Thinking Out Loud

June 24, 2014

Radio is No Longer About the Music

When I was in the 6th grade, I had pretty well solidified my career goal: To work in the television industry. Not in front of the camera, or even operating a camera, but in the control room or behind the scenes. Later on, this objective widened to include radio; an industry where you were both host and producer of what people heard. I’ve been told many times I have a great face for radio.

I realize that in 2014 radio is not the primary delivery method by which people are exposed to new music. There is always someone who has heard of a new music channel available for phone or laptop. But I miss those old days, and I especially miss listening to the announcers talk — what was called patter — between songs. I still go on YouTube and look up airchecks some of the original rock stations that were part of my growing up, WLS-Chicago, WNBC-New York, WOWO-Fort Wayne, WLW-Charlotte, CKLW-Detroit/Windsor, WKBW-Buffalo, WCFL-Chicago, WABC-New York, WXYZ-Detroit and some of the stations in Miami and greater Los Angeles I got to know later on.

radio-towerI love listening to the DJs talk. The cadence, the rhythm, the emphasis, the seemingly endless passion. “Be the sixth caller when you hear the secret sound and you win one-hundred dollars.” My goodness. A hundred bucks. Just for calling in. (Later, I would be such a lucky caller, and won a small sailboat, but that’s another story.)

Back then, the deejays talked about the songs. The singers. The album the song was from. The studio it was recorded in. The fact they were touring and doing shows in Dayton and Cincinnati and Lansing and Bowling Green, Kentucky. I got out the atlas to find those cities. There was a song about Bowling Green and I loved the name and wanted to go there. My friends said I was a walking encyclopedia when it came to music, and much of what I knew, I knew from listening to the guys — and it was always guys back then — on the radio. Some announcers picked all their own music, too — it was the days before everything was formatted in a highrise in Nashville — and it helped that they had a love for what they were playing.

What sparked all these memories was something that happened a few days ago as we were driving home and had the radio on in the car. I realized that the DJ wasn’t talking about the albums, the songs, the music at all. One singer just got married. Another was divorcing. Two of the guys in this band were gay. Two of the girls in that band were living with two actors who were starring in a current film. Another singer is suing his neighbor. Yet another is involved in a custody suit with his ex-partner for custody of their child.

I recognize that people want their radio announcers to seem close to the stars; they want to feel that the guy playing the music is just two or three degrees of separation away from the artists he or she is playing; or that they actually met backstage at a concert or at an in-studio appearance at the station. People want to think they have a sense of intimacy to their music heroes, and today opportunities exist whereby you can, in fact, send a note to a celebrity and get an actual, personal reply. Not often but it happens.

As we kept driving, I tried to find some common interest in all the marriages and breakups and shacking up, but failed to see how this was anymore relevant to the music than the relationship status of the guy who had just changed the oil on the car, or the woman who had rung in our groceries. Just as sure as water seeks its lowest level, radio had succumbed and now could only reflect the shallowness of the broader culture. Studios? Songwriters? You’d have to read the credits, but they are buried in one-point type in the booklet that comes with the CD, if you ever actually see a physical disc for that artist at all.

Decades ago Time Magazine did a piece when “rock ‘n roll” was emerging and observed that while outwardly this was music that highlighted drums and guitars, it was more than that; it was about the clothing and the hairstyles and the attitudes. Rock culture was born. Teens put pictures of their idols on their bedroom walls. I realize that is a fact of life where music is concerned, but it strikes me that today’s kids are missing out if they listen to radio at all, or whatever is the modern equivalent for the distribution of information about the songs and the artists. It’s all about who is having sex with who.

In my younger days, I would watch Entertainment Tonight. The show was all about the movie, TV, music and publishing industries. They showed how the stunts happen, how the songs get recorded, how the contestants get on the game shows. Today, ET has morphed into a celebrity gossip show and spawned a host of imitators. Talent has been replaced by looking good.

Some parents point their kids toward Christian radio as an alternative. It’s supposed to be safe. But even there, many times the DJ patter is borrowed from Facebook and gets preoccupied with the relationships between the band members, or the number of awards that singer has received, or the fact she gets her clothing from the same designer who does more famous people. How about, “This song is based on a phrase that occurs in Psalms;” or “This group takes there name from a verse in Jeremiah;” or “This song is about a woman who was a faith hero from back in the middle ages.” Maybe those songs don’t exist anymore, either.

I have no conclusion here. Tag me under #lament. I just wish things were different both for Christian radio and the broader market, because last time I checked, radio is still out there, cars still come equipped with them, and satellite providers still include a cross-section of radio stations in their basic packages.



June 7, 2012

Post 2,000: Of the Writing of Blog Posts There is No End


Solomon would probably have had a lot to say about social media.  The verse alluded today is Eccl. 12:12

New Living Translation (©2007)
But, my child, let me give you some further advice: Be careful, for writing books is endless, and much study wears you out.

Living at a time when there was no word for “million” — and no need for one for many centuries to follow — Solomon, the man of many words, would be at a loss for some on encountering the number undecillion which means “trillion trillion trillion.”  Pardon me while I update my spell-check.

CNN reports:

One of the crucial mechanisms powering the Internet got a giant, years-in-the-making overhaul on Wednesday.

When we say “giant,” we’re not kidding. Silly-sounding huge number alert: The Internet’s address book grew from “just” 4.3 billion unique addresses to 340 undecillion (that’s 340 trillion trillion trillion)…

The Internet is running out of addresses, and if nothing were done, you certainly would notice. New devices simply wouldn’t be able to connect.

To prevent that from happening, the Internet Society, a global standards-setting organization with headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland; and Reston, Va., has been working for years to launch a new Internet Protocol (IP) standard called IPv6.

IP is a global communications standard used for linking connected devices together. Every networked device — your PC, smartphone, laptop, tablet and other gizmos — needs a unique IP address.

With IPv6, there are now enough IP combinations for everyone in the world to have a billion billion IP addresses for every second of their life

That sounds unimaginably vast, but it’s necessary, because the number of connected devices is exploding. By 2016, Cisco (CSCO, Fortune 500) predicts there will be three networked devices per person on earth. We’re not just talking about your smartphone and tablet; your washing machine, wristwatch and car will be connected too. Each of those connected things needs an IP address.

Then there’s all the items that won’t necessarily connect to the Internet themselves, but will be communicating with other wired gadgets. Developers are putting chips into eyeglasses, clothes and pill bottles. Each one of those items needs an IP address as well.

The current IP standard, IPv4, was structured like this:, with each “xxx” able to go from 0 to 255. IPv6 expands that so each “x” can be a 0 through 9 or “a” through “f,” and it’s structured like this: xxxx:xxxx:xxxx:xxxx:xxxx:xxxx:xxxx:xxxx.

[continue reading at CNN Money]

Running out of addresses?  That sounds familiar.  The way things are going, next thing they’ll be making us use ten digit dialing to reach a local phone number.

But washing machines and pill bottles aside, there are a lot voices competing for you attention.  The conversation table is getting larger and larger and technically everyone has a seat at every conversation.

One minute you have something you want to share with a handful of friends, and the next thing you know, you’ve written 2,000 blog posts.

I write about faith-focused issues, but nothing stops me from dropping by a site devoted to organic gardening, Formula One racing, or Spanish literature and leaving a comment, even if I have no idea what on earth — or woe?, as the kids say — I am talking about.  And nothing stops the biblically illiterate and the theologically challenged from dropping by here and pontificating about the state of affairs at the Crystal Cathedral, Max Lucado’s latest book, or something quoted from Augustine.

The only option is that the ‘open’ internet suddenly starts to have closed doors.  A few minutes ago an online acquaintance suggested I visit a particular web page where I was met with:

“But wait a minute;” I said to no one in particular, “This is me. I belong here.”

Is this the future?

Another generation of hip Christians once sat around campfires singing,

I’ll shout it from the mountain tops
I want my world to know
The Lord of love, has come to me
I want to pass it on.

Well, they (we?) thought they (we?) were hip. But the desire to share a message, to bring good news, to evangelize was implicit in faith.

And I’ve always been part of that.  Just weeks ago, I realized that so much of what I have done in my life has revolved around wanting to spread the word on something.  To let people know about something.  To network.  To connect individuals with resources.  To introduce people to new ideas.

The internet is the perfect medium for shouting a message.  Blogging is one of many ideal platforms.  You can indeed make your message heard even among the gazillion — or maybe that should be undecillion — writers screaming for attention.  Just recently this blog rated #7 in a top 50 list of Christian blogs ranked by the number of Google indexed pages.  Yeah, really; little old me just sitting next to the wood stove in my log cabin high up on a mountain surrounded by pine trees.  (Actually, that would be quite nice.)

But you have to shout really loud to make yourself heard because there are

So. Many. Voices.

Several undecillion of them.  (But not that one, that’s a coffee pot in New Jersey.)

December 28, 2010

1,000,000 Channel World

Filed under: media — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:48 pm

Seth Godin blogged this a few days before Christmas, where it appeared under the title…

Three ways TV changed everything (and what’s next)

TV changes everyone it touches.

TV brings mass. For fifty years, TV meant that programmers and advertisers had a very good chance to reach everyone, or almost everyone, at the same time. TV integrates a culture, because there’s instant common touchstones being generated daily. (When I say, “yadda yadda yadda” or “where’s the beef,” you know what I mean, right?)

TV brings pluralism and diversity.  This seems to contradict the first, but it doesn’t. Once TV has opened a channel to the brain, it can bring in whatever it chooses, without clearing it with you first. So, the viewer can discover that people-who-don’t-look-like-us aren’t so different, or that women might be good cops, or that a member of the [insert oppressed group] might also be a person too.

and finally, TV brings dissatisfaction.  Advertising needs to make you dissatisfied to work. And picture perfect sitcom families have more money and less trouble than most folks (because they’re not real).

Now, of course, TV isn’t what it used to be. No more three-channel universe. That means that the cable/internet virus changes everyone in a very different way. Call it the million channel world (mcw).

The mcw brings addressability. There is no mass any more. You can’t reach everyone. Mad Men is a hit and yet it has only been seen by 2% of the people in the USA.

The mcw bring silos, angry tribes and insularity. Fox News makes a fortune by pitting people against one another. Talkingpointsmemo is custom tailored for people who are sure that the other side is wrong. You can spend your entire day consuming media and never encounter a thought you don’t agree with, don’t like or don’t want to see.

And finally, I have no idea if the mcw is making us happy. Surely, a substantial use is time wasting social network polishing, and that’s not really building anyone’s long-term happiness. And the mcw makes it easier to get angry, to waste time (there’s never ‘nothing on’) or become isolated. Without a doubt, the short-term impact of mcw is that it makes it easy to spread terror and harder to settle on the truth. At the same time, there’s no doubt that more people are connected to more people, belong to more tribes, have more friends, and engage more often than they did before it got here. We got rid of some gatekeepers, but there’s a race for some new ones. In the meantime, a lot of smart people are fending for themselves, which isn’t so bad.

One thing we learned from the TV age that’s still true: more media is not always better, particularly when we abdicate our power to filter and choose.

December 15, 2010

Wednesday Link List

It’s a busy week for most so I’ll keep the list short(er) this week…

  • Yes, I do list the links in order of importance, so for this week, it’s got to be a Christianity Today story in celebration of 50 years of Youth With A Mission (YWAM).
  • “Does it really make sense that God is a loving, kind, compassionate God who wants to know people in a personal way, but if they reject this relationship with Jesus, they will be sent to hell where God will eternally punish them forever?”   That question, included in the online, advance-publication announcement for Rob Bell’s forthcoming Love Wins, may explain why the title is with HarperOne, and not with Zondervan.
  • The Amish are causing problems for building contractors in Philadelphia where they are underbidding local companies on jobs, and then leaving town without spending any money.
  • Lots of time to answer our poll question from yesterday — Should audiences still be expected to stand for the playing of the Hallelujah Chorus?
  • A look at Brad Lomenick’s “Young Influencers List” for December led to the discovery that he’s been doing this list for a few years now, with some names you might recognize.
  • If you own a business in Dallas, Texas, you’d better not be substituting “Happy Holidays” for “Merry Christmas” or First Baptist Church will put you on their “Naughty or Nice” list.
  • It’s minus 12 degrees Celsius, or 10 degrees Fahrenheit in Fairbanks, Alaska.  What better time for an outdoor baptism service.
  • Because of remarks made by Canadian Pastor Charles McVety, the National Post reports that Crossroads Television System (CTS) has been found to be in violation of Canada’s strict “anti-hate” Canadian Broadcast Standards.
  • Cedric Miller, a New Jersey pastor “believes the forbidden fruit had a QWERTY keyboard and came with status updates.”  He’s ordered his church leaders to either quit Facebook or resign.
  • Canadian readers:  Don’t forget you have less than two weeks to help us fill our Salvation Army iKettle.  No matter where you live, donations stay with the S.A. Family Services branch closest to you.
  • Joel Spencer doesn’t blog frequently, but if you like your bloggers with tongues firmly planted in cheeks, you might enjoy his catalog of Jesus action figures for 2010.
  • Bonus link:  In the days before Weird Al, there was Ray Stevens (Guitarzan, The Streak, Bridget the Midget, etc.) filling the novelty music category.  He’s back with a commentary on U.S. immigration policy.
  • Today’s cartoon is a 2009 entry at ShoeBoxBlog, while today’s picture is none other than Shane Claiborne at the White House which appeared — National Enquirer style — at the blog OutOfUr.  BTW, you need to drop by your bookstore to actually see, touch and feel what Shane is doing with his new book, Common Prayer.

May 28, 2010

Why Am I Still Here?

Though I had already been notified, a thought occured to me while I was reading yesterday about the death of Rhonda Glenn, who had worked in broadcasting previously as Rhonda London.

Rhonda enjoyed a successful broadcasting career in Ontario, Canada when she decided to join CTS, a family-friendly Christian television station affiliated with Crossroads, the organization that produces Canada’s daily Christian talk show, 100 Huntley Street. She was given her own afternoon talk show, but later decided to leave broadcasting altogether to persue a career in law.   She would have been called to the bar in just a few weeks.

She had married an Anglican minister and they had a son.   The next chapter of life was just beginning when she was diagnosed with brain cancer which ended her life just weeks after diagnosis.   Pray for her son and husband and family.

But I had this thought later on, that probably many of you have in times like this, “Why her and not me?”   Or, “Why am I still here?”

I think much of this has to do with the phrase often used in situations like this, “God took her.”   Years ago, my wife attended the funeral of a young girl who died several days after a brain seizure.    There was a poem read or sung that said something to the effect that ‘God must have needed another angel in heaven.’   It was perhaps comforting imagery, but not entirely sound theology.

I think the “Why am I still here?” question is directly related to the way in which we use words.

I took a course in university on the Philosophy of Language.   It was a seminar format, what I would call a 7-11 course (a minimum of seven people sitting around a table, eleven people if everyone showed up.)  The professor sat almost at a corner of the table and I sat in the corner at the opposite end.   There was something comfortable about that environment, and when people thought I was taking copious notes, I was actually writing songs.   But I enjoyed the readings, interjected ideas into the discussion, and somehow ended up with a B+.

Anyway, the point of the course was that our ideas and concepts are shaped by the way our given languages identify or reference those ideas and concepts.    So when we use a phrase like “God took her,” we’re loading the phrase with kinds of assumptions about the nature of God and His involvement in our day-to-day affairs.

Furthermore, since it often seems like some of the best and brightest die, as we might say, before their time, it then leaves us wondering why God would choose to take them.   This was the question someone asked me just hours after we heard the news of Keith Green‘s death:  Why him and not one of the lesser Christian musicians?   That question contains the twist of implying that somewhere that day a Christian singer or songwriter was destined to die, and it was just a coin toss as to which one.    (Fortunately, because people say things in moments like this that we shouldn’t judge, we have the liberty of excusing questions like this which are not more thoroughly considered.)

I don’t know what Rhonda might have accomplished in her family, church-life or new carreer.   My guess is: probably a lot.  I just know that I am still here, and while I think my life pales in comparison to all that she did accomplish, it’s up to me to try to make the most of the day for God’s glory.

You’re reading this, so you have been given another day, too; what are you going to do with it?

February 20, 2009

Religious Radio and Television Broadcasters Stretched to the Limit

radio-tower“…The challenge is attracting younger audiences who will give as consistently as their parents and grandparents. Cracking that puzzle will require experimentation, but few feel they can take significant risks in today’s climate marked by razor-thin margins”

On the one hand you have seniors who are the faithful financial supporters of religious broadcasting.  On the other hand, your mission requires you to constantly re-orient your thinking towards the next generation; what preachers sometimes call ‘preaching and programming your service to the people who you want to be there; who aren’t there yet.’

Enter a major economic recession.   Ouch!

Without exception, every broadcaster — Moody, TBN, Focus on the Family, Salem Communications — is financially stretched right now.  Read the whole article on the Religion page at USAToday by linking here.

December 9, 2008

N. T. Wright Interview Banned in Canada by Comedy Central; But Why?

Filed under: Christianity, internet, theology — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:52 pm

nt_wrightOn December 19th it will be six months after the fact that The Colbert Report on Comedy Central did an interview with author and theologian N. T. Wright.

Comedy Central video content is not available on the internet to viewers outside the U.S.A.  Their server senses my ISP domain, and refers me to their Canadian equivalent, The Comedy Network, which has Colbert interviews available, but doesn’t think that anyone in what is basically a pagan nation would want to watch the N. T. Wright clip.

Nonetheless, I keep hearing about this interview, and therefore I am begging, pleading, imploring anyone in the United States who has the means to do so to send me even the audio of this interview. see update…

BTW, Comedy Central isn’t the only one.   All those “bonus features” that NBC offers U.S. viewers are also prevented from being screened on computers outside the U.S.   Why?  You tell me.   But I’m thinking of giving up watching The Office because it’s just too darned frustrating.   Especially when the newer features are direct plot tie-ins.

So please, anyone, an audio wave file would be fine; I don’t need to see the pictures…  You can mail me a cassette…  An eight-track…   Cut me a vinyl disc…  And if anyone from Comedy Central is reading this; feel free to offer an explanation but it better be believable…

[and no, it’s not on YouTube…]

Update:  Well, once the rant was officially published, I went back to The Comedy Network to shut the window down, and discovered the section “Interviews: W” seemed to have loaded more options.   I scrolled down and there it was.   Six months later, I was finally rewarded with seeing this strange appearance by a theologian on a comedy show.   (What’s next, Ben Witherington on Conan O’Brien?)   But halfway through, the thing crashed.

It had been lagging constantly and so I decided to go back to the beginning and give the buffering time to catch up.   Bad move.   I offended it.     It was playing in a Firefox viewer, not a standard web page, so I couldn’t refresh the page.

At this writing, I’m trying to start the entire process from scratch.  I guess it was too good to be true.

UPDATE # 2 — Absolute desperation has been rewarded.   Fifty five minutes after reaching the peak of frustration, I have finally seen this much-talked-about six minutes and two seconds of interview.   Why N. T. Wright agreed to play straight man on this eludes me, but Colbert’s home television audience is deserving of someone of Wright’s intellect, even if the live studio audience was a little giddy.  His comments on “new earth” certainly gel with the Randy Alcorn material I blogged about this summer.  So… Should it have taken six months to finally track this down?   Should it have taken fifteen minutes to watch six minutes of video on high speed internet?   That’s up to someone else to decide.   I won’t be visiting The Colbert Report again.   Too much anticipation for too little actual content.

FOOTNOTE:  Thanks to those of you who were busy putting a care package together for me.   My problem was resolved with the Canadian Comedy Network; but what of people in Australia, or New Zealand, or the U.K. who would want to view this?

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