Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Skunk Works of News92fm

“The Skunk Works” is an alias for the top-secret research and development headquarters of Lockheed Martin Aircraft. These are the guys who’ve come up with fabulous innovations like the U-2 Spy Plane, the SR-71 Blackbird, and the F-22 Raptor. I could tell you where the Skunk Works is…but then I’d have to shoot you.

The genesis of this highly-classified R&D division grew out of a request by the military in 1938 to develop what would become the amazing, twin-boomed P-38 Lightning. Much of the research that resulted in this 400-mph+ aircraft was done in secret, without a contract, because the engineers working on the fighter knew there was a better way to build an aircraft.

Official Lockheed-Martin Skunk Works logo
In the ‘40’s, Al Capp’s comic strip, “Lil’ Abner,” described the “Skonk Works” as a rundown factory on the out-skirts of Dogpatch that emitted the foulest of odors from the rendering of skunk carcasses and shoe soles into some unknown concoction, the fumes of which were toxic.
According to the entry in Wikipedia, “The original Lockheed facility…was located adjacent to a malodorous plastics factory. According to Ben Rich’s memoir, an engineer showed up to work one day wearing a Civil Defense gas mask as a gag. To comment on the smell and the secrecy the project entailed, another engineer, Irving Culver, referred to the facility as "Skonk Works".

“As the development was very secret, the employees were told to be careful even with how they answered phone calls. One day, when the Department of the Navy was trying to reach the Lockheed management for the P-80 project, the call was accidentally transferred to Culver’s desk. Culver answered the phone in his trademark fashion of the time, by picking up the phone and stating "Skonk Works, inside man Culver".
"What?" replied the voice at the other end.
"Skonk Works", Culver repeated. The name stuck.”

(I actually did this a few days ago. There's only one phone operating in our loan-out space, and it rang during a meeting. I picked up the phone and answered, "Skunk Works." The caller was pretty surprised...and a little disappointed that the person she was seeking was no longer employed or at that number.)

For the past few weeks, I have been working at an undisclosed location on a very exciting Radio project, which you now know will be Houston’s newest 24-hour all-news station, News92fm

My colleagues and I have been bound by a legal, non-disclosure agreement to disavow any knowledge of this, if asked, and it’s been quite fun to dodge questions by answering, in a stern-faced manner, “I am under a legal NDA, and I cannot comment.”

The News92fm "Skunk Works"
We’ve called our little hideaway, The Skunk Works.
It has been neither foul nor dilapidated, and in fact the folks who work there for another, well-respected company have treated us quite well.

As we begin to emerge from our fox holes and bunkers and share our work with the rest of the world, we’ll also share some of the inside scenes as we’ve brought together some amazingly-talented and dedicated Journalists to create News92fm. And, as I am fond of saying, "we'll see you on the Radio!"

Friday, October 21, 2011

On Sleeping-In

There are few things in life more delicious than waking in the morning without the aid of an electronic or mechanical device. You alarm clock.

Since my "sabbatical" from a regular Radio show began in July, I've been wrestling to find just the right start- and end-point of restful sleep my body needs. At first I rebelled from the regimen of bedding down early so that I could greet the dawn before most people are even conscious. I stayed up late and caught episodes of "CSI" and "The Mentalist" on TV. A few times I became so adventurous as to watch the late news...and even dared to catch episodes of Letterman or Leno. Outrageous, me.

I found, however, that no matter how late I dared to stay up, my internal body clock would rouse me before the sun...or at least in time to hear the "hissing of summer lawns," as Joni Mitchell once elegantly described.

The myth that the older you get, the less sleep you need is exactly that: A myth. I still require fewer hours than my Bride, but can tell when the formula's off by an hour or two.

Given the day of the week, I am now being greeted by lights and sounds I haven't seen or heard since we moved into this house: Ducks scrounging for grubs by the pond, the neighbor's yappy dog complaining about the cold grass at their back door (that's the same idiot dog I sometimes fall asleep to, or am awakened by in the middle of the night, too!) and the aforementioned lawn maintenance events.

Just to watch the light stream through the eastward windows of the house is a treat.

I am relishing these simple pleasures of nestling deeper under the covers, my wife's leg slung over mine, and the soft whisper of our little dog's breathing pulsing near my ribs...because I know they're fleeting. The rhythm and regularity of a Radio schedule is in the not too distant future, and I'll be sharing more about that with you soon.

For now...time to hit the biological snooze button, because I couldn't reach the alarm clock if I wanted to.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Andy Rooney, Roseanne Barr, and Me

Andy Rooney has been the reigning curmudgeon at CBS for the last 30-years. Tonight (10/2) he signed-off the show by having the last word. Guess that means CBS is in the market for a new curmudgeon. 

I think I’d like that job. 
I’m getting long enough in the tooth now that I find myself more and more irritated by the most minor examples of public stupidity.

Take Roseanne Barr, for example. 
Take Roseanne Barr, please.
I never liked Roseanne’s stupid sitcom. 
I thought it crudely-focused, poorly written, and always went for the cheap laughs. 

I never liked Roseanne’s voice; it grated on my ears. 
She proved beyond a shadow of a doubt she can’t sing a few years ago when she attempted to perform The National Anthem. Not only could she not carry the tune, she also had the additional poor taste to spit and grab her crotch after the “performance.” 
It was just gross.

That pretty much did it for me for Roseanne Barr. 
Now when her TV shows come on, I change the channel, and the quickest way to keep me from buying a product would be to have Roseanne Barr be the pitch man (she’s no lady.)

Now Roseanne has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt she’s a brainless buffoon by proposing “the guilty bankers” be allowed to pay back some of their largesse…or face beheading. She sets the threshold at $100-million, which is pretty convenient since Barr’s net worth this year is calculated at only $80-million
I don’t know how she survives.

Here’s the thing about all these nattering-naybobs of public stupidity: 
People like Roseanne don’t know the first thing about running the country, a business, or our lives.  Roseanne has won plenty of awards for her acting…but remember, she’s playing a role, and those awards were bestowed for her prowess at being an imaginary person
I live in the real world.

It’s funny, don’t you think, all these celebrities and politicians talking about sacrifice and all of the rest of us having to dig deeper and pay more and do our part…like pay higher taxes. 

Warren Buffet’s real big on that, these days. 
He thinks rich people should have to pay more because they make more. That doesn’t sound like too much of an incentive for anyone else to aspire to make a lot of money, if they’re just going to have to give more of it back to the IRS.

Hey, Warren: There’s no law against voluntarily writing a personal check to help out in covering the mountain of debt Congress has amassed in our names. But have you seen any of these blabber-mouths sit down and write the first check towards paying that balance down? 

Warren Buffett hasn’t; Barak Hussein Obama hasn't; Roseanne Barr probably won’t either. 
After all, she’s only worth $80-mil.
(Don't look at me: I don't have the dough.)
If that makes me a curmudgeon, so be it. 
That’s the way I see it.