A typical work day for Stephen Colbert

The interview below might just be the best interview I’ve heard. (Listen to the Real Stephen Colbert Explain How He Maintained his Flawless Character for Nine Years) Plotz asked really good questions and they were short (I hate long, windy questions).

It was like meeting Stephen Colbert for the first time. I hardly recognized the voice or the person speaking. He takes us through his working day and it was fascinating. And grueling. Difficult to imagine doing this 160 times a year (1400 total).

I’m gonna miss the character but it feels like the right time to stop. Maybe as it was for Seinfeld. I’ll record Late Night (as I did The Colbert Report) once Colbert gets behind the desk. I’m a little nervous about it. Like discovering your wife of twenty years is really a deep cover mole for a foreign government. Will I like the real Stephen Colbert as much as I liked the character I’ve come to know?

Be Right Back (Black Mirror)

An online service that creates a virtual presence for a departed loved one, based on all the photos, videos, Facebook posts, Tweets, etc etc. I’m sure I’ve posted on that several times over the years, eagerly anticipating some digital immortality. Once again, Charlie Brooker has changed my mind with the Be Right Back episode of Black Mirror. If you’ve recently lost someone close, you might want to skip this one (or wait a bit)

Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War

pay-any-priceI’m not sure how anyone can have much hope for the future of America by the time they get to the last page of this book. Every institution fails. The military. Congress. Our courts. The White House. The Free Press we were once so proud of. Greed and corruption, up and down the line. Risen introduces us to some good people who tried to do something but they all paid (are paying) a high price and the bad guys are still winning.

People tell me we live in a democracy or a republic or something and we can change things at the polls but I don’t think I really believe that. Thousands (or millions?) of Americans in the street might make a difference but I’m not sure how. Maybe if they took to the streets and just stayed there, but I don’t see that happening. A meteor that takes out everything inside the Beltway?

I wish I could imagine a happy ending. If you can, please share it. I’d really like to hear it. And you know what I’d like to see? I’d like to watch the faces of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney as they read this book. Each in a room by themselves, sitting in their favorite chair. Just a close-up of their faces (from a hidden camera across the roo). I could watch an hour of that.

Pick a line

line-of-peopleThere’s an image in my head of two long lines of people, stretching off in different directions. In one line are the people who believe torturing our enemies is okay. And that police officers who shoot unarmed black men are just doing their job. The people in the other line — let’s call it the Sob Sister line — think differently.

Few things in life are black and white but it seems I can only stand in one of those lines so here I am in the Sob Sister line and as I look around, I don’t recognize most of the people in this line. But there are so many familiar faces in that other line. People I grew up with. People I worked with. Of course I think I’m in the “right” line, but so do all those people in the other line.

Up and down the line people are shouting back and forth, pretending to have a “conversation.” (Boy, I hate that word) But that’s not what’s really happening. Here’s what I think is really going on.

If the people in the Other line are right, then I must be wrong. Being wrong about really important stuff like torture and shooting people goes right to the core of who I am. Scary stuff.

Here’s my dilemma: I’m having trouble meeting the gaze of people I know in the Other line. They want to talk. To explain why I’m in the wrong line and persuade me to join them. But I smile awkwardly and look away, convinced nothing good can come from such “conversations.” Ideas, and the words we use to express them, are losing their power and meaning for me. They’re just sounds. Like those dogs whose owners think they can speak or sing. I’m focusing more these days on what I do. Actions seem like real things to me.

Am I being cowardly? Maybe. And I haven’t pefected my Stand Mute strategy yet. It’s difficult to be silent. To be still. But here I am in the Sob Sister line, hands in my pockets. Lips tight, eyes straight ahead.

UPDATE: My analogy is flawed. We need more than two lines. Not a third line, maybe, but a place for people to stand who aren’t comfortable in the two lines I described above. Picture that big infield area at the Indy 500.

These folks believe there are times when a police officer might have to shoot (12 times) an unarmed suspect. You have to look at the facts of each case and try to put yourself in the shoes of the officer. And clearly there are time when torture is justified. If a kidnapper has buried your family alive out in the desert and the only way you could save them was to torture the guy, wouldn’t you do it? Of course you would. So, see? You have to take each case on its merits. I don’t belong in either of your lines. Life’s not that cut and dried. Now. What did I miss?

Shotgun Shack

A “shotgun house” is a narrow rectangular domestic residence, usually no more than 12 feet (3.5 m) wide, with rooms arranged one behind the other and doors at each end of the house. It was the most popular style of house in the Southern United States from the end of the American Civil War (1861–65), through the 1920s. (Wikipedia)

This is me. Taken sometime in the early ’70s? Yes, that’s a cotton field. My mom picked cotton when she was young. She said it was back-breaking work. They called them “shotgun shacks” because you could shoot a shotgun through the front door and out the back door. If memory serves, I sent this photo to Barb while she was still in college, to show her what life with me would be like.


As I reached the intersection of Madison and High Streets yesterday, I saw — and heard — them. Maybe two dozen young men and women, all college age. And all black. They were striding purposefully down the street, led by a young man with a bullhorn, leading the group in now familiar chants (“Hands up! Don’t shoot!” “No justice, no peace!”).


They were students at Lincoln University and obviously headed to a rally at the state capitol a block a way. As they passed I asked one young man if it would be okay for me to walk along with them and he handed me a small cardboard sign, printed with the hashtag #BLACKLIVESMATTER.


As we moved on to the capitol grounds we could see other groups on the steps and a few organizers in orange vests directed us toward the doors leading into the capitol rotunda. Folding chairs were set up on the floor and lots of folks stood on the staircase leading up to the second floor. Others looked down from the floors above. A few white faces. Not many. Mostly young, a few older.


I saw police officers directing traffic. Missouri Highway Patrol officers at some of the entrances to the capitol and what I assumed were members of the capitol police force in the rotunda area. But they were dressed as police officers. No riot gear. And the ones I saw seemed intent on keeping a low profile. They didn’t appear to be expecting trouble.


A young woman standing next to me had a sign showing news images of black men who had been killed by police officers. Her sign was affixed to a small, child size, wooden baseball bat. She was using it to hold her sign. An officer came up and quietly —and politely— explained to her that the bat wasn’t allowed inside the capitol because it could be used as a weapon. She nodded and the officer went away and came back a minute later with a pair of scissors the young woman used to remove her sign from the bat. The officer pointed toward one of the doors where she could retrieve the bat when she left. And she simply held her sign up with both hands for the rest of the event. A simple thing that could have been fucked up… but wasn’t.

I sensed some tension between the older people in attendance, represented by the NAACP, and a group of younger protestors who had been on the streets in Ferguson when things got ugly. Those who spoke expressed frustration, anger, sadness. I wasn’t expecting any “I have a dream” rhetoric but I found myself wondering if this movement would have a Dr. King. Or a Malcolm X, or Stokely Carmichael.

Following the event I struck up a conversation with an older (my age) gentleman and mentioned Dr. King. He looked me in the eye and quietly said, “Martin Luther King is dead.”

As I thought about that later it dawned on me that Dr. King and the civil right movement are historical events for young black people. Like slavery or the Civil War. Important, but a long time ago. And I had the clear sense the NAACP has lost most of its relevance.

I tried to listen to the speakers but the sound system and the acoustics were awful. So I read the signs people were holding. “No justice, no peace!” “This is what democracy looks like.” “Hands up, don’t shoot!” “#BLACKLIVESMATTER.”

They do.

Augmented reality glasses

vr-gogglesI’ve been reading about augmented reality (fiction and non-fiction) for years and this morning I finally got a look. Sort of. +George Kopp brought an Epson Moverio BT-200 by the coffee shop. The glasses were surprisingly light, and comfortable. I didn’t get an immersive, VR experience but did watch a few seconds of a YouTube video. I was impressed. As George had the unit configured, I could see the video and what was going on behind and around it. These are early days and this tech will get better and better.

One quickly imagines a pay-per-view scenario where I — sitting on my sofa — can watch a Rolling Stones concert from any of a dozen perspectives. Back stage. From the crowd. Hovering drone. Maybe Mick has a camera somewhere on his aging body. And I can jump from view to view. Yeah, I’d probably pay for that.

PS: They’ll need a chinstrap option for new users.

Chris Rock on race and comedy

A long, but interesting, interview with Chris Rock in New York magazine. A few excerpts to wet your whistle:

If poor people knew how rich rich people are, there would be riots in the streets.

When we talk about race relations in America or racial progress, it’s all nonsense. There are no race relations. White people were crazy. Now they’re not as crazy. To say that black people have made progress would be to say they deserve what happened to them before.

There have been smart, educated, beautiful, polite black children for hundreds of years. The advantage that my children have is that my children are encountering the nicest white people that America has ever produced. Let’s hope America keeps producing nicer white people.