the decline of the alternative news weekly

The Los Angeles Times recently paid a lot of attention to the sale of the alternative news weekly LA Weekly. It turns out that the sale was to a group of Orange County investors with a record of making donations to Republican candidates.

Why do I care?

I have a long history with alternative news weeklies. During my Claremont cockroach years of the mid 1970s I could walk across Arrow Highway from my Olive Street apartment and find the Village Voice at the newsstand in the strip mall there.

When I was in central Oklahoma I was classified advertising manager and later business manager at the community newspaper in Moore, Oklahoma. When that paper changed hands I responded (right as I was getting laid off) to an ad in Oklahoma City’s alternative news weekly, the Oklahoma Gazette, for a classified advertising manager. I got the job.

LA Weekly logoWhen my late first wife Ruth and I made plans, for a variety of reasons, to move to the San Francisco Bay Area, I saw a notice in a publication that covered the alternative news weekly scene. It said a new alternative news weekly was starting up in San Jose. This was 1985, so it was snail mail and long distance phone calls, but the publisher, David Cohen (who came from the LA Weekly), hired me sight unseen as San Jose Metro‘s first classified advertising manager.

I mostly hated the environment while at the same time was happy to be part of an alternative news weekly.

So what, exactly, is an alternative news weekly? Mark Oppenheimer had a great discussion in the LA Times about this, partially in the context of the LA Weekly sale. In short he says it’s free + local politics + local arts. Exactly right.

The sale of the LA Weekly means, in all probability, one less such outlet.

That’ sad.

grocery checkers then and now

Since the death of Charles Schultz in 2000 we have had reruns of the Peanuts comic strip in our newspapers. Unlike comic strips such as Dennis the Menace, Schultz and his family were insistent that no else ever draw a Peanuts comic strip. So some of the strips we see today are pretty much timeless, while others are dated.

Alpha Beta signA recent series with Snoopy as the world famous grocery clerk caught my attention. Snoopy’s body language perfectly caught the way grocery checkers worked when I was a box boy at Alpha Beta in 1970-1971. There were no scanners. Each item had a price on it. With one hand on the item and the other on the cash register these ladies worked very quickly, even adding tax to non-food items without checking the tax table. They were fast, efficient, and accurate.

Today’s checkers have it easy with the scanners, though they still must know their produce. But the grocery checkers in the days of yore are a breed we will never see again.

peanuts world famous grocery clerk cartoon

another familiar voice

I wrote a while back about how we enjoy listening to Michael Burman playing jazz on KCSM-FM on Saturday evenings.

Classical 24 logoI need to give equal time to Sunday evenings. That’s when we listen to the NPR classical service. We love hearing Valerie Kahler who hosts the six to ten time slot, Pacific Time. She is actually in the Twin Cities, so her shift takes her up to midnight central time. But her voice is a soothing presence as we get ready to start the new week, and we very much miss her when she’s away.

listening to the Dodgers

I wrote about this not long ago, but a recent column by Bill Plaschke in the Los Angeles Times caused me to compose a more complete reflection. He asked how Dodger fans who didn’t have Charter Spectrum followed the team. This is my response, lightly edited.


Regarding your column in today’s [Thursday 24 August] paper:

When I returned to Southern California in 2015 after 41 years away my wife and I had to decide on our communications provider: Time-Warner Cable or Verizon. We chose Verizon because we had them in Santa Clara County and because TW had a reputation for awful service. We made this decision knowing full well that we would not get the Dodger games.

Dodgers yard bannerThere were times last year, Vin Scully’s last in the booth, when I momentarily regretted the decision, but then Vin was only doing home games. This year (Verizon having become Frontier and TW having become Charter Spectrum) my regrets are minimal. Seeing the game on KTLA on Tuesday [22 August] reminded me that I don’t like Joe Davis all that much, and I don’t terribly enjoy the Joe Davis – Orel Hershiser team. I would much rather listen to Charlie Steiner and Rick Monday on the radio. I also love listening to Rick doing play-by-play with Kevin Kennedy doing color.

KLAC doesn’t come in terribly well here in Hemet unless I’m in my car, but I have my MLB At Bat subscription.  My wife and I listen to jazz in the evening, but I follow the game on my iPad app, and if the Dodgers are about to pull out a victory I’ll punch up the audio and listen to Charlie call the ninth. It reminds me of listening to Dodger games on the radio with Vin Scully when I was a youngster.

When I was growing up maybe half a dozen games a year were broadcast on TV. Otherwise all we had was Vin Scully and Jerry Doggett on the radio. My family and I listened to Vin call Sandy Koufax’s perfect game on the radio on a hot evening in our living room. Nothing could have been more dramatic or exciting.

In my Bay Area years I listened to Hank Greenwald and later Jon Miller call Giants games on the radio, while I had Bill King and Lon Simmons for the A’s. With their marvelous word pictures I didn’t miss seeing the game on television at all.

Back here in SoCal I’m more than happy to listen to Charlie and Rick on the radio (even if it is via the internet). If Charlie is not making the road trip or doing television, I am content listening to Rick and Kevin. (And, by the way, Terry Smith is pretty darn good on the Angels radio broadcasts.)

Baseball is a sport very well suited to be followed on the radio. I don’t need TV to enjoy the game.

Mike Christie

Star Trek again

Terry and I have both long been big Star Trek fans. We watched many episodes of Next Generation together, along with Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise.  We had a Star Trek-themed wedding, although it was more subtle than blatant. With the end of Enterprise we thought that might have been the end of Star Trek for us. Neither of us has been terribly impressed with the current “young Kirk” movie series starring Chris Pine (although the next movie is rumored to have a kick-ass female captain).

Star Trek DiscoveryI hadn’t paid a lot of attention to the upcoming Star Trek: Discovery series, since it will be on the CBS All Access app. Then I made the mistake of watching the trailers. Wow. Interesting, intelligent, thought-provoking, and cerebral if those trailers are any indication. Looks like a mature Asian female captain, along with Vulcans and Klingons. Fascinating, to quote Spock.

This may be enough for us to shell out for CBS All Access. But we have to wait until September 24th.

listening to baseball

I grew up listening to baseball on the radio. Those familiar voices of Vin Scully and Jerry Doggett were an integral part of my summers. In those days we saw maybe a half dozen games on television. Certainly no more than ten or so. It was via the radio that I learned about baseball and learned to love the game.

These days Terry and I can watch the Angels on television, but our provider does not offer the channel that carries the Dodgers. (That’s a long-standing issue and sore point here in Southern California.) We don’t like to watch TV in the evenings anyway. When we are sitting with our feet up we like to listen to jazz.

I do, however, have the MLB At Bat app on both my iPhone and my iPad, and I have my iPad in front of me each evening after I have read the paper. That means that I can check the score of Dodger game at any time. If it’s getting close to the end of the game and the Dodgers are leading sometimes we’ll turn off the music and I’ll pull up the game on At Bat. We will listen to Charlie Steiner along with Rick Monday call the last couple of innings.

Just like listening to baseball on the radio.

another annoying Food Network trend

If you have been reading this blog for a while you know that I have long been unhappy with the predominance of competition shows on Food Network. Yes, I admit that I really enjoy Cooks vs.Cons, as does Terry. But overall my feeling is that competition shows crowd out actual cooking shows.

Food Network logoThere is another trend that I don’t like. That is the rise of food travel shows. Sister network Cooking Channel heavily promotes Man Fire Food, in which the host travels the country in search of grill, barbecue, or anything else that uses an open flame, and Cheap Eats, in which Ali Kahn tries to eat in a city for a day spending only $35.

But Food Network proper is heading the same direction. Damaris Phillips of Southern at Heart fame has a new show, Super Southern Eats (which mysteriously disappeared after one episode), where she doesn’t cook but rather travels the South in search of good food. Another new show, with a host whose name I don’t recognize, premieres on my birthday where she casts about looking for interesting dishes. All of this is in the venerable tradition of Diners Drive-ins and Dives, but it also takes up time slots that could be devoted to cooking shows.

I would much rather that Damaris had kept the cameras at her beautiful house in Kentucky and shared with us the fine art of Southern cooking.

Ah, Linda Ellerbee, you had it right: “And so it goes.”


hearing a familiar voice

Terry and I, you may know, listen to jazz in the evening six nights a week. We listen to the internet stream from KCSM in San Mateo, a station we have enjoyed for many years. For quite some time Saturday evenings were hosted by Michael Burman, a man with a pleasant British accent.

KCSM logoThen early this year he disappeared. First it was someone “filling in for Michael Burman,” but later the shift was officially handed over to someone else. I was disappointed, but got used to it. A few weeks back, however, I was pleased and surprised to hear his voice again. In checking the program grid I was happy to see that the shift is once again his. The station is even doing promos for him during the week.

That makes Saturday evenings just a little more pleasant.

doing something old-fashioned

I did something old-fashioned a couple of weeks ago. I responded to a postal mail solicitation to subscribe to a physical, paper magazine. It was from The Christian Century to which I was a long-time The Christian Centurysubscriber. I let the subscription lapse, along with many other print magazines, when I was laid off in 2014. But I always enjoyed the publication, and the price was really good. In fact I looked for an equivalent price online so I wouldn’t have to wait so long for my subscription to start. I couldn’t find one.

So I wrote a check, put it in the return envelope, and mailed it off. Now I still have probably another four weeks or so before my first issue shows up. But it will be good to be seeing the magazine again.

a good experience with the cable company

Before we arrived here in Hemet in May 2015 we made arrangements for our television/internet/telephone service. We could have gone with Time-Warner and have been able to see the Dodgers games, but consensus was that Time-Warner was a pain to deal with and had poor service. So we chose Verizon, which was easy to get set up since we had Verizon for telephone in Gilroy.

In the intervening time, Time-Warner was bought by Charter Communications and Verizon left the California market (except for wireless), having turned over their phone/internet/television service to Frontier Communications.

Frontier CommunicationsIt was coming up on two years since our service initiation, and that meant an end to our two-year discounts. I got a mailing from Frontier saying that I should call them about a new two-year plan. I dreaded doing that, as I feared a rate increase. I made the call, however, and was pleasantly surprised.

First of all, I got a very friendly representative who was stateside. She was very helpful and told me that instead of the second level channel package plus the HBO/Cinemax combo, I could get the top-level package, which included HBO/Cinemax, plus Showtime and a bunch of other channels. My telephone and internet service would be unchanged. And the cost? $12 less a month than what I had been paying. Still no Dodger games, but we continue to get the Angels.

I’m happy. It’s nice to have a pleasant experience with a service provider.