Friday, December 06, 2013

Cutting Room Floor: Another Great Radio Moment That Just Missed the "Records Truly Is My MIddle Name" soundtrack CD

John and I were over at WGN Radio the other day and ran into our old colleague and friend Leslie Keiling. Leslie is featured on a few of the clips on the "Records Truly Is My Middle Name" soundtrack CD because she was John's co-host for a while at WJMK (Oldies 104.3). Seeing her, and telling her that we decided to donate the profits of this CD to the Chicago Lighthouse in honor of John's father, made me think of this classic bit from our WJMK era that we considered putting on the CD. It didn't make the final cut, but that doesn't mean it's not memorable.

I completely freaked when it happened live.

Listen to it on the Eckhartz Press blog.

Chuck Quinzio on the Radio

Eckhartz Press author Chuck Quinzio will be on WCPT (820 AM) in Chicago tomorrow at 2pm, talking to Dick Kay about his book "Life Behind the Camera". Be sure to tune in--I'm sure they'll be sharing some great (television) war stories. I won't be able to accompany Chuck to take pictures, but luckily we already have this one...

The Pope Vs. Fox Business Channel

I actually spit out my drink when I was watching this last night. Very funny. Did not see that Jamie Dimond line coming...

I Didn't Think I Was That Good

The Real Story of The Von Trapps

It's not exactly like the movie or stage play, but it's just as interesting. You can read their real story here, summed up nicely in National Archives. There are even photos of the Von Trapps, and as you might expect, the ex-nun Maria doesn't quite look like Julie Andrews or Carrie Underwood. More like Frau Blucher.

Nelson Mandela Tweet

Nikke Finke's tweet about Nelson Mandela is being widely mocked, and for good reason. The Hollywood gossip queen tweeted this: "R.I.P Nelson Mandela, subject of Weinstein Bro's Idris Elbe-starrer "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" which opened Nov 29 and has awards buzz."

The tweets mocking her are hilarious. See a few of them here.

Fox News Working on a Settlement

Remember the story of that Fox News exec who was suing Fox News (and not so subtly threatening to reveal all) because he was unceremoniously dumped? Well, according to the New York Times, he and the network are working on a settlement.

This is my favorite part of the article: "A former colleague and current worker at the channel — who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear of being fired — revealed two weeks ago that Mr. Lewis had agreed to a deal that would pay him a sizable sum to remain quiet about whatever he knows about operations at the notoriously secretive company."

The Hills Were Not Alive

The show was live, but the hills and the performances were not.

I watched parts of the live Sound of Music last night on NBC and I have a few thoughts. On the one hand, I have to give props to NBC for having the audacity to do a live three hour show on television like that--especially in the age of "reality" shows. It was also ballsy to take on a beloved classic like "The Sound of Music". It was a technical achievement, and a few of the supporting characters even did a nice job.

But wow was that a steaming pile, last night.

I tweeted this about Carrie Underwood during the show: "News Report. Carrie Underwood trapped in a paper bag. Cannot act her way out."

Harsh, yes? Accurate? Absolutely. She was so wooden I could still see Gepetto's whittling marks.

And that guy from True Blood who played Captain Von Trapp? I tweeted this: "News report: Steven Moyer searches for a living person to bite in order to pump life into his performance."

He was so stiff I thought I saw a tag attached to his big toe.

The singing by those two was also very bad. Again, my heat of the moment tweet might have been a little over the top: "News report: Tornados forming above graves of both Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein." But that's honestly how I felt.

And those still weren't the worst offenses. I can take a bad performance or two (I've seen plenty of local theater--it doesn't bother me there), but I cannot take an actor portraying a scary Nazi without a German accent. You can't be a scary Nazi without a few exaggerated gutteral emissions. That's acting 101. I want my good Germans with British accents, and the bad Germans with German accents. Everyone knows that's how it's done.

I get why the casting was done the way it was. They were trying to get ratings by casting hot young stars. But one couldn't act and the other one couldn't sing. Those seem to be basic mimimum requirements.

I'll grant you that I'm a little sensitive about the whole Sound of Music thing because my mom was born in Austria, my dad grew up there, and my sister and I were shipped off to that same Sound of Music mountain when we were eleven and ten respectively (photo). I also have a strong connection to the original movie, and meeting two of the stars (Julie Andrews and Charmian Carr) strengthened that connection.

So take my review with a grain of salt.

But you should also know that I don't like writing bad reviews because I know how much work and effort goes into writing and performing. I just can't in all good conscience praise that show last night. I was actually screaming at the television.

Here are a few other reviews...

The Daily Beast: "The Hills Are Barely Alive"

The Hollywood Reporter: They found a clutch of children who didn’t have (too much) of that child-performer pomp. And they got Carrie Underwood and Stephen Moyer to play the lovers. And, well, whoops.Because while Underwood can deliver the songs — I’m sure that anyone with the desire to plunge themselves into the American Idol ringer has been singing those songs for most of her life — she doesn’t acquit herself so well when it comes to the carrying the emotional weight of the production... Underwood nails the look of a virginal almost-nun, but goes no deeper than that. Blank stares and placid smiles...Moyer is a better singer than Russell Crowe, I’ll give him that. But...his attempt at conveying an emotional hollowness just reads as mildly constipated, his furrowed eyes and pursed lips doing all the work. He doesn’t look stoic, he just looks clenched."

Variety: "The Maria-Von Trapp relationship has its problematic aspects under the best of circumstances, and Underwood and Moyer didn’t come close to threading that needle. Given the absence of chemistry, one could be forgiven for hoping he’d lapse into “True Blood” mode and simply bite her neck."

The New York Daily News: "Underwood is a talented pop singer who obviously worked hard to learn Broadway singing on short notice. It's no reflection on her that at this point, she's not as far along as the singers who surrounded her Thursday night. Nor was this a fatal wound to the production. It made Underwood, in a strange way, almost feel like a plucky underdog. It also couldn't help coloring the show that Underwood looks so young, fresh and, well, blonde."

(That was the nicest one I found)

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Behind the Scenes at WGN Radio with Landecker, Sirott & Murciano

I accompanied John Landecker to WGN radio yesterday for his interview on the Bob Sirott & Marianne Murciano show. John and Bob are long-time friends. They worked together in the 70s and hung out all the time, so there were some good stories being recounted off the air too. (I’m sworn to secrecy)

I thought it was a thoroughly entertaining thirty minutes of radio, featuring a few clips from John’s new CD (available at Eckhartz Press), some good natured Bob-John riffing, and a funny Marianne rave out about John’s current employer not allowing him to speak enough on the air.

WGN has posted the interview on their website. You can listen to it here.

Thanks so much to Bob & Marianne for allowing John to come on their show to talk about the CD, and thanks for letting me sit in the studio during the interview to witness it. (You can probably hear me cackling in the background)

During the commercials, I had a nice chat with their producer Kristin, who told me she had read “The Radio Producer’s Handbook” and learned a lot from it. That was nice to hear.

Many old pals also stopped by during the commercial breaks to say hello, including Wendy Snyder, Steve Bertrand, Todd Manley, and Leslie Keiling. It was fun to see everyone again.

An even bigger thrill happened after the interview (at least for me). When we got into the green room to retrieve our coats, we ran into Kerry Wood. He was on the show after us. I got my picture taken with him (not included here because it’s an extreme closeup…and nobody needs to see that), and talked to him about his 20-strikeout game, which I attended. I listened to the show on my way home, and Sirott also talked to him about that day because he was there too. I actually remember seeing him there. Hard to believe that was 15 years ago.

In the green room...

Prepping for the interview...

On the air...

Landecker, Murciano and Sirott...

Today's Best Tweets

Here are some tweets that caught my eye today...

Chicago Bears 360 ‏@ChicagoBears360 3m
George: Why I'm leaning toward picking the Chicago Bears over the Dallas ... - Dallas Morning News

The Heckler ‏@The_Heckler 4m
ICYMI: Trestman announces Bears will punt on first down for the rest of the season

Phil Plait ‏@BadAstronomer 7m
Katie Couric gave anti-vaxxers lots of air time on her talk show. I may have a problem with that. …

Robert Loerzel ‏@robertloerzel 10m
RT @findyourownroad: Happy 80th birthday to the 21st Amendment of the US Constitution. (Ending Prohibition)

Patrick Mooney ‏@CSNMooney 17m
Theo's reaction to the Ellsbury megadeal as Cubs wait to jump into Tanaka sweepstakes:

Rolling Stone ‏@RollingStone 27m
David Bowie makes his meaning clear in a new video for "I'd Rather Be High (Venetian Mix)":

The Daily Show ‏@TheDailyShow 30m
Corporations pay the nominal price for years of systemic fraud.

Jim Wiser ‏@JimWiser 30m
More than 2 million stolen passwords found on hacker server,0,6585997.story …

Robert Loerzel ‏@robertloerzel 36m
RT @Gothamist: Of Course People Think The Onion's "Stop And Kiss" Parody Video Is Real …

Jacobs Media ‏@jacobsmedia 39m
"It's about understanding that the content universe has expanded and that radio competes with everybody."- @fnjacobs

Grandfathers: The Next Generation

Baby Boomer Grandpas are not like your Grandpa. This happened at last weekend's Arizona-Arizona State game. (Warning: NSFW)

Tony Fitzpatrick

I've recently discovered my old colleague Tony Fitzpatrick's column at New City.

It's always a good read. Today it's about helping drunk girls.

Tony's a fearless writer. He's certainly not afraid to offend.

Today's Ron Burgundy Moment

Another day, another show taken over...

A Night Out With Bill Murray

I've never gone out on the town with Bill Murray, but I have met him, and I must say I believe this guy's story.

12 Insane Things That Happened On My Night Out With Bill Murray.

Martin Bashir Resigns From MSNBC

The host of the 4pm Eastern/3pm Central show on MSNBC, Martin Bashir, resigned yesterday. TPM has the details. Bashir got into trouble last week for incendiary comments he made about Sarah Palin. He apologized on the air, but apparently that didn't save him his job.

I missed what he said originally (I'm not a regular viewer of his show), but I finally saw it this morning in that article. It was pretty bad. He was upset that Palin compared the national debt to slavery, and he said...

"In 1756, he records that a slave named Darby 'catched eating kanes had him well flogged and pickled, then made Hector, another slave, s-h-i-t in his mouth,'" Bashir said. "When Mrs. Palin invokes slavery, she doesn’t just prove her rank ignorance. She confirms if anyone truly qualified for a dose of discipline from Thomas Thistlewood, she would be the outstanding candidate."

Whoo. OK, that's definitely worse than comparing slavery to the national debt. That's very bad. That's so bad, you have to wonder how a producer didn't stop him before he did it. It was obviously written on the teleprompter.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Eckhartz Press Perfects Drone Technology Before Amazon

We didn’t bother showing it off on 60 Minutes, and we aren’t sending out a press release, but Eckhartz Press perfected drone technology in the first month of our existence.

A photo of our drone delivery device is below. Our drone has a tendency to go haywire occasionally, has a bad attitude at times, and there are even times when it takes a little longer than thirty minutes to deliver your package, but it doesn’t require special FAA clearance, and it (probably) won’t fall out of the sky and land on your children. You’re welcome.

Why Your Favorite Video Characters Look Like They Do has a list of six of them. My kids will love this info about Mario...

Creating an unforgettable video game character in the '80s was all about having a knack for shortcuts. Almost every aspect of Mario's design came from an effort to make him easier to animate. Remember, his first appearance was in 1981's Donkey Kong, an arcade game with processing power that was less than, say, a modern toaster (its 3 MHz processor gave it 1/70,000 as much power as a PlayStation 3 -- those old black-and-white Game Boy handhelds had more horsepower than a Donkey Kong arcade machine).

So Mario's creator, Shigeru Miyamoto, needed to make a tiny block of pixels resemble a human being. He started with the red-and-blue color scheme, reasoning that it would stand out against Donkey Kong's black background. The use of overalls as opposed to a shirt or a muumuu gave definition to Mario's arms, because it meant his sleeves would be a different color from his torso:

Next came the hat, which was added not because Miyamoto had a stroke of genius, but because he didn't like designing hairstyles. That's right -- the most famous character in gaming wears a headpiece for the same reason you throw a hat on when you're too lazy to run a comb through your hair. As an added bonus, the hat saved programmers the trouble of having to animate Mario's hair when he jumped. Gamers in the '80s didn't expect much, but they demanded realistic hair physics, dammit!

But the big goofy nose and the famous mustache have got to be intentional, right? Nope. Mario's diminutive size made giving him a mouth and realistic facial expressions impractical, and so, much like putting a chair over the vomit stain on your carpet after a wild party, Miyamoto added the honker and 'stache to hide Mario's mouth while still ensuring that his face was more than a monochromatic blob.

The result of all of these patchwork compromises is a character who, instead of being a stereotypical warrior or daring explorer, is a working man with sideburns, a baseball cap, and a mustache ... and who thus oozes more personality than all of the modern "bald space marine" characters combined.

Disney's Childhood Home To Become Chicago Museum

The New York Times has the story, and a photo of the home.

It's on the corner of Tripp and Palmer Avenue. Found it on Google Maps if you're interested. It's a residential neighborhood, so I'm not sure how this will work. Glad I'm not living next door.

Ron Burgundy on Yahoo!

Marketing pros should study the way the makers of "Anchorman 2" are promoting their movie. You've seen the car ads starring Ron. Yesterday I posted the newscast he did for a local affiliate, and today he helps Yahoo! do their video about their top searches of 2013...

As The Sumner Turns

The Viacom/CBS Chairman of the Board has made another big charitable donation, $20 million to the Motion Picture & Television Fund.

I know what I'm about to say is incredibly cynical, but I read just about everything there was to read about this man while I researching my novel "$everance". This latest contribution is simply another stop on Sumner's "just in case there is a heaven" tour.

Sun-Times To Bring Back Photographers

The Sun Times has signed a new union agreement, and will be bringing back some of their photographers.

Guess how many?

Wait for it.

Four. Four photographers. For a major metropolitan newspaper.

Billy Joel & Madison Square Garden

This is an interesting development in New York. From the RAMP Newsletter...

New York's Madison Square Garden has forged a unique deal with hometown hero Billy Joel, making him the first-ever music franchise of "The World's Most Famous Arena" -- the arrangement launches the Piano Man into a monthly performance residency at the Garden, starting in January. "Since his first show in 1978, Billy has performed 46 shows at Madison Square Garden, including an unprecedented 12 consecutive sold-out shows that have earned Billy a spot among the Garden greats with a banner raised in his honor," said James L. Dolan, Executive Chairman of The Madison Square Garden Company. "Today, we take that relationship even further and are extremely honored to have Billy as The Garden’s first music franchise. This new partnership will ensure that someone who has been such an important figure in our past will also be a major part of our future. We welcome Billy home and look forward to many unforgettable nights of music at the Garden." In a not-so-shocking turn of events, Joel's first four announced shows -- January 27, February 3, March 21 and April 18 are already sold out.

Joel commented, "Performing at Madison Square Garden is a thrilling experience. I've played different venues all over the world, but there's no place like coming home to The Garden. Since my first show in 1978, I've always looked forward to the energy of the crowd. I'm honored to be joining the Madison Square Garden family and look forward to taking the stage of the newly transformed Garden to create many more memorable nights."

Cubs Radio Job

They're down to the final two candidates for the Cubs radio job, according to Robert Feder this morning. It's either Todd Hollandsworth or Ron Coomer.

Neither one excites me, but both of them will probably do a good job. Hollandsworth is very good on the pre and post-game on Comcast, and Coomer has been doing the job for the Twins.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

My Latest Illinois Entertainer Column

For the holiday season I went searching for a positive story (for a change) about the newspaper business for my monthly media column in the Illinois Entertainer. I found it in a certain division of the Chicago Tribune.

You can read it here.

Cutting Room Floor

One of my favorite Landecker bits that just missed the "Records Truly Is My Middle Name (The Soundtrack)" cut. This one's from his time in Canada

You can listen to it here, at the Eckhartz Press blog.

By the way, John will be appearing on Bob & Marianne's show on WGN-AM 720 tomorrow at 2pm and will be playing portions of the actual CD. You won't want to miss it. I'll tag along again to take photos and chronicle the event.

Records Truly Is In The Book Cellar

The Book Cellar

Another bookstore has stocked "Records Truly Is My Middle Name" by John Records Landecker. If you're on the northwest side of Chicago, stop by Lincoln Square's great bookstore, The Book Cellar. They have a nice bundle of "Records Truly Is My Middle Name" books in stock. The Book Cellar's exact address is 4736 N. Lincoln Avenue. (Right next door to my favorite German restaurant, The Brauhaus)

Of course you can always buy the book right here at Eckhartz Press, but we understand that some people just enjoy the process of going into a bookstore, and we certainly don't want to discourage supporting our local independent book stores, especially the Book Cellar.

They've always been very good to us. Recently, they've been selling quite a few copies of our book "A Reluctant Immigrant", a wonderful story about a German immigrant's difficult journey and adjustment. (Did I mention it's right next door to the Brauhaus?)

Today's Best Tweets

Here are some tweets that caught my eye today...

Len O'Kelly ‏@LenOKelly 9m
Great blog piece from @ja_bartlett on "A Charlie Brown Christmas." #GVSUCBR240 should read it. …

NPR News ‏@nprnews 13m
Chimps Are People, Too? Lawsuit Will Test That Question

Amanda Vinicky ‏@AmandaVinicky 21m
Good reminder from @ieanea teacher: teachers, and many #Illinois public employees, do not get Social Security. Pensions are only retirement

Rolling Stone ‏@RollingStone 1m
Phil Collins is mulling a return to music, possibly with Genesis:

Groovyhoovy ‏@Groovyhoovy 2m
My favorite sounds of the season...

Slate ‏@Slate 10m
A New York Times op-ed says there is an upside to objectifying women. What a relief!

Crain's Chicago ‏@CrainsChicago 5m
Op-ed: Mandated energy savings making an impact in Illinois #energyefficiency

Hub Arkush ‏@Hub_Arkush 16m
After reviewing the Bears' loss to the Vikings, I hand out some failing grades:

Deadspin ‏@Deadspin 23m
Do nice players make their teammates worse?

SportsPickle ‏@sportspickle 26m
McCann to the Yankees. Pierzynski to the Red Sox. You have to respect that these teams will stop at nothing to make us hate them.

Ron Burgundy Really Does The News

What did the people of North Dakota think while they were watching this? I personally think it's pretty cool...

The 44 Worst People In Every Restaurant

If you've ever worked in a restaurant, you'll get a kick out of this list of 44 annoying types of people in every restaurant.

If you haven't, hopefully you're not one of the 44.

The Third Generation

This was a big moment for my family. My brother and I never played on the same soccer team because of our age difference (I'm seven years older than he is), but this weekend our sons played together for Green White at Soccer City. It's probably a once-in-a-lifetime moment because my brother and his family live in Detroit, so his son can't play for us regularly. But it sure was fun to see them play together. My son played offense, and my Godson played defense.

Green White won the game, by the way, 3-2.

Big Changes Coming to CNN

Jeff Zucker has now been in charge of CNN for about a year and the changes so far have been pretty subtle. According to this piece, those changes are going to start being a lot less subtle. From

“We're all regurgitating the same information. I want people to say, ‘You know what? That was interesting. I hadn't thought of that,’” Zucker said. “The goal for the next six months, is that we need more shows and less newscasts.”

Zucker—“rhymes with hooker,” he likes to say—also expanded on comments he has made about breaking CNN out of a mindset created by historic rivalries with MSNBC and Fox. He wants the network to attract “viewers who are watching places like Discovery and History and Nat Geo and A&E.”

“People who traditionally just watch the cable news networks [are] a great audience,” he said. “I'm not trying to alienate that audience. But the overall cable news audience has not grown in the last 12 years, OK? So, all we're doing is trading [audience] share. … We also want to broaden what people can expect from CNN.”

I'm not sure what to think about that. On the one hand, I find CNN's prime time programming nearly unwatchable. On the other hand, it's the only cable news network that actually tries to play it straight while reporting the news. It sounds like they aren't planning on becoming another MSNBC or Fox, so hopefully they won't lose that.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Cyber Monday

Lots of Cyber Monday ideas at Eckhartz Press, Just One Bad Century, or The Pothole Store. They're all perfect Christmas presents and stocking stuffers...

Top 50 Albums of 2013

Look who made it in the top 50 albums of the year...71-year-old Paul McCartney.

His album "New" is #4 on Rolling Stone Magazine's list this year.

I'm betting he hasn't had one in the Top 50 for more than 20 years.

I personally LOVE a few of the new songs, including this one below. I see it as a big middle finger to his critics. Like all of Paul's songs, it's also got a melody that will stay in your head.

Paul McCartney - Early Days from Nick Timotheou on Vimeo.

A Fine Mess: Middle Aged Road Trip

Three old guys just wingin' it. The tale of my exploits to Croatia are told in this month's Shore Magazine.

You can read it here.

Here we are during the trip...