Tuesday, March 31, 2009

You'll laugh, you'll weep, you'll do some good

Here's a great event to check out, if you've been wondering what good thing you can do with that $20 bill you found in your spring jacket:~ CHONDA PIERCE and RICHIE McDONALD in CONCERT ~
April 16th at 7pm
New Vision Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, TN
For Tickets Call: 615.904.7170

Saturday, March 28, 2009

You can build on the basics, but you can't go beyond them

I don't claim to know a great deal about economic or political matters. From what I've seen, this makes me a perfect candidate for political office. But I digress.

I DO know that sometimes things don't SEEM to make sense because they DON'T make sense. In complex matters, we tend to assume the people who are involved in leadership know what they're talking about, and if we only knew as much as them, we'd agree.

But the current state of the world is proof that, generally speaking, the same basic principles of economics apply on a large scale as well as a small scale. If you don't have money, it's not wise to spend it on non-essentials and assume you'll be able to afford it eventually. If someone can't afford to buy a house, it's not wise to sell them one. If you make a bet, be sure you have the valuables to back it up (or at least a clear path to the back door).

So since it's not possible to elect Jim Rockford to office (what with his being a fictional character and all), maybe we could at least draft Dave Ramsey into an advisory position. Too bad more people haven't listened to him all the years he's been teaching financial principles that make sense. I'm including myself in this.

Here's an article that demonstrates my point. It's hard to say at this point that one political group or the other is to blame for the economy, because 1) no one really understands the economy and 2) too many people on both sides of the aisle were making bad decisions or failing to make good ones. But this article may be enlightening "for those who have ears to hear." (Hint: if you're a big fan of Barney Frank and/or the Democrats, you may not enjoy this).

Monday, March 23, 2009

Too bad we couldn't vote for this guy last November

I don't remember at what point I started watching "The Rockford Files," the crime drama with a touch of comedy that aired for six seasons in the 70's. Since it started when I was ten (in 1974), I doubt I was on board from the beginning. But by my high school years, Friday nights were "The Rockford Files" and Oreos fresh from the snacking bonanza that was grocery night. May not sound like much (don't worry, I'm making up the social losses now vicariously, through "Friday Night Lights"), but it was enjoyable and intellectually stimulating and a heck of a lot better than some of the stuff my peers and siblings were into.

I thought it was a cool show. Cool car, cool music, and a cool guy. His appeal was that, in a town that emphasized trendy fashions and outward appearances, he was a regular guy with a taste for cheap food and with flaws he readily admitted, but who made the best of his talents and did a lot for justice. The theme music said it all; cool L.A. rock accented by a bluesy harmonica that said "I'm me, take it or leave it." He was John Wayne in a Trans-Am.

And while he preferred not to get into more trouble than necessary, and despite his often-mentioned aversion to guns, he didn't run from a fight when it came to him (and fights did come, at the rate of at least one per episode). OK, sometimes he did run...and when he didn't, it was often because he was tied up or being held by a couple of big goons.... But he was prudent, is what I'm saying. This made him good at his job, regularly saved his life and, of course, brought much appreciation from the ladies. The latter was at approximately the same per-episode rate, including a character played by Lindsay Wagner, later to be known as Jamie Sommers, the original Bionic Woman. No wonder we admired him. And like "Richie Brockelman, Private Eye" (remember Richie?), we aspired to be like him.

And thanks to Netflix and the DVD nostalgia market, I've been gratified to see how right I was about this show; despite (or because of) the dial phones, primitive keyboard incidental music and the occasional shot of an AMC Gremlin or Chevy Nova, it still holds up. Or maybe I'm the same guy, with the same aspirations to be cool, drive a cool car, live an adventurous life...and date Jamie Sommers.

Wonder where I can get myself a dial phone?

Thursday, March 05, 2009

T-shirt slogans for people who don't like T-shirt slogans

I ran across an ad while wasting time on Facebook, and was glad I broke my usual policy of ignoring online ads. So I figured I'd waste more time by blogging about the funny stuff this company sells. (There, that intro adds about another 3 minutes wasted. At this rate, I won't have to go to bed at ALL).

Call them the anti-shirt...the meta-design...or simple old-fashioned parody, in the tradition of MAD Magazine. But some youngish folks have come up with some funny wearable ideas and made them available to purchase...or in my case ("in these tough economic times"--obligatory phrase out of the way), look at and laugh often. I can't endorse all the content of these designs, but I have to say, at least SOME of these kids today do know something about concept humor. And they're genuinely nostalgic and often truthful, all at the same time.

Some of my favorites are shown here. Go to the Busted Tees site to see the rest. Some are more subtle than others, and some aren't really trying to be funny. If you can't tell which, you're probably even older than me.

Again, I don't necessarily recommend ALL the designs...but "in these troubled economic--" wait, I already used that, never mind. Anyway, if you need a laugh, click away.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Reception is everything

The folks at my local PBS affiliate really know something about customer service. Or they reallllly need those pledges. Probably both. Here's proof.

Last year I sent an e-mail to Nashville Public Television (NPT) to request that they show my friend Elvis Wilson's great documentary about Lincoln presenters. Although I did get a response, unfortunately they missed the boat on that one, even though some of the presenters showed up in another Lincoln documentary the network aired. Maybe NEXT Lincoln bicentennial, eh guys?

Recently I noticed a problem with the picture I was getting from NPT. I assumed it had to do with the advent of the new digital broadcasting format (which I can only imagine has created a plethora of scam opportunities for those so inclined).

I took a gamble that someone was still actually reading viewer e-mails...and a further gamble that they would not be looking for a nominee for the "deluded viewer of the week" contest...and the following exchange ensued:

Sunday, February 01, 2009

I watch TV via Comcast cable in Nashville on a 4:3 TV. The picture I get from you is cut off on one or both sides, although the NPT logo is usually fully visible on the lower right. I miss vital info, captions, etc. because of this problem.

Is there something that can be done about this other than my buying a new TV? Seems the other stations allow letterboxing when the signal is in wider format. I'm thinking this is either your shortcoming or that of Comcast; at least one of you apparently doesn't care about those of us with 4:3 format TV's, maybe?

Thanks for any help you can offer.


Monday, February 02, 2009

Mr. Hall-

As you probably know, all local broadcasters are turning off their analog transmitters on February 17. It was this analog signal that Comcast previously aired on their cable system. In December, in preparation for this shutoff, Comcast switched to receiving NPT’s digital signal, which is broadcast in widescreen (16:9). They must set their receiver to either letterbox everything or crop everything; there is no option to change settings depending on the program. They chose to crop the 16:9 image so that every program fills the frame. Unfortunately, for native 16:9 programs, some of the image is missing.

We can request that Comcast set their receiver to letterbox, but that means that native 4:3 programs will be smaller in your screen, and have black bars all the way around the image. We’ve been discussing the pros and cons of this change internally, and have not made such a request to Comcast yet.

Given the choice between a full screen image with parts cropped off and letterboxing with a smaller image for 4:3 programs, which do you prefer? Your input will be helpful in deciding which choice is best for our viewers.

Thanks for your help in this matter.

Kevin Crane
V.P. Content & Technology
Nashville Public TV

Monday, February 02, 2009

Mr. Crane,

I see your dilemma.

Well, until/unless I get a new TV (or get a job selling them) my personal preference would be for the option where the whole picture is there, even if I have black around 4:3 programs.

I realize there are some people who think they're being cheated if every pixel isn't lit up. And since you tend to draw the kind of viewers who can afford new & multiple TV's, I also realize I may be in the minority in having one that still works despite its age (one of the reasons I like it; reminds me of me).

But then viewers in the first group are probably going to stretch to the max regardless; if they don't care about distorting the picture I wouldn't think they cared about a little extra black in the frame, if they noticed. And those in the second group are probably watching on satellite, where I assume it's not an issue. I know that if I had made a film, picked out fonts, etc., I would want my captions to be readable, as much as I want to be able to read them as a viewer.

So that's my opinion.

Thanks for your time and indulgence,


Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Mr. Hall-

NPT recently started feeding Comcast a slightly cropped, slightly letterboxed image in an attempt to split the difference between these two unsatisfactory solutions. I hope this makes the NPT image look much better on your set.

Thanks for your input on this issue.

Kevin Crane
V.P. Content & Technology
Nashville Public TV

And I looked, and he was right. Now I have that bit of black on the top and bottom of my "retro" screen. And I assume I won't have to guess the first half of the names of people on Nova and Frontline. Pretty cool. Hopefully NPT won't be deluged by complaints from those people (especially with new TV's) who feel like they're being cheated if any space in a given format is not filled with stuff (the same people who don't see the value of white space on a printed page, especially if they're paying for the printing).

See? We CAN make a difference. A lesson for the kids out there. Heck, I might even VOTE in the next election.

(Kidding. I'm not THAT naive).

(Kidding again. I did vote. For what it was worth, which, from an individual numerical stance, was not much).