Bingo Unchained

BingoSomewhere, in a parallel universe, “Bingo” is probably the name of the Marx Bros.’ schnauzer. In our universe, however, Bingo is a game of chance that involves matching numbers drawn at random against others on a five by five matrix, with one axis corresponding to the letters B-I-N-G-O. The first to “spell” Bingo announces this loud and proud and wins whatever prize is at hand (cash, booze, eternal life).
Early versions of the game can be traced back to 16th century Italy, however, Bingo as we know it today wasn’t codified as such until the 1920s by a Pittsburgh carnie promoter named Hugh J. Ward. Despite, the ability to win cash, Bingo is to gambling as a Vargas pin-up is to porn. It’s good clean fun that’s apparently enjoying popularity among hipsters and those with hip replacements alike.

From twenty-somethings to pensioners, Bingo is the great equalizer in social games seeing as it’s a pastime predicated on pure chance and requires no strategy whatsoever. Basic knowledge of the alphabet and numbers (at least to 90) helps as does a couple cocktails and a sense of comic irony – at least when playing at the Park Slope Bingo Club in NYC. There, your hosts are a couple of wags who go by the Mad Men-era-inspired sobriquets Dick Swizzle and Perry Comb-over. Their main prize seems to be more drinks.

Predictably, there’s been a Cambrian explosion of bingo-related games online, many of which, like PartyBingo.com, emanate from the trendsetting UK, where it’s thought as many as 350 online Bingo sites currently operate according to BBC News.

Online or off, Bingo is like vodka – you can mix anything with it, hence the innumerable variations and customizations of its basic game play. Sports and popular culture themes are prevalent. Are we far off from Beatles fans playing “Ringo!” in which various tunes by the Fab Four are used instead of numbers or an Aussie version called “Dingo!” that uses baby names?

The Wall Street Journal recently reported on a “version in Philadelphia involving drag queens on roller skates, to ‘cosmic bingo’ played under black light.” Bingo! We have a winner.

Look Homeward Angel

PetalumaAfter two-and-a-half years of self-imposed exile in the East Bay, my family and I are repatriating to Sonoma County – specifically to my hometown of Petaluma. For me, the move marks an interesting chapter in my ongoing autobiographical opus, which I’ll likely lead with an epigram cribbed from Simon and Garfunkel: “Homeward bound, I wish I ?wa-a-a-s …”
But now I a-a-a-m.

Thinking of home I realize I’ve never read Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward Angel, which might provide the psychic fortitude I might need when “going home.” Due to some karmic snafu – be it destiny or derailment – when trawling the shelves of Copperfield’s Books used department, I found Tom Wolfe instead. Suffice it to say, I drank the electric Kool-Aid and was soon spiraling headfirst into New Journalism. I’ve never recovered. Years later, a subsequent sidewalk meeting with George Plimpton in front of Elaine’s in NYC, only deepened my affinities and here I am still writing first-person columns in newspapers. Admittedly, this is neither New nor Journalism per se, but it pays the rent. Part of it. Continue reading “Look Homeward Angel”

Video on the Radio, My Billboard Interview

BillboardI recently had a chat with Billboard editor Mike Stern about how radio peeps might inexpensively incorporate video into their bag of tricks. Yes, it may seem a tad counter-intuitive that radio stations need to make forays into a visual medium but since the web has become the unified field theory of all media, we apparently also need to see radio to believe it.
This happens to the best of them – remember This American Life‘s Ira Glass getting ready for his close-up on Showtime? The TV version of his show made it through two seasons – traditional radio stations, however, are typically on a daily grind so expect to see more live streams and a proliferation of YouTube channels filled with faces “made for radio.” Anyway, you can click-through to see my mug beaming back at you from the center of the page of Stern’s piece, aptly titled Video Actually Enhances The Radio Star (PDF).  More to the point, there are some good tips for those who wish to make some decent video on the cheap. And if your needs transcend iPhoneography, consider dropping the gang a line at FMRL. Otherwise, just remember there are no second takes on live radio but there are viral blooper videos. Continue reading “Video on the Radio, My Billboard Interview”