Jim Walsh's Big Hairy Weblog Thingy

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Why I Picked The Wrong Planet For Justice, Dept. Part XXXVIII

Lame-duck talk host Jane "Squeaky" Pauley today interviewed the first-ever woman to go all the way on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

"Has it made you a happier person," queried Pauley.

"No," said the winner. "I've always been a happy person."

Needless to say, people like this should be gutted with a rusty machete and violated while they bleed to death.

Bitter? Moi? Naaaaaaaaaaaaah...


Two of my pop-culture heroes died this week...

Renaissance man and Kid-TV host extraordinaire Paul Winchell, ventriloquist, voice-over artist, inventor (yes, it's true - he really did develop a prototype artificial heart), at 82. TV writer Mark Evanier, who knew Winchell, pays tribute on his site.

And Shelby Foote, novelist and Civil War historian, at 88. Foote was best known to the younger generation for his contribution to the Ken Burns Civil War series, but he wrote about many aspects of the American South, including the segregation years and bluesman Robert Johnson. Here's an interview with Foote as well as a bio from the Ole Miss website.

Go ahead - ask me how old I feel...

Saturday, June 25, 2005

The Vision Thing, or: Broadcast Economics In One Lesson

We radio folk do live in interesting times.

Not content with cutting to the bone, the suits now seem intent on slicing straight through the marrow.

Why does the broadcast industry continue to cut back? More to the point, why do they continue to bend over the dollars to pick up the pennies? I have some thoughts on the subject; it goes back to a very good book I read in my younger years, Hanry Hazlitt's Economics In One Lesson.

The basic premise of the book in the author's own words: "The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy." In other words, you have to consider the long-term intangible results of your actions, not just the obvious, tangible ones.

Consider, as a fr'instance the following: a vandal hurls a brick through a storefront window, destroying it. The store owner must now fork over some of his hard-earned dough to repair or replace it.

Suppose, at this point, someone said, "Y'know, this is actually a good thing. The store owner will now pay a window repairman to fix his storefront, thus circulating more money into the community."

The problem with this argument should seem obvious:

It fails to take into account what the store owner might have done with the money that he's now forced to use to fix his window. He might have used it to expand his business, or send his children to college, or give his employees a Christmas bonus, or invested it or given it away, or spent it on himself or...

All of these options are taken away by the need to repair his window. Problem is, we're talking intangibles. People have a problem with intangibles.

Hazlitt phrased his thesis in terms of public policy, i.e. government redistribution programs, etc. His point, however, applies equally well to business decisions.

Too many businesspeople can think only in terms of what's on paper in front of them. They only see that they're making x, and if they can cut their expenses by a couple of bucks, they'll be making x plus, you guessed it, a couple of bucks...They can't comprehend what Stephen King once described as "thinking around the corner."
In other words, imagining the possibilities.

Sure, that involves risk. So what? Life is risk. If Bill Gates ran Microsoft the way some broadcast suits are running their stations, he'd be hawking cheap electronic geegaws out of his garage for ten bucks a pop. (But by God, he's be making a profit. Maybe enough to actually cover the rent this month...)

Ya wanna make the big bucks, ya gotta stick your neck out. Today's broadcast suits don't wanna do that. They're purely in it for the short-term capital gains. Spend a buck, get back a buck and a quarter, call it a day. The irony is, they're short-changing themselves and don't even realize it.

Where the hell are the bold venture capitalists of yesteryear, the ones who weren't afraid to invest in a good idea to make the Big Bucks.

Some say the sorry state of our industry is the result of greed. I say it's the result of the Play-it-safe-number-cruncher mentality. Greed is not the problem, in many ways it's the solution.

If i could say one thing to the suits it would be this: stop thinking like a number-cruncher. Grow some nads. Take a risk once in a while.

Start thinking around the corner...

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Yada, yada, yada...

A big problem with sports on TV is the inability to leave well enough alone.

Last night the NBA Finals concluded with San Antonio coming out on top. Not the best series ever, but far from the worst.

Certainly there were some memorable moments...

Manu Ginobili's exuberance in the wake of a breakthrough performance...

Tim Duncan's gracious acceptance of the MVP and Brown trophies.

The post-game embrace between the coaches, Brown and Popovich.

These are the kinds of moments that need no embelleshments.

You think for one minute that stopped the talking heads? Au contraire, mon friere...

These guys (the announcers, I mean) are seasoned professionals. You'd think they'd know when to shut their highly-paid pieholes and let the moment speak for itself.

Nah...we got the philosophizing, we got the pointless questions, we got the "thanks for a great year" gladhanding among the hosts, we got the...the...

Well, mostly we got a lot of empty yap.

Then, most excruciating of all, the mandatory montage of slow-motion "highlight" shots from the series, accompanied by some cheesy "inspirational" music.

Is any of this really necessary?

One of my all-time favorite sports moments comes from the 1980 World Series, when Tug McGraw struck out Willie Wilson, winning the Series for my beloved, beleagured Phils.

Tugger held the ball, let it go and seemed to jump to the moon.

Nobody said a word. They didn't have to.

To paraphrase Billy Joel: leave the frickin' moment alone...

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Summer Samba

It's hot. We've hit ninety every day this week.

And humid. A lot of people who have never been here assume North Dakota is dry. It ain't - It does get humid here.

And how.

Sure could go for some frozen custard right about now...

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

State Of The Onion

The Onion weighs in on the medical marijuana ruling:

"The Court made the right decision. Once you legalize the medical use of marijuana, it's only a matter of time before you start seeing medical use of harder narcotics, like morphine."

What's scary is that this statement is only marginally more ludicrous than what we're hearing from Rush Limbrain (and his idiot army of radio clones) on the subject...

(Thanks to Nick Gillespie at Reason Hit & Run for pointing this out.)

Sunday, June 19, 2005

"Jack" Off

The big story of late in the radio biz is the rise of the so-called "Jack" format.

Several major Oldies station across the fruited plain, most notably WCBS-FM in New York, have made the switch.

What is "Jack"? Well, as far as I can discern, it's supposed to be an "eclectic" mix of music from the 70's through today, formatted to approximate the experience of listening to an I-Pod.


Now, hold the weddin' here (as Kinky Friedman might say). The whole point of having an I-Pod is that the individual can program the music to his or her own taste. Listening to a station programmed "I-Pod style" (whatever the hell that means) by some program director or a corporate suit is like...well, like listening to someone else's I-Pod.

And how interesting is that?

We don't have the "Jack" format (yet) in the town where I live but I've seen some playlist samples; it looks to me like what we in the biz used to call "chicken rock," i.e. a directionless mish-mash of styles, incompatible with one another, ultimately unlistenable.

What was once guaranteed to make your station the laughing stock of the market is now touted as the great hope for radio's future. You can't make this stuff up; no one would believe it.

Ah, but the station is structured to sound like it's an I-Pod.

OK...Imagine it's, say, 1975. Now picture some beleagured Top 40 station's program director saying to his bosses, "Hey...people are listening to Eight-Track players in their cars; let's format our station so that halfway through every other song or so, the music pauses while it switches tracks...just like an Eight-Track player."

Makes about as much sense.

The guys over at XM and Sirius are, I'm sure, positively incontinent with glee over this latest move by the corporate radio suits.

I see where Cousin Bruce Morrow, late of CBS-FM, has made the move to satellite radio.

Hit the road, Jack; I'm going with Brucie...

Friday, June 17, 2005


And my girlfriend gets on my case when I misplace the car keys...

Hey Spurlock, Super-Size THIS!

Remember when McDonalds got rid of supersizing? Many of the restaurants are now bringing it back.

Apparently people want it.

Apparently some of us want what we want, rather than what the Morgan Spurlocks of the world think we should want.

Which is as it should be. Last time I checked, nobody at McDonald's ever force-fed me or my family anything.

Spurlock is full of it, in every sense of the word.

Monday, June 13, 2005

It's All Happening At The Zoo

It's that time of year when the animal babies come out at our local zoo. Lissa and I went Sunday. It's amazing how watching, say, a goat bonding with its month-old "kid" can warm the heart and put one's life in perspective.

The young Bengal tigers were also most impressive.

Got a zoo in your town? By all means, go. Just take a tip from me: wear comfortable walking shoes. And don't get too close to the monkeys...

Saturday, June 11, 2005

To Southwest Airlines: A Modest Proposal

From Tim Cavanaugh at Reason Hit & Run:

Texas lawmakers are considering repealing a 26-year-old law that protects consumers and makes air travel safer by barring airlines at Dallas Love Field from flying beyond Texas and six nearby states—thus ensuring that Southwest Airlines can't compete with American Airlines on flights from Dallas to Chicago and other major cities. American is working to make sure passengers remain safe from the option of taking another airline.

Personally, I think Texas should repeal the Wright Amendment under the condition that Southwest stop trying to "entertain" us on every flight. The last few times I had to fly Southwest it was like a very bad Night At The Improv; halfway through the final leg, I was praying the Shoe Bomber was on board...

Ipso Jacko

I'm gonna stick my neck out and predict a hung jury and a mistrial in the Michael Jackson case. Here's why.

If all this comes back to bite me on the ass, so be it...

(Update: Swing and a miss for Jimbo. Oh well - I'm sure nobody ever went broke underestimating the intellegence of the American juror. Or, for that matter, the competence of the average California prosecutor...)

Friday, June 10, 2005

Paparazzi Don't Preach

I laughed my ass off watching both The Insider and ET tonight as the hosts fell all over themselves castigating the evil paparazzi preying on those poor, defenseless, cherubic celebs who might not come on our show any more if we don't suck up hard enough...


(BTW: Have you ever seen Cameron Diaz sans makeup? No wonder she hates the photogs, heh heh heh...)

A Nation Of Immigrants

"It appears fashionable these days, and almost politically correct, to blame hard-working immigrants, especially those from Mexico and Central America, for the social and economic ills of our state and nation."

"Despite the assertions of some, immigrants — including those who are here illegally — are a benefit to this country."

"Immigration should be enforced in a proportional and humane manner."

"In this land of opportunity, it is unacceptable that immigrant workers labor in unsafe conditions for wages insufficient to support their families."

"Such reforms should include an opportunity for long-term illegal residents to come out of the shadows — not to be handed amnesty but to work toward permanent residency."

"We should not attack undocumented workers for our broader problems at the same time we accept their talent, toil and taxes."

"As we have in the past, we should embrace our immigrant roots and recognize that newcomers to our land are not part of the problem, they are part of the solution."

Another excellent commentary on the immigration question, via the L.A. Times...

(Thanks to Jacob Hornberger and all the good folks at the Future Of Freedom Foundation for bringing this to my attention.)

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Every Day I Write The Book

There's nothing sadder than someone who believes their own bullshit.

I've always said that if I ever got back into talk radio, there are two things I would never do:

1) Go into syndication

2) Write a "book" about my views

There are already far too many hosts on "the bird" who are marginal, at best.

And too many marginally-talented hosts are writing (or, more accurately, paying someone to ghostwrite) "books" that regurgitate the unoriginal and specious views we can all get for free by listening to their shows.

I had to laugh when I recently came across the website of a certain major market talk station in the Southwest. There, on said website, was an ad for the latest "book" by the station's morning drive host.

Here's a host holding down a shift on a station that doesn't even show up among the Top Twenty stations in its market....and the guy has taken it upon himself to "write" a "book" that retails for about twenty-three bucks (and is, revealingly, available on Amazon for about half that price).

(No...I've never written a book. But neither have any of these guys. They hire ghostwriters. And no, I'm not saying that my opinions are good for anything more than ephemeral entertainment value. The difference is, I don't pretend they are.)

These tomes are, at best, souvenirs for the faithful. They all say the same thing in pretty much the same way. The (few) people who buy these books tend to fall into a very narrow demographic group: extremely old, extremely conservative talk radio geeks who are looking to have their views reinforced.

Trust me - I've worked in the same industry with these guys. Most of these "authors" can barely read, let alone write.

All you hosts out there who fancy yourselves "authors"...you're jerking off. Nobody really cares that much what you say; mostly you're a buzz in the background. Get over yourselves.

Justice, North & South of the Border

No doubt by now you've heard about the Supremes' idiotic decision regarding medical marijuana and the federal vs. state regulation thereof.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Supreme Court has struck a major blow for private health care in that country.

Any way we can switch our Supreme Court with theirs?

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Talk Radio That Doesn't Suck

I've taken my share of slings and arrows for my rants regarding talk hosts who, in my humble opinion suck eggs. In the interest of fairness, here's a rundown of some hosts I DO like (there aren't that many). Most of them are listenable on-line or via satellite; check the links for details:

In a class by himself...

Tom Leykis
Wild man...Hey Tom, blow me up!

Phil Hendrie
Utilizes "theatre of the mind" better than anyone...

John "Sly" Sylvester
Captures the essence of Upper-Midwest populism...

Jay Marvin
Liberal host who's better than anything on "Air America"...

Rollye James
Conspiracies and R&B...great late-night listening...

Paul Harris
Independent thinker and talented interviewer...

Jeff Katz
Talented up-and-comer...

Bill Cunningham
A conservative who knows how to entertain...

Neil Rogers
One of the most consistently funny guys on the radio...

The Regular Guys
Talk with a Rock 'n' Roll attitude out of Atlanta...

What do they have in common? They're all originals. They all know how to entertain. What else do they have in common? Nothing, which is kinda the point...

(BTW: Has anybody heard from Ed Tyll lately?) UPDATE: Found him. Thanks Jas...

Monday, June 06, 2005

Guys: If You Read Nothing Else On This Blog, Read This

Went to the doctor this morning.

I have a slightly enlarged prostate.

Nothing to lose sleep over (there's no indication of anything, er, "bumpy," but I'm getting some further testing, just to be on the safe side. (Update: test results are in, everything is normal.)

Guys, get it done.

Ladies, nag the men you love to get it done.

In the meantime, you may find this useful...

Give Us Your Tired, Your Poor, And Up Yours, Tom Tancredo

Jacob Hornberger has written a stand-out column on the immigration question. The basic premise: it's the welfare state at home and empire-building in places like Iraq, not immigration, legal or otherwise, that are destroying America. His views reflect mine to a tee. Enjoy...

Saturday, June 04, 2005

D'oh! A deer! A female deer!

The Disney coming-of-age classic Bambi (which ran tonight on ABC) is one movie that should never again be shown on commercial TV, for the simple reason that, even more than with most flicks, breaking up the story with commercial interruptions just ruins it:

Bambi's father: "Your mother can never come back, Bambi..."


Just another reason, as far as I'm concerned, to thaw Walt out so he can personally kick Eisner's ass...

Scary Link Of The Week

Question (rhetorical): What, after all, is more important to people than the safety of their children, health and finances?

Question (real): What three occupational groups are least likely to do reference checking on prospective employees?

Click here for the answer. Pleasant dreams...

Friday, June 03, 2005

Don't Holler Back, Girl

I hate to sound like some old fart who can't appreciate the younger generation, but will somebody please explain the Gwen Stefani thing to me?

I realize I'm not exactly part of her target demographic, but reeeeaaaaaaly...

I caught her tonight on the Kimmel show, and was not impressed. Catchy tune, some cutesy cheerleader choreography (a la Toni Basil's Mickey but nowhere near as inventive), a lot of posturing and attitude, and that's...about...it.

There are some current (or recurrent) acts I like: Alicia Keys is sexy and can actually sing a little. I really liked Norah Jones from a couple of years back. Joss Stone does the retro-soul thing fairly convincingly. I also like bands like Coldplay and Green Day.

Hell, I even think Eminem has his moments.

But Stefani eludes me. She's like the musical version of the old joke about Oakland: there's no there there!

And the remake of It's My Life sucked...OK?

Oh well...at least she ain't Pink. Whatever happened to her, anyway?

Risky Business

I don't really know much about showbiz, but it seems to me that a major part of a PR guy's job is to keep his clients from making fools of themselves.

That being said, in the unlikely event I ever hit the jackpot in Hollywood, remind me not to hire the guy Tom Cruise is using...

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Lights Go Out And I Can't Be Saved

What's great about that Axel F Buzztone thing topping the charts in Britain is that you just know those guys in Coldplay (who hold down Number Two) are pulling their hair out over it:

"We're bloody artists, man! We're making a statement! And we're second to a bloody buzztone! AAARRRRRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHHHH!" (Huffing and sputtering)

Heh heh heh...

Get That Gasoline Blues

Per my recent comments on this here blog about mid-range gasoline being a few pfennigs cheaper than the standard-grade stuff: the girl at the local convenience store tells me it has something to do with the use of ethanol in the mix.

Actually, given the use of our tax dollars to make and distribute the stuff, it's still a rip...

Go Ask Alice

Remember the underrated mid-sixties Hanna-Barbera production of Alice in Wonderland? (That's the one with Sammy Davis, Jr. as the Cheshire Cat and Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble as the two-headed caterpillar.) Here's a great story-behind-the-story from a TV writer named Mark Evanier. Trust me - the payoff is worth the read.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Dick Semper Tyrannis

Amazing, absolutely amazing.

In the wake of Mark Felt's unveiling as Deep Throat, the die-hard Nixonites are coming out of the woodwork, condemning him for what he did to poor Mr. Nixon.

People like Pat Buchanan (who called Felt a traitor) and Gordon Liddy have joined the fray, as did former Nixon speechwriter Ben Stein (quoted approvingly by Rush Limbrain), who writes that the fall of Nixon led to the fall of Viet Nam and Cambodia (actually Nixon and Kissinger pretty much threw Saigon to the wolves; the uprising in Cambodia was provoked by the war-bred instability in 'Nam).

The courtiers circle the wagons in defense of the deposed tyrant. Me, I say sic semper tyrannis.