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Alex and Ronni - Publicity Shot


Alex and Ronni 1970

[1970] When WMCA owner Peter Strauss cancelled Alex’s radio show to make way for Yankees baseball, we moved it across town to WPLJ-FM and the listeners followed. I was in the city I had dreamed of living in since childhood, producing a big-deal, successful show that was itself part of the zeitgeist of the times - at least in New York. Professionally, life could not have been better.


davidfmendes @ 2003-09-08 said:
This fotolog of yours, the captions and pictures, and the beautiful text your "about", everything is amazing. I have a long time obsession with personal photos, and even started (twice) documentary projects about it. Your log reminds me of that idea, and of the kind of beauty I had in mind when I tried to film them.

yolima @ 2003-09-13 said:
Oooh, did you crochet that "stole" yourself?

The Jessie Project – Part 1

category_bug_ageism.gif My job search has lasted, so far, an alarmingly long time - nearly eight months. You can hardly ever prove the problem is age discrimination – less than a third of such legal actions are decided in favor of the plaintiff, and that’s at the firing end of employment. It is all but impossible to prove what is called “failure to hire” based on age - no one ever says outright, “You’re too old for us.”

But you know in your bones when it happens.

Last time I was conducting a job search – from July 2000 until September 2001 – I came to believe that my age was a hindrance. Several times, recruiters and hiring managers who had been enthusiastic on the telephone and eager to meet me, were oddly subdued when I walked into their offices. One told me, when I arrived at 10AM, that the position had been filled. I had little reason to believe him as we had set up our appointment at 4PM the previous afternoon.

Angry, frustrated and scared about my future but with plenty of time on my hands, I decided to test if age discrimination was limiting my search.

To do so, I created an alter ego whose work experience matched my own, but who was younger than I was. I borrowed my mother’s maiden name, Jessie Banta. I gave Jessie my cell phone number, keeping the land line for myself. I signed her up for a Web-based email account in her name and then created her resume in a different format from mine with fictional, but believable employer names.

Jessie got the same job titles as my own, but I reworded the descriptions and accomplishments to avoid giving away the game to any sharp-eyed readers, and I jiggered the employment dates a bit for more variety.

With the inclusion of some of my television experience, Jessie’s resume became a close, substantive match to my own. The only real difference was that her experience began in 1988, making her appear to be about 33 or 34 years old if you did the math. Neither of us listed education information because I don’t have a degree and I wanted an equal test.

And thus, The Jessie Project was born.

Jessie’s first resume and cover letter went by email to a recruiter to whom I had sent mine, without response so far, a week earlier. To my astonishment, not five minutes after I hit the Send button, Jessie’s phone rang – it was the recruiter.

The conversation was a repeat of one I had run into as myself far too often:

RECRUITER: (at high speed) Hi-I’m-Jane-from-XYZ-Company-and-I-just-got-your-resume. Fantastic. What-salary-are-you-looking-for?

JESSIE: (slower) Thank you for calling, Jane. Could you tell me something about the position before we discuss salary?

RECRUITER: I need to know what kind of money you’re looking for first.

JESSIE: That’s hard to say without knowing more about the job.

RECRUITER: I’ll have to call you back.

In those 15 seconds, I learned two new things: A young-looking resume gets immediate attention, and young candidates are no less plagued by incompetent recruiters than older ones.

The Jessie Project - Part 2

Body and Mind

category_bug_oliver Next Sunday, I’ll be six months old and I still have a lot of growing to do, but you can see here how tall I am already.

Ollie Standing at the Computer

A cat's body, you know, is a finely tuned machine and I've been putting in a lot of time developing mine. My eye-paw coordination is excellent; I’m as good as any hockey player at getting a “puck” from one end of the house to the other without ever missing a slap. And I hardly ever misjudge a jump anymore when I want to explore top shelves or speak eye-to-eye with Ronni.

I’ve learned that the computer is a cat’s good friend. Besides writing these online notes about my life, I read email with Ronni and I read all your blogs. Jeanne at Cook Sister: thanks for asking about me in your Comment a few days ago. Kimberly at Music and Cats, I really like checking out the pictures of Lyra, Sasha and Sergei every Friday. Give them a lick behind the ear for me. And a special hello to Mike, Andy and Dorey at Ranablog.

Ollie Playing Computer Game There's a lot of other good reading around the World Wide Web too: information on anything a cat could want to know and newspapers from every country – even in Africa where some of my ancestors come from. When my brain gets tired from all that input, I’ve got a special website I go to where I can play Catch the Balloon. It clears the mind of all the bad news.

But as I try to tell Ronni, no matter how much interesting stuff there is to do online, it’s not good to spend too much time on the computer. You gotta stretch those muscles. See, there’s this twine that’s wrapped around bundles of wood Ronni gets for the fire. It’s full of earthy, nature smells which makes it a better toy than those plastic things from the store.

Ollie Jumping So I got Ronni to tie a few knots in them to give the twine some heft and then she throws them way up high so I can practice my jumps. You never know, even in an apartment in the big city, when you’ll need to get away from an enemy - fast.

And that’s it for this time. I think I’ll have a bath and take a nap.

Your blogging friend,

Alex at WMCA


Alex in 1968

[1969] Alex and I arrived to work in New York radio when it was more dynamic, exciting and experimental than it has ever been since those years. With him as host, me producing and anyone who was anybody in music, politics and entertainment as guests, the show soon became No. 1 in its time slot. The buttons of the era help recall the tone of that anti-war, counter-culture, rock-and-roll generation:

Make Love, Not War

Draft Beer, Not Boys

Tune In, Turn On, Drop Out

If It Feels Good, Do It

Save Water, Shower With a Friend

Love is a Many-Gendered Thing

America Has Gone To Pot


tangent @ 2003-09-07 said:
Everyone should just kick back and relax.

av_producer @ 2003-09-07 said:
Every once in awhile I catch bits of Laugh-in on one of the cable channels - which I think co-opted some of these slogans in their sketches. About as counter-culture as TV could get at the time, not counting Susskind and the Smothers Brothers. New York in '69: the moon landing, the Mets, Jets and Knicks all winning championships in a 15 month period, Joe Namath, John Lindsey - was Papp producing Hair at the Public?

Our downstairs neighbor joining the Airborne division, my godfather being drafted and of course the very colorful hippies (we lived 2 blocks from Washington Square Park). It may have been earlier than '69 but I also recall walking past the Women`s House of Detenetion on 6th Avenue and 10th Street. Those are my memories as a 9 year old.

michale @ 2003-09-08 said:
My 4-year old memories of the same year, the only year we lived in Manhattan: playing at West 75th Steet and Riverside park in some really cool structure with tubes; spinning in our apt. foyer, driving through a tunnel to go to the beach, and making a mini-snowman on the window ledge.

zinetv @ 2003-09-09 said:
I still have many if not more of those buttons.

ronni @ 2003-09-09 said:
zine - I wish I'd saved mine. The list above is all I could bring to mind. Care to add to the list?

zinetv @ 2003-09-09 said
My buttons are stored on a high shelf, otherwise I would check them out. Secret Cinema was popular among the underground filmmakers of the time. Be-In buttons were very sought after and are very rare today. I never had one.

Ronni Age 27


Ronni Age 27

[March 1969] We went to New York City in 1969 when WMCA Radio switched from music to talk. For those of you old enough to remember WMCA in its legendary rock-and-roll days with Murray the K et al, Alex was the last Good Guy in the interim month between our arrival in New York and the launch of the new format. And I stole the last WMCA Good Guys sweatshirt from a storage cabinet.


av_producer @ 2003-09-06 said:
Yes, the Good Guys - was that the smiley face logo? My aunt who was 10 years older than me listened to them all the time and since she babysat often we`d listen as well. A wonderful memory.

ronni @ 2003-09-06 said:
So these photos trigger other folks` memories as well as mine. Nice. And yes, it was the smiley face logo.

Social Security - Part 10: Scaring Us Into Submission

[EDITOR’S NOTE] Generally, I don’t like web memes, but Jeanne at Cook Sister made an offer I couldn’t refuse – a music meme. Social Security – as important as it is - can get tedious and everyone needs a little joy to lighten the load of the times we live in. So check out Jeanne’s answers to the meme, here - and mine are in the first Comment.

In the interests of remaining calm enough for a good night’s sleep, Crabby Old Lady sat out the State of Union. But she read the transcript the next day.

The Speech
Mr. Bush, who devoted the most time in his speech to Social Security, once again – as with the war in Iraq - used his powerful bully pulpit to try to scare everyone into submission.

Let Crabby be very clear about this: there is no “crisis.” Social Security is not going “bankrupt.” And we do not need to fix Social Security “permanently,” as the president stated. More importantly, no one can do that. No one predicted the stock market crash in 1929. No one predicted other, more recent recessions. No predicted the internet bubble. And no one predicted its puncture.

No one knows the future. Not even the president.

What we can do – and Crabby is waiting with baited breath for the Democrats to come up with their counter-plan – is make some tweaks and changes that will take up the slack for the foreseeable future, and let future Congresses tweak again as necessary.

That said, here is what a New York Times editorial correctly labeled Mr. Bush’s “vague and glossy” plan:

The President’s Social Security Plan
His basic idea is to allow workers younger than 55, starting in 2009, to voluntarily invest up to four percent of their Social Security payroll taxes (to an annual cap of $1,000) in private investment accounts. Gazing into his crystal ball, he predicted, “Your money will grow, over time, at a greater rate than anything the current system can deliver.”

He listed some “principles” for development of the plan:

  • A conservative mix of bonds and stock funds

  • Earnings not eaten up by hidden Wall Street fees

  • Protection of investments from sudden market swings on even of retirement

  • To be paid out over time as an addition to traditional Social Security benefits

He said all ideas to accomplish this are “on the table” except: “We must not jeopardize our economic strength by increasing payroll taxes.”

That’s the plan as Mr. Bush outlined it on Wednesday evening. Everything else he said, at length, is spin and propaganda, outright lies and lies by omission.

What the President Left Out
The biggest omission the president did not tell the country is that Social Security benefits will be reduced for workers who adopt the private account plan. He made it sound like that money would be paid out at retirement in addition to normal Social Security payments.

Crabby was surprised at the percentage the president would allow to be siphoned off into private accounts – four percent, twice what experts were guessing leading up to this speech, and nearly a third of the total payroll tax. That means, which Mr. Bush did not mention, even more borrowing will be needed to pay current benefits to retirees; even more added to our already astonomically high national debt.

Worse, the president’s plan will do absolutely nothing to solve the shortfall in Social Security, which at least presidential aides admit. Reporters spoke with White House officials about the plan prior to the speech:

“…asked Wednesday whether it would be fair to describe the proposed accounts as having ‘no effect whatsoever on the solvency’ of Social Security, a senior administration official said, ‘That’s a fair inference.’
- Los Angeles Times, 3 February 2005

So as Crabby understands it, the president’s plan is to raid Social Security of nearly one-third of its revenue with no idea as to how he would make up the difference to ensure its future solvency. Maybe it’s hard for a person who’s never had to wonder where next month’s rent is coming from to concern himself with fiscal details.

Another big omission is the protection of the 23 percent of Social Security beneficiaries who are not retirees:

“There was no mention of what would happen to workers who become disabled, currerntly 16 percent of Social Security beneficiaries, or the minor children of workers who die, now 7 percent of beneficiaries…Nor was there discussion of whether spouses would have access to private accounts or what would happen in the case of divorce.”
- The New York Times, 3 February 2005

The president did present one definitive detail, his idée fixe from the get-go of this issue: raising payroll taxes is off the table. And that’s just crazy or, more to the point, it’s reverse Robin Hood-ism – robbing the poor to pay the rich:

Crabby has said this before, but to reiterate: The current salary cap on which Social Security payroll taxes are levied is $90,000. Low- and middle-income workers, who never earn that much money, have always been taxed on all their salary. There is no reason not to remove the cap entirely. To do so is fair, equitable and would help avoid at least some of the otherwise required borrowing.

Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, understated the basic truth about Social Security privatization when he said,

“They hope people will think they will take on these accounts and after 40 years, they’ll have this huge windfall, but that won’t happen. I think they’re trying to confuse people.”
- Washington Post, 3 February 2005

This president fooled us once by scaring us into Iraq. Don’t let him do it a second time by scaring us out of Social Security.

Tell the president and your Washington legislators what you want. You can do that at this website. Do it today and do it often. There is power in numbers. be continued...

Social Security Privatization Series Index

Bush's Bandaid Healthcare Plan

category_bug_journal2.gif Half a lifetime ago, Senator Everett Dirksen famously said, “a million here, a million there and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.” These days, you can’t take your eye or ear off President Bush for a single day. Every time he opens his mouth, it’s real money out of our pockets.

In touting his Social Security privatization scheme, President Bush likes to use the phrase “ownership society” – which is supposed to make us believe we’ll all be millionaires.

But now he is also applying that phrase to a new plot the White House neo-cons are trying to sneak under the radar that would transfer more of our money to big corporations and endanger the nation’s health.

They want to disengage health insurance from employer providers and assign it to individuals – you and me - who will pay for 100 percent of our medical coverage. The plan, in its rough form so far, would have consumers – does that word “consumers” in regard to healthcare bother you as much as me? – would have consumers purchase high-deductible, catastrophic coverage for major medical expenses, and pay for routine medical costs out of our pockets or from tax-deductible health savings accounts.

If you believe there is any such thing as a “routine medical expense” these days, you haven’t been to a doctor recently. All healthcare costs are catastrophic.

It never made sense to me that health coverage is attached to employment, which is as arbitrary as assigning it to owning roller skates. So I applaud the move to change that. But because those routine medical expenses can easily, depending on tests, drugs and other expenses, mount up to $500 or more per doctor visit, routine health care is out of the realm of ordinary people to pay entirely on their own. You tell me how a family of four with an average American income of $40,000 can pay normal monthly bills, pay catastrophic healthcare premiums for everyone in the family and put enough money into a health savings account to cover those routine medical expenses.

Here’s what President Bush said last week about this plan:

“Health savings accounts all aim at empowering people to make decisions for themselves, owning their own healthcare plan,” and will be more likely to control costs than if third-parties [such an employers] control the cost. “If a third party makes that payment, [the consumer] never gets to ask the question [about cost]. He just accepts the decision. And all of a sudden, when you have consumers starting to ask questions about cost, it is a governor on cost, at the very minimum.”

Oh, I get it now. When the doctor says I need surgery and it’s going to cost $100,000, I haggle with him while my life hangs in the balance. “That’s too high, doc. I’ll pay you $75K and don’t charge me for the sutures.”

Democratic congressman Pete Stark of California agrees with me:

“Healthcare isn’t like buying a Chevrolet,” he says. “You can go to Consumer Reports and read about the new Malibu, but if I asked you to describe a regimen of chemotherapy for someone who has colon cancer, you’d be out of gas.”
-, 31 January 2005

Another problem with high-deductible, catastrophic coverage came up in a new study by The Commonwealth Fund: about half of adults with this kind of coverage, especially low-wage earners, have trouble paying medical bills, sink into debt and are more likely to avoid care because of the cost.

There is no doubt that a way must be found to control healthcare costs, particularly with an aging population. But President Bush’s plan creates a two-tier system: top-notch care for the wealthy and Bandaids for everyone else.

Alex Publicity Shot


Alex Publicity Shot

[1968] A slow professional year while Alex cooled his heels in Minneapolis and Chicago radio stations as bland as this photo. In the country at large, however, chaos prevailed.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy were assassinated and there were riots at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. I stood outside the Hilton Hotel watching in horror as U.S. soldiers with bayonets fixed advanced on their contemporaries – harmless flower children in tie-dyes and painted faces; I believed the fabric of my country was disintegrating. My marriage wasn’t doing so well either.


av_producer @ 2003-09-06 said:
I was too young to think that country was disintegrating. In retrospect it was probably just enough convulsion to push everything forward. Not sure all but the really stoned out flower children were harmless, most embraced the hollow Marxist/Lennist ideology in the guise of peace and the sit-ins were disruptive and meant to be so. I do remember the RFK funeral that June and how depressing and somber the whole thing was.

ronni @ 2003-09-06 said:
That’s a long conversation I would enjoy having, AV, but this is obviously not the venue for it. I will take up a little space, however, to uphold and bless the right of all of us to publicly protest our government`s actions without being threatened - or killed by that government as four students were at Kent State on 4 May 1970.

av_producer @ 2003-09-06 said:
Ronni - Agreed. Complex conversation - happy to buy the 1st cup of coffee on this one. The deaths of the four students at Kent State is a tragedy, no argument there.

ribena @ 2003-09-11 said:
Ronni, I thought of you and time last weekend when I stumbled on another writer musing on memory; this photo and its caption seem the best place, today, to share it with you.

"If I could index all the hovering memories which announce themselves so insistently to me, sitting amid the distractions of yet another introspective evening (ship models, books, the last of the brandy), I would compile my index not in terms of good or bad memories, childhood or adult, innocent or guilty, but rather in two very broad and simple categories: Cooperative and uncooperative.

"Some memories seem content to be isolated unities; they slip neatly into the proper slot and give no indication of continuum. Others, the uncooperative, insist on evasion, on camouflage, on dissolving into uninvited images.... We are what we remember. The past is here, inside this black clock, more devious than night or fog, determining how we see and what we touch at this irreplaceable instant in time." - Don DeLillo/Americana.

A fitting source, given your project. Thanks for your note, too, on the cellar door. It does make me think of scurrying for shelter, and of packing the summer away.

Some Words To Live By

[EDITOR'S NOTE: I'm experimenting with Audioblog. You can click the arrow and listen to the post - or just read it below.]

Lately, I've been reading about Eleanor Roosevelt. I only vaguely remember her from my youth - she died in 1962 - but I recall that many people did not like her. She was ahead of her time on civil rights and women's rights - long before they became widespread political issues in the 1960s - and newspapers were cruel, attacking her looks rather than the ideas and ideals she championed. But to millions of others, in the U.S. and abroad, she was beloved.

Eleanor was born in 1884 and her mother died when Eleanor was eight years old. Her brother died the following year and her father died when she was ten. She was a shy girl, plain-looking, awkward and lonely. Maybe that had something to do with how she grew into a woman of great sensitivity - a humanitarian on a global scale who devoted her life to the betterment of the underprivileged - the underdogs of all races and nations.

Eleanor Roosevelt She married a cousin, Franklin Roosevelt - the man who, as president, created Social Security which is at issue now. She raised their five children and when polio restricted Mr. Roosevelt's physical activity, she served as his ad hoc ambassador. 50 years before Hillary Clinton, Mrs. Roosevelt made the job of first lady an activist position. She traveled widely and frequently throughout the country during the Great Depression to visit schools, hospitals and anyone in need. She reported back to the president about what she saw and what she thought needed to be done about it. During World War II, she tirelessly visited troops in Europe and the South Pacific.

After FDR's death in 1945, President Truman named Mrs. Roosevelt a special delegate to the newly-formed United Nations. There, she helped found UNICEF and chaired the group that wrote the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - which is worth re-reading these days as a reminder of how things ought to be.

For many years, she wrote a column that was syndicated to newspapers throughout the United States and she wrote widely for magazines. What I didn't know at all about Mrs. Roosevelt was her finely-honed understanding of what it should be to be human - and her gift for language.

Did you know it was Eleanor Roosevelt who first said, "It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness?" I didn't know that. Here are a few more things she said:

"Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart."

"To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart."

"If someone betrays you once, it is his fault; if he betrays you twice, it is your fault."

"Learn from the mistakes of others. You can't live long enough to make them all yourself."

"When all is said and done, and statesmen discuss the future of the world, the fact remains that people fight these wars."

"When will our consciences grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it?"

Mrs. Roosevelt is not often spoken of these days and she should be. There are not a lot of women of the 20th century who did as much, gave as much of themselves and left so much behind. If you want to know more about her, just type "Eleanor Roosevelt" into your favorite online book store. She wrote many books herself, still in print, and there are a number of biographies.

Here is one more thing Eleanor Roosevelt said: "Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art."