Posts Tagged ‘This American Life’

This Bibleburgian Life

October 13, 2013

This American LifeHow often do you get to hear Ira Glass say “cocksucker?”

Never, that’s how often. Unless you happened to be in the audience last night as the “This American Life” host chatted amiably with a packed house at the Pikes Peak Center in Bibleburg.

Glass was recounting a back-in-the-day mishap at NPR that let the C-word through and onto the air, an oh-shit moment good for an FCC fine of a quarter-mil’ per station. Seems a board jockey who was a little slow on the trigger missed the target, instead bleeping a subsequent word, which caused an authority figure to ring up to inquire acidly what word did get bleeped, since “cocksucker” seemed to have become acceptable on-air usage.

The late, lamented George Carlin would have been proud, as Glass also deployed “fuck” (which apparently slipped into our local airwaves during a chat with someone at Radio Colorado College; “dick,” which the lawyers got all hard over while TAL was preparing to air a story in which an interviewee used it as a synonym for “jerk”; and “turd,” which actually appeared in an early David Sedaris bit, but could never make it on-air today thanks to a tightened federal leash, courtesy of Janet Jackson’s loosened bodice.

Sedaris reworked the piece as a poem, claiming that would make it art and thus inviolable, but the feds disagreed, so Glass played it for us from the stage. I ’bout shit myself laughing.

If you’ve never seen Ira Glass in person, I urge you to do so at your very next opportunity. The man has a gift for gab that any Irishman would envy.

He said his parents were “the only Jews who didn’t like public radio,” and had hoped their son would become a doctor, “because … well, we’re Jews.”

When TAL was in its larval stage, Glass said, the idea was to “take the whiff of broccoli” out of the standard NPR news model.

And all these years later, he said, the staff is still focused on those stories that hit them like a bolt of lightning, which doesn’t always happen; a lot of seemingly great ideas never make it to the air.

But that’s part of the job, because to get hit by lightning, Glass explained, “you have to spend a lot of time walking around in the rain.”

That’s ‘Life’

March 18, 2012

Man, that hourlong retraction from “This American Life” was a tough listen. I didn’t catch it all, but what I heard basically constituted every journalist’s nightmare: “You have fucked up, and been caught at it, and in failing to catch you ourselves we have fucked up. And now we are going to discuss our fraternal fucking up at length, in public.”

Anyone who has ever worked for “the media” has fucked up. It goes with the territory. You crank out a pile of word count, audio or video for the 24/7 news cycle it is not a question of if you will fuck up, but when, and how big. And it sure doesn’t help when one of your contributors decides to salt his or her work with a few fictions.

I no longer consider myself a journalist. I’ve rassled with school boards, cops and managing editors—the last of these is the worst—but back in the Eighties I abandoned the manly arts and took up sportswriting with a focus on cycling. And now I spend my workdays debating the voices in my head.

These days I call myself a rumormonger, because I mong rumors, whenever I’m not just flat making shit up. This is much easier than doing real journalism, or even pretending to.

And no one is outraged or even surprised when I say that Rick Santorum is an expert on pornography because he is a dildo, or Mitt Romney is the sort of robot that Microsoft would build, or that Apple makes its iPads out of Chinese babies.

• Late update: The New York Times’ David Carr addresses the issue at length, with more wit and fewer fucks.

This Bibleburgian Life

March 4, 2012

Longtime Friend of the DogS(h)ite Khal S. notes that the tax-loathing, big-gummint-fearing denizens of Bibleburg are profiled on this week’s episode of “This American Life,” carried on fine public-radio stations nationwide. Give it a listen and share my pain.


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