Twitter Responses are the New Autograph (All media are social)

We all have our moments that David Letterman called a “brush with greatness,” moments where our lives intersect with someone famous. In the past, when you met a movie star, musician or famous author, you might ask for an autograph.  Today, the memento of choice is often a selfie.  But to me, one of the ultimate souveniers is a Twitter response from someone of note.

I’ve gotten tweets from a wide range of people over the years, including noted Jesuit priest Fr. James Martin, musician Neil Finn, and conservative commentator Erick Erickson.  But there are several that stand out to me:

Back in 2012, when I finally saw Brad Bird’s under-appreciated film The Iron Giant for the first time on DVD, I tweeted out a comment asking how had I missed it? That drew a response from the director:

In the spring of 2016 my dear wife and I traveled to Omaha to see the Alien/Aliens double-feature at the Alamo Drafthouse theater. (If you have a Drafthouse near you, they are great theaters with fantastic programs and good food.)  I saw that Carrie Henn, the actress who played the brave and charming little girl Newt in Aliens, was on Twitter doing promotion for the movie’s re-release. (Ms. Henn only made that one movie and grew up to be an elementary school teacher.)  Again, I was thrilled when my comment drew a response:

But just to show that my geekdom is not limited to science fiction movies, lately I’ve been watching PBS documentaries on NASA’s planetary space probes, including the Voyagers that went to the outer planets, the recently completed Cassini probe to Saturn, and the New Horizons visit to Pluto.

Astronomer Mike Brown was featured in the Nova program “Chasing Pluto” as the astronomer who was largely responsible for demoting Pluto from being a planet to being a dwarf planet. (He goes by the Twitter handle @PlutoKiller and is the author of the book How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming.)

I was introduced to Brown and his work with an article from The New Yorker published back in July of 2006,  where I first saw the argument that Pluto shouldn’t be considered a full-fledged planet.  I clearly remembered Brown’s big quote from it:

“I’m perfectly willing to have eight or ten planets,” Brown says. “Nine would bug the bejezus out of me.”

Although Brown is in his early 50s, he has a boyish face, and it struck me that he looked like he was barely out of his 20s in the Nova program.  So I sent out the following tweet and was delighted morning to get the following reply…

All of these serve as great examples of the new Secret 5 – All media are social. It’s not just that I’m using Twitter to talk with people who are a big deal, it’s that our consumption of media leads us into wanting to interact with others about what we’ve learned.  This was true when people wanted to get their movie magazines autographed in the 1940s, when young people discovered the Beatles back in the 1960s, and when we engage in geek culture in the 2010s.



Posted in Chapter 1, Chapter 10, Chapter 5, Chapter 8, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Questions Worth Asking (Maybe)

Posted in Chapter 13, Chapter 6, Chapter 8 | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Looking back 10 years to the original iPhone’s introduction

Today Apple is introducing their 10th anniversary iPhone along with other new products and upgrades. Here’s what I had to say ten years ago when Apple announced the iPhone.  How’s it hold up?  (For the record, it took me almost 5 years for me to actually get an iPhone.  But this was more an issue of waiting for Verizon to get the iPhone than anything else. I currently had an iPhone SE, which has relatively modern guts but the same form as the iPhone 5.)

Also, this original post is 10 years old; no idea how many of the links still work.

Original iPhone

The original iPhone from 10 years ago.

Apple announced it’s new iPhone on Wednesday, and in typical Apple fashion it is absolutely too cool for words. As the NYT’s David Pogue puts it, the iPhone is “not so much a smartphone as something out of Minority Report.”

In typical Apple fashion, the iPhone is already becoming a pop culture icon, just the way the iMac and iPod did before it.

In typical Apple fashion, the iPhone is redefining what we think a cell phone should be able to do. It’s not enough for it to have a lame “mobile” browser. It’s got to have a fully functional standard browser. It’s not enough for it to have voice mail, it’s got to have a voice mail system that looks just like E-mail. It’s not enough to be able to show movies, it’s got to have widescreen video. It needs to be smart enough to turn off the power hungry screen when you put it up to your face to talk.

In typical Apple fashion, it’s somewhat ahead of its time (and I don’t mean this in a good way), so everyone who doesn’t have to instantly have one would do well to wait for the second generation.

In typical Apple fashion, it has a my-way-or-the-highway idiosyncratic interface that says however Steve Jobs think you should use it is the only way you should use it because he’s cooler than you are.

In typical Apple fashion, the company neglected to clear all its trademark issues in advance, but instead just assumes that “Hey, we’re Apple, and we’ll clear up all our problems because we’re too cool not to have what we want.”

In short, it is a typical, mind blowing, infuriating Apple product. I’m glad I’ve got a new PDA that I won’t be ready to replace for a couple of years, which gives the technology the time to catch up to Apple’s brilliant vision.

BTW, Apple is no longer Apple Computer. Just Apple.

And here’s a followup post from the next day with some reader reaction to the item.

So what do you think about this, or the iPhone in general ten years later?  Post it in the comments!

Posted in Chapter 10 | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Images of the Twin Towers in Cinema

Reposted from Sept. 11, 2011.

Twin Towers in movies

Before 9/11, the silhouette of the twin towers of the World Trade Center were one of the quickest ways movie makers had of establishing that we were looking at the NYC skyline.  Here’s a beautiful collection of WTC skylines edited by Dan Meth from more than 30 years of the movies that I found on Mediaite.

Twin Tower Cameos from Dan Meth on Vimeo.


Posted in Chapter 8 | Tagged , | Leave a comment

A Motorcycle Ride to the United 93 Memorial on a Rainy Summer Day

This has nothing to do with the media. It’s a brief story about a ride I took on my motorcycle to the United 93 Memorial on a rainy June day back in 2004. It was written shortly after I had recovered from a fairly serious illness, and I was happy just to be back on the road. I’ve taken to posting every year on 9/11.

Me and my old KLRTook a short ride last Saturday. The distance wasn’t much, under 200 miles, but I went through two centuries of time, ideas, and food. Which felt really good after having been ill for the last month-and-a-half.

Headed out of Morgantown about 7:30 a.m. on I68. Stopped at Penn Alps for breakfast. Nice thing about being on insulin is that I can include a few more carbs in my diet these days. Pancakes, yum! (Penn Alps, if you don’t know, runs a great Pennsylvania Dutch breakfast buffet on weekends that is well worth riding to. Just outside of Grantsville, MD.)

Then off on the real purpose of the trip. Up US 219 toward the Flight 93 Sept. 11 memorial. The ride up north on 219 is beautiful; I’ve ridden it before. I always like when you come around the bend and see the turbines for the wind farm. Some people see them as an eye sore; for me they’re a potential energy solution and a dramatic sight. Chalk one up for industrial can be beautiful.

Continue on up to Berlin, PA, where I take off on PA 160 into Pennsylvania Dutch country. I start seeing hex signs painted on bright red barns, or even hung as a wooden sign. Not quite cool enough to put on my electric vest, but certainly not warm. Then it’s heading back west on a county/state road of indeterminate designation.

Now I’m into even more “old country” country. There’s a horse-and-buggy caution sign. Off to the left there’s a big farmstead with long dark-colored dresses hanging from the line, drying in the air. They may not stay dry, based on what the clouds look like.

The irony of this ride hits pretty hard. I’m on my way to a memorial of the violence and hatred of the first shot of the 21st century world war, and I’m traveling through country that is taking me further and further back into the pacifist world of the 19th century Amish and Mennonites.

A turn or two more, following the map from the National Parks web site, and I’m on a badly scared, narrow road that is no wider and not in as good of shape as the local rail trail. (Reminds me why I like my KLR!)

It’s only here that I see the first sign for the memorial. No one can accuse the locals of playing up the nearby memorial. Perhaps more flags and patriotic lawn ornaments than usual, but no strident statements. And then the memorial is off a half-mile ahead.

The crash site is to the south, surrounded by chain-link fencing. No one but families of the victims are allowed in that area. Off a small parking area is the temporary memorial, in place until the National Park Service can build the permanent site. There’s a 40-foot long chain-link wall where people have posted remembrences, plaques on the ground ranging from hand-painted signs on sandstone, to an elaborately etched sign on granite from a motorcycle group. The granite memorial is surrounded by motorcycle images.

The messages are mostly lonely or affirming. Statements of loss, statements of praise for the heroism of the passengers and crew. But not statements of hatred. It reminds me in many ways of the Storm King Mountain firefighter memorial. Not the formal one in Glenwood Springs, but the individual ones out on the mountain where more than a dozen wildland firefighters died several years ago.

It’s time to head home. When I go to join up with US 30, it’s starting to spit rain, so I pull out the rain gloves, button down the jacket, and prepare for heading home. It rains almost the whole way back PA 281, but I stay mostly dry in my Darien. The only problem is the collar of my too-big jacket won’t close far enough, and water dribbles down inside. It reminds me that riding in the rain, if it isn’t coming down too hard, can be almost pleasant, isolated away inside a nylon and fiberglass cocoon.

I’m home before 1 p.m.. I’ve ridden less than 200 miles. But I’ve ridden through a couple of centuries of people’s thoughts, actions, and food. And I’m finally back on the bike.

Posted in Motorcycling, Travel | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

UPDATED – Media Stories From Hurricane Harvey

Getting news out from Hurricane is a massive effort.  Here are a few stories about those struggles:

  • UPDATE – How Houston Chronicle is covering home-town flooding / Why Local News Matters
  • News can arrive through mobile phone video transmitted over network television.
    Phones can go where TV cameras can’t.
  • Reporters don’t check their humanity at the door when they are covering stories. They can’t help becoming part of the story



Posted in Chapter 6, Chapter 9 | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

“Let Freedom Ring…” ‘I have a dream’ speech was 54 years ago today

“And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

Posted in Chapter 12, Chapter 6 | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

It’s not a surprise when Trump reverts to form (or any politician for that matter)

A tweetstorm I sent out this morning in reaction to an NPR podcast. Please note that this is a rant on how we cover politicians, not about the president in particular.

But today was a bit disappointed. Ran decent story about Trump rally in Arizona. /2
8/23/17, 8:50 AM
Reporter expressed surprise that @realDonaldTrump pivoted back from “serious rhetoric of Monday’s speech to rambling campaign rhetoric. /3
8/23/17, 8:51 AM
How on earth can Trump reverting to crowd-pleasing off-script speech be a surprise? /4
8/23/17, 8:52 AM
Trump can present a speech written for him in a serious tone. Shown this on several occasions. This is not new nor news. /5
8/23/17, 8:54 AM
But neither is the fact that he returns to his campaign-style speech patterns afterwards. This is absolutely predictable. Not a surprise/6
8/23/17, 8:55 AM
Reporters – The best indication of what a politician will do in the future is what he/she has done in the past. /7
8/23/17, 8:57 AM
Politicians reverting to form is not a surprise. It is expected. /8
8/23/17, 8:57 AM
Hey, @UpFirst, I love you guys. And I realize I’m making a big deal out of something small. But this actually is important. /9
8/23/17, 8:59 AM
No matter how you feel about @realDonaldTrump, he is who he is. And when he reverts to form, it is not a surprise. /fin
8/23/17, 9:00 AM
Posted in Chapter 6 | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

When Nature Puts On The Really Big Show – Total Eclipse on the Prairie

Total eclipse of the sun this afternoon in Kearney, Nebraska.

Total eclipse of the sun this afternoon in Kearney, Nebraska.

The total eclipse of the sun in Kearney, Nebraska this afternoon was absolutely stunning.

You could see hundreds of copies of the eclipse courtesy of the pinholes in the tree leaves on campus.

You didn’t need any fancy equipment to see the images. Just look down and see the pinhole images provided by the trees.

Panoramic photo of crowd for the eclipse today on the University of Nebraska at Kearney campus.

Lots of high school and college students showed up, as did people from the community.

Lots of work by volunteers and catering staff to get that many people fed!

The university had plenty of people to give tours on campus, so I spent my non-watching time working on getting hot dogs into buns and wrapped in foil, ready to serve.

Your author at the eclipse.

Twenty minutes and 17 seconds to totality.

What a great day for our community and university.  We had thousands of guests on campus today.  Making the Great American Eclipse Watch Party work properly on campus took a huge effort by staff, faculty and volunteers.  Thanks to everyone who helped make it happen.Hope everyone else had as much fun as I did.

And one final note….

There’s been lots of talk lately about what makes science be science.  That discussion goes way beyond the competency of this blog, but I would note that one big thing science can do is make predictions of what will happen.  And we can judge the quality of the science by the accuracy of the prediction.  Here’s a tweet from historian Michael Beschloss highlighting an article from the New York Times in 1932 that mentioned today’s eclipse:

Posted in Chapter 6 | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The story of stolpersteine lives on

Last week I finally got to writing a blog post I got the idea for back in January from a series of e-mails I exchanged with my archaeology professor Dr. David Gradwohl.  The post looked at the ongoing story about Anne Frank, recent archaeological research in Poland, and the stolpersteine (or stumbling stone) memorials to those murdered during the holocaust.

Then this morning a Facebook post from Prof. Bonnie Stewart at Cal State – Fullerton gave me my second look at these stolpersteine in less than a week.  The story from NPR’s Code Switch blog looks at how last week’s white nationalist/ne0-nazi protests in Charlottesville, VA looked to someone currently living in Berlin.

NPR reporter Maggie Penman writes that Germany has managed to find a way to both remember Germany’s role in World War II without seeking to glorify its Nazi past:

Often the argument for preserving Confederate statues and allowing Confederate flags is that we should not forget our history. In Germany, Nazi buildings are extremely hard to come by — nearly all have been destroyed. Yet Germany certainly has not forgotten anything: There’s just a recognition that remembering and memorializing are two different things.

Posted in Chapter 4, Chapter 6 | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment