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Black Lamb


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Radios and pedestrians

May 1st, 2007


Dear Millie,

My husband and I recently relocated to a small town to spend our retirement years in peace and quiet. We made sure before making the move that we could get good radio reception for classical and jazz stations, which, along with National Pubic Radio, are broadcast from a big city not too far distant. The problem, though, is the DJs, who are rank amateurs. What can we do? Their annoying voices and stammering ruin our radio listening for us.


Dear Miffed,

First of all, I guess I’d have to say that you’re lucky to find a place in America with access to both a classical and a jazz station. Plenty of huge cities in this country no longer have either.

As for the quality of what they call “on-air hosts,” we’re living in hard times.

Used to be that there were requirements for being a broadcaster: a pleasant, mellow speaking voice and the ability to speak without clicking your lips or cluttering your pronouncements with a constant stream of “ums” and “uhs” and “ahs.” Speaking in complete sentences was once de rigeuer, too.

No longer. Even the big national networks showcase people like Ira Glass, who despite his brilliance as a producer and writer, natters away in a nasal, breathless voice, swallowing his words and talking way too fast. And the oddball vocalizings of the BBC’s news annnouncers are the stuff of parody. As for the local stations, especially the jazz and classical ones, it’s definitely Amateur Hour — most of the DJs are not paid, and I guess the stations can’t afford to be picky with volunteer help. Drives me up the wall. The only thing you can do is try to ignore the chatter and focus on the music, but it’s not easy when the announcer mispronounces Khachaturian (accent on the last syllable) or calls Mr. Armstrong Looey, rather than the correct Louis. Downright distracting. Here’s hoping the recent success of NPR’s radio programs brings back the idea of announcers’ getting some training before they’re turned loose on a defenseless public.


Dear Millicent,

Because of my work, I spend a good deal of time driving in the city and in the suburbs, and I am constantly amazed by pedestrians who assume they own the streets, even when they’re jaywalking. Does the American pedestrian in fact rule?

Taxi Man

Dear Taxi,

The laws on pedestrians in the street differ from state to state. I believe pedestrians do practically rule in California, but even in places where jaywalkers are ticketed, it’s never a good idea to run over one of them. My feeling, whether driving or walking, is forget the law and stay out of each other’s way.

I remember being very amused when a friend of mine in San Francisco, who was a very good driver, was taking me on a summer sight-seeing tour from the front seat of his Chevy. This was in the Haight Ashbury in the late Sixties, when the hippie thing was at its wretched zenith. As we drove along Haight, our windows down to absorb the contact high of the street scene, a scraggly doper started to jaywalk right in front of us. My friend drove right up to the freak before stopping just short of him. Then he blasted his horn. The flower child jumped out of the way and yelled, “The streets are for people, man!”

“No they aren’t, man,” my friend replied. “The streets are for cars. The sidewalks are for people.”

Good thing to keep in mind, whether walking or driving.


Send your query to Millicent Marshall care of Black Lamb. Letters may be edited for length. Replies not guaranteed confidential. •

Posted by: The Editors
Category: Ask Millie, Marshall | Link to this Entry


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