Showing posts with label radio. Humvee. Show all posts
Showing posts with label radio. Humvee. Show all posts

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Dear Diary: The Lord is my . . . WHAT?!?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Revolution 21's Blog for the People continues an occasional series of dispatches recorded some years ago in the trenches of Catholic radio . . . Pope FM, if you will. The names aren't real, nor are the places, but the stories are -- and it's a snapshot picture of what happens when "Their zeal consumes them" meets "Sinners sacrifice for the institution, not vice versa."

In other words, there has to be a better way.


Dear Diary,

I think, someday, this diary may turn into a book. The only roadblock to my turning the continuing saga of Pope FM into the next great American comedic novel is that A Confederacy of Dunces already has been written.

And, either fortuitously or tragically, I seem to have wandered into the real-life sequel, which is centered upon an exceedingly bizarre little Catholic radio station. Picture Pope FM this way: Hunter S. Thompson finds Jesus, joins the Catholic Church, buys WKRP and turns it into a religious station.

But he never kicks the pills and the booze.

This is the kind of surreal, whacked-out chaos that swirls about me, here in the great Midwest, as I huddle in my broken-down production room in a ramshackle little radio station. Apart from Jesus Christ, my salvation is the limoncello our secretary keeps in the break-room freezer.

If we were a Baptist radio station, I'd be sooooo screwed right now. . . .

WELL, IT'S BEEN an eventful couple of weeks since my last entry. Work has gotten so bizarre as to defy description.

"The Triumvirate" has entered into an unbreakable feedback loop, and Manic Don -- the program director, as well as the catalyst for the troika -- has just released an organizational plan in which all roads lead to himself. In the staff meeting where all this was unveiled, I found that, as production director, I don't even have the power to decide what I'm working on during any given day.

I told them not to insult me by letting me keep a meaningless title if I have that little control over what I do. The past two weeks, I have surprised even myself with the level of bluntness I've developed.

Don and the development guy kept saying that "station business" (i.e. underwriting and promos) had to take precedence over creating programming during business hours. I told them that evangelization was the station's business, and that Pope FM was not a commercial enterprise.

As was the case with Jimmy Swaggart, I am becoming increasingly and utterly convinced it's all about money, and it's all about us . . . not suffering souls in need of Jesus.

I swear to you, Catholics are the craziest bastards this side of the West Bank (of the Jordan, not the Mississippi).

THERE'S GOING TO BE a spectacular meltdown and/or explosion. I just can't decide whether I'm being called to view it from close up -- and perhaps be around to help pick up the pieces if I don't go up in the mushroom cloud -- or to view it from a safe distance.

Meanwhile, I had a voice mail the other day from a Baptist guy wanting to talk to a priest about possibly converting -- even though his wife is violently opposed to the Catholic Church. I forwarded his info to our secretary, asked about procedures for referrals and made a couple of suggestions about priests to put him in touch with.

Well, tonight after hours, I pick up the phone . . . and it's the same guy, asking about good reference books.

"You're the guy who left the voice mail, right?" I asked. He said that he was.

Had anyone from the station put him in contact with a priest or someone else?


So I suggested Father Hardon's Pocket Catechism as beginning reading, and I gave him the name and phone number of the priest who confirmed my wife and me. I also suggested that he just patiently answer his wife's questions or objections, but not to argue with her about it.

I figure God really wants this guy to be Catholic. Sometimes I wonder why, but that's not my call. Fortunately.

On another front, Manic Don of the Holy Humvee tried to dump building playback logs for the automation program on my already overloaded plate. Trouble is, that's not my yob, man. Not in my job description.

I told him my plate already was full and that automation programming wasn't in my job description but was in his. By the end of the day, I was handed a new job description.

Guess what it included?

It also included reclassifying me as "occupational/non-exempt" from "professional/ exempt." When I pointed that out to Don and Ken, the general manager, (in writing, for documentation purposes) and mentioned "overtime" (which would substantially increase my salary), let's just say an abrupt correction was made.

THE IMPROBABLE, unbelievable saga of My Life at Pope FM just keeps getting better and better. This translates to more and more incredible . . . in the sense of "You won't believe this s***!"

Once again, I remind myself -- and the world -- that, yes, it really happened. Likewise, I note that I'm about to be guilty of "burying the lede," but what am I gonna do? It's a diary, Diary.

Today at Levy Pants -- if I inhabit the sequel to A Confederacy of Dunces, this must be the Levy Pants factory -- I was tasked to clean up a Pope FM Update done by Don and Ken. The copy, written by . . . oh, you know who the hell wrote it, had the general manager introducing the Messiah -- um, Don -- as "part mad scientist, part creative genius and just plain sinner like the rest of us."

It's all very frat boy, you know. Well, that is if frat boys went around spouting phrases like "just plain sinner like the rest of us."

I could have tried -- futilely -- to naysay against such juvenile things going over the air. But what's the fun in that? I prefer to imagine certain board members hearing that through the static on their FM radios.

And in a Pledge-a-Thon promo I just finished tonight for the Lord of the Hummer, he took a "Star Wars" tack on fund raising. I looked and looked and looked for the voiceover for one part of the spot, but it wasn't there, so I just voiced the part myself.

I did, however, do some editing. Can you imagine how it might sound, through the static of our weak signal, if I had read the line as written, which began
"The Lord is our Master Vader . . . ."

Listen to that in your mind's ear. Imagine someone paying scant attention to our staticky broadcast.

"The Lord is our Master Vader . . . ."

I CAN SEE IT NOW. I drop dead, and somehow -- probably through a clerical error -- I end up in Heaven Itself, right in the middle of the Beatific Vision, and there He is.

Jesus Christ.

Right there in front of me.

Coming out of an adult bookstore.

I . . . don't . . . think . . . so.

But that's the less-than-beatific vision our listeners came thiiiiiis close to having as they listened to Pope FM over their morning bowl of Froot Loops.

Something tells me that the Froot Loops aren't just in our listeners' cereal bowls.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Dear Diary: Humvees for Jesus

EDITOR'S NOTE: Revolution 21's Blog for the People continues an occasional series of dispatches recorded some years ago in the trenches of Catholic radio . . . Pope FM, if you will. The names aren't real, nor are the places, but the stories are -- and it's a snapshot picture of what happens when "Their zeal consumes them" meets "Sinners sacrifice for the institution, not vice versa."

In other words, there has to be a better way.

MONDAY, SEPT. 23, 2002

Dear Diary,

I write with some trepidation about what posterity will think of this missive. For what I will think of this missive in future years.

I fear people might read this and think me delusional -- that something as bat-s*** crazy as what I'm about to put to figurative "paper" couldn't have happened, that I made it all up. Sometimes, I fear that I'll think the same thing in five or 10 years.

Note to posterity (and to my future self): You can't make this s*** up. You just can't.

Well, it's been a while since I've written, and things have changed quite a bit around Pope FM. Mary, our general manager, is gone to tackle running a chain of Catholic radio stations. Ken is running the show now, and he's going great guns to "corporatize" the place.

His mantra seems to be "How can we do some business here?" Funny, I didn't know non-profit Catholic radio -- or Catholic evangelization -- was "bidness." Silly me.

Too, we have a new program director. Actually, this is a new position. Before, Mary did the program-director thing as part of her general-manager duties, and I reported to her. Now I have an extremely manic -- and extremely odd -- middle manager to brighten my work experience.

This is gonna be a rough ride.

HERE, DEAR DIARY, is a vignette that (I think) illustrates the big picture. And you'll see the genesis of my "rough ride" assessment.

First, the new guy, Don, is driving everybody nuts -- except for the fast clique formed by him, the general manager and the development director. They all have five kids (the new guy's fifth is on the way), they're all around my age, they're all "Catholic and Damned Proud of It" (for lack of a better term) types, etc.

All I can say briefly is the direction of the station has turned 180 degrees in the blink of an eye. There has been wrenching change in the whole culture of the station in a week . . . manic would be an apt description, I think. Manic, just like (as I noted earlier) Don.

I mean, I am the voice of restraint at the place now. Don has about five years of pent-up ideas he's unleashing all at once and expecting to implement by the end of the year. With very limited resources to accomplish any of it . . . even after the technical expansion is complete.

Honestly, I desperately want to give the station a contemporary, non-dyspeptic sound. I desperately want to reach out to young people. But in such a short time, you can only do what you can do with the resources you have. And you have to be deliberate in what you're doing.

BUYING A HUMVEE, I don't think, can be described as exercising due deliberation.

That's right, ladies and germs, Don wants to get someone to donate the scratch for a Humvee -- the Pope FM Humvee -- which we then would have painted like the Vatican flag to play off the theme "The Church Militant."

I am the only convert left on the staff, and I can't convince these zealots how badly that might piss off people who have no clue what the Church Militant is. So much so that we wouldn't have the opportunity to explain it (and so much so that it might not make a difference when you do).

And then we will face the reaction of the Protestants. ;-) As a friend comments about such things, "Their zeal consumes them."

APART FROM the PR-nightmare possibilities, I can think of a lot neater things $35,000 could buy instead of a used Hummer.

On the up side, Don values creativity, allegedly likes Holy Spirit Rock and seems to have the capability of being collaborative. On the down side, I picked the wrong week to stop doing crystal meth.

Friday, the intern who produces Keys to the Kingdom came into our temporary production room, looking concerned and asking how I was. I told her I picked the wrong week to stop smoking crack.

She then, unprompted, blurts out "How can you STAND it!"

Metaphysically, I have NO IDEA what is going on here. All I can figure out is that God has some sort of Rube Goldberg plan in all this, which He is laughing Himself silly watching.

I'll submit here a memo I sent to the entire Pope FM staff right after Don laid the whole Humvees for Jesus thing on us. I am sure I am now looked upon in that peculiar way the manic-depressive looks at the Normal Affect Population when he's bouncing off the walls in a fit of giddy delirium.

That's right, I'm a party-pooper who Just Can't See. In the peculiar world of Catholic radio, I'm sure that makes me a Bad Catholic as well.

Anyway, here's the memo:

Dear all,

Before we go too far down the promotional and imaging road, perhaps we need to stop and put on Protestant or average-Joe Catholic glasses.

As this whole clerical sexual-abuse mess drags on and (probably) gets worse, it will have a tremendous impact on how Catholics evangelize and, indeed, relate to the larger society.

For example, I would never, in this climate, use “The Church Militant” as a promotional scheme or even subtext. I think many not-so-well catechized Catholics immediately would be turned off by the phrase, having misunderstood the use of the word “militant.” And Protestants would feel threatened . . . and not without justification. Trust me, a convert, on this.

Lord knows the station needs to be pepped up. Lord knows we need to vastly expand our programming efforts toward teen-agers and young adults. And Lord knows Catholic media needs to learn to relate to average people in compelling and effective ways.

But we have to realize that we are trying to evangelize for a Church that has some grave problems right now – gravely sinful problems at the highest levels in some cases. We are sinners, our priests are sinners, and some of our bishops are major-league sinners. It’s an unpleasant fact, but it IS a fact. And it is not without precedent in Catholic history, although that DOES NOT make it any easier to live through or cope with right now.

In this light, I think what we need to do is run the Humvee and “Church Militant” into a tree and walk forward into the greater community in humility, and in our humanity, proclaiming the Christ “who saved a wretch like me.”

If we can come up with the $35,000 or so that would buy a used Hummer, I would suggest buying a more cost-effective vehicle and using the excess to begin endowing efforts toward helping the underprivileged in town. At any rate, the whole issue is a serious discussion the PR committee and board needs to have. At least that’s my two cents’ worth.
A LOT OF GOOD that did.

I wandered out to the reception desk this afternoon, only to find a fishbowl on the counter with some change in it. In front of the fishbowl was Don's yellow-and-white model Hummer.

On the fishbowl is a sign: "Help the Humvee!"

I asked our secretary what the deal was. She got this bemused look, and said "Don told me to put this up here."

I hung my head.

Did I mention that he's "blown up" three computers -- crappy ones, yes, but three computers nonetheless -- trying to make them do God knows what? And I was at work until 12:30 a.m. Wednesday desperately trying to fix the WaveStation automation, which suffered a Challenger-scale "major malfunction." Well, at least short of literally exploding.

Don was nowhere to be found.

And now the station organizational chart officially has all roads leading to the program director. Except for the stuff he doesn't like to do. In the staff meeting where that loo-loo was unveiled, I reached new pinnacles of bluntness that I did not know I was capable of.

I picked the wrong week to quit chasing fistfuls of downers with bourbon.

Why are Catholics so bat-s*** crazy?

NOTE TO MY FUTURE SELF: No, you didn't make this up. It happened. It's completely whack, but it happened. I don't know how this Pope FM thing will shake out, but I hope you make it through all right.

Tell me, are you still Catholic?