Kenny Smith | blog

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sometime last week I was listening to Wildman Steve Radio. Steve is something of a minor musical legend. He's played in tons of great bands, still jams with bands like moe and Rollin' In The Hay.

Once upon a time he had a great little record store that I used to visit. And when the industry shifted away from what he liked he decided to close up shop. He's that Rock 'N' Roll*. Before he did so, though, I had him on my morning radio show as a regular visitor to talk about the new releases. There weren't many people around, I was convinced, that new music better than Steve.

When he closed his store he went into radio himself and proved once again what an incredible musical touch he has. He won all kinds of awards in commercial radio and then -- because he's that Rock 'N' Roll* -- he struck out his own and has this great internet radio station. You should definitely check out Wildman Steve Radio.

So I was listening the other night and I found a trivia question on his website. I answered the question, he wrote me back almost immediately and offered to send me a CD. Why not? I asked for something from the mellow aisle, almost as a joke, and Steve introduced me to Jeff Merchant.

Actually I knew of him from Stew (which is incredible) but all of his solo stuff is new to me.

So check out Jeff Merchant. You can hear clips and buy City Makes No Sound if you're looking for a mellow concept album about the trials and successes about city life. I'm still taking in all of the songs, but there are some catchy licks you might like.

Also, check out Wildman Steve Radio.

Let's go ahead and make this an all musical post since it is Sunday and that means it is time for YouTube Cover Theater where we check out the songs of a particular musician as lovingly recreated by inspired YouTube musicians. Today's covered artist is Jerry Lee Lewis.

We'll start with something a bit off the beaten path, from High School Confidential ...

That's one of those songs that has been recorded by so many people you aren't certain who the author is. Ernest Tubb did it. Later Merle Haggard recorded it as did Charlie Walker and, later, Kieran McGilligan. I think, however, that it is a Jerry Lee Lewis original.

Yes, yes. We're getting there. Be patient. The Killer has a wide and varied catalog.

What did make Milwaukee famous? Jerry Lee Lewis had a top 10 hit on Billboard's Country chart and a blip on the Billboard Hot 100 with this Glenn Sutton ballad. If there's more straightforward sorrow in a song you don't want to hear it:

The songwriter, Glenn Sutton, died a few years back, but his Flickr account is still active.

Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On:

Did you know that song isn't Jerry Lee's? Still seems to be some controversy around it. NPR has a great version of the story, that Jack Clement got bored in the studio and that led to Lewis banging out a studio version of a tune he'd already been playing on stage:
I knew it was a hit when I cut it. [Sun Studio founder] Sam Phillips thought it was gonna be too risque, it couldn't make it. If that's risque, well, I'm sorry.

(One final aside, if you don't know Jack Clement, you can see part of the documentary of one of the most incredible contributors to musical culture of the 20th Century here. I love the Internet.)

Finally, here's the song Jerry Lee Lewis will be asked to be play at his own funeral (may it be decades hence):

Watch it until the end.

One of those people could be your neighbor. You never know. That loud neighbor could be recording something for YouTube. Give the people a camera and a place to send the content and you could find art or punk or something awful. It could also be very fun, so give them a little room to record.

*Not that the phrase means much anymore.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Woodfield Drive, Auburn, Ala.

This is a photograph I took as part of a website idea. I have been toying with the idea of a new traveling project and yesterday's trip was the first time I put into action. About halfway through I found the flaw in the plan and reworked it all in my head.

Already this sounds like a more in-depth thing than it should -- really it is an excuse to take a few more pictures and that's about it.

So I'm not showing you the new project. We'll call yesterday's photthe cat walked o project a practice run. bnnnnnnnnnnnnnn.

Sorry. The cat stomped on the keyboard. She's a little heavy on the space bar usually, but an excellent typist.

That's the black cat, I mean. Last semester the other cat sat on the keyboard and deleted an entire file as I ate dinner. The paper was due that night, in fact it was the final paper of the semester for one class. Good thing I'd saved the file that night just before she managed to find Apple-A-delete.

Anyway, nice and sunny out today. The moon is determined to not be outdone, shining brightly through the windows as I write this. I watched it all from indoors.

I blame the Olympics. And sleeping in. And reading. And working on the photo gallery. At least that is up to date.

So today is a catch up day. I'm catching up with television and the website. Speaking of the website, I've tweaked the code near the top of the page here. Lately the blog is loading slowly, at least on my laptop, so I'm trying to clean up the code. (Of course on this lappie everything seems to be moving a bit slowly just now. Maybe it needs a reboot. Or perhaps a replacement. That's next week.)

There's a new photo at the very top of the page, too. All of those seats are at Beard-Eaves-Memorial Coliseum, where we were last night. That will be the last sporting event I see there. There are only two more basketball games and next week's gym meet to go. Next year the Tigers will be playing in the new Auburn Arena. The Beavs, as we call it, will exist for another year or two. There are offices and such in the basement of the old building that must be moved.

Outside Beard-Eaves last night.

The Yankee asked me last night as we left if I would be disappointed to see the old building go. I thought I might be, but I have no real reason for that. If you like tradition and history as I do there's a downside to seeing the old building go. And then you remember the dim lighting, the perpetual dirty feel, the unfortunate restrooms. It will be a nice thing to be in the new building.

Which just leaves me with the sadness of the names. The University would like to find a sponsor, but that's proven difficult given the economy. There is a fear in some corners that the new building, currently known as Auburn Arena, could take on a corporate name one day. I'd personally like to see it keep with campus tradition and is named after prominent university individuals. And that's the only part about Beard-Eaves that I'll miss. It was named in honor of Auburn's war veterans, and then later after former athletic director Jeff Beard and former basketball coach Joel Eaves. Watching a constant reminder of all that history disappear in the next few years will be a bit tough.

Auburn Arena is a handsome building.

But I digress.

Tomorrow the Olympics wrap up. We're shopping for groceries, I'm writing a letter and more. Should be lots of fun.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Lemonade never smelled so sweet as it does at Toomer's Drugs.

At Toomer's Drugs, which is now more of a gift shop and a cafe than a drugstore, you'll get the lemonade that Esquire magazine said God created directly.

Student workers make it now, but when I was in school Mr. Echols squeezed the lemons by hand, even though his hands were so ravaged by time and arthritis that he couldn't straighten out his fingers. He'd let you sample his masterpiece and adjust it to taste. And he'd smile the biggest smile when he satisfied your tastebuds.

We custom ordered today, too. The Yankee's was a bit more tart, mine was a bit sweeter. And then we walked down the street in the evening's setting sun, the both of us thinking about the possibility of doing this a lot in the future.

We had an afternoon of seeing people and things in Auburn. We visited with two professors, spent the evening at the gymnastics meet (Auburn fell to a dominant Florida 196.800-195.700) and had dessert with my friend, writer Jeremy Henderson.

We made a new friend too, had the lemonade, drove around a lot and had a lovely visit on the plain. We just missed seeing a college buddy of mine on our way back out of town.

I also narrowly missed a reporter-friend down from Huntsville, and it turns out that my visit coincided with someone else I've been trying to meet for about half-a-year, but we didn't get the chance to bump into one another.

It was a full, lovely, day.

There will be a few pictures tomorrow.

War Eagle.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Meeting with the newspaper editor this morning. We chatted for about an hour. After that I received a thoughtful note from the president of the university. It was a letter of congratulations for the students who won all those awards earlier this month.

He didn't have to write that letter -- mostly because the students did all the work -- but also because he has a university to run. Dr. Andy Westmoreland, however, is legendary for his personal touch.

I actually talked with him about three jobs and nine years ago. He was the president of Ouachita Baptist University, but I'd already heard of him by reputation. I had a friend who was studying at OBU and she talked about how their university president taught a regular class, sent out weekly Emails, mailed birthday cards and was always hard at work on the ground level of things.

When I interviewed him in 2001 I asked him if he remembered my friend, and he did. Knew where she'd moved to after college and knew what she was doing. Now the guy's my boss.

Moral: You never know when something you do, or someone you meet, will tell your story. You better make sure it is a good one.

Spent the afternoon in class watching a presentation on film. And also working on student recruiting. I spent the afternoon and a bit of the evening doing that, actually, sending out something like 110 Emails today. The Emails had to do with those notes, the cool things the students are doing at Samford and how all of those things will be beneficial for their studies and potential careers.

This is all more interesting than it sounds. And more interesting than the Olympics, which The Yankee and I watched this evening. We seldom sit down together to watch television and tonight we watched figure skating. Aside from seeing the lady beat the field by about 40 points and the breathless announcing that came along with the entire event, I was much bemused.

I'd rather watch the slalom. I'd rather do the slalom, but instead of landing on a painfully thin coat of snow on a grassy hill I'd like to launch, turn flips and turns and twists and land in a big pile of foam, or a nice body of water. (But soft water only, please.) Also, I'd like the skis to be designed to flew off safely in directions that do not include my head, or the other vulnerable portions of my body.

Little seems quite so crazy as some of the sporting events at the Winter Games.

And all of the medals look like spray painted potato chips. There is such a thing as too much art. At last check, though, the United States has more of those bizarre medals than anyone else, and Canada can't catch them.

NBC can mess up their coverage -- but how far it has come at the same time -- but the best part of any Olympic event is as the anthem during the award ceremonies. Tonight I heard the Canadian anthem, Korea's and the United States. That's worth tuning in for, even if you watch a bit of ice skating.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Big truck, big candy. In the middle of nowhere on the interstate, via cell phone camera.

Speaking of heavy machinery. When the alarm went off this morning -- I could use a heavy machinery alarm, come to think of it -- I stumbled out of bed and hadn't really cleared my head yet when the garbage truck scrapped, clanged and beeped it's way through the neighborhood.

It is a lovely neighborhood, and the people are fine. The garbage truck has some hard-working folks who do a thankless job quickly and efficiently, even if it is early in the morning. I don't blame those guys. The man that sits in an office and makes the garbage route schedule? I blame him. And, this morning, I was willing to stand beneath his bedroom window at some even-houred pre-dawn time and sing Yellow Submarine through a bullhorn.

You know the truck cruises through his neighborhood at 2 p.m. Long after the morning has passed, hours after the occasional mid-day nap when he's home and well before the kids return from school. I blame that guy.

A day full of classes and working. In pedagogy we discussed specific tales of difficulties instructors have had. I didn't share my little anecdote, the ones I heard were better. The moral of the story today was "take lots of notes, make lots of photocopies, keep the department chair involved with problematic issues."

After class I tried to write, but could not bring myself to the task. Sometimes it goes by feel, and I didn't have the touch.

The Wednesday lunch bunch, The Yankee, me and one of our colleagues, had lunch at Bento, an upstairs Japanese restaurant. Yes, upstairs. This is only important in the child-like sense that once upon a time going upstairs to a restaurant was a classy affair. The people there aren't dining with us mere mortals, they go up and have their food delivered to them.

The food at Bento is good. They serve lunches in the bento boxes that are a flashback to the 1970s. They could serve more. I could be less hungry. Either way.

Before the end of lunch our friend had a call from a university with whom he's interviewing. By the time he got off the phone The Yankee got a call from one of her new colleagues at Auburn. As we left lunch she set up her class schedule for the fall term.

I wrote in the afternoon. If you write by feel sometimes the feeling of desperation can overtake you. I managed to churn out six pages of material on one project. We'll see how much of it sticks.

In my qualitative class tonight one classmate brought doughnuts as part of his presentation. He used them as a metaphorical example in a conversation about phenomenological research. I called it delicious.

Had a really nice conversation thereafter with two teachers who are in that class about changing the world. One of them recently received a nice teaching award in his school, the other one has the sort of passion that we'd like everyone around us to have.

They talked of big sweeping social movements, and the work there is left to do in the western world. It wasn't exactly one of those talks that solved the world's problems. It was too early in the night for the night, but they concluded with having the opportunity to change the world 30 times a year for the next 30 years in their classes.

The guy that said that works with elementary school children. Makes you glad he's there.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

So I'm doing data collection, which requires printing a few things from time to time. Only I have an office printer that refuses to print. The tech support people are called. I tell them the error code. It is the same error code I get when there is a paper jam, but there's no paper jam.

I hear the tech support guy say to one of his assistants "Go over to the University Center. He's got a paper jam."

It isn't a paper jam.

So the guy comes over, a walk of about four buildings on a blustery, cold day. He fixes the non-jam, and disappears. I never see him. The printer prints. But then it doesn't print.

I decided to try the Print This Page feature of the news site I was visiting. That, for some bizarre reason, worked. So I have a printer that works, but it doesn't print web pages. Someone at Hewlett-Packard is having a good laugh over this.

But the data collection is done. This particular paper will be easy to write, indeed most of it is already rolling around in my head. Which means there are only, oh half-dozen or so more to write this semester.

Speaking of papers, the student-journalists at The Samford Crimson worked late into the night putting together another edition tonight. It will be on newsracks and online tomorrow.

Everything else feels like a blur of reading and writing and tending to various things that need to be read and written. Not to worry, it sounds repetitive to me, too.

These are great days, though. What a wonderful way to make a living, to help others learn a few things, to learn a few things myself. I get to do this every day, and that's a full day.

I'm a lucky guy.

Tomorrow will be more classes, more studying and another long, full day of fun.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Work out this morning, meetings later, this and that in between. One of those days in one of those weeks. Surely I'm not the only person that sometimes gets the feeling they can't get anything done because they are too busy getting things done.


Have you noticed that Techcrunch noticed this?
(T)he Associated Press, our most favorite banned news source. It seems almost monthly they do something that defies logic and/or looks to be a suicidal act. And today brings another oddity.


The AP obviously has a ton of media partners, and they could easily link to any of those, or even the story hosted on their own site. But no, instead they're copying all these stories to their Facebook page and linking there for no apparent reason.
So you choose for some reason to have the AP in your Twitter feed. You see a story that intrigues you. Click the link and then you find yourself looking at Facebook. It is frustrating, typical of the Associated Press, but also smart.

Once you get over being annoyed that you have to log into Facebook and that one social networking site has sent you to another social networking site -- the social networking run around -- you have the opportunity to comment, like, share. There's more functionality on Facebook than Associated Press can put on their own site. And the audience is there.

But they're too busy playing Farmville.

Wrapped up the research today on one paper I'll soon write for a conference. That means there's one down and too many more to go. This one is going to look at the remembrances and obituaries used in John Murtha's congressional district between his death and burial. I think I'll call the paper "Julius Murth, Act 3, Scene 2," after Antony's famous speech in Julius Caesar.

So I could start the presentation by saying "I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him." One of the comments I found beneath one of those Murtha remembrances said something similar. Having co-opted and corrupted both Shakespeare and a newspaper commenter in one sentence, there's nowhere to go but up.

The student-journalists asked me to sit in on their budget meeting this evening. I don't interfere with their plans, and usually try to stay out of the way of their ideas so so as not to influence their work. But tonight they were stuck, so they let me strategize with them. Brainstorming, that's something I can do.

Something else I can do: Remember last Thursday when we discussed Step Sing?

A group called Dudes-A-Plenty, the independent group of guys, as opposed to the fraternity boys, won the event. Here's their show from the balcony (where you can see all the formations).

Good show, and the event raised more than $7,000 for Camp Smile-A-Mile, a camp for children fighting cancer. It seems there's just no end to the good you can do through the power of song (and dance).

Watching 24? Jack Bauer got more voltage tonight. And then he was arrested. And then made a deal to save the day. Meanwhile, the show proves once again that they can't write a female character. (Remember the last time they had a good one?) They've even ruined Starbuck. At least the first half of her story arc is out of the way. Now we can concentrate on recovering that cluster of aluminum pipes meant to look ominous.

Random things: You think you're being too hard on the Olympics, or on NBC's coverage, and then NPR decides to do you one better.

Want to try your hand at virtual curling? I won my first game out, proving Spencer Hall's point:
So consider yourself mildly shocked to know you can step on the ice, fiddle around for thirty minutes, and be familiar with pretty much everything one needs to know in order to play a game of curling. This is one of its instant selling points: unlike other Olympic sports, you can physically get out there and curl as a non-Olympic grade athlete.
So let's start that curling league. That'll be one more thing to keep us from getting done the things we should be doing.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

You'll order a custom pizza, but looking into those eyes you know: You'll take what he gives you.

Visited Mellow Mushroom for dinner tonight. We'd had the craving for sometime. The last time we visited the restaurant it was the 280 location and that was a fairly miserable experience. So we visited the Five Points South store tonight.

The place was closed for some time for a renovation, and this is our first visit back since then. It doesn't look that much different, considering the length of time it seemed to be close. There's a little brighter shade of paint, the chairs all look the same and the giant wooden mushroom guy is still there, terrifying first graders.

There once was a giant dragon, but it is gone now. Probably in someone's den. The bathroom has a different advertising scheme and a frou frou counter. Someone overthought that, but it could be the anti-style for hipsters next year. You never know.

There was a guy making the pizza skins who did a great Robert Plant. The pizza was good. There are leftovers.

Speaking of covers, it is time once again for YouTube Cover Theater where we explore various songs by one artist as performed by several different YouTube musicians. Today's covered artist is Michael Penn. I tend to favor his early work, so that's what I chose tonight.

First there's a poor video, but terrific cover of Try:

Here's a cover of Penn's biggest hit, 1989's No Myth:

And, finally, from my favorite Penn album (Resigned), is I Can Tell:

Amidst the four-year-old commenters YouTube has some great cover artists. I just wished they'd cover more from Resigned. That's a great album.

It is amazing, though. Give people a camera and an instrument and they can do some amazing things, just because they enjoy it. Clicking a few buttons will share it with everyone and then some stranger puts it on a website and a few more people will see it. What a world we live in, where people can share their love of music and culture with push-button ease.

There are a few more pictures in the photo gallery. And there's not much else. But, hey, that's the norm right now. There are a lot of other things that must be written elsewhere just now. You'll understand, I'm sure.

Until tomorrow, then, enjoy a few days of springtime weather. If you're here, that is. If you're elsewhere I hope you get spring too. Sooner is always better, the big-eyed mushroom told me so.
Amazing what they are doing with cardboard these days. Douglas Adams warned us of this.

Had dinner tonight with the family friends with whom I grew up. We played ball together, and so much of my young life was spent in a gym somewhere or another with them. Volleyball, softball, beach volleyball, wallyball (volleyball on a raquetball court, with the walls in play), anything that could be competitive and involved a meal later, they did it.

They also did trail riding, but they did it a little too painfully for me. We all have to draw a line somewhere.

The guy that was the most incredibly athletic non-professional athlete I know still looks great. He's a bit quieter now. When you could leap tall buildings in a single bound you could be more of a prankster. Another guy looks like he could shot put a cinder block. And he's the type of guy who, if he reads this and the idea gets in his head he'll be out in a field trying it tomorrow. Grip like a table clamp, that guy.

The ladies are all elegant and wonderful as they always have been. Another guy, who could not be there tonight, has two grown and married children. He's a grandfather now. I was the oldest of all the kids, the one that grew up fast enough to play ball with them and learn life's important lesson, "It's not whether you win or lose, but where you go to eat afterward."

They all brought their spouses and significant others. I haven't seen any of them in two years. The second-youngest person, I was the youngest, is now 40. It is hard to believe. She's beautiful and still has that playful gleam in her eyes and has to remind herself to let her son win at tic-tac-toe. She's got two kids of her own, five and eight and they are really cool.

And you never know how out of shape you are until a five-year-old wears you down in the restaurant parking lot.

I'll pay for it the rest of the night. But while he has more energy than I do, I have shifty moves. He only caught me once at the variations of tag and duck, duck, goose. Yes, I'm too competitive, even with a five-year-old. But I'll be sore and he won't, so there is a trade off.

Some of the group, particularly the few that couldn't be there tonight, have been in my life forever. They are as constant as the sun. One of them took me to football practice when I was in the second grade. Two of them taught me to fish.

In my mind they are all always going to be approaching 30. In my joints, then, I'm already older than they are.

Good people, all. And while, because of the generational difference, I have always been on the edges of their world it has always been nice that they were in mine.

Took The Yankee after dinner to Dunkin Doughnuts. I drove her there last week as a silly Valentine's Day surprise, but I took her blindfolded, as an even sillier Valentine's Day gimmick. It is a new store here -- and by two random weekend samples might be successful -- so she knows how to find her own way there now.

She got the jelly-filled doughnut, and for the first time heard my muttering "Can't trust a person that eats jelly in their doughnut."

This made its way to Facebook. This became a big Facebook conversation. It seems I'm in the minority on the jelly-filled concept, but that just tells me who I can't trust.

(It was something I heard in a movie or a television show or from a stand up comedian. I laughed and thought You know, he's right. Now I use it as a guiding piece of pastry philosophy.)

Yesterday's declaration of spring will last a few more days. The forecast calls for a return to the 40s by midweek. They'll shape up soon, though. We're reaching the point of winter where we rule with an iron hand. If we find ourselves disliking the forecast we'll bring in more meteorologists who will give us something a bit more agreeable.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The weekend and spring are here.

It was warm today, too warm for the long sleeved shirt and sweater. It was cold by the evening. Too cold for the polo I wore to dinner. The confusing season is here.

Sounds like the title of an album, doesn't it?

We had Pie Day for eight tonight. After a few meetings and a lot of reading, some writing and generally trying to find the solutions to the day we made our way to O Kafe's Coffee shop.

We stayed there until they locked us in. They've had a busy week and, with no concert that night they looked ready to get ready for tomorrow and go home.

They are really sweet people at O Kafe's. Stop by and see them the next time you are in Lakeview.

So Pie Day for eight. There was The Yankee, the McAlister's, Brad and his wife (we've been trying to get them to join us for about three years) and my mother, who came to town for the weekend.

It was a big table, but it looked like everyone had fun.

There are a few pictures from the night up in the photo gallery.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Step Sing audience members sneak in just before the show begins.

Tonight was the first night of Step Sing, the three day cultural and entertainment centerpiece of Samford's spring semester. It takes up a lot, maybe too much, of the students time early in the term, but the song and dance revue -- for lack of a better description -- is a lot of fun.

There were 11 groups participating this year, fraternities, sororities, independent groups and a group organized through University Ministries.

The male groups are very entertaining. The ladies are very artistic and intent on enunciation. The guys are perfectly willing to make fun of themselves. And so it was that one group, Dudes-A-Plenty, ran a chaotic show about every boy's dream of being a rock star. And, later, the men from Pi Kappa Phi blasted off into space, keeping Space Oddity, Rocket Man and, somehow, I Believe I Can Fly, in their program.

One student I see all the time was the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland. Great costume. Two of my students were in the Fire and Ice show put on by the Independent Ladies. There was a Batman show, puppets on a string, flight attendants and more.

They give out scholarships at Step Sing, six young ladies were honored tonight. They raise money, this year's charity is Camp Smile-A-Mile.

They frown on recording the numbers, so I don't, but you can see a lot of old shows here.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Yankee, at Toomer's Corner in 2007.

Today was a big day for our little family. The Yankee accepted a job offer to be an assistant professor of public relations at Auburn University.

The formal offer had arrived in the mail and she's sending it back out and, starting next August, she'll be on the faculty at my alma mater.

War Eagle, indeed.

In wholly different news, the hard work of the student-journalists at Samford University, where I work, has paid off. Their latest issue of the paper has been syndicated to (The Samford Crimson site remains active.)

The idea is that a few of's more than 1.5 million unique monthly visitors and 55 million-plus page views a month will eventually find the student's work there. Also there's a nice portfolio function to the platform, should any of the writers decide to take advantage of it. The Samford Crimson is the first college paper on the biggest site in the state. A nice little distinction for them.

So a big, great, wonderful day. May they only get better from here.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

So spoiled it is embarrassing.

One joke The Yankee and I have is how Emma is spoiled. For me it started when I began taking care of her a few years ago after she got very sick. We bonded over medicine. She tolerated me rubbing weird protein supplements on her gums and shooting medicine down her throat.

For a few days she took it well. She didn't have much choice since she didn't have a lot of energy. But, then, on the last day of her medicine dose, she started struggling a bit more to get away. She didn't know she was through with her prescription, of course, but I wouldn't fault you for thinking that.

After that we grew a bit closer. She has the softest fur and the gentlest personality and pretty eyes and, aside from demanding food constantly, she's a doll.

So I spoil her a bit. That's the joke between The Yankee and I. Emma gets the run of the house, I won't move her if she's comfortable and let her roll around in my clothes. And, occasionally, I slip an ice cube in the water bowl. This The Yankee has deemed too extravagant.

Until now.

Because The Yankee has built Emma a pallet. She's taken a comforter and put it in front of the space heater. On top of the comforter is a towel and Emma covers up under that.

That cat's got it good.

She was on the pallet this morning when I took this picture. She probably stayed on it all day.

Today I worked on a syllabus for my pedagogy class. It is a rough draft and will soon be torn to shreds. This is a good thing.

I also judged television broadcasts for the Alabama Scholastic Press Association's annual contest. There are a lot of good high school broadcasting programs out there. One of my favorites was conducted by middle schoolers. I've no idea yet who will win, but I spent a great deal of time on the best part, writing out praise and constructive criticism to the young broadcasters. That sort of thing was very helpful for me and I'm thrilled to have the chance to do it for others.

I wrote pages and pages of notes.

The student-journalists at The Samford Crimson put another paper to bed tonight. There will be some big news on that front tomorrow, which will feature classes, settling this broadcast contest business and a lot more writing.

It's always nice when you like the things on your To Do List. Don't get me wrong, if I had the choice I'd stay curled up on a pallet and sleep all day, but this isn't bad either.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The WBRC transmitter.

There's a lot of history in that stick. Or, probably more accurately, there is a lot of history in its predecessors. I'm not an engineer and don't pretend to understand what had to come down and what went up when the station recently went all digital last year.

We were there today giving two classes worth of students a tour of the venerable old station. Channel 6, several times in its storied past, has been on the cutting edge of some technological development or another. Today, with the ultra-slick new high-def studios you can say that again. It is an impressive on-air operation in the 61-year-old building.

Bill Bolen is one piece of that history. Bolen is so widely beloved and respected that they called him Mr. Bolden on the air. He just retired from WBRC. He'd been there for 42 years, and broadcasting in town for more than half a century. Already his picture is off the wall and his bio off the site, but he still has a mailbox there. It is lonely and empty.

The station is alive with energy and the tour was an enthusiastic one. Our guide was Lance Croft, the assistant news director, who started at that same station in the early 1990s as an intern himself. He's very eager in encouraging the students to intern there, or at any local news station. These students, he believes, are ideally situated in the evolving news landscape. I agree, if they are willing to apply themselves to new and varied techniques there will be plenty of opportunities to make a solid start for themselves.

Solid starts, or shaky starts, are what you hope for in the news business. Everyone has a great story about how they broke into the business. I heard two good ones at WBRC today. I get to tell mine every so often. I told The Yankee's this weekend to a few of our students at the conference. Her story doesn't start at WBRC, but our story together does.

That's where she worked when we met. Turns out we'd both worked at Clear Channel for a brief time, but in separate buildings. We never met there, but we hit it off a few years later in graduate school at UAB.

She doesn't miss the business, but there are some very nice people there on the mountain. Hopefully our students will get to meet a few of them in the future.

Watching 24 we learn that a pair of jumper cables can cauterize a six-inch stab wound. And while Jack Bauer is taking notes on who he'll off next, the sort of punishment he had to endure looked like the bad guy was due the ultimate penalty, death by neck nibble.

Jack manages to catch one bad guy -- who really suffered from a lack of henchmen. But, since the season isn't close to being resolved, there are plenty of bad guys left to go. And nuclear rods floating around the eastern seaboard.

The best part of the episode was next week's preview. A young CTU agent sticks a gun in Jack's face and Jack, with a little smirk and irony, points out how many people he's killed since lunch. The unnamed, uniformed agent will clearly be knocked senseless in the second act next week.

Tomorrow: school work, a newspaper, television contests to judge and more. Or maybe not more. That sounds like a lot.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Studied all afternoon. There was a review to write, a syllabus to write, other stuff to go through. There are still more things to address, but they'll carry on until the new week.

Today, after all, is Valentine's Day. The Yankee made a delicious chicken parmesan. I thought, in keeping with the low-key nature of the day, that it'd be nice to invite her out to a movie.

But not just any movie would do. Now playing at the dollar theater -- with fancy new comfortable seats -- is New Moon. Yes, we saw it once. I watched it the first time to make fun of it for you. I only repeated two of the jokes. Here's tonight's version of the film:
At the dollar theater. There is no heat in Couples Retreat. It is in New Moon. (Shut up, this is a V-Day gift.)

And I quote the kitteh: Mope.

I think Edward is on Team Jacob. He looked at him all dreamy-like.

This United Nations school where this takes place needs a rampaging Scream-mask scene.

Students in Washington, according to the movie, study Romeo and Juliet senior year. We did it in the 8th grade. Less vamps and wolves too.

Happy Valentine's Day hon, now watch this violent decapitation!

Vampires sometimes have good musical taste. Don't you think they'd prefer vinyl or wax cylinders?

The truck in this movie has more of a story to tell than these characters, largely because it is a better character.

Don't worry Edward, it happens to lots of vampires. *mope*

These vamps can appear in daylight, mirrors and on film. As genre relaunches go, then, this hurts my suspension of disbelief.

"So weak. Must fall over. Must ... act."

In the next sequel we'll learn the WASPS are roosters. Oh wait, we're in the detox, bad poetic email, mope scenes.

Ron Livingston would have been much better than the poor man's Ron Livingston as the sheriff.

When the Valley Girl friend is a movie's moral compass you know you're, like, in trouble.

This is the part where Jacob is likable. He starts reading JD Salinger later and is like "Whatever babe."

Bella: "Dear Alice, Edward punched a hole in my heart. Jake is my putty."

Oh! It's a metaphor! I get it now. *mope*

Sorry for the typo. Hard to keep one's composure amidst the rush of cliff diving.

Jacob ain't got time to bleed. As he rips off the shirt half the grown women in the theater hyperventilate.

20 years ago the part would have been played by Winona Ryder. This would have made the movie immeasurably better.

"I'm never gonna run right." If only more people had said this to their adolescent nonreciprocating loves ... we'd have more werewolves in life.

And Jacob would have been played by Michael J Fox or Jason Bateman. Van surfing!

I said it the first time and I'll say it again: Graham Greene is a treasure and the best character in the movie. (Besides the truck.)

"All the dreamy boys hate meeeee." This should be seen as a sign to shape up, Bella.

There is a muscle mass, physical density problem for the werewolf-human ratio. Am I the only person troubled by this?

"They're. Not. Bears!" Jodie Foster, she isn't.

Bella: "There's got to be something you can do." Jacob: "No. I'm in it for life ... But I'd run away with you." Message: Wolf gangs are bad.

If he has a crush on you he can be VERY moody. (It's the steroids.)

This is the scene where the author endorses domestic violence in a less than subtle way.

"I gotta go. Got a vampire to kill." Didn't we all use that one to get another date when we were young?

Bella: "Eduardo, Eduardo, wherefore art thou, Eduardo?" (That's on the director's cut.)

Even Bella's analogies are weaker when she's with Jacob. That should be a clue.

See, when Jacob finally started playing the lesser, imperfect role he absolutely got Bella's attention. Pay attention, kids.

Alice: "Would you like to explain to me how you're alive?" Bella: "Wolves saved me?"

Alice (the cute vampire): "Werewolves are not good company to keep." Tell me about it.

So Bella is the 14-year-old girl who loves Edward, the 18-year-old tech school reject. Jacob is the clumsy, pubescent boy pining away. See?

Oh so now, with Alice, Bella isn't an adrenaline junky? So inconsistent on her part, I know.

I hope, before the third movie, they let Bella do more than "blink" and "breathe hard."

So Edward should work out with Jacob. But Edward couldn't spot Jacob's weight.

Edward is wearing a Snuggie! He has it on backward.

(It is a robe, you see.)

I liked the vampire baseball in the first movie and I like the Volturi in this movie.

Bella really doesn't want to be a vamire, she just wants the red contacts.

The Volturi tries to read Bella's mind. "Interesting. I see nothing." Yeah, well.

The Volturi have a Latin inscription that says "Thus has it always been and thus shall it ever be." Simplistic approach for such creatures.

The woman that wrote this dialogue has a lot of breakup letters in her past. And she quotes them all here.

This reminds me of the time when I lost the girl to the mopey, glittery, emo guy. Thanks, Hollywood, for reminding me.

Bella: "Make me yours! I want to be a vamp and be with you forever!" Edward: "On one condition: Marry me." Bella: "Now wait a minute..."

The End. And most importantly: The Yankee pronounced it an excellent Valentine's Day present.
We also visited the new Dunkin Donuts this evening, our first visit. The place isn't quite as ... efficient as most stores, yet, and the customers are still learning how to order, too. But the doughnuts are fresh -- they have them shipped in these days up north, which hurts, a lot -- and the hot chocolate is hot!

And now we're waiting for snow. The National Weather Service has forecast up to three inches in the early morning hours, but that would depend on a 10-degree temperature drop, minimum. I don't see it happening.

Tomorrow: Back to campus, and a television station.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Samford Dream Team.

Made it home. You know how the trip back is usually faster than the trip to some place? That was the case with this trip, but it still seemed like a long ride.

We saw snow on the way home. And deer. And traffic accidents. And pine trees. Lots of pine trees.

Before we left the conference there was one more session and a sandwich lunch. Samford students won two more awards, bringing them up to a dozen individual honors at the conference.

On the way home, in the sleepy town of Meridian, Mississippi, we saw the Red Hot sign:

View Larger Map

There's nothing there but an empty lot. A quick Google search suggests that Red Hot was a diner, possibly at a truck stop. Here's a better view of the sign.

I always see the cool things when I'm traveling with others.

Home now, though. And there was chili waiting on the stove, because The Yankee is awesome. Tomorrow is Valentine's Day, and I've put together a series of low key events that could play out to a nice evening as a quiet understatement. And also studying.

Want to help?

Friday, February 12, 2010

The weather is impacting our conference view.

Snow has kept everyone away. A few schools aren't here, I'm told. All but one of the out-of-town speakers could not make it. The weather isn't here -- we've had flurries and that is it -- but rather everywhere else. So the conference organizers are using Skype a lot, with mixed success.

The hotel network is the culprit, for a conference with a theme loosely based on "embracing technology" the reasonably situated 3.5 star Qual-it-ay Inn's routers are overwhelmed. Bless them for trying, however.

So I had a morning session listening to the talented, brilliant and enthusiastic Frank LoMonte from the Student Press Law Center. Every time he made a good point -- and he makes many -- the connection would freeze. It could be frustrating, but LaMonte is a gamer.

I passed between a session on the future of journalism -- which sounded more like the present, but at least we are discussing it now -- and another session on public relations.

We had a delicious rubber chicken lunch and settled in for the awards and watched Samford, little tiny Samford, take more than it's share up against the big programs like Mississippi, Alabama and West Florida.

In the Best of the South competition Samford students won seven individual honors:
Don Orr placed ninth in the best press photographer category.

Bryan Kessler placed third in the best opinion-editorial category.

Lauren Womack placed third in the best radio journalist category.

Emily Leithauser placed second in the best magazine page layout designer category.

Carol Anne Autry placed second in the best advertising staff member category.

Jenny Davell won the best journalism research paper category.

Kaitlin McCulley won the best television journalist category.
The student-produced magazine, Exodus, the Samford News Network and The Samford Crimson all received honors as well.

I can also proudly note that The Auburn Plainsman won paper of the year.

Not a bad lunch.

After that the on-site competitions were held. Southeastern Louisiana University was closed because of the non-snow, but we were there and the visiting students took part in a variety of journalism competitions. Samford students participated in radio, television anchoring and newspaper layout events.

I judged one event, met a lot of nice young students, visited with one of my colleagues from the University of Alabama, who had students competing from the University of West Alabama. Got all that?

We got lost and drove around town for a long time looking for a place to eat. Someone suggested a place they found on Urban Spoon, which said that 91 percent of the time Mi Patio worked every time.

Never have you seen such an involved menu at a Mexican restaurant. The food was good, the eavesdropping was better. We'd talk away and then all four of us would find ourselves leaning into the armchair anthropology conversation that was taking place at the next table over. They, and everyone in town, are still riding on a New Orleans Saints high. Who Dat signs are common and, from the sound of things at the neighboring Mi Patio table, the region is looking at a tourism boost because of the Super Bowl win.

How's that feel, Donnie?

So there's one more day of conferencing, tomorrow, and we'll back home tomorrow night. Back home with lots of awards ...

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Please do not litter your free bracelets in our fair city.

That was in my gift bag. The sponsor, you might note, is, which is the sister site of my former employer. They do not want you to litter in New Orleans. Their stance on suburban litter is less clearly defined.

Made it in to fair Hammond, Louisiana this evening. Hammond is north of New Orleans, north of Lake Pontchatrain and just under six hours from home. The last 20 or 30 minutes of the trip featured a slipping, sliding, icy mess of highway that requires speeds of 40 miles per hour and the full use of your lane. Doing this with students riding along is not a lot of fun.

We drove down through western Alabama, the southern half of Mississippi and then across a bit of Louisiana. There was something for everyone, if everyone likes pine trees.

Hammond, by the way, was named for Peter Hammond, a Swede who managed to find himself a British prisoner during the Napoleonic Wars. He was a sailor, but a quick glance at that authority of authorities, Wikipedia, doesn't specify if he was a war prisoner or some other surly sort. Nevertheless he escaped, made his way to the new world found New Orleans to be too pricey and the place to the north, having been conveniently named after him already, was deemed perfect.

So he entered into the lumber, ship making business. The city would later benefit from the arrival of the rail system, it became a shoe making center during the Civil War -- never could do enough, those cobblers -- and ultimately came to be known as the strawberry capital of the United States in the early 20th Century.

The proximity to water, railway and interstates make it a shipping and distribution center today. The scenic downtown area can be viewed in less time than it takes to read this sentence at a cruising speed of 45 miles per hour. The city is home to Southeastern Louisiana University and several thousand charming people.

On the way we passed through such exotic places as Cuba, Alabama -- population 363. Incidentally one of our traveling students was born in Cuba. Her father was in the U.S. Navy. We also drove today through Aliceville, Alabama which is perhaps most famous for being a POW camp during World War II. Incidentally, Hammond hosted German prisoners as well. Aliceville, however, has a museum. I've never been.

On a trip like this you'll drive through dozens of places of which you've never heard. One of them was Heidelberg, Mississippi. About 840 people live in Heidelberg, which is located in Jackson County -- Mississippi's only gas and oil producing county. (And, apparently, the top oil producing county in that lovely state.)

German immigrants moved into the area from North Carolina after a Choctaw treaty. It is a region largely made up of forestry and farming concerns. One of the lasting moments in Heidelberg's history was when Washington Irving Heidelberg, the great man himself, sold the right of way to the New Orleans and Northeastern Railroad. The city's official history says ol' W.I. died in 1901, before the oil boom.

But he kept the mineral rights, and his family is still being paid today.

So we're here for the Southeastern Journalism Conference. Samford students are up for some nice awards at the convention and so we loaded up a small delegation and here we are.

The conference started this evening at the Qual-it-ay Inn. But the weather across the nation is playing havoc with travel plans. Of three people who were scheduled to be here to speak, only one has managed to arrive. The rest are here via the miracle of Skype and what looks like a taxed-beyond-measure internet connection provided by the hotel.

More of the conference will be at the hotel tomorrow. Then it will move to SELU. Provided the weather holds up. We're supposed to get snow and such here -- and remember where we are -- in Louisiana.

We had dinner at a place called East of Italy. It was in a new mall development that will probably put the old downtown area of Hammond out of business within the next decade. Then we visited the make-your-own yogurt joint next door. We played How Old Were We When This Song Came Out? As the oldest person at the table I was destined to lose every round.

So now we're all safely back at the hotel. I'm studying and ironing and watching Ali. It is good, but I won't make it all the way through. Too sleepy and too much to do tomorrow at the conference.

Samford students will get awards and participate in on-site competitions and generally make us all proud, so be sure to stop back by to find out how they did.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Classes today. Wednesdays are wiping me out. Pedagogy this morning, where I recently turned in a teaching philosophy. As I told the professor -- who, you'll remember, is my professional hero -- this was probably the hardest thing I've written since junior high.

I don't suggest here that I'm a genius of the written word, merely that I have been known, on occasion, to write a lot. I'm generally able to write in the style of my choosing without worry and, as you see here, I seem to have no problem writing about myself.

So what is it about a simple two page project, about myself of all "fascinating" subjects, that made this so difficult? I wrote one last semester for another class, but that was like creating a desk assembly manual -- largely because the professor couldn't be bothered to discuss the issue.

In this class, where our professor is awesome, we've been given some actual direction on the assignment. And we've learned that the teaching philosophy should not read like a do-it-yourself guide. Instead, it should be more enlightening about the writer's personality. And I'm nothing like an instruction booklet.

The hastily read legalese you hear at the end of some commercials? The blurb on the inside cover of a book? That stuff about pass-outs and umbrellas on sports tickets? Sure.

A bit of writing today, lunch with a crowd, more reading and emailing and this and that.

In qualitative we discussed word things and grounded theory. During the class' break -- it runs for three hours -- I visited the library to prove my inner-geek. Checked out two books. One for this class and another, conveniently located on the same shelf, for another project.

So I'm getting to the point in the semester where I'm starting to count up the projects and assignments. I'm tired just thinking about it Or it could be the 15 hour schedule.

Wednesdays are tough, long days. I love it. This is a great way to spend one's time, thinking about all of these things that are of interest to you, dreaming up ways to make them applicable, surrounded by thoughtful and talented people. My days are great days. Wednesdays would be better with a nap, is all.

Now I must go pack. Tomorrow we're on the road to Louisiana.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Dr. The Yankee

So you go to school take a lot of classes for two or three years. Then you take a four-day comprehensive exam. After you've defended your answers and passed that test you then write a dissertation proposal for this experiment you want to run. For most people this takes a few weeks or a couple of months.

After you defend the proposal you can run the experiment. When you get the numbers, you run the statistics, write the results and, ultimately, defend the dissertation itself. This can be done briefly or take a great deal of time, depending on luck, circumstance and the ambition of the experiment.

When it is done, you go to the dissertation defense meeting. You make a presentation of your research and findings. Your committee asks you questions about what you've done, or what you've not done. They show you all of the things you've done wrong that must be corrected. And then, if you have done a good job, they sign a form that day and, in dismissing the meeting, they call you doctor for the first time.

That's where The Yankee was today. She wrapped up the dissertation defense with a two hour meeting and we get to call her doctor now, too.

We celebrated with dinner at a romantic little Italian restaurant. She told me the details and we smiled and laughed and relaxed. It was a terrific day.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Busy, fast week this week. In addition to all of the usual, which sometimes seems like a little and other times seems like a lot, I'm taking a trip out of town in a few days. So I'm in strict organizational mode.

The Southeast Journalism Conference is taking place in lovely Hammond, Louisiana and several Samford students are up for a handful of awards. A few students will also take part in some on-site competitions. Being Samford students they'll no doubt do a great job. Hopefully they'll find the workshops useful.

That'll make the trip worth it. We're driving. Five-and-a-half hours, one way. Oh, and snow and ice are in the local forecast.

So the week is rushed, and you're getting shorted here, most of all. Something has to give, and for the next indefinite period one of those things will be the site.

How can that happen? How can you neglect this place any more?

Oh, it could happen. There's work to do, research to conduct, papers to be done, trips to arrange, life to ignore while I'm making it through hastily jotted, wrinkled To Do Lists that are stuck to the insides of books and backpacks and one important one inside my wallet.

The Yankee, because she is awesome, made a delicious turkey dinner for us this evening. We watched 24 over juicy turkey breast and mashed potatoes. Former-FBI agent, a character who's name I can't be bothered to remember, started a sequence of events that makes up for the last three hours. And while I won't spoil the episode, if Jack Bauer ever challenges you to a dart throwing contest, just decline.

Meanwhile, The recession is over: Allstate has abandoned "we'll get through this" for "mutiple cars, multiple toys" messages.

Did you see Daily Show and Colbert Report tonight? Incredibly strong stuff.

Tomorrow: Big, big day. Trip logistics, a newspaper day and much more.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

We visited the grocery store this morning. It snowed. In February. In Alabama. OK, it flurried for 45 seconds, stopped half a mile away and even the locals, so unnerved by snow, were unmoved. But still.

We're talking principle of the issue. Meanwhile, by the end of the night the local meteorologists were looking into their crystal ball were calling for snow next weekend. This afternoon things at the grocery store moved smoothly. As the temperatures began to fall we made a quick visit to the People's Republic of Walmart, who know today is the Super Bowl, can see the forecast as clearly as anyone, but yet refuses to staff cashiers.

It was only slightly ridiculous in the sense that you found yourself at Walmart anyway. You just should expect these things.

As people filed in for the Super Bowl party we considered setting up a second screen. We could air the Saints-Colts game and the Puppy Bowl. The idea was voted down -- but we did watch part of the kitty cat halftime show.

And now, commercial snark.

Commercial: It's funny cause they're drunks! Drink our stuff!

Would have been better if Betty White punked those guys:

Everyone at our Super Bowl party agree: They shouldn't have shown the Tebow commercial as it advocates domestic violence:

Is this now not the best commercial ever? People talked about it for weeks and then you have this cute little commercial that is nothing, really, but part of a story. The important part is people talked about it for weeks. Focus on the Family is brilliant.

The Bears shuffle, still lame after all these years. I want my 30 seconds back. (And they should fire the ad agency.)

Remember when Cary Elwes was cast because, unlike some, he could do Robin Hood with an English accent?

Who at Doritos HQ is so mean? Good grief.

So, yes, these were all audience submissions. And, yes, this one was cute, but they were all pretty much the same theme: People will get violent about their chips.

Anheuser Busch says autotune has jumped the shark. Thank you AB!

Seriously, Anheuser Busch, your commercials are disturbing:

Jay Leno, Oprah Winfrey and David Letterman. Who are three people who've never been in my kitchen?

Brett Favre knows that you dislike him and make fun of him. And he's laughing all the way to the bank about it:

The previous commercials lowered my standards to the point that I enjoyed the Dove skin commercial. Yeah, that's what this was:

Punxsatawney Polamalu owes six more weeks of football to Head & Shoulders.

So Thunderdome is full of men who appreciate a high performance tire, yet aren't interested in scantily clad ladies?

Great Google commercial, but why does Google need to advertise anything, ever?

That commercial would have been better if he'd clicked 'I'm feeling lucky.

Imma let you finish, but this was the best commercial of all time, until they ruined it with robots, zombies, UFOs and Chocolate Rain.

This commercial that is conditioning me for a time of "compost infractions" is going to insure I NEVER buy an Audi. EVER.

For a happy change the Super Bowl was better than the commercials. Corporate America can't let this stand.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Accomplishing things. Reading stuff. Not a lot to show for it, but these are things that must be done so that other things can come into the position of being done. And unless you want to hear about qualitative books and the fermentation of grounded theory questions and various coding protocols I'll dive into something more interesting.


The best reality show in the history of television -- and I'm beginning to think that reality was invented just for this show -- is Steven Seagal, Lawman.

And I quote Seagal who's investigating a home burglary: "There's a lot of glass everywhere ... I hope he didn't cut his feet on that glass."

That would create a blood trail, which would make him easy to track.

Unless of course he was talking about the canine unit they sent in the window. "We're really not supposed to go in anyway."

It is just fantastic, this show. There is some criticism of his 20 year claim, but you won't care when the show sucks you in.

Watched a little Auburn basketball, which was ... Auburn basketball. They had a lead early, let it slip away late and had a miraculous finish just to send the game to overtime. That slipped away, they clawed back, but did not have enough to take a road win at Arkansas.

They seem to be a group that can do everything, just not all at one time. When the offense is strong the defense falters. When the defense stops the opposition they can't make a shot fall. Those guys have to be frustrated with their season.

Otherwise, a little of this and that, a little bit of getting ready for the big game tomorrow -- we're cooking well into the night. The entertainment industrial complex really has us snowed. Never have so many done so much to sit around and watch commercials.

And, finally, I think you need a little Marshall Tucker Band:

Can't be wrong.

Tomorrow: Super Bowl! Commercials! Party!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Quiet Friday as these things go. Did a few things here, did a few things there. Had Brian over for the Friday lunch. He looked up at one point and found himself surrounded by professors. Not to worry, when something breaks we'll all call him.

We all have a Brian, if you think about it. We all have to have one these days, the guys you're nice to, cook for, do the occasional errand and offer to pick up the dry cleaning because you know that one day your network will crash and someone will have to rewire something or reinstall something beyond your comfort level. We all have a Brian. It just works out very nicely that our Brian as a generally awesome guy on top of being somewhere to the right hand side of the MacGruber --> MacGyver spectrum.

Had a sales meeting this afternoon. Think of it as a solution I said. They aren't doing you a favor, rather you are offering a choice audience to a client. College newspaper sales have fallen off too. I go on and on with the Jarvisisms, but from the boots-on-the-ground perspective these are tough sales times for anyone not born a natural sales person. Even then this is instructive. Much better to learn now that sales might be your third option after school rather than your first choice.

I wish I were a better sales person, but I found that it was obvious when I didn't believe in a product. I've never sold media -- which is a challenge for all but the hardiest of salesfolk -- but in high school I did sale various and assorted carpet cleaning products off the back of my Stanley Steemer van.

I cleaned your carpets as a high school job. There were long hours and it could occasionally be physically demanding, but it was much better than flipping burgers. And the stories from my high school job were usually much stronger than my peers' tales. I got to meet three or five families every day and for a few minutes get to learn a little bit about them.

Maybe people bought stuff because they were bemused that a 16-year-old was doing this. Maybe they knew a little something about scotch guard already. Maybe I just had a zeal in my eye -- those are very painful, but we found a way to use the cleaning machine to take it right out -- and it was convincing.

There was a guy that worked there who once sold his van's wheel chocks for $30 or so. One afternoon we heard him on the radio calling into the office, asking how much the cleaning van was worth. He'd talked someone into buying the thing. The company declined the offer, but the point was made; that guy could sell anything.

Sometimes I have difficulty selling myself on something. You might call it rationalization, I think of it as being a tough customer.

Our new Friday tradition ...

We sit here for a few hours on Friday evening, tell jokes to one another and watch the world go by. This evening The Yankee, Brian and Brad and I were all there. Charming company, a great rejoicing of the weekend and celebration of the week that passed. And then Brad's wife called and he had to go home.

And then Brian's wife showed up and the rest of us went to Pie Day.

Tonight we visited the original Jim N' Nicks Pie Day location, the Homewood store, where we met Vanillus Maximus who calmly and competently took our order. He had The New Guy following him around tonight and we were asked to be bad influences. We were happy to oblige.

The New Guy gave as good as he got.

Vanillus Maximus tried to make a Pi joke, since he only narrowly realized the opportunity for a pie sale. He learned a valuable lesson: Never make a Pi joke when there is someone in the conversation who can recite Pi past the eighth decimal place.

See? Brian's a handy guy to have around.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

And now a brief walk through the things that make up the day of a job I enjoy very much.

This morning I worked in spreadsheets. I've recently been calling high school seniors that have expressed interest in the journalism-mass communication program at Samford and answering questions, spreading the good word of the students and faculty and all of that. It is a fine place to study, and sells itself, really, but we spend a lot of time on the phone and arranging visits. It is like the football recruiting, but without the scholarship limitations, position needs, scouting web sites and 40-yard-dash times.

The students, generally, are very excited to hear from you. Some of them have picked their school, here or elsewhere (and I do not poach), but for those who are still trying to narrow it down these can be helpful conversations. Some of them are very excited about the phone, these little chats are a lot of fun.

Some are either distracted or just not interested, these little chats feel like you're reading a script with bad sound effects:

I wrote regional scholastic press associations today with notices of our scholarship opportunities. Any day that might answer the "How are we going to pay for this?" question is a great day for someone.

Mine came a few days after high school graduation, actually. I had a small scholarship from the Marine Corps and, beyond that, a plan to be very, very poor for a few years. And then one sunny June day the phone rings with a lady from the Jefferson County Farmer's Federation who'd like to set up a scholarship interview. At the end of it all they gave me a four year deal, which allowed me to just be very poor. That was a great day. Anything was suddenly possible. Still feels like it.

I think about my scholarship benefactors often, and I'll now add the out-of-the-blue thank you card to my To Do List.

Spent the afternoon grading resumes. These are hard, in a way, because you have to constantly remember to grade the document, not their work experience. One person in two classes has never had a job. One other seems to only claim one previous employer. More than a few of them already have a fair amount of media work experience. A few are quite impressive. As I've said since I started here in 2008: Need a hard working new employee? Check out Samford students.

Fought the rain to get home this evening, settled in with The Yankee to catch up on 24 from earlier this week. The president of "Islamic Republic of Kamistan" *koff* is cracking down on the attempt on his life. At least four people are killed in a doctor's office, a bad guy shoots his own son and a CTU sniper drops three bad guys. That's eight, but oddly, because Jack Bauer didn't satisfy his bloodlust it almost seemed a quiet episode.

Which means next week Jack tries out a new pizza cutter technique and bleeds someone out from the femoral artery.

It is time once again for YouTube Cover Theater. Typically this would be exploring various songs by one artist as performed by several different YouTube musicians. Tonight, however, we study legendary singer/songwriter Archie Campbell's "Pfft You Were Gone."

First, a sincere performance:

You can't have "Pfft You Were Gone" without a kid's version:

Someone's doing hotel sessions:

Here's how they were all inspired, this version by Campbell himself with Jim Stafford:

Another Hee-Haw version, just for fun:

If you're of a certain age from certain parts of the country you're quite transported right now. There are dozens more great covers of the tune on YouTube, some with original lyrics, some with more slobber than substance, and that's OK too.

Tomorrow is Friday. There's going to be a party, somewhere. Think we can crash it?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Full day of classes and studying aaaand it is national signing day, that event upon which the most fanatical and bored fans pin the hopes and dreams of the success of their college football team of choice for the next four years.

It has become a cottage industry, of course, this following the wit and whimsy of 17- and 18-year-old boys, but it has taken on an even more constant life of its own in football-crazed places like this one.

So I sat in a little office at Alabama reading about the new Auburn signees. I'm not a football expert, talent scout or a person that even pays particular to these guys prior to their arrival on campus, but they seem an impressive lot.

Far more important to me s what they do with it. To that end I wrote the new players an open letter, published today by my friends at TWER:
Choose wisely for yourself in all things. We cheer you on Saturdays because you represent a part of Auburn. We have the greatest hopes and expectations for you every day of the week because you ARE Auburn. More than anything, we want to celebrate all of the wise decisions you make with the opportunities now before you.

We romanticize the idea of what makes an Auburn man or woman. You’ll learn a lot about that as you become a part of campus. We know you have terrific athletic promise. We know you have an equally great promise personally and professionally as an individual. That is what we’ll cheer for the most.
Stroll over and read the whole thing. It isn't perfect, but it hints at the larger point about college athletics. Often this is the chance for many to improve on a very challenging home environment. By and large students -- at Auburn or any university, in football or any other sport -- do a fine job of making the best of it for themselves. It is heartbreaking and frustrating to see even the few who throw away the opportunity.

About the quality of the Auburn class, considered by the "experts" as one of the best in the nation: there's a punter who is six feet five inches tall and 230 pounds and a placekicker who stands in at six feet two inches tall. We can no longer pick on kickers.

Two classes today. My pedagogy professor told the story today of some elementary school research she's doing that has involved her in directly helping some of the kids get more healthy. She's walking and running with them -- in all of the spare time that she doesn't have -- and talked today of a little boy who said no one else had any faith in him because he was the fat kid.

She's my professional hero.

Studied one thing or another all day. Took a break for lunch with Andrew, we chose Thai because The Yankee wasn't here and she'd be displeased if I agreed to have Chinese without her. I eat Chinese less and less these days it seems, but who can say no to Thai?

We traded war stories, solved many of the world's problems and then he returned to his research and I returned to mine. Andrew is a recovering journalist who researches online avatars and teaches journalism. I get to hang out with the most interesting people.

Qualitative class tonight was a good one. Very insightful. I had questions, the class worked many of them out, and we'll all feel better about it in the long run. I hesitate to use too many adjectives just in case anyone wanders by and starts coding this paragraph.

The downside to all of this being that it makes for a very long day. The drive home would be much better if I didn't have to do it. But I only have to do it 12 more times or so this semester. Not that I'm counting.

Tomorrow: I grade resumés! Other things will also happen that might be of mild interest.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Tuesday is my late start day. The Samford student-journalists work late into the night putting their paper to bed and I stay around with them until an entirely unrespectable hour. So I go in a bit later, which means I had an indulgently early lunch at home.

I'd purchased a few tomatoes at the grocery store recently, where they've gotten smart enough to carry a few UglyRipes. They are, the slogan says "the tomato that tastes like a tomato." The many different tastes that can be bred through the vine are perfectly acceptable, but sometimes you just need a tomato-flavored tomato, and I found them the other day. Of course we were shopping on an afternoon when I hadn't eaten in about 15 hours and so everything looked delicious, and the idea of a tomato sandwich was too strong to ignore, even if it is traditional summer fare.

We are far from summer just now. In the 40s today and that might seem about right for the region, and even delightful to our friends to the north, but I'm looking with fondness at the records; on this day in 1989 it was 77 degrees. I was in the seventh grade, a year wholly remarkable by the appendectomy I'd get that spring but, otherwise, perfectly forgettable as the seventh grade should be.

(In 1951 we had the day's record low: seven degrees.)

There were shadows today, which would mean six more weeks of winter if anyone subscribed to the groundhog propaganda anymore. Fortunately we've been disabused of the notion. The movie that was to bring the world to Punxsutawney has only pulled us away:

Of course Punxsutawney Phil's original purpose was to prop up the local haberdashery.

I'm not sure why they urge the crowd to wake up the rat and then shush the crowd as they fetch him from his comfortable tree stump home.

We have a local version, Smith Lake Jake, he's an even less charismatic blob of fur, panic and caginess. Once, on the air with local weatherman Mickey Ferguson, he found an opportunity to bolt down the side of the mountain to freedom. One of the producers ran on camera and quickly back out of the shot, catching the thing just before it made the woods. And then Smith Lake Jake's "owner," we always thought she'd just found him on the side of a road and had been holding him hostage and pleading for airtime and notoriety, gave the meteorologist a chocolate fish and kissed him. It was as if all of this time, all of the waiting and painstaking costume creation -- for Smith Lake Jake had fine threads -- had crystallized itself in this moment. And the meteorologist was mortified.

It was one of the great moments in live television. Mickey, who is a sweet guy absolutely willing to make a fool of himself for a laugh when it comes to weather, could only think to do was toss it back to the live desk. And the moment sat there, burned into our hearts and beamed into space. If only it was online. This will do:

In the mass media practices class that I'm teaching I lectured on social media today. I gave this little presentation to the Monday class and, as in all things, learned what needed to be changed, moved and amplified.

The first slide in today's multimedia extravaganza was a picture.

Who knows this guy?



Long awkward pause.


The crickets begin to take guesses.

No one knew. Not even when I pointed out the hint, the CBS News logo in the corner.

And then, after they asked for the first letter in his name, someone said "Dan Rather?"

You've been off the network for less than five years and you're a forgotten man, Dan. Sorry that had to happen.

So I hit the high points of social media: Memogate, China's Twitter earthquake, the plane in the Hudson and a few others. We talked about how they might use these things, all of them are on Facebook of course and all now on Twitter, too, as budding journalists. Every one of them, in both classes, has a camera phone. Three-quarters can shoot video from their cell. We're all journalists now, I beamed.

I'd share the slides, but Slideshare dropped a few pictures. There's no text to read in that presentation anyway. Each slide is an image; I don't read from them.

Dinner at Milo's, where I finished Joseph Ellis' Founding Brothers. I grow weary of the treatment Thomas Jefferson receives -- interpreting someone as having the capability to lie to oneself so thoroughly as to almost be a multiple personality from 200 years on is a bit of a stretch -- but this could also just be that Jefferson, the man, is getting old.

The final essay in the book was of the reconciliation, by mail, of Jefferson and his old friend/political nemesis John Adams. Adams, who can easily come off as a bit neurotic himself, but is wholly redeemable, is a crusty old man and Jefferson seems immortal, the mind's eye doesn't accept his aging, for some reason. Theirs is a terrific story. They are wonderful letters and Jefferson should have written more. Both were amazed that correspondence between them, in the early 19th Century, could now make the trip in 10 days. That was technology! Advances of science and transportation previously undreamed!

You can drive from Quincy, Mass. to Monticello, Va. in 10 hours today.

Anyway, the paper will be out tomorrow. They were wrapping it up as I left. There were clothes to be washed and things to do at home, even late into the night. There are also a few new entries to the sadly dormant B&W. The new fresh ones are here. It took one or two pictures worth to get back into the right mode, but they are as fun for me as always. I hope you enjoy them too.

That's it for now. More classes tomorrow. And a long day of it, too. Do come back and visit.

Monday, February 1, 2010

This is winter to me. Sunny for the most part with highs in the low 50s and the ability to hold it over the heads of others that there isn't an icicle in sight. Another 10 degrees and I'll be ready to watch the Masters.

What's that? Two months until the Masters? Better call it 15 degrees then.

I didn't mean to leave you with the impression that I dislike Mondays. I don't have a pressing need to discourage any day of the week -- they all have their own insecurities and need our enthusiasm from time to time -- and on this particular schedule Monday isn't a horrible day. Saying, yesterday, that I hoped for an easy Monday was merely a nod to the notion of The Mondays, which I seldom have, and almost always on a Tuesday or Thursday.

I am teaching one class on Mondays this semester and working on other projects the rest of the day, so the time is occupied nicely, but it isn't a chore. No day really is, they're all just a frappe of delightfully sunny experiences that run together until you find yourself saying things like "May? Already? How -- ?" This is never a problem until December comes along with the inevitable "I could have sworn I just bought him a Christmas present."

Time flies, it seems, when you funnel enough Red Bull down its gullet.

Had a nice visit with the dean today to catch up on various projects. Before he ascended to deanhood he was an English professor and he carries a very thoughtful, soothing tone to his conversation. He's a likable man to talk with, with informed ideas about just about any topic that could come into play. And that's why he's the dean.

So we sit in his office, the dean and the department chair and I, discussing the future of this and that trying, like so many others to figure out the future of the news business and pondering the meaning of it all.

It would not surprise me if that book was somewhere on one of his impressive shelves. They line two walls of his oversized office. No, they are two walls of his oversized office. There's the big Desk of Authority, a sofa, a round table for conversations and the man could still pace on the phone if he wished.

A third wall is mostly windows and something about the room feels like it soars 25 feet into the sky. The book shelves go all the way up. There is no ladder, so the dean must have incredible leaping abilities to reach some of his materials. I'll have to ask him sometime about the ceiling's height. Then I'll try to figure out his wingspan.

It was a nice meeting, we stand to make a lot of neat things happen in our department as the news industry continues to evolve. What could be on the horizon looks very promising for our current and future students.

I rushed from meeting to class, where I talked for about 90 minutes on social media. Thirty-three slides, all uploaded to the cloud and no internet connection. So I had to run to the office, put the PowerPoint on a borrowed thumb drive, bring it back, struggle with the television, re-establish my credibility for working with technology (have you been reading this paragraph?) and then talk about blogs and Dan Rather and Twitter and China and Captain Sully and Facebook and all manner of things.

I showed the class Twitterfall and could have stopped right there. That one always amazes people if you sell it properly.

The presentation was fairly well received. I must give it again to another class and now where I'll do a few small things differently. I may pass out Pixie Sticks to give the room a little more energy too. Never hurts.

Dropped off some books at the campus library. I read, well, their tables of contents, over the course of the last month. They served their somewhat limited purpose. I visited the public library thereafter, checked out the first half of the second season of Rome, Leatherheads -- which I did not get the chance to watch the last time I borrowed it -- and John Adams.

I've seen the HBO miniseries once before, but it is a really nice piece worth watching again. I started it tonight because I'm also wrapping up Joseph Ellis' Founding Brothers. Have I mentioned that here? I received it as a Christmas gift from the in-laws. Fine little book, containing five essays on central episodes of the revolutionary generation. There was an interpretation of the Hamilton-Burr duel, the rare Congressional discussion of slavery (and in this the famed leaders do not come off well in Ellis' telling), a particular meal at Thomas Jefferson's house, the Jefferson-Adams spite and their final reconciliation.

That final essay is where I am now, I'll probably finish the book tomorrow, but I thought I'd start the series again tonight. Even for its historical inaccuracies -- Maybe these aren't Dave McCullough's fault, but shouldn't biopics be realistic? -- the series can transport you to a place and time.

Later. It seems that I may end up staying up all night watching the series in one sitting. The first time I watched it over two nights. I'll skip a little bit of the family tragedy tonight, where most of the historical inaccuracies seem to be anyway, which should account for the improved time.

I could watch it a dozen times and still find new things that impress in the sequence:

There are some incredibly fiery speeches, but the sequence in London just feels pitch-perfect.

He's a terrific actor, but in the Movie Character Ascension Game Paul Giamatti might have reached his pinnacle. So I'll go watch it some more.

Tomorrow: another presentation, another newspaper, another great Tuesday!