Friday, October 01, 2010

764 The Cryonic Cat

764 The Cryonic Cat

There's a place in Michigan called Clinton Township, about 30 miles northeast of Detroit, and in it there's a boxy little building in which about 100 people and 70 pets lie dead and frozen awaiting the day their fatal conditions can be fixed and the bodies, presumably brought back to life. It is called the Cryonics Institute and there's one body they haven't listed as in cryostasis, that of the radio industry, or the cryonic cat.

Why a cat? Because a cat has nine lives. And radio has used up at least six of them. Predictions of its death may be premature at the moment. Tabby's death has been much and falsely reported since his birth in the early part of the 20th century. But this latest version rings truer than the previous.

Tabby ain't what he used to be. After all, who listens to him? Mostly old folks who themselves will be Cryo-candidates pretty soon. Or right wing crazies. Or people who think rap, hip hop, modern country and modern rock are kinds of music rather than kinds of noise. Or people who don't know how much better things used to be. Or people who can't figure out how to use an iPod.

Broadcasting in this country is governed by the Communications Act of 1934, parts of which have become superannuated today. So in 1996 when congress was still more or less functional, they revised it. Tabby became a commodity. Numerical ownership restrictions pretty much evaporated and mega-companies formed and bought up pretty much every cat in sight. The 1996 act was supposed to foster competition. Right. How do you call one company that owns 1200 stations with several in each of the top markets and "clusters" of them in every Podunk in America competitive? Is there one guy running all of them sitting at corporate headquarters in a Texas cow town, San Antonio? Is he the Executive Vice President of Homogenization? Moo!

Pass any "local" radio station at night and notice the windows are dark. The lights are out. Who needs air people when a computer will do it all for you. One guy in San Antonio running every radio station in the country? Not yet, but maybe soon. Hiring is down. Creativity is down. No one relies on localism. McDonald's in Patchogue, NY is the same as McDonald's in New York, Chicago, Taipei and London -- with only minor menu variations. Same thing with radio.

So, Tabby, come over here, please. We're going on a little trip to Clinton Township. You'll like it in Michigan. Clean air, friendly mice. Great hunting and fishing. We're about to cool you to the temperature of liquid nitrogen and then wait until we can cure your illness.


--Radio was pronounced dead on arrival in the 1920s, again when TV became popular, then with the advent of widespread Internet use, and again with the arrival of widespread satellite radio and again with the widespread popularity of MP3 players. That's six lives and counting. Meantime, someone reserve space in Michigan.

--If you're heading for the cryonics lab after death, here's something to put into to your will. "If within 50 years, they don't bring me back, cut me up into cubes, wrap me in plastic bags and stash me in a convenience store ice-for-sale refrigerator. At least the cubes will be put to actual use."

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010

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