Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Dear Wrigley's


Dear Wrigley's,

I hate you! There, I said it. I hate you. You are a thief. You have stolen three important things from me: Spearmint Chewing Gum, Double Mint, and Juicy Fruit. All you left me is Big Red. What was my last choice in chewing gum is now my only choice. You just had to add aspartame to your product to “improve” it. Well, I’m one of those people who gets migraine headaches from aspartame.

I have known of my intolerance to aspartame since the early 1980’s when my girlfriend put a pitcher of Crystal Lite on the kitchen table. Crystal Lite contained NutraSweet and it was my introduction to it. It did not go well. Within a half hour I was curled in a ball of pain on her couch exhibiting all the classic symptoms of a migraine headache: hypersensitivity to light and sound and white hot pain in my skull. I had never experienced a migraine before, I only knew about the symptoms from my psychology courses at Tulane University. Since then accidental consumption of diet drinks and Wrigley’s chewing gum have been the only times I’ve been felled by a migraine. Admittedly it’s much less of an effect from gum than a soft drink. While driving to see my Grandma sometime last year I drank part of a 16oz diet Mountain Dew with a corn dog (which masked the horrible taste of the soda). By the time I arrived at her house I was sensitive to light and experiencing a good bit of pain and a disjointed feeling that was less than pleasant. Wrigley’s gum, on the other hand just makes my head hurt.

Oh you may go on about how you’ve “improved” the flavor of the gum but I say you’re wrong. The fake sweet of aspartame may last a little longer and make the gum less sticky but it does not make a better mint flavor, it makes a similar yet inferior flavor. The real reason you’ve put aspartame in your product is because it’s cheaper than sugar. So for the hundredth of a penny per stick of gum that you are saving by selling an inferior product, you will risk poisoning people with aspartame. At least in the case of people like me it’s poisoning and I have a long held suspicion that aspartame is bad for everyone who consumes it. At least when Coca-Cola pulled its “New Coke” stunt so it could add corn syrup to cheapen its product (and make its mouth feel and taste worse in the process) it wasn’t adding a chemical ingredient that is potentially harmful to its consumers.

There have been several scientific studies that have linked aspartame to migraines. The super mega giant Monsanto/NutraSweet has sponsored other studies that failed to find this link but these studies are suspect due not only to the obvious conflict of interest but also the very sloppy designs and short durations of the studies.

A quick Google of “nutrasweet migraine” gave these results and many many more that re-enforced what I knew about NutraSweet and more. - "Aspartame consumption strongly associated with migraines and seizures" - "
Scientific Abuse in Migraine/Headache Research Related to Aspartame"
"Aspartame is Poison! Don't use it!"

It’s kind of hard to believe that we allow something with such questionable safety to even go on the market in the first place. Oh, wait. This is the United States of America. The land where giant corporations can do whatever they want because they can afford to simply overwhelm all opposition with their money and power. Monsanto in particular is a monstrous steam roller to opposition. Don’t get me started on Round-Up and genetically modified foods.

So in closing, Wrigley’s, I must ask, why do you hate me? You have taken away a small pleasure I have enjoyed for nearly 40 years. What have I ever done to you?


Alan Evil

Why I Don’t Listen to WFPL Anymore (previously posted elsewhere)

[I originally posted this piece on a local paper's bulletin board 5-11-2007]

Why I Don’t Listen to WFPL Anymore

1. The music behind station breaks.
2. Their seeming inability to properly segue.
3. State of Affairs.

I sometimes wonder if the staff and management of WFPL actually listens to their on-air broadcast. As a former disc jockey and long-time NPR listener in other places before moving here, the staleness of WFPL’s sound combined with a complete inability to smoothly transition from a show to a local spot to a national spot drives me insane. It is the most basic parts of running a radio station that are neglected and/or bungled by WFPL day in and day out, year ‘round. I know that I could do the job better by myself with an old analogue mixing console and knowing there is a staff there in a brand new building who can’t take care of these basics even with an automated computer switching system has driven me to turn off my radio and listen to NPR’s podcasts instead.

From 1988 to 1998 I worked in record stores. People always seem to think that would be a great job because you get to listen to music all day. Unfortunately this means you have to listen to other people’s choices quite a bit, especially in a large store. I cannot tell you how many albums have been ruined for me forever simply due to the fact I had to hear them day after day for months. Many of these albums I liked at first or at least I didn’t hate them but most of them I would be pleased to never hear again. Continuous repetition of any music (even that I like) breeds a desire for silence. WFPL has been playing the same short pieces of music for years when they do their spots for their corporate sponsors. There’s the noodling acoustic guitar piece, the bad techno piece, the mediocre ethnic electronica piece, an incredibly annoying Irish piece, some pop piece with a guy singing “Oh yeah” and “uh huh,” and others. They are always played at the same time, they are always the same chunk of the song (usually the drawn out ending), and they never change. For me this is a particularly vicious torture and one of the things I would never allow to go on if I were running the station.

“But they’re just a poor public station. Give them a break,” I hear you say. Well, I won’t. Not only is WFPL not a “poor” station they are affiliated with two, count ‘em, two music stations. That’s right, there are two staffs that only deal with music in the same building as WFPL but they somehow can’t come up with 30 second music bits to replace the stale crap they’ve been airing for the last few years. There is no excuse for playing the same music every day. None at all. You will almost never hear the same piece of music on an NPR program and if you do it was played weeks or months before, not yesterday and every day before it for years.

WFPL has also played the occasional show promo for several months in a row. One in particular that drove me batty was a spot that was obviously meant to be part of a series of spots for The World. Day after day, month after month they played the same spot with a guy that got up every morning and had a Coke and a cigarette and a girl that didn’t know when to stop reporting followed by Lisa Mullins. I would bet that there were spots including all the rest of the staff of that show but WFPL’s staff was too lazy to change the spots so this one spot played at least two hundred times.

As I mentioned earlier I worked as an FM dj. This was back in the 80’s and the station I worked at still had a 1950’s all-tube rotary knob mixing console. To go from music to the satellite news link required that I listen to the news feed on que while watching the second hand on the clock. The news feed would beep and I would bring up the fader. Commercials were on carts so to time the commercial after a song I would have to push a button and turn a knob. One expects a public radio station to screw up segues every once in a while, for the end of one piece to run into the next a little, or two things to play at once for a few seconds, or for there to be occasional bits of dead air. The problem with WFPL in this aspect is the screw-ups repeat. Not just a couple of times. Not just for a day. Usually the screw-ups continue for days on end.

A few weeks ago (the final nails in the coffin of my listening to WFPL) their sponsor spots were interrupting programming, including cutting into the middle of Daniel Shore’s commentary on All Things Considered. This happened every day for days. For several weeks the promos for future NPR shows were being run over by the local spots… at every single break. There was even a point where the promos for local shows were still running when the same voice came on to tell when the show was on. In other words the local voice was talking over herself. This didn’t happen once or twice, it happened for weeks at every break!

I lived in New Orleans and in Savannah, Georgia before moving to Louisville and I rarely heard on-air screw-ups. I have driven all over the country listening to NPR stations and have never heard the rigorous lack of human involvement that Louisville has. When screw-ups did happen in other cities you knew there was someone sitting in that studio because they came on air and apologized for screwing up. Here in Louisville the wrong show will play in the evening or two shows will play at once or there will be dead air for an hour (except for automated local spots) and there is noone at the station to answer the phone. Even during the daytime when you know the staff is there, there will be dead air or the wrong show playing and nothing will happen until I (amazing I’m the only one to do this) call in to the station and tell them. "Hey, did you know you're not on the air?" "We're not?"

Would it be so hard to find someone to sit in the studio and listen to the on-air broadcast? Would it be so hard to get the music staff of the other two music stations to submit new music for WFPL’s local spots and then change them regularly? No, it wouldn’t be. There is a staff member with the title of “music director” at WFPL. What does he or she do? There is a “programming director” who I would imagine is supposed to take care of the segues. Why doesn’t he or she do this rather simple job? I do not know. I get various answers when I e-mail the station but none of them explain why this continues. So I have given up and turned to podcasts.

There is a third reason I don’t listen to WFPL but if the first two reasons were taken care of it would only mean not listening for an hour every day: The local show State of Affairs. Generally it’s an hour long call-in show that runs four days a week with nightly repeats and one day a week re-runs. My problem with the show is the host. She never questions statements made by her guests, especially the Mayor and police chief. I have had the mayor tell a bald faced lie when I called in with a question. When I tried to disagree with him I was cut off. As a result I realized he seemed to have “just” visited every single location people called in about and things were being done where ever the problem was. Every time. She never questions him or shows any doubt. The police chief has used the “few bad apples” line on her show to answer the obvious problem of police officers driving like maniacs and he even told a caller that he basically deserved to be pulled over and harassed because he wore black clothing and had long hair. Not a word from the host. I personally think the show should either be scrapped or seriously revised but the buddy system at the Public Radio Partnership will never allow it. The last people that should be given a free ride are politicians but if they come on State of Affairs they are going to get one.

In conclusion I am left with this minor little protest which will change nothing. In the past I have written WFPL to be dismissed with sarcasm or told the music director would look into it or that they were sorry but nothing changes. Therefore I move to the world of downloads and streaming audio and leave 89.3 FM to pass me by.

[postscript: It's now about three months after I wrote this and I've been fairly good about avoiding NPR. My girlfriend does not share my desire to boycott the station (though she agrees the music is annoying) so I regularly hear some of Morning Edition and All Things Considered. I believe I may have heard new music on these shows of late so I may be forced to send them some money next fund drive.]