memories


10
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?


23
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?


20
Aug 21

Reading our way into the weekend

We had freshmen in the building today. First year students, the direct admits, came in and heard from the dean. He determined very quickly that we are all old. They don’t know who David Letterman is. He’s been off CBS for six years, which is a long time, but he still has his longform interview show on Netflix.

It reminded me of the time I used a photo of Dan Rather to set up a key point in a classroom lecture and none of the students knew who he was. I’d anticipated that. It was just a picture of Rather at a lectern. So I had a second image of the longtime news anchor. He was there at the desk, a graphic box over his shoulder, the CBS bug in the corner. No one knew who he was. He’d been off the air for a little over two years at that point.

Time moves quickly, but it also helps if people are familiar with the character in the first place. Somehow, it’s harder to imagine people being unfamiliar with Letterman.

Anyway, the dean offered a top ten list, but said it wasn’t funny. It wasn’t, but it was useful, and hopefully some of it will stick for them.

This evening there was a grad student welcome program. The day in between is already a blur of meetings and seeing familiar faces for the first time in a long time.

It’s always fun when people come back, until you lose track of how many miniature reunions you’ve had. In a few days I’ll ask a student, not for the first time, about their summer. The week is over, the semester is here, but first …

Let’s do a little reading. This is from one of my grandfather’s magazines, the January 1954 edition of Popular Science. We’re looking at a few of the ads from the thing. We started this particular magazine last week and you can see the first five ads if you click that previous link. Click the image below and you can see the next six advertisements of worth and merriment.

If Popular Science doesn’t interest you, you can see the rest of the things I’ve digitized from my grandfather’s collection. There are textbooks, a school notebook and a few Reader’s Digests, so far. It’s a lot of fun.

At this rate we’ll be reading this Popular Science for several weeks, so there’s a lot of fun yet to come.

Just like your weekend, I hope. Big plans? Little plans? No plans?

We’ve got the same plans. Good, now-traditional, staying safely removed from people, bike riding, book reading plans.


13
Aug 21

Listen to some music, read some books

Just a week ago yesterday I mentioned Nanci Griffith here. She figured into one of my first blog posts. Back then I said “God Bless Nanci Griffith.” I’ve been listening to her for a long time, about a quarter of a century. This evening it was announced that she’d passed away.

God bless Nanci Griffith; he blessed us with her.

The Flyer, looking back, has a certain mid-century weariness that is overcome by the un-replaceable mid-century optimism she put into so much of her work. It was a wonderful entrance to her folkabilly style.

“These Days in an Open Book” sticks with you.

And there are parts of “Grafton Street” that can haunt you. Indeed, I can hear every important note perfectly well in my mind, even now.

She produced 19 records over the course of her career, which spanned most of my life until her health turned a few years ago. It’s an impressive body of work from a gifted storyteller. The nature of the entertainment industry, of course, is such that an artist’s work never leaves us, thankfully. What a gift it is to have all of this to return to.

I’m not ready to listen to them again just now — one day soon, I hope — but you should definitely try them out.

The planned event for the day was the return to the books section. We made it back there in just a shade under two years. That’s a perfectly average turnaround time, if you ask me. Perfectly average if you are Voyager 1 and you are in between Jupiter and Saturn.

This section of the site is a casual study of some of my grandfather’s books. I didn’t have the good fortune to meet him, but I know him from family stories and some of his things that I’ve inherited. Like a giant box of periodicals I rescued. So, today, we’re beginning a look at an issue of “Popular Science,” January 1954. Click the image to see the first five ads I’ve selected.

At this rate, it’ll take a while, and that’s the point. If Popular Science isn’t your speed, you can see the rest of the things I’ve digitized from my grandfather’s collection. There are textbooks, a school notebook and a few Reader’s Digests, so far. It’s a lot of fun.

And fun is what you’re supposed to have over a weekend. I hope that’s what you have in store for you. Come back and tell me about it on Monday, won’t you?


4
Aug 21

Blog birthday – the joy of expression and the possibility of “if”

On this day, 18 years ago, I started writing this blog. I was inspired by Salam Abdulmunem and Raywat Deonandan. Back then, Abdulmunem, writing under the pseudonym Salam Pax, was telling us about the war going on in his backyard, in Baghdad. Today he doesn’t seem to be blogging, but Abdulmunem is working for UNICEF. He’s also turned those early days of his writing into a book or two. Deonandan was and is an epidemiologist and professor at the University of Ottawa. He’s a talented writer.

It all stemmed from those two specifically, but also many of the other blogs I was reading, and the question of “What would it be like, if?” A few of those blogs, happily, are still active. But just a few. I stay up-to-date. Most moved on with their lives, of course. Some made an announcement, told of a better writing assignment or what have you. Others just … stopped. And I always wonder about those. And about this place. What happens, if?

Mostly, though, as it pertains to this blog, I wonder what I will write about each day. I wonder how I could do more here. How I can simultaneously use more regular features, but avoid them because they are repetitive. I wonder, how I could make it more interesting, find more intriguing things to talk about, fascinating places to visit and so on. I often wonder where I can find more time in the day in which to do it. There’s a lot that goes into the service of an active personal blog.* (We aren’t mentioning here things I’ve written for pleasure or professionally in other places and formats.)

On that first day, 18 years ago, I quoted a verse from Proverbs, one about humility. Nothing is more humbling than writing, I figured. Sometimes that is correct; often that’s wrong. But I did not have all of this wisdom then, see, that I have today.

I wrote two notes about Little Rock, one of them was a story I would have surely covered if I still worked there. (I was a year removed.) The other was about the terrific numbers my old station had in their latest ratings book. (They were the top station back then. They’re second today, according to the spring numbers.) I also had an observation about my family and the great Nanci Griffith, who I happened to be listening to that night. I listened to a lot of her music. Still do.

And that was 18 years ago, hosted on Blogspot, powered by Blogger. There were a few thousand posts there. I moved everything to this site in 2004 — my URL celebrates 17 years Friday. The blogging shifted to WordPress in April of 2010. Some 3,700-plus posts and counting since then. The site has welcomed 4.19 million users and the front page of the blog has had just over one million. When you count the many different pages it’s a bit more than that, but I don’t have a streamlined way to see that data.

And so we’ll start another year, right here. Let’s see what happens, if.

*I didn’t intend for this week to be grounded in random anniversaries, but themes have a way of writing themselves sometimes. Tomorrow, back to the normal stuff, I promise.