Jan 22

We return to television

This was the view the first thing this morning, as I walked into the building thinking of the to do list of seven big items that needed attention today. These were the seven things that needed to be done, around all of the small things that sneak into your day and chip away at your time and attention. Somehow, those seven things became a list of 10 things.

I managed to get eight of those things done over the course of the day, and pronounced that a win as I headed into the studio this evening.

That’s a sports show, because it’s Wednesday. All of their shows will be uploaded later this week. I’ll be sure to share them here.

Meanwhile, here’s a show the news division shot last night. They got everything in they’d planned, and they ended on time. Now we’ll start adding extra things back in.

I’ve learned a few things working with student media over the last 14 years. One of them is this. Resets are fun — they haven’t been in the studio since December, and they’ve changed directors, too — but building on momentum is an encouraging sign of the program’s health. I’m proud of them for that.

Patron saint of IU journalism, Ernie Pyle, would be proud of them too. He told me tonight that I can’t complain about the long hours — a 10-hour day, today, after yesterday’s 11-hour day — because he’s on deadline and, as you can see, Ernie is still banging keys on his Corona.

He’ll be there when I go in gray and early tomorrow, too. Because he’s a statue.

The daily duds: Pictures of clothes I put here to, hopefully, help avoid embarrassing scheme repeats.

It is difficult to make this suit work.

But I occasionally do enjoy trying.

I’ve lately realized this is a silly feature, and it’s going away, but not today. I’m going to end on a strong one.

Dec 21

1,400 words for a Tuesday

The Yankee’s car is in the shop. It’s a radiator issue. Easily fixed, after a time. Which means she has my car. Meaning I have no car. Her car needs repairs and I need a ride. Weird how that works.

So she’s taking me back and forth to work, which is what I do, while she goes to physical therapy or athletic massage or to a dive meet or to buy a present or get the groceries. I’m not sure how I can get any present shopping done this way. But at least I didn’t have to get the groceries.

Tomorrow, on the way into the office, I’ll go to the grocery store for the third time this week anyway, just to stare at the empty shelves. It’s a hobby, I guess.

I was going to take part in some binge watching of television this evening, just to clean some things off the DVR. There’s a little meter on the side of the screen that shows the percentage of the DVR’s space still available, and I pay far too much attention to things like that. We were down to 28 percent, which is pretty low since the memory is large enough to store all of the images we’ve ever captured of space and every movie that’s ever been set in space and every television show that’s used the word “space” in any context.

But I was able to delete some accidental recordings instead. A few buttons on the remote control and 36 hours of content no one wanted disappeared, never to be seen again, or for the first time. Thirty-six hours. After that, the DVR’s little meter told me 46 percent of its memory was now available. That oughta hold through the holidays!

Speaking of things to watch, I just discovered some early 1990s television programs are on NBC’s streaming app, Peacock. It’s made for good doing-other-stuff listening, because a lot of the early episodes are of the “Why did I watch this again?” genre.

It’s Highlander. I’m talking about Highlander. The universe that’s so poorly conceived that there are two different universes. The universe so poorly conceived that in the third movie (of the first universe) they retconned the second movie and called it a dream. And the bad guy in that third movie, to bring a little gravitas to the franchise, was Mario Van Peebles. And, for the fourth movie, they started making movies in the second universe, where the first universe intervened, sort of. Which brings us to the fifth movie. It was supposed to be the first installment in a trilogy, but the movie was so bad they released it not in theaters, but on the SciFi channel.

On iMDB, which frequently has a very forgiving scoring system, that last movie earned 3.1 out of 10.

The movies are a mess, is what I’m saying. They always will be. The series, though, was better. Well, it gets better. Skimming through a few of the first season’s episodes … woof.

What’s better? Dopesick.

Recently finished this show, which I tried after a few random suggestions. Michael Keaton stars as a country doctor in the middle of the OxyContin epidemic. You know where this is going, even if you only vaguely know and you’re guessing. And then this show, based on Beth Macy’s best-selling book of the same name, comes along. It’s an eight-part series, filled with great character actors and a slow, tense build.

It’s something of a composite of recent history, and so you have the gift of hindsight. You know what’s happening, so you find yourself saying “Use your brain!” But scruples and good sense are sometimes thwarted by trust. And you want to have a word with the intransigent people at Purdue Pharma. But sometimes deserve doesn’t have anything to do with it.

That’s what the show is ultimately about, trust, searching for a way out of a hopeless situation and, now, how the people at the top of the food chain at Purdue Pharma are squirming out of this in perhaps the most frustrating way possible. It isn’t a happy show, but it is an important one. And while the show ends just before all of these please and settlements and immunities, if you watch this those recent stories will play a bit differently.

Also today, I updated some of the images on the blog. There are now 113 new images for the top and bottom of the page. Click refresh a bunch and you’ll see them all. Buried on the back of the site is a page with all of those banners, now loading 226 images. Each has a little cutline, just so I can keep all of the memories and locations straight. So I had to update that page. Then I went through that whole page updating changes to the style. Because, every so often, the Associated Press makes updates and, yes, I have to make corrections on a page no one will ever see.

Ed Williams would be proud.

Williams was our Journalism 101 professor. He called the class Newspaper Style and that class was the weed out course in our curriculum. Four exams. Score below an 86 on any of them and you failed the class. A lot of people failed the class. He drilled us for an entire quarter on the “AP Stylebook” and Strunk and White’s “Elements of Style” …

… which, as you can tell, is still an influential text. I paid $5.95 for that book. It was the least expensive, and most important, textbook in the entirety of my college career.

People that survived Williams’s class could still complete this Strunk and White quote: Vigorous writing is concise.

He was also the adviser of the campus newspaper. We were all required to spend a semester there as a part of the formal curriculum. That one credit hour requirement worked it’s magic, as it was intended, and I stayed at the paper for a few years. We won two Pacemakers — essentially the collegiate Pulitzer — while I was there. And somewhere along the way Williams told us his first name, King. He disliked that and we were sworn to secrecy, or to never use it, or both, under pain of newsprint paper cuts.

I had his class almost halfway through his 30-year teaching career, and I saw him in the newsroom thereafter, of course. He always wore a tight, closed-up smile, and an air of knowing things we weren’t allowed to understand yet. Eight years or so into my career I started thinking a lot about all of that, and my student media experience and the impact all of it had on my own career. It’d be gratifying to be a small part of doing that for others one day, I thought. Soon after I had the opportunity to do that same sort of work, and now I’ve been doing that for going on 14 years.

The last time I saw him he still had that same expression. It was heartening. I was a decade or so into my career and there was still much to learn. There always is.

And a quarter of a century (good grief) or so after his class, I’m still thinking about Associated Press style.

Thanks for that, Ed.

When I was advising a campus newspaper I told students that, at the very very least, we were going to change the way they read everything, but it was likely they were going to get much more out of it. And today, at the TV station, I say the same thing. We’re going to reshape the way you consume video as you learn how to produce works of your own. We’re making critical observers. That’s the lesson and the gift.

Ed retired a few years back, and established a scholarship to honor his former students. It fits him.

Which is what I was thinking about while updating the style on a page that even the search engine spiders don’t crawl. Which is what I was doing while waiting for my lovely bride to pick me up. In my own car. While her’s is in the shop.

Maybe we’ll get it back tomorrow.

We better. I’ll soon run out of basic things to clean or update on the website while I wait to be taken from the house to the office and back, over and over.

Dec 21

Travel day

This is a citrine geode, from Brazil. It formed in a volcanic lava cavity about 100 million years ago. It took years to recover and prepare for display. It’s one of the largest known citrine geodes. It’s just sitting there in a hotel in Savannah.

It’s one of those pleasant mixtures of old and new, which some places with a good sense of history can highlight. There’s new walls and clean, modern, steel and cement, and also exposed and distressed bricks that have seen a century or more of history around them. And maybe much more. This hotel sits along the river, and a lot of the stones found around this area were used as ballast on ships. When they weren’t needed, they got pulled from the boats and put back to work in the buildings and roads and so on. This Marriott, for example, is the old power plant, which dates back to 1912.

You look around and you can imagine the years of work and sweat and all of things, both terrible and wonderful, that passed by these walls. You walk through the floors where the Marriott’s guest rooms are and you’ll pass by the old smoke stacks. It’s a neat, new, old place. More towns need places like this.

Anyway, nearby is this amethyst geode, the deep purple offset by these large calcite crystals. The whole of the hotel lobby is like this.

Amethyst is a purple variety of quartz. The Greeks wore it. And they made drinking cups out of the stuff, thinking that amethyst somehow kept them sober. The ancient Greeks, it seems, were big Facebook users.

There’s not a sense of scale here, but a small adult could comfortably climb into this one, and that’s not fake news.

This citrine geode stalagmite is almost as tall, as I am. Citrine is also a quartz. The color is brought about by subatomic impurities, but — I just learned — natural citrine is rare, and most are heat-treated amethysts or other smoky quartz. I read how you can tell, the difference, but not until after we left. (Oh well! Have to go back!) Brazil is the leading producer of citrine. There’s a long-standing superstition, across several cultures, it seems, that it will bring prosperity. And, again, almost my height.

Look at this giant amethyst throne!

I never knew I needed a stegosaurus fossil display until I saw this one. Spiky tails, mysterious back plates, what’s not to love?

You can get toys and models and even cookie cutters, but you can’t buy a complete stegosaurus fossil on e-bay. Maybe I should set up an email alert.

You can buy trilobite fossils. But none as big as this.

Researchers at the American Museum of Natural History would tell you the trilobite could grow as large as 28 inches, so about as twice as large as these monsters.

This hotel has so many fossils on display this specimen of nautiluses is almost hidden. Not for me. I know you have to work for the best views. I’m willing to pace around aimlessly and hold up others, to see the best things.

Or … just go right outside the front door, where this almost 7-foot tall quartz is on display. The display placard says it weighs almost 10,000 pounds.

Oh, and when it was discovered it was even larger.

There should be a placard about that experience.

Just outside again, and you’re on River Street. All of this is in the newly revitalized portion of the street. Last year was big for this tourist area. We took a moment to appreciate the bridge we ran over on Saturday. This is a limited panorama of the Savannah River. Click to embiggen.

And here we are trying to figure out what is on the lens of The Yankee’s camera.

We traded selfies with a nice young couple. I took a few on their phone. They took a few on ours. I don’t know what they’ll do with theirs, but if the guy is smart he’ll make some cool keepsake of it. Me? I’m turning this one into an ornament.

I make ornaments every year. We can fill an entire tree by now. And we can’t display them because a cat will break them, he typed with an almost inadvertent sigh.

We went into one of the speciality shops for a present or two, and another for a treat. And in one of those stores I got photos with which I’ll update the front of the website later this week. Here’s a tease.

And here’s something tasty, just because it was there. By the time you’ve read this, it will all be eaten. (By someone not named me.)

All of the above was on Monday. We traveled back to Indiana today. Woke up way too early, said auf Wiedersehen our friends, and caught an Uber to go to the airport. This happened well before daylight for two reasons. First, for some reason the airports are now suggesting you arrive two hours early. Second, people vastly overestimate the amount of time it takes to travel through unfamiliar airports.

Because I have been in it twice now I can safely say this: Savannah’s airport is small. And because we were driving out in the dark, we met no traffic. Arrived at the baggage desk with no one in front of us. Spent more time weaving through an excessive amount of queue barriers than actually passing through security.

We needed to be there half an hour early, not two hours early.

We were there much closer to two hours early.

Uneventful flight to Atlanta. Said goodbye to the last of our friends there, and then had to head farther north. Landed in Indianapolis, where it was 18 degrees. Everything here was uneventful. Luggage. Shuttle to the car. Drive back to Btown, lunch, and then I spent the better part of the afternoon in the recliner.

And then I went to campus. (Hence the cool banner there.) Yes, this is my day off, I went to work. And I was there until about 8 p.m.

That’s … dedication? We’re going with that. Dedication.

Also, I knew there would be a musical performance. This is Ladies First, IU’s all-female a capella group.

More from them in this space tomorrow.

And this is Caroline Klare. She just wrapped up her last weather hit for IUSTV and now she is getting set for graduation. She’s been doing weather for IUSTV since her freshman year. October 2018, I think it was.

Whatever the date of her first forecast, she’s easily used that green screen behind us more than anyone else. And she already has a (non-broadcast) meteorology job lined up. They’ve been waiting on her for about a year, it turns out. And that makes perfect sense. She’s a thoughtful and kind person. She knows her stuff. And she’s incredibly smart, with a wisdom, I’ve always thought, beyond her years. We’re going to miss her around here.

So I went to work on my off day to watch the news. It was the last news production of the term. That’s worth going in for. Also, I tried to make a dent on catching up on email. Maybe it’ll mean tomorrow won’t be so daunting.

But we’ll still be on vacation here, tomorrow! Plenty more stuff to work our way through for the sake of the website. Come on back to check out what should be a pleasant diversion for a Wednesday.

Dec 21

A gray day

Welcome to December, and the encroaching color of the season! It is … dunh da dunh dunh da daaaaaaa!

It was just everywhere today. Couldn’t be helped. Whoever was painting today only had one color in their palette. Whoever was lighting the day only had reflecting screens. Whoever wrote this day spent four or five solid hours debating between “gray” and “grey.”

Today, it was gray. As we move on, we’ll go to the more conventional spelling.

It doesn’t look grey yet. But it will.

But don’t let that weather fool you. It was a lovely day, otherwise. Spirits were high! Good times were in the air! We had a lovely night in the studio and a full day around the building before that. And when I went home, sometime after 8 p.m., I got to head into a long, long weekend. The skies were low, morale is actually very high!

You just couldn’t see it because of my mask.

The daily duds: Pictures of clothes I put here to, hopefully, help avoid embarrassing scheme repeats. And isn’t this an interesting coincidence …


Sep 21

Let us talk about sports shows

Let us talk about sports shows. Here are two of them. First, this is your standard issue updates-from-the-desk, reports-from-the-field highlight show, Hoosier Sports Nite.

And this is The Toss Up, your standard issue sports talk show. Four people sitting and talking at great depth, and with some degree of fandom, about the upcoming Major League Baseball playoffs.

Now, The Toss Up dates to 2016, when I got here. It has, more or less, always been shot as a show in-sequence. They do little pitches to another person for a sidebar, or a package, and they will sometimes shoot those out of order, but, generally it just makes sense to shoot it in that straightforward way. It has always felt natural and done in realtime, over the course of the four regular hosts it has had in those six years.

The first show above, Hoosier Sports Nite, is 11 years (or so) old. It has always, at least in my experience, had elements produced out of sequence. This means that if the anchor “pitches” to a reporter in another part of the studio, it’s an editing trick. The reporter part was done earlier, or later, and they just put it together in post-production. There’s nothing wrong with this. It happens in the industry all the time on programs that aren’t live. (Sometimes, for example, the person doing the pitching is live and the person catching the pitch is on tape.) There are different ways and reasons for doing that. They’re all legitimate. From our perspective, it usually has a lot to do with practical reasons like time, or our experience and so on. (We’re all still learning in this shop, of course.)

So imagine my pride when, last night, they produced Toss Up as they normally do — timing segments and getting in and out in a logical way and leaving me only two or three constructive criticism points to make — and then they did Hoosier Sports Nite straight through, a show produced truly live-to-tape. They did two bits over to correct small errors, also not unusual, but it’s all there as one live show.

I stopped by their post-production meeting to tell them so. To thank them and congratulate them for their work. It’s no small thing, doing a live show, and they’ve been building to this for a while.

When they rolled out the first episode of The Toss Up, the talk show, this semester, I noticed they’d changed the last of the original bits of the show. I remember all the components well, as it was the first show* I helped IUSTV bring to life. Every year something would change on this particular show. The logo improved. They added lower thirds or sharper segments. The last thing to go was the music. And that got updated this year. The guy that really brought this show to life, Jacques, he’d be pleased with the program today. He specifically wanted to start this show and give it to the people that came after him and let them run with it. And they have! The music was really his thing. He’d probably like that his music stuck around the longest from the original show. But now, aside from the name of the show and one line at the very end, they’ve organically grown the premise of his project, just as he’d hoped.

When I was watching them shoot Sports Nite last night, and talking about it and congratulating them after that, I was thinking of the through line of that show. Jacques was the first sports director I knew here. He graduated and then came Ben. Ben produced and improved those shows, graduated, and is now a producer at ESPN. When he moved to Bristol there came Auston. He produced and improved those shows, graduated, and went into the local sports writing business. The next year Michael was the sports director. He ran the shows, had his senior year in the studio cut short by Covid closing campus, but they grew a ton nevertheless, and he’s now doing sports at his hometown TV station in Iowa. So Drew and Jackson moved into the sports director roles after Michael. Drew graduated and is doing news in Fort Wayne now. Another Michael came along to help Jackson out and he just graduated and is on the market. Jackson will soon be graduating. Each of those guys have always told me what they liked about what the previous sports director did, and what they wanted to do differently. And as I stood there, beaming with a little pride, I could see all of that distinctly running through the night’s work. Those sports directors, and all the women and men working on those shows, were a part of making that particular episode a special little effort.

The thing is, all of this hard work is foundational. And, sometimes, you necessarily have to wait to see the development. It just keep building, though. From here it’ll grow through a room full of talented young folks learning from today’s upperclassmen, because those sports directors I mentioned have always aspired to raise the bar. It’s all cumulative. If all those now-graduated people had a mysterious little chill, or felt the hairs stand up on the necks, last night, I suspect they’ll get a more profound sensation when we have our next big moment. The thing is, it won’t be long now.

*Since I’ve been their adviser — and helper and cheerleader and all the other things — we have created seven new shows from the very air. Five of them are still running.