Thursday, April 30, 2009

Amateur Night

Before last night's concert at Arizona Stadium, the home of the Wildcat football team hadn't hosted a rock show since Fleetwood Mac in 1977. Now we know why.

My contention is that Tucson just isn't an stadium-rock town. Phoenix, yeah. But Tucson?

The Associate Students of the University of Arizona, try as they might, tried to gin up excitement for this show featuring Jay-Z, Kelly Clarkson, The Veronicas, and Third Eye Blind. Early Birds got the pleasure of seeing a local act: Ryanhood. But ticket sales sagged so much that those in the cheap seats pulled the baseball-game trick of sliding up closer to the stage, which security permitted until Jay-Z took the stage. Photos from KOLD News 13's Paul Durrant show an excited yet thin crowd.

They got a show and ASUA got a learning experience, with a few solid rules to put in the notebook:
  • You can't charge hundreds of dollars for seats in a lousy economy, especially when the U of A is whopping your potential customers for more money in tuition, fees, and whatever surcharge they can get.

  • Smorgasboards work better for salad bars than concerts. A number of commenters on StarNet point out rap and rock audiences are not one in the same. Mashing up Kelly Clarkson, Jay-Z, and the Veronicas was like serving guacamole with baloney.

  • Where was the marketing outside the University? When a show comes to Desert Diamond Casino or AVA at Casino Del Sol, it's all over billboards and TV. Granted, the ASUA likely has a meager publicity budget, but even Charo's concert got more ads than this show.
At least a couple of people say Fleetwood Mac could've packed the stadium... again.

UPDATE: That concert lost more than $900,000, according to the Arizona Daily Star, and now the UA Bookstores will have to bail out ASUA. Looks like the organizers could work for the banking industry (rim shot).

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Irony Alert

Monday: An empty Air Force One 747 flies low over New York City for a photo-op, but nobody warns the public about it, and New Yorkers are rightfully scared. The White House apologizes.

Last Friday: a Cessna with a malfunctioning GPS navigation system mistakenly flies into protected airspace around Washington, D.C., triggering a scare which locks down the White House and recesses the Senate. Two fighter jets intercept the wayward plane and escort it in for a landing. Secret Service agents question an already-shaken pilot and his wife, but neither of them are charged with an offense, to my knowledge. Meanwhile, another small plane clips protected space but lands before it can be intercepted.

As Marvin Gaye once sang, "Ain't that peculiar."

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Wants Versus Needs Versus Twitter

Floyd Norris writes about a Pew Research Center poll showing evidence our notions of essential things -- like TV's and clothes dryers -- aren't so essential anymore. The post itself is short, but read on to the comments for the real insight.

Drudge highlights the finding that only 52% think television is a necessity. That's not a good finding for my chosen craft, but we're working hard to diversify.

Our latest weapon is Twitter. I will admit to you I resisted the Twitter revolution for as long as I could. But in a 24/7 newsroom, which feeds on Late Breaking News, I'm finding it boon for sending out micro-updates to news junkies. A lot of people could care less about what I'm doing right now, but I bet they'd like to know that Tucson City Manager Mike Hein just got fired, that bad accident on Ajo, what J.D., Mark and Teresa are working on for the 10, the video from our story on credit card fraud just got posted, and so forth. I think of Twitter as texting on steroids, and a lot less expensive (although linking Twitter to a cell phone is an invitation for disaster if you don't have an unlimited use plan).

TV is going to be our primary business at KOLD, as long as that brings in the most ad dollars. That will change over time, but it's encouraging to see is one of Tucson's most popular websites. If I had my way, I'd add at least two more web producers to our staff. But Brian, bless him, does the work of two people and puts up with my often-cantankerous newsroom personality to boot.

Twitter may not be a neccesity yet, but it's moving in that direction.

For now, I'll let you decide:

Follow me on Twitter at work: cfrancisKOLD.

Follow other KOLD News 13 updates: KOLD_News13.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Drawing From Experience

Critics knock Filmation (of Fat Albert, Shazam! fame) for recycling animation. Now we see Disney has done it too, many times, and here's the video to prove it:

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Living Under A TARP

I have a lot of trouble showing sympathy towards the wife of a bailed-out financial company CEO, who writes in Condé Nast Portfolio about the downsizing of her lavish lifestyle under the salary restrictions of the TARP program: cooking in rather than eating out, slimming down parties, living within your wardrobe, watching "Law & Order" instead of the latest Met production, and flying commercial rather than the private jet, mostly to avoid getting caught living richly by a reporter.

Telling is this quote:
As you can see, being a TARP wife means, in short, making decisions according to a complex algorithm: balancing the need to look like your world hasn’t crumbled beneath you—let’s not alarm the investors!—with the need to appear duly repentant for your subprime sins. It also means we’re part of the community of more than 400 companies that have received government bailout funds, whose fall from grace has been swifter and harsher than any since Mao frog-marched intellectuals into China’s countryside.
And this one:
It wasn’t long ago that America celebrated successful companies and the people who run them. My husband, CEO of one of the biggest TARP recipients, has received more than his share of accolades (in my opinion, well deserved). But because of a few tin-eared nitwits who failed to notice that their industry was under siege, the entire country now thinks that TARP bankers are greedy incompetents dedicated to ripping off taxpayers. Fancy wastebaskets, under-the-rug bonuses, lavish junkets—these are Exhibits A, B, and C in the people’s case against Wall Street. Even the Octomom gets better press.

Here is the reality: TARP managers are scared to death. The executives of these companies are desperately trying to hold their businesses together while complying with a slew of damaging bills flooding out of Congress. My husband has battled the shutdown of the credit markets and a deteriorating business environment for two endless years without respite. He’s exhausted, terrified of losing the company, and beaten down by the constant criticism hurled at him.
Judging from the comments on this article, most people's primary response is boo-TARP'in-hoo. And she knows all this:
I get it that I may not win much sympathy. Why should I? I’m not pleading poverty. We still live in relative luxury, we can afford almost everything we need, and we aren’t facing the prospect of losing our home or having to turn to our families to support us. But we are getting squeezed.
Squeezed, yes. Yet squeezing a tomato is different from squeezing a watermelon. One still has a lot more juice left over. The cost of living and the cost of living it up are not one in the same.

I know a lot of you are reveling in this, watching the rich "get theirs." No doubt you would love to see this woman walking down Fifth Avenue in a dingy eastern-European peasant dress and kerchief, head bowed low in humility, the climax of an inverted Cinderella story where regular folks live happily ever after and those wicked bankers roam a purgatory of rags and Ramen. Perhaps it would look like a scene from Soylent Green.

It will never reach that point, thankfully. Vengeance against the financial system in general has no place in our recovery. I wish I had the statistics to prove it, but I theorize a George Bailey exists for every Bernie Madoff. The smaller institutions who made solid loans and stayed out of the derivative and subprime markets aren't grabbing headlines. They quietly operate without need of TARP money, and they're still feeling a pinch from the tight credit markets.

For those who do take government money and complain about the restrictions on salaries or anything else, I have this question: why is it so unreasonable to accept spending conditions when you're accepting taxpayer money? We expect as much money as possible to go towards solidifying the business. Extras like corporate jets and retreats in Vegas simply do not do that. Neither does the gnashing of teeth in response to the TARP conditions, which still allow six-figure incomes the last time I looked.

Yeah, it ain't easy being a TARP wife. And it's not fair to tar and feather all bankers. But in mathematics you learn there's a standard deviation for every mean, and a lot of bailed-out burgeois are still living well above the averages. Meanwhile the averages are scrabbling the best they can without benefit of government aid, not worried about maintaining that high-gloss look. They just want food on the table, a roof over their heads, a paycheck in their bank accounts, and the company of those they love.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Watch Where You're Cutting

Interesting story from Wired that should be a reminder for anybody who edits a broadcast news piece:
Research suggests that people are far more empathic when stories are told in a linear way, without quick shot-to-shot edits. In a 1996 Empirical Studies of the Arts paper, researchers showed three versions of an ostensibly tear-jerking story to 120 test subjects. "Subjects had significantly more favorable impressions of the victimized female protagonist than of her male opponent only when the story structure was linear," they concluded.

A review of tabloid news formats in the Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media found that jarring, rapid-fire visual storytelling produced a physiological arousal led to better recall of what was seen, but only if the original subject matter was dull. If it was already arousing, tabloid storytelling appeared to produce a cognitive overload that actually prevented stories from sinking in.
Reporters and editors, we all know producers who insist on a story running no more than 1:15, something which contributes to the problem. When you have a highly emotional subject, you're going to have to lobby for more. Don't worry about fitting it into 1:15. If the subject is compelling, your viewers will hang around a little longer, even if we all have short attention spans.

No Tea For Me

To my conservative friends:

I'd like to join you for tea this afternoon. I'd love to dress up in my revolutionary regalia -- white breeches, white stockings, black tricorn hat, blue regimental coat -- and kindly, colorfully, positively petition my government to please spend my tax money wisely. No put-downs. No partisan bashing. I could carry a handwritten parchment sign: "No taxation without representation!" During a lull or two, I could answer a few historical questions from inquiring peers.

You know it would draw attention and quite a few pictures, possibly a TV camera or two. That's the problem.

When you go to work in journalism, you're expected to check your political beliefs at the door. Not everybody does, but everybody wants you to because of bias -- real or accused. At most media outlets, employees are rightly not allowed to campaign for any political candidate. For issue rallies, things aren't as clear-cut. But generally, if the rally has a political edge, it's frowned upon.

Here's the scenario I want to avoid: I go to a Tea Party. My image gets picked up by a camera. My bosses see it, or somebody else sees it and tells them about it. Others find out the guy in the tricorn is a producer at the number one TV station in Tucson. It hits Twitter, blogs and boards. Some crow about a member of the mainstream media (which they abbreviate as MSM) on "our side." Others seethe about a producer "engaged in a right-wing hissy fit." Charges of bias fly around. My station is put in an embarrassing position, having to explain why a newsroom employee is boldly taking sides. I'm put out on the street to find a job in this rotten economy -- all for a few moments of free speech.

It's sometimes painful having to neuter yourself politically. Despite what you've heard, journalists are citizens too, and they are still entitled to speak for themselves as well as tell other people's stories. However, in hyperpartisan America, where the center doesn't hold and the left and the right won't admit when they're wrong, even the slightest appearance of ideology off the job can come back to bite you.

The ultimate irony is this: experience tells me people really don't care if their news is biased, as long as it's biased their way. Cable, the Internet and talk radio all give us a huge selection of material slanted just the way we like. Objectivity is yesterday's news. Every other journalist needs it except the ones we pay attention to.

I know of at least one local TV news department where anchors and reporters are encouraged to have attitude and show it on the air. It's tabloid and over the top, but at least they don't have to hide behind a standard of objectivity -- one that viewers don't believe anymore, no matter how hard the folks in the newsroom try.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Don't Tax Me, Don't Tax Thee... the man behind the tree. And then tax the tree, or the streetlight as they're doing in the nation's captial, as reported by
Washington’s mayor, Adrian M. Fenty, has proposed a “streetlight user fee” of $4.25 a month, to be added to electric bills, that would cover the cost of operating and maintaining the city’s streetlights. New York City recently expanded its anti-idling law to include anyone parked near a school who leaves the engine running for more than a minute. Doing that will cost you $100.

“The most dangerous places on Staten Island are the schools at drop-off and dismissal time, when parents are parked three deep in the road,” says James S. Oddo, a City Council member from Staten Island who voted for the measure. “There is a mentality here that Johnny can’t walk 100 feet, he has to be dropped off right at the front of the school — and frankly that’s why Johnny is as pudgy as he is.”
Memo to cities, towns, municipalities, states, provinces, parishes, commonwealths and anybody else that gets tax revenue: we know you're hurting for cash. Everybody is. It's called a recession. Why not cut the charade by just turning us upside down and shaking us? Whatever falls on the ground is yours.

This massive stretch for revenue reminds me of the window tax passed in England in 1695. The response: people bricked up the windows. In the musical Les Miserables, Thenardier the innkeeper sings:
"Charge 'em for the lice
Extra for the mice
Two percent for looking in the mirror twice
Here a little slice
There a little cut
Three percent for sleeping with the window shut
When it comes to fixing prices
There are a lot of tricks he knows
How it all increases
All those bits and pieces
... It's amazing how it grows!"
I'm not yet in the mood to throw a tea party -- like others are doing -- but if our Arizona pols try taxing my playing cards, you better believe I'll be lobbing some Lipton.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

WWJD (Who Would Jesus Duke?)

Spirit Of St. Louis Church in Arnold, Missouri plans to draw people in for Easter Sunday services with an Ultimate Fighting theme: a cage, a guy demonstrating mixed martial-arts techniques, and lots and lots of machismo.

Pastor Tom Skiles tells The Riverfront Times:
I always make fun of people's images of Christ. The hippie Christ. The Christ with the long flowing air, like he came straight from the salon. I make fun of that. I don't think he was that kind of man. I think Jesus was a man's man. Him and his disciples. I tell people they probably had teeth missing.
I must've missed that part in the Gospels, and I've read through them at least twice.
The Ultimate Fighting is something we're doing to promote to the guys. We want to make Easter relevant again. We don't want to make it about lilies and nice dresses. When they walk in we'll have a chain link fence set up, it'll be set up like an octagon. We'll talk about fact that Jesus didn't tap out, he was an ultimate fighter.
Funny, I always saw Him as the Ultimate Peacemaker, Ultimate Lover, Ultimate Giver, Ultimate Healer, and Ultimate Sacrificer. I remember Him clearing the money-changers from the temple (John 2:12-25, Matthew 21:12-17, Mark 11:12-19, Luke 19:45-48), but that's about as physical as it got.
We're doing Easter Smack Down for our kids. It's not going to be an egg hunt. It'll be a Smack Down. It'll be a cool event. Kids love wrestling. We got inflatable boxing ring and all that stuff.
Guess the kids will be wearing their Everlast equipment instead of suits this Sunday.

I admire Pastor Tom for finding a unique way of reaching out to people who don't come to church. After all, my church, The Cool Church, has been doing that for years. I Corinthians 9:22 says: "I become all things to all people that by all means I might save some."

However, the Good Pastor and I part ways when he characterizes Christ as a "Man's Man." That's a man defined by a man, not how God defines a man. The Bible clearly tells us Jesus was multi-dimensional in His emotions. Let us not forget John 11:35: "Jesus wept." And while He clearly saw the time and place for tough love and righteous indignation, He did not enjoy mixing it up. On the night of His betrayal, He stopped what could've been a fight to the death, as recorded in Luke 22:49-51 (NIV):
When Jesus' followers saw what was going to happen, they said, "Lord, should we strike with our swords?" And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.

But Jesus answered, "No more of this!" And he touched the man's ear and healed him.
Not quite UFC material. Yes, Jesus is a warrior. Yes, He's a fighter. But not on a level any of us can even imagine. He won the Ultimate Fight for all of us, and it cost Him His life. That's surely the point Pastor Tom will be making this Sunday. Amen to that. But all of us men who live right for God and wish to make ourselves more like Christ realize the spiritual battle against Satan cannot be won with a good roundhouse kick.

God's idea of a man is someone who commits his life, his soul, his actions and his thoughts to loving and serving his Maker. God's idea of a man is more than just a fighting machine, but a person capable of balancing several emotions and realizing what wonderful gifts they are.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

And You Thought The President Was Tough On GM's Boss

A poll finds nearly half of all French approve of locking up the head honchos as a way of extracting better working conditions.

From Reuters:
Staff at French plants run by Sony, 3M and Caterpillar have held managers inside the factories overnight, in three separate incidents, to demand better layoff terms -- a new form of labor action dubbed "bossnapping" by the media.

A poll by the CSA institute for Le Parisien newspaper found 50 percent of French people surveyed disapproved of such acts, but 45 percent thought they were acceptable.

"They are not in the majority ... but 45 percent is an enormous percentage and it demonstrates the extent of exasperation among the public at this time of economic crisis," Le Parisien said.
Can you imagine this happening at the American car companies? Or in your own office?

Of course, my favorite "job action" would be this, based on a political cartoon I once read: "Mr. Boss, here's your $2 million bonus presented by the 5,000 employees you just laid off."

If you think that's cruel and unusual punishment, remember long ago in France, when they used to use the guillotine.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Dispatch From Payson

Memoirs of a soldier in the 1st Virginia Volunteer Infantry taken prisoner by Union forces during the Battle Of Payson.

The following originally appeared in The Williamsburg (Virginia) Star in 1862, as a dispatch from newspaper-publisher-turned-soldier Pvt. Christopher Francis. His brother was now printing the Star on the private's behalf, and this is one of many dispatches Pvt. Christopher sent back home in order to give the public the "uncompromisable truth" about the War Between the States from a Confederate soldier's perspective. Indeed, some historians argue Pvt. Christopher joined the cause to supply compelling copy!


{Community of Payson --
Saturday April 4, 1862}

The crackles of muskets reverberated throughout this entire mountain town, accented by the screams of innocents as Northern aggressors brutally disturbed the tranquility and safety of the citizens for a futile victory quickly undone by the superior forces of the Confederacy, but at a cost of many lives.

During this unfathomable assault, your publisher was briefly taken hostage by green Federal troops, which did grant a new perspective into the flaws of the occupying company. Such imperfections will no doubt lead to their doom.

This morning we marched into the town to provide defense against Union encroachment. Thereapon we found the citizens plagued with worry, afraid to walk along the streets until our Captain gave several announcements that the town was safe and under our protection. Mayor Hopkins addressed his citizens, and only then did they begin to approach us with hesitant curiosity, inquiring as to our purpose and armaments.

For much of the morning, my compatriots and I mingled among the townspeople, the ladies and gentlemen and their children, while they went about their business. I should note their hospitality to us did not go ungratified by any soldier, as we did our best to satisfy all questions, most notably the young children who I daresay had never met a soldier of the Confederacy.

The source of their concern surfaced after many a conversation: a persistent rumor of Union soldiers camped a mere mile or two away from the town. Again and again we dismissed such fictions, myself saying to a worried citizen, "My Lady, we have not seen a Union soldier for miles. Just our presence here is enough to hold them back."

Still, to our regret, those rumors manifested and fed upon themselves like a bonfire. A lady asked in the height of uncertainty: "When will the battle be?"

"My Lady," I replied, "We are not expecting a fight, but Heaven Forbid, if it should come to that, I am confident that we shall resolve things quickly, in a single afternoon."

Our beloved Gen. Lee agreed with my sentiments during a brief meeting, whereupon we recognized the unpredictability of this great conflict and the need for all to be ready at a moments notice, not unlike the Minutemen who defended this nation a century ago.

The citizens warmed to us, exchanging smiles to the tips of our kepis as we moved about the town. To our honor, they asked us to pause in our steps while they made pictures of us using peculiar silver devices no larger than a deck of playing cards.

I could not help but comment, "I've seen the strangest daguerreotype makers today," to which a citizen informed me said devices "come from Japan."

"I thought they might have come from Ohio," I noted.

A compatriot of mine, itching for a scrap, ached to venture outside the town and kill as many Yankees as he saw, figuring his actions would dissolve the anxiety plaguing the townspeople.

"We are here to defend this town," I protested to him.

Another soldier said, "Do you want to be court-martialed?"

He remained firm in his resolve until he lobbied the Captain personally, who reminded him of his orders with a mild rebuke.

As the early afternoon sun shone down upon us, a detachment of scouts dashed back into the town, puffing broken sentences concerning a sighting of Federals mere miles away. The Captain inquired as to how many and where, and with haste we retrieved our stacked arms and formed for battle.

We urged the citizens to take shelter and clear way for the fight. To quell their nerves and build our resolve, our Corporal led us in a round of "The Bonnie Blue Flag." The Captain asked if there was a clergyman among the crowds to lead us in prayer, but unexpectedly, the duty fell to me.

"Father In Heaven," I prayed aloud before my brothers in arms and the citizens of Payson, a bit uneasy at speaking to THE LORD out loud, extemporaneously, in front of so many people, "give us protection in battle as we go about our mission to defend these Citizens of Payson. Give this town Your protection, in the Name of Lord Jesus, we pray."

I heard the boisterous snapping of Enfields in the distance, and without delay we marched to our position of defense, aided by several men placed in balconies overlooking the town to deal with skirmishers.

We saw the Federals formed up a hundred yards across from us, a small but feisty regiment, if the term feisty should include their resistance to movement.

"I dare you to advance on us!" the Captain taunted as we barraged them with multiple volleys. But our muskets did not intimidate them in the least, and their aim failed to diminish our numbers.

Finally, when they realized a stalemate was no victory, their ranks advanced forward as we held our positions. Musket balls singed the air, yet their targeting did not improve until another advance, wherefore they began to cut into our numbers, and the Captain ordered us back to take cover among the buildings and brush, firing at our disposition to catch them unguarded and out of formation.

Street skirmishes rippled through the entire town as the citizens watched in terrified amazement. No corner or alley was spared the crackle of gunfire or cries of the wounded, many of whom quickly assessed their injuries and regathered their stamina to rejoin the battle.

I took my shots wherever I could find cover around corners or behind trees. But in the height of the skirmish, my attempt to pick off one of two Federals from an obtuse angle across a lawn proved a tactical mistake. One spotted me and put a lead ball into my upper right arm. The burning slam felled me as I heard the Captain call a retreat. Unable to raise myself, I watched my compatriots pursue safer grounds.

At once several Federals surrounded my body, declaring me their prisoner.

"They abandoned you," one said, to my protested corrections that my brothers would not leave me for dead.

They propped me up against a shade tree near the place where they felled me and summoned a nurse.

"Would you do me the courtesy of returning my hat?" I implored, spotting it in the grass several yards away. A Federal retrieved it and tossed it into my lap like a scrap of meat to a dog.

The camp nurse wrapped my bleeding arm, doing her best to treat my injuries. "I do believe its shattered," she said, not hiding my condition.

For the next few hours, the Federals did their best to add their discourtesies to my pain.

"Those rebels ran away!" a Union private remarked.

"We're regrouping!" I said through my pain. "We will be back to retake this town!"

"How many men do you have?"

"More than you'll ever know! More than enough!"

They tried over and over again to extract information from me on our supplies and our numbers, all the while threatening to hang me and taunting.

"When's the last time you had a bath? You smell worse than you look!"

"You look worse than you smell!" I countered.

Dishearteningly, some of the young citizens, their developing minds obviously corrupted by lies and propaganda, joined the parade of insulting behavior despite my best efforts to remind them of the truth of our mission to defend their town. Many stood before me, no doubt wondering what a wounded prisoner looked like.

"You can't shoot anymore!" a young boy said, finger outstretched in accusation.

"I can shoot with my other hand."

"How are you going to hold a 10-pound gun with one hand?" a young girl remarked.

"You'd be surprised what you can do when you need to do it."

The camp nurse grew frustrated with my guards, imploring them to let me rest.

"We thought he would shut up with all the blood he's lost," one captor remarked.

"We ought to tie a bandage around his mouth!"

My voice carried throughout the town as I threatened to make their names infamous throughout Virginia, and several times their Colonel walked over and implored me to be quiet, at one time threatening me with confinement to a prison cell if I did not cease my incendiary ways. I told him I would cease only if his mean ceased their lies and rumors to the impressionable children.

"You're a gentleman," the Colonel reminded me. "You should know about keeping your word."

I must note, however, that for the Federals lack of civility, they did offer me bread, dried pork and licorice, and several ladies of the town took pity, offering to refill my canteen without a trace of a grudge.

"I regret that I cannot stand and give you proper honors," I apologized as several of them gathered to my side at one point in my captivity.

When I did not find solstice in returning the taunts of my captors, I turned to the book of hymns and meditations in my haversack, choosing to read aloud the prayer for the enemy and taking confidence that GOD had us in His favor. I knew of His intercession as the pain in my arm eased with the passing of the afternoon sun. And behold! murmurs from the Federals of my Confederate brethren in the distance soon reached my ears.

"I told you they were regrouping!" I sang. The mere thought of my compatriots' return further strengthened my arm.

Surely the news was encouraging the townspeople as well, for I spotted a young lady cheerfully waving the Bonnie Blue Flag in front of line of Federals as they formed for battle. Their Colonel saw the disruption and ordered one of his officers to deal with the disturbance. She fled with the waving flag to a nearby storefront behind the safety of her aunt, who implored the officer to halt. She restated for him her Union sympathies but reaffirmed her devotion to her niece. However, the officer was unfettered, and the lady produced a pistol from her basket.

"Not one step more!" she shouted to him.

The officer surely must have thought his order or charm could override the danger clearly before him, for he took that fateful step and walked right into a 45-caliber slug that felled him on the stairs.

Amidst the confusion as the Federals attended to him, I sensed an opportunity. My guards had deserted me in the haste to form for battle. Gritting and rising to my feet, I scampered off to the sympathetic ladies.

"Have you seen my gun?" I asked. Alas, they had not. But I ducked behind a store and discovered my trusted Springfield leaning by a back door, either left there in error by one of my captors or smuggled into position by an absent friend.

As I ran through the alleys, more shouting from the Union soldiers echoed from the walls: "The prisoner has escaped!"

I hid where I could, out of sight of any Federal pickets or sentries, looking to rejoin my Confederate brethren. As THE LORD's Providence would have it, I found a detachment of skirmishers running straight for my position, and I heartily joined them. We had no time for formal re-acquaintances or sharing of intelligence as we quickly surrounded the enemy in another street skirmish. From our position behind an outbuilding, we took turns rounding the corner, picking off a Federal or two before ducking back to safety. In minutes, the greenness of the Union line revealed itself in cries of surrender.

The skirmishers and I found a front lawn littered with bodies where the fighting had peaked. The Federal survivors stood with their hands in the air, and we cheered the victory with a coda of "The Bonnie Blue Flag."

I must note this scene of celebration took place mere yards from the tree where the Union held your publisher captive. From now on, this tree might be better known as Payson's Tree of Liberty.

All of us at We Make History thank the people of Payson and their leaders for their cooperation in making this first-ever live historical drama a huge success. Like the Confederate liberators, we'll be back!

More sights and memories from the Battle Of Payson here.

Press coverage
in the Payson Roundup.

NEXT: A New Chapter in The Virginia Diaries: The Battle of New Market!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Standing Down For Jay

A new revolution is brewing on Boston TV, and it's interesting to watch if you work in the business. NBC affiliate WHDH wants to pre-empt Jay Leno's upcoming 10pm ET weeknight talk show for a newscast because owner Ed Ansin says he can gain more viewers with news than with Jay. NBC says that would violate the station's affiliation agreement, and it's threatening to pull the network and take it somewhere else, likely to the NBC-owned Telemundo affiliate.

This is more than just a station wanting to protect its revenue. Ansin and NBC have a rocky history, going back to the 1980s when NBC bought took its affiliation away from Ansin's WSVN in Miami after buying a station there. At the time, NBC and Ansin had locked horns because of preemptions. Ansin also refused to give up the network until after the 1988 Olympics, meaning NBC had to run its new station as a CBS affiliate for a year. And according to who you talk to, Ansin bought WLVI in Boston so NBC couldn't get its mitts on it.

I have no doubt Ansin is still seeking some payback. But for the network to pull its affiliation and move it to the Telemundo affiliate is just silly. NBC-Universal can't afford it, and they really don't have the appetite for it after what happened in San Francisco.

In 1999, NBC threw a hissy fit because Young Broadcasting outbid it for KRON. Instead of working with the new owners and staying on one of the strongest stations in the Bay Area, it bullied Young into dumping the affiliate with sore-loser demands including expensive reverse compensation. Young gave up NBC, which then poured millions of dollars into buying San Jose's KNTV and then a few million more to prop up its weak signal and news operation. You can argue NBC paid less for KNTV than what it would have shelled out for KRON, but it could've saved all that money by putting ego aside.

What NBC needs to do is make peace with Ansin and pay him to run Leno at 10, at a fee higher than he could get with a newscast. It may hurt some feelings at 30 Rock, but it's a heckuvalot cheaper than doing a KRON job on Boston at a time when the network's revenue is already hurting.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

We Are Not Amused

President Obama and First Lady Michelle's visit with Queen Elizabeth II didn't measure up to royal standards, if you believe the web comments from various web articles, because Obama gave her an iPod filled with Broadway tunes, pictures of her 2007 visit to America, and some of his speeches. People are equating this gift with that infamous box of DVD movies Obama gave to PM Gordon Brown -- which supposedly don't play in British DVD players. The Queen gave the Obamas a signed portrait of herself and her husband, which is said to be standard operating procedure for royal visits. So much for charges the President's gift came wrapped in ego.

I imagine some people are also finding the First Couple needs to practice their honours. I detected no curtsy from Michelle Obama, but according to royal protocol, she didn't need to make one because she's not a British subject. Makes sense. If you know me, you know I'd give a low bow, but under current Buckingham Palace standards, only a head nod is required. For the record, the former President and Mrs. Bush didn't give honours, either.

So really, what's wrong? Nothing at all, except the sensibilities of some people who are looking for a reason to take cheap shots... many of them British. Lousy Redcoats.

UPDATE: Looks like both Her Majesty and the First Lady deviated from standards.