I Mourn the Loss of Michael Jackson

I was – and continue to be – a huge Michael Jackson fan. When we lived in Kansas City I would find an excuse to be in the car from 3 to 5 when his show was on. Those were the days of gentle talk radio: Michael Jackson and (for those who could stomach her) Sally Jesse Raphael in the afternoon and Larry King on the overnight. They all entertained by allowing authors to shill their books, politicians to shill their latest ponzi scheme, and scientists to shill their latest discovery.

Jackson was a political liberal, but that fact never occurred to me until much later when I heard him interviewed on t.v. He was so fair and even-handed that his own political bias never became an issue.

Besides, his British accent made it seem like you were listening to intelligent radio.

Rush Limbaugh is the guy that did Michael Jackson in. Some media commentators contend that Rush’s success was a result of America’s movement to the right. In other words, Rush was conservative and Michael was liberal, and this was the reason that Rush prevailed while Michael faded.

This is strictly a hunch, but my hunch is that it had little to do with politics. Michael (and Sally and Larry, for that matter) were gentle and thoughtful. Rush was brash to the point of meanness. Rush reflected the meaner and more in-your-face America that we know today. Erudite Michael Jackson reflected a disappearing nice, polite, and thoughtful America. That style was simply not as entertaining as the intelligent but mean-spirited, sound-bite style radio of Rush Limbaugh and those that have come along since.

I mourn the loss of Michael Jackson.

… although he is alive and well. I was reminded of him when a number people mourning the recent death of a pop singer mistakenly placed flowers on Michael-Jackson-the-Radio-Host’s star on the walk of fame last week.

Not only is the original Michael Jackson still around, he only recently left radio – he was unceremoniously fired from Los Angeles station KGIL in late 2008. But of course that is the way of radio talk show hosts; they rarely leave with grace and are more often than not dismissed with little explanation from the station manager.

Of course it has been years since he’s had a national venue. But I am glad that this week’s tragic death provided the opportunity to remember Michael Jackson, one of the greatest radio commentators in my lifetime.

Can I Help You?

I was down visiting my dad and came through Kansas City at dinner time. That can only mean one thing: barbecue! I wasn’t in the mood for smoky-sweet (the KC standard) so I decided to go to Gates BBQ. They have a store just off the interstate on State Line Rd and their signature sauce is a vaguely bbq-ish cumin sauce with just enough bite to make me sit up and notice – it’s the most unique sauce in KC and the dry rub they put on the meat is pretty good too.

As I sat down with my food I heard the other Gates’ signature: the girl behind the counter called out, “Can I help you?” in a strident voice. There was silence for a moment, and then I heard her say in a louder and far more accusatory tone, “Can I help you?”

Uh oh!

I looked up at the counter. Gates’ counter help isn’t as rude as the infamous soup nazi, but I confess that I did spend three years in therapy overcoming the crushing guilt instilled in me by repeated trips to Gates BBQ while we lived in Kansas City.

And then, for a third time, this time in a terminally condemnatory voice of doom, she almost shouted at the man standing in front of her: “Can I help you?”

With querulous voice he said, “We’re from out of town and I don’t know what to order.”

He had a maple leaf on his shirt and his legs were painfully white … almost certainly a Canadian.

Like duct tape and WD-40, the unnatural union of Canadian politeness and Gates’ Girl rudeness could not end well. I wondered if he’d get thrown out of the store. Instead, she handed him a paper menu, told him to go stand in the corner and make up his mind.

The lady cleaning tables scampered over and explained the difference between “long ends” and “burnt ends on a bun,” “sliced brisket” and “pulled pork,” and soon, with paper menu clutched in hand, he timidly approached the counter.

Shtick is shtick, so acting as if she had never seen this poor schmuck before in her life, she gave him that Gates’ Girl glare and yelled, “Can I help you?”

There was a pause, and in that pause I feared for the man. At Gates BBQ, “Can I help you?” is not a question. It’s more akin to a jockey’s whip designed to spur the line on ever faster. But finally, he asked for ribs with beans and brisket with fries for his wife (still standing obediently in the corner).

Before he had his credit card back in his billfold and billfold back in his pocket, the lady behind the counter had barked the next customer forward, and life had returned to normal at Gates BBQ.

As for me, I took a bite of beans, poured a bit more sauce on a long end, and munched contentedly, all the while wondering what was on the bottom half of the Gates menu. You see, I had never worked up the courage to stand in line long enough to read it all the way to the end.

Detroit’s Newest Auto Dealership

The following is from EGM Cartech:

If you live in Detroit and are looking to get your hands on a Chrysler or Jeep, you probably never would have thought that you’d have to leave Motor City to buy a vehicle from the two American brands. Last week, Lochmoor Chrysler Jeep on Detroit’s East Side stopped selling Chrysler products. The retailer was one of the 789 stores Chrysler Group LLC dropped from its dealer network.

The article goes on to say that Lochmoor will now sell the Indian-made Mahindra pickup truck.

Well, this is probably a bad omen for Detroit and the Chrysler Corp. But at least the Lochmoor dealership comes out smelling like a rose. They now have the opportunity to sell high quality, reasonably priced vehicles!

Given this new Indian connection, AT&T might want to outsource their call centers to Detroit. I hear that wages have gotten extremely high in Mumbai. Although there may be a serious language barrier for Midwesterners seeking help if the call center is relocated from Mumbai to Michigan.

Hanlon’s Razor

I know I quoted Matthew Collins in the previous post, but he’s been on a roll lately. Today he mentioned the contradictory “talking points” about the U.S. Dollar coming out of the government authorities in both Russian and China. Some bloggers suspect a conspiracy. Collins suspects it’s far simpler than that and then cites “Hanlon’s Razor,” a corollary to Ockham’s Razor. (If you snoozed through philosophy class in college, Ockham’s Razor is the law of economy or simplicity: the simplest explanation is usually correct.) The corollary is …

Hanlon’s Razor:

“Never assume malice where stupidity would suffice.”

It’s neither Federal, nor a Reserve.

Matthew Collins is trying to explain that the Federal Reserve is not a government agency, but rather a banking agency. In his usual humorous manner, he hits the nail on the head.

In reality, [the Federal Reserve] is neither Federal nor an actual Reserve per sé. Instead, it’s a cartel of America’s most powerful banks – along the same lines as OPEC, for example. Sure, the Chairman of the Board of Governors (currently Ben Bernanke) is obligated to speak before Congress at least twice a year, but we’ve all seen how well that works…

Brambles

Last autumn I was too severe
when fighting back the neighbor’s brambles
that had crept beyond the fence.
Brambles that were suffocating lawn,
entangling the mower when it passed near,
threatening to expand the neighbor’s yard
        through my lack of diligence.

Dead, yet not defeated,
its height collapsed onto my lawn
collecting leaves, plastic bags,
and a nest – five eggs bountiful –
laid bare when I trimmed back
the lifeless, spreading, brambles
to free the grass beneath.

Now, the well-trimmed grass
grows in mute disconsolation
beneath the denuded eggs
their mottle bleaching
in the brightness of the vernal sun.