is proud to present the adventures of Ben
very own Renaissance man: author, broadcaster, and former senior
editor and writer at Rolling Stone Magazine. This guy's our hero!
Ben was a featured character in the movie "Almost Famous,"
the Oscar and Golden Globe-winning film by Cameron Crowe.
Happy Year of
It’s the Year
of the Ram. Or is it? We’ve had a minor controversy recently at
KTVU, the station that broadcasts the San Francisco Chinese New
Year Parade. One sponsor insists that it’s the Year of the Sheep.
As the co-host (with Julie Haener), and as a guy who’s been around
the Lunar cycle a few times, I resisted. But then I went online,
where InfoPlease.com says it’s the Year of the Sheep, or, alternately,
the Year of the Goat. To make matters even Ram-tougher, I happened
onto a Chinese New Year site out of Scotland, where the year 4701
is called “the Year of the Black Sheep.”
Now I’m totally
confused. I already can’t wait for it to be the Year of the Monkey.
Or is that Chimp? Gibbon? Ape? Primate?…
You Are Cordially
It was my birthday,
and there was a party, but it was NOT my birthday party. You know
what I’m sayin’?
Of course not.
I’m just bitching and moaning about being an item in a recent San
Francisco Chronicle gossip column, called The In Crowd:
Gold reports that when "A Whiter Shade of Pale" played at Ben Fong-Torres'
karaoke birthday party at Yet Wah in Diamond Heights, the birthday
man called it "Trent Lott's favorite song."
the calls and e-mails started coming in. Not “Oh! Happy Birthday,”
or “Hey, good line,” but “You had a birthday party? Why wasn’t I
wasn’t a birthday party? Which brings us back to the first graf,
as newspaper people would call the opening paragraph. (See? You
learned something already.)
and Ben at his not-birthday party.
is my regular biweekly night at the Yet Wah. Since it was my birthday,
Dianne, my wife, joined me. Kimberlye, a singer-songwriter and columnist
for a local paper, the SF Herald, who’s been part of the karaoke
krew for a year, brought her mom, Doris Goldberg, her brother, and
his girlfriend. By chance, my sister Shirley, operator of the popular
Wok Wiz Chinatown tours, decided to bring a group of visitors in.
Soon enough, there were a dozen people at our table, a cake materialized
(as they often will at the Yet Wah), and, as the Chinese say, voila!
And now I’m
in trouble. Maybe I’ll just direct all my friends to this column.
In fact, I’ll INVITE them…
My TiVo Doesn’t
Think I’m Gay…
Having had a
very good 2002 – that is, I didn’t lose my job – I rewarded myself
with a couple of tech toys, a TiVo and a new car audio setup. They
are both totally fly, and suggest you go out and get one of each,
as soon as you’ve had a good year.
The TiVo (or
its main competition, the Replay TV) isn’t all that easy to explain,
which is why they haven’t exploded like the DVD player. But it’ll
happen. Basically, it’s a VCR converted into a computer, so it’s
faster, fancier, and smarter. It knocks out the need for videotapes;
it frees you from learning how to program a video recorder for each
show you want; it helps you fly through commercial breaks, saving
about 15 minutes an hour.
As for the smarts:
It keeps track of what you’ve recorded, and of your opinions on
certain shows (via a thumbs up/down button on your remote) and “suggests”
shows you might like. In fact, it automatically records such shows
while you’re not watching, and they’re available to you when you
turn on your TV. (With capacities of between 40 and 320 hours, there’s
usually room for TiVo selections.) It’s a television version of
Amazon and other sites that give you recommendations for purchases,
based on what you’ve bought before.
the TiVo has wreaked some havoc. In the Wall Street Journal, an
amusing report by Jeffrey Zaslow told of people who’ve been flooded
with gay-themed programs because they happened to record one such
show or movie. The “My TiVo Thinks I’m Gay” phenomenon already has
served as a plot line for the HBO series, The Mind of a Married
fallout from what’s known as “personalization technologies,” TiVo
is a must-have.
And if you’ve
become disenchanted with the state of radio, then you’ve also got
to check out satellite radio. You have to pay for it—an adapter
for your current car radio, or a brand new receiver. You have to
subscribe, just like for cable TV, only cheaper. And you have to
choose between two not-so-fraternal twins, XM and Sirius. Each offers
100 channels covering just about any kind of music you might like,
along with major news and talk networks.
But after your
initial investment, you’ve got digital-quality music, mostly without
those painfully long blocs of commercials, those deejays trying
to prove that personality radio is still alive, the fading signals
as you journey out of a station’s reach. Satellite is with you from
coast to coast, and even into your living room, if you get a portable
As a lifelong
lover of local radio, I wondered about this new phenomenon. Would
it be a soulless jukebox? Would I miss time checks, traffic and
weather? I don’t at all. A punch of a button, and I’m back on AM
or FM in time for those reports. And then back to XM to hear whatever
niche of rock, blues, R&B, country, world or other music I might
like. And the channels do include jingles, vintage commercials,
and announcers who keep their bits refreshingly short. So it’s radio
– but unlike any kind of radio you’ve heard in too long at time.
Tune in, turn on, and you’ll be knocked out.