Wednesday, June 30, 2010

NBS Det Rota: Pumpkins for Sale!

Here's another discovery from an archive tape I recently unearthed from my years as a Navy journalist in Rota, Spain. This piece departs from the warfighting emphasis of stories I posted Monday and Tuesday, offering a slice of life on base.

Rota, you see, was more than a collection of service members toiling away on docks, air strips, and other gritty places. It was also a community of families. We serviced aircraft carriers and airplanes, sure. But we also had a grocery store, a movie theater, and a pizza parlor. Because of that expanded audience, the journalists of NBS Rota sought to inform and entertain everyone: sailers, spouses, kids, the whole community.

Indeed many of our stories featured aspects of Navy life you'd never see on those old "Port of Call" recruiting commercials. I reckon that for each story emerging from the spirit of "It's not just a job, it's an adventure," three or four pieces concentrated on more pedestrian matters, like preparing for Halloween. Scroll down to see what I mean. Or hang around for a while. It's time to return to where I left off yesterday.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

NBS Det Rota: Marine Training

While I'm uploading stories I produced as a Navy journalist in the late eighties I'm also writing a bit about my years in Rota, Spain. That's where the Navy, in its inscrutable logic, chose to send me, despite the fact that I had been adamant about wanting to be assigned only one place in the world.

Back in "A School" we were instructed to write our ideal duty station on a form. So I wrote, "Florida." Three times.

I can almost imagine the Navy dispatcher slowly placing his coffee cup on his desk as he reads my form. I can see him rubbing his hands together, a serene smile on his face. "This is going to be good," he says. And then, savoring the chance to throw a curve in my life, while incidentally prioritizing the needs of the service, he cackles: "Spain it is."

Monday, June 28, 2010

NBS Det Rota: Seabee Training

Recently I dug up some old 3/4-inch tapes containing archived stories I produced as a Navy journalist back in the late eighties. This required finding a machine that could actually play tapes that had gotten mighty dusty in the two decades since I left active duty. I also needed to convert the original analog source-material into a more usable digital format (a job that called for the expert help of SJSU's Instructional Resource Center).

While these videos suffer from four generations of quality degradation -- the result of dubbing from original to copy to Micro DV to YouTube -- it's fun to see stories I produced when I was 20 or 21, enjoying a job where every day offered a new opportunity to learn something cool.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Daytime Dispatches - 2010

Today's live-blog (8 a.m. to 5 p.m., PDT) was dedicated to enduring a Friday's worth of daytime television: droning infomercials, shouting confessionals, courtroom procedurals, and, of course, Oprah. As I get a chance, I'll review this draft for typos. Also, feel free to check out Year Two and Year One.

8:00 (AMC): I'm all a-twitter, getting ready to start another edition of Daytime Dispatches. I've got my junk food ready. My easy chair's stretched out. And my clicker's on stand-by. My fingers quiver over the button. How to begin the next nine hours of brain-melting entertainment? Hmm... I think I'll start with an infomercial...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Asian Road Tripping

Winnie So has posted a terrific article on CNN's website. 8 Spectacular Driving Adventures features amazing roadside images from China, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, and India, and I am inspired to imagine seeing at least one of these places during our next adventure in Asia.

Just check out this image of Thailand's Phang Nga Bay, a place that provided a backdrop for The Man With The Golden Gun. Reviewing So's article, this scene is viewable from Phuket's northeast loop. Those towering formations, that blue water! Yep, Jenny and I are adding Phang Nga Bay to our 2010 Shanghai-Thailand itinerary!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Plymouth Court

One day I know this old relic of a motel will disappear. Already it's overshadowed by a hotel that opened its doors this past year.

I just didn't want to see that day without taking some decent photos of the Santa Cruz Plymouth Court.

(Photographs by Andrew Wood)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Bell Beats Ulysses (for a while)

I am intrigued but also saddened by Wes Davis' recent NYT story, The 'Learning Knights' of Bell Telephone, which describes the eponymous phone company's fifties-era effort to inspire a love the humanities among its rising execs, an education that included that James Joyce brain-bender, Ulysses.

As Davis recalls it, Bell was confident that company engineers could fit the Organization Man groove. But the firm was less sure that those rising go-getters in their gray flannel suits could think creatively. As one observer noted, "A well-trained man knows how to answer questions. . . an educated man knows what questions are worth asking.” Bell's future leadership needed to learn the difference.

So the firm arranged for some of its most promising executives to get a ten-month crash course in the liberal arts. Over 550 hours students would discuss poetry, philosophy, aesthetics, and architecture. They would, in short, learn that there's more to life than business.

The results were stunning. Participants said that the course enhanced their understanding of the world and its complexities. One added that, before the program, he was "like a straw floating with the current down the stream . . . The stream was the Bell Telephone Company. I don’t think I will ever be that straw again."

Naturally Bell killed the program. The company just wasn't too keen on training its employees to consider the possibility of multiple bottom lines. Ulysses it turns out, is pretty dangerous stuff.

Read the story: The Learning Knights' of Bell Telephone,

Monday, June 21, 2010

Stitch and Enrich

Over the weekend, I started playing with Photoshop's image stitching abilities. My first experiment: a swell Santa Cruz mural. Even without the aid of a tripod, these images merged together nicely. Afterward, of course, things got a little weird...

Friday, June 18, 2010

Three mobile phone moments

Three mobile phone moments from the last 24 hours:

Jenny and I are circling the Skypark jogging path and we pass a woman pushing a baby carriage. The mom is talking, presumably to the baby. Isn't that nice? But as we pass by, it becomes clear that she's using a Bluetooth device to talk with someone else. The baby stares upward at nothing in particular.

While driving down Mt. Herman Road, two police head the opposite direction. Seeing the first one, I can't quite believe my eyes. After the second one, it's clear: both cops are cupping cell phones over their shoulders, chatting away. For all I know, they're talking with each other.

I'm waiting to exit a Scotts Valley gas station when I see a kid lost in his own aural world; wearing earphones he's bopping to the beat of some song. Next to him, his mom is animatedly engaged in a conversation with someone else. I wonder if they know or care about just how odd this looks, at least to me.

Ah, the magic of mobile phones.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Shanghai Expo: Tiny Town

As I prepare to attend Expo 2010 in Shanghai this August, I imagine the development of a potential article that, maybe, might set up the larger "tiny towns" book project. While my goal is to avoid excessively covering the same ground addressed in City Ubiquitous (which, after all, is grounded the first Victorian-era world's fairs) I do hope to expand on an already fruitful framework to explore terrain that fascinates me: the ways in which places shape human interaction and perception.

Thus I approach the Shanghai fair as a contemporary manifestation of the modern world's fair idea that "civilization" as a rhetorical concept is best defined through contraction rather than expansion. In other words, recalling my oft-asked question to students in COMM 149, "Who's in, who's out, and who decides?" This process of distillation, one that likely arises in any "tiny town," tacks between overt restriction and the more subtle, potentially insidious, illusion of completeness.

What I hope to find in Shanghai, though, is not merely another example of the well-known trope of the "God's eye view," the perspective of human power subverted under the presumption of cosmic detachment, but rather a material evolution beyond historical and extant practices, a mutation that surprises. That disjuncture, especially when it helps us see aspects of contemporary life that otherwise elude the thoughtful gaze, is worth investigating.

Keep checking back with this blog. I hope to expand on these ideas in the coming months.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

President Obama's War

Last night's Oval Office address about the BP Oil Spill had the right rhythm and hit the right notes, but it ultimately fell flat.

President Obama delivered a speech geared to address pundits' concerns about his alleged lack of passion concerning the horror this spill has unleashed on the ecosystem, the economy, and our national sense of well-being. Though he projected his personal encounters with shrimpers and fishermen who watch as their livelihoods roll out with the tide, a Feel-Your-Pain moment long sought by the commentariat, President Obama missed the opportunity to change the dynamic of this crisis.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Shot by Shot: Gather Your Armies

OK. First of all, we Californians are in no position to mock political loonies residing beyond the Golden State. At least we can't mock 'em too much. After all, we're the proud home of Carly Fiorina, the otherwise implausible candidate whose "Demon Sheep" spot helped secure her party's nomination for the upcoming California senate race.

That's right, voters in my home state met in solemn deliberation last week and concluded that a failed CEO with no legislative experience, a novice who portrayed her opponent as a creepy glowing-red-eyed animal impersonator, represents the GOP's best hope to beat Barbara Boxer this fall. That's why Left Coasties can't get too smug about goofy campaign spots running elsewhere. California is kind of a joke.

But whenever we get too despondent about the state of our politics, all that Mickey Mouse silliness, we can at least thank God for one small favor:

At least there's Alabama.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Carmel and Point Lobos: 22nd Anniversary Weekend

Jenny and I celebrated our 22nd anniversary this past weekend by driving south to Carmel and spending the night at the Tickle Pink Inn. Yeah, we stayed at a place called the Tickle Pink. Actually, the lodge was insanely priced beyond our typical budget. But those feather pillows, that complementary welcome drink, the gracious wine and cheese reception (again, free), and an awesome Pacific panorama from our own private deck [click for video view] warranted every dollar we spent. Even so, we barely checked in and relaxed a bit before returning to the Pacific Coast Highway. There's just so much to see in this part of California, with each turn yielding another path through a breezy meadow and down a stone trail to the end of the world. As I've tried to capture with the aid of HDR, this place is awesome.

Friday, June 11, 2010

More HDR Fun: Moss Landing and Bonny Doon

Little by little, I'm starting to get the hang of HDR. These pix were taken in Moss Landing and Bonny Doon along highway 1. As usual, I'm drawn to seemingly desolate places, and high dynamic range imaging gives me an enhanced palate to convey the feelings associated with these environments.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Carousel of Progress

A delightful holdover from Disney's past, the Carousel of Progress continues to spin through the decades, depicting four eras (the 1900s, 1920s, 1940s, and "present day") of a typical American family's embrace of new technologies. At the same time, the Carousel showcases how Disney and corporate America (initially General Electric) have spun together a vision of American life that, for all its eccentric whimsy, largely came true.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

How good a multitasker are you?

Matt Richtel has written a comprehensive article in the New York Times about the impact of iPhones, video games, and multitasking on the human brain. While based on the experiences of one family, the article cites fascinating research on how our society's growing obsession with gadgets is changing how we prioritize information and relationships. Some tasty quotes:

Monday, June 7, 2010

Bay Area Saturday

Jenny and I drove to the San Francisco Bay Area on Saturday and had a delightful evening. Along the way we saw some cool sites. [Click images for larger views]

Friday, June 4, 2010

Florida - Early Summer 2010

Jenny and I enjoyed a wonderful Florida vacation during the last week of May. Our trip served no real purpose; it was just about time that we return to our favorite Sunshine State haunts. We go about once a year, tucking into meals at Sonny's, noting the transformations of buildings and roadways, and gathering with friends and family to retell old stories and share new ones.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


My recent drive down the eastern spine of California's Sierra Mountains was easily the best solo roadtrip I've ever taken, the culmination of a long-held desire to experience that strange transformation from the state's northern frozen plains to its southern depths that burn under the sun. Though I have much more to learn about CA-395, I feel that I've come to appreciate a delightful stretch of highway that had previously been unknown to me. Now I surely understand why this road is often called California's own Route 66 (Yes, I know we have a stretch of the Famed Mother Road, but still…). This time my trip was an opportunity for rest and reflection, but I hope to bring my family this way again soon.

Unfortunately my journey began with disconcerting news.