FEB. 26, 2007 COLETTE DAIUTE
Many of us seem destined for one career until we graduate from college and then head off in a completely different direction. I earned a degree in physics and then went into television production.
A snippet of her work, from a 2000 chapter on writing and communication technologies:
FEB. 25, 2007 TOLEDO BLADE
The unions at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (circulation dropping 16% per year) have just ratified new contracts that should keep the newspaper in business at least until 2010. The P-G is owned by Block Communications, which also owns the Toledo Blade.
I was curious. Where did that Ohio paper get its name? According to its website, "Toledo, Ohio, has a sister city in Toledo, Spain. So it made sense that the newspaper be named after a well-known product of that city the steel-bladed sword. . . . The Blade would 'always leap from its scabbard whenever the rights of individuals, or the community, shall be infringed.'"
But the poet tells us that reading that newspaper is not a requirement for being righteous.
FEB. 23, 2007 REMEMBER THIS?
Like the control tower at an airport, it was elevated so that an officer could look out windows on all four sides and see what was going on for several blocks on both Ottawa and Franklin. If necessary, he could scamper downstairs and hop into his patrol car, parked right there.
I recall that the police department's phone number (2422) was painted in black on that white wall. As a boy in the 1950s, I thought that it was uncomfortably close to our home phone number (2244), but we never seemed to get any emergency calls by mistake.
FEB. 22, 2007 WHAT THE CONSTITUTION SAYS
I take the Constitution of the United States literally. I'm stubborn that way.
The 13th Amendment states, Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States.
When the government compels me against my will to serve on a jury, is that not involuntary servitude?
When, in times past, the government drafted young people to serve in the military, was that not involuntary servitude?
I suppose there must be a loophole somewhere.
And then there's Article 8, which gives Congress the sole power to declare war. Congress has not exercised that power since 1941. Yet we have been involved in numerous conflicts since then, and our present President has declared that we are at war against terrorism.
Other Presidents have "declared war," but in a metaphorical sense, as in the War on Poverty and the War on Drugs. These "wars" were large-scale efforts to diminish particular evils. Everyone realized that they would never achieve total victory. We can't eradicate all drugs, and the poor will always be with us. We can only try to make the poor less poor and drugs less pervasive.
Properly understood, the War on Terror is in this category. As long as one disgruntled person knows how to make a bomb, terrorist tactics will be a possibility. We can only try to make terrorism less likely.
However, our present President has implied that the War on Terror is a real war, a conflict against an identifiable foe who can be forced to surrender. He admits that winning the War on Terror may take many years, but in the meantime he is a wartime president, authorized to restrict civil liberties in his role as Commander in Chief. His supporters have impugned the patriotism of anyone who would question the President's actions in time of war. They imply that this Presidential immunity from criticism ought to continue for the duration. But the duration of this "war" could be centuries.
FEB. 19, 2007 DREAMING OF STUDIOS
At idle times, my mind sometimes shelves the problems of the day and instead proposes solutions to old problems. The old matters no longer matter, but they still haunt me in dreams.
One day about 30 years ago, we were taping the weekly About Washington in our cable TV studio. For the second half of the half hour, Jerry Polen was interviewing a woman who had brought her young child to sit on her lap. The boy was restless, and as the interview progressed, she struggled to keep him in place. Finally the kid slipped off her lap and toddled off to explore the studio. He saw a microphone cord attached to his mother. He followed the cord to the wall and unplugged it. That was it. I had to come out of the control room, stop the taping, and plug the mic back in. (I think I frightened the child, and he spent the rest of the session on his mother's lap, sucking his thumb.) I told Jerry we'd have to start over again from the previous commercial break, so he'd have to redo the interview from the beginning. "Can't we pick it up in the middle and make an edit?" he asked. I had to tell him no, that our videotape equipment wasn't capable of making edits with any kind of precision.
Last night, as I once again rehashed this incident in my dreams, I realized that it could be handled differently nowadays. In my dreams, I still have to type up the program logs, and we're still taping About Washington every week, in the traditional black and white, but now we have up-to-date recorders digital, probably with edit capabilities.
And then I dreamed of other improvements. How about adding a studio audience? The cable studio isn't big enough, so maybe we'll go on location to a small auditorium at the local college. Our multi-camera switching gear, problematic in 1977, can no longer leave the studio. But now that we can edit, we can simply record each camera separately and then cut the shots together afterwards. (I've seen some musical performances on YouTube that obviously were recorded by a stationary camcorder on a wide shot, with closeups from a handheld camera inserted into the proper places later.) Maybe when About Washington goes on location, we can supplement our usual two cameras (one on Jerry and one on his guest) with a stationary "master shot" of the entire stage. That's assuming that we can find three cameras and three recorders. Let's see, we'll want to pick a fixed time and day of the week for the taping so the audience would know when to show up . . . .
Several years ago I dreamed that my job was to direct another program from this same studio. I must have been thinking of 1970, when my boss recruited regionally famous Sally Flowers to host a morning show and assigned me to direct.
In this dream, the boss had worked a deal with David Letterman to stop by and tape a weekly hour, because our studio was on his way home. (Each weekend, Letterman apparently went back home again to Indiana!) Paul Shaffer came, too. Not the whole band, of course; just Paul and a keyboard. We didn't exactly know what Dave was going to do in our little studio, but my boss was sure that he'd figure something out. Dave, however, was irritable and did not seem happy to be there.
FEB. 17, 2007 SPORTS SHOW
These days, you wouldn't expect it to be a problem: producing a 20-minute weekly radio show about college athletics. But when the college in question was not known for its sports teams, and the producer in question was an inexperienced incoming sophomore, the assignment required some thought. Now you can read how I went about Developing a Sports Show in 1966. A couple of early scripts are included.
Also, I've added other documents to existing articles about that college radio station, WOBC. Click here for the opening of my first football game, here for the block diagram for a political convention, and here for the notes I took for an unusual basketball broadcast.
FEB. 15, 2007 TRILOBITES
Have you noticed that many scripted television programs tell approximately three stories at once, yet separately? The scenes are interwoven: a little bit of this story, then a bit of that one, then a bit of the third.
This technique is most common in dramas and comedies with a large "ensemble" cast. It is generally not used when the program revolves about a single character, because he is usually involved with only one story at a time. But it's always used in soap operas.
To analyze one example chosen at random, I put the clock on the February 21, 2006, episode of Boston Legal.
The main narrative (A) is a trial in an assisted suicide case. That story does not have any scenes in common with two additional stories about the personal lives of two other attorneys in the firm: Paul reconnects with his estranged daughter (B), and Shirley becomes "best man" for her ex-husband's wedding (C). The two secondary stories have a few crossover scenes, shaded below, in which we discuss one attorney's problem for a while and then the other's.
In other news, according to Reuters, the International Atomic Energy Agency today introduced a new radiation warning symbol, "designed after a five-year study involving 1,650 people of varying ages and backgrounds in 11 countries to 'ensure that its message of "danger, stay away" was crystal clear and understood by all.'"
Or maybe this collection of pictographs is a reminder that the Great Pumpkin watches over us, sending his breath down to warm not only our dead ancestors but also those of us who are alive and chasing arrows.
FEB. 13, 2007 CHECKLIST
wallet from pocket.
FEB. 4, 2007 OLD, OLD SONGS
Maybe Mel Brooks and I once had the same book on the music racks of our respective pianos. Definitely we both met an actress named McClurg. See my new little article Smilin' Through.
JAN. 28, 2007 LOOK OUT FOR THE HORSE!
It's not April Fool's Day, so I guess I have to believe this news story.
On Friday, a former Japanese rally driver announced the development of a new electric car. The retail price is quoted at 2.2 million dollars. Surely that's a mistake and they mean 2.2 million yen, or $18,000.
The Girasole is tiny. Barely capable of reaching 40 miles an hour, it can carry the driver and one passenger up to 75 miles on a dollar's worth of electricity. And it's so quiet that it "comes equipped with the clip-clop sound of horse hooves hitting the pavement to alert pedestrians and other drivers."
A glorified golf cart that plays sound effects? Yoshio Takaoka has to be kidding, right?
On the other hand, I suggested the same thing less than two years ago.
JAN. 22, 2007 MY COLLEGE ROOMMATE
Dave Wilkinson, where are you? If you can read this, call Roger Hoyer.
A couple of months ago, Roger ran across a reference on this website to Dave, who was my roommate at Oberlin College in 1965-66. The Wilkinsons and the Hoyers had been old family friends in California. Roger e-mailed me to ask whether I have a current address for Dave. Unfortunately, I don't.
However, I did run across a letter that I wrote to Dave when we were both on The Edge of the Nest preparing to leave for college.
JAN. 16, 2007 TV NEEDS MORE DISTRACTIONS?
On its high-definition channel, PBS is still occasionally running (at odd hours) a 1998 explanation of digital television by Robert Cringely. He promotes the wonders of this new technical advance while talking with various folks, including two PBS personalities who are no longer with us, Fred Rogers and Julia Child.
One digital advantage is the much-touted concept of interactive TV. Using your remote control, you could click on icons on your screen to bring up other, more detailed information, such as the chef's recipe or the manufacturer's specifications.
Advertisers have shown mild interest in the idea. It might entice viewers to click away from the show they're watching and instead see an ad for their product. Techno-geeks rhapsodize over other applications like the possibility of choosing alternate camera angles.
But on Cringely's program, documentarian Ken Burns raises some objections. Television professionals work hard to select the best images and arrange them to tell a story. Are we now going to encourage the viewer to click away from this story to look at other images or to wander aimlessly through a database?
Fortunately, nine years later, interactive television still hasn't caught on in America. We watch a TV program straight through, as its creators intended. (Well, maybe we use TiVo to pause it or rewind it, but we're still watching just the program.) Then after it's over, if we want more details we can use our computer to find them on the Internet.
JAN. 8, 2007 THE DYING OF THE LIGHT
It's a winter afternoon.
Low in the southwestern sky, a pale sun casts long shadows across the gray landscape. The day is almost over.
JAN. 4, 2007 BANCSHARES UP 544%
When our family moved to Richwood, Ohio, in the 1950s, my father began doing business with Kenneth Kyle at the Richwood Banking Company. Kenny and his wife Freda had kids about my age, Dan and Nancy.
After his retirement, my father was living next door to Dan, who was by then running the bank. In the fall of 1989, Dan suggested that I might want to invest in the bank's privately-held stock. The annual dividends were rather small, but the stock had been steadily growing in value. So, with my father acting as the go-between, I bought some shares at $16.86, which I've held ever since. (Dan died unxpectedly not long after that, in December 1993, and his sister Nancy Hoffman succeeded him as bank president.)
We noticed that shares were being advertised in the local newspaper, and we were curious as to how the prices were determined. So, my father wrote me in October 1994,
Today my annual dividend check arrived, along with Nancy's letter to the stockholders. The value at the end of November 2006 was $73.54, and the board has voted to increase it by $35.00 at year-end in anticipation of a change in the valuation method. So my stock has grown by 544% in the 206 months that I've owned it, or 31.7% per year. Needless to say, that was a good recommendation from Dan.
Nancy also writes that on December 18, Chad Hoffman, who has worked for the bank since January 1994, was elected to succeed her as president. I'm happy to hear that the Richwood Banking Company is still going strong and still growing under the direction of the same family that has been there all these years.
JAN. 1, 2007 A NEW LOOK
Happy New Year, and welcome to this website's updated format!
As I mentioned last month, I've been building the site since October 2000. After more than six years, it contains nearly 600 pages, and it may be getting close to completion.
Each month I've been featuring two or three new articles, many of them drawn from my personal and family archives. By now, I've used most of those materials, and it's time to shift gears.
This home page will no longer be a table of new contents updated monthly. Instead, several times a month, I'll write brief notes. They may comment on current events, recall a past incident, or direct you to a new picture that I've added to an existing article on the website.
And there are still some full-length articles in the works. As a matter of fact, I have one to announce today, about The Arctangential Error Meter that I imagined for a rally computer. There's more math in it than usual, but fenceposts also play a part.