Community Radio Meeting

Earlier in the year there was some discussion in this space about community radio on Prince Edward Island. Some people went off and discussed the idea further in a Yahoo! discussion group. My sense from all of this is that there might be enough community energy and community skills to create some sort of community radio enterprise here on the Island.

To this end, a small group of us have decided to jump in and plan a meeting of interested people. Scheduled for Tuesday, October 29 at 7:30 p.m., the meeting will take place in the Board Room at CBC Prince Edward Island.

We intend the meeting to be an exploratory session — a way to gauge just what interests and skills and passions could be assembled, and into what. Watch this space for more details; in the meantime, please spread the word that anyone, young or old, experienced in radio or not, is welcome to attend and contribute to the meeting.

Steve's Brother Pete

All through high school my little brothers had to endure the question “so, you’re Peter’s brother.” Not that I was acclaimed — I simply had the virtue of coming first.

Brother Steve is exacting his revenge these days, though: a spate of national stories on CBC Radio (for whom he’s a news report in Saskatoon) have people asking me “so, you any relation to that Steve Rukavina?”.

Although Steve’s website has been dark of late, leaving the reading public without the insightful “behind the scenes of a young journo” pieces that were so interesting, we in the family do get to hear news from the horse’s mouth now and again, and one of the stories Steve related recently was of a sort of broadcaster boot camp held by the CBC in Winnipeg. Part of what went on there was a series of role plays, where the participants would read news stories and then be critiqued on them, and Steve says he got a lot out of this.

And I have to agree: if you listen to this recent piece, you’ll hear a much more affable, relaxed Journalist Steve.

It’s a wonderful experience to be able to watch one of your kid brothers mature into his career from afar; if Steve was a construction worker or a shop clerk we wouldn’t have this opportunity, but as he’s choosen the public airwaves as his medium, we’re lucky enough to be able to tune in.

The 2003 Old Farmer's Almanac

Cover of the 2003 edition of The Old Farmer's Almanac After the launch of the new website in June, our time working with our colleagues on the web team at Yankee Publishing in New Hampshire has been consumed with a gradual redesign of, the website of The Old Farmer’s Almanac.

You can see the beginnings of the fruits of this work on the front page of this week. The new design on that page coincides with the release of the 2003 edition of the The Old Farmer’s Almanac (order yours today online or find copies at a bookstore or newsstand near you).

The new design is the work of the masterful Steve Muskie. Steve took the best parts of the old design and created a new presentation that has more content presented more clearly. Our contribution to the effort was the engines that drive the personalization features on the front page — weather, tides, sunrise and so on — and the databases behind them.

There’s lots more in store in the days and weeks to come. Stay tuned.

By the way, the sun is going to rise at 7:04 a.m. tomorrow morning.

TV Roundup: Night Three

Last night’s Big Premiere was The West Wing.

I originally sought solace in the arms of The West Wing after the cancellation of Sports Night: they share Aaron Sorkin as creator and writer and share Sorkin’s Mametesque “faster and more thrilling than life” approach to dialog. After watching Sports Night and early episodes of The West Wing I was left with an odd, pleasant after taste: I wanted my life to be that breezy.

Alas, if Wednesday’s premiere is any guide, the writing on The West Wing has gone from compelling and breezy to confusing and muddled. There were entire sequences in the two-hour opener that simply passed me by.

Perhaps I’m simply too stupid, or not in tune enough with the US politcal situation, but chunks of plot like “Toby and Josh get lost in America,” while perhaps interesting in some abstract metaphorical way, were unintelligible and tired.

Combine this nonesense with the whole “how many times can there be some horrible crisis in some country with a made-up name that causes everyone to get stressed out” and I worry for the health of the show.

The final blow may be the departure of Rob Lowe from the series. He’s obviously already in the process of being ushered out, as his role in last night’s episode was minor and of no consequence. I always thought that The West Wing was about Rob Lowe’s character Sam Seaborn, in the same way the WKRP was about Andy and M*A*S*H was about Hawkeye Pierce. While I wouldn’t go as far as saying he’s as much of a linchpin as either of those characters, he was the archtypical snappy talker, and every other characters bravado seemed descended from his.

That all said, there are some reasons for hope: Dule Hill as the President’s assistant Charlie is taking on a larger role in the show, and I really enjoyed his performance last night. Lily Tomlin (bias: I am a big Lily Tomlin fan) is going to do wonderful things too, I think. And Allison Janney really, really deserved the Emmy she received last week: she’s a great actor.

I’ll keep watching, but some of the magic is gone.

TV Roundup: Night Two

On Tuesday was the return of NYPD Blue to the fall season, after airing in the winter and spring for the past two years.

The season opener was preceded by a special, inexplicably hosted by Joe Mantegna, that took us “inside the world of NYPD Blue.” While there were several interesting parts to this preview, it was mostly gloss and fluff and left me wishing it was produced by more interesting people and was three times as long.

Whereas in shows like Law & Order and CSI it is the plot that drives the show, and shows like ER are more character driven (and I use that term loosely with ER), I realized on Tuesday that NYPD Blue is neither: it’s simply a compelling, well-punctuated visual ballet. The show has neither strong plots nor particularly strong actors (although Dennis Franz does have his charms, I admit): it’s something you have to eat as a whole, and be broadly brushed by. And I have a hunch that you either like that or you don’t, but I’d be hard pressed to suggest how you tell the difference. In a sense this makes the show perfect for the modern television viewer: you can go to the bathroom in the middle of the show and not really miss anything. You can even miss entire episodes or entire seasons, and not feel as though you’re being left behind.