Friday, March 17, 2006

What to listen to this weekend (a best-of)

OK, I've been lax lately. (More like gone.) Getting my Sirius radio broke and my car broken into/iPod stolen - is God telling me something? Anyway, I will be back - I promise - better than ever, but first let me propose to you a weekend full of wonderful radio listening, as I present a specially-chosen best-of my weekend radio recommendations... enjoy - and Happy St. Patricks Day!
  • Tomorrow (Saturday) at 1:30 PM, tune into WQXR 96.3, grab a comfortable (preferably plush) seat, and take in Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky's Mazeppa as part of the 75th Anniversary season (!!) of the longest-running classical music radio series in the world - The Metropolitan Opera's International Radio Broadcast. Tomorrow's show features conductor Valery Gergiev leading a cast featuring Olga Guryakova as Maria, Larissa Diadkova as Lyubov, Oleg Balashov as Andrei, Nikolai Putlin as Mazeppa, and Paata Burchuladze as Kotschubey in this kick-ass adaptation of Pushkin’s tragic poem Poltava. And don't miss the Opera Quiz during the second intermission!
  • Straight from the horse's mouth... and then from the donkey's! Saturday at 2:50 pm on C-SPAN Radio, take a break from Mazeppa to listen to President George W. Bush's Weekly Radio Address... which is then immediately followed up by a response by a representative of the Democratic Party. C-SPAN Radio can be heard on both XM and Sirius satellite radio, and can also be heard on the Internet via RealAudio or Windows Media Player.
  • Bob Edwards, the erudite and calm-voiced former host of NPR's "Morning Edition" (who was rudely pushed out of the gig in 2004 for sounding "too old", and was dissed for being not willing to "embarass himself" enough in Sarah Vowell's 1995 book Radio On), can now be heard again - unembarrassed as ever - on the airwaves of WNYC-FM 93.9 tomorrow (Saturday) at 4 PM. (It's actually his regular XM Weekend show that's being brought to terrestrial radio via PRI.)
  • As I've mentioned before, you can indulge in the glorious sound of classic pop on AM Radio every Saturday Night by tuning in Saturday Night Oldies with Mark Simone on 770 WABC between 6-10 pm (Dan Ingram's guest spot a couple of weekends ago was awesome)... or if you crave more of a pre-WWII vibe, don't miss Danny Stiles' incredible Big Band Sounds show on WNYC-AM 820 AM between 8 and 10pm.
  • More Saturday night nostalgia (and I'm not even gonna mention A Prairie Home Companion* here!): Do you remember the deejay Paco? I do. From the early, classic days of WKTU? No? Then you weren't living in the NY metropolitan area in 1978-1980. 'Cause back then, 'KTU was a MONSTER. KTU was IT. (Yo.) It ruled New York's airwaves, because it played DISCO DISCO DISCO nonstop. Anyway: if you miss that era (and I do, said the blog writer semi-embarrassedly), you'll be delighted to hear the legendary Paco - a very cool dj with a kind, fatherly, and still-heavily-Spanish-accented voice - bringing it all home every Saturday night on WNEW 102.7 between 7 and 10 pm. Tomorrow, he's going to be doing his warm-hearted and nostalgic show from the POSH Ultra Lounge in the Garden City Hotel in Long Island (disco's home turf). Whoop whoop!
  • I've found WABC 770's Sunday morning program Religion On the Line, which is the station's longest-running show (!) and can be heard between 7 and 10 am every Sunday, to be thoughtful, gentle and reassuring... that's probably because it's hosted by two pleasantly-voiced religious guys who get along incredibly well, Father Paul Keenan (Director of the NY Archdiocese's Radio Ministry) and Rabbi Joseph Potasnik.
  • Tomorrow (Sunday) at 10AM on WNYC-FM 93.9, you can hear On The Media, the consistently excellent NPR show on the weekly goings-on of news media; then, right after OTM, you'll not want to miss the always-witty and fun Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me - the closest thing to an old-school radio quiz show you'll currently find on the air - in its new-ish timeslot of Sundays from 11am-noon. You can count on this weekend's broadcast to have a mention or three of Jessica Simpson's "snubbing" of George W. (I wonder if the President will address this dis in his Presidential Radio Address?) This show can also be heard, in a more timely fashion, Saturday at 1 PM on the AM side of WNYC - 820 AM.
  • Although they don't play nearly as much classic salsa as they used to (and too much reggaetron!), Polito Vega's Sunday afternoon institution, Salsa con Polito, still plays much great stuff - the kind of intoxicating stuff you hear booming out from the streets on New York City weekends - between 12 Noon and 8pm on La Mega 97.9. (Click here for a cool article about the history of Latin music on American radio.)
  • Sunday at Noon: Arthur's back! After leaving WOR in a huff in 1996 after the station hired right-wing "hate-mongerer" Bob Grant - who had himself just been fired from WABC - Arthur Frommer returned three weeks ago to WOR 710 for his weekly program The Travel Show, which airs from 12-2pm. This return has surely happened because Grant recently has been let go from the station, leaving the coast clear for Arthur's comeback. Frommer's show is low-key yet wonderful, full of sane and smart travel advice, with a nice Sunday in New York vibe, featuring more than a few amazing travel bargains... making me think more of the abundance of life, and of how I forget there's a lot of great opportunities out there, opportunities to live a reasonably good and adventurous and occasionally relaxing life, opportunities I've ignored year after year... but not anymore, if I listen to Arthur closely enough!
  • Speaking of the abundance of life: in the second hour of Arthur's show, during his commercial breaks, start tuning over to nearby WABC 770 to catch The Dave Ramsey Show, which can be heard every Sunday between 1 and 4 pm. It took me a little while to get used to, but I now think that Dave's show is a great companion of Arthur's, in that it can help you afford the nirvana-like vacations Arthur presents. Dave spreads an encouraging but no-nonsense gospel of fiscal responsibility, and talks to caller after caller about resolving credit card debt and getting on with life in an adult manner... maybe with a bit of a red-state vibe, but hey... that's OK sometimes too. It's like DA without all the meetings!
  • The classic This American Life now airs Sundays from 4-5pm; this week's theme is "Superpowers". Dry, articulate humor rules! (This show can also be heard on the AM side on Saturday at 11 AM.)
  • Now, I can't tell you much about the other new-time-slotted WNYC-FM program, The No Show, hosted by Steve Post (which now can be heard Sundays from 6-7pm). Why? Because I haven't heard it yet, sorry. (I don't know this weekend's topic either.) But WNYC's website intriguingly states that " was during overnights on WBAI during the 1970’s that Post’s acid wit, droll presentation and dead-of-night, anti-establishment tirades earned him a strong cult following amongst New York radio aficionados." Sounds very cool. I will listen and report back... soon!

* speaking of APHC, click here for a preview of the new Robert Altman movie... cool!

Friday, March 10, 2006

Running Down the Devil...

Sorry about the slowness of new posts. The last couple of weeks have been a personal challenge, to be sure.

Anyway, click here for crazy David Lee Roth news. I'd advise tuning into the show now, because it's actually rather entertaining these days, with all the on-air agita. There is much speculation on the New York Radio Message Board that Dave will shortly be replaced by Opie and Anthony, which will be quite the thing, as those guys are currently on XM Radio.

As for me, I've been listening alot to Star and Buc Wild - I think the show's quite compelling and that Star is quite a talent, certainly the only guy currently on the air with Stern-like talents (i.e. a daddy-figure with a cynical outlook and "shocking" opinions.) I will post more in-depth stuff about that show shortly. I hope.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Ornette all day tomorrow... and all day Friday: Bix!

It's been a long-standing tradition at WKCR 89.9 to celebrate the birthdays of jazz greats by dedicating their entire broadcast day to the playing of their music; that is why, starting at midnight tonight and through all day tomorrow (Thursday), 'KCR will be playing nothing but Ornette Coleman (left, born March 9, 1930) for 24 hours; and then on Friday, again starting at midnight, Columbia U's station plays nothin' but Bix Beiderbecke (right, born March 10, 1903, died August 7, 1931). And the amazing Phil Schaap, whose knowledge and love of jazz is truly staggering, will preside over much of these days (usually from somewhere in the morning into the afternoon), providing info and trivia and alternate takes and wisdom and all the astonishingly detailed Phil Schaap-stuff he usually provides. WKCR is the only station that could and would do this, and god bless 'em - their Ray Baretto day, for instance, was wonderful and eye-opening. (Question: Ornette has recorded dozens of albums, but how much recorded Bix is out there? Not much... so I'm curious as to how his day will play out.)

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Sarah Vowell's "Radio On": a book review, in pieces

I am in the process of reading Sarah Vowell's 1996 book Radio On, and I'll be reviewing it as I continue to read it (I'm on page 69). For starters, what this book is - a year-long diary of radio-listening, with commentaries on different stations and shows heard from across the country - is very very close to what I'd like to blog to be like. Plus this, from her intro:

"While American magazines and newspapers employ armies of critics to dissect the content and influence of television, movies, art, and music, radio is rarely covered. Its presence is intimated with skeletal listings that can't begin to hint at the medium's diversity. Glancing at the 'Radio Highlights' section of any metropolitan daily, you'd think that all we hear is Puccini or public policy - Rush Limbaugh was never born and Kurt Cobain never died."

(Note: Sarah talks about Kurt Cobain in this book. A lot. Too much, actually. Yeah, it was written the year after he died, and he was talented and important and his suicide was a shame, but she quotes him, mourns him, idolizes him, tries to be his Lester Bangs. Unfortunately, I've read far too much about poor ol' Kurdt so far, and I fear there's lots more about him to come.)

But I also very much like this pull quote that Sarah got from Susan Douglas's* Where The Girls Are:

"If enough people think studying the media is a waste of time, then the media themselves can seem less influential than they really are. Then they get off the hook for doing what they do best: promoting a white, upper-middle-class, male view of the world that urges the rest of us to sit passively on our sofas and fantasize about consumer goods while they handle the important stuff, like the economy, the ernvironment, or child care."

Umm. I think she's got a point - does that make me a feminazi? (uh oh) - especially in regards to the dangers of under-thinking about the media, especially radio, a medium so influential yet barely thought about, a medium that works on its listeners is such a semi-conscious, under-the-skin, poorly understood way.

So far, I have to say that I'm finding much of Sarah's commentary underwhelming and adolescent, although she has a healthy mistrust of NPR (funny that she's beome such a goddess of public radio since the book's publication). I can definitely say this: this book would work MUCH better as a blog. Still, I'm very glad she wrote it - there's much about it I find fascinating and valuable, especially as a wanna-be radio critic.

* author of the indispensible Listening In: Radio and the American Imagination

Monday, March 06, 2006

Yo La Tengo; Woe La iPod

Oy... sorry I haven't been posting as much (as much as I was, and as much as I want to). Did I mention that somebody broke into my car last week to steal my iPod??!! (sob) A mere couple of days after I got the iPod to work with RadioTime??! The last week has made my never-ending commute even more hellish and exhausting. So: again, I apologize. It's a month or so into my blog's short life, and the two most important pieces of electronic equipment that I was relying on and being wildly inspired by - my Sirius radio and my iPod - are now gone or broken. Aaargh. I really want to get the Radio YourWay as a stopgap measure, but I simply can't afford it at the moment. Maybe after I get my tax refund?

Anyway... I would like to promote Yo La Tengo's annual covers-for-pledges throwdown on WFMU 91.1. It's gonna happen tomorrow (Tuesday) at 8 pm on Tom Scharpling's show, and the band will play - or attempt to play - any request. Which is quite cool, and I would be more psyched about it if I wasn't so depressed. (Poor me.)

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Troubles for Air America?

According to this right-wing radio blogger, Air America may soon have its programming off of WLIB 1190 (a station owned by Inner City Broadcasting that leases its air time to the network). This would not be a good thing, though there's a chance the programming could shift to WSNR 620, a station that's probably up for sale from its owner, The Sporting News. But WSNR's signal is not as good as WLIB's.

More show-shifting at WNYC, starting tomorrow...

As discussed in a previous post, there is more "show-shifting" going on at WNYC, this time on the AM side - 820 on your dial - starting tomorrow, as of Monday March 6:
  • The BBC World Service will be simulcast on both the FM and AM stations from 9-10am weekday mornings. (Right now, "News and Notes with Ed Gordon" is heard during this timeslot.) If you're not familiar with the Service, it's a rather excellent source of international news, with smart and deep reportage, always presented in clipped, well-trained English tones. Here's an interesting guide on how to properly write news copy for the Beeb, and an informal behind-the-scenes look at the radio newsroom. (You can also hear plenty of BBC World Service on WNYE 91.5 FM, one of New York's more under-rated radio treasures.)
  • An intriguing and web-friendly PRI show named Open Source, produced by WGBH radio in Boston, makes its New York debut tomorrow (Monday) night at 9pm. It sounds darn intriguing: according to this how-it-works page, a show idea is posted on the show's blog, the idea is discussed via the magic of the Web by you and me and whoever else registers with the show, then the idea and the show and its guest-bookings gets discussed and whatnot, and at some point a show gets aired which we've all "produced". How modern! Check out the website for archived shows, podcasting links, an explanation from the producer, etc. I'll be listening... (Open Source will air Mondays through Thurdsays at 9-10pm on 820 AM; on Friday nights, you'll hear The Tavis Smiley Show in that slot.)
  • The show that's currently being heard at 9am weekdays, NPR's News and Notes with Ed Gordon, will be moving as of tomorrow (Monday) to the 10-11pm weeknight slot. It's a good show, one that - according to the NPR's PR - "shines a light on some of the most important topics and concerns of interest to African Americans today". (For what it's worth, I rarely think of the show as African-American-centric while listening.) I'm not sure what this move "means" - is this a dis? - especially regarding the fact that its an NPR show that's based in New York City; who knows what kind of behind-the-scenes machinations may be happening here? Is 10 pm a better or worse timeslot for such a thoughtful and worthy show?

Friday, March 03, 2006

What to Listen to this Weekend...

  • Of course, you should be listening to WFMU 91.1 all weekend - they are in full-fledged Marathon mode, and the station tends to present the most-entertaining and least-annoying pledge drives I've ever heard. Plus all the deejays will have co-hosts, to make things even more... entertaining, I guess. Plus there's all that swag! Of particular interest will be Station Manager Ken Freedman's mid-Marathon "State of the Station talk and listener phone in" Saturday (tomorrow) at 9 AM. He'll be talking about various station developments - technical, program-related and financial. Call in questions at 201-536-9368 from 9:30-10:00 am, or they can e-mail questions ahead of time at
  • Tomorrow (Saturday) night at 10 pm on Air America WLIB 1190: Part 2 of David Bender's fascinating chat with Gore Vidal on Politically Direct. (Meanwhile, feel free to compare and contrast with yesterday's Leonard Lopate segment with Gore's old nemesis Norman Mailer, which you can listen to and/or download here.)
  • I've found WABC 770's Sunday morning program Religion On the Line, which is the station's longest-running show (!) and can be heard between 7 and 10 am every Sunday, to be thoughtful, gentle and reassuring... that's probably because it's hosted by two pleasantly-voiced religious guys who get along incredibly well, Father Paul Keenan (Director of the NY Archdiocese's Radio Ministry) and Rabbi Joseph Potasnik.
  • Sunday at Noon: Arthur's back! After leaving WOR in a huff in 1996 after the station hired right-wing "hate-mongerer" Bob Grant - who had himself just been fired from WABC - Arthur Frommer has returned to WOR 710 for his weekly program The Travel Show, which airs from 12-2pm. This return has surely happened because Grant recently has been let go from the station, leaving the coast clear for Arthur's comeback. Frommer's show is about " with respect; an opportunity for learning that impacts your mind in a way like no other, from a cost-conciousness point of view." OK, then!
  • Elvis! One of my all-time fave songwriters will be Kurt Anderson's guest tomorrow (Sunday) evening at 7pm on WNYC-AM 820 on the always-fine and diverse Studio 360. Plus a chat with Paul Haggis (writer/director of the Oscar-nominated Crash) and a story about how the love of Maurice Ravel's Bolero lead a near-deaf man to the forefront of neurosurgery: bionic hearing.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Satellite vs. Terrestrial: the thawing of this cold war is already well underway

"Could this signal a thawing of the Cold War between satellite and terrestrial radio?" writes Ken Tucker in this Billboard Radio Monitor article. He's writing about the fact that, for the first time, a terrestrial radio station - Cincinatti's WLW 700 - will have their signal rebroadcast on XM satellite radio. The station has a rich history, so it's kinda cool to hear a "heritage" station via such modern technology, plus it's always fascinating (to me at least) to hear local radio from exotic places... and Cincinatti is exotic, in a way. (For those of you without XM Radio - and that number includes me - you can hear WLW's signal over the good 'ol Internet here.)

Speaking as a radio nostalgist, I especially liked this paragraph from the story:

"For the first time in 67 years, we are truly 'the nation's station' again," Clear Channel/Cincinnati director of AM operations Darryl Parks said in a statement. That slogan was used early in the station’s life when it was it was licensed to broadcast at 500,000 watts and its signal reached across the U.S. “Now through the power of satellite technology, 700WLW has a farther reach than ever before,” Parks added. "

500,000 watts! Dude! (Meanwhile, for more of a "WTF" reaction, go here.)

But, beyond this, there is more deal-making going on than you might think between Satellite and terrestrial radio. For instance, Bob Edward's XM-produced weekend show is now syndicated on "regular" public radio (WNYC-FM now has the show at 4pm Saturdays), and much of PRI and NPR's output can of course be heard on Sirius; many if not most of ABC Radio's, Fox News Talk's and ESPN Radio's shows are just as available on both XM and Sirius as they are "on the airwaves"; and Westwood One/CBS Radio provides much of Sirius's NFL Coverage (including the Super Bowl), not to mention all of their local traffic reports (via Metro Traffic).

My point? There may be a "big war" publicly going on between the technologies, but the terrestrial radio industry is not dumb; they're also frantically looking for ways to cooperate with, if not co-opt, XM and Sirius. And you know that Clear Channel is a major investor in XM, right?