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A random look at the life and times of Jim Rising recovering radio addict and newspaper columnist.
Saturday, October 16, 2010
Monday, September 27, 2010
There is word for assigning animals, objects or even plants human characteristics.
Egg-headed scientists scoff at this idea. The learned men in the white lab coats will tell you it is foolish to endow a dumb animal with anything like emotion. But anyone who ever owned a doggy or a kitty will tell you the pet had a soul.
I take it a bit further. I am certain that many of the inanimate objects that we deal with on a day-to-day basis also have souls or can feel. I also think they have wicked timing, and a sense of humor.
Explain to me why else the light bulb in the bathroom will pick the first thing in the morning to blow out? Getting moving in the grey dawn is hard enough without the onerous task of changing the bulb in a fixture you can reach only by standing on a chair and stretching like you are doing yoga. Making you do this when half-awake has to give the bulb some sort of perverse pleasure. Doing this in the middle of the day is dangerous. Doing it before morning coffee, prior to brushing your teeth is asking for a trip to the E.R. Or at the very least to the hardware store to buy a replacement fixture for the one you tear from the ceiling in your sleepy clumsiness.
Computers don’t have ears. Why then do we talk to them? Or more properly put in my case at least, why do I swear at them? For me it’s because the evil things refuse to cooperate at the worst possible time. Anyone who doesn’t think computers have a mind of their own has never had an important work or school assignment due when the hard drive crashes. No one when faced with such a crisis has not addressed the machine with various spells and incantations mostly revolving around the chant “not now you worthless piece of feces.”
Cars know when you will be most inconvenienced by refusing to start. Flashlight batteries that work perfectly in broad daylight plot against you on dark and stormy power failure nights. Cell phones know exactly when to drop a call, right before the boss on the other end gives you the crucial instruction and you have to make him repeat himself. Two or three times. Bosses love repeating themselves. I swear I can hear the cellphone chuckle.
The tiny rational part of my mind knows this is silly. The rest of my mind knows it’s true.
Best advice my Dad ever gave me? Never let anything mechanical or electrical know you are in a hurry. They can smell it on you and will punish you.
I read newspapers. I love to tell people that. I harrumph, (newspaper readers are big on harrumphing) adjust my glasses and give out my best serious look. “I read several newspapers a day” I tell anyone who will listen, which oddly enough is fewer and fewer each day. “I read real newspapers too,” I tell them. None of this fancy internet stuff for me. I love getting ink on my fingers and elbows. Newspaper readers will understand about the elbows.
I think it makes me look intelligent. Thoughtful. Erudite. The reality is not as glamorous.
I read newspapers every day, but I read the funnies first. Always have, always will. Oh sure, I’ll glance at the front page. But first things first. I have to have my dose of comic art.
Sometimes when the headlines in the other sections of the paper are particularly bleak, that is almost all I read. I stopped watching the nightly TV news for the same reason. It was interfering with my boundless optimism and my rosy world view. Cartoons on TV are great in their own way but can’t compare with the three to four panels inked in color every day.
Newspaper comics are great. I admit I don’t read all of them. The Phantom does little for me. Something about a dog and a guy in a costume. I have read all the Peanuts over the years and I am sometimes amazed to still see Charles Schultz’s (he’s been gone 9 years now) name in print. Our local papers don’t carry Mary Worth and I am fine with that.
But I faithfully read several strips, as we comic lovers call them, on a daily basis. A day without “Dilbert” and his pointy haired boss? It’s unthinkable. “Get Fuzzy” can make me laugh so hard that cereal milk shoots out my nose. And “Crankshaft” is good on so many levels, from amazing art to the uncanny way it nails people as they really are.
My refrigerator’s actual color is difficult to discern. It’s covered with clipped out strips. Sometimes just one panel, but that one small square can be a work of art all by itself. A good example: a “Crankshaft” panel shows the old man and his adult daughter on a porch swing. He says “Somehow, I always thought life took longer than this.” Nailed it, for me at least.
One time the paper forgot to print the funnies. They just plain forgot to run the funnies and printed a full page of car ads instead. I went through the seven stages of grief. I missed a whole day in the life of “Frazz.” You never get over something like that.
A possible projection of the future, had calmer (and smarter) heads not prevailed:
FORTY FORT, Pa - September 18, 2020 – To no one’s surprise the northeastern PA. borough of Forty Fort officially seceded from the United States today. Standing by the gate in the 50 foot high fence surrounding the community, the mayor proclaimed the day a proud one for the 100 remaining residents.
“The first thing we did 10 years ago was get rid of all them pesky forms with two languages on them. If you can’t read American you can’t live here so go away.” said the Mayor.
More recently phone service, landline and cellular, was terminated.
“People were dialing out and getting these menus in English and Spanish. It was just wrong.” A Council member said. “We didn’t want our kids to grow up thinking English was a second language.” he continued. Access to the internet has been eliminated as well.
The newly formed Forty Fort culinary police were busy eradicating the ethnic food sections of local grocery stores. Two Chinese takeout restaurants have been shuttered and the fast food restaurant chains have changed the popular potato dish’s name to Fort Fries.
Bourough council was also happy to report that the bonfire burning all foreign language textbooks was a great success.
“They won’t be teaching that Hinky-Dinky, Parlez Vous in our schools” the school board president said. When a reporter pointed out that the remaining families with school age children had moved out of the borough he shrugged and replied “Ah who needs ‘em. Probably a bunch of foreigners anyway. Hey, you look sort of foreign yourself.”
Access to Forty Fort has been restricted to the single gate in the tall fence surrounding the community. Vehicles manufactured in countries other than the United States are denied entry.
“We don’t need any of them foreign crap boxes in our town!” said the Mayor.
When a reporter pointed out that many cars with American marques were manufactured on foreign soil the Mayor replied “What are you, some sort of smart aleck? And what does marque mean anyway? Is that a Jap car you drove here in? You better get going.” The Mayor brandished a weapon.
When a reporter pointed out that the weapon was an AK-47 of Russian origin he was escorted by the Mayor out of the sovereign nation of Forty Fort at rifle point.
“America for Americans.” He said, locking the gate.
Saturday, September 11, 2010
I was furious.
I drove like a maniac to the radio station, braked hard to a four wheel skid, jumped from my car, straight armed the doors and slammed into the lobby.
I was pissed off.
My anger was directed at the morning duo, just hired, for the radio station I programmed. The pair, Kimberly and Beck, had been doing a bit about a plane crashing into the World Trade center. At least I thought it was a bit.
I didn’t find it at all funny. I raced towards the studio intent on giving the errant DJ’s a piece of my mind.
As I passed by the news room I glanced at the small TV mounted on the wall and skidded to halt, digging my heels in the carpet.
My jaw dropped.
The world slowed down.
I said “Oh. My. God.”
In the news room a small group had gathered, looking at the TV. The cute sales assistant who was always bright and bubbly, looked at me. Her face was ashen.
As I looked from her to the TV the second tower was hit. The cute sales assistant burst into tears.
Bud Brown, the crusty, seasoned news veteran who had covered it all was frozen in place. It was clear he couldn’t handle the images on the TV any better than the rest of us.
I had just seen a documentary on the terrorist threat and I said “that Osama guy did this.” No one said a word.
The news about the Pentagon came.
The broadcaster in us kicked in.
The people, our audiences, had to know.
In times like that necessity is the mother of invention. Only one of the five radio stations under our control that day was news oriented. The others were music intensive and didn’t even have a network affiliation.
The engineers ran wires down the hallways and struggled to make connections so we could get radio network news on the air. DJ’s, used to cracking jokes and introducing records were tongue tied.
It was taking too long.
Each studio had a TV. In desperation I ordered the DJ’s in each station to turn the volume up and hold a microphone to the speakers. The image of those announcers stretching their arms to get the microphones near the TV’s mounted high on the walls stays with me.
I have many memories of the moment and the horrible moments following. Like all Americans the images of those planes slamming into the Two Towers were seared into my mind’s eye. But what I remember most clearly was seeing the second plane hit and then the tears in The cute sales assistant's eyes.
“What’s going on?” she asked.
“What’s going to happen?”
To this day I don’t have an answer.
Thursday, September 2, 2010
I don’t watch a great deal of commercial television. Oh I sit in front of the TV and enjoy movies on DVD and streamed Via Netflix but my viewing of network TV with commercials in between content is not up to statistical norms. According to the A.C. Nielsen Co., the average American watches more than 4 hours of TV each day. I am sure I watch less than half an hour. This has less to do with the content than the commercials. I find reality shows contrived and prefer to watch any shows without commercials. Newton Minow once called TV “A vast wasteland.” He said this back in 1960, when there were the big three networks and no cable networks at all. Newton baby, you had no idea!
So it is I am out of the loop when it comes to the state of the art in TV commercials. I do see enough so that it takes a lot to shock/piss off/anger me. I mean after we have waded through all the ads for feminine hygiene (why do they use BLUE liquid?) and heard for the thousandth time that you should see a doctor if the erection lasts more than four hours what’s to be shocked/pissed off/angered about?
But I must have missed the recent series of ads for Charmin toilet paper or as they call it, “Bath Tissue”. Charmin has been promoting their brand of butt wipe for some reason for the last ten years with bears. Some advertising agency guy must have heard the phrase about a bear pooping in the woods and ran with it. I’ve actually seen a bear do that and let me tell you they don’t use Charmin. But that’s not what caught my eye.
The more recent ads-and they have apparently been running for a year or more- feature a bear cub with a problem. Variously called dingleberries, cling-ons , hangers-on, the bear cub (Billy according to the Charmin website) is shown with white specks of TP clinging to its ass. Momma bear (Molly) chases it around with a broom and dust pan until Charmin “Ultra Strong” comes to rescue to eliminate what the ad calls “leftovers.”
In a word, yuck.
For more than 20 years Charmin promoted the softness of their product with a nice actor named Dick Wilson. Dick played Mr. Whipple who exhorted people not to squeeze the Charmin. I am sure Dick Wilson would have thrown up if he was asked to promote Charmin’s ability to reduce dingleberries. Dick passed on to great grocery store in the sky back in 2007. If there is any justice in life he never got to see the bear’s asses doing his job.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
I am of that age where more and more often someone I knew of passes away. I know, as the “Dead” would say, Death has no mercy but when you start to count the ones who you knew or whose name you knew as those numbered among the angels it is a little bit sad. Sometimes a whole lot sad.
A boss of mine noticed when I was mourning the passing of Dale Earnhardt Sr. years back and made a big deal about it. He thought it stupid. How could I waste any emotion over someone I had never met? Save my tears for family members or pets, but not race car drivers who you had never been close to. For whatever reason this boss didn’t get it.
A close personal friend of mine passed away the other day. A close personal friend that I consider myself lucky to have known very well, even though we only met once. We spent hours together. As an adult American male the code is that you don’t cry or share feelings but boy did we share. He made me laugh and feel great and yes I spilled buckets of tears with him, for him and because of him.
He could make me smile on the worst of days, when I had lost my job, my dog died or the checks all bounced. And he could make me feel hope when deep in the dark corners of my soul I knew there was none. When I only had a spark to light my way, he was that spark. He and I came through some pretty heavy stuff. I made it. He didn’t.
Heart attack is what they speculate. He was 60, after all, and lived a rock star’s life. It takes a toll. At the time of his death he was working for his son in the profession that he loved. He was a musician. No that’s not strong enough. He was an Artist.
His music lives on and I guess that is quite a legacy. 10 albums with songs so strong that they could knock down walls. And the walls did come down when Michael Been played. And sang. Boy could he sing.
The Call were one of those late 80’s 90’s bands that should have been big but weren’t. Record companies are like any other business. Politics, greed and horseshit pile up so fast that it’s a wonder any Artist ever gets their due. Many, like The Call and Michael Been don’t.
I met him in a grip and grin at Lackawanna County Multipurpose stadium when it was called that. Moments before he had been on stage, his arms spread wide and gave me a message I remember clear as a bell to this day.
“I still believe
Through the shame
And through the grief
Through the heartache
Through the tears
Through the waiting
Through the years
For people like us
In places like this
We need all the hope
That we can get
Oh, I still believe
R.I.P. Michael Been. 1950-2010