A Taste Of Ozone

In recent years, as the print news business has been slowly unraveling, I’ve read quite a number of nostalgia pieces from “ink stained wretches” lamenting the demises of the papers where they, in effect, grew up. We’ve seen this most recently with the spiralling-in of the City Pages, a vapid lifestyle tabloid in its later years that in its early days spawned some great writers (James Lileks), some journalists (David Brauer, Brian Lambert), one very goodeditor (Steve “Not The Journey Guy” Perry), a generation of “music critics” that further debased an already fairly useless genre of writing, and a lot of laughable, insipid drivel (I won’t name names; if you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you don’t need me to).

I get it. When you get to a certain age, you start to realize that you haven’t had just one life; you’ve had quite a few of them, really. And you try to make sense of them, order them, set them up so that anyone who might be interested in the future knows the story – even if that “anyone” is just you.

I got to thinking about that the other day. This week is the 22nd anniversary of my first day on the radio, back in 1979 [1].

It was at KEYJ, a little 1,000 watt (250 at night) station in Jamestown, North Dakota. It was the #2 station in a two-station market – the competition, the mighty KSJB, with a broadcast radius that covered six states and two provinces, was more a regional thing. But KEYJ was not only absent any delusions of grandeur, but the station intimately knew its niche. While “KS” covered the upper Midwest, with a steady diet of country music in and among a stream of crop reports, regional news and agriculture reporting, KEYJ covered Jamestown and Stutsman County – the news, high school and college sports, city and rural fire calls, reports from the nursing homes, a “swap and shop” show, and a half-hour local talk show. We carried the Twins in the summer, the Jamestown Blue Jays and Jamestown College Jimmies during the school year, and on Saturday afternoons we’d do a “Class B Basketball Game of the Week”, recorded the night before, where the merchants of Ellendale and Kensal and Medina and Ypsilanti would pony up a few bucks in sponsorships to hear their towns kids on the radio.

And some music. Although that was more or less an afterthought – we played middle-of-the-road top forty pop and a lot of “recurrents” from the previous couple decades.

The boss – Bob Richardson, one of the guys who’d put the station on the air in 1953, and who’s still going strong at 90 years old – considered it part of his mission to train local kids who were interested in the craft and technique of doing radio. He always had a couple of high school or college kids on the staff [2]. Not only was it one of the best broadcasting “schools” around, but it was one of the stations new grads from broadcast schools wanted to get into, if they were smart; they, like I, quickly wound up learning how to do literally everything at that station.

No, that’s not me. That’s Dave Howey, who took all the photos in this story when he was the same age I was when I started – the photos are all from 1977-ish, a few years before my time. Dave went on in the business – he’s been dominating morning radio in the Brainerd/Detroit Lakes/Fergus Falls area for the past thirty years or so.

And in August of 1979, it was my turn.

I spent a couple of weeks, starting in late July, shadowing a few of the other guys – Dick Ingstad [3] and John Weisphenning [4], including a day or two spinning records and reading the news and weather. Now it was time for my first solo – on the air, on my own, no training wheels.

It was a pleasant late summer evening in Jamestown when I did my first “solo” couple of hours. I’d be lying if I said I remembered that next six hours especially well – but I remember the first song I ever played on the air. And the second. And actually the third.

It went well enough – I actually got to switch to my regular shift – Saturdays, 5AM to 3PM – the next weekend.

Which led to my ritual, every Saturday morning for the next year and a half or so. Get up at 4:30AM. Hike the four blocks to the station, unlock the doors, start turning on the equipment so it – all ancient tube-driven electronics – could warm up. Most important was the “Remote” – a big, tube-driven stack of amplifiers, rectifiers, and controls that operated the transmitters, two miles away on the south side of town. It’s the sort of stuff you could do on your phone today. Back then – or, really, back in the 1950s, since KEYJ was in effect a museum of the early days of radio – it was a seven foot tall rack of electronics that looked like something from the fire-control plot room from a World War 2 battleship.

This isn’t the remote stack – that’s to the left. This is the pair of ancient reel to reel recorders. That little speaker grill at the top is for a piece of equipment associated with the Emergency Broadcast System, back when it was still called “Conelrad”. That’s how old the gear was/

On a hot day, that studio got downright torpid – there was no air conditioning (other than in the engineering shack, where it was needed); the control room relied on a fan and an open window. On a cold morning, you could hear the tubes struggling harder than I was.

The whole place gave off a scent of ozone. They say smells are among the most powerful memory triggers; ozone does it for me. There was something about the crackle and excitement of being in a radio station, being on the air, that for me is intimately associated with the smell of ozone. If I smell ozone, I get a spring in my step.

Dave Howey’s picture of one of the tubes. From the remote control, or the board, or something else? No idea. But that place was full of ’em.

Spent the next 45 minutes sorting through the 50-odd feet of AP wire copy that had printed on the teletype since signoff, about six hours earlier. Sort out the news, weather, sports and other stuff you’d use for the newscasts – five minutes every hour, plus half-hour blocks of news, weather, sports, and local public affairs stuff at 7AM, 8AM and over the noon hour.

That kept me busy for a good half hour or so.

5:50 AM? The transmitter should be warmed up. Time for standby.

And at 5:55 AM? Hit the sign-on music, read the sign-on script, and it was off to the races.

Dave sent a photo of the control board.

Why, yes, I still know what the controls all do. Those three boxes on the top? “Cart” machines – they played those little rectangular cartridges you see stacked on the right that looked a lot like eight-track tapes (kids, ask your grandparents) because that’s what they were. I have no idea what happened with this board – I think some local collector grabbed saved it from the junkyard. At least, I hope they did. Photo courtesy Dave Howey.

I’ve described it as “looking like the front end of a 1952 Buick”, and compared to modern boards, it kind of does. There is literally not a single piece of digital equipment anywhere in this photo, or anywhere in the room. Or station, anywhere, other than maybe a calculator in the sales office.

How old was it? It was in the studio – above the White Drug on main street in Jamestown – and had been since the station went on the air in ’53. I saw a similar one in a documentary about “black” radio stations in the south from the late ’30s, so “from before the war”, in a year starting with “193…” something, is more likely than not. It felt like old-world craftsmanship; the Bakelite pots had a heft that nothing in a radio station today duplicates; the VU meter, perfectly balanced and looking like something off the Titanic, didn’t herk and jerk up and down like modern meters; perfectly balanced, it swayed majestically, like the much slower time it was built in.

(The “production” board, in the little studio room next door where we produced commercials, the occasional pre-recorded show, and where Bob did the daily half hour talk/interview show, had a “1928” date stamped on the manufacturer’s plate on the side – and it looked and felt like it; it was “Steampunk” twenty years before anyone had heard the term).

This may have been the newest piece of equpment at that station. I think it was from the early ’70s.

I went on to work at much more-modern stations – my next, KDAK in Carrington, had a board from the sixties. When I came “back” to KEYJ (which had become KQDJ), everything was remodeled, with brand new (for the early ’80s) gear, although everything was in the same cramped little space above the drug store.

My career moved on – to KSTP, six years later, with KDWB-AM/FM, WDGY and KFAI to follow in succession. And then it ended.

And when it started again, at AM1280 in 2004, I felt a little bit like Rip van Winkle; there was not a single turntable, reel-to-reel deck, or ever cartridge machine. Even the CD player was largely un-used.

And most jarring, although it took me a while to figure it out?

No smell of ozone. Solid state equipment, much less digital gear, gives off no ozone. Radio stations today smell like…offices.

Don’t get me wrong; the excitement I get from turning on a mike is still there. And I can’t imagine all that ozone was good for the health; radio people seemed to die way too young, from old mens’ diseases, back then.

But I miss that smell, sometimes.


[1] Don’t bother checking my math. I said 22 years, and I meant it.

[2] Many of whom went on to big things. Terry Ingstad – you know him as “Shadoe Stevens”, one of the great LA disc jockeys – started there at 12, and earned a spot in Life Magazine in the process. His youngest brother, Dick, is a morning guy in Louisville today, and was one of my best friends in High School; hanging around with Dick while he did his shifts whetted my appetite enough to want to apply for the job in the first place. Mick Wagner, the great Oregon jazz DJ, Mark Swartzell, Dewey Heggen and many more all started in this old studio.

[3] As noted above, a morning guy in Louisville, who’s had an amazing career.

[4] At the time, John was a student at Moorhead State, majoring in Communications. Last I checked – probably 10 years ago – he’s a communications professor in California.

Independence Day

Hope you all have a happy and blessed weekend – and that you can help tell someone what the day really means, if you’re so inclined.

Mr D, First Ringer and I will be off today and Monday [1] enjoying a long weekend.

But we’ll get back in the saddle bright and early next week.

[1] Actually, I have no idea what the guys will or won’t write over the next couple days – for all I know, Ringer will actually finish that tome about Italians in Abyssynia – but I for one am taking a long weekend, and I hope you all can as well.

Frequently Asked Questions XV

It’s been a few years since I’ve done one of these. It’s probably high time.

Why don’t you manage your comment section more thoroughly?
I work a day job, a couple side hustles, I try to have some semblance of a life outside of all of them…

…and, call me pollyannaish, but I wonder why I should have to? And I know, I know – we’re all grownups, but we’re really not all grownups, either. Such is the nature of online forums – they bring out the worst in some people.

What’s your comment policy?
I still have one of those. I always tried to keep things simple. I summed it up in one of these FAQ pieces a while back. All I ask is:

  1. Don’t write something that’ll get me in legal trouble
  2. If your entire reason for being on the blog is to personally bash me – not an article, or my reasoning, but me, personally, over and over and over – then it’s not me, it’s you, and you and this blog will be parting company.

Perhaps I’ve gotten spoiled – I haven’t had a lot of problems since about 2010. But there you go.

Hey, you removed a comment of mine, even though (fill in name) regularly says things that are far worse. What gives?
Posting a comment doesn’t connote agreement. What do you think I am, Sally Jo Sorenson? But I give a lot more leeway to people I know, and have met personally. I know where they live, at least, figuratively. I know that they aren’t going to “Swat” me, start blogs to publicize “dirt” on me (well, try to.. There really isn’t a whole lot), or start poking at my kids.

With anonymous commenters – people I’ve never met, and likely never will – it’s a little different. I allow anonymous and pseudonymous commenters, and nd pointedly respect their pseudonymity – until the behavior swerves to the wrong side of the risk/reward line.

But what about threadjacking?
Yeah, I’ll whack the occasional threadjack, if it’s obnoxious enough.

But hey – you knew “Dog Gone”. You allowed her increasingly dissociative ranting for about a decade. And then, poof , she was gone. Doesn’t that contradict what you wrote above?
Hardly. I tolerated DG because it was fun watching her narrative – that conservative commenters were a bunch of idiots – get pummeled like the New York Generals. For about a decade, it was a perfect metaphor for modern society – a “progressive” with no particular visible expertise in anything, getting factually rumbled by a comment section that includes lawyers, MDs, a literal rocket scientist, engineers and generally well-read polymaths mirrors the modern social debate pretty perfectly.

Then she started using the fact that she had met me, and did know my kids (when they were 1 and 3, anyway), and took a creepy turn…

…and she got flushed like a gas station burrito and tequila, the morning after.

Does a commenter violate the “Hands Off” principle? Dog Gone did. Other commenters who are the subject of occasional complaints never have, and I suspect never will.

That’s pretty much it.

So that’s it? It’s all about you?
Well, in a sense, duh. The whole blog is about me, if you think about it. I’m the only (regular) writer.

I loathe echo chambers – as a personal matter, and a practical one. Intellectually, I’m still pollyanna enough to think in terms of political and social engagement as a “debate”, rather than mobilizing support to “own” or destroy “the enemy”.

Glad we could chat.

While Making Your Weekend Plans – And Voting Plans

It’s been a while – but my band, “Elephant in the Room”, is back in business.

After a year where we had precisely two, somewhat surreptitious gigs, we’re back in an actual bar, for the first time since February 29, 2020.

After a couple years of playing in the far northwest and far eastern suburbs, onSaturday night, we will be going north, playing at the Back To The SRO Bar and Grill in Oak Grove. It’s about 10 miles north of Anoka:

I’m not sure what the Covid rules are, other than the fact that we are playing from six until 10 rather than our usual nine until one – which isn’t entirely unwelcome.

Anyway – I’ve been there before, the food is pretty good, and the food and beverage prices have that “edge of the metro“ not-so-priciness about them.

By the way – enjoy live music while you can. Because while on the one hand states are slowly reopening, the Biden administration is doing its best to destroy the “gig“ economy. And there is literally nothing giggier than playing in a bar band.


I bought my first ever food processor last week. I got it on Friday. It’s been really great for speeding up making some of the staples of my diet, like keto dough and shredded cheese, among many, many others.

One of the things I did not do last week was pre-post a lot of content for this week. During a typical week, I have a bit of a surplus of posts, the better (scare quotes assumed) of which I schedule for the following week.

Because of a pretty jammin’ work and personal schedule, I didn’t get much of that done lasdt week, or over the weekend.

Oh – in a matter that may seem unrelated, but is in fact closely related to my current situation, my band, Elephant in the Room, finally got another legit bar gig, after nearly a year of mostly off-the-cuff semi-surreptitious gigs (like, two of them). More on that later this week…

…except to tie those threads – low and cursory blog output, food processor and band gig – into a narrative tapestry.

Kid you not. I was reading the safety instructions for the food processor when, naturally, I ran my right thumb along the edge of the surgical-grade vegetable chopper, slicing open a flap of skin along the inward side of the thumb, below the last joint.

It was only four stitches. No biggie.

Except that it was right in a place with key importance for two vital activities:

  • Hitting the “space” key, if you’re a touch typist. And I am.
  • Holding a guitar pick.

So with the help of a little gauze, tape and Ibuprofen, my thumb is finally up to some (clumsy, mis-key prone) typing. Hence this apologia.

And I’m doing my best to get my thumb into shape, since ho-lee frijole, it hurt to hold a pick at practice the other night.

As you were.

Meet The New Law – Not Remotely The Same As The Old Law

Back before longtime comment-section regular “Dog Gone” got irrevocably banned for life, she evinced a rhetorical pattern that, in recent years, has shown itself to be a bit of a pattern on the left, especially among left wing media, most particularly among the “Fact Check” set.

We saw this behavior in many instances – but the most comical was in 2012-2013, when I wrote my “Bruce Springsteen is America’s Best Conservative Songwriter” series, in which I built an airtight case that, notwithstanding Springsteen’s personal left-of-center politics, his music (at its best – fro 1975-1987, with a brief counter-relapse in 2002) resonates with many conservatives because it constantly iterated themes near and dear to the conservative heart and mind.

For the first dozen or so parts of the series, Ms. Gone’s response, over and over and over and over and over and over and (you get the idea) was “No he’s not!”

And then – as suddenly as a spring shower of logorrheic illogic – in the comment section of the final post, the tune (as it were) changed – to, more or less, exactly the point I’d been making for the previous dozen episodes.

Which is, in and of itself, of no great consequence.

But it does exhibit much of the behavior of the ongoing scam that is BIg Media’s “fact checking” side hustle.

Whose process I’ve broken down as follows:

Something falseSomething true
If a conservative says:The “Fact checkers” will call it false. The fact checkers will call it “Mostly False” or “Partly true” or say it “depends on context” – and leave it there until a progressive or “liberal” says it. See below.
If a “progressive” / liberal says:Depending on the importance of the narrative, the “fact checkers” will call it either “partly true”, or say it “depends on context”. The “Fact Check” machine will call it “true – even / especially if they previously referred to it as false (see the cell above).

The most egregious example, of course, was the reporting on Fredo Cuomo’s horrific, politicized, corrupt and incompetent response to Covid. When conservative alt-media reported, utterly accurately, about this last spring and summer, the “fact check” machine sandbagged the conclusion…

…until this past week, when the case suddenly served Big Left’s purposes in getting Cuomo out of the way, when suddenly “depends on context” turned into “this is the living truth”.

Verdict Rendered: And so it’s with great pride I introduce Berg’s 22nd Law of Mandatory Congruency – to wit:

The American media “fact check” industry exists to deflect the narrative caused by accurate reporting to benefit the Left.

As it is written, so shall it be done.

Nineteen And Life

It was another brutally cold February evening. I was working at a doomed dotcom, five months into one of the series of “New Normals” we’ve had in the past couple decades, after 9/11. I was a newly-divorced single guy, I had a couple kids to take care of, I had all kinds of anxiety about the near future as the software industry began an ugly contraction.

I was also chafing. While ten years of marriage and raising kids had modified my priorities a bit, I was missing something from my twenties, badly.

That “something” was a soapbox. I’d had one, fourteen years before, at KSTP-AM – an overnight weekend talk show where I opined about politics and argued with drunks and had the time of my then very young life.

Life had moved on, and I went with it. But there was a part of me that missed having the big discussions with complete strangers.

That afternoon at work, I’d read an article in Time magazine about the new wave of conservative intellectuals and their chosen medium, the”Blog”. Andrew Sullivan was their example. I went, read it, checked out “blogger.com”, thought a bit about the possibility that maybe I could get back into writing stuff again…

…and started “Shot In The Dark”.

Nineteen years ago today.

I gush about this every year about this time – how I started this blog hoping to maybe draw five readers a day that weren’t subject to the vagaries of the various list-servers I was on, how I’d happily keep doing it if five readers were all I had, how thankful I am not only for the outlet, and for the opportunities it’s led me to, and especially for having it introduce me, virtually and often in person, to every one of you – new friends, and old friends with whom I’ve been able to reconnect.

It’s been nineteen years, and while writers block comes and goes, it’s still just as fun as it ever was.

So I thank you all.


I really genuinely truly abhor echo chambers. They’re boring – and, more germane, conservatives don’t improve their arguments by vigorously agreeing with each other.

So I’ve encouraged dissenters to come to this site, to engage, to leave comments.

Now, from 2006 until about 2017, there was an extremely regular commenter who got into a bit of a habit of thread-jacking the comment section.

Initially, I told this person to go start her own blog. Which she did [1].

But it apparently wasn’t enough. She took to thread-jacking in my comment section again – successively ignoring waves of hints: I started with asking nicely. Then I started graying out her comments and annotating them with warnings [2]. Then I started deleting thread-jacks. Finally, I just banned her [3].

Shoulda done it four years earlier, to be honest.

Anyway – I still abhor echo chambers.

But I’ve been gently hinting to, well, some in the comment section for a while now, and it doesn’t seem to be sinking in.

So be advised that I’m going to start deleting thread-jacks.

Want to start your own discussions? Blogs are still free to start. Go for it.

That’s the rule. Enjoy.

[1] She kept it running for about 10 logorrheic years before petering out, apparently finding it was harder than it looked.

[2] Which, truth be told, I doubt she ever saw.

[3] Although the final straw there had nothing to do with this blog’s comment section.

Programming Note

As background: Thursdays are usually my slow day here on SITD. I usually do a little surge of writing over the weekend that tides me through the first half of the week – and the end of the week usually brings its own observations I scramble to get in for Friday.

But late-week fatigue, other commitments, and the like have made Thursdays the red-headed step-day of the Shot In The Dark schedule for years and years, now.

I’m going to fix that. Sort of.

So – the urge to do another book project has overtaken me. And writing Trulbert as a “Dickensian Serial” on this blog six years ago was not only a lot of fun, but short-circuited some of the usual pitfalls of trying to write a book, most particularly the whole “self-discipline” thing.

Indeed, I believe the fact that one of you readers called it exactly that was what sparked an interest to turn an extended series of “comical” posts into a novel. And it was suggestions in the comment section that led to an actual ending.

So I’m gonna do it again. I’m going to earmark Thursdays for the new project.

Or should I say, “new” project.

Thursdays will likely be light on other content, and devoted to a “chapter” of my next project.

More next week.

Who’s Got Two Thumbs…

… And is scheduled to appear on the Joe Piscopo show, on AM970 The Answer in New York City at 7:25 central time/825 Eastern today?


OK, you can’t actually see me pointing my thumbs at myself, so the joke doesn’t make much sense.

Anyway, as this is written I am scheduled to appear on Joe Piscopo’s morning show in New York this morning. Notify the media!

Wait. I am the media.

Anyway, if you’re in the New York City area, tune in!

Times In Which The Mundane Is Spectacularly Radical

Let’s say I write an article in which I assert that the mid-day sky is actually bright scarlet red in color.

You might respond “You’re just Mitch Berg. You’re a conservative, so you always think stupid things”. That response is half, maybe 3/4 true – but doesn’t say anything about the color of the sky. What it does is say “your argument is false because of who you are”. The term is “Argumentum ad Hominem” – latin for “arguing against the man”, rather than the facts the Man presented. It’s a logical fallacy. Who I am has no bearing on the facts I present, right or wrong.

You might then respond “You don’t have a degree in meteorology – how would you know anything about the sky?” That’s also true – I’m not a meteorologist. But it doesn’t address the facts presented, but rather my credentials. It’s called an “Appeal to Authority”, and it’s another logical fallacy. One’s credentials might lend authority to a statement – but not truth or falsity, all by themselves.

You could try another tack, something like “you are an idiot”. That’d be called an “Appeal to Ridicule”. Again – I might be actually an idiot, but it doesn’t address my factual assertion in any way. It’s…yep, another logical fallacy.

Maybe you could dig back on Twitter, and find some example of me saying “the sky is blue”, and post a before-and-after saying “Hah! You’re being inconsistent!”. That’s called the “Argumentum Tu Quoque” – focusing on the fact that one has changed their mind on a subject, rather than the facts at hand – which is a really dumb one; the fact that I was a Democrat growing up, for example, doesn’t make me less a conservative today (or vice versa for someone else).

You could go on the offensive, and claim that if I believe the sky is scarlet with “Sooooo, what you’re saying is you want old people to die”. That’s called a “Straw Man Argument” – trying to make someone defend an argument they never made. I said the sky was scarlet – nothing about Grandma at all.

You could write “the sky is blue, because as I noted above, the sky is blue”. That’s called “Begging the Question” – perhaps the most mis-used phrase in the quasi-educated dialect of English, which people usually use to refer to “asking a question again”. It means “using your conclusion as proof of your conclusion”.

Or – here’s a radical thought, you could post a picture of a bright blue, or dull gray, sky and tell the world “Look! The sky above is blue! It’s not even a little bit scarlet!”. That would address the actual facts of my assertion that the sky was bright scarlet.

And the technical term for that is “a factual argument”.

I’m writing this not because I’m trying to go all Jordan Peterson on you, but because our society would be a lot stronger, smarter and BS-proof if more people learned how to make a logical argument, and to spot and call out an illogical one.

“That’s just NPR!” or “That’s just National Review” or “that info came from people allied with “the swamp”” and many other arguments…aren’t really arguments at all. They are illogical deflections.

Not to go all Walt Kowalski, but there was a time people had to learn this stuff. And there are times I think, reading social media, that learning the basics of, if not logic, at least spotting gross illogic and not being illogical, should be required before people can vote…

much less post on Facebook or Twitter.

And if I’m ever appointed king, or otherwise become a benevolent strongman…

(Careful, kids – in some quarters, particularly academia, the above is very un-PC. It’s what we used to call Samizdat. )

This post was originally run on May 11 2020. I’m re-running it because, well, it seems appropriate.

Shot In The Dark: Today’s News, Two Years Ago (Again)

The Babylon Bee – America’s most accurate source of news – defines “Karen”, who is sort of the anti-“Rosie The Riveter” of the current crisis.

Watch carefully. Anything look/sound familiar?

“Karen’s” hairdo – it’s “ELCA Hair“.

If you read Shot In The Dark, you’re years ahead of the hoi-polloi.

2020 Pledge Drive – Final Day

Thanks to everyone that’s donated so far! I appreciate it more than I can express.


After 18 years of doing this blog, I’m continually humbled and amazed that people keep coming by. I say I’d keep doing it even if I still had five readers a day (as I did, back through most of 2002) – but seeing people actually keep coming back certainly makes it even more fun.

I thank you all.

I am passing the hat, as I usually do every year about this time – and am gratefuil for any support you might be able to spare.

UPDATE – Don’t like PayPal?

We can sure try iWallet, if you prefer:

Update 3/19 – Thanks, all!

Now It Can Vote

It’s weird, the things that stick in memory.

In my mind, February 2002 was cold and snowy. Who knows if that’s true – but that’s how it’s stuck in my mind.

I was working at a company in Minnetonka whose death spiral, which incompetent management had started long before the post 9/11 “Dot Bomb” reared its head.

9/11 had happened five months earlier. And my own personal collapsing tower, a divorce, had happened not long before that. I was living with my two kids – at the time, 8 and 10 years old – and getting used to a whole new way of living.

And as both worlds – the wider one and my personal one – spun out of control, I found myself missing the voice I’d lost fifteen years earlier, when I’d gotten whacked from my first, and to that point last, talk radio gig at KSTP. I didn’t need, or ask for, much – but having some way of getting what I was thinking out to someone other than my kids, dog and cats was something I was craving.

And which seemed so, so far away.

I”d come back from lunch, to an office across the lake from Ridgedale Mall, and was already bored out of my mind.

I went to Time.com – and it occurs to me, it may have been among the last times I ever did that – and read an article about “The New Generation of Conservative Intellectuals Online”. One of the featured thinkers was none other than Andrew Ferguson – and his “blog”, the Dish.

And, most importantly, a sidebar on how to create a “blog”.

I ran home that night, fed the kids, put them to bed, and went out to “Blogger.com” and started setting thngs up…

…and got to my first roadblock; picking a name.

Not sure where “Shot in the Dark” came from: I think it was mostly a play on words, encompassing the DIY/no idea what I”m doing vibe that I felt, as well as my nascent Secone Amendment activism

Either way, that next morning I got up at 5:30AM – the only “me” time I really had at that point – and started writiing.

And nearly every weekday morning for the past 18 years, it’s been the same routine. My kids are grown up and moved out, and one of them has a kid of his own. My little writing hobby that drew maybe half a dozen readers a day morphed into what I have today – four-figure daily readership – and so much more, a social circle and a radio show and a bunch of friends I can’t imagine my life without, and a whole world the doors to which I thought had slammed shut in the eighties.

Anyway – today Shot in the Dark turns 18. It can vote and join the military.

And I’d like to thank you all for being here, and being the reason I do it, all these years; some of you, literally since just about Day 1.

Thanks. And here’s to 18 more.

When Making Your Evening Plans In The Northwest Metro

My band, “Elephant in the Room”, is playing at Neighbors in Albertville tonight from 9PM-1AM.

Santa was just sitting in the night that pic was taken; Jon Heyer will be back tonight.

And for all you long-time NARN listeners – that’s my old producer, Tommy Huynh, singing. The guy can do Robert Plant, Dexter Holland and…Brad Delp?

Oh, yeah. Brad Delp.

Hope you can stop out to our favorite bar in the far northwest subs!

Fair Warning

I can listen to people scrape their fingernails on chalkboards (kids, ask your parents) all day long.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t sounds and words that make my teeth hurt and make me nauseous.

My example I have always hated the word “Document”, and all its uses and derivatives. Document? Documentation? Documentary? All of them. The only exception is the sentence “I just watched someone who overused the word ‘document’ get eaten by mice”.

My worst boss ever was a (I’m not making this up) near-functional illiterate QA manager to whom the company’s benighted tech writers had to report. And she once described the tech writers’ job as to “document the documentation in the documents”. It wasn’t *that* episode, or the fact that she advocated changing the job title to “Documentalist”, that made her the worst boss ever – oh, Lord, no – but it put a cherry on top of the crap sundae that was that job.

Which is one of the reasons I tune out the radio when impeachment talk comes up Part of it is because Adam Schiff justifies retroactive bullying – but largely because if I hear another smug, sanctimonious voice saying “documents documents documents documents documents…” again I’m going to kick a puppy.

When Out And About This Weekend

For my band, “Elephant in the Room”, it seems to be feast or famine.

This weekend is “feast” – or as I’m calling it, our “Winter Tour 2019”.

Friday night, we’re at “Neighbors”, in Albertville. It’s our first time out there, and we’re looking forward to our first gig in the Northwest exurbs! We’ll be playing, roughly, from 9PM-1AM.

Then – Saturday night, we’re back at the Stillwater Bowl and Lounge. Don’t let the name fool you – it’s a fun room, good crowd, and they have those edge-of-the-metro food and drink prices that make going out a *lot* more fun!


Hope you can stop out!

What I’m Not Doing This Weekend

Well, it seems at least one tradition is on a “pause” for the foreseeable future.

AM1280 and the NARN won’t be out at the State Fair this year.

Fifteen straight summers, the NARN guys and I worked out at the Fair. The station took a different route this year.

Which on the one hand is fine – no need to add “getting to the fairgrounds” to all the other show prep stuff.

On the other hand, it means I lose the big benefit of being with the station at the Fair: having an air-conditioned room with a fridge full of water to retreat to when the crowds get to be too much. That, along with getting to meet the audience face to face, was one of the highlights of whole “show at the Fair” experience.

I’ll have to come up with some other side hustle that offers that…

Deja Vu All Over Again

One of my life’s great face-to-desk moments was in the fall of 2004.

Back in 2003, I’d participated in “National Novel Writing Month”, usually known as NaNoWriMo. “Nano” takes place every November; the goal is to write a novel – 50,000 words worth – in those thirty days. It doesn’t have to be much of anything – it’s just gotta be done.

Now, I went into NaNoWriMo 2003 with an outline for a book that I’d been tweaking in my mind, and then on paper, for 5-6 years. I’d fleshed out characters, come up with a pretty cool plot, and had things pretty well laid out. And I hit Nano running; I think I got through 100,000 words – and 40% of my outline.

I put it away for a bit – but figured I’d finish it between then and the next Nano, in the fall of 2004.

That fall, the opening of the TV season included a series that smacked into me like a Proust compilation hitting a cement floor; my novel about a bunch of people stranded by a crash under bizarre, perhaps supernatural circumstances suddenly went from “original” to “just like Lost“.

And so it was back to dreaming about writing a novel.

That opportunity came to me finally six years ago, as I started writing a series of satirical observations about local Libertarians, which morphed – at the suggestion of commenters, truth be told – into a “Dickensian serial” about a highly tongue-in-cheek collapse of civilization and “reboot” of the political order. Trulbert was a hoot to write, and even more fun to see people reading. I sold probably 500 online copies – profiting enough to take a halfways decent vacation.

And it whetted my appetite for more.

I’ve been fascinated by the idea of the US finally taking some critics’ suggestions (including, occasionally, mine) and breaking up into some smaller, more politically contiguous countries, and what that’d mean. There was on the one hand an urge not to go full-blown satirical, a la Trulbert; I still go back and forth on that, as “desire to try something different” runs up against “go with what you know, and also unknown people can’t get typecast”.

So the urge to do another Dickensian serial about a divorce – maybe amicable, maybe not, a la my 2005 serial, Secession Diaries – between the several states has been bubbling around since, well, Trulbert came out.

That urge has been mightily tempered by the fact that Kurt Schlicter seems to have taken over that market.


I was remiss (overwhelmed with life, really) in not noting last week the big local media news – Bob Collins of MPR has retired after 27 years at the Taj Ma Klling and 45 in radio all together.

Bob worked at MPR, so it’s an absolute given we’d disagree on…well, most things. We sparred a time or two over at the “NewsCut” blog he ran for many years over at MPR. Which says something – Bob would spar. Most MPR figures hid behind the organization’s magisterial facade and didn’t bother engaging the peasantry.

Not Bob. He was the only MPR staffer – and one of very few mainstream media figures – to ever appear at a MOB party, back in blogging’s heyday. The image of Collins talking, I think, sports with Gary Miller was one of the highlights of that whole time of my history doing this blog thing.

And I would be lying if I didn’t admit that he wrote two of the things that I’ve been proudest of in all my years of doing this.

In 2007, I wrote a piece o the death of Bo Diddley, about which Bob wrote:

Mitch Berg, author of the Shot in the Dark blog, pens a tribute (by the way, to see why Berg is, perhaps, the best blog writer in Minnesota when it comes to music, see his post on Bruce Springsteen.), invoking some long-forgotten images of when rock married politics, as in the 1989 George Bush inaugural

I’ve gotten a lot of compliments writing this blog – notably, the fact that so many of you spend time reading it every day – but yeah, that one coming out of the blue stuck with me.

And the next year, during the run-up to the Republican National Convention in Saint Paul, I walked from my job at the time over to a news conference held by a group of groups that were planning the demonstrations at the convention. Collins took up the scene:

What about what most people think when they hear a term like militant, violence, for example?
“The violence that I’m worried about is the violence that’s being carried out in Iraq right now,” she answered, which isn’t really an answer.
“You’re not answering my question,” a blogger said, uttering the five words that mark a great political journalist.
“I know,” she said, adding that she doesn’t consider the blockades being planned — allegedly — by other groups “violence.”
“That’s not what we’re planning,” she said.

I was the blogger, natch. And while I’ve never been a “political journalist” – I’ve always preferred “irascible peasant” – I always took that as a great compliment.

Anyway, good luck out there, Bob.