Katrina and…well, you know.

Monday, August 29th, 2005

It’s Monday evening, and Hurricane Katrina has plowed through New Orleans, leaving lots of broken stuff in its wake. At dinner time, it’s in northern Mississippi—and it’s still at hurricane strength.

Now, we get the leavings—thunderstorms, tornadoes perhaps, and more. because of the news buildup on this storm, and because I’ve never accumulated any really good hurricane imagery, I set my g5 to suck down (using curl and a quick cron script) all kinds of radars and sat images every 20 minutes, and tossed the stacks of jpegs into After Effects to make some quick timelapses. The results were very cool.

Now, let’s just hope it’s a relatively quiet night here…I feel for the folks to our west—they’ve got some mighty cleanup to do.

Early August linkettes.

Wednesday, August 10th, 2005

My sister is going on Jeopardy a second time…wish her luck!

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The San Francisco Chronicle’s Peter Hartlaub talks about how today’s effects-laden are leaving audiences with more of a feeling of numbness than wonder. In it, he quotes a legend of another era:

“I’ve always felt that the miraculous image was very unique in the 1950s. To see something like the Cyclops was a novelty. Now today you see so many strange things in a 30-second commercial. There’s no longer the amazement of the amazing things.”

legendary stop-motion animator Ray Harryhausen in an NPR interview


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I’ve always been a bit twitchy watching television, but I think it’s safe to say that with the advent of watching content online, my options have expanded. Like sitting in a nonlinear edit bay, I find myself jumping around within a single piece of content. It goes way beyond jumping past commercials, of course…you can basically “flip through” a movie file in a way not unlike skimming a newspaper article. Others watch this way too.

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What else catches my eye online these days? I see a growth in videoblogs and the applications to make viewing them and sharing them easy. I’m reading up on VOiP and trying apps like this to replace our second phone line…you know, the one with the number my brother used to have. Yeah, I’ll miss the number, but not equal to $27 a month. And no, we’re not getting a cell phone anytime soon. I’m also trying to make use of the Google Maps API (that means Application Programming Interface) to have my own custom maps that show important things in my life in convenient Google Map form. Stay tuned for examples.

Stay curious.

Tuesday, August 9th, 2005

Peter Jennings died late Sunday evening, and I’ve never heard the word “curiosity” mentioned so many times by so many different people in an attempt to capture a person’s essence.

Stripped of all its outputs, journalism starts with curiosity. And without an outlet for that digested curiosity, you have no journalism. I went to school to become a journalist, and I find myself with the curiosity and the tools to acquire the information (thank you, o internet), but without the outlet—and no, no particular burning desire to have one, I can’t make any claims to practice journalism.

That is, unless you think this document is read worldwide.

But I was inspired by Jennings. I admired his work. I admired his attempts to get Americans to think about issues that we seem to turn away from—like health care and centuries-old cultural conflicts. He represented for me the best of what Americans could be in relations with our fellow global citizens. (Ironic, of course.) Jennings told Charlie Rose that he indeed believed to be a journalist is to be a citizen of the world, and I’d rather be a member of any global community than a cheerleader for the home team that hates its opponents. Actively participating in this internet thing feels global, even if I am communicating mostly in English to mostly fellow pasty white guys. It’s a step in the right direction. And it’s a great way to satisfy my unabated curiosity.

I got the news of Jennings’ death sometime after midnight, in further irony, not from television, but on Google News, and I was able in a matter of a few clicks, an hour or so after the announcement, to read, listen to, and watch lots of the ABC News anchor’s colleagues, peers, critics, and hangers-on mourn his loss and delineate his legacy. I read about Charlie Gibson sorrowfully but professionally making the announcement—I didn’t see it live. I watched Aaron Brown’s obituary for his colleague, but I went to cnn.com to do it.

It’s interesting to me that scant little is being said about Jennings’ second incarnation as ABC anchor—his role in the tripartite successor to the Harry Reasoner and Barbara Walters fiasco. Sometime in 1978, ABC Sports head-turned-news-head Roone Arledge conceived of World News Tonight—that was the first time the name was used—as a round-robin of the world, with not one but three anchors: stalwart, too-conservative-for-my-taste Frank Reynolds in Washington, urban Max Robinson in Chicago, and urbane Peter Jennings in London.

This was a tour-de-force of technology more than an innovation in content, and was ABC’s attempt to overcome the sheer gravitational force of Walter Cronkite by pulling on his ratings numbers from multiple locations. It didn’t work for most people, apparently because “a network needs a single voice”, but it did for me, because if nothing else it established a clear mandate to cover both international news and heartland-of-America news on a regular basis. Breadth of coverage is something that’s falling by the wayside (television news’s massive pile of wayside detritus is starting to block out the sun). Watching WNT in the late 70s, I was hopeful that this indeed meant all of our news didn’t have to come from white guys in New York or Washington. I knew when Jennings’ face appeared that we’d be hearing about places that were important to understand, even when I understood precious little. When the world appeared in my living room, I wanted to go there and learn more. Broadcast curiosity begats curiosity.

(It’s funny now that there’s not much trace on the internet of Robinson and Reynolds. And Reynolds, with Jules Bergman, did a great job of covering the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo flights for ABC. Try to find references to that, or to Bergman at all.)

Jennings, Robinson, Reynolds, Arledge are all gone now.

So you’ve read plenty about how this closes the book on the Jennings/Rather/Brokaw generation of news anchoring. Here’s hoping it isn’t an invitation for Roger Ailes to drag us further down the path to, well, wherever chapter he’s writing.

Travels this summer.

Thursday, August 4th, 2005

We’ve went up north, you know, in late June and early July, and although I haven’t blogged..er, written much about the experience, we do have a few photos. Also tucked away on the Flickr site are some older images from the summer of 2000. All of this is preparatory to some more site reorganization, because hey, it’d be nice to have all of this set up in a way that makes a tiny bit more sense.

Flickr has for me, so far, been an interesting way to stash and share photos. For the more clever among us who can craft piles of Python, Flash, Ruby, or Javascript, the Flickr open API has been an invitation to innovate, which leads to wonderful pages like this Flash-based extravaganza. The whole tagging thing leads toward serendipity and wandering, which is one of the most wonderful things about a bunch of code linked together in a global packetized network—you know, the whole internet thing.