Category Archives: media

Monster lizard ravages East Coast

During my career in TV news, I was fortunate, or unfortunate as the case may be, to be witness to all sorts of live, on-air screw ups. Many were funny, but some were not. But that it not the point of this post. In honor of all my friends and family who are digging out and trying to stay warm, here is a classic from my favorite radio news guy, Les Nessman.

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The Dynasty Continues

 

phil-robertson-p11I didn’t exactly stay glued to my computer or TV to keep track of the minute-to-minute developments over Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson’s comments in GQ, but it has been an amusing holiday diversion. Some thoughts…

I’m not sure why anyone was so shocked. His comments on gay sex and gay marriage are certainly out of vogue with popular culture these days. However, they do reflect a stance that was considered conventional wisdom until just the very recent past. Let us remember, the idea of gay marriage was a fringe concept until just the last few years.

Some complained about the loss of “freedom of speech” and cited the First Amendment without having a clue what the concept entails. As it relates to a case like this, the Freedom of Speech clause in the First Amendment protects a person’s right to state his opinion. It offers no protection against the reaction to those comments. I can call those people morons all I want, but I should be prepared for a negative response.

If your fame and fortune rests on your intangible image in popular culture, then you really should be very careful about protecting that image. The same thing happened with our neighbor Paula Deen.

When you develop a vaccine to prevent breast cancer, you can rest on your accomplishment and say anything you want. Your spot in history is still reserved by your accomplishments. However, when you have no tangible foundation, your public image is like a filled balloon. Everything is fine until someone comes along with a pin. I think this applies only partially to Phil, because I’m not sure he really cares one way or the other. Remember, this is a guy who gave up on a potential NFL career because the season interfered with hunting season. If Duck Dynasty were to go away, he still has the duck call business that got the whole thing started.

It is no surprise that A&E kissed and made up. Let’s face it, DD is the only thing that makes A&E stand out in a field of second-tier cable networks. Think about it. Without DD, what is A&E?

It’s that network that runs “Law and Order” marathons. No, that’s TNT.

How about the network that runs old movies. No, that’s AMC.

Wait! It’s the network that runs those syrupy melodramas for women. No, that’s Lifetime.

I know. It’s the network that shows people how to fix up and sell their home. No, that HGTV. (Mrs. Poolman’s favorite channel, by the way.)

Get the picture? A&E sure did.

‘Life After Life’ — Different but interesting

life-after-life_originalEvery once in awhile, I’ll read something that is miles outside of my usual material. Usually, I’m pretty happy I did, and “Life after life,” by Kate Atkinson is one of those books. I read a review when it came out last spring and when I saw it on the library rental shelf, I went ahead and checked it out.

This is the first book I have read in which I was really waiting for the main character to die. And Ursula Todd does die… a lot. That is the point of the story. Ursula is a girl born to a middle-class British family on a cold, snowy night in 1910. Over the course of the novel, she dies and then is reborn as the same person to the same parents on the same day. However, in each new life there a slight change in events which steer Ursula’s life onto a different course. (Think of the movie “Groundhog Day” but on a larger time-scale and fewer laughs.)

In the very first chapter, Ursula attempts to kill Adolph Hitler in 1930, before he reaches power. (No spoiler alert here. The reader will know this in the first ten pages.) Atkinson leaves it until the end of the book to resolve the issue of how that transpired and the result.

Atkinson is creative in the way she offs her protagonist. Ursula initially dies as she is being born. She falls out a window. She is murdered. Eventually she starts to develop déjà vu feelings about her previous lives and starts taking steps to change her fate and prevent her pending death. She doesn’t always get it right. Although she succeeds in changing the course of events, she ends up in the same place anyway and still dies. She usually takes several tries to get it right.

Ursula is an interesting character, so as a reader, I didn’t mind living her successive lives with her. After some of the longer sequences, I felt myself wishing, “So hurry up and die already, so we can get on to the next story.”

I won’t spoil the ending, but I have to say I was not happy with it. Maybe I just didn’t understand it, but I was left with the feeling that Atkinson did not resolve all her remaining issues.

Otherwise, it was an interesting, although different book that I would recommend.

A busy day…

Today has been interesting, in two parts. This morning, we hosted a “state visit” by a group of roughly 65 VIPs, including the state Board of Regents, a bunch of university presidents and senior university system staffers. Most of these people have never been here so it was a pretty big deal.  I have been working to plan this event since mid-January and have fretted over the details and coordinating with the two other institutions in town. As it turns out, everything went very well. Everyone did what they were supposed to do and they did it well. No hitches and I heard nothing but compliments. Big load off.

Suits and dresses on the work deck. What's wrong with this picture?

Suits and dresses on the work deck. What’s wrong with this picture?

One of the cool things about my job is the opportunity to get out and take an occasional boat ride. This afternoon, I went along on one of our small skiffs to shoot some video for a promotional piece we are producing to market our research vessel.

Tough duty out on the water today.

Tough duty out on the water today.

The weather was gorgeous, roughly 80 degrees and sunny. We were out for about an hour which was just enough to sunburn my face. Duh. I did get one cool shot with my Canon point ‘n shoot camera. We frequently see dolphins around here, but it’s tough to get pictures because they don’t surface where and when you are expecting them. I did get this shot this afternoon, which was pretty pleased with.

A dolphin riding the bow wave of the R/V Savannah

A dolphin riding the bow wave of the R/V Savannah

Hymns, funerals and extra mourners

I am not much into music, especially religious music. In church I try to sing along, or at least lip sync, when I know the song. However there is no way I can contribute to a song I haven’t heard enough to recognize the melody.

This past Saturday, I was the reader at 5:30 Mass.  Afterwards, I went over to Julie, the song leader, to compliment her on her contribution. A few weeks ago, after a Mass that had four hymns I had never heard before, I had teased her that she and the organist were apparently trying to sing every song in the hymnal at least once during the year. So when I approached her on Saturday, she asked if I thought they were doing any better with their music selection. This got us talking about “So what are your favorite pieces?” I mentioned a few, but said my all-time favorite was “On Eagle’s Wings.”

Julie responded, “Well you must not go to many funerals, because we always sing it there.”

I told her I had been to many funerals as a child (more on that in a moment), but fortunately, I had not much opportunity to do so lately.

During the course of the conversation, I recalled a television show that had a short run in the 1990s that focused on an urban Catholic parish. I couldn’t remember much about it, but I did remember one episode that concerned the death of a nun and a beautiful rendition of “On Eagle’s Wings” at her funeral.

Mrs. Poolman has accused me of being a bit obsessive on more than one occasion. I do hate to leave mysteries unsolved. When I got home, I got on-line and tried to locate this program. Actually, a quick Google search for “tv, drama, catholic, priest” turned up the answer in nothing flat.  “Nothing Sacred” was an ABC network program that had a short run in 1997-98. Beyond that, it turns out there are a number of episodes on YouTube. Since the show had only a short run, it was pretty easy to narrow down the episodes to find the funeral scene. Here it is. The clip is of the entire last segment of the show. The song starts just past the 9-minute mark.

So, why, you might wonder, did I attend so many funerals as a child? It had nothing to do with dying family members, although there were those too. I went to a Catholic grade school, and my sixth grade teacher, Sister Mary Leonard, was also the musical director for the parish. Fairly frequently, when she was called upon to play music for a week-day funeral. Usually there was no substitute teacher available, so Sister just brought the class along for the funeral. Three to four times a month, a grieving group of family and friends would show up at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church to say farewell to a loved one, and there, sitting in the back rows of the church, were 40-45 sixth graders.  We were all well trained on the proper procedures and etiquette of the Requiem Mass. We knew all the responses and the words to most of the hymns.

One day, we even attended a wedding. I wonder if the father-of-the bride looked over as he was escorting his daughter down the aisle and wondered, “Are they coming to the reception too?”

Looking back on it, I am a little surprised at how well behaved we all were. However, by that time, we were all veterans of a number of years of parochial school, weekly Masses, monthly confessions, etc. We were well aware that any cutting-up during a funeral Mass, might result in a lightning bolt from the choir loft. In any case, it would not be a pleasant experience. We knew what was best in the long run.

In love with “Sammie” (and I’m not talking about my dog)

I think I’m in love, but it’s nothing that should worry Mrs. Poolman. A few weeks ago, after resisting all the hype and advertising for years, I broke down and purchased a Smart Phone, specifically a Samsung Galaxy 3 “Sammie” supported by T-Mobile.

Isn't she pretty?

Isn’t she pretty?

Since then I’ve had a number of epiphany moments where I asked my phone, “Where have you been all my life, and how did I ever live without you?”

Seriously though, I don’t play games and I hardly ever text, but I live on e-mail. Being able to have both my personal and work email accounts synced on my phone is great. I’ve also loaded a number of free apps, mostly news and sports sites like ESPN, CNN, CBS News and such. I haven’t even tried out the built-in camera.

I did have a problem today. Earlier this week, I changed the password on my work-laptop and email program. I didn’t know you had to turn off all the syncing functions on your smart phone before you do that. I didn’t realize there was a problem until my phone started “talking” to me in a series of rings every five minutes or so. It was making me crazy. I couldn’t figure out what was going on until I realized it was the email function trying to sync up my work email and failing. The problem ended up spreading to my work laptop and by this morning was locked up and locked out. Fortunately our IT guy was able to get me back in business. Lessons learned. Ugh.

Now comes the hard part, avoiding addiction. You know the addicts I’m talking about — the people who can’t sit still and have a conversation for more than a minute or two without whipping out their phone to check a sports score, the latest Facebook update, or whatever. We’ll see.

“American Nations” — A very interesting book, but a bit snarky

American nations 1 I read an interesting book a few weeks ago, “American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America” by Colin Woodard.

Woodard takes a very interesting, historical look at North America, mostly the USA, and the various cultures that comprise us. It goes a long way to explaining the cultural and political differences among our national regions, such as the significant differences between the Deep South and New England.

Woodard’s approach is historical and not overly technical. It’s a fascinating story.

My only issue with Woodard is towards the end of the book, as his narrative starts to approach the present. A New Englander himself, he makes no secret of his contempt for the South, where I spent most of my adult life. He allows himself the satisfaction of making some snarky comments that undercut his credibility. For example, he suggests the South needs research universities that don’t look to the King James Bible as a primary science text. I trust he meant that comment a little tongue-in-cheek and not literally. However, it does make you wonder how much his personal prejudice influenced other descriptions in the book. That having been said, I still found the book very interesting.

In case you are curious, here is a map of Woodard’s, 11 nations of North America.

American Nations 2