Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

A Live-Blogging Adventure -or- Dispassionate Journalism is Overrated

Four years ago this evening, there was a little tiny competition in Indianapolis. It involved about a dozen groups of musicians who tooted and drummed and flagged and danced. Their whole summer had been full of this activity, and as they say, it all came down to this.

As it happened, I knew personally a few of the folks involved with one particular performing group from North Carolina; and was therefore kinda pullin’ for ’em.

Thanks to the magic of the Internet and technology and such, those of us who were not in Indianapolis still got to experience the evening’s festivities, from group #1 to group #12 and then the announcements of who scored how many points.

My own particular version of the Internet, not being the fastest in the world, didn’t allow me to actually see or hear it. Video streaming was just not happening. But I had a devious method or two up my sleeve. So, wishing to put my erstwhile journalism training to work (well… sorta), I set about becoming the “pool reporter” for this event, on behalf of a number of my friends who didn’t have the fastest version of the Internet either.

The plan was to pass along the scores as they were announced. Y’know, dispassionate chronicler of events.

When I was done, I realized I’d actually broken a sweat. I was pulling for that one group pretty hard; and the intensity of the “big reveal” of Drum Corps International Finals scores at the end of the evening was a lot greater than I was expecting.

So, here’s the 21st-century equivalent, I guess, of tuning in to the radio drama and letting your imagination do the heavy lifting: behold … my Facebook post activity (and a few resultant FB Comments) from the evening of August 10, 2013.

 

The various corps presented their shows…

 

R: “So, I’ve got the official DCI Finals live blog scrolling along in one browser window and FB in another. I think this must be what it was like when all you could do was gather around the family radio.”

 

R: “DCI finals live blog commenter, re: [Santa Clara Vanguard]: ‘tempo seems to be up from the last two nights…’ • …up?!”

 

R: “From the DCI live blog, a royal announcement: ‘Live presentation of the scores will be offered FREE on the homepage DCI.org.’ At which time, the website will do its annual crash.”

 

R: “DCI live blog commenter, ‘tween corps: ‘Hearing the Cadets play Medea is so weird, since Star [of Indiana] used that in 1993, and the Cadets beat them that year. Then again, they also played Malaguena, which I am sure galled the Madison [Scouts] fans.’ … By this logic, Madison fans were angry with: every marching band in America. Hm.”

 

A friend of mine from the UMass Alumni Band days, whose niece was in a particular drum corps that night: “Getting so nervous for [Niece]!!!! Switching over to the tunnel. I just saw you, [Niece]!!!”

R: “In for 4 … out for 4 … in for 4 … out for 8 … in for 4 … out for 16 …”

 

R: “DCI live blog commenter, as [Blue Devils] finishes: ‘This is going to be a bloodbath!!!’ • DCI live blog moderator, as [Carolina] Crown enters: “The chant of ‘Let’s go Crown!’ has started in the crowd.’ • All together now: ‘This… place… is… e-…’”

 

R: “Every so often one of my non-drum-corps-watching friends posts here, … and it’s jarring!”

 

R: “[Carolina] Crown horns play, DCI live blog moderator writes: ‘Wow…that horn run back and forth and the impact of the section following it when they lay it all on the line. I can’t write the phrase I want to really use to explain my reaction to that, as I do like my job.’”

 

R: “DCI live blog moderator: ‘The crowd goes nuts! And for good reasons. Regardless of the outcome, THAT was a championship caliber performance.’ @dcihouseguyhedginghisbets”

 

R: “Hey, [Friend-With-A-Niece]… you OK over there? ;)”

FRIEND WITH A NIECE: “I’m breathing….barely.”

 

As the various corps assembled on the field for the awards retreat…

 

R: “Lemme just say this BEFORE any scores get called: I didn’t actually SEE any corps tonight. If everybody took it up a notch from Thursday night at the movies, –whoa. Good luck to everyone. Everyone’s a winner. It’s all about the audience. If you did your best, that’s all we can ask. … … Okay? Good. … … For the next twenty minutes, I am such a card-carrying member of the Sisterhood of the Purple Pants, it hurts. Get ’em Crown.”

 

FRIEND FROM THE BU BAND DAYS: “And the DCI page has crashed!!”

R: “They should have gotten the DoD tech guys involved.)”

BU BAND FRIEND: “I blame Snowden.”

R: “<*spit-take*>

 

R: “As the DCI website has apparently just crashed … *shocker* … I stand ready to reprise my role from last year as the guy with the tin can and string, posting scores from the live blog. My journalism degree, at work.”

DRUM MAJOR ACADEMY STAFF FRIEND: “I’m counting on you Dr. Rob!”

R: “I feel like I need to limber up. Arm circles!”

 

R: “No scores yet, but the Live Blog guys are taking a beating for the connectivity issues. (I know noth-ink!)”

FRIEND FROM THE UMASS ALUMNI BAND DAYS: “Ahhh! SO frustrating! I’m yelling at my computer right now… but it’s not helping!”

R: “My little fingers are hovering over the keys.”

BU BAND FRIEND: “At least the live blog is up.”

R: “I will defend that open browser window with my life.”

FRIEND FROM THE UMASS ALUMNI BAND DAYS #2: “You’re our link to the inside!”

 

Well, scoring these competitions is a complex business. Takes time. …

 

R: “If it makes anyone feel better, the Live Blog guys are blathering on inanely just the same as [DCI broadcast announcers] Rondinaro and DeLucia probably are. … ‘They’re clapping. They’re still clapping. Lots of clapping.’ … ‘Oh look, corps are marching on.’ ‘More clapping.’ … (I paraphrase.)”

 

R: “Stand by. Control-C, Control-V. Control-C, Control-V. Control-C, Control-V. Control-C, Control-V. …”

 

R: “In 13th place: ‘America the Beautiful.’ … Oh. Sorry.”

 

R: “Now [in the stadium] they’re showing a video, apparently. … … They do this on purpose, you know. #frakkers”

 

FRIEND FROM THE UMASS BAND DAYS #1: [re: what the DCI live bloggers are posting links about while the scores aren’t being announced yet] “aardvarks…. … and barn swallows.”

R: “OMG.”

 

And, at long last, here we go… blood pressure gently rising… as scores are announced approximately 30 seconds apart…

 

R: “11th, 86.40 Spirit of Atlanta”

 

R: “10th, 87.75 Blue Knights.”

 

R: “Caption awards: George Zingali Award for Best Color Guard to Blue Devils.”

 

R: “9th, 90.10 Madison Scouts”

 

R: “The top nine are 90+. Whoa.”

 

R: “John Brazale Best Visual Performance to Crown.”

 

R: “8th place, 90.40 Boston Crusaders. … Nearly caught the Cavs.”

 

DMA STAFF FRIEND #2: “Rob Hammerton is about 10 seconds ahead of [the DCI Finals “Entrance Tunnel” YouTube channel] … refresh refresh refresh” (8/10/2013)

 

R: “Jim Ott Award for Best Brass Performance to Carolina Crown. No … kidding.”

 

R: “7th place, 90.50 The Cavaliers.”

 

R: “Best Percussion Performance (Sanford Award) The Cadets”

 

R: “6th place, 93.25 Bluecoats”

 

R: “Don Angelica Best Overall GE Carolina Crown”

 

R: “5th place, 93.35 Bluecoats”

 

R: “4th place, 96.85 SCV … A 3 point spread.”

 

R: “3rd place, 96.95 The Cadets … My God, that only gets them 3rd place.”

FRIEND FROM UMASS ALUMNI BAND DAYS #3: “.1 over SCV? Scoring is crazazazy!”

 

R: “2nd place … … 98.05 Blue Devils”

R: “And Indy LOSES ITS MIND.”

R: “1st place, 98.30 Carolina Crown”

 

R: “Hey, [Friend-With-A-Niece], you can go to bed now.”

FRIEND FROM THE UMASS BAND DAYS #1: “She’s still screaming…”

 

R: “Yay performance. Yay instruction. Yay support. Not to forget, though: not for nothing are Messrs. Michael Klesch and Thom Hannum [Crown’s brass- and percussion-arrangers] in the Hall of Fame.”

 

R: “Okay, here’s a (not-) trivia question for DCI historians: Offhand, can you think of any other team of brass and percussion arrangers who have won world championships together … with two different corps? … in two different decades?”

 

R: “Hey, UMassers – this is what all the fuss was about.” [To this post, I attached My-Friend-With-A-Niece’s photo of Her Niece, who was a percussionist with Carolina Crown, along with a superimposed graphic of her corps’s final score, with a caption: “That’s my niece on the left, crying because she is a DCI WORLD CHAMPION!!!!!!!!!!”]

 

Granted, I didn’t put in the kind of physical and mental effort that any of the actual musicians did, that night … not remotely close … but I did sleep soundly.

August 10, 2017 Posted by | drum corps, Facebook, Internet, journalism, social media, technology | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Covfefe, or Not Covfefe

I trust, if you’ve been on the local Internets at all today, that you’re up to date on the latest Twitter-generated current event … trending topic … meme …

Covfefe.

The tweet read:

Despite the constant negative press covfefe”

And I have to give the Internets credit: by the time the morning commute was over, the responses were just about as creative and snarky and pointed and marvelous as we’ve come to expect from the Internets.

Here’s the thing that we should really be focused on, though:

12:05 in the freakin’ morning, the Toddler-in-Chief is tweeting.

The subject, predictably, starts out as what we might call media criticism if we believed that the thought process were laced with more thoughtfulness than a lot of us suspect it is.

He’s aiming to type “negative press coverage” on his little phone keyboard. At least, I really believe this.

What he actually achieves is “negative press covfefe”.

Granted, the letters “fefe” are, on a keyboard, fairly close to “erage”. You must admit this.

At this point, I’m not sure what exactly went on.

It’s possible that the Toddler’s phone’s autocorrect didn’t kick in. (There are days when I would kill for this outcome.)

Or maybe Autocorrect didn’t have any more idea than we do, as to what “covfefe” was really supposed to be. Which makes me a little better at English, but this is actually to be hoped. Anyway …

Or maybe Autocorrect took something far more bizarre and non-English-based … and its only guess was “covfefe”.

In the normal, “matter” universe, that might be the scariest thing: not that technology with borderline artificial intelligence is coming to take over the world … but that it can be confounded by a toddler’s tweet-spelling.

In the abnormal, “antimatter” universe in which we live, though, here’s what I think is the scariest thing:

The Toddler-in-Chief hit send anyway.

(It’s possible that he looked at the burgeoning Tweet and thought, “yeah, okay; whatever.” I’m not sure what frame of mind one would have to be in, in order to look at “Despite the constant negative press covfefe” and think … “yeah. Greenlight that project.” There’s not a verb or a predicate in it. Come to think of it, that otherworldly non-word is the only thing that really comes close to a genuine, pure noun.)

Sorry. I misled you. That’s not the scariest thing.

This is:

It’s entirely possible that he couldn’t figure out how not to “covfefe”, and panicked. And hit send.

Consider:

At some point in one’s presidency, no matter who one is … as long as one is remotely human, one will encounter situations in which a remotely average human’s immediate gut reaction would be to panic.

What the hell else is this guy likely to hit, the next time he panics?

May 31, 2017 Posted by | current events, Famous Persons, humor, Internet, social media, technology, Twitter | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The 31-Day Blog Challenge, Day Twenty-Four: Chilling Effect

Today’s writing prompt:

31 DAY BLOG CHALLENGE, DAY 24: “a difficult time in my life”.

 

Well, everybody’s got ’em.

I’m pleased to say that there are plenty of people whom I know personally, and lots and lots more whom I don’t, who have probably had more difficult Times In Their Lives than I’ve had in mine.

Still, they get your attention.

I don’t know that this is the space for the response to this question. Please accept my apologies, Dear Reader – especially if you are a regular and longtime Dear Reader, and have been around for a few of the difficult Times In My Life in online print. Especially if you watched me take on the Young Singing Sensation Fan Club trolls about five years ago.

Yes, I’ve had ’em, both personally and professionally. Some of those Times In My Life have been the kind that only a few folks know about, and it’s darn well going to stay that way (and those weren’t always of the personal variety). Need-to-know basis, and all that. Others have been a bit more widely understood, in part due to their public nature.

 

For the full story, go back (if you dare) to these two blog posts – one was highly caffeinated snark, and the other was an honest reappraisal of the first one. The second post was inspired by feedback about the first one … feedback which was at worst full of veiled threats of legal action, and at best full of mediocre spelling.

In our current political climate, the slightest online critique of a candidate can attract the ire of online commenters in such a way that the author of the critique starts to wish s/he had never hit “publish” [hey, wait just a damned minute, what the hell ever happened to freedom of speech and the First Amendment and all that great stuff that makes Murrica great? Ohhh, I see; freedom of speech as long as I agree with it. Got it].

Five years ago, I got my own dose of that. At the merest hint that I might not have totally utterly swooned over the vocal performance of this particular golden-tressed, 38-year-old-mezzo-soprano-voiced moppet … the trolls descended. The Singing Sensation Fan Club swept in, bearing their spears and magic helmets. How dare I. This young singer is a gift from God.

(Not making that up. There was talk of singer-as-angel-messenger-from-God. Good Lord.)

I thought I could probably handle online critique of my stuff; I knew I was publishing a blog that anyone with an Internet connection and a pulse could read; so pushback was always possible. But while politics draws fire regularly, surely musical subjects wouldn’t have as big a target on their backs, yes? … Um, I guess no.

Simple disagreement is one thing. A back-and-forth about what strikes you musically that doesn’t so much strike me? Let’s have that conversation. We might learn something, each of us.

This was something else.

In the comment section of that blog post, it got pretty heated.

 

Meantime, on the online fan forum devoted to the Young Singing Sensation, one commenter suggested that because I said such horrible things about this singing youngster, then logically that made me a Bad Person, and definitely a Bad Music Teacher. Who would want such a horrible person to be teaching music to delicate children? And this person suggested that it might be a good idea to send someone to investigate this Bad Music Teacher. To contact the school where he taught music, and perhaps to alert the administration therein to the presence of such a Bad Music Teacher.

In support of that, one other commenter posted this:

…if the downside became quite nasty, then who can be blamed for that outcome. Obviously the person who was nasty to begin with. If there were/are negative ramifications, then they fall on the person who needs to take responsibility for making it negative in the first place. I don’t worry for his job. He should. I’ll offer the same sort of mercy for his outcomes as he has for [the Singer’s].”

One of my blog commenters played the part of the mole in the organization and quietly pointed me toward that forum comment thread.

Bad enough that, upon reading this, I considered contacting a lawyer friend of mine and putting him on standby alert. Worse that I considered contacting my school’s principal and putting her on standby alert – because you never know what utter whack job might think that carrying out a Bad Music Teacher Investigation might require visiting a school while carrying a concealed weapon, or something. Principals really enjoy that spectre, lurking out there.

But go back a few paragraphs, to the other commenter who replied to the initial suggestion. Did you notice that I didn’t say he/she, or him/her? I said “she”.

Because the identity of the Other Commenter is very specific, is very important in this, and ought not be downplayed.

This Other Commenter was not anonymous. And therefore she was quite publicly making these accusations and insinuations and, whether she knew it or not, was quite publicly taking the chance of inciting some other person, some potential utter whack job (for all she knew) to go ahead and pull a “Guy Noir, Private Eye” routine on me.

This Other Commenter was no mere fan.

She was the Young Singing Sensation’s mother.

Let that rattle around in your head for a minute.

In that moment, I both did and did not know exactly what I was dealing with.

 

As it turned out, the firestorm subsided relatively quickly. If our current political circus wasn’t happening, I’d say something like “this is always the case. There’s a lot of shouting (real or virtual), and then the short attention span kicks in and it’s off to the next crisis, the current one entirely forgotten.”

But – partly because of that political circus which has turned the scary-invective-and-utter-whack-job volume control up to eleven – and partly because I’ve made it a habit not to “poke the bear” when I really don’t need to – which was not the lesson I wanted to learn, five years ago, but there it is anyway – I’ve consistently avoided naming this Young Singing Sensation.

Her fans made my life pretty crazy, there, for about two weeks in 2011.

The sad part of all that was: thanks to those two weeks of crazy, generated solely by her fans, she’s lost me as a potential admirer for good, no matter what happens. In my head, her name is a synonym for back away slowly so as not to startle.

Singers aren’t the only public figures whose supporters make them look bad, whose fans’ behavior causes other possible new fans to turn away from them. And it’s a pity.

So I’d love to tell her that I’m sorry about all that. Her schtick, through no fault of her own, only laid the groundwork for the creation of a difficult Time In My Life.

Her mother, though?

In the words of a great philosopher, that Other Commenter needed to go home and re-think her life.

May 24, 2016 Posted by | blogging, celebrity, Famous Persons, Internet, music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment