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I watched The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien last night.

I don’t often watch late night television, although that wasn’t always the case. I was a huge Letterman fan back when Letterman was funny on Late Night. I used to tape Late Night, watch it the next morning, and steal all his material for my busy day ahead. That was back when I was pretty well plugged into the zeitgeist.

Needless to say, those days are over.

Watching Conan just reminded me how deeply out of touch I am with the pop culture. He began the show with a genuflectory piece of Obama worship and then he launched into both a “Bush is stupid” joke and a “Cheney likes to torture people” joke. He got cheers when referencing Obama’s decision to close Guantanamo Bay, and I turned it off at that point, deciding I’d pretty much had enough.

It’s not much better when it comes to right wing entertainment, either. I listened to about thirty seconds of Sean Hannity yesterday before my eyes began to forcibly roll back in my head. I tried Glenn Beck later that evening, and I became exhausted before the first commercial break, at which poingt I switched over the the FM dial to listen to some lite rock favorites. Yes, the country’s collapsing all around us – we get it. I find myself sympathizing with Camille Paglia, who describes the current state of talk radio thusly:

Talk radio has been seething with such intensity since Barack Obama’s first week in office that I am finding it very hard to listen to it. How many times do we have to be told the sky is falling? The major talk show hosts, in my opinion, made a strategic error in failing to reset at lower volume after Obama’s election. When the default mode is feverish crisis pitch, there’s nowhere to go, and monotony sets in. Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of tuning in and impatiently tuning out. As a longtime fan of talk radio, I don’t think this bodes well for the long-term broad appeal of the medium. I want stimulation and expansion of my thinking — not shrill, numbing hectoring and partisan undermining of the authority and dignity of the presidency. Rabidly Bush-bashing Democrats shouldn’t have done it to the last president either, but that’s no excuse for conservatives, who claim to revere our institutions, to play schoolyard tit for tat.


I find myself increasingly disconnected from other aspects of the culture. I’ve seen Star Trek three times, but I have no desire to see any other summer blockbusters, at least until the next Harry Potter flick comes out. My knowledge of popular music is encyclopedic, but it ends abruptly circa 1991. I’m rereading old books and reading older books for the first time.

I am out of touch. I am a man adrift.

Arthur Kane
Gender-Blind Casting

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  1. The last GOOD conservative radio talker was Barry Farber.

    God, I miss him.

    I don’t like most of Air America’s hosts, either (exceptions being guys like Thom Hartman and Marc Maron). Shrill harpies do not make for good meditation upon public policy.

    I do like Alan Colmes, though his show before being associated with Faux News was better.

    With you on popular music, stopped paying attention in the early 90s. I’m a DJ by profession and the shows I’m most effective with on air are Classic Rock and Classic Country.

    Most pop culture nowadays does suck.

    I don’t think it was that different back in the day. I think it’s because we just have more of it.

    And it’s in our face.


  2. Mrs. Cornell, you were right next to me. You feel asleep during Seinfeld. Conan was on right after.

    tstone, good points all – Colmes is easily the most reasonable lefty on the radio – although if we have more pop culture than we did then, why does it suck more now?

  3. Does it suck more now? I think of bread’s “Baby, I’m a Want-You”, and wonder, is today’s suck suckier than the suck of yesteryear?

    Fair question.

    My answer is, not necessarily. Just that, there’s more of it, more outlets through which it comes, harder to keep at bay, and lastly, perhaps more crucially, it’s a different suck. It’s no longer our suck, it’s the suck of another generation.

    Much of our pop culture sucked. But it was our suck.

    Today’s suck, we can’t lay claim to it.