Feb 15

Super Bowl commercials

This was my favorite of the bunch:

We talked about them in class today. The consensus winners were the puppy spot from Budweiser and this one:

The idea seemed to be that, in a different year, that spot gets overlooked and forgotten. This year it stood out. Weak field, the class thought.

The Dove dads spot was also well-received:

No one seemed to like the Nationwide spot, but a few did make the case that, yes, it was something we’re talking about and, sure, it is an important topic. Someone had missed the spot, so we watched it. It didn’t seem any better to the rest of us upon a second viewing.

Which spots did you like? Which did you dislike? And why?

“It was funny” or “It wasn’t funny” aren’t sufficient answers, though.

Dec 14

Things I produced today

I posted my first videos to Vine today. Yes, I am behind.

I try to experiment with about every third MUST HAVE web craze. Skipping a few here and there tends to keep the pressure off. Some of those things will be gone before we know it anyway.

But Vine is proving it has staying power, and people are now talking about “How we can do more with it than just six second jokes.” That suggests an audience maturation, too. When it has more than one accepted use, I figure, might have think of some useful way to use it.

My first idea, was to use Vine as teasers for the video I shot yesterday. If you saw that, you already met the $120 Russian tortoise.

And you also saw the rabbit guinea pigs:

They’ll all catch up eventually, I’m sure.

We purchased neither. We did, however, get cat litter, in such amounts as to be valued at the equivalent of the per capita gross domestic product of Burundi. By the time you pick up pounds 85-126 your hands can sting in the cold winter air. But then that dog walked by and I thought “Establishing shot!”

And the puppy had no camera sense. Don’t look at the camera, dog.

Anyway, that was yesterday. Vines today. I have contributed, then, 12 seconds to the insatiable appetite of the Internet.

OK, fine, I contributed this too, on Twitter. As you know I collect Gloms, the Auburn yearbook. I was scanning a few more for the continuation of the covers project and was putting them away. I opened the back cover of the 2011 book to this picture.

Glom11 Lutzie

A student took this photo, as did a lot of other nearby photographers, I’m sure. The versions you usually see make you wonder what he’s looking at as he turns. Maybe it was her. Here’s the play:

The line they put with that photo now has, I think, several extra meanings.

So I have put all of that on the web today. Also, family events and holiday events began today. Steak, chocolate cake, listening to people talk about cars and so on.

That turtle is rather captivating, right?

Dec 14

A standard rambling Saturday of fun and memories

Every so often we have to make Allie, The Black Cat, famous on the Internet. This morning she was posing so patiently in the sun. She doesn’t mind the actual camera, but today I had the phone and she does not care for the phone in her face. Who can explain cats? She didn’t mind so much today, though, I guess because of the warm sun, but who can explain cats?


We watched the Army-Navy game. We attended one a few years ago, it was a great, chilly day and it is a game that everyone should go to at least once. (We want to go back.) You get a fair amount out of the experience watching the game on TV, CBS has done a nice job with it over the years.

To see the track athletes run the game ball onto the field and to watch the flyovers in person is a different thing. You’ve probably never seen the “prisoner exchange” of returning cadets and middies to their own sides after a student exchange program at home. Television doesn’t often show you the young men and women sworn into the service at the game and it doesn’t allow you to talk to graduates of both academies. For all the care that CBS gives that game, you just can’t absorb it all from the screen.

To watch the cadets march on, or to watch the teams sing their schools’ alma maters — my favorite college tradition of all — that’s an in-person experience you need. Here’s my video from 2011, shot on my first iPhone. It looks fuzzy after a few downloads and uploads from service to service, but it offers a nice little stadium view:

Here are some of the photos I took from our 2011 trip.

Of course, the hype videos always play better at home. You can hear them better. These were my favorites today:

More were collected for you here.

I’ve always cheered for Navy — the Department of the Navy was important in my childhood world — but two years ago, watching that late Army turnover, I softened up. The Black Knights were about to score late and break what was then a 10-game losing streak to the Middies. But they fumbled inside the 20 and I decided, about 40 seconds into the video here, that no rivalry should ever have more than a three-game losing streak. Everyone should know what it feels like to beat the other guys once in their career.

But it was not to be then, or today, of course. Navy has won 13 in a row, but Army is getting better.

I do enjoy the Army-Navy game.

Things to read … because there are other sports to enjoy.

The headline ruins this great high school basketball story:

Your team has not suffered like the Climax-Fisher Knights.

No matter how Raider-y or 76ers-esque your program is, it has not endured their unique brand of pain. Even Prairie View, the Division I-AA football team that lost 80 straight games during the 1990s, has technically suffered a shorter string of defeats than the Climax-Fisher girls basketball team, which finally broke its four-year losing streak Tuesday despite incredibly unfavorable odds.

That’s a happy finish.

I remember covering the accident that started this story years ago. It was probably one of the last stories I did before I moved to KARN in Little Rock. It was a terrible accident, to be sure. Dangling power lines killed a 7-year-old and changed a 4-year-old boy’s life forever. But this story is thrilling to read today. Good for him. Ward Webb lost his feet at age 4, but the Mountain Brook linebacker never says ‘I can’t’:

Mountain Brook football coach Chris Yeager remembers the early days of watching Ward Webb train with other players.

As teens sprinted up and down stadium steps for conditioning, Yeager remembers, they told Webb to go to the side and use the handrails.

Webb, who lost his feet at age 4 and uses prosthetic legs, refused.

“He wants to be like everybody else,” the coach said. “He’s falling down those steps and that’s just typical Ward. He absolutely believes he can do anything anybody else can do. I’ve been coaching him for 3½ years, and I have never heard Ward Webb say, ‘I can’t.’”

This is a neat concept. Not sure if I’d want to work there, but I’d read the product: A newspaper and a hotel, all in one. If you’re interested, here it is now.

St. Patrick’s is beautiful. Immediately below are a few of the pictures I’ve taken on visits to Manhattan over the years. The cleaning, though, has done wonders. St. Patrick’s unveils its immaculate facelift

St. Patricks

St. Patricks

This is an interesting visual mashup, and it leads to some spooky results. Battle of Nashville Then & Now is worth seeing, and the bigger your screen, the better.

In elementary school, during the third grade, let’s say, we buried a time capsule. It seemed a very big deal at the time, of course. I think it was a garbage bag-lined ice chest or something like that. And possibly they dug it up sometime later that night after we all left school. But we took it seriously, because it was very serious. It would be important when they dug it up in 50 years. All of this has come to mind a few times since, and now I wonder if anyone knows about it, if anyone remembers where it is or even cares. Were there 10 or 15 such time capsules buried on that playground? And did they dig it all up when that school built the big gym next to it? All of that is boring. This is amazing: Time capsule found at Massachusetts Statehouse:

Crews removed a time capsule dating back to 1795 on Thursday from the granite cornerstone of the Massachusetts Statehouse, where historians believe it was originally placed by Revolutionary War luminaries Samuel Adams and Paul Revere among others.

The time capsule is believed to contain items such as old coins and newspapers, but the condition of the contents is not known and Secretary of State William Galvin speculated that some could have deteriorated over time.

Officials won’t open the capsule until after it is X-rayed at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts to determine its contents. The X-ray is scheduled for Sunday.

Time capsules are fascinating things. Who came up with this idea? And why can’t I open them for people?

We went for ice cream last night. One of those places where you drive over, park, walk up to the window and order under the humming neon lights. There’s a list of the ice cream flavors of the day, and the flavors are always changing. This is a challenge for me. Occasionally I find something I really like, but it is never there twice.

Tonight we pulled up about a half hour before the place closed and the guy at the window, Matt, knew it. He was older than the usual high schooler working there and he knew that too. The Yankee ordered her usual. I hemmed and hawed and agonized.

What is the Oreo cheesecake like? I asked.

“It tastes like cheesecake … with Oreos,” Matt said.

He gave me a sample. He was correct. I ordered it.

ice cream

It was good. I’ll probably never see it offered there again.

Dec 14

All of the football

Our old friend Brian is here. He and I used to work together. He’s known The Yankee and I as a couple longer than anyone, we think. We’ve done and been through a little bit of most everything in life with Brian and his family. He’s a great friend that we don’t get to see nearly often enough.

This weekend, we are catching up some. And we are having a watch party.


If you look closely, you’ll see his two phones — because Brian is that kind of guy, sitting just beneath the television. We didn’t watch it like this, really, but we wanted to see how many screens we could pull up at one time. In the last five years, at various intersections of schedules that allow watch parties, we’ve gone from two games to five, then six and eight and, now, 10. There are 10 screens showing a football game in the picture above.


We were also taking pictures with two more phones, and I think there were two laptops down the street we weren’t borrowing, so this could have been an even more ridiculous photo.

The first point: football.

The second point: I give Charter their fair of grief for this and that, because they deserve it from time to time. But that’s some nice bandwidth right there. Kudos on that.

The third point: Brian’s a good guy. It is great to see him.

Dec 14

The end of the semester

Last day of class today, and so we wrapped it up with broadcast scripts. I gave them a Christmas tree story, a real lean-in piece about how it isn’t trees that give some people an allergic reaction, but the mold sometimes found in live trees that irritate people’s sinuses.

We’ve all been there, covering strange non-stories and trying to make it feel important trying to feel like it isn’t a waste of our time. I certainly did my share in this newsroom or that. Not every story can be a triple homicide, thank heavens, so then every example shouldn’t be such a thing.

At the end of the class we went over the ground rules of the Monday final again. I crossed the lowercase Js on the last details of the class, wished them a happy holidays and, as always, thanked them for suffering through the class with me.

And then back to the office to finish up this and that, a host of emails, the required moment of listening to Van Morrison, traditionally marking the last day of class for reasons I’ve already forgotten. Ordering this, checking off that, phone calls and the details, details, details that always mark the end of a week, the sigh of a Friday, combined with the exhalation of the term.

I got out of the office a little later than I wanted, but still beat the traffic, for the most part.

I found these in that archive folder I’ve been working through. These aren’t from the Crimson, but rather from the Birmingham News, which was still a daily newspaper back then. This first one blows out the site’s template a little bit — I don’t regularly publish squares — but this was an important story, the fight over changing the area was underway:

Samford zoning

Basically, when the university’s board purchased, for a song, the Lakeshore property and moved from Eastlake in the 1950s they got the land on both sides of Lakeshore. On the one side is the campus proper. (There are a few things across Lakeshore now.) But they also go the land on the other side, which was a swampy lake undeveloped and, of course, back then the atmosphere through the area was a lot more quiet.

Now there’s the high school, a business park, some retail development down the road and so on. Also, a lovely recreational area. Of course the residents weren’t keen on all of that once upon a time. I don’t remember the area as they were fighting over it, but the building up over the years has been quite nice. There is more traffic, yes, and the road feels too slow while the traffic simultaneously feels too fast. They were concerned about flooding, but that has always seemed minimal in my experience. At the end of the day, if you’ve never been through there, you’d think it was a charming area, because it is.

There is so, so much local and campus history built up in all of those events of the last 60 years, and specifically since the development really kicked in during the 1980s.

This clipping, also from the Birmingham News, is from 1987 and it details the sell of some of that property to Southern Progress. They would ultimately build three nice buildings and a handsome campus for their various publications. But Southern Progress, which has been based in Birmingham since 1911, has fallen on hard times like many publishers in recent years. Time has owned them since the 1980s, one magazine was sold off a few years ago. There have been cutbacks and rollbacks and all sorts of restructuring.

Samford zoning

Last month, Samford started the process of purchasing the property once again. Today, the university’s board approved the 28-acre purchase. The three buildings and parking on the Southern Progress campus will be shared by the pub pros and university units. Everything comes full circle.

Johnny Imani Harris

This photo was on the back of one of those stories. I can’t now recall if I remember this name or if my searching my memory is giving me the wrong impression. Johnny Imani Harris pled guilty in the 1970s to a string of robberies and a rape. Apparently, his representation wasn’t very good and they convinced him to pled guilty or face the death penalty. He did. He got five life terms. He took part, or was caught up in, a 1974 protest of prison conditions that turned into a riot where a guard died. No one said in court that Harris stabbed the corrections officer, but nevertheless Harris was found guilty and given the death penalty.

When you dive into the entire Johnny Imani Harris tale, things quickly seem itchy. A circuit judge in 1987 agreed and overturned the death penalty. Somewhere in that part of the story is where we find this photo. The build up to that ruling and the finding itself brought up more demonstrations. He was paroled in 1991 on the rape and robbery. As far as I can tell he hasn’t showed up in the media since then.

Went to the last high school state football championship game at Jordan-Hare tonight. Sat in a booth with some folks from Clay-Chalkville. Two of them were on the last state championship team from that school. They both wore their letterman’s jacket from 2001. In the next booth was the grandmother of one of the Clay-Chalkville running backs. She said she’s raised him and we cheered for him because she was adorable and she kept bringing food over to our booth. Better, she said, than carrying it back downstairs. So go number 6, we said. Clay-Chalkville won in a blowout. Everyone we saw, then, was very pleased.

As we left the stadium from the nice little luxury boxes we poked our heads in the even-nicer president’s suite. Right by there is the elevator. Good to see Gene Chizik still hanging around:

Gene Chizik elevator

I guess they figure “We’re still paying him, we may as well take advantage of the photograph.” He’s getting $209,457.84 a month, through the 2015-2016 fiscal year. Maybe he has pictures of key university players hanging in his home, too.