Oct 21

A stationary front

The signs of summer are still with us. Saw this lovely little bit of shrubbery on a walk late last evening.

The signs of fall are coming slowly, and then suddenly. Same walk, just a little farther up on the same path.

So today my pocket square is autumnal.

Two years ago we observed Halloween and a snowfall. I’m going to try to not think about that every day between now and then. Each day in the next week or two when we have temperatures in the 70s and low 80s are a gift. A confusing gift.

But that weather out there? My friend Caroline Klare told me it would be like this.

In 2017 IUSTV decided to incorporate some weather into their newscasts. Someone knew someone studying atmospheric sciences. The first student-meteorologist was great, figured the TV thing out very quickly and did a fantastic job right up to graduation and went out into the world and got a job at BAMWX, a weather tech company. Two more students came through, one went to graduate school out west. One landed a great TV job in North Carolina, and Caroline is the last of that original cohort. Incredibly smart woman, wise beyond her years. She’s had a meteorology job waiting for her since her junior year.

Often as not, she orders me up some lovely weather, too.

I’m thinking about going to study atmosphere sciences.

Sep 21

Let us talk about sports shows

Let us talk about sports shows. Here are two of them. First, this is your standard issue updates-from-the-desk, reports-from-the-field highlight show, Hoosier Sports Nite.

And this is The Toss Up, your standard issue sports talk show. Four people sitting and talking at great depth, and with some degree of fandom, about the upcoming Major League Baseball playoffs.

Now, The Toss Up dates to 2016, when I got here. It has, more or less, always been shot as a show in-sequence. They do little pitches to another person for a sidebar, or a package, and they will sometimes shoot those out of order, but, generally it just makes sense to shoot it in that straightforward way. It has always felt natural and done in realtime, over the course of the four regular hosts it has had in those six years.

The first show above, Hoosier Sports Nite, is 11 years (or so) old. It has always, at least in my experience, had elements produced out of sequence. This means that if the anchor “pitches” to a reporter in another part of the studio, it’s an editing trick. The reporter part was done earlier, or later, and they just put it together in post-production. There’s nothing wrong with this. It happens in the industry all the time on programs that aren’t live. (Sometimes, for example, the person doing the pitching is live and the person catching the pitch is on tape.) There are different ways and reasons for doing that. They’re all legitimate. From our perspective, it usually has a lot to do with practical reasons like time, or our experience and so on. (We’re all still learning in this shop, of course.)

So imagine my pride when, last night, they produced Toss Up as they normally do — timing segments and getting in and out in a logical way and leaving me only two or three constructive criticism points to make — and then they did Hoosier Sports Nite straight through, a show produced truly live-to-tape. They did two bits over to correct small errors, also not unusual, but it’s all there as one live show.

I stopped by their post-production meeting to tell them so. To thank them and congratulate them for their work. It’s no small thing, doing a live show, and they’ve been building to this for a while.

When they rolled out the first episode of The Toss Up, the talk show, this semester, I noticed they’d changed the last of the original bits of the show. I remember all the components well, as it was the first show* I helped IUSTV bring to life. Every year something would change on this particular show. The logo improved. They added lower thirds or sharper segments. The last thing to go was the music. And that got updated this year. The guy that really brought this show to life, Jacques, he’d be pleased with the program today. He specifically wanted to start this show and give it to the people that came after him and let them run with it. And they have! The music was really his thing. He’d probably like that his music stuck around the longest from the original show. But now, aside from the name of the show and one line at the very end, they’ve organically grown the premise of his project, just as he’d hoped.

When I was watching them shoot Sports Nite last night, and talking about it and congratulating them after that, I was thinking of the through line of that show. Jacques was the first sports director I knew here. He graduated and then came Ben. Ben produced and improved those shows, graduated, and is now a producer at ESPN. When he moved to Bristol there came Auston. He produced and improved those shows, graduated, and went into the local sports writing business. The next year Michael was the sports director. He ran the shows, had his senior year in the studio cut short by Covid closing campus, but they grew a ton nevertheless, and he’s now doing sports at his hometown TV station in Iowa. So Drew and Jackson moved into the sports director roles after Michael. Drew graduated and is doing news in Fort Wayne now. Another Michael came along to help Jackson out and he just graduated and is on the market. Jackson will soon be graduating. Each of those guys have always told me what they liked about what the previous sports director did, and what they wanted to do differently. And as I stood there, beaming with a little pride, I could see all of that distinctly running through the night’s work. Those sports directors, and all the women and men working on those shows, were a part of making that particular episode a special little effort.

The thing is, all of this hard work is foundational. And, sometimes, you necessarily have to wait to see the development. It just keep building, though. From here it’ll grow through a room full of talented young folks learning from today’s upperclassmen, because those sports directors I mentioned have always aspired to raise the bar. It’s all cumulative. If all those now-graduated people had a mysterious little chill, or felt the hairs stand up on the necks, last night, I suspect they’ll get a more profound sensation when we have our next big moment. The thing is, it won’t be long now.

*Since I’ve been their adviser — and helper and cheerleader and all the other things — we have created seven new shows from the very air. Five of them are still running.

Sep 21

What was your first concert?

It was a productive and quiet Thursday, which allowed me to catch up on things and prepare for tomorrow, which will be productive and hectic.

I had a great memory this morning.

This is Ray Charles’ birthday. He was born in Georgia. I saw him when I was a little boy at Opryland, in Tennessee. My mother and my grandmother were at the park. And, to be honest, it was probably just an excuse to get out of the sun and heat for an hour or so. But, as I recall, they opened the doors for general admission seating and I, being smaller than everyone waiting to get inside, weaved through the crowd and got us seats close to the stage and right in the center. Maybe six or eight rows back.

Pretty great first concert.

Charles came on from stage right, sat at his piano, and The Raelettes came in behind him. At some point my mother leaning over and saying “I remember, he was old when I was young!”

He would have been about 54 or 55 at the time, my mother was in her mid-20s. That sentence is now hilarious.

He played to the crowd for a nice long matinee set. He leaned way back on his stool. He sang all of the songs you’d expect. He wailed on Hit the Road Jack. I remember that clearly. This isn’t from that show, but a concert about two years before.

I’m sure my grandmother knew some of his songs. Probably some of the country catalog and the stuff that, by then, had become American standards. I wonder what she thought about the show.

Here’s the sports show from last night. It’s just a barrel full of IU sports. What transpired, and what’s coming up. It’s all on Hoosier Sports Nite.

And here is one of the planters out front of Franklin Hall. This area, in the Old Crescent, is one of the campus highlights, and it’s always photogenic. The landscape and facilities people are putting out their best fall colors. They always do terrific work on campus. Just imagine this sort of thing all over the heavily landscaped parts of a sprawling campus.

We’re waiting for them to return my call about whether they work on private residences. I’ll let you know.

Sep 21

Ding! You are now free to enjoy the weekend

The old Southwest Airlines slogan was in my head when I woke up this morning. The alarm on my phone went off, some pleasantly disarming 1940s radio jingle I clipped many years ago, and for some reason my brain said “Ding! You’re now free to move about the country.” I don’t know why it was there. No travel planned. Though the idea of going somewhere is appealing. No air travel on the radar for a good long while. But ding!

It was the place on words that always worked well in that slogan. Sure, you have the pilot’s announcement bell, so Pavlovian. But that concept “You are now free to move about the country.”

Of course it wasn’t free. But you were free, conceptually speaking. Though the whole thing violated some law of thermodynamics, I’m sure, because on Southwest, at least, you were flying dirt cheap. When that slogan was in use I could go from Birmingham to Louisville, to see my folks, for $29. I was there in an hour. It would have cost me more in gas for the car and the drive would take much more time, even after you figured in the airport waits. If I stayed longer than a weekend the parking deck cost more than the flight.

“You are now free to move about the country.”

But that wasn’t the real case. Not really. We know this to be true because Southwest did not go broke their first year in business.

None of this explains why the old saying was in my head this morning, except that random thoughts such as these are the truest freedom we enjoy. And there never seems to be enough free floating thoughts around. We should daydream more. Or, in my guess, I guess, hit the snooze button more frequently.

I pedaled my bike to work this morning. The Yankee has my car because she had a weirder schedule for the day and needed to make a trip to Indy and my commute is only 4.5 miles, or so, one way. So it seemed obvious that I would glide through two neighborhoods and over the creek trail and through a few more neighborhoods and onto campus. I wore my too-heavy backpack, and tried to keep the heart rate down, thinking a nice and leisurely ride would be pleasant, and wouldn’t work up much of a sweat.

On the way, along the creek trail, I met some new neighbors.

I had a meeting this morning, which was happily on Zoom. I say happily because, while the assembled group is charming enough, I’m just not keen on the idea of being in a room with 50-some other people when it can be so easily avoided.

And this afternoon I had a meeting with two students from Black Voices about studios and how they could use them this semester. That was after another small meeting about studios and what is going to be used, and how, this semester. It all has a certain flow to it, if you’re surrounded by the concepts, but perhaps arcane, otherwise. Suffice it to say, Media School students have a lot of studios and a lot of options and at least two more are due to come online in the next few days and weeks.

The people that put them together — I know them, but I’m not one of them — do terrific work to set it all up, sometimes building them out of the very air. And the students use them well. By the end of this semester you could be working in a studio with five cameras, two different rooms with four cameras each, or another brand new space that’ll have two or three cameras and a motion-capture studio with unlimited potential. Oh, and up the hill, in our other building, a giant studio, about three times larger. We have two distinctly different kind of showpiece studios. That’s how spoiled we are. Students will use them all, and use them well, and we show them off to prospective students and donors and it will continue to grow and grow into we know not what.

Two years ago the two studios being built today weren’t even ideas.

Anyway, another show from the Wednesday night sports productions. They were talking college football.

That’s a straight up murder’s row of young sports media talent, by the way. As overrun as we are with studios, we have even more incredibly gifted students.

At the end of the day, the end of the shortened week, I pedaled my bike home. It was mild this morning, but much warmer this evening. So I’d brought along a pair of shorts and a t-shirt and spent much of my downtime trying to imagine a route that was all downhill.

There is no route that is all downhill.

So I went the normal way, which has three short hills and some easy rollers. I also had my heavy backpack, and it all felt like I haven’t ridden in years. In reality: three weeks, tomorrow. As I struggled up the longest, easiest hill I wondered how I would fare on tomorrow’s ride, which will not feature an extra 20-some pounds of luggage. It was most dispiriting.

(Edit: It also turned out to be a false reading. My Saturday afternoon bike ride was short, punchy and fun. Even in the headwind, my legs were much better. Blaming the too-heavy backpack is clearly the right choice.)

As ever, I need to find more time to ride. And more time to do all of the other things I enjoy.

There never seems enough of the free stuff, does there?

Aug 21

A day of hope

I, like billions of other people, don’t use Facebook that much anymore. It’s too crowded. And there’s only so much time in the day for noise, anyway.

But this year I have been trying to go every day and peruse the memories. It’s worth it to clean those up sometime. And these last few days have offered some doozies, all from just a year ago. It’s interesting to see how much has changed, and how little.

When was it, that the old life slipped away, and wise men and women worried that it was never to return again? Was it all at once or, did it come to mind gradually over that hot summer last year?

Someone instinctively felt it, but the signs were there for all of us to read. Henry White was a turn-of-the-century diplomat, and a signatory of the Treaty of Versailles. He noticed the same thing, as his biographer said, when Europe marched itself into the Great War. “He instinctively felt that his world — the world of constant travel, cosmopolitan intercourse, secure comfort and culture — would never be the same again.”

There may be great gains, yet, but when they are counted, what will we they be, and how will we measure them against what has been lost? It is at a moment like this where we search for the spirit of an era. This one having not been filled to overflowing with optimism and confidence, might cause a person to continue the search. A searching mood such as that could feel like a spark, a great light of promise by which we set the world to right, rather than being rolled under the world in the darkness.

It’s a cycle, and in our study of history we know it is anything but unique. Heroes shape the world, victims struggle through it. People have been warmed by that spark and felt that exuberance before. They will do so again. Hope never dies as long as we can move and feel. Sometimes it smolders low, at other times it will not be ignored.

We are, perhaps, at the start of such a moment. I pray that we are, and that others take up that feeling, as well. It’s too beautiful and full of possibilities to wrap it up and set it down in a box, all but forgotten for some later time.

This is a day full of hope.

And cats. It is Monday, after all. Even in the middle of a heat wave, Phoebe needs her blanket naps.

She does that all by herself. Usually Kitty Me Time means going all the way under the blankets, but maybe it was a little too warm that day for a completely immersive experience.

And I guess they’ve decided to have a cute contest this week. Look at Poseidon’s handsome face.

What’s not to love about a look like that?