Day # 59 by Joe Piccirillo

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Monday, February 28, 2011

Hello readers,

Happy 2-month Anniversary.  Are you thinking that it would probably be easier for me to update this blog during my allocated times as opposed to waiting for one day and posting 30 entries?  You've got some nerve.  It's a good thing the only people reading this are my creditors and Mubarak.

I haven't yet spoken of my Montana Barnes and Noble expedition.  I believe that time has arrived.

Briefly, a few months back, I called Barnes and Noble bookstores and pitched conanorbust.  The community relations managers in each of the three cities I had contacted obtained approval from their store and regional managers and confirmed the dates and times during which I would perform my powerpoint presentation and maybe even direct random shoppers/kids to the "sex for dummies" aisle. I was so happy, I even let Torio sleep in a hotel room that night instead of relegating him to the bathtub.

Then, I called Kate Schuster, the manager from the Barnes and Noble store in Chicago.  She informed me that since I was not an author promoting a book that was sold in the store, I could not perform there.  She also emailed the corporate office and told them of my plans.  Thus, the next day, I received form letters from all of the managers of the stores I had already booked shows for -- I was denied entry.

I wrote a post about this a month ago and let it be.  I moved on to more hilarious situations in other cities which were well documented and seen by almost 7 people.  Then, I came up with an idea: If I wasn't allowed to perform in a Barnes and Noble because I wasn't an author, I would simply become one.

I went to bn.com and looked up books about powerpoint.  I found a recently published book by Dr. Stephen Kosslyn that blended psychology principles with powerpoint presentations.  I called up a Barnes and Noble in Montana and told them my name was Allen Piccirillo (pronounced Pichiero) and that I was the teaching assistant for Dr. Stephen Kosslyn.  I let them know that Dr. Kosslyn was speaking at the University of Great Falls and he would like me (in his absence) to present a ppt presentation about powerpoint to people at the local barnes and noble book store.

The woman on the phone was receptive, even asking, "How many advance copies of the book should I order?"

"How many do you usually order?" I asked.

"About 150," she said.

"Better triple that number," I responded.

In the mean time, I called the University and spoke with Karen, the Dean of Psychology, and told her of Dr. Kosslyn's guest lecture at the nearby Barnes and Noble and would she mind passing the word along to the psychology students?  No, she wouldn't mind.  (I later learned that they offered extra credit to students who showed up and wrote a report about my presentation.)

In between writing and performing and driving, I purchased and read the book and began creating a ppt presentation utilizing Dr. Kosslyn's principles.  It's immature, to be sure.  I crafted one of the worst ppt presentations in history.  I chose a dark red cross-stitched background filled with pictures of lumber.  Then, I chose a barely visible font color and size and violated all of the rules of basic public speaking, presentation, and physics.

I talked about juxtaposition of images and threw pictures of cats onto the JFK assassination.  No one laughed.  I pointed out why placing a picture of Rosie O'Donnell with a note that read "Rosie Approved" onto a package of Chips Ahoy cookies was clever image juxtaposition because it conveys an important message: people like cookies but they don't like obesity. They took notes.

I did this for 20 minutes, churning through bits while students sat straight-faced, buried in their laptops, furiously copying my presentation.  I had prepared handouts and had Pete pass them out to the students.

At one point, I was talking about Kosslyn's principle relating to sounds effects -- always use sounds that are compatible with your message.

"For example," I said, "if you're talking about hurricanes, use this."

(I clicked a button and it played the sound of blowing wind).

"Or," I continued," If you're talking about Justin Bieber, you can use this."

(I clicked a button and it played the sound of a toilet flushing).

One person laughed.  I told them that it was a mistake -- I swear I had recorded the sound of one of his songs.  I saw that someone had a tape recorder.

Near the end of the presentation, during a segment where I added dozens of cats to a photo of the Challenger explosion), Margaret, the store manager, approached and erupted in, as Charlie Sheen would put it, violent hatred:

"Excuse me, do you think these images are appropriate?" she asked.

I stared her down and said, "I think this should wait until the Q & A."

"I don't think that's appropriate," she persisted.

The students looked at her as if she were insane.

"Margaret, Q & As are always appropriate.  They encourage learning."

"No!  These images!"  She was heated.

I let it hang there for 20 seconds, which feels longer than you might think.

"I understand your objection," I said.  "These images are disturbing but they are in line with Dr. Kosslyn's principles.  I fear that my poor public speaking skills have affected the doctor’s message, but I can assure you it's in keeping with the book."

I grabbed the book, turned to the section on image juxtaposition and read directly from it. The students began taking notes again.

"So as you can see," I said, "these images, chosen by Dr. Kosslyn, illustrate his point."

Silence.  Margaret apologized. She slowly walked away.

After another 10 minutes, I conducted a Q & A session in which only ONE person pointed out flaws in the presentation like my point about using only 3 pieces of info per slide was actually the 8th point on my slide or that I had placed photos of ALF in random places throughout the slideshow.

I thanked everyone for coming, pushed sales of the book, and left to perform stand-up at another venue that night.

America, stop being so gullible.  I cited ridiculous court cases that didn't exist and you wrote it down in your ipad.  And Kate Schuster, from Barnes and Noble, you can't keep me down.  Also, heads up: I had them send all 450 copies of the book to your store.

Best,

Allen (Pichiero)

Date: 
Monday, February 28, 2011