What’s Annoying on Public Radio Now

On a Tuesday, this is Airbag Moments returning to air – or wifi anyway.

I notice with horror I made zero posts in 2014. I am tweeting a lot, though, so blame the siren song of social media and fear of the Riyadh Flogger for my lack of blogging. (@airbagmoments)

What has driven me beyond the 140 character restriction today, the first time in over a year? Only a brief list of weird/annoying micro-trends in Public Radio, especially NPR, that I feel need some publicity – so they can stop.

Let’s do the numbers!

1. The Daily Grind

Apparently Steve Inskeep feels our pain. (Well he doesn’t feel my particular pain, since he took to his fainting couch and blocked me on Twitter at some point – see below.) But apparently he feels the rest of you, because he has pioneered a new version of the useless day-of-the-week intro ritual (ie “on a Wednesday”) he and other hosts have adopted over the last couple of years. Now he’s taken to uttering pseudo-ominous inanities like “well, you’ve made it to Tuesday!” I think everyone out here in listener-land is pretty aware of what day of the week it is and whether or not surmounting the previous midnight is worthy of succor and sympathy.

I will go so far as to say I would not mind being calmly reminded of the date, Steve, which you never do for some reason.

2. Yay us!

NPR or its shows were mentioned in two nerdy inner sanctums in the past week, the game show “Jeopardy” and the NY Times crossword puzzle. Given the exuberant twit-storm about this from NPR staffers I can only deduce that it’s apparently everything they’ve been working towards for their entire lives. What will they do now for a second act?

This brings me to a more general annoyance, which is the self-aggrandizing vanity retweets many hosts and official public radio program feeds indulge in. I guess I’m glad that @doctormom420 cried in her driveway during the segment when Scott Simon sang “Danny Boy” to Draggy, GoryCorps creator and aptonym David Isay’s 2-legged Golden Retriever, but I don’t need to know about it.

Let’s make a deal: if you are going to retweet the effulgent praise then I expect you to retweet the trenchant critiques also, which you can find more easily if you unblock me on twitter.

Which brings me to…

3. Throwing a block

I try to be a resource for people by following every public radio personality and show I can find on Twitter, unfollowing them only when their feeds become choked with baby pics and vanity retweets.

Those of you who are familiar with the effete and grammatical pokes I take at public radio must marvel at Steve Inskeep’s (and EXCITING UPDATE “Vocal Fry Guy” Raz!) precious sensitivity. This is unbecoming in one who makes a living ostensibly asking tough questions in interviews. If Twitter actually notified users at the time when other users blocked them I could know which comment of mine tweaked Inskeep’s and Raz’s hair-trigger peevishness.

Then we come to On The Media, a show I myself have praised effulgently in this space. Yeah, they blocked me for some reason. Really, OTM? You are the show that hates censorship so much you have produced entire episodes about it. What could I, who have called OTM the best show on radio, have said to offend them so much that they would block me from their official Twitter feed? What does that even accomplish other than tainting the purity of my love for them? At least Brooke and Bob, the hosts, have yet to block me from their little-used personal feeds.

I admit that I do sometimes say things that don’t follow the public relations guidelines for human society known as “political correctness.” But I am not one of these ignorant, racist, sexist, conspiracist or wing-nut (left or right) knee-jerk public radio trollers you find in the comment sections dangling under so many segments’ web pages.

To those who block me I have this to say: no matter what you claim, vous n’êtes pas Charlie.

4. Same old pundits vs. Sarah Chayes

I have written before about how outrageous it is that Chayes, one of the most valuable voices about Afghanistan we have and a former NPR correspondent, has been ignored ever since she left her radio job to actually do something instead of just “getting a sense.” I have also written about how weird it is that smart voices only seem to appear on radio shows like Diane Rehm when they are coincidentally on a book tour.

Well the second phenomenon has, at least for a brief period, solved the first because Sarah Chayes is on a book tour, which is the golden ticket to get back on the radio. Yay!

Meanwhile most of the regular pundit slots remain filled with people whose responses are entirely predictable: either political talking points or conventional wisdom.

I’m out of time, but not out of bile, so stay tuned!

Slow News Month

I don’t wish to discourage my vast and fanatical army of readers, but updates will continue to be sporadic for the next week or two as preoccupations not having to do with public broadcasting rudely intrude. (Much like the Chinese population, if you line up all Airbag Moments readers four abreast and march them into the ocean they would never stop. For the Chinese this is because their reproduction rate would more than make up for the activity. Airbag Moments readers are simply contrary and would refuse the command.)

I have no doubt my stalwart cadre of co-contributors will fill in for me, but I apologize in advance if their non-existence prevents them from doing so.

A couple of tidbits to recommend if you missed today’s Morning Edition.

I sometimes find the “Storycorps” segments to be mawkish or depressing, but this morning’s was really wonderful. If it doesn’t melt your heart you must be Ann Coulter. (I told you stop reading my blog, Ann! Does the phrase “restraining order” mean anything to you?) It throws into high relief the difference between the New Testament/Liberal approach to crime and punishment and the Old Testament approach favored by the c.i.n.o.s (Christians In Name Only) on the right. It’s such a perfect parable that it’s hard to believe it’s true.

Also notable was a quirky story about the US government rushing to patent the atomic bomb during the Manhattan project.

I can’t believe it IS butter! (sexy npr part 2)

Today’s Morning Edition featured DVD recommendations by “Eve’s Bayou” director Kasi Lemmons.

The sexy part is that she recommends “Last Tango in Paris” as a film she can watch over and over again.

The really sexy part is that she and Steve Inskeep don’t talk about that piece of cinema history in ways that indicate exactly how controversial it is. This could lead to some extremely humorous moments if naive NPR listeners (are there any?) bring that movie home knowing nothing more than what is said in the segment, such as Lemmons’ heartwarming travelogue description “It’s the music and the mood and Paris…Marlon Brando talking to his dead wife.”

Now, Dear Reader(s), I don’t know if you’ve experienced this film, but, if you have, I’ll bet the scene that’s stuck to the roof of your mind has a lot more to do with Marlon Brando talking to his very, very alive lover about, shall we say, pork products, while he, uhhhm, busies himself with a dairy product.

Or maybe Kasi and Steve just assume that all NPR listeners, upper-middlebrow(c)(tm)Airbag Moments as we are, must be familiar enough with Last Tango to not need any warning. And perhaps they are correct.

But what about the people listening to Morning Edition for the first time because they themselves are featured in the story about “a new kind of Sunday school, where families from a range of religions gather to learn about helpfulness, obedience, service and friendliness?”

What if those folks stuck around to hear the movie tips?!?!

Enjoy the film, families of many faiths! Use it as a teachable moment to instruct your kids about what helpfulness, obedience, service and friendliness meant in the seventies.

Today’s sexy moment runner-up (for sophomores only):

Steve Kuhn’s helpfully “Now I’m awake!” opening to his story about North Korea:

“In his February 25th inauguration speech Lee Myung-bak dangled a big, fat carrot in front of North Korea.”

Cokie Adds Life (and Sense)

Maybe NPR correspondents get paid by the “sense”?

NPR saint/matriarch and sometime seagull at the television news landfill of conventional wisdom Cokie Roberts (you’re better than that, Cokie!) commented on the Democratic primary on Morning Edition today.

I was disappointed to hear the following at the very top of her “three-way” with Renee Montagne and Steve Inskeep:

“…because there’s a lot of sense that these primaries tomorrow are the make or break primaries for her campaign and there’s been you know so much criticism that she’s is not human enough and these shows give some sense of humanity…”

Steve & Renee make the extra effort to avoid asking for a sense (thanks, guys!), but she volunteers two senses in one sentence anyway!  The initial one is described as “a lot” of sense.  What a bargain!

There’s a lot of sense among a lot of us here at Airbag Moments that the phrase “a lot of sense” is really unattractive, not to mention that it has a lot of sense of meaningless.  How many senses is a lot?  I think six is a lot, since we humans use only five.  But maybe a lot is more like a hundred senses.  I’ve heard that OT-8 scientologists like Tom Cruise and Vinnie Barbarino have that many.

Let’s decide on a new grammatical term for these “sense” constructions.  Literary style mavens implore us to avoid the passive voice, often for good reason.  I propose we should name these phrases that use sense in this way something like “ultra-passive voice”.

Any other ideas?