Perchance, just to sleep…

Friday, January 12th, 1996

I had one of those dreams last night–well, actually the last time I went to sleep, that was terrifying–mostly because it held together internally with a logic and clarity that sometimes escapes me in real life.
I’ve had an adjustment week, what with Sammy off on her (finally!) last quarter of classes at the University of Georgia. This leaves me in Atlanta with plenty of time to talk to myself, which isn’t always a good thing.
It’s also an adjustment week because I’ve been trying to get lots of overdue projects out the door, with varying degrees of success. As often happens with Life as a Television Graphic Designer, one’s best-laid plans can be messed up by obscure technical things–like a SCSI board on an Abekas that refuses to cooperate, or by things more related to the nature of humans–like a change of management at a client or facility that leaves one’s carefully-cultured relationship back at ground zero–or out the door. I’ve experienced all of the above in the past couple of weeks, and it can mess up schedules. Deadlines. And sleep rhythms. Add to this the very cold (for Atlanta) weather we’ve been having, and sometimes I find myself much happier in near-hibernation, sleeping the deep sleep of the circadian-cycle-shot and dreaming what seem to me to be big ol long-form miniseries dreams, taking place in vast fictional cities that seem to be expertly hewn together (if my brain does say so itself) out of snippets of real life. The hills of Seattle. Poor, flood-ravaged homes in Des Moines. The smell of Steubenville, Ohio. All seamlessly running together. If they get any more crafted, precise, and all right, beautiful–I may go tumbling past that median and begin to lose track of which half of my life is the dream.


slap!

 


There, I feel better. Thanks.
I’m writing this on my terrifyingly fast DayStar clone, using BBEdit, a wonderful text editor I’ve used for years. Now, it’s even better with the 3.5.2 update, because the fine folks at Bare Bones have gone nuts with adding HTML functionality into this industrial-strength Mac text editor. The update adds a terrific ‘HTML tools’ floating palette that enables me to punch in–or drag-and-drop all the arcane coding that makes HTML the unpronouncable format that it is. They’ve also added a spelling checker. It’s one fine piece of work. If you’re a Mac user, you should be using this pup for your day to day flow of words.

 


Yes, sometimes the photos at the top of this page have some relevance; often they do not. But more often than not my brain feels, well, thickly settled. (Now, for extra points, what part of this country uses this road sign, and what does it mean?)

 


Hey, here are a few protolinks…pages that are almost nearly up and running, or may well be by the time you read this. Finally–the folks at hometown Delta Air Lines have brought their schedules and such–and even a pointless marketing contest–to the WWW. Similarly, the great grey New York Times sneaks netward with some actual content beyond their daily downloadable faxed mini-version of their paper. One of my best friends from college is (last I checked) the head of public relations for the Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio. This represents, for her, the closest thing to a dream job–she has always been fanatical about rollercoasters. Some people are. Maybe you are. I am not.

Home, and the Holidays.

Sunday, December 24th, 1995

It was the day before Christmas, and all through the home, people were wandering, though not one from Nome. My thanks to my sister for correcting the meter in that last phrase.

Hello from a cold but thankfully snow-free Atlanta, where we are enjoying a Sunday before a holiday that, in some ways, has seemed to have taken its sweet time in arriving. Sammy’s parents are here, as usual taking a stopover en route to extreme south Texas, where they park their small RV amidst others with more accoutrements who have also fled the snow and slush. While here, they’re the kind of company one would like, especially from in-laws, helpful, polite, and generally no trouble at all, although I occasionally see in them the origins of one of Sammy’s more..um..interesting characteristics: the dead-certainty that one has the only true and correct solution to a problem, and for some other one to propose an alternative is not only foolish, but deserving of contempt. This is not a major character flaw (in most cases) though, so we’re having a good time. Also here, from Boston, is Sammy’s childhood friend Kelley, who is an accomplished designer and photographer who has spent every waking minute the past couple of years pushing through the renovation of an old elevator factory in Cambridge. Now finished and beautiful, Kelley’s home is a wonder of space and a convenient oasis in the urban hustle and bustle.

We’re also pleased to have my sister and her husband in town, although they’re staying with friends of Leslie’s from her stay in Atlanta. These folks have a lot in common, including, apparently, a large and high-maintenance dog that almost kind of sort of go with Leslie and Gene’s three cats in their small Columbus, Ohio home. Also down from Columbus is my father, staying at the moment at my brother’s house (hey, he was staying here over Thanksgiving.)

So we’re all here, together, give or take a zip code or two, and we’re enjoying a variety of offbeat holiday gathering that is certainly not Norman Rockwell, but not quite Tim Burton, either.


If it seems that my words are written with a bit more zip than before, it’s because my computational ship has come in. I did some work in September for the fine folks at DayStar Digital, a company that makes MacOS computers in (of all places), Flowery Branch, Georgia. For my efforts, I am now enjoying the work of their labors–a brand, shiny new Genesis MP. Man, oh man…four fast 604 PowerPC chips, gobs of RAM, and multiprocessing that makes two of my most-used programs–Adobe After Effects and Adobe Photoshop–fly like, oh, er, what cliche can I use here? Like really fast, useful programs that seem like an extension of my thought processes. How’s that?

I’m proud to have a machine put together by these folks. I wholeheartedly recommend and enjoy their products. I’m glad they’re on the Mac side.

And I mentioned After Effects, above. This program represents yet another key to my being able to do complete, full-resolution, broadcast quality television from my Mac..er..DayStar. This program is remarkably well done. I remember looking at version 1.0 a couple of years ago and thinking (and saying, to all who would listen) that if they made a couple of improvements and the speed of machines continued to increase, we’d have a tool here that would really open all kinds of creative doors. Well, it has. I’ll tell you more and show you some examples soon…watch this space.


A quick holiday gift of some links before I go. Take a look at yet another way to search for stuff on the web. This one’s called Excite–and although it seems to have some connection to that lurking bloated giant Microsoft, the search engine is fast and efficient and it also lets you search the past two weeks worth of newsgroups in addition to webspace. Very cool. Another search engine that sits atop my big pile of bookmarks: Open Text. Some folks have developed TV listings available for the major cable and broadcast networks on the net. The Starwave Memory Bank appears to be some sort of large collection of celebrity biographies and collections of their works, a fine companion to the indispensable Internet Movie Server at Mississippi and in the UK. Fess Parker. Dead or alive? Ask the Dead page. And thrill to a great collection of all those zip code, area code, and address lookups, courtesy of the aforementioned lurking bloated giant Microsoft network. There’s more, a lot more no doubt, but we have some holiday cheer to get through, dispense, accumulate, and dispose of. You have a good one or two holidays, too.

Hello, the Post.

Monday, November 13th, 1995

Somebody mentioned to me that I should use this web page for more blatantly commercial pursuits, and, in truth, it’s this time of year when freelance bums like myself begin to worry whether there’ll be any work next year. But I’m kind of concerned about going completely commercial with this place. Positively Atlanta Georgia is, at best, a recreational therapy for me (I recommend it to you as well), and it’s kind of fun to sit down every so often and jot down whatever elbows its way into my overcrowded consciousness.


Besides, I hope you realize that the examples on this site are in fact things I do for a living, and if you need your television station or cable network redesigned, fancy 3d animation for whatever purpose, a beautiful cover done for your next CD release, publications, corporate identity projects, menus, yes, web pages, and the like…drop me an email or give me a call at (404) 876-1414. End of commercial.


The picture at the top of this page is Sammy and our niece Brigid at the North Georgia State Fair last month, which was a dazzling display of the..um..er..unique folk culture of the rural south. What I mean by that is, um, they’ve got this one carny attraction that is basically a 8 foot in diameter, multicolored roulette wheel with holes drilled just inside the perimeter. Matching colors on the railings along the sides of the tent. The suckers put their quarters down on the colors. The wheel spins, and a live rat, gerbil, or guinea pig is tossed onto the wheel, where, terrified, it scurries for and crashes down into one of the holes. Yikes. Man oh man. Actually, this ‘attraction’ is so popular at this fair there are three of them. (and you wonder why I spend a lot of my time safely inside Interstate 285.)


Actually, the other lasting image from that fair was the sight of the dozens of recreational vehicles parked off to one side–the homes on wheels of the carnys–many with Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS) dishes mounted on top. They may be roughing it, but they can watch The Golf Channel.


Well, I’m delighted that my college newspaper, The Post is now on the net…or at least it seems so sporadically. The DNS server that I use half the time will allow me to visit ‘http://thepost.baker.ohiou.edu‘ and half the time claims it has no idea who or where that is. Ah, technology. Former The Post bigshot D. Wade McDaniel set me an email recently with an example of the quality of reporting that comes out of our old college paper. (I’ll spare you, but the headline was ‘Portable Ash Trays Could Get Butts Off Ground, Out of Drains’) The question for folks 20 years or so down the pike from those days is: "Were we really that much more substantive back then?" Well, sometimes, but sometimes not. During my tenure, The Post at its best did a great job of covering regional sories like a United Mine Workers’ strike that kept thousands off their jobs and a paralyzingly cold winter (I believe this was winter 1977-78) that threatened the lives of rural Ohioans and made getting anything anywhere quite a challenge. Of course, the paper also ran junk like columns on why it’s hard for someone to get up in the morning. Uh, wait, I wrote that one. Speaking of former The Post bigshots (The Post style was always to call the paper The Post, not the OU Post or anything like that)…there actually were a few people who came out of that substance-abusing crucible of student journalism who were able make a real name for themselves. I smile when I see Sports Illustrated reporter Peter King on television pontificating on football (a Postie from my years there), I’m proud to see Clarence Page unraveling politics on the Not-MacNeil-But-Lehrer NewsHour (a Postie from before my time), and I scream in abject horror when Joe Eszterhas is able to get untold millions for crappy screenplays running the emotional gamut from Flashdance to Showgirls (which is to say, running nowhere at all.) Another former Postie, circa 1973, sad to say. There are others, from notable to notorious, and maybe we should talk about them some other time.


It’s been more than a month since Hurricane Opal came screaming through north Georgia, and there are still trees down all over the place. We’ve also had a couple of blustery storms since (it’s been a rainy, windy fall), and trees have given up the ghost then as well. It’s creating a sort of gun-shy-ness about the weather around here…or maybe I’m just projecting my own fears on the populace in general. After having a tree bisect our home (in 1991), I don’t like seeing the oaks in our back yard swaying to any kind of beat.

The Braves, finally.

Sunday, October 29th, 1995

We wake up today after a blustery Saturday that started with rain and ended with a large sigh of relief citywide. Yes, Ted’s team, America’s Team, our team, the Atlanta Braves has won the World Series, as one sign said, ‘…finally.’ Saturday morning, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution covered–perhaps overcovered–Braves outfielder David Justice’s comments about the lackluster fan support at home during the first two series games. He was booed, then, taking the field that night. He turned many of those catcalls into cheers, though, by managing to hit a home run–the only score, on either side, in that game.

Baseball irony can be pretty ironical, sometimes.

I don’t want to leave you with the impression that Sammy and I are particularly baseball-obsessed–it’s just that we got into the habit of watching the playoffs after the fall of 1991, which was the first year that the Braves made it to the series (in our lifetimes) and was the fall when we were out of our house after it was smashed by an enormous oak tree. So it’s kind of a tradition born when our lives were thrown out of balance, and today, it feels good that those wacky, troubled, overpaid guys won one for the city. Now, maybe we’ll get through next year’s Olympics without screwing it up too badly.

Now what’s left for folks to go nuts about?

Well, let’s see, there’s always politics. Those other sports–basketball, football. Religion. Stuff like that. I’m probably one of the few people in my zip code following the crisis in Quebec, for reasons probably connected with my short tenure in Vermont. Me, I’d like the Canadians to stay together, one big semi-happy family, but hey, I took that position during the Civil War, too.

PostOpal Retrograde.

Tuesday, October 17th, 1995

As I write this, up to 170,000 homes in Georgia, most of them in Atlanta, are still without power after Hurricane Opal–which was downgraded to a tropical storm only as it struck the west suburbs of our town–blew by Wednesday night. Yes, it is unusual for a hurricane to make it this far inland…Atlanta is hundreds of miles from the coast, and what we usually get when a hurricane messes up the gulf or the Atlantic coast is a day or two of rain with a faint scent of the seashore. This time we got two days of rain on Monday and Tuesday–seven to ten inches of rain, depending on who you listen to–and then we were visited by the remains of the hurricane itself. The winds were spooky, trees everywhere around town bent and snapped, and I felt that strange feeling in the pit of your stomach you feel when the barometric pressure plunges suddenly, dramatically.


Our power finally came back on Friday night around dinnertime, while we dined at a nice restaurant outside of the blacked-out area. Sammy successfully slept through the night as the storm shook our house–and slapped our yard’s remaining trees silly. It’s too early here for many of the leaves to turn to fall hues, so what we get dropped in our yard is green leaves in batches–and acorns, lots of acorns.


Trees seem to be the crux of the problem. Someone reported that 5000 of them are down in town…that may even be conservative, and after a large oak tree fell through our house in 1991 during high winds, I’m very sympathetic to this new batch of tree-victims–and, of course, I’m very nervous whenever the wind kicks up at all. One end of Hudson Drive is blocked even this morning by a fallen tree–there’s another big one down on Rosedale, the next street to the south. This time, we got off with a large batch of fallen limbs and tree junk in the yard, and, of course, some de-frosted and spoiled food from the refrigerator. Other folks are not nearly as lucky. And further south, in the Pensacola-Fort Walton Beach area, the devastation from Opal is terrible indeed. Total deaths in the southeast: about 17. Total amount of damage: they can’t add it up yet.

The ‘romance’ of journalism.

Saturday, September 30th, 1995

I’m part of a generation who came of age during and immediately after the Watergate affair, and in fact, was one of the few people in my Grandview Heights, Ohio high school who actively criticized the government’s handling off the war in Vietnam, the treatment of civil rights and antiwar protesters on our nation’s college campuses, and, in general, the secrecy and duplicity that I saw in our president at the time, one Richard M. Nixon.

Nixon’s downfall, you may remember, was not due as much to the efforts of protestors as it was to the dogged efforts of a handful of reporters, particularly those of The Washington Post. Standing up to the administration’s intimidation, harassment, and miscellaneous illegalities, the people from the Post, quite simply, did their jobs. They found out the truth, and they reported it clearly, plainly, without hype or fanfare. The people from that era of the Post–especially their editor, the legendary Ben Bradlee, who, in his own curmudgeonly way, stood up for a set of values and ethics that I found courageous and appealing.

Bradlee and the Post were a big reason why I went to journalism school–and because I wan’t alone in those feelings, j-schools’ admissions skyrocketed post-Watergate. How many of my fellow students enrolled in fulfillment of the romantic image of a ‘crusading investigative reporter?’ Um…I dunno. All I can say is that the ethic of discovering the truth and telling it objectively has always been something I held in high esteem. For the folks who do this every day, it can be anything but romantic or fun, and Where We Are Now, in a culture where reading has become devalued (as has spelling–but don’t get me started), in a business environment where newspapers and television news operations must be profit centers first and purveyors of journalism second, if at all–we may well have descended a long way from the heights of what journalism can achieve. Instead we have non-journalism: we spend an hour watching Barbara Walters talking with Christopher Reeve. We watch local newscasts full of gimmicks and fluff. We read newspapers full of flashy design which wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t surround a content-free void.

And into this era comes once again the voice of Ben Bradlee, in an autobiography called ‘A Good Life’, and it reminds me once again how good–and how much a force for good–journalism can be.

New England, again.

Monday, September 18th, 1995

Hello from Atlanta, where things have finally begun to cool down enough to create at least the expectation that fall will be a delight. Sammy and I have been off on a quick trip designed to get the most out of the early signs of autumn.

We flew to Boston on a cheap Delta flight and rented a cheap Avis car; we drove up the Maine coast, turned west and cut over to the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Took the car up through some beautiful scenery that had just begun to change fall colors, drove up Mount Washington in the Presidential Range, followed the Connecticut River to its headwaters on the New Hampshire/Quebec border, drove north into Quebec listening to arguments over the seperatist question on CBC Radio, and saw covered bridges and small Catholic farm towns along our route. Got to Sherbrooke P.Q., turned south and drove along Lake Mephremagog, crossed back into the states at Newport, Vermont, and headed down into the Green Mountain state. Dined in Cabot with old friends from my days at The Country Journal (a very small newspaper–no, not the magazine of the same name), stopped by my old radio station at Goddard College, breakfasted well at The Horn of the Moon in Montpelier, and dined well in Burlington. Dropped down state route 100 (the traditional fall foliage route), picked up the Connecticut River again down into Massachusetts, and made our way around to Interstate 495, which we took to down by the Cape on a sunday night. Next day, we headed out to Cape Cod, where we spent the day and night having fun on a relatively unpopulated vacation spot, and we finally pulled back into Boston to spend a day with Sammy’s friend Kelley, who has renovated a large former elevator factory in Cambridge into cool homes and artist’s spaces. Phew! We cram more into seven days than most people cram into..uh, ten days, maybe.


I want to do my part to help you experience Bob Page-mania. Yes, it’s true. Reports are that Mr. Page has been in the recording studio most of this week and is all but done with his next CD, which for fans of Bob’s distinctive boogie-woogie blues piano, is good news indeed. Bob’s first CD, Poor Man Shuffle, was critically well-received, if not a commercially big success (that may well be because he records on a small independent label.) I’ve always been a big fan, however–and, uh, by the way, I did the graphic design for Poor Man Shuffle and it looks like I also get to have some fun with his new one, Blues in Dixieland. Make a note: it’s coming this Christmas to a record store near you.

Warmer-than-usual links.

Saturday, August 19th, 1995

It’s the day after my sister’s birthday, and Atlanta (and a good chunk of the rest of the country) has been in the grip of over-100 temperatures, with plenty of humidity, for what seems like days and days and days. If I were smarter, I wouldn’t be here, and last weekend, I made good on that by zipping out to Boise to watch KTVB, the fine NBC station there finally stick a graphics package I had done for them on the air. As a wonderful side benefit, I got some great sunsets to watch and temperatures in the evening down into the forties, and that seems very nice indeed right about now.


And, oh yeah, I also scored some Frequent Flyer miles.


While out there, I stuck my nose into a computer store and watched some guy messing with a net-connected modem and Netscape, calling up page after page. Of course, I couldn’t resist typing my URL in and watching my own words show up half a continent away. Is this publishing? It gives me much the same thrill as when, as a very small child and with my mother’s help,I cranked out a hektographed newspaper for my neighborhood called The Daily Planet. Hektographed? Yep, it’s a process that uses ditto-type masters and a tray filled with a special gelatin. I’m not kidding. Yes, this was in the early 1960s, when computers were still very scary things with huge whirring tape drives. Back then, hektography seemed like quite the technological foray. HTML, of course, seems much easier by comparison. At any rate, when I see pages coming from elementary schools or other conglomerations of young people, it impresses me a bunch more than a particularly-well-designed page from, say, NBC. I hope everyone gives this a try sometime. A global cacaphony of indivisual viewpoints. That, to me, can be a very special kind of community.


It seems that more and more people are coming to me for web page design (yes, I do that)–so much so that it’s beginning to supplant some of the broadcast work that I do. Fewer news opens and more web pages? Hey, why not? As someone with a fairly broad-based background in darn near everything digital, I have to be open to any possibilities (or so I tell myself.)


I’m also beginning to get quite a few suggestions that I talk on these pages about how to do some of the kind of design work you see here. Well…start with Adobe Photoshop… (Maybe I’ll go into greater–much greater–detail soon.)


What looks good out there?

This time, I’ve accumulated a bunch of sorta-kinda non-sequitur links. Here they are for what thery’re worth, along with a path to a much bigger page I’ve done of interesting places to go.

  • Mexican food! Food and Cooking in Prehispanic Mexico!
  • 3d models! The classic Avalon/Chinalake site has been taken under Viewpoint‘s wing. Good place for it, good people. For all your 3d modeling needs.
  • PageMill! From the nice folks at Ceneca Communications. Everything I heard from MacWorld says that this is the breakthrough HTML editing software. On the Mac, of course, where all breakthroughs happen.
  • Trendy LA 3d designers! A lot of the great effects sequences in films and spots are coming from Digital Domain these days. They have a WWW site with more ego and attitude than I’ve seen in some time. Is that a good thing? Uh…I dunno.
  • Oppose the Microsoft juggernaut! Jon Pugh is one of my favorite programmers, and his web page has some remarkably cogent arguments against the Redmond, Washington-based purveyor of bloated, slow Mac software. Oh, don’t get me started.
  • Trains! A future PosAtlGA will have some attempt at articulating my childhood love of trains and train travel. Until then, enjoy this digital roundhouse of things ferro-carril-like.
  • Posts published on February 23