Sunday, December 11, 2005

Simple Pleasures Can Lead to Deep Thinking

From, picture by Frank Morrison

Ok, just so you don't skedaddle right off, the simple pleasure in question isn't scatological (well, depending on what station you're listening to, I suppose - I'd likely describe Bill O'Reilly that way), but this was sort of cute and it seemed to apply in a general way, so ...

My lovely and wonderful wife, Feri, gave me a Sirius satellite radio for Christmas and was kind enough of heart and spirit to let me have it now, vice having to wait two weeks. My drive to work is 32 miles, which means I don't get consistent radio reception and even on good days, for reasons I've yet to figure out, I don't get NPR consistently or without much annoying static from the heart of downtown Providence. I didn't want to keep buying Teaching Company CDs, which are fine all-in-all, but then you do tend to tune them out in the car after awhile leaving you with background noise that every now and then gives you something to listen to as you make your way up or down I-95. Music CDs became cumbersome and my collection, as large at it may be, just wasn't enough, and I was missing listening to the news without the inanities most of the local radio stations (and this is no way reflection of just RI, this applies EVERYWHERE I've ever been to varying degrees) pummel you with as you make your way across the FM dial - alas, my car radio doesn't tune in AM very well at all, so I'm pretty much left with whatever is on the FM dial.

The radio comes with a "do-it-yourself" installation kit for the antennae and all else. It was the
antennae that had me worried, but needlessly as I somehow managed to get the thing installed in way that looked neither ham-fisted or desperate; I was rather pleased with myself. Then it wasn't all that hard to get the thing activated and then receiving radio signals WITHOUT static - oh joy, oh joy! NPR comes in loud and clear and I have over 120 channels of whatever to listen to if it choose, though a large percentage of that will likely never be touched by me - though I do admit a perverse curiosity with regard to the Martha Steward channel, but I think my willpower will keep me out of trouble there. At this point I'm figuring the near $13 per month I'll spend on satellite radio will be well spent relative to the paucity and inconsistency of the alternatives, and the associated expense of some of those alternatives.

This morning Feri and I went on a jaunt to one of the local parks where we ate a breakfast bought at one of our favorite breakfast places, Seven Stars Bakery, and then went for a walk to get some exercise on what was overall a lovely day weatherwise. What was really neat, given that our drive was 30 mins one way, was that we both got to listen to and enjoy NPR. The show that was on at this time was something called "On the Media", henceforth OTM.

I don't recall listening to OTM before, frankly I haven't had enough consistent access to NPR and I don't tend to listen to the radio at home, but as I would expect it was interesting to the degree that most NPR broadcasts tend to be interesting, at least for someone such as myself. The program is dedicated to media issues of various flavors. In this show we learned about the
ethical dilemmas of reporters covering Katrina, or any extraordinary disaster; the correction of some of the reporting that has occurred out of New Orleans that over time has been found to be exaggerated or totally unsubstantiated; and the piece that really caught my attention was regarding the recent report card that the U.S. government, though here represented by the Bush Administration, received for following through on the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. The person being interviewed (unfortunately I don't recall his name) was commenting on how the media seemed to be shirking its responsibility (I'm sort of paraphrasing here) with regard to what can only be considered a bad report card for preparing this country against terrorist attacks. For those who haven't been following this, basically the government has been evaluated on the measures its taken in light of the 9/11 Commission's recommendations and if the government were to be given a report card it'd get more F's than A's on the progress its made to protect this country.

Where this guy feels the media has fallen on this issue is in its initial coverage, which was often overwhelmed by much lesser news fodder of the day which on the whole was more appealing to the average citizen - yes, it seems that the average citizen is more concerned with the remote possibility of bird flu than the very real possibility that people who've tried for the past ten years and been almost successful once (the first World Trade Center bombing) and startlingly successful a second time, won't be back again. On top of this he made an excellent point about something that seems to be what journalism is supposed to be all about, which is the follow up coverage that should come with this. Take the report and all the areas in which the government has failed, and write at least one story a week about why there was a failure of follow through on the part of the administration and what's being done about it, or not as the case may be. But no one seems to be chewing that particular line of attack, and it seems to me that this would indeed be a significant public service.

I think it's sort of worth considering why people aren't upset with how unprepared we apparently are for the next possible terrorist attack. I'm still trying to understand how we're managing to pump billions into Iraq and our own shores aren't that much safer for it, and indeed our adventure there in the end may result in this country being even less safe. But even if Iraq were a stunning success that's not to say that it diminishes the deadliness of an enemy that by and large isn't sitting in Iraq, and we're still left with unprotected harbors and much else that could in the end have us re-visiting some version of 9/11.

Well, it's good to be thinking again while I tool along in my car, though I have to admit that much of that thinking is likely going to result in head shakes of wonder and bafflement.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am VERY happy you love your gift so much Azizam while I would be happier if I could have surprised you! The talk on NPR about the experts' predictions which are mostly wrong was interesting too!!!

10:53 AM  

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