Saturday, September 29, 2012

3 Chords & the Truth: Here's to the 'squares'



The New York Times said Andy Williams was "hopelessly square" . . . at least in the eyes of my generation, back in the '60s.

I wish to point out that the same people who found Andy Williams "square" in their youth have spent their middle age doing "a heck of a job" -- in the Brownie sense -- with the American family, the American economy and American politics. In other words, what the hell do the Boomers know?


Squat, that's what. Trust me on this. I am one.

So call this episode of 3 Chords & the Truth a loving tribute to contrariness. Also call it a tribute to Andy Williams, who died Tuesday night at 84. He was a hell of a singer.

LIKEWISE, being that this week's edition of the Big Show will be featuring his music, you can safely say that it's going to be a hell of a show.

That will be obvious to you shortly . . . assuming, of course, that you evaluate music -- and singers -- on individual merit and not one's particular geometry. Remember, the young, hip trendsetter of today is the totally discredited investment banker of tomorrow.

But Andy Williams is now forever.

It's 3 Chords & the Truth, y'all. Be there. Aloha.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Your Thursday evening culture report


Listen to Bobby Lounge. He's from Mississippi and has an iron lung. 


And a perverted Squirrelsquatch. 

 It's a Southern thing.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

My huckleberry friend, Moon River, and me

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.
2  And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
4  And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
-- Revelation 21:1-4


Kids today have their computers, iPads and smart phones that bring the whole world into their grasp and into their eyes, ears and minds.

In the 1960s, I had a 21-inch, black-and-white Magnavox console television for my window on the world and, likewise, its accompanying radio and phonograph for the soundtrack of my life.

I always think of that old Magnavox, itself long consigned to sepia-tinted memory, when yet another piece of my youth has passed away as heaven and earth is aborn anew. It brought me the world; that world is no more, the new Jerusalem has yet to come down from on high, and I, in the September of my years, must wander the metaphysical neutral ground.

Andy Williams was someone that old Magnavox brought into our Baton Rouge home, and into my young life -- "Moon River" . . . The Andy Williams Show on TV . . . another appearance by the Osmond Brothers . . . "I Can't Get Used to Losing You," (one of my absolute favorite songs to this day) . . . years of Christmas specials amid freshly waxed floors, a newly decorated spruce tree and a cardboard fireplace with a festive, light-bulb fueled "fire."


IT'S BEEN decades since a live spruce tree graced my childhood Louisiana home, and the new laminate living-room floor doesn't need waxing. Mama is 89 now, and Daddy has been gone for 11 years. God only knows what happened to the 15-watt cardboard fireplace that held my Christmas stocking and strained under the dead weight of woolen hosiery stuffed with apples, oranges, candy canes and "D" cells.

Now, the Santa-festooned stocking I've had ever since I saw my first Christmas Day hangs on our Omaha Christmas tree, and last night, Andy Williams died. Bladder cancer. He was 84.

“Moon River” was written by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer, and Audrey Hepburn introduced it in the 1961 film“Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” but it was Mr. Williams who made the song indisputably his own when he sang it at the 1962 Academy Awards ceremony and titled a subsequent album after it. When he built a theater in Branson, he named it the Andy Williams Moon River Theater.
“Moon River” became the theme song for his musical-variety television series “The Andy Williams Show,” which, along with his family-oriented Christmas TV specials, made him a household name.
“The Andy Williams Show” ran on NBC from 1962 to 1971 and won three Emmy Awards for outstanding variety series. But its run also coincided with the social and cultural upheavals of the 1960s, and with a lineup of well-scrubbed acts like the Osmond Brothers (whom Mr. Williams introduced to national television) and established performers like Judy Garland and Bobby Darin, the show, at least to many members of a younger, more rebellious generation, was hopelessly square — the sort of entertainment their parents would watch.
Despite that image, “The Andy Williams Show” was not oblivious to the cultural moment. Its guests also included rising rock acts like Elton John and the Mamas and the Papas, and its offbeat comedy skits, featuring characters like the relentless Cookie Bear and the Walking Suitcase, predated similar absurdism on David Letterman’s and Conan O’Brien’s talk shows by decades.
Mr. Williams’s Christmas specials, on the other hand, were entirely anodyne and decidedly homey, featuring carols and crew-neck sweaters, sleigh bells and fake snow, and a stage filled with family members, including his wife, the telegenic French chanteuse Claudine Longet, and their three children. The Osmonds were regular guests, as were his older brothers, Bob, Don and Dick, who with Mr. Williams had formed the Williams Brothers, the singing act in which he got his start in show business.

Although Mr. Williams’s fame came from television, movie themes were among his best-known recordings, including those from “Love Story,” “Charade,” “The Way We Were” and “Days of Wine and Roses.” Decades after he had stopped recording regularly, his old hits continued to turn up on movie soundtracks: “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” in “Bad Santa,” for instance, and his version of “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” in “Bridget Jones’s Diary.”

Mr. Williams earned 18 gold and three platinum albums and was nominated for Grammy Awards five times, but he never had a gold single. (His version of “Moon River” was not released as a single, although versions by Mr. Mancini and Jerry Butler reached the Top 20.) His biggest hit single — and his only No. 1 — was “Butterfly,” an uncharacteristically rocklike 1957 number for which he was instructed to imitate Elvis Presley.

His more mellow hits included “Canadian Sunset,” “The Hawaiian Wedding Song,” “Lonely Street,” “Can’t Get Used to Losing You,” “The Shadow of Your Smile” and “Are You Sincere?” He continued to record into the 1970s.
HERE'S THE THING. Pop culture worms its way -- being culture and all -- into your brain, your soul and your heart. In many ways, it defines us. It is a signifier -- who are you? Well, what music do you like? What do you read? What's your favorite movie?

What are your memories of childhood? How do you mark the passing years . . . note the chapters of your life?

Likewise,  those who create pop culture, like Andy Williams, worm their way into your life, too. They guest star in your memories and can cause a middle-age man to slip the sure restraints of time and space. And it's not just "your" pop culture that's capable of such magic.

The New York Times obituary says that my generation, the Baby Boomers, found Williams to be "hopelessly square -- the sort of entertainment their parents would watch." That's too simplistic to pass the smell test . . . or the test of time.

Yes, peer pressure would dictate that he fell into the category of Stuff Parents Like and thus was uncool. Of course, peer pressure is merely the difference between saying what you think you must and knowing what you believe in your heart. And if you have any integrity whatsoever, what you believe in your heart will win out eventually.

Look at it this way: Your favorite uncle may have been "hopelessly square," too. Did you disown him because of that? Did you slip out the back door when you saw his car turn into your driveway?

And as the years passed, did you erase him from your memories? Of course not. Did his presence cause them to be any less fond? Of course not. Did you stop loving it when he sang that song he always sang? Is the memory of that hopelessly soiled because a certain someone was a "hopeless square"?

Of course not.

I THINK that's kind of how my generation has come to deal with that -- and those -- deemed "hopelessly square" by others just as young as stupid as ourselves back in the day. Me, I have come to long for the days when hopeless squares ran the world. We the Hip, frankly, ain't doing such a bang-up job of it right now.

Long have I, and have people like me, mourned the passing of things like The Andy Williams Show from our collective pop culture, just as we lament a present culture that has banished Andy Williams and his successors from even the consciousness of today's tragically hip.

But mostly, we today mourn the passing of a legendary singer and an entertainment icon. Andy Williams may or may not have been "hopelessly square" and he may or may not have been popular with all the "wrong" people, but he sure as hell sang like a dream.

And he was as comfortable as a crew-neck sweater on a cold December day.

Mr. Williams, I just can't get used to losing you. Rest in peace.
 

What if. . . ?


What if a local TV station locked out its real meteorologist and brought in a "replacement weatherguy" to tell us what it's going to be like out there?

And what if the word out there is that the weatherscab producing your "Pinpoint VIPIR AccuNow forecast" was let go by the Lingerie Weather Channel because he, well, sucked?

 As NBC26 in heartsick Green Bay, Wis., showed us Tuesday, it'd go something like this:
The Green Bay Packers became the latest NFL team to lose on a highly questionable call by the league’s replacement referees last night. WGBA, Green Bay’s NBC affiliate, poked fun at the situation this morning, bringing in a “replacement weather guy” to handle the forecast.
“It’s pretty bad out there people,” the replacement weather guy said (video above). “200 degrees below we’re looking at, and it’s really going to heat up. It’s going to be like 346 degrees by noon.”
WOW! If it's going to get up to 346, the station probably ought to let all the female anchors and reporters go on the air in just their lingerie. It would be just too darn hot to wear anything else.

Yeah, that's the (replacement) ticket!

And it would make the adjustment from the replacement weatherguy's previous gig a bit less daunting.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Vote for the black Muslim. It's important.

Madonna lectures on political science. Not safe for work . . . or young ears.


The only part of Madonna Louise Ciccone that's anything like a virgin is her brain, having for 54 years avoided being deflowered by a serious thought.

Monday night, the chastity belt around her cranium was cinched up extra tight as the crowd at her Washington, D.C., concert got three minutes' worth of Politics for Dummies . . . by Dummies.
"Y'all better vote for f***ing Obama, OK? For better or for worse, all right? We have a black Muslim in the White House."
And the crowd goes wild.
"Now that is the s***! That is some amazing s***! That means there is hope in this country. And Obama is fighting for gay rights, OK? So support the man, goddammit."
AND THE crowd goes wilder, stopping its whoops and yelps only long enough for the singer's political-science pupils to breathe through their mouths.

Tonight, the absent-mind professor sent a statement to the serious media -- in other words, Perez Hilton -- to clarify that she was being "ironic."
“I was being ironic on stage. Yes I know Obama is not a Muslim (though I know that plenty of people in this country think he is.) And what if he were? The point I was making is that a good man is a good man no matter who he prays to. I don’t care what religion Obama is – nor should anyone else in America.”
OH . . . okaaaaay. Sure, honey bun. Whatever you say.  

What? Oh.

I apologize. I was having a flashback to what my wife tells me whenever I try to BS her that blatantly after being caught saying something moronic.

See, it doesn't count as irony without an eye roll or air quotes. Them's the rules.

OTHERWISE, you're just being an idiot. You know, like if you'd stripped half naked to show off your new "tramp stamp" -- it said "OBAMA" -- then made a solemn vow to the faithful:

“When Obama is in the White House for a second term I'll take it all off.”

Mighty big talk for a woman who does that just to celebrate Tuesdays.

And Wednesdays.

And. . . .

Monday, September 24, 2012

This is Tom Jones, indeed


A friend of mine is always linking to great music videos on Facebook. "Are you adequately prepared to rock?" he always asks.

I don't think anyone was adequately prepared for the awesomeness he posted tonight -- this 1969 pairing of Tom Jones and Janis Joplin on "Raise Your Hand." The memorable moment came in December of the second season of This Is Tom Jones, the singer's variety TV series that ran three seasons from 1969-1971.

Verily, I say unto thee, that the Lord hath smiled upon the soulitudinous, boogielicious union of the blackest white woman in Port Arthur, Texas, and the blackest white man in South Wales, and then He hath commandeth the angel choirs to hush up because all y'all just got to hear this.

Can I get a witness, y'all? Raise your hand!

Eine kleine Nachtmusik


Late, late on a Sunday night -- Or is it early, early on a dreaded Monday morning? Whatever -- seems to me to be the right time for a little night music.

This day on the old Webcor, we have Frank Sinatra's classic 1966 LP, Strangers in the Night. The monophonic version, of course.

Is it just me amid a bout with melancholy, or is it these sounds of Sinatra from the era of Don Draper, Lucky Strikes and fedoras -- preserved on vinyl like a prehistoric insect in amber -- represent the recorded demise of a civilization unaware of its imminent doom? Confident, a little worn on the margins, upbeat . . . and terminal.

Ring-a-ding-ding, Pally! AAAAACK!

WE SAY we have a civilization today. That may be true, in some diminished fashion in this Kardashianized ruin of a Honey Boo Boo world, but it isn't the civilization my generation was born into. I know this because it's my generation that finished it off.

It had its warts. We wanted a brave new world -- which we got, careless as we were in our wishes. Reaching for the stars, we ended up with "sketti," sex tapes, and baby daddies but not husbands.

That and Sinatra as a salve for disaffected refugees from The Collapse, strangers in the night who wander lost in the ruins of White Trash America.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

3 Chords & the Truth: No. 200


First, in October of '06, there was this little thing called the Revolution 21 Podcast. Serviceable, but the name was pretty generic.

Then, on Jan. 11, 2008, something happened to the podcast.

It got bigger, and it got a new name -- 3 Chords & the Truth. Four years, nine months and 10 days later, here we are.

3C&T 200.

To rip off the sentiments of the Grateful Dead, what a long, strange trip it's been.

TODAY, the Big Show is what it always has been, only more of it. More freeform. More eclectic. More audacious. More unique. More of a musical revolution for the 21st century.

And your Mighty Favog hopes you're having more and more fun. He certainly is.

This week, on 3 Chords & the Truth No. 200, we start off by greeting the arrival of autumn. Yay! I mean, when you start off a program with John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman's rendition of "Autumn Serenade," you're starting off at "special" and then aiming for the heavens. Then again, that's just the kind of deal the Big Show is.

Of course, there are attendant problems with this approach to a music program. At the top of the list -- particularly after a show like No. 200 -- is "How the hell do we top that?"

COME BACK next time for 3C&T 201 to find out.

It's 3 Chords & the Truth, y'all. Be there. Aloha.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Just to be perfectly clear . . .


I am still a geek.

In this view from the Revolution 21/3 Chords & the Truth studios as we get ready for the 200th episode of the Big Show, the CDs are Karrin Allyson and John Coltrane, the mixer is a Soundcraft Spirit ES stereo model, the microphone preamps run on vacuum tubes and the background on the computer desktop is from a 1944 ad for KOIL radio in Omaha.


Yep, geek.

Drink milk. It's groovy, man.


When you're throwing a Shindig, there's nothing more refreshing than a nice, cold glass of milk. And if you're not hep to that jive . . . er, forget that, wrong decade . . . and if you don't think "the vitality drink" is sooooooo totally far out, man, just ask Bobby Sherman.

Really, man. If you're not hip to that, maybe you're just too square to be a Shindog, man.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Shine + meth = this


Back when I was a little bitty boy down on the bayou, my daddy gave me some advice I've always tried to live by, lo, these many years.

"Son," he says to me -- that's what he always called me, "Son" -- "now don't you go mixin' no corn liquor with no crystal meth." And I remember asking "How come, Daddy?" You know how 4-year-olds are . . . a bottomless font of questions.

Right then, though, Daddy backhanded me right across the chops.

"Because mixin' corn liquor and crystal meth is bad sh*t, that's why!

Message received. 

A lot of folks in Kentucky never got that message, I'm sad to have to tell you. I mean, look at this YouTube video by some poor soul with chemically induced Swiss cheese for brains.

APPARENTLY, he's calling himself the Blue Nation Clown, and given a certain resemblance as noted on the Dr. Saturday blog, if I were he, I'd avoid midnight movies for fear of nervous types with concealed-carry permits. Or, this being the South, steel magnolias who don't need no stinkin' concealed-carry permits to keep "jes' the cutest little .22" in their purses. 

But back to the video . . . ewwwwww. Can you imagine anyone getting into such a state over Kentucky football? Geez, if Kentucky basketball ever starts to stink up Rupp Arena, this guy will be legion.  

And the Dynamic Duo will have their work cut out for them.

Because, son, mixin' corn liquor and crystal meth is bad s***.

Teacher! There's a bug in my soup!

Guess who came to lunch today at some Omaha-area elementary schools.

Er . . . make that what.

The Omaha World-Herald reports that the unplanned-upon addition to kids' daily dietary requirements really bugged the lunch ladies.

A surprise ingredient in the soup caused a buzz Wednesday in one metro Omaha school district.
Bugs were discovered in some batches of soup delivered to the lunchrooms at nine Papillion-La Vista elementary schools and St. Columbkille Catholic School.
District spokeswoman Annette Eyman said possibly up to 150 students ate the soup before school officials discovered the contamination and recalled the soup.
The soup was prepared at Papillion-La Vista South High School. Food service workers found bugs in a pot of soup there before it was served to any students, Eyman said.
The bugs were discovered during lunch at Carriage Hill, Patriot and Golden Hills Elementary Schools, she said. No bugs were seen in the soup at the other seven schools, but it was removed anyway.
Officials took samples of the bug to the Douglas-Sarpy Cooperative Extension Service for identification.
It was identified as a sawtoothed grain beetle, she said. “They’re very common, and they don’t carry any diseases,” she said. “They’re not harmful if they’re consumed.”
ASKED FOR COMMENT on whether feeding beetles to kids was an appropriate function of local governments, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney saw the incident as yet another spasm of bitching and moaning by the "47 percent." 

"Listen, let me be clear," Romney said, clearly agitated by the query. "If you're going to be dependent on government and expect that taxpayers, the 'makers' of our society, have a responsibility to feed you at school every day, you can't be that gosh-darned picky about how you get your protein."

One 7-year-old boy at a Papillion-La Vista grammar school, was sanguine about the lunch controversy and the ensuing political scuffle upon hearing of Romney's comments.

"I like bugs," he said.

NEW AT 6 on your First Eyewitness Action News station, Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle eats some maggoty gruel, vows to "work the process" of keeping his lunch down.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Off the traks in Rail Town USA


You'd think that in a city that bills itself as "Rail Town USA," the daily newspaper would know that it's "Amtrak," not "Amtrack."

You'd think. You'd also be wrong.

Thus goes the sad decline of what used to be a damned good little newspaper in North Platte, Neb. I know. Once upon a time, I was a reporter there.

And I daresay everyone who mattered at the Telegraph then knew how to spell "Amtrak" just as well as "Union Pacific," the railroad that's the reason North Platte can call itself Rail Town USA. (The newspaper, however, calls it "Railtown USA" in a Sunday news story. Whatever.)

Actually, it was construction of the UP that gave North Platte its reason to be at all. And with the world's largest rail-classification yard in town -- yep, Union Pacific -- it doesn't seem unreasonable to ask that Telegraph web editors know something about railroads.


For instance, how to spell "Amtrak."


AMTRACK?

Amtrack???

This is what happens to a good newspaper when it inevitably falls under the dark spell of mediocre people beholden to an out-of-town corporate owner. When "community journalism" is just another job for just another editor and just another publisher, and the bottom line is just another entry on a balance sheet in Omaha.

They don't make editors like Keith Blackledge anymore -- or hold newspaper staffs to standards as high as his, either.

THEN AGAIN, why should Rale Towne USA be any different from anywhere else today.

To infinity . . . and beyond!


At halftime of Saturday's Nebraska football game, you got the marching band and stuff, sure . . . but you also got to watch some teenagers commit science.

With a little help from a homegrown astronaut.

And they launched some experiment-carrying weather balloons to infinity . . . and beyond! Or just shy of 100,000 feet, whichever came first.


SUNDAY, the Omaha World-Herald got the scoop:
It takes a lot of work to gain the privilege of standing on the field at Memorial Stadium on game day in front of 85,000 fans.

It takes dedication, hours of practice, weeks of preparation.

But the cheers Saturday weren't just for touchdowns, and a football wasn't the only flying object.

A group of students and teachers led one of the biggest science experiments Husker Nation has ever seen.

During halftime, the group released three high-altitude balloons, also known as weather balloons.

The balloons, 8 feet in diameter and typically filled with helium, floated to heights of up to 20 miles into “near space” to collect data. Astronaut Clayton Anderson of Ashland, Neb., assisted with the launch.

One balloon carried specimens of E. coli, red and white blood cells, oranges, motor oil and experimental planting seeds.

A second carried special devices to collect environmental data so students could measure such things as air pressure and cosmic rays. The third carried an identification banner of the different groups.

The data were expected to fall to Earth a couple hours after liftoff.

Michael Sibbernsen, science and technology coordinator at the Strategic Air & Space Museum, said near space is an area in the atmosphere where conditions are very cold and relatively similar to those of outer space.

Many of the experiments measured how near space and high altitudes affect the specimens. Thanks to a NASA grant, such research is now accessible to students and teachers in Nebraska.
WATCH the video (above) from the university. Cool stuff from the very edge of space.

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign


Kids. You have to spell out everything for them.

And at the student union on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's city campus, administrators just want to be clear that they're being absolutely clear. Because it's those darned kids . . . they'll test you.

As I seem to recall from my own college days somewhat farther south than Lincoln, youth from the ages of about 18-22 are kings and queens of the loophole. The second you assume that everyone knows you're not supposed to skateboard in the union. . . .

No, you need . . .

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
Blockin' out the scenery, breakin' my mind
Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign?

Big Nebraska sky

Hey Mom, been looking for time to write
Yeah, I’m getting by all right
How’s Dad? Did he get that East field plowed?
Used to be done by now
Out here it gets cold at night
But the stars are a welcome sight
To me

I pretend it’s the big Nebraska sky
Like the picture in my mind
Is the wind still rollin’ across the plains?
Please say it’s still the same

Follow the sun as it goes
Nothing but endless rows

Steve Gulley
and Tim Stafford

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Cornhusker Nation


Behold Cornhusker Nation.

Mrs. Favog and I were at Saturday morning's Nebraska-Arkansas State game, and I walked right into this scene on the way into Memorial Stadium, not too far from the spot where in 1983 I asked her "Will you?" and she said "Yes" and we were engaged. So I raised my little point-and-shoot digital camera and . . . voila!

As a Nebraska transplant -- and as a Husker fan of 30 years -- this seemed rather iconic to me. A photographic metaphor for the Midwestern phenomenon that is Husker football.

Go Big Red!

Karma's a bitch

Here's some North O neighborhood news from the Omaha World-Herald today:

A 29-year-old man killed in a confrontation with Omaha police officers early Sunday near 30th and Pratt Streets was on a 48-hour furlough from the Community Corrections Center of Lincoln.

Jermaine Lucas of Omaha began serving five to eight years in the Nebraska Department of Corrections on Dec. 7, 2010, for being a felon in possession of a gun. Robert Houston, the director of the Nebraska Department of Corrections, said Lucas started his 11th furlough on Friday.

Houston said it's a rare occurrence for an inmate to run into trouble with the law while on an unsupervised release.


(snip)

Lucas was no stranger to police and had a long arrest record. Police have said in the past that they believed him to be a member of the 29th Street Bloods gang.

In 2006, Lucas and another suspected 29th Street Bloods member, Jimmy Levering, were charged in connection with the fatal shooting of Kenny Miller, 24, outside a convenience store at 24th Street and Redick Avenue.

Levering was charged as the shooter, and Lucas was accused of driving Levering from the scene.

Prosecutors said charges against both men were dropped after witnesses, fearing retaliation, refused to testify.

In 2010, Levering was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison for being a felon in possession of ammunition after police found him with two .45-caliber bullets during a Jan. 29 traffic stop. He died in May 2011 after being shot in the head outside the Club Seville at 30th and Pratt Streets.
JUSTICE doesn't always happen as we expect, or by ordinary legal means, but it usually occurs. One way or another. On earth or in the great beyond.

Friday, September 14, 2012

3 Chords & the Truth: Creative deconstruction


Let me riddle you this.

Where does a set of really fine music reside if it deconstructs a theme, includes Louis Prima and Better Than Ezra and intersects with Abbe Lane?

The answer is obvious. Even more so if you listen to this week's episode of 3 Chords & the Truth.

Let me riddle you something else. What music show is full of color, even though you cannot see it?


I'LL LET you jazz around a while as you think on that. Here's a hint: It's a Big Show.

Now, finally, let me riddle you this: If a music-show host riddles about his show but makes no sense at all, might he be sleep-deprived?

It's 3 Chords & the Truth, y'all. Be there. Aloha.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Blue Dot Special

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


I'm not sure, but I think the USA Today redesign means that the national newspaper is going from aspiring to a Pulitzer Prize for best paragraph to one for best tweet.

Also, if a reimagining of what a newspaper is is needed -- and it is -- I'm not convinced that Gannett is the company you want trailblazing the way to the promised land. All this talk about cross-platform cross-pollination in the New York Times article on the 30-year-old daily's reboot just sounds like so much perfume poured over a budget-cutting turd.

So, here's the lowdown on the big dot-com face-lift. Viral video at 11.

The broader makeover is part of effort by USA Today’s parent company, Gannett, to blend the resources of all of its television and newspaper assets. The company owns 82 newspapers in the United States, including USA Today, as well as 23 broadcast television stations and some digital media properties. The company is also planning to rebuild its newsroom to create a single national news desk to house staff members from its newspapers and television stations.

Mr. Kramer, who is the founder of MarketWatch and joined USA Today in May, said that starting this fall, Gannett’s newspapers and television stations would share more content on breaking news stories, with a greater blending of video and print on the Web site. Print reporters will be expected to do their own videos and will be given backpacks with video equipment to carry on assignments. He also plans to better pair the papers’ national investigative projects with local coverage; smaller papers will run USA Today investigative stories with sidebars written by reporters about local impact.

“This has to be an orchestra,” said Mr. Kramer. “It can’t be a single instrument anymore.”


(snip)

Analysts have welcomed efforts by all news organizations to blend print, video and digital reporting, and they point out that USA Today’s print makeover is overdue. Alexia S. Quadrani, a media analyst at JPMorgan Chase, noted in a report in July that Gannett’s newspaper advertising revenue declined 8.1 percent in the second quarter, which was worse than she had expected. She said she expected USA Today to remain weak in the third quarter.

Ms. Quadrani pointed out this week that Gannett had benefited recently from all of the television advertising related to the Olympics and political campaign season, temporary bursts of revenue. And she stressed that Gannett still depended heavily on its newspapers.

“A revamp is going to be welcome because I think you do need to do something to reinvigorate that brand,” said Ms. Quadrani. “They’re still more skewed toward print in terms of where their revenue and cash flow comes from.”

Gracia C. Martore, Gannett’s chief executive, said the company’s 5,000 journalists had already started collaborating on stories. During the shootings in July in Aurora, Colo., the company’s network of television stations depended on content from KUSA, the Gannett television station in Denver, until 18 journalists from other Gannett television stations arrived to pitch in and help report the story. During the Olympics, reporters from KUSA who knew Missy Franklin, a swimmer from suburban Denver, shared their contacts with Gannett’s print outlets and other television networks.

“The great thing about Gannett right now is the leveraging of assets that used to be housed in silos,” said Ms. Martore. “That’s how I think you survive and thrive in a digital era.”
THE NEW USA Today looks like a website, and the thing read like The Drudge Report even before there was such a thing as the World Wide Web.

I mean, God bless the Internet. I got nothing agin' it. But it seems to me that a newspaper has to be a different kind of beast than a news website. If I want to get my news from the Internet, I will get it from the Internet . . . and it will be a lot fresher than my morning copy of USA Today: Dead Tree Edition.

What I need from a newspaper are the kinds of things the Internet does less well than print. What I don't need is a website that gets ink on my fingers.

Anyway, that's my take on the new and improved Blue Dot Special. Your mileage may vary.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Obama the appeaser: Soft on seagulls


What you see here is the global seagull menace, caught in shocking detail in videos shot by ordinary folk . . . and in a couple of instances by the winged terrorists themselves.

Above, we see how a participant in a brazen San Francisco radical-seagull theft ring swipes a GoPro video camera from a French tourist as she photographs the setting sun behind the Golden Gate Bridge. Note how the felonious fowl, unmolested by the law under the Obama Administration, has no fear whatsoever of apprehension or of legal repercussions.

And note well what we've heard from the administration concerning such organized crime against unarmed, innocent individuals on American soil -- nothing. It is difficult to understand such indifference from the president or any of his Washington "comrades" in the face of this wave of terror taking flight across the homeland.

One supposes right-thinking Americans might be grateful that Barack Obama at least hasn't issued politically correct statements expressing sympathy with the "oppressed" gull community, caught no doubt in the maw of "parasitic" humanity. Yes, me must count our blessings, no matter how meager . . . assuming, of course, that the Obama Administration isn't at this very moment preparing to extend sympathy toward avian extremists.



BUT THE REACH of organized terror so fowl extends far beyond American shores. Europe is in seagull crosshairs, also.

Watch this from Cannes, France (above).

Not only does the gull extremist openly strike against the video camera of yet another hapless victim, it uses its purloined prize to record some sort of manifesto for fundamentalist seagullism. AAWWWWK, indeed.

And the response from the appeaser-in-chief to this seagull attack upon a close, still-capitalist European ally -- note that this happened last year, when the pinkos had yet to seize the reins of French power -- was again nonexistent. Birds of an ideological feather, perhaps?

We report. You decide.


IT IS AMERICA, though, that is the epicenter of terror attacks by fundamentalist seagullism. And it is here that the Obama indifference (or worse) most enables the destruction of American property . . . and American values.

Listen to these young Americans (above) -- brainwashed by this Obamanation against our fair land
-- laugh at the terrible sight of criminal seagull anarchy. Words fail. Tolerance of airborne terror, corruption of America's youth . . . when, pray tell, will enough be enough?


AND WHERE is the ultraliberal Humane Society of the United States when even house pets are victimized by global gull terrorism? And for the record, at least dogs tied to the roofs of family station wagons are able to eat unhindered by the criminal plague of avian extremism.


IS WHAT we're saying.


WHEN will the madness stop?

It will stop when Americans stop it. But the necessary War on Seagulls cannot commence until we
first achieve a different sort of victory.

Our first blow against this extremist enemy so fowl will be to give Barack Hussein Obama, appeaser of fundamentalist seagulls, a one-way Greyhound ticket back to Chicago. But not a plane ticket -- that would be the height of budgetary imprudence.

Freedom from seagulls: It's fundamental, and Mitt Romney will not rest until Americans, from sea to shining sea, once again can look to the sky without fear.

May Our Heavenly Father continue to bless the United States of America.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

No good speech goes unpunished

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Never are we humans -- stupid, sorry wretches that we are -- so contemptible as we are when wholly convinced that we're as moral and worthy as the other guy is depraved and unfit.

No one likes a self-righteous jerk, and for good reason. So I guess we can start right there when pondering why everybody hates America today.

Today is the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. In what may be a reasonably reliable sign of al Qaida's ultimate victory in the resulting War on Terror, many Americans have spent this Patriot Day -- today of all days -- trashing Vice President Joe Biden for referring to the anniversary as a "bittersweet moment."

Unsurprisingly, talk-radio blowhards Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity have been leading the charge. From Politico:

Hannity blasted Biden as either “callous” or “ignorant beyond belief” for using the word “bittersweet” to discuss the 9/11 anniversary, and Limbaugh told his listeners that “with 9/11, it’s all bitter.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Biden addressed a crowd at the United Airlines Flight 93 memorial and said it was a “genuine honor” to be there.

“But like all of the families, we wish we weren’t here. We wish we didn’t have to be here. We wish we didn’t have to commemorate any of this. And it’s a bittersweet moment for the entire nation, for all of the country, but particularly for those family members gathered here today,” Biden said in Shanksville, Pa.

With the “bittersweet” remark, Hannity said that the “vice president buffoon is at it again.”

“Does he even know what the word bittersweet means? What on earth is bittersweet about what happened on 9/11? Explain the sweet part, Mr. Vice President,” Hannity said.

“What happened on 9/11 was unmitigated evil,” he added after playing a clip from Biden’s 9/11 speech. “I don’t see describing it bittersweet. It either means you’re just callous or you’re just ignorant beyond belief and don’t know the meaning of what the term bittersweet is.”

Biden wasn’t the only one to use the word “bittersweet” in his remarks on Tuesday. National Park Service Flight 93 National Memorial superintendent Jeff Reinhold used the term “bittersweet” in his Tuesday address before Biden spoke to the gathering. In a transcript of his prepared remarks, Reinhold said, “and a very special welcome to the families of the 40 passengers and crew of Flight 93. As always, it is bittersweet to have you with us again.”

“As you can imagine, it’s been an incredibly personal and emotional journey,” Reinhold wrote in an email to POLITICO. “The families have been involved in every aspect of the process and I — and our entire staff — have developed wonderful friendships and very close bonds with many of them. We look forward to their visits in September and throughout the year, but always with a tinge of regret as we know it is a tragedy that brought us together. ‘Bittersweet’ seemed very appropriate and is a term that I think many of the families would use to describe their relationship with the staff at the Memorial.”

Hannity also slammed the media’s response to Biden’s “bittersweet” comment.
“And I can say this — and I’m trying to stay away from politics — if a Republican vice president had said this, the criticism, the ridicule, would come on like an avalanche,” he said.
PERHAPS IT'S merely that Hannity's and Limbaugh's minds cannot deal with complexity. Maybe it's that these gentlemen have an insufficient understanding of grace, particularly that which arises from great tragedy or evil, confirming for our hearts that "the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not."

Then again, maybe it's something else entirely with Hannity and Limbaugh. (See Paragraph 2.)

Whatever the reason for a really, really pointless and deeply, deeply idiotic attack on the vice president on this day -- Really? REALLY??? -- that it could be made and taken seriously at all should be a sign of how very sick we have become as a country . . . and as a people. As a fever is sign of an infection, this kind of mindless, hyperpartisan and wildly popular spleen-venting is a sign of a nation deathly ill from a poison that has overtaken the heart and has spread to the brain.

Look around you today. Watch the TV news or pick up a newspaper -- if you dare. For God's sake, spend even 10 minutes on Facebook. If Osama bin Laden was responsible 11 years ago for setting in motion even 15 percent of what we Americans now freely and lustily do unto each other, history will award him an honored place in the Pantheon of Evil Genius.

That we are talking about this today, 11 years after witnessing unspeakable horror unfold on our television screens, says much about us, none of it good.

We have become so practiced at blithely dehumanizing our ideological opponents that our own humanity now comes into question. Are we still human? Or, perhaps, have we become some new thing -- some sort of antihuman being.

Then again, it's a story that's as old as Rome and as sick as Hitler. We just can't help ourselves.

BUT AS we take to Facebook, Twitter and talk radio to call the vice president callous, a dumbass or worse as we peer down upon him from our high horse, it might be worth it to consider that he just might know a lot more about the subject of suffering -- not to mention what is and isn't "bittersweet" -- than the vast majority of us ever will. Actually, TPM's editor, David Kurtz, did consider just that:
Rarely do I watch Joe Biden give a speech or an interview without looking for some evidence, in his eyes or the lines of his face, of the fact that he lost half of his young family when he was 30 years old. It is inconceivable to me, always has been, but especially in the years since I became a father. For all his goofballism, Biden has gone through a crucible that I cannot imagine. And he did so when he was 30, an adult, already deeply invested in the life he was building.

That’s not to diminish the tragedies that children endure. But at 30 years old to lose your wife and baby daughter, to almost lose your two toddler sons, and to somehow carry on? It truly baffles me. I know everyone says you do what you have to do. But that’s not really true. You don’t. You could curl up in the fetal position, if not literally then emotionally, and shrivel up. I’m more certain that that’s what I would do than I am confident I would find a way to persevere. But Biden has been through it. He’s seen hell and been back.

That he served his entire 36-year Senate career after that searing experience in December 1972, shortly after winning election, and then went on to become vice president, adds some drama to the story, I suppose. But for me the emotional highlight is just him getting out of bed the next day, and the day after that, and the one after that.

Which brings me to Joe Biden’s speech today in Shanksville, Penn., commemorating the victims of Sept. 11, 2001. The speech is marvelously and sensitively written. But rendered by Biden, drawing on his own life experience, in rhetorical ways that are not ostentatious and which don’t try to elevate his own story above those of the victims’ families, it packs a wallop that still makes me cut him a lot of slack for his sometime inexplicable goofiness.
I DISAGREE with the vice president on many things, particularly social issues. But I do well to remember that God loves him just like He does me . . . and that Joe Biden has guts. It takes guts -- and more than a little strength of character -- to survive, as he has, not only shattering grief but the shattering of one's whole world.

The way I figure it, if Rush, Sean and all the angry birds on Twitter actually had to walk a mile in the vice president's shoes, we might find out who the real "dumbass" and "buffoon" is. (ANSWER: Not Joe Biden.)

Monday, September 10, 2012

This patient's chart doesn't look so good, Doc


God in heaven.

Look at this from the American Enterprise Institute:

The blue line in the chart above displays total annual print newspaper advertising revenue (for the categories national, retail and classified) based on actual annual data from 1950 to 2011, and estimated annual revenue for 2012 using quarterly data through the second quarter of this year, from the Newspaper Association of America (NAA). The advertising revenues have been adjusted for inflation, and appear in the chart as millions of constant 2012 dollars. Estimated print advertising revenues of $19.0 billion in 2012 will be the lowest annual amount spent on print newspaper advertising since the NAA started tracking ad revenue in 1950.

The decline in print newspaper advertising to a 62-year low is amazing by itself, but the sharp decline in recent years is pretty stunning. This year’s ad revenues of $19 billion will be less than half of the $46 billion spent just five years ago in 2007, and a little more than one-third of the $56.5 billion spent in 2004.
ANY MARKET for those of us with skill sets worthy of the Bronze Age? You know, like newspaper journalism and radio broadcasting? Some of us also have rudimentary skills in hunting and gathering, as well as cave painting.

Will cue up records (45, 33 1/3 and 78 rpm), edit reel-to-reel recording tape, hand-set metal type, tutor students in proportion-wheel and pica-pole use, change typewriter ribbons and develop film for food.

Also will backtime records to end at the top of the hour for a legal ID and the radio news for whatever alms you see fit to give.



HAT TIP:
Rod Dreher.

This ain't no limberger


A full year before I first had the chance to ask "What the f*** is this???" upon hearing "Dance This Mess Around" for the first time, here are the B-52's live in January 1978 at WSAI-FM in Cincinnati. Brilliant!

It's not exactly like finding the Holy Grail, but it's good enough for government work.

So, why won't you dance with me? I'm not no limberger.

Friday, September 07, 2012

3 Chords & the Truth: The ol' one-two punch


Hello, Teacher? I'm just calling about my assignment.

Well, I wrote a most excellent report about this week's episode of 3 Chords & the Truth, but something happened.

No, ma'am. No, the dog didn't eat my homework. Not exactly.

Well, you see, it's like this. We're dog sitting for Sadie and her little brother, Boo. And Sadie's pretty old and doddering, you see.

Ma'am? Yes, ma'am, I'll get to the point.


ANYWAY, I did a really great writeup about the Big Show this week, and. . . .

Yes, ma'am. I'm getting to that, but it's kind of. . . .

Yes, ma'am. I know you don't have all day. Well . . . the dog pooped on my report. I only had the one copy, and I accidentally left it on the couch . . . and canine Grandma there had an accident.

On my most excellent report on this week's 3 Chords & the Truth. And I can't rewrite it in time for class Monday.

Why?

Well, the laptop's drying out, ma'am. Yes ma'am, it's what you think. She's very old, ma'am. Kind of senile.

The 30-second version? OK . . . the show this week is quite eclectic, as usual. A little old-school punk, a nice set of 1960s and '70s pop and lots of scrumptulicious jazz and rock form the core of the program, and. . . . Yes, ma'am. I know scrumptulicious ain't a word. OK, isn't a word.

Anyhow . . . anyway, I think this week's edition of the Big Show is quite upbeat and pleasing, and it definitely will hold your interest. It's really tight, as usual.

Ma'am?

THE PROGRAM had better be a lot better than the 30-second version of my report? Yes, ma'am, I think it is. I think you'll agree -- check it out.

Yes, ma'am. I will be getting Sadie some doggy diapers, you can Depends on it. No ma'am, that was a joke, not a subject-verb agreement problem. You know . . . Depends?

No, ma'am, it wasn't that funny after all, come to think of it.

Sum it all up? Well, OK, it's like this. . . .

It's 3 Chords & the Truth, y'all. Be there. Aloha.