Signs of the Times

A late lunch today–I’ve been busy. A few quickies (no pun intended) that, in my opinion, reflect the times very well:


Chum for a Tuesday

Today’s news brings an interesting mix of chum:

  • From the “But I Always Thought They Wore Ties” Department: It appears that a publisher has gotten into trouble with his alma mater and his church because of a calendar he published. The calendar: “Men on a Mission”. The school: BYU. The church: LDS. The LA Times is reporting on the situation of Chad Hardy, whose calendar provides photographs of hunky former missionaries in poses, characters and settings familiar to the Mormon faithful. A calendar of Mormon mothers (who Hardy calls “Mormon Muffins”) styled as sexy (though clothed) pinups is set for release this summer. The “Men on a Mission” calendar has a shirtless Mormon for each month, and its first publication in 2007 was applauded by liberal-minded churchgoers…. but then the Mormon church received some unflattering publicity, and adherants complained that the calendar was damaging the image of the faith. As a result of publishing the calendar, he has been excommunicated by the church, and although he has earned sufficient credits to graduate BYU, they will not issue him the degree.

    In somewhat related news, the New York Times is reporting the growth of the atheist movement, which is speaking out more, banding together, and flourishing.

  • From the “And Don’t Ask About Their Cheerleaders” Department: The New York Times is reporting that MIT is dropping 8 of its athletic teams, as a result of a need to trim $1.5M from its budget. Cut were the alpine skiing, competitive pistol, golf, wrestling, and men and women’s ice hockey and gymnastics teams. Disgruntled students, demanding that all 41 teams be kept, kidnapped Tim the Beaver, the institute’s mascot (the student playing Tim was released unharmed, although the costume’s head eventually ended up on the John Harvard statue in Harvard Yard).
  • From the “Builds Strong Bones Seven Ways” Department: Two interesting science articles today. One, from the Washington Post, explores using nanotechnology to make silk stronger. Specifically, scientists used atomic layer deposition (ALD) to deposit microscopic metals on silk strands, which drastically strengthened the material. More interesting is that it didn’t just coat the silk–it infiltrated the substructure and rebound with the silk at the molecular level.

    Turning to another strong material: bone, one of your bodies most important organs. The New York Times has an interesting article on bone and its elasticity. We think of bone as this inert material (probably from all those skeletons we see)… but your bones are actually continually microfracturing and repairing themselves, and interact with your homonal and digestive systems to obtain what they need to do this. The article is a real interesting read.

  • From the “Nummi, Nummi” Department: As folks know, I drive a Toyota Matrix, which is a wagon version of the Toyota Corolla. The Matrix has a twin — the Pontiac Vibe. I’ve always been surprised that Toyota doesn’t advertise the Matrix more, but evidently it sells well enough that they don’t need to advertise. The Matrix is made in Canada, but the Vibe is made in Fremont at the NUMMI plant. I mention this because the Vibe is one of the few well-made Pontiac cars, and one of the few that doesn’t share a platform with any other GM car (as with the G8, another Pontiac getting good reviews). So, I’m wondering… with the death of Pontiac, what will become of the Vibe:

    ETA: Well, it turns out there are some answers in this article. Some, but not all. More here and here.


I Remember When…

Today’s lunchtime news chum all seems to come from the “I Remember When” era….

  • From the “I Remember When Bozo Meant Something More Than an Insult” Department: One of the earliest children’s TV performers was Bozo the Clown. Originally devised by Capitol Records for children’s records, he moved first to children’s TV on KTTV in Los Angeles, then later many local copies and syndication through Larry Harmon productions. One of the most famous and longest running Bozos was the Chicago production, and the Chicago Tribune has a nice piece on where Bozo and his props are today. Many are still at the station, or awaiting the new home of the Museum of Broadcasting in that area. But Bozo, even today, still seems to hold a fond place in people’s hearts.

    In other children’s TV news, Freight Train Wayne from the Engineer Bill show has died.

  • From the “I Remember When Schools Had Chalkboards” Department: The Sacramento Bee has a nice piece on what may be the last school in Sacramento County to have a chalkboard. It appears that chalkboards, and even whiteboards, are disappearing from schools, being replaced with electronic whiteboards with touchable computerized screens. Some teachers don’t care. Some prefer the old fashioned chalk that permitted you to combine colors (something a whiteboard doesn’t do well), and can produce shading, and can be done without requiring power.
  • From the “I Remember When Leykis was political talk on KFI” Department: Radio in Los Angeles is ever shifting, and it appears another shift is happening Friday, when at the end of Tom Leykis’ program at 5pm, KLSX 97.1 will drop talk radio and become Top 40. Evidently, all host contracts have been cancelled, and the talk is going. Some, like Adam Carolla, will be moving to podcasts. I don’t know what is happening to Leykis (may be NSFW) — Westwood One has already dropped his syndication, but when I caught a bit the other day, he seemed to be promoting his show. No great loss, really, as his show had become a parody of itself. I miss his KFI days, though, when he actually did political talk quite well. As for what KLSX is becoming: The format, described as playing “all the hits,” will also be online at (don’t visit if flashing does you in). Artists will include Justin Timberlake, Beyoncé, Rihanna, T.I., Kanye West, Usher, Britney, Pink, Kelly Clarkson, and Katy Perry, among others. Needless to say, I won’t be listening to it.
  • From the “I Remember When The Mets Played at Shea” Department: They did, but they can’t anymore. The last piece of Shea Stadium came down yesterday. Now what will the pilots use as a reference?

Super Bowl News Chum

Now, I’m sure you’ve figured out by now that I don’t really follow sports. But this is Super Bowl weekend, and one just cannot escape it. So here are some Super Bowl observations noted from the lunchtime newsreading:

  • From the “Protecting a Brand, Part I” Department: The St. Louis Paper has a very nice article on A-B advertising for the Super Bowl, including how this year’s advertising will include a fable about how one Clydesdale came to America. At first, the horse struggles to find his way. But he perseveres and finds his true calling, paving the way for future generations. Along the way there is comedy and pathos. The immigrant horse would come over on the boat from Scotland, just like the huddled masses. (And a little bit like brewery patriarch Adolphus Busch, a German immigrant who came to St. Louis in 1857.) The horse would struggle to make his way. He would “try his hoof” at racing, but would be too slow. He would be too strong to move pianos. He would be bewildered in the big city, humiliated by little indignities — flowers in his mane, face covered by a girly pink mask — until he finds the job he was made for. Oh, and you should buy beer and not fear In-Bev, the new corporate overlords. They care about tradition. Of course, some are worried about how long A-B will keep up the tradition of shelling out the Super Bowl advertising bucks. A-B currently has 4½ minutes of advertising this year.
  • From the “That American Tradition, Football Advertising” Department: Although spending is down on other forms of advertising, prompting infomercials to run even during prime time, companies are still spending big on the Super Bowl. Well, at least some are. Some, such as FedEx and GM, have pulled out. But the big ads are still there, with some paying up to $3M for 30 seconds. This year there will be 3-D ads (including a 90-second commercial for Dreamworks’ “Monsters vs. Aliens”), and tire commercials that feature Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head taking a drive…, and of course A-B’s ubiquitous ads. Will the spending be there next year? Unknown. Most of this year’s buys were made before the October crash.
  • From the “Protecting a Brand, Part II” Department: Of course, Super Bowl Sunday is all about dignity and style. We saw that with Janet Jackson a few years ago. One thing we won’t be seeing this year is the PPV Lingerie Bowl. It has been cancelled, for various reasons. The first is that they couldn’t find a good location: when the organizers couldn’t obtain the proper permits to stage their event in a West Tampa vacant lot, they opted for a place called Caliente, which bills itself as the most luxurious of the dozen “clothing-optional” resorts that allow Pasco County to call itself “the nudist capital of the world.” The models in the bowl, however, refused to play there, citing either fears about having to “blend in” with the locals, or that it would be degrading to play football in their lingerie in a nudist camp (they did, after all, have their standards). As for the host site, Caliente was excited about the event until promoters suggested the locals there would need to dress, which they aren’t about to do. As a result, it appears the event is cancelled. But don’t worry. There are plenty of alternative locations with similar scenery hosting Super Bowl parties.
  • From the “Alternative Programming” Department: Not to worry, non-football fans. Animal Planet is bringing back its highly rated counterprogramming: Puppy Bowl V, with the Kitten-half-time show. [insert your puns here]. I’ve actually watched this some years — it is sickenly cute, but then again, <disgustingly-cute-voice>puppies</disgustingly-cute-voice>.

Me? I could care less about the Super Bowl. I am, however, interested in a program that will air after it out here in Los Angeles: A 1 hour special on KNBC’s 60th Anniversary of Broadcasting in Los Angeles. The TIVO is already set.


A Late Lunch of Chum

I had a meeting that went over my normal lunch time, so here is some delayed chum for your enjoyment:

  • From the “Ron Popeil” Department: I had actually noticed this trend, but this article confirms it: There are more infomercials in prime-time these days. Evidently, as a result of advertisers pulling advertising due to financial conditions or poor show performance, there’s more space for the cheap infomercial buyers (who have no control over the time their stuff airs — meaning you can ignore the “for the next ten minutes only” pleas). I’ve noticed this treads — since when did slankets and similar goodies advertise between 8p and 10p on major networks!
  • From the “The Best Night on Television” Department: “Must See TV” — one of the best advertising lines since “It’s not a repeat if you haven’t seen it before”. Well, it seems that the “Must See” night is coming in for a battle — with the departure of Billy Peterson from CSI, the soon departure of ER, the floundering over at Grey’s, and the declining Survivor franchise, competition is coming back to Thursday night. I must admit it is one of the few nights where I’m pretty much there from 8p-10p (Survivor, CSI… and earlier this season, Life on Mars). Monday is the only other of those, with Big Bang Theory and Heroes.
  • From the “Same Old, Same Old” Department: So what are the networks putting on? Things that worked in the past, and nothing experimental. What does this mean. Known formulas. Known writers. Spinoffs. Yawn. Even DirecTV is resurrecting series.
  • From the “Oh, The Horror” Department: Sometimes, the concept is just enough to make you go “Huh?”. Nederlander is evidently exploring a full-length musical based on Michael Jackson’s Thriller. The musical will include songs from the 1982 “Thriller” album as well as Jackson’s 1979 album “Off the Wall.”
  • From the “The Ball Is In The Air” Department: Now, I’m not a sports fan. But I am into marketing. LA has been trying for a while to get an NFL team back, after being abandoned by the Rams (to St. Louis) and the Raiders (back to Oakland). Thus, I notice with interest that the San Diego Chargers will be marking to LA and OC. It seems the Chargers need to boost attendance, and there is a dearth of teams in Los Angeles (a major media market), so they put two and two together. Combine that with the fact the Chargers are looking for a better stadium deal, and their current lease agreement allows them to leave San Diego without the threat of lawsuit.

(Aren’t you glad I didn’t talk about the depressing job news today… although the Thriller Musical is depressing enough)


Every Four Years

Every four years there is a spectacle that boggles the mind. It involves a lot of people, a lot of television coverage, a real lot of money… and some of what we see is faked. Oh, and there’s plenty of jingoism to go around.

No, I’m not talking about the presidential elections.

I’m talking about the Olympics. An amateur sporting event that used to be honest, that used to showcase people from around the world. Nowadays? Watch NBC, and all you see is the USA. We never see the small countries competing; we never see the real stories and challenges. Rather, we see fairness and human capabilites set by the wayside in terms of competition. We see China putting gymnasts out that in any other competition would be questioned as underage. We’ve seen loads of swimming medals broken, but folks are unsure if it is the atheletes… or the swimsuits or the pool itself.

Off the field, we’re having equivalent trickery. Those fireworks at the opening ceremony? Computer generated. That little girl singer who was so cute? She was lip-syncing because the real singer wasn’t cute enough.

I think there’s a reason I don’t watch the Olympics. Well, except women’s beach volleyball. That’s in the guy code. Even Shrub knows that.