Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Half Empty: Mount Rushmore

They say that when you hit your 40s, your life is half over. We prefer to think of it as HALF EMPTY. Our age has finally caught up with our outlook on life. Remember, it is possible to turn that frown upside down...but you might pull a muscle.

By Rick Kaempfer & Dave Stern

Let us put men and women together, see which one is smarter,
Some say men, but I say no, women got the men like a puppet show.

It ain’t me it’s the people that say, men are leading women astray,
I say, it’s the women today, smarter than the men in every way,
That’s right the women are smarter, the women are smarter that’s right.

"Men Smart, Women Smarter" by the Grateful Dead

We admit it. Our wives are smarter than us. In fact, we have no problem with it. There is very little downside. We aren’t asked our opinion on important stuff. When the computer is broken we don’t have to fix it. When our kids have homework, they insist on helping.

Sadly, we also have to admit that our sisters are smarter than us too. Both of them graduated Magna Cum Laude, while we graduated Magna Cum Lucky. Both of them were some sort of “dictatorian” in high school. Both of them left high paying jobs in the private sector so they could give back to the community by teaching.

And that’s a problem.

Honestly, we're not jealous of their achievements, and we aren't suffering from an inferiority complex just because our sisters are smarter (and better) than us. In fact, if our mothers didn't point this out at every possible occasion, we wouldn't even notice.

But oh how our mothers notice. Evidently, having a child do something worthwhile is a big deal with them. Who knew? Since we have allowed our sisters a more than 40 year head start, we have to do something big to catch up.

Really big.

We need you to sign this petition:

To: National Park Service, United States Department of the Interior and the United States Congress

We, the undersigned, urge that the likenesses of Richard J. Kaempfer (Resident of Mount Prospect, Illinois) and David F. Stern (Resident of Chicago, Illinois) be carved into Mount Rushmore located in South Dakota immediately. Whereas, we defer to your discretion, we would prefer that Mr. Kaempfer and Mr. Stern be placed to the left of Abraham Lincoln. This is in honor of Mr. Stern’s award winning sixth grade poem entitled, “Honest Abe, He Was Called”

We, the undersigned, feel that Mr. Kaempfer and Mr. Stern would provide perfect company for George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. Whereas, Mr. Kaempfer or Mr. Stern haven’t technically served as United States President they both have voted in nearly every presidential election since 1984. They also are no strangers to the rigors of the political process having run for Homecoming King (Richard) and Queen (David) at the University of Illinois in 1985.

Finally, the undersigned, urge that upon acceptance of this petition that Mr. Stern’s likeness be carved with a full-head of hair and Mr. Kaempfer’s likeness be carved with a small nose. In a thousand years, who will ever know?

That will surely impress our impossible-to-impress German bred mothers.

We figure we will need approximately 3,000,000 signatures. Currently we have 21. Actually, if you discount us and blood relatives we have 18. Yet, this small grassroots crusade is energized and gaining steam.

Look what some of the undersigned have said;

Mama G Winters--For the love of all that is good, please comply with this simple request!

Michael Caron--All I know is there better be one hell of a dedication ceremony/party if ya know what I mean.

And our favorites:
Big Ron---Zieg Heil!

Osama---What up wit dat???

Please go to Dave & Rick on Mt. Rushmore petition and help us out. If you have the time, please forward it to as many people as you can.

If we do succeed, it will be a victory for all stupid brothers everywhere. Above all, mention it to our mothers every chance you get.

If you missed any of our previous Half Empty columns, click here:

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Suburban Man: MySpace

By Rick Kaempfer

Ever since I announced that my book was coming out, people have been asking me if I have a page on MySpace to promote it. My answer has always been the same: “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

After hearing the question one too many times, however, I started thinking that I was being a snob. How bad could it be? Plus, wouldn’t it be ironic to use Rupert Murdoch’s latest multi-billion dollar purchase to promote a book that satirizes media consolidation?

So, I gave in. Last week I went on MySpace to set up a page.

Now you’d think that someone who could handle all of these blogs would have no difficulty at all with the technical requirements of MySpace, but that’s where you would be wrong. Google does a magnificent job of making these blogs user friendly and easy to handle. MySpace, on the other hand, goes out of its way to make the entire process as difficult as possible.

For instance, in their Frequently Asked Questions tab, they answer the question “How do you change the backgrounds?” this way:

“Anyone who has a basic working knowledge of HTML should be able to help out. Why don’t you look for friends on MySpace to help?”

That's not an answer! You might as well post a picture of Rupert Murdoch extending his middle finger.

I should have bailed out right then and there, but I couldn’t figure out how to delete the entire page, so I labored on. I examined the templates of my blogs, looked for the HTML code that might apply, and against all odds managed to cut and paste enough HTML code to insert a few pictures, a few links, and a video.

After fiddling with it a little, it didn’t even look terrible.

That’s when I ran into the creepiest part of MySpace. If I had known that this next step was the whole point of doing this, I wouldn’t have done it all. Apparently the whole idea of MySpace is to get as many “friends” as you possibly can. You literally have to ask people to be your friends. It just seems so pathetic.

I went through my list of actual friends and came up nearly empty. We’re old. We don’t “MySpace.” If you’re my age, and you’re on MySpace, you’re either a pedophile cruising for underage youngsters, or you work in the media. Luckily, many of my friends still work in the media, so I went on their pages and asked them to be my friends. I rationalized this behavior by telling myself that I hadn’t ever officially asked them to be my friends in real life, so what the heck?

I clicked the button: “Add me to your list of friends.”

Only 17 responded.

About two dozen more of them either don’t want to be my friend anymore because of some unknown slight (and if that’s the case then screw them because who the hell do they think they are treating me that way after all I’ve done for them?)…or, more likely, they don’t bother checking to see who wants to be their friends, and let’s be honest here…that’s not very friendly either.

Someone (sniff) might take that a little personally.

Now I was faced with a real conundrum. What if someone went to my MySpace page and saw that I only had seventeen friends? Seventeen.


So I went into panic mode. Think, Kaempfer, think! You must know some young people. I went through my memory banks trying to remember 20-somethings that I know. I could only come up with two: my cousins. They were both shocked to see me on MySpace. Shocked. But they charitably added me anyway.

Now I had a total of 19 friends. Nineteen.


I literally couldn’t think of a single name to insert in the search function. As fate would have it, CNN was on in the background, and they were talking about the 2008 presidential race. Seeing this as a sign, I inserted the name Barack Obama.

You may know him for his years in the Senate, or his campaign for the Presidency, but to me, he’ll always be my twentieth friend. Likewise, I’m sure he will always consider me his 153,498th friend on his 3835th page of friends. Either that, or the friend pictured next to Gerard the donkey.


The next day I read the story about Obama retaking his MySpace page from a mere fan. It turns out I wasn't added by Obama at all...just an Obama fan.


I wasn’t a happy camper. The next time I checked my e-mail, however, I suddenly had offers from a dozen more people asking me to be their friends. I excitedly clicked on their pictures to see who they were.

All of them were scantily clad females more than twenty years younger than me—and I may be out of line for saying this—but my guess is that Kayla and Portia and Bambi are not really looking to be my friend. Even so, I still felt guilty rejecting them. It just sounded so harsh. I had to click on a button that said: I DENY YOU THE RIGHT TO BE MY FRIEND!

I’ve never done that to anyone in my life. Well, at least not since that kid on the school bus who flicked me with his finger every time he walked by. Kayla, Portia, and Bambi never did anything to cause red welts on my forehead, and yet, here I was…publicly rejecting them just because they’re a front for a porno company looking for creepy 43-year-old married guys.


Anyway, this is my long, drawn-out, and more than slightly pathetic way of asking if you’re interested in helping an old guy crack the triple-digit mark of “friends” at . I sure would appreciate it. I promise I’ll be your friend too…

Unless you’re a scantily clad 20-something woman.

Please forgive me, Portia, Kayla and Bambi.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Chicago Radio Spotlight: John Records Landecker interviews Rick Kaempfer

This week, the tables are turned. Instead of interviewing a radio personality, a radio personality is interviewing me. The focus of the interview is my first novel, "$everance," available now at John Landecker got an advance copy of the book to conduct the following interview, which originally appeared in the April issue of SHORE Magazine.

By John Landecker

I’ve been on the radio in Chicago for quite awhile, so when I heard about this new novel ($everance on ENC Press) that satirizes the broadcasting business from the point of view of a Chicago radio personality, I knew I had to get my hands on it. The fact that it’s written by Richard Kaempfer, the executive producer of my morning show in the 1990s, made me want to see it even more.

Of course, Richard is his fancy author name. I’ve always known him as Rick, and as long as I’ve known him he’s been using his sarcastic wit to write some pretty hilarious topical satire. In this book, he takes on the business that employed him for twenty years—the media. I finally got a chance to sit down and talk to him about $everance recently.

John: Full disclosure. We worked together most of the 1990s.

Rick: That’s true.

John: And during those years, broadcasting as we know it, went through some radical changes.

Rick: I’ll say.

John: It’s my guess that those radical changes, combined with your sense of humor, and your sarcastic disgust for life…

Rick: (laughs loudly) Wow, that’s harsh.

John: (laughing too) …have led to this cutting critique of broadcasting morality called $everance.

Rick: You could say that. It’s about a Chicago morning disc jockey who is trying to get fired so that he can collect his severance.

John: But this campaign for his severance starts out as a joke—tongue in cheek, doesn’t it?

Rick: Well…sure…but that’s only because the morning host doesn’t have any weapons. The boss has all the power. That’s why everything the host says is said sarcastically. On the surface his words are positive, but the boss knows their actual meaning—he just can’t prove it. It’s classic passive-aggressive warfare.

John: Aha! I knew something was familiar about this character…

Rick: He knows if he says anything overtly insubordinate, he can be fired for cause.

John: OK, what is this company he works for?

Rick: A Megamedia giant.

John: And why does he want to be fired?

Rick: It’s a mutual feeling. The company wants him gone too, because they have to meet their unrealistic corporate goals. They want a cheaper morning show, but if they fire him, they’ll have to pay his severance. So, they try to make him as miserable as he can possibly be—to make him quit. It becomes a battle of wills—the creative morning guy against the corporate Megamedia giant…both of them strongly motivated, neither of them willing to budge.

John: Now people will read this and think…that doesn’t happen.

Rick: It happens every single day.

John: It does. It didn’t happen to me here in Chicago, but it happened to me in another city I was doing mornings, and the station really did go out of it’s way to literally make me as miserable as possible so that I would get discouraged and quit, which would have relieved them of having to pay what they owed me. What you’re writing about is based absolutely in fact.

Rick: Yes, that’s true. And I think it’s not exclusive to the broadcasting business. Anyone who deals with corporations has dealt with this, especially people working for corporations in industries that have recently been deregulated. Once an industry is deregulated, there are mergers after mergers after mergers, and soon just a few companies or corporations own the entire industry. When that happens, the employees have no choice—no alternative—no power. They can’t go to another employer in their industry, because there aren’t any. So sometimes the battle comes down to this: ‘All I have left is my severance, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to give that up too.’

John: So in your story they are trying to make him quit. What does he do about it?

Rick: He sends an e-mail to the CEO of the corporation sarcastically telling him ways that the company can be even greedier. He thinks that this will so infuriate the boss, he will immediately fire him.

Tell them what the e-mail says, because that’s my favorite part.

Rick: His main suggestion is getting rid of every single person who doesn’t bring in money to the corporation—he calls them the revenue drainers—and keeping only the salesmen, or the revenue attainers. Oh, and he also recommends hiring armed security guards to watch over the office supplies.

John: (laughs) And ironically enough…what does management do with this e-mail?

They consider him a financial genius and name him the COO of the company. He still wants to get fired, of course, but in order to get fired now-- he has to make the stock price go down. So he spends the rest of the novel trying to make that happen.

John: Which is the irony of the whole thing…

Rick: The hard part for me was satirizing the business in a way that was more ridiculous than real life, because the business has really gotten ridiculous. There are six corporations that control all the information and entertainment we receive through the broadcast media, and virtually every decision they make is made with only one consideration: money. No other considerations come into play at all. But what makes this industry different from other industries is that they are supposedly entrusted with informing the electorate, and that’s one area they do a really bad job right now.

John: One of the other points of $everance has to do with the conservative and/or liberal slant of talk radio and cable news. Talk about that a little.

Rick: Right. Well, in my opinion there were two decisions made in the last twenty years that are responsible for the transformation of the media into what it is today. The Telecommunications Act of 1996, which Bill Clinton signed, allowed for this massive media buying frenzy—and let six corporations own everything. Before that bill was signed, Clear Channel owned 43 radio stations. Now they own 1200.

John: Wow.

Rick: The other decision was made in 1987 by Ronald Reagan’s FCC. They eliminated the Fairness Doctrine. Before 1987, equal time had to be given for differing political points of view. You could spout all you wanted, but you had to allow the other side to spout too. Now it’s all one-sided spouting and people don’t have to listen to both sides, they can just hear what they want to hear. In my opinion that’s directly responsible for the polarizing of the country. You don’t have to give the other side any credit at all if you don’t even know what they’re saying.

John: As the sarcasm seeps through the pages in your writing, I notice that you seem to imply that the political viewpoint, whether it’s conservative or liberal, doesn’t really matter to the company. They can own both kinds of media outlets…as long as they make money.

Rick: They can and they do. Look at Rupert Murdoch, for instance. He owns the Fox News Network, which is undeniably conservative, but he also owns media businesses in Communist China—which aren’t exactly conservative, to say the least. He also came up with the idea of having naked women in the newspapers in England.

John: Are you saying conservatives don’t like naked women?

Rick: (laughs) I’m saying that’s not exactly a conservative idea. And the same is true of the so-called liberal networks. They may have a liberal slant, but they are consumed with maximizing profits, and that’s not exactly the most liberal of philosophies. When you meet these media CEOs, and I’ve read about all of them extensively and met a few of them in person, you realize very quickly that they aren’t partisans. They aren’t ideologues.

John: They’re not even broadcasters.

Rick: Not at all! They’re businessmen. They’re CEOs. They are just like every other CEO.

John: And they’re not interested in viewers or listeners, they’re interested in one thing, and one thing only…

Rick: The stock price.

John: Can you tell that Rick and I have talked about this a few times before?

Rick: Everyone in the business talks about it.

John: But the thing that’s wild about it, and sure we’ve kvetched about it for years, but you actually did something about it. You wrote a book. And I obviously think it’s a great, funny, sarcastic, entertaining, and thought provoking book too—that really shows how broadcasting has changed over the last few years. And you actually got somebody to publish it! Who is this publisher?

Rick: They’re a boutique NY publisher named ENC Press, and they specialize in controversial satires like this. You should check out their website at ENC stands for Emperor’s New Clothes. You can buy $everance right there on their website.

John: It’s going to be very interesting to see who picks up on this book, and whether or not they invite you on their shows to tell this story.

Rick: Well, if the thesis of my book is correct…

John: I love it when you use the word thesis.

Rick: (laughs) If the thesis of my book is correct, they will have me on because they aren’t really concerned about a political agenda.

John: And you’re attacking all political agendas by the way…very even handed. It’s not about agenda, it’s about profit.

Rick: That’s right. If you check out the hardcore right wing blogs or the hardcore left wing blogs they read all sorts of political motivations into the actions of these companies. Let me tell you as someone who worked for them for twenty years, that’s just not true. Both sides are wrong about that. The motivation of these companies couldn’t be easier to figure out. It’s always the same. Always.

John: And people might recognize some of the personalities in this book too.

Rick: They might. But they aren’t necessarily real people—they’re composites of real people.

And it’s funny.

Rick: Thanks, I appreciate that. That’s the most important thing I was trying to accomplish. It’s not a downer of a book at all. It does have a very hopeful message and offers a way to solve some of the problems of the modern day media.

Which are…

Rick: People will have to read the book to find that out.

John: I do have one complaint, though.

Rick: What’s that?

John: There aren’t any sex scenes.

Rick: (laughs)

John: You expect the people of this country to buy a book with no sex scenes!

Rick: If it weren’t for you, they wouldn’t have known!

John: Maybe in the next book?

Rick: You got it.

John: I see movie rights down on the road on this one. Great job.

Rick: Thanks.

Richard Kaempfer’s novel $everance is available at (Listen to an audio preview. Watch a video preview. ) For more information about the author, check out his website at, and his daily humor and media blog at

John Records Landecker is currently the afternoon host at 94.7 Real Oldies in Chicago. After his legendary stints at WIBG in Philadelphia in the 60s, WLS in Chicago in the 70s and 80s, CFTR in Toronto in 80s, and WJMK in the 90s, he was honored by the radio wing of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland for his contributions to the industry.