Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Ass Crack of Dawn

Confessions are hard, but I'm just delirious enough to squeeze this one out: I like getting up early. Not early like setting the alarm for 7AM. More like 5AM. I am a sick fuck, it's true.

I came to this realization last year, when Whiskey was still in Sausalito and I would rise at 5:30AM to make the final BART train to San Francisco an hour later that technically allowed bicycles. I've since learned that the conductors don't give two shits that bikes get on after 6:30--perhaps they too see the inherent injustice of singling out this group of green commuters for discrimination. Anyway, it's a magical thing to ride one's (awesome) bike through a mostly deserted Crissy Field and across the Golden Gate Bridge while the sun crests Mt. Diablo to the East. Don't knock it till you try it.

However, now that those days are behind me, I find I still like waking before the dawn and getting a move on. It's like stealing time back from the Universe--the early birds emerge from their apartments as the first inkling of light creeps in from the Prime Meridian, slip a razor blade between the dimensions of day and night and enter null space. In there anything's possible.

So, yeah, today I woke up at 5AM and will continue to wake at this hour every Thursday and possibly Friday for the next few months. Why? Craigslist is why.

Recently I've been a tad isolated and remembered that Craigslist has a location-specific events page, which I used to check fairly regularly. Typically it's a dry well, but every now and then there's something good. While perusing the listings over the course of two weeks one popped up over and over: a UC Berkeley grad student looking for a writing buddy to help kick their ass into gear to finish a thesis. Compelling, because I, too, want someone to kick my ass into gear and get writing/studying/thinking again. An ideal opportunity at first glance until one reads the fine print: the grad student is only available in the early morning. No wonder this ad's been up there for weeks.

So I took the initiative and responded, committing myself every Thursday, and possibly Friday, to coffee and writing at Gaylord's in Piedmont. My study buddy is Katie Somethingorother, a biologist studying antelope morphology in Africa.

Sitting here typing with her thesis in my peripheral vision I can't help but feel a tad melancholy about not pursuing a degree in one of the sciences. Of course, were that the case I wouldn't ever have met Chizuru, Rie, Mayumi, or any of the many of the other residents of Oita that have so shaped my recent life. And frankly that's an insult to their existence, so no more of that thinking.

On that note, I'm planning on opportunistically hopping a plane back to Oita in the next few months now that airfare is so low. Missed the registration for the Tour de Kunisaki race this year, though. Too bad. Oh well, there's plenty yet to get up to in Kyushu!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Tremble At the Culture-Corrupting Powers of Garrison Keillor!

The right wing has a long and illustrious history of batshit loony concepts of just what they think will reduce deficits and help balance national and state budgets, but the recent vote by the House to defund the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and National Public Radio is certainly the richest (pun intended) to come around lately. I had to really strain my eyes to find the CPB entry on the annual Death and Taxes infographic that illustrates where our tax money is spent. Slightly more money is spent on it as the Peace Corp--and that's not a hell of a lot in the grand scheme. Far, far less than one percent of the national budget.

A show of hands from anyone who listens to public radio: how many of us enjoy the two weeks every quarter when the hosts and announcers from our local NPR affiliate beg and plead for listener support? I, for one, feel sad almost every time Ira Glass guilt-trips some poor listener, or Jerry Neuman and Sandy Althouse dangle some trinket in front of their listening audience to entice them into donating. Serious journalists, it seems to me, should focus on their craft rather than on how they're going to get the cash to keep the lights on and the transmitter beaming over the airwaves.

Yeah, expect that extended by a week or more. Fucking joy!

The issue of CPB funding was a topic of discussion on last Friday's episode of Forum and the hosts invited both a rep from NPR and a blowhard from the libertarian Cato Institute to come on and discuss the issue. It was astounding, really. The Cato jackass made it sound as if the only thing holding back NPR from being the loudspeaker of the American Communist Party was that they were accepting federal dollars, and without that control rod the whole thing will meltdown into a glowing pile of sentient, unstoppable leftist goo. (That analogy brought to you by the still-ongoing Fukushima Daiichi situation.) He even insinuated that those left-of-center would like it--they'd have their respective version of Fox News. You have got to be kidding me...

Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said of his decision to vote for the withdrawl of federal funding, "Why should we allow taxpayer dollars to advocate one ideology?" By their statements and position on this issue I can surmise that neither Cantor or the Cato guy seem to listen much to their local NPR affiliate. I can be relatively sure of this because I listen to KQED daily, the NPR outlet in San Francisco, one of the most leftist places in the nation, and can say for a fact after having gone through their daily programming schedule that the one unifying quality virtually all their shows have isn't anything like leftist ideology or activism, it's plain, simple objectivity and intellectual enrichment.

Let's go down that list together for the date of March 31, 2011:

7AM, Morning Edition--News magazine program that covers broad topics of both national and international importance. Lightweight start-of-the-day stuff that still manages to be informative. Hosts do not offer up opinions on topics.

8:33AM, The Do List--Weekend events happening around the Bay Area. Host does not offer up opinions on topics. Oh, other than telling us the time and locations for all our Communist rallies.

9AM, Forum--Interview program that hosts authors, artists, politicians, musicians, etc. While hosts can debate factual data with certain guests, never do they push one political ideology or another. Listeners are invited to call in and ask guests questions or offer up commentary. Oftentimes these callers are opinionated, but that can hardly be held against the program.

11AM, Talk of the Nation--Much like Morning Edition, a news magazine program that covers topics of national and international importance. They host guests pertinent to whatever the topics are and invite listeners to call in. Like Forum, these guests can be opinionated, but that, baby, is freedom of speech.

1PM, Fresh Air--Purely interviews of authors, artists, politicians, musicians, etc. without listener call-ins. While Terry Gross can make her opinions known through the types of questions she asks never does she actively implore or lead her listeners to ascribe to one viewpoint or another. Frankly, I consider Terry to be little more intelligent than a tangelo and anybody who picks up on and follows her political wavelength deserve only bad things in life.

2PM, The World—Heaven forbid Americans find out about international issues and hear human interest stories from around the globe. Oh no, the Geoquiz is turning our children queer!

3PM, The Jim Leher News Hour—A news institution that’s probably one of the most solid sources of televised domestic and international reporting, this show is hard journalism through and through. Anchors will invite guests from all walks and across the political spectrum to participate.

4PM, Marketplace—It’s a show about money and what’s happening in the world of. Money: there’s nothing more Republican than that. ‘Nuff said.

4:30, All Things Considered—The day’s programming wraps with All Things Considered, another domestic and international news magazine show. This program somehow especially got on the nerves of right wing listeners, though I struggle to understand how. Michele Norris asks awkward questions that, on the very outside could be considered to have a leftist bias.

Let’s be very, very clear here: NPR has no voice—not a single one—that approaches the screeching volume or vitriol of an Olbermann, Beck, Malkin, Limbaugh, etc. Nor do they have any shows that overtly skew one way or the other. Or covertly, for that matter.

So, in conclusion, fuck you House Republicans. Fuck you and the money-covered Jesus unicorn you rode in on. You’ve nothing to stand on in this debate. Nothing.


Update: So, it's taken me a while to write this post. Distractions at every turn. Since I began, NPR's On the Media, at the prodding of Ira Glass, has explored the issue of liberal bias at NPR. The results compiled by a media watchdog group were fascinating. Once parsed, the data showed that not only does NPR give at least as much airtime to conservative issues as commercial news radio, in any given month their reporting is often well over half right wing issue stories. Right wing NPR listeners invited by the show to keep a log of whenever they found a story skewing left-of-center really couldn’t produce much compelling evidence to support their viewpoints. The saying “squeezing blood from a turnip” comes to mind.

As the Japanese would say, 根も葉もない.