Monday, August 9, 2010

Let's Go Shopping!

Back To School is a wonderful, magical time, which is obvious because each word in the phrase is capitalized. My memory of BTS wasn't going shopping for new supplies for the school year. No, it was my (former elementary school teacher) mom crying at the kitchen table the night before she inherited a classroom full of pre-pubescents with a snootful of who-knows-what. Magical indeed.

We didn't have school supply drives when I was a kid. You got the stuff you needed and went to class. Pretty simple, really. Ah, but in this age where anything simple has to be made unnecessarily complicated, we now have endless so-called "Stuff The Bus" drives (again, every word is capitalized to stress the importance of this monumental event). Usually pushed by media outlets, the Stuff The Bus drives are done to gather supplies for students for the upcoming school year. I saw an anchor last week saying that most families are having trouble (in these tough economic times, naturally) coming up with the money to buy even the most basic of school supplies. I audibly scoffed when I heard that, but then got to thinking that perhaps he was right. From last Sunday's paper, I picked up a flyer for Walgreens that focused on BTS supplies and started adding things up. Certainly, if "most" families can't even afford the basics, the prices for these items must be much more expensive than I remembered back in 1975.

So let's shop. I'm only listing the most basic supplies for elementary school kids, so that rules out calculators and certain geometric tools which- in this atmosphere of zero tolerance- are probably considered deadly weapons punishable by a lifetime expulsion should poor Caleb or Kellan get pinched (so to speak) with one.

Pencils: 10 for $1
Pens 10 for .79
Folders .09 each. Let's buy five. .35 total
Glue .49
Crayons .39 (for a box of 12. Do you really need Burnt Sienna?)
Notebooks .50-$1.50, depending on number of pages. Let's buy two at .50 apiece
Ruler .29
Backpack $4.00 (that's the big one, but if you have a desk that can store your supplies, it might be unnecessary. Since you probably don't know if you do before the school year starts, pick one up

Did I miss any of the basics? I don't think so. Scissors? Yeah, right. Start your academic year in Mr. Weatherbee's office by bringing a dangerous weapon. Still, the girls might think you're a badass, so at $1, it'd be worth the risk.

Total for basic supplies? $8.31. ($9.31 with those bad-ass scissors)

Or, in other words, lunch. One lunch. Brown bag lunch for a week, and the kid is covered through most of his elementary school years. Yes, I realize that most parents have more than one kid. Tops, you're spending $30 on supplies. If you're buying Emily and Colin their own pen and pencil sets, just think of it as one McDouble you could've spoiled yourself with and split the items.

So, my exhaustive research reaffirms to me that Stuff The Bus is a crock. Put down the frappe and get your own damn stuff for once. Handouts now lead to dropouts later.

(Oh, I don't want teachers to feel left out. That same Walgreens flyer has a bottle of generic aspirin (500 ct) on sale for $7.99. That ought to last you until Thanksgiving)

Monday, August 2, 2010

By Request

I've been on the fringes of radio for a couple of years now. I'm not involved in the day to day affairs, meetings are rare, and when my day is done, my day is done. I like it this way, only because I've been on the inside and know what it looks like. Picture a rotten egg stuffed inside of an old shoe that's hanging inside of a dirty jock strap (one word?) that's been festering inside of a locker room after an overtime tilt in the South Florida heat. Then go sit and have a meeting inside of it for two hours. That's what I'm missing. Better said, that's what I'm not missing.

It's almost bizarrely admirable that radio continues to make decisions on a yearly-monthly-weekly-daily basis that prevent it from being successful. Not having time to go into them all (because according to what the average lifespan for an American non-smoking male is, I'll be dead in 34 years), I'll just mention the obvious. Commercial radio has killed the personality which made it profitable, unique and worth listening. For every good personality who's shown the door in a cost-cutting move, five come in that have a) no experience, b) are related to the owner, or- worst of all- c) sales people who "think it would be really cool" to be a jock. All too often management thinks that the dolts who have only mastered the task of dialing a radio station's request line typify the average listener. This has cost ratings points and revenue. Listeners are smarter than management gives them credit for, and they're proving it by leaving commercial radio in droves.

It's hard to think of one thing radio does better than it used to? Entertain? No. Personalities are dying off, both figuratively and literally (that's for you, Mr. Harvey). Services? C'mon. Traffic reports are something that can keep people listening as they head for work, so what does one cluster do? Cuts the number of reports in half. Yep. Take a valuable service THAT MAKES MONEY and cut it in half. Remember, these are radio management people making these decisions. These days, when I say "radio management" I mean, "salespeople". These are the ones that are running radio right into the ground.

Upon further review, I guess there's one thing that radio excels in. Interrupting their product. Playing spots. Commercials. Inventory (that's the industry term). Stations I work with have up to 20 units in morning drive. Some are :60, some :30, some :15. It doesn't matter to the listener. They don't say, "oh that one was quick". They hear one spot bleed into another, and hit another station that might be playing a song. Or (me), they play their iPod or CD, guaranteeing a song they like. What's worse than waiting through a seven minute break only to have the radio station come back with "Baby, I Love Your Way" by Peter Frampton? Imagine if someone's idea for a station was to say, "it'll be like an iPod, only with lengthy commercial breaks". He'd be laughed out of the room. Wait. No he wouldn't. He'd probably be promoted.

He was pitching radio management, after all.