Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Radio Dazed: Central Illinois Edition

This coming weekend I'm driving down to Normal, IL for Illinois State University's homecoming festivites. Even though I booked my motel room months ago, I'm having mixed feelings about my annual trip. This is a special homecoming of sorts because not only is my old student radio station is celebrating its 30th anniversary (six months late, not that it matters) but earlier this month they marked a long-awaited transition from being online-only to having a full broadcast signal. Goodbye Windows Media Player, hello FM preset.

Of course, that's not why I'm feeling hestitent; it's not so much the station as it is my former co-workers and my standing amongst them. In the 18 months since my unceremonious dismissal from my reception/traffic job, I have yet to find my next radio gig and I'm nearly ready to give up and focus on something else. The student-run station I used to work for is an unofficial farm system for talent --both on-air and behind the scenes-- not only in the Bloomington-Normal market but Chicago, Rockford, Peoria, and St. Louis as well. If you listen to any radio station in those markets, you've probably heard the DNA of my old station and didn't even know it. In spite of my pursuits in other fields, I have reason to believe that my name has become shorthand for underachievement.

Worse yet, the big reunion Friday night will mean having to confront the station's faculty advisor, a woman whom I consider as a mentor and someone that I have more or less failed. Chances are she'll be swamped by all other former student employees of the station, the hundreds of other students she touched, so I'll probably just smile and nod politely when I get my five seconds of face time. Of course, there's also the glass-half-full aspect; I could run into an alum who's now a bigwig in the Chicago market, hobnob a little and potentially get a foot in the door. It's not like I have anything to lose.

As you can tell, I'm experiencing a whirlwind of emotions about the reunion and I'm essentially thinking as I'm writing. Wish me luck this weekend; I could sure use it.

Other notes:

+ Having watched part of the GOP debate the other night, it seemed like the discussion and endless reemphasis of bullet points mirrored the race itself: Herman Cain rose to the occasion, Rick Perry faded, Mitt Romney just chilled, and everybody else was simply happy to be there. As much as I love an underdog story, Cain's "9-9-9" tax overhaul plan worries me. It sounds simple enough, but most lower-class Americans pay less than 9% of their income in federal taxes; ditto for the minimum-wagers and the elderly. Even with a national sales tax and a supposedly leveled playing field, the rich come out with a narrow edge. How would that satisfy anyone on the left or right?

+ Has the death of Steve Jobs been overhyped by the media? Perhaps, but not by much. There's little denying that Jobs was a man of substance, a leader of industry first and a celebrity second. I don't own an iPod or an iPad, but I do have an iTunes account and an unused gift card from last Christmas, so even I was indirectly affected by his passing. I've never seen anybody shape or forecast the market for modern technology quite the way Jobs did, and I doubt we'll see anyone with his foresight and prowess again, at least in our lifetime. With all due respect to his widow and children, this might be a greater tragedy for good ol' American ingenuity than anything else.

+ Speaking of Normal, check out this two-minute thirty-second ad from Mitsubishi, who operate a factory on the west side of town. The editing on this mini-doc whitewashes the area a little bit, as it conviniently ignores not only ISU and its status as a party school but also the decrepit mess that the adjoining city of Bloomington has become. What suckered me into sharing this was that I used to buy CDs from North Street Records, which makes a cameo near the halfway point.

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