Sep 21

We count our Olympians on this site

Another Tuesday, another Olympian comes into the studio to take part in an IUSTV shoot. Just another day at the office.

That’s Andrew Capobianco, who won the silver in the 3-meter synchronized diving in Tokyo, and he goes to school at IU.

Capobianco tells us about a cool tradition you don’t hear about all that often.

He’s talking about his Olympic diver partner Michael Hixon, and Hixon’s former dive partner Sam Dorman.

The full interview will be in a program you can see online a bit later this week.

Today’s pocket square combo:

Also, here are a pair of my new, bespoke cufflinks I made this summer.

Pretty snazy, huh?

More videos and fashion and such tomorrow.

If you have some more time to kill right now, though, there’s always more on Twitter and check me out on Instagram, too. Speaking of On Topic with IU podcasts, and, oh hey, did you know that Phoebe and Poseidon have an Instagram account? They do. Check them out.

Sep 21

No cohesion, but a lot of interesting Tuesday tidbits

Back to work again this morning. And most of the morning spent catching up from a day off and a long weekend out of town. But I only woke up twice this morning wondering where I was.

Stands to reason you could spend the rest of your Tuesday wondering where you are after a morning of that sort.

It’s never quite the same as when it happens in the early morning hours, though, is it? You open a blurry eye and wonder where you are based on whatever light is creeping in from whichever direction. By whatever level of chance is involved, my last two bedrooms have enjoyed the same layout. Even some of the same colors. Once in a great while I wake up truly confused, because the only real clue is in the ceiling, and I can’t focus on that with one blurry eye, it seems.

But this never happens in the rest of the day. You don’t turn from your typing, or move your eyes from that memo, or rouse yourself from a reverie and wonder where you are. It must have something to do with the eyes, or the fluorescent lights.

It’s amazing how many pieces like this are floating around out there. It almost seems odd that there could be a new experience at such a ubiquitous thing. But, it’s true.

Weird how those experiences get turned into published articles while trying to treat a quick steak and a yeasty roll as an ethnography.

I put our name in at the hostess stand and was told it would be about a 10-minute wait.

I didn’t mind the wait. I used the time to take in the ambiance, which was unlike that of any restaurant I’d been to before.

I appreciate the need to get to atmosphere in your photo essay, but you’re asking people to believe you’ve never been to a restaurant which has a theme of neon or kitsch or both.

The author found herself overwhelmed by the “massive” menu and the restaurant which felt “even bigger than it looks from the outside.” That’s called perspective, by the way. The author says she doesn’t like steak. She ordered the chicken.

All of which is to say she buried the actual important story here.

Same-store sales are up over 80% over 2020, which was of course low because of COVID-19, but they’re also up 21.3% over 2019 levels.

This despite reduced hours in many places, like the one she visited in Rochester. (There are two in that town.) The one nearest us, for what it’s worth, always seems busy these days.

I wonder how sales in other restaurants trading in “folksy charm” are faring.

I still can’t imagine eating in a restaurant at the moment. And one day, when that feels comfortable again, I’m sure the menus will overwhelm me.

Speaking of which, don’t forget, we’re flying a drone around on another planet.

Have you noticed how every rover we’ve put on Mars, or every probe we’re sending into space, seems to be outliving the design specs? No planned obsolescence there. Maybe these NASA and JPL people know what they’re doing.

Or maybe …

I never had the honor of meeting the late George Taliaferro. I wish that I did.

If you know the story, you know that he, and his wife who was a trailblazer herself, are larger-than-life personas around here.

While I did not get the opportunity to meet him, I have watched a lot of footage of Taliaferro speaking to classes and doing interviews. He was a passionate, fascinating, caring man. People talk about that first-to-be-drafted tidbit and in that clip above they mention his many skills on the football field. I’m here to tell you that football was the least of it. A former Media School student put together this little mini-doc that seems to capture Taliaferro very well.

He worked with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Baltimore, counseled prisoners returning to their regular lives and was a leader with the Children’s Organ Transplant Association. He taught at the University of Maryland, was dean of students at Morgan State and returned to Indiana to teach. His wife, Judge Viola Taliaferro, the first African American to serve as a magistrate and then judge in the Circuit Court of Monroe County, remains a powerful voice even today.

Finally, a nice little musical number …

Roy Orbison released that song in 1961 at the age of 25. I wonder what kind of star he’d be if he were 25 today.

Aug 21

A podcast, a new setup, and a new book

Want to record something? I spent most of my evening re-building my audio recording gear. I put in a new mixer, plugged in the old Sennheiser MD 421-II microphone — a classic when I got it in 2003 or thereabouts — and played with audio drives and test checks ’til my heart’s content, or at least until dinner time.

Much later in the evening I figured out all the issues and everything is solved. I started adding new sound effects to my setup, just because I made cool musical-sounding sounds (please forgive the technical term) that were burning a hole in my hard drive.

I tested a new acoustic foam treatment. This should kill all of the echoing sound in a quiet room. It should also be small enough to move and store away. My current setup is clunky, but works. Except for those times when it is liable to fall on my head in the middle of an interview. Clearly, I’m in the R&D phase for new styles.

All of this, any of this, is better than how I spent my free time last night, rearranging a closet.

My office closet is a process. It isn’t clean, mind you, but it’s one tiny little step closer. One very small step. You can step into my storage closet now, around the many neatly stacked boxes and bins, is what I’m saying.

Now I need a better writing chair, because my 12-year-old office desk chair has done just about all it can. After that, perhaps some LED lights for atmosphere. This home office is starting to come together, or it will in many more months.

This is a podcast I recorded last week. We’ve rolled it out today in honor of Women’s Equality Day, which is observed this Thursday.

I saw Women’s Equality Day coming up on the calendar and found the appropriate faculty member. The stars lined up: an important day, interesting topic, and an especially impressive scholar to talk about equality, the 19th Amendment, where we are culturally in this long march. Only the professor begged off. Too busy. But, she said, you might try this person, or that person. And both of those people have equally impressive biographies. Ultimately, Dean Deborah Widiss agreed to take me on. So I talked with three brilliant female scholars about what this interview should cover. I asked some students about it. And I talked to some other thoughtful women, as well. Eventually, I distilled all of that down to this 20-minute conversation.

Women’s Equality Day, and the 101st anniversary of the 19th Amendment guaranteeing American women the right to vote, is on Thursday. Listen to this before then.

I finally started Bruce Catton’s The Coming Fury. It’s the first volume in the author’s trilogy, the Centennial History of the Civil War. This installment delves into the social, economic and political causes of the war and runs through the year prior to the First Battle of Bull Run.

We’re just getting started. This is the beginning of the second section of the first chapter, 12 pages in, and he’s already set his tone. A modern eye could mistakenly project this tension onto their own time. That’s more about the writing than the history.

It’s no wonder people hold this work in such high regard. Kirkus’ unsigned 1961 review called it “history at its best.” No small compliment. Every sentence is declarative. Every statement is pure and thorough. Any of them could be a thesis statement. It is confident and declarative in every phrase, at every turn. Young writers could learn a great deal just studying the sentence structure Catton uses. It makes for wonderful reading.

Aug 21

Shoo, fly

My lovely bride — who is as strong as they come and smarter than she realizes — and I have a joke in our house. Whenever there is an insect she asks me to handle the situation.

We all have things we don’t want to do, so this is fine. I say, make sure people you spend your time with have complimentary tastes and services. Not everyone should be scared of, say, clowns, to the point of immobility. Someone present should be able to handle the situation.

But that’s not really what this is. She lets me address the insect and that lets me let the critter outside, or meet it’s untimely fate, and then we make a joke about how I saved her life. From the millipede, or whatever we are dealing with.

Well, today was no millipede. And after I’d returned from a long and fruitful day at the office we were chatting as people do and in the middle of the conversation she says, “Oh, I need a very thin piece of cardboard.” I produce something from the recycling stack in the garage and ask her why. “I trapped the world’s largest house fly under a plastic bowl and you need to slide the cardboard under it to carry it outside.”

OK, not a problem. Paperboard, bowl, we’ve all been there. The flooring that the insect was on was dark, so I couldn’t see it properly until I got outside to notice we had trapped and were releasing a female Tabanus atratus.

Look at that scissoring mouth! And why are we finding horseflies indoors?

She flew off to do horsefly things. We sat outside, for some reason, and I was thinking about how they use their six piercing mouth parts and — this part is unnecessarily gross, apologies — the sponge-like labrum used to lap up blood.

Horseflies don’t often bite people. But you don’t want to be bitten by a horsefly.

Back to my evening reading selection. I’m about to wrap this up.

It’s been a fine read. Again, it’s like an in-depth Wikipedia entry on a given subject from the period. Most of the chapters are about 20-something pages. It’s a great overview. And I have found things in Lord’s book that will prompt me to look for more thorough accounts, but other subjects I’ve read the 20 or 30 pages and felt like I had enough for now.

What was fun this evening was reading a bit about this particular moment in the American culture … through the lens of a 1960s writer.

Riding bikes! Swimming! Smoking! Pants! You knew how that had evolved, but it’s a treat to see little anecdotes like that which help to spell out how it could be liberating and befuddling. It all really stands out, 110 years-and-more later, of course, but just imagine being in the moment. Or consider that the next time something is different compared to the things to which you’ve long been accustomed. Makes you wonder what the social mores will be like in another five generations.

Aug 21

Not everything here is from the last century

I’m reading through this book right now. It’s the 1960 version of a long-winded, well written Wikipedia series. Each chapter covers one particular moment, almost all of which can and do have several tomes you can dig up. This book is the city bus tour of the historical period. It’s a great read to get an overview, an easy way to discover a new interest.

The San Francisco earthquake and fire gets 24 pages. And, for me, for that, it was plenty.

I’ve read three of the definitive biographies on Teddy Roosevelt, and two on the Wright Brothers, you see, it’s the subject, not the period. Some things are just more interesting than others. There’s one chapter here about a particular insurance man and his social life. Didn’t do much for me. There’s another on how J.P. Morgan forced the American banking system into avoiding a an economic collapse by force of will. It was intriguing, but you got the gist. Right now I’m reading about Peary’s sixth Arctic expedition. I’d probably enjoy a bit more of that. Here’s a bit from the chapter on the Great White Fleet, and a full telling of this story would probably be worth trying. Roosevelt sent the vessels around the world as a projection of American naval power — 16 battleships, 14,000 sailors on board them and their escort with ports of call on six continents — it was one of the first signals of the American century.

I’ve looked a fair amount. Several accounts refer to these cheers, but no one seems to know where they are from. I Assume some Chilean naval officer went to Cornell and brought all of that back. And when the Americans arrived in January of 1908, that was just part of the fanfare. A surrealistic bit of home for the American sailors who’d been on this mission for a month, making just their third port of call.

I wonder how many of the Americans recognized them. Cornell was a big player in early 20th century athletics, but still there wasn’t a lot of opportunities to Google this sort of thing in 1908.

This is from the same chapter. Walter Lord diverged a bit, which is rare in this book, but his point was what the returning sailors came home to after their historic circumnavigation. It was one of those moments where things were changing quickly in the culture.

If you’ve read about Europe in this period, or the American experience just before entering the Great War, you can see an entire world-shaking bit of foreshadowing going on there. It’s a good book. Written in 1960, when some of these things were frozen in memory, rather than frozen in amber. And while new perspectives and information have no doubt come along in the intervening years — Lord was much closer to his subject than we are to him here — the book holds up. Click on the cover, above, and pick up a copy for yourself.

And if you’re not interested in that …

Here’s a bit of Poseidon, god of water, bathtub mortal.

Achilles had his heel, Poseidon has his back paws, I guess.

I like to think he’s not fascinated by the water, but by the physics of the water’s retention and movement.