Jesse Thorn's blog

What if All Things Considered were on Satellite?


There is great dissent in the public radio world about what to do about satellite radio, and it speaks to a bigger question about the future of media.

As it stands, Sirius Satellite has three stations of US public radio. One is programmed by Public Radio International (who distribute shows like This American Life), and two by NPR (who distribute All Things Considered, Fresh Air, Car Talk, and so on). XM has one station, which produces a show of it's own (the Bob Edwards Show), and carries various other public radio content (I haven't had XM since pre-Edwards, so I'm not sure exactly what).

When NPR decided to get with the satellite revolution, it made a compromise with its member stations: they would give Sirius their programming, but would hold back their two flagship news programs, All Things Considered and Morning Edition. Local stations were understandably threatened by satellite, which doesn't have to ask for contributions (though it takes them, in the form of a $12/month subscription fee). This is more or less the same bargain they've struck when it comes to podcasting, where you can get portions of some very popular shows, all of other, less popular shows, and some shows you can't get at all.

Now, public radio consultant John Sutton, who as I understand it is a sort of the Dick Morris or Karl Rove of public radio (respected by all, reviled by some), is proposing that NPR consider offering ATC and Morning Edition to XM and Sirius. His proposal, in a nutshell, is that if NPR could get half of what Stern got, NPR could offer it's programs to member stations for free, and everybody would win. The stations might lose a bit of their audience, but by his calculations only about 5%, and they could use the revenue for local programming, the money for which often comes from the fundraising success of the big NPR news shows.

Of course, this presumes that NPR is interested in acting in the interests of the stations, and won't eventually just stick it to the satellite networks and the affiliates. It also presumes that Sirius or XM are interested enough in NPR programs to get up off big money without exclusivity.

What it means for local stations, though, is that they have to realize that the radio station business model, public or commercial, is gone. It's been replaced by the content provider and content aggregator/filter models. When you can get audio content from satellite, from the internet, or even on your Tivo, being the local NPR station means much less. Whereas they used to find shelter in NPR's overall brand ("You're listening to your NPR News station for Central Ohio..."), they now realize that if their own brand doesn't mean something, and they're not producing their own content, they're toast.

This is one of the big reasons I've tried to keep The Sound of Young America independent (though it's not like they're beating down the doors). One of the big lessons of the internet is that much more power goes to the content owner, rather than the content distributor.

Fare thee well, Woody.


One of my favorite ballplayers, former Giants starter Kirk Rueter (known to teammates as "Woody"), retired today. He'd been trying to catch hold with his hometown St. Louis Cardinals, but it didn't happen.

I'm a sucker for a crafty lefthander, and I always loved how much success Rueter had with almost no "stuff." You usually get that with a guy who throws a "heavy ball," that is, a sinkerballer. Those guys get a lot of ground outs, double plays, and so forth. But Woody was a flyball pitcher, so it was doubly impressive. He always seemed on the brink of disaster, and until the last year or two, he always found his way out. To me, there're few greater pleasures than watching a perfectly pitched game by a guy without any great pitches, and Woody afforded me that many times.

Once, I was at a game at Candlestick, and this kid with big ears and a big low ballcap was leaning over the railing, yelling at Rueter. "Hey! Monkey boy! Look! I'm a monkey boy, too!" Rueter stopped his outfield long-toss, and ran, laughing, over to the kid. He ended up giving him a hat. Warmed my heart. He'll be missed.

Broin' Out

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Sound of Young America pals Tony Camin and Leo Allen (of Slovin & Allen) have a very cool talk show at the UCB Theater in New York called Broin' Out with Leo & Tony (there's also a Left Coast version in LA, hosted by Seth Morris). I've never had the chance to see it in person, but Tony and Leo are so funny, I can't imagine that it's not awesome.

This month's show features David Cross, the hilarious John Glaser, and more. It's Monday, March 20th at the UCBT... click on that link for reservations and more info. You can also make pals with the show on MySpace. Then again, have you even bothered to make pals with us?

(Above, Tony Camin, far right, performing "The Marijuanalogues" with Doug Benson and Arj Barker)
(via, thanks Billy)

The best white rapper is Bubba Sparxxx


And that's not a joke.

His first record, "Dark Days, Bright Nights" was quite good -- it featured some great Timbaland production, and Bubba's charming flow.

He really kicked it up a notch with his second record, "Deliverance." It was one of the best produced albums of the past few years, with some wonderful contributions from Organized Noise (in-house producers of the Dungeon Family), and some stunning work by Timbo. While on the first record, Bubba's "country boy" image felt like a gimmick, on this one, it felt like a manifesto. His flow on this record is still smooth and easy, but it's got a new passion, borne of commitment to his "New South" identity.

There's a portion of the South in the spirit of the song
Keep followin the fiddle, it'll never steer you wrong
I've lived a lot of life, so my innocence is blown
I'm headin to La Grange, to replenish it at home

Here was a white rapper who was rapping soulfully about *his* identity. One influenced by close ties with black culture, but nonetheless distinctively his own. Sadly, folks weren't really buying it.

Jimmy Mathis was the album's single, and it demonstrates Timbaland's remarkable combination of country signifiers and hip-hop aesthetics. A bluesy-country harmonica sample eloquently suggests the ties between poor rural blacks and poor rural whites. They pull of a similar trick on Deliverance (realaudio link). The LP was a great album, one of the best hip-hop records of the 21st century, but Bubba's image was so locked into the cartoonish stereotype Depicted in the video of his first hit record, Ugly, that folks just didn't buy in.

Bubba's got a new record coming out April 4th, The Charm, and I'm hoping it'll be as good as the last one. He's signed up with Big Boi's Purple Ribbon label, and he's had a few great tracks on their two compilations. If this work with the new Dungeon Family can match past collabs like Back in the Mud from Deliverance, it could be something special.

Here are two tracks from the new record that suggest my optimism could be well-founded:

The Other Side of the Room

Claremont Lounge f. Cool Breeze and Killer Mike

Pitchfork Music Festival


One-time Sound of Young America guest Ted Leo is among the artists performing in Chicago at the upcoming Pitchfork Music Festival. There'll also be a clothes-n-crafts fair and a record sale. We have mixed feelings about Pitchfork, but for $30, you can't really complain.

Tickets just went on sale.

Ladies and gentlemen of the Academy... Crunchy Black!


The Oscar-Award-Winning Triple Six Mafia.

If only it had been for "Whoop That Trick"

Let's talk celebs...


I hereby nominate Bill Macy and Felicity Huffman for awesomest Hollywood couple since Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis.

Listen to them on Fresh Air.

Would you rather... Dino v. Omelette


Courtest of Jim Real, the Master of Would You Rather:


Be a crime fighting dinosaur


Have free brunch for life?

Discuss. I'll post the answer next week. And yes, there is a correct answer, this is not a subjective excercise.

Who knew Leno had some New Sincerity in him?


Any man who gets pulled over on the LA freeway for speeding in a steam-powered car can't be all bad, right? (login required, or use bugmenot)

The Great Communicators

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This week, a classic from The Sound of Young America vaults. The theme of the show is "The Great Communicators," a tribute to Ronald Reagan. Our guests are Patton Oswalt and Chris Hardwick.

Each of these guys is a standup comic, but each is perhaps best known for (perhaps slightly embarassing) television series. Chris was the host of MTV's "Singled Out" in the early 1990s, a job which he followed up with a stint hosting the syndicated dating show "Shipmates." Patton is the co-star of CBS TV's "The King of Queens," a sitcom in the much maligned fat-guy-hot-wife genre. It's definately the best of those, though.

Chris is half of the music duo Hard N Phirm, who have often been heard on The Sound. He's also due to perform alongside KG from Tenacious D in a musical called "Rock of Ages," which features some of the "great" hair metal tunes of the 1980s.

One of my favorite shows in our history, certainly one of the funniest.

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