I have been driving quite a bit this week. Errands to run, friends to lunch with. I have the same attention span deficiency as most other people; I tend to channel surf through the spectrum of radio stations (just like I do with TV, when Good Eats or the Simpsons or the Amazing Race isn’t on). In the car, I don’t like to use the pre-sets on the radio. While that would be convenient, that would also be very limiting: you would only listen to the same six stations, which only broadcast three genres of music. It’s like watching TV with only the 4 major networks, before cable. And I get tired of hearing the broken record corporate hits pretty quickly. I like Dido’s “Thank you”, but “White Flag” is overplayed already. Besides, it’s time to expose myself to some country music or preaching.
So I usually keep a leaded finger on the “seek/next frequency button” of the radio. The diversity of stuff in radioland is pretty amazing. The college radio stations of Cal, Stanford and SJSU play eclectic bands, on shows hosted by refreshingly unpolished student DJs (One DJ, who was required to make a public service plug for ridesharing programs, wondered on air who in their right minds would sign up for carpool partners, since they might turn out to be freaks…)
96.1 FM is sort of like the KTSF of Bay Area radio. I’ve heard Mandarin, Vietnamese, Portuguese on at different times. Between 11 AM and noon on Thursdays there’s a Mandarin cooking show, which was where I found out jiu-cheng (nine storeys?) was Mandarin for basil. You just never know where you’ll learn something useful.
There are several major Spanish stations of course, of which I prefer 105.7 FM right now. KSOL has two adjacent frequencies: 98.9 FM and then again on 99.1 FM! I’ll usually pause to hear the commercials on Spanish stations, to test myself on how well I understand. Turns out that comprehension depends on the speed of the speaker, not so much the subject matter. Of course, you can tell when it’s an automobile or cellular service ad when there’s the Spanish voice-over equivalent of ‘fine print’.
Anywhere on random radio, you’ll catch the ending snippet of a very cool song, but alas, the DJ doesn’t tell you what it’s called or whom it’s performed by. Only on those rare occasions, dare I confess, is when I wish I had a cell phone. Then I might be able to call my own cell phone to record the song (from my car speakers!) to my voicemail. Then I could go to the record store, and play the voicemail to the clerk “I want to buy the album with this song, but I don’t know what it’s called or who’s it by…’ It might by simpler to just keep a mini-cassette recorder in the car! Or I’m sure there’s some other whiz-bang technology that would address this scenario; it’s just that I’m too unplugged to know it. I have no cell phone. Don’t get me started . . .
Ah, cell phones. My cousin is a VP of “messaging”. His firm was in the paper this week, promoting a new product/service, where you could have an outgoing video greeting, instead of a mere soundbite asking people to leave you a message. “Hi, you’ve reached Hot Toes and Chinese Chase. Sorry I missed your call. Leave a message. Hai yah!” Hot Toes flicks his numchuck across the screen. (I guess it’s in anticipation of the new generation of video/camera phones.)
Many rungs earlier on the corporate ladder, he was the brand manager for a well-established make of toilet paper. I’m not convinced that video greetings on cell phones are an added value to human lives. Certainly less so than toilet paper.