt's Grill, and the Brickskeller (now the Bier Baron). We found that we shared a love of Historic & Remarkable Bars, as well as Craft Beverages. At some point, being voracious History and Travel Channel watchers, we came to the idea that there may be a show in all this. So I said something along the lines of "Okay, well, I have this spiffy new film company so - Let's shoot it". 

And The Happy Hour Guys was born.

It didn't rise completely formed right away, of course. In fact, quite the opposite. In 2006 we paid what seemed to us a mint to some guys who then shot a professionally produced pilot at McSorley's in NYC - it was exciting, nerve wracking, we sent it all over the media universe that we knew, and... and it just sort of sat there.

Can't take your eyes off of him for a second.

Can't take your eyes off of him for a second.

Alright then...

So then we started a website. And then we started blogging.

And finally in 2008, we thought, "Well, no one seems to want to produce these for us, and we're enjoying ourselves mightily, so... let's see what it's like to produce them ourselves, on a regular basis." So, we decided to use our theatre careers to subsidize our TV show (which sounds totally BASS-ACKWARDS, doesn't it?) At that point we had shot maybe 8 episodes total, just messing around. I had even shot one on a point & shoot camera that did archaic video, pointing the cam at myself in prehistoric Selfie mode (this would have been, like 2007). 

We had a terrible, used mini DV camera and one microphone. No lighting. We had no idea what we were doing, and IT WAS THRILLING.  We made episodes in which we talked to potatoes. To say we were 'Pre-HD' would be an understatement: This one looks like we shot it through a pinhole camera.

And then, besides our YouTube Channel, we added another video carrier (thank you, @BlipTv) and others (Vimeo and Bitlanders) and our stuff began showing up in other regions of the inter webs - in fact, all over the place. People began to recognize us. These were heady days for us. I can remember them like they were yesterday. In fact, what day is it?

Drinking at the Colorado Governor's Mansion.

Cut to the present: These days, we sometimes have multiple shooters handling several cameras on a shoot (people will do a lot of work for free beer), we have portable lighting and sound, and I edit on a 'big boy platform' now, (Final Cut Pro) and... we have a GoPro. (A freaking GoPro! It's so fun!)

So what do we know now that we didn't know then? We've witnessed personally that many of the good folks who are making these beverages have risked nearly everything to do so, and continue to fight that good fight, between debt, fear, and their own personal vision, each and every day. As Artists, let me tell you... they could not be more inspiring. So we've dedicated ourselves to being a voice for these people who are making a change in their community. (And producing life-alteringly good liquids while they are at it!)

Bev-Tour with us sometime. It's a terrific ride. I recommend you jump on.


Jamaica. Yup.

A Dead Man's Facebook Page.

I've quit Facebook. I've deactivated my account and 'scheduled it for deletion' - turns out that you can't just snap your fingers and disappear from FB, it takes a while and quite a bit of hoop-jumping. Whether I stay off forever will be seen in due course, but my intention is to stay off. 

Full disclosure: I'm no Luddite. I love social media. I tweet, I manage an Instagram feed, a Pinterest page, Google Plus... but for some reason, Facebook has always been especially thorny for me. I'll gleefully admit that I've spent weeks, perhaps months of my life on Facebook, and enjoyed much of it. I loved the ability to reconnect with people I hadn't seen since high school, and I loved the vaguely voyeuristic way you could sneak into other people's lives. And the other night when I got home, I received a Facebook message from a friend asking if I'd heard the news about a certain person... 

And I realized that FB, for me, was no longer tool for expression, but an agent of censorship.

Let me explain:

In 1961, Stanley Milgram conducted a series of psychological experiments detailing how much cruelty human beings are willing to inflict upon others based on whether an Authority figure is present.

The set-up: The test subject took on the role of a 'Teacher', asking questions of a 'Learner' who was actually an actor in another room, disconnected physically, only heard over a speaker. If the Learner answered a question incorrectly, the Teacher was told by the Authority Figure (the Experimenter, who was in the room) to administer a punishment in the form of a small electric shock. This sounds somewhat unsavory but generally harmless... but it would escalate; the more wrong answers, the stronger the shock. Milgram found that as the wrong answers built up (as the experiment was designed to do), if the Authority figure told the Teachers to continue to punish, they would follow orders - and in fact, a huge percentage would shock until the 'Learner' was screaming, and many would go so far as to deliver shocks that were lethal.

Turn that over in your mind, folks; these perfectly normal people, if told to do so under these circumstances, would follow orders... and KILL someone.

So how does this connect to social media? One condition of this experiment that I believe is important, especially to our social media world, is that the 'Teacher' was disconnected from the 'Learner' - the Learner was in the next room instead of sitting in front of them. They only connected with them through the sound of their responses on a speaker. And we all know that lack of physical connection decreases empathy, and thus makes it easier to be cruel.

Here's my thing: 'Social' media is a total misnomer. In many ways it actually takes us further away from each other, not closer. I know that sounds crazy, but consider how empathy disappears in places like Facebook. I have witnessed people say/type things to others on social media that they would never, EVER say to each other face-to-face. They just wouldn't, both because of empathy for another human being, and simply to avoid getting punched. And because of this free-for-all, lately I've found it very difficult to be myself, to be simple and honest in my communications (on Facebook in particular) and true to my values; because I despise the kind of cutting remarks, cowardly trolling and dumbshit behavior that makes you see red and keeps you up at night.

Which brings us back to the other night: It turns out this person I was being asked about on Facebook had unexpectedly died, and in an utterly, utterly tragic way. I went to this person's FB page, and saw post after post about how wonderful this person was, what a tragedy this was, and how awful the world can be. It was touching, it was inspiring, and it made me slightly ill.

Because here's the kicker: In my experience (and I can only speak from my own perspective), this guy was a douchebag. I'll spare you the details that I witnessed personally, but the truth was that he was a guy with issues, who at times laid waste to those who challenged his issues. In fact, I rarely unfriended people on Facebook, but I had recently unfriended this man.

And now he's dead.

And I feel terrible. I feel terrible because I'm very very sad that anyone should die the way he died; and I also feel awful that because I have found it impossible to participate in the outpouring of love over his passing, because of the kind of person he was.

I wanted to post that - to say my truth about this person, my truth, from my experiences. But how do you get such sentiments across in a forum that is actually so disconnected from empathy, so far from 'Social'? The sad truth is that posting my feelings about that on FB that would earn me a clear conscience...and an endless, endless river of shit. So I'm taking the advice of Pat Morita: "Best way avoid punch? No be there."

I want the truth, I want real congenial discussion; and if these things were water, FB would be the Sahara.  So Facebook...I'm done with you.