Page 2 of 10

addendum, brain edition.

As I told you in the previous post, Twitter was responsible for helping me solve the Great Mystery of the Song in the Target Commercial. Twitter can be helpful like that, and in this case, I would have lost my mind somewhere around lunchtime on Wednesday if I hadn’t been able to figure out the name of that song.

One question remained: Who is @LeeDrever of Vancouver, and how in the hell did he find my tweets about the Target spot?

Your answer:

I am stunned, in the happiest way possible. The Internet can be a big, scary place; it can also help transport a guy and his kid living in Vancouver into my living room in Pittsburgh so they can help me remember a song by an old English band named Status Quo.

One final thing, yinz guys: Meet Lee Drever’s son:

brain missed the target.

I know I’ve talked about this before (although I can’t find the reference at the moment) — my brain works, um, differently.

I say this thinking specifically of music and what my brain chooses to hear when I come across a snippet of a song. My ears lock in on the melody, often to the detriment of whatever might be happening with the song’s lyrics. Mrs. Crappy is the opposite. After two or three plays, she’ll know the lyrics all the way through — but she might not be able to hum a bar of the melody.

The best example I can offer is Wilco’s Via Chicago. I hear a soaring country song, interspersed with sharp dissonant interludes, something that never fails to thrill. Mrs. Crappy hears the lyrics — “I dreamed about killing you again last night/and it felt all right to me” — and, at least the first time she heard the song, was sort of horrified.

This quirk of my synapses nearly drove me nuts earlier this week. While watching Dancing With the Stars — strictly for work, I swear — I noticed a newish Target commercial. There’s a kid, trying to drag one of those giant plastic balls out of one of those giant bins; he knocks several balls out on the floor of the store … and then Target erupts into a swirl of summertime activity: grilling, setting up tents, sliding on Slip ‘n Slides and other general merriment involving products you can purchase at a Target store near you.

And of course, I am paying attention to the music. It’s a Sixties song, with a pretty distinctive fuzzy electric guitar riff. I know the song. But something in my brain locks up, and before I can hear even just a snippet of the words — which is more than enough to find a song title these days — the commercial is over.

Crap. I know the song. And for the life of me, I can’t recall what it is.

I took to Twitter; Gina saw the commercial too, but with her family and 18 dogs and cats running around, she didn’t hear the music. The spot is apparently new enough that it hasn’t yet shown up on any of the sites I usually hit to find out the name of that song in that damn commercial I just saw.

If my brain were wired differently — if I heard the words first — I would have been able to look up the song title before the commercial break was done. And while most of the time this arrangement between my brain and me works out pretty well, this time my brain definitely left me hanging.

As soon as Dancing was over — Did I mention that I was watching strictly for work? I did? Allow me to stress that once again — I marched upstairs and fired up iTunes, thinking that Apple’s Essentials mixes would lead me to the promised land.

After an hour of searching, I came up empty. And I would have searched longer, but Mrs. Crappy arrived home from the school board meeting she had to cover and she needed the iMac to write up her story and email it to her newsroom.

I went to bed, defeated.

I was saved the next morning, though. I woke to find a tweet from @LeeDrever, a dude from Vancouver, who had the song title and the artist all ready for me. I don’t follow Lee and he doesn’t follow me; I have no idea how he came across my tweets about the Target commercial, but if I ever meet him, my brain and I are going to buy him a beer.

The song?

How’s that for a bit of obscure Sixties bubblegum psychedelia?

My brain is filled with this kind of stuff; my fear is that it will only become harder and harder to retrieve as the years pass. But my brain and I will be OK. As long as it continues to help me out once in a while.

19. this is why.

I occasionally listen in on debates over the importance of social media to old media folks. On those occasions when I jump in, I talk about immediacy, crowd sourcing — once you’ve made the effort to verify the information, of course.

As I’ve said before, the folks I work with, while a little skeptical, have done their best to embrace the technology available to us. But like other traditional media outlets, we’re not always able to move as quickly as we could.

Illustration from just a little while ago: the fire at the Allegheny County Courthouse. I didn’t hear about this first on the PG’s site or from any of the TV stations; I heard about it first on Twitter from my buddy Chachi, who works in One Oxford Center, an office building adjacent to the courthouse. Here’s a little timeline:

1:55 p.m.: Chachi: the court house steeple is smoking pretty badly.

2:08: Chachi (along with the above picture): court house is on fire.

After Chachi posted the pic, I started checking with the sites of the city’s two newspapers and three TV stations, to see who was on top of this one. I started looking around 2:10 p.m.; at that point, the PG had a short item in its breaking news list. None of the TV stations had a mention, and the Trib’s site was down.

(Note: Given the troubles we have with our own site, I am in no way poking fun at the Trib’s technical difficulties. It happens, often at the worst possible time.)

2:22 p.m.: PG has a second update. Trib’s still down. Nothing from the TV stations.

2:30 p.m.: KDKA is the first station to post a pic and a brief. Trib’s still down. Neither WPXI nor WTAE have a mention.

2:45 p.m.: Trib is up, but without a mention of the fire. WPXI has a pic and a brief, which is attributed to the Trib. WTAE has nothing.

3 p.m.: The PG has its third update published. The Trib has a short story. WTAE finally caught up with its TV competitors with a pic and a brief.

At that point, everyone was caught up and I had my own work to do, so I stopped checking. But I couldn’t shake the notion that this was an excellent illustration of why us old-media types can’t afford to dismiss social media. If Chachi — or any of the other folks who tweeted descriptions or pictures of what they saw — was the competition, we got our butts kicked this afternoon.

I’m not saying that the traditional media outlets necessarily did anything wrong today — although I’ll admit to being a little surprised at how long it took for the TV stations to get this story up on their respective sites. But there is a lesson here. If you’re paying attention to social media, chances are good you’re going to get on the story in a hurry. But if you dismiss Twitter as twenty-something navel-gazing, you risk getting left behind.


It has come to my attention that there is a video of Pittsburgh’s own Jim Lokay — the World’s Greatest Traffic Guy — performing a snippet as pop trainwreck Britney Spears recently at Pittsburgh’s City Theater.

And it is outstanding. Take a look:

Of course, that got me thinking about my own Britney performance, on Newsbreak shortly after her, uh, interesting appearance kicking off the MTV Video Music Awards almost three years ago. Take a look:

I know this might be a tough question, but whose Britney is better? Leave a comment and let me know.

29. versus.

Tomorrow’s going to be interesting — that’s the day we all get Droids at work.

I’m not an Apple devotee to the degree that I feel compelled to stand in line on new gadget release days (although if we had more disposable income, all bets would be off). But I am an Apple guy, and it’s no secret that I’ve been very happy with my iPhone since I got it a few years ago.

The Droid is intriguing, certainly. I got to play with my sister’s phone a little bit when we visited Florida in the spring, and thought it was pretty cool. But full immersion start tomorrow afternoon when we get our new phones and go through a corporate training session on using them (which will be a complete hoot, given that almost no one in the newsroom has a smartphone of any kind at the moment).

I think this has great potential for our newsroom. Sometime soon I hope to get our reporters and photographers up to speed on using Twitter and posting pix and video using the Droids, and I think could potentially make a pretty big difference in what we’re able to offer our readers.

And personally, I’m really curious to see my my phone will stack up against the work phone. Better camera? Video? Which network is faster/has better coverage? Will I be able to cut the data usage on the iPhone and save a couple bucks?

We’ll see.

6. old-fashioned.

Right now…

…my guess is that some of the pictures I took at a car cruise this afternoon are going to be a lot more interesting than the story I’m going to write about the event.

I’ve had fun playing with the Hipstamatic photography app on my iPhone (Thanks, FireMom!), and it seemed like a gathering of old cars would be a great time to use an application that makes the pictures look old too.

I’m still getting the hang of the different “lens” and “film” combinations, and I’m still struggling with the viewfinder for the app — it’s a little hard to come up with the composition I’m looking for — but the results are still pretty cool. My mom has dozens of albums filled with prints that look like this; it’s fun to see how closely I can replicate the look and feel of those old shots with my phone.