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November 2004 Archives

November 1, 2004


Perhaps you've seen this by now (link courtesy Romanesko:

    Because of editing errors on several levels, the Oct. 29 edition of The Daily Iowan contained a front-page story on the UI chapter of College Republicans with an erroneous headline. As Editor in Chief, I take full responsibility for the headline "UI Republicans work hard at preserving their delusions" and want to clarify that the story's writer, DI reporter Nick Petersen, had nothing to do with the error. I offer my sincerest apologies to the UI College Republicans and the entire university community for this misrepresentation.

And there you have this year in a nutshell. You can no longer disagree- but if you do, you're delusional. Someone who isn't voting the way you are isn't just of a different mind, he's a moron.

This was in an article about the overheated passions surrounding this election in the L.A. Times this morning (paid subscription required- urgh):

    Kate Schmidt, a personal trainer in Eagle Rock, said she knows those feelings.

    "I'm in a 12-step program and have been meeting with this group of women for six years, and I thought we knew each other," said Schmidt. When she learned secondhand that one of the members was voting for Bush, she was stunned at the vehemence of her reaction.

    "I'm 50 years old and I've never felt this way about a presidential election," she said. "There's not one single thing about Bush that's good in my opinion, and for people not to see that is confusing to me."

If you don't agree with me, I am confused and lost, for I am certain in my convictions; ergo, you are most certainly wrong and I must smite you.

And that's where I get off the train. Maybe it's just me, but I don't think people who disagree with me are morons, or evil, or liars. Wrong? Sure, but only in relation to my perception of the truth. I recognize that I could be wrong. I don't think so, but it could happen. But I don't look at the other side as evil or in need of a good tongue-lashing. I have my reasons for thinking the way I do, and I respect others for the way they think. That's not always been the reaction I've gotten, but I'm lucky- the people with whom I disagree are reasonable and civil, even if they're totally, irrefutably WRONG, WRONG, WRONG and... er, sorry. Got caught up in it again.

And then I see the childish depths to which the discourse has sunk all around me. I'm not talking about the bloggers' back-and-forth- that, at least, is interesting and with some basis in the search for truth. I'm talking about the Kerry sign bathed in Bush stickers, the line of Bush signs across which someone painted a red X, the campaign signs ripped on people's lawns. That's what I'll take away from this election, and it's embarrassing.

But it's also part of a free system, so I guess I shouldn't let myself get too discouraged. The ability to lose your cool and end up screaming at your political opposite is part of the freedoms we enjoy, the freedoms others in the world may not have, and I suppose you could put that on the list of things to cherish, but all I know is that it raises my blood pressure and I don't like it. So here's to the light at the end of the tunnel, and when we get to daylight in a day or three or thirty, maybe people will be able to put the shouting matches and insults and vandalism behind them. Or maybe they can channel it, although I don't know how many people really WANT to become Raiders fans this season.


November 2, 2004


After all the warnings and panic, it took us longer to get our deli order at Ralphs than it did to vote.

We went at about 12:45 and were out of there before 1, easy. It helps that they've divided up this area into bite-sized voting areas, ours being one of two tiny districts tucked atop the cliffs on the edge of the Peninsula. Even a heavy turnout wouldn't cause much in the way of queues. Piece of cake. I took the "I Voted" sticker they make you wear after you finish and stuck it to the ballot stub after I left, as always- I can't explain why I take the sticker and wear it in the first place. Maybe I just don't want to make the elderly folks working the polling place feel uncomfortable. So I wear it out the door, peel it off, stick it on the stub and get out of there. It's not that I'm not proud to have voted, I just don't like wearing buttons or stickers advertising anything. Sticker off, into the car, civic duty done.

Most of the signs in the neighborhood- granted, there aren't many- are for Kerry, but most of the cars at the polling place sported Bush bumper stickers. Whatever. It won't crush me if either guy wins, although I expect the Kerry supporters to gloat like crazy if he wins, as if I'm a surrogate for Bush. (So far today, I've been accused of saying that bin Laden endorsed or at least supported Kerry with his tape and comments, and I didn't even SAY that- I just don't have the time or energy to argue much anyway. Think what you wanna think. It appears to matter more to you than it does to me) I'm just observing now- the only way I matter much is by voting, and, since I live in a "safe state," I didn't even matter that way. I could have- should have- voted for Bucky Katt, or Hank Hill, or the Cosmo-Wanda ticket. But I voted the way I knew I'd piss off the largest number of my friends, because maybe I'm subconsciously trying to drive everyone away. (I'm hopeful they'll forgive me)

Right now, in the late afternoon eastern time, there's a general panic going on among the media over Drudge's leaked early unweighted exit polls, as if they mean a lot. Who's gonna win? Dunno. I'm the wrong guy to ask. (So is Drudge.) We'll know soon enough.



By the way, nobody asked us for an ID when we voted. They never had. And there was a list of voters tacked outside the door to the polling place. What would prevent someone from picking a name and address off the list and voting?

Worse, I checked that list and noted that a recently-deceased neighbor was still on the voting rolls. Could someone go there, claim to be him, and vote? Who would know?

There HAS to be a better system.



I swear I just heard Dan Rather say of Kerry that if he doesn't somehow pull off Ohio that his "back's against the wall, his shirt tail's on fire and the bill collector's at the door."

He really said that.

Weeeeeeeeelllllll doggies!

This is a very interesting night.



Assuming that legal challenges. provisional ballots, and other 2000-like fun doesn't drag things out any further than they need to be, it's over. Good, and that's not just because I like the result, but because I feel safe in saying that nobody wanted or needed any more of this. And at least we have (more of) an idea who won on the same (late) night of the election. I might even get a full night's sleep tonight.

The best moment of the night was Dan Rather stammering as he explained why CBS hasn't yet called Ohio, saying "we'd rather be last than, uh, wrong, fast...." I don't think I need to explain why that's funny.

And now Mary Beth Cahill is saying damn the network calls, Kerry will win Ohio once all the votes are counted. Maybe he can. Hey, it almost worked four years ago. You never know. We could wake up to a different story than we're going to sleep with.


November 3, 2004


It's different this time.

It's different because unlike 2000, there won't be as widespread a feeling that something untoward led to the result. This time, the winner won the popular vote, too, there's a recognition that the margin was enough that it'll take some contortions- recounts, a nearly unanimous pro-Kerry provisional vote- to even come close to changing Ohio. What the Kerry campaign is doing here is going to be perceived as stringing things out. It'll play with the fierce core anti-Bush voters, but the less committed will bail.

And this is the way it's going to be from here on out. You lose, you sue. Maybe the Cardinals can sue, too- perhaps there are some runs left uncovered in a box in Busch Stadium.

We've also left behind the concept of concession and victory speeches in hotel ballrooms on Election Night. This might be a positive development. Those speeches are always the same. The concession speeches always go like this:

"A few moments ago, I called (opponent's name)... (pause to let supporters yell out "no!") to congratulate him on his victory. (pause for more shouts, then some lukewarm applause) I told him that I appreciated the way he ran his campaign and I offered him my support in any way he might need me. It was a long, hard-fought campaign, and I'm proud of the way you fought for... (pause for self-congratulatory applause and shouting) Fought for (insert main campaign themes). But... (insert defiant last stand on issues). Thank you!"

I can live without another of those.

But as I wrote elsewhere, no matter who you supported, look out the window. It's morning, the sun's rising, the birds are chirping, and the world's still here. Take the day off if you can, go take a walk in the woods, get yourself an ice cream cone (chocolate chip, maybe with some jimmies), enjoy the day. Beats sitting in front of a computer or the TV tearing your hair out, doesn't it? Yes, it does.

And besides, yesterday also ushered in a very special time of year. It's basketball season. Kinda makes all that election stuff seem insignificant, doesn't it?



Good, he's not gonna drag this out.

Now, can we get back to Ashlee Simpson and Paris Hilton? You know, the important news?



"Nuance" was the Democratic word this year. The Democratic National Committee has been into the idea that you can repeat a word over and over and somehow it'll become a buzzword in the campaign. So do the Republicans, but the difference is in the words they use and the deployment.

Example: this year, the Republicans threw the word "flip-flopper" out there and it stuck. The Democrats all talked about "nuance," as in "Bush speaks in black-and-white, but Kerry understands the nuances." "What Kerry meant was more nuanced." And this morning on Al Franken's show, Franken complained that Kerry lost because he "speaks in nuances" while the Evil Bush doesn't.

Nuance. Great word. How many people out there use it often? Anyone? Is it the kind of word you'll hear coming out of the mouth of your average American? Nope.

And it's not like this is a first time from which they'll learn. Remember 2000's word? "Gravitas." Launched by Mario Cuomo, then repeated over and over by every Democrat, as in "Bush just doesn't have the gravitas to be President." Graviwhat? I'm as overeducated as anyone, I know what the word means, but I hadn't heard anyone actually try to USE it in conversation until that election. They seemed to think it was a winner, but I never heard anyone BUT them use the word, and after the election, it went away.

You CAN make a word into a common thing- for example, a few years ago, someone decided "walk-off" would be the word for a last-at-bat game-winning hit, and suddenly announcers and fans were using it as if it were around forever. I do not remember anyone ever saying "Mike Schmidt hit a walk-off three run homer to beat the Pirates" or "hey, look, Reggie just hit a walk-off shot off Vida Blue." But a few years ago, it just kind of appeared in the parlance, and everyone just accepted it. I think even Vin Scully says it now.

But you have to choose the word wisely. It has to be basic, easy-to-understand, descriptive, not foreign-sounding or foreign-pronounced. You aren't going to get people to say "NOO-ahnced" or "GRAHV-ee-tahs" when it's all they can do to get comfortable with "chah-LOO-pah."

The Democrats know that, and they had an alternate word to try to stick on Bush. But "dumb" didn't work, either.



I love to sing-a
About the moon-a and the June-a and the spring-a,
I love to sing-a,
About a sky of blue-a, or a tea for two-a,
Anything-a with a swing-a to an "I love you-a,"
I love to, I love to sing!

(From "I Love to Singa," Warner Bros., 1936, included on the Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume 2, Warner Bros. Home Video, 2004, which you should buy right now.)


November 4, 2004


Winner of today's "I don't understand those people" award is Margaret Carlson, writing on the L.A. Times op-ed page:

    To start, President Bush has to quit saying his side is good (God told him so) and the other side is bad. Republicans didn't just demonize John Kerry, they demonized his supporters (the Catholic bishops warned the flock they could go to hell just for voting for him). Republicans love their families and you, well, we don't know about you and your families.

Perhaps if Margaret made it out of the Big Blue Cities, she might have noticed that the invective was coming in flood volume from Democrats. "Bush lied"? "Bush is stupid"? Michael Moore? Rash generalizations about "red staters" and churchgoers? Margaret Carlson missed all of that. Guess you don't notice it when it's part of the landscape.

    When I first met conservative Bob Novak at CNN and said I couldn't do a show on Thanksgiving weekend, he was surprised to learn that I would be cooking for 20. In his mind, liberals live on brie and chardonnay and never turn on the oven. We surely don't bake apple pie.

Bob Novak, representaive of all conservatives. That's like saying Gore Vidal is a typical liberal. Or Michael Moore. (By the way, is "cooking for 20" supposed to confer "regular folks" status on someone? I don't have 20 to cook for, just me and Fran cooking for each other- does that make us elitist? Are we less elite if we serve some Fancy Feast to Ella the World's Most Famous Cat, too?)

    For Bush, going for those 4 million evangelicals was worth alienating those who were told they were evil for supporting stem cell research and abortion rights and for not seeing Clarence Thomas as the model for the next chief justice.

    I can see the bumper stickers now: "Thank God for God" and "Guns, yes; Gays, no."

Challenge to Margaret Carlson: show us who told anyone they were "evil for supporting stem cell research and abortion rights and for not seeing Clarence Thomas as the model for the next chief justice." Did you say that? I didn't. (But then again, I guess I'm one of those wacky horrible Bushies, so the fact that I'm FOR stem cell research and abortion rights and gay marriage must not be true)

    The hard part to take is that after a disputed election in 2000, Bush governed as if he were king by divine right. What kind of mandate does he think he has with a 51% win?

How does someone like Margaret Carlson become an Official Political Pundit? I don't know, I never mastered that art, but I do know that the point of getting elected is to govern, to lead. To do things the way you think is right for the country. The "mandate" thing has always been a joke- the guy in the office has a duty to lead, period. Bill Clinton didn't even get 50% of the popular vote- where was Margaret Carlson asking about mandates then? Bottom line- Clinton then, Bush now, either guy gets elected, he has to lead, not consult everyone who disagrees with him to come to a consensus. It doesn't matter what the vote totals are, You don't want leadership that convenes group sessions for every decision. You want someone who makes decisions, period. That's what the job's all about.

In the meantime, I'd like to see a moratorium on people from New York and D.C. and L.A. condescendingly talking about "those" people in the Red States. Maybe Margaret Carlson ought to get out more. Maybe she'd LIKE Wal-Mart and Dairy Queen and people who believe in God. You never know.


November 5, 2004


From the "Rock the Vote" website:

    Rock the Vote is a non-profit, non-partisan organization....

Someone didn't get the memo. From the L.A. Times this morning (subscription required, unfortunately):

    For Hollywood's part, the presidential campaign of 2004 will be remembered as a blockbuster effort that brought together a glittering all-star cast, a robust budget and an amazing soundtrack to produce … a major dud.

    Sen. John F. Kerry's bid for the White House rallied A-list movie stars, savvy moguls, brand-name rock heroes and street-smart rappers to its cause. But in the end it came down to the little people — the voters — and they didn't seem particularly star-struck.

    "We squandered record amounts of money," said Dan Adler, board member of Rock the Vote, the outreach effort that uses music stars to rally the youth vote. "Smart and good people, not just from Hollywood, jumped in with great ideas and great resources. People went into battleground states. We squandered a unity of purpose. We have nothing to show for it."

They got lots of young voters signed up to vote, and they "have nothing to show for it." Nothing, that is, because the wrong guy won.

Non-partisan, my ass. Does this comment make "Rock the Vote" a campaign contribution by Viacom?


November 6, 2004


We were driving down Western Avenue on the way home, listening to oldies on Sirius, when Gary Lewis and the Playboys' "This Diamond Ring" came on:

    Who wants to buy this diamond ring?
    She took it off her finger now, it doesn't mean a thing
    This diamond ring doesn't shine for me anymore
    And this diamond ring doesn't mean what it did before
    So if you've got someone whose love is true
    Let it shine for you

And listening to that, it struck me that this was music that sounded like what rock 'n' roll would have all sounded like had there been no black people on Earth. This was music absolutely devoid of soul. Music to Eat Farina By. What Wonder Bread would sound like. Clorox on wax.

This was a sore point for me when I was a program director of a station that played oldies as well as did talk. I concentrated on the talk, others handled the music and I just made my opinions clear. We had a very tight playlist, but I noticed stuff popping up that, well, you know, it was stuff like Gary Lewis and the Playboys- not even "This Diamond Ring," but "Count Me In," "Everybody Loves a Clown"... we didn't go three deep on too many artists, but Gary Lewis was there with bells on. And we had The Vogues- not "Five O'Clock World," the good one, but "You're the One":

    You're the one that I long to kiss
    Baby, you're the one that I really miss
    You're the one that I'm dreamin' of
    Baby, you're the one that I love

You can feel the soul being sucked right out of the room when that one plays. Worst of all was Bobby Vee, with a song that has to be, well, you be the judge:

    Come back when you grow up, girl
    You're still livin' in a paper-doll world
    Livin' ain't easy, lovin's twice as tough
    So come back, baby, when you grow up

    You look real good like a woman now
    Your mind hasn't gotten the message somehow
    So if you can't take it 'n' the goin' gets rough
    Come back, baby, when you grow up

He's basically saying that he's not interested, but in a way that sucks the soul AND testosterone out of the room. But he's thinking about it, and it's "messin' up" his mind, he sings later. And while we're on THAT subject, remember Benny Mardones and his Official Favorite Song of Every Northeast Philadelphia Secretary with Big Hair, "Into the Night"?

    She's just sixteen years old
    Leave her alone, they say


And the Beatles:

    Well, she was just 17
    You know what I mean

Yes, you were wondering what the age of consent might be.

So we can conclude that oldies radio is a hotbed of perversion. What were we talking about? Oh, yeah, Gary Lewis was really white.

Hey, it's Saturday. My brain's in the other room watching "Green Acres" reruns. This is all you get for now.


November 8, 2004


I hate to dwell on the L.A. Times, but here we go again. In this morning's article on depressed liberal Democrats:

    "I had a client who wanted to watch Fox News while we were working together, and I had to walk away," says Kate Schmidt, a 50-year-old personal trainer from Eagle Rock. In the wake of the election, Schmidt said she was "just palpably, physically ill" and battling a storm of emotion. "I'm not a fearful person, not hysterical. It takes a lot to bother me," said Schmidt. "But this is really upsetting me. I'm trying to figure out things to tell myself to calm myself down, and it's hard."

That sounded familiar. And, yes, exactly one week ago, in the Times, an article about the passions of the campaign:

    Kate Schmidt, a personal trainer in Eagle Rock, said she knows those feelings.

    "I'm in a 12-step program and have been meeting with this group of women for six years, and I thought we knew each other," said Schmidt. When she learned secondhand that one of the members was voting for Bush, she was stunned at the vehemence of her reaction.

    "I'm 50 years old and I've never felt this way about a presidential election," she said. "There's not one single thing about Bush that's good in my opinion, and for people not to see that is confusing to me."

Can't they find someone else to interview? Who the hell is Kate Schmidt to be interviewed not once, but twice as the representative unbalanced Kerry fan? And why would anyone want someone like this as a personal trainer?

I guess I just don't have the same Rolodex of sources as the Times does. I don't have a section for Depressed Fanatic Liberal Democrat Personal Trainers in 12 Step Programs.



I'm not going to be one of those people lining up to offer unsolicited advice to the Democrats on how to recover from last Tuesday night. I'm no expert, they don't need me, and I don't have a dog in that race.

Oh, okay, one thing. It's a message, actually, to the recently-unearthed breed of liberal radio talker on your local Air America Radio affiliate, whether on the network itself or one of the separately-syndicated hosts or even the local folks. I heard the same talk on Stephanie Miller's show, Al Franken's show, Greg Palast guesting on Stacy Taylor's local San Diego show, Randi Rhodes' show, same page from the same playbook. They, or their callers, or both, are saying the same thing: we wuz robbed. Again. The Ohio vote was rigged. The voting machines were rigged. Karl Rove stole the election. Kerry COULDN'T have lost himself. Stolen.

Er, no, sorry, kids. You lost. That dog won't hunt. Game over. Next.

The reaction from these folks is the kind of thing you get from really committed, fanatical sports fans when their team loses a close one- it's the ref's fault. The guy in charge of keeping time screwed up. The basket moved. Something happened- ANYTHING but the simple fact that their team lost. They try to find some sliver of hope that they can hold onto, something that will comfort them through the long winter ahead- it's not our fault, we really won.

No, you didn't. And insisting that you did not only turns everyone else, even those sympathetic to your cause, off, it keeps you from examining the real problems with which you need to be dealing.

Not that I care if you do that or not. But if you want my advice, and there's no reason to think you do, the whole "stolen election" thing won't get you anywhere. It's amusing for a few minutes on the radio- hey, honey, c'mere, listen to these nutcases!- but even that wears off. You know what to do. Move on, folks, just like your web site URL says. MoveOn.org, everybody.


November 9, 2004


No time tonight, unless you want yet another L.A. Times rant.

You do? Well, I don't, so here, if you're a subscriber, read this one, Patrick Goldstein's typically condescending anti-Fox News article in which he does a "Super Size Me" act allegedly watching nothing but Fox News for several days, and apparently fails to distinguish between news, commentary, and talk shows. Ha ha! Fox is conservative-leaning! How shocking and unpleasant! And it's hazardous to this poor liberal reporter's health because his blood pressure, it's rising!

Yes, he got paid for that.

I could write about the effect a week of reading the L.A. Times would have on someone who thinks for himself, but then I'd actually have to read the whole paper, even Robert Scheer and Patttttttttttt the Hatttttttttttt and Michael Kinsley, and I'm just not willing to do that. Besides, I told you, I have no time. And nobody would pay me for it.


November 10, 2004


They kept shutting down the main road today to make a Jim Carrey movie. If you were heading from my neighborhood towards the top of the hill or Torrance or Redondo Beach, you were just going to have to wait while a truck with cameras towed Jim Carrey in a car several times to get that just-right shot of Jim Carrey driving a car, except that he wasn't actually driving.

We're used to that- not Jim Carrey fake-driving, but the shutting-down-the-roads-to-make-a-movie thing. This is, after all, a Company Town, and the studios tend to get their way. Shut down the only access road for a few hundred people right in the middle of the afternoon? No problem. Here's a permit. You locals shut up- this is Good For The City.

Except that it isn't, not really. In a decade's worth of movie and TV shoots in this neighborhood- "Charlie's Angels," "Inspector Gadget," "Hidalgo," MTV's "Motel California," "The Aviator," "Life As a House," "The O.C.," and many more- I've never seen anyone from the cast or crew in any local shops, patronizing any local businesses, doing much of anything except driving directly onto the set, staying all day, then leaving. You don't even see any PA's at Starbucks fetching Frappucinos for the higher-ups. They have craft services on the set- no need to go anywhere off the lot. No need to encounter the locals. Locals- eeewwwww. (It's the same attitude Hollywood's taking with Red Staters- take their money, but don't actually talk to them or come in contact with them, because they're stupid or evil or insignificant. "Nobody WE know lives in Palos Verdes or votes Republican....")

And when they have to come into the real world to shoot, they don't really ask us if it's OK. Well, once or twice, a movie shoot left flyers in our mailbox warning that they'd be setting off gunfire and bombs and flying choppers low overhead all day, but that hasn't been the case for several years. Instead, they just, you know, DO it- show up at the corner of Hawthorne and PV Drive, set up fake phone booths, shoot for a while, then dismantle, with lanes shut down and sometimes all traffic cut off by the friendly Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, eager to please. Got an appointment? An emergency? Need to get someplace without delay? Is your name Jim Carrey? No? Well, then, you'll have to wait right here. And what do you get out of it? Well, in a year or so, you'll be able to go to the Regal Cinemas and plunk down nine or ten bucks and go in and watch as your neighborhood plays "generic suburban neighborhood" or "windswept seaside retreat" or "impenetrable clifftop fortress."

Uncredited, of course.

Pardon me for being somewhat underwhelmed. But, then again, this IS the neighborhood where they shot the "Big W" scene in "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World" AND TWO episodes of "The Beverly Hillbillies" (Episode 59, "The Clampetts Go Fishing" and Episode 79, "Back to Marineland"). You'll have to do better than Jim Carrey in a phone booth to top that.


November 11, 2004


I made it out of the house for lunch in Burbank today. This was a significant achievement, and it didn't even require my usual excuse (a Dodger game) to break free of the restraints imposed by my cardinal rule: never under any circumstances pass north of the 405 freeway. The occasion was, well, no occasion at all, just lunch with a friend, but I hadn't done that in ages and I couldn't keep stalling so I wouldn't have to leave the womb of the South Bay, so lunch it was, up in Burbank near where Fran and I used to work. I kept looking for omens, but other than a guy in a Steve Harvey hat tailgating me on the 110 North, nothing happened. (Note: nobody but Steve Harvey should ever go rocking the Steve Harvey hat. Steve Harvey shouldn't go rocking the Steve Harvey hat. Nobody looks good in a big white hat. Steve probably thinks he's stylin', but he looks as ridiculous as the guy who was on my bumper. I assume it wasn't Steve Harvey- Steve has to make enough money from KKBT alone to afford better than a damaged '91 Corolla)

So after remembering too late that the credit union would be closed for Veterans Day and then searching for parking because the garage was filled with people parking there to catch shuttle buses to an "Everybody Loves Raymond" taping, I had lunch and then got a tour of the new Clear Channel Los Angeles facility across the street. I'd been warned that it wasn't what I was used to- I usually worked at radio stations that were dumps. This definitely isn't a dump. It doesn't feel like a radio station, either. I'd seen this before, though- Clear Channel Miami is in a new building a lot like this one- and I decided that it wasn't necessarily a bad thing to work in a clean, safe building where everything actually works. The equipment's all modern, there are big screen flat panel TVs and monitors everywhere, there appear to be about 3 billion separate studios... this was definitely not the way it was when I was programming. Where's the worn carpet? Where are the coffee stains, the broken chairs, the cart machines? Radio's different now. It's not the worn-down, grungy-but-homey thing it used to be. The future is here, and it's corporate clean. It IS antiseptic. But... but... but I didn't feel like I was going to catch something when I touched a desk or counter, I didn't feel like I would be mugged in the lobby like Dr. Demento was at the ATM outside KLSX not too long before I worked there (or so everyone took pains to tell me when I arrived). Everything was clean, everything seemed to work.

It almost made me want to... no, actually, it didn't make me want to go back to working every day at an office, commuting all that way and spending the day in a place that isn't home. But if you have to do that, it might as well be a place where the smell of sewage doesn't permeate the halls and the equipment doesn't suddenly short out at random intervals. If there's one positive thing to come from media ownership consolidation, I guess this is it. Might not help the programming, but at least the studios are clean.


November 12, 2004


It's happening again, and I'm not sure how to cure it. Every morning- EVERY morning, with rare exceptions- I wake up well before the alarm goes off. It's set for 5 Pacific, but I'm up before that, several times. 2:30. 3:15. 4:08. 4:21. 4:27. 4:33. 4:41, and that's when I give up and get up. Each time my eyes open, I stare at the clock and calculate how long until I'm supposed to be awake, how long I have left to try and snooze. And that little action drives me crazy and prevents me from really resting. It's just a succession of fitful, brief rests punctuated by the dread of having to get up, spiced with the occasional visit from Ella the World's Most Famous Cat, who sometimes gets into my face to see if I'm awake enough to pay attention to her.

Al of this is to say that there's a reason for my incoherence. It may not be a good excuse, but it is an excuse.

I promise I'll try to get back in gear later today. No guarantees, though.



Time to see if I'm any more lucid than I was earlier.

(checks brain)

Ah, nope. I think there was a little bit of melt while reading the Arafat obituaries that softpedal what the guy really did. Statesman, my ass. He was responsible for killing innocent people and he led his supporters down the wrong path. Oh, and he stole from them, too.

But I'm incoherent right now. I'll go watch "Green Acres" or something.


November 13, 2004


Dick Cheney's still kicking and O.D.B.'s dead.

Not that any of this is all that surprising, but it does tell you something. What it says, I don't know. But it's something.

Wait. Maybe it says that if you don't take care of yourself... nah, you can work out and eat right and stay trim and get hit by a bus, or you can be Keith Richards.

On second thought, it doesn't mean anything. You're born, you live, you die. There are some things you can do to minimize problems, but they don't always work. Best not to think about it too much.

Pass the Skittles.



Here's a kid who left his "I'm gonna kill Buckwheat" in his high school yearbook entry: he wrote that his “plans for world supremacy are in order. They entail taking over Somalia and working outward, but I should not divulge the exact details of my cunning strategy.” He also referred to his "future heroic death." And now he's been arrested and charged with trying to sell night vision goggles and bulletproof vests to a Somalian terrorist group.

Well, he DID tell everyone.

I don't remember exactly what I wrote for my high school yearbook, but I know it wasn't much. I was on the staff of the yearbook, and I made sure I was barely in it. I was so not in it that not too long after I graduated, I threw it away. I think I threw away my college yearbook, too. But I'm relatively certain that if they dig those up, there's nothing too embarrassing there. I believe all I did was list the things I worked on- the school newspaper, the school yearbook, the school literary magazine. That's it. What could you tell from that? I suppose you could divine that I was a geek, and, well, I still am, so that's no surprise.

But I think I did the right thing, not putting in too much information. (Later on, for college reunion yearbooks, I violated that rule, but that's a different story) You don't necessarily want to leave a paper trail where people can look back and say yeah, we knew he was gonna kill Buckwheat/embezzle millions/become a raging untreated alcoholic because his yearbook entry read "I'm gonna kill Buckwheat"/"I will embezzle millions"/"I like Budweiser." You want people to look at it and go right past you, because they don't remember you and don't care. That's the way to do things. I'm guessing- I don't know, because I'm not in touch with anyone but one friend from those days- that nobody in my class can even quite place my face or recall anything I did. I was hiding in plain sight for four years, then I graduated, leaving no marks.

And now I can do anything and be relatively secure that if I become notorious for something, there won't be any screaming tabloid headlines holding my high school days up for ridicule, no pages from the yearbook ripped out and used as evidence against me, posted on The Smoking Gun. At least, I don't think so. Not that I plan on becoming notorious, anyway. I'm not even quite sure where Somalia is.


November 14, 2004


This morning, Donald Sterling- The Other Donald- was on T.J. Simers' show on Xtra Sports 690 and 1150 in L.A., making a rare appearance to talk about the Clippers and why they suck. And he admitted the team loses a lot and he wants them to win "more than you know," but what he said right off the bat was most telling: the Clippers are "one of the most successful franchises" in the NBA.

Say what?

Say this: he was talking about their financial success. They're one of the most profitable franchises. Winning? Oh, sure, they've made mistakes, but blah blah blah.

Hey, sports fans, you wanna know what it's really all about? There you go. Thanks, The Other Donald.

Yes, the fact that success for many owners involves profit and not winning is obvious, not news, duh. But I hadn't heard an owner slip like that. You never hear Dr. Jerry Buss say a season was successful because they made a lot of money even though the Lakers didn't win. You never hear any owners say that. They THINK it, but they don't SAY it. But The Other Donald has long been ahead of this game. He's got company now. Bruce Ratner's actions since buying the Nets have all been aimed not at winning but at paring the payroll and minimizing costs while "stuck" in the lame duck Meadowlands situation, waiting for what will likely be several years before- kaching- the new arena in Brooklyn opens its doors.

And The Other Donald led the way for Ratner and Angels owner Arte Moreno in another way, one I've written about before: he bought a San Diego franchise and bullied the league into letting him turn it into an L.A. franchise. That meant they wouldn't necessarily be filling the house every night, and they'd be perennial second-stringers in the fans' mins. But it meant that instead of San Diego-sized media revenue, they'd get L.A. market money. And, because of that, the valuation of the team would skyrocket. A loser in Los Angeles is worth more than a winner in San Diego.

So Ratner did the same thing- buy a team at New Jersey rates and turn it into a New York (or Brooklyn- there's a marketing hook) franchise worth more even if they don't draw a single fan more than they do 7 miles west of the tunnel. And now Arte Moreno wants to change the Angels back into the Los Angeles Angels without even bothering to move them to L.A. While it ultimately doesn't matter to me- I'm not an Angels fan and I don't live in either Anaheim or L.A. proper (just L.A. County, but I'm a Phillies fan, so I don't count)- it's unseemly to watch the guy treat a contract, the deal that saw the city of Anaheim kick in a lot of cash to renovate what is now Angels Stadium, as if it doesn't exist. But Anaheim can probably be bought off, right? And those nearly 4 million fans who show up to see the team, the fans from Orange County who, truth be told, don't really like L.A. all that much, they'll show up anyway, right? It's all in the TV and radio money, and maybe he can get more if it's an L.A. team, right?

Right. The only difference between Moreno and Sterling is that Moreno, right now, still wants to win and is willing to spend the cash to do it. But that's for now. This Anaheim thing is coming off very The Other Donald-like. And it's another example of something that's true 9 times out of 10 in pro sports- if you think the owner of your team wants to win for any reason other than pure ego, if you think he wants to win for the community, for the fans, for YOU, you're living in a dream world. And the name of that dream world is subject to change, too, if it'll make the owner more money that way.


November 15, 2004


I could quote this whole article from TV Week, but the headline says most of it:

Execs Mull How to Gear Blue Shows to Red States

The article asks several TV executives if the election will change the kind of programming they purvey. The part about the hesitancy to do risque programming due to FCC and Congressional perception is a real problem, but then there's this:

    Some in the industry think the perceived change in national mood will result in more shows that will appeal to the "values voters"-those who cited "moral values" as their top concern when exiting the polls.

    The re-election of President Bush and the passing of same-sex marriage bans in 11 states left many in the entertainment community wondering whether they understand Middle American sensibilities-and whether programming opportunities are being overlooked in the process.

    But asked whether viewers can expect more shows along the lines of "Blue Collar TV" and "Joan of Arcadia" and fewer like "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" and "Nip/Tuck," executives were as divided as voters.

    Ted Harbert, CEO and president of E! Networks, predicted the election will signal a programming shift.

    "Yes, I'm going to really go out there to consciously appeal to [viewers in red states]," Mr. Harbert said. "There's a bunch of ratings points to be had, and you forget about them at your own peril. And I think we're particularly well-positioned because everybody wants to know about Hollywood celebrities-whether they want to embrace them or ridicule them."

    E!'s recently announced Wayne Newton reality show, "The Entertainer," Mr. Harbert noted, was specifically greenlighted to appeal to red state viewers. "If there's anybody who represents the red states, it's Wayne Newton," he said.

I hope he's kidding. I fear he's not.

Let's all understand one thing: just because someone voted for Bush doesn't mean he or she has no taste, or is offended by sexual content. "Blue Collar TV" is as lame and low-rated in, say, red-state Missouri as it is in blue-state Wisconsin. Pax TV doesn't beat ABC in Texas or Tennessee. Wayne Newton is the same joke everywhere.

Well, OK, there's Branson, but that doesn't count.

Are there differences between the red st... er, the heartland and the big cities? Sure, but there are differences between the big cities and their suburbs. And people watch "Desperate Housewives" and "The Simpsons" and "CSI: Wherever" in city and suburb, in blue and red. Aiming programming at one or the other is a waste of time. Try just doing entertaining, smart TV. And please, no Wayne Newton.


On a wholly unrelated note, I didn't want to let November 15 pass without sending out a Happy Birthday to my sister Joan. So, Happy Birthday, Joan. There ya go.


November 16, 2004


ABC is sorry for that bit in the "Monday Night Football" opening with Terrell Owens and a naked-from-behind Nicolette Sheridan, cross-promoting "Desperate Housewives." They're very, very sorry:

    "We have heard from many of our viewers about last night's 'MNF' opening segment and we agree that the placement was inappropriate," ABC Sports said in a statement.

    The NFL called the intro "inappropriate and unsuitable for our Monday Night Football audience."

    "While ABC may have gained attention for one of its other shows, the NFL and its fans lost," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said.


Why is ABC sorry? Why is the NFL upset? Why are "many" viewers complaining?

Let's take the worst case scenario- a kid sees the bit. Here's the likely reaction:

8 year old: "This is stupid. Is 'Fairly OddParents' on?"
Answer: No.

10 year old: "Hey, dad, what's this about? Where's the game?"
Answer: It's a stupid TV show promotion. You'll understand in a couple of years. The game comes right after the annoying country singer's finished.

13 year old: "Why is T.O. with that weird-plastic-surgery-victim-looking lady?"
Answer: Because Lindsay Lohan was unavailable.

In short, kids really don't care much about this stuff. The ones who are too young for sexual material really aren't interested in sexual material anyway- it's boring ("ewwwww, girls") until their hormones kick in, in which case they've already seen worse.

Jeff Jarvis is all over the broadcast indecency issue at buzzmachine.com- he was on with Stern in the 9:00 hour this morning trumpeting how he used the Freedom of Information Act to discover that the big fine on Fox for "Married by America" was the result of no more than three complaints. I could have saved him the trouble (and I have e-mailed him about it)- the FCC needs only one complaint to fine someone, and that's been the case in most of the radio fines (Doug Vanderlaan's complaint led to the big Bubba the Love Sponge fine; David Smith is the sole complainant in the Mancow cases), something I've reported on over the years at All Access. It's not a secret. It's always only taken one.

And that's not really the issue- we can all agree that's wrong and hold hands and sing "Kumbaya" and "We Shall Overcome" and light candles outside the Portals. No, the issue is simple, and nobody ever asks this question (OK, I HAVE asked it, to radio officials, NAB officials, all sorts of people, and here on this site, and never got an answer)- what exactly is the harm if a child DOES see a breast, or comes upon lesbians on Stern, or hears someone describe a Dirty Sanchez, or- cover your ears, Betty- hears the f-word? What happens to that child? Is he or she irreperably harmed? Or does the kid just a) laugh, b) turn the channel, c) ask mom and dad what that was, or d) burst into flames?

All I know is that I was exposed to nudity, sexual banter, and all sorts of indecency as a kid without my parents even knowing. I sneaked a peek at Playboy, learned about sex from kids on the playground ("hey, you know what f--k means?"), saw movies with "adult themes" back when movies were rated "SMA"- "Suggested for Mature Audiences." I found all of it boring until puberty, then it was fascinating. But it turns out I'm pretty normal- happily married, monogamous, faithful, no great desire for anything especially kinky. And I'll bet most of today's adults grew up the same way, even in the Bible Belt. It's just the way things work out.

So why is there a problem? I've told you this before, but it doesn't hurt to say it again: it's an unfortunate confluence of the desire of left-wing Democrats to use indecency as a battering ram against media consolidation ("see? If Clear Channel and Infinity didn't own so many stations, there wouldn't be such filth on the airwaves!") and right-wing religious Republicans doing the morality thing ("we must protect our children from such filth!"), with those interests coinciding with an election year. Yet nobody (else) is asking whether there are any studies demonstrating any harm to children, or anyone else, from sexually oriented entertainment. The reason? There is no such study, no study that means anything, anyway. It's all assumed- of course indecent radio and TV has to be bad for kids, because, well, it's indecent!

No, it isn't. But until someone else with more juice starts asking this question instead of focusing on procedure, the apologies and the fines and the chilling of speech will continue. And I'll still be alone out here, defending indecency.

I feel so dirty.


November 17, 2004


A friend from Cincinnati writes:

    Noted today that you also shun the politics in search of things like (pop culture items).

Why yes, I've been doing that lately. And here's why: I've had enough. Enough of the arguing, enough of the bickering and the "stolen election" and the Marine-shot-an-unarmed-prisoner controversy. Enough of cabinet changes and arguing over whether a tax cut is spending or giving people their money back. Enough of Bush and Cheney and Condi, enough of Harry Reid and Al Franken and Hillary. I'll get back to that stuff, but right now, I've had enough.

And I think I'm in the mainstream on this. That's why I've been turning talk radio off lately, listening more to sports radio or music, anything but politics and war. Doesn't mean I don't care, does mean that right now, I have other things on my mind.

That doesn't, however, indicate that I'm wrapped up in the T.O./Nicolette Monday Night Football controversy, by the way, although I spent some time on it yesterday. I suspect that this whole thing is being pumped up by the news media and, just maybe, by the NFL and ABC, too. I don't think most people who saw the bit cared. That might explain why it wasn't really until Wednesday that the furor really took off- on Tuesday morning, it wasn't much more than a "did you see that? Pretty racy/lame" item before people moved on to other discussions. By late in the day, the flames were beginning to rise, and by Wednesday, it was Topic A. That says to me that the people making the biggest deal about this didn't see it, or saw it and didn't think it was a problem until someone else TOLD them it was a problem.

And I don't think the race issue is really involved. Interracial relationships aren't the taboo they used to be on TV. They've been popping up in prime time for years, and I think most people- yes, including the dreaded Red Staters- are OK with it all. Yes, there are racists out there, but there are always racists, always will be racists, and I think that the kind of racist who would get upset by something like a mottled Nicolette Sheridan flashing Terrell Owens in a comedy bit on TV is in the distinct ultraminority.

So the bottom line is this: I'm bored with politics, I don't care that Plastic Surgery Queen dropped her towel in the Eagles locker room, I'm not interested in anything.

Makes for compelling commentary, huh?

I'll go now.


November 18, 2004


Oh, OK, so many people are happening on this site looking for the T.O.-Nic-O video clip that I have to put up a link to the clip.


Now scroll down and read what I think. Thank you.


November 20, 2004


I have limited time for this mishegas this week, but while I have a minute, we were at dinner at the local shopping center and this, in a grainy Treo camera-phone shot, is what was going on below our window:

Yes, if you look closely through the low-res haze, that's a Christmas tree there on the left. The Avenue of the Peninsula had its grand tree-lighting ceremony and I was shocked that anyone turned out, but they did, in force. A zillion kids were there, and a cheesy Christmas Fairy lip-syncing "All I Want For Christmas is You," and a mimimum-wager in a Rudolph costume with a flashing red nose (I was unaware that Rudolph had a nose that flashed- I assumed from the song and the TV show that it stayed on to show the way, as opposed to flashing like a beacon on a tower so planes don't fly into him), and, of course, Santa, who, while not as bad as the 1968 Franklin Field Santa who got booed, didn't really do much of anything, just came out, waved at the crowd, had to walk through (or at least alongside) the crowd to get to the stage (great planning), then, you know, waved a lot. We left before they lit the thing- it was taking forever. And it dawned on me that we don't celebrate Christmas and they weren't erecting a giant Menorah and besides, it's a couple of weeks before Chanukah and it's not even Thanksgiving yet, so the whole thing was pointless, as is this column.

DId I say I don't have time to write much? Good idea. G'night.


November 22, 2004


Ladies and gentlemen, pmsimon.com is pleased to present for your viewing pleasure...

Ella the World's Most Famous Cat's very first motion picture!

Click here for Windows Media Player viewing.
Click here for RealPlayer viewing.


And, yes, it IS stupid, but I hadda try the new camera out SOMEhow.

(Thanks, too, to Larry Wachs, whose Short Film Theater is on its second presentation at regularguys.com.


November 23, 2004


I keep doing it.

It happened again today. We were at dinner, eating some Greek food, and I thought, you know, next time Dad comes out here, we should take him to this place, he'd like it. And then I catch myself- he won't be out here anymore.

And I do the same thing with my mom. It's been ten years- ten! since Mom's been gone, yet there are times I forget that. Today was one of those days. There was an article in the Chicago Sun-Times about the new Yad Vashem website that allows you to enter the name of a Holocaust victim and get whatever information's left about him or her. I wanted to look up my grandparents, but all I know is their last name, my mother's birth surname. That's not enough- there were a lot of victims in their city with their surname. I reached for the phone, and then I remembered that I can't quite recall the phone number, and then I realized that even if I could, it wouldn't ring in our old home, and Mom isn't there to pick up anymore. And I wept a little, and I gathered my thoughts, and I shook it off and moved on.

That, after all, is what we have to do as humans- shake it off and move on. But then, at dinner, I ate a chicken pita and thought my Dad would like the food there and I slipped again, another rough spot in a really rough year. Fran's used to this by now- I tell her I almost called Dad again, she smiles and comforts me, we shake it off.

But that's oversimplification. We never really shake it off. Ten years since Mom passed away, I'm still hearing her voice, asking how I'm doing, jokingly mangling the pronunciation of words I know she knows, her accent embedded in my mind to the point that when I'm really tired, my "th"s come out like "t"s, just like hers. My dad's voice is still here, too, shouting "Perry Michael!" when I walk into a room, asking me if I saw the Pacers-Pistons fight, telling me about the Heat game he saw and how Shaq is doing. It's an illusion, I know.

I think.

I'm never quite sure.

Dad was always fairly irreligious. He often told me that he expected that when we die, that's it- no nothing, dust to dust, the end. Maybe that's true. Or maybe he was wrong, and that voice I hear is really there. Hey, Dad, if it IS you, I got a couple of good places to eat next time you visit. You can stay with us. But you may already be doing that.


November 24, 2004


The sweet potato pie's all baked. So is the caramel apple pie, although we let Costco bake that one. The turkey's thawing, the day is done. I'm gonna go relax and enjoy while I can. That means no politics, no serious stuff, no aggravation. Maybe you should do that, too.

Happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy the holiday. (That means turn this thing off and go do something fun. Meet me back here when it's over.)


November 26, 2004


I spent the whole day today under the delusion that this was Saturday. We did Saturday things- slept (a little) later, took an extra-long run, saw a movie ("Sideways"- good one), ran errands, had a nice dinner, bought a computer- OK, we don't normally do that every Saturday, but you get the idea. Not Friday-like at all.

And now, we get another Saturday. I'm very pleased. In fact, I'm going to go prepare for it right now. Maybe there's a "late game from the coast" on the dish. Work can wait.


November 29, 2004


Wrote, ran, ate, watched football, wrote, ran, ate, went to movies, ate, wrote, ran, went to movies, watched football, wrote, ate, wrote.

That's what I did over the long weekend, in case you were wondering.

We're now almost a month beyond the election and we're already wading in a sea of ennui, bored beyond tears and wondering what might be next. In talk radio, we went from the incessant water torture of swifties and Rathergate and Bushliedpeopledied to, what, the appointment of a new Secretary of Commerce? Time to break out the "what are you giving for Christmas?" topics. Yick.

Personally, I've been more obsessed with buying a computer- finally ordered a new one, should show up in a month or so- and various and sundry business projects and legal entanglements on which I've been working. That's not a bad thing, but we're really between moments right now. After the stuff with which I've had to deal this year, maybe a little boredom isn't a bad thing.

So what did I do this evening? Wrote, ran, watched football. It's like being on vacation.



Winter in Southern California- and by that I do not refer to the areas atop the mountains where snow actually comes down, sticks, and remains throughout the season- is here. You can tell the season by these signs:

1. People are bundled up in winter overcoats.
2. It's not really all that cold.

Okay, to us, it's cold. Low 50s or- horrors!- upper 40s at night, 60s during the day, sometimes windy. And there are Christmas lights all over the place now, lots of those icicle lights and the occasional colorfest. We ran up to the top of the hill to pick up a few things after dinner and as we came out of a store, a woman in an overcoat buttoned to the upper lip and a big warm hat bustled past us as if braced against a stiff wind. Yep, I told Fran, it's winter, or as close as we get to it. I said this while wearing a short-sleeved football jersey. That's as close as I get to the season. Actually, that's not quite accurate- I wore a sweater the other day. But you get the idea.

But we are aware that our overreaction to what the rest of the country (save Florida and Hawaii) would consider mild weather is ridiculous, and we do get to see it in perspective. Sunday night was the perfect example- I watched the Denver-Oakland game on TV, and they were sliding on a snow covered pitch at Mile High (no, I'm not calling it Invesco. It's Mile High, even if it's not the real original Mile High. And Candlestick isn't Monster Park, either, but that's even more of a digression). Snow on TV is great because we're not in it. And that's the best time to live here. When everyone else is suffering under a pile of snow, we get to chuckle and shake out heads and think, geez, glad I don't have to put up with THAT anymore.

Although we still have a snow shovel in the garage. It might come into handy. After all, for some folks, L.A. is Hell, and we might freeze over sometime soon. The Red Sox won the Series, right?


November 30, 2004


Okay, so, I clicked on the right buttons, I entered the right password, I selected the right options, so why wouldn't Amazon take my order?

It should have been pretty straightforward. Three items, three shipping locations, but I'd done that before. This time, however, it kept sending me to a "this page does not exist"-type URL or just plain didn't go anywhere. And when I went back to try again, it would show different things in the shopping cart. EVentually, I ordered one of the items from Overstock.com and did the other two individually from Amazon, and order was restored, literally.

And I should add here that I usually have no problem with Amazon- in fact, they're about the most reliable online merchant. But if I hadn't been a regular customer, I'd have given up on them, and online ordering, a long time ago.

That's a problem as technology lurches forward: it's all amazing, but it's so not plug-and-play easy that I can't imagine most people having the patience to deal with it. Web sites run slow or won't register your order. You can't just buy a new TV, connect the cable, plug it in, and get that cool HD programming you saw at the store or Uncle Weird's house. The computer cursor freezes up, the sound cuts out, the home page is suddenly something other than what you set. And you can't get anyone to help you unless you pay.

Or, of course, if you have a friend or relative who knows how to fix or set up stuff. There's one in every family. In my circles, that would be me. And I'm happy to do it- there's something oddly fun about de-spywaring someone's computer, something satisfying about fiddling with wires and settings and suddenly- voila! Ze trick, she is done!- it all works, the picture's up, the sound's booming, the cursor's unfrozen. But if you don't have that help, and not everyone does, life has to be getting more frustrating every day.

That's not to say progress is bad. That is to say that there's a bundle to be made making things simple. How about a TV that works right away when you plug it in? Oh, right, we had that, and it wasn't good enough. OK, then, how about a way to buy stuff from your home where you don't keep getting booted from the checkout page? Phone order? So last century.

Besides, phone orders don't let you compare prices in seconds, and regular TVs don't let you see the individual hairs sticking out of John Madden's left nostril, so I suppose progress is a good thing. And I'm OK with that, as long as Amazon eventually accepts my order. I shouldn't have to work this hard for a "Get Fuzzy" calendar.


About November 2004

This page contains all entries posted to PMSimon.com in November 2004. They are listed from oldest to newest.

October 2004 is the previous archive.

December 2004 is the next archive.

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