Wednesday, June 25, 2008


This is the question I've been pondering recently. Can dogs get embarrassed? I think of it whenever I take Otter for a walk, oddly enough. He doesn't seem to have the exact look I usually see when he takes his dump, but trust me: there is one -- a sort of "hey, close the door" look. I see it on other dogs, too.

What about the algae eater in my aquarium?

What does he think about all day as he glues himself to the side of the tank? Does he think his life sucks? If there's a God -- and I'm not saying there's not -- what was he thinking when he created the algae eater? If there's reincarnation -- and I'm not saying there is -- what the hell did the person do in his/her previous life to come back as an algae eater? Is there, like, a pervert in my aquarium?

These are important questions.

It's been a quiet, non-existent spring here in flyover country, although the first real signs of summer -- hot and humid days -- have finally arrived. But the days are getting shorter. I want to believe that summer just started, but the days are getting shorter.

I'm trying to figure out my schedule for the summer. I've got Oshkosh for a week at the end of July. Then I have to go to Denver in August to cover the Democratic National Convention, then back home to St. Paul to cover the Republican National Convention and that takes us to.... Labor Day!

Where the hell did summer go? It's times like this I look forward to retirement. I want my summers back.

In around-the-house news, the weird spring weather created a first. The delphiniums bloomed before the peonies did.

By the way, the yellow siding and blue trim will be disappearing soon. The roofing and siding guy is stopping by today. We're picking a new color. I'm leaning toward colonial red -- both my and Carolie's parents' homes are colonial red, although it's a color that may work better in New England. The dark color may fade quickly, though. Anything but beige, I guess.

Continuing our tour: In the backyard, wouldn't you think the hummingbirds would be all over this beast?

Alas, no hummingbirds.

And what is this plant:

It came back to Minnesota a few years ago when I dug up some bee balm at my mother's house. I transplanted it from the perennial garden because it was clear it was going to spread. It makes a nice ground cover, even though it's heading for the grass and will probably be a major pain in the neck. It'll probably attack the neighbor's house soon. Good.

Update It's Creeping Charlie. I better start digging.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I'll show you mine

This is a nothing post. Just a picture of me showing a colleague how lame and out of date my cellphone is, at least where the camera is concerned. The lens is all full of lint and it takes crappy pictures. This picture, on the other hand, was taken by my colleague -- Julia Schrenkler -- on her phone.

She wins.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Jim Mitchell, 1950-2008

When I look back at 30+ years in the radio industry, there was no place I felt more at home than at WHDH in Boston. I was a Massachusetts kidding living my boyhood dream, working in radio in Boston. Even better, the people I worked with really were like family.

Word came today that another family member has passed away. Jim Mitchell was one of our newscasters. I used to joke that he was in the CIA, because he'd swoop into town from -- it seemed -- nowhere, plop down and do a great job and then disappear, only to reappear again. I'd heard he was in some sort of secret ops in Vietnam, so I was only half-joking.

When my old friend Nick Young (I've written about him here before, too), Jim took on the morning anchor duties on the Jess Cain show (and I've written about Jess here, too). I wish I could find some clips of the old Cain's Crew TV commercials.

I hadn't seen or talked to Jim since and that was about 25 years ago. But I'm not surprised to find his love had taken him to a bookstore.

Here's his obituary (written by his sister), which was forwarded to me today by another "family member."

Henry Milnor “Jim” Mitchell died June 4, 2008 of a heart attack in his home, MainStreet Bookends of Warner. Born March 17, 1950 in Charlottesville, VA, he was the first child of Arthur Hayne Mitchell, Jr. and Edith Looker Mitchell.

With his sister and brother-in-law, he in 1998 created and became co-owner of the community bookstore MainStreet BookEnds of Warner. In his ten years operating the store, it won numerous awards, including Yankee Magazine’s “Must-See Bookstore of New England,” and NH Magazine’s “Best Community Bookstore.” It became the focal point and gathering place for the town. Here he coordinated over 300 events a year, including concerts, lectures, classes, story hours, and the meeting of primary presidential candidates. He was a former director of the annual Warner Fall Foliage Festival, served on numerous town committees, and was named Warner’s “Citizen of the Year” in 2004.

Jim was a decorated Vietnam veteran, being named “Airman of the Year” in 1970. He began his long radio career as a news anchor with WLNH in Laconia, New Hampshire, and moved to WSB Radio in Atlanta, GA where he stayed until 1981. He then came back to New England to anchor the morning news at WHDH Radio in Boston, the afternoon news at WEEI-AM, and then in 1998 became the weekend news anchor for WBZ NewsRadio 1030. He also served as a union negotiator for the news crew. He received numerous broadcast awards including several awards from the Associated Press for "Best Newscast." He was most proud of his award for "Best Spot News" coverage of the World Airways crash at Logan International airport in Boston in 1982, and was known in the Boston area for bringing human interest stories from all around the world. He had traveled extensively in Europe, Asia, South America and the South Pacific.

He will forever be remembered for his clear voice, his humble nature, for his million small gestures of kindness, his ability to make everyone laugh and feel at ease, and his “free balloon hour” in the bookstore.

He leaves behind his adoring sister, Katharine Mitchell Nevins, and her husband, Neil, of Warner. Their children Lane, Matthias, Colin and Klare were his greatest loves. He is also survived by a brother Arthur Mitchell of Virginia, his wife Monica, and their children Katharine, Andrew and Thomas, his aunt Karen Hyde also of Virginia and many cousins. He leaves behind a huge and grateful community of friends in Warner, at WBZ, and within the world of radio news.

Jim’s passion and greatest pride was the little town of Warner. He worked to encourage and promote all the artists, writers, musicians and children that live there. To honor Jim’s spirit and life work, his plans and dream for a community park between the bookstore and the Pillsbury Free Library of Warner will come true. Any donations should be directed, in his name, toward MainStreet Warner, Inc., P.O. Box 248, Warner, NH 03278, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that he created. Burial will be private, but a celebration of his life will be held at the Warner Town Hall on Tuesday, June 17 at 2 pm to be followed by a reception at his home, The Gallery at MainStreet Bookends.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Why journalism is dying

This is very mean of me, but it's not posted with anything but curiosity. We're having layoffs -- a lot of layoffs -- in the media industry right now and we're told -- and appropriately so -- that part of the reason is the Internet.

But merely being on the Internet doesn't mean you take the culture of the dying-trees media and plop it down on the Web, though if you listen to people long enough, you'd swear that the medium by itself is rendering traditional media obsolete.

That's not true.

Take, for example, the front page of an online news Web site I respect... but not today.

Back in the '70s and '80s, I'd occasionally speak to AM radio newsies about the then-dying state of commercial radio news. They blamed everybody but themselves. "What killed radio news?" I'd say to them. "Radio newspeople."

You can't wait 14 hours in today's media landscape to tell people what happened. I see firsthand, all the time, the apparent belief that we in the media get to set the rules by which people will have access to information. Maybe 20 years ago news consumers would adjust to our schedules. But those days are gone.

Which is the primary reason why a lot of newspeople are gone, too.

Pine paranoia

I can't quite put my finger on it, but I'm suddenly haunted by the feeling that the pine trees in the backyard don't like me.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The derelict's game.

Let us be clear about the two most obvious things in life:

  • I love to golf.

  • I can't golf.

    And here, your honor, is Exhibit A.

    The prosecution rests.

    Have you ever seen such a horrible swing? If the ball were, say, a crazed rabbit threatening to eat my nostrils, maybe the approach is warranted.

    Patrick and I golfed down at Bellwood Oaks in Hastings. I really like the course. I like the fact it was mostly empty and nobody could see me.

    It's Patrick's birthday. He's 20. He's no longer a teenager. He's my youngest. Soon, my body will give out and I will be put on life support. I will drool my oatmeal. I will, perhaps, expose myself. I will most certainly have to have my behind wiped after I soil myself.

    Then, and perhaps only then, my golf game will be a fitting statement for my life.

    I shot a 115. And that's after kicking the ball out of tough lies, taking an extra shot here and there etc.

    Patrick? He bought some new irons with some birthday money and he was smoking the ball like I've never seen. He shot a 101, but that wasn't bad for getting used to the feel of new clubs.

    Not that I'd know, of course.