Friday, January 23, 2009

"I hope he fails!"?

Every industry has had its pioneers, people who have set the tone for what's to come next. And as is our custom, whole industries become enamored of these pioneers. Suddenly, everyone is emulating these people who, for one reason or another, have started a new trend. In radio, Howard Stern has definitely been one of these trend-setters. "The King of All Media" spawned dozens of individuals and morning show teams who felt it necessary to walk right up to the line that enables a station to either keep their license or give it up. I would say Jim Rome has also been a broadcaster who has set the bar for other sports-talk hosts. In fact, here in St. Louis, amongst the 6 different stations that have Sports as a format, there are at least 27 different Jim Rome wanna-bes...all talking smack and getting in each other's grills and doing outstanding takes and the whole 9 yards. (to utilize more sports terminology)

Then there's Rush.

As a left-leaning independent, I would say that Rush Limbaugh would be the last guy with whom I'd share a Delirium Tremens. (He doesn't really strike me as much of a craft-beer lover, anyway) But as a broadcast professional, I would say that he has transcended and transformed talk radio. Listen to any major market (the stations that still have at least one local host, that is) and invariably you'll come across a Rush-clone verbally pounding Nancy Pelosi or firing pot-shots at celebrity eco-terrorists like Bono. Politically, I disagree with Rush about 95% of the time. But he has clearly been a major force in our industry. (when Rush had hearing difficulties and the rumors were flying about the possibility of him hanging up his headphones, the seismic panic tremors that gripped talk radio program directors around the country kicked in at "11" on the Richter Scale!)

Having worked at Talk stations for the past 8 years, I can attest to some of the techniques that some talk radio hosts and program directors use to "light up the phones". A local priest is accused of stealing from the diocese and the majority want him out? Stick up for him, and then listen to the calls come in. The head coach has decided to go with the back-up for the weekend's game? Interview the starter on the phone and try to get him to say that the coach should not return for next season. Informed dialogue on the air is simply not enough sometimes. I've seen hosts come into my studio to record a promo and tell me that although they believe a certain thing to be true, they're going to latch on to the other argument, just to get the phones to ring. It happens all the time.

I would think, though, that "El Rushbo" would be beyond something like that. Rush rarely takes calls anyway, so that's why his comment the other day about Barack Obama, saying "I hope he fails", is mystifying. Simply "taking the other side" is just a gimmick, and certainly the man "with intelligence on loan from God" would not stoop to such ploys...which makes his comments even that much more bizarre. I read the transcript so that I could get a sense of his comment in it's entire context. However, I'm still baffled. Why would he say that?

I've tried to keep the Barack-Obama-as-Rock-Star-World Tour in its proper context. I'm naturally pessimistic and basically distrust anything that smacks of messianic overtones. I watched all the debates and, frankly, I thought Hillary trounced him, which is why I voted for her. But I've always tried to keep an open mind about him, and the others. I'm glad Tuesday is over with, because the real business at-hand can be addressed. At a time when so many things are at critical-mass, I just want someone to start something so that some progress can be made. If it had been John McCain repeating Justice Roberts' mangled Oath of Office, I would be sitting here surfing news websites looking for any information I could get that would signify that he had made some progress in succeeding at addressing the huge pile of dilemmas we face.

But the last thing I would say about the huge task facing Barack Obama is "I hope he fails".

Maybe home foreclosures don't affect wealthy millionaire broadcasters in West Pam Beach as they do out here in middle America. Perhaps the EIB Network supplies Rush Limbaugh with an extravagant medical insurance program so that the reality of having no coverage is completely foreign. Or maybe hundreds of Clear Channel employees losing their jobs this week has no direct bearing on a guy who's show is on those same Clear Channel stations. But I want him to not fail. We need him to not fail. And if it had been John McCain or Ralph Nader who had taken the Oath this past Tuesday, we would have wanted them to not fail, too.

Rush, you like football. You were actually pretty good when you were sitting in on the ESPN Sunday Night Countdown, right before you made another obtuse comment about Donovan McNabb. Remember that one? So, you'd agree that even if members of the team don't like the coach, the goal is the same: get in the end zone, right?

-30-

* Why not grab your favorite beverage, cop a squat, and groove to some DEMOS at www.mattmultimedia.com

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

For those about to rock...

"Old Age" creeps up on us and slaps us across the face in a variety of ways. For most of us guys, the inevitable disintegration begins with large-scale change such as receding hairlines, burgeoning cellulite, and decreased libido. Suddenly, though, we begin to realize the metamorphosis manifesting itself in even smaller ways. (What is the deal with these hairs growing out of our ears!) But last evening at Scott Trade Center in downtown St. Louis, I realized that I'm not quite ready for my AARP card just yet.

My wife, raised on Chubby Checkers, Fats Domino, and Loretta Lynn, loves, for some unexplained reason, AC/DC. So, for her birthday last November, I gave her the gift of a private serenade by Brian Johnson, Angus Young and the rest of their mates...along with 19,000 of her closest friends. Last night was the scheduled show and by pure unbridled classic rock standards, it did not disappoint. This band is still all about fun, gratuitous sex, hot women, and drinking binges. (pretty much all the same things that led to the demise of former lead singer Bon Scott in 1980) Brian Johnson has a bit of the aforementioned "cellulite". The stage lighting easily bounced off the remains of Angus Young's ever-increasing receding hairline. And bassist Cliff Williams hair is the same length it was during the Back in Black days, although completely gray.

But this band still rocks...and they rock HARD!

Every AC/DC song is an anthem, and the anthems were in abundance last night. And the anthems were loud. Really loud. They opened with a cut from the new album Black Ice, and sprinkled a few here and there throughout the show. But the night belonged to birthday-girl Donna and to Jurassic-Rock old farts like me. It was really unnecessary for Brian Johnson to actually introduce any of the songs, as it is equally unnecessary for me to reel off a set list. You know what they played. As soon as Angus peeled off the opening chords, we knew it was time for "Hell's Bells" and "You Shook Me All Night Long". I had some issues with the other classic rock-head next to me who shouted "woooo" every 3 seconds, whether a song was in progress or not. But it was a blistering show, proof-positive that the monstrous rock-radio hits of the 70's and 80's still dominate iPods of 2009, as evidenced by 48-year-old fathers standing next to their 16-year-old sons...both in AC/DC shirts.

I was a bit worried about myself a few years back. The Who is my all-time favorite band and during the last Quadrophenia tour, I sensed "old age" from both myself and the band. Roger Daltrey sounded ragged and out-of-tune. Pete Townshend attempted a few lame windmill chords and the lyrics to "My Generation" seemed horribly out-of-place. I felt myself watching a kind of caricature moving along at half-speed playing out worn-out songs for me and 12,000 other caricatures in the audience. It was embarrassing, and I drove home a bit depressed.

AC/DC is not my favorite band. I like them, but I've always leaned more to the "cerebral" side of the world of rock, with groups like Genesis, Yes, Rush, and Pink Floyd. But, a catharsis can take place within the context of the most unexpected circumstances. Sometimes it takes someone's birthday to alert you that, perhaps, you're only as old as you feel. Sometimes it takes songs about women with questionable morals who are drunk on grain alcohol. And sometimes it just takes multiple stacks of Marshall amps and one plugged-in maroon Gibson SG guitar to clear the cobwebs and remind you that even guys with a few hairs growing out of their ears can still make a statement. Neil Young wrote it...."Rock 'n roll will never die". And AC/DC played it. Loudly.

...we salute you!

-30-

* Why not grab your favorite beverage, cop a squat, and groove to some DEMOS at www.mattmultimedia.com

Friday, January 9, 2009

Applying for my own Zip Code

It's a well-known fact that the Matt-Man is a certifiable "cookie monster"! Never was this more evident than during the Holidays that just came to an end. And not too soon, either. I've chided the good Mrs. Anthony over the past couple of Christmas seasons that she must be spending a good portion of her time at the mall, because I rarely see her in the kitchen thrusting those magical little dough-balls into the oven! This past Christmas turned out to be a much different scenario. She spent an enormous amount of time creating dozens and dozens of cookie masterpieces, not to mention batch after batch of that glorious concoction that we all refer to as "Donna's fudge". It's really more like "candy", but with a fudge-like twist. Oh, it's divine, let me tell you. Somewhere amongst the boiling of "chocolate" and "peanut butter", some deity injects my wife with the transcendent knowledge that enables her to remove this luscious mass off the stove and into a pan that, after slightly cooling, is quite possibly the most orgasmic pleasure this side of a Weyerbacher "Blithering Idiot" barleywine. You've seen those clunky, brick-like structures on flat-panel sheets in stores labeled "fudge"? Please. It's dried wallpaper glue compared to the sumptuous treats we mailed out over a dozen times this year to family and friends.

Somewhere amongst the haze of drop-cookie number 78, fudge-batch number 5, and more-than-several offerings of Three Floyd's "Robert the Bruce" Scotch-style ale, I've noticed a certain, shall we say, "snug-ness" around the midsection. Oh, sure, it starts out innocently enough. One is surrounded by Christmas lights, good company, the warming glow of a sufficiently-hopped imperial pale ale, and Nat King Cole's "The Christmas Song" and all is right with the world. You shrug, nudge the slacks a little lower beneath the belly-button and silently mutter, "Gotta get back on the wagon here soon". But the Christmas decorations have been put away. Nat is cozily tucked away in his cd sleeve. The baking pans have been washed, the empty brown bottles are in the recyclables, and the BCS Championship game is over. It's January. It's cold. The walls and mantle are bare. And you're fat.

Well, I'm fat. I'm not sure about you, but this is generally the time of year where I do the great "Belt Buckle Test". I only own two belts. A black one and a brown one. (You need more?) I bought them over two years ago after my Nissin Fundoplication surgery. (It's a peculiar little procedure for folks like me who suffer from severe acid reflex, where the upper curve of the stomach is wrapped around the esophagus in order to prevent all that nasty acid reflux junk from coming back up) That procedure automatically means that you subscribe to, essentially, a liquid diet for 6 weeks. You can lose a tremendous amount of weight. Supposedly, it takes time for the "wrap" to stretch out. So, for about a year, I felt pretty darmed good about myself. I bought some new jeans. A few new sweaters. Some shirts that you can actually tuck in. And, as you now know, some new belts, which I comfortably placed in the "notch 3" position. Apparently, though, my journey into the Christmas Cookie Pleasure Dome was successful in stretching my wrap from here to Houston, which means I'm, relatively speaking, back to normal. This also means that I've been forced to move up to "notch 2". Houston, we have a problem.

I've always been fat. I knew early on that my physique didn't quite match both my twin brother's or most of the kids in my class because a) I had trouble looking down to see my shoes, b) my mother bought me slacks at Sears from the "Husky" section, and c) I loved to eat. But even though I "carried weight", I always played sports, was always active, and, in some way, shape, or form, always worked out. I simply ate more than I lifted. This would have been a fine regimen had I aspired to be a lineman in the NFL. But aside from that particular occupation, obesity just doesn't work.

Throughout my almost 49 years, I've constantly played the "lose weight/gain weight" game. I've been on every diet known to humankind. And after all these years, I'm convinced that the most sensible way to lose weight is...to have a Nissin Fundoplication surgery. But, since I've already had that, I'm also convinced that the next best way to do it is to simply eat less food and get some exercise.

I suppose what I'm arriving at here is a kind of...of..."resolution". Darn it, I've tried like hell to avoid that word, because resolutions, like most fad diets for me, never work. But "notch 2" is not a good place to be, physically, mentally, and spiritually. So, thank goodness there are no more spritz cookies, or banana nut bread squares, or peanut clusters from Ben Heggy's in Canton...or just a simple small piece of "Donna's Fudge". Tonight, it's back on the road to "notch 3". Lettuce, greens, some baked chicken pieces all tossed together in a bowl with a few drizzles of light Italian salad dressing. I am on the road to recovery! And I have one last bottle of Great Divide's Hibernation Ale that would go splendidly with that salad!

Or do I have two?

-30-

* Why not grab your favorite beverage, cop a squat, and groove to some DEMOS at www.mattmultimedia.com