Tomorrow I have 11 kids coming over for a baking party. It will be nuts. Here is the family Christmas Cookie (Anise Cookie) recipe we’ll be using.
2 sticks of butter
2 cups of sugar
1.5 tsp Cream of Tartar
1.5 tsp of Baking Soda (dissolved in .5 tbl of milk)
1 tsp of Salt
1 tsp of Vanilla
1 Tsp of Anise
3.5 cups of flour (plus maybe .5 cups during the rolling process)
1) Use softened butter in sticks. Let it sit out awhile or nuke it 20 seconds (do not melt). Mix the butter and sugar together quite well in a bowl.
2) Add and mix milk/soda, egg, Anise, and vanilla.
3) Add salt, cream of tartar, flour.
Mix the dough so it is mixed and ‘rollable’.
On a floured mat, roll the dough, adding flour as needed to prevent sticking to the rolling pin. Get the dough to about 1/4 inch
Cut the cookies with cookie cutters or with a knife to make the shapes you want. Reroll unused dough until you have no more (p.s. I eat the dough but it is very sweet).
Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet (nonstick ok) at 400 degree for 6-8 minutes–basically until the bottoms start to turn slight brown. Do not overbake. You can underbake a bit (say 5 minutes in a very hot oven) but make sure you let cookies set a minute or two before trying to remove them from the pan (or they may break up).
Use store bought frosting (I used Duncan Hines–worked fine) to cover them and then colored sugars to decorate.
Store in a ziploc bag to keep the freshness as they do harden quickly.
But just this week, Periscope took a step toward what could a brand new and exciting path for Twitter. Something that could rewrite the ways in which Twitter content is displayed and shared, and lead to a massive improvement in the product and strong growth with new users….should the parent company consider following this lead.
One of the problems with Twitter (and social media in general) is the signal / noise ratio. Following your Twitter stream for insight into Politics or Technology or virtually anything else results in a number of messages (and considerable time) sifting through extraneous and unrelated content. It is possible to create lists of followers that tweet about specific content, such as a list of Football twitter users or technology tweeters, but even then you still have to sort through other content that is not relevant. A hashtag based search can result in 100s of duplicate messages as retweets and other posts of the same content get caught up in the more general search parameters. These consumer-based curations of relevant content are still fraught with far too many false positives.
Periscope has introduced “groups”, a method by which a social media creator can share content with a specific more granular group of followers. A content producer can create a group of users, say “Personal Friends” or “Subscribers (should a pay-to-view system develop one day). Groups can be built around interests, such as “tourist and travel followers” or “technology fans” such that Periscopes being created can be pushed to those users who have the most interest and are most likely to appreciate the content.
Periscope groups are thus showing a way forward for Twitter to escape the 140-character rut they find themselves mired in for going on the Nth year. People have been asking for the capability to broadcast to specific groups for years, but Twitter has left Twitter lists as a “read only” functionality; you can see all the tweets from a list buy you can’t communicate directly with that group. Periscope groups will demonstrate that you can push content to certain users on certain subjects and that there is a market for this more detailed and specific sharing of social media.
This offers a tremendous future for Twitter. A way to grow their platform from beyond that a 140-character service but into something far more useful to creators and consumers. Broadcasting to groups, and conversely, the consumption of specific content from a group of users is a very exciting development in social media.
Twitter should seriously consider not only following the Periscope group concept but taking it a step further to create a more flexible “following” option. You would have the ability as a consumer to follow people only for certain types of content. As a producer you would have the option of sending content to everyone or to only those users who will find it of most value (Periscope-like groups).
->Photos Only followers
->Videos Only (Vine) followers
->Live Streams (Periscopes) followers
->Social Media followers
->Hong Kong followers
Twitter would thus become a multi-disciplined social media platform, where you could still get the 140 characters of wisdom from people but also get new types of social media content as it becomes popular, be it photos, video, live video, or whatever else Twitter acquires in the coming years. Greater curation tools on both the creator and consumer side would render Twitter far more valuable to users. The platform would be set to add new features as they become available, bringing more and more people back to Twitter every day (hour) for more and more types of content without getting lost in the signal / noise conundrum of drinking from the social media firehose.
Twitter has recently shut down the (once) popular VINE platform that they acquired only a few years ago. Without a doubt the VINE integration with Twitter was poorly handled. Getting “Vide’d” is now a verb amongst content producers who are very wary about putting time and effort into a platform only to find it getting nixed with a corporate reshuffle of the parent company. A very scary lesson for anyone involved in Periscope at this time.
A system like this could have saved Vine (and could save Periscope). The existing subscriber base could be ported over to the Twitter in a flexible following platform after integration, such that if you currently are following someone on Vine or Periscope, your Twitter would now have a separate list of people you following only for videos (Vine) or live videos (Periscope). Twitter and Periscope creators would thus have access to a much larger potential pool of viewers as the sheer number of Twitter users would be now be more engaged in the Periscope system.
Whether Twitter follows Periscope’s lead in this space is a big question. Whether anyone is even looking at expanding the platform is questionable as there are probably voices who are simply saying “let’s trim around the edges, give it a fresh coat of paint and sell it on to someone else.”
But it would be pretty cool if they were thinking of something like this…
Sharing of links to existing media has become the norm, and truly original content is disappearing. What remains is not the new new thing anymore and is, at times, devolving into a cesspit of pointlessness, be it “I had eggs for breakfast” to “SUYT you B!#@$”
Into this fray we now have what some might see as an even more mundane concept–live streaming of ordinary people. Periscope and Facebook Live now give the power of any person to turn a camera on and have an audience around the world. The beautiful and the banal, the majestic and mundane can now be streamed 24/7 live from any place on earth, well anyplace with a good enough mobile signal.
So why is it that live video streaming could be the revolution that Social Media really needs?
It’s often said that the holy grail of social media is a “conversation” that you can have with others. A two way street where you can communicate your views, values and beliefs with others, or just share a funny cat picture and have people comment on how funny it was. But even in the best of circumstances the conversation currently being foisted upon users is rather one-sided and shallow. Social media has stagnated behind fewer and fewer moments worth sharing and a growing corporatization of social media which has made it somewhat unidirectional and boring. (Don’t believe me? Check out the Twitter feed of the Microsoft CEO, which has to hold the world record for the most canned and unoriginal content in the history of Twitter.)
The problem with social media, as understood by the public relations departments of most major companies and social media ‘stars’ is that they aim rather low. They seek to have a “conversation” and then love to talk about how the conversation is leading to engagement, but “engagement” is a rather hollow concept and many traditional measurements of ‘engagement’ are as useless as ‘eyeballs’ as a metric. It may be a quantifiable (and billable) number, but does it really matter?
Into this landscape comes Periscope and a host of other live video streaming services. Live, raw, unfiltered views of the world from ordinary people communicated out to waiting eyes and ears. With a motto of “See the world through someone else’s eyes” Periscope has millions of producers around the world sharing their slice of life to a waiting and eager audience. And while it, at times, has dropped in the banal and boring, there is something else going on that is worthy of note.
Despite some feeble attempts to script and control the narrative of a live video stream by some broadcasters, the end users of live video actually have far more control over the conversation than most public relations professionals would ever allow. Discussions overlaying the presentation can go on tangents of their own, and users can often stray the conversation off the intended course and subject despite the best efforts of the broadcaster. The conversation can turn directions and spin and it takes a steadied broadcaster to keep it on focus and moving toward the real goal.
It is this ebb and flow of conversation that offers the best opportunity for social media in its history.
What should be sought, developed and fought for with this new medium is the true Holy Grail of social media. People should cast aside the one-sided conversations that are pointlessly supported by the hollow engagement metrics of likes and shares. With live streaming we have a chance to really communicate what is most important:
Understanding comes when you see the world through someone else’s eyes and UNDERSTAND why they see it a certain way. A person who watches a live video experiences the decision-making process of another person first hand and begins to UNDERSTAND why they turned this way or that, why they eat this or that, why they buy this or that. When a person is given the chance to see things live as they occur, and occasionally even take part in the decision-making process of that individual or guide a conversation a certain way, that person develops a much greater understanding of what is going on, and a greater respect for the other person.
Periscope started with the voyeuristic view of the world: “Look at this, I’m seeing a guy in Hong Kong ride the ferry to the toy store. He’s taking his morning hike in the clouds above the city. He’s taking a tram to get some lunch. Wow. This is amazing”. But as time goes by and people start to think more about what they are seeing, a new, empathetic realization takes starts to take hold. “Yes, I am seeing a guy on a tall mountain, but he’s really just out for his morning walk. And he’s really just going to get some lunch. Hey, I go for hikes, I eat lunch–wait a minute–this guy is a lot like me.”
The empathetic instead of voyeuristic reading of “See the world through someone else’s eyes” is what offer the greatest potential for live video to rule social media. A person who listens and understands is someone who has learned something and may alter their own behavior to that in line with that understanding.
A myriad of choices, from political decisions to simple mundane tasks can be altered when an understanding consumer of social media makes their own decisions with the views of another person in mind. It also leads to a tremendous marketing potential in that a person who understands why they should do something a certain way become a consumer who will perform that way without additional influencing. It’s one thing to have a conversation with a person and say to them “I really think you should buy this product” but it is something far greater, and more valuable, to have a person say “I understand why I should buy this product and will buy it myself, now and in the future.” Getting to this level creates a consumer FOR LIFE, not just for one transaction.
While difficult to quantify, the empathetic consumption of live video can truly be the revolutionary social media development of the next decade.
Or it might just end up as an updated version of Chatroulette… (more on that in my next post).
An interesting tidbit for the English-speaking world is that the opening ceremony of the 2016 Rio Olympics will feature the countries taking the field in alphabetical order, but by the Portuguese spelling of the nations. As such some countries, like the United States, which generally enters toward the end of the parade, will find themselves entering early on during the event with the ‘E’s under Estates Unidos. This has even led to the US television networks asking that this be changed, as they fear American TV audiences will quickly turn the channel after they see the American team enter the stadium. Something similar happened in Beijing where the teams entered by ‘stroke’ order of the Chinese alphabet.
In case you are wondering, the USA will be wearing Ralph Lauren again this year.
For a full list of nations in the order they enter, take a look here and plan you viewing accordingly.
South Africa África do Sul
Antigua and Barbuda Antígua e Barbuda
Saudi Arabia Arábia Saudita
Bosnia and Herzegovina Bósnia e Herzegovina
Burkina Faso Burkina Faso
Cape Verde Cabo Verde
North Korea Coreia do Norte
South Korea Coreia do Sul
Côte d’Ivoire Costa do Marfim
Costa Rica Costa Rica
El Salvador El Salvador
United Arab Emirates Emirados Árabes Unidos
United States of America Estados Unidos
Equatorial Guinea Guiné Equatorial
Marshall Islands Ilhas Marshall
Solomon Islands Ilhas Salomão
New Zealand Nova Zelândia
Netherlands Países Baixos
Papua New Guinea Papua-Nova Guiné
United Kingdom Reino Unido
Central African Republic República Centro-Africana
Czech Republic República Checa
Republic of Macedonia República da Macedónia
Democratic Republic of the Congo República Democrática do Congo
Republic of the Congo República do Congo
Dominican Republic República Dominicana
San Marino San Marino
Saint Lucia Santa Lúcia
Saint Kitts and Nevis São Cristóvão e Nevis
Sao Tome and Principe São Tomé e Príncipe
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines São Vicente e Granadinas
One of the annual charity events at the University of Notre Dame is the Bengal Bouts, a boxing match where “strong bodies fight, that weak bodies may be nourished.” Money raised from this boxing tournament, a sport organized at Notre Dame by the legendary Knute Rockne, is sent to help feed people at a mission in Bangladesh. While I was a student in law school one of my fellow classmates was boxing, and we went to cheer him on to victory in his bouts at what was the first (and only) boxing event I ever attended.
Little did I know when I went to my first boxing tournament that later that week I would come across “The Greatest”. Muhammad Ali actually lived very near to the campus of Notre Dame in nearby Berrien Springs Michigan. Some of my friends at the Bengal Bouts said he occasionally would come by to watch the Notre Dame students boxing, and there were others in South Bend who reported seeing him from time to time. We were sitting around the library (as is the case in law school) when a friend came in and said “we just saw Muhammad Ali at the Barnes and Noble.” In little need of a distraction to pull us out of our books, we hopped in a car and drove over the bookstore to see if it was true.
Sure enough it was. Once we arrived we were shocked by a line out the door. Apparently he was there to release a new book, and many people had come to see him in person. We made our way in the side (we told the staff we were going to buy something else) and we made our way back to where he was holding court.
My first impression was “this guy is huge”. On paper he is 6’3″ (198cm) but he seemed even bigger, especially with the build of an ex-boxer. He was surrounded by handlers, but there was an orderly line of people coming in to see his book and to meet him. Fellow college students were there in a group, gathering around him to get their pictures taken. Families, some in their Sunday best, had come as well and circled around for a photo that I’m certain still hangs on their wall. And then there was this one guy who looked really out of place. . .
A skinny white guy, replete with a scraggly beard and baseball cap and wearing blue jeans with a flannel shirt was patiently waiting in line behind the giggling college kids and expectant families. He wasn’t holding a book nor was he carrying a camera, and in another time people would look at him and think ‘this is the kind of guy that joins the Klan’. When the man’s turn came up, I could see some of Ali’s handlers tense a bit. The man walked up, held out his hand, and said a few words to Ali, who grabbed his hand with both of his and shook it back. Ali smiled, the man smiled and started to walk away. Ali was a bit surprised and motioned to him as if to say “don’t you want a picture?” The man just said “No, I just wanted to shake your hand. I’ll remember it”.
It was a pretty interesting moment for me as well. I was but a child during the Rumble in the Jungle and the Thriller in Manila, but I remember the time and the stories about him dealing with Vietnam, racism and his religious views. He was definitely capable of crossing over many different racial and religious lines to make an impact on many different people. My one run-in with him just reminded me of that fact.
Radio is dead. I mean when is the last time you heard something “new” that wasn’t a) a ‘new’ version of an old type of music you’ve heard from artists you know or b) so ridiculously new it sounds like it should be in a experimental “gender theory of expressionist music” class at university?
I really have no idea how many hours I’ve spent making videos with the new app called Periscope. It is easily in the hundreds, as I have been making videos since the first day of the public release and now have over 31,000 followers.
In using an app this thoroughly, I’ve come across a few features that would really enhance the experience from a broadcaster’s perspective. So without too much ado, here is my wish list for new features for Persicope:
Time and Temperature.
It seems so easy, possibly a throw back to the 1970s when every bank had a blinking time and temperature sign, but probably the most asked question I receive is “What is the Time” and “How it the weather?” A new update for the iOS app has added time to the map, but personally I’d prefer it on the main video, perhaps as a 10 second overlay every so many minutes. Just a little time and temp ‘bug’ that pops up on screen or in the chat to save me having to be a weatherman and a clock every few minutes.
Chat response presets
I spend an inordinate amount of time re-answering the same questions day after day. “What do you do?” “How old are you?” “Why did you move there” etc. It’s gotten to the point that even some of my regular viewers can answer the questions should I not notice them.
What would be really helpful would be five buttons on the side of my screen or appearing through a ‘long touch’ that would pump into the chat preset answers or statements from me to my community. If I could save short amount of text as a preset answer I could just click ‘1-2-3-4-5’ and focus more on being alive and less on repeating myself.
Pause the Phone
Facebook Live has a new feature that Persicope needs. The ability to put a broadcast on ‘pause’ when someone calls in on the phone. It is absolutely frustrating when you have a good Periscope underway only to have a phone call come in and disrupt or disconnect the stream. A pause, perhaps with a little “telephone icon” appearing on the screen would be a wonderful addition.
Scroll back of comments
When comments are fast and furious, or when a broadcaster is walking down the street, it’s incredibly easy to ‘miss’ a comment as it has faded or passed from view before you had a chance to react. The ability to scroll back even only 5-10 seconds would be a welcome addition, as a broadcaster could go back and see a comment even after it has faded from the screen. A swish down over the chat to pull up the last few comments in a conversation would be quite helpful.
Enhanced following options
At present to follow someone on Periscope you’ve got to slide the screen to the left (1), tap the profile (2) and then hit the follow button (3). This three step process was designed to prevent accidental follows, but has had the effect of making new subscriptions difficult and even confusing to new users. Broadcasters have to explain several times through a broadcast how to become a follower. “If you would like to follow, please slide left (or up for Android), tap my profile, and then click the follow button”.
Periscope should consider going back to the old solution, where following was a bit easier. But if not then the other solution is already present in Periscope’s system. An automatic “follow this broadcaster” message appears in the chat (far too early) when you start watching a new Periscope, but if it was able to appear and reappear on a periodic basis throughout the chat new followers could more easily subscribe to broadcasters they wish to follow. A user setting to enable the ‘follow me’ message to appear every 1-5-10 minutes would be easy to implement and would eliminate the need for broadcasters to “beg” for followers every so often
As Periscope grows into the professional world, the demand for detailed analytics will rise. How many users is great, but when are they watching, when are they turning off, how did they find my scope are all questions most other social media sites can offer their content creators.
From a regular broadcaster perspective, some interesting additions would be something like “how many new people in the last five minutes”. I frequently do a broadcast that will hover around 100 people, but what surprises me is that very few of the 100 people at the end are the same 100 people that were there at the beginning. People come in and out, thus requiring you to re-answer some simple questions, but you often don’t how many are new and how many are the ones who have stuck with you from the start. Some sort of system where you could tell how many new watchers you have in a scope would be quite helpful.
High Quality Upload
I’m spoiled by 4k. Well not even 4k, but by 1080p at 60fps. The image quality of today’s phones is getting better and better, but due to the nature of live streaming of an HD signal is probably a monstrous bandwidth hog.
Speak of hogs, here is a great example, I came across a breaking news story of a wild pig running amok through Central Hong Kong. The footage from my chase was used by the Guardian and the BBC, but unfortunately, the quality of the video was somewhat subpar vs. what I could have recorded in 1080p.
If there is the option for a high quality video upload after the broadcast had ended, this would be a great addition for Persicope to roll out, especially if Periscope migrates toward longer playback and storage of previous scopes. Note I’m not talking about a delayed update like we used to have with the app, but an upload of a full 1080p version of the Periscope (though I suspect this might prove a tremendous technical difficulty with one version of the video being saved at 1080p and another being streamed at a lower bit rate, all on the fly at the same time).
Overlays have become part of the standard television and even Youtube broadcasting environment. The ability to display and rend graphics on the screen while broadcasting is now available in even the simplest free broadcast tools. Adding some functionality to have an overlay of an image or even a ticker would be something some broadcasters, especially the professional ones, would find quite helpful.
“See my lunch of noodles in Hong Kong” is an interesting title, but after starting a broadcast and getting a good crowd I generally don’t like to hang up on them as I leave the restaurant and go run my next errand. In fact broadcasts over 5 minutes rarely stay on the same topic as the original title. A Periscope starting on a mountain path could easily end up on a city sidewalk. A conversation about movies could change to politics.
New users see a title and come expecting a noodle lunch or a conversation about movies and quickly get annoyed when they discovered the “missed that” part earlier. Giving the user the ability to keep his existing community and conversation ongoing without having to endure new users coming in expecting something else would improve the overall experience.
I took the kids out the other day for a photo walk, trying to teach them some principles of street photography by walking around the city and observing all there was to see.
“Take photos of the unusual, the fascinating, the unique, the strange, the weird. Whatever it is that catches your eye, try to take a picture of that”
So we walked through the wet market in Hong Kong, where fish lay on the boards before being cut, pieces of meat hang from dirty hooks cut by men with a cigarette behind their ear and a cleaver in their hands. Noodles are stacked high and stretched long as they are made in the shops and sent to restaurants nearby. Neon lights calling out for everything from foot massages to yummy bakery goods, which also filled the air with the sweet smell of freshly made treats.
And after nearly 20 minutes of this, my boys had yet to take a single picture.
“What’s wrong?” I asked. “I said take a picture of the unique, the strange, the fascinating things you see on the street and here we are in the land of noodles and neon and you haven’t taken a single photo.”
“Well yeah dad, we see this everyday”….
It was then I realized my kids really do call Hong Kong their home.
But for me it is still rather unique. So I’ve decided to start some Youtube videos of the “everyday” that we see here in Hong Kong. My new set is in a playlist on Youtube called “One Minute Hong Kong”–one minute snapshots of life from the city I now call home.
Feel free to take a look.
[iframe src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/videoseries?list=PLNmehJDsxSj8pMCQ85SimnIZvCsfr53dl” width=”560″ height=”315″ ]
The French street artist INVADER has come to Hong Kong several times, but this last month he came ‘officially’ as part of an organized show at the PMQ gallery. There his works hung on well lit walls with tour guides and a gift shop, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t busy again on the streets of the city.
INVADER launched a new wave of art on the city streets, and my kids took an immediate liking to finding every single one of them. The other day we did a city hike through the streets of Sheung Wan and managed to locate about 7 of the 20 or so new works with several more now on the agenda for our next hike.
As if that wasn’t enough, the kids are now trying to recreate as many Invader works as possible, along with a few original designs of their own. Arsenal man was a big favorite, and the boys are already asking how I can attach it to the wall. Thankfully they don’t know what grout yet, so we’ll make do with something a little less permanent.
Periscope is a new app that is creating quite a bit of buzz and a great amount of content from users all over the world. Everything from views of Paris to views of a refrigerator in Turkey is fair game for the content creators around the world, but this content has a very short lifespan.
24 hours after any broadcast the videos are destroyed. You have the option of saving the video on your camera, but it doesn’t save the comments which leads to a video of you answering questions that the viewers did not see, creating a confusing commentary track.
But with a simple free program already installed on your Mac, you can capture and record your Periscope videos with comments. All you need to do this is to plug your phone into your computer and follow these simple instructions.
(If a file window opens, click ‘done’ first). Go up to FILE -> New Movie Recording
A new movie window opens. Click on the prompt next to the record button to get an option of input sources. You should see your iPhone listed both under Video and Audio. Make sure those are selected. You should know this is working when you see your phone’s screen on your computer.
Open up the Periscope App on your phone and go into your profile to find your more recent broadcasts. Select the video you want and start playing.
Click the record button on Quicktime on your Mac and start making a screen capture of your movie as it is playing on your phone.
Finish and save and do with it what you will.
NOTE: I don’t know if this works on older model devices–I’ve only used it on an iPhone 6 but it should work on an iPhone 5 as well.
Hong Kong, with 7.2 million people and a FIFA ranking in the 100s or so is nowhere near getting into the World Cup Finals this year, but it got me wondering if it is just a matter of not enough people to field a team or something else. So I did a bit of Googling and came up with this list of countries in the World Cup finals, ranked by population.
Seriously, it was. It was pouring down rain and bitterly cold and the sun sets in London at about 3:00pm in the winter time making everything dreary, cold, damp, and miserable—save for the fact that tonight was my son’s chance to be the mascot for the Arsenal in the crosstown derby against Chelsea.
We got the call up, well, email from the Junior Gunners a few months prior. “Please have your parents contact us” said the email addressed to my son’s usually empty email account. I did and the words coming across seemed somewhat surreal. “Your son was selected to be the mascot” “Does he accept?” “You’ll be getting the logistical details from us shortly”. I was bouncing off the walls and faintly recall the echo of my wife said “maybe we shouldn’t tell him—keep it as a surprise?” as I walked into his room screaming “We’re going to see the Arsenal!”
Of course there were some logistics that had to be swung into action. Although an American, we live in Hong Kong now and would have to coordinate not only the flights and accommodations for a trip over the Christmas holiday, but a few extra days to adjust to the jet lag as [email protected]#$%#@$% Sky Sports decided to move the game to Monday Night at 8:00 PM London time (4:00am Hong Kong time). For a few days prior we tried to stay up late and get up early, all to no avail (and in case you are wondering, a jet lag coming from this direction in the middle of Winter was the most horrendous I’ve ever faced). On game day we woke at our normal 2:00am or so, played around, and then forced the kids back to sleep about 10:00am until waking them just prior to our 5:00pm departure time.
This wake up left us with one hour to get to the stadium, which was probably a mistake on my part. I did manage to show up at the media entrance exactly at 6:00pm, the required time for a mascot to arrive, only to have the steward say “this is the wrong entrance.” Go this way and that and then around those things and down and…. Being a stupid guy I just grabbed my son and we dashed into the rain trying to figure it out as we go. Ten minutes later in the midst of some Chelsea fans I decided to ask for direction. Luckily I found a fairly senior steward who knew exactly where we should be and we were off down a car park entrance to the underground bowels of the Emirates Stadium.
After a security check and several paper towels to dry off, we were met by the Arsenal mascot liaison who walked us into the car park, past the large grass-growing lights that are parked underneath when not in use. We approached the bus entrance where I saw Jill Smith, Arsenal Supporter’s Club liaison, doing her usual magic before the game sorting out dozens of different clubs making sure everyone was in the right place at the right time. We were then rushed into a small locker room for the mascot and other Arsenal employees where my son was given a brand new Arsenal kit. He wore a long sleeve white shirt underneath though because of the cold that night as only Flamini goes out with short sleeves in the winter.
Out we went as word came that the Chelsea bus was approaching. We managed to catch Jack Wilshere standing around serving his suspension for a certain hand gesture to the crowd, but he was still willing to snap a few pics with us and the Chelsea counterpart.
Then it was out to the bus arrival area. Our mascot liaison went over the procedure. Chelsea’s mascot in the front for Chelsea, my son in front for the Arsenal. Hold out your hand and wait for them to shake it. Not everyone will but don’t get upset. Just turn to the next guy and go from there.
Chelsea arrived first. My son, an avid collector of Match Attax trading cards, already knew every player getting off the bus, even a few the Chelsea mascot couldn’t recognize. He held out his hand and shocking hands / fist bumped the players coming in for the game.
We then took a quick walk around the arrival lobby. There was a Christmas tree up and a nice photo of all of the 49 games undefeated in one giant poster. David Beckham was in the grounds somewhere but we missed him in the lobby. Oh well.
Next up came word that Arsenal was arriving. This time my son was out front, shaking hands with the players as the fans on the sides were chanting out the chants for each one that arrived. Needless to say he had a pretty massive smile on his face.
With the teams given a few minutes to get into the locker room, we were then escorted to the tunnel entrance, where you see the teams in the pre-game, for a visit with the team. This was a mascot-only event, as he was escorted by a member of the playing staff (one of the coaches) who took him around to meet every single player as they were getting dressed. Dad’s had to stay in the lobby. He got an autograph from every player on dad’s old Arsenal jersey we brought with us for just this occasion, and afterwards a nice photo of him with all the players arrived from the Arsenal photographers.
With the meet and greet done, we were escorted onto an elevator up to the club level where we went inside a restaurant / club (the one you see on the tour for those who have taken it) for a sit-down and explanation of what to expect. This was a 15-minute run down of what to expect, step-by-step when you took the field with the team. We even practiced the ‘tap on the shoulder’ which meant the pictures were done and the turn toward the referee to start the handshake line. Afterwards my son had to seek out the Gunnersaur for a kick about, and then Rex would take him to the center circle for the photo op. As simple as this sounds, we did go over it quite a bit. The eyes of the world were watching after all.
If I can make just an aside here—it was at this point I realized how much bigger Arsenal has become since my days in the Highbury North Bank. The stadium, the staff, the overall ambience is so much “bigger” than it used to be. I always remarked how you used to be able to sit in the North Bank and look out to see the town houses around Highbury. It was just a part of the area, no big deal sort of. But now, in this monstrous stadium with staff everywhere and people and well—size—it was just kind of an epiphany about how “big” the club has become.
We finished up the walkthrough, took a few pictures, and went back down the elevator to the tunnel. It was time to take the field for the first time since arriving. We walked out into the lights and light mist and everything just glowed. Despite the deluge, the grass was fine. There wasn’t ‘mud’ or anything like that as the drainage was keeping the field in playing condition. We noticed Jose was on the field as well, checking the grass to see how it was doing in the rain. As he came off he actually posed for a few selfies with some Arsenal fans in the stands.
The players started to come out of the tunnel now for the pre-game warmup. Arsenal’s photographer came over and gathered my son for some one-on-one photos with the players on the filed. He selected four players and they chased them down as they went through the warm up. My son even got to take a shot against Szczesny.
Following the photos, we were hustled back into the changing room for the last minute preparations. We packed up all of our items as we would not be coming back to this room after the start of the game. We then headed back to the tunnel entrance were the mascots were left to wait for the teams while the dads took up positions on the pitch to photograph the entrance onto the field.
From Sky replays I saw later, my son was stuck waiting for the Arsenal team for about two minutes while the Chelsea team was already in the tunnel ready to take the field. Arsenal came out a bit late, and my son was all there by himself. Twitter had many comments on this about the “lonely little Arsenal mascot all by himself” but his escort was just to the side, out of the camera’s view. He stood there holding the Arsenal banner looking back and forth at the Chelsea side who he had seen so many times before in his trading card binder. I later asked him what he was doing and he just said “looking around”. I asked if he was nervous and he told me he was having too much fun to be nervous.
How frickin cute is the @Arsenal mascot? Awwwwww ☺️
Arsenal eventually came out along with the referees. Mike Dean introduced himself to my son and patted him on the head (made a note to shave his head when we got home). After a brief wait, they took to the field and commenced the grand entrance you see on TV. There were the handshakes and all that. I asked if anyone said anything like “good game” or anything like that and he said “no, they basically just grunted”. He did his kick about and posed for the center circle photo before coming off the pitch with a huge smile on his face.
We were then escorted to our seats from pitch level and my son turned to me “Dad, I want to do this every year!”