Things I've been meaning to tell you...

Oh, anonymous Internet reader. It's been a dreadful month. I won't spill my personal business here, but suffice it to say that this has been the worst month of my life. I'm sure that there will be other bad ones, but they will be measured by the heartbreak and agony of December 2008.

But, I'm looking ahead to 2009, which has to be better. It must be. I have to regroup and figure out what the next 35 years of my life are going to entail. Will I still be the same person? Will I make improvements that will allow me to become a better human being? Stay tuned.

For this blog post, though, a bullet list of things I've wanted to write about but have not managed to actually generate into a single post.

  1. I finally signed up for Twitter two months ago. I'm enjoying it, but I am not sure if I'm using it as much as I will in the coming months and years. It's a nifty little way to get advice from people on things, and to find out what others are up to. I've also got one for the Charlottesville Podcasting Network.
  2. The Wire is a damned good show. I'm finally watching it after making several attempts in the past. I love the show Homicide, and the Wire is everything I expected it would be. More great stories about the gray areas in the law.
  3. I have joined a gym in order to give me something to do and to work out some aggression and pain. I've had a lifelong fear of exercising in front of other people, and I've decided to smash that stupid phobia to little pieces. In three weeks, I've gone 14 times and I am creating a fitness plan. I've lost about 20 pounds over the last two months. My goal is not to be a big bruiser, but simply to set myself up to be healthy for the rest of my life. My dad is 67 years age and looks like he's 45. I'm hoping I can do the same thing through hard work and perseverance.
  4. I had a great Christmas, despite the general crappiness of December.
  5. The weirdest thing about Facebook is connecting with people that I've known in the past. Going through this last month has been made easier by being able to reach out to people in my network. I've had good talks with therapists and great advice from friends I've not seen in ages.
  6. I apologize to Andrew Hersey for not producing that audio yet. I have high hopes for my audio career, but at the moment that's taking a back seat to taking care of myself.
  7. I'm convinced 2009 will be much better than 2008. Even years are never as good to me as odd years.


WNRN podcasts and videos

I'm really excited to be very tangentially involved with WNRN's interviews by giving a place for them to be heard through the Charlottesville Podcasting Network. A lot of folks come through the studio to speak with Anne Williams or Ronda Chollock, and we archive the audio on the CPN site. To stay in touch, sign up via RSS or e-mail.

Tonight, Danny Schmidt and Carrie Elkins will be appearing at the Gravity Lounge and this morning they were at WNRN. Ian Solla-Yates posted the audio this morning, and if you're interested in the show, why not take a listen to see if you'd have a good time?

But that's not all. They're also filming the songs and putting them up on YouTube so you can see the experience. Both the videos and the audio podcasts are a great way for a local radio station to find a new way to reach people interested in music. Kudos to Ian for exploring this sort of thing. I spoke with him last week, and he says they're going to be continuing to upgrade this service for listeners and viewers.

Here's Devon Sproule:

I'd never heard one of her songs before this, and now I have. So I'm much more likely to go see one of her shows as a result. Hooray for the community!

Podcast of Live Arts' Sweeney Todd

Sometimes the objectives of the Charlottesville Podcasting Network are met. One such time is right now, as I've just posted Ray Nedzel's podcast preview of Live Arts' production of Sweeney Todd. Ray spoke with actor Lydia Horan and director John Gibson, and his podcast gives a quick musical preview. The show opens tonight and runs through January 10, 2009.


Pedestrian story #55: AMTRAK's impromptu delivery

I had walked up to JPA Fast Mart to get a beer, as a way of taking my dog Billy for a very long walk. The kids were in bed and I wanted to exercise. The night sky was beautiful and I wanted to get used to the cold. I had a mission that satisfied many objectives, and so off I went. I walked down Cherry Avenue and up Highland before heading over the JPA Bridge to the store.

I stood in the Wayside Deli's front-yard while texting someone, and had to pull a bone out of my dog's mouth. He was in heaven. I tied him to a post next to the pay-phone while I went in.

After the mission accomplished, I began the journey home. I didn't even notice the cold anymore. On the way back, I took a right onto Shamrock, even though I was worried about walking down that road at night because of the at-gun-point mugging that happened last week. I decided to go that way anyway, because I figured my dog would keep any attackers at bay and because I really didn't want to give in to fears.

Besides, I kind of wanted to see a train.

Sure enough, as I climbed the hill, I could see a train light illuminating the tops of the trees, and the presence of a train was confirmed by the slight rumbling I could feel vibrating through the air.

Would it be an Amtrak? Whenever I see Amtrak, I get hope that maybe this world can be more like England, with passenger trains hurtling every which way with some level of frequency. I would love to be able to visit relatives via the train on an easy and reliable fashion. I also love the romance associated with the knowledge that these are strangers shuffling through our town, traveling through as opposed to traveling above.

As I approached the tracks, I still had time to cross to the other side. A man driving a van stopped before the guards came down, but decided to risk it. I could have run across, but I wanted the chance to just stand back and watch the train roll through town.

Amtrak engines are pretty ugly and beat-up. They don't look very nice, or very healthy. They don't seem to inspire confidence. Of course, my frame of reference here is England, where the trains are a little brighter, a little more colorful. Trains also travel through much more frequently, something you might imagine is more likely in a country with the population of California in the geographical footprint. There are also very few at-grade crossings. Trains occupy their own universe for the most part.

After the first engine rolled past me, its chiming quiet bells were joined by a screeching sound as the brakes were engaged. The train moved slower, and I got to see the details of undercarriages. I was shocked by how rusty and dirty the wheels seemed. I got to glimpse the insides of the sleeping cars. There appeared to be two levels, and it all seemed kind of steam-punk in a way.
I got to look inside a couple of regular passenger cars, which looked a lot like the ones you see in England and I was filled with memories of traveling around that country aimlessly.

Finally, the train stopped and I could hear people on the train! There was an argument of some kind.

Billy started barking at the train. He hadn't noticed it until it had stopped. Now, I could see a pair of feet on the other side of the train, on the other side of Shamrock. I figured that someone must have run up to the train and yelled at a conductor to move the train out of the way. The feet went away.

Then, slowly, the train started rumbling away. Billy's barks intensified, and I laughed at the train with him, glad I had walked down Shamrock. I am most certainly a trainspotter, but for a moment, I felt overjoyed to have had that brush with Amtrak.

And then I started walking again.

At the first house past the train tracks, a woman frantically walked from the front porch to the sidewalk. I quickly saw that it was the same pair of feet I'd seen, clad in white sneakers. What was going on, I wondered?

"Excuse me, where is the station? Can you please help me? They just dropped me off the train. My kids are on that train and I need them to know I'm okay," she said.

Turns out, she had been putting her kids on the train when it began to roll away from the station. So, they stopped the train at Shamrock, opened the door to let her off the train, and yelled at the window as the train rolled away: "Call the station! Call the station!"

The woman was from Harrisonburg and had driven here to put her kids on the train so they could take the journey to Charlotte. She asked me if I could help her get to the station, because she doesn't know town very well.

Of course, as you might know, there's no way to walk from Shamrock to the station on West Main unless you take the tracks, which is frowned upon by ordinance. So, I told her if she was able to walk back to my house, I could give her a ride to the station. It was a bit of a hike, up two large hills, but it was likely her best option.

She decided to take the risk of walking with a stranger, and that's how I spent my evening and the second half of my walk. I had to tell her that Shamrock was a busy road despite its appearance as a sleepy neighborhood street. She had a tendency to walk in the roadway rather than on the sidewalk.

What else could Amtrak have done? What is the procedure for this type of thing? She didn't hear the warning. But, to be dropped off in the middle of nowhere?

Along our way through the dark, we had a nice chat about trains, planes, the Philippines, Taiwan, teaching overseas. She kept trying to call her kids on the train, who must have been worried sick about her. There's no signal pretty soon after the train tracks head south out of town. She kept trying anyway. Finally, she gave up and we walked along towards Cherry Avenue and back to the house.

Eventually, her kids got in touch with her and she decided not to tell them that she was walking with a stranger back to the station, but I had to tell her to walk a little faster as she crossed Cherry Avenue as a car was fast-approaching. We go to the car, and I had her at the station two minutes later.

As I was dropping her off at the station (which was closed and would have been of no help to her if she had called) She said she thought it must be pretty cool to live in Charlottesville.

And you know what? It is.


Live-blogging City Council

I'm messing around with a live blog of City Council. Want to extend the range of services we provide. Will likely be here until 9:30 PM. Early meeting tonight.

UPDATE: Well, it was a lot of fun, definitely. I will be taking down the item from public view at some point tomorrow, as it was not quite meant to be an official product of Charlottesville Tomorrow. I need to make sure that we have the guidelines in place to make sure it's up to our editorial standards. I was able to get some interesting feedback, and I hope to be able to do it again soon.


Charlottesville Tomorrow stories in Google News!

For five years, I've used news.google.com as my home-page. It's become the equivalent of my newspaper, as I use it to skim and see what the biggest stories are at the moment. I think it's a very efficient way to get a quick overview of what's happening.

Now I'm pleased to report that our stories at Charlottesville Tomorrow are now appearing in the results for Charlottesville. This is a big deal to me, to know that the work I do is showing up in my virtual newspaper.

Also, the stream was a success last night. I'm hoping we'll do more of that.


Tonight's band: Archers of Loaf

So, I just ditched my Rhapsody subscription after four years in order to save money. It was such an awesome service, but I can no longer justify it. I canceled the $13 a month payment in part because there are alternatives to sample music.

Tonight, I wanted to hear some Archers of Loaf. I first heard "Wrong" on WUVT in 1992 or so when I was still a freshman at Virginia Tech.

Of course, none of my roommates had any interest in the same kind of music as me, and neither did anyone at the student newspaper at which I worked. I only met one other person who had even heard of the band, a guy who wasn't even a student. Of course, I had a friend at UVA who also shared the same interest in the band. I think at one point I'd hung out with him and he'd played this song, "Might".

The videos aren't so hot a decade and a half later. As a matter of fact, watching isn't really advised. The songs are much better without watching a visual companion. But, wow, it's pretty amazing that we're at a point in society where I can hear these songs whenever I want just by going to YouTube. This next track is from their second album, VeeVee, and is one of my favorite songs of all time. It's a great anthem that for some reason just hits me and takes hold of me and makes me want to be alive, years after hearing it for the first time:

I have to take something back that I said above. The videos could be good. VeeVee ends with a track called "Underachievers March and Fight Song" which I love, and this video totally does it justice:

Now, before I go on to their later albums, I'll conclude this post with a link to a video that's not a video. I think this was actually the first Archers of Loaf song I ever heard - "Plumbline" which is the one that contains the line "she's an indie-rocker and nothing's going to stop her"


Again - if I want to wax nostalgic, I can do it for free without Rhapsody. Which is all I was using it for, anyway. This means I'll likely buy more albums, though. Maybe that's not such a bad thing.

Now streaming: South Fork Rivanna Reservoir Task Force meeting

I've been experimenting with providing live audio of events I cover for Charlottesville Tomorrow as a beta project. Now I'm streaming the latest meeting of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir Task Force meeting. Listen in here using Winamp or iTunes. Check out the agenda here. Would love feedback. I'm also twittering updates as it continues. Here until 8.

UPDATE: It's over now, of course. Do check in on that feed from time to time. You never know what you might find.


Charlottesville Dancing

View Larger Map Amy had come to pick me up to take me to an appointment. We were in a hurry, as always, given that I always need to arrive at Place B as quickly as possible.

The sun was shining in Court Square, and the perfect light of autumn makes the bricks glow with a sense of civility. The sky was a perfect blue, a bracing wind was blowing, and our gold car was beginning to move towards our destination. We didn't have much time. Yet, I was somehow able to spare a minute in an impromptu dance that made my day.

Let's freeze time for a second to describe the scene.

As I had left my building to jump in to the car, I held the door for another man who was leaving another office. Amy was parked on the stubby end of East Jefferson Street. I hopped in the passenger seat. She backed up and turned to head west.

The intersection of Park Street and East Jefferson is an odd one (see map), as the road continues for another 30 feet or so before hitting my building. Every day I witness from my second floor window a delicate ballet as traffic dances through the square.

On this occasion, there's a car that's come south on down Park Street trying to turn right. We're trying to move forward, but we had been stationary, so the car trying to turn left onto Park Street from East Jefferson also wants to move, and there's no clear signage pointing the correct way to dance. The man who left my building is crossing Park Street so the man has stopped, and he seems somewhat irritated.

Amy and I are quickly communicating the best route to get to our destination, slowly tiring forward while we wait for our minor traffic snag to resolve itself. We are four or five single objects all trying to get to our own individual Place B.

I see a flash of white from the corner of my eye. The man who left my building with me has dropped the folder he was carrying, and papers are scurrying everywhere in the wind. I did not see the exact cause of the explosion, but I told Amy to stop the car in the middle of our vehicular ballet. I jumped out of the car and said I had to help the man get his work back.

Now I'm running around Court Square picking up this man's papers, which seem confidential, some sort of legal case or contract. Many of the papers are notarized, and it all seems pretty important. I'm running around my car, and I've noticed that both the driver of the car trying to turn left onto Park Street has also stopped and is running around as well. Some of the papers were trying to escape down 6th Street, but I managed to head them off. In doing so, I noticed a woman had jumped off her bike to assist in the rescue. We smiled at each other.

Even the man who had seemed grumpy a split second earlier was out of his car, and we were all dancing in Court Square, frantically trying to help this man get to his Place B with everything he was supposed to be taking there. Our dance was quick and it got the job done and then we all went our merry little way.

I love moments like that, sudden bursts of collective energy when we realize we're all pretty well connected.


Streaming test: South Fork Rivanna Stewardship meeting

Hello all! I'm doing a test and if you're online at this moment, I'd appreciate you checking out this experimental live stream of the public hearing of the South Fork Rivanna Stewardship Task Force. I'll have it on and would appreciate any feedback.

(Click here for the stream in iTunes, Winamp, anything else you want)

Update: The event is now over, and the live stream is off. I'll leave the link above, because I plan on using it more often in the days and weeks to come. Check it out. Listen in. Tell me what you think.


Now playing: The Fundamental Grang

Tonight only, I am using my experimental feed to play the music of the Fundamental Grang. This was an experimental electronic noise group that formed in Calgary. Alberta. I have the sole archive of the material, and am pleased to be able to use my live stream to play it for you.

It's worth it to take a make a note of this feed. If you listen, you will hear a lot of interesting things. If you have questions about what you hear, let me know on the blog.

But for tonight only, the Fundamental Grang!


Television is fun!

A rare night off. No work. Taking a break this week. I watched television and it felt kind of historical. Here's what I watched:
  • Saturday Night Live on Thursday night: Not as good as last week's, sort of lackluster with mistakes and no Tina Fey as Sarah Palin. Still, it's unusual to watch a show trying to move outside of its usual territory. Live television in prime time excites me.
  • Life On Mars: Second episode. Still following the template of the British show, but I'm hooked because of all the subtle differences. It's like a cover version of a song you like that takes the melody into new places.
  • Red Sox beat the Rays: This is the first baseball I've watched all year. I've been kind of done with baseball, but I flicked through and ended up rooting for the Red Sox. They were down 7-0 and came back to win 8-7 in the ninth. How did I forget baseball?
  • McCain on Letterman: I've not watched Letterman on television for years, but this was must-stay-up television. Letterman's being tough, and it's great television watching it live.


My biggest television desire

Disclaimer: For the sake of this post, I define television as episodic filmed entertainment. Sound simple enough, right?

Anyway, what I want is easy access to British comedy on the Internet. I've been able to watch most of Peep Show, all of I'm Alan Partridge, and a lot more. My cousin helped me get Black Books, and of course, Spaced is the high point. People my age, British people my age, making hysterical comedies.

But now, I want to devour Green Wing. I was able to watch the first 2/3's of the first episode, but that appears to be all that is on YouTube. I want to watch the whole thing, or at least, have an easy way to buy the episodes. I know little about the show, but in a post on i09 about the potential of Johnson from Peep Show (Paterson Joseph) being the next actor to play the title role in Doctor Who, I decided to check it out.

I did not like it at first, but after watching the two available clips from this first episode, I can certainly see myself falling in love with this. Sophie from Peep Show is in it. Brian from Spaced is in it. John Oliver even makes an appearance in the first minute or two.

After that, I'd like to go back and try to get the the entire runs of Brittas Empire and Goodnight Sweetheart. When I have money again, I'll buy them, and I'll promote them. I'll start a club! There's so much great British comedy that I want people to know about.

At least all of the episodes of Monty Python's Flying Circus are available online, including the fourth season which I'm enjoying more and more as I get older.

Heroes picks up steam

Heroes is either one of the best or one of the worst shows of all time, depending on the week. The show about people with superpowers had a very strong first season, followed by a lackluster second season. The third season has gone back and forth.

But, the fifth episode was a return to form, I think. The show is often criticized for having a ridiculously large cast, as well as an inability to have killing characters off actually mean anything. But tonight, it all seems to be fitting together. It's like all of the awful exposition is actually creating something that's interesting.


Tim Lewis reading at the New Dominion Bookstore

Elizabeth McCullough of cvillewords.com is one of the real forces behind the Charlottesville Podcasting Network these days. She's recording four or five events for us, and this week I'm in her debt for bringing us the audio from author Tim Lewis launching an ambitious work at the New Dominion Bookshop. The Virginiad is a collection of new poems about Virginia history since 1607. I listened to the podcast of him reading from the works the other day, and I really enjoyed what I heard. I'm going to have to go back and listen to more in order to have it sink in.

BBC Documentary on the role race is playing in the presidential campaign

This week, Radio 4 had a documentary on the role that race is playing in the Presidential campaign. "Soul and Skin" is a 23-minute piece by Rob Watson that he recorded from interviews he conducted in Richmond. You can take a listen to it until Friday, when it will be replaced by something else. I thought it was worth mentioning because it's odd to hear the BBC reporting in our backyard.


New Streets album prompts walk down the Streets

If I had a radio station, I'd play songs by the Streets all the time. The Streets is Mike Skinner, a geezer from Birmingham who made music in his flat living with his parents while working as a fast food restaurant. Somehow he got discovered, and I came across him several years ago when I lived up on Pritchett Lane thanks to NPR. Fresh Air had a bit about the Streets, played the songs, and I was very skeptical after hearing the review. I thought, gosh, I could do that.

A few years previous, I had been a singer in an improvisational punk rock band, but I let that go in order to do move with someone to Canada. In the meantime, I had moved back here sort of as a default, and moved to Charlottesville for a job. And, wasn't doing any music of any sort except some electronic stuff that I had no audience for at all.

So, I was skeptical, but I've been a subscriber to Rhapsody for over five years now, and so I decided to take a listen.

The tracks were absolutely incredible to me, and I listened over and over again. I'm impressed by Mike Skinner's ability to just keep going and going about his daily life, and I was ecstatic about this glimpse into early 21 century Britain.

The second album came out at a very difficult time in my life. A Grand Don't Come For Free is an operetta that follows the story of one guy who loses £1,000 somehow, and it concludes with the following: (note: I know this isn't a video, but it's what's on YouTube at the moment - no real video)

The track tells the story about a guy who has lost all of his money. And, it tells the same story in two different ways. The absolute worst happens and Mike Skinner is in absolute despair. But then the tape reverses and the song begins again, but yet this time Mike Skinner makes an alternative choice which leads him to the creation of a new future. It's a song that has incredibly meaning to me because of where I was in my life at the time.

And now, his new album is out, and it's much better than the third one, which I didn't care for. The themes dealt with celebrity, and he strayed away from what he knew - being young and drunk and aimless in northern England. That appealed to me, because in some very close parallel universe, I am this guy.

The third album was so disappointing to me, but I'm sure one day I will go back through it and mine it for the wisdom of Mike Skinner. But, for now, I'm content to enjoy his fourth album which is much more relaxed and seems less forced and appears to be less about indulgence. The video for the first track is amazing to me, and I watched it at a time when I'm incredibly worried that all I've worked hard for is going to go away, one way or the other:

I want my music to tell stories, which Mike Skinner has no trouble doing at all. I wish my music could do that. When I listen back to the hours of raw improv material I recorded with my friends, I know this is the kind of thing I wish I could do. I wish I had the courage to just put it all out there, but there's a risk with that, isn't it?

I suspect that in this country, we all have this incredible fear of being ourselves. At least, some of us do. I know a lot of people, but yet I have few friends. Is it because I keep all of my creativity locked up where no one can see it?

Here's how things appear to work these days. We all post blogs, and that's great. But who reads any of it? Maybe this is all a dead-end. Maybe on-line requires a real-world presence to get anything done.

I love the Streets. Weak can become the heroes.


Appreciating the new Facebook

I got to say, I'm really enjoying the new version of Facebook. A lot of people were dead-set against it because it hid all the cutesy-stuff like Green Happy Flowers and How Educated Is Your Hamster applications. 

What they did, I think, was to make it much easier to tap into the real resource on Facebook - people you've met in real life that you know. I have 150 or so friends in Facebook, and the new updates make it much easier to have conversations with people. In this past week, I've had a quick discussion on superhero television as well as a conversation about the way Americans should conceive of government. These conversations have occured with former co-workers as well as people from my school days. It makes me feel connected, and maybe a little less scared of being alone in the world.

Of course, it is a little weird being friended by strangers I barely know. Yet, even some of those folks I send messages back and forth with. Why not? That's what it's there for, right?


Thoughts on the American "Life on Mars"

Okay. I'm trying it. I've suspended my disbelief. I'm watching the American version of "Life on Mars" because I was in front of the television anyway. The Thursday Saturday Night Live was something I had to watch.  

In case you're wondering, Life on Mars is the show about a detective from our time who gets hit by a car and finds himself waking up in 1973.  It's a fish out of water story, as well as a police procedural. The British version starred John Sim as Sam Tyler, the cop who doesn't know why he's trapped in the past. Philip Glenister is Detective Gene Hunt, who is much more violent in the original. The show existed for two series of eight episodes, and wrapped up nicely, if not a bit confusingly. It's aired on BBC America, so a lot of Americans have seen it. 

This is the second version of the American pilot. The first one didn't test well. The guy who played the transporter guy on Star Trek: The Next Generation was Gene Hunt, but when it didn't work out so well and they remade the pilot with Harvey Keitel as Gene Hunt. I'm only watching because I'm intrigued to see Harvey Keitel in a series. 

I'll say this 40 minutes in. It's not awful, but this first episode is very similar to the original. The main difference is that there are commercials in it, which breaks up the pace. Just when I get into it the story, these six or seven commercials pop up and I find myself doing something else.

I told myself I wouldn't work tonight. 

I wasn't even going to turn the computer back on.

But, you have to do something during the commercials. I can't allow myself to relax and just watch the commercials. The business of television is in trouble, as I think I will certainly be watching this show online if I decide to watch it going forward.

Will I? Well, I would like to see how this version differs from the original. I was underwhelmed by the conclusion of the British version, and my memory of the show dimmed when I heard they were doing a spin-off with a female detective who goes back in time and takes over where Sam Tyler leaves off. I watched the first episode of that, and it just seemed kind of gimmicky and cheap.

The commercials are still going. I feel for businesses who rely on television advertising, and I feel for television executives. They're not going to make nearly the money they used to. Surely, there's a need for businesses to figure out how to communicate with their potential clients. 

There are shows I will brave commercials for to make sure that I see the show as soon as I can. Lost  and Battlestar Galactica, maybe Saturday Night Live.  I sense this isn't going to be one of them. I'll likely continue to watch the first seasons on shows on DVD so when I do have free time I can devour them. I recently did that with Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. I bought most of the first season on iTunes, watched the rest on hulu. And you know what? It's an interesting show and I'm really enjoying it!

It's not a good sign for Life on Mars that I've started writing during the show. I'm sure if this was an original idea, I'd likely enjoy this a lot, but I can't get over the fact that it's a remake and a shot-by-shot one at that. I'd like it to be on the air, if only because I think Michael Imperioli deserves work. 

Jason O'Mara as Sam Tyler kind of overacts. Lisa Bonet as Maya is supposed to be a recurring character, which means the show is going to deviate a lot from the original. That could be a good thing. Look at the Office, which has also become fairly successful after deviating from the original. Maybe Life on Mars can do the same. If you've not seen the British version, then give it a shot. 

Airplane crash video somehow cheers me up

As the financial crisis deepens and we all find ourselves wondering when we're going to feel the big impact, this video somehow cheers me up and reminds me it's all going to be okay, somehow. Even though the setting for the video is pretty grim.

I don't really know this band, Bright Eyes, but I think I'm going to watch all of their videos. Then I'll buy their albums. Then I'll go see them. And that, my friends, is my plan to jumpstart the economy.


Critique of Radio 4 history show's use of actors

A few weeks ago, I blogged about BBC Radio 4's "America, Empire of Liberty" series on American history. I noted that I enjoyed the use of actors to read excerpts from historical passages. It's a technique I stole a few years ago for a documentary I did on Virginia's literary history. But, the Independent's radio critic isn't a big fan:

Every time we get to an excerpt from a letter or a speech, up pops some actor or other putting on the appropriate voice: Edmund Burke is Oirish, George III gets a terrible stutter, southern gentlemen sound like the supporting cast in 'Gone with the Wind'. I understand the impulses to break the monotony and identify the characters, but against the background of Reynolds' downbeat narration it just sounds hammy. At times, it gets as annoying as a Woman's Hour serial: and that is not an insult I fling about lightly.
I disagree with Robert Hanks, because I think it makes the pieces a bit more entertaining to listen to. But, isn't it great that there's radio criticism in a newspaper? I wish I had that here, as well. The aforementioned documentary I mentioned stunk, and was absolutely awful. Yet, it aired without any comment at all. I would have loved to have been raked over the coals. I certainly deserved to.



Two long-form arts discussions to listen to at CPN

I've been fortunate to work with two arts groups in the last week to produce a couple of long arts discussions for various communities.

First, I helped my friend Jeff Cudlin with a podcast on a panel discussion called "From the Gallery to the Street: Artists Talk Politics." Jeff is the Director of Exhibitions at the Arlington Arts Center, and someone I've known since I was 6. Everything I am today, I owe to Jeff. Hence, the free labor.

Second, I recorded a talk for the Piedmont Council of the Arts for their recent "Creative Conversation" on Arts Education And Our Community. I'm not pleased with the sound quality, but I'm incredibly impressed with the turn-out and I applaud PCA for their work on this front. I think they're going to pull a lot of things together, and I'm glad to be able to do my small part.

Podcasting may not necessarily be a mass medium, but it's a great way to connect people together. When I look back at the last three and a half years, I'm amazed at how many people I've worked with. And, I look forward to all the folks I am going to work with in the future.

One challenge at the Charlottesville Podcasting Network is to figure out how to let people know about all of the stuff we have. If you're interested in art, then check out our Arts category. Browse through archive and see what we have to offer. Drop us a line if you want to know more, or leave a comment: What would you like to hear?


Great engineering challenges of the future

I wish I'd been an engineer. My dad is one, but I don't think he ever sufficiently conveyed to me what he did. From an early age, I was pretty convinced that he drove trains. Somehow, that mental image stuck and I never quite made the connections I needed to understand why math and science were so important.

I wish I had been able to take a look at something like this from the National Academy of Engineering when I was 10 or 11. I would have liked to have had more direction when I was younger. What are the grand challenges for the future, and how can they be solved?
  • Make solar energy economical
  • Provide energy from fusion
  • Develop carbon sequestration methods
  • Manage the nitrogen cycle
  • Provide access to clean water
  • Restore and improve urban infrastructure
  • Advance health informatics
  • Engineer better medicines
  • Reverse-engineer the brain
  • Prevent nuclear terror
  • Secure cyberspace
  • Enhance virtual reality
  • Advance personalized learning
  • Engineer the tools of scientific discovery
In these current economic times, I can't help but think that investing in the research and development it will take to address these challenges. If I had limitless funds and could do anything with my life, it would be to go back to school to study to be an engineer. I'm particularly interested in "restore and improve urban infrastructure" as you might expect. At least I get to write about it locally.

Another thing to note is that one of the committee members is Wesley Harris, the first African-American to finish the Engineering Honors program at the University of Virginia.
Harris also address the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society, the podcast of which can be heard at the Charlottesville Podcasting Network.


A bright future for CPN

I am proud that for three and a half years, I have been running the Charlottesville Podcasting Network. The site is my public service towards the community. My income comes from my job at Charlottesville Tomorrow as well as my business, Wordcast Productions. I love what I do, though I wish I had more time to run the website.

Right now, CPN is my third priority, work-wise. My day job always come first, and I'm incredibly blessed to have it. I am learning so much about how this community works. I am doing the best journalism of my life, as we continue to learn to craft a new way of reporting. If you want to know what's going on in regional growth and development, then take the time to sign up for Charlottesville Tomorrow or listen to us in iTunes.

However, sometimes I wonder if the folks at Spicy Bear are right. Should I look for a buyer for the Charlottesville Podcasting Network?

The answer, of course, is a no. If I have created any value, it is certainly not commercial. I'm not sure what it is, precisely, but I am proud of the work that I have done. I wish we had a larger audience, and I wish that I could find someone who would be interested in some form of a partnership that sought to boost an audience while boosting a brand. And, of course, any money I could bring in to the site would go to pay people to run the site in a much more timely fashion. I would like to figure out a way to create jobs for people.

Right now, I have five or six podcasts that I need to produce. They are: the NAACP's Freedom Banquet; two lectures from the Jefferson Society; something for one of my clients; another thing from one of my clients; last week's Wake-Up Call; probably more I have forgotten.

And then, there's what I want to do. I have ambitions to create a weekly arts podcast, a three-minute newscast for Charlottesville Tomorrow, maybe even a podcast for the area's gay community. I'd also love to create a podcast to roll out the hours of music I have created as either my band or my solo work.

I am increasingly concerned that I'm not able to take CPN to the next level, but I would never sell it to anyone. I feel like I made a huge risk in 2005 to create something new, and it has paid off immeasurably in terms of how connected I feel to this community. But, I don't think the real value has not even begin to reach fruition. It's a business that is more than a business. It's an attempt to create an important resource for Charlottesville, Albemarle County, the state of Virginia, my clients, and all of it. I want to try to make the world better by helping people learn to communicate with each other.

So, drop me a line if you're interested in participating on some level. I need more producers, sponsors, underwriters, and most importantly - listeners.


I love over the air television

For the first time in a long time, I'm watching television over the air. It's a wonderfully amazing idea, when you think about it. A device that can receive a signal that contains a program I want to watch. I've got a ton of work to do this weekend before I go back to work on Monday, but I really want to watch the Virginia Tech game. So, I dusted off the antenna I bought from Big Lots a few years ago, and voila!

Of course, there's less than five months until this antenna is rendered useless. Maybe I'll buy the box to get the digital, but maybe not.

In a perfect world, you wouldn't need cable. In a perfect world, local broadcasters could beam out niche programming over the airwaves. Maybe the new digital world will get us that.

I have to get back to work, but I did want to comment that it's pretty amazing I'm watching this programming in my office without needing cable. I feel like I'm getting away with something, but didn't we all do this for most of television history? Until the 80's, it all went out over the airwaves. Now, those airwaves, our airwaves, will be sold to the highest bidder. Will there be a public benefit?

Anyway, go Hokies.


Great article on Buford football

Charlottesville is damned lucky to have a writer as good as Will Goldsmith writing stories like the one he wrote in today's copy of C-Ville Weekly. Careful readers may know that I live incredibly close to Buford Middle School, and lo and behold, this fantastic article helps fill in the details of what I see every day.

To me, this is the kind of article that should win awards. It illuminates something social going on in my community that I did not know about before, and it gives me a sense of something I didn't know before.

But, more importantly, read the way that Will writes about football itself.

One of the first drills involves pursuit angles, one of the basics of defense. A player has to work a complicated math problem that involves the speed of the guy with the ball and their own speed to calculate what the shortest line would be to that point. Of course, kids don’t have time to work through the geometry in a game—it must become an instinct that’s built up through repetition. And this is just one of those skills peculiar to football.

Read the article. Somewhere in here lies the answer to Charlottesville's safe and secure future.


BBC Radio 4 program on American history

Who are we? I wonder that a lot as I drive around in this land where my parents decided to move over 40 years ago. Who are we, and how did we get here? I half-heartedly studied history at Virginia Tech because it helped answer questions, but it was not until I became a radio journalist for WVTF Public Radio that I thought about telling stories myself. I'd still like at some point to figure out a way to tell stories of the past in order to help make a better future.

But, until then, BBC Radio 4 has begun a new series on American history called America, Empire of Liberty that is worth taking a listen to. If you click, what you'll hear are four episodes of the series, which is being aired daily on Radio 4. Each episode is a 15-minute chunk of history, in a style that is not popular on NPR. Yet, it's what I want to do here, and have done here in the past. One narrator speaking, punctuated with actors reading quotes where relevant and appropriate.

I just wish they'd turn this into a pure podcast, because I doubt I will remember to go back again. I want to, though. I just spent an hour listening as I organized the house. Or tried to. There's a lot to organize.


Tinkering with sidebar

I've tried to declutter my sidebar. First off, I'm using a little trick I learned on Alan Rimm-Kaufmann's blog about using your starred feeds on Google Reader. While I prefer Bloglines to Google Reader, I have set up an account so that I can see what it looks like.

With the proliferation of posts on the Charlottesville Podcasting Network, I have been looking for ways to feature particular posts. This week, Ray Nedzel did an interview with the director of Live Art's Doubt. Dan Daniels recorded a talk on the Siege of Petersburg by Bill Bergen. My boss, Brian Wheeler, was a guest on Charlottesville--Right Now! I would like to figure out a way to highlight my favorites among the dozens of podcasts we're posting every week.

So, I used the trick I found to use Google Reader to power the first box you see to the right on the top of the blog this week.

I also went ahead and de-cluttered the rest of my sidebar, which was kind of littered with widgets and things. I do have a need to figure out how to best take advantage of all of the various feeds that I'm currently associated with. I need to figure out a way to grow the audience a little more, now that there's quite a lot of content. I will be adding a list of all of the various podcasts feeds at some point, but I am struggling with coming up with the best way to do that.

But, I've at least done one thing this morning!


ESPN bidding for rights to English Premiership

The International Herald Tribune is reporting that ESPN is considering bidding for the rights to show the English Premiership in the UK.

ESPN is considering a challenge Fox and its News Corp. cousin, British Sky Broadcasting, for Premier League rights starting with the 2010-11 season. If ESPN succeeds, it could be the spark to increasing ESPN's presence in England and perhaps beyond on the European continent.
I hope this is a two-way street. I think it would be interesting to see a wider audience fior US sports in Europe, because I personally think American football is a fascinating sport. It's the only sport I continue to watch on a regular basis, in part because it's a seasonal thing. But mostly because there are a lot of interesting story-lines woven into the way the games unfold. I watched a good portion of the Jets-Patriots game in part because the image of Brett Favre playing in a Jets uniform is compelling to me.

When I'm in England, I often try to explain the sport to my cousins and anyone else who will listen. It doesn't work so much, but ESPN likely would do a better job of televising American football, especially if they're also able to cross-promote it heavily if they're the people showing the games.

My point is, though, that I would love to see the English Premiership on basic cable, which is all I'm ever going to pay for. I could see it now, but my cable bill would rise to over $130 a month. That wouldn't do. At the moment, I really don't know how to follow the sport, but I do want to know what happens. I'm currently very much interested to see Manchester United not doing so well so far (#14) . I'm happy to see Hull City currently fourth in the league table. Of course, it's still early, but English football has the added pleasure of seeing who gets relegated to the league below at the end of the season.

I like that I'm increasingly living in a world where I don't have to choose between England and America.


Documenting my file-related cluelessness

When I started the Charlottesville Podcasting Network three years ago, I immediately began posting file after file after file. And then posted more files and more files. There was a lot, quickly.

That meant I filled up my allotted storage amount. I upgraded, but then filled up that amount fairly quickly as well. I kept having to take files off line because I could not figure out a solution, and couldn't afford to spend more money.

So, over the summer of 2005, I deleted several podcasts and backed them up to my computer. And then, to a CD. I had a computer I'd bought in 2002, and a laptop I bought when I launched my company and CPN. The two together really weren't up to the task of powering a website.

Somehow, I've neglected to back up some of those podcasts. Still, requests for some of the files occasionally come through, and I can't locate that they're looking for.

I was pretty clueless. Now I'm a little more advanced, but still fairly clueless.

In any case, this is a request for anyone who might have a copy of the following podcasts:

A long shot, I know, but you never know, though. Read through the comments on that last one. Interesting what developed from there, I think.

I'd very much like to revamp my website, but it's currently the fourth priority in my life, and I can never get to it as much as I would like. However, any time I do spend on it does tend to help me out in all of the various things I do. It's just that the web-design and maintenance is not my strong suit.

What is my strong suit? Kevlar.


Follow-up to last post: Not the Nine O'Clock News sketch

In the last post, the second clip has footage from the debate between members of Python and conservative Christians in England regarding whether or not the Life of Brian insulted the spirit of Jesus Christ.

Well, this sketch from Not the Nine O'Clock News is a take-off on the idea, which features a young Rowan Atkinson. Again, I'm amazed that YouTube allows me to easily view British television history.


On watching a Life of Brian documentary

I'm watching a documentary on the secret history of the Monty Python's Life of Brian, which is one of my favorite movies of all time. I remember watching it at Jeffry Cudlin's house when I was 10 or 11 on his dad's Betamax machine. Now, with nothing better to do, I'm watching a Channel 4 documentary on how it was put togheter.

I don't know if this is typical, but often I work into the night on one computer while the other one is showing something entertaining. Nothing live, as we don't have cable television anymore. But, this is even better.

The documentary ends up being about the documentary meeting the opposition of Mary Whitehouse, a crusader in the United Kingdom who went after anything she considered blasphemous. The documentary at about eight minutes in begins talking about Whitehouse's history. And then after two minutes, goes back to being about the writing of the film. The documentary is weaving two different threads at the same time, which may explain why this is one of my favorite films of all time.

As the documentary continues, there's footage from a debate where John Cleese and Michael Palin take on two religious figures in England. At that point, the British Film Licensing Board (or whatever it was called) was still discussing whether or not the film could be shown in the UK.

I enjoy that I love to be able to watch these things when I want like this. I'm amazed. Now, how do we make it pay people's salaries?

This article does not include links to all of the episodes. There are five installments on YouTube, and you'll have to poke around and find it. But it's there if you look for a moment or two.


Court Square Tavern news

First off, I had a great night there tonight for the first time in ages. It began when I went in and discovered they have in fact gotten rid of the bartender that drove most people away, myself included. Another Matt is now in place, and they've got a cook who seems to know what he's doing. Even Bill Curtis himself seemed to be happy with the way things are going. He stopped me in the street to make sure I knew that Spaten Octoberfest is currently on tap.

I went in tonight after the kids were asleep as I wanted to just go out. I don't have time to go out much anymore, and frankly, at 35, I don't know to do when I do go out. I did have a good time at Court Square Tavern during my birthday surprise party, but I've been reluctant to go back in part because of the former bartender, who I witnessed running so many people out of there.

Court Square Tavern is never going to be perfect. I doubt we'll see it on a Best Of list anytime soon, and there is much to be snarky about. But, to me, the place has been in business for 32 years. Before that, it was another bar going back, I guess, to the beginnings of the Monticello Hotel which I believe was built in 1925.

It hurt that I couldn't go in there and just relax. It hurt that the bartender exuded so much negative energy. When the place reopened, it had so much going for it. No smoking. Wi-Fi. A deeper menu (which, admittedly, is more of an illusion). Yet, I remember being in there one night, relaxing, and my Charlottesville Tomorrow intern was having a difficult time getting any kind of service without extreme attitude. I complained at the time, but it didn't take.

So, this is my official announcement that things might be okay there now, and I'm certainly going to have to adjust my budget accordingly. Bill let me sample a Scottish brew, Red McGregor, and it was incredibly enjoyable. He gave me an interesting perspective on the future of Monticello, and we ended up having a great chat about energy policy.

What I like best about Court Square Tavern is the ability to sit there and have a conversation. The music isn't loud. Service isn't obnoxious. And, you get the sense that all of this has happened before, and that all of this will happen again.


CTS: Strike Two

I'm the kind of person who should be riding the bus. I live less than a mile and a half away from work. My office is two blocks from the bus station. I'm keen to not drive.

However, I'm growing very tired of incidents like today, when the bus-tracking software provided by the Charlottesville Transit Service fails me.

I jumped out of bed at 8:05 AM or so, thinking that my bus would be along in 25 minutes or so. After all, I hear the bus take the left turn in front of my house every hour. I knew that it should be there at about that time. Why would CTS change it during rush hour?

According to the CTS tracker, they did not. At 8:13 or so, the read-out for my bus-stop said the next 4A would be along in 17 minutes. Plenty of time for a shower and to finish getting ready. After my shower, the read-out said 8 minutes. Still plenty of time. I felt good knowing I would help the City reduce its Vehicle Miles Traveled statistic by 3 miles for today.

However, then it got weird. A few minutes later, the tracker showed 5 minutes. And then continued to say 5 minutes. At one point, it went down to 4, and then went right back to 5. At about this time, I could see a mini-bus speeding past It was labeled "SPECIAL" similar to the bus from earlier this month. Did I miss the bus?

According to the tracker, no. I had 3 minutes left. And then, it went down to 2. I left my house, walked to the bus stop in the rain. And waited, and waited, and waited. I phoned Amy to see what the tracker was saying.

30 minutes, she told me.

So, I walked to my car and drove to work so I could get there on time. I'm not pleased. I'm willing to give the system one more chance. Would you? I have a sense I'm more patient than a lot of people, but even my patience is wearing thin.


Streaming audio to stay until the end of 2008

The Charlottesville Community Media stream will be in place through at least the end of 2008. This is my experimental live stream, which rebroadcasts content from the Charlottesville Podcasting Network and other interesting things that come to mind late at night. Occasionally, we'll be experimenting with live events, and sometimes we'll be digging through my archives to listen to various odds and ends from my psyche. At times, some of them could be quite embarrasing.

This may seem indulgent, and perhaps it is. But, I'm kind of enjoying having it live and it's affordable. And, it's teaching me things that I want to know. Isn't that why I stay up late into the night working on a computer, the same way I did when I was a teenager?

In other news:


Special treat until midnight!

Sometimes I wish I had a sense of how many people actually were paying attention to the content of this blog. As a test, I'll say here that for the next 30 minutes, I'm going to use my special live stream experiment to play some of my original rock-star days. So, if you're lucky enough to be an night-owl worker like me, you'll take a listen and you'll either be horrified or absolutely amazed or most likely somewhere near indifferent. If you do listen, for some reason, drop a line in the comments.

This experiment will likely be repeated. I'm trying to keep the stream up 24 hours a day, so even if you're getting this at another time, you'll hear stuff from the Charlottesville Podcasting Network. As I've said before, I enjoy the serendipity of not knowing what's coming up next. So, hence, the stream. Occasionally I do live experiments with it, but for the most part, it's the last week of podcasts. So, take a listen and let me know what you think.

But for the next 30 minutes, you'll get the chance to hear what it's like when I "sing" in the improvisational way that we used to do. To some, that may be a special treat.


History of former Olympic venues in the Independent

I've not paid much attention to these Olympics. I can't get excited about watching the awful television coverage, and I don't have time to see if my prejudices are borne out by reality. We've watched maybe three hours since it began, and it's been kind of fun to watch the sporting event. But, I've not been too excited about the games being in Beijing. I'm just glad that there have been no disasters.

However, I'm very keen about the 2012 Olympics, and hope to take my family there in four years if we can make a million dollars between now and then. Either way, Henry lives about 35 miles away from there, and they're going to shape his life one way or the other. I'm worried that Britain's terminal pessimism about itself will end up creating an incredible debacle, so over the next four years I'll be paying attention to what's going on. On Sunday, I'll watch the closing ceremonies and guarantee I'll get all teary-eyed when the Olympic flag is handed over.

So, with that context, I share with you an article in today's Independent about what happens when the Olympics are over. What happens to all the infrastructure? Does the massive amount of investment pay off in any tangible way?

In the opinion of the writer, Athens and Sydney didn't plan too well for what came next. Atlanta did, as did Barcelona. There are important lessons in here for London and other city that hopes to hold the games.


A bus report!

I've been continuing to ride the bus, though not as much as I would like. The reasons why are many, but mostly I have an odd schedule that causes me to drive equipment around, as well as late night meetings here and there. But, on days like today, when I get to work an actual 9 to 5 shift, I figure I may as well take the bus when I can. After all, the bus runs right past my house.

So, at 8:10 I got out of bed and raced to get showered and prepared for the day, and to get out the door by 8:30. At 8:31, the GPS tracker told me the bus would be arriving at my stop in 2 minutes. Somehow I managed to grab all my gear and get out the door. I was halfway to the stop when the bus, a smaller one, drove up, stopping at my out-stretched hand.

However, it was not the 4-A. Instead it was a "SPECIAL" that picked me up anyway. The driver asked me if I was going straight downtown, and seemed kind of disappointed that I was. Another passenger who got picked up after me wanted to get dropped off on Roosevelt Brown. So, suddenly we're going that way, instead of down Cherry Avenue. Sensing a potential adventure, I stopped reading my book.

By the way, that's the best thing about riding the bus. Having 15 minutes to read a book while I get driven home? Works for me.

This morning, though, no book, because instead I wanted to see where we were going. Maybe I was being kidnapped. Perhaps because I'm special.

So, the woman gets dropped off near Crispell Avenue, and we turn right onto West Main Street, just like every other bus. Though, after having the 4 B for a while, it was nice to see what that looked like during the morning commute. We kept on going, and I assumed we were just copying the 4B, and we'd end up going down Market Street. Instead, the driver took me straight down Water Street, past 2nd Street (where the trolley goes) and towards the transit center, in the wrong direction.

One flaw in the transit center is that the vehicles can only access it in one direction. This takes away a lot of options in terms of routing the buses, in my opinion. Maybe at some point they could put a bus pull-in somewhere close to downtown in that direction. Today, though, the driver went to the end of Water, and then switched round in the other direction in the kind of tricky move that I do when I drive. He then turned back around and was able to light directly into the transit center's pull-in. Or is it pull-out?

So, in general, it was a pretty good ride, and much faster and direct than I'm used to. I liked it, but of course, when I take the bus again, it won't be like that I'm sure.

This afternoon was a different experience, only slightly confusing. I'll admit I don't know the full schedule for the 4A yet, but I did kind of expect it to leave the transit center at about 5:20 or so. I left my office at about 5:10, and walked down. The GPS tracker did not identify the 4A as coming, but when I got to the transit center, the monitor said the 4A would arrive in 4 minutes.

So, I took a seat and waited. And waited. And waiter. About ten minutes later, I got up and checked the monitor inside again. Now the 4A was due to arrive in 2 minutes. Sure enough, 10 more minutes later and the 4A sped up to the station, another small one. This one smelled brand new.

The day over, I had another nice 15 minutes of reading my book, for real this time.


Pie Day 2008

I seldom use this blog to write up about my work at Charlottesville Tomorrow. That's what writing for Charlottesville Tomorrow is for. However, I've had to make an exception for Pie Day, our one-day quest in search of fresh pie in Albemarle County.

You can see all of the details there, and I'd encourage you to comment there if you're interested in this very important issue. But I thought I would reflect for just a brief moment on the day, which was a fantastic birthday present of sorts from my boss. One full day in which I got to play navigator, riding shotgun trying to find routes from one Albemarle community to another. I'm proud to say that I have now been to the northern and southern points in the County, and that I better appreciate exactly how Crozet is laid out. I'm much better equipped now to write about land use topics.

We're truly blessed to live here, though. I can definitely say that I'm proud to have Albemarle County surrounding Charlottesville, the jurisdiction I chose to live in for various reasons that I won't repeat at this time. When I first moved to the area, I lived on what will one day be the North Pointe development. At that time, gas was cheap and I drove around a lot more looking at things. Now, I pretty much never leave city limits because there's not much need to do so. Pie Day was a good way to be reminded that there's a world out there, a beautiful one, that's good to see every now and then.

Do check out the site, though. Brian Wheeler, Charlottesville Tomorrow's Executive Director and my boss, spent the weekend painstakingly putting together a map of our travels, which you can view in either Google Maps or Google Earth. I'm proud of what he's accomplished. Go and check it out, and make your nomination for where we should go if we ever decide to do a sequel!

Brian will also be on Coy Barefoot's show tomorrow night.


More thoughts on Dr. Horrible

I am watching Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog for the tenth time, I think. It's on Hulu, as I said, even though I bought it in iTunes because I thought I couldn't watch it legally any other way.
The content is so engaging to me that I want to do whatever I can do to make sure that people follow in Joss Whedon's path.

I know that a small percentage of Americans are watching television online. Even many fellow nerds don't like the experience. For me, it's different, as I've been seeking out television programs since 2002, when I discovered Star Trek episodes somewhere. As with Napster before, I knew that the whole content delivery universe was about to change.

Six years later, I'm repeatedly watching an original program that was created for the Internet, and I'm playing it over and over and over again. I spent $6 on it, and now I'm watching the ads here on hulu.com as I do my nightly after-work work.

Why am I watching it repeatedly? Even on this tenth viewing, there are new things I learn. And of course, because I know the full tragedy of the three acts, re-watching simply fills me with a sadness for what I know is coming. And, of course, I can empathize with Dr. Horrible as a man who gets exactly what he wants - at terrible cost.


Daily Show clip on Virgil Goode

I need this link to serve as a reference point for a link on the Charlottesville Podcasting Network. It won't embed hulu, so I thought I'd do it here.

After all, this blog is supposed to be a key support link in the CPN supply and demand infrastructure!


Dr. Horrible now on hulu

Joss Whedon has made Dr. Horrible available online at hulu and you can watch below:

I'm still glad I paid for this, because I hope there will be more like it in the future. I think you can even watch this in Canada now, which is good. Some of the jokes make sense in Canadian, too. If you've not seen this and you have about an hour to kill, go ahead and do so.

An open request to ABC

Dear ABC,

I'm really happy that I can watch every single episode of LOST online, in streaming HD. It's fantastic. I'm re-watching Season 4 again, and the interface is pretty spectacular.

However, we have to talk about the advertisements. Please figure out a way to advertise to me somehow in a way that is non-invasive. I recommend maybe figuring out some mix where local companies can sell me an ad during that time, perhaps with the local affiliate serving as the ad broker.

I'm 34. I don't have any need for Cialis, don't need anything produced by Astra-Zeneca, and really, I don't have Fibromyalgia. So, please, stop reminding me that my future is going to be filled with a whole series of pills and side-effects. I know that's coming. But, have you noticed, I'm trying to watch LOST? That means I'm seeking escape. When the ads are jarring, it's much less likely I'll get used to coming to your site. I'll be more likely to go to hulu, where I can pretty much find something I can watch within a couple of minutes, even if it is an episode of I Dream of Jeannie.

Really, can you imagine I am embedding Barbara Eden on my blog? How would I even begin to explain that to the 9-year-old me that watched this show every single day?

Anyway, I can't embed LOST here, and maybe I don't want to. But, I would like people to go to your site to watch, and I'd like ABC.com to become a successful business model so that people like myself can continue to watch high-quality entertainment. It's a troubling time for everyone in the media business as human behavior continues to shift before our eyes. How do we turn the Internet into something that can sustain us, inform us, educate us, connect us, and entertain us?

Looks like we've already done that, to some extent, at least for those of us connected. But, I fear your days are numbered if you keep telling me I'm soon to expect medical fun. At least tell me to exercise, and maybe get out from the computer every now and then!

Yours Truly,
Sean Tubbs

The Joys of Wikipedia #1: The A428 Road

This likely will not become a series on this blog, but you never know. Maybe blogs should do series, which is what many people do. Maybe it helps people focus on what to write. Gives them something to say.

In any case, I came across this article on the A428 shortly after reading an article on Negativland. I hit random once, and got the name of some German occultist, before settling on the above article. I skimmed it quickly, spent about five seconds scanning whether I knew any of the towns or not, and then had a brief thought about how much I thought it would be interesting to develop Wikipedia articles for our roads here, to personalize them in a much nicer way. Would that be something people want to see? The article, as you can see in this print-screen I made quickly lists all of the various places the road goes, followed by the various intersections it comes across. There's a tremendous sense of love and order that comes along with this, something that seems so fundamentally English, but yet, it's a sense of way-finding that produces a more intimate feeling then what we have here. Ultimately, in these maps, people can get around better.

After all, I've driven from my parent's home in Lynchburg to here in Charlottesville many, many times. I've never seen a map like the one you can see above, borrowed from Wikipedia in the interest of public service.


Thoughts on Cuil, or maybe we need another search engine

All over the world, thousands of bloggers are dumping on Cuil, the search engine launched today by former employees of Google. The release got a lot of press, as I read many press reports of its creation, which is backed by about $33 million in venture capital. So, after I read the fifth one, I decided to check it out this thing, which is pronounced "cool."

I googled Charlottesville Podcasting Network, and a lot of stuff showed up. I was pleased, and I was also pleased with the look of how the site displayed the results. Instead of listing it with pure text and a very brief abstract, Ciul displays three columns of paragraphs, and takes a picture from somewhere on the web and makes a little in-line photograph.

The organizers of Cuil say they're searching more sites than any other search engine out there. That's supposed to the beauty of their start-up. They also claim to not collect any of your search information.

But, they had issues today. For starters, I have no clue what image they're using to describe my site, which by 11:11 PM has claimed the top left hand entry. I assume that is their top spot. Earlier today, that search didn't even hit the first page of the site.

Second of all, I have no idea what picture they've pulled to illustrate my site. It appears to be a picture of a woman speaking at a conference. I do not recognize it. It certainly says something about my site, but I'm not sure what.

More interesting are the results Ciul pulls up. Google pulls up mentions of the site on other places, such as this introductory note from cvillenews back in 2005. Ciul seems to be picking up and highlighting a lot more of the re-feeders that splog my content on a somewhat legitimate basis. But, in any case, it brings up different information for whatever reason. Perhaps it hasn't learned yet. Or perhaps its slightly different methodology would provide more interesting things, putting people in touch with a wholly different set of topics or perspectives on topics?

Perhaps not.

But, I do know that it's worth checking out over the next few weeks as it develops. I'll likely get bored because Google works quickly and is efficient, which is mostly what I want out of a search engine. That's why I and you quickly adopted our habits less than ten years ago, because it worked quickly and cut through all the clutter. Both by having the best algorithm, but also for presenting it in the most efficient way possible.

I don't think Cuil has sorted that out yet. Doesn't mean they can't, but judging from today's poor showing, I don't think they're going to get many people going back for a second chance. One article I read said that if you had the safe filter turned off, you were likely going to have pornographic images adorning your search results, and you'd never know why.

By the way, searching for the above link really indicated one thing I don't like about Google, or at least, how information is spread over the web. So many of the results for "examiner cuil" lead to the same AP story being duplicated again, and again, and again. I can understand a need for that in the old days, when locally generated media products were likely to supply 100 of your news diet. But, now? Shouldn't those organizations be doing something different with their time?

Anyway, speaking as a very small media outlet and aggregator, I would like to say that I am not ragging on Cuil in any way. I am also someone who promised a magnificent public service, and I'm still in the early days of building it. If you've not been to the Charlottesville Podcasting Network for a while, please do visit the site, and sign up for our e-mail if you don't do the RSS thing. Or, if you do do the RSS thing, sign up for the e-mail anyway.

NASA turned 50 today?

Okay, I'll admit, I don't read the mainstream newspapers like I used to. Instead, I periodically skim the news through news-feeds via Bloglines. I'm mostly focused on what's happening here in Central Virginia, though I try to stay on top of what's going on in transportation policy, urban design issues, and my pop-culture interests.

So, it's at the end of reading through my third-tier search (English media) that I came upon this gem in the Independent listing 50 things that we can thank the space program for. The article was posted as part of NASA's 50th anniversary.

A quick scan of news.google.com reveals it's not a big story here. Fifty years of amazing and tragic history, and there don't seem to be too many articles celebrating it. Do we have so little pride in our accomplishments? Is this not judged to be of interest to people?

I did see some other articles of interest, though, on the Discovery Channel's Space Diary. Burt Rutan is preparing SpaceShip2, in collaboration with Richard Branson and his quest to conquer low-orbit space for tourists. A probe being sent to the moon to create a new lunar map is being delayed until February because the military wants to use the rocket it is scheduled to fly out on. But even this blog doesn't mention the 50th anniversary of NASA.

I guess it could be argued that no one celebrates the foundation of a government bureaucracy. NASA does have a page dedicated to its own birthday, but even it's buried on its homepage.

But, it takes a British newspaper to package something that feels so useful - a simple list of innovations we owe to the space race. Anyone know of anyway to calculate the return on investment for that sort of thing?


Negativland News

If not for Negativland, there would be no Charlottesville Podcasting Network. I grabbed onto this collective in my first year of college, when listening to WUVT my dorm-mate telling me he couldn't believe the station would play a lot of noise, a comment prompted by a Negativland track. Just before then, I read a note in the Record Exchange's Music Monitor that U2 was suing Negativland for copyright infringement. Then, my friend Jeffry Cudlin let me borrow Dick Vaughn's Moribund Music of the Seventies, a radio show in which Negativland pretended to convert KPFA, a Pacifica station in San Francisco, into a 1980's Top 40 outfit called the California Superstation.

Those three pieces of evidence led me to conclude that the band was worthy of further study. Of course, this was back before the Internet, when music stores often were your only source of information on something you were interested in outside the mainstream. So, I walked to the Record Exchange on Main Street in Blacksburg fairly often and stocked up on fantastic collages that made me think about sound in a very different way. Sometime on a trip to Charlottesville in 1992 or 1993, I visited Jeffry, who lived with Tyler Magill on Valley Road at the time, and got to borrow several excellent CDS from Tyler on infinite loan. As in, I still have them - I think he thought I lived in town.

The lessons from Negativland: Sound was something to be manipulated, language could be subverted through subtle puns, and that culture could be jammed. And it could all be done with somewhat good humor, by geeks and misfits. I have hours and hours of my own sound collages that I put together in the same fashion. The skills I learned to do that paved the way for my radio career and now podcasting career.

Negativland came here last year for a very interesting two-hour live radio show at the now departed Satellite Ballroom. It was the only show I attended there. I had a great time, even though the material was 100 percent new to me. Part of the joy of recorded Negativland is that you must listen to it three or four times to see the patterns and to get the jokes. I had hoped that the show, which was about religion, would be made available as a CD.

Today, I found out that there is in fact a new album. However, it's a new album of songs, actual songs, as opposed to sound collages and archives of their experimental radio programs. That's much better, in a lot of ways, and much more ambitious.

Interesting that it's a song-based album, and listening to the first
song (can't speak highly enough of Rhapsody) it sounds like Escape
from Noise
. In any case, I'd rather have songs than pure noise. I
think this is why I don't tinker at all with any sound any more. I'd
rather have order, and some sense of structure, perhaps leading up to
a purpose. There's no sustaining joy in the purely random.

The album, called Thigmotactic, starts strong with a sample-heavy track called "Richard Nixon Died Today" but then stumbles fast with "Lying on the Grass" which makes me wonder if Mark Hosler should be writing all the songs.

The second song ("Lying on the Grass") and the third song ("Extra Sharp Pencils") are kind of embarrassing and make you wonder if one member of the collective should be allowed to take over an album like this. But then, somewhere in that third song, something kicks in, and yeah, this feels like Negativland, in a very fresh new way that I'm glad to hear. The fourth song ("It's Not a Critique") sounds like Negativland-of-old, with a mix of
samples from music and talk shows, put together in a way that sounds
almost musical. The content is the same call-to-media-awareness, with an updated delivery

And then, as the songs proceed it's very clear that this is a welcome addition to the Negativland catalogue. "Virginia's Trip" is a lot of fun.

But, then, as I continue to write this article, I realize that the live show is also available, but there are not many copies left. My wife found out I paid to download Dr. Horrible. I guess this is where I should say, no, there's no way I'm buying it, honey.

Let's just hope she doesn't use my computer.


Free video = $6 for Joss Whedon and Dr. Horrible

So, I watched Dr. Horrible twice when it was online. My wife watched it once. I thought it was absolutely tremendous, and the songs have been running through my head all day. It was great entertainment, and I really admire the way this experiment has turned out.

But, today, it's gone. The easy-to-play buttons that a clean iteration of hulu were gone, replaced with links to favorable press about the three-act project. I spent about an hour today reading through these accounts. Whedon wrote the story during the writer's strike, and then made it afterwards on his own dime. Spent something in "the low six-figures" according to Variety, all part of his master plan.

Taking it down is genius. What was once available is now gone. Scarcity is created. Desire is created. Demand rushes in through the only available pathway - paying $6 to purchase the whole thing from iTunes. Now, in a few minutes, I get to watch it again. A very small amount of disposable income easily spent in the interests of my self-gratification.

I'll stop short, however, of buying the DVD, though I hear extra content is being created for it. After watching this thing several more times, will I need to see something new? Will I pay to the special commentary track they're developing, complete with a new song?

Who knows? But, anyway, no more blogging. Time to watch.