Learning Spanish From The Big Green Chair

When my nephew was a toddler, say about 2 years old, I had a surprise.  One weekend I came to visit and he sat down with a book and started reading.  I asked my sister and she told me that he memorized the book, and he still can’t read.

I’m rather a bit past that with Spanish now.

I don’t skip over the Spanish Stations on the radio when channel surfing.  I have noticed that “Love Songs” are becoming more clear to me and I can actually follow them along … somewhat.  I can watch kids TV and follow the discussion and actually get the jokes most of the times.

I mean, after all, we’re talking kid’s shows.  Plaza Sesamo and Franny and her demented feet.  At least in what I jokingly call “Native Spanish”.  Franny is a Canadian Production and the first time I heard it in English, they all had bad British accents.  It sounds better in Spanish to me.

I challenge myself with the animal documentaries because of the slower pace of the dialogue.  I have always enjoyed documentaries, even when I was a wee brat.  Watching a documentary on the forests of Madagascar in English is something I’d do normally, let alone En Espanol.

Sorry, I don’t have the “enya” key.  You know, English Speakers, the n with the funny squiggle over top.  Oh, and the accents En Espanol mean something.  I never figured them out in French, but in Spanish it is a “stress” mark.  You stress that syllable.  Very logical system of spelling, everything means something, and it has been rationalized and normalized to be predictable.  Unlike English where Ghoti could be pronounced as Fish.

I’ve heard people do this all the time.  When learning a language, they will seek out media of that language, and pay attention to it.  Many people have said that they watched Telenovelas to learn Spanish, Cartoons for English, and so on.  I’m doing nothing new here.  I am certainly not splitting the atom.

Although, when I’m sitting in bed listening to the shortwave radio at night, and I find myself listening to a broadcast, I’m not exactly expecting to be switching back and forth between Radio Marti and Radio Reloj.  That particular programming shift is about as broad a shift as you can get, other than perhaps switching back and forth between South Korean and North Korean broadcasting.

They are, however, very easy to find here in South Florida.

Specifically, Radio Marti is the US Government’s programming that is “designed” for Cuba.  I suspect it has an intended effect of being designed as a knock on effect for Venezuela.  Whether it is effective or not, I will let others decide.

Radio Reloj is literally “Clock Radio”.  It’s out of Havana, Cuba, and I can hear it here on the AM radio even if I don’t try too hard.  Being a Cuban National Broadcast, it’s probably as balanced as any Cuban broadcast, which is to say about as balanced as Fox News or Radio Marti.

I’m listening to things specifically to learn the language, not for “information”.  I will say both services are less “shouty” and “strident” than they had been in the Cold War.

For the most part, it’s better to stick to Plaza Sesamo, Franny and her weird feet, and the documentaries.  Political Intrigue and Propaganda are a bit much when your level of comprehension is about 1/2 the way there.

More importantly though, it does one interesting thing.  It opens up a whole new world. Actually a continent and about a half, but it does open it all up.

If my learning methods are up to the task, that is.  After all, if you can’t learn Spanish in South Florida, you can’t learn Spanish anywhere.

So turn on the TV, turn on the closed captioning, and put on some kid’s programming.  The Closed Captioning make it much easier to grasp since you are reading at the same time as hearing the words.  The simplified sentence structure and subject matter will help as well since there are fewer Big Words.

I’ll try to remember to leave the politics behind.  After all, I’m not quite ready for that, although a nice documentary about a lizard habitat would be rather enjoyable today.

But if you are considering learning another language, and are just starting out, try Duolingo.com and pick your language.  The simple lessons get gradually more complex, and you can set your goals as low or as complex as you like.

My Canadian Earwig Problem, Eh?

Have you ever had something stuck in your head?

I mean truly stuck there for hours or even days?

Welcome to the club.  I’m there.  It’s My Canadian Earwig.

No, I really don’t have a problem with anything Canadian.  I used to listen to a lot of Canadian Radio when I was a wee brat in my childhood and into my teens.  I’m told that people in the bordering areas of the US have a habit of doing that.  When I visited Ann Arbor, Michigan once, I saw a couple TV shows on TVO out of Windsor, Ontario that I rather liked and wished I could see here.

I listened to a few stations there that made it to my own home in the Philadelphia area as a matter of course.  CKLW in Windsor was one, a pop station that was legend in the 60s through the time that Clear Channel conquered and then killed US radio.  I used to get news from the Northern Quebec Service of the CBC as well as their regular English Language external service that morphed into CBC Radio One.  The French Language service on alternate half hours was a challenge but it helped with my own studies in High School French, sadly mostly forgotten.  The CBC Domestic Service on 740AM and 1540AM made it to the house clear as a bell at night.

No, it all started when someone said they were going to go for a trip.  “Take Off”.

You see, we all became Canadian for the summer of 1982.  There was a wacky one-off song called “Take Off” done by the SCTV crew back then.  Everyone was calling each other Hoser and saying Eh – which simply wasn’t done in Philadelphia before then or since.

Maybe Pittsburgh.  I heard that the border to the midwest was somewhere around where they start watching the Steelers and stop following our Eagles.

Iggles, Yo!

Of course I had to put my oar in that water.  I found a video on Youtube with the song on it.  Played it.  Then while laughing, I played it again.  Yes, musical OCD.  I’m waiting for Oscar to start saying “Coo Loo coo coo, coo coo coo coo” any second now.

Now, being a comedy bit, I know that it’s a parody.  I know it’s openly stereotypical.  I know their accent is thicker than some of that good Quebec Maple Syrup folks would bring down from Montreal in big tin cans for the French Toast after it was left in the freezer.

Having visited Canada, I will say they’re more like us than you might understand, and they’ll apologize for that.

Sorry, eh?

I mean, having listened to CBC for news I’ve got an ear for that accent.  Midwestern US is very similar but not exactly the same just like the Chicago accent is not the same as the accent you’ll hear even across the line in Michigan City, Indiana.  But Bob and Doug McKenzie’s was over the top.

Being one of those oddballs who picks up other people’s accent I didn’t realize I was programming myself.

I wanted something different for dinner.  I had some old Gingery Bread in the freezer that was great but it was getting freezer burned.  So I get up from the chair, hit the replay button on that Youtube window, Took Off to the Kitchen to make a beauty meal, eh?  Yep.  French Toast.  Quebec Maple Syrup.  Touch of cinnamon.

“Coo Loo coo coo, coo coo coo coo”

Rack joined me and crunched away on his food as I’m puttering with the plastic spatula on the teflon pan.

Man that was good, eh?  Beauty.

We finished the food and ran into someone.  I was whistling the riff from that song and started talking to them.

“What’s up?”

We were chatting and I realized just what was up.  Yes, fully programmed I had lost what was left of my fragile mind.  Telling him what was going on he got a laugh out of it and said that I really had it down.

Great, I’ve lost my mind and people find it amusing.

Day two.  525AM.  I’m walking South on Wilton Drive.  Sunrise isn’t for another 2 hours or so.

You guessed it, the revenge of the earwig.  “Coo Loo coo coo, coo coo coo coo”  I’m whistling that riff again.

Just give in and enjoy it.  When you have an earwig, the best way I can think to deal with it is just feed it.  Play it out.  Let it go.

You guessed it.  I’m letting my freak flag fly, direct from The Great White North.  I’m looping this track.  You really don’t want to play that song, you’ll be thrown back into the 80’s, and stuck with this in your head.  Don’t do it, you know you don’t!  No, don’t play that song…. Aww you went and done it, eh?


So, crack a Brador if you can find one, or a Molson’s Canadian, cause they’re great beers,eh?  Don’t forget to recycle so the True North Strong and Free can remain clean.

Beauty, eh?

Have You Ever Had One Of Those Mornings?

I am smiling.  I’m also shaking my head.   It’s been an amusing day, and it’s been the last hour that is the cause of it.

I have a groove.  I know what I will be doing at a given time of day for the most part.  When something shakes up my groove, hilarity may ensue.

I also have people around me who think it’s entertaining to upset my groove.   Those people need to be duct taped to the ceiling fan and then the fan turned on full so they spin merrily above the ground.

Or something like that.

Been up early and got the dog out for his walk.  He dragged me out to the shopping center near the house. 

No. Big. Deal. 

I didn’t think anything of it until we rounded the corner.  You see, Rack is “noise averse”.  Drop something on the floor and he’ll jump.  He was about to experience a lot of noise all at once.  The shopping center has been in the process of being painted for the last month or so.   They do it before the businesses open, so you may not have seen it unless you’re at the gym, walking your dog, or a “leftover” from the last night bar crowd.

No. Big. Deal. 

We got to the place that they were working and his dragging me toward the noise became a big “Nope” and he started dragging me away.   As in total fear toward the loud growly equipment. 

Deal.  You will survive.  In fact it’s good for him to be exposed to it and survive.   He did, we got past and he almost immediately went “normal”.

Whatever the heck that is.

Flying through the normal morning routine… er, whatever that is, I managed to get to the point where I needed to leave.  Not completely, the laptop might be needed and it was sitting stuck at 30% update where it had been for the better part of the last half hour.  

Nope.  Stay home computer, you’re drunk.

Getting into the Jeep, I piled my neighbor into it for a trip out to the Hospital where she was to be dropped off for a procedure.  

On the way… I have to say South Florida Drivers need to stop messing about and concentrate on their driving.

Between the woman in front of me at the light at Dixie and Prospect doing her Mascara, and the woman at the bus stop with the see through bottoms, it was a scenic drive.

I didn’t point that out to my neighbor as I dropped her off and got back into the Jeep.

Heading back I saw two different morons texting, and a fool trying to convince a pickup truck with a giant arrow sign pointing into the center lane moving at a walking pace to move faster.

Not. Gonna. Happen.  Oh wait!  You’re a snowbird.  Go back to Ontario, you’re drunk.

Playing with the radio, the local “Party Station” was talking about the Bronies of Kendall.  I had to think about this one.  I’m all for diversity, I’m pretty “diverse” myself, but I still can’t wrap my head around the attraction of technicolor plastic ponies and the society around it.  On top of it, the presenter made her announcement then went into a story about a barn in Germany that exploded due to cow “wind” followed by every bad pun she could think about referring to Cows, Bulls, and Farming in general.

Better to pull into the driveway and wash the Jeep.  It’s much safer.  The roads are a strange place.

With the music pouring out of the house singing the praises of being in America, I realized that the British Forces Broadcast Services were having an odd day as well.  It ended that song with the presenter telling all the British Armed Forces, and one guy in South Florida about his long nose hair that had to be pulled out.

“Crikey!  That’s long!  That came out of me?”

Weirdness is universal.   We’re all weird.  Some of us just get to do it publicly.  Now, my BFBS Gibraltar Presenter is talking about Going Commando. 

I think “all this in one hour?”  It’s time for another mug of coffee.   It is going to be a strange day.

Basically, Corporate Radio Stinks

When was the last time you turned on a radio and listened to a local station?

For me it was more than 3 months ago.  Even then it wasn’t strictly a “local” radio station.   I was in the Jeep, playing with the car radio.   I’m in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale market.   I was listening to ZNS Bahamas out of Freeport.

After I got bored with that, I switched through a series of “HD” radio stations, all of which were better than FM quality sound, but all of which were “automated”.   Basically listening to someone else’s iPod.

This morning, my own iPod needed a charge so I switched over to my phone, started an app that goes out and finds radio stations and internet-only broadcasters.   I finally settled on a bitcaster that is internet only out of Germany that plays top 40 music in English.

Only.   No Commercials.

It got me thinking how far things have changed.

In my father’s day, there was AM.   There weren’t too many choices, they all had static, and way back in his day, there were actual programs.  This was before TV, so there were dramas, comedies, and special interest programs run.

TV changed all that, and it became music.   News on the hour and the half, sports when “there was a game on”.   Offerings got more diverse.  By the time I got interested in radio, I started with Dad’s Radio, a Blaupunkt Shortwave/AM/FM/Longwave that still works.  Glass tubes that glowed warmly and delivered a surprisingly mellow sound.

We had Rock, Dance, RnB, and more.  But still we had diversity in programming because the markets were managed.  No one company was permitted to own too many radio stations in any given area.  

That all changed in the late 90s and by the 2000s, Radio (with a capital R) pretty much was dead or dying.

Sure, people still listened to it, but the MP3 players and iPods came on the scene.  You could program your own music if you had a mind to it.  It would take a bit of effort, but you could do it.  I skated 21,000 miles listening to cobbled together podcasts legally downloaded from the internet.

I still had Dad’s Radio, but by then the BBC World Service that I grew up with had pulled the plug on its services in North America and for the most part and the only things I found were some stations that I didn’t have too much interest in.  Once BBC was gone, Radio Nederlands was hard to find and that left me with CBC.  It was too easy to find other outlets for news and general interest programming.

Luckily it was easy to keep loading up the iPod and surf stations online at home or work.  I was listening to a station in Miami when I lived in Philadelphia, and if that lost my interest there was BBC Radio 4 or an excellent dance station in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

The world opened up and local radio died to me.  

I would only listen to NPR on the way home if I was following the news, otherwise back to the iPod because, again, Corporate radio stinks.

I guess the next step is what we do in the car.   Here we are in a major media market in the US and we can’t find anything to listen to that isn’t 22 minutes of commercials plus probably as much “DJ Patter”.   So fire up the phone, plug it into the car audio input, and play some bitcaster on Kevin’s unlimited data account.

Commercials make me twitchy, and always have.  I’m the fastest remote clicker in the East.

Why bother listening to something local in the car when you can have something that you enjoy?  Forget Sirius Satellite Radio, they’re just as bad with all that blathering from abysmal DJs like that horrendous Tim Bauman. 

I wish I never got Sirius XM.  It’s better than Corporate Radio but it’s like saying I’m happy the cold I have is not the Flu.

Some of the lesser popular or “fringe” music formats are simply not available in Corporate Radio because they don’t have the right demographics.  Smooth Jazz, which got very big for a couple years, drew an older audience primarily.   It’s rare that you’d find a teenager who was really into listening to a smooth jazz audience.  On the other hand, it was played pretty much everywhere – dentist and doctors offices, elevators and the like.   It had a place.  Small shops would love to have it on because it would be much less jarring than a Top 40 station in the background.

But they left South Florida, at least for a while.   They may be back, I haven’t checked.   My godmother, Kathie, is a huge Smooth Jazz fan, and she simply left the radio off for most of the time.   10th largest market in the US and she simply ignored the radio.   Eventually she got a smartphone and a data account and happily can listen to her Smooth Jazz wherever she likes.

Really, there has to be a better way to do it, but I suspect that the Genie is out of the Bottle.  The Radio in the car dash of the future will have a port to plug into the phone, and a volume control.   FM?  Who needs it, we’ve moved on.   AM?  Wall to wall static from distant cities and right-wing and religious shouters.   Again, we’ve moved on.

At least I have, and so has my godmother… and so has …. well you get the picture.

Now, I think I’ll change the channel.   Time for some Goa or some Trance. Maybe some Hawaiian or Bhangra.  I’ve got a world of choice and commercial Corporate radio is none of it.

When Good Gadgets Go Bad

Time for music.  

Reaching for the remote, the red button is pressed bringing the radio to life.  Walking to the stereo, the power and aux buttons are pressed to power on the unit so the music can come out of the speakers.   It is not a remarkable stereo, simply used as an amplifier just for this purpose, to play internet radio.

The internet radio is a Squeezebox, but for that matter it could be an iPhone or a Tablet computer.  The sound is routed from the headphone jack to the back of the stereo.   It is a simple setup.

Waiting as the Squeezebox goes through its paces, it comes to life and waits for further commands.  The keypads on the remote are hit to make the thing go up through the list to find “Favorites”.  Unfortunately it has a headache and goes right past it looping around to the beginning of the list at “Now Playing”.

Pressing up again, it begins to go through the list one at a time on its own.  Faster and faster on a crazy blur of blue-green fluorescent letters in a blur until it stumbles back to Now Playing.

Press up again and for some reason, it bumps one at a time to get to favorites.   Then to the list of channels.  There are 63 of them.  Up is pressed.  Luckily it goes to the bottom of the list.  Press up again and it goes through the list in that crazy blur.   Then the radio jumps to the configuration menu and spasms there as if someone has hit it in the head giving it a concussion worthy of a trip to the computer hospital. 

Go home radio, you’re drunk.

Give up on that, turn on a different and much more basic radio until curiosity raises its ugly head again.  After all, why have just local FM when the world awaits you on a spastic little black slab of plastic?

This circular behavior and logic continues onward for a week.  The semi solution of a work around was that for the last five days it was left on Discover Trance for 24 hours a day because to turn it off meant that more head scratching and dancing in a blue-green blur would happen.

Finally today the solution was found.  The batteries in the remote were replaced after spinning them around in their mounts a couple times, and in the clarity of a second mug of coffee a “Why Not” moment of playing “Lets Replace The Batteries” occurred. 

Seems that the broken part of the electronic gadget was the human operating the remote.

So remember, if your electronics aren’t working… check the batteries.  The mind you save may be your own.

Bye Bye BBC Bush House

What is that man banging on about again?

Growing up, I discovered Dad’s Radio.  I have it here.  It still works.  It is a grand thing, a Blaupunkt Hi Fi, built in October 1956.  Glowy things in the back called “Tubes” or “Valves”.  It would get warm and make music and entertain you in a way that the connected era doesn’t. 

Back when you had four TV channels, AM and a growing thing called FM that weirdos and Dentist’s Offices listened to, you would eventually get bored with what was on and do something today that may be radical – turn off the TV.  Or the radio, depends on what you are “consuming”.

Although being a precocious two year old (yes, I was 2 1/2 at the time) I discovered Dad’s Radio.   He showed me how to use it, although I would bet it was after my banging on the buttons that made things work and probably after some yelling on his part.   I got to listen to the usual stuff but being that kid I wanted more.

I found a world of more on Shortwave.

At that time in my life I enjoyed being told stories and other than PBS, you didn’t have real story tellers.  Of course you had cartoons but they got repetitive and daytime TV back then was soap operas.  Talk about dull.

Living on the prairie of South Jersey, we were close enough to be able to pick up certain international broadcasts.  There was a relay on Shortwave out of Sackville New Brunswick Canada that broadcasted the CBC, BBC, Radio Australia, and a few others.   I was hooked.  Learned some French by listening to CBC when they shifted at the hour from English to French on the Northern Quebec Service

Other times, there was the BBC World Service.   The World Service was a life long love affair that continues to this day.  I couldn’t explain to the neighbor kids what I was listening to, and they weren’t interested being more inclined to listen to local radio out of Philadelphia and the same thing that all the rest of the kids were listening to.

Silly Herd Minded People.   Probably grew up driving SUVs too…

While they were listening to pop music on AM radio, I was being told stories and game shows.  I also didn’t care for Pop Music at the time having been exposed to Classical on Shortwave.  I had a bizarre knowledge of what was going on in The Empire at the time and listened in as colony after colony gained independence from The Queen. 

All of this happened in a building called Bush House.  They moved the World Service there after the bombing in 1941 during the Blitz in the Second World War, and remained there to this day.   Today actually.   They will be moving the World Service to The Strand in Central London.  The final news bulletin was read at Noon in London, 7AM our time in Florida.

Of course the news will go on, the World Service broadcasts mainly News and Business News since the “light entertainment” was shifted over to BBC Radio 4 in the 1980s.  I tend to only check into the World Service for news broadcasts preferring the Radio 4 Programming since it is broader and they’re still doing those “stories” I grew up with.

I’m sure my sister could tell you stories about her weird brother listening to that big box in the rec room in Cherry Hill, NJ.  It’s just the boxes got smaller and now connected to the internet so you too can pick that out as well as the overwhelming chatter of billions of voices. 

In the middle of all of that, the comforting voice of Auntie saying “This is the World Service of the BBC” is still connected via a link on my smartphone and on my PCs.  It’s one of the links with the past that I’ve managed to maintain all these years.  It’s just moved on to new digs, just like the production studios.

Studio 54 on Sirius XM

I haven’t really been a fan of Sirius XM.  I don’t travel often, and when I do I tend not to be in the car for a long enough time for me to get the radio and mount it in the Jeep.

I got Sirius about a year before Howard Stern was on the air there, and while Howard was a reason I got the service, I am not a steady listener. 

Actually why I got Sirius was that there was a promo at the time and I found that they had a good Disco channel, a good Trance Channel and a good Dance Channel that had very little chatter.  They also have a 40s music channel that is excellent and have the BBC World Service.

They don’t have BBC Radio 4 which would be an excellent addition since it is “Intelligent Talk” and one of the few places on radio that I know of that does actual game shows and has since the days of it’s infancy.  Radio 4 is how I learned how to speak English when the programming was actually on the World Service.

Through time, they gained Howard Stern and it was fascinating to see what this amazing entertainer and his side kicks would do if they were unleashed.  Having been able to speak your mind, freely, and not speak like a child which is required by the FCC was a freedom few broadcasters have.  They went through their period that there were many “rude words” on the station until they realized that it wasn’t fun anymore and went back to being one of the more intelligent and fascinating discussions on radio.

Yes, even though I don’t listen frequently, I still am a fan of their work.

On the other hand, the music channels began to resemble the pablum that you find on “terrestrial radio”.  It is amazingly difficult to keep a channel going with fresh music if you are broadcasting an older format of music that isn’t particularly popular any more.  If they aren’t making any new Glenn Miller music, you just won’t have it to play.  Their 40s channel does seem to manage that well though finding things that I have never heard before.

The problem was the Dance Channels.  Since I can’t listen to Country and Rock bores me, I can’t vouch for those formats.  The paid for service was getting way too “standard radio”.  Whoever was programming the channels first deleted the dance hits channel and morphed it into the BPM channel when Sirius and XM merged.  It became basically what was a “Hot Hits” format if you remember that.  Play a song, play a station ID and yell what that was and what’s next while talking over the song you just started to play.  Some of the worst offenders of that are the DJs Tim Bauman and “Geronimo”. 

The idea of a dance station is to bring the music to you and present it like a live event.  When is the last time you went to a dance club and heard the DJ babbling about something over top of the music?  There weren’t any announcements the last time I was in one, nor for the years before.  It’s rare that you hear that.  Originally there were two hits stations on Sirius and one was with announcements.  The one I listened to was without announcements and was deleted.

It was about that time when I tired of the recycled 20 songs they played on the old Strobe channel.  They brought in 80s dance music, usually called Big 80s, and it just got unlistenable.  The Sirius radio gathered dust and I’ve ranted about that before.

Last month they decided that it was time to bring back a Disco channel.  It’s almost there.  It still is rotating some of the same songs but not quite “over and over”.  I found myself listening to the channel for more than 5 hours a day and only changed it when they put on some specific artists.

To this day I still can’t listen to “Lady T”.  Blah.  Can’t do it.  Tried and didn’t like her in the 70s or the 80s.  But that’s just me, we all have our favorite artists in any given music format.

However, they did something that was “authentic”.  The old disco channels on radio were known for basically putting on two tracks an hour in the evening if they had a long format song.  The “Disco Mix” of a song could be 17 minutes long where the “Radio Edit” would be one side of a 45 and would last about 3:30.  If they play a short version of a song it’s a surprise. 

If they could kill the announcements about how some person brought a leopard into Studio 54 and the rest of the trivia, it would help.  They tend to do fewer announcements than they do on other channels which is a blessing, but still more than would be “authentic”.  When played, they’re not playing these announcements over top of the music which much better than on many of their other channels.

I even heard some of the tracks that aren’t generally heard in a Disco station.  Some of the more obscure artists that you’d hear mixed in as a chance to test the waters are still heard.  After all, there’s a reason why certain tracks “didn’t make it”, but it’s nice to hear them even still.  It helps to keep the channel from going stale.

So I have a reason now to listen again.  It also gave me a reason to explore what else Sirius has to offer.  I’m again listening to 40s, as well as the classical music I grew up with.  The Studio 54 has been left on for hours, but I’ll switch into Jimmy Buffet once in a while and visit Margaritaville. 

They also put on a good R and B station called the Groove.   In Philadelphia in the late 70s, we were lucky.  We had one of the best Disco stations (and scenes) in the nation on WCAU.  We also had a wonderful, locally owned R and B station on WDAS.  If you didn’t hear something good to listen to on one, you would switch to the other, and it seemed like the stations knew it and used that knowledge to build something better.  When Clear Channel got massive and finally bought up all the radio stations in Philadelphia, WDAS was one of the last to go.  It felt like something died.  RnB wasn’t quite as edgy any more and it felt much more corporate and “cleansed”. 

Sirius managed to capture a little of that edge in The Groove.  Well worth the listen if you want to hear some dance and a little RnB mixed in.   I know I do.

So it’s better.   I’ve got Sirius on now playing in the headphones on the iPhone player.  At least I can listen without having the parrot going crazy that way.

It’s not perfect but they’re on their way.  They managed to make the Trance Channel something less special where they’re mixing more formats in instead of sticking with the format.  Electric Area plays around 3 distinct formats of music in a seemingly random fashion, meshing together badly.  At least there is www.di.fm/trance when I need a good trance fix.

Now if only they could get rid of those annoying announcements and DJs on the other channels…

I Am Why Radio Died

As I sit here, I am listening to Christmas music on a radio station in St Lucia in the Caribbean.  I had changed over from an excellent Soca Radio Station in Port of Spain, Trinidad.  Earlier I was listening to a Disco internet station broadcasting from London, UK.

During the week I also listen to Stephanie Miller for Progressive Talk.  I have to listen to Green 960 in San Francisco, California in order to do this. 

When I want contemporary dance music, I hop onto www.di.fm and I have my choice of dozens of music formats.

So why do I do all this?  Why are all of these channels, plus my Sirius subscribed channels all programmed into our Logitech Squeezebox Classic?

Simply put, Radio in the US Stinks.  The RIAA and Clear Channel have killed it.  The internet made it possible for people to leave broadcast radio stations behind. 

Why is that all important?  Billions of dollars were lost when the new markets of internet radio were created.  With a little effort, I can listen to a Souskous radio station in the Congo.  It’s an African music format that most people in the First World haven’t ever heard of so why not listen to it from it’s home?

What happened was that before the internet age, you were limited to what was broadcast from your nearest cities.  If you were stubborn like I was, you could get a shortwave radio and listen to other nations at night, but that was difficult.  Later when the wrong policy of allowing businesses to buy up a majority of the radio stations in a given market happened, consolidation of music meant that you ended up with 10 radio stations owned by Clear Channel in one given city, and they all sounded the same.  If you wanted variety, for the most part you were stuck.  Those stations that were owned by minorities were bought up and the music became much less diverse, much less listenable, and much more corporate.

An example of that was WDAS FM in Philadelphia.  An EXCELLENT radio station serving the African American Community, it was widely listened to by both black and white folks and was an engine for showcasing black artists and making the beauty of black music to the broader audience.  Clear Channel bought it up and within a year it was… bland. 

I haven’t listened to it since I moved to Florida and would prefer to remember it as it was … before it died.

The internet started up, people started downloading music and the music companies freaked out.  They still haven’t realized that according to most independent groups purchase of music continued to increase and their monopoly continued to give them income.  It didn’t pay the artists any more, but they were getting rich and giving nobody any value.

As radio station property values crashed, the trend was to go to cheaper formats and centralized broadcasting.  All the sudden the contests that were run out of your city were national contests with slightly more money but you had to compete with someone from Idaho and Texas and call a toll free number in New York or somewhere else.  It was completely depersonalized.

So if you’re listening to something that has been dumbed down and depersonalized, why not look for something else.   The final straw was when they pulled the plug on Progressive Talk for me.  There was a very good Progressive Talk station here in Miami.  The so called brains at Clear Channel swapped the format for sports talk.  How many sports stations does one market need?  There are now five.  I guess you listen to a different one each morning on the way to work.

Or you do what most people do, find other ways to get your music or talk fix.

The increase in first MP3 Players like the iPod, then the Smart Phone Revolution meant that you could carry a lifetime of music on your phone and plug it into your car stereo and forget the rest.  I know of people who simply forgo bringing CDs or listening to “terrestrial radio” while driving locally let alone for a long trip. 

Personally I am lucky.  There are three HD radio stations here in the Miami radio market I can listen to to get my fix of in car entertainment so I don’t have to bring along a lot of equipment. 

But for most, Broadcast Terrestrial Radio is a study in how a marketing engine lost it’s own market.  They left their audience, so the audience left the market and demanded iPod compatibility and an “Aux In Port” in the new cars.

So for now, I’m about to switch over to an all trance music station on www.di.fm/trance … care to join me?

Howard Stern’s Contract was Renewed for Five Years

Why is that important? 

First off, I have a Sirius radio.  I would not like to see it go “dark” and become an expensive paperweight.  I’m one of those who thinks that the star power that Mr Stern brings to the service, regardless of whether you listen to him or not, means there will be increased “Mindshare”.  Increased mindshare means more people considering paying for radio.  More people paying for radio means Sirius may be a going concern. 

Secondly, I actually do listen to Stern.  Once in a while, when I feel I need comic relief, he’s a great change of pace.  Whether I agree with him is another matter and usually I agree with him when he speaks politically.  His fixation on the bizarre isn’t really for me, so I’ll switch off to something else more musical and get back to work… what ever that may be.  Others like that, and great, we all will be able to hear about Baba Booey for another 5 years or how the interns are getting on in NY.  If you never have had a chance to listen to him talk to George Takei (Sulu from Star Trek) you are missing something that is a one of a kind experience in Radio.  He has to be one of the best interviewers on the air.

Thirdly I do think that Howard Stern is worth it monetarily to Sirius.   Without him, they would not have the 20 million subscribers that they do now.  For each of them who do not have a permanent subscription (like I do), they are getting $20 a month.  Doing the admittedly sloppy math, that means Sirius is taking in $200 million a month.  It takes Sirius 2 weeks to pay for Howard’s old salary for the year. 

Without Howard, Sirius would probably not be a going concern, with him… I can listen to trance, disco, 40s music or Progressive/Liberal Talk without plugging in the iPod.

So for five more years… enjoy what ever you listen to.  After five years… who knows.

Now if they could just get the damn DJs to shut up I could listen to the Sirius radio longer!

A Holiday Gift from Sirius – No DJ Announcements!


At least on “The Strobe”, their Disco Channel.

Ok, I can accept DJs in some limited amount.   Most DJs at any rate, as long as they’re not that Tim Bauman who I just can’t stand.   I’ve already done a rant on that one, he should be canned and go back to what ever club actually likes the guy. 

The thing is I didn’t realize how annoying the DJs were on the radio until this weekend when Sirius gave the one that handles the Disco channel off for the day.   While I do like Disco, I don’t usually just turn the stuff on and leave it roll for hours on end.   This weekend since there’s been nothing more than an occasional “bumper” telling you that you’re listening to The Strobe, It’s been on since I got home on Xmas Eve.   Its Sunday morning, and I’m loving it. 

There were times when I couldn’t listen to it like when I went up to Wellington and hit a dead spot on US 441 West of Boynton Beach coming home.   I guess the vinyl on the roof on the car was enough to make it too weak to get through, because I had no problems during the day when it was clear and the roof was off… But for the most part I’ve been listening to “Classic Dance, It’s not just Disco, The Strobe, Baby” all weekend.

Yeah that was a bumper… But at least its not talking over the music.  

See in DJ Parlance, on the radio, talking over the beginning of the song is called “posting”.  Stop it, please!

Everybody Dance… Doodoolooloo! Clap your hands! Clap your hands!