Monday, November 16, 2009

I don't like the sound of this

The CD player in my car has been broken for awhile now. This came on top of the demise of the six-CD changer that the car used to have as well, which means my 2003 Nissan is depreciating at a rate of more than one CD per year.

(I realize that I've already used the terms depreciating and CD a combined six times already, meaning this post could very well be stumbled upon by business-minded people scouring the Web for the latest financial news. If so, sorry. But since you're apparently well-versed on investment matters, can any of you help me set up my 401K? Thanks!)

The result has been that I've been spending a lot of time listening to regular, old, terrestrial radio. I say terrestrial to differentiate it from satellite radio, and not to imply that there is another sort of radio produced by extra-terrestrials. Because I believe, having heard the evidence, that most terrestrial radio itself is being broadcast by aliens.

It must be! Have you heard any of this stuff in awhile? You'd have to have grown up light years away in outer space (or, perhaps, in someplace like Sneedville, Tennessee) to think that any of the stuff on the air is remotely entertaining.

There's very little music on the radio any more, to make room for at least 15 minutes of commercials every hour and the morning talk shows, each of which with two co-hosts who go into peals of fake laughter every time one of them tells the same fart joke they've been using since 1985.

You'll hear one or both of these guys out later in the day after some dire news jingle that makes you believe there's major breaking local news like a massacre of some kind that might have an impact on traffic patterns, making you late for dinner. But no. Instead, you hear one or both of the morning DJs speaking on an old cell phone or a World War II-era walkie talkie or some other needlessly low-grade piece of audio equipment, interviewing the owner of some car dealership or housing development.

They'll tell you that if you come down in the NEXT 15 MINUTES to Honest Otto's Dodge, Subaru, Cadillac, Chrysler, Daimler, DaimlerChrysler, AMC, Fiat, and Peaceful Lakeside Villas, you can have a new car and house for just $999,999.99 plus taxes, fees and mob favors. And dammitall, you can't get there, because the downtown massacre has jammed up the freeway!

Then of course there are the news talk stations that have crept onto the FM side, giving you 15 new ways every hour to tell if your mother is a Communist. And then there's sports talk, which usually goes like this:

Host: Let's open up the phone lines:
Caller 1: I have a question about the Jets secondary. Do they suck as bad, or worse than the all-time suckiest defensive unit?
Host: That's an insulting question. Everyone agrees that the Jets have the worst secondary of all time. If you did your homework, like me, and really knew sports, like I do, you'd know how bad the Jets secondary really is. Back to the phones.
Caller 2: What do you think about the game this Sunday?
Host: Oh, it should be no contest. Jets 50, Broncos 0. The Jets secondary really knows how to play!

When you finally do find a station that's playing music, chances are it's nothing you're excited to hear. That's because most of the stations that still play music have a rotation of no more than eight songs, all of which you've already heard 20,000 times on Cheez Whiz commercials.

The songs are performed by no more than three artists per station, all of whom are either the sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, wives, mistresses or major creditors of record company executives.

Of course that's just the artist who gets credited. The actual music is played by machines that take elements of earlier songs and mix them up so that they can be repackaged in a familiar but not entirely recognizable new tune, taking special care not to make any song last longer than three minutes. That would bump into the live remote, which would then spill over into "drive time," angering the advertisers who had paid for a solid block of commercials from 5 to 7 p.m.

The only thing that keeps me listening, other than the hazards of other in-car diversions such as reading, is the hope that I'll get lucky enough, as I do about once a week, to hear a song that I like. You know, one that puts me in a upbeat mood, and makes me remember the good old days.

Then I realize that unlike the good old days, which happened to be when I had a six-CD changer, I cannot skip past the needless synth solo that takes up the entire middle part of the song, and by the time that's over, I'll be out of the signal range for this station. So wait, why do I listen again?

Oh yeah, that's right. So I can be Caller No. 7 and win a deluxe, air-compression whoopie cushion signed by both of the morning DJs and an official Swastika-themed mug from the news-talk host, plus a chance to sit in-studio and marvel at how the sports guy can drink 18 beers during his show and never have to get up to go to the bathroom. I knew there had to be a reason for listening!

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