The Podcast Rules, Late 2018 Version

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I haven’t talked about the podcasts I’ve been listening to for a while – so time to revisit that category.

The rules that I use as to who I subscribe to change fluently. In more recent days, I prefer listening to podcasts that aren’t time-sensitive. If I can listen to a podcast episode from February here in mid-October, that’s a good thing. Political and most sports-related podcasts would, therefore, be a no-go for me right now.

I like podcasts that have an episode length of 60-90 minutes. Anything beyond that is a bit too long for me, currently. For example, Joe Rogan is an outstanding podcaster, but most times I don’t have time in my life for his marathon conversations with some outstanding guests every day. I do have exceptions to that rule – but if I do, it’s with a podcast that provides episodes less than once a week. For those longer episodes, I usually listen to half or more one day, and the remainder on a second day.

Lastly, my goal is to listen to one podcast a day – so I have a rotation of seven podcasts I subscribe to. Should I run out of new material and need more, I subscribe to more. Some podcasts have fresh episodes weekly, some provide maybe one or two episodes a month, and some “go dark” for several months at a time. Plus, some have a good “library” of episodes worth revisiting or visiting for the first time.

Here’s my current rotation:

  • Dope Stories (I’m a big fan of Pauly McGuire’s blog and book works.)
  • Big Brother Gossip
  • The 6:05 Superpodcast (The mothership!)
  • The Voice Behind The Voice (Sportscasting)
  • The Bettor Life (Gambling News)
  • The Gabcast (UFO’s and the late Art Bell type of stuff)
  • Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History

If your rules are like mine, these are good starting points.

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Aircheck: ABC-TV, 1/26/1974

I haven’t done one of these “airchecks” in a while. But when I find something that I think is worth sharing – I figure, why not share it with you all?

It should be noted that most of this episode of Wide World Of Sports (a sports anthology ABC used to have in the days before the proliferation of cable TV) was taped on January 23, 1974, for air three days later. (I saw promos on this footage for shows that aired on Sunday – so I’m assuming this aired on Saturday, 1/26/1974.)

This was also back in an era where professional boxing commanded attention. Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier were a few days away from their second fight on January 28th – but neither man was the reigning champion, fighting for a lesser title instead. George Foreman was the reigning World champ, so this upcoming fight would basically decide who would fight him. Ali lost to Frazier the first time they met in 1971, and Howard Cosell and ABC had arranged for both men to view film footage of that initial bout a few days before their second bout.

Frazier was then the recognized champ, but Ali also had the distinction of never losing his title in the ring – being stripped of the crown for refusing to join the military in 1967, thus the first fight would produce a truly undisputed champion if a winner were found. Both men also went into the ring for that first fight undefeated, but that night produced a Frazier decision victory, benefiting from a 15th round knockdown of Muhammad.

In what always struck me as an odd decision – Ali and Frazier sat by side-by-side. Why not have Howard in between them? I guess it’s easy to say in retrospect, considering what happened as the trio viewed the tenth round of the first fight. The verbal sparring between the two men deteriorated into an actual fight – while they were watching the original fight! Cosell sat there, not moving a muscle, telling the audience, “Well, we’re having a scene, as you can see…”

Ali was probably not as serious, knowing that such an altercation would probably increase interest in the fight to come – a page taken from the stagecraft of professional wrestling, maybe. Frazier seemed decidedly annoyed as the men wrestled to the floor. As Cosell notes in the opening of the footage, the New York State Athletic Commission fined each of the fighters $5,000 – with the prominent broadcaster pointing out that the commission failed to view any of the tapes, which ABC would have allowed them to view. Thus, they made their ruling on hearsay evidence, with Cosell, the former lawyer – pointing that out in spades.

The studio scuffle wound up being more interesting than the fight was a few days later – Ali won a 12-round decision. They’d met again in Manilla, with Ali winning the title away from Foreman later in 1974 – and this time, Ali won by knockout after the 14th round when Frazier’s corner stopped the fight due to fears Joe couldn’t see out of at least one of his eyes. Ali also wanted to quit after that 14th round. Had the referee, Carlos Padilla had the wherewithal to check Ali’s corner – the fight could have wound up a draw, or a rarely seen double TKO, in which case Ali would have retained his championship.

With boxing out of the sporting limelight and television broke down into hundreds of pieces with the proliferation of cable TV – I doubt if the sport ever returns to such prominence. There was a welterweight title fight on ESPN this past weekend between two fighters I’d never heard of. At the weigh-in before the fight, one fighter had the audacity to take a swing at the other fighter, a punch the targeted fighter easily evaded. The incident barely got any media attention outside of ESPN.

Yep, we’re a long way away from 1974.

 

The Radio Garden

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I’ve been a follower of a website for over a year called Radio Garden. In times of emergencies such as this with Tropical Storm/Hurricane Michael, it comes in quite handy.

Radio Garden is this map of radio stations spanning the world. It will NOT have every station known to exist like Tunein and IHeart Radio seem to collectively have, but there are enough stations out there to get the flavor of what’s going on in a given area. I first used it last year (the fall of 2017) when Ophelia hit Ireland – and the stations there went on high alert.

Right now, I have WFSW on out of Panama City (which repeats WFSU programming out of Tallahassee), currently the only station in the “Garden” on the air from there. As Michael ravaged through Florida, southeast Alabama and southern Georgia last night, you could click your mouse to points on the map in that region and see that a lot of the radio outlets went off the air. Naturally, the stations would lose power or their antennas as the fast-moving storm moved inland.

Worth a look if you’re a radio geek as I am.

First, They Came For Alex…

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I think it’s perfectly normal that when the big events of our time and in our lives happen. that it’s fair to seek out answers – even from outlets and people you wouldn’t ordinarily think of.

The first time I ever heard of conspiracy entertainer/talk show host Alex Jones was back in 2004, maybe 2005. I had gotten a DVD through the grapevine of a symposium hosted by actor Ed Begley, Jr. and introduced by Jimmy Walter which had suggested that the 9/11 attacks were an inside job. The theories of the different presenters varied a bit – some were more liberal, some were staunchly conservative, but the purpose was to get your interested in the idea that 9/11 wasn’t what the media represented it being. One of the snippets presented on the DVD was a much younger and less raspy Alex Jones and his “Road To Tyranny” documentary.

I certainly don’t agree with everything Jones has said – for instance, there was a time when he called Rachel Maddow, the MSNBC host, “Mr. Maddow” on his shows. I thought that was grossly homophobic. I also don’t deny that he’s probably 100% accurate when he said he was an “entertainer” in a recent court appearance. Talk show hosts are entertainers by definition – they present premises in a manner that tries to get more viewers than a given host’s competition.

Where I draw the line is what the social media outlets did on Monday – censoring Alex Jones solely from Apple, Facebook, and YouTube among other social platforms. Why just him when there are dozens of other lesser-known hosts on radio stations and the Internet that do exactly what he does all over the world? Making one person a scapegoat when others do likewise – that’s always a slippery slope. Makes you wonder why it happens now, three months before the mid-term elections, and why it didn’t happen two years, five years ago, whatever.

I don’t like playing social justice warrior – but I took my little itty bitty shot at Apple in response. I took their podcast app off of my phone, and don’t intend to listen to any podcast anytime soon. A small gesture, but if they are going to tell me not to listen to such-and-such a show, why listen to any show Apple offers? They should allow me, their consumer, to make such choices.

Aircheck: ABC, 6/5/1968

I’ve always felt that the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy in Los Angeles may have been a more sadistic blow to our country than the assassination of his brother, President John F. Kennedy, roughly four and a half years earlier.

ABC was the only network that stayed on the air continuously as events transitioned from election results to a breaking news event. Shortly after 3:15am Eastern time on June 5, 1968, the network was just returning from a B.F. Goodrich commercial and was about to sign off for the evening at approximately 19 minutes into the clip – the very moment RFK had been gunned down. For several moments, the John Phillip Souza march “The Thunderer” is heard.

Howard K. Smith is seen taking phone calls at his desk on the left, and a crowd forms in the upper right part of the screen by the wire machines above the “Race to the White House: California Primary” graphics. (Bill Lawrence is on the right side of the screen, whom ABC used as a political analyst.)

As the music re-cues a minute later, an announcer informs the audience to “Please stand by.” A minute later, the music stops and starts again, this time the announcer hints something serious is afoot by saying, “Please stand by for a special report.” Smith is seen furiously writing down notes and fielding a few more calls. About four and a half minutes into a static shot of the studio and the nearly continuous music, Smith returns to break the news at about 3:20am:

“Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve kept the air on because we’ve heard an alarming report that Robert Kennedy was shot in that ballroom in the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. A very loud noise like a clap of thunder was heard, a small explosion. We waited to see what it was, and then came a report that Senator Robert Kennedy was shot. We will bring you more news as we learn it.”

The details came forth in the following minutes and hours. RFK would cling to life for a little over a day before dying in the wee hours of June 6, 1968. I wasn’t alive when it happened (I came into the world three years and three months later), but it had to have been a cruel blow to the country – and I’m sure many wondered in the 50 years that have now proceeded the event what would have happened had RFK not been fired upon.

Whatever Your Source Of Stress Or Strife

We have had a wave of celebrity obituaries in the past ten days or so, and with so many passings it might have been easy to overlook the news that one of my work colleagues and bosses had died on Tuesday – Chuck Harder. A bit of an irony that Chuck died the same day former First Lady Barbara Bush had, as it never occurred to me that Harder was a fan of establishment politicians.

That being said, a lot of people considered Chuck a conservative wingnut and was often parodied and lampooned by hosts at rival talk station WFLA back in the 1980’s. I never felt that way. I think he discovered what many believe now – that there is an establishment class of politicians that run things up in Washington D.C., a class that many in the know now call the Deep State. These establishment politicians don’t want outsiders (like our current President) running things, and most times they team up to thwart such efforts. In the 2016 elections, they were not as fortunate. Chuck was a big fan of H. Ross Perot, the 1992 and 1996 third-party candidate – and he laid the blueprints for Trump’s successful run as a Republican infiltrator in 2016, I’ve always believed.

I worked with Chuck at the Sun Radio Network in 1991 – I believe (though I could be wrong) that it was around this time he moved from Cedar Key to the Telford Hotel in White Springs. After he helped with the formation of radio station WEND in Brandon and the Sun Radio Network, he had been rather unceremoniously dismissed there (no, I don’t know the details – my guess was he got in a power struggle with Liberty Lobby and lost) in the spring of ’91, replaced by the very capable Tom Donahue. In the proceeding years, Harder started up his own network, the People’s Radio Network – and he gave me a job and provided me with a room at the Telford Hotel.

The “For The People” show Harder hosted was not a small operation by any means. At one point in the 1990’s, the show was carried over 200 stations every afternoon – the only show on more stations in that era was Rush Limbaugh’s operation out of New York.

My memories of Chuck were pleasant ones, and one of the times in my life I wish I could do over again – sadly in life, most of the time you don’t get do-overs. It was just a bit of a culture shock for me as a 23-year-old to go from living in the Tampa Bay area to living life at a much slower pace. I’m not proud of how my stay there ended, and I always felt I had let Chuck down. Another instance of not knowing how good I had it, I suppose – which regrettably seems to have been a pattern in my career.

In all of my interactions with Harder, he was always positive and upbeat, always patient and not one to lose his temper as so many do in the radio business. One time up in White Springs in 1994, I was running the board for him on an afternoon shift, and my duties were mainly to run the commercial breaks and news updates at the top of the hour and on the bottom. Back then, everything wasn’t in electronic form – we used 8-track like “carts” on special machines. Harder always believed in using American equipment – but I was warned of a drawback in using these particular cart machines – that if you jammed a cart into the machine at the last moment, it would play the first few seconds at half-speed or thereabouts.

One day, I found myself in such a situation with Chuck’s bumper music – music used so stations carrying the show could identify themselves right before the host began speaking again. Chuck had a senior producer who screened the phone callers and coordinated with any guests he’d use – and I thought for sure “blooping” his bumper music would lead to consequences of some sort. Chuck mentioned my name on the air – but laughed it off. It was the kind of guy he was – if he ever castigated anybody for anything, I never saw it. At some other places I worked, had I done that – I would have been read the riot act.

I also think Chuck was an example of what happened to the radio business once the FCC allowed ownership consolidation took hold in the mid-1990’s under President Clinton’s watch. I mean this not as a political commentary per se, but to point out that when you have so few companies allowed to buy up so many radio stations, it’s generally not a good thing. The networks like PRN and Sun provided content for these “mom and pop” stations across the country – but once everything consolidated, these outlets withered away if one of the bigger corporations didn’t buy them.

Another quick example if I may: when I lived in Las Vegas in 1996 for a little less than a month, I could hear Chuck’s “For The People” radio show out there. Four years later when I went out there again, he was long gone off of that market’s radio dial.

Rest in peace, Chuck. You were a character.

 

Lost Art

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Art Bell died on Friday the 13th. In a way, fitting.

As one person put it on Twitter, of course, Art Bell would pass away on Friday the 13th. But it did happen, with a mournful George Noory breaking the news on Coast to Coast AM late on Friday evening on the very show Mr. Bell used to host.

I’ve never met or spoken to Art, but his impact on radio in the era I worked in the business was profound. I’m pretty sure that Art was briefly on North America One, a satellite sister entity of the Sun Radio Network, in either the late summer or early fall of 1991 – though my recollection of that is a bit fuzzy here in 2018.  When I worked for Valentine Communications producing Radio Free America in 1995 out of WBDN in the Feather Sound area of Clearwater, Art’s show was on the station, airing at 1:00 in the morning through to 6:00. I’d often run errands when my radio shift ended at midnight, and I’d catch the starts of Art’s shows driving around in my car.

WFLA, the big talk station in the Tampa Bay area, eventually picked his shows up locally. I heard him again in 1996 on a Greyhound bus heading out to stay in Las Vegas for a few weeks, then got hooked hearing him out in Sin City listening to his shows on 720 KDWN. I’m living in Florida again in 1998, driving up with my mother to North Carolina one overnight with Mom getting spooked out listening to the “Sounds Of Hell” recording Art frequently played in that era. Memo to future self: don’t scare your mother when you’re driving a car.

In the last two decades or so, he was on and off the air numerous times. He’d sign a new deal with someone, then find the deal wasn’t up to snuff and leave just as quickly as he returned. As many of us in the profession, my guess was he wasn’t too fond of the consolidation the radio business has gone through since the FCC laws changed in 1996, trying satellite radio, then online radio with what became his last sortie in the business.

My sincerest condolences to Art’s family on their loss this past day.