Jan 22

‘They’re coming! They’re coming!’

Two years ago, plague.

Last year, plague. And locusts.

This year, plague. And also …

The birds, the noisy noisy birds. The messy, messy birds.

You should see the sidewalks. But it’s better if you don’t have to. And if it rained. Or someone rolled a high pressure washer outside.

Anyway, pretty day out there. But quite cold. This is a tradeoff I’m willing to accept.

Oh, and hey look! My new desk chair showed up Saturday. I put it together Saturday. The cats helped. And, right now, they’re taking turns checking out my stuff.

I’m assuming that it will prove comfortable, once the animals let me sit in the chair that I … just bought … for myself.

Which must mean it is time for cat pictures. Here’s Phoebe at rest.

And here she is, taking a nap. Yesterday, you see, was a serious sleep day.

And here’s Poseidon, wondering what I’ve done with his new chair.

He sat in it right there most of the day. After, that is, I assembled the chair, let him sit in it downstairs, spun him around a bunch, then carried the chair, and cat, upstairs. As soon as he got down, hours later, I put it in the office, and shut the door. He is very confused.

This weekend he has also discovered the joys of the space heater.

This is going to become a thing. We’re creating monsters.

As I typed this, Phoebe returned to the same position for another nap. Clearly I should be doing this at my desk and not in a recliner.

Monsters are what we are creating.

I had a nice punchy little ride yesterday, this is a part of Watopia, Zwift’s fictionalized world.

Which explains how I’m underwater there. Some of their environments are simulacrums of the real world. You can ride in a few villages of France. There’s a former world championship site in Virginia. You can ride in Central Park. You can also ride through the futuristic sky bridges of New York.

Or you ride around and up, and through, a volcano. Here’s my avatar coming down from the top of the volcano.

Of course there’d be a full moon and lava spewing. I often wonder, when I’m on this course, what it would be like if you had a different lunar phase as part of the reward. And how difficult to ride through the overwhelming presence of sulfur.

Your avatar rides, literally, on a road that goes through a volcano.

Which is a good metaphor for some people’s Mondays. Not mine. But Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Friday mornings? More meetings then you’d normally find on a volcano, though. Sometimes there is a sulfur smell, though, but, thankfully, minimal ash.

At least the birds stay in the trees.

Dec 21

The seasonal wind down

It’s funny how things sink in. The how and the when and then, just, the act of sinking in. It’s great imagery, you take a photograph of a memory or a great big block of text sliding into the brain matter. Finally! That thing sunk in!

Or, for some, it could come another way. That polaroid or life video on a short, endless loop, or that great big block of text, could collide with a domicile. I imagine it’s flying in from the left, with squiggles denoting speed, slamming into the side of a cartoon house. Hey! That really hit home!

Anyway, it just now hit home that I’ve been writing in this space for 18-plus years. I had to scroll through all of those Decembers in my FTP program to get to *checks notes* 2021, so I could upload this graphic.

That’s my ride this evening, a quick 20 miles over a fictional place in Zwift. And with this ride 2021 moved into the second place in the last 11 years for miles pedaled. Last year has, and will likely hold with ease, the top spot. All of this is pretty remarkable because, these last few years, I seem to be riding slower. It takes longer to go farther.

It takes dedication to go farther when it takes longer, he said, thinking it meant something more than it did.

This is the last production of the fall semester for IUSTV. It’s Behind The Curtain, one of the many new shows the students rolled out this term. They show a student video or, as in this case, an actual film project, and then talk to the creators.

This term they garnered well more than 80,000 impressions and almost 13,000 views of 81 new episodes of original, scripted, entirely student-produced programming. This does not count the many podcasts or social media hits of all different sorts on at least four different platforms.

Oh, and this is something of a rebuilding year, so we’re just getting started.

How do you feel about documentaries about comedians? The producer of this project is an IU professor. I’ve watched a long trailer, which was good enough to make me want to watch the full thing. (Which I will get around to in the next week or so.) And if you like comedians, you might like this, too.

I’ve lined up an interview with the producer of this project for after the first of the year. She’s got a book chapter in a new book that’s considering comedians as public intellectuals. Should we go for thoughtful, then, or punchlines? And why can’t I do both, simultaneously?

I also have three other shows in the can that I simply need to edit. Good shows, but not about comedians. That’ll be part of a day after the first of the year.

But that’s after the holidays, which I am officially on starting … a few hours ago.

So you know what that means. Two weeks of fun!

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

Alright Monday, let’s do this!

All caught up? Or just getting behind? That’s always the question of Mondays. And Fridays. And probably most of the days in between. And at the holidays, well, if you ask that question you’re just asking for trouble, bub.

You know, over Instagram, I’ve been noting the skies … this weekend we had some rather delightful surprises. This was the view on Saturday evening.

And Sunday morning was simply brilliant.

Last night gave us some interesting colors, as well.

Today? Also bright and blue. And warmer than you might expect for December. All it took was a light jacket. Now, if it stays more or less like this through March I would not complain at all. I fear we will have less of the more, and more of the less.

Winter makes a boy a bit sardonic, I guess.

We didn’t check in on the cats last week because of the hustle and the bustle. We must fix that! Kitties, and my site traffic, demands it! So, here’s Poseidon, getting wacky with his taco toy.

And here is Phoebe, not judging him at all for it.

She’s totally judging him for it. We all do.

This is something like a three-episode arc now, I can appreciate the effort that went into that. If you want to know where it is going next, you’re just going to have to watch.

That’s the late night crew, which shoots in the late evening. And this is the morning show, which shoots … in the morning. (Sorry.)

Which means there’s should be just one more show to share for the semester. They do go so fast.

He said, about Mondays in December.

We put up two Christmas trees. Well, four if you count the exterior sentry trees. No ornaments anywhere, just lights, because of the cats. We thought about soft ornaments for a moment, until we looked around at all of their toys on the floor. That, we decided, would be confusing for everyone. So a lot of lights. And the shine nicely.

Except one of the trees had a strand with a problem and the top third of the tree was unlit. For a few days I thought we should say it’s a regional tradition. This evening, however, I decided to try to solve the mystery of modern electricity.

We didn’t check the lights before hanging them on the tree, you see, so the thing had to be unwound and on and on. Ultimately, I just decided to find some more lights, so I climbed into the attic and found a great big ball of lights, which commenced the great trials known to all who hang Christmas lights.

Some 25 minutes later the knot was undone, and in the meantime I’d brainstormed two new ways to store lights that wouldn’t avoid tangles, wondered how weird it’d really look in May if I left the trees up year-round, and also just thought about buying new lights every year.

Christmas lights, I figured, have to be near the height of American consumerism.

When I got the extra lights untangled I found that both ends refused to light, but the middle was delightful. I pulled five bulbs from the old set and got the whole thing to shine. We strung those lights, not with care, but in a haphazard fashion.

There’s not a bright resolution to this little story, but now I have this other long string of lights, some of which work. And I wonder if I should just pull all the bulbs out and save them for the future, or find out how many on that string need replacing.

I could always look on Pinterest for ideas about using half a string of lights.

Yep. There are posts about that. You might say they are … enlightening.

Dec 21

Some things to get you to the weekend

More Savannah stuff! The last of the Savannah stuff! It’d be bad form to try to make you jealous for more than a few days, I’ve decided. And since we got back on Tuesday, I’m sure I’ve worked through those days, and your patience! At the same time, I took a lot of pictures.

This is from Byrd’s Cookies.

And not far away, this is where people buy all of that shade they keep throwing on people.

And, if you need to upgrade your floors while you’re at it, then it’s one-stop shopping.

To me, Savannah will always be about the beautiful buildings — among other things. And, one of those things are the trees! Look at this beautiful nature-is-amazing moment!

And this one is in Chippewa Square.

If all of those old oaks could talk … they’d probably ask, “Where does this Spanish moss come from, anyway?”

(Wind and birds, mostly.)

Back here in the regular world, I spent almost the full day in the studio. First there was the morning show, which will be online next Monday. And then there was a big game design video program. All of the students that work on video games pitch their projects to industry professionals. It’s a four camera, two location, three Zoom shoot. (It just grows and grows, each year, this thing.)

For whatever reason, it has been decided to just put programs like this on Zoom, which means you’d need the link, which means you’d a.) need to know about it beforehand, and b.) have the ability to watch it live. So I can’t show you the live show we produced this afternoon, but it was a good one.

All of the students presenting did a nice job. Some of the games were simply incredible, even in their current form. One of them, it looked like the experts wanted to buy right there during the presentation. And you could see why. It was different, had a pleasing, soothing pace and was absolutely gorgeous.

I had two students playing the role of Ryan Seacrest and Carson Daly. We were doing entrance and exit standups as the design teams went into the studio. I didn’t get any photos of this because I was working, but take my word for it, they did a really fine job. Everyone was complimentary of their efforts, and we were all quite proud of how they kept the program moving along.

So that was about seven hours of my day, studio stuff. And here are some other studio things I haven’t yet shared here.

A sports show! This one is a little different, it has a different feel and a bit of spunk. I like where they are going with this.

We talked, on Wednesday, about the last show of two of our graduating seniors. Here is that show.

And one more sports show, another talker, where they are unpacking the Major League Baseball lockout. The short version seems to be: If it can be messed up, baseball will mess it up.