Monthly Archives: October 2015

Remembering Ed Walker: Saying Goodbye to an Era

A couple weeks ago, I learned that longtime host of The Big Broadcast and even longer-time radio figure, Ed Walker, would be retiring. He was doing so to spend more time with his family and battle the cancer with which he had been diagnosed. His last broadcast would be Sunday, October 25th.

Like many other longtime fans, I was determined to tune in at 7pm this past Sunday. This may seem strange in the age of streaming and content-on-demand. I even knew that it would be pre-recorded, not live. Still, it felt as close as one could get to a communal event.

Ed picked a smorgasbord of radio that he counted among his favorites to fill the four hours. He had the Stan Freeberg show, a production of Three Skeleton Key, a particularly emotional Dragnet, a gritty, unsentimental episode of Gunsmoke, and even some selections from the Joy Boys, his own creation with Willard Scott that ran locally for about 20 years. It was a great “Best of” showcasing all you could do with the “Theater of the Mind,” Ed Walker’s playground and calling for over 60 years. I mean, the guy helped start the very radio station where this show was broadcasting from!

You could hear his voice was a bit slower, without quite the vigor you’d remember as he introduced shows and songs from broadcasts back. But the warmth was there, all the more so when it finally came to sign-off. It was a great note to end on.

But then I joined many other longtime fans learned Monday that, even though the Big Broadcast would continue, it really was the end of an era. After listening to the final broadcast with his family on Sunday night night, Ed Walker passed away peacefully in his sleep early Monday morning. It really was the end.

I was going to post here earlier in the week, but I’m glad I waited, as WAMU has put together a splendid web page, listing over a dozen great links to articles and interviews… plus Ed’s final show.

Also,  one might expect, many local media outlets published their obituaries/remembrances for Ed Walker on Monday, often linking to interviews with him in recent years:

It’s still very sad to say goodbye, but I’m glad he got to spend his final days with the whole region celebrating his life and career as well as being with his family at the end. RIP, Ed Walker.

Recommended Reading: On Millennials

While I’m wary about any attempt to:

  1. Place people into neat, cleanly definable generations
  2. Ascribe specific, seemingly inviolable characteristics to said generations

Such articles are often good jumping off points for discussions about the past and the future… or maybe that’s just the psychohistorian in me.

In any case, I found this piece by Fareed Zakaria about Millennials interesting, not in the least because it raises the point that they might actually be a product of the time and environment they were raised in.

Recommended Reading: A Tale of Cops and Doughnuts

Cara Giaimo has a wonderful feature article all about the ongoing history of cops and doughnuts sprinkled with multiple anecdotes you didn’t realize you really wanted to know.

Reading the article made me think of my own anecdote. When I was going to school in Maine, a local radio station (WBLM aka “The Blimp”) had a rambunctious morning show that would often feature the game “Cop or No Cop?”

The format was delightfully straightforward. A listener would call in to the morning show and have to guess “Cop” or “No Cop.” The morning show hosts would call a coffee shop or similar bakery in the Portland area, introduce themselves, and ask the all-important question:

“Are there currently any members of law enforcement at your establishment?”

The proprietor would sometimes need to call out and check, but if there were cops on the premises, everyone won: the original caller, the coffee shop, the cops, possibly some passers-by for all I know. In fact, if the caller was wrong, I believe they and the shop still got some prize, albeit not as grand.

In its own weird way, it was a fun, community-building way to play with a cliché… so I hope I see its like again.

The Politics of Gas in DC

After doing a little bit of research in writing my post about American Express, I came across this article about the surprisingly heated battle for Costco to sell gas in Washington, DC.

It’s from 2013, so presumably the status quo has adjusted to the discount interloper, but I’ll probably follow-up and see what’s been going on.

Recommended Reading: AMEX Rex no more

Devin Leonard and Elizabeth Dexheimer have an interesting feature-length article about the decline of American Express aka “AMEX.”

I am surprised at some of the umbrage attributed to American Express personnel in the article. They apparently think their business existing for over 150 years is reason enough to continue to exist. Certainly, service and quality matter. However, in a world where every point of cost is scrutinized backwards and forwards to justify its existence, why wouldn’t the merchant fees of a credit card company? Too late, it appears they may be realizing that “exclusivity” should mean more than higher prices among decision makers.

Back near the turn of the century, in 1999, American Express rolled out its Blue card, which was targeting young’uns with some new-fangled ideas like no annual fee and waiving the traditional initiation ceremony involving buggy whips.

Hard as it may seem for some readers, I was deemed in that young demographic back then, and so telemarketers tracked me down to conduct an in-depth survey about my impressions of American Express. It was pleasant and the questions they asked were intriguing: AMEX was hoping to change minds with this launch.

As I later recounted to my dad that, despite AMEX’s clear desire to be known as the Cadillac of credit cards, I always thought of it as the Buick. In empathy for AMEX, my dad visibly winced.

I unfairly think of Buick, then as now, as “that company that still makes cars… probably for old people who really want a Cadillac.” Given my dad’s reaction, I’m not the only one (he did not counter my assessment of Buick).

This isn’t to say I dislike American Express. I think of their travelers’ cheques fondly… and their small business efforts via Open and now also with ExpressPay sound like a good plan.

But the high merchant fees always struck me as odd, as if AMEX didn’t understand a fundamental way the economy had evolved to be far more service-oriented. People seek out deals more so than shelter in the embrace of a brand these days. Lord knows if I find service and quality with one brand, I try and keep on coming back, but kicking a brand to the curb is easier than ever unless you have a cable monopoly — and even those folks are beginning to see the end.

So I guess we’ll see how American Express winds up. Re-inventing themselves as the ultimate 21st Century concierge like they seem to be doing with the Centurion Lounges could be a cool way to go.



Doing a Test Run of NaNoWriMo

A writer writes, so I feel with all my work on Stonehenge Casting and Stonehenge XIV this year, I have been neglecting my overall writing. There have been scripts I’ve been meaning to get to and the period after Stonehenge XIV seemed like a good time to dive into them. I also wanted to be writing every day, something that I haven’t managed for most of this year.

Enter NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month in its less-cute, more informative name. I’ve wanted to participate in this long-running competition for some time and I’ve held off because of young kids.

My original thought was to go for 200 pages of scripts. That number of pages equates to 50,000 words if one were to go with the standard 250 words per page — and yes, I know that a script page is usually not 250 words, but because script pages can be so varied in terms of wordcount per page, this seemed like a good compromise. However, having looked at the rules surrounding the now defunct Script Frenzy competition (run by the same folks who do NaNoWriMo), I’m thinking their goal of 100 pages is more reasonable. 100 pages is 1.34 Rogue Tyger scripts or possibly two Pilgrimage Galactic scripts. 100 pages is also a little more than 3 pages a day — something I might be able to realistically average over the course of the month.

This makes all the more sense because the kids are still young, so Dad can’t disappear for hours on end, especially if he wants Mom to be in good spirits.

So, 100 pages it is. Other than that, I’m going to try and follow all the rules as described at the NaNoWriMo site. I’m going to work on them being all new pages, there’s time to re-write and edit later. Since I know that 100 pages is more than any of the intended scripts, I’m giving myself permission to start and stop on several different scripts. However, my goal is to have a completed draft of at least one script.

This approach doesn’t really mesh with National Novel Writing Month per se. Because of this, I’m holding off on formally registering for NaNoWriMo this year or being involved in local activities. I consider this a test run, but one that I hope gets me into a positive creative space as the year comes to a close. By November 30th, I’m hoping I have slipped back into writing every day and am enjoying the creative energy that provides.

I’ll be posting my progress and hope some fellow scribes will be joining me in the using this deadline to get to writing!



The Brothers Chaps Return!

Okay, so it’s not exactly Homestar Runner –unless you’re thinking of some of the alternate realities Strong Bad emails visited, but there’s an interview and clips of their new surreal Disney XD cartoons in this Vox article.

And for those of you who miss Homestar and Strong Bad, there are some wonderful new ‘toons as well, including this particularly meta one.