Friday, May 18, 2007

C-Span, the Opposite of Sex, Is About My Speed

Our Town downtown

February 19, 2007

I was in South Florida a weekend ago, in the home office of Anna Nicole coverage. I didn’t pay attention to it because I’d never followed the trial over the money from her old husband, and I couldn’t watch the fat version of her on that TV series (I was kind of in love/lust with her in those old black and white jean ads she did and wanted to remember her that way). A lot of people must have been watching that fat show, even a lot of people who when you mention TV to them or say you don’t watch it will tell you they only watch the History Channel and “The Wire.” They must somehow have heard about her somewhere. They’re claiming they didn’t watch the stuff about her death either but I’ll bet they did. Most people are TV addicts, and if they go on about Bill Moyers and Bill Maher and “Washington Week in Review,” that’s a cover, and it’s still TV anyway and it’s nothing they couldn’t get in a magazine or a newspaper.
I don’t watch any of that stuff (I’ve got other vices), but I could become a C-Span addict. And not just “Booknotes” and “Q&A” and all that very tempting weekend stuff about authors that keeps you from reading. I mean the sober, opposite-of-sex “Washington Journal” morning call-in show that must actually be set in Pittsburgh in Mr. Rogers’ old studio, so welcoming and clean is the whole enterprise. Enterprise is too sexy a word for it. Compared to the C-Span morning hosts, Garrison Keillor is Tom Waits. It’s like the innocent morning radio I heard as a kid. It’s like a yellow record.

You’ve noticed “Washington Journal,” I’m sure. Looks boring and you’ve hardly ever stopped. And no doubt every time you have landed on it for even a minute, it’s always an unfashionable woman representative from Illinois talking to a guy who looks like a seminarian about a school bus seat belt bill. You run from it and head to the networks, or Imus.

I don’t run from it, or to it. I just turn to it sometimes on my Sirius radio (forget iPods and flat screens, get satellite radio and free your legs to move about, or lie down and stare at the ceiling; you can’t do that with even the biggest flat screen). When I’m sports-talked out, or I’m Howarded out on Sirius, I turn the dial to “Washington Journal.” It’s the same thing as on the television. And I get ready for the day listening to citizens (that’s what they seem like when they call in that show; they’re not consumers there) call about the war or the candidates or the Washington Post editorial on Joe Biden—or seat belts. It’s not bracing, I admit, but it’s not bullshit either, and that’s a good way to start the day. So, back to Florida. My sister who I was visiting wanted to go to the beach on Saturday after we stopped by and saw her newest grandchild. I was certainly up for both things, but what I really wanted to do on a perfect sunny day on my first day down there from the brickyard cold of here was watch Barack Obama make his announcement of his running for the White House at 11:00 that morning on C-Span. I lost. I had to go. And I could catch the highlights later on the CNN. But I wouldn’t catch what C-Span would be giving. With C-Span, you’re on the steps of the Illinois capitol building before Obama is. The announcer, if there even is one, is silent while the camera watches the flags flap in the wind or catches the ambient sound of the citizens as they gather at the foot of the steps waiting for the candidate-to-be to show up. It’s like politics unplugged. Unplugged is good.

-- Bill Gunlocke

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