Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Death of the Republican Party

The events of the past 24 hours just show how out of touch the Republican Party is with the vast majority of Americans. It's not just the swift kick in the balls Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter delivered to the GOP, it's something much more. It's the events on the floor of the U.S. Senate and the attacks on Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, President Obama's pick to be the Health and Human Services Secretary.

Sebelius is your typical Kansas Democrat. She's a moderate through and through. Nothing about her speaks "liberal." Oh, but hold on, she's pro-choice. So that makes her "The Devil" with the Sarah Palin crowd. Palin's PAC has been leading the charge to defeat the nomination of Sebelius. She was confirmed today in a 65 to 31 vote. This vote was all about abortion.

Ten years ago she would have been confirmed unanimously. But the Ayatollahs of the Christian right now control what's left of the Republican Party. The GOP is no sense a national party anymore. When the call goes out to strike down a classy candidate like Sebelius they go out goosestepping like a bunch of loyal SS goons swallowing whatever bile Limbaugh, Palin or Cheney have decided to dispense this week.

The party of great Republicans like Dole, Kassebaum, Baker, Dirksen, and Goldwater is dead. The implosion just takes your breath away.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Together Through Life

Like a little ray of sunshine Bob Dylan's latest offering came in the mail this afternoon. I've been down suffering with the flu for five days now. So the new music brought some much needed relief. "Together Through Life" is Dylan's first release of original material since the 2006 release of the critically acclaimed "Modern Times."

It's a mish-mash of Zydeco-Texican-Dylan. Lyrically it pales to "Modern Times" but there are some really great tunes on this disc. The music is what holds this effort together. From the opening bars of "Beyond Here Lies Nothin' " you know that Dylan is taking on a different journey. Some of my other favorites are "If You Ever Go to Houston," "Forgetful Heart," "Jolene," and "I Feel a Change Comin On." That last tune feels like the clock had been turned back 30 years with The Band backing Dylan up. This song could have easily been culled from "Planet Waves."

It's a remarkable thing to get a new album from Dylan so close to the release of "Modern Times." Since 1990 this is only his fifth album of originals. Given some of the truly mediocre music that Dylan made in the late 1980's the quality of his work over the last decade and a half never ceases to amaze me. No, his voice isn't pretty, but listen to his words, listen to the weariness in his delivery, to the emotion. The man is a genius and we're lucky enough to have lived through the period when he walked the earth. It's a shame his summer tour isn't coming close to Florida. It's time to see the man live again.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Dark Eyes

"But I feel nothing for their game where beauty goes unrecognized,
All I feel is heat and flame and all I see are dark eyes."
Bob Dylan

Roxana Saberi has gone on a hunger strike. Iran's crazy president is promising to keep her unscathed in prison. And I fear it will be several more weeks before this wonderful journalist will return to her prairie home in North Dakota.

I get the feeling now that the State Department is putting all of its muscle into resolving this delicate standoff. I'm hoping the guilty verdict against Saberi for spying is just a ploy by Iranians to work out an exchange for some of their people captured in Iraq by our military.

This brings me to the whole mess in the middle east and the prickly situation over torture. Torture is wrong. It goes against everything the United States of America stands for. A lot of people try and justify its use because of the heinous nature of the 9/11 attacks. It's hogwash. Lets look at the British. At the height of "The Blitz," their version of 9/11, Great Britain didn't torture the hundreds of German spies it captured during the war.

The soldiers of Abu Ghraib should have never been punished for their acts. Neither should the CIA operatives who engaged in the practice. The people who deserved to be punished are those that twisted our laws and ignored our treaty obligations to justify this inhuman treatment of prisoners. Let's start with Jay Bybee and John Yee and go all the way up to Rumsfeld, Cheney and Bush.

Unfortunately, President Obama is probably going to be forced into a corner by granting some pardons. Hopefully this chapter will help roll back the overreaching power grab of the executive branch orchestrated by Cheney. Congress needs to reassert its role as a co-equal branch of government.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Czarina Tells a Story in Pictures

This happy family gathered to enjoy a morning in the Southwest Florida sun.

But Mama is easily distracted when it comes to watching her baby

Little does she know that a predator is lurking nearby

Snack time, the snake begins her meal

She opens wide so her treat goes down easily.

After lunch its time to relax in the sun and digest her meal.

But here comes trouble...

Rudy wants to play with his new friend.

But after a short chase into a corner, Rudy finds the friend isn't so friendly.

So it's off to Rudy's favorite outdoor pursuit, eating grass.

And after a quick bite it's time to go exploring.

Meanwhile yard work is taking a turn for the worse.

A clip here, a clip there...

And the stress of it all turns to terror.

The unhappy husband returns to his toil.

When suddenly he spots another potential victim.

Success... one fat cat up a tree!

But as with any story we have a happy ending!

Saturday, April 18, 2009


I cannot begin to explain how utterly sad I am right now. Iran found Roxana Saberi guilty of spying and sentenced her to eight years in prison. The United States government bares a lot of responsibility for this mess. Its hostile attitude toward the Iranian government for the last 30 years is behind this verdict. We supported a terrible tyrant in Saddam Hussein in his war against the Iranians. This foreign policy debacle began even before this with our support of a horrible dictator in Shah Mohamed Reza Pahlavi.

It was a different time in U.S. foreign policy when we openly supported dicators like the Shah, Hussein, Noreiga, and Duarte. During my four years at the University of Kansas I can remember the abject terror visited upon the Iranian students that were my classmates. They feared the Shah's secret police called Savak. I can remember a huge fight breaking out just outside one of my classes between two Savak agents and some Iranian students.

Then the buffoon who occupied the White House, Jimmy Carter, failed to realize the threat that the Ayatollah Khomeini posed to the Shah. Before he knew it the Shah was in exile and a bunch of religious nutjobs that hated the United States were controlling the country. Then the hostage crisis erupted and the rest is history.

We learned to forgive Vietnam and its people in less than a generation but we couldn't do the same with the Iranians. It's a shame. I see glimmers of hope. This week's news of the loosening of relations with Cuba, something that should have happened 10 years ago with the end of the Cold War.

But let's get back to the matter at hand. Say your prayers for Roxana. Pray that our government can find a fix for this horrendous mess and bring a good woman home to her family.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Take This Job and Shove It

After 29 years of working in television news I moved into the world of public relations. I'm doing things that I would have never considered necessary to the job. Such as the scene in the photo above. We have these banners with safety messages sitting along a stretch of I-75 between Fort Myers and Naples. A strong wind came along and pulled one of these banners down.

Without thinking I decided to give one of our inspectors an assist up the fence to try and re-hang the banner. Unfortunately my workmate decided it was a great photo opportunity. It took only a second to realize the folly of our efforts and we returned later with a ladder. The photograph made it onto our "Wall of Shame." It's a collage made up mostly of inspectors getting their trucks stuck out in the work zone.

I shall exact my revenge. You see there was this time when we needed a horse and. . . well I show you the results later.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I am McLovin

One of my guilty pleasures are movies aimed at teenagers. I love movies like "American Pie," "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," and "Fast Times at Ridgemont High." Last year my work colleague and I went to "Super Bad" for a little male bonding. The more times I see it, the more I appreciate its vulgarity and tastelessness. It's tough talking the Czarina into seeing this kind of movie although once in a while she'll break down and go. For example she liked "American Pie" but it's like pulling her teeth to get her to the theatre.

She's more likely to catch a movie like "Tropic Thunder," "Old School," or "Wedding Crashers." Her all-time favorite is the subtle yet classic "Office Space." She even had a work colleague that she dubbed "Red Stapler."

Reality Bites

The summer of 1974 was a challenge. I wanted to be a walk on for the cross country team at Kansas. That meant getting in a summer of good training to rebuild the base I had lost from my various illnesses I suffered through my senior year of high school. But I also needed to work a summer job to earn enough money to go to college. I lacked the discipline to do both.

Work caused my running to suffer. Icouldn't make myself do the 50 to 60 miles a week to rebuild my strength. Instead I ended getting in at best 30 miles per week. My speed was good, my endurance was horrible. It became painfully clear during the first week of practice with the team at Kansas. It was one of those infamous journeys in the back of Coach Bob Timmons pick up truck out to some forlorn spot in the country. After getting dropped off we were to run the ten miles back to campus.

I should have gotten out of the truck at eight miles with an out of shape George Mason and a group of middle distance runners but I was determined to show Timmie I was made of sterner stuff. I was quickly dropped from the group and struggled all the way back into Lawrence. The workouts got more and more difficult. After two or three weeks I looked forward to Tuesday's and Wednesday's, the easy days of six to eight mile runs. I never ran in the morning which was supposed to be part of the equation. I simply didn't have the strength to run twice and day and go to school.

It was on a fateful Wednesday afternoon about six weeks into the season that I made the mistake of getting into the back of Timmie's pick up missing out on the last of a series of repeat two miles over the hills north of Lawrence. The following afternoon coach told me to come back when I was in shape. Now I had been warned by my teammates that such transgressions would raise Timmons' ire. But I had seen various teammates quit workouts over the previous two weeks with no consequences. Catching the blade came as a shock, especially given the fact that out of the 18 or so runners we had on the team, I had finished 10th in both time trials.

I kept running with Kent McDonald who was red shirting that fall. Kent had broken an arm over the summer and was trying to get back into shape. About a month into our training regiment I got a nasty case of strep throat and that was all she wrote. My grades were suffering and I simply didn't see the point.

By the beginning of the second semester at KU I had put in 20 pounds and couldn't have been happier. I continued to run at my leisure, two to four miles, three or four days a week. I even tried my first marathon that spring at the Kansas Relays. Running beside an old childhood friend Kirk Duncan, I made it through the first 18 miles at seven minute pace without a problem. But then I hit the wall and struggled back to the stadium to finish in 3:14:15.

Throughout college I ran the occasional road race now and then and even made it through another marathon my junior year hitting the finish line in 2:57:14. Not bad for 20 miles a week training. It even brought a smile to the man who had left me heart broken, Coach Bob Timmons. He had a team of runners at this particular race, each runners had already finished. But he was still standing there when I crossed the line. I could tell he was surprised to see me. Timmie smiled and gave me a well done. It's hard to describe what his simple acknowledgment meant to me. But it would be nearly a decade before I would run a faster marathon.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Super Steve

Rink Clay Schmitty
Moving back to Lawrence, Kansas at 14 years of age was like being reborn. Growing up in Abilene was a fantastic experience. It was everything you dream of small town America being. But by the time you've hit adolescence, growing up in a community where everybody pretty much knows everybody else can be a drag.

So my running career resumed at South Junior High under Coach Ralph Wedd. Disciplinarian wouldn't even begin to describe Coach Wedd. He was a frightening, menacing man, who told me I couldn't be a great runner without learning to run on my toes. So I spent that winter learning to run up on my toes. I had a measure of success that spring, winning a couple of races and setting a school record in the mile. But the training was ridiculous compared to what I had done the previous fall at Abilene High School

The formula called for plenty of interval training. I got intervals in Abilene and more intervals when I moved to Lawrence. I can remember running intervals the first day of cross country practice for Steve Sublett. Super Steve or "Coach Roach" as we liked to teasingly call him. Coach Sublett was a gregarious man. He would look me over at the beginning of a workout and say, "Rinkenbaugh, I've seen better bodies in a morgue." I could understand, being 5 foot 10 inches and all of 125 pounds.

We worked hard but we were never very good. It's not to say that Coach Sublett wasn't a good coach. He had a handful of great runners like Kent McDonald and Doug Peterson during his tenure at Lawrence High. But he wasn't a screamer or authoritarian in any way. He wanted us to develop a lifelong passion for running. For that I thank him. He also talked me into running heel toe as God had meant me to. Amazingly the week I went back to my old way of running I dropped my two mile PR by 32 seconds from 10:21.0 to 9:49.5 my sophomore year in high school.
Part of my problem during high school is that I worried more about beating my teammates than I did about beating competitors at the other schools. I just worried about being #1, the top dog. It really wasn't conducive to good training or good racing. I was too young, too stupid, and too immature to grasp what running and competing was all about.

I enjoyed some success. I went to state. I beat some quality runners during my three years at LHS, and after good sophomore and junior years of track I was looking forward to great things going into my senior year. I had enjoyed a great summer of training. I was lucky because two of my training partners were outstanding runners.

Kent McDonald was an All American at Kansas in the steeplechase. He finished second in the nation at the AAU nationals in 1975 and ran at the 1976 Olympic Trials. Kent still holds the KU school record in the steeple. Heck, Kent still has the Lawrence High 2 mile/3200 meter record.

Like Kent, Doug Schreve was a Lawrence High grad who attended Pittsburg State. Doug was an outstanding miler, running the metric equavilent of a 4:06 mile in college. Between the two of them, I'd get worked over like a rented mule.

But my dreams of senior success came crashing down due in part because of one workout. I was in great shape and it was the week before our first meet. I had picked up a minor stomach virus the weekend before that meet and went to Monday's practice just completely whipped. I warmed up and told Super Steve I wasn't up for the practice, our toughest to date, consisting of 20 quarters. After much begging and cajoling from coach to run just one quarter I did. I felt like complete crap but after a little more coach begging to do just one more I consented and ran one more quarter.

Suddenly I felt like a world beater and breezed through the rest of the workout without a thought. I remember the feeling I had to this day. I felt great, ran great, and pulverized a lot of my teammates. By the end I was exhausted but proud of getting through the grueling workout. That night after dinner the wheels came off. I became deathly ill. I ran a fever, wheezed, coughed, and missed three days of school.

I went back to class on Friday feeling less than stellar but knowing we had a meet that day and knowing full well I was the favorite to win. So on a cool, damp, September afternoon I ran a cross country race in Manhattan, Kansas. I led for the first mile and suddenly it was if there was nothing left in the tank. I faded over the final mile finishing 13th.

Now for some reason Super Steve had decided that this year we would run back to back meets. So on Saturday morning we headed off to Wamego, where the year before I had finished 3rd. We had never run back to back meets. It's really insane. It was a repeat of Friday's performance. I led through the mile and slowly faded and finished 13th.
I felt like crap and by that night I was sick again.

I had picked up a nasty lung infection with stayed with me for the next five months. The doctors could never figure it out. I can remember running and spitting up blood. It seemed like every time I tried to start getting miles in my lungs would seize up. I didn't start to feel like myself until late spring of the following year.

By then my conditioning was suspect and my attitude was worse. It's embarrassing now to think of how full of self-pity I was at the time. I simply wasn't mature enough to pull myself up by the bootstraps and do the kind of mileage I needed to do to rebuild my strength.

The dreams of a scholarship to run at a four year college were gone. Despite the disappointments, my love of running remained. And I was determined to give it one more go at the University of Kansas.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

In the Beginning

I started running 40 years ago. I was too skinny for football, not quite coordinated enough for basketball, but determined enough to try my hand at distance running. Growing up in the small town of Abilene, Kansas, I enjoyed a steady diet of the exploits of Jim Ryun. I can remember in particular watching a documentary on KAKE TV about Ryun, thus I was inspired to become a miler. I can remember running laps in a large field situated next to my elementary school. I would run eight to ten loops of the field figuring that was about a mile.

I didn't actually go out for track until my eighth grade year. The only problem was the longest distance was a 440. But I was not dissuaded. I would occasionally talk a teammate into a hard 880 and once ran a full mile against one of my friends. As I recall I clocked in at a shade over six minutes. It was a fun experience. I tried a little bit of everything that spring from hurdles to the pole vault. By the end of the season I was actually decent at running a quarter mile. I missed out on making the team for the last meet of the season by one spot.

The whole running thing didn't click until my neighbor, Greg Morgenson, talked to me about running cross country. I think Greg, two years older than me, was hoping to snag a training partner, which he did. It wasn't much in the summer of 1970, mostly two and three mile runs. But we were consistent, running five days a week. Greg was a very good runner and showed nothing but patience and encouragement to me.
Greg Morgenson 1972

Greg with the help of a great coach, Bob Chatham, introduced me to a book, which helped me understand what I was getting into and why. It was called "The Long Green Line," written by greatest high school cross country coach ever, Joe Newton. The book laid out the hard work, the commitment to team, and the fun that running cross country could bring. Newton's team the York Dukes not only ranks tops in Illinois year in and year out but is considered a national power. Chatham used it as a basis to build a very successful cross country program at Abilene. My freshman year the Cowboys took third at state.

It was a difficult time, that freshman year at Abilene. My mother was in the process of getting a divorce and moving the family back to Lawrence. I actually made the varsity squad for the first meet of the season at Wamego. It was a huge invitational with nearly 100 runners at the starting line. It was a muddy day but I somehow survived and finished in the top 40, the top freshman in the race and was the sixth man on a seven man team that finished second that day.

Our next meet was a casualty of a freak September snow storm, global warming anyone? But that was that. I had decided to make the move to Lawrence. I could have stayed with my grandmother and finished the semester and been part of a great cross country team, but I had grown weary of living in a small town, where everybody knew everybody else's business.

I don't regret the decision to move. I went back to Wamego for the state meet that fall and watched my teammates win a trophy with pride and satisfaction knowing that in some small sense I had contributed to the team. Greg moved away to Lincoln, Nebraska the following year, where he became a state champion in the mile. He will always hold a special place in my heart for helping a young runner learn what it takes to strive for success.

Roxana Update

The Iranian government has finally come out and charged Roxana Saberi with spying. The Iranians claim that she was carrying out spying activities under the guise of a reporter. Iran is also claiming that Roxana is an Iranian citizen. That's a pretty big whopper considering she was born in the United States.

Roxana's father is Iranian, her mother is Japanese. Both parents are now in Iran and have visited their daughter at the notorious Evin prison. According to news reports, both parents have met with their daughter and have found her in good spirits. Reza Saberi says he plans to stay in Iran until this mess gets sorted out.

Remember this remarkable woman in your prayers. Here's hoping that Roxana is home soon.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Keeping it in perspective

Few things thrill me more than seeing a high school distance runner work hard and achieve some measure of success. Just across my neighborhood lives a coach who in the six years that I've been here has had two unbelievably talented runners in his program. Jeff Sommers is a great high school coach as well as being a top flight masters competitor.

When I first moved here he had a runner, Bona Jones. She ended up being a Footlocker finalist and finished second at the junior nationals in cross country in 2007. Bona went to North Carolina State where injuries have slowed her down.

Now Jeff's coaching a young runner I've mentioned before on this blog, Erick Montoya. Erick's made his mark his first two years in the 3200. A couple of weeks ago Jeff told me he was hoping that Montoya was ready for a fast 1600 at the Florida Relays. He was. Erick clocked a 4:15.47, a personal best by more than ten seconds over the weekend. Given his fast times in the 3200, I'd like to think that Erick is looking at breaking 9 minutes in the next two years. He's just a junior.

So is a young man who will remain nameless that has already made a name for himself in cross country in the Sunflower State. Some of you may guess the name of this individual. His father was a very dear friend in high school and college. Somehow he's managed to raise a star athlete who appears to have kept the priorities in order. I don't know how he's done it.

His son is a very good runner, even better academically, and has excelled in other pursuits outside of running. I can't begin to state how much I admire what this father has done with and for his son and his other children as well. He's proud of his boy's accomplishments to be sure, but my impression from afar is that he's not trying to push him one way or the other. The restraint is remarkable. I don't think if I had raised a budding star, I could have kept my perspective.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Fork in the Road Part 2

The CD/DVD arrived in the mail today so I thought I should give an update on my impressions. Normally my first thoughts of a new Neil disc are not very good and this is much the same. I hated Mirror Ball the first time I heard it but now it's one of my favorites.

A few of the ten songs stick out to me. Namely, "Just Singing a Song, "Johnny Magic," "Cough Up the Bucks," and "Light a Candle." It's going to take a few more listens. The DVD is a must simply for the video of Neil singing "A Day in the Life" at a concert in Calgary last year. It's awesome!

I loved "Living with War." It was so raw and emotional and was a great snapshot of what Bush was putting the country through. Neil's attempted to take another snapshot with "Fork in the Road." Much like the photo on the album cover the shot is a little fuzzy and shaky, and that would match my first take on this CD. But what else would you expect from Neil. This country is a little fuzzy and shaky right now. It's not his worst by any means. I'm sure some of these songs will stick with me in ways that I haven't yet dreamt.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Fork in the Road

One of my favorite artists, if not my favorite artist, Neil Young, is about to release a new album called "Fork in the Road." It sounds like it's a take on the latest economic woes facing this great nation. Neil's been busy in the last nine years. This will be his seventh album of original material since 2000. That's an amazing amount of material in this day and age. Of course critics complain that some of his material is less than stellar but I disagree. I enjoy the dialogue that Neil is having with albums like "Are You Passionate", "Greendale", "Living with War", and now "Fork in the Road."

I thought I would list my 10 favorite Neil Young albums and why.

1. After the Goldrush: It's an amazing record from the aching beauty of "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" and "Birds" to the hostility of "Southern Man." I fell in love with this record when I was 15 or 16 years old. My oldest sister had it and I started listening to it on a whim. I couldn't stop listening. A lot of the songs dialed in on my teenage angst.
2. Silver and Gold: I don't know what it is about this CD but I keep coming back to it again and again. I love putting on the DVD of the concert and zoning out while watching it in bed. It just grabbed me from the opening song "Good to See You" all the way through to "Distant Camera" and Razor Love."
3. Freedom: This album put Neil back on the map after some less than stellar efforts in the early 1980's. "Rockin in the Free World" is a classic but I dig so many other tunes off this disc. "El Dorado" is a particular favorite, after all how many times do you hear castanets on a Neil Young song. And then there's "No More". His performance of "No More" on Saturday Night Live may be the best rock out ever on live television. Number two might well be Neil's performance of "RITFW" with Pearl Jam on MTV more than a decade ago.
4. Rust Never Sleeps: This record capped an incredible decade of music for Neil Young in the 197o's. Songs like "Pochantas" and "Powderfinger" stand the test of time. "Hey, Hey, My, My (Into the Black) has aged well and remains one of his classic rockers. This album is the mirror to "Freedom" much like "Harvest" is to "Harvest Moon" "Rust" showed that he could still rock.
5. Ragged Glory: This was a magnificent follow up to "Freedom." It's great simply for "Love and Only Love", "Over and Over" and "Love to Burn." It's Neil thrashing with Crazy Horse at its best.
6. Harvest: Neil says he headed into the ditch after making this album. It's probably the best produced record he ever made. Songs like "Heart of Gold" and "Old Man" are timeless. For tenderness I still enjoy "A Man Needs a Maid" as much as anything he's ever done.
7. Everybody Knows This is Nowhere: Three of his best compositions grace this record. "Cinnamon Girl"is great even if it boasts a one note solo. I never grow tired of the two epics, "Down By the River" and "Cowgirl in the Sand."
8. Mirror Ball: I'm sure Neil fans everywhere are howling right now. I just like this record. Pearl Jam is just great and the songs all work. "I'm the Ocean" and "Throw Your Hatred Down" are just flat out great tunes.
9. Zuma: It's a fun record. I enjoy the country tinged rockers on this album. Of course there is the all time classic "Cortez the Killer" which holds this record together. I know he's made better records than this but this is one I listened to over and over again.
10. Tonight's the Night: I probably listen to "Sleeps With Angels" or "Comes A Time" more, because I have to be in the right mood for this album. It's the haziest, booze injected record ever made in my opinion. It's the after taste in my mouth after an all night beer fest. It reminds me of why I'm glad I don't do those things anymore.

Before I wrap this up I know that there are a few of you out there that are screaming over how I could leave "Harvest Moon" off this list. It's simple. I never really liked the album. The songs are beautiful, but when it comes to acoustic Neil, "Silver and Gold", "Harvest", "Comes A Time" and even "Prairie Wind" are more to my liking. I know it's wrong on so many levels because "Harvest Moon" marked a second comeback for Neil much like "Freedom" did a few years before it.

Finally I want to mention three of my favorite Neil songs not on any of these albums. First there's the opus "Ordinary People." For years I had to listen to a decent live bootleg version of this song. Why he waited more than 15 years to release this song is beyond me. You can find it on "Chrome Dreams II." Then there's "Change Your Mind." This is another Neil opus penned in response to the death of Kurt Cobain. This haunting tune is on "Sleeps With Angels." Finally there's the simple "Interstate." Again this is a song I first heard as a live bootleg that he did with his country band The International Harvesters. This song can be found on a German CD with another great song called "Big Time." This version is a complete 180 from the bootleg version but I still love it.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Fargo is the center of the universe

My assignment editor at KVLY TV Julie Holgate used to proclaim that Fargo is the nexus. Everything eventually comes back to this city on the Red River.

The last two months certainly seems to give weight to that theory. Roxana Saberi remains in an Iranian prison. News regarding her situation has been scant.

The city of Fargo is expecting the Red River to hit a second record crest. The community barely survived the first round of flooding last week. A lot of areas south of Fargo/Moorhead suffered but the two cities so far have survived the high waters.

Finally there's the matter of Ed Schultz. When I worked at KVLY, Ed was the host of an extremely popular local radio program called News and Views. I had the pleasure of being a guest of Ed's on more than a couple of occasions. In fact I recall substituting for Ed once. Ed had the ability to get people talking and to piss people off.

The show aired on KFGO AM, probably one of the best local commercial radio stations in the United States. The popularity of the program was such that the ad rates charged for News and Views rivaled the rates for the local TV news programs. That's unheard of.

Ed was an old TV sportscaster. About a year before I left Fargo our popular longtime sports anchor Dan Hammer, yeah it's a great name for a sports guy, decided to move into radio sales. Ironically he took a job with the same ownership group as KFGO. It didn't take long for Ed to begin nosing around about the possibility of returning to TV as Dan's replacement.

My GM and I actually went to lunch to Ed to hear what he was proposing. Ed wanted to keep doing his radio program and just anchor sports. The idea had some merit given Ed's high profile. The problem we needed a sports director who could do much more than just anchor so the idea never really captured our hearts. I think Ed's found his spot. I'll be interested to see how the nation embraces Ed's brand of populism.