Saturday, February 24, 2007

"Friday Night Lights," Season 2?

It's looking more likely.

I'm still not sure how I feel about it. Of the 17 episodes they've aired so far, I'd say half have been outstanding and the other half have been very good. But where do they take the characters from here? It would take an abrupt U-turn to make Jason stay in Dillon, and Lyla ought to be getting out to go to college.

I'm still enjoying it, but I want closure, too. I'd hate to see them come back for a second season and then pull the plug after a few episodes a la Boomtown.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

What will happen on Grey's tonight

I've watched a couple of episodes of Grey's Anatomy, and I'm aware of the current plot situation.

Here's what I foresee happening tonight:

1. Meredith will survive, but the brain functions governing her ability to reason will be severely damaged.

2. No one will notice.

(This might be my last post -- Mrs. MMM may be quite angry when she reads this.)

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Recommended or not?: Bloc Party

Theoretically, blogs are all about the wisdom of crowds. So I'm asking the crowd here to weigh in:

If you've heard the band Bloc Party, what do you think?

I heard the song I Still Remember nine days ago and promptly downloaded it at iTunes. It has since attached itself to my brain like the worms in that Futurama episode where Frye eats the egg salad sandwich from the men's room. I got the "Brokeback" theme on the second listen -- I can't directly relate, but as Seinfeld says, not that there's anything wrong with that.

So I went to AllMusic and iTunes to get a recommendation for a second song. I settled on Banquet, from their previous album. It's equally good.

I tend to think two good songs aren't a coincidence. They're a trend. Especially if those songs have aspects that aren't flukes. These guys can write good pop hooks, but those can come and go. They also have intriguing lyrics and a great guitar-pop sound. Good drummer, too.

Anyone else with an opinion of Bloc Party? Should they join Carbon Leaf in the small pantheons of new-ish bands I like?

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Viagra for babies

Sounds snarky, I know, but it's one of those inspiring stories you read all too infrequently in the cynical media. We journalists tend to focus on things that could kill us if they mutate just perfectly so that they attack the body in completely different fashion while still being lethal and easily spread. (I'm looking at you, bird flu hype-mongers.)

A baby in England was born 16 weeks early. He didn't have much chance of surviving, and the usual treatments weren't pulling him through.

The doctors told the parents they were out of options but wanted to try something experimental. They gave him Viagra.

He'll turn six months old this month, at home with his parents.

The Telegraph has more on the story.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Best bass riffs OR Weirdest pop hits, No. 3

I had a lot of time to listen to the radio today (thank YOU very much, idiot drivers of Tysons Corner and Gaithersburg), and one of our local radio classic-ish rock-ish stations cranked up Green-Eyed Lady. Hadn't heard that one in so long that I'd forgotten who recorded it. (The answer is: Sugarloaf, which also recorded another candidate for this series -- Don't Call Us, We'll Call You.)

I'd forgotten much of this song. I remembered the verse "Green-eyed lady, passion baby ..." I didn't realize that verse and the second (very similar to it) are roughly one minute out of 6:49.

And now I've forgotten most of it again, just a couple of hours later. What lingers is that bass line. Stuttered arpeggio, three-note riff, stuttered arpeggio, three-note riff, stuttered arpeggio, three-note riff, then walk it on back. It punches its way into your brain.

Little wonder it popped up on a Blogcritics list of rock's greatest bass riffs.

I'm glad someone started the discussion, and I love the Barney Miller and Spinal Tap shout-outs. But like all these lists, it's a conversation starter.

So let's start adding:

Rush, Tom Sawyer. I agree with the distinction between soloing and riffing, and most of Geddy Lee's best work is the former. But even people who think Lee's voice puts the "grrr" in "grating" can get into this bass line. (One of many worthwhile bits in The Knights of Prosperity -- the gang adopting this as their theme song.)

Our Lady Peace, Naveed. Yeah, I know. No one's heard it. Yet if you heard it, you'd swear it was a classic of FM radio. It's a concise distillation of foreboding and uneasiness that sets the tone for the song.

Allman Brothers, Whipping Post. Blues-based songs need a sturdy bass line to let you know that the lead singer's laying down some serious shit. Most blues bands can't deliver because the bass player is too shit-faced. But these guys were serious about their music, even shifting this one through 11/8 time for that added dose of urgency.

U2, New Year's Day. The Wikipedia entry on Adam Clayton makes a big deal of Clayton's long-delayed formal training on the bass (circa 1996). BFD. Clayton is the perfect example of a guy who knows his place in ... hey, I've covered this before. He should appear in this list several times -- Bullet the Blue Sky, Two Hearts Beat as One ... even the four-note drone of With or Without You.

Belly, Feed the Tree. Yeah, it's doubled by the guitar, but so is the riff on Sunshine of Your Love in the original list.

The Breeders, Cannonball. Hear that? Pretty cool, huh? And again? And then we go ... WHOA! Bet you thought it was in that first key, didn't you? Ha ha ha ha. And Kim Deal didn't even play this one. She's busy singing something that sounds like "Pinochet."

Carbon Leaf, Paloma. Active, with an air of mystery. Another one that sets the tone -- it's the first instrument heard and the most important.

Concrete Blonde, Bloodletting. Ominous, but with a little swing to it. Perfect for a tale of vampires and New Orleans.

The Cure, Let's Go to Bed. Just plain fun.

The Dazz Band, Let It Whip. Fun and funky.

Deep Purple, Hush. Yes, I know it's a Joe South song, but I have no idea if the original bass line was as emphatic as this one.

The Doors, Riders on the Storm. Technically a keyboard part, given Ray Manzarek's ability -- rare for a rock keyboardist -- to use two hands. (That's my subtle Spinal Tap reference du jour.)

Edgar Winter Group ... Do I even have to name the song?

Fleetwood Mac, The Chain. Second half of the song, obviously.

Foo Fighters, Everlong. Sounds like a distant radio station keeping you company on a lonely drive through the night.

Go-Gos, We Got the Beat. Everyone do the Belinda Carlisle shimmy to this Kathy Valentine bass riff.

Husker Du, Powerline. A rare moment in the spotlight for Greg Norton. He's now a chef and restaurateur.

Kasabian, Club Foot. Wow. Might be the best of the millennium so far.

Led Zeppelin, Immigrant Song. Jonesy doubles the guitar through the verse than shifts into overdrive on the chorus. I guess that's technically two riffs.

Living Colour, Wall. The most righteous smackdown of barriers -- racial, political, religious, whatever -- leads with a punch to the gut from Doug Wimbush, who had filled the large shoes of Muzz Skillings. (Interesting trivia according to Wikipedia: One bassist who was considered for the vacated spot was Meshell Ndegeunspellable, and King's X bassist/vocalist Doug Pinnick filled in on vocals during a recent tour while Corey Glover was busy playing Judas in a production of Jesus Christ Superstar.)

Midnight Oil, Beds Are Burning. And the bass line is churning.

Aerosmith, Sweet Emotion. In case you're wondering why I mention it here -- yes, I'm going alphabetically through my iPod. And you've heard the Mighty Mighty Bosstones double-speed version of this song, right?

Motorhead, Ace of Spades. Weirdest bass style ever -- Lemmy strums like he's a freaking rhythm guitarist. Not sure how often it works, but it does here.

Primus, Wynona's Big Brown Beaver. Tough to pick just one Claypool line, but I'll go with this one.

R.E.M., South Central Rain. Again, could go with several Mike Mills riffs. Like John Entwistle, he was essentially the lead instrument at times, with the guitarist playing rhythm.

Rare Earth, I Just Want to Celebrate. Doubled by the guitar at times but a classic bottom-end riff nonetheless.

Temptations, Get Ready. I'm surely forgetting many great riffs from this era because (A) I haven't covered it at iTunes and (B) many of them weren't recorded quite as well as this one.

Young MC, Bust a Move. I believe this was Flea. (Quick check at Yahoo.) Yep, it was.

Smashing Pumpkins, I Am One. Have I ever mentioned that Gish is essential listening and should be in the classic-rock and alt-rock canons?

Smithereens, Blood and Roses. Stuck it in your head just by mentioning it, didn't I?

Pretenders, My City Was Gone. Trivia quiz -- name the bassist and the band for which he's more famous ... AND name the solo artist with whom that bassist and his longtime rhythm section partner rose to prominence.

Waitresses, Christmas Wrapping. It's basically a rap song, right? And what's a rap song without a good bass line?

XTC, Mayor of Simpleton. One of many great Colin Moulding efforts.

Yes, Roundabout. And Tempus Fugit. Chris Squire falls into the "soloist" category most of the time, but these two qualify as great riffs.

So that's ... yikes. That's 34.

OK, folks -- it's up to you. Let's push it to 50.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Weirdest pop hits, No. 2

I'm guessing most of you are already regular readers of Jason's "Mellow Gold" series. I have roughly six readers, and they include Jason and three of his many regulars, so the math is simple.

If you're not a regular reader of Mellow Gold, you'll want to catch this one. Jason unearths one of those songs that makes you stop and think, "Oh yeah! That was on the radio all the time. (Pause.) What a weird song!!"

They don't get much stranger than this one without the involvement of Manfred Mann -- Starbuck's Moonlight Feels Right.

First of all, I'd long forgotten that the band name was "Starbuck." I wonder how many confused Battlestar Galactica fans thought Dirk Benedict had recorded a solo album. (OK, so technically, the band came first, then the show.)

Jason focuses mostly on the unsubtle pick-up aspect of it. But he, like all good musicians, has to give it up for the freaking marimba solo. I played my share of marimba in college, and this shit makes my jaw drop. I'm trying to figure out how he played all those triplets. Seriously -- try to imagine where your hands would go.

But Jason isn't the only person to recap this watershed moment in laid-back pickup lines and marimba soloing. He found a like-minded blogger who dug up the history, some taken from the presumably official Moonlight Feels Right site. Both bloggers note that the whereabouts of marimba whiz Bo Wagner (no relation) are "unknown."

Wagner also gets tagged as a werewolf, but that seems like pretty typical '70s music-man hair to me. I can picture Will Ferrell in a studio yelling, "Correct me if I'm wrong, but we don't have a lot of songs that feature the marimba!"

I'm intrigued with the Moonlight Feels Right discography, listing the other recordings of Starbuck and lead singer Bruce Blackman. (He looks nothing like Starbuck, by the way. Not even the Sci-Fi Channel's cute blonde female version.) One of the last Starbuck songs is called The Full Cleveland. Now that sounds icky.

It's one thing for Jason and a couple of bloggers to poke gentle fun at a song that surely made Mr. Blackman a Mr. Richman. But check out the listing at, which generally offers calm and objective assessments of where each song fits in the artist's musical growth chart. This one: "An impressionable child in the summer of 1976 might have come to the conclusion that Starbuck's Moonlight Feels Right had been created in outer space by aliens who had been studying the conventions of mid-'70s AM radio pop but had gotten many of the details slightly but tellingly wrong."

I don't think any of us are saying this is a bad song. It's catchy and ... interesting. Seriously. You may laugh, but you can't help but listen.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Blogging and the human mind

This one's making the rounds (kottke and elsewhere):

"Blogging makes us more oriented toward ..."

Claim-by-claim ...

1. "more oriented toward an intellectual bottom line"

Is this a good thing? If it means bloggers have finely tuned bullshit detectors, that's a good thing. But "bottom line" also means "cheap" or "nothing lower."

2. "more interested in the directly empirical"

Maybe so, but again, not necessarily a good thing. A little abstraction here and there isn't so bad.

I'll need to warn you now ...

... the next one ...

... may make you ...

... spit your drink ...

... consider yourself warned ...

3. "more tolerant of human differences"

I can only guess that the writer is from another country or reads only those blogs written within a commune.

Here's something a little closer to the reality I've seen on blogs (after all, we want something empirical, right?): Brendan Nyhan, one of the three bright young guys who ran the bullshit-detecting blog Spinsanity, was hired to blog at The American Prospect. The left-leaning but scrupulously fair blogger dared to suggest that maybe the left wing shouldn't join the right in resorting to "Nazi" accusations so easily.

Check the results.

Then check Nyhan's explanation
of why he no longer writes for the Prospect.

(Yes, Lex, I did see your comment on Brendan's post -- you were one of the cooler heads by far.)

Now he's telling people not to follow Ann Coulter in reaching for the "treason" tag. Can I use the word "quixotic" here? Bless his heart, trying to get pundits to behave. He should just follow my lead -- don't read political blogs or books.

I find that's the only way I can "tolerate" them.

4. "more analytical in the course of daily life"

Another one of those things that's good in some respects ("Hmmm, traffic would move more smoothly if each lane alternates in merging to get past this road hazard") and not in others ("I don't see why anyone should listen to Guster when Yngwie Malmsteen plays more notes per second than all those guys" or perhaps "Happy Valentine's Day. I have this spreadsheet of our personal qualities indicating that we would have successful offspring; therefore, we should mate.").

5. "more interested in people who are interesting"

I'm tempted to make a snarky comment here asking when people were ever interested in boring people. But I have to confess -- I'm boring. And that's a severe handicap in this day and age. My strength is in logical evaluation, and who the hell wants to read that?

6. "less patient with Continental philosophy"

Yeah ... take THAT, Foucault!!

I'm no Continental philosophy expert -- I majored in philosophy, but (A) my grades stunk, (B) that was 15 years ago and (C) I read very little after Hume and Mill. Most philosophy after Hume and Mill stinks, anyway. (Follow this link for funny, semi-relevant link tied to the Zidane head-butt World Cup incident.)

But I know (or at least looked up) that Continental philosophy includes postmodernism. And the only thing you'll see more postmodern than blogging is a bunch of English professors dressed as circus clowns while deconstructing a Family Guy episode. The whole point is to subvert the dominant paradigm of top-down elitist publishing. Sure, it was never that elitist, but that's not relevant, is it?

Some great responses back at the original post:

"The IT industry has an unusually high proportion of emontionally immature libertarians, and blogging (as a recent fruit of IT) seems to provide a strong outlet for self-indulgent reveling in one's own thoughts and self-congratulations on one's rational approach to life. Plus there are plenty of other libertarian bloggers out there to make the libertarian feel a solidarity in his or her selfishness."

"Blogging allows me to clarify my thoughts and put them into cogent arguments well before I am called on to use them in another context. It exercises analytical writing skills by putting you through the paces of analysis on a regular basis. As a law student, I have found that is a very valuable excercise. And, yes, it does provide for a better process of self-reflection than thought alone.... by putting my thoughts down and facing them over the passage of time, I am able to more correctly identify themes in my discourse."

(Good for him, but it's had the opposite effect on me. My writing has gone steadily downhill.)

"I've found it makes me even more obnoxious and snarky."

Add something about being unable to use apostrophes correctly, and that says it all, don't it?

P.S. Friday Night Lights just keeps getting better. Great, great, great, great episode tonight. If I could still write worth crap, I'd come up with a better adjective.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Starving on Food Network

Making the rounds on the Internets -- a bit of snark on Food Network.

A quick person-by-person:

- Alton Brown: The guy doesn't mention Good Eats. Strange.

- Emeril: I see his point. Even if you don't watch Emeril, it's reassuring to know Food Network has an actual chef as an anchor.

- Bobby Flay: Interesting theory that Throwdown is Food Network's way of publishing Flay. I doubt that, but it's interesting. I do miss Flay's actual cooking shows -- Hot off the Grill and the terrific odd-coupling (Flay with his megagrills, older guy with a little circular charcoal 1970s model) of Grillin' and Chillin'.

- Giada: Absolute agreement here. Though some say no one watches her show for the cooking, I'd venture to say her cooking show is more popular than her travelogues. Bottom line for Giada, Alton, Flay and others -- I have no interest in watching you eat. None.

- Rachael Ray: I sympathize with the complaints of overexposure, and she's the queen of the "watch me eat" shows. But I don't buy into the griping about 30 Minute Meals. She's sharing quick tips for people who have no time. That's most of us.

I see the basic complaint. The personalities are pushing aside the chefs, and that's a bad thing.

If I had anywhere to sell it, I'd write a piece about cable networks and their inevitable descents into cheap crap.

- A&E went from actual arts and entertainments to a dumping ground for reruns.

- Bravo sewed up the gay-friendly audience and then went all-reality, more or less.

- Discovery Channel isn't quite as high-brow as it used to be, but I'll give them credit for MythBusters. (Aside: Kari has joined the legion of women who have been made less attractive by their spread in Maxim. That's a damn shame. Something similar happened to my generation's Kari as well.)

- TLC. The "Learning" Channel. Yes, I'm majoring in What Not to Wear.

- C-SPAN was holding up pretty well until they did that reality show on Capitol Hill staffers. Can you believe Rachel stood up the majority whip to go out drinking with that guy from Homeland Security?

OK, I made up the last one. Just wanted to see if you were still reading.

At least History Channel still shows history, and Ovation has a fair amount of music. Quick word of warning on the latter, though -- if you see them advertising an interview with your favorite singer or band, it might be a few years old. Say, 10. Or 15.

Guess you get what you pay for.

Give in to 'Idol' domination

Actually, I'm not -- I know American Idol is on as I write this, but Mrs. MMM is watching something on the DVR. And I'm listening to a former Idol contestant. Mega-selling Chris Daughtry, pride of my former home of Greensboro? Nope. (I actually went to his Crown Honda service desk. Maybe our paths crossed. No idea.) Ruben? Nope. Fantasia? Nah. Kelly Clarkson? I like some of her songs, but this guy didn't win. I don't blame you if you don't remember him.

He's Jon Peter Lewis, the sleepy-eyed guy who won over the Idol judges in the audition rounds despite having the "personality of a pen salesman" (guess who said that?), then hung around as a survivor of the wild-card round. I tune out Idol by that point, so I don't know if that means he had a 9-7 record and played on the road against the Colts or something like that, but his Wikipedia entry explains how he wound up in eighth place.

Now looking suspiciously like Grant Lee Phillips, the man know as JPL is blogging for TVSquad, which is a pretty good way to plug his singer-songwriter career.

And he's not bad at any of it. The funny thing -- he may be the first American Idol recording artist to be a better songwriter than a singer.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Blog impact

Milhouse: We gotta spread this stuff around. Let's put it on the Internet!
Bart: No! We have to reach people whose opinions actually matter!

That was a few years ago. But is it still valid?

Bloggers take credit for ruining Dan Rather's career, among other things. As a whole, the political blogosphere isn't shy about self-congratulation.

But I find bloggers sometimes delude themselves into thinking they have more influence than they actually do. Read the blogs on the Duke lacrosse situation, and you'd think Duke was on the verge of collapsing into a black hole of political correctness. Read The Chronicle or talk to people, and you'll find the same complaints about outspoken faculty, but they're aired within a Duke that isn't quite as dysfunctional as the blogs make it sound. (Granted, you could rewind to April and find The Chronicle providing a clearer picture of Duke than you were getting on cable TV, where Duke was being painted as some sort of Civil War relic. So it's not just blogs that can develop tunnel vision.)

I won't say much on that situation, but I have a better case study: The Noka chocolate controversy. The quick recap, in case the preceding link is a little too much: Blogger wonders why company's chocolate costs so much, blogger does 10-part investigation, other blogs pick it up and say "wow!"

At long last, the story has hit the mainstream media. But they aren't just piling on. The New York Times puts the blog furor in the broader context of luxury gift-giving. The Dallas Morning News considers the company's PR possibilities.

The prevailing advice in the DMN story is to fight fire with fire, which is Starbucks' philosophy. I'm not so sure. One blogger trots out the "no such thing as bad publicity" line, and I can't think of a counterargument. Meanwhile, the Noka-sympathetic backlash is building, with one blogger cleverly casting the situation as David versus the blogger. (It doesn't help that the blogger is anonymous and therefore unable to prove he doesn't have an axe to grind. Still, I wish the blogs would tackle the questions raised in the original post.)

The bottom line: This doesn't seem to be hurting Noka's bottom line. And I'm sure that comes as a shock to the people who hopped on this story a few weeks ago and chortled that Noka's days were surely numbered.

I'll stick with what I said earlier:

I don't see anything Noka's doing here that differs from typical luxury branding. I'm sure someone could do the same investigation on Prada, finding that they use the same components as cheaper competitors. For better or for worse, creating status around a brand is a skill. The message behind Noka never really was "I care so much about you that I bought chocolate 10 times better than Godiva's." The message is, "I have money and will spend it on you."

Besides, it's chocolate. It's subjective. Some people like Special Dark; some like Krackel.
I think Noka's decision to sidestep the fray is paying off. They're selling an aura. They'd lose it if they jumped in.

Besides, people who make enough money to buy this stuff probably aren't hanging out, arguing on blogs. They're either working in fulfilling careers or flying off to Monaco for the weekend. Or maybe they're celebrities who don't know how to operate computers.

So that's my take on it. I'm sure the five people who read this post will be forever changed.

My personal DNA

The most detailed and interesting personality test I've ever seen tells me I am a ...

The funny thing is that I supposedly don't care too much for aesthetics, but I couldn't help noticing that those colors are ugly.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Friday night clearout

I've been off Thursday and Friday. The first day was spent dealing with a slightly sick kid (he's fine). Today was very slightly productive. I made it to the store and Hair Cuttery. That's about it.

I've been trying to untangle a few knots in my head. I'm still at a career crossroads, anxious to pick a path. But let's just say my ride isn't here yet.

So while I'm clearing out my head, here are a few things that fell out:

- In the early days of music videos, I didn't just watch MTV's weekday programming. I watched 120 Minutes, plus VH1's New Age/fusion/folky New Visions and something that aired over a University of Georgia cable channel that probably existed for a couple of years at most. This was the height of my musical awakening in high school, and it exposed me to all sorts of songs.

It's been a while since I've had anything similar, but I stumbled on it tonight. MHz -- a local public TV station that's going national -- has a show called Strictly Global. Strictly speaking, it's not all that global -- it's basically alt-pop with a few songs from Brazil and elsewhere mixed in. But the alt-pop is much broader than you hear on the radio. Yes, even on XM, where much of this music would fall in the gap between new-music XMU and the lifestyle channels such as The Loft or Hear Music.

And it's damn good.

Highlights so far tonight include a new-ish Cardigans tune called Don't Blame Your Daughter, a 2007 release from Bloc Party called I Still Remember, and a sweet video by Bob Sinclair in which a kid and his dog dream of building a rocket and saving Earth from an approaching meteor.

- The problem with running the show Dirt in the 10 p.m. slot is that there's no time to shower after watching Courteney Cox (weakly) pretending to have an orgasm, Rick Fox getting his knees whacked, outdoor man-on-man or woman-on-man action (and they're surprised someone got photos?), indoor woman-on-woman action, or Wayne Brady channeling Samuel L. Jackson while threatening to cut off a guy's Mr. Happy and make him eat it.

You read that correctly. That's Wayne Brady. That's art imitating Chappelle's Show. And you wouldn't believe how well he pulled it off. Dude isn't just an improv wizard -- he's got some chops.

- I've probably said it before, and I know I edited the relevant Wikipedia page, but Remember Me As a Time of Day is NOT the theme song for Friday Night Lights, no matter what the closed-captioning says. The FNL theme is in 3/4 time. Remember is in 4/4. Your Hand in Mine, another Explosions in the Sky tune, is in 3/4, but that's also not the theme song.

- And a conversation with MMM Jr. ...

ME: You're being uncooperative.

MMMJ (laughing): No, I'm not.

ME: Yes, you're being uncooperative.

MMMJ (laughing harder): No, YOU'RE coopratif!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Classic American Idol quotes

"Simon ... he's not even American, so how do he know who can sing?"

Saturday, February 03, 2007

My new presets

Following up on last night's post, I found time today (in other words, was stuck at enough traffic lights) to redo my car radio presets.

But first, a quick note on 96Rock, which I mentioned in passing and which is apparently still on Devil MacDawg's presets despite the name change and format tweaking -- while I was in high school, 96Rock started an ad campaign noting a major change coming up at noon Sunday. I happened to be at a chess tournament in Atlanta, and I was dispatched to a car to listen to the announcement. It sounded just like a typical format change -- a surreal sound, like a commercial but longer and without any music. Then they revealed the new direction, playing some big-band music. I recall stomping with anger. How DARE they take away my music from me!!

Then ... "APRIL FOOL!!!!!!"

Yeah, they got me good.

On to the post ...


What's happened to a lot of these stations is a natural transformation. The oldies stations are no longer quite as old. As Lenny once said, "How about some NEW oldies, geniuses??!!"

So as I list these, I'll explain what they are now and what they used to be ...


1. WINC, 92.5 "Wink FM." Supposedly "hot adult contemporary," which means they play new-ish stuff -- minus hip-hop and hard rock -- for the most part. They're not the old-school AC, which would never dream of playing Chris Daughtry or the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I think they don't fit so easily in the "Hot AC" format, in part because they're not really in the Washington market. They're way up in the mountains, and they have much more of a local feel. They remind me of my local AM music station growing up in a Southern college town -- mostly Top 40, but a little eclectic at times, with local news mixed in. They're owned by a small local chain (Mid-Atlantic), and yes, it makes a difference.

2. WARW, 94.7 "The Globe." The station that prompted last night's post. It had been getting a little newer, year by year, inching into the '80s and perhaps into the '90s, and it already had two former WHFS DJs. So the change in format was a natural progression. I can verify from listening today that they do indeed play the Stones and Zeppelin. And Weezer, which I think is new with this format. And Gnarls Barkley, which threw me for a loop. I can just imagine someone who's been out of town returning today, flipping on the local classic rock station and going, "What the ... Gnarls Barkley??" In their DJ-free introductory week, they've playing a lot of variety but haven't worked out the kinks. When I went into Target, they were playing KT Tunstall's Black Horse and the Cherry Tree. Thirty minutes later, back in the car -- Suddenly I See. Yep, another KT Tunstall song. I had to double-check to make sure I hadn't plugged in my iPod.

3. WWDC, 101.1 "DC101." DCRTV puts it best -- they play whatever "rock" is in vogue at the moment. In the '90s, they veered from "classic" to "alternative," prompting WHFS ads chortling that their format prompted "101 imitators." Now WHFS is gone, and DC101 is still going strong with a mix of various rock streams. Howard Stern started here -- today's mildly outrageous morning host is Elliot in the Morning, who's occasionally juvenile but seems to be a genuinely good guy, chatting up D.C. United and Washington Capitals players and doing tons of charity work.

4. WBIG, 100.3, "Big 100.3." The theme of edging ahead decade by decade continues. They were an oldies station for ages, playing sunny surf-pop and the Beatles. By my count, they've since done one tweaking (now adding the '70s!) and one re-branding. Now they're classified "classic rock," but they're also the area's most reliable source of what Jason calls "mellow gold." Checking out their current "Last 10" -- conveniently on their site -- they have Seals & Croft, plus Pilot's Magic, along with the expected Who and Zeppelin. The oldies format is still on their secondary stream on HD Radio.

5. WRQX, 107.3, "Mix 107.3." Hot AC, but as DCRTV points out, they play much more "modern rock." They did some sort of stunt in which morning host Jack Diamond supposedly brought in his iPod to protest the narrow scope of music they were playing. Weird way to announce that you're expanding the format. The "mix" generally isn't bad, and the DJs are genial. They had direct competition from Z104 for a while, but read on to see what became of that.

6. WBQB, 101.5, "Magic 101.5." Another local from the outer periphery of the suburbs -- in this case, Fredericksburg. Supposedly Hot AC, though the site says it's a "family-friendly mix of today's hottest songs, with great '80s retro." Not settled on this one, and the signal isn't strong.


1. WAMU, 88.5, NPR. With WETA abruptly going from all-talk to all-classical, this is now the main source for all the NPR favorites, plus a handful of locally produced shows. They're also devoted to bluegrass.

2. WETA, 90.9, classical/NPR. A public broadcasting giant that lurched violently from mostly classical to all-talk and now over to all-classical, excluding a simulcast of NewsHour with Jim Lehrer from its TV sibling.

3. WWXT, 94.3, sports talk. So Redskins owner Dan Snyder bought some local Spanish stations and tried to turn them into a sports network so he could own the stations on which the Redskins are broadcast. But they were really weak signals, and I don't get this one with enough frequency (ouch ... sorry) to keep it here. Consider this slot open.

4. WXGG, 104.1, rock mix. This is the new "George" station, replacing classical station WGMS as of Jan. 22. WGMS had just moved there two years earlier from another frequency, bumping out likable modern mix/AC Z104.

5. WASH, 97.1, soft rock. Excuse me ... adult contemporary.

6. WWRT, 104.9, classic rock. But it doesn't come in very well.

Currently off my FM bands

- 97.9, 98Rock from Baltimore. Hard rock. Had a great morning show in Kirk, Mark and Lopez until Lopez died after a long, poignant battle with cancer that had a lot of people rooting for him. Kirk and Mark have just moved to what passes for WHFS these days, as you can see on their non-functional Web site. (Supposedly, the old alt-rock WHFS format still lives on a second stream. Still a shadow of its old glory.)


1. WTEM 980, sports talk. Formerly Tony Kornheiser's home, and formerly ESPN Radio until Snyder snatched it away. Not really sure what they play now. I don't listen to AM much.

2. WMAL 630, talk. No idea why I have this on the presets -- it's your typical right-wing babble, though it has former Gopher-turned-congressman Fred Grandy.

3. WXTR 730, sports talk. The AM version of Snyder's mini-empire, which means I'll get rid of the FM version if I can trust this signal. Still, the only sports talk show I like is Mike & Mike in the Morning, which I watch on ESPN2.

4. WMET 1160, world talk. Or something like that. They have D.C. United games, so on the rare occasion I'm in the car during one of those, I can listen.

5. WTWP 1500, talk. Washington Post Radio. Never listened to it, but figure I should give it a try one day. They got a big shot in the arm recently -- Kornheiser is going back to radio, and they convinced him to land here. You'd think that'd be a no-brainer since he supposedly still works at the Post and all, but it wasn't. Some people apparently like him, though I'm just waiting for Michael Wilbon to explode one day on PTI and call him an ignorant slut. Must be nice to do absolutely no research on sports and be considered a top-drawer sports talk host.

6. WTOP 820, news. Ratings juggernaut despite flipping around frequencies. Traffic and weather on the eights, which is essential for commuting even though afternoon traffic institution Bob Marbourg seems to love the words "Quantico" and "Occoquan" too much to give anything related to Tysons Corner. Seriously -- they're masters of the craft.

The most recent Arbitron ratings from DCRTV will show you that WTOP is the only popular station on my presets (note that WGMS was still classical at this point):

1) WMMJ, 2) WHUR, 3) WPGC-FM, 4) WTOP, 5) WASH, 6) WKYS, 7) WMZQ and WIHT, 9) WMAL, 10) WJZW, 11) WGMS, 12) WWDC, 13) WLZL and WBIG, 15) WRQX, 16) WJFK-FM, 17) WARW, 18) WAVA, 19) WTEM, 20) WFRE and WWXX, 22) WPGC-AM, 23) WFLS and WTNT and WTWP, 26) WYCB and WBQB.

Friday, February 02, 2007

At last, a format change I like

With the dust still settling from a major radio shakeup 10 days ago, Washington radio saw another format change today. But this was more palatable, and it seems the only people fired were the horrible morning crew.

Classic Rock 94.7 WARW ("The Arrow") is now "94.7 The Globe." They're hawking some sort of environmentally conscious stuff along with the basic change in tunes, and they're issuing a 12-part proclamation of their new direction.

I don't know about the environmental stuff -- Marc Fisher raises some skepticism -- but the rest of it isn't b.s. For instance, #4 (DeeJays know the music) is absolutely true, mostly because they're keeping D.C. radio institutions Weasel and Cerphe.

Fisher says "Bye Bye Classic Rock," but that seems overstated. DCRTV, our local media blog that clocks in at roughly 80-90 percent reliability, says 94.7 will still play the Stones, the Beatles and all the great old stuff. (If you get lost with all this stuff, check DCRTV's excellent station guide, which is steeped in area history.)

So we're keeping a likable classic rock station, losing the morning show, keeping the great DJs and adding some newer music. It's basically like the rock station you grew up with, except that
the playlist won't be stuck in 1985. (Woo hoo hoo!)

(Hmmmm ... now that I check, the radio station I grew up with has undergone a few changes itself. Atlanta's legendary 96Rock is now "Project 9-6-1," playing Stone Temple Pilots and Evanescence. I'm not sure how I feel about that. I've never done drugs in my life, but I'd hate to see America deprived of all the great stoner rock stations pumping out a steady diet of Floyd and Zeppelin to aging potheads and a new generation of kids rebelling against emo and R&B. And they'd been 96Rock for 32 years.)

In a sense, this is a hybrid of two great old Washington radio stations -- classic rock WARW and alternative legend WHFS. The latter is especially important to me. I first heard WHFS on one of my long vacation drives in the early '90s, when I was stunned to hear XTC while flipping around the dial. Every time I was near Washington, I'd make an effort to pick it up. My buddy J.P. and I listened to it on the night the Cheers finale was on -- Kath, the sexy-sounding DJ, kept complaining that no one was listening because everyone was glued to the TV. But by the time I moved here in 1998, the skate-punks had taken over. The golden age of alternative music was dying, and WHFS made especially poor programming decisions. When it flipped to Spanish in 2005, it was mourned -- and it shot up the ratings.

Cerphe and Weasel had long since bailed, leaving WHFS to go through a few more weird contortions as a Baltimore talk station that dabbled in music until ... well, this week, apparently. (96Rock and WHFS are apparently preserving their famous formats on their secondary digital streams.)

I've seen a few other disappointing format changes since moving here, some lovingly compiled here. I was especially saddened by the loss of the "Jammin' Oldies" station, but I'm apparently the only person who'll listen to Motown, Stevie Wonder and Earth Wind & Fire these days. And we've seen Sonny Jurgensen and Sam Huff, the great old footballers who bicker amiably through Redskins games, lose their play-by-play guy (Frank Herzog) and get booted to a trio of stations owned by Redskins commander-in-chief Dan Snyder. Three stations, and I can't pick them up in my house. Great job, Dan.

At last, I feel like a winner here.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to fix my presets.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Official Update

We interrupt this blog to bring you this official announcement:

I am officially over Sarah Silverman.

Not just in the "mythical top five" sense. Just in general.

I once thought she was hysterically funny and terrific in many other senses. I'm over that.

Resume regular programming.