Michael Jackson

Martin Mull tells a joke about the saddest thing in the world–high school with money. Michael Jackson was that on steroids!

off-the-wall.jpgAs we sat on the couch yesterday afternoon Helaine said, “I’m surprised you haven’t written about Michael Jackson. I checked a few times looking for it. Don’t you remember sitting on that ugly couch in Buffalo watching Thriller?”

I do. It was quite an event. The world gravitated to MTV on December 2, 1983 when the video was premiered. There was as much hype and hoopla as I can remember surrounding a cultural/musical happening. It didn’t disappoint.

This was Michael Jackson’s second pop career. His first was as the front man for the Jackson 5.

When the J5 was at its peak they were being marketed in a way that made them seem unhip to me. It’s only now I appreciate songs like “I Want You Back&#185.”

When I speak to people who’ve only seen Michael as a grotesquely reconfigured weirdo, I point out that he was genuinely cute pre-surgery. It’s tough to believe.

I’m not a psychiatrist, but I still have my theories on what made Michael Jackson the truly strange person he grew up to be. I don’t doubt he enjoyed the time he spent performing. Unfortunately, that time is surrounded by more dedicated time. As a child his life was full of adult responsibility and discipline.

Look who he’s friendly and linked to–other grown child stars. They’re the only people who might have a true understanding of his childhood… or lack thereof.

On top of that, imagine a life where money is truly no object. Martin Mull tells a joke about the saddest thing in the world–high school with money. Michael Jackson was that on steroids!

It’s all really sad. I don’t feel especially bad for the family whose motives have always seemed a little sinister to me. I do feel bad for Michael who never had the ease of life that his level of fame is supposed to provide.

Last night I decided to look and listen to some of Michael’s stuff. That took me to youtube.com where loads of performances can be seen. Actually, there’s more! I have no idea where it came from, but within youtube are the original Motown tracks for some of the Jackson 5 songs minus the lead vocal. It looks like these were mastered to allow Michael to appear on TV or in person actually singing, but without the expense of the sending a full orchestra (actually the Funk Brothers) and the rest of the family. It’s amazing stuff to hear.

As we change from the vinyl to digital era and radio fades from its glory there may never be another artist capable of aggregating the outlandishly huge fan base Michael got. Mass media is become narrow media which doesn’t play into this kind of over-the-top fame.

Saturday afternoon word came the physician in Michael’s house when he died has ‘lawyered up.’ People will go to jail for this tragic death.

&#185 – The piano glissando in “I Want You Back” has reached iconic status.

Woody–While He Still Speaks With The Little People

Holy crap–he’s in a movie with Steven Segal!

woody-hoyt.jpgMy friend Woody, sometimes seen commenting as Wudzy and legally named Elwood, recently went into semi-retirement in Santa Fe, NM. It’s a beautiful place.

Maybe Woody wasn’t ready to totally retire. He’s sent me his new listing from IMDB! As it turns out Santa Fe is an artist’s community and film production center.

Holy crap–he’s in a movie with Steven Segal!

Random Stuff About This Site – Very Nerdy

“Perminent!” Seriously. This blog is the number two return for “Perminent Record,” though until now that spelling didn’t exist here. Maybe I’ll go to #1!

I am always curious about this blog. I am always looking under the hood. Maybe I just write it so I’ll have something to play with.

I try and optimize this site for Google. It’s become an obsession. Google gives me some, not a lot, of information.

Here’s an item called, “What Googlebot sees,” which they let me see too.

1. my permanent record

2. geoff fox

3. geoff fox blog

4. geoff fox my permanent record

5. my perminent record

“Perminent!” Seriously. This blog is the number two return for “Perminent Record,” though until now that spelling didn’t exist here. Maybe I’ll go to #1!

Google is weird. A few weeks ago it decided 12 of the top 15 keywords appearing in the blog were months, like July or February. I actually changed all dates to numeric, hoping it would reevaluate.

Now that I am writing on gearlog.com and appscout.com, I am listed and linked on their bio pages. One has a Google page rank of 5, the other 6. That’s great.

Good inbound links matter. A 5 and 6 will make a positive difference to a blog this size.

As a technical achievement, this blog software is amazing. This is Movable Type, version 4.1. It was free, an open source project. I had to install and configure it it myself.

Docs are for people who know what they’re doing. They are not for learning. It shouldn’t be that way. Totally unfair.

Movable Type creates a relationship between each entry I write. Articles automatically move down the front page until they fall off after seven days. There are archives with pages appearing in individual, daily and monthly presentations.

The monthly archives read first to last, a blog rarity. There are also categories where all the entries follow a theme.

Every blog entry I’ve posted is still online. Google often sends readers to pages I wrote years ago. The pages which receive search engine hits are not necessarily the best entries, but just ones with an eclectic or eccentric group of words.

If I write about a very mainstream subject, I am buried under an avalanche of more influential webpages.

I customized the blog’s look as best I could. I see other blogs whose visual style I find more appealing. Designing like that is probably beyond me. I sorta’ know what I’m doing, but really know nowhere near enough.

The blog entries are composed using a simple form on an unlinked, password protected webpage. Firefox has a spell checker built in, which automatically functions as I type. I still miss plenty.

All the heavy duty tech stuff is done magically, out-of-sight, and mostly by the blog software. Every once in awhile, I republish the blog, which updates a few numbers on each page and takes around an hour.

This blog is a single, small tenant on a server that hosts dozens of websites simultaneously. We are each given a small space and are separated from our neighbors by barriers we can’t cross. If others are abusing the server, my site gets slow.

It costs very little to maintain this site.

There are strange, orphan pages scattered around the website. I’m at a loss to explain how they got where they are, but they did. Many look like normal pages, and since there might be links to them, I leave them untouched.

The whole concept of unexpected files on a website puzzles me. In fact, as you examine computer systems closely, you’ll nearly always find extra pieces. Computers are a little more quirky and a little more fault tolerant than you would expect.

This blog has taught me to love writing. I really enjoy it. It’s challenging and exacting. If I say something just right, or turn a phrase and illuminate a point, I’ll step back and look at it, as if the words were something an artist had painted on a canvas. It’s probably a silly thing to do.

These words are crafted. I am a craftsman. I take pride.

I like the way words look when they neatly fill a space. I like how paragraphs and sentences create a rhythm on the page. I like photos. They prettify the blog and make the adjacent text more appealing.

I favor short paragraphs, which are thought to be more readable.

I have missed days since the blog started nearly five years ago. I haven’t missed many. I haven’t missed any recently. My goal is to write every day. That too has become obsessive behavior.

A Dose Of Humility

Tonight was the night for “Off the Wall,” the photographic charity event for the Arts Council. I’d seen the setup Thursday when there was a photographers preview.

Immediately, I felt outclassed by photographers with greater skills than mine. Maybe it’s just a case of familiarity breeding contempt, but my pictures looked like snapshots versus the real artwork hung at the 70 Audubon Street Gallery.

OK, not everything the others did was Ansel Adams worthy either. There were strange photos and inappropriate photos. There were photos that would keep you from falling asleep at night.

One artist submitted three photos of naked people, lying on their backs. The shots were taken with a wide angle lens, giving the bodies an otherwordly shape. Visualize – naked people on their backs. It wasn’t pretty&#175.

A few of the photographers shot dolls, but in a very surrealistic way. Really creepy!

Considering most of the photos were taken on color digital cameras, there was a large number of black and white or sepia photos. It seemed overdone. I’m saying that even though one of mine was B&W!

The “Off the Wall” concept has 165 tickets distributed and 165 photos from 55 shooters on the wall. The tickets are drawn at random. When yours is called, you take a photo off the wall.

Please Lord, not 165th. Actually, with three photos on exhibit, I was praying not to be 163, 164 and 165!

Over 120 sweaty bodies squeezed into the gallery. On this warm August evening, whatever air conditioning power the room possessed had long since given up its fight. It was stuffy and still.

Up front, the emcee began to call numbers. As the ticket holders called out whichever photo they wanted, I started ticking off the corresponding boxes on a gridded piece of paper.

Through the first dozen or so, no one called any of my choices to take off the wall… and I’d selected a dozen. More importantly, no one took any of the photos I’d shot!

Number 45, my ticket number, was called in the second dozen. The rules give you 20 seconds to choose. I was ready.

Stef had asked about a beautiful zebra photo, taken (as we later found out) in Kenya. It was still available and so we snatched photo 48B taken by Charles Kingsley.

Nice shot Charles. Congratulations. It will be on the wall of a dorm room with a full semester’s worth of clothes on the floor (or so I assume).

More and more tickets were called, but my photos continued to sit on the wall. Each photographer started with three photos hanging. Some already had all three picked.

On a short wall, where it once sat with the works of four other photographers, my contribution was starting to get lonely. The wall was getting bare the way a man goes bald – gradually.

Eighty four photos were gone before any of mine got chosen. It went to someone named Bitsie who said it was her first choice. My second shot went to the very next ticket holder as pick 86.

My moody, black and white, Atlantic City Boardwalk photo – the one my friends Dennis and Rick thought would go right away, was still on the wall as Helaine and I walked out. We told each other we wanted to watch the Phillies game on ESPN, but we really didn’t want to see that photo sit, uncalled.

As we walked to the car, I began to tell Helaine what I’d do differently to go sooner next year, but she’d have none of it. “Don’t change you style,” was what she said. Whether I follow her advice or not, she’s obviously right.

Am I disappointed I went so late in the process? You bet. but, this is my first time in any kind of exhibition. I was glad to just be there.

OK – I would have been happier going in the first dozen. Who am I kidding?

&#175 – My friend Josh sent an email to say: BTW: the distorted photos of naked people were created with a large pinhole camera and printed with platinum process — very unusual. I agree way too much easy digital, and predictable imagery, which might be why I appreciated the pinhole nudes more than you.

Quotation

Cousin Michael and I traded emails about Anna Nicole Smith last night. Michael, not as attuned to pop culture, wondered what makes this such a big story?

I offered, she was this generation’s Marilyn Monroe, though Michael answered:

No, Monroe was really an artist; she could really act. Also, Monroe was really beautiful. And Monroe was an original, not a cheap imitation. Finally, Monroe’s paramours were John F.Kennedy, Arthur Miller, and Joe DiMaggio, not an assortment of nobody slimebags and sleazeballs.

Without going through our whole philosophical discussion, Michael left me with this quote, from Karl Marx. Marx wouldn’t normally be my ‘go to’ guy for attribution, but this really is timeless and amazingly insightful.

History repeats itself : “the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.”

Ain’t it the truth.

I’ve Got Antlers

It was really cold today – bitterly cold. Sometimes mentioning the wind chill factor is nothing more than hype. Today, you could feel every biting degree.

Sure, I hate the cold, but there’s an upside. It finally feels like we’re in the Christmas season, which is good.

Though we don’t observe Christmas, we enjoy participating in everyone else’s fun. Everyone seems to be in a good mood.

A few nights ago, Ann Nyberg, one of our news anchors, mentioned she’d seen a car with a big red nose and antlers! We all got a kick out of it.

Later, on the 11:00 PM news, Chris Kirby – our art director, fashioned an ‘artist’s rendering’ of what the car might have looked like… especially as the featured vehicle on MTV’s “Pimp My Sleigh Ride.”

Flash forward to today. Ann returned to her desk to find an antler/nose kit sitting there. She looked puzzled.

I told her, if she didn’t want it, I surely did. And so, my car now has antlers. They’re fitted with little plastic brackets that fit over the top edge of a car’s windows. It’s hysterical.

I will install the nose when it’s warmer… like in the garage at home.

Playing With Posters

After our Mexico trip I created a poster from a series of our pictures. Helaine suggested I do the same thing after our trip to the American Orchid Society.

Here’s the (hopefully) finished poster. I’m not sure if this is as effective as the one from Mexico, but it’s certainly pretty in its own right.

The full sized file will allow for an 18″ by 24″ print at 300 dpi. I’m still a little naive on these printing parameters, but I think that’s OK. The files you can see here on the website are heavily compressed and reduced in size.

When you look at the work of a ‘real’ artist, you see that they have a distinct style. That’s a nice way of saying all their work is self similar. This “nine square on a grid poster” seems to be my style – at least for the time being.

Orange County and Laguna Beach – Excellent

We woke up today to clouds and showers. It was in the sky. It was in the forecast. In fact, the forecast was for rain through the day and into Sunday.

It’s depressing.

This was our day to head south to Irvine and visit my cousins. We got the car, turned right on Avenue of the Stars&#185 and headed toward I-10.

Before we left Connecticut, I went to Google and got maps and directions. Directions are not like horseshoes. Close doesn’t make it. Google’s directions were close, but not totally correct. Somehow, we muddled along and found our way to Orange County and the Foxes of Southern California. Google’s got to do a better job if they’re going to be serious mapmakers.

We visited Michael, Melissa and Max, noshed a little, and tried to decide where to go. There was a temporary break in the weather action, so we decided on Laguna Beach.

On our way, we passed by six year old Cousin Max’s school and decided to turn in and take a look.

None of us have ever seen a school like this. I’m not sure how to describe it except to say the school is a collection of small German fairytale style buildings. There are dozens of animals from pigs to goats to chickens to rabbits… even a llama.

He’s in the first grade, learning French and German. He loves the school, and I can see why. It is one of a kind. In many ways it fits Laguna Beach.

Laguna Beach is known as an artist’s colony. All along Pacific Coast Highway and the surrounding streets are boutiques, galleries and restaurants. It’s a browser’s paradise and, for the shoe-addicted like Steffie, a place to buy another pair of shoes.

Laguna Beach is also a beautiful and expensive place to live. Not far from the ocean are steeply rising hills. Somehow, huge houses have been placed on these hills. From the ground it looks like the ground is steep enough to cause a goat to reconsider where he’s walking. The houses are there none the less.

When you hear about California houses sliding down mountains, they’re talking about houses like these.

As we walked down one street, Helaine pointed out what looked like a TV crew. Though I didn’t see the camera, I did see a guy with a pack filled with wireless microphone receivers. Near him a woman held a clipboard. My zoom lens let me read what was on her papers. They were from MTV, probably taping another season of Laguna Beach.

That show was one of the main reasons Steffie was so anxious to go to Laguna Beach in the first place!

As we kept walking, the sky kept brightening. Before long, the Sun began to poke out and, though by no means warm, it got warm enough to be comfortable.

We headed down to the beach.

Like so much of the California coastline, the area around Laguna Beach is a coast with character. Here the beach is broad. Offshore, there are some rocks visible above the sea’s surface, allowing birds to rest… and poop. From time-to-time the waves break on the rocks, throwing white spray up in the air.

This is a friendly beach. Yes, there are people in the water (though, this being the Pacific, it’s awfully cold), but the real action is at the water’s edge. There’s a beach volleyball net, a playground and a small boardwalk with benches.

I was amazed, and pleased, to see dogs welcome on this beach.

Actually, Laguna Beach seems to be a very dog-friendly town. Many of the shops and stores had water bowls right outside their front doors. Others had signs saying dogs were welcome. I even saw one woman with a novel way of bringing her dog into a restaurant… without bringing the dog into the restaurant!

This is probably as good a time as any to mention something that really worked today. Obviously, what was fun for the adults and Steffie at Laguna Beach was not Max’s first choice. Luckily, he had his Game Boy Advance with him. Every time we stopped, he found a place to sit, pulled out the Game Boy and played Shrek II. He was content pretty much all day.

We continued to walk and browse, but dinner time was approaching so we headed south on the Pacific Coast Highway to South Laguna Beach and “Montage.”

None of us in the East Coast Fox family had ever heard of Montage. Michael and Melissa, the West Coast contingent, had only heard of it through friends, but had never been. What a find.

Situated on a coastal bluff in the picturesque arts community of Laguna Beach, Montage Resort & Spa offers a unique mix: the amenities and conveniences of an ultra luxury beachfront hotel, coupled with the warmth and appeal of a cozy craftsman-style inn.

Excellent description for a property that originally housed a trailer park! It really is beautiful.

We were early for our dinner reservation, so we sat down for drinks in the main area in front of a picture window, looking down on the pool and the ocean. On the other side of the window is a balcony with the same spectacular view. I took my camera and started shooting away, only to be told my camera was “too professional looking” and I wouldn’t be allowed to take any more pictures.

I’m not quite sure why.

Dinner was at The Loft Restaurant, one floor down, but with an equally stunning view. This restaurant was equivalent to anything we had been to in Los Angeles… maybe nicer.

The service was excellent… though any place that refolds your napkin when you get up from the table tends to give me the heebee jeebees. The food was even better. Helaine compared it favorably to Spago, and I agree.

With dinner over, we said goodbye to Michael, Melissa and Max and headed north. We have been very lucky on the Southern California freeways, meeting hardly any traffic. By 8:30 we were back at the Century Plaza – exhausted.

What a great day. Everything we thought we’d do exceeded our expectations. The surprise spur of the moment things, or things Melissa and Michael had planned, were even better.

&#185 – Shoot me – I just like typing that. It’s the world’s most pretentious street name!

Pat Child

Pat Child passed away earlier today. I knew something was up when I walked into the newsroom and saw Ann hugging Tim Clune, both of them teary.

He was diagnosed with brain cancer a few months ago. I expected Pat to tell the cancer to screw itself and then get on with his life. He said he didn’t want to suffer thorough treatment – but he did. Life is too precious to give up easily.

Recently he had been in and out of the hospital. As fluid in his brain built up, Pat would suffer only to come back when the pressure was relieved. Today he died at the hospital in Venice, Florida.

Most likely, you didn’t know Pat Child. He was worth knowing.

I first met Pat when I went to work for WTNH in 1984. Even then Pat was a grizzled photographer, wiser by far than any of the kid reporters he worked with.

I will always picture him with a cigarette hanging from his lips or between his stained fingers. Back then we could smoke in the station, in the news vehicles, everywhere. Pat took advantage.

Pat was not an artist with his camera. His shots shook. He never used a tripod.

I remember shooting a piece in my Mr. Science series and being assigned Pat. Right away he let me know this wasn’t his type of assignment. He started by calling me Geoffrey. He was a spot news kind of guy. He would do his best… but, you know…

On our way back the assignment desk called. There had been a shooting in New Haven. Could we stop by and get video. Though I am the weatherman, that afternoon I became a reporter for a few moments. That impressed Pat and we were friends from that day on.

Friendship with Pat was totally built on mutual respect.

So, why is a news photographer who wasn’t the world’s greatest photographer so important, so memorable? Pat was one of the brightest and certainly wisest men I’ve ever met. Pat was honest – maybe honest to a fault.

Though a scholarship recipient at Yale, he left early and headed to the Air Force where he shot the early days of the space program on film. I can’t imagine Pat in the Air Force. He was too opinionated and willing to confront authority. Actually, I can’t imagine Pat as a Yale graduate either. Their diploma would have lessened his obvious street smarts.

He came to work at the TV station in the early days of local news. It was a less sophisticated, less slick era of television.

When you were with Pat, you couldn’t let something slide. He was too smart to let you. If he liked you, and I think (and hope) he liked me, he would save your butt by being insightful at a time you thought he wasn’t even paying attention.

You could go to Pat and ask him about any event we’d ever covered (and many we hadn’t) and he would know all about it. He would point you in the right direction. He might even add things you hadn’t thought of including. And he would do it all from the perspective of the intellectual he was – a label I’m sure he’d find objectionable.

As Pat got older, and the run and gun life of a photographer lost his luster, he became a satellite truck operator. Working with Pat was like money in the bank.

He didn’t seem like the type who would ever retire, and yet after 38 years at the station, he did.

Friends threw Pat a spectacular going away party at the Rusty Scupper. I was astounded by all the important and talented people who came back to Connecticut to remember Pat. Others who couldn’t make it, sent back videotaped tributes.

It was a once in a lifetime event for two reasons. First, Pat’s retirement marked the end of one era of television. I don’t know if it was a better era, but it was different. Pat Child represented much of what was good about it.

Second, I have never felt so much love for one man in one room. That was astounding.

Tonight, I feel sad for Pat’s kids, his wife Kim (who also worked here for years) and his identical twin brother Bob. I feel sadder for those who didn’t get to share a little of Pat’s life. He was an exceptional man. He has touched me deeply. I will remember him forever.

I told former Channel 8 reporter, and longtime WNBC anchor, Sue Simmons about Pat here’s what she had to say

Continue reading “Pat Child”

Father’s Day

What a beautiful day. This was a day for shooting picture postcards or travelogues. The sky was a pure blue without a hint of gray. The clouds were scattered and puffy. The air was warm and crisp at the same time.

Oh – it’s Father’s Day.

I’m not sure why we’re being feted, but we are. After all, in the hierarchy of parents, I think moms have it tougher. However, I am not one to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Steffie had handmade a card for me. Even at age 17, when she’s part child – part adult, this effort on her part warms every part of me. It is a collage – an abstract from magazines. It is a style in which she has shown great talent. I envy her skills as an artist.

Helaine bought me a few gifts: a book on poker (Doyle Brunson’s “Super System,” considered the classic in its field), cuff links made from small pieces of a computer motherboard, and a trip in a balloon over Las Vegas.

A good daughter-in-law, she got my dad that too. He’ll be joining me as we fly in wicker!

I love to fly. Once, a long time ago, I even took lessons… though I quit before I soloed.

I have flown in nearly anything you can think of from an ultralight with two chainsaw engines for power, to a Piper Cub J-3 with fabric covered wings, to a C-5A big enough to hold a Greyhound bus. I’ve had a few minutes stick time in an F/A18 with the Blue Angels and in a military full motion simulator. I’ve also flown through 2 hurricanes in a C-130 Hurricane Hunter (not as scary as you might think). There have also been flights in a few helicopters, one blimp and some time in Houston walking through a Space Shuttle trainer.

My first balloon flight was in the 80’s during my PM Magazine/Buffalo days. The pilot was Einer Wheel (a name you don’t easily forget) and the balloon was festooned with ads for a local Western New York bank. Later, with the SciFi Channel crew, I flew in the Canadian Flag balloon during a mass ascension at the Kodak Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

I’m looking forward to this balloon trip because it’s over Las Vegas (though probably not over the Strip), which will provide an immense panorama, and because it will be with my dad. This is the kind of thing he’d never do on his own and something he’ll really enjoy a lot.

This being Father’s Day, I went a little nuts and went off my diet. Helaine and Steffie took me to The Rusty Scupper for brunch. With today’s weather, and its location right on New Haven Harbor, it was the perfect spot.

Father’s Day ends at midnight. I’ll be dieting again tomorrow, trying to gain a cushion for our Vegas vacation. I was king for a day. It’s good to be king.

Have I Just Seen the Future of TV?

Helaine and I watched the Philadelphia Eagles game this afternoon. It’s a game that wasn’t on local TV. We don’t have a satellite receiver, nor does my cable company have an out-of-town game package. We watched because a friend, near Philadelphia, fed it to me.

The concept is the important thing here, but first, I have to explain the technical specs. His PC has an ATI All In Wonder 8500DV video card, with a tuner. He downloaded Microsoft’s free Windows Media Encoder, which will serve streaming video. We also temporarily ‘punched a hole’ in his firewall/router, so an arbitrary port we chose would be available to me in Connecticut. I connected with Windows Media Player, directly, without first using my browser.

The video he sent was encoded at a fixed bitrate of 148 Kbps, 15 fps, with 320×240 resolution. We tried a higher bitrate first, but his connection wouldn’t keep up and the video was unacceptably choppy. Next time we’ll play around with the compression parameters to find something custom which works better.

What I saw was sharp when the camera wasn’t moving, pixelated with minimal change or motion, and choppy with heavy motion. I was easily able to read the on screen graphics for time, down, etc. The audio was perfect. Other than the initial point of connection, we never hit a point where I had to wait while the stream was buffered.

This is video on demand in the simplest and most pure sense. It was what I wanted when I wanted it.

Because my friend has limited upstream capacity on his cable modem, what I watched was compromised. But, it was so close to being very good, that I can assume it wouldn’t take much more bandwidth – maybe 250 Kbps – to hit a sweet spot. You’ve got to figure variably compressed video, streamed using Windows Media server or another server allowing a variable bit rate, would give even better video for the same bandwidth.

The fact that the video wasn’t too large on my 1400×1050 laptop screen was fine. Unlike ‘television’, I was watching this up close. In fact, while the game was on, my wife and I were doing other things on the computer, though the game was our primary focus.

It isn’t necessary to have full screen video to have a meaningful streaming experience!

Whenever I read about the promises of VOD or using the Internet for television type programming, I hear about the huge bandwidth necessary for full screen, VHS quality. It’s just not necessary. In fact, full screen might be a detriment.

Computers are viewed differently that TV’s. It’s an immense difference. We’re closer and we’re not adverse to doing multiple tasks on the screen at once. Someone is going to have to step up to the plate with that realization and then VOD over an IP network will be reality.

After the game, I asked my wife if she’d be willing to pay for a live concert, by an artist she really likes (Rick Springfield), at this smallish screen size, but with sharp video and good stereo audio? She said, “yes.”

To me, this makes some events economically feasible that wouldn’t make sense as free TV, basic cable or even pay-per-view. There are undoubtedly other applications, with similar niche audiences.

The current streaming technologies from Microsoft and Real make it easy to integrate advertisements in many different ways, often without stopping or disturbing the actual desired content.

This is the 500 channel universe we’ve heard about. Except, it’s really an infinite channel universe.

Of course, there’s a question of whether there’s enough bandwidth right now to handle it. The answer’s probably no – but – there is a plethora of ‘dark’ fiber, waiting to be powered up. If video is the next killer app for computers, there will be plenty of incentive to unleash enough bandwidth to enable it.

I work for a local TV station, but I don’t consider this our ruin. If we’re smart and aggressive, we’ll be able to sell the content we already produce, and specialized content that demands our localized expertise, in this new venue.

An Old, Forgotten Movie and I Was Transfixed

I have just finished sitting here, transfixed, watching Vince Edwards (billed as Vincent Edwards) on Encore/Mystery West in the 1958 Film Noir mystery, “Murder by Contract.”

There is nothing big time about this picture.

Everything was done on the cheap, in Los Angeles. Many of the ‘outdoor’ shots were staged, using rear projections. The musical accompaniment was hauntingly played by a single guitar. The cast was small, the script predictable.

Edwards, who was later the title star on ABC’s “Ben Casey,” was known as a stoic, reserved actor and stayed true to form.

I’m trying to figure out what about this movie held my interest?

I came in a few moments after the opening, but never really wanted to turn it off. I knew there would be a moral ending, as this was 1950’s Hollywood. No disappointment there. All the violence was implied or sanitized. A prostitute who came to Edwards’ hotel room was expecting dinner before sex!

Maybe it was my fascination with Herschel Bernardi that kept my interest. Certainly no pretty boy, Bernardi was particularly plain in this film. I remember him as “Arnie,” from the 1970 sitcom of the same name.

For much of his life, he made huge money doing voice over work. He had a beautifully timbered voice; very friendly and warm. Of course, he’s best known (or maybe his character is known – he was anonymous) as the voice of “Charlie the Tuna” from the Starkist commercials (I assume there’s another actor providing the voice now as Bernardi died in 1986).

Watching older movies is something I’m doing more of now that we’ve taken a digital cable package. There are at least a dozen movie (though they’re really pairs of channels, with each two showing the same lineup, offset by three hours)

channels available to me, mostly with older, smaller, less requested movies.

Seeing little gems like this, or the opportunity to catch great actors early in the careers, has made it all worthwhile.

I found this quote, attributed to Martin Scorcese, concerning this movie:

“This is the film that has influenced me most. I had a clip out of it in Mean Streets but had to take it out: it was too long, and a little too esoteric. And there’s a getting-in-shape sequence that’s very much like the one in Taxi Driver. The spirit of Murder By Contract has a lot to do with Taxi Driver. Lerner was an artist who knew how to do things in shorthand, like Bresson and Godard. The film puts us all to shame with its economy of style, especially in the barbershop murder at the beginning. Vince Edwards gives a marvellous performance as the killer who couldn’t murder a woman. Murder By Contract was a favorite of neighborhood guys who didn’t know anything about movies. They just liked the film because they recognized something unique about it.”

– Martin Scorsese

It is sad to note that it would be difficult to get my daughter or anyone of her age to watch black and white movies or TV shows. Simply put, the monochromatic look implies old… and old is bad.

Is That a Dinar In Your Pocket…

I drink entirely too much coffee, and I’ll be the first to admit it. Two mediums a day… it’s probably the equivalent of 4 or 5 regular cups. But, I can’t do without it it, and why should I?

Tonight, on my way back to work after dinner, I stopped at the Dunkin’ Donuts near home (by the way – what a disappointment while in Southern California this year to find no Dunkin’ Donuts). They know me well enough that often, my coffee is poured and ready by the time I’m at the counter.

As is often the case, especially after being on TV for over 19 years on the same station, I was recognized. It was a young black man. He was wearing flashy ‘bling’ and an elastic type head covering on this awful, drippy, day.

When he spoke, it was obvious that he was well educated and a man, not a child. He had the confidence that comes with maturity.

His name is Aaron Hawkins and he grew up here in town. Now, he’s in the Army, repairing tanks. His home base is in Georgia, but he’s just back from Iraq.

We talked a little about the war (I worry about this Vietnam wannabe war, fought mostly by men of color, without a draft). There are too many historical analogs.

Then, as I was about to leave, he reached in his pocket, pulled out his wallet and started to thumb through the bills. He pulled one out, smiled, and gave it to me… a 250 Dinar note with Saddam Hussein’s picture. Current value, around $.20.

I’m sure Saddam saw the proofs, asked to have his hair darkened and a little taken off the jowel… or maybe the artist knew for his own safety that flattery was the best policy.

Whatever the case, it was a great gift from Aaron. I’m glad I got to meet him.

Am I John Mayer’s stalker?

Click here for more photos from the concert

As of Wednesday morning, I still hadn’t heard from John Mayer’s road manager, Scotty Crowe, as promised. Just a little worried (it is my nature), I sent another email to the management folks and got a reassuring email in return.

By early afternoon there was an upbeat voicemail at work. We were good to go (literally and figuratively). The only surprise was the time. “Meet and greet” is normally a post show event. Not with this show. John would be entertaining at 7:00 PM.

Anticipating Hartford traffic (which we never saw), Steffie and I arrived at The Meadows a bit before 6:00 PM. A line had already begun to form the entrance. People with tickets for the vast expanse of lawn wanted to stake their claim and find a good seat.

Good lawn seating is miles away from the stage. Bad seating is in another time zone.

We hit the “will call” window, looking for our “Meet and Greet” passes. Nada. But, that’s not at all unusual. As it turned out, the clerk was looking in the wrong place, and a turn to the left produced two round adhesive passes and a small Xeroxed set of instructions to the marshaling point.

The gates to The Meadows actually open at 6:30 PM. But the real excitement starts a few minutes earlier as a PA announcement lists what you can and cannot do… can and cannot bring.

Digital cameras were on the forbidden list. I decided to take it anyway and hope for the best. After all, meeting John and having the passes might be enough of a mitigating factor. As it turned out, the ‘frisker’ took a look at he camera, pondered for two seconds, and pronounced it within reason. My guess is, with the lens retracted, he thought it was a non-professional film camera.

My first rock concert was probably 1966 or 1967. I went with my Cousin Michael and Larry Lubetsky to the Village Theater, aka The Fillmore East. We did that often on Friday and Saturday nights. It was pure fun and music (with the Joshua Light Show and the smell of marijuana pungent enough to knock you on your butt).

Things have changed

If there is something that isn’t for sale, or marked with signage, I didn’t see it. I’m surprised a wheelchair company doesn’t sponsor the handicapped ramp.

In the parking lot were four perky post-teens (male and female) wearing red t-shirts. They would be passing out Trojan condoms throughout the evening.

Dodge sponsored this, Comcast that, and Channel 30 something else. Dunkin’ Donuts was passing out Fruit Coolatas, but most everything else was for sale and over priced beyond belief (again, please excuse my naivet´┐Ż. I’m 53 and I’m not in the concert demo anymore).

Considering there is a law in Connecticut preventing a reseller from marking up a concert ticket by too much, you’d think the venue itself would follow that same policy when it came to bottled water or beer or pretzels. They could let you in for free and still make a profit.

A few minutes before 7:00 we met Scotty Crowe. It’s interesting how the Internet can catapult unlikely people into the limelight, and Scotty is one of them. Once I knew I’d be meeting him, I “Googled” him. Not only does he write John Mayer’s Road Journal, he also has some dedicated fans, including a Scotty Crowe bulletin board. Damn!

We went into the hallway that would serve as “Meet and Greet” central, and waited. I tried to make small talk with Scotty, but as is always the case when I do something like that, I came off as a total dork. At least I gave him a good PhotoShop tip (Ctl-L is perfect for enhancing video levels on digital photos).

John came out a few minutes later. I don’t notice these things, but Steffie said he was wearing the same outfit we saw him wear at Oakdale. He’s tall and thin and young and I’m jealous..

After saying hello and posing with the people in front of us, John came over. He was very nice (though after meeting him at KC-101, Oakdale and now here, I can’t help but wonder if he thinks I’m a stalker… or if I actually am a stalker).

As soon as he started to speak to Stefanie, he said, “You’re Stef, right?” I believe that was the magic moment as far as she was concerned. To be remembered by someone in his position, who meets so many people, was very gratifying.

I told John I thought he was smart, and a nice guy. But, I had seen others who had that… and lost it. I told him it was very important he remember to continue to be the kind of person he is now. I seriously think he will. But, as with Scotty a few minutes earlier, I felt like a dork after I said it. I hope he’ll think I was somewhat appropriate.

We had come very early and we found out we would be staying very late. Not only was John Mayer performing, so were the Counting Crows and an opening act before them. There was only so much we could take, so Steffie and I sat outside, people watching, while Stew (or possibly Stu… I wasn’t inside) performed.

We headed inside and found our seats before the Crows hit the stage.

If you have never been to The Meadows (and now that I’ve talked about all the commercialism, you should know, it’s the “ctnow.com Meadows Music Centre). It is a huge, high roofed pavilion with theater seating and a removable rear wall. There is no air conditioning. There are no ceiling fans. It was hot and sticky and uncomfortable.

I had never seen the Counting Crows and I was favorably impressed. Lead singer Adam Duritz, his hair fashioned with somewhat wild dreadlocks, is very talented and (and I always like this in a performance) a commanding presence on stage.

Toward the end of the set, he told a story of going to school in Watertown, CT and flunking a music course. Judging by the description, it is probably The Taft School. A website FAQ confirms it.

The Crows got off after 10:00 PM. The venue had not cooled down. Every once in a while, a brief whisper of air would move by, and you’d think, maybe it’s going to cool down. But the ‘waft’ was short lived; a tease at best.

Not quite 11:00, John Mayer took the stage. As appreciative as the audience was for the Counting Crows, they stepped it up a notch and a half for John. There’s no doubt that a packed house is good for the home team, and he is the home town here.

He is an artist who sounds just like his Cd’s (I wanted to write records, but that would make me very old, wouldn’t it?). That means his artistry is real and not produced into being. Most of the house stood for most of the performance.

He did the hits, and some cuts from the new CD (out in a few weeks) and then a phenomenal guitar solo. As good as he is as a troubadour, John Mayer is a masterful guitarist; as good as I’ve heard

There’s obviously some BB King in his riffs, and probably others I don’t recognize, but mostly it is his ability to make the guitar become its own voice that makes his playing so good. It is my contention that if he weren’t singing, he’d have an amazing career as a guitarist.

At 11:45 PM he said goodnight, only to come back on stage alone to do the first of two encore numbers.

We were out by midnight. As soon as I turned on the car radio, I realized I wasn’t hearing quite as well as I did when I went in! Within ten minutes we had navigated Hartford and gotten onto I-91 southbound.

Though Steffie tried (and she has pre-season field hockey practice tomorrow morning) she had only a few minutes of sleep before we were home.

Great night. I’d do it again.

Click here for more photos from the concert