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Circle the Jackwagon

Jackwagon’s energetic new self-titled CD showcases a band that’s getting it right.  The three-piece has produced a refreshing record rooted in traditional blues-based rock–  strung together with a  crisp, buzzing guitar and catchy songwriting.  It’s a kicky sonic assault that’ll lodge into the fun part of your brain and linger… long past the moment you stop asking yourself whatever the hell a “jackwagon” is.

Eddie plays bass.

I have no record reviewing skills, which may explain why CNN Español guy (and former WAGA photog) Eddie Cortes asked me to review his latest aural output.  It’s a self-titled record from the band he decided to call “Jackwagon.” He knows I’m a sucker for all things Eddie; our invasion-of-Iraq experience in 2003 cemented that.

While driving to Augusta Friday  — where we spent some quality time with GOP congressional candidate Lee Anderson — Dan Reilly and I listened to Jackwagon.  The good news:  When the CD finished, and returned to song one, neither of us reached for the “eject” button.

It was a fine record for 300 mile round-trip drive.  Each song is uptempo.  The guitarist, Robert Blondeau, is inventive yet firmly rooted in a Slash / Van Halenesque comfort zone.  His riffs make the record, though the maniacal work of drummer Patrick O’Connor seasons it nicely.

Among his friends, the longstanding joke about Eddie’s various rock bands is that Eddie ends up singing.  He’s a fearless vocalist, despite a range that can generously be described as “limited.”  The new record has some surprises; in a song called “Battle Heart,” Eddie’s vocals are expressive and help keep the song interesting.

The record is much better than I’d hoped.  The songwriting actually is solid, for the most part.  The record is well produced; Eddie says the band paid for studio space and had it engineered by a guy who actually knows what he’s doing, and it shows.

“He ought to be singing about live shots,” Dan started to say after I revealed that Eddie was behind the record.  At that point, the song “Carolyn Day” came on.  Eddie wrote that song a decade ago, in a moment of obsession over an appealing WAGA reporter named Carolyn Day.  Carolyn left the news biz shortly thereafter to work at a B&B in southern California. She now works with a production company there. Jackwagon has remade the song longer and louder; the song wasn’t particularly good to begin with except as an inside novelty, and this doesn’t improve it. I’m pretty sure the lovely Mrs. Cortes still rolls her eyes whenever she watches Eddie’s band perform it.

The real head-scratcher, though, is the band’s name.  “Jackwagon” brings to mind a gnarly fur bus filled with paunchy former frat guys who’ve removed their wedding rings for an evening of stoopidity.  Recently, an 11Alive photographer suggested, incorrectly, that the Butthole Surfers is the worst band name ever.  I countered with Jackwagon.  Although I’ve offered to consult with Eddie about band names, he has declined my generosity on this issue.

Should you buy the record?  The download is $9.99.  Have you ever pissed away ten bucks on two beers at a bar?  Or given a Hamilton to a guy who “just needs money for gas to get home”?  Of course you should buy the record.  Or at least like their Facebook page.

Even if you aren’t embarking on a 300 mile round trip to meet a guy running for Congress.

Jackwagon is having a CD release party thing at Famous Pub at Toco Hill on October 13.  I’ll probably miss it.  Go hug Eddie for me!

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Check it out

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Perhaps you missed Sunday night’s debut of “Check It out! With Dr. Steve Brule.”  It appears on the Adult Swim division of Cartoon Network.  Odds are, you aren’t part of the demographic they’re trying to reach.  I know I’m not.

Dr. Steve Brule is that guy on the local news who does interaction more than reporting.  In the real world, that guy / gal appears on morning news shows, and has the natural performing talent of a radio DJ or TV talk show host.   WAGA’s Stacey Elgin and Karen Graham do this sort of stuff admirably.  I can’t do it, which is why my TV appearances tend toward the deadpan.  Were I to try to morph into a “personality,” I’d end up like Steve Brule.  Which may be why I’m drawn to him.  Watching him is like glimpsing a funhouse mirror.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Played by John C. Reilly, Dr. Steve Brule is a spoof.  But spoof and reality merged of late when a guy who calls himself “K-Strass” has appeared on local TV proffering himself as a master of the yo-yo.  When you are booking guests for morning shows in outback burgs like St. Joseph MO, folks like K-Strass are welcome time-killers.  But when they actually show up, the result is bewilderment.  K-Strass videos are now all over Youtube.  Dr. Steve Brule needs to book this guy.

The shootist


Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan

An Army Major identified by police as Nidal Malik Hasan goes on a killing rampage in Ft. Hood Texas, and the media calls him a “shooter.”  A student at Virginia Tech massacres his fellow students, and the press calls him the “Virginia Tech shooter.”  Brian Nichols murders a judge and a court reporter in cold blood, then kills two more people as he escapes the Fulton County Courthouse and flees to Gwinnett County.  Nichols becomes “the Fulton County Courthouse Shooter.”

How did mass murderers become “shooters”?  How did guys who left behind more carnage than the likes of Ted Bundy, Richard Speck and Charlie Starkweather get saddled with “shooter,” a handle that is easily confused with a shot of liquor during happy hour?


Charlie Starkweather

It’s sloppy, lazy, inexact and limp to call a guy like Nichols a “shooter.”  A “shooter” can be a guy in the back yard with a .22 rifle, shooting cans off  a fence post.  Nichols is a “killer.”  He’s a “gunman.”  He’s a “murderer.”  He’s even a “mass murderer,” a term no longer used because it’s so chilling, and would describe too many homicidal hotheads in the late 20th / early 21st century.

It’s reasonable to take “mass murderer” off the table, then, if only to avoid the possible cheapening of the term, the same way “brutal” and “bizarre” are cheapened by overuse on TV.

Big Al

Big Al

But to replace it with “shooter” is to whitewash the meaning from an act that shouldn’t be sugarcoated.   Alexander Hamilton was a “shooter,” maybe — a guy pointing his gun semi-upward during a competitive blood sport.  Aaron Burr was the gunman who declined to point his weapon upward.

Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan allegedly killed twelve people and injured 31 in a rampage at Ft. Hood.  Police say he’s a killer.  If a jury convicts him, he’s a murderer.

If you can use a term that more accurately describes the lethal nature of the crime eg. “killer,” why would anybody call Hasan, Nichols et al a “shooter”?

(And it has nothing to do with legal hairsplitting; “police say the gunman walked from room to room” works just as easily as when substituting the less descriptive word.)

Pet peeve?  Yes.

It’s time to bury “shooter.”  Unless it’s happy hour.

Why “I don’t watch”

LAF w/ Mrs. LAF, 10.24.09

LAF w/ Mrs. LAF, 10.24.09

At a party last weekend, I met a young lawyer who works as a public defender in metro Atlanta.  Politely, she asked if I had an occupation.  I gave her the shorthand:  “Local TV news guy.”  (She was dressed as a zombie; I was dressed as the Ghost of Americana.  You kinda had to be there…)

“Oh, like you’re on TV or something?”   Yeah, something like that.

“I don’t think I’ve ever watched the local news in Atlanta.”

I’m gonna stick my neck out — again — and say with certainty that everybody working in Atlanta TV news has had this conversation with numbing regularity.  In my case, the “I don’t watch TV news” conversations far exceed the frequency of the opposite “omigosh I watch Brenda / Monica / Amanda / Stephany every night!” conversations.

The “I don’t watch local news” conversations typically include a short critique of what they see as a nightly drumbeat of murder and mayhem.  There’s a bit of an elitist quality to the critiques.  The conversant is frequently educated and somewhat sophisticated.  Like the lawyer at the party, these folks are well-informed.  But they sidestep the local stories that aren’t relevant to them, and ignore the broadcasts that traffic in them.

Stories, such as — oh, say — the coverage of the guy who caused the grisly traffic accident on the Stone Mountain Freeway, who turned himself in and uttered an apology at the jail.  In a post on this site last week, I suggested that it would be reasonable for local TV to find something else to cover instead of that story.

This caused a bit of an uproar in my little corner of the blogosphere, particularly among people who apparently work in local TV news.

Based on the numerous comments that were very critical of that post, I would conclude that local TV news has almost zero chance of convincing that lawyer that their product is worth sampling.

The sad thing is this:  Atlanta TV news actually produces plenty of quality material.  But because local newscasts devote so many resources — and so much A-block time — to the mayhem (and the follow-ups to mayhem), many desirable viewers choose not to wade through that stuff in the hope that something worthwhile will follow.

The audience for local TV news is shrinking.  Do we try to expand it?  Do we try to find a niche that goes outside the murder-and-mayhem formula?  Or do we assume that the remaining audience watches for the tried-and-true formula, and climb all over each other to fight for the bleary eyeballs who haven’t abandoned us yet?

Thankfully, I lack the smarts, talent and chutzpah it takes to run a major market TV newsroom.  Because if I did, I think I’d be contorting myself to try to produce a product that would get the young zombie lawyer to watch — and re-thinking the stuff that has driven her away.  And apparently my tradition-minded troops would be very, very annoyed.

Thanks to “longgone” for asking the essential question in a “sport of TV news” comment.

Thanks to all the other commenters for the abuse.

Thanks to the late Screamin’ Jay Hawkins just for being who he was.

Mentally handicapped

Poor parking in Douglasville, GA 09.23.09

2pm, Douglasville GA.  9.23.09.

When it’s insufficient to merely park illegally in a handicapped spot, do it sideways.

While I was on foot covering flooding, this asshat nearly hit me.  He was racing through a parking lot toward this spot.

We will resume our regular programming shortly.

Update: Now you’ve hit the bigtime, dipwad!

The gorilla ball

The Legend:  Willie B.

The Legend: Willie B.

The Gorilla Ball is Saturday.  The event is a competition among Atlanta TV stations to see which can produce the most entertaining blooper reel.  The reels are always worthy viewing.  CNN typically enlivens the event by providing a blooper reel, though CNN is ineligible for the Otto Focus Award, the plastic trophy handed over to the station judged to have the winning reel.

There are a few somewhat interesting facets to this year’s Gorilla Ball.  The first:  It appears WGCL is declining to participate, despite its production of excellent blooper reels in past years.  The reason is unclear.  (If I’m wrong, please feel free to correct me.)

Second:  Because there was no Gorilla Ball in 2008, this year’s reels should be better-than-average because of the backlog of material.

Third:  The Atlanta Press Club was apparently desperate enough for an emcee that it asked yours truly to co-host.  I accepted.  The good news is that I’m co-hosting with Tom Regan.  I’ve golfed and had adult beverages with Regan.  I’ve also gotten my ass kicked on stories by Regan, an excellent reporter at WSB.  We know each other well.

I’ve also praised and abused Regan on this site.   I now look forward to doing so in person.

Started by individuals employed by Atlanta TV stations in the early 1980s — when such folk drank and abused substances with reckless abandon — the Gorilla Ball began as a raucous, off-the-record party (the first one I attended was at the Limelight).  It got some stability when the Atlanta Press Club began sponsoring it.   It also became tamer.  As an old guy, I’m quite OK with that.

WAGA has been on a roll, winning the last several Otto Focus awards.  Editor Larry Winokur isn’t obsessive about gathering material for it, but he misses very little — especially when Good Day Atlanta erupts into something unexpected.  GDA typically dominates the WAGA reel.  The CNN reel is always entertaining because it includes off-air audio from the control room.  (“Camera two!  Why are you doing a 360 when you’re supposed to be on a closeup?  Holy f@#!”)

The Gorilla Ball is at Zoo Atlanta at 6:30pm Saturday.  You can join the APC and pay ten bucks for admission (but you have to do so by noon today.  It’s $15 at the door).  Non-members pay more.  Buy advance tickets here.


1pm Tuesday

1pm Tuesday

Thank goodness there are so many caring people who love TV.  Without them, the denizens of newsrooms across America would surely wither and die.

4pm Tuesday

4pm Tuesday

Tuesday was an excellent example.  As newsroom staff at WXIA were beginning to collapse from starvation — deprived, as they were, of nutrition due to their extraordinary hard work and their inability to spend even a moment away from their desks — salvation came in the form of a cake.

Actually, it was two cakes.  One of them, the carrot cake, provided nutritious vegetable fiber and Vitamins A and C.  The C vitamin was an especially timely addition to the newsroom diet, as a scurvy outbreak appeared imminent.

Likewise, the chocolate-on-chocolate cake delivered vitamins A and E, and minerals like potassium, zinc and paramecium.  More importantly, cocoa has phenylethylamine, which is a natural anti-depressant.  The staff at WXIA are extraordinarily well-adjusted and lack the suicidal tendencies often found in other newsrooms.  This may be attributable to the regular appearances of chocolate cakes, cookies and candies on the table adjacent to the assignment desk.

6pm Tuesday

6pm Tuesday

Sadly, the field crews tend to have only scattershot access to these life-sustaining newsroom deliveries.  However, their exposure to regular sunlight enhances their vitamin D intake, and wards off depressive bouts of Seasonal Affective Disorder.   And their mental toughness is enhanced by regular exposure to crime scenes and slippery public information officers.

We heard that a place called the Marietta Diner provided these two nutritious confections.  Perhaps the bakers there believed they were merely providing a sweet gratuity for folks who may or may not deliver a bit of media buzz for their business.

They provided much more.

Overheard in the newsroom

OK, Florida actually has two different time zones, but whatever....

OK, Florida actually has two time zones, but whatever-- I need the IT guy to change my ribbon!

News professionals who are still unsure about using Facebook — and they are surprisingly numerous — may reconsider when they learn that they can “become a fan of” an entity called “overheard in the newsroom.”

By so doing, the daily Facebook feed will provide you with a regular litany of newsroom howlers.  Here are a few samples from September:

#1718: Assignment editor to Producer: “I have to run outside for a second. If anyone asks, I quit and walked out.”

#1724: Reporter 1: “There’s cake in the break room.” Reporter 2: “Did someone leave?”

#1731: Producer on the phone: “I’m not trying to be bitchy; it’s just coming out naturally right now.”

#1766: Page designer to editor: “I can’t make a shit sandwich until you give me some shit!”

#1770: Producer: “Is it sunny outside? I’m trying to tease weather, but I can’t because I’m in a window-less hell hole.”

#1717: IT guy: “So what’s the problem?” Multimedia editor: “See this little computer here? It’s a piece of shit.”

#1778: City editor to reporter: “You know, a company picnic would cost a lot less these days. Because there’s a lot less of us.”

With each “overheard” vignette, there are typically dozens of comments.

So you don’t miss out:  1) Join Facebook and 2) search “overheard in the newsroom.”  When its page comes up, click “become a fan.”