A medium appropriate to the object of critique

It’s our first-ever podcast. The topic: The most irritating NPR clip of all time.

18 responses to “A medium appropriate to the object of critique”

  1. A White Bear says:

    This is hilarious, Dave. But please, please, turn this into a series. There are way too many great irritating NPR clips going unmocked. I clearly recall a program Terry Gross did about puppy training, in which it was suggested that, from the earliest moments of a puppy’s life away from its mother, it must be held gently to the chest, spoken to only in the soothingest tones, treated more delicately than an infant human, or else it would grow up to be a psychopathic ragehound. It was everything that makes me insane about bourgeois parenting (which is not to say that I support the beating of children–just that the worshipful “everyone must treat my child like heaven’s own ray of divinity” thing is… well), except applied to dogs. The assumption of both is that fancy wealthy people with little to do but coo at a tiny cute thing are raising idols of the future, and everyone else–everyone who might not have time to meditate blissfully through each trying moment–is raising devils. Too bad for shelter dogs, whose own puppyhoods are unrecorded. So much for adopting, or even educating, less-advantaged children. The way Terry’s guests had it, if you raise your voice at a dog while it is young, you have just doomed it to a life little better than that of a rabid wolf in a cage.

    Should we all strive to be nicer to babies and puppies? Sure! And I 100% support Geoffrey Canada’s efforts to teach gentler correction methods to moms in Baby College and all that. But if the underlying narrative is that a child, or a puppy for that matter, has any experiences of even mild discomfort for a moment, they are screwed. Only “we” who know can ever hope to have “successful” children and happy, playful dogs.

    But yes, that was a sublimely irritating clip. This very one! Cambridge! I especially love how her guest responds to her dinner announcement. “Oh. OK.”

  2. A White Bear says:

    Those “T”s of hers are exactly like the ones taught to Will Smith’s character in Six Degrees of Separation, which we all learned by saying, under our breath while watching, “A botthle of beer.”

  3. Dave says:

    I will not turn this into a series, because I don’t listen to NPR! And I refuse to! But that Terry Gross program sounds hilarious.

  4. RF says:

    Excellent work Dave! I love the ‘podcast’ format, and it is great to hear your voice again after so many years (I had totally forgotten how you sound). I couldn’t agree with you more about the cringe-worthiness of much NPR programming. While I also agree with you about the greatness that is This American Life, someone at TAL needs to find more music clips. It cracks me up how much mileage they get out of a few of the song bits that they use week after week on TAL. It is either a testament to the range of those songs, or evidence that the producers are in a bit of a rut, or both… probably both.

    I look forward to more podcast-style entries. And maybe I will give it a try myself. Thanks for the fun post.

  5. lane says:


    form and content!

  6. Molly says:

    This clip is not as good (bad) as yours, but it’s worth (or not) a listen (eyeball gouging): http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=16067534

  7. Standpipe Bridgeplate says:

    Every morning I wake to hear Steve Inskeep’s patter delivered in the house style, that sing-song modulation accented by feigned surprise at topic words. Years of irritation have driven me to adolescent name-calling. “Steve Beeskeep,” I call him, with a sneer and narrowed eyes. Ha ha, you bastard, im sayin ur name rong.

  8. lane says:

    wow, that really is bad.

    sylvia paaaajjjjooooooollliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  9. Rachel says:

    Yes, I wanted to stick a fork in each ear. It reminded me of this scene from Auntie Mame: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kj7i88LQ9DE

  10. Stella says:

    Dave! You are the comics curmudgeon of public radio! And thanks for bringing a new medium to TGW.

    It would be delicious to continue this as a series. Liane Hanson would be my target as well as the reporter with the extreme pronunciation of Dakarrrrrrrrr.

    I am addicted to BBC Radio 4 and therefore had a rough transition to npr when i moved here, but i have adapted and have a love/hate relationship with it. But I frequently have to turn off programs that go beyond a certain point of cuteness.

    It’s interesting that a few years ago, it seemed that PBS was totally behind in image and relevance and audience but NPR was robust. PBS is still struggling, but I think NPR is now more obviously tired in the new digital age. I especially hate how they have jumped all over twitter as if that somehow makes them cool.

  11. Standpipe Bridgeplate says:

    as well as the reporter with the extreme pronunciation of Dakarrrrrrrrr

    I love Dakarrrrrrrrr lady. She’s in Senegal, motherfucker. She’s in motherfucking Senegal.

  12. Standpipe Bridgeplate says:

    But for NPR, the world would never have known Microsoft’s peculiar slogan, “Your potential inspires us to create software to help you reach it.” There was never a purer expression of commitment to inspiration-related program activities.

  13. Dave says:

    Your inspiration. Let me show you it.

  14. Dave says:


    Commenting from the train before coffee ruins jokes.

  15. swells says:

    OH! My god! I finally got the time and privacy to listen to this (for once, I couldn’t enjoy TGW while my students wrote an in-class essay, so I was mightily vexed, especially since I thought after hearing only 10 seconds that it was all about DFW) and wow, you made me laugh out loud so many times. I am a new enough NPR convert (maybe 8 or 9 years in) not to hate them all yet–I kind of love most of them, still–but that was unbelievably irritating. What did she even mean by “This very one”?? The Cambridge thing! How could you not mention “We’re like two girls eating a sundae”??? I love the image of you stomping across the room to punch down the “Off” button in utter disgust when she brought up the dinner guests. I can’t believe there weren’t any “fool” jokes.

    In any case, as Scott, Jeremy, Jen, and Tim have heard me complain many many times, no NPR newscaster or commentator could ever irritate me–rhubarb, sundaes, Cambridge or no–as much as that most precious, self-congratulatory, gasping. ever so “wry,” and wretchedly forced Sandra Tsing Loh.

  16. Dave says:

    Oh, swells, you press all my buttons. Yes, that “two girls eating a sundae” thing is arguably the most cringeworthy part of the whole clip. I left it uncommented-upon because I figured people would notice, and you did. Where did that even come from? Why do two grown, successful, professional women have to be like two girls eating a sundae to enjoy a bite of a dish that they just cooked FOR A FUCKING FEATURE STORY ON NPR?

    And Sandra Tsing Loh. I liked her back in my NPR-listening days. But recently she had that piece about infidelity in — where was it, the Times magazine? It was both good and horrible, I thought. So now I don’t trust my previous enjoyment of her. And her little things on Marketplace were awful, I remember.

  17. lane says:

    and they talked with their mouths full. so parts of it were all mushy, and gross like chewed fool.

  18. Adriana says:

    Lane just made me listen to this–oh god, Dave, so funny and right on. What timing, too–this week I was invited to be on a community radio show about food (Hot Grease on Heritage Radio Network: http://www.heritageradionetwork.com/programs/23-Hot-Grease). Nicole is about as far from Jackie Lyden as you can get. Hope I can overcome years of NPR conditioning and find a voice of my own, too. There will be no mention of prestigious east coast universities, no over-pronounced consonants, and no eating on air.

    Loved hearing the podcast, Dave. Hope you do it again!