McAdams On: Post-NAB Name Dropping

HOME, AGAIN: I am home again after five days at the at the National Association of Broadcasters Show in Las Vegas with 100,000 of my closest friends. I think some of you were hiding from me, however, because it didn’t seem like 100,000, except for the day we all showed up on the same Monorail car. It is always clear at the NAB Show who on the Monorail has not taken subway in Tokyo or New York, because you refuse to give up the concept of personal space to let six more people in. Maybe it’s because the gender ratio is 9-to-one guys-to-women. And once again, as in all years past, thank you to all the gentleman [sic] on the Monorail who offered me their seat.

I prefer taking the Monorail because it’s the perfect mixer. You meet people, chat and trade cards, but aren’t committed in the stand-around kind of way with fruity martinis and decapod crustaceans on toothpicks. The NAB Show is the mecca of decapod crustaceans, otherwise known as “shrimp,” or as we refer to them in Nebraska, “insects.” 

Being a vegetarian in Las Vegas typically amounts to a forced fast, though it’s getting better. There were veggie wraps in the newsroom for at least 10 minutes before the food table was hit like a lame water buffalo in a tank of 3D piranha. Someone told me they visited our newsroom for the first time and it wasn’t the glamorous enclave they expected. I’m not sure why. Maybe it was the way we’re chained to computers while the editors walk around cracking bullwhips yelling, “WRITE. YE SWARTHY INK-STAINED WRETCHES!,” foaming saliva trailing from their mouths. This has nothing to do with those of us chatting up the bosses 45 minutes into deadline. (BTW, bosses, you all looked very,verygood this year. Seriously. Did you do something with your hair?)

Actually, “ink-stained wretches” comes from frequent usage by NAB Executive Vice President and spokesmodel Dennis Wharton, possibly one of the funniest, down-to-earth and gleeful people inside the Beltway. Dennis always moves as if he’s walking on bubbles. If Dennis won the lottery, I’d be only mildly bitter it wasn’t me.

Speaking of winning the lottery, my former colleague Price Colman was at the trade show for the first time since he won a lottery in 1999. Back then, he told the Rocky Mountain News something that should explain a lot: “As a journalist, I have a fractured personality.” He said more, but I’m not paying HighBeam Research $200 to find out. Who and what is HighBeam Research, that they can charge me for my own stuff? Shouldn’t everyone with a byline be getting royalties from HighBeam Research? I have the same Ink-Stained Wretch Retirement Plan as Price, though mine’s through Publishers Clearing House. I just have this nagging feeling I ought to have a back-up plan.

So anyway, the Monorail, where I met Mr. Spike Jones of Communications Engineering in Newington, Va., only he’s from Pittsburgh, I tell him I like his band, unlike every other individual he has met in his entire life. Mr. Jones said the new look this year was the channel-in-a-box—everything a TV station would need to add a digital subchannel, in a box. I guess. I don’t quite know for sure because everyone tells me their channel-in-a-box is subtly different from the other guy’s channel-in-a-box, and I’m not set up here in my modest monk’s quarters to contrast and compare channel-in-a-box boxes. Thankfully, I have a number of engineers on call, including Mr. Jones, who did not know that he activated his membership to this exclusive club by handing me his card.

Another day when I got on the train, I sat down next to Mr. Ken Aagaard. For those of you unfamiliar with celebrity engineers, sitting next to Mr. Aagaard on public transportation is like hanging in the lunch line with Robert Downey, Jr. Mr. Aagaard is the executive vice president of operations, engineering and production services for CBS Sports. The Masters, the Super Bowl, March Madness, Olympics, the NFL—you get me. I’d tell you what we talked about, but then I’d have to kill you. Not really.

We talked about 4K. Mr. Aagaard sees 4K coming to TV. In vastly oversimplified terms, 4K is HD times two. HD is SD times three or so. SD dominated for around 50 years. HD has prevailed in the market for around five years. Mr. Aagaard has to figure out what he can buy now for TV trucks and facilities to handle whatever comes down the pike six, seven, eight years from now. He is apparently very good at this, which is why he is a celebrity engineer. That and he introduced James Cameron for the director's keynote. (Not too shabby for a Hawkeye.)

Other stuff happened at the show, but I’ve gone on here long enough, so I’ll pelt you with more aftermath next week if I remember, which isn’t likely, but you never know. In the meantime, I hope you’re all home safe and sound in a shrimp-free environment.
(P.S. - Thank you, alert reader Mark I. Schubin, for noticing that I inadvertently occupied democracy in my screed about Mr. Murdoch. “Tenants of democracy.” Yeah, I said that. O_o)