ON THE WAY TO OUR DREAMS

He wanted to be a movie star, on the silver screen. I wanted to be an author. Somehow on our way to our dreams, we found our way to the college radio station. A puny thing, just 10 watts when Garry and I met in the tiny studios under the Little Theater. I was 17, Garry 22. He was a little older than most of the undergrads because at 17, he’d enlisted in the Marines and by the time he got out, a few years had passed.

Garry Clean Harbors-SMALLWe found the radio station by accident, but it fit. Garry stayed and became its Program Director. I hung around and began dating the Station Manager, who coincidentally was Garry’s best friend. Which is where our personal history gets a bit tangled and hard to explain, so I won’t. I was the Chief Announcer. Even though I knew I wanted to be in print, not electronic media, the radio station was a great place to try out new skills. There were scripts to be written, newsletters to create. And I had my own radio show and a whole bunch of great friends, most of whom are still great friends.

We were all oddballs. Creative and talented. Almost all of us went on to careers in media and the arts. We turned out a couple of authors, audio engineers, talk show hosts, DJs, TV and radio producers, news directors, commercial writers, college professors and Garry, a reporter whose career spanned 45 years, 31 at Channel 7 in Boston.

Surprisingly little footage of Garry’s on the air career  survived and until someone found this clip, we had nothing from his years at ABC Network. An old friend of Garry’s sent us this footage from 1969, the last year Garry was at ABC before he jumped to television. It’s a promotional piece for ABC News and features faces and voices from the past … and one young up and coming fellow, Garry Armstrong.

Let us return to those days of yesteryear, when television cameras used film and there was a war raging in Vietnam. 1969, the year my son was born, the year of Woodstock, the end of an era, the beginning of everything else.

Look at the equipment circa 1969. Antiquated by today’s technical standards, but the standards by which the news itself was gathered and reported were incomparably higher than what passes for news reportage today.

WHAT’S THE SCOOP?

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It seems to me the importance of whatever is going on in the world has an inverse relationship to the amount of attention it gets in the press. By “press,” I’m referring to newspapers, radio, television and other traditional news outlets, newer stuff like social networks, websites and blogs. Plus even newer sources of information such as newsletters and email. “Press” is the collective dissemination of information from a wide variety of perspectives and mediums. These days, it’s a free-for-all. If you care about truth and facts, you will need to do some independent reality checking.

News is loosely defined as whatever news people say it is. Whether or not this actually is news is subjective. The control of news content is not, as many people think, in the hands of reporters or even editors and publishers. Whatever controls exist are defined in corporate boardrooms run by guys like Rupert Murdoch who have no vested interest in keeping us well-informed. The news biz is about power, politics and money. Mostly money. It’s business, not public service.

That would, in theory, make “independent” sources — bloggers, for example — more “honest” … but don’t bet on it. Everybody’s got an agenda. Independence doesn’t equate to accuracy or honesty. They may not be beholden to a corporation or sponsors, but that doesn’t make them neutral or fair. They may be … but then again, maybe not. I’ve read blogs so blatantly lacking in any kind of journalistic ethics it shocked me. I am not easily shocked.

Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Pri...

Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin acknowledge applause during a Joint Session of Congress in which President Jimmy Carter announced the results of the Camp David Accords. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m not sure exactly when news stopped being stories about important stuff going on in the world and became whatever will generate a big audience likely buy the sponsors’ products. Money has always driven the news to some degree, but not like today. Now, everything seems to be driven by the bottom-line. It hasn’t improved the quality of the news. Once upon a time, important issues and stories got a free pass, an exemption from needing to have “sex appeal.” Significant news got on the air even if it wasn’t sexy or likely to sell products. Not true any more.

For a brief shining period from World War II through the early 196os and perhaps a bit beyond, the “Ed Murrow” effect was a powerful influence in American news. Reporters were invigorated by getting respect for their work and tried to be “journalists” rather than muckrakers.

When I was growing up, Walter Cronkite was The Man. He carried such an aura of integrity and authority I thought he should be president not merely of the U.S., but of the world. Who would argue with Walter Cronkite? He sat next to God in the newsroom and some of us had a sneaking suspicion God personally told him what was important. If Walter said it was true, we believed. Thus when Cronkite became the guy to get Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat to sit down and talk — the beginning of the Camp David Accords — it seemed natural and right. Who was more trustworthy than Uncle Walter? Who carried more authority? He walked in the glow of righteousness.

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He always made my mother giggle. It was not Walter, the reporter or man who made her laugh. It was his name. “Cronkite” in Yiddish means ailment, so every time his name was announced, my mother, who had a wild and zany sense of humor, was reduced to incoherent choking laughter. It was a nightly event. Eventually she got herself under control sufficiently to watch the news, but the sound of her barely contained merriment did nothing to improve the gravity I felt should surround the news.

To this day, the first thing I think of when I hear Walter Cronkite’s name — something that less and less frequently as the younger generations forget everything that happened before Facebook — is the sound of my mother’s laughter. That’s not entirely bad, come to think of it.

Walter was one of Ed Murrow’s boys, his hand-picked crew at CBS News.

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I can only wonder what the chances are of any of us living to see a return to news presented as news and not as entertainment. Where reporters and anchors check and doublecheck sources before broadcasting a story. Today, Jon Stewart’s comedy news The Daily Show gives us more accurate news than does the supposed “real” news, I like Stewart, but I don’t think this is the way it’s supposed to be.

For a look at the how we got from there to here, two movies spring instantly to mind : Network – a 1976 American satirical film written by the great Paddy Chayefsky and directed by Sidney Lumet starring Faye DunawayWilliam HoldenPeter Finch, and Robert Duvall. Its dark vision of the future of news has turned out to be very close to reality. Too close for comfort.

The other, for veterans of the TV wars, is Broadcast News, a 1987 comedy-drama film written, produced and directed by James L. Brooks. The film concerns a virtuoso television news producer (Holly Hunter), who has daily emotional breakdowns, a brilliant yet prickly reporter (Albert Brooks) and his charismatic but far less seasoned rival (William Hurt). When it first came out, it was almost too painful to watch.

And finally, Aaron Sorkin’s Newsroom …the HBO series that gives the most realistic look at how it works and sometimes, how it fails … and why it matters.

The world goes on. We think we can’t survive without this or that. We think the world will go completely to Hell without real news and serious reporters but we survive. Maybe the worse for wear, but trucking along. Nonetheless, I’d like real news back on the air. I’d like to see a return to fact-based reporting. I know how old-fashioned that is, but I wish I could believe what I read, what I see, what I hear. I miss being able to trust the information I get. I would like to be less cynical or at the least, discover my cynicism was misplaced.

Just saying.

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Ours was the last generation …

I get a lot of posts about things that were common when I was a kid that you don’t see anymore. Rabbit ear antennas for televisions.

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45 RPM record players. Vinyl records. Tape recorders that used actual mylar tape. Dial telephones. Galoshes. Roller skates that fitted your shoes and needed keys to adjust. Rabbit ear antennas for black and white televisions and of course, black and white televisions. And no remote controls.

My son’s generation gets this one:

rememberI’m sure my granddaughter’s generation will be the last to remember when you had to connect to the Internet using a modem … if she remembers. By the time she is a grandmother, who knows what technology will look like?

The thing is, my mother’s generation was born when seeing a horse and carriage was more common than seeing a car. Not everyone had electricity. Telephones were luxuries. Yet she lived to see men walk on the moon, something no one in my granddaughter or son’s generation has seen because we abandoned our manned space program and never revived it.

July 2012 - Farm Stand

Every generation sees the end of something and the beginning of something else. The 1300s, 1400s and 1500s saw monumental technological advances. The 1600s saw the industrial revolution which changed not only technology, but the way everyone lived. Talk about revolutionary changes, the world went from an agrarian economy to a city-based industrial economy. It was also the beginning of urban poverty and crime.

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The world is always changing. What is more interesting is not what has disappeared, but what has remained. Living in the country, we still see cows munching on grass and cooling off on hot summer days by wading in streams.

Stagecoach in Tombstone

We buy vegetables sometimes, when a farm has extra produce to sell, at stands that work on the honor system. Weigh the veggies and put the money in the can. Many people don’t lock their doors. A fair number don’t know where the keys are and couldn’t lock them if they wanted to.

cow in stream

Some of the old ways linger long in the country. But everyone has WiFi and cable or satellite. Everyone has a cell phone and all the shops take plastic. They will still accept cash, so far, anyway.

It’s not remarkable if things change. It’s remarkable when they don’t.

You’re ALL out of order! Historically speaking.

MAD-Magazine-Anthony-Weiners-BackMy husband is astounded the people of New York could really seriously consider electing Anthony “The Peter Tweeter” Weiner. How can people be so dumb? Of course he knows the answer. He’s just in denial.

I reminded him how the good citizens of Washington DC elected Marion Barry, Jr. multiple times, even after he was arrested, convicted and served time for cocaine. And he’s by no means the only known criminal to be elected after being convicted and serving time. Sex scandals, corruption, bribery, extortion, armed robbery, witness intimidation, drugs, embezzlement, murder. You name a crime and we, the American people have elected someone who committed it. Was known to have committed it. Was convicted in a court of law for committing it. And we elected them anyway, frequently more than once.

And then we have the gall to complain about the poor quality of our elected representatives? And demand term limits?

We have term limits. They are called elections. If you don’t want them, don’t elect them. It’s not as if foreigners sneak over the border and vote for their own candidate. We nominate and elect them. It isn’t the Russians, the Pakistanis or the Mexicans. It’s us. And we keep doing it. If ever a nation has the politicians it deserves, it’s the USA.

It’s funny, if you’ve got the right kind of sense of humor. The Hall of Shame list is broken down by presidency, governmental branch and by scandal, many of which have cool names that resound through history. Watergate. Teapot Dome. Iran-Contra. Koreagate. Only the juiciest scandals get really good names.

The number of indictments does not represent the number of crimes. It just shows who got caught with their hand in the proverbial cookie jar. Keep in mind many people convicted under one administration were actually appointed or elected during (or by) preceding administrations. They just didn’t get nailed until years later.

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My vote for top scandal of my lifetime: Watergate. I doubt I will live to see anything that can touch it for sheer bizarre excitement. Watching it unfold was a total reality show immersion experience. Nowadays, they try to create reality, but that was reality. Everyday, some totally weird new stuff showed up on TV. I used to carry a transistor radio with me so I wouldn’t have to miss the daily hearings. (Note: Transistor radios were predecessors of computers. You turned them on and live sound came out, but no pictures.) I turned on the TV as soon as I got home to watch the day’s events unfold. Crazy stuff! The best live continuing series ever.

I can’t believe I’m waxing nostalgic for great scandals of the past. With all the hoopla during the Clinton and Bush administrations, nothing matched Watergate. But that was just the big one in my lifetime. Historically, although there was no electronic media to cover the event, the biggest government scandal in American history? Take a guess. Let’s not always see the same hands.

It was the Whiskey Ring scandal. It took place during the massively corrupt administration of President Ulysses S. Grant’s (R) and involved whiskey taxes, bribery and kickbacks. It ended in 1875 with 110 convictions. That’s the record, folks. Hopefully, it will never be matched, much less beaten.

Ulysses S. Grant

Ulysses S. Grant

Most crimes, serious or minor, were punished by slaps on the wrist. A couple of months, a small fine, probation or community service, most of which was made to “disappear” by a pardon from the next occupant of the Oval Office. Without regard for party affiliation.

In case you are detail-oriented, I put together a list of most of the elected and appointed officials on the Federal level who were convicted while holding office. It’s in a separate post, The American Hall of Shame. Originally part of this post, it was huge, so I gave it its own space. Wow, eh?

More than a few of the people who were convicted of crimes while in office were subsequently re-elected, some while still serving time. The list goes all the back to … well … George Washington. It doesn’t start to get really intense until the Reagan administration, not because there weren’t many criminals, but the because officials were virtually untouchable for many years. Everybody knew they were criminals, but no one was willing to point a finger.

Somebody might cut that finger right off. No, really.

See The American Hall of Shame for delicious details of the America’s elected and appointed criminals and scandals. History can be fun!

 

Daily Prompt: Party Animals on the Radio

We don’t go to parties often nor do we give parties any more. Garry can’t hear at most gatherings and I always wonder why I’m there. But … for everything I say that’s true, there’s an exception. Also true, just completely the opposite of what I just said.

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Last night, we were on the air on WBZ 1030AM, gabbing about movies with a bunch of other movie-centric folks and it was, as usual, a whole lot of fun. Some good arguments  on the role of movies in cultural and social change. The odd warm interchange about remakes and franchise movies in particular, the quality of horror movies and movie monsters.

75-GarNK-83My opinion? On monsters, if you can’t see the seams, they’re cool. And as for remakes and franchises, isn’t there something new worth doing?

Then, there was the sad death of Harry Reems, star of Deep Throat, the first genuinely funny porn movie. Talk about cultural influence! A whole generation … never mind.

So we talked about movies, laughed about movies, made valid points about movies, a few on and off target comments on The State of the Art and Arts, American culture, took some call ins, did a bit of trivia. Jordan gave away WBZ pens (with ink!).

By the middle of the night, when I took a few in-studio shots, we were all looking pretty scruffy. You can’t tell about a few of us because I was holding the camera (yay, me) and the nature of shooting pictures in a studio is that there aren’t a lot of angles from which to shoot. Small and cluttered is never a great photo venue. But, at least you get a sense of the studio, its size and us. In the middle of the night, sans snacks or coffee.

Jordan Rich, our gracious host

Jordan Rich, our gracious host

It was fun. It’s always fun. It’s easy to forget that you are not just hanging out and whatever you say is actually being heard by a lot of people across the country. WBZ has a very powerful signal. The show is also simulcast in Cincinnati and everywhere in the world by live Internet feed.

It was my first time on the air in a year or so. I haven’t felt up to overnighting, but this time, I vowed I was going to make it.

So that was the party and I got to be one of the animals. Tomorrow, I’ll feel inspired. Today, I mostly need a nap.

Staring at the radio

Last night when Garry came into the bedroom, I was staring at the radio. Garry takes his hearing aids off at night, so we have our bedtime conversations at high volume. Shouting, really. So please imagine the following dialogue with both participants talking very loudly.

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“Why are you staring at the radio?”

“I’m trying to figure out if it’s on. Oh, it just started to make noise. It’s on.”

“It’s all the same to me. But why are you staring at it?”

“I figured if I stared at it for a while, it would start to play. Or not. One way or the other, I would find out what the red light means.”

“But … why are you STARING at it. How will staring at it help?”

“That’s how I figure things out. It didn’t come with instructions.”

Pause. “Have you taken any drugs?”

Philco Clock Radio CD

“No. See, there’s a red light. I didn’t if know the red light meant the CD player was on or off. I had to wait and see if it started playing. I was pretty sure a blinking red light meant pause, but I wasn’t sure what a steady red light meant. So I was waiting. I tried waiting when there was no light. Nothing happened, so I tried it the other way. Since it’s making noise, the red light must mean on. It’s kind of slow getting started.”

I wasn’t trying to be funny, but Garry started to laugh and couldn’t stop. “That’s the sort of thing I would do,” he said,

“Well, how else would I know what the red light means?”

He laughed some more.

Garry thinks I know a lot of stuff I don’t really know, especially about technical stuff. I have a simple methodology. Push a button. If it doesn’t do anything or solve whatever problem I’m trying to solve, I push another button. Or push the same button again or hold the button down for a couple of seconds. While I’m waiting, I watch. Intently. Maybe I’ll get a message. Isn’t this how everyone fixes stuff?

My husband finds this hilarious.

I spend a lot of time staring at computers. I’m waiting for something. An idea. For the system to reboot. To see if a blue screen is going to recur. To figure out if the diagnostic will tell me there’s no problem even though I’m sure there is. For a message to appear.

I must be doing something right. Beethoven is playing on the CD player/radio. And most of the time, the computers work.

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Daily Prompt: The Little Things – Music to My Ears

The issues of the world … the problems between our government and the governed, hostility between nations. Terrifying and potentially calamitous environmental and economic crises everywhere you look. Bombarded by the woes of humankind and a myriad of looming catastrophes. Besieged by forces over which we have no control.

Indeed we have little control over many things. Our destinies lie in the hands of other people, Fate and God. Tossed hither and yon by the winds of chance, buffeted by challenges that seem unconquerable, we can take comfort in small joys, little things, simple gifts.

I didn’t expect acquiring an uncomplicated, modestly priced, nice-sounding CD player would present a major challenge. How hard could it be to buy something on which to play music as I fall asleep at night? It has been a while since we had the wherewithal to play music without complicated reconfiguration of speakers and various connected computerized equipment. I know MP3 players are all the rage, but I don’t want to use a teeny tiny device I can barely see and which requires either auxiliary speakers or earphones. I want music to fill the room. And I want it to be a simple thing. Put the CD in, press play. Music!

It turned out to be a lot more difficult to satisfy my criteria than I imagined possible. If I was willing to spend a lot of money — much more than I have — I could get something amazing. But I’m not looking for a stereo system. I’m sure Bose equipment is terrific, but it’s way beyond our budget. All I wanted was something simple. With a nice sound. At a reasonable price.

I actually found it. Sometimes, you get lucky.

Meet the PHILCO AM and FM Clock Radio with CD Player

Searching for my simple solution to playing CDs in the bedroom without buying a full stereo setup I finally saw this odd old-fashioned clock radio with a CD player built into it. I was about to give up, and there it was: this amazing retro style radio and CD player designed to look like an old Philco television set.

Philco CD player

The Amazon reviews were all five stars. You don’t see that very often. Like never. Usually someone has a complaint. Not for this, though. With a price just under $50 and a size that would fit on the shelf behind my bed, it looked to be exactly what I wanted. I could drift into slumber to my favorite Beethoven string quartets.

I remained skeptical. Too often I’ve been seduced by great reviews only to be disappointed.

In a strange happy moment, I got exactly what I sought. The reviews were dead on. It’s an amazing little unit. Wonderful rich, big sound. It fits on top of the headboard bookcase. It’s got a vintage look I like. It’s heavy for its size, has a solid feel, not flimsy or plasticky. I like it so much I got a second one for the living room. In theory our DVD player plays CDs, but it’s not a simple “pop the CD in and voilà music” sort of DVD player. It’s a very fine DVD player, but it’s got dozens of functions I have yet to figure out and in which I have no interest at all.

Philco Clock Radio CD

I am strongly in favor of simplicity. Easy to use stuff get used. The more complicated the equipment, the more likely it is to become a dust catcher, another great idea that didn’t work out.

And so we welcomed music back into our lives after a long absence. Surprisingly, radio reception is good too, remarkable for this area renowned for poor reception.

It is a small thing, but I smile every time I look at it. I sigh with contentment every night when I wrap myself in music. Sweet dreams guaranteed. For just under $50. Life is good.

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A Half Hour Radio Show

See on Scoop.itBooks, Writing, and Reviews

This site hosts the original broadcasts of the cult radio comedy show “A Half Hour Radio Show,” syndicated around the US in the early 1990’s.

Marilyn Armstrong‘s insight:

When I was in college, I worked at the radio station. This show was a very big hit at the time. Since then, it has gone through a lot of iterations, refinements, rewriting … and it’s still hilarious. Take a trip in time. Enjoy a type of entertainment that used your imagination instead of special effects. Fall in love with radio!

See on captclerk.podbean.com

Daisy Award: A Special Award for the Brave of Heart

It is on rare occasion that a connection is available to the creator of an award. This time the beginning link in a chain of unknown number of recipients is Subtle Kate.

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In Kate’s own words on June 28, 2012, “I would like to start a new award. It’s called the Daisy Award.  Daisy’s are very sweet flowers, but they are stealth with hardiness. They’ll come up anywhere and beat the frost.  This award is for the brave.”

So without further ado, these are the rules to follow:

Thank the person who nominated you.

This is the easiest part. I keep finding myself thanking Sharla, (Awakenings and CatnipOfLife). Sharla, you have become so much a part of my life it’s hard to explain to people who someone who I’ve never met face to face could become so interwoven with my life. You are the best, you really are. Hugs and thanks fly over the miles, from me to you!

Tell your readers seven unusual things about yourself.

What can I tell you that you don’t already know? I think by now I’ve told everybody everything. But let’s see how these fly:

  1. I am a peculiar combination of sentimental, tough, sympathetic, empathetic and impatient. All at the same time. I love and admire people who laugh in the face of disaster but cry at reruns of Flipper.
  2. I love survivors and people who share the good in their lives while trying to spare others from pain.
  3. I appreciate that while I’ve had a rough time, others have had worse.
  4. I’m a risk taker and whenever I take a risk, I’m scared to death. My motto is “What the Hell; do it anyhow!”
  5. I don’t believe that any of us deserve medals for doing the best we can with whatever hand we’ve been dealt. That’s what you are supposed to do. Life can be messy and unfair. No one gets a free ride.
  6. I’m a fighter, even when I know I can’t win. I figure it’s better to lose then give up while letting the fates use you as a soccer ball.
  7. I am a relentless student of everything and when I stop learning, it will be because I’m no longer breathing.

Nominate several worthy bloggers.

This award is for the brave … and I think I’m choosing rightly.

For Mike, at Mike’s Film Talk, because while watching his life crash and burn, he’s managed to somehow keep a sense of humor and a sense of perspective and recognize that there will be another day.

For Jenny Threet at Rumpy Dog who fights a never-ending battle to try to protect our furry friends in the face of ignorance and indifference.

For Jordan Rich at  Jordan Rich, a man who has a been a friend and supporter of every kind of worthy cause, donated his time, his celebrity, and personal resources to help everyone to the best of his ability. Which I might add is considerable. He has his own problems and faces them with courage and honor and without complaint. The Jordan Rich Show airs Friday and Saturday nights, from midnight until 5AM on WBZ AM 1030AM and WCCO Minneapolis.