Sunday, February 05, 2017

A Better Seat Than the 50 Yard Line: Football meets the video age



When ABC first broadcast Monday Night Football on September 21, 1970 with a contest between the home team Cleveland Browns and the defending champion New York Jets, it caused a sensation. For the first time, Americans could watch their favorite television sport right in prime time.  ABC's gamble paid off with consistently high ratings and by changing the nature of televised sports. With sports no longer tied to the "weekend ghetto," Monday Night Football paved the way for twenty-four hours of sport in our homes.

Or did it? In the dim, barely charted (let alone rated) days of early TV, the days of the 5" large screen TV's, the days before TV Guide, and even the days before Uncle Miltie, professional football was crashing its way into the homes of, not millions -- yet, but thousands of homes.

The early days of TV were truly a wasteland: broadcast "days" were often only a few hours long with much of the time filled with test patterns (thousands of people actually "watched" these on a regular basis both because of the novelty of an images from miles away being beamed into their homes and the commercial-less music which accompanied them).

It wasn't long, though, till television, realizing it was a visual medium, found sports -- a spectator event. And what better spectator event than football? As early as the fall of 1945, the fledgling NBC television network (actually a single station in New York City) broadcast the Army-Columbia University game. The next year when CBS took Columbia's home games, NBC began to carry the Naval Academy's games.

But what about pro-ball? Hadn't the NFL been around since 1933? With TV limited to a few big cities (New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. -- just think, Los Angeles without TV!) the league was afraid of losing attendance in those major cities (no one had thought of the home team blackout yet) and wanted nothing to do with the new-fangled business.

Luckily for TV viewers (whose numbers were increasing daily) there was another pro game in town. Competing with the NFL in those days was the All-America Football Conference which was willing to gamble its gate receipts for the exposure TV would give it.

Would ABC take the challenge? NBC? CBS? Which of the big three would make history? Well, none of them. In that primordial past, the dream of a fourth network was a reality in the form of the DuMont Network (which when disbanded in the fifties became Metromedia which in turn was disbanded recently to become part of Rupert Murdoch's media empire and a fourth network once again in the form of the Fox Network!).

Though not on ABC and not on Monday night (the game was on Saturday, September 14, 1946, 8:00 p.m.), the game was a success. Broadcast through DuMont's New York station, WABD (and through one of the first TV cables to Washington D.C.'s WTTG) with play-by-play handled by later quiz-master Dennis James. James was assisted from the New York studios of WABD by Tom Carr who introduced the players and gave the first half-time show. The game got off to a bad start when transmitter trouble in New York kept the first ten minutes of images from going out. The problem was soon solved and the transmission of the game was remarkably modern in its use of three cameras (the DuMont-built cameras used the recently developed RCA Image Orthicon tube to provide excellent images) to give viewers close-ups, long-, and medium-range shots.

Another modern aspect of the game was that it had (gasp!) commercials. Sponsored by the Ford Motor Company (nothing new under the sun, right?). The commercials themselves, however, were a bit primitive when compared to today's video extravaganzas. Variety reviewed their performances as follows:

Ford commercials, also handled from the studio via slides, looked more like a plug for kids' animal picture books than for Ford cars. Idea is something new, though, which is all to the good and the sales pitch never interfered with the scanning of the game (scanning, it might be noted, was the early term for televising).

The AAFC, the DuMont Network? What other names from the past can we dredge up? Why, the names of the teams of course. That historic evening in September saw the clash of the mighty New York Yankees (the football Yankees that is) and the Buffalo Bison (later to be the AAFC's Bills and much later, in another league, the AFL Bills) in New York's Yankee Stadium. These were the days when football players had real football player names. The Yankees were led by such immortals as Clarence (Pug) Manders, full-back; Roman Bentz, tackle; Bruiser Kinard, tackle; and Spec Sanders, full-back. The Bison were led by such equally illustrious names as Harry (Hippity) Hopp, quarterback; and Lou Zontini, full-back and place kicker.

Unfortunately, this historic game was rather dull (though not if you were viewing it at home) with the Yankees winning easily 21 to 10.

At 9:30 p.m. that September night, Dennis James signed off after the first televised pro football game. But it wasn't to be the last. By 1948, the NFL realized TV was here to stay and signed a contract with ABC to broadcast selected games of the Washington Redskins, New York Giants, and Philadelphia Eagles. A little over twenty years later, ABC brought televised football full circle by again broadcasting prime-time pro football and achieving a viewership that would have astounded those early pioneers.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

That was the year that was ... in air travel (80,528 miles) #2016inReview #UDC793

2016 was a record year for flying/travel  (80,528 miles), surpassing 2015 (with 78,732); here are some other recent years for to see what those looked like: 20142013, 20122011, 20102009

You can look at the Google map version here, or embedded below. And here's the total view of the year's stats from OpenFlights:

Airports   24
Carriers    6
Countries   8
Vehicles   17

Around the world 3.23x
To the Moon            0.337x
To Mars               0.0023x

Journey records
Longest: PVG > ORD, 7,038 mi
Shortest: DCA > RDU, 226 mi
Average: 1,873 mi, 04:21

Airport records
Northernmost LHR (51.47°N 0.46°W)
Southernmost BSB (15.87°S 47.92°W)
Westernmost DEN (39.86°N 104.67°W)
Easternmost NRT (35.76°N 140.39°E)

43 segments
80,528 miles
7 days 19:08

Washington Nat.      (DCA) 23
Washington Dulles In (IAD) 7
London Heathrow Airp (LHR) 6
Miami International  (MIA) 6
Presidente Juscelino (BSB) 4
Chicago O'Hare Inter (ORD) 4
General Edward Lawre (BOS) 2
Shanghai Pudong Inte (PVG) 2
Dallas Fort Worth In (DFW) 2
General Mitchell Int (MKE) 2
Narita International (NRT) 2
Charles de Gaulle In (CDG) 2
Juan Santamaria Inte (SJO) 2
Theodore Francis Gre (PVD) 2
Palm Beach Internati (PBI) 2
Raleigh Durham Inter (RDU) 2
Václav Havel Airport (PRG) 2
Orlando Internationa (MCO) 2
Manchester Airport (MHT) 2
Port Columbus Intern (CMH) 2
Denver International (DEN) 2
Charlotte Douglas In (CLT) 2
Eduardo Gomes Intern (MAO) 2
Hartsfield Jackson A (ATL) 2

American Airlines 28
British Airways          6
United Airlines          4
TAM Brazilian Airlines  2
Delta Air Lines          2
Air France          1

Airbus A319         9
Boeing 737-800         4
Airbus A321-100/200 4
Canadair RJ 700        3
Boeing 777         3
Embraer 175         3
Canadair Regional Jet 2
Airbus A380-800         2
AIRBUS A320-100/200 2
Boeing 787-8         2
Boeing 757-300         2
Boeing 757         2
Boeing 747-400         1
Canadair RJ 900         1
Boeing 777-300ER 1
Boeing 767-300         1
Boeing 737-700 Winglets 1

Sunday, January 08, 2017

This was the year that was ... my new music from 2016 #2016Music #2016inReview

This year I'm going to start off by listing my favorite releases of the year. It was a hard year to make top picks. Some releases by classic artists who then died, some simply classic (or future classics.

First, let me note that both David Bowie (Black Star) and Leonard Cohen's (You Want it Darker?) could easily vie for my top spot. Likewise, The Rolling Stones (Blue and Lonesome) and Green Day (Revolution Radio) turned in albums that will eventually lodge in the top of their all time best. Another veteran, Bob Weir (Blue Mountain) waxed a stellar low key album. And since he's for a wristband, let's not forget to name check  Rhymin' Simon's Stranger to Stranger.

In the more recent artist category, Bastille's Wild World and Regina Spektor's Remember Us to Life stayed on my frequent play list from the time they were released. 

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds released Skeleton Tree, a simply brilliant addition to their work.

But the top album for me was the sprawl-y, hooky, sloppy, brilliant mess (in the mold of Exile on Main Street) that was Miranda Lambert's Weight of These Wings. Forget about the soap-opera that was her life the past year, forget it's "Country" if that turns you off, forget she's "Hell on Heels" or "Platinum" or even a "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend", Weight of These Wings is full of brilliantly executed music ... 

In a year that, as the meme says, was like a dumpster fire, there was some pretty good music. There were significant losses over the year, so let's look back at them first before we get to the full list:
* * * * * 

But on a happier note, here's my music year in review. I'll also add as a bonus, one I missed at the end of last year, The Hollywood Vampires' The Hollywood Vampires (September 15, 2015) -- most excellent!

If I had to name a Top Fifteen, this would be it (in order of release):
  1. David Bowie, Black Star (January 8, 2015)
  2. Bonnie Raitt, Dig in Deep (February 26, 2016)
  3. Iggy Pop, Post Pop Depression (March 18, 2016)
  4. Paul Simon, Stranger to Stranger (June 3, 2016)
  5. Jeff Beck, Loud Hailer (July 15, 2016)
  6. Ingrid Michaelson, It Doesn't Have to Make Sense (August 26, 2016)
  7. Bastille, Wild World (September 9, 2016)
  8. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Skeleton Tree (September 9, 2016)
  9. Devendra Banhart, Ape in Pink Marble (September 23, 2016)
  10. Bob Weir, Blue Mountain (September 30, 2016)
  11. Regina Spektor, Remember Us to Life (September 30, 2016)
  12. Green Day, Revolution Radio (October 7, 2016)
  13. Leonard Cohen, You Want it Darker? (October 21, 2016)
  14. Miranda Lambert, Weight of These Wings (November 18, 2016)
  15. The Rolling Stones, Blue and Lonesome (December 2, 2016)
Honorable Mentions:
  1. Loretta Lynn, Full Circle (March 4, 2016)
  2. Radiohead, Moon Shaped Pool (May 8, 2016)
  3. Paul Simon, Stranger to Stranger (June 3, 2016)
  4. Phish, Big Boat (October 7, 2016)
  5. Pretenders, Alone (October 21, 2016)
In the list of re-releases or "from the vaults", I'll add:
  • Allman Brothers Band, Live from A&R Studios (April 1, 2016)
  • Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, Miss Sharon Jones! (August 19, 2016)
  • The Beatles, Live at the Hollywood Bowl (September 9, 2016)
  • Bob Dylan, The Real Royal Albert Hall 1966 Concert (Live) (December 2, 2016)
Let's not forget a couple of singles:

  • "No," Meghan Trainor
  • "Used to Love You," Gwen Stefani
And now, the complete Albums of 2016:

  • David Bowie, Black Star (January 8, 2015)
  • Megadeath, Dystopia (January 22, 2015)
  • Aoife O'Donovan, In the Magic Hour (January 22, 2016)
  • Dressy Bessy, Kingsized (February 5, 2016)
  • Bonnie Raitt, Dig in Deep (February 26, 2016)
  • Gwen Stefani, This Is What the Truth Feels Like (March 18, 2016)
  • Loretta Lynn, Full Circle (March 4, 2016)
  • Iggy Pop, Post Pop Depression (March 18, 2016)
  • Allman Brothers Band, Live from A&R Studios (April 1, 2016)
  • Graham Nash, This Path Tonight (April 15, 2016)
  • Santana, Santana IV (April 15, 2016)
  • Ace Frehely, Origins, Vol. 1 (April 15, 2016)
  • Brian Eno, Ship (April 29, 2016)
  • The Rides, Pierced Arrow (May 6, 2016)
  • Cyndi Lauper, Detour (May 6, 2016)
  • Meghan Trainor, Thank You (May 2016)
  • Bob Dylan, Fallen Angels (May 20, 2016)
  • Eric Clapton, I Still Do (May 20, 2016)
  • Mudcrutch, 2 (May 20, 2016)
  • Radiohead, Moon Shaped Pool (May 8, 2016)
  • Paul Simon, Stranger to Stranger (June 3, 2016)
  • Neil Young, Earth (June 17, 2016)
  • Heart, Beautiful Broken (July 8, 2016)
  • Jeff Beck, Loud Hailer (July 15, 2016)
  • Dolly Parton, Pure and Simple (August 19, 2016)
  • Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, Miss Sharon Jones! (August 19, 2016)
  • Ingrid Michaelson, It Doesn't Have to Make Sense (August 26, 2016)
  • Soundwalk Collective with Jesse Paris Smith featuring Patti Smith, Killer Road (September 2, 2016)
  • Wilco, Schmilco (September 9, 2016)
  • Bastile, Wild World (September 9, 2016)
  • The Beatles, Live at the Hollywood Bowl (September 9, 2016)
  • Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Skeleton Tree (September 9, 2016)
  • Daniel Lanois, Goodbye to Language (September 9, 2016)
  • Meat Loaf, Braver Than We Are (September 16, 2016)
  • Devendra Banhart, Ape in Pink Marble (September 23, 2016)
  • Bob Weir, Blue Mountain (September 30, 2016)
  • Marianne Faithfull, No Exit (September 30, 2016)
  • Van Morrison, Keep Me Singing (September 30, 2016)
  • Regina Spektor, Remember Us to Life (September 30, 2016)
  • Phish, Big Boat (October 7, 2016)
  • Lisa Loeb, Feel What U Feel (October 7, 2016)
  • Leonard Cohen, You Want it Darker? (October 21, 2016)
  • Pretenders, Alone (October 21, 2016)
  • Green Day, Revolution Radio (October 7, 2016)
  • Kacy Musgraves, A Very Kacey Christmas (October 28, 2016)
  • Miranda Lambert, Weight of These Wings (November 18, 2016)
  • Bridget Medler, Nemesis (November 18, 2016)
  • The Rolling Stones, Blue and Lonesome (December 2, 2016)
  • Bob Dylan, The Real Royal Albert Hall 1966 Concert (Live) (December 2, 2016)
  • Neil Young, Peace Trail (December 9, 2016)

Sunday, January 01, 2017

This was the year that was ... my reading from 2016 #2016Books #2016inReview

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The Secret Life of Walter Mitty by James Thurber
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15 pages
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
1,515 pages
Notes of a Botanist on the Amazo...
Notes of a Botanist on the Amazon and Andes by Richard Spruce
244 pages
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Horizon Report by The New Media Consortium
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it was amazing
5.00 average
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