in a while a specific day or event stands out
from the rest of your life and you think, 'Wow
that would make a good story.' This whole past
year has been an amazing rollercoaster of one
great story after another.
The course of events leading up to it didn't start
off as any story I'd necessarily want to be in,
however. But then somehow one day it suddenly
got interesting and turned into what I think you'll
find is a really inspiring, funny and fun tale.
At the time I had my own life going on at college,
but I made sure I checked in on Dad at least once
a week. He'd been depressed for months after a
series of unfortunate events culminated in his
hermiting himself away, divorced and alone in
our old soon-to-be-foreclosed-upon house.
That day he was on the couch where I usually found
him. But usually my "Hi Dad, I'm here," would
be greeted by the TV blaring and Dad staring blankly
at a soggy cereal bowl on his lap, as he mumbled
an almost incoherent, "Hi Honey." But that day
he had a huge smile on his face and his eyes lit
up when I walked in.
Which should be great, right? Except Dad had a
red bandana wrapped around a wacky-blond-hippy
Halloween-costume wig on his head.
oh… He's really lost it now," I thought.
But unfortunately, that's not the craziest part.
There was some guy crouched behind a video camera
on a tripod focused on the couch. And Dad wasn't
alone sitting there. There was another younger
guy and a pretty girl hanging out on the couch,
Which on the one hand should have been great news
(minus the camera guy, of course) - Dad was hanging
out with people, other than me, again! Yippee.
apparently, 'Artie the camera guy' and 'Jess'
and Jimmy all lived there now.
I know, right!
As it turns out, they'd all answered Dad's Craigslist
ad to be part of a reality show about a group
of dreamers slash artist-misfits who live together
and become a creative team trying to save the
Better World Show: the reality show that will
Pretty nutty, huh. Oh boy, you ain't seen nothing
I would never have imagined it at the time, but
this strange introduction was only the beginning
of a wild and crazy adventure that was about to
I spent another hour or so listening to them,
sometimes talking to me, but most of the time,
just lost in their own little world.
Apparently Dad had dubbed the house I grew up
in 'The Better World Factory,' and according
to Dad's plan, they were the Dream Team that was
going to create an internet based reality show
that was going to save the world. It didn't matter
that they didn't have any money to live on, let
alone to put their crazy ideas into action.
And they had tons of crazy ideas. Well, actually
Dad was doing most of the talking and there was
mostly a lot of eye-rolling going on from the
rest. But occasionally the others would chime
in, too, with their own brands of wide-eyed hysteria.
And apparently they'd already filmed twenty five
hours of them sitting around brainstorming ideas
and skits and plans and, who knows what else they'd
filmed for twenty-five hours!
I didn't know what to think when I drove back
to college. Although they all seemed a little
manically … well, crazy, it was good to see Dad
excited about something after months of seeing
him slumped over in depression. So I decided to
cut them a little slack, at least for a little
while, before I called in the troops to do an
intervention or something. Besides, it was kind
of obvious the group he'd assembled didn't totally
'believe' in the project, and I couldn't imagine
the four of them staying together that long. A
Truth is, I was pretty overwhelmed by everything
I saw and found myself thinking about the whole
thing that evening while I was supposed to be
studying. I couldn't help daydreaming about Dad's
new 'roommates' being comically introduced in
an over-the-top old-time sitcom with some cheesy,
but incredibly catchy theme song. Based on my
brief encounter with them, they really all did
seem to fit nicely into custom-made sitcom molds
of one-dimensionally interesting but predictable
caricatures, with fully-predictable back-stories.
Meet, Artie, the 30-something super-talented filmmaker
who, until he moved into the Better World Factory,
could never hold a job for more than a minute
because he couldn't see anything in the conventional
way the corporatized world demands.
And Jess, of course was the super-pretty and dramatically
and musically talented-and knows it 'I wanna be
a star', big fish in a small pond, firey ball
of ambition. But underneath that glossy veneer
is the insecure shy girl who's not yet ready for
primetime swimming in the big sea.
And Jimmy was easy to peg as the multi-cultural
charismatic anarchist-activist, who somehow always
ends up as leader of all the group-of-equals'
he stumbles into, all the while never feeling
like he really belongs, and once he convinces
everyone else he does, he disappears and moves
on to try to win over the hearts and minds of
another circle of friends that will hopefully
turn out to be the community he's been searching
And of course, then there's my Dad, the Impossible
Dreamer who stuck with a job he couldn't stand
to support his family, but always had his mind
focused on the utopian fantasies he wrote in secret
that no one else ever read, until tragedy struck
and crumbled his real-life world, and then like
a phoenix arising from the ashes, he emerged as
Peace Dude, the catalyst for this fantastical
semi-scripted reality show that we the audience
were about to see unfold, which really would live
up to its tagline and change the world.
A strange cast of misfits, to be sure, but over
the next few weeks and that entire year, I began
to realize they really were exactly 'characters'
I would have chosen to be with me in an ideal
story I'd love to live in about a team fighting
the good fight together.
Anyway, that evening as I reflected, I wondered
if Dad realized what had brought these 'cast members'
together to participate in his daydream-turned-reality
show. As an outside observer, it was clear that
none of them really truly 'believed' in his vision.
But they had reached the point in their lives
where they knew their dreams were about to be
crushed forever when this strange opportunity
came knocking, and they found themselves accepting
the suspension of disbelief required to participate
in this bizarre and seemingly impossibly-hopeless
project, for the slim chance their dreams might
actually turn into reality.
That's when I also realized it didn't matter what
had brought them together. The tension of their
disbelief actually could make the 'story' of this
reality show adventure that much more interesting.
As you can see by the amount of thought I was
giving this, the idea may have been farfetched,
but it was kind of infectious. Nevertheless, the
reality of being a college student crept in, and
I didn't get a chance to visit The Better World
Factory until the end of the week. I knew from
Dad's emails that the group was still together,
but I had a terrible feeling there'd be a lot
more than eye-rolling going on when I dropped
by. Truth is, I expected a high-tension about-to-erupt
Cold War, at best.
What I found was a well-greased machine, a real
team, a family, even. At first though, when I
saw them all in the exact couch-positions I'd
last seen them in, I couldn't help wondering what
the heck they'd been doing all week … had they
even gotten up from the couch? But the bubbling
creative glows on their faces gave me my first
hint that they'd been busy - busy getting to know
each other, and busy working together to manifest
their now shared dream of creating this reality
show that would change the world.
As I listened over lunch to them explain just
what they had been doing that week, I realized
they really were developing an interesting plan.
And it wasn't just Dad's crazy ideas anymore.
They were all starting to believe in it, and from
their excited explanations, I saw they were all
active collaborators now, each harnessing their
specific skills and talents in a way 'the real
world' had never allowed them to before. And as
a team, each one's strengths supported and nurtured
the rest of the team.
I couldn't help feeling as Artie showed me a little
of the literally hundreds of hours of footage
they'd shot, and as they gave me a tour of the
house I'd grown up in, now transformed into a
combined dormitory slash studio with constructed
sets in every nook and cranny, well I couldn't
help feeling an enormous bubble of just-about-to-explode
potential all around me. It was kind of an amazing
At first, when they described the format of the
show, it sounded complicated, with lots of pieces.
But it wasn't long before I began to see that
it really was evolving into a cohesive and not
only interesting, but powerful vehicle.
As they explained it, the reality show would be
a semi-scripted timeline about the interactions
and adventures of this team of dreamers living
together in The Better World Factory. Each episode
would combine this reality-show storyline with
variety show, Saturday Night Live-like comic skits
and music and news highlights.
Each episode would be thematic about a particular
social issue, and the skits would be designed
to raise awareness and highlight real efforts
that were going on around the world to address
those issues. The goal would be to inform and
inspire the viewer to get involved, but all done
in a humorous or emotionally engaging way.
we want the whole world to be the stage for The
Better World Show … once it goes viral, people
everywhere will be invited to participate, and
submit their creative content… Can you imagine
how much change could happen, if people finally
believed that real change was possible and felt
encouraged to focus their creativity on creating
a better world?"
There was so much to take in, my head was swimming,
but it was in a good kind of way, even if I can't
remember who described what.
so much going on out there to create a better
world that no one knows about," one of them explained.
"There are so many movements for change, but a
more holistic movement for a more peaceful, just
and sustainable world is trying to emerge … We're
trying to help inspire that movement and document
it as we help, in a way, to create it…"
A pretty tall order, but the intensity in which
they believed it, well, it almost made me believe
it could be possible, too.
It also turns out my Dad had been working on all
these other websites over the years which I never
knew about (or if I had, I never really paid attention
to). Even though previously they hadn't really
gotten off the ground, now they would fit in perfectly
to complement and help grow the Show, by directing
people to the Show, and providing something for
people to plug into, once they got inspired by
the Show to get involved.
BetterWorldClubs.com was apparently a hub of free
resources and ideas to create local grassroots
action, connected to a global movement of holistic
change. It featured several interconnected other
sites Dad had. He'd apparently drawn 1000 portraits
of his 'Better World Heroes" for BetterWorldHeroes.com
which raised awareness about these ordinary and
extraordinary people and the social issues they
spent their lives addressing.
This was connected to BetterWorldQuotes.com which
highlighted the inspiring quotes by those heroes.
And last, but certainly not least, was BetterWorldCalendar.com,
a calendar of action dates that organizations,
institutions and nations have already been using
to raise awareness about specific social issues,
as well as the birthdates of Better World Heroes.
It was the calendar that would be the main driving
force for the episodes. Many of them would be
geared toward the social issue behind a specific
action date. Others episodes would focus on trying
to engage a specific celebrity or would focus
on one of the many subplot-vehicles that would
return again and again as skits in The Show. "Like
'Roadtrip to Utopia'." They explained how once
the show caught on, they'd take the show on the
road, visiting progressive cities across the country
and highlighting local Better World Clubs the
Show had inspired. Stuff like that.
They couldn't hide their excitement as they told
me they were posting their first episode that
evening. 500 hours of filming, which Artie edited
down to 5 minutes. I was feeling a little excited
for them myself.
Well they posted their first episode, and it was
pretty good. Funny, informative, inspirational,
and most of all hopeful. Great… Except when I
checked their youtube channel in the morning I
saw it had 32 views and no comments, except one
That week they posted another five minute episode
and eight mini-stand-alone episodes by the time
I swung by again. All of which had a grand total
of 1959 views. I was nervous when I walked through
the door that they'd be twice as depressed as
I was about their little project.
But they were more bubbling with enthusiasm and
action than the last time. "It's going fine,"
Dad assured me. "A little slow, sure, but it's
moving along nicely."
I hated to be a killjoy, but I just couldn't see
how they could emotionally keep going at this
pace, let alone financially.
That's when they excitedly told me rapid-fire
about all the plans for making this project financially
sustainable, while they grew the show. Ultimately
they intended to create a multi-media Better World
publishing empire, beginning with marketing their
own inspiring music they'd been recording and
social-issue-themed DVDs extracted from their
Shows. These would be marketed to local Better
World Clubs to use for hosting local Better World
House Parties that would grow the movement and
interest in The Show. But in the meantime, they
were pinning most of their hopes on ad revenues
from the websites and their youtube channel.
got 250 Facebook subscribers this week, and BetterWorldQuotes.com
alone is getting over 10,000 visitors a day,"
Dad beamed. We get revenue every time someone
clicks on the Google ads on our websites… Yesterday
we hit $24 in commissions… "
I didn't know what to say. $24 a day? Did he think
that was impressive? Not to mention the fact that
they'd only gotten $4 from the clicks on their
youtube videos … all of them combined …. Yikes."
it's mathematics. We've only just begun. Once
this all goes viral we'll get a million hits a
day, and the ad commissions will bring in more
than enough to allow us to keep going until this
becomes the global phenomenon it's going to be…
We're going to change the world, honey, can't
you just feel it coming…"
As naïve as I still believed it was, and as far
as they still had to go to prove its viability,
you know what, I actually started to believe it
really was going to be the reality show that was
going to change the world.