Friday, May 30, 2008

A Diversion: What If I Were To NOT Turn Off NPR? Would It Wreck My Day?

Buoyed by the spirit of the late Utah Phillips, who wrote the wonderful 'The Talking NPR Blues':

I thought I'd add the following. Bit under the weather today, so took day off. Experiment: let NPR roll and see if it really wrecks my day (stupid, but a distraction). Well, it didn't, really, but I got to hear 'Day to Day' for the first time. It reminded me of 'Entertainment Tonight', but even fluffier, under the premise of everyone having their NPR thinking caps on. 'Sex and the City' was all the rage. Fashion talk about shoes. There was some serious stuff, but don't remember. Earlier, Morning Edition's more of carnival than ever. No disrespect to Harvey Korman, but his passing got more airtime than Arthur C. Clarke, it seems, and with unremarkable soundbytes to boot. In their storytime segment, I was touched by the poignancy of a woman who told of the death of her son, but then realized that the exploitation of her grief was yet another NPR slimeball stunt: to pepper their creamy show with 'serious' stuff, just to remind us critics that NPR is still a 'serious' operation. Sleazebags!

Also, NPR's really, really getting its rusty hooks into Asia. They just discovered it, you know. Recently, Tom Ashbrook of 'On Point' did what I thought was a decent series on contemporary China, from Shanghai. Not to be outdone, we now have Inscreep mucking about in Karachi (and he can't decide what the city's actual population is), probably for purposes of reconnaissance for corporate interests who want 'in' to another burgeoning market. I'm amused that NPR has finally gotten around to acknowledging the existence of this major city, but I'm horrified at the prospect of hearing their interpretation of it, so I'd damn well better skip the upcoming series. I know Inscreep wants to get some tough on-the-road reportage to bump up his street cred, but the hell if I want to be his enabler.

And this Robert Smith, who's been subbing for Inscreep (and outdoing him in motormouth capabilities - the only reason he got the gig, I'll bet), well, he's a certifiable idiot, giggling and joking his way through the show like he's Howie Mandel or some other godawful 'host'.

And our - I mean NPR's - very own spoiled child in Russia, Grigory Feifer, delivers a patently awful bit of gibberish with snotty-voiced disapproval, from Georgia. It's about their separatist problem, but you'd never know, as Grig is just so preoccupied with how stupid things are in that part of the world - as if it were all explainable because Stalin was from there (Gori, actually).

Is there no one at NPR, in listening to these winners, who thinks, 'these guys really suck'? Probably not, as they almost ALL suck!

Then, a lot more 'Sex and the City' stuff, natch.

Finally, Mikey Sullivan's still on the Burma case, and the metallic drone of his boring voice got emotional yet again, as he just can't figure out why the paranoid ruling junta won't let in aid workers and supplies. FYI, Sullivan: we're dealing with a PARANOID RULING JUNTA here. Understand that. They're insane. That's a given. Burma has been ruled by insane persons since 1962. But here's one reason why they're kind of touchy: (no, I'm NOT defending them, pal) the junta has always thought that the western powers are out to overthrow them. They could be right. There's a little thing called Iraq going on just across the way. Afghanistan, too. Oh, and to them, Iran's next. Maybe even Pakistan. India won't defend 'em, and China's got its hands kind of full right now. They're stupid, but they aren't that stupid. Besides, to them, those rural people out in the Irrawaddy delta are entirely disposable. Peasant trash. There's a class system and many racial issues in the Union of Burma. (Shades of Katrina, maybe? You think?) Anyway, all the junta cares about is that there are American warships on their threshold. That's making them MORE paranoid. I saw an email from an Army Corps of Engineers source that said the warships were waiting for the opportunity so that "our armed forces could land" (actual wording). What sort of signal does that send? Americans are often No. 1. That includes No. 1 in the blundering department, too.

And finally, I might add, up the Bay of Bengal a ways, Bangladesh endures a regular regime of disastrous cyclones, most of which end up as footnotes in the western press, and thousands of people regularly perish. True, Bangladesh is not ruled by a junta per se, but that doesn't make their sufferings any less. A cyclone is a cyclone. Burma has considerable resources, including oil. Bangladesh only has people. You better believe the west wants into Burma. An Axis of Evil candidate, ripe for regime change? A neocon dream. OF COURSE Aung San Suu Kyi should be freed and allowed to form a government, but that isn't the point of this argument.

So, did NPR ruin my day? I don't know, but it made me spew quite a bit. Sorry for the length.


On the mend already! And it started when I flipped the 'off' switch. No kidding. That's why I call it National Pollution Radiation. I guess my experiment proved something.

So, here goes:


Man, I never thought I'd be saying that, but it sure feels good.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

No Sir, I Do Not Care Much For That Robert Siegel Fellow, Not Very Much At All

I've both (mildly) praised and critiqued NPR's China quake coverage, but I have to say in all seriousness, I find Blob Siegel's reports most distasteful. I can see why someone stuck him into the host slot (to frustrate and torment us!), rather than having him do field work, because he's absolutely the wrong type of person to be covering something like an earthquake. It's as if he's strolling through a stamp collection fair or something, making urbane little comments peppered with his stylish 'um's and 'er's and other pause-fillers, trying to be suave.

His attempts at sympathy or empathy aren't very believable, either. Not that a reporter should be troweling on the emotions or anything. I've been hearing very good objective reports from BBC World Service, delivered without any personal baggage. On the receiving end back in DC, the Simonizer's putting on his respectful choked-up voice, while in old Chengdu, the unflappable Blob sounds like he's just wrapping up another brilliant edition of All Things Considered, and having a swell time doing it. His sign off had 'I'm doing just fine, thank you' written all over it. The story is tragic enough without us having to put up with such annoyances.

To me Siegel's the proverbial puffy guy in the corner at the local Starbuck's, pontificating to a small coterie of dumbos, regaling them with self-satisfied slop. And the dumbos? They think he's just great! So smart, so witty, so refined - someone to trust and to be charmed by, even as he speaks of a catastrophe. At the very most, Siegel should host some hoity-toity chatshow about antiques or something, for a equally tiny audience to cringe at.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Burma: In Need Of Understanding

I wish someone other than Michael Sullivan was reporting from Burma right now. I don't trust his mechanical statements. It's too bad that Doualy Xaykaothao isn't there. She's a much more perceptive and understanding reporter, but I'm sure Big Mike got the gig for a wide variety of reasons. (Maybe because he's a guy. Never mind that for centuries in Burmese society, women have had nearly equal status as men.)

I've said this before, but I have a pet peeve about the media choosing 'Myanmar' or 'Burma'. The US and other governments, as well as the BBC have wisely stuck with 'Burma', while the rest of the media, fearful that they'll be accused of cultural imperialism or something, goes with the name chosen by an utterly corrupt and paranoid military junta. To me, this is similar to the Pol Pot regime's changing 'Cambodia' to 'Kampuchea'. Both 'Myanmar' and 'Kampuchea' are historically valid names, but it is their appropriation by repressive governments that makes the usage spurious. Besides, western media people don't even agree on how to pronounce 'Myanmar'. Is it 'MEE-anmar', 'M-YANmar', or some other poppycock? Pronounced correctly, 'Burma' and 'Myanmar' sound closely alike, thus the original anglicizing of the name.

When they start calling China Chung guo, India Bharat, Greece Hellas, and Italy Italia, then maybe I'll take them seriously in their attempts at accuracy. Just stick with Burma, folks. Believe it or not, it's the politically correct thing to do.

As for the paranoia of the Burmese junta, the only bit of background that I've heard on NPR as to WHY they're so paranoid has been from Doualy Xaykaothao, who took the time in one of her reports to investigate the matter (i.e. the junta is paranoid about western attempts to overthrow their regime, etc.).

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Russia Is Just SO RIPE For US To Return To The Cold War - Indeed, A COLDER War - So What Are We Waiting For??


It's now official: NPR longs for a return to a cold war with Russia. I heard a segment this morning from Grigory 'Rasputin' Feifer, scoffing and sneering his way through lousy coverage of Russia's new president, whom he paints as a sort of 'false Dmitri'. Know ye all that Feifer of NPR DISAPPROVES of all the things going on in Russia today. And because he's giving us the green light to acknowledge that Russia is such a screwed up place, it'll be OK if we scoff and sneer about Russia too, just like those smart NPR guys.

So, here's the truth about Russia, proclaimed by this NPR reporter. Resolved: Russia is a third world country, ruled by a Stalinist dictator named Putin, with a new puppet president named Medvedev.

If these aren't good enough reasons to get a cold war going, I don't know what are.

Never mind that this Harvard-educated Moscow-dwelling dude (Feifer) apparently knows very little about Russian history and that authoritarian rule in Russia is a given, and any understanding of its subsequent development as a nation must be predicated on that single notion. But no, NPR has to 'Americanize' every aspect of their non-objective reporting, just like their mafia overlords want them to do.

I'd swear that Murdoch secretly bought NPR years ago.


AND... this morning, the tireless cold warriors at NPR aren't gonna let up one iota on the eternal war against the commies.

Tom 'Perfectly-Sane-Voiced' Gjelten keeps on reminding us what a gulag Cuba is. He profiles a repressed Cuban writer, and that's fine, but it comes off as an old-time anti-Cuba tract, couched in gentlest Gjelten terms. Wearily then, do I mention that any grown-up adult type person knows that Cuba is such a mixed bag of often contradictory issues that it is impossible to make sweeping statements about it, which our man Tom (and so many others) is so hot to do. But of course, if you happen to be in with the Florida mafia, you're not interested in 'contradictory issues.'. Tom goes to great lengths in describing the repression, but I notice that, here he is, freely broadcasting from Cuba, telling the world about this writer's situation, and Raul Castro didn't lift a finger to stop him or censor his report. There's something missing in there somewhere.

And then, right after that, our hand-picked man in Russia, Grigory 'Douglas?' Feifer (sorry, I got him confused with Feith for a second), delivers a 'postcard' from darkest Siberia. Poor orphan Greg tells us all about his persecution as an American in some small town because he missed his flight. Oh, but how he suffered! The cold, the lack of entertainment, and things were so expensive! And boy, there was so much to sneer at and mock! A gold mine really, for a dandy NPR filler, to prove how disgusting Russia and the Russians are, and that it's all Putin's fault. Well, he doesn't say that directly, but in his soul, I know he feels it! Poor Greg, lost in podunk Siberia, all dressed up and nowhere to go. He doesn't think people are very 'friendly' there. Why, they can't treat a powerful and influential and totally mucking smart and savvy NPR reporter that way! He'll show them - he'll file a report excoriating small town Siberia, and the NPR folks listening will be SO glad they're in America. You dodged a bullet, Greg. Come home!

Funny, I've experienced similar things in America's 'heartland'...

Inadvertently though, Greg's 'postcard' has delivered us a precious example of the ideal NPR staffer/ NPR target audience: touchy, snotty, entitled, self-absorbed, and judgmental via NPR indoctrination. Greg makes no bones about hating Putin, but I imagine that those people in that small town in Siberia were relieved to see him off on the plane that finally did come. Amerikanski, go home!


Greg's grumpy Russian adventures continue. This morning he was in Red Square, listening to missiles rumbling over the cobblestones, apparently for the first time since Soviet days. Greg wants you to know that he disapproves of such shenanigans, and he says so in his best nasally, haughty style. So come on NPRepublicans! Get angry! Greg can't lead the charge all by himself into the Colder War, you know. Down with Putinism! If the US gets going NOW (heeding Greg's advanced warnings), we'll be greeted on those same cobblestones with candies and flowers.

So, in order to outdo the old Cold War with a slam-bang moniker folks'll come to swear by, I dub this new, grander, and more high tech (and asymmetrical, too!) war THE COLDER WAR, because, heck, it's COLD out there! Remember, you saw it here first.