If elected, I will not serve

I get the impression these people really want to win an Emmy

This week, writer and Hollywood historian Mark Evanier drew attention to a video posted by the “Late Show With Stephen Colbert” that practically begs for an Emmy Award.

“I don’t take awards that seriously but when they’re meaningful, it’s when the voting public actually decides you deserve some honoring, not when you mount a successful ad campaign,” Evanier said. “It used to just be the shows taking ads out in the trade papers. Then it was fancy advertising mailers to all the voters. Then they started buying billboards all over Los Angeles asking for Emmy and Oscar votes.”

Evanier says “this seems like another step too far.”

It does seem a little desperate. But it also reminded me that voting has now begun for Pittsburgh City Paper‘s annual “Best of Pittsburgh” awards.

Those of you who have been around for a while know that I’ve been on the radio for 22 years in Pittsburgh, and during that time, I’ve had a perfect record: I have never once been nominated for anything.

Continue reading “If elected, I will not serve”

News you can’t use

Supposedly, someone asked Gandhi, ‘What do you think of Western civilization?’ He reportedly replied, ‘I think it would be a good idea.’

If a cluttered desk signifies a cluttered mind, what’s an empty desk signifying? Here are empty items from my cluttered mind:

News item: State Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-Inquisition) is planning a “special” announcement today, fueling speculation that he intends to run for the U.S. Senate in 2024. Mastriano, who ran for governor of Pennsylvania in 2022, lost in the general election to Josh Shapiro by approximately 800,000 votes.

If Mastriano makes it through a Republican primary for U.S. Senate, he would face incumbent U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr., a Democrat, who has said he intends to run for a fourth term in 2024.

Oh, Doug. Dan Hicks wrote a campaign song just for you:

How can I miss you when you won’t go away?
Keep telling you day after day
But you won’t listen, you always stay and stay
How can I miss you when you won’t go away?

Doug is a certifiable crackpot, but he’s positively sane compared to Kandiss Taylor, who ran for governor of Georgia last year. (She lost in the Republican primary.)

Taylor has been elected a district chair of the Republican Party in Georgia, and on her podcast, “Jesus, Guns & Babies,” she spent time debunking the “conspiracy” that the world is round.

The world is flat, she explained. The Bible says so. “Globes” are part of a trick being played on young people by liberals, socialists and, I guess, airline pilots.

And she’s not the only Republican candidate to be part of the “flat-earth” movement. Lauren Witzke, who ran for the U.S. Senate from Delaware in 2020 and worked for the Trump campaign in Iowa, also describes herself as a “flat-earther.”

According to a survey by the University of New Hampshire, about 10 percent of Americans believe the Earth is flat.

And — this will shock you, so I hope you’re sitting down — according to the survey, “Trump approvers are more likely … to agree with conspiracy claims that vaccinations implant tracking microchips, the Earth is flat, or NASA astronauts did not land on the Moon; but they are less likely to agree with scientists that the Earth is billions of years old.”

Golly. You don’t say.

The point, and I do have one, is that craziness is not the fringe of the Republican Party. It’s the center of the Republican Party.

And this is what CNN, the New York Times and other major media outlets are trying to normalize. “Let’s go to this diner in a rural small town and talk to the most extreme Trump supporters we can find in an attempt to sympathize with them” is equivalent to, “let’s find the craziest people we can, and make them seem normal.”

Then they expose the rest of us to the craziness over and over and over, until we get used to it: Well, maybe the flat-Earth people have a point.

The crazies are still a minority (for now). Most Americans want legal access to birth control. Most Americans want legal access to abortion. Most Americans want other adult Americans free to marry another adult person, regardless of their sex or gender identity. Most Americans want to be free to read what they want when they want. Most Americans want teachers and parents in charge of the education of our children — not religious kooks.

Why are we letting a tiny minority of fact-deniers dictate to the rest of us?

Because our supposedly “liberal” media insists on letting Republicans pee on our legs, and telling us it’s rain. Here’s the “liberal” MSNBC:

“Why is Ron DeSantis partnering with Elon Musk to launch his 2024 presidential campaign?”

Because they’re both white supremacist jagoffs. There, I saved you a click. It’s really that simple.

One last thing before I change the subject: For years, the media has referred to the Republican Party as the “GOP.” That’s an acronym for “Grand Old Party.”

The nickname began to be used widely after the Civil War, because the Republican Party was the party of Lincoln, and had fought to preserve the Union from segregationists and slave-holders. They were the “Grand Old Party that saved the country.”

Since then — after all, it’s been 150 years — the positions of the two parties have reversed. The Southern segregationists are all in the Republican Party, and the Democratic Party seems to be the one (albeit haphazardly) fighting to save America.

I know this is futile, but let’s knock off the “GOP” nonsense. There is nothing “Grand” about a party that wants to discriminate against women, Black people, immigrants, non-Christians and the LGBTQ community — let alone a party that can’t even agree that the world is round.

“Was there sensimilla in those Powdermilk Biscuits? Heavens, they’re tasty and expeditious.”

And finally: The state of Minnesota is planning to legalize recreational marijuana. I’m trying to imagine Garrison Keillor speaking even slower than he already does.

“Well, it’s been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon, my hometown.” (Inhales deeply, holds it.) “Down at the Sidetrack Tap, Ole Olson was … uh … was … wow, do you ever really look at your hands?”

I used to be a serious Keillor fan. In the era before the Internet and podcasts, I used to set a timer to record his Saturday show if I wasn’t able to listen live. But as he burned through marriages and mistresses, I began to suspect his nice-guy persona was all an act.

And then reports began to circulate through the public radio community that, indeed, indicated he wasn’t nice after all. His newspaper column also became increasingly nasty. The sexual harassment scandal that eventually got him cashiered from Minnesota Public Radio seemed pretty minor in isolation, but it fit a pattern of questionable (or at least arrogant) behavior.

Come to think of it, if anyone could use a little weed to mellow out and relax, maybe it’s him. Someone get a bag of weed to the Chatterbox Cafe and run down to Ralph’s Pretty Good Grocery for Doritos and Twinkies.

P.S.: The Gandhi quote is baloney. According to the Quote Investigator website, it can be traced to a 1967 documentary called “The Italians,” but that didn’t air until 29 years after Gandhi died, and there’s no evidence linking it to Gandhi before then.

Dispatches from Dayton

Sunset over the Dayton Amateur Radio Association in Huber Heights. Isn’t it romantic?

On Saturday, I learned that something in Southwestern Ohio hates me (besides Trump voters, hey-yo!).

Dayton Hamvention is held at the Greene County Fair Grounds in Xenia, Ohio, and a windstorm came up Saturday afternoon. Suddenly my nose started running and I couldn’t stop sneezing. It’s been like that for about 48 hours, although over-the-counter antihistamines are helping. (I did test for COVID-19, just in case, but I’m negative.)

What else happened during the big weekend besides sneezing and wheezing? My big purchase was an Internet radio — meaning a radio set up specifically to easily tune in Internet streams.

I’ve been skeptical of stand-alone Internet radios. For one thing, I doubted they were easy to use. For another, I doubted they really had access to a wide range of stations. And finally, as someone who really loves AM and FM radio, it seemed like cheating.

It seems odd for me to have those prejudices, considering I help run an Internet radio station, but my feeling was, it was easy to tune in Internet radio on a phone or laptop — who needs a special device?

Continue reading “Dispatches from Dayton”

Today’s show

A reminder that due to a scheduled power outage on the Carnegie Mellon University campus, today’s show is only on Tube City Online Radio. If y0u have a smart device such as an Amazon Echo, say “Play Tube City Online Radio,” or point your browser to www.tubecityonline.com/radio.

You can also find the station on TuneIn, Radio.Garden and other sites.

Today’s show is coming to you from Dayton Hamvention in Xenia, Ohio. It’s one of the largest conventions in the world for radio hobbyists, and we’ll be talking to people from Texas, Germany, Canada … and one guy from Greensburg, Pa. (No phone calls, though. We’re transcribed for release at this more convenient time.)

It’s all of Pittsburgh’s favorite oldies, plus news, sports and weather.

I was seriously thinking about hiding the receiver, when the switch broke ’cause it’s old

The experience that turned me into a radio ne’er-do-well happened when I was about 7 years old. Sony Walkmans were the hottest electronics item anyone could have. For my birthday, my grandparents … didn’t get me one. (A real Walkman wouldn’t have been an appropriate gift for a 7 year old anyway.)

Instead, they got me a tiny AM radio disguised as a Walkman, complete with headphones. My grandmother probably got it from Murphy’s Mart or Woolworth for $10 or $15.

I say it was probably from one of those stores, because if I remember correctly, it didn’t even have a brand-name. If it did, it was something like “Randix” or “Yorx.” (Amazon didn’t invent the practice of making up brand names from random combination of letters.)

The first night I had the radio, I tuned around the dial and to my astonishment, picked up CKLW in Windsor, Ontario. A radio that could tune Canada! From Pittsburgh! Then, I picked up KMOX in St. Louis! Another miracle! And WLS in Chicago!

Wow! I had a magic radio!

Continue reading “I was seriously thinking about hiding the receiver, when the switch broke ’cause it’s old”

CQ cartoon, May 2023

CQ Amateur Radio Magazine, May 2023 issue

This week, I’ll be headed to Dayton, Ohio — actually, Xenia, a little bit to the southeast — for the annual Dayton Hamvention, billed as the world’s largest gathering of amateur radio operators, or “hams.”

(My show this Saturday will be produced and broadcast from Hamvention, and I’ll be talking to some people at the convention. However, this week’s show will only be on Tube City Online Radio, because WRCT will be off the air due to a scheduled power outage on the Carnegie Mellon University campus. Plan your Saturday afternoon accordingly, ha ha.)

A lot of people think that “amateur radio” is what I do on Saturdays, but “ham radio” is not broadcasting — it’s transmitting messages from point-to-point, or from one person (or group of people) to another.

In fact, there are special frequencies set aside for amateur radio, and a license is required to use them. People with an amateur radio license are specifically prohibited from using those frequencies for “broadcasting” to the general public. (There’s nothing to stop you from listening to those transmissions, of course, but the person sending messages on those frequencies is not supposed to be sending them primarily for amusement or entertainment.)

Continue reading “CQ cartoon, May 2023”

I get all the news I need from the weather report

Beware of pink-slime news — it’s creeping into Pittsburgh and all over the country. (Spoiler alert: It’s probably already in your neighborhood)

A few items from Jay’s vast archive/fire hazard

A brief show note: This week’s show is live. Next week’s show will be partially pre-recorded from beautiful Dayton, Ohio, where I’ll be attending the annual Hamvention, one of the world’s largest amateur radio gatherings. (Or as my brother calls it, “the nerd convention.”)

I know a few people have been worried that the ongoing writers’ strike might affect my show, but if you’ve listened to my show even once, you know that no one is writing any of that crap.

Speaking of writing: I’m one of four co-authors on a new book called “American Deadline: Reporting from Four News-Starved Towns in the Trump Era.” You may actually hear me soon, being interviewed “on another network,” as they used to say.

As they used to say, “Check your local listings for times and stations.”

Or don’t. Try to find “local listings” any more. For that matter, try to find a newspaper. When the McKeesport Daily News closed at the end of 2015, it must have taken me two months before I no longer had the urge to stop at the store on the way home from work to buy a paper.

As you can see from the collection/archive/fire hazard above, although I worked for that newspaper for less than a year, it played a big role in my life.

I’ve had exchanges recently online with people who absolutely will not pay for news. They’re actually offended when someone posts a link to any publication that has a paywall: “Please don’t link to The Washington Post, I choose not to pay for content.”

It’s an odd flex. Try that with any other business and see how far you get. “I choose not to pay for plumbing repairs.” Well, enjoy wading neck-deep in feces.

Continue reading “I get all the news I need from the weather report”

Viewer discretion advised

First rule of Facebook Community Standards: You can’t talk about Facebook Community Standards

I got this press release and thought, “Wow, the Allegheny County Democrats really have the knives out for Bethany Hallam.”

I posted that comment to Facebook, and immediately got a “WARNING.”

“Your post goes against Facebook’s Community Standards and has been removed.”

I thought, well, maybe Facebook objects to the term “knife.”

In that case, I’d better not discuss any lighthearted mystery movies starring Daniel Craig, or Bryan Adams’ third studio album, or even Bobby Darin’s most famous song, “Mack the Violation of Facebook Community Standards.”

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Maisel tov

More than you ever cared to think about late-night TV during the era depicted in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”

Amazon Prime Video photo by Philippe Antonello

(SPOILER ALERT: Mild spoilers for Season 5 of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”)

On Friday, I wrote about historical anachronisms that bother me in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” including a “mic drop” last season and a Johnny Carson-clone this season called “The Gordon Ford Show.”

An alert reader messaged me on Facebook to say, “‘Mrs. Maisel’ also (used the term) ‘Friend of Dorothy,’ which wasn’t really used until the 1980s, and even if it were used in queer spaces, would (Midge) Maisel know it?”

In fairness, the writers of “Mrs. Maisel” couldn’t have used any of the actual 1960s euphemisms for being gay, because there would have been riots, not Emmy awards.

As a sidenote: I’ve been on a little bit of a kick lately looking up old 1970s episodes of “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” and the amount of casual homophobia in the monologues is astonishing. Carson frequently used gay and lesbian stereotypes as a punchline, often insinuating that targets of his jokes— including his bandleader “Doc” Severinsen — were gay.

(The Credibility Gap — the comedy troupe led by Richard Beebe, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer and the late David L. Lander — did a memorable and scathing parody of “The Tonight Show” called “Where’s Johnny?” that focused on Carson’s frequent use of gay jokes. It’s painful, but funny, and very close to the truth.)

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Out in the street a crowd is gatherin’

Empty items from a cluttered mind:

Today’s show is live and local, in the air everywhere over CMU’s very independent free-form WRCT-FM (88.3) and online at McKeesport’s www.tubecityonline.com/radio. I’ll be taking your requests from 12 to 3 p.m. at 412-385-7450.

Speaking of McKeesport, from where I do the show most weekends, someone asked me Friday morning “Why are you so committed to the Mon Valley?”

I said, “You’re right, I probably should be committed.”

On the other hand, I worked from the studio on Friday, and this was the view from my window, which wasn’t too shabby:

The creator of the fivethirtyeight.com website, political prognosticator Nate Silver, has been laid off by ABC News.

According to our models, there’s a 50-50 chance he didn’t see that coming.

Continue reading “Out in the street a crowd is gatherin’”