August 2005 Archives

PICTURES FROM A MORE INNOCENT TIME

While the Gulf Coast continues in a state of extreme crisis, I remembered I'd taken some pictures of Katrina when it was still a Category 1 and some after it blew through. These were from last Thursday and Friday.

This was about 7 pm Thursday night- the view is through the back window of the lobby at the Harbor Beach Marriott in Fort Lauderdale:

We went up to the room. The flash gets in the way, but this was the view during an extended torrential downpour with wind gusts up to about 66 mph at this point:

The next day, the storm hadn't cleared out, but the gusts were a little less intense. The palms, though, were still getting blown to one side:

And pieces of trees were everywhere:

The damage around the resort grounds wasn't too bad, mostly fallen palm fronds and a few things like this:

And the palms all along the beach were left frozen like these:

But you weren't supposed to go into the ocean. People did, but the red flag was up:

And, needless to say:

The damage off the grounds was more intense, including huge trees uprooted and splayed across the road everywhere and sand all over the road by the beach. I didn't have presence of mind to bring the camera then, though, and I wouldn't have jeopardized my well-being behind the wheel to try and get a shot like that. I was going to use the pictures as part of a humorous essay about our trip, but after the hurricane went off and did more damage, it seemed like a bad idea. So here they are for posterity, to fill up a day's posting with minimal effort, and as a reminder that even if a storm seems like no big deal, you never know what'll happen next. Or something like that.

Because after the steady stream of depressing news out of New Orleans and Biloxi and Gulfport and all over the Gulf Coast, we need it, herewith, some comic relief: in case you didn't see it, here's one of television's all-time most mortifying moments, R. Kelly's performance at the VMAs. (Hat tip: Larry)

What is is about Miami? Isn't that where Ashlee Simpson did her embarrassing, boo-related halftime caterwauling?

RANDOM NEW ORLEANS STUFF

You want to understand what the concept of the Internet and "community" is all about? Go here. LiveJournal users from the Gulf Coast are checking on each other, trading reports, providing personal accounts of what's happening in the area battered by Katrina. (Hat tip to Jeff Jarvis) In a similar vein, Craig's List has people-searching going on here and here. And the looting is being discussed in less-than-polite terms at the Times-Picayune's crime forum, while there's a whole flooding forum there, too (the paper's moved operations to Houma and Baton Rouge; it'll be putting out editions as PDF files on its website, which, all things considered, is pretty amazing.

I finally figured out how to check on at least one friend from the New Orleans area- my radio colleague Harry Valentine and family are safe after relocating themselves. Good news, and let's hope their home's OK, too.

Meanwhile, Jarvis has a provocative topic up: should New Orleans be rebuilt? Some commenters say that it's too early to ask the question, although the proprietor points out that politicians are rushing to address the situation as we speak. Me, I'd suggest that they figure out a better way to keep water from rushing into the basin before building again. It's one thing to build on flat or raised ground, or to build in an earthquake zone (you can build on bedrock and reinforce the structure) or in a standard hurricane zone; it's another to have a population living below sea level in an area prone to tropical storms, protected only by quite fallible levees and pumps. Fail to consider that and you're asking for a repeat performance. I like New Orleans, there's nothing like it, and I hope it someday rebounds, but putting people in harm's way again isn't wise, is it?

BLOWN BACK

We're back.

And tired. Last night, after a wonderful evening watching our friends get married on the beach in Florida, we got back to the hotel room at about 11:15 and finished packing at a little after midnight. A 4 am wake-up, a slow check-in at the ticket counter, and then... the dreaded all-out detailed search-everything wand-over-body rubber-glove pat-down security check, the second one this trip. We got the "SSSS" on our boarding passes again. And after the full search and an uneventful flight enlivened only by the couple in front of me, the wife of which stood in the aisle and gavce her husband a vigorous but strangely dispassionate head massage for- I kid you not- at least two hours, we arrived back in Long Beach, where it was pretty much as hot as it had been back in Florida, only less humid.

While we were experiencing the hurricane, we kept telling each other that, well, yeah, we couldn't do a whole lot other than sit in the hotel room and watch the palm trees bend at 90 degree angles, but we'd look back on this as an adventure and we'd have stories to tell. And that's how it shook out. If the weather was nice, this trip would have recessed into the memory bank along with countless other nice, relaxing trips of the past. But now we have real memories- fierce winds bending the palms outside our window at almost 90 degree angles, huge mature trees lying across the roadway, sand coating A1A right across the road and up to the shops and bars on the opposite side of the street, the eerie darkness of the neighborhoods south of Miami along US 1, the adventure of trying to get across the Intracoastal with bridges and roads randomly closed, walking along the edge of the furiously churning surf inspecting the shells that the storm washed ashore... add the chance to see our friends and a lovely beachfront wedding and I'd say that this was one for the record books.

But next time there's a hurricane in the forecast, I think we'll have to pass. Those memories are great... once.

WASTING SPACE AGAIN

Just testing posting from the cell phone using the AvantGo browser. Going to a wedding tonight, so this is all you're gonna get.

If it works.

POST-'CANE REPORT- SATURDAY

I went for a run along the beach in Fort Lauderdale this morning- sun occasionally peeking through, wind still brisk- and surveyed some of the damage from Katrina. The storm basically blew part of the beach right across A1A, the sand leading right up to the doors of the cafes and hotels across the street. They'd plowed most of the sand off the roadway, but the sidewalk was still covered with piles of sand and some power lines still drooped off their poles. Crews were slowly making headway against the downed trees that blocked some lanes of the road further south, but the traffic lights were still out and power was a hit-or-(mostly) miss proposition. They're supposed to restore power for much of the area by late this afternoon. I'd hope so; this was a rough storm, but some folks have been without power since mid-afternoon Thursday.

Things are closer to normal today. Some malls are open- we braved Sawgrass Mills to get an ice cream cone, and it was packed with air-conditioning seekers. Some restaurants are back in operation, many (not all) traffic lights are working, and the TV stations are back to the usual weekend fare instead of wall-to-wall disaster coverage. Still, the restaurant we'd planned to visit tonight is out of action- take out only, they don't have generator power for the dining room- and going out requires planning, calls ahead, and great flexibility. Our dinner engagement was supposed to be in South Miami, but it could now happen anywhere from Aventura to Kendall, wherever there's a decent place with electricity.

It's been quite an experience, but I think I've had enough of this natural disaster thing, actually. Could be worse, however. I could be in South Beach for the MTV VMAs. That would be hard.

WHEN YOU NEED IT MOST

We ventured out from our hotel to get some stuff at the Publix, which we heard was open. So we get into the car and find that, other than at our hotel (which has generators), most of Fort Lauderdale is without power. The traffic lights are all out, A1A is being restricted because large trees have fallen across the lanes and sand was blown onto the roadway, virtually everything is closed (the Publix was open, but without refrigeration; signs said that no cold items could be sold, the freezer aisles were blocked, and the power went off twice while we were in the store). And we pop the AM radio on and head straight for the main talk station in South Florida, which had been pumping out good coverage through the previous day and this morning, and I heard the regular regionally-syndicated afternoon guy on and, since he's in Tampa, he quite naturally was discussing whether the storm would hit Tampa.

This is not Tampa. Nobody here cares whether Tampa is going to be hit. South Miami-Dade County's under water, half of Broward County's without power, trees and power lines are down everywhere, and they let their Tampa-based afternoon guy on the air to talk about Tampa? He started to say something about next talking to a Miami TV weatherman (not Bryan Norcross? Then it doesn't matter), but by then my hand was headed to the button, and I switched to WFTL from West Palm, which, to their credit, was talking about storm damage and power outages and taking calls from people in the area. And that's where I stayed. Radio should be taking a tip from local TV news, which sounds backward, but in this case makes sense: the Big 4 network affiliates here went wall-to-wall, as did the Univision station (and the UPN channel took its sister CBS station's feed).

It used to be that there was at least one, sometimes two or three stations you could absolutely count on to deliver the goods when a major local news story broke. In some cases, like New York, you'd go to an all news station, like WINS, which made its bones with coverage of the Great Blackout and remains the go-to station for any emergency. In some cases, a talk station like KFI in Los Angeles grabbed that honor by combining solid news coverage with local talk hosts with the instinct to grab the story by the throat and not let go. Those stations still exist- WINS, KFI, CFRB in Toronto, WTOP in Washington. There are others. But when I went to the station in Miami from which I expected to get that kind of coverage this afternoon, I immediately heard "Tampa." It doesn't matter whether it was a momentary thing, one portion of one segment, a passing reference. I needed the information NOW, and when I heard "Tampa," I was gone.

(Incidentally, I have to hand it to CBS 4 in Miami, which seems to OWN hurricanes. It may be a Bryan Norcross thing; since Andrew, people here just seem to trust Norcross 100%. But that's what every TV in the house was showing. Although they, like every other channel, seemed enamored of showing the storm hitting their own parking lots. Guys, an empty parking lot in Doral or Miramar isn't all that interesting to watch in any weather)

Yeah, we're OK.

The hurricane hit for real last evening. In late afternoon, the wind was blowing hard and rain was falling intermittently, and the trees were bending, the surf was churning, and everybody in the hotel was entertained by the sight. Some people even went out to get pictures, returning with laughter and wildly rearranged hairstyles.

By about 7:00, the laughter stopped. The wind was gusting at about 66 mph. We lost power a few times. Windows were shaking, doors were slamming, the TV lost all channels. There was nothing to do but lie in bed and listen to the apocalypse. At about 2 am, I looked out the window and there was a brownish haze while the trees were bent close to a 90 degree angle and the wind created an unholy howl.

This was only category 1. I can't even imagine a category 4.

But, as I noted, we're fine. Four people died in this one, all presumably in the "couldn't resist going outside to check things out" category. We're in the trailing stages of the storm now, and I STILL don't want to go outside. Maybe later.

RED EYE RANT

Just a few thoughts while waiting to take a hurricane right between the eyes:

All red-eye flights should be kid-free. Anyone under 18? Out. Our overnight flight across the country was punctuated by the cries and screams of toddlers whose parents were unable or unwilling to control them. Ban 'em, I say. They can only be trouble. Let them fly in daylight.

Older dude with much, much younger girl- not even woman, just still girl- sitting next to me: I don't care if you feel the need to rub your daught... er, girlfriend's feet all night, but don't do it in a way that encroaches on my seat. I can't sleep if I can't move, or if you keep nudging me off the armrest so you have more room to rub her toesies.

Dude sitting next to Fran with sleeveless T: back off the Drakkar Noir. I'm serious. And try sleeves- the armpit hair look isn't working for you.

Hertz: If I reserve a certain kind of car a month or more in advance, have one ready when I show up. This Kia isn't working for me.

Okay, back to our feature attraction, "Waiting For Katrina."

KATRINA AND THE WAVES

I have to fly to Florida tonight.

Naturally, the first thing I saw when I got online this morning was this. I'm flying right into what might by late Thursday be a hurricane.

Yes, I'm staying right on the waterfront. Why do you ask?

It's Tropical Storm Katrina right now, and it's bearing down on South Florida. I'm looking at the possibility of flying cross country to get stuck in a hotel room or, worse, being evacuated.

Oh, well, at least it's a change of scenery. I just didn't think the scenery would be from "The Perfect Storm."

Not enough time. I tried so hard to fit everything I needed to do in the day today, but I missed. I was supposed to be up at Dodger Stadium right now. I'm not. No time. I wanted to write something longer for this page, but between the weekly newsletter and lots of late news and other stuff... no time. And I'm still not fully packed for a trip tomorrow.

I'd take a time management course, but I know what they'd tell me- you just have to cut back, try to do less. Easy to say, not easy to do. And tomorrow's a full day followed by a red-eye flight- no course in the world can tell me how to make this work.

But I will, somehow, because I have to. Step one is to stop blathering here and go take care of business, so I will, but not before this quote from an interview on All Access with a morning radio host in Detroit:

    They can hear The Pussycat Dolls on 4 stations in our market and at least 4-5 satellite stations, but they can only hear a guy who looks like Eminem getting people crazy on the streets ("Partial Mathers") on 1 station...ours. Personality wins.

Yes, they can "only hear a guy who looks like Eminem getting people crazy on the streets" on one station. But why would they?

And people in radio wonder why we don't get any respect.

For the last few days, I've noticed a flood of hits from people referred here by a Radiohead message board.

I have no idea why.

But welcome anyway, Radioheadheads! I feel obligated to make a Radiohead reference, like a joke involving fake plastic trees or something about Thom Yorke in general, but I really don't have anything much to say. I own Radiohead CDs- does that count? Apparently not.

I still can't make heads nor tails o' this newfangled Internet thing....

TAKING RADIO'S TOLL

Jeff Jarvis is talking about the proposal to sell the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway to private companies and let them run the toll roads, and he's properly skeptical:

    They should be doing just the opposite: Tear down the toll booths and fire the bureaucracies fed by them. I�ve long marveled how the Interstates by me operate with much less visible infrastructure � staff, facilities, equipment, expense � than the toll roads. Tolls roads cause tremendous inconvenience. And they tempt government � and now private enterprise � to try � though often unsuccessfully � to turn the public infrastructure into a profit center.

Sure. And that's what we were talking about back in about 1992 at New Jersey 101.5 radio, when at Walter Sabo's suggestion- he dimly recalled such a thing- I pored through state documents and news accounts and discovered that, yes, the original charter for the toll roads specified that when the initial bonds to build the roads were to be paid off, the toll booths would come down and the roads would be free. After only a few years, however, when nobody was looking, the state allowed the roads to float more bonds and borrow more money, and the original rules were mysteriously forgotten. We went hammer-and-tongs after the politicians and bureaucracies, and here's what we got:

Death threats. Angry toll collectors' unions. Intimidation. And, ultimately, no change. The roads kept the tolls, and each kept its bureaucracy (we took some pleasure in pointing out that nowhere else in the world did a state maintain two separate wasteful toll road bureaucracies with separate media relations offices- press flacks for a road!). We tried, but while our listeners were motivated, we couldn't get enough of the populace and the politicians to go with us.

But it was a great time, because we were addressing what mattered to our listeners, and they responded. Our ratings were great, and people felt that we were taking their side and doing something about the quality of life in our state. And when we did that, I expected other radio stations nationwide to "borrow" the campaign for their own areas. After all, they're quick to grab onto the latest "Jack" or "Jammin' Oldies" or other fad music format. Why wouldn't they want to do something that actually worked AND had something to do with the lives of their listeners?

Here's the list of stations that did their own "Trash the Tolls" campaign in our wake:

WIOD Miami.

That's it.

I'm reminded of that when I turn on talk radio today. I hear a lot of Cindy Sheehan talk, a lot of frankly boring national political talk, but precious little of the stuff that actually matters to listeners. Gas prices are passing three bucks a gallon and we're talking about Cindy Sheehan? Traffic is impossible all over and we're obsessing about illegal immigration? Cable companies are charging an arm and a leg if you have the temerity to buy a new HDTV- mine is charging about thirty bucks a month on top of the regular $41. just to add HD service, plus another $15. or $20. per additional set- and we're hearing talk about Karl Rove?

Talk radio shares are slipping badly over the first half of 2005. You wanna know why? Maybe it's because the Cindy Sheehan story isn't that big with the average person. Maybe people have had pretty much enough of the illegal immigration dance. Maybe you can take a tip from over a decade ago, when we were talking about what mattered to our listeners and tried to do something about it, and got big ratings as a result. New Jersey 101.5, incidentally, is still doing that, and still getting big ratings. Perhaps there's something to be learned from that for the rest of the radio industry.

Or maybe they'll all just change to "Jack-FM," because then the General Manager won't get any complaint calls from politicians. GMs hate those calls.

A small plane towing a Rubio's banner over the beaches crashed off our peninsula today. The pilot- you can see him in the second picture- was able to walk away from the wreckage on the rocks, although he apparently wasn't all that happy- the reporter described him as holding his head in his hands.

Just one thought: is it too much to ask a local TV news department to GET THE NAME OF OUR AREA RIGHT?

It is NOT "Palos Verde." It is "Palos Verdes."

And to the reporter: you were in "Palos Verdes Estates." It's a town. Apparently, you were not certain of that. You can ask someone where you are if you don't know, or consult your Thomas Guide. It's not difficult.

You'd think heads would roll if a reporter and chyron operator both screwed up the name of the place in which a story was taking place. I'll bet nobody at channel 2 even noticed the problem.

And they think bloggers are careless and unedited.

GYM (NOT) DANDY

In today's edition of "What the Hell is Wrong With You People?," we investigate the sordid world of Guys Who Insist On Standing In Front of the Mirrored Walls Staring at Themselves When They Use Free Weights, Thus Standing in Such a Way That it Prevents People Who Actually Just Want to Work Out (Like Me) From Using the Cable Pull Machine or the Only Bench in the Room.

You want to look at yourself in the mirror, go to the locker room and stare all you want. The weight room? Get the hell out of my way.

In the next edition of "What the Hell is Wrong With You People?," it's a special edition of "Stop Looking at Me When I'm Lifting Weights- You're Creeping Me Out!"

HOORAY FOR HOLLYWOOD SOUTH

Cardinal rule of blogging: if you don't have anything important to say, post some blurry camera phone pictures.

They're shooting "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" and the third "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie simultaneously, and they're shooting scenes down the street from me. There are four enormous cranes with two wire spheres dangling between them:

There's also a huge blue screen and something I can't really figure out, looking like a rock wall facing the ocean (we can see only the grid on the back side from the road- that's what you can see to the right)

And a longer shot to show the proximity to the Pacific- careful, Johnny, it's a long way down to the water...

We'll see what these things are all about in due course, next year and/or the year after that. No, I don't know if any of the actors are around here. Haven't seen Keira Knightley at Starbucks or Orlando Bloom at the sushi place. Not that I'd know Orlando Bloom if I stepped on him. Mackenzie Crook, yeah, but Orlando Bloom, no. Somehow, I think I'll be OK if I never spot any of them....

Yesterday, my allergies were just hammering me. I couldn't think straight, I couldn't keep my eyes open, I was suffering. The only stuff that works when I'm in that much pain is Benadryl Allergy and Sinus Headache formula, or generic knockoffs thereof. I take a couple and within an hour, the pain subsides. (Within two hours, I'm almost unconscious, but that's better than the pain)

Under laws like the one passed in Oregon, I'd have to get a prescription every time I got a sinus headache, which in bad allergy seasons like this one might happen every other day:

    "I am well aware, as the Legislature was, that this is inconvenient for some of our citizens," (Governor Ted) Kulongoski said at a signing ceremony in Portland. "But we all have a role to play in stopping this meth epidemic. For some, that means providing temporary care for children removed from a (meth) home, for others that means finding another cold and flu remedy."

I have tried other cold and flu remedies. I have tried Claritin, Zyrtec, countless others. Only one works on me, and it contains pseudoephedrine. If I have to get a prescription every time I get headaches, I'll be bothering my doctor every day. I don't live in Oregon, but I have little doubt this will spread, possibly to the federal level.

And it's pointless:

    Oregon has increasingly sought to tighten access to pseudoephedrine in an attempt to shut down the jerry-rigged meth labs found throughout the state. While most of the state's meth comes from superlabs in Mexico, police say the local meth labs contaminate neighborhoods and endanger the children of addicts who turn to cooking meth. The illicit drug cannot be made without pseudoephedrine or its chemical sibling, ephedrine.

Most of the meth comes from Mexico? They're going to inconvenience law-abiding citizens and it won't even affect most of the meth supply? What the hell are they doing?

Playing politics, of course.

And they wonder why people hate politicians.

AS USUAL, SOMEONE ELSE SAYS IT BETTER

Lileks gets it right again, this time nailing the Cindy Sheehan situation. It's in his Newhouse column, which is here. Read it.

SINUS OF THE TIMES

Headache. Allergies.

Must. Take. Something.

Tired. Head hurts. Becoming incoherent.

Urrrrrrggggggggghhhhhhhh.

I have little time tonight, but I did want to mention the most important news of the day.

That, of course, would be the shocking developments on "Rock Star: INXS." I am speaking, of course, of "Stop Go."

You don't know about "Stop Go"?

You are lucky. It might be the most cringe-inducing song ever, written in haste as part of a competition on the reality show. Here's the official web site's description:

    The next day, the two teams perform their songs for Dave and Andrew. "Stop Go," Ty's team's effort, turns the song into bubblegum soul, with a call-and-response chorus, which Dave describes as having an "Electric Company feel." J.D. also wasn't bowled over -- he calls it a song you'd write for your parents at band camp. It's also not what Andrew expected, although he tells the Rockers that he was impressed by their harmonies; he gets the feeling they enjoyed working together.

This does not adequately describe the horror of this song. Better still, the visuals- the contestants grinning broadly, singing inane lyrics as energetically as they could muster, the lead idiot smirking in self-satisfaction when the song ended and he was sure, CERTAIN that the band would LOVE it- enhanced the sheer embarrassment of the situation.

Television does not get much more entertaining. Worst. Show. Ever. And the best, all at once. Can't beat that.

A GLIMMER OF HOPE FOR A TROUBLED WORLD

"Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo" bombed.

"Deuce Bigalow" bombed!
"Deuce Bigalow" bombed!
"Deuce Bigalow" bombed!
"Deuce Bigalow" bombed!
"Deuce Bigalow" bombed!
"Deuce Bigalow" bombed!

There is some justice in this world.

Now, maybe someone can do something about Ashton Kutcher.

NEW MEDIUM, SAME OLD MEDIA

The Philadelphia Daily News has, for most of its history, been known for these things:

1. Great sports section.
2. Crime coverage.
3. Scrappy, populist local news coverage.
4. Local street-wise columnists.

The Philadelphia Daily News podcast does NOT contain:

1. Great sports section.
2. Crime coverage.
3. Scrappy, populist local news coverage.
4. Local street-wise columnists.

The Philadelphia Daily News podcast DOES contain:

1. NPR-like somnambulent production.
2. Deadly earnest interviews with college professors.
3. Boring recitations of what's on the website.
4. Nothing terribly local.

In other words, you don't get the flavor of the paper on the podcast. It might as well be one of those WHYY public affairs shows. That's partly a failing of the paper- buffeted by Knight-Ridder cutbacks, a population shift to the suburbs, and the loss of key personnel over the years, the Daily News is a shadow of its former self. It used to be a must-buy with classic headlines and world-class sports coverage and columnists like Pete Dexter. Now, it looks like what an art department would design without regard to what the readership wants, a front page with a full-page color picture that often buries the headline at the bottom, where people won't look for it, and it's easy to ignore. Numbers don't lie: the circulation's down below 140,000. I still pick it up when I come to town, and there are still traces of the old days (Byko, Conlin), but it's not the same.

And it's that homogenization, that carelessness with a legacy, that permeates the paper's "Philly Feed" podcast. From the amateur-hour intro ("Philly Feed," a nasal voice intones over bland production music, "it's like NEC-tar... for your EARS") to the indistinguishable/interchangeable hosts to the dull, monotone interviews, it's useless. I want to hear some wise-ass writer challenge Mayor Street, I want to hear Conlin rip Ed Wade or Rich Hofmann take apart the T.O. situation, I want to hear some Philly accents. Sorry, that might sell some papers and entice more people to listen.

Urgh.

The mainstream media knows something's going on in their industry, and they know they need to be in on it. But it's not enough to hire techies to get a podcast on the Net and throw some staffers into the fire and expect something worthwhile. They need to hire someone who understands not just what you can do on a podcast but what you can accomplish with it. Aping NPR when the product you're promoting isn't designed to appeal to the NPR listener makes absolutely no sense; they just don't have anyone in-house who's figured that out yet.

But what do I know? All I've done is create popular talk radio shows. Obviously, there's no place in the New Media Order for that.

OUT WITH THE IN CROWD

I thought this was kinda interesting: I got a spam e-mail from another of those digital convergence conferences that are sprouting everywhere. The subject line was this:

HD, IP, ITV, Wireless...Games, Movies, Music, Sports, TV Program Executives & Investors flocking to TRENdS 05 Digital Media Convergence, Four Seasons, Las Vegas, Sept. 12-13

What's missing from this picture?

Radio- the No Respect Medium.

And it's not like they're unaware of radio at this conference- they have Clear Channel's Evan Harrison scheduled for a presentation. But radio Just. Isn't. Important. Anymore. Here's more from the e-mail:

    The need for dialog among executives dealing with digital media strategies, solutions and convergence issues has become imperative. Join top executives from major companies, new media investment experts and solutions providers from emerging enterprises in bringing television programs, movies, games, sports, music, advertising and information over the Internet, broadband cable, satellite & wireless technologies. Be there as they tackle growing market demands for secure pipelines, devices and interactivity.

Again, what's missing? They have TV, movies, games, sports, music, advertising, and "information." Radio programming? Nope. And "Music" doesn't cover it. Is Howard Stern "music"? Rush Limbaugh? Ryan F'ing Seacrest?

There are eight panels at this thing. No radio representatives on any of them. Not a single one.

I'm not sure who gets the blame for this- the organizers, sure, but are they merely reacting to increasing irrelevance of the medium or are they just guilty of undervaluing the industry? Is it radio's own fault for slowly lurching into digital while other nations like the UK are several years advanced? And why is there not even a mention of podcasting or satellite radio or radio via streaming and wireless broadband?

I guess when you call your conference TRENdS, you ignore what's not trendy. I thought podcasting was trendy enough, but apparently I'm mistaken. Maybe radio needs to deck itself out in whatever the kids are wearing these days. But don't ask me what's in- I wouldn't know. I'm in radio.

YOUR GOOD DEED FOR TODAY

Day by Day is a smart, entertaining comic strip on the Net.

Chris Muir is cool, he cranks the strip out every day just for the web, and he doesn't ask for anything.

Until now. He wants you to click on a banner. Here's the explanation:

And here's where to click:

So do it.

LEADING THE APATHY LEAGUE

The idea that, even if your team is still technically in the pennant race, going to see a baseball game when the home team is under .500 is at best dispiriting and more likely painful seems to finally be getting through to Dodger fans. The crowd for the team's return home seemed thinner yet than those at the last home stand. This time, the orange and blue and red empties stood out a little more, the applause sounded a little muted. There may be no joy in Mudville when Casey strikes out in the clutch, but Mudville is positively brutal when the Nine is nine games under in early August, six behind San Diego and ten back in the wild card.

The Phillies are in town, six behind Atlanta but 2 1/2 behind in the wild card, so they're in somewhat better shape, but they, too, don't seem to have the aura of a playoff contender. Nobody in the press box seems to be paying much attention to the game- the Yankees-White Sox game is drawing more interest. So is the Angels-A's game. Those games MEAN something. This one doesn't.

Modest proposal- on August 1, eliminate all but the top two or three teams in each division. Redo the schedule so they just play each other. Presto- every game matters. And then there'd be a good reason to spend three hours at the ballpark.

This is the person the FCC hired to advise them on indecency matters:

    In a January letter to President Bush, (Penny) Nance joined others in calling for stricter enforcement of indecency laws and identifying a �huge indecency problem� on basic cable. She has said TV broadcasters should restore a family hour when racy programming is held off the air. In 2002, she asked regulators to ensure direct broadcast satellite provider DirecTV did not fall under control of News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch, whom she dubbed a purveyor of �must-sleaze TV� on the Fox network. (Murdoch gained control of DirecTV in 2003, after regulators blocked its merger with EchoStar Communications that Nance backed.)

Turn the f'ing channel, lady.

    Nance has previously taken a direct interest in issues of broadcast indecency. �It is time the networks revisited the family hour,� she wrote in a bylined article in The Washington Times on May 5, 2003. The family viewing hour resulted from an agreement among major broadcast networks to keep graphic programming off the air from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. when children are most likely to be watching.

Turn the f'ing channel, lady.

    In January, Nance joined others in the letter urging Bush to appoint as FCC chair someone committed to enforcing indecency laws. Other signatories included stalwarts of the conservative political movement such as Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, and Phyllis Schlafly, president of Eagle Forum, as well as longtime FCC critics Donald Wildmon, chairman of the American Family Association, and Brent Bozell, president of the Parents Television Council, who both argue the agency has shirked its responsibility to crack down on indecent broadcasts.

Turn the f'ing channel, lady.

    �The breakdown of standards on TV and radio is a �moral values� problem we cannot ignore,� said the letter to Bush, which was widely interpreted in D.C. as a plea to appoint Martin. It called for �repeated and expanded� fines �until broadcasters understand they are not above the law.� It also cited �a huge indecency problem on basic cable channels.�

Turn the f'ing channel, lady.

This should not be a difficult concept to grasp.

And the Chairman of the FCC is relying on her for her expertise. She doesn't even know how to operate a television set. And she doesn't trust that the rest of us know how, either.

AT THE MOVIES: "THE ARISTOCRATS"

Quick review of "The Aristocrats": more laughs in 90 minutes than I've laughed at most movies. OK, maybe "Steel Magnolias" was funnier, but this one is supposed to be funny. It's one joke told repeatedly, and disjointedly, but it's more than that. Highly recommended, as long as the vilest of sexual and bodlly functions and actions won't send you screaming into the night.

Quick review of the Arclight theater in Hollywood: Why can't all theaters be like this? Yes, it's more expensive than other theaters- $14. for a matinee!- but you get a huge auditorium with comfortable stadium seating, huge armrests, lots of leg room, RESERVED SEATING!, no ads before the movie, only three trailers, live and very friendly ushers (one of whom does the "turn off your cell phones" announcement live), no kids running through the corridors... I love the place.

SPECIAL DAY PLUS TWO

My sister's in town and we were driving around Orange County talking about old times and Mom came up. We talked about Mom's sly sense of humor and different things we remembered about her, and that's when we remembered something else.

Eleven years. It's been eleven years. As of Thursday, to be specific.

As time gets away from us, the anniversaries become muddled. There are more dates to remember, good and bad. And we want to put the bad ones away, but they're still there, the ache becoming somewhat more dull as they get more distant. Mom died on August 4, 1994, in a hospital room up in Morningside Heights in Manhattan, a day after I saw her for one last time. I miss her still. But even as that date becomes less distinct, as I prefer to celebrate her life on her birthday than commemorate her passing, it stays with us. And maybe she wants it that way, because, for some reason, my sister's travel plans had to be altered and she came here a day later than intended.

She arrived on August 4.

My Mom, eternal travel agent.

CRASH!: BASED ON A TRUE STORY

You make the call:

Car crash, vehicles on the side of the road. Rear-ender. The car with the bashed-in rear end is a huge late-70's-early-80's, spotless Cadillac. The car with the damaged front end is a recent-vintage Mercedes.

Who's at fault?

Legal answer: The car that hit the other car in the rear is always at fault.

Real answer: Big white Caddy. Always.

The big white Caddy is the sole province of seniors. And while I fervently hope to live long enough to join the ranks of seniors and stay there for a good long while, as someone who has spent a lot of time driving on I-95 in South Florida and Glades Road in Boca and Route 70 through the Whiting, NJ area and in Palm Springs, I feel confident in assuming that the white-haired guy with the Caddy must have caused the accident. I didn't see it, I know the law says otherwise, but I know something happened like this: he drifted in front of a faster car, he slammed the brakes for no apparent reason, he somehow got in the way. Had to.

It's my little prejudice. But when you see a Massive Old American Car being driven by a Little Old American who can barely see above the steering wheel, stay away. That's an accident waiting to happen, you won't be to blame, but, somehow, you WILL be to blame.

SUDDENLY, BOB NOVAK GETS INTERESTING

I'd watch a lot more political talk shows if they all had stuff like this.

Maybe Jon Stewart wouldn't, but if I knew there'd be at least one meltdown every show, I'd TiVO the damn things.

Admit it, if you knew someone would haul off and punch Tucker Carlson's bow tie clear around the back side, you'd even watch MSNBC.

Oh, here's the video.

REQUEST FROM THE PROPRIETOR

Can I have August off?

Please?

ON BEHALF OF YOUR FLIGHT CREW...

Yeah, you do it. I know you do.

You sit there on the plane and you look around you while they give the safety demonstration to which nobody pays attention (hell, on Song Airlines they SING the damn thing and it's so ill-respected that the pilot sometimes interrupts it to say how long the flight will be) and you wonder how they'd all react in an emergency. And you think, that guy's going to block the aisle, that woman won't be able to open the emergency door, God forbid that huge load tries to use the inflatable slide. And then you try to forget that an emergency is possible.

But it is. And when one happens like in Toronto today and everyone survives- everyone, the blocker and the weakling and the load- you realize that whether you survive or not is largely out of your hands. If the plane crashes a certain way, at a certain angle, breaks at a certain point, waits just long enough to burst into flames, you live. All of you get out, even the ones you don't think can do it. If it crashes another way, you're all gone, nothing you can do. A plane crashed 35 years ago at the same exact spot- aborted takeoff, ran off the runway into the same ravine- and 109 people died. No chance.

Oh, sure, you can refrain from flying. But a car crash can get you. An earthquake. A building collapse. It's less predictable than Texas Hold 'Em. Luck of the draw, and you're not the one doing the drawing. It's the stuff therapy is made of.

And it's why they serve alcohol on flights.

The article in Blender this month has a provocative title- "Who Killed Rock Radio?"- and a provocative answer- Fred Durst. Or, more precisely, aggressive rap-rock hip-hop-metal hybrid acts like Durst's Limp Bizkit and Papa Roach and Korn, the kinds of acts that appealed to 15 year old boys. The article SHOULD be titled "Who Killed Alternative Rock Radio?", because that, specifically, is the kind of station on the ropes, and the answer is not necessarily Fred Durst.

The answer, of course, is that the listeners themselves "killed" the format. Radio stations wouldn't have played any of that steaming pile if people weren't listening. But they were. More specifically, the kids were- when I was at Y-107 in L.A. in the late 90's, it was clear to me that the younger end of our audience was rejecting the traditional alternative flavors like grunge and alt-pop and the Lilith Fair crowd. They were into the Durstian style, or, in even greater numbers, hip-hop. And that's what the labels started to crank out, too. It's disingenuous of the music people to decry the "death" of alternative rock when they signed a load of crap bands in the traditional style, saw it rejected by the marketplace, and went out and signed every band with a bunch of white guys with short-cropped hair, tats, and umlauts doing awkward, noisy rap-rock. It was a matter of time before the kids rejected that stuff and gravitated to real hip-hop, and that's what happened. Now, the radio and music industries are chasing the next demographic boom- hello, reggaeton.

And, well, adults can complain- rock critics can complain- but they weren't complaining when THEY were 15 and THEIR taste ruled the airwaves. This angst is the Lament of the Aging White Male Rock Critic, sad because nobody, really, is buying Bright Eyes and there's that nagging feeling deep down inside that the current crop of alternative bands really kinda sucks. So we- look, I can't pretend to be a 15 year old kid anymore- have other options now. There's XM and Sirius, iPods and streaming, the occasional interesting show on rock radio like "Jonesy's Jukebox." And there's talk radio.

Don't cry for us. And don't cry for rock radio- if you don't like what you hear, well, it's not for you. I'd be more sympathetic if we didn't have more options than ever.

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