ST. PAUL, Minn. -- In the subterranean bowels of the building where the Hartbeat distills information from a variety of platforms, there are no windows.
This makes the environment safe from the ravages of winter weather. The other journalists and I feed information, both of the written and audio visual variety, onto the multi platforms of Capitol news on which we balance. The fluid nature of the legislature provides us with material, but we often don't know if is sunny or cloudy outside the thick walls.
Our contact with our mothership newsrooms is by telephone. Sometimes we ask if the sun is shining. We hope that the news that we transmit from the basement adds to the light of understanding the complexities of Minnesota government.
The tools of communication have changed (the communication is not always better) with the introduction of cell phones. These personal information (or personal distraction) devices allow one to read e-mail, access the internet and have a computer in one's pocket.
At the Capitol there are still some icons of a past communication age. Much like vinyl records and cassette tapes of the not-to-distant past, there are still icons of another era scattered throughout the historic building. In this Hartbeat we will turn over some marble blocks and capture some of the past glories of communication at the Capitol.
"She won't write me no letter
She won't even call me on the telephone"
Bluesman Albert King would have been happy if his long lost love had just contacted him in some way as he sang in "Blues at Sunrise." He was even going to call China, "and see if my woman is there." This bluesman saw how important a phone call can be in solving complex problems Scores of lobbyists also value the access to phones in solving problems of the legislative process. Those same lobbyists can now be seen with a cell phone at their ear instead of waiting for a pay phone to be available.
The pay phones at the Minnesota Capitol stand like sentries guarding the legacy of Alexander Graham Bell. The once popular machines are ignored by the crowds of people hurrying by on missions to impact government; they stride past them without a glance. What were once sought after conduits of communication are now silent. They were built like mini vaults to protect the money deposited in them. The cords to the receivers were armored to protect the wires from vandals (I once had a power cord for a video camera made from the same material and it was indestructible.) Soon these pay phones will be gone, replaced by the small sometimes fragile thin pieces of plastic that fit in a pocket, belt holster or a purse.
"Thank you for your time
Oh you've been so much
more than kind
You can keep the dime"
The Hartbeat is fortunate use an iPhone as part of the quiver of news gathering tools. There are hundreds of applications one can add to their phone, but here (without revealing too many trade secrets) are three which are very useful to a multi-platform journalist.
"Just a stranger in a strange land"
Goggle Maps is a useful app helpful in finding those sometimes obscure locations where news stories await to be harvested. I use it daily and it sometimes it even gives geographic shortcuts to stories. The directions provided for an assignment for a Tim Walz Congress on Your Corner event in Mankato took me off the main highway and despite my misgivings, directed me along more rural roads directly to the historic grocery store where people were lined up to meet their elected Representative. The iPhone GPS is not infallible, but it is very useful.
"This freeze frame moment can't be wrong"
In adding to the Google GPS, the iPhone assigned to me by KARE has a camera. As a multi-platform jackal I feed the insatiable appetite of the Web with images from stories I cover. The camera is pretty decent, but I downloaded an app, Camera Plus. Features include a grid pattern to line up your shots to correct a tilting horizon, a stabilizer to improve sharpness, a digital zoom which is pretty good in a pinch, a touch control for focus and adjusting exposure and a cool gallery feature that stores your images like 35mm color transparencies on a light table. For a film fossil like me it harkens back to hours spent hunched over a light table studying slides and negatives.
"My baby, she wrote me a letter"
The fax machine seems relegated to join the army of pay phones waiting to enter technology Valhalla, but here is an app, Genius Scan, that takes the features of the fax and gives them a new life. The I Phone app uses your phone camera to take a picture of a document, receipt, a white board in a classroom and, with a few simple touch screen taps, turn the image into a high contrast graphic file to e-mail. It is great for saving receipts for expense reports, scanning press releases handed to hungry jackals at news conferences, keeping hand written notes that you need to send via e-mail and sending printed material to a computer.
There are a couple of apps that help the Hartbeat craft these insightful blogs, but those will remain locked in the secret vault until another time.
The Hartbeat goes on...
What's cooking on the Hartbeat Grill?
You read about him first in Hartbeat. James Dupre, the Louisiana EMT Paramedic who caught the attention of country music lovers with his YouTube videos and his excellent 2010 album, "It's All About to Change" has signed with Warner Brothers Records. With a major label backing his talent you will hear much more from this creative artist. He may even get his music played on country radio stations. Catch up with James please click here. A recent addition to the reading list at Hartbeat World Headquarters is, "The anthology of rap" edited by Adam Bradley, Andrew DuBois. The book explores rap from 1978-2011 and highlights major artists from each era. An added bonus are lyrics from over 300 songs, well known hits as well as obscure rhymes, the urban beat. This book is a good resource and an education as well as an opportunity for one to find out what are the real lyrics to raps by your favorite artists. Since the word play of rap is fueled by the beat, some of the lyrics don't have the same impact as you may recall from hearing the recordings.
As long as we are rapping, a Capitol colleague introduced me to a group of musicians performing "honky tonk rap." Gangstagrass has a unique style of mixing country lyrics/themes layered over scratch tracks and rap percussion. The group also adds some humor in addition to an unusual musical mix. To hear the banjo and resonator guitar rappers click here.
The Musical Notes
"Just pick up the telephone is part of a lyric from Wilson Pickett's 1965 single, "634-5789". The song was written by Steve Cropper of Booker T and the MG's and soul singer Eddie Floyd. The duo also wrote "Ninety-Nine and a Half (Wont Do)."
Great bluesmen named King can provide suitcases full of blues for lovers of the genre. Albert King didn't enjoy as much fame as B.B. King and Freddie King. His 1973 album, "Blues at Sunrise" is an excellent live album. I got the album, "Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughn, In Session" for Valentine's Day (Hart Day at the Headquarters) and there is an outstanding version of "Blues at Sunrise."
"Operator (That's Not the Way I Feel)" was the second single released from Jim Croce's 1972 hit album, "You Don't Mess Around with Jim."
"Stranger in a Strange Land" earned a place in rock history as one of the first songs to use a Moog synthesizer. Leon Russell included this song on his 1971 album, Leon Russell and the Shelter People".
"Freeze Frame" along with "Centerfold" were two singles from the J. Geils Band's twelfth album released in 1981. Both songs have a photographic angle.
The Box Tops and Joe Cocker hit," The Letter" was written by Wayne Carson Thompson He also wrote "Always On My Mind" which was a successful song for Elvis and Willie Nelson. Thompson penned songs for Conway Twitty, Waylon Jennings and other country artists. In the country music world of unusual song titles, his composition for Gary Stewart, "She's Acting Single (I'm Drinking Doubles)" is a contender for the top prize.
The Photo Notes
The images of this Hartbeat are from an iPhone and freeze frames (just like the song) from DVCAM videotape.
(Copyright 2011 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)