Monthly Archives: March 2004

Bootcamp Day 64 — Sunny

During my high school years in Richmond, there was only one FM station worth listening to, WFMV/103.7. It played classical music almost all of the time, which was good, but once a week, it went off-format and featured Richmond’s first progressive music show, “Veronica Lake“. But one evil day, the station was sold to “Functional Broadcasting”, who wanted to change the format to “beautiful music”. There was a listener revolt, and the company agreed to maintain the classical format for a while, until WRFK/106.5 (the radio station of the Union Theological Seminary) could go on the air full-time and pick up the classical collection and format.

Sadly, however, Veronica Lake didn’t move to WRFK; in fact, it was almost the first thing to vanish from WEZS (the new call-letters). Fortunately, though, WGOE/1590 had also started to play progressive music (and many other interesting things), and that’s where most of my listening time went (daytimes, anyway; WGOE was a daytime-only station).

WEZS did go all-beautiful-music, of course, joining the majority of the stations on Richmond’s FM dial in that format. For a while, anyway — eventually, FM stations realized that they could make money with more diverse programming, though that diversity seems to have vanished with the onslaught of the megacompanies like Clear Channel.

These days, there aren’t many FM stations which play “beautiful music”, so Sunny probably fills a need. For somebody, anyway. But not for anyone living in our house — one hour was more than enough. It’s back to The Village for us!

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Bootcamp Day 63 — XM Kids

Listening to XM Kids brought me back a few years, back to the time when Jeff was still Jeffrey and video meant tapes, not DVDs or TiVo.

I thought I’d feel silly playing kids’ music in my office, but I kept the volume down, and I think I got away with it this time. So far, anyway.

I didn’t particularly like the morning zoo show (but I don’t like that format on regular radio, either), and I was surprised when I heard rap music (and I liked it just about as little as my other exposures to more…um…adult rap), but most of what I heard during the day was OK and much of it was awfully familiar.

I especially enjoyed “Sesame Sounds”, though I would have been even happier if they’d played my favorite Sesame Street tune, Put Down the Ducky.

I don’t think I’ll spend much time on XM Kids, but I might stop by again during Sesame Sounds! It was sure better than Radio Disney — and I didn’t hear any Hilary Duff!

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Bootcamp Day 62 — The Village

I’m sure I heard folk music while I was growing up in Richmond, but it wasn’t something I listened to often or voluntarily. That changed in college — WRPI played a lot of folk music. I fondly remember “Mostly Folk”, every Sunday night (I’m amazed to see that it’s still on the Sunday night schedule, more than 25 years later), but there was plenty of folk and folk-rock to be heard throughout the week (groups like Steeleye Span, Fairport Convention, and Pentangle come to mind).

Later, I fell in with a group of science fiction fans based at Albany State who introduced me to the joys of live music at Caffè Lena, in Saratoga Springs. I remember enjoying The Boys of the Lough, U. Utah Phillips, Rosalie Sorrels, The Balfa Brothers, and many more; I also liked the food at Lena’s (that means desserts!), but the music was the real attraction. Diane and I had one of our first dates at Lena’s, which is another reason I remember it so fondly!

So I was eager to visit The Village during Bootcamp, and I was not disappointed. Of course, this wasn’t much of a surprise — The Village has been one of my presets the whole time I’ve had XM. But I hadn’t listened for a sustained period before today — I’d tune in, listen for a while, and then move on.

Since today is St. Patrick’s Day, The Village played a lot of Celtic music all day, which pleased me a lot. But everything I heard today has been great — my only real complaint is the lack of specific artist/title information on the display during the live shows and the Midnight Special replay.

Needless to say, I’ll be back.

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Bootcamp Day 61 — Beyond Jazz

I’ve got mixed feelings about Beyond Jazz. I like a lot of what they play, but when they play something I don’t like, I really don’t like it. As I type this, they’re playing “Cooldown” by DJ Smash, which is the worst thing I’ve heard all day — sufficiently irritating to send me off to another channel.

And they make it easy to go elsewhere — I have heard the DJ a couple of times, but he’s always been talking about what’s on other channels, or what Beyond Jazz will be playing later in the week, not what they’d just played or what would be on next.

The variability is a bit more than I expected, but I’m sure I’ll be back.

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Bootcamp Day 60 — Cinemagic

Before I talk about Cinemagic, let me urge you to scroll down and read about what it’s like to fly in space.

OK, welcome back. In some ways, today’s talk at Almaden was appropriate for today’s Bootcamp experience, since most of the music I heard came from science fiction or fantasy movies (“Return of the King”, various “Star Wars” movies, “The Thing”, “Aliens”, and “Escape from New York”, to name but a few).

I was struck by how similar the music was — sure, if I listened, I could usually tell that there’d been a change of movie, but it took pretty careful attention. It did help when they played bits of the dialog between musical excerpts, too.

There was some music from movies in other genres during the day, and even a couple of vocal pieces, but most of the music was what I have to call “pretentious orchestral”.

I enjoyed the day, but there was a lot of repetition, and spending most of the day here was too much. To coin a phrase, “I’ll be back” (yes, I heard plenty of “Terminator”, too), but for briefer visits.

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Not the usual guest speaker

When I was in elementary school, one of my teachers gave me a very special treat. When the Virginia Education Association had its annual convention in Richmond, all the teachers at my school went to the meeting and the students got the day off. I don’t know what went on during the day, but they had special guest speakers during the evening — during the year in question, the guest speaker was Werner von Braun. My teacher knew that I was a space buff, and she invited me to come along and hear Dr. von Braun. I don’t remember what he said, but I remember being thrilled to have been able to hear him.

Today was also a very special treat. Bruce Melnick, Boeing’s VP for Florida Operations, gave a colloquium at the Almaden Research Auditorium, titled “What it’s like to fly in space”. Before joining Boeing, Melnick was an astronaut, and flew two Shuttle missions, STS-41 and STS-49. He shared some photos he’d taken on the messions (mostly STS-49), and just talked with us about what it’s like to fly in space.

Most of the time, when I go to a presentation at IBM, there’s a constant background noise — the pitter-patter of little fingers on Thinkpad keyboards. Not today. He held the audience’s attention, well past the time we were supposed to break. I wish I’d taken notes — but I was too wrapped up in the pictures and the talk.

It was one of the best hours I’ve ever spent at IBM.

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Bootcamp Day 58 — The Fish

I listened for a very short time and was struck by two things:

1) The style of music doesn’t appeal to me

2) The message, which doesn’t interest me, is extremely strong

This combination of ingredients sent me on my way very quickly, with no desire to return.

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Bootcamp Day 57 — X Country

I tuned into X Country late Thursday night, about 9:10pm Pacific time. After listening for a few minutes, I expected to have about the same opinion of it as I had had of The Groove on Wednesday — blah. But I wanted to give it a fair shot, so I kept listening, and the more I listened, the more I enjoyed it. There were some songs I didn’t like at all, but they were more than balanced by the ones I liked, and I was also surprised to recognize a few songs.

Then Rogue Calls ended, and Cross Kin X began, and I really started to enjoy the music. I wouldn’t have expected to hear Rod Stewart’s “Mandolin Wind” on a country channel, but there it was. And it was surrounded by other, less familiar, tunes, most of which I liked.

The channel page leads me to believe that the music varies a lot from hour to hour here, unlike some channels, so other hours might have left me with a very different impression, but I enjoyed what I heard and will happily stop by again.

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Bootcamp Day 56 — The Groove

The Groove plays “R&B” headliners from the 70s, 80s and beyond — which is later than the period I listened to R&B music to any extent. So nothing I heard was particularly familiar. And nothing I heard did much for me. But on the other hand, nothing I heard offended me, either.

I doubt I’ll be back.

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Bootcamp Day 55 — Fred

When I looked at the Fred page, I didn’t have high hopes for my visit there. But when I tuned in late on Tuesday, I caught the “One Revolution” show, with music from 1982, and I really enjoyed it. I even recognized several of the songs, much to my surprise.

I don’t know if the 90 minutes of programming I listened to is typical or not, but I’m willing to come back and find out!

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