Thursday


26
Oct 23

Enjoy the photos

On the way in to campus at midday I noticed we are at a particularly dynamic moment in the leaf turn. There are three photos below. All taken on the same road. All of them were also taken with the same time stamp. But look at these many different beautiful colors.

Slowly and then suddenly around here. And 72 degrees today, too, and even warmer this weekend. (The first sunny weather weekend we’ve had in quite some time.) It’ll be a good time to get out and enjoy all of the beautiful, colorful scenery.

There are a lot of quotes about the glories of autumn. A lot of them. And all of them are accurate, in their own ways. But there’s still at least one quote about autumn yet to be uttered …

“Why can’t this magical season stay until March?”

In class today, we watched commercials the students produced. The products varied. Some were real things, others were made up. Some were a bit spur-of-the-moment, which didn’t necessarily take away from the quality. Many of them were funny. A few were quite spectacular. Students, of an anti-commercial generation, applauded one another’s work. That was quite charming.

And then we talked about Adobe Audition for a good long while. This is the sound editing program, the Digital Audio Workstation.

I think, having watched them through the demonstration, that most of them don’t appreciate sound to the same extent that I do. They’ll come around.

Yesterday, I rode by the mysterious building with the uplifting quotes painted on the wall facing the road. I’d never notice this in my car. I probably wouldn’t be on that road in my car, actually. And I certainly would be going to fast to read them.

On my bike, though … well I go fast enough on my bike that i had to see them three or four times before I could read them all. But I ride my bike on that road from time to time, and I wanted to take these photos. And today’s as good a day as any to share them.

I think there is one or two quotes missing from this mini-collection, but these are the best ones.

The building belongs to an agricultural concern. They sell seed and seed treatments, fertilizer and application services, crop protectants and such. It’s not a local company, but a nationwide business headquartered in Tennessee. I can’t say for certain, but I assume the quotes predate the current company.

Either way, the business has quotes like this on their buildings nationwide, or the local/regional management saw this and thought, This absolutely needs to stay.

Whoever made that call, they were correct.

Main Street should maintain all of the old charm and character a town has to offer, and this little town figured that out long ago. It’s a charming thing.


19
Oct 23

Bringing sound in sight; breaking down stories in commercials

What a beautiful day today! Gloriously warm in the sunshine. Nice and mild in the shade. Everything you want in a day you weren’t expecting.

I don’t think I even looked at the forecast yesterday. Too busy doing other things. After getting set a new driver’s license I had to take the garbage to the inconvenience center, a trip so unremarkable that I spent the rest of the evening, and today, trying to convince myself that I had, in fact, taken a garbage can, a giant bin of recyclables and three big bags of weeds to the drop off spot.

Yes, I did that yesterday. And it was a lovely afternoon, too. That’s two days in a row! I spent the rest of yesterday afternoon, though, doing class prep.

Thursdays I’m on campus all day. Today, all day meant six hours or so. In class we started talking about audio, which was fun for me. Easy prep, and a good two weeks of complexities. Luckily for the students, or unluckily, I happen to know a thing or two about sound.

We’ve also been talking about commercials, since they are working on spots of their own as an assignment. This let me do my Bud spot exercise. I show the class this 2014 Super Bowl ad.

Then I do a 7:52 second breakdown of all of the shots and angles. Made a special, timed, edit and everything. Matching text and shots. The first year I did this the class applauded, which only encouraged me. When I did it for the second class today they took an entirely different approach, making me think I should rethink the spot I use for this exercise.

They found the commercial … lacking. Emotionally exploitive. Without purpose. I asked them why they thought so, and they explained it somewhat, making some good points along the way. It is some of those things. Curious, as this was one of the best received ads of that particular Super Bowl. It made wonder if commercial tastes are changing, and could they change in just a decade. Either way, they’re thinking critically, those students, and that’s a great thing.

Just outside my class there’s a large hydrangea busily giving up the ghost. Even in this vulnerable moment, it has a deep, handsome beauty to it.

Our drive home was at the perfect time of the evening. There seems to be something special about the autumnal sunsets here. Maybe it’s because I haven’t seen a lot of them in the last several years, or at least it seems that way. But, as I showed you yesterday, my home office windows face west, and there’s just one house and trees across the way. It gives me a nice view. If, however, you can catch the sunset out in the open, it’s a spectacular time of year for these lovely views.

Looks like I should turn this one into a painting, or something.

But not tonight. It’s been a full day, and there’s baseball and football on, but no notable commercials.


12
Oct 23

‘Who waits forever anyway?’

I turned off my alarm and went back to sleep this morning and that was not the plan. I figured I’d have one of those little peaceful moments and then get up and, wait a minute, my lovely bride is asking me if I’m going to get up today. Of course I am, it’s only been … 90 minutes since my alarm went off.

The good news is that my alarm was set well before I needed it today anyway. I had an apple, got dressed, finished pulling my things together and we went to campus, and arrived a few moments early, as it turns out.

I spent six hours in a classroom today. Most of that time talking about video editing software. I used these clips, just stuff I found in the yard yesterday, as examples.

That video isn’t what they saw, but those shots figured into the How To of it all. I think it went OK. Next time, maybe, I’ll do that differently. If for no other reason than I think I was beginning to talk myself silly the second time through. Things were shared. Things were learned. I got thanked a few times.

That was one of the views on the drive home, which currently takes place in that 20-minute window between daylight and the gloaming. It’s such a romantic moment, before the darkness creeps upon us. I think we were talking about sports or some silly policy or something. We were in the car, but it was still a moment, and we might have trampled it a bit.

Just three more Queen + Adam Lambert videos from last week’s Baltimore concert. I feel like I have an obligation to share the North American tour opener. Also, it’s earned me 52,000 page views in the last week … so, yeah, you milk that.

“Who Wants to Live Forever” comes out of the 1986, psuedo-soundtrack to the Highlander movie. The song peaked at No. 24 in the UK. Certified gold there, and in Italy, it never did anything here, except stick in the heads of people who liked that movie franchise.

And then there’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” I don’t know how many songs have been on charts around the world across four decades and in two centuries, but this is one of them. (Yes, the opera is the original band recording. They couldn’t figure out how to do it live way back when, and that’s stayed the traditional performance version.)

“Bohemian Rhapsody” is also the most streamed song from the 20th century and, in 2021, it was certified Diamond in the US for combined digital sales and streams equal to 10 million units.

I wonder how the rights holders will re-introduce it to new audiences once more in the 2040s and 2050s.


5
Oct 23

The rock videos are at the end of the post

We drove to campus — problem getting to the car on time, no incidents getting out of the house — in good time today, and I’d like to take credit for all of that. I don’t deserve the credit, but I feel it should be mine, all the same. I usually volunteer to take the blame if we’re late (because it’s usually my fault when we’re late) so why not get the upside, right?

We were so on time there wasn’t even a person in the security guard shack to look for parking stickers. We overcame everyone’s expectations today.

The class before my class was not in the classroom, so I got in early and started setting up all of the things that we were going to talk about. Oh, the happy feeling of being organized.

Today we talked about the videos the students shot demonstrating different camera settings for aperture, white balance, ISO and so on. We set up external hard drives. We started organizing the workflow structure that the hard drives will use. And we started talking about the commercials they’ll be producing over the next three weeks. All of this took six hours.

Because, on Thurdays, I do it twice. Two classes, identical, back to back. This is fun in that it presents its own conceptual challenges. I thought the second class would be a better presentation — take two, and all that — but I am not sure which one comes across better. Sometimes the first class. But, then, the make up of the room in each class is a bit different, so class dynamics would have to fit into that, too.

Today though, finally, I stumbled into the thing I feared. There was a problem we discovered in the first class and, given the small 15 minute break in between, there wasn’t enough time to correct it for the second class. Fortunately it is a small thing. Where some settings are in differing versions of Premiere. No biggie. I can update that info in other ways. Just not in real time — which is the universe’s way of really understanding and appreciating my limitations, I think.

Darkness fell as we were driving back to the house, and that was the day. So let’s put some other stuff in this spot.

This plant that the sellers of our house left on the front porch for us — the one that we’ve been diligently watering every day because, despite what the little tag in the soil says about being drought resistant, it needs it — is now showing its gratitude.

No one wanted to go that direction anyway, Department of Transportation.

Here’s a strike you don’t read about much anymore. The Great Railroad Strike of 1877, specifically, in this case, the Baltimore railroad strike of 1877. We saw this on our way to the concert last night, right in the heart of Baltimore, very near where the demonstrations began. This strike involved several days of work stoppage and violence.

The Great Railroad Strike of 1877 was a nationwide series of events, the enough-is-enough point of a global depression and series of economic hits during that decade. Around those parts, in Baltimore, the strike came about because the B&O Railroad was going to cut employees pay by 10 percent.

Four days into the demonstration, violence broke out. Police. The National Guard. Thousands of demonstrators. President Rutherford B. Hayes sent in the army, the locals called up 500 additional police. And for the next two days they were attacked with rocks and bottles and returned fire with rifles, ultimately putting down the protests. Wikipedia tells me Between 10 and 22 were killed, more than 150 were injured, and many more were arrested. Several of those killed were soldiers or local militiamen.

The strike itself, though it seems to have motivated others far to the west, failed. Most quit rather than work for less. The company hired replacements. Under armed oversight, rail traffic began again a few days later. The company made a few changes over the course of the next year. And that’s a pro-argument for unions, I suppose. Indeed, this is considered the first national strike, and labor historians point to the 1877 strike and violence as something that energized labor movements for the next several decades.

It seems distant enough to be from another planet, but whenever you get to that dramatic moment in a book or movie where the one side says “Are we going to fire on Americans?” the answer has, historically, never been that surprising.

We were, of course, in Baltimore to see Queen + Adam Lambert. This is where they kicked off their North American tour. And you can see them, too, right here.

Bicycle Race! It climbed to number 11 on the UK Singles Chart, and somehow only peaked at 24 in the Billboard Hot 100 in the US.

Lambert really leans into the whole show. It’s hilarious, one supposes, given the various layers involved in that song.

Fat Bottomed Girls went platinum in the U.K. and double-platinum in the U.S.

They all look like they enjoy that song, as do we. And the good news, I have enough videos to make it through most of the next week or so.


28
Sep 23

Things that stick on you

I heard my alarm, both times this morning. And I pulled up the cover and closed my eyes tight and smiled and stayed halfway-conscious because I had to get up and get ready for the day. Then my lovely bride came back into the room and touched my shoulder. She said “You need to get up.”

I did need to get up. I needed to get up about 75 minutes prior to that, but that’s OK, because the day starts late so I’m not behind, except that mentally I am. When you set an alarm and overshoot it, that sensation can stick with you. For me, it is on my mind for the rest of the day. No matter how accomplished, how full or how complete the schedule, it’s just sitting there: You were late, and so you are late. It clings.

I had an apple and some peanut butter for breakfast*. I got ready to head to campus. And then the cat escaped through the laundry room and into the garage. He then goes under a car and just sits there, feeling like he’s achieved a great deal, I assume.

We’d even made it into the garage on time this morning — this is often my fault — but now the cat kept us from getting into the car on time because he is an ordeal.

But we made it to campus on time, fortunately. And it was only marginally my fault this time that we felt pressed for time.

I stood in the hallway and talked with two of my students while the class taking place in our room wrapped up. Eventually they all filed out, an entirely predictable and uneventful arrangement, and we walked in. Over the course of the next several minutes a dozen more students came in. Today we reviewed their first video assignments. The work concentrated on asking them to achieve certain camera shots and motions. You are put with a partner, who is your video subject, and you show the basics. Some people keep this simple. “My subject is just standing there, and this is a low angle. Here is a shot of my subject from a high angle,” and so on. This gets the job done. One group got very involved, overly so, and tried to create something of a narrative. Kudos for originality, though it doesn’t figure into this grade. One of my favorites video sequences came from two women who clearly enjoyed this way too much. There was a lot of acting, the best unselfconscious, purely hammy, scene chewing kind. They were delightful. I also had three slide decks to work through with them. I managed to work through two of those and the class still went long.

On Thursdays I teach two sections of the same class, back-to-back, in the same room. There’s only a 15-minute break between them, at about 3:15, and that’s lunch. But if I go long, that sneaks into my lunch time. So I had a handful of grapes* while the second class filtered into the room.

Fortunately, the two classes are in synch, so the second section feels like a second try, albeit with a group of an entirely different personality. We reviewed the shots from their first video assignment, as well. And one of the best parts are the shots when someone chooses an extreme closeup. I will play those clips over and over until I can get the class to talk about the emotions they’re seeing in the shots. Getting them going is the key to the whole puzzle, I think. I had three slide decks for the second class as well. I got through all three. We finished with 10 minutes to spare.

I’m not sure how that happened, but I have a few guesses.

After that, it was email, and staring at this pile of things to grade, and then we hopped in the car and drove back to the house. Thursdays are busy, then, and everything piles up. Email, the things to grade, the daily dose of news, whatever else you’re doing. And that 20 minute drive always feels a bit off when you’re aware of all of those things you’d like to get done tonight, or at least started.

Being behind is purely a mental construct, one that should have little to no power, but somehow it can hold a lot of sway over you, draped right over your shoulders, trying to hold you down. So you start ticking things off the list. What else could you do, anyway?

*I had a delicious and full dinner.

Let’s take a quick look at the Re-Listening project, where I am playing all of my old CDs in the car, in the order in which I acquired them. After this entry I’ll only be three discs behind!

Josh Joplin Group’s “Useful Music” was already an artifact by the time I picked it up at a used record shop. They’d originally released it in 1999 as Josh Joplin Band under the SMG Records label, and then again, with some new members, in 2001 by way of Artemis Records under their final name, Josh Joplin Group. (Big shakeups in nomenclature were an artistic signature around the turn of the century, you see.) This was Joplin’s sixth record, and so he was to become a nine-year overnight success.

It’s a radio friendly record, but didn’t get a lot of commercial support. Despite that, “Useful Music” hit number 22 on the Billboard Independent Albums chart. Three singles were rolled off, including the moderately successful, and altogether enjoyable, “Camera One.”

Odds are, if you ran across this Atlanta-based band, this was your first exposure. It quickly scooted to the top spot of the Triple A chart, which, at that time, was the most successful independent release ever. Soon after, that song was featured in an episode of Scrubs.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen that video, though. He looks like an angry singer, which is a shame for what was ultimately an incredible AOR friendly record.

If you picked up this disc because you heard that song on the radio, this was the first track you heard when you loaded it in your player.

The second single got a lot of spins on what still passed for alt radio in the summer of 2001. And we were still referencing it this summer, which is pretty great good for a pop tune.

This is a perfectly little encapsulated post-grunge pop song, if you ask me. It is one of several songs on here I never really gave it’s due when I was listening to this a lot.

But then there’s this, which should have never been attempted. Nevertheless, it’s catchy in ways that defy convention. I was on a long straight country road on a sunny day when I heard this recently, and it stuck with me for days.

They released one more single, in December of 2001. And on the re-release, which is the disc I have, there’s an alternate version of the song featuring some new instrumentation and an orchestral accompaniment. And it changes the song, except for all of the places where it doesn’t. It was, and remains, intriguing. The thing is, I listen to this so rarely that I forget that this track closes the record, and so it’s a pleasant surprise almost every time.

The Wikipedia page tells me the Josh Joplin Group disbanded in 2002, which was before I picked this up (I’m contextually assuming I got this in the summer or fall of 2003) but that live performance above was from 2019. All told, Joplin has released 11 albums, most recently with the band Among the Oak & Ash, which also featured the great Garrison Starr. Here’s the newest thing he’s published on his YouTube channel, just four months ago.

It’s always nice to see people continuing to do what they love.

Like this grading I have to do now, for example.