Archive for February 2007

I’m Really Close to Having to Change My Blogsite

February 24, 2007

Log-in issues have become a royal pain for me at this website and I’m really close to having change my blogsite so I can just access it. If I disappear for a while or you post a comment and it doesn’t appear for a few days it’s because of these log-in issues. If I can’t get these resolved, I will be attempting to migrate to another website. I will attempt to post a forwarding site on this blog but don’t know if I will have any luck. It’s really annoying so far. I just wanted to make anyone who reads this blog aware of what’s going on.
Joe Larkins


Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Place

February 23, 2007

I think it’s safe to say that few people consider a trip to the dentist to be a fun thing. I don’t think many would consider it to be in their top ten things to do.
So I went in for the six month check-up and had just settled into the chair for my cleaning. (An aside here. My dentist is a really cool guy and his staff is top-notch. They also have the little TVs positioned on the ceiling over the dentist chair so the patient can be distracted. The TVs usually run some tranquil setting such as ocean waves lapping against the shore or something else equally soothing.) Not this time. It was tuned to Fox News. (Not the local version, the cable channel.)
Now I will admit Fox News is not my source for news. I choose for myself what is “fair and balanced” and find that usually when someone uses that as a slogan, they aren’t.
So there I am, sitting in a chair having my teeth scraped with a metal pick, watching a program I didn’t want to see. Could it get worse? Yes. I had been in the chair for about two minutes when Fox returned to its coverage of the Anna Nicole Smith court case. I would have asked for nitrous oxide to knock me out or perhaps just had the dental hygienist to just shoot me
but the dental person had both her hands in my mouth and I couldn’t speak if I wanted to.
Trust me, it was a long, long 40 minutes in that chair.
I think the really sad thing about the massive coverage of ANS and Britney Spears’ meltdown is how so many people apparently would rather see how the mighty (and I use that term loosely) have fallen instead of stuff like what’s going on around the world that will actually have an impact on them and their kids. Maybe it’s an effort to escape from the reality that’s facing us. I don’t know but I find it rather reprehensible that one woman’s claim to fame is basically based on two bags of a silicone type substance sewn into her body. Yah, she posed in Playboy, managed to make some wealthy old geezer very happy, and has a tragic life with the death of a son and now her own death. But to hear or see news programs refer to her as “America’s Rose”. Jeez. Give me a break. At least Marilyn Monroe made some decent movies after her Playboy gig. Yah, she played the blonde bimbo, but she was famous more for than just being famous.
And I think the whole Britney Spears thing reminds me that one should be careful of what they wish for as they just might get it. Her parents must have figured getting BS on the track of fame and fortune would be a gravy train and it has. But at what price? I actually feel sorry for BS. She has no tools for making adult decisions or being adult. She never got to be a normal kid and now it’s caught up with her. Now the American public is constantly bombarded with this train wreck as it continues to play out and I wish it would all just go away. I don’t there is not going to be a happy ending to this in any form or fashion. For now anyway, she has the money to help pay for her therapy. I hope the money lasts. Meanwhile, the media is waiting for the next celebrity meltdown. Why? It’s like a fire. It’s easy to cover, you don’t need any special skills to cover it and it fills time on the tube.
And finally, I like clever writing in news. I find that on a regular basis when I watch Countdown with Keith Olbermann. I consider KO to be one of the sharpest, most well-read and “quick” on-air people gracing the Tube these days. He has clever writing and the viewer sometimes has to be on his toes to catch some of the references he makes. Just as clever are the “banners” displayed for the various stories covered in his newscast. The banner for the story concerning the fallout from the British departure from Basrah in the south of Iraq: Southern Discomfort. When the focus turned to British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s announcement of the British troop withdrawal from Iraq: The Blair Ditch Project. Some writing experts will tell you to stay away from clever things. I say be clever, but don’t go overboard.
Okay, my rant is done. I’ll get off my soapbox.

Some On-Air Changes Taking Place at Your NewsChannel 3

February 20, 2007

I just read about some on-air changes taking place at NewsChannel 3. You know, the one owned by the NYTimes . Something about the traffic person quitting and an interim news director making some changes. Oh wait, what’s this. Oh, it’s the NYTimes station in Norfolk, VA! I’m sorry. I hope no one minded that I hyped a non-local, non-story here on my blog. After all, it is February and I’m just trying to drive up my hits on this website.
Seriously, the article from specifically mentioned a change ordered by the interim news director at WTKR. Nancy Nydam who has some big market experience (not sure in what capacity and am too lazy right now to look it up) replaces ND Jeff Parsons who left to work on internet broadcasting in Minnesota. Anyway, Ms. Nydam’s first order of business: She axes the awkward sounding “Live in the (community) mobile news room and replaces it with just “Live”.
I don’t know if they still do that silliness here in the Memphis market. I bet when the former ND at WREG implemented catch phrases such as “mobile news room” and “breaking news center” and “flying mobile breaking news center” (okay, I made that last one up) that consultants were giggling and buying each other drinks over the fact that they had helped change the face of news. Those catch phrases rolled off the tongue like peanut butter. Anyway, it’s nice to see that someone saw the light and put a stop to the nonsense. I guess the really funny part is that five or ten or twenty years down the road, news people will look back and admit it was a silly notion. They will have finally caught on to what the rest of us already think about those catch phrases.

A Man Who Had a Great Influence on How I Watch TV has Died

February 19, 2007

Robert Adler may not be a household name but I can safely say he’s had a tremendous impact on how I watch TV. It’s safe to say his work has had a ripple effect on how everyone watches TV from shows on the network to local news. Robert Adler was the co-inventor of the TV remote control. He died this past week at the age of 93. Thanks to this device, a commercial break means the viewer could click over to something else (in pre-TIVO days) without the exertion of getting out of your easy chair or off the sofa. If the show was slow plot-wise or you needed to see how some local story was being covered on another station, all you had to do was hit the remote. With a remote in the hand and a quick thumb or forefinger on the trigger, it changed viewing habits and created headaches for anyone involved in trying to keep an audience tuned in to a particular channel.
These days it’s hard to find even a cheap TV that doesn’t come with a remote control. Granted, that remote may not do much more than change channels but it still is a remote control. I can remember the first time I ever saw a TV remote control. It was at the home of a wealthy relative I was visiting back in the late 60s. First, it was to a large console type color TV in the master bedroom. At a time when I was living in a home with seven kids and two adults we had
just one TV. It was a 19 inch color TV. Meanwhile, these relatives had three TVs including this 19 inch color job in the bedroom. The remote was a large boxy affair about 4 inches square and about an inch or so thick. It seemed to me that it operated with a loud “click” sound when you hit the button and the channels would only change in one direction from channel 2 to channel 13. Still, it was a remote control.
Many years later I remember buying a 19-inch TV with a remote control and I was so proud of it. I remember seeing some TVs and a number of VHS machines that had wired remote controls. These were remote controls attached to the devices with a thin wire. It worked okay but people were forever tripping over the wire. That was the downside. The upside was that you never lost the remote. All you had to do was start at the TV or VCR and follow the wire to the remote.
Now, I find it hard to fathom watching TV without the remote. As a matter of fact, I keep the remote close by when I watch any program. That’s because I generally give anything I’m watching about ten minutes and if I don’t feel it’s worth my while, I flip to something else. Yes, I’m a typical viewer and have developed the habits that drive programmers and managers crazy.
Yes, I could use the exercise of simply getting off my rear end and walking the two steps to the TV to change the channel. But thanks to Mr. Adler, I can give my thumb a good workout on the remote while letting my posterior grow to “lard-butt” proportions. Isn’t it great to live in America?

Excuse Me, What Did You Say?

February 15, 2007

When I speak, I may not sound like I grew up in rural Western Kentucky. I did. When I was young, I never really thought much about how I might sound until I was a senior in high school and traveled to San Francisco for a school related function. My best friend and I were asking directions to a nearby hotel for this convention and the person we had asked wanted to know “where the heck you guys are from”.
I began to lose my regional dialect in college. My first room mate was from Buffalo, NY, the second from Mt. Carmel, IL, the third from northern Kentucky and the last one was from Cedar Rapids, IA. Those room mates plus a concerted effort on my part to not sound like I was from Western Kentucky helped me lose my regional sound. Being exposed to a variety of dialects also helped me when it came to understanding what others were saying and how they said it.

I share this background because of a show I saw on the National Geographic channel about moonshine (the liquor not the reflected light). I was curious about this topic on a variety of levels. I wanted to see how it was shot and edited, I wanted to see how the producers approached this multi-faceted topic and on a personal level I knew one of my grandfathers used to make ‘shine to help make ends meet during the Great Depression.

Most of the action in this NG video took place in Virginia. As one would expect, you had some good old boys making “corn squeezings” and they looked like stereotypical moonshiners. What caught my attention was the fact that when these folks spoke, sub-titles were placed on screen to clarify what they were saying. Granted, some of these folks sounded like they’d been into the corn liquor before the cameras showed up for the interview. But for the most part I could understand what they were saying. For the most part. I caught myself trying to decide if it was funny or sad that the producers felt they needed to sub-title the comments. In retrospect, I agree with the decision to sub-title the comments.

The reality is there are some folks who need what they say translated. I ran into this on a regular basis covering news. No matter how much of an event a person was eye-witness to, if you can’t understand what they said, it does no good to have them on the air. And in the case of the National Geo report I understood what these good old boys were saying but I have an advantage over some. After all, I’m still fluent in “red-neck”.

This Bucket of Cold Water Could Take Some of the Passion from the Weathergasms

February 13, 2007

How many times have you seen it. Team coverage with weather folks breathlessly sharing information about the acts of nature descending upon the viewing area. They show the Sooper-Dooper Gonad Storm Seeking Tracker Gajillion Watt Radar with the Fuzzy Dice add-on and they show how it can zoom down past street level to crack-in-the-sidewalk level. The screen is split into various windows with the Storm Team Trooper Weather Gang of three, five or four or however many bodies they can round up jumping around like someone gave them the hot-foot. At the bottom of the screen is the weather ticker sliding from right to left with additional information.
So recapping what we got: Eye catching weather graphics, folks telling you what’s going on, weather ticker at the bottom of the screen; that should cover everything shouldn’t it? Not according to what some folks claim in Southwest Florida and more importantly the FCC agreed with.
Here’s what happened according to a story in Shoptalk: WINK-TV, long a powerhouse operation in the Ft. Myers area, got hit with a 16-thousand dollar fine because some local hearing-impaired people said they didn’t get enough information back in August 2004 when Hurricane Charley came ashore. As with many smaller market stations, the weathercast was NOT closed captioned. At larger operations, a stenographer type person is busy translating what is said into the closed caption system so people who need to read it or want to read it can. If you’ve ever watched one of the network news shows that have a lot of live interviews you can see that some of these stenographers have a tough time keeping up. But I digress.
The station was going wall-to-wall with hurricane coverage and the fast-changing details from the weather folks and others weren’t getting on the air in the closed caption section. That, according to the article, violates federal law. So, in addition to paying the fine, the station agreed to add “real-time” captioning to all its major newscasts. And it wasn’t just WINK-TV. The NBC affiliate and the ABC affiliate (I think both are run from the same building) were hit with 24-thousand dollar fines. Their cases are still pending.
Now the Memphis area stations may already have real time captioning going on during their weather-casts, I don’t know. Perhaps somebody can share that bit of knowledge. If not, I’d think that all it will take is somebody to file a complaint wit the FCC during the next weathergasm. Of course if no weather operations in Memphis have the “real time” captioning, what better way to show they care about the community than to be the FIRST, THE FIRST I SAY to feature CLOSED CAPTIONING for WEATHER. I just hope it’s not in the form of a very early Saturday Night Live News Update. Some of you old farts may remember Garret Morris was shown in a caption window over the anchor’s shoulder shouting as loud as he could about the “top story tonight”. The bottom line: the various stations take turns bragging about what they do for the viewers. Let’s see how serious they really are. I won’t bother holding my breath.

A Black Man who is Not Black Enough and We’ve Overdosed on Anna Nicole Smith Already!

February 12, 2007

So, just when is a person black enough to run for political office in the U-S and expect support from within the black community? When I first heard this on Comedy Channel’s Colbert Report, I thought this was a joke. But when author and columnist Debra Dickerson sat down for the interview, I realized she was serious. She was talking about how U-S Senator Barack Obama is NOT a black American since he is not a descendant of African slaves. She went on to say he had not lived the “black experience” and that may affect his support in the black community. I initially thought she was indicating that B.O. had not faced the prejudice that people of color face…until now and ironically that comes from within the black community. Dickerson went on to say that B.O. was not African-American but African African-American. This issue was also addressed on 60-Minutes Sunday night in a report by Steve Kroft. I can think of many reasons a candidate won’t get the support of somebody. Not being conservative enough, not being liberal enough, not being moderate enough. IMHO, this particular issue doesn’t seem to be a good argument for not supporting someone for office.

So, is there anyone who hasn’t heard everything he or she needs to know about Anna Nicole Smith already. If you need to hear more, please take my portion. Please, I beg you. I got tired of this story the day it happened and it was on every newscast. ANS is yet another person who is famous for being famous and I’m tired of all the cameras that have been trained on this human car-wreck. Yes, I feel sorry for her in the loss of her son last summer and now she’s died and left an infant child behind. But everybody has claimed to be the baby’s daddy except me and my oldest brother and I’m not sure about my oldest brother. Please. I think I’d rather go back to flogging the astronaut woman for a a couple of days. The astronaut’s lawyers have to be thanking ANS for taking over the headlines though. Of course I should be careful what I wish for in asking for change of headlines. Paris Hilton may realize that nobody is paying attention to her and do something outrageous just so she can recapture her top spot in non-news.