Howard Owens is a digital media pioneer. He started publishing local news online in 1995 when very few local news outlets had web sites. The header image on the site depicts the film camera he used early in his career and the press pass from his year on the staff of the Carlsbad Journal. For more on Howard's professional background, read his LinkedIn profile.
HowardOwens.com is the personal web site of Howard Owens and covers his range of interests -- political localism and libertarianism, music and personal interests, as well as his professional interests.
Howard is currently publisher of The Batavian and lives in Batavia, N.Y.
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Daily Archives: December 26, 2004
XM Radio was developed by people who love music. It is programed by music lovers of the first order. Music fans should love XM Radio.
I now know this about XM Radio because I got my wife XM for Christmas.
Fortunately, we’re both music lovers and XM hits the spot.
We got an ear full of XM driving to and from San Diego. We listened XM 12 (XCountry), XM 13 (Hank’s Place), XM 40 (Deep Tracks), XM 43 (XM U, or “what’s next”), XM 44 (Fred, which strikes me mostly as the new wave/punk of my late teens and early twenties), XM 53 (Fungus, and is mostly the brand of punk I enjoy), and all of the decades channels (there isn’t a decade of music that both my wife and I don’t find something we enjoy — in fact, since XM only goes back to the 40s, it doesn’t go back far enough for us. We’ll take the 20s and 30s, too.) We also made stops at every other spot on the XM dial, even doing a little Larry Elder, CNN, MSNBC and Los Angeles traffic.
What I like most about XM is that the people programming these stations know there music. They haven’t just stuck a bunch of CDs in a multi-disk changer and hit shuffle (which seems to be how the digital stations on DirecTV are programmed). There are real people picking quality songs, and not just the hits, but songs you haven’t heard in years or maybe never heard. And for hard core music fans like me and my wife, finding an Ernest Tubb or Wynn Stewart song we haven’t heard is an accomplishment.
Interesting example (interesting to me at least) driving home this evening, I heard for the first time Jan Howard’s “Evil on Your Mind,” which is a song I had just been reading about. It’s a woman’s take on cheating, but before the man had actually done the cheating. And I thought, it might be interesting to write a song from a man’s perspective before the cheating had been consummated.
A couple of hours later over on XCountry, the DJ cued up Todd Snider‘s “Trouble,” with its chorus of “A woman like you walks in a place like this/You can almost hear the promises break,” and I knew for a fact what I already suspected — the song had already been written.
Speaking of DJs — another cool aspect of XM are the DJs. DJs’s on XM? Doesn’t that get in the way of the music? Well, a good DJ does a couple of things — first, he doesn’t get in the way of the music. In fact, he sometimes adds a little context or enlightenment. Second, somebody talkin’ at ya helps break the music up. Believe it or not, an endless stream of music can get a little monotonous. It’s nice to know there’s a real person picking out the songs. But the nice touch from XM is that all of the DJs are station appropriate. On the ’60s channel, for example, you’ll be reminded of the fast-talkin’ boss-DJs of AM’s salad days.
The current line up for XM means that just about every taste in music is represented. I wish there were a rockabilly station, and maybe jump blues, and something that is strictly swing would be nice. But at this stage of my XM listening, my needs are satisfied, and I know my wife’s will be, too. In fact, I’m so impressed with XM that next month, or the next, I’ll get XM for myself.
My one quibble with XM really has more to do with our set up for XM than a failing of the service itself.
Originally, XM was supposed to come with my wife’s Toyota Scion. The dealership ASSURED us repeatedly when we bought the car that all we needed to do to get XM was the buy the service for $10 per month. I didn’t do it right away for various reasons, and when I went to give it a try, I learned (with great difficulty and poor customer service from Ventura Toyota) that we had to sink an additional $300 into the Scion to get XM. I wasn’t about to pay $300 for XM, so while Ventura Toyota lost a customer, my wife was without XM.
What I bought for Billie was an XM car kit for $119, which included the receiver, a cassette adaptor and an FM modulator. Since neither of our cars have cassette decks, we were counting on the FM modulator.
The modulator is easy enough to use. You just have to find a free frequency and then flick a switch or two to tune the modulator to that frequency. It’s finding a open frequency (even with eight to choose from) that is the pain in the ass, especially while driving through metropolitan areas like Los Angeles or San Diego. It’s hard to go as much as 20 miles without starting a new quest for an open frequency. And for a large portion of our trip though LA, we couldn’t find an completely open frequency and had to settle for a bit of static.
Otherwise, the XM signal is just as crisp and clear as XM advertises. When tuned right, XM is better than CD quality.
I also bought Billie the home adaptor kit. It works on the office stereo, which is fine, but on the living room stereo we get a deep, rumbling hum. I’m guessing it’s a ground problem, but supposedly my fancy tuner/receiver shouldn’t need to be grounded, so I’m not sure what to do. I’m open to suggestions if you have any.
One additional benefit of XM: It’s the radio network that DOESN’T HAVE Howard Stern on it. Continue reading
In my most recent post, I wrote about “Heartaches by the Number,” a book by David Cantwell and Bill Friskics-Warren, which was a Christmas present from my wife. Having read more if it, I have more to say about it.
Specifically, this: Cantwell and Friskics-Warren, are capital “L” liberals, it seems to me, and pretty anti-capitalist. I’m not saying this mares the book, just noting it.
Example #1: Under the entry for “Life’s Little Ups and Down,” recorded by Charlie Rich and written by Charlie’s wife Margaret Ann Rich, Cantwell writes, “her similie effectively nails the inevitability of life’s highs and lows, not to mention the way a market economy can keep smacking you down right back where you started, love and hard work be damned.”
Example #2: In the entry for “A Satisfied Mind” by Porter Wagoner, Cantwell writes, “‘A Satisfied Mind’ expresses one of country music’s defining sentiments — money can’t buy happiness, and, at any rate, ‘I’m richer by far with a satisified mind.’ While people at every rung of the American class ladder give lip service to this sentiment, it lies particularly close to the heart of the largely working class country music audience — a community that resides in a worldwheree great material wealth is denied them by the same society that treats it as a reason for being.”
Example #3: Now we get around to the entry for “Folsom Prison Blues,” by Johnny Cash. Friskics-Warren writes that the prisoner in the song is being twice oppressed, first by prison walls and second by his position in society, where the wealth of those rich folks in the dining car smoking fine cigars has always been denied him. “It’s the unfairness of it all,” Friskics-Warren writes, “and especially the way those fat cats ride on the backs of people like him, that stick’s in Johnny’s craw. Even more than the stone walls and steel bars that hold him, it’s the injustice that makes him hang his head and cry.”
I can’t speak to the author’s interpretations of examples one and two, because I haven’t heard those songs in many years. But “Folsom Prison Blues” is practically part of my soul. And Friskics-Warren couldn’t possibly be more wrong in his reading of this lyric. If there is any politics in the song at all, it is the politics of accepting responsibility, a very conservative notion. Remember, the prisoner admits he did wrong, stating matter-of-factly that he shot a man in Reno just to watch him die. He doesn’t equivocate. He doesn’t strike the pose of a socio-economic victim. He doesn’t blame the other guy or somebody else. He says he did it. That’s it. He’s in prison because he did it, and he knows he deserves to be in prison. There’s nothing that will make a man weep more intensely that the realization he has nobody to blame but himself.
The prisoner doesn’t envy or begrudge the rich man and his cigar. He wants it for himself. The folks on that train symbolize freedom — a freedom that is moving past and away from Folsom Prison every day, and that’s where the singer wants to be — as far from Folsom Prison and he can get. That metaphorical freedom gathers intensity from the symbolism of the fancy dining car and those cigars. These are symbols of economic freedom, to be sure, but no doubt, the prisoner would like that kind of freedom, too. In fact, he states flatly that not only does he want to ride that train, he wants to own it.
But you can’t achieve economic freedom doing life in prison.
Further, remember also that Cash calls these passengers “folk,” which is a friendly, not apejorativee term. There isn’t an ounce of resentment toward these folks in either Cash’s language or tone.
A free man in our society has the same chance as Sam Walton or Ray Kroc to become rich and powerful. Our protagonist in Folsom Prison seems to acknowledge this fact by the plain way he states his predicament. He did wrong. He’s in prison. He know’s he’ll never be free. And that train whistle reminds him of what could have been if only he’d listened to his mama.
All I’m saying is that if you’re going to dress your music criticism up in political swag, at least get your story straight. Continue reading