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.

From the ”You Can’t Make this S*#t Up” File…(true story)

NOTE : The following story is absolutely true. It is being reprinted here from its original post of 2003 which had the permission of its author, Howard Owens. Owens, is a former colleague of mine at the paper in this story. It actually happened and is one of but many such wacky stories Howard and I share from those days. The Vinman is Vince Kern, the editor in this story. I thought readers of the Vibe would enjoy it………..

Well, good


 for Isaac …

By Howard Owens:

In any newsroom the clerks play an important role in helping to fill newsholes, gather information and keep a hectic, chaotic office functional. Clerks file obits, keep the police blotter, input weather reports, sort mail, and (in pre-internet days) input letters to the editor. They work for low pay and often deal with scorn or benign indifference from the rest of the staff. At a small paper, few in the newsroom take as much crap as the clerks.

So is it any wonder that during my three years at the Daily Californian in El Cajon, Calif., we had a hell of a time keeping good clerks on staff?

It got so bad at one point that our editor, Vince Kern, took to hiring clerks from a temp service. And the first clerk placed with us by the temp agency was Isaac Cubillos. Isaac was a revelation. For a time, he was the best clerk we ever had. He dressed professionally and with flair; he was punctual and efficient. He was conscientious and devoted to his work. Hell, he even made the coffee every morning.

It wasn’t long before Vince decided that he needed to hire Isaac away from the temp agency.

It wasn’t long after that, however, that some of us started to get a feeling that all wasn’t as it seemed. Isaac started taking longer lunches. A few tasks went undone from time to time. Once in a while we didn’t get messages. Then one afternoon when he wasn’t at his desk, I answered his phone: “Yes, I’m calling for your editor, Isaac Cubillos,” the caller said. “Um, well, Isaac isn’t our editor, but I’ll take a message.” The caller was some PR agent, a reasonable enough call for the clerk to get, and for the PR agent to be confused about his title.

But then we reporters started talking. That caller wasn’t the first nor the last to refer to Isaac as the editor. (We would learn later that Isaac was telling PR agents he was editor and receiving free tickets to concerts and plays and other events.)

Vince laughed about it, but we wondered what was going on. We knew next to nothing about Isaac’s true background. He was obviously educated, intelligent and cultured. Why was he clerking? None of us could figure it out.

Then Isaac did a good deed for a reader, and that proved to be his undoing. The reader wrote a letter to the editor, which Isaac dutifully typed into the system, and the op-ed editor published. It praised Isaac by name for his help with some trivial matter.

Not surprisingly, law enforcement detectives read our paper, and within 24 hours of that letter hitting print, two detectives arrived in our front lobby.

Isaac, it turns out, was wanted in some San Diego fraud case. Isaac wound up doing about 18 months in jail, but his short time at the Daily Californian changed his life. He was bitten by the journalism bug. In jail, he studied journalism and ran the prison newspaper.

Upon his release, he landed a staff writer job with a Spanish-language paper in Chula Vista. He did some fairly good pieces there, even winning some investigative journalism awards.

But that isn’t the end of the story. As proof that life is forever filled with irony, I found out while in El Cajon this past Monday what Isaac is doing these days. Would you believe me if I told you that he is now EDITOR of The Californian, the weekly paper that succeeded our old employer?

Fiction has become reality.

I can’t make this shit up, honest.

Of course, not a lot people would believe, probably, that journalism could reform a man, but all evidence suggests that at least in the case of Isaac, it worked. Maybe there is a lesson in that. Or maybe it’s just an aberration.

BTW: The Californian should mention on it’s “About Us” page that East County Online was founded in 1995 as one of the first three weekly papers in the nation with a web site. Furthermore, I wouldn’t mind at all if it noted that the founder was Howard Owens and Steve Saint. I mean, if you’re going to give the history of the company, why not give it all?

Freedom to be yourself across the Universe…

Freedom to be yourself across the Universe…


A funny thing happened as Vinman’s Verbosity sped quickly toward the intersection of Blog-Kill Ave. and Creativity-Silenced Blvd; another Vinman inadvertently gave me my voice back! Here’s the scoop:

Friday, I received an email from another Vinman in London who visited Vinman’s Vibe. He said he is “a pillar in the rock and roll community” in Europe.

A Google search revealed he is, indeed, correct in this regard. He then offered the following in his note…….

“…now from what i gather, you play hockey on ice. because of this i will not threaten you but kindly ask you to respect that i am the original vinman.

all the best,

His real name in unimportant in this context, but he must be in tune with all the good karma that exists in the world because his email was like a giant Bic flame igniter touching the charcoals of my creative soul which had been smoldering from inactivity.

The ensuing combustion of creativity created a blast that knocked my BBQ off the porch.

You know these elements from your own battles. For me, it’s The Vinman stifled by the oppressive soggy bad spirits of “Who am I really, and what do I want to create?” and that especially-negative “No-time-to-write” fellow inside crashing against the always-flowing-somewhere-inside-just-waiting-to-come-out-Vinman, otherwise known as “Be Yourself.”

A day later, I realized that this Vinman from London provided a gift that cannot be placed in a wrapped package on demand or even bought. It came in a hardened conclusion that we all must be who we are created to be.

For me that means I must write and express, no matter if it means writing a best-selling novel, creating photographs, newspaper columns, in a blog once a day or whenever the spirit moves me. I simply must do so and I must do it for myself and no other intended audience. If you enjoy it, I am doubly blessed and eternally grateful that I could share it. But that’s the trouble with having experienced and feeling comfortable with audiences large and small, one finds oneself spending too much time about the audience and not about the art. So, Vinman’s Verbosity took a turn last fall toward the cyberdump of blogs and it might have been the end. Except that I always still have something to say. I just lost the desire to say it for awhile until this Vinman from London came calling.

I am going to assume, for now, that this man’s note is a tongue-in-cheek greeting of sorts, you know, one Vinman to another. “Hello, Vinman, from the Vinman from London!” But until or if I hear otherwise from him based on my reply, I am not so certain. He may, indeed, be claiming this name for himself, believing he is warning me off. And if that’s so, we have some more talking to do.

Let’s examine this note he sent a bit closer, shall we? The first thing I notice is that there is zero capitalization in his writing. No problem, not offensive, but it seems a bit hurried, i.e., dismissive of the formalness and politeness the Brits are so renowned. I envisioned he was simply surfing the web and Googled Vinman and found my site, decided to jot a quick hello and had no time for caps.

Quick note, back onstage…..groovy! Vinman from London correctly infers that The Vinman does play ice hockey. And maybe that part is the proof I need to believe this man is genuinely happy we share the same moniker. For if he were desiring to threaten the ice hockey part would be of no regard.

And so goes the thought process about receiving such a note. But only regarding the note itself. It’s what the note spurred inside that is important to me and if you apply it to yourself, for you as well.

The bottom line is: WE are the art. Individually and together, we are the art. No word I write, or note the Vinman from London plays, is original. It’s how we shape them that makes the art. Of the millions of people who could access this site, one 24-year-old musician (a seemingly genius musician at that) unknowingly connected dots of the “Who am I” question and brought my voice back to my fingertips by making me answer to myself. I can no more reach across the ocean and diminish his worth or self-understanding by requsting possession of a name than he can mine.

Think of your own life for a minute. When you think about yourself, what comes to mind? Your name? Your family? Your occupation? Your personality? Your legace?

What do you do to spark that creative fire and nurture your soul? Is there one good thing you have never given up, despite all indications that you were about to? Why didn’t you? Or, is there something you should be doing, but are not?

My guess is that we all realize sooner or later that each breath is Heaven on Earth and not a recap of the day.

It’s the step before it’s the walk. It’s the journey before it’s the destination, and then onto another. Look at the photo of Saturn above in this post again, even though you’ve seen it once. Doesn’t it sing hope of a vast Universe where more than one Vinman is allowed?

That’s my universe, I am The Vinman and I thank the Vinman from London for reminding me that in order to be yourself, one has to be one’s self. I also hope the Vinman from London finds Lee Ho Fooks and gets the big dish of beef chow mein he’s seeking.

P.S. Happy Independence Day.

Copyright Vincent J. Kern — 2004
All Rights reserved

An early evening before the ballgame……….


Photo by Vince Kern (c) All Rights Reserved
Orlando Hundson (left) and Eric Hinske spend a moment chatting  after warmups.

……..I found the spirit of the game in watching the Toronto team warm up, stretch and sign autographs for children who still admire ballplayers and adults who never escaped a childhood need just to have an autograph to say, “Hey, I met this guy.”

Baseball is one sound cure for the blues and I should know that by now.

I remembered that it’s not so much the game being played that counts — it’s taking the time to admire the athletic preparation, the skill and the joy that young men posses in their hearts as the ball is batted and tossed around for nine innings or so.

It was a magical night, Wednesday, despite the hometown Detroit Tigers getting a clock cleaning by the Toronto Blue Jays 8-2. Detroit (with about 20 wins and well over 60 losses so far this year) had the unmitigated gall to beat Toronto TWO nights in a row Monday and Tuesday. The evening was magical because the weather was perfect — 76 degrees at gametime with just enough of a breeze to keep things cool — and The Vinman and his wife were sitting behind first base just down from the visitors’ dugout. Having a team with the potential to set the worst record in MLB history has one advantage: These seats were $30 apiece and few people were around us.

Baseball, as it is meant to be enjoyed, demands to be viewed up close and personal rather than in a corporate suite with knuckleheds you see every day at work talking about nothing meaningful all night. On the field music is made by the pop of the leather glove catching a fastball, the plop bank of a runner hitting the bag at full speed and of course the crack of the bat.

The perfect summer weather, coupled with the lack of a crowd also enabled The Vinman to fully christen his new digital camera and revisit his days as a professional photog. More than that, I was after the art of baseball looking to take photos that reflected the spirit of the game and not the technical photos you see in the papers.

And so, tonight I begin a series of pieces on the events at the ballpark last night. Every moment was fun from the warmups to the positive heckling going on around me that I eventually engaged in.

And I can’t wait to write about “Autograph Boy,” the six-year-old shy black kid with a Cincinnati Red’s cap (white shirt, black pants and red hat) who was as enamored by seeing the ballplayers up close as I was and how he got his nickname from The Vinman.