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July 30, 2006 - August 5, 2006 Archives

July 30, 2006


This weekend, besides the (still incomplete) work around the house, we did the movie thing again. One-and-a-half movies, to be precise:

MIAMI VICE: Meh, to use the word that's taken hold in the culture in recent months. It has none of the Miami-centric style of the series, none of the humor, just the basic framework of Crockett and Tubbs going undercover. Much of the film doesn't even take place in Miami and doesn't involve working for the Miami-Dade vice squad- it's more of an international thing, with scenes taking place in Haiti, Colombia, a faux-Cuba, and Switzerland while Miami is mostly shown at night, darkly lit, thunder and lightning overhead. Except for the palm trees and occasional ocean shot, it could be any city. Plot? Weak, predictable, but plot wasn't the series' strong suit, either. What really got me was the disconnect with the series' tone and style, yet some things- including the existence of the other cops, who just show up in some scenes without any explanation of who they're supposed to be- require that you know the characters from the series (Dom-the-pal-from-back-in-Noo-Yawk from "Entourage" plays Switek, but the character's never introduced and looks a great deal like a couple of the thugs in the drug operation, so it's easy not to realize he's supposed to be a good guy). And it's loooooong, too.

But the other striking thing was the age of the audience. Forties to seniors, mostly AARP-eligible. Did the studio realize that nobody under 40 remembers this show?

BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN: Yeah, we finally rented it. We're halfway through. And I'll admit this: I was prepared to like this movie a lot. Larry McMurtry's a great writer, the scenery is spectacular and evocative... but a few things have gotten in the way: it's slow, it's boring, and most of the actors mumble so incomprehensively that I thought the movie we'd rented was "Boomhauer Tries Anal." Heath Ledger, in particular, exhibits the same thing Colin Farrell does in "Miami Vice"- if you can't quite do the accent, mumble everything. Plus, Anne Hathaway's breasts don't cancel out the sight of Heath doing Jake, especially after spitting into his palm to... okay, see, I didn't need to see any of that. Maybe the second half is better, but so far, well, meh again.

We'll get back to the rest of the DVD sometime this week. I'm not optimistic.


July 31, 2006


The L.A. Times ran an article the other day about baseball cards. The gist of the piece was "how the mighty have fallen," tied to the big Anaheim collectors' show, which has fallen precipitously in attendance over the years. The article tries to explain the problem:

    By the late 1980s, many collectors had embraced a risky strategy. Rather than buying cards of proven players, they spent freely on cases of cards to find rookie cards for promising newcomers, hoping that their value would skyrocket if the players enjoyed successful careers.

    Bo Jackson's 1987 rookie cards by Fleer and Donruss sold for $15 to $20 in 1991, according to Card Trade magazine, but his cards plummeted in value after a severe hip injury forced him to retire. Today, they sell for about $1. Todd Van Poppel, touted as a pitching phenom when he was drafted out of high school by the Oakland A's, saw his Upper Deck rookie cards sell for $3.50 in 1991. Van Poppel's career fizzled and his rookie card now sells for less than a dime, according to Card Trade.

    Card companies also fed the trading card frenzy by introducing multiple 700-card sets of the same baseball players. "A lot of companies felt like they'd struck gold in 1991," said Don Williams, public relations manager for Carlsbad-based The Upper Deck Inc. "They were trying to get the fast buck by continually putting product out there, which got the marketplace out of alignment."

    The industry still is trying to recover from the burst bubble. Last year, Fleer was forced to sell its assets to Upper Deck. And venerable Topps on Friday agreed to nominate dissident shareholders some of them former card collectors frustrated by the company's business strategy to its board of directors.

Risky strategies and overzealous companies? Sure, but that's just blaming the symptoms, not the real causes, which were these:

1) Adults got involved.

2) Kids got driven away.

3) Kids found other, more exciting things to play with.

When I was a kid, baseball cards were simple- around about February, the wax packs hit the stores. You bought a few, excitedly looking to see what this year's cards would look like. Then you collected cards all season, inspecting the jumbo cellophane packs- the ones with three stacks dangling from a stapled-on cardboard hanger- back and front to see if they had any you still needed. And that was it.

Then, the adults got into it, because someone decided that cards could be traded not the way we did it- swapping your extra Felix Millan and Rick Wises for an Al Kaline you needed- but for cash. And with the earlier waves of Mickey Mantle cards going for a premium, the adults decided that, hey, this could be a way to make a lot of money. Suddenly, kids were out of the equation- collecting no longer meant getting a complete set, it meant getting the "right" cards.

And that's when the rookie card insanity started, and all the companies dove into the fray, and you started getting ridiculous variants like the "gold" cards and the cards with jersey swatches embedded in them. Meanwhile, kids bailed- video games are a LOT more fun.

There was also the phoniness of the valuations. Forget "mint" or "near mint"- the phoniness was more in what you could ever get for a "valuable" card. What ended up happening was a fool's market- older cards, even cards of Hall of Famers, would carry high valuations but nobody was interested in buying them, while all the real money was being poured into buying rookie cards on speculation. The inherent ludicrousness of this- spending inflated prices for rookie cards when the evidence sat in front of you that when that rookie became a Hall of Fame star, there'd be nobody interested in buying the card from you- never occurred to the speculators.

Me? Years ago, I decided to see what my childhood cards were worth. I put a bunch of highly-valued cards- rookie cards of stars, Hall of Famers, popular guys- into plastic binders and headed to a card show. According to the Beckett folks, I had some valuable cards. According to the vendors in the booths, I had nothing. They wanted that year's prospects, not some old guy like Willie Mays or Hank Aaron or Don Drysdale. They wanted the next generation's Willie Mays or Hank Aaron or Don Drysdale. I got out of there and put the binders on the shelf.

They're still there.

Maybe baseball cards were doomed by technology and changing tastes anyway. Probably so. But the end was hastened when the adults decided to storm the playground and change the rules. They ended up screwing each other, and the kids ended up playing something else.

And as time goes on, lessons are forgotten. They're doing video game tournaments on TV, and there's big money being thrown around. Where there's money, there are opportunistic adults ready to push the little kids aside. I hope there's someplace else for the kids to go when the greedy adults rule the video game world.

Maybe they'll start collecting baseball cards.


August 1, 2006


Here's why I guess I'll never be a manager again:

A TV sports guy taped a report. He flubbed something, said "shit, let's retake that," and started from the top again. Then someone made a mistake and played the first segment and the comment.

Management fired him. Or, in management-speak, he "resigned" and they "accepted it."

Now, he did not push that button. Some techie played the wrong tape without checking it first. The sports guy did nothing wrong. Why force HIM to resign?

You may remember other situations like this.

TV and radio managers are panicked over minor slips. (And who has never used that word, anyway? KIDS use it.) This is what you get when pandering political hacks get to the FCC. That means you, Kevin Martin, Michael Copps, Jonathan Adelstein, and Debi Tate. (The new guy hasn't been there long enough to rip. Yet.) But when they show up to NAB conventions, do they get asked why they're willing to slap stations with heavy fines or even license revocation for the mere slip of a mild oath? Are the Congressmen and Senators who voted to crack down on "indecency" every asked if they really, truly think there's any harm from the kind of things they're ready and willing to ruin careers over? What do they think is gonna happen if anyone, including kids, happens to hear someone say "the s-word"? Instead, all the NAB does is ask why satellite doesn't get fined, too. Real courageous.

They, and the managers, are full of... some word. I give up, We're living in strange times.


August 2, 2006


Here's Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie talking about something:

    "I would not do it again," Lurie said Wednesday in his annual state-of-the-team address. "You look back on it -- one year great, the second year a disaster. Nobody should be able to be as disruptive and really cut the energy of the team down.

    "I think we all learned from that."

Now, who could he possibly be talking about?

Honestly, that first year was an interesting ride, and except for the ultimate outcome, if you offered Eagles fans a trip to the Super Bowl before that season, there'd have been long queues of fans ready to sell their souls. You get one year out of the guy; in Dallas, they'll be thinking that maybe, just maybe things will be different with Parcells than it was with Mariucci or Reid.

Nah. But they'll probably have some fun this season, at least.

There is no shortage of teams willing to take a chance on guys with bad reputations, clubhouse cancers. It didn't take long for someone to pick up Shea Hillenbrand when the Blue Jays had had enough. The NBA is full of problem children, and some teams- the Jailblazers, anyone?- cultivate them in clusters. Eventually, things go bad, and with some guys like T.O., it gets REALLY bad, team-destroying bad. But fans and owners alike generally will accept a wife-beating anti-Semitic mass murderer if he'll get them to the Big Game.

There may be a future for Mel Gibson after all. Can he hit a slider?


August 3, 2006


This week's All Access newsletter is about how polarized talk radio's gotten. Enjoy:

I don't know exactly when the conventional wisdom changed to create all-conservative talk stations and all-liberal talk stations, but that's the way things are now, for the most part. Maybe it's a sign of the increasing polarization of American political discourse. Or maybe PDs just got tired of hearing complaints from one host's fans about the other host's show. It's kind of a shame, actually.

I was talking about this with a host who lands on the liberal end of the political spectrum who's worked at some conservative stations. And the reaction he got as a left-winger on a right-wing station was surprising: listeners mostly liked him, even when they disagreed with him. Of course, that's not the same as a focus group- it's probably more accurate. (Don't get me started on focus groups. Seriously, I could rant for hours) The listeners took it in stride.

And back when I was a kid and the nation's hosts cowered in fear of the dreaded Fairness Doctrine, you got liberals and conservatives and who-knows-what-else all on the same station, all the time. You'd put on, say, WMCA in New York and you'd hear the ranting conservative Bob Grant and the raging liberal John Sterling (yes, THAT John Sterling, the "Yankees win! Yankees win! Thuh-uh-uh-uh Yankees win!" John Sterling) on the same station, every day. I remember lots of hosts from stations like WMCA, WOR, WCAU, and WWDB, and what I remember is less their political stances than their styles, the entertainment value. And today. some of the best local hosts defy political pigeonholing- just when you think you have 'em pegged as conservatives, they say something you'd call liberal, or vice versa. They're unpredictable from day to day, from topic to topic. Some PDs would be appalled by that; I think it's a good thing.

I can't tell you, actually, whether you should really mix conservative and liberal political talk these days. Perhaps the polarized formats ARE a better idea. After all, you'd tune in WABC or KHJ or WFIL or any other Top 40 station of the 60's and 70's and you'd get the Beatles and Frank Sinatra and Glen Campbell and Marvin Gaye and Cream back-to-back and you can't do that anymore, because someone who wants rock can hear all-rock stations, someone who wants country can tune in the country station, and someone who wants Frank Sinatra can go buy a satellite radio. Talk's that way, too- you have the conservative station and the other conservative station and the liberal station and the sports station and maybe a weird brokered one that always seems to have fake talk shows about miracle dietary supplements. You don't need to sit through the "song" you don't like to get to the one you do. And I suppose it's better that way. But I kinda miss the days when there were hosts you loved and hosts you loved to hate, all on one station.

Maybe there's room for "Jack-AM: We Say What We Want." Just a thought.

But no matter what your political persuasion, you'll be sure to be appalled by the wide selection of show topics, story links, and irresponsible, uninformed commentary at the industry's leading show prep topic resource, by which I mean Talk Topics at All Access News-Talk-Sports. Why, this week so far, you'll find stories about a guy who ordered his Whopper in the buff (huh huh), the burning issue of letting dogs into restaurants, how to get a DUI without actually driving, why the erection (pun definitely intended) of some public art has a Chicago suburb upset, the surprising results of a survey about what people are really using their cell phones for, why patriotism and public nudity don't mix, a lawsuit over flaming rum shots, why "Miami Vice" isn't likely to do for tourism what the local officials thought it would, and something about some drunk actor who said something really stupid. Maybe you heard that one. You'll also get stories and links about "real news" like the Israel-Hezbollah war and the heat wave and baseball's second half, and "10 Questions With..." KFWB/Los Angeles sports anchor and "Dodger Talk" host (and KNBC TV sports anchor, and TVG host, and...) Bill Seward and the Talent Toolkit which, for the second consecutive year, takes advantage of the phrase "dog days of Summer" to provide resources for all things canine, and the rest of All Access with the industry's best/fastest/most reliable news coverage and columns and the Industry Directory and real airplay charts from Mediabase 24/7 and other stuff that's all good and all free. How do we do it? Volume!

Next week: No idea. It was hard enough coming up with this one. Couldn't you tell?


August 4, 2006


This week's "The Letter" got posted by someone on conservative site Free Republic.

Then someone mentioned it on Radio-Info.com, linking to the Freep link.

Then the thread degenerated into "Freep is racist"/"No, it isn't."

Can't we all just get along? No, apparently not.


August 5, 2006


Dunno what's up with me, but I'm about as lethargic as I've been in a while. Maybe I'm just plain tired. And that may be why I forgot yesterday to mention something I don't want to let pass.

On August 4, 1994, my mom, Phyllis Simon, passed away.

On August 5, 2006, I still miss her dearly.

I forgot last year. But I didn't forget on her birthday/Mother's Day this year, so in lieu of trying to write anything in my diminished state, you can see what I wrote about her here.

Funny, too, that it's when I'm most tired- like right now- that my accent occasionally shows traces of her eastern European accent, when "th"s come out "t"s. I tink I'll go trow on a DVD or someting and relax now.


About July 2006

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

July 23, 2006 - July 29, 2006 is the previous archive.

August 6, 2006 - August 12, 2006 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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