Friday, November 13, 2009

Bless You, Cathy Haag!

I am pleased to announce to the night-shifters, sleepless, early risers and the like that CBC has at long last trashed its long-irritating overnight programming, something which I had badgered them about for years (although I am not delusional enough to think they were paying me much attention). For those readers so fortunate as to spend the time between midnight and 5 am in the tender arms of Morpheus, you will have the added good fortune to have had, I presume, minimal if any knowledge of the indigestible smorgasbord our national broadcaster had been dishing out nightly.

The "feast" so to speak, began not too badly, in fact, with an hour long and often quite entertainingly newsy show from Radio Netherland. Thereafter, came Radio Sweden for a half hour, often featuring some deservedly unknown Swedish pop music. Then a taste of the BBC, a program called Outlook which now is sensibly at a better time on the new CBC Overnight. Thereafter half hour blurts followed one after another. For a while the absolutely dreadful Russian show, often an apologia for Putin's latest violations, would ensue; a ho-hum Czech or Romanian newscast that would probably not even interest its own nationals, and then in the darkest hour before dawn, we would be set up by a reasonable 30 minute piece from Germany followed by what was the crown jewel of dreadfullness that CBC Overnight would spring on the early-risers or utter insomniacs, Radio Polonia.

Canadians may have some sympathy to the mentality of Poland which like ourselves resides next to famous or, if you prefer infamous giant world powers. Always living in that shadow can lead to a collective inferiority complex and, springing from that motivation no doubt, Radio Polonia devoted almost every show to hyperbolic claims for the superiority of all things Polish - some backwater that produced the indisputably best pigfoot pies in the world or the "little known fact" (as Cheers's Cliffie used to say) that Einstein's theory of relativity had already been articulated though never written down by a late 19th century dockworker from Gdansk. It was truly the most dreadful programming I have heard on CBC or anywhere else.

Not one to leave such transgressions alone, some time ago I Googled up CBC Overnight and encountered the veritable last straw pushing me to abandon my characteristic reserve and register objections: There for all to see -- and none to readily dispute -- was the preposterous claim "CBC RADIO OVERNIGHT has become a huge success among listeners."

Huh? By what measure? And, more importantly, in comparison to what alternatives that the sleepless have such as listening to the wavering signal from a Los Angeles sports call-in show or a Wichita evangelist?

Now, I should say that writing and bitching to the CBC about anything - I do mean anything - evokes almost as surely as summer follows spring a boiler-plate response along these lines: "Dear Mr. Dale - Thank you for your interest in (name of program). We are always glad to hear from our listeners. We appreciate your concern about (slight paraphrasing of whatever I complained of). However, you should know that we get just as many listeners who like (whatever the hell I took umbrage at)... This happens so often that I now include in my initial crank letters a preemptive warning that I am not interested in hearing the standard insubstantial and un-substantiatable drivel about all the people who have spontaneously written countervailing feedback.

And so I wrote, suggesting, just for the fun of it, that not only was the programming bad, period, but that it was - O the horror of it! - Eurocentric. Where, I asked, were the rest of the continents, the Asian, the African the South American, that is, those who are not white?

The reply I received was, of course, along the aforementioned predictable vein, but went on to lament the extraordinary difficulty of getting such programming -- this, in an era when a few taps of the mouse and you can listen to radio stations from every nook and cranny of creation. The show host, Cathy Haag, then gave me a quick lesson in global economics, explaining that "Only rich nations can produce and broadcast external programs in English." A rather odd claim I thought for two reasons:

a) many of those less well off nations have English as a major second if not primary language (e.g. India, Nigeria, South Africa)

b) that some of the European Nations that were part of the current CBC Overnight stable are hardly "rich", by any standards: e.g. Romania!

Then, finding her groove, no doubt, Ms. Haag, ended her letter by telling me, and I quote, "If you do not enjoy Overnight, you do not have to listen to it." Oh the rapier repartee well honed from years of telling us who she is and that we're listening to CBC Overnight a dozen times a night! Of course I really was not confused about my basic freedom to shut her mixed but primarily trashy program off. But as I advised Ms. Haag in reply, alas, I have no such choice of whether my tax dollars subsidize such crap.

I think we had a few more vituperative little exchanges including her kindly providing me with a more senior locus to direct my nasties to. Then, our newfound relationship in tatters, life returned to normal, her telling us who she is over and over nightly, me suffering from frequent insomnia and the jingoistic early morning proclamations of Polish cultural hegemony.

But then several weeks ago, with the sudden joyous relief that remission of toothache can bring, Radio Polonia and the rest of the aural dog-breakfast vanished without even a magical "poof". Although they have yet to change the information on their website, the CBC Overnight show now begins with a redux of As It Happens between 12 and 1; some - omigod! - US programming from their National Public Radio, twixt 1 and 2; two hours of an excellent show from Radio Canada International, The Link, which is for "connecting new immigrants to Canada and Canada to the World"; and finally in the immediate pre-dawn two fine BBC shows, Outlook (which used to come on at 2:30 a.m.) and The Strand, a global trot around intriguing vanguard cultural art happenings.

Always one to show appreciation, your humble Grouse wrote again to Miss Haag, who still announces program transitions and herself throughout the night, and complemented her and her colleagues for having, midst this literal darkness, at last seen the light. Nothing back so far, but I am sure she's having to do a lot of thank you cards up for the all the night-crawlers who, like me, are singing "Hallelujah!"


Anonymous said...

So simple, radio polonia administration is parasite jews thats all, the same as shitty zionists from so called "public radio" CBC.

N. Grouse Dale said...

One might ask - since I am able to moderate and delete idiotic comments - do I allow this one? Well, while I like to get rid of pure spam, I feel it is instructive to acknowledge the existence of twisted little minds who, inevitably hide behind anonymity when they express themselves online. Here we have a rather nice specimen of some faceless insect of the kind that becomes mobilized when more formidable anti-Semites emerge. "Shitty Zionists"! - oh the expressive talent that this anonymity wields!

Ziggy Bahr said...

Now what can we do about the presenter? We had Cathy Haag. Then she disappeared for almost a year, to be replaced by the grating voice of Jeff Goodes. In January, Mother Corp returned Cathy to the role of presenter. Thank you, i thought. Then came February and Jeff is back..:((((