Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Taking On A Climate Change Denier

Yesterday, the US Senate took up a resolution by Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar that would have simply said that climate change is real and that humans are responsible. Resolutions like that (a "sense of the Senate," which carries no force of law) require unanimous consent, but this one didn't get it because of one guy, which is all it takes.

That would be Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the most notorious climate change denier in Congress. In objecting, Inhofe not only repeated long-debunked claims about our planet not really warming, but also said the Obama administration has federal agencies "colluding" to promote a "global warming agenda."

After Inhofe sat down, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island stood to contradict and correct the lies just told, which he described as from "an alternate reality." Then he rebutted every one of Inhofe's claims, particularly about the collusion:

Let me tell you some of the government agencies who are so-called colluding together. How about NASA? We trust them to send our astronauts into space. We trust them to deliver a rover the size of an SUV to the surface of Mars safely and drive it around, sending data and pictures back from Mars to us. You think these people know what they’re talking about?

We trust NOAA with our weather predicting, and that's what they tell us. Nobody's saying they're incompetent at weather predicting, don't listen when people are warning you about storms. Suddenly when they talk about climate change, that's colluding?

How about the United States Navy? The commander in chief of our Pacific Command, Admiral Locklear, has said that the number one threat that we face in the Pacific theater comes from climate change. Is he colluding when he says that? This is a career Navy man, who the people of America have trusted with the security of our Pacific theater. And it's exactly consistent with what the Department of Defense quadrennial defense review says.

If you want to ignore the federal government, if you live in a world in which you think the federal government colludes with itself to make up things that aren’t true, okay. But look at the property casualty insurance and reinsurance industry. They’re the people with the biggest bet on this. They have billions of dollars riding on getting it right, and they say climate change is real, carbon pollution is causing it, we’ve got to do something about it.

So does the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, because they care about the poor and the effect this will have on the people who have the least. So does every major U.S. scientific society. Every single one.
Here's Whitehouse in action...

Worth A Link

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Shut Up And Jam, Ted

Ted Nugent has been in the news again, with an Idaho tribe uninviting him to perform at their casino because of his "history of racist and hate-filled remarks." It's the same reason I stopped having him as a guest on my radio shows a decade ago -- his vitriol became too over-the-top.

Nugent was never known for nuance and subtlety, but there was a time when he was just an entertainer, swinging on ropes in his loin cloth while wailing away on his guitar and singing about "Cat Scratch Fever." He wasn't political, and his only weapon was rock and roll. That's the Nugent I loved having on the air. While he was the Motor City Madman on stage, he was very civil as we'd spend 20 minutes discussing music, touring, etc. -- but after he went on an anti-gay diatribe on my show circa 2004, I vowed never to have him on again.

It was too bad, because in addition to being a good guest in the 80s and 90s, I also got to do a couple of fun promotions with him. In one, Nugent let me give one of my listeners the flaming arrow he'd shot across the stage using his guitar as a bow. For the other, we have to go back to 1980, when I was music director at WRCN/Long Island.

Nugent had released an album called "Scream Dream" and we were playing it lot, particularly "Wango Tango." When I heard he was going to perform at the Nassau Coliseum, I called my contact at Epic Records and proposed something more than the usual concert ticket giveaway. Those were the days when record companies were much more willing to do promotions with radio stations, and my idea was approved fairly quickly.

It started out as your basic concert giveaway on the air, with twenty winners each getting a pair of tickets, but we added free transportation to and from the Coliseum on the WRCN Concert Bus. On the night of the show, we gathered all of our winners and a couple of station staffers on the bus and headed for the venue.

As we got close, I got up from my seat in the front of the bus and apologized, saying that I had to make a quick stop at a nearby hotel before we went to the show, but it would only take a few minutes. The driver pulled up in front, and I jumped out and went inside. When I emerged two minutes later, I had Ted Nugent beside me. I could hear voices on the bus saying, "Hey, Nugent is coming this way!"

Ted got on the bus and the crowd went crazy. As he walked down the aisle, he shook everyone's hand, signed some autographs, and answered a few questions. My favorite was when one of our listeners asked, "Are you gonna rock us tonight, Ted?" -- to which Nugent replied, "I'm gonna rock your dick off, man!" The crowd laughed and cheered and high-fived as he got off the bus. The whole thing took less than ten minutes.

I thanked the Epic rep for setting it up and Nugent for agreeing to it, and he said, "Anytime, Paul. Thanks for playing my records." Then he went inside to get ready for the concert, and I returned to a bus full of listeners buzzing about what just happened. I remember thinking that to them, WRCN was now the greatest radio station that ever existed. Long before the internet, this moment would go viral by word of mouth, and we'd own them (and all their friends) forever.

That radio station probably doesn't play much Nugent any more, and I wonder if the listeners who were on that Concert Bus even care about him these days. From footage I've seen, his concerts now seem more like extremist right-wing pro-NRA rallies than the good-time-rock-and-roll shows he put on in his heyday. Even if they still like his music, I'd bet that many of them have been as turned off by Nugent's hateful rhetoric in the last decade as I have.

Ironically, Nugent's new album and tour are entitled, "Shut Up and Jam!" It'll be interesting to see if other venues stop booking him because of the vile bile he spews. After all, no one wants to have the Motor City Madman talk their dick off.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Movie Review: "Lucy"

"Lucy" may have won the box office this weekend, bringing in an estimated $44 million, but as with so much summer fare, that doesn't mean it's a good movie.

The initial idea is a good one. Scarlett Johannson gets dragged into a scheme to smuggle a new drug from Taiwan to Europe. It's a blue crystal (though not as pretty as the stuff that came out of Walter White's lab), and a bag full of it is sewn into the bellies of ScarJo and three others who have been recruited against their will by some mob boss and his group of generic tough guys. When she gets roughed up by one of the thugs, the bag ruptures and its contents spill into her blood stream.

Meanwhile, Morgan Freeman is giving a university lecture about how we only use 10% of our brains, and posits what would would happen if we could utilize more of our gray matter. It's another example of Freeman in the role of Guy Who Explains Everything To The Audience, because without his exposition, we would never understand what's going on.

This is the section of the film that should be labelled bullshit, because that whole 10% claim isn't true. In reality, we all use our entire brain, but that 10% line is the sort of thing spouted by psychics and other con artists who want you to believe that they've tapped into more brain power than you're able to, thus imbuing them with special powers. It's nonsense, pure and simple.

In "Lucy," the blue crystals in her system make ScarJo much smarter and give her special powers. She can move people and objects, project herself through TVs and telephones, speed through traffic even though she's never driven a car before, etc. Those special effects and stunts are the only reason for the last half of the movie, which itself is a mere 85 minutes long because after the original idea and a few chase scenes, there's nowhere else to go. As my radio colleague Colin Jeffery pointed out, director Luc Besson is kind enough to help you know how much more of this trash you have to sit through by putting a graphic on the screen showing Lucy's brain power increases -- now she's at 40%, now she's at 50%, now she's at 80%, so this will all be over soon.

Besson was already responsible for one of my worst-of-the-year nominees, having written the Kevin Costner movie "Three Days To Kill." Now, he's a double nominee for "Lucy." Not only is the plot poorly constucted, but Besson makes other directorial choices, like an ending montage of Lucy traveling back through time in a sequence that recalls the finale of "2001: A Space Odyssey" (and is just as confusing). He also has ScarJo talk more like a synthesized computer voice as her brain power increases.

Too bad he didn't bill "Lucy" as a prequel to the much superior "Her," in which ScarJo was the voice of Samantha, the computer operating system, which would have been the logical next step for her highly developed artificial intelligence.

If you want to see much better movies around similar themes, I'd suggest "Charly" (1968) starring Cliff Robertson as a mentally handicapped man who undergoes an experiment that makes him a genius (based on the book "Flowers For Algernon"), or try "Phenomenon" (1996) with John Travolta as a regular guy who, after seeing a bright flash in the sky, suddenly gains knowledge and abilities he'd never had. The cast of "Phenomenon" includes Forest Whitaker, Kyra Sedgwick, and Robert Duvall in a wonderfully compassionate role as the town doctor who is stumped by what caused Travolta's new talents.

You'll have a much better time with those suggestions than with "Lucy," which 90% of your brain will reject as stupid and a waste of time.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

More On Talk Radio's Troubles

Another excellent column on how talk radio got into the trouble it's in, by Perry Simon:

See, at some point in the consolidation process -- early, I'd say -- the goal ceased to be winning. Back in the days when you had an AM and an FM, you went to war with the competition. You counter-programmed, you marketed, you pranked the competition's jocks, you showed up at their events, you battled for every dollar. And then you ended up with, say, 5 FMs and 3 AMs, and suddenly the goal wasn't to beat an individual station but to try to maximize value for shareholders and grow enough revenue to pay off the debt service (and maybe make up for another market where they weren't pulling their weight). And that led in turn to the idea of either building a "wall" of demographics -- like five flavors of Top 40 and AC covering women from birth to 65 -- or using full-market FMs not to win but to slice off a chunk of a competing market leader's ratings and revenue, a "flanker." This, with so many signals, might be a sound strategy; maybe L.A. doesn't NEED identical Top 40s or Alternative stations, but you can see why they did that. The problem is that by doing so, it eliminated the ability to use those signals to rescue News-Talk stations from shriveling on the rapidly aging and shrinking AM band. The thought was, there'll always be time for that. Now, 25 years later, those flankers are entrenched and there's no room for the Talk stations. By preserving the separate revenue streams, they managed to end up endangering one of them anyway.

The Internet, you say? Sure, that isn't a bad idea on the surface; it surely eliminates signal limitations and the buzz of electrical interference, and the kids, they love the streaming, right? But why would they listen to what standard talk radio has to offer? I've written about the stodgy, old-fart nature of "regular" talk radio, but what the delay in acting has additionally done is to destroy the brands. Ask yourself what a person under 40 thinks of when they hear the call letters of the heritage talk stations across the country. I'll give you a hint: If they have any image of it at all, it's that it's Dad's Station. It's not for them. And they've been given no reason to change their minds. THEIR talk radio involves streaming and podcasting that's made for the medium and made for their interests, whether it's Marc Maron or "This Week in Tech" or "Welcome to Night Vale," which is, in fact, a serial, a radio drama (okay, it's comedy), a form that their elders think died in the late 1940s. It's not the format and it's not the form, it turns out. It's the content, and the delivery vehicle doesn't matter, as long as it's not technically deficient, like AM (and PLEASE don't go with the "back when they made GOOD receivers" argument, because they DON'T make good receivers now and there's WAY more electrical interference and YOU KNOW THAT).
Read Perry's full piece here.


Nina Millin has done a series of videos in which she reads the lyrics to Beyonce songs, without music, in a very dramatic style. Here's one pretty funny example...

Friday, July 25, 2014

Ozark Music Festival

Forty years ago this month, the town of Sedalia, Missouri, was home to one of the largest music festivals in American history -- the Ozark Music Festival, on the grounds of the Missouri State Fair. The lineup included some of the biggest rock acts of 1974 (as seen on the poster above), but so many people showed up (estimates run as high as 350,000) that it became a sea of people, sex, drugs, and rock and roll (imagine Woodstock without the mud).

Jeff Lujin has been working on a documentary about the festival, speaking with some of the organizers, attendees, and performers. Today, he joined me on KTRS, as did my friend Mark Muller, who was actually there. They each told stories about the bands, the conditions, the way the town reacted, the state's response afterwards, and the sights and sounds of the historic event that caused rock acts to be banned from the Missouri State Fair for the next 20 years.

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Harris Challenge 7/25/14

This week's Harris Challenge -- the most fun you can have with your radio on -- includes trivia categories "This Week In The Law," "Going To Cooperstown," and "People Born The Same Day As Me." Listen and play along, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Knuckleheads In The News® 7/25/14

My latest batch of Knuckleheads In The News® stories include a guy run over by his own car, criminals who should stay off Facebook, and a guy who chose the wrong escape route.  Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Ray Rice's Insufficient Punishment

I haven't watched Keith Olbermann's ESPN show in many months, but his commentary last night on the insufficient punishment the NFL handed down to wife-beater Ray Rice reminded me how good Olbermann can be when he's truly steamed...

KTRS Today

I'll be on The Big 550 KTRS/St. Louis today 3-6pm CT, and in my first hour I'll talk with Jeff Lujin, director of a new documentary about the 1974 Ozark Music Festival, which had an incredible lineup of acts, a crowd of more than 250,000, and enough problems to ensure that the festival never happened again.

Also this afternoon: Colin Jeffrey and I will review "Hercules" and "Lucy," and I'll have a new batch of Knuckleheads In The News®, plus your chance to play my Harris Challenge trivia game. You can listen live over the air, via the free KTRS smartphone app, or stream it here.