Sometimes, everything goes perfectly. For the guy on the radio, I mean.
The scene: A chilly, wind-whipped night in whichever urban dystopia is most convenient for you to mentally conjure. Rain beats mercilessly at the inch-thick soundproof glass that protects the studio from audible intrusions just beyond its border: the shouting homeless man, the post office loading dock, the rowdy drunks from the bar down the street. The studio's lights are dimmed in such a way that most of the host's tasks are being performed by the glow of a computer monitor and the dancing output meters on the broadcast board. In the corner, a freshly cracked bomber of Hennepin has already left a ring of condensation on the dirty table which also offers a broken strobe lamp, an ornamental Mexican day of the dead figurine, and a fourteen-year-old copy of Factsheet 5 magazine.
Oh yeah, the monitor volume is cranked somewhere north of what most people would call an incomprehensible level. It is just after 8 PM, the first song of the show is ending in less than 60 seconds, and I have no idea what I'm going to play next. In my opinion, this is the setting from which the most personally satisfying freeform radio programs most often unfurl, and I'm pleased to announce that the 30 minutes of programming that comprised the opening shot of my most recent fill-in did exactly that. I'm not saying it was great, I'm saying it was personally satisfying. There's a big difference, and the distinction is important to call attention to because my role was fairly simple. Given the same five records, a monkey probably could've eventually come up with something similar, but what I'm getting at is the excitement factor. I love doing radio because I'm excited about music and art, and the ways in which they are connected (if in fact, they aren't identical concepts to begin with.) I like it when the listener feels the same way.
The radio I love listening to has always been made at the hands of people who seem genuinely in love with what they're doing, and who have a great time while doing it. Maybe you feel the same way as a listener, or maybe as a former broadcast junkie yourself. Maybe you still have tapes of the obnoxious DJ from the local college station you listened to when you were in high school, or maybe you secretly think that Edwin Howard Armstrong was among the greatest American heroes of the 20th Century. If that's the case, I'm hopeful that you won't mind my bending your ear for the next half hour while you continue to make your way around the internet. Links to the show's accompanying playlist and other potential spoilers have been left out intentionally so as to maintain the curiosity factor that's implied with unknown sounds. Some of the best songs I've ever heard on the radio are ones I've never tracked down, or even discovered who they were performed by. In spite of the frustration, that's a mystery which I think is well worth maintaining.
Inspired by Colin Powell's recent announcement on Meet the Press, I would like to take the opportunity to make my election day intentions official:
The prolonged season of political discourse that we've all been enduring will soon be coming to a close, with the nation's selection of the 44th president scheduled to take place this coming November 4th, 2008. After being duly engaged by the conventions of both major parties, all four debates between the presidential hopefuls and their running mates, countless hours of bickering commentators, the intellectual midgets who populate online discussion boards and political blogs, and most important of all -- many evenings of quiet and concerned dialog with my wife -- it has been revealed that the logical choice for our nation's highest office at this critical hour of the American journey is Barack Obama. My vote will be cast accordingly.
From this plateau of clarity, I can say with confidence that the value system which the Republican party has recently aligned itself with is of the most morally reprehensible variety. As someone who feels that a profound belief in democracy need not preclude a sense of moral and civic obligation to the less fortunate, it is apparent that the trajectory which current Republican leaders would set us upon will only worsen what is already an intolerable state of dysfunction, disarray, and juvenile mindlessness. That the party who claims to hold the first and last word in "family values" continues to demonstrate such a pronounced blindness to concerns of the modern family is utterly baffling. Furthermore, their lambasting and vilification of scholarly pursuits, and the naked hostilities they have revealed towards the virtues of volunteerism stand in polar opposition to any amount of basic Christian decency that was ever instilled in me. With nothing more than the tools of their own demonstration, the Republicans of modern history have proven themselves to be a pack of unimaginative, unskilled, and dangerously self-serving buffoons. Intelligent conservatives -- of which there are many -- have been suitably appalled by these most unfortunate developments. That their outcry has not been more rigorous and apparent remains a source of deep concern.
Conversely, the Democratic party has nominated a sensible, skilled, and inspiring leader who summates the urgency that so many Americans are experiencing at this salient moment in history. I believe that Barack Obama has the wisdom to guide us out from under the worrisome wrappings this country has cloaked itself in of late, and the vision to navigate us towards a more secure future where the core values of responsibility, benevolence, and an awareness of the world beyond America's borders share equal space in the spotlight. Such goals need not be sought at the expense of our safety or prosperity, but as a grand and conspicuous extension of them.
If elected, Obama's task will be a formidable one and the chances of immediate successes on the scale that most of us would want are unlikely. But his efforts will be aided by the swelling numbers of mobilized citizens who are passionately prepped to assist in the rebuilding. Obama's greatest asset is not the ease with which he has raised insurmountable campaign dollars, nor is it his ability to elevate the hearts and minds of Americans through his considerable oratory skills. Rather, it is the unprecedented appeal his candidacy has made to those who have never before felt a vivid and immediate connection to such grand affairs. As an Obama supporter, I am all too aware that the world will not be suddenly transformed, should he become our next president. November 4th is merely one possible point of departure, and it will be at the discretion of every citizen to decide upon their willingness to initiate this most critical step forward. Thankfully, as is so often the case, there is comfort to be found by examining historical precedent. Americans have a long and celebrated history of looking ahead and greeting epic tasks with great expectation, and we are all fortunate that this election is being cast in a language and light that is accordant with that ideology. It reminds us of the gathering momentum that any object
needs to be first set into motion. Barack Obama has repeatedly proven his resolve to utilize that momentum to help guide our greatest aspirations to their eventual fruition. His election would be among this nation's finest achievements.
My magazine-reading habits are pretty cut and dry, which isn't really surprising since I subscribe to only a handful of them. The majority of my reading -- magazine or otherwise -- has been done on trains and subways for as long as I've been a city-dweller. But since the current economic climate has forced me to make major cuts in the frequency of my travels around town, I feel like I've fallen woefully behind in keeping up with the periodicals that routinely appear in my mailbox. At best, I'm usually a month behind with The New Yorker, the subscription to Wired that my otherwise useless Media Bistro membership rewarded me with has proved to be a bust, and the last three issues of GQ have gone wholly uncracked, in spite of their potential for sharp political speak, laughably mundane music coverage, and tantalizing breasts.
Weirdly, however, I have read every issue of New York Magazine from cover to cover for the last year, and am now proud to call it my favorite digest of local happenings, history, culture, and politics. It's a brilliant intersection where the labyrinthian complexity of NPR-styled reporting meets the brash, take-no-shit-from-offending-parties nuance that The Daily News has been dining out on for years. Even its devotion to celebrity culture and the local star system -- which in any other magazine I'd regard as an unwelcome irritant -- comes off like a critical component of their overall gameplan. In other words, you may come for the Approval Matrix and the hastily-collaged photos of Lindsay Lohan, Iggy Pop, and Grace Jones, but you'll stay for triumphant works like Kurt Anderson's Boom-Bust-Boom Town from the magazine's current 40th anniversary issue. The latter is exactly the kind of thoughtful and arresting diction that seals my love for this weekly journal, and which this morning I was powerless to escape from until my coffee had gone cold, the eggs I was cooking were burnt, and my wife had departed for work without saying goodbye.
The rest of this special issue is a showpiece that's guaranteed to earn coffee table honors for weeks to come, what with critical verbiage devoted to everything NYC from Bernie Goetz, Joe Namath, and coke-binging yuppies to DJ Kool Herc, Woody Allen, Times Square, and Warhol's Factory all clamboring for my undivided attention. If there's any advice to be deployed this early on a Wednesday morning, mine would be to swing by the newsstand of your preference before noon to grab a copy for yourself.