Monday 11 December 2017

The Week in Radio

Programme Title Radio Station, Day

The most important thing I learned this week is this. Ryan Tubridy is (by his own admission) "obsessed" with haunted dolls.

And why is Ryan Tubridy obsessed with haunted dolls (you're probably not wondering)? I don't know. And neither does he...or so he claims.

"I don't know why," was how he succinctly put it, on Friday's show. Which, y'know, is the kind of statement I'd normally be willing to accept at face value.

But then he darkly muttered something about "porcelain heads" and "matted hair" and I started to narrow my eyes and wonder if he mightn't know rather more than he's prepared to publicly admit.

I mean, how often does he seem disengaged and faraway and a bit haunted looking himself on Friday nights as another Late Late unravels before him (and us)?

"Very often!" is (of course) the correct answer. Is it not then possible that, in such moments, what he's being distracted by are obsessive thoughts of haunted dolls? Or, even, petrifying visions of haunted dolls?

Just imagine it. Rows and rows of "porcelain heads". Their dead eyes gazing on with looks of blank malevolence while Chris De Burgh murders Lady in Red on the snazzy new sofa. You'd want to be made of steel and stone not to be at least partly addled under those conditions. I'd be on the floor weeping and soiling myself. Even without the dolls.

Joining Tubridy on Friday to discuss his obsession - and to possibly offer him some sort of cathartic release - was Jayne Harris, lead-investigator with the Haunted Dolls Paranormal Research Team (which is, apparently, an actual thing).

"What in your experience," Tubs asked her, "is the most common reason for a doll to be possessed?" "Proximity to Chris de Burgh," she didn't (alas) actually answer, settling instead for some vague comments about souls "not wanting to pass over into the afterlife" and all that wishy-washy jazz.

There was some good/bad lurid stuff to come though, with Harris describing a bald and "hand-made puppeteer doll" with "an evil grimace to the face" that she'd recently been forced to lock in a "blessed" cabinet (as you do).

The little fella's worst transgression? Knocking over a tin of paint using nasty mind-beams. Talk about a disappointing lack of demonic ambition.

As for Tubridy, he sounded mildly rattled. But, hell, if he can survive impromptu acoustic renditions of Lady in Red then he's already faced (and overcome) true horror.


Speaking of things that torment us, Saturday's Futureproof set out to explain "the science behind earworms" (or, infectiously catchy tunes).

Elizabeth Margulis (author of On Repeat: How Music Plays the Mind) told host Jonathan McCrea that the key to earwormy catchiness was just the right balance of predictability and surprise, plus a whole lot of repetition.

Repetition, Margulis suggested, can even make natural speech sound memorably musical. It can make spoken words sound like they're being sung. I'd have found all of this more fascinating if I'd actually been able to hear the effect in the sample audio Margulis played. Margulis could hear it. McCrea could hear it. Not me.

It all brought back painful memories of being similarly unable to properly 'enjoy' the sensory experience of Magic Eye pictures in the 1990s. I saw nothing but dots. These failures haunt me. Boo.

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