RIP, Studs Terkel

Sadly, Studs Terkel has passed away, far too young at age 96. He is one dude I wish could have lived to 300. If I were to want to be more like anyone, it would be Studs. I was lucky enough to meet him just shy of 5 years ago. At the time I made a point to go to his reading because I figured with him 91 at the time there may not be another shot. I’m happy to be wrong and that he had another 5 years beyond that. I got him to sign his book Hope Dies Last: Keeping the Faith in Difficult Times and to my complete shame I have yet to read it. In order to commemorate him, I will read the book this week.

When I began interviewing people, one of my big inspirations was Studs. I have come to believe like him that any person has any number of great stories in them. Terry Gross and her ilk are not nearly as big an influence on me as was Studs’ book Working.

Goodbye, good sir. You were a kind soul and a loyal friend to the ordinary person, and this ordinary person appreciated you very much.

This Weekend is the Myrtle Beach Comic Convention

This weekend is when the comic book convention in Myrtle Beach happens. It will be held at the Springmaid Resort which is at the very south tip of Ocean Boulevard. My original plan was to spend all day Saturday over there, but it turns out I have to travel on Saturday. However they are operating from 3 to 6 PM on Friday, and I’ll go over and check it out during that time. I’ll take my list with me and see what gaps I can fill in in my comic collection. I’ve been getting back into comics after being mostly dormant for a decade and it hasn’t been easy to get contiguous runs going. Maybe tomorrow can help. I’ll see you Grand Strand nerds over there!

Charleston Zombie Action

I talked to my friend Dan Conover on the phone today, tomorrow is Halloween and this week I’ve been in my workshop making artificial dismembered body parts. All those combine into a souffle of rotting flesh when you think back to Dan’s short film from earlier this year, Brunch of the Living Dead embedded below with a bonus bit about doing zombie makeup:

BRUNCH OF THE LIVING DEAD from Dan Conover on Vimeo.


Zombie Makeup Tutorial from Don D. Lewis on Vimeo.

You Fight Like You Train And You Govern Like You Campaign

Despite my stubborn refusal to drink the Obama kool-aid, the Democrats would have had to field a real crap lousy candidate for me to fail to vote for whomever isn’t John McCain. Over and over I heard the meme about what an “honorable man” McCain is, despite his documented history of corruption and scumbaggery. I think his campaign has been poorly run, the one large decision he had to make in the form of running mate was completely absurd, and it is amazing how it is imploding here at the end.

To further point out why I think an America with McCain as president would be a bad place, here’s a prime example. At a recent campaign stop in Iowa, his staff picked people out of the crowd they thought were capable of causing trouble and pro-actively ejected them. Some of these were his supporters, or at least they were before this.

Elborno said even McCain supporters were among those being asked to leave.

“I saw a couple that had been escorted out and they were confused as well, and the girl was crying, so I said ‘Why are you crying? and she said ‘I already voted for McCain, I’m a Republican, and they said we had to leave because we didn’t look right,’” Elborno said. “They were handpicking these people and they had nothing to go off of, besides the way the people looked.”

McCain the POW who was tortured has been wishy washy on torture. The man who spent years incarcerated while fighting for America’s freedom is highly willing to have it abrogated in his presence. People who don’t look right are treated as guilty. This sounds like the America I have nightmares about us becoming and that I fear we have been heading to irrevocably over the last eight years. If we’re going to pretend we are a free nation, it’s about time to fucking act like it. I’m voting for the candidate least willing to act like a fascist, which certainly ain’t McCain.

Early Voting “Seems Wrong”

Local columnist Bob Bestler published a column the other day in the Myrtle Beach Sun News that may be the silliest thing I’ve read in that paper. This is not a small feat. In it, Bestler says that it seems wrong to him to have votes cast before election day because it cuts down on the tailgating feel of it. Never mind that hours long lines are a sign of democracy falling apart and that the effect of early voting is to increate participation and civic engagement, what seems to matter to Bestler is the purity of it as an event. Wow.

Here’s the best part. After his love letter to voting on election day and not early, he notes that he’s voting absentee this year. Way to cut your own silliness off at the knees, Bob.

Dubious Records

One of my true OCD traits is that I mark durations and personal records frequently. Since I’ve spent much of my life nomadic, since I left for college at age 18, I have lived in 14 different dwellings in 6 different metro areas. In the 1995 to 2004 time period, we held drivers licenses in 5 different states. That’s a whole lot of moving trucks, lessee background checks and mortgage closings. My relief at having stayed put for the last 4 years spills out into some statistics.

We’ve already well shattered the record for living in the same dwelling at 4 years, 2 months and counting. The previous high was almost exactly 3 years. We’ve had the same yard man and plumber longer than I’ve had a dentist or doctor in my adult life. There is an amazing sense of relief and statisfaction I get at going in to the same dentist for the 9th consecutive checkup. For a long time, way too many of our visits were first visits to a new one, meaning I’ve gotten way more full mouth x-rays than are reasonable for a man my age with no dental problems.

Somewhere recently I passed the point of my current job being my longest stint at any computer industry gig I’ve ever held. I’m at 2 years, 3 months having passed the 2 year, 2 month record. I have about 4 more months and this becomes the longest running single job I’ve ever held, period. It makes me sound flighty but there was a long period where I held no job for longer than 1 year, to the point where it became a joke amongst my friends. If you think about the moving, though, there were a number of gigs I had to leave when I moved and a number that went belly up or laid me off.

This stuff probably means very little to anyone else but I think about it more than it really warrants. Most people don’t find owning the same house for 4 years to be such a novelty but for me it is a complete release that makes me happy. The simple things are the best, aren’t they?

An Imaginary Onion Headline

I have no idea what made this pop into my head, but here is an Onion style headline that occurred to me this morning:

Jamaican Supreme Court Set to Rule Today in the case of Babylon v. Zion

I wish I had a story to go with it, but I suspect it’s all downhill from the headline.

Proposition 8 == Hate

I attended my first gay wedding in 1993 and it was a beautiful event. That couple is still together and is as strong a union as any married couple I know. When I was a child, I remember one of the main reasons provided for homosexuality being wrong was the high promiscuity associated with it. Never mind this was the mid 70’s and promiscuity was pretty high for everyone. The rationale being used was the homosexuals sought many partners and thus were not fit for polite society.

Flash forward 35 years and now that many homosexuals want nothing more than to settle down with each other and get equal protections under the law for their marriage, that makes them bad. Any time the underlying evidence becomes opposite but the conclusion remains the same then you’ve got a rigged game. I personally don’t understand how there can be any constitutional grounding to the banning of same sex marriage. The objections come from religious arguments, not civil ones, so any form of law against banning gay marriage is supporting one religion over another. My religion has no problem with same sex marriage, and in fact encourages it. “Bob” doesn’t care who you marry, he just want you to increase your slack. Oh, and he wants your money! If my religion is cool with it, then making this a legal issue is elevating your religion above mine in the eyes of the law, violating the constitution. Suck on that, the Church of the Subgenius is a useful legal strategy!

I agree with the below video that I found via my friend Nicola. This is an issue that when you are lying in the hospice living out your final days (I hope many many decades from now) if you were on the wrong side of it you will not feel good about yourself. Do yourself a favor and get good on this now to keep your conscience clean. Fiery preachers condemned the intermingling of whites and nigras 50 years ago. Time to realize where you stand in the flow of history, neighbors.

Greensboro Weekend

Last weekend I power drove to Greensboro NC to attend Converge South. I’ve been to three of the four they have put on and always had a good time. I was also a co-organizer of the Saturday event to fill the space when BlogHer cancelled, which was a tad stressful but also fun. Things really started Thursday with the photowalks and then dinners Thursday night but I didn’t arrive until lunch Friday so in a lot of ways things were winding down by the time I showed up. I chatted with friends, was introduced to a few people like Chris Rabb that I had not previously met and went in to sessions.

When the sessions started back up I attended Ruby Sinreich’s on hyperlocal blogging, hoping to get some mojo to bring to the Grand Strand Bloggers site. It was valuable and I did learn some things I needed to know. After that I went to Tom Lassiter’s web video session. Since I have a proper video camera now I was hoping to get some wisdom on how to use the damn thing. It was OK but Tom has a laid back low energy approach that didn’t match what I needed at that moment. I got up at 5 AM to get ready, I needed a boost.

After that was the unified session in the auditorium that Ed Cone led on “People-powered Media in the Election” with Robert Scoble, Anil Dash, Mathew Gross, and Pam Spaulding. This is the kind of thing Converge can be heavy on, and while I wouldn’t say it is useless to me at this point I don’t know what more that subject can bring to my table. And with that, the day was wrapped up.

After catching a ride with Don Lewis back to the hotel, I met up with my wife and hung out for a little bit before driving over to the Hoggards for the BBQ. In many ways, I think this event is in fact the conference and all the sessions are a formality to get us here. I talked to lots of people and had a great time as always. I met back up with Wayne Sutton, who I met last year when we were both shlepping our stuff to the same parking lot at the same time. In that year he has really stepped up his game and is doing a huge amount of interesting work. I passed out CREATE South fliers and just generally had me a big ol’ time.

After I went back to the hotel and went to bed. At 3:30 AM I woke up from a dream in which I was organizing something and everything about it was turning out to be a disaster. I felt like I was having a panic attack and couldn’t get back to sleep for a solid hour after that. After getting up and ready and checking out from the hotel I dropped my wife at Guilford College and went back to NC A&T. I got there just in time to catch the beginning of the opening session of IBC08. I sat in the front row with Wayne who was also doing a live stream of the session. Somewhere on Twitter I saw someone note with some irony that of all the various sessions and PodCamps and BarCamps happening around on Saturday, we were the only one with any sort of live stream. That settles it, Wayne does indeed rock.

I ended up skipping much of the morning to set up lunch. My original plan was to let everyone do it on their own but there just weren’t that many places around that area. I didn’t want people to have to scatter to the winds at all kinds of different schedules. Mur Lafferty was coming to give a talk at 1 PM and she didn’t have a long time she could stay past that so I made the executive decision to bring food in. I called the Hoggards about leftover food and they were willing to let us have whatever there was, but it wasn’t enough to feed the crew so I ended up order from Elizabeth’s Pizza. It was really good, and I thought everything had gone perfectly until I found out that the Hoggards never got their stuff back as the person deputized to take it and who said they would just flaked. Looks like I have to make this right.

In the afternoon, Mur gave her talk about specifics of creating community and how she does it for her podcasts and books. There was a lot of detail, which is what I was looking for. My goal was to have lots of specifics, lots of detail and as much ability to do it hands on as possible. After that, we had Jared Smith give a really detailed explanation of how he does his Charleston inclement weather casts. In fact, there is video recorded of that session. The audience loved it, and we came up with slogans for his cast. My entry was “Devastation was never so much fun” but the winner was “Jared Smith – Your Disaster Advantage!” After that Robert Scoble did a presentation on how he does his live streaming. Again, there was a focus on detail and specifics and here is the demonstration video Robert shot. It includes me being filmed for a really uncomfortably long time, but on the upside that’s a lot of face time for both me and J. R. “Bob” Dobbs.

After Robert’s session, I did a mini-tutorial on the side of the auditorium about how I do two channel recording of Skype interviews. Rather than do a big presentation, I stood with 6 or 8 people and demonstrated with my mixer, laptop and Marantz how I make this happen. Janet Edens did a session on tying together bits of social media that was a great thematic wrapup for all the things that had lead into it. I would like to say I arranged it that way, but it was more dumb luck than anything. After that, we finished with Don Lewis’ green screen session. He talked about the issues involved in setting up and lighting for such work. Vera Hannaford volunteered to take some video in front of the screen of her talking and dancing, which Don then composited over some footage of NC A&T campus that Dan Conover had previously shot. While Don did that, several of us took footage of ourselves in front of the green screen for future fiddling. I myself did a spontaneous mini-rant for the Church of the Subgenius as my alter-ego “The Wrong Reverend Stig Mathers.”

After that, it was break down time. I had to go back to Guilford College and get my wife so I had to delegate a lot of the break down and clean up of the space. I found a ride back to the hotel for Scoble, volunteers to help Don break down all his stuff, and one to return the stuff to the Hoggards. Sadly, the last part that didn’t happen. Meatloaf song “Two out of Three Ain’t Bad,” but I’m not so sure. From there, it was driving back to Conway. Driving through Rockingham and Bennetsville in the dark is kind of barren and a boring, but we made it back just fine.

Thanks to everyone who showed up at IBC 08, to Kelby Carr for organizing her half of it, to Sue Polinsky for acting as liaison with NC A&T to get the space, to A&T and particularly the facilities guys for letting us have the space and sitting there all day. Thanks to all the presenters and the supporters from a distance, to Wayne for streaming. I’d like to say “let’s do it again” but I don’t really mean that. The next conference that chooses to cancel on short notice is on its own. However, if you like anything about what we did here, then you are in the market for the next CREATE South. It will be April 2009, so come to Myrtle Beach and pass a good time with us.

Google Contacts and the G1

I have not been the slightest bit tempted by the iPhone but I’m a little interested in the idea of the G1 Android phone. Our AT&T contracts aren’t up until this spring so I’ve got lots of time to mull over the decision but I’m beginning to like the idea of it. I’ve been reading up some of the reviews of the G1 such as these from Download Squad and Engadget.

The reviews mention how easy it is to set up the phone, particularly if you are already using the Google services. I spent years resisting them because I hated to give up so much of my information to them but eventually I said “screw it” and stopped fighting. I’ve started keeping my to-do lists and scratch pads in Google docs, using Gmail for all my various accounts and so on. One of the things I did not have, though, was my address book from my MacBook in Google Contacts.

A little research showed that it is possible to sync contacts from OS X to Google. There is a catch though. It only works if you have (or have ever synced) an iPhone or iPod Touch with your computer. Luckily though, there is a workaround. If you have entries for any iPod (like I do for the Shuffle I once owned until it died) you can do a hack to make your Mac think you have an iPhone. I tried this early this evening, and then synced my Address Book to my Nokia phone with iSync. While it never showed Google as a device and gave no indication it was syncing to Google, when it was done I looked and sure enough, my contacts were up there. That’s a big win. If I do ever get an Android phone now, simply setting up my GMail should download all my phone numbers into the phone. The cost of migrating is essentially nil. Because iSync is set up, I don’t have to think about it. Whenever I sync my current cell phone, Im uploading contacts. It’s a sweet deal. Even if I never get a G1, it’s not terrible to have a backup of all that information somewhere outside the house, especially somewhere easily accessible via a kiosk or any internet device.

This may go nowhere, but I’m glad I did this.

Around the Podosphere 10/22

On Elvis Mitchell’s The Treatment from a few weeks ago, he interviewed Clark Gregg. He’s one of those character actors that I like every single time I see him on screen. I like him almost enough to watch “The New Adventures of Old Christine.” Almost. I did not know until hearing this that he wrote and directed the film adaption of Chuck Palahniuk’s novel Choke . Wow, I should try to see that in the theater before it disappears.

I spent many years as a Java developer but at this point I have not touched the language in several years. An episode of the Java Posse came down my prediction feed from AmigoFish. I listened today and quite liked it. I might just subscribe to this one permanently. They spent a lot of time talking about the Android G1 phone, and I’ll have to say that it really sounds good to me. Keeping up to date on Java may not be a bad thing. What the hell, I just subscribed.

Al Qaeda Endorses McCain

John McCain made a huge deal this spring about Hamas supporting Obama, so it’s time to play “what comes around goes around.” Today’s entrant is the fact that Al Qaeda has endorsed John McCain. Of course they would. Just like Bush/Cheney are, McCain/Palin would be partners in the terror and repression business. They need each other to provide the rationale and political cover to cow the masses. Remember this every time McCain or Palin talks about how scary Obama is. What’s that word for when you instill fear in the masses as the means to achieve your goals? It’s on the tip of my tongue …

Let’s also play “who’s the huge frigging hypocrite.” After this news came out, the McCain campaign claims this is reverse psychology to hurt McCain. Interesting how that works. According to McCain, when Hamas endorses Obama means vote for McCain and when Al Qaeda endorses him it means vote for McCain. Exactly how much of this blatant type of crap, double think and plain old fashioned lying does the public need to see from McCain? I’m really surprised the race is this close, It should be 70/30 at this point.

The Party of Lincoln

Here’s a repeat of something I said on FriendFeed today. I do not watch any of the 24 hour cable news channels and have scrupulously avoided them for several years now. However, it’s common to have them blaring in restaurants and car dealerships and such so I can’t always avoid them.

Recently in one of those situations I saw some Republican pundit on TV making the point that as the ‘party of Lincoln’ they should get more respect from black voters than the ‘segregationist Democrats.’ The point undermines itself beautifully. My first thought on hearing that was “If this guy had an example of Republicans helping black people in the last 145 years, he’d have led off with it. I’m guessing he ain’t got one.”

Normal Life

Observation: When you spend a whirlwind weekend driving out of town, attending a new media conference, organizing part of it on really really short notice, attending shindigs and basically running around like crazy, it makes it seem a little weird and immensely pleasurable to resume your normal boring life.

ConvergeSouth Gives Way to Independent Blogging Conference – Greensboro

I’m here in the ad hoc conference in Greensboro. I think the name by acclamation is “Independent Blogging Conference”, although I was having fun with the fact that we didn’t really have a name for it. I’m in the first session of the morning, and sweating the details of what we are going to do at lunchtime. I’d rather not have the group all split up so far that they don’t make it back in time for Mur’s session at 1 PM. This is where being on the hook for these things begins to wear at you. The big decisions are not really that big of a deal, it’s the flood of small details that exhaust you. All Hail Sue Polinsky for fielding all those details for us for the last 4 years at Converge South. Thank you Sue!

This Saturday after Converge South, the Day That is Not BlogHer

If you are going to Greensboro this weekend for Converge South, don’t forget that we are doing a spontaneous make up day to fill in the hole left by BlogHer when they cancelled their Saturday session. Kelby Carr has organized a morning of panels and I have disorganized an afternoon of hands-on workshops. The afternoon will have two rooms running, one focused on blogging and new media and the other on audio and video. There will be presentations in the rooms, with lots of time allowed for questions and some fiddling. Some of the sessions we have set up:

  • ~ 1 PM to 1: 30 PM – Mur Lafferty will be presenting on how to create a community with new media (Mur has to leave shortly after so if you want to see and talk to her, do it sooner rather than later)
  • Dan Conover and Janet Edens will be presenting on how to use blogs and social media to replicate some of the value of traditional media
  • Don Lewis will be presenting how to green screen compositing for video (I really wanted this one because is the session I most need personally)
  • Jared Smith will be doing a demonstration on how he does weather broadcasts via the internet from his home in Charleston
  • I’ll be doing a short practicum in how to do phone interviews via Skype in two channels for ease of editing
  • If there is something you want to learn to do in new media, come armed with your laptop and there will be someone there to teach you the basic skills.

This is being set up on the fly, and the exact timing will be fluid up until Saturday afternoon. We’ll be adding sessions and arranging things even during the Friday sessions, so it will be more like the PodCamp level. If you’ll be going to the Saturday session (and really, why wouldn’t you netizens?) come talk to me on Friday about your needs. At the BBQ on Friday I’ll probably still be wrangling sessions. We’re showing the new media agility and flexibility by arranging in real time, or just-in-time, or maybe not-quite-in-time. Regardless, come and take part. I guarantee you’ll get something out of it or triple your money back.

Myrtle Beach Comic Convention

On Halloween weekend, there will be a comic book convention in Myrtle Beach. It will be held at the Springmaid Resort which is at the very south tip of Ocean Boulevard. This location is convenient to Market Commons, Myrtle Beach State Park and all of the Ocean Boulevard attractions. If you have friends, family or loved ones that might not be into the comics, have them come down and go to the beach while you geek out.

This is the inaugural year for this convention. I might buy a VIP pass, not necessarily because I need the extra stuff but because I want to do my part to make sure there is a second and subsequent year of this convention. If you are in driving distance, please come down and tell your friends. This town has many benefits but easy availability of geeky things like comics, comic conventions and the ilk is not generally on the list. I’d love to see that change a little. I’m not sure what promotion they are doing, because if I hadn’t already known about this I’d have had no idea it was happening. Spread the word!

I’m looking forward to meeting Jonathan Hickman and buying some of his books straight from him. I like to do that to provide maximum support to the struggling artists. He lives in the area, so it is great to have a venue for him to be able to meet some local fans.

Future Shock Reminder

Don’t forget: the past that you think of as charming, when change was controllable and you understood the technology and society – that was someone else’s dystopic out of control pre-singularity future. Whenever things seem out of control now, in two generations it will be a Waltonesque time of placid ease to whatever hard-wired metal edged hard asses live then. You kids get off my cyberlawn!

Morning Stories at a Crossroads

For those of you who listen to the Morning Stories podcast from WGBH in Boston, you know that show has come to an end. The budget ran out for the program and it is no longer being produced under the aegis of WGBH. However, my friend Tony Kahn has not yet given up, and he has set up an alternative outpost for the Morning Stories body of work at his Hi Tony! site. I’m fortunate enough to be someone Tony calls for advice now and then (and the reverse as well because I am a lucky man). I gave a few suggestions on the project in general and the site in specific. Some of these have been done, some are still working.

I advised him to make the donate mechanism appear prominently on every single page. There is at this point no XML feed for new programs but that should be coming along shortly. My advice to Tony was to try to think in terms of the Doctorovian “macropayments” idea that I’ve been posting about. If you have 10,000 listeners, it would be great to get $5 or $10 a year from each of them, but it will be simpler with less wear and tear if you can find a way for 750 fans to give you $100/year, aka the Kevin Kelly “1000 true fans” thinking.

I’m glad to have any form of Morning Stories back in any fashion. Please listen and help support Tony and spread the word. He’s been a friend of podcasting since the absolute beginning, was the first public radio podcaster and used his influence at WGBH to help legitimize the intersection of radio and new media. The least we can do is help the brother out.