Monday, October 20, 2008

The Power of Marketing

Corona is a bland Pilsner that necessitates a fresh lime wedge in order for it to have any recognizable flavor. Of course, Don Draper would have you believe that it isn't bland, no, it is smooth and drinkable. And, it is the only beer that you can put a lime in. Despite the fact that many beers will taste good on a hot day with a lime, lemon, or orange wedge, many people will protest quite vigorously if you propose such a travesty. In fact, the flavor of many lagers and brown ales are nicely complemented by addition of a lime wedge. But, the manufacturers of those beers haven't put considerable effort in developing a defacto copyright on the practice like the makers of Corona have.

At our departmental BBQ there were many limes leftover from our chicken marinade, and we suggested to others that they try putting wedges in their Heinekins or Amstel Lights. After all, those beers are pretty bland too. However, this usually was responded with a quizzical look, followed by, "But this isn't Corona!". We had to try really hard to get people to think outside the narrow beer + fruit window ingrained in our souls by Don Draper. What we're trying to say is -- put limes in your bland beers. Any brand. It prevents scurvy.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

WKCR -- Left of the Dial and Above Your Tax Bracket

We like us some college radio. In fact, we are like that bland SuperTrain guy from Singles who reminisces about the glory days as we flip through our record collection(s). Two things that were as integral to our college radio experience as accidentally dropping the F-bomb before 10PM were:
  1. Fundraising
  2. Bureaucracy
Now these weren't the fun, glamorous parts of college radio, like accidentally dropping the F-bomb before 10PM. That was as much fun as we'd had since we were children, when we used to seal lit firecrackers in glass jars and fling dogshit at moving cars from behind a fence. Simultaneously. We had a lot of awesome e-coli infections back then, too.

Fundraising and Bureaucracy were the unfun parts of college radio that involved browbeating by our elders and learning something about something as it relates to life, and our world. Like most college radio stations, we didn't set our sights for the stars and envision a future without those things. For instance, we didn't gather up all of our Low-Ivy entitlement and expect an endowment, whose interest would completely fund our activities. This however, is the plan of the 'college' radio station WKCR, which is loosely associated with Columbia University.
Neither a student enterprise nor a club, the radio station exists outside the umbrella of University governing boards, and thus is not in line to receive money from student life funds. Before a plague of monetary problems struck the station, this existence apart from other student groups suited them. But a spate of financial issues, starting in 2001, has decimated the station’s bank account. The station embarked on an initiative to raise a $4 to $6 million endowment, using the interest to pay for operating costs.
Most stations use student programming funding. Of course, that entails dealing with bureaucracy and actually having to accommodate actual students. (the Horror)
“Is conforming to ABC [Activities Board at Columbia] guidelines worth the $30,000?” she said. “The answer is probably no.”

It's certainly true that student programming funding won't cover everything -- so most stations also set aside a couple of weeks every year to roll up their sleeves and do fundraising.

Ben Siegelman, CC ’07 and the 2006 station manager who helped formulate the endowment plan, said he wanted to “come up with some sort of financial plan in which the radio station did not have to rely on on-air fundraising. I was sick of fundraising.”

Well OK, nix that. The article then notes that their antenna was on the WTC and the replacement one only reaches 10% of the former audience. Of course, something like that only is relevant to two things: fundraising (already out of the question), and advertising. So how about throwing a few spots out there?

“We could have commercials, but then we’d have commercials,” Whitcomb said flatly, “and that’s not art.”

Apparently, if you have a trust fund, you expect the non-profit you work at to have one too. And with a $270K annual operating budget, you need a really big trust fund. Some of this $270K goes to actually paying one guy to do a show and live in New York. Seriously, if you are that hard up to fill airtime, just steal somebody's iPod from a Vampire Weekend show and take a nap. That's basically what most college radio amounts to these days anyway. Of course, not being officially tied to Columbia University means that they actually have to pay rent for station space. We're guessing this is probably the most abnormal part of their budget. Additionally*, their pristine, state-of-the-art equipment looks nicer than the 30 year old mixing boards and duct-taped CD players sported by most other college stations. If only they had the kind of bourgeois networking that WKCR thinks** they have, they too might be able to sneer at such non-profit drudgery as fundraising, bureaucracy, and selling out to the man.

*We apologize for whining! And we are referring to the linked article's picture -- not the one we swiped from the Onion!
**We are uh, skeptical of this plan. But we guess if raising 270K a year is hard, pulling in a $6 million endowment should be a piece of cake.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

so here in alaska we were watching the vice presidential debates and...

sarah palin said that as VP she would cut punctuation from the federal budget to save average working americans their tax dollars because i believe that americans should have their tax dollars and be able to spend them rather than the federal government spending them on things like punctuation when we can just use colloquialisms doggone it and they save the hardworking taxpayer money also we should talk in circles and get rid of punctuation which i believe is a personal choice that due to my own personal opinion on that particular issue i choose not to use punctuation but that does not mean that the middle class can not either they will be able to afford punctuation on their own with mccains tax cuts for joe six pack that he can pass even against the wishes of some in his own party that as the original maverick he is able to pass such as forthcoming legislation against punctuation and gay marriage and i mean to say that some of my best friends happen to be gay but personally i want to protect the tradition of marraige in our great country of ours and also preserve the continuity of sentences

This is a fair and balanced blog now.

After so many transparently partisan* attacks on the McCain-Palin ticket (He had an affair with a lobbyist and writes shitty op-eds, she is underhanded and has no experience) the NYTimes finally soldiered up the integrity to attempt a similar takedown of Joe Biden. (Barack "Jesus" Obama has never done anything wrong.) Of course, it was a half-hearted attempt of innuendo that was quickly relegated to the Politics section, gracing the front page for nary a day.

Focusing on the favors the credit-loving hack Senator enjoys in his home state, the all-too-common buried lede debunks his main character building experience:
Beyond landscaping costs, one of the Biden campaign’s largest regular expenditures is for Amtrak tickets for the senator and his aides or consultants. Going back to 2001, those expenses typically ranged from $9,000 to $15,000 a year — far exceeding that of his colleagues in Delaware’s Congressional delegation, whose campaigns spent between $500 and $3,000, federal election records show. Like Mr. Biden, Delaware’s other senator, Thomas R. Carper, and Representative Michael N. Castle commute daily to Washington, their offices said.
Biden, of course, typically makes a point in stump speeches of relating to Joe Six-Pack-With-a-Lower-IQ by talking about his daily commute. It started as a way for him to visit his two young sons after his wife and daughter died in a automobile crash. Now it is a way for him to chill at his lakefront mansion. Senator, I served with Calvin's Dad: I knew Calvin's Dad; Calvin's Dad was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Calvin's Dad. You're cool if I plagiarized that, right Joe?

It is at this point that we left-coast elitists need to remind ourselves of the life of an average American in these trying, desperate economic times. The average American lives in a small town where the manufacturing/call center job he/she used to work at was recently outsourced due to NAFTA/globalization. Sure, the average American could get a new, depressing job at the meatpacking plant/maximum security prison, but the pay is less and it is 100 miles away. Gas prices what they are, a commute is out of the question, and he/she can't sell the house and move there ever since the housing bubble popped.
Also, the team lost in the state quarterfinals again this year. Coach should really start playing that Sanderson boy more. A real sparkplug. And what with Nell's son listening to that rap music, we're going to have get Sheriff McKay to keep an eye on him. I know trouble when I see it, I'll tell you what. Sure thing Jimmy, if I ever see him near your darling Sandra you'll be the first to know.
Anyway -- the point is, the Average American doesn't want to hear about how your campaign spends $10K a year shuttling you and your staff up and down the eastern seaboard so you can be kicking it on your badass deck before the fireflies come out. As much that can be said for the Palin VP pick being a cynical stab at chromosomal inclusivity -- the Biden pick is the same kind of rote process that gave us the uninspiring banality of Kerry and Lieberman. Hang around Washington long enough, and it will eventually be your turn. Yeah, even you there playing kickball.

Tonight's debate will be a fascinating matchup between someone who can't talk in complete sentences, and someone who completes way too many. We won't be liveblogging it! Don't stay tuned!

*In an ironical sense. It's not partisan if you are right.