An Exercise in Critical Thinking: TV by the Numbers’ Fallon Fixation

This week’s exercise in critical thinking: examining the ways in which the writer of a purportedly factual article can subtly sway your opinion.

I really geeked out on this blog post. You have been warned.

The Case Study: Alex Welch’s weekly articles on late night television ratings

If you ever search for “Late Night Ratings,” you’ll turn up article after article written by someone named Alex Welch for a website called TV by the Numbers.  He or she publishes one such article a week.  Here were some recent headlines at the time I started working on this post a few weeks ago:

You would think, reading these titles, that “The Tonight Show” is the first and last word in late night.  A little cursory research reveals that there are, in fact, a lot of shows in the late night category: “The Late Show,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” “Late Night,” “Late Late Show,” “The Daily Show,” and “Last Call”, just to name a few.

Still, Fallon’s show is by far the most featured name in the TV By the Numbers article titles on the subject.  It’s certainly the most heavily emphasized if word count within those articles is taken into consideration.

In fact, based on the date I started writing this article in early March, Alex Welch had written only two articles on late night ratings in the previous three months that did not headline “The Tonight Show.”

One was the January 19, 2018 article, “Late-night ratings Jan 8-12, 2018: ‘The Daily Show’ ticks up.'”  The article devotes its most words – and its opening paragraph – to Jimmy Fallon.  The Daily Show gets a short sentence at the end.

The other was the January 23, 2018 article, “Late-night ratings Jan 15-19, 2018: Late Show with Stephen Colbert Rises.”  Once again, it’s Fallon heavy and Fallon front-loaded, while the “Late Show’s” rise, presumably the point of the article, was buried mid-sentence, mid-article in the second paragraph, and just as quickly dismissed as having “ticked up to a .50 after taking a hit the week before.”

Weird, amirite?  I mean, who cares this much, and this exclusively, about Jimmy Fallon’s ratings, besides the man himself?

Comparing TV by the Numbers to Other News Articles During The Same Time Period

The first thing I asked myself is whether Jimmy Fallon’s ratings are legitimately dominating the news cycle.  In order to decide this, let’s check out what other publications were running concurrently on the issue.

A quick, generalized search of the Google News aggregator (again, done a few weeks ago, when I first started this blog post) for late night ratings turned up the following (in addition to a flood of TV by the Numbers, of course), in the order that I found them:

So, not much specifically about Fallon.

I then attempted a search for Fallon specifically.  If you search for Fallon specific ratings articles in the Google News aggregator, you get things like “Songversations, Lip Flips, and Low Ratings: Lessons from a Week of Watching Jimmy Fallon,” on the Ringer, or “Jimmy Fallon Tops Colbert for the First Time Since Last June, Thanks to Olympics,” (February 13) over on The Wrap.

So which is it?  Is Jimmy Fallon the king of late night, or just the king of Alex Welch’s heart?

Examining the Evidence: Subtle Persuasions

There are a number of ways in which this author presents ratings information which, intentionally or not, can sway the reader’s perspective as to whether the shows discussed are successful.

The Importance of Article Titles:

Alex Welch’s article titles subtly direct our interpretation of the ratings presented in the article based on whether a show is mentioned, how often it is mentioned, and order of information presented.

In my sampling of about three months of TV by the Numbers articles, “The Tonight Show” is mentioned in more article titles than any other late night show.  Since these articles are purportedly about ratings, the author is implicitly stating that “The Tonight Show” is the show most worthy of mention, and therefore either the biggest mover of the week, or the most influential.

Additionally, any time an Alex Welch TV by the Numbers ratings headline is shared by two late night shows, and one of them is “The Tonight Show,”  the show order is presented thusly:

If the headline is about two shows rising in the ratings: “The Tonight Show” is mentioned first, and the other show is mentioned second.

If the headline is about two shows sinking in the ratings: the other show is mentioned first, and “The Tonight Show” is mentioned second.

The effect of this tactic is to emphasize “The Tonight Show”‘s appearance of success by mentioning it first, or to minimize the appearance of its failures in the mind of the viewer by mentioning it second.

Leading the Audience Through Order Of Content and Word Count:

The writer of these ratings articles presents content in the same order and manner in every article:

Jimmy Fallon’s “The Tonight Show” on NBC is always discussed in the first paragraph.  The first paragraph is generally the longest.  Mr. Fallon’s show is granted one to three sentences.  More words are usually spent discussing Mr. Fallon’s show than any other show in the article.

Sometimes this first paragraph closes with a mention of the second tier of network late night shows (“The Late Late Show with James Corden” and “Late Night with Seth Meyers.”)

The second paragraph of the article is shared by the two other major network late night shows, Stephen Colbert’s “Late Show” on CBS, and Jimmy Kimmel’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” on ABC.  The second paragraph is smaller than the first paragraph.  These two hosts are usually given one to two sentences shared between them.

Remaining paragraphs are one to two short sentences long, and address any number of other late night shows, such as shows by Conan O’Brien or Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.”

What’s the point of this structure?  I don’t work there, so I can’t speak to the motivations of either writer or website.  I do know that in law school, when learning to write persuasively, we were taught to front load the information we thought was most critical to our argument, and work backwards towards that which was least important.

Alex Welch’s adherence to this order and word emphasis tells me that he/she and/or TV by the Numbers either believes, or is arguing that: (1) The ratings of Jimmy Fallon’s “The Tonight Show” are the most important; (2) “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and the “Late Show” are of secondary importance; and (3) all other hosts and shows are of diminishing import.

This is in keeping with the way the website titles its articles, with its heavy emphasis on Mr. Fallon’s show.

Word Choice Matters:

Although these articles present like factual pieces, the information is sometimes presented in a leading way.

For example, consider how the ratings for Fallon and Colbert are discussed in the January 23rd article, which, per its title, is one of the few dedicated to a non-Fallon show (“‘Late Night’ show with Stephen Colbert Rises.”)

“The Tonight Show” was described, in the longer first paragraph, as “able to continue its ratings uptick for the second week in a row.”  It rose two hundredths from the week before.

The smaller second paragraph mentions, halfway through, that “CBS’s ‘Late Show with Stephen Cobert’ ticked up to a 0.50 after taking a hit the week before.”

This presentation is interesting for two reasons:

First, compare how the shows’ relative successes are described:  “The Tonight Show” is described as being “able to continue” a rating rise.  This language emphasizes its past success, and bolsters the idea that this week’s success is part of a trend.

The “Late Show”‘s success, on the other hand, is coupled with the caveat that the rise follows a “hit” the week before.  This language implies that the “Late Show”‘s rise is perhaps a one-off, or maybe a market correction, rather than a trend upwards.

If we back up two weeks, to the ratings that set up this narrative, we get some additional insights into the trend.  The article from two weeks before makes considerable hay (nearly half the article) out of the fact that Fallon “still managed to land on top,” despite being on hiatus, while the ‘Late Show’ returned and “as a result rose considerably,” and Fallon also “climbed back up.”

So another angle on the story of this trend is that, two weeks ago, Colbert and Kimmel saw a rise in demographic viewership due to Fallon’s continued holiday hiatus; Fallon in turn experienced a corresponding decline (while still maintaining a demographic lead), due to being in reruns.  Fallon returned the following week, reclaiming his normal viewership, resulting in a rise in Fallon viewership, and corresponding decline in Colbert and Kimmel viewership.

Two sides to the same story, but the one Welch and TV by the Numbers elected, and the one they usually elect, is the one that pumps up “The Tonight Show.”

Which Ratings to Focus On:

TV by the Numbers focusses exclusively on the Adults 18-49 demo rating.  This demographic is said to be particularly interesting to advertisers.

It is interesting to note, though, that the website never brings up any other rating in their assessments.  In particular, it never mentions that other, oft discussed rating: total viewership.  Mr. Fallon lags behind Mr. Colbert by over a million viewers in total viewership.  Mr. Kimmel lags behind Mr. Fallon by varying degrees week to week, but by a lot less than a million viewers.  For whatever reason, TV by the Numbers declines to discuss the movements of these numbers.

Perhaps this is because total viewership is not newsworthy?  Other publications disagree.  A plain Google search for late night ratings turns up the following (after the TV by the Numbers articles):

So someone thinks it’s worth discussing.

For more information on the weighting of ratings, the history of the 18-49 demographic, and the sneaky ways in which ratings are manipulated to create the appearance of success, check out this enlightening article on Awful Announcing: How ABC Created the 18-49 Demographic in the 1960s to Lure Advertisers from CBS and NBC.

Investigating the Source

This is often where my trips down the rabbit hole lead.  Whenever I come across something that doesn’t pass the sniff test, like these articles from TV by the Numbers, I ultimately go look at the source.

First, I attempted to look into the writer, Alex Welch.  The website provides no biographical information on him or her.  The name is, itself, pretty commonplace.  This avenue of inquiry is a dead end.

Next, I looked at the publishing platform, in this case, website TV by the Numbers.  Some minimal internet sleuthing informs me that TV by the Numbers used to be a website called Zap2It.  It is part of the Tribune Digital Ventures, part of the Tribune Media Company, an organization in the process of being acquired by Sinclair Media.

Tribune Media is reputed to be center leaning, politically.  Sinclair Media, on the other hand, swings right.

Why does this matter?  I can think of a few reasons why someone would want to focus so consistently on Jimmy Fallon’s “The Tonight Show”:

(1) Jimmy Fallon is the biggest thing going in late night. I don’t see much support for this.  He’s one of the biggest names in late night, but there are two others equally big, based on other people’s coverage, and viewership numbers: Stephen Colbert, and Jimmy Kimmel.

(2) Alex Welch, the writer, is personally most interested in Jimmy Fallon.  Maybe.  I can’t find any information on Alex Welch.

(3)  The publisher has an interest in promoting Fallon.  Stephen Colbert and, recently, Jimmy Kimmel, use their platform to support liberal causes like gun control and healthcare.  Jimmy Fallon used his to arguably humanize candidate Trump by tousling his hair.   If a conservative publisher was seeking to promote a narrative, it seems possible it would want to favor the narrative of public support for the inoffensive, non-political Fallon over the more liberal Kimmel and Colbert.

But what do I know?  I’m just a blogger with a minuscule readership.

So Is Jimmy Fallon Objectively the Most Important Person in Late Night Ratings Every Week?

I’m no expert on this issue, so all I can offer is my opinion.  It does not appear to me that Jimmy Fallon and his show so dominate the national discourse that they merit the continuous, largely positive, coverage that they are afforded by TV by the Numbers.  Mr. Fallon leads the 18-49 demographic, it is true, but lags impressively in total viewership, a metric the site elects never to discuss.  Other publications do discuss it, extensively.  This strikes me as strange.  It’s also notable that other discourse on late night ratings, across a wide array of platforms, is more egalitarian in its coverage.  In fact, Mr. Fallon’s name is rarely the focus, except in articles discussing his show’s decline.

Also, Who is Alex Welch?

Is Alex Welch a person?  Is Alex Welch a computer program designed to churn out articles based on certain parameters and biases supported by the publisher?  Who knows?  On some level, who cares?  All that matters is that Alex Welch and TV by the Numbers are among the most prominent promulgators of late night ratings information on the American internet, and they seem to have a real hard-on for Jimmy Fallon.

In Conclusion: Think Critically, People

Boy, did I go ape-shit on this issue or what?  Sometimes, you’ve just got to go down the rabbit hole.

Addendum 1:  At this point, you should be asking what are my biases?  You have no way of verifying this, of course, but I stipulate that I am not employed by Mr. Colbert, Mr. Fallon, Mr. Kimmel, TV by the Numbers, or anyone else referenced in this article.   I will stipulate to being politically liberal.

Addendum 2: My case study involves articles on late night television ratings.  I am not particularly invested in late night television.  This is likely because I can’t watch it live, having cut the cord a while back.  Curse you, Comcast, and your arbitrarily fluctuating rates.  I have seen most of the people referenced in this post in clips on youtube.

Addendum 3: A license for use of the image for this article was purchased at Fotolia.

Rooting out the Cause of Z’s Concentration Issues. Hint: It’s probably not what you think.

The first grader has trouble concentrating, but fear not: he has solutions.  Observe:

Me: I notice you have trouble concentrating.  Your teacher tells me it’s hard to tell whether you’re getting the math because you’re so distracted.  What do you think we can do about that?

Z:  You could get me noise cancelling headphones.  I could put them on in class when I think I’m getting distracted.  You’d have to explain it to the teacher so she’d be okay with it.

Me: Yeah, I don’t…

Z:  Or maybe we could build a wall.  Right here, around my homework, so when I’m working on it I won’t be distracted by stuff.

Me:  A wall.

Z:  Yeah.  Right here.  A really big one.

Me:  I’m not going to build a wall in the middle of the dining room.

Z:  Why not?

Me:  Because we eat there.  Also, that wouldn’t help with the internal distractions.   You know,  inside your head.

Z:  Inside my head?

Me:  Like right now, for instance.  We’ve been sitting in front of your homework for twenty minutes.  There’s no noise or anything, but you’re still up and down and twitching and flipping your pencil around and petting the dog and looking everywhere but at what we’re doing.  That’s the concentration I’m talking about.

Z:  Oh that.

Me:  Yeah, that.

Z:  That’s because there’s a little man inside my head who’s reading books out loud all the time.

Me:  A little man.

Z:  Yeah, reading books.  It’s very distracting.  And then he leaves the books laying around everywhere, and it’s a real mess, and that’s distracting too.

Me:  Oh, well…

Z:  He’s reading one right now.

Me:  So, what’s the solution?

Z:  We tell him to pick up all those books.  Obviously.

 

I bet you didn’t see that explanation coming, did you, dear reader?  Yeah, me neither.

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Visiting the Elephant Seals in Ano Nuevo

This past weekend we took a trip to visit the elephant seals in Ano Nuevo, California.  We took a guided walk through the California Department of Parks and Recreation.  I tried to sign up for this back in November or December, and to my surprise the walks were already almost all filled.  It turns out that if you want to see the male elephant seals fight and strut their stuff you need to get there early.  By March, most of the females have left, and what’s left are some seriously subdued males, and a whole bunch of youngsters called weeners.

After checking in prior to the tour start time, the docent sends you down the path to meet up with your naturalist.  Not a bad view, right?

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The naturalist station had some visual aids to consider while waiting for the tour to start, in the form of animal skulls.  Behold:

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The child was fascinated, if a little concerned, to discover that elephant seals have teeth.

But what is an elephant seal, I hear you ask?  Why, it’s a seal with a funny schnoz, of course.  Like so:

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Schnoz.

Only the male elephant seals have the distinctive large noses.  In fact, I would venture to say that “large” is a universal qualifier for the elephant seals of the masculine persuasion.  Here’s a side by side comparison with a female:

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I like to think he’s watching in envy as she laboriously scoots across the sand.  She may be working hard, but it’s a whole other story moving two and a half tons.

And that male elephant seal isn’t particularly big.  Apparently, the males easily reach 5,000 (!) pounds.  That’s roughly the weight of a Ford Explorer.  The cows weigh in at a measly 1,200 to 2,000 pounds.

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Seals in the mist.

The above picture is a pretty solid representation of elephant seal life as we witnessed it.  Our guide affectionately referred to the area as “weaner island.”  “Weaners” are recently weaned elephant seal pups.  The beaches were full of them, along with the occasional adult male elephant seal.  The female elephant seals had, for the most part, already departed for the open sea.

We hear that many people prefer to come earlier in the season when the seals are fighting and breeding, but I actually thought this was a great time to visit.  The animals were chill and easy to photograph, and besides, my little guy would have been freaked out if he’d had to witness bloody fights.  Elephant seals are not people aggressive, but still.  Angry, belligerent Ford Explorers.

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Much of the (minimal) movement we saw from the sleepy seals involved throwing sand on themselves to protect themselves from the sun.  We were pretty close to this guy, and I’m not sure he ever opened his eyes to look at us.  Prime nap time.

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“Whatchu lookin’ at” – weaner edition

Once upon a time, like so much of our wildlife, elephant seals were nearly hunted to extinction.  Like the sea otters in Monterey, a small number miraculously survived on an unnoticed island, fortunately rediscovered only after the local humans had become more humane.  They now breed on our beaches in the thousands.  If you happen to visit California at the right time of year, I highly suggest a visit to these remarkable creatures.

Until next time,

R.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Adventures in Children’s Media: Peter Rabbit Movie

Plot: Peter Rabbit and his bunny relatives Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail, and Benjamin fight with the newest Mr. McGregor over access to the farmer’s vegetable garden, and for the affections of neighbor and animal lover, Bea.

Child Enjoyment: 8/10   The child was mightily amused.

Parental Enjoyment: 5/10.  It’s a movie about rabbits and a toy-store-employee-turned-farmer beating on one another.  So…the child was mightily amused.

Age Appropriate:  It lived up to all of the six-year-old’s expectations – lots of physical humor (which he loves) with very little actual suspense (which he hates). The nominal love story is exceedingly chaste, and no one said anything I wouldn’t want the child repeating in public, so I also deem it appropriate.

Pain Factor: I mean, it’s a story about rabbits and an English guy locked in mortal combat over access to a vegetable garden.  The child was enthralled.  I fought the urge to check my phone.

Story Assessment: Some rabbits want to get into a garden yadda yadda yadda.  Hijinks ensue.  Do we really care beyond that?  I didn’t think so.

Conclusion:  It’s fine.  The child finds it uproarious.  I find it inoffensive.  The CGI bunnies are cute.  I guess we’ll call that a win.

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Movie Review: A Wrinkle In Time

Look at me!  I’m reviewing a movie in a timely fashion.  Not only is this movie still in the theaters, it just came out a few days ago.  Okay, a week ago.  Whatever.  Let’s make the most of it, shall we?

Also, fair warning – I spoil things willy-nilly.  The book came out over fifty years ago.  I can’t be bothered to worry about your feelings, people.

The Short Take:  Stunning visuals, fabulous costumes, and a stellar cast could not save this film from its craptacular script.

Plot Summary: Four years ago, scientist Mr. Murray disappeared while experimenting with tesseracts, a ground-breaking discovery that enables instantaneous travel across the galaxy.  On the anniversary of Mr. Murray’s disappearance, the Murray children, Meg and Charles Wallace, and their new school friend Calvin meet three magical women who offer to help them find the missing Mr. Murray.  The children agree.  Soon, they are traveling between distant worlds and witnessing, first hand, the epic battle between good and evil consuming the cosmos.  They finally locate Mr. Murray on the bleak planet Camazotz.  Once there, Calvin, Charles Wallace and, most crucially, Meg, must look deep within to save themselves and those they love from It, Camzotz’s central intelligence, and the darkness It represents.

Analysis: The movie A Wrinkle in Time is an update of a classic children’s novel of the same name.  The book and film share a basic premise, plot points, and characters, but deviate substantially from one another in the details.

I have no problem with film adaptations diverging from original source material.  I also see nothing wrong with updates.   This is to say that although I loved the book as a kid, I’m not one of those people who wrings their hands and rends their garments all over the internet because some film was insufficiently loyal to the source material of their childhood.

Still, I can’t help but feel that this film was underserved by some of the changes its writers made to the original text.

At its heart, this was a little book with big things to say.  It talked, in broad strokes, about good, and evil, and compassion, and the transcendent power of love.  But it had subtler things to say as well, about growing up, and self-acceptance, and personal responsibility.

The writers were clearly all in on these themes.  I know, because they lectured me on them.  A lot.  Plots points were sometimes back-burnered, or even abandoned, to make room for additional monologuing.  But all this clunkiness came at a price, and that price was story coherency.  About halfway through the movie, I wondered whether the film seemed disjointed because I had read the book, and was distracted by preconceived ideas about where things were going.  At about two-thirds, I decided that the movie would be difficult to follow if I hadn’t read it.  So much story was shelved to make way for exposition that in the end it barely all held together.  Clearly, no one here subscribed to the school of “show, don’t tell.”

But the book did, which makes the changes to the original plot so head scratching.

Take, for example, Camazotz, the fallen planet upon which Mr. Murray is held captive.  The Camazotz of the books is a place of unforgiving uniformity.  Children bounce their balls in unison along identical streets in interchangeable subdivisions.  Deviancy is punished.  The planet’s central intelligence, It, demands conformity in all things, and the unspoken horror of it all is how easy and, who knows, maybe even attractive, it is to fall in line. Charles Wallace is consumed by It, and Mr. Murray cowed by It, but only aberrant Meg, by embracing her own flaws and differences, has the power to defeat It.  We are, I believe, meant to see Camazotz as our own world through the looking glass.

The Camazotz of the film is certainly bizarre.  Forests appear and disappear.  The children and their bouncing balls make a brief appearance, only to be folded away, along with their entire neighborhood, into nothingness.  A beach filled with people springs up out of nowhere, and disappears just as quickly.  All of these vignettes are visually entertaining, sure, but what’s the point?  Why dump a plot-serving metaphor for an amusement park ride?  I don’t know, but the fact of it tells me that the scriptwriters may not have fully understood the book the book they were adapting.  What a bummer.

Don’t get me wrong – the film isn’t terrible.  There are some positives to be had. The cast is amazing and talented.  Everyone involved was as good as they could possibly be, given what they had to work with.  The visuals are stunning.  The costumes are gorgeous.  I think kids of a certain age will enjoy it.  If only the script wasn’t such a stinker, adults could have enjoyed it too.

Conclusion:  This adequate kids’ movie could have been a great film with a better script.  Next time, show don’t tell, writers.  Show, don’t tell.

 

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The Things You Learn While Overseeing Your First-Grader’s Homework

Preface to this little story: Dad and Z homework time often devolves into an ugly scene. Last week Dad was out of town, so I solo-supervised the homework with little fuss.  It also allowed for ample and enlightening conversation with the offspring.  Take, for example, this exchange:

Me: Thanks for being so good with your homework.

Z: You’re welcome.

Me: I know you don’t always like doing it.

Z: I like to give Dad a hard time. Just for the fun of it. But don’t tell him.

Me: Um.

Z: But when you see me giving him a hard time, you’ll know.

Dad’s response (because, of course, I did tell): “I knew it!” Startling self-awareness all the way around.

I don’t remember getting homework in the first grade, but apparently now it’s a thing, and by “a thing” I mean, “Dante’s fifth circle of hell.”  Maybe some kids can focus after a full day of school, but my child can barely sit still through breakfast, and our capabilities steadily decline from there, until they finally bottom out over excruciatingly dramatic dinners…every single night.  When looking into the possibility of piano lessons a while back, one Russian piano teacher had this to say: “Is the child a boy child?  I do not teach the boy children until they are seven, maybe eight.  What is the point?”  If you could see my boy child buzzing constantly and unpredictably at his own peculiar frequency, you might be inclined to agree.

Then again, this boy child seems to have no problem harnessing his energies into tormenting his father, which, I think we have to stipulate, takes some degree of focus.

In other news, math looks a lot different now than it did when I learned it.  My “supervision” of Z’s homework mostly involved him explaining to me the various methodologies he is required to use when adding twenty to thirteen.

The experience was not unlike this:

 

The boy child loves these funky math problems in part, I think, because he adores Tom Lehrer.  If inventing doesn’t pan out, and the Jedi academy thing falls through, he has great plans to support himself by singing “The Vatican Rag” to auditoriums full of adoring fans.

Of course, he’s also open to competing in the Olympics.  In gymnastics.  Or maybe track.

As I said, focus isn’t really our thing.  Unless it involves tormenting our father.  Then we’re all in.

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The boy child enjoys posing for pictures.  

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Photographing the SS Point Reyes Shipwreck

This week we drove back out to Point Reyes to visit the famous shipwreck at the Inverness shore.  We drove by it last time but didn’t stop, because we had a light house to visit.  This time, however, we made the trip especially to see this old boat.

And what a lovely beast it is

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The above picture was the product of bracketing and HDR.  Bracketing involves taking the same picture multiple times with several different exposures.  HDR stands for high dynamic range.  HDR photographs are achieved by feeding your bracketed exposures into a magical computer program.  Through some mysterious and arcane process, the computer combines the multiple photos into one image.

I’ve not really HDR much of a shot until now, but since I was out and about, with a tripod, a fancy sky, and a bunch of time, I gave it a whirl.  I wasn’t pleased with my efforts when I got home that evening, but in the light of the next day, I started to come around, and by the end of the week I decided I downright liked it.

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About the SS Point Reyes: The SS Point Reyes is an oft-photographed derelict boat in the Tomales Bay.  It has been disintegrating slowly over many years, but in spite of this, or perhaps because it, remains a popular landmark.  The boat sits on land owned by the National Park Service, and is visible from the highway.  It seems to be a popular tourist destination.  I was there for probably an hour to an hour and a half, and during that time saw at least a dozen people stop to look at it.  This may not seem like a lot, but given how remote the stretch of road is leading past it, I think that’s a sizable number.

Apparently,a fire nearly destroyed the SS Point Reyes in 2016.  The blaze was possibly started by amateur photographers who were setting fireworks off the back of the boat in an attempt to capture an Instagram-memorable moment.  The local paper described the fire and its aftermath in an article which you can read here.  I think the boat still looks pretty lovely from the front.  Here’s a picture of it from the back:

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All the way burned out, and pretty sad, I think.  Then again, I never got to see the original, so it is hard for me to make a comparison to the ship that was.

My lesson for the week (aside from the HDR/bracketing business) was to look closely at my tripod before tossing it in the car.  I accidentally brought my old one with me.  In my defense, it looks nearly identical to my new one.  The old tripod is mostly functional, except for the fact that the lower part of the legs can’t support the new camera.  So, I was stuck with the camera sitting about 2 feet off the ground or lower at all times.  Upside, though: it was low tide, which meant that the ground was mucky and sticky.  I felt no qualms at all about shoving the old tripod deep into that nastiness.  I might, however, have felt a little bad about doing it with the newer one.

And there you have it!  I highly suggest stopping by the S.S. Point Reyes and giving it a look-see, if you happen to be chilling out in the area.

 

 

 

 

 

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Adventures in Children’s Media: Rich Cat, Poor Cat

Plot: Stray cat Scat’s humble, lonely existence is compared with that of the more fortunate felines around her, until (spoiler alert) she finally finds a home of her own.  Sniff.

Child Enjoyment: 10/10  The six-year-old checked this book out of the school library after hearing the librarian read it aloud.  He tells me he has been reading it to himself every morning when he wakes up.  As he wakes up at 5:30 a.m., we’ll have to take his word for it.

Parent Enjoyment: 10/10  I’m a massive softie for animal rescue and hard-knock cases.  Scat’s predicament is about as sad as they come.

Age Appropriate: The school librarian thinks so, which is good enough for me.

Pain Factor: None.  Zilch.  Zero.  Loved this little book.  Okay, that’s not entirely true.  It’s sad and upsetting to watch Scat suffer, even if she smiles through much of her misfortune.  Yes, I know that Scat’s fictitious.  You got a problem with that?

Story Assessment:  Rich Cat, Poor Cat, by Bernard Waber, follows the travails of the homeless Scat, an urban stray who thinks her name is Scat because that’s what people yell at her when they see her.  Scat’s “poor cat” existence is compared throughout with that of the more privileged house cats.  We are told that some cats sleep on pillows, while Scat sleeps on the street.  Some cats are surrounded by friendly faces.  Scat would love to find just one.   Some cats are given food.  Scat must scavenge.  Little Scat is remarkably upbeat for an animal constantly foraging for food and struggling to survive, but as her situation is revealed to be more and more dire, it is revealed that what Scat really wants, more than anything, is to be somebody’s cat.  This being a storybook, Scat ultimately gets her wish.  She is adopted by a little girl who gives her a home, a bed, and a new name – Gwendolyn.

See?  Now I’m going to cry.

In Summation:  This is a lovely little book.  It is unfortunately out of print.  Still, the internet being the wonderful place that it is, you easily find copies of it at places like Amazon.

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