Monday, January 17, 2005

El this is not happening

Sampled and soulless
Worldwide and real webbed
You sell all the living
For more safer dead.
--"Rock is Dead," Marilyn Manson

Last week I dreamed that a flock of goblins* were in my house, trying to attack me, my greyhound, and a collection of frightened German Shepherds. I woke up and told my husband about the dream, then informed him that our house was full of kid ghosts (I assumed they were ghosts because they were sitting still without the aid of video games).

Then I woke up from THAT dream into reality. Or so I thought. Breakfast tasted like real eggs.

But I opened up my virtual Baltimore Sun to discover that the only radio station I ever cared about, the only one that played true alternative music, 99.1 WHFS, is no more.

Or, more precisely, it now exists as "El Zol," Washington-Baltimore's new Latin music station. According to BabelFish's translation website, "El Zol" means "the zol." I translate "zol" as "that which erases any lingering delusions of youth" (it's a complex concept summed up in one word, kind of like Zeitgeist).

I acknowledge that 1) the Latino population of the metro area is underserved musically and 2) WHFS hasn't been much of an alternative to anything for the last several years, playing an increasingly bland and limited list of ever more derivative "artists" such as Good Charlotte, Blink 182, and Nickelback, and whose corporate bigwigs at Infinity Broadcasting wouldn't know a fresh sound if it wriggled past their ear drums and invaded their brain patterns, like that little slug thing from "Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Mr. Roarke."

Where was I? Oh yeah: HFS sucks, and this was the grand finale of suckiness. Without warning or so much as a nod to the great station it was years ago, it became, at noon last Wednesday, "El Zol" (roughly translated as "the music for listeners who buy things, not losers like you who still think it's cool to shop at thrift stores").

They were alternative when the word still meant something. The world has changed, and music with a different beat is still out there and more accessible than ever, through satellite radio and the Internet.

But still...put me in my rocking chair, hand me my Geritol, and let me long for days past. Yes, kids, once upon a time there were people called "disk jockeys," and they had the power to decide what records to spin. Some of these brave, discerning, and occasionally sober "DJs" were even hired for something other than the ability to laugh at their own jokes.

*"Flock" of goblins? Does anyone know or want to guess at the collective noun for goblins? A herd? A network? A basket? A boardroom? I think "A pocketful of goblins" has a jaunty ring to it.


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Jeri Smith-Ready is a Maryland author of books for teens and adults.

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