Posted on April 06, 2009 by Steve

It has been over a year since I listened to the radio while driving. My car's antenna cable was just long enough to reach the left side of the back of the radio, but doesn't reach if the jack is on the right. For a while I had my last radio installed upside down to make it reach, but that was more annoying than not having radio. When I installed a CD player I left the cable disconnected and gave up on radio once and for all.

From time to time I would crawl up under the dash and try to yank things around to get some more slack or figure out how to disconnect the cable and install a longer one. Finally I got fed up and cut the cable and spliced in a few more inches of coax and got it working again.

It didn't take long to see why I didn't miss radio much. Drive time music programming is a one-in-ten chance of finding something you can enjoy, as often as not something you already own. Commercials are as crass as ever. That leaves the mental wasteland of news and talk radio. Here are a few earaches I've collected recently:
  • Some moron solving the recession by calling on the rich to "pay back" the kindness done to them by the economy by spending their wealth away.
  • A guy going on about race relations, repeatedly describing recent cases of intolerance as the "last gapses" of something. He turned out to be the much-published Cornell West, so I'll cut him some slack and suppose that metathesis is a feature of his speech. (Elsewhere he was sicced for the phrase "truth lies prostate.")
  • Noam Chomsky explaining that some banana republic in South America is actually oh-so democratic.
  • The "morning zoo" idiots making the most of a report on germs in public, asking each other what surface they would least want to lick.
  • The dreaded DJ spot, wherein the host, instead of semi-apologetically calling for a commercial break, turns and stabs you in the back with an ad of his own! One was going on about his new Pontiac G8, saying how a gas station manager came out of the office to ask about the car, then a construction worker stopped him to talk about it, even the Burger King drive-through workers were impressed by his new ride!

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Posted by Tony | April 06, 2009 | 13:44:36

A wasteland it certainly is out there, though I must say that on the rare occasion when I am in the car between 6:00 and 9:00 a.m. and/or 3:00 and 6:30 p.m., I find NPR's "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" followed by "Marketplace" make it worth having FM for the foreseeable future. Maybe things elsewhere have got so bad that hearing a talk show host who sounds like an intelligent and educated human being is enough to make me happy.

Did the object of Chomsky's admiration start with a "V" by any chance?

Posted by RWH | April 06, 2009 | 23:45:00

Noam Chomsky is a despicable twat - If it was Venezuela he was defending, it would be far from the worst regime he's been an apologist for, and Cornell West is a freakin' moron of the "baffle 'em with bullshit" school.

NPR sucks, too. All of the hosts sound like breathlessly earnest high school sophomores, dazzled with unwarranted awe at their own fumbling semi-literacy. If there's any content worth listening to, I'll never know because I can't get past the titanic douchebaggery of the personalities.

Terry Gross - the most breathless and self-enamored twit of them all - gets pwned by Gene Simmons in this awkward interview: (transcript) (mp3)

Posted by Steve | April 27, 2009 | 11:34:50

I don't recall which country was praised by that much-cited author with the easily-misspelled name.

I've often found NPR news coverage the most tolerable way to pass some time in traffic. Given the insipid banality of most of what's on the air, I don't mind a little insipid pretentiousness for a change of pace. Before the advent of the podcast, I would even go out of my way to tune in shows like "My Word!," "Car Talk" and "This American Life."

"Democracy Now!," another public radio offering, is often entertaining, if unintentionally. According to sources, "the program focuses on issues its producers consider underreported or ignored by mainstream news coverage." One of the first such issues I was made aware of on the show (possibly from a caller) was the scandal of female GIs dying of thirst in their barracks at night. They were too afraid of sexual attacks to go to the latrine at night, so they avoided drinking water before bed, with tragic results in the Middle East. Apparently canteens are no longer standard issue for modern desert warfare. (I tracked this story down to an uncertain source quoted on a highly dubitable website with no corroboration.)

The Gross-Simmons encounter was fascinating; I listened to it twice. Clearly, Simmons brought his own snooty attitude to the show, correcting pronunciation and making pedantic notes on word usage. But Gross was caught completely unprepared and blew the chance at a good interview by missing interesting questions:

- How many of your four thousand plus liaisons occurred while you were in character?
- Do you believe it's possible for a man to be healthy and satisfied with one woman?
- What do you think of successful musicians who try to effect social change, are they also just looking for sex?

Instead, she asks how a rock star removes his makeup, and Simmons answers the ridiculous softball with wonderfully deadpan decency.

Posted by T. | April 28, 2009 | 09:20:34

Oh, I have long given up on expecting to find decent interviewing anywhere, NPR included. And funny enough, Car Talk is one show I could never stand. I guess I must go for the unwarranted awe at one's own fumbling semi-literacy, but the Car Talk guys always sounded annoying as hell to me. I don't need NPR for those kinds of accents and mannerisms -- I've already had plenty growing up on the streets of Queens.

Posted by RWH | April 28, 2009 | 09:58:25

I guess I must go for the unwarranted awe at one's own fumbling semi-literacy

Chacun à son goût, as they say on RF.

Posted by Steve | May 04, 2009 | 10:05:04

The banana republic must have been Bolivia, whose happy residents apparently say "Great, it's April 15th, we’re all going to contribute to implement the plans that we jointly decided on for the benefit of all of us."

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