Tuesday, December 28, 2010

'Disneyland Dream' lives on

I had never heard of Robbins Barstow until Frank Rich wrote about him in his New York Times column this week.

And Rich admitted that he had never heard of him until he came across Barstow's obituary in the Times last month.

Barstow is noteworthy because of a home movie -- "Disneyland Dream" -- he made in 1956. He and his family entered a Scotch brand cellophane tape contest that promised winners a trip to Disneyland, which had opened to great fanfare in Anaheim, Calif., the year before.

According to The Times, little 4-year-old Dan Barstow submitted a winning entry: “I like ‘Scotch’ brand cellophane tape because when some things tear then I can just use it.”

For most Americans -- and I would think especially those who lived east of the Mississippi -- a trip to Disneyland was out of the question. In 1956 one-income American families were chasing the dream of home ownership first and amenities second.


"When the ship comes in," my mother would say in answer to her children's verbalized wants. (I was never sure whether the ship was in the middle of Lake Erie or the Indian Ocean.)

Barstow, who with his family resided in Connecticut, saw the contest as an opportunity to deliver the Disneyland Dream and his movie chronicling the process and subsequent trip was admitted to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress just two years ago.

It captures the spirit of "Ozzie and Harriet," "Happy Days" and "Father Knows Best" and, well, you get the idea.

"Disneyland Dream" might seem rather dorky to Generations X and Y but for us Baby Boomers it epitomizes the Davy Crockett period of our youth.

(The Barstow family sports Davy Crockett coonskin hats and jackets during their trip. Full disclosure: I had a Davy Crockett coonskin cap and my own Davy Crockett dinner plate.)

Rich's essay asks if the Disneyland Dream is dead. I don't know about that. Maybe it is. Maybe we killed it willingly. Let that debate carry on elsewhere.

I think "Disneyland Dream" is worth watching if for no other reason than to really feel America the way it was. According to The Times, the Library of Congress called the Barstow film “a priceless and authentic record of time and place.”

Thanks belatedly, Robbins Barstow, for sharing.

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Don't forget: You can find me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter (cappy1898).

Monday, December 20, 2010

What about those annoying online comments?

Got this e-mail from Scott Robinson, director of the Tuscarawas County United Way and longtime broadcaster:

"Would love to hear your take on the new (T-R online commenting) policy? How does it take a signature to get a letter to the editor published but people can hide behind a nickname of their choosing while trashing people, organizations, etc. all with no consequences. I'm all for the first amendment. Just make people use their real name. Can it get any simpler than that?"

Suffice it to say that allowing anonymous comments on published stories and commentaries is the bane of news sites everywhere. Simply put, they're a pain in the ass.

Still, they help drive traffic to a content provider's site and to not allow them probably would have a terribly negative impact on the number of page views, etc. So, they are a necessary evil, I guess.

Requiring commentators to sign their real names seems simple enough, but verification is nearly impossible and therein lies the problem. When the T-R first began taking e-mail comments from readers we required real names. But it didn't take long before an imposter, who sent a seemingly innocent e-mail for publication under someone else's name, forced us to dump the idea.

When we started "30 Seconds" back in 1991 or 1992, we knew that careful editing of the called-in comments was a key to its success. Certainly there were comments that slipped through the cracks, but for the most part, the vitriol so apparent today online never marked "30 Seconds."

So, the problem, I think, lies in the editing process. Most online content providers allow a free-for-all on their sites by online commentators. The really bad ones aren't stricken from the record until after they are posted.

And the T-R is not the only violator -- so are most other sites.

Connie Schultz, the Plain Dealer's award-winning columnist, takes heat from online commentators even when she's writing about something as innocuous as "Why the food bank needs our help."

As she notes in the comment section, "A number of comments were removed because they had nothing to do with the topic. Hunger is a nonpartisan issue, so please let's keep it that way in today's online discussion. This is not the forum to attack various politicians, or one another, in the comments."

Perhaps the key for news sites is to follow the New York Times' lead. The Times reviews every online comment BEFORE they are posted and then singles out -- highlights -- the more thoughtful posts. And the English language is not damaged in the process.

But that would require, of course, additional staffing, which most online sites, especially those whose core business is putting ink on paper, are not willing to do.

And on the T-R site, there is a least one online commentator who uses his real name. But that fact doesn't necessarily guarantee thoughtful and insightful commentary. Under a discussion of calamity days, he concluded that they are "nothing more than unscheduled paid vacation days for teachers."

Intolerant for sure and wrong to boot.

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Please feel free to leave comments on my Facebook page. I know the commenting process on the blog can be tedious.

And, isn't it rather ironic that the immensely popular Facebook wouldn't work if people didn't use their real names?

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It's going to get hectic here momentarily. So, before I forget, merry Christmas.

Monday, December 13, 2010

By golly, Sarah and Kate go camping

Given the vast wasteland of what is Sunday night television programming, the fact that I was footballed out, and that I am a curious sort, I tuned into "Sarah Palin's Alaska" to see what the noise was all about.

I was not disappointed. Well, not much anyway.

Sunday night's episode featured Palin hosting Kate Gosselin and her tribe of eight little ones for a little camping in the wilderness. Both women are reality TV stars who work for The Learning Channel, which used to feature educational programming. Apparently, the only thing it teaches now is narcissism.

But I'll admit I learned a few things.

-- Sarah Palin, dressed in a camouflage, truly is a frontier woman. She'll shoot a bear between the eyes to protect her family, something those of us in "the lower 48" apparently don't get. Sarah also kind of likes the smell of gunpowder. She designated herself camp protector. Todd, who spent most of the show fishing, was showing absolutely no interest in interacting with the reality stars. Can't blame him.

-- Palin really does have an annoying voice. Fingernails on a chalkboard.

-- Sarah, however, seems more likable than Gosselin, who did nothing but complain about camping in a cold rain on an isolated sandbar in the wilderness with bears lurking everywhere.

OK, "bitch" is probably a better word than "complain."

Kate's kids, on the other hand, seemed to enjoy camping and eating s'mores and throwing wood on the fire. (Full disclosure: I hate s'mores.)

No, matter.

Kate, who had had enough of the Palins and their darn outdoorsyness, asked her children if they wanted to be Palins or Gosselins -- they knew they had to pick the latter -- and then herded them off to a rescue boat or plane or something to get away from that horrible place so apparently they could check into a Holiday Inn Express in Wasilla. Kate was not about to sleep in bear-infested wilderness and I don't blame her. It didn't look fun to me either.

What, expect Yogi at 3 a.m.? It would be my luck that I would be ... never mind.

Conclusion: It's OK that Sarah Palin quit the governor's job to make some money -- a lot of money. But she doesn't have any more business seeking the nation's most important job than does Kate Gosselin. Oh gosh, by golly, gee, keep your day job, Sarah. It becomes you.

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Ohio's new Republican Gov. John Kasich will deliver at least one thing when he takes office next month -- news.

I like that.

Already he has put the kibosh on the proposed high-speed passenger train that would connect Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati and points in between. Big waste of money, he said. And with that, Ohio forfeited its share of simulus money that would have helped get the project going.

Seriously, he's probably right on that. I did an informal poll of Clevelanders not too long ago and asked them if they'd consider taking a train to Cincinnati. Got a lot of smiles with that one.

Clevelanders generally don't go to Cincinnati and vice versa unless there are relatives involved. And Columbus by car is only two hours away from Cleveland.

High-speed trains elsewhere in the country seem to make more sense especially in those congested cities along the eastern seaboard. A high-speed train linking Chicago and other Midwestern cities also has possibilities.

With the rail project apparently a dead issue, Kasich and friends are questioning other government givens such as the 1983 law that allows public safety forces unions to ask for arbitrators in the wake of a contract impasse.

While the law forbids safety forces from striking, it allows a third party to call the shots in a labor dispute, potentially costing taxpayers thousands (millions?) of dollars above and beyond what the municipality can afford. Or should afford.

The Columbus Dispatch offered background on the issue in a story published Monday, Dec. 13. You can read it here.

Here's a prediction. By Jan. 31, John Kasich will have just about everyone in this state fired up about something. And a few months later, we'll have a pretty good clue whether his thinking was right on the money, or seriously flawed.

One way or another, he'll be making news.

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Clearly my use of Facebook to announce new posts is working. Readership of this blog continues to grow to about 300 page views a week.

That's why I'm now adding Twitter to the mix. You can follow me -- cappy1898 -- and I'll tweet when I've posted something new.

Yes, I'll be tweeting.


For God's sake.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Stop the outrage, Dems -- you lost

UPDATE, Friday, Dec. 10 -- Outgoing U.S. Rep. Zack Space said today he supports the Obama compromise.

"I agree with Dick's blog," he said. "(Obama's) not just steering toward the middle but he's exhibiting a much needed willingness to work across the aisle. Added benefit: he openly proclaims his independence from liberal extremists -- something he has to do to have any chance in 2012."

Earlier post below

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Congressional Democrats, and I'm including our own U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown in this group, continue to amaze me.

The liberal Democratic agenda was trounced in the election last month and so it's the Republicans' turn to call the shots. That's what prompted President Obama to quickly compromise with the GOP, obtaining a deal which will keep the Bush tax cuts across the board for another two years and at the same time extend unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed.

Obama is being pragmatic. He knows that Republicans won't do a deal without the across-the-board tax cut extension. Should the rich be taxed more? I suppose. Warren Buffet thinks so. But let's argue about it another day as we try to get this economy going again.

As Obama pointed out, large portions of the middle class will benefit from the compromise. And if the Democrats stand in the way of that compromise, they will be hurting those whom they claim to serve.

I hope outgoing U.S. Rep. Zack Space offers support for the Obama compromise. I will update this post when I learn of his intentions.

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I was in the Post Office when a clerk asked a woman how she was doing with her packages.

"First-time military mom," the woman replied. Her statement required no explanation.

This is a tough month for mothers (and fathers) whose adult sons and daughters are serving our country in places far from home.

First-Time Military Mom did a nice job putting the season in perspective for me. Good luck to her.

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I've been asked by any number of people about certain aspects of Kent State-Tuscarawas' new Performing Arts Center. I'll answer as best as I can.

Q. How did the bat get in there and is it still there?

A. The bat got in there apparently during an equipment move-in or move-out. Attempts were made to catch the bat, but to no avail. It has not been seen recently so there is a belief that maybe the bat flew the coop, so to speak. The bat did not have a negative impact on anyone's viewing experience, so I'm left to conclude that it was a bat out of heaven rather than that other place.

Q. How does a theater troupe like the “Cats” troupe travel to the show? By bus? Or do they find their own way?

A. The "Cats" troupe arrived in New Philadelphia on three buses. The "roadies" and equipment were delivered by four tractor-trailer rigs. Equipment was unloaded beginning at 7 a.m. on the day of the performance with the help of some 50 people provided by the theater. By late afternoon the stage was set and the actors went through their rehearsals.
Q. Where was the orchestra during the “Cats” show?

A. Orchestra members were off-stage and took their cues from high tech monitors. Neat, eh?

The Peforming Arts Center at Kent State-Tuscarawas

Q. Has anyone figured the local economic impact of a “Cats”-like performance in Tuscarawas County?

A. The "Cats" troupe booked scores of local hotel rooms. Theater patrons are packing area restaurants before the performances. Over the course of the year, the PAC arguably could generate tens of thousands (millions?) of dollars in revenue for the community.

Q. How does pricing work? Do shows come with a set price and then ticket prices figured so as to provide the PAC with enough operating revenue? What say does the performer have regarding the setting of ticket prices?

A. Suffice it to say that setting ticket prices is a very complicated process. Setting up for the one-man Jim Brickman show is less expensive than having to unload four tractor trailers for "Cats." Remember, the theater has to be self-sustaining. But, yes, shows come with a price tag and related expenses. It's all factored in.

Q. What’s the reaction from performers about the new PAC? About the audiences? Different from big cities? Any artists want to return?

A. The simple answer is that, yes, the theater, the audiences and so on passed the professional test. PAC management will have to determine what artists/shows have the power to replicate the interest of the first time around -- so many things to consider. It's safe to say that PAC management already is working on the 2011-2012 season.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Obituaries a victim of newspaper contraction?

As newspapers shrink newsroom staffs, consolidate operations and move obituary collection to third-party online sites, the issue certainly can be raised that perhaps the art of obituary writing is yet a dying sub-section of journalism.

When I first entered the field at the age of 22, the Obituary page was there for older folks. I'm older folk now. I get it.

Flashback 10 years ago: Funeral home director calls local newspaper to report a prominent death in the community. Local news person responds that he/she is certain newspaper files have plenty of information of decedent and will compose a worthy obituary. Family is relieved and proud, community is informed and funeral director is happy.

Today: Funeral home calls local newspaper, but gets obit desk in out-of-town city.

"Who?" replies obit desk person. "Who?"

There are many aspects of the business that newspapers really had no control over. How do you fight free online classified ads on craigslist? Or the move to shopping for real estate, automobiles and even groceries online? And how do you sell a TV book that people under the age of 60 don't need anymore?

People still turn to newspapers for obituaries. But in their effort to save money (make money?), newspapers seem to be relinquishing that role as well.

I defer now to James Naughton, an outstanding journalist who served as a reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer and later as editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer. He wrote a piece for obit-mag.com that underscores the issue -- A Death Notice for Obituaries.

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Two of my sources for this blog are Harry Liggett's BJ Alums blog and the PD Alumni News blog. Harry cut his teeth at the old Evening Chronicle in Uhrichsville and moved on to the Akron Beacon Journal, where he spent the rest of his career.

With a nod to both of those blogs, we've created a T-R Alums blog. We suspect that there are lot of T-R alums who don't know the blog exists. If you or someone you know worked at The T-R at some point, please accept our invitation to participate or pass the word along. Thanks.

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The flu bug, starting with the twins, infected their father and both grandfathers, but somehow avoided bothering the girls.

How do you figure that?

Anyway, it was ugly and kept me from caring about this blog until today.

And by the way, did you notice there are no LeBron links?

In case you forgot, here's what LeBron said during the post-game interview:

"Seven great years loved every part, loved every moment, from the growth when I was an 18-year old kid to a 25-year old man. We tried our best as a team to bring a championship to this city and just try to play hard every night. I got the up most respect for this franchise, the up most respect for these fans and you know just continue the greatness for myself here in Miami and try to get better every day."


Good grief. Cure cancer, LeBron. At least win something. Then we'll talk about your greatness. Dip.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Mid-week update (3)

OK, here's one last LeBron link and then I'm retiring from my role as his aggregator.

I'm done. Finished. No more caring about James, or his buddies in Miami or Cleveland.

Take away the fans and what you had at the Q last night was a lovefest, not a basketball game. I thought teams were supposed to go at each other, not kiss and hug and sing "Kumbaya."

The Cavs looked like they were coached by the laugh-out-loud Derek Anderson. What, me care?

No "I" in "team"? For goodness sakes, it's all about the "I."

And the players don't seem to get the fans.

But we get them.

You had us for a moment, Cavs. And now you don't.

On to more important things...

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Mid-week update (2)

Andrew Wright, editor of the sports website, SB Nation.com, perhaps offered the best summation of what has transpired since what's-his-name took his talents to South Beach.

In an opinion piece, Wright argues that LeBron James, not Drew Brees, ought to be the Sportsman of the Year 2010.

He wrote: "So as you think about the Sportsman of 2010, ask yourself: Who has given us more to cheer about than LeBron James? Yeah, Drew Brees may have united a fallen city. But LeBron, by abandoning a fallen city of his own, united the whole goddamn country.

"Whose 2010 will you remember more?"

Good point.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Mid-week update

In my job as aggregator of LeBron James-related stories, I would be remiss if I didn't give you the link to the terrific story -- "Believeland" -- by ESPN.com's Wright Thompson. It's a long read, so give yourself some time to digest.

Thompson takes a deep look into why Clevelanders hurt so much in the wake of  "The Decision" by "The Player Who Left."

And it's the kind of story only an outsider could write. Excellent piece of journalism.

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I have no insight into why Jill McCartney was fired as director of the Tuscarawas County Chamber of Commerce.

Jill was/is a prolific Facebook poster and has more than 1,000 "friends." Many of those "friends" offered her support and encouragement in the wake of her job loss. Nice of them.

I suspect she will find out that some of the "friends" she thought were "friends" when she held the Chamber post won't be such good "friends" now. I'm quoting the word "friends" because I'm referring to the Facebook version of such, which is a somewhat phony representation of what a friend should be.

It's been my experience that you have Facebook-type "friends," which can number in the hundreds and, I guess, even thousands, and you can have real friends, which you can count on a couple of hands.

Jill's no dummy. I bet she's already figured this out, based on who did and who didn't respond to her post that she had joined the ranks of the unemployed.

Anyway, good luck to Jill. And good luck to the Chamber.