Coffee, tea, or soup.

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

world_news_now.jpgUp there on my bookshelf, along with my pointlessly-displayed local television awards, collections of caps, and mardi gras beads (a gift from a news director in New Orleans) is something I really treasure…my ABC World News Now coffee, tea, or soup mug, which, I should explain, was not so much earned from the program (they gave them out as prizes) as cajoled from a buddy who was a powerhouse at Good Morning America back at the turn of the nineties when WNN was given license to take over the overnight airwaves at ABC.

Quirky, offbeat, irreverent, the show was certainly a tonic for me—back when I had to do design in the overnight hours in order to make the financial and technological equation work, I usually had the program on in the control room, and the voices of anchors Aaron Brown and Lisa McRee brought welcome sanity to some quiet early morning hours.

The show was largely crafted (cobbled?) together by Brown and then-executive-producer David Bohrman, and featured witty writing, cardboard cutouts of absent anchors, a review of how morning newspapers worldwide would be covering stories, super-sarcastic sports, a cryptic World News Now ‘National Temperature Index’, and, on Fridays, long credits accompanied by a guy on accordian doing the World News Polka.

Really, that’s just about all you need to get you through the night.

And because they celebrated their 16th anniversary earlier this year, I’ve been able to find a couple of YouTube videos which feature Brown and Bohrman talking about what they wrought and where the parade of distinguished anchors are now (Anderson Cooper, Thalia Assuras, Alison Stewart, and a raft of literate Canadians have populated the WNN anchor chairs over the years.)

World News Now owes some large debt to Lloyd Dobbins and Linda Ellerbee’s as-quirky-but-shorter (and shorter-lived) NBC News Overnight, which premiered on the night of a lunar eclipse on July 6, 1982. It might even be said that they both owe a tip of the hat to WTCG/WTBS’s Bill Tush and Tina Seldin, and their beyond-quirky 17 Update Early in The Morning on the nascent SuperStation.

I bring all this up mostly to say: I think that there remains a market for quirk…especially literate quirk, at all hours of the day or night. Bohrman recalls “There were a million people watching this show every night…that’s where Larry King peaks out, at a million people.” There’s a lot of television and internet programmers who would be very satisfied with that much viewership.

Bohrman, by the way, went on to create the short-ish-lived NewsNight with Aaron Brown at CNN and then apparently had some sort of nightmare that involved being trapped with Wolf Blitzer inside a Best Buy, that led to The Situation Room on CNN.

Quirk and wit works—if you can create a hip club that welcomes people in, doesn’t insult their intelligence, and offers a relaxed smile with their buffet of information.

In some ways the best internet commentary sites (oh, okay, blogs) are traceable descendants of programs like this. If cable networks would hand over the keys to the control room to upholders of this tradition of wry information, presented with a chuckle (as opposed to, say, streaming nonstop informercials) my mug of happiness would run over.

The looming squirrel threat.

Friday, April 4th, 2008

We started (well, for me, started) the day yesterday with a 20 minute or so power failure, which appeared to affect at least our whole block. Gee, I guess so:

Squirrel Knocks Out Power in Midtown

ATLANTA — About 7,000 residents were left without power in Midtown Atlanta Thursday morning due to the workings of a tiny critter.

Georgia Power officials said a squirrel somehow got into a substation and knocked out the power in the area, including Colony Square. The power was restored after 20 minutes.

The squirrel was killed during his explorations, officials said.

By electricity, I’d assume…not by the ever-vigilant forces we’ve been told are protecting our valiant homeland’s infrastructure.

News overhead (Fox.)

Somehow satisfying to be able to figure out—or in some cases, actually watch—“what happened” online, even when the what happened is, as often the case in the big city, violent and unnerving.

I came out one morning to find two news helicopters hovering directly overhead our house…a few days later, some modest Googling brought up this police action (video with siren sounds, btw) around the corner at the same time and date, caught, as they like to say these days, on tape, and then pushed out to the world on YouTube. As far as I could tell from the Atlanta police reports, there was no one actually shot—just the aftermath of a police chase, despite how the video’s labeled.

Case(s) closed?

Quality views, on fine linen (pixels.)

Friday, April 4th, 2008

The Boston Public Library is putting scanned images from several of their collections up on Flickr (as did the Library of Congress before them), and the first few I happen across bring back fond memories of my Vermont past. And, apropos of the Barre High School there, did I mention that my father’s name is Robert Burns? Mhm.

Most of the ones I’ve paged through so far are the work of the Tichnor Brothers, whom I first heard of years ago, from my Goddard buddy and postcard afficianado Alice J.

Oh, please, just read the sign.

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008

…but what if the question goes on and on and on? Hm. It’s the same caution icon as is on my shoes.