Friday, July 6, 2012

Too Darn Hot

On June 29 Americans living in the eastern half of the country learned a new word: Derecho. A fast-moving storm knocked out electrical power to millions, pretty much screwed up 4th of July plans for a lot of folks, and made sure I'll be picking up twigs and limbs from my yard for the rest of the summer - I'm sure as hell not mowing it. Anyway, that kind of storm system is apparently called a Derecho. Uh huh. Sure it is. I'm 49 and I've never heard the word "Derecho" before. I'm told it's Spanish for "straight ahead," or "direct," from the Latin phrase "der it iz" which, basically translated means "you're screwed." Anyway, that's what I'm told, but I don't believe it. I think The National Weather Service just made it up. "Oh, that? Uh, yeah... That's called a..." (looks around for a clue and sees a bag of Doritos) "Der-REE-show. Yeah, that's it. Very rare. Oh yeah, you have to be like an expert severe weather specialist or something to know anything about those. So, don't try to sue us or anything, OK?"

Meanwhile, a little girl with a picnic basket just stepped out of the house that dropped on my backyard and said, "I don't think we're in Kansas anymore."

This gave us the perfect excuse to clean out the refrigerator. After three days without power, a thing that reminded me of the creature Jabba the Hut keeps in his basement growled at me when I opened the door. The Whirlpool was due for a good clean out anyway. I don't want to say it had been a while, but among the items we threw out was a can of New Coke.

When the power is out all night, there's not much to do. Well... you and the wife could participate in a little horizontal mambo. But when it's 97 at 8 o'clock, and there's only cold water in the shower, and you already feel like a used mop, recreational activities of that nature are not something you really want to engage in at the present time. Besides, the windows are open. And so are everybody else's. You ladies know what I'm talking about.

Power restoration has been slow and inconsistent, and people got a little agitated about it. We got our power back Sunday night, but neighbors down the street weren't back on line until Monday, and some friends of ours in the same subdivision were out until Tuesday. Naturally, this is all the fault of Obama and his Socialist agenda with roving death squads deciding who gets electricity first. Hey, you can't fool me; I'm a politically aware person. I know The Truth. I'd march on Washington right now, but it's 104 out there. I'll tell Congressman Whashisname how I feel just as soon as I Google what district I'm in.

The TV station was on generator all weekend, and during that time we made a remarkable and slightly disturbing discovery: the studio air conditioning system is not on a generator-backed circuit. The Sales office, which was empty all weekend, had air... but the studio, with the lights and the cameras and the people in suits and ties because we have this silly company policy about not doing the news while wearing a Rage Against the Machine t-shirt, was like a sauna. Nice.

As things slowly returned to not-normal-but-typical-given-the-circumstances, we reached the Fourth of July and celebrated in the time-honored tradition of laughing at the raw video supplied by the fireworks safety gurus. Every year, they send TV stations across the country video of mannequins getting blown up by fireworks so that local newscasters can put it on the air and say, "Look at this mannequin getting blown up by fireworks. Cool, huh? Let's see that again in slow motion." I remember what an impression these videos had on me as a child. I'd jump up from the TV, go find my friends, and put firecrackers in mailboxes. Hey, don't say kids can't learn anything from television.

Fireworks is one of those things that are sensational in real life, but not really all that thrilling on television. In fact, I hate fireworks shows on TV. For the camera operators, it's like trying to shoot fireflies wearing a blindfold. You have to pull back wide, set focus on infinity, open up the lens, and aim in the general direction of the fireworks. The result is lots of static shots of a skyline with mostly black on the screen. I start yawning just thinking about it.

In master control, all you're interested in is making sure the feed is good before the show, and hitting the commercial breaks. If there are no commercial breaks and you know when the show starts and exactly when it will end, you set automation to go in and out, so that during the half-hour of black screen and occasional flashes and pops you can go to the break room, drop a deuce, and maybe spend a little time chatting up that cute intern in the newsroom. That's probably the explanation for Portland's KGW going a full half-hour on a fireworks live remote with no audio. Just a guess, mind you, but I think somebody's holiday bonus just turned into a pink slip.

At least they didn't have to pad their live coverage for an eternity like they did in San Diego. A computer malfunction sent an entire fireworks display into the air at pretty much the same time. After a huge build up and the promise of something even bigger and better than before, what was expected to be a 15 minute spectacular blew up in about 30 seconds.

You ladies know what I'm talking about.


After 14 months on the job, Rick Dees got the boot from Hot 92.3 in Los Angeles. Once the golden boy of LA now dethroned by Ryan Seacrest - OK, remember "Disco Duck?" Yeah, that guy - Dees may have to start doing Right Wing rants on AM if he wants to stay in radio. The days of entertainers doing comedy and... well, entertainment on the radio are in the past. Then again, in this age of internet ubiquity, perhaps Dees' habit of pilfering material from unsuspecting smaller markets finally caught up with him. In any case, it's a sign of how the once mighty have fallen in radio.