books


16
May 22

Lafayette, I am here!

I’m leading with the cats, because they’re the big draw, but stick around for the books, which will come along in just a bit.

Phoebe felt like doing a bit of posing this week. Here she is, mid-belly rub.

And just sitting as pretty as you please in the hallway.

Poseidon is also doing well, but he has decided to play it coy. He’s in this photo, somewhere, I assure you. But he knows you can’t see him.

Sometimes being relaxed involves letting gravity take over and just sprawling wherever.

So they are both doing well and enjoying the beginning of their summer. Aren’t we all? I love the mental shift, and now I’m beginning to think that maybe the cats can sense it, too.

This must be the longest daffodil stem I’ve ever seen. It is in an almost perfect spot, removed from the lawn mower blades, reaching out for maximum sun. Just close enough to where we would walk to notice how it is showing off.

I wonder how much it will continue to grow before it gets the attention of a passing critter or bug.

We had a punchy little bike ride this evening. Good legs, good lungs, comfortable in the cockpit, and just a little droopy up one little roller. Everywhere else I could produce good power. Here, The Yankee had finally caught up to me and surged out a little ahead. She was pouring on the coals while I was fiddling with a jersey pocket. She pulled out a small gap, but I was able to shut it down. It was one of those days when most anything seemed possible.

It makes riding fun.

That makes you want to ride all the time. So tomorrow, maybe?

I finished Brilliant Beacons Saturday night. I bought this in April 2021.

I was not aware that our first lighthouses dated to colonial times. But, like many people who have visited any surviving lighthouses, I knew that automation and GPS and other technologies have improved a sailor’s circumstance such that most of the bright old lights are well beyond obsolete. This book covers much that took place between 1716 and the mid 20th century and does so in an easy, approachable manner. Not every lighthouse is dissected, but you’ll gain a terrific appreciation for some of the engineering involved at the most demanding locations. You’ll get a sense of the people that worked in the lighthouses, their steadfastness and their heroism and, sometimes, the crazed things that took place beneath the big, beaming lights. You’ll learn about the brilliant Fresnel lens (most of you have the same technology in your headlights) and you’ll come to know the different parts of the government that made lighthouses a practical fixture, long before they became a photographic fixation. Lighthouses are one of those things that, over the course of time, we got right. And if you’re at all interested in the subject matter, this book gets it right, too.

In addition to a massively overflowing bookshelf, I have too many books in my Kindle app. There were 52 books waiting there last night, all of them, of course, are of an interest to me. I bought them, after all. But which one to read next? I suppose there’s chronology. I’d probably be reading about Jamestown or the Holy See. But what about books that cover broad swaths of time? Or these other books about wood or food? So I could go with purchase date, then. No idea. Alphabetical? Reasonable enough. That’d probably create a little variation, which is desirable. But would that be alphabetical based on titles or the authors’ names?

So I did what anyone would do: I counted all the books and ran a random number generator until one number showed up a third time. And that number leads us to Last of the Doughboys, which I purchased in February last year.

Starting in 2003, reporter Richard Rubin started interviewing surviving members of the U.S. military and auxiliary services that took part in the Great War. Everyone here is more than 100 years old, because time marches on. I’ve read two chapters so far. The first was about his inspiration and the process to finding these centenarians. The second chapter was a summary of an all-but forgotten memoir of WW1, Over the Top, by Arthur Guy Empey. He wrote three other books, none as popular as the wildly successful first. He also penned a handful of popular songs, and a few silent films, acting in some of them, before the talkies drove him out. He had a bunch of magazine, pulp stories under his belt, as well.

In 1935, then in his early 50s, he helped organize a paramilitary organization in Hollywood.

It’s always been a weird place, basically.

None of this last part, the part about the rest of Empey’s life, has figured into Rubin’s Doughboys book. If you read about Empey, it’s clear he made a living on interest in the Great War right up until the public zeitgeist shifted in the mid 1930s. He had a good run of it, though, and himself lived into his 70s, dying in 1963. The rest of Rubin’s book, though, will see his peers having lived decades on.

Time and soldiers, they all know about marching. And in time we lose details. Did the right face happen here or there? Either way, we know we pivoted on this foot, because that’s the concept of the movement. The details might be forgotten, but the fundament is still there, we pivot on the ball of this foot. The non-historian remembers little of the Great War. The thoughtful person might be able to point to some of its many lasting, and continuing legacies. Most of us, at least, recall that it happened. It hardly seems enough to remember, considering the cost. But, then again, this was a century ago. Next month, it’s 105 years, in fact, since Gen. John Pershing arrived in France.

That’s history for you. Vital today, heroic tomorrow, then reunions the next week, and the mists of time after that. Before too long, the original media turns digital or dust.

This footage is the Wikipedia of newsreels, and there’s a heck of a downshift in the final quarter of the footage.

Pershing died in ’48. I bet his name gets mentioned a few times in this book, though. So far, it’s one you want to keep getting back to, eager to see who you’ll meet next.

I wonder how much of it I’ll read tonight.


15
Apr 22

One more day of looking back

There is great virtue in this capacity we have to remember things. It is probably a byproduct of the ability to learn things. And communication, verbal and otherwise, easily comes from there. It’s not enough to have the experience of a predator scaring you or harming you or getting in the thick of things. You have to learn he’s a predator, and remember that for the next time, and so on. There’s a lot of learning required in that phrase, and so on. So you keep accumulating knowledge. Then, it seems wise to pass it along to the family clutch and beyond.

We just keep accumulating and sharing knowledge and, over time, that’s how institutions are made. You can’t have habits and cultural institutions without memories, after all. That, and reasoning, is how we got smarter: Don’t eat that, because Grog did, and then he doubled over and died. Then Jork did, too. After Arussa got sick, we noticed a pattern. So don’t eat that.

Memories are like that, but they have limitations. You simply can’t live in them. Life is for moving forward.

He said, while inviting you to briefly rehash the day, revisit last month, and consider books written about events in previous centuries.

One of those days where I had to leave one studio to go to another studio, to go back to the first studio.

Then I did that thing where one meeting ran long and into another meeting and so on, for a while. And then back to the studio for this or that, and more meetings.

The only thing missing was a high volume of email.

I’ve gotten four-weeks of blog content out of our Cozumel vacation, let’s wrap this up with one more miniature photo-dump. This is not a food blog, of course, because food photography is harder than it looks. But eating in Cozumel was amazing. I’ve been thinking about the tacos and sopas every day since we left.

Those both came from this place, which we sadly only visited once.

Just down from our condo rental there was a roadside shack that more or may not have been a gimmick for the gringos, but it was delicious. We ate lunch there three times. None of that is pictured, since it was a bit of a quick hit-and-run thing between dives. The sopas were incredible. We also visited a few other small holes in the wall, and one nice tourist restaurant that was good, until it wasn’t.

I have a “friend” who was at a baseball game on a beautiful spring day and, thinking he’d rub it in that he was somewhere I’d rather be, and that I was in Bloomington, he sent me a photo. But I just happened to be standing right here at the time …

… and, for once, I won the point. And all I had to go was visit a tropical destination.

One more view, a little closer to the beach.

Let’s catch up on some books, before I forget to remember once again. I wrapped this book up sometime last week. It’s a collection of essays, written by academic historians, discussing lesser known people involved with varying aspects of the American Revolution. Most of the subjects I’ve never read about, so this was an insightful read all the way through. And it answers the question “What would I have been in that period of history?”

I’m reasonably well-read and educated, here, but there? I’d probably have been stuck in a life as a farmer or leatherworker, without a lot of opportunity for upward mobility. It’s a classist society after all, the 18th century. You’ll revisit that a lot here.

Alas, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

That’s a good book. Deeper than a Wikipedia entry, not as intense as a monograph, and it covers a lot of different types of people in several places in one important period.

I read this one this week.

This is a curated collection of recollections of the Allied liberation of western France. You normally see this from the American or, perhaps, the Canadian or British perspective. This is about the locals. Roberts, herself an esteemed historian at the University of Wisconsin weaves it all together, but the meat of the book is the collection of interviews she’s assembled. Most of these memories are compiled from people who were children, or young adults, in the 1940s, and many of them have the softened glaze of time. So they’re precious and valuable. And, like any memory, they are distinct right up to the point where they aren’t. Plus, I don’t know if you knew this, there was a war going on around them. So there’s that, too. As always, you want more, until you get enough. And when you’ve had enough you might realize this was too much of that one thing. But what about this other? Memories are like that, too.


16
Feb 22

The downhill of Wednesday

Another day hanging out with the great Ernie Pyle. I wonder what he’d say to me today, if he could.

He’d say “I’m almost 122 years old. What do you want from me? And why are you hanging around this statue anyway? Maybe you could go write something.”

The joke is on him. I’m mostly editing today.

I had to give a tour today, actually, and I walked our guest by the little display of Ernie Pyle artifacts, which is when I always say he grew up in a small place about 80 miles to the west. His dad was a tenant farmer there, and the town of Dana was bigger then (population 893) than it is today (population 570).

Then, as now, it’s a sleepy rural community. Today Dana is still a farming community, but maybe also a commuter’s exurb.

If you travel down Maple Street, the one road that the Google Maps car visited in Dana in 2008, you’ll see this.

I did not mention that to our visitor from Chicago, but only because I had to discuss the Roy Howard papers, the Cold War photographs and the paintings from the university’s collection that adorn nearby walls.

A look in the control from this evening’s sports shoots.

They produced two shows tonight, of course. The highlight show, which included segments on the upcoming games, a historic Black Hoosier athlete and this week’s athlete of the week.

They’ve been adding all kinds of elements to that show. And, of course, there’s also the talk show. They discussed Indiana baseball and Indiana softball, which are both kicking off their seasons this week.

Those two shows will be up later this week, and I’ll share them here.

Until then, here’s a look at a few of the other IUSTV shows that they’ve put online in the last day or so. (They keep very busy!)

Here’s the pop culture and campus events show. There’s a subtle little thing in the interview that most people won’t catch, but I was especially proud of, and a new segment that’s just about jokes.

And here’s the news show. I think everything in this episode was done in one take. Easy, casual. Just needs more.

And here’s the film show, which I teased in this space last week.

And that gets us through most of the day, which was an easy 10-hour work day. After the last few works of busyness two 10-hour days in a row doesn’t seem that challenging.

If you find yourself saying things like that “You must ask yourself, ‘Why?’

I will celebrate by reading myself to sleep. Back to reading Kluger. I got this book for Christmas a few years ago. I read most of it last year, but set it down for some reason or another. As I wrote about a third of the way through it …

I’m in the last 50 or so pages now, and we’re actually in the trial. This is an insightful treat. It’s early-18th century colonial America, the printer has published some mean things about a governor and that’s against the rules in a way that seems draconian to modern American sensibilities. But we learn that, even then, the legal system of the day was still wrestling with the philosophical nature of truth. How can you decide what libel is without understanding what truth might be. It’s a narrowly defined world.

Kluger has the records of trial, and he’s quoting the lawyers verbatim. Some of the themes they were wrestling with then are reflective of the arguments being made right now in Sarah Palin’s lawsuit against the New York Times. Whereas today it seems the court is weighing what appears to amount to negligence brought on by deadlines against the legal concept of libel, the judges in the Zenger trial are tasked with trying to decide whether carefully written and coded letters published in a backwater colonial newspaper could cause a king to lose confidence in his government officials.

The way the law was framed and the arguments made in such a way that the king seems was a delicate flower, and that his fragility was to be protected at all times. A convenient political and legal cover of the times, I’m sure. The published letters weren’t about the king, but rather about his appointed governor of New York (who was often appointed just to get him out of London, it seems). And since, as Kluger demonstrates, the governor was slotting judges into this trial in the hopes of getting a desired outcome, maybe the letter writers had a point.

Gov. Cosby had been a military officer of some success, married well, and then worked his way up to being appointed the governor of a small Mediterranean island. A personal gains scandal eventually followed him there, and in New York and New Jersey there were salary issues, and oppression and some land problems. Typical colonial stuff, the things that, just a generation later, led to revolution. So you wonder what became of all of these people’s grandsons.

Oh, the letter writers were some of Zenger’s legal representation.

There’s not a moment of Euro-American history in New York that doesn’t work like this, I’m convinced.


15
Feb 22

I created a new banner, just for this

Another full day today. Meetings in the morning, studio in the evening, writing and editing and social media in between. Your standard-issue 21st century media expert type day. More on some of that in a moment.

Let’s visit with the cats, since I neglected this site’s most popular feature yesterday. (If you’re new, this is obvious, right? Cats, the web, etc.)

Phoebe is hard at work.

You have never seen a cat relax as hard as she does. There’s a certain intensity to her lazing about, and her stretches, and her naps.

Poseidon found a bird. He will not let us hear the end of it.

I need some things to drown out the cat, basically. Fortunately, I have some video for you. Here’s a Valentine’s Day dating show some of the students shot last Friday.

I’m not sure if that one was rigged or not. But, as ever, I hope for a followup piece, just to find out how the date experience went. (If I read, in 20 years, how this show made for lifelong friends or started a family or something, I don’t want it to be a total surprise, you know?)

We’re all about trying new things and putting everybody to work, and that means a lot of new shows. This is the third new sports show of the year.

And if I can remember correctly, that’s 11 new shows I’ve helped or watched the students launch over the years. At least seven of them are still running. That’s a nice success record, and the success is entirely to the students’ credit.

Tonight, the news division was in the studio to shoot two shows — two of the three oldest continually running shows they produce. We have a freshman delivering the weather.

How cool is that?

We’ve had three primary atmospheric science students delivering weather forecasts for the last several years. All three of them had landed meteorology jobs before they graduated. One had her job waiting for her after her junior year! Another is working now as a broadcast meteorologist. And, maybe, in three or four years we’ll be saying similar things about the new crop of atmosphere scientists. And, to think, that weather segment started as an experiment, too.

Speaking of freshmen, this guy is too. I’ve done this long enough to see people who could work at this craft and turn it into a career. I’ve watched people who give it a try because they were curious, people who do this stuff because it’s fun, or people that find they don’t like this type of work after all (an incredibly valuable learning experience). I’ve also done this long enough to know that, every so often, you can see a person who you know is going to be great. This young man is closer to that last group than any of the others.

What you do in those instances is you try to take credit for all of their success.

I finished The Women Who Wrote The War last night. Nancy Caldwell Sorel published this in 1999, and from this distance it somehow seems a bit older, still.

But this is a fine book woven full of individual anecdotes. Sorel pulled from primary sources and she interviewed correspondents decades after the war. There are some great gems in here. These reporters were bold, and sometimes felt they had to be even more than their male colleagues. In a war zone, that would heighten the danger, right? Some of these names you may know. It’s hard to be interested in journalism and not be familiar with Martha Gellhorn, but a lot of her contemporaries are due to be lost to history, which is a shame.

Take this woman. Ten million people read her in almost 200 papers across the country. She was the first American journalist to be expelled from Nazi Germany in 1934 and was one of the few women news commentators on radio during the 1930s. Her work made her influential. Her stances and her influence sometimes made her a controversial figure. For a time she was called “the First Lady of American Journalism.” Have you ever heard of Dorothy Thompson?

To say that she could write is almost cheapening the power of words.

Have you ever heard of Lee Miller? This book introduces you to her. She was a New York fashion model in the 1920s. She became a photographer in Paris and, during World War2 she shot for Vogue, covering the London Blitz, the liberation of Paris, and concentration camps at Buchenwald and Dachau. Also, at the end of the war, she used Hitler’s bathtub.

I am mostly struck by how modern that room looks, or how little they’ve changed in the last 75 years.

I could tell you more tales, but Sorel will do it better. If you like those two little stories, scroll back up and buy the book.

And now the hard part is deciding what book to start next. I have an entire book case of Books To Be Read. It is stuffed to overflowing and there’s a small stack growing next to it. There are also about four dozen books on my Kindle app. I want to read them all, but which one first?

These are the dilemmas that I must work through.


15
Dec 21

1,400 words for a Tuesday

The Yankee’s car is in the shop. It’s a radiator issue. Easily fixed, after a time. Which means she has my car. Meaning I have no car. Her car needs repairs and I need a ride. Weird how that works.

So she’s taking me back and forth to work, which is what I do, while she goes to physical therapy or athletic massage or to a dive meet or to buy a present or get the groceries. I’m not sure how I can get any present shopping done this way. But at least I didn’t have to get the groceries.

Tomorrow, on the way into the office, I’ll go to the grocery store for the third time this week anyway, just to stare at the empty shelves. It’s a hobby, I guess.

I was going to take part in some binge watching of television this evening, just to clean some things off the DVR. There’s a little meter on the side of the screen that shows the percentage of the DVR’s space still available, and I pay far too much attention to things like that. We were down to 28 percent, which is pretty low since the memory is large enough to store all of the images we’ve ever captured of space and every movie that’s ever been set in space and every television show that’s used the word “space” in any context.

But I was able to delete some accidental recordings instead. A few buttons on the remote control and 36 hours of content no one wanted disappeared, never to be seen again, or for the first time. Thirty-six hours. After that, the DVR’s little meter told me 46 percent of its memory was now available. That oughta hold through the holidays!

Speaking of things to watch, I just discovered some early 1990s television programs are on NBC’s streaming app, Peacock. It’s made for good doing-other-stuff listening, because a lot of the early episodes are of the “Why did I watch this again?” genre.

It’s Highlander. I’m talking about Highlander. The universe that’s so poorly conceived that there are two different universes. The universe so poorly conceived that in the third movie (of the first universe) they retconned the second movie and called it a dream. And the bad guy in that third movie, to bring a little gravitas to the franchise, was Mario Van Peebles. And, for the fourth movie, they started making movies in the second universe, where the first universe intervened, sort of. Which brings us to the fifth movie. It was supposed to be the first installment in a trilogy, but the movie was so bad they released it not in theaters, but on the SciFi channel.

On iMDB, which frequently has a very forgiving scoring system, that last movie earned 3.1 out of 10.

The movies are a mess, is what I’m saying. They always will be. The series, though, was better. Well, it gets better. Skimming through a few of the first season’s episodes … woof.

What’s better? Dopesick.

Recently finished this show, which I tried after a few random suggestions. Michael Keaton stars as a country doctor in the middle of the OxyContin epidemic. You know where this is going, even if you only vaguely know and you’re guessing. And then this show, based on Beth Macy’s best-selling book of the same name, comes along. It’s an eight-part series, filled with great character actors and a slow, tense build.

It’s something of a composite of recent history, and so you have the gift of hindsight. You know what’s happening, so you find yourself saying “Use your brain!” But scruples and good sense are sometimes thwarted by trust. And you want to have a word with the intransigent people at Purdue Pharma. But sometimes deserve doesn’t have anything to do with it.

That’s what the show is ultimately about, trust, searching for a way out of a hopeless situation and, now, how the people at the top of the food chain at Purdue Pharma are squirming out of this in perhaps the most frustrating way possible. It isn’t a happy show, but it is an important one. And while the show ends just before all of these please and settlements and immunities, if you watch this those recent stories will play a bit differently.

Also today, I updated some of the images on the blog. There are now 113 new images for the top and bottom of the page. Click refresh a bunch and you’ll see them all. Buried on the back of the site is a page with all of those banners, now loading 226 images. Each has a little cutline, just so I can keep all of the memories and locations straight. So I had to update that page. Then I went through that whole page updating changes to the style. Because, every so often, the Associated Press makes updates and, yes, I have to make corrections on a page no one will ever see.

Ed Williams would be proud.

Williams was our Journalism 101 professor. He called the class Newspaper Style and that class was the weed out course in our curriculum. Four exams. Score below an 86 on any of them and you failed the class. A lot of people failed the class. He drilled us for an entire quarter on the “AP Stylebook” and Strunk and White’s “Elements of Style” …

… which, as you can tell, is still an influential text. I paid $5.95 for that book. It was the least expensive, and most important, textbook in the entirety of my college career.

People that survived Williams’s class could still complete this Strunk and White quote: Vigorous writing is concise.

He was also the adviser of the campus newspaper. We were all required to spend a semester there as a part of the formal curriculum. That one credit hour requirement worked it’s magic, as it was intended, and I stayed at the paper for a few years. We won two Pacemakers — essentially the collegiate Pulitzer — while I was there. And somewhere along the way Williams told us his first name, King. He disliked that and we were sworn to secrecy, or to never use it, or both, under pain of newsprint paper cuts.

I had his class almost halfway through his 30-year teaching career, and I saw him in the newsroom thereafter, of course. He always wore a tight, closed-up smile, and an air of knowing things we weren’t allowed to understand yet. Eight years or so into my career I started thinking a lot about all of that, and my student media experience and the impact all of it had on my own career. It’d be gratifying to be a small part of doing that for others one day, I thought. Soon after I had the opportunity to do that same sort of work, and now I’ve been doing that for going on 14 years.

The last time I saw him he still had that same expression. It was heartening. I was a decade or so into my career and there was still much to learn. There always is.

And a quarter of a century (good grief) or so after his class, I’m still thinking about Associated Press style.

Thanks for that, Ed.

When I was advising a campus newspaper I told students that, at the very very least, we were going to change the way they read everything, but it was likely they were going to get much more out of it. And today, at the TV station, I say the same thing. We’re going to reshape the way you consume video as you learn how to produce works of your own. We’re making critical observers. That’s the lesson and the gift.

Ed retired a few years back, and established a scholarship to honor his former students. It fits him.

Which is what I was thinking about while updating the style on a page that even the search engine spiders don’t crawl. Which is what I was doing while waiting for my lovely bride to pick me up. In my own car. While her’s is in the shop.

Maybe we’ll get it back tomorrow.

We better. I’ll soon run out of basic things to clean or update on the website while I wait to be taken from the house to the office and back, over and over.