Blogs > 37th Frame

Photography, notes, commentary and much more from former Reporter Online Editor Chris Stanley.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Crumbling respect

OK, I guess I'm just a big stick in the mud, but this story ticked me off...

Maine wants to grab the whoopie pie as the official dessert before Pennsylvania does.

Seriously. A state legislative committee actually considered the question.

According to AP, the hearing "featured fresh whoopie pies, someone wearing a whoopie costume and even a song praising the product as 'a slice of happiness.'"

Now I love a good whoopie pie. And a good argument over food (it's what we do at holiday gatherings in my family). And I happen to really like Maine, but am also fairly fond of Pennsylvania since, well, I live here. Be happy where you are.

A number of years ago I was living in Massachusetts and a similar controversy arose, that over the naming of a state muffin. A grade-school student suggested the state adopt the corn muffin as the state's official muffin. The teacher saw it as an opportunity to teach civics to the class by introducing some real legislation.

All seemed well, until...well, if you know anything about Massachusetts, you might know that it is one of the largest producers of cranberries in the country. And yes, cranberry muffins are quite popular up there. So if you are going to declare a state muffin, why not support the local agricultural industry instead of that in, say, Nebraska?

Or better yet, teach the kids a real lesson in civics, that state legislatures should avoid dancing whoopie pies and be busy themselves with things like reducing huge projected budget deficits ($468 million for Maine, $4.5 billion for Pennsylvania in 2012). Or fixing the infrastructure. Controlling taxes. Rebuilding the economy. Restoring funding to vital programs. Yeah, I know, b-o-r-i-n-g.

But maybe once they have all these issues solved, THEN we can consider our state dessert. Personally, I'm voting for the Krimpet. Maine can have their pies.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A few visitors

Journal Register Company, owner of The Reporter and other area newspapers, is busy upgrading many systems as they adapt from a print-based deadline system to Digital First. Today some editors and reporters from other sites joined our staff in our new Community Media Lab Tuesday training for a new video system, which once installed will enable us to load many more videos, post videos generated by our readers, and share videos from all the sites around Philadelphia and the other states served by newspapers in the company. Reporters will be able to post videos on location, bringing breaking news to our sites even faster.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The promise of unwanted technology

An article in today's New York Times talks about the drive by television makers to convince consumers that their (mostly) new flat TV's are out-of-date, and need to be replaced with something newer and shinier. The two technologies that seem most likely to accomplish this are televisons capable of 3-D viewing or those that are Internet-ready.

Due to some vision problems, I can't actually see 3-D, but my kids tell me it is 'cool'. For the moment, viewers have to wear clunky polarizing glasses (some with their own power supply), but research is underway to eleminate these. As to whether this would be worth several hundred dollars (assuming I needed a new TV, which I don't) extra, for me the novelty isn't worth the price. Though the technology is getting much better than the blue-and-red glasses days, I still have my doubts. To me TV is still about content - I'll watch if the shows are good. People flinging folding chairs in 3-D won't make Jerry Springer any more worth watching than it is now.

On the other hand, if I was into gaming, I would probably be very interested in 3-D.

I wonder about the usefulness of putting 'the Internet' on TV. I'm not talking about Internet video - this area has a bright future as long as the structure of the Internet can keep pace with the demand. I'm talking about Facebook and Twitter and getting Skype calls through your TV - these are experiences that are really better aligned with PC's, tablets and mobile phones. Reading text from across the living room just isn't that comfortable, and I really don't want to answer my TV when somebody is calling.

All this made me think about some of the other under-appreciated promises of technology that came and went - then came and went again - over the years. Two-way video telephones are my favorite example - I think people LIKE that nobody can see them on the phone. You can be disheveled, in your underwear, eating a sloppy sandwich, watching porn - the person on the other end of your call has no idea what you are doing (unless it makes noise). This is a bonus, not a drawback.

How about automated phone operators that try to sound human (ever call Verizon?) Seriously annoying. If I'm talking to a robot, let it be a robot. Let's have some honesty here.

Flying cars (the greatest unfufilled promise of technology ever)...would you really want that guy flipping the bird while tailgating and talking on a cell phone sailing OVER your house at 106 mph?

One about cameras that wait until you smile before they take a picture? "Be happy, dammit. Be happy NOW! What's WRONG with you? Never mind, we'll just replace you with a cutout from an old picture back when your WERE happy!" (also an automated possibility now).

The list goes on. But for now, I think I'll ask my TV to get in touch with the refrigerator to whip me up a tuna sandwich. When I get it, I promise I will smile, which will hopefully make my camera happy, too.