Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Rainy Days and Holidays

Nasty weather today, but it nevertheless put me in a holiday mood. I work tomorrow and Friday, but it feels like I don't. 3am tomorrow will harshly tell me otherwise. Thanksgiving and Christmas aren't supposed to be 74 and sunny. That was the dream scenario growing up in Wisconsin, but it's never taken as long as I've been out in the desert. You get accustomed to things being certain ways. Thanksgiving Eve and it's cold and rainy? I'll take it.

I tend not to patronize places that say they "treat you like family". I think I know more families that are dysfunctional than I do those that can be considered 'normal'. One of the TV websites recently had a survey about family get-togethers over the holidays. The options were A) I look forward to them, or B) They stress me out too much. "A" beat out "B", but the margin was frighteningly small: 52 to 48 percent. Almost half of those surveyed say their family stresses them out too much. I'm pretty sure that's how Pumpkin would've voted.

I look forward to family stuff, probably more than I used to. I know my parents are getting up in years and the number of holiday celebrations we have left are dwindling. I'll be going home for Christmas this year, then back for Thanksgiving in '09. yes, I'm in a holiday mood tonight, but that also means I kind of wish I was there instead of here. One month from now I will. I finally think I'm starting to appreciate things before it's too late and I realize I should've appreciated things more. Does that make any sense? I don't want to be the guy who starts the majority of his sentences with "I should've"..

"Show me a house serving a healthy Thanksgiving dinner and I'll show you a poorly attended gathering"- R. Grotbeck

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Pumped Up

I haven't felt too inspired to write lately. It's just a slow time. For many, the holidays are the most hectic time, but the opposite seems true for me. Not a lot happening right now.

One of the nice things about being unemployed was that I didn't have to pay that close of attention to the news of the day. I would still glance at the paper and watch an occasional newscast, but neither Maverick nor those grunting over a weight stack (my two main groups for company during that time) were good audiences to talk about what was going on. Now that I'm back on the news side, I have to watch and read every item, piece, article and feature. It's not too much fun.

Particularly this year, watch for stations to go out of their way not to show too many favorable stories. Oh sure, you'll have your heartwarming stories of people helping people, but I think because we're in the middle of The Great Depression 2.0, God Forbid that TV actually shows us things to be happy about.

Example: Gas prices. I know I've written about this before, but indulge me. The average price of gas in under $2 a gallon. This was unthinkable, even as little as one month ago. Great news right? No. Instead of giving me a story about a family that can now afford to travel to see their ill parents, we have the tried and true Q&A of people at the local Gas and Gulp telling the plucky reporter that they can't go anywhere because they lost their job. The positive begets the negative.

Another positive about not working was- if I chose - I could have gone wherever I wanted. I went to San Diego for a whole week, and SD isn't exactly on the top of the list for cheap getaways. A whole week! And I didn't regret a minute. The fact that I didn't go more places probably had to do less with my reluctance to go, and more with Pumpkin not having any vacation time. That poor schlub at the gas pump should be happy he's not working. Combine that with the low price of gas, and that guy can go anywhere he wants! The irony is, because I have a job, I'm not going anywhere for Thanksgiving.I have to work.

I can see it now. "Tonight on News 3- Sacrificing Thanksgiving for money. One woman's story of how she's missing the holiday to provide for her family". That's right. It'll become bad news TO HAVE A JOB! Just wait for it.

Nice to be back.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

An Offer I Can't (?) Refuse

I'm in a bit of a pickle.

On the one hand, it's a good opportunity. Not great, but good. On the other hand, saying yes would mean that I would see my gal (while conscious, anyway) about 90 minutes a day.

If I were to list the best things I have going right now, it would be my relationship with my gal. There is no Number Two. Last night, I bemoaned (!) the lack of time we spend together just hanging out during the week. I realize that that's how it is with most couples, but how odd is it that this new opportunity should arise the morning after such a discussion.

I can honestly say that I've never said no to something that has been offered me in radio. Many times, I've wanted to say no, but fear of what may happen if I did overwhelmed me, and I caved. Most of the time, it's been to my benefit. I'm trying to find a benefit to this, and other than a regular paycheck (which is a big factor, no doubt) I don't see one. Professional accomplishment minus personal happiness equals nothing to me. Simple math. So I don't know. I mean, I know what I should do, but I don't know what I'm going to do. Suddenly, working "regular hours" doesn't seem so bad.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Life and Death and Questions Without Answers

The best way to describe today was "strange". Technical difficulties. Surly co-workers. And, most of all, a co-worker dying. He worked weekends. I had only met the guy once, and seen him a second time. We barely exchanged more than a couple of words and he came off to me as kind of surly. Right now, I can't remember if his name was Dan or Don. He died in his sleep. Late 40's, I think. Even though I didn't know him, I've been affected by his death. I learned about it around 1pm and I've been feeling odd ever since.

Dying in your sleep. Really, the last thing I think about before turning in is the fact that I might not wake up the next day. The guy who died was only a couple of years older than me. What's to say my body won't just shut down in a few hours? I'm sure I'd hear from the deceased's family and friends that they never saw this coming. he wasn't the picture of health, but I've seen many in worse shape live much longer. I have aches and pains every day, and it's something that I simply chalk up to getting another day older. I never think that a certain new pain is the genesis of something that will eventually bring down the curtain. But, who's to say that it won't?

I might not sleep so well tonight. And I don't want to work tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Spend A Moment

Economics 101 should really be a mandatory class. Not saying we wouldn't be in the "Great Depression 2.0" if everyone had aced the mythical class, but seeing as people think this is the most important event of modern times, certainly, it's something worth considering for future generations. Pumpkin and I had a little talk about economics the other night, as we watched a story about a single mother of five (!) who was having trouble making ends meet.

Me: "What's the key to a healthy economy?"

Pumpkin: "Spending"

Class dismissed. A +

Notice, she didn't say, "making money", she said "spending money". The wheel can't spin without the oil, and in the case of the economy, greenbacks are black gold. Right now, people are being force fed news on a daily basis about the "Economy in Crisis". Heck, all the channels have their own graphics for it (a torn dollar, a crying George Washington, etc). If people continue to believe the economy is toast, they begin to fear for their own well-being and circle the wagons. They cut back on spending. Less money is circulating, and when that happens, business suffocates. This isn't hard to understand. Here's what really sucks:

Saving money and spending wisely is always the right thing to do, but it hurts the economy when we do it. The economy functions best when people are buying. I'm not saying throw money around like the Monopoly Man, but if everyone all of a sudden gains money smarts, the economy may take longer to restart than we think. I could be wrong, but I doubt it. People are learning more about saving in the past few months than ever before, and that good habit is hurting the country's bottom line. We may get another stimulus check before too long. Why? Washington wants us to spend. I don't think we'd get it if everyone took a pledge to salt every last dollar away. Ain't that funny?

You thanked a Veteran yesterday. Go to a car dealer and thank a buyer today.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Concession and Redemption

Like a lot of people, I thought John McCain's best election season speech was his concession. He looked tired. He looked weathered. He looked beaten. He looked relieved. It was relief that he could finally just relax and...get ready for himself.

Something the candidates have no shortage of are advisers to tell them what to say and how to act. There are briefings about briefings. Sports scouting reports have nothing on political ones. Every audience is different. Everybody wants something else. Political advisers are the shape shifters and the politician is the shape. They're coached, combed, and created. I don't know if John McCain wrote his own concession speech. I certainly hope that he did. Regardless, he was never more liked than when he had lost and had put his guard down. Why couldn't this have been the way the campaign was run? Because I'm sure the "advisers" had other ideas. This is where we segue to radio. Right after I get a soda, anyway..

Radio advisers, or "consultants", are a relatively recent invention. They've been around for about 20 years or so. I have nothing but contempt for them. They are the radio equal of the advice columnist. They give the advice and, no matter how disastrous the results are, don't have to live with the consequences. Radio's downhill spiral into irrelevancy is directly related to the rise of the consultant, as is the homogeneity. Satellite radio is an outgrowth of the disdain for terrestrial radio, whose downhill spiral is directly related to consultancy. Consultants have had a world of influence and that influence has been universally negative. And yet, they continue to exist.

Consultants will tell a station what to play. They'll tell the jocks what they should talk about. They'll tell the station how to position itself- all from hundreds of miles away. The advice will be an outgrowth of occasionally listening to the station they consult. Consultants destroy- sorry, "work for"- dozens of stations at a time, so the attention they spend on one station can't be very much. Yet, their advice is swallowed like Kool-Aid at Jonestown. Thus, stations don't develop their own personality. They're just one of many such clones across the dial. The songs are the same, the websites look the same, and the jocks are told what to do. Initially in the business you're told to "be yourself". In the end, that's the last thing they want you to be. It was a consultant's advice that I be let go, and KWNR's ratings have not been the same.

I don't know if Clear Channel had a major role in the McCain campaign, but I sure wouldn't be surprised if they did. That would explain a hell of a lot.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Being right isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Coming up- why the Republicans lost, and how it relates to the demise of commercial radio..or something like that.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Change. That's the buzzword for the 2008 elections. We're gonna change things. We're gonna change the way things are done in Washington. Democrats are saying it. Republicans are saying it. Change, change, change. That got me to think about what's changed for me and Pumpkin over the past 12 months, both good and bad.

I lost my job, and was unemployed for six months: BAD CHANGE

My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer: BAD CHANGE

I have two undiagnosed health issues: BAD CHANGE

My vision is slipping: BAD CHANGE

Pumpkin's grandma had to move in with her parents (Pumpkin's parents, not her grandma's parents) after breaking her hip in a fall: BAD CHANGE

Brett Favre is now a NY Jet: BAD CHANGE (for how it all went down)

My investments have taken a dump: BAD CHANGE
----though I'm buying a lot of stock on the cheap now: GOOD CHANGE

The value on my house has plummeted: BAD CHANGE

If you're scoring, that's eight "bad change" and one "good change", and the good change is an offshoot of a bad one. Point is, most changes are bad ones. Job loss, illness, divorce. People don't like change, but boy are they responding to that word this year. They want to change the changes that have happened to them. Or they want to change what hasn't happened to them.

I'm gonna go and walk my dog now. That's one thing I hope never changes.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Obvious vs. The Oblivious

I spent the better part of the morning at a "Change We Need" rally featuring Michelle Obama. Five hours of hanging out with people I'm the ideological opposite of. It was an assignment for KDWN, go cover the "event", and put a report together. Media had to have their stuff set up by 9:30am, but the event didn't begin until 11:30am. Lots of time for little radio guy to kill. I walked around and asked the simple question, "Why are you voting for Barack Obama?"

The answers I got mostly mentioned the magic word "change". A couple mentioned how the US would be more respected if Obama was president. Some said Obama would help us heal as a nation, and that he'd be a better "consensus builder", whatever that means. In other words, no real specifics, only glowing generalities. Oh, one guy said McCain wasn't right for "these times". I don't know. If we're at war, which we are, don't we want someone with experience fighting (and winning) wars? No? If we're attacked again, the economy will tank to such a degree that it'll make this so-called "New Depression" we're in look like the Roaring 20's. The most important thing for a strong economy is a secure nation, yet because we haven't been attacked in seven years, most have forgotten. That's probably what is most frustrating to me; the biggest threat isn't seen as the most important issue.

Mrs Obama- who's lovely, by the way (really)- talked economics today. She said 95 percent of the middle class will get a tax break. Then, she went on to say that Barack will oversee great renovations in health care and education. "people can't be denied quality health care". "Everyone who wants to go to college will get to go to college". How all this is going to be paid for while the middle class gets tax breaks is gonna be some kind of trick. Another doozy will be if jobs can be created while taxes are increased on individuals and businesses making over 250k. Good luck with that. Maybe that's why people abroad are so Obama crazy. They'll get the jobs that will no doubt be going overseas.

Ah, it's fun isn't it? Tomorrow's assignment has me at Republican headquarters as the results come in. I fear that's gonna be one damn quiet room.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Vision Quest

Six days and no new posts? Inexcusable. Sorry about that. Honestly, I thought about posting, but the topics would just be rehash of things I've stated before. I'm finding that I'm either tired of everything, or bored with everything. The only section of the paper I read today was the comics. I'm a news guy that's burned out on the news. Not good.

Anyway..something's going on with my vision. It's happened over the past day or so. I'm having a real hard time seeing things close up. Newspapers, text messages..I have to hold it arms length to read it. I told Pumpkin about it, and it may mean that I'm entering the phase of my life when I might night reading glasses. Either that, or I've had a small stroke. Even as I type, the keyboard seems blurry to me.

So far today, I've only received one phone call- wait...two- related to Election Day. One of the calls was to remind me that Election Day was Tuesday. Now, I've been as nice as I can with these people, but if you're going to choose to call me during the 4th quater of a close Packers' game, you going to get some heat. The gal on the other end seemed pleasant enough, saying "I just wanted to remind you that Tuesday is Election Day, and it's...." I didn't know which side she represented and it really didn't matter. Me- "Do you REALLY think I need to be reminded that Tuesday is Election Day? I've gotten 212 calls since November 1st reminding me of this. I know when to vote, I know where to vote and I know who I'm voting for. I got it. Don't you think that if you've registered to vote, you'll know when the big day is (ok, that's debatable)? Since you got my name off a voter registration list, could you not access the fact that I've voted in all primary and general elections since 2006? Tell ya what.. give me your number and I'll call you later when it's more convenient for me, ok?"

She didn't like that idea. Still, that was the last call I got. Maybe word got out.

I'm really worried about this vision thing. I don't think it's serious, but Pumpkin always comes home with tales of people who waited too long to visit the eye center, and the damage can't be reversed. Maybe I just need reading glasses. It's just getting blurrier. Too weird. Honestly, this has happened over the past 24 hours.

So Election Day is Tuesday. I think Election Day is the only major "event" day that gets less and less exciting the closer it gets. It's exciting when someone gets nominated. It's kind of interesting when the Vice Presidential picks come it. Then it's all spinning, and debating, and charges and rebuttals and ugly hats and the dull bell of boredom rings on and on and on. I'm going to be happy when it's over, but there's a growing dread that I'll regret it ever happening.