Friday, October 30, 2009

The View From the Phlipside

These are the scripts from my weekly media commentary program on WRFA-LP Jamestown

My name is Jay Phillippi and I've spent my life in and around the media. TV, Radio, the movies and more. I love 'em and I hate em' and I always have an opinion. Call this the view from the Phlipside

Time to note the passing of another media icon. To me he was always one of the more perplexing stars but a star he was. Last week we lost Soupy Sales.

It's easy to roll our eyes at the mention of Soupy. His comedy was a very old fashioned style, even back in the 1950's when he first began his rise to fame. Sales was classic vaudevillian with the crazy characters, funny voices and the multiple levels of meaning. He really made his fame as the host of a childrens TV show known variously as the 12 O'clock Comics, Lunch with Soupy Sales and the Soupy Sales Show. Along with longtime characters Pookie, Black Tooth and White Fang (a character he developed while in the Navy during World War II) he later parlayed his ad libbed humor, versatile voice and malleable face into a long career as guest star and game show panelist. He also served for a short time as the buffer program between Imus in the Morning (who disliked Sales) and Howard Stern's afternoon program (Sales disliked Stern despite Howard claiming him as a childhood hero) on WNBC in New York.

For me Soupy was always associated with New York so I was very surprised to discover that he was born Milton Supman in North Carolina. The Supmans, the only Jewish family in town, ran the local dry goods store where they sold sheets to the local Ku Klux Klan. Their last name was commonly mispronounces SOUP-man so they nicknamed their three sons Hambone, Chickenbone and Soupbone. Soupbone, later shortened to Soupy, stuck.

But what about the pie in the face you're saying? Of course no mention of Sales can omit his signature gag. Again this is a classic old bit that goes back years before Soupy. But when you take over twenty thousand it really does become your bit. Sales took them in the face, on top of his head, two at once on either side of his head, and walked into them. It became such a big deal (at one point Sales was one of the most popular comedians in America) that stars like Sammy Davis Jr, Mickey Rooney and even Frank Sinatra lined up to be on the show and get hit with a pie.

There are plenty of other stories about Soupy. The bit where he told kids to sneak into their parents rooms and send him some of those funny green papers in the wallets, his abrupt replacement on WNBC in mid-show, and the long standing and utterly false claim that Sales did dirty jokes on his childrens program. He loved Jazz and showcased it on TV shows. In the end we need to remember the comedian who was so much more than just a pie in the face.

Soupy Sales died last week in the Bronx at the age of 83.

Call that the view from the Phlipside

Thursday, October 29, 2009

View From the Phlipside

These are the scripts from my weekly media commentary program on WRFA-LP Jamestown

My name is Jay Phillippi and I've spent my life in and around the media. TV, Radio, the movies and more. I love 'em and I hate em' and I always have an opinion. Call this the view from the Phlipside

One of the saddest commentaries on the human condition is our inability to just get along. There is a deeply rooted push to wall ourselves off from folks who are different, to try and stay with others as much like as ourselves as possible. The world wide web seemed to offer the first step in tearing down those walls. It was a hope that we could set aside some, maybe even most, of our prejudices if we could deal with one another only in the virtual realm.

Sadly it seems it may not work here either.

I know that one online community where I was a member for a long time couldn't do it. Our particular politics drove one group to demand and receive their own personal neighborhood. It was a very sad moment for me. I worry when we demand our rights to a personal ghetto.

A new survey by the folks at Nielsen Claritas shows that it's happening in a lot of places just by default. Their survey of social networking sites showed that each neighborhood had its own distinctive personality. The survey indicates folks on MySpace tend to be a more blue collar/middle class group than the folks on Facebook. Residents in both of those neighborhoods tend to be more downscale than users of Twitter and LinkIn, a social network aimed primarily at business contacts. Bloggers and users of Twitter and LinkedIn are also more likely to be Facebook users, be from urban settings and be economically upscale (well two out of three for me isn't bad).

So does this mean the traditional social divides will inevitably be repeated in the virtual world? Yes and no I think. Certainly to start out we will be with the folks who make us comfortable. I left MySpace because I found a lot of the material and approach there to be excessively juvenile. Facebook has its juvy, silly side as well but I felt like I have much better control over it. What will fight against the hardening of the old system in the new world is how much easier it is to wander into a different "neighborhood" and look around. The worst that might happen, in most places at least, is that you'll get flamed by the inhabitants. This ability to explore, to experience and to meet and greet in a largely safe environment clearly encourages folks to go beyond their comfort zone even if only by a little bit. Slowly expanding our comfort zones may be the best approach to the problem.

If the social media can help us learn that the stranger in our midst is in fact a fellow human being very much more like us than we thought than that may make up for its other shortcomings.

Call that the view from the Phlipside

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

View From the Phlipside

These are the scripts from my weekly media commentary program on WRFA-LP Jamestown

My name is Jay Phillippi and I've spent my life in and around the media. TV, Radio, the movies and more. I love 'em and I hate em' and I always have an opinion. Call this the view from the Phlipside

Given my media commentary gig here and my work with young people in real life it would seem inevitable that I would have a comment on the whole Balloon boy/Heene Family story. To be honest I'd rather not. In the great American tradition of innocent until proven guilty I'll give the Heenes the benefit of the doubt for the moment, no matter how unlikely it may seem.

Instead let's take a minute to look at the underlying cause of an awful lot of stupidity in American culture. Call it the cult of fame. For this I'm afraid I may have to lay a fair portion of the blame at the feet of a fellow Pittsburgh boy Andy Warhol. Warhol's well known statement that "In the future everyone in the world will be famous for 15 minutes" seems to have taken root as religious writ in our society. It's no longer a matter that it might come true but rather that it is our Constitutionally protected right to be famous. Our lives are not complete unless we've had our moment in the sun. Sadly we overlook a very important fact about fame. It doesn't play favorites and it doesn't play fair.

Charles Manson, Ted Bundy, Wilbur Mills, all the guests on the Jerry Springer show. Every last one of them got their 15 minutes of fame. Care to swap places with them? Monica Lewinsky, like to carry around her kind of fame for the rest of your life? We treat fame like it's some kind of grand prize, as if there were nothing better on the face of the earth than being FAMOUS. Yet take a look at the lives of the vast majority of the folks who have achieved fame. They spend large portions of their lives and their fortunes trying to get OUT of the spotlight. They can't eat a meal at a restaurant, fill up their gas tank or just have a quiet drink at the neighborhood bar. The other side of fame is that it isn't yours to keep. While you're famous an enormous flock of vultures will descend on you trying to steal, borrow or just rub off some of your fame. And they'll be very angry if you don't play their game.

And don't forget the other famous phrase on the subject - "Fame is fleeting". A moment ago I mentioned Wilbur Mills. If you're a political junkie that name may have immediately meant something. My bet is a lot of you thought it sounded familiar but couldn't recall that he was the Ohio congressman found drunk in the Tidal Basin in our nation's capital in the company of a stripper (extra points for her name - Fanne Fox). The best news for the congressman is that most of us have forgotten him. The Heenes need to hope we'll do the same for them.

Call that the view from the Phlipside

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

What I've been reading

Haven't seen any movies recently, very depressing.

But I've been reading a lot.

I forgot this one last time I checked in:

"Bad News" by Donald Westlake. I stumbled on Westlake while I was still in high school and fell in love with his funny, dark stories of crime in New York. John Dortmunder is a classic Westlake character both an utter mediocrity at crime and a criminal genius all at the same time. In this one John decides to make some easy money that turns out be grave robbing. Add in Indian casinos and the usual band of wonderful Westlake characters and it's a fun ride. Sorry to hear that the author passed away late last year. Guess I'll just have to enjoy his 100+ books in his memory.

"For the Sins of My Father" by Albert DeMeo
. The true life story of the son of a mid-level Gambino mobster. DeMeo walks you through the dual life of his family, his father and himself. You walk with him as he slowly begins to understand who his father is including the self deceptions both he and his family needed to survive. I found the beginning slow but the second half was gripping. A very different view of the mob without sugar coating it either. Very good book.

"The Confessor" by Daniel Silva The second Gabrial Allon book I've read and enjoyed. This one focuses on the end of World War II and the unfortunate role of the Roman Catholic church in dealing with the reality of the Holocaust. The church did very well in some ways and shamefully in others. The action moves along briskly. I'm sure to grab another in this series sometime soon.

Had a long drive to Long Island a couple weeks ago and grabbed an audio book for the ride. I've become a big fan of them for drives like this (7+ hours).

Blue Heaven by C.J. Box
- Despite his NY Time Best Seller cred I'd never heard of this author before. I like thrillers for the drive, they keep me focused on what's going on so I grabbed it. This was a GREAT "read"! Tense, thrilling, some nice twists. Set in northern Idaho it follows the run by a 12 year old girl and her little brother trying to escape a band of rogue retired cops. Really enjoyed it.

Hope to see a movie here soon...


Monday, October 26, 2009

Resource Review - Youth Ministry Survival Guide

(This is part of a year long series of resource reviews I've been doing. 52 resources in 52 weeks. You can see all the reviews in one place here)

OVERALL - The Youth Ministry Survival Guide by Len Kageler, 198 pages, 2008 Zondervan -

How to thrive and last for the long haul.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? This is another in-depth look at what it means to be a youth minister, the good, the bad and the indifferent. These books are much less about teaching techniques, class room exercises, activities or retreat themes than they are about living out a calling to minister to young people. There are lots of folks who think it's the easiest job on the planet. "You get paid to go to camp" or "You get paid to play games". Well, yes but as we all know that's the least of what this ministry demands from us. Kageler takes a look at the impact on both the ministry, the "job" (you know that whole this is what they're paying you for stuff), individual health plus impact on family and marriage.

RESERVATIONS - This is really a book for folks in the professional ministry. Some of it translates for volunteers but I think the average volunteer leader/minister will find this book frustrating. I would certainly urge folks who are the primary youth minister in their congregation to read this book but keep in mind a fair part of it isn't aimed at you.

RECOMMENDATION This is another strong contender for "Books that should be given to new youth ministers at the start their careers". It's very sad and very disturbing to the development of young people to see the youth ministers making the same mistakes over and over again. This book lays out a very clear path to lead a beginner into a solid ministry and a veteran to help re-stoke the fire. It may not be the BEST youth minister book I've ever read but it certainly sits very close to the top of that list.

Friday, October 23, 2009

View From the Phlipside

These are the scripts from my weekly media commentary program on WRFA-LP Jamestown

My name is Jay Phillippi and I've spent my life in and around the media. TV, Radio, the movies and more. I love 'em and I hate em' and I always have an opinion. Call this the view from the Phlipside

You really have to wonder some days if anyone is paying any attention. Not to this program, I'm happy to note that I know of several people who seem to have nothing better to do than listen in. No in this case I'm wondering what on earth the folks who approve the promotional materials over at the Pepsi Cola company are thinking.

If you haven't heard Pepsi is getting a lot of flack over a new iPhone app. An app is a little program that you can use on your iPhone to do all kinds of things. I have apps that help me find ATMS, get the weather, keep connected with Facebook, even track my bicycle mileage back when it was still warm enough to ride. The Pepsi app is just so appallingly WRONG that I can't imagine folks listening to the concept and saying "Oh, yeah we definitely want that representing our company".

The app is in support of the AMP energy drink and is intended to help the younger male target audience "score" with the ladies. The program, charmingly named "Amp Up Before You Score" does this by providing pick up lines for 24 different "types" of women. The types range from Sorority Girl to Goth Girl to Trouble to Businesswoman to Nerd. Each type is represented by a cartoon figure that is, shall we say, well endowed. To be honest I'm not overly outraged by this part of the app. It's stupid and childish and shows a rather juvenile view of women but I can see the argument that it was intended as a joke.

No it's the next bit that worries me. The app also offers a "scoreboard" so you can keep track of your presumable conquests. Speaking as an older guy of a certain level of experience let me pass along this bit of wisdom. The ladies really hate this kind of thing. You're not going to impress them with any of it. No I'll take that back, there do seem to be some women who do fall for this. Being shallow and juvenile is not solely a male characteristic.

Think about this guys - You meet the new lady, she sees the iPhone and wants to check it out. She scans through your apps, sees the Amp one and opens it. And gets to see exactly how you've been "scoring". In all likelihood, you won't be scoring that night. So dump the app.

Astoundingly, despite the almost universal disdain for the program and the fact that Pepsi has already apologized for it, they haven't opted to do the same. Amazing.

Call that the view from the Phlipside

Thursday, October 22, 2009

View From the Phlipside

These are the scripts from my weekly media commentary program on WRFA-LP Jamestown

My name is Jay Phillippi and I've spent my life in and around the media. TV, Radio, the movies and more. I love 'em and I hate em' and I always have an opinion. Call this the view from the Phlipside

The folks over at Google have lots of things going on right. Of course that seem to be par for the course for them, there is ALWAYS something going on. Some new whiz bang toy being thought up or some great new concept. In fact some folks are even saying Google is the new way of checking on the health of the economy. Used to be hemlines or which conference won the Super Bowl.Now apparently we just watch Google. In case you're wondering the Google gauge is indicating some good news right now for the economy.

On another front however the news is perhaps a little darker. One of the things that defenders of the internet have always said is that it's all upfront. Sometimes even a bit too upfront. Until now. Thanks to Google. The folks at the big G have come up with a new little wonder toy that allows you to effectively do a drive by shooting (metaphorically) of sites on the web. And the owner of the site will never even know, unless they know about this fun little toy. It's a toolbar called Sidewiki.

Here's the deal - sidewiki can be used to leave comments on virtually any website in the world that can only be seen by other folks who use sidewiki. This means you can cruise over to your least favorite politician, a local pizza joint that ticked you off or pretty much any place else and say just about anything you want. Your fellow sidewikians (I think I just made that word up) can vote you up or down but that comment is there. That means that the negative effects of your words linger and the person or business may have no idea that they have a problem. Worse yet even if they do use sidewiki and can see your comments now they have a whole new frontier they have to spend time and money defending. I saw one article that compared it to spraying graffiti on someone's front door. There's nothing you can do to stop it and you're going to spend time and money cleaning up the problem.

Google maintains that they never meant the toolbar to be used this way but that's often the way it goes in the wild frontier mentality of the world wide web. Like so much of the web great new ideas have a way of being turned to the dark side all too easily. If Google wants to stay the bell weather of the economic world they better figure out a way to not help internet vandals create drive by problems for the neighborhood.

Call that the view from the Phlipside

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

View From the Phlipside

These are the scripts from my weekly media commentary program on WRFA-LP Jamestown

My name is Jay Phillippi and I've spent my life in and around the media. TV, Radio, the movies and more. I love 'em and I hate em' and I always have an opinion. Call this the view from the Phlipside

One of my favorite TV shows has provided me with a bit of a conundrum. I'm trying to figure out why I'm still watching. That's led me to the thought of what it really takes to pull the plug on something you enjoy.

The program in question is Bravo network's "Top Chef". I've watched every single season of this reality based competition program. If you don't know it the show takes professional chefs from all over the country and pits them in various cooking competitions. All the usual tricks, taking them outside their comfort zone and seeing how they do. Since I love to cook it's fun to watch. Besides there's always the lovely Padma Lakshmi to gaze upon. But moving on...

My problem is that I find this season to have the least inspiring cast of characters ever. Sure there are the folks I can't stand (Michael and Eli) and the usual cast of sad sacks that you know are going out in the first couple weeks (Preeti and Ron for example constantly had the deer in the headlights look to them). But after that what's left? A whole bunch of people I don't really care too much about at all. There's a couple more who are clearly running out their string (Laurine and Robin), the positively grim Voltaggio brothers (what horrible thing happened in their childhood that sucked all the joy out of those two), Jennifer who needs to learn to relax, Robin who needs to shut up (seriously, just be quiet) and Kevin. Who appears to be a great chef but has the personality of Wonder bread.

So the question becomes - "Why am I still watching this?". It's disturbing to think that I'm still watching waiting for my two least favorites to crash and burn. I don't want to be that guy. Am I waiting, as I think an awful lot of the audience is, to see the brothers finally punch each other out? Or am I really that smitten with the lovely Padma? . So when do you quit. Is it like collecting music of your favorite band where you have to buy ALL the albums, even the ones that stink? Should I continue watching a TV cooking show that keeps a contestant whose dish was compared to "cat food" over someone whose dish was just boring? I'm only eight episodes in so it isn't like I've invested a LOT of time into the season.

Maybe I really am waiting for the fisticuffs, or waiting to see if guest judge Toby Young will really eviscerate someone at Judge's table. Or maybe it's Padma. I guess I'll have to keep on watching to find out.

Call that the view from the Phlipside

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Some people just suck

This week was a bit better than last at volleyball. The result was the same 0-3, 0-3 but it felt very different.

Last week we played against a team that wanted to play SERIOUS volleyball. Now you should know that this is a YMCA Adult Co-Ed Recreational league. It used to puzzle me why SERIOUS players would play in a Rec league. It took me a couple years to figure it out. Simply put they're not good enough for the Power league. They know if they played with the "Big Boys" they'd get their butts handed to them. So rather than be the lower echelons of a league that plays the sport SERIOUSLY they settle for being the champs of a Rec league.

I find that attitude both pathetic and disgusting.

In a Rec league most of us are there to have some fun and get some exercise. It's RECREATIONAL which means it's supposed to be fun. Well maybe they're having fun wiping the floor with lesser teams. Pardon me if I find the concept less than inspiring. It's the action of a bully.

So last week's team was there to WIN. One player in particular clearly had played at a highly competitive level. He had the height and skills needed to play the game well. Sadly he chose to play the SERIOUSLY. Here's the prime example of what set my whole team off. Playing at the net he jumped and spiked the ball. Directly into the sternum of one of my female team mates. Now I'm old fashioned enough to admit that the fact it was a FEMALE team mate makes a difference. So sue me. What really set us off was his reaction after hitting her. Didn't check to see if she was OK, didn't apologize for hitting her. Just turned and walked away from the net. Hey, he won the point and that's the idea right? They crushed us in three straight games. We weren't within 10 points in any of them.

Before anyone drops something along the lines of "Winning is everything, it's the only thing" on me let me note. Lombardi always felt that quote was taken out of context. He was talking about professional athletes. Not weekend warriors. Not folks playing in a Rec league. If you want go all out do it in a league set up for that. There's no trophy in our league for being the champion. We do have an end of season playoff for reasons I don't understand.

Perhaps the most disturbing final touch on this all was that the team is made up from the local school district's teachers. Makes me wonder what we are teaching our kids.

This week was different. Another team that was higher skilled than ours. (Let's be honest we are probably the lowest skill team in the league. Middle aged, short, inexperienced. We play to have fun). Whether it was us playing better (which we did) or them having an off night (which I'd bet on) the play was much closer. We nearly won all three, finished within 5 points or less in all three and generally had a good time. The other team played hard but also played to have a good time. We laughed and applauded and played recreational volleyball. They brought out the best in us. Which was cool.

One set of three losses was life giving. The other one sucked the life out of us. Hope the other team was proud of their win.

Am I bitter? Nope, they're not worth the time and energy. Just sad and irritating to have deal with people like that in this context. Be nice if they could deal with their issues on someone else's time.



Love this video! Who are we? Yeah, that's us.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Truth to Power

This I think is the very definition of the phrase "Speaking Truth to Power". It's also a powerful example of the role young people can have as leaders. This speech is from 1992 which means that Severn Suzuki is now 29 years old. she has continued her speaking and working for the life of our planet.

Resource Review - Hollywood Jesus

(This is part of a year long series of resource reviews I've been doing. 52 resources in 52 weeks. You can see all the reviews in one place here)

OVERALL - Hollywood - An absolutely brilliant combination of pop culture and faith. A site for reviews and thoughtful commentaries.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Too many of the websites I see that do faith based commentary on popular culture like movies, books, music and video games start with a suspicion of if not an outright dislike for their subject. Hollywood Jesus starts at the opposite end of the spectrum. These are people of faith who LOVE the movies, books and the like. That doesn't mean they rave up everything they see but they don't start from a stance that says popular culture is inherently evil. And that's refreshing. I find their reviews to be well written and well thought out. They approach faith from a stance that allows them to be open and accessible to all faiths (or no faith at all). Some will see that as a contradiction in terms but I'd recommend you take a long look at the site first.

RESERVATIONS Beyond the fact that I periodically disagree with their reviews, lol, I don't have too many reservations. Review sites of any kind are always about one person's opinion.

RECOMMENDATION If you love the movies and books and video games and the rest and are looking for a solid, faith based, well thought out place to get reviews try Hollywood Jesus.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The View From the Phlipside

These are the scripts from my weekly media commentary program on WRFA-LP Jamestown

My name is Jay Phillippi and I've spent my life in and around the media. TV, Radio, the movies and more. I love 'em and I hate em' and I always have an opinion. Call this the view from the Phlipside
I've talked a lot over the last year or so about the changes in the media, especially for the print media. As a life long reader of books, newspapers and magazines the future for those media are of great interest to me. Not just because I like reading but because each of them provide a unique and I believe important service to society. We've seen lots of ideas that haven't worked and some big names crash and burn. The latest in that line is Gourmet magazine. Last week the publisher Conde Nast announced that November's issue would be the last for the magazine. Even in an age when more and more of us are interested in good food and cooking for ourselves Gourmet couldn't keep the doors open.

So I guess the question is this - is there a successful formula out there? Is there a way that you can move to the digital world and be a success? The honest answer to that has to be we still don't know. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal may point us toward an interesting example however. The newspaper interviewed Sports Illustrated's Peter King about his transition from being one of the most respected print sports writers to being one of the digital world's most successful sports writers. King's online column "Monday Morning Quarterback" is reportedly generating 2 million visits a week. That, in the language of the advertising world, is a lot of eyes. Meaning a lot of chances to see a product, a message, a sales pitch. The question is what makes the difference? Take nothing away from Peter King, he's a bright, articulate writer who has serious connections in the NFL. He's well known and well respected. So quality content needs to be on the list of reasons why his transition has worked. In the article however King notes one other thing that has really seemed to make a difference. Peter King is just...well, Peter King. He talks about himself and his real life. The majority of his readers really like it because it helps them connect with him. Stories about the death of a pet and his daughter's field hockey results hit a chord in his readership.

And that may be the key ingredient we need to be looking at. Old line media tended to be impersonal. Especially print media. Electronic media, like TV and Radio, have always had the ability to bring "real people", or the illusion of real people, into the audience's home. Digital communication tends to be a very personal medium. That kind of personal connection may just be the winning ticket in the media lottery.

Call that the view from the Phlipside

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The View From the Phlipside

These are the scripts from my weekly media commentary program on WRFA-LP Jamestown

My name is Jay Phillippi and I've spent my life in and around the media. TV, Radio, the movies and more. I love 'em and I hate em' and I always have an opinion. Call this the view from the Phlipside

Came across something this past week that thrilled me because it is, as the saying goes, right in my wheelhouse. It's a book...about movies...about sports. If anyone is looking for gift ideas for your humble radio host this one would be great. It's called the Ultimate Book of Sports Movies written by Ray Didinger and Glen Macnow. The authors noted that when they were on the radio and brought up the subject of the ultimate sports movie the phones would blow off the wall with calls. So they wrote the book. Now the book is brand new and I haven't seen it yet so I'm not going to review it here.

But the concept really grabbed me. So I jumped online to see what other lists existed of the all time great sports movies. The results are interesting. Needless to say all kinds of movies make the different lists. Even very bad ones like "The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh" which was awarded the #100 slot in the book. As I scanned the lists I realized that there were a very small number of films that show up over and over again at the top of the lists. Using top 10 finishes among the half dozen lists I found there were four movies that seem to be the undisputed champs. "Bull Durham", "Raging Bull", "Hoosiers" and the original "Rocky". There is a clear gap down to the next batch which includes movies like "Rudy", "Field of Dreams", "Chariots of Fire", "Slapshot" and "The Natural".

Looking at these top four I'm interested to note some things. First of all, no football movies. Two boxing, one baseball and one high school basketball. The top football movies were "Rudy", "Brian's Song" and "Remember the Titans". Two of which are soppy, sentimental beasts. Hockey actually does a little better with "Slapshot" finishing just outside this top group. Of course there is really only one other hockey movie worth even mentioning and that's "Miracle on Ice". It's interesting to note that boxing MOVIES do so well when the sweet science is pretty much a dead letter in this country today. All four of the movies share a common theme - the underdog clinging to a belief in themselves to overcome the odds. Three of films end up with the hero not getting what they thought they wanted in the beginning (the exception being Hoosiers) but all discover something more important along the way.

The reality is that America loves the underdog. Yes, the Yankees are the greatest sports franchise of all time. But we all know that there's a special sweetness when the little guy rises up to beat the big boys every once in a while. Especially at the movies.

Call that the view from the Phlipside

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The View From the Phlipside

These are the scripts from my weekly media commentary program on WRFA-LP Jamestown

My name is Jay Phillippi and I've spent my life in and around the media. TV, Radio, the movies and more. I love 'em and I hate em' and I always have an opinion. Call this the view from the Phlipside

I like to joke with cashiers, usually when the computerized check out machinery is acting up, that all this new technology is here to make our lives easier. The reaction is usually "Yeah right". Well I've got exactly that feeling as I look at the latest attempt of the music industry to try and find it's way through the maze created by new technology.

A little history just to set the stage. In the modern era of the popular music industry the system has been largely set up to the advantage of the record company and disadvantage of the artist -whether that was singer, musician or writer. What a lot of people never understood was that if you were a singer or musician who didn't write your own music or at least not your hits you never made a dime from having that song played over and over on the radio. And that's still largely true today.

With the change in the way we the listening audience buys our music there are folks out there trying to make sure that the artists get taken care of on the business side. And that's a good thing. I'm not so sure that a bill pending in Congress called the Performance Rights Act is the right way to go. The PRA works on the basis that radio (AM and FM) have been getting a free ride for years and it's time to pay up. Under the bill radio stations would pay an yearly licensing fee for the music on top of the songwriters royalty payment. Small stations (like those here in Jamestown) would pay $5,000, non-commercial stations (like WRFA) and college stations would pay around a thousand. Large stations would pay a lot more.

I see several problems with this idea. First it will send a lot of small stations completely out of the music biz. In the end that's not good for the listeners or for the musicians. Second it ignores any value that the artist gets from the free airplay. You want a commercial on the station you pay for it. Radio play has driven sales for generations. Now radio stations will give away valuable air time and pay for the privilege. That just changes the direction of the unfairness. Finally small community radio stations and college stations will get crushed by the added burden. Most of these stations work on very tight budgets.

I'm all in favor of making sure the artist gets paid. A smart fellow once noted that the worker is worthy of his wage. And the current system is outdated and unfair. Instead of settling for the quick and dirty version why not spend the time to get it done right?

Call that the view from the Phlipside

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Favorite

Outside of pictures of my family and friends this is my favorite picture of all time. My boyhood hero, Bill Mazeroski, bringing home a world championship to the 'Burgh. And it was against the hated Yankees. Want to really annoy a Yankee fan? Ask them how is it possible to score more runs than the other team by a significant margin(55-27),out hit them (91-60), out homer them(10-4), hit for a higher batting average than them(.338 - .256), get two complete game shut outs from your ace (Whitey Ford) and still lose the World Series? Then point them to the 1960 Series.

And for extra points - to annoy Chicago Cubs fans point out that since 1945 only two teams with three even EX-Cubs have ever won a World Series (Pirates - 1960, Diamondbacks 2001). No team with more than 3 players tainted by the curse of the billy goat have ever done it. Now THAT's a curse!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Resouce Review - When Church Kids Go Bad

(This is part of a year long series of resource reviews I've been doing. 52 resources in 52 weeks. You can see all the reviews in one place here)

OVERALL - When Church Kids Go Bad by Les Christie, 201 pages, 2008 Zondervan - A look at the issue of discipline and a look at what discipline really means in the world of youth ministry.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? It's probably wise that Christie never uses the word "discipline" in the title of the book. As he acknowledges people have real problems with that word. He carefully lays out what he's talking about, the different approaches to it, the rationale behind it and how it can be applied both generally and in "problem cases". The book is careful to present all the ideas from a solid Scriptural basis while remaining solidly reality based. Christie is also very good about noting the needs for the youth leaders to be disciplined and talks about those time when it can break down for us (and him) as well. It's a solid look at a very important issue for youth ministries of all sizes.

RESERVATIONS - BUT IT'S NOT THE BOOK I WAS HOPING FOR! I was about half way through when I realized this fact. The sub-title is "How to Love and Work With Rude, Obnoxious and Apathetic Students". So I had gone into it thinking I was going to get some great ideas on how to inspire kids in the ministries. To be fair you do get some of that but it's not until Chapter 10 on page 126. The vast majority of the book is just on how to create a sane, loving environment (that really is the goal for proper discipline) and very little on how to handle and inspire the toughest, most challenging kids. Plus he perpetuates the outdated myth that sweets causes increases in activity levels. The majority of the studies out there do NOT link sugar with hyperactivity. Even worse the sub-chapter titled "Reduce or Eliminate Sweet Treats" talks mostly about a study that recommends limiting treats with additives or artificial coloring based on a 2007 study. This section should have been better presented and researched. I hate, hate, HATE finding these kinds of clunker sections in books like this.

RECOMMENDATION SIGH. The vast majority of this book is really good at what it's about. If you're looking for a discussion of how to bring a faith based and faith filled method of "discipline" (it's not a bad word folks)to your ministry then I heartily recommend it. It will help you understand why your youth may be acting the way they are, your part in those actions and how to make it work for everyone. If the title suggests to you what it did to me then I think you'll be a little disappointed.

Friday, October 09, 2009

The View From the Phlipside

These are the scripts from my weekly media commentary program on WRFA-LP Jamestown

My name is Jay Phillippi and I've spent my life in and around the media. TV, Radio, the movies and more. I love 'em and I hate em' and I always have an opinion. Call this the view from the Phlipside.

I thought I'd take a moment to catch up on a few subjects we've touched on over the last several months. Just to see where they've gone since I voice my opinion.

Have to admit my favorite story was the question of the DVD rental kiosks called Redboxes. I mentioned that Blockbuster might want to think about getting into the business just out of self defense. Later that week a friend pointed me to an article that said Blockbuster was planning on doing just that. Makes me feel pretty smart.

To help keep my ego in check I will note that Microsoft turned me down as a host for the debut of Windows 7 later this month. My computer is really up to the new OS so it wasn't surprising. But it means I AM looking for an invitation if anyone out there has been chosen as a host. I promise I'll be very complimentary about you in my report. No such guarantee for the software.

Early reports are split on the topics of the new search engine BING. After an early surge where it looked like they might be cutting into Google's business the latest reports are divided. Some show Bing sliding rather badly, others say maybe not. But it certainly hasn't taken the world by storm.

On that subject we must note the early ratings on the new Jay Leno show. Which have been terrible. Down 53% from the opening show with the Kanye West interview the Buffalo News recently reported that in our nearby large market the show sometimes has ranked FOURTH in its time slot. We'll have to wait and see if that still works for NBC's low budget business plan.

What I still consider a fairly dumb idea for a movie will actually begin shooting around the Harvard campus this month. Columbia Pictures has re-titled it "The Social Network". That's the Facebook movie. Color me still unconvinced.

And last but certainly not least the disaster that I thought was at the heart of "Jon and Kate plus 8" did indeed finally bob to the surface. Jon Gossilen has managed to make a complete fool out of himself with multiple affairs and claiming to " despise" his estranged wife only to turn around and decide it call be fixed once the network threatened to toss him out of the reality series. Now he wants the divorce proceedings to halt, to work on getting back together and oh yeah stop filming the series since it's bad for his children.
I can certainly agree with that last point


What follows is a rant, a veritable scream of outrage. You have been warned.

I was driving along in my car, a good day's work under belt, feeling that all was right with the world. As I drove I was listening to one of my favorite radio stations when I heard an interview that sent my blood pressure straight through the roof and a string of words that can not be repeated on the public airwaves to spring my lips. What I heard that day was nothing less than heresy, was in fact a simple and perverse announcement of abomination. Maybe you've heard it too. They've written a sequel to the Winnie the Pooh stories.

Hey I'm serious about this. This is an outrage. Spare me the logic that the book has been approved by the board at Pooh Properties, the trust established in A.A. Milne's will to care for his beloved characters. I don't care. It's just wrong. Add in the insult that they've decided to add a new character to the cast in the 100 Acre Wood and I must admit that you'll see just the beginnings of some foam frothing at the corners of my mouth.

I'm not a fan of "extending the franchise" as this practice is sometimes called. You had to be crazy to accept the challenge of writing the sequel to "Gone with Wind". Yet even with negative reviews by and large they actually did a second sequel beyond "Scarlett"! I will admit to reading and even liking Robert Goldsborough's sequels to the Nero Wolfe stories and I read a couple of the James Bond sequels by John Gardner. When you write a sequel you are faced with a very difficult choice - you must either be strictly faithful to the original or you give yourself some space to explore a little. The first is a stranglehold for any really good creative writer. The second way is to destroy all those things that the audience loves so much.

But the real villain here I'm afraid is the reading public. Since the days of Conan Doyle being dragged back to the stories of Sherlock Holmes by popular demand there is a foolish and unreasonable desire to have our beloved characters continue to dance for our amusement for ever and ever. First of all that's an insult to the original writer. We're saying "You didn't do anything special. We can replace you". Second it's disrespectful to the characters we love. Isn't it much better to have a limited number of really well done stories rather than an endless supply of stories of dwindling quality? Because that's inevitably what happens.

The new Pooh book was written for one reason and one reason only - to make more money. We don't need it. I don't want it and when the time comes to introduce my grand kids to the House on Pooh Corner the new book will not be invited to come bump, bump, bump down the stairs with Christopher Robin.


A professional hero of mine is being given the chance to redeem himself. And I'm torn as to whether or not it's such a good idea. When I worked in commercial radio I had three professional heroes - Jack Bogut, longtime morning man KDKA radio in Pittsburgh. The first DJ I ever paid any real attention to. The second was Dr. Johnny Fever of WKRP in Cinncinnati. Yeah, I know he's fictional but Johnny always knew it was first, last and always about the music. Last but not least was the legendary Don Imus. Imus returns to his TV broadcasts this week on Fox Business and that has me in a quandry.

Don Imus was named one of the 25 greatest talk show hosts of all time a few years ago. When I first started working mornings as the Phlipside back in the early '80's I would tape Imus's show on W-N-BC and then listen to it during my lunch break. Imus was aggressive, provocative and disrespectful. He was also brilliantly funny and did some biting satire. I still love the story of the Rev. Billy Sol Hargus, immortalized in a novel called "God's Other Son". How can you not love something called the 1st Church of the Goodey Death and Discount House of Worship? Imus started in California, moved to Cleveland and then New York city. His life has been half glorious rise to stardom and perpetual fall from grace.

Starting in the late '80's Imus became much more political on his show and his mistakes became bigger and bigger. The Rutgers women's basketball team comments were the biggest and most offensive of a long string of racially, ethnically, sexually and religiously derogatory speech. Imus was really the first great "shock jock". Like it or not Howard Stern followed in Imus's footsteps. And shock jocks are always dancing on the edge. I believe there is a place in radio for the shows that push us to the edge of unpleasant truth and make us look over. The last 10 years have seen Imus falling over that edge more and more often.

So this week after a brief stint doing his show on the RFDTV network (as weird a pairing as may be imaginable) Imus gets his own show on Fox Business Network. I will give my old hero this - he has never backed away from his responsibility for his comments. He apologized to Rutgers and had that apology accepted. He acknowleges that MSNBC and his radio employer were right to drop him afterwards. Let's hope that's a sign that with a little more age we'll get an Imus that knows where the edge is and dances on the correct side of it from now on.

Call that the view from the Phlipside

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Just listen, that's all I ask

Amazing and true. Made the hair stand up on my head. For all the young people whose parents have been less than perfect. And for all the parents, as a reminder of who we are called to be. Knock, knock.


Wednesday, October 07, 2009

My Life in Sports

Call me a naive.
Call me a wild eyed optimist.
Tell me that I've lost my mind, my common sense and any sense of proportion.
I don't care.

This picture by Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette perfectly expresses my feelings about my beloved Pirates. (If you're a Pirates fan you should be reading Dejan. Good writer, loves the 'Burgh and is a straight shooter about the ball club)

Yeah the skies have been dark for the Buccos. Better times are coming. I BELIEVE!

In other sports news:

I played what is assuredly my last round of golf for the summer. (For the record I believe it was my THIRD round of the summer. Sigh). I lost 3 balls and shot +14.

And was thoroughly satisfied.

Since my goal is to shoot bogey golf (+9) on a regular basis, a 14 over with as little play as I've had was pretty good (and yes the scorer was slightly generous, but only slightly). I was working on a new twist for my swing and it showed marked improvement. If I can only get out and play a bit more I might not be too far away from where I want to be. And it was a GLORIOUS fall day to play.

Volleyball season has begun. Lots of new team mates and I am arguably one of the best players on the team. Yeah, that's not good. We lost our first match 0-3 came back the next week to lose 1-2. You gotta like the trend. It's a fun group and we can laugh at ourselves. So we end up laughing a lot. Good exercise too. I'm happy.

Football pool time. I do a "for fun" pool with an Episcopal youth group in Minnesota, all done online. Last week I missed only the Bills game (never fill out your pool with your heart) and thereby was only down 5 points for the week. And finished THIRD!! That's pretty good but still, you miss one game you figure you might finish first. Hasn't happened in three years yet. I'm currently 22 overall for the season out of about 90 players. Still pretty good, only missing on one game.


Monday, October 05, 2009

Things I'm watching and reading

Just a little catch up on what I'm doing in my spare time:


"A Death in Vienna" by Daniel Silva. Was just looking for something sort of Dan Brown-ish while I wait for a copy of his new book to pop up at the library. Silva has a recurring character who is part art restorer and part Israeli spy. The story revolves around the Holocaust denial movement. It was a fast, fun read (much like Brown) and pretty good history (unlike Brown, lol). I enjoyed it a lot and will probably read some more in the series.

"Of Mice and Men" by John Steinbeck. I'd never read it before, what can I say. I've seen parts of movie versions and at least one stage version but never read the original. Talk about a fast read, the book is only just over 100 pages! The story of dreams and hard reality still plays well. Perhaps especially pertinent in these modern hard times too.

Movie -

Wordplay - This documentary about the National Crossword Puzzle Tournament was even more fun than I expected. I started messing around doing crosswords to help get me through Finals week at college and they continue to amuse me. The movie takes a look at some very serious crossword fans (like Jon Stewart, Ken Burns and Bill Clinton) and this amazing tournament. These are people who can dash off an ordinary crossword puzzle in less than five minutes and do the Sunday NY Times in ink. There's also a fascinating look at how crossword puzzles are constructed that just stopped me dead. Yes I'm a word nerd and maybe not everyone else will be as enthralled but the people are fun and funny and comfortable with who they are. I really enjoyed it.

Working on a new Tom Clancy book but I'm not getting grabbed by the throat as much by this one. We'll see where it goes.


Resource Review - Word Spy and The Slang Dictionary

(This is part of a year long series of resource reviews I've been doing. 52 resources in 52 weeks. You can see all the reviews in one place here)

OVERALL - Word Spy and The Slang Dictionary - A two-fer this week because they're so closely alike. If you've ever felt like there's a whole different language out there that you don't speak (or if your youth are talking about something and you're not sure what it is!) these two web sites can help you out. Stay on top of current language and slang as much as you can since it's a moving target.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Every generation has its own slang, catch words and codes. Working with young people it can be important for us to have at least a passing understanding just so we can know if something isn't right. Fred Lynch, the editor of the Slang Dictionary, puts it really well:
This dictionary isn't so you can try to talk like someone you're not. But it is a good reference for those who are seeking to understand a piece of youth culture today. No ... every kid doesn't use all of these words. But this is a comprehensive list of many of the words you'll hear, in part.

Word Spy tracks new words being used on the Internet and kicks out a list of the top usages for each week. You can see what's actually being discussed.

Both sites provide definitions and how they might be used.

RESERVATIONS Almost assuredly someone is going to see this as a way to "talk like the kids". Please, Please, PLEASE resist this urge. To drop the occasional piece of slang in at appropriate moments can be really powerful. To try and re-form your vocabulary to use lots of these words is just going to make the kids snicker and then start thinking "Creeper!". As with any site of this type they will always be slightly behind the curve. That's inevitable.

RECOMMENDATIONGiven my love of words I suppose it's not surprising that I really like these sites. The reality is that I think they not only give us an insight into what's going on inside our young people's heads but also what's going on in culture too. The week I wrote this the top phrase on Word Spy was "time porn" -Television shows and other media that portray characters as having excessive amounts of spare time. That's a great concept and real struggle that a lot of us may be having without even realizing. You'll definitely want to bookmark these two.

Friday, October 02, 2009

A View From the Phlipside - TV Stamps

These are the scripts from my weekly media commentary program on WRFA-LP Jamestown

My name is Jay Phillippi and I've spent my life in and around the media. TV, Radio, the movies and more. I love 'em and I hate em' and I always have an opinion. Call this the view from the Phlipside

Time to take a moment to look back at the old days of the media. It's easy to overlook the groundbreaking ideas that some of those shows represent. We may get stuck on the fact that the old TV shows are in black and white, or how cheesy the effects look compared to what we see today. If you take just a minute to push those ideas aside you can appreciate the great work that was done in the early days of TV.

With that in mind it's great to look at the newest batch of collectible stamps that the Postal Service issued back in August. Called the "Early TV Memories" series they highlight shows that are probably familiar at least in name to most folks of any age. But they also remind us of great shows that may be slipping through the cracks of memory.

Sure Lassie is there, and I Love Lucy (it's a scene from the chocolate factory episode), and Ed Sullivan and the original Tonight show with Steve Allen. Add in the Twilight Zone, Perry Mason, Howdy Doody, Dragnet, The Lone Ranger and The Honeymooners. If you don't recognize all those names then you're missing out on some of the great original TV programs of the early days of the medium. As a fan of the early shows I know there are still some gems that may have started to fade for a lot of folks. Ozzie and Harriet, Hopalong Cassidy, Burns and Allen, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, the Phil Silvers Show and the Dinah Shore show all deserve a moment to remember. Each one brought something new and special to TV, sometimes for the very first time.

I have to admit that there are three shows memorialized that I have special soft spots for in my media loving heart. First the show that launched the first TV superstar - Texaco Star Theater hosted by Uncle Miltie, Milton Berle. There is no one, NO ONE, in TV today that comes close to the level of stardom that Berle enjoyed. Second is "You Bet Your Life" with Groucho Marx. As game shows go this one was pretty lame but you just can't lose when one of the smartest and funniest men in America is the host. You think being snarky is something new? Go listen to Groucho. And last but not least is Kukla, Fran and Ollie. Technically a children's show it was popular with adults as well because it added satire and humor more subtle than the typical slap stick of kids shows of the day. The witty, multi level "children's" humor that Pixar does so well finds roots in this great classic TV show.

The next time you buy some stamps take a look, there might just be an important piece of media history looking up at you.

Call that the view from the Phlipside

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Getting God Into Our Schools

This has been an issue for virtually my entire life. And I'm tired of it.

A quick review - in 1963 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the subject of school prayer in Abington Township School District v. Schempp . This was actually the SECOND case dealing with the issue (the first was Engel v. Vitale). Schempp very clearly states that teachers and administrators can neither promote nor disparage religion. This means they can't lead a prayer, recommend a prayer to be used or tell students they can't or shouldn't pray. That's it. The rulings were made to maintain a clear division between state (the school) and religion, a view consistent with the Supreme Court's long standing interpretation of the Constitution. The ruling was specific in noting that there was NO intent to bar the discussion of religion as a historical force. In fact Justice Tom Clark wrote:
“It might well be said that one’s education is not complete without a study of comparative religion or the history of religion and its relationship to the advancement of civilization … . Nothing we have said here indicates that such study of the Bible or of religion, when presented objectively as part of a secular program of education, may not be effected consistently with the First Amendment.”

And since then virtually no one has bothered to pay attention to what the Court was actually saying or trying to do.

I see on Facebook the latest "backlash" attempt. A group dedicated to putting "God Back in School". Different versions of this have been floating around for decades.

So here's my two cents:

I don't know whose God it is that's being kept out of school but it ain't mine. There are no nine men and/or women in the history of the world who can block my God from going where he will. If your God can be barred from any where by a court decision might I suggest you follow a pretty puny God.

There is now and always has been a lot of praying going on in school. Some of it is quite pious and some of it is just panic. In my time I did a bit of both. Today there is plenty of praying going on in groups led by students. They can get together during lunch time or before or after school and pray and read the Bible or whatever they feel called to do. All perfectly legal and above board. The Supreme Court does not now, nor did it ever have a problem with this. Those are the clear and simple facts.

What this is really about are people who want to see religion (more specifically their idea of religion) institutionalized in our culture. They want to do that by getting their understanding imprinted on all children as soon as possible. Apparently they don't trust the children's parents to raise their children properly or their churches to instruct them properly in religious matters. They want the school to do it.

And that's stupid for a whole raft of reasons.

If my child doesn't have God in her life when she walks through the school doors how is saying some generic prayer at the start of classes going to help? If she DOES have God in her life then what value is there in a generic prayer that she's required to say/hear? I want the schools to spend their time doing what they need to do - teaching math, history, science, language, literature, music, art and the like. I want parents to teach their children morality and faith. I want the church to model what a faith based community looks like and acts like because that will encourage our young people to want to join one. Rather than have someone else's faith forced them.

So to the well meaning people who are passing around this latest version of "Getting God Back into School" I say this: Take another look at what the Court actually said and what you actually believe. Can your God REALLY be kept out of school? Is school prayer really the most important issue facing our families, our youth and our faith?

I've done my analysis on the subject and I'm not wasting any more time on it. God is where God needs to be. Always and everywhere. I've got more important things to worry about.


View From the Phlipside - Science Fiction

These are the scripts from my weekly media commentary program on WRFA-LP Jamestown

My name is Jay Phillippi and I've spent my life in and around the media. TV, Radio, the movies and more. I love 'em and I hate em' and I always have an opinion. Call this the view from the Phlipside

For most of my life I have been a member of an oppressed and even reviled group of people in our society. Folks looked down their noses at us, we were ostracized and told that we weren't welcome in decent society.

We are science fiction fans.

Science Fiction, also called Sci Fi though there are some in the clan who dislike that term, has never quite been allowed into the nicer parts of our culture. It was for people with too much imagination and not nearly enough sense. It didn't matter that we produced some great story tellers who were also great writers, science fiction simply wasn't something that nice people dabbled in.

Then came the 1970's and '80's. Star Wars and Star Trek (the movies) and Stargate. A whole bunch of movies and even TV shows started to make the move into the mainstream. Real people started showing up and getting excited about our beloved genre. It looked like we would finally be allowed to culturally sit at the big folks table.

Well it appears as if our dreams are going to be shattered. The golden age of mainstream science fiction appears to be dead. Bookstores are reducing their shelf space down to the same level as westerns. Sword and sorcery stuff and, of course, teenage vampire stories are shoving us out. But the greatest insult may be on TV. SciFi channel is now SyFy channel. S-C-I-F-I is now S-Y-F-Y channel. The better to program more haunted house shows and, oh yes, professional wrestling. It makes me want to weep.

The logic behind the change is expressed this way by Sci Fi president, Dave Howe, “The Sci Fi name is limiting. If you ask people their default perceptions of Sci Fi, they list space, aliens and the future. That didn’t capture the full landscape of fantasy entertainment: the paranormal, the supernatural, action and adventure, superheroes.” My question is that if that's where you want to head as a network then why keep the whole sound of SciFi? The answer to that is probably really simple. They can trade mark the SYFY version which has business advantages. Being able to then ride off in any direction they choose is just a side benefit.

The curious thing is that while all this is going on science fiction, good old fashioned aliens and space and the future is doing quite well at the movies. This past summer was a great time for sci-fi at the movies with Star Trek, District 9 and Surrogates. Let's hope that all that other stuff is merely a small set back.

Call that the view from the Phlipside