Saturday, December 3, 2005

Michael from BatesLine

This weekend, we're happy to continue the Blog Interviews with a blogger who's also a journalist, Michael Bates from BatesLine ...

The panel is ready with their questions ...
rough crowd

And so we begin ...

Is Michael DelGiorno fun to hang out with?

I don't get to hang out with him much, besides the few off-air moments we have during my weekly visits to KFAQ, but off the air he's no different than on the air: A mixture of sincere passion and a strong silly streak. What can you say about a man who would pose with his twin baby daughters for a studio portrait, wearing a tablecloth as a diaper? Gwen Freeman, his sidekick, is great company, too, and I really enjoyed getting to sit in with her for a week while Michael was recovering from surgery.

As the "premier Tulsa blogger", do you stoop to linking to/answering questions from other Tulsa bloggers, or do you not really identify with them? What's your opinion on Tulsa bloggers in general?

Tulsa is blessed with a lot of great bloggers, some of them focused on local issues, some focused on national politics, some who write personal diaries, and some who write about specialized topics.

Over the last year or so a group of bloggers who write mainly about local Tulsa politics has come together, and I'm proud to be associated with them. They don't just opine about local politics but they attend and cover political events, often posting video or audio. There's a lot going on in local government, and I couldn't begin to cover it all myself. Some of the guys are more technically adventurous than I am, and I've learned a lot from them. We're working on more ways to build synergy and work together. Bobby of has set up an aggregator page at, and he's started a weekly podcast.

I'd like to see the broader Tulsa blogging community come together, too. I helped organize an Okie "blogger bash" in Oklahoma City in January, and it was a lot of fun to meet folks whose blogs I'd read. I'm looking forward to next fall's Okie Blogger Roundup.

I try to be responsive to other Tulsa bloggers, to highlight new blogs I come across, and to link to other Tulsa bloggers, but I don't do that as consistently as I'd like to.

What's the most difficult thing about being a Christian blogger?

I'm a Christian who blogs, and a blogger who is a Christian, but I don't really think of myself as a "Christian blogger", because my blog's focus isn't on evangelism, apologetics, or theology. BatesLine is (among other things) a place to log things on the web that I find interesting, and so of course I write about my faith and link to articles that I find helpful or challenging.

That said, when I do write about the Christian faith, it's easy to do that in a way that is incomprehensible to readers who aren't part of the evangelical or Reformed (Calvinist) Christian subcultures. A great example is an entry I wrote about urban design to the glory of God. Several commenters seemed to think I was advocating a theocratic approach to urban planning. In fact, the phrase "to the glory of God" reflects the insight of the Protestant Reformers that any lawful work -- urban planner, plumber, petroleum landman, file clerk, you name it -- not just full-time religious work, is a vocation, or "calling," and by doing that work diligently, with excellence, and with an attitude of service to others, you can glorify God through your work. "Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." (I Corinthians 10:31)

I need to do a better job of making what I write about faith accessible to those outside my corner of Christianity. By the same token, I need to do a better job of making what I write about Tulsa accessible to readers who don't live here.

Why did you lose when you ran against Tom Baker, for city council in 2002? Will you ever consider running again?

Why did I lose? I can think of a dozen things I could have done better. Because I know computers and can write, I spent too much time on nuts-and-bolts stuff, like designing my own mailpieces, when I should have been knocking on more doors and meeting more voters. Baker had the full support of the Tulsa World and outgoing Mayor Susan Savage's political machine and the development lobby. A last-minute "Republicans for Baker" recorded call (voiced by Scott Petty of Petty's Fine Foods in Utica Square) did some damage; I shouldn't have taken my base for granted. If I had to do it over again, I'd take steps to give me a better idea of how I'm doing over the course of the campaign. I'd be willing to run again, but probably not until my kids are much older.

If you could be a cartoon character - who would you be?

Space Ghost. Then I'd have my very own talk show, along with the ability to zap uncooperative guests.

What is the greatest mystery of life?

The answer to this question.

How do you reconcile your Christian faith by appearing on Michael DelGiorno's radio show, a host who calls people by crude names and once talked about comparing penis sizes on the air?

Whew! I was afraid someone would ask me how I reconcile my Christian faith with writing a column for a newspaper that runs ads for massage parlors and topless bars. If I refused to go on Michael's show for the reasons you mention, someone would vilify me for being stuck-up and self-righteous. My faith doesn't require me to avoid associating with sinful human beings; if it did, I'd have to disassociate from my self.

I don't think the picture your question paints of Michael is a balanced one. Michael gets frustrated with the arrogance of some of our so-called public servants, and he sometimes expresses that frustration in ways that I wouldn't. The size comparison you mention was a silly bit of chest-beating between him and the news reader about whose unborn baby boy was earliest to be detected as a male on the ultrasound. I've heard him called a shock jock, but he doesn't approach the leering crudeness of real shock jocks like Howard Stern and Tom Leykis.

At a time when dissenting voices were frozen out of local media, Michael DelGiorno gave us the chance to be heard. When others might have caved to pressure from the local PR machine, he has pursued issues that make some powerful people in this town very uncomfortable. (Much credit goes to Brian Gann and Journal Broadcasting Group for standing behind Michael.) He doesn't throw softballs, which is why Tulsa Mayor Bill LaFortune won't appear on his show any more. Insiders have known for years about cronyism and backroom deals, but Michael has helped ordinary Tulsans understand how this town is run and has given them hope that they can change things for the better. And as we saw in this summer's recall election and in the 2004 city council races, they have made a difference.

A lot of people who agree with him on issues have a problem with his style. I can't say that I know him well, but I know him well enough to know that how he is on the air isn't schtick, isn't an act. He's a brash, impulsive Italian guy from Chicago by way of New Orleans. He doesn't filter himself, and that's a stark contrast to the staid and self-effacing style of born-and-bred Tulsans. I think Tulsa needed someone like him to shake things up. He could do a better job of letting his guests talk, and I don't always agree with what he says or the way he says it, but I'm sure glad he's there.

Who would be your body double?

Nobody with ripped abs, that's for sure. On the other hand, I'm happy to say it wouldn't be Dennis Franz, either.

Your blog is very Christian oriented, yet I am Jewish, do you feel you are truly only gearing it toward a Christan audience?

I'm certainly not trying to gear it toward a Christian audience, but it's a personal blog, so it's about what I know well and what I'm interested in. By the way, I am interested in Judaism, and I learned a lot about it living in a historically Jewish college fraternity, ZBT, among Jewish brothers who ranged from strictly observant New Yorkers to casually observant agnostic Californians. Our fraternity house was in Brookline, Mass., which has a strong Russian Jewish presence, which was interesting, too. Still, I wouldn't presume to write much about Judaism. (Greta, I enjoyed your post on Christmas, and I hope you will continue to share your experiences and perspective as a Jew in a pervasively Christian part of the country.)

I don't think too much about my audience in choosing what I write about, but I do try think about the audience in trying to put my thoughts in context. A lot of the stuff I post on faith is going to seem like inside baseball to those who aren't evangelical Christians; hopefully it won't be offputting. The exception to not thinking about my audience is local politics -- I will sometimes comment on something because I think Tulsa readers are going to want to know about it, even if it doesn't strongly interest me.

How many Drillers games did you attend this year?

For the first time in many years, we didn't make it to any this summer. Between my son's summer activities and his weeks away visiting relatives and my work hours, which were especially strenuous this year, we just didn't make it out there. Drillers Stadium is a very well run ballpark and a very pleasant place to watch a game. Normally we make it to two or three games in a season. A more typical summer evening's entertainment for us is a trip to the neighborhood pool.

Peter? Or Paul?

The folk singers or the apostles? Like the apostle Paul, I'm fiercer in print than I am in person. And I'm nowhere near as impulsive or as self-confident as Peter is.

What do you like most and like least about today's music?

I know almost nothing about today's pop music, and if I do hear something obviously new and unfamiliar, I'd have trouble placing it in the '90s or the double-naughts, much less identifying the performer. I know more about modern country music, but even there most of what I listen to is at least 10 years old. There's some good (relatively) modern country music -- George Strait, Kathy Mattea, and Randy Travis come to mind -- that, at its best, speaks to me as a dad, a husband, a grown-up with responsibilities.

With much of my CD collection on my computer hard drive, it's too easy to turn off the radio, step into the musical time machine, and listen to Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys in their prime, or classical choral music, or '60s pop, or the '80s New Wave that formed the soundtrack to my college years. The only new stuff in my collection is the work of bands like Asleep at the Wheel and Riders in the Sky, who are keeping alive the traditions of Western Swing and cowboy music respectively.

I was in the waiting room at the tire store a while back and flipped through a copy of Spin magazine, and I noticed that every picture of a band or musician showed them with a grim, angry, or depressed countenance. Compare that with pictures of the Texas Playboys from the '30s and '40s. Instead of picking cotton or digging ditches, they were getting paid to play the kind of music they loved, and they were darned happy about it. The joy comes through in the music, even when they played the blues. Isn't anyone having fun playing music anymore?

How do you feel about the Arena issue in Tulsa?

How much time do you have? The arena will be a money loser, a constant drain on the city budget. They've put it in a part of downtown where there will be no synergy with dining and entertainment, unlike the Ford Center in OKC, which is right next to Bricktown. It's too big for most events that a city our size will support, and too small for the premiere events (like NCAA regionals and Big 12 tournaments) that its promoters promised us. The design is generic, not uniquely Tulsan. Like too many buildings, it's surrounded by an empty plaza. They abandoned the idea of creating street-level retail around the periphery of the arena, which would have provided a more pedestrian-friendly experience and a reason for people to be there when the arena is empty. Finally, I have a problem with government taking taxes -- regressive taxes at that -- to subsidise the sports/entertainment industry.

We can do far more to bring downtown back to life by nurturing the Blue Dome and Brady Village areas, encouraging conversion of older office buildings to residential space, and halting the relentless demolition of downtown buildings for surface parking.

Hercule Poirot? Or Adrian Monk?

Monk. I'm not as tidy, but I identify with the over-analytical social ineptness. (Also, Monk is one of my wife's favorite TV shows.)

If you were a tree, would you fear termites or woodpeckers the most?

Woodpeckers. If it's termites attacking, I'm already dead and wouldn't notice.

If you could ask one question of any world leader, and get an honest response, what would that question be?

The question presumes that there are leaders who are capable of giving an honest response, but for some reason won't. (Some leaders -- like Kim Jong-Il -- are probably so delusional that an honest answer wouldn't provide any insight.) I'd like to ask Hillary Clinton what is her vision for American society, the role of government, and America's place in the world. I suspect the true answer would be different from what she'll be trying to sell us in 2008.

Do you find yourself switching between 740 & 1170 AM throughout the day?

(Those are Tulsa's two talk radio stations -- KRMG and KFAQ, respectively.) Yes, but I don't listen to as much talk radio as I used to. I don't listen at all at work anymore -- I can program to talk radio, but I can't write, and these days I'm writing a lot. If I'm in the car, which station I listen to depends on who's on. In the mornings I listen to DelGiorno (1170), because I know I'm going to hear the latest City Hall news, discussed at length. While I like Joe Kelley (740), his format doesn't let him go in depth on anything. I'll listen to either Glenn Beck (1170) and Neal Boortz (740). Can't stand O'Reilly (1170). I still like Rush (740), and I enjoy Laura Ingraham (1170). I prefer Dillon Dodge (1170) for more local content to Sean Hannity (740). I don't listen in the evenings at all any more. It's funny to think how compulsive national talk radio used to be for me back in the mid '90s. It was how you heard about the stories that the mainstream media was ignoring. Now the blogosphere performs that function 24 hours a day.

Carey Hillards? Or Johnny Harris?

Johnny Harris. Good barbecue, neat atmosphere. I've also enjoyed barbecue at Don's in Pooler, Barnes Restaurant, B. S. Muther's in Garden City, and Wall's in the historic district. But my favorite Savannah eat-yourself-into-a-stupor venue is The Lady and Sons, with Mrs. Wilkes' place not far behind. I first ate at Lady and Sons in '97, long before Paula Deen became famous. I love their motto: "Our greens will move you." It's a good thing that Savannah is a great city for walking, because it's a great city for eating.

If you don't feel like you already know more than you wanted to know about me, you can read the profile that ran this summer in Urban Tulsa Weekly.

Hey, we learned some good stuff. And nobody got hurt!

Thanks, Michael, for agreeing to the interview. And thanks to all who sent in questions. This was great!

Tomorrow, we have Jo from Jo's Cafe. That's going to be another good one.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please choose a Profile in "Comment as" or sign your name to Anonymous comments. Comment policy