Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Saturday, May 29, 2010
Monday, May 24, 2010
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
It will come as no surprise to anyone who reads this blog that I listen to a great deal of radio. I listen to conventional broadcast radio, I listen to streaming stations on-line. I listen to local stations, stations from other states, stations from other countries. I listen to music programmes, news programmes, radio drama, radio comedy, public radio, commercial radio. And I listen to some radio programmes which joyously defy any and all classification. I even had my own radio programme for about a year in college, and miss it sorely sometimes. About the only genre of radio with which I am not intimately acquainted is right-wing talk radio. So it is on no small pool of experience that I draw when I say that far and away the most obnoxious radio personality I have ever had the displeasure of listening to is Dr. Alan Chartock, president and CEO of local public radio station WAMC.
I didn't always feel this way. Ten or fifteen years ago, when I started listening to WAMC, I had much greater tolerance for Dr. Chartock. In gross terms, after all, his political views are in concordance with my own. He, too, is a progressive lefty; supports Obama, doesn't support the wars, &c. We also share a love of Pete Seeger's music. The common ground between us ends there, unfortunately. I am irrevocably divorced from the cult of Chartock by the man's own insufferable self-importance and megalomania.
Dr. Chartock's voice is inescapable on WAMC; both literally (he is on the air almost continuously, hosting his own weekly programmes and serving as a regular commentator and co-host of other programmes) and figuratively (there are very few commentators on WAMC who do not share Dr. Chartock's political views). I can understand, to some extent, the pervasiveness of his actual voice over the air waves. If I remember correctly from my days in the DC area, WAMU's president was also their most regular on-air personality. Perhaps this is inherent to public radio stations in this country (or at least those devoted to commentary and news). I cannot, however, understand Dr. Chartock's refusal to air more than the most paltry smattering of opinions contrary to his own. WAMC offers air time to a wide variety of commentators. Exactly one of them is a conservative; and even his arguments are poorly constructed and inane. It is almost as though he is retained to serve as a straw-man. This theory is not in any way discredited by the fact that during every single fund drive, Dr. Chartock parades this one conservative commentator's brief weekly opinion pieces as evidence of his own (Dr. Chartock's) magnanimous willingness to air other points of view. Is it really Dr. Chartock's sole responsibility and privilege to determine who should and should not be allowed air time? WAMC is a public radio station. It is their responsibility to provide quality programming for their audience, not the palest imaginable shadow of balanced politics.
If WAMC's lone conservative commentator were my sole complaint, it would not occur to me to accuse Dr. Chartock of egomania. Perhaps WAMC is simply catering to its audience's interests. However, Dr. Chartock really shows his hand during his Tuesday afternoon hour-long open political forums. Callers generally fall into two categories: progressives and conservatives (reflecting WAMC's audience and local demographics, the majority fall into the former category). Within each of these categories, there are sub-groups: conscientious callers and, for lack of a better term, wackos. Conscientious callers respectfully voice well reasoned arguments, sometimes calmly, sometimes with great passion. Wackos are generally irate and voice opinions which they are unable to support. My perspective is that both progressives and conservatives can have valuable insights to share, and should be granted air time to share them, provided that they are conscientious. In other words, callers should be screened based on their placement on the conscientious/wacko spectrum, not the progressive/conservative spectrum. This idea, however, is clearly foreign to Dr. Chartock. Progressives are permitted to voice their opinions with minimal interruptions, regardless of where they fall on the conscientious/wacko continuum. Conservatives, on the other hand, are treated to continuous interruptions from Dr. Chartock, with the result that regardless of their state of calmness at the start of the call, their level of agitation increases until Dr. Chartock cuts the call short and informs his call screener, over the air, to add the caller to The List (ie, the list of callers who are no longer permitted on air). I listen to this happen every time I tune in, and it never fails to disgust me. He even has the audacity to accuse his conservative callers of speaking from a "bully pulpit." I believe the Yiddish word for this sort of statement is "chutzpah."
Why do I still listen if Dr. Chartock's antics infuriate me so? WAMC, despite the failings and egocentrism of its president, is still a quality source of local information, and I do enjoy many of its other programmes and commentators. Many years ago, though, I stopped donating to the station during fund drives because I couldn't stand the thought of underwriting Dr. Chartock's gigantic ego. I know many of WAMC's other listeners enjoy listening to him berate callers with opposing viewpoints (they voice their enjoyment in their comments during the fund drives); to me, this is the cheapest sort of lions-vs-Christians entertainment. WAMC's listeners, I believe, would be far better served by a more balanced approach. And perhaps by a change in leadership.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Walking down Church Street a few weeks ago, I was surprised to see a bra hanging in a tree outside an apartment building. It stayed there for a few days and gave me a smile every time I walked past it. When it disappeared, I thought I'd seen the last of it... but then last week, I saw it (or its twin) outside another house about a quarter mile away. I can't for the life of me figure out what the story behind this bra is. I'm wondering where I'm going to see it next.
Friday, March 5, 2010
- Train for a triathlon
- Writing project
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Patience With God: Faith For People Who Don't Like Religion (Or Atheism) by Frank Schaeffer - a review
Schaeffer's main thesis is that both evangelicals and the "new atheists" are insufferably obsessed with their own rightness, and more importantly, everyone else's wrongness; thus do they miss the point entirely - that mystery is the fundamental condition of existence. I agree with him, and he supports his thesis well enough, but he does so in the first hundred pages of a 230 page book. The rest is repetitive and/or tangential, much to the detriment of the book. Also, Schaeffer's anger, though understandable, does not serve him well here.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Monday, February 1, 2010
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Monday, January 25, 2010
Monday, January 11, 2010
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
I sometimes find myself wondering why I am here. Like everyone else on the planet, I know that I am ultimately headed for the big dirt nap, and will probably get there sooner than I expect and much sooner than I'd like. Before that happens, though, I wonder if there's something important that I'm meant to do; not in a paranoid-schizophrenic-delusions-of-grandeur sort of way, rather, I'd like to think there is something I can do with my time here that would be of benefit to others and also meaningful to me. At first I thought that it would involve writing, or some obscure interest or fascination of mine, but I have never been able to figure out what to do with any of that. Most of my interests seem very peculiar to me, and probably not of great import to society at large.
Frustrated, I thought about Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Buckminster Fuller, and their respective struggles to find purpose in their lives. Goethe found his answer in writing; Fuller, in devising creative new ways of living. Both ideas resonate with me in different ways, but neither seems to be my path, per se. Writing is certainly something I love to do, but I don't think I could view it as an end, only as a means. The fundamental drive for me lies somewhere else.
Then I realized I was thinking too much about it, and if there really was something I was meant to do, it was probably right in front of me and not something that I had to dig very deep for. And then it came to me. Yoga. Of course it's yoga; what else could it be? This practice, more than anything else, has been the thing that has helped me unfold as a person. If there is anything I am meant to do, at least at this point in my life, I am certain that this is it; studying, practicing, teaching, living yoga. And there is great comfort and relief in that realization, because this is something I am already involved in and already love.
Sunday, January 3, 2010
However, there is one question that keeps rising for me whenever I read Austen's writing. Her characters are constantly talking about money, worrying about money, making arrangements and engagements based on money or the lack thereof, yet I have yet to encounter a charcter of Austen's who holds a job. They are all living on interest, though Austen never sees fit to mention the source of the principle. If her characters are all so very concerned about their finances, would it not behoove them to find some manner of gainful employment? Perhaps this simply was not done among the upper (or upper-middle) classes of England in the 19th century.
I guess this is why although I love Austen's writing, the plot of Sense and Sensibility seems a little thin to me. I just can't identify with the lifestyle of her protagonists, envious though I may be of their excesses of leisure time.
Well, one Jane Austen novel down, two others previously read (Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey - I haven't decided whether I'll re-read them). That leaves three works, unless I'm mistaken; Emma, Mansfield Park, and Persuasion. I'm off to a good start on at least one of my projects for 2010, reading all of Austen's novels.