Once again I have been terribly neglectful of this. But for good reason.
Last month I began an exciting new chapter in my professional life. I’ve returned upstate to anchor, report, and co-host an influential morning radio show. I’ve returned to my roots, which is local radio.
And I’m having a blast.
This blog will remain active, but will suffer frequent bouts of inactivity. Needless to say, regular maintenance of this forum is hardly on my list of priorities, professional or otherwise.
Some videos for your amusement, and because it’s simpler than writing an article:
I love radio. Here’s why.
As much as I love radio, sometimes things happen when you’re recording. Enjoy this unplanned blooper.
Finally, the premiere of the oddball Joe & Jon Show.
When I sit down to write, I don’t always have a clear idea in mind — or a firm point to make. Today is one of those days. So instead of a meandering article about this or that, here are short bursts on a wider range of topics.
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What is it about summer that seems to drag on? I don’t like summer. I hate it, in fact. And every year on Labor Day I put away my shorts and bring out my jeans. Doesn’t matter if it’s still unbearably humid; it’s a principle. But this particular summer just won’t be put away. Like a stubborn elderly relative, it would rather remain where it is instead of going somewhere nicer.
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The first cup of coffee invariably tastes better than the second. Maybe it’s just me. Sometimes I have trouble finishing my second cup. But the third and fourth cups are easier. Ditto cups five and six.
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Facebook used to be a fun excursion from the mundane. Now it’s part of the mundane.
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Lately a substantial part of my free time has been spent watching old clips of Whose Line is it Anyway? on YouTube. I like Drew Carey, but I always thought Clive Anderson of the original U.K. version was a superior host. Ryan Stiles and Colin Mochrie were absolutely brilliant performers individually, but together they were pure magic.
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60 Minutes remains the brightest spot on television, but it lost so much last year with the death of Andy Rooney. Instead of finding a replacement for those few minutes, why not lengthen the stories? Give the correspondents another minute or two. It doesn’t sound like such a big deal, but a good reporter and a good writer can maximize whatever extra seconds or minutes they’re handed.
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In the process of writing this, my coffee turned cold. I hope that’s the worst tragedy that comes my way this week.
One evening a couple of weeks ago I arrived at a momentous conclusion: I decided to give up alcohol.
I haven’t been a drinker for very long. Only in the last couple years did I find myself in the classification of “social drinker.” This was long after I turned 21, the legal drinking age. Never have I had a drink alone; there’s a camaraderie that exists among a group of friends at a bar. Drinkers are social extroverts; everything becomes more interesting. You become the life of the party when you’re otherwise a quiet wallflower the rest of the day.
Smokers enjoy a similar communal experience. Outside most office buildings you’ll find them huddled together, sharing secrets and trading gossip. You don’t know each other very well inside, but outside you’re best buddies. You exist in a world that is almost permanently overcast with the fog of cigarette smoke.
Drinking made me relax following an exceptionally difficult time in my life, and I had great times. But ultimately I’ve never really enjoyed it. In the time it takes some people to polish off a six-pack, I’m still nursing my first beer. I’m a slow drinker.
Friendship isn’t about enjoying a drink. It’s about being there when you’re on the bottom. Mine were there for me in my darkest hour; they’ll be around whenever I’m feeling particularly down.
Except now, I’ll be coyly sipping coffee while they are loudly celebrating elsewhere.
Below is a follow-up to what I posted a couple of days ago, where I shared an hour of my satellite radio show.
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I became a talk show host on SiriusXM in the same amount of time it takes most people to put on a pair of shoes. When I was hired there in 2007, it was to work weekend overnights on the old Weather & Emergency channel. It felt like being a 911 operator in a village of five people, because there was seldom any cause to do anything more than watch YouTube videos and drink a lot of free coffee. In February 2008, a new political channel debuted. I was asked to be a news anchor; I gleefully accepted, and was assigned to anchor (they weren’t traditional news reports; they were “blog casts,” summations of high-profile opinion blogs that masqueraded as news) on The Blog Bunker.
The guy that was to be the permanent host was under contract with another channel, so a series of guest hosts kept the seat warm. One afternoon I approached my boss and offered to host a show if he needed a last-minute substitute. I had experience as a talk show host on WGBB and (albeit very briefly) WNYG, so I was ready and willing to pitch hit when needed. It didn’t cross my mind that he’d say yes. When he did, he said I could host show the following day.
It was a scramble putting together a two-hour show for an obscure political talk channel. I was assigned a producer, and together we came up with topics and guests. Hosting a live radio show isn’t easy, and producing one is even harder. We weren’t given any parameter for what we could do; in fact, we were given significant carte blanche. I don’t remember who the guests were, or even what was talked about — my guess is it slanted heavily toward the presidential election, or whatever political story was big that particular day.
After the show, my producer and I nervously went into our boss’ office for feedback. He liked it. We were relieved; I was a little surprised, as I was then — and remain so now — fiercely self-critical. He asked if I’d be interested in hosting the show “for one or two weeks,” until he could secure the vaunted permanent host from another channel. I said yes.
“One or two weeks” became a month. Then two months. As summer approached and the Democratic and Republican conventions loomed, I was still hosting. There didn’t appear to be any end in sight. The only dictum I was given was to arrest my personality, as the show wasn’t mine. Because of that I approached it with a certain level of detachment; it was frustrating having an hour (the show lost an hour with the launch of Pete Dominick’s afternoon radio show, where I did double duty as anchor in addition to hosting Blog Bunker) and not being able to be myself.
In retrospect I wasn’t being fair, because hosting that show entitled me to talk to a lot of interesting people. I sat in a studio for the full hour one day with the actress and comedienne Janeane Garofalo, who lauded me with compliments when the show was over. I interviewed Ron Paul for 20 minutes on the telephone. We broadcasted live from the site of the second Obama-McCain presidential debate, though I was on a train heading home as the debate started. Not to mention all the fun we had off air (and sometimes during the show itself–though always with the microphone turned off).
The Blog Bunker, like the political channel, became casualties of the merger between Sirius and XM. I left the company in early 2009, the beginning of a three-year hiatus from radio that, mercifully, ended this year. I’ve come to look back at those nine or 10 months with a great deal of warmth and joy; it wasn’t a perfect show, but it was mine. I’ll always be connected with it, despite not having supposed to be its host.
For most of 2008 I hosted The Blog Bunker on SiriusXM. The premise was simple: conversations with bloggers about news and politics. I came to be attached permanently as the host through a series of improbable and unexpected events, which didn’t quite jibe with neither my nor management’s plan.
I have in my possession most of the episodes. A couple of weeks ago I decided to select one random episode and upload it online. The only editing I did was to remove the silence where commercials once existed. Otherwise I haven’t actually listened to it since it originally aired on August 19, 2008. I think there was some kind of election that year.
Next time: how and why I became the permanent host.