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April 11, 2004 - April 17, 2004 Archives

April 11, 2004


Companies often like the kind of person who takes risks at work in order to make things happen. Bold, creative moves tend to reap greater rewards when they work, and many business encourage such practices, because even with the risk of failure, they understand that the upside if the risks pan out are enormous, and in a competitive climate, that's the kind of operation that ultimately succeeds.

And then there's radio.

You've undoubtedly noticed the rising body count in the broadcast indecency battle. I don't have to recount what's been happening and why- go to AllAccess.com and look at Net News if you need some refresher courses- but I will say this: if I was in the position of a creative risktaker in the employ of the company that's been firing people for "zero tolerance" indecency violations lately, I would be demoralized. It has to be hard to work for a company that doesn't have your back when the pressure's on, that surrenders when Washington phonies come calling.

I didn't know the French owned radio stations in America.

But the problem's not just with a single company waving a white flag and begging for mercy. It's an industry that does not encourage creativity- you have to struggle to be creative, but those who merely copy your act are handsomely rewarded. It's the NAB never really coming to the aid of broadcasters being attacked over the indecency issue. It's AFTRA concerned about the contractural aspects of the issue- don't even THINK about directly fining artists, it's not their responsibility- but not rushing to the aid of those fired over the issue. Nobody loves the radio guy accused of indecency... except the people who listen, but they have no say in matters.

Someday, when people look back at these times and this issue, they'll see two sides- a small, embattled group of talent being shut down by heavy-handed political pressure, and a large, clueless mass of politicians and businessmen complicit in silencing people for what they say, regardless of whether there's a rational basis for doing so. Ask yourself which side you'd rather be on.



Yes, I missed Friday and Saturday here. I was unable to get to the computer. Sorry.

This weekend was an interesting time to travel, because on a holiday weekend like this, it's Amateur Hour in the skies. Easter and Passover are invitations for people who don't normally travel to buy tickets and hop on board, and that results in interminable lines at check-in, at the car rental place, at the hotel, at restaurants, everywhere. This time, I flew American Airlines, and it reminded me, as I noted on the first leg of the trip, that I really, really like JetBlue. On the way back, it was another full flight, and, once again, the folks in the seats next to me spoke no English, which meant that I had to translate every time the food or drink cart came by. Trouble is, I don't speak enough Spanish to do that well. You don't want to hear what I had to do to figure out she wanted the Cranberry-Apple drink. Or "cereal."

Anyway, it was another flight packed with screaming toddlers (one right next to me yowling while I tried to nap, another kicking my chair from behind, and one who refused to sit down and buckle up when we hit turbulence, resulting in our sitting on the tarmac at LAX after landing while paramedics were ushered on board to tend to the brat), another five and a half hours of discomfort, and monumental jet lag. I haven't yet recovered. I know, you can tell. But I'm back, sorry for the two day absence, and, well, that's it.


April 12, 2004


Mark Steyn makes some good points about Fallujah and the Iraqi mindset. Go read it now.

That being noted, and agreeing with Steyn's analysis of the situation- it explains well the otherwise baffling inability of the Iraqis to fight for their own freedom- I'm still thrown by the administration's resolute refusal to take control of the situation back home. We've been hit by a parade of bad news from Iraq- kidnappings, murders, lawlessness- and with questions about PDBs and what the government knew about 9/11 before 9/11. Surely, much of this is being fueled by partisan posturing, as well as by the news media, but, you know, I wonder who's advising the President about this right now. Maybe it's the same people advising the radio industry on indecency- roll over, play dead, beg, and hope they go away. It's rope-a-dope writ large, and it ain't working.

At the very least, we're owed some honest talk, even if it's "yeah, we had bits and pieces of information and if we'd have put them together in a particular way, we'd have possibly been able to do something." This resolute refusal to address ANY of it, this stay-on-message-and-hope-it-all-goes-away thing, it's a mistake. It's not going away. And at this rate, it'll be President Kerry's problem next January.



And right after I posted the last comment, I checked LGF and there was a link to actor Larry Miller's latest column at the Weekly Standard's web site, and he's basically saying a lot of the same things, only better:

    I mean, please, anyone who ever reads past page two has known since President Bush landed on that aircraft carrier that Fallujah was the headquarters, the homeland, the core of everyone who ever worked and killed for Saddam Hussein. It's not just a place, a city, a neighborhood, with terrific down-home folks going to choir practice and trying to get by in tough times. It's the place--the bull's eye, it's got them all, and it might as well be called Tortureville, or Saddamfield, or Baathburg, and the best of them could most charitably be called "loyalists." What in the world did anyone imagine was going to sprout up there in the last 12 months? A chamber of commerce? A garden club? A band shell for Sunday programs of Sousa?

    All right, wait. Sorry. Let me repeat my mantra; that always helps. Breath in, breath out . . . "What do I know? Nothing. What do they know? Everything. It's all fine, just fine."

    Hey, it didn't help much that time. What's wrong? It's like what they say about heroin, the effect is less and less, until you finally have to take it just not to feel horrible.

There's more; read it. And if President Bush and his people don't understand that they're losing support through indecision and waffling and disappearing when most needed, I'm telling you, they will not have a good November.



These are not happy times.

This doesn't help.

Although the skidmarks are a nice touch.

And this... all I can say is, Godspeed, man. I don't think I'd take that route, but I guess you gotta do what you gotta do.

And I gotta go.



Yeah, changed the color scheme and layout a little. Got bored. Or maybe it was too much HGTV.

Besides, now you can actually see the hyperlinks where they're supposed to be.

But I reserve the right to change my mind. As always.


April 13, 2004


I watched the press conference. He did what he needed to do, spun everything where he wanted it to go, answered a few questions, avoided some. About halfway through, my attention wandered. By the end, I was munching some leftover Crunchy M&M easter eggs and wondering what was on other channels. Then I watched some Malcolm and Arrested Development episodes we'd recorded on the PVR and never gotten around to watching.

Well, sorry. Just didn't have it today. And I suppose YOU can always turn on the instant analysis mode.


April 14, 2004


Most of today was spent tracking down various aspects of the Air America Radio debacle in Chicago and Los Angeles- don't know who's telling the truth, but I know that if I were launching a new radio network on leased-time stations, I'd pay in advance and make sure everything was covered (but they never asked me)- but then I got this item:

    Mark Russell at NAB Broadcast Leadership Dinner

    WASHINGTON, D.C. - Famed comedian and political satirist Mark Russell will
    be the featured entertainment at this year's Broadcast Leadership Dinner
    during the NAB2004 convention in Las Vegas. Often referred to as the
    "political pianist," Mr. Russell is known for his musical satire which pokes
    bipartisan fun at politicos of all stripes.

    The Broadcast Leadership Dinner is an invite-only event held every year
    during the NAB convention to recognize broadcast industry leaders that play
    a key role in NAB's legislative and lobbying efforts. In addition to
    politically active broadcasters, special guests at the event often include
    members of Congress and FCC Commissioners.

Mark Russell used to be on all the time on PBS when I was a kid. "From the Katherine Cornell Theater at the State University of New York at Buffalo..." That was the intro, then a puffy guy in a tux and glasses would come out and tell jokes and pound the piano ragtime-style and sing song parodies to the vast amusement of a crowd whose faces occasionally popped out of the dim theater-in-the-round background. As a kid quite interested in politics and political humor, I watched those specials, watched every one of them, until, finally, I decided that it was everyone else, not me, who was wrong.

Mark Russell isn't funny.

He's not. He's funny if your brand of humor is dropping a politician's name into a familiar song where it rhymes. Hey, I got an idea... how about "Kerry With the Fringe On Top"? Ah, no, wait, "Kerry With the Botox On Top"- yeah, there you go, topical AND funny, except not funny. That's not a Mark Russell gag as far as I know, but it might as well be. Don't take my word for it- here are some of his jokes, his self-selected jokes from his web site, so these are what he thinks are his BEST stuff:

    As a diplomatic courtesy to Japan, the players agreed to use only domestic steroids.

See, the Yankees and Tampa Bay played in Japan, and there's a steroid scandal in baseball, and... um...

    John Kerry pledged to lower corporate taxes by 5 percent. Don't tell me - starting with the Heinz Corp., right?

Yeah, because Kerry's wife is... well...

    Bush critic, Richard Clarke once gushed over the president's performance, but the romance faded in time for Clarke's book. The same could be said of Bill Clinton who was once fond of Lewinsky.

All right, I'm baffled. The punch line is... what?

    The reign in Spain throws friendship down the drain.

He's probably still chuckling over this one. Clever!

    So, Spain has gone socialist. Meanwhile, in Russia, the young people are saying - "socialism! Why don't we try it here?"


    We are certainly finding out who our friends are. We may have lost Spain, but we picked of Libya, remember. I wonder if Qadhafi knows the words to 'Kumbaya'?"

Listen, "Kumbaya" is a guaranteed laff-getter. This kinda stuff SLAYED 'em at the Shoreham.

    And in Haiti, Aristide has been outsourced - literally. At the Port-au-Prince airport, the flights are labeled "first class," "coach" and "exiled."

'Cause he's in exile. Geddit?

    Now that the war on terror includes gay marriage, the president has proposed a constitutional amendment to stop Rosie O'Donnell.

Lemme tell you, just bring up Rosie and you can't miss. Comedy gold!

He's not alone. If you can't book Mark Russell for your corporate shindig, you get the Capitol Steps. I had a morning man once who just loved this group and played cuts from them on his show. Here are representative song titles from their latest CD:

"God Bless My SUV"... "Clinton Thinks the French Have a Lot of Gaul"... "Hang Down Your Head, Tom Daschle"... "You Can't Fly With Giant Thighs"..."Bibbity Bobbity Spew"... "Condoleezza" (I don't have to hear it, it's gotta be "Mona Lisa," right?)... "Heard It on the Nightline"... "Speaker of the House"...

I'm sorry. Not funny. If this stuff's a laff riot to you, you're reading the wrong page.

So they'll be rolling in the aisles at the NAB dinner, the Lowrys and Eddies and Lews and other movers and shakers of the industry. Why, look, they'll say, he's funny AND he's perfectly decent, suitable for all the kiddies- we don't need that Stern or Bubba or Regular Guys stuff, not when it's perfectly plain that perfectly plain humor like Mark Russell is available.

Me, I'll be across town lining up for the buffet like all the other non-movers and non-shakers. Somehow, I think I'll be happier there.


April 15, 2004


I gave up on writing anything meaningful tonight and started paging through a copy of Psychotronic Video magazine, and I went, as usual, right to the back where the obituaries are listed. Psychotronic always has great obits, because they're all show biz people, and better, C- and D- and F-listers, the kind of hangers-on, has-beens, and never-wases that are far more interesting than the stars. And, there, I discovered that a guy named Edwin Gillette died recently at 94.


He developed the Syncro-Vox system.

The what?

Two words: Clutch Cargo.


Clutch Cargo was one of television's great what-the-HELL-is THAT shows. It was a cartoon, except it wasn't really animated. It was more like a series of drawings, but that wasn't the reason you watched. No, you watched because the lips weren't animated, they were some guy's real lips superimposed on Clutch's face, superimposed badly so the lips kinda moved around a little. If you watch Conan O'Brien and see those bits where they have "Arnold Schwarzenegger" on a monitor with Robert Smigel's smirking lips pasted onto Arnold's smirking face, you know the effect.

It's genius.

Clutch Cargo was the stuff of nightmares, but it was perfect for the time, and when you're a kid and they haven't invented CGI and Korean animation mills yet and you're watching black-and-white TV, it's somehow acceptable. We accepted a lot. Crusader Rabbit was like someone manipulating cardboard cutouts in front of a hastily drawn background; Colonel Bleep couldn't afford to sync the voices and lips, so they didn't DO voices, just narration. Hanna-Barbera cartoons featured backgrounds that repeated over and over and over, so that Fred and Barney would drive by the same house several times on the way to Joe Rockhead's place- he lived outside the blackout radius, so he'd get the big fight on TV! We questioned this not.

Today, kids are more sophisticated. They demand slick animation- anime style preferred- and bodily function humor, none of which was available when we were kids. Hell, we had MARIONETTE shows! Would a kid today accept "Fireball XL-5" or "Thunderbirds" today?

Their loss.


April 16, 2004


At AllAccess.com, where my other stuff runs, we get letters:

    Quite a slant to the right on these, how about another voice to balance things out. Your real last name isn't Mays (as in Lowsy), is it?

I guess that if you fancy yourself a Person of the Left, every idea that doesn't comport to yours is a "slant to the right" requiring equal time. (I was unaware that there was a Fairness Doctrine concerning web-based columns, but you learn something new every day) And if you're a Dyed-in-the-Wool Conservative, well, you read my stuff and find that I'm pro-choice, critical of the Patriot Act, critical of the administration's insistence on fighting porn and "indecency" for no good reason, critical of the apparent lack of a coherent plan for responding to the predictable post-war terrorism in Iraq, and I must seem like a raging liberal freak.

I'm conservative. I'm liberal. I'm libertarian. I'm indifferent.

I'm all of the above.


That's the trouble with so much talk radio, so much of the political commentary I see, so much of the attitude I get from people. If you can honestly say you're across-the-board one ideology or another, you're among a distinct minority. Most people are liberal on some things, conservative on others, undecided on a lot. They vote based on various factors- whatever their hot button issue is, who their friends are backing, who, as my Dad always says people want, has an inoffensive last name and reasonably good looks. They're not the hardcores. Who has the time or energy to be a hardcore? Yeah, yeah, war, abortion, guns... whatever, I gotta pick the kids up from school.

But I did like the Clear Channel slam in the e-mail- out of left field, apropos of almost nothing. I have friends who work for Clear Channel, I have friends who have been fired by Clear Channel, but I can't say I've ever worked for them (no, that Fox Sports Radio thing I did for a year was not a job). And no, my surname isn't Mays. If it was, do you think I'd be wasting my time writing this?


April 17, 2004


Time to go to Vegas, which for me doesn't involve the debauchery most people love about the place. No gambling, no partying, nothing- I gotta go sit in convention rooms covering the bland generalities tossed about by pasty guys in suits. I don't even get to partake of the free food and stuff- I'm media, and it's unethical to even poach a bagel from the Congressional Breakfast. So Vegas tends to resemble any other city for me, except unbearably hot and with the world's longest, loudest walk between where you park your car and where you get the elevator to your room. Plus, the convention center's too damn big and way too damn hot.

But that's okay- I still like being there. It's that sound of the slots in the distance- the same four note signal you get from AOL Instant Messenger and at the beginning of each puzzle on "Wheel! Of! Fortunnnnnnne!"- and the lights and the buzz that get me every time. I don't even mind the drive there- anywhere between five (if you're lucky with the traffic and your bladder holds out) and seven or more (if it's a typical trip) hours through the desert past the World's Tallest Thermometer, or the Largest, something like that. This time, we have satellite radio (Sirius, actually), but we may have to sneak a few minutes listening to The Highway Stations, the ones with the bland adult contemporary music punctuated by spots for cheesy casino acts (last time, it was that French impressionist guy at Bally's) and breathless "entertainment reports" that make "Access Hollywood" seem like "60 Minutes."

But that's all tomorrow, and I'm not finished packing. So if you'll excuse me...


About April 2004

This page contains all entries posted to PMSimon.com in April 2004. They are listed from oldest to newest.

April 4, 2004 - April 10, 2004 is the previous archive.

April 18, 2004 - April 24, 2004 is the next archive.

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