Saturday, November 18, 2006

Classical Radio Lives To Tell The Tale

We are pleased and relieved to note that the expected demise of round-the-clock classical radio here in Boston has been averted, at least for the time being. On December 1st, WCRB will begin to broadcast from 99.5 FM, because its present 102.5 will undergo a remarkable personality change into a country music station.

(These days we have to specify that’s “terrestrial” radio, although that’s a misnomer, since you don’t pick up broadcast radio waves by sticking an antenna in the ground, right? Their medium is usually referred to as the “airwaves.”)
Classical stations around the country have been falling like so many decrescendi in these past years, presumably as the generations that were more attuned to it have moved on. Over and over, classical stations have been sold to fill the gaping need for more pop/rock/dance music on the dial.

The reason this is such a big deal to me (besides the fact that I spent a few years as a weekly and frequent pinch-hit announcer on Miami’s former classical station, WTMI, since dance-popped,) is that WCRB is the only consistently quieter, more relaxed sound that’s always available on the public airwaves around here.

Concerned about road rage? As thousands of monitored plants from dozens of studies will tell you, classical music is soothing, calming, gently supportive, and all those similar qualities so frighteningly missing from Storrow Drive, Route 128, et al, for at least six hours each weekday.

We must duly note that public radio WGBH (89.7) programs classical weekdays from 9-4, after and before the invisible talking heads take over with their “All Things Confounded” and so on.

‘GBH has always played a much wider selection of music and composers, with the relative freedom of a listener supported, not-very-commercial station, while WCRB has always seemed to have a three-composer rotation: Mozart, Beethoven, then one of the others. (And there were only a handful of the others; but now it’s clear that they were fishing in a slowly drying pond, and were feeling considerable pressure to popularize.)
This blogger at Perfect Fifths, for “violin, viola, and cello players and fans,” reports that the signal on Lowell-based 99.5 is “much worse.” “I tested out the signal tonight from my home in Watertown, and unless they boost the signal, it’s pretty bad.”
= = =
UPDATE December 4th:
We're pleased to report that WCRB's signal is coming in loud and clear at 99.5 FM, at least up here on Boston's North Shore.

The Channel Getting Cleared?

Since the topic is Radio In The News; and we are all for a tilt back towards greater local ownership of media, for all the reasons stated in this bulletin of Nov. 17th:

“Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold has weighed in on the announced Clear Channel buyout and divestment of nearly 450 radio stations, and count him among the crowd that is happy to see the break-up of the media giant's reign on American radio.

"’Clear Channel has been the poster child for rapid consolidation in the radio industry, which has severely damaged the diversity, local flavor, and popularity of radio,’ said Feingold. ‘I hope the recently announced sale and divestment of around 450 stations marks an end to this ill-conceived experiment. And I urge the FCC to start taking more seriously its obligation to ensure the greatest benefit to the radio listener through increased localism and competition."

From FMQB (Friday Morning Quarterback), a radio industry magazine begun in 1968.
Senator Feingold might be celebrating a little early, though, since Clear Channel is only selling those stations that are not in the top 100 markets. In those city-states, they often own quite a few stations, meaning we're hearing a much smaller number of editorial voices than we realize.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Hey, NYT: What about Fair Use?

I was amused at a dialog that just popped up as I read one of David Pogue's columns in the New York Times. (I was going to add, "online," but then a dialog wouldn't have bluudy-well popped up out of the print edition, would it?)

From the NYT and “Powered by Rightslink, the copyright clearance center,” it offered to give me a “Quick Price Estimate for reproducing the article to use in your own materials."

By stating via pull-down menus that I was inquiring about republishing an “excerpt (max. 250 words)” on “a non-profit internet site” for three months, I was invited to pay $200 dollars, or $400 for a year. Oh, sure; I’m eager to pay for a quote that clearly would be covered under Fair Use.

That would be the “Fair use… doctrine in United States copyright law that allows limited use of copyrighted material without requiring permission from the rights holders, such as use for scholarship or review. It provides for the legal, non-licensed citation or incorporation of copyrighted material in another author's work under a four-factor balancing test.”

(That’s in the words of the faceless, numberless contributors to the Wikipedia’s page on Fair Use.)

This is going to influence me to stop quoting the New York Times, who can perhaps be forgiven for trying to find additional ways to save the newspaper business but are making an unfortunate choice here. What has fueled the nearly universal adoption of the Internet is exactly the reasonable application of appropriating other people's material.

That's assuming, of course, that we're talking logically here, about quoting a small chunk of someone's work with proper linking/attribution. (As we know, unreasonable out-and-out theft of other people's intellectual property has also been rumored to occur; but that's not what we're talking about.)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Dear David Stern: how about "One, two, three, T"

I'm watching the Celtics game -- as I write this they're up 78-70 at the end of the 3rd quarter vs. the Bobcats (the who?) at the new Garden -- flipping to the Suns-Spurs game, and watching as players are promptly called for fouls for even thinking about scowling at the ref's.

They got some new rules this year, see? David Stern says no more whining and complaining, no more temper, no more emotion directed at the referees.

Dear Mr. Stern,
You've done a great, in fact exemplary job of shaping and promoting the NBA. There must be an ample supply of marketing books based on what you've done. But the thing about emotions, especially some of the most intense type brought on by physical exertion and battle, is that they have got to go somewhere. They do not dissipate just because they are not not permitted.

How about a simple system of 1, 2, 3? If he counts to three, he pops the T. It sure worked great in my family, growing up.

It gives the guy, his breath heaving, sweat dripping liberally from a body that's been literally crashing into other athletes all game, a decent chance to vent a little. But it clearly draws a line, institutes a clear discipline, and everybody's happy.

= = = = =

Wow! Paul Pierce just aced a beauty after taking the hit from an airborne Bobcat, fortunately with no claws extended. Big foul for that.

The Celts have dancers this year for the first time, which for the tradition-soaked Celtics is a very big deal whenever it rarely happens.


During the game, sideline reporter Eric Dickerson contributed, "As Red Auerbach used to say, "Keep it simple, fellas."

Oh, geez, it's going right down to the wire. Final possession, Celtics need a stop...

Nope -- tie game. But they've got the ball with a short clock.

Five seconds on the clock, Pierce has the ball...

Overtime! "Free basketball," as the expression goes. But will Sczerbiak still have the hot hand?

...Delonte West! For the game! And, in fact, their first win of the season. And you were there!
; - )

(10:28 pm)

Another Long-Overdue Wrong To Be Righted: Leaf Blowers

In what has already been a very good news day ; - ) ,
this heartening item appeared in the Boston Herald*:

"Leaf blowers may have to take leave: Cambridge mulls ban"
By Laura Crimaldi, 11/8/06

"Cambridge city officials this week established a Leaf Blowers Advisory Committee to determine whether the noisy lawn and garden machines should be muffled for good or least regulated.

"Last year, Palo Alto, Calif., banned use of the cacophonous gas-powered deleafing devices in residential zones, joining more than a dozen of California communities that have outlawed high-octane leaf blasting or limited the hours that the turbo garden contraptions can be in use.

"The yard-clearing conundrum isn’t just about neighborhood racket, leaf blower naysayers said. It’s also about health risks and actually robbing your lawn of the nutrients needed to stay healthy.

“'Everybody has this idea that it’s important to get the leaves up,' said Karen Carmean, co-chairwoman of the Cambridge Public Planting Committee. (But,) 'it is the best thing for trees to have leaves on the ground around them because it creates leaf mulch.

"The leaf blowers also kick up dust particles that pose a health threat, Carmean said. 'Particulate matter is more dangerous than we thought it was a few years ago.'”
Okay, it isn't known as The People's Republic of Cambridge for nothing. And yes, the price of not cutting your own lawn will go up along with the extra time it'll take to rake.

But I was particularly happy to see this possibility being considered, because them dang things are a pet peeve of mine, and I hadn't even considered the issues of mulch and free-flying particles. Just the damn noise!

Such a peeve, in fact, that i was moved a few years back to vent into my keyboard on the subject; to wit:
It's a Loud, Loud World
Here's a piece of technology that has all the nerve-shredding abilities that we've outlined, but absolutely none of the usefulness, the practical value, of tools that at least accomplish something. The leaf blower just moves unwanted material from one place to the other, where it is equally unappreciated. Its slogan? "Let them clean it up."

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Happy Basketball Season!

In honor of the start of the season:

Let's go Cel-tics! (They say that was Red Auerbach's favorite cheer, and the fans present at last night's Goodbye and Hello game really put their hearts into it.)

Too bad we're in the same conference as,

"Okay, check it in..."

(Logos courtesy of Chris Creamer's SportsLogos.Net.)