Saturday, March 28, 2009

Why? 'Cause I Swore Off* Football Postings !

Okay, it seems a couple people—or household pets, conceivably; forget at your own peril that widely-reprinted New Yorker cartoon with the keyboarding canine explaining to its peer, "On the Internet, no one knows you're a dog"—are mystified as to why RadioactiveSeattle has remained so deafeningly silent about the fascinating tableau represented by Rush Limbaugh's recent insinuation of his hefty political and cultural presence into the national political process.

Oh sure, Limbaugh's always been ideological, not to mention hugely influential. But until quite recently, Rush has mocked only from the sidelines. Among so many other things, the Obama Era may be remembered as what prompted the hands-down greatest talent in the history of the newstalk radio genre to get finally into the game.

A request: if RadioactiveSeattle e-mailers would kindly cease confusing prose like that "greatest talent" phrase in the previous sentence—variations of which have appeared in probably a half-dozen Limbaugh-loving essays archived herein—with this next declaration, which of course I would never seriously write because, seriously, it's never been generally true: I agree with Rush Limbaugh.

Heck, Rush isn't even usually correct on the issues, as far as I'm concerned.

I so admire Limbaugh's broadcast work because I love brilliantly-executed radio, not because I happen to vote similarly to him, which I certainly don't.

I mean, could I be the only guy in the country who never immediately thinks "political" whenever I hear the words "newstalk radio"? Am I the only American radio fan who faithfully listens to various quality shows whose respective political philosophies I happen to nonetheless dismiss or even detest?

And therefore, might I be sole individual in this society who understands how employing such simple-minded evaluative criteria inevitably leads to reflexive adoration of those hosts you happen to agree with, while only fostering contempt or worse for those, however talented, on the other side of whichever fence it is which defines your worldview?

Nah. There's at least one other guy who surely understands this: my fellow Show-Me State native, Rush Hudson Limbaugh III. After all, he's often pointed out over the years that his unprecedented success is no function of his conservatism, but rather of how immaculately he upholds sterling broadcast standards.

I realize the vast bulk of his audience surely doesn't buy that for a second, but hey, they're not broadcasters. And besides, they're anyway understandably way more interested in being dazzled by Rush's radio illusions than in dwelling—or rhapsodizing, as RadioactiveSeattle does—on how seamlessly he pulls off those verbal tricks.

For my part, I'd still be just as big a fan of the sole program on the Excellence in Broadcasting Network were my politics to the left of Trotsky, instead of being a secularlist whose various stances tend to fall roughly where Rudy Giuliani's and David Brooks's do.

Even during those portions of my newstalk hosting career when I was fairly described as solidly neoconservative—that would be 1989-1998, in Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area and Detroit—I still then didn't agree with Limbaugh's rock-rib conservative positions more than about 65% of the time. (Since I've been in Seattle, and thus throughout the 2005-2008 run of KIRO's Bryan Styble Program, it's been more like 25 percent, centrist libertarian I've been ever since my Radioactive Albuquerque with Bryan Styble days in New Mexico, 2000-2004.)

But whatever Limbaugh's underlying rationale here may be—and I've been pondering a couple theories—what a kick it is for this disappointed Cardinals fan in the wake of the thrilling Super Bowl XLIII to witness that pro football geek Rush finally donning his helmet and running with the ball. It's a political pigskin earlier in his historic two decades of national radio syndication he's always been content to let other, far less-mighty ideological fullbacks carry.


* A pledge made in the headline of the January 18, 2009 posting

Monday, March 23, 2009

Obviously Styble suffers from a Medved Complex !

[ initial five paragraphs drafted and posted at 12:41 pm PDT ]
Okay, let's see if we can get this available online before The Michael Medved Show returns from commercial break:

The erudite radio newstalker and Ned Flanders doppelganger, explicating how the Obama political honeymoon has so suddenly ended, just seconds ago promoted his program's next segment—an "audience tease", as they so callously call it in the broadcast biz—and concluded with a patently false statement. Medved claimed, "...The Hundred Days—people don't know where that [term] comes from; I'll tell you about it, comin' up!"

Make that some people, Michael.

That is, I anticipate that when Medved returns, he'll explain that while most folks presume it originated with FDR's first term, the phrase actually dates to Napoleon on his way to Waterloo.

Now I shall post immediately, and then soon enough learn if I've nailed this prediction...

12:46:44 pm PDT
As Flandersian* neighbor Homer Simpson might fist-thrustingly put it, Woo-hoo!

Sure enough, resuming after break, Medved indeed pointed out that this hundred-days thing didn't start with Roosevelt but rather with Napoleon.

It's said that the serially surly, short-statured sovereign has the distinction of being history's most-written-about figure, so let RadioactiveSeattle pile a bit higher the copious corpus of prose probing the provocative potentate. (Lincoln also, by the way, has his partisans on that always-fun most-covered question, as does Christ—but really, why might anyone ever want to read about a President who never even once guested on The Tonight Show, or some eccentric-if-charismatic rabbi of antiquity whose historicity remains unconfirmed anyway?)

For his part, Medved inexcusably provided almost zero detail as to how the guy afflicted with the original Napoleon Complex came to so spectacularly, as the familiar Tin Pan Alley lyric put it, "meet his Waterloo". Yeah, I know, I know: Medved was just "focusing like a laser beam". That's the cloying admonition with which Medved chides those callers who disdain corrupting or diluting their sole shot at a contribution merely to conserve seven or eight seconds of the host's airtime that afternoon.

Fine, so Medved wanted to talk Obama, not Bonaparte. But what Medved surely well knows—and might well have thoughtfully sequestered a couple or three broadcast-seconds to highlight for the benefit of his history-appreciating or misnomer-collecting listeners—is that this now-legendary Hundred Days actually lasted 111 days.

That's counting, as historians invariably do, starting with his Monday, March 20, 1815 triumphant return to Paris three weeks after escaping Elba with his cadre, through to and including Saturday, July 8th, the restoration of Louis XVIII. Waterloo itself occurred on Sunday, June 18th, day 91 of the sequence, incidentally. A doff of the RadioactiveSeattle cap—not to mention posterity's!—is of course due here to the Duke of Wellington's battlefield leadership that long, momentous afternoon.

But don't let history obscure current events here: my point is that Medved—like every good newstalk radio host—needs to strive for habitual scrupulousness about uttered absolutes. You know, NeverSayNever and all that.

In this instance, Medved was just lacking the word "most". Had he instead said, "Most people don't know about the Hundred Days...", he'd have not merely skated exclusively on thick declarative ice, but also avoided annoying we persnickety types who desire neither our intelligence nor our knowledge insulted.

I mean, some of us lowly listener/caller nerds actually paid attention sometimes in class, Michael! And fewer yet still many of us also have been regularly burnishing our historical perspective—American and World, modern and ancient and Middle Ages, Western and Oriental—ever since graduation. In my case, I'd gauge that over 95% of everything I know about Napoleon I—perhaps a magazine piece's worth, should I ever get around to expansively writing about him—was picked up on my own after college, rather than prompted by any coursework imperative.

Mind you, that certified intellectual hero Medved is hardly the most egregious offender in this seldom-considered aspect of the radio newstalker's craft. For instance, The Michael Savage Show, a shameful—and shameless—production, is exponentially worse about cynically underestimating what the informed listener already knows.

That reckless jerk thunders in monologue assertions as arrogant—and ignorant—as, "You don't know who Khalil Gabran was—that's why you have to listen to the Savage Nation!", thus condescendingly treating his ever-suffering listeners like under-educated half-wits.

Something which Savage's ardent fans, whenever they make air, often sound as if they indeed are, granted.


* I realize grammar and parallelism dictate it be "Flemish", rather than Flandersian. But would anyone then still get the joke?

Friday, March 20, 2009

It's Called Terraforming, Michael !

It's unfortunate, not to mention ironic, that The Michael Medved Show, consistently one of the two most intellectually-satisfying programs in all of commercial newstalk radio syndication, also so often attracts some of the genre's more knuckleheaded callers.

(I won't deny that occasional contributor "Bryan in Seattle" is arguably one of those numbskulls; I'm just grateful Medved allows me on at all, perhaps evidence he enjoyed the experience when he graciously—and perspicaciously—guested on KIRO's Bryan Styble Program in August 2007.)

RadioactiveSeattle has rhapsodized several times previously about how Medved's program is always informative and frequently trenchant. But today his "Open Mind Friday" hour had a doozy of a call.

I shan't rant on how unwise it was for Medved a few years ago to whittle down by two-thirds his weekly open-line feature, but I sure will spill that he sometimes humors wrongheaded but well-meaning contributors. But this exchange flattered neither caller nor host.

An excited conservative global-warming skeptic named Tony made air from suburban Seattle, though one of his more left-leaning fellow Seattleites might term him a "denier". Port Orchard Tony was exasperated, exercised about how downright mad and "literally insane" some scientists are nowadays. Why? Because last night he was watching a National Geographic Channel documentary, with footage of some expert theorizing about adjusting the atmosphere of Mars to make it more hospitable to human life.

Never mind that the term "insane" should be, literally, restricted to that unfortunate handful of individuals lacking the reasoning faculties the rest of us are lucky enough to possess. But it's chutzpah for a sarcastic fellow who sounds like he'd be stymied by a simple quadratic equation to render a judgment of irrationality upon a scientific professional.

Now, I missed that NatGeo doc last night--the Batvision monitor here in the Batcave is on the fritz (and Alfred the butler, who doubles as my TV-repairman, is on his annual vernal vacation). But the types who generally end up being interviewed as scientific experts on that often first-rate network tend to be people who've navigated a rigorous technical curriculum while earning their Ph.D.s. in whatever. I'm not saying no cable documentary has ever aired an interview with a crackpot, but Tony came off as one of those guys who never made it much beyond 8th grade general science class.

The host sounded bemused by his caller's earnest but simpleminded lament. But more important, Medved seemed to have never heard of what set the guy off while watching NatGeo. In fact, it's an idea that's been discussed by astrophysicists for decades, and I'd even wager was first
broached by sci-fi writers sometime early in the 20th Century.

It's called terraforming, and it's a complex atmospheric process which, perhaps, man can someday successfully trigger on another body in our solar system. Or eventually, on some world in some other star system's planetary collection, if you prefer to peer far enough down the space-faring road. The goal is obvious: to effect eventual permanent atmospheric change to human advantage.

Whether we could ever end up having anything but a minuscule effect on a planetary scale is, of course, the central terraforming question...just as it remains the biggest global warming question. But many people who've looked at the chemistry and engineering challenges involved think it's feasible. While it may not ultimately turn out to be practical even should it ever be attempted on Mars or some larger planet's moon, it is an intriguing idea which might even work sometime in the distant future. Yet Medved treated the notion as if it were something which scientifically-literate people dismiss as flatly impossible, like perpetual motion or time travel into the historical past.

Tony didn't seem to understand is that this is a process that is figured to require at least a couple centuries for a planet the size of Mars. And, interestingly, that's about the same time-frame—macro by human standards but merely momentarily in the history of our atmosphere—on which global warming, which so concerns so many scientists, is theorized to work. Point is, terraforming ain't just Coast-to-Coast AM with George Noory-style malarky—it's serious, if hugely speculative, science. And it's a subject callers actually raised a couple or three times on my overnight KIRO open-line broadcasts.

Of course, I really ought to go critically easy on Medved for a while. As his listeners know, he just lost his father, Dr. David Medved, an accomplished nuclear scientist whom I gather was a remarkable man in several regards; he certainly raised at least one remarkable son.

I met the senior Medved on what turned out to be his final American book tour. And I was even privileged to talk physics with him for a good while alone in a side room prior to his cosmology lecture at the Discovery Institute a couple years ago. And as it happens, what claimed him at age 83 on March 11th in Jerusalem—lymphoma—is also the disease which killed Lewis Stibal ["Rush and McNabb, Tied Intelligently" archived 11/19/2008] at 64 on February 19, 1986 in St. Louis.

Oh, and while I've got astronomy on your mind: Happy Vernal Equinox. As you may know, it happened this morning, instantaneously sometime during the minute of 4:44 am Pacific Time.