Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Be TRU to Your School, Like You Would to Your Girl (If You, Like, Had a Girl)

NOTE: Despite an almost unanimous lack of public interest in his return to the “blogosphere,” if that’s what it’s still called, Sr. Slampo has reluctantly agreed to take a temporary “hiatus” from his extended hiatus to clamber up on his wheelchair-accessible soapbox and bloviate on an issue that has pitted brother against sister and is rending the very fabric of the city: the proposed purchase of Rice University’s KTRU radio (or its frequency and transmitter, whatever) by the University of Houston. In addition to his overweening need to dictate public policy to his fellow citizens, Slampo says he hopes this exercise in what he quaintly calls “typewriting” will help expunge the chorus of the Bar-Kays’ 1967 smash hit Soulfinger from his head, where it has been in more or less continuous rotation since a chance hearing on 6-23-10. He promises an imminent return to radio silence. -- Hidalgo Hidalgo, editor emeritus and under-assistant West Coast promotion man, Slampo’s Place

We see that the University of Houston’s regents, without bothering to consult us, have voted to proceed with UH’s planned purchase of Rice University’s KTRU, thus angering tens if not dozens of 30ish and 40ish Houstonians who fondly remember Marilyn Mock’s (was that her name?) “S&M Show” on the student-run station’s heyday back in the ‘80s (or whenever). We’re busy and we know you are, too, so we’ll get right to it: This ill-advised bit of empire-building and mission creep by UH is bad. It’s bad for the city, it’s bad for both schools, and, most importantly, it’s bad for us –– that is, me, myself and moi.

Oh, we’re not exactly a regular listener –– we don’t much “listen” to anything on a regular basis, ’cept for the sound of the gently falling rain –– but 91.7 is locked into rotation on our car radio’s digital scan, after KUHF (we do listen to the NPR news shows, and the classical music for its generally calming effect, but never the tiresome Car Talk or that noisome Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me [unless Paula Poundstone gonna be on!], KPFT (where we rarely stop anymore, the wall-to-wall self-righteousness usually giving us a reflexive ear-gag), KTSU ( for the music, especially Myron), and before the couple of stations our 16 year old routinely tortures us with. We couldn’t name a show or a DJ –– OK, it appears that we once immortalized The Soul and Funk Hour in this space –– but we know we can always find something reliably interesting on KTRU, even if it’s that show in the morning (do they still have it?) where somebody reads the Chronicle for the blind (or lazy). We alight on KTRU in the hope that we will hear some obscure blues, jazz or country music or even some screamin’ punk medley to get our blood pressure up in the pre-hypertension zone, and only occasionally are we disappointed. (Yes, we know this is not to everybody’s taste, but that’s because not everybody has taste, ya dig?). So, as Ken Hoffman would put it, here’s five reasons this sale is a bad idea (although we may run out of reasons well in advance of No. 5):

1. We didn’t look this up in Wikipedia, yet, but isn’t the purpose of a college radio station (like that of a college newspaper, or college mahjong club), to teach, to give youngsters hands-on training, “real-world” type experience in running the boards or punching the right buttons or whatever labor is required at a radio station these days? Yes, we believe it is. At Rice, of course, the student deejays get the added benefit of being able to show off their deep and hard-won knowledge of, say, pre-1965 Jamaican proto-ska while routinely mangling the pronunciations of various song titles and artistes (but that’s cool, ’cause, as the Rice motto holds –– or perhaps it’s that of DeVry Business School –– Vita est pro eruditio, meaning, roughly, “It’s Good to Fuck Up Now Because Not Only Is It Humbling But That’s How You Learn.”) We do not detect much of the hand of the student, the amateur, in the production of UH's KUHF.

2. We don’t see this as doing much for Rice-UH relations (the state of which we have absolutely no knowledge of).* Perhaps the mayor, a Rice alum, will be weighing in shortly (but we hope not).

3. Why in the name of Allah and/or Sweet Jesus does UH need two frickin’ radio stations? Will that somehow elevate the school to that coveted Tier 1 status? Perhaps UH’s assembling of a veritable chain of stations –– a broadcast empire! –– will do it. Does HBU have a station, and is it for sale?

4. According to the Chronicle
KUHF CEO John Proffitt said the present station, at 88.7 FM, will switch to an all-news format and the new station, to be named KUHC (91.7), will offer classical music and arts coverage. Both stations will be affiliated with National Public Radio.
Based on the dreary local “news and talk” products pushed by KUHF and sister TV outlet Channel 8, we assume this means the addition of another snooze-inducing, irrelevant outlet to today’s challenging media local landscape, and .... more Car Talk! (sheesh).

5. We’re all out of reasons, but the previous four amount to an unassailable case that should force both institutions to see the error of their way and JUST LEAVE THINGS THE HELL ALONE (which, even here in Houston, is often times the best policy).

*With apologies to Brian Wilson and whoever else of the Beach Boys is still alive.
**Although by inclination we are more of UH person, we have no horse in this race at all. In the interest of disclosure: We were once asked to leave the grounds of Rice by a campus cop or security guard while visiting there back in ’76 or ’77, which left us sore, but later we took a couple of continuing education courses there (one of which, taught by an instructor from St. Thomas, either the high school or college, was pretty good). We did teach as an adjunct prof for a couple of years in the late’90s at UH, our last semester there being highlighted by our single-handed apprehension of four –– count ’em ––plagiarists out of the 15 or so students total. The thefts were so blatant and pathetic that we almost felt like teaching the guilty a lesson in how to be a successful sneak, instead of giving them gentlemen’s ‘C’ that the ol’ boy who ran the department suggested. Whenever Rice is pitted against UH in an athletic contest, our neutral policy dictates that we cheer for whoever’s ahead.


The Fishing Musician said...

Yipee! You're back! I've keep you on my blog roll, and I couldn't be happier.

KTRU, along with KPFT, have provided generations of youngsters and the not so young with great programming and music.

The greatness of KTRU was the quirkiness, the individuality of it's programming. I listed to KTRU from my early 20's and I've enjoyed it for decades now. Even though I live outside it's range now, I have fond memories of great shows. I used to love the Saturday morning reggae show they had in the early 80's.

It'll suck hard with UH ownership.

Glad you're back.

Rorschach said...

Hot Damn! Slampo Speaks!

Robert Boyd said...

I'm a Rice alum who is pretty bitter about this whole KTRU thing. However, I don't hold it against UH. I don't have anything against UH wanting a second radio station (although it does seem a tad excessive). Rice (in the person of David Leebron) offered it to them, and they accepted. It wasn't UH's responsibility to say, "Wait, isn't KTRU a long-standing student-run originization?" It was up to Leebron to think about the ethics of what he was doing, and I believe he did think about them, giggling like Montgomery Burns all the while.

Actually, I'm sure Leebron weighed the costs and benefits carefully. The benefit ($9.8 million one-time cash payment) is obvious. The cost? Maybe some pissed off alumni (especially alumni djs) will take bequests to Rice out of their wills. But Leebron will be long retired by then, so that's not really much of a cost to him at all!

As for me, I don't listen to KTRU anymore. I occasionally flip to it, and mostly hear a bunch of noisy stuff I don't like. Those dang kids and their so-called "music". Not like the Replacements and Husker Du (not to mention Sprawl, Cinco Dudes and The Judy's)I loved (and still love) from the 80s--which I listened to exclusively on KTRU (since that kind of music was never played on any commercial station in Houston).