Thursday, March 30, 2006

Who listens to the radio?

I don't listen to the radio much, and never to music radio any more. When I think of the hours I spent as a teenager with the transistor glued to my ear, or up full blast while doing maths homework, and once, memorably, waking me out of a sound sleep with the uncanny and at that point wholly unfamiliar opening bars of 'Parsely, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme', it amazes me that these days I can't tolerate listening to any music I didn't choose myself. For a bad pianist, worse guitarist and erstwhile second soprano, this is a bad and inexplicable thing.

On the rare occasions when I do listen to the radio, it's while doing one of three things: ironing, sewing or driving. I need to be doing something with my hands but not doing anything involving language. This means I don't hear much good radio at all, but I hit the jackpot today when in two 20-minute drives, one out and one home, I heard not one but three wonderful things in the car:

-- An interview about (yet more) new researches into the identity of Jack the Ripper, involving a new kind of DNA test which it's intended will be carried out on the letters police believed at the time were sent by the real murderer -- particularly the back of the stamps.

-- Ray Charles and Cleo Laine singing 'Bess, You Is My Woman Now' from Porgy and Bess, which had to be heard to be believed.

-- A story about the worldly and heroic Egon Kisch, the man the Lyons government tried to get rid of in 1934 when he came to Australia to spread the bad news about the rise of fascism in Europe -- anti-fascism at that point being equated with communism, and both regarded as deeply suspicious or worse. Kisch was stopped (momentarily) in Melbourne when the government refused to let him disembark from the ship on which he'd arrived. Undeterred, he jumped onto the wharf and broke his leg in several places, thus very effectively publicising his cause:

"Nonetheless, in Australia, Kisch managed to publicise the danger of fascism to an extent beyond anyone's wildest dreams. To 20,000 people on the Sydney Domain, he announced: "My English is broken, my leg is broken but my heart is not broken when I speak to you, the anti-fascist people of Australia." His tour concluded with a candle-lit procession through Melbourne, led by an Aboriginal band playing The Red Flag on gum leaves."

Read more of this piece here.


Jennifer said...

I never listen to the radio any more. I sometimes wish that I drove to work (rather than catch public transport), just so I could listen to the ABC in the morning.

I used to wake up to it, but now my children wake me up, so I have no need of an alarm clock, and can't be bothered turning it on in the morning.

elsewhere said...

I listen to the radio all the time, specifically RN, usually in the context of doing something else, like cooking, cleaning, showering, driving, etc. I was always thus inclined, but the habit has really taken off, as RN is such cultural/ political/ social lifeline for us out here in the bush (people even joke about this publically).

Jennifer, you can always use a walkperson on public transport or if you're extra-keen, download and listen to podcasts of previous programs.