Thursday, April 29, 2010

Say What!?!

Anyone that knows me knows that above all I love two musicians, Bob Dylan and Neil Young. These two men are without a doubt the greatest singer/songwriters of the last 100 years. The news I read today was like a bolt from the blue. Neil has decided to work with a producer that I credit with pulling Dylan out a musical funk that nearly made him irrelevant.

Daniel Lanois produced Dylan's 1997 epic "Time Out of Mind" which captured three Grammy awards. He also produced 1989's "Oh Mercy" with Dylan when Bob's career had really hit the skids. The above video is a promo song for that album which is one of my favorite tracks called "Most of the Time."

Lanois is best known for his work with a band that probably has to rank as my favorite, U2. Lanois helped turned the Irish quartet into a world wide phenomenon when he worked with Bono and the boys on "The Joshua Tree." He has since helped on many of their later albums.

Neil has had only one great producer in his career that captured the essence of his persona, the late David Briggs. Now Young is teaming up with Lanois on a release to be called "Twisted Road." I simply can't wait to hear the results. Neil has made some wonderful albums the last 15 years, "Silver and Gold" and "Prairie Wind" are true diamonds. But he hasn't hit one out of the park, say in the vein of "Freedom" or "Harvest Moon." Here's hoping for some wonderful music and perhaps a much deserved Grammy for this Canadian crooner!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Enumerator

I'm about halfway through training to be an enumerator. What's that you may wonder? An enumerator does the leg work for the U.S. Census. Tomorrow I will get to hit the streets and start banging on doors, trying to find out why residents didn't return their census forms. The test runs in a neighborhood not far from where I live will show my supervisor if I have the right stuff. If today's practice sessions were any indication I should be in good shape.

Census training as a whole is a breeze. Most of it is common sense stuff but as with anything related to our government, the amount of acronyms for this job is mind boggling. I've learned what PII means along with NRFU and I am studying up on initials like HU and AA and no I'm not talking about 12 step meetings.

This part-time gig is supposed to last a couple of months but with all the manpower we have for our part of town I can't imagine this dragging out for more than a month. I'm not terribly worried about running into any anti-government yahoo's. If they refuse to cooperate it's really not my problem. So while an enumerator may not be as call as a terminator, that's fine with me. Here's to a lot of peace, love and understanding as I roam the streets of Lee County in the coming weeks.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Wizard, A True Star

I've been pulling out old music and giving it a listen lately. One of the discs that hit the CD player was a Todd Rundgren album from 1973 called, "A Wizard, A True Star." Rundgren was something of a wunderkind from the late 1960's. He churned out some catchy rock tunes in the 1970's and by the 1980's had faded to obscurity.

The above song is one of my all time favorites called "Just One Victory." Rundgren was a great all round musician, a great producer, and a musical innovator. I had the luck to see him during his prime at old Hoch Auditorium when I was in college. It was the loudest rock and roll concert I ever attended. The loudness, unfortunately, distracted from the music.

Rundgren is out touring a beginning to end version of "A Wizard, A True Star." Give it a listen or better still buy his greatest hits discs. He's worth a listen.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Beginning of a Great Adventure?

I am recovering from a whirlwind trip.  Eight months ago, I lost my job in public information, through no fault of my own. Despite this personal setback I enjoyed the experience because I loved helping people get the information they needed.  But, early on in this new profession, I realized I missed the newsroom.

I started working in television in 1974, becoming a real "professional" in May of 1978, when Ridge Shannon hired me as a newsroom production assistant at KMBC TV in Kansas City.  I worked in newsrooms around the country until January 2006.  Television news, for me, has always been about a good story well told.  I could care a less about covering murders, fires, or car accidents, which unfortunately, have become a staple at most television stations.  The last station I would worked at would abandon good stories to go cover murder or worse still some inconsequential mayhem just so they could scream "BREAKING NEWS!"  Journalism was an afterthought.

There are more than a few newsrooms left in the country that still try to cover news that really matters to the communities they serve.  I was fortunate to visit one such newsroom on Monday to interview for a job.  The Internet and social media has dramatically reshaped the process of news gathering in the last few years.  But they are simply new tools just as ENG was when I started in this business and a few years later when satellite trucks came into vogue and then the introduction of computers.

I've got another dozen or so years left to make a difference in a work environment.  I've been lucky to work in some great news operations and fortunate in a weird way to work in some dysfunctional newsrooms to see what not to do.  I'm excited and hope to get a chance to bring my old school experience into a setting that is working and succeeding at implementing the new school tools.  

Saturday, April 17, 2010

On the Radio

It took me more than two years of applying, but late in the summer before my senior year of college KLWN AM hired me.  I had applied for every job imaginable.  I ended up with the Saturday afternoon air shift from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. followed by the 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. air shift on Sunday mornings, the shift from hell.

The station was owned by the Booth family.  The old man, Arden, was pretty salty.  His only contribution was poetry that he would record and that we played from time to time.  The segment was called "Poetic License."  To say his contribution to the daily broadcasts were awful would be an understatement.

Then there was his son, Hank.  He was the general manager and I think he hated the job.  Max Rife, a former assistant principal at Lawrence High once described Hank as a block off the old chip.  Hank was a rather large man while his father was slim and trim.

The one think Hank loved was doing play by play for Lawrence High football.  I had worked in proximity to Hank's football broadcasts for the last three years while working for Sunflower Cablevision.  Hank would turn manic during his play by play, sometimes thrashing about the press box like a deranged dog, shouting so loud into the microphone that a radio wasn't always a necessity to pick up the broadcast.  He would cry and wail for his beloved Lawrence Lions.

The AM station was a money maker but the FM station, which played AOR, raked in the cash.  You couldn't tell it by the station's decor.  It was in pretty shabby condition.  Amazingly when I returned to work at the station during my years as a grad student nothing had changed.  Not even the carpet.

I worked with some wonderful people at KLWN.  There was Bob Newton, the beleaguered operations manager, Dale Martens, an all round nice guy in the newsroom, and then there was "Big Blue" Bob Neu.  Bob and I did Lawrence High basketball together.  More on that in a moment.  Our first sports broadcast we did was from atop a crow's nest overlooking the football field at Wamego.  It was a high school playoff game pitting McLouth against Wamego.  Bob was a big guy.  The two of us had to climb a rickety ladder and crowd into the crow's nest with a coordinator from the McLouth football team.  It was crowded, cold, and scary.

The basketball season was amazing because it was the first year that Bob Frederick, the late, great K.U. athletic director, coached the Lions.  I've never seen a team work and hustle so hard.  The team was the embodiment of scrappy.  I had gotten to knew Frederick, running with him time to time.  The last game Bob Neu and I covered that year was on a late winter night in Hutchinson.  The Lions were trying to play their way into the state tournament.  The drive was an icy nightmare of with all manner of vehicles lining the highway ditches.  Unfortunately the Lions fell short and our season was over.

Then there was the shift from hell.  Getting up at 5:30 a.m. every Sunday morning was a challenge for a college senior with an active Saturday night social life.  I would often go to work on two hours sleep and reeking of alcohol.  By the spring I had added an internship at KMBC on Sundays that required me to be at the TV station at 2 p.m.  So I worked from 6 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. on Sundays.

The Sunday shift had its own set of peculiarities.  It required the operator to run both the FM and AM stations simultaneously.  Part of it involved running back and forth between the studios, some of the programming could be run out of the FM studio through a crazy maze of patch panels that allowed the DJ to run both stations and air local church services.  You could listen to the FM side through one side of your headset and the AM side through the other side.

On one particular Sunday the headset was broken.  But I somehow forgot about the malfunctioning headset by about 11 a.m. when it was time to patch in the Plymouth Congregational service.  I had dutifully opened my microphone and had given the station ID and patched in the Plymouth service and heard nothing.  I patched and repatched still hearing nothing and started cussing up a blue streak.  I was so angry and confused about what was happening.  The four letter bombs were interrupted by Dale Martens pounding on the glass that separated my studio from the newsroom.  He frantically pointed at the red light.  My microphone was open and the church service had been there all along, I just couldn't hear it through the faulty ear phones.

Dale had only gotten more than a couple of calls about the language and I figured my goose was cooked.  Monday came and went but nothing happened.  A week passed and still no word about expletive filled Sunday service.  It wasn't until two months later when Hank Booth called me into his office to query me about that particular Sunday.  Hank gave me a stern lecture and told me not to let it happen again.  I was shocked that I wasn't fired.  My guess is that Hank probably saw the humor in the situation.

But my radio career was about to go on a 17 year hiatus because KMBC news director Ridge Shannon was ready to offer me a part time job.  It was a job that allowed me to do a little bit of everything and would set me on a career path as a television news producer.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Old Jayhawk

Constant readers will recall a series of stories that I started not long ago about my career in broadcasting.  I wrote about the people who influenced my early career and their colorful nicknames.  I left out an individual who was part of that great group of people I associated with during my college years.  I left him out because he wasn't in television, but he was a larger than life character whose devotion to the University of Kansas earned him a much deserved nickname, "The Old Jayhawk."

Bob Nelson passed away this weekend.  He was 88.  Rich Bailey, "The Pureman," introduced me to Bob when I was a freshman in college.  I remember thinking, why is Rich hanging around this old dude?  What's funny now is that old dude was about the age that I am now.  But I quickly figured out that Rich and a lot of other folks gravitated to this "old dude" because he had more life, more energy, and a zest for living and loving all things Kansas than I could ever hope to have.

"The Old Jayhawk" wasn't just the life of the party, he was the party.  He knew everybody and everybody knew him.  The times with Bob I remember most fondly where the trips to Kansas City for the old Big 8 Holiday Tournament.  Bob was always at the center of any pre-game or post-game gathering.  I feel sorry for those who never got experience those tournaments.  I feel sorrier still for the folks that never got to spend an evening with "The Old Jayhawk" hoisting a few adult beverages and reveling in his wonderful stories about the Crimson and Blue.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Broken Record

So the events of this week required that I dig through my old running logs to find the date of face plant #1.  I struck gold in the first log I opened, 1996.  The disastrous run occurred on December 2nd.  I remember the day quite well.  I had slipped on a pair of Adidas racing flats.  The shoes had exceptionally long shoe strings.  They were always a concern.  So much so that even double knotting the shoes didn't keep the laces from flopping on the ground.  Needless to say the shoes went into the trash after that run.

It was a beautiful late fall morning and I was a little more than a mile from home when I stepped on one of the dangling laces and went flying face forward into the blacktop.  I remember thrusting my hands out to save my face.  The pain was overwhelming.  I rolled around in the street moaning and groaning.  Remarkably an elderly couple watched it all from their driveway about two houses down.  They got into their cars and drove off not stopping to see if I needed assistance.  A postal worker drove by and did the same.  After a few minutes I managed to roll up to my backside and gingerly got back to my feet.  I somehow painfully jogged back to my house.

Once I got inside I realized I couldn't raise my arms to get my shirt off.  I went over to my neighbors, a lesbian couple who were great people.  She realized I was in trouble, got my shirt off, helped me on with another, and drove me to the hospital.  I spent about two hours waiting to get x-rays and checked over by a doctor.  I had hairline cracks in both arms near the elbow.  I needed slings and a couple of days off from work.  I couldn't run for a couple of weeks.

This is the x-ray taken Wednesday of my right elbow.  You can clearly see the crack.  The x-ray tech who nearly caused me to pass out missed the fracture in my left elbow.  The x-rays taken the following day at my orthopedic doctor caught it.  It's almost a duplicate of the break above. 

What's amazing is that after the fall on Wednesday, I proceeded to run five miles. First, I jogged the quarter mile back home and cleaned up the abrasions.  I needed to pick up my vehicle which had been at the Ford dealership for a recall.  Since my arms didn't hurt much I decided to go ahead with my run to get my Escape.   I think I was in so much shock that the pain hadn't hit me.  It did with a vengeance about three hours later.

The pain was every bit as bad as what I remember in 96.  In fact the following day was even worse.  I could barely move either arm.  I could barely open a door and couldn't really drive.  But Dr. Gomez, the man who repaired both of my Achilles, had a simple solution to the pain and stiffness.  He inserted a rather large needle into my elbows, drawing out an unbelievable amount of blood, a large amount of screaming from me, and even more yelling when he then injecting anesthetic.  The relief was instantaneous.

I laid low for a couple of days before heading out today, Saturday, for an easy three mile run.  Overall I felt amazingly good but my arms are still stiff and sore.  I still don't know what caused me to trip and fall this time.  One minute I was rolling along and the next thing I was flying forward slamming into the pavement.  This running business is taking its toll on my health!    

Friday, April 9, 2010

Dave Carroll's Trilogy

United Airlines wishes it had never heard of Dave Carroll.  Better still the airline wishes it hadn't broken his beloved Taylor Guitar.  Dave's back with one more shot at his nemesis.  Check out YouTube for his original poke at United.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Face Plant

For the second time in less than 15 years I have managed to eat asphalt in a big way.  I was on my way to the Ford dealership to pick up my Escape.  I decided to run the five miles to the dealer.  About a quarter mile from the house some unseen force sent me face first into the roadway.  I rolled over and out of the road to assess the damage.  A kind man pulled over in his SUV to offer assistance.  I knew I had slammed the asphalt pretty hard.  The bloody scrape to my right knee and my left hand were ample evidence of what had happened.  I jogged back home, cleaned it up and bandaged the wounds.

I decided since my arms felt "okay" that I would try to run to the dealership.  The five miles went pretty quickly.  By the time I had driven home I was starting to stiffen up.  I decided to hustle over to my doctor's office and if worse go to the clinic.  It's less than a mile away.  It was 10:30 a.m. and the clinic didn't open until noon and my doctor was packed.  So I went home, took a pain pill, showered and headed into work.

I sensed that trouble awaited because it took me five minutes to peel my shirt off prior to the shower.  Then I could button up my dress shirt to the top.  By 2 p.m. the pain was overwhelming and I headed back to the clinic.  Just the act of driving had become a challenge.  My left arm screamed with pain, especially the elbow.  The right elbow hurt but I could move it with much less difficulty.

The clinic is amazing.  I've used it three times now and it's always been in and out.  I got checked out by a doctor and x-rays in less than 40 minutes.  I screamed my way through the x-rays on my left arm nearly passing out for the first time in my life.  Shockingly enough the x-rays showed that my right elbow is fractured, not the left.  The pain only got worse through the day.  Sleep was a challenge last night.  I had to sleep sitting up with my left arm sitting atop a "Hello Kitty" pillow.

I'm visiting my orthopedic doctor this afternoon.  It will be interesting to see if he decides to put the right arm in a cast.  The last time I took a fall like this I suffered hairline fractures in both arms.  I was in a sling for a couple of days but the pain was nothing compared to this.  Changing clothes is an interesting challenge.  But the weirdest part of all of this, how the hell did I run five miles to the Ford dealership?!?  Shock?!?  

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Need for Speed

I love to train.  Racing, it's okay, but I love to train.  As I noted before I was somewhat disappointed with the way I ran this four mile race in Lehigh Acres.  It dawned on me this morning what the source of the problem is.

I went out to Gateway to run one of my favorite local 5K's.  It's called "Do the Right Thing" and it's a nice flat out and back.  The weather was perfect and I ran 22:28, about 30 seconds faster than the 5K I ran in February.  It's a good two minutes slower than when I last ran this race five years ago but I'll take it.  I hit the first mile in 7:13 and thought to myself, this shouldn't be this hard.  I maintained the same pace all the way to the finish and was lucky enough to get third in my age group.

I talked after the race with the top dog in my age group.  Perry Small can run six minutes faster than I can.  He's running times now that I ran 20 years ago.  Perry is also about 40 pounds lighter than me but that's a whole different matter.  He only runs 35 to 40 miles a week, about what I do.  His lack of mileage surprised me.  I figured him for a 50 to 60 miles per week guy.  The one thing he does that I haven't done is speed work.

I've been avoiding the track.  It's a two-fold issue.  I spent years in high school running intervals.  I hate them.  That's one issue.  The other is the fear of injury.  My hip is already enough of a problem.  I know if I added a weekly track workout of 400's or 800's it would make a tremendous difference.  But it would also put me on a fine line. 

The last time I did interval training was four years ago in Topeka with the Sunflower Striders.  It was great because I could latch on with guys my own age and there was a sense of not overdoing it.  It helped my times tremendously and I didn't get injured.  It only seems to happen when I do them by myself.  I think I just push too hard.  When you have people to run with you can relax and feed off their pace.

I'm going to start doing some speed work.  Even though our racing season is nearly over, I think I can squeeze another 30 seconds off that 5K time.

Friday, April 2, 2010


Back in 1989 Neil Young released an album that shook rock and roll to its core.  "Freedom" marked a triumphant return of this iconic Canadian who produced work throughout the 80's that left many of his fans confused.  His varied moves in that decade ranged from country, to techno, doo-wop, to a full bore blues album.  Some of it was great but a lot of it was crap.

I came across this video posted on one of my favorite websites and I wanted to share it because it features one of my other favorite singer/songwriter's, Bruce Springsteen.  This show happend back in 2004 in St. Paul.  It's just one of a trio of stunning versions of this song that Neil has done.  The first was back in 1989 on Saturday Night Live.  His performance of "No More" and "Rockin' in the Free World" were insane.  A couple of years later he teamed up with Pearl Jam on MTV and ripped "RITFW" again.  Enjoy.