Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Terror From the Skies! Conglomerate Radio Airwaves on the Attack! (Part Two)

WSYR's (Syracuse) talk show host Jim Reith doesn't care what listeners think of him, as long as they keep listening. Those are his words, not mine. It's all entertainment, newsy tidbits and discussion -- playtime with additives, in essence. But WSYR and Clear Channel Communications need that precious audience to stay tuned in, to be mesmerized by the cavalcade of profitable commercials creeping in often enough to fracture and fragment whatever few minutes of interesting content may turn up on the JR show. Guests and callers can't be rushed off fast enough so those valuable breaks can be inserted into the show.

(My most hated favorites, incidentally, are commercials utilizing ringing phones or screams in the background -- brainless, effortless advertising ploys which obviously serve to keep one's attention and annoyance level high. Nothing reveals lazy marketing or a sponsor who disrespects its audience more than commercials infested with ringing phones or other sound pollution. Products able to stand on their own merits require minimal sound-effect enhancement. As I write this paragraph prior to Valentine's Day, I'm witness to a simple, non-offensive Clear Channel network commercial selling "the one product guaranteed to get women to take their clothes off," and I'm pondering, well, it must be itching powder, but I am wrong. It's mail-order pajamas. At least they weren't selling their product with phony phone rings.)

Reith himself, in all fairness, is exceptional in many ways. He's a good interviewer, politically and historically astute, and his technical Navy background easily portrays high intelligence. He generally treats his guests pleasantly, and good-naturedly takes to task people and issues raising his interest, and is firm both when necessary and unnecessary. He loves his family, works his back off for the community and provides so much assistance to local charities that one truly wonders how they would survive without his involvement. He enjoys a loyal following.

Unfortunately, there's still that smarmy debunking thing. A golden rule of debunking dictates that if one can't confront or argue away the evidence, the next step is to attack the messenger. Therefore, when Jim Reith responds by childishly calling me names instead of confronting UFO evidence, he fits nicely into tried-and-true expectations. Why else would he take off on me, a total stranger whose only wish was to inform him?

Additionally, I suspect that Reith's profound religious views prohibit him from wandering too far outside the box of religious doctrine, so I may have been the subject of his venom based primarily upon faith. He regularly professes his Catholic lifestyle, so it's not as if I'm unfairly dragging something out here that doesn't apply. Listeners are often fed a diet of guests motivated by religion-based activities, so I presume the faithful are a predominantly sought-out audience. Nevertheless, the fact that the Vatican's own chief astronomer recently opened the door a bit further by stating that extraterrestrial life -- aliens -- may actually exist throughout the universe should cause him to question his views. Then, of course, there are Church officials such as Monsignor C. Balducci, with close Vatican ties, who has expressed some very intriguing views about the UFO issue.

Also, when Reith proudly invokes the name of an infamous "skeptic," such as The Amazing Randi on his program, I raise an eyebrow because his familiarity with "Amazing's" uncomplimentary comments about organized religion is obviously lacking. I know it's Reith's program, but if one's religious doctrine prevents a panoramic view of the issues, then a real disservice is done to inquiring commercial radio listeners, should information be excluded based solely upon a radio host's intellectual or dogmatic hissy-fit. Or maybe in being so critical I'm just losing my Reith-ligion.

One might also find Reith's profound dislike of psychics interesting, if not almost slapstick in its effects. He routinely condemns psychics (again, his religious values probably enter into this -- though, I must say, if one believes that Jesus rose from the dead, then it appears almost anything goes!) and many of them certainly deserve his brickbats. You must understand, he absolutely refuses to invite these despised psychics on his show, though his colleagues did so in the past and, for better or worse, achieved phenomenal listener interest (Note: Curiously, there may have been a furor caused by local religious leaders, sponsors and/or management hoping to avoid The Pit, because WSYR-AM hasn't featured a psychic in recent times, and keep in mind that religious beliefs routinely control a lot of hearts, minds, decisions and spending in Central NY).

Imagine the comedy induced, then, from a situation that occurred when Reith went on vacation some time back, and one of his guest hosts that week was local WSTM-TV (not owned by Clear Channel) news anchor Kevin Schenk. Schenk temporarily took the reins and invited a popular psychic on the show to take calls and tell listeners their futures. As expected, the radio audience went wild, and I suspect the phone lines to Reith's studio were jammed to the hilt. After all, say what you will, but a lot of folks love their psychics.

When Reith returned from vacation, he sounded calm, yet incredulous, about the psychic affair tainting his show. It was as if he wanted to soak the entire studio phone system in bleach or something caustic to obliterate the stench of psychic advice. How dare anybody invite psychic filth into his time slot?

But there's more. Reith, who tries diligently to line up a succession of -- suitable -- guest hosts when he goes away, experienced yet another embarrassment while he and the family slipped away for a few days of relaxation. One of his guest hosts was Stephanie Miner, a member of Syracuse city government, accompanied by a colleague. This time, however, Reith might have been better off with a psychic on the show, for Ms. Miner took the opportunity over several hours to make numerous unkind and humorously dismissive comments about Reith himself, effectively enraging him upon his return. Reith must have been furious. You could tell, not only because he harped upon the incident for days of broadcasts thereafter, but also because -- even to this day -- he frequently throws out little barbs and digs about her. Whether his on-air criticisms seem on the mark or not, you just know that he harbors a grudge because she brilliantly skewered him on his own show while he was absent from his post. Hmm. . .maybe now he knows what it feels like, though she didn't resort or lower herself to the juvenile name-calling behavior that Reith prefers in my case.

But now, like something from a TV sitcom script, there are further developments. It seems that Ms. Miner intends to run for mayor of Syracuse. This not entirely unexpected event causes Reith to remind his listeners he has submitted over 50 requests for Ms. Miner to guest on his show, and this would be since the infamous hosting gig which he no longer (wisely) references whatsoever, yet she refuses. My question would be, why in the world would she make herself available to JR? Why would she have a need to experience his barbs in person, having effectively dealt with him previously while dominating his own microphone? If elected mayor, perhaps she will present Reith with the key -- not to, but out of the city, though he, somewhat with tongue in cheek, suggests he'll move away anyway if she is elected.

Although the Schenk and Miner-hosted shows are arguably the most memorable of the Reith series to date, to be fair I should mention that the program's occasional encounters with celebrity can provide a rare moment of interest. Last year, singer Robert Goulet visited Syracuse to perform at a benefit, and he stopped by the studio. Goulet, blessed with the best first name in the world and famous both for his performance in Broadway's Camelot with Richard Burton and Julie Andrews, and for his rendition of the song, Old Cape Cod, performed a great service for radio disc jockeys across the nation in 1965 when his booming hit single, Summer Sounds, saw release. No longer did AM radio need to rely upon such seasonal favorites as the Jamies' fifties hit, Summertime, Summertime, or Connie Francis' Vacation to kick off the summer season every year. Goulet, gracious and bright, a shining star and icon for a fading golden musical era, shared a few valuable minutes with Reith and his listeners but, tragically, became gravely ill a few days after departing Syracuse and died.

Now and then, Jim Reith reminds his audience that the program is called "The Jim Reith Show," and, as he recently pointed out, his is a talk show and not a call-in show. I presume that answering phone calls is rather a favor to the caller, not an obligation, so I really don't know why callers even bother, particularly knowing that they have to go through his producer to be screened before having their say (I'll say one thing for Art Bell, he didn't rely on call screeners). And make no mistake, JR always has the last word, whether the caller is allowed five seconds or two minutes on the air, and whether the caller is as dumb as a box of woofers and tweeters, or smarter than the host (people wishing to argue a point often find themselves quickly abolished from the phone connection). After all, whose show is it?

Everything I remember about ingredients that made talk radio fun in Central New York once upon a time has been surgically extracted for the Reith show. Frankly, newer listeners of local talk radio don't know what they're missing. The only person who might find the show thoroughly enjoyable might be President Obama because, if little else, this program is certainly "shovel-ready." Why do I continue to listen in when I can? Because I have faith -- faith in the teeny-tiny possibility that one day, indeed, I'll turn the radio on and find the Reith show gone, a victim of audience ratings, replaced by the melodious sounds of cows belching, cats meowing or dogs barking (my personal preference would be ducks quacking). And many amongst the contemporary, though hardly discriminating, audience will continue listening and loving every moment, blissfully unaware of the program changes.

My most recent non-phone call encounter with Reith's show occurred last May. While he pursued a rant about how people should discuss issues and not resort to name-calling, I e-mailed him, reminding him that name-calling was exactly the approach he took with me in 2006. Predictably, he took off on me over the airwaves with his ridiculing stance and referenced the parts of my e-mail that suited him. He has a talent, you see. You may ask, by calling Reith a debunker am I not name-calling? Yes I am, because he is a debunker, and an obvious one at that, at least when it comes down to the UFO issue. To debunk something generally means to expose a sham or falsehood, but as a succession of people who "explain away" various things based solely upon their lack of knowledge surface more and more, the word "debunker" carries an alternate definition of its own. During that particular show, incidentally, he blurted over the airwaves, as if in a snit, that if I didn't like him mentioning me on the radio, he would nevermore, and this declaration was followed by the sounds of, presumably, my e-mail printout being crumpled up and thrown away. So, the barn door was thus locked -- but I, the obedient horse, the designated consummate whack job with an ethical stance, remained outside of the barn, freezing in the cold chill of icy broadcast airwaves.

As I write this in February of 2009, Reith has begun lecturing his audience about the rarity of civility, particularly bemoaning an incident in which his producer just took a call from a woman who referred to JR twice as an "MF." (ask any military drill instructor what that means, if you don't know). Shocking! Maybe he would have felt infinitely more civil about things, had she called him a WJ, an NB or a WN.

Every few days, Jim Reith still manages to throw in a comment about "aliens," and equates the subject with ghosts, Bigfoot and -- psychics. Just last July, WSYR was running commercials for "California Psychics," even as Reith periodically condemned psychics on his show. Then, one afternoon, when I almost fell out of my chair in astonishment, a paid-for "California Psychics" commercial landed squarely, point-blank, center stage upon a local -- not network-fed -- advertising minute of "The Jim Reith Show" itself, barely two days after his last psychic-driven negative comment. Priceless!

And then I understood everything, as clear as a bell chiming spine-chillingly in the midnight hour, and I could almost see a copy of the book, Animal Farm, held high by the non-existent ghost of George Orwell, not standing in the afternoon mist, unable to mouth the words because appearing before me as a ghost would have been impossible, so I was forced to read the ghostly lips invisible before me: "All psychics are created equal, except some psychics -- the ones who pay the bills on the Reith show and go without criticism by name -- are created more equal than others." And then I wondered how many of his listeners who could least afford it had rushed off to dial up those affable West Coast psychics right there and then, maybe sacrificing milk for a baby -- or, worse, forgetting to take a baby out of the car on a hot July day, or absent-mindedly leaving an infant alone in the yard, certain to be devoured by hungry coyotes -- in order to purchase and relish a few minutes of psychic California consultation, audio-intravenously pushed on the Reith show.

The only occasions when Reith elicits anything resembling an audible chuckle from me occur when he vows a willingness to spend a night in an alleged haunted house -- if he can bring a shotgun along to obliterate anything making strange noises in the darkness. That's funny stuff! But, my advice? Leave the shotgun behind. Next time psychics advertise on the show --"and, after all, why wouldn't they?" to quote a favorite question posed by Reith in a variety of circumstances -- Reith should just invite one to the haunted house, and let that psychic sleuth locate and make friends with the ghost(s) on his behalf. Depending upon whom becomes the next mayor of Syracuse, Reith might just find relocation to a haunted house outside of the city limits preferable. Yes, he may have to put up with a little ectoplasm and incoherent moaning in the night, but so what? Worse things have been known to materialize from the ethers. I should know, I've heard them on the radio.
November 5, 2009 Update: The elections are over and Stephanie Miner has indeed been elected the mayor of Syracuse, NY. Jim Reith and Ms. Miner do speak on the radio at times, and he continues to throw little barbs out about her, indicative that Ms. Miner's sharp-witted harpoon from show-hosting frivolities past remains buried somewhere in his psyche. Despite obvious attempts to remain civil with one another, listeners in the know surely sense an icy chill amongst conversations between the two, rather something like an old horror movie where the Wolfman and Frankenstein's monster thaw and attempt mutually pressured communication after being frozen within blocks of ice in a subterranean cave for decades. All of this started when Reith once interviewed Ms. Miner, who was a member of Syracuse city government, and in response to something she said he retorted with, "THAT'S A LIE!" When he eventually allowed her to host his show while he vacationed, I suspect he did so as something of an apology, though he did stand by information he considered untruthful from her. Nevertheless, the two shall now be thrown together like a squabbling married couple as she runs Syracuse government and he attempts to stay on top of her methods -- whether each likes it or not. Adding to this drama, Reith took a phone call this week from a listener in another state who found his show streaming on the Web, and the caller complimented Reith for being unlike other talk show hosts who call their listeners idiots and the like (Psst -- hey, buddy, would you feel the same if he called you a nutbird or whack job? You listened to the wrong shows, dude, because by the day after your call he again used the term, idiot, regarding a caller). Anyway, may Ms. Miner and Mr. Reith enjoy the upcoming years of wedded broadcast bliss as much as I will, on those rare occasions when I must listen and, particularly, may she remain true to her emotions regarding a talk show so frequently bland and narcolepsy-inducing that not even a caveman could long endure its babble.

Terror From the Skies! Conglomerate Radio Airwaves on the Attack! (Part One)

It's always something. Usually it's dust bunnies under the bed or rancid food in the refrigerator, if not vice versa, but there is another rather encrusted matter attached to the faint taste of sour grapes I failed to clean up before 2008 ended. I think I remembered the importance of addressing this one day while listening to the musical nostalgia of some old Alberta Hunter, Barry Manilow and Cannibal Corpse.
Pick any town in the USA, and radio stations are broadcasting words or music right now, a deceivingly intimate process intended on the surface for your ears only. They're always there when you need them, and always available when you don't. They're your friends, your time-fillers, your educators, your guilty pleasures, or perhaps mere curiosities. Or maybe they just make you as mad as hell. However you interpret their offerings, they must first sell themselves to you and gain your attention and trust before almost hypnotically easing you into buying their sponsors' products. In the jungle, I believe it's called going in for the kill. Decades ago, as now, that's the way of the broadcast industry. In the future, as a significant percentage of "radio" goes digital or takes up residence on the Internet, and giant broadcast towers blanketing the countryside come crashing down, devoured by the sad rust of obsolescence, hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of international listening choices will become as commonplace as mosquitos on a damp August night. Well, if Yellowstone doesn't blow before the next Ice Age arrives, but that's another story. . .and pardon me for leaving out global warming, a vastly inadequate designation for controversial and frequently unpredictable manifestations whose proponents apparently worked a little sleight of hand and now call climate change in order to satisfy every half-baked, ever-changing theory -- and, still, the list of ignored international scientists opposing global warming's causes and/or "facts" continues to grow (I merely want the evidence on all sides reviewed fairly, via the mind and not the heart).

What follows are my own thoughts about contemporary broadcast imagery and the future, some conjured out of little, while others hold more substance. It's how I see it. In a roundabout way this concerns freedoms, ecology and consequence, and in a more specific manner highlights power and UFO debunkers -- yes, debunkers, not skeptics. Skeptics have room to consider more pieces of whatever they're skeptical about, while debunkers' minds are full-up like a fleabag hotel, unable and unwilling to accept even one more irritating walk-in thought. Funny thing, though, debunkers often think of themselves as skeptics. Could be that debunkers even exist on your local broadcast airwaves.

A cautionary note: In no way is this a call for the FCC or any government agency to silence or impede local or national talk radio. I feel that an abundance of broadcast alternatives exist to assure the airing of every point of view, and the day when government gains even more control over airwave content will be the day we need to reaffirm our faith in the First Amendment. Beware always the politics of intervention, and keep close watch on special interests tugging at the heels of Congress and the FCC -- whether the focus is broadcasting or the Internet.
An additional observation: With unemployment soaring in the United States, surely it hasn't been lost upon politicians that many more listeners have tuned in to talk radio at all levels because they have time on their hands, and they now receive information previously unknown to them. Those in government who actually believe a reincarnation of the "Fairness Doctrine" under a pretty new name or approach will soar high enough to clear or even bend the First Amendment just a tad need a reality check.

Today's focus hovers over Central New York and the Syracuse area. Syracuse, as you may know, is nationally noted mostlly for snow, ice, cold and associated misery. Central NY, whose residents have fled in droves over the years in search of warmer climates and employment opportunities, nevertheless clings to anything worth boasting about. For instance, family members related to the famous Baldwin brothers reside here. The four Baldwin brothers, all veteran TV and motion picture performers, are named Alec, William, Daniel and Stephen, even when listed alphabetically. I think Adam Baldwin is the best actor of the lot, but. . .hmm. . .wait a minute. . .one, two, three, four. . .well, looks like he isn't one of the brothers after all because there should only be four. Sorry about that. Moving right along. . .
So, once upon a time the broadcast conglomerate known as Clear Channel Communications breezed into Syracuse, NY and bought up the two strongest-signal AM radio stations in town (WSYR and WHEN), and then gobbled up and/or created another, what was it, four FM stations? Maybe not quite in that order, I don't know. For good measure, they also bought the local ABC television affiliate (since sold), WIXT. But CCC wanted everybody to know who was king of media mountain, so they changed the call letters of WIXT to WSYR-TV, thus providing the TV station the same identity as proud and historic WSYR radio, one of the two AM stations purchased (WSYR had also once been the call letters of Syracuse's original NBC-TV affiliate, until changed in later years to WSTM-TV). None of this was particularly unusual, for Clear Channel has a reputation of moving from community to community and buying up as much broadcast real estate as it can get, in much the same way that corporate funeral entities go into communities, purchasing local funeral homes in order to revitalize the dead and make them profitable. Clear Channel and Rush Limbaugh saved AM radio, don't you know?

Once established and placed under local control, the Clear Channel network wasted no time in attempting – successfully – to capture and maintain audience attention. How could they not? In possession of such a large chunk of Central New York airwaves, CCC could simply have broadcast the sounds of dogs barking or cows belching 24 hours a day, still claiming a substantial listener pool. This is not to denigrate the obvious talent of their on-air personalities, many of whom have worked in local broadcasting for years, but the point is that when so many radio channels blast forth under the auspices of CCC it’s hard to ignore them. In a nation of “sheeple,” I’m betting that the mere sounds of flies buzzing 24/7 would enthrall and inspire throngs of listeners. “Hey Josh,” fictional listener Bart might say to his friend in a fictional situation, while making endless adjustments to constantly changing technological gimmicks stuck in his ears, “have you heard the new programming on WHEN? It’s so un-be-LEEV-able! They're playing nothing but the sounds of ping-pong balls bouncing around all day and all night -- and it’s great on the pod!” By the way, fictional Bart and Josh would soon meet their demise, mercifully, because with Bart's sound-blasting ear buds stuffed in his auditory canals, as Josh texts away on a portable device, each oblivious to his surroundings, they wouldn’t notice the gang of murderous thugs sneaking up on them as they cross a Syracuse street. But I digress. . .

Well, anyway, the thing about Clear Channel Syracuse is its remarkable ability to grow public relations tentacles, like some weird Hydra whose multiple heads reach into every aspect of Central NY life. This friendly, neighborly approach in recent years has helped them become enthusiastically involved as cheerleaders for and with local educational institutions, developers, sports and entertainment ventures, corporations, businesses and public servants. There’s nothing illegal about any of this, mind you, and it's actually a brilliantly strategic maneuver, but to me it’s just creepy and disturbing that a conglomerate broadcast institution affiliate can enter into such close kissy-kissy relationships with local non-broadcast entities to, literally, help engineer changes and the face of a community. It's rather a dilemma for me, because I would almost live and die for First Amendment rights displayed to the max. (and in no way do I wish to see a return of the "Fairness Doctrine," truly a weapon of evil) -- yet, there are times when I wonder if broadcast antennae should be covered with some kind of protective latex devices to deter the seepage of unintended or undue corporate influence, purposefully or accidentally mixed with the anticipated glamour and power of the spoken word.

I know, I know, it’s all in the public interest, keeping that broadcast license spotless as everybody’s good neighbor -- in the line of good-deed doers, as referenced by the Wizard of Oz when he couldn’t pronounce the word, philanthropists. So some interests love Clear Channel and its detractors don’t. Big deal, who cares?. But who owns Central NY now, and what relationships actually dictate its future? These are matters for others with the wisdom and authority to contemplate as the dice are tossed, while anonymous puppet masters equipped with strings aplenty make the scene.

Green, greener, greenest. CCC Syracuse, like other companies, is now heavily into the "green" movement, that fashionable reach into a future where sources of energy and lifestyles shall rise anew in communities reborn. Many were writing about the "greenhouse effect" and touting alternative environmental science decades ago, but here comes CCC Syracuse and a host of other corporate shape-shifters, charging like bulls in a windmill shop, striving to appear as something brand new, trumpeting The New Green and embracing the businesses flaunting it. Strangely, my mind wanders for a moment to visions of garden slugs, emerging in the dark and damp, leaving a shiny trail of something worthy of a second look on every surface traversed as they venture forth. Really, what could be more natural and representative of The New Green than the common slug?.
There's nary an opposing green word, however, as developers and homebuilders advertise their wares on radio and TV and in newspapers to do what they must -- pave over and obliterate the truly green things. Computerized house after paved driveway after computerized house divided by blacktop streets aplenty. Decimated little by little, because it's not merely the city of Syracuse in developers' gun sights, are the forests, the fields, the farms and meadows of Central New York, in order to accommodate both the throngs and thugs amongst newcomers sought out by developers, politicians and their buddies, the "movers and shakers."

Growing up in Central New York, I was so fortunate to live near forests and farms, to experience an abundance of wildlife and real things of green. However, in later years development took off and the rare and refreshing places I once knew began to disappear, acre by acre. Mini-wetland areas, too small under state guidelines to be saved, yet nevertheless home to turtles more than a foot long and varieties of other animal life, were simply drained and bulldozed by the developers -- after all, if you drain the water, the wetland dilemma goes away like a bad headache for these folks.

What is it that we've always heard following the words, "that's progress?" Typically, "development is good for the tax base." True enough, in New York the tax base has always led a darned good life, until recently, and progress, well, that's what cancer does, it progresses. It oft seems that those who wish the best for their children are the ones who hold the power to accomplish the most damage for them in the long run, and legislative bodies incapable of the realization that some places should and must be left undisturbed are environmentally toxic in their own right because they just don't get it. Anything for job creation, anything for profit, nothing for the far distant future.

Few of the born-again-green probably realize the profound importance of those precious childhood occasions when elderly relatives or neighbors remarked, oh, how I wish you could have been here when I was your age -- the air smelled fresher, the blue sky was brighter, wild flowers were everywhere, the food tasted wonderful and you could walk for miles without seeing another person. We did not heed the obvious warnings. All we hear is that billions more people will be born on the planet and we have to prepare for them, but scarce indeed are the allegedly green voices suggesting that maybe we need to find a way, while still able, to find the least painful way to avoid billions more. The more who come, the less green there will be, and once economies improve we'll do what we always do -- attack and further trash our environment in a wild celebratory atmosphere, thrilled by a party atmosphere until we're even bigger, poised for a larger social crash. But that's progress. That's business. That's the color of agenda-green in the crayon box -- maybe the same box of crayons used to color your area.

Also on the way is the crime, pollution newly defined, and the tendency to make every place like every other place. Inexplicably, social refurbishing will likely be accomplished via more technological green than natural green, with children and adults therefore destined to romp in computerized madness and parks lacking the vitality of mystery and the unexplored, parks created badly out of what nature originally intended in its own green way. Meanwhile, few will regard the disappearance of wildlife that, oddly, can't conform to living without habitat.
Green, green, green it all up in a very special way to encourage even more human misery disguised as comfort, couch potato-esque activities of daily living and overpopulation. As a bonus, we may anticipate an increased proliferation of the most common-senseless, cheerless, genetically and environmentally impaired, clueless, neurotic, psychotic, dangerous and medicated -- if not merely defeated and lethargic -- human offspring imaginable. Should a community boast to the world an availability of a plentiful or "endless" supply of clean water and other natural resources? Not smart, not smart, just dangerous. In the long run, much will be about as ecologically green as artificial turf because nine out of 10 people attending a wake prefer the hue of a painted corpse. Make it real by making it unreal. Mold on the orange. Cancer on the lung. Unrestricted growth. That's progress. Too big to fail? No, just too big. One almost requires the implementation of a local chamber pot of commerce to accommodate whatever bad comes attached to the good things.

On a national and international level, maybe it's time to find a way to grow, but to become smaller simultaneously -- an idiotic contradiction in terms, but a world full of currently unemployed and unoccupied geniuses could surely go right to work on the concept. Well, that's my green environmental statement, and maybe some of this applies where you live, too.

(WARNING! WARNING! It occurs to me that my writings rave on like the Unabomber's manifesto, but in a more disjointed manner -- however, not to worry, society, the only explosives technology I knew about in military hospitals where I worked was explosive diarrhea, something that probably can't be effectively weaponized -- at least, not in the short term.)

Returning specifically to CCC Syracuse, there's something else besides cheerleading and greenification that they do well,. and that's hosting events to raise money for abused children and women, a truly compassionate activity. It is, as well, an enviable broadcast license renewal-enhancing virtue. Rather puzzling, nevertheless, is the obvious absence of likewise compassionate fund-raisers for agencies that could provide education and devices to help stop the flow of unwanted and eventually abused and abusive children and adults.
I wonder sometimes if certain occasions are all about some unseen, omnipresent organized religion component left over from tainted centuries past, still insistent upon encouraging the barefoot to stay pregnant and the endlessly multiplying to go forth -- or, in more currently fashionable terms, to champion every fertile woman's right or obligation to produce a litter of eight with the aid of fertility doctors now ripe for justifying their actions. I'm just saying. By the way, anybody notice the classic switcheroo reported in the news about new public contempt for fertility doctors (since the litter of eight electrified the media), of anger comparable to what some feel for abortion physicians? (March 2009 Update: New projections indicate that world population will double in 10 years, and at least a million people a year will attempt entry into the United States as a result of overpopulation and horrible living conditions -- yet, we sit on our hands and pray -- literally, for some -- for unlimited global childbirth.)

As 2008 ended, statistics reflected an increase in Syracuse murder rates. Surely, murder victims would have been far better off and alive, had their executioners never had an opportunity to establish roots in the uncaring womb. Still, if Big Radio in Central NY can't bring itself to support a woman's right to tend her own internal garden privately in conjunction with her doctor's guidance, at least it should be willing to vocally encourage research into 10, 25 or 50 brand new safe, easy and effective methods of birth control, thus catering to all listeners who enjoy or endure airwaves supposedly licensed in the public interest.

The Last Child in the Woods (by Richard Louv), a cautionary book warning of social ills as the truly natural resources disappear, artificial green notwithstanding, may not be a factor in the world of green aspirations for Central NY, nor may it blend well with the long-term goal of importing many more people into the area, consequently requiring substantially more human breed-room communities. Yet, Clear Channel Syracuse, a champion of growth, probably has God on its side because some efforts are obviously so interwoven with religious institutions. Interdenominational messages wend their way through every broadcast day on WSYR. Saturday Night Live's "Church Lady" might say, isn't that special? Yes, it is. With God on its side, a conglomerate can snake its way to the accomplishment of pretty much any self-stated goal couched in the interest of a community.

A few years ago, Clear Channel Syracuse decided to create an afternoon talk show of sorts on WSYR-AM, intended to occupy the important “drive time” hours when people depart work and school, offering a vehicle for easy and informative listening while taking the opportunity to pack commercials into all available crevices in between the blah-blah-blah minutes like sardines in a can. Chosen – or maybe he asked for it, I just don’t know – as the host was long-time Syracuse news reporter and WSYR employee Jim Reith, and he began broadcasting his Monday-through-Friday program, “The Jim Reith Show.” I hasten to mention his name especially because he often states how he loves the publicity, and he seems amazed and gratified when folks spell or pronounce his name correctly (it sounds like wreath). Something he was not happy about, though, particularly in the early years of his program, was allowing the public to see his face, and by his own admission and actions he took measures to remain facially anonymous. I suppose that was a wise move, considering the way he snipes at strangers while hiding behind the microphone, and there were times when I wondered whether he might have worn a paper bag over his head in public like "The Unknown Comic" of TV's old Gong Show.

He also appears to delight in informing admiring listeners (largely, the same ones who phone over and over again, every week) that he’s "an award-winning journalist." I’ve no idea how he accomplished this laudable feat. Perhaps it involved an on-the-spot breaking news story about a cat rescued from a tree, or chasing an ambulance containing some politician whose nose was bitten clean off while kissing a baby during an election campaign, that sort of thing. But who cares? On Reith's show, to paraphrase Sherlock, Katie, Ken, John or somebody named Holmes, "It's entertainment, my dear Watson, entertainment."

(Incidentally, should you wish to check out one of my truly favorite award-winning journalists, don't hesitate to click on the link to Billy Cox's Blog de Void (see top of link list). Cox works with Southwestern Florida's Herald Tribune and his affiliated blog keeps us reliably current with the UFO issue on a regular basis. Check in frequently.)

There arise occasions when Reith brags about crushing the competition and hosting the most widely heard afternoon radio talk show in Syracuse. Of course, the truth is that he has no competition – Big Daddy CCC bought WSYR, conveniently obliterating any possibility of competition, and there simply is no mightier local signal on the Syracuse AM dial, other than “sister station” WHEN. In essence, there’s no way anybody from a lower-power broadcast company could possibly compete equally on AM radio, day or night, but Reith’s “I’m number one” chest-beater is always a knee-slapper to hear. Indeed, a star was born, and the birthing process was apparently as complex as growing a Chia Pet.

So you, reading this, certainly wonder by now – what has any of this to do with UFOs? The basic answer is that it has little to do with UFOs and much to do with UFO debunking, the debunker and the power. The ability to tell you and sell you.
Mr. Reith does not believe that "aliens" exist. He will say that UFOs exist, however, he tends to feel there is a rational explanation for UFOs. But, as we said, aliens do not exist. Nor do ghosts or Bigfoot, in his opinion. Frankly, I don’t know much about ghosts or Bigfoot. My primary interest has always been UFOs.

On numerous and ongoing occasions, radio star Reith dismisses the UFO controversy with self-assured misinformation and ridicule, and now and then I have tried to supplement his pathetic lack of knowledge with facts. In 2006 I sent him a message to delineate some truth about the UFO issue (see my recent entry entitled, "The Extraordinary Witness" for details on that specific UFO case). By coincidence, The Post-Standard (Syracuse) had also printed my newspaper letter to the editor concerning the state of local broadcasting in general during that week during the summer, and it was in this time frame that he took the opportunity to attack me personally on one show in my absence (I have never been a guest on his show, do not call in, anticipate no invitation, and in light of the recent past would sooner attempt to hatch dinosaur eggs with a flashlight beam or even attend my own funeral than suffer the show's very existence in person). By that time WSYR was broadcasting not only locally, but on the Web as well, so my name and reputation received a good dose of his commentary periodically during the (then) three-hour show.

On several occasions over three hours, in reference to my UFO research, he referred to me -- by name -- as a “nut bird,” a “wingnut” and a “whack job.” There were other things said, among them a suggestion that there had been something wrong with me for years – though on a recent show, where he again made light of my comments sent in an e-mail, he flat-out stated with respect to that assertion, “That’s a lie.”

I disagree and, in fact, in an angry letter to his general manager the next day complained that he spent considerable time attempting to portray me as a mental case. I have an immensely dark sense of humor, but what verbal executioner Jim was doing to me on that show had nothing to do with fun and, it appears, everything to do with destroying one’s reputation via the microphone which most broadcast professionals cherish and use responsibly. At least, there was a time.

A main reason for writing him was to emphasize the importance of such UFO-related incidents as the alleged Charles Hickson-Calvin Parker abduction and examination on the shores of the Pascagoula River in Mississippi in the seventies.. But on the Reith show I became mere fodder. Hickson and Parker were deeply disturbed and affected by their experience, as noted by law enforcement personnel and scientists involved in the case -- but I'm a "whack job." Both men passed polygraph testing -- but I'm a "nut bird." The sheriff secretly recorded the fear in their conversation while the two thought they were alone in a room at the sheriff's office, just hours after their claimed encounter with strange entities -- but I'm a "wingnut." Years later, a former Navy man came forward to reveal that he and two fellow Navy crewmen and others on a highway may well have seen the bizarre airliner-size UFO descend from the sky near Hickson and Parker's location that evening -- but there's something peculiar about me for even daring to entertain evidence.

In my outrage, I really did expect an apology, either from the charming host himself or from the general manager to whom I wrote the letter. However, I assumed too much, forgetting that an apology actually requires somebody's regret to begin with, and so there was no response. There apparently exists a paucity of gonads at Clear Channel Syracuse, excepting when the microphone is turned on, though I'm sure CCC's legal defense sector is suitably equipped for instances where trouble or controversy rears its head.

As for Reith, I don’t know. Poor thing, maybe he sometimes fancies himself another Morton Downey, Jr. or perhaps a Joe Pyne of radio shows past, but he can’t quite pull it off. He periodically references national talk show host Michael Savage as brilliant but “insane" or "crazy,” an assertion which I truly believe he should be forced to prove in court, and again I have to wonder where Jim Reith acquired his doctorate in psychology or psychiatry, because he does enjoy throwing out such labels.

In the 1960s and seventies I was invited as a guest on almost every Central NY TV and radio show, always treated with kindness and interest. Only one time was I “blind-sided,” and that occurred when a radio talk show host surprised me by sneaking a UFO-debunking astronomer into our discussion, but even then we all acted responsibly like adults. My treatment in absence by Reith, however, was most curious, but not surprising, and I bring all of this to your attention to demonstrate a major reason why the UFO issue consistently reposes in the corner, jilted like a lover with herpes. Members of the media frequently prefer to get a laugh about UFOs and facts don’t matter. If you associate yourself with the subject, the press will often turn on you and treat you as expendable fodder for whatever absurd piece they write, report about or put on video. Indeed, I have also encountered members of the press eager but forbidden by management to do any serious reporting about UFOs, so the worm turns in more than one direction, you see. Maybe things are, unfortunately, the same with respect to your own media representatives.

Would debunkers such as Reith bother to check my blogs (particularly the movie blog -- see link), containing scans of personal letters from former military and government people involved in the official UFO investigation – people who believe there may be “aliens?” I doubt it. If former Air Force chief UFO consultant and professional astronomer Dr. J. Allen Hynek, or atmospheric physicist Dr. James McDonald -- both proponents of intelligence behind the UFO enigma --were still alive, would Reith be calling them up for their views? I doubt that. Shouldn't "an award-winning journalist" maintain an interest in examining the facts? I guess not.

Media debunkers remind me of an anecdote related by Dr. Hynek, regarding a symposium of professional astronomers, all gathered in an auditorium for an evening session. Suddenly, somebody came running in to announce to one and all that a possible UFO was being observed right outside. Not a single astronomer, recounted Hynek, would even bother to go outside and look, as they laughed and remained seated.

During one program, a few months after he condemned me in so many words, Reith interviewed Coast-to-Coast AM show host George Noory. Noory, like Reith, is a Navy veteran, and his views on UFOs, conspiracies and strange topics in general appear far more over the top than mine. Nevertheless, Reith’s interview with Noory was friendly, engaging and at no time did he refer to Noory as a whack job or nut bird. In Reith’s view, I guess it all depends upon who you are, and your level of celebrity.

In recent years, the Reith show expanded, in my judgement, from three barely tolerable to four acoustically excruciating hours in an obvious attempt to please and gain advertisers. In the process, callers usually do not speak directly one-on-one with guests as they did several years ago, and each call is screened, assuring that spontaneity seldom graces this predominantly anesthetizing program. A sense of humor, except for what passes as his own, is sorely lacking on this show whose host firmly keeps a decisive thumb over concepts of content and freshness. Reith does, however, feature a “snack of the day," usually consisting of food dutifully delivered to the studio by local restaurants evidently desperate for a plug on the show. The “snack of the day” is often followed or preceded by what might be termed the “hack of the day,” sometimes several of them – that is, certain guests, or members of the plain old locally wishy-washy, who appear on this frequently listless program so many times that their overdone appearances, overexposed reputations and, in my view, repeatedly microphone-kissed butts have likely become a real yawn for listeners who, nevertheless, stay tuned like zombies. If somebody ever invents euthanasia-by-radio, it will likely premiere on this program, if it hasn't already.

Without local and occasional out-of-town guests, including the odd celebrity, or during significant lapses where there are no callers, Reith and his current producer often end up chattering back and forth to one another about something on the Internet, rock music, movie stars, sports or other important issues -- anything to keep compliant listeners at hand for sponsor engagement in a town top-heavy with athletics, the sports-adoring media, and jocks honored simply for their testosterone and estrogen levels, a concerning inability to speak proper English in numerous cases, and a peculiar tendency of the most illustrious among them to sometimes violate laws, as an infestation of cheering fans who exist primarily to admire gender-neutral jockstraps over brains worship one and all. I don't wish to seem crass (wait, scratch that. . .), but around these parts it's frequently and uncomfortably the game, the whole game and nothing but the game. The awe-inspired drooling threshold is quite high amongst rabid sports fans, and one suspects the fluids would fill a lake. I trust that none of this will be interpreted as criticism.

Oh yes, the Reith show does mysteriously draw ratings, but how could one hope for something more when there is nothing more? How can one miss or long for something never experienced? If radio shows were mice, this might be the one to make you say, yikes, look what the cat dragged in.
The king of Syracuse talk radio has a style, though lately he, enigmatically, has begun to mellow a bit. Yet, last winter WSYR initiated a comment phone line in the tradition of other stations around the country, a number one could call to record a comment about station programming. What listeners didn’t expect, however, was that Reith took the first two or three recordings of the crop, played them on his show and publicly ridiculed the people who took the time to record their sincere comments. This fiasco didn’t last long and I’ve heard no more on WSYR radio about this wonderful audience "opportunity" to comment. I guess it's little wonder that WSYR occasionally runs an apparently sarcastic disclaimer when advertising the Reith show, "apologizing" in advance for anything the host might say during his program.

What more can be said? A little. Next time. In the meantime, if you haven't read my much earlier multi-part entry about The Les Crane Show, which appeared on late-night ABC-TV in the sixties, please take a few minutes to read about UFO debunking on a much larger scale. I posted four chapters in May of 2007 and the series is entitled, "The TV Show Destroyed by UFOs." For your convenience, the on-site Google search engine at the top of the page will locate it for you.