Checking in with Howard Stern

Recently, as you know, a ding dong tried to blow up a jet plane on Christmas Day. That was on a Friday. On the morning of Sunday the 27th, our Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, was making the rounds of the national chat shows and was putting forth the notion that “the system worked.” At that time, I remember having to turn the tube off, instantly suspicious that all I was gonna get from Napolitano were whitewashes and glossovers, both specialties of hers. A few days later, Napolitano’s boss stepped up to declare that the system had not worked.

So why does this woman still have a job? No, Barack, I don’t think the buck stops with you. I don’t expect you to micromanage the damn country. In this case, that means the buck stops at the desk of Homeland Security. And the head of that department should be rolling around in a basket.

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I recently had a chance to listen to Howard. Howard Stern, that is. I hadn’t heard his show in years, not since he ditched “regular” radio for his satellite gig. And I was blown away. In a good way. Because it became apparent very quickly that Howard and his crew, freed from the censorship shackles of terrestrial radio, are now working in a realm where they can talk the way you and I talk. Exactly the way you and I talk. With all of its funk, juice and saucy vulgarity. This sounds like a simple thing. It is a simple thing. But the effect is somewhat profound. This means you have a radio show that embraces the modern reality that most people use occasional expletives (including women! Well, I’ll be!) and that, contrary to the standards of the status quo, a listener’s head will not, repeat, will not explode if he or she hears the words “fuck” or “asshole” on the radio. It means you finally have a radio experience that erases the perpetual Puritanical invisible wall that forces our media to always behave as though it’s sitting at the dinner table at Grandma’s house. And it’s good to have that “real” radio option. Finally. It feels as if we’ve somehow grown up and matured in our media culture, even if we’ve done so in this paradoxically ironic way that is both sophomoric and sophomoronic.

Say what you will about Howard’s antics and philosophy and politics and whatever (and make no mistake, the show, freed from FCC constraints, is raunchier than it’s ever been). But I couldn’t deny that listening to it felt somehow liberating. It even seemed important, in its wild, vulgarian way. Indeed, after listening to Stern, “straight” radio and TV, by contrast, seemed a bit impotent, lame and hokey. As lame as the word “bullpuckey.” And Howard’s show is sure as hell one of the best antidotes available to counter the toxic levels of “happy chat” news and talk that radio and television currently spew forth by the Dumpster load.