Joe Lavin

June 22, 2004

National Public Snooze Alarm


For the last few years, my clock radio has been set to National Public Radio, and it's just not getting me out of bed in the morning. The alarm clock works fine, but the content is sorely lacking. As I listen to "Morning Edition," my snooze time has gradually grown from a healthy ten minutes to almost forty. My subconscious is quite possibly the most well informed subconscious ever, yet I have retained nothing. Over the past few years, I have slept through elections in Mozambique, interest rate hikes by Alan Greenspan, and intricate discussions of stem cell research.

Every once in a while, in the middle of the day, I'll catch myself thinking something like, "Wait, was Latvia just admitted to the European Union, or did I dream that?"

It's no wonder there's a documented crossover audience between Howard Stern and NPR. Sometimes, you need a little jolt of energy in the morning, and "Morning Edition" just isn't providing that. One thing is sure. When flipping between them, it's easy to tell what station you're on.

"I'm Bob Edwards. Coming up, Nina Totenberg examines the legal ramifications of gay marriage. And later, we explore another side to this volatile issue as two lesbian porn stars make out. This is 'Morning Edition' from NPR News."

That's not something you'll ever hear, though Bob Edwards probably could make an interview with lesbian porn stars seem downright cerebral. Frankly, I'm glad that they have replaced him as host after twenty-five years. Don't get me wrong. He's a fine newsman, and I like him a lot, but no one has ever had a more somnolent voice. Every morning, it was like having somebody's grandfather reading me a bedtime story just as I was trying to get out of bed.

I should probably switch to another station, but I like the idea of trying to be an intellectual in the morning, even if all I do is sleep through all the intellectualism. "Morning Edition" isn't exactly boring. It's just a little too weighty for that time of day. Still, some of the news has to seep into my brain through osmosis, doesn't it?

Well, maybe not. A few weeks back, there was an interview with an astronomer about the eclipse of the sun by Venus. I'm sure this could have been fascinating on a different station at a different time of day. But at 6:30 a.m. on NPR, it was quite possibly the dullest thing I have ever heard.

"Not since the days when Chester Arthur was President has there been an eclipse of the sun by Venus," the interviewer gushed, and really there's nothing quite like a Chester Arthur reference to wake me up. Later, there was a lengthy discussion of how to view an eclipse on a piece of white cardboard rather than looking directly at the sun. For once, this did get me up on time, if only just to look directly at the sun out of spite.

This week, it's even worse. There's a pledge drive. When I woke up today, somebody was asking me for $100, which seemed rather bold. This station can't even get me out of bed in the morning, and now they want me to write a $100 check? Sorry, guys, my checkbook is on the other side of the room.

There was also something about being entered into a raffle for a free vacation, but I didn't want to go anywhere then. I just wanted to stay in bed. They should really take that into account when developing premiums.

"With a pledge of just $100, we'll call your boss and make up an excuse for you so that you won't have to haul your lazy ass out of bed and into work. Sleep in this morning while supporting quality radio."

Occasionally, there will be something frivolous on "Morning Edition." I think I once heard Bob Edwards mention Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, but that might have been a dream. Other times, there will even be sports talk, though there's always this underlying tone of "Well, just look at those big men playing that game with the ball. How quaint?"

Recently, I woke up to an interview with a man who said he had tried every drug from heroin to cocaine to mushrooms. It seemed almost exciting for NPR until I learned that the man being interviewed was helping people deal with drug addiction in a far away land. "One organization is taking a new approach to drug rehabilitation in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan...." Snooze.

"Growing up in Catholic Ireland in the 1950s and 1960s, nobody talked about James Joyce...." Snooze.

"A sea slug is providing scientists with clues about how brains work...." Snooze.

Sadly, my snooze time is now approaching the one-hour mark. Even that sea slug is probably waking up quicker than I am. I need to make a change. Maybe I will have to listen to Howard Stern after all. Not since the days when Chester Arthur was President, has it been this tough to wake up.


©2004 Joe Lavin

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