New York, New York, New Year (2010)

Saturday, January 16th, 2010

I know. I KNOW. And I’m sorry.

It’s been a number of weeks since I’ve posted anything here. Perhaps the longest time I’ve been away since I started this blog. The truth is I’ve taken on a project or two that’s been taking up more of my free time over the couple months and I haven’t been able to dedicate myself to the Radio Kitchen as much as I would like. And I really am sorry.

I’m not giving up this blog. At least not yet. But I’m not a good blogger in the traditional sense. I’m not so good at firing off quick and succinct entries, and my posts generally take some time. And there’s usually audio involved and research and rumination and it’s rarely a quick process for me. However, if there was actually some money in it, you can be sure I’d be packin’ this thing with content almost every week.

But I was inspired the other night. New Year’s Eve. And I didn’t have a gig. I didn’t have a party to go to either, and the girls here at the house were fast asleep. So instead of ducking into some local dive bar for some holiday misbehavior, I stayed home– like Jack Horner. In the corner. Just me and my radio. (And a recorder.)

And the result is this bandscan– an hour and twenty-minute crawl up the AM band recorded in my Brooklyn apartment as the year 2010 was sweeping over America. Right before midnight, I turned on my G5 and started crawling down from the top of the AM dial. A powerful Radio Disney outlet at 1560kHz is very close to my house, and that nearby fifty-thousand watt signal wrecks havoc at this end of the dial. So I opted to start this bandscan where their signal pollution yields to clarity– with a holiday greeting from the lovely and talented Alan Colmes on progressive talker WWRL.

The AM Dial in New York, NY – New Years Eve 2010 pt 1
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And then, Radio Disney itself. Their transmitter (broadcasting at 1560kHz) is so close to me that I’ve heard their signal in on every possible band at some point, as well is in my home stereo and even on a pay phone down the street. On some of my radios, every frequency from 1530 to 1600kHz suffers from some form of Radio Disney intrusion.

Next up 1520, WWKB in Buffalo blasting in strong with a sleazy “get out of debt” commercial. Then a little “Auld Lang Syne” and a promo from “Federal News Radio” (WTOP 1500kHz in Washington D.C.). However, the magical odometer click itself is served Cantonese style at 1480kHz, WZRC. It’s quite exciting. Probably more so if you happen to be Chinese.

While I don’t know for sure, I suspect that this was probably a simulcast of the New Years festivities on the American Chinese-language TV network– SINO Television. While simulcasting obviously saves a lot of money, if you’re a serious radio listener you can usually tell the difference. There’s a lack of microphone intimacy, and the assumptions of visual cues make audio-only TV less interesting than real radio.

And then there’s a couple more ethnic notches on the NY AM dial– some pumping macho reverb from WNSW at 1430kHz and some kooky jubilance care of WKDM at 1380kHz. Whooooh!

And so ends all the “live” sounds of celebration captured in this bandscan.

The AM Dial in New York, NY – New Years Eve 2010 pt 2
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“Thank you for inviting me into your prison cells.”

At first, I thought there was going to be a punch line. Or that there was something metaphoric going on I might have missed. But no, it was all real, just like prison. It’s some regularly scheduled religious inspiration for the incarcerated (with your host– a real "retired correction captain”). Although I typically I hear religious stuff at 1330kHz (WWRV) all the time, it’s usually a Spanish language scenario.

We pass by 1300kHz for a quick ID. I think it’s the ESPN Radio station in New Haven. And how about this Spanish language drama at 1280kHz? Wow. Give that guy a hankie. Man. Then a brief interlude with Smokey Robinson & The Miracles on WMTR, at 1250kHz in Morristown, New Jersey.

From 1250 we slide down to 1210– the Big Talker WPHT in Philadelphia, where they were replaying a Michael Smerconish program. He’s an odd bird, and the only right wing talk show host to support Obama in the last election. At least that’s what I’ve read on the internets. I don’t watch much of the talking head pundit shows on TV, but I gather he makes his appearances on a few of them too. And he has a shiny head.

Then on to some urban contemporary gospel from WLIB at 1190kHz. When Air America left the station to settle over at WWRL at 1600 they gave up a great signal for a pretty crappy one. That’s followed by some messy and overlapping signals. And then this clown…

The AM Dial in New York, NY – New Years Eve 2010 pt 3
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As if there wasn’t already enough meanspirited blather emanating from this Clear Channel owned Fox News affiliate (WWVA at 1170 kHz in West Virginia), they also see fit to let this hateful son of a bitch run at the mouth on a transmitter that might reach a third of the U.S.

It seems that all the major religions (especially the powerful monotheistic ones that dominate our world) have a dark beating heart of intolerance and malevolence somewhere at their core that leads some twisted "believers" to spew forth the kind of filth that tumbles out of the mouth of this old geezer, rambling incoherently about “judgment” and “vengeance” and “punishments.”

The particular brand of stupidity at play here is uniquely American and Protestant flavored, which seems to the most popular type of religious mental illness you hear on the radio. If you’re interested in getting some good hate on for Obama (and all the Catholics and Muslims and almost everybody else), then you’ll probably find something to celebrate in this fulmination. Happy new year!

I let that guy carry on way too long before shuffling down dial to Bloomberg’s “business” station at 1130kHz. It’s a panel of experts on the human brain. Wow. The trouble is (again) that we’re obviously hearing some TV simulcast. And we’re supposed to be looking at some incredible computer generated images of the computing machinery of the brain. You see anything?

The AM Dial in New York, NY – New Years Eve 2010 pt 4
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Then, the bewitching baritone of Art Bell from WTAM, 1100kHz in Cleveland. Since he’s retired (four times!) you don’t hear him host his old “Coast to Coast” show much these days. But he does often show up a few times a year– especially for his annual “Ghost to Ghost” program (with call-in ghost stories) around Halloween and then for his annual prediction (for the next year) show. And being a bit of a legend these days and rarely on the air, you can hear some real affection and fan awe from the callers who are able to get through to talk to Bell.

I used to be entertained by Bell’s late night sideshow many years ago. His love of everything radio has always been kind of inspiring to me. But I gotta say, he does sound uncharacteristically low-key in the samples in this bandscan. I guess he’s been though plenty of changes over this last decade. But you do hear a lot of people calling in predictions that are pretty dire and cataclysmic. And that, is typical.

Then we slide down into the lap of snarling neocon Laura Ingraham, care of WBAL (at 1090 AM in Baltimore). Then it’s 1050kHz here in the city, a frequency with a colorful history that’s been the home for a number of call letters over the years. These days it’s just WEPN– another syndicated ESPN yawner on the AM dial. Sad. And then 1010 WINS, one of the oldest all-news stations in the country (and they continue the teletype sound effects in the background to drive the point home). And here you get one of the joys of MW DXing for some, the local traffic and weather forecast. The crowds are dissipating in Times Square. And in the sky, a wintry mix. Meanwhile there’s been a few fire fatalities over the holidays. And through some unexplained turn of events New York City “apparently” has found some extra money laying around. A surplus.

And in a broader sense, I suppose that’s one of the things that make New York so appealing. Somehow, somewhere, there’s some extra money laying round. In a place like Detroit, not so much.

The AM Dial in New York, NY – New Years Eve 2010 pt 5
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Mike Gallagher (AKAThe Smellster”) is one of the least evolved human beings I’ve come across in the national media. A man who does not seem to actually think, but just react to things (in a predictable and ham-handed partisan manner). And when he’s not scripted well, his program can really go off the rails. Yet he kind of sounds like Rush (which may account for his radio career), and his show is powered by the same kind of boomy and barely educated bluster Rush practically invented. Also like Limbaugh, Gallagher seems to get his greatest insights and inspiration from watching professional football on television. I suppose it’s almost like going to college. The fact that this guy’s show has risen into the low end of the talk radio top ten (at #8!) says a lot about the audience for this format today.

And while I’m all in favor of heartfelt apologies, this tear-soaked confessional from some a highly-paid prima-donna athlete is just so much difficult listening. However, to Gallagher all these sniffy regrets amount to a “life changing moment.” Usually all I get from the Smellster are “station changing moments.”

Then I move up to a man speaking in a language I don’t understand on another local “ethnic” (and brokered) radio station– WPAT at 930kHz. And then at 900kHz it’s the “old time radio” programming I’ve been hearing late at night on CHML for years (They’re in Hamilton, Ontario). It sounds like we missed the setup for the joke here.

Then into the nasty IBOC sound (in-band-on-channel) sound that surrounds WCBS at 880kHz. It’s an envelope of nasty digital noise that bookends the analog signal of AM stations carrying “HD” programming. And it’s also why you don’t hear WLS in Chigago at 890kHz anywhere near the city. And not a chance of getting WWL at 870kHz in New Orleans (which reaches well into Canada for some). 1010 WINS and WOR do the same thing. DXers hate it. And in many major cities you hear it across the dial.

On WCBS you hear about the eminent retirement of Robert Morgenthau. At 90 years old, Morgenthau had been the District Attorney of Manhattan since 1975. Amazing.

The AM Dial in New York, NY – New Years Eve 2010 pt 6
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I really don’t know a lot about the CJBC, except that it’s a CBC powerhouse that broadcasts in French at 860kHz. And it’s the only significant CBC station broadcasting to the U.S. It wasn’t always that way. Years ago, their English service reached a large swath of North America from 740kHz. But there was a move to consolidate all thier broadcasting to FM, and the far reaching AM frequency was abandoned by the CBC. CHWO (better known as "AM740") is a unique musical presence on the AM dial in these parts, but the loss of a major CBC on the AM band is still a damn shame. That said, I think I’ve been hearing interesting music late at night at 860 AM since I was a kid. And the music varies so much that I couldn’t even qualify what kind of music I’ve heard the most on that station. I don’t know what kind of pop music is at play in this sample. It’s old. A show tune?

Art Bell again. From WHAS Louisville this time (at 840kHz). Another kooky caller. I wonder if Bell ever succeeded in giving up the smokes. His voice has that same nicotine gravitas as Larry King (and a bunch of guys who ain’t around any more). At 820kHz we find the Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC. I’m not a fan, although he occasionally has good guests. It’s local. It’s NPR. Then the inevitable Art Bell once again, on 810kHz, WGY upstate in Schenectady.

CKLW (800kHz in Windsor) is a funny kind of talk station that you don’t hear really hear in the states. Or certainly not on a big transmitter like this. I’ve never heard a "political" show on CKLW (but lots of centigrade weather!) And listen to the promo for the nightly astrology show. “Life might feel like a struggle…” Lots of self-help and health shows in general on this station. In America, AM talk radio is about personalities agitating listeners with propaganda all day long. And while there is certainly political talk on Canadian radio, they seem to still be able to have radio stations and call-in shows that aren’t agenda driven or enslaved by the news cycle.

That said, I really can’t listen to “call the doctor” talk radio for very long. All those symptoms make my stomach hurt.

Nothing really comes in until I hit WABC here in the city at 770kHz. John Bachelor, who recently moved into a nightly slot on WABC since crazy blabbermouth Curtis Sliwa took his little red beret down to WABC’s relatively new competitor, 970 “The Apple,” where he’s their new morning-drive entertainer.

The AM Dial in New York, NY – New Years Eve 2010 pt 7
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Now we’re at 760kHz. Detroit. (No IBOC from WABC, so the signal is still audible here.) There’s still a little crosstalk from WABC next door. It’s an ad for a drug rehab joint in the Detroit suburbs. The announcer says they can help “teens, college students, business people, CEOs, lawyers and health professionals” with their addictions.

I guess if you want to get a handle on the marketing of drug treatment services you could probably learn a little by decoding this list of less than socioeconomically diverse list of prospective "clients. Seems like they left the majority of common folk off this at list. Every style of addict mentioned here probably can afford their services, and some might have a willing (or desperate) parent who can come up with the dough.

Then it’s the ABC News. The world’s biggest pseudo-event of the season totally obscured any other feasible healdine that night. news focus for a few hours. Their reporter spends so much time “poetically” describing the panorama of litter and debris in the street in Times Square that it’s just a little weird. And sad for a major news outlet to lend so much weight and instant nostalgia to a run-of-the-mill clean-up scene at the end of a big party.

Then there’s three more quick headlines in ABC’s top of the hour news. And they’re all sports related. The last one is regarding the contract stalemate between Times-Warner and Fox, which was resolved a few days later. And the ABC take on this little media turf war was that if the se companies wouldn’t come to a peaceful resolution agreement don’t come to some agreement that a number of “Fox” football games might not air on Times-Warner cable the next weekend. Right before WJR cuts to local weather the football story is capped off with a sound bite from some media analyst. Although it wasn’t the intention, I think his words may capture some of the spirit and passion of our great nation as we enter 2010:

“There is no hue and cry louder and angrier than if you deprive the American viewer of football.”

I’ll bet that’s true. And ABC only has two minutes to encapsulate current affairs at the top of the hour, and this is what you get. No international issues. No war updates. And certainly no investigative reporting. There is no breaking news. Perhaps because the news is already broken. Tiger Woods? Still in trouble as far as I know.

At 750kHz you can hear WSB in Atlanta. But it’s not pleasant. Some nights this station comes in pretty clearly up here. But then again, often I come across a Neil Boortz rebroadcast on this station. This noise is more pleasant.

AM740 is a big bunch of noise as well, which is unusual. In 2008 this station changed hands, and changed call letters. No longer CHWO, it’s now CFZM. I don’t hear much beyond the overnight programming, and at that timeit’s still a MOR/nostalgia mix, only with more classic rock. But it’s still the only full-time music format blasting out a full (“clear channel”) fifty-thousand watt signal in this part of North America (WSB at 650 in Nashville is the only other one you’re likely to hear in this area). AM740 has actually been coming better than I’ve ever heard it this month. Like a local. But on New Year’s Eve the reception wasn’t so hot…

The AM Dial in New York, NY – New Years Eve 2010 pt 8
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Let’s listen to the radio horrors of wading through that IBOC racket once again as I approach the “analog” version of New York’s WOR at 710. (Which denies us the chance to hear both CKAC in Montreal at 730kHz and WGN at 720 in Chicago.)

The local news is still underway on WOR with Pat Wallace. The news is a little more substantial than the trivial world synopsis offered by ABC. The Joey Reynolds show reconvenes after the news. As an intro (instead of playing one of his many “theme songs”) Joey plays some old comedy bit he recorded during his top-40 heyday in the 1960’s. Let’s just say some types of humor have a longer shelf life than others.

As I’ve written before, the Joey Reynolds show is kind of an anarchic affair. While there are some focused interviews, more often than not Joey gets a few folks behind the microphone and lets it rip without much of a game plan. When it’s not good it’s pretty bad. And in this particular clip it’s not so good for Joey as an unidentified guest (a local restaurateur who apparently knows Reynolds and his thrifty nature rather well) gets the better of the old "shock-talker."

However, the real roasting occurs when Reynolds makes a few cracks about Dick Clark’s brief appearances during his “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” spectacular. As you probably know, Clark suffered a massive stroke a few years back and the once glib "eternal teenager" now speaks in a somewhat slurring and halting fashion these days. While trying to avoid sounding cruel, Reynolds makes a few lame jokes about Clark’s performance that night and then wishes that he just wouldn’t appear on TV at all. As you can hear, the guest (sporting a hardcore NYC accent) directly takes old Joey to task and doesn’t let up. You don’t often hear a radio host let a guest chew him up like this on the air. Instead of standing his ground, or taking on the animosity directly, Reynolds keeps running away, trying to change the subject. Odd.

If it wasn’t for the IBOC digital garbage on each side of WOR’s signal, powerhouse WLW in Cincinatti would almost certainly have been audible here. But not anymore. The first credible AM signal I came across is a messy read of a Bob Seger song at 690kHz. I don’t know what station this might be. Typically I get French talk radio from Montreal here. There’s an oldies station in West Virginia at this frequency, but I see they’re running at all of fourteen watts at night, And then at 620kHz– WSNR, kind of a sad brokered station hanging out there in the breeze. Here they’re broadcasting something in a language I do not know. Hebrew perhaps?

Nearing the very top we find the once mighty WMCA at 570kHz. Once a top 40 giant, then a pioneering talk radio station in New York, WMCA is now it’s a lowly Christian outlet with a lot of brokered hours up for grabs. This is some kind of religious self-help talk show, featuring a woman complaining about her sister making the rest of her family miserable in the name of Jesus.

    “There’s something wrong, isn’t there?”

The answer of course is “yes.” Her sister reminds me a little of a certain scary relative my family tries to avoid. And it seems like a good place to close as well– because more significantly, there was something wrong with 2009 too, wasn’t there?. After that one night a year ago, when it was new, it wasn’t much of a "happy year.” And it seems stupid has become the new smart. At least we have football. And Jesus.

But I think things are going to get better. I really do. But I’m not counting on 2010. At least not yet. It certainly didn’t start out so well.  Maybe by 2012 will bring some good luck for us. And from what I understand, a lot of people are looking forward to that year anyway.

Meanwhile, I hope to get back to you soon. And to get another post up where before so much time goes by next time.

I suspect if you’ve gotten this far, that you might just have more than a passing interest in radio. (And if you got this far by skimming over this post, maybe might wanna read this. Or at least look it over…) And in closing, there’s two things I’d like to mention. For one, the Winter SWL Fest is coming up soon in Kulpsville, PA (March 5 & 6), which is a completely unique and entertaining way to spend a weekend. I certainly recommend it. I had a lotta fun there last year.

Also, if your DXing habit fell by the wayside during the interminable solar minimum over the last couple years you might wanna dust off your old receiver and try scanning around again some time. The sunspots are back! And although I haven’t been able to do much serious monitoring lately, I have noticed my portables seem rather lively lately when I’ve taken the time to sample HF the bands, with improved reception across the board.

Meanwhile, thanks a bunch for listening. And good DX to you!

New War’s Eve

Monday, January 2nd, 2006

Shock_and_awe The beginning of each new year often invokes feelings of anticipation in a human being, and occasionally warrants one to brace for changes to come. Remember six years ago when the Gregorian odometer lined up three big zeros in a row? Many of us in the city bought up canned goods and bottled water in fear of that dreaded Y2K bug. But thankfully the Giuliani administration welded up all the manhole covers in Midtown and everything turned out all right. Kinda like how the invasion of Iraq has prevented any further terrorist attacks here in New York. I guess it’s similar to burying pennies in the garden to get rid of warts. You don’t know exactly how it works, but somehow it does.

But seriously, as the dead pile up in Iraq and you might scratch your head here in 2006 wondering how we somehow attacked and occupied a defenseless country. And in less than three years our country has been responsible for the death, wounding and maiming of thousands of people AND has fired up a civil war over there with no end in sight– ALL based on false intelligence. It might be interesting to look at a different kind of eve– The EVE of the Iraq war as heard on right wing talk radio.

Conflict Almost three years ago on St. Patrick’s Day 2003, there was a different kind of celebration going in America. Instead of a yearning to gulp some bubbly and kiss somebody, a lot of Americans were all pumped up to kiss a regime goodbye. And they were thirsty for blood. Iraqi blood.

The Bush Administration convinced enough of us that Saddam Hussein had huge stockpiles of “weapons of mass destruction,” possibly nukes, and the time had come to go to war against him to save ourselves. There was an epidemic of war fever in the U.S. of A. By March 17, 2003 thousands of American and British troops were ready at the Iraq Border, and Bush was about to give a speech that evening that everybody knew was going to be a “final warning” for the Iraqi government. Thankfully, the evil French weren’t going to get in our way this time.

That day there was a blood lust in conservative talk radio that’s still shocking to me. Let’s listen to how it sounded that afternoon in New York City…

01 – WABC Rush Limbaugh – President Cowboy 03-17-03  14:30

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Rush is confident and enthusiastic about the coming bloodshed. He doesn’t see the war lasting much longer than a few days. Certainly not weeks. After all, America NEVER loses. In reality, all those anti-war types are only hoping for defeat, right? What’s even more embarrassing is Limbaugh shamelessly making Bush into a matinee cowboy hero.

02 – WMCA Jay Sekulow – Modern Blitzkrieg  03-17-03  2:02

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By the way, this is a "Christian" talk show relishing all the death to come. Get ready for the new blitzkrieg! And will weather get in the way of our glory?

03 – WOR Bill O’Reilly – Alright, It’s On  03-17-03  11:08

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Bill O’Reilly, a cocky and powerful political pundit, and just the biggest and most ignorant asshole in American media today. Yet from what I understand, his boycott of France has put their economy into a devastating unending depression. Pretty impressive. Anyway, here you have O’Reilly beating the war drums awful hard. And once the war starts, YOU had better be in favor of all the mayhem or you’ll not only be a bad American but big bad Bill is going to come after you with his TV & radio guns ablazing. The funny part is when O’Reilly says if Bush invades Iraq and finds no WMD’s and the Iraqis resent our invasion he’ll never trust the Bush Administration again. Me neither.

04 – WABC Sean Hannity – Saddam Threatening Global War 03-17-03  10:39

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The right wing’s ultimate talkbot, Sean Hannity is salivating pretty heavily on this day. The “moment of truth” is upon us. Within five minutes Hannity has made the case that Hussein will level the world with nuclear weapons– unless if we stop him!

05 – WOR Bob Grant – Some Things Come Before Peace 03-17-03  5:28

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Congressman Vito Fossella of Staten Island is planning a big pro-war rally for the weekend. Here he talks to the throbbingly war-ready Bob Grant. After all, there’s some things that come before peace and security. And what are those things again?

05 – WOR Tom Marr – God Is On Our Side 03-17-03  1:30

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Stan calls up to tell us how anti-war demonstrators are “abysmally ignorant of history.” Then, as Marr stares longingly at the TV set in the studio waiting on President Bush to step up and unleash the dogs of war, he reminds us all that the cloud being above is still America’s biggest fan.

(This post originally appeared in Beware of the Blog.)

Wartime Lionel

Tuesday, May 17th, 2005

LionelLionel is funny. And in talk radio these days, funny is hard to come by.

Sure, if you get your jollies hearing jokes about environmentalists, the poor, and the disenfranchised you probably can’t stop slapping your knee during the Rush Limbaugh program. But in general there’s not a lot of wit on talk radio lately. For the most part, the talk radio format has become a humorless void of political grandstanding and smearcasting. Blame the right wing morons for turning an entertainment medium into a barren kiosk of propaganda.

Lionel’s show originates from WOR-AM here in New York City, but it’s syndicated nationwide. In fact, the radio mega-corporation Clear Channel has been gradually creating new “progressive talk” stations, which feature Air America programming, and Lionel’s show is often tucked into the schedule. Which is strange in a way, because Lionel isn’t really a political talk show host at all.

He makes it clear on his show, he is NOT a liberal. However, he is most certainly a lawyer and an eccentric raconteur with a wacky vocabulary and an acid wit. On the side, he takes on a few stand-up comedy gigs too.

I’ve listened to Lionel for a long time, and traditionally he focuses his quirky intellectual laser beam on legal issues in the news, as well as sex and “news of the weird" kind of stuff. Actually, almost any topic is fair game. If it’s strange, titillating, or pisses him off, he’ll talk about it. But lately, Lionel is a little less lighthearted than he used to be. The war in Iraq and the war-promoting lockstep rightward march of talk radio has REALLY pissed him off. Yet, it seems to have made his show a little better. He may have the perfect temperament for relaying really bad news and trying to make sense of it.

While he’s not really a lefty, his opposition to the Bush agenda has made his show a good complement to Air America’s programming. Although they’re doing a fine job providing an oasis of liberal talk and a significant radio news portal, Air America isn’t always easy listening. With all that information and attitude, the listener is also subjugated to occasional waves of hysteria and raw anger that can be hard to take.

To be fair, when it comes to Bush and the war I’ve been known to exhibit a bit of hysteria and raw anger myself, (I’d like to think I do a better job of venting than Janeane Garofalo) but even I can only take so much naked fury coming out of my radio.

Lionel however, keeps his cool. The only histrionics you hear on his show comes from the callers. Instead of ratcheting up the emotional content of the show when he gets an obnoxious or irate call, Lionel handles each situation with aplomb. As a lawyer, he knows how to let fools prove themselves foolish. And his firm grasp of talk radio dynamics have made him a master of mercilessly poking fun at call-in knuckleheads (or any caller really) without getting them too upset about it. A concise definition of Lionel’s radio persona– gracious spirited smart ass. And perhaps another reason Lionel is so good with the phones is that he got his start in radio as a caller himself.

Back in the 1980’s, there was a golden era of South Florida talk radio, when legendary radio hosts like Neil Rogers and Bob Lassiter perfected the talk format as “theater of the mind” broadcasting. (Air America’s Randi Rhodes came out of that same scene.). Over the years, Lionel became one of the most well known caller’s on shows like Lassiter’s. In an unprecedented move, the program director at WFLA in Tampa let him come in and try his hand as a talk radio host in the late 80’s He soon had a regular gig there, which eventually led to a stint at talk radio giant WABC in New York in 1993.

Lionel came into his own as a talk host doing afternoon drive at WABC. Funny and unpredictable, Lionel was the opposite of the dour talk-corpse he replaced, Bob Grant. However, when they put Lionel on in the morning with Mike Gallagher, who must have the second lowest IQ in talk radio (But I don’t think anyone on the air is dumber than Michael Reagan), it was a HUGE mismatch. Within months Lionel was gone. After a brief career fling with Court TV Lionel went solo, syndicating his own radio program from New York.

If you had to pinpoint Lionel politically, he’s more or less a contrarian libertarian with a passion for individual rights. Actually, before the Iraq War started, Lionel supported the invasion. While not beating the war drums like most right-wing hosts were at the time, he was still a New Yorker shaken up by 9-11. And like a lot of Americans, back in 2003 Lionel admits that he still harbored some irrational bloodlust leftover from the terrorist attacks. Also like so many, he assumed that the Bush Administration wouldn’t launch a big bloody war without some damn good reasons. Oops.

While the recent revelation of the Downing Street Memo seems to prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that the war was started under false pretenses, it’s been obvious for a long time that the Bush Administration has been less than honest– conducting policies that have not only have killed and maimed many thousands, but has also made us LESS safe than we were before the terrorist attacks.

And what makes Lionel different from the Air America roster and new batch of lefty talk hosts out there, is that there’s a real “everyman” quality to his take on the war. On his own, he came to realize the war wasn’t just a big mistake, but that it is an ongoing outrage committed in our name AND that we are being lied to about it (or diverted from it) everyday. And while his program is often cobbled together with Air America programming, Lionel is also broadcasted on stations which carry bloodthirsty racists like Bob Grant and Michael Savage (like WOR here in New York). And he must REALLY piss off some of the listeners of those radio stations. I like that. Sometimes WOR lets him fill in for Bob Grant in the afternoon. Now that’s FUN.

So, here’s a big commercial-free chunk of Lionel’s show from last Friday. It’s one of his more serious programs, specifically about the Iraq War.

The Lionel Show – 05-13-05  76:52

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While he’s as likely to do a show about porn, a celebrity trial, or music (unfortunately his taste in music isn’t so hot– he thinks Chicago was a great band), he also can dig right into a political topic, without screaming, yelling, or foaming at the mouth.

Also, if you haven’t heard Air America in the morning, check out Morning Sedition. After a rocky start, they jettisoned the lame British broad and the comic insanity of Marc Maron has taken center stage. Here’s the unofficial site for Air America archives, including Morning Sedition. Also, if your interested in giving a listen to some of the other anti-war voices in talk radio (Yes there are a few now, besides the Air Americans), check out The White Rose Society.

Sadly, there is no site currently hosting archives of the Lionel Show. Although for those of you who know how to download binaries from Usenet, I’ve seen archives posted in this group– alt.binaries.sounds.radio.misc.

You can see a list of all the affiliates that carry his program, and you can find a number of stations there which stream Lionel’s show live as well. It’s usually broadcast on Monday thru Friday from 10pm to 1am eastern time. Here in New York, they only play the last two hours starting at 11pm on 710 WOR-AM.

I like Air America, and I hope they succeed on every level. These are dire times, and there is a real need for leftist voices to be heard in talk radio, and the massive propagandist lies of Hannity, Limbaugh and the snorting droves of talk pigs must be challenged. But it’s equally important for talk radio listeners to hear from someone who ruminates on current affairs with logic and wit, unfettered by party politics. And if the talk host happens to be a radio professional AND mischievous AND congenial, all the better. We need to laugh. We need common sense. We need Lionel.

(This post originally appeared in Beware of the Blog.)