Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Current fires Barb Abney

Broadcast media is a fickle animal — particularly radio. On-air DJ firings and format flips happen regularly. It’s practically expected because it’s just another business chasing a larger profit. When an on-air DJ is fired from a public radio station, though, that’s shocking. When Barb Abney, now-former mid-day on-air host at 89.3 The Current tweeted last night that “I Loved My Job” it was immediately apparent what that meant. It’s a rarity when a public radio DJ is fired. I believe that it has only happened once before at 89.3 The Current in its ten year run and that happened to be Thorn whom Abney replaced.

Barb Abney was definitely an outsider when she came to Minnesota after her former on-air home 97X WOXY in Oxford, Ohio was sold and flipped to a cookie-cutter ass-rock format. She has always had the chops for modern rock and alternative radio. I used to listen to the 97X WOXY stream and remember Abney and instantly recognized the name when she landed in the Twin Cities. I emailed her a short pronunciation guide for some of our hard-to-pronounce-for-outsiders sit names on what must have been her first day on the air at The Current. A few days later she emailed me back and thanked me for listening to her show.

I routinely listened to at least half of her show on The Current and her cover to cover segment was a breath of fresh air and tonal real was like stepping back in time to simpler days. She knows how to connect to the community and even if her style wasn’t for everyone you’d be hard pressed to find a Minnesota music fan who hadn’t seen Abney at a local show at least once. She is passionate about what she does and it has always showed in the way she is the biggest fan of the music she has played. The fact that Barb Abney said that “I Loved My Job” was the best statement she could have ever made. It was obvious, given her passion, that the biggest fan of The Current very well may have been Barb Abney.

Her mid-day on-air replacement, Jade Tittle, will need a lot of patience from MPR management because while she has been on the air doing overnights and fill-ins, her style seems custom-tailored for late nights and overnights. Her mellow tone, to me anyway, seems to be the complete opposite of what is needed for the heart of the 9-5 workday. Her age, too, is exactly what The Current is after as far as listener and member demographics. MPR wants and needs younger listeners as The Current is a feeder for their classical music and news services as those Current listeners age.

I’m not saying that Abney was fired due to her age and a perceived disconnect with the younger listeners the station wants as members but it sure seems possible.

But Barb Abney will survive. The great DJs always do. Maybe the Pohlad family hasn’t completely finalized their on-air line-up for Go96.3. It sure would be a welcome treat to hear a knowledgeable female voice who has shown that she can connect with the Minnesota music scene show up on a locally-owned station which seems to cater to the exact same audience as The Current.

Good luck Babney.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Craig Ferguson will be missed

I will admit that when Craig Ferguson first took the reins of ‘The Late Late Show’ on CBS, I missed
Craig Kilborn. That feeling, though, would be short lived. Craig Ferguson had a bit of a bumpy start as a talk show host but soon found his footing and developed a quirky, off-beat sense of comedic art that will not be replicated any time soon.

The low budget of the show paired with the fact that it was owned by David Letterman’s production company — Worldwide Pants — meant that the show wasn’t going anywhere even if ratings fell to ‘Mulaney’-like levels. Low expectations often mean creative freedom and that is exactly what the quirky Scottish-born Ferguson took advantage of.

With a cast of oddball characters including a foul-mouthed assortment of puppets, the horse Secretariat, Geoff the skeleton robot, lip-synced songs and plenty of random dancing in what he referred to as a “dimly lit studio” gave the show the flavor it needed to be a success at 11:30 PM (CT).

Craig Ferguson could have easily been another talk show host with a band, a mildly edgy joke-filled monologue followed by two showbiz guests and a band to round out the hour but he took things a step further. Sometimes he had only one guest. There weren’t always bands on the show. And his interview style was one where it was conversational and he held nothing back. He made guests feel comfortable and made his producer feel uncomfortable by often times swearing which made Ferguson come across as more genuine than any late night talk show host before him.

Ferguson got the job because he had stand-up comedy chops and had already proven himself during his tenure on ‘The Drew Carey Show’. He was a dark horse and that made him even more likable and real.

It will be quite some time before another show is as uniquely different and genuine as ‘The Late Late Show’ with Craig Ferguson was. His ten year run, which ended Friday, will stand out as the pinnacle of 11:30 CT late night talk shows for quite some time as others strive to be lesser-known carbon copies of their 10:30 PM CT siblings.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

7 essential Thanksgiving foods

America is truly a melting pot but there are some dishes -- especially for a day set aside to celebrate
the one time when the pilgrims got along with the native Americans before killing them with weapons and disease -- that are essential to your Thanksgiving Day feast.

1.) Pumpkin Pie.
This is a necessity. Without having at least one (preferably more) Pumpkin Pie at your Thanksgiving Day feast, you obviously hate America and all of the awesomeness which it stands for.

2.) Mashed Potatoes.
Forget adding shit like cheese and bacon bits to them. Thanksgiving is about celebrating with the most basic foods in the largest quantities available. Cheese has no fucking place on your mashed potatoes and if you are having Au Grautin Potatoes, then you're obviously a terrorist. Heap that pile of mashed potatoes high and be sure to go back for seconds because on Thanksgiving, your belt gets the day off.

3.) Cranberry Sauce.
The Pilgrims probably had the luxury of fresh cranberries picked by the hands of the native Americans whom they would later conquer and kill so as modern Americans we shall at least have the same food. Of course we should do so with a modern twist. Take that can opener out of the kitchen drawer and crank open a couple cans of Jellied Cranberry Sauce. Brand has no place, I prefer the cheapest I can find, and slice off discs of jellied Cranberry goodness. If your relatives don't like the Jellied Cranberry Sauce that simply leaves more for you. If they begin to taunt you for liking something so weird, tell them how you truly feel about them. Don't hold anything back. They are now DEAD to you.

4.) Stuffing.
Don't call it "dressing" because what the fuck is it actually dressing. This stuffing comes out of your turkey's ass like it ought to. And it needs to have plump, juicy raisins in it. Not giant chunks of onions but raisins because that's just the way it is. If your spouse says this is gross, it is grounds for divorce. Seriously, consult a lawyer.

5.) Gravy.
This is the only accessory which is acceptable for your mountain of mashed potatoes. Put a healthy drizzle of gravy -- hopefully from a can, jar or a bag which came stuffed up the turkey's ass -- on those potatoes. Then put more on. Dump it on your stuffing and turkey. They lick the rest out of the gravy boat. Laugh maniacally at the person who would have received the gravy next, pound your fist on the table and proclaim yourself "king of the gravy" as you leave no gravy for anyone else. Maybe they'll think twice about making only three gallons of gravy next year.

6.) Candied Sweet Potatoes.
They are healthy because they're orange. They're delicious because they are glazed with butter, brown sugar and milk. Notice how I didn't mention marshmallows. That's because marshmallows have one purpose -- s'mores. Marshmallows are NOT a Thanksgiving food. Leave my house, hippie.

7.) Turkey.
Cook it breast down after seasoning it. DOn't just throw the headless bird in a pan and shove it in the oven. Take some pride in this genetically modified turkey and at least make an attempt at seasoning the poor bird. Use some Kosher salt, Paprika, hell, maybe ever some freshly ground pepper. Shoved a few sticks of butter under its skin. A few more up its cavernous ass. Rub butter on the outside, too. Eat half a stick of butter then, and only then, can you shove it in the oven and routinely baste it.

There you have it. The seven essential Thanksgiving foods necessary for a proper Thanksgiving feast complete with the best way to prepare each one. Eat until you feel sick because that's the American way!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The best pop music song this century?

In the late 1990s there was a Swedish pop star who crossed the Atlantic Ocean and had a big hit or two. Her stage name was Robyn and after trying to replicate the success of her initial couple hits here in the states she faded into relative obscurity.

It took over a decade for her to regain a sort of foothold in the UnitedStates music scene and her small bit of success should shave been much larger with hits like Dancing on My Own and the even better Call Your Girlfriend. She performed both of those hits on the venerable SNL but that never translated to radio airplay.

No matter what happened, those two songs -- especially Call Your Girlfriend -- are pop music gems. They are high energy, ultra danceable and have an infectious beat. The video for Call Your Girlfriend is a classic continuous-shot video but as fascinating and odd as Robyn's dancing is, the making of the video is even better. I, for one, love seeing the work it takes behind the scenes to produce a perfect four minute music video.

Here is the finished music video...

Here is the making of the video feature...

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Standalone HBO streaming is a good thing

HBO announced yesterday that their streaming service, HBOGo, would be available as an a la carte service for anyone who wants to pony up the subscription fee (estimated to be around $20/month) could do so without having any cable television subscription. That is the first step in cable television channels giving viewers the power to choose the most important channels and paying for only what they want to watch.

The bad part is that most of the people who would want to subscribe to a standalone HBOGo service would still need to be strapped to a cable television company to receive streaming content because cable internet is the norm for a large percentage of internet customers.

In the end the cable companies still get your money and you are still dependent on them because people have few, if any, options. The only other viable option is to sever all ties to cable companies. I did this just over a year ago and went with DSL (just a fast and actually cheaper) but opted to subscribe to DISH TV service because my cable company (Mediacom) moved to metered internet service and my Netflix habits would have burned through that data cap in no time at all.

And it's those very data caps / metered internet access that cable companies will impose on their customers to keep them from cutting the cord to television service completely. This borderline monopoly is the kind of practice that keeps the cable companies insanely profitable and keeps customers tied to their television service.

The only hope is municipal fiber internet service or for a company like Google to become ultra aggressive in their deployment of fiber internet service. True competition is the only thing which will force cable television companies to be competitive -- both in price and speed -- with their internet service.