Holiday Gathering at Court Square Tavern on Saturday

It's the holiday season, and that means a time to celebrate the things we're thankful for. For me, that means the reopening of Court Square Tavern after last year's fire. Even though my office is less than a block away, I've not gone as much as I would have thought. Then again, it's been a pretty busy year.

So, this Saturday, I'm asking anyone who's still in town to drop on by, sometime after 6:00 PM or so, to have a couple of beers (or hot drinks) and to chat and have a little fun. Leave a comment if you're thinking of coming, and come on by. Remember, it's non-smoking now, and there's even wi-fi. I am hoping to leave the computer at home, but you never know.

In the new year, I'd like to get a regular gathering of folks there to talk podcasting and new media locally. This might be a good way to start that off. So, if you've not met me at all, and if I've not met you, this may be a good way to get things going!


Tim Kaine event captured by local Realtor

Kudos to Daniel Rothamel, the Real Estate Zebra, as he covers the press conference of Governor Tim Kaine today at a new bridge over the Rivanna River in Fluvanna County. I had to work on a piece on Albemarle County's Six Year Plan for secondary roads funding, so I missed the 10:30 appearance opening up the ecoMOD3 house.

I'd like to see more of these types of things, and would encourage any would-be citizen journalist to consider lending a hand with the Charlottesville Podcasting Network. There's always something to do. I've even updated the About Page to let folks know more about the opportunities. In 2008, the site is going to need more people helping out if it is to continue growing. There's a lot of really exciting things that are possible, but it's going to take people who are interested in learning a few new skills.

In the meantime, here's Daniel's piece from today:


Devo spending December recording new material

Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo and Mutato Muzika was profiled in LA Weekly last month. I had no idea exactly how prolific he and his company is these days. The eight-page piece traces Devo's ascent and Mothersbaugh's pursuit of work in music commercials. At the beginning of the piece there's a great photograph of Mothersbaugh in front of Raymond Scott's Electronium. I thought this was very fitting, in that Mothersbaugh is doing exactly what Scott set out to do when he created electronic machines: create interesting music for advertisements.

Anyway, lots to read in there, and it's worth it for anyone looking for a little creative inspiration, in terms of the connection between artists and the system. Mothersbaugh is such an interesting guy, and the article also intersperses a lot of great clips from Devo, Pee-Wee's Playhouse, and the Life Aquatic.


Classic look for Charlottesville Podcasting Network now available

Michael Strickland has done it again. The web designer of the Charlottesville Podcasting Network has added a page which presents a classic view of the community podcasting site. We switched it to the magazine format, which some people didn't like so much. They thought it made it harder to find if new things had been posted.

I must admit, I think I'll make this the main way I check the site online. I am more used to this style, given that it's how I read mostly everything online. It seems more real, and things don't get buried like they currently do.


Thanks, Michael!


A sunny day in Thanksgiving

Another Thanksgiving, another trip to see Henry in England.

Of course, England is in mourning having lost 3-2 to Croatia last night, meaning that their hopes of entering Euro 2008 are now over. I watched the second half at my family's house in Dunstable, and everyone was upset. James went upstairs in disgust to play Freespace2, and then Jim stumbled home from the pub, distraught. Even Pam was livid, and was questioning why the about-to-be-sacked manager decided to play Carson in goal.

At the cafe where I went for breakfast, it was much the same. Elderly lady after elderly lady decried the result, and it seemed that everyone here is quite gloomy.

Except cousin Georgina, who thought it was funny that England are crap.

Today is not gloomy. I am bright and cheery and happy and well rested after my first day here yesterday. I worked up to the last minute, and dashed out the house, thankfully with everything intact.

Things could have gone wrong, as our Saturn is on its last legs and doesn't play well in traffic. Stopping at lights tends to overheat it, and I was worried it would die on the way to Dulles. So, I rented a car to get to Dulles. I decided against Enterprise, because they would have charged a $150 dollar drop-off fee. So, Hertz got my easy business, and will continue to do so in the future.

On the way out of town, my optometrist's office called to say my new lens were in, and I was about 4 minutes away at the time. I said I didn't want to get them because I was leaving town, but I'd get them next week.

Also on the way out of town, I spoke with a woman at Baker-Butler Elementary who told me they have in fact found my missing bag which contains an expensive Zoom recorder. A big relief that got me on my journey with a big smile, because that opens up the possibilities for the Charlottesville Podcasting Network without me needing to replace the recorder. So, big hurray there.

I got to the airport with hours to spare, as I always do when I'm traveling. I like to settle in at the airport, and watch people going from A to B. It never ceases to amaze me just how many people there are. Charlottesville is an incredible bubble that shields us from the sheer amount of men, women and childred who populate our country. So, it's nice to take in that sea of citizens, busy on their way to Thanksgiving feasts all over.

I even remembered to buy an adaptor kit to get my laptop connected. I wrestled with whether or not to bring it because this is a pure vacation, and I don't want to do any work. However, proposal writing isn't work, is it?

The flight itself was dismal, and was one of the worst experiences I've ever had on an airplane. That's because I had a window seat, and the people next to me were asleep within minutes, and I felt trapped and claustrophobic the entire time. I have a hard time sleeping on airplanes, but I wanted to try. The beer I had had at the airport bar sat there in my bladder, making it a lot harder to consider getting a good rest.

But the worst part was the lost passport scare I had. While trapped in the seat, I did a quick check to make sure I had it, but could not find it. When morning came and we had an hour left before landing at Heathrow, I searched all over the floor, the seat, my pockets, everywhere, and could not find the thing. In optimist mode, I thought at least I would get to be home for Thanksgiving! But, I panicked and panicked and panicked.

Then the plane landed, and we sat on the tarmac for about 45 minutes. The claustrophobia continued, and they wouldn't let us stand. I wanted to check my jacket, but I couldn't. It went on for ever, as I played over and over again what I was going to have to say to Henry's mother to explain why I wouldn't be able to come. I pondered if the UK immigration authories would let him come visit me while I sat in custody, waiting for a flight back. In short, my cheery feeling was pretty much washed away in a sea of worry.

However, I had the passport, and relief coursed through my veins. And, then, it was off to see Henry!

Traveling to England for me is always a chance to check out different modes of transportation. I'm less than 48 hours into the trip, but so far, I've been on five buses, two trains, and a large plane. And several long conveyer belts as I walked through the concourses at Heathrow on my ways to the arrivals hall for passport control. That part was easy, and so was getting my luggage, which was right there as I got to the baggage carousel. That picked up, it was time to walk more so I could get to the bus station to catch a coach to Hemel Hempstead.

A lot of people in the Charlottesville-Albemarle area are interested in inter-town transportation. At Charlottesville Tomorrow, we had a lot of people return cards with the voter guide, and we asked them to tell us what we should cover. A lot of people want to know if there could be bus service to Crozet.

Well, at Hemel Hempstead, I was able to catch the 500 to Tring, and then walked a long, long, long way again to Henry's child minder. A long, long, long way. But, worth every step and strained abdominal muscle, as I finally got to the door and there he was, after about seven months, my Henry. He saw me, his eyes lit up, and he was so happy to see me, and I was so happy to see him, but then he got very shy. But I gave him a huge cuddle, and suddenly, there we were, Henry and Daddy together again!

We spent the afternoon at the park, at the library, at his house playing with the toys and games I brought him. Then his mother came home and we caught up on everything, and then it was time to put him to bed, and then go back to Dunstable, which is about 15 miles away, and an hour or so on the bus. The last one stops just outside his mother's flat at 8, and out I went after having a nice chat with Dean, Henry's mother's partner. He's an exceedingly good chap, and I'm glad he's in Henry's life.

When I went out, it was raining, and I waited by the stop. I wanted to double check the timetable, and looked up, but couldn't see very well, so I adjusted my contact lens, and a drop of rain hit me in the eye, and that was it for the lens. And that was it for my stereo vision! I used my cell phone (can't seem to call it a mobile, even though I mix phrases often) to try to give myself a little light, but it was useless. After about ten minutes, I had to give up the quest, and off I went, Popeye on the 61 over the downs and through little villages.

This morning, I was woke up after a refreshing six and a half hours of sleep, and headed into Dunstable to see if I could work something out. I stopped in at Specsavers, booked an appointment, and then headed to what turned out to be a horrible breakfast, and then back to the appointment. The optometrist was able to help me out, and now I type again, vision restored, with about 10 more minutes at the Blue Moon Net Cafe before I have to venture out to catch the 61 back to Tring.

And what will we do today? I don't care. It's Henry and Daddy time on this days of Thanksgiving, and I am certainly blessed that my children are thriving, the sun is shining, and that I am a lucky person who through this odd life I've lived now has the chance to come to England once or twice a year. What will come of this? I don't know. I know that there's a lot of work ahead, but I want to hold on to optimism, want to be positive, want to see if there's a way we can cast off the gloom, identify our problems as a country, as a world, and then find solutions that work for as many people as possible. There's a whole world of us, more than six billion, and I'm just one person part of something ineffable, something fantastic, something wonderful. How can we make it better? How can we encourage curiosity and tolerance and understanding? How can we try to strip out emotions from politics? How can we expect the best of ourselves and each other?

I don't know. But, when I come here, I feel fueled to write, feel fueled to explain the world outside the bubble. And, that's what I'll do wherever I can.

But, for now, time to catch the bus.


Lessons from Sci-Fi Friday

Now, by now you likely know that I do enjoy my science fiction shows. And I'm not ashamed of this, either. I like to follow stories that inhabit intricate universes, where things may or may not be different. So, with that basic character trait, I've been watching the Sci-Fi channel on Friday nights in order to watch glimpses of an upcoming movie of which I've written about quite often in the past. They've been showing clips from Battlestar Galactica: Razor (debuts on November 24!) during commercials of Flash Gordon and Stargate Atlantis.

That has meant I've watched shows that inhabit very uninteresting universes. In my case, that means that it has incredible aliens, dumb accents, or just isn't very believable. Or, isn't very consistent. Or the acting was awful.

Just like the show I'm watching now. Stargate Atlantic doesn't seem to have anything to do with its predecessor. Somehow the idea of going through space via a gigantic portal controlled by hieroglyphics was a novel concept, and sustained the telling of interesting stories. This just seems to be people talking about weird things while walking through a forest. This must be a budget saving show. I'm not sure. But, it has my attention because I'm waiting for something I really want to see.

I don't want to see a crappy fight scene where one ninja lady takes on four big guys wearing Juggernaut-like masks, complete with absolute surprise from her female companion. By now I've tuned back to the keyboard, so I just hear the drums and the occasional rise of dramatic danger music.

I want to see stories about characters. Does that mean I enjoy Flash Gordon, which has been on the last six Friday nights I've sat here and watched for three minute clips of Bill Adama's past?

I prefer Flash Gordon, even though I would not ever watch it without something compelling me to do so. At least there, the ideas are interesting, and there's a story that's easy to grasp for the casual viewer. However, being easy to grasp doesn't translate into being worth watching out for.

Unlike Battlestar Galactica, which I think has been one of the best shows on television. I think it has lost some of its initial luster, but it more than made up for it in the last episode of Season 3, with the haunting appearance of a Bob Dylan tune serving as a key plot point.

But, at least Sci-Fi had a gimmick that worked. Here I am, sampling its shows, watching its commercials, learning about the upcoming remake of the Wizard of Oz called Tin Man.

Oh. Wait. They moved the flashback to 8:00. And, me, a loyal viewer, knew nothing about it. I've even signed up for their e-mail list, and they know who I am because I willingly gave them at information, but yet they couldn't send me a program note? That's fairly irritating.

I am at the point where I am about to give up on Comcast and simply watch television online. I've already transferred my watching of several shows to the computer monitor. I'm hoping eventually I can watch them over wireless on my iPod. Why do I need to be learning about sleep medication? I don't have a problem falling asleep. What does this advertisement have to do with me?

So, now I feel like I have no need to watch Stargate Atlantis, and I can go back to watching something I want to watch, as opposed to manipulating me.

I would like to see film and television productions begin to aim themselves at Internet distribution. What would it take to by-pass the idiots who so poorly run the networks? Going back to Battlestar Galactica, it boggles my mind that more people don't know about the show. And, I worry they won't, because it's on a network that's surrounded by schlock like Stargate Atlantis. I'm ashamed to talk about BSG with people, but so many people that initially balked have come around to it. It's a fantastic show about an incredible mystery that erupts from the end of human civilization. The acting, writing, special effects, cinematography, music, directing, podcasting (Ron Moore's podcast commentaries are brilliant and candid), and all-around feel of the show just has to be seen to be believed.

I would pay $5 an episode.

Eventually, the television industry will have to come around to people's shifting expectations. More and more people are going to question why they have to sit through ads. NBC may have been right to drop out of iTunes in order to sell more expensive downloads, but will you be able to download content for your iPod through Hulu?

I do worry about that answer selfishly, seeing as NBC owns Sci-Fi, and thus controls the rights to Battlestar Galactica. I would not be surprised if you see it making an appearance if the writer's strike goes on for a very long time.


British writers won't cross US picket lines

Well, so much for my fantasy, in which Britain's best comedy and television writers would get a golden chance to remake the American airwaves.

The Writer's Guild of Britain has asked its members to honor the strike by members of the Writer's Guild For America. This isn't unexpected, and of course, my fantasy is pretty far-fetched. But, the scenario outlined below is something I frankly would love to see:

“We are contacting the major UK broadcasters and producers, and the UK Film Council, asking them not to dump UK material into the US market, and not to dress up American projects to look as though they are British. Any such manoeuvres would bring at best a short-term advantage, whereas the adverse consequences could last for years."
That's Brian Corbett, chair of the Writer's Guild. While the solidarity is impressive, this would be a good chance for American audiences to see first-run British stuff, rather than recycled remakes. Much has been written about how the NBC version of The Office has escaped the curse of the American-made British show. But Coupling? The US version of Red Dwarf? The two attempts to convert Fawlty Towers into star vehicles for Maude and the guy from the Night Court?

I don't have a well-formed opinion of the strike, but I've blogged elsewhere about how I just don't see the writers winning this one. The suits have way too many options in terms of program recycling, and there are many well-produced shows owned by the networks that have already run on cable. There's also a ton of alternatives available online. Network ratings are plummeting, and this is just going to make it much worse. And frankly, I don't think most people care.

But, I would suggest that individuals seek out some British shows, and I'd be happy to recommend a few. If you've not seen Spaced, you could be missing out on something that could fundamentally change your life. There's even talk it's going to be remade as an American show, which would be rather unfortunate given that it's so lovingly produced. You may recognize one of the main characters from Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.

Next up, Peep Show. This one has already been made into an American pilot, and it did not get picked up. That might be because the British version is close to absolute perfection. The laughs are usually painful, and rooted in self-loathing, self-aggrandizement, and self-abuse. I'm not doing the show justice, but seek this one out before it gets remade by Spike. The premise is simple - two former college housemates continue to share flat well into their 20's. But, you constantly hear their interior monologues, undercutting what they say in real life. The result is something incredibly honest.

Finally, I've recommended this before, but Life on Mars is a pretty fantastic show as well, if only for how wonderfully decadent 1973 Manchester is depicted. This is another one that's currently being remade, and is simply not going to work. I'm somewhat encouraged by the presence of two folks from the British Isles who are on board (Colm Meany and Lenny Clarke) but without a huge soundtrack, this just isn't going to work. Americans are also going to want an answer, and there are no answers in Life on Mars. Watch Journeyman instead - my favorite show of the new season.

Now, a treat - the full first episode of Spaced, which sets it all up nicely. I'm still saving the last two episodes, but I'm pretty sure the opening sequence here relates to the last few minutes of the entire series. Amy is perturbed I don't want to race through, but this has very quickly become one of my favorite shows of all time. I've watched the rave episode at least 20 times already. It's not that that episode is particularly funny. It's that there's geniune character development and it's made so lovingly that you feel like you're there.


BBC's In Business presenter writes about podcasting

Peter Day is the presenter of In Business on BBC Radio 4. He's written an article for the Daily Mail about how podcasting has drastically increased the profile for his show, which he's been hosting since 1988.

I woke up to what was happening when I went to Cambridge and a procession of dons and local business angels mentioned recent favourite programmes they'd heard in the gym. It seems to be a good fit, this half an hour of workout accompanied by half an hour of keeping up with busines trends.

Whenever I meet teachers, they talk about the use they can make of In Business in schools. Podcasting makes this 'resource' much more accessible. And we've now made available on the website a downloadable archive of programmes going back years.

When the BBC started podcasting two years ago, I made a programme about it. 'Although I report endlessly about technology,' I said, 'you only notice what's happening when it begins to effect your own job.' Here comes podcasting, and here am I in the firing line.

I'm happy getting the audio, but how long until I can buy video podcasts of BBC shows directly from the UK? Could that be negotiated?


Podcasting Charlottesville Beyond Charlottesville

This blog entry prompted by Leslie Middleton who was alarmed at the weird pingbacks she was getting on her latest Rivanna Rambler podcast. These days, pingbacks are mostly spam, but every now and then I get an example of how the Charlottesville Podcasting Network has a vast potential audience.

The Islamic Cultural Community of Northern California is having Dr. Abdulaziz Sachedina speak in December, and what better way to pitch his talk to potential attendees by linking to his recent appearance on WINA's Charlottesville--Right Now! with Coy Barefoot? I'm sure they found it by typing "Sachedina podcast" in Google.

I'm always glad when this sort of thing happens, because it turns a one-time radio appearance into part of the public record. And, it's good for a couple extra fifty downloads or so, I reckon. That particular recording has been downloaded 122 times now, so we'll see if this goes up over time.


Radio on the television / television on the radio

I was searching out new mp3s to listen to just now, and came across this absolutely painful interview. Luke Burbank of NPR interviewing Icelandic band Sigur Ros and it goes pretty poorly. After the first long pause, it's pretty clear the group has no interest in being interviewed for this show, which is also being filmed for YouTube (hence the video).

I thought it odd to watch an interview like this, and to see it going so poorly. It's a very raw interview, with people who has clearly not been prepared for interview. There's absolutely nothing going on here, and the host points that out at one point, and then it just goes downhill from there.

I've never been very good at live radio. For me, it's all got to be scripted. I've not been writing many radio pieces lately, and I miss the structuring of creating a script. When I write for radio, I transcribe everything I can, even the soundbites, to see if there's a way I can present the information as succinctly as possible.

In other words, I've had painful interviews before, but thankfully, never of them were live. Kudos to Luke Burbank and NPR for putting this stuff up in the raw, with video footage as well, to show a little bit about how the sausage gets made.

On another note, I've been loading my new iPod Touch up with new podcasts, to take advantage of the absolutely cool visuals on the thing. I noticed that the audio portion of 60 Minutes is available now for download. As I walked my dog tonight, I listened to a fascinating story about US policy on killing civilians in war-time. Don Hewitt has always said that 60 Minutes is about the writing, and I think I'm going to adopt the habit of listening to this podcast. (Hey - Drag to iTunes!)

iTunes podcast subscribing as easy as dragging and dropping

You would think that the guy who runs the Charlottesville Podcasting Network would have figured this out already.

Today I was reading through one of the e-mails I get from Poytner about how to improve my craft as a journalist. And, I noticed there was a podcast involved as well. The innovation, though, was a suggestion that I could "drag and drop to iTunes."

So, I tried it. I opened up iTunes, opened the Podcast folder, and dragged the link to Poytner's podcast feed in, and it worked. I'm now subscribed! Easy as pie.

Try it yourself!

Charlottesville Podcasting Network feed: Drag to iTunes
Charlottesville Tomorrow podcast feed: Drag to iTunes

One thing to note is that feeds directly into the iTunes music store do not work this way, which I don't find terribly surprising.

Edit: I had to delete two of them, because I can't seem to get Feedburner to work correctly with the sub-category podcasts. Need to upgrade CPN's Wordpress and Podpress to get this started. Any suggestions?


NFL in London

I'm really enjoying that as I type this, the Miami Dolphins are playing the New York Giants in London. There's a nasty, cold drizzle coming down, but the stands seem to be packed. I had a lunch meeting at 1:00 so I missed the first half, and the opening festivities.

Hey! They just had a streaker! There's a guy who does this at all the events.

So, anyway, for me, this is significant. As readers may or may not know, I'm first generation American, born to parents who moved from Liverpool in 1965. Being English-American barely counts as an ethnic category, but yet, I've always felt caught between two cultures. I'm a fan of both American and English football, and so this is a lot of fun, having this game on.

I could probably write out a lot of interesting comparisons, but for now, I'd like to see the Dolphins continue to get trounced. If they lose, they will be 0-8 and Outskirts guy will find some way to blame our fair city.

When I've been over to England, American football is always an object of ridicule. Sure, a few people actually like it, and I think Channel 5 still shows highlights way into the night, and there's a show that tries to explain the game to people who are absolutely confounded that a game called football has so little to do actually using the feet.

They supposedly sold this game out, but there are a lot of empty seats on display. I certainly would never choose to watch this game, except for the novelty of it being in England. I'll be there in less than a month, and I can't wait to be there to see my family. As I'm watching this at the moment, I can feel the cold and the damp, and the apathy, and the Englishness of it all. This upcoming trip, I'll be taking my son to London, and so, for the next hour or so, I'll feel close to him and feel close to the place where he's growing up.

The pitch is soaking wet. I can call it a pitch because this match is being played in England. I so often mix up my words, though I try to keep it in context. If I write to someone English, the extra u comes out fairly frequently.

I love that the camera keeps panning on Dolphins fans who took this trip with their team. The NFL wants to stage more of these regular season games outside the country. I'm a supporter of it, because I really do love American football. It's a great game, and frankly, it is more interesting to watch than soccer. I like soccer, but a lot of that is because of the flexibility of the leagues. If the structure of the English Premiership was suddenly transferred to the National Football League, the Dolphins would surely be headed to relegation to the second tier league. That would either give them the pressure to play better, or it would put them out of our misery, and their status as a second-class team would be affirmed.

People in the crowds seem to be enjoying themselves, though I'm sure no one understands the game. My cousin James, who supports Liverpool as well as Luton, doesn't get American football one little bit. I've tried to explain, but I've also tried to explain baseball, and it just doesn't work.

The field is nasty. The players, who are much heavier than soccer players, are tearing it up fast.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is now in the box, talking about the experience of being in England. I hope that they don't expect an instant success. I hope that they are patient with this. For them, it must suck, because the Dolphins are so poor. I can imagine this would be much more interesting if something was actually on the line .

As it is, I'm enjoying this.

Update: I hit send so I could concentrate on just watching, but I just realized that Goodell was wearing a poppy. This is significant, because every year around this time you start seeing poppies on everyone. 89 years after the end of World War I, the British (and the Canadians) still commemorate the event with poppies, and you see them everywhere in the days leading up to November 11, Remembrance Day in the UK, and Veterans Day here. I thought that was such a nice touch.


Drawing your attention to the widgets

One reason I continue to keep this personal blog of mine in Blogger is because of the ease of placing widgets in the sidebar. I don't think they're terribly effective, but they're kind of neat.

Of course, you have to come to the site in order to actually see them. One concern I have with advertising on blogs is that the most loyal readers who read feeds throughout the day don't ever have the opportunity to see the ads. Ads in RSS feeds seem to be kind of discouraged, or at least, filtered out. I subscribe to about 200 feeds, and none appear to have ads.

So, no one sees the widgets on the side of the screen, and I don't know if they're effective. But they sure seem neat to me at times.

First, the top box is just a simple thing that reads the feed of the Charlottesville Podcasting Network. Nothing fancy, and it only seems to post the top item. I'm still looking for a good player to use, and would love to figure out a way to place this kind of a player on other people's sites. So far, there's resistance to this.

Next, the Google ads. Ubiquitous. Too easy to install. I'd prefer to sell local ads here somehow, cheap, like, dirt cheap, even free, to advertise things I'm interested in. I'd place others widgets here, for instance.

Below that, I've got the e-mail subscription through Feedburner. I've now got five subscribers (including me, admittedly) through that service, which sends out a daily e-mail digest of everything posted in that 24 hour period. I was using Feedblitz for this, but consolidated with Feedburner. CPN now has about 150 unique subscribers.

I'd encourage anyone who is interested in the site to sign up for this e-mail service. We really do post a lot of content each week. I've just put up five episodes of WINA's Charlottesville--Right Now on topics ranging from U.Va energy conservation to what the body experiences in a 24-hour period. Not to mention the usual government and politics stuff. It's hard to keep up with all of it, and e-mail is a good way to stay in touch with all that we're offering.

Below that, the headlines from the Charlottesville Tomorrow weblog. It's my day job, of course, and I write a lot of these articles. Below that, headlines from Charlottesville Tomorrow's news blog, which aggregates local media stories on the issues we're interested in - land use, transportation, community design.

And so on, and so on, with more headlines from other blogs, including cvilleblogs.com and my friend Jeffry Cudlin's DC art blog. And then links, etc. At one point, I had videos in there, but it got too cluttered.

Larry Sabato weekend

So, this past weekend was a Larry Sabato weekend for me. On Friday afternoon, I went to the U.Va bookstore to record the director of the U.Va Center for Politics talk about his new book "A More Perfect Constitution" for eventual podcast on the Charlottesville Podcasting Network, as well as for a special edition of WVTF's Evening Edition.

And then on Saturday, I recorded Mr. Sabato giving a slightly similar lecture as part of U.Va's More than the Score Lecture series. That recording also features Sabato's Crystal Ball. Go take a listen on the U.Va Minds website.


The real Charlie Brown?

So, what kind of a man was Charles Schulz? I've heard his family is upset about a new biography by David Michaelis' new biography called "Schulz and Peanuts" and I've just read a review of it on Salon. The book paints a picture of Schulz as much more complex than the simple life his official biography. In other words, perfectly normal and just like the rest of us. The difference is, Schulz produced one of the most recognizable works of the 20th century. But, I never knew he got divorced, and I didn't know he wasn't particularly close to his four children. He was known to respond to reporters' questions about his kids by telling tales of Charlie Brown.

I think I'd like to read the book. Fantagraphics has been printing a deluxe hardcover reprint series. When I was a kid, I used to devour reprint books, and at one point knew intricate details about the character. Peanuts is what first drew me to serial strips, and I'm still hooked as an adult. I just read Marvels by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross, and it was superb. I actually had a conversation today with someone about Love and Rockets, an experience that is fairly rare for me.

But, it shouldn't be. Everyone reads comics, on some level. Yet, I don't talk to anyone about it, or there aren't that many people here. I don't even really know where to buy good alternative comics, except online. There's a whole back catalog I have to go through.


An update on the incident at this weekend

In advance of the Hook posting an article on the topic in tomorrow's issue, I wanted to say my piece.

I've been in touch with the police department through Captain Bibb. He phoned me first on Monday, but didn't have as much information then, as he hadn't spoken with the officers in question, had not gotten their report. On the first call, he did tell me that it was a report of a suspicious person in the area, and he said the officer was a seasoned veteran.

On the second call, he had more information. He said the officers were responding to a call made by the elderly woman who lives in a house behind my street. Somebody had been knocking on the door, and she was frightened. When the officers arrived, they heard loud shots coming from the vicinity of my house. That's because we live underneath a stand of oak trees, and when the acorns come down, they're as loud as gun shots. I'll post an mp3 of this later on tonight. They came to my back door, and seeing the open screen door, they suspected there was a crime in progress.

Captain Bibb told me he didn't think the actions were unreasonable given the clues the officer put together. But he did say he thought the matter could be handled in a more safe manner. For instance, he suggested that the officer should have posted one of the officers to cover the back door while someone went to the front door to let us know what was going on. Captain Bibb also said that the officer would be counseled so as to avoid this kind of a situation in the future.

How do I feel about all of this? Here's what I wrote to Dave McNair of the Hook:

Well, I feel satisfied that the incident may help provide for better public
safety. I can put myself in the shoes of the officer, who put several clues
together and made an assessment that something bad was happening in my
house. Our house sits underneath a stand of tall oak trees. When the acorns
fall, they hit the roof with a very loud thud. That coupled with an open
screen door and a report of a suspicious person in the area led him to do
what he did, which was to investigate what he thought was a crime in

Now, was it handled properly? My opinion is that it was a bit excessive. I'm
still pretty sure I saw a gun pointed at me when I opened the door, and
Captain Bibb told me that they had handguns, but rifles. I'm pretty sure it
was aimed at me.

But, I feel confident that the officer will learn from the incident, and can
use this as a way to improve the way he does his job. A more appropriate
response would have been to post an officer at the back door while another
came to the front door, and I'd like to think that this incident will help
the police do their job better.

As I said, there's a lot more thoughts that I have about this, but I'm not
at a point right now where I can write out a lot more. I bet you if it
wasn't the month before the election, I'd be a lot more shaken up!

Am I being too generous, as Dave wrote on the Hook's blog this week? Possibly. I don't know. This is one of the busiest weeks of the year for me, with me co-moderating two candidates forums for Charlottesville Tomorrow. I'm kind of filled with the adrenaline of that.

But, I do hope this continues a conversation about public safety, and what it means to be safe. What can we do to make our homes safer, without going overboard. Many people have asked if I want an apology, and, I don't know what that would really mean. I don't know what that would do.

In any case, I'm still thinking about the incident, and I still feel safe in my community. I blame the acorns.


Lessons from the barrel of a gun

So, at least I can now say that I know what it's like to be at the end of a loaded firearm.

Last night I fell asleep at at about nine, something I've done not in a while. I didn't mean to. I just put my head down and crashed. But, I usually only get about five to six hours of sleep a night, so I popped right back up at around 2:30 or so, and could not go back under.

After an hour of laying there I decided to get up, and went downstairs into my basement office. I decided to watch Chuck, which I missed last Monday. More on that later. I goofed off for a while, hoping I'd get tired again.

At about 4:30 or so, my dog started barking in the space above my head. He was very agitated. This annoyed me an awful lot, as I'm sure it was bothering my wife. He usually growls anytime there's a cat outside, which is a lot. Sometimes a dog or some other critter will get into our mud room. Billy was upset, and Amy opened the door to the basement and cried down for me.

"There's someone on the back deck with a flashlight," she said.

I didn't believe her at first. But, my neighborhood has been having a rash of burglaries, loud parties, and a lot more people wandering around then there used to be. Three weeks ago, a drunk guy broke into our across-the-street neighbor's house to sleep. So, I went upstairs, in only my boxers, quickly trying to assimilate what she had said. I tried to think if it was real, partially thinking she was dreaming.

But, why would she make something like that up? My heart was thumping. I knew that something was happening, and in the next few seconds, life was going to change. I grabbed a walking stick that belonged to Amy's father. I could hear rustling noises outside the door leading to our mudroom, which leads to our back deck.

"Open the door!" someone shouted from the other side.

"No! Who are you? Go away!"

"Open the door immediately!"

"No way! Not until I know who you are!"

"Charlottesville Police Department! Open the door!"

"I don't believe you! I'm not opening this door!"

Would you? People will say anything. It was my back door. Why would there be police officers in my back door, in my mud room? What was going on?

"Open the door immediately sir!" the man shouted. I could see powerful lights coming from the cracks of the door, and so I decided to take a risk and open the door, clutching the walking stick in my right hand, ready to use it, somehow, if I had to protect my wife and daughter.

So, I opened the door, and was staring at a man in black with a rifle pointed at my face. I could only see the man's silhouette, as there was a bright powerful flash light, but I could make out his weapon.

"Let me see your hands!" shouted the officer. I was still clutching the stick in my right hand. I immediately dropped the stick and opened the door all the way to show that I wasn't armed. The police officer had been ready to shoot, but he lowered his gun. He didn't take both hands off of it, though. Right behind him were two other men, possibly more.

"What's going on?"

This is the part where I'm not quite sure what I heard. He either said that there was a report of a break-in in the house behind ours, or there was a report of a suspicious person trying to break in. I was a little unclear, and still trying to figure out what was going on. The officer explained they had seen that the door to our mudroom was open, and assumed that their suspect had forced their way into my house. They told me I should keep my doors shut. We usually do, but it's an easy thing to do when you live in a place you assume is safe.

And now? I don't believe it's very safe at all. I don't know what to think about the police, who left a few minutes later without saying they were sorry for disturbing me and my wife. I don't know how to feel. On the one hand, I feel protected that the police are trying to catch a potential criminal. On the other, I now know what it's like to have a gun drawn on me, in my own home, in the middle of the night.

After they left, my wife wouldn't stop shaking. I was fairly calm about it, though it took a while for my heart to return to normal.

I should have asked for their names and badge numbers, just to get it on record. Just to have someone to follow up to know exactly what kind of a call they are on.

I am glad I was awake, because I don't know what the outcome would have been if I were asleep, still in the throes of dream logic. I can imagine myself being more belligerent. I can imagine myself not really thinking straight, groggy, less inclined to cooperate.

And what if I had been armed, as is my constitutional right? Would the presence of a gun have escalated things more, me very quickly the victim of mistaken identity? You hear about it happening fairly often, no-knock raids on the wrong house. I'm very sure that kind of thing can happen here.

What if they had seen my wife peeking through the windows, and trained the gun on her? What if she reacted poorly to that, and they assumed she was their suspect? She's pregnant, and freaks easily.

I want to repeat that I don't know if the police officers were right or wrong. In my head, I don't see why they wouldn't have gone to the front door first. Is it a crime to have an open door? The door sometimes sticks, and re-opens. What was their thought process? Did they also look into my outdoor shed, which also has an open door? If so, was that a violation of my constitutional rights?

I really don't know. But, I'm curious to know what you think.


Recent lack of activity

I've found it hard to write anything in here for a while. I have a lot of drafts that I save when I realize I can't really send it out to the public. It's so easy sometimes to be absolutely candid, way too much so. I have to watch that as do we all. I think sometimes I cut back way too much, maybe too fearful. After all, it's not like there's an incredibly large audience.

These days it seems everyone announces their life on the Internet. This is fantastically grand. We live on here, and our lives are influenced by here. Where is here for you? For me at the moment, it's being on the kitchen table that's in our living room. We recently moved everything around in order to sit in the window, able to look out over our cul-de-sac with its majestic views.

So, that's one observation. One thing that happened and can be pointed out.

I did not mention to anyone on here that the recent appearance of Bolivian President Evo Morales on the Daily Show was absolutely stunning. I wrote something up on this, but stopped.

I did not mention anything about my daughter being dressing up like a dog. She's about to turn two, and she can say this, and she's approaching the terrible part, as I'm sure all children do. Amy and I are trying to get through it.

I've not talked about the shows I've watched this week. NBC got five hours of my week, by putting on shows I'm interested in trying out. I've been working while they're on, which is a lot of fun, though I did not do that with Heroes.

I've been posting a lot of comments on Charlottesville Blogs. I'm doing this because I'm trying to avoid a discussion forum that I frequent. I'm growing increasingly disturbed by the content, and it's better to just walk away.

I'm considering opening up a Facebook account. I have a myspace and a linkedin account, but I don't have a Facebook account. I am weary of joining another social network. I don't meet enough people in real life. It turns out I don't really see much of anyone anymore. I mostly go to work and then come home to do more work.

I'm considering more experimental things on the Charlottesville Podcasting Network, or at least, connecting people with one of my other podcasts that I never publicize. But, I'm not quite that brave. I'm sure there are many people who create things, but never actually let them see the light of day. Perhaps this is for the best.


TV Squad honors fallen writer

Adam Finley, a writer for TV Squad, died last week after being hit by a bus while riding his bike. All day, the site has posted reprints of his posts in lieu of their normal output.


Ronald Jenkees is why I think the Internet works

I read all of BoingBoing's post from this week, and came across a link to Ronald Jenkees, a guy from Kentucky (I think) who is an incredible keyboardist/beatmaker. I don't usually click on video links, but something about the guy's image made me need to check it out. I don't listen to a lot of hip-hop, but I saw in the post that he uses FL Studio - formerly known as Fruity Loops.

I used to use Fruity Loops to make wacky sound concoctions, including the former intro music to the Charlottesville Podcasting Network. In all, I made over 500 compositions using the program, which gradually got more complex with each upgrade. I believe Fruity Loops was the first program I ever purchased over the Internet. I don't use it much anymore for some reason.

But that may change after tonight, after watching Ronald Jenkees in action. Check this guy's studio out. He's loaded to the max with equipment, and he knows how to play. Watching him is so joyful, because you're observing someone take such pleasure in creating music.

Anyway, back to the title of this post. Sitting at my computer, I learned all about something new that I like. So much so, that I purchased the guy's CD on iTunes. I'm not sure if I'll like it, but I think I'm happy to pay for it to support his efforts to keep creating things.

And yes, I acknowledge that he's kind of weird-looking. But, check out his YouTube channel and watch him play a couple of tracks. He's pretty amazing to watch.

Update: I went and downloaded the demo for FL Studio. I really miss making music.


Attention erstwhile Doctor Who fans

Okay, so I know I'm not the only Doctor Who fan around here, but I'm not aware of anyone who has watched the new series on the Sci-Fi network. However, I'm aware that it's not exactly cool to talk about such geeky things. But, I've got a message to anyone who has enjoyed the show on PBS, but hasn't watched in years.

Tune in tonight.


It's one of the best episodes of the series to date. It begins with a cold open, with our intrepid time traveler and his companion Martha Jones on the run from someone, but we have no clue who. The next scene is very confusing indeed, as the Doctor wakes up in bed, with Martha serving him breakfast before he begins his day as a school teacher in a prep school circa 1913, one year before the Great War. He doesn't know who he is, and believes himself to be human. Over the next two episodes, a really fantastic episode emerges, and one that has several key details that lead into the rest of the season.

Non-fans as well as erstwhile fans could tune in tonight and enjoy a really good show, as they unravel the mystery and learn what it really means to be a Time Lord.

The preview that I'm linking to in this post is not really one that does this episode justice. But, if you were ever to begin the show in the middle, this is the chance. I've been told by many American fans of the show that they find the new series cheesy, but, seeing as the show is now run by the creator as Queer as Folk, you should certainly expect a bit of camp.

Trivia question: The woman who plays Joan Redfern, the school nurse, was part of the duo on the show SPACED, which I will blog about sometime in the near future.

Seriously, if you've ever wanted to give this show a chance, this is the one to watch. Ask any questions in the comments below if you do watch and want to get up to speed.


Labor Day Weekend

Well, not quite the Labor Day Weekend we had anticipated. It disappeared in an instant. Our 22-month-old daughter got pretty sick and is only now beginning to get better. So, we spent the weekend huddled around the couch, watching her to make our girl was okay. This kind of crowded out everything else, though I'm currently on my sixth load of laundry. I acknowledge that's a lot, but at least one of those loads is because of the aforementioned illness.

It was nice to have a day off. I am still in many ways adjusting to having a regular job, and so today was a nice day, though I find it hard to relax now. I was able to tweak a little things here and there. People who click-through to the actual blog will see what I think is a pretty impressive widget which will allow you to easily scroll through the past 10 shows on the Charlottesville Podcasting Network. I put the widget on a few other places, including the waste of bandwidth that is my Myspace account.

I didn't really do anything in my community, except on Saturday. We went out to Bluegrass Grill for breakfast, walked around the Discovery Museum, I did some work, and then watched the Virginia Tech game at Court Square Tavern, which, really was kind of sad and pathetic, considering I was the only customer. I do hope the place can do better, but they've not done understanding, and this blog is hardly a marketing tool.

Barring illness, I will be in England on my next day off, in mid-November. I got an e-mail from my college roommate Kevin, who has quit his job to take a six month break. He's touring the world for the first time and is writing about it. I'm incredibly jealous. I'll have nine days in November, and then that's it for another year.

I had hoped to get a lot more done this weekend, but it didn't happen. Oh well. I looked after my little girl and got to watch a few more episodes of Spaced, as well as the latest issue of the IT Crowd. We also watched a ton of stuff on Joost and I also listened to some great things on my iPod, now that I've found it again. It freaked me out at first to listen to BBC's coverage of the English Premier League in Mandarin, but it was pretty interesting, all the same.

And now, time to get to sleep, I guess.


Watching the Virginia Tech match at Court Square Tavern

So, I was going to sit at home to watch Virginia Tech's first match of the year. Instead, I thought I would come to Court Square Tavern to watch it. I'm the only customer. Cutting out smoking caused a lot of regulars to not come back out of protest. And so far, there are no replacements to pick up the Saturday traffic.

So, here I am in the seat where the cash register used to be. I'm also working on a story for work while I watch Virginia Tech attempt to get something going here in the first quarter. The interception Glennon threw on the first play didn't really do much to get things going.

Now that I don't work here, I think I'm going to try to come in and watch football here on the weekends.


Coy Barefoot to interview World Without Us author

Alan Weisman's book The World Without Us imagines the world without human beings. Not exactly the funniest of topics, but Weisman recently appeared on the Daily Show.

I've already related in this space how Coy Barefoot has interviewed many people who have gone on to appear on the Daily Show. Well, this time it's the other way around. Weisman will be Coy's guest on tomorrow's episode of WINA's "Charlottesville--Right Now!" so tune in if you want to ask him a question. You can dial in at 977-1070. Coy tells me Weisman will be on the show Tuesday, August 28 at 5:00 PM. WINA Newsradio 1070! Tune in.

Drop in Nielsen ratings due to drop in television usage - not methodology

Well, the revolution really is here, if by revolution you mean the end of televised entertainment as we know it. Everything is changing, and fast. Here's a report from MediaPost:

IN AN EFFORT TO ADDRESS client concerns over declines in TV usage this year, Nielsen has issued a report concluding the drop most likely is due to real changes in TV viewing behavior and is not due to TV ratings methods, or new technologies like DVD players, video game systems or digital video recorders (DVRs). But while concluding that "no single factor played a predominant role" in the declines, the Nielsen report found that the biggest impact was felt among TV's heaviest viewing households.

Of course, I read this on a night when I am watching reruns of Heroes live on Channel 29.

I certainly don't watch television like I used to. People are watching shows rather than networks. We're not dumb anymore. Now, I can't wait until we can pay for the channels we want, without the rest, delivered online. Or, heck, just offer it all up for free with ads!


We're number #181!

The new Nielsen market rankings are out (link from Lost Remote), and Charlottesville has moved up one spot to #181. That's based on there being 85,520 "TV homes" in our market. That population is an increase from 83,850 last year. Harrisonburg moved up three slots, to #178. I didn't know that Harrisonburg they were larger than Charlottesville.

Other Virginia markets saw changes as well. Roanoke-Lynchburg climbed one to 67. I find it strange that those two areas are twinned together in the same market.

Bristol also went up one, with 328,970 "TV homes" in the Tri-Cities area (which, to be fair, does include some Tennessee homes).

However, Norfolk/Portsmouth/Newport News stayed steady at #42. That's despite an increase of 5,000 new homes to 717,440.


British producer John LLoyd on Coy Barefoot show

Coy Barefoot gets some great guests, but last week he spoke with John Lloyd, a writer and producer who actually co-wrote two episodes of the first series of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. He was on to talk about his new book, The Book of General Ignorance.

Pretty neat, I'd have to say. I've produced five of the shows tonight, after a day spent working on the three remaining Voices of Poverty podcasts. I've also finished some podcasts for the U.Va Housing Division.

What are you listening to these days?

Here's a YouTube link to a QI episode that has Mark Steel in it.

A British perspective of soccer sports writing

One of the best things about David Beckham playing in the MLS is that each match is getting write-ups in British newspapers. That's a lot more attention the league could never have gotten, and it seems that the level of play seems to go up when Beckham plays. Witness last night's 5-4 victory by the New York Red Bulls over the Los Angeles Galaxy. I was not able to watch it live, thanks to it being on Fox Soccer Channel, but it was a lot of fun to watch the highlights this morning.

But, check out this paragraph from Times Online

The first goal came from an in-swinging Beckham corner kick, which Pavon met at the near post with a header that beat Red Bulls goalkeeper Ronald Waterreus and slipped inside the far post. Beckham’s left ankle continued to bother him but, despite his obvious discomfort, he picked out Pavon again with a 30-yard free kick and another crisply-despatched header put Galaxy ahead. Suddenly, they had the initiative and the interplay between Beckham and Landon Donovan became pivotal, for when they combined intelligently and incisively the visitors were at their most effective.

Somehow I can imagine George Plimpton reading that aloud somewhere.


Wacky British television thanks to YouTube

I had heard that the BBC was going to be putting up a channel on YouTube, but I had forgotten all about it. Today, I stumbled upon it by accident and watched a few clips. There isn't very much at all on there, but there seem to be more clips of a program called Shooting Stars then any others. It seems like an odd way to treat celebrities, and seems much more like a wacky game show than a contrived reality show. I can't embed the clip, but the link to one episode is here.

I wish that I could get more meaningful content from the BBC, either free or paid. I believe they do not have the right to post full content to anywhere other than the UK, and they are currently launching an online video player for the British islands, but not for anywhere else. I think this is a mistake. I would be willing to directly pay the BBC the equivalency of the license fee for the right to live stream their video signal. I can get an audio stream from the BBC. Why not video, especially if I am willing to pay?

I want more than BBC Worldwide. Much more.

Update: It doesn't even have a proper RSS feed! What good is that? I guess there's no potential for ads in that?


Watching the match thanks to the Internet

MLS is selling a subscription to watch all of its game live over the Internet, and right now, they're charging $15 for the rest of the year. So, I decided to go ahead and purchase one in time for tonight's match between DC United and the LA Galaxy. I wanted to see Beckham play.

And, I'm glad I did, considering that he scored a goal on his first free kick. It was very amazing to watch, and I'm glad I can follow him as he tries to lead the Galaxy to a title. I've never really paid attention to an MLS season before, but this time it could be a lot more interesting. I'm also intrigued by how tonight's match is a Superliga match, and not an MLS one.

(stopped writing because the match was on)

This woman had a really bad experience last Thursday trying to fly from Cincinatti to Washington to meet her father so they could see Beckham play at RFK.


BBC to air Dirk Gently radio programme

Before I start, I love when I write about BBC shows, because I get to say "programme" instead of "program" which makes my twice-yearly trips to England seem a little more cost-effective.

Thanks to the Internet, though, I don't have to be on the island to listen to Radio 4. So, this October, I can listen to Dirk Maggs' interpretation of Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently and the Holistic Detective Agency, a book I know I've read but I can't remember anything about. Maggs' was the man entrusted with finishing up the radio versions of the last three books in the Hitchhiker series. They were absolutely fantastic, and a tremendous love letter to radio and to Adams himself.

Featuring a star-studded cast with Harry Enfield in the lead role, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency will be produced by the same award-winning team that made the conclusion to The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy. Harry is joined by Lord of the Rings actor Billy Boyd, Fawlty Towers' Andrew Sachs, The Golden Compass' Jim Carter and Peepshow's Olivia Colman.

Dirk Gently has an unshakeable belief in the interconnectedness of all things but his Holistic Detective Agency's only success seems to be tracking down missing cats for old ladies. Then Dirk stumbles upon an old friend behaving bizarrely, and he is drawn into a four-billion year old mystery that must be solved if the human race is to avoid immediate extinction.

So, something to look forward to in October!


David Beckham begins MLS career

I tuned in to the second half of the DC United-LA Galaxy game tonight on ESPN2. I had originally planned to go up to RFK to see this match, because I wanted to see David Beckham. Since joining the Galaxy last month, he has yet to play a match in a league game, due to injuries he sustained playing for England in June. So, there's not really been too much to watch.

I seldom watch MLS play. There doesn't seem to be anything of stake, and the quality of coverage usually isn't that good. There's also no one in the crowd, or at least, there's not enough to make it seem like an event.

Tonight when I tuned in, they had a packed house, with something like 47,000 people there. That's pretty impressive. There were that many people there when I went with my dad in 1998 to see the U.S. national team in their last friendly before the World Cup.

You hear time and time and time again how much no one cares about soccer in this country. So, it's nice to see a packed house. And, it was nice in my cozy house to sit and watch the second half unfold, with DC up one-nil. Beckham was not in yet, but he was warming up on the side. It began to pour with rain, and the commentators (four of them) remarked that the storm did not bode well for him to be sent on.

But, then, he switched from the warmup jersey to a game jersey, and all of a sudden, David Beckham takes the field. The same David Beckham who got sent off versus Argentina in the round of 16 back in 1998? The same one who helped Manchester United win the treble? The same one who got incredibly sick during last year's World Cup?

All of a sudden, the game took on a lot more meaning. All of this history, contemporary history, and it's continuing in the MLS, a league that has really not ever gotten me too excited, except when I lived in DC. Beckham playing on the same team as Landon Donovan. Just absolutely amazing, and all of a sudden, the game became something I couldn't take my eyes off of.

I'm really a very casual fan of this stuff. But, the English Premiership is about to begin again, and I want to pay attention this year. I'm helped out more now by the knowledge that there are some amazing podcasts out there that can help out. There's a guy in Charlottesville who sends in e-mails all the time, so I know there's more people out there who watch this stuff. But where?

To all of you who say the sport is a joke, that's fine. But, there really is a lot of merit to following it, at least to some extent. If Beckham plays at his best, the matches with LA will be truly amazing. There's a great story line, a sports story line, if you can get past all the celebrity stuff. Beckham's just amazing to watch, and in watching, you'll start noticing that the game is really beautiful.

So, yes, him coming here works for me, and has gotten me interested again. Anyone else?


What kind of a commenter are you?

I'm a journalist who covers government meetings, but one of the RSS feeds I check frequently in Bloglines is TVSquad. I don't watch that much television, but I am fascinated by the business of the medium. TVSquad keeps me up to date on the creative side, and I am a frequent commenter.

So, I'm curious to know exactly where I fit on their list of the kinds of people who comment on the site. This post is written by Jay Black in response to the Simpsons movie, and the countless people who commented on every single related post by saying that "The Simpsons haven't been funny in years" and so on.

So, click over there, and weigh in on who you are.


Whatever happened to the Showbiz Pizza robots

I grew up in Lynchburg in the 80's, and one of the best things we had going for us was Showbiz Pizza. Pizza + videogames + animatronic figures = a great time for ten-year-old Sean Tubbs.

Flash forward however many years, and the place is out of business, and then I read this on Boing Boing. Some guy bought one of the sets, somewhere, and then reprogrammed them to perform new styles of music.

To me, this is absolutely hilarious.


What can widgets do for you?

In my RSS reader (Bloglines, by the way), I have saved a lot of articles on widgets. Widgets are supposed to be the next wave of online advertising. To the uninitiated, widgets are little pieces of code that bloggers place in their sidebar to do something useful. Blogger allows its writers to add these pretty painlessly.

All of the stuff to the right (if you're on the site, of course, as opposed to an RSS reader (bloglines, by the way, but I click-through a lot) is powered by a widget. The ones at the very top here aren't formatted properly at the moment, but they're put together by Feedburner (which Google owns now, by the way) as a way to boost traffic to individual entries. For me, they're convenient little tools which can at a moment's notice scroll through the latest offerings.

But, will they boost traffic for the various offerings of the Charlottesville Podcasting Network? Will they add more subscribers?

I'm writing to hopefully begin a conversation among those of us who are collected through cvilleblogs.com and other Charlottesville aggregators. I want to know what you all think about these widgets. Have you considered using them? Would you be opposed to seeing them in individual posts? Would you place a widget on your blog that links to others, similar to what you might see on the right if you click-through to here? Is there a blog that you like that you would like to highlight by placing a widget which displays the last five posts?


Went to see the Simpsons movie

The wife and daughter were at church, and I decided to go ahead and catch one of the early morning shows of The Simpsons Movie at the Regal downtown. It was the first time in a very long time that I went to go see a movie by myself, and I thought it would be worth the trip.

I've been a fan of the Simpsons since the first season. I never really watched it on the Tracy Ullman show. In recent years, it's no longer necessary for me to watch every new episode, and I almost never watch it in re-runs anymore. So, why pay money to go see the movie?

For one, I thought it would be nice to see it in an actual theater for a change. The last movie I saw was Hot Fuzz earlier this year. I've not really wanted to see much of anything, as I've been busy with work-related things.

But, I think I might have been the only person in the theater by himself, which made me feel very self-conscious. When I was single in the late 90's, I saw everything that way, and didn't really mind sneaking in. Thankfully they had started the advertisements before I got there, missing a couple of fingers after purchasing popcorn. I was able to pick a spot right in the middle, not restricting myself to the aisles.

The previews beforehand were absolutely ridiculous. A sequel to Daddy Day Care. A remake of Alvin and the Chipmunks starring Jason Lee, featuring a pretty disgusting poop joke. Some other retread that I can't quite remember off the top of my head, but there really wasn't an original idea in the four previews. Odd that it took a television show to get me into a theater.

And then the movie. The reason I went on opening weekend because I was wondering if there would be any milestones in the movie. Would a character die? Would something different happen? How would they sustain the narrative? I was curious, so it was worth it to see it on the big screen without being spoiled.

Well, I don't want to spoil it for anyone, but the experience makes me wonder if the studios could make a lot of money off of people like me who would likely pay $9.99 on opening weekend to watch it in a one-time viewing on my computer or through pay-per-view.

The theater was maybe a quarter-full, and no one really laughed. There were a lot of kids in, and it was kind of embarrassing to laugh at some of the more adult jokes that got inserted into the film. It is a movie, after all. I was a bit self-conscious, and there were kids on either side of me, so I restrained most of my chortles and guffaws. I can imagine some of the parents were likely doing the same.

I'm not sure if it was worth it, but I did have fun, and it was a nice little distraction. A pure spur of the moment kind of thing, helped by the fact that I was able to get a space on Water Street (despite the Jeep thing eliminating over a hundred parking spaces) just outside the Regal. That alone made it something memorable!

But, was it Simpsonesque? If you're a fan of the show, go see it, and go ahead and spend the cash to see it in a theater. But, go see a late night version so you can really relax and enjoy it.


My appearance on the Newsplex

I was interviewed recently by Newsplex reporter Mark Tenia for a story on Charlottesville Tomorrow's Election Watch page. Here now is a link to the piece.


Places29 video on Channel 10

Charlottesville Tomorrow has placed its first video on Channel 10, one of the City's cable access channels. If you tune in at this moment, you'll see our video of John Giometti's presentation of the transportation study that's part of Places29.

They will be running this periodically over the next two weeks, and we'll be giving them more content as we film other events such as this.


Ten things I learned from the L.A. Galaxy/Beckham press conference

I was just watching the press conference at which David Beckham was introduced as a member of the L.A. Galaxy.

It's about sixteen and a half minutes long, and was kind of entertaining. But, as I'm sure you're not really going to watch the whole thing, I thought I would provide ten things that I learned while watching.

1) Alexei Lalas seems well-groomed to play the role of booster for this team.
2) The sponsor of the L.A. Galaxy featured on the jersey is Herbalife. That's an odd choice for a main advertiser.
3) L.A. doesn't much care for their mayor. When Antonio Villaraigosa took the stage at the end, he was booed. The article goes on to say it may have been because the Mayor is a Chivas supporter.
4) Beckham almost called his sport "football" but corrected himself quickly. He said he'd get used to it.
5) Speaker after speaker makes reference to how this will build the sport of soccer in the future. I will likely watch a few matches. I also like how MLS teams seem to be building relationships to English teams. That's not really mentioned in this press conference, but the fact that the above video is from Sky Sports shows that they're going to cover MLS, at least in the short-term.
6) Really, Herbalife? It looks very odd. But according to Wikipedia, they have a "five-year deal worth between $3.5 million and $5 million a year through 2011."
7) The moment where the confetti comes out and Beckham gets his jersey is kind of entertaining, and happens after ten minutes. Dramatic. If this were a movie, we're soon going to enter the period where the team doesn't live up to expectations. Beckham clashes with the rest of the team, etc. Then there would be many montages, before they go on to win the U.S. Open Cup, or something similar.
8) Beckham said he was looking forward to the challenge. Will he last the whole five years?
9) There will definitely be a lot of culture clash, but I'm looking forward to watching to see how this will play out. I'm sure many of the games will be televised. ESPN is committing something like 20 cameras to the his first match next Saturday.
10) "Good luck and keep supporting us" Beckham told the crowd, who then erupted into chants of "One of us! One of us! One of us!"


Thoughts while doing maintenance

It's Saturday, and I'm feeling lazy, but I have at least eight projects to get to at some point over the weekend. But, my three computers are so laden with sound files that I don't really know where to begin in terms of organizing them. I've got audio from the last eight years waiting to be archived.

It's amazing just how much stuff is on the Charlottesville Podcasting Network. I currently have audio files on three servers, and I'm trying my best to consolidate them to one place. This is a grueling process, but it's necessary so I can save a little bit of money on my server costs. Right now, I'm paying way too much.

I've forgotten so many of the stories that I've posted the site. As you may recall, the original idea was to have the site be a place to go for original stories. Since getting out of the radio business, it's been harder to be efficient in terms of getting new things posted to the site. I've still got a large backlog of things to go through.

But, when I go back and hear things like the preview of Chad Day's Charlottesville Sports and Social Club, I wish I had the resources and the time to do more things like this. Or, the interview I did with the folks at Virginia Integrative Medicine.

Now, I was able to get these stories on the website because I was able to get them on the air on WVTF. I have not had the chance to file a story for WVTF lately. Part of the problem is that I've got so much audio I've got to sort through.


Come on CONCACAF, do a better job!

It is June 24, 2007, and all I want to know is what channel today's Gold Cup final between the U.S. and Mexico. It's on at 3:00, and I know they're showing it at the Shebeen, but I'd rather just watch it at home if I had the option. So, I want to know if it's on ESPN or the Fox Soccer Channel.

So, I go to the CONCACAF website to find out. Of course, the CONCACAF site is not using video very well at all. There's a very small video box on the left hand side of the screen that plays a video announcement of what teams are playing in what divisions. That's all well and good, except it's the final day of the tournament. They've not even updated the video.
What's more annoying is that as you navigate the website, the video plays from the beginning. It's very annoying.

This should be a major tournament, and it could be if they would simply use the web matter. Why are they not selling live streams of the matches? Why are there no archives of the matches?

Men's Soccer is always doomed to be a fifth-tier sport in this country unless it is easier to watch. The U.S. has played in five matches so far, and I would love to have been able to watch. There's almost no coverage of it, and their news release for a YouTube CONCACAF channel.... hey! That works, sort of! But, I think the latest video was shot before the finalists were around. This would have been a great video if I'd known about it Thursday. Still, I'll listen and will see.

But they don't allow embedding, so if you want to see, you'll have to go here:

So, anyone going to the Shebeen today? Looks like that's the only option for those of who refuse to pay $150 a month for one channel.


Video builds the radio guy

I'm watching the tail end of the debut of Max Headroom, one of those shows from the late 80's that seemed so amazingly different, refreshing. The premiere revolves around an advertising conspiracy that's killing people. When I was a kid, this seemed so futuristic and somehow important. A television show was critiquing television practices.

Now, the irony comes in because I'm watching this show on Joost, which is a new service created by the makers of Skype and KaZaa. There's advertising, of course, but it seems so seamless, you hardly notice it. A friend of mine sent me an invite today, and there's a ton of content here that I can watch legally, as often as I want. And, the picture is pretty darned good, full-screen.

Everything is changing, and changing fast. Steve Safran of Lost Remote was recently a guest on Coy Barefoot's show and continued preaching the gospel of convergence, and Joost is so far the best (legal) implementation I've seen. It lacks fresh content, but things begin playing immediately.

We had a meeting of the Charlottesville Podcasting Network think tank yesterday (at Court Square Tavern, of course) and I mentioned how excited I am about adding video to the offerings on Charlottesville Tomorrow. In the past few days, we've posted two features, and we're now purchasing what we need to make sure we can do this on a regular basis. Take a look at the one we did on the sinkhole.

At the end of the Safran show, Coy gives his typical shout-out to the Charlottesville Podcasting Network, and added: "Right now, no video, just audio, for now."

So, can we do it? How do we do it, and for what purpose?

One of my colleagues at CPN said video was too difficult to do on a regular basis - but, I think we have a duty to expand into video as soon as possible. While I don't expect to be in Joost before too long, the audience is coming fast, and they're coming for video. Audio still has its place, but we're a visual culture. I'm amazed at how much there is to learn in terms of how to tell a story visually. But, I learned how to do radio on my own, and now it's great fun using my journalistic skills to think of how to take the "public radio style" and apply it to video.

Other reporters are doing this, too. They're leaving traditional media for new kinds of organizations. Lost Remote recently had a post about something called Storybridge.tv, and I've not really delved into it yet. But, take a look. Isn't it beautiful? How do we build it here for Charlottesville?

To give you a sense of what I want to do, and what I think should be done, I conclude this post with the first line from one of National Public Radio's founding documents:

National Public Radio will serve the individual: it will promote personal growth; it will regard the individual differences among men with respect and joy rather than derision and hate; it will celebrate the human experience as infinitely varied rather than vacuous and banal; it will encourage a sense of active constructive participation, rather than apathetic helplessness.


Reason #62 why Coy Barefoot's show is awesome

As you know, I produce the podcast for Coy Barefoot's show. At the moment, I'm watching the Daily Show, and Jon Stewart has Alan Brandt, the author of Cigarette Century: The Rise, Fall, and Deadly Persistence of the Product that Defined America.

The cool thing is, Coy had him on his show in early May. He gets so many great guests on WINA's Charlottesville--Right Now, and it's well worth listening to, either on WINA from 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM, or on the podcast courtesy of the Charlottesville Podcasting Network.

Now, if I can only find someone to help us produce Coy's show. I have ten files sitting waiting to be produced and uploaded. I'm almost done with a major project producing U.Va's Reunions Weekend 2007 podcasts, so I can hopefully get to some of them. I'm willing to train anyone with an interest in multimedia experience.


And with that, it's back to normal

This is what I've wanted for a year and three months - a draft of Spaten at Court Square Tavern. I'm sitting at the bar, where I've sat many many a time before late at night, and this time I'm just a customer. A paying customer, even!

This doesn't really feel real. The place is mostly the same, though it's completely different. It's certainly not going to win awards with the young hipster crowd, which is probably why it's so enjoyable for me to be here now.

The major difference is that I'm here at night and Bill Curtis, the owner, is here. I never saw him up here ever in the old days, except occasionally late at night, or maybe at the beginning of a shift. Now I have a sense he'll be here an awful lot. And that's not a bad thing at all.

I'm so happy to be here. I've ordered my second Spaten. I think I'm going to really enjoy it here again. It's not like any other Charlottesville bar. I don't know what it is, exactly. I never have entirely known why I was drawn to this place. But, here I am.

This will now become the place where I'll go to have a conversation with people. And, I'll feel proud to bring them in here because there's no smoking. I can also have business meetings with people, because I can show them various things on the Internet thanks to the wi-fi.

I look around here and see all the differences, but none of them matter. I'm sitting at my bar! I'm sitting at a place with a lot of history, both personal and Charlottesville. The same guy has owned this place for 31 years now. I'm in the basement of an old hotel that's now a condo complex.

So, for those of us over 21 in the Charlottesville blog community, let's go grab some pitchers of Spaten!


BlogNetNews goes local - what does it mean?

BlogNetNews is another group that seems to be trying to make some money off of aggregating local content. They're now aggregating the same blogs that cvilleblogs.com collects. But will any of this actually correspond to higher amounts of traffic?

I'm now part of two organizations that use local blogs to reach people. I created the Charlottesville Podcasting Network and now work as program officer for Charlottesville Tomorrow. Both entities would benefit from extra traffic, as it would be good to reach out to new eyes in our attempts to increase public participation in civic and cultural society.

But, I worry about groups that suck up feeds without asking for permission. I hope that it will be easy to determine if this does result in extra eyeballs, or if it will just mean the eyeballs currently engaged are just shifting the way in which they receive the feed.


Friday Night Relaxation Writing

It's Friday night! We just got back from the Pavilion, and Atomic Burrito. My eyes are burning and I'm listening to Davie Bowie's "Life on Mars" through Rhapsody, as I'm all nostalgic for the show I've only just finished for the first time.

"Life on Mars" is simply the best show I've watched in a very long time. It confirms what is my emerging theory that television shows today should be compared to more like novels than television shows of days gone by. It's a very puzzling show, in that the ending really doesn't satisfy on the first view-round.

The show is about a Detective Chief Inspector for the Manchester Police who gets hit by a car, and wakes up back in 1973. He's not sure if he's time-traveled or if he's in a coma and dreaming the whole thing. But, everything is completely alive for him, and it doesn't stop. Over the course of 16 episodes, Sam Tyler tries to understand what's happening, and helps introduce 21st century crime-fighting techniques to the seventies.

In this show, the past of England is drawn so vividly. My wife told me that the England she saw in the show was the England she remembered from when she was a child living in London. Run-down, not nearly as slick as the place is now.

My point really in saying that is that I'm missing the program, as I'm missing many of the shows I watch. It's a Friday night, and I'm so tired of screens, having sat in front of one all week. And yet, here I am at the moment, trying to put a few words down because it's kind of a relaxing thing to do.

I had hoped that Court Square Tavern would have been open for the evening tonight, but they could not staff the place. I would have loved to have done it, but I'm not going to work there for now. It's way too hard to do that as well as a full-time job. But, there was a sign on the door that says the place will be smoke-free. That's an amazing thing, and I think will make the difference in terms of their success. They're hiring right now, and it's a fun job. Drop me an e-mail if you're interested. I will certainly miss the money I made there in the past.

But, Fridays are way too important to me now, as I really like going downtown after work. I worked until 6:30 tonight after writing a story about the Albemarle County Service Authority meeting from yesterday, as well as posting a link to a fascinating discussion about sustainable growth. That one will be posted soon.

I'm always amazed at how many people live here, or at least, how many people show up on Friday's, especially for a Dead cover band. I'm amazed at how many people I just don't recognize, and don't come into contact with. What percentage of the population around us do we actually know and recognize? A woman I interviewed today for a Live Arts podcast (Streetcar preview here!) said that she's amazed at how she doesn't really know anyone in town anymore. Does this mean there are too many people here, or does it just mean that we don't have a media culture in place that truly lets people discuss in a civil way, both offline and online. Think about how many cvillebloggers know each other now.

But, what about the people we don't know, the ones who have never read a blog, who have never downloaded a podcast? But, I'm also amazed at how many people who are listening to content when they want to, where they want to. It's happening, slowly.

(Anyway, just a few minutes writing, to prime me, to get me going. Now that I am off the air, away from radio, I am hoping to get back to writing. I certainly am doing this with Charlottesville Tomorrow, but now it's time to do more writing, about things, in the hopes of reaching other people again.)


The Original Point of the Internet

Waldo Jaquith posted a neat article today about the early history of the Internet, back in the days when you would find out what's new in the world by clicking What's New here and there. At the height of the dot-com boom, I was the editor of an online What's New page that kept people up to date on the latest changes in government positions across the U.S. I worked for a publishing company that maintained directories of local, state and federal officials. They still keep the page up to date.

This was my first real job after college. I went from an intern at WVTF to an intern at New Hampshire Public Radio, and then surfed around in restaurants up there for a while, as well as a stint where I worked in Lynchburg for my father's company, trying to learn how to become a manufacturing kind of guy. When I was there, I used the web to surf for music, as this was in the days before WNRN took over Sweet Briar's radio station. You could get great concerts intact, like I'm sure you can now.

But, it seemed less connected. You would surf more because it was harder to do. You would find yourself finding all kinds of great stuff. I created my own journal page, and felt a lot more free because it didn't really feel like the entire world knew how to access the thing, even though all it ever took back then was one link.

The difference, though, is that links didn't count like they do now. There wasn't quite the same interconnectivity that there was now. I would create each new page in notepad using HTML, and would have to change all of the other frames. I didn't really know what I was doing. All I wanted to do was write and publish. As I've written about before, Geocities helped me attract other similar minded people. It was a great little organic community in which you could meet folks from all over the world.

And then it changed. Geocities got bought by Yahoo!, which destroyed the sense of community, as they added inconveniences to the user experience in the name of branding. They changed their rules in order to claim ownership of content, driving away a lot of people. What seemed like the forming of a real community collided with other people's desire to make untold riches in the Gold Rush of '99.

Now, everyone is on the Internet. People even know what podcasts are now, and the audience is definitely growing. I'm glad I live in a community where something like cvilleblogs.com has been introduced. I'm also glad that I have recently made the decision to leave radio behind almost completely in favor of being an online-only journalist.

One of my job's at Carroll's was to phone up city governments and ask them if there had been any changes in the main staff and legislative positions in city government. I think when I phoned Charlottesville, Blake Caravati was Mayor. I learned a lot through osmosis about how city governments worked. Two key positions that our clients wanted to know: budget analyst and purchasing agent.

And now, I'm suddenly faced with the need to assimilate a lot of intricate data about how our city and county governments work. As a reporter for WVTF, I never had to deal with this level of detail. Broadcast writing is about giving broad sketches. The writing I'm doing now is much more involved, and it's exhilarating.

When I started at WNRN a year ago, I was similarly exhilarated. I'd never done live radio before, and suddenly I was thrust onto the airwaves in a way that my canned-radio self had never had to deal with before.

Sadly, I can't continue on at WNRN, but now the challenge is how to work in a medium that is new to me professionally. I've been online since the late 80's. Should I really expect to be in any other field?

Now, for an odd fun-fact: On the same day I step down as news director at WNRN, I will go and have my first beer at the new Court Square Tavern!


Court Square Tavern opens this week!

They said it couldn't be done.

Or, maybe they didn't say that. But they could have if they had wanted to.

But, Court Square Tavern has risen from the ashes and opens this week in its new, shiny form. There's a brand new kitchen, two LCD televisions, a new standing bar in the back, a revamped menu, wi-fi access, eight taps of beer, more than a hundred kind of bottled beer, and a very different look and feel.

In short, to my eyes it is absolutely gorgeous. I can't wait until it's really open for good.

Right now, hours are limited. It opens for lunch tomorrow (call first to confirm) and will be open in the evenings beginning later this week.

And, possibly best of all - there is a petition to make the entire place non-smoking. I think this will be a good thing, and if you feel the same, make sure you sign the petition. Bill Curtis joked that he would abide by the petition if it gets more than 50 signatures. I predict that it will.

This is such a good thing for Charlottesville. An institution that could have gone away did not.

So, when I posted about the fire in March of last year, a lot of people promised to buy a beer there. I think very soon we'll need to start making that happen, right? I'm looking at you, Bill Emory! :)