Dre\’s Ramblings

The Ramble: Is it really all about the “dome”?

The numerous online forums here in town are always interesting to click through, especially when there is a hot button issue dominating the boards. In recent weeks, the issue in question is the expansion of the BJCC and the development of an entertainment district for the convention center district by Performa Entertainment Real Estate, Inc.

The development of the entertainment district is a no-brainer; locating such an attraction near Malfunction Junction provides visibility near one of the busiest intersections for interstate traffic in the Southeastern United States. The area’s redevelopment will most likely generate additional revenue for the city and the county through encouraging passersby to stop and take a moment to find out just what’s happening around town.

The more interesting debate among those that take place in the forums is the one about the expansion of the BJCC. Everyone points to all of these reasons why the expansion must include a 70,000 seat “dome” and not a 40,000 seat “arena”. In a city that is quick to point out how quickly something is out of date and needs to be replaced, maybe the real issue is whether or not the current situation is really broken. Maybe it’s also a case of deciding whether political grandstanding in an election year will keep us from exploring the possibility of doing what is truly best for the city and the region.

Legion Field is currently sitting by minding her own business, waiting for people to decide a fate that is not based on whether or not it can be salvaged and reborn, leading a renaissance of an area, but rather whether or not it’s heir apparent can support one game out of the year that locals most identify with it. I will not say I’ve taken an extensive poll, but I have heard from several people that they come to the Magic City Classic not as much for the game, but for the tailgating and the socializing. Neither of these issues would be addressed with a new facility downtown, though general parking for those that do attend the game for… well, the game would be, relieving many from being worried about being blocked into someone’s personal lot by others that want to stay for the entire experience.

Now I am one of the biggest proponents of seeing this city’s downtown grow and thrive, however this is an opportunity to take advantage of an existing asset and help bring back a great community. Yes, I said great community. My last merchants association meeting took place at Rickwood Field this week. I decided to drive down 5th Avenue North to get to the ballpark, taking me past Legion Field’s front door and through its neighborhood. I’ll save my piece on Rickwood’s needs for a later date…

The area surrounding Legion Field still has signs of its commercial past, one that would have been its entertainment district of the day, and one that would not be that hard to return to the area. The field still hosts international events, including the upcoming Futbol Internacional opening event next month. The field serves a purpose and provides a backdrop that few other cities can provide in the age of the enclosed multipurpose facility. In an ideal situation, the expanded BJCC could be hosting a concert and a convention while the Magic City Classic or an event like it takes place on the West Side and something else is happening at both Railroad Reservation Park and Fair Park. In other words, the urban synergy that so many people talk about would actually be taking place. The area around Legion Field is worthy of seeing some additional investment in it, though it will not come until someone decides that renovating one of the most revered structures for football in the South can be done.

This is a case where it is not an all or nothing proposition; you can have as much as you desire. I’ve had people tell me why you have to have an expanded BJCC or a renovated Legion Field. Why can’t you have both? While naming rights are not necessarily the purist’s way of dealing with issues, selling the naming rights for Legion Field and using the funds generated from that “sale” to upgrade the facility would allow for football games and the real reason that many come out, the idea of “sitting out in the elements” to enjoy the game or event, to rule the day. The need for expansion is definite, however let’s not forget about what makes Birmingham, Alabama unique.

Share ’em if you got ’em. One more later on today…


The Ramble: What’s next for local radio?


This past Thursday, 15 people gathered at Nabeel’s in Homewood to discuss what options exist to bring a community radio station to the Birmingham, Alabama market. Those in attendance realized that this action will be harder than it sounds.

Philip Jordan’s story in a recent Birmingham Weekly hits the nail on the head with regards to local concerns about the recent changes to the terrestrial radio landscape. We’ve had people from all over the place share their thoughts about what they like, don’t like, who they blame and whether hell, fire and brimstone are going to strike the city. You can find most of the comments here, though there are some here and here.

During their 1+ hour discussion, many of the common concerns shared by those following the demise of terrestrial radio as we knew it were brought up. These include the fact that it’s become a market dominated by conglommerates, reducing the need or ability to take risks with programming. Many people also argue that the current segmentation of the radio dial has led to extreme narrowing of target audiences, sometimes preventing exposure to new types of music. Many pointed to the need to secure a low frequency FM signal to start and then use the success of that signal to encourage corporate stations to make the switch from piped in format to one focusing on the local scene. Potential solutions for the issue include creating additional internet radio stations or convincing WBHM to diversify its current offerings. Those in attendance were more inclined to support the latter as they see it as the local public station that should be serving the public’s requests. They are willing to create CDs providing people with a taste of what local independent radio stations would sound like, lists showing what stations already exist; anything to help with thier goal of having a diverse broadcasting home serving the needs of the metro community.

One issue I brought up in the conversation was the need for those “minorities” to have additional choices. Many corporate stations apparently believe that those communities are served very well. This is despite the fact that most Latinos living in the area are regulated to 2 hours of Spanish broacasting on AM per week; we haven’t even really looked at the services provided to Caribbean expatriates or to those that long to hear the blues, traditional jazz, or a clearer signal on local issues that affect all people.

People will definitely want to see a station like Fried Green Radio (http://friedgreenradio.com), having recently started transmission this month succeed. The arhument in res The ultimate goal of an AM signal would do more for the concerns than the humble beginnings in the station’s plans. It would be foolish to not at least admit that one of the problems facing the digital stations is the availability of computers to those that could enjoy radio free of the trappings of the car or home audio system, namely commercial overkill.

There are many that only enjoy computer access at school or at home, despite the falling costs of desktops and laptops. It may be less expensive for those that have the financial means to do so. For those of us living paycheck to paycheck or worse, the ability to find and support new voices and avenues become complicated. You can name the reason: education, wages, mass transit… we could go on and on. Those who have the tools to assist in changing the area’s landscape should take advantage of every opportunity to do so.

Despite my current love affair with my old standby, mvyradio.com, I’m also always willing to give Fried Green Radio and any of the other numerous internet stations a try. One idea that was not brought up during the meeting, but in other conversations I’ve had about the topic is to boycott those stations that do not provide a service to you. The one thing that probably protects terrestrial radio from a complete boycott in this area is the reliance that the residents have on it as a source of information about local emergencies. You can’t necessarily listen to the weather report online if there’s no power to run the computer during a storm. Those stations that made changes to their format to address the needs of all of their listeners would receive more support. This would be a veriation of the idea to encourage public radio station members to earmark their contributions for new programming when they renew rather than support that which they do not listen to.

We can always hope that the community presents a viable alternative, whether it means encouraging the continued expansion of music venues in the city such as The Bottletree, The Nick, Cave 9 or Marty’s. We could also hope that those supporters of this project are successful in their efforts. Time will tell.

For Those interested in becoming invovled in this project are encouraged to contact Ken Harrelson @ kharrelson505[at]charter[dot]net. Later on today we’ll post a list handed out at the meeting to provide examples of independent radio stations.


The Ramble: Reflections on the fan’s reflections on the radio carousel

Thanks to all that have stumbled across this blog as a result of this story. I hope that you’re all enjoying it and that maybe you’ll nose around a bit and find some other stuff that you might like.

UPDATE: There is also a MySpace page for the new station. And FYI, the e-mails to the Vulcan are not currently active.

I’ve been interested in the fact that the entry that I posted on Monday morning is on pace to becoming my most visited ever by the end of today (actually before lunch). This would mean more than any of the Taylor Hicks posts (here’s the former #1 ), more than posts about civic engagement and community involvement. It is more than just looking at the images on the site and their downloadable links.

Here’s the Birmingham News’ take on the story from yesterday’s paper:

Gospel station turns to rock, The Birmingham News, 12.5.2006

It has solidified some of my beliefs and led me to make some interesting observations. Here are a few of them:

People may disagree on Alabama vs. Auburn, but they are willing to come together on the issue of music. (Really a no-brainer, but it is still interesting).

I probably stand by this post I typed about race in Birmingham more than ever before after seeing some of the comments at the end of the post.

The people of metro Birmingham, AL are seeking some answers on all sides of this conversation. Those that are members of Facebook should click here (if you’re not a member, you’re not going to be able to see this, sorry). A group of young adults felt compelled enough to start a group about the demise of their favorite station. They’ve even started a petition to bring back The X.

I have also seen a groundswell of concern via comments on the post from loyal listeners of Hallelujah FM asking some of the questions that were not necessarily asked by The X at 100.5 when the plug was pulled on it. It will be interesting to see how those who listened to Hallelujah FM decide to organize their thoughts and concerns.

I’ve seen the issue of religion be brought up in ways that quite frankly worry me. Now I am a damn Yankee, but I’m a God-fearing damn Yankee. I would still not say that the Lord will strike a station down for no longer carrying a certain message. I’m not sure what to think about those comments but a discussion of faith is best saved for another day and time.

That the ability to choose what one can listen to on the radio, even in the age of iPods and digital downloads, is extremely important to many people. More important than two other issues currently taking place in our community that one would think people would be focusing on just as much, a fight to save City Stages by young professionals and questions surrounding the future of one of our most unique experiences here in the Magic City, Sidewalk. But when you look at these in comparison, the issue becomes which of these do you interact with on a daily basis?

Not everyone’s musical tastes are represented in our current selection of stations. Here’s something of consider: Where the fast growing Latino population in our metropolitan area can they listen to music on the FM dial? I grew up listening to calypso and reggae as a child of West Indians and there are plenty of natives and first generation Americans in that situation here in Birmingham. We don’t even get the AM dial for options.

With all of my observations and the comments and visits to my site, I believe that what people want more than anything else are answers. I’m about to send an e-mail to the program manager at the new 105.5 (they do have a web site now – thanks to Grumpy Old Man for that info) linking to this post and the post from Sunday. I’m hoping that they will be willing to answer some of the questions that have been asked. Maybe you want to ask them yourselves. If so, click here and send one to the program manager. As to contacting Citadel Communications (The former X at 100.5), your options are to contact their corporate offices in Las Vegas or maybe even WJOX itself.

While an online petition has been set up for one, I think it’s safe to say that the X and Hallelujah are both no more. What happens next will be heavily influenced by the way that both of these new stations start out the New Year.

Any more comments, let’s hear about it.

Enjoy the day.


The Ramble: Other thoughts on recent discussion of Sidewalk

Here are some links to the latest entries regarding the resignation of Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival co-founder/executive director Erik Jambor and planned changes to the 8+ year old festival. Here’s a link to our first post about the news, including a link to a post with details of the announcement by Wade Kwon.


So Ends an Era – An Utter Waste of Time

Where the Sidewalk Ends – Gabe’s Declaration of Principles

News sources

Sidewalk film festival founding director resigns, The Birmingham News, 12.1.2006

It’s been as more of a fly on the wall that I’ve been watching the words fly across the screen about this. This festival is no doubt an asset to Birmingham, Alabama. I am interested in waiting until the dust settles before making a decision as rash as boycotting a festival that Jambor himself seems to want to see succeed based on his comments in the Birmingham News article.

The idea of boycotting sounds like leaving a church to follow a minister. Many ministers are flattered, but they would tell you that you’re probably attending church for the wrong reason. I’m also not going to follow blindly; I am willing to give people a chance.

If you enjoy what this festival means to you at any level – seeing films that you would otherwise not be able to see, having an opportunity to talk with filmmakers about their craft, providing a venue for this state to showcase some of its best and brightest filmmakers and seeing friends (much in the same way that some spoke of City Stages during their town hall meeting), then you have a choice to make.

I’d love to hear what plans the Sidewalk board has for the future and so long as they don’t rush and make the wrong decision, unfortunately waiting will be the best thing to do right now to see what will happen. After that, as I’ve mentioned recently on another topic, the public can vote with it’s wallets about what it thinks about decisions.

Let us know what you think – post ’em if you’ve got ’em.

Enjoy the day.