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April 2006 Archives

April 1, 2006

ELLA 24/7

How can you punish someone who can't comprehend that she's doing something wrong?

I got an aggregate two hours of sleep overnight. The primary culprit has no idea that her actions- making noise, jumping on and off the bed, yelling out the window all night- were inappropriate. She can't make that determination.

She's a cat.

It rained last night, rained in torrents all night long, and that sent Ella the World's Most Famous Cat into a frenzy. She meowed, she ran back and forth, she jumped on the bed, she pawed and prodded at my face, she walked over me and Fran. And when I shut the bedroom door to keep Ella out, she head-butted the door until we had to open it. She did this all night long.

And when daylight came, she fell asleep.

I'd like to tell her not to do that. I'd like to get revenge- keep her up when SHE wants to sleep- but I can't. I don't speak cat, and she wouldn't understand what I was trying to convey. Even if she did, she'd forget in a few minutes. That's what cats do.

We asked for this when we brought Ella hime from Long Beach and welcomed her into our family. And given the chance to rewind life to that moment, we'd do it again. Does that make us insane?


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April 2, 2006

TONIGHT'S "SOPRANOS": WE'RE ALL CONNECTED

Strange little episode tonight. It moved the plot along, which was a good thing. We probably didn't need any additional reason for Paulie Walnuts to go psycho, although they did bring the subplot around nicely with the final scene by the water, and we probably didn't need any additional reason for Tony to get all soft and mystical, although it appears that his willingness to take the deal from Johnny Sack is setting up some fun for next week as everyone tries to take advantage of Tony's perceived weakness. The rap subplot was unnecessary but amusing- the ass-shooting was comic relief, and the music stuff was a reminder that the writers of this episode were the same ones responsible for "The Chris Isaak Show." And the whole thing with Hal Holbrook and the everything's-connected philosophy and the lost larynx was just laying it on thick.

But when he sat in his back yard looking up at the leaves rustling in the wind, I expected the return of the ducks. I mean, they mentioned Livia for the first time in a long time; why not the ducks? It's been a long time since the ducks. Bring back the ducks!

They're probably saving the ducks for the last episode, to bring everything full circle. We can only hope.


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April 3, 2006

LET'S GO [placeholder for winning team]!

In this morning's mailbox comes this e-mail from Amazon.com:

Apparently, they know something we don't about tonight's game. But besides the headline "UCLA Wins," the subject line and message body are a little more tentative. OK, a LOT more tentative. The subject line is "[placeholder for winning team] Wins the NCAA Tournament!" and the body of the mail says:

    Congratulations, [placeholder for winning team]! As someone who has purchased sports products from Amazon.com, we thought you should be the first to see our selection of NCAA championship products.

Great! I've always been a big [placeholder for winning team] fan.


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April 4, 2006

CALL ME WEEGEE JR.

Tonight was going to feature a bunch of pictures taken at last night's Dodger opener, with appropriate commentary.

When I reached my car, which had been wedged between two cop cars in the last available spot in the media lot, I heard a beep from my pocket as I squeezed into the narrow gap to get into the driver's seat. I didn't pay much attention; I was more absorbed in extracting the car from the space without scraping the other vehicles.

The beep was to signify that I'd erased the camera's memory card.

And that's why you're being deprived of artistic shots of the side of Dave Denholm's face and the back of Ken Levine's head and what a concession stand looks like when every register has a queue of at least 30 people waiting to buy Dodger Dogs and beer. Be thankful for small favors.


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April 5, 2006

TODAY'S ANNOYANCE: DO NOT CALL

Ring.

Hello?

"Sorry to disturb you. This message was intended only for delivery to an answering machine. Goodbye."

Click.

What the hell?

Since when are telemarketing companies behaving like nervous suitors, waiting to call until they think you're not home? Not fair! I want to yell back at them. This incident is just... unsatisfying.

Bastards! And they didn't even say who they are- I don't even know who I'm angry at.


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April 6, 2006

LONG DRIVE, DEEP TO LEFT... zzzzz...

I picked up an XM Satellite Radio the other day, because regular radio AND sirius Satellite Radio AND online steraming AND an iPod aren't enough for me. Actually, it was for business purposes, but it didn't hurt that they carry baseball. And that's how I was driving up to the post office listening to the Phillies lose again to the Cardinals and Jimmy Rollins' hitting streak coming to an end with an easy fly to center.

I haven't listened to Phillies broadcasts for a while- I watch the TV games on MLB.tv, but don't usually hear the radio broadcasts- so I was surprised at how dull the games sound nowadays. I remember the best years- Harry Kalas and Whitey Ashburn bantering and ribbing each other and genially taking listeners through the game- and things have changed. Whitey's gone, of course, and Harry's doing TV, obviously uncomfortable with Chris Wheeler as always. On the radio, there's the competent Scott Graham and there's a new guy in from Texas and there's Larry Andersen, who was amusing enough in the Whitey role on TV but now...

See, here's the thing. Baseball done merely competently on the radio is deadly. It's- here it comes- boring. You need character, animation, drama. But the guys who used to do that are almost all gone. We're lucky in Los Angeles, because we still get to hear Vin Scully working solo as always, doing the game as if having a conversation with each individual listener, not just blandly describing the game but telling stories and creating lyrical descriptions on the fly and not being a homer, just honest and direct. He's still that good. And in comparison, everyone else is a little flat. (It can go too far the other way- Mike Shannon on the Cardinals broadcasts is nearly incomprehensible, and John "Thuh-uh-uh-uh-uh Yankees Win" Sterling is evil incarnate)

The Phillies broadcast was adequate. The announcers gave an accurate description of the game action. But I was bored. It was a close game and I wanted to know what was happening, but my mind drifted. That doesn't happen with Scully, didn't happen with the old Kalas-Ashburn team or the Mets' original Nelson-Kiner-Murphy crew. Is it too much to ask for intelligence and wit along with my baseball? I can listen to the Dodger games, I can enjoy Padres broadcasts when Jerry Coleman's wobbling his way through a game, but too many broadcasts are just forgettable. I miss the days when radio really mattered to baseball. Then again, I must be a dinosaur- I still care about baseball.


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April 7, 2006

I LEFT IT ALL ON THE FIELD

Long week. Had to take care of a lot of things. Burnt crispy.

Hate to do this, but I need the night off. See ya tomorrow.


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April 8, 2006

WINNING ISN'T EVERYTHING. IT'S NOT EVEN THE ONLY THING. IN FACT, IT ISN'T ANYTHING

I never mastered the art of failing upward.

This came to mind this week when I discussed a guy who'd gotten a new job with a friend. My friend predicted that the guy would ascend to an even more important position with his company, but we both noted that the guy had been thus far at best unimpressive and more accurately a failure at his previous jobs. That's true, but he keeps getting work, keeps getting treated like he knows something.

"You know what he's good at?" my friend said. "He's good at managing upward." He meant that the guy knows how to cloud the minds of his superiors long enough to not just survive but prosper. His subordinates figure out he doesn't know what he's doing, but by then, it's too late.

That's not how I went about my career in radio. I thought that working hard and doing my job well would get me far, and in a way, it did, but not the way I would have thought. I was the guy who'd get blown out the door when my bosses heard someone more well-known in the business was available. I concentrated on actually working. I should have concentrated on making my bosses happy. What a moron I was.

You can apply this to a lot of fields. Baseball managers and football coaches are notorious for this. So are actors- David Spade comes to mind. Does anyone want to see David Spade in anything, ever again? His movies consistently bomb, nobody likes the guy, he can't act, he's horribly unfunny, yet he keeps working. He has studio executives and casting directors completely wrapped around his finger.

He fails upward. And when his projects bomb, he walks away with money.

I haven't unraveled the mystery of how to make people think you're successful when you're not, but I'm willing to try. Perhaps someday I'll finally be able to embrace the concept of success through failure. It worked for Donald Trump. Why not me?


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April 9, 2006

TODAY'S PEEVE

Got the Dodgers-Phillies game on right now, and KCAL-TV is doing something that Fox did for a while for the NFL and some other local and regional carriers do that drives me crazy because it's such a pointless, showoffy thing to do. Here's what the screen looks like:

Quick glance- who's leading whom? Okay, both teams are at least represented by the portion of their logos that actually say their name, but isn't the Phillies logo hard to read? Even the Dodgers script is cut off. It's cluttered-looking and doesn't tell you clearly what you want to know: LA 2, PHI 1, 3-2, 2 OUT, TOP 8TH. Why crowd it with graphics? Why use the logos at all? When Fox did it with the NFL's helmet graphics, it was completely useless, with the added comedy of the Cleveland Browns represented by an orange square and no text or graphics at all.

And while we're at it, why does everyone s-t-r-e-t-c-h the score line across the top or bottom of the screen? When the "Fox Box" started, they put the score in a little box in the corner, unobtrusive and informative. Now, it's annoying and cuts off actual action- this KCAL line leaves pitchers without apparent feet.

Never mind. Check out the ace camera work on Howard Stern's On Demand channel:

Glad I'm not paying for this view.


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TONIGHT'S "SOPRANOS": BOYS DON'T CRY

Theme: vulnerability, and the consequences of showing it. By the end of the episode, Johnny Sack's being dismissed because he cried when being dragged from his daughter's wedding, Vito's in a motel room ready to end it all because he was spotted at a gay bar, Junior's in a psych home and crying out to be allowed to go home, and Tony's resorting to mindless, unnecessary violence to reestablish to his crew that he's the man, behaving, as Dr. Melfi suggested, "as if" he was back in charge and the same tough guy he was before the hospital stay.

Good one. Random violence, lap dancing, an ostentatious wedding, all good. Assless leather pants, we coulda done without. Really.


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April 10, 2006

NOT SO MUCH A STRIKEOUT, MORE A CHECKED-SWING FOUL DRIBBLER DOWN THE FIRST BASE LINE

And here I was wondering if I was the only person not as happy with MLB.tv this season so far. Guess not. Colby Cosh dropped his MLB.tv subscription but a reader of his notes trouble:

    I'm not impressed with MLB.tv this year: rather than allow you to use the RealPlayer, they use a Flash-powered plugin bringing up a proprietary player... which proceeds to show you the final score when watching an archived game. Why the hell would they do this?

    The same MLB TV player has crashed my computer once already over a two-game period, and the lack of RealPlayer means I can't pause the game at a commercial break and have the 30-40 seconds of built-up lag "shoot ahead", letting me effectively skip the commercials. I also can't replay a scene as I could with Realplayer's TIVO-like powers, and for the Season Opener last night for some reason the radio audio was tacked onto the ESPN TV feed.

Well, I was wondering the same thing about a Cardinals-Phillies game where the video was from Philadelphia's CN8, complete with commercials, but the audio was from St. Louis, not quite synced with the video and sans commercials. (Mike Shannon out of sync- there's a surprise) And I'm truly annoyed that I can't use a player that I can set to stay on top of all windows- that was the one feature I need the most, because I have the game on while I'm working. I can't figure out any way to get the new player to stay on top. And Extra Innings is not an option- too few Phillies games (yeah, I know, I should be grateful, but that's what I get for staying loyal to the home team after moving a few thousand miles away).

Deadspin is also on the case, and some commenters are saying they have some success with Firefox. I tried Firefox and the Flash download isn't available. Same for Opera. Should I have to go through all this to watch a freakin' baseball game?

I guess once they have your money, they really don't care if you're happy.


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April 11, 2006

1971, A VERY MEDIOCRE YEAR

Have you seen this? Brings a tear to my ABA-nostalgic eye.

The "HEAT Floridians" thing is a little- no, a LOT awkward. And the REAL Floridians uniforms didn't say "Miami" on them back when they wore the magenta/orange/black gear. But their heart is in the right place, I guess. And make sure to click on "HEAT FLORIDIANS NEWS" way at the bottom of the page- if you can tear yourself from the ball girls gallery, there are some cool old ABA pictures, including a weird composite shot where Warren Jabali is posing in a Denver home uniform as if he's in the shot behind him, which is actually the Nets' Billy Melchionni guarding an Indiana Pacer obscured by Jabali (the shot's from a game at Indiana University). I have an old Floridians program and a media guide- one of these days, I'll scan some of that.

Now, if they'd only move back to Dinner Key or the Miami Beach Convention Center and play with the red, white, and blue ball...

The bigger news, of course, is this. La Bamba Check Cashing?


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April 12, 2006

THE PASSOVER PLOTZ; ALSO, MORE BASEBALL AGITA

Happy Pesach, y'all! I can do without the fake, unleavened food, but any holiday involving potato kugel is A-OK by me.

Meanwhile, my MLB.tv dilemma continues with this: apparently, instead of doing what any real business with real customer service would do and check the database for expired or cancelled credit cards, then notify the users so they can update the information, MLB.com just plain cancelled everyone's subscription, then after the fact e-mailed them that they will get a few day's reinstatement while they resubscribe.

Trouble? Not really. It gives me a chance to decide whether to bother re-upping. And now that I know that they're using a crappy proprietary Flash-plus-Windows-Media-Player setup, lousy video, sync problems, and no way to keep the window on top of other windows anymore, I'm wondering whether the $80. is worth it anymore. I used to love it- I'd put the Phillies games on at 4 pm, open it in Real Player, select "Always on top," and stick it in the corner of my monitor so I could work and keep track of the game at the same time. Now, I can't do that.

And I now have XM as well as Sirius, so I have the radio coverage of the games already in the house. OK, there's no video, but it's paid for. And, yeah, you get only the home team's broadcast, so no Phillies announcers on the road, but, let's be honest here, the Phillies' radio broadcasts aren't anything worth going out of one's way for. I just put tonight's game on and it's Skip 'n' Chip Caray doing the game, which is mildly disturbing and unfortunately homer-ish, but it's the same game with clear reception. Do I really need MLB.tv anymore?

I don't know. I have a few days to decide. They sure don't seem to care if I subscribe or not.


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April 13, 2006

ALL ACCESS OUTAGE NOTICE

Yeah, server's down at AllAccess.com. They're working on it. Keep trying.


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BEATDOWN DAY

Man, that was frustrating.

AllAccess.com was down for a few hours today, and I toyed with putting the Talk Topics material up here, but stripping out the All Access coding and redoing it for this page seemed like too much work for someone, like me, who is so overloaded with work and personal commitments that his head has been on the verge of exploding for a while now. So I didn't- sorry.

The site came back while I was running errands, but I'd supplied the folks in Malibu with some stories to post in my absence. Meanwhile, I had to pick some stuff up at the hospital, and sitting there waiting, I thought about how much I hate hospitals. It's not just what happens when you have to go into the hospital, it's the whole atmosphere. When I was a kid, I did an internship at a hospital, and I remember the smell of disinfectant, the pallor people acquire laying there, the impersonality of the place. And they haven't changed much. If you aren't welcoming a baby into the world, chances are that the hospital's not going to be your Laughing Place. Couldn't wait to get out of there; unfortunately, 2006 is our Year of the Hospital, so I'll be back.

Anyway, that's all just random incoherent rambling. Too bad that's all I have tonight. I'm way too tired, physically and mentally, to do much more. Control any displays of your disappointment.


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April 14, 2006

JUST A COUPLE OF GUYS TALKIN' SEX ON THE RADIO

They were talking about sex again. They're always talking about sex. They're a regionally syndicated radio show that I occasionally hear, and every time I check to see what they're doing, it's more sex. But it's lame sex. It's always about guys trying to hook up with girls, what size the girls' breasts are, that kind of stuff. It's what they do. And it's the same every day- sex talk, sex trivia, sex games, sex, sex, sex, brought to you by two interchangeable guys with a token woman in the studio for them to occasionally tease.

That's what some radio executives think "FM talk" is all about, because, hey, Howard did that. But that's NOT what Howard did. Howard talked about sex, but he talked about other stuff, too. (Now, he's all sex and Bush-bashing and Moonves-bashing, and it isn't as good, but back in the day, it was different) These guys may be capable of talking about something else, but they don't. And they're successful only where there's zero competition.

This kind of show annoys the hell out of me. I know what the format is supposed to do, and this is what happens when someone who just doesn't understand why Howard was successful and why New Jersey 101.5 was successful and why Real Radio 104.1 in Orlando was successful decides to just copy, paste, go. That's what I hear on many of the current FM talkers. It's disheartening. I know what the format is capable of achieving.

And as I'e said before, I could fix it. I know what's wrong and what they need to be looking for in talent. But it'll cost them. Until then, they'll just have to keep wondering why their guys fail while others succeed. I'm not telling until I see some cash.


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April 15, 2006

DEAR METS FANS

Before you get too excited, remember:

Washington, Florida, and Milwaukee.

You've played Washington, Florida, and Milwaukee.

Just sayin'.


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April 16, 2006

AND NOW, A SHORT-DISTANCE DEDICATION

I was listening to some music when Fran walked by and said "hey, that's our song this year."

She didn't mean our wedding song.

The song in question was the Mountain Goats' "This Year," which ends with these lyrics:

    There will be feasting and dancing in Jerusalem next year
    I am going to make it through this year if it kills me
    I am going to make it through this year if it kills me

Yyyyyyep. That's the plan.


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TONIGHT'S "SOPRANOS": FREEDOM'S JUST ANOTHER WORD FOR, UM, FREEDOM

One of the many good things about "The Sopranos" is its subtlety, the way themes are woven through episodes and only become apparent near the end, as you put the pieces together. This season, it hasn't been that subtle, and tonight was the equivalent of David Chase hitting viewers repeatedly over the head with a bat.

Independence! Freedom! Breaking away! We get it already!

In case you didn't piece it together from Meadow's Bush rant, Carmela's trials with that new house and her wistful reaction at the body shop, Meadow's new job, Tony's consideration of letting Vito back in the family, and Vito's throwing his phone away and wandering New Hampshire in a daze, you got the last scene with Vito looking at the "Live Free or DIe" license plate and discussing pottery- he's a natural, don't you know- while X's "Fourth of July"- hey, that's Independence Day!- sweills on the soundtrack. Following last week's Vulnerability-O-Rama, it's disturbing to see this show become formulaic. It's starting to become "House"-like in its predictability: you know "The Sopranos" will set a theme and beat it to death in several different ways as surely as "House" will follow its stock script (baffling ailment, House dismisses it, gets worse, white board, House and team disagree, MRI, House is wrong, it gets worse, MRI, House is wrong again, more white board, House puts it together, team disagrees, he ignores them, patient saved, the end; throw in a few clinic and Cuddy scenes for comic relief). "House" is a very good show with a great lead performance; "The Sopranos" is a great show, period. But if the latter keeps up with the lack of subtlety, that assessment may be due for revision.

No matter- next week, Doogie Howser's pal Vinnie gets violent and Artie Bucco hits some turbulence. Promising.


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April 17, 2006

THE ROUTE OF THE DASHING COMMUTER

Late day. We had to run up to Westwood again for a late appointment and just got back, so nothing of importance here. You can go read Lileks again or something. He's funnier and more perceptive, anyway.

I don't know how people do the whole commuting thing. All we had to do is go in mid-afternoon and then return at the end of rush hour, and it took everything out of me. I'm exhausted. Given that I used to do this every day- for a few months, back east, I even commuted about 90 miles each way- I don't know how I did it. By the end of today's round trip, I was gripping the steering wheel so hard that it almost disintegrated.

Guess what we have to do at least twice more this week?


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April 18, 2006

PETTY MICHAEL SIMON

I can usually let criticism kinda just float by without caring much. And I'm doing that this evening, but my general crappy mood after spending most of the day in waiting rooms and on the 405 freeway has me reacting to stuff I shouldn't care about. Take the weekly "The Letter From All Access News-Talk-Sports" newsletter: I send it out on Tuesdays and get a lot of very positive comments. The response is mostly fan mail. But for every dozen "I love it, keep it up" e-mails, I get, there are a few dissenters.

Here's one:

    Don't know the purpose of your letters, but you can drop me from you list. Boring.

    The Very Best,
    (Name redacted)

OK, I couldn't resist, so I looked the guy up. He's- surprise!- a consultant. You go to his web site and you get an audio clip of him using his old-timey Professional Radio Announcer voice, and when you check his credentials, he claims success in several formats, one of which is talk radio. But he specializes in AM talk radio, old-style talk radio, just-sign-Rush load-up-with-syndication talk radio. And if that didn't explain his antipathy, well, then you click on the part where he has show prep and other "tools" and, lo and behold, he's SELLING it. No wonder he doesn't like my stuff- it's competition, and it's free.

Ah, I feel much better about that now.

But here's another:

    why do you send me your random thoughts about nothing?

    (Name redacted)

Er, because you signed up for it, genius.

Looked him up, too. Former morning man at an Adult Standards station. He played the hits of 1947. Then, when he was canned, he went to another station and lasted a few months.

Schadenfreude's fun. Try it sometimes. (And pray that they don't get to practice it on YOU)

But then I get this:

    Just want to say that I really enjoy "The Letter" you send out. Good stuff.

    Felt like giving you a feel good I guess!

And suddenly the sun's shining again, even at 8:30 pm.

So it's petty. It's what I do.


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MAYBE THIS LOYALTY-TO-YOUR-FAVORITE-TEAM THING ISN'T SUCH A GOOD IDEA AFTER ALL

What's wrong with the Phillies?

Other than not hitting, lousy relief pitching, and terrible defense? And a manager with no clue at all?

Here's a quote from tonight, after Bobby Abreu (accidental Gold Glove winner last year) misplayed two consecutive fly balls into doubles:

    "I'm human," said the longtime Phillies star, who won a National League Gold Glove last year. "I can handle [the fans], but it's a tough city to play in, sometimes. They want me to catch every single ball hit to me in right field."

Well, yeah, Bobby, that's generally the idea.

This could be a long season.


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April 19, 2006

THE LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL IS APPARENTLY NOT THE HEADLIGHT OF AN ONCOMING TRAIN. SO WE GOT THAT GOING FOR US

Got back too late. Spent all day at the medical center, so I'm done for the day. But for those of you who're keeping score, today's medical news was generally good, and we won't have to slog up to UCLA in 5 mph traffic again anytime soon, so you can expect my mood to brighten considerably here.

Until Vegas. Conventions can suck the positivity from anything. But that's Sunday. Right now, all I want to do is go hug Fran and watch some mindless TV. So that's what I'm gonna do.


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April 20, 2006

REQUIEM FOR A VCR

Noted without comment, from 1978:

Remember when all VCRs looked like this? With rotary channel dials and big clunky mechanical play/record/FF/rewind buttons? On-screen programming was a long way off.

We had a Beta machine. It was actually quite good- the video quality beat VHS. But the tapes didn't hold as much and after a while you couldn't find rental tapes in Beta, and soon enough Beta was relegated to the pro category and everyone had a VHS machine. And now we have DVRs throughout the house.

No, it doesn't mean anything. Just happened upon the ad in an old magazine. In this case, progress was a good thing. But once upon a time, Betamax was actually a cool thing.


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April 21, 2006

ESPN CAN'T FIND A BETTER MAN

Defendant: ESPN.com columnist Bill Simmons

Charge: Lameness

Evidence: NBA playoff preview column using his regular crutch... er, style of using quotes from movies to bullet-point his analysis, except this time he used Pearl Jam lyrics

Verdict: Guilty. Very guilty.

Doug Llewellyn recap: Pearl Jam? PEARL JAM? Dude. It's 2006. Couldn't remember any Alice in Chains lyrics, I guess.

Mitigating Factor: At least it's not as painful as when he talks about hip-hop, with liberal references to meeting the artists on the Kimmel set.

Editor's Note: Yeah, I know, I have my crutches, too (and it's high time I started scanning stuff from old TV Guides and basketball programs again, isn't it?). But at least I don't quote Eddie Vedder.


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April 22, 2006

NAB2006 PREVIEW: SILENT SCREAM

Going up to the NAB tomorrow. I'm gonna try to spend as short a time as possible and still cover everything I need to cover. Two days at a time is about all I can take of that thing.

I looked over the agenda and I don't have a lot of hope that there's gonna be a lot of radio news at this convention. The congressweasels are all staying home, nobody ever asks the FCC commissioners tough questions, and it's mostly a TV thing. The convention is also way, way oversized- the LVCC takes forever to get around, everything is a long, hot walk from everything else, the wi-fi never seems to work in the session rooms, and I never see anyone I know at the Spring show- it's all TV people, engineers, and the requisite tight-ass white guys in suits. The RTNDA part is a little better- a few folks I know show up- but it's still not really a radio show. At some point, the NAB ought to just take the radio luncheon, the awards, and all the radio tech displays and move them to the fall show where you get all radio people. They won't. They should, but that's too much to ask.

So I gotta go to two NAB events, wander aimlessly, pound out copy from the platitudes at the sessions, and plan my escape. I'm already doing the latter, and I haven't even left home yet.


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April 23, 2006

THE NEW ADVENTURES OF VEGAS BABY, 2006 EDITION, PART I: FEELS LIKE "CELEBRATION"

I made it from home to Vegas in record time. I hope I'll be getting back in similarly swift fashion.

I like Vegas, but the convention isn't fun and I really want to be home now, to be with Fran and Ella the World's Most Famous Cat and all the familiar trappings. I'm not a gambler, I don't drink much, and I hate hotels where you have to wade through a mob of the world's worst dressed, worst behaved tourists to get anywhere. (I want to get a quick run in tomorrow morning, but the prospect of walking through the casino in the t-shirt/shorts/sweat ensemble, even at 6 am, isn't appealing, although I'd still be better dressed than many of the people I saw swarming the buffet this evening)

Right now, there's a wedding going on at poolside, which can be heard- at least, the pulsing bass can be felt- all the way up here, halfway up one of the taller towers in town. I can tell it's "Celebration." Kool and the Gang are shaking the windows 22 floors up, and there's the requisite lizardo DJ barking out orders to boogie, but I don't see anyone actually dancing. I'm assuming it'll go on for a while- this IS Vegas- so sleep will not be an option. The NAB on a couple of hours of sleep? Not a good thing. Tomorrow will be a bear.

In the meantime, I'm grouchy because the change in router a few weeks ago screwed up my ability to access my Slingbox through the Net, so no Sopranos (this hotel has no HBO- how COULD they DO that to me?). Fran saw it, wasn't impressed, but I'm going to have to avoid any discussions of it for a few days, so I guess morning radio's out.

This morning's Review-Journal had a column by the sports editor about the Duke lacrosse rape scandal, and the gist of it is: see? UNLV wasn't so bad after all!:

    ...when you compare this story -- as well as the myriad problems quarterback Marcus Vick brought to Virginia Tech last year, the allegations of sexual assault and wild recruiting parties that brought down coach Gary Barnett at Colorado before that, the embarrassment that running back Maurice Clarett caused Ohio State football before that, etc. -- the "crimes" of which UNLV basketball has been accused over the years are picayune -- despite the media attention they drew at the time.

    Raiding a hotel mini-bar? Joy-riding on a couple of purloined boogie boards while in Hawaii? Please!

    Even some of the more serious things that occurred -- recruit Lloyd Daniels being caught in a televised drug string, an angry Isaiah "J.R." Rider throwing a strawberry milkshake back through a drive-thru window, the recruiting fiasco of Lamar Odom -- pale in comparison.

    Not even the infamous "hot tub" photo that showed basketball players David Butler, Anderson Hunt and Moses Scurry partying with convicted sports fixer Richie Perry can be equated with alleged rape, a player waving a loaded gun in public or high school prospects being recruited with raucous sex parties.

See, it's all relative. Since other schools have had rape and gun scandals, UNLV was practically saintly. Theft? Drugs? Players consorting with fixers? Hey, look over there, Duke's got a rape scandal! Now, what were we talking about?

It must be tough to run a newspaper sports department in a town where you have to kowtow to the local sports dynasty, especially a college sports dynasty. Every once in a while, you get a Paul Finebaum taunting the Alabama faithful from newspaper, radio, and TV pulpits, unafraid to criticize. But mostly you get this guy straining to show the bright side of a historically troublesome program (hey, Joe, check that graduation rate lately?), or most of the L.A. Times staff (Simers excepted) selling Laker and USC happy talk. Hey, if you know you have to see the UNLV Athletic Director around town all the time, I guess it doesn't hurt to be boosterish.

All right, now the noise from the wedding's too loud for me to even hear the TV in this room. Maybe it's time to do something about it. I think there's a pub right at the elevator on the first floor. Excuse me.


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April 24, 2006

THE NEW ADVENTURES OF VEGAS BABY, 2006 EDITION, PART II: BUT THEY'RE REALLY GOOD BUGGY WHIPS!

So there's a guy and he's strapped to the railroad tracks, and there's a light getting closer and chugging noises getting louder and smoke gettigng stronger, and he looks up and says "yeah, I know it's a train heading for me, but I think that I'll be OK because I'm really good."

Meet terrestrial broadcast radio, circa 2006.

All right, that's an overstatement, but there's a weird limited-awareness thing going on here. The assembled multitudes at the NAB convention seem to be more aware than ever that technology is causing them problems. There are seminars on telecom entrance into the cable TV competition, on cell phone entertainment, on the integration of broadcast media into mobile devices. But I was sitting through one such forum (the unfortunately-titled "How 2 B COOL In The N3W T3CH Age"- someone at the NAB thought that was COOL), and the guy from Clear Channel was talking about how radio needs to integrate with the new tech devices, how streaming is critical and how you can stream to cell phones, and they were talking about creating radio's own MySpace-equivalents and they went on about using texting to sell ads and blah blah blah and so forth and the audience was nodding and eating it up and there was one question I tried to ask but time ran out:

Who needs YOU to provide the content?

The problem radio is going to encounter is this: they think their version of a music service is what people want, but someone who's in that 12-17 demographic thinks they suck. And older people are getting there, too. Who are you going to look to for your music choices, Clear Channel or someone you trust on the Net? Are you going to wait for Kiss-FM, or Kiss-HD, or Kiss-HD-2 to play new music or are you going to check out samples on iTunes or see what's hot at Pitchfork Media? Why would you trust terrestrial radio people to give them what they want?

You wouldn't, not when there are easily available alternatives. And that's why radio has some long-term trouble in store. There's an arrogance in radio programming- and I was a major market PD, so I get to say this- that assumes that people will want what we give them, because we've done the research and we know what they want. But now there are other ways to get that content, and individuals can get what they want without the middleman, or at least from a different middleman. And as that gets easier for people to do, there's every reason to believe they will.

The new NAB head, David Rehr, told the opening session that the problem isn't that radio's facing an uncertain future- no, the problem is a PR difficulty, that it's just a matter of confidence, of being on the offensive rather than the defensive. All they need to do is aggressively tell everyone that satellite radio is losing money and has dirty, feelthy content and everything'll be OK. He also said that "broadcast signals must be everywhere in the culture. Our signals must go everywhere, to everyone, through every device." And there it is again, the trigger for that question:

Who needs YOU to provide the content?

Might there be a reason kids aren't listening to the radio that goes beyond a PR problem?

Meanwhile, the HD Radio session had me cringing as the industry's "new, exciting programming" for those HD subchannels got trotted out as revolutionary, fun, different. What are the bright ideas? Dance music, which has been around (and mostly failed) as a format in several markets. Active rock, which is hardly new. Chill, which Sirius has been programming for a few years. Gospel, which is new if this is 1949. Hip-hop oldies, which flopped in L.A. on a regular station and which is available on satellite. In other words, there's absolutely nothing new on these channels.

This morning, a press release hit All Access' Net news about Clear Channel's unveiling of several of these "new" formats for HD subchannels:

    CLEAR CHANNEL RADIO CEO JOHN HOGAN said, "We have become agnostic about delivery and are completely passionate about content. And we’ll continue to lead the radio industry on to new platforms. Radio programming is the most engaging and compelling media today. Our power to connect with, and hold, consumers will continue to reveal itself as we supplement our outstanding AM/FM properties with programming for new devices."

But the content is not exclusive. With the Net, ANYONE CAN PROGRAM ANYTHING, and with an iPod, you can do it yourself. In fact, there is one type of programming you CAN'T easily duplicate, that you CAN'T do better than the big radio companies, that SHOULD be all over these new channels and should be the content they put on cell phones and streams and podcasts.

It's called talk radio.

Among 75 new formats developed by Clear Channel's "format lab," exactly one is spoken word, a comedy channel identical to those already available on Sirius and XM and consisting of recorded comedy bits available elsewhere. Every single format of the 75 is available elsewhere. Why they think people will want them from Clear Channel (or CBs, or Citadel, or Cumulus) is never enunciated, because they have no answer. On the other hand, Clear Channel owns talk with powerful brands like Rush and Noory and Hendrie and WLW and KFI. They have personality morning shows all over the country. They have a huge amount of talk content and the unique ability to develop more. And you can't just upload your own home-grown Rush Limbaugh- there's exactly one. There's one Sean Hannity. There's one Stephanie Miller, one Bill Handel, one John and Ken Show, one Michael Smerconish and one Regular Guys and one Lex and Terry and one Michael Savage and one Roe Conn. Get the idea? It's the one thing radio has that can't be duplicated by anyone else, and instead you get this Clear Channel "Format Lab" format description:

    Urban - The Suite (CH 904) Keeping it's finger on the beat of Urban mid-tempo to slow jam songs. In the back of the club with Alicia Keys, Poppin bottles of Cris with Gorillaz, Put the bar on the tab for R. Kelly, Throwin hundreds up for grabs for Black Eyed Peas - yeah, all right here on the Suite, where we know how throw a Fiesta, Fiesta. Alicia Keys, Heather Headley, Kem, Maxwell Ascension, Charlie Wilson, Ne-Yo, Patti LaBelle, Shai, Michael Jackson.

Oh, yeah. That'll stop the bleeding.

Of course, radio isn't dead. And listening among older audiences isn't yet a problem. There's still that massive established base of equipment in every single car, in every home, all over the place. But if there isn't dissatisfaction with the product, why is the industry racing to provide its own alternatives to itself? And why would they think that music is the way to go when it's the thing they provide that anyone else can provide?

I'm not going to get the answers here.


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April 25, 2006

GOLDEN

He would have been 75 today, and I don't know what I would have done for him. It would have been special. That much I know.

I know, I do this every year, on his birthday and on the day he died. Please find it in your heart to excuse me. I loved my father. I still do. And as long as I'm around, I want to make sure he's not forgotten.

He isn't, not by anyone who got to know him. So here you go- Harold Simon, 1931-2004, former Paterson teacher and principal, former Fair Lawn and Paterson gym manager, former tennis and baseball fanatic, 8th Infantry Regiment third baseman during the Korean War, Seton Hall grad. That's for the Googlebots and the MSN searches and any other search engines out there who might pick it up, so if someone out there remembers Dad and wonders, they'll find out that he was a great father and a great man and his son misses him beyond comprehension.

Happy birthday, Dad.


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THE NEW ADVENTURES OF VEGAS BABY, 2006 EDITION, PART III: IN WHICH I GET SWAMPED BY SMARM, MISTREATED BY ELDERLY SECURITY GUARDS, AND VINDICATED AT LAST

Bad mood again. The day started with me staggering to my car at the hotel garage to see a woman, obviously a prostitute, teetering on spike heels to a car and opening the rear door, from which another prostitute tumbled out head first. The upright prostitute stuffed the passed-out prostitute back into the car, climbed in, laid down, and closed the door. I didn't stick around to see what would happen next.

I probably should have. The convention day started with an interview with FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, who said absolutely nothing but the standard platitudes. He was being interviewed by Bonneville's Bruce Reese, who wasn't going to ask anything tough or call Martin out on his comments about the massive increase in complaints over indecency as an excuse for further crackdowns (yeah, hundreds of thousands of complaints from one pressure group taking advantage of mass e-mailing). I could have slept in.

I stopped in at Holland Cooke's podcasting seminar, which was amusing enough except for his assertion- unchallenged by the audience- that AM is for talk and Fm is for music and that's what everyone thinks and that's what the agencies believe and that's all there is to it and the only way to break through that is to use podcasts and streaming. I was going to ask where my old FM Talk stations, all of which are making massive piles of cash, fit into that equation, but I didn't want to show him up. And he had some good stuff in the presentation- the WDEL video newscast was pretty damn cool- so it would be nitpicking.

The "Radio Luncheon" is where things fell apart and got put back together. Every year, I encounter the same thing: I show up with my official news media badge, the extremely elderly security guards try to keep me out ("you can't come in here without a ticket!"), I make them find a manager, and they grudgingly let me in- "but you can't eat!," as if I'd want to eat that crap- and walk me to a special "press area," a conspicuous roped-off area with uncomfortable chairs way in the back of the room that looks like where they put the "special" students. It would be humiliating if I cared.

Then, the smarm: the new NAB President and CEO, David Rehr (rhymes with "bear," or "care," or, most appropriately, "Care Bear"- there's his new nickname as far as I'm concerned), strode to the mic, looked out at the crowd, grinned, and, in the most insincere, rehearsed manner possible, blurted "God, I love radio!" He used to be the head of the beer lobby, and I can picture him saying "God, I love beer!" And it would have been equally unbelievable. I swear, he winked. He looked like he was about to throw in the undercoating for free.

After the Crystal Awards- another Bonneville bonanza, but they DO make good, community-minded radio and they DO take risks, so they deserve some awards- Walt Mossberg gave a talk. The crowd wasn't that into him- some people just got up and wandered out of the room- but I thought he was very perceptive, especially when he closed by being the first person at this convention to say what I've been saying (including in yesterday's post and today's All Access "The Letter"): there is no future for radio in just playing music. He said point blank that the industry cannot survive playing music with disc jockeys. He said that the future for radio is in "audio programming," not music distribution, leaving the definition of "audio programming" open. And that's what I've been saying about talk radio and personality radio as the only thing radio has that can't be duplicated by a kid with a Shoutcast account, or an iPod, only they can do it better. He's right, of course. I wonder if the people in the room know that. (Maybe not: Cox Radio's big HD-2 announcement included a bunch more music formats and one lonely exception, a simulcast of WSB Atlanta on an FM subchannel. Nothing new. Add that to the music channels unveiled by Clear Channel and Greater Media yesterday, and it's an industry betting on the wrong horse)

There's one more thing here before I escape, the annual "FCC Commissioners Acting Smug" Panel. Then I get to leave. Things are looking up.


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April 26, 2006

THE NEW ADVENTURES OF VEGAS BABY, 2006 EDITION, PART IV: THE GREAT ESCAPE, OR BREAKING FROM THE BORG

No, I'm not in Vegas anymore. I got out of there as soon as I could, which was as soon as the FCC "Regulatory Face-Off" took place. Breaking news from that panel: none. Nothing new at all, and it didn't help that they were presented with no substantive questions by the NAB moderator, whose only notable contribution was to do what all the NAB people, from Care Bear Rehr on down, did throughout the convention- stay on message by trashing satellite radio. The NAB is convinced that satellite radio is their perfect straw man, a boogeyman they can set up as DESTROYING OUR NATION with FILTHY, EVIL PROGRAMMING that ought to be regulated because, as we know, people are forced to listen to Howard Stern, often being held down with restraints, the dirty words being injected directly into their bloodstreams. Why, they're COMING FOR YOUR CHILDREN RIGHT NOW!

And when that doesn't work, they'll attack the Internet. Anything to take your attention from the fact that they're clueless about what to do when their transmitters are not only no longer the only way to deliver entertainment to cars and home stereos, but become far from the best way to do it. We're moving towards an on-demand entertainment and information system, and a live radio stream isn't very good for what the radio people think they do best, "the best songs from the 80's, 90's and Today" and "Fond du Lac's Hot Hits."

Meanwhile, the FCC is sitting there, smug in the comfort of knowing that they still matter, except that they matter less and less each day. The more they turn the screws on broadcasters, the more they try to assert the right to regulate cable and satellite, the more that Net-delivered programming- streaming, podcasts, IPTV- are going to rise to give the people what they want. And when that happens, and when communications moves to the unregulatable Internet, and when the Wild West rises again, the FCC becomes Jurassic Park. I thought about asking them how it feels to face obsolescence, but it was useless- the present commissioners will be long gone by the time things are out of the Commission's control. But if they continue to try to regulate content, that's where we're going.

So after an hour or so of Michael Copps' pinch-faced smug superiority-complex posturing (he looks and behaves like someone who's constantly smelling farts and blaming someone else for them), Jonathan Adelstein's earnest-young-politician act, and Debi Tate's clueless-schoolmarm routine, I decided that I'd had enough. Off to my car, up to Sahara, and into massive traffic. By the time I filled the tank at Costco and inhaled a slice of Costco pizza for dinner, it was 6:00 and I was on the 15 freeway heading south. I amused myself with the radio- some Opie and Anthony replay, some of the Phillies game, some minor league baseball- I caught the High Desert Mavericks at Stockton and the Inland Empire 66ers hosting the Bakersfield Blaze- and then to the oldies channels on XM, looking for some sing-along music. There's no better sing-along time than in your car on a desert freeway at night. But XM's oldies channels kinda suck- for a long stretch, they played songs I'd never heard of, obscurities by Wadsworth Station or Mansion or something like that, non-hits and B-sides by Grand Funk, a weird stretch where two out of three songs were Earth, Wind and Fire, and one point where there was a different Kelly Clarkson song on three stations at the same time. I could have switched the audio cable to the Sirius receiver, but I got lazy, so it was bad oldies alternating with the end of the marathon Dodgers-Astros game until I came around the bend on the edge of the peninsula and my neighborhood glowed in the distance through a light fog. Fran and Ella the World's Most Famous Cat were waiting for me. Life instantly got a lot better.

Until next year, at least.


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April 27, 2006

WRAPUP

A little swamped again today. A few days in Vegas wandering around a convention will do that to you. It reminded me how much I hate being away from home, and especially away from Fran. I'm back now, and reconnected to the world, but any time I'm away, I get buried by stuff that backs up. That's a convoluted way of saying I gotta be brief here so I can actually go to sleep at a reasonable hour.

Oh, yeah, I'm quoted in today's editions of USA Today! (Peter knows I use three names- it's USA Today, so I'm Perry Simon and the guy in the Texas School Book Depository was Lee Oswald. Gotta save space) I'm such an expert.


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April 28, 2006

LAZY FRIDAY- TIME FOR MORE SCANS

Yeah, I'm pretty much toast right now. Now, weren't we discussing the (Miami) Floridians the other day?

Why, yes, we were.

This is what it was really like at the beginning:

Not that exciting, eh? Nor was the second season:

But this, from that '68-'69 program, is more interesting:

"Tomboy"? "Direct from San Francisco"? "Unescorted girls welcome"? I think they were advertising something for an alternative audience there.

The peogram is from November 23, 1968, for what that's worth, Indiana Pacers at Miami Floridians. Indiana had Roger Brown, Bob Netolicky, Mel Daniels. Miami had, er, not much: Les Hunter, Donnie Freeman. They could have had Daniels- in fact, the previous season, they DID have him, when they were the Minnesota Muskies, but they sold him to Indiana to get badly needed cash to pay off debts. Bizarrely, that 1968-69 team ended up finishing second and winning the first round of the playoffs.

The ballgirls and magenta-and-orange unis didn't arrive until '70-'71.


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April 29, 2006

OH, YEAH? LET'S SEE YOUR CREDITS

Is there a statute of limitations on celebrity sightings? I don't mean from the last thing in the IMDB listings, or even from their last meaningful stage or screen performance, but from when they were familiar enough to be known without explanation necessary?

We live far enough away from "The Industry" to make celebrity sightings rare, since we rarely get off our asses and go anyplace celebrities go. So I'd say last night's dinner sighting of Greg Mullavey at our local Marie Callender's counts.

Greg Mullavey.

"Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman"?

Him.

(Ignore the IMDB listing- he's always primarily been billed with the spelling "Mullavey")

Fine actor, actually, mostly on stage of late, but he'll always be Tom Hartman to TV viewers. I think he lives around here now; he was having a nice, quiet early dinner when we showed up last night. We get that level of celebrity- good actors you'd know from reasonably big supporting roles on TV shows, guys who move here to escape the Hollywood atmosphere. Tony Heald- the assistant principal on "Boston Public," a judge in a recurring role on "Boston Legal"- has a place here with his family. Former Laker and Piston Elden Campbell lives nearby, too. We don't get Brangelina or Kobe, we get the supporting cast.

I kinda like it that way. Big celebrities are a pain in the ass.


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April 30, 2006

TONIGHT'S "SOPRANOS": PANIC IN THE STREETS OF NEWARK

It's the Gentrification Hour!

Bookended by the comic "there goes the neighborhood" North Ward collection tour, we learned that A.J. is truly Tony's son, complete with panic attacks (memo to Mr. Chase: bring back the ducks!), but can't pull off the tough guy stuff yet. After failing to carve Unca Junior into cold cuts, there's a touching scene in which A.J. calls out his dad for being a hypocrite for loving a revenge scene in "The Godfather" and Tony reminds him "it's just a movie." Along with another scene of A.J. watching a movie on the monitor at Blockbuster, there was some multilayer fiction/reality stuff happening there, still a little heavy-handed but we'll give 'em a pass on it.

The slow and by now pretty boring Vito subplot introduces the Screaming Queen Fire Department, the last vestiges of Vito's self-loathing/denial, and New Hampshire Public Radio, just to remind you that he's still up there. Melfi's back to seeing Peter Bogdanovich for some pointless padding, while Tony sells a building- after some token "it would be a shame to change the neighborhood" stuff- to Julianna Margulies, who plays a real estate agent Tony almost boinks and who also is named "Julianna." They couldn't come up with an actual character name?

Good: Reasonably entertaining. Bad: Didn't really advance the story- just more "insights into characters we already pretty much figured out." No Paulie Walnuts, although next week promises to be a Paulie-fest with a climactic confrontation with, of all people, Bobby Bacala. And what is this with each episode showcasing one or two characters? Last week, it was Christopher in L.A. and the Benny-Artie conflict. This week, it was all A.J. and Vito. Next week, it's Paulie's turn. Silvio had his episode, Johnny Sack had his... Considering the intent to wrap this up in reasonably few episodes, I'd expect more action, more momentum, more conflict. But I'm not complaining. Not too much.


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About April 2006

This page contains all entries posted to PMSimon.com in April 2006. They are listed from oldest to newest.

March 2006 is the previous archive.

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