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I'm Robert Siegel...

By Michael J. Smith on Thursday February 24, 2011 10:14 PM

... and I'm doing you a huge favor by talking to you at all.

I may have confessed previously that I sometimes listen to NPR -- when I'm driving, and the only alternative is Angry White Guys Talk Radio in western Massachusetts, or when I'm sailing through the night, and there aren't any deeply committed and surprisingly well-read fundamentalists preaching on the Epistle to the Romans.

Haven't been much in the car lately, or on the boat of course -- poor dear is up on poppets in the Bronx -- but I've been watching the Al-Jazeera live feed quite a lot these last few weeks, and I fear it may have spoiled me for NPR.

Oh, al-J isn't perfect of course. But still. The intellectual level is so infinitely higher than anything -- apart from the fundies, of course -- that you'll find in the US of A. And nobody on the Al-J has that irritating testy condescending way of saying -- after a half-beat pause, to give the statement agogic emphasis -- "And I'm... Robert Siegel." Stop the presses. Really, Robert, who gives a fuck? And I'm... Eliyahu. And I'm... The Spanish Inquisition.

I happened to walk just now into one of the Versailles-like chambers here in Chateau Smith, where one of my family was listening to NPR. The topic appeared to be a fretful worrification about...al-Qaeda! What's up with al-Qaeda, now that all the rules of the Mideast game got suddenly rewritten in the last two-three weeks?

It's hard to find an analogy that does justice to the sublime inanity of this topic. The closest I can get is, What will happen to stamp collectors if the sea level rises ten feet? Not quite right. Somebody come up with a better one. There's a Valuable Prize for the winner.

It was sorta fun to listen for a few minutes -- like watching a flea circus, or a chess match in a nursing home; sincere sweaty-browed effort in a sharply circumscribed field of play.

But I had to run from the room -- with hollow shriek the steep of Delphos leaving -- when they brought on somebody from, what, GWU or some such place, who was accredited as a "terrorism expert."

That dyad is a quadrate term in bogosity, innit? Unless the interviewee was Osama himself -- which seems doubtful.

Terrorism -- an empty signifier. Expert -- another. Terrorism times expert -- math doesn't offer the right parallel; it's more like mixing two parts ectoplasm and one part phlogiston.

I will now have to find some other voice through the night once the boat is back in the water, or I head off for my next road trip.

Suggestions? If I spring for satellite radio, can I get al-J in North American waters and highways? I get the impression that that's not something I can count on.

Comments (13)

Well, I don't know about the OTA DTV situation where you are -- obviously, we can't get AJ on our dish, so we watch the streaming feed over our DSL -- but one afternoon just as Egypt was really starting to percolate, I was hooking up a "new" VCR to my DTV converter box in the studio and was testing it out by flipping through the channels, and stumbled over an obscure educational channel out in the Virginia 'burbs which was carrying the AJ English feed, live and uninterrupted. Of course, I nailed the DTV box down to Channel 30.5 immediately. Now, I normally watch maybe an hour of TV in a month, if that much, but since Egypt broke loose, I've been watching three or four hours a day, on average, and also taping lots of it (I'm one of those guys who tapes like a fiend). Hell, I don't think I've watched this much TV in one sitting since the Columbia crash.

True, AJ may not be perfect, but they're damn' sure as good as. I always knew that US TV "news" and "analysis" were inane, banal shit, but I never realized just how bad they were until I spent an afternoon watching AJ the day Mubarak fell, and then ducked down to the bedroom to catch a glance or two at MSNBC -- the DW watches them because they're the "liberal" network -- to see what they had on Egypt, and maa-aaan, what a fucking sad-assed mess. It was like looking at the Egyptian Revolution through the wrong end of a telescope. Little gaggles of talking heads reduced to b'deah, b'deah, b'deah, b'deah, duhh, uhm'nuh uhm'nuh uhm'nuh. Seriously, CNN and MSNBC could've had more coherent commentary if they'd just brought a bunch of chimps into the studio and had them fling their own shit at each other for an hour. I actually ended up sticking around for a good ten minutes of that crap because it was just too much fun watching those people revealing just how intelligent they really were, right there on TV in front of the whole goddamn' country. Chris Matthews was the worst, spouting empty homilies about democracy and blathering about how the demonstrations had no Islamists or Jihadists and were "just like us". Five minutes of Chris Matthews reminded me why my friends and I call him Chris Matthews, The Baby Eater.

We don't have XM at our place, so I can't say for sure if they carry AJ, although I do know that Bob Dylan has a really excellent program.

Crushing opening line, sir. Well done.

Terrorism times expert -- math doesn't offer the right parallel; it's more like mixing two parts ectoplasm and one part phlogiston.

Father Smiff,it works perfectly if you add 3 parts fresh miasma. If the miasma is stale, you may need up to add more miasma until the flavor and consistency is suitable.


And apologies for the bad copy editing. I haz a colt. :(

to Mike F --

I'm still regretting the day I saw Matthews at the Chevy Chase Safeway, while I was in the aisle containing glass-bottled Pellegrino, which would have made a nice symbolic head-thunker. "Hi Chris, have a drink on me!" SMASH. "Oops, I thought this was your drink of choice."

It's hard to find an analogy that does justice to the sublime inanity of this topic.

Going off of the spirit of your try, maybe it's like saying "What will the Krampus do if the ice caps melt?"


How about "News you can use! How does the New Zealand earthquake affect YOU in Topeka?"


Choices are limited on satellite radio, much like cable tv (170 stations, wow! Last night I watched Treasure of the Sierra Madre!)

As for Chris Matthews, I always have a tiny soft spot for him for coining the eternal descriptor of all of us internet revolutionaries -- "pajama-hadeem".

the one L lama he's a priest


Pleasantly enough, IOZ and I seem to have had the same reaction to the same story at the same time. IOZ includes a link to a transcript of the story, which is even more stupendously inane than I remembered.

All I know is: if I have to hear one more fatuous bulletin o' bullshit about "economic recovery" from any of these smug assholes again, I'm gonna' choke to death on my own (once again unemployed) rage.

@ CF Oxtrot:
I, too, had a fleeting brush with "greatness" in the form of Chris Matthews a few years ago. I was crossing the street at Columbus Circle heading into Union Station to catch a train downtown when I saw a black Mercedes barrelling through the intersection at Mass Ave. As I always do, I reflexively glanced at the Benz to see who was driving, and it was Chris Matthews, steering with one hand and bellowing into a mobile phone. My guess at what he was saying was something like "What do you MEAN, my shirts aren't ready? I'm CHRIS MATTHEWS, goddammit!"

@ ms xeno:
Good thing you didn't see the front page of the Washington Post earlier this week. They had this wretched-assed article about how the DC economy really is picking up, really, honestly it is, and containing the phrase "hiring like crazy" right there in the subhead, underneath the main headline. The lead was some rah-rah blather about tech firms in the DC area offering free trips to Paris and such for new hires, and a bunch of other dot-com era hype bullshit, and once again blaring the phrase "hiring like crazy". Christ. I haven't worked on anything remotely resembling a steady basis for nearly two years, and that smarmy-assed load of crap made me want to stick my head in the oven.

Mike F.:

You get the same fucking shit here locally, only with more homegrown condescension Olympics buzzwords like "sustainable" and what not. And Unemployment? Haven't squeezed a dime's worth of blood from that stone yet, a full month after the layoff. Assholes.

BTW, remind me if I have the option of pasting one of your cartoons directly into my journal to show people. I'm really digging the latest one, but when I use the "medium res" option, it shows up on my page way too big. :o Thanks.

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