Wednesday, June 29, 2005

At least I was upwind

Be glad you're not a reporter.

Or be glad you're not me, anyway. On assignment today. At the Grand Canyon. One of the wonders of the natural world. Millions of years of the Colorado River carving out a breathtaking mile-deep gorge in northern Arizona.

I'm working on a story on the maintenance backlog that's slowly being cleared up. The Park Service plans to renovate and expand the restrooms at scenic Yavapai Point this fall.

My job today?

Lurk outside the current restroom building and interview tourists. Here is the transcript of a typical interview:

Me: "So, tell me about your experience with the restrooms at Grand Canyon National Park today..."

Tourist: [sound of retreating footsteps]
Worst of all, no one had a negative thing to say about the Yavapai Point restrooms.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

I get press releases, Volume 17: For people whose vacation plans call for getting killed

We've been watching a lot of the Travel Channel over the past few days at the 19 Minutes home office. I don't often find myself on Channel 56, because the programmers at the Travel Channel seem to think competitive poker is somehow a travel issue. Until recently, the only reason to stop on the surf between Iron Chef (Ch. 53) and Australian Rules Football (Ch. 58) was America's perkiest TV host, Samantha Brown, who somehow manages to gush over the spa treatment at the Greenbrier Resort without sounding like the most obnoxious human being in history. In fact, she's pretty likable.

But the addition of Michael Palin's "Himalaya" series has me, if nothing else, checking the TV listings. As with Palin's previous travelogues, such as "Full Circle" and "Pole to Pole", the episodes are filled with snappy narration, good humor, and an unparalleled window into places most of us only wistfully dream of visiting.

What it's lacking is this important piece of travel advice, which arrived in press release form at 19 Minutes World Media Headquarters: It's Not When You Die, It's Where You Die!

ST. PETE BEACH, Fla., June 28, 2005 -- Technically, for travel insurance, when you die matters also; however, as long as you die after you purchase your policy and before you return from your vacation, it's very definitely where you die that's going to make the difference.

[19 Minutes: Technically, it's always nice to start your press release with a complete sentence also; however, definitely hasn't hired an English major to write its press releases.]

Of course, we're not dealing with the most pleasant of subjects here, but this tip is for the kids' benefit! My job is to try to educate the traveler to allow them to get the most out of their travel insurance policy, even if it's not them that's going to get it. [19 Minutes: Please welcome today's guest press release writer, former Vice President Dan Quayle!]

Where you die is going to make all the difference to the amount payable. This coverage is usually split into three areas starting with least risk/highest payout.
Oh boy oh boy oh boy... here come the 3 Swell Ways to Die on Vacation!
Air Flight Accident AD&D

AD&D means accidental death and dismemberment. This allows for a payment if you happen to die or lose a couple of limbs as a result of a flight accident. Despite what you may hear on the news, this is always the lowest risk for an insurer, hence they pay the most for this benefit, up to $1,000,000 per person.

The next step down is ...

Common Carrier

This coverage pays in the event of death or dismemberment while you are traveling on any form of public transport. It is a much lower payment as the risk to the insurer is greater, usually $50,000 per person.

The third death benefit you will find on travel insurance policies is ...

Accidental Death (duration of trip)

This means the insurer will pay if you die or suffer loss of limbs during your vacation. This coverage is of course the highest risk and lowest payment, usually in the region of $10,000 to $50,000 per person.
This can lead to only one conclusion, which the Squaremouth folks are only too happy to offer up. Or, as they'd write, "which the Squaremouth folks is only to happy to offer up":

So if you are about to shuffle off your mortal coil while walking down the high street in Grand Cayman, and you have enough strength left, struggle on to a passing bus with your last breath - your kids will thank you for it!, which, surprise(!), is a travel insurance broker, doesn't specify whether your next-of-kin should also sue the driver of the passing bus, but you can imagine they'd probably recommend it.

Here at 19 Minutes HQ, we're already envisioning an idea for our next entrepreneurial infomercial: The millions of dollars that can be made by opening travel insurance kiosks at nursing home bus stops.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Above the news fray

I try not to give my colleagues in the TV news world too hard a time just because they seriously care about whether Dayton residents feel the system of justice in Aruba is fair. They're already cursed by the fact that half the viewers are paying closer attention to what they're wearing, or their new hair style than the substance of what they're saying. And that often results in ridiculous displays, like the bizarre Today Show debate between Matt Lauer and Tom Cruise about ritalin, just so viewers actually pay some attention.

But in Public Radioland, where our reporters lovingly craft sound-rich feature stories often over the course of several weeks, we do cringe when we're lumped in with our TV brethren who consider a story that runs a minute-and-a-half to be an in-depth feature. We especially cringe when we're out on assignment and our interview subject asks, "Am I going to be on live TV?", as though we're carrying both an invisible video camera and an invisible satellite uplink with which to transmit it to the viewers of the world.

I've actually done some TV news work, blissfully without ever having to appear on camera. The first 19 Minutes headquarters was located in a pretty remote northeast Iowa locale. But news happened there regularly enough that the closest ABC affiliate, rather than have someone drive two hours to shoot video of a car crash aftermath, or a news conference at the Winneshiek County Extension Service, they supplied me with a video camera, microphone, and tripod. In fact, I would often cover the same events for an area newspaper, which meant that I could actually attend a news conference as my own media conglomerate.

The oddest part of this arrangement was actually getting the tape down to the TV station. The video camera, etc., was enough of a capital outlay that they weren't about to outfit my office with a satellite uplink, so the typical high-tech method of getting material to the mother ship involved dropping the tape off at the bus station. That meant that news could only happen until 11:00 -- when the bus left. On the off-chance that there was news that happened after 11:00 am, the only option was for the station to fly its news helicopter up to pick up the tape, which goes to show how in-demand a news helicopter was in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in 1993. (That arrangement actually came to a temporary halt late that year when the station's helicopter pilot was summarily fired after being arrested for breaking into a bar to steal a neon beer sign. But I digress.)

That use of a helicopter, though, was at least more related to gathering actual news than the typical use we see in 19 Minutesland. We're currently in the three month annual period when helicopters consistently show their value in Arizona. The scope and intensity of wildfires is best (or, most safely) captured from the air.

The rest of the year, this is the typical helicopter-based story in Arizona:

ANCHOR: ...we're going to go live now to a developing story in Chandler, where we're just received word of another near-drowning. Let's go live now to News Copter 24.

NEWS COPTER 24: Well, as you can see, all is quiet now at this backyard swimming pool, but a few short hours ago, this was the scene of an all-to-familiar occurance here in the Valley...
God only knows what the stations spend to put a chopper in the air to beam down pictures of an empty swimming pool. Or how much they spend to provide us with aerial views of cars that have smashed into utility poles, which provide us the valuable public service of knowing what a '98 Civic looks like from above when its smashed into a utility pole. Back in Iowa, when it wasn't picking up videotapes, the news helicopter I worked with mainly got aerial views of fires in grain silos, which did a nice job of conveying how dangerous it was to be in a helicopter near a fire in a grain silo.

Here in Public Radioland, we're -- as always -- snobbishly superior, not bothering with such pedestrian pursuits as riding in helicopters. Except when one of our sources offers us a ride in a helicopter. Then it's pretty cool.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Foreign substances

The 19 Minutes staff is once again confined to the classical music studio here in public radioland, filling in for three hours of "Cappricio Italien", "Pictures at an Exhibition", and "Goldberg Variations".

Feedback on these little jaunts into the classical music world has been pretty sparse, which is good. The classical music connoiseurs tend to be a little more, shall we say, anal about pronunciation than your average light rock listener. Mispronounce the name "Nicolo Paganini" (call him "Freddy Paganini", for example) and incur the wrath that is otherwise comatose classical music listeners. Screw up the name "Gino Vanelli" and the dental office listener goes back to her copy of "Us". (Okay, it's been a while since I pulled a DJ shift at a lite rock station.)

In fact, the only feedback I've gotten was from an appreciative listener -- who was glad I knew how to pronounce "linguini a la Bolognese" in an underwriting credit. I don't know, maybe our other announcers have been saying "linguini a la Bol-OG-knees" or something. Or perhaps they've been calling it "Freddy."

[Feedback update: The classical fans are apparently not all comatose this morning. A touching phone call from a very nice listener just came in, thanking us for the rousing version of Tchaikovsky's "Cappricio Italien", which brought her out of a funk this morning. I told her I'd be happy to take credit for it, but it was really the work of the New York Philharmonic and Leonard Bernstein.]

There are most likely some classical music announcers who spend the entire 15-20 minutes' duration of a piece of music thinking of what they'll say next. I'm not one of those announcers. (My "Cappricio Italien" back-announce: "The Cappricio Italien" by Tchaikovsky. A rousing piece of music, and a terrific opportunity to roll my "r's". Expect partly cloudy skies today...")

So while the music's on, the rest of us have the opportunity to catch up on the latest important developments in Korean baseball -- most sigificantly, the ruling by Koream baseball officials that players will no longer be able to store cabbage in their baseball caps. During games, anyway.

This development comes after a pitcher named Park Myung-hwan (nickname: "Coleslaw Myung-hwan") reportedly stashed frozen cabbage under his cap, presumably to keep cool, as he pitched for the Doosan Bears (actual team motto: "Hustle Doo!!"). The cabbage was discovered after Myung-hwan's cap fell off several times in the nationally televised game.

He was allowed to continue wearing the unusual cooling toupee for the rest of the game, since the Korean league's rules do not specifically address the wearing of leafy vegetables under one's baseball cap. But that is bound to change, as South Korea's Yonhap News Agency reports:

"What will we do if another team argues that because the cabbage leaf fell just as the pitcher was pitching, the batter got confused?" league rules committee chair Heo Koo-youn said.
Koo-youn does not say whether he thinks the batter would confuse the cabbage with the baseball, or whether the batter's confusion would come from trying to figure out whether it's cabbage, romaine lettuce, or bok choi falling from the pitcher's cap.

On the other hand, as American fans are grousing about ticket prices, player salaries, steroids, and the like, it's nice to see that at least one Korean team is living up to the promise it makes to fans on its website:

Now we Doosan Bears will show our fighting spirit on the green and win the victory. We promise to reward our fans with joy and excitement more than you expect.
Hard to argue with that. Especially since their fighting spirit itself seems to be green.

[And now, this late update: The BBC is now reporting that Korean players may still play ball with cabbage in their caps, provided they have a note from their doctor.]

Thursday, June 23, 2005

The World-Famous Non-Flammable Flammable Drinking Happy Bird

Highlights from the 19 Minutes desk: It's non-flammable, except when it's on fire

Today we introduce a new feature from the 19 Minutes World Media Headquarters, opening a window onto the morass that is Mitch's desk. Leading off this feature is the box from one of those birds that dips its beak into your water glass. Notice the use of the term "your" -- the well-crafted warning on this box has been enough to dissuade the 19 Minutes staff from trying to actually use the Drinking Happy Bird. (Click on the picture for the larger, more legible version.)

Also, the bird's slogan appears to have been borrowed from Boris Yeltsin's last campaign.

Tune in for our next installment, as we check out how many 1/64th full boxes of mints are in the upper right drawer of the 19 Minutes desk.
Posted by Hello

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


A disturbing observation has been creeping into the consciousness of the 19 Minutes staff over the past few weeks, and it reared its ugly head again last night while we viewed the video spectacular that is "Elmopalooza". Sesame Street will do that to you.

Sesame Street actually came into the world the same year as the 19 Minutes staff - 1969. Those 36 years have also seen the evolution of the "Buddy Movie" or "Buddy TV show" genre. Mel Gibson and Danny Glover in the "Lethal Weapon" movies. Chandler and Joey on "Friends". Oscar Madison and Felix Unger on "The Odd Couple" (and yes, we'll stipulate the play and the movie pre-date Sesame Street). Han Solo and Chewbacca.

They're all Bert and Ernie.

They all feature one relatively straight-laced, uptight, nervous guy, and one laid-back, devil-may-care, throw-caution-to-the-wind dude.

And as a midly humorous guy, I've always basically identified with Ernie. I've stuck a banana in my ear. I can even do the Ernie laugh.

But, as I said, a disturbing observation has crept into my consciousness.

I'm Bert.

Back to "Elmopalooza". Late in the show, the Sesame Street gang is trying to extricate a pre-Daily Show Jon Stewart from behind the stuck door to his dressing room. The task falls to Oscar. (The grouch.) Oscar announces that he can do it -- if one of them has some pepper. Bert produces a pepper shaker, and as every looks at him strangely, says: What, like none of you carry your own seasonings?

Felix Unger would say that. Chandler Bing would say that. I, unfortunately, would say that.

I don't actually carry my own pepper around, but I've been known to bring my driver's license with me to the hotel pool, because you never know when you'll need some identification. (And I still remember my the number on my Iowa driver's license, which, of course, ceased to exist in 1994.) And frankly, I'd want to know why Ernie had that banana in his ear.

But I'm okay with it. I have no mono-brow, so I'm not physically Bert. Bert is the more sarcastic of the two, which gels with my whole raison d'etre. And I'm at least a bit Ernie-like, as I definitely prefer ducks to pigeons.

Actually, as I check my Blogger profile, I'm reminded of something.

I'm Kermit.

Never mind.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Room for one more cable channel

I have a brilliant idea for a new cable network. Like C-SPAN, it could be funded by America's cable companies, or perhaps CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC could all go in on it. Like so many sure-fire ideas, this came as a flash of brilliance, as I staggered through 25 minutes on the elliptical machine at the gym.

Four televisions in front of me - one showing the College World Series (ESPN), one a Depeche Mode video (the in-house entertainment channel, which is often enough to discourage me from working out at all), and two (CNN and NBC) were showing the press conference announcing the successful search for the missing Utah boy scout.

After 15 minutes of this, CNN was still labeling it "Developing News". Of course, by this point, there was nothing developing about it. It was over. In fact, there were only three developments to the story at all: Scout gets lost, people start searching, scout gets found. The end.

By the time NBC had returned to the developing news on "Days of Our Lives", CNN had found perhaps the ultimate segue -- an interview with Senator Robert Bennett (R-UT), that allowed them to go from the non-missing scout ("Senator Bennett, you've been to these mountains before. Can you describe how difficult it would be to conduct a search...") to Bennett's proposal to revamp Social Security.

So back to my idea. It's another 24-hour news channel. We could call it the "Missing White People News Channel". Or, better still, "Television Milk Carton". Today's programming (and tomorrow's, and the next day's, most likely) could feature more analysis on the non-missing scout from experts ranging from the rest of Utah's Congressional delegation to ex-boy scout Steve Garvey. We'd break away for updates on the search for the missing teen in Aruba, checking in with a panel of experts (Sen. Bill Frist, Dennis Miller, Diane Sawyer) who can decry the sorry state of security in backwater Carribean nations.

There would also be hourly breaks for weather forecast-style national round-ups of missing white people, whose stories are poignant, but don't tug at the heart strings the way a missing boy scout, or a missing soon-to-be-bride does.

Television Milk Carton would be a certain ratings smash. There would be heartwarming and heartbreaking developments. Best of all, with constant analysis and post-game, the stories never have to end. Remember when John Wayne's grandson disappeared? Neither did I, until I ran a Lexis-Nexis search for "missing" and "search" that went back 15 years. TMC could recap those dramatic two days in February 1992, when Anthony Wayne disappeared shortly after moving to California from Idaho. We could relive the gripping announcement from the boy's aunt, who told the Chicago Sun-Times that "she didn't know details of the boy's disappearance. She said he turned up in the Los Angeles area."

Best of all, people would feel connected to the searches for these photogenic white people. And they'd feel like part of the rescue effort, running the search in, say, a living room in Akron, or an airport bar in Binghamton.

Best of all? No messy segues to news like Social Security reform.

Monday, June 20, 2005

The Sylvi Learning Center

The 19 Minutes staff puts out a regular e-mail update to keep fans of 1-year old Sylvi abreast of important events in her life, such as her first steps (still pending), her first word ("Daddy", which I'll grant you is a little unfair to the person who stays home with her most days), and eating eggs (fried). The one-year update went out last week, and someone suggested I add it to the blog. We'll do that, because this will save us from having to come up with all-new material. Some of it will look a little recycled, and still more of it will look a little uninteresting, but here it is. I will, however, add a few items just to spice it up for those of you who are loyal subscribers to both publications:

Good evening Sylvi fans and innocent bystanders…

June 9th is proving to be an annual medical care day around the Teich household. This year, the 9th fell four days after Sylvi endured her first fun-filled stomach flu. That night, she demonstrated her command of sharing by thoughtfully passing the stomach bug on to both her parents – within a few hours of each other.

Now, flash back to last June 9th: Mitch and Gretchen finish putting together their to-that-point-hypothetical Diaper Champ and head out for a spontaneous trip to Dairy Queen, to satiate a pregnancy-driven desire for a banana shake. The chocolate ice cream machine is out of order, so Mitch is still muttering when they get home – at least until they get one step inside the door, at which point Gretchen’s water breaks, meaning the chocolate ice cream issue no longer seems quite as important, or at least not for a few days.

Since that fateful return home from DQ, the following events have taken place:

Mitch runs around in unproductive little circles when he can’t think of what to pack for the hospital.

Gretchen commences labor, which lasts for 20 hours, and results in a 3-minute delivery.

Despite the 3-minute delivery, Mitch and Gretchen opt to name their daughter Sylvi, rather than “FedEx”.

Sylvi, born 5 weeks early, spends 12 days in the Special Care Nursery at Flagstaff Medical Center, where – among other things – she learns to eat, takes her first sponge bath, has her first experience with suppositories, and then is hastily given her second sponge bath.

She comes home June 22nd, but still must use an oxygen tank, thanks to Flagstaff’s 7,000 foot elevation. The large green oxygen tank becomes a key part of the living room décor over the next six weeks, showing up in all the fashionable home decorating magazines and inspiring the television program “Extreme Makeover: Large Oblong Medical Equipment Edition”. After Sylvi is freed of the need to use supplemental oxygen, Mitch and Gretchen keep the tank in the living room for several more weeks, in case they need the extra air themselves after changing too many diapers.

Sylvi learns to roll over from front to back by the time she’s three months old. This is a good thing, except that it’s another two months before she can figure out how to flip back to the other side.

Around this time she develops the strange bald spot on the back of her head, meaning her hair pattern is exactly the opposite of her dad's.

She also becomes a big fan of the classic hit by the Tokens, "The Lion Sleeps Tonight”, which she demonstrates by listening to it 43 million times, beating out her number two favorite, “Little Red Caboose”, by 26,000 plays.

Her #3 favorite song is a Finnish pop tune called "Villiviini", whose name translates to "Wild Vine/Virginia Creeper" (really) and features the following actual lyrics, which have thoughtfully been translated into English:

Wild vine on the wall is one meter higher
Wild vine on the wall is one meter higher

I have been a long time away from home
And I can't find the switch in the kitchen
Sylvi takes her first airplane trips – to and from the Washington, DC area. In what is taken for a positive sign, she is not barred from flying Southwest Airlines again. In an unrelated development, Southwest bookings between Phoenix and Baltimore drop 98 percent. She attends her first wedding, which she enjoys quite a bit, and her first pre-wedding dinner, which she likes, uh, less. She also visits her first museum, which she likes even less than her first pre-wedding dinner.

November marks a Very Sylvi Thanksgiving in Colorado, which comes after a Very Long Car Ride. Sylvi actually does pretty well, thanks to 23,000 playings of “Free to Be You and Me” for her and 74 bags of Funyuns for her dad.

Tragically, the Big Green Oxygen Tank has long been returned to Dan the Oxygen Man, or Sylvi could have decorated it for the holidays. But she has a swell Chanukmas, anyway, building up her stockpiles of blocks, stuffed animals, and clothes with built-in feet.

Sylvi’s first winter features a snowdrift roughly 12 times taller than her. She has trouble walking through the snow, but mostly because she hasn’t started walking yet.

She starts on “solid” foods such as carrots and squash in winter, turning her nose a festive orange, matching her dad’s Funyun-yellow ears.

To get ready for her trip to Tucson in March, Sylvi takes swimming lessons.

Naturally, the temperature never climbs above 60 in Tucson. But her parents take plenty of pictures, just in case “BabyTalk” magazine decides to publish a swimsuit issue.

BabyTalk doesn't call, but "Sports Illustrated" inquires about Sylvi's availability in 2027, triggering Mitch's weekly rant about the lack of respect given to women's sports. He calms down when it's pointed out Sylvi could appear in SI after winning her Olympic medals.

Crawling becomes a major part of Sylvi’s life in the spring, meaning back problems become a major part of her mom and dad’s life. Home child-proofing commences, a task made more difficult by the fact that all the local stores sell baby-proofing supplies apparently made for homes in Flagstaff, Bulgaria, because they appear to bear no relation to the childproofing issues we're dealing with.

Sylvi adds more foods to her repertoire, though does her best never to like the same food two days in a row, just to keep her mom guessing.

Sylvi meets her little friend Maja in May, and Maja promptly teaches Sylvi how to get to all the areas of the house that haven’t been baby-proofed yet.

Most recently, Sylvi celebrates her first birthday in a joint party a week early with her friend Phoebe. They celebrate with pumpkin cupcakes, which Sylvi -- for inexplicable reasons – has no interest in eating. This is especially interesting, considering she’s more than happy to try tasting the suds from her bubble bath.

It’s also probably just as well, because Sylvi comes down with the aforementioned (remember that first paragraph?) stomach flu a day later.

The upside to the stomach flu is that it clears her mind *and* her digestive system, as she – within a day – figures out how to wave on command, signal that she’s “soooo big”, identify people’s noses, and clap her hands. Her parents, hoping *they’ll* get a little smarter, try the stomach flu on for size four days later. It doesn’t work. In fact, judging from the fact they decided to eat cheeseburgers the next day, they may have gotten a little dumber.

She attends the Special Care Nursery Alumni picnic, where she meets up with the nurse dubbed “The Suppository Lady” (known as "Sarah" to the rest of the human population). Surprisingly, Sylvi immediately reaches out to hug her. Best of all, her diaper stays clean and no sponge bath is necessary.

Sarah is redubbed "The Necklace Lady" thanks to a pendant that occupies all of Sylvi's mental energy for 15 or 20 minutes.

Sylvi has her one-year check-up, and is given clearance to eat whatever she wants. In the two days since, she’s tried pizza (thumbs up), strawberries (a big affirmative), and peanut butter (an excellent hair treatment).

Books go from being a food source to being actual reading material. "Doggies", by Sandra Boynton, hits the top of the Sylvi Book Club, gathering an amazing 725 consecutive readings. In one sitting.

In her first year, she’s gone from 4 lbs., 10 oz. and 17 inches long, to 17 lbs., 10 oz., and 27 ¼ inches tall. She’s changed from a cute little wad of a baby to a cute little girl. And she’s gone from objecting to having her nose vacuumed out to, well, still objecting to having her nose vacuumed out.

The initial e-mail concluded with some vaguely mushy stuff, so we'll just edit it short.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Getting carded this June 19th

I probably don’t need to tell you that tomorrow is Father’s Day. Or, perhaps I do need to tell you. Perhaps you’re so engrossed in other things, such as the International BMX championship they’re currently showing on Fox Sports Net, or the 475th airing of “Twister” on TNT, that Father’s Day has snuck up on you, and only now, with precious few hours remaining, are you finally aware that, yes, tomorrow is Father’s Day. You’re welcome.

This will be my second Official Father’s Day as a dad. But last year at this time, my daughter was still – at 8 days old -- in the Special Care Nursery, where the card selection basically sucks. Also, she was learning how to eat. So last year doesn’t really count from a celebration standpoint.

This year, however, I fully expect my daughter to fall into the same Classic Father’s Day Ritual that I engage in with my dad to this very day – never finding an appropriate Father’s Day card.

Apparently, the people who write greeting cards have dads stuck in a 1956 holding pattern. You have your fishing cards, your golfing cards, your ‘working on the car’ cards, your ‘working with power tools’ cards, and your drinking beer cards. The only nods to the 21st century are computer-themed cards and fart-related cards. (I’m not saying people didn’t fart in 1956, only that they exhibited some modicum of civilization by not mentioning it on greeting cards.)

And it’s not that my dad doesn’t engage in any of these activities – he does own his share of power tools (I remember a ‘router’ phase from my childhood) and he did used to change the oil on his ’72 BMW, a car that he sold when I was, oh, 14. And he spends plenty of time on the computer. I’m just not sure I would define him by any of these things to the extent that I’d design a greeting card for him along these themes.

I especially wouldn’t design a greeting card for me along any of these themes. To make an appropriate ‘car repair’ greeting card for me, you’d have to limit it to my ability, years ago, to switch my one working car battery between my two cars. A golfing Father’s Day card would feature the golf bag I used when I was on the golf team in high school – a bag that had no shoulder strap. This invariably led to at least one incident each round when all the clubs spilled forward and ended up on the ground in a marvelously cacaphonous clatter. I’ve done a few around-the-house fix-up chores, but I don’t think “fixing a broken toilet part with a paper clip” is necessarily what the Hallmark folks have in mind. (Though a MacGyver line of greeting cards might just be a hot seller.)

We’ll pass on discussing my relationship to the “fart card” genre for now.

It’s probably too late to help my daughter with her card shopping for this Father’s Day. But perhaps the people at Hallmark, American Greetings, and the rest will pay some heed and take the following suggestions for next year’s Father’s Day cards:

· The “sitting on the couch reading the New Yorker” card

· The “diagnosing your engine trouble by remembering old Car Talk episodes” card

· The “forgetting whether the laundry detergent coupons are filed under ‘cleaning supplies’ or ‘home/paper’” card

· The “screaming epithets at the @#&%! New York Yankees on TV” card (well, that one might already exist in New England)

· The “not sure how to change the propane tank on the barbeque grill” card

· The “programming the pizza place number into the cell phone” card

· The “identifying reruns of The Andy Griffith Show within the first 30 seconds” card (a close relative of the “identifying reruns of Friends within the first 30 seconds” Mother’s Day card and the “identifying episodes of Bob the Builder within the first 30 seconds” 4-year old’s birthday card)

· The “understanding how to program your VCR” card

· The “not understanding how to program your VCR” card
and, of course, the

· “Happy Father’s Day through Blogging” card
And this doesn’t even begin to touch on the tie selection out there.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Music you've never heard, part 2

I got cajoled into-- er, volunteered last weekend to help a public radio program that's not even broadcast here in 19 Minutesland. Which is how I found myself at the Flagstaff Folk Festival last Saturday, still recovering from a bout of the stomach flu, not altogether convinced I wanted to sit through the performance by the Sankofa Strings that I was tasked to record. That attitude changed about 25 seconds into their set.

The group was billed as coming from the tradition of Black string bands, a tradition I wasn't familiar with -- for good reason, as it turns out. The tradition has all but died out since the 1950s. Even in the 1920s and '30s, while the tradition was still alive and healthy, few people outside the African-American community were familiar with it, because much of its music was being passed off as being by white bands. Until last week, there was apparently only one traditional black string band performing in the United States.

The Sankofa Strings makes two. The group started practicing together on June 7th. The Flagstaff performance was their first-ever gig. You'll note I said it took me 25 seconds to get hooked. That's about how long it took band member Dom Flemons to introduce the group at the start of the first song. At the end of the half-hour set, the audience, wedged into a room that was taller than it was wide, burst into a sustained standing ovation. Most, if not all, the people in attendance also had no idea this was Sankofa Strings' first concert.

For the first time in years, I found myself pouncing at the end of a concert to proffer an interview request. And in the studio the next morning, they were just as infectious as they were on stage. In an interview that lasted longer than their Saturday concert (since edited to a more radio-friendly length), the three group members articulately made the case for why the black string tradition should be more than just a novelty.

In a media environment with sensible priorities, the Sankofa Strings would get the attention they deserve. They'll play two more concerts in northern Arizona this weekend, including a Sunday show as part of a "Juneteenth" celebration at Arcosanti.

Monday, the media (probably including the 19 Minutes staff, too) will go back to the important work of breaking down the impending Cruise-Holmes nuptuals. Except, apparently, NBC, which is still stuck on the "Runaway Bride" story.

So in the meantime, check out the interview with Sankofa Strings.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Music you've never heard, part 1

At the risk of actually writing something useful, we've done a couple of noteworthy interviews with musicians in the 19 Minutes Arts Center in the past week. You've probably not heard of either of them. Until now, I suppose:

Nolan McKelvey is a good guy. His website lists something like 30 recordings he's played on, but he's still sheepish when it comes to talking about his music. He's especially sheepish about discussing the couple of love songs that show up on his latest album, "After the Roses".

To interview him is to open a window into the life of lesser-known, but talented musicians around the world -- scheduling the interview around his day job, discussing a touring schedule that's prolific but not exactly what you'd call "geographically diverse", and talking about the realistic expectations of a solid local band.

But mostly, in this latest interview, McKelvey and drummer Andrew Lawher have some engaging things to say about songwriting and playing music. They're not about to play an extended nationwide tour, nor is XM demanding more copies of their CD so the archived interview is a good place to check them out.

There's another band worth checking out -- one which might soon see itself in the national spotlight, but the interview doesn't run until tomorrow morning, so we'll save it for then. (This is what we call a "forward promote" in the radio biz.)

Now, the "Duh Report"...

Last word on the Michael Jackson trial (for not having paid any attention to it until Monday, I sure am getting a lot of material from its aftermath).

Our system of jurisprudence sure is confusing. Thank goodness we have televised legal analysts to straighten things out for us.

They've been giving the jurors a lot of airtime for summing up the behind-the-scenes sentiment:

Jurors say prosecutors failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Jackson was guilty, and that's why he was allowed to return home.
Really? So what we're saying here is that the prosecution failed to prove that Jackson was guilty, so the jurors decided he was... not guilty. So would it follow that had the prosecutors proven that Jackson was guilty, then the jury would have found him... guilty?


Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Because you were wondering

Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

Perhaps someday I'll figure out exactly what this means. But it seemed like all the cool kids were doing it, so I'd better stay current.

Of course, all the old comments seem to have disappeared, which is kind of a bummer. Feel free to go back through the last five months' worth of postings and revisit your thoughts. I'll wait.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

I get press releases, Volume 16: Um, Michael what's-his-name, Michael, uh, Jackson. Wasn't he in court? What ever happened with him?

All things considered, it took a suprisingly long time for the first Michael Jackson-related press release to hit the 19 Minutes World Media Headquarters following yesterday's verdict. In fact, it was 7:10 this morning before the first such release simpered its way into our inbox, a fact I can only attribute to blatant disregard of public radio by PR firms when it comes to important developments in the entertainment industry. (Except for reissues of obscure jazz releases. Then they're all over public radio...]

We here in 19 Minutesland had been watching the Michael Jackson trial with rapt attention, or at least the last 20 minutes of the trial, while the “King of Pop” made his way back to the courthouse in that motorcade that looked suspiciously OJ-like, televised by the circling helicopters, accompanied by banal observations from commentators who must have once had ideals about the field they were going into.

(It was nice, however, to see the whole Jackson family turn out for the verdict. Here in the newsroom, we engaged in an informal [no wagering] "Spot the Jackson" contest. We believe we spotted them all -- Janet, Tito, LaToya, Jesse, Reggie, Shoeless Joe, Keith, Alan, Glenda, and Andrew. Let me know if we missed anyone.)

But our interest here fell way short of the real interest as reflected in this news release illustrating what passes for a sidebar to the Michael Jackson story:

The verdict is in and Michael Jackson, dubbed the “King of Pop,” has been found not guilty on all charges. As word of Jackson’s acquittal quickly spread, support for the legendary pop star and nostalgia for his work began surfacing on almost immediately.

Supporters of Jackson are stocking their catalogues with hits and rarities from his recording career. A quick glance at's Movers & Shakers for Music ( illustrates the intense customer demand for Jackson’s work as fans celebrate yesterday’s history-making news.


Just hours after news of the verdict broke, Michael Jackson albums were already taking over Amazon’s “Movers & Shakers” list for Music, holding four of the top five spots on Tuesday morning.

The Michael Jackson verdict propelled Off the Wall (remastered 2001 bonus edition), onto’s "Movers & Shakers" list for Music hours after the news broke. Currently, the sales rank of Off The Wall has jumped 2,975 percent, from No. 4,060 to No. 132 on's Music Top Sellers list, making it No. 2 on's "Movers & Shakers" list for Music.

Michael Jackson: The Ultimate Collection has seen a 2,830 percent increase in sales rank from No. 7,883 to No. 269 on’s Top Sellers list for Music. The album is No. 3 on’s “Movers & Shakers” list of Music

Thriller (remastered 2001 bonus edition) spiked from No. 1,504 to No. 89 on’s Top Sellers list for Music, an overnight increase of 1,589 percent in sales rank. It is No. 4 on's "Movers & Shakers" list for Music.
I'm just not sure I get the Michael Jackson cult of personality. I mean, even if you can get past the Charles Foster Kane's Xanadu-on-acid nature of the whole Neverland Ranch business, what exactly is it about the guy's personality that inspired the numbers of people to show up outside the courthouse and the ranch to show support?

Yeah, "Thriller" was a smash hit, and a pretty good album. Not my favorite, really, but it's tough to leave it off the list of best albums of the 1980s. But it's not like the lyrics to "The Girl is Mine" are anymore significant than "Jesse's Girl" by Rick Springfield. Nor do they speak to anyone in the kind of intimate way that a songs like Springsteen's "Thunder Road", "Closer to Fine" by the Indigo Girls, or even "Hip-Hug Her" by Booker T and the M.G.'s can. (Yeah, okay, "Hip-Hug Her" is an instrumental. My point exactly.)

On the other hand, the fact that it took the Not Guilty verdict to cause Michael Jackson music sales to shoot through the roof also raises some questions -- namely, what goes through the minds of a person who bases his music buying decisions on the California legal system? ["Say! I guess he's innocent! I guess I can't put off that "Off The Wall" purchase any longer! Honey, grab my MasterCard..."] And why would people wait for an innocent verdict to buy Michael Jackson CDs, but keep buying James Brown records, regardless of his legal status? And what about Snoop Dogg? (I don't really know anything about Snoop Dogg, but I thought he deserved a mention here.) And, most importantly, when will they convict all the American Idol contestants?

But I have to say I'm relieved at the Jackson verdict. If nothing, it spared us all the specter of the weirdest cover of "Folsom Prison Blues" ever recorded.

[An update: Meanwhile, the Achenblog has some interesting and potentially more amusingly inflammatory things to say about the Jackson case...]

Monday, June 13, 2005

I get press releases, Volume 15: Checking up on Mitch

I'm sure most long-time readers of this feature are probably wondering the same thing as the 19 Minutes staff: In the months since we learned about how to combat dry skin on your next Antarctic swim, what has Risë Jill Miller been up to?

Since we missed her at the Pulitzer ceremony, it took until the latest audio news release wound up in the 19 Minutes Inbox to find out:





Doctor Mulhall: "Men who are lost don't like asking for directions, and the same applies to their bodies. Many men don't feel comfortable raising health-related questions or concerns with their doctors."
Sounds like a pretty solid topic so far. One that might even be worth an actual news story. Good thing they buried the lead, or this might not be entertaining at all:


Doctor Mulhall: "30 million men in America are affected by erectile dysfunction, or ED, but sexual health is a topic many men do not feel comfortable talking about. What they don't realize is that ED may be a sign of more serious problems like diabetes, heart disease, or depression!"


Doctor Mulhall: "Millions of men have already gotten treatment for ED. For tips on talking with your doctor, or to find an ED-expert in your area, visit sexual health doctors dot com." [Mitch's note: Dr. Mulhall is a pretty quotable guy, it seems...]


I actually had a physical exam recently, by which I mean February. Of 2004. I call that "recently", because I had skipped my previous annual check-up. And the previous one. And the 13 before that, as well. I felt a little sheepish about mentioning that fact when I finally went in for a check-up, until my doctor thought for a moment and determined that it had been something like six years since his last physical.

And I'd submit to you that most guys are probably on the 5-to-10 year plan, and that we probably could stand to go more often. But for most of us, our not-going-to-the-doctor thing has as much (or as little) to do with erectile dysfunction as it does with the NHL lockout, or the value of Treasury bills.

Basically, we're wimps.

I, personally, am a hypochonriacal wimp. I've been one as long as I can remember, but it really took hold in my Anatomy and Physiology class in 10th grade, when I discovered an odd lump on the right side of my upper back, which led to several hours of panicking, until it turned out to have been my shoulder blade. (On the other hand, I can still tell you the actual term for the shoulder blade is the "scapula", which means the class wasn't a complete waste of time.)

I've had more maladies than I can count (Why can't I count that high? Maybe it's a brain disease...), affecting most of my major organs. In college, I'd read an article about a famous person's tragic demise, and start to mimic the symptoms I read about, until I'd find out that the person's symptoms were actually a result of the treatment for the disease, rather than the disease itself.

About 12 years ago, I was sure I was slowly developing a rare metabolic disorder as my hair wound up in my shower drain faster than on the top of my head. This, despite the fact that roughly every male in my extended family has, well, a similar malady. (Huh. I wonder what it could be. Certainly, it couldn't be...BALDNESS!!!)

And to this day, while I'm better about it, the hypochondria has never quite gone away. Last week, my wife and I both were slammed with the stomach flu. Despite the fact that we each got it within hours of each other, and that my symptoms were not only exactly the same as hers, but the same as our friends who had the same illness earlier in the week, and the same as our one-year old's, the little hypochondriac's voice in my head piped up: "You know, your stomach was pretty acidy before you actually got sick. Maybe it's an ulcer..."

But fortunately for me, I'm a parent. And parenting means caring more about your child than yourself. Which is why I'll compile a laundry list of symptoms to ask the pediatrician about. (No Mitch, I don't think you're suffering from colic... )

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Why not Yilida?

The age of exploration is not yet through. The 19 Minutes staff was just tasked with changing the battery in a "meteor storm", a terrifically pointless and yet thrilling LED-style toy that so mesmerizes my daughter that it earned the term "distract-o-matic" for its usefulness on a flight from Austin to Phoenix some months ago.

Anyway, until moments ago, it still had the factory installed batteries inside, which, upon their removal, yielded the following useful piece of information:

Made in Yilida
To save you the trouble, the 19 Minutes Crack Research Department (motto: "Small but inquisitive") immediately Googled Yilida, and discovered that the Zhejiang Yilida Ventilator Company, Ltd. is, in fact, "one of the largest manufacturers of air conditioning ventilators in China today". It also has a very catchy theme song, which one can hear on their website.

There's also a Yilida Dried Flowers Company, Ltd. on whose website we learn that "Spring is now peeping into the window of my room."

And, of course, there's HeBei YiLiDa Metal Wire Mesh Company, Ltd., which is located in AnPing County, "which has the reputation of 'Town of the Wire Nettings'," a distinction it recently captured from Mason City, Iowa, which is now been relegated to the reputation of "Northern Iowa Town of the Wire Nettings".

[A subsequent Googling of AnPing County does reveal a staggering number of wire mesh companies, even more than Cerro Gordo County, Iowa.]

Most relevantly, there also exists a Yilida Electronics Company, which tragically, does not purport to make AA batteries, but does boast that "Based on the policy of 'Quality First, Customer Utmost, No unqualified products', we are repetitiously titled as the Contract Honored and Credible Enterprise, being popular among all walls of life."

Unfortunately, their business profile notes the company's annual sales range is "Blow US$1 Million".

I, personally, could blow a million bucks and not find a map listing "Yilida", because what it is not, is a country. Or a city. Or a province. Or a perfecture.

But those meteor storms are cool toys, no matter what your wall of life.

June 9th - Sylvi's revenge

So, it appears the public apology from my earlier post either wasn't sincere enough or wasn't public enough. The Stomach Virus Gods paid a visit to 19 Minutes World Headquarters late Thursday night, a good four days after Sylvi, our one-year old, dealt with them. Actually, the worst of it hit the 19 Minutes staff (well, me, anyway) at 6:06 Friday morning, otherwise known as exactly the same time I was scheduled to be doing a newscast on the air. Only quick action saved me from delivering the first-ever radio newscast in technicolor. (The quick action? Skip the newscast, run to the bathroom.)

This was actually the second consecutive June 9-10 period that Sylvi decided to exact her own brand of health issues on us. Last year at this time, after hanging out for almost eight months in an otherwise normal pregnancy, she decided that, hey, why not show up five weeks early?

She was five weeks early, meaning we were ready, but we weren't really ready. Meaning, we had just -- that night -- finished putting all the "Here's how to make your stay at the Women's and Infants Center a pleasant one" literature in a file folder, but we hadn't actually read it. Meaning, we had just -- that night -- put together the Diaper Champ diaper disposal system, but we weren't really prepared to use it.

Meaning, we went to Dairy Queen on a pregnancy-fueled craving for a banana shake, and came back with me grousing about DQ's broken chocolate ice cream machine -- until, one step into the door, my wife's water broke, which managed to put the chocolate ice cream thing into at least temporary perspective.

We checked in with her obstetrician, who assured us we had plenty of time to get to the hospital, especially since we live two blocks away. That was good because it gave me plenty of time to subsequently walk around in frantic little circles as I attempted to remember what we'd need to pack. That was also good because it gave us time to drive to my office first, to pick up the digital camera that was inexplicably sitting on my desk. This of course meant that the drive to the hospital, which should have taken 35 seconds, took 20 minutes instead.

But everything went fine. My wife's labor lasted about 20 hours, but the delivery itself took around 3 minutes, short enough that we didn't even have time to turn off the baseball game in the delivery room, and short enough that my wife had to yell at me and the delivery nurse, "IS SOMEONE GOING TO COUNT FOR ME?" as she pushed, since we were preoccupied with noticing that, hey, the head's coming out. Or maybe we were preoccupied with the baseball game. I'm not sure. [Note to my wife: I'm kidding. I really wasn't preoccupied by the Diamondbacks-Orioles game, which Arizona rallied in the last couple innings to win, 3-0, behind a home run by Steve Finley and a stellar pitching performance by Casey Fossum.]

Sylvi spent 12 days in the Special Care Nursery at the hospital, but her stay was a pretty pleasant one compared to what one might see on the Discovery Health network. And she continues to be far cuter than any child of mine has a right to be, even when she discovers new tricks, like grinding her front teeth, or rolling over on her changing pad just as we're removing a poopie diaper.

And as it turns out, had we not had her my wife would have never known that delivering a baby is actually more fun than the stomach flu.

Happy birthday, Sylvi. [And hey, the Diamondbacks won yesterday, too.]

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Several disturbances in the natural order

This will be a pop culture-laden post, so those of you expecting my analysis of the fall in Japanese stock prices will want to tune back in at a later date. Say 2036.

It's late, but it's worth noting several oddities likely to cause me strange dreams, if not outright somnambulism. (Of course, as a reporter, I have to be on the guard against being called a 'somnambulance chaser'.)

Let's start with the trip to Kentucky Fried Chicken (formerly known as KFC, and before that as, er, Kentucky Fried Chicken). Let's ignore for the moment the reason I was in the Kentucky Fried Chicken drive-thru this evening -- what's important is the odd menu listing that appeared in bottom right hand corner of the drive-thru menu, down below the Li'l Bucket Parfait: "Breast Upcharge $.85". For the life of me, I have no clue what this could mean. Perhaps the buckets of chicken are now made of silicone. I'm not sure. It was enough to give me pause before using the term "extra crispy".

The other two disturbing items for the night are television commercial-related, and they can probably be grouped together as one, overarching disturbance -- the sudden appearance of odd, inanimate spokespeople in commercials. Burger King (or, as you'll recall from yesterday's post, "Roi d'Hamburger" in Quebec) has a Madame Tussaud-style wax Burger King guy who shows up in someone's bed in one ad. (If this isn't disturbing enough, there's an analysis of this and other fast food commercials that's probably not worth reading here.) Just to make it a little more surreal, Darius Rucker (from the now B-listed Hootie and the Blowfish) is also featured, singing a Burger King-ized version of the classic bluegrass tune "Big Rock Candy Mountain". Were it not for the disturbing Burger King guy, the ad would be just weird enough to enjoy.

The people at Quaker Oatmeal, figuring what's good for greasy burgers is good for cubed breakfast products, have lately added a commercial featuring a similarly unanimated Quaker Oats guy being towed around in a wagon, handing out something called breakfast squares, at least as well as an immobile statue can hand anything out.

On the other hand, it's nice to see Quaker reprising its disturbing role in the world. The 19 Minutes staff attended college downwind from Quaker's plant in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and it was always enjoyable to wake up with the smell of Cap'n Crunch wafting in from the west.

So there's what'll disturb the sleep patterns here in 19 Minutes World Headquarters tonight. [BREAKING NEWS: A Google search reveals that the Memphis-area Popeye's Fried Chicken outlets also feature something called a breast upcharge, but it's only $.75, versus the $.85 at the Flagstaff KFC. Stay tuned - we'll see if the Quaker people can beat both of them.]

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Going to Borders

I used to live pretty close to the Canadian border. In fact, we used to affectionately refer to Potsdam, New York, as suburban Montreal. I did a fair amount of crossing back and forth between the US and Canada for a number of reasons:

a) In those days, the exchange rate was pretty favorable, which meant that b) donuts were cheaper in Cornwall, Ontario than in Massena, New York. Also, c) There was a roadside stand that sold terrific perch rolls made from St. Lawrence River perch, which gave me 100% percent of my Recommended Daily Allowance of mercury. Or perhaps that was 1000%.

I also crossed the border to get to the airport, since there were more flights from Ottawa to Washington (where my girlfriend was living) than there were from Massena to Washington. And because flying from Massena involved traveling in something resembling an oversized paper towel roll with wings. It was always interesting flying back into the United States, having only gone to Canada to get to the airport, and invariably resulted in a conversation with the US Customs officer like this:

Customs officer (seeing my US passport): And how long were you in Canada?

Me: About an hour and a half.

Customs officer:
I beg your pardon?

Me: An hour and a half. I just went to Canada to go to the airport to fly back to the states.

Customs officer:
Anything to declare?

I have this box of donuts.

Customs officer:
Okay, if I could have you step into this other line here...

Things just weren't the same when the INS started stationing people in Ottawa -- they actually understood what the heck I was talking about. At least about the donuts, anyway.

But the climate on the border was just different in general than it is today. The port of entry in Cape Vincent, New York was there mainly to meet people getting off the ferry from Wolfe Island, Ontario. There was a sign on the door suggesting arrivals ring the door bell if no customs agent was apparent. Entering Canada at Havelock, Quebec involved going through a customs booth that was open from 6 am to 10 pm, but with no gate to keep anyone from going in or out at other hours.

All this comes to mind as I read today's story about a Canadian who apparently crossed into the US (at Calais, Maine), having just murdered a neighbor -- carrying a homemade sword, a hatchet, a knife, brass knuckles... and, of course, a chain saw stained with blood.

Things were, in fact, a little tighter at the border -- they did detain the man for questioning before letting him into the US. But somehow, it's still a little disquieting that the guy made it to Massachusetts before being arrested.

On the other hand, Bill Anthony, a spokesman for US Customs and Border Protection noted that the man hadn't obviously broken any laws before crossing the border: "Being bizarre is not a reason to keep somebody out of this country." And thinking back on returning from those late night donut trips back to Cornwall, Ontario, that's a good thing.

Monday, June 06, 2005

And now, this public apology

The 19 Minutes staff would like to extend a public apology to its collective daughter, Sylvi, whom it accused of employing the Freaking Out method of bedtime last night. As it turns out the Freaking Out method of going to sleep was followed this morning by the Barfing A Lot method of waking up, which subsequently became the Going To The Pediatrician method of spending our midmorning.

It seems Sylvi, all the while she was acquiring new knowledge (identifying dad's nose, finding out she doesn't like diced green beans, etc.), was acquiring a stomach virus, too. We have the source narrowed down to anything she put in her mouth over the last few days, meaning we have it narrowed down only to all objects within a half-mile radius of her bedroom (including, but not limited to sunglasses, the LL Bean catalog, cheese, her shoes, and the empty bottle of teething tablets). Nevertheless, her doctor figures it'll run its course within a few days.

Naturally, I have baby duty tonight. I'm thinking that'll be in the literal sense. Of course, for my skepticism last night, I probably deserve it. Sorry, Sylvi.

A humerus anecdote

We’re doing the childcare thing again this evening in the 19 Minutes Home Office, as my wife is doing the viola thing again for a local community theater production. Last week at this time it would have been no problem – our 11-month old was practically suggesting we set her down to sleep. This week, she’s decided that was entirely too much good karma for her taste, and has settled on Freaking Out as a better bedtime activity. So I made regular trips back upstairs to a) suggest that she’d feel a whole lot better with a good night’s sleep, and b) ask, basically, HEY? WHAT’S THE DEAL? I used this technique several times over around 45 minutes, until I finally decided to consult the slew of Getting Your Baby to Sleep books we purchased the first time she went through a phase like this. My trip to the bookshelf, naturally, was Sylvi’s sign that it was time to drift off to sleep.


This weekend marked the five-year anniversary of my all-time greatest baseball injury. Fellas, if you ever want to really endear yourself to your fiancée, break your arm exactly two weeks before your wedding day. She’ll thank you for it, and you’ll thank me for the advice.

I had actually thought it’d be tough to break any bones playing baseball. I am (or, I was) a pitcher, and it’s generally a non-contact-enough position that the only way I could break my arm would be to trip over my shoe laces. In college, I once took a line drive off my cheek bone without it breaking (it left some cool lace marks on my face, however), so I figured a pretty remedial adult league in Flagstaff, Arizona should be a pretty safe proposition.

So, pitching on a mere eight years’ rest, I threw six decent innings (we didn’t lose too many baseballs over the outfield fence, anyway) in the first game of the season. The following morning, my arm hurt. Rather a lot, in fact. More than I remembered it hurting in college, where – by the end of the season – my right arm was tired enough that it couldn’t lift my gym bag at the end of practice. It hurt a little less as the week progressed, but still enough that I opted out of pitching the next game and actually saw a doc—er, physician’s assistant, who suggested that perhaps my arm was, well, sore from pitching.

So I opted out of being the starting pitcher in the following game, but as luck would have it, our starting pitcher, to quote Crash Davis in “Bull Durham”, couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat. So into the game I went. We’ll let Vin Scully take it from here:

“A beautiful, albeit hot, day under the cerulean blue skies of Camp Verde, Arizona… There’s still plenty of baseball left, so if you’re driving by the ballpark, do stop on by…

All right. Teich, the new pitcher, faces a doozy of a situation. Nobody out and the bases full. He gets the sign, comes to the belt, kicks and deals… And Teich is down! There was a loud snap, and Teich is on the ground between the mound and home plate, and the ball is rolling towards the third base line… And he looks like he’s in some serious pain! Folks, don’t forget, Flagstaff Pioneers baseball is brought to you by Pep Boys…”

Forty-five minutes later (a 45 minutes that seemed even longer than the time it took to get Sylvi to sleep this evening), the paramedics came, scraped me off the field, and took me to the hospital, where they took x-rays and left me in an exam room for an hour, until the doctor walked in and said, “You did this throwing a pitch?” Anyway, he was most impressed that I had managed to accomplish a spiral fracture of my right humerus merely by throwing a ball. My then- fiancée came in the room next. She was less impressed.

The wedding happened as scheduled, or at least I’m told it did, as the Vicodin made things a little hazy. I do remember wearing a nice formal-looking grey sling in addition to my tuxedo. My groomsmen wore slings, too, just to make the pre-wedding pictures more entertaining.

The wedding night and honeymoon were a little different than planned – the jacuzzi suite, for example, would have been more useful, if I had been allowed to actually get in the jacuzzi. When we made it to Maui, we actually rigged up a bandaging system to keep my arm from flopping around, shark bait-style, when I went snorkling. Since I was working with only one arm, however, my wife had to kind of tow me around the lagoons.

We spent the second week of the honeymoon on Lanai, during which I became proficient at taking pictures one-handed. Lanai was also a small enough community that I quickly ran into the other guy on the island who had broken a bone before his wedding. He was on crutches, and we saw each other a few times, sheepishly nodding to each other each time, knowing full well our wives were probably exchanging exasperated eye-rolls behind our backs.

I haven’t played much baseball since then. I played a few games the next season – at first base. But there’s a sort of limited use for a 5’6”, right-handed first baseman. So I’ve sat out the past couple of seasons. But I’m starting to get the itch again. And hey, if I work at it, I’ll really be ready by next spring. And I’ll be pitching on six years’ rest…

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Japanese baseball audio alert (武士は耐える)

NPR's Only A Game today featured the aforementioned story on the all-Japanese baseball team playing in the Golden Baseball League.

It also features a classic bit of music, Warren Cromartie's late '80s-era theme song when he played for the Yomiuri Giants. So keep listening after the story, which is archived here.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

No, I'm most definitely not wearing a Yankees cap

The nice thing about working in Public Radioland is the, well, relaxed dress code. The university campus where 19 Minutes World Media Headquarters is based switches to a "casual summer dress" policy once graduation has happened, but in order for us to conform to that policy -- and dress less formally, we'd actually have to show up for work in a Speedo, or with no clothes at all.

The idea of a naked radio staff is something those of us in radio will occasionally joke about in conversation with listeners we meet in the grocery store:

Listener: So you're Mitch Teich. It's weird to hear the voice and see the person at the same time.

Me: Yeah, usually people guess 'older and taller' when they imagine me. [One of these days, we'll have to modify this line to read 'younger and taller'.]

Listener: You know, I've never had any idea what you looked like.

Me: Well, that's the nice thing about radio -- I could be doing the news naked, and no one would ever know.

Listener: I'm going to go buy myrigatoni now.

The irony is that if anyone in the radio news anchor-listener equation is probably naked, it's the listener. Most people don't have TVs in their bathrooms, so Katie Couric and Matt Lauer only have to imagine their viewers in underwear and curlers. Newspapers are typically difficult to manage in the shower, what with newsprint getting all over the Lifebuoy and everything. But with the proliferation of shower radios, a fair number of listeners are lathering, rinsing, and repeating while we're promoting the upcoming story about the Euro's drop in value.

I write this only so you'll think twice about who you're showering with.

But as noted, I don't actually come to work naked. But as it's summer in Arizona, and as I'm among the follicly-challenged, casual summer dress has meant the addition of a ball cap. It's one I picked up on my reporting trip to Surprise, Arizona last weekend -- the Japan Samurai Bears.

For some reason, three people in the last day have asked me if it's a New York Yankees cap. They ask with some incredulity, knowing that the lifelong Red Sox fans on the 19 Minutes staff would only wear a Yankees cap for a really good reason, such as attempting to place a curse on Derek Jeter.

But frankly, aside from the fact that it's black and is emblazoned with a white character of some sort, I don't get the resemblance. But then again, perhaps I should be glad they're looking at the ball cap and not picturing it as the only thing I'm wearing on the air.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Pooling resources

It's June 1, and so that means it's time for that monthly dubious public service -- the posting of my column from Northern Arizona's Mountain Living magazine. It'll mark the second consecutive 19 Minutes post touching on swimming pools, though in my defense, the magazine column was actually written a month ago, before the noodle hammock incident:

If you’re new to northern Arizona, welcome to the early Summer, known affectionately as the “Dry and Windy Season”, or less-affectionately as the “Spend All Your Money On Chapstick Season”.

My wife and I moved to Flagstaff around this time six years ago, and being from wetter origins (I was a river otter as a child), we quickly went in search of water. It didn’t take long to figure out that most of the items featuring the word “lake” on Arizona maps are what Minnesota maps would call “fields”.

So, for those of you in search of some water-oriented recreation, I have a few tips gleaned from my extensive experience:

It’s important to have the right gear. If you’re a typical adult, that simply means a swimsuit. If you’re an adult with a eleven-month old child, that simply means a swimsuit, swim diapers, an extra swimsuit in case the swim diapers leak, a terrycloth cover up, an inflatable kiddie boat with the notation “Not for use as a Floatation Device”, plastic keys to chew on while in the kiddie boat, SPF 400 sunscreen, a sun hat to put on your child so that she can immediately take it off, and a car trailer to carry everything.

The area’s creeks and rivers are good places to take a quick dip on a hot summer day, especially if you enjoy being impaled on large rocks.

The beach is also great for a quick getaway, though the eight-hour drive to the coast somewhat reduces the spontaneity of the trip. The other downside is you’ll have eight hours on the trip back with which to consume the box of salt water taffy you’re bringing back for your co-workers. (Naturally, you’ll leave the licorice-flavored pieces for your co-workers. Your co-workers, of course, were going to leave the licorice-flavored pieces for the cleaning staff. The cleaning staff was going to throw them away.)

Regardless of where you swim, it’s a good idea to refresh your skills with swimming lessons. My fourth-grade class in Wheaton, Maryland was forced to take swimming lessons at the coldest, dankest YMCA pool this side of Murmansk. We were bussed to this pool every week for a couple months, where we changed into our swimsuits as fast as fourth-graders possibly could, and jumped in the water so we could tell each other jokes while the teacher tried to teach us the backstroke. Even if we weren’t telling each other jokes, she would have been tough to hear, because her voice echoed horribly in the cavernous pool, a condition made worse by her heavy lisp. At the end of the class, she assigned us to a level, on the off-chance anyone wanted to voluntarily return to the pool. “Thine up for guppieth,” I remember her telling me.

My own daughter, despite being less than a year old, has already finished her first set of swimming lessons. She learned how to float while wearing a life-jacket, how to chew on a pool toy the instructor gave her, and how to listen to her dad make motor boat noises as he pulled her around the pool. She got an ‘A’.

My wife and I learned something too – those swim diapers actually work pretty well.