Sunday, March 20, 2005

N.P.R. & Air America: Damn You Both to Hell!

After my local National Public Radio affiliate (KPCC) unceremoniously cut the Tavis Smiley show without warning, I'd lost faith in the programming director's proclivities. The TSS wasn't without its kinks, I'm certain, but somebody, somewhere opted to keep "The Splendid Table" (a weekly show for foodies, wine country savants and gourmandes) while giving Tavis the hook. That ain't right...and it typifies the slow shift toward a more conservative thrust that I'd been witnessing transpire in painless increments on NPR; it's apparently coming to fruition quicker than I'd anticipated.

Following that travesty of a hoax of a sham we called an "election" in 2004, NPR had one of their infamous pledge drives and when the smoke cleared, Tavis' show ceased to be heard. No fuss no muss. I found that disturbing; a deal breaker, if you would. I'd lost faith in NPR's copper-fastened pledge of fairness, it ceased to have as much importance in my life. But the "Tavis-ty" wasn't the first time KPCC pulled the old talk radio Three-card Monte on its listeners. This bullet-in-the-foot transformation began last year and I started tuning in less and less but I still didn't give up the ghost, at least not yet.

I'd still listen to BBC broadcasts late night, after November '04, things just weren't the same. Alistair Cooke had died months earlier (like he knew what was forthcoming) so I couldn't hear any more of his Letters from America -- a real bummer, yo. Soon after Cooke "moved to the next town," the suits at National Public Radio pulled open the trap doors on Bob Edwards, host to the flagship A.M. show, Morning Edition and handed him his hat -- he was replaced by Renee Montagne (here in L.A.) and Steve Innskeep (in the D.C. studios), two younger correspondents who would share older audio-journalist's vacant post. Although Edwards was old, he did have an avuncular "guy-you-could-learn-something-from" vibe going on. He was summarily yanked from the airwaves in an effort to up the ante...sharpen the edges, maybe pull in a younger/ hipper audience and, in effect, increase the network's "bottom line" a term we're starting to hear more and more on the regular as we shift from a nation of citizens into a corporate-tocracy of shareholders which I find CRAP-tastic.

Based on the latter, I can't help but feel as though the people in charge at NPR have started "drinking the neo-conservative Kool-Aid" as I've witnessed the increase in the frequency of reportage from icy correspondents; frigid, patrician, stentorian types like the political analyst Mara "Cold Meiser" Liasson or Cokie " Frost-Bite" Roberts whose voice alone makes people my age wince in revulsion. My shift from NPR was also abetted by the invocation of Air America Radio which launched in Los Angeles' airspace on March 31, last year. I really hadn't realized how sick of NPR I'd become until ARR began transmitting shows like Morning Sedition, Randi Rhodes, The Majority Report, Mike Malloy...and some dude named Franken. It was like "the loaves and the fishes" to liberal-minded folks like myself. But after a couple of months it got yanked and replaced with a Mexican talk-radio station because of some financial S.N.A.F.U. -- just as the Presidential race started to heat up, no convenient. Consequently, I was then forced to listen to MRR via an audio internet feed that would often get clogged, so during the height of a great show/ political debate you'd get booted offline and when trying to log back on there'd be an annoying "Please tune back during broadcast hours" message which was infuriating because I was tuning in during broadcast hours. What a pain in the arse, keeping up with political discourse had gotten to be and the worst was yet to come.

After voting on November 2nd, sorting out the political 411 became played as I slid into a post election depression (for obvious reasons). I had to get all of that poly-sci shite out of my mind. I divested myself from listening to any talk radio. No Morning Sedition, no BBC World Service, no Prairie Home Companion -- hell, I even stopped tuning in to Terry Gross' Fresh Air just to be safe. I had to (like millions of other progressive thinkers) purge my system after the election circus came and went leaving me in its wake of crushed peanuts (read: promises) and elephant dung. (pun intended) I focused my energies on other endeavors like reading and my writing. The radio was just to be used for checking out Coltrane, Rahsaan Roland Kirk and Mose Allison CDs and all was good with my least for a while.

As I tried to elude the news, every once in a while I'd get hit with absurd news flashes from friends via e-mail with exclamatory subject lines like: "Dude, You won't even believe this!" or I'd get cryptic phone messages like "I know you're on your little Political Sabbatical but (place crazy news fiasco here) is too fuggin' crayzee to ignore!!" Turns out those "late breaking flashes" came and went, just as I'd anticipated. As I got into "the zone," I started losing interest in talk radio in its entirety but I got pulled back inna 2001 Space Odyssey stylee one Saturday morning by -- you're never going to believe this -- my radio itself..."I'm sorry CeeP, I can't allow that...."

I fell asleep reading with the remote on my bed and one morning, while "checking my eyelids for cracks," I rolled over on the remote and it clicked on "Car Talk" -- an instructional auto show where these two brothers, Tom and Ray Magliozzi, shoot the shite about all things cars; people call in with prognoses and these guys sort them out with advice on how to repair their automobiles. I was deep in REM sleep when "Click and Clack the Tappitt Bros." started talking to me with their thick New Englandese, corny jokes and braying laughter. All of this segued into one of those NPR top of the hour announcements wherein the chick on the radio said something like "following an extended absence on Los Angeles' airwaves, Air America Radio is relaunching on 1150 AM -KTLK on the following Monday," OUCH!!! After months of watering down my doses of political talk, they put the liberal equivalent of rock cocaine back out on the streets of radio land -- that 24 hour news cycle, it be calling you, yo.

I lasted about 12 hours into that Monday's re-launch without a hitch but when I got in from work my hand just automatically punched 1150 AM in: it was Randi Rhodes snapping off on some Bible Belt schnook who thought he had the juevos to grapple with Randi in the political arena. Hearing Randi's nails-on-chalkboard Brooklyn twang washed over me like a speedball, I relapsed instantly. Randi tore "Mr. Book of Revelations" and a few more phone-in clowns new arseholes, they don't call her "The Goddess" for nothing. After Randi, I mainlined a hit of Majority Report Radio, a show featuring Janeane Garofalo and Sam Seder wiggin' out on that day's neocon subterfuges...and I just kept on going. I'd fallen off the wagon but this time it was different. No, really, I'm going somewhere with this...

As totally fugged and out of the loop I may feel about the current state of political affairs or at what stage of the death spiral that American culture may seem to be in the throes of at any given moment, I'm just going to keep on keepin' on. In the future I'll continue to vote my mind and my conscience in equal parts. It seems that the reptillian side of my brain took control of the wheel back in Nov. '04 in an effort to avoid any more icebergs looming in the distant waters of government policy, conserving energies for the daily confrontations with self-destructive groupthinking and fraudulent claims of "democratic" processes writ large on the self image of our national brain trust. Both of these things work hand in hand to ensure that the status quo remains entrenched; the mob mentality previals while the illusion of rule by representatives selected by and for the people is relagated to a halcyon image or sentiment that never really existed in the first place. Just like time-worn photos of Model - T's rolling off assembly line or the capturing of Sitting Bull's spirit, the connection of the decisions we've recently made won't have any affect on this earth until just about the time we're going to be laid six feet deep inside of it. Damn, that's some dark shite, but it's the truth, Skippy.

Make no mistake, we're witnessing a decline, like that Pax Romana thang after Marcus Aurelius got dead and his son took over -- even Hollywood touched on this in the film Gladiator -- better sharpen up on that Stoicism because history is definitely in its repeat 'n rinse cycle, Sonny Jim. To be honest with you, the way earthly things are going, we're taking the HOV lane towards good old fashioned feudalism. Alexis de Tocqueville might've been all hot 'n bothered by Democracy in America but I don't think he had much to go on at the time, it being the 1800's and all (where in the fugg are those flying cars they've been talking about since the '50, anyway?) So, to all of the weeping and gnashing of teeth, I say, "why bother?" Have your fun (and plenty of it) while you can because the pigs are definitely out of the chute, so to speak.

When I launched this blog, I intentionally strove to keep away from the antics of government partisanship because that's just too much of a psychic undertaking. In for a penny, in for a pound; if you're gonna be a bear, be a FUGGIN' GRIZZLY, Stud Muffin! Sure I still do my own research for my personal enlightenment and although I slipped back into listening to those bahstuhs on talk radio, there's one vow that I'm keeping: "Never againg will I invest so much of myself into anything that I obviously have no control over"...same reason I don't watch TV and most stadium-based sporting events. I liken our current collective mindset on politics to what it must feel like to open the cockpit to the airplane (a la Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) only to discover that it's empty...and the plane's headed directly toward a sheer rockface, something like what the recently departed Hunter S. Thompson had to say when asked about the effects of "Alternative '60s Culture" on the world. "It's a generation of permanent cripples; failed seekers who never understood the fallacy of [said] Acid Culture. The desperate assumption that somebody or at least some force is tending to the light at the end of the tunnel" ...Damn that's DARK, son but at the same time, what a beautiful and prescient thing to say. I'm sure gonna miss that dude... Don't forget to kill your TV...Laters


Blogger Lucio Rodriguez said...

Me likes zee blog brutha... I feel kinda silly asking you this - as a fellow progressive thinker and cynic of all things American - but, have you heard of KPFK (90.7)? If you haven't, I'm surprised and appallaed, not really. In lamens political, beer drinking terms... Air America = A Bud Light poured into a 12 oz. glass with about 3 oz. of water already in it while looking through the 'undergarments' section in the Sears catalog... KPFK = A frothy Sierra Nevada poured into an ice laden 24 oz. mug while fighting Selma Hayek off your crotch with a stick.

You're welcome.

- Lucio

4:09 PM, March 22, 2005  
Blogger Crash Pryor said...

TWO WORDS,yo. "Snigdah Prekash," OF COURSE, I listen to KPFK...sin fact, I've a recording of the SOLE time that I've EVER called in to a talk show from a broadcast on there (it was Dr. Earl Ofari Hutchense's show with him & I talkin' shite about said topic-of-the-show, I forgets what tho -- is he still there or what?) NPR & AAR are just those typa BOLDFACE catchalls that represent the two extremes in our current "wardrobe malfunction" of a political system...I coulda got all wiggy with all of the related stuff but, I gotta "day-joy," son...and BTW, Sierra Nevada? NO FUGGIN' WAY...I'm sold on the Heffeweissen 'n Absolute and besides, you're talkin' to a guy who rapped w/ Penelope Cruz yesterday...Salma's fine but I haven't met her...YET...(more later on that last)...Lates, Perro. Thanks 4 the F/B...CeeP.

8:45 PM, March 22, 2005  
Blogger mj said...

damn. gots to trump you both. i used to intern at kpfk pacifica radio, in the news department. interviewed my own republican congressman on their behalf once at a meet and greet with the board of trustees of mt. sac. i have a tape of me interviewing gray davis and antonio villaraigosa on the night clinton won reelection, from the biltmore downtown. so take that, sons o' biznatchez!
(actually, i merely introduced the sound bites i collected from davis and villaraigosa.)
ceep, that's a nice piece of writing right there, meing. i'm impressed by the way you stay w/ your metaphors and bring them full circle. and i know what you mean about investing yourself in sth you have virtually zero control over.
as for stadium sports and television. . .it's a little like marriage the way the apostle paul viewed it. it would be better if you didn't need to, but if it's gonna make you scratch your eyeballsout w/ lust, go ahead and make the best of it.

10:58 PM, March 23, 2005  

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