Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Listening to Talk Radio (Poke-em-with-a-Stick Wednesday)

So, I actually listen to talk radio on a fairly regular basis -- a little in the morning (until it's forced off the air for six or seven midday hours devoted to the horror that is Jazz) while making breakfast, and a little in the afternoon while driving over to pick up Janice after work. Not every day, but more often than not.

But that's NPR, which is not what most people mean these days when they say "Talk Radio". "Talk Radio" has come to mean politicized shock-jocks, mostly right wing, like Rush Limbaugh and Michael Medved (the only radio personality I know of who shares a name with a Tolkien character). That's not my cup of tea, but once in a long while I'll get curious and listen off and on to such shows for a few days, then find myself happy to do without it for another year or two.

This morning, it was curiosity over how they were reporting on last night's debates compared to how various progressive websites were covering the story that lured me into listening. I didn't see the debate itself, having opted for a friend's birthday party instead (hi, Stan!), so it was very much listening to the blind men describing the elephant. The progressive sites were relieved and triumphant, thinking their candidate had done well; the radio hosts varied between insulting the moderator with fat jokes and claiming that their guy didn't lose after all (never a good sign).

The most amusing takeaway from all this, for me, was one radio host's inveighing against a NASA program working to develop food for use on the Mars Mission, once we actually have a Mars mission. Another was a commercial on another channel advertising special Survivalist rations (freeze-dried and canned) that wd remain edible for years, come the End Times.  Here, I thought, was a great chance to kill two birds with one stone: dub the Mars food 'Rapture Rations' and surely those same radio hosts would be clamoring for more money to be spent developing them.

For the rest of today, I think it'll be listening to cds and giving the airwaves a rest.

--John R.


Ed Pierce said...

The "horror that is jazz"? Say it ain't so! Unless of course you are talking about "Smooth Jazz," 9which I think would be more aptly named "Watered-down instrumental R&B"). in which case I agree with you. :-)

John D. Rateliff said...

Hi Ed
Afraid it's true. I enjoy ragtime quite a lot but not jazz, especially of the improv. meandering kind favored by our local station. In my view there's good jazz, but most of it was recorded by Louis Armstrong seventy years or so ago.* Jazz-inspired works can be rather more interesting than jazz itself --e.g. Gershwin. And some modern musicians, like Steely Dan and Sting, have put jazz influences to good use.

But jazz itself? A dead art form, that ran its course long before most of us were born and has lived a ghastly half-life ever since, mostly as elevator music. One Marsalis does not a living art form make.

If you've never read them, I highly recommend Phillip Larkin's books of jazz reviews. A great poet and incisive critic, he believed pre-War jazz was wonderful but that by the 1960s everything that made jazz enjoyable had migrated over to rock & roll. Interesting argument, and well-worth reading.

That said, if you enjoy music that I don't, all the more fortunate for you! We shd celebrate yr good fortune and not my limitations.

--John R, who's about to go listen to "The Real Ambassador" and then some Scott Joplin

*just as there's good country music, but most of it was recorded by Hank WIlliams (the real one, not the clown who records under that name today) sixty-plus years ago.

Ed Pierce said...

Thanks for sharing your opinion, John. I'm familiar with Phillip Larkin's name, but I don't know that I've ever read any of his writing.

I would say that whether or not jazz is a "dead art form" is a debatable point, but I also think that's a separate issue from whether or not the style has worth and is enjoyable.

Anyway, different strokes and all that, I suppose! :-)


P.S. Louis Armstrong was indeed the baddest of the bad. I particularly like Satchmo at Symphony Hall (recorded at the perilously late date of 1947, but containing performances more or less in the style of Louis' 1920's records), not just for Louis' sublime playing and singing, and because the recording quality is pretty good, but also because it features the drumming of one of the titans of jazz drumming (and one of my favorites), the great Sid Catlett.