Nov 242009

I sometimes wake up during the night with a case of cotton-mouth, so I keep a cup of water on the nightstand beside the bed. Quite a few years ago, when I lived in Greensboro, I had a roommate who owned a restaurant. He brought home some big empty Dijon Mustard jars (probably quart jars) for making big Gin and Tonics and sitting on the porch. I used one of these as my night-time water-glass. It must have had the best silk screening in the world, as the writing was clear and bright for over 10 years of going through the dishwasher.

When I moved to Winston-Salem, then Tampa, then Dayton and back to Tampa that old jar went along with me, and was one of those little things that just made me, wherever I was, feel a little more comfortable because of its familiarity. I know it probably sounds silly, but it is these little things that make up the fabric of our lives…each single little strand.

Throughout life we loose strands of that cloth, but we’re forever weaving in more strands. Such was the case with that jar when I rolled over one night, flipped the pillow around, and knocked the jar to the floor and it finally broke. Just one of those little strands finally wearing out and reaching the end of its life as part of my cloth.

Carl Kasell (2004 NPR/Anthony Nagleman)

But a bigger and more important strand is leaving. Carl Kasell is retiring from NPR as the Morning Edition news anchor after holding the job for 30 years since the inception of the program. I have never had the pleasure of meeting Carl Kasell, and I don’t think I’d ever seen a picture of him until his retirement was announced this week, but I knew that voice as well as that of my best friends.

I discovered Public Radio right after moving to Greensboro. I knew of it, and occasionally listened to classical music, but really didn’t find their whole range of programs until about 25 years ago. Since then hardly a day goes by that I don’t wake to Morning Edition (or Weekend Edition), and I have always had a radio in the bathroom to listen as I get ready for the day.

So Carl doesn’t know me, and there’s not a lot I know about him, but his voice is that of a friend. Something I’ve heard most every weekday morning for the past 25 years. It’s always been a pleasant, calm, but authoritative voice, and has brought the stories of life both great and small. After 30 years of having to get up at 2:00 or 3:00 every morning, and at age 75, I think Carl has earned his retirement. The generous part of me wishes him the very best and thanks him for his many years of keeping me company wherever life took me, but the selfish part of me will miss the constancy of that familiar voice starting my day.

Jul 182009

Despite his having been out of the public eye for so long, it’s sad to know that Walter Cronkite, who died yesterday at the age of 92, is no longer there, in the background, keeping alive that last vestige of the true TV journalist. I’m old enough to remember Cronkite, and all the memorable events he reported. In fact, I was planning on writing a recollection of the Apollo 11 landing this weekend.

I know Cronkite would never think of himself as a celebrity, and somehow I think we managed to avoid thinking of him that way. We all certainly held him in the highest regard, and I know I had great respect for the man. I think I would like to have known him personally. Despite all that, I think we thought of him as a hardworking journalist, not an over-paid blow hard pundit with a seat behind a news desk.

YouTube Preview Image

I do remember clearly his reporting on the space program. You seemed to know that, while reporting as dispassionately as possible, that he shared the enthusiasm we all felt. And when he had to report the tragedies of the assanation of Kennedy and Dr. King, he portrayed the grief of the entire nation with great dignity and compassion.

YouTube Preview Image

Cronkite rarely interjected his own feelings into news reporting, so on those rare times when he presented his opinion in a commentary, the whole country listened, and we listened with deference. Cronkite also knew that “fair” didn’t mean you presented two sides of an issue, when one side was simply wrong. He reported on science, but would have never argued that creationists should get equal time, just because they disagreed with every other scientist. Today’s 24 hour news pundits can’t seem to offer anything other than their own opinions, and we are much worse for no longer having  TV journalists of the Cronkite type.

I especially remember his last broadcast. It was on March 6, 1981 and was in my last year at ASU. I happened to be heading home weekend, and my friend Michael Lackey was hitching a ride with me. We stopped off at a bar in Blowing Rock (the only place to get beer at the time), and watched that last broadcast over a few beers and a sandwich. All the way, we could only talk about what a class act he was.

I also remember a Johnny Carson shortly after that when Carson portrayed Cronkite saying all the things he really wanted to say on that last broadcast. I was rolling in the floor laughing. Thank heavens for YouTube because I can share that with you.

YouTube Preview Image
Nov 092007

Another Grow House in Polk
It seems this was attacked by three people when he stepped outside of his garage. The three men went the man’s house and attempted to steal some plants he had growing inside. Vigilant neighbors had called police about a disturbance. The cops arrived and arrested the three burglars, and of course the homeowner for his little home-based business.

Man Shoots Himself-Blames
A 19 year old Palmetto showed up at the hospital with a gunshot wound to the leg. When the police showed up, he first stated he’d been shot by a Latino street gang. Antwon Stuckey later changed his story admitting he accidentally shot himself. Seems he was on probation, so being in possession of a gun was the best thing for him to be doing.

Rapper Hides in Ladies Room – Tampa Bay Times
A local rapper, Black Rain, who does a song called “Gun Shine State” ran to the ladies restroom in a club in which he was performing last week when someone fired a shot. After determining he couldn’t fit through the bathroom window, he waited a while, then slipped out after everyone had left.

It’s Me, It’s Me, It’s Ernest
Like the character Ernest T. Bass on the old Andy Griffith show, Joseph David Steele of Tampa violated a restraining order obtained by a neighbor, threw bricks through her windows, kicked in her door, and shoved her. He was arrested on a violation of the order, but I’m sure will be back on the streets in no time. Unfortunately, Ernest T. was pretty harmless, this guy probably isn’t.

Nov 052007

Well, by now most of you have heard the story of the fake FEMA press conference. Apparently, a couple of weeks ago during the height of the California wildfires, Deputy Secretary, Vice Adm. Harvey E. Johnson, was asked questions by other FEMA employees posing as reporters. Real reporters were notified of the conference only 15 minutes before it started, and were only allowed to listen via a listen-only conference line.

DHS Secretary Chertoff has been acting all miffed and indignant, but my guess is he’s only upset because they got caught. Come on…this is an administration that has regularly provided fake news to the American public, so why not take  it to it’s logical conclusion and just have fake news conferences. I mean just invite Faux News, and you’ve got it made.

As John Stewart put it, “Sir, I have a question…How great has been FEMA’s response to the wildfires? And one quick followup…can I have a raise?”

snowflake snowflake snowflake snowflake snowflake snowflake snowflake snowflake snowflake snowflake snowflake snowflake