Making The Bland 

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While driving Monday night, we hit the radio button for 92.3 K-Rock, the alt-rock station, and heard … Blues Traveller? Then later, Peter Gabriel's "Solsbury Hill." Granted, K-Rock hasn't exactly been edgy in recent years - it could make the most die-hard fans sick of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam and the Beastie Boys - but this?

At press time details remained sketchy and the website for the newly named "Radio 92.3" offered only a link to an online broadcast and a page to offer feedback. According to local radio guru John Gorman, the abrupt format switch is part of a series of cuts by owner CBS Radio. "I had heard the entire air staff was let go," Gorman says. "They also stopped carrying the Opie & Anthony morning show from WXRK New York.

Ohio Media Watch also reported the dumping of O&A, but noted that local music showcase Inner Sanctum might survive (here's hoping). OMW went on to note that 98.5 WNCX morning crew member Kim Mihalik seems to have been scrubbed from that station's web site. 'NCX is also owned by CBS. We'd wish for her to turn up on "Radio 92.3," now that it's taken a big step in the direction of classic rock, but Gorman says the point of the switch is eliminating on-air jobs. Indeed, a promo between songs says something like, "Radio without the self-absorbed DJs who think they're funny, because they're not."

OMW found this quote from program director Dom Nardella: "There's more depth on the station now as we've added titles from Coldplay, Green Day, Dave Matthews and many more. We're giving our listeners more of what they've been asking for … more music!"

Whether mixing in artists already in heavy rotation on several other stations qualifies as adding "depth" is debatable. There's not much to say about songs everyone's heard a thousand times (as I type this, INXS's "Need You Tonight" is playing), and making time for "more music" surely won't mean cutting back on commercials.

And so we get Radio 92.3.

"The format isn't exactly alternative, nor is it Triple A," says Gorman. "My guess is that if you asked five people at random for their iPods and put their libraries on shuffle, you'd hear a better mix of music than this automated piece of drivel." - Frank Lewis

SMITE THE POWER More bad news for radio fans: The power surge that blew meters and started a fire at Lake Park Towers apartments not only forced the evacuation of 500 people (including East Cleveland Mayor Eric Brewer), but also took out one of our favorite stations, WRUW.

The radio voice of Case Western Reserve University has its transmitter on top of Lake Park Towers. According to technical director David Caban, it's powered by the same 440-volt electrical line that serves the building's elevator shaft. So if you've tried to tune in to 91.1 FM any time since about noon November 22 and got nothing but static, it wasn't because the DJ was asleep at the switch. The station has been broadcasting by Internet only since then.

Sorely have we missed the world music on Carl's show, Route 66, the traditional Celtic of Bill Kennedy's Sweeney Astray, and the funk and hip-hop grooves of Franklin's On The One.

Jerry Polansky, regional manager for Niederst Management, which owns the building, said Monday that work had been completed to enable residents on floors 7 and above to move back in, but they were waiting for a city inspection to clear the way to flip power back on. That would include power to the elevators. Caban is hopeful that the station would go back on the air as soon as power is restored.

If you're still not getting a signal by the time you read this, tune in online at wruw.org. - Michael Gill

 

The O-Files

 

OK, THIS TIME IT REALLY WAS VENUS Over Thanksgiving weekend, several amateur radio operators in Medina reported overhearing police chatter about UFOs, as several eyewitnesses called in sightings of two strange objects cruising the skies. Armchair astronomers posting on ham-radio message boards quickly figured out what was really going on: A rare pairing of Jupiter and Venus on the horizon at sunset accounted for the sightings. When seen close together on a dark horizon, the two brightest planets can appear to move or wobble due to atmospheric conditions. Agent Scully is right every once in awhile.

COME OUT WITH YOUR APPENDAGES UP Last week, AlienEffect.com added a 1994 Trumbull County incident, documented by law enforcement, to its list of "Most Credible UFO Sightings." On December 14 that year, several eyewitnesses called in to police stations near Newton Falls to report huge silent objects hovering over their homes. Officer Toby Maloro responded. Arriving at the home of one caller, Maloro's car was hit by a beam of light from the sky, which disabled the vehicle until the light dissipated, according to the report. Another officer climbed an old radio tower and observed three separate UFOs hovering over his town. Officially, the FAA told the police that they observed nothing on radar, but locals still believe the objects may have been experimental craft flying out of the Youngstown Air Reserve Base.

STORY TIME "...And a ghost will follow you home..." So went Paul Frees' voiceover narration at the end of the Disney Haunted Mansion ride, remember that? Local author and Scene contributor Charles Cassady may not follow you home, but he can sell you your own signed copy of his new book, Cleveland Ghosts, if you go to the fine retail-novelty emporium Jinxed! Costumes and Magic (4666 Ridge Rd., Brooklyn, 216.749.3866) on Saturday, December 13, between 1 and 6 p.m. Cassady will be autographing the book, taking down your own ghost stories in a "ghost exchange" journal, and talking up his forthcoming literary project, an encyclopedia of Great Lakes paranormal stories and lore. Cleveland Ghosts (from Schiffer Publishing, of Atglen, Pennsylvania) compiles 224 pages of tales, photos and local history pertaining to the likes of the Franklin Castle, Grays Armory and the Hanna Theatre, as well as lesser-known sites such as the museum-freighter William G. Mather.

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