Omir the Storyteller

Stories. Music. Politics. Technology. Baseball. Friends. Family. Potrzebie.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Internet radio is coming back


Of course for some of us it never left at all, but that's beside the point.

Yesterday the fact that I hadn't read Bill Virgin's weekly radio column in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in several weeks percolated through the cheesecloth of my consciousness. So I went to the P-I site and searched for Radio Beat (the name of the column, as I remembered) and the last entry I found was for sometime in March. Well, this wouldn't do. Had they cancelled it? No, I then searched for the words "Bill Virgin radio" and found yesterday's column. It'd be nice if he or they kept the name, but oh well, at least they have a weekly radio column. Turns out yesterday's column was about conservative talk station KKOL and its bid to move to Tacoma and go to 50,000 watts. Bleah.

But in looking for the column, I found a discussion of two new features available at KOMO Radio's website in the March 24th column. Those two features are podcasting, and an Internet stream. According to the site the Internet stream is only supposed to be available between the hours of 5 AM and 7 PM local time, but ssssssh, don't tell anyone. Last night at about 11 PM I was able to listen in. News, traffic and weather, with sports, business and entertainment news twice an hour. Lather, rinse, repeat. The same format that has served them pretty well for about three years, if I remember correctly. The same format I can get by turning on the radio that sits on the top shelf of my desk, but with two distinct differences:

  • No commercials. I'm sure this is to avoid the Internet penalty for music used during commercials, but hey, if I don't have to listen to the commercials, I won't complain.
  • The stream continues during Mariner games. By contract KOMO would not be able to stream the Mariner games, even though they're the flagship station for the Mariners Radio Network, because Major League Baseball owns those rights and charges me $15 a year to borrow them. Actually, the way the Mariners are playing right now, it might be nice to have the stream available as an alternative during the games. Also, again according to the website, extended versions of some of the stories will be available when the game is going out over the air.
The site also offers podcasting of stories covered on KOMO. Taking a look at the podcast feed as I type this, I see that they're currently offering the following stories (just the top few chosen from the feed:

  • The latest news and features from Seattle's KOMO News
  • While Seattle has no shortage of coffee vendors, fans of a true cafe will likely point you to Dow Lucarell's nearest Uptown Espresso.
  • The popular 90s band is back with a new album titled 'Youth' full of great cruisin' rock 'n roll.
  • When it comes to purchasing a new mattress, the best bed is the one that's most comfortable to you.
  • With the price of regular diesel fuel rising, Biodiesel looks better to many.
  • While CD sales stagnate, sales of good old vinyl records are brisk.
  • Consumer Reports found that the diet works well in the short term, but the program is nutritionally imbalanced.
  • 'The Light in the Piazza' -- developed at Seattle's Intiman Theatre -- will compete against three other musicals for the top award.
  • The Nowhere Men have been slavishly recreating the sound of the Beatles for enthusiastic Northwest audiences.
You notice that all of these but the first are human interest, entertainment and consumer report stories -- things that have a longer "shelf life" than hard news items. (The first is a pointer to their live stream.) I would hope that as time goes on and KOMO gets more comfortable with the idea of podcasting, they would be able to take some time to do longer stories with more background than the stories that fit into their current rapid-fire format. For instance, their over-the-air format would allow for only a minute or so to be spent on a story on the Republican challenge to Governor Gregoire's election; a podcast piece might include brief political biographies of the major players, more in-depth interviews with state Democratic and Republican figures, and background pieces on the relevant law and other previous challenges to the electoral process.

Podcasting is a new medium and people and companies are still figuring out how to adapt to it. I hope KOMO does something interesting with the format and doesn't just do what everyone else does, whatever that turns out to be.

Back in the early days of radio, many attempts were made to kill it. The Navy thought radio amateurs were a menace to shipping and sought to banish them to frequencies then thought useless. Those "useless" frequencies turned out to have much greater potential for long-distance communication than the Navy had ever dreamed of. Musicians' unions resisted the use of live music in radio, which gave rise to talented amateurs, recordings and dramatic presentations, the precursors of the shows of radio's golden age. When those shows moved to the new medium of television, radio reinvented itself as a local medium, eventually giving rise to talk radio. And when broadcasting moved to the Internet and actions by the RIAA and publishers' organizations threatened to make it grind to a halt, Internet "radio" responded with areas that weren't being served by the entertainment-industrial complex. Niche genres. Small bands not under contract to a major label. Roots music. Spoken word. Podcasting. Every time I bemoan the fact that the Man has driven music off the airwaves, I then think it wasn't that great a loss, because an incredible diversity of stuff has come up to replace the same top 40 shlock we were hearing over the air.

It's a great time to be an Internet audio geek.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

What is wrong with the Mariners?


Now I will admit to not having watched or listened to any games recently, so I don't have a good answer to that question, but as I write this the Mariners have lost 10 of their last 11 games. By my count that means they started this skid at 12-11. They were almost even with California Anaheim Los Angeles Disneyland the Angels. Now they're about six games back.

On paper this team looks good. Beltre is coming off a solid season. Boone is a gold glover. Moyer started out the year 3-0. Pineiro and Meche both have the makeup to be the kinds of pitchers general managers would trade their mothers for. Everyone on the team except maybe Ichiro has hit better than they are now. Boy, if we were playing on paper we'd have it made.

So what's the problem?

Injuries have to be one of the big problems. Who knows where we'd be right now if Bobby Madritsch was in the lineup? Maybe Pokey Reese could make a difference. It's hard to tell. And the team has to be down what with Dan Wilson being out for . .. well, maybe forever.

But injuries can't be the only problem. It could be morale, or it could be that losing begets losing, but dangit, these guys are professionals. They aren't supposed to let stuff like losing close ones get to them.

I just wish I knew what the problem was. Bill Bavasi would probably pay me a nice hefty consultant's fee if I could just help him put a name to it.

It's gotten bad enough that I don't even want to turn on the scores anymore. And I know it's been bad before, but I don't think it's ever been this bad after it's been that good. As recently as two years ago we won over 90 games. Now look at us.

It's gotten bad enough that yesterday, when Dave from the Aquasox ticket office called me to pitch their plans for this year, I didn't kick him off the phone like I do most telemarketers. I just listened to his pitch and all the while though oh please oh please oh please can the Aquasox season just start now? Please make the bad baseball stop.

But you know, as bad as things are, it could be worse, and I don't mean we could be looking at 0 for the month of May. Some of you remember five years ago in August when the Mariners were on a skid that eventually went to eight losses on the way to losing the West by less than two games. Worse, they were losing to terrible teams like Kansas City and Detroit. After about the sixth or seventh loss Lou Piniella got up in front of the microphone on KIRO and said something like, "Well, you know, you have to keep it in perspective. I mean, look at the sailors on the Kursk." A Russian submarine had gone down that week with 118 men on board. Even when it's bad entertainment, baseball is just entertainment. Even Mariners baseball.

Well, at least we have the Sonics to watch.

Oh, wait . . .

About The Cowboy And The Rattlesnake


This was the third story I did for Daily Kos and the second under the banner of Sunday Griot. Unlike The Wolf and the Dog, which was more or less a straight retelling of Aesop, The Cowboy and the Rattlesnake was an adaptation. The original version had a woodsman meet up with an adder along the side of the road. He took the adder home and killed it when it threatened one of his children. Changing the adder to a rattlesnake was a natural, and who better to meet up with a rattlesnake than a critter-lovin' cowboy?

I made a change to the original based on a comment by Daily Kos reader badger, who pointed out that a rattlesnake is unlikely to think a horse looks like a meal as I suggested on Daily Kos. I rewrote the last paragraph a bit for this blog with that suggestion in mind.

The Cowboy And The Rattlesnake


Once upon a time not too far from here there was a cowboy. This cowboy was a kind man, and liked animals, and animals seemed to like him. So they all got along pretty well.

Now this particular day had started out fairly warm, but a cold front had moved in and it was threatening to snow. That's the way it is sometimes in those parts. So, as the cowboy was out making the rounds, he noticed something by the side of the trail. As he got closer, he saw that it was a rattlesnake. Now as you know, rattlesnakes are exothermic creatures, which means they don't have any body heat of their own. Something has to heat 'em up. So that rattlesnake had gone out that morning looking to catch some rays, and maybe get itself a nice mouse or lizard in the bargain. But as the temperature dropped the rattler found itself too far away to get back to its den, and the cold air made it slow down, and then stopped it altogether. In short, it was freezing to death.

The cowboy didn't care much for rattlesnakes, but as I said he was a kind man, and liked animals, and didn't want to see the rattler suffer. So he picked it up -- carefully, so he didn't meet up with the sharp end -- and put the rattler in a saddlebag, then rode back to where he was going to bed down for the night.

Well, the cowboy lit himself a campfire, put the saddlebag near the fire but not so near as to cook the rattler, and made himself some coffee and bacon. His intention was to keep that rattlesnake in the saddlebag until the weather warmed up enough, then open up the bag, let the rattler go, and get out of the way fast. But it turns out that rattler had plans of its own. The side of the saddlebag warmed up enough that the rattler started stirring before the cowboy expected, and that rattler decided to explore his new surroundings. He was hungrier than he had been that morning, and his tongue could pick up the scent of something that smelled powerfully like food of an unexpected kind. So, the rattler worked his way out of the saddlebag.

The cowboy's horse was nearby, and like any horse with a lick of sense it whinnied and backed away once it saw the rattler. This spooked the snake, and the combination of hunger and fear triggered something basic in its reptilitian brain. It commenced to rattling and coiled back to strike . . . and exploded as the cowboy, who had heard the commotion and gone for one of Winchester's finest, blew it in two.

"I tell you," said the cowboy as he lowered his rifle and the report died away, "You just can't expect gratitude from the wicked."

Been a few days, hasn't it?


Like they say, life is what happens to you when you're making other plans.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

About The Golden Hart King


This story is based on an old tale from India. In the Indian story there are two herds of deer, and in the end the king of the golden deer succeeds in securing safety, not only for both herds of deer, but for all animals, even the birds and the fish. I simplified the tale quite a bit for today, in part because I wanted to put forward the idea that a king should be willing to do anything he asks his subjects to do, but also because I had heard the tale a while ago and only remembered the barest parts of it.

That's really the essence of storytelling, if indeed there is one. You remember the outline of the story and the main points, and flesh out the details. That makes the story your own. Even when we tell familiar stories like Cinderella we never tell the story the same way the ancient Chinese or Charles Perrault or Walt Disney or the Algonquins or the Egyptians did, or do. We add characters, invent dialogue, or change the plot a little. My granddaughter's current favorite version has Ella going to two different balls, and she only loses her slipper at midnight of the second night.

The Golden Hart King


Once upon a time a herd of deer lived in a forest in the realm of a human king. These deer had beautiful blonde coats, almost the color of gold. Their coats were prized by hunters, who would come from great distances to hunt the golden deer.

At length the numbers of the golden deer dwindled, until they became what today we would call an endangered species. So it was that the human king declared that thenceforth no one was to hunt the golden deer except by his royal assent. Many hunters came and asked him for permission to hunt the deer, but they were all turned away, and over time the herd grew.

Now as kings do the human king died and was succeeded by his son, and him in turn by his son, and on for many years, and all of these kings protected the golden deer, and their numbers increased. But eventually a human king rose up who had a passion for hunting. He saw the great herd of golden deer and decided he would hunt them. And hunt them he did! Sometimes he would slay three, four, five deer in a single day.

The deer were alarmed that this human king might all by himself bring the herd back to the size it was when the first king took them under his protection, so one night they held a council. The deer shared many ideas about what to do. Finally the king of the deer spoke to his subjects. "It is clear that the human king means to hunt us," said the hart king, "so the best we can do is to limit our losses. Here is what we shall do. Every morning we shall have a lottery. The deer who draws the lot will present himself to the human king, and lead him on a chase away from the bulk of the herd. With any luck at all he will be able to slay no more than one of us every day, and in that way we can protect the other members of the herd."

The deer all agreed to this, and so it was the next morning, they drew lots and one deer was chosen. He went out of the forest, made sure the human king could see him, and then led the human king on a wild chase through the forest. At the end of the day the king had hunted his deer, but he had had to work for it!

This continued for some time. Every day the human king would hunt a deer chosen by lot. He never was able to kill more than one deer in a day, and sometimes the deer would lead the human king on an all-day chase and live to tell the tale.

Then one day the lot fell to a pregnant hind. This threw the deer into a quandry.

"What shall we do?" they asked. "We never anticipated this." "We cannot send her out to die with her calf."

"Please," she told them. "It is my duty. I am almost due. I shall deliver my calf and then go out to do what I must do."

"No." The voice was as familiar as it was firm. It was the deer king. "This cannot be done. The calf will need its mother or both will die." He paused for a moment, then said, "I will go in your place."

The deer were astonished and begged him not to go. "You are our king," they told him. "How will we survive without you?" Several others offered to go in place of the hind. But he would not change his mind. He turned to one of his sons. "You shall reign in my stead. Be a good king and do as you have seen me do." And with that the hart king left the forest.

The human king had just finished his breakfast and was checking the fletching on his arrows when he saw a great golden deer silhouetted against the morning sky. This was the moment he lived for! He slowly grabbed an arrow, fitted it to his bowstring . . . and then stopped as he realized who he was facing.

The human king lowered his bow. He called out, "You are the king of the golden deer, are you not?"

"I am," the hart king called back.

The human king was puzzled. "How is it that I am to hunt a fellow monarch?"

"I am here in the place of a hind who is ready to calve," he replied. "You will hunt me in her stead, for I am not prepared to have my subjects do anything that I am not prepared to do myself."

When he heard this, the human king lowered his bow and finally dropped it to the ground. "I can see that you are a very wise king," the human king said, "for you put the welfare of your subjects ahead of your own. Such a king is better suited to lead his people than to be sport for a man. Let the word go forth from today that so long as we both live, no man, myself included, will hunt the golden deer."

And so it was that the golden deer lived in peace from that time until the end of the human king's life, and the human king lived a very, very long time.