Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Bad Times Now...Better Times Ahead?

You just can't look at the small picture.

That's the way I view the recent trades made by the Blues and the rumors swirling again about the impending sale of the team. Sure, it's hard to see players like Doug Weight and Mike Sillinger...arguably the team's two best this season...go elsewhere. But, at least in Weight's case, it looks like they got a substantial package of potential in return. The Sillinger deal for Russian Vladimir Shishkanov, is a little more questionable.

But, in my mind, no matter what they get for players who are going to become free agents at the end of the year, they are right to move them now if possible. Why? Because they can compete for the services of these players after the season if they really want them back. They will be unrestricted free agents. Meaning if they don't get something for them now...they won't get anything of value at season's end. And, any team, including the Blues, has the opportunity to sign them to a new contract after their current deal expires. I've also seen criticism of dealing these guys now, as opposed to after the Olympics and before the trade deadline when teams might be inclined to give up more out of desperation. I say, if there's a decent deal in place now, take it. Players go down right and left in hockey...and it's hard to deal an injured player...especially if it's a serious injury of some kind.

The Blues are saving a lot of money...I know that...and that usually irks fans....because fans want their team to be trying hard to win. But, trying hard to win now is essentially useless. Trying hard to win in the future might produce something the Blues and the fan base here have never had the pleasure of enjoying...a Stanley Cup. Saving the money now is understandable. The Lauries are getting out of hockey anyway. You can't expect them to open the pocket book and throw money down the toilet. Clearing the books for new owners to spend money the way they see fit is logical.

So, more of the veterans who aren't under contract for next season will go before the trade deadline. There is no doubt about that. What we as Blues fans have to hope for is that the team will be sold soon. And people will be put in place by the new ownership who will agressively pursue strong players in the off season....intelligently draft players for the future...and manage hockey operations better than the Laurie regime has. Instant gratification is not an option. Respectability for next season is certainly possible. The salary cap, and the salary floor, almost guarantees that. Superiority won't happen for probably 3 years, at the earliest.

Blues fans have been supportive for a long time without reaping much of a reward for their loyalty. We have had 25 consecutive years of hockey playoffs in St. Louis without the ultimate prize. We can be patient for a few more years if the new owners do the right things to turn around the current state of affairs.

Personally, I think cleaning house right now is a good thing. Sure, you can expect to get more in return, and maybe we should. But, the only way to get to the top is to shed some of the old baggage and start climbing.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Some Sports Thoughts

--Does anyone outside of southern Illinois realize that SIU-Carbondale is the holder of the longest Division 1 basketball, home-court, winning streak in the country? Even our St. Louis papers managed to take notice after last night's Salukis win over Creighton. But it wasn't front page of the sports section. Even the News-Democrat, southern Illinois' largest daily-circulation paper relegated the news to halfway down on page 3 of the sports section. There were some highlights on the 10 o'clock news, but only as an afterthought. If it was SLU, or Mizzou, the story would have been big news everywhere.

The SIU system has 34,000 students currently enrolled. 13,000 at Edwardsville...admittedly a different campus..but still with a kinship to SIU-C which has 21,000 students. You would think these numbers alone should put SIU sports on the radar. Amazing how Southern Illinois University athletics, even though there are many St. Louis area students, parents, and alumni, gets glossed over continuously in the St. Louis media until something earth-shattering happens. I don't get it. Never have, never will.

--Back in 1988, I was excited to be the p.a. man at the old Arena for the NHL All-Star game. If you were an NHL fan in those days, you'll remember the program for the game featured a picture of Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux facing off with an image of the Arch in the background. I still have a copy of the program...somewhere...and the memories of the game itself are fresh in my mind. For one thing, it's the only game at which I ever wore a tux.

The other part of that night still fresh in my mind is the unbelievable dominance that Lemieux displayed on the ice. He scored a hat trick and had a couple of assists to go along with his goals. He was named the MVP of the game and stood right next to me in the penalty box before going out on the ice to receive the Dodge pickup truck he was awarded for his night's work. He was huge...besides being hugely talented. If Gretzky was better than Lemieux, you wouldn't have known it, or imagined it, that night.

I was sorry to see Mario sadly announcing his retirement...again..from hockey yesterday. He was certainly an amazing player and ambassador for the sport. Hopefully, they'll be able to get the arena situation worked out in Pittsburgh so the Penguins can stay there for a while. That's what Mario seems to want.

--Buried in the sports news of the day is the fact that the NBA "in the stands" incident of last week will be settled without any further fanfare or legal action. You'll remember Kendra Davis, wife of Knicks player Antonio Davis, got into it with Bulls fan Michael Axelrod in Chicago. They apparently exchanged words and Axelrod says Ms. Davis put her hands on his face during the "discussion" they were having. This caused Mr. Davis to leave the court and enter the stands in an effort to protect his wife and family....for which he was suspended for 5 games by the league. The NBA has a strict policy against players going into the stands for any reason.

The story I see this morning says that both sides in the dispute agreed that it's time to "move on". Wow! These things usually blow up into enormous pissing contests and opportunities for legal reps to make a killing. Can it be possible that in our litigious society somebody actually had the good sense to settle something without the lawyers enjoying a huge payday? Maybe there's more to the story than we are getting because lawyers don't cut themselves out of many deals.

A Chicago Tribune story says that Axelrod's father....a prominent political type in Chicago...and Davis's agent Bill Duffy... worked out an agreement over the weekend. Maybe these guys could bottle whatever it is that they used to effect this compromise and sell it to some guys in Washington.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Lost Wing

--I will be sad to see West Wing go. The news of it's cancellation by NBC yesterday hit me about as hard as when I found out Northern Exposure was getting the heave by CBS several years ago.

While many of West Wing's obvious political leanings didn't necessarily coincide with mine, I was able to look beyond that and enjoy the show for the high-quality, and cerebral, production that it was. I say that like it's already off-the-air. Of course, it will finish out this season and procede to elect a new fictional President. Either Republican Senator Arnold Vinick (Alan Alda) or Democrat Congressman Matthew Santos (Jimmie Smits) will be taking the oath before the series says goodbye. Martin Sheen, who plays the current President Jed Bartlett, will be finishing out his term and marching off into the sunset.

What bothers me about the end of this show is that as we lose intelligent, well-written, and thought-provoking programs like this from network TV, it seems their places are being taken more and more by low-brow, appeal-to-the-lowest-common-denominator, cheaper-t0-produce, offerings. See Fear Factor, Biggest Loser, Deal or No Deal et al. It looks like there will come a day in the not too distant future when scripted, professionally-acted, and highly-produced dramas will be a thing of the past, or only available at the movie theater.

They say NBC's decision to take West Wing off the air after this season was made before John Spencer's death in December. But, I'll bet if there was any doubt, that sealed it. He wasn't one of the lead actors on the show, but I'm sure the brass knew his important role, and appeal to the masses. He was certainly one of the key strong points, if not the backbone, of the show.

There are a few scripted dramas that will have to step in to take West Wing's place in the network constellation... (24 and Prison Break on Fox) (Boston Legal on ABC) (I guess the CSI group qualifies on CBS) (Law and Order etc. on NBC) But it seems the numbers continue to dwindle. Let's hope that someone at the networks still has a soft spot in their programming sensibilities for a classy show like West Wing. And we can get another one of it's ilk on network television soon.

Friday, January 20, 2006

I Like the Guy

This will be quick. I watched the press conference introducing Scott Linehan as the new Rams head coach. He seemed a little nervous...who wouldn't be. He seemed to be genuinely honored to be chosen. He seemed to be authentically excited by the opportunity. And more than all of that, he appears to be a good person, and of good character.

Now, we all know that that doesn't necessarily mean that he'll coach winning football. If it was just character and being a nice guy that mattered we might still have the Big Red and Gene Stallings in town. But it looks like Linehan is off to a good start...at least with public perception.

Friday Fumblings

--Early indications are that the Rams have picked a people person. Scott Linehan is being introduced at a press conference today as the new head coach. According to a report by Bernie Miklasz on 1380ESPN this morning, the coach had one request of his new bosses before they would gather for the conference. He wanted to say hello to, and answer the questions of, all of the behind-the-scenes staffers who work for the Rams.

This strikes me as something the beloved Dick Vermiel would have done in his days with the Rams. Vermiel, as you probably know, was universally loved by everyone at Rams Park. He knew them all by name. In many cases he knew the names of their kids and other family members too. Asked about their health. Kids grades at school. You know...just a likeable guy.

On the other hand, I have heard stories about Mike Martz that fall on the opposite end of the personality spectrum. I have been told by friends in the media that Martz was not only NOT a people person, but not many of the workers at Rams Park had any use for him. I don't write this just because he's gone, but because it adds to the context of Linehan's gesture. I'm told that Rams staffers would duck into meeting rooms, or hallways to nowhere, just to avoid interaction with Martz. Because interaction with him was either unfriendly, or of a demanding nature. They said as far as Martz was concerned, you were either a friend or an enemy. And if you were a friend, you were expected to be doing something for him. He didn't know you as a person, only as a piece in his chess game.

It appears that Linehan is off on the right foot and on his way to repairing some of the behind-the-scenes chaos that has existed in the Rams company for the last several years. A good people person has come to be what we expect from a high-profile personality in St. Louis.

--I am somewhat torn as to my opinion on the latest "in the stands" incident in the NBA. In short, Antonio Davis of the NY Knicks went into the stands in Chicago Wednesday night in an effort to defend his wife from what he thought was a drunk in the stands who was harassing her. The league has suspended Davis for 5 games for breaking the rule that no player can go into the stands during a game for any reason. The suspension was somewhat light due to the "mitigating circumstances of the incident", according to NBA operations man Stu Jackson.

Now the fan in quesion, 22-year-old Michael Axelrod, has, of course, hired an attorney and is suing Davis and his wife. He says she cursed him and put her hands on his face trying to shut him up. He says all he was doing was cheering loudly for his Bulls, and against the Knicks. He says he wasn't drunk..." I had a glass of wine with dinner".

Well, I'm sure the real story of this incident is somewhere in between what Mr. and Mrs. Davis would tell you, and Axelrod's explanation. But, in my mind, Davis (who by the way is President of the NBA Players Association) broke a rule that should have been totally clear to him before his decision. Totally clear, because not much time has passed since the brawl in the stands in Detroit. And we all know how hard the league came down on those guys. I know this is a totally different type of incident. But the rule is not challengeable. Players aren't to go in the stands, for ANY reason.

I believe this is a case of a fellow who is 6-9, 245 pounds, deciding that taking matters into his own hands was the best option. If he thought his wife's life was in danger, not likely at a basketball game, then you could almost excuse his actions. But, walking off the court and calling for security to handle it would have saved him a lot of time, trouble, and possibly before it's over, money. In my mind, this again speaks to the "dream world" that many professional athletes live in. They don't live by the same rules and laws that everyone else does, or any rules for that matter.

Now, I don't have much use for people that scream "law suit" at their first opportunity either. It doesn't look like there any good guys in this story.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Random Wednesday Thoughts

Y'know...I don't smoke. (Haven't since I made a New Year's Eve promise to myself in 1975 going into 1976) And I certainly don't want to appear as though I do, or encourage anyone else to. So, as glamorous and "in character" as I may appear in the caricature below, I have asked my friend Nick to re-do the drawing minus the cigarette. Nick and I are old enough to remember when just about everybody in the news business (Edward R. Murrow glamorizing it on TV) was a smoker. So it would make sense to show a guy typing up a news story in a caricature with a tobacco product in his mouth.

That reminds me, I was unhappy...no kinda pissed...to read the other day that most of the tobacco settlement money in Illinois is not going to the stop-smoking education and other anti-smoking programs that it was supposed to. As usual, the politicians promise to do one thing with government money, and then wind up doing something else. So, while the tobacco companies implement new strategies every day to get cigarettes into the mouths of our young people, our states are doing much less than promised to fight that. Don't smoke young people...take it from someone who did...there's no good reason to...and many good reasons not to. Just one of which is not dying from lung cancer.

Another disappointing loss by the Blues last night. Not disappointing because it was unexpected, but because they came fighting back to tie the game after trailing 3-0. Then it seemed the Devils turned the faucet back on and as a team said..."OK...this is silly. Let's win this thing." They then outplayed the Blues terribly and scored the winning goal. But, that's what we've got to expect from the Blues with the current roster. Folks, they just don't have enough quality players. As I said before, they are just biding time with these guys until the team is sold. The team we have now is made up of (by most accounts I've heard) "a bunch of good guys". But, they need people who can play...not good guys. They have a few...but not nearly as many as all of the other teams in the NHL. Just look at the standings. We thought last season was bad without hockey. This one is turning into something worse--pitiful and disgraceful hockey that we've never seen before in St. Louis.

Looks like the new Rams coach is going to be one of three assistants in the league. Only one, Cam Cameron, has been a head coach before. He was head coach at Indiana U. a few years back. I don't know enough about Scott Linehan or Ron Rivera to have a reason to dislike them. At this point you just have to hope that the Shaw/Zygmunt hiring team will do a thorough enough job of thinking this thing through to pick the right guy. The enjoyment level of our football Sundays for the next few years depends on it.

The sales effort has begun for the Grizzlies upcoming season. If your company or family would like to bring a group to the outstanding venue in Sauget for the coming season, I can help with that. Or I can put you in touch with the right people. It's always great fun at Grizzlies games...and it's not too soon to book your outing for the late May-early September season. First come, first served.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Branching Out

Well what do you think of this? My friend, and cohort in advertising, Nick Mirkay did a caricature of me that I am going to be using in some advertising. I have decided to advertise my blog in various places to hopefully attract a few readers to the site.

When I write about some topic in the news, the "News Guy" to the left will appear in the ad with appropriate copy and the address of the blog. Nick also did one with a sports theme, and a generic presentation.

Hopefully I'll get a few people to mark the site as a favorite and drum up some repeat visitors. The entertainment I've gotten out of writing for the blog has surprised me. Now, with the help of a few advertisers, I'm going to try to make a buck or two. If you know of, or are, someone with a business who might be interested in advertising on this site, please contact me and I'll give you more details of what my plans are for marketing the whole thing. You can drop me an e-mail through the link on my voiceover site. A link to that site is in the right-hand sidebar.

Obviously Nick is an incredibly talented artist and is available to do graphic and free-hand artwork such as what you see above. If you would like to discuss advertising that includes some of Nick's excellent work, I can make that happen. Just call or drop me an e-mail. Again, the toll-free number and e-mail address is on my voiceover website.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

What a Day of Football!

I realize now how much I miss the Rams being a playoff caliber team. Today there was unbelievable drama on the football fields of the NFL.

The Indianapolis-Pittsburgh AFC game was not much to get wound up about until the last ten minutes of action. Pittsburgh pretty well had their way with the Colts until the late going. Then the Colts came to life and almost won it thanks to a controversial decision by the officials on an instant replay of an inerception that should have sewn it up for Pittsburgh. And then, after the Steelers took over on downs inside the Colts 5 yard line very late in the game, Jerome Bettis fumbled on a play that would have put the game out of reach had he scored. The fumble was returned all the way into Pittsburgh territory, and could have gone for a TD, but Ben Roethlisberger saved the day with a clutch tackle. Then Indy still had a chance to take the lead with a field goal by the usually reliable Mike Vanderjagt...but he missed and the drama was over.

The Chicago-Carolina game was a head scratcher too. It figured to be a defensive struggle. But, the offenses had answers and made it a much more high-scoring game than anyone expected. Lots of drama toward the end of that one too. Carolina wins and goes to Seattle for the NFC championship next weekend.

The games today remind me that back in the Rams glory days of '99-'02-'04?...well, before things fell apart this year, I tried to remind myself that I should really savor those playoff games and special moments with Warner & Co., the good Martz days, the Super Bowl win, and even the loss. We just don't get the chance to have too many post-season parties in any sport, so when they come along, we have to really cherish them.

Do you remember the feeling that raced through your body when Mike Jones made the tackle to clinch the Super Bowl in '99. I do. Do you remember the excitement that engulfed St. Louis when Bruce Sutter struck out Gorman Thomas to win the World Series in '82? I do. Do you remember the Stanley Cup being paraded down Market Street in....uh, never mind.

But, you get the idea. Today's NFL games remind me how fortunate were were to get the Rams in the early '90s from L.A. and how at least they give us the chance to be involved in playoff excitement... much more so than Billy Bidwill, nice a guy as he may be, ever did. When the special moments come along in sports, we should drink in the atmosphere and tuck away those feelings, to bring out and do a replay in our minds on days like this.

Let's hope John Shaw picks the right coach so we don't have to wait too long for more of those moments.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Test of Character

A couple of days ago I wrote about the anonymous postings to chat rooms and blogs for which the internet is becoming infamous. Does anyone really care about the person on the other computer? It seems not. In fact, when I wrote the other day about Howard Stern, and was less than complimentary, a few folks took the occasion to blast me personally with cruel and defamatory replies. When I called them out as being vicious, one response was, "Welcome to the internet". Is that what it is? Is the internet becoming just a place to degrade and humiliate others without conscience? Is the ability to communicate anonymously too much of a temptation to avoid cyber-hooliganism? Are we unable to interact in a civil manner when cloaked in anonymity?

I also wrote in that post about how my son is involved with a play in which things get out of hand when interaction on the net bleeds over into real life. I found a story today about just such an incidence. Check it out.


I'm guessing this sort of thing is going to become more common as the "internet experience", and life as lived through a computer, continues to grow. I would expect stories such as the one referenced above to become more common. When someone chooses to be no longer anonymous, he/she must deal with a world that many apparently are unprepared to handle. The real world.

Character is what you are in the dark.
American Proverb

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Go Figure

I tend to be one of those people who bounces around the radio dial when I'm in the car. If something doesn't interest me, I'll pop a pre-set button and go somewhere else. So, I tend to sample a lot of what's out there. I lean toward talk and sports-talk radio, but I also enjoy several of the music stations.

During this week when the U.S. Figure Skating Championships have been contested at the Savvis Center, I've run into several hosts who enjoyed themselves by poking fun at figure skating and it's people. The tone of their comments was one of looking down their nose at the event and anyone who would have the inclination to enjoy attending.

I guess what I'm building up to is that as I grow older, I find it more and more difficult to stomach this sort of barroom mentality, particularly on the radio. You would think by listening to some of these guys that anyone who enjoys figure skating has got to either be a woman, gay, or a gay woman...or something less than what they consider human. Now even if that would all be true, it shouldn't take figure skating into the realm of scorn and ridicule. "Figure skating...heh heh...snicker, snicker...Spangles and glitter...heh heh...snicker...snicker...hair spray...tight pants...short skirts...heh heh...snicker... pass me another cigar."

Now, I've never spent a whole lot of time watching Brian Boitano or Katarina Witt specials on TV either, but I don't feel threatened by the activity. Notice I didn't use the word sport. Because, frankly I have a hard time calling it a real sport myself. A competition...OK...a physical contest...maybe...but more of a judged movement exhibition than a sport. Sort of like ballroom dancing. All that being said, some of my favorite radio hosts seemingly are compelled to belittle the competition and it's participants to make themselves feel better about being a "he-man, hairy legged, beer drinkin', ass whoopin, if-you-ain't-with-me-you're-agin-me, I-ain't-never-seen-a-cheeseburger-I couldn't-eat sports guy."-- "Heh heh...snicker...I seen that Witt woman with her top off in Playboy once."

You might think just for the good of commerce in St. Louis that these guys would hold back until the people staging this event are back home and out of earshot. Different strokes for different folks guys. And performing to the enjoyment of many should be just as acceptable on the ice in figure skates as it is in helmets and pads.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Somebody Knows Something

The news organizations were unable to provide much in the way of detail. The police are still baffled. We will hear more about this story, but from who? And when?

Here's the story I'm talking about reprinted from stltoday.com- _______________________________________________________
Teen is found shot to death in his bedroom


East St. Louis police are investigating the shooting death of a 14-year-old boy
found early Tuesdayin his bedroom. Police found Tony Dean with a gunshot wound
in the back of his head at his home in the 700 block of North 52nd Street about
2:15 a.m., said East St. Louis Police Chief James Mister. Tony was pronounced
dead at 3:01 a.m. at Kenneth Hall Regional Hospital in East St. Louis.
Mister said that at the time of the shooting, the boy's mother, Sharon Blanchard,
and seven other people were inside the house and that a couple had been standing
outside. Mister expressed exasperation that no one came forward to say what had happened.
"Everybody in the house said they heard a loud noise," a disgusted-looking Mister said
outside the boy's home Tuesday morning. Crime scene technicians appeared to be
gathering evidence from under a broken window on the front of the frame home.
Mister said the house had been hit by bullets from previous shootings. Tony was an
eighth-grader at Clark Middle School, where Principal Roland Coleman called in
social workers, counselors and East St. Louis police chaplains to assist grieving students.

Here's a young life that is snuffed out because a bullet just happens to find it's way into his head at 2 o'clock in the morning? Come on. The mother was there. A bunch of other people were either in or around the house when it happened. I'm not a cop. But, I don't think it takes one to realize that all of these people are covering up the real story. Somebody has likely intimidated the group into not talking.

I just feel sorry for a young person that has had his opportunity to live denied because he was unfortunate enough to be born into a life that put him in those circumstances. I don't know if Tony Dean of East St. Louis would have gone on to great things. But, even before he could get to the point where he had some sort of control over his future, the factors of his existence ganged up on him to snuff out his chance. Those of us who have never been in such a life situation should count our blessings each time we hear of a story like this.

Now, which one of the people in the house at the time of this young fellow's death is going to have the courage and character to set things right? Somebody needs to tell the police what really happened in that house Tuesday morning. Young people of the area need to know that their lives can't end like this without someone being responsible, and being held accountable.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Electronic Curtain

My son Stewart, who's studying acting at DePaul in Chicago, is currently rehearsing his role in a play in which he portrays a young man dealing with the consequences of having assumed a fake identity while interacting with others on the internet. It's an interesting concept, and a timely project, considering how we all become different people when interacting with others on line. The population that uses computers has become used to the notion that this form of communication will be of no consequence to them.

This phenomenon hit home yesterday after my friend Mike Anderson included an entry on his stlmedia.net website about my blog commentary on Howard Stern's satellite debut. Mike's site, much more frequented than this blog, drove greater numbers of people here than usually visit. He included a portion of my commentary on his site, which apparently ruffled some Stern fans. As a result I have had to endure personal insults from anonymous writers posting in response to my opinion. I expect others to have ideas that vary from mine. But why do people, under cover of anonymity, resort to attempts to defame or belittle others? What does this kind of internet behavior say about our current state of affairs, and the health of our society? Anything?

Not too many years ago, most personal interaction was either done face-to-face, by phone, or by mail. In those forms of communication, most people had to identify themselves in order to be taken seriously. Obviously, face-to-face communication is the most honest form. If you have something to say to a person, you either have the guts to say it to their face, or you don't. You're willing to accept the consequences of your words.

On the phone, or in a letter, you have the benefit of the distance between yourself and the recipient to communicate your message without fear of that person's physical presence or possible reaction. In this secondary form of communication the writer, or speaker, must still identify himself in order to expect a serious response. Anonymous letters and phonecalls may get your attention, but have come to be generally accepted as somewhat cowardly, and more of a nuisance than anything. It's exactly why we have effectively banned telephone solicitation, instituted caller ID, and why most junk mail ends up in the trash.

Blogs, message boards, chat rooms, and other places where people interact anonymously on the internet, seemingly have set up a way to semi-legitimately interact with others without fear. However, it seems to me, we all should have a greater awareness that much of what is said should be taken with a grain of salt. Anyone, anywhere can say almost anything without fear of physical confrontation, ridicule, or prosecution. (Of course, threats to national security and the like have come back to bite some writers in the rear if they screw up and go that far.) Therefore, we all must realize that little of what is written by "Mr. or Ms. Anonymous" carries any significance. It's just another moment extracted from an episode of Jerry Springer.

I don't hold this blog to be an important place to visit. I don't expect anything I write to change the world. It's simply a place for me to express an opinion, something to which everyone is entitled. But, at least my name is on it. I put myself out there for examination and ridicule. I don't take kindly to personal attacks as a response to what I say, but I won't be concerened about "behind-the-mask" opinions either. Most people in the St. Louis area know how to reach me if they really want to. Mr. or Ms. Anonymous provide no address, phone number or e-mail address. So their views carry no weight.

By the way, in Stewart's play, the lead character gets himself entangled in a number of messy situations when he actually tries to assume his internet persona in real life. A stage play is an understandable false reality. The internet also provides a false reality, and a place for many people to be, because of the "electronic curtain", more than they really are.

Monday, January 09, 2006

I Hesitate to Comment

It didn't take Howard Stern long to take advantage of the lack of federal oversight on satellite radio broadcasts to utter the f-word. While I wasn't listening myself, reports of his "right off the bat" expletive are all over the internet. Of course today was his first day on the Sirius satellite after many years of pandering to the masses interested in sleaze on the airwaves of broadcast radio.

I hate to talk about Stern, even to the smallish audience of my blog, because every time somebody mentions his name, his cash register rings. And I don't want to be a party to that. Stern has been the "anti-Christ" to my vision of what a good broadcaster should be for as long as I can remember. But give the guy credit for finding a way to make radio pay off in a big way for himself. He has always been about shock and money. And there will always be those who run broadcasting facilities who will give someone like him a chance to make a fool of himself in order to guarantee a revenue stream.

If someone wants to pay the $13 monthly fee to Sirius for the opportunity to hear Stern talk about body parts, downgrade guests (particularly women), and use the f-word every other sentence, well I guess that's their prerogative. I suppose listening to Stern while watching porn, drinking a morning beer, and thumbing through a Penthouse is attractive to a sizeable audience. I thought people stopped giggling at that kind of stuff around their eighteenth birthday, but perhaps I overestimate the intelligence of the population.

It seems like the effort to make money by dumbing down the world will always be there in one form or another. I have long expected this kind of radio to eventually become passe'. But, it seems that each time someone graduates from the Stern show to a less juvenile radio diet, another person or two succumbs to the attraction of the "dark side". Make no mistake about it, Stern attempts to portray himself as someone providing a legitimate service to listeners, and as a "thinking man". But, from where I sit, it's all part of the act.

My question now is, how much, and how severe, of this kind of product will be tolerated on satellite until someone steps in and tries to stop it? I have to believe if Stern, and other shockers like him, start crossing over into actual behavior control of their audiences, and someone gets hurt in some way, that the issue is going to come up in Washington again. You know that one of the satellite jocks is going to try something that goes past the edge of the envelope some time soon.

George Takei, "Sulu" on Star Trek, now an announcer on the Stern show, said today "the revolution has begun". I believe that to be true. It takes someone of the magnitude and popularity of Stern on pay-radio to set the wheels in motion. But, which way will this new movement go? I believe the age-old censorship debate is about to start all over again. Probably sooner than later.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Most Mispronounced Word of All Time?

English, by most estimations, is one of the toughest languages in the world to master. There are so many words with multiple meanings, even though they are spelled the same way for each. There are many words where the spelling seems to have nothing to do with the way it's pronounced. Gauge? Cough? Often? (why is there even a "t" in it?) You get the idea.

I will never know how someone new to our country could ever fully learn the language based on how those of us who are natives use it. The various American dialects give different twists to the same word. So many words are consistently and continuously mispronounced that those trying to learn it must be constantly baffled.

In fact, many mispronunciations seem to be generally accepted over time to the point that noone really seems to care. Over the holidays, I noted two prominent broadcasters misusing words to the point that I thought they must be kidding. One used the word "infamous" in a commercial twice thinking that he was being complimentary to the client's cut of steak.

in·fa·mous ( P ) Pronunciation Key (in-fuh-mus) adj.
1. Having an exceedingly bad reputation; notorious.
2. Causing or deserving infamy; heinous: an infamous deed.

The other used the word "realtor" at least four times in a commercial pronouncing it as "real-a-tor". This is one of those words that is misused so often (don't say the "t") that when we hear it, we don't even recognize it as being mispronounced.

Re·al·tor ( P ) Pronunciation Key (reel-tr, -tôr)
A service mark used for a real-estate agent affiliated with the National Association of Realtors.

We all hear words misused, or mispronounced on a regular basis. But, I would like to nominate a particular word as the most mispronounced word in the English language. It's not because this word is most used in regular conversation, it's because of the number of times it is mispronounced on a daily basis in a mass-audience setting. That setting is every sporting event that is played in this country. We precede the event with the national anthem. And most, not all, but most of the performers botch up one of the words in the song on a regular basis.

The word is perilous.

O say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hail'd at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro' the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watch'd, were so gallantly streaming?

per·il·ous adj.
Full of, or involving peril; dangerous

I can't even put the accepted pronunciation (pronounced pro-nun-cee-ay-shun) marks beside the word in this case because the backwards e that is used in the on-line dictionary isn't able to be cut and pasted. I guess the program doesn't recognize it as a real character. But, perilous is supposed to be pronounced--

Pair'---not uh...but soft eh--luss

Having introduced the anthem at Blues games for the last 19 years, I have heard the word screwed up in many variations.

Pair-uh-LESS (most common), Pair-ih-LESS, Pair-IH-luss (not really a mispronunciation, but maybe a little too formal), PEER-uh-luss, Peer-uh-less, Peer-less, Pair-lee-us

Just about all possible "botch jobs" have been used over the years. I usually cringe, politely applaud when they are finished singing, and go about my business.

You may have your nomination for the most mispronounced word in the language, but I would think this word, because of the prominence and frequency of the usage, has to be right up there. We need to get the word out to all singers of the anthem, that there is nothing in the song about a pair-uh-less night..(many times they follow up perilous with night...instead of fight)

Please post your comments and thoughts and I'll do a follow-up soon.