Friday, December 09, 2016

My People!

The old guy in this video is every old German guy I ever met. Cracks me up...

Reading FCC Tea Leaves

From this morning's Tom Taylor NOW column...

“The Trump Doctrine eschews limitations, particularly when it comes to media.” Is there a “Trump Doctrine” for broadcasting and other businesses? Writing for The Hill, former FCC staffer Adonis Hoffman says that generally, “We should expect a more benign, pro-business approach to communications regulation.” He expects “a rollback on regulations that impose what appear to be arbitrary or antiquated restrictions on who can own what in the media – except for foreign broadcast ownership.” Hoffman’s prime example is “NBCO,” the ban on newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership. When it comes to telecom regulation, he predicts “a light touch.” And he says under Trump “size will not matter...big corporations are not seen as inherently bad or suspect, despite candidate Trump’s shoot-from-the-hip reactions to questions on mergers during the campaign.” Hoffman says the Trump worldview could be “not so much a retreat from consumer protection as an advancement of corporate priorities in a jobs-first economy.”

Got that? Let me translate this very gingerly presented view. "Antiquated restrictions on who can own what in the media" means that there will be no limit on what a company can own. "A light touch" means they will not be regulating at all. "Size will not matter" means that within this presidency, four companies (maybe five, maybe three) will own ALL media outlets. "Advancement of corporate priorities in a jobs first economy" means that large numbers of media employees will be losing their jobs.

When you allow consolidation, you do NOT grow jobs. Not now, not ever. Never happened in the history of mankind. Welcome back to opposite world. Black is white, repeat. Let the younger version of me explain it to you this way...

P.S. That's supposed to be ironic. I never thought I'd have to say so, but I am saying so. I'm NOT really on the side of the nine Americans who want this.

He *Really Is* a Reality Show President

Donald Trump will be keeping the title of producer during next season's Celebrity Apprentice

Now when he's called the reality show president, it's not a metaphor.

And don't panic if he suddenly has a meeting with Meatloaf.

Dexter Fowler is Gone

The first African-American to ever play for the Cubs in the World Series is gone. He's going to the arch rival St. Louis Cardinals, and he's getting big bucks...

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Minutia Men, Episode 31

Rick and Dave discuss a bionic thingee, a fake news loop, Catholic apps, the man responsible for 45 years of losing, and Rick’s brush with “You Light Up My Life” singer Debbie Boone.

Listen to it here.

RIP Greg Lake

Sorry to hear this news. Greg Lake, who was a key member of King Crimson and Emerson, Lake & Palmer passed away at the age of 69.

The details are here.

That leaves only Palmer from this incredible threesome...

Bobby Skafish interviewed Lake during his radio days. It's one of the stories in his book.

John Lennon

One of the least favorite moments of my life...this day in 1980. I was a senior in high school, watching Monday Night Football...

New Cubs Lead Off Man

Now that Dexter Fowler is a goner, the Cubs need a new leadoff man. These are the two interesting options that Joe Maddon is considering...

Ben Zobrist and Kyle Schwarber.

I personally think Zobrist is the logical choice because of his great batting eye, but Schwarber is an interesting outside of the box thought.

Here Comes the BS

Read this story in Tom Taylor's NOW column and see if you can spot the sentence I'm calling out as BS...

Last-minute attempt in Congress to kill “NBCO” – the Newspaper-Broadcast cross-ownership ban. The NAB’s Gordon Smith recognizes it as an important step, if the legislation proposed by both Republicans and Democrats could speed its way through the House (where it’s starting), the Senate and the White House. We don’t know whether President Obama would sign it. But we surely know that his chosen FCC Chairman, Tom Wheeler, wouldn’t be in favor. Wheeler refused to substantially relax or eliminate the 41-year-old rule forbidding combinations of local daily papers and broadcast facilities. (He did add a “failing newspaper” waiver, similar to the “failing TV station” policy.) So the drive to kill the cross-ownership rule (actually two of them) is underway both at the FCC, in an NAB petition for reconsideration, and now in Congress. On another track, NAB has asked to be a “party at interest” in the Third Circuit appeal of Wheeler’s Quadrennial Review. The concern among Congressional Republicans is that either Dems will remain in control of the FCC in the first part of 2017, or that a 2-2 Commission wouldn’t deal with cross-ownership. NAB’s Gordon Smith says “striking this cross-ownership ban would save journalism jobs, create more investigative reporting and provide communities with greater local news.” The bill in this lame-duck session of the 114th Congress is co-sponsored by onetime Oregon radio station owner Rep. Greg Walden (a Republican) and Kentucky Democrat John Yarmuth.

This is the quote I'm referring to: “striking this cross-ownership ban would save journalism jobs, create more investigative reporting and provide communities with greater local news.”

There are zero circumstances in which this will be true. No jobs will be saved if a company can own even more media outlets in a market. Jobs will be cut. Period. That's what has always happened (without exception) and that's what will happen again.

I'm not right all the time (see the past election), but I've never been wrong about this. It was addressed in my book "$everance" and I stand by that book. The predictions I made ten years ago are sadly all coming true.

Another Fake News Consequence

Have you heard that the Sandy Hook massacre was staged to create anti-gun movement? It's a theory that gained traction on Donald Trump's favorite radio show hosted by Alex Jones, and if you think that sounds ridiculous, you aren't alone.

Unfortunately, some people believe this stuff. For real.

One Sandy Hook parent got death threats because of it. Imagine losing your son in a mass shooting, and then getting a call saying “You’re gonna die you [expletives and slurs deleted]… And what are you going to do about it? You can do absolutely nothing. … this is coming to you real soon [expletive deleted]. You going to die. You [expletive deleted] look behind you, justice is coming to you real soon.”

All because some asshole in Texas said it was staged.

Luckily the woman making the death threats has been indicted, but the asshole in Texas who says these things got a phone call from the President-Elect thanking him for his support.

LATE UPDATE: The Pope has declared that spreading fake news is a sin. Nice to have him on my side.

Gel Strong

Eckhartz Press author Mark Gelinas lives in Atlanta, and he has a big fancy event this Monday to launch his book "Gel Strong" there. If you're in Atlanta, check it out...

Mark's been getting a great response to his book, an inspiring look at his struggle with pancreatic cancer. This text is an example...

This is the video referred to in the text...

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Around the Publishing World (December 7)

At Chicago Author Solutions (a division of Eckhartz Press), we stay on top of happenings/trends in the publishing world to help out busy writers who are spending their time doing what they should be doing: writing.

1. Ten Tips For Writing About Japan
Good tips, interesting topic.

2. Award-winning poet shares writing tips with Las Vegas writers
Her name is Sharon Olds. There's also a video at the link.

3. 5 Tips for Succeeding as a Freelance Writer in a Rural Community
I've never really considered the challenges of writing when you're in the middle of nowhere. Some good advice here.

4. Spike Lee offers tips on becoming a writer-director
He rightly points out the best way to break in to the film business (good writing is hard to find). Easier said than done, but Spike pulled it off himself.

5. 4 Tips To Avoid Writer's Block
I especially like the one called "the kindergarten trick".

6. A few tips for those considering a career in writing, editing and publishing
From an Australian point of view

7. Five tips for preparing your manuscript
These are excellent. The first two tips, especially.

8. Great 20th Century Authors Give Tips That Help Today's Bloggers
Hemingway, Steinbeck, Vonnegut, Bradbury and more.

9. Eight Great Tips for How to Find the Funny in your Life
Courtesy of Emmy-award winning writer Monica Piper.

10. 5 Sure-Fire (and Simple) Tips for Writing More SEO-Friendly Blog Posts
For the tech-savvy wanna-be.

11. 5 Writing Tips I Wish I'd Known Before I Wrote My First Novel
Great advice for fiction writers.

12. 5 Tips for Creating Characters That Aren't Boring
Courtesy of Emily Littlejohn, the author of "Inherit the Bones"

13. 5 writing tips from bestselling authors
Courtesy of Mark Twain, Stephen King, Edgar Allen Poe and more.

14. 5 Tips on Writing & Illustrating Children’s Books From Debbie Ridpath Ohi
From Writer's Digest.

Media Matters

Media Matters, the organization that has been monitoring Fox News and talk radio for the past decade or so to shine a light on what was happening inside the conservative media bubble, announced yesterday that they are going to changing their focus.

Instead of pointing out the obvious bias in the right wing press, they are now going to focus on exposing fake news.

I think that's a great idea. It's the biggest scourge on the media landscape at the moment. From Politico...

Media Matters will now focus their efforts on grappling with misinformation, where it comes from, and how it spreads. These new efforts will include new staff and a focus on technology, bringing in experts to build in-house software to help track conspiracy theories and misinformation.

“We have to think about how we’re getting bigger and louder, not just misinformation but all out propaganda. That’s a role that’s very different than in the past,” (new president) Carusone said. “We’ve not tried to mobilize massive amounts of people or develop a larger following. But it’s going to have to be a part of what we’re doing."

Drunk History Tackles Disco Demolition

Killing AM Radio

One of the more terrible ideas I've heard since the election (and there have been some doozies) is this story, featured in Tom Taylor's NOW column this morning...

“Time to start thinking about a future without AM radio,” the MMTC tells Trump team. AM “may disappear in 30 years or less,” says the public interest group. It’s formed its own “AM Glide Path Task Force,” and proposes an effort comparable to “government programs transitioning tobacco farmers to other crops and transitioning coal mining to other energy sources.” The MMTC, focused on multicultural issues, takes its shot with “12 imperatives” about telecom policy - addressing the Trump transition team and the two Republican FCC Commissioners. The MMTC says AM is still important, especially to the minority community. (“Approximately 60% of all minority-owned stations are AM facilities.”) And it reminds policymakers that “The great majority of multilingual radio service today is found on the AM band.” But despite its near-century of usage and some “modest engineering reforms” from the FCC, AM has big issues. There’s declining listenership and “a lack of capital flowing in.”

Let me just say this as a media writer. This is a classic case of finding a solution for a problem that doesn't exist. Even if AM radio isn't doing as well (and in Chicago by the way, it's still thriving), so what?

This reminds me of the quest to get rid of vinyl in the late 80s. After all the "improvements" in sound quality, people just decided that we goofed when we got rid of vinyl a generation ago. It's now outselling downloads again. (And I threw out hundreds of great records about twenty years ago. Arrgh.)

There's something about listening to an AM radio station. I love sitting out on the deck in the summer and listenting to a ball game. It's one of the pleasures of my life. And that occasional crackling sound doesn't bother me in the slightest. It's part of the soundtrack of my life. Also, I have a few tremendously cool old-time console radios from the 40s and 50s. They only play AM radio, not FM. Don't take those away from me.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Sad News

Former Chicago Bear...

This Year's Grammy Nominees

It just came out moments ago...

Record Of The Year:
"Hello," Adele (XL Recordings/Columbia Records)
"Formation," Beyoncé (Parkwood Entertainment/Columbia Records)
"7 Years," Lukas Graham (Warner Bros. Records)
"Work," Rihanna Featuring Drake (Westbury Road Entertainment)
"Stressed Out," Twenty One Pilots (Fueled By Ramen)

Album Of The Year:
25, Adele (XL Recordings/Columbia Records)
Lemonade, Beyoncé (Parkwood Entertainment/Columbia Records)
Purpose, Justin Bieber (Def Jam Recordings)
Views, Drake (Young Money/Cash Money/Republic Records)
A Sailor's Guide To Earth, Sturgill Simpson (Atlantic Records)

Song Of The Year:
"Formation," Khalif Brown, Asheton Hogan, Beyoncé Knowles & Michael L. Williams II, songwriters (Beyoncé)
"Hello," Adele Adkins & Greg Kurstin, songwriters (Adele)
"I Took A Pill In Ibiza," Mike Posner, songwriter (Mike Posner)
"Love Yourself," Justin Bieber, Benjamin Levin & Ed Sheeran, songwriters (Justin Bieber)
"7 Years," Lukas Forchhammer, Stefan Forrest, Morten Pilegaard & Morten Ristorp, songwriters (Lukas Graham)

Best New Artist:
Kelsea Ballerini, The Chainsmokers, Chance The Rapper, Maren Morris, Anderson Paak

Truffle Talk

You might have noticed that Truffles have been in the news a lot this year. I went to my truffle source, Eckhartz Press author Brent Petersen ("Truffle Hunt"), to get a better understanding of why...

What a difference a few hundred kilometers can make! In the Piedmont region of Italy, specifically near Alba, the center of the white truffle universe, truffles are plentiful and (relatively) cheap. That's because there was plentiful rainfall this season. Some reports have truffle prices as much as 30% below last year's.

But, in Dordogne, France, where black diamonds grow, the prized Perigord truffle is in short supply. No rain fell for weeks in the region, causing a tiny truffle harvest. And, those that were found were mostly immature or misshapen.

For some perspective, as recently as the 1960's, the region produced as much as 300 metric tons of truffles per year. Legend places the windfall at 1,000 tons a century ago. Today, 25 tons is the standard harvest.

I've talked about the many reasons for the declining harvest, but two major factors seem to be at play. Both, related to human activity. First, lack of a truffle habitat. Truffles grow in forests which have been cut down to make room for the encroaching human population. Second, climate change has led to erratic weather patterns like drought and heat waves that are not compatible with truffle growth.

For the past two years, Italy's Piedmont region has escaped the climatic factors, but they cannot prevent the march of "human progress." Deforestation has diminished the truffle habitat. And while abundant rainfall has led to a good truffle harvest this year, no amount of rain can hide the fact that overall truffle production is shrinking.

If you'd like to learn more about what is being done to protect the truffle's habitat, check out Save The Truffle. They are dedicated to this important issue.

Bob Herguth

Thanks so much to Robert Feder, who wrote the following in his column today...

Genuflections: Famous Folks Talk About Growing Up Catholic is the new book written by Chicago reporter and editor Robert Herguth. Published by Rick Kaempfer and David Stern’s Chicago-based Eckhartz Press, the book features confessions from dozens of celebrities on how they were influenced by their Catholic upbringing. Subjects include Mario Andretti, Jimmy Breslin, Jerry Brown, James Carville, Billy Corgan, Dana Delaney, Brian Dennehy, Mike Ditka, Bianca Jagger, Paul Ryan, Don Shula, Isiah Thomas, Bobby Vinton and Larry Wilmore. Herguth recently returned to the Sun-Times as an investigative reporter after a stint with the Better Government Association.

Come on out this Sunday if you're in the Park Ridge area...

The Danger of Fake News

I just spent a weekend with some old high school friends, and there were a few Trump voters in the bunch. When we discussed the issues, I heard a lot of "fake news" coming out of them--which they didn't even realize they had consumed from "fake news" sources. I suspect that despite my pointing this out to them, they didn't exactly retrace their steps to discover whether or not I was right, but at least I tried to point them in the right direction.

This story in the Washington Post (a real news source) is a good example of why it's important to point it out whenever possible. A guy went to a pizza place in Washington with a gun, because he had read a fake news story (which had been shared millions of times) saying that the pizza chain (owned by a Clinton supporter) was actually a front for a child sex ring.

You'd think this one would have been obvious (really? A child sex ring?), but it points out a larger issue.

My high school friends weren't believing stories that crazy, but they were believing stories about what those infamous e-mails contained (Benghazi smoking guns--um no), and who they were sent to (all sorts of people not cleared to receive them--um no), special deals made by the Clinton Foundation (Hillary wasn't changing our foreign policy for personal gain, sorry), the lack of evidence the Russians were involved in Wikileaks (alternate theories that were not at all in line with what the intelligence professionals were uniformly saying), and that Hillary had an unhinged violent streak (she went crazy on election night--um no). My friends didn't make up these stories. They read them, just like I read stories in places like the Washington Post or the New York Times.

And they believe, and cannot be convinced otherwise, that those sources are just as legit as the most legit news sources we have in this country, because the mainstream media is biased. These are smart guys who believe this. And they won't take it from somebody who worked in the media or has written books about the media that required years and years of research. They know that I'm left-leaning myself, so obviously, I can't be trusted either. They think I'm in a bubble, and that I'm the one who isn't hearing the real news.

For the last ten years on this blog, I've been pointing out the danger of having news networks that openly cheer or root against one political party. Both sides have one now. But even Fox News and MSNBC at least have a basis in truth for their stories. They may be slanted one way or the other, or they may be underreporting (or not reporting at all) stories that interfere with the narrative their viewers wish were true (and that's bad enough), but they aren't making things up out of whole cloth.

This is new. This is like giving those e-mails that are forwarded from crazy uncle to crazy uncle the same consideration as stories from journalists who have to cultivate sources and reconfirm those stories with additional sources, and then have editors and sometimes attornies pore over every word to make sure it's correct (or as correct as it can possibly be).

It's gonna get worse before it gets better. Our president-elect and several members of his staff read the fake news and believe it. They retweet it.

That's what's so dangerous about this new phenomenon. The political bubbles were formed over these past ten years, but they can only be popped from the inside.

And no one is even trying to pop them anymore.

LATE UPDATE: Here's something from the AP today that further illustrates my point...

A trending story that claims Hillary Clinton won a total of 57 counties in the presidential election is untrue.

The Associated Press finds that Clinton won 487 counties nationwide, compared with 2,626 for President-elect Donald Trump.

The story appeared on several viral content sites that cater to some of Trump's supporters.

LATER UPDATE: Here's someone who agrees with me: CNN's Brian Stelter

A New Radio Player in Chicago

From this morning's Radio Insight...

Wheaton College has sold 88.1 WETN Wheaton IL to Educational Media Foundation for $150,000.

The 250w/43m station currently airs a locally produced Christian AC (and seasonal Christmas music) format along with school services and sports. EMF has filed a main studio waiver request to carry the Christian CHR "Air 1" network via KYRA Thousand Oaks CA.

Wheaton will also lease space on the tower it owns for WETN to continue broadcasting from it for five years (with four additional five year renewals) at $500 per month and $200 per month for utilities with a 2% annual escalator.

WETN would become Air 1's third station in the Chicago suburbs joining 88.3 WCLR Arlington Heights and 88.7 WSRI Sugar Grove/Aurora.

How accurate were the national polls?

It seems like they were highly inaccurate, doesn't it? However, if you look at the national polls, they were pretty right on the money. Hillary now has about a 2% lead in the popular vote. That's pretty darn close to where most polls had it (The RealClearPolitics average had it at 3.2%)

A study was commissioned by Fordham University to look into it, and this is what they found...
The pollsters that were closest to the final result included McClatchy/Marist and IBD/TIPP. But others were also close — including the ABC News/Washington Post tracking poll. Given the sample sizes and underlying margins of error in these polls, most of these polls were not that far from the actual result. In only two cases was any bias in the poll statistically significant. The Los Angeles Times/USC poll, which had Trump with a national lead throughout the campaign, and the NBC News/Survey Monkey poll, which overestimated Clinton’s share of the vote.

In other words, the national polls were good. The state polls, on the other hand, were a complete cluster-****.

Commander in Tweet

This Twitter thing with the President-Elect is going to be an on-going series of ridiculousness.

In a bout of hysterical irony, SNL did a bit about his total lack of control when it comes to tweeting. So, what does he do? He tweets the following...

And then, when everyone in the media points out this ridiculousness, he tweets this...

Although, here's another problem with that. What if you are one of the many people that Donald Trump blocked. The LA Times has a story about that today.

If you refuse to go through the media, and you're the president, should you also be able to block whoever you want? Don't all American citizens have the right to follow their president--even if they don't like him or didn't vote for him or somehow offended him before he became the president?

The Price of Winning


Just got the e-mail about the ticket prices for my Cubs season tickets. They went up 20%. My tickets are now $112 a game, per seat. Trying to decide now between paying college tuition or reupping my season tickets. The boys can take out a loan, right?

That's the price of winning.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Rachel v Rachel

Pretty good job on this bit...

Bobby Skafish on the Calumet Roundtable

Back from Vail

I was in Colorado with a bunch of my old friends from high school. A fun little mini-reunion. Great seeing everyone and enjoying the beautiful mountain air. Back in the office today...

Minutia Men, Episode 30

EP30 – Rick and Dave discuss Auschwitz on Ice, Fidel Castro’s Obit writers, Poop in space, Cubs named Johnson, and Rick’s brush with Albert Brooks.

Listen to it here.