Sunday, March 18, 2007

Not On My Life

Posted by olvlzl.
One of their cliche bound segment producers might say that it’s like a can of mixed nuts bought at the Wal-Mart, a few cashews and pecans but mostly low grade peanuts. That’s how one of the show’s segments might describe “This American Life”. I’m not a regular listener, finding it is mostly an irritating mix of superficial cliche’s, superficial nihilism and juvenile whining. But some of it has been superb, and on at least one occasion great journalism. The piece about the first real survey to try to estimate how many people died in the invasion and of Iraq and the aftermath was one of the best things I’ve heard on the radio in the past ten years. The piece that began with an obscure children’s photo-story book of the 50s and which unfolded into the horrific, puppet- person life of the photographer and author (she was also a fashion model) was great.

That said, too many of the segments are superficial and facilely ironic, too many of them are a presentation of an attitude that is just lazily and cooly cynical as edgy and smart. Too often the segments are about nothing much presented as if that was cool. Too often, also, the show’s producers exploit private people who are still alive, some of whom are really stupid to expose their unattractive lives to a national audience. It’s Jerry Springer for the middle-brow set.

Like Joanna Weiss in her critique in today’s Boston Globe I don’t dislike Ira Glass. I rather like his voice, which is a nice change from better radio voices. I don’t generally like people who imitate his low key delivery, many of whom find their way into segments. They are usually flat, lacking the frequent note of amusement that Glass has. But Ira Glass did do one thing for which I won’t forgive him, he promoted David Sedaris. I can’t stand his cutely cynical, superficial bitchiness and am offended when he’s assumed to be a typical gay man. Like the idiots who mistook Clare Booth's “The Women” for a feminist document, I don’t find anything attractive in the Sedaris presentation of being gay. I've found that Sedaris is much more popular among straight people than he is among gay people. Though he does have some gay fans.

You might want to read the other side in the Globe given by Matthew Gilbert.