Yeah, It’s a Recession

People will feel guilty about conspicuous consumption and cut back.

IANAE–I am not an economist.

We are in a recession.

OK, I’m not 100% on that. However, it doesn’t make any difference. We’re acting like we’re in one. That’s all that matters.

I have been through these before. They suck really bad. A lot of good people are about to get hurt.

Helaine and I looked at a house on-the-market while we were in Palm Springs. It’s still for sale. They’re asking 70% of the original price. That’s what you see in a recession.

People will feel guilty about conspicuous consumption and cut back. Those employees who serve the consumers will be hurt. Foxwoods casino laid off about 100 middle managers today.

A recession, unfortunately, feeds upon itself. Cutbacks affect sales which cause more cutbacks and on-and-on. Entering your first recession, it looks like there’s no way out. There is.

As the number of businesses shrink the remaining players find themselves doing better. The recession ends as those businesses restock and rehire.

This time, we have other underlying problems. Much of the American economy, built over the last sixty years, has moved away. We don’t make things here. I grew up at a time when workers in retail or manufacturing could own a home. No more. That will slow recovery or make the actual recession deeper.

Many businesses are at a crossroads. Broadcasting, my field for nearly 40 years, is increasingly being marginalized by small players taking tiny fractions of our audience. It’s like being eaten by fleas, or so goes the old saying. It’s worse in print media and autos and banking and airlines&#185. There are whole sectors of our economy that seem to have no long term prospects.

This recession will be deeper, but we’ll come out of it. I picture an American economy more along the lines of the European economy. Our days of being the World’s engine of economic growth are over. We will probably pull back our global military reach and step down as the World’s superpower.

We have been defeated by technology and techniques we developed. Sad.

&#185 – About the airlines. Except for Southwest, you have turned us into packages moving through your system. For years you touted your exemplary service. We allowed you to be deregulated with the implied promise that wouldn’t change. Then you pooped on us. Your loyal employees have been hung-out-to-dry by putting them in contact with us after you’d changed all the rules. I have no sympathy for your plight.

Making News: Savannah Style

This is compelling stuff… well, it’s compelling to me. I’m in TV news. I watched the whole hour without wanting to turn away.

About a week ago, I received an email from Nick Davis. It was unexpected – totally.

Hi Geoff Fox,

Last year it was a pleasure to come upon your blog wile promoting the first season of a reality show my company produces about the goings-on behind the scenes of local news. As I recall, you started out skeptical about Making News: Texas Style – in particular you were annoyed by the station’s almost complete lack of attention to the more serious side of journalism – but you were, I think, (somewhat) won over by the characters by the end of the season.

Well, season two starts Wednesday night on TV Guide Network. I have my own feelings and opinions about Making News: Savannah Style — but would much rather you came to the show fresh. I really would be thrilled to have you check us out again —

All best,

Nick Davis

Executive Producer, “Making News”

He’s right. I wrote a lot about the station Nick’s crew followed in Texas. I really had mixed emotions, because though some of the ‘players’ were interesting, much of what his camera’s saw showed the worst that local TV news is.

I wanted to give it a peek before I wrote about the new show&#185. Again, this is compelling stuff… well, it’s compelling to me. I’m in TV news. I watched the whole hour without wanting to turn away.

As was the case the last time, it’s on TV Guide Channel, sharing the screen with scrolling program listings. Hey, I used to host a science fact show on the SciFi Channel. I understand not everything is a perfect fit.

The newsroom being chronicled is at the low rated ABC/Fox affiliate, WJCL/WTGS, in Savannah, GA. Whether it’s true or not, it’s claimed to be the lowest rated ABC station in America! There’s a distinction.

Savannah’s a market with two other, much more well established stations, both doing news as well. I’m not sure how this one can hope to compete, especially when they’re underfunded and understaffed.

Climbing in the ratings today is more difficult than ever before. Today’s viewing audience is heavily fragmented because of all the choices (TV, cable, computer, etc.) we all have. Simply put, there’s less audience during entertainment programs to promote your news.

I like the news director, Michael Sullivan. I liked him from the get-go. He’s a grown-up who knows stability is key to success. At the same time, he can only pay enough for employees to consider this station a stepping stone.

Reporters, please understand: Viewers don’t want to think they’re being used to advance your career!

A succession of owners has left this station with bad equipment and worse morale. That’s just not good. Unfortunately, by virtue of age and experience, the staff in Savannah does not yet know no station has equipment that always works nor every tool they need. When I filled-in at ABC, live shots died all the time. We just had enough people to hide the problems until they were fixed.

Tonight, I saw some reporters/anchors who ‘get it.’ This is really good news. They understand their obligation as journalists. They seem bright and willing to work.

I’ve also seen at least one reporter who doesn’t get it. He’s the crime reporter, but he’s really all about himself. He doesn’t understand, people are watching his reporting to gain insight, not to help his career.

The series is just beginning. I’m sure I’ll revisit it over the next few weeks. If you’re watching it too, please leave a comment.

Blogger’s addendum: The email from Nick Davis shows how ‘retail’ TV has become. He literally is fighting for every viewer. I give him credit for doing everything he can to promote his show.

&#185 – It’s on cable. Each episode will be repeated – trust me.

Someone To Watch Over Her

I have already chronicled Steffie’s navigational problems while driving to new places… and a few old ones. It’s something every new driver experiences as they realize, maybe they should have been looking out the window while they were in the car the last 18 or so years!

That being said, we knew Stefanie would want, and we wanted her to have, a GPS unit. With the holidays approaching we scanned the ads and online ‘intelligence’ every day, looking for a deal.

Finally, late in November we found our prey. In a Staples circular was an ad for an Invion GPS. Ever hear of Invion? Me neither.

I looked online, but if there were any reviews, I couldn’t find them. It seemed as if Invion was primarily a European company. It seemed to be based in the Netherlands (though I’m sure the electronics were thrown together in China). They had similar units, but this particular one wasn’t mentioned.

If you’re in retail, here’s advice for you. At times like this, your reputation makes the sale. We bought the unit, knowing that if there was a problem, Staples would stand behind it. The Staples name was much more important than Invion.

Steffie opened it for the holidays and then Daddy took over, charging it and scanning the manual. This is another one of those manuals that looks a lot easier to understand than it really is. You read it, understand all the words but little of the concept.

I needed to experiment before it left for school. I fired it up a few nights ago from the kitchen. It easily locked onto a few satellites and found our house.

These little boxes take advantage of amazing technology. OK – it’s used for the precision guidance of missiles too. No one’s perfect.

Tonight, it was Steffie’s turn to try it out. First, we fired it up in the kitchen and Steffie programmed in her school’s address. The machine guided her through the process, eliminating letters as her choices became more obvious.

We brought it to the car, stuck its base to the dashboard and headed toward her school.

For the first two or three seconds, nothing happened. Steffie asked if the little icon in the center of the screen should have repositioned itself as we moved down the driveway? But before I could answer, it did move.

“Turn right in 100 yards,” said the Stepford-like voice inside. There was no accent, no regionalism, no inflection.

“Turn right now,” the voice said, without missing a beat.

And obediently, Steffie turned right. She was smiling. I was too.

We drove a couple of miles and turned around. Steffie touched the screen a few times, finally tapping the word “Home.” The voice was eager to please. She even knew the driveway was our final destination.

I’m just amazed by all of this. The unit just seems to work. In our very brief test, it passed with a 100%.

I’ll be more amazed when we get our rebate check!

It’s Always Sunny In Las Vegas

I like playing poker in Las Vegas. I won’t lie. I don’t come to gamble. I come to win. I don’t always succeed, but that’s my purpose.

The good news is, poker is available around the clock. In fact, if there’s a downside to the poker explosion of the past few years, it’s that every casino has poker, so there’s a bit less action here at the Mirage.

From lv wednesday

There’s no rush to play, so Helaine and I had breakfast at a little coffee shop on premises and went for a walk on the Strip. It wasn’t quite 10:00 AM, but we stuck our heads into Caesars’ Forum Shoppes.

Over the past few years I’ve watched this little collection of shops expand and expand again. It’s pretty amazing now with nothing but high end stores selling at retail. For me, it’s look but don’t buy.

From lv wednesday

We then walked to Bellagio – a beautiful hotel. The Conservatory is decorated differently for all the seasons. Right now, it’s a fall motif… not my favorite, though still colorful.

From lv wednesday

There is a new trend in Las Vegas. You’ve probably seen buses festooned with images so they’re rolling billboards, though you can still see out the windows? They’ve got the same thing on hotels. The Flamingo’s exterior is but one example.

We returned to Mirage and I sat down to play some cards. The table of nine had at least five locals playing, maybe more. It’s like stepping up against major league pitching. I wanted the challenge.

I did very well – though I left with a bit less than my peak profit. Now I’ve made enough to buy into a larger tournament, if I so desire.

We ate dinner at the Stage Deli. It’s just like the one in Manhattan, but without the surly help! I had a bowl of matzo ball soup and a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich.

This evening we drove to the MGM Grand for Howie Mandel. Somehow, Helaine found exceptional tickets online before we left Connecticut. We were in the second row – great seats!

John Mendosa opened for Howie. He’s also a comedian – very funny and very laid back.

Mendosa had a white button down shirt, not tucked in, over a pair of pants. I noted, in the longstanding tradition of Vegas comics, there was not a crease in the pants as he came out. He had stood since putting them on.

It’s really a tradition – honest.

Howie came on and did around an hour. I have seen him on TV for years, but really didn’t know that much about him. What impressed me the most was how bright and fast he is. Lots of his act was based on audience participation, and he was on top of his game.

So, if you’re asking, Howie Mandel gets my recommendation.

Back at Mirage I decided to play some more poker before bed. I entered a $60 sit ‘n go and was very lucky to survive for a 3-way deal. I was terribly shorty stacked, but still made a $25 profit.

So far, so good. The poker gods are smiling.

More tomorrow, but first, a drive down the Las Vegas Strip as seen by my cellphone’s camcorder.