October 2008 Archives

This week's All Access newsletter took forever and several rewrites to finish, and it still seems half-assed and thrown together. That's because it was, sort of:

A few items to remember for talk radio as we reach the end of the campaign and go to the polls Tuesday:

1. If the success or failure of your show depends on which party is in power, you're doing it wrong.

You see all those "what are Rush/Sean/whoever going to do if Obama wins" stories? You know how silly they are, because those guys can just as easily -- maybe more easily -- play from the outsider angle as from the winner's circle. That should be you, too. Whether you're liberal or conservative or something else, it should never matter who's in charge. That's because....

2. Your job isn't to get a candidate elected, or a referendum passed.

You don't work for a political party, or, at least, you shouldn't. You work for the listeners. (And the advertisers, but that's another column) Your job is to entertain. And if that's what you do....

3. The end of the election season shouldn't be the end of your ratings.

If you concentrate on entertaining rather than selling a political position or being simply an information source, the people who came to you for election talk will stick around because they're entertained by you. If all you did was hardcore inside-the-beltway election coverage, you didn't give them a reason to come back once the new president-elect makes his victory speech.

But for those of you who talk about politics, Tuesday's the day. Have fun with it. And convey that fun and excitement and disappointment and tension and emotion on the air. That's the difference between hard news and talk radio. You get to put on a show. So do that.


Last week's column about... well, see, here's the thing. It wasn't intended to be about the Fairness Doctrine. It was intended to be about the different types of talk radio that I think are underrepresented in the industry's overreliance on standard political talk. But I wanted to use the Fairness Doctrine debate as a way of getting into that, so I made the mistake of leading the column with my opinion on the law, which led a lot of people to react. In fact, a lively e-mail exchange developed, which I mostly sat out just to see where it went. (Also, I figured that I could borrow from what people were saying to get a cheap and quick column out of it) For the most part, it went where I expected it to go. Those on one side of the political spectrum had no problem with the government stepping in and mandating "fairness" or "balance," and the other side, well, they didn't get involved much in the discussion. And I could recount all the arguments that people made -- in fact, that's what I'd planned to do -- but then I remembered two things: one, that the Fairness Doctrine doesn't apply to this column, and two, that I wasn't trying to get discussion going on the Fairness Doctrine, I was trying to get people to see the value of doing talk that doesn't rely on a host's specific political orientation. So if you want to discuss the Fairness Doctrine, be my guest, and if you want to disagree with me, that's fine, too, but I'm going to take a break from the debate for now, because I'd rather focus on how to make talk radio better without the need for, or worrying about, legislation. I suspect we'll be revisiting the Fairness Doctrine topic soon enough, anyway.


You knew that I wouldn't get through this week's Letter without acknowledging that the Phillies won the World Series. I could actually tie it into a relevant talk radio issue, but I'm going to save it for another time. Right now, I'm just happy the drought is over.


This week's items at All Access News-Talk-Sports' Talk Topics show prep column deal with all of the above -- the election, the Phillies, all of it, plus the economy and other "real news" stories. But there's more, much more, including bad Halloween treats, farting dogs, pants-dropping coaches, suicidal squirrels, the joys of ear wax, Peter Frampton's complaint, buffet violations, gelato with a "special ingredient," overcrowded marathons, and more, which I'll cut short here because I'm way late on the deadline for this. There's also "10 Questions With..." The Hog Sportsradio/Springdale, AR host and GM/Partner Grant Merrill and the rest of All Access with news, features, charts, columns, etc., etc., free.


Hey, did I mention that the Phillies are the World Champions? Yes? Well, I'll mention it again. I'm afraid it may be another 28 years before I can do that again.


No, not THAT kind of hangover, not even the day after the Phillies reached the pinnacle. This one will be a push of the column deadline to tomorrow, because I had too much to do today. It also means I'll have to push any menaingful content here to the weekend. You understand, right?

Thank you.

I wasn't born into a Phillies family. My father had been a Brooklyn Dodgers fan, and when they moved west, he picked up on the Mets, but it wasn't the same. We went to a lot of Mets games, but we also went down to Philly, too, and I ended up a Phillies fan, through lean years, then division championships, and finally 1980. I remember watching McGraw strike out Willie Wilson on a black-and-whte set in Rhoads Hall at Bryn Mawr and thinking, well, this is great, but there'll be more of these.

28 years later, there's more.

I don't know if the circumstances made this one feel better or worse. I didn't really feel overwhelming joy. It was more like relief, especially with another patented Brad Lidge scary save. It wouldn't be a Lidge save without the tying run in scoring position. It wouldn't be a Phillies win without some heart-stopping, nerve-jangling danger. And when it was over, when Lidge sank to his knees and Ruiz hugged him and Howard tackled the both of them and a tidal wave of white and red washed over them all, I just thought "Yes" and said "Yes" and Twittered "Yes" and... yes. Just yes.

It would be truly un-Phillies Fan of me not to think about the probability, or lack thereof, of a repeat. But that's for tomorrow. Tonight... Yes.


While the World Series waits for another day, thus driving all Phillies fans crazier than normal (which is, indeed, a frightening proposition), I've been once again hit with a lot of work and no time to do it. So I have to beg off again. I know, this is getting tiresome, but it can't be helped. Plus, it's ridiculously hot here.

Game 4.5 tomorrow. See you here.


So we're going to have to wait for the end of Game Five, and when we get there, there'll be no Cole Hamels. Pardon me for feeling snakebit.

It took Upton's run to get MLB off the hook for an embarrassing rain-shortened "official game" to end the Series, but I would have taken that. I would have taken a championship any way it came.

And now, the agony and the doubts commence, as if there weren't agony and doubts already. But all will be forgotten and forgiven when -- if -- they close it out with a victory. Whenever that is. I'm guessing November.


This is only a test to see if I can post from the Touch Pro. If you see it, the answer is yes.

And, yes, I'm watching the game. I AM capable of multitasking.

The game was already pretty much in hand when Joe Blanton hit his homer, but it just felt like, you know, an exclamation point for the game and, maybe, the season. If Game Three's surreal ending didn't give you that feeling of destiny, a home run by a guy who, literally, didn't get to hit before midway through this season.

It wasn't just that. For every Phillies fan who'd been paying attention this season, the prospect of Blanton going in Game Four was not promising. "If he can give us six innings," we thought, and we let that thought trail off. He did that, the bats woke up, and the Promised Land is a game away. Yes, they're winning ugly, but they did that all year. And in the end, all that matters is the winning part.

It's well past ten here in L.A., and the game just now went into the ninth. The Phillies blew a 4-1 lead, helped by a bad call at first on a great play by Moyer that set off a Tampa Bay rally and total inattentiveness to B.J. Upton's ability to steal bases, leading to Upton making it home without benefit of a hit. Frustrating and exhausting.

But Moyer did what the Phillies hoped he would do, pitching well and eating more than six innings. I was pleased with the old guy's performance, keeping in mind that the old guy is younger than I am. There's nothing quite as sobering as seeing someone universally regarded as an aged, grizzled veteran and realizing that you're older.

And it's also amazing that the game was played at all. During the pre-game, Fox kept showing the torrential downpour drenching the stadium, and it looked like it would be impossible to play, given that the amount of water hitting the tarp would comfortably replenish a good-sized reservoir. Fox compounded the problem by insisting on filling the time with reruns of "'Til Death," which may just be the worst sitcom of the last decade. You'd think they'd want to promote one of their better shows rather than drive viewers away.

But play they did, and playing they are. I want to turn this computer off for the night, so I'll wrap without knowing what the final outcome will be. Let's hope for the best.


UPDATE: Well, that was one of the more unusual endings to a ball game ever. Five man infield, and the game was won on a ball that barely made it halfway up the third base line. We, of course, will take it.


Yesterday's newsletter sure got people's attention, but for the part I thought was least interesting. I tossed off my little Fairness Doctrine rant as a means to get to the other points of the column, but people fixated on the Fairness Doctrine, and soon I was buried under an avalanche of e-mail, mostly critical. My first thought was, geez, there are a LOT of liberals out there. The second thought was, geez, they didn't even finish reading the column. And the third thought was, geez, they're kinda writing next week's column for me.

So I'm letting 'em bat this one around. It might make next week's job a little easier. That always works.

Nothing much to report about today, I'm afraid -- just the usual mix of work and more work. Picked up the EyeTV Hybrid for the Mac, and I like it a lot, except for one thing: It runs hot. Way hot. Cools off quickly once it's been pulled, but... man. On the bright side, I threw a Silver Sensor indoor UHF antenna on it, put the antenna on the living room floor (!), and it picked up plenty from 90-100 miles down the coast with little difficulty, with digital including ABC, NBC, Fox, the CW (a normally tough grab from its tower in Tijuana), and PBS, and everything analog from San Diego and Tijuana. The only digitals I couldn't get were the other TJ channels and CBS, which is impossible due to running very low power on VHF channel 7 as a temporary measure until the analog shutdown next year. Haven't tried clear QAM from cable yet, but, so far, I'm impressed -- it gets a lot more a lot easier than my old Fusion PC card, and more than the ATSC tuner in my TV gets. I'm going to get plenty of use from this in my travels.

Tomorrow: Game 3. Moyer vs. Garza. Nervous? Yep.

Why can't us?

Because us is doing the same silent-bat-treatment thing now that us did in our cold streaks.

Myers wasn't bad tonight; the defense didn't help, nor did the Baldelli strikeout-that-wasn't (ladies and gentleman, your Worst Umpiring Performance Of the Season, Kerwin Danley!). But the big guns have gone silent, and while at least Howard hit a double and made hard contact in other ABs (although he's still hitting directly into the shift; opposite field, Big Guy, opposite field), Rollins is plain awful right now and Werth had one of those days at bat, on the basepaths, and on the field. One word: Ugh.

Game 3 (Saturday, weather permitting) will be Moyer vs. Garza. On paper, that's trouble. In reality, that's probably still trouble. But at least it's in Philly. Maybe that'll push things towards the red.

This week's All Access newsletter uses the ugly spectre of the return of the Fairness Doctrine under an Obama administration as a convenient starting point to revisit an old sticking point:

First, let me get this out of the way: I'm against the Fairness Doctrine's return. I think it's an unwarranted intrusion on the First Amendment. Sen. Jeff Bingaman's comments this week on KKOB/Albuquerque were the words of a politician who's looking for revenge, and there are plenty of those who are eagerly awaiting the chance to get that revenge through legislation. It may not survive a court challenge (although there IS the Red Lion case to get past), but you may be dealing with a logistical nightmare soon, with every word you say being analyzed for "fairness." I'm sure the FCC will have no problem handling the increased workload of dealing with the complaints.

Okay, now that we're on the record there, there's another side to this that bothers me, too, and that's how predictable most talk stations are these days. At some point -- and it wasn't that long ago -- an edict must have come down from on high that stations have to be on one side of the political spectrum or the other, and never the twain shall meet. That's how we ended up with all-conservative stations and all-liberal stations. And that makes sense from the traditional radio programming concept of consistency: tune in anytime to hear the same thing. No argument there. I'd want that, too.

But my problem isn't with keeping things consistent. It's what programmers think they need to keep consistent. They think that the most important thing is to keep the politics pure. They SHOULD be keeping the entertainment value pure.

I don't understand why it seems that some stations would rather put on a boring party-line-spouting clone host instead of someone who might not be an exact point-by-point ideological match but sounds the way the station should sound. That's how we got Balkanized radio. That's how we got the stereotype to which Senator Bingaman is reacting. But when you're hiring talent or picking syndicated shows for your lineup, it's easier to just grab someone who's just like the rest of 'em.

Here's my challenge: Let's find, develop, and promote more hosts who aren't predictable. After all, most listeners aren't party clones, either. Talk radio's been superserving the deeply committed, but that's a small percentage of the population. I'm not saying get rid of stations that do all-conservative or all-liberal talk. I'm suggesting that as we see more stations trying talk formats to survive in the iPod era, we look for talent that doesn't fit the one-side-or-the-other mold. Let's look for more populists, more fiscal-conservative-social-liberals (and vice versa), more lunch-bucket common-sense folks, more unique, individual voices. They ARE out there. As a matter of fact, most of your potential audience is made up of those people. (Me, for one) Don't do it because of the threat of the Fairness Doctrine. Do it because it makes sense.

Of course, no matter whether you're conservative, liberal, or something else (Whig, perhaps), you'll need material for your show, and that is where All Access News-Talk-Sports steps up to the plate and hits a grand slam (or at least a solid single up the middle) (okay, beats out an infield hit) (maybe works out a walk) (gets hit by a pitch) (yes, the World Series is occupying a large part of my brain at the moment) with Talk Topics, the column of, er, talk topics. This week, you'll find a guy willing to do anything to play drums, free beer for voters, a spider eating a bird, the constructive use of earmarks, the bright side of mass layoffs, the invention of "whipahol," why the fastest time doesn't always win the marathon, what to do when your money is eaten by mice, what to do when your car wiring is stolen by mice, the sad case of the old guy and the panties, the B.E.E.R. Party candidate, the world's lonest dreadlocks, more naked bartending, and the origin of the 2008 National League Champion Philadelphia Phillies' battle cry, "Why Can't Us?" Why can't us, indeed. (Us can't hit with runners in scoring position, I'm afraid) You'll also get plenty on the economy and the election. And don't miss a timely "10 Questions With..." "Watchdog on Wall Street" host Chris Markowski and the rest of All Access with the radio and music industry's best, fastest, most accurate news coverage in Net News, ratings, job listings, columns, charts, and the Industry Directory, which is constantly being updated to keep up with all the layoffs. It's all free and updated constantly, so check in often.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll be going back to acting like Game 2 of the World Series never happened.


A pitchers' duel? Lineups like these and we get a pitchers' duel?

Well, sort of. This could have been an offensive bonanza had the Phillies been able to hit at all with runners in scoring position. But Rollins was lost at the plate, Howard looked totally befuddled at bat and on the field, and the Phillies squandered plenty of chances. It's nice that Utley was solid, and Werth delivered, but they have to do better in getting those runners across the plate.

You can't say enough about Cole Hamels, though. He made a mistake to Crawford and had trouble with Iwamura, but, otherwise, he dominated the heart of the Rays' lineup. Kazmir was hittable and the Phils got guys on base, but they couldn't do too much damage, especially against the Rays' bullpen by committee. All they needed, though, was the three runs. Hamels, Madson, and Lidge did the rest.

The Phils needed this one. They need Myers to do the job in Game Two as well. They can't want to leave things to Moyer and Blanton. But so far, so good.

Being a Phillies fan -- indeed, being a Philadelphia sports fan at all -- requires that one lower one's expectations while simultaneously hoping beyond hope that things will end differently this time. I've been watching Fox' pre-game show, an interminable parade of less-than-illuminating outsider "analysis" and El Pollo Loco commercials, and I keep thinking, okay, let's get this over with, not in the "let's blow these guys away" vein but in the "I know something terrible will happen, so let's hope it's quick so the pain dulls faster" way.

So here we go. I'm sure I'll be hearing cowbells in my sleep for weeks. The game's about to start. Let us pray.


I have a great excuse for missing yesterday's post. It was our anniversary, so writing a blog post wasn't a priority.

Fran and I met over 20 years ago, and we married on October 20, 18 years ago. "Best decision I ever made" is an understatement. I have been blessed.

I tend to get very, very mushy when writing about, or talking about, my love for Fran. I will spare you that here. But I love her very, very much, and I reserve the right to get all mushy about it. And on the occasion of the 18th anniversary of the day we wed, mushy is all I've got.

Thank you, Fran, for the last 18 years, and for what's coming up, too. I love you.


I finally pulled the trigger and bought the MacBook Pro. Too damn expensive, but I needed a new work laptop and, well, yeah. So far, I like it. I don't have a problem with the glossy screen or the glass no-button trackpad at all, the thing is fast and slick, I'm setting up the software and it's good so far. I'm not crazy about the weight -- I'm used to little Sony VAIOs -- and the chiclet keyboard takes some getting used to. But it's pretty much ready to go right out of the (stylish, suitably less-is-more) box, with the addition of a few downloads to enable stuff like Windows Media (Silverlight -- ugh). This isn't my first round with Mac -- I worked on Macs years ago -- but it's my first in a while, and it's making a great first impression.

I have a sort-of photo essay to post, but it'll wait until tomorrow. Gotta do some other stuff first. And tomorrow might get busy, too.


Today was Movie Day as part of our Gala Eighteenth Anniversary Weekend, which isn't all that gala but has been nice as we just do stuff together (actually, we pretty much do EVERYTHING together all the time, but... well... just go with it, okay?). We headed down to Irvine for Feature Number One, "What Just Happened," which was your basic Hollywood-is-ridiculous inside-show-biz tale, enlivened by Robert De Niro as Art Linson's stand-in and Bruce Willis' beard. Amusing enough, although it's no "The Player."

After dinner and a stop at the Apple Store to play with the new MacBook Pro (verdict: yeah, I'll probably spring for the 15" Pro), it was off to another theater by UC Irvine for the new Patti Smith documentary. We arrived ten minutes before the show and we were the first ones in the theater. Eventually, eight other patrons showed up, two of which left after ten minutes. Saturday night, ten paying patrons... not good at all, but I wouldn't expect too many more, especially in Orange County. The verdict: Long. Long and a little pretentious, kinda like a Patti Smith song. You didn't get that much actual performance footage, just a little, sprinkled among segments in her house (unclean), backstage tour footage, and plenty of bits with her visiting graves. Oh, and Flea shows up for no apparent reason to play trumpet, do a handstand on the beach, and trade stories with Patti about peeing in cars and planes. I kid you not. It's intermittently interesting -- the movie, not the peeing -- but I'd have liked to see more archival stuff.

And I missed the Sox-Rays game for it. But I spent the time with Fran, so I'm fine with that. Besides, there's always Game 7.

After several false starts, I finally got an All Access newsletter written, and when it went out... it was blank. I inadvertently left a character in there that broke the HTML. So it had to be sent twice, and by the time it went out in readable form, it was very late.

For the record:

So, you got laid off, huh? Sorry to hear that. I'm always sorry to hear that. And I'm hearing that so much lately, it's... depressing. Throw in the economy and my managing to get my not-inexpensive GPS unit run over with my wife's car (don't ask, and, yes, it was my fault) and it's almost too much for even the Grand Exalted Triumph of the National League Champions, Your 2008 Philadelphia Phillies! to overcome. (Almost. But how 'bout them Phitin' Phils?)

Anyway, you got the ax, and your head is spinning. I know the feeling, although in my case(s), I saw the ax coming sufficiently early to go through the whole K├╝bler-Ross Five Stages of Grief before getting called into the General Manager's office. You know the five stages: Denial ("They can't fire me -- the ratings were UP in Men 49-54 in our Hot Zips!"), Anger ("You #<(%!& glorified salesman! You're ruining radio! Why, I oughta...."), Bargaining ("Wait! I'll do overnights! Weekends! I'll board op!"), Depression ("Why bother? I'll eventually get replaced with syndication anyway"), and Acceptance ("Well, that didn't work out. Maybe I ought to update my resume. Do I have a resume?"). You're probably somewhere early in the process right now. Let it play out. It always does.

And then you have to move on, and I don't have to tell you how tight the job market is right now, not only for radio jobs but in general. It's easy to panic, but keep in mind that it's not like there aren't jobs out there. It just might be that a job you'd prefer to have isn't available right now. And that's why I always go back to the value of being flexible. You have to be able to do something other than just be a radio host, or a radio programmer, or a radio salesperson, because you might not get the right radio job as quickly as you'll need it to come along. If you can do something, ANYTHING else -- write, work a cash register, wield a mop, take inventory, fix sprinkler systems -- there's no harm in supplementing your income, no reason not to do whatever keeps the income flowing... and it beats moping around the house while the bills pile up. Besides, it doesn't mean you won't work in radio again. And you might just enjoy your alternate "career." (I'm led to understand by the highly informative advertisements aired during "Hawaii Five-O" reruns on Channel 56 that you, too, could enjoy an exciting and lucrative career in long-haul truck driving)

But if you do go to work in another field, don't give up on radio. Despite the way things look, and despite the way some "experts" declare that radio is over, dead, done, there's going to be a market for audio entertainment, whether it's delivered in broadcast form over an antenna or streamed over the Net or downloaded via podcast or yelled out a window through a megaphone. Maybe some big radio groups will go broke, maybe some small stations will go under, but people are not going to all of a sudden decide that, you know, we don't like talk shows anymore. The shows may be different, or they may come to people in a different form, but people want to be entertained and informed. Someone's gotta do it. Might as well be you.

In the meantime, here are a few job-seeking tips:

1. If you find a Craigslist ad with ALL CAPS, it's probably not a real job. "MAKE MONEY IN YOUR SPARE TIME" and "MODELS WANTED" aren't, you know, what you want. At least, I assume not. I don't know you.

2. "No calls" doesn't mean "Wait a few weeks, then call if you don't hear anything." "Yeah, I saw that, but I didn't think you'd mind" does not work, whether in responding to "no calls" ads or as an explanation to the cop for why you just plowed past the speed limit sign doing 75 in a 30 zone.

3. Notwithstanding that, sending out a few e-mail responses to want ads every week doesn't qualify as a serious job hunt anymore, not for anything but filling out that form for unemployment benefits. You have to network, you have to call and write and be persistent, and you have to understand that you may make a hundred or two hundred or a thousand contacts before you get a decent response. It's easy to be discouraged, but it takes only one positive response to be back in the game.

4. If the want ad has a return address with something like "ATTN: Dept. AA-2008-10-17" in it, chances are pretty good they're just running the ad for EEO purposes. Don't wait by the mailbox for a response. You may get one, but just be realistic.

5. Investment banking and newspaper writing: Not growth fields either. Just sayin', you might want to concentrate on other businesses.

6. Stay confident in yourself. Your unemployment doesn't necessarily mean you suck. Good people, talented people, worthy people get fired. I mean, this is radio -- getting fired is part of the tradition.

And, above all... good luck. This, too, shall pass.

Now, most of you are still employed at the moment, and that means you're in need of stuff to talk about. Sure, there's the economy and the election, but you need more. And you can find more (and the economy and election, too) at All Access News-Talk-Sports in the Talk Topics show prep column, which this week includes items on how the economy is affecting the World's Oldest Profession, the perfect song to accompany CPR, why you need a monkey license in L.A., bad behavior by political partisans, a criminal pig, and what might be shrinking your brain, plus a LOT of economic items and election news and plenty more material so you'll never be at a loss for topics. Also at the site are "10 Questions With..." brand-new WOWO-WJKG/Fort Wayne PD Dan Mandis and the rest of All Access with the latest industry news, ratings, columns, music, and, oh yeah, for job seekers, there's the Industry Directory and job listings. And it's free, which, right now, is the price you want to pay for everything.

Next week, I'll warn you right now, will probably involve some Phillies World Series material. Plan accordingly.


I am going to once again exercise my right to delay completing this week's All Access newsletter by a day because it was too depressing. I'm serious. I wrote a version of it, went to dinner without saving it, came back to find that the computer had rebooted itself because of a Windows update, recreated the original, read it, and decided that I'd just couldn't put out something that depressing, especially after telling people not to give in to the doom and gloom just last week.

Besides, I had already wiped out some of the glow from yesterday's Phillies triumph by managing to get my GPS unit run over by my wife's car in an incident that was entirely my fault (and my expense), and then there was the matter of the sprinkler head that snapped off at the base and created a lifelike reproduction of Old Faithful in our front yard. I did, however, managed to fix the sprinkler myself (I think).

So I've written a new version of The Letter that takes a marginally more positive angle on the matter of this week's round of radio firings. But I'm not really 100% sold on whether I've nailed it, and it's always better to sleep on it and revisit the matter in the morning. Besides, the Tampa Bay-Boston game has gotten interesting, so... excuse me.


It did cross my mind at least a few times that it would be fun to go up to Dodger Stadium and watch the Phillies win the pennant. I even checked StubHub, there were plenty of tickets at decent prices. But then I remembered the way that Dodger fans behave when confronted by the presence of fans of the opposing team. And when I saw an article in the L.A. Times describing the rude behavior directed at Phillies fans at the stadium this week, and heard fans calling in to WIP with tales of being used for target practice in games three and four, I decided that he would be better just to stay home and enjoy it on TV.

And, with the exception of the early innings, which I watched at dinner, that's what I did. Instead of being doused with beer and dodging Dodger Dogs all night, I was on the sofa when Carlos Ruiz squeezed the final pop-up. The only reaction I could muster was one word: "finally." Fifteen years is long enough. So is 28. But that's for the next round.


Why is it that I'm not writing much about the National League playoffs?

Because I've been a Phillies fan way too long. And Phillies fans know to hold off on the celebration until it's over.

Chico Ruiz stealing home. Black Friday. Chub Feeney sitting in the rain. Roger Mason pulled while mowing down Blue Jays; Mitch Williams serving one up to Joe Carter on a platter.

Anything can happen. So I'll stay reserved until it's all over.

(But how 'BOUT that Victorino? And Stairs? And 56,000 Dodger fans going silent? I'll stop now before I et too confident....)


Is anybody else as disturbed as I am by those Sharp Aquos commercials with the white-haired physicist?

They show up about a dozen times per playoff game, so I doubt I'm alone.

Seriously, is anyone going to run out and buy a Sharp because a creepy guy tells them to?

I should be thinking about the game. Instead, I have this. Not fair.


It was, I suppose, too much to ask to expect the Phillies to sweep, let alone just win the series. But what's interesting is how the agitation of both teams indicates how players today can't deal with the inside pitch. Russell Martin hits with his elbow practically over the plate and he's upset that he got hit once (with a Jamie Moyer Nerf fastball) and spun around another? Victorino is pissed that a pitch went a mile over his head instead of at his gut? Come on. Pull this kind of thing in 1968 and you'd be laughed out of the league. Toughen up, guys.

While I watch the game wind down, I'm still dithering over what cell phone to buy. As I've noted before, I can't go with AT&T, so I have to rule out the iPhone -- no signal here at all. T-Mobile has no 3G here yet, so it's between Verizon and Sprint, my current carrier. I like my plan with Sprint, and the signal, at least here, is solid, but the handsets, frankly, suck. Verizon has the new touchscreen Blackberry coming, which is tempting, but their voice/data plans are pricey. Sprint's a lot cheaper per month, but... well, we were in the Sprint store today, and they happened to have the HTC Touch Diamond. I was pretty set on getting the keyboard-slider version of the phone, the Touch Pro, when it comes out shortly, because it offers all the specs I want: EVDO Rev. A, WiFi, Bluetooth (that works, as opposed to Bluetooth on a Palm Treo, which doesn't), touchscreen, keyboard, Word document editing, plenty of programs like Sling Mobile available. But then I played with the Diamond, and it... sucked. The TouchFlo 3d shell on Windows Mobile 6.1 was slow as molasses, the touchscreen was unresponsive, none of the programs worked properly. I think that phone had been set up poorly, but, still, it wasn't a smooth, pleasant experience. If the Pro version's like that, it'll be a very subpar phone.

But what are my options? I'm looking at the Blackberry Curve and 8830 World Edition, which have some of what I want (QWERTY keyboard, great messaging) and some of what I don't (ugly, clunky OS, no touchscreen, small screen, bulky, a little dated). No way will I do the Treo 800w -- the 700wx experience has closed that window but good (horrible Bluetooth, frequent crashes, slow). So, what can I get?

Is it too much to ask for a phone that has what I need? A QWERTY keyboard, a decent, sharp, bright touchscreen, plenty of memory, EVDO Rev. A or HSDPA, one-handed usability, a fast processor, a fast OS, Bluetooth that works, document editing, expandability... even the iPhone doesn't do what I need it to do. At some point, someone will come up with my dream phone (which probably is being sold right now in Asia or Europe, where the phones are way, way cooler than our carrier-locked, feature-starved models). Right now, I'm frustrated -- my current phone isn't cutting it, and my current carrier's phones are not promising. I need a better answer from the Cell Phone Gods.


This morning -- really, the whole day -- was spectacular in its beauty. Cool, breezy, clear; the vista from the overlook in Lunada Bay, with a light chop on Santa Monica Bay ringed by a clear view of the beach towns, downtown L.A., Century City, Malibu, and the mountains was postcard-perfect.

Naturally, we spent the afternoon in a movie theater. Californians are nothing if not jaded by daily natural beauty.

We saw "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist," and it was exactly as advertised: cute. Cuteness abounded, even with the inclusion of a scene in the Port Authority ladies' room that... well, getting past that (and some related business with some chewing gum), the whole thing was precious and light and, yet, quite amusing and entertaining. Michael Cera played Michael Cera -- dude, next role is gonna HAVE to stretch it a little -- and you knew exactly how everything would play out, but it didn't matter. It particularly reminded me of how much I like New York at night. You could tell it was a fantasy, however, because there was always a parking space wherever they went.

Plus, the characters were all from New Jersey and some (including Norah) were Jews. We Jews from Jersey don't get too many movies about us. Thumbs up.


The cliches are flying at Fox this Fall!

That should be the network's slogan, based on the coverage of the National League Championship Series (TM, R, Reg. U.S. Pat. Off., All Rights Reserved). So far, each inning the Dodgers score a run has been followed with "I Love L.A." Phillies scoring innings have been serenaded with the Rocky theme. There have been shots of cheesesteak meat being grilled. I assume that they'll get to booing Santa Claus, soft pretzels with mustard, and maybe some Butterscotch Krimpets before they leave Philadelphia, and we'll have lots of Hollywood and beach references when the series shifts out here.

Are TV sports producers that bereft of inspiration? Can they come up with nothing else to represent these cities? More to the point, why do they need those shots of "local color" anyway? Have we not had our fill of them by now? It's a baseball game, not the Travel Channel.

But if they insist, perhaps they can show some alternate views of the cities. Let's see some Mantua street scenes, maybe a shot of a run-down auto body shop in Chester, a traffic jam on Roosevelt Boulevard in the Northeast; for L.A., maybe Terminal Island or Pacoima or someplace.

Anything but "I Love L.A." I've had enough of that. And I actually DO love L.A.

This week's All Access newsletter smells a lot like "Always Look On The Bright Side of Life," in ways that I'd rather not think about. I didn't want to make it even more morose by bringing up Lauren's passing as well, but, well, if I'm going to have to go around worrying about the economy, that's what's going to be in "The Letter." On the other hand, the reason I'm thinking about the bad stuff is that I can't read or listen to or watch anything without getting a faceful of despair thrown at me. I decided that we need to balance this out before we all go nuts. And a discussion with Larry Wachs, top Atlanta Jew, crystallized the thought. So, here it is...:

So, are we depressed enough yet?

This wasn't a good week. With the economy going into epic fail mode, there wasn't a lot of good news to be had. You probably spent a lot of time talking about the economy, naturally, when you weren't talking about all the extraneous campaign "issues," like who was friends with whom. But there couldn't have been much joy involved.

You're not alone, of course. It seemed at times like most people were walking around in a daze, having a hard time comprehending what might be going on. The possibility of losing your job, your house, and the shoes on your feet will do that to you. It hasn't helped that there's been no escape from the bad news. Every newspaper, every TV news show, and, especially, the chatter with your friends and coworkers: every conversation has been loaded with worry. Nobody knows for sure what's going on, yet that's all anybody talks about. And on the radio, it's more of the same.

That, I suppose, is how it should be. After all, some idiot writing a newsletter much like this one said just two weeks ago that you should be talking about the economy pretty much all the time right now. I... er, HE was right. But we're a couple of weeks into this, at least the part where it's economic DEFCON 1, and the negativity gets to be a little overwhelming sometimes. The stress can't be good for us. Listening to the gloom and doom, watching the market drop hundreds of points in minutes, seeing retirement accounts reduced to rubble, hearing that credit just isn't going to be available anymore, watching banks -- big banks -- teeter on the brink of collapse, seeing entire industries looking suspiciously like they don't have much left in the tank...

You get the idea. The tough part is that the doom and gloom may be entirely warranted. Things ARE bad. We don't know whether they're going to be getting a lot worse or just a little worse. The stress is real. And by talking about it, we add to that stress. We can't help it. We can't NOT talk about it.

But how much will our audience want to hear of this before they just decide that they can't take anymore? At what point will they think, forget this, I'm just going to put on Jack FM for a little distraction? And what do we do to stop them from going to that music station, or their iPod, or blessed silence?

That's a great question, and I'm not sure I have the answer. But in tough times like this, I'm always reminded of the lesson learned from the classic movie "Sullivan's Travels." (Apologies to those of you who read my personal blog at pmsimon.com; you've heard this before) If you've never seen the movie, you should find it, and not just because it has Veronica Lake AND Uncle Charley from "My Three Sons" (although that should be enough). The thumbnail summary of the movie is that in doing research to make a serious, socially relevant movie, the protagonist discovers that what people out there really want is entertainment. He sets out thinking that he needs to use his position in the entertainment world to educate, to make a serious statement, and it turns out that what the "little people" can really use is some distraction to help them get through the day.

So keep that in mind. That's not to say that you shouldn't be talking about what's causing the stress, and it's definitely not to say that you should not be honest about them. You should cover everything about the economic meltdown. But maybe it's not such a good idea to turn every talk show into a never-ending parade of bad news. Remember, if you're like that friend everybody seems to have who does nothing but bring everybody down with complaining and whining and never-ending misery, pretty soon you won't have any friends. Hey, look, the sun is still rising. You aren't yet reduced to eating cat food. (My cat recommends Sheba, by the way; pricier, but moist and tender) And nobody ever went wrong selling hope to the people.

All right, I'm writing this Thursday evening and the Phillies-Dodgers game is on, so I'm going to drop the other stuff I was going to write about -- dedication, that's my middle name -- and just go to the plug for All Access News-Talk-Sports, where this week's Talk Topics column of show prep goodies is overloaded with stuff to talk about, like, oh, the economy. Really, there are a ton of economic topics out there, with all sorts of angles you may not have seen elsewhere, and comments and lame jokes and other elements to get you started. And then there are the other topics, like the answer to who would win in a fight between a guy with a hammer and a guy with a letter opener, a millionaire's love for college cafeteria food, why one city has 30 kids who share one father -- and don't know it, what Barry Bonds is doing this October, two unintentional home invasions with very different outcomes, the pungent explanation for why one flight had to make an unscheduled landing halfway across the country, a bad test-drive, how a state legislature inadvertently legalized parents abandoning their teenagers, the secret for getting free emergency room care, the problem one school has with "Ray-hawks," and much, much, much more. Then read "10 Questions With..." WIBX/Utica PD and afternoon co-host Mean Gene Conte and the rest of All Access with the industry's best, fastest, and most complete news coverage, ratings, job listings, music, columns, the Industry Directory, all free, and we know how important free is right now.

Anyway, let's hope for some better news soon. I could really use some, myself. Hear that, Phillies? I'm talkin' to YOU.


Lauren Dombrowski, Boston comedian, "Mad TV" producer/writer, tough, smart lady, died today after a long and courageous battle with cancer. She put up the kind of fight that probably left cancer reeling and hurt, but in the end it was just too much.

When Fran was first diagnosed with breast cancer a few years ago, Lauren was one of the first people to reach out to her, through our mutual friend Johnny. Lauren and Fran kept up communication through the last few years, and we saw Lauren do a live reading at the Fake Gallery earlier this year. We said we'd see her again soon, but that, as these things go, never happened. Her illness took a bad turn shortly thereafter.

Lauren and Fran did all the talking; I was just the husband lurking in the background. But her words of encouragement and support meant the world to Fran, and, in turn, to me. She left a lot of people feeling better off for having known her. That's a pretty great legacy.


It's Yom Kippur eve. I shall atone.

One Yom Kippur story: this one, in which a Jewish guy's been fired from a Jewish website ("Jewcy"?!?) on Erev Yom Kippur. Nice. Just in time for the bosses to beg forgiveness.

Letter tomorrow, plus Phillies. Exciting.

All I've been thinking about lately is the economy.

At lunch today, a friend and I talked mostly about the economy. On the phone, I talk to a lot of people, and topics A through Z are the economy. Okay, there's baseball and football, too, but it's mostly about the economy.

There was a debate tonight, in which neither candidate really said much about how he would fix the economy.

And on Twitter, I'm seeing the partisans on both sides snarking about the other guy and declaring their guy the "winner."

There was no winner. Everyone lost. We have a crisis and the two guys on the ballot have no answers. And nobody is holding their feet to the fire to answer the damn questions.

They don't HAVE to answer the damn questions. Not with so many people walking around starry-eyed about Obama -- he's tall, handsome, confident! He doesn't HAVE to have answers! -- and so many people willing to overlook McCain's inability to effectively defend and explain even his most compelling positions. It's disheartening that even some highly educated and intelligent people are prone to doing the "my guy's great, your guy sucks" thing. It's as if they all turn into the lowest form of Eagles or Raiders or Cowboys fan when it comes to politics. Yeah, we get it -- you love your candidate. Good for you.

We advise people who are shopping for cars to be tough and demanding and not let the salesman talk them into things they neither want nor need. We advise patients to challenge doctors and insurers to make certain that they're providing the right care and coverage. We tell parents to demand answers from teachers and school administrators, to stay on top of them for the sake of their children's education. But when it comes to a presidential election with the nation in desperate need of the very best leadership, we turn into fanboys.

I give up. Wake me when it's over. I assume that won't be for a few years, at least.


I'm going to have to beg off today due to time constraints and an impossibly bad mood. I'm in need of chocolate and baseball, both of which are in the next room. Oh, and more time. Some more money, too, if there's any lying around you don't need.

Tomorrow promises to be busy, too, but I'll take a stab at getting something up here. No guarantees, though.

Friday night, I heard a baseball play by play announcer -- a name brand announcer, one who normally works a very popular team's television broadcasts -- tell his audience that the Phillies would be coming up in the ninth inning for last licks. The Phillies were the visiting team. The visiting team doesn't get last licks. Anybody who has ever played baseball on any level, including Wiffle ball, knows that. He didn't.

This morning, I heard the update anchor on a local sports station say that the Dodgers had swept the Cubs three to one. Later, the same guy said that Michael Westbrook would be playing for the Eagles today. He did not say whether Brian Westbrook, the Westbrook that plays for the Eagles, would be in the lineup. Nor did he explain how one can sweep another team three to one.

The radio industry's standards are slipping. I can understand the occasional slip, but stuff like that is happening more frequently than it used to, or at least I'm hearing more of it. Doesn't anybody care? Shouldn't there be some standards, even on Sunday morning?

And people ask me why I'm so negative about what's going on in the business. Nobody's watching, and nobody cares, it doesn't matter. And in this economy, it's only going to get worse.


It must be nice not to be a sports fan. I wouldn't know.

I gave up on the Phillies in the bottom of the eighth tonight. We had to go out and buy a few things Ella-- related anyway, so we headed out and I put the game on the radio. While I was cursing at Pedro Feliz, Fran just sat there silent, staring out the front window. after the game, we talked about it. And she said that while she's not a sports fan, she does care and she'd like to win because I'm a Philadelphia fan. But that's not the same, and she wasn't the one doing the cursing.

I guess I get a lot of pleasure from watching sports, but sometimes I think I'd be better off if I was one of those guys who, as Marc Germain to say, was born without the sports gene. I spend a lot of time watching games, reading about games, caring. I don't make any money from it, except for the rare times when I get paid to write about it. And in return, I get plenty of heartache. Part of that is my own stupidity for being a fan of the teams in a city that doesn't win championships, and has a tendency to lose in increasingly heartbreaking ways. if only I'd picked the Patriots, the Lakers... but I can't do that. No matter what Jimmy Rollins says, once you're a Philadelphia fan, you're not a frontrunner. You can't be a frontrunner when your teams aren't in front.

So I wasted several hours today watching the Phillies fail to hit. My stress level rose when they couldn't even hit Eric Gagne, who appears to other teams as if he were pitching batting practice. This is what it's like when they're up two games to one. Imagine if this was like last year, when they got swept in Colorado. But I survived that. Whatever happens this year, I'll survive, too. If it plays games with my blood pressure and distracts me from doing things that might actually bring some more reward than the occasional thrill of watching a team you like win a game, well, that's the bargain I struck when I decided as a very young boy that I really do care if the team in red beats the team in blue. And though I've written before about my occasional, fleeting thoughts in the vein of giving up, not caring, and reclaiming my life from sports, the truth is that it's way, way too late for that.

And I'll be back for more punishment tomorrow.


One of the interesting things about writing a column about the radio industry is the reaction that I get. I generally get a good reaction, but the volume of responses is always much bigger when I take the opportunity to rip the people who run the business a new one. If I write about the nuts and bolts of doing talk radio, people tend to remember it for a long time and will sometimes remind me of the advice I've given, but they generally don't respond at the time the columns are written. On the other hand, I can do a column filled entirely with ad hominem insults directed at the people who own radio stations, and I'll get congratulatory e-mails for a month.

It's ugly out there.

That's the mindset of the rank and file in the radio industry right now. There's no faith in the people who lead the medium. The fact that those people don't have any respect for the people who create their content and insist on sticking with HD Radio and have turned some of the company's into penny stocks might have something to do with that. But I think that I've become a de facto conduit for all the discontent people are feeling about radio right now. That gets awkward, because I don't always feel all that angry or frustrated. Sure, I have problems with the way the industry is being run, and I'll admit that I don't have much faith in the people who run it. But sometimes I just get tired of complaining all the time, especially when nothing changes. So I do columns giving advice on how to do radio better, knowing that I won't get that visceral response.

There's another problem, one to which I've alluded before: it's really hard to come up with a fresh, compelling column offering new opinions about the radio industry every single week. It's not the kind of industry that generates fresh challenges and interesting new developments every week. When nothing changes, you tend to repeat yourself a lot. I try not to, and I try to come up with different angles on some of the recurring themes, but it ain't easy.

Don't cry for me, though, because it's still not that bad. And if my alternative is to be like a certain other radio trade reporter who gets his picture taken palling around with the suits that run the business, I'll stick with what I do already. There's nothing that's worth kissing the asses of the salesmen who ascended to the top of this particular pile. I've read "The Peter Principle." I don't need to spend my time socializing with prime examples of the principle in action.

This week's All Access newsletter borrows a trick from tonight's debate to make a debatable point on how to conduct interviews:

Before we start on the radio stuff, I'd just like to go back to...

See that? That's what they do in debates. Someone asks you a question, you say you'll answer it, but first you want to go back and talk about something else. And then you answer the question you want to answer. Everybody does it. Just once, I'd like to see the moderator say "no, you'll answer the question I asked." in fact, I'd like to see the moderator rule with an iron fist. I'd like to see the moderator ask questions that neither candidate wants to hear, insist that they get answered, and cut the mic off when the candidate tries to pull the "I want to go back to" trick. It'll never happen, though.

Or will it? Here's the thing: Some of you get to interview candidates and their representatives in an election campaign. When the campaign is over, you might get to interview them as elected officials. But all too often, I hear talk show hosts being deferential to their guests, treating them with kid gloves, asking soft questions and allowing the politicians to spin their answers any way they want. And I understand the thought behind that: It's an important person, they've consented to be interviewed by you, and you want to make sure that they'll come back. Maybe they'll even remember you, and call you by your first name the next time they come on. And you can tell everybody you know that you're a "friend" of the President, or the Senator, or the chairman of the party.

That, unfortunately, doesn't make good talk radio. Most interviews don't. It turns an interactive experience -- you put out a topic, people call you -- into an entirely passive experience. Your audience just gets to hear you and somebody on the phone talking. There's no chance for the listeners to ask questions of their own. That's one reason why, as a programmer, I always tried to discourage talent from relying on too many interviews to fill up their show.

But if you're a talk show host and you have the opportunity to interview a Very Important Person, you're going to take that opportunity, no matter what some blowhard radio trade columnist tells you. If and when you do, I hope you remember what I said about there being no chance for the listeners to ask questions of their own. That's because it's a reminder that in situations like this, if you can't open the lines and take calls for the guest, then you represent the listeners. You're working for them. You have the opportunity to ask the questions that they want answered. But, too often, that opportunity is wasted because the host is too deferential or too afraid to ask the tough questions, to follow up on them, to hold the guest's feet to the fire. It doesn't matter whether you support that candidate, or the guest is a member of the same political party as you are. You don't work for the party. You're not a campaign worker. Your job is not to get somebody elected, or to cheerlead for a particular party or candidate. your job is to entertain, and to give your listeners what they want. They don't care if you're buddy-buddy with a famous person. If they can't ask the tough questions, they want you to do it for them.

So ask the tough questions. If that means that you won't get a government appointment when "your" candidate wins, you'll just have to live with that.

And when you're not doing interviews and you're not talking about the debates, you need other stuff to talk about. And that's where All Access News-Talk-Sports and the Talk Topics show prep column comments apply. As always, Talk Topics is filled with, um, talk topics. For example, this week, you'll find Halloween hookers, headless gators, headless chickens, All sorts of items about the economy, all sorts of items about the election, All sorts of items about animals, a testicle cookbook, The surprise re-emergence of Hanson, a band of braless, shirtless female thieves, a crazy lady in a cow suit, a particularly clever thief (featuring the diabolical use of inner tubes and work clothes), another GPS mishap, and a bag of dead cats. After you've recovered from that, check out "10 Questions With..." KNML (The Sports Animal)/Albuquerque morning show producer/sidekick and erstwhile mayoral candidate Skip LaCombe and the rest of All Access with the first/fastest/most accurate news coverage in the radio and music industries, plus ratings, jobs, the Industry Directory, columns, and much more, for the highly attractive price of free.

In closing, I'd like to thank the moderator, the League of Women Voters, and America's television networks for the opportunity to speak directly to the American people. It is, indeed, a special honor to have this opportunity, and my opponent is a big poopypants. Thank you, and good night.


I was on the phone a few minutes ago with my computer headset on my desk in front of me. It was far enough away so that it couldn't get a clear read on what I was saying, but it kept taking dictation. Here's what it typed, with the caveat that I don't believe there's a single word that's accurate:

now was now in our own the U.S. the red Sox of the L. L. UEZ Knight rider year in the 88 at the end what he has a base of all evil is why the hard line of the numbers as a white rat the same me yet understand that the months he's me and say that the same any money or go ahead runs at that game was somehow that of the one that has legs out really worries me. Very bad at the back of a man then you saying that the end of the end of string of the only after that reads winning run on base in only the only thing that you gave us more than one at least one This week 113 and a visiting and there's there's a new data of what you know exactly the opposite day when I run the winning run of the things that that's the way Getty's of the year in the morning 4141 at the end of the value of these right he's driving us crazy thing is the only see the wear and call your calls the police vans everybody else seems to me that all you don't need any of the fact that the bills via the hell out of the Trew is a senate hearing this is now that the while I have the Zeidman hands and I were you when you have the right things, that's all the wizard of the exit of this writing what I'm saying that was our needs writing down what it means a in Larios you know it's possible the ran the ran on the the the the year of all right now the year for one year the years 11 or more of the the the right or the fire the ones the war or the high of the the the the the the the light of all of the grass of the north of the matter of the of the more like the the the air or the year the the the the the the the the war of the white my life one of the year all the way or the whole or so why all the more the the more the better or for the year of the year of our old when I say I'm got out of the of the more I know I know I hire all of the lottery very where every call the the the the SA and there might call and say star menu the you're not the way of doing the new or the or very little of the back of the more one or more as a RE the that's the 199 one of the moderate or yen or not only the last line of the the the the more the DeWald in the the the Los or when of the most of the real army the people of one of the way when you say yes to the mill and reunite my I have all the way yesterday on the ball of the U.S. now the one the war yes or my own or the way back the the the the SA the money and I I I I I U. the the the money or the more the usually we are not the cents or more over the one side are the ones are you now the underwear the it's in a lot of guys that the U.S. is a big deal out of this yet by the white wire areas of the light yellow or white wine and wire areas of the various areas are you all the fighting a lot like the idea that the whole point of not only of where the money you now, with the response of of the same well known out of the law that the very least that is an answer as opposed to saying well known year marks the center of what's the money might buy them back of the line of the cause of those of us in a year that was trying Seattle's Woodland at the end of the the the the the was a read the fine line or any of the right of way down the line the OEM of windows of the year was a year one was the most or all of the of the war that you say you love the sat of the idea that the loss of is where the bodies of the way of bus or a bad debts

I particularly like the phrase "I have the Zeidman hands." I'm going to have to use that one someday.

I suppose that Step One was to win a playoff game. If that's the case, then the Phillies accomplished what they needed to do today. It helps that Cole Hamels was nearly unhittable. Not that the Phillies did a lot of hitting, either, but they did enough to win. They might, however, consider amping it up a little bit when they face Sabathia tomorrow.

But that, indeed, is tomorrow. We'll worry about that (and Brad Lidge's increasing penchant for dangerous ninth innings) then. Today was a mostly boring, quiet, mercifully short game, but it was good. Any win is good.

March 2012

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    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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