Friday, August 19, 2005

PBS doesn't want my money.

Spared the Central Valley heat thanks to an impenetrable blanket of fog (it’s like living on Venus), the Bay Area still manages to know it’s summer. How? A grey and bent Eric Burdon is alternately spewing misty-eyed nostalgia and begging the aging boomers of Marin County for money. It’s pledge time on KQED! PBS’ most bloated affliate is once again shaking the cages for that sweet boomer buckage.

The lead Animal is in town for the twice-yearly decrepit hippy begathon, hosting a hideous showcase of c-list sixties bands who have taken time out from touring the county-fair-and-corporate-picnic circuit to prop up the stuffed corpses of cheap drugs, VD and vague providential missions in front of the cameras one more time.

Man oh man, tell me one more time how your generation all managed to attend the best concert of all time in upstate New York, while simultaneously serving in and protesting against an unjust Southeast Asian war, all at the same time. You guys did everything together! The logistics must have been insane! Now, me and my scummy coevals are allowed the privilege of watching your sub-icons strap on their trusses, wheeze out their battle-cries-of-a-generation and their righteous Soul jams (this is a new sop thrown to the youngsters who came of age in early ‘70s) and shake their guts like Topol.

Herman and the Hermits! Damn, where’s my checkbook?

And we’ve have been hammered by this sixties nostalgia since the eighties!! We have had twenty years of KQED wheeling these acid causalities out (with a slight interregnum under the Three Tenors regime in the nineties).

Not only is there no – as in “no” – relevance in any of this programming to people my age, it actually steals from the KQED of the future. For as KQED is narrowcasting to a class of people who are, even as we speak, starting to feel the icy hand of the Black Angel. Conflagrate sage all you want, starchildren -- the Angel comes for you, and the KQED sticker on your Volvo is no Passover talisman. And dead people aren’t generally too forthcoming with the ducats.

Now, this is occasional relief from the boils of the summer of love, though I would argue the cure is worse than the disease. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you....John Motherscatching Tesh. John Tesh. JOHN TESH??? Who makes these programming decisions? Is it the same guy who assured ATT that Carrot Top was a spokesman with moxie?

John Tesh is an anomaly. He is a popular artist that has no actual demographic. Of if he has a demographic, it’s a group of people, who, like say Hell’s Angels or the Mennonites, you have heard about and guess they exist, and you’d be damn tempted to take a picture if you did see one. There is no Venn diagram that could include John Tesh’s demographic.

They are a singularity. They cannot be experienced through direct observation, only through statistical analysis. And KQED really wants their money.

I write this now as a grudgingly settled thirty-five year old, with a house, two little kids and a happening wife. I’ve lived in the Bay Area all my life. I’ve got a job, some walking around money, I watched Sesame Street when I was three and I watch now (unwillingly), all on KQED. And yet I do not feel compelled to give those weasels one red cent, even if that means that I will never experience that rare frisson of plastering a KQED sticker to my Element. (Next to the Apple sticker.) So what’s wrong with my money? What about my goddamn upper-middle class nostalgia?

I suspect that KQED would point (lamely) at some poignant documentary about Queer teens or something as “contemporary”, “fresh” and “having somewhat to do with life in this century”. They do occasionally manage a decent documentary (the nationally syndicated PBS programs are for the most part excellent), but usually it’s some pandering thought piece for aging liberals.

(And I do watch the Rick Steves in Europe stuff, because I have a suspicion that Rick Steves is secretly a dope fiend, a theory that makes watching the program a much richer experience. He really is that excited about visiting a Belgian lace factory. )

So, again, as my generation emerges from behind the 7-11 to raise kids, hold jobs, start the companies that drive the Bay Area economy, we ask one thing of you KQED: make some effort to be relevant to us, the living. And I’m sure we’d open our checkbooks. I’m just saying.

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Blogger Crackpot Press said...

God I saw Herman's Hermit's concert on some channel not so long ago...IT was BAD... almost as bad as Green Day at L-8..

He did one of his trademark upbeat hits:

"I am Henry the 8th I am "

Yeah Ladies.. throw your grammy panties at THAT guy. Ya know who Henry the 8th was, right? He was no Duke of Earl.

Fortunately, with your donation comes a wicker basket that you can carry your head home in.. and some splendid KFC.. (yes, extra crispy)

Keep in mind, the 5'2" lead singer from Herman's Hermit's wasn't even good enough to get in the Monkees.

12:42 AM  
Anonymous karena said...

Tell me your making up the bit about John Tesh.

5:49 AM  
Blogger Greg Mills said...

"John Tesh!!! Live at RED ROCKS!!!!!!!!!"

Seriously. Like that's going to help get over the hump.

11:06 AM  
Anonymous karena said...

I spent considerable time trying to help John Tesh get over the hump, and you know what, he never even noticed. It was a futile effort for an ungrateful man who is only appreciated in Norway.

4:25 PM  
Blogger Greg Mills said...


Stop beating yourself up.

We all have those humps. It is part of being a grown-up. Hell, I've had so many humps I can't even remember them all anymore.

While it was admirable of you to aid Tesh in the hump department, this is something Tesh needs to work out on his own.

He needs to ask what was it about this hump that has effect me so much? Will I be able to recognise the same pitfalls when and if I end up with another painful hump?

5:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lil Bobo,

Actually, I must concede that I am pleased that I came over--that piece was positively brilliant and very funny. However, it's going to be lonely over here because you must know that less than 1 percent of the population, if that, could tune in without thinking they were learning a new language.

Of it all, the "emerging from behind the 7-11 to raise kids" was classic. How many quarters did you dig out of the couch, or take from your mother's purse, to play pinball there--or did they remove the machines just before you were allowed to ride your ten speed after dark?

As to the balance of your piece and, in particular, your observation that pop culture is still reaching back to aged icons, I think this has much to do with the lack of great bands/artists over the last 30 years. In my view, for instance, I don't think that our generation, the Xers, have had any notable bands--save Pearl Jam and the Black Crowes. I, for one, must have seen them 5 times now for lack of other inspiration. And, I keep feeling myself reaching back to Zeppelin lately as well and taking some sick pleasure in Tommy Lee returning to college.

Ah, to be an Xer--from Zeppelin and hair on our shoulders, to the first generation wiggers with N.W.A. and our hats tilted to the side, then born again rock stars with Pearl Jam and the Black Crowes, to just smirking and listening to anything that stimulates us.

They called us Slackers and the Me Generation, and also said that we were likely to end up just right of Atilla the Hun. I wonder--do they know that they've basically given rise to a bunch of cynical Libertarians who write meandering missives and wouldn't even give a fuck but for some nagging allegiance to posterity?

Fair & Balanced

10:06 PM  
Blogger Greg Mills said...

"As to the balance of your piece and, in particular, your observation that pop culture is still reaching back to aged icons, I think this has much to do with the lack of great bands/artists over the last 30 years. "

That maybe true, but in the case of KQED is because a bunch of old goddamn hippies run the fucking place. The thought process behind the programming is fucking non-eculidian. One night in particular, I was struck dumb at what might have been the goddamn most irrelevant piece of shit shot-on-video documentary EVER -- a full 60 minute piece on the graphic designers who designed the first Eagles albums. AND IT WAS MADE LIKE LAST YEAR!!

I could not stop watching it. It had no reason for existing. It was like seeing a park bench with breasts.

11:01 PM  
Blogger Greg Mills said...

And also, can't agree with the band thing. We had plenty of good music. Granted I like strange music.

If you like the Black Crows, may I venture you might like The Faces?

11:03 PM  
Anonymous Bones said...

I saw the Black Crowes twice recently, and I can tell you that they are definitively one of the most rocking bands around, and that they are also one of the more creative that are touring today.

Saw them last night in Berkeley with Tom Petty. While TP and the Heartbreakers put on a good show, it was still very formulaic (i.e. I think their set is basically the same night to night, and the way they play the actual songs is about the same night in night out). Whereas the Crowes are currently playing probably 50+ different songs, and each one is played in a different way nightly (at least the specific solos etc.)

As far as Pearl Jam goes, they just keep producing new, creative, and very cool tunes. I know most people tuned them out a while ago, but for those who have stuck with them, we get to enjoy their continuing evolution, where they are doing new and different things each album, while continuing to rock out. And, of course, their utter lack of selling out to the "machine".

I also admire Eddie and co. for their great politics (which are very closely aligned with my own) as well as how they are forging their own path in regards to the music industry. They just announced near real-time high-quality MP3 downloads of each of their upcoming shows, and they are offering this direct to consumers (read: "Screw you music industry"). To PJam I say "keep on rocking in the free world".

Please enjoy.

8:58 PM  
Blogger Greg Mills said...

Pearl Jam? Wow, I haven't thought of those guys in forever. Last time I saw Pearl Jam was at the Polo Fields in GG Park with Neil Young. Vedder was puking and crapping (stomach flu) so it really was a Neil Young concert back by Pearl Jam. They had only rehearsed a few songs, so they just kept looping Neil Young songs. It was a debacle, a quagmire, if you will.

Black Crowes are simply not on my radar. I saw them on Saturday Night Live years ago and me reaction was "It's the Faces." All that was missing was Mr. Kate Hudson swigging a bottle of Mateus and kicking a soccer ball out into the audience.

9:16 AM  

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