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November 2006 Archives

November 1, 2006


Last night's total for trick-or-treaters: four doorbell rings.

Four. That's pathetic. But it followed form: in odd years, we get a huge mob of kids and pretty much run out of candy. In even years, nada. This is an even year.

And that's why we have a big bowl filled with Sour Patch Kids and Skittles. We don't like Sour Patch Kids and Skittles. Check that: we didn't like Sour Patch Kids and Skittles. While waiting for the kids who never showed up, we tried said Sour Patch Kids, and they were... interesting. I kinda like that sour kick, the salty initial note that dissolves into sweetness, sort of a Chuckles for the 21st Century. Not bad.

But not chocolate. This morning on WIP, Angelo Cataldi was comically ranting about today's kids and their preference for Skittles- he insisted that there's something wrong with people who don't prefer chocolate. I wouldn't go quite that far, but I'd agree that, given the choice between Skittles and virtually anything chocolate, you gotta go for the chocolate. The ranking is like this:

1. Peanut M&Ms, Peanut Chews, Baby Ruth, Snickers, Reese's- anything involving peanuts and chocolate
2. Plain M&Ms, Twix, Kit-Kats, Mr. Goodbar, Crunch
3. Hershey's
4. Any other chocolate candy
5. Starburst, Twizzlers
6. Sour candy
7. Jolly Ranchers
8. Skittles
9. Circus Peanuts, Candy Corn
10. Sen-Sen

(Do they even make Sen-Sen anymore? Apparently, yes)

(And while I'm typing this, I'm listening to Deminski and Doyle talk about ESPN.com having done a candy bracket that pretty much mines the same material- here it is. Damn. Well, I'm not rewriting this one. Screw it. Let them have their bracket- I still have Sen-Sen)

But we're stuck with a lot of candy we don't need and can only tolerate. And we're stuclk with the memory of some groups of kids walking RIGHT PAST our house and not even bothering to come to our door for candy. Maybe it was because we didn't show up at the block party. Maybe we're the creepy weird couple nobody knows and everyone distrusts. Maybe the neighbors think we're crazy cat people, or this is a meth lab or something. Oh, well, at least they leave us alone. With our Sour Patch Kids.

Next year, we get Snickers.


TESTES 1-2-3

Just upgraded Movable Type, so I'm checking to see if it works. If you see this, it did. If not, well, um, then you wouldn't be reading this to... um... never mind. It's late.


November 2, 2006


This week's All Access newsletter addresses the one question I've heard most often lately (besides "are you going to go out of the house dressed like THAT?"): Hear of any new job openings lately?:

Is this "Everybody Gets Fired Month?" I must have missed the memo.

There are always talented radio people looking for work, but I've lately been getting a steady stream of messages from folks who are freshly liberated from their employment and paychecks, and that's why this week's Letter will be all about Stuff You Already Know: a refresher course on How To Get Another Job before you get too comfortable laying around on the sofa all day downing leftover Halloween Sour Skittles and beer and watching Oprah and Dr. Phil and Rachael and Greg and Ellen and "The View" and gaining an intimate knowledge of the many fascinating plotlines of "One Life To Live." (I preferred "Days Of Our Lives," myself)

Here's your Handy Guide To Re-Employment (Other Than Answering Every Ad In The All Access Jobs Section):

1. You probably should have been looking for a job while you still had one. But no matter how many times you heard it from guidance counselors and friends and "What Color Is Your Parachute?," you still didn't actively look elsewhere while the checks were coming in. Nobody does. But one thing that's necessary no matter when you do it is to....

2. Work your network. Make sure everyone you have ever encountered knows you're looking. And that's not just people you THINK are really important and connected, although you want to make sure they're with you, too. You never know who might come through for you. I got one job because someone who'd REPLACED me after I'd been fired at another job decided I'd be a good guy to have around. (Generous AND wise!) But remember....

3. People have long memories. There are folks who have badmouthed me or treated me like dirt one day and come looking for help the next. Weirdly enough, I tend to put the previous bad behavior aside and do try to help, but I don't forget. And most people aren't going to be as magnanimous. But whether you've been naughty or nice....

4. Have patience. Be patient while looking for the next job, and be patient with the folks who you've contacted for help. Speaking from experience, some folks get a lot of airchecks and resumes and they want to get them and want to help. But then you start to get backed up with work and life, and you may not respond for a long while or just forget to respond. But that doesn't mean nothing's happening. I've had some people who I STILL have to get back to one of these days, but whose names I've suggested for jobs in the meantime. But stay persistent and follow up, understanding that even people who sincerely want to help you may have a lot of other things competing for their time. Meanwhile, there's always the traditional method, too, sending your stuff to PDs and consultants and answering those All Access job listing ads, which means you should get your aircheck in order. And since everyone asks....

5. The best aircheck doesn't make me wait to hear your best stuff. I can't speak for all PDs; I can only tell you what I looked for when I was combing through the basket of airchecks that always accumulated at my desk. Whether scoped or unscoped, whether a whole hour's show or excerpts from several, there was always one rule of thumb: you have 15 to 30 seconds to get my attention. I don't have time to wait through a long produced intro, and I will know within seconds when a host isn't what I'm looking for. I want to hear you go right into a topic right away, grab my attention, show me your stuff. If it's 30 seconds in and I'm still listening, you've moved towards the top of the pile. Show me more- some good caller interaction, some funny bits, compelling content- and you're in contention. I rarely hired the guys with slick produced airchecks with deep-voiced-announcer-guy intros; among the best hires I made were guys who just went into a studio and recorded a conversation as a mock show. Bottom line: make it good and get to the point. And after you've sent the thing out and doing your followup calls and being persistent, remember....

6. You gotta eat. And you gotta pay the rent. As a wise friend once told me, there's no shame in doing whatever you have to do to support your family. A powerful TV/movie executive once managed a McDonald's in Redondo Beach between studio jobs. I did computer tech work between PD jobs (which is how I ended up being the guy everyone I know calls when their computer acts weird or they want to buy an HDTV and want to know what to get- Unpaid Electronics Advisor to the Stars, that's me). Unemployment sucks, but bankruptcy sucks worse. And through it all....

7. Have faith. Yeah, the business stinks right now, and because it's budget time at the big broadcasting companies, some of you are out of a job. And sometimes it seems like nothing will ever open up for you again. But things have a way of working out if you maintain faith in yourself, keep plugging away, and remain flexible. And when you're finally on the air again and everything seems right with the world again....

8. Repeat step 1.

Meanwhile, for those of you who are still employed (knock wood), you gotta get a show together. And now that they've fired your producer and board op, how are you gonna do that? At least there's still Talk Topics at All Access News-Talk-Sports, where you'll find a cornucopia of topics, links, and rank stupidity tailored specifically for use by radio personalities worldwide. So far this week, here's what's going on at Talk Topics: a "Cats"-related mishap, fat cops, many post-Halloween horror stories, why they're selling books everywhere other than book stores, the special challenge of the Iranian tourism industry, a particularly feculent tourist attraction, the Attack Of The Killer Squirrel, the Most Annoying Sports Team Ever (and, while it's close, it's not the Yankees OR Cowboys), why what's funny when Cartman does it isn't funny in real life, Donald Trump's flagpoles, an unfortunate frat party theme, and a visit from the Dovers (Ben and Eileen) and their friends Phil and Claude, plus "real news" items on things like the elections, the Kerry flap, the war, and Barbra Streisand. Add to that "10 Questions With..." WGUF/Naples, FL morning man and voiceover ace Dave Elliott, the Talent Toolkit with more sites for sound clips appropriate for this week, and the rest of All Access with the industry's leading news operation, columns, Mediabase charts, interviews, the incredible Industry Directory, and much more, then make it all free, and... well, it's pretty amazing, if we do say so ourselves.

Next week: there may or may not be a Letter, because I'll be taking a few days off at the end of next week. How else am I supposed to catch up with "All My Children"?


November 3, 2006


I am totally uninspired. It was a long day of writing and firings and mind-numbing stuff, and now I'm awaiting the truly unpleasant part of my eye test where they dilate my pupils and make me stare at lights and dots and stuff, after which I go home with a pair of reading glasses to seal my membership in the Old Farts Club, and that doesn't make for the proper state of mind to write, so the hell with it.

Here- you can subscribe to Larry's podcasts of classic Regular Guys clips here, since you won't hear the Regular Guys on radio for a while and not in their former configuration ever again, most likely. Don't miss Larry's sister explaining how their father Old Man Picklenose vomited in her driveway. Comedy gold.

Now, I'm gonna go have drops put into my eyes that'll make everything blurry for hours. That's much more efficient than the normal procedure of administering beer until the same effect is achieved.


November 4, 2006


Tem minutes of the third quarter of the Pacers-Knicks tonight reminded me of why I just have no enthusiasm for the NBA this season, even with the Sixers riding a two game opening winning streak. (Okay, they beat Atlanta and Orlando, but you take what you can get)

The game was played in near silence from what's left of the trendoid Garden crowd- it's Saturday night, and I guess the Garden is no longer the place to be seen unless you're Spike Lee (too committed as Knicks Fan Number One to bail now) or Howard Stern (always a couple of years late). The problem was that both teams were sloppy, lethargic, slow-motion, the Knicks painfully so. Francis would be dribbling, weaving, moving, and the other four guys would stand flat-footed staring at him. On defense, the Knicks were always a step behind Indiana, which was not because Indiana was all that swift or crisp. It was like watching mid-to-low-rank high school ball, or Division III college ball between schools that don't care about basketball. (I know from that: I went to one of those schools) Two teams sleepwalking in front of people who paid hundreds of dollars to be there ("Where's Reggie Miller? What? Retired? When?") and are now wondering if they can get their reservations at Nobu moved up an hour- yeah, that's worth the ticket price right there.

That's why I didn't sign up for the NBA League Pass package this season after having it for a few years- that, and the Sixers aren't likely to go anywhere again. If things heat up, I'll pick it up in midseason. But I've watched basketball for about 40 years, I sat in nearly empty buildings in Teaneck, NJ and Philadelphia watching lousy pro teams slog their ways through long seasons, and I know when a sport's in full sag mode. The NBA doesn't matter right now. It's boring. I reserve the right to change my mind- and, when the League Pass goes to ninety nine bucks halfway through, I probably will just say the hell with it and sign up- but right now, I have better things to do with my time.

Although the Washington-Boston game's on in HD. Might have to check that out for a few minutes.



Oh, yeah, got my reading glasses yesterday. Trendy Ted Baker frames and everything. I think they make me look cool, but you be the judge:


November 5, 2006


Let me protect you from unreasonable expectations: "Borat" is not the funniest movie ever made. It may not even be the funniest movie of the year (although don't ask me to remember what WAS). The "plot" is lame, some of the jokes are obvious, some of the victims are either easy targets or just hapless people trying to be nice to an outsider, and the movie's ultimate point is to criticize America for something that isn't necessarily representative of even a substantial minority of the population.

Okay, with that in mind, it IS a very, very funny movie. It's one of the finer examples of "cringe humor," and you'll alternately laugh out loud and cover your eyes. You'll also witness one of the ballsiest performances ever: how Sacha Baron Cohen got through making this movie without having his teeth punched out and his skull kicked in by angry "victims" is hard to imagine, although, in an odd way, it actually speaks well of America. Even when pissing off an arena-full of rodeo fans or demolishing an "antique store" filled with Confederate crap, the people he encounters just tell him to leave. They're being politer than they might normally be, because they think he's a foreigner and they give him the benefit of the doubt until he leaves them no choice.

It would probably be best to see this movie in a packed theater- ours was about half-filled, with four people walking out early. With lots of people feeding off each other's laughter, it's probably a far more raucous experience. It's not perfect, and it's not the Best Movie Of All Time like the hype would have you believe, but it is very funny, and it's very worth your money and time, as long as you have a strong constitution and don't mind fecal-related jokes.

Plus, it's gotta be better than going to "Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause." That movie's fecal-related, too, but in a different way.


November 6, 2006


One more day and it's time to vote. Yes, elections are strange out here:

But it can get even stranger:

(Memo to people named Jackson: perhaps it's time to stop naming your kids "Michael")

I took those pictures this morning while running- actually, more like slogging, dragging, plodding in record heat. It's hot here, probably pushing 80 here at the coast, and in the 90s inland. A few feet away from those campaign signs, the view of Catalina across the channel shows how the Santa Ana winds blow the brown crust of smog from the valleys and basin all the way out here:

But even though the air's almost unbreathable, it was still a pretty amazingly beautiful day. Just ignore the crud in the sky:

And watch where you're going:


November 7, 2006


I haven't voted yet. I will, but it's been busy so far, and there's plenty of time.

We went over the ballot yesterday, and plowed our way through the thicket of ballot initiatives, most of which involve either spending a lot of tax money or selling a ton of bonds, which would do wonders for our state budget deficit. And all of them tend to establish huge bureaucracies and new state programs with virtually no oversight, no required goals, and no plans to cover their budgets if the revenues aren't there (translation: taxes will go up). The exception is the annual controversial social legislation, this time parental notification for minors getting abortions. This stuff never ends.

So we went through those, and the regular races- Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Sergeant-at-Arms Governor, Private Governor First Class, Attorney General, Attorney Specific, and Imperial Grand Poobah- and then we got to the judges, a long list of judges looking to be re-elected to the bench. And I looked for something, anything to help decide who's who and whether they deserve to go back on the bench, and there was nothing. No statements, no endorsements, no nothing. Just a yes-or-no choice for all of them. We want to be good citizens, we want to vote for everything, but how the hell are we supposed to vote on the judges if there's no information about them? We're voting blind. I don't know whether to leave those blank or just vote Yes or No on all of them or just randomly put dots on the ballot. I coulda used some help on this.

But there's no help, so I'm gonna have to wing it. It's probably best to just leave that blank, unless the judges can somehow match votes with names, in which case I'd better just vote Yes for all of them. And then I'll get my "I Voted" sticker, which I'll wear proudly all the way to the parking lot before peeling off. Doing my part for democracy is all the reward I need. Plus, I hate sticker residue on my shirt.



We voted this evening. The people-races didn't matter much to me- I didn't much care for anyone who was running- and it's too early to call the ballot measures, so the horse race isn't that exciting to me. The Republicans deserved to lose- they ran a piss-poor race, have no idea what to do about Iraq, and too many of their candidates and incumbents were tainted by scandal- but the idea that Alcee Hastings is in line to chair Intelligence is pretty appalling. The Democrats, of course, have no idea what to do about Iraq, too many of their candidates are scary- but it was appalling to have Tom DeLay anywhere near power. What we need is a common-sense middle ground. It'll never happen, although the number of really conservative Democrats that got elected tonight indicates that plenty of voters agree.

The cable news channels are now in late-night confusuion mode, focusing on the Virginia nail-biter and the Senate. Aah, whatever. Pox on all houses and all that. But I just had a deja vu experience- back in the primary days, I wrote something about being sick of it all and a commercial came on for Pacific Life when I wrote that, and just now as I wrote the Pox line, the same commercial came on. Perhaps that's a sign that I need to get some sleep. So I will.


November 8, 2006


Gonna have to beg off for today and maybe tomorrow- a lot to do and no time to do it. Plus, a raging headache.

See you tomorrow, from the road. Maybe.


November 10, 2006


So, where was I yesterday and why didn't I post anything here or return any calls?

The headache hit about as I was getting off the plane. It intensified during a 90 minute drive. By the time we got to the hotel, I was in intense, vomit-inducing pain. I tried to eat, but I made it three bites into a good cheesesteak before giving up.

And that was it for the evening.

This morning, it was as if I never had that pain at all. I felt fine, even energetic. And then I looked at the coffee table, the cheesesteak just sitting there all wrapped up, mocking me.

No, I didn't eat it today. But, yeah, I thought about it. A cheesesteak is a terrible thing to waste.


November 11, 2006


Okay, it's a late night after a long day and I don't have anything to say except that if you ever find yourself in Montclair, New Jersey and you're in the vicinity of the Walnut Street train station, find Richie Cecere's, go upstairs to the lounge, pay the steep cover, order a stiff drink, and see the show. Trust me on this one. Make sure you see the Pink Panther routine. You'll think you dropped in from another planet, or that maybe Silvio Dante and Paulie Walnuts are at the next table. It may not get more Jersey than this. Seriously, I can't begin to describe the experience. Oh, and the band can really play, but... look, just check it out for yourself. It's pretty astounding. Food looks good, too. Bonus points for my sister making a non-sequitur Huntz Hall reference seconds before the emcee made a non-sequitur Leo Gorcey reference. I swear, the place brings out something special in everyone. Go.


November 12, 2006


Rained all freakin' afternoon. Serves me right for having the temerity to take some days off.

At least the Eagles won, even if they only beat Tom Cruise's friends.


November 13, 2006


It was only after I began to lift off in the wind that I understood why I was the only person on the boardwalk this morning.

58 degrees and light drizzle is normally excellent running weather. Add gusty, cold winds along the oceanfront and it blows, quite literally. I was making good time, but not enjoying the experience.

Of course, weather or not, I'll try it again tomorrow. I love running by the ocean. Can't resist.

Speaking of can't resist, today's entries in the Ignoring My Diet To Indulge In East Coast Treats log: one Philadelphia-style soft pretzel and one slice of Sicilian pizza. Not together. So far, I've also indulged in a pizza steak (three bites, cut short by migraine), Tastykake Butterscotch Krimpets, a Tastykake Chocolate Junior. It's a good thing that Rita's Water Ice is closed for the winter. And this explains the need to go running in the morning.


November 14, 2006


The Ate-Too-Much Tour of Pennsylvania and New Jersey is coming to an end, and not a moment too soon, considering my desire to continue to fit into my clothes. This was a good trip filled with good visits with friends and family; I'd like to be able to do this more often. Maybe we will.

A few traffic-related observations: one, only New Jersey can manage to have two major highways cross and have no direct way to get from one to the other- try to get from the southbound Garden State Parkway to 78 East and see how many miles you have to drive out of your way before you're going where you wanted to go. Another- if everyone who's ever been there knows that the State Troopers use 202 between Flemington and the New Hope bridge as a training ground to catch speeders, isn't it time to find another spot? A third: is using the turn signal really optional in New Jersey? Fourth: if you need to rent a car, have a lot of baggage, and don't want to take an SUV, get a Chevy Impala- it has one hell of a trunk.

And that's it. Back to California tomorrow. Talk to you then.


November 15, 2006


Let's send a cheery greeting to Continental Airlines for deciding to move our reserved seat assignments so that we weren't set to sit together and I got put in a middle seat. Thanks, guys! Perhaps I'll take my business to an airline that doesn't do that (and, no, the plane size wasn't changed- they just randomly moved us so someone else could have our seats).

And that's how I ended up cramped in a middle seat, unable to move and with no place to put my elbows, while being subjected to the aroma of the weird guy next to me and his feet. He insisted on removing his desert boots (!) to air out his tootsies, and the result would have slayed a buffalo had a buffalo managed to book a seat and not get moved. He also appeared not to have showered lately, and, judging by his bizarre two-toned haircut, not to have used a mirror. I tried to compensate by staring straight ahead and not breathing, but the breathing part wasn't a long-term solution.

There was also nothing much I could do about the elderly couple behind me that responded to the reclining of my seat by banging on it, poking the raised armrest back forward, and demanding that I bring the seat back up because they needed the room to unfold their tray tables. The man also spent the entire flight loudly reading articles- out loud- from what sounded like U.S. News and World Report or something similarly dry and boring. I don't think they travel much.

But the end of the trip was mercifully migraine-free- the flight was long and excruciating, but it got me back to L.A., where, unlike the Newark experience a week ago, the baggage came out immediately, the parking lot van was there within 2 minutes, and we were on our way in record time (big props to Wally Park, LAX' best parking garage, just off Century Boulevard near Aviation- since I started using them, I've never had to wait more than 5 minutes for the shuttle). The sun was shining, the temperature was just about perfect (low 70's), the house intact, and Ella the World's Most Famous Cat was waiting for us, furiously meowing ("where WERE you? Why did you leave me here? Pay attention to me! And bring food!") but otherwise OK. I'm seriously jet-lagged, but back in business. Nice trip, good start to Fran's Victory Tour, good to be back. All travel should be like that.


November 16, 2006


Holiday cheer's starting early this year.

I was buying something at Best Buy. I'd walked in a few minutes earlier, and I'd observed a long line camped outside, waiting for one of the 35 PlayStation 3s that the store would be getting. While the register slowly processed by purchase, I talked to the cashier.

"So, how long have those people been camped out?", I asked.

"Since Wednesday," she said.

And before she could get another word out, and before the receipt could even start printing out, a middle-aged woman who resembled a taller and slightly younger Selma Diamond walked right up and barked "are we talking or are we working?"

"We're waiting for my receipt," I said. And the woman ignored me and started into a monologue about how she bought something and the ad said a different price and blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.

The cashier looked at me for help. I didn't know what to say. I said "excuse me, I'm waiting for my receipt." The receipt prinetd out, the cashier passed it to me, and I walked out, pausing to glare at the rude woman. She didn't even pause to take a breath, let alone look my way. Her husband stood several feet behind her, looking sheepish.

I'm getting soft in my old age. I should have ripped that shrew in two. I should have said something. But I walked away- I didn't want to take the time, didn't want to let my blood pressure rise, didn't want the bother. Maybe I'm just not angry enough.

And to think, it's not even Thanksgiving yet. Wait until the stores get more crowded, the lines get longer, and the tempers get shorter. I can't wait.


November 17, 2006


This week's letter is about, oh, a buncha stuff:

I'm back in California and done with traveling for a while; because that means a pile of work and other obligations needing attention (including a very, very needy cat who hasn't stopped meowing since we walked through the door), and there's an abbreviated holiday week coming up, let's keep this one short, okay? Good.

I spent much of the last week driving all over the place and listening to local talk radio from several markets. Here are a few observations:

1. Talk radio works best when it reflects its home city. New York talk radio should sound like a bunch of opinionated loudmouths, a Philly station should have people with broad accents complaining about Andy Reid. It's not just being local, it's SOUNDING local. Whatever makes your city unique should be reflected in your shows and your imaging. I guess that goes for music stations, too- too many stations sound as if they could be from anywhere. If the NAB is going to complain to the FCC when satellite does anything that might be construed as local, the industry ought to be offering, you know, more local programming. Just a suggestion. That's not to say syndication's bad- I like a lot of syndicated shows- but there's always room for more local stuff.

2. I know that some of you can't fight off the GM or the GSM when they bring infomercials to the table, but it just sounds bad. Nothing makes a talk radio station sound cheesier and more sleazy than infomercials. If you think that airing those things Sunday mornings or late nights isn't going to hurt you, all I know is that I hear one and I instantly think less of the station that's carrying it, especially when the infomercials try to pass themselves off as "real" shows. I would be surprised if casual listeners didn't feel the same way- they hear a fake show and it's like you're trying to scam them. And when the GM says it's a necessary evil, what he or she means is that it's totally unnecessary and possibly harmful, but they can make more money from airing it than selling spots. And then everyone complains when the ratings aren't what they want them to be.

3. There's some really good talk radio out there. Some of you made me laugh and think and want to hear more.

4. There's some really weak talk radio out there. And there were too many moments on the road where I ended up listening to satellite, because there was nothing else on. If you program a station, you should aspire to be the station that breaks that mindset- you should want to build a station with programming and imaging so good, so strong, so unmissable that nobody resorts to satellite or an iPod in the car. You want to be the one station that proves there's "always something good on the radio." There are a handful of stations that qualify. There should be more.

I have more, but it's late and I'm fighting off jet lag and it can wait, which it will, until the week after next. In the meantime, do check out the long list of topics, links, and general insouciance at All Access News-Talk-Sports' Talk Topics column, which continues to be updated with lots of show prep material, like stories about the sale of a magazine everyone knows and nobody actually reads, another fat-bomb-burger controversy, the mayhem surrounding the PS3 and Wii releases, a rental car sob story that beats any other, the problem with being a sports fan living in enemy territory, how post-Thanksgiving sales are now starting on Thanksgiving itself, what New York students are smuggling into school in their underwear, the evils of traffic ticket quotas, a tic-tac-toe-playing chicken, and a particularly disgusting story involving a dead deer, plus "real" news links and commentary and columns and interviews and the industry's leading news coverage in Net News and the Indus try Directory and lots of other stuff which is constantly updated and really great and all free. And you're gonna want to check All Access several times a day just to see if your station's been sold or you've been fired, because we'll usually be the first to report the news.

That's it for now. Next week's Thanksgiving in America, so no Letter, but Talk Topics and the rest of All Access will be business-as-usual right up to the big day, when we and the rest of the nation will pause to eat turkey and watch football and wonder when the relatives will finally leave. Enjoy the love.


November 18, 2006


Seen on the 405 freeway yesterday morning:

Bugs Ugh!

That's the slogan of a local extermination company- these guys. It's always fascinated me- the lack of proper punctuation, the balloon-like lettering, the almost-rhyme... I always wonder who came up with it. And maybe the driver of this Escalade did- the license plate goes with the "Bugs Ugh!" sticker in the rear window.

Maybe you want to see Brad Pitt or TomKat or someone like that- my kind of celebrity sighting is the "Bugs Ugh!" guy. He rocks.


November 19, 2006


It's the middle of the third quarter of one of the most pathetic Eagles games ever- McNabb injury or no, the Eagles are stinking up the joint- and all I can hear is what we'll hear for real again in about an hour:

"It's on me. I'll take care of it."

No, Andy. No, you won't. You haven't in previous weeks, and you won't now.

I'll say it again: football's done, the Sixers are at best a just-missing-the-playoffs team, the Flyers are miserable, and the Phillies need a lot more than Wes Helms to have a hope to make the playoffs next year. So I'll spend less time watching sports. I can use the time.



I know that TV engineers sometimes don't even watch what they're putting out over the air, but yesterday, the waste of bandwidth that is KABC-TV's third digital channel- one that normally has a useless loop of weather information- was airing this all day:

And it didn't change for many, many hours. That's public interest for you. And for that, they're bit-starving the main HD channel? We needed to get a lesser picture for the OSU-Michigan game because they had to air a static picture of a Windows computer? Just perfect.

By the way, CBS' Raiders coverage today, not in HD, looked about as bad as a picture can look, digital or analog- picels and artifacts galore, and it looked out of focus to boot. I cjecked KCBS-TV, KCBS-DT, KFMB-TV, and KFMB-DT- lousy on all of them, cable or OTA. No excuses. If the public is expected to drop a bundle on HDTV, shouldn't the program providers give us an adequate picture? Or do they assume people don't care?

And might they be right?


November 20, 2006


It's been a long day, very busy, and I'd love nothing more than to sit in front of the big plasma screen and catch up with some TV. Too bad we have a Motorola 6412 cable DVR, which has decided to make such pleasures impossible. You fire up, say, "CSI," and before Grissom even gets to make his opening segment-closing witty comment, the picture skips several frames, then freezes, then goes black. Can't rewind, can't fast-forward, can't do anything but save it, get out of it, go back in from the beginning, and hope that you can fast-forward past the freeze. Sometimes you can, sometimes not. And you have to do that a dozen times in an hour.

That is not conducive to a relaxing evening of TV watching.

I hate this damn box. You Google it and you find out that everyone seems to have problems with it. We have two of them- the first has already been replaced once. Now, Cox Cable is sending someone out tomorrow. All I know is that it better be working soon, and definitely by Thursday. Football shouldn't look like stop-motion animation. And the Macy's parade better look like a parade and not like a particularly bad print of a Speed Racer cartoon.

Once upon a time, you brought home a TV, pulled out the rabbit ears, turned it on, and watched Lucy. Now, you're at the mercy of a cable company, a DVR manufacturer, the software maker, and if you're lucky, you get Lucy really, really clear. I guess that's progress. Expensive, aggravating progress. We'll see what my mood is after the Cox Cable guy shows up tomorrow.


November 21, 2006


Is it 2007 yet?

I'd like to think 2006 is pretty much done with us, but the end is still a little bit of a hike away. And while on a personal level things have settled down- if the worst involves the occasional argument with some faceless insurance company CSR, that's better than things were a year ago- it's been hard to observe the radio industry continuing to implode. This month has been one of the most probably THE most- widespread, massive bloodletting I've ever seen in the business, and I get the impression it ain't over. We used to talk about how companies couldn't really cut staffs any further than they had, because they were starting to cut into bone, and that was years ago. Now, there's practically no bone left. You can tell that when a top 10 market heritage AM talk station owned by the largest company in the business drops its local morning show- no argument there, the ratings weren't good- and replaces it with a syndicated show, but an hour-long syndicated show, which means they'll be playing the same hour THREE TIMES IN A ROW. That's the morning show. Seriously.

That's what happens when corporate says you have to save every penny and there really isn't anyplace else to cut. The folks in the home office tell the local GM to cut the budget to nothing, and the GM tells the Program Director that there's no more money left for a local staff. What's a PD to do? Swallow hard and call the staff into the office one by one, I guess. And across the country, in large markets and small, staffers are dutifully trooping to the manager's office one by one, offering their heads for sacrifice. I have been writing items for All Access about this stuff all month- three jocks here, seven newspeople there, six random staffers in some random market. And it's not like there are a lot of openings across the street. Things are tough all over.

As I wrote a few weeks ago about the early stages of the firing wave, what this is all proving is the value of flexibility. More specifically, in case you weren't aware, the radio business doesn't owe anyone a living, and the people who run it definitely don't think they owe anyone anything, much less owe you a job or owe the public good radio. I was lucky enough to know that early on in my career, and so decided to remain flexible about what I could do for a living. That's how I went from law to corporate management to programming to writing- yeah, that seems like a downward trajectory, but I'm still gainfully employed and no longer worried on a monthly basis about the ratings report card, and, besides, I needed to do creative stuff instead of wearing a suit and pushing paper. And if I had to do something else, I'd find something else. (In some ways, this was preordained by my inability to imagine anything I do as what I'll do for the rest of my career, although that's changed as I began to do stuff like my All Access gig that I actually enjoy doing every day) Radio people like to say that they're in radio because they "can't do anything else," but that's not true and can't be true. These days, it better not be true, not if they want to eat.

So if you're one of the unfortunates who got blown out in the Great Radio Massacre of 2006, keep looking for radio jobs, but now would be a good time to see what else you can do. Maybe a desk job or some other vocation will be a blow to your ego, but you can always podcast or something if you have a need to talk at people. That way, you still have an outlet, and, best of all, you can't be fired when you don't have a boss and nobody's paying you to do the job. As long as the rent's being paid and there's food on the table, there are worse ways to get through life.


November 22, 2006


I kinda ran out of gas this afternoon. I told myself that it was just another workday, that I should keep my head on straight and just write all the way to 5:00 but I found myself kinda drifting off at the keyboard. We're not going anywhere for the holiday- after this year's trravails, we're just going to stay home together and be thankful for just making it this far- and I decided against fighting the Black Friday crowds for home theater audio stuff, because it can wait. So we have nothing planned, just lounging around and watching TV and reading and maybe even, in a major departure for me, sleeping in.

And that's where I find myself, at the precipice of a day off, unable to wrap my mind around the Tennie Pierce case or Kramer or whatever else is in the news. I don't know what's in the news, other than hearing a little of John and Ken this afternoon while peeling yams for tomorow's pie. Mmmm. OK, I'm declaring myself officially on Thanksgiving break now. I'm not capable of coherent thought tonight.


November 23, 2006


This good life.



Health, this year more than ever.

Ella the World's Most Famous Cat.

Gainful employment, and the very special people who make that a reality.

Widescreen plasma HDTV.

Friends. I do have some, you know.

Turkey, string bean casserole with the crunchy onion things on top, sweet potato pie.

Did I mention health? That's a big one.

Looney Tunes on DVD.

My readers, even the ones who disagree with me, here, at All Access, and wherever else my stuff turns up.

70 degrees on November 23.

A day off to rest my mind.

The invention of the DVR.

Being born to the right family in the right nation in the right place at the right time.

Making it through a year filled with doctors and hospitals and finding ourselves at the end of it in okay shape.

That's my list this year. May you have equally special blessings.


November 24, 2006


I picked up the el cheapo HD Radio that Radio Shack is selling this weekend- with a ten dollar coupon from the Entertainment Book and a twenty five dollar rebate, it came out to about a hundred bucks with tax, which is expensive for a table radio, but what the hell. The verdict so far: meh.

It's not a horrible little radio- it's plasticy, kinda like one of those cheap iPod docks, with small speakers on either side of a blue screen. Using the radio's less than intuitive, but once I figured everything out, it wasn't too bad. All of that's fine, but the real question is whether HD's worth it, and whether it has any chance in the marketplace. And for that, my response is, sadly, it isn't and it might not.

The problem is this: unless you have a rock-solid, city-grade, right-near-the-tower signal, the HD either drops in and out or isn't there at all. Heaven forbid that, like me, you live at the fringe of FM signals- we're blocked from L.A. signals and the San Diego-Tijuana signals are spotty today. But even with a listenable signal on some San Diego stations, there wasn't a hint of HD on FM. That's with an external antenna, too. Nothing. Can't tell you what it sounds like, because there isn't anything to hear. Sell this to regular consumers who aren't in the business and aren't going to resort to extraordinary measures to pull in a signal and you're going to anger a lot of people- assuming, that is, that a lot of people will buy this thing, which isn't the case.

But I do get some AM HD, and that's another problem. Rock-solid, city-grade signal strength apparently isn't enough to hold the HD signal. The closest big AM signal to me is KNX, about 10 miles away, 50,000 watts nondirectional, strong enough to blot out several channels on either side, its HD sideband hash also heard several channels away. The signal, in other words, is as strong as possible. And I do get HD from KNX, but it doesn't come up right away and doesn't stay solid- the signal bounces back and forth between digital and analog fairly often, and there are long stretches of analog even with the nearly perfect reception. Same for KBRT, a station on Catalina that throws its entire signal right at us- there's nothing between the KBRT transmitter site and us except 26 miles of salt water, and the analog signal is loud and clear. KBRT's digital signal? Cuts in and out. KLAC- 5,000 watts at 570- is a clean signal here, and its HD signal can't hold for more than a minute at a time, which is especially problematic because, alone among the stations I get, they haven't put the analog signal on delay to coordinate with the HD signal. When HD kicks in, you hear a repeat of the last several seconds of what you just heard on analog. When it cuts out, you lose a few seconds of material. Some of the stations that are listed as having HD signals, like KFWB, just aren't coming in that way, even with decent analog coverage. KOGO in San Diego- forget it, no hint of HD.

Contrast that with satellite. Sirius? I have to stretch the antenna across a small alleyway behind the house to pick up the signal, but it's there. XM, I get with the cheap clip antenna that came with the radio, flipped up by the window, no problem. Sirius has occasional and short dropouts, XM has none in the house, and both are generally good in the car. You turn it on, it works. HD Radio is not like that. Yeah, it's free and you have to pay for satellite, but what good is free if you can't get anything with it, or it drops in and out all the time?

And the sound of HD on AM is not music quality. It's clear, yes, better than AM, but tinny, and not close to even FM. I don't know what the FM version sounds like yet, but when conditions improve and I get the San Diego HD signals, I'll let you know. Satellite? Not perfect sound, not at all, but perfectly listenable. I'm not an audiophile, but I do want a clean signal without obvious digital artifacts, and satellite is good enough.

I'll reserve final judgement once I get to hear the FM stations in action, but here's the thing: if HD doesn't work beyond a certain distance from the antenna, it won't succeed. They're selling the idea of the "HD2" and "HD3" subchannels for additional programming, but if you can't be assured of getting them without regular annoying dropouts, they're useless. If I wasn't in the business and in need of checking out the technology, I'd return the radio and I wouldn't bother with HD anymore. If the radio industry thinks this is its weapon against satellite and streaming, it has to make the technology work better. Right now, it's not ready.


November 25, 2006


This has been another movie weekend for us, primarily because we don't do the Black Friday Christmas shopping thing. We saw one excellent movie- "The Queen"- and one mildly diverting trifle- "For Your Consideration."

You shouldn't miss the former, which is not a drawing-room portrait of the monarchy but instead depicts the royals' near-disastrous non-reaction to Diana's death and Tony Blair's maneuverings, with Alastair Campbell's manipulations and the anti-monarchist disapproval of wife Cherie, to save the Queen from herself and grab a little glory for himself. The Christopher Guest movie is okay, way too broad- a more effective satire of Hollywood would be more subtle- but better than "A Mighty Wind" and welcome for the usual Guest cast-Catherine O'Hara is terrific- and a wonderful throwaway line where Ricky Gervais' indie studio boss talks about how he knew the film would be great "ever since I read the coverage." It'll be worth a rental if you liked "Waiting for Guffman," but it's nothing special.

More interesting was the pre-flick St. Jude's PSA with several stars pushing for donations, which included Jennifer Aniston starting with "our research..." YOUR research? You're in the lab with test tubes and petri dishes curing cancer? Shaddup, you.

And then there's the commercial they run for Van Heusen shirts, in which several shirts are arranged in such a way that brown liquid cascades down them. And I know that the message is supposed to be stain-resistance, but what it tells me is that Van Heusen shirts make wonderful fountains. Buy some for Christmas!

But the most annoying thing- apart from the family that wouldn't shut up behind us during the trailers before "For Your Consideration"- was the Dane Cook promo. They're going to have a concert-film one-night "event" with the comedian, and the promos show him convulsing and twitching before a sold-out arena crowd, and he gets off a couple of lines that are. Not. Funny. At. All. I don't even think they're SUPPOSED to be jokes. One involves calling ahead to tell everyone that D.C. is on his way- er, O.K.- and the other, repeated twice, is "it all comes back around"- he makes a sweeping circular motion- "it's a vicious circle." Um, sure, whatever you say. Maybe he can be funny sometimes, but I have yet to hear it, and if that promo is supposed to sell me on paying to see him, it would help to, maybe, you know, include some jokes. Just a suggestion.

And that, apart from the Home Depot advertised-special that was, naturally, out of stock (no raincheck), was the weekend, unless I can get enough work done early Sunday to allow for another movie. 007's waiting.


November 26, 2006


I got my All Access stuff done early today, and we took a lovely walk along the cliffs under a warm blue sky, nearly picture-perfect. So why am I in a bad mood?

It can't be football. Don't expect anything from the Iggles, and the Giants got humiliated today- a fourth-quarter meltdown? Been there- so even the expected quick strike for a 7-0 lead by Indianapolis in tonight's game didn't sting. It's not work- no problems there. It's not family or friends- all's quite good in that regard. And my knees aren't hurting lately, either- I feel pretty well.

But I'm still in a weirdly snarly mood. I'm not sure what I want to do with myself, other than not wanting to do whatever I happen to be doing at the moment. I'm resting? I want to do something. But I don't want to get up from the couch to do anything. And I'm strangely resentful over the thought that I might be indecisive, although that is exactly what I am right now.

I don't even want to be doing this.

So I won't.

Maybe tomorrow will be an improvement. You know it's trouble when you look forwatd to Monday.


November 27, 2006


I haven't been scanning much for a while, but while I was scanning some stuff for a friend, I found some stuff in old TV Guides that we can kinda fit to a holiday theme, like this cheery ad from a 1959 Boston area issue:

Yes, a white glob of unidentified gelatinous substance does indeed add that "Holiday Touch." (The "Holiday Touch" normally involves inappropriate manual contact by a mall Santa, from what I've been told) I'm not much for gingerbread, so the recipe sounds unappetizing, but I wouldn't be the best judge, not being of the goyische persuasion. I do like the note at the bottom, though: "EXCITING TELEVISION! 'THIS MAN DAWSON' EVERY THURSDAY 7-7:30 PM" It looks like they were contracturally obligated to stick a mention in the ad someplace; they didn't even bother to tell you the channel. The show starred Keith Andes as an internal affairs type, and William Conrad- THAT William Conrad- was one of the show's directors. It lasted about a season in syndication.

In the same issue, this:

The holiday cheer is provided by the 5:00 show, which was old even then. But what's most interesting is what's obviously the LEAST important program of the afternoon, and given the least space. Even Akim Tamiroff gets more play than Frank Gifford vs. Jim Brown. Times change.

And they did change. Here's a page from a St. Louis TV Guide in 1974:

On top, an enduring slice of Americana, or a piece of animated schlock, your choice. They reran it every year, but despite the participation of Fred Astaire, it was no "Rudolph." Or "Frosty." Or, for that matter, the Norelco commercial- "Noel-co." (Which is not on YouTube- someone fix that, pronto) Below that, what appears to be a hastily composed clip-art ad (check the misaligned lettering) for the World Football League title game. (The Birmingham Americans beat the Florida Blazers at Legion Field in Birmingham, 22-21. Neither team survived for the next season- Birmingham got a replacement team called the Vulcans and Orlando was abandoned) I love, by the way, that groovy 70's logo for channel 11- everything back then looked like it was designed by some grey-flannel-suit guy trying to be "relevant" and "hip" and "groovy" for the "kids." Look, it's, like, a stalk of broccoli! Or maybe a tree or something. Wow, man, heavy.

And, groovier and heavier and wow, mannier, from the same magazine:

And in case you were wondering, Bernie lives! Although the red 'fro is history.

No, I don't know whatever happened to Heshimu (as Jason).


November 28, 2006


Yesterday's fleeting references to David Joliffe and Heshimu from "Room 222"- I didn't even get to Ta-Tanisha or Judy Strangis- got me thinking about people we know from one show or movie who seem to have disappeared from the face of the earth. And, lo and behold, while perusing another old TV Guide from June 1978, I saw this:

The one on the left has this credit:

"And introducing Lark Ruffin."

Introducing? I couldn't recall her in anything else. So I checked- she played Cassie in this two-part TV movie, and that's it.

One show and out.

Here, look for yourself.

In fact, go ahead, Google her. Lots of references, but every single one is to this show. And nothing else.

That's hard to do. I'm hardly famous, but Google my name- it helps to put it in quotes- and there are several references and quotes. Pretty much everyone around these days will show up in a Google search. There isn't even a Lark Ruffin in ZabaSearch. Lark Ruffin apparently came to being in 1978 and promptly disappeared. I thought maybe Lark Ruffin became Lark Voorhees- Lisa Turtle on "Saved By the Bell"- but that Lark was 4 years old when "Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry" was telecast.

Where'd she go?

You could ask that of countless actors appearing in any old TV Guide listings, but for someone to get the special billing- "Introducing..."- and to just plain walk right off the planet is hard to pull off. Did she go on to happiness or tragedy? Did she become a doctor, a lawyer, a businessperson, a criminal, an average person? I wonder. And in an age where everyone's easy to find on the Net, for an actress, even a child actress in 1978, to not be found is a little strange.

Where have you gone, Lark Ruffin? A nation... er... doesn't really remember you.


November 29, 2006


More perusal of old TV Guides, more magic. From February 22, 1980:

The jokes, they write themselves.

O.J. as a bus driver! Arte Johnson as a tour guide! Lorenzo Lamas as the busjacker! And, in an uncredited bit part as one of the passengers, NICOLE BROWN SIMPSON. Really. Their only on-screen pairing.


Seriously, we HAVE to see this.

And virtually nobody saw it the first time around. Why? Because it was on opposite this:

Do you believe in miracles? Yes!


November 30, 2006


And the TV Guide hits just keep on comin'. On December 19, 1976, ABC aired a busted pilot, an attempt at a live-action "Archie" show. Here's the ad:

See who's playing Archie? Here's a better look:

Still don't recognize him? Well, here's the mystery. The listing says that Archie is played by this guy:

Yes, David Caruso as America's Favorite Teenager. Can't imagine it? Neither can I. But then there's the IMDB listing that says this:

He was cast as "Archie Andrews" in a 1976 pilot based on the "Archie" comic strip, but did not work out. He was replaced before shooting began by Dennis Bowen.

But then you check the "Archie" page and it shows the air date as in 1978. And if he was replaced "before filming," why was he listed? Surely the thing was filmed in advance of the TV Guide deadline. And what's this July 15, 1978 thing? And why does the reference to his removal read exactly the same on every page where it shows up on the Net? And doesn't the Archie in the ad look plenty like a very young Lt. Horatio Caine?

This is another thing we need to see. We need proof. Where's the DVD? Can someone post it on YouTube? There has to be a copy someplace. The world demands it.


About November 2006

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

October 2006 is the previous archive.

December 2006 is the next archive.

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