Mar 20

We go back in time

I didn’t go out to see this, because we shouldn’t be going out anywhere right now, but this is really lovely.

If you unpack that tweet as a thread, you’ll see a collection of marquees around the country. The Buskirk-Chumley’s signage is pretty terrific, and that is a wonderful quote.

Fun fact of trivia: I walked in there Thursday of last week to pick up some Will Call tickets for a show last Friday night as the show was being postponed. Sometimes you can only smile, and so that’s what I did. The woman working there at the moment didn’t know anything yet. She said they hoped to know something soon about make up dates. I said that’d be nice, and hopefully so, but I think we both knew it wouldn’t be tomorrow or the next day, like she said. I wished her well, and good luck with all of the other customers I was sure they’d hear from, and gave her a smile as I walked back outside.

That’s not being a helper in the sense that Mr. Rogers taught us about, but I’d like to be a person who doesn’t cause other problems, which is one of his less well-known quotes, I’m sure.

At the moment, their website says they plan to reopen on May 11th. Wouldn’t that be nice? Maybe the first movie in May, or whenever they get back, will be Home Alone.

If I may sum up a convoluted website I just read about the place, it was originally built as the Indiana Theater and used for vaudeville entertainment and silent movies, in the 1920s. It lived on as a movie theater until 1995, when it became a performing arts center, so a little bit of everything these days. (We were supposed to see Guster last week.) It is also on the National Register of Historic Places.

Let’s fall back in time and look a little more at this place. May as well, we’re homebound anyway, right?

The time was 1917, the paper was the Bloomington Evening World, a paper that dates back to 1892, and ran under this name until 1943, when it merged with the coolest paper name in town, the Bloomington Telephone. A few mergers and name changes later, and it’s lineage is loosely still found in the modern Herald-Times, which is being almost stripped for parts today.

I’m looking at this issue for the first time as I create the screen captures, so I’ve no idea where this is going or what we’ll find … but on this day in 1917 …

The Campbell’s ad, which is so scandalously run on the front page — it isn’t a scandal, and it wasn’t a few years ago when some papers returned to that historic trend — invites you to come into their shop on the west side of the courthouse. Actually, the ad doesn’t say where it is. Everyone just knew. A man named Noble Campbell ran that concern. He was an IU graduate, sat on the library board, married well and eventually retired to Florida, where he died in the 1950s. I see on one site that he “was also connected with the motion picture business.” Whether that means he made wardrobe or just liked movies, we don’t know.

It’s fun to imagine though. I’m going with the silent, silent investor type. The guy the organized guys were afraid of.

They just put all your news in the old papers:

Another front page ad, where most assuredly people gathered for batteries and to gossip about that front page brief:

The Willard franchise was about 20 years old, but already a national concern. I’m not sure why the character is shooting his own sign there. Anyway, by the 1930s there were more than 5,000 shops under their banner. They’d eventually buy a radio station, built batteries that powered submarines and some of the sort you could hold in your hand. Things dried up in the 1950s and 1960s. A few years after this ad J.W. Farris also got into plumbing, heating and air. That was probably a booming series of career choices for a man in the 19-teens. Where it led him next, we don’t know.

Where that store was then? Condos today, just a few blocks from the theater, above.

There are four pages of the paper, and a lot of it points to the agricultural audience of the time, and some what we would today call syndicated content, or sponsored content, or “there weren’t a lot of people involved in writing this thing, perhaps.” You’ll be happy to hear there’s advice for how women can remove any corn, and a “Write Now” to receive the secret to masking gray hair. It’s not a new concern.

There’s also this, just hanging out on the bottom of the third page:

It’s just a hundred years ago, but they were still looking for people to settle land. In that time the building they wanted you to write to, the Traction-Terminal Building in Indy, came and went. It was the train station, and then a bus station. They razed it in the 1970s. Today there’s a Hilton on that spot.

At the student building on campus you could settle in for a play with a legitimate silent film star:

She was about to turn 21, so her audience looked a lot like her. She’d been in 125 movies and shorts by then, too. She acted regularly until 1930. This was one of her last films.

She got married, got divorced, different than the one above, and then the talkies came. She only appeared in three of them before moving to radio and Broadway. She worked in retail and then showed up in two television shows and one movie from 1958-1960. This was her last appearance, on The Many Loves of Doobie Gillis.

Arrivederci, Mrs. Dowell! It’s a quick part, and how it came to her is probably one of those small non-mysteries from 70 years ago we’ll never know, meaning a quick glance of the Internet didn’t have an essay or comment from a great-niece. In the late 1960s film scholars and, eventually, documentarians, rediscovered her career. She lived long enough to see all of that and died, at 90, in 1986.

The society notes tell of us a student recovering from appendicitis, a man who had lung fever, various family visits, and the return home of Howard M. Tourner, a jeweler. He had been out of town in Washington D.C., where he saw the second inauguration of Woodrow Wilson. He had a shop downtown, though it might not have been downtown back then. He played and taught the flute. He passed away in 1941.

On the front page there’s a paragraph about the signs of spring. The university’s baseball team had taken the field for practice, and boys could be seen playing marbles in the streets. On the back page there was the weather forecast: “Generally fair tonight.”

Mar 20

Tonight’s shoot

I worked from home today, which we’ll all be saying a lot in the weeks to come. I did go in this evening for a television taping. The sports crew was up tonight. They wandered in, wondering if this was the end of their year on campus. Our last in-person classes are tomorrow, and then there’s spring break and at least a few weeks of virtual classrooms.

Students are being encouraged to return home. We’re now well into the plans of how we work with 46,000 students on this campus, the 100,000-plus at all of the statewide IU institutions and the countless projects that go on at each and every one of them. Unprecedented is a word you’ll hear a lot. We’re making this work as we go, or some variation, is a theme everyone will hear a lot.

Grace and patience is something I imagine I’ll be saying a lot.

Sports kept it simple tonight. This was a sink in moment for a lot of us.

Michael Tilka, a senior, and IUSTV’s sports director for 2019-2020 signed off. It is surprisingly typical that he was talking about everyone else. That’s what he’s done throughout. He was, this semester, the longest-serving member at IUSTV. I hope that wasn’t the final sign off of his four-year run at IUSTV, where he’s won awards and helped others win awards. I hope it wasn’t the last time, because I would miss his demeanor and what he’s still capable of doing here.

What he saw his freshman year and what he’s leaving his senior year are remarkably different things. He, and the sports directors that came just before him, righted the ship. They developed the right kind of culture in the sports department. It is one of those things I’m always telling the student leaders will come up in a job interview. One of those questions that will give them an advantage, if they distill these experiences into an anecdote.

I sat in a post-production meeting with all the younger sports students tonight. I wanted to thank and congratulate them, as I so often want to do. They each went around the room and shared their favorite moment of the year — and I hope this is not the end of their year together, but it has that feeling. Some of the stories I knew. Some I heard for the first time. All of the memories got laughed at. They had a great time with it. Real bonding is taking place there. Michael, I think, realizes it’s a lasting culture he’s helped establish. Along the way, most importantly, he’s found his own mature voice.

I’m glad they didn’t ask me to take part in that favorite moment exercise. It’s hard to explain my favorite moment of a year when my favorite moment, each year, is always the same. It is gratifying to see the progress the students make, collectively and individually. Sometimes it is downright tangible.

I am proud of my friend Michael Tilka. I hope this wasn’t his last time on air at IUSTV, but if we don’t get these last few weeks back for him, and all of our other seniors, I am excited to see him go out into the world and continue his success.


Mar 20

So, late this afternoon, news happened

Sometime late this afternoon the email came down from the university president that in-person classes would be canceled after next week’s spring break. Instruction will be online for at least two weeks, and the campus would be closed for all but essential functions.

And that’s how the planning, and a series of meetings, began. Meantime, my news friends reworked their entire show in about 90 minutes, which is a fair approximation of the real world. I couldn’t be more proud of how they handled it.

Here’s how it all worked. Charlee had the lead story and a package about coronavirus anyway, one that she was producing before the big change. Then she ran into the IU spokesman and stood him up for a few questions. She brought in the video. She told us where the good quote was and sat down to rewrite her work while another producer took the footage and found the quote. Meanwhile, still others were reworking the script and the tease and plotting out how all of the other little things would have to change when you rewrite your entire show at almost the last minute. I couldn’t be more proud of how they handled it.

I know I wrote that twice, but I meant it.

So … we’ll work on campus this week. The students will start drifting away for their regular spring break plans or whatever their new plans will be. And then we’ll all work from home for a while. But I’m sure we’re do several more series of meetings and emails and phone calls detailing out how all that will go.

There’s no handbook for this. There’s no previous example to fall back on. No specific contingency plan. We’ll all have to work through it with grace and patience. That’s what I started telling students today. That and how the news people could and should keep telling stories in the weeks ahead – a lot of social media interaction. I hope that they do. It’s the story of their times, and they ought to tell it to their audience.

Mar 20

A run, two rides, but mostly cats

Happy Monday. This week is going to be a memorable one, you can just tell, can’t you? It will. And if you can’t tell, come up for air and read the news. It’s going to be a memorable one.

But before all of that begins, we have our new usual Monday feature of checking in with the cats. Let’s see how they spent their weekend.

Phoebe discovered a new place to sit on the stairs. We have a small landing, and she’s familiar with that, but this step gives her a commanding view of the foyer, a window and escape routes up and down the stairs. I’m sure that’s how she thinks.

Poseidon spent part of Saturday night curled up in a big fuzzy blanket. I think he’s coming around to the lifestyle:

They got two new toys in the mail from a friend this weekend. They are little lizard shapes with some hardcore strain of catnip inside:

They are jealous cats, so jealous that despite there being two of the identical toys, they are fighting over the lizards. So now we’ll have to hide them.

Some naps, for whatever reason, are cuter than others:

We went for a run on a sunny Saturday. I am now tasked with running ahead and taking pictures. So my sprints should improve, because the job is to get far enough ahead that I can find a good spot for a reasonable composition, stop, turn, open the camera, frame a shot and watch the runner run through:

It’s a good chance to catch my breath, though, before having to run on and catch back up. But, check this out, same picture:

I got the two-feet-off-the-ground shot. Not bad for trying to do all of the above while winded.

On Sunday afternoon I got in my first bike ride of the year. And this evening I had my second bike ride No photos or videos of either of those. Or probably for the first four or five rides. I have to remember again where all the gears are and what all the levers on the bike do again, first.

I shot this after today’s bike ride. And I am suddenly very interested, once again, in natural sound.

The late night show produced this episode for you last Friday. The guest is one of our professors. Ordinarily my critique would be that you have to go find people outside of our own buildings. There are a lot of reasons for that, groupthink, the burden of real producing, the what’s-entertaining-to-you-isn’t-entertaining-to-everyone phenomenon, but that concept may not apply to Susan Kelly, who is quite entertaining indeed:

Anyway, for the rest of the week, and whatever else is coming to us soon, I hope your times aren’t that interesting.

Mar 20

They’re talking bass-kit-ball

It was another night for television. Television has been written, television was produced and the audience shall have television. They’re going to enjoy it, too, if they like sports.

And they always ask the question: when is it too early to start talking about the basketball tournament? The answer it is never too early. Especially since everything will be different after next week, and we’ll have to figure it all out again.

There should be a consequence, a good-natured one mind you, for bad prognostication. It isn’t a tar-and-feather circumstance, of course, but maybe it’s a wear-a-feathery-mascot-and-hold-a-sign situation. A you have to do the next TV stunt sort of resolution. Something we can all laugh at, like predictions.

Which, hey, that’s just good practice, I guess. Plus, someone is going to get to say they were right about one of these predictions. That’s what’s fun about playing Nostradamus. If time proves you right you can have the crew roll that prediction as a replay: I was brilliant! See! If your predictions don’t work out, you just gloss over the whole notion of it ever happening.

Some things from Twitter:

I thought about that for a while. That might not have been what she wanted to happen, but it’s my mother so of course she knew it would happen. In a way, then, that was exactly what she wanted to happen. In which case, happy to help!

This gives me an idea:

How much could a full-ceilinged aquarium weigh, anyway? Surely the house’s structural supports could manage that sort of challenge.

It’s not like jellyfish weigh much, after all.