April 12th, 2007


I-man: Bye, man!

As you might expect, having been "touched by a shock jock," I've been following the Don Imus story with great interest.

MSNBC dumped the simulcast of his radio show from its lineup. Then CBS announced it would stop carrying his show. It wasn't clear if this referred to just national syndication or also included his local show in NYC, where he's been a morning fixture for 30-plus years.

Twenty years ago, when I was living downstate and driving a car whose radio lost its FM reception, I started listening to Imus. He was a funny guy who seemed intelligent and approachable -- the same qualities that drew me to J.R. Gach years later. Yes, he made jokes about minorities and women, but they were never, ever mean-spirited, and his female and minority sidekicks laughed along with him.

Years later, I looked him up on the Philly talk station when I was living in South Jersey, and the show had gotten boring as hell. He'd ditched the funny character bits he used to do and was interviewing politicians and pundits. I guess he was still being funny between interviews, but I never heard any of that; I didn't stick around to find out.

I don't condone the comment that has just gotten him in hot water -- in case you've been in a coma for the past few days, he called the Rutgers women's basketball team "nappy-headed ho's." He should pay some consequences; whether he should or shouldn't be fired over it is something I'm not willing to get into. He's a shock jock, and that's what they do.

But here's the thing: He has been making similar comments for decades. Why now? Why was he allowed to slide all those other times?

J.R. made racial comments, too. Google his name and you will find numerous references on blogs and elsewhere about some slurs on Asians and blacks he made a couple of years ago. A joking reference to Asians cost him a job in Cincinnati a few years before that.

And he lost his job in Albany last summer, but it wasn't for his racial remarks. It was because the show got so stiflingly boring, "him"-centered and full of commercials that people just tuned out and the ratings dropped like a stone. There were some people who tried to start boycotts and protests over his racial comments, but they didn't get him taken off the air. He and station management just laughed them off under the "all publicity is good publicity" rule.

I used to laugh at his jokes because I was blinded by his charisma ... even before I had a personal, soul-destroying involvement with him. Now I see them for what they are -- tasteless and juvenile -- and him for what he is: shallow and sociopathic.

I'm glad he was punished with the loss of his job for poor ratings and can only spew his venom now on a pathetic little webcast. (I'm angry and bitter that he has never paid any consequences for the huge personal damage he did to me, but that's another post.)

I may be a leftie, but sometimes the free market works pretty well.

BTW, I just got the new Northern Sun catalog and there's a bumper sticker that sums this whole thing up beautifully:

"If we don't protect freedom of speech, how will we know who the assholes are?"


So it goes.

Kurt Vonnegut is dead.

I fell in love with him in the summer of 1979, when I took a course in sci-fi that didn't count toward my English minor but was a great way to spend a summer term nonetheless. The Vonnegut book we read was "Sirens of Titan," which remains one of my favorite novels ever -- a beautiful story of redemption.

Later I devoured "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater," an equally beautiful story about human kindness. And, of course, his masterpiece, "Slaughterhouse-Five," which may be the greatest anti-war polemic couched in a sci-fi novel ever written.

Malachi Constant and his Army buddies Boaz and Stony. Billy Pilgrim. Eliot Rosewater. Salo from Tralfamadore. Bee and her son, Chrono. And, of course, the ubiquitous Kilgore Trout. Remember my post about soul mates? All these fictional creations of Vonnegut's have a place in my soul.

God bless you, Mr. Vonnegut. And while you argued against this premise in "Sirens," I hope that somebody up there does, indeed, like you.