13 June, 2006

i love radio

it's been nearly a year since we moved away from edmonton. it's amazing that you can leave your home, see a smallish chunk of the world, some of it truly lovely, and still be filled with the overwhelming desire to go back. but there is one thing that this extended series of moves has given me - the radio.
it's been a couple of years now since we got rid of our tv and, like the meat i gave up several years ago, i hardly even notice it is gone. so what's left for a tv-less vegetarian? why, tofu and the radio! what else?
living in edmonton, i've been a fan and supporter of what i still believe is the best eclectic music station in the known universe, ckua. part of the pain of moving away was the lack of ckua on my dial. i know it seems odd, but i actually feel an emotional attachment to the station: its knowledgeable djs, its eclectic format, its low key tone. since discovering it (or rediscovering it, since my dad was a listener for years) i lost my tolerance for the bullshit of regular radio stations. you can keep your bear, or walrus, or one-eyed rabid beaver, and god protect you from the soul-destroying mellow brain-jellification blah of easy rock. mostly, you can keep your "funny" patronizing djs, your obnoxious mattress commercials, your endlessly repeating mass-produced, shiny-packaged crap music.
on ckua i discovered the world. i can honestly say that i would be a far richer girl, if i hadn't spent so much money on cds of artists i first heard on ckua. when they went off the air years ago i actually wept, and you know what? i wasn't the only one. we mobilised, lovers of good music, and brought the station back, so to leave it behind wasn't easy.
in chicago, although i still listened to ckua online whenever i was at the library, i looked for something to tide me over at home and in the car. that's when i discovered npr, national public radio. it, too, had the low key djs, the unobtrusive sponsors instead of a constant bombardment of tacky beer ads. i listened to a college jazz station until my husband found a station that was almost entirely news, interviews, science shows and the like - perfect for a bored housewife. it took several months of this fascinating content before i realised that something was wrong - i'd start to cry at inopportune moments, weeping bitterly over the fate of young girls in india sold to brothels, sobbing about the evils of war, depressed beyond belief, drowning in the surplus of the knowledge of good and evil (though, as the case usually presents itself, mostly evil). when i realised what was up i started to measure out small, safe doses of npr, and returned mostly to the college jazz station. there truly is such a thing as too much information, and although i love npr, it was too much of a shock for someone who until then routinely avoided the news.
when we moved back to canada i discovered cbc radio. it's shameful really to have lived so many years in this country and never listened to cbc radio. sure, i sometimes listened to cbc 2 at my parents' place, and grew heartily sick of classical music (hey, i'm working on it, truly, i appreciate its merits just cannot listen at length) but cbc 1 was a revelation. like npr but happier, somehow lighter in tone, without the "spreading democracy" agenda. oh sure, these days we have it all, just like our neighbours down south, we even have terrorists and gang shootings, just on a smaller scale so more time can be spent talking about literature and artists who make paintings of celebrities out of chewed up bubble gum (i am not making this up). don't get me wrong, npr had plenty of fantastic literary shows, but the weight of the problems of the world was too great. cbc 1 seems to have hit on the right balance of knowledge and lighter stuff, though i realise that it is lighter stuff only in my own nerdiverse, and the majority of the population would gladly swap tapestry's sunday discussions about god (discussions, not sermons, and sparklingly intelligent ones too) for more of the same predigested top 40 crap, but whatever. when i get around to taking over the world all this will change.
of course, now that i think about it, there is probably little difference between the sociopolitical content on cbc and npr, it's just that as a canadian show, cbc relates to me directly. i guess i'm a sucker for good old can con (canadian content for those of you not in the know).
as far as i am concerned, anyone who bitches and complains about the state of canadian film, tv and radio is obviously not paying attention. some of my favourite tv shows are canadian (i challenge anyone to watch corner gas and not guffaw), and now i discover that cbc radio is absolutely delightful. vinyl cafe makes sunday morning bearable. wire tap makes me feel that perhaps i am not quite as whiny as i think. all this in that quietly understated canadian sense of humour.
it's funny, though - i listen to these lovely stations and start to shed some of my deep sense of hopelessness about the human race. i listen to the callers, who are, for the most part, articulate, thoughtful and well spoken and i shed a little cynicism. but then the truth hits - ckua, npr, cbc are not mainstream. the majority of north americans like their news the way they like their music and their toilet paper - brightly packaged, brand-name driven, uninspired and fluffy. and then the cynicism returns.
but the long and the short of it is - i love radio. there are times when we sit in the car and listen to the end of a show because it is just too good to miss. so now, when i return home, i will have made some great friends, and among them will be two new stations that i can get misty-eyed and passionate about. check them out!

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