September 2007 Archives

I said I wouldn't watch the Phillies again until they play meaningful games in October.

Okay, I lied. I watched today.

They may have the worst pitching of any team to make the playoffs, the worst pitching of any team to win 89 games. They got off to an awful start after making it clear that they wouldn't let that happen again, not this year. They spent most of the season just lagging behind the Mets and, sometimes, the Braves. The manager makes head-scratchingly awful decisions, they had a lot of guys get hurt, they had to take their only reliable healthy veteran starter and make him the closer when nobody else could close, they spent most of the season having to rely on Jose Mesa, Antonio Alfonseca, Clay Condrey, Geoff Geary, and other oh-no-not-hims. And they had to live up to, or live down, the star shortstop's brash assertion that they were "the team to beat."

Yet, the regular season's over and they're the National League Eastern Division champs. Go figure.

So, now, I'm watching. With all of the pain and heartbreak of the last few seasons and the disappointment of the first two-thirds of this one, they are, right now, a lot of fun to observe: the electricity of the crowd at Citizens Bank Park came right through the TV screen today, from the reaction to the Mets score to the Howard homer, the Rollins triple, and even the Iguchi sac fly. If they win the division series, it's a bonus. If they somehow get to the World Series, it'll be shocking. Right now, it's fun to be a Phillies fan, for once.

And it takes my mind off the Eagles.

I'm still recovering from the Charlotte experience, and for various reasons I ended up unable to head out to Ontario (CA) for the Podcast expo, so nothing much today. Just some leftover observations:

1. Why isn't there more criticism of the NAB's "Radio 2020" PR campaign in the trade press? One guy even called it a "bold" initiative. Are radio reporters so in bed with the people who run radio that they can't call B.S. when they see it? Do I really need to answer this question? The difference between me and some of the competition is that I don't care what the big bosses in radio think about me; seems to me that they should be the ones concerned what I think about them. /egotism

2. Charlotte is a lot more interesting place than I expected -- it has some very nice neighborhoods and very nice people, and there are efforts to bring a coolness factor to town. I kinda liked it. But it is weird to be in a large and growing city that has no real historical center to it. I'm sure there are landmarks of a sort, but you're dealing with a city with a downtown -- "Uptown," perversely enough -- that appears to have been built entirely since about 1980, and mostly a lot more recently than that. Again, though, it was somewhat of a surprise, someplace I liked more than I expected. It could use more cabs in more places, though -- getting back from Del Frisco's steakhouse, one of the hotter restaurants in town, to my Uptown hotel proved more of a chore than it should be. Memo to the people running Del Frisco's: how about making sure someone's at the front desk to call for cabs when the place is still open for business? Did you expect us to walk to South Park Mall and find the bus?

3. Thank you to all the vendors and programming folks and marketers who now send promotional presentations on thumb drives. I'm amassing a nice collection, which will provide some convenient portable storage. Might wanna make sure they work before you send 'em out, though (one of the latest I've received doesn't show up as a drive when you plug it in), and it's inadvisable to send out ones that require Windows XP to seek out and install drivers and then open up web pages that require use of Active X controls blocked by your browser. Love the thought, guys, but you gotta work on the execution.

And now I'm going to go watch me some TV and forget about the Phillies game today. I suggest you do the same.

This week's All Access newsletter sums up the NAB convention. Oh, well, it was an interesting career while it lasted:

The line that described the mood at this year's NAB Radio Show in Charlotte was this:

"If it makes you feel any better, we're all gonna die."

That was actually something I heard Chris Carlin tell despondent Mets fans on WFAN early Friday morning, but it applies to the radio crowd, too. I encountered a lot of people whose mood regarding the business and the future was somewhere between uncertain and fatalistic. But I'm here to tell you that there IS a future, that you shouldn't give up hope, that the doom and gloom, while partially justifiable, isn't the whole story.

First, though, just a thought on the industry's new public relations offensive: "Radio 2020"? They PAID someone for THAT? What the heck IS that? One less than Radio 2021? What does that MEAN? Apparently, it means that all the industry has to do is TELL people that radio's neat and ginchy and hep and funky fresh and it'll "reignite" consumers, who will presumably be pleased that someone is trying to set them on fire.

Anyway, at the unveiling, the assemblage was briefed on the "Radio 2020" thing (frankly, if I was starting a marketing campaign and the best name they could come up with for me was "Radio 2020," I'd be concerned), and we were told to heed the words of George Washington, who, in the freezing winter of 1776, wrote the stirring words, "Where did I put my teeth?" No, he wrote "Victory or Death." Those were the words left hanging in the air: "Victory or Death." How... motivating.

But there's a more accurate way to put the industry's dilemma: adapt or die. While the "Radio 2020" thing plans to tell people about "playlist variety and format diversity," which happens to be what you can also get from iPods and satellite and streaming, the message should be something else entirely. The message should be that the industry has to start planning -- should already have planned -- for the day when the license, antenna, and transmitter are not what defines the industry. What the "radio" industry has that can't be duplicated is content, not music playlists but personality. If you're a radio company, the assets that you control that can't be blown away by technology are the contracts you have with talent, with hosts and programmers and coaches and producers who can create material that people will want to hear, whether it's broadcast over a licensed facility or delivered as a podcast or streamed or played through a bullhorn on a city street.

Think of it the same way television mutated from three or four over-the-air channels to hundreds of cable channels. The programming doesn't need to be delivered over a broadcast TV station to reach people, to be popular, to succeed. And we're already seeing TV shows being delivered over the Internet via iTunes or YouTube other means. Younger generations don't see the difference between a show being sent to them over a TV station or a cable network or on a TiVo or through YouTube or iTunes -- it's all the same, a TV show. Radio will be there soon enough. In the meantime, despite some predictions that radio will disappear within, I don't know, ten or twenty years, remember: the radios in cars aren't going to disappear that quickly. The installed base is still massive and most cars aren't going to be sold without AM and FM anytime soon. There'll be more choice -- not just satellite, but iPod docks and WiMax -- soon, but AM and FM will still be available and free and viable, even with a shrinking slice of the pie. TV isn't dead just because you can get a TV show on your computer, and radio won't be dead just because you can hear audio from other sources.

And that means there's a future for talent, and even a future for radio companies that figure this out. Some won't. At the "Broadcast Financing" forum, the only mention of talent or programming at all was a mention of concern that talent costs could be driven up by the satellite merger. Or driven down. It wasn't clear. But talent, in that room full of your top bosses, is a line item to be reduced as much as possible to please Wall Street and private equity firms. (Exaggeration? The group heads on the panel said that they actually liked the "discipline" of those quarterly financial reports that have to please investors and analysts. If revenue's down, how else can they please investors? Yeah, exactly) Meanwhile, a panel with two successful syndicated morning shows and a top talk PD moderating it drew a less-than-packed house. I didn't see a lot of GMs there, and a few I did see were among the rare GMs who came from the programming side and understand the value of personality.

One last thing about personality, though -- in that big "Bedroom Project" study of young adults, the subjects consistently showed that they really didn't listen much to the radio with one major exception: morning shows with strong personalities. They mentioned their favorite shows by name. None are music-oriented. And one even said how she never listens to commercials except on the FM talker in her town, because she wants to hear what the hosts say when they come back on. I'd call that an endorsement for moving away from music towards personality and talk.

Bottom line: Radio's true asset isn't necessarily physical. It's content. Smart companies will snap up people who can create saleable, marketable content -- whatever the delivery method -- and will recognize that they have the advantage of brands and name-brand content and the goodwill and trust of the consumer to compete in a wide-open field. The people aren't going to be "reignited" about radio by a public relations campaign; they'll be excited when they get shows and content and personality that they like and want and can't get anywhere else. I'm looking forward to the day when the industry launches a campaign to point that out instead of "we're cheap, accessible, and easy to use. Oh, and we're now HD where available."

I gotta wrap this up and get outa Charlotte, so I'll dispense with the long plug -- just get on over to Talk Topics at All Access News-Talk-Sports for show prep, "10 Questions With..." KFXX (1080 The Fan)/Portland's Jason "Big Suke" Scukanec, and the rest of All Access for radio's best industry coverage and more stuff. I'll also thank Valerie Geller -- buy her book! -- and Bill White -- listen to WBT! -- for the shout-outs at convention panels. Go Phillies. Normal blather resumes next week.

THE CHARLOTTE DIARIES: PLACEHOLDER

I got back late, so I'm going to save the details until tomorrow. But today did feature not one, but TWO consecutive surprise appearances by yours truly in sessions at the NAB convention, including one long-winded filibuster, some of which will constitute The Letter this week, which will be posted here... tomorrow. I gotta get SOME sleep now. Sorry.

Charlotte seems okay so far, given that I haven't had a lot of time to explore. I ran very early this morning through the streets of the Dilworth neighborhood, and it was actually quite nice, and I had a terrific soul food lunch at Mert's -- shrimp and grits! -- but otherwise, it's been the inside of the Convention Center and the inside of the hotels.

First on the agenda: The "Broadcast Financing" conference was a stark representation of what the people complaining at the FCC's ownership hearings are all exercised about. The room could accurately be described as "The Old White Guys In Suits" conference, because that was about 85-90% of the attendance. It was enough to make Michael Copps' head explode (although I believe that his head exploded several years ago anyway). Even the younger guys had that Old-White-Guy-In-Suit-In-Training look to them. If you want to meet the heart of radio in 2007, these guys are it -- they're here for the money. And that's not necessarily a bad thing, but I do wish that someone in the room would bring up the value of programming and talent. They never do. You are a line item to them, under Expense, and the less of you there are, the better it is for the guys in that room.

The room was packed, by the way, indicating that someone still sees terrestrial radio as an opportunity. Given that one of the analysts was quoted in the Wall Street Journal last week as looking forward to the big radio groups finding more synergies -- ways to reduce expenses -- after going private, I don't think this is a good thing for employees.

There was a series of ads a couple of years ago in which a mutual fund touted how their analysts and traders would go to the businesses in which they invest, see the operation, learn everything about it, and otherwise learn the business inside and out. It was symbolic, really, that a panel of Wall Street radio analysts featured four guys who couldn't be heard in the back of the room because they couldn't figure out that you have to speak INTO the microphone for it to actually pick up your voice. That pretty much sums up what these guys know about the business.

(By the way, here's a tip to the guys-in-suits: if you're going to do things like stand in front of someone to block his view, or quite obviously check someone's name badge and snub him because he's "not important," or just generally be rude and obnoxious, try not to do it to a member of the working press. He will remember your name just as surely as you'll forget his. Just a suggestion. My list is growing, including the Washington lawyer wo bent over to read my name badge and turned away without a word. I know who you are. Kiss my ass or pay the price)

Later, the heads of Emmis, Cumulus, Saga, Cherry Creek, and Greater Media took the dais and talked about how radio has to stand up for itself and stop being so goddamned negative. There was only one mention of talent, a comment that the XM-Sirius merger might drive up the cost of talent. Again, talent is a line item to be reduced. That's the theme of this thing so far.

I did see a couple of other forums, part of a podcasting thing, part of an odd talk radio thing, and, finally, the highly-touted "Bedroom Project," which Arbitron and Jacobs Media put together as a sort of focus group-without-the-group (they call it "ethnographic research" -- okay) and which basically said young adults don't really care much about radio, period. They're into other things. Radio is what your parents listen to, or what you hear, grudgingly, in the car because you can't figure out how to get your iPod to play through the radio yet. Funny, though: the things the young adults say they DO listen to on the radio were, specifically, "Big Boy," "Kevin and Bean," "Howard," and "that FM talk station." Well, whaddya know -- the only thing cutting through to get young adults' attention on the radio is talk and personality radio. Interesting. Perhaps I'll have more on this tomorrow in "The Letter," or maybe I'll just copy and paste a lot of this. You'll know more when it comes out.

But here's a MAJOR CELEBRITY SIGHTING!:

Yes, it's Chubby Checker himself! Um, well, okay, that's not a major celebrity sighting. But I'm at a convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. What do you expect from me?

A VISIT FROM MY FATHER

Early this morning at LAX, I stopped in the men's room -- too much information -- and on the way out, I glanced at myself, and I saw my dad.

I don't much look like my father, actually. A few features are like Dad, but the blond hair and fair skin are closer to Mom. But this morning, just for a second, at a particular angle, in a particular light, I saw my father in my reflection -- the shape of the face, the eyes, the look, Dad, right there in the mirror.

Yes, it freaked me out a little.

Not that I'm unhappy to be like Dad, not at all, but, geez. Way to be reminded that I'm not 27 anymore.

And that's how my trip to Charlotte started. Absolutely nothing of major import happened after that. I flew here, I landed, I got a cab ride from a driver who never said even one word and didn't bother helping me with my bags, I checked in, saw some friends in the lobby, registered, worked, used the gym, ate, worked. The End. Tomorrow: Convention fun, including the panel where analysts and group heads talk about reducing costs and finding synergies and never mention the need for quality programming. I can't wait.

TOP-NOTCH EDUCATION, SPELLING OPTIONAL

In the mail today, the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District's "Measuring Progress" newsletter. The district is highly rated, and they get an enormous amount of money from taxpayers. Perhaps they should spend some of that on a word processor with spell check:

"Superintendant"?

But they can't even spell their own name right:

Impressive. I feel confident that the children are in good hands.

1968: THE APATHETIC OWL

Let's waste time with another TV Guide, this one from December 15, 1968:

Followed by "The Cockatoo That Didn't Give A Flying F-ck" and "The Oriole Who Just Plain Gave Up On Life And Committed Suicide."

"The Owl That Didn't Give A Hoot"? Disney promotes apathy amongst America's already jaded youth? And if the owl doesn't give a hoot, why should anyone else?

Or perhaps "didn't give a hoot" is meant to be taken literally, meaning that it was a stirring tribute to Marcel Marceau, performed entirely by an avian acting ensemble. Look, "Owl Walking Against The Wind"! "Owl Trapped In A Box"! And no hooting!

Probably not. Probably just an incredibly boring "WOnderful World of Color" episode. And it was on against "The Ed Sullivan Show," which that evening featured the debut appearance of Rossi and Ross. Not Allen and Rossi, but Rossi and Ross. This was during a splitup of Allen and Rossi, and Steve Rossi needed a partner, so he teamed up with none other than Joe E. Ross, as in Toody from "Car 54, Where Are You?" Rossi also teamed up with Slappy White and a guy named Bernie Allen, but it was hard to replace the "Hello Dere!" man, Marty Allen. But if that wasn't enough, you got Norm Corsby! Gewn Verdon! Anna Maria Alberghetti! Magicians Anna Lou and Maris! And, next-to-last-billed, singer Stevie Wonder, performing his new ditty "For Once In My Life"! And after that, the Smothers Brothers with guests The Doors, George Carlin, and comedy group The Committee, which at the time probably included Howard Hesseman, Peter Bonerz, Del Close, and others you'd recognize from TV or improv.

But back on NBC after Disney was "The Mothers-In-Law," co-starring a guy I know, followed by "Bonanza" and Phyllis Diller's variety show with Jack Benny, Dean Martin's daughter Gail, and, again, Norm Crosby. Can't have too much Norm Crosby. Malaprop humor never wears out.

In the same TV Guide, this from "TV Teletype: New York": "JOAN RIVERS is being given a crack at handling The Tonight Show for one night, on Jan. 6, when she'll substitute for JOHNNY CARSON." That was her first shot. Worked out, too, at least for a while. In the same column: "This year's Model of the Year, CYBILL SHEPHERD, will ride a spectacular float in the Cotton Bowl Festival Parade on CBS New Year's Day." That was two years before "The Last Picture Show."

And then there was this tidbit in the "TV Teletype: Hollywood" column: "BOB NEWHART has been asked to star in an Odd Couple series as part of his TV-and-movie contract with Paramount." Can you imagine that? Can you believe the bullet the world dodged with that one? Instead, we got both Randall-and-Klugman and Dr. Bob Hartley. Sometimes, things work out for the best.

Let's celebrate with a nice big dessert bowl filled with bloody vomit:

Appetizing.

BACKUPS AND BOYCOTTS

What did I do today? Not much. Got a haircut, did some shopping, backed up my hard drive. That last part was easy, but it's way too easy to ignore it. You can buy an external hard drive, and some will even do "one-touch" backups. I have one of those, but I decided that I wanted to use it for storage and wanted instead to have a basic hard drive that I could use to image the main drive and have when I need to restore from a catastrophic crash.

I tried Acronis True Image 11's free trial version with this USB-to-SATA cable. EVerything worled as advertised. After not too long -- maybe a little under two hours -- my 250 GB main hard drive was imaged to the new hard drive, which will now sit on my shelf as the backup. Every week or so, I'll update the image. Will it save me from a catastrophic crash? Won't know until I need it. But I liked the Acronis software, so I'll probably buy it and cross my fingers.

And all of that is to say that I will not write about the Phillies' run for the playoffs because I continue to avoid watching the Phillies. Since I gave up, pronounced my disgust, and vowed no to watch unless and until they're playing meaningful games in October, they keep winning. Now, because, like all sports fans, I truly believe that my actions control the team's fortunes, I will not watch until they've clinched a playoff spot. Look, since I stopped watching, even the bullpen's been successful -- Romero, Geary, Flash, Myers, and Condrey combined to shut the door on the woeful Nats tonight, no runs, two hits and one walk in four innings.

But I can't really talk about that, because I'm not watching. Hey, if it works for the Phillies, maybe it'll work tomorrow when the Eagles aren't on TV here. But I'm not that lucky. Neither are they.

STORMY KOL NIDRE

1. It's raining, the first rain we've had in several months.

2. It's Yom Kippur eve.

3. I am exhausted from a long week of work.

4. I am completely unmotivated, insofar as nobody's paying me to write here.

Ergo...

5. I'm done for the week. See you tomorrow. Maybe.

This week's All Access newsletter is a handy guide to being the boss:

As a recovering talk programmer, I still have the impulse to try and "fix" shows when I hear a host doing something wrong. This happens a lot. And when it does, I remember something that gives me great comfort: it's not MY problem.

So I can go on with my day and ignore the host who uses crutch phrases, or the host who can't seem to focus on the topic at hand, or the host who lets a call go on and on and on and on and on. Not my problem. But what if you're the PD and it IS your problem? What's the best way to handle a problem you hear on the air? How do you handle talent?

I don't know, exactly. Everyone has different ways to do it. All I can tell you is how I used to do it, and how in my experience you can get your point across in the most effective manner. I followed a few simple rules, some handed down to me by wise programmers, some at which I arrived through trial and error. Rules like:

1. Wait until the show's over. Unless it's something so egregious that it jeopardizes the license, it can wait. Making a fuss over a mistake or problem during a show will only serve to throw the host off his or her game for the rest of the show. Anything else can wait. It's only radio.

2. Fix one thing at a time. Hitting a host with a list of mistakes all at once guarantees that the serious problems will get lost in the flood of information. If you want to, say, get the host to stop saying "you know" every other phrase, make that the one thing you work on in a post-show meeting or aircheck session. Save the rest for another day. Do you learn stuff better when there's a laundry list of things to retain in your memory, or is it easier to just focus on one thing, commit it to memory, then move on to the next item? See?

3. Don't hotline the talent unless there's a real emergency. If you want to make a host jump out of his or her skin, just dial the hotline. The flashing light alone will throw them off for the rest of the show, even if you hang up before they pick up. You don't want someone who has to go back on the air wondering "what did I do?" all that time. Again, unless it's an emergency, don't dial that number. If you need to tell the board op to play a different promo in the next stop set, call the screener or someone else in the building and have them walk in the message. The hotline is a mind game.

4. Don't yell. Yelling is not a motivator. Stay calm. As my sister used to say, "lose your temper, lose control." If a host is particularly recalcitrant, yelling will not make that host more amenable to your position. But I will admit to having violated that once, and here's why: I'd just gotten yelled at by MY boss. I ended up just transferring his frustration to the hosts, and it was not pretty. The moment I stormed out of the studio, I thought to myself, "now, why did you do that, idiot? Go and apologize." And I did. But I waited until the next break to do it.

5. Don't try to be a friend, either. You may become a friend to your talent, and that's okay -- I ended up with many of my lasting friendships that way. But if you set out to be everyone's buddy, you're ceding your authority. Whether they love or hate you, you are their boss. While you're working together, you need to remember that being too close a friend to some of the talent just complicates matters and undermines your ability to crack down when you need to do that.

6. My wife Fran, who is sitting right here in the office while I try to get this letter done, reminds me that it's important to give positive feedback, too. Hit the talent with nothing but "you did THIS wrong" and "you did THAT wrong" and you'll make them think they do nothing right. You'll be the parent who's never happy or proud of them. Therapists make a fortune from people who never heard a kind word from mommy and daddy. So point out the good things, too. And there ARE good things. There HAVE to be. If there aren't, why did you hire them?

So it tends to come down, at least for me, to being steady and calm, yet authoritative. Now, if you're the talent, remember: That moron telling you to give the call letters more IS your boss. Yes, we all read or saw "Private Parts." Yes, we've all been told by a PD or consultant to do something we didn't want to do. Yes, we've tried to patiently explain that "The Best In Talk Radio Entertainment For The Tri-County Area And The Greater Kickapoo County Region" does not flow trippingly from our tongues, especially when required eight times in a four minute segment. Yes, we've all wanted to throw the boss out the window when he told us his golfing partners didn't think our bit on Wednesday's show was funny. But the boss is the boss. And unless you're indispensable to the station -- unless the GM thinks you're indispensable, and "indispensable" is translated here as "generating revenue that can't be obtained in any other way" -- you're going to have to do what he tells you or be ready to walk. I've done both. You gotta do what you gotta do, whether it's following a particularly stupid programming "rule" or walking away from your job when doing otherwise would keep you up at night or make you sick when you looked at yourself in the mirror.

There ya go, free advice, worth every penny. Also free is Talk Topics, the show prep column at All Access News-Talk-Sports, where so far this week you'll find items on how to dislodge that pesky onion ring stuck in your throat using only your car, an airbag, and a pole, the Great Rabbit Theft of the Puyallup Fair, several stories in the "Don't Tase Be, Bro" category, a very odd family heirloom, the World's Worst Celebrity Fitness Spokesteam, another place they've stuck advertising, the nude convenience store robber of Lackawanna County, the obligatory Freshman 15 articles, "spin rage" at the gym, the impact of Fireman Ed's injury on the New York Jets, the 25th anniversary of the emoticon, Isiah Thomas logic, a stirring tribute to Brett Somers, and "real news" like the Jena 6, the economy, O.J., and other stuff like that, all selected, commented upon, and filled with typos by someone who knows what a radio host needs to do a good show. Plus, you'll find "10 Questions With..." KRLA/Los Angeles host Kevin James (not THAT Kevin James, the OTHER Kevin James, the lawyer and Oklahoma Sooner fan) and the rest of All Access with news, charts, columns, job listings, the Industry Directory, ratings, and more. You know, I've been doing the News-Talk-Sports section for this site for eight years this month, and I'm prouder every year of what we have here at All Access. And there's even more great stuff in store.

Next week, The Letter will come to you live from the NAB Radio Show in Charlotte, should I find the time to write it, that is. Expect the usual bad-mood material. Fun for all!

GET OFF MY LAWN... ER, MY LINE

The new phone arrived today.

The old one just up and died the other day, so I ordered a replacement -- a nifty two-line job with expandable cordless capability -- and it came in the mail today. So I unboxed it, plugged it in, hooked up the phone line, connected the handset cord, set the date and time, checked for a dial tone, and everything seemed to be working well. One last thing: time to test it out. So I whipped out the cell phone, dialed my office line, and...

Voice mail. Not even a ring.

Perhaps I should have read the f'ing manual.

So I read the manual. I may have overlooked the section about what to do if you can't turn the ringer on, but there wasn't anything in there about that (there was stuff about changing ringtones on the cordless handsets, but nothing about the base phone ringers). I found the ringer settings after randomly hitting buttons and... um, the ringers WERE on. I checked the line -- it worked. I checked another phone on the same line -- dead. I went back to the new phone and pressed line 2 -- ring tone AND fast busy signal. And they wouldn't stop, not even when I pulled the cord and then put it back in.

Head-scratchin' time.

After about a half-hour of puzzling, I tried screwing around with the phone jack, swapping my modem cord with the phone cord in the jack splitter. And that worked. Why it gave me a ring tone before that, I don't know. Why it worked when I swapped the jacks, I don't know. Why the modem worked on both jacks, I don't know. And why the other phone went dead and then came back to life... um, I don't know.

All I know is that it works. But all that trial and error made me feel like it must feel when you're old and set in your ways and someone plunks some newfangled technological advance in front of you. Why, I recall back in the day when we had phones that WORKED! You just plugged them in and they WORKED! Oh, sure, we didn't have any fancy LCDs and 5.8 GHzs and push buttons -- we had DIALS, by golly, and we USED them. And in those days, a man was a man and a phone number was a phone number and you didn't need to "dial ten" to call the neighbors, and if you needed to call Paris, you just dialed zero and someone would get you the line. Well, it DID cost your month's salary to make that call, but you got SERVICE. All of this automatic digital folderol... it's too much, I tell you. Get me a simple phone with simple buttons and switches and no menus and....

But I don't REALLY feel like that. After all, the new phone sits in front of an HD radio and TWO satellite radios, and between two computers, too. I like... no, I LOVE new technology. But why do they refuse to make products that are simple to use and manuals that cover everything you might actually need to know? I'm a busy man. I don't have time to figure out where in the menu system I can find the ringer settings.

Just give me a switch or a button. That can't be too much to ask.

Hey, look what I found! I didn't even know I had this:

It's the program from the very first game at Giants Stadium, October 10, 1976, Giants-Cowboys. The Giants were the Craig Morton Giants, with Norm Snead backing him up. Larry Csonka had come over as a free agent after the WFL debacle, Ray Rhodes (yes, THAT Ray Rhodes) and Walker Gillette were the starting wideouts, and a kid drafted in round 4 was highly touted to be a comer, a linebacker named Harry Carson, who not only became a Hall of Famer but was one of the original perpetrators of the Gatorade Shower (Jim Burt was the "inventor"). The Cowboys? Staubach, Pearson, Dupree, Pugh, Too Tall, Harvey Martin, Renfro, Jordan, everyone you remember from the mid-'70s editions.

The program doesn't have a lot of interesting football stuff. Even the article about MVPs O.J. (!) and Fran Tarkenton doesn't have much in the way of "gotcha" quotes ("O.J. is interested in knives, guns, and sports memorabilia. He says they all may come in handy if he might want to kill his wife and a waiter, then terrorize a collector. Allegedly."). But there's this:

Well, the price WAS good. Everything else was a little sad, but the price WAS good.

And one more, this:

How enthusiastic.

I vaguely remember going to Jade Fountain; it was one of those tiki-influenced fake-"Oriental" joints with red tablecloths that you went to when you were in New Jersey in the '60s and '70s. And it was probably inauthentic as hell, but it didn't matter. It's what we knew. "Healthful"? Doubtful. But give me chow mein noodles and duck sauce to munch on beforehand and I couldn't care less. California Asian food is more authentic than that, but I kinda miss east coast red-tablecloth Chinese food. Hey, someone else remembers it, too!

And, no, I'm not gonna mention last night's Eagles game.

HAVE WE MET BEFORE?

I was in the locker room at the Y talking to a guy I see there all the time, and he was telling me that he was reading a particular author's books. "I read one and I really liked it," he said, "so I went out and -- you know how you like one book so you go out and get all the other books the guy wrote, right? Well, that's what I did. And I read about six of his books, and you know something?

"After a while, they're all the same."

Well, yeah, that's often the case. And that's what writing is like -- after you write enough, you're never completely sure if what you're writing is a rerun. If you think about it hard enough, you start to think that everything you write is a repeat, and that's when the block sets in. If everything is a repeat, and nothing that occurs to you seems original, what's the point of writing anything? All the great plots, some are fond of saying, have been taken.

And no sooner did I have that conversation at the Y then I went home, wrote another column, got the accompanying graphics ready, then discovered, upon naming and saving the graphics, that there were already files with the same names on the hard drive. Same graphics for the same column.

I couldn't remember the original column. I doubt any readers will remember it. But I went back and changed what I could under deadline. I know I repeat myself -- I do it here, no doubt about it -- but if I KNOW I'm doing it, I can't stand it.

And that means I'm in a long-term, probably futile battle to keep from running out of material. I hope I'm not there yet. But these days, I sometimes feel like the guy who wrote those books my friend at the Y is reading: "hey, this is all I have, and nobody'll notice." Maybe they won't. But I will.

EVERYDAY IS LIKE MONDAY

Another way too busy Sunday. Something's gonna have to give, because I can't keep doing a full day's work six days a week and a half day on the other (Saturday). Writing was a brain-melting slog, I didn't watch any football other than about 10 minutes of the Dallas-Miami game (Lord, do the Dolphins suck), no baseball at all, just "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and the opening Stewie/Brian musical number at the Emmys (meh).

I also wasted a lot of time trying to get ActiveSync to put an app on my Treo and experiencing frequent lost connections -- will SOMEONE make a decent smartphone already? -- and it finally synced and the app didn't work. I'm ready to tear my hair out, or just give up on the dream of a phone that does what I need it to do, access the full Net quickly with JavaScript and Flash, get e-mail without trouble, and play video via SlingPlayer and streaming audio and video, too. Oh, and act as a reliable phone, with decent signal at my house. Right now, the device that can do that does not exist. (No, the iPhone isn't it -- we've already talked about this)

Did I mention I was in a bad mood?

At least the Phillies won. But I didn't see it. I told you, I'm staying away for now. I don't trust this. They won a game started by Adam Eaton. That can't happen more than once down the stretch, can it?

All right, that's enough.

SATURDAY STUFF

Some random weekend filler:

1. I'm no great fan of HD Radio -- the sound isn't spectacular, the extra channels aren't exciting, the radios so far pretty much suck, and the reception is weak. But when the FCC approved the use of IBOC digital for AM nighttime service, virtually every radio geek immediately pronounced it the death of AM radio, what with the interference and adjacent-channel hash and all. Yesterday, the AM stations were finally able to leave HD Radio on at night, so, naturally, I decided to turn on my HD Radio and see what the chaos would be. The result? Nothing. There was no more hash than usual. The only AM HD I was able to lock into was KNX, which is 50,000 watts nondirectional from a tower a few miles from my house, and which normally throws HD interference on either side of its 1070 dial location; I couldn't tell if the other stations I normally get in HD (KLAC, KSPN, KABC, KFWB, occasionally KDIS) were running HD. But the channels adjacent to KNX were no harder to pick up some signal on than usual, and 1090, which has experienced HD whining hash since KNX switched its HD signal on the air, was booming in with Padres baseball and no interference. I was actually a little disappointed, because I hoped I'd hear some HD DX from San Francisco or someplace, but there was nothing. Perhaps it will be worse when more stations stay HD at night, but this was a case where, at least for now, the worst case scenario wasn't realized. I'll check again tonight.

2. If you have a gym locker room with lots of shower heads, and there's one person in there showering when you walk in, it is not acceptable for you to take the shower head right next to him and kinda lean into his area while staring at him but not making eye contact, if you get the picture. That should be obvious, but at least one guy at my gym did not get the memo.

3. Every time I just give up and stop paying attention to the Phillies, they seem to creep back into the race. I'm not going to get excited here. If they're still playing meaningful games in October, I'll be back into it. But a team that has to rely on that rotation -- Adam Eaton! -- and that bullpen -- Jose Mesa! -- can't possibly go far. Can it?

4. Another telephone bit the dust in my office yesterday, literally while I was using it. And it was a corded phone, too, only a few years old, with fresh batteries. It was a GE corded phone. There's nothing to break or wear out. It wasn't dropped or anything. How does it just... wear out? I just ordered a new one, a hybrid corded/cordless job so I can answer the business phone in other rooms of the house, too. It better last longer than a couple of years. I'm not feeling confident.

5. No, I really don't care about college football this year.

6. "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" started a new season Thursday, and the second of the two new episodes, in which the gang tried out for the Eagles a la "Invincible," was laugh-out-loud funny. If you like coarse, outrageous, loud humor -- and I do -- you should be watching that show. Plus, any show that shoots a lot of exteriors in Philly and contains casual references to Wawa, the Main Line, the Linc, and many other local things without feeling the need to explain them is all right by me.

That's enough for tonight.

MAYOR TONY DOES THE TOTE DANCE

Remember when I mentioned the astonishing dance of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa at the Chabad telethon? And how I couldn't wait for someone to YouTube it?

Someone has.

I told you so.

This week's All Access newsletter may not hit mailboxes until tomorrow, but here's a Special Sneak Preview. Aren't you lucky? Anyway, it's about the need to not be like everyone else on the dial. "Obvious" is my middle name. Oh, right, it's Michael. Sorry, it's been a long day spent largely getting a tire replaced. Anyway:

What makes YOU so special?

I thought about this when I was idly punching through a bunch of stations, listening to random talk shows both local and national. I'd tell you which shows they were, but a) I don't do that here and b) I don't remember many of them. And I don't remember them because the host didn't give me anything TO remember. I don't need to tell you why that's a problem.

But that plays into the hands of the people who insist that there isn't enough talent out there. They may be right -- talk radio is hard, and a lot of hosts make themselves sound interchangeable. And that's where the question I asked at the beginning comes in: what DOES make you special? What sets you apart from the pack? What about you is different enough, SPECIAL enough so that when people hear your show, they know it's you?

You need to have an answer for that. Really. I've told you before how, when I go to some conventions (hey, one's coming up in a couple of weeks! I'm so excited! Is it over yet? Please?), I sit in big rooms with general managers and sales managers and group heads and the big Wall Street broadcasting industry analysts from BearStearnsDeutscheWachoviaBankOfAmerica and they talk about radio without once mentioning the need for, or value of, talent. As far as they're concerned, "talent" is just a budget line to cut. "Talent" is something that can be replaced by other "Talent," by computers, by syndication, by the next fad format. But when a top morning show flirts with jumping to a competitor, suddenly, they notice, and they call the lawyers to see if the non-compete is enforceable. The managers may not know what makes that morning show irreplaceable, but they do know a potential revenue hit when they see it.

So you want to be irreplaceable, and you do that by differentiating yourself. How do you do that? Well, you COULD do your entire show in a bizarre high-pitched voice -- different, yes, but unlistenable. You could do wacky stunts, like sitting on a billboard until the Eagles successfully field a punt (you KNEW I'd have to say something about that, didn't you?), but then you're just like a million Morning Zoo clones. You could hire a publicist, but that just means some poor sap radio trade editor's e-mail inbox will overflow and he'll silently seethe with resentment and plot his revenge against you.

Or you could have something to say, and say it in an entertaining way.

The common denominator among hosts who rise above the pack is that they all have something to say about whatever topic they're discussing, something more than just reading it out of the paper or taking the obvious position. The best hosts aren't predictable. They aren't easy to pin down as clones of some other host. They do offer original thought, original opinions, a unique viewpoint. They make listeners want to tune in every day to hear what their take is on whatever's going on.

You want to be that kind of host. But I can't tell you HOW to do it (not for free, anyway). I can just tell you that if you want to be one of those hosts who really stands out -- who really IS irreplaceable -- you need to be more than an anonymous host who sounds like every other host talking about the same standard topics with the same opinions and same personality and same voice. You need to be, well, special.

And that's why, when I try to explain to the curious (generally, that means everyone I meet from outside the industry who asks me "so, what do YOU do for a living?" and reacts with confusion when I tell them) exactly what "Talk Topics" is, I tell them that it's a long lost of potential topics for talk radio shows, but that the idea is not to just take what I've written and read it on the air, it's to read it, put your own spin on it, maybe come up with a question for the audience, and generally make it your own. You can fill a whole show just rattling off what's in "Talk Topics" (which is, of course, All Access News-Talk-Sports' show prep column), but anyone can do that. Your gift, should you choose to use it, is to take an item from the column and come up with an opinion, a question, an idea that might not immediately occur to most people. There's your "special." Do it in a compelling way and you're golden. And maybe you'll be the next host who has stations fighting over his next big-money contract.

What's in this week's "Talk Topics," anyway? Waiting for your special take are items on things like a Very Texas Rosh Hashonah (including gunfire), who's complaining that hybrid cars are too quiet, what people are doing to ensure that their homes get sold, a guy who should have just paid the five dollars to see a concert rather than ending up impaled on a fence, a bunch of stories about pervs and murderers that should raise your blood pressure, a bus driver who went way above and beyond, a stabbing resulting from an argument over produce, several pit bull stories, a legal battle over a tiki hut, the dispute over how to deal with gangs, what burping has to do with breathalyzer accuracy, the Great Pasta Strike, why oil futures are breaking records, conflicting news on American health, and why Homeland Security might consider rounding up Florida Marlins fans (it wouldn't take long). You can also check out "10 Questions With..." KSRO/Santa Rosa host (and former San Francisco Giants broadcaster and Petaluma mayor (!)) David Glass, and browse the rest of All Access with the radio industry's best/fastest/most accurate news, message boards, music charts, columns, jobs, ratings... you know, there's so much stuff here that I lose track sometimes. Just go to allaccess.com and check it all out.

Hey, will you look at that? I got through this entire thing with just one reference to the Eagles' debacle and not a word about what's left of the Phillies' season. I'm improving.

YOUTUBERY: A BOB CLAMPETT CAR-TOOOOOOOON!

Late Rosh Hashonah dinner tonight, so...

When I was a kid, I watched this show religiously, but I never saw it in color until, well, tonight:

I had an inflatable Cecil that I used in the town pool and in the ocean when we went to the shore. This was 5 years ago... no, actually, it was more like 45 years ago, but it seems more like 44.

Beany was a wuss with an odd voice. Cecil ruled. Dishonest John REALLY ruled -- and I remember imitating that laugh all the time when I was a kid. "Yah-ha-haaa!"

And now, in French! (Be patient, and it kicks in at the end):

I miss that inflatable Cecil.

NOW WE ARE SIX

Fran said she didn't want to put the news on during dinner because it might be too sad today. "Did they do the moment of silence?", she asked.

I didn't know. I mean, I'm sure they did at the ceremony in Manhattan, but if they did it on the radio, like having every station go silent at the sixth anniversary of the moment of first impact, I didn't hear it. There's less 9/11 stuff on 9/11 these days, but you'd expect that with time. But I asked in my other column today whether they'd put Pearl Harbor on the back burner by 1947, and I don't know the answer to that. I do know that while the memory was still fresh enough, JFK's assassination wasn't a time-stopper in 1969, despite Bobby's assassination a year earlier -- the world had gotten used to the killing, and, well, six years is a long time.

But I think -- I hope -- enough people still feel that open wound today from 2001 and enough people haven't -- won't -- forget. I heard Jeff and Bill talk to people about where they were when it happened, and I had to laugh, because I know exactly where I was and what I was doing: I was right here, in this very spot, at this very desk, doing exactly this, writing early in the morning, hearing on the radio that a plane had hit one of the World Trade Center towers, firing up the TV tuner in the computer and watching as the second plane disappeared behind the tower and hit, and thinking, well, now everything changes.

And in some ways it has, from the overreaching and ineffectual airport security to the fear of radical Islam that makes some Westeners want to just capitulate in the hopes that they'll leave us alone after that. But it remains remarkable how much is, well, normal today. And that's what I was thinking that afternoon six years ago, that maybe not everything will change, that someday soon we'd be going to the grocery and watching "I Love Lucy" reruns and flying to wherever and complaining about the Eagles again. That day came more quickly than I expected. And so did the idiocy -- the "truthers" and the appeasers on the left, the fight-anybody-and-don't-worry-about-what-comes-next attitude on the right. We descended into a mass of bickering disorder; in other words, we went back to being ourselves.

So here we are, trying not to forget what we need to remember from that day but also trying to put it aside, to be normal. If we remember what happened, and that the people responsible still wish us ill, we can also indulge ourselves in the trivial, and we should. That is, after all, the way of life the people responsible hate. If watching a ballgame and listening to rock 'n' roll and being Jewish infuriates them, that's what I just have to do. Living well IS the best revenge.

BEST TELEVISION SHOW EVER

So the East Coast feed of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" was over -- Larry and Jeff and Richard Lewis and Ted Danson all pulled the "wrong night" scam! Ha ha! -- and we didn't feel like plowing through the Anthony Bourdain backlog on the DVR, so we checked to see what was on other channels. Jackpot: the Chabad telethon was on KCAL-9. Almost forgot.

So I put it on and the phone started to ring, and while I was busy on the phone, I realized that on the TV screen, local radio oddity Vic "The Brick" Jacobs was singing "Time Has Come Today," only this time it was "L'Chaim Has Come Today" and Vic was prancing around in a fur hat and an outfit stolen from a Yeti (which I can attest is pretty much Vic's normal attire). And I was still on the phone through a taped appeal by Bill Handel and still talking when Fran said "hey, it's the Mayor" and I looked up to see Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa grinning in a yarmulke, surrounded by the Hasidim. They went to the tote board, the number appeared, and then they launched into one of the Chabad telethon's frequent frantic celebratory dances, only this time including the Mayor, who was flailing and hopping and doing the hora with the guys in black robes and hats.

And I did not record it.

And I cannot yet find it on YouTube.

And I am SO ANGRY AT MYSELF for not recording that show. It was six hours of pure comedy gold.

Someone did post last year's Vic the Brick musical performance, and it's as jaw-droppingly painful as this year's:

But nothing from this year? Nobody recorded it? That cannot be. If you're sitting on video of the Chabad extravaganza, it is incumbent on you to post it. Now. And let me know. The fate of the world depends on it.

EAGLES 2007, WEEK I: WE ARE NOT AMUSED

And so it starts for the Eagles, with Greg Lewis managing to turn his first punt reception into a Green Bay touchdown. Apparently, he's never heard of that "fair catch" concept. And JR Reed never heard that you don't HAVE to catch a punt and can just get away from it, leading to the losing field goal. The defense was better than I expected, but the offense was horrible, the play-calling was abysmal, McNabb couldn't read anything, they took painfuly stupid penalties -- and now we know it'll be the same frustrating team, win or lose, that it's been throughout the Reid-McNabb era. They aren't ready for the season. Blame Big Red, your coach and de facto GM, who entered the season with nobody who could field a punt. Check that -- they COULD have put Westbrook out there with time running out and a crucial punt coming. But they ran a guy out there who's too stupid to know that he didn't have to catch that ball.

The most priceless moment during Andy Reid's press conference was when Les Bowen asked, "This might seem like a ridiculous question but did they both understand you don't have to field a punt?" And all Reid could muster, after a moment of reflection and indigestion, was "yup." Good answer, Red. Thanks for playing.

You can check the end of Thursday's "Letter" and see that I had a bad feeling about this game. And we have an extra day to savor the feeling before they play again at home against the Skins a week from tomorrow. You know, a week ago, I was consulting the schedule and thinking, well, great, between the SUnday/Monday night games and the games where they'll be seen on local Fox or CBS in L.A., I may once again get most Eagles games on TV here. Now, "great" doesn't seem to be the appropriate word.

Here are a few screen shots I snapped of today's game. First, it's a pileup in the end zone as the Packers recover Lewis' muffed punt in the first quarter:

The Eagles couldn't break off the big offensive plays for most of the game. Here, Correll Buckhalter gets tripped up in the backfield for a loss of two yards:

Brett Favre looked tired and old at times, but managed to hold it together and made some big plays when it counted:

Although Kerse managed to break through a few times and made Favre eat the ball:

Here's Mason Crosby for the winning field goal:

It's up... and it is good!:

Exultant Packers fans carry Favre off the field in triumph:

At least my friends in Green Bay are happy tonight.

YOUTUBERY: SANDY, SOUPY, WALLACE AND LADMO

Another day feeling a little under the weather -- I'm fighting off a cold -- so we'll have to go for more YouTubery, and because the kids' stuff got a nice response, here's more.

Amazing what you can find: someone posted a Sandy Becker show from the '50s. Sandy Becker was a New York kids' TV legend. The video quality sucks -- it's a subpar kinescope -- but you don't see stuff from the WABD era as a rule, so you gotta love it. I especially love the way he slid from a bit with a bird into a long, long Arnold Brick Oven Bread and Brick Oven Molasses commercial in the first segment, something kids' shows can't do anymore (hosts shilling for products, that is).

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Part 5 (including a drawing lesson featuring Geeba Geeba!):

This would have been before 1958, when channel 5 changed call letters to WNEW. And WNEW is where you'd have watched Soupy Sales in the mid- to late-'60s. The same guy who posted the Sandy Becker show posted this complete Soupy show from 1965:

Part 2:

Part 3, in which he does "The Mouse":

I had Soupy's "The Mouse" album when I was a kid. I remember it was on ABC Paramount Records, and my favorite cut was "Pachalafaka" ("they whisper it all over Turkey"), later covered by the Muppets (!).

And for equal time for another market, here's a scoped, partial episode of Wallace and Ladmo, then called "It's Wallace?," the legendary KPHO-TV/Phoenix kids' show featuring the many odd characters of Pat McMahon, now at KTAR radio:

Part 2, with McMahon's most popular character, Gerald the obnoxious rich kid:

The things you notice include the obvious fact that the pace on all three shows is much, much more leisurely than today's kids would tolerate. The shows were easy-going, almost slow, with plenty of dead silence -- today's kids' shows, whether they're cartoons or live action, are frenetic by comparison, with constant music and noise. You also notice that the hosts are mostly playing to the crew -- they're trying to make each other and the crew laugh, and if the kids laugh, too, well, great. The hosts are somewhere between overgrown kids and adults, and they didn't talk down to the kids. And the commercials are jarring -- you can't do that anymore -- but kids knew the difference between the commercials and the rest of the show. It was both a more innocent time and a knowing bunch of kids in the audience.

They don't make kids' shows -- hell, they don't make TV shows of any kind -- like this anymore. Our loss.

YOUTUBERY: BOYHOOD HEROES

Because I spent much of the afternoon being grilled by lawyers -- don't ask -- I have nothing. And that means... more interesting (to me) YouTubery, like...

The opening and closing of Jay Ward's early '60s CBS pilot "The Nut House," a proto-"Laugh-In" with self-consciously "wacky" goings-on all the way through the credits:

Paul Tripp! "Birthday House"! I watched this as a kid! It was a local show on cnhannel 4 in New York in the '60s. No, I never got my name on there:

Chuck McCann! From his channel 5 New York show in the mid-'60s -- the crew is having a lot more fun than viewers did, although he made me lauch when I was six years old. And he runs down the epic kids' lineup of the age, with Winchell-Mahoney, Sandy Becker, and Soupy Sales coming up. The kids on the street are probably my age now. Amazing:

And, finally, the opening of a classic show that should have been released on DVD long ago but has gone missing, the amazing Jean Shepherd adaptation "Phantom of the Open Hearth" from PBS in 1976. Some of the material ended up in "A Christmas Story," and much of it also appeared on his radio show and in his short stories. Someone get this on the market, please:

This week's All Access newsletter is the stirring story of a boy, his lost Walkman, and a crisis of faith, all in the service of a greater wisdom that somehow escapes me at the moment:

I lost my radio the other day. I almost decided not to replace it. This is my story. Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

So I returned from that trip last week, and the next day I was ready to go for a run, popped open my as-yet-unpacked suitcase, and pulled out the usual accessories: Cap, check. Sunglasses, check. Shoes, check. Headphones, iPod, check, check. AM/FM radio... AM/FM radio... um... where's the radio? I searched the suitcase -- no radio. I checked my computer backpack -- nope. I checked the floor, my desk -- not there. I thought about the last time I'd seen the radio in my sister-in-law's house in Florida, and tried to piece together where I might have stashed the radio. Nothing.

The first reaction was mild panic. Gotta have a radio when I run. I mean, I'm IN radio. I can't be without a radio. I gotta go buy a new one. Do they even still sell them? Where will I go?

The second reaction hit me before I headed to Best Buy or Circuit City: hey, wait a minute. What do I listen to when I'm running? The iPod. I carry a radio and occasionally use it to check the news, but the headphones are usually plugged into the iPod. What am I listening to on the iPod? Radio shows and podcasts, easily and seamlessly downloaded to my device for playback on demand. So... do I NEED a radio?

Well...

And then I found the radio in my shaving kit -- no, I have no idea what it was doing there -- and the crisis was averted. But it reminded me to remind YOU that the world has changed, and what you do for a living has changed. You do a radio show, but it doesn't need to be tethered to an actual radio. (Apologies in advance for repeating some themes about which I've written before, but it's fresh on my mind and you can always delete it and move on to the latest "OEM Software!" or "URGENT ASSISTANCE NEEDED" e-mail) A radio offers some advantages, namely the ability to be live and immediate, but other than that, it's easier to order up and listen to shows on an iPod. And that's what I do, mostly. I own radios -- even an HD radio and both satellite services -- at home and, obviously, in the car, but I mostly listen to shows that I record over the Net or to podcasts. I don't think I'm alone, and, although I don't expect everyone to do what I do in the foreseeable future, there is already a sizeable portion of your potential audience listening to iPods or other portable devices, and when they're listening to an iPod, they aren't listening to the radio.

But they could be, and I don't mean by getting Apple to put a radio tuner in the iPod. Here's one way I do it: if you have an iPod, you have a computer. If you have a computer, you can get easy-to-use software that will automatically record any station or show that streams, convert the recorded stream to MP3s, stick the files into your iTunes library, and, the next time you sync, there it is. That's what I do, and that's how I can listen to shows -- RADIO shows, untethered from the actual radio -- from all over the world. Some shows are also converted to podcasts by their stations immediately after the live broadcast; you subscribe, and they're in your iTUnes and ready to sync. (I'm not talking about those "best of" podcasts, either -- there are whole broadcast radio shows being served up as podcasts) However it's done, the most important thing the industry can do to protect its future is to put your shows where people are listening, whatever device they use. (And to put on compelling content people will want to hear, too, but that's obvious)

You know all this. We've talked about it right here before. If I was the King of Radio (turns out I'm not), I'd make every single talk radio show and morning show available as a podcast. Or I'd strike a deal to get that recording software on every computer (I would, of course, have to have some serious discussions about that with the RIAA, too, but let's just stick to talk radio for the sake of argument here, okay?). Your content -- your show -- is not a radio show, or, more precisely, is not JUST a radio show. It's entertainment. If people are using iPods for their entertainment, you gotta get onto that iPod. (Preferably the new iPod Touch. That thing is sweet. But I'm holding out for a lot more storage than 16 GB before I buy one) If they're using their computers, you gotta be on those computers. Cell phones? Same deal. And if they're using some device we don't even know about yet, you're going to have to figure out how to get on that.

And, for the most part, you can do it right now. So do it. (That's a message not just to hosts and PDs but to the people who run the big broadcasting companies -- your transmitters aren't what people are listening to, it's your content. You have no excuse not to deliver that content to any device, not just radios. And the easier you make it, the better)

But remember that in order to stand out in the new age, you gotta make your show compelling and unique. And to do that, you gotta talk about interesting, entertaining stuff. And the best repository of compelling and unique stuff for talk radio just happens to be Talk Topics, the show prep column at All Access News-Talk-Sports, where so far this week you'll find items about the great New Jersey political tradition, a Yankee fan claiming persecution for his beliefs, a guy with a stupid beard, the eternal choice of running over raccoons or driving into a tree, the enduring infamy of the Edsel, how not to market your drug-dealing activity, why the ice cream truck is disappearing, how a newspaper got a whole article about the breaking news that people like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, why September is the best time to go to the beach, the job you don't want right now, too many pit bull attack stories, the trouble with popcorn, caffeine-coated potato chips, the career prospects of "Eak the Geek," why you might not want to quit your job so impulsively, how Waffle House is the beacon of democracy, and lots of stuff about Sen. Craig, Jerry Lewis, and more "real news," "10 Questions With..." WWBA/Tampa morning host and done-it-all-in-radio guy Mark Larsen, and the rest of All Access with the industry's best and fastest news coverage, columns, message boards, Arbitron ratings, job listings, the Industry Directory, Mediabase, StreetPulse, Big Champagne, Net Music Countdown, and RateTheMusic.com charts, oh, all sorts of great radio stuff, all free. And packaged with a great big slice o' love.

Next week: Don't know yet, but I get the feeling it might include complaining about the Eagles' performance in Green Bay Sunday. Just a hunch. Hope I'm wrong.

iWAIT

iPod? Not much to add to what everyone's been saying, but, yeah, I want an iPod Touch. Not gonna get it, though. Not yet. 16 GB is not enough space to do video and music and podcasts. I have about 11 GB of music and podcasts alone on my old iPod Photo, no video -- and I don't want to have to keep putting video on and off and resyncing over and over. I want all my video there for me to choose. I want all of it when I'm on a plane, or on the road. I can compromise only so much.

How about the 160 GB iPod "Classic"? Sweet, if you've never seen the Touch. But I want that WiFi. I want the landscape widescreen. I want Safari and YouTube. I want the touch screen. If someone could get a word processing program, cut-and-paste, an FTP client, and SlingPlayer on there, I wouldn't need to carry a fat, heavy, clunky Windows Mobile Treo anymore. But 16 GB just sucks.

And the price cut for the iPhone should tell me something -- not just that the iPhone didn't sell as well as they thought it would, but that you're almost always best off letting someone else be the early adopter and waiting a few months for the bugs to shake out and the price to come down. I know that, I really do. I still want to run over to the Manhattan Beach Apple Store and drool, but I know I need to walk on out of there without buying. And, really, what do I use my iPod for? Old Jean Shepherd shows, recorded talk and sports shows, some tech podcasts, and the occasional tuneage -- my current, aged iPod still handles all of that already. It would be NICE to transfer some of my video to an iPod and watch it at my leisure, but I don't NEED it at the moment.

So I'm gonna wait. Or maybe I can get one of those Nano fatties to tide me over -- 8GB sucks, but $199 for at least some video use is not bad, and even if they're a little odd-looking, they're still pretty cool. I could use that for video only and keep the old 4G brick for audio. Or I could just wait a few months, see if Apple brings out a more spacious Touch in the New Year, and save the money.

But what fun is that?

Excuse today: My second hard drive died. Sort of. With it went a lot of home video that I did not want to lose. I was able to get it working again, mostly, but only after a lot of work. And it's hot and my eyes are burning and I'm tired.

I'm going to go sulk now.

It's Labor Day and I'm hot, tired, and bored, so I grabbed a TV Guide from a September 3 of years past and checked to see what was on TV 37 years ago tonight. You with me? No? Well, it's a holiday, so you can go do something else. For those equally bored and curious, this was a Philadelphia TV Guide, September 3, 1970, and primetime still started at 7:30, so...

Channels:
3: KYW-TV (NBC) -- at the time, the big player in town with "Eyewitness News."
6: WFIL-TV (ABC) -- not yet the "Action News" powerhouse. Would become WPVI shortly.
10: WCAU-TV (CBS) -- a strong number two. Featuring the Voice of God and the NFL, John Facenda.
12: WHYY-TV (NET) -- at the time, not the best signal, still coming from well south (it's licensed to Wilmington).
17: WPHL-TV (Ind.) -- most sports-oriented of the indies back then.
29: WTAF-TV (Ind.) -- was just evolving into a strong player; later became the leading indie and is now the very strong Fox O&O.
48: WKBS-TV (Ind.) -- the strongest programming of the three indies. You know the story of how it died.

Also in the guide:
8: WGAL-TV Lancaster (NBC)
15: WLYH-TV Lancaster (CBS)
21: WHP-TV Harrisburg (CBS)
27: WTPA-TV Harrisburg (ABC)
39: WLVT-TV Bethlehem (PBS) -- always visible in much of the Philly area and on cable in most areas.
43: WSBA-TV York (CBS) -- yes, three CBS affiliates in one area. Each covered a part of what became the Harrisburg-Lancaster-York market. 43's now Fox, and 15's the CW.

7:30 pm:

3, 8: "Dear Mr. Gable." This was a special with clip and interviews about, obviously, Clark Gable, narrated by Burgess Meredith (!). It pre-empted "Daniel Boone" on NBC. Not sure if there was really a lot of interest left in Gable by then, a decade after his death and long after his biggest successes.

6, 27: "Animal World." Back then, you could still schedule nature documentaries to lead off a network evening schedule. It wasn't great for ratings, but this was ABC before it reached par with NBC and CBS, and it was before the fall schedule started, so Bill Burrud's nature stuff could fill time and nobody cared. This episode was a visit to the island of Barro Colorado in Panama, including that crowd-pleaser, the three-toed sloth.

10, 15, 21, 43: "Family Affair." In this rerun, Buffy committed suic... just kidding, in a most tasteless manner, naturally. No, this one is the one where an elderly Japanese man gives Jody a mysterious tree that he says is tied to his own life, and the tree starts to die as the guy heads back home. What fun! They just don't make sitcoms that funny anymore.

12: "Black Perspective." Long-running local show. Weirdly, this was a rerun of a panel discussion that aired the night before. Budgets were tight.

17: Movie: "Meeting in Salzburg" (1965). A delirious tycoon (Curt Jurgens) dreams he's on trial for his life. Co-starring several actors of whom you've never heard. And it turns out that "Meeting in Salzburg" wasn't even the real title of the movie. It was "Begegnung in Salzburg" in its native language and "Encounters in Salzburg" in the Anglo version, although some reference books do list "Meeting in Salzburg" -- but it seems to be the same movie. And it wasn't from 1965, it was from 1964. And Curt Jurgens was billed in Germany under his correct name, Curd J├╝rgens. Other than that, the listing's accurate. And it doesn't seem to have shown up on DVD or on cable for many years. Now I want to see this thing. It can't have just vaporized, can it?

29: "The Anniversary Game." Syndicated game show hosted by Alan Hamel. Trivia: it was on this show that Hamel met his future wife... Suzanne Somers. I kid you not.

39: "Antiques." "On display: Indian artifacts." And you wonder why public TV had few viewers in 1970.

48: "McHale's Navy": One of the later, less entertaining episodes set in Italy, the one where the Germans shoot at Binghamton while the local mayor runs scams on the crew.

8:00 pm

6, 27: "That Girl." Rerun of one where Ann directs an amateur show at her dad Lew's country club. Guest stars: Dave Ketchum ("Agent 13"! "Camp Runamuck"!) and Carole Cook.

10, 15, 21, 43: Drama Special: "Crisis" with Carl Betz as Dr. Frank Chandler, a psychiatrist at a "crisis clinic." Co-star: a pre-stardom Billy Dee Williams. Producer: Quinn Martin. Unmentioned: this was no "special." This was a busted pilot from CBS' 1968 season. But it filled some time in an off week.

12, 39: "Washington News." Really, you could have edited NET right off your dial.

29: "I Spy." Cosby and Culp go to Tokyo, and Culp manages to find an Anglo with whom to fall in love. You know, I never watched "I Spy." Ever.

48: "Hazel." I did watch this, although I never understood why, suddenly, the family changed but the son remained behind. Turns out that the show moved networks, Shirley Booth paid out of pocket to keep it going, and they dropped Don DeFore and Whitney Blake in favor of Ray Fulmer and Lynn Borden, and right there is way more than you needed to know about "Hazel." This episode -- the new mom's sister-in-law thinks the new daughter should go to elocution school -- was from that last weird season. More trivia: Ann Jillian played the father's secretary.

8:30 pm:

3, 8: "Ironside." The one where Ironside admits his attraction to the guy who pushed his wheelchair. No, it's the one with a hostage situation, starring John Saxon ("a regular on 'The Bold Ones,'" the caption helpfully adds). I hated "Ironside" except for the opening theme. You know the theme, the one that sounds like a siren. Yeah, that one. You could keep the rest of the show.

6, 27: "Bewitched": Yes, it was still on. This was a Second Dick episode, hence it wasn't as good as the First Dick episodes. Samantha goes on an uncontrollable eating binge. Yes, Dr. Bombay was called in. Alice Ghostley's there, too. Bernie Kopell is "Apothecary"! Pat Priest -- Marilyn!!! -- plays a nurse! Maybe this wasn't such a bad episode after all.

12: "Book Beat," with Robert Cromie interviewing Erich Segal, the author of the then-number-one best-seller "Love Story." Love means never having to watch public television.

39: "NET Playhouse." "Talking to a Stranger -- Anytime You're Ready I'll Sparkle." First in a four-part drama about a family reunion, each part told from one family member's perspective. Star: Judi Dench.

48: "Candid Camera," from the Durward Kirby years. Guest: Woody Allen. Is this available on DVD? Not this particular episode, but there are DVDs available. Perhaps I'll purchase one soon.

9:00 pm:

6, 27: "This Is Tom Jones." Guests: Sammy Davis Jr.and the Band of the Welsh Guards. They didn't appear together, but they should have.

10, 15, 21, 43: Movie: "Three Bites of the Apple." A comedy from 1967 with David McCallum as Stanley Thrumm, a nebbish who hits the jackpot at a casino and, well, Harvey Korman gets involved. Really. So does Domenico Modugno. Who dat? The guy who sang the original "Volare," that's who. Can you find this movie anywhere? Again, apparently not. But someone has the poster.

12: "David Susskind," tomight looking at people who get married three times or more, and cops talking about violence in the community. Featuring lots of curling, mesmerizing cigarette smoke, no doubt.

29: "Virginia Graham." Guests: Johnny Mathis, James Farentino and Michele Lee, singer Hal Frazier, and conservationist (and, later, longtime ABC News personality) Roger Karas. I don't remember Virginia Graham having that many celebrities on one show. But, then again, I never watched.

48: "Perry Mason": Perry defends someone against impossible odds and wins. That described every episode. Why watch?

9:30 pm

3, 8: "Dragnet." Friday and Col. Potter investigate a high school kid's disappearance. Staccato comments and raised eyebrows are exchanged.

17: "Twilight Zone." Wagonmaster searches for water and finds more than he bargained for. Cliff Robertson is the wagonmaster. John Astin was in this episode; so was Ed Platt (the Chief!) and actress Evans Evans. Evans Evans? Yes, Evans Evans, but she was also Evans Frankenheimer, married to John.

10:00 pm

3, 8: "The Golddiggers": Yes, they had their own Summer show! This was back when "Summer show" meant cheesy variety shows that took the place of the Fall/Winter cheesy variety shows. "The Golddiggers" were Dean Martin's Summer replacement, of course, and this episode featured guests Charles Nelson Reilly and Marty Feldman and regular Tommy Tune, who wasn't a Broadway star/director yet. Jayne Kennedy was a Golddigger. I will not mention "the tape" or anything on it here.

6, 27: "The Survivors": Harold Robbins soap with a cast of thousands headed by Lana Turner, George Hamilton, Jan-Michael Vincent, Ralph Bellamy, Kevin "We're All In Great Danger!" McCarthy, Clu Gulager, Rossano Brazzi, Diana Muldaur, Natalie "Mrs. Howell" Schafer, Michael Ansara, and Robert Lipton, who's worked steadily in Hollywood but whose real claim to fame is being Peggy Lipton's brother and, therefore, uncle of Rashida Jones, Karen in the American version of "The Office."

17: "Of Lands and Seas": Travel show, this week on Banff National Park. UHF stations used to air this stuff all the time, since it was a) free and b) kept the signal on the air until something more profitable could be found.

29: "World of Sport": Dunno what it was, but it only lasted 5 minutes. Probably a score wrapup.

39: "Newsfront": I assume this was channel 39's attempt at local news.

48: News, Carl Grant: This WAS channel 48's attempt at local news. For a short time, Kaiser spent the money to mount a 10:00 news effort aping successful independents in New York and Los Angeles. Didn't work. What happened to Carl Grant? Not much: he's only the Chairman of the President's Advisory Group for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and a Senior VP, executive counsel to the president and CEO, and... well, read it yourself.

10:05 pm

29: "Variety Special." "The comedy team of Soul and Grits along with comedian Renny Jones host an hour of song, dance, and humor with special guest, singer Adam Wade." I did not make a word of this up.

10:30 pm:

39: "Environment." Topic: population control. They still were on the Paul Ehrlich "population Bomb" kick back then. Turns out they were wrong.

48: "Alfred Hitchcock Presents": Woman frightened by youth in the neighborhood. Bruce Dern was in it.

10:45 pm:

12: "Film." AKA filler.

Later, Johnny had singer Dick Jensen as a guest. Who? I believe it was this guy, who was a pretty big deal in Hawaii and did a proto-Moonwalk. Merv, on CBS, had comic Jimmy Martinez -- this guy. No guests were listed for Dick Cavett. Phil Donahue, still in Dayton, was on 29 -- no topic listed. And on 17 at 11, Wink Martindale hosted "Can You Top This?" with guests Milton Berle, Morey Amsterdam, and Henny Youngman.

Next time you complain there's nothing on your 300 channel cable dial, your DVR, your on-demand cable menu, and your DVD collection, remember this.

A HOT TIME IN THE OLD TOWN TONIGHT

I'm going to keep it brief tonight, because it's stil the holiday weekend and because it's hot. Very hot. It's 8:30 pm right now and it's still hot enough that I'm sweating just sitting here, although the fan we moved to the living room is blowing enough air on us to make it a hair more tolerable; an hour or so ago, it was so hot that I needed a hand towel to mop my brow just sitting here watching "Entourage," and that was after two dips in the pool and two showers. It's like we never left Tampa. I've been getting up before dawn to run, because by the time the sun comes out, even right by the ocean, it's way too hot to be out there. The weather is supposed to get more moderate by midweek, but until then, this sucks.

I was happy to see the "Entourage" crew end up flopping at Cannes, though -- I'm looking forward to next season, when, if all goes well, E will be delivering for Pizza Hut, Turtle will be selling beer at Yankee Stadium, Johnny Drama will be in prison for indecent exposure, Vince will be starring in "Kiss Me Kate" at the Bucks County Playhouse, and Billy the director will be institutionalized. One can dream, can't one?

All right, enough. Go enjoy one more day off (U.S. only). I have work to do. And sweating. And watching Jerry Lewis. He started the show with Norm Crosby and Ed McMahon. And the Chabad telethon's next week. Life's good.

FLABBY DAYS

We all know Americans are too fat, right? And that obesity is a new thing, growing radically in recent years, the fault of Bushitler and Halliburton and greedy television executives, right?

Here ya go: I plucked a random old TV Guide off the shelf, this one from 1978, and there were no less than five ads for miracle weight loss products. Turns out being overweight was common even in the Carter admimistration. Who knew? The truth is that people HAVE gotten heavier. They've also gotten taller and live longer. And the general obsession with being thin has existed long before we all got affected by global warming and overpopulation and Republican conspiracies.

Here's a capsule that promises the world:

An appetite suppressant! You had to read the fine print to understand how it made you lose weight: you had to eat "sensible" snacks and desserts, meaning -- shock! -- you had to eat less of the stuff you like. Easy! And they still, I believe, make this stuff. I think it has benzocaine in it, which I thought you sprayed on your sunburn.

I think Cartman took this stuff, but to gain weight:

More Permathene, this time a protein plan. I guess they assumed that you hadn't seen the first ad, which touted the capsule as the way to go, and they'd catch you with this stuff, which alludes to real medical-type people saying it's great. No exercise, either -- taking this stuff is like jogging 10 miles a day! Perfectly plausible! Why, it's from "Boston's leading medical school"!

You can still get this stuff, too:

They wisely refrain from breathless claims about HOW much you'll lose. It used to have PPA, which got banned, then had ephedra, which ran into the same fate. What's in it now? Who knows? Will it help you lose weight? Who knows? But it does have a name that almost sounds like "dexedrine." Come on, Eileen.

Here's another appetite suppressant:

Aah, boring. And "three planned meals a day"? "Planned" means you're going to be eating wood. No, I want the Astro-Trimmer!:

"Incredible * Astounding * World Famous"! Testimonials from M. Morgan, M. Meyers, and J. Stewart! 4 to 8 inches lost in one day without dieting or your money back! Just wear it, sit there reading a magazine, and you lose (in more ways than one)! Send check, money order, MasterCharge or BankAmericard number now! No C.O.D.s!

Look, all I'm saying is that we were all "fat" in 1978. We were "fat" in 1968, 1958, 1948. We had fat presidents. Some people were grossly overweight, and some were not. People ate fatty foods on the run, and people didn't exercise like they should. Same as now.

Or maybe TV Guide readers were especially flabby. Probably. But in the present obesity witch-hunt, it's good to get some perspective from history, or at least from some old, yellowing magazines on some bored guy's shelf.

March 2012

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Who?

    Perry Michael Simon. Talk radio guy. Editor of the News-Talk-Sports section at AllAccess.com. Editor and writer at Chris Hardwick's Nerdist.com. Former Program Director, Operations Manager, host, and general nuisance at KLSX/Los Angeles, Y-107/Los Angeles, New Jersey 101.5. Freelance writer on media, sports, pop culture, based somewhere in the Los Angeles area. Contact him here. Copyright 2003-2012 Perry Michael Simon. Yeah.

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