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Happy 14th birthday to my sweet and smart son, Jacob! He has overcome many challenges in his short number of years, but he has always been happy and kind to everyone, confronting his issues with grace, determination, and humor. A natural musician he plays piano and saxophone, making the world more melodic and meaningful in the process. It’s challenging for us both with my living so far away, but he is always close by in my heart (along with my younger son, Max). I am so inspired by the person Jacob is and the man he is becoming!

“My family, my future; it means too much to me. I can’t risk it, it’s not worth the risk; I’m done.” — Eric Lopez in Game’s Over

I previously blogged about my adventures as an extra on Star Trek Beyond in 2015, but in July 2017 I beamed up to a starring role as Eric Lopez in “Game’s Over,” a short film by students at SAE Institute Dubai. We shot the film during the evening on July 18 and 19 in Dubai and it premiered at a student showcase at SAE on August 20.

I was invited to participate in this film noir project by Natalie Aji, the film’s producer, Melissa Urresti, the director, via my profile on Mixfame (an online platform connecting talented individuals with production houses, casting directors and producers for projects in UAE and the Middle East).

A description of the film follows:

“Three men are involved in the Los Angeles underground scene. When Eric wants to quit in order to save his family, John and Matthew must figure out a way to make him stay in order to sustain their social status and not expose the crimes they have committed.”

After participating in a student film and two promotional videos at the American University in the Emirates (where I have taught management and marketing courses since 2015) in addition to my past appearances on game shows from 2000 to 2008 I was thrilled to be a part of this project. Acting in this film was challenging, yet rewarding; it pushed me to expand my abilities creatively and professionally.

I also appreciated the opportunity to expand my acting experience with such a dramatic role in a project that helped students complete a project for their degree program. I was thoroughly impressed with their dedication and determination. Although it is slightly less than 8 minutes in length, we spent at least 10 hours shooting on location; I am sure at least that many hours were spent editing the final film.

You can watch “Game’s Over” below or view it directly on YouTube.

Bravo to the crew and my fellow cast members for a job well done!

Why did the identical twins cross the road? To tell NSFW jokes at the Improv!

smash_brothers_cory_n_chadIdentical twins Cory and Chad Baumgartner — “The Smash Brothers” — have a unique approach to the business of comedy they’ve used to fuel their careers as comedians. They operate their act under the perfectly named company: Identical Entertainment. Born and raised east of Los Angeles, the brothers had a challenging yet character building childhood:  they attended more than 14 schools! To help make friends they embraced the role of class clowns. It worked!

Those experiences drew them close to each other, strengthening already genetically close ties. They now consider themselves each others best friends. Interestingly, even though they look alike, Cory and Chad are very different: Cory is the “Good Twin” with a laid back style and calm demeanor (he  doesn’t drink or party). Chad is the “Evil Twin,”a bad boy type, who, with his wild party stories, always keeps Cory on his toes.

Their lives are intertwined at almost every level:  they have switched college classes, broken up with each others girlfriends, showed up to work for each other, and even used each others drivers licenses (allegedly). You really never know what to expect with these two: although they are identical twins, their act is one of a kind!

I first encountered the brothers after I praised the Hollywood Improv on how effectively they leveraged their Facebook page. I added that, whenever I teach public speaking courses, I always discuss the impressive public speaking skills of successful comedians. Shortly thereafter I received a message from Cory and Chad offering to come speak to a class of mine.

Comedians Cory and Chad with Matthew Gilbert at National UniversityA public speaking class I teach at National University — COM103, Public Speaking — was a perfect fit. On Saturday, June 4, 2011, they spent nearly 2 hours (with their colleague Mark Gonzalez).  They enthusiastically shared their experiences as comedians with my students. Cory and Chad also provided my students with inspiring and insightful ideas about pursuing their passions. It was a sincere and soft-spoken experience (especially considering how energetic their stage act is).

On Friday, March 30, 2012 everything came full circle: I attended their show at the Hollywood Improv. This was my first time attending their show; it was as wild and whimsical as I imagined! After the show, they spent time with me, sharing insights into their entrepreneurial experiences and efforts as independent comedians. They discussed how, in addition to social media, they continue to use traditional marketing tools (something I stress in my classes). They also mentioned that the marketing tricks they use can translate to any small businesses or entrepreneurial effort.

You can watch the interview in the video below. Note: This video contains some mild profanity (Cory and Chad speak from their hearts). As a result, you might want to avoid watching this at work or in mixed company (or wear headphones). But, I assure you, the insights Cory and Chad share are invaluable.

Here are the top 10 tips from the interview:

1. Accept the Benefits of Bombing: accept that bombing on stage is a good thing; it will light the fire under you to do better next time and improve your act.

2. Be Patient, but Persistent: Comedy is a tough business; it takes years to “get paid” and finally realize results from your efforts.

3. Dedicate Yourself to Your Dream: work for the recognition of your writing and the reward of making your audience laugh; you’re going to hear “no” a lot so anchor yourself to your idea and let that motivate you through the tough times.

4. Embrace Word of Mouth Marketing: Cory and Chad worked every audience after each show, handing out flyers and building relationships with their audience.

5. Invest in Marketing Yourself: the brothers paid people to place 5,000 flyers on cars at concerts or other events. Their expectation was a modest 5 people from each effort; they were willing to invest the money on the exponential potential of getting their name out their and leveraging their brand awareness.

6. Make Your Money on the Road: Building your brand in comedy is not something you can do casually or comfortably; you need to hit the road and tour comedy clubs across the country — around the world if possible too!

7. Maximize Every Moment: the brothers got their break while joking in line at a Starbucks; a club promoter was also in line and thought they were funny. Cory and Chad said they were stand-up comedians and he gave them 5 minutes on stage at the Improv that night!

8. Promote Yourself and Believe in Your Potential: don’t expect a comedy club to promote you; take responsibility for your own marketing and put your heart into it.

9. Put the Effort in You Want to See Returned: show business is just that — a business; to build an empire you need to keep building your brand, work hard, and keep improving your comedic craft.

10. Use Every Promotional Option Available: Cory and Chad have used Craigslist, e-mail blasts, Facebook, MySpace, radio commercials, Twitter, and even 5″ x 7″ promotional cards they hand out after shows.

Smash it!

How well can you give a speech on the spot?

Thanks to an in-class exercise, the students in my COM-103, Public Speaking class at National University now know their answer to this question.

During a class on Saturday, December 3, 2011, I challenged them to give one-minute informative or persuasive speeches about one item they randomly selected from a bag.

They energetically engaged the assignment and succeeded superbly (as I anticipated, despite initial hesitancy on their part)! Here’s how completed the exercise:

I brought a bag I had earlier filled with 20 random items. After announcing and explaining the exercise to my students, I walked around the room, bag in hand, instructing each student to reach in and retrieve one item without looking.

The selected items included:

  1. Bac’n Buds Plastic Jar (3.25 oz)
  2. Black Wine Gift Bag
  3. Blueberry Muffin Mix (7 oz)
  4. Göt 2 Be Hair Gel (2.5 oz)
  5. Hand Sewn Bag of Marbles
  6. Hand-Held Hole Puncher
  7. Large Yellow Sponge
  8. New England Patriots Helmet Bank
  9. Playing Cards from London (52)
  10. Rayovac 6 Volt Lantern Battery
  11. Red Bandanna Neck Cooler
  12. Synthetic Pillow Stuffing.

I then gave my students 15 minutes to research and prepare a minimum one-minute speech about the item (using the computers at their desks).

Once they were ready, we began. While each student spoke I clocked their presentation without giving them any indication as to their progress or total time.

After giving the speech, each student wrote his or her name on the board and, next to their name, the length of time they guessed their speech to have been. I then told them how long their speech actually was, which they then wrote down on the board next to their estimated time.

My intent was to help them understand the differences in perceived time versus actual time — while also gaining practice giving speeches in a somewhat improvisational way.

Notably, with one exception, all of the students underestimated their total time, generally by a large margin. In one surprising case, a student’s estimate of her time was exactly the length of her speech!

The results are as follows:

  1. Guess: 0:55 | Actual: 3:20 | Difference: -2:25
  2. Guess: 0:45 | Actual: 1:11 | Difference:  -0:26
  3. Guess: 1:05 | Actual 1:05 | Difference: 0.00
  4. Guess: 1:00 | Actual: 0:26 | Difference: +0.34
  5. Guess: 1:01 | Actual: 0:51 | Difference: -0:10
  6. Guess: 0:40 | Actual: 1:00 | Difference: -0:20
  7. Guess: 0:40 | Actual: 0:57 | Difference: -0:17
  8. Guess: 1:21 | Actual: 1:31 | Difference: -0:10
  9. Guess: 1:07 | Actual: 2:04 | Difference: -0:57
  10. Guess: 1:04 | Actual 2:09 | Difference: -1:05
  11. Guess: 0:12 | Actual: 0:15 | Difference: -0.03
  12. Guess: 1:30 | Actual 1:35 | Difference: -.05

In one particularly poignant speech, the student with the red bandanna neck cooler first presented a thorough overview of the history and uses of the item, but then explained how it also represented gang affiliation and death in her Los Angeles neighborhood. I was touched and impressed by how mature and meaningfully this student presented something so personal.

Overall the students seemed to enjoy the exercise . And, as I anticipated, each approached his or her item with a unique angle, but with an equal ambition to achieve. In total, the exercise took an hour to complete, and it really helped us start the class off with exceptional energy and excitement.

So are you ready to give your surprise speech?

What’s in Your Wallet?

Bank Transfer Day LogoThis is a question Capital One asks consumers in its popular series of television ads promoting their brand of credit cards. However, on Saturday, November 5th, 2011, in honor of Bank Transfer Day, consumers were more likely symbolically saying “Remember Remember the Fifth of November!”

This refrain is the opening line of a popular English rhyme celebrating Guy Fawkes’ Day (a commemoration of the November 5, 1605 “Gunpowder Plot” intended to blow up the English Parliament).  The poem and the date have since evolved into a rallying cry against oppression and government abuse of its citizens.

Likewise, the goal of Bank Transfer Day, which was launched from the laptop of 27-year-old art gallery owner Kristen Christian, is to to encourage consumers to voluntary switch their financial accounts from large commercial banks to non-profit credit unions and community banks.

What inspired Christian to start Bank Transfer Day? In the following HDNet interview with Dan Rather she explains that, in large part, it was Bank of America‘s (recently rescinded) decision to charge its customers $5 a month to use their ATM cards for purchases:

Interestingly, the logo being used for Bank Transfer Day is based on the design of Guy Fawkes masks which are also worn to commemorate the celebration — and have also been used by #OccupyWallStreet participants (though Christian’s efforts are not directly connected to that consumer movement).

The poem and the ideals it embodies were also popularized in the 2006 film “V for Vendetta” which was based on a series of graphic novels of the same name written by by Alan Moore and illustrated by David Lloyd. Hugo Weaving portrayed the character who delivered the famous poem in the scene below:

Will Bank Transfer Day be successful? Predictably, banks have not commented in public, but financial institutions must disclose their deposits every three months to comply with federal regulations, so perhaps we will know more about the impact of Bank Transfer Day in February 2012?

Regardless of the actual financial impact, however, Bank Transfer Day represents a positive and productive paradigm of consumer activism.

In many ways it was similarly inspired, though with much more bite than the bark in my December 25, 2008 parody of the bank bailouts, “‘Twas The Night Before Bailout!

In closing, with Bank Transfer Day upon us, perhaps the more relevant question today is “Where’s your wallet?”

Update: According to a March 2, 2012 Los Angeles Times article, “More than 1.3 million Americans opened new credit union accounts last year, up from less than 600,000 in 2010, the National Credit Union Administration reported. That brings the number of credit union members to a record 91.8 million.”

Is social media the new resume?

Chris Hutchins thinks so. On Friday, May 1, 2009 I caught up with Chris, the founder of Laid Off Camp during a meeting of the networking and collaborative career resource at Blankspaces. I invited him to expand on a statement he made during an interview with Leo Laporte on  the March 8, 2009 TWiT.tv “This Week in Tech” show (where he was joined by Brian Shaler):

“Social media is the new resume.”

In response to his statement, I asked Chris the following questions which he answered in the video below:

  1. Why is social media the “new resume?”
  2. Does social media help represent a candidate in a more three dimensionally way? Can it give employers a fuller sense of who a candidate really is?
  3. Have you had an experience with a recruiter using 1.0 tools who could not adapt to the 2.0 landscape?
  4. Have you had any experiences with a firm that made an effort to understand you as a person, but were still ineffective?
  5. Are there certain industries for which social media is naturally a better fit?
  6. Is there greater risk or reward with using social media to reveal the “real you?” What is the role of an employer in that risk or reward?
  7. What is your long-term vision for Laid Off Camp?
  8. How can employers participate in and benefit from Laid Off Camp?

Chris was gracious enough to spend some time with me and very candidly addressed each of my inquiries:

With the passage of time, Chris is now working for Milk — a mobile application development company based in San Francisco, CA  — although Laid Off Camp remains a proud part of his professional past.  Update: On March 16, 2012 Chris announced via his Twitter account that Milk, and it’s staff, had been acquired by Google; Chris is now a product manager at Google.

Speaking of the passage of time, since this interview was originally recorded, social media has continued to evolve as an exceptionally viable means by which individuals can market themselves and secure full-time employment and/or contract work — in social media or other industries.

Notably, according to a recent LA Times article, a growing number of employers are hiring people to mange their social media presence. If you are curious to learn how businesses are using social media to recruit candidates, you might find this infographic from Mashable of interest.

One particularly active resource for social media positions is the crowdsourced Social Media Jobs Group on Facebook.  Another resource includes the Social Media Jobs account on Twitter.

Mashable also offers helpful advice about how to get a job using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Google+. If you’re not sure where to start, this Mashable article will teach you how to create an online resume with a website, videos, documents, and LinkedIn.

One recent humorous take on using social media to find a job involved Matthew Epstein donning a fake mustache in a creative and compelling effort to land a job at Google. Although his initial goal was not realized, his campaign garnered significant attention and helped get him hired as a product marketing manager at Sigfig, a web-based investment and financial management service.

Ironically, some criminals are also finding “jobs” using social media, so please be careful what you share online! Personally, I have been actively using social media since roughly November 2008 (I actually created my Facebook account a year earlier, but didn’t begin using it immediately).

Since that time the various social media tools and platforms — including Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn — with which I have experimented have helped me find several adjunct teaching opportunities.

I also launched a personal website with which I have consolidated my social media profiles while also offering a centralized resource through which I communicate who I am and the value I can add to any organization.

Additionally, this blog also provides a platform with which I can share knowledge while also promoting my skills to potential employers. Without question, social media has been a tremendous career enhancing tool!

In one such example, I was hired to teach marketing courses at UCLA Extension almost entirely because of a referral from Beverly Macy. Beverly is the CEO of Gravity Summit, a professional speaker and co-author of the book “The Power of Real-Time Marketing” (affiliate link). She also teaches a social media marketing class for UCLA Extension.

Beverly Macy and Matthew Gilbert at UCLA Gravity Summit on February 25, 2009

I first came to know Beverly on Twitter (in late 2008 or very early in 2009), just prior to the first Gravity Summit conference at UCLA in February 2009 (which I attended). Beverly and I later connected via Facebook in August 2009 and, in July 2010, she referred my resume to her contacts at UCLA.

After several months of administration and preparation I finally began teaching online the first of two courses with which I am now entrusted: MGMT X 460.394, New Media Marketing (Online). In the fall semester I added MGMT X 460.300, Consumer Behavior (on campus), to my repertoire. I anticipate continuing to teach these two courses for the foreseeable future and am very grateful for the privilege to do so.

Were it not for Twitter, I would have never come to know Beverly, and had I not come to know Beverly, I would have never had a chance to teach these classes.  I am forever grateful to Beverly, Twitter, and social media in general!

In what ways has social media played a part in your own career development and/or job search?

Due to inclement weather today in Florida the Space Shuttle Endeavour (Orbiter Vehicle Designation OV-105), returning from mission STS-126, was diverted to the backup landing option at Edwards Air Force Base near Rosamond, CA (approximately 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles in the Antelope Valley).

sts-126_patch-svgIn total, the shuttle’s journey spanned 6.6 million miles and 250 orbits of Earth. Endeavour landed on temporary runway 22L at Edwards, while the main runway, 4R, is undergoing repairs — making it the first and last shuttle to do so.

This was the 124th space shuttle mission, the 22nd flight for the shuttle Endeavour and the 27th shuttle visit to the station. It was also the 52nd time a shuttle has landed at Edwards Air Force Base.

It will take approximately one week to prepare the shuttle for its return flight to Florida atop a modified 747 (called the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft) and will cost approximately $1.8 million.

Another unexpected item to add to the cost of this mission: a bag of tools valued at $100,000 dropped and forever lost by Astronaut Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper during the first space walk of the mission. The crew will be flown back to Johnson Space Center in Houston tomorrow.

I was able to record the double sonic booms the shuttle made upon re-entry with my Palm Centro and have embeded the file below — they sound like a cross between a shotgun and car backfiring, but were so loud in person that my entire house shook!

Below is an MP3 of the two sonic booms that occured during the shuttle’s re-entry (click the arrow to play the file).

Finally, here is video of the actual landing from the Associated Press:

Welcome back, Endeavour, and congratulations on a safe return from space!

I visited Wal-Mart on Friday, November 7 and was shocked to discover that even though Halloween just ended and we haven’t even yet overdosed on turkey, apparently it is already Christmas!

I actually went into two separate stores in Santa Clarita: the one at 25450 The Old Road near Stevenson Ranch and the one near Valencia at 27931 Kelly Johnson Parkway, just off of Copper Hill/Rye Canyon.

Both stores had associates setting up the Christmas displays and making related preparations.  Photos from each store are provided below — the first photo is from the store on Kelly Johnson Parkway and the second is from the store on The Old Road:

Wal-Mart 2008 Christmas Decorations

Wal-Mart Christmas Decorations 2008

Apparently, I am a bit late in realizing Wal-Mart’s early push: An October 1, 2008  story that aired on the CBS station in Los Angeles highlighted the retailer’s plans to get a head start on the Christmas shopping season.

I suppose I was more surprised than shocked to see Christmas trees already. The first week of November seems a bit early for Christmas, but I recall seeing Valentine’s Day items in my local Rite Aide just after Christmas last year. It seems every year the time betwen each major holiday shopping periods grows shorter as retailers try to capitalize on early-birds and those easily influenced by holiday “sales.”

Given the current state of the economy I am curious to see what happens this holiday season. Traditionally, the Friday after Thanksgiving is referred to as “Black Friday” by most retailers — meaning that on that day they finally transition from operating at a loss (in the red) to operating at a profit (in the black). Yet, given the tremendous economic upheaval and uncertainty going on, I wonder if this day will ever come for any retailer.

Still, there are reports of Wal-Mart experiencing a surge in sales, even as other retailers struggle.  Wal-Mart reported that same-store sales in October were up 2.4 percent as compared with October 2007, not including fuel sales. Including fuel sales the increase was 2.5 percent. Comparatively, Target reported sales of 0.7 percent lower for this October 2008 compared with 2007.

A Los Angeles news station even featured a segment in which a reporter interviewed shoppers at al-Mart demonstrated that even those who drive a Mercedes were driven to save money at the popular discounter. All were focused on saving money and getting the best possible deal.

I wonder how many people are getting coal in their stockings this year — assuming, of course, that coal is still affordable!

On Saturday, June 14, 2008 my family and I decided to visit the incredible Travel Town Museumin Los Angeles’ Griffith Park. We headed out at approximately 10:00 a.m., but once we left the house realized we needed to get gas. So, we stopped at a Shell station on The Old Road, near Rye Canyon and a stone’s throw away from the Southbound 5 Freeway.

When I got out of the car to gas it up, I nearly fell over when I saw that the cost per gallon of 87 octane fuel (the “cheap stuff”) was an astonishing $4.65! I could barely believe my eyes and had to check again to make sure I had read the numbers correctly. Yep, $4.65 a gallon!

 I was in shock and quickly cycled through the five stages of grief:

  • Denial: There is no way gas costs this much!
  • Anger: This is outrageous, I am being robbed!
  • Bargaining: Well, maybe if I just get $10 worth the prices will drop and I can fill up the rest of the tank later at a lower price?
  • Depression: I can’t believe this, I will never be able to afford to drive anywhere again….the world is conspiring against me!
  • Acceptance:It will be ok, gas prices will eventually even out – I have no control over the prices so why get riled up by them?

I filled up the tank with 9.123 gallons, resulting in a grand total of $42.50!

A few days earlier, on May 31 through June 3 (the last two days I filled up) the per gallon cost of 87 octane fuel was $4.23 at a Mobile and 7-11 down the street from my house — which was bad enough, but crossing $4.50 a gallon seemed like an entirely different level of extortion.

I’ve often heard the argument made that in some European countries gas can cost $8 to $10 a gallon, so we should be grateful that our prices are so much less. However, this argument is a fallacy, because these same European countries that have gas prices double our currently ridiculous rates are socialist — meaning that the additional cost of the fuel is intended to cover any number of social programs designed to benefit citizens of that country.

Therefore, in those cases, it makes sense that gas would cost so much more. But America, being a capitalist economy, the additional cost we are now paying for fuel does not result in any equivalent increase in services made available to the citizens of the country.

So, until I get free healthcare — that I would likely not want anyway, given the propencity of anything run by a government agency to foul things up — I will fail to feel “grateful” that we don’t have it any worse.

Although, there is a chance I qualify for dual Italian/American citizenship — so I might just ride out this “oil storm” living with my family in a Tuscan villa zipping around on a Vespa and exclaiming “Ciao!” to everyone (props to Eddie Izzard!)! I think I am liking the sound of this!