Tuesday, March 04, 2008



Went to the Doctor for a routine physical. He said that the fact I lost 70 pounds in 5 months borders on medically impossible. He suggested a book. I’m thinking infomercial…Nah. But I will say it does feel amazing. Now I’m going on a major workout program, now that I have the right approach to my passion for the culinary. Doctor says I should take a stress test first since I tend to OVER do everything. I’m on my “merger health plan”…whatever happens, I’m going to need to be in top mental and physical shape (and don’t ask about the merger---you read the same press releases I do)!

Funny thing about losing weight…it’s painless and really just about re-thinking food. A classic re-think. America is being tricked by the silly fads. It’s all SO simple.
Speaking of food, I’m a Food TV addict. My favorite is Anthony Bourdain. Guy smokes, drinks and has total character. Liked him ever since I read his best seller “Kitchen Confidential” which is a must read for anyone who goes to restaurants. I see that Emeril is joining up with Martha Stewart. Poor guy. She is pure evil. An Oprah wannabe, except she’s a convicted felon, a working wasp Leona Helmsley type who works the room better, but still is much more important than the “little people”. Responsible for hoodwinking the American Mainstream into thinking that here elitist lifestyle is attainable and correct. The ultimate Tele-snob.

Then there's William F Buckley. I always liked him. Also kind of a snob, but had a lot of class, intellect and eccentricity. Hey, the guy chartered a yacht so he could go into international waters to try marijuana to see what the fuss was about. Would have loved to see him sparring with Bill Maher--would kicked his uber-left ass. The guy had character that superseded his opinions. I sat next to him on a Pan Am flight to London many years ago. Couldn't understand a single word he said, but a real nice guy. Too bad he's gone. A real original. We need eccentric originals in EVERY area.

On a happier note…

Baseball season is upon us. Once again we are doing the PLAY BALL Channel for a couple of days leading up to Opening Day. It’s a trip. Classic calls, radio drama, baseball songs and plenty of audio from the classic Baseball Bugs starring Bugs Bunny. It’s THAT whacked. An audio nirvana for any fan. Lou Brutus is doing the legwork. Should be an interesting season. Of course there’s Roger Clemens who with each word, digs himself into a deeper hole than Hillary Clinton. They both need to study their presentation better.
Then there are the predictions. I can usually tell who’s going to suck by listening to the official statements from the team brass. Don’t bet on any team that’s:

Going after speed (Translation: No hitting or pitching)
Rebuilding (Translation: Not a prayer this year or next)
Going after youth: (Translation: The established stars are too expensive)
Confident in our Line-up (Translation: We couldn’t make any worthwhile trades)
Got some good live arms: (Translation: Gonna give up a lot of home runs)
The team is scrappy: (Can't hit a wiffle ball, but they try hard)

And for my White Sox? I am conditioned for the worst…

A team can’t really say “man, we suck”…Important to keep the eternal hope component alive and well that’s in the soul of every baseball fan. In media and music, denial is a real bad thing. Some of my favorite published denials:

“Home taping is the reason record sales are down”
(In the late 70’s---when the next year, Album sales hit an all time high…guess no-one taped anymore…)

“You can’t beat local radio’s coverage of local disasters”
(After Katrina when most of the local stations were blown off the air)

“FM?! You mean to say that an “FM “station will ever beat KHJ in Los Angeles in music?...hardly possible”
(at the Chicago NAB convention in 1969)

“The Internet is a fad…you can’t make any money with it”

...the first step in changing anything is eliminating denial. Gotta watch for that at XM.

How about those marketing short cuts called Slogans….In TV & Radio: They are usually ones that slide off the tongue well, but mean nothing. “The Best Hits”…”In it For You”. I doubt if those have any traction, and in fact might significantly contribute to the sameness and lameness.

In Newspapers: Most of them are old…real old “All The News That’s fit to Print”. Pretty harmless and I can’t imagine that they have any impact one way or another.

The Web: THIS is where they may contribute to definition and differentiation. For example, TheDailyBugle.com doesn’t say much other than it’s the website for the Daily Bugle. Big deal. EVERY newspaper has a website. Maybe a slogan that’s not hokey, marketing speak or typical, could help define the web strategy. I don’t see any papers doing this…it’s always simply the website of the paper whereas in reality, it’s SO much more.


A “statement” that defines the site. Gives it some “character” and suggests the unbelievable depth of information. NO-ONE is “selling” the newspaper website for the reality of what it is. A slogan/statement” can expedite this…and SET YOU APART.

Making up language: Google is SO perfect because they changed the name search to “Google it”. As new components are added to web sites , you have the OPPORTUNITY to invent words that describe web functions….just as every teen on earth knows what IM is. My point: THINK of words to describe functions.

There’s a new Rock Station in NYC. Hope it does well. the fact that there really isn't a rock station in NYC is symbolic of how radio has helped unwind music appreciation in America. Rock radio in particular has shot itself in the foot. Bowing to “laws of programming” that are insane. New CD by major artist comes out---you hear “the single”. Cool new sound comes out—Uh Oh…can’t play it because it didn’t “test well”. Let’s ‘trick’ listeners with marketing slogans about how we “really rock”! I sure still get a lot of heat for over sciencing radio…but when I was a consultant, it was really more about common sense than the “police-state” radio that exists now…plus there were always alternatives. I look around at how vanilla and junk culture it is now, and it’s sad…then again, it’s opened up the floodgates to amazing new technologies like satellite radio, Internet and I-Pods. BUT---in a hundred years, no doubt that radio’s creative death will be part of the study of American cultural downfall. I blame MANY (though of course not all) of the people running the stations. Sheep. McDonalds radio? No—McDonalds always innovates intelligently...most doesn't. Hell, they don't even WANT to.

Airplane wise, took John Stevens our production guy/musician who is always amusing to fly with as he looks like a cross between Satan and an Al Qaeda veteran. Also brought Liz Speer from our HR Department. Went to Phillips seafood overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. They drank heavily. Being the pilot I was doing straight Diet Coke. Enroute back to DC, they claimed they smelled smoke...twice. I had a little stuffed nose going, so culdn't smell anything. But the idea of smoke is enough to pay attention. I troubleshot every possibility...triple checked every gauge. Nothing. Nome base wasn't far, so I opted to trudge on and leave the plane with maintenance to have them look it over. They did. They kept it for three days and ran every imaginable test. Nothing. I chalk it up to the effects the alcohol had on them at 10,000 feet. Glad they bought lunch since the diagnostics far exceeded the lobster costs.

XM podcasts on I-Tunes are a hit. Just hit the millionth download mark. I do a “Green Room” feature that goes behind the scenes for Artist Confidential and tells the story of the signings and craziness that often goes into these. But I’m guessing that the vast majority of the downloads are for Opie and Anthony.

Sat in on Opie & Anthony show via phone for awhile. They called on me to comment that "the revealing Science of God" by Yes was voted the all time #1 long song that should be shorter. I went into my strong defense of Yes' early music and reminded them that Metal Machine Music by Lou Reed or Interstellar Overdrive by Pink Floyd is more worthy of that award, though Interstellar Overdrive is SO out there, it's cool. Lou Reed? Never liked him. Don’t get it. One of those Rock n Roll Hall of Fame types that the critics like as well as a few New York club types, but that's it. Nothing against the guy, he had an interesting song or three about 40 years ago, but he symbolizes the Patty Smith factor which in turn is why the Rock Hall is and always will be a dismal and sad reminder of how the "boys club" that oversees the thing is corrupt...they actually BELIEVE the Bullshit they put out. I guess you see I have a problem with many rock critics. SO disattached...a "club" that you are in...or not. Most people are not. Then there's the Maxim writer who reviewed the Black Crowes CD without listening to it. You see, the Black Crowes were doomed because they aren't in the club. And you wonder about the music business? It used to be amusing because it was successful. Now it's just plain sick. Savable...but it ain't gonna happen from "the club" members. Oh yeah, back to O&A. I always like going on their show. I can say Fuck...and they always bring up crazed but interesting topics. I'm really trying to get them into early YES and get them in my plane. Ain't gonna happen. DO check out Rick Wakeman on YouTube with his Grumpy Old Men skits. Hilarious. He came by XM many times and did “Rick Wakeman’s Keyboards n’ Komedy”---despite his image of orchestral music and capes, he’s actually one of the funniest guys on the planet…in a kind of John Cleese Brit way.

Inside the Actors Studio. What a great show. So non junk. we model Artist Confidential after it to a certain degree. Gives you a chance to get a feel for the talent and intelligence of some really great actors instead of what you see in the tabloids or watch on most TV shows. I was impressed by John Cusack. He was on the other night. What a shock--the guy had some very smart and insightful things to say. The junk culture merchants are helping ruin the film business too--s-l-o-w-l-y. that’s how junk works. It's a slow torture. Moments of titillation but in the long and big picture...it's a slow burn...out. You'd think that all of Hollywood is mindless, self absorbed and with significant mental issues...but when you see a real intelligent person who treats it like an art rather than a way to get laid and go to parties...it's pretty cool. Paul Newman and Robert DiNiro remind of that...and they're still very much around. There's a reason they are...and it's not salad dressings


At 1:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Lee, here's another FM axiom,
"Narrow the playlists because listeners prefer familiarity".
This philosophy brought us homogenized playlists, which was the biggest reason (other than commercials) that pay-for-it satellite radio ever got off the ground commercially.

And now enter the extreme irony of now seeing XM employing the SAME philosophy to their playlists that will certainly level off if not fully deplete the PASSIONATE customer base. See 70's, 80's, 90's, Ethel, BPM, Blend for classic examples for why XM forgets the all-important axiom:
"Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it."

XM is already repeating it- will they be smart enough to make changes before it's too late?

Chad in Des Moines

At 6:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congrats on your health successes!

And a good job keeping the Microchannels going, like Play Ball. Even if they are repeated yearly, it's still good to know that they can be relied upon to be there. Hopefully all the favorites from last year will return again this year.

At 1:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Remember your post about a conversation you had with Hugh Panero about people paying for quality using the example of bottled water?

I view the Ethel fiasco the same way I view the sound quality issues. It's the FM philosophy of trying to be everything to everyone. This formula never leads to quality. FM sounds better and fuller than XM, and many of the cahnnels are now FM clones--none more so than Steve Kingston's horrific Ethel--how is this quality?

At 11:58 AM, Anonymous Former Fan said...

Lee, congrats on the weight loss!

Chad hit the bulls-eye. As a former listener to BPM, the downturn at that channel became noticeable in early 2006 and I stopped listening to it last summer after you pushed out Alan Freed and BPM became a paid version of a misguided FM "dance" station. The music took a dive and the DJs (when the station isn't on auto-pilot, whi-ch is a lot of the time) are a big turn-off.+

At 7:42 PM, Blogger cbro said...

my favorite "published denials" by the guy who pasted on the Beatles "That guitar music will never last" or something like that. Brilliant.

At 5:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great to hear you're doing well. Also, very heartening to hear you are readying for the merger--being quashed I hope :-)

My dream scenario (and pretty much the only way I'll stay with XM) is if your initial vision for XM is restored.

I know people complain that your blog has seemingly become your deluded fantasy of what XM used to be--but I am sure there are forces at play beyond your control.

But, if the merger gets rejected, I do hope your heart and soul is reunited with the direction and philosophy of XM--


You have one of the most talented, knowledgeable, and passionate alternative music programmers in the country being underutilized.

His name is Rick Lambert.

I am not going to go into the ad hominem stuff others get into about Steve Kingston, but I must say that his presence at XM is the biggest head scratcher of all--

At 8:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

XMWX FU? Smoke in the cockpit has to be one of the scariest situations to deal with in flight. Good decision having everything looked over.
I'm sure Anthony would go flying - maybe a quick hop down to Atlantic City. He already has ATC all figured out.

At 10:04 PM, Blogger Reginold said...

You know, I saw the pics Sandy posted from the plane ride up to see Strait and I was going to say you looked like you dropped some Lbs. Good job. Here's to good health indeed. And hey, the 70lbs loss will help with the fuel mileage in the air. Every pound counts up there... ha ha ha!

At 5:44 AM, Blogger fm said...

an on target comment in your blog that relates to your earlier entry concerning inspiration, "but when you see a real intelligent person who treats it like an art rather than a way to get laid and go to parties...".

Great entertainment like flying is part technical ability and part art. I've been a pilot since '71 and when the clouds are closed in you have to know where you are by instrument, know what you're doing, where you're going. Great clouds are neat to fly in if you're not freaked. Same doing the show, the format. Forget where you are and where are you?

As to attaining mastery of the technical or the artistic, I heard someone I respected a lot say," You can tell some people what it is and how to do it and they just don't get it", and that's true.

As to why they don't get it, it's interpretation, number one. Then it's the eager driver at the wheel who forgets the race plan. The swallow and go group who, once they think they have a conquest, find it invisible and on they agressively go in their wandering. True in the arts, business, dating ...

The inspiration entry talked to me about breaking molds that confine and the people who articulated that historically. Once in college I arrived in class to find it was demonstration speech day and I had neglected to prepare, so I disproved reality. The punch line was, "So if you understood what I said you comprehend that you don't know what it is that was intended to be communicated, you only have your interpretation of the symbology you did sense and perceive, hooking it to your own experience. Of course, that comprehension that you did not comprehend the actual is exactly the comprehension intended to be communicated." Five minute speech took four fifty. Never too tough to step out of paradigm limits for me.

I've listened carefully to several channels in two years subscription. What it is I can rationalize even though I might do differently. Hemispheric can be unique. Frontier can be more. After everything, anything after ought to be less.

and yes, congrats on the body mass alteration. Rediscovering oneself is fun. I credit some of the awareness of audience I had in radio to having formerly been an outsider fattie when others presumed lithe lean groupness. Observing is quite the lesson if one learns and remembers.


At 2:32 PM, Anonymous ALFIALA said...

Hey Lee, welcome to Tribune!
It's greeat to have another former radio guy with us.

At 4:55 PM, Blogger Mario (Brewed for Thought) said...

Lee congrats on losing the weight. I've dropped 100 in 7 months and it's from basically the same philosophy. people ask when I'm going to stop and I have to explain, it's not a start stop thing, I just don't eat like I used to. That being said, I don't deny myself either. It's all about balance.

And the baseball season is the reason I got XM in the first place. I am an addict. Unfortunately I'm also a Giants fan, guilty of the top two items on your list. It will be a looooong season.

Also, is it true you're leaving XM/ Say it ain't so Lee, say it ain't so!

At 5:40 PM, Blogger Q said...

Hi there - I'm just a girl who was part of the original 200,000 subscribers of XM way back when. I found your blog a few months ago and have really enjoyed it. I also subscribe to the Orbitcast feed, and they posted that you had announced your resignation from XM today to join the Tribune company. As a loyal subscriber to the Chicago Tribune, I'm pretty happy about that move. :)

What I wanted to say, though, was that I hope you keep this blog updated. I would miss your writing about your airplane, views on different things, views on rock and roll, views on radio...you've definitely enlarged my world view with yours.

Congratulations on your new venture, and I look forward to a significantly improved Chicago Tribune as a result of your contributions - not that I thought the Trib was bad in the first place!

At 10:44 PM, Anonymous Jeff Gerstl said...

Hi Lee- I'm a big time fan of yours. I am very sorry to hear that you are leaving XM. I am in my third year as a subscriber and it's the fact that you "get it" that makes this radio guy proud. I too am moving into a new position with Internet Talk Radio. I start next week as Host Services Director for Modavox, Inc, parent of Voice America Networks and World Talk Radio. I continue to stay on that side of the mike as well as co-host and Executive Producer of Travel Hub Radio (give us a listen!). My favorite innovation of yours at XM is most definitely "IT," as well as your hand in creating "Radio Hanukkah." I fear that both will be history at XM when you are. Good luck in everything! I would love to meet you someday.

Jeff G

At 8:51 AM, Blogger RitalinRobot said...

Hmmm, why all of the Ethel bashing? Living in the clear channel dominated airwaves of northeast Ohio it is refreshing to have channels like Ethel that play music that is not Country, Classic Rock, or Oldies. That seems to be more so of a reality for those of us not living within the vicinity of radio stations in a lager municipality.
It is a matter of personal taste. Granted my listening tastes revolve around Fred, Ethel, Lucy, Squizz(sp?), the verge, and Fungus, rotating these 6 channels alone offer more variety than any K-ROCK type station could ever hope to offer. The new music on Ethel or Squizz let alone the Verge is played weeks if not months ahead of any watered down "play for ratings" wannabe alt-rock terrestrial radio station. (that was a mouthful)
Anyhow, I have been an official in car subscriber now for a 4 months and I must say I am 100% satisfied with XM. I must say that there are enough channels in the ROCK spectrum of XM's programming to keep my music appetite sated without having to constantly digest leftovers and repeats like with terrestrial radio. I would bet there are many like me that are screaming to not hear George Thorogood's bad to the Bone for the 30 millionth time on some Clear Channel station.
Overall Ii guess it is best that subscribers demand better if not the best out of their paid subscription. I hope that critics of the current formats on XM only keep critcizing because it only stands to reason that programming will get even better.

P.S. Good Luck Lee with the new endeavor! My only question for Lee would be to ask how it feels to know that you are a major point of study in mass media university classes as far back as at least the 1990s?

At 8:06 PM, Blogger Luke H. said...

congrats on the weight loss and the start of your new professional chapter! I echo the request that you don't quit blogging: I really enjoy reading your thoughts and theories!

At 1:32 PM, Anonymous Michael Gigante said...

Hey Lee,

Glad you're coming to Tribune.

I wasn't familiar with your extensive resume but it's very impressive and I'm sure you'll do great things.

I'm an ex-NYer, living in Hollywood, working for the L.A. Times. A Sirius guy, because I'm a staunch Howard Stern listener since he was doing afternoon drive for WNBC when I was still in high school - and I love satellite radio - though the repetition format has crept in already...which isn't good.

Anyway - I wanted to comment because after reading about your experiences I thought I'd run a baseball song by you. I think your feedback would be valuable. You can check out my freshly minted blog at www.winitforthefans.blogspot.com and you can sample the track at www.winitforthefans.com - With all the negative press Baseball gets and with the ridiculous cost of going to a ball game for the working man who'd like to enjoy it old school with "Hot Dogs, Beers and Souvenirs" I think it's time for a song like this - it's the "real" shot in the ass baseball needs - Thanks and welcome to Tribune.

And don't worry, the song doesn't suck...this is what I do best.

~ MG

At 1:57 AM, Anonymous pett said...

I really enjoy reading your blogs,Congrats on your health successes.

At 5:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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Joan Stepsen
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