Apr 17

Quick notes on the road

Out the door this afternoon and headed for the road. A usual song, but one I sing less these days, of course. Anyway, loaded up the car, opened the door, looked down:

Perhaps this is the week, then. Maybe it happened so gradually and suddenly that no one really noticed:

You know the “Remove all the pegs but one” game. The triangle shape of wood with 13 holes and the 12 tees. You take the tees off the board one by one, jumping to empty spots, jumping over tees as you would in checkers. The goal is to leave just one.

I have had a copy of this game for years, a long ago Christmas gift from my grandparents. As a kid, of course, I developed a sequence to leave one peg. I worked a good while on that. And it turns out that being able to do that took all of the fun out of the game. But I was the kid that figured out how to open safety gates rather than climb over them. I understood when Egon said, in Ghostbusters 2, that he had a Slinky once, but he straightened it. So, anyway, I have to try to remember to forget those steps to the peg game.

There’s another, unconventional, goal to the game. In this version you try to leave a tee in each corner. I don’t know if I’ve ever achieved that, mostly because by the time I had heard someone mentioned it I had learned not to create a series for it. I only play the game when it is on the table at a restaurant, anyway, which it was tonight. When I did this:

Leave five and you’re an “egg-no-ra-moose.” Leave six and you’re just no count, I suppose.

Tomorrow: Our actual drive, and other stuff.

Mar 17

Nothing special, except what is

As a shutterbug, and nothing more, I take a few thousand photographs a year. Not a lot compared to photographers, but enough to have a little volume to it. Put another way, enough to make it impressive that I remember the circumstances or least the location of many of them, but not so many photographs that knowing any background is a lost cause. And I’ve done this for … a lot of years now. Sometimes you take more, sometimes you take less, of course. Sometimes you’re holding a real camera, sometimes it is just your phone. Sometimes you’re studying the moment trying to get it just so. Other times, you’re just shooting from the hip, as it were. Nothing special.

Sort of like this:

I was walking from here to there in Franklin Hall, walking south I suppose because this is the late afternoon and that’s the sun beaming in from Presidents Hall, which must be to the west, relative to my position here, of course. And if there is anything I’ve learned in the thousands of photos I take every year over the course of many years now I’ve learned that I seem to like shots of repetition and that I like those dramatic times when the sun breaks through into the moment. Also, I’ve learned that that moment is fleeting. I took five shots of the above, for example, and two of them gave me that big burst of sun. There’s nothing special about that.

Well, there’s a big ball of fusion out there and we are at a happy and safe distance that allows for the magic to happen here on earth so that animals could grow and then other things could happen and our ancestors discovered tools and ate the right things and then languages were formed and more, better tools were built and then storytelling became a thing which led to larger aspirations which meant exploration and experimentation and then domesticated plants and animals and societies and boats and the new world and electricity and this building and you, and me, here, today. So that part is spectacular, sure. But of this picture itself, there’s not much special, really.

But it did remind me of a similar picture I took in another school building about 20 years ago. Looking west, sun exploding in, overwhelming the settings and the sensor and throwing everything in silhouette. I wonder how far in my giant box of old print photographs I’ve have to dig to find that. It is a giant box, organized in no particular fashion. But as soon as I rounded the corner and saw the sun coming through the Franklin Hall windows and then through the glass in the doors of Presidents Hall I thought of that other photograph. Probably hadn’t in years. But it was right there, in my mind, another empty hall, another silly reason to take a photograph, another thing to file away. Nothing special to it.

You wonder what becomes of all of the things you file away in your mind, but then they sometimes comes right back. Maybe that’s the most special thing of all.

Shooting a talk show tonight:

The topic was helicopter parents of student-athletes. They should have brought in specialists and experts.

Mar 17

Alone in the woods, with sunglasses and soup

Each day I make use of at least one weather app, the smart thermostat which is still patiently trying to convenience me it somehow knows what is going on outside and a variety of windows which display both front and back yards. I do all of this at night and again in the morning, before I put a single thing in my pockets to leave. And then I put the things I carry in my pockets, so many things. And then I go to the garage, because that is where I park my car.

I open the garage door, because that is easier than driving through it and replacing it every week. And then I settle into my car, crank it and undertake the normal procedures one uses. I put my foot on the brake, select reverse and then throw my arm over the other seat and look backward because that’s how everyone did it when I was growing up and that’s still the coolest move in a car. I snicker at the idea of a backup camera. No, seriously, every day, that makes me chuckle. And then I move the car, each time I am amazed by my good fortune of avoiding hitting things with the passenger-side mirror. And then I am in the driveway, and I back up about 15 more feet and I’m in the road.

Only, today, I was confronted by this thing that I knew from both ancient DNA and my own dim, distant memory.

That’s actually overselling it. Of course it was the sun. I was pleased to see the sun. “This is,” I thought to myself, “a sign of things to come.” That thought was immediately followed by “My, but that’s bright!”

Don’t I own some device that was designed to aid in the filtering of the bright and magical UV rays which are now descending on me for the first time since, oh, November? However long ago it was I had to really struggle to remember — and this part is legitimate — where I store my sunglasses in my car. But I used them today. So pleased was I that, in the parking lot at work I had to find a sunny spot for this picture:

I used to use this article in writing classes. It is about a man who stayed a true hermit, in the woods of Maine, for 27 years before police picked him up on a series of cabin break-ins. One reporter, the author of that piece, was the only person the guy talked to. (Turns out, I just learned, that story has become one of GQ’s most-read pieces ever. I’d give students that article on a Monday and would ask them to discuss it the following Monday. The few that would actually talk about it thought it creepy. At 20 pages of intriguing brilliance, most just thought it too long and admitted they gave up on it. Their loss.)

Anyway, the story appears again, by the same talented reporter, Michael Finkel, who has now written about it in The Guardian. And now he’s got a book on the story, released earlier this month. Read the GQ version, it is worth the time.

Tonight I learned that Allie likes minestrone:

She likes it a lot. Licked the bowl clean. Worked hard at getting the edges. I’ll have to leave her a bit of the broth next time.

Feb 17

11-hour Fridays

Morning show this morning. Everyone arrived early. One of the students brought donuts for our engineer. He and I realized none of them knew the songs “I Can’t Drive 55” or “I Wanna Rock” or “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)”

That sorta dampened the moment, donuts or no. They produced their show, the very famous Ed, from one of the popular nearby restaurants was their guest:

He’s a New Yorker who has been here for 30 years. He’s had that restaurant for 10 years. He says he’s doing the same thing he did in college, which was acting as the party host. And, most days, if you go into his store, that’s not that far off.

After the show I retired to do more editing. I’m reducing a lengthy, but not-entirely-dense technical document to create what will essentially be a piece of brief marketing material. Today I turned 26 pages of great notes written by a colleague into about one page of language.

In junior high and high school I had the same English teacher for four of six years. Mrs. Newman was sharp and intimating to teens, but she was hard and fair. Every Friday, for all of those four years, she made us write a one-page précis, or a brief summary, of a Newsweek article of her choosing. As we progressed, the articles became more demanding, the summaries more challenging and her expectations grew as the selections became more complex. It never got easier, but we maybe got better at it. She graded those on a scale of one to nine for some reason. I don’t remember every article I read or every grade I got on them, but I do recall one where she noted I could do better. That stuck with me because it stung me. On days like today, with a lot of editing, I think those précis were as valuable as any aspect of my formal training or years of professional experience.

So I thought of Mrs. Newman today. Oh, looks like she and her husband have a beach home now. Good for her. She retired a good while back, I wonder if he’s still practicing law.

We did some practice in the studio. One of our shows had auditions for next year’s hosts. So that was the afternoon. Also the sun came out, glorious and brilliant, acting like it had forgotten what to do with us after such a long time behind the clouds. Of course the cloud cover returned. Of course it’ll be another week before the sun is seen again.

In another studio, in another building, we also launched a brand new late night show. I went over to watch it get underway:

Rob is the guy on the right. He’s actually studying standup comedy as a major. We had a nice chat about it. He’s a smart young man. Going to be a great show.

And for the year so far that makes three new shows we’ve launched. These are full time students, and all of the productions are entirely student run. We’ve assembled three new crews and put together three new shows, in addition to three pre-existing shows. Not bad for being in a new facility and the students having to deal with me and every other thing.

Feb 17

The cuffs were stained, and it got stinky

From time to time a student asks to interview me about something or other as part of a class project. I try to be a difficult interview, thinking maybe the word will get out and people will stop asking.

I don’t actually act like a bad interview subject. I try to be helpful while they’re learning their craft, but the thought always occurs to me: I could derail this. I could send this off in an entirely different direction. But they’re going to get that experience soon enough.

Today I got interviewed as part of a magazine writing exercise about the importance of clothes. It seemed an unusual topic, what clothes are important to you. So I thought, for whatever reason, about outerwear. This jacket, that coat and so on. I guess because it has been cold, I was thinking of the things that help keep you warm. Somewhere in there I mentioned this old denim jacket I had as a kid. Denim, which has made a comeback once more, was a big status symbol back then. And of course the interviewer seized on this as her topic.

I didn’t have a denim jacket for the longest time, because they were expensive and we didn’t have that kind of money. But finally, for Christmas one year, I got one. It was, I told my interviewer, an off-brand and it was probably about 15 minutes after denim was the thing, but I loved it. Loved it. I wore that jacket constantly. Day, night, overnight. And I suppose I just eventually physically outgrew it. But I remember the joy of the gift and the smell of the jacket. And it wasn’t a good smell, because I wore it constantly and I was a little boy. My mom had to wait until I went to sleep and then took the jacket off of me to wash the thing.

The interviewer asked good questions, as I imagined she would. Made me really think of my answers. It became an almost psychological exercise.

Afterward, I sent my mom a text, telling her about this interview. I figured she’d have a funny anecdote for me that I could pass along to my interviewer and we’d all have a good laugh. She didn’t remember the jacket.

In her defense, it was a few decades ago.

Also, when I was little, The Count always scared me. (I was a sensitive child.) But Brielle doesn’t have this problem. Plus, she’s adorable, and knows her stuff:

In the studio this evening, the sports show took over. David and Griffin are going places:

We’ll get to say we knew them back when. They do such great work. But you could say that about a lot of people around here.

And this: