Kenny Smith | blog

Thursday, April 28, 2005

How great is life that the most upsetting thing about the day is that it is a beautiful day and you have to be inside? Cotton candy blue skies, that turn to an almost fragile looking white at the horizon. Clouds hang up there lazily in the sky. High temperature of 76 and the only problem in the world is that I had to be inside working and inside writing papers.

And apparently my brand new dishwasher is a major fire hazard.
Recall notice come and me wanna go home.
Come Mr. Repair Man repair me Kenmore.
Recall notice come and me wanna go home.
Note to Self: Do not call Ken's for your appliance repair needs.

So we're talking about a sense of belonging someplace. My generation, perpetually hasty, has sacrificed roots to move up some mythological ladder we're all staring too hard at to see. We don't belong where we were, we don't belong where we are.

No. We've elasticized our roots. We belong everywhere. If Marshal McLuhan is right, then that's the message. Or maybe we're the message. That sounds profound and odd enough to make philosophical sense, no? One day we might belong everywhen.

My boss is fond of saying the public is far smarter and far wiser and more talented than the media could ever hope to be. Though approaching groupthink (or equipped with a built-in defense, depending on who you ask) the collective society offers a great strength that even the largest of our academics can't dream of approaching. All that to say that my newest obsession is looking at self-portraits on Flickr. It is a great way to get composition ideas for photography. Who thinks of taking this picture? No one, except that guy. But we'll all try it tomorrow.

But, for now, I'll go try and write a paper.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

We get very political ...
Wads: I just read something that blows my mind. Which do you think would pass more bills? A bicameral or unicameral legislature?
Me: Bicameral.
Wads: Why?
Me: Candle at both ends. If two sides pass varying bills then there's a movement afoot to make it happen, so compromise committee isn't normally that contentious. I would also imagine the minority to be more vociferous in the unicameral.
Wads: You just hit on something that 200 years of smart people (like Madison) missed. It is assumed that the House will pass N bills and the Senate will pass n of them. N-n is less than the House would pass without the check. But, they always forgot there's action at both ends and there's evidence that bicameral will tend to pass more than less. It's pretty cool that something that obvious was missed for so long.
Me: When was this finally and officially realized?
Wads: In 2003, but it's not conclusive... the only bi-uni switch of the 20th century in state and local was the only one that went in the predicted direction.
I'm biting my tongue to keep from saying that I'm smarter than one of our most important founding fathers. OK, no I'm not. I know I'm not that smart. Even still it is odd to think that this hadn't been considered previously.
I ran into a classmate from high school the other day. I keep forgetting to mention that. Think I'm trying to forget it. Nice girl. Nice now, nice then even. She's organizing the 10-year-reunion. I hate grocery stores all of a sudden. All I'd gone in there to buy was a bag of peanuts.

So I'm standing in line talking to her, wondering if I can go ahead and make plans, any plans, anything at all, for some odd night in August that hasn't been firmly set in stone yet. "Can't make it, sorry. Ridding the Sudan of violence. Curing cancer while on sabbatical from freeing China of communism. Hate that I can't be there with all you guys."

I like that it has been 10 years. The sobering thought is that it has been 10 years since I started college. Ended. Started. The perception is the verb.

Beyond reunions unattended and people unseen and the blurry pace of time there is the actual time in between. It hasn't been a cancer-curing, democracy enabling ride, but it has been a nice, quietly fulfilling one populated with friends, family, laughter and priceless conversation. None of these would I trade for anything, so maybe I have more figured out than I realize. Restlessness and impetuousness, however, are still hanging around; the baggage of youth, the questions unanswered.

It seems to be a constant lately. I have papers to write. I should probably be a little more motivated to get them done. One week to go, one paper half done, another that should see significant progress today. Here's to hoping. I'm tired of being stalked. Mostly I'm just tired and want a nap.

Wads is back, surprising me a bit this time with a newfound respect for baseball. He's talking about statistics. And Mark Twain.

Baseball is a beautiful thing. Durable and pliable, sturdy and fragile; absorbing more taint from scandal -- Pete Rose, lockouts and steroids -- than other sports. It is the legacy of America's former pastime. We expect great things from a game made from infinity and ghosts and known variables. We expect great things and so we demand great things. We are disappointed greatly when the authors of our summer artistry are mortally exposed.

But, Wads' affectations of late have less to do with sappy sentimentality and more to do with his love of statistics. That and, like me, his appreciation of good commentary.

Monday, April 25, 2005

A productive few days around here. Don't know how I feel about saying that all the time again. Particularly with final paper deadlines starting to loom.

Weekend: Saw Auburn. Saw three 10s in the gymnastics national championships. Saw Auburn get swept at home in baseball for the first time since 2001. Saw them hit an inside-the-park grand slam. Saw old and dear friends. Saw the difference between the college and the grown-up world. I tried to fight this growing up thing, but it happened anyway. Saw a few signs that, even in a town which measures longevity in five year increments, time occasionally can stand firmly still. That's a good thing. Makes you feel solid. Had lemonade. Had the unshakable feeling that Auburn is a memory; to be accessed and remembered and that's its utility now.

Good weekend, but I left a little empty. There's some sense of being that the place can no longer give me. There's every tangible sense that it got replaced by a different one. Both are good, both of these concepts have their place. Auburn's place was to get me here. It did that. Did that well. This "here" is better than there. Stepping over the stones and across the river. But sometimes you long for the soaked socks of memory. There's nothing wrong with that.

My ties are getting tenuous too. Wendy is graduating and leaving in days. Off to Savannah for her first job. She and I didn't even know each other in school, but met later. Time has a way of telling on you; people who weren't there when I left are leaving.

Fin, who I did go to school with, is leaving at the end of the summer. He's looking to come to Birmingham. That's good news in several different forms. However that's the last line I still have tied to the good ship Auburn. Sometimes, though, entropy offers you a good trade. Those years were great, these are better.

So, ultimately, it was a good weekend that left me a little filled, despite realizing I studied there in a different millenia.

I was also broadcasting in the old millenia. I got better later as a serious journalist, but some of the funny things I dug up tonight still crack me up. So there's lots of new audio on the site.

Fin, Giles, Scooby and I did WEGL's morning show. You can hear the opening (which I thought up as a cruel joke for anyone with their alarm set to our station) and a typical daily promo we did for the program. There's also a great commercial I made for The Tiger (yes that's me) and finally some weird news from Fin and I. Listen to the news in order, the Clinton one is the funniest.

Today I worked in the yard and bought groceries. I also re-organized the audio and picture files on the computer. Big day.

Friday, April 22, 2005

"One of those days" extended into today. Boring trivia of life. The arcane step-by-step that gets you out of the door and on your way each day. Took a bit longer than usual today. The stars were conspiring. I don't like conspiracy. Unless you let me in on the plan.

Kind of gray today. Sort of. Looks like a drawing where a child resolved to gray out the sky and then got bored a quarter of the way through, just melding it into white somehow. Earlier it was dark. Went to a local park and took pictures of an art festival. The dark preceeded the rain. We left just in time.

Apparently, Terry works over there. He doesn't like the "hippie noseflute" music that comes from the Magic City Art Connection.

Neglected to mention this previously, but there's been some additions to the audio/video page. Two new pieces of footage. One from the SEC Gymnastics Championship in Georgia last month. That's Alabama's all-star Ashley Miles (bio)on the uneven bars. The other is a surreal sandstorm on Tybee Island, just outside of Savannah, earlier this month. I know, I'm behind.

Speaking of which, I should clean up some space on my digital's disks.

And now, a random fact about Vin Diesel. Be sure to refresh.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

I had a problem with this page. Now it is fixed. Hopefully you didn't notice. But it made me sweat for about two hours. The solution finally came with a big assist from the tech support people that work for ICDsoft, which hosts my site. They went above and beyond, especially considering how it wasn't their fault to begin with. So by way of thanks I'll do what I always do for them, pass their name along. If you need a webhost, look them up. Inexpensive. Reliable. Immediate response. Fast download and uploads. They do it all.

Classes are winding down (or over) for the semester and it is obvious. Everyones attention is waning. All is well, though. One of my last papers is about half done. Taking small steps on the other one. After this semester I'm halfway through the coursework for the master's.

Have you ever heard anyone ask if you've ever had one of those days? Why do we ask that? We've all had that day. I've been having that day recently. Usually I don't, just extremely fortunate. The past two days I've had terrible luck with HTML, personal and professional. And with tea on clothes. The middle of this week has been "one of those days." What a blessed life to have to seek out things like that to complain about.

And also my lawn needs mowing.

On the subject of why we say things, why do we say "be careful" when someone leaves? I do this every day at work. Today I did it when my boss left (I was busily trying to fix HTML problems). He seemed surprised by it. Maybe he should be. Hey there Mr. Middle Age responsible family man, drive wisely. As if he would otherwise behave like an idiot, but fortunately my advice struck a chord. Simply isn't so. It makes no sense to say this to people.

Something that does make sense: Wads' complaints about big words in academia. I love big words as much or more as Wads does, but academia is a little bit silly. Need proof? College kids showing up scholarly journals with computer generated gobbledygook. That link lets you make your own.

But don't send it to the pope. You do have his new Email address, right? Now you can talk to Benedict XVI. No word on reply times. May take awhile though, he's surely busy getting settled into the new robes.

This is rather unsettling. Is it a curse, or not? The Iceman is not the guy you want at your party. On the other hand I hear he really kills.

I can see by the poor quality of the puns that it is time to now do more laundry and go to bed. That side project I mentioned? Satellite Postcards. Still very much in infancy, it'll grow quickly and will soon move away from the current self-centered tone. That's just backstory to begin highlighting my obsession with Google Maps. It should become a neat little page very soon, so bookmark it and visit often. Stop be here more too.

Monday, April 18, 2005

I'm supposed to be working on stuff, right? School work or something. Later tonight I'll get to that too. That work will be approached with the sort of satisfaction that only comes when you realize you've been a dolt all along. That thing that you have to do? Not nearly as much of it as you thought. So one of my papers is only eight to 10 pages. I'd had it in my head that it was twice that length (my other paper to wrap up the semester is, in fact, of the larger variety). I have so much material stored up for this first paper though, he proclaimed arrogantly, that it'll be done before the crickets get noisy.

We'll see about that.

I'm firing my bookkeeper. That guy is lousy. Never gets things in on time. So, before setting up for the long agony of writing a paper the professor and I are each going to be apathetic about, I'm dropping off paperwork and paying bills. After that I'm shuttering myself up, as if on deadline, to churn out at least five of those pages. That's my goal for the night. Entirely obtainable. It will be approached with the sort of satisfaction that only comes when you realize that for the first time, maybe ever, you aren't really yet under a deadline. At least not for this paper. That other, larger, paper though, that could be traumatic.

So this weekend was spent largely being philosophical about paper writing. And a good chunk of Saturday at the library. Friday night I was asleep before 9 p.m. Party animal, I know.

Saturday night it was baseball with friends. I was punchy by the sixth inning. Felt better than I had in days. Both healthwise and just physically. Apparently, I'm told, sleep does this for you. With the lesson safely learned I now wonder if it will carry over. Seems like every third or fourth week I learn this lesson over the course of a Saturday. By Tuesday its a distant memory. Much like Monday. What happens on Wednesday is anyone's guess. Mostly it's a series of living-in-the-moment moments and asking aloud, "Is it the weekend yet?"

So anyway, by Saturday night I could breathe fairly well again. That only took a week. Still there is no answer to why new, fresh off the rack Sudafed is less powerful than product by the same name that expired three years previous.

Saw fireworks after the game. The game itself was a special treat; my friend from work and his wife went. Justin and Radonna are expecting in September (and finding out boy or girl today), so this was the child's first ballgame. And also the child's first fireworks display.

We also saw the lesson of "No sugar after 5 p.m." on the row in front of us. In the middle innings three little kids were getting antsy. The antithesis of not having any control, the mom and her boyfriend were actually encouraging them on to being hoodlums. The kids were picking up peanut shells -- even trying to klepto some of my whole peanuts -- and then launching them onto the field with a catapult they'd devised. But hurling debris onto the field wasn't good enough. The adults, role models both, were encouraging the children to launch their missles into the visiting team's dugout.

The Barons were hosting the Biscuits and at one time, remembering my heckling roots, I encouraged the other team to "put some ham on, try some jelly with another pat of butter" and so on. I advocated this loudly, because certainly the team, now in their second season of existence, hasn't heard clever needling of this type before. Apparently neither had the man in front of us. He became so amused with my wit that he began copying me. Not creating his own A-list material, ripping off my tired old puns.

After that intellectual stimulation Sunday afternoon was spent musing on scholastic things and pondering the imponderables: what do people think about when they aren't talking to one another; does my academic committee reply to their Email?

Sadly the day has passed without the answers. Again. Well, there's always this week.

This week is also highlighted with the beginning of Brad Herzog's States of Mind. Prologue and one chapter in and its a safe bet I'm going to love this book.

Website fun: Cantilevered pennies. Apollo 13 Mission Control. Matt is getting rid of his daughter. Finally, if you're a fan of Guster listen to this, from Popular Genius.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Tried to work on a paper yesterday. Got distracted at the library.

Hours later I found myself still trying to fall asleep for lack of breathing. The stuffy, snuffly weeks are always hard to sleep through. So it has been an exhausting -- and here, a quiet -- week. On the upside I am breathing better today. So there's promise for the weekend. Writing papers will take up much of that time. Maybe I can work in some sort of distractions as a study break. There will likely be more here as I procrastinate further.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

I have class! Or classes, as the case may be. School classes. The last of the coursework for my master's is now laid out. Apparently. It is occasionally difficult to get confirmation on some things. The tolerance of ambiguity indeed.

The larger issue, at this point, seems to be whether or not our program has a non-thesis plan. This matters not to you, so I'll spare you the frustrating details and move on to other things you don't care about. In the summer I'll have a Nonverbal Communication class. I'll also have something called Applied Communication Research. The department head, after much prompting to recall the class (that he teaches), told me this is a class about consulting. And that's my summer.

The fall looks great. I'll have to wade back into the Classics for Source Credibility -- how Aristotle and Plato are 13-weeks worth of important on this topic I'm not clear. My other two classes are extremely promising. Political Communication and Historiography. That's a history class. An elective that centers on the teaching of how historians do their work. So the fall is very exciting. If you're a nerd like me.

Anyway, after that there's just my final project. Or thesis, depending on the program's ambiguity.

This week is basically second spring break. All but one class canceled. Had that last night and then went home and tried, in vain, to sleep. I did finish one paper yesterday, basically wrapping up the course on Audience Analysis. Two to go. The big challenging ones, but one of those I'm almost ready to conquer.

Finished up If I live to be 100 to start off last weekend. All optimists should read it. Probably the pessimists too. The author sometimes gets in the way of the stories she's conveying, but when the stars of the book are talking it really shines. It is good enough that I'm actually loaning it out to some people.

Earlier this week I was mixing and matching Tylenol Sinus and Sudafed. I could not understand why Sudafed that is three years past the expiration date worked better than new medicine. After last night's run for more drugs I am wondering why the three-years-too-old pills are better than new Sudafed. I read the box this morning, "Do not exceed eight tablets in 24 hours." At about seven hours I had already taken six. My body, my meth lab. Finally I can breathe. For the time being.

Web fun: Mr. T's Ode to Mothers. About three minutes long, but good and terrible.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Long time no talk. First I was preoccupied. Then busy. Then social. Then blech. And now I have the revenge of the sinuses.

That's pretty much everything.

Went to a wedding Saturday night. Pictures, of course, to be added at the end of the month. And you'll want to see these. The groom's cake -- seriously -- was Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Greg, a grad school friend, got married this weekend. He's a Bama grad. So is Brooks, his wife. The last song at the reception was Sweet Home Alabama. They went to their limo as their friends used crimson and white shakers and screamed "Roll Tide." He'd been saying for days that I would hate the end of the festivities, but really it just confirmed so much. Very telling.

Sometime after that I started getting sniffly. And here we are, another week underway, still putting up the good fight, hoping to breathe just any day now.

Dropped off the taxes today. Four ladies in the office. Two with customers. One other lady and I in the waiting area. The phone rings. "We are swamped," one of the women says into the phone.

Let me get this straight. You work in templates. You have the same amount of people inside working as you do patronizing the place. Most of the cars in the parking lot are there because of a fender bender. It is April 11 and you're ready for a vacation. Maybe this isn't the best day for me to be here. The last time you guys put an error in my taxes it resulted in a two-week swing in pay. I spent all summer recovering from that. And I didn't make that much money on a weekly basis to start with. All turned out well this trip however. Take that government! Hmmm? What do you mean this return is already my money ... oh.

Have you noticed anything different around here? The picture on the blog page is new. The color and images on the main pages have been swapped out as well. Change is a constant.

The other constant continues: Placing second. Jim Peacock announced the winners in his Slogan Challenge. The point was to come up with phrases for a new political party. There was a serious category and an irreverent one. I placed second in both. Just that quickly, however, the string of second place finishes is broken. I only honorable mention in the most recent caption contest from Outside the Beltway. Guess I shouldn't give all this up to become a comedian just yet.

Our old friend Brooke gets in a pot-shot, saying she finally found people more pathetic than her husband and I. The link she sent is today's website fun. Obsessed with Newsradio? Me too.

Tuesday, April 5, 2005

Irony is a nasty little habit. Funny too, if seen in the right light piercing through the blinds. Just the other day I was busily patting myself on the back for this or that, feeling all grown up and mature and responsible. (At last!) Last night I find myself eating a caramel apple watching science fiction.

The path back to childhood is only so long.

Skipped ahead in my To Do pile of books last night. All these fun political things to read and they're staying on the shelf a while. Though I may break out the Winston Churchill later this week.

Rick got me that book more than a year ago and -- despite school readings, magazine readings, news readings and generally being lazy -- it has finally made the top of the stack. But I skipped ahead because, really, doesn't a collection of Churchill's speeches sound like fine nightstand material?

So I snuck off for lunch today with one of my favorite friends: A book. Picked up If I live to be 100 a month or so ago on sale and knew it had to be read. Already it is promised to two others when I am done. Nice book so far, about 30 pages in. Hoping to delve into the secrets of life from centenarians, but mostly I'm just smiling a lot. Wonder if there's a correlation.

I've always liked these conversations and understood immediately what the author, Nennah Ellis, was thinking. It reminds me of, on more than one occasion, watching a girlfriend roll her eyes in frustration because I was more interested in hearing her grandfather talk about the first people in the area than say, rushing out the door. Previously my affections in the stories were cradled in the history. That still has its place, but lately I see more and more of the larger topic, the smaller story of the people.

I've mentioned before that one of my favorite memories, and simultaneously a great regret, is a long conversation with my great-grandmother. She talked of leaving college, getting married, the Great Depression and contracting tuberculosis, all in one year. The stroll of history was terrific. The stroll through her life was far more significant and took far longer to absorb.

On a particular CD the artist begins a song with a conversation she taped with her grandmother. In their talk she is discussing the memories of a great-grandfather. More and more I want to do that. Wish I had the courage to convince my grandparents to sit down and let me tape them.

Professionally I could do this all day, but that's different. It might seem too odd to family. They could clam up on stories, familiar and soft, that I've heard around the holidays for years. Have to find a way to make it happen though. One day I'll want that face on TV sitting in an old familiar kitchen, hearing a laughter that has always seemed ebullient and wise.

One day, hopefully soon, I'll screw up the courage to try that. Right after they promote me from the kiddie table.

Notes: Terry Oglesby has moved. Change your bookmarks and your blogrolls. And hey, I finished second in a caption contest at James Joyner's site. That's twice now. Could this become a new gimmick? Finishing second in these things? Not bad, though, placing behind new TV news darling Donald Sensing.

Monday, April 4, 2005

Four years ago while walking on a Cayman Island beach I came across the perfect piece of coral. "Hmmm," I said to myself, "widen this hole just a bit and you'd have a perfectly symmetrical beach necklace." Yes, I use words like symmetrical while on vacation. It is my burden.

Recently I'd taken to wearing the thing again. The implication was clear: Time for a vacation.

So overload the day-bag with enough clothes for a weekend and drive away, end up in beautiful Savannah, Ga for three days.

Got in late Thursday night. Slept in Friday morning. Walked and drove through the historic district and the riverwalk. Played in the Spanish Moss. Got dinged at by a trolley on cobblestone streets. Took a bow for the tourists. Wonderful start to the weekend.

Friday night, as the skies threatened loads of rain that never really came, it was time to mosey into Lady and Sons. Go here. Eat a lot. So good you'd want to slap your grandmother. And she'd probably slap me back for forgetting the name of hoe cakes. Paula's place is so great that there was another stop in on Sunday. It was then that the perfect fried green tomatoes were discovered. On both visits, everything was delicious, but I have had better creamed corn (nothing tops freshly picked from a Midwestern field).

Saw the home where George Washington spent the night in 1791. Several times during the weekend I walked by Christ Church. It is a magnificent building of understated grace and compact opulence. No architecture junkie, I can't do the building justice, but it is beautiful. It served as host to Washington and a former home of John Wesley. Savannah is built on ghosts, but the culture survives on legendary figures that are inescapable.

Saturday I visited the huge and beautiful Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. The oldest Catholic Church in Georgia and now the site of a moment of unintentional infamy. For two days TV live trucks had been out front. "Surely they won't be taping a wedding," I thought aloud. "And no police cars are here, so nothing violent has happened." Walk inside before their evening mass and it dawns on me: Prayer vigil for the pope. He's just hours from dying at this point, but the mood in that grand building wouldn't hint at entropy's religious and historical significance.

Walking quietly through the back I notice that people are starting to look at me funny. Don't understand why. Standing in the back corner, contemplating pictures, I glance down and notice I'm in the Catholic Church wearing a BYU shirt.

In a city still very much alive with voodoo I'd been touched by Methodist buildings, spoken aloud about Wesley and George Whitefield and stood awe-struck at ornate Catholicism ... all while wearing a shirt promoting a Mormon institution. I had a lot of religion this weekend.

Walked through the main park in the historic part of the city. Dozed in the cool grass and clover under a Southern Red Oak drenched in Spanish Moss. Watched the clouds go by. Life does not get better than that hour of decadence.

Tried to top the experience by going to Tybee Island. Came real close too. Stood at the shoreline and watched the sand rush into the ocean from a hundred yards away. Awesome video. It looked unearthly. Later I found myself listening to Jimmy Buffett while eating buttery crab from a paper plate at a shack with garbage holes in the tables.

After cracking shells it was time to take in a ghost tour. Waltzed over the beautiful squares and listened to tales of souls lost in fire, passionate rage and war. Apparently the wind in the squares is courtesy of General Nathanael Greene. After the Revolutionary War he stayed on in Savannah, but hated the heat. It is said that his spirit stirs the breezes. He really wanted attention this weekend.

Finally, a peaceful, restive weekend came to a close with a gorgeous sunset the car chased from Atlanta to Birmingham. I'd say every day should be as wonderful as this weekend, but really they already are. One of life's many blessings to find.