Saturday, November 15, 2008

Letters from Home 2.0

This week - and since Wednesday - I have been stranded without my best friend.

As part of his final training course and in order to properly graduate from the Canadian Forces, Ryan is working in the field, completely isolated, for 7 days. Unlike a random trip or any other course - and ironically since he's training to be a signals and communications officer - he doesn't have access to his phone or email, or have any other contact with the real world.

In the old days, when we weren't so dependent on technology, this sort of separation was probably easier to handle, given that you often didn't speak to someone for a long period of time even if they lived as close as the next village over. Unless you met them at the market or at work every day or they lived on your street, you pretty much had to grin and bear it.

Imagine dating in those times!

Despite Ryan not living nearby since he joined the Forces, we've been more or less in contact daily... or at least a couple of times a week. Of course, when he got access to the Internet, we were basically in constant communication during evenings and weekends. And that suited me perfectly, because Ryan and I share just about everything with each other. He's my main wall to bounce ideas off of and he helps me through periods of uncertainty.

Needless to say, I've been a little lost without him... and though I know this is only one of several occasions when I won't be able to contact him when I need to, it's the first time this is happening for real. To keep myself sane, I have been writing him long email updates at the end of every day. I shudder to think of all the reading he'll have when he does finally have email access later this week.

In a way, these emails, text and facebook messages or random voicemails are the modern incarnation of letters from home. Of course, people still do send handwritten (or typed and printed) letters to their friends and family in the Forces... especially those overseas who may or may not have access to modern communication tools.

And though I have sent Ryan some of these letters, I'm so grateful to be able to email him - albeit with a delayed reaction - because it still is way more instant than snail mail... especially at the rate of one letter a day.

Despite having a lot of friends living or working out of town, and family that is more or less away on business most of the time, this experience is not comparable. Not even close. Because although this time around it's a practice, next time, it'll be for real. Next time, there are real chances that Ryan won't make it back, won't read my letters, won't be there to comfort me when I need it... and that makes me sad, because it's not just a concept, it's a reality.

There's no way I can understand what it's like for a spouse to lose a loved one to war or its after-effects, or worse, lose their mind to PTSD (aka Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Ryan and I are almost that close and his loss would probably have the same impact on me as losing a spouse, and just considering the possibility is simply devastating.

That's why songs and music videos like John Michael Montgomery's Letters from Home, or George Canyon's I Want you to Live, which never fails to make me cry, by the way, are so close to my heart. In a way, they do help, comforting me because I know I'm not alone in these feelings, in this situation. There are many more examples - and not all of them are country music ;)

Still, I'm glad I can send multiple, massive emails to Ryan, letters from home, v 2.0, and I know they are just as appreciated as the old school version.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Obama Factor

So the United States presidential race has finally come to an end, and not a moment too soon, as Quebec is going to be electing a new Premier on December 8th.

I know. Enough with the elections, already!

First, there were provincial elections in Quebec. Then I had a municipal election. Then the federal campaign, and of course, the crux of the USA election. And now Quebec elections again. Oh, and of course, the primaries about 2 years ago.

Yeah. I've got a headache too.

I'm to really into US politics. However, when Primary season started, I was curious. It was my first time exploring the American electoral system because it was the first time I was actually really aware it was happening, and so, intrigued.

Luckily, one of my friends, Alex Leduc, is a pro at American politics. (In fact, if you really care for the stuff, you should check out his blog. He's quickly becoming Montreal's next major US political analyst, with TV appearances to boot!)

Alex explained the basics of US elections to me, and though I can't remember most of it, it really helped me understand what was going on. Honestly though? I really didn't want to spend that much time on it. In fact, I can probably say that I didn't care what happened day-to-day, as long as I got the big lines. I do care in the sense that American politics affect what happens in Canada and around the world, but really, I don't need to know what each candidate was doing every moment of the day.

Unsurprisingly then, I don't tune in to CNN too often. I actually really dislike CNN and their coverage. Mostly because it's biased, often unconfirmed and poorly researched. I'm not talking about all their segments. But their style leaves a lot to be desired. I mean, since when is every story either breaking news or developing news?

Perhaps I should specify that I'm referring to CNN Headline News here.

What bugs me the most is that so many American citizens watch CNN (or worse, FOX News), and take everything they see and hear for fact, unquestioningly. Yes, this is a generalization, and probably encourages a stereotype or two. But you know what I mean.

Anyway. I'm not stupid, and knew that CNN would have the best election coverage on November 4th. And so I tuned in.

Boy, what a treat.

First off, the holographic interviews were way cool. Probably super expensive and uncomfortable for the anchor, but still an awesome piece of technology that I can't wait to explore.

Second, wow! Biased coverage or what?

Third, I realized that I'm extra picky about live TV productions, now that I've seen how some of it goes. And I should probably be a little less critical and remember how stressed out everyone is in the control room. Especially the audio techs. I complain about them a lot.

Want proof? Check out my Twitter stream below:

MUST know more about how the holographic interviews are done. Green Screen? 3D motion capture?
A friend suggests green screen and 360 camera coverage. But how is it "projected"? On air graphics or actually in studio? Thoughts?
I guess the USA doesn't have issues with revealing projections for closed States while others are still voting... ie like in Canada How it's done: OMG Enough with the screaming. At least they're mixing it down... But seriously. I shouldn't have to turn down the volume. Also, #cnn enough with the "random black people in the crowd" shots. Do you know you're promoting racist stereotypes? More dets on the holographic interview technology: McCain admits defeat? I can go to bed now. Just one more holographic interview, plz! Why must we still differentiate by race? Why is Obama's victory a big deal for African Americans, as says McCain? It's a big deal for all!
I wonder what happens if a candidate admits defeat on a projected result - which then turns out to be wrong. Can he still claim presidency?
As much as I don't want to hear crowds screaming too loud, please mix in some bg audio when showing crowd shots. I can't really blame the audio mixer(s). It's a tough situation, diff. mixes coming into HQ, and prob. a whole lot of control room yelling. Loving the sky shots. Wonder if it's a track or a jib... Does that make me a geek?
Wonder if the mixers have time to adjust incoming audio for optimal broadcasting before putting it on air.
@ #cnn This interview is totally ineffective. omg! CNN showed old white people! They can't support Obama, can they? I thought it was all black ppl and youth! Me? Jaded? Naaaahhh
I wonder who wrote @BarackObama 's speech. And how long he's been memorizing it. HA! Alabama Senate race: Sessions vs. Figures That 106y old must feel so justified to have Obama mention her in his acceptance speech. Maybe a bit used, but it's for a good cause, right? If I were producing or mixing, I'd add crowd noise to CNN's Chicago feed And as if on cue, I think I hear some clapping... though it sounds like it's coming through the stage mic. Quick! Spot the cameraman in the crowd! It's like Where's Waldo, but tougher! Wonder how much they spent on getting Obama's kids' hair done... It's 12C in Chicago. 13km/h winds, 67% humidity. They must be freezing out there. Thank God for all those warm stage lights! LOVE! The behind the stage shot featuring the USA-lit building. And the Barack/Michelle snuggle as they walk off the stage. Cute! WOW. Just felt the weight of this moment. Historical. I wonder what happens next...