Why I Didn’t Take Junior or Senior English

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I was just talking with a friend and realized this is a story I haven’t told (much).

I didn’t take English junior and senior year in high school. Well, not in the conventional sense.

Instead of taking English, I was an actor, a radio actor. I was a member of the NYC All-City Radio Workshop. It all took place on my high school’s ninth floor (seriously) at WNYE-FM.

WNYE was an anachronism. It was proof of a bureaucracy’s resistance to change. What we were doing was appropriate in 1952. The was 66-67-68.

It didn’t make a difference. I loved it. Voices and dialects. I mostly played kids.

Sometimes they were famous kids, like young Franklin Roosevelt or young Orville Wright. I played young Jackie Robinson. It was a long time ago. We didn’t know.

I was an endless stream of Billys and Bobbies in two act plays. We were the late 60s multimedia teacher’s helper. My grade school teacher’s played shows like “Lets Look at the News” and “Sing, Everyone Sing” in the classroom.

I played alongside professional voice actors. This was a union gig for them. The writers were pro too. I started at 16.

We operated in a large studio with a variety of old school RCA mics. It was an RCA board as well.

Pushed up against a wall in the back of the studio was a “sound effects truck.” They went out with the advent of tape! Remember tape?

Like Morse Code another totally worthless skill. Worth it.

Some People Can Just Walk Away

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Tonight is Garrison Keillor’s last as host of NPR’s (actually, not NPR… but that’s another story) long running “A Prairie Home Companion.” The new guy’s already been picked, there’s no turning back.

Keillor is an enigma because it’s easy to say, “What’s his talent?” He is not show biz obvious.

Garrison Keillor and I stand on this Earth as opposites. He is a Protestant, born and raised in a very white, very rural, environmentally difficult environment. Not me.

One night while driving home from NYC with Stef I switched him on. I thought Stef was asleep. Maybe she was at the beginning.

When we got home she made fun of his audience shoutouts (“To my Aunt Bertha who just had a hip replaced…”), corny jokes and horrible taste in music. I’m with her on that last one.

That’s when it struck me why APHC is so good. It’s not just what’s happening on one show, it’s the amazing consistency. When Keillor reads an audience member’s card long time listeners get it more because we know him well. We know the unnamed characters who appear each and every week and have developed consistent personalities.

Four decades.

There’s another reason I like the show. It represents the last live big time on-stage radio show left. Like Benny and Hope there’s a cast of regulars and a band. Everyone sings and joins in the skits. A well preserved relic of times-gone-by.

“A Prairie Home Companion” was not a weekly ritual for me. It is for some. If I was in the car and it was on I always listened.

Garrison Keillor is sensible and level headed. To a large extent we share values. He will be missed.

It’s The World’s Coolest Garage

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“I’m lucky,” I just said. My dad and I were on the phone.

“I understand how to be on-camera and how to write macros to make that happen.”

It’s an unusual combination, both sides of the camera. It allows me to do what I do at home. It’s probably why there won’t be many more like me, yet. You have to live in both worlds.

In one of the best tech support calls ever I explained this whole concept to a senior video engineer at NewTek. He seemed to get it. There is a whole new set of buyers for their products if they can make the tech part a little more invisible. A whole army of one-man-band content producers, like me.

Any steps in this direction make my life easier. Any productivity gains from me working less are welcomed. I expect to help shape their direction.

Alas, the reason I’m talking with the guys who write the code is because my problems are VERY unusual. At one point I described my TriCaster as being haunted. They are totally stumped. I can’t begin to count the number of hours lost while trying to revive a desperately ill computer.

My correspondence on continuing problems is now over 100 pages.

Even though the reason for my problems seems obvious, the exact piece of miscreant code isn’t! Something in my macros is doing the damage. But what? It’s all happening in the background. These macros are pounded in the same exact order day-after-day. I’m probably their only user (of thousands) who does this.

My whole business revolves around that one piece of equipment. When it works as designed it’s amazing. I make TV alone in the room next to our kitchen. Everything happening behind the camera is controlled by me in front of the camera in real time. It’s totally mind boggling and one-of-a-kind in the world.

It’s the world’s coolest garage.

Don’t Take Away The Wrong Thing From Istanbul

What happened today in Istanbul is horrific. Inexcusable.

Technology has brought us into the action. We see what’s happening live. More impact.

Don’t lose perspective. I cannot remember a time without terrorism. Seriously. It’s no worse now than forever.

The world is not exploding any more than it’s exploded in the past.

Don’t believe me? Choose a year and enter something like, “terrorism 1971,” in Google. Click on the Wikipedia result. There are no quiet years. None.

Our own Congress was shot up in the 50s by Puerto Rican Nationalists. In the sixties radicals from the far left brought us domestic terrorism. We’ve had it from the radical right more recently.

Terrorism is a tool only used by people who know they can’t win. Small consolation.

My father reminded me information was harder to come by two generations back. It wasn’t until WW2 that he remembers radio “News on the Hour.” Until then one newscast a day.

It is very difficult to stop anyone who already plans on dying today.

Very sad.

Look What Google Did With My Photos

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I consider myself a good editor, but it’s so much easier to let Google do it for you. I had no idea this could be done. This was culled from our trip to Vegas.

Of course Google knew when I left and returned. That’s not creepy yet simultaneously useful?

The original had a little sideways video. Tweaking to remove those clips was my only input.

From Las Vegas

The real estate gets cheaper as you head toward Downtown. Downtown is the Vegas of Elvis movies. It’s where you can still find neon.

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A Little Fox Fantasy

Both Helaine and I play poker a little. We thought it would be fun to take the plunge again at the World Series of Poker. Some people never learn. We’ll be playing in one of the smaller events. Seniors only. I’ve gotten a fake ID for Helaine. Helaine prefers to fly, but she’s acquiesced and […]

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Pact With The Devil

If you’re wondering what’s hot in tech it’s voice controlled AI (artificial intelligence). The latest incarnations from Google, Apple, Microsoft and Amazon are beginning to understand sentences spoken casually. Amazon’s standalone Echo (4.4 stars) has a seven microphone array. Through complex math Echo isolates sound from any specific spot in a room. Normal voice, noisy […]

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The Modern Farmer

As a kid I often woke up early Saturday morning to watch The Modern Farmer. Farming on Channel 4 New York. Weird. Living on the 5th floor with a northern exposure we had no direct sun. Trudi reminds me my mom grew spider plants. That was the extent of our flora, a spider plant. In […]

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More Scary New Tech From Facebook

It understands sentences as a human does. It understand context. And, as Facebook brags, it can do this as fast as Facebook can dish it out.

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