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November 2009

Radio Memories

I was born in 1952, the year television (if not many television sets to watch it on) arrived in my home town of Portland, Oregon. We got a set in 1955 or 1956; I am told I preferred the commercials to the shows. My mother apparently listened to radio while it was still radio, with comedies and dramas and quiz shows, and even Stan Freberg. I have no distinct memory of that era (which ended on Nov. 25, 1960, when CBS radio killed off its last soap operas and entertainment shows). "Real" radio stumbled on for a while in Portland; KOIN didn't kill off its 41-year-old morning KOIN Klock show and fire its orchestra until August 25, 1972--after I had gone off to college.

But although I had watched two broadcasts of KOIN Klock as an eager high-school radio engineer in the late 60s, my heart lay with KEX 1190, the 50,000-watt "Call of the Northwest." Like many people, I woke up to Barney Keep's "Keep Time" because I went to sleep the night before listening to the Portland Beavers. Barney used to read the Oregonian's daily chuckle every morning and then add, "Chuckle, Chuckle, Sob." He held down the morning slot from 1944 to 1979 (people used to LAST in the old days...), and he woke me up until 1968.

That's when I stopped listening to the Beavers (too much homework) and Barney (I had to get up before his show started) and switched to the new-fangled FM dial. I loved KINK (sister station of KGW), which introduced Album Oriented Rock to Portland. I was hooked on the semi-automated station and its laid-back chief announcer, Jeff Douglas. And, of course, the "wow" factor of a clock radio with FM on it (it was a tube radio, of course, so it had to warm up each morning). In my junior and senior years, I had to be up around 5:30 in the morning. I distinctly recall listening to Russ Ward anchoring the NBC World News Roundup every morning at 5:37 (what an odd time!) The NBC World News Roundup was not as well known as its CBS counterpart, but I was a KINK guy, and that was the schedule.

Something put me in mind of those mornings so long ago this week, and I spent hours down the Google hole trying to confirm the time of day that Russ was on in Portland back then. I couldn't, but it was such a warm bath of nostalgia to look back on the long-gone radio of my youth, that I thought I'd share a few memories. And if Russ or Jeff are out there, and know when the show was on, let me know. Maybe I slept in later than I recall...

Political Briefs

Chuck Carroll notes Apple's Tablet, Craig Reynolds, Dan Grostein File

Chuck Carroll forwarded a Newsweek story that starts out about Apple's forthcoming tablet, and morphs into a meditation on the death of print.

Craig Reynolds checks in:

Dan Grobstein File

Eleven Years Later

(A reprint of my annual anniversary item, with small adjustments).

As of Oct. 16, it's been eleven years. Eleven years! When I started this column, "W" was still the second-rate governor of Texas, and Sara Palin was busy running Wasila. And John McCain was angry. W is still second rate, Palin isn't running anything, and John McCain is still angry. I was still working for CMP, and had a weekly podcast, back before pods (which definitely cut into our audience). My heart beat by itself and I weighed 270 pounds. In short, things were different. I believe I am one of the longest continuous bloggers on the Internet.

In any case, it has been ten years since fury at the Clinton impeachment drove me to write this weekly blog--an impeachment, we now discover, that even Republicans didn't want. It was forced on the nation by Dick "The Hammer" Armey--with whom karma caught up. There is, sometimes, justice in the universe. The Republicans finished reaping that Karma in the 2008 election.

[As a U.S. history teacher, I am forced to note that Andrew Johnson's impeachment was a rabid partisan witch hunt, as was Clinton's. Only Nixon's was bipartisan--and only Nixon resigned.]

In 1998, I either had to start a column or check into a mental institution. PSACOT gave me a forum in which to express, to an audience (no matter how small) my feelings about that political circus. It has since evolved into a combination of diary for my family and me and bulletin board for my clever friends--in short, a personal column. Like, but not as good as, former San Francisco Chronicle columnist Adair Lara or ongoing columnist Jon Carroll. Or, to take a national example, former New York Times columnist Anna Quindlen, considered the mother of the personal column concept (even though Stanton Delaplane and Charles McCabe of the San Francisco Chronicle actually beat her to it--but of course, if it hasn't happened in New York, it hasn't happened).

PSACOT is also a revival of sorts. Among my readers, Daniel Dern and Peter Peckarsky would remember the original P.S. A Column On Things, which ran in ERGO, MIT's objectivist newspaper from September 1970 to March 1971, and The Tech, MIT's semi-official student newspaper, from March 1971 to May 1971. Those were among my happiest days as a journalist. If I had truly understood the fulfillment a personal column gave me, perhaps I would have fought harder to keep it when Bob Fourer killed it, or I would have revived it when I became editor-in-chief two years later, or tried to practice the craft as an adult (and become the father of the personal column).

I expect to still be doing this next October; I'll meet you here.

Playing in the Band

This is, after all, my blog, about my life and my opinions. Sometimes I let weeks go by without much personal writing at the top--life, after all, is mostly slogging with occasional peaks. But sometimes things happen that I take for granted that are, upon reflection, peak experiences. One such is every concert of the Danville Community Band. I should really mention them in advance, so readers of this blog can come and hear the band and its announcer (me) if they like. After all, our concerts are free.

Sunday we played at the Rossmoor retirement home. Now, that concert is an exception; we get so many residents attending that Rossmoor asks us not to advertise the concert on the outside. We played a concert of big band music, medleys of Goodman and Miller (as well as String of Pearls), and Count Basie, and the 1942 Kay Kyser hit "Rosie the Riveter," which inspired Rockwell's famous poster. I play tenor sax in the band, where ages range from the teens to the 90s. I am also the announcer. This is the band's ninth season; at the request of the band's founder, Dr. Lawrence Anderson, I have announced all but two of its concerts, starting in October 2001. I love announcing. At first, I played in the Contra Costa Wind Symphony and announced for Danville, but in August 2005 I was cut from the CCWS after 13 years, and Danville kindly took me in, even though that meant carrying three tenor saxes. It's been my musical home ever since.

What I lack in talent as a musician, I make up in enthusiasm. I love making music with a group.

Our next concert is December 13 at the Community Presbyterian Church in Danville. Mark your calendar!

Snakes in the Lakes, Bank Size

Report: 5 giant snake species pose risks to US

First, for about $50M per year in allegedly reduced shipping costs, the powers that be allowed the Great Lakes to be ruined by non-native species imported in the bilge water of ocean going tankers.
Now, there looks like an added risk to those hiking warm weather trails all over the country, which could extend as far as the northern Minnesota border in December if global warming continues.

Diana Farrell and The White House Theory of Bank Size
President Obama and his advisors have apparently chosen to disregard PSACOT's expert editorial advice last February and more recent observations by a professor of management at MIT to the effect that the big banks should be reduced in size (e.g., take an institution with $1T in assets and split it into about 20 independent banks each with $50B in assets; the current shareholders receive the same percentage ownership interest in the new independent banks).



Neal Vitale Reviews: An Education

4.5 stars out of 5

An Education is a sensitive and lovingly-rendered coming-of-age story of a sixteen-year-old girl in early 1960s London, deftly crafted by Danish director Lone Scherfig with an elegant and light touch. Based on a memoir by Lynn Barber and written for the screen by Nick Hornby (High Fidelity, About A Boy, Fever Pitch), An Education features a marvelous cast, led by Carey Mulligan (Pride & Prejudice) in the central role. Peter Sarsgaard (Kinsey, Jarhead, Elegy) is her suave and winsome suitor; Alfred Molina (Spider-Man 2), Rosamund Pike (Fracture), Emma Thompson (Last Chance Harvey), Olivia Williams (The Sixth Sense), and Dominic Cooper (Mamma Mia!) all shine in smaller parts. But this is truly Mulligan's film, and her breakout performance suggests the start of a notable career.

Bergman on You Tube, Aspirin and 1918 Flu, Dern on Alex Jones, Youtube's Bandwidth Bill, Dan Grobstein File

Peter Bergman of the Firesign Theater now has a You Tube channel. In other Firesign news, all four of the boys were on NPR last week, plugging their LA shows in honor of Nick Danger's 40th anniversary (I saw the show in Monterey).

Kevin Sullivan was the first of several people who, knowing I wrote a book on aspirin, pointed out a NY Times article suggesting aspirin may have contributed to the 1918 flu pandemic.

Daniel Dern checks in:

If you want to hear about how bad the right-wing-nut situation has gotten, check out this article from The New Republic about Alex Jones, a nutty conspiracy theorist who has recently been embraced by the Fox News/etc right wing echo chamber

Craig Reynolds notes YouTube’s Bandwidth Bill Is Zero. Welcome to the New Net

Dan Grobstein file

  • Health Care Reform Question
    Has anyone offered an amendment requiring employers to, somewhere on every pay stub, list how much the employer and employee contribution to their respective health care plan was for that pay period, the cumulative for the year, and how much that is up from the same time last year, over the past five years, and over the past ten years?
  • Airline pilots with second jobs to make ends meet. Raids on meatpackers to catch illegal aliens. A butcher used to be a good solid middle class job.

    I can't tell you how many people I talk to who complain about how high taxes are. I tell them taxes aren't too high. Their salary is too low. People don't get raises. Or if they leave a job and get a different job they make less in the new job than in the first.

    I see a lot of middle class people skimping on medical care and not getting dental work done that they need. People I would think of as middle class.

    What's the world coming to?
  • ROOMS: Oh, the Places We Went (and Didn't)

    As the Rooms series comes to an end, a look back at some of the places
    visited, and not.
  • | October 17, 2009
    The Secret New York Minute: Trains Late by Design
    Every commuter train that leaves New York City deliberately leaves a minute late, to help the harried.