Sunday, 30 January 2011

New Community Radio Opportunities to Increase Provision of Local Services and Information

Community radio in the U.S. received a large boost in January when President Obama signed a billed that will permit establishment of an estimated 800 to 1200 new local community radio stations

About 800 of the non-commercial community stations are already operating and providing music, health, education, and local information, news, and sports. The stations are run by community organizations, churches, and other civic groups, typically staffed by volunteers, and dependent upon donations from organizations and listeners.

Community radio operations tend to provide information about community and civic organizations that are overlooked by commercial broadcasting, focus on social issues in communities, and provide services to minority, ethic and immigrant groups. Programming on community radio is distinctively different from commercial radio and tends to be more local than, and providing alternative content to, that of public radio stations.

The stations operate on low power, making them useful for servicing small towns, counties, metropolitan suburbs and neighborhoods.

The expansion of spectrum devoted to community radio had been sought for several decades and the Local Community Radio Act signed by the president directs the Federal Communications Commission to make provision for the additional services. Some disputes with commercial channels over spectrum are expected in large metropolitan areas during that process.

Monday, 24 January 2011

The Business, January 26th 2011: "Special Guest Spectacular" Edition

This week The Business releases regular Businessmen Alex Koll and Chris Garcia to other comedy duties, and welcomes three special comedy guests in their place: Mary Van Note, Andy Wood and Zach Coulter!

Mary Van Note is no stranger to The Business, and she should not be to you either. She has stormed the city, the nation and the internet with her charmingly awkward and sexually blunt stand-up. She has her own web-series on, and she is the owner of an impeccable sense of fashion: ...and that's just the tip of the Van Iceberg. Catch her prior to her SF Sketchfest show over the coming weekend.

Andy Wood is truly Portland's Finest. As a comedian he has performed with the best around, including at the Bumbershoot Festival in Seattle and the legendary Bentzen Ball in D.C. As a producer and founder of The Bridgetown Comedy Festival, he has brought the best around to Portland for one of the best and well stocked comedy festivals in our modern world. He also has his own Wikipedia page:

Little is known about Zach Coulter, as his Wordpress blog is set to private. But he does exist, mostly to bring the people of Minneapolis, MN (where he is visiting us from) thoughtful and challenging stand-up. When the fifth largest blizzard in Minneapolis history tore a hole in the roof of the Metrodome, it left an opening large enough for Zach's massive talent to burst through and fly all the way out to us.

As always the show is just $5 and starts at 8pm. We are no longer BYOB, but tacos and Clearly Canadian still welcome.

Check above for 2 For 1 coupons!

Friday, 21 January 2011

One Unnecessary Death is Too Many - UPDATE

UPDATE: When racing resumed today, after a snow day, the rails to the outer track remained closed while horse were on the inner track. Gotta give credit to NYRA for moving quickly once the problem was pointed out to them.

With apologies to Bob:

Yes, ’n’ how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many horses have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind

Bob Dylan, Blowin’ in the Wind, from The Freewheeling Bob Dylan, Copyright © 1962 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1990 by Special Rider Music

One unnecessary death of a thoroughbred is one too many. Yesterday at Aqueduct there was almost another one. Luckily, and no thanks to NYRA, the horse escaped injury. Since it was my – and my partners in Castle Village Farm’s – horse, I guess I take it personally.

Here’s what happened. Our horse, Iguazu, was entered in Aqueduct’s 3rd race, a $35,000 maiden claiming sprint on the Aqueduct inner track. Iguazu, a four-year-old by Smoke Glacken, missed his entire three-year-old season with knee problems, and yesterday would have been his third start since the layoff, coming after good 2nd- and 3rd-place finishes in the prior races. With a six-horse field, and only one “ringer,” (a Todd Pletcher drop-down), the small but enthusiastic group of partners in attendance had dreams of the winners’ circle.

But Iguazu, calm in the paddock and the post parade, became agitated in the starting gate and broke through the barrier, taking off around the track minus jockey David Cohen, who was unhurt and who returned to win the next race. Whether the presence of an assistant starter flicking his whip behind the gate had anything to do with Iguazu’s false start is something we’ll never know, since Iguazu is unlikely to tell us, but using whips at the gate is a dangerous practice, and something that rarely if ever happened when super horseman Bobby Duncan was NYRA’s starter.

In the event, Iguazu took off around the inner track, and the NYRA outriders apparently decided that, rather than giving chase, they’d let him have a seven-furlong workout. So the outriders congregated down on the clubhouse turn, where, it seemed, it should be relatively easy to corral a loose and presumably somewhat tired horse. But NYRA’s outrider crew, like the starting gate staff, seems to have fallen off from the days when it was the best in the country. Even though Iguazu slowed down and cantered into the trap the outriders had set up, somehow they failed to grab him and in fact set him off at a gallop once again, this time in the opposite direction, back toward the finish line in front of the grandstand. Iguazu, by this point thoroughly confused, burst through the temporary rail separating the inner track from the paddock area and then, to our horror, galloped on through a gap in the rail that blocked off the Aqueduct main track, which is closed in winter and which was under a layer of ice and snow.

Earlier this season, another horse had escaped onto the main track, skidded on the icy surface and crashed into a pole, fracturing bones and having to be put down. After that incident, NYRA supposedly adopted a policy that would keep horses off the outer track, putting up temporary rails to seal off the two gaps where horses could cross to the outer. Except that the policy itself seemed to have a gap in it.

The racing gods must have been watching, though, because Iguazu made it around the ice-covered main track and down the ramp into the barn area, where he was eventually caught by a backstretch worker near Barn 7. He returned safely to trainer Bruce Brown’s barn at Belmont, where today he seems in good shape and eager to return to the races. A brief report on the incident by Dave Grening of the Daily Racing Form is here.

Most of us in this business are not expecting to make money. As my previous posts have shown, it’s very difficult indeed to make a profit owning race horses in New York. We’re in the game because we love horses, and we love the thrill of the winners’ circle. So, when something stupid and unnecessary threatens the safety of our horses, we understandably get upset.

And allowing Iguazu to get on the hazardous outer track yesterday was unnecessary and showed both incompetence (possibly by the gate crew and certainly by the outriders) and stupidity (in designing a “safety” policy that is in fact unsafe).

I wrote to NYRA CEO Charlie Hayward this morning, seeking an explanation of why Iguazu had been permitted to get onto the outer track. To NYRA’s credit, I received a very prompt answer from NYRA’s horsemen’s liaison, former trainer Bruce Johnstone. Here’s Bruce’s email, and my reply:


I have been made aware of your concerns regarding our “not having the rail in place”. Please let me lead you through our premise as regards this situation. As pointed out this temporary rail was put into place after a previous bad outcome to a horse getting loose crossing the Main track prior to entering the Inner. The procedure is for the gaps in each temporary rail to be closed prior to the horses leaving the Paddock on the way to the Inner. When the horses have all entered the Inner, the gap rail is put into place. The attendant then opens the aforementioned gaps in both temporary rails on the Main. The reason for this is, when the race commences the field is being followed by both the human ambulance on the Inner and the Track Veterinarian on the Main. The gaps on the main are open in case an injury occurs past the wire and the vet needs to attend to the horse. In addition the horse ambulance is positioned on the Main and if needed it has access to Inner through this gap. Having said all this it didn’t help you as your horse took it to another level. If you would like to further discuss this you can reach me at –[deleted] – Hoping this gives you some picture of an actual protocol in place. Also glad he wasn’t injured.

And here’s my reply:


I understand the protocol. But I just think it's incredibly stupid, as it totally negates the reason for having the rail in place to begin with. Why not just position the track vet's SUV on the inner track to start with, If there's enough room for the ambulance on the inner track, there should be enough room for the vet as well. As for the horse ambulance, it would be a matter of seconds to have someone open the gaps on the main if there's an injury.

I understand NYRA's policy, but it ain't nearly good enough. How many dead horses will it take to come up with something better?

Steve Zorn

Well, my pointing out the fallacies in NYRA’s “protocol” may yet produce changes that will protect other horses. A subsequent message from Bruce Johnstone comments that “you are not offbase in your thoughts” and promises that he’ll be consulting with the powers that be at NYRA, in this case apparently Racing Secretary P J Campo and NYRA Executive VP/Chief Operating Officer Hal Handel. We’ll see.

I wonder if, on this as on so many other decisions, NYRA bothered to consult anyone who actually knew anything about horses. If they’d talked to almost any trainer beforehand, it’s hard to imagine that they wouldn’t have been nudged toward something closer to my suggestions that would have actually increased safety, rather than leaving a large gap for a scared horse to run through.

Sorry about going on at this length, but when it’s your horse that’s almost killed by someone else’s stupidity, it’s difficult not to be upset.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

The Business, January 19th 2011: "Thayer Will Be Blood" Edition

Years ago, a grizzled old oilman found a baby lying abandoned in a basket. That young boy became the oilman's nominal business partner, adding a veneer of respectability to his shady operations. Later, he grew up to be rising local comedy star Chris Thayer (Funny Party, SF Sketchfest), who returns to The Business this Wednesday as part of an unstoppable oil fire of comedy.

We've still got Alex Koll, Chris Garcia, Bucky Sinister a...nd Sean Keane, who have agreed to let Mr. Thayer plunder their comedy fields for this evening. Oh, the comedy will be deafening! The jokes will beat you over the head like an old alcoholic wielding a bowling pin! Will the show be loosely based on Upton Sinclair's "Oil"? (No.)

The show starts at 8 PM. There's no BYOB, but feel free to drink a milkshake during the show. Or even the milkshake of someone sitting nearby who won't agree to let you buy out his milkshake rights.

Five-dollar admission, and don't forget your 2 for 1 Coupons.

Be there, or be a bastard from a basket.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

2011 and Business is BOOMING!

2010 went out with a big bang for The Business, with a sold-out house and a drop in visit from our good friend Sheng Wang. The only way to follow that of course, is to do it again at the first Business of 2011, with another full house and sets from Julian Rodriguez and Ali Wong. With such a big push/kick into the new year, we can only imagine what it will bring. We have some tricks up our sleeve, so keep an ear to the internet tracks and keep coming out to the show. See you there!


The Businesmen