I Support WFMU

In just about a week or so, radio station WFMU will begin its annual fundraising marathon. Lots of public radio stations are taking time out this time of year to hit up their listeners for money. Why is WFMU different? Why do I support this one and no other station?

Put it simply, WFMU gets zero corporate or government dollars. One hundred percent of their funds comes from listener donations. Well, OK, there are a few modest grants, their annual Record Fair, and some companies that have donation-matching programs, but that’s it. You’ll never hear “Support for this program comes from….” or “This broadcast is made possible by a grant from….”

What this means is that no one (other than the FCC) can tell the station what it can broadcast. It’s “freeform” – their volunteer DJs play whatever they want. Since they all clearly love their particular genre of music, the whole effect is that of having a bunch of good friends who want to share this love of music with you. There’s a gospel show, a 50s R&B show, international music, reggae…. And several talk and listener call-in hours to add to the variety.

They are also very supportive of the local music scene in NYC and northern NJ, with DJs hosting local events. And they’ve been innovative, too. In 1997, they started live online streaming of their broadcast, which soon led to them archiving their shows. There’s at least 100,000 hours of radio available! And that doesn’t include podcasts and their new “Web Only” streams! They’ve even begun curating a “Free Music Archive” where you can find all manner of free and “pre-cleared” music for your creative needs.

I’ve been supporting them for several years now, and the Marathons are very likely the most fun thing you’ll hear on the station. Most other public stations sound tired as they beg for your money; WFMU goes crazy with excitement, live performances, and goofy stunts as they essentially invite you to join in on the madness.

In addition to the load of swag (no mere “Thank You” gifts here!) that you can get for your donation, you can even buy naming rights to a part of the station or Adopt a DJ! Let’s see you do that, PBS!

Here’s a bit from NJTV News about a recent documentary, “Sex and Broadcasting”, about WFMU:

So check them out, give them a listen, and maybe join the Super Secret Club of Worldwide WFMU Fans by sending a few bucks their way!


Movie Review: Birth of a Nation (1915)

A centennial went by earlier this month with essentially no fanfare. On February 8, 1915, D.W. Griffith’s masterpiece, Birth of a Nation, premiered. Almost immediately there were protests about its racism. Protests and complaints have continued to this day, to the point where if you happen to include it in a list of Greatest Films Ever (for its many technical innovations), you are almost obligated to apologize for it.

I’ve wondered… The movie is a century old. Shouldn’t the passage of time have dulled its effect? Given that almost every time it’s mentioned, someone cries out “It’s EEEvil!” and tries to ban it from being shown, you have to wonder just how many of those complaining about it have actually seen it. If you’re going to try to keep people from seeing it, how are they ever going to know just how evil it is?

Well, the thing’s in the public domain. You can watch it in many places online, without fear of violating piracy laws (like that’s ever stopped you). I decided to see for myself just what all the fuss is about. So I loaded up my computational engine with coal, got myself a delicious beverage, and sat my butt down to watch it (and take notes).

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A Personal Cold War

It starts with a little tickle of dryness back in the throat. You figure it might just be low humidity or dust in the air, but it stays with you throughout the day as you move from one environment to another. Still, it’s not that much of a problem, so you don’t pay that much attention to it. But then you wake up the next day… Whatever glands there are in your throat have swollen to the point where it feels like they’ve clamped it shut. Your sinuses are packed full of…something. Your entire body feels tingly – and not in a good way, either. As you stumble out of bed and try to stand up, your head protests madly at this unconscionable disturbance.

There’s only one possible cause of all this torture.

You are under attack by the Common Cold.

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On Black History Month

It’s that time of year again, when America as a whole makes a lip-service attempt at atoning for past injustices in the hope that it will absolve them from actually having to do anything about current injustices…

Why am I not surprised that it is the shortest month of the year?

It is also the time when teachers all over the country give their students assignments related to the observance. Prepare book reports, essays, and other presentations on African-American people of historical importance, in the hopes of learning something about their struggle. Unimaginative students and teachers choose the same people year after year – Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, etc.

While not to denigrate those who do choose to study those great people, there are many others who deserve at least a passing look in the grand pageant of history.

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The New Commissioner

Rob Manfred has officially taken the reins as Commissioner of Major League Baseball. He inherits a sport that is in better shape than a lot of people seem to realize. Financially, baseball as a whole is doing very well. Attendance is high and steady, even at a time when fans have many more ways to follow the sport than showing up in person. A lot of the griping one sees is from people who don’t appear to be fans anyway.

But there are a few issues that need to be addressed, and it looks like Mr. Manfred is willing to jump right in and get down to business.

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Book Review: Mars Girl by Jeff Garrity

The United States’ first attempt at colonizing Mars is in big trouble. The lander has been damaged – somehow – and is drifting off course. Worse, sixteen of the seventeen people aboard are dead, leaving only a teenaged girl alive.

Will she land safely? Will she be able to make it to the prefab, pre-landed restaurant/shelter? Will a rescue mission be able to reach her in time? How will the corporate sponsors of the mission be able to profit from this? How will the news network with exclusive coverage of the landing keep people glued to their screens, and keep the merchandise moving? How will the government spin this disaster to their advantage?

Can our intrepid…er, hero, the ace reporter Ray Barker, while stuck in a small lakeside town in Michigan, find a story that’s big enough to keep his name and face on the news?

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Review: Project: Potemkin

These are the voyages of the starship Potemkin. Her five year mission: Explore strange new worlds. Seek out new life, and new civilizations. To boldly go where….

Oh, let’s cut the nonsense….

Project: Potemkin is a series of Star Trek fan films made by a group based in southwestern Georgia. What sets them apart from almost every other fan film is that there is some real talent involved. No one you are likely to have heard of (of course), but people with some real acting and production experience. For example, Jeffrey Green (Captain Alec Grigory and Director of Photography) is the Chair of the Dramatic Arts Department and Artistic Director of Rylander Theater Partnership Productions (among many other things) and has been acting since the 1980s.

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Charlie or Ahmed?

If you notice at all the international news, by now you must have heard about the assassination of editors, cartoonists, and staffers at France’s Charlie Hebdo. The attack must be considered an assassination, since some of the victims were specifically targeted by name. It’s also appropriate to use the term “assassination”, given the origins of the word.

For the record, the dead are:

  • Stéphane “Charb” Charbonnier, 47, the editor in chief of Charlie Hebdo and one of its top cartoonists.
  • Bernard “Tignous” Verlhac, 57, a member of a group of artists called “Cartoonists of Peace” and also belonged to the Press Judiciare, an association of French journalists covering the courts.
  • Jean “Cabu” Cabut, 76, established himself as one of France’s best-known cartoonists over a career that spanned 50 years.
  • Georges Wolinski, 80, another of Charlie Hebdo’s veteran cartoonists. He was awarded the Legion of Honor, France’s highest decoration, in 2005.
  • Bernard Maris, 68, wrote a weekly column in Charlie Hebdo called “Uncle Bernard,” was a regular commentator for the France Inter radio network, and taught economics at a branch of the University of Paris.
  • Michel Renaud, the founder of the Clermont Ferrand-based festival of travel journals “Rendez-vous du Carnet de Voyage” who was visting the offices at the time.
  • Police officers Ahmed Merabet and Franck Brinsolaro
  • Three other staffers and a maintenance worker were also killed, but I haven’t yet been able to find their names.

The assassins identified themselves as members of one of the Al-Qaeda offshoots, and cited the paper’s “insults” to Islam as the reason for the killings.

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The Hall of Fame Class of 2015

Today, the Baseball Writers Association of America formally announced the apotheosis of four players: Craig Biggio, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and John Smoltz. All four are worthy players, deserving of the honor. This is only the fourth time that four or more players have been elected at one time – and one of those was the inaugural class, so that one probably doesn’t count. It is the first time that this many players were selected under the current voting rules, and the first time that seven players (six of them on their first appearance on the ballot) were selected in two consecutive years.

As always, there are a number of writers and a great many commenters who take issue with the voting. Very little has changed since I wrote about the election process last year, so I won’t belabor those points.

There have been a few changes, though….

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2014 in Reveiw

Well, here it is. I’ve been at this for a year now, and like almost everyone, it’s time to take a look at the year just ended. It’s nice that WordPress sent me a summary of my blogging activity, though like all others in the media, they didn’t actually wait until the year was fully over to compile it.

I understand that news magazines need to go to press well before the end of the year in order to have their issues out on the newsstands in time, but it’s got to be annoying that any major news items that happen in late December won’t get included. Forget about making the lists of “Celebrity Deaths of the Year” if you die in the last few days of the year. Of course, you cannot be included in the lists for the next year, so you’re stuck.

Anyway, here’s what WordPress has for my annual report.

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