Monday, July 31, 2006

Bang Bang Rock & Roll

I've heard only two songs from this ("Good Weekend" and "My Little Brother"), but it's rockin' good stuff. Air guitar? Yes! It's here at emusic.

The Enemy Is War.

photo: Bryan Denton for The New York Times

NYTimes article

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Sympathy for Floyd

I don't know if he did or didn't, but I'm sorry for Floyd either way. The situation, and the man.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Who Killed The Electric Car?

watch a better version at the iTunes store (trailers)

borat pic

Bliss in San Fran

This Sony ad has been floating around for a while, but I haven't seen it and any form until now. This is the extended version. Use therapeutically when your are feeling blue or uninspired. Poetry.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

I think I'll take the bus.

The Times Online delivered this global warming gut check today. As things go from bad to worse, my sense of dread morphs to panic. It would be easier to plunge my head deeper into the sand like our political leaders, but instead I think I'll start taking the bus and carpooling to work.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


I apologize for my absence, but it isn't altogether without reason. The amount of time I spent in front of some sort of screen or close to some type of speaker leaves less time than I'd like to be alone with my thoughts, so I'm trying to take a break. But I miss you!

So let me bring you up to speed.

1. Bravo Floyd! I probably spent 15 to 30 hours on the couch watching OLN's tour coverage, commercial free (Thanks TIVO!). Floyd Landis' recovery from a devastating and obviously discouraging stage in the mountains was a bit of sports magic.

2. I'm building a bookshelf. It's actually mostly done, only the staining is left to complete. Now, I'm now carpenter, but I'm giving myself a little pat on the back for designing and building a (mostly straight) piece of furniture. I made it out of 5/8" thick pine plywood. The helpful fella at The Home Depot did most of the cuts for me on the saw they got there, and even though they say "no precision cuts," I took a chance, and his cuts were pretty darn precise. I borrowed my roommate's rusty old handsaw for the few remaining cuts. I can't decide how to stain it (or paint it) as I already have three different shades of wood furniture in my bedrooom right now. I'll post some pics of the final product soon. I have had little piles of books around my room for a long time and I'm looking foreward to getting them all organized in one place.

3. I had to fix my brakes. I got almost 80,000 miles on my manual Nissan Sentra, and I was getting some highly alarming scraping from the left rear brake. I took it to Midas, and decided to cough up enough cash to replace the rotors and all. I'm not sure that they all needed replacing, but they couldn't have had much life left in them. But five hundred smackers ain't an easy pill to swallow no matter how you sugarcoat it. It's annoying to me that I'm still making payments on the darn thing.

Also, the first Idlewild piece aired last week (see previous post) to high praise. In a nice gesture, the reporter gave her lowly photographer name credit in the lead, which is pretty darn rare. The boss said his wife really liked it. Part two airs tonight (Wed).

Friday, July 14, 2006

Gay is the new Black

No sooner do I get done posting about Idlewild than I see this story in the NYTimes about Douglas, the hottest gay resort town around, 40 minutes from here.

From the NYTimes:
NOW there are plenty of havens that are a simple exit off a highway — like Saugatuck and Douglas, on the sandy shore of Lake Michigan just two hours from Chicago. Saugatuck’s gay history can be traced back nearly a century to the opening of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s summer program, the Ox-Bow, which brought a bohemian influx to the small town.

The scene got bumped up a few notches in the early 80’s, with the opening of the Dunes Resort in Douglas, and has grown exponentially in recent years. In 2002, a Dunes co-owner, Mike Jones, started the Web site; it shows that gay-owned businesses in the two towns have leapt to 140 from 40 in just four years.

Idlewild and Australian Bicyclists

I never know what to expect in my line of work as a TV news photographer. I try to keep most of it out of this blog for ethical and professional reasons, but today was something special, so I'll share.

My assignment today was to shoot a story to be aired next week on the history of Idlewild, Michigan. It was a resort town for blacks during segregation, but more on that later.

On the way up to Idlewild, which lies about 90 minutes north and west of Grand Rapids, my reporter and I decided to stop for a bite to eat. I've been following the Tour De France, and biking was on my mind when I spotted out of the corner of my eye two bikes loaded up with gear and their owners. Since the topic of our discussion had been a nearby trail and whether it was fully paved (and therefore navigable by road bikes) I thought I'd ask these two guys who had just stopped for a break at a McDonald's. We drove up and I asked out the window where they were headed.

"Boston." One replied in a fresh Australian accent. I was astounded.

"Where'd you start?"

"Portland! Portland, Oregon, 31 days ago."

A few years back it was a dream of mine to cross the country by bicycle. I got as far as buying a used road bike and reading a book by Lance Armstrong. Naturally, I wanted to jump out of our news Jeep and join these two fellers. I had some questions, and the four of us spent a few minutes chatting about their adventure.

They said they were covering about 100 miles a day. They were pretty scrawny guys, but definitely in good spirits. Looking to be in their 50's, they were impressed with the courtesy of American drivers and the high quality of the American roads, both much better than Canberra! They were averaging of $6.50 per night in lodging costs, staying cheap at campsites, mostly, and shared a few travelers' tales of the random kindnesses of American strangers they had met.

The talkative (and older, I think) of the two wore a Team Discovery riding shirt. When I asked him about the Tour, he said he hadn't seen much, as they've been riding and camping most of the time. The only time they see TV is in a place like McDonald's when they stop to eat. He did add, however, that Americans seem to be fixated on politics much more that Australians, as its all that seems to be on the rare TV he does spot.

I got their e-mail addresses and wished them good luck. We parted ways, but a part of my heart stayed with them. Maybe one day it will be my turn.

After we got our lunch (a footlong Veggie Delight from Subway for me, thank you) we were off to Idlewild. Idlewild used to be a favorite summer destination for wealthy African Americans during segregation. Sadly, with the successes of the civil rights movement came the downfall of Idlewild, for there was little reason for blacks from across the Midwest and as far away as Mississippi to seek out this haven when other doors were opening. The blacks stopped coming, and no one else took their place. Today the landmarks of 50 years ago sit mostly unused and overgrown with weeds.

Small motels, Individual bungalows, Wilson's Grocery Store, the Flamingo Club, and the Casablanca Hotel; all closed, most in a state of total disrepair. This was a place were performers like The Four Tops and Jackie Wilson would play. Sammy Davis Jr. is often mentioned, and Della Reese was a regular. I talked with a woman named Maryellen, looking fresh at 80, who has been coming to Idlewild for decades. She owns a home right on the lake and she invited us in talk about the history of the town. Her basement walls are lined with party decor from years past. Here were humorous hand drawn cardboard cartoon cutouts of folks like Bill Cosby, Lionel Richie, and Billy D. There, on the other wall next to the bar, more cutouts of party girls dancing the night away. A poster depicting a young couple of color, sans clothing, reading "Black is Beautiful." This was a party spot, and Marryellen was obviously a social kingpin in her day. She showed us pictures upon pictures of the Paradise Club parties, Flamingo Club dances, and even a few taken right there in her basement, many years ago. All showed black folks having fun. Young blacks with a urge to party called themselves Idlewilders and came from Chicago, in particular, in droves. It sure did seem like a magical place.

Today there is a newly built historical center, which was closed for our visit. The beach is still used, and every year there is an Idlewild Music Fest. It actually will be taking place this weekend, and one of my favorite local jazz combos, Organissimo, is scheduled to play. But the place still carries the air of a ghost town. It seems to be populated mostly with nice black folks and white trash, but populated might be too strong a word. Most of the narrow cottage roads go only between abandoned shacks, and the only commerce to speak of is the Road Runner convenience store, owned and operated by Maryellen's daughter, Denise.

But Denise is also the organizer of the Music Festival and one of Idlewild's loudest cheerleaders. She wants to see the town make a resurgence, and honestly, I think it might happen. The lakes are still beautiful, the location still rustic enough to be an escape, and there is plenty of cheap land available by the looks of it. As I drove down those dirt roads, it occured to me that it wouldn't take much to see Denise's dream come true.

There is a long-neglected blog dedicated to Idlewild which is still online here. There is also a movie called "Idlewild" starring the members of Outkast currently in production. Imdb says of the film:
musical set in the Prohibition-era American South, where a speakeasy performer and club manager Rooster (Big Boi) must contend with gangsters who have their eyes on the club while his piano player and partner Percival (André Benjamin) must choose between his love, Angel (Paula Patton) or his obligations to his father (Ben Vereen).
There is also a book called "Idlewild: The Black Eden of Michigan" available at, in which Maryellen appears more than once.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

The Most Civilized Race
As much as I hate to admit it, much of my sunny summer July free time has been spent on the couch tuned into the Tour de France. I've never watched it as closely as I have been this year. It's an unpredictable affair, and you really can't beat those heli shots of the French countryside. OLN really has great coverage. They repeat it all day long, so you really can't miss it. I TIVO it anyway.

As races go, the Tour must be the most elegant, the most civilized, and perhaps the most demanding on earth. I really don't know how to sum up how much I love the Tour. It was fun to watch Lance beat the world year after year, but now that he's out, anything can happen. Vive Le Tour.

Global Population

I learn things that influence my behavior, then I tend to forget the details. I have to keep myself reminded about things like this so that I don't start to slip.

At the same time, shortages of water are at a crisis point in many countries. At least 400 million people live in regions with severe water shortages. By the year 2050, it is projected to be approximately two billion. Water tables on every continent are falling, as water is pumped out at far greater rates than rainwater can replenish in order to provide irrigation for agriculture. India, for example, is pumping out its underground aquifers at twice the rate of natural replenishment.

Humans are already using half of the globe's products of photosynthesis and over half of all accessible fresh water. Long before human demand doubles again, the limits of the ecosystem's ability to support people will become dramatically evident.

Right Livelihood

"I believe in equality for everyone, except reporters and photographers." ~ Gandhi.

I'm not sure what the context of this quote is, but it's starting to get under my skin. The fifth step of the Eightfold Path is "Right Livelihood." I've been trying to figure out what this means for a long time. It's hard for me to determine is my work fits the category. It depends on the day.

There's a Right Livelihood Award. In 2005, the recipients were these folks:
Maude Barlow and Tony Clarke (Canada) Honorary Award
“ ... for their exemplary and longstanding worldwide work for trade justice and the recognition of the fundamental human right to water. ”.
First People Of The Kalahari / Roy Sesana (Botswana)
“ ... for resolute resistance against eviction from their ancestral lands, and for upholding the right to their traditional way of life. ”.

Francisco Toledo (Mexico)
“ ... for devoting himself and his art to the protection, enhancement and renewal of the architectural and cultural heritage, natural environment and community life of his native Oaxaca. ”.

Irene Fernandez (Malaysia)
“ ... for her outstanding and courageous work to stop violence against women and abuses of migrant and poor workers. ”
One way I have for solving my ethical dilemmas is to imagine the entire world posed with the same decision. Some answers are easy. If we all threw our garbage out the window, the world would be a mess. Other answers are hard, like the right way to make a living. I guess if we were all still subsistence farmers I'd have fewer philosophical quandries, or time to devote to those that may remain.

Friday, July 07, 2006

A Scanner Darkly

I'm listening to a podcast of the R U Sirius show featuring an interview with one of my favorite directors, Richard Linklater, about his new film adaptation of Phillip K. Dick novel, A Scanner Darkly. I haven't seen the movie yet, but by the time this weekend if over, I hope I will have. It's a pretty good interview. If you're unfamiliar with either of these figures, you probably have seen their work without knowing it. Go check your imdb for that. If you ask me, the two essential films of this summer so far have been "An Inconvenient Truth," and "A Scanner Darkly."

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

My Jerk Neighbor

Happy Birthday America. Now let's get some sleep.

I live in a part of town that's a little iffy. Well, it depends which way I look when I look out the front door. Metaphorically speaking, the house I share with my roommate is right on the tracks. One side good, other side bad. Lately, I think the bad side is making a land grab.

It's just that lately, things have been getting a little spotty on Lydia street. There's the occasional crazy/high person who's talking in a loud voice to no one in particular at 1 a.m. in the middle of the road, barefoot. There's the weird activity across the street that often involves lots of late night honking, and then there was that one guy I saw on a corner, almost passed out, in the middle of the afternoon, in his socks, a block away from the kids walking home from school. I called the cops on that one.

But tonight, and for the past few nights, the one thing that has been really getting on my nerves is the anonymous jerk up the road who sets off the loud fireworks well after midnight. I mean, real noisemakers. Real late. Real maddening. I'm baffled, really, that a person would feel that it's acceptable behavior. In fact, I think it's absolutely anti-social. Now, I'll admit that my personal stance toward fireworks in general may have recently swung from a childish love of their explosive charm to a general disapproval of their peace-ruining volume, but that's not because I'm a killjoy. It's because the moron up the road has gotten to me. I fantasize about storming up the street to tell the pyrotechnical wizard to put a sock in it, but I highly doubt that anyone is going to set the guy (gal?) straight. Nowadays, you gotta think about getting shot over some stupid stuff like that.

Even though I'm just renting (my roommate owns), I'd really love to see this neighborhood improve. I've even started carrying a garbage bad around when I walk the dogs so that I can pick up all the junk that used to just make me mad when I walked by it. I do that because I think my neighborhood is actually pretty nice (to the east of the house anyway), but it's got some serious flaws (go west, young man), and it sure does suck when some fool ruins the place for a night with some obnoxious patriotism aids.

Happy Birthday America. Bah Humbug.

Digg it.

I've just found my newest bookmark. I'm putting it right after the NYTimes and Boing Boing. It's, and I think you'll be hearing more about it in the future. I work in the news business, and one of the most frustrating exercises is the continual guess work that is known as story selection. We as "gatekeepers," (a term that has probably obsolescent by now), judge the newsworthiness of stories and try to cater to the tastes of our audience. Giving people what we think they need to know, and keeping them around with what we think they want to know. The pendulum swings between those two poles. I think I'd put PBS's NewsHour at one end and Inside Edition on the other. The problem is that, despite what you may be lead to believe, the people in the news business don't always necessarily have the pulse of America figured out, and when all else fails, sex and violence are the most common denominators. If you hate the news, this may be why.

What makes so great is that the audience gets democratic about what stories get top billing. It's American Idol for news content. If you like a story for whatever reason, you "digg it" and your vote is counted. The more votes a story gets, the higher it ranks, the more eye balls are likely to see it, etc. etc. So now I'm not relying on some producer or editor somewhere to tell me what the news is, I'm relying on the audience. It's the same classic, pure Internet decentralization and democratization we see more and more of these days. In this case, the audience in question seem to be tech-oriented early adopters. No big surprise there. Topics that seem to get attention right now lean toward the geek end, but that's not really a bad place to be. I'd much rather know about programmers hacking through China's internet than Lil-Kim's release from jail, and besides, I've always liked geek humor. Boing Boing is a great example of what I'd guess is a similarly skewed demographic.

Of course, as more people begin to "digg" in, this is bound to change to some extent, and that may be the most interesting part. So, I'd encourage you as an obviously classy, tasteful and sophisticated individual (after all, you're here!) to check it out and start voting. I like it, so you might too, and so on and so forth.