Friday, September 29, 2006

Quote of the Week

Fox 23 news director Gene Ross explains his secret plan for morning news domination to the TU's Mark McGuire:
"We're going to loosen up the format as we go along. What we're talking about is doing something more like radio."
You mean it's going to suck?

Honorable Mention: John Faso suggesting that Eliot Spitzer will "force gay marriage down the throats of New Yorkers." Seventh graders everywhere loved that one.

Girl of the North Country

Lucky spoon.Are you one of those people who can't stand her incessant jabbering? Does the word Yummo make you cringe? Would you pay $40 a day to make her disappear? Then you probably won't want to watch Rachael Ray's new syndicated show.

There's no question that Ray is a polarizing figure, and this does nothing to find any middle ground. The producers have created the perfect platform for her exuberant personality; it's a relentless hour of energy that delivers the goods for people who enjoy Ray, and will leave those who don't like her wanting to slash their wrists.

As long as they can keep the energy level up, it's sure to work. For women she's the fun best friend who can always make them laugh. And imagine her helping out with your party. Men would like her at the party, too ---except they want her out back on the deck slamming shots of tequila.

One note: I wouldn't try the viewer tip that showed a woman using her washing machine as a salad spinner. I don't know about you, but I put all sorts of nasty stuff in my washing machine.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Mmmm...Crunchy

What's next? Eat some horsemeat and get into the track for free?It's time for Fright Fest at the Great Escape, and this year's event will offer a shot at some must-have video:
New for 2006, Fright Fest guests will have an opportunity to move straight to the front of the line by consuming a creepy, crawling Madagascar Hissing cockroach! This challenge will take place for one hour, each day, during The Great Escape's Fright Fest opening weekend (Saturday, Sept. 30 and Sunday, Oct. 1).
If you can't wait until the weekend, during today's media event at the park, there will be a demonstration of "Proper techniques for handling and eating insects/cockroaches (One live demonstration will be provided)." Or you could just head down to a certain very old and famous downtown eatery on lower State Street.

My, Oh Mai

Well, it looked like former WTEN morning anchor Mai Shiozaki had landed a nice gig in a nice town. She was hired by Madison, Wisconsin ABC affiliate WKOW to helm their morning news ---but four days into her new job, before even going on the air, she resigned from the station.

Some of you may recall that Shiozaki was arrested for shoplifting in the Boston area in 2005; the charges were later dismissed. Did the story have something to do with what happened? Your guess is as good as mine, but it didn't help that the incident was mentioned in a story about Shiozaki's hiring in the Wisconsin State Journal.

Before Mai arrived, news director Al Zobel said, "She's a pro and she's smart. I'm really happy to get her at our station." A week later? "It's a very unfortunate situation for all concerned."

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Veal Deal

I'm vealy upset about this, but not as upset as I am by the idea of people eating my brain.A reader pointed this out from yesterday's TU; it gets my vote for strangest correction of the year:
An illustration of a deer in the By The Numbers column in Sunday's CQ section depicted the wrong kind of animal. The drawing, accompanying an item about the cholesterol content of veal brains, should have been a calf.
By the way, if you're watching your cholesterol, lay off the veal brains.

Whirly Cam!

What the hell is up with those St. Peter's Hospital spots? I'm talking about the ones with the nervous camera that never stops its slow clockwise gyrations ---all for no apparent reason. I guess it's to make the people talking about their heart trouble and emergency room visits seem more exciting. Maybe next time someone's telling me about their medical woes, I'll move my head around like the camera and see if their story starts getting interesting.

If you ask me, this stuff is just annoying. Not to get all film schooly with you, but if you want camera movement, subtle dollying or trucking makes a shot interesting without it becoming distracting, which is what you get with all this trendy, irrelevant nonsense.

I wonder if the hospital is seeing patients who were made nauseous by watching their commercials?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Shiny Happy People

We were told that Fox 23 Daybreak would be a different kind of morning show, but in fact it's a morning show very much like every other local morning news show. Did I say very much? I meant exactly like every other morning news show. Except for having a traffic reporter (like CapitalNews 9) it's essentially the same formula as what you'll find everywhere else.

If anything stands out, it's anchors Diane Lee and Mark Baker. They're an an attractive pair, especially when compared to the Mailey/O'Brien frightshow over at CBS 6. Those two guys really have faces made for radio. Lee and Baker put on a pretty good show and they've got the skills to make it slick and watchable ---which is to say that their happy talk at the end of the show was a lot less forced than what you see elsewhere. How's that for a benchmark?

Insiders say that the audience for morning news is growing; now that the pie is being sliced into smaller pieces it had better be.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Of Moose And Men

A while ago, some brainiac figured out a way for news content like AP wire stories to be posted automatically to web sites. That's great, but then when nobody bothers looking at the stuff, you get strange mistakes like this one from WRGB:
What's a couple of moose between friends?This is what happens when two minutes after filing a story, some editor at AP notices that they've got the wrong number of moose (mooses?) and shoots out another version. The newspaper doesn't print both stories and the radio stations don't read both on the air, but the web-bot in the server? It doesn't know the difference and posts them both to the web site, making you appear very, very stupid. Automatic is good; automatic without editing, not so great.

Friday, September 22, 2006

I See Dead People

Just my luck. I finally get my picture in the Times Union and now I'm too dead to enjoy it.
We can't spell Times Union without U!

The Times Union Reader Network has been hard at work consulting the paper on difficult editorial decisions. Rex Smith yesterday explained how TURN members convinced the TU to publish that photo of Michael Thompson, deceased victim of last week's Route 50 car v. pedestrian accident. Smith wrote:
By an overwhelming margin, those who responded to our e-mailed question about these photos Wednesday urged us to publish them.
Yeah, no kidding. Hey, readers: who wants to see the dead guy??? Anyway, I predict we'll read more about this in his Saturday column.

EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this story erroneously suggested that the Times Union Reader Network is seldom mentioned in the paper or noted in any of its stories. My bad!

From the World of Advertising

Ugly, annoying billboards get even more annoying. From the Business Review:
Zone 5, a marketing communications firm in Albany, N.Y., has unveiled a series of "talking" billboards across the state to promote client Clarkson University. The billboards are equipped with radio transmitters developed by Zone 5, and are designed to entice drivers to tune into a prominently displayed AM radio frequency.
These stupid things have been around for like 20 years, but there's an important difference here: Zone 5 apparently jerry-rigged its own transmitters since it couldn't find any off the shelf models. Cool! Can you spell FCC?

****

TU political blog Capitol Confidential yesterday offered some info on John Faso's upstate media buy. Liz Benjamin explains the whole GRP thing like this:
It appears he'll have the most gross rating points (between 700 and just over 800 a week) in Syracuse and Watertown. In Syracuse, 750 GRPs = about 150 airings/week.
Unless you buy cable, then 750 GRPs = 1,230,000 airings a week.

****

In other ad news, has MVP gotten a new agency? For the first time ever, their open enrollment spots aren't completely unwatchable ---read about last year's hideously awful Media Logic campaign here.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Space Out

From anchorman...Hey, who remembers CapitalNews 9's Rick Douglas? He really stood out on the cable news channel because he was one of the few mature males you ever saw anchoring over there. Douglas, who vanished from the station around the time of the Albany/Syracuse shakeup, almost seemed like a father figure to all those young, up-and-coming TV journalists.

...To macho man.Well, Douglas has resurfaced at everybody's favorite purveyor of personal web content, MySpace, where you'll find lots of photos like the one seen here ---and this explanation of where his head is at: "I am a former TV newsman who is in transition. The industry being what it is today, meaning shallow and almost irrelevant, and prizing physical attributes over experience." He also writes, "I am not married and don't plan to be. However, in the event it happens, my partner would likely sport an oversized tux or suit jacket instead of a dress. " Well , OK, make than an uncle figure.

Troll around MySpace a bit you'll, find a whole bunch of familiar faces from local TV news, like this person, this one, this former local reporter, this young lady, a CBS 6 meteorologist, and last but not least, our favorite morning anchor. No, it's not Ed O'Brien, you knuckleheads.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The MySpace pages listed above that were not already private are private now. Take my word for it: they were much more interesting before.

Fight For Your Right To Party

Hey! Can't you see we're having a conversation here?In what must be the understatement of the year, John Sweeney's deputy chief flunky, Melissa Carlson, explained the frat party incident to the Wall Street Journal thusly:
Mr. Sweeney went to the fraternity party with a friend and "enjoyed his conversation" with the students.
I'd say from the looks of things that Mr. Sweeney enjoyed six or seven "conversations" with the students. Meanwhile, Capitol Confidential reported that Sweeney made some list of the top twenty most corrupt congressmen. The boy from Troy makes good.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

It Was A Dark And Stormy Night

I appreciate expressive writing just as much as the next guy, but today's story in the TU about the unidentified victim of a car/pedestrian accident in Saratoga sounds a little overwrought:
No one knows what he was doing out on such a rainy, chilly night. But there he was, his XXL black sweat shirt soaked with rain and weighing him down and black Adidas sneakers heavy with water.

and this...

Those who know his fate ask: Where was he doing such a menial task as shaving? Where was his home? What was he doing out there? Who is this man? For now, the man in the photo remains John Doe -- whose death raises so many unanswered questions.
The paper did not print the morgue photo police have distributed to help identify the man.

Failure To Launch

The digital cable channel guide says it's there, the TU's weekly ON TV listings say it's there, and even the program lineup on the station's website says it's there, but you know what? It ain't there. I'm speaking of Fox 23's new early morning newscast.

The show was scheduled to kick-off on September 18, but so far the only thing you'll find on the station at that hour are infomercials. GM Jeff Whitson told Mark McGuire back in June that they would start this week, so it's not like there wasn't time to get the thing off the ground. Most GM's know more about selling commercials in a newscast than producing a newscast, so maybe we shouldn't be surprised. The program is to be anchored by three-time Congressional candidate Mark Baker, and Diane Lee, formerly known as the Songbird of Scranton.

Meanwhile, a radio spot I heard yesterday said that the new show is "coming this September"; they'd better get a move on, because September is almost over.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Stems N' Seeds

Spuds Deluxe
SALEM -- Red, white and blue potatoes from Sheldon Farms in Salem will be served at the "New York Farm Day" hosted by Senator Hillary Clinton Tuesday, September 19 from 5:30 to 7:30 pm in the elegant Senate Russell Caucus Room at the crest of Capitol Hill.
House members from New York will be among attendees at today's invitation only event, which will also feature a selection of the state's finest wines. Somebody better keep an eye on Sweeney.

Stealin'
Have you seen that motorcycle spot for the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee? It's a complete ripoff of the Volkswagen accident campaign, where one second folks are innocently driving along and suddenly they're whacked by another car ---or in this case, a motorcycle. Along with the actor from that lame Time Warner Cable "toothache" spot, it features a wooden performance from DMV Commissioner Nancy Naples. You half wish that the people in the car swerved to avoid the motorcycle and ran her over instead.

Bass Ackward
I thought there was some sort of control room mistake when I saw CapitalNews 9's Marcie Fraser running up a hill backwards, but no, she was really running up a hill backwards. This apparently works those leg muscles neglected during ordinary running. Fraser offers this bit of helpful advice:
When you're picking a hill, make sure there's very little traffic.
You may also want to do this at night, because you're going to look like a complete idiot.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Close Enough For Government Work

Earlier this month, we talked about the Eliot Spitzer ad using Ashokan Farewell, the well known song from in the Ken Burns Civil War documentary. The most recent Spitzer ad, titles Responsibility Road, appropriates another poignant tune, the iconic Shaker dance song, Simple Gifts. Many of you may be familiar with Simple Gifts from Aaron Copland's use of it in Appalachian Spring, or its insidious re-tooling as Lord of the Dance. Anyway, it's a lovely spot, telling of how Spitzer toured David Paterson's childhood school and how each hallway had a special name, and so on. One problem: that never happened. NY 1 reports:
Instead, Spitzer delivered remarks outside the school. He took questions and then walked away from the door, making a quick trip to his nearby office. It was Paterson alone who walked through the hallways, passing the inspirational signs about truth and honesty, before reuniting with a classmate he hadn't seen for decades.
I think what really happened is that Spitzer told Paterson he was coming for the tour and quietly snuck away.

Flight of Fancy

Just as calling this place Tech Valley doesn't necessarily make it so, putting "International" between the words Albany and Airport hasn't brought direct flights to London. Actually, I'm not sure it's brought direct flights to anywhere. The extravagantly named airfield was mentioned by Andy Rooney on 60 Minutes last night:
In Albany, New York, the airport is called the Albany International Airport. I think it has two flights a week to Canada. I grew up in Albany. Maybe I'll offer them $1.50 to rename it the Andrew A. Rooney Not Far Afield.
I hope Mr. Rooney knows he'll have to fight Joe Bruno for that ----and Bruno will bring a lot more (of your) money to the table.

Friday, September 15, 2006

LOSERfest

LARKfest is Saturday; be sure not to miss this:
You could find love by participating in Time Warner Cable's Love On Demand at LARKFest! Love On Demand, digital cable channel 1009, is the latest in Capital Region dating. Free 2-3 minute video dating profiles of area singles are being taped at different hot spots and venues in the Capital Region. At LARKFest, you can find the Love On Demand crew at the intersection of Chestnut and Lark streets, so be sure to stop by! For more information about Love On Demand visit loveondemand.twalbany.com.
Upside: People get to see you drunk before meeting you.
Downside: You may disappointing when sober.

Dear In The Headlights

Katie Couric says: Fu*k you, Albany Eye.If you didn't know it was Katie Couric, you'd wonder what this awkward and uncomfortable person is doing reading the evening news. Couric's poise and presence is no better than any number of people you see anchoring on the 24 hour cable news channels during the day ---and if you ask me it's often worse. That someone with so much experience in front of the camera can come off seeming so wrong and out of place is mysterious.

You may be saying, "Hey, wait a second! It hasn't been even two weeks and you're throwing her under the bus?!" Yes, it's been eight shows, but how much rehearsal time was invested in getting Couric up to speed? In the bigs, they work out the kinks before going on the air, not after. If you could see inside the minds of the execs at CBS, you'd find some people wondering if they've made a terrible, terrible mistake.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Clan Of The Cave Beer

Attention Mr. Sweeney: Beer is now being served in the cave.Yeah, we ragged on Howe Caverns, calling it corporate cave and all, but on October 4th, an exception is in order, That's the day they host an event uncorking Brewery Ommegang's Three Philosophers Quadrupel Ale. The brew has been resting in a quiet corner of the grotto for over a year, which is much longer than the day or so it would survive in my refrigerator. Calling this beer might be selling it a little short:
This powerful marriage of cherries, roasted malts, and dark chocolate will only achieve more wisdom and coherence as it broods in the dark recesses of your cellar.
You, on the other hand, will become less wise and coherent, which is the whole idea. The event costs $20, and for those not content to drink, offers a menu including "cheese fondue, potato pancakes, beer-boiled shrimp and Fly Creek Cider Mill'’s Cave-Aged Cheddar."

Don't smack your head; that's one of the dangers of speleo-drinking. Or would that be speldrunking?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Office of General Money Wasting

It's impossible to imagine how much of your tax money New York State wastes every day, so maybe it's helpful to consider a small example. I saw a ridiculous 1300 word press release from OGS yesterday telling about their recent employee of the month recipients and other award winning state workers. Here's a sample of the crap it contained:
Because of the Herculean effort of the PSG Group, New York was honored by the National Association of State Purchasing Officials (NASPO) with the Cronin Classic Gold Award. In presenting the award to PSG representatives, the NASPO Evaluation Committee stated: "This initiative paved the way for innovative looks at cooperative procurement strategies..."
WTF? If you need to send out stupid press releases that no one wants to read, fine. The problem here is that OGS paid Empire Information Services to distribute the thing. You can see from their rates, that this can get pricey, but even if OGS has a special deal, spending even one dollar on this mess is one dollar too much. Here's an idea: have someone spend a couple of days compiling an email list and send out your own press releases. Then make that person the employee of the month.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Sweenster's Revenge

John Sweeney: He's got Derek Jeter's bat and Mickey Mantle's liver.There was a time not so long ago that people were pointing to Sweeney v. Gillibrand as a benchmark of this year's mid-term congressional elections. Now? Not so much. The New York Times, who in May said "Sweeney finds himself in the political battle of his life," is now backing off that position, and yesterday made this brilliant observation:
The incumbents in New York are benefiting from being in legislative districts drawn to keep the Republican incumbents in place.
In the words of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, no sh*t, Sherlock.

This would be a lousy time for Sweeney to go because it's just starting to get so good. Skiing in Utah with lobbyists, drinking with frat boys in Schenectady... do I have to go on? The Sweeney implosion looks to be getting closer and closer ---and sooner or later he's going to do something so stupid that it makes national headlines. Who would want to miss that, even if it takes another two years.

By the way, who heard Alan Chartock's interview with Kirsten Gillibrand? She sounds like she's about 16.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Shakes On A Plane

If you plan on flying Southwest to or from Baltimore on Saturday, September 30, take note. That's the day Albany International's fear of flying class celebrates its graduation with a round trip to Charm City.

I'm not crazy about having one person on the plane who might freak out, but a whole gang of them? The session is being conducted by Shirley McMorris, Ph.D., who is described by airport flack Doug Myers as having "extensive experience dealing with anxiety and panic disorders." At 30,000 feet, I'll leave that to the air marshals. Maybe Homeland Security can schedule some extra help for those flights.

Myers also says the classes are "designed to assist travelers who may suffer from a disproportionate fear of flying." Being a little bit afraid is maybe not a bad idea, what with the chance of your pilot taking off from the wrong runway or a wing falling off the plane. Just the same, I think we'd all prefer if the frightened flyer class celebrate by taking Amtrak to New York.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Shaking Hands, Kissing Horses

Not on my watch, pilgrim.What's John Sweeney been up to? Dealing with the war in Iraq? Working on boosting the minimum wage? No, he's been fighting in Congress to stop people from eating horses. Sweeney finally managed to get the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act passed, a bill opposed by the American Quarter Horse Association and major veterinary groups like the American Association of Equine Practitioners. I caught a lot of heat a while back when I posted a recipe for Barbaro Fajitas, so this really caught my eye:
"Let's not sign off on Barbaro burgers," urged Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., a backer of the measure.
In case you're curious about how one serves horse meat, here are some recipes from Montreal supermarket, Metro. Yes, they eat horses up there.

Katie Q and A

Greg Floyd, Liz Bishop, and Bo Tox.Liz Bishop and Greg Floyd went on a little field trip to New York recently, where they talked to Katie Couric. This was one of those affiliate cattle calls, where local stations line up for an audience with the big time talent. CBS 6 aired a portion of the interview Wednesday night, and Liz opened with this question:
On a local level, we try really hard to ask the questions that our community wants answered. How does this fit in with your philosophy?
How lame is that? This "question" was more of a promotional statement referring to the station's new marketing effort, a campaign promising to "ask the questions you want answered". So, how does that fit in with Katie's philosophy? I'm not sure, as my eyes were glazing over about two words into her answer. Speaking of questions, Liz let Greg ask a question too, something about how all news stories are local. See if she lets him do that again.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Civil Doodie

Anyone who's ever watched the Ken Burns Civil War documentary knows Jay Ungar's song Ashokan Farewell. It's the soulful, haunting theme heard throughout the eleven hour film, but most memorably when it was played behind the reading of Sullivan Ballou's touching letter to his wife. Ballou was killed at the First Battle of Bull Run shortly after writing the letter, which he never got to mail.

I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter.Imagine my surprise when I turned on the tube and heard the song in an Eliot Spitzer commercial. While it's a nice spot, urging folks to vote in the primary, it's heartbreaking to see something so resonant and moving used in a political ad. I guess the Spitzer people are saying that the campaign against Tom Suozzi is like the Civil War.

Is it presumptuous for some dope with a blog to tell a great song writer what to do with his work? Yeah, I suppose so. But just as those Cadillac commercials changed the way I feel about Led Zeppelin's Rock and Roll, Ashokan Farewell may not bring a tear to my eye the way it used to. Instead of thinking of Sullivan Ballou, I may be thinking of Eliot Spitzer.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

What Katie Did

Well, I finally had a chance to watch Katie Couric's debut on CBS Evening News. That sure is a nice set. And I like the music. Yes, the music is very good. And who's that announcer who did the intro. He's got some pipes, doesn't he?

Acting!

I don't generally read Clipper Magazine, but hey, somebody left it in the bathroom and it's all I had, and you know how that goes. Anyway, as I leafed through the ads for restaurants and spa treatments, I stumbled across this from an operation called Drama Kids:

Just in case you don't already have enough drama with your kids.I'm not suggesting that your son will be beaten up if you put him in Drama Kids or that you might be better off considering Tai Kwon Do, but in case you do send him, tell him it's ixnay onway ethay Amadray Idskay.

Plus, do you really want your kids to have had acting lessons when it's time to come home and lie about where they went with their friends last night? Me neither.

Godzilla vs. John Gray

I don't know if it was a problem at the studio or something screwed up at Time Warner, but Fox 23's entire late news last night looked like a Japanese monster movie. Due to some mysterious technical glitch, the audio was off synch just enough to make it appear that you were watching a poorly dubbed foreign film. It went from being annoying to funny ---and I kept waiting for Ann Hughes to turn to John Gray and say, "Mothra is approaching!"

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Crikey!

That Vandenburgh bludger's as mad as a cut snake!WROW's Paul Vandenburgh suggested this morning that the footage of Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin's death would make good pay-per-view fare. "If there is video of him being killed by this water creature," he said, "Why not let the family have a crack at getting $50 a hit out of it." He went on to invite his newscaster over to watch it at his house. "I'd have to get it, because I'd have to talk about it," explained Vandenburgh.

Why should this be any different? He's constantly talking about stuff on TV that he didn't see.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Wacky Radio Stuff

Someone at Albany Broadcasting played a little joke on former B-95 morning team Chuck and Kelly. They had a picture on their web site of some cute license plate or something ---except the image was stored on B-95's server. They went in and changed the picture, and presto chango, up popped this very un-Chuck and Kelly-like item:

Should read: Even if you win, you're still working in radio.
It would be funnier if it read, Even If You Win, You're Still Working In Radio.

Casey McNutty

In Green Island, you can't throw an empty bottle of Jameson down the street without hitting someone named McNulty or someone related to a McNulty. One of them, college student Casey McNulty, now has her own TU blog, which is where I found this:

Green Island loves Albany Eye. When did THEY get computers?Just in case she's related to Mike McNulty, I won't make any cracks about her blog ---or the inbreeding that's been going on in Green Island for many generations. Who knows, I may need to call in some favors one of these days.

Noah Knows

From Shaft to shafted.The other day I mentioned how Fox 23 is throwing away all the work they've done to make Noah Francis well known to Capital Region viewers. Sam Goldstein, who used to be a producer at the station, read the piece and was kind enough to offer up this classic Noah Francis promo, which just may be the best weather spot you'll ever see.

Attention Sue Nigra

You may have missed this press release. Hey, a gig's a gig, right?
WHAT: The Great Escape is holding auditions in
search of a few scary men and women to perform
in the theme park’s eighth annual Fright Fest
celebration – a month-long Halloween
celebration.

WHO: The theme park seeks character actors for
the Fright Fest haunted house and to perform
as roaming ghouls and other spooky street
performers.

WHEN: Friday, September 1 & Saturday,
September 2, 2006 2 - 6 p.m.

WHERE: The Great Escape’s Bavarian Palace Entrance at Round Pond Road (south of the theme park, off Route 9) Queensbury