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“Human devastation as mass entertainment” – Ani DiFranco

It’s almost noon, I’m watching the local news, and they keep running a teaser for a story on a controversial art exhibit at a public library in Texas.  I’m not sure if it’s the ALA Annual buzz running through my Facebook minifeed, or that I’ve been really using my public library a lot since graduation, but I’ve been feeling extra library-y lately. 

I have been waiting about a half hour for this story, and finally decided to consult the Internet.  I just read an article on CNN.com Sculptures reflect violent life on the border — and death that presented the case in a completely different tone than my local news. The news story was about 2 -3 minutes long, and was in the last “newsy” slot of the broadcast. In the teasers they didn’t ever mention or hint at context, it was just images of disembodied heads peppered with bullet holes and brilliant splatters of red paint. I understand that they wanted to keep us watching, and it’s more enticing and inflammatory to let our imaginations figure out the meaning behind these images on our own. I know my imagination went to the worst possible option for me.

I think that all library people have these locations where the personal clashes with the policy. I think at times most of us caveat our stance on intellectual freedom. Yes, you should be able to access any information you want, and I will help you and won’t judge, but I’m a feminist, and I’m a subset of feminists that finds pornography troubling. What do I do with that when I’m working at the reference desk?

Also, I’m a person whose life has been altered by suicide, and I see images of heads with bullet holes, and my stomach lurches and I want to grab all the children and “wrap them in a blue cloud cloth away from the too rough fingers of the world” (shout out to L. Hughes). So I was prepared. My stomach was steeled. I was ready to become indignant. But, when I read the article, and finally saw the entire news piece, my opinion immediately changed. “Oh,” I thought, “that’s about Juarez. So, it’s poignant.”

Other people’s tragedy is apparently ok. I do understand that talking about things that aren’t talked about, or expressing one’s feelings through art are incredibly important. I have a gender studies degree, a field born out of consciousness-raising sessions, I understand the power of thinking, feeling, sharing, and speaking.

I can’t help but think about a show I heard on public radio – I think it was This American Life, but I’m not sure. There was a woman whose family had been devastated by murder, talking about all of the cop/crime shows – Law and Order, CSI, Homicide, The Wire, The Shield – and how we as a culture seem to find murder one of our favorite forms of entertainment. For her, these shows made light of the tragedy her family went through. I don’t think she expected everyone to watch their words around her for the rest of their lives, or for all pop culture to change to reflect her tragedy, but she was just sickened by how common, accepted, and routine murder was.

I get this. When my stressed out friends and colleagues put their fake finger gun to their head my stomach bubbles with acid, and I feel the lurch from my intestines to my throat. “You just don’t know,” I think, “if you knew. You couldn’t do that. You would never be able to do that, say that, or make light of that if you knew.”

We all have our tragedies, we all have those “button issues” that chip away at our hearts. Who are we to think that ours should be the only protected category? And what would happen to us if we were unable to discuss ANY button issues? I don’t know. I really don’t. All I know is that I steer clear of Law and Order: Rape as Entertainment (aka SVU), don’t like things that are inflammatory for inflammatory’s sake, and will always always always be keenly aware of any reference to my personal list of tragedies.

People who want to help

I didn’t quite know which song to go with. I need a super sappy pop ballad. Like the kind I listen to when I’m driving really late at night and get sleepy. I crank up the soft rock, roll down the windows, and belt. it. out.

Anyway, Kelly would say that she’s been waiting a lifetime for a moment like this. Whitney would just beg for that one moment in time where all her dreams were a heartbeat away.

This could be my moment:

Dear Lea, I think you're brilliant.  Please, come be our new consigliere. <3 Ira

Unfortunately, it was a mass email wherein Ira asked me for more money. Alas. However, if you all listen to This American Life, then you should head to the site and donate $2. Unless you want Julie Snyder to roll up in your hood on her single-speed Schwinn yelling ” I WANT MY TWO DOLLARS! TWO DOLLARS!” Really, it’s up to you.

Oh, and Whitney wins, 1) because she’s Whitney, and 2) hellloooo 7th grade “One Moment in Time” clarinet section feature. I’m sure we were fantastic.

I love public radio. I’ve known this for years, but recently I’ve realized that what I really love is Chicago Public Radio.

Here’s why:

#3 – Sound Opinions (American Public Media)- The “world’s only rock n roll talk show.” I discovered this gem when I was suffering from delusions of becoming a marathoner. (See Stuff White People Like #27) Our local NPR station plays it at 6 a.m. on Saturdays which is an ungodly hour, but hosts Jim DeRogatis of the Sun-Times and Greg Kot of the Tribune helped me get out of bed, into my Adidas and down to the trail. This show is fantastic because it’s two guys who really love music, they don’t always agree, but they don’t bicker. When they talk about a band they play a informatively long clip of one of their songs. It’s like hanging out in your vinyl-collector friend’s basement, in a comfy beat up armchair from the 70s. It is surprisingly un-pretentious. Ok, now, they will flex their indie cred, but not in this “OH MY GOD HOW DO YOU NOT KNOW BLITZEN TRAPPER?!?!” kind of way. (They ❤ Blitzen Trapper) Their un-jerkiness really comes across in their Rock Doctors segment where a listener calls/writes in with a musical problem. Usually they are in a rut, or recently, they had a couple on that had radically different music taste (him = Dave Matthews and GreenDay, her = Wilco and other stuff that doesn't such like Dave Matthews and GreenDay do. I said THEY weren't jerks, I didn't say I wasn't. They did make fun of DMB guy a bit, but not as much as your super-indie-jerk friend would have. We all have one.). Anyway, the "patient" describes albums they like and what they're looking for (something to rock out to, something for the couple to listen to together) and Jim and Greg offer up a prescription – they send them the music, give them some time to listen to it and they bring them back on to talk about how they liked it. It's super fun.

#2 – Wait Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me (National Public Radio) – All you cable-having folk go to Jon Stewart for your humorous news. My heart lies with another hilarious, liberal, chosen-person news host – Peter Sagal. (Of course I also love Jon Stewart, it’s #37) Tonight I got to see the Wait Wait live show. I was thrilled when I found out Roy Blount Jr. would be on the panel. A lot of people my age are Mo fans – largely because of the connection with the aforementioned fake news host/dreamboat Jon Stewart, and while I do love me a good Mo tangent – there ain’t nothin’ like a Roy Blount Jr. tangent. I am a big fan of the quietly hilarious person, probably because I’m not one of them. He just has such a good comedic sense. Tonight we got to see the uncut wait wait which was over 90 minutes. Roy seemed to have a good sense of what jokes were definitely going to make the cut and repeated those themes throughout the broadcast. I am a total nerd to break this down and analyze it, but he’s fantastic. Kyrie O’Connor and Charlie Pierce were the other two panelists. Kyrie is not my favorite, but she always has some great lines. She was pretty quiet tonight, which was weird, I hope she’s ok. Charlie has a laugh that can cause inexperienced listeners to ram their cars into the fender of the car in front of them. He also is the guy who always “goes there.” I loved loved getting to see the wait wait crew live, AND now I know all the answers! So if you listen to it with a friend, roommate, family members, SO, or whatever and want to be super impressive, I may be willing to give you some hints . . .

#1 This American Life (Public Radio International) – This really has been the best year of my life as a public radio listener. In addition to the aforementioned wwdtm show, I saw Ira Glass live in person in April, and then went to the live show beamed to my local movie theater. So much Ira, so much dorky goodness. I am a total This American Life nerd. I have listened to every episode multiple times. At the keynote Ira gave in April, he’d reference an episode or play a clip, and I knew exactly what episode it was and could usually finish the person’s sentence. Total nerd. According to a friend of mine he has never seen me “geek out” as much as I did at the TAL live show (and we were only seeing Ira on screen). TAL is brilliant, hilarious, ridiculous, informative, heart wrenching and all the good stuff good stuff is supposed to be. Plus, they have TAL paint by number sets. How else would I have a poorly painted flaming squirrel in my living room if not for TAL? Oh and how sweet was it that Squirrel Cop reappeared?! I ❤ Squirrel Cop!

Rock over London, rock on Chicago.

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