Friday, September 30, 2005

And in the end

Me and the boss at work.

Friday is the last day on the air for Odyssey. The topic: Films you need to see before you die. It's kind of a Netflix queue for the end times. It should be a fun show, so please tune in. I have to admit that it's been a hard month for all of us on staff. Knowing the end is coming really gnaws away at the puritan work ethic. But we made it. And now we don't want it to go away. We have received countless emails from listeners and friends over these last weeks of the show. As you can imagine, this has been stressful for us on a personal and professional level. But all these emails and letters really opened our eyes to what Odyssey means to our listeners. When you make a radio show, you go into the studio, talk talk talk, take some calls, and it's over. There is no immediate evidence that it's being heard, that people like it, or that you did a good job. Now to have so many people tell you that your work has meant something to them is an honor that I'm not really sure how to process right now. I guess what I'm trying to say is... thanks.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Keillor Watch: Day 85

Now, I don't want to alarm anyone, but I think today's column by Garrison Keillor is a call for Americans to rise against the machines. Either that or a subtle commentary on the Northwest airlines strike - delivered with his patented warmth and wit. I can't tell. His observations on canning tomatoes, the protestant work ethic, and pressure cookers really hit home with me. Now I understand why our government agencies are ineffective in the face of natural disasters! Here's a sample passage.
We're not so different from the English gentry who settled on the Minnesota prairie in the 1870s and expended their capital to build a hunt club, a boating club, an Anglican church and a brewery to produce ale and porter. Unfortunately, they didn't know how to plant wheat. They didn't scatter the seed, they knelt down and pressed it into the ground, one at a time. The grasshoppers wiped them out clean. Their land was bought cheap by peasant Swedes who did much better. They baked the grasshoppers in a crust and called it pecan pie. They put their shoulders to the wheel and hammered and cut and made a life with their own hands.
???What???? Can anyone out there decipher this? Call in the code breaker, because there has to be a point to this Op-Ed piece. I mean, the Trib wouldn't run it otherwise, right? Garrison was actually in the office the other week, and I think you-know-who has been reading the American Sector. I received not only the cold shoulder, but the evil eye as well. Lesson learned: Do not cross Garrison Keillor! Hold on. I know how to make it up to him! I'll log on to Amazon and buy Garrison's new book, Daddy's Girl. What? It's a kids book.... I swear.

Monday, September 26, 2005

You Better Listen to the Radio.

Chicago has experienced yet another radio format change. Chicago's 94.7 "The Zone" used to play hard-rocking alternative bands like Linkin Park and the Foo Fighters. Now it's "True Oldies"- the "Stop in the Name of Love" variety of music that has been all but banished to the AM dial. These events are disorienting on a number of levels for me. First of all, as someone who works in radio, I know a thing or two about unexpected change. So I always worry about the how the employees feel. Did they know this was coming? Was the writing on the wall? Do they like this new music? Maybe it will be better with this oldies format - when their parents call on Sunday afternoons, now they have something to talk about.

As a listener, it's upsets my radio sense of geography. You grow used to where certain music lives on the dial. I don't have a lot of presets in my car radio, so I'm often scanning and searching through the dial. Now a recognizable landmark has been altered. I run the risk of listening to smooth jazz when I really want V103.

On a related note - in 1998, producer Alex Blumberg did a great This American Life segment on a radio station that changed format. It was a new format here in Chicago called Jammin' Oldies. (it came and went in less than a year) As soon as they went on the air, they were acting like they had been there for years. The TAL show was called First Day. It's one of their best. Listen at their website - episode 115, Nov 13th 1998.

Update: Apparently it's not working out so well for the employees at 94.7 (via Justin).

Friday, September 23, 2005

Life Imitates Mocking Satire

In today's Tribune, media critic Steve Johnson points out that Gillette's new five blade razor, "The Fusion" was predicted 19 months ago in pages of the Onion. Here's a link to Gillette's fancy website for the Fusion. And here's the link to the Onion article. Now ask yourself: which one makes you want to purchase this fine new product more?

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Panic in the Streets of Austin

The American Sector has no correspondents available in Houston this week (Fox News and CLTV snatched them away with promises of fame and fortune) So instead, we bring you the blogging brilliance of freelance reporter Neal Pollack, who is waiting out the storm in Austin.
We've stocked up on water, dried goods, canned food, and flashlight batteries. And no, I'm not joking. If my house gets damaged, those goddamn skinflints at Allstate had better cover me, or else...I'll blog about it! Or maybe write for Slate!

There will be hard decisions in the days ahead. Do I save my cats or the boxes of remaindered copies of Never Mind The Pollacks that I have stacked up in the garage? Sacrifice a pig for me and my family, smear its blood on your chest, and whisper my name three times into a cupful of rat urine. Or just pray normally, if that's what you prefer.

As always, Neal is calm, cool, and collected in the face of danger. This is what makes him America's Greatest Living Writer.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005


I'm suffering blogger's block this week - so I here's a lazy list of links. This way, it at least looks like I'm blogging.

Hang The DJ!
Why hire a DJ or live band for your wedding when you can just plug in your Ipod? Will this be the end of the Wedding Singer? Legend has it that my cousin Anna had her DJ sign a contract stating that if he played the chicken dance or the macarena he would not be paid. (Via CNet News)

Speaking of the Ipod...
Best reaction to the release of Ipod Nano - the Onion:
"At last, after years of false hope and empty promises, I can finally shove 1,000 songs up my ass."

Pay no heed to the Google behind the curtain!
Google, are you friend or foe? I generally heart all things google, but they seem to have some big big big plans for world domination. After they finish cataloging all of mankind's knowledge, they'd also like to be your ISP. As long as it's free, I will do whatever you tell me to, oh powerful google.

That's all I've got right now. Great.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Red Red Green

Will Schroeder remain Germany's chancellor? Or will conservative Lucy pull the football away from the social democrats at the last second?

This weekend's election in Germany failed to produce a clear winner - and now both the left leaning SPD and conservative CDU are claiming victory. With our dysfunctional electoral system, it's easy to romanticize a parliamentary electoral system - but as the BBC reports, the need to form a coalition government can make for some unusual bedfellows. What sounds better to you - "Red-Red-Greeen", the "Grand Coalition", or the "Traffic Light Coalition"? The American Sector was hoping to bring you observations on the election from our Berlin bureau chief, but the American Sector's sister didn't call yesterday.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Pretend I'm a banana and you're a monkey - what kind of judge would that make you?

Well, it's finally over, and let me tell you... I had a great time listening to the John Roberts hearings. The Dems are still not sure what to do with the nomination, but I'm not here to gaze into my crystal ball. Instead, lets hand out some awards!

Best question ever: Charles Schumer

"So let me ask you, if you were sitting here, what question would you ask John Roberts so that you or us could be sure that we weren't nominating what I call an ideologue, someone who you might define as somebody who wants to make law not interpret law? And then how would you answer the question you asked yourself?"

Runner up, best question ever: Tom "Crossword" Coburn

"Would you agree that the opposite of being dead is being alive?"

Best live blogging moment from the hearings: Tom at SCOTUSblog

"12:54 - John Lewis gives Peter Kirsanow the stare of death."

Only favorite movie choice safer than the ones Roberts listed:

It's a Wonderful Life

A few movies that could have derailed the nomination:
Salo: 120 days of Sodom, Bad Lieutenant, and Ice Princess.

Best testimony by the only person I know at the hearings and therefore must drop his name:
David Strauss. (Hi David, it's me.. Josh... you know, from the radio station.... Hey I just wanted to call and let you know I saw you on TV today! Yeah, I bet everyone's calling to tell you that. But really, we should get together sometime 'cause I was looking at your cv, and we share the same birthday! Oh, you're too busy? ok... Hey maybe you could link to my blog from your.... hello?)

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

I declare myself to be a strict constructionist

I have a confession. For years I have treated my Ikea instructions as a living document. I have used the projects assigned to me by my wife to advance my own activist political agenda. I have given no respect to the original intent of the designers of my Varde bedroom set. I have used tools that did not appear in the pictograms. I have applied phillips where they called for flatheads. I have undertaken step 8 before finishing steps 5, 6, and 7. And I have never ever fastened my bookshelf to the wall. I have come to see the error in my ways. It is only by adhering to the instructions provided to me by the founding Swedes that I will be able to achieve the domestic bliss pictured in the 2006 Ikea catalog. Through this new philosophy, I hope to soon have a stylish Scandinavian house with inventive storage spaces for my bottles of lingonberry soda. However, I can not comment on any future home improvement projects that may come before me in the next term.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

9 Hours Later

Over the last two months, I really started to accept the idea of John Roberts on SCOTUS. He's charming, handsome... sure he was conservative, but not THAT kind of conservative. And now we finally get a chance to get to know him a little better. Well, this first date isn't going well. The minute he opened his mouth on Monday afternoon and started to talk in sports analogies, our ideologically star-crossed fling came to an end. There was some interesting conversation about precedent and privacy, but as dinner dragged on, he grew less forthcoming. Also... On closer inspection... not so handsome after all. I must have been goggling that night he gave me his number. He's getting a handshake - and nothing more - when he drops me off at home.

Lawrence v. Antarctica
The red states can't get enough of those penguins! There's a NYTimes article today about how The March of the Penguins is suddenly being read as a family values movie. Medved claims it "affirms traditional norms like monogamy, sacrifice, and child rearing" Gee, you forgot regurgitating your lunch to feed the little ones. Conservatives are also reading it as support for intelligent design, and I'll give them that - I mean, they really do look like little waiters! Alas, their enthusiasm for the movie may decline with the news that some penguins choose a less traditional lifestyle. (Via Crooked Timber)

Is this thing on?
Barack Obama defies the laws of thermodynamics and continues to get cooler. Can anyone say Podcast? What's next? Ordinary people just recording the mundane events of their lives and then posting it on the internet? Ridiculous!

What about you? I just found out that my mother-in-law in Lithuania donated money to Katrina victims. If she can do something to help, so can you. Get on it.

Monday, September 12, 2005

What about "Evacugee"?

On the Media had a great segment this weekend about the "refugee" vs. "evacuee" debate that's been raging within news organizations. NPR itself (along with most media outlets) made the switch to using the term evacuee last week. For those looking to sound off, Eric Zorn has been posting on this debate over at Change of Subject. I'm not convinced the switch was necessary, but OTM did their usual good work, and you can listen to the segment online or as a podcast.

More public radio news: This American Life featured a number of Katrina related stories this week (via Cosmic Variance). No free podcast, but you can stream it.

Sunday, September 11, 2005


Sunday morning, 8:30 am. Kitchen table.

Undercaffinated groggy blogger reading newspaper: "hrumph.."
Cheerful ten year old with endless energy: "Can I see the coupons and advertisements from the paper?"
UCGBRN: "Why?"
CTYOWEE: "I don't know... I just want to see what's going on in the world."

Four Years Later

There was no mention of the September 11th anniversary on the front pages of the NY Times and the Chicago Tribune today. There were some articles in the Op-Ed pages and in the magazine... but still I found this strange. Is it because of Katrina? Or have we decided to collectively move on?

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Nice Tailpipe!

It turns out that the Growler's problems were not limited to the muffler. A few days at the spa seemed to do the trick for her, but there's still the issue of the rusted out catalytic converter. The good news is that federal law dictates that converters are covered by the manufacturer for 8 years or 80,000 miles. My car is 7 years, 11 months and 11 days old - and has 79, 565 miles on it. As you can imagine, we're going for a visit to the dealer on Monday.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Nothing to see here

No picture with this post, thanks to the good folks at FEMA. Yesterday, Reuters reported that FEMA does not want journalists taking pictures of dead bodies as they are recovered in New Orleans. Out of sight, out of mind. More quality work from the boys in Washington.

The Growler

Last night, my muffler completely detached from my exhaust system. We were on our way to Ikea for the umpteenth time this year when it happened. I assumed the noise was coming from the Chevy Caprice that was tailing me. But the noise kept following me and the Caprice was nowhere to be found. The muffler is now in my trunk - and you can hear me coming from a mile away. I drive one mean, loud station wagon. Maybe I'll finally get some respect in the neighborhood.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

We're the media, and we're here to help.

Will all those angry reporters in New Orleans add up to a new ethos for the US media? The BBC thinks so. In the midst of all the flooding and chaos in New Orleans, our journalists started to actually do their job and call bullshit on the politicians. After years of spineless coverage where the networks would simply regurgitate what the spin doctors fed them (think back to the Clinton Impeachment, Bush v. Gore, 9/11, the Iraq War, etc.), the Katrina coverage has taken a decidedly different tone. How long this will last is anyone's guess, but you have to imagine - when Anderson Cooper went after Sen. Mary Landrieu on CNN, he felt alive for the first time in years.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Trent Lott's getting a new porch!

President Bush finally made it down to the areas hit hardest by Katrina. He got to meet with some of the victims and console them about their loss.

The good news is — and it’s hard for some to see it now — that out of this chaos is going to come a fantastic Gulf Coast, like it was before. Out of the rubbles of Trent Lott’s house — he’s lost his entire house — there’s going to be a fantastic house. And I’m looking forward to sitting on the porch.

Classic Bush. Well, at least Friday brought some real help to New Orleans - but there is a long road ahead. I have to admit, I'm embarrased that a week ago I was snarkily complaining about the lack of news. Now an entire region is destroyed, the economy may stall, and there are signs that Katrina is becoming a political nightmare for the Administration. The internet has once again shown it's power to bring immediate coverage of breaking events. But this is one of those stories that has me glued to the television. One thing that has been fascinating is to watch the difference in tone between the BBC World News (via PBS) and American cable news coverage. From the beginning, the BBC was asking hard questions about the role of race and class, the vacuum of leadership, and the lack of preparedness by the federal government. ABC's Nightline has done a nice job, but other than that, the networks have steered towards the usual crap, which is making some of the correspondents in N.O. a little irritated.

- Ted at Crooked Timber is offering to make you a custom mix CD if you donate $100 to the Red Cross or other hurrican relief organization.
- Eric Klinenberg, who wrote the book on Chicago's 1995 heatwave, writes in Slate about urban disorganization in the face of natural disasters.
- Oh, and the Houston Chronicle is reporting that Halliburton has been hired to clean up after Katrina. (Via Wonkette)