Media day

by on June 15, 2009

I’m going to go off-topic today to mention two recent sightings of my work in the Media-sphere. Then I’ll return to chess and ask you to give me your opinions on what my next tournament should be!

Last Friday I had my second interview with the History Channel for their program “The Universe.” If you have visited my static web page, you might know that I appeared in an episode from season one of this program, back in 2007, called “The Moon.” They are now recording episodes for the fourth season, which will air this fall, and interviewed me for another episode about the moon. I’m probably not supposed to say anything in detail about it (for example, the tentative title), so I’ll leave it at that.

The producer, cameraman and sound engineer came up to Santa Cruz to film an interview with me and one other person. They asked me to suggest a location and I picked Natural Bridges State Beach. I went to scout out the location on Thursday and wondered if I might regret it, because it was kind of windy.

As it turned out, it was even windier on Friday, and the shoot was quite an adventure! Here is the film crew and me, setting up:

Dan, the sound guy, is on the left. I’m in the center; the producer, Adrian, is right next to me, and the video guy, Ken, is on the right. By the way, I might have Dan and Ken backwards. If so, I apologize!! Adrian really liked this location. As you can see, there is an estuary in the background that meanders out to sea. You can’t see the ocean in this shot (it’s behind the bluff), but from the spot where Ken is setting up the camera you could easily see the ocean with some nice breakers in the background.

The adventures started right away, when the wind blew their reflector off its tripod and into the estuary! The reflector is a piece of white foam board that is supposed to reflect the sunlight onto the dark side of my face, thereby softening the shadows. Here is Dan, after fishing the reflector out of the estuary:

Fortunately they had a backup. But with the wind gusting at around 30 mph, it didn’t look as if it would last long, either. What to do? Well, as luck would have it, my wife, Kay, had come along to watch the interview and take photographs. I suggested that she could hold the reflector to keep it from blowing away, and eventually they agreed with me. Adrian said that when he earns an Emmy for this show, Kay can come up and accept the award with him! 😉

Here Kay shows why they call the production assistants “grips”:

That wasn’t the only adventure. I brought a prop with me, a gyroscope to illustrate the principles of angular momentum. We shot a couple of takes where I would start the gyroscope spinning, hand it to Kay, then stretch a string between my hands, and then Kay would put the gyroscope onto the string. Notice that a key ingredient in this procedure was that I had to hold onto the string after using it to start the gyroscope spinning. Well, the third time we did it, I accidentally let go of the string, and when I looked down to see where it had landed, it was nowhere to be found. By then I’m sure the wind had taken it and blown it halfway to San Jose. So I’ll just have to hope that takes one and two were good enough.


Aside from that, the interview went pretty well. As always, I loved talking about the moon, and I hope that they will pick moments from the interview where that love and enthusiasm comes out.

My second media sighting was on YouTube. As you may know, the Google Lunar X Prize is a $30 million prize that will be awarded to the first privately funded team to land a robotic spacecraft on the moon, travel at least 500 meters, and send images back to Earth. On the X prize website they have a couple of videos about the moon, called “Earth’s Offshore Island.” I will try to embed part two of the video below. This is the first time I have tried to embed a video in my blog, and it may not show up correctly for you. (It seems to work in Firefox, but not in Internet Explorer 8.) If you don’t see it, you can click here to watch it on YouTube.

If you fast-forward to about the 7:30 mark of the video, you’ll see the cover of my book! Not only that, the narrator even calls it “Dana Mackenzie’s excellent book.” Thank you, Google!

Now let’s get back to talking about chess.

I have decided that I would like to go to one big tournament out of state this summer. My problem is that I can’t decide between two very appealing options. (Going to both of them is not really an option, given my limited budget.) Which one should it be?

U.S. Open — nine rounds, in Indianapolis.

Pros: Nine rounds means more games, and more chances to recover from a bad round. I used to live in Indy, so I might have some opportunities to see my “old stomping grounds.” Top five players qualify for the U.S. Championship. Better spectating and blogging opportunities.

Cons: Entry fee is pretty steep, at $155. I would have to be away from home (and racking up expenses) for six days.

U.S. Senior Open — six rounds, in Tulsa.

Pros: Only six games, so less danger of fatigue. Not as big a time commitment (only three days). Top player qualifies for the U.S. Championship. Realistically, I think I would have a better shot at qualifying for the U.S. Championship this way than I would at the U.S. Open. This is my first year of eligibility for the senior championship (I just turned 50), why not take advantage of it? Lower entry fee ($90).

Cons: Probably a less interesting tournament for my blog readers to read about. I have no personal interest in going to Tulsa — I would probably just hang around the tournament site the whole time. Quicker time control (game/90 with a 30-second time delay).

Any advice? I think I would almost certainly choose the U.S. Open, except for the fact that I still have this stupid, unlikely dream of qualifying for the U.S. Championship, and the Senior Open seems like it offers a better chance of making that dream come true.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

henry June 16, 2009 at 4:52 am

you answered your own question. If it is a dream why not attempt it now rather than later? I am 58 and I can tell you you can’t go back in time.
Good luck, either way all your readers will be cheering you on 🙂


Matt June 16, 2009 at 10:32 am

I’d be inclined to go with the Senior Open. As Henry says, if it’s your dream, why not go for it right now? Also, the longer you leave it, the more your chess is likely to decline. That’s the same for all of us, with age, and you at the youngest age you can be to qualify for the Senior Open so why not take full advantage of it?


Andres D. Hortillosa June 17, 2009 at 8:01 am

You should go for the US Senior Open.


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