What I Want To Be When I Grow Up: Fashion Photographer

I hear a lot of students are having a hard time deciding on a major. I hear a lot of grown ups talk about hating their jobs. So here it is: a series of interviews about What I Want To Be When I Grow Up. This is here to help people decide what occupation they want to occupy. Or, it’s here to help people resurrect their dreams of being a rickshaw driver or a lightbulb tester.

First occupation in the spotlight: A Spook.

Second occupation in the spotlight: An Archeologist.

Third occupation: A Writer

Fourth occupation: A Scientist

Fifth occupation: A Stay-At-Home-Parent

Sixth occupation: Doctor Dorian from Deadliest Warrior

Seventh occupation: A Zookeeper

You know the old Irish saying: “A picture is worth at least three potatoes and a head of cabbage.” Erm … uh, that’s not it! I mean … “A picture is worth a thousand words.” That’s right! So instead of introducing the dynamic and artistic Cody Bess who is an American photographer working in New York City and Los Angeles, and residing in Houston, Texas, specializing in Fashion, Editorial, and Entertainment photography, and the proud daddy of a brand new baby …. um, where was I? Oh yeah, instead of introducing him I’ll just show you some of his amazing work. And if you’re not convinced of his top talent and want to become a fashion photographer yourself by the end of the slide show…then obviously you have dial up internet and the pictures aren’t loading.
And now, let’s hear it from the man himself. May I introduce you to, Cody Bess, photographer:
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I have always had an interested in building and creating things.  When I was younger, I always envisioned myself being an Architect.  It fit well with me being able to dream up ideas, draw them out, and start creating.  This was before I learned there could be a future and career in the arts world.  As soon as I learned I could be taking photographs and creating art for a living, I was sold.
In this day and age of photoshopped models, plastic surgery, and cyborgs (they DO walk among us), what is your view on enhanced beauty vs. au naturale?
This is a very difficult question to answer, especially in the entertainment and fashion industry.  Personally I am all for natural beauty, but commercial job scenarios are different.  Especially while defining beauty in the fashion and entertainment worlds.  Everyone, and every client has a different “ideal”.  Depending on the job assignment,  the final product may call for flawless skin, flawless body, etc…  While other assignments call for capturing the raw natural beauty of a subject.  Photoshop is an extremely important tool to know while trying to meet expectations of your clients.  Knowing that I can finishan image to a client’s expectations, as well as my own expectations is very important.  Now, cyborgs…. don’t even get me started… :)
Model or . . . cyborg?
Who are some of your fashion photographer heroes?
Some of the photographers I have always admired are Steven Meisel, Patrick Demarchelier, and Norman Jean Roy.
Steven Meisel (self-photographed)
Patrick Demarchelier (photo by Victor Demarchelier)
Norman Jean Roy (pic from Vanity Fair’s contributor’s page)
What do you love about your work?
What I love about being in a creative profession is that you HAVE to come up with new ideas, and different ways of conveying a message.  It is hard for me to stay focused on one thing for too long, so this profession is perfect for me!  Each job can be so different, so every day takes me in a different direction.  Whether it be a studio fashion assignment or documentary work,  the variety is the most exciting part!
What do you not love about your work?
Generally speaking, I love what I do.  But hours do get a bit crazy at some points.  So, starting a family and figuring out scheduling is definitely a part I do not like.
If a kid wanted to become a fashion photographer when he/she grew up, what would you tell them to do while they’re young?
I would tell them to shoot as much possible.  The best way to learn is by trial and error.  Some of the most valuable lessons and tricks I have learned have been while on set of shoots.  Personal work is the absolute best way to learn how to accomplish certain styles and be able to have to confidence to carry them out if a client calls wanting your work.
What have been some of your favorite photo shoots?
My favorite photo shoots are the ones that carry the most pressure.  I love the challenge.  I recently have been shooting cast promo photos for TV shows, which come with a lot of pressure from producers, deadlines, etc…  This coming weekend I am shooting in Miami for Vh1 that will have a live broadcast of the photo shoot as well.  So, the more pressure the better!  Definitely may end up being a favorite.
Basketball Wives L.A. Vh1
I love your Street Portraits. And when I say love, I mean adore. They are so great. This wasn’t a question. Just a statement saying that everyone should go check them out !!! 
List 3 things you’d love to have in your future regarding your career.
-I would love to be represented by a great agency within the next couple of years.
-Make my way into the more mainstream fashion magazines.
-I would love to have published my first book within a few years as well.
Generally speaking, what type of personality traits should fashion photographers possess?
I feel the most important personality traits to posses while trying to “make it” as any type of artist are self motivation and confidence.  Artist will always have to keep producing new work, whether commissioned or personal work.  It is so easy to become lazy about creating new work, but new fresh work is what keeps artist current and working.  Also, you must have the confidence to stand behind your work and let people know you can accomplish a client’s vision.  Photography is a very competitive industry, so you have to be able to stand above your competition.
Thank you, Cody tha Best … I mean, Cody Bess! Go check out all the rest of his amazing pictures. And for goodness sake follow him on twitter and Facebook.
And now I have a special treat for y’all!
Here’s a phenomenal film directed by Scott Brignac, and guess who the director of photography is? If you guessed Cody Bess then you are RIGHT! Self-Sabotage is a cycle of short-films composed for Derek Webb’s FEEDBACK. It’s beautiful, breathtaking, alive … a stirring work of art.

What I Want To Be When I Grow Up: A Zookeeper

I hear a lot of students are having a hard time deciding on a major. I hear a lot of grown ups talk about hating their jobs. So here it is: a series of interviews about What I Want To Be When I Grow Up. This is here to help people decide what occupation they want to occupy. Or, it’s here to help people resurrect their dreams of being a grandfather clockmaker or a NERF gun practice dummy.

First occupation in the spotlight: A Spook.

Second occupation in the spotlight: An Archeologist.

Third occupation: A Writer

Fourth occupation: A Scientist

Fifth occupation: A Stay-At-Home-Parent

Sixth occupation: Doctor Dorian from Deadliest Warrior

Today I’m spotlighting an occupation that has a lot of similarities with last Monday’s occupation (a parent.)
Just like a parent, as a zookeeper you can’t help but love your charges even though you’re continuously cleaning up their poo, wiping snotty noses, keeping their cages free from choking hazards, and keeping them from getting loose. And like a parent, you receive beautiful rewards in return for all the love you pour into them. What could be better than a koala hug or a horse’s rapt attention, or a kiss from a seal? Nothing, that’s what. The world would be a better place if more koala hugs went around.
I had the pleasure of an interview with the sweetest zookeeper in the world–
 Callene Rapp – animal keeper
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I always wanted to be a jockey, but then I discovered that you have to diet to do that job, and I love food too much!  I’m still a big horse racing fan, and Kentucky Derby Day is my favorite holiday.
Horse jockeys–tall people need not apply
I am of the belief that horses and jellyfish are the best animals in the world. I could watch them for hours and would love oil paintings of them up on my walls if horse art wasn’t so cliche. What is YOUR favorite animal?
Horse art is cliche?  Crap!  I’m going to have to redecorate my entire living room now.  ;o)
Horses are probably my favorite animal, I’ve been hooked on them since I was about two.  But, I generally love all animals because they are all cool in their own unique way.  Some of the neatest animals I’ve worked with at the zoo are the Giant Indian Fruit bats, our zoo has a large group of them free flight in our Jungle exhibit, and it’s so cool to see something that large flying around overhead.  Their wing membranes are incredible.  We actually had some interesting times with the fruit bats recently, and I’m working on a post for my blog about it.
I also think spiders are cool.  Wouldn’t want one for a pet, but I just think they are neat.   The whole web thing is so cool, you know?  I should probably stop or I’ll remember 47 other animals that are my favorite!
What is the smartest animal?
The one that has the ability to make the zookeeper look dumb!  No, seriously.  We joke about how smart we keepers think we are, but invariably an animal will figure out a way to get out of it’s enclosure, trick you into thinking it hasn’t been fed, or dismantle something just as the curator walks by.  The elephants are notorious for playing mind games with their keepers, and don’t even think about trying to get something back from a primate if it’s managed to snag it from you!
Goodnight Gorilla — Fiction or … nonfiction?
Elephants have the reputation for being the smartest land mammals,  and with their long lived memories and complex social structure I’m sure they are right up there.  I do remember once catching a reference on a tv show that pigs were actually smarter than elephants ( I was with an elephant keeper at the time, and I was working with pigs–you can imagine that was interesting!) but I’ve never been able to confirm that.
What animal is so dumb that all the other zoo animals make fun of it?
The truth is, each animal is smart enough to do what it needs to do to survive in it’s own world.   Intelligence is relative and very, very subjective.  I hesitate to call any animal dumb because that’s the one that will make me look stupid tomorrow, lol! I’ll defer that question on the grounds that I don’t want to get embarrassed at work!
What animal is the scariest–you would NOT want to meet it in a dark alley.
Well, the first animals that came to mind would be a toss up between the zoo’s 14 foot King Cobra, or a chimp.  But I think definitely the chimp would be the most dangerous of the two.  They are super strong, super agressive and capable of doing a great deal of bodily harm.  That or animal curator…those folks are truly scary!
What do you love about your job?
The animals, definitely.  If you are an animal lover, it’s being in pig heaven every day when you go to work. Animals don’t care if you are wearing makeup, having pms, or if you are wearing fashionable clothes.  They just relate to you as you are, and if you bring a good attitude, they will meet you more than halfway.
I also like the fact that my work uniform is khaki, so I never have to worry about color coordinating.  And it hides the invariable daily stains.  I like the fact I don’t sit at a desk all day and that I can move around a lot.  It is a physical enough job that I don’t have to diet, which appeals to my food loving self!
What don’t you love about your job?
It isn’t a high paying job for the most part.  You had better be able to take some of your perks in emotional well being!   Depending on what animals you work with, you may have to be out in all sorts of weather.  The Amphibian and Reptile keepers for example work indoors most of the day, but hoofstock keepers such as myself work outside all the time.  This year, we had the coldest winter and the hottest summer, and you have to do the same things to take care of the animals in good weather and in bad.  Also, you will often have to work holidays, but again if you love what you do, every day can be a holiday!
Generally speaking, what are some qualities one should possess as a zookeeper?
Patience, determination, and self confidence.  You will toil very very had in relative obscurity for years with little recognition, constant criticism, and very little hope of financial reward.  Wait, did I just describe being a writer?
If I wanted to become a zookeeper when I grew up, what are some things I could do in Jr High/High School that could prepare me for the job?
Take science and biology courses.  If you have an opportunity to work with a veterinarian, or at any other animal facility, do it.  Cleaning stalls in a stable is good OTJ training.   If  you can develop good pitchfork technique early on it will always serve you well.  Get used to poop, it will be a major part of your life!  If you are lucky enough to have a zoo in your community, check out their volunteer program.   And also, keep an open mind!  Most people start out thinking they want to work with elephants, or big cats, but there are a lot of other animals out there that are just as cool and they need dedicated keepers too!
So cool! Sounds like a great occupation to me! Where can I sign up for the koala hug and playing fetch with the otters?
If you’re interested to hear more from Callene–go check out her blog, follow her on twitter, and she’s also on Facebook!
Tune in next time for: What I Want To Be When I Grow Up: Fashion Photographer
Have any questions for Callene?
What animal would YOU want to take care of?

What I Want To Be When I Grow Up: A Scientist

Some people are cool.

Some people are handsome.

Some people are smart.

Some people are funny.

Some people are cousins of Ellie Ann Soderstrom.

And some people are all of those things rolled into one. I’d like you to meet THE SCIENTIST:

He’s here to enlighten us on very important matters involving science and intellect and elepharoos.

Put your hands together for JORDAN SMITH:

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a fighter pilot.  I can remember spending countless hours building LEGO jets, model jets, reading jet books and doing generally jet-y things. One of the greatest Christmas/Birthday present combos I ever received (same day, for you folks keeping track at home) was Jane’s USAF Flight Simulator, and a SUPER SWEET joystick/throttle combo (something like this). Every other great Christmas present I got as a kid was either a LEGO set, or something that required assembly.  I just loved to take things apart and put them back together.

 If I’m interested in building a time machine out of my refrigerator, what science should I study?

Physics, with a minor in refrigerator assembly/repair.  Specifically, start by reading A Brief History of Time by Hawking, study relativity for a bit, then round it off with some string theory/quantum mechanics. Protip: call  Frigidaire or Kenmore and see if they have any scholarship options.

(Tardis–the grandson of my refrigerator time machine)

Seriously, though, a fun and fairly accessible read is The Elegant Universe, by Brian Greene.  He describes String Theory (and why there may be ten or more dimensions) in a wonderfully uh… elegant… manner.

And if you’re not into the mechanics of time, as much as its feel and beauty, pick up Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman.  It’s so vivid and thought-provoking.


 If I’m interested in proving the existence alien life forms, what type of science should I study?

No, really… it’s a major field of study.  A friend of mine from undergraduate majored in Astrobiology with the intent to work for NASA.  I’m not sure if he’s there now, but he had an internship with them during school, as well as a trip to the Air Force Academy’s observatory with our Physics professor.

Also, I’m pretty sure it’s required to have an extensive working knowledge of the Star Wars universe.

Study this

If I’m interested in combining a kangaroo with an elephant to make an elepharoo, what type of science should I study?

Well, you’d probably need a degree in Biology with a major emphasis on Genetics.  And there’s a renowned researcher / publisher Whose works you’d probably benefit from studying: Theodor S. Geisel. Most folks called him Dr. Seuss.

The Future 

I’d also look into structural engineering once you hit the later stages of experimentation… because the Elepharoo sounds like it might find a critical intersection between bouncy and massive.


 If I’m interested in studying mulch piles and the dependence gnomes have on them, what type of science should I study?

First, you’d want to read up on the nature of the creatures themselves. Specifically their living and societal habits. (No, I’m not talking about gnome societies, but those exist, too, apparently).

Next, study fertilizer itself, and maybe some composting science, and see if any of the byproducts are conducive to a thriving gnome community.

Finally, and most importantly, try and find a gnome villiage that will accept you to live as one of them for a short time.  Learn their ways.  Only then will you discover true enlightenment: that physics (the basis of all other sciences) doesn’t actually exist.  It’s all gnomes.


If I’m interested in creating a force-field that could contain a nuclear bomb, what type of science should I study?

Again, I think Star Wars knowledge is very important here, but you might also go study at University of Washington.  I hear there is a group there who’s been working with plasma, which has some neat properties that might lead to some force-field-like applications in the future.

Another cool technology in the same family is Quantum Levitation, which, if nothing else, might cause your eyebrows to float upwards a bit.


Besides being smarter than everyone else in the room, what other qualities should scientists possess (speaking generally, of course)?


Heh, I guess that depends on the room.  I’ve been to some conferences that make me want to quit altogether because of how much smarter everyone else was.  I’m pretty safe here in my living room, though; my bonsai tree is pathetic in a debate.  I win almost every time.

When you’re not trying to get smarter, try and gain humility.  Scientific research has a way of showing you your flaws (see: Murphy’s Law, Occam’s Razor), so it’s good if you can take “you’re stupid” for an answer without any huge frustration.

Also, Einstein probably put it best when describing himself: “I have no special talent, I am only passionately curious.”


What does your job consist of?

I’m sorry, that’s top secret.  Ha, jokes!

I am a commissioned Nuclear Medical Physicist in a US Air Force hospital, which sounds a lot more intimidating than it actually is.  I’m mainly tasked with looking after PET and SPECT imaging machines, which take pictures of functional processes happening in the human body so doctors can use them to diagnose certain types of disease.  I would absolutely love to spend an hour explaining how the process works, but you might lose 70% of your followership.  So in lieu of that, I’ll just say, we inject radioactive stuff into patients, and watch where it goes with one of several types of fancy 3D cameras.  I do quality assurance tests to make sure they create accurate, readable images, so we can help the patient quickly.


I also coordinate (and teach a bit in) a physics course for the hospital radiology residents.

Finally, I do some radiation safety work, mostly keeping track of patients’ and hospital workers’ radiation dose.  For instance, today I calculated the dose that a pregnant patient’s 20-week-old bun-n-the-oven received from an X-ray procedure.  (Don’t worry, it was negligible).


What do you love about your job?

I love being able to use science so directly to help people.  If I’d gone into theory or research, I likely wouldn’t see the impact so directly as I do working in the hospital.  Granted, I’m two steps removed from the patients themselves, but it’s wonderful to be in an environment striving to heal people.


What don’t you love?

The busywork, paperwork and bureaucracy that comes with the job.  No doubt we’ll always have to deal with it in our society, but I feel like I get a double dose while working for the government.


And finally, the question I’ve been dying to ask: if Copernicus, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, and Marie Curie got in a bar room brawl, who would win?

I’ve been thinking about this one, and I hope you don’t mind if I take some super-heroic liberties.


Copernicus is seemingly harmless, but can channel the sun to temporarily blind his opponent, leaving them defenseless against his Prussian martial arts.

Newton manipulates gravity in small pockets to suspend his enemies to walls, ceilings, and in mid-air. Then, unfortunately, he hurtles apples at them.

Darwin plays his special flute and calls an army of mockingbirds to fight in his stead.  Results vary depending on geographic location, though.  Beaks meant developed by some species for tearing are quite effective, while the digging-birds are just annoying.

Einstein employs his “theory” of relativity (which wasn’t as much discovered, as much as incubated, developed and set free).  He slows time from his enemy’s perspective as if they’ve passed a black hole’s event horizon.  By the time he releases them, they’ve spent an eternity locked in their own mind and fall to the ground shivering and insane.

What Marie Curie lacks in strength, speed and supernatural ability, she more than makes up for in cunning. She fights and loses many a battle knowing she’s won the war, because she spiked their Gatorade with an alpha-emitter.  Alas, they won’t live out the week.

I’m stumped, who do you think would win?

I’m pretty sure my limitless Taiji sword skill I’ve been learning from a DVD will be of no use against any of those. You know what they say, “Black Holes Are Mightier Than The Sword.”

Jordan has a fun/music/geeky Tumblr called Super Collider. And his twitter feed is has more of the same coolness you’d expect from such a guy.

Any questions for Jordan about science or smartness or Star Wars or anything else starting with S? Or any other letter?

Jason Arnopp Interview: Stormhouse, RockNRoll, & Dr. Who

What do I want to be when I grow up? A writer. Just like this guy. In fact we’re basically twins except he has short hair and can grow a beard and I am not British and do not use ‘U’ in strange places like he does.

Hobbits, Rangers, Wizards, and Muggles, I am pleased to introduce to you the most excellent:

Jason Arnopp

Word on the streets is that you own your very own arcade game and about 2k movies. Is there any truth behind this? And if so, how do you ever get any work done?

Word on the streets is, indeed, correct – although that arcade machine sadly hasn’t worked in at least three years! I keep meaning to find someone to come and fix it. But at least it’s nice to look at. I do have a large film collection, across various formats – I have a whole load of old-school VHS, for instance. I love the big padded video boxes we used to see in both the UK and US.

What movie have you seen the most times?

The most times? Now that’s an interesting one. Maybe John Carpenter’s The Thing, which I love to death – it’s my favourite horror film. Or perhaps some mad action movie that I was obsessed with on video as a kid, like The Atlantis Interceptors. Still love that movie.

Let’s talk Doctor Who. What do you think it is about the show that attracts everyone and their grandma?

It’s half the Doctor himself – a true hero, who fights for what’s right and values all life-forms equally, unless they’re Daleks – and half the visionary format of the show. Who doesn’t love the idea of being able to go anywhere in time and space? It was an ingenious format back in 1963 when the show began, and it hasn’t become any less brilliant with time.

What’s the scariest Doctor Who episode?

In the pre-2000 ‘classic series’, I’d probably say The Pyramids of Mars, a remarkably creepy Tom Baker story involving walking Egyptian mummies and an evil god named Sutekh. Post-millennium, it’s probably Midnight, the brilliant David Tennant story scripted by Russell T Davies. It hinges around a simple yet superbly unnerving concept and I love the fact that we never learn what the invading entity is.

What’s your favorite Doctor Who episode?

Either of the above, but there are so many, from different eras. It’s really hard to narrow it down. One of my all-time favourite stories, though – and quite possibly my favourite – is Earthshock, with Peter Davison as the Doctor. It unveiled a wonderful new redesign for the Cybermen, which remains my favourite look for them. Probably because I was a kid and those were MY Cybermen. Still are. Note: my favourite Doctor Who story changes from month to month, year to year.

If you had to fight any of the antagonists in Doctor Who, which would it be?

I would ideally want to square off against the weakest antagonists the show has ever had. Probably a cute and spongy Bandril. Yes, I reckon I could ‘have’ a Bandril in a fight.

(Jason’s chosen nemesis)

Jason wrote the audiobook Doctor Who: The Gemeni Contagion. Now go check it out. I said GO! I’ll wait here until you get back.

Congratulations on the film you wrote and executive-produced, Stormhouse, which premiered at the Edinburgh International Film Festival and has been making people sleep with their night lights on ever since. Tell me a bit about the story and why you wanted to tell it.

(Warning: Do not watch if you want to hear Frere Jacques again without getting the chills.)

Thanks! Yes, it’s been a fun year. Stormhouse sprung out of some research that director Dan Turner had been doing, about a military base in Suffolk, England, which had been the subject of various tabloid stories about paranormal events: ghosts, UFOs and that kind of fun stuff. Dan’s findings prompted his idea of a film about the military capturing a ghost. We really seized upon that idea, because it was a concept which immediately started painting pictures in your head and also asked questions. It was a story we had to tell: what if the military really did capture a supernatural entity. How would they do that, and more worryingly, why would they?

The story sees the British government drafting New York psychic Hayley Sands over to visit Stormhouse, a top-secret underground military base in the English countryside, where the supernatural entity has been incarcerated. Hayley’s excitement wanes, however, when she learns that her intentions for the entity are very different from the military’s…

You’re quite an expert on rock. And rockers. Do you have any stories about rock, rockers, or rocking chairs you wanna share?

I’ve certainly done my fair share of rocking. Not so much as, for instance, The Rock in a rocking chair, but a fair bit. Oh, there are plenty of stories from my time as a rock journalist and magazine editor, which stretched from 1988 to 2002. One of my favourites, though, is the time I took UK Satanic Metal band Cradle Of Filth to the Vatican for a magazine feature. We literally ended up surrounded by angry Italian guards pointing submachine guns at us. It was pretty scary, because Vatican City has its own rules and they probably could have locked us up. In the end, we got away with our liberty. The kind of experience that’s only fun when you’re looking back at it.

You have a book, How To Interview Dr Who, Ozzy Osbourne, and Everyone Else which is presumably about how to interview Dr Who, Ozzy Osbourne, and everyone else. Can you tell me some things that make a good interviewer?

Quite a lot of things, but here’s one of the most important for face-to-face chats – the ability to manage two-way traffic in your head. You have to listen to everything that your interviewee’s saying, so as not to miss an important new avenue of conversation. And at the same time, you’re regularly thinking about your next question; how far you are through the interview; and whether you’ve got enough time left in which to ask everything you need to ask. Getting to grips with that traffic control can take a while. It also helps to be nice, open, enthusiastic and generally personable. You can read more about my book at this handy link.

What did you do to poor Ozzy to illicit such violence?

I simply asked him to tell me the story about him biting a bat, one more time!

What don’t you like to be called?

‘Jase’, or ‘Jay’, by people I’ve only just met. Always a bit weird when people immediately abbreviate your name, don’t you think?

What do you like about your work?

Good lord, that’s hard to answer. It’s definitely true that we have to like, and believe in, what we do, in order to be able to do it with any real conviction in the first place. Writers need to have an insane amount of self-belief, even if they don’t always realise it. But I’m not answering the question, am I? Okay… I like the way that I seem able to generate an endless stream of ideas, some of which I then get really excited about. I love the way an idea can just bloom inside your head and keep on growing. It demands to be developed and then written. That’s perhaps the most exciting part of the process on any creative endeavour – that initial dreaming-up.

What don’t you like about you work?

Hard to generalize here. A lot of my work tends to be more plot-driven than character-driven, and I’d like to develop the character-led side of things further and try new approaches, growing always. Still, there’s nothing wrong with plot-driven narratives, so long as the story and characters are actually good. It’s the end result that matters.

What’s your writing space like?

For the last year, I’ve had an actual office! A desk, a chair, and everything. It’s full of distracting stuff on shelves, which is probably unwise, but I love it. Spent three years in my last flat writing at a desk in my bedroom, which isn’t the most healthy way to work. I like being able to shut my office door for the day and try to switch off. Although I tend to find that quite difficult.

Most memorable meal.

Once had a truly amazing steak in Faro, Portugal, which I still daydream about. A big chunk of perfectly cooked delight.

What’s the song that gets you movin’?

My all-time favourite song is almost certainly Breaking The Law by Judas Priest. Short, simple, dynamic and downright joyous. It’s on their British Steel album, which is also tremendous.

Where/when do you feel completely at peace?

Complete peace doesn’t come all that easily, to me. I find it pretty hard to relax, but occasionally manage it while reading a magazine or something. I probably feel happiest when I’m writing a script, and it’s working, and pouring out of me. When I’m listening to music, but hearing none of it. They say it’s quietest in the eye of a tornado, so maybe that’s where I’m most at peace.

Have you ever been in a life-threatening situation?

We’re probably in life-threatening situations most days, without realising it, even if it’s just for a couple of seconds! But I don’t think I’ve ever been in a situation where I’ve blatantly thought I was going to die. Maybe on the odd ‘plane journey with terrible turbulence, although I usually manage to block out scary thoughts while in the air. You kinda have to.

What are you best at cooking?

Possibly pesto pasta. Which doesn’t take a whole lot of skill, if we’re honest.

Hell on earth is:

Being locked in a coffin full of spiders, 666 feet under.

What makes you decide a story is worth telling?

You can’t stop thinking about it. As I said earlier, when your obsession with the story grows and it keeps expanding inside your head. That’s when you know it’s got legs. Especially if it’s about spiders. Or millipedes.

What fictional character would you take a 12-hour car ride with?

The Doctor, of course! And even in 12 hours, you wouldn’t begin to scratch the surface of knowing anything about him.

One thing you know to be true:

You can’t win until you’re not afraid to lose. Corny, but true.

If you had to swim across a lake of any kind of beverage, what would it be?

I like Guinness, but that would be too thick to swim through. So I’d choose a fine Pinot Noir.

What are you proud of?

Right now, at this very moment, I’m incredibly proud of the new US Lionsgate trailer for our film Stormhouse, which will hit US DVD on February 7.

(Warning: very scary. Do not watch without clutching your teddy bear and covering your eyes.)

What do you regret?

Sometimes, just for a moment, I regret not getting into screenwriting earlier in my life. Then I forget all about that and get on with it.

Can you share about what you’re working on? What’s in your future?

At the moment, I’m writing a new commissioned feature film, which I can’t say anything about, apart from the fact that it’s a horror-thriller. I have a couple of ‘spec’ feature scripts, both horror, that I very much hope will be made. And I’m sure I’ll continue to write within the Doctor Who tie-in universe. Maybe one day, for Doctor Who itself, as my inexorable assault on television continues. We have to aim for goals and aim high.

Want to read more of Jason Arnopp’s charm and talent and misplaced ‘U’ s? Of course you do! You must go check out his website and his phenomenal blog. Just click on his left eyelid in the picture below and it will take you directly there:

And for Doctor’s sake please follow his engaging tweets.

Cya here on Friday for the continuation of the interview series. Next up: What I Want to Be When I Grow Up: Scientist.

What I Want To Be When I Grow Up: An Archeologist

I hear a lot of students are having a hard time deciding on a major. I hear a lot of grown ups talk about hating their jobs. So here it is: a series of interviews about What I Want To Be When I Grow Up. This is here to help people decide what occupation they want to occupy. Or, it’s here to help people resurrect their dreams of being a Komodo dragon trainer or volcano rock smelter.

First occupation in the spotlight: A Spook.

Second occupation in the spotlight: An Archeologist.

Remember when you used to dig holes in your backyard and expect to find the lost remains of your pioneer ancestors? Or possibly a saber tooth tiger skeleton? Or…more realistically…pirate treasure?!

Every kid likes to dig holes.

Some adults do, too.

We call them archeologists.

It is my great honor to introduce you to the awesome Arielle Danielson:

Oh geez that’s a bad picture of her. Let me try this one:

Hm. Still no good. How about:

Okay that’s decent. But my favorite has to be:

This is Arielle laughing and hugging her mom. If you know anything about her you’ll quickly find that she loves to laugh and loves her family. She also loves to rock climb and is pretty darn good at it. She also likes to dig holes . . . but we’ll get to that in a minute. For now let’s focus on the fact that she’s my cousin.Yes, yes, it’s true. Arielle is my cousin. So if you notice any good lines in her interview below . . . it’s most likely she got them from me.

Without further ado, I give you THE ARCHEOLOGIST:

Is your life constant motorcycle chases, treasure hunts, booby traps, indignant natives, collapsing temples, poisoned dates, and angry Nazis? In other words, is Indiana Jones FOR REAL?

Sadly, no. Our friend, Indy, tended to do things more on the illegal side, and we try to keep operations legal and not offend the natives.

Also, the type of archaeological work I do is different. I work in the CRM (Cultural Resource Management) field, which means that instead of going to temples and excavating, I do the initial survey of land parcels and try to discover archaeological sites. Here’s where the adventure comes in. The majority of the land parcels that we get to survey are undeveloped, so I get to blaze my own trail. This sometimes requires hacking my way through briars and dense vegetation, trudging through swamps, and crossing deep streams by way of fallen logs. All of this is done while looking for signs of prior human occupation and potential archaeological sites. So, in one sense, it has that same treasure hunt feel.

Do you have to wear this hat in order to become a real archeologist? If not, what IS an archeologist supposed to wear?

Well, a hat is very helpful, especially on sunny days, but usually a ball cap will do.  Since archaeologists are exposed to the elements all day, it always good to have some form of sun protection! The typical archaeological uniform consists of comfortable pants made out of durable fabric, a t-shirt, and hiking boots. Rain gear, gloves, and a long sleeve shirt are usually kept in your backpack in case you run into some unexpected weather.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

A crocodile hunter, like Steve Irwin. Or, a journalist for National Geographic.

Why archeology? What are some reasons for digging? 


Let’s see, I actually just kind of happened into archaeology. I started out as a Mass Communications major, but realized journalism wasn’t for me after all. I had already taken a couple of anthropology* courses, and it seemed interesting enough to get a degree in, so I did. My junior year I went to field school where I spent a month deep in the jungles of northern Belize, excavating Mayan temples. From then on, I was hooked.

Since then, I have surveyed and excavated sites all over Texas, Louisiana, and Washington. Archaeology is very important because it gives us a more accurate representation of what happened in the past. It allows us to glimpse into cultures that were around before written language, as well as give a voice to the side of history which is generally over-looked: the side of the common people.  History typically focuses on those in power, while archaeology tries to uncover what was going on in the daily life of the entire community.

*Archaeology is one of several branches of Anthropology.

 So tell me what archeologists do.

diggin’ square holes, boss

Archaeologists excavate possible prehistoric (before written language) and historic (anything older than 50 years old) sites and determine their significance to the archaeological record. Basically, we dig a lot of holes and try to discover or confirm information about past cultures.

What is your dream dig?


One where I got to discover all the significant artifacts and didn’t have to do any of the paper work. Also, I would really like to go South America and excavate a cave dwelling or burial. That would be really cool.

What do you love about your job?

I love that I get to be outside all day every day.  I love that I get to travel. I love that I get to work with my hands and perform some good ol’ physical labor. And I love that when I dig up an artifact that I am probably the first person to touch it in over a century.

What don’t you love about your job?

Living out of hotels, rainy, cold days digging in the mud, and not being able to see my friends and family.

Say I want to be an archeologist when I grow up, what are some things I could do in jr high/high school that will prepare me for the job?

More and more communities across the country are instigating community archaeology projects. You can volunteer and get involved that way. Or, you can always volunteer at your local museum. There are also several field schools you can sign up for through your local university or online through another university. If none of those options are available to you, you can read books about archaeology and do all the yard-work for your mom (to get used to physical labor in the outdoors).

Thank you for being here, Arielle!

Stay tuned for the next installment of What I Want To Be When I Grow Up: Scientist

Would you like to be an archeologist?

Have any questions for the archeologist?

What I Want To Be When I Grow Up: A Spook

I hear a lot of students have a hard time deciding on a major. I hear a lot of grown ups hate their jobs. So here it is: a series of interviews about What I Want To Be When I Grow Up. This is here to help people decide what occupation they want to occupy. Or, it’s here to help people resurrect their dreams of being a trapeze artist or Olympic speed walker.

First occupation in the spotlight: An Intelligence Agent

(This is a rare photo of Holmes. At least, I think it is Holmes. Can never be sure with spooks.)

He could be called many things: spy, intelligence agent, sleeper, plant, scout, undercover agent, heart throb . . . but today I’m just going to call him Holmes. Which might or might not be his real name.

He’s a good man. He’s noble. He’s smart. Behind his mask, he’s the real deal. Ladies and Gentlemen, I’m pleased to give you my interview of Holmes:

What did you want to be when you grew up?

First I wanted to be a knight with King Arthur. I had a really cool lance that I lugged around with my plastic shield. My mom refused to allow me to take them into stores or on subways. I eventually accepted my inability to rearrange the time continuum and shifted my ambitions toward being a fireman. I always had a fascination with travel and foreign cultures, and that certainly influenced my life.

Is your life constant car chases in Aston Martins, high stakes poker games, high-tech gadgets, jumping out of exploding helicopters, perfect hair, kidnapping dictator’s girlfriends, and fending off hordes of rich and well-dressed (albeit slinky) beautiful women? In other words, is James Bond FOR REAL? 

I am a conservative driver. I have never driven an Aston Martin. I admit to driving the wrong way on a busy one-way section of a main street in Madrid, and down a set of steps to a side street one time, but it was a Sunday so the traffic wasn’t as bad as at other times, and the circumstances merited it. Except for in training areas, I have only willfully ignored traffic laws three times.

Poker? I hate casinos and gambling in general. I have, on very rare occasions, had a reason to walk through a casino. I would have preferred to be in a library or a quiet section of forest.

Perfect Hair? I have pretty manageable thick hair. I spent several years having to keep my hair much longer than I would have preferred. That long, thick hair was a pain, but the “look” has to match the mission at hand. The well-tailored Tuxedo look only works in limited circumstances. The Tuxedo or well-tailored suit won’t work in a back alley in Caracas or the Atlas Mountains in Africa. The longhaired hippy look won’t work in a five star hotel lobby near an OPEC meeting. You have to look the “part,” but there are all sorts of “parts.”

Helicopters? I have survived one helicopter crash and have witnessed two others. I don’t desire extra helicopter rides. To me, they are a tool. I tolerate them without complaint when needed, but not for fun.

Kidnapping dictators’ girlfriends? Never done that. Did you have one in mind?

Fending off rich women? Are you mad? Why would I do that? Unfortunately, I’ve never had to. My rather tolerant wife gave me permission to not fend them off if they ever showed up, as long as they were going to share the riches.

James Bond is almost for real as one of many identities available to agents in the field, but the “Bond” type is very rare. Joe Tourist, Susie Business, Doctor Bob, and Pastor Bill are a few of the more common types of cover. Someone in a Bond role would be less willing to depend on luck and chance than the screen version that we all enjoy watching. I prefer the screen version. He’s more fun to watch.

What movies or books accurately portray the life of a spook?

There are many good books about espionage. A few that come to mind are Spy CatcherThe Falcon and the SnowmanThe Main EnemyThe Puzzle Palace, and By Way of Deception. There have been many tradecraft books published that describe the tools and mechanics of espionage, but I haven’t read the “open source” books on tradecraft so I have no idea which ones are realistic. Just remember that the world of espionage is a very big world, and that one person’s experience may be vastly different from that of another person. So there is no one “right” way for someone in espionage to proceed.

 Generally speaking, what qualities/personalities do spook’s possess?

(these masked people are obviously spies)

The qualities possessed by a cryptanalyst working in the NSA might be quite different from the qualities possessed by an analyst on the Cuban Desk at the CIA. The qualities that might make a covert action participant ideal for a trip to Somalia might be the same qualities that would leave him uncomfortable working patiently on a long-term operation in Europe. It’s a big world. There’s room for lots of types of folks.

The Director of the CIA, the NSA, or the DHS might have a different view on this, but I look for intelligence, reliability, loyalty, and commitment. I don’t look for big, fragile egos. Heavy drinkers and drug users are an instant “no.” Skills can be honed, new skills can be learned, but I need to see commitment to the mission at hand to begin to trust someone. I can teach you to shoot better, I can teach you to use a radio safely or run a dead drop. Gravity can easily teach you to parachute. I can’t teach you to be committed. That has to come from inside of you.

What do you love about your job?

I have enjoyed some of the travel. I have enjoyed knowing interesting people and developing life long friendships with people that are so different from my neighbors. What I like most of all is that I have been able to contribute in my small way to things that are very important to me.

  What don’t you love about your job?

That’s a tougher question to handle. I don’t like failure. I don’t like it that things don’t always go well or that the intelligence establishments of the USA and its allies (vast and shockingly expensive that they are) cannot always anticipate or predict the future. The lost opportunities prior to 9-11 gnaw at me if I let them. I can’t let them. Crying about yesterday makes us useless today. But for all of us, in any walk of life, we have to “be here now” in order to contribute to the well being of our loved ones and ourselves. In a better world, there would be no spies, no guns, no nuclear weapons, and no hungry or abused children, but I was born in this world and in my imperfect human way, I have responded as best I can.

Say I want to be a spook when I grow up, what are some things I could do in jr high/high school that will prepare me for the job?

(a good spy always takes out the trash for his mother)

 Foreign language studies should be started at the earliest possible age. By learning a language prior to age twelve, you will be able to speak it without a foreign accent. Learning a language late is still useful for certain jobs in the vast intelligence community.

-Pay attention in science class, and learn to use computers for more than video games. An interest in human geography and history helps, but those things can be acquired later. There will be a demand for Arabic speakers, Farsi speakers, Chinese speakers and (fluent) Spanish speakers for a long time to come.

-Avoid drugs and alcohol. Unlike Congress, the intelligence community requires sober employees. Self-discipline and self-restraint are valued.

-Be a respectable member of your community. In college, major in what you have a real interest in and likely will do best in. A good psychology major is a more attractive prospective employee than a poor mechanical engineering major.

-For most types of intelligence work (not all) we’ll be talking to your neighbors. If one crank neighbor says nasty things about you, we won’t automatically believe them. If several neighbors tell us that they don’t trust you, we won’t trust you either.

You’d be surprised at how detailed and enthusiastic neighbors can be when describing youngsters to us. People remember that time you helped them when they were sick. They remember that you helped the senior citizen shovel the snow in his driveway. When your neighborhood trusts you, they often become your best PR campaign. If your neighbors trusted you enough to go into their house and water their plants for them when they were on vacation, that’s important to us. You don’t need to be an “exciting” kid or a “cool” kid. You need to be a good kid. We’ll provide the excitement.

And finally, the question I’ve been dying to ask: What really happened in Area 51?!

Area 51? Hey, look. She and I were both young, and I was single at the time so . . . just kidding.

I have never been to Area 51. It’s outside my area of expertise. Area 51 is for work on high tech stuff like fast planes and missiles and things that are best not tested over the skies or under the streets of downtown Los Angeles or New York. I have heard no evidence of anything paranormal or intergalactic occurring at Area 51.

The greatest promoters of UFO stories have been the world’s leading Air Forces. It was always better to have the public believing in intergalactic UFO’s rather than asking questions about real experiments with real equipment. Can you imagine how many “UFO sightings” stealth planes and cruise missiles have generated?

First, I just want to say: Thank You Holmes for being born in this world and for responding to the threat of evil men with bravery and responsibility. I’m sure you have hundreds of cool stories. I hope one day they’ll make a movie about you. P.S. Who do you want to play you in the movie about your life?

Second, if you want more of Holmes (who wouldn’t?) then check out his fantastic articles for Piper Bayard about world politics, famous spooks, current affairs, and interesting history. (just look on the sidebar for his articles)

Tune in next time for Arielle Danielson’s interview: What I Want To Be When I Grow Up: An Archeologist

Do you want to be a spook?

Do you have any questions for Holmes?


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