Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Timely Reminder .....

... to read this post by Jimmy at Sticky Doorknobs, the best advice yet on getting ready for the Big Show, five weeks from today.

The Beast Within .....

... comes out when Younger Son gets in touch with his inner-reindeer.

Monday, September 29, 2008

By George, You Did What? .....

Honoring the role played in the current economic crisis by our leaders in the White House, on Capitol Hill and elsewhere, a new design for the $1 bill has been proposed.
Thanks to David at Quark Soup for the heads-up.

And let's not forget the role of the private sector in all this. "Who would have dreamed that when socialism finally came to the U.S.A., it would be brought not by Bolsheviks in blue jeans but Wall Street bankers in Gucci loafers," Maureen Dowd asked in this op-ed piece in the New York Times.

One of Those Dates .....

... we all had to remember in school. On this day in 1066, William of Normandy set off from the invasion beaches of Pevensy towards the battlefields of Hastings ... and, ultimately, the title of "the Conquerer." Here is the page devoted to King William I 'The Conqeror' on the Official Web Site of the British Monarchy.Wikipedia has a pretty good write-up on William, his life and his career, with plenty of links for continued, more specific study of a man, a time and a place that all played pivotal roles in the Western world we know today.

For me, of particular interest to this particular point in that career, is the Bayeaux Tapestry, a wonderful document of the year, the prelude to battle, the battle itself, and William's triumph. There are a number of online sources for viewing and learning about the tapestry, This one from the Museum of Reading is one of the more accessible, though - as the site points out - the images are low-quality to keep the site fast-loading.

And via YouTube, here is another, neat way to enjoy the tapestry, a short film by David Newton, with animation, sfx and score.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sad News, This Weekend .....

Paul Newman, the Academy-Award winning superstar who personified cool as the anti-hero of such films as "Hud," "Cool Hand Luke" and "The Color of Money" — and as an activist, race car driver and popcorn impresario — has died. He was 83.
Here is the rest of the story from the Associated Press

For more than fifty years - with major roles in more than fifty films - Paul Newman has been one of movie-goers' best friends. Each of us has a favorite Newman film ... or two, or three, or ... mine include Harper, Cool Hand Luke, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Slap Shot, Absence of Malice and The Verdict. Here is a complete list of his films. What are some of your favorites?

Something about Newman's life, his career and his work on- and off-the-set ... on the announcement of his death, people aren't saying something like, "Oh, I remember him" or "I wondered whatever happened to him." This cool, good-looking, talented young man never missed a beat as he grew older. Nominated many times for an Academy Award as Best Actor, he finally won for one of his later roles, in The Color of Money - though I, personally, would have given him the Oscar for his performance in The Verdict.

You could go on and on, talking about his acting ... then you could go on and on about his racing ... then go on and on about his advocacy and charities.

He lived well, and I will miss him.

Friday, September 26, 2008

'Swonderful Birthday .....

... to a man who wrote so much 'smarvelous music. George Gershwin, one of Tin Pan Alley's brightest stars, and one of America’s great composers of music, was born on this day in 1898.

Here is
Wikipedia's write-up on Gershwin, and the official George and Ira Gershwin website. I also like these clips on YouTube of Gershwin playing "I Got Rhythm" and Rhapsody in Blue: Part 1 and Part 2.

Quietly Exciting .....

Exciting news from Wallace at Streams ... oilman, photographer, blogger, friend of dogs ... and now a consultant to the U.S. Army, teaching "Oil Business 101"

A few weeks back, I told you about Wallace's plans to host, in Midland, a large group of Army division staff officers and commanders for what he called an "Oil Business 101" seminar in preparation for their unit shipping-out to an oil-rich area of Iraq.

In
his latest post, Wallace reports that the exciting prospect became an exciting fact. I say "Quietly" in my post title, because there hasn't been much reporting on the event, other than this report from KOSA-TV (though I wouldn't be surprised if something's in the works for the MRT's Oil & Gas Section).

Wallace was joined in his efforts by Midland College's
Petroleum Professional Development Center, the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum and Alon USA's Big Spring Refinery, among others.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

First-Rate Second Unit .....

Jimmy at Sticky Doorknobs and I are in complete agreement ... there ain't no party like a Scranton party, and NBC's The Office is a very funny show.

Very funny, and very well made in many respects, including second unit and location work, where those crews have done a particularly outstanding job. Having spent part of my life in the town of Dallas, Pennsylvania, just 25-miles-or-so from Scranton, I am amazed - each and every week - by the level of detail the California-based producers of the show have achieved in creating a 'feel' for that city.

There are the opening shots, of course, showing various sights in-and-around Scranton as the music plays and the cast is introduced. And there are the cutaway shots (the exteriors) that are used throughout the program to segue audiences in and out of scenes in different locations.

But then there are the props used in the studio where the office scenes are filmed. Next time the characters are talking in the break room, look at the bulletin boards on the wall ..... chances are the fliers posted on those boards will be talking about some event going on in the City of Scranton, or Lackawanna County.

In one episode, while Wayne was working the phones, you could see on the file cabinet behind him a bumper sticker for Froggy 101, which is based in nearby Pittston, but broadcasts a signal around northeast Pennsylvania, including Scranton.

In another episode, Michael was calling around to various attractions in town, trying to find an interesting - and cheap! - group activity for his staff. Among the attractions he called was the Lackawanna Coal Mine Tour (which IS a good visit, by the way).

On the surface, they may seem like little things ..... but I think they say A LOT about how well-crafted this show is, right down to the most minute detail ..... it truly is first-rate second unit work for a first-rate television program.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Also Brilliant .....

... and also celebrating his birthday today is F. Scott Fitzgerald, one of 20th-century America’s great authors, and chronicler of a time he dubbed the “Jazz Age,” born on this day in 1896.

Here is Wikipedia's write-up on Fitzgerald, and the International F. Scott Fitzgerald Society's website.

I particularly like this site, the F. Scott Fitzgerald Centenary website created in 1996 by the University of South Carolina, which features some of the most heart-felt tributes to the man, his achievements, his faults, and his all-too-short life and career.

Brilliant .....

Let's hoist one to Arthur Guinness, Irish brewer and the founder of the Guinness Brewery business and family, born on this day in 1725.

Here is Wikipedia's write-up on Guinness, and a biography written by a Guinness descendant.

Living Legend? .....

The American-Statesman asks, "Are chupacabras on the loose in Austin? Reports of the legendary blood-sucking goat-killers crop up now and then." ... such as this one from Asher Price.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Happy Birthday, Boss! .....

It's been more than 30 years since a bunch of us drove to Jersey for a concert by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. We didn't need Time and Newsweek to tell us ... we could see and hear for ourselves that the future of rock and roll had taken the stage.

The future is still with me ... and Springsteen remains, for me, America's quintessential rocker.

A lot of changes since then, to our nation, our music, ourselves. During that time, Springsteen (shown here with The Big Man, saxaphonist Clarence Clemons, in a 2008 photo by backstreets.com's Guy Aceto) has traveled many roads ... across the country and around the world ... alone or with his band ... through many different musical genre ... in studios, in modest concert halls, and in giant stadiums with 70,000+ of his closest friends. But through all that, he has remained true ... to himself, to his music and to us.

Thanks, Boss, and happy birthday.

Timely Reminder .....

... to read this post by Jimmy at Sticky Doorknobs, the best advice yet on getting ready for the Big Show, six weeks from today.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Here's a Radical Thought .....

How does a Midland school rated "Unacceptable" by the TEA, regain its standing and climb back up to "Acceptable" status, and beyond?

Is it possible that, beside the programs and the projects, besides the teachers and the administrators, the kids themselves may also be part of the solution?

In particular, I'm talking about Midland Freshman High School, where the current class of students has more than a little experience with reversing bad ratings from the state, and achieving top marks from same.

Among them are students from San Jacinto Junior High School, an "Unacceptable" campus the year before, that has since moved up. The year before that, the state ruled Goddard Junior High "Unacceptable," but that was turned around as well, due in part to the achievement of students who now attend Midland Freshman.

And how about the other end of the spectrum? Midland's last "Exemplary" campus was Washington Math/Science Magnet, where the exemplary Mr. Baeza is principal. Some of those students are now at Midland Freshman. Also at MFHS are students from Midland's previous "Exemplary" campus, Fannin Elementary School, where the exemplary Mr. Van Stavern (now retired) was principal.

You even have students at Midland Freshman, now, who helped one campus achieve "Exemplary" status, then later helped another campus climb out of "Unacceptable" status.


So, this year, Midland Freshman now has students - both campus-wide, and in the various sub-groups - whose achievement on those all-too-important (to me, at least) TAKS tests, and other benchmarks, helped our campuses reach the TEA's highest rankings, and helped other campuses move up from the lower rankings. Granted, this is only part of the solution for MFHS ... but it's one that doesn't come up often in discussion of the problem.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Not a Bad Way to End the Week .....

Waiting in the church parking lot, just before eight o'clock tonight, while Elder Son wrapped-up confirmation class. Mild temperature, peaceful ... all in all, a good evening. Then I was startled by the sounds coming from behind - and just above - me. A small 'V' of Canada Geese, having just taken off from the A Street duck pond a few blocks to the north. A wonderful sight and sound as they passed over the roof and the church, perhaps headed for some of the wetlands just south of town to spend the night.

Not a bad way to end the weekend.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Arrr, 'Tis Done I Be .....

Heave-to an' drop th' anchor ... all ashore that's goin' ashore. Twelve hours, twelve port o'call ... 'tis done I be wit' this Talk Like a Pirate Day journey.

How 'Bout a Bit o' Music? .....

Cap'n Slappy, Ol' Chumbucket and Chumpail sing an original pirate ditty composed by Slappy himself.

Aye Phone .....

Avast, me hearties. Now every day can be Talk Like a Pirate Day, thanks to this download from them freebooters at Area 49.

What Say Ye, Cap'ns McCain and Obama? .....

How might it be if these two scuppers fired their televised broadsides in the Lingua Piratica? Cap'n Jimmy of The Vote Blog asks that very thing, and offers-up this answer.

Now HERE be Pirates .....

Cap'n Eric of the good ship Fire Ant Gazette tells this tale of a bit o' tomfoolery - Pirates of the Preamble.

Arrrr, but there be more from the roguish Cap'n Eric ... seems the game was commissioned by State Bar of Texas. Are they choosin' to associate themselves with pirates, he asks ... some might accuse 'em of playin' to type.

Wenches, Ahoy! .....

Ayyy, the pirate's life fer me ... at least the life of Bloody James Kidd, whose amazin' tale includes a shot fired 'cross the bow of Pirate Babes.

A Tribute to an Old Scallywag .....

.. is to be found in Louisville, Kentucky, where Chad Campbell is part of the U.S. crew plying their trade at the Ryder Cup.

This likely lad hails from Andrews, and be one of many fine mates to develop their craft with
Midland College Golf Coach Delnor Poss at the helm.

Arrr, 'Tis a Sad Weekend Ahead .....

One o' me favorite ports o' call is biddin' fare-thee-well to a great landmark. There will be a partin' o' the ways between baseball and grand ol' Yankee Stadium.

Here be pictures o' great moments in Yankee Stadium history.

What say the sportin' press? Mike Celzic be sayin' "
Thanks for the Memories! while Michael Moran asks "Why Tear It Down?"

An' YOU? Are ye scuppers up to takin' the
Yankee Stadium Trivia Quiz?

Set Course fer a Bookshop .....

'Tis time to c'mend an ol' matey to the deep, and seek out a new mate to step into 'is shoes. Man the decks and set course for the nearest bookshop.

Methinks 'twill be that 'Friends of the Midland Library' bookstore - where I found me ol' copy of "Lost Horizon" - in a quest to find me a new copy ... an' perhaps some others writin's of
a favorite scribe o' mine, James Hilton.

I finds myself wonderin' ... be there a bookshelf in Davey Jones' locker?

There Be Monsters .....

... soundin' alarums in the Tall City this day, and plyin' your e-mail with sheer hornswaggle about a missin' lass.

Here Be a Batty Fellow .....

Salutations! That worthy thespian Adam West, who plies the airwaves on the good ships Batman and Family Guy, set sail this day in 1928.

An' a fine fellow he be, always liftin' our spirits with his jests ... even when takin' aim at hisself. Here be his website. An' here be a fittin' tribute t' Cap'n West from the scribes at www.dailylocal.com

'Tis the Day, Ye' Scallywags .....

Hoist th' mainsail, me buckos, and sally-forth with bucaneer bombast. It be Talk Like A Pirate Day ... a time t' get in touch with yer inner-Arrrr!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

This May Not Be What They Had in Mind .....

... when the developer promised a view of the lake from all home sites. A co-worker of mine has family in Missouri, where rains from Tropical Storm Ike resulted in flooding. I am told people and pets are safe, but there is an awful mess to clean up in the storm's wake.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Timely Reminder .....

,,, to read this post by Jimmy at Sticky Doorknobs, the best advice yet on getting ready for the Big Show, seven weeks from today.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Shedunit .....

Happy birthday to the woman who tops the list of "Who's Who" in whodunits. "The Queen of Crime," Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa, Lady Mallowan - commonly known as Agatha Christie - would have been 118 today.

According to
Wikipedia entry, "Christie has been called — by the Guinness Book of World Records, among others — the best-selling writer of books of all time and the best-selling writer of any kind, along with William Shakespeare. Only the Bible is known to have outsold her collected sales of roughly four billion copies of novels. UNESCO states that she is currently the most translated individual author in the world with only the collective corporate works of Walt Disney Productions surpassing her. Christie's books have been translated into (at least) 56 languages."

I believe it ... It's hard to find someone who hasn't read one of books, or seen adaptations of her writings on stage, film or television.

Her life is every bit as interesting as those of the characters she created. I recommend
the Official Agatha Christie website and the aforementioned Wikipedia entry as good beginnings for a virtual journey of discovery into that life. Your local bookstore will also have books by - and about - her, as well.

Oh, Yeah! .....

A high-def preview of 3 Mo' Divas on television has me wanting to see their real-def performance in Midland next month.

I first heard about 3 Mo' Divas earlier this year, when they were announced as an upcoming feature on the
Phyllis & Bob Cowan Performing Arts Series at Midland College, where I work as a website editor. Laurice Lanier, Nova Y. Payton and Jamet Pittman perform individually and together, taking audiences along on a musical journey that spans 400 years of music and eight singing styles: Opera, Broadway, Jazz, Blues, Soul, R&B, Spirituals and Gospel.

The hour-long program I watched on
HDNet (Channel 760 on Suddenlink Cable) this past weekend was a mix of "behind-the-scenes" video, interviews and - best of all - concert performances. It was a good program ... and I'm betting the live performance, here in the Tall City, will be even better.

That performance takes place Tuesday, October 21, 2008, 7:00 p.m. at the Al G. Langford Chaparral Center on the Midland College main campus. Admission is by ticket - but those tickets are FREE. To reserve your tickets,
CLICK HERE or call (432) 685-4526.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Not For Everyone's Tastes .....

... especially here, in Midland, would be Limerick Savant's take on the the brouhaha over pigs and lipstick. Thanks to Cowtown Pattie at Texas Trifles for the heads-up on this one.

It reminds me of a discussion, overheard last week at the Petroleum Club, about "lipstick on a pig" and other often-used phrases in the oil patch. I'll post something on that, later.


And speaking of Miss Pattie, be sure to check out this post about a trip she and the K-Man made through Orla Texas.

Another Name for "Stalwarts" .....

... comes to mind as I read this report and others about emergency personnel canvassing neighborhoods inundated by Ike's storm surge Sunday morning, in 'round-the-clock rescue efforts.

Firefighters, police officers, paramedics, rescue dogs and structural engineers fanned out under a full moon, the report states, rescuing thousands of Texans — 140,000 by some estimates — who ignored mandates to flee Hurricane Ike, and sparing them another night among the destruction.

I acknowledge there were those who could not ... but there were an awful lot who could have, and chose not to. They were labeled "stalwarts." And they're nothing new, really. There have always been those who who choose to ride out the storm in the comfort of their own home, rather than heading for the high country. It happened in Wilkes-Barre, Kingston and other Pennsylvania communities flooded in 1972.

The relief efforts in our own town were headed by a man named Bill Berti. He didn't use the word "stalwarts" for those who chose to remain in their homes in spite of the orders to leave, then calling for rescue from over-worked personnel who had plenty of other things to do - yet went and rescued them nonetheless. Mr. Berti had another word for these stalwarts ... but it's not one for polite conversation. And no matter what he thought, Mr. Berti sent his people out - and often went out himself - to pluck someone off the roof of their home and get them to a shelter.

May God bless and sustain the men and women - and the dogs! - who go out time and again, no matter how dangerous conditions might be, on these rescue efforts under way in Texas - and will continue to do so until their job is done, and all are safe ... now THOSE are the real stalwarts.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

322.2 .....

322.2

Telling Image .....

The arrival of Hurricane Ike on the Texas Gulf Coast has already produced countless images of the storm and its impact.

For me, this photo from Reuters' Carlos Barria was one of the most interesting. Not a cloud in the sky, not a drop of rain on the streets ... the empty streets of downtown Houston in the middle of a weekday. That says a lot about what's approaching.

Friday, September 12, 2008

A Big Announcement Monday .....

... for soccer fans. In June, I offered this post about news that the Midland RockHounds management and ownership were in negotiation to purchase a PDL (Premier Development League) soccer franchise.

Last month, when our family went to a baseball game, our ticket-taker was none other than RockHounds GM Monty Hoppel. I asked him how the talks were going, and he replied that we could expect an announcement in September.

September's here ... and so is the announcement. "The Midland RockHounds will have a major announcement and open house for Premier Soccer in the Permian Basin on Monday, September 15th at Grande Communications Stadium starting at 7:00 PM."

The team is yet to be named ... apparently,
they want your input on that.

At all levels, interest - and participation - in soccer is growing, you have rec leagues for the kiddos in both Odessa and Midland (where I would frequently bump into soccer dad Monty Hoppel), the high schools in both cities have boys' and girls' squads, club teams from both cities are at the top of regional competition (including Lubbock, Abilene and San Angelo) and are making inroads in Dallas and Arlington. Not as well known are the teams/leagues that have have grown around Mexican-American interest in the game - which included binational competition in the UNICOPA Tournament, last year in Midland. And don't forget the college level competition at UT-Permian Basin for both men and women.

A local Premier Development League franchise is a great addition to the mix.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Moment For the World .....

Did you know that two Thai nationals were among those killed during the terrorist attacks of 9/11? Neither did I.

I learned that during a conversation with Hong Pirojh Chew, a native of that country. It was earlier this year, and I was part of a Christian mission team in Thailand. Hong and I got to talking during a stop at a roadside market near the northern city of Chiang Mai. I don't know how our talk got around to 9/11, but it did ... and I learned that 9/11 - what some of us now call "
Patriot Day" - is not just a moment for us, but for the world.

That point was reinforced a few days later, during a visit to the
United States Embassy in Bangkok, and a briefing from Ambassador Eric John and the heads of U.S. economic and law enforcement agencies active in that part of the world. As we got out of the elevator and headed to the briefing room, a framed document on the wall caught my attention. It was a letter, hand-written in Thai, bearing a number of signatures, and hand-illustrated in pen-and-ink with a picture of a Thai village.

The letter, I was told by an embassy staffer, was drafted by the residents of a Thai village to offer their condolences to the people of the United States, and delivered to the embassy.

When you look at the world situation as it is at the moment, it's easy to forget that in the days of shock and uncertainty that followed 9/11, the world was united on at least one point ... that a terrible crime had been committed, that the victims and their loved-ones must be comforted, and the guilty parties must be punished. It is good to remember that peoples and the nations of the world - regardless of our differences on other matters - were one when it came to 9/11.

It was a moment for the world.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Today is 9/10 .....

… and there are already a variety of items showing up online related to tomorrow’s 9/11 anniversary. HERE is an interesting one from msnbc.com’s coverage of the anniversary … “Where Are They Now?

The WATN that I found the most inspiring and reassuring? Those
three firefighters with the flag at Ground Zero are still on the job at FDNY.

Simply Beautiful .....

Sometimes the simplest of ideas can turn out beautifully ... especially if they are well realized and executed.

For me, a perfect example of this is
Sunrise Earth, a simply beautiful celebration of the sights and sounds that accompany the sunrise, in locations around the Earth. It's also a GREAT reason for having high-definition television.

The idea is simple, really ... find a location, set up some cameras and microphones, then start rolling and keep rolling, get some wide shots, get some close-ups, then take it all back to your studio and edit them together. Simple, right?

Maybe, in conception, at least. But execution might be difficult, as anyone with experience in location shooting can tell you. Suggesting a location is easy enough, but scouting that location, finding the right times and locations to position your equipment, might be a different matter. And let's hope that Mother Nature doesn't throw you a curve, so you can't even see the sunrise on shooting day ... better keep your travel and accommodations arrangements flexible.

And speaking of unexpected, be ready to capture those wonderful and fleeting moments that might accidentally stray into your location.


The edited, finished product is beautiful, and simple. Just the sights and nat-sounds. No music, no narration, no sfx ... just a line of cg that appears at the bottom of the screen every ten minutes or so, reminding you of the location and offering a fact-of-interest about what you are seeing.

Those of you looking for some quiet time before jumping into the rest of your day - even as an aid to relaxation and meditation - you might give this program a try. It airs weekday mornings at six o'clock (central) on Discovery HD Theater (channel 751 on Suddenlink Cable).

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Busted Blogger .....

Every actual town has its virtual anonymice, online punditz who fire their barbed commentary from the safety of anonymity. More than once, I’ve read their claims of how they would suffer – in one way or another – if their identities were made known.

It’s worth a chuckle, at least. Sure, there are people who are going to be upset with what you write … but that hasn’t stopped millions of scribblers – over the years and around the world - from using a real name in their byline, and being ready to accept the consequences of their work.

America’s great like that. Our nation was founded in part by scribblers who knew full well what might befall those with the nerve to place their name on certain documents. Even those who occasionally used anonymity, such as Ben Franklin - who concealed his true identity to write for the New England Courant (well-concealed) and Poor Richard’s Almanac (not concealed at all) - would use his real name when the stakes were the highest, and the consequences were the most deadly … The Declaration of Independence, for example.

But there are times when America is very different from other parts of the world. From Rabat, Morroco, comes THIS REPORT from Reuters that a “blogger who accused Morocco's monarchy of encouraging a culture of dependency where loyalty is rewarded with favors has been jailed for showing disrespect for King Mohammed ...”

Also from Reuters come THIS REPORT that “an Australian writer has been arrested in Thailand and faces a lese-majeste charge for publishing a novel deemed defamatory to the country's royal family ...”

Think you and I would be so troubled for publishing our silly thoughts and opinions? … Oh, puh-leeze!

And Now for Something Completely Different .....

The title of this post is a clue to what the family presented me as a birthday gift. If you see the light blue-gray glow of a television set in the front room of our home late-at-night/early-in-the-morning, THIS is why.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Going to an Authority .....

FOLLOWUP: Latest reports, many of them updates on the same links that appeared earlier today, now contradict the initial reports. Meanwhile, other online media are still posting the original reports as their 'breaking news' hours after the contradictory reports appeared. On a related note, Jon at Bleacher Report has gotten to the bottom of things, and says it's actually "Lance Armstrong To Come Out Of Retirement To Sign With Jets."

------------------

When it comes to sport cycling headlines such as this, I want to know what Eric at Fire Ant Gazette has to say. Oh ... and the same with Olympic women's beach volleyball.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

... and Speaking of Friday Nights .....

... I've noticed that several local news organizations are expanding their coverage of sports through their online components.

There is, for example, NewsWest 9's "
Friday Night Football page, and the slide shows the Midland Reporter-Telegram added to their mywesttexas.com home and sports pages. And the Odessa American's sports page has added a gallery of video from games around West Texas.

One of the most impressive additions - for me, at least - is
cbs7sports.com, a multi-media, interactive, online venue for sports enthusiasts.

Taking It Easy on Friday Nights .....

For me, at least, Friday nights in West Texas are a lot different nowadays then they used to be ... and Vive Le Difference!

This time of year, people in towns big and small congregate under the lights for fun, fellowship - and even worship, of sorts - in football stadia of all shapes and sizes. For many, it's the biggest night of the week. The same can be said for television news departments, where they pull out all the stops to provide special coverage of something that has a special appeal for many of us.

It IS a big night ... and a LOOOONG one, too. Just ask any photog making the rounds of West Texas. You see, it would be easy to fill the sports segment of a regular news broadcast with highlights for Midland and Ector county schools, and results for other schools in their district ...

... but no regular broadcasts on Friday nights! that's why they have special, extended live sports segments or stand-alone programs on
KMID, KOSA and KWES. And that's why photographers will be going out in different directions, covering large loops around the region, stopping in an numerous towns to get quick video of that evening's game. In the late 90s, when I was living and working in Fort Stockton, I was also stringing for NewsWest 9, getting video at the Fort Stockton games and handing it off to some hard-driving photog, just arrived from Pecos or Balmorhea, who'd then drive off to cover Buena Vista, or McCamey, or Crane on his way back to the station.

Later, when we moved back to Midland, and I was editing
mywesttexas.com, Friday nights were spent at my keyboard in the office, uploading 10-minute chunks of raw audio/video from each of the games our roving photogs visted, fielding phone calls with scores from around the region, updating the website while someone ran the notes to the sports anchor on the set, and the cg operator in the control room.

Long nights, usually following a full day ... really draining, and the family's asleep by the time you get home. Me? I don't miss them ... and I have A LOT of respect for the people who do that - FOR YOU - every Friday night.

Friday, September 05, 2008

From Your Blog to Their Blog, and Back .....

The buzz following the release of Google Chrome included concern that the feature's Terms Of Service gave Google rights to any user-generated content "submitted, posted or displayed on or through" the browser.

According to this post by Mike at Google Blog, eagle-eyed bloggers were among those raising those concerns. He goes on to report that changes are in the works, are being propagated to the 40+ languages in which Google Chrome is available, and removed in the download versions.

Thanks to the eagle-eyed Frank at Books, Inq.: The Epilogue, for spreading the word.

Unsettling Eric .....

The always astute Eric at Fire Ant Gazette is sometimes unsettling, too, as with this post offering advice to VP wannabe Sarah Palin.

Towards the end of his post, Eric expresses some disappointment with "Palin's (and McCain's) repeated attempts to show how they have and will stand up to 'Big Oil.'" Nothing earth-shattering there ... you hear a lot of political rhetoric targeting Big Oil around the country. So, why is Eric dissapointed?

"If any state in the Union has benefited from Big Oil's willingness to risk billions of dollars to develop natural resources in a safe and environmentally conscious manner (the Exxon Valdez notwithstanding), it's Alaska and its good citizens, many of whom owe their very livelihoods to those companies," he explains.

And he's right.

I think we see something like this at work in our own neighbor, New Mexico, where political rhetoric targeting Big Oil is frequently heard in the Round House, even as state coffers are swelled with tax revenue (and leasing fees, etc.) from that industry ... even as the wallets of state residents are swelled with larger and increasing payrolls, and mineral rights payments from that industry.

Ah, well ... it could be worse ... I think the rhetoric targeting Big Oil is nothing compared to that targeting us debauched harlots of the (insert SFX of ominous chord played on organ) "Mainstream Media" ... whatever the heck THAT is.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

What I Learned From the Brits .....

I had an interesting experience while in Thailand earlier this year. I learned that 'less is more' ... especially when it comes to political news coverage.

I was part of a mission team working in Thailand in February ... while the political primary season was still in full swing back here in 'the states.' We had more than enough to keep us busy over there ... but we still did what we could to keep on top of what was going on 'over here.'

For me, that included an occasional television news broadcast from BBC-Asia. While we were frequently far from a television set, there were times when I could catch up on what was going on. I would learn that So-and-So #1 had won the Such-and-Such Primary, getting whatever percentage of the votes that were cast, and earning whatever number of delegates for the upcoming convention. There would be some video of the voting, a comment from the night's winner (and sometimes one of the night's losers), and then an added statement about the winner's particular strength among a particular block of voters, So-and-So #2 dropping out of the primary race, or when and where the next primary election would take place ...

... and that was it. No thorough analysis of the most detailed minutiae of the voting numbers - 'who was favored by blind, left-handed glass-blowers over the age of 29?' And no over-long and over-amplified debate between a number of political analysts about what it did - and did not all mean.

Apparently, their decision in this particular newsroom was to focus on the steak, rather than the sizzle. I appreciated that decision then ... and I'm appreciating it even more during the current coverage of the conventions. Really, for something produced by people from 'the other side of the pond,' I think they've done quite well. I find myself no less informed ... but I do find myself a little less annoyed.

Happy Birthday! .....

… to a man who has been telling us “the rest of the story” for the better part of a century. Paul Harvey Aurandt was born on this day in 1918.

HERE is a good write-up on Harvey’s life and times from his hometown newspaper, the Chicago Tribune.

As a radio broadcaster and commentator, Harvey has done things his way for a loooong time, and he’s taken millions of us along for the ride over the decades. Though I’m rarely at a loss for words, I find it difficult to adequately describe Harvey’s impact, and his appeal to listeners … but I’ll try.

In the summer of 1982, I was a seasonal employee for the New Mexico State University Cultural Resource Management Department (their contract archaeology office) living in Farmington and working in the San Juan Basin – New Mexico’s “other oilpatch.” In the mornings, we’d head out to survey sites proposed for some type of development. From the high points we could see across quite a long stretch of the “Four Corners” region, and numerous well pads and service roads criss-crossing the region. There was plenty of traffic on those roads … hey, we were still enjoying a boom, right?

And then, at ten o’clock in the morning. you would see that traffic stop and pull over to the side of the road … and so would we. Turns out, everyone was taking this same time for a morning break, to finish up the last of their coffee, check-in by radio with their office … and listen to Paul Harvey. Then, almost on cue - just a minute or two after Harvey said “Good Day!” – you would see the vehicles begin to move again.

Good day to YOU, sir … and thanks!

He Animated Our Christmas .....

Among other things, he was singularly responsible for the creation of what has become a beloved holiday season television classic. Bill Melendez, the animator who gave life to Snoopy, Charlie Brown and other “Peanuts” characters in scores of movies and TV specials, has died.

You can read the complete report by the Associated Press
HERE. It notes that Melendez’s nearly seven decades as a professional animator began in 1938 when he was hired by Walt Disney Studios and worked on Mickey Mouse cartoons and classic animated features such as “Pinocchio” and “Fantasia.” He later moved to Warner Brothers, where he worked on Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig and Daffy Duck shorts.

One of his most enduring and popular projects - in our house, at least - was the Emmy Award-winning "A Charlie Brown Christmas," which Melendez directed. According to the AP report, The show reportedly worried executives at the CBS television network because it broke so much new ground for a cartoon ... it lacked a laugh track, used real children as voice actors, had a jazz score and included a scene in which Linus recited lines from the New Testament.

Me? I'm glad Melendez and his creative staff held firm.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Rising - or Sinking - to the Occasion .....

Judging by this morning's post at mywesttexas.com, some things about life - and the business of reporting on life - will never change.

Looking at the photo that accompanied the post, "Man rescued from SUV after driving into deep waters" ... all I could think was, "of course."

Get a good rainfall in this part of West Texas - as we have on a number of occasions in recent days - and of course there is going to be flooding, especially in 'the usual spots.' Print, television, internet ... it makes no difference ... just send your photog to the usual spots, and they will of course get a great image of a flooded roadway.

AND, they will no doubt get a great image of some driver attempting to cross that flooded roadway, regardless of the water's menacing appearance, regardless of the depth gauges road crews have posted on that low spot in the roadway, and regardless of the countless times we have seen what might happen when others have disregarded those waters, and those gauges.


And coverage of the latest soggy incident notwithstanding, of course there will be another flooded road, another daring driver and another soggy incident following the very next downpour.

And of course, there will be another rescue by men and women who have done it plenty of times before, and will do it plenty of times again ... and that is one "of course" we can all appreciate, and of which we can all be proud.

Sports and Statecraft .....

It won't be the first time that 'athletes go where politicians fear to tread' as U.S. soccer players travel to La Rep├║blica de Cuba.

"The United States national team has not played in Cuba since 1947," the New York Times' Jack Bell writes, noting that while a US U-21 team did participate in the Pan American Games there in 1991, "an economic, commercial, travel and financial embargo imposed on Fidel Castro’s Cuba in February 1962 remains in effect to varying degrees, and American citizens still face travel restrictions." Read the rest of Bell's report HERE.

Not a bad way, really, to sort out our differences and find common ground. I have wondered more than once how and why our nation can so readily and happily deal with the largest and most powerful Communist nation in the world ... yet continue to punish this tiny, backward island nation in every conceivable way. Even when Cuba offered to send hundreds of doctors and nurses to New Orleans in Katrina's wake - professionals specially trained for emergency medical care in areas devestated by hurricanes and/or poverty - they were rejected by our government, and scolded by the White House press secretary.

If the politicians can't sort it out, maybe the athletes can. They DO love their sports in Cuba. While the story of Fidel Castro trying out for MLB's Washington Senators was shown to be false, he was a great fan of the sport, and Cuba continues to be one of the top contributors among foreign nations to our major league baseball system. I remember a bull-session we had once in college, where a professor suggested that the most effective way to wean Cuba from Communism might be to open a major league baseball franchise in Havana, providing a piece of that franchise - and its concessions, and its merchandising - to the various party leaders. A healthy dose of athletic competition and a taste of capitalism, he went on to say, might be just what our strained relations needed.

It's a taste that could be very, VERY attractive, if not downright intoxicating ...

"Although all the United States players are expected to return home," Bell writes, "that may not be the case when Cuba goes to Washington for the return qualifying match October 11. As recently as last March, a handful of Cuban players left the team and requested asylum during the regional Olympic qualifying tournament in Florida."

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Rest Is Silence .....

You've heard him a thousand times, and maybe you've seen him once. Don LaFontaine, the man who popularized the catch-phrase, “in a world where...” and lent his voice to thousands of movie trailers, has died.

According to the Associated Press, LaFontaine made more than 5,000 trailers in his 33-year career while working for the top studios and television networks. In a rare on-screen appearance in 2006, he parodied himself on a series of national television commercials for a car insurance company where he played himself telling a customer, “In a world where both of our cars were totally under water...” Read the rest of the AP's story
HERE
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ADDED NOTE: Another reason that "the rest is silence" today ...
Singer-actor Jerry Reed dies at age 71

Homing-In on What's Important .....

FOLLOWUP: brendakh was kind enough to let me know that Jim Denison was pastor at First Baptist in Midland, Texas. I have corrected my text accordingly. On a related note, Denison is no stranger to our local blogosphere, either.

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"What inconsequential frustration is nagging at your serenity today," Dr. Jim Denison asks in
this post at God Issues. "What distraction is irritating your spirit?"

Author, educator and commentator Dr. James Denison has been pastor of Park Cities Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas since June, 1998. Prior to that, he was pastor at churches in Atlanta, Georgia, as well as Midland (at First Baptist!) and Mansfield, Texas.

His discussion on inconsequential frustrations and distractions - which came up during Pastor Steve Schorr's sermon at First Prez this past Sunday - not only addresses matters of faith in particular, but, at the same time, matters of our society, our culture and our values in general. It speaks not only to those of us who produce the news, but those of us who consume it, as well.

"Russia invades Georgia; America signs a weapons treaty with Poland, which Russia severely criticizes; the president of Pakistan resigns as economic and military chaos escalates in that nuclear power; the Taliban is resurgent in Afghanistan; the Olympics are winding down in Beijing," Denison observes. "Meanwhile, news sources across America are obsessing about the residential merits of the candidates."

Please take the time to read the rest of Denison's post ... and his other posts, while you're at it. In fact, you might strongly consider
subscribing to his daily e-mail devotionals.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Good News Gets Better .....

Yesterday I posted on the feds' decision to to be pro-active in terms of hurricane preparation. Good news for Gulf coast residents awaiting Hurricane Gustav, I suggested.

The latest reports from the coast suggest that the good news has gotten even better, as Gustav has reportedly
bypassed major metropolitan areas, and is weakening. The preparations that were in place this time around - the personnel, the supplies and the procedures - were NOT wasted. Did we really want to risk the debacle that was our response to Hurricane Katrina three years ago?

I'll still be looking forward to hearing how the oil-and-gas industry fared in the Gulf of Mexico. By most accounts I've read, platforms were shut down and evacuated well in advance of the storm's arrival ... and that's good ... in a town like Midland, one doesn't have to look far to find a first-hand connection with those who work 'offshore.'

Movies for Movies' Sake .....

FOLLOWUP: No sooner did I post the following when TMC started flexing its promotional muscle, airing a great lineup of courtroom drama films to promote the premier of Raising the Bar on TNT, with interviews between TMC host Robert Osborne and RtB creator Steven Bochco. But at least they did it ONLY between the end of one film and the beginning of the next, and there were no promotional pop-ups as the films ran.

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I'd like to tip my hat to television/cable network programmers that treat film-lovers as something more than shills for promotional and sales pitches.

You don't have to look too long and too hard to realize that an awful lot of movie scheduling on broadcast and cable television networks is tied in to the latest entertainment news. So-and so has a new movie coming out? Quick ... let's show some of so-and-so's old movies.

Sometimes, you can give these devils their due, and acknowledge these decisions actually can be useful ... showing one film, for example, in the weeks ahead of its sequel's release. Earlier this summer,
Hellboy was shown on TV a LOT, as Hellboy II was arriving at the theaters. More recently, we've had Goal: The Dream Begins on television as Goal II: Living the Dream arrives in theaters.

Some don't even have that, though ... they're just hoping to pick up on whatever buzz a new film's release might generate. People talking about Vin Diesel and
Babylon A.D.? ... let's show Chronicles of Riddick. People talking about Jason Statham and Death Race? ... let's show Transporter II. People talking about Nicholas Cage and Bangkok Dangerous? ... let's show National Treasure.

At the top of my list of rants ... the executives at
TNT who insist that while I'm trying to watch a movie, 20% or more of the my screen is occasionally devoted to animated promotional panels with Kyra Sedgewick ("The Closer") eating a donut. They may know drama ... but the also know how to torque my wrench in a BIG way!

Nothing new or earth-shattering here ... and nothing you probably haven't already noticed yourself. But it DOES increase my appreciation for those networks that schedule movies ... for example, TNT's cousin,
Turner Classic Movies, who actually seem to respect the movies they air ... and respect the interests of those who love to watch the movies. No promotional tie-ins - over the last week or so, we've had days devoted to movies by Spencer Tracy, Marlon Brando, Rita Hayworth and Charlton Heston ... none of whom have a new film coming to theaters at the moment. Tonight, it's apparently 'courtroom drama night' with Witness for the Prosecution, followed by 12 Angry Men and Anatomy of a Murder ... none of which have a sequel coming to theaters at the moment. What else? No breaks in the film for some inane feature like "Dinner and a Movie" or "DVD on TV." And no promotional panels for other programs, popping-up regularly through the film.

Movies for the sake of movies ... and for the sake of those who enjoy them ... what a novel concept!