Feb 20

Caucus captaincy for sale

It’s turned cold again. And these are the days of our lives. Probably for the best. If you start having enjoyable weather for three days in a row you’d come to expect it, and you really should know better to do that here until mid-April.

Which is depressing.

Sunday’s and, to a lesser degree, yesterday’s weather, were nothing more than an aberration.

Which is also disconcerting.

There’s a lot going on here:

The carefully selected handwriting. This is the sort of thing that’s discussed before it’s done, right? “No one could read my handwriting,” and so on. Then there’s the frowny face. And the first-person. It has grown self-aware. And is sad. Now, is the sadness brought about by the existential dilemma of being a soda dispenser? Is the sadness because the dispenser knows this isn’t her fault, but is rather a faulty hose somewhere between here and the syrup? Maybe the grief comes because it knows a manager — the third shift leader in charge of liquid refreshments — forgot to fill that order.

Or maybe there’s a legal issue. It wouldn’t be the first time. Forty-some years ago Barqs was sold outside of the family, but the heirs, the Robinsons still had some companies with the Barq’s name and so the trademark battles began. The 5th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the family, so it was the root beer’s new owners that were out of order and … here we are.

I just learned that some of the fountain drink versions of Barq’s has no caffeine, which, as I understand it, is the point. But is it any good? I mean relative to other root beers? You’ll have to let me know.

It is the beginning of the other Super Bowl season. Iowa is caucusing and it’s simultaneously a silly demonstrating of nominating candidates and fascinating for journalists. The election is like the Super Bowl, so I suppose this is the first of several weeks of wildcard playoffs or something.

I slept in my car on the night of the 2000 general election, and that was just covering the local stuff. I dozed off listening to the networks being fed to AM radio and went back inside the studio (they didn’t let us sleep in there, for some reason) for my first hit of the morning and saw the same national network guys still plodding through. I’m not sure which of us had a better night, but I know they looked better than I did. And we, somehow, have convinced ourselves this is a good thing.

I don’t have any strong memories from election night, 2004. I sat in a newsroom in shivered in 2008 and convinced a bunch of student-journalists that, maybe, they should go get some reactions. In 2012, more shivering. In 2016 I watched everyone else do things. But I digress.

Tonight, I’m going to sleep long before anything is decided in the confusion that is Iowa. Iowa is confusing in a good cycle, and it is given outsized weight relative to its importance. That’s the media’s fault, really. And everything else is from a bunch of people gathering in gyms and people’s homes and wherever else and using what is, apparently, a poorly designed app.

What could possibly go wrong? Everything tonight, it seems. But I’m not staying up to watch it all. I’m not convinced that is a good thing.

We did television tonight. I recorded a little bit of it. Sure, I’m standing in a studio with five high-definition cameras, four of them controlled remotely from the adjacent control room (there was also a sixth high def camera working at this moment, as well, as we’d gone meta) and I’m holding my phone up at eye level …

This is one of the podcast series I want to do: New things shape ongoing disciplines. Think anyone will want to not want to do this one with me, too?

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Jan 20

‘Am I sitting in a tin can’

Standing in the back of the control room this evening, talking with the engineer, the young man running the teleprompter and the reporter who was casually sitting at the lighting position. We work in a dark control, as you should, and on the light panel there is a small gooseneck lamp so you can see the many buttons and potentiometers.

The reporter, says to no one in particular, that she thought it was a microphone, until she saw the little beam of light coming out of the bottom.

So I started singing “Ground control to Major Miya,” which she took up. And then she asked me what my favorite Davie Bowie song is. Which was a mistake on her part.

I’m not a Bowie fan, really. I know the hits, and I appreciate his place in the scheme of things, culturally, and his artistic image. He’s just not for me. But, I said to the young woman who may know Bowie’s entire catalog or just has a tenuous grasp on her parent’s appreciation of Bowie’s music, I’m going to say his duet with Bing Crosby.

I could write an essay, I said, on how Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy allowed for the post-postmodern remix culture we all live in. This was where I looked at everybody listening, to make sure they were still with me, and the two college students and engineer, who is about my age, all agreed.

Some music executives, I said, sat in a boardroom with a lot of drugs and said what if we put Bowie and Mr. Crosby together. And there were a lot of drugs in that boardroom to come up with that idea. But then you take a look at the conceit of the special, Bing is house-sitting for his distant relative, Sir Percival Crosby, and along comes Percival’s neighbor, David Bowie. He comes over to borrow a cup of sugar or his piano or something, a conversation develops and then they sing this song.

Bowie hated Drummer Boy. The show writers had to add in the Peace On Earth bridge to get him to go along with it. He only did the special, Crosby’s last, since his mother was a fan of the crooner. And so this unlikely thing was born.

I’m riffing on this singularly odd musical moment, we’re out of ideas, we can only mash things up, and the continued success of this bizarre collaboration has made every pop culture thing possible in the last 40 years. Everyone is really going along with the argument. (Remember, this Christmas special, where the gag is Crosby staying at a relative’s house, which turns out to be the former home of Charles Dickens, is older than everyone listening to me.)

Sometimes I wonder if my best role here is just in saying random things like this that makes people think. But right about then another student walks up. He’d been sitting at the camera position, as far away as possible in the room.

“I heard you say Bing Crosby’s name. I have a Bing Crosby story. Well, my family does.”

And if there’s one thing that life tells you, when people come from across a room to interject themselves into the conversation with an anecdote, it’s worth hearing out. They don’t always pay off. But this one did, in a big way.

Sadly, it isn’t my story to tell. But if you see a studious young man with an intensity about old crooners behind his eyes, ask to hear the story. He’ll happily tell you about it. And it is worth hearing.

Anyway, that all happened between these two shows. Miya, interviewed the baseball coach in this show. She’s doing a nice job with it, but everyone here is doing some good work. Even the freshman, who’s apparently taking over everything:

And they talked, what else, basketball in the talk show. It is, of late, not the happiest of topics. But, hey, angry talk is sometimes successful talk?

(It’s actually easier, and better, to do happy sports talk. That’s why they’re putting smiles on their faces.)

Anyway, let’s all put smiles on our faces. Tomorrow’s Friday, and then the weekend will, happily, be upon us.

Dec 19

We made it — last day of the term

A video our student-employees produced today, the project being the video game design student’s big contest. The student groups pitch their games to industrial professionals. Many teams enter. One will be crowned a winner … at some anticlimactic later time.

Video looks pretty good though. This is the second thing that we’ve produced, at the school-level, that has been entirely run by students. It’s something I suggested about four years ago — something that was probably already an idea — and we’ve finally realized it this fall. And while this particular pitch project is now a traditional event, this is the first time we’ve put it in the studio.

Stars aligned nicely. They did a fine job with it.

Those are the students who are working for the Media School. And now a moment about the students working for the television station.

All of which is pretty great, considering they have to put up with the likes of me. And you just know they’re happy that today is the last day of classes.

Dec 19

nasses Nickerchen

I saw this word used a few years back and immediately fell in love with it: administrivia. It is an American thing, of course, and apparently came out of the 1930s. Can’t imagine why. And it became popular in education circles in the 1960s. Can’t imagine why.

Which is not to say that we’re the only ones burdened with the thing. Administrivia is everywhere. But the way it’s used is delightful. Even summoning up the word is a judgement: This isn’t cool, I know, but I also know it is necessary, and know you know, by my using this word, that I know it isn’t cool. And maybe it isn’t even necessary, but that’s bureaucratic inertia, kid.

Even saying the word is a bit of a challenge the first few hundred times you do it. It makes you sympathetic to the German speaker’s use of komposita.

The first time I saw this word, administrivia, it was on a syllabus. Which was perfect. It was in a bold font. Which seemed useless.

Anyway, that was my day, dealing with the details that must be dealt with in order to do more interesting work.

There was the approval of travel funds, the approval of payroll and the sending out a contract which had most assuredly been sent before. Arrangements had to be made for an office key to be turned in, and the first question about the next term rolled in about that same time. Somehow, another approval was required for the same upcoming travel funds. This prompted a great many notes. There are always programming notes to consider, both looking back and looking forward. And then there were the emails, always there are the emails, and the brief doorway meetings and so on.

The Germans don’t seem to have a word for administrivia, which seems like it would be an embarrassing oversight on their part.

I did learn a fine German proverb looking for it though. Wer den Acker nicht will graben, der wird nicht als Unkraut haben.

Speaking of komposita …

Hey, it was either that or going long on this little news note today: Wet-Nap maker planning to build area production facility, add 90 jobs

Nice-Pak Products, a manufacturer of wet wipes for consumers, health care, food service and other commercial markets, announced plans Wednesday to build a 760,000-square-foot production and warehousing facility in Mooresville, creating 90 jobs.

The Orangeburg, New York-based company already employs 413 people at its existing administrative and production facility at 1 Nice Park Road in Mooresville. The company, which has 2,500 employees worldwide, has operated in Mooresville for 45 years.

A man named Julius had an idea and started it all. He and his son got in bed with Colonel Sanders, and then things really took off. It’s an industry that is projected to have compound annual growth of about seven percent over much of the next decade. Everyone needs clean skin, after all, and some of that growth is going to come from just up the road. And that’s 90 new jobs rolled into what is already that county’s biggest employer.

The company makes products as varied as Wet-Nap, Nice n Clean Wipes and Grime Boss. What, you didn’t think you’d diversify in the wet napkin game? There are all sorts of pre-loaded moisture needs out there, friend, and businesses have to meet those needs.

It isn’t clear from that brief story if this means an additional facility, or a full upgrade and replacement project. Here’s what they have now. The exterior looks as clean as you would expect of such an enterprise.

The new place will be about five miles down the road from the old place, which is opposite a concrete mix supplier. Adjacent to the new locale are a small car dealership and a gutter cleaning service. It just seems a logical place, said a guy who was counting on those civic tax breaks to build the new facility.

They’ll start moving dirt late next year. It’ll be a project where no one goes home with grime under their nails.

Dec 19

And now, two quick television stories

When I got here smilin’ Joe Canter was a freshman. He was probably born good at this, but he’s gotten better at it. And someone here, no one seems to remember who now, has given him a franchise he can carry for years: Banter With Canter.

This was the last Banter With Canter on the last show of his college career. He’s graduating in a few days. It’s been a pleasure to work with him, to watch him grow and develop a very steady confidence. Plus, he’s just an all around pleasant guy. Some newsroom is going to get a good one with him.

And of course we took the “So I can say I knew him when” photo.

He told us tonight — it is a bit of a tradition now, I guess, sharing this news with the crew at our last productions — the stations he’s been interviewing with recently. It is exciting to see the notice our crew gets right out of the gate. I’m eager to see where he lands. Of course you can follow people pretty closely these days, but there will come a day, in two or four years, when he will make a market change. And maybe then, or in the year or two after that, he’ll make a big market change. And I’m excited to see what that’s like for him.

Speaking of sports, which is what Joe does, my old be-ready-at-every-moment anecdote around here used to be about sports, but now it is about weather. The old story was that the sports guy didn’t turn up one night. He’d taken ill, apparently, and we only realized this at the last minute. So a producer stepped in. And she’s was, and remains, one of these people that does everything well. She wasn’t a close follower of sports, she said, but you wouldn’t know it by how she just did the job that night. And they chose her to fill-in because she was awesome anyway, but also because she was camera-ready. It’s a good story. (And today, she is a producer in a top 35-market, which is a nice place to land in your second job still freshly out of school.)

Well now I can update that story to weather. My friend Charlee is a pop culture show host, but when the student who is actually training to be a meteorologist couldn’t make it this evening, Charlee stepped in. And, being another one of these people that does everything well, she also drilled it.

She won’t be a meteorologist anytime soon — that takes some science and know how — but if she isn’t updating her LinkedIn account this week and figuring out how to parlay that into a job interview anecdote then I didn’t sell her hard enough on how she should be updating her LinkedIn account and figuring out how to parlay that into a job interview anecdote.

And with that, the calendar year and another semester of television wraps. A tweet-sized summary:

More details fleshing out the numbers at some later date.

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