I have a confession to make about a specific quirk of mine: I do not like the sound of people talking on the radio. I hate it in fact; for me it's on par with nail-clipping on the subway, or people clicking their pens incessantly during a meeting or children singing. I suppose I'm aurally over-sensitive. It started with a hatred of radio commercials, which are of course, easy to hate. Then I had a car-pool buddy back in the days when I was working at Netscape, commuting down the 101 every morning, who counted Howard Stern among his guilty pleasures. It spread far beyond that though: sports radio (which I usually seem to be subjected to when in a car with a guy, that's me scrunched up in the corner, squirming and clawing the dashboard), books on tape, and yes: NPR is right out for me. I just can't do it. I have tried. I've got a lot of NPR listening pals in my crowd, and this quirk of mine is a mystery to them. (And I'm sure some think me a philistine too.) I've tried especially hard to bring myself around to NPR - a mildly lefty agenda, the occasional foreign accent, offbeat reporting on stuff that's just a bit more highbrow than mass culture usually allows, smart people talking. These are all things that I like, generally speaking. But no, no radio for Ms. Jen.
I was excited when I heard about This American Life coming to Showtime. I was looking forward to getting to know this Ira Glass character I've heard so much about from all my NPR streaming friends. (How these friends listen to people talking while they are working is simply beyond me. I can hardly listen to music while I work, and often don't.) The TiVo's been locked and loaded for weeks now and I've seen all the American Life episodes that have aired so far, and I'll probably see all the rest, but OMG I hate it. I hate it for it's purposeful cutesy alterna-nonsense, it's weird camera angles and ridiculous juxtapositions (Ira Glass is often behind his desk in a field of wheat, or say a parking lot.) I hate its filters and jump cuts and annoying music. I hate its uncanny ability to import all the photographic cliches that wear on me into moving pictures - the parking lots, the shopping carts (I'm pretty sure that there have been shopping carts, if not they're coming), the over-saturated colors. That classic and loathsome middle distance between narrator and subject which at the surface seems understanding and sympathetic, but really is just in service to making the subject look quixotic, pitiful or downright insane.
And here's the other thing - the show comes back on me like a bad dream. You know those dreams that you wake up from and you know they were bad, and there are snippets of memories just out of your reach that flit in and out of your consciousness throughout the day just enough to set you on edge, and never presenting themselves fully enough to be exorcised? That's what this show does to me. The episode about the cloned bull, Reality Check is the worst offender in that lot. The whole segment was produced in such a creepy way and it's totally stuck with me. I have a begrudging respect for its success - it's stubbornly implanted itself in my consciousness. I just wish that it hadn't felt so condescending and made the poor fella look so foolish.
One last thing: Ira's voice? It drives me mad. (Sorry Ira. Surely the love of millions far outweighs my own dissent.)