Where have all the Bozos gone? Calling all Bozos!

Are there any real Bozos left?

The death of the best and brightest Bozo, Larry Harmon, at the age of 83 came as a surprise last night when the news broke and I was watching a ballgame. He was not the original, but he became the franchise.

A true entertainer of children and adults alike, Harmon trained hundreds of other Bozos (and made millions in trademarking the clown and its characture) in the fine art of clowning for kids who mostly believed there was only one Bozo. Each one was carefully selected by Harmon for energy, and a “gleam in their eye,” according to Harmon. They all portrayed Bozo within Harmon’s high standards of performance in their local Bozodoms.

I learned last night there was a 10-year waiting list for the Chicago live Bozo show in the 80’s (portrayed by Bob Bell) and in 1990 when they opened up the reservation list again it took only five hours to book the show for five more years.

I recalled and learned a lot about Harmon last night as I read about his mission. And this morning, while pondering life on a beatiful holiday morning on my deck with coffee I asked myself; “Why is it that there are no longer several significant human icons of quality entertainment and education for children?

It seems all the role-model characters for children these days are people hiding inside animal costumes (of weird colorful concoctions or are of some techno-gadget cartoon/video) with more adult qualities than an entertainer of children should have.

I have a theory on that.

My theory is that as parents became lazier and lazier they allowed televison and video games to supplant human follicking and sharing of the their own inner muse to pass the time. That’s not rocket science, but if you think further about what the children are missing by the type of direct human interaction from say a Bozo or Mr. Rodgers, or even Captain Kangaroo, it seems that we’re behaving as if it’s just not cool to frolic with your children. Give em the easy substitute and they’ll be fine.

Except that as generations pass, the inner muse of children and adults alike becomes muted and eventually goes away. And then it’s really not cool to frolick, you might be outcast or labelled as a pervert of sorts.

But all hope is not lost.

I know there are still people willing to let their inner-Bozo shine, I’ve met one personally in the form of Biffo-T-Clown. He (otherwise known as Steve Dolan) once embedded himself in the Ringling Circus as a reporter for the Daily Californian to write a story about a clowns.

Dolan loved making the children smile so much he made it an annual event for some time. One year, he even got me to serve as the Ringmaster for one night’s show. Later, I watched as a the master Ringling Bros. clown invited Biffo into his trailer to remove their makeup together. That’s the highest honor one clown can bestow upon antoher.

So let’s all remember that clowns are priceless at any age and still a requirement to spread the joy of the human spirit in our world today.

And the next time I call you “Bozo,” or someone refers to you as “a clown” take it as a compliment.

— 30 —

Saturday “VIBEttes”…..Corn a’plenty?

 (c) Photo by Vincent J. Kern — 2008 — Copyright and All Rights reserved

Kindling collected from a neighbor’s May camp-cleaning and a “vintage” wicker fireside box-seat  was found at our Squaw Beach getaway a month ago when we arrived to perform ours last month.


No one particular Vibe today, just a bunch of “Vibettes” from the week. It seems that after another long, intense and busy week at work the Vinman’s noggin is working in smaller snippets:


Man, folks out here in semi-rural Livingston County are trying to grow corn in places never before planted! It’s not even knee-high yet, but high enough to distinguish as a new cornfield in places I drive by routinely.

We’ve got lots of cornfields and land out here in Pinckney, MI just northwest of Ann Arbor but far fewer than 10 years ago when the land began to host housing developments in the real estate boom, now crashing. A number of spots that were just acres of raw land waiting to be sold are now turning into the golden crop of corn.

One new plot in particular, is just next to the Barnstormer, a local bar and grill located near and the intersection of M-36 and US23 and host to numerous weddings and banquet gatherings. Driving by, I thought about how smart a planting it was with the price surely to be inflated even more now with the flooding in Iowa.

We don’t get many floods destroying crops in these parts, but we have other dangers: In this case, I can just see a bunch of drunken best-men and bridesmaids frolicking in the cornfield next door when the crop is high enough to get lost in.

Field of Dreams? Who knows. But it brought back a recurring though someone put forward a couple of years ago to help the city of Detroit. Why not develop Urban Farming in Detroit’s unrecoverable housing wastelands that sprawl parts of the city? Some of the most fertile soil in is this part of the state and the theory has it that if the land is used for productive farming, folks will eventually return and rebuild the housing in a more relevant and useful manner. How long? Who knows? But I know it won’t happen in my lifetime.


Sad thing is, even if someone put forth a no-brainer-miracle-idea in Detroit these days and even offered to fund it nothing would happen. We read today in the Free Press that the FBI is investigating the City Council (and may have possibly already pursued wire taping) in a sluge reclamation project. So far, just anonymous sources and no comments by anyone except one of the Council members who acknowledges talking to the FBI but says he is not a target.

Kwame and his cronies are not the only problem this city has. Nothing good or bad will move through the political machinery of this city for a long time. It’s paralyzed on more fronts than we could imagine.


I got lucky.  A colleague who has also beceom a good friend who lives about halfway along my monster-mileage (57) one-way commute has been my commuting partner for almost a year now. And a couple of months ago, we invited a third person who lives just a few miles from me making a commute for each of us almost a full trip’s worth.

Yes, it saves money. By my calculations, just once a week saves me about $14.00. We’ve managed more than that and in fact got pretty regular for awhile.

But let me tell you, it isn’t as easy as one would think. There’s a whole new routine to be met. Arriving on time requires some easy precision timing. Leaving is dependant on who has to stay the latest and can everyone live with that. The tendancy is to say “sure, I can always find work to do.” But the reality is that sometimes after 5 p.m. and a long day you are just ready to go home. And if you’re fortunate (as I am) to somewhat dictate your own schedule, trying to “find” work to do can sometimes be tedious.

Then there’s the shopping/workout thing. For me, at my best, I can manage at least two and often three or more good early mornings in the gym. Up about 5:15, into the gym and working out (at my midway point of the commute) by about 6, done (including a decent sauna) and at work by 8 or 8:30 or so.

Balancing all of that is tough. I had to take a week off (thought I’d get to the gym, but didn’t) and all I managed to do was reclaim some of my personal time on the drive (which is amazingly important) and do some shopping for quality food to eat at work instead of the high-fat cafeteria stuff.

So, as with everything else, it becomes a matter of prioritization. With gas the way it is, the commute must remain in some form, but how often? We’ll see.

– 30 –


Don Imus Killed Santa Clause

It had been a wonderful weekend in Cleveland that will now forever be marred by Don Imus, the Santa Claus killer.

Three days hanging out in one of the best hotels downtown in the rockin’ town hosting the women’s NCAA Final Four Championship as well as the WNBA draft. Sat at the bar next to Bill Laimbeer and his wife, and had hor’dourves with Tree Rollins and lots of other wonderful semi-famous folks. Lots of fun, a great conference and then a few days later IT happened.

Not only did Don Imus use his ignorance to insult the talented and wonderful group of basketball players in addition to a whole race, the nincompoop went and killed Santa Clause, too! And as much as I disdain racial ignorance, overblown political correctness by attaching stigma to unrelated semantical use is a societal cancer.

I knew it would happen soon after his comments made on the radio that cost him his job. In fact, I predicted it long before the New York Post ran a “Ho, Ho, Ho: Imus gets last laugh” headline about Imus settling his lawsuit with the company that fired him.

So much for Santa! Read about it here.

The Milky Road, or is it?

Does technology threaten or enhance reality?


Explanation: Inspired during a visit to Fort Davis, Texas, home of McDonald Observatoryand dark night skies, photographer Larry Landolfi created this tantalizing fantasy view. The composited image suggests the Milky Way is a heavenly extension of a deserted country road.

I use Netvibes to aggregate the content I need/desire on a daily basis and one of my favorite RSS feeds is a daily astronomy photo and explanation. Seeing the beauty and vast space we (really) live in opposed that which society would have us believe we inhabit opens my morning mind and reminds me how insignificant and  fleeting things that bother or innundate us with negativity truly are.

It spurs my spirituality.

Usually, the photos are taken through the Hubble telescope, an observatory, or one of NASA’s roving spacecraft carousing our solar system. They are always fantastic renderings of space and time. But the photo above is a composite of two actual pictures (description above, too) made into one artistic rendering of what could very well be a realistic site.

Except, it’s not.

And that always gives me pause and reminds me of the first time in my journalism career that technology made it easy to do this on computers, unseen and undetected by readers and consumers. At the Daily Californian in El Cajon, California we went to an AP Wire-photo desk and tossed the little blue box that had been churning out black and white photos on film paper via a satellite up-link. On this day in 1992 we had been live with the new digital service (which was essentially a very slow PC-based system that allowed thumbnails to dynamically populate images for downloading. I recall that the average photo took about a minute to render on the screen when one called it up to look at.

I also well recall the day that a group of senior citizens were visiting the paper and I was demonstrating the new technology. They were fascinated, enthralled and stood awestruck as we watched a new photo image right on the screen from top to bottom as it came in. As the top portions filled in, it was obvious it was of a human as the hair and top of the head imaged in. To make a long story short, the photo wound up being a bikini-clad Victoria’s Secret model who had achieved some celebrity status for one thing or another.

The men were cheering each digital sweep placing more and more of the image on the screen, a few of the women laughed and realized that in the universal context of things it was actually pretty ironic. And, of course, a couple of folks were quiet as they’d ever been for whatever reason.

But, I digress.

Shortly after digital photos began to replace film and darkroom development of journalistic endeavors, there was a hubub about a newspaper that eliminated an overhead wire from an upward-looking photo. The wire landed right below the boxers’ crotch in the photo and ran downward through the photo. Even left in, it would not have presented an image that was open to interpretation, it plainly looked like just an overhead wire. But the photo editor airbrushed it from the photo and cloned in similar bytes so it appeared it was not there.

In the discussion of ethics that ensued, the AP showed (and we did our own experimenting about) how easy it would be to do things with digital editing like move a ball approaching a first baseman’s mitt on a close play nearer to (or further away from) and even into the fielder’s glove which would change the reality of the the actual event.

And that’s the rub. Any changing of reality could be perceived as questionable, but we learn through our lives to fudge the lines a bit — especially when art is involved.

So I wonder this morning — as I once again pause on a contrived photo — how will this affect our youth over time. And what standards will their children have for such things? Just in my short time on this spaceship Earth, our children are literally born with the aptitude and chance to use software to create anything. And in another post, I will try to link these thoughts to the future of journalism but it’s Sunday.

And today, I choose to accept this photo for what it is: accurately-presented as a mixture of two images to create one worth seeing, acknowledge its beauty and save it for the future. But tonight, when I enjoy my weekly sojourn into galactic music and relaxation time I will definitely not use the photo as a guidepost upon which to steer this planet. For we would wind up completely off course and drifting aimlessly out of control on our collaborative journey at about 17,000 MPH through space.

Stats prove Vinman’s Vibe (below) on World Series

I’m no statistical genius. In fact, I couldn’t define a flip chart from a headlock, but when it comes to vibes, I’m pretty solid.

We learned yesterday that Fox’s coverage of the Boston Red Sox’s four-game World Series sweep of the Colorado Rockies finished with an average rating of 10.6 percent of U.S. TV households, making it the second-lowest-rated World Series ever. But Fox was the top-rated network each night it aired a Series game (USA TODAY, p.1C).

Can you guess which World Series was the lowest? You got it, the 2006 World Series played in late October, in the rain, with pitchers blowing on their hands to stay warm and others checking out their breath-made steam smoke rings between Detroit and St. Louis.

2006 FOX 10.1 17
2007 FOX 10.6 18

Naked sleepwalkers and World Series in November?

 What do an increasing number of guests at Travelodge hotels and the Colorado Rockies have in common? Sleepwalking.

With the exception that the Rockies’ team has not been doing it naked — at least during World Series games. 

Ananova – What to do with naked sleepwalkers

What else could account for their lackluster performance in the 2007 MLB World Series? I believe I have the answer: The same thing that accounted for the Tigers playing so poorly against the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2006 MLB World Series……

  1. Too long a layoff between winning the National League Championship and Game 1 of the World Series and
  2. Having to get their vibe back on in nearly-winter weather.

In 1968, the Detroit Tigers came back from a 3-1 deficit, largely on the arm of Mickey Lolich and won the World Series in St. Louis. That was before television and owners turned all professional sports’ championships into staged productions to increase entertainment value and — mainly — profits. 

That seventh World Series game was played on October 10 in 67-degree afternoon temps or real baseball weather.

Since then, playoffs and the need to drive more profit have resulted in MLB moving their season back several times. This year, the playoffs began a week later and if it were not for the inevitable Red Sox win in the next couple of games, the World Series could well extend into November.

Even though it was in the mid-50s when the Red Sox and Rockies faced off this week in Boston, that’s hardly baseball weather. And the games in Colorado have been snow-less so far only by luck. It’s not uncommon for that area to get snow late in October.

Toss in the fact that the NFL and NHL are well into their season and getting exciting at this point, watching baseball players in dugouts wearing parkas only makes one wonder how the players on the field can perform and focus. It’s like watching a movie that has lasted far too long. Call me a fuddy-duddy purist if you want but these last two World Series rank as two of the least entertaining and I predict huge low ratings in years to come.

What is MLB going to do when Minnesota and Colorado get in (say in 2010) and the Twins are in their new open field in a snowstorm on Nov. 2 or in a snowy Colorado park in the same week?

I’ve never been caught walking naked in my sleep or otherwise — that I know of.  But when the next World Series goes 7 games I’m staying away from Travelodge hotels.


Larry Himmel: The toughest story he’s covered…




To say Larry Himmel is or was a personal friend of mine during my time leading the newsroom at a daily paper east of San Diego would be stretching the truth. We were journalism colleagues back then and shared a few assignments, broadcasts and lunches together. Larry was beginning to make a name for himself as a local television commentator and reporter and we co-wrote a few newspaper columns together. He did one of his own for the Daily Californian for a couple of months and, as good people there always did, eventually tired of the publishers’ shenanigans and took his talent elsewhere.

Larry Himmel 

Still, had I walked up to his front door yesterday he would have welcomed me in — I’m sure — because that’s the kind of heart he has. And anyone who has lived in San Diego and had the pleasure of watching him on television for the last 15 years or so knows Larry would do the same for them.

Not tonight.

Earlier today, Larry’s home of 25 years burned in the California fires. Of all the reporting he’s ever done, today’s assignment was surely one of the toughest and most courageous he’s completed. His journalistic instincts took him to his own home only minutes after it had become a complete loss.

I wasn’t going to write tonight, until I saw this report on FOX News and Bill O’Reilly interviewing Larry at about 8 p.m. EST. His home had been gone since the morning. He had secured his family and pets elsewhere before he left home this morning and then had gone to work.

Ironic, that a man with talents the whole country could appreciate goes national in a story about how he covered his own home burning on the news. (click the You Tube link above)

Then I had to write, as writers often must. But I have nothing profound to say. My mother-in-law and her sister had to catch a plane and leave their vacation with my sister-in-law who still lives in San Diego and has almost all of her adult life. I felt removed from that today because I knew they were safe. But I’ve been thinking of others all day:

  • My good friend Howard Owens and his wife Billie who have a large community of family and friends back there after only recently moving to the eastern part of the country.
  • Other friends of mine who I haven’t caught up with in far too long.
  • And all of the 360,000 or so who have been evacuated and are unsure of their situations.

I am certain the news will report many stories of great heroism and human support for each other. Despite all the stereotypes about Californians, when it comes to caring for each other in crisis they know no rivals.

So all there is left to do is go to bed now and pray for these people and that the winds will change.