years ago, my parents and I took up residence in a Charm
Home that was only six years older than I. The location
was atop a hill on a brick-paved road on the outskirts of Cambridge, Ohio.
month's 100 Moons article features vintage photos.
26, 2014 CLUTTER
I was a boy, a television program was brought to me by a single
sponsor. For example, Dinah Shores variety show was
sponsored exclusively by Chevrolet, and the closing credits ran over
Chevys theme song.
I was a young man, advertisers realized that not everyone watched
Dinah, so it was better to spread their message around to different
audiences by buying spots in several different
programs. But there were rules.
For example, no more than one competing car company could buy time
in a given show.
when I was a young man, CBS decided viewers deserved to be updated
about news that broke between Walter Cronkite at 7 pm and their local
newscast at 11. The network introduced, right in the middle of
prime time, a 30-second headlines update. It was anchored by
Connie Chung, as I recall. Almost immediately, however, the
local stations claimed this time. At first, like CBS, they used
it to inform us about stories that would be covered in more detail at
11. But then they stopped giving us any facts at all. The
newsbriefs became merely teases promos to whet our
curiosity so we would tune in at 11 to find out what was happening.
that I'm an old man, the automotive sector is very competitive, and
every car company wants to buy advertising. On a show last
night, when the two-minute window for local commercials came along, I
first saw the stations weatherman. Theres a
big storm coming. Will you have to change your Thanksgiving
travel plans? Join us at 11 to find out. And then
an announcer said, This news update is brought to you by
Chrysler, imported from Detroit.
enough. That was immediately followed by a car commercial,
which I assumed would be for Chrysler. But no, when they
finally got around to identifying the product it turned out to be
Infiniti. Then there was a commercial for Chevrolet. And
then there was a commercial for Nissan.
competing advertisers, back to back! How is a viewer supposed
to know which car to buy?
25, 2009 EXTRA
report: California growers are developing large-scale olive
tree farms to undercut Europes domination of the oil market.
story mentioned extra-virgin olive oil, a term that's
always puzzled me. I tried to reason it out. If virgin
olive oil has never gone all the way, has extra-virgin
oil never even gone to second base? What would any
of that mean, anyway?
what would non-virgin oil be? In what way has it been
sullied, its virtue defamed? Perhaps it's used cooking
oil. The little bits of food have been skimmed off and filtered
out, and the oil has been recycled.
I finally decided to look it up. No, non-virgin oil has not
been defiled by prior experience in the kitchen. However, I was
partly right: it has, in fact, been filtered and refined to
artificially reduce extraneous flavors and acidity. But virgin
oil is all-natural, straight from the fruit. Extra-virgin
applies to virgin oil that naturally happens to have less acidity and
a better taste. And none of it has even reached first base.
FOCUS ON THE FIELD!
University of Pittsburgh football team was shut out at Virginia Tech
yesterday, as I watched on ESPN2. Fortunately I had turned down
the sound to listen to the Pitt radio broadcasters, or I might have
almost missed the game.
TV producer and director seemed to want to show as little of the
action as possible. They preferred to cut away: to
rain-soaked fans, to graphics about national standings, but mostly to
coaches staring out at the field and occasionally pointing and shouting.
director ought to cut back to the game camera at least a
few seconds before the ball is snapped, so we can take note of the
offensive and defensive formations.
on several occasions, we didn't return to the action until half a
second after the snap. It was hard to tell who had the ball!
assume the announcers wanted to talk about the coaches instead of
the players, so that's whom the director showed us. We saw
assistants sitting in the pressbox looking down at their notes and
even, for one long stretch, a former coach who was interviewed on
camera in the booth while the game proceeded unseen or on a
writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette noted, On Pitt's
opening drive of the third quarter, it drove down to Virginia Tech's
29-yard line. There, on a second-and-2, [Kenny] Pickett found
V'Lique Carter for a 21-yard gain inside the Hokies' 10 ... but it
was negated on a holding call. The penalty was credited to
center Jimmy Morrissey, who didn't appear to be involved in the
play. There was no replay or explanation from the ESPN crew,
though. The announcers instead discussed fishing and the
College Football Playoff committee with former Virginia Tech head
coach Frank Beamer for 40 seconds in the booth.
always thought we telecasters pay too much attention to the
grownups, hoping for an emotional reaction, instead of showing the
student-athletes out there on the field. As Teddy Roosevelt
reminded us, It is not the critic who counts; not the man who
points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds
could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who
is actually in the arena.
22, 2019 INTERCESSION
it's my Fictional Uninformed Interlocutor!
haven't seen you lately, Fui. Why so sad?
father had surgery last week.
I'm sorry to hear that.
is taking care of him. I'm praying for him; it's the least I
praying that God will heal him?
called intercessory prayer.
know. My family goes to church, at least twice a year.
God should already be aware of your Dad's condition.
course He is. God knows everything.
why do you need to tell God what He already knows?
Well, I'm reminding Him.
I'm asking Him to do my family a special favor.
I thought you believed God has already laid out a Plan for your life?
course he has.
for your father's life?
you dare to think you can prevail upon God to change His
Jesus prayed, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Father, not my
will, but thine, be done.
good Christians. Prayer can work
Fui! Prayer doesn't do what you think it does.
Scientists have tested it and found it ineffectual.
family believes in prayer, but we do not
believe in science.
many experiments have been conducted, and they've produced no
reliable evidence that prayer can cure disease at all!
faith is in the Bible.
you read anything else? Of course not, you're Uninformed.
Here, I looked up some facts from the scientific literature.
study of 799 coronary surgery patients at the Mayo Clinic in
2001 concluded that intercessory prayer had no significant
effect on medical outcomes.
years later, a meta
analysis of 14 controlled studies concluded that There
is no scientifically discernable effect for intercessory
prayer. Those investigators recommended that
further resources not be allocated to this line of research.
confuse me with evidence. My mind is made up. Prayer
works! Besides, our pastor told us that Korean women are twice
as likely to conceive after they've been prayed for.
particular study was by Columbia University researchers, but it
turned out to be flawed.
It was retracted.
are you trying to tell me that praying for Dad won't do any good?
actually that's not at all what I'm saying. It will do
some good, three ways.
see, prayer involves putting your hopes and fears into words.
your father how you feel, and it will reassure him.
yourself how you feel, and it will ease your worry.
your mother how you feel, and it will sustain her.
the Man Upstairs? Don't bother. Won't
CAN YOU STILL HEAR ME?
phones have a speaker near the top and a microphone on the bottom,
so they can be held like a traditional telephone receiver. But
what's the deal with the guy on the right?
Fruhlinger tweets, I see people out in public who are sort of
talking into the bottom of their phones but holding the top away from
themselves, and the volume of the person on the other end is playing
full blast, and I always wonder: why? Who does this?
retweets a description of an overheard Presidential phone call.
Holmes says he heard Trump ask Sondland, So, he's gonna
do the investigation? Sondland wasn't on speakerphone,
but held the phone out because it was so loud. So maybe
you move the phone away from you lest its excessive volume blow out
possible explanation: If you want to see the screen, it can't
be plastered up against your cheek. You have to reposition it
in front of your eyes.
the keypads of some old-timey phones presented a similar difficulty.
LOW-TECH SOLUTION FAILS
teams can regulate the temperature of their engines by controlling
how much air comes in through the grille.
yesterday's championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the track
cooled off after sundown.
Hamlin's team reduced the airflow by sticking small pieces of tape
over the grille.
that wasn't enough, so they slapped on a big ol' foot-long chunk.
predictable result: a geyser of steam. Hamlin's
emergency pit stop dropped him from third to 19th.
question: why is tape the preferred airflow-modulating
method? Couldn't there be adjustable louvers controlled by the driver?
Jefferson admired yeomen, the small landowners who worked
individual farms to feed their families. He considered them
ideal American citizens.
When I was
a college student, I broadcast the feats of a different sort of
Yeomen. Oberlin's athletes were known as ye O men.
costumed student has begun appearing at games to inspire the Yeomen
and Yeowomen. Does this new mascot strike fear into the hearts
of Oberlin's opponents? Does it depict a Jeffersonian farmer
with a spade? No, that would be silly.
Obies have chosen a rodent with a striking genetic abnormality.
I tell the
story in a new article, Respect
the Crimson Eye.
AN OUT-OF-SEASON BLIZZARD
watching Steelers-Browns last night, I put Pittsburgh's local CBS
and NBC affiliates on my auxiliary TVs. Both stations devoted
the entire last half of their 11:00 PM newscasts to winter
weather! Archived scenes of sliding cars and snowplows;
interviews about school-closing and runway-clearing procedures;
predictions of monthly snow totals; freezing rain vs
sleet. Possible reasons for this highly unusual programming?
Newscasts normally end with sports coverage, but the Steelers game
couldn't be recapped before its conclusion at 11:40.
We had a little snow earlier in the week, leading to the usual
panic. Gotta get bread and milk!
THE IMPORTANCE OF TELEVISION NEWS
years ago tonight, Vice President Spiro Agnew spoke to a group of
Richard Nixon's administration, not yet 10 months in office, was
fuming at the lack of deference they were receiving from the media
particularly broadcast media, especially following a recent
Presidential address. Agnew had been dispatched to launch a counterattack.
he was representing the executive branch of the Federal government,
newsmen felt threatened. His criticisms caused quite a
kerfuffle in the broadcast community. This included my Syracuse
University graduate class in Television and Radio, which met the very
revisit the incident in a new article titled This
Little Group of Men, which
was Agnew's description of TV news executives and commentators.
11, 2009 THE
MONSTER OF THE ALLEGHENY
was a nice day in Pittsburgh, so I drove to the North Shore and took
a walk to see some sights.
helicopter was hovering over the Allegheny River, filming a River
Rescue boat for a scene in the new Russell Crowe movie, The Next
Three Days. Replicas of the Niña and the Pinta,
two ships from the 1492 voyage of Christopher Columbus, were tied up
outside Jerome Bettis' Grille 36, where I ate lunch. A few
hundred yards downstream, the new Rivers Casino was open. And
in between, a pier from the 1915 Manchester Bridge once again has a purpose.
nearly four decades, since the structure was replaced by the Fort
Duquesne Bridge and demolished in 1970, this abandoned stone eyesore
loomed over the riverbank. But now workers have cleaned it up
and cut an archway through it.
shown in the artists rendering below, it frames a new statue
honoring the late host of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.
Rogers is depicted twice as large as life. Hes sitting
down and tying his shoe, as he did to open each episode of the
long-running childrens program he produced at WQED-TV in Pittsburgh.
the memorial from the direction of Heinz Field, as depicted in the
drawing, I saw only the back of the figure.
the sculptor was Robert Berks. He prefers a very rough
texture, as on his memorials to Albert Einstein and the late
Pittsburgh mayor Richard Caliguiri. From the rear, this statue
looks like a giant hairy gorilla, slumped on a stump, brooding over
front of the figure, I could recognize Mr. Rogers smiling
face, sort of. But his huge teeth are enough to frighten little kids.
statue doesnt resemble him at all, according to
the director of the nearby Warhol Museum. It doesnt
look beckoning and warm.
Jimmy Kimmel told his TV audience the statue made the nicest
man in the world look like a mud monster.
CASUAL FRIDAY? WHAT'S THAT?
For about the first 15 years of my career, beginning in 1970, I
dressed like a proper professional. I wore a jacket and tie to
then my workplace began to change. I was less often in an
office or studio. More often I was working inside a truck, a TV
mobile unit where most folks dressed in work clothes.
final break came when my salaried position went away with a 1987
corporate bankruptcy. Now a freelancer, I never again had to
wear a necktie. (Exception: when traveling on a sports team's
plane, ties are generally required for everyone. We can't have
star athletes looking like slobs.)
more than three decades now, I've dressed casually. I can't
imagine what Eric D. Snider has been going through this week.
never met Eric in person, but I've been following him since
2001. Back then I was preparing to spend a month in Salt Lake
City televising the Winter Olympics. I had visited there only
once, in 1959, and I wondered what it was like now.
searched online for a local newspaper columnist, and I found the
Provo Daily Herald and its humorous Snide Remarks,
written by Mr. Snider. He was a Brigham Young University
graduate whose accomplishments included a song
parody celebrating the 1847 migration to Utah.
kept on reading Eric,
even after the Olympics were over. By 2005 he had become a
freelance movie critic, and he relocated to the considerably more
liberal Portland, Oregon. There he partnered with Jeff Bayer
for an amusing weekly podcast (left). I think I've listened to
all 462 episodes, and their friendly voices have become quite familiar.
thought he'd never want to move back to Utah, and every time I
visited I was reminded of why I was glad I no longer lived there.
about four years ago, he began to miss his relatives and Utah
friends more than before. He loved extreme uncling,
as in this photo.
freelancing could be done from anywhere that had movies and
the internet, and these had both recently come to Utah, he
moved back to Provo in early September. Through the magic of
the internet, he and Jeff continued to record their podcast every
few days after I arrived, he writes, an old friend
reminded me about a full-time writing job that had been posted two
weeks earlier. It was the last day applications were being accepted,
so I quickly slapped together a résumé and cover letter
what: he got the job! It's a full-time salary with
benefits, such as a grown-up would have.
started this past Monday, writing content for the Mormon Church
whoops, now they want to be known as the Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-Day Saints at the CoJCoLDS headquarters in
downtown Salt Lake.
to freelance income, his pay will be significantly greater and more
predictable. However, it is an office job that requires
a suit and tie. He had to acquire a second suit. And a
third one as well.
now needs to get up much earlier than your typical movie critic in
order to catch the 6:48 a.m. FrontRunner. His cat, Dogcat, has
to stay home, sadly meowing the Sheena Easton song. Eric asked
his Twitter friends about toys for lonely felines. Is there a
laser pointer that doesn't require a human to point it?
baby takes the morning train,
works from nine till five, and then
takes another home again
find me waitin' for him.
sporting his three different suits, tweeted these selfies from his
first three commutes. I have immediately identified a
problem with wearing a suit on a train, he reports.
People think you're trustworthy and aren't afraid to sit next
On my way to new employee orientation. Boy will they be surprised
when they find out mine!
Tuesday: Missed my train.
Wednesday: After work.
I don't think I could go back to wearing a suit from nine till
five. But Eric seems happy to do so, and after hours he
still gets to watch movies and play with his niecephews.
My mother did most of the cooking in our family. We used to
have a big old butcher knife that once belonged to my
mother's aunt Lizzie Buckingham, who died in 1932. She had carved
LB into the wooden handle. But I never learned to wield it properly.
When I moved away from home in 1974, my parents set me up with a set
of steak knives. They could be used for paring, but their
lightweight 4½ blades limited their potential, and I never
became skilled at slicing. However, a couple of years ago in a
store, I noticed a nice hefty 6 chef's knife with a manly red
handle. That's what you need, I told myself!
And across the aisle I saw a German gadget, a V-Prep by Swissmar,
that promised to achieve the perfect slice ... every
time. It's called a mandoline.
(That was a new word to me. My computer insists on auto-correcting
it into a musical instrument.)
These are stock photos. I don't use my mandoline to slice
tomatoes. My father loved tomatoes, especially the vine-ripened
kind that he picked fresh
in our back yard, but for some reason I never cared for the
taste. If tomato slices came with my meal, I used to give them
to my father.
I do like to add a slice of onion to a sandwich. So now I
occasionally buy an onion. I cut it in two with the chef's
knife and place one half, flat side down, on the mandoline's
ramp. The ramp includes a crosswise blade a little above the
surface, and sliding the onion down the surface strips off a nice
slice each time.
I used to wrap the remaining half in plastic film to keep the air
away from the cut face. Then I realized I could just place it face-down
on a 6 glass pie plate until I next crave a slice two
or three days later.
(I don't spend a lot of time in the kitchen.)
saw a groundbreaking student
film project when it aired on CBS-TV in 1968. Dan
McLaughlin at UCLA had used a technique now called kinestasis.
Three thousand works of art flashed on the screen very briefly,
accompanied by instrumental music that became a hit record on its own.
is projected at 24 frames per second. During each second
McLaughlin showed us a dozen artworks, each of them for a mere two frames.
however, runs at 30 frames per second. Therefore only half of
the artworks appeared for two TV frames ( for example, RR) and the
other half for three TV frames (for example, SSS).
years later, I recalled the 1968 project when I learned about the
latest thing, digital television. HDTV broadcasts won't fit
into the old analog bandwidth without some kind of video
compression. I wondered whether the MPEG compression algorithm
would be able to handle rapid changes like 3000 Years of
Art. If I understood it correctly, one second of MPEG
typically includes only five full-definition I-frames,
the intervening P-frames and B-frames are reconstructed from their
neighboring I-frames. This is accomplished by predicting the
motion of objects within the frame.
algorithm couldn't handle kinestasis, I reasoned. Every second
or third frame of the 1968 video (those marked with dots in the first
diagram above) was completely different from its predecessor, so it
would have to be encoded as an I-frame. Each second would
require twelve I-frames (one for each artwork), not just five.
To sufficiently compress the data, additional tricks would be
required, such as reducing the resolution.
the early days of HDTV on my cable TV system, I did notice
pixilation (like this extreme example) on live-to-tape programs like
Jay Leno's Tonight Show. Immediately after a
camera cut, the new angle was blocky for a fraction of a second until
the next I-frame came along, at which point it seemed to snap into focus.
I guess the engineers have now figured out better methods. The opening
title for The Big Bang Theory shuffled through 120
images at an accelerating pace. Even in hi-def, CBS-TV did not explode.