Ask Mr. Answer Person

I think these questions were originally intended for the Shell Answer Man, but since he’s busy trying to get Platformate stains out of his lab coat, I’ll have to do.

Mike writes:

Hi Jay,

Long time listener, first time emailer…

Hey, my eight-year-old son and budding radio enthusiast (he wants to have a show on WRCT someday) requested a radio/CD player for Christmas, “So I can listen to WRCT at home.”

The thing is, my car gets great reception of 88.3 but in the house, I have an old receiver with extended antenna that aren’t so great. We live in Brighton Heights.

Any recommendation of a brand that is good for reception? Everyone says Bose but I have no experience with it.

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Social media update

For those of you who don’t sprechen sie Mastodon, I’m now on Bluesky, thanks to someone who sent me an invite:

The only thing I like so far about Bluesky is that a lot of big-name accounts I used to follow on the dead-bird app appear to have flocked over there.

I’m still having a lot of fun over at Mastodon, though. It’s a pretty chill vibe and you can find me at It’s not attracting the big influencers, which is both a blessing and a curse, I guess. It still has a kind of “DIY” feel to it which I dig.

The Post.News app seems to be about dead and seems to be joining MeWe in the graveyard of wannabe competitors.

And no, I’m not headed back to Xhitter any time soon:

Two, four, six, eight? Who do we tolerate?

Stan Freberg was a Noam Chomsky book set to big-band music. There was serious cynicism under the veneer of polished middle-American entertainment

Rumble, rumble, rumble. Freberg, Freberg, Freberg

Happy Thanksgiving! On this weekend’s show, I’m playing “Pilgrim’s Progress (Take an Indian to Lunch)” by Stan Freberg, from his brilliant 1961 satire, “Stan Freberg Presents the United States of America, Volume 1: The Early Years.

“Pilgrim’s Progress” is a parody of the first Thanksgiving, as it was traditionally taught in American schools — and still is, in a lot of places.

You know, the humble Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620, and nearly starved to death — except that they made friends of the noble Native Americans who helped them through the winter. In solemn thanks to the natives and to God, the Pilgrims celebrated by inviting the indigenous tribes to a Thanksgiving feast in 1621.

As Roy Edroso points out today, almost no one still buys that story: “The kind of paternalistic bullshit you’d hear about it a couple of decades ago sounds ridiculous to everyone now; not even readers of the Wall Street Journal are buying it.”

Myself, I’m not so sure about that. I’ve heard from friends with kids in religious schools that the noble-savages-kindly-pilgrims myth is still taught.

But the Thanksgiving myth was definitely the dominant narrative in the early 1960s, when Freberg and a cast of the best talent from old-time radio (a veritable who’s who of early TV cartoon stars, too, including June Foray, Daws Butler, Peter Leeds, Paul Frees, Billy May’s orchestra and Jud Conlon’s chorus) recorded “Pilgrim’s Progress” and the rest of “United States of America” at the famous Capitol Records studios in Hollywood.

As a result, I’m not sure that listeners in 2023 appreciate just how vicious this satire was. In fact, I’m almost worried that some folks may think that Freberg was celebrating racism.

Continue reading “Two, four, six, eight? Who do we tolerate?”

You’ll know it’s me when I come through your town

Slap a toilet seat on the front and call it the “Cyber Edsel.”


I’m not an Elon Musk hater. Yes, I’ve exited Twitter (aka “X”), and if Elon Musk were the man of the hour, I’d have someone watching him every minute. I think he’s a sleazeball.

But I also think he’s arguably done as much to advance the acceptance of electric cars as Henry Ford did to advance the cause of internal-combustion automobiles in the 1900s. Without Tesla, it’s unlikely that GM, Ford, Toyota, VW and Stellantis — who spent decades explaining why electric vehicles couldn’t be successfully built — would be currently tripping over themselves to rush their own electric vehicles to the market. Tesla embarrassed the big carmakers, over and over again, just as Henry Ford ran circles against the other carmakers in the 1910s and 1920s.

Alas, after the wild success of the Model T, and the almost-as-successful Model A, Henry Ford became convinced of his own infallible genius and launched one crackpot idea after another — a rubber plantation in Brazil, cars made of soybeans. Worst of all, of course, were Henry Ford’s efforts to mainstream antisemitism by promoting the hoax, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” which influenced Nazis in the 1930s and continues to poison minds today around the world.

By the time World War II rolled around, the Ford Motor Company was functionally bankrupt. The Roosevelt administration ordered Henry Ford’s grandson to be released from the military so that he could come home and save the old man’s company from the founder. Henry died a lonely, isolated, frustrated man.

Elon Musk is speed-running Henry Ford’s career now — including, it must be said, the antisemitism.

Continue reading “You’ll know it’s me when I come through your town”

A face made for radio

Uncle Jay gives a short explanation of why vintage 78 RPM records sound terrible on most modern turntables, and how you might be able to fix that.

“Radio 9” will not be heard this weekend on our flagship/namesake station, WRCT 88.3 FM. Instead, students will be presenting “Anatomy of the Ear,” an annual event where — for three days — usual programming is suspended in order to feature solid one-hour blocks of music from a variety of styles and genres.

This year, for my contribution to “Anatomy of the Ear,” I will be presenting an hour of big-band music, all from records, and most of the records will be original 78 RPM records from the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s.

The bad news? My hour will air at 3 a.m. Saturday. Make sure to set your alarm.

Since I know most of my listeners go to bed right after they watch the lottery numbers and won’t be up at 3 a.m. (unless they have to go pee), I will re-broadcast the hour of big-band music from 2 to 3 p.m. Saturday during my regular timeslot on Tube City Online Radio in McKeesport. (The other two hours of my show on Tube City Online Radio also will be pre-recorded this weekend.)

I thought some folks might be interested in the mechanics of playing 78 RPM records almost 100 years after they were first made, so I did this short video.

Basically, if you try to play 78 RPM records on most modern turntables, they will sound terrible, even if the turntable says it can play 78 RPM. You need to make sure you have the correct needle.

The opposite is also true: You should not try to play any modern records (33 or 45 RPM records made since 1950) on a turntable designed to play 78 RPM. You may very well destroy more modern records.

The needle (technically, “stylus”) for a modern (“microgroove”) record is tiny compared to the needles for which 78 RPM records were designed.

Mat from Techmoan has a much more detailed video that will explain everything you ever wanted to know about playing vintage records on a modern turntable.

And here’s a link to V-M Audio Enthusiasts in Michigan, which has a wide selection of turntable needles and record cartridges to fit most vintage (and some new) record players. This is not a paid endorsement; I’m just a very happy repeat customer.

You can find the entire schedule for Anatomy of the Ear on the WRCT website.

Perhaps it is ignoble to complain

Don we now our what apparel?

(Optional soundtrack)

Item from the American Family Association’s news website:

Headline (American Family News): NHL surrenders to pro-homosexual forces and will allow rainbow symbol

Help! Help! I’m being attacked by rainbows!

Ah, yes, the pro-homosexual forces. I look forward some day to seeing a Ken Burns documentary about the pro-homosexual forces fighting the anti-homosexual forces, with actors reading letters to their loved ones back home, as sad folk music plays in the background:

“My darling, although our losses have been heavy, our uniforms slay and my shoes are on fleek. Love and kisses. Fab Gunderson, 11th Minnesota Gay Batallion.”

Continue reading “Perhaps it is ignoble to complain”

Hey, wake up, your eyes weren’t open wide

In which I start to read a fun story about an old-timey car factory, and stumble over a giant race riot

(This started out as kind of a history/car post and turned into a political rant. You have been warned. If you want to skip this, go check out “Love Is” instead. It’s about two naked eight-year-olds who are married.)

A 1949 Packard convertible — the kind of car for a nut who’d build a time machine out of a DeLorean

I’m a big car nut, and a major history buff, and one of my favorite topics is defunct car brands — you know, the kinds of cars that haven’t been made for years and are mostly punchlines to jokes, like Fozzie Bear in his Studebaker and the dad buying an Edsel in “Peggy Sue Got Married.”

I was sitting in a waiting room on Tuesday with several hours to kill, started surfing old-time car blogs, and fell down a wormhole, reading about the Packard car company and its giant factory in Detroit.

Of all of the defunct car brands in the U.S., perhaps none has a stronger fan base than Packard. Before the Great Depression, it was considered one of the “three P’s” of American luxury cars — Packard, Peerless and Pierce-Arrow — that rivaled Rolls-Royce in prestige and quality.

When the demand for luxury cars collapsed in the early 1930s, Peerless and Pierce-Arrow exited the business, but Packard soldiered on, mainly by moving down-market and making cheaper cars. During World War II, Packard, which was famed for its high-quality engineering and manufacturing standards, supplied aircraft engines for fighter planes.

After the war, unfortunately, Packard reintroduced the same cars it had been making in 1941 and 1942. Though fashionable before the war, styling trends had moved on. The company quickly got a reputation for being too conservative and stodgy. Increasingly, its cars were bought by little old ladies, retired bankers and clergy.

Packard’s motto was (the not-very-inclusive) “Ask the Man Who Owns One,” but the man who owned one was likely to be an elderly doctor driving a plain black one with no radio and rubber floor mats. (When I wrote my G.C. Murphy Co. history book, one of the people I interviewed remembered her father, the company president, driving a Packard in the 1950s. His kids would hide on the floor when they saw their friends. “It looked like a hearse,” she told me.)

Continue reading “Hey, wake up, your eyes weren’t open wide”

Look out kid, it’s something you did—God knows when, but you’re doin’ it again

I don’t know anything except for the fact that I don’t know anything. Someone give me a TV show, quick

James MacLeod cartoon

Former President Donald Trump says “I may go to Israel.” My God, hasn’t everyone over there suffered enough already?

All I have to say about the Israel-Gaza conflict is that a hell of a lot of people need to get the hell off of social media and touch grass.

Everyone’s so quick to pick a team, like this is football, and we’re supposed to root for one side, no matter what they do.

At her Substack newsletter, The Present Age, Parker Molloy hears echoes of 9/11, when another former President, George W. Bush, asked the world, “Are you for the terrorists or against them?”

Well — and this is me talking — who the f–k is “for” the terrorists?

But similarly, who the f–k is in favor of apartheid?

And as for the people who insist on bringing this conflict home — and taking out their fears and prejudices on their local Jewish or Muslim neighbors, either in-person or on social media, in the form of antisemitism or Islamophobia — I think they’re deeply damaged, whether by cable TV or social media or God knows what.

Continue reading “Look out kid, it’s something you did—God knows when, but you’re doin’ it again”