Sunday, July 09, 2017

Lessons from Houston Radio Legends

NPR’s Garrison Keillor used to open his weekly “Prairie Home Companion” monologue by reporting, “it’s been a quiet week at Lake Wobegon.” For Houston Radio fans and professionals, it’s been several weeks of woe as we’ve had to say goodbye to familiar and beloved voices.

Paul Berlin (Photo: HouChron)
Paul Berlin was the voice many Houstonian’s listened to for decades on KBME, KNUZ and KQUE. His popular mix of Big Band and pop music standards from the 50’s thru the 70’s stood the test of time, while other Radio stations' formats seemed to change on a predictably regular basis. Rebroadcasts of The Paul Berlin Show on KSEV outlasted their originator, and are still aired each Saturday night. 

Paul Berlin was 86 when he passed away in June. He was married to his wife, “Nezzie,” for 53-years until her death. Berlin’s Radio career spanned six decades.

Randy Schell (Photo: FaceBook)
Earlier this weekend we were stunned to learn long time Houston voice actor and Radio production wizard, Randy Schell, had been killed in a skydiving accident. He collided with another jumper after his parachute had deployed, but his canopy collapsed and he plunged to his death near Pearland, Texas. 

Most people knew Randy as the voice behind AMC’s “The Walking Dead” series, and was also the voice of national brands like McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, and Geico Insurance. I knew him as the loving husband of longtime Radio maven, Donna McCoy.  

Mstt Patrick (Photo:Facebook)
Not 30-hours later came news of the passing of KTRH Morning Show host Matt Patrick, who had earlier this week told his audience that he was discontinuing treatment for cancer. Described as a “morning Radio staple” for decades in the Akron, OH market, Patrick had hosted news-talk shows in Houston for iHeart Radio since 2011, capping a 40-year run in Radio.
He was 58.

There are lessons we can draw from the lives of these men who left their indelible marks on this market and our hearts. Each of them had discovered he secret of dying happy—doing what they loved, and deriving great satisfaction from performing a job well done. Each of them developed lasting, personal relationships—not only with their spouses, but with their audiences. They loved Houston Radio listeners, even as they were loved. And each of us, like each of them, will one day also make a final passage from this life to the next.

So it has been a sad several weeks for the Houston chapter of Lake Woebegon, “where all the women are good-looking, all the men are strong, the children-are all above-average…” and the Radio industry is morning three of its favorite sons.

A public memorial service for Paul Berlin is planned for  10:30am July 25 at South Main Baptist Church, 4100 Main St., in Houston, Texas. Funeral arrangements for Randy Schell and Matt Patrick had not been announced at this writing.

May God bless each of these families as they mourn the passing of their loved ones and celebrate their lives well-lived.

Friday, August 26, 2016


I just completed a CLEP test for placement out of a college-level English Composition class I took when Guttenberg was in Junior High (Steve, not Johannes.) CLEP, by the way, is an acronym for the College Level Examination Program.
CLEPomania is what ensues while preparing for one of their tests.

The CLEP study guide led me to believe there would be a small series of multiple-guess questions, as well as TWO mandatory essays to be completed—all within the space of 70-minutes. 

The good news is there was no essay writing (other than this confessional.) The bad news is that instead of writing a couple of imaginary, fictional works, there were 90 questions to tackle. In 70-minutes.

(I write for a living. I critique copy as part of my work. Do you know how utterly agonizing it is to wade through 90 examples of marginally written passages, some more flawed than others, and be asked to pick which equally marginal alternative is better?)

After 61-minutes, the time it took to complete the exam, I felt like my brains had been sucked out through my toes. The really aggravating part of the ordeal was that I scored only a 66 out of 80 possible answers. That’s an 82 in real-person grading and something of which I am not particularly proud. 

The College Composition Modular exam did not measure my ability to write complete sentences, string together coherent thoughts, or offer critical analysis in written form. There were a few “trick” questions that taunted with verb tense and singular/plural errors. It tested my ability to second-guess what the test writers were trying to say, and to ferret the least offensive answer from a limited list of possibilities.

So after literally agonizing for a week and a half over how I was going to muster two essays of unknown topicality in a limited amount of time, only to be mentally thrashed with a slew of multiple-choice questions, I am both drained and unfulfilled. I even wrote a practice essay earlier in the week based upon the study guide’s make-believe study topic. That makes me either an extreme nerd or a glutton for abuse. Or both.

The resolution of my mental anguish may be this: Instead of forking out a semester’s worth of tuition, fees, and book expenses for a course I’ve already taken, I have now laid claim to full course credit for the price of a CLEP test and administrative fees—a fraction of the cost.
I wonder if I could submit this for extra credit to get that score up?

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Movement Movement

It was a most moving moment. “Mothers of the Movement” lined up across the Democratic National Convention stage in Philadephia Tuesday night, sharing their grief. The Movement? identifies them as mothers “whose children's names helped energize the Movement for Black Lives and the Black Lives Matter network.” 

According to the site, both groups were spawned out of the outrage generated by the 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman, charged with murder for the fatal shooting of 17-year old Trayvon Martin in a gated community in Sanford, Florida in 2012. In the true Democrat style of never letting a good crisis go to waste, the DNC paraded out these women as part of their build-up for the evening. It was heart-rending; it was tragic. And it was despicable.

No parent should have to bury a child; no mother should have to mourn a life needlessly taken by violence. But there they were--eight women sharing their personal agony before the nation:

Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, who at 17 was shot to death “in self-defense” by George Zimmerman while transiting his neighborhood;

Geneva Reed-Veal, the mother of 28-year old Sandra Bland, found hanging in her Waller County jail cell after a traffic stop that escalated out of control;

Lucy McBath, the mother of Jordan Davis, a 17-year old shot during an altercation about loud music in a convenience store parking lot;

Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, who suffocated in a chokehold during a confrontation with police over selling untaxed cigarettes on the street;

Cleopatra Pendleton, the mother of Hadiya, a 15-year old victim of Chicago’s out of control gun violence and failed gun control policies in that city; 

Maria Hamilton, the mother of Dontre, shot 14-times by a Milwaukee policeman after the mentally-ill man grabbed the officer’s police baton and attacked the him during a pat-down in a park.

Lezley McSpadden, the mother of Michael Brown, the 18-year old shot to death in Ferguson, Mo. when he rushed a police officer sitting in his car, and tried to grab the officer’s gun. 

Wanda Johnson, the mother of Oscar Grant, a 22-year old who was removed from a BART train for passengers' complaints of fighting, shot while struggling with police.

Only three of the women spoke on Tuesday night’s program. They were eloquent, passionate, and pitiable. Fulton spoke of “common sense gun legislation,” and “saving the children.” In case you don’t know, those first four words are code for doing away with the Second Amendment. McBath vowed to “keep telling our children's’ stories,” hopefully so that no others have to lose a child to urban violence.  Reed-Veal, the mother of Sandra Bland, gave a powerful address, speaking about her daughter's unlawful traffic stop in Waller.

That traffic stop went south when Bland got mouthy. Was her death--suicide by hanging in the Waller County Jail--tragic? Absolutely. Was it preventable? Undoubtedly. But how did Sandra Bland come to find herself in jail; just where did that traffic stop go wrong? When Bland copped an attitude with the officer.

I ache for the losses of these women but I must also question the circumstances that placed their children at odds with society that resulted in their tragic deaths.

What did these mothers teach their children about respect? Not just for parents, but for any adult or elder or person of authority?  At what point did these kids decide it was okay to defy a policeman or escalate an argument with a stranger in a parking lot? What ever happened to common, genteel decency between human beings?

Where are the fathers of these children? Why is there no Fathers of the Fallen Movement for men who’ve lost sons and daughters? Where were the fathers of these eight young Americans last night? I saw no audience-scans by the TV cameras for these women’s husbands in the audience.  Were they not a part of their children's upbringing? Not to sound like a civics quiz, but—if not, why not?

If the Democratic party wants to heal this nation and truly unite our peoples, then let it begin by enabling families to mend; let it begin by encouraging families to remain whole. Call me old-fashioned, but kids need to be raised by a father and a mother—there are two kinds of discipline at work in that dynamic, velvet and iron—and they both require equal parts in a child’s education on how to behave in polite society, or even in impolite society.

Why is the Democratic party more concerned about funding for abortions and a woman’s “freedom to choose” than in investing in the nuclear family? Instead of continuing the shameful bribery begun by Lyndon Johnson's welfare programs that rewarded unmarried women for having children out of wedlock, why are married couples penalized for staying together, IRS?

As the Party of Hope, the DNC has been full of disappointments this week. But parading the mothers around, whose motherhood was snatched from them prematurely, is a new, all-time low.

Oh, and that ‘hands-up, don’t shoot’ malarkey is a myth, based upon a lie.
Michael Brown never said it as he was lunging for the Ferguson PD’s pistol.