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Monday, January 31, 2005

The Illusion of Power



Thanks to the efforts of an ice storm that ripped through the Southeast this past weekend, we went without electricity for a number of hours, first for an hour or two on Saturday afternoon, then for more like 18 hours from the wee hours of Sunday morning until Sunday evening. The first outage was more of a nuisance than anything else, but the second one was much more significant in its effect on our lives.

How dependent we've become on the drug of electricity! No TiVo. No Internet. No CDs, DVDs, or tapes. No dishwasher. In our case, the stove is electric, as is the water heater. And the heat.

My favorite moment was when my six-year-old son threw himself supine on the floor and exclaimed, "I'm so bored!" I took it on myself to remind him that he had approximately 17,356 toys in his room that were designed to alleviate his ennui. I don't think he completely believed me, but he went off to play with them anyway.

The deep freeze also gave me a chance to become reacquainted with the radio, since we have a battery-powered job for just such occasions. The interesting thing to me was that it was almost no use whatsoever. There were stations playing music, much of it religious, and stations on which one chucklehead or another was talking like he or she knew something about anything. The NPR station had lost its power and had taken to repeating "All Things Considered Weekend" ad nauseum while a workaround was found. The big AM news station told us that a list of closings was available on their website, which we could not access.

And the thought occurred to me that radio needs a huge facelift. It is a fascinating and powerful medium that has sunk into the pitfalls of narrowcasting and pursuing the lowest common denominator. And I think I know how to fix it.

It needs to be more like TV. More and shorter shows devoted to a variety of subjects and formats. Local news shows that are on at dependable times with a news reader, a sports guy, and a weather guy. Drama, comedy, quiz shows, and soap operas. It needs to be vibrant and intelligent, rather than slow and dull-witted.

As it is, it's enough to make you fall supine and exclaim, "I'm bored!"

1 comment:

C.Potts said...

I urge you, beg you, implore you to check out WAMC -- www.wamc.org I think you'll find them to be everything you're looking for in a radio station. RIght now, they're in fund-raising frenzy (But they're very popular, they've raised $300,000 in 1 1/2 days) but they offer such a brilliant mix of news, original programming, dramatic shows, music, and occassional stuff from NPR. Admittedly, I could live without the occassional opera fits they go through, but different strokes for different folks.

PS Send the kid outside to slide on the ice -- hours of entertainment. Crash helmet suggested, but optional :)