Thursday, January 21, 2010

Air America is Gone and Why This is a Good Thing

Air America Media stopped broadcasting today at 6pm EST. This was the radio network, founded in 2004, that was supposed to be the left wing (aka liberal) response to right wing radio chatter. I thought it was a bad idea, at the time, and I am not surprised it failed. I also think this is a good thing. It confirms what I have been saying about liberals and conservatives, they are like cats and dogs, respectively. Conservatives are like dogs in that they are easy to organize in a pack and can be rallied around simple calls to action. While liberals are cats. You can have about 100 of them in a room and you will probably have 100 different opinions on any given subjects. I love liberals. That is why I am one. The variety of thought is stimulating, refreshing and sometimes maddening ... but always entertaining. When conversatives go off what liberals are about and what they believe ... I have to laugh. They know nothing about us.

The right wing chatter that Air America was modeled after is hateful and mind-numbing. Hate and fear is easy way to rally people (particularly those who can't think for themselves). Rush and crew do it well. They are very good at their jobs. Such a station would not work for a liberal audience. I only listened to Air America for a short-time and it really turned me off. I did enjoy Al Franken, because he made me laugh, but after a very short time I didn't bother. We don't want to be preached to and liberals would rather hear a good valid argument from all possible sides than hear one-sided crap like Air America. NPR, BBC and CBC do a fine job of moderate discussion with an occasional turned in either directions. They have ombudsmen to make sure they don't go too far. We like them. We don't need an Air America. We are better than that.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

11 Minutes of Excitement on Sundays

I have been a baseball fan all my life and I have had to listen to football fans laugh at baseball because of its "lack of action" for decades. At last, today, I feel redeemed by this Wall Street Journal study that claims that each game broadcast on Sundays has an average of 11 minutes of actual action. So when you take out all the timeouts, the flags and huddles ... this past play off weekend (the best games of the year) had an average of 10 minutes and 43 seconds of action. 67 minutes are players just standing around and 17 minutes are replays (so replay get more time than the actual action). I'd love to see the stats on baseball. If you count the time the pitcher throws the ball, baseball would probably have a lot more action than football. It is certainly more interesting and less painful to watch.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Isabel Basset Wasson

When my wife talks about her youth, sometimes she mentions a really cool neighbor of hers, Isabel Basset Wasson, a person I usually remember as the "bird lady." She would take Beth on natural walks in her neighborhood in suburban Chicago and teach her the name of birds. She would do lectures and teach classes at local libraries sharing her experience as a naturalist. I would have loved having a neighbor like this.

We have been watching Ken Burn's The National Parks lately. On disc four, forest rangers are discussed. Isabel Basset Wasson's name came up as the first female ranger in Yellowstone National Park. Beth was floored by this and quite excited. She hasn't stopped talking about it. She sounds like an amazing person. It is no wonder Beth wanted to moved from burbs of Chicago to the woods of Vermont.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Catfish Noodling

When I was kid, I was lucky enough to spend the summers in southern Rhode Island. We were miles from some pretty cool beaches but the best part was that we were on the Pawcatuck River. Not much compares, for a young boy, to unfettered access to a boat on a river. I'd go out for the day with a net or swimming trunks or sometimes with only a book. I'd let the boat drift while plowing through the latest Stephen King book. For this I know, I am a very lucky person. It did much to shape who I am.

One of things we did in the evenings was go fishing for fresh water catfish (called horn pout). The best time of day to fish for pout is when the sun is going down so we would head out after dinner wearing a long sleeve shirt, covered in bug repellent and carrying a gas lantern. We'd fish for few hours past sundown. We didn't use poles but throw lines. Into my adulthood I thought these were called "trow" lines because of my father's French Canadienne accent. He doesn't pronounce his h's. Throw lines are spools of thick canvas thread approximately 30 feet in length, maybe longer. They'd have several hooks with bait on them on the end a few inches above the sinker. We'd unwind the thread being careful not to tangle, tie the empty spool to the side of the boat and throw the line with the baited hooks and sinker weighing it down. The rest of the excitement was waiting for the bites. Catfish are bottom feeders.

Up until today, I thought that was how everyone fished for catfish. But today I heard a podcast about noodling. Noodling is a fast growing sport, now legal in 13 states. It involves getting into the water and putting your hand in the fish's nest. As the male fish, who guards the nest, bites the noodler, he grabs it and pulls it up out of the water. This is illegal in a lot of states because it leaves the nest vulnerable to predators.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Dawson and the Hall

We have institutions called Halls of Fame (HoF) because we like to canonize those that make something great. The greatest a sport has to offer are in the Hall and those who changed the game for the better. Jackie Robinson was a very good ballplayer, but his greatest was what he did for the sport. Recently some of my favorite baseball players from my youth have been accepted into Baseball's Hall of Fame. Jim Rice was inducted last year and Andre Dawson was voted in this week. I have no doubt that either of these players were great in their time. The question that all baseball fans have about Rice and Dawson is ... are they really great enough to be put into the same league as Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson and Ted Williams. This is not an easy question.

For an HoF to maintain its integrity they must make sure that only the best of the best are inducted. This year votes went to such players as David Segui (1), Ellis Burks (2) and Erik Karros (2). These are decent player, but no where close to the hallowed hall. I don't know who voted for them but I can't imagine what a joke the Hall would be if these players had gotten in. 405 votes are needed to get in.

Dawson received 420 this year, his eighth year of being eligible. If I were to judge his career by his stats alone, I might not vote for Dawson (if I had a vote). He was MVP once, never went to a World Series and his career On-Base Percentage is .323. This is impressive, but no Babe Ruth. But he did hit over 400 home runs in his career and has 8 Gold Gloves which is amazing. The only time I got to see him play in person when he played for my Red Sox. He was in his latter years and didn't play the field much. The American League is kind to old players. I heard he was amazing. I have to wonder how good he would have been if he didn't play his early years in one of baseball's worst parks (the Big O in Montreal). AstroTurf and empty seats don't usually produce excellence.

I would be prone to vote yes on his induction mostly due to his character. Dawson and Rice played pro-ball in an era when racist still lingered. They are two of the classiest men to ever play the game. I had the pleasure to meet Dawson once. I lived in Boston when he played for the Sox. I was with my little brother Angel (from the Big Brothers of Boston). We were peaking through the fence in back of Fenway Park after a game. Angel yelled to Dawson, "Hey Hawk! Can I have an autograph?" We didn't have a pen and neither did he. He was kind enough to stop and talk to the kid. In a time when scumbags like Mark Macguire and Michael Vick distort our vision of what an athlete should be, I think being a classy guy in an era when class is rare is enough to push Dawson over into the Yes column.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Music Industry in the Next Decade

A lot has happened in the past decade in the music industry. The invention of the Ipod and digital music in general has changed how we listen to, interact with and purchase music. Prior to attending a wedding last year, I got to pick the songs I wanted to hear at the reception by choosing the songs off the couple's web site. The reception music was an Ipod on a table with a few appropriate lists for the different stages of the evening (dinner, dancing, etc). So, no crappy band and no Bob Seger's Old Time Rock N' Roll ... just big speakers and a personal experience put together by the couple. It was pretty cool.

You really have to wonder what comes next. The Copyright Act of 1978 could be the first big event in the music industry this decade. Due to this act 2011 marks the first year that a lot of artists can renegotiate their deals with record companies. If artists sold their copyrights in 1976 or later, they will get to revisit these deals 35 years after the date of the deal. So expect a lot of box sets or greatest hits releases by bands like The Eagles or The Doobie Brothers in the coming years. With ownership changing hands, expect the new owners to cash in on their success as soon as possible. I like this. If I bought The Eagles box set, I'd much rather the money go to Don Henley or Joe Walsh than some business exec that had nothing to do with its creation.

I also don't mind if this means that the big record companies go under. This is in the same vein that I find it to be a victory if a Starbucks goes under due to a thriving local coffee shop. Right now, a lot of record companies are being kept alive by their back catalogue. I see no reason why these old dinosaurs shouldn't die off and be replaced by a more adaptable indie genius or two. I grew up in the 1980's. After dealing with the crap that these record companies put out in that era, the death of the big time record label would be welcomed.