April 2004 Archives

FAIRLY UNBALANCED

I swear, this AP photo of Michael Jackson in his new little glasses and suit make him look like Alan Colmes in a fright wig.

And here, he looks like a sock puppet.

By the way, what's with the red arm band? Did he look in the mirror at the suit his lawyers insister he wear and think, you know, this outfit really needs a touch of Nuremberg?

ANOTHER REASON ONLINE SHOPPING RULES

The police issued a warning today about possible terror attacks at a mall somewhere near the Federal Building on Wilshire near the 405 in Westwood. They didn't say which malls would be targets- indeed, they didn't give any specifics at all- but they told everyone to exercise "vigilance."

Vigilance? What's "vigilance" going to do? You get to see the face of the person who's about to kill you? Are you supposed to throw yourself on a grenade? What are you supposed to do?

Well, nothing. And the cops can't do anything, either. If a murderous bastard wants to drive into a mall garage with a carload of explosives, or someone wants to lob a grenade into a store, or whatever else someone wants to do to kill people, no cop or barricade or plan will do much more than temporarily inconvenience the attacker. There's not much anyone can do to stop it, even if you know it's coming, unless you want to make life very, very different. You can post cops at all entrances. You can inspect all cars. You can make people go through metal detectors. You can frisk people. You can make a quick trip to Macy's into an affair of several hours.

Do you want that? Does ANYBODY want that?

And that's been my point about the 9/11 hearings. Even if someone had put together all the bits of information that were floating around, even if the plot had been figured out, even if someone thought of boxcutters as something worth searching for and confiscating, how would that have played with the public? If this was 9/10/01, would you be OK with long security lines at airports, people pawing through your underwear in the guise of inspection, barricarded cockpit doors and air marshals with guns? Or would you have decried the infringement of basic liberties, complained about the slowness, and demanded to know what the specific threat was, doubting its existence all along?

You know the answer. And you also know that if they do that kind of tight-security thing at malls, you won't like it, it'll cost a fortune, and it'll kill a lot of retail businesses. Considering all that, I guess "vigilance" is all you CAN do. If you see anything suspicious, be sure to, well, um... wave. And rest assured that long after you're gone, someone will hold hearings and point fingers at the people who "should have stopped it." Maybe they'll point at you. You know they won't blame the terrorists.

NOT GUILCUP

It's hard to write about your experiences when you have virtually none all day. I spent the whole day in a jury waiting room, reading books to pass the time. I read three books and fell asleep for about 10 minutes, then got called for a trial, then got excused, then I was done. And now, I'm way behind on work. Oh, and I don't even get any jury pay for the day- California makes you work the first day for free.

I do, actually, have some things to say, but not today. All in due course. It's a strange time- sad, surreal, stressful- and I'll explain all of it someday, but at least we got a glimmer of (very) good news from Fran's family, which I'll also get around to explaining someday. For now, I just need to stop thinking about everything and try to shake it all off.

LIFE IMITATES A PAULY SHORE MOVIE

Jury duty.

F.

F F F F F.

G D it.

Of all the...

F.

Oh, well. Let's see how tomorrow goes. My luck, I get stuck on a "12 Angry Men" jury. And, to respond to your comments, no, there's practically no way to get out of it in Los Angeles anymore. You have to prove a medical impossibility or financial hardship beyond just losing hundreds of dollars a day to get off. So I'm not "such a loser that I can't get off jury duty." I gotta do it.

F.

The guy across the street died today.

We didn't really know him. He was the father of another neighbor, and he and his wife moved into the house about a year or so ago. He and his wife were both very frail and probably in their 80s, maybe even their 90s; we'd see them when they would go to the mailbox at the end of their driveway, and, once, I tried to help him get up when he'd fallen in their yard, and he fought me and anyone else who tried to help him. He wasn't all there, and it was sad to see. I saw the couple at the mailbox last week and said hello, and a couple of days ago I saw the daughter and a nurse wheeling the father down the block. That was the last time I saw him until Fran and I watched the morticians wheel the gurney out of their house with a blue sheet pulled all the way over his head.

I'm not good with death. I didn't know the guy, really, but I felt really bad, bad for him, for his family, just bad. And I rarely saw him, but I know I'm going to feel the loss, feel the sadness from across the street, feel like there's sort of a pall on that house and on the block because he's gone.

Shocking revelation: Death Sucks.

Needless to say, this did nothing to help my mood.


WHAT HE SAYS

Inspired, he says, by my shining example, former WKLS (96 Rock)/Atlanta morning "Regular Guy" Larry Wachs has started semi-blogging on the show's old site. He starts with his experience espousing conservative views at the "Jimmy Kimmel Live" writers' meeting- he claims that this drove the staff a) insane, and b) to write a much funnier show for Friday than the one Larry and I witnessed from the green room on Thursday. The latter achievement couldn't have been too difficult, judging by the audience response on Thursday. Oy.

Anyway, go click here and see what Atlanta's Favorite Fired Morning Show Host is saying. If you like it, blame me.

DOWN AND DIRTY

And at the end of a long and difficult day, I found myself tugging at a sewer snake line along with two plumbers, trying desperately to free the thing from our sewer line.

This was not a good day.

I won't bore you with the details (as I usually do), but it was a long and not particularly pleasant day. And when the plumbers were gone and the line was clear and I could finally get something to eat- not that I was particularly hungry- I sat down and ate peanut butter out of the jar and I put on the TV, and there on ESPN Classic, Mookie Wilson was at the plate with Knight on first and Mitchell on third, and then there was the wild pitch and the fouls and then it was 1986 again and I was in my old house and sitting there with my dad watching the game with jaws scraping the ground, and Wilson swung and Vin Scully said "it gets through Buckner! Here comes Knight! And the Mets win it!"

What strikes me today is how Scully shut up and let the pictures do the talking from then on. Shea was bedlam, and he didn't say anything. He didn't need to.

But at the end of a trying day, there it was, proving that the impossible once indeed happened, reminding me of a very good day with dad almost 18 years ago. I'll take that as a win and move on.

APRIL SURPRISE

Every once in a while, Halley's Comet has to go by. A longshot has to win the Kentucky Derby, a Republican has to win an election in San Francisco, Janeane Garofalo has to say something coherent or funny.

And Alex Cora has to hit a three run homer.

You can't expect it to happen very often, but it does, just like a lightning strike or a reasonably entertaining Adam Sandler movie. It happened today. I was there. It happened, I swear. I have no reason to make it up.

And I take one thing back. Janeane does NOT have to say something coherent or funny. That, I'm afraid, may truly be impossible.


While we're at it, this isn't bad for the crappy camera in my cell phone:

The resolution's not much, but you can tell what it's supposed to be, so I can't complain too much. Won't replace the Canon, but it'll do for quick 'n' dirty.

DO AS YOU'RE TOLD

Eli Manning ended up with the Giants, and I heard several radio hosts lambasting him and his father for coming out and saying he didn't want to play for San Diego, that he was being a big baby- why, after Pat Tillman, how can anyone complain about who's drafting him?- and that the Chargers shouldn't give in to his blackmail.

You only get this in sports. Everyone else- OK, medical residents don't get to choose, but everyone else does- can go where he or she wants to go, work for whomever will hire him or her, doesn't have to go to an assigned city and employer. And, yes, these guys DO make a lot of money. But so what? If you don't want to play for a team with a crappy offensive line that'll get you crushed, and you don't want to play for a team with no apparent plan for improvement that is considering moving, why should you? And if there's no other option for you to ply your trade, wouldn't you do whatever you thought you had to do to stand up for your choice?

(Of course, the Giants have a fairly weak offensive line and their plan isn't necessarily better, plus he'll have to play for the R. Lee Ermey of the NFL, so it's not like he's going to paradise. On the other hand, if he wins there, he'll OWN New York)

Look, if my team sucked- Lord knows, as an Eagle fan, I've been there- and someone refused to play for them- Lord knows, as a Phillies fan, I've been THERE- I'd be pissed, too. And Charger fans have a right to boo Manning and hate what he did. But if you were Eli, you'd have thought along the same lines. Yes, you would. Boo all you want, but you'd have at least considered doing exactly what he did.

Not that you or I will ever be put in that position. Me, I'd have taken that money no matter what. OK, if the Fallujah Fightin' Insurgents of the IFL chose me, I'd have to think about it. But I wouldn't immediately say no. That kind of money buys a lot of Kevlar.

THINGS HAVE CHANGED

It was somewhere on Highland near where it cuts over to LaBrea that I realized I can't do it anymore. I can't stay out late. And by "late," I don't mean late in the normal sense, I mean at night, period. It was about 11, and I was wiped out, with about 40 minutes of driving to go before I'd reach home. I can't do that anymore.

Maybe it's getting up before 5 every morning- surely, that can't help- but it's also something else. In my general exhausted haze, I remembered when I used to go to concerts, clubs, shows, and I could stay up to any hour. It was a pleasant memory for about a second, and then I remembered the rest- the crowds, the smoke (there used to be smoking in clubs, kiddies!), no place to sit down, the heat, the noise. And, suddenly, my reverie became a litany of why I don't like to go out now, and it became apparent that I not only don't like to go out now, I didn't really like it back then.

I haven't turned into an old man. I always WAS an old man.

It's at times like this that I can appreciate the impulse of some people to become hermits. Going out to be social is too much work, too hot, too noisy, too awkward. Staying in is easy, restful, pleasant. It's also emotionally stunting and kinda weird, but I can live with that. Today.

CRAZY FROM THE HEAT

Ladies and gentlemen, because I just got back and I'm pressed for time, I give you, direct from the middle of the Mojave Desert...

The Mad Greek of Baker, CA!

Because nothing says fine cuisine like mental illness.

And they have a picture of Eddie Mekka on the wall.

JERQUE DU SOLEIL

"Hello! Where you folks visiting from?"

We're from the Planet Xatox, and we've come for your brains.

"You folks interested in a Grand Canyon plane ride?"

No.

"Hi there! How long are you in town for?"

20 to life after we kill you.

"You folks visiting? Where from?"

Summerlin. Go away.

The Vegas Strip is, obviously, for tourists. Locals can't be dragged there at gunpoint, unless they work there, in which case they might be the "where you folks from" pods that accost you with brochures in the casino malls or along the sidewalk, cheek-by-jowl with the porn purveyors flicking color "business cards" at your hands.

I hate feeling like a tourist. I don't know why I have such a strong aversion to it- I guess I don't want anyone to perceive me as a rube, a mark, a walking bundle of cash to take at will. That's what the casinos are all about, and that's why I had to get away a couple of times, having meals out at a soul food joint in Green Valley and a Chinese place in Henderson. The difference was striking- out east in the 'burbs, we were treated the same as everyone else, like we lived there, because what tourist would ever stray THAT far away from the Strip? Well, I would. I'd rather not feel ripped off, a feeling that the Strip does very well- everything is more expensive, everything feels shoddy, it's an unreal, uncomfortable world.

And yet I like it. I like coming to Vegas. Maybe my discomfort comes from being here too long- this convention goes on forever, and the point of diminishing returns comes earlier every year. After Tuesday's marathon, Wednesday was remarkably news-free. I easily could have skipped it and gone home. I should have. But it's one more night in surreality, then the long ride back.

While I'm doing the nomadic thing through the Mojave, here's some visual embellishment from the NAB convention:

Here's one of the many exhibit halls. I wandered through them for a while before realizing that there was absolutely nothing of interest for me there:

This is part of Panasonic's extensive booth. It was exactly the same last year, down to the glassed-in "exercise room" in which a model in a red unitard used a cross-training machine while geeks gawked at her. Look, a real live woman!:

Here, apparently, is the only place that the hall's wireless internet ($25. a day!) may have worked. It never worked for me:

And, finally, if you're going to fly a little inflatable blimp over your booth, make sure it's not as pathetic as this one:

That seems to be an appropriate note on which to end the trip. California beckons. I'm listening. More from home tomorrow.

MORE PANELS ABOUT BUILDINGS AND FOOD

Pardon my incoherence. I spent the whole day at the NAB convention again, and my mind's gone.

Actually, there were glimmers of hope- Robert Corn-Revere's sniping at the indecency law insanity was a positive highlight- but otherwise I spent the day scribbling quotes and staring at Guys in Suits on Panels and losing consciousness, punctuated by revelations like this: half of the males at the NAB convention look like a cross between Stephen Root on "News Radio" and Peter Griffin on "Family Guy"- pudgy, double-chinned guys in glasses and suits.

Look, I was tired and hallucinating. Don't blame me if I don't make any sense.

But I did notice one thing, before I lost it- FCC Chairman Michael Powell seemed to be fairly screaming "I don't want to be the anti-indecency guy- they made me do it." He kept saying how he HAD to fight indecency because Congress mandated it, and he said he could read some transcripts that would be hard to defend, but he generally seemed to be wishing that it would all go away.

And then I dropped off into another parallel existence. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir was there. Really, I swear. You can look it up.

Can I go home yet?

I HAVE MET THE ENEMY

This morning, as I sat and listened to a panel of congressmen and a Senator talk about broadcasting issues in front of a roomful of radio executives, it became clear to me what's happening. There was a consensus among the panelists- "indecency" is bad, whatever it is, and it must be dealt with legislatively. The people in the audience, broadcasters all, applauded. And when the moderator, a TV station operator, asked about why cable and satellite can get away with raunchier material, it wasn't because he felt that their freedom should extend to broadcasters. No, he wanted to know why cable and satellite aren't speech-regulated, too. And the broadcasters in the audience applauded.

Hey, radio hosts- there goes every shred of creativity you've tried to exercise in your career, sold down the river by YOUR OWN INDUSTRY.

I've been curious why the NAB, the trade group that is supposed to represent the interests of the radio industry, hasn't been all that upset with the new indecency rules. All they've done is to race to create "task forces" to discuss how the industry can create a new Broadcast Code, a new set of rules for "self-policing" under the not-veiled-at-all threat from Capitol Hill that if they don't do it, Congress will do it for them. And with few exceptions (Infinity and a handful of others), the industry is bending over and taking it. Thank you, sir, may I have another?

If you work in radio and you want to take risks and push for more creative liberty, you're toast. I say that because the pasty middle-aged white guys in the audience- that's everyone, even the women and minority members, who have been subsumed by the Borg of Fritts- were 100%, foursquare, totally in agreement- gotta do something about those pesky "talents." They seem to wish they could do it without you, and with the use of voicetracking, they can.

John Hogan of Clear Channel sat near me again this year. I was going to ask him how he expects anyone with a creative bone in his or her body to ever want to work for his company after selling Stern, Bubba, and the Regular Guys out in fear of the suits on that dais, but he veered off as soon as the thing was over. Maybe he, or Eddie Fritts, or someone in charge of radio will answer that question someday. By then, radio will be unlistenable. But it'll be safe. And that's what you get when nobody with power is willing to stand up for you.

TWO OF THE WONDERS OF THE WORLD

Because I've been driving and walking all day, let's Say It In Pictures...

From the middle of the Mojave Desert, here's the Bun Boy of Baker, CA!

And right next door, the World's Largest Thermometer!

Can't beat that for scenic! (By the way, at the base of the thermometer, it doesn't, as this picture suggests, say that Baker is the "Gateway to Death." It's "Gateway to Death Valley," which is far different. Although an argument could be made...)

ROAD TO ELSEWHERE

Time to go to Vegas, which for me doesn't involve the debauchery most people love about the place. No gambling, no partying, nothing- I gotta go sit in convention rooms covering the bland generalities tossed about by pasty guys in suits. I don't even get to partake of the free food and stuff- I'm media, and it's unethical to even poach a bagel from the Congressional Breakfast. So Vegas tends to resemble any other city for me, except unbearably hot and with the world's longest, loudest walk between where you park your car and where you get the elevator to your room. Plus, the convention center's too damn big and way too damn hot.

But that's okay- I still like being there. It's that sound of the slots in the distance- the same four note signal you get from AOL Instant Messenger and at the beginning of each puzzle on "Wheel! Of! Fortunnnnnnne!"- and the lights and the buzz that get me every time. I don't even mind the drive there- anywhere between five (if you're lucky with the traffic and your bladder holds out) and seven or more (if it's a typical trip) hours through the desert past the World's Tallest Thermometer, or the Largest, something like that. This time, we have satellite radio (Sirius, actually), but we may have to sneak a few minutes listening to The Highway Stations, the ones with the bland adult contemporary music punctuated by spots for cheesy casino acts (last time, it was that French impressionist guy at Bally's) and breathless "entertainment reports" that make "Access Hollywood" seem like "60 Minutes."

But that's all tomorrow, and I'm not finished packing. So if you'll excuse me...


CAN'T PLEASE EVERYONE

At AllAccess.com, where my other stuff runs, we get letters:

    Quite a slant to the right on these, how about another voice to balance things out. Your real last name isn't Mays (as in Lowsy), is it?

I guess that if you fancy yourself a Person of the Left, every idea that doesn't comport to yours is a "slant to the right" requiring equal time. (I was unaware that there was a Fairness Doctrine concerning web-based columns, but you learn something new every day) And if you're a Dyed-in-the-Wool Conservative, well, you read my stuff and find that I'm pro-choice, critical of the Patriot Act, critical of the administration's insistence on fighting porn and "indecency" for no good reason, critical of the apparent lack of a coherent plan for responding to the predictable post-war terrorism in Iraq, and I must seem like a raging liberal freak.

I'm conservative. I'm liberal. I'm libertarian. I'm indifferent.

I'm all of the above.

News flash: SO ARE MOST PEOPLE.

That's the trouble with so much talk radio, so much of the political commentary I see, so much of the attitude I get from people. If you can honestly say you're across-the-board one ideology or another, you're among a distinct minority. Most people are liberal on some things, conservative on others, undecided on a lot. They vote based on various factors- whatever their hot button issue is, who their friends are backing, who, as my Dad always says people want, has an inoffensive last name and reasonably good looks. They're not the hardcores. Who has the time or energy to be a hardcore? Yeah, yeah, war, abortion, guns... whatever, I gotta pick the kids up from school.

But I did like the Clear Channel slam in the e-mail- out of left field, apropos of almost nothing. I have friends who work for Clear Channel, I have friends who have been fired by Clear Channel, but I can't say I've ever worked for them (no, that Fox Sports Radio thing I did for a year was not a job). And no, my surname isn't Mays. If it was, do you think I'd be wasting my time writing this?


I gave up on writing anything meaningful tonight and started paging through a copy of Psychotronic Video magazine, and I went, as usual, right to the back where the obituaries are listed. Psychotronic always has great obits, because they're all show biz people, and better, C- and D- and F-listers, the kind of hangers-on, has-beens, and never-wases that are far more interesting than the stars. And, there, I discovered that a guy named Edwin Gillette died recently at 94.

Who?

He developed the Syncro-Vox system.

The what?

Two words: Clutch Cargo.

Ah.

Clutch Cargo was one of television's great what-the-HELL-is THAT shows. It was a cartoon, except it wasn't really animated. It was more like a series of drawings, but that wasn't the reason you watched. No, you watched because the lips weren't animated, they were some guy's real lips superimposed on Clutch's face, superimposed badly so the lips kinda moved around a little. If you watch Conan O'Brien and see those bits where they have "Arnold Schwarzenegger" on a monitor with Robert Smigel's smirking lips pasted onto Arnold's smirking face, you know the effect.

It's genius.

Clutch Cargo was the stuff of nightmares, but it was perfect for the time, and when you're a kid and they haven't invented CGI and Korean animation mills yet and you're watching black-and-white TV, it's somehow acceptable. We accepted a lot. Crusader Rabbit was like someone manipulating cardboard cutouts in front of a hastily drawn background; Colonel Bleep couldn't afford to sync the voices and lips, so they didn't DO voices, just narration. Hanna-Barbera cartoons featured backgrounds that repeated over and over and over, so that Fred and Barney would drive by the same house several times on the way to Joe Rockhead's place- he lived outside the blackout radius, so he'd get the big fight on TV! We questioned this not.

Today, kids are more sophisticated. They demand slick animation- anime style preferred- and bodily function humor, none of which was available when we were kids. Hell, we had MARIONETTE shows! Would a kid today accept "Fireball XL-5" or "Thunderbirds" today?

Their loss.

Most of today was spent tracking down various aspects of the Air America Radio debacle in Chicago and Los Angeles- don't know who's telling the truth, but I know that if I were launching a new radio network on leased-time stations, I'd pay in advance and make sure everything was covered (but they never asked me)- but then I got this item:

    Mark Russell at NAB Broadcast Leadership Dinner

    WASHINGTON, D.C. - Famed comedian and political satirist Mark Russell will
    be the featured entertainment at this year's Broadcast Leadership Dinner
    during the NAB2004 convention in Las Vegas. Often referred to as the
    "political pianist," Mr. Russell is known for his musical satire which pokes
    bipartisan fun at politicos of all stripes.

    The Broadcast Leadership Dinner is an invite-only event held every year
    during the NAB convention to recognize broadcast industry leaders that play
    a key role in NAB's legislative and lobbying efforts. In addition to
    politically active broadcasters, special guests at the event often include
    members of Congress and FCC Commissioners.

Mark Russell used to be on all the time on PBS when I was a kid. "From the Katherine Cornell Theater at the State University of New York at Buffalo..." That was the intro, then a puffy guy in a tux and glasses would come out and tell jokes and pound the piano ragtime-style and sing song parodies to the vast amusement of a crowd whose faces occasionally popped out of the dim theater-in-the-round background. As a kid quite interested in politics and political humor, I watched those specials, watched every one of them, until, finally, I decided that it was everyone else, not me, who was wrong.

Mark Russell isn't funny.

He's not. He's funny if your brand of humor is dropping a politician's name into a familiar song where it rhymes. Hey, I got an idea... how about "Kerry With the Fringe On Top"? Ah, no, wait, "Kerry With the Botox On Top"- yeah, there you go, topical AND funny, except not funny. That's not a Mark Russell gag as far as I know, but it might as well be. Don't take my word for it- here are some of his jokes, his self-selected jokes from his web site, so these are what he thinks are his BEST stuff:

    As a diplomatic courtesy to Japan, the players agreed to use only domestic steroids.

See, the Yankees and Tampa Bay played in Japan, and there's a steroid scandal in baseball, and... um...

    John Kerry pledged to lower corporate taxes by 5 percent. Don't tell me - starting with the Heinz Corp., right?

Yeah, because Kerry's wife is... well...


    Bush critic, Richard Clarke once gushed over the president's performance, but the romance faded in time for Clarke's book. The same could be said of Bill Clinton who was once fond of Lewinsky.

All right, I'm baffled. The punch line is... what?

    The reign in Spain throws friendship down the drain.

He's probably still chuckling over this one. Clever!

    So, Spain has gone socialist. Meanwhile, in Russia, the young people are saying - "socialism! Why don't we try it here?"

(crickets)

    We are certainly finding out who our friends are. We may have lost Spain, but we picked of Libya, remember. I wonder if Qadhafi knows the words to 'Kumbaya'?"

Listen, "Kumbaya" is a guaranteed laff-getter. This kinda stuff SLAYED 'em at the Shoreham.

    And in Haiti, Aristide has been outsourced - literally. At the Port-au-Prince airport, the flights are labeled "first class," "coach" and "exiled."

'Cause he's in exile. Geddit?

    Now that the war on terror includes gay marriage, the president has proposed a constitutional amendment to stop Rosie O'Donnell.

Lemme tell you, just bring up Rosie and you can't miss. Comedy gold!

He's not alone. If you can't book Mark Russell for your corporate shindig, you get the Capitol Steps. I had a morning man once who just loved this group and played cuts from them on his show. Here are representative song titles from their latest CD:

"God Bless My SUV"... "Clinton Thinks the French Have a Lot of Gaul"... "Hang Down Your Head, Tom Daschle"... "You Can't Fly With Giant Thighs"..."Bibbity Bobbity Spew"... "Condoleezza" (I don't have to hear it, it's gotta be "Mona Lisa," right?)... "Heard It on the Nightline"... "Speaker of the House"...

I'm sorry. Not funny. If this stuff's a laff riot to you, you're reading the wrong page.

So they'll be rolling in the aisles at the NAB dinner, the Lowrys and Eddies and Lews and other movers and shakers of the industry. Why, look, they'll say, he's funny AND he's perfectly decent, suitable for all the kiddies- we don't need that Stern or Bubba or Regular Guys stuff, not when it's perfectly plain that perfectly plain humor like Mark Russell is available.

Me, I'll be across town lining up for the buffet like all the other non-movers and non-shakers. Somehow, I think I'll be happier there.

UH, OKAY, SURE, WHATEVER

I watched the press conference. He did what he needed to do, spun everything where he wanted it to go, answered a few questions, avoided some. About halfway through, my attention wandered. By the end, I was munching some leftover Crunchy M&M easter eggs and wondering what was on other channels. Then I watched some Malcolm and Arrested Development episodes we'd recorded on the PVR and never gotten around to watching.

Well, sorry. Just didn't have it today. And I suppose YOU can always turn on the instant analysis mode.

HOW YOU LIKE ME NOW?

Yeah, changed the color scheme and layout a little. Got bored. Or maybe it was too much HGTV.

Besides, now you can actually see the hyperlinks where they're supposed to be.

But I reserve the right to change my mind. As always.

SAYONARA

These are not happy times.

This doesn't help.

Although the skidmarks are a nice touch.


And this... all I can say is, Godspeed, man. I don't think I'd take that route, but I guess you gotta do what you gotta do.

And I gotta go.


ECHO

And right after I posted the last comment, I checked LGF and there was a link to actor Larry Miller's latest column at the Weekly Standard's web site, and he's basically saying a lot of the same things, only better:

    I mean, please, anyone who ever reads past page two has known since President Bush landed on that aircraft carrier that Fallujah was the headquarters, the homeland, the core of everyone who ever worked and killed for Saddam Hussein. It's not just a place, a city, a neighborhood, with terrific down-home folks going to choir practice and trying to get by in tough times. It's the place--the bull's eye, it's got them all, and it might as well be called Tortureville, or Saddamfield, or Baathburg, and the best of them could most charitably be called "loyalists." What in the world did anyone imagine was going to sprout up there in the last 12 months? A chamber of commerce? A garden club? A band shell for Sunday programs of Sousa?

    All right, wait. Sorry. Let me repeat my mantra; that always helps. Breath in, breath out . . . "What do I know? Nothing. What do they know? Everything. It's all fine, just fine."

    Hey, it didn't help much that time. What's wrong? It's like what they say about heroin, the effect is less and less, until you finally have to take it just not to feel horrible.

There's more; read it. And if President Bush and his people don't understand that they're losing support through indecision and waffling and disappearing when most needed, I'm telling you, they will not have a good November.

SCORECARD

Mark Steyn makes some good points about Fallujah and the Iraqi mindset. Go read it now.

That being noted, and agreeing with Steyn's analysis of the situation- it explains well the otherwise baffling inability of the Iraqis to fight for their own freedom- I'm still thrown by the administration's resolute refusal to take control of the situation back home. We've been hit by a parade of bad news from Iraq- kidnappings, murders, lawlessness- and with questions about PDBs and what the government knew about 9/11 before 9/11. Surely, much of this is being fueled by partisan posturing, as well as by the news media, but, you know, I wonder who's advising the President about this right now. Maybe it's the same people advising the radio industry on indecency- roll over, play dead, beg, and hope they go away. It's rope-a-dope writ large, and it ain't working.

At the very least, we're owed some honest talk, even if it's "yeah, we had bits and pieces of information and if we'd have put them together in a particular way, we'd have possibly been able to do something." This resolute refusal to address ANY of it, this stay-on-message-and-hope-it-all-goes-away thing, it's a mistake. It's not going away. And at this rate, it'll be President Kerry's problem next January.


Yes, I missed Friday and Saturday here. I was unable to get to the computer. Sorry.

This weekend was an interesting time to travel, because on a holiday weekend like this, it's Amateur Hour in the skies. Easter and Passover are invitations for people who don't normally travel to buy tickets and hop on board, and that results in interminable lines at check-in, at the car rental place, at the hotel, at restaurants, everywhere. This time, I flew American Airlines, and it reminded me, as I noted on the first leg of the trip, that I really, really like JetBlue. On the way back, it was another full flight, and, once again, the folks in the seats next to me spoke no English, which meant that I had to translate every time the food or drink cart came by. Trouble is, I don't speak enough Spanish to do that well. You don't want to hear what I had to do to figure out she wanted the Cranberry-Apple drink. Or "cereal."

Anyway, it was another flight packed with screaming toddlers (one right next to me yowling while I tried to nap, another kicking my chair from behind, and one who refused to sit down and buckle up when we hit turbulence, resulting in our sitting on the tarmac at LAX after landing while paramedics were ushered on board to tend to the brat), another five and a half hours of discomfort, and monumental jet lag. I haven't yet recovered. I know, you can tell. But I'm back, sorry for the two day absence, and, well, that's it.


THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT

Companies often like the kind of person who takes risks at work in order to make things happen. Bold, creative moves tend to reap greater rewards when they work, and many business encourage such practices, because even with the risk of failure, they understand that the upside if the risks pan out are enormous, and in a competitive climate, that's the kind of operation that ultimately succeeds.

And then there's radio.

You've undoubtedly noticed the rising body count in the broadcast indecency battle. I don't have to recount what's been happening and why- go to AllAccess.com and look at Net News if you need some refresher courses- but I will say this: if I was in the position of a creative risktaker in the employ of the company that's been firing people for "zero tolerance" indecency violations lately, I would be demoralized. It has to be hard to work for a company that doesn't have your back when the pressure's on, that surrenders when Washington phonies come calling.

I didn't know the French owned radio stations in America.

But the problem's not just with a single company waving a white flag and begging for mercy. It's an industry that does not encourage creativity- you have to struggle to be creative, but those who merely copy your act are handsomely rewarded. It's the NAB never really coming to the aid of broadcasters being attacked over the indecency issue. It's AFTRA concerned about the contractural aspects of the issue- don't even THINK about directly fining artists, it's not their responsibility- but not rushing to the aid of those fired over the issue. Nobody loves the radio guy accused of indecency... except the people who listen, but they have no say in matters.

Someday, when people look back at these times and this issue, they'll see two sides- a small, embattled group of talent being shut down by heavy-handed political pressure, and a large, clueless mass of politicians and businessmen complicit in silencing people for what they say, regardless of whether there's a rational basis for doing so. Ask yourself which side you'd rather be on.


TODAY'S CRYPTOGRAM

...and some days, you just don't want to write about anything.

Or, more correctly, you can't.

So you punt. You try to write about Condi's hearing, but you couldn't really even focus on it while it was on. You try to write about the insane drivers of south Palm Beach County, but you know it's a cliche. You try to write about the joys of zipping around Florida in a rented Mustang, the top down and the sun beaming onto your face, but you spent the time zipping to doctors' offices and government offices and supermarkets, so that's not all that romantic. You try to come up with a cogent comment about ESPN's Yankee trial or those Japanese hostages in Iraq or anything else, and it's not there. Your head's not there.

And you write a paragraph about the stuff you didn't write, then you look at the computer screen, think "that'll have to do tonight," and you stop.

If there's any sign of the sorry state of radio right now, consider this- even the pirate stations suck. In South Florida, there are a lot of pirates on the air, most of them Haitian or hip-hop, and I kinda like listening to them, especially the ones with commercials- they're brazenly operating right under the nose of the FCC and nobody is stopping them. But they're boring, just someone playing endless music, nothing especially creative about them.

And then there's the matter of the semi-piratic. This morning on my run, looking for something interesting now that the dial in the area is sans Stern, and hoping to pull in (as I sometimes do) his Fort Myers affiliate on 96.1, I hit 96.1 and heard this:

"Ramble On," "Hurts So Good," "Listen To the Music," "Magic Carpet Ride," "You Shook Me All Night Long," "I Won't Back Down," "More Than A Feeling"...

...on a pirate station.

OK, it's a semi-pirate. Lynn University has a station, and it's running very low power as "Knight Radio." But for a moment I thought that maybe Clear Channel or Infinity had gotten tired of deballing the legal commercial stations and had turned to programming the pirates. After all, this was the same playlist as countless classic rock stations.

I'm guessing that they're operating what they think is a legal Part 15 station, but I think the thing is carrying for about a mile or so beyond campus, which is too far for that. And it's interfering with my ability to pull in the distant Stern signal from Fort Myers while I'm running along Patch Reef Trail. And, most importantly, it's being used to play Led Zeppelin and Tom Petty. So, somebody please call the FCC- it has to go.

Or, at least, make it Haitian. With commercials. Anything but John "Cougar" Mellencamp.

MILES FROM HOME

The in-flight movie was "Lost in Translation," and I'd seen it, so I figured I'd just watch the DVDs I'd brought to play on my computer, but the people seated next to me kept having to get past me to go to the bathroom and I got tired of the shuffle, so I put the "Manos: the Hands of Fate" DVD away and watched "Lost" again. It was an edited version, naturally- no opening shot of Scarlett Johansen's panty-clad butt- but it was good this time, too.

The movie captures something that I go through every time I travel- there's a sensation you experience when you show up in a strange city, a disconnect borne of unfamiliarity, unfamiliar buildings, unfamiliar roads, unfamiliar ads and groceries and radio stations and vegetation. At home, you feel somewhat in control; on the road, the surroundings control you. When Bill Murray gazes out the window at the neon and bustle of Tokyo, and when Scarlett Johansen stares out her hotel window in broad daylight, staring at a sea of skyscrapers and streets, that's the feeling I get from behind the wheel of the rented Mustang, lagged from a cross-country flight, three hours behind, hungry and disoriented. And even when, as is the case today, I'm someplace that I know well- home away from home, really- I'm still not in my own car and still not in my own bed and still not, well, home.


OPENING DAY

Here's another George Will moment:

For all its faults, for all the bumbling management and sullen players and roids and whatever else, a beautiful spring day, a sellout crowd, a Dodger Dog and saying hello and welcome back to Vin Scully, Nancy Bea at the organ with a basket of flowers on top... yeah, it was a good day.

LOST HIGHWAY

On the way up to Dodger Stadium today, I took care to look at the busway. It's a series of special lanes and stations built alongside and in the median of the Harbor Freeway, and it cost about $25 million to build. As the L.A. Times noted this weekend, nobody uses it:

    Most of the eight stations are 30 feet from freeway traffic, with the rush of nearby cars creating a head-splitting roar. Plumes of vehicle exhaust choke the lungs and sting the eyes. Because there are usually few riders and rarely any police in sight, the stations appear isolated and dangerous. Vagrants find them a good place to camp out.

Oh, did I say $25 million? That was just for the stations. Throw the special bus and carpool lanes and the elevated don't-get-caught-near-them-in-an-earthquake elevated carpool/bus lanes south of downtown and it's a $500 million pricetag.

    Caltrans promised the bus and freeway stations would relieve congestion with as many as 74,000 boardings a day � the equivalent of about 37,000 round-trip riders.

    But eight years after the stations opened, the buses tally about 3,000 boardings a day, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. By contrast, dozens of bus corridors in Los Angeles register more than 10,000 boardings each. A single MTA bus route on Wilshire Boulevard has nearly 50,000 boardings a day.

If there's one thing guaranteed to be inaccurate, it's a government estimate of mass transit ridership. We've had billions of tax dollars spent on this thing and our subway system and light rail lines, and the things are largely empty. One line, the Green Line from El Segundo to Downey, was projected as a huge success, yet when they built it, nobody seemed to notice that it travels a route few commuters use, and, as a result, it's empty. They also managed to build it near, but not quite at, LAX. That's right- it comes within a couple of miles of LAX, but veers south and misses it, making it useless as a route between downtown and the airport- it just takes too long and it involves too many changes from train to train to bus. Nobody figured that out in advance. Mass myopia. Amazing.

    "You don't want to be here for more than five minutes," said Antonio Rodriguez as he waited alone at the Carson Street station. "Anything more and your head hurts�. A lot of times, I am the only one here."

    The Carson Street station has an average of 20 people a day boarding northbound MTA buses, statistics from the transit agency show; three people a day get on southbound buses.

$25 million for the stations, $500 million for the project. Three southbound riders a day. THREE.

    Like other officials at the MTA, which operates most bus service on the transitway, De la Loza was quick to pass blame. "That was a Caltrans project," he said. The statewide transportation agency designed and built the transitway with little coordination with the MTA and its predecessor, the Southern California Rapid Transit District.

    Doug Failing, the Los Angeles-area regional director for Caltrans, said his agency did not control bus planning and operation on the transitway. In defense of his agency, Failing said there aren't enough buses on the transitway and few convenient bus connections.

    Asked to grade the transitway's bus lanes, given that ridership is less than 5% of the total promised by Caltrans, Failing said: "I can't answer that."

The man's name is Failing. Perfect.

So we have a busway nobody uses. We have a subway nobody uses, in an earthquake zone, no less. We have an elevated rail line that goes from nowhere to nowhere. And we paid for all of it. We're still paying. We'll always pay.

It's eerie, actually- the stations are only a couple of years old yet they look abandoned. From the highway, you can't tell if they're open or not. From the side streets, you can't tell if they're open, either. You CAN tell that you don't want to be caught there at night, or during the day, either. In the middle of a busy ten lane highway, no one can hear you scream.

NO TIME TO LOSE

No time again- ultra-busy weekend in advance of a ridiculously busy week, including more travel. So I gotta be abrupt here. Just wanted to note that I get pissed off when I see countless lazy reporters (the Boston Globe's the latest) crediting Howard Stern for helping Christie Whitman win the gubernatorial race in New Jersey a decade ago. That's bull. He didn't "endorse" her until late, and her upset win had nothing to do with him. It did, however have a lot to do with radio, particularly New Jersey 101.5, which was the station at which the tax revolt and Dump Florio campaigns started (on John and Ken's show, in 1990). I would know that, because I was there. Howard's big thing with Christie was to ask for a rest stop named after him in exchange for his endorsement. All 101.5 did was have her as a guest host, have her on frequently as a guest during the campaign, and beat the drum to throw tax-crazed Florio out of office for years. That somehow never gets mentioned in the papers- it's like it never happened.

But it did.

No, I'm not bitter. Much.

I BEG YOUR PARDON

I'm finishing my taxes and watching the Duke-UConn game.

Sorry. You gotta set priorities sometimes.

NOTES FOR FRIDAY

So many things to talk about, so little time, and it's late, so here's the shorthand:

Tyco? Don't care.

Hoops or sex? Sex. With the TV on so you can watch the game, too. You CAN have it all.

April Fool's? Unfunny.

Me? Done for the night.


NOT AGAIN

According to Sky News:

    The TV Geordie duo Ant and Dec are to star in their very own movie.

    The film could help them achieve their dream of cracking America if it becomes a box office hit.

Let me make myself clear- we already have a Ryan Seacrest. We do not need to import two more.

Seriously, please, guys, stay in England. Even our Ryan Seacrest's TV ratings aren't all that hot. You're better off just hosting "Pop Idol" and stuff. It's cold and scary over here, and we eat weird food and there are dragons and tigers roaming the streets. Turn back now.

Thank you.

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