Monday, July 25, 2011

Boogity Boogity Culture

One of the hottest viral videos making the rounds is a clip of the invocation offered prior to the NASCAR’s Nationwide Federated Auto Parts 300 by Pastor Joe Nelms of the Family Baptist Church, who channeled Ricky Bobby’s “boogity boogity boogity” between The Lords’ name and “amen.”

The “prayer,” if you want to call it that, is out there. I predict that you will soon find Nelm’s face pasted adjacent to dictionary definitions for “blasphemy” for daring to include everything from autoparts to racing fuel to his “smokin’ hot wife” in the alleged invocation. About all the delivery has invoked is a few nervous chuckles by some, and outrage by those who still take prayer seriously.

I’m mulling this over this morning as I sit down the hall from one of the most-public champions of culture retention in America today, Laura Ingraham, who’s been bold enough to stand up and say, no, it’s not cool to send texted photos of private parts as a new dating ritual; no, it’s not cool to demean women in song lyrics, even though the reigning awards-givers of the day have lauded Cee-Lo’s antics as “genius.” (How much genius does it take to inject an “f-bomb” into every other line of a song?)

Recently it was announced Charlie Sheen was being “rewarded” with another television show.
Here’s a guy that cannot string two thoughts together, walked out on his former employer in a totally-classless way, and who’s claim to fame is drug and alcohol fueled sex binges. His character on Two and a Half Men was not too far removed from reality, apparently, with each episode depicting a romp (or two) with a new woman each week. With that kind of trash being awarded for exellence, is it any wonder kids today are resorting to “sexting” as courting tactics?

There is a deeper problem in America than how we’re going to fund our debt, whether we’re gaining or losing jobs, and how the environment may or may not survive without carbon credits. It is a problem that more serious than who the next President may be. The country is in a battle for its collective soul, and the crumbling of our culture is a clue that the war is far from over.

If you thought the Baptist Preacher was entertaining with his “boogity boogity boogity” bump, you’re wrong. Frankly, were I a NASCAR driver, I’d have been a little leery of stepping onto the track for fear of being struck by lightning after that kind of a “prayer.” Fortunately, it probably never went higher than the top of the grandstand.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Dancing on the (Debt) Ceiling

As of the end of June, the United States’ Public Debt was a whopping $14.46-trillion, representing about 98.6% of our total Gross Domestic Product last year. In other words, in 2010, every man, woman, child and corporate entity that produced and contributed to the output of American business generated about 1% more than what we owed to everyone else in the world. 
A sobering statistic.

Today, the eggheads at Moody’s, which rates the US’ credit worthiness, made the stunning pronouncement that the best way to counter all the angst over holding firm or raising the federal debt ceiling would simply be to do away with the notion all together. Forget changing the rules and regs—just eliminate the rulebook altogether. 
Yeah, that’s healthy.

Does eliminating the debt ceiling make it easier or more difficult to rate America’s credit worthiness? If we were to eliminate such constraints tomorrow, thus removing the Congressionally-arbitrary line in the economic sand, would the US government continue to spend like drunken sailors--or start spending like mindless zombies? 
How could we tell the difference?
Did I just offend zombies?

Would Moody’s have an easier time rating our creditworthiness thus? Would it still not be apparent that we were indebted to a level near 100% of our ability to produce? A debt ratio is a debt ratio; every credit manager knows this—although there were many recently who chose to ignore this fundamental fact of fiscal life.

I’m wondering what Wall Street’s game really is, at this point. The ratings agencies are weary of the anxiety when the debt ceiling is reached, and government demand dictates more borrowing is needed. (There's a clue hidden in that pile.)  

Of course, these are the same math mental giants that brought you the credit default swap debacle and the resulting credit implosion and economic malaise. Some of these Mensa’s are now running the US Treasury. 
No wonder we’re in trouble.

There is one condition under which I would advocate for abolishing the debt ceiling—which really is an arbitrary, meaningless number—and that would be replacing it with a mandatory debt ratio. In essence, the Federal Government would be constrained from borrowing by the same tangible boundaries of which you and I are subject.

Want to borrow some money?
What’s your ability to pay it back? 
Income to debt ratio is a good indicator of this for we private sector geese, and should be good for the government gander, too.

What’s that? 
The government can print its own money? 
Don’t confuse the issue with esoteric economic facts—that’s why we’re in this mess to begin with. Too much economic theory, not enough fiscal pragmatism.

Regardless of the metric we use to measure America’s credit worthiness, we’re nowhere near Gold-plated, Platinum-dipped, Triple-A status when we’ve borrowed 98.6% of what we made last year. Mull that, Moody’s.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Remember to Persevere for Dr. Craig Clanton (1958-2011)

Dr. Craig Clanton (1958-2011)
After a courageous, three-year battle, my brother, Dr. Craig Clanton, succumbed to complications from Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in May of this year. He was 53. 

2010 Light the Night Walk Team
Last year, many of our friends and extended-family rallied in support of Craig and Carol and their family as he endeavored to persevere towards a cure. His example inspired 85 participants in the 2010 Light the Night Walk, raising over $10,000 for the Leukemia-Lymphoma Society.

This year Craig will not physically be with us, but he will be with us in spirit, walking in his honor as we Remember to Persevere towards a cure for blood cancers. The 2011 Light The Night Walk in Houston will be Saturday, October 1, at Discovery Green. 

Won’t you please make plans to join us as we celebrate Craig’s life, remember his battle, and encourage others to persevere in the fight against cancer. 
Please click on the link now to register! 

Saturday, July 09, 2011

iHate Apple

I just spent the better part of my morning fighting with the iTunes store to get a simple gift card credit applied so my Bride could download some music. 

Lest you think I am an old fart who knows nothing of the ways of digital music downloading, I’ve been doing it for years. Apple, however, has managed to make doing business with them more difficult than necessary, and I general eschew any dealings with them if possible.

First there’s the issue of all the interruptions while getting to the iTunes store. Do I have the most up-to-date version of iTunes? (yes) Is iTunes my default music media player? (no—and never will be) Is my password up-to-date? (yes) 
Just get me to the freaking place I want to go on your site, iMorons!

Finding the iTunes Gift Card Redemption site is not as easy as apple pie. 
It’s not “intuitive,” as a broadcast engineer with whom I once worked was fond of saying. 
No, you have to hunt, search, click, re-search, hunt some more. 
Ah—there it is...”below the fold” on my browser. 
Hey, Apple, why don’t you apply some of that vast brain power at your disposal and SIMPLIFY your website? Put that stuff at the top of the page…

Then there’s the issue of which string of numbers to enter into the iTunes store to redeem the card. There are four on the back of the card. Which to use? Lucky for me, the instructions are printed right there on the back of the card for all to see. With an electron microscope.

During this colossal waste of my time, a friend called and asked what I was doing. We commiserated about the digital music landscape, and I shared my own simple, elegant solution that I’ve used for years.

You put one in the car player, and it instantly plays. 
No time wasted downloading something that will eat up more of your day in the process than in the actual entertainment value received.

They might catch on, again. 
In the mean time, iHate Apple.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

50-kilocycles to the Right

There will be a new voice on “The Voice of Texas,” AM700/KSEV beginning next week (July 11, 2011.)      I will be the newest member of the team, with responsibilities including on-air hosting as well as providing Radio marketing solutions for sponsors of the myriad shows on the station. 

In some ways, it’s a big step—back into the realm of the employed after being self-employed for over three years. In other ways, it’s business-as-usual, still providing a voice to befriend and inform Houston Radio listeners, while offering quality service for businesses seeking a voice on the Radio.

I promised you I’d keep you posted. 
Now, let’s go have some fun together on the Radio!

Clemens vs Congress

I am bemused to hear Roger Clemens will be going on trial for lying to Congress over controlled substances, when they've been lying to the American public for years over the substance of legislation they control. 
Or just lying outright.

The most-obvious recent example of this is the embarrassing saga of NY Rep. Anthony Weiner—a ten day media romp in which he repeatedly prevaricated as to his prowess as a sexting lothario. And wasn’t it an American politician who made “hiking the Appalachian Trail” the newest euphemism for cheating on a spouse?

Never mind the fact that our Congressmen and women haven’t been able to get their collective acts together long enough to pass legislation on fiscal-stimulus. So how is it they can find time to rake Roger over the coals for physical-enhancement stimulus?

Maybe if Clemens’ trainer, Brian McNamee had injected the House members with a little extra octane, we wouldn’t be facing a Government shut-down in August. Perhaps, had  the Senate been dosed with some exotic B-12 to goose their brain-function, we’d be closer to closing the gap between spending and revenues.

I wonder if the Congressional Inquisition will pay as close attention to Clemens’ testimony as they do to the nuances and details they present to We the People on a regular basis. Recently Sen. Dick Durban opined that the United States borrows from China most of the money it spends—to the rate of 40-cents on the dollar. 

According to, China only holds 8% of the total US debt ticket—a mere $1.15 Trillion of the $14+ Trillion in outstanding obligations. 
And the ratio is only 38-cents on the dollar.
Don’t you feel better now? 
Here, take this pill…

Utah Gov. John Huntsman claimed this Spring that Social Security, Medicare, and interest payments on our collective debt would “consume every dollar of Federal revenue” within a decade. According to the Government Accounting Office, assuming all the current tax provisions are left in place, only 92-cents of each revenue dollar would be spent on interest and social entitlement expenses. Don’t spend the remaining 8-cents all in one place.

Lies or mis-statements? 
Only your Congressional speechwriter knows for sure—or should. It’s just galling that instead of allowing the MLB to handle this tempest on the pitching mound, Congressional brain power, time and tax dollars are being squandered over the word of a sleazy athletic trainer vs a potential Baseball Hall of Famer at a time when the very people doing the questioning have bigger fish to fry. 
Or should.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Summer Saturdays (some 'er not...)

Houston is suffering through one of the worst heat-spells in recorded history; Texas is roasting through the Summer of 2011. I cannot believe I drove around in a Miata with no a/c for so many years (arguably, driving in at dark-thirty in the morning was not a challenge; being able to drive straight home in the heat for a cool shower and a change was the only way it was possible!)

A few years ago I began a routine of going to the gym regularly, and I've found that increasing my aerobic capacity has also enabled my body's natural evaporative cooling to work more efficiently. However, I still need something cool to chill down my engine--and replenish my energy--after a workout, and have discovered this simple concoction works best for me.

Note: If you are offended by the Reese's peanutbutter cup commercial (" got your chocolate on my peanutbutter..." etc.), stop here.
1. There are no such ingredients in this, if that's what you're looking for.
2. I think there is no finer combination of flavors for the palate on the planet.

I'm a big fan of the Magic Bullet personal blender.
I'm on my second one.
All of my smoothie and shakes are assembled in a Magic Bullet cup, so there's your reference space.
And now...the ingredients and their order of appearance and usage, for Brent's Famous Chocolate-Peanutbutter Blast:

Ingredients for Brent's Famous
Chocolate-Peanutbutter Blast
Start with a base of 3/4-cup of crushed ice.
1-scoop (36g) of protein powder--I prefer Gaspari Nutrition's Myfusion Protein Powder, conveniently flavored with peanutbutter and chocolate.

1-teaspoon of ground cinnamon powder

1-capfull (21g) of bee pollen--my preference is Walker's Bee Pollen pellets

Gently shake this mixture from side to side to settle the powders into the crushed ice. Add cold water until it just reaches the top of this mix.

Add 1-teaspoon of fat-free crunchy peanutbutter--I prefer Jif.
My mom was choosy.

Add crushed ice to just below the threads at the top of the Magic Bullet cup (who needs measuring cups, when you've got a standard of volume already here??) and add cold water to the top of the mix.

Finally, add 5 dark-chocolate covered Espresso beans (I get mine at World Market), and securely tighten the lid on the cup of the Magic Bullet cup. Invert, gently shake to even the mixture, and begin to blend for two to three minutes, or until the chunks stop meeting the blender blades with that crunchy thump. Allow the blender to run until the mixture is smoothly circulating in the cup; should be the consistency of a good, thick milkshake.

Special note: I call this my Chocolate-Peanutbutter Blast, but it should not be confused with the Blasts, Blizzards, and other sugar-and-fat-laced concoctions you can get at the local Dairy Queen: If you invert this with the lid off, have a mop close by!

Friday, July 01, 2011

The Last Telegraphers

I have sometimes wondered what, should this day ever come, it would feel like to walk out of this studio for the last time. It feels like it did the last time—only it wasn’t this studio, precisely. People leave jobs every day; people move on all the time. The circle of life…

And to me it’s indescribable: In no other job that I know of can you sit in a tiny room, surrounded by glass and padding and talk out loud for hours. (Well, there is one other place like that…) 

In no other occupation do you have the opportunity to touch so many lives at once on a regular basis. There are very few gigs that combine such exciting possibilities with such overwhelmingly profound responsibilities to those you touch on a daily, hourly basis.

I have tasted from this cup often; it is intoxicating nectar, this stuff called Radio. And the nectar is changing flavors, the liquid is growing murky, and in some places, it’s evaporating all together.

To you who have supported us over the past 37-months of this show’s evolution, I must give a heartfelt thank you. To the advertisers and sponsors who have literally put your money where our mouths are, words just are not enough. Your support has enabled us to greet the world each morning, examine the business of our lives in detail, and provide answers and solutions to life’s big and no-so-big challenges.

This business is changing. 

And while we’re not completely done yet, there is handwriting on the wall: Station groups continue to morph and evolve as audience tastes shift and become more refined—more discerning. How you listen to what I do in this little room is the fundamental change that is reshaping this industry. Today we’re beamed on the AM band, we’re streamed on the internet, tagged, posted, tweeted and linked by strings of ones and zeros that boggle the brain.

Ten years from now, how will we come to you? Ten years from now, how will you find us—morning show hosts, liner-card reading DJ’s, and electronic newsmen and women? Ten years isn’t long…but it may be all it takes.

Radio is changing…and we must change with it to survive. 
We are the last telegraphers.

You can catch me this weekend on The Automotive Reporter Radio Show with Harold Gunn, Sunday morning at 8am on AM 1560 The Game.