Good Times or Bad for Local Radio?

I’m still subscribed to the internal email list at WCBN despite no longer being an Ann Arborite. The CBN dj’s have a lot to say to each other about music and such. (I also still listen to the station regularly–there’s a lot of killer community radio out there, especially in Canada, but WCBN really is one of the greats.)

A news story was posted to the list regarding enormous cutbacks at the Clear Channel corporate media empire. That article posits that commercial radio may get even more homogenous, as local content gets further replaced by centrally manufactured generic noise. Clear Channel pioneered the remote dj, and if they need to, they could probably supply every town in America with something like music using an .mp3 playlist tied to the Billboard Top 20, and a text-to-speech program plugged into an ID3 tag parser and a feed of the weather service. More homogenization? Shudder.

But Jesse Walker, Reason Magazine editor and current WCBN dj suggested this alternate gloss on the news:

“There’s another way to look at this: Corporate radio empires are tottering as their consolidation binge proves less sustainable than expected. In addition to these cutbacks, Clear Channel has been trying to offload hundreds of stations for the last few years, as have several other chains.

It’s a bad time for experimentation right now — ask the former fans of Indie 103 FM (RIP) in LA — but that could change if those companies get more desperate to sell off their excess outlets and station prices start coming way down. By that time, granted, most of the creative people who in past years might have wanted to buy the licenses may have given up on radio and migrated to the Web.”

I sure hope so. Anyone want to buy a commercial radio station with me? The time is ripe.

Sometime in July the National Film Board opened up a test site for playing videos from their archives. There’s a lot of content, and much of it is feature length. It was all paid for by taxpayers back when it was made, so distributing it freely is exactly the right plan. There’s new stuff and old.

Video quality is excellent (multiple levels are available) and it’s embeddable, as above.

Publicly funded media is perpendicular to all worries about ownership and licensing and remixing and making sure there’s a profit transaction every time somebody look at it, and so on. The NFB and the CBC should be leveraging hell out of their archives, throwing it up on the web, getting it out of the vaults, giving people a chance to filter and tag and redistribute and build on it. This is a huge advantage that these public organizations have over their for-profit neighbours, and if they’re worried about their utility in some new information saturated age they should be exploiting it. Looks like the NFB is on it. CBC?


The wacky boys at Boing Boing Gadgets are doing “three days of fiction-based blogging”. Product of which is here. I regret that they took the time to explain the project, I was enjoying it even more before I had it categorized for me, but it’s still great stuff. There’s some real effort at play.

Judging from the comments on the only open thread so far, lots of people don’t appreciate having the flow of their gadget-information interrupted for mere art and humour and social commentary. They are threatening to go to other gadget blogs. Sounds like a good idea to me.

It’s a tough posture that Boing Boing Gadgets trys to maintain: simultaneously scorning consumerism while being a gadget blog. Reminds me of the fundamental dissonance at the heart of techno-utopian, post-WELL northern California. This looks like an effort to poke a finger into that chasm. Good O, Boing Boing Gadgets.

French Hensonian Gangsta Video

My boy Bertrand (of WCBN’s “The French Show”) brings our attention to this video clip:

It’s becoming common for me to link to Hensonian-based video. Jim’s lovingly executed imagery is timeless, as much a joy now as it was when I was a kid. As such, a palette for use and re-use and extension primitive and exquisite and everything in between. Here’s to you Jim. I’m throwing you my gang sign.

Dominoes Made of Dominoes Part II

I have nothing to say about the financial crisis, because I discover that as a heavy news reader who has scraped through classes on law, economics and complex systems, and even read some Galbraith on a bus once, I don’t have even first principles to judge what has just happened in the US financial system. The subject–the impenetrable interplay of financial “instruments”–is so inscrutable that any comprehensible narrative one tries to tease out of it by watching the shadows it casts on the wall seems to have more to do with what goes on in one’s own head than what goes on in the stock markets or boardrooms or policy lairs of the world. I just have no idea about where it came from, or what it means, or what should be done, or where it will go. All I’ve learned is that the people who presumably do have the expertise to deal with this, possibly don’t.

But everyone is telling one story or another about it all the same. And they usually boil down to public versus private, government versus market. Here’s a somehow rather heartening thought from commenter HH at Crooked Timber:

The left-right polarization over and private enterprise is overshadowed by the larger conflict between truth and lies. Both free market and planned economic systems can function with reasonable efficiency when operated with competence and integrity. Neither can function when overrun by thieves and liars.

America’s moon landing program and nuclear submarine projects were masterpieces of centrally planned, government sponsored endeavors. France’s nationally controlled nuclear power program achieved great success, while America’s privately managed nuclear power efforts stumbled. It is the animating vigor and functional integrity of a program that is the best predictor of success, not its ideological grounding.

To which I think I would add that we get a somewhat better chance at choosing thoughtful criteria for what ‘success’ means for public enterprises than for private.

Here’s an old-hand financial technician interviewed by Reason magazine people:

(Just incidentally, I’m tickled to note that the Reason blog linked to this little old website a few days back).

I don’t understand how he gets from some of his premises to some of his conclusions. But his central premise feels about right: nobody knows how to value these derivatives, which seem to have absorbed so much of the nations wealth and now may or may not even particularly exist as real entities in the real universe. The old bosses didn’t know how to value them, and the new bosses won’t either, once they’ve sunk so much more of the country’s treasure into getting a chance to try.

But we won’t admit to ourselves that we’re dealing with an uncertainty, will we? Instead we’ll talk ourselves into believing one thing or the other, and forge ahead on that basis.

A separate but related question: how does a country that can’t afford equitable education or health care keep finding hundreds of billions of dollars lying around when there’s a country to be invaded or a bank to be bought out? Where does all this money come from? And why wasn’t it there before?

Grocery Shopping

Big-box grocery shopping induces a powerful melancholy paranoia. I suppose that’s because I’m being intensely second-guessed while I’m doing it, and the results of that second-guessing suggest sad things about me. Or maybe it’s something else.

Libertarians on our Radio

Reason Magazine is a bunch of infuriatingly cocky libertarian wonks, who write well and are generally convincing despite being fundamentally wrong about life and everything. They’re charmers by and large, living out their Heinlein-goes-to-Washington boy (and girl)hood fantasy lives in print.

Jesse Walker is managing editor for Reason. He lives in Baltimore, but according to his blog, last Thursday he covered a slot on WCBN. I’m sorry I missed that, I guess I was in Chicago. It seems he was a student and dj here back in the ambiguous day and this was a triumphalist return.

For fun, here’s what libertarian turbo-intellectuals sound like when they play music and talk into a microphone:

Audio: [audio:]

Sounds good. Go figure. Playlist included in Walker’s blog post.

Update: if I’d read some of Jesse’s other blog posts, I would have realized that he is living in Ann Arbor for a while, and has a regular Thurs. 12-3p show. The posted audio is just the first episode. Right on.

The Meaning of “Wanagan” to Wisconsinite Loggers

The Wisconsin Historical Society maintains an online dictionary of Wisconsin history. According to that resource, the word “wanagan” had several different uses in the context of Wisconsinite historical logging:

“1. Where the camp stores are kept. 2. The payroll charges for such goods. 3. In Wisconsin it was also the cook’s raft which went down the river behind the logs. It was tied to a tree on shore overnight. 4. Wherever camp was made on a river-drive and the men paid Same as ark, shanty-boat.”

None of those are close to the meaning I was searching for. Here’s another slightly different version again.

The Name Adolph in America

According to NameVoyager, which is a visualizer based on US Census data, the name “Adolph” was in decline from as early as 1880, which is the earliest for which data is shown. By the 1970s, it was no longer in the top 1000. But, and here’s the odd thing, in the 1940s there was a noticeable decrease in its rate of decline.

See it in more useful detail here.

Popularity of names starting with ADOLPH


The Canonical Father Ted Priest List

Rest easy, here’s a list of all the priests to appear or even be mentioned in the television series Father Ted.

From “Priests we merely hear about”:

# Father Kiernan who apparently told lots of stories, was chubby and jolly, and shot himself (CT)
# Father Clippit does a good long Mass. Three hours on a good night. Since his stroke. (AGCW)
# Father Jimmy Ranable, a pupil of Jack’s many years ago, who subsequently perpetrated the Drumshanbo massacre. (GUHER)
# Father Jez Flatham, a former acquaintance of Ted’s who now makes $50,000 a year lap-dancing, apparently. (ACT)
# Father Buzz Dolan, former winner of the Golden Cleric award who moved to Canada and got a part in the new Bond film. (ACT)

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