The Transom Review

Volume 1/Issue 13

Christopher Lydon

December 1st, 2001 | (Edited by Sydney Lewis)
Christopher Lydon
Christopher Lydon

 

  • Download this document in PDFIntro From Jay Allison
    September 21, 2001

    It may seem an odd time to focus on craft, but craft is often what gets you through. The ability to do the job well is always important, and especially in a crisis. Further, our chosen work — radio — is essential in any modern crisis. Much depends on our skill, more than we sometimes know. Certainly radio is important as a lifeline, a communication link, but also… for conversation, for connection.

    If you live within earshot of Boston — or anywhere else “The Connection” aired under Christopher Lydon’s hostship — you know he is one of the finest practitioners of the radio talk show craft, ever.

    There were days listening to that program where the primary response was a feeling of gratitude. From the first drum beat through the energetic prose of Chris’s introduction, sweeping on through conversational hours you never imagined in advance. If there was ever a public radio program that made you feel like standing up and giving money, Chris’s Connection was it.

    When I read his Transom Manifesto in email just now, it made me realize how much I miss him on the air. Many of us urge the alignment of righteous forces to put him back there as soon as possible. In the
    meantime, we welcome him here.

    If you want to consider the history of Chris’s departure from WBUR, etc., other sites have covered that, like bulletin boards at WBUR or at Chris’s own site. (By the way, the latter includes a archived series of webcasts and a commercial radio stint in Boston. And, WBUR keeps past programs at The Connection Archive; search prior to February 15, 2001) Here, we’d like to focus on what Chris can tell us about the nature of this line of work, the power and usefulness of the medium of radio and the genre of the talk show.

    Radio can be used to spew venom and propaganda or encourage violence and breed mindless mobs, even nationalistic ones, which will not be a trivial fact in the coming weeks and months. Public radio call-in shows have a responsibility to counter that — both nationally and locally — to act as steam vents and barometers, classrooms and town meetings. Here’s what I imagine: Visitors to Transom.org from radio stations everywhere come seek better skills to steer through their jobs in these days, and Chris Lydon, along with Mary McGrath and others of his staff, will help.

    America’s action will be a function of its political will. Radio, and the radio talk show, have an undeniable link to that will. We are among the moderators of the dialogue. We can frame the debate. We can write the captions to the pictures.

    It is a mistake to think that public radio is some backwater in these times. At our local stations, we know that our audience has increased enormously. There is a yearning for sensible, trustworthy, inspiring words. That’s us — armed with the purpose of public service, an ear for stories and hymns and poems, and the careful practice of craft.

    Christopher Lydon’s Manifesto

    Christopher Lydon
    September 21, 2001

    Aren’t we all struck in post-Apocalyptic America by the gaps between official speak (“We’re at war…”) and the media discourse (“America Attacked.. New York responds..”) and the infinitely various sound of people’s conversations?

    Speak for your own family kitchen table, your own phone calls, your own beauty shop, your classroom, your street corner, your church parking lot, your answers to your own kids’ questions. It seems commonplace to observe that in my own pretty commonplace experience, including one funeral for a software engineer (and French horn player) on Flight 11, it’s the ordinary off-line encounters that pulse with the fathomless depths of this experience. The plain talk is unembarrassed by pain, sorrow, infinite sadness. It assumes a fundamental connectedness here in a diabolical crime story that is also a political crisis at the edge of a financial/industrial crisis enfolded in a spiritual crisis, inseparable from the crisis of the crass jiggle-show culture that our satellites rain down on the world. Yet the common talk I’ve heard is not resigned, much less despairing. It doesn’t sound vengeful either. The dread, such as it is, for the end of the American Century arises not from their attack but from the question of our collective response. And nobody’s giving up.

    I’m a talk-show host feeling distraught to be off the air in this moment. I’m reading The New York Times for hours every day, listening to the media discourse, and straining to hear also the American conversation.

    Of course I’d bet on that conversation, not the media discourse, to save us. It’s what we’d want to listen to, in any event.

    I’d bet on Talk Radio (if it were also Listen Radio) to close the gap here. Yet let’s face it: most of what’s called talk radio is rant radio. It’s essentially a comedy format that is now and ever the most blatant caricature of American prurience, bullying, knuckle-dragging anti-intellectualism and name-calling.

    The commercial “talk” is mostly locker-room gab of unfunny old men too feeble to snap a real towel. The public-radio alternative has been vastly better. Sober and safe, it’s had brilliant moments–like
    John Burnett’s report on NPR yesterday morning on the multi-national staff of the late Windows on the World restaurant. And still public radio has seemed to me far short of what we are going to need to recover citizen voices in a bomb-shattered public square. Most days and nights, and notably when political figures are onstage, public radio has been sounding like CNN without pictures: just the facts, ma’am, and more facts, and the same hand-me-around security veterans and terrorism experts (whatever the titles are worth) with much the same propaganda barrage from the war room.

    The cancellation of product commercials and underwriting credits in the first day or two after the Trade Center went down was a relief. Then you began to realize that it was all one commercial: “Brought to you by: World War Three!” The phrase has always meant nuclear Armageddon. The subliminal extra in the new context is: it’s all-out war with the Third World.

    For this Transom forum I would plead with all comers to pursue the question: what might radio do to give coherence and weight to an open, popular reflection on ourselves and our country in what is no longer an abstraction–an Age of Terrorism that could go on for the rest of our lives.

    The prejudice coming out of my own experience is that talk radio is a well-nigh perfect medium for an inquiry that’s got to be broad and deep, substantive and as unpredictably emotional as Dan Rather’s tears, inexpensive and reasonably independent, accessibly democratic, non-commercial, open to digression and dissent, open to thousands of voices, credentialed and not.

    The Web can be a lot of those things and more, but it’s damnably diffuse at a time like this, and lacking in continuity. Worse, it’s completely without the many-layered magic, the grit, variety, dynamic range, accent and authenticity of Studs Terkel’s beloved “vox humana.” A large part of what we need right now is to hear more of that fabulous instrument.

    Paraphrasing Studs in his Transom interview with Sydney Lewis in June, we need to hear women in the laundromat, and the little old tramp, and something like the conversation Studs grew up hearing in the lobby of his parents’ Wells Grand Hotel. We need to hear the working-class boy who wants to be an intellectual and says, “Stately minds. We need stately minds.” And we know they are out there.

    I wasn’t always a radio nut, incidentally. I fell into radio from political reporting from The New York Times‘ Washington bureau in the Seventies, and public-television with the Ten O’Clock News in with WGBH, Boston through the Eighties. Radio for a lot of us who back into it is supposed to be “the twilight of a mediocre career,” as Mark Shields says. But radio for me felt more like the start of my adult education, as well as the best work I’d ever done, with an incomparably smart, aggressive colleague Mary McGrath, in a medium that could be all intensity, no clutter. I was out from under the institutional voice of The New York Times, and free of the visuals on TV news that are mostly distraction even now. (Television anchors discover at some point: your audience is not really listening to what you’re saying. No, on a normal night, viewers are looking at your hair! They’re trying to decide if it’s a wig, or whether you need a trim or a dye job. It’s not a pretty thought, but consider for a moment how much you know about Barbara Walters’ hair.(Peter Jennings’, too.)

    On the radio, of course I was only relearning what I’d known all along. Tony Schwartz, the advertising genius who has been recording the street sounds of his Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood in Manhattan for
    50 years, used to show me 60-second TV spots he made for political candidates in the 1970s. In a Schwartz ad, the video might show only the face of an industrial clock with its second-hand sweeping the full circle: nothing to watch, in short, while the voice-over extolled Bob Abrams, as I recall, for Attorney General. The trick, Tony Schwartz explained, was to neutralize the eye to get to the ear–that is, to land the audio message under the video radar, precisely because the ear, not the eye, was the route to both heart and mind.

    And in practice, it turned out, radio worked exactly that way.

    For most of seven years from WBUR, Boston, we did a different sort of public-radio talk program, “The Connection,” which we also called “Rush Limbaugh for Grown-Ups.” We touched all the familiar bases of politics, books, work, and music. But we defined ourselves by our unfamiliar subjects and approaches. We used to say: we’re the program where Robert Pinsky, later the Poet Laureate, read his new translation of Dante for an hour, and where the pianist Robert Levin was buried in calls on Unfinished Mozart, which he’d thought only he cared about. We asked listeners to write short stories and verse, and to describe their experience of the sublime. With the help of NPR, the BBC and the New York Times, we covered the Kosovo war relentlessly.

    Radio meets the Henry David Thoreau test: it’s a job that doesn’t require a new set of clothes. Equally for callers: radio doesn’t require you to look your best or feel tip-top either, but just to think and speak with a certain authenticity. Focus helps. Humor, excitement, some learning all help. The breathtaking news to me, I confess, was the many multitudes of individuals who handled it all brilliantly. Like the man who called into our write-the-coming-headlines game on a New Year’s Eve, and referred to the mumbling malaprop Mayor of Boston. He said: “Chris, here’s your headline: Surgeons Liberate Small Gerbil from Tom Menino’s Tongue.” Star callers came often to outshine star guests. Our favorite was
    “Amber in Boston,” a Barbadian immigrant with a high-school education who stalked the big game on our show, and out-talked the best of them: Camille Paglia, Harold Bloom and Gore Vidal. It was Amber who put her finger on what was different about our program. Her line was:

    “the great unwashed hear a lot of the same stiffs on your program that we hear on all the other programs. The premise of the other shows, she said, was that we’re so lucky to hear their guests; the premise of your shows is that those talking heads are so lucky to meet us!”

    We want precisely what Ralph Waldo Emerson was looking for when he founded his magazine, The Dial, in 1840. It should be non-conformist, “a little bad,” Emerson said, anticipating Black English. He told his editor, Margaret Fuller, that “we might court some of the good fanatics,” but all in all he said The Dial should speak as “one cheerful rational voice amidst the din of mourners and polemics.” Emerson’s “mourners and polemics” are more than ever dominant among the bullies, sycophants and profiteers in the American media of the 21st Century. But Emerson would challenge us to make the vital space our own.

    I nominate radio as the device that can diversify and extend and sustain and weave the current of our best private questions and insights into a public conversation. It might actually redeem what feels like a long engagement of our superpower democracy with reaction and fear.

    Could we talk under the Transom here for the next month or so about exactly how to make it work?

    A Conversation With Christopher Lydon

    Dope Slap
    Jackson Braider – September 21, 2001

    I confess there were moments when I wanted to give you dope-slaps. For instance, there you’d be, with a poet, then you’d start reading the poet’s own lines to him/her. And yet, I must also confess that I listened often, and even called in, more than once. I wanted to strangle you — metaphorically, of course — for your fathomless pursuit of Monicagate, for example.

    But you present a different take on talk radio — at least you seem to. Any particular theory underlying your approach? Is the caller always right? Do you feel the host serves as instigator, cajoler, collaborateur?

    Did NPR go to war?
    Stef – September 22, 2001

    Has NPR put itself on a wartime footing? Who gets the time to opine into NPR microphones and what kind of perceptions do they tend to have?

    I am wondering if the reality is that the kind of people who are available to NPR as commentators at the ready, are basically people at the major American university-based think tanks and institutes, and if succeeding at one of these institutes somehow filtered out people who might bring a more subtle perspective to bear on our incipient war.

    Crafting A Response Through Sound
    Michael Joly – September 22, 2001

    Jay Allison’s call to focus on craft struck a chord with me.

    After I turned off the TV early in the afternoon on Sept. 11, I went outside “to do something”. It seems the urge to do something was, and is, a response shared by many.

    What I do is make flutes from reeds, “Japanese knot weed” and record with them. Because these reeds are so easy to work with, a flute can be fashioned in a very short period of time – less than an hour – to provide me with a powerfully effective emotional processing device.

    When words fail me, crafting and playing a reed flute focuses all my senses on wordlessly “making sense” and moves me through stages of emotion from shock, to disbelief, to anger, to fear, to vengeance, to acceptance and finally to Hope.

    Holding the reed in my hands and scraping off the outer bark with a pen knife dispels disbelief because I see that I too am holding a knife and attacking a body, the body of the reed. My intent constructive, not destructive, but a knife in my hand nevertheless forces acknowledgment and believe. These terrible acts of violence against human bodies DID occur.

    Belief becomes anger as I ram a threaded steel rod down the inside of the reed to remove the nodes separating one section from the next. Steel rods, essential building reinforcement materials, are now lying in heaps on the ground in lower Manhattan and that makes me fear for the future safety of those I love.

    A blow hole is cut into the hollow reed. For the first time my gathered emotions are expelled with breath to produce sound. I taste the raw woodyness of the reed and my sighs of sorrow turn vengeful when I blow the flute’s lowest note, a soft A below middle C then forcefully overblow into the octave above and then the octave above that. Three notes, all A, rising, a fist of vengeful sound blowing down the walls of terrorism.

    Catching my breath, inhaling life again, brings acceptance and the energy to continue. To continue making the rest of flute, to live, to do what I do – to put holes in reeds to modulate breath sound around
    wordless ruminations.

    The finger holes are located and cut quickly to capture the energy and emotions of the moment. Only now do I have access to Hope through modal improvisation.

    This September 11 flute, made so soon after the event, is for me doorway to a room of emotional rumination that I’ll revisit again and again as I continue to craft a response through sound.

    Sound
    Jay Allison – September 22, 2001

    I’d like to hear that.

    Craft and the Connection
    Adam Gertsacov – September 22, 2001

    Chris, I really enjoyed your hosting of the connection for one main reason– the connections.

    For me, the zig zag off kilter way you managed to range around topics, to lead the guests in such a way that they seemed to be picking their own topic, was both infuriating and fascinating.

    My question is: Do you have any tips for keeping the conversation on the wire?

    Introducing Mary McGrath
    Chris Lydon – September 24, 2001

    I want to introduce Mary McGrath into this terrific thread immediately because I can never imagine constructing these conversations without her impatient curiosity and her tough insistence on “trading up” at every opportunity. That is: get a better guest, ask a deeper question, try another caller. As a producer/director Mary is invariably driving

    (a) to make a show different from any other (different from Imus, Terry Gross or “Talk of the Nation,” for example);

    (b) to make a radio hour an “event” in itself, in the style of John Hockenberry on TOTN–it can’t feel like just a reading from a book;

    (c) to force it open to listeners as a real conversation with the right callers–she is always asking: “what’s the question for callers here?”;

    (d) to incite callers that incite others, so that the conversation does zig-zag and seems to build geometrically; it’s never a straight line.

    (e) to build crescendos and diminuendos into the live hour that give some form to an organic mystery. The control-room observation was that 43 minutes into the hour was the magic moment for some sort of climax or revelation in the best shows. They do have a shape, but it takes a lot of “production” to find it.

    In the first 48 hours of Transom comments so far, there seem to be two big headings: 1. WHAT we desperately want to talk about and 2. HOW we can use the radio uniquely to talk about them. As to the WHAT, I’d aim for the gaps between the conversations we’re having at home and the “media discourse.” The easiest example is the media stampede to pronounce President George W. Bush our Churchill. Don Imus, who’s given him the nitwit treatment before, intoned last Friday that he sees now in our almost accidental chief the stuff of Lincoln and FDR. Seriously, folks, could we start a list of the points where “the line” has got to be decoded and confronted? Before we rush to war in and over the trackless wastes of Afghanistan, for example, I dream of a cautionary conversation on the air with the author of “Kim” and “The Man Who Would Be King,” Rudyard Kipling. Correspondents: please name the Big Questions we need to talk about.

    As to the HOW question, I’d like to hear people’s beefs and biases about the best balance of guests and callers in talk shows that work. We like to say that our best shows are caller driven, but in fact we always avoided open-phone shows. We built our show around substantive guests, yet we’d swear that there’s no such thing as an expert. So then, let’s have another list, please, of Ideal Guests we’re dying to hear in these darkly fascinating days.

    Historical Context Needed
    Amy Mack – September 24, 2001

    What isn’t being adequately addressed in any of the media reports is the history and ideology of Islam as context, particularly with regard to Islam’s relationship to, and conflict with, Christianity and Judaism. How do the tenets of Islam as a religion influence the thinking and actions of Muslims?

    Ghee With Cumin
    Michael Joly – September 24, 2001

    I’m an ambient sound supporter. Not just the itty bitty actualities we get daily on NPR but whole big gobs of living-in-it ambient sound.

    On “Weekend Edition” the other day there was some sound from the Yankee Stadium memorial service. I got kinda pissed off that the Islamic chanting bit wasn’t longer. I want to experience long, uninterrupted ambient sound that perfumes my room as much as goat cooked in ghee with cumin.

    I sure would like to hear smart, passionate people talking over appropriate ambient sound spaces for the length of a show or topic.

    Producer’s Eye View
    Mary McGrath – September 24, 2001

    I’ve been thinking a lot about the stories we’d be pursuing right now, the most interesting angles, and the guests. When I ask myself what it is we do better than others, I’d have to say it’s subtle, but it’s distinctive.

    It starts with a host who’s smart, curious, and engaged; who’s among the great talkers himself. And then there’s an amazing staff of energetic people a lot smarter than I am who love their jobs. During a big news story like this one we think very hard about each show and I watch the public radio rundown to make sure we’re not duplicating anybody else’s efforts. We’re very competitive. We wouldn’t be doing shows about how patriotic America is, or who’s feeling guilty about moving on. There’s no real controversy there. There’s not an edgy question to pose to the audience. There’s nothing really to learn. I want to learn more about the different factions of Islam. I want to know more about the intelligence void in America. I’d want to revisit America’s role in creating Osama bin Laden. I’d want to hear from Russian generals who fought in Afghanistan and today I’d want to talk about Bob Woodward’s story in yesterday’s Washington Post which says no connection has been made between several al-Qaeda groups that have operated in the US for several years and any of the 19 hijackers responsible for the September 11 attacks.

    We start with a compelling subject and some good guests. We pre-interview guests exhaustively and we have high standards. We don’t worry needlessly about “balance,” we don’t hold Chris back from expressing his own opinions, and we let callers in on the fun of it. We screen them more than a little but only to find the right ones that move the show forward. It’s not just “vox pop.” It’s got to be constructive. And we don’t linger with callers; the pace of the show is very important. Mostly at the end of an hour you’d want to hear more.

    I Want to Hear More
    Jay Allison – September 24, 2001

    I want to hear more

    Good to have you here, Mary.

    That’s a great list of show topics. I’d like to hear them.

    The screening thing interests me. What are your criteria? It doesn’t strike me that you screen only to create controversy. Is intelligence a requirement? Can an ignorant or misinformed caller be a good choice to let through? Certainly commercial radio talk shows thrive on that type. Do your criteria change as the program goes on?

    I wonder what contributions to this conversation you’d want to get on the air and why.

    Must all good shows have controversy? I, as novice a call-in show host as there is in America, did a local hour on Friday about birds and the migrations in our area. It had been scheduled before the attack and we decided to go ahead, thinking it might have ameliorative effect precisely because it was unexpected, uncontroversial and focused our listeners for a moment on the larger ongoing world, let them look at the sky in a different way.

    The Best Shows
    Adam Gertsacov – September 24, 2001

    The best shows raise questions, not answers

    At this juncture with all of the media ablaze with news about Osama Bin Laden, a breath of fresh air about other important issues would be well appreciated. How about a show talking about the tenuous line between tragedy and comedy?

    Push Those Questions, Jay Allison
    Chris Lydon – September 25, 2001

    Great questions there, Jay.

    Mary doesn’t want to give away all the secrets of the special sauce, but you might press her on, for example, the picking of callers. I wasn’t in on it, but she seemed to summon great voices from the vasty deep, just when you needed them. “Michael in Watertown” and “Joel in Brewster” and people like that.

    Controversy is an important issue. Talk shows are supposed to thrive on it, but you notice that typically (Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham, Jay Severin et ilk) it’s a one-way rant-a-thon that doesn’t like to admit there’s another side. I want to know what Mary says.

    The bird-watching change-of-pace can sound like self-parody, but it’s important; and with your Vernon Laux it’s bound to be interesting. The late great Louis Lyons (“Well, here’s the news..”) of WGBH in
    Boston used to begin every broadcast with a note on the weather or the season (birds, crops, storm histories) just to set the context that enveloped all his listeners. Allusive digressions into nature and the arts have a particular value right now. The New York Times made it an important story on Saturday and later that Kurt Masur leapt into a performance of Brahms’ German Requiem (“Blessed are those that mourn…”) with the NY Philharmonic at Lincoln Center last Thursday night, at roughly the moment President Bush was addressing Congress. I am listening to that Requiem in my kitchen over and over these days, and feeling it as never before. Yes, you could do a talk program about it.

    Intelligence is a Requirement for Callers
    Mary McGrath – September 25, 2001

    Jay, certainly, not all of our shows were controversial. Many were like adult education classes. We did a nine-week summer course on philosophy, a five part series on the senses, and an annual design-your-own-film festival show. We had haiku contests and a business plan contest. We did a magnetic poetry slam. We featured lots of non-controversial authors in Boston on book tours though we’d infuriate the publicists when we’d insist that they talk about a subject that interested us, rather than flog their new book. I used to say, “what’s the subject for which so and so would make the perfect guest?” When Jonathan Letham was touring for one of his novels we put him on with a movie critic and did a program about John Ford’s western, “The Searchers.” We’ll all remember Caroline who called in and said she’d seen the film 21 times.

    I’ll sound mean when I say that intelligence is a requirement for callers. Of course, we live among the great talk show callers in the world so we can be choosy. Often a show would be memorable more for the callers than the guests. We look for smart questions and comments, also for interesting personal experience and anecdotes. The idea is to continually move the program forward. If someone has been holding for 30 minutes wanting to react to something said very early in the hour, we’ll apologize to the caller rather than go backwards.

    A Bad Case of Missing Lydon
    Bill McKibben – Septmber 25, 2001

    What a pleasure to hear Chris, if only in print. NPR has been doing a good job–especially the broadcasts from Krasny, and from WNYC–but the day-after-day reporting-via-talk-show that was the connection specialty in big news events is sorely missed. I’d be interested in hearing Chris talk about how to get a story to build day after day, instead of turning into rehashing. And what are the particular challenges when there are not two sides (as opposed to, say, last year’s election crisis). Perhaps he can make reference to the way he kept up, month after month, on the story behind the economic disintegration of Russia. In any event, Chris we miss you now more than ever.

    Steering The Discussion
    Daithi – September 26, 2001

    Christopher Lydon and Mary McGrath have kindly taken the initiative in talking about the art of radio. I use the word “art” on purpose, because I truly believe that it is of paramount importance that a line be drawn between going through the motions and actually producing a show that is a self-contained work of art. Rolling news, for example, is a service, but a good talk show, is a complete work and should be studied as such.

    Just because it should be studied, however, doesn’t mean that good radio deserves whimsical and po-faced essays to be written as a response. For example, one previous author referred to the sound portraits used by NPR at weekends. The collage that follows the news bulletin has always been an essential part of my Sunday afternoon (time lag). The art here is in the method of communication – how the compiler conveys the events of the week in a short time, and how potent (or indeed im-potent!) the words of the original speakers are.

    I would like to see this conversation look at how radio and radio artists can respond to war. Do broadcasters have an obligation to support a war effort, or is it even unethical to cheerlead / stand behind the President without question?

    Steering and Flaming
    Chris Lydon – September 26, 2001

    On radio I would not allow [a caller to] lurch into rhetorical explosion; on radio everyone would hear abusive righteousness as an attack on the conversation itself. Rant makes lousy radio, including rant from callers. Mary McGrath is my authority on the point that it takes a heap of planning and construction to make a radio conversation deliver authenticity, and maybe Mary should comment on these recent posts. But here’s also to [the] hard questions about the courage and creativity required of broadcasters. I heard the Rush-meister this afternoon trying to fantasize himself into a frenzy about Peter Jennings’ loyalty to President Bush on September 11. The rage-jockeys who were trashing Bush three weeks ago are now presuming to police our salutes! The ordinary street conversations I hear are not fooled.

    The Nearest Jugular
    Chris Lydon – September 27, 2001

    These conversations are possible on the radio, maybe much better than on the Web. Middle East conversations are the hardest, but we’ve done them as best we could with many people I’m eager to talk with anew, including for example Bernard Lewis and Edward Said at different ends of the “Orientalism” argument about Islam and the West. Abortion pales by comparison with “Arabs and Israelis” as the subject on which people don’t want to hear what they don’t want to hear. But let’s agree it is time to listen afresh. Is there a classroom exercise in Talk Radio that gets head out of sand but doesn’t lunge reflexively for the nearest jugular? Jay Allison and Mary McGrath, help us out.

    Patience, Penetration and Gray Haired Guests
    Mary McGrath – September 27, 2001

    It’s easy to get impatient with the Arab/Israeli story. This isn’t talking about one more peace offering or a Rose Garden handshake. This requires a penetrating look at the US role historically in the Middle East. I would definitely do the story and lean on guests with some gray hair and perspective and without ranting callers. I’d expect to learn something and I hope others would too.

    The Conversational Dynamic
    Jay Allison – September 27, 2001

    Can’t you hear him saying that?
    Jay Allison and Mary McGrath, help us out.”
    Now I REALLY feel like I’m on the Chris Lydon show.

    The best conversations, on the air or anywhere, are not bipolar. There is give and take, and compromise and discovery.

    It’s diplomacy vs. war.

    I’m interested in the interplay here between the actual conversational dynamic amid the discussion of conversational dynamic, the insistence of content in the midst of form, the use of internet dialogue to discuss radio dialogue and the questions that arise about controlling either one.

    On the radio, you have the advantage of INVISIBLE control. Chris or Mary — or Rush or G. Gordon — can simply disconnect a caller when they’re done with him. The caller is a passenger and can be ejected
    from the vehicle any time, and he can’t get back in.

    On the web, anyone can hijack a conversation. Even destroy it. It’s more like real life.

    On the Internet, the host does not rule. He can try, by applying a little energy here, a little discouragement there. He can cajole, persuade, thrust and parry, know when to disappear and when to shout. If he has enemies, they can do the same. They have the same powers. Somehow, the community decides. A kind of conversational order can emerge through a mysterious community consensus. Leaders pop up for a moment and disappear. Shunning is a tool. But if enough people agree to have the conversation, it can keep going without falling into anarchic disarray or bipolar war.

    I fear the conversational dynamic in the culture right now. The President has framed the debate in binary terms internationally “are you with us or against us?” that can too easily be echoed on the streets, dividing patriot from patriot.

    Public radio has the chance to create a national, skeptical, nuanced, complicated, evolving conversation, and that’s a truly patriotic act.

    No Plugs
    Jackson Braider – September 27, 2001

    So, Chris and Mary, how do we translate the democracy of the web — the equality of all voices — into radio? One difference between talk radio and this kind of internet discourse is that the latter doesn’t happen in real time. You can’t interrupt — there’s no clock, no station break to set temporal boundaries. As Jay says, you as host and producer can’t pull the plug

    In the course of WBUR’s recent collaboration with Five Alive, one of the things that struck me about the BBC process is that callers could go on, unimpeded, at a goodly length. Of course it was dull from time to time, but it was a striking fact nonetheless. It felt, strangely, not unlike an internet discourse, where the participants could run their trains of thought to the end of the line.

    Who Are We Now?
    Suzanne Petrucci – September 28, 2001

    I have been was listening to Neil Conan on NPR. He has been letting callers and guests go on for much longer than I am used to. I have to say that in the case of Cesar Pelli, the architect, I was very thankful yesterday. On the other side he let a person go on longer than was useful it seemed but you could also sense that that person felt good (and astonished) about being allowed to say his full piece. I was impatient listening to this fellow but I felt gratified that he was treated with dignity. Don’t forget that we are also answering the unasked question “who are we?” and “who are we now?”

    Fora, Fauna, Flora
    Mary McGrath – September 28, 2001

    We never did a Middle East program where we DIDN’T get flak from both sides. Jay mentioned the nternet. I’m not sure anyone has figured out the best way to use the internet during a radio show. I was never satisfied with simply reading a provocative e-mail. It just kind of falls flat or worse, the e-mailer can’t respond or clarify. We’ve always had good fora (and fauna and flora too) on our website which served as a way of “continuing the conversation.” How else to use the internet live on radio?

    Ears, Eyes
    Jay Allison – September 28, 2001

    Drawing on my vast experience as a call-in show host, I’d mention the Photography-on-the-Air show we did with Nubar Alexanian at our local station. Callers could see his work on the web and call to talk about it. Nubar described the photos for the car crowd.

    R-e-s-p-e-c-t
    Jackson Braider – September 29. 2001

    The difference between a Lydon talk show — and I’m tipping my hat to both Chris and Mary in this — and a G. Gordon or Rush experience is the issue of respect. Once callers jumped through various unseen hoops, they could expect a certain measure of respect once they hit the air.

    I think this is also possible on the internet, but as Mary points out, there is a different clock between radio and here. It is also a different beast — writing as opposed to speaking, unreal time as opposed to real time.I wonder if we expect too much of talk radio. How do you balance “thoughtfulness” and *real* time? Is it possible to give that sense of immediacy on-line — the kind of sensation that only a clicking clock can offer?

    A-r-t
    Suzanne Petrucci – September 29, 2001

    I don’t know, correct me please, but as I remember talk radio (at least as it began on NPR during the Gulf War with Daniel Schorr on TOTN) [its mission] was to:

    -give us information ( up to the moment)
    -give us as good and varied analysis on the issues as was available
    -and, perhaps most importantly, be a constructive way for people to express their anxieties, fears and even homegrown wisdom. (Talk radio as valve on a pressure cooker).

    I believe that talk radio still serves those functions, especially at this moment.

    What Chris and Mary (at their best) gave us was something more refined. So maybe to do that, the input from callers had to be more controlled. But again so much has come from unusual places that being too controlled may work against the emerging of something wonderful and unexpected. I think a lot also depends on the host being open, on top of things (moment by moment awareness) as well as creative (or poetic), graceful and showing loving kindness ( insofar as possible).

    A Living Thing
    james Carmody – September 29 2001

    The thing I always liked about Chris’ show was that it was conversation as though your life depended on it. It wasn’t an ‘interview’ or a ‘discussion’. It is more than that – of course it is unpredictable, that’s the vitality of it – it becomes a living thing and develops a life of its own. I think a host like Chris has a driving curiosity and is passionately interested in the world and their place in it and takes nothing for granted as ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ or ‘true’ or ‘false’. Chris’ show was the only one I’ve ever found in which those characteristics ruled. NPR is left with the same dreary predictable stuff – the intellectual wheels can practically be heard grinding away. I suspect that there is a bureaucratic filtering process that somehow eliminates people like that – they’re like any artist – a little dangerous – not sure where they will go next. But that’s what kept me listening – and I suspect a lot of the others.

    A Lydonism
    Naomi Gurt Lind – October 1, 2001

    I have a favorite Lydonism, a quotation from the possessor of the dulcet vox himself:

    It was on a show about rock & roll, and someone called in with a highly unorthodox viewpoint, one with which it was patently obvious Mr. Lydon disagreed. He listened, took a deep breath, and said: “Everyone’s entitled to an opinion on The Connection.”

    As the news outlets get more and more inundated with officialspeak, with the unintended (?) consequence of tuning out the voice on the street, we need a news inlet, somewhere where all our voices matter.

    What, Where, Who?
    Jay Allison – October 9, 2001

    Mary? Chris?

    Here’s the thing: there are hundreds of public radio stations around the country with local news staffs, hosts, reporters, producers and local call-in shows. Some of those people are likely to be here at Transom.org, trolling for ideas. This is a time of national and international concern and all the networks are working overtime, albeit often redundantly and spoon-fed. It’s a hard job these days. The trick is to separate information from disinformation. Truth is the first casualty, etc. It also remains a time of mourning and reflection, despite the new demands on our attention. There is powerful need now for thoughtful national media coverage, full of debate and poetry and history and complexity — although it’s questionable whether that is happening much — but in the midst of this, what can a local broadcaster do?

    You know something about this because you made the transition from local to national. You know the differences between talking to all your fellow citizens and to your community. You have had to frame national issues for a local audience, or find local points of focus in larger questions.

    What would your advice be to local public broadcasters now? Where would your attention be? Who would you be talking to, so that you contributed to community understanding, uncovered truths, and avoided a pale reflection of an already anemic national media forced to talk to itself, consultants, retirees and flaks.

    Think Globally
    Jackson Braider – October 9, 2001

    One of the curious elements describing the discussion of September 11 is the absence of local sensibility. Think globally, apply universally. But we are a nation of localities and special interests, each with its own agenda and mission.

    An Audenism
    Chris Lydon – October 10, 2001

    Jackson Braider’s last entry on the global/local axis and Jay Allison’s posting with local broadcaster’s in mind recall to me [the] W.H. Auden line that Mary and I used to toss around when The Connection first stretched beyond Boston and we worried about losing our flavor. “A poet’s hope,” Auden said, is “to be, like some valley cheese, local, but prized elsewhere.” Paraphrasing another great poet, Tip O’Neill, all conversation is local. We were in fact reluctant to see The Connection “go national,” and wouldn’t have done it if we didn’t think there was a communitarian glue in the program’s tone of voice that would keep it from being a sort of “news from nowhere” forum of voices anywhere out of the phone network. Every big town needs its own hard, patient, smart conversation on this crisis and now this war. But then I have to add that the local so-called talk shows since September 11 are driving me nuts. They’re the price we pay for free speech–not the exercise of free speech. Never do you hear doubt, curiosity, pain. Never do you hear hope, history, caution. Never do you hear all the marks of the conversations that you and I, all of us, are actually in on. I’m actually getting hooked on the awfulness of these rant shows–starting with Howard Stern on the very day of the attack who said in so many words: there are too many people in the world already and we should start by wiping out Iran (yes) and the Palestinians. This has been the level of the toxic spewing of the radio greats: make Afghanistan glow in the dark; ship all undocumented immigrants out of this country immediately; better 10 million dead Muslims than 1 dead American. And on and on, with what sounds like a taped cycle of five audience voices cheering on the studio war hero. As I opined earlier, popular “talk radio” is a comedy format that’s just grotesque in a situation like this one. So my suggestion to public-spirited broadcasters would be: go on the air immediately with a call-in forum open to all that lets people speak in their own voice and refuses to let the leather-lung bullies and cocktail comedians take over. I’d get the conversation started today by asking people what it means to be carrying a flag on your car–or not to be carrying a flag. Rudolph Giuliani’s performance in New York makes you believe that a lot of mayors out there could host these conversations, and might want to. Town moderators, too. High School principals. There’s a historian on every college campus that could lead the discussion. And then there are church folk, social workers, psychiatrists. The key would be to refine and tune the conversation until it sounded like something you’ve heard over your own kitchen table–until, in the Auden line, it forms a sort of audio postcard you could send to the rest of the country.

    Cheese, Anyone?
    Jay Allison – October 10, 2001

    Great cheese quote from Auden.

    I like your exhortation to local stations to drag in the community wise ones and put them on the air to moderate local conversation. That could work. Has anyone here tried that? Heard that?

    What are you hearing on local air, besides the usual ranting and stuff piped in from elsewhere? Have you heard anything good? I’m particularly interested in what small town radio stations (like ours) might be doing–places with no university, no obvious connection to recent events but still rocked by them, places like most of non-urban America.

    What we did (lacking a regular talk show) was put out a call to our listeners asking them to phone our voice mail and tell us what they were thinking about, to offer their useful thoughts to their neighbors (“useful” was key, I think). The response was terrific. We used almost all of it on air. Some of it is here on the Transom or on the APM site.

    Behind The Curtain
    Viki Merrick – October 10, 2001

    The question of what to do locally is somewhat a trick. We did have one call in show here in Woods Hole with a Rabbi (and a radio rabbi at that!) and a psychiatrist. The response was surprisingly quiet, and not very evocative or provocative. I find I have grown absolutely allergic to most talk radio these days – thoughtlessly venomous or uninspired and in both cases remarkably repetitive.

    An excellent project was Jay’s listener call to share SOMETHING. I found those responses far more meaningful, well thought out and yet seemingly spontaneous in their frankness.

    Maybe the Listener Line offers the genuine sanctuary of a confessional of some sort – behind the curtain, free to finish, be heard out and re-say. The mix of story and expression itself provides variation and air to a very dense and complex situation (right now).
    Of course this is one kind of solution but doesn’t address the need for smart conversation or good cheese – but perhaps it (this format) could serve as fodder for a larger conversation.

    Raw Meat
    Jackson Braider – October 11, 2001

    Duty and responsibility are elements of the societal glue, but these words mean different things to different communities. Americans feel duty-bound to support their president — that’s the only thing the
    polls are really saying — but I think it’s somewhere in the second verse of our national anthem (one of the many we’re not singing these days) that speaks of “our cause, if it be just.” I know. With this crowd, I might as well be throwing raw meat to a pack of wolves, but where do we discover the interplay between “duty,” “responsibility,” and public radio?

    Elements Of Conversation
    Jonathan Hyde – October 12, 2001

    Having consumed an appalling amount of news, discourse and analysis over the past month for someone who is drawing a weekly paycheck, I offer the following analysis of how Chris’ Connection differed from all that is currently proffered.

    The CL Connection demanded and returned receptiveness and respect for the conversation. These qualities differ markedly from politeness or political correctness. The concept of respect does not resent an unpopular opinion nor is receptiveness defined by valuing everyone’s opinion equally. Rather these characteristics require an active listening and an honest attempt to assess the heart of the other’s opinion. Respect and receptiveness are the pathways by which the imperfect vehicle of communication seeks to provide a connection between the vast distances of the consciousness of two human beings.

    The technical/procedural quality of the CL Connection, as detailed in several exchanges above, was also beyond reproach. Callers were stirred into the mix judiciously and with consideration for the direction of the show. Chris’ deft hand should also not be understated. Understanding when to interpose (not interrupt), when to push a point, and the smoothing out of the inherently scattered conversation into a wobbly but solidly progressive direction must be derived from an innate sense and considerable practice before reaching this level. Suffice to say that “Let’s try to shove in one more call before the hour. You’ll have to be quick.” and “Let me interrupt you . . .” and “Let me summarize your point . . .” misses this point entirely.

    Perhaps the most important aspect of the CL connection was its attempt to engage the complexity of an issue. Let’s ignore most media which embraces failure on this score by active avoidance. It takes poise and restraint to resist the urge to say “We have only a minute before the break and we haven’t discussed this last topic on my list, so let me ask you professor, in one sentence or less, Would you describe the response of the Muslim world to America’s recent actions as enthusiastic or restrained. What gets left out of the response is the nuance and the understanding that a full Connection program would provide.

    The quality of the listeners, guests and host is another important distinction between the Connection and nearly everything else.

    That these discussions can take place in a “public” fora without some Smithian invisible hand censoring the puerile amongst us speaks to the quality of the participants. Perhaps there is more “guidance” than I give credit for. But even given that a certain amount of censoring takes place we all know that fervid and on-topic discussion does not sustain itself.

    There is a certain overlap between these points and they all reinforce and supplement each other to some degree. I offer these thoughts as a summation of previous sub-threads in this group and my thoughts on what is necessary for a good conversation that leads to a connection.

    Let me also add that I welcome this forum for discourse, I enjoy having the opportunity to participate with a deliberate tone and in familiar comfort beyond the klieg lights and invisible shot clock of conventional radio. I apologize for the length of my response, as you can see I’m big on complexity and probably not well suited for a call-in show.

    The Chattering Classes
    Mary McGrath – October 15, 2001

    Jonathan, You got it and you’re more eloquent and articulate about it than I. The critical ingredient in the special sauce is a host who is just plain curious and likes ideas and people and conversation. It’s pretty basic but the media isn’t good at the basics. Jay asked earlier how local stations not in range of a university could get a conversation up and going post 9/11. I’d start by thinking of the most interesting people in town — people whose house you’d love to be invited to for a dinner party. What Chris Lydon calls The Chattering Classes live everywhere. Maybe they’re newspaper people, maybe they’re local writers or adult ed teachers, maybe they’re just citizens. You can always pipe others in by phone. The thing is to just do it. Try it and don’t be afraid to screw up.

    It’s A Desert Out There
    benjamen walker – October 15, 2001

    just got back from a long desert driving trip … listened to a lot of radio.. lots and lots of blabbering say nothing voices… I found myself thinking a lot about what it is that Chris and Co. did so well on the radio and I am glad I have the chance to add my two cents here… Chris said it’s an “audio postcard” that you would be happy to send to the rest of the world. I like that except for the word postcard – a postcard only goes one way and the connection never used to be a one way thing. it was always a conversation. the goons that are doing the third rate talk shows will never ever get it – I think they truly believe that what people want is answers and information – and they are more than happy to give them this – they get off on it because this way insures that it is all about themselves – these frauds don’t give a DAMN about conversation. they could care less about learning something – especially from some caller.

    Pillow Talk
    Michael Joly – October 16, 2001

    Listening to the replay of Terry Gross interview novelist Jonathan Franzen (The Corrections) last night, I had a thought about the “Special Sauce” – the unique ingredient of great talk radio we’ve been talking about.

    Different cooks have different secrets, but here’s a tasting method that can be applied to all, let’s call it the Transistor Radio in Bed Test.

    Better than a table-top clock radio, a little hand held “transistor” is key. (I still love the use of that word – the name for an electronic switching device used to mean “portable radio receiver”).

    Get all cozy in bed and put the transistor radio on a pillow on tummy. Now, then. Do those voices coming out of the transistor radio seem like they belong in that intimate setting?

    Is the “pillow talk” real?

    More Cheese
    Jay Allison – October 18, 2001

    Chris, I’ll pose that question about the American flag to our listeners at WCAI/WNAN for our listener line. We’ll see what we get, and if we get response that reaches beyond the community — exceptional local cheese — we’ll post it.

    We have a variety of it at our radio station. We air these tiny community portraits all day long, little stories of our neighbors that we go out and record.

    I think they carry beyond our community, but they are especially good here. Each place has its own shorthand, its jargon. There is a genuine “we.” The Cape and Islands are no different. That must be what you missed when you went from Boston to National.

    We also have our local listener line, where people get to speak their minds for the record. Giving them that responsibility seems to work pretty well. We get a very high percentage of usable messages, recently relating to Sept.Voicemail has a very different dynamic than the guided conversation you, Chris and Mary, create. Advantages to both, but the great advantage you have is the depth and blend that you can build over an hour.

    How to Build an Hour: A Manual. Please riff on this for the benefit of the commons.

    Local Cheese
    Jay Allison – October 18, 2001

    We have an occasional call-in show at our stations, and even more occasionally, I host it. I am a duffer, but enthusiastic to discover what fun it is. But the thrill for me is the localness, the sense of talking to an actual community that exists outside the context of the program. A couple weeks after the 11th, I hosted the show to talk about Bird Migration. The idea was to take a deep breath and look at the skies with something other than the memory of horror. This was the intro:

    “I’m Jay Allison and this is The Point. Today, Birds. That’s right, a look back to the skies, with an appreciation for life ongoing. In our studio is Vern Laux, the Bird Man of Martha’s Vineyard, and I can virtually guarantee that he will help expand your thinking in a positive direction for the next hour. An affirmation of life, of hope, the thing with feathers. Next on THE POINT here on 90.1 CAI Woods Hole Martha’s Vineyard, and 91.1 WNAN Nantucket. First, this news update…”

    We could get away with this locally because we look at the same sky, the same birds. We have something tangible in common. Place. I don’t know if it would have worked as a national show. Doing this show was also like a community gathering where people get together who haven’t seen each other in a while. Everyone had been focusing on tragedy, on the nation, and in this hour they could say… “hey, how are things over on YOUR island?”

    The full flavor of local cheese like this is best appreciated by locals, I think.

    I wonder if you, Chris and Mary, think of just staking out a place and starting over fresh, local.

    Exotic Smells
    Jackson Braider – October 18, 2001

    When you say: The full flavor of local cheese like this is best appreciated by locals, I think you’re forgetting the exoticness of local cheese to outsiders. I suspect that that was one of the brilliant aspects of the Kuralt On the Road pieces. Locals and outsiders have a different sense of smell.

    On the other hand, Chris and Mary, when you made the switch from local to national, did you feel obliged to shift your subject base? It didn’t seem that way to me. You both seem to recognize that there
    are different ways of defining “locality” — Jay, you speak of “locality” of place, but there is also locality or community of interest. Birdwatchers in New Mexico are going to be intrigued by what birdwatchers on the Cape and Islands see. Chris and Mary seemed to bounce from locality to locality in terms of community of interest.

    And yet there is also a line that distinguishes the local from the provincial. I’d be interested to hear where and how Chris and Mary tried to feel their way through a maze that involved the local, the provincial, and the national.

    Searchers
    Chris Lydon – October 19, 2001

    At Symphony Hall in Boston a couple of years ago, an usher at a Yo-Yo Ma concert (a moonlighting actor, as it turned out) took my ticket with a discreet nod of recognition and said, sotto voce: “I am a searcher, too.” It was one of the dearest and most acute comments I can remember, and it comes as close to giving away the special sauce as I think is wise. The program that Mary McGrath and I worked on for nigh onto seven years was animated, deep down, by a huge hunger to know this world and our places in it. My curiosity about almost everything is genuine, and I don’t blush to admit it. It’s not that I’m don’t love the distractions of life; God knows I’ve spent altogether too much energy over the years (as journalists are wont to do) on digressions from the main road. But I love more the spirit of Proverbs 4:7: “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.” The point about our radio work is just that for all the fun we have had with it every day, we were never kidding around. And we never thought of our show as mere entertainment. We had high-school students on the production staff at points, but we were all grown ups. We care intensely about the work. We love each other. We never fought. We slaved at the job. We never stopped trying to make it better. We are unutterably grateful that so many people remember programs that “worked.” Small wonder that people remember programs with musicians, and programs and guests and callers that had an aura of spiritual mystery about them. In conceiving the program and the daily iterations, the general hunch that Mary and I shared was that most media is in the business of kidding people. Our project, trying not to sound too solemn about it, was to keep applying the ol’ shit detector: is this story worth it? Is this book notion new, or sound, or interesting? Narrowly we were always asking: has it been done already, most particularly on NPR by the likes of TOTN or Terry Gross or ATC? And more broadly, we began by asking what if any light a program might shed on the path to truth and beauty. A lot of celebrity book writers were automatically, eagerly embraced; but with all of them Mary was relentless in trying to get an hour of radio, not an hour of “book.” Mary was always asking: what is the question on listeners minds for which this author-expert-guest might have an ideal answer? The emphasis, that is, was on listeners and questions, not on the visiting celeb’s latest production. The inescapable goad, ten times a day, was: what’s the question for callers? These all came to be habitual preparation for every program, the starting point for a long meeting we had each day at noon.

    Mary, Are You Out There?
    Jay Allison – October 20, 2001

    Genuine curiosity. And genuine enthusiasm. When we ponder public radio’s “core values,” I put those high on the list. They are the pillars of Authenticity…. a value which, by definition, you can’t fake. That’s what I heard on the Connection. It was not only the product of an institution we heard, but also the loving labor of individuals…listeners included.

    Failure is how we learn. What were your worst shows? Why? Was it often your fault? Can you save a terrible show half-way through? Do you remember moments you found the key to a bad guest and unlocked him? Can a great caller turn things around… do you keep some in reserve?

    How did you deploy staff? You had a good-sized team. Most local shows don’t. we don’t even have a phone computer thing… they just hold up a dry marker board in the control room….(“Mary from Boston on Line One!”) Mary, are you out there…?

    Paragraphs? We Don’t Need No Stinking Paragraphs
    Jay Allison – October 20, 2001

    May I also say that Chris’s utter disregard for paragraph breaks in this topic reminds me of his on-air intros which were paragraph-less tours-de-force of galloping prose.

    That’s another difficult-to-imitate flavor in the secret sauce.

    Hockenberry sometimes pulled it off. And Suarez. The trick is getting us to be absolutely enthralled by something we had no idea interested us at all. The Lydon Intro was tops at this.

    Chris, did you do those at the last adrenaline-filled minutes? Did you riff them out loud and then type? Do they have uneven right-hand margins on the page?

    Sprezzatura
    Suzanne Petrucci – October 20, 2001

    Though it’s not for Chris or Mary to say about themselves, we can say that they have a “sprezzatura”. (I just came across this word so I have to use it).

    Sprezzatura- doing difficult things with an effortless mastery or the art of effortless mastery. Sprezzatura is anything but effortless: mastery of any skill requires more perspiration than inspiration: the social mask or the disjunction between appearance and reality. (Coined in 1528 by Count Baldassare Castiglione in his famous Book of the Courtier, synthesizing the ideals of the medieval courtly gentleman with the new “Renaissance man.”)

    Chris’s long paragraph made me go right to this quote I have saved for about 25 years:

    From Jacob Bronowski “The Visionary Eye”: The Nature of Art “¹.there is a common pattern to all knowledge: what we meet is always particular, yet what we learn from it is always general. In science we reason from particular instances to the general laws that we suppose to live behind them, and though we do not know how we guess at these laws, we know very well how to test them. But in a poem the specific story and the detailed imagery that carries it create in us an immediate sense of the general. The experience is made large and significant precisely by the small and insignificant touches. Here the particular seems to become general of itself. The detail is it’s own universal.”

    How did you, Chris and Mary, manage to keep up with all of the reading listening, and looking and reflection necessary to be well prepared for each show? Ten hours a week to be well prepared with thought to the oncoming weeks boggles my mind. And still Chris, you managed to send me a heartfelt quick note about a clipping I sent you.

    It can’t be the just the sauce. It’s not merely the recipe. It’s the hard work, carefully chosen ingredients I am sure but also or more the sensibility that puts them together. That’s why I say Art. I think that’s what attracts and inspires the callers too.

    I notice the callers are very different now, the sensibility, the personal world view is very different.

    When The Guest Ditches, And Other Matters
    Mary McGrath – October 22, 2001

    Failure is how we learn. What were your worst shows? Why? Mary from Boston here. Failure is indeed how we learned Jay. There were some classic failures — when the Dalai Lama left after the first half to catch a NASA space shuttle launch; when the singer Nina Simone showed up a half hour late and then decided she didn’t want to talk; when the science fiction writer Harlan Ellison walked out of the studio midday through the program because Chris called him a science fiction writer when he’d told a producer he didn’t want to be called a science fiction writer.

    Was it often your fault? Can you save a terrible show half-way through? I would say those ones weren’t our fault. You can sort of save a show by adding more guests or playing music in the case of Nina Simone. The callers saved the Harlan Ellison show in a rather spectacular way. Admittedly Chris isn’t much of a sci fi fan and so the callers rushed in to offer their own explanations [as to] why Harlan Ellison was offended and they grabbed copies of books and stories he’d written and read selections of his prose on the air to gently guide us to the end of the hour.

    The key to a great show is an interesting angle on a story or an interesting topic with a very strong advocate. We’d pre-interview guests thoroughly and “trade up” throughout the day and even into the next morning the get the best possible people on the program. I have impossibly high standards and the fact that seven producers shared the goal of making each program the very best it could be is proof of how amazing our staff was. Our post-show editorial meeting was the most fun of the day. For an intense hour we would evaluate the program we’d just finished and talk about show ideas for the next day and the rest of the week. Visitors who sat in were always amazed at the fun and intelligence and intensity of the group. A staff of people of very varied interests, ages and backgrounds weighed in on nearly everything. We all shared a basic curiosity about life and we learned a lot from each other. One woman is a writer whose interests were mainly literary. She couldn’t care less about national politics but the best of those shows it seems were the ones that she got excited about before hand.

    We’d often dare to be boring, but the standard was to be edgy and provocative. We all labored over writing billboards and opens trying out different leads and copy on each other all afternoon and into the late evenings at home. We didn’t worry about balancing every program left and right. That creates a MacNeil/Lehrer kind of effect and the show can become predictable and boring. Why add the Jesse Helms or the voice of an opposition politician if you know exactly what they’re going to say? We could often count on our callers to even out a guest with strong opinions. This is not to suggest that controversial shows were one sided; on most shows we’d have call-outs

    – people we’d call out to for a quick comment or an interesting perspective that would take the second part of the hour in a different direction.

    The pace of the show was very important too. The phone screener signaled the callers to be quick and we’d gently cut them off if they weren’t. We continually improvised and didn’t have a set script for any program. Chris never had a set list of more than a couple of questions to get the show going. That way we were open to digression and surprise. Too often on the radio you hear a host working through a list of questions and he or she will miss a critical follow up because they’re following a set format.

    The Souffle’ Can Fall
    Chris Lydon – October 23, 2001

    Mary doesn’t remember how she raked me once for an introduction to a Charles Mingus hour that didn’t explain who Mingus was (musically, emotionally, politically)in the pantheon between Duke Ellington and the Monk generation. She was severe and I was wounded, but we absorbed the general lesson that these billboards and introductions had to be addressed to the everyday Martian, and they had to be tested on each other for rhythm and fun as well as clarity of information. My daughter Amanda, who’s a chef, says the joy of cooking is all about learning from failures; was it not among Julia Child’s giant contributions that the soufflŽ could fall–so could the chicken, on the floor–and we could still feel good about ourselves. In interviewing for talk radio, the prime worry, the definition of failure, was the program that did not bring out a guest’s main idea: amazing how people can get so absorbed in their golfer’s waggle and never quite come up with a swing! Joan Didion didn’t really want to talk about her own book. Lots of other people are shy about their own ideas. I tell every guest: think hard a minute (and don’t tell me before the program) what you want the dentist’s wife in Westwood to remember when the conversation is over. The flip side is guests that surprise themselves with digressions and even with passion that they didn’t expect to share on the radio. Harold Evans, a.k.a. Mr. Tina Brown, wrote a photo-history love letter to the American Century, in which I sensed the emotional mainspring was his own memory as a teenager of American Lend-Lease that saved England before the US entered WW2. So I worked him around to talking about FDR’s adviser Harry Hopkins who delivered the promise to Churchill with a marvelous speech quoting the Book of Ruth: “whither thou goest..” And sure enough Harry Evans burst into big tears as he told the story. Andrew Sullivan cried on our show. I’ve cried on our show. Tears cover a multitude of sins, and failures, too. There are so many kinds of failures: too many guests, not enough guests; guests and callers that run on. I am often accused of interrupting people, but we made more mistakes letting people repeat themselves. Yes, callers can turn a show right around. Among our faves is a Christmas Eve show on “The Gift of the Magi,” the O. Henry story and the idea of the perfect surprise gift: early on came a caller who with her husband was giving their best friends what they wanted above all… it was a child, as the story developed, and it was due on Christmas Day. The theologian in the studio, Harvey Cox, was overwhelmed, as I was, but the one superb call, as often, generated many, many more. The first caller sets the standard for the hour. With the novelist Kazuo Ishiguro, it helped immeasurably with a difficult novel, “The Unconsoled,” that a pianist Andrew Rangel called in off the bat and explained to Ishiguro and to us what the novel really meant about music, culture, modernity, Europe, language and the rest. The last point about failures, if I may, is that we’re often the worst judges of our flops and our hits, both. The listener may hear a failure when I felt a triumph, and vice versa; all the more reason to get back on the horse each time as if we were inventing the medium anew.

    One Cheerful Voice
    Chris Lydon – November 14, 2001

    We have this passion for conversation that doesn’t insult our intelligence, or play power games around information; that’s fundamentally egalitarian; that’s forceful but forgiving; that covers at least suggestively the range of our curiosities and enthusiasms; that’s continuing and somehow connected with its own memory and that builds up a feeling of non-exclusive “membership” in the on-going search. This is the Emersonian ideology that we discovered after a few years of doing the old, real Connection for a few years. Ralph Waldo Emerson’s great teaching (he had a few) was about “the infinitude of the private man;” he said in effect that human beings were defined by their hunger, and their aptitude, for the experience of the universal soul. He anticipated modern brain science in understanding the equality of our mental equipment: we each and all have (very nearly) the mind of Aristotle. He loved conversation, and he was interested in everything. I am forever quoting his goal for
    The Dial, the magazine he founded in 1840 with Margaret Fuller: he wanted The Dial to serve as “one cheerful voice amidst the din of mourners and polemics.” That is, in his own even-tempered way he wanted to change the public conversation, just as we did and do. And then he did it! So, for a while, did we! And we’ll do it again. I believe it all very passionately indeed, but sense sometimes that eyes glaze over… or people think I’m just pounding my chest. Basta!

    Sing out if you want to pursue more particular themes. I’m still here…

    All the best, Chris Lydon

 


193 Comments on “Christopher Lydon”

  • Jay Allison says:
    Welcome Chris Lydon

    It may seem an odd time to focus on craft, but craft is often what gets you through. The ability to do the job well is always important, and especially in a crisis. Further, our chosen work — radio — is essential in any modern crisis. Much depends on our skill, more than we sometimes know. Certainly radio is important as a lifeline, a communication link, but also… for conversation, for connection.

    If you live within earshot of Boston — or anywhere else The Connection aired under Christopher Lydon’s hostship — you know he is one of the finest practitioners of the radio talk show craft, ever.

    There were days listening to that program where the primary response was a feeling of gratitude. From the first drum beat through the energetic prose of Chris’s introduction, sweeping on through conversational hours you never imagined in advance. If there was ever a public radio program that made you feel like standing up and giving money, Chris’s Connection was it.

    When I read his Transom Manifesto in email just now, it made me realize how much I miss him on the air. Many of us urge the alignment of righteous forces to put him back there as soon as possible. In the meantime, we welcome him here.

    If you want to consider the history of Chris’s departure from WBUR, etc., other sites have covered that, like bulletin boards at WBUR or at Chris’s own site. (By the way, the latter includes a archived series of webcasts and a commercial radio stint in Boston. And, WBUR keeps past programs at The Connection Archive; search prior to February 15, 2001) Here, we’d like to focus on what Chris can tell us about the nature of this line of work, the power and usefulness of the medium of radio and the genre of the talk show.

    Radio can be used to spew venom and propaganda or encourage violence and breed mindless mobs, even nationalistic ones, which will not be a trivial fact in the coming weeks and months. Public radio call-in shows have a responsibility to counter that — both nationally and locally — to act as steam vents and barometers, classrooms and town meetings. Here’s what I imagine: Visitors to Transom.org from radio stations everywhere come seek better skills to steer through their jobs in these days, and Chris Lydon, along with Mary McGrath and others of his staff, will help.

    America’s action will be a function of its political will. Radio, and the radio talk show, have an undeniable link to that will. We are among the moderators of the dialogue. We can frame the debate. We can write the captions to the pictures.

    It is a mistake to think that public radio is some backwater in these times. At our local stations, we know that our audience has increased enormously. There is a yearning for sensible, trustworthy, inspiring words. That’s us — armed with the purpose of public service, an ear for stories and hymns and poems, and the careful practice of craft.

    Welcome Chris Lydon.

  • Christopher Lydon says:
    Christopher Lydon
    Christopher Lydon

    Aren’t we all struck in post-Apocalyptic America by the gaps between official speak ("We’re at war…") and the media discourse ("America Attacked..  New York responds..") and the infinitely various sound of people’s conversations?

    Speak for your own family kitchen table, your own phone calls, your own beauty shop, your classroom, your street corner, your church parking lot, your answers to your own kids’ questions. It seems commonplace to observe that in my own pretty commonplace experience, including one funeral for a software engineer (and French horn player) on Flight 11, it’s the ordinary off-line encounters that pulse with the fathomless depths of this experience. The plain talk is unembarrassed by pain, sorrow, infinite sadness. It assumes a fundamental connectedness here in a diabolical crime story that is also a political crisis at the edge of a financial/industrial crisis enfolded in a spiritual crisis, inseparable from the crisis of the crass jiggle-show culture that our satellites rain down on the world. Yet the common talk I’ve heard is not resigned, much less despairing. It doesn’t sound vengeful either. The dread, such as it is, for the end of the American Century arises not from their attack but from the question of our collective response. And nobody’s giving up.

  • Christopher Lydon says:

    I’m a talk-show host feeling distraught to be off the air in this moment. I’m reading the New York Times for hours every day, listening to the media discourse, and straining to hear also the American conversation.

    Of course I’d bet on that conversation, not the media discourse, to save us. It’s what we’d want to listen to, in any event.

    I’d bet on Talk Radio (if it were also Listen Radio) to close the gap here. Yet let’s face it: most of what’s called talk radio is rant radio. It’s essentially a comedy format that is now and ever the most blatant caricature of American prurience, bullying, knuckle-dragging anti-intellectualism and name-calling.

    The commercial "talk" is mostly locker-room gab of unfunny old men too feeble to snap a real towel. The public-radio alternative has been vastly better. Sober and safe, it’s had brilliant moments–like John Burnett’s report on NPR yesterday morning on the multi-national staff of the late Windows on the World restaurant. And still public radio has seemed to me far short of what we are going to need to recover citizen voices in a bomb-shattered public square. Most days and nights, and notably when political figures are onstage, public radio has been sounding like CNN without pictures: just the facts, ma’am, and more facts, and the same hand-me-around security veterans and terrorism experts (whatever the titles are worth) with much the same propaganda barrage from the war room.

    The cancellation of product commercials and underwriting credits in the first day or two after the Trade Center went down was a relief. Then you began to realize that it was all one commercial: "Brought to you by: World War Three!" The phrase has always meant nuclear Armageddon. The subliminal extra in the new context is: it’s all-out war with the Third World.

  • Christopher Lydon says:

    For this Transom forum I would plead with all comers to pursue the question: what might radio do to give coherence and weight to an open, popular reflection on ourselves and our country in what is no longer an abstraction–an Age of Terrorism that could go on for the rest of our lives.

    The prejudice coming out of my own experience is that talk radio is a well-nigh perfect medium for an inquiry that’s got to be broad and deep, substantive and as unpredictably emotional as Dan Rather’s tears, inexpensive and reasonably independent, accessibly democratic, non-commercial, open to digression and dissent, open to thousands of voices, credentialed and not.

    The Web can be a lot of those things and more, but it’s damnably diffuse at a time like this, and lacking in continuity.  Worse, it’s completely without the many-layered magic, the grit, variety, dynamic range, accent and authenticity of Studs Terkel’s beloved "vox humana." A large part of what we need right now is to hear more of that fabulous instrument.

    Paraphrasing Studs in his Transom interview with Sydney Lewis in June, we need to hear women in the laundromat, and the little old tramp, and something like the conversation Studs grew up hearing in the lobby of his parents’ Wells Grand Hotel. We need to hear the working-class boy who wants to be an intellectual and says, "Stately minds. We need stately minds." And we know they are out there.

  • Christopher Lydon says:

    I wasn’t always a radio nut, incidentally. I fell into radio from political reporting from the New York Times‘ Washington bureau in the Seventies, and public-television with the Ten O’Clock News in with WGBH, Boston through the Eighties. Radio for a lot of us who back into it is supposed to be "the twilight of a mediocre career," as Mark Shields says. But radio for me felt more like the start of my adult education, as well as the best work I’d ever done, with an incomparably smart, aggressive colleague Mary McGrath, in a medium that could be all intensity, no clutter. I was out from under the institutional voice of the New York Times, and free of the visuals on TV news that are mostly distraction even now. (Television anchors discover at some point: your audience is not really listening to what you’re saying. No, on a normal night, viewers are looking at your hair! They’re trying to decide if it’s a wig, or whether you need a trim or a dye job. It’s not a pretty thought, but consider for a moment how much you know about Barbara Walters’ hair.(Peter Jennings’,
    too.)

    On the radio, of course I was only relearning what I’d known all along. Tony Schwartz, the advertising genius who has been recording the street sounds of his Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood in Manhattan for 50 years, used to show me 60-second TV spots he made for political candidates in the 1970s. In a Schwartz ad, the video might show only the face of an industrial clock with its second-hand sweeping the full circle: nothing to watch, in short, while the voice-over extolled Bob Abrams, as I recall, for Attorney General. The trick, Tony Schwartz explained, was to neutralize the eye to get to the ear–that is, to land the audio message under the video radar, precisely because the ear, not the eye, was the route to both heart and mind.

    And in practice, it turned out, radio worked exactly that way.

  • Christopher Lydon says:

    For most of seven years from WBUR, Boston, we did a different sort of public-radio talk program, "The Connection," which we also called "Rush Limbaugh for Grown-Ups." We touched all the familiar bases of politics, books, work, and music. But we defined ourselves by our unfamilar subjects and approaches. We used to say: we’re the program where Robert Pinsky, later the Poet Laureate, read his new translation of Dante for an hour, and where the pianist Robert Levin was buried in calls on Unfinished Mozart, which he’d thought only he cared about. We asked listeners to write short stories and verse, and to describe their experience of the sublime. With the help of NPR, the BBC and the New York Times, we covered the Kosovo war relentlessly.

    Radio meets the Henry David Thoreau test: it’s a job that doesn’t require a new set of clothes. Equally for callers: radio doesn’t require you to look your best or feel tip-top either, but just to think and speak with a certain authenticity. Focus helps. Humor, excitement, some learning all help. The breathtaking news to me, I confess, was the many multitudes of individuals who handled it all brilliantly. Like the man who called into our write-the-coming-headlines game on a New Year’s Eve, and referred to the mumbling malaprop Mayor of Boston. He said: "Chris, here’s your headline: Surgeons Liberate Small Gerbil from Tom Menino’s Tongue." Star callers came often to outshine star guests. Our favorite was "Amber in Boston," a Barbadian immigrant with a high-school education who stalked the big game on our show, and out-talked the best of them: Camille Paglia, Harold Bloom and Gore Vidal. It was Amber who put her finger on what was different about our program. Her line was:

    >"the great unwashed hear a lot of the same stiffs on your program that we hear on all the other programs. The premise of the other shows, she said, was that we’re so lucky to hear their guests; the premise of your shows is that those talking heads are so lucky to meet us!"

  • Christopher Lydon says:

    We want precisely what Ralph Waldo Emerson was looking for when he founded his magazine, The Dial, in 1840. It should be non-conformist, "a little bad," Emerson said, anticipating Black English. He told his editor, Margaret Fuller, that "we might court some of the good fanatics," but all in all he said The Dial should speak as "one cheerful rational voice amidst the din of mourners and polemics." Emerson’s"mourners and polemics" are more than ever dominant among the bullies, sycophants and profiteers in the American media of the 21st Century. But Emerson would challenge us to make the vital space our own.

    I nominate radio as the device that can diversify and extend and sustain and weave the current of our best private questions and insights into a public conversation. It might actually redeem what feels like a long engagement of our superpower democracy with reaction and fear.

    Could we talk under the Transom here for the next month or so about exactly how to make it work?

  • Nicole Sawaya says:
    what we’re doing at kalw

    Chris:

    i’ve been the gm here for 6 months. right before i started you split from the connection. kalw continued to run the connection until monday september 17.
    all of us at the station felt the program was in decline. still good producing, but the hosts just weren’t hitting it. on top of that, no way for Bay Area listeners to call in in real time — frustrating.
    i had made a inquiry to working assets, basically a social justice phone biz corporation, if they would bankroll their former program in colorado — anyway, long story short: we replaced connection with working assets radio with laura flanders. she’s in nyc (on canal street) and we’re in sf and guests are everywhere and callers in the bay area get to call in and that was our reaction to the deeds of the week before knowing that folks really needed to connect.
    so far so good. people like it and are calling in like crazy. it’s so true — we in radio can frame the discussion the tone the mood. and folks right now want to talk and connect more than ever.
    i’m sorry i never got to hear the connection with you. listeners still moan about your departure. oh well.
    we now have birthed a new kind of show and i’m so glad.
    all the best,
    nicole sawaya, gm

  • cyril ibe says:
    radio host

    Mr. Lydon, I just discovered the website that features your short, poignant commentaries. I’m glad I did. I’m a radio host/producer here in Chicago, Nigerian-born, a public-radio format kind of guy bringing that style on a commercial station on WVON AM 1450, on prime-time 12 to 1 p.m. on Saturday afternoons. (Bold, eh?). I’m loving this experiment in hosting Window To Africa Radio. I,too, am using the unique medium radio is to find and tell some of the African stories burried in the rubble and debris in NY and Washington. I’m grateful to radio for this possiblity. Let me go back to reading your commentaries on the web. Good luck to you. Cheers!
    cyril ibe, Chicago

  • Timothy Phelan says:
    Difficult choices in a difficult time.

    Last week I was at work when I heard on the radio that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Towers.

    My immediate reaction was one of sadness, and I wondered how a plane could go so much off course to crash into a building in NY. I then went out for a break with the other workers. Many people commented on the plane crash and how sad it was. I walked back in and heard about the second plane.

    Shock set in, I immediately believed that it must be the work of terrorism ( a guess that would prove to be all too true ) As the day went on, I heard the events unfolding, but a layer of disbelief surrounded me, insulating me from the full tragedy. This can’t be happening to US!

    As the hours, and then the days rolled on, I heard many people jump up and scream for vengeance. To punish those guilty. To me the course we should travel didn’t seem that clear. I decided immediately that we must respond, the we must punish those guilty. How to do this was the difficult part. How do you punish a faceless villain? Even when the Government decided who was responsible, how do you punish someone who’s location is hidden, who has a network that will live on after him? We can attempt to locate him, send in covert missions, order military strikes against countries that help him, but what does that really mean?

    Covert missions. This translates as someone infiltrating his organization to either kill him or pass on information. The level of bravery this would take is beyond my imagination. I hope that if we do attempt this, that the people involved escape harm.

    Military strikes. Sigh, unfortantly we haven’t found a way to only hit the guilty parties involved. The ones who will suffer will be the poor people who had nothing to do with the decision to shelter him.

    Even if we limit our targets to military… the common military man is not the one who decided the policy. They are caught in a web where their only "crime" is wanting to defend their country.

    So, about now, it may seem that I favor us doing nothing. No. We have to order the covert missions, we have to hit the people who helped him hard… and we have to live with the knowledge that more innocent people will die.

    More deaths caused by Bin Ladin

  • Jackson Braider says:
    A different take, Chris

    I confess there were moments when I wanted to give you dope-slaps. For instance, there you’d be, with a poet, then you’d start reading the poet’s own lines to him/her. And yet, I must also confess that I listened often, and even called in, more than once. I wanted to strangle you — metaphorically, of course — for your fathomless pursuit of Monicagate, for example. An hour on Trent Lott’s hair-do would have offered a nice respite.

    But you present a different take on talk radio — at least you seem to. Any particular theory underlying your approach? Is the listener/caller always right? Were the experts the most expert? Finally, where do you feel the host serves as instigator, cajoler, collaborateur?

  • Nannette Drake Oldenbourg says:
    Post

    Well, IF I were stuck on a deserted island "in post-Apocalyptic
    America between official speak ("We’re at war…") and the media
    discourse ("America Attacked.. New York responds..") and the
    infinitely various sound of people’s conversations?"
    YOU and other Transom visitors would be on my list of people to have on the island.

    Oh, DAMN!. We really ARE stuck on a deserted island in post-Apocalyptic America…

    so how are we going to conduct ourselves?

  • Stef says:
    What talk we seek, what talk we need

    What I need most is to find a place to have "the right" discussion about terroristic violence coming at the US, how the US comes at the rest of the world (before and after this catastrophe), and what if anything we should be trying to tell our leaders. I do hear a lot of very informative talk (lots on NPR), a fair amount of intelligent talk (some on NPR) and some very important reflections (including Michael Moore). But for me, now, this terrorist attack is so godawfully complicated, so much invoking of contradictory emotions and contradictory principles that evidently lay side by side in my own self…I don’t believe that a one-hour radio program has ever come close to resolving the layers of contradiction, but sometimes I could make a step forward. Chris, with Michael Ignatieff (was it he, speaking from Belgrade) back in Kosovo, that was the kind of pushing/striving discussion that forced one to really think.

    I have heard on public radio relatively little reflection on how the US alliance with the totally despotic governments like that of Egypt or Saudi Arabia, for the sake of our gas-guzzling SUV’s, might in some corners of the world be perceived as the opposite of freedom and the opposite of justice.

    I have heard NPR commentators laud our President’s speech for hitting all the right notes (and truthfully I thought it did), but begin to take it for granted that it is now sort of a settled thing that the President won’t be telling us who, beyond Al Quaida, the greater enemy is. Is it fruitless to ask anymore, and are we to accept that in some general way it is just a whole mess o’ countries?

    I have heard nothing, really, about what it might mean for this US government to fight back militarily (which I support) AND vigorously seek to help Islamic moderates save face and avoid finding themselves radicalized. Might we need to learn why and how the liberal non-fundamentalist Islamic sorts of people in countries like Egypt or Jordan sill shake their heads in disappointment at the USA, and still can’t really defend us? Would it embarrass our military efforts to show concern about these perceptions of us? No one asks any member of the Bush administration any question about why it is simply off the table for us to actually offer to explain to the Taliban why we do think Osama bin Laden is likely to be guilty. Do we think that there is simply no politically tolerable way for us to have that discussion? By simply refusing to offer further explanation and (apparently) proceeding to military action in Afghanistan, we are giving less wiggleroom to our Islamic supporters. We risk confirming the impression that the USA could be hellbent on military action. I am NOT saying that military action is inappropriate. I am saying that we have AS MUCH interest in avoiding a further radicalization of many more Muslims across the middle east, as we do in militarily nailing the bastards who seek our death.

    I do hear good solid thoughts on the radio. But I rarely hear anyone sound as deeply conflicted as I feel, and put it into words and then put it before the Big Thinkers from the various institutes, or before the Big Doers from the houses of government. I wind up finding every discussion maddening for what is left unsaid or unaddressed, but still I listen. I do have some fantasy that in the world of Mr. Lydon, those contradictions could be teasted out explicitly, sufficiently for us to actually grow in the process.

  • Barbara Veldhuizen says:
    Radio missed the mark

    I listen to Minnesota Public Radio all day every day. With its feed from NPR, I feel connected to the world even though I spend my days on a farm in southwest Minnesota.

    On the third day after the attack on New York, I turned public radio off. I got one program after another sounding like so many six o’clock TV news presentations. (I gave up television over a year ago)It was as if I were being subjected to that 30 second film clip of the Challenger explosion – played over and over until I was numb from anxiety.

    I turned to the internet for the voices I longed to hear on NPR. The voices of disgust at the violence heaped upon the innocents and the voices of disgust from those who realize that our government is not guiltless in this crime.

    On NPR I heard pieces about the war we would start. On the internet I read from those who appealed for sanity and self-examination.

    The New York Times.com was exceptionally brilliant. Znet and the Green Party listserv are other internet avenues that I kept me informed and emotionally connected.

    But, I miss the voices…yours included.

    Thanks

  • Stef says:
    Did NPR go to war?

    In your message Barbara I am left wondering what I think was implied in my own. Has NPR put itself on a wartime footing? Not entirely, since Michael Moore’s extremely critical commentaries have made it onto WBUR. But the real question is "who gets the time to opine into NPR microphones and what kind of perceptions do they tend to have?"

    I am wondering if the reality is that the kind of people who are available to NPR as commentators at the ready, are basically people at the major American university-based think tanks and institutes, and if succeeding at one of these institutes somehow filtered out people who might bring a more subtle perspective to bear on our incipient war.

  • Nannette Drake Oldenbourg says:
    closer to truth, and more satisfying…

    >"The plain talk is unembarrassed by pain, sorrow, infinite sadness. It
    assumes a fundamental connectedness"

    I’m testing a hypothesis that effective communications (on and off the
    air) exist when people discuss sentiments based on true needs.

    Perhaps that’s the difference between your show & public radio VS.
    commercial media.

    For example, on commercial TV people might talk about needing a new
    Volvo or something. You on public radio would talk about needing
    safety and transportation.

    The ethic of
    b trying to think about and articulate true needs
    (even as we swim in goods
    and infomercials about rearranging our body parts)

    b is our best hope in communicating
    b with the part of the world going to bed hungry tonight

    Articulating these universal needs, whether through
    declarations or story, is the only way for us to be known and
    understood in spite of our wealth -or poverty.

    >"Could we talk under the Transom here for the next month or so about exactly how to make it [radio] work?"

    hallelujah!

  • Dave Jutsum says:
    Some Random Thoughs…

    Some friends of mine in Germany recently ended an e-mail with the question which is now on my mind: "Do you must to go to the army now?"

    After hearing the President’s address, I feel that we are entering a tunnel with no light at it’s end. This seems all too much like another Viet Nam, a war without a foreseeable end or a realistic military objective or exit strategy. The difficulty lies in the impossibility of the task which he has set out to accomplish. Far from reaching the moon, our goal has moved from improbable to impossible: you cannot change human nature with governmental policies. If Bush had taken any lesson from his father’s War on Drugs, it should have been this one. We totter on the brink of disaster, victims of our own apathy and condescension. Would that the President had addressed the real source of the problem! Rather than face up to the unchanging inequity present in the world, he has chosen to give this faceless enemy an identity and to set the equation in it’s simplest terms. I shudder every time we refer to ourselves in the context of the chosen nation of God and presume to be the arbiters of His justice. In a terrible way, we have put the nails in our own coffin, and the ghosts of the Mujahadeen now threaten to consume us. The horrific irony of our arrogance now comes to light. For the past century, we have been building a wall against the world, able to face down any nation and unleash a holocaust of mass destruction at the touch of a button which the world would not withstand. Yet, now we find ourselves utterly vulnerable to the very world that we worked so hard to forget, our most proud symbols of might felled by men and not nations in a cruel twist on the individualism we have championed for so long.

    I feel ashamed at my own fear. Am I a coward for longing for a peaceful resolution? Is this giving in to the aims of those evil men who committed murder on such a horrendous scale? It is clear that some response must be taken, for, though the soul may be steered by ideals, society has no such luxury. Still, I wish that some attention would be payed by those in power to the fundamental inequalities which are the impetus for all such acts. Though they have been colored by our leaders as hate mongers bent on destroying the will of our great and free society, I believe that the actions of September 11 are symptomatic of the great suffering of the third world, a suffering which allows normally reasonable people to be swayed toward extremism by those with their eyes on power. In the case of Osama bin Laden, this is not so much a desire to seize power, but rather a wish to wield influence in the course of future events, and this is what separates an ideological dictator from the social dictators of the past. I feel that there is a certain parallelism between his rhetoric and ours, and with the recent flood of nationalism, America occasionally feels like a fascist state, depending on who is doing the asking.

    Now I look to the wise for guidance, and, Chris, you are one of them in my book! Are these fears unfounded? I wish to God that they were, but I fear that they are not.

  • Nannette Drake Oldenbourg says:
    For example…

    >"here in a diabolical crime story that is also a political crisis at
    the edge of a financial/industrial crisis enfolded in a spiritual
    crisis, inseparable from the crisis of the crass jiggle-show culture
    that our satellites rain down on the world."

    so brilliant! See? Tom Brokaw could maybe say one part of that in one
    sentence to his audience. You can say the whole enchilada because
    needs underly the concern and thread it together.

    You can recognize the deep grammar of needs
    that takes us beyond the facts of current observations, calculations
    and war preparations. You can assume, for example, we know there’s a
    spiritual crisis because we have spiritual needs (beyond those that could be
    solved with a video course offered in an infomercial, and beyond those
    that would be debated heatedly in a domestic "culture war" also
    defined by politicians and media for our entertainment).

  • Nannette Drake Oldenbourg says:
    speaking of needs…

    David, since I presume Chris and other reasonable persons are sleeping, but these are burning topics,
    I must ask you,
    b who invented the word coward?
    Is it ever a useful term? Let us strike it from our vocabulary!

    You are brave to ask questions.
    How would you like your questions answered on radio? They really want to know.

  • Barry Kort says:
    A Control Drama of Biblical Proportions

    The Control Drama that swirled around the shakeup at WBUR when Chris left The Connection pales in the wake of this latest visitation of shock, horror, terror, and violence.

    The world has seen many Control Dramas since the advent of the Agrarian Culture some 10,000 years ago. We find them in Scripture, History, Literature and Current Events.

    But this is a Control Drama of Bibilical Proportions.

    I am reminded of Beowulf. Osama bin Laden, like McVeigh and Noriega before him, is a monster of our own creation. It will not suffice to kill this one monster. We must systematically dismantle the Monster-Making Machine that turns out an ever rising tide of horrific evil.

    The oldest recorded act of bloodshed in our popular literature is the Cain and Abel Story. In that one, the motive was the Desire for Respect.

    In most Control Dramas, the primary drivers are Fear of Annihilation and Fear of Humiliation. That’s the essence of the Passion Story, too.

    George Bush says that we are either with him or we are with the terrorists.

    I wonder if the Pope is for Bush. I can’t imagine that anyone who is for God can be for retaliation and revenge.

    I am for Restorative Justice, not Retributive Justice. I am for Rescue, and Rebuilding, and Healing.

    This was not an attack on Freedom and Democracy. It was an attack on American Economic and Military Power.

    We are now into Stages 4 and 5 of , which we last visited at Columbine and the Balkans.

    After those Control Dramas, I expected the US would be hit by terrorists imitating NATO’s practice of bringing a country to its knees by taking out its techno-infrastructure. Frankly, I expected nonlethal attacks on our electric power grids and communication network.

    Never did I imagine that the terrorists would combine violence against infrastructure with the Powell Doctrine — if you’re going to go in with force at all, go in with stunning and overwhelming force.

    Now, Colin Powell is retreating from the Powell Doctrine. For the use of overwhelming force makes sense only if there is but one party employing it. Now that we know the terrorists are willing to imitate that strategy, it becomes insane.

    And so we must dismantle the Monster-Making Machinery. We must discontinue the practice of teaching the world how to achieve economic, political, and military hegemony through the ruthless use of force, violence, sanctions, and punishments.

  • Michael Joly says:
    Crafting A Response Through Sound

    Jay Allison’s call to focus on craft struck a chord with me.

    After I turned off the TV early in the afternoon on Sept. 11, I went outside "to do something". It seems the urge to do something was, and is, a response shared by many.

    What I do is make flutes from reeds, "Japanese knot weed" and record with them. Because these reeds are so easy to work with, a flute can be fashioned in a very short period of time – less than an hour – to provide me with a powerfully effective emotional processing device.

    When words fail me, crafting and playing a reed flute focuses all my senses on wordlessly "making sense" and moves me through stages of emotion from shock, to disbelief, to anger, to fear, to vengeance, to acceptance and finally to Hope.

    Holding the reed in my hands and scraping off the outer bark with a pen knife dispels disbelief because I see that I too am holding a knife and attacking a body, the body of the reed. My intent constructive, not destructive, but a knife in my hand nevertheless forces acknowledgement and believe. These terrible acts of violence against human bodies DID occur.

    Belief becomes anger as I ram a threaded steel rod down the inside of the reed to remove the nodes separating one section from the next. Steel rods, essential building reinforcement materials, are now lying in heaps on the ground in lower Manhattan and that makes me fear for the future safety of those I love.

    A blow hole is cut into the hollow reed. For the first time my gathered emotions are expelled with breath to produce sound. I taste the raw woodyness of the reed and my sighs of sorrow turn vengeful when I blow the flute’s lowest note, a soft A below middle C then forcefully overblow into the octave above and then the octave above that. Three notes, all A, rising, a fist of vengeful sound blowing down the walls of terrorism.

    Catching my breath, inhaling life again, brings acceptance and the energy to continue. To continue making the rest of flute, to live, to do what I do – to put holes in reeds to modulate breath sound around wordless ruminations.

    The finger holes are located and cut quickly to capture the energy and emotions of the moment. Only now do I have access to Hope through modal improvisation.

    This September 11 flute, made so soon after the event, is for me doorway to a room of emotional rumination that I’ll revisit again and again as I continue to craft a response through sound.

  • Jay Allison says:
    sound

    I’d like to hear that.

  • Rebecca Katechis says:
    never missed you more

    Never missed your voice on the radio more than this week. First, there is real grief, and for grief you need a poet. And then, how hard is it to have a deeply textured conversation about all of this?NPR, just slightly more open than other media outlets, seems to be waving the flag most defensively right after some poor caller says something real about why there is anti-American anger. Does anyone who thinks really believe that we will kill bin Laden and it will all go away? Old arguments need new hearing – who trained him? What about our endless hunger for oil, and how it directs our role in the conflict? How much of the world has met the 21st century? What exactly will feel good about killing Afghani woman and children? How does a dumb isolationalist leader suddenly wake up such a coalition buillder? What do we do with exactly how hurt we are, how will we make right by endless innocent victims?

    When are you coming back on the radio?

  • Abby Vigneron says:
    Talking past eachother

    So much of the current coverage reminds me of a discussion of various approaches to conceptual analysis of law. The writer said, they can not agree or disagree, because they do not seek to answer the same questions. The result is that they (the commentators and others) succeed only in talking past each other.

    I miss your voice on the radio so very much. I ran to your web site after only a few days of coverage, because I needed something more. I needed the someone to probe a guest’s answer, to make sure that everyone was answering the same question.

    Abby

  • Adam Gertsacov says:
    Craft and the Connection

    Chris, I really enjoyed your hosting of the connection for one main reason– the connections.

    For me, the zig zag off kilter way you managed to range around topics, to lead the guests in such a way that they seemed to be picking their own topic, was both infuriating and fascinating. Infuriating, because the conversation hardly ever went where I wanted it to go, or asked the questions that I wanted to ask. Fascinating, because no matter where the conversation went, you managed to find the connection and the gold.

    I called your show once to talk about rhythm and clowning (It was the show that had the author of Faster… Faster… on it. Even though I got to have nearly the final call, it still didn’t go where I wanted it to go.

    My observation is that you tread with relative ease on the tightwire between letting the subject go where it wanted and getting in the points that you had prepared. (and it seemed like you were always prepared!)

    My question is: Do you have any tips for keeping the conversation on the wire?

    Adam Gertsacov
    kafclown@well.com
    Clown Laureate, Greenbelt Maryland
    http://www.acmeclown.com

    Author, Rhode Island A to Z
    http://www.riatoz.com

  • Susan Jenkins says:
    Coverage/Talk show formats

    Two things I have noticed:

    1. I dose myself on the media medication very sparingly–no tv at home, so little exposure there, just enough to mix into the cocktail of NPR station sampling in the evenings and NY Times and Salon.com coverage. It seems, not only to me, but friends, that the special NPR coverage programs (such as Michael Krasny’s on KQED in SFO and Brook Gladstone’s stint this week) are providing insight and balance in the various perspectives on our response to the terrorism, while the televised news and Times seem like walls where the voices of temperance aren’t able to penetrate.

    2. Having said that, not everyone with a call-in program on public radio provides a space for the listener to think. It seems like there are two kinds of "hosts." Those that have guests who speak thoughtfully and intelligently about issues as if they want to solve them without trying to get into an argument, and those that are more interested in getting guests they know will get into a fight, and in collecting callers they know will incite a lot of huffing and puffing. Brian Lehrer’s show comes to mind–he may be of the mindset that says, "let people hang themselves (callers and guests alike)" but ultimately what you get is a sampling of various opinions without any progress on the issues at hand. The listener gets no room to digest the issue and think forward on it. The sampling has its own benefits–I am often amazed in the opinions of other people who listen to "my" public radio station and how different they are. But what I think benefits us more in these times are intelligent opinions offered with only one motivation: to contribute insight and understanding. Rather than grandstanding or positioning oneself.

    Chris, I frequently found your program to be refreshing because even though you didn’t always lead discussions in the direction I anticipated, there was always a direction and response to the discussion that moved forward, and a journey made through issues rather than "on" them. I wonder what you, and others, think about my inexpert viewpoint here on the "two types" of hosts/programs, and the benefits of one format over another in these times, when it seems everyone is trying to "catch up" on what our government is planning in its response.

  • Barry Kort says:
    Going after symbols.

    Just as the terrorists went after landmark symbols of American economic and military hegemony, we will go after their landmark symbols too — namely Osama bin Laden, whom Bush has named as their top landmark symbol in the violent resistance to American economic and military hegemony.

    And just as the toppling of the WTC won’t kill America’s economic domination of world markets, neither will toppling bin Laden kill the fervor for Islamic Jihad. If anything, it will likely rally it, just as the attack on the Pentagon rallied our call to arms.

    The Control Drama which pits Fear of Annihilation against Fear of Humiliation will ramp up on both sides, leading to inexorable tragedy in the tradition of Greek, Shakespearean, and Biblical Drama.

    We will now reprise the Perennial Control Drama with xerographic precision, and many parallels will be drawn to Cain and Abel, Moses and Pharaoh, Jesus and Pilate, Alaric and Nero, Reagan and Qaddafi.

    It would not surprise me if this one goes all the way to the slaying of the first born.

  • Jay Green says:
    A minor event

    Easy to be wise–a minor event, really. The "new (essentially,same) world order" has an event at home. American foreign policy, now a non-national global corporate cabal going on since WW2, finally spilled over onto our "sacred soil". So what? An embarrassing display of ‘better than’ psychosis by the US.

    Violence and tragedy are not to be taken lightly, but this revealing obsession to not be seen as cavalier is truly pathetic!

    Chris, you once had a show on the enneagram, with your expert guest identifying you as a 7 personality. In my opinion, America is, nationally, a 7 as well. The major drive here is one of avoiding, at all costs, the fear of scarcity, while covering it up with a ceaseless industry and planning for the future. This endless grazing is always superficial
    and unfulfilling and covers itself up from self-awareness with righteousness.

    Now, this is an afflicted expression; at the more successful end of the spectrum is the ability to show how to have fun. Fun is right behind love in importance and too intricate to go into here, but one element of it is one of perspective on how ‘real’ various aspects of one’s reality are. The ineffable are the most real, physical time/space dependent things the least, bordering on the ancient Shinto concept of ‘all is illusion’, ‘everything changes’.

    This perspective is sorely missing in the American condition of being junked out on the drug of ignorance. This denial of truth freely allows for agendas to flourish. Corporate owned and influenced media have it easy feeding us. This ‘home skirmish’ is easily played. I’d have to say the 2 choices of target, 3 if you consider that OUR own everyday objects were used, couldn’t have been more of a Freudian message to us–NY money for the coastal "free" thinkers and the Pentagon for the "heartlanders".

    Spiritually, this is a grand litmus test, and so far the class gets a big ugly I, for incomplete. We have time.

    A true knowledge of world geopolitics sees the perspective easily. Not knowing the truth produces this sickening self-importance now being exhibited in all it’s Joe McCarthian glory. Very treachorous times now beginning. Watch out for outrageous violations of civil rights, privacy, and any feeble attempts at left-sided pleas. It will get much worse as the political shills for the global corporations face NO resistance.
    Pent up anger and frustration to order our american world is all aimed at this Waco event. This time WE are inside the compound.Everybody has the button in them, and it was royally pushed.

    Of course, it would be easy to imagine a ‘miracle’ helping us transcend all this. Any number of scenarios are within reach of logic. Bits of truth welling up to the ACCEPTABLE media–we are beginning to see that we are becoming a ‘one world mind’. Voices speaking up in the face of inestamable coercion planting seeds in folk who never had to cross examine themselves before–certainly not in the WW2 generation now leaving us.
    In the ‘old’ days this event would have lasted 50 years, now, maybe 5 months, til some world-view shattering revelation–say, successful marketing of free energy devices for everyone. After all the Japanese have been working with other non-Americans on cold fusion all along. It’s just our U.S.-cult that doesn’t want to face our scariest fear–look into the heart of scarcity, and release it’s hold on us. Come out the other end of it. Classic therapy could lead to an allowance that the truth of things in our current world will lead us to prosperity humanity has never fully known. We have to face our Waterloo once and for all. And take back our world from so few who are given it gladly.

    It was really a great wake-up call metaphysically, so little lost, so much on the table for us. Maybe we ARE the launching pad for the Great Work afterall.

  • Nannette Drake Oldenbourg says:
    learning so much here, thank you all

    Michael Joly, thank you!
    Chris, we obviously need you because, as poet and scholar you are
    nearly uniquely qualified at discerning the brilliant from the
    psychotic. You can go farther than many in following arguments instead
    of rejecting them out of hand..

    Questions about ‘what the blank is going on’ and ‘what should we do’
    must be coming in everywhere. Maybe you could do a gig on a
    pychologist’s call-in show and do amazing things by actually listening
    and thinking.

    The other day a 20-something year old man with a daughter told me he
    wanted to enlist. Gingerly, I said I hoped we could find some way to
    do what we need to without killing civilians and having actions
    interpreted as hating the entire islamic world, etc.

    He said, "Oh NO! We would NEVER do THAT. That’s not who we ARE!" and he
    gave me a reassuring smile because he knew that he had more
    information than I did, because he had heard Bush’s speech.

    It strikes me that our generation might have to all-of-a-sudden grow up
    and take on the role of elder, explainer…

  • Abby Vigneron says:
    Alternatives–to flying that is

    I don’t in any way want to cripple our country’s airline industry, and I hope that it can recover, but I wish that there were more consideration of the role of trains in all of this.

    I am not any more afraid of flying now than I was before; I, however, don’t have any money to spend on flying right now. I can’t help thinking, though, that a lot of the heavily-trafficked short-haul flights would be better served by a decent rail network.

    As a child, I once asked my father why there was security at airports and not at train stations. I thought that a bomb on either one would be pretty devastating. He said that planes could not be hijacked as far off course, and that the damage from something destroyed in the air was greater. (The UK’s lack of trash bins at train stations notwithstanding)

    So let’s assume that airport security at Logan gets beefed up, and it takes an hour to get on board a flight to LaGuardia. Combine that with getting from downtown to the airport, and then from the airport to midtown, you’re up to 4 hours in travel.

    I know that Amtrak just put in a "high-speed" train, but it doesn’t run on time or go all that fast. If we could get some super-high speed Japanese style trains, I’m sure that you could do downtown Boston to mid-town New York in under 2.5 hours. It wouldn’t be feasible for a lot of the country, but on the coasts (Boston to New York to DC, and San Francisco to L.A.) it could speed up a lot of passenger traffic.

    The only thing is that we need somebody other than the current Amtrak management to do it.

  • Chris Lydon says:

    I want to introduce Mary McGrath into this terrific thread immediately because I can never imagine constructing these conversations without her impatient curiosity and her tough insistence on "trading up" at every opportunity. That is: get a better guest, ask a deeper question, try another caller. As a producer/director Mary is invariably driving

    (a) to make a show different from any other (different from Imus, Terry Gross or Talk of the Nation, for example);

    (b) to make a radio hour an "event" in itself, in the style of John Hockenberry on TOTN–it can’t feel like just a reading from a book;

    (c) to force it open to listeners as a real conversation with the right callers–she is always asking: "what’s the question for callers here?";

    (d) to incite callers that incite others, so that the conversation does zig-zag and seems to build geometrically; it’s never a straight line.

    (e) to build crescendos and diminuendos into the live hour that give some form to an organic mystery. The control-room observation was that 43 minutes into the hour was the magic moment for some sort of climax or revelation in the best shows. They do have a shape, but it takes a lot of "production" to find it.

    In the first 48 hours of Transom comments so far, there seem to be two big headings: 1. WHAT we desperately want to talk about and 2. HOW we can use the radio uniquely to talk about them. As to the WHAT, I’d aim for the gaps between the conversations we’re having at home and the "media discourse." The easiest example is the media stampede to pronounce President George W. Bush our Churchill. Don Imus, who’s given him the nitwit treatment before, intoned last Friday that he sees now in our almost accidental chief the stuff of Lincoln and FDR. Seriously, folks, could we start a list of the points where "the line" has got to be decoded and confronted? Before we rush to war in and over the trackless wastes of Afghanistan, for example, I dream of a cautionary conversation on the air with the author of "Kim" and "The Man Who Would Be King," Rudyard Kipling. Correspondents: please name the Big Questions we need to talk about.

    As to the HOW question, I’d like to hear people’s beefs and biases about the best balance of guests and callers in talk shows that work. We like to say that our best shows are caller driven, but in fact we always avoided open-phone shows. We built our show around substantive guests, yet we’d swear that there’s no such thing as an expert. So then, let’s have another list, please, of Ideal Guests we’re dying to hear in these darkly fascinating days.

  • Amy Mack says:
    Historical Context Needed

    What isn’t being adequately addressed in any of the media reports is the history and ideology of Islam as context, particularly with regard to Islam’s relationship to, and conflict with, Christianity and Judaism. How has Islam’s history affected the current thinking of its adherents? How do the tenets of Islam as a religion influence the thinking and actions of Muslims? With the exception of the bombing of abortion clinics and the murder of doctors who perform abortions by people we think of as wackos, we in the West are not accustomed to thinking about religion as an overwhelming motivating force, especially of violent behavior.

    Furthermore, the term "moderate Islamic governments" is being bandied about by the media without explanation or content. What does "moderate" mean? Compared to what? I’m worried that Israel will be the sacrificial lamb in the U.S.’s search for support from Arab regimes. By calling some of these regimes "moderate," people will be conditioned to be favorably disposed towards their demands that the U.S. abandon its support for Israel as the price for support. None of these regimes are democratic or supportive of basic freedoms such as freedom of the press, of religion (e.g., Saudi Arabia forbids the practice within its borders of any religion besides Islam), etc.
    Radio needs to challenge this sloppy, misleading redefinition of terms describing the political positions of other nations.

    Chris, I miss your thoughtful and incisive examination of current issues, especially now.

  • Michael Joly says:
    HOW we can use the radio?

    I’m an ambient sound supporter.

    Not just the itty bitty actualities we get daily on NPR but whole big gobs of living-in-it ambient sound.

    On "Weekend Edition" the other day there was some sound from the Yankee Stadium memorial service. I got kinda pissed off that the Islamic chanting bit wasn’t longer. I want to experience long, uninterrupted ambient sound that perfumes my room as much as goat cooked in ghee with cumin.

    I sure would like to hear smart, passionate people talking over appropriate ambient sound spaces for the length of a show or topic.

    "Trade up" to a radio space that’s not just the sound of voices talking in a padded room ;)

  • Chris Lydon says:
    A question with no "right" answer

    To Amy Mack and everybody else: Your comment about the implications for Israel here prompts the question I’ve been putting to a lot of friends in the last week. If Israelis and Palestinians announced tomorrow that they had reached a workable compromise on statehood, settlements, rights of return, Jerusalem, and the rest of a general framework of tolerant coexistence, how much of the larger problem between the US and Islam around the world would be solved? I’ve heard some knowledgeable people say: 20 percent. Some others: 80 percent. I’d like to hear some more numbers and arguments to go with them.

  • Charlie Evett says:


    Everywhere, among my family, friends, church, I hear calls for restraint in responding to this atrocity. Yet I cannot see a way out for us. What other response do we know other than to answer mass destruction with more total destruction?

    We’ve been playing the A side of peace, prosperity, and high energy fun for a generation. The flip side of that record is a crescendo of relentless violence. The record has already been turned over. It has its good points too — real heroes, real national solidarity. So much for ennui… this years Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold don’t have to shoot their classmates, they can just join up.

    When I hear everyone talking about how this will be a war unlike any other I just shake my head. I don’t believe it. Maybe it won’t start like a conventional war, but if you send a vast army out, chances are they’ll find somebody to fight. And this time we aren’t going home when the casualties come in. This time, we send for reinforcements.

    6000 American dead will have to be answered. What will we accept in return?

    Where is radio in all this? Chris is absolutely right on in saying (I think) "Don’t ask the experts". They don’t know, or maybe they just aren’t telling.

    I feel like we’re in a period with a strange beauty. Our senses heightened by danger, the skies seem bigger, friends seem dearer. It can’t last. We keep hearing how we’ve lost our innocence, but really it’s only half lost. We’ve lost our sense of invulnerability, but we still are innocent of our own capacity to kill. Radio should be striving to capture that innocence before it’s gone.

    Sorry for all this depressing rambling — where’s Mary McGrath to screen people when you need her?

  • Michael Joly says:
    RadioPhonic Innocence

    Re: Charlie Evett’s comment "…We’ve lost our sense of invulnerability, but we still are innocent of our own capacity to kill. Radio should be striving to capture that innocence before it’s gone".

    I would add we are innocent of our own capacity to listen. Where are the sounds of just a few of the 18 million Pashtun tribespeople? (10M in Afghanistan and 8M in W. Pakistan – Christian Science Monitor: http://www.christiansciencemonitor.com/2001/0924/p6s1-wosc.html

    Talk radio might consider experimenting with "Listen Radio".

    If we heard the life sounds of the people being discussed, and not just abstract ideological ramblings presented in text (as clever as word warriors are), would we feel differently? Might we not hear the Pashtun as Brother, not Other?

    Oh sure, there’s the problem and expense of collecting the "actualities" – the ROI thing. Why not have the participants submit their own?

    I tire of discussions about the Other without hearing them live.

  • Mary McGrath says:
    Producer’s Eye View

    I’ve been thinking a lot about the stories we’d be pursuing right now, the most interesting angles, and the guests. When I ask myself what it is we do better than others, I’d have to say it’s subtle, but it’s distinctive.
    It starts with a host who’s smart, curious, and engaged; who’s among the great talkers himself. And then there’s an amazing staff of energetic people a lot smarter than I am who love their jobs. During a big news story like this one we think very hard about each show and I watch the public radio rundown to make sure we’re not duplicating anybody else’s efforts. We’re very competitive. We wouldn’t be doing shows about how patriotic America is, or who’s feeling guilty about moving on. There’s no real controversy there. There’s not an edgy question to pose to the audience. There’s nothing really to learn. I want to learn more about the different factions of Islam. I want to know more about the intelligence void in America. I’d want to revisit America’s role in creating Osama bin Laden. I’d want to hear from Russian generals who fought in Afghanistan and today I’d want to talk about Bob Woodward’s story in yesterday’s Washington Post which says no connection has been made between several al-Qaeda groups that have operated in the US for several years and any of the 19 hijackers responsible for the September 11 attacks.

    We start with a compelling subject and some good guests. We pre-interview guests exhaustively and we have high standards. We don’t worry needlessly about “balance,” we don’t hold Chris back from expressing his own opinions, and we let callers in on the fun of it. We screen them more than a little but only to find the right ones that move the show forward. It’s not just “vox pop.” It’s got to be constructive. And we don’t linger with callers; the pace of the show is very important. Mostly at the end of an hour you’d want to hear more.

  • Jay Allison says:
    want to hear more

    Good to have you here, Mary.

    That’s a great list of show topics. I’d like to hear them.

    The screening thing interests me. What are your criteria? It doesn’t strike me that you screen only to create controversy. Is intelligence a requirement? Can an ignorant or misinformed caller be a good choice to let through? Certainly commercial radio talk shows thrive on that type. Do your criteria change as the program goes on?

    I wonder what contributions to this conversation you’d want to get on the air and why.

    Must all good shows have controversy? I, as novice a call-in show host as there is in America, did a local hour on Friday about birds and the migrations in our area. It had been scheduled before the attack and we decided to go ahead, thinking it might have ameliorative effect precisely because it was unexpected, uncontroversial and focused our listeners for a moment on the larger ongoing world, let them look at the sky in a different way. Perhaps I will post it for your ruthless critique.

  • Adam Gertsacov says:
    The best shows raise questions, not answers

    My favorite shows were ones where at the end of the hour, I didn’t have the answers, but I now had a series of questions.

    (Well, not entirely true. There was an improvisational orchestra on your show that I was very pleased with.)

    at this juncture with all of the media ablaze with news about Osama Bin Laden and Operation Instant Kharma, a breath of fresh air about other important issues would be well appreciated.

    Perhaps there would be oblique connections– how about a show talking about the tenuous line between tragedy and comedy?

    Adam Gertsacov
    Clown Laureate of Greenbelt Maryland
    http://www.trainedfleas.com
    http://www.acmeclown.com
    http://www.riatoz.com

  • Sean McElroy says:
    Reflections on Radio Listening

    I don’t remember the first radio. I’m certain it was there, a chatter of voices or a lullaby. I’m sure I was enthralled by the knobs. I probably tried to eat them.

    Then I got my own miniature transistor radio. Playing softly under my pillow at night. There was popular music, subliminal messages, ball scores and I felt grown up.

    Things began to change when my big brother found a station playing music without the messages. The music was unfamiliar to me but compelling. Where had I heard it? Dad’s music? Mom’s music? It was swinging and serious, or like a blade of grass between my teeth, a piece of earth and sky and light and a summer’s breeze.

    There were humid college dorm room days. Alone while others went home. To console me, there was Coltrane and Prez and Miles and so many others. There was an intelligent voice treating the music with respect and consideration. We understood each other and agreed often.

    Before work, I awoke to the birds singing in my ear and a deep dark voice slowly opening day’s door. Nature’s theme transformed into a lilting piece of human history. So many others had awakened before me.

    After work, was the quirky and irritating voice of Barbara S. I wanted to switch stations but I couldn’t. I was drawn to the words themselves. They entered me and would not let me move. Someone honked their horn as I waited at the green light.

    On Fridays, it was reggae. Every other night was Jazz with Eric.

    Then one day, I caught a conversation when nobody else was listening. Somebody’s on the telephone, then there’s somebody who is better at playing than talking, then there’s somebody who’s trying to ask the right question, bring more to me, fill up the air with thoughts, feelings, visions. I’m unsteady. I stop the car. Two hours later, I’m in a parking lot – work can wait.

    Now the radio is on the computer. I’m talking to it now only I’m not saying anything. I don’t know where we’ll go from here, the radio and I. I’m thrilled to have had it’s company up to now. It’s a bit harder to find that great blessing of sound but I find I need to write now anyway.

  • Chris Lydon says:
    Push those questions, Jay Allison

    Great questions there, Jay.

    Mary doesn’t want to give away all the secrets of the special sauce, but you might press her on, for example, the picking of callers. I wasn’t in on it, but she seemed to summon great voices from the vasty deep, just when you needed them. "Michael in Watertown" and "Joel in Brewster" and people like that.

    Controversy is an important issue. Talk shows are supposed to thrive on it, but you notice that typically (Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham, Jay Severin et ilk) it’s a one-way rant-a-thon that doesn’t like to admit there’s another side. I want to know what Mary says.

    The bird-watching change-of-pace can sound like self-parody, but it’s important; and with your Vernon Laux it’s bound to be interesting. The late great Louis Lyons ("Well, here’s the news..") of WGBH in Boston used to begin every broadcast with a note on the weather or the season (birds, crops, storm histories) just to set the context that enveloped all his listeners. Allusive digressions into nature and the arts have a particular value right now. The New York Times made it an important story on Saturday and later that Kurt Masur leapt into a performance of Brahms’ German Requiem ("Blessed are those that mourn…") with the NY Philharmonic at Lincoln Center last Thursday night, at roughly the moment President Bush was addressing Congress. I am listening to that Requiem in my kitchen over and over these days, and feeling it as never before. Yes, you could do a talk program about it.

  • Mary McGrath says:

    Jay,
    Certainly, not all of our shows were controversial. Many were like adult education classes. We did a nine-week summer course on philosophy, a five part series on the senses, and an annual design-your-own-film festival show. We had haiku contests and a business plan contest. We did a magnetic poetry slam. We featured lots of non-controversial authors in Boston on book tours though we’d infuriate the publicists when we’d insist that they talk about a subject that interested us, rather than flog their new book. I used to say, “what’s the subject for which so and so would make the perfect guest?” When Jonathan Letham was touring for one of his novels we put him on with a movie critic and did a program about John Ford’s western, “The Searchers.” We’ll all remember Caroline who called in and said she’d seen the film 21 times.
    I’ll sound mean when I say that intelligence is a requirement for callers. Of course, we live among the great talk show callers in the world so we can be choosy. Often a show would be memorable more for the callers than the guests. We look for smart questions and comments, also for interesting personal experience and anecdotes. The idea is to continually move the program forward. If someone has been holding for 30 minutes wanting to react to something said very early in the hour, we’ll apologize to the caller rather than go backwards.

  • scientella says:

    Dear Dave,

    Not random thoughts to me, I have them to.

    As a agnostic aetheist I have thought once or twice this week about the wisdom of my Christian upbringing and ideas like forgiveness and do to others as to oneself etc. As a darwinian of the nth degree I see how smart Christian principles in bettering the collective future of the human species.

    To do otherwise is apart form being immoral (by Christian Terms…(so W you call yourself a CHRISTIAN!!!)DOESNT WORK. Look what Ghandi did, Martin Luther King…great methodology, IT WORKS!

    Bomb the poor, start mass exodus from Afghanistan, encourage apartide and racism in occupied Palestine, chop of one terrorist and create 100 more in his place. We are in for it, biological weapons and all.

    AS for Bush’s speech writer having the right TONE. IS THAT ALL IT IS ABOUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!! REFLECTING MOOD OF THE COUNTRY, a vaccum cleaner up its own bag, like the politicians who self iterate their own spin in ever tighter cirles!!

    How about a LEADER who SETS the tone and with some knowledge of history guides us through this horrendous time.

    I admit it Im considering immigrating.

  • scientella says:
    100% solved -contained war.

    Israel steals water, treats non jews as second class citizens, commits Palestinians to poverty, answers enraged rock throwing youths with bulldozers and mortar shells, kills unarmed Palestinian civilians, occupies UN sanctioned land…and breeds terrorists in refugee camps, and calls anyone who criticises these practices anti-semitic.

    The US gives 6 billion a year to Israel. Clinton 500 million one time to Palestine. The US media with hideous consistency understates and twists the atrocities being commited in Israel.

    History will bear this out, and second tier liberal arts colleges will be discussing racism of US media in 50 years time.

    My answer…give 3 billion per year to Palestine, build universities and democratic institutions. Hope that wisdom will prevail and two wise leaders appear to replace those ex-terrorists Sharon.
    The US’s war on terrorism could start and stop with those two.

  • scientella says:

    Oops,

    I meant emmigrating in the first Email, and forgot to add Arafat as the second ex? terrorist in the second.

  • Naomi Gurt Lind says:
    observations in NY

    I just arrived in New York last night. I was supposed to have come here on *that* Tuesday but with luck that seems good for me but too little to matter to the world, I heard the news minutes before I left the house. The night before, I had been unaccountably weepy and fearful about coming down to the city, despite the fact I’m down here several times a month for work and learning. I rationalized that queasiness as garden variety existential angst; looking back, I’ll always wonder about that feeling.

    I’m here now, having purposely scheduled today as a free day. My rehearsal is not until 6:30 this evening so I took the subway downtown to look around. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to see or why, but just followed the tug in my guts. A regular civilian can’t get past the police barricades and so at various intersections crowds gather to gawk, think, take photos (you’re lost without a decent lens, don’t even bother with one of those kicky toss-away cameras), nose around. It’s a bit of a tourist attraction, to tell the truth. I stayed long enough to get a good look and absorb the reality of the event, but felt odd about having gone there. It felt like a peep show, one where you can almost see what you want to see but not quite.

    It was the smaller things that touched me: the prayers xeroxed and pasted up on phone boxes and walls, the personal messages written in now-rainwashed colored magic marker on the paper-covered police barricades, the schoolchildrens’ sweet banners hanging outside St. Paul’s Chapel.

    And there is the smell, sickeningly sweet, ashy.

    Alas the bigger picture is getting warped by the increasingly macho rhetoric. The most revolting thing I’ve seen, worse even than the destruction (Am I allowed to say that anything is worse than the destruction or does that make me un-American? Will Bush hunt me down and smoke me out?) was a special-issue magazine entitled "America at War" — trussed out in red, white and blue and featuring photographs of the remains of the towers, as well as illuminating text by appropriately ass-kicking authors. It’s warnography. Who is buying this stuff? What is its purpose?

    Folks, I’m glad I found you. I’ve long been an admirer of Mr. Lydon and miss that dulcet vox on the radio. Even more, I am grateful to have found some considered discussion, some rational humans who are willing to go beyond the flag-waving, "let’s kick some A-rab ass!" patriotism. Thank you all for being here.

  • DrDan says:
    Why (I believe) we’re here

    Naomi Gurt Lind: Like you, I have
    >"long been an admirer of Mr. Lydon and miss that dulcet vox on the radio." (Naomi Gurt Lind September 25, 2001 05:34pm)

    There are many like us. You’ll find some more of us (sometimes soi-disant "Lydonistas", increasingly "Connectioneers") on the web at http://www.ChristopherLydon.org. (And if you’d like to learn more about us as a group of friends with a common thread among us — missing the real Connection and doing what little we can for the return of Lydon & McGrath to the airwaves — drop me an email here, and welcome!)

    Your "warnography" coinage is valuable; thanks for the perspective.

    scientella, with all due respect, I (for one) don’t believe that this "Christopher Lydon’s Topic" thread is going to be a fruitful one in which to discuss the pros and cons of our views of the history of the Israel/Palestine confrontation or the US/Bin Laden confrontation. (scientella September 25, 2001 02:35pm)

    I (for one) believe this is a forum within which we imho have been invited to discuss Lydon/McGrath’s craft and style — to explore what they would be bringing to the world of radio in this difficult time.

    As Jay Allison said:

    >… "If there was ever a public radio program that made you feel like standing up and giving money, Chris’s Connection was it."

    >… "Many of us urge the alignment of righteous forces to put him back there as soon as possible."

    >… "Here, we’d like to focus on what Chris can tell us about the nature of this line of work, the power and usefulness of the medium of radio and the genre of the talk show." … (Jay Allison September 21, 2001 11:17am)

  • bill mckibben says:
    a bad case of missing lydon

    What a pleasure to hear Chris, if only in print. NPR has been doing a good job–especially the broadcasts from Krasny, and from WNYC–but the day-after-day reporting-via-talk-show that was the connection specialty in big news events is sorely missed. I’d be interested in hearing Chris talk about how to get a story to build day after day, instead of turning into rehashing. And what are the particular challenges when there are not two sides (as opposed to, say, last year’s election crisis). Perhaps he can make reference to the way he kept up, month after month, on the story behind the economic disintegration of Russia. In any event, Chris we miss you now more than ever–Bill McKibben

  • DrDan says:
    A topic I’d like to hear dealt with: Evil

    I’ve really enjoyed Chris’s and Mary’s descriptions of the techniques of what goes into the "special sauce." Along the potential-topic lines of what (Amy Mack September 24, 2001 05:03pm) suggested, I (for one) have been discussing, with various e-friends in various electronic communities, the existence of evil and its definitions. Funny how opposite sides in any deep cultural divide can define it so easily as being on the other side. Does God, if s/he/it exists, condone evil? Or is it, as I happen to believe, "every sparrow for himself?"

      There was a group of Jews in one of the Holocaust’s death camps who put God on trial. Guess who was found guilty.

      What were the different concepts of evil in the minds of those working in the WTC and Pentagon, versus in the minds of those who crashed planes into them?

    I’d like to hear the L&M type of take on that question. I figure it must have been touched on elsewhere in the recent welter of media coverage, but I’m confident that the L&M take on such a program would be particularly valuable. Not just because of the callers and the production values, but because of that marvelous Rolodex that has brought so many seminal thinkers to their microphones.

  • Jackson Braider says:
    Evil: Now there’s a program subject

    DrDan: What do *you* mean by "evil"? I feel that Reagan cheapened the word when he spoke of the "evil" empire. I see evil almost as a kind of perfection — like, it can’t get any worse, the first or tenth degree on a semantic differential. A term rife with religious significance, can it mean something to secular humanists?

  • scientella says:

    "Chris Lydon – 06:06pm Sep 24, 2001 EST (#35 of 49)

    A question with no "right" answer

    To Amy Mack and everybody else: Your comment about the implications for Israel here prompts the question I’ve been putting to a lot of friends in the last week. If Israelis and Palestinians announced tomorrow that they had reached a workable compromise on statehood, settlements, rights of return, Jerusalem, and the rest of a general framework of tolerant coexistence, how much of the larger problem between the US and Islam around the world would be solved? I’ve heard some knowledgeable people say: 20 percent. Some others: 80 percent. I’d like to hear some more numbers and arguments to go with them. "

    Dr Dan, I was answering Chris’s question.

    He didnt insist that this be more ruminations about the excellence of the Connection. (yes it was devastatingly excellent. He and McGrath turned out art, no less. Im not privy to their formula, its not my business, "I dont know much about art but I know what I like"/ So yes lets say it again, dear Mr Lydon GET BACK ON THE AIR REGULARLY PRONTO, any station will do)

    To again veil Israel and US agression under a newspeak of "pros and cons of our views of the history of the Israel/Palestine confrontation or the US/Bin Laden confrontation", is talking around the issue yet again. Dont you realize that Washington right now will be questioning its support for Israel, but again having to couch even the faintest criticism of Israel in wooly terms because the Holocaust still resonates so loudly in every non-barbarian brain that there is the real risk of moral criticism being confused with erstwhile Nazi hatred???? Dont you realize that in raising questions about US support of Israel in Washington bin Laden has to this extent been highly successful???? Because we are not in Washington, should we remain MUM on this subject???

    No thanks. IT IS THE NUB OF THE ISSUE

    As for the ever shifting alliances of the US and its Iran/Iraq, Russian/Taliban victims – the US is like a crazy spinning top. Which side it will fall next? In addition to bringing to the worlds attention the fact that the US is physically vulnerable, bin Laden or whoever was behind this (as if there was only one) has also forced the US’s bi-polar mentality into public view.

    Rather than terrorists having to murder another 7,000 Americans, or even one more for that matter, to force these questions onto our tiny little radar screens, I for one would rather they be broached here, there and every where, at many Racism conferences, so that those in Afghanistan and Palestine, many of who are Muslim, would not feel that the insult of lies and excuses has been added to the injury of their oppression.

  • Elizabeth says:
    don’t know much about radio craft

    I don’t know much about radio craft … except to say that my 10 am to noon hours haven’t been the same since Chris and Mary were forced out. My reaction to the September 11th crimes were many — but among them was this response –
    Chris could get us through this!
    I am only awake now because I tried to listen to Dick Gordon "interview" Howard Zinn on the "faux-connection", and my blood pressure went through the roof.
    Public radio is sounding like Bush’s mouthpiece. As a peace activist, I long for the days when my voice could be heard without the HOST attacking my position, a la Michael Goldfarb in recent days.
    Chris and Mary, you bring sanity, and the hope for truth in the craft.
    All I want from the craft is for you both to come back!
    Elizabeth

  • Jackson Braider says:
    But Chris was a gadfly!

    Elizabeth: you do Chris too much justice. Somewhere in all this palaver Chris mentions the rule of controversy in the talk show. Listen carefully to your radio: just because one isn’t overtly saying Bush, Rummy, and Rice are idiots, that doesn’t mean that stories — I am thinking of the interview on The World recently with the British commando who trained the likes of the Taliban on how to wage modern guerilla warfare — are GOP pin-up material. Watch as stories begin to emerge that compare the proposed war in Afghanistan with the likes of the war on drugs (thank you, Salon.com!).

    More to the point, Chris would have attacked your position if only to force you to defend it. I didn’t think as highly of The Connection — Chris or post-Chris — as others here did, but then again, I never saw him entirely as a voice of reason when he addressed Connection Listeners. His job was to challenge, to provoke debate. When he did that, "The Connection" was good — when he was just showing off…

  • Daithi says:
    Steering the discussion

    I must say that I am a tad disappointed that this conversation threatens to descend into illiterate argument on why Israel is so bad / good / whatever. The Internet contains many fora for such "debate" and it surely cannot be too hard to find one or more such outlets.

    Christopher Lydon and Mary McGrath have kindly taken the initiative in talking about the art of radio. I use the word "art" on purpose, because I truly believe that it is of paramount importance that a line be drawn between going through the motions and actually producing a show that is a self-contained work of art. Rolling news, for example, is a service, but a good talk show, is a complete work and should be studied as such.

    Just because it should be studied, however, doesn’t mean that good radio deserves whimsical and po-faced essays to be written as a response. For example, one previous author referred to the sound portraits used by NPR at weekends. The collage that follows the news bulletin has always been an essential part of my Sunday afternoon (time lag). The art here is in the method of communication – how the compiler conveys the events of the week in a short time, and how potent (or indeed im-potent!, stretching the use of the English language) the words of the original speakers are.

    I would like to see this conversation look at how radio and radio artists can respond to war. Some previous comments are aimed at the right ball. Do broadcasters have an obligation to support a war effort, or is it even unethical to cheerlead / stand behind the President without question? I would like to address these issues but I won’t even bother if the answers of fellow users are going to be swamped by the childish posturings of the anti-Israel set.

  • Chris Lydon says:
    Steering and Flaming

    The last few exchanges could make you worry that the world is never more than six (maybe fewer) degrees of separation away from a shouting war about Israelis and Palestinians. On radio I would not allow Scientella’s lurch into that rhetorical explosion; on radio everyone would hear that abusive righteousness as an attack on the conversation itself. Rant makes lousy radio, including rant from callers. And still it’s a time to be hearing more not less of the Middle East history–the passions and the politics in which we’re all inescapably engaged. Mary McGrath is my authority on the point that it takes a heap of planning and construction to make a radio conversation deliver authenticity, and maybe Mary should comment on these recent posts. But here’s also to Daithi’s hard questions about the courage and creativity required of broadcasters here. I heard the Rush-meister this afternoon trying to fantasize himself into a frenzy about Peter Jennings’ loyalty to President Bush on September 11. The rage-jockeys who were trashing Bush three weeks ago are now presuming to police our salutes! The ordinary street conversations I hear are not fooled.

  • scientella says:
    wrong tone

    So I got the substance right but the tone wrong. Naughty me, this is America

  • scientella says:
    More tepid lies.

    And as I sign out, never to contact you again, and adding this forum to the pile of US media who are incapable of reporting the truth of what is happening in Israel, I can only refer you to the European media. Todays Guardian covered the furor between Jack Straw and Sharon, over Straw’s mild comments about Israels culpability. Not a squeak in the New York times. It is a biased outrage. I make no apologies for my outrage.

  • Jackson Braider says:
    Daithi, thanks for trying

    Transom is supposed to be about a new radio. But it’s really like a bazaar along the Silk Road — people from all kinds of places with different things to hawk. Blame it on Lydon if the conversation has turned to conversation — communication without frontier. Fortunately, we aren’t limited to an hour here, so the kind of brakes that would have prevented a Scientella from breaking in on The Connection cannot be applied here.

    Conversation turns on different points of view. We can argue, we can defend. We can even sometimes convince — but that’s something that is not happening here. Dismissing Scientella as a ranter is to connote that he/she is not worth listening to. Not a good way to conduct a conversation, to my ears. People like Scientella have lacked a forum in this country, and it would be interesting to talk about why that is.

    Look at it this way: Bush has met on at least several occasions with Sharon. He has never met once with Arafat. When Bush has spoken on the Israel / Palestine question, he has generally echoed the words of Sharon. Has anyone questioned why Bush hasn’t met with Arafat? Has anyone spoken seriously about how such rejection might affect the peace process? Has anyone asked how such rejection might affect Arab perceptions of American policy in the Middle East? Has anyone pursued the course of thought that the so-called "hands-off" Middle Eastern policy of the current administration may, in fact, have fueled the passions of certain anti-American communities?

    I am not talking about pro-Israeli or anti-Arab issues here. What strikes me is the profound measure of disinterest we continue to show in this country over international issues. Chris, I will give you dope-slaps for 16 weeks for your perverse participation in Monicagate — a measure of penance roughly equal to the time you devoted to the subject — when there were other, more fundamental issues at work in the whole world around us.

    Which leads me back to Daithi. Forgive us: we are an adolescent nation — you had your Parnell long ago, in the late 1800s. You’ve covered a lot of ground since then. Thank God you no longer have McQuaid excommunicating you from being involved with Trinity!

  • Jackson Braider says:
    By the way, Turncoat…

    The Guardian flash did not refer to Scientella’s point.

  • Susan Jenkins says:
    How about those talk show types?

    As it appears the discussion may be headed back towards the topic of radio, I wonder, Chris, if you might have any observations about my question from back on post #26 (only three days ago), where I raise the issue of radio talk programs that seem to fall into two basic categories:
    Susan Jenkins September 23, 2001 01:27am
    Am I completely off base in my POV? Is format significant, how, and what other thoughts might you have regarding this.

    Thanks.

  • Michael Joly says:
    A Vote For A Return To Discussion Of Art And Craft

    If I was looking for politcal polemics I’d go to USENET and drown in a sea of missspelled venom.

    I cast my vote to a return to the discussion of craft.

    Hmmm…but deciding to pull the plug on a caller/bulletin board contributor…perhaps that _is_ a craft decision of the radio producer?

  • Suzanne Petrucci says:
    Crafting a Response Through Radio

    If a Scientella would somehow get on a show , Chris in his best moments would somehow mine that point of view for what was worthwhile in it and carry things forward or turn it into something useful. It might spark him in some way over and beyond the attitude and delivery style that turn us off. In it’s own way or form it might have brought something to the discussion that we otherwise would not have had.

    In a larger sense that is what we have to do with the blow that has been dealt us I feel.

    I agree with Susan Jenkins that "what I think benefits us more in these times are intelligent opinions offered with only one motivation: to contribute insight and understanding. Rather than grandstanding or positioning oneself." We can look for that and insist on that but it is not always there. Again Chris and Mary were simply extraordinary at getting the guests and the callers. Combine that with their talent and you had something truly wonderful, not every show but many, many of them.

    As long as I am here I want to thank M. Joly for his beautiful "Crafting a Response Through Sound" (#21)above. I am a potter. I listen a lot too.You said what I feel better than I could have said it.

    Thank you Naomi Gurt Lind for your moving observations of New York above ( #47).

    I’m also grateful for "A Doctor’s Account from the World Trade Center" from the homepage of this site.

  • Nannette Drake Oldenbourg says:

    b "How do we include the angry voices?"

    Jay Allison asked elsewhere at Transom (where?)

    MOST impulses come from high motivations to contribute. Scientella is trying to save humanity and discourse as much as any one of us.

    It IS necessary to say no or use force to protect.

    But we can try to stop there and avoid labeling and totally dismissing.

    Now if we could do that (I’m not saying I can) that would be ultimate craft!

    (thank you, Suzanne)

  • Chris Lydon says:
    Don’t go away mad, Scientella….

    My point was that these coversations are possible on the radio, maybe much better than on the Web. Middle East conversations are the hardest, but we’ve done them as best we could with many people I’m eager to talk with anew, including for example Bernard Lewis and Edward Said at different ends of the "Orientalism" argument about Islam and the West. Abortion pales by comparison with "Arabs and Israelis" as the subject on which people don’t want to hear what they don’t want to hear. But let’s agree it is time to listen afresh. Is there a classroom exercise in Talk Radio that gets head out of sand but doesn’t lunge reflexively for the nearest jugular? Jay Allison and Mary McGrath, help us out.

  • scientella says:
    GO GLOBAL GO

    Talking of truly malevolent crazy righteous rant, what if I had picked the collective guilt of ALL German people under (and I mean UNDER) the Nazi’s. Then I wouild be given a free reign to anger, bile, and a chair at Harvard.

    There is now a new bias in American petty intellectualism, and it is as repugnant and wrong as any before it.

    What I am saying is not righteous, it is RIGHT. At MIT the Palestinian students had their banners in the infinite corridor taken down! By the students! Their opinion is not allowed. What next – yellow crescents to wear?

    You do it to Chris. It is not the Palestinian/Israel issue, and to continue to pretend that these are two even sides in an unsolvable perpetual dispute is a gross distortion. 95% of people in Palestine are now below the poverty line. Arafat cant control the stone throwing, or suicide bombers. Peace process is an excuse for atrocities to continue in the name of US/Israeli self interest.
    Its not hard to fix so dont pretend it is…. go back to pre 1967 boundaries, give the Palestians statehood and as much money as the Israelis, and all disputes would melt away as Palestine becomes part of the global economy.

    History will look back on this, just like the Holocaust, and Vietnam, and ask WHY WASNT THE AMERICAN MEDIA HONEST? WHY WERE THEY NOT ANGRY? WHY DIDNT THEY CALL IT LIKE IT IS? And the sheepskintrim slipper, grey hair and shawl set of Harvard Square, spouting unthinkingly stock leftini positions of 30 years ago, will be part of the blame, as are now , for an Eg. the slippery speaking intellectuals of Third Reich Germany.

  • Barry Kort says:
    The Second Coming of the Peace Process

    The Peace Process came and went.

    Now we await the Second Coming of the Peace Process.

  • scientella says:

    I never thought I would again post Chris, but Im off to the WBUR forum, they are discussing just this tonight.

  • Mary McGrath says:
    Ask the tough questions….

    It’s easy to get impatient with the Arab/Israeli story. We never did a program on the Middle East where an official type person from one side or the other called and complained to the station manager. This is different, I think. This isn’t talking about one more peace offering or a Rose Garden handshake. This requires a penetrating look at the US role historically in the Middle East. I would definitely do the story and lean on guests with some gray hair and perspective and without ranting callers. I’d expect to learn something and I hope others would too.

  • Jay Allison says:
    Can’t you hear him saying that?

    >"Jay Allison and Mary McGrath, help us out."

    Now I REALLY feel like I’m on the Chris Lydon show.

    The best conversations, on the air or anywhere, are not bipolar. There is give and take, and compromise and discovery.

    It’s diplomacy vs. war.

    I’m interested in the interplay here between the actual conversational dynamic amid the discussion of conversational dynamic, the insistence of content in the midst of form, the use of internet dialogue to discuss radio dialogue and the questions that arise about controlling either one.

    On the radio, you have the advantage of INVISIBLE control. Chris or Mary — or Rush or G. Gordon — can simply disconnect a caller when they’re done with him. The caller is a passenger and can be ejected from the vehicle any time, and he can’t get back in.

    On the web, anyone can hijack a conversation. Even destroy it. It’s more like real life.

    On the Internet, the host does not rule. He can try, by applying a little energy here, a little discouragement there. He can cajole, persuade, thrust and parry, know when to disappear and when to shout. If he has enemies, they can do the same. They have the same powers. Somehow, the community decides. A kind of conversational order can emerge through a mysterious community consensus. Leaders pop up for a moment and disappear. Shunning is a tool. But if enough people agree to have the conversation, it can keep going without falling into anarchic disarray or bipolar war.

    I fear the conversational dynamic in the culture right now. The President has framed the debate in binary terms internationally "are you with us or against us?" that can too easily be echoed on the streets, dividing patriot from patriot.

    Public radio has the chance to create a national, skeptical, nuanced, complicated, evolving conversation, and that’s a truly patriotic act.

  • Jackson Braider says:
    On the internet, all fonts are the same size

    So, Chris and Mary, how do we translate the democracy of the web — the equality of all voices — into radio? One thing that intrigued me in the course of this discourse was the extensive silence of the host. On the radio, I suspect you would have interjected more often — perhaps not so much to silence ranters as guide them.

    One difference between talk radio and this kind of internet "chat" — such a lame word! Let’s go with "discourse" — is that the latter doesn’t happen in real time. You can’t interrupt — there’s no clock, no station break to set temporal boundaries. As Jay says, you as host and producer can’t pull the plug (BTW, Scientella, welcome back!).

    In the course of WBUR’s recent collaboration with Five Alive, one of the things that struck me about the BBC process is that callers could go on, unimpeded, at a goodly length. Of course it was dull from time to time, but it was a striking fact nonetheless. It felt, strangely, not unlike an internet discourse, where the participants could run their trains of thought to the end of the line — only then would the moderator speak.

    An idea strikes me: a call-in show without host. A thousand lines leading into the board responding, addressing, arguing a subject. And one person, with a thousand ears, sorting it all out. Now *that* would be exciting radio!

  • Barry Kort says:
    Dialogue vs Debate

    > I fear the conversational dynamic in the culture right now.

    The late David Bohm put forth a model of dialogue in which the goal was to discover insights and to craft mutually agreeable solutions.

    His model supplants the Argument Culture as documented and lamented by Deborah Tannen.

    To my mind, the only way to nurture the Dialogue Model is to establish a haven where it can be allowed to grow and take root.

    I believe Chris and Mary and Jay are in a position to pursue the vision of the Dialogue Model.

  • scientella says:
    loose cannons

    After watching the BBC pictures of the mass exodus of civilians from Afghanistan into refugee camps I watched Charlie Rose with Kissinger and Letterman with Hilary Clinton last night. What struck me is how COMPLETELY inadequate these hosts are at a time like this. Charlie Rose simply simple and missed half of war criminal’s revealing comments (Kissinger still thinks we can boss the world around, and wont give an inch on Israel because he doesnt want the terrorists to think that they have suceeded, and said that for him human rights must sometimes (all the time??) come second to US policy) and Letterman said things like, "lets get back to Humanitarian issues…the $20million"

    The interviewers are doing their best, but just not up to the job.

    I may be again uncool, but I think that Chris Lydon has a vitally important US, I mean WORLD role to play. There is NO ONE ELSE who can do this.

    I think he and Mary should contact Public Television shows (not better than radio but reaches a wider audience) and find a special slot to discuss the war on humanitarian aid or whatever it is we are in for. Doesnt matter about the format, it just is essential that someone of Chris’s caliber tackles this one. 4 shows, 10 shows, 1 show, callers, no callers, soft lighting, desk and armchairs, mood lighting and stools, who cares at a time like this. PLEASE just start and the world will be a safer place.

    It is the most critical importance. I have never had Lydons ear, so if I have now during my 15 seconds of fame, then that is what I would like to tell, beg, implore, him to do.

  • Nannette Drake Oldenbourg says:
    Deborah Tannen

    Please put Deborah Tannen on your list of guests!

    Her latest popular book:
    i The Argument Culture: Changing The Way We Argue and Debate

    others include
    i You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation

    b practical, hopeful, macro-level linguistics

    we *have* learned something in the last 50, 25, 10, 5 years, hallelujah

    I’d like to get ahold of some of Tannen’s academic books, including
    i Perspectives on Silence

  • Barry Kort says:
    How about Scott Peck on Civility, too?

    We have lost Civility, and now it threatens our cvilization.

    It’s time to rediscover civility.

  • Suzanne Petrucci says:
    Who are we?

    I have been was listening to Neil Conan on NPR. He has been letting callers and guests go on for much longer than I am used to. I have to say that in the case of Cesar Pelli, the architect, I was very thankful yesterday. On the other side he let a person go on longer than was useful it seemed but you could also sense that that person felt good (and astonished) about being allowed to say his full piece. I was impatient listening to this fellow but I felt gratified that he was treated with dignity. Don’t forget that we are aslo answering the unasked question "who are we?" and "who are we now?"

  • don Warner saklad says:
    BPL Radio

    How about a series in conjunction with our Boston Public Library via
    WMBR-FM MIT radio 88.1 MHz . There are foums at our cities’ public
    libraries. Public libraries forums could and should be broadcast.
    Contact BPL President Bernie Margolis and WMBR’s Mark Weaver.

    Cheers! and kind regards,
    oo__ dWs

    Guide to Problematical Boston Public Library Use
    http://geocities.com/dsaklad/BostonMayorTomMenino

  • Mary McGrath says:
    Producers Corner

    Welcome back scientella. I meant to say earlier we never did a Middle East program where we DIDN’T get flak from both sides. Jay mentioned the internet. I’m not sure anyone has figured out the best way to use the internet during a radio show. I was never satisfied with simply reading a provocative e-mail. It just kind of falls flat or worse, the e-mailer can’t respond or clarify. We’ve always had good fora (and fauna and flora too) on our website which served as a way of "continuing the conversation." How else to use the internet live on radio?

  • Jay Allison says:
    Ears, Eyes

    Drawing on my vast experience as a call-in show host, I’d mention the Photography-on-the-Air show we did with Nubar Alexanian at our local station. Callers could see his work on the web and call to talk about it. Nubar described the photos for the car crowd.

    I would take this opportunity to suggest to those Lydonites among us that there are some other interesting things going on right now at Transom.org, like the discussion with the above-mentioned Nubar and his friends, some of whom have been photographing for Time and the New Yorker in the recent weeks.

    Also, we put some new audio pieces today marking the events of this month in our Shows section. You can see/hear them at Before, During, After…

  • Chris Lydon says:
    The Nubar-Chris Thing

    I should have said earlier that it’s an honor to be on the same page with Mr. Fast, Loose and Out of Control himself, the great Nubar Alexanian. The first time we met, when he and Wynton Marsalis were on tour together, I knew immediately we were friends for all time. I love his book, "Where Music Comes From." And we’ve been flattered over the years to get his calls from Gloucester on photographic and other subjects. Here’s looking at you, Nubar.

  • Nubar Alexanian says:
    The Chris-Nubar Thing

    I just signed on to say hello to you Chris and there you were. Man. I miss your voice. We all miss your voice. Perhaps talk radio had to rest a moment before you breathe more wind into it’s sails. I love what you’re discussing here at Transom and feel like I’m in the virtual studio across the hall. Just for the record, it’s me that’s sandwiched in between you and Studds Terkel. The honor is most certainly mine.

    My new book on Gloucester will be out at the end of October. In a funny way it’s like a long letter to my friends in New York and LA explaining why I never leave Gloucester anymore. Email me your address. I’ll get you a copy.

    You’re a treasure. Keep talking. And what about that Jay Allison? He’s really something, isn’t he? He doesn’t sleep you know. Ever.

  • Jackson Braider says:
    Civility — perhaps. But at what cost?

    I wonder about the word "civility" — especially after the Boy King uses it. I think I would prefer the notion of "respect." A simpler word, perhaps, but nicely Anglo-Saxon in its succinctness, though it is probably Latin in origin.

    The difference between a Lydon talk show — and I’m tipping my hat to both Chris and Mary in this — and a G. Gordon or Rush experience is the issue of respect. Once callers jumped through various unseen hoops, they could expect a certain measure of respect once they hit the air.

    I think this is also possible on the internet, but as Mary points out, there is a different clock between radio and here. It is also a different beast — writing as opposed to speaking, unreal time as opposed to real time.

    I wonder if we expect too much of talk radio. How do you balance "thoughtfulness" and *real* time? As I remember, it would be 15 or 20 minutes of discussion before the lines opened. Listeners dying to ask their questions — "let me show you what I know, think, feel, etc." — while Lydon and Co. gabbed on (I don’t mean that in a bad way — but just for a moment, think of the caller on hold).

    The internet skips the on-hold part, but in a strange twist on the radio experience, it is not subject to the clock either — no ids, station breaks, grantor credits to provide the temporal structure of radio.

    So, in certain ways, the internet discourse should be a more fulfilling experience — we can run our thoughts to their particular conclusions, for example. But lurking in radio is that relentless clock, and it is that subconscious sense of time in radio (or so I would argue) that makes us feel, as some people here have said, that it feels (what?) strange, ununusual, even boring when callers seem to talk and talk and talk.

    Is it possible to give that sense of immediacy on-line — the kind of sensation that only a clicking clock can offer? Civility, respect — whatever you call it — take time. Is it possible to reconcile the semantic differential in this case?

    Discuss (10 points).

  • Gary Geiserman says:
    listening, talking

    There are myths about the concept of discussion. It is assumed that where we are consensically is as far as we have come so far, and if we apply ourselves we can advance.

    This is incorrect. We have allowed our personal agendas to render ourselves as stupid as we need to be in various areas of thought about our life/world.

    A clear perception of "reality" is always available to anyone. We will find/be found by the desired data.

    If two or more individuals clear of perception had a discourse about a topic it would truly be an opportunity for ecstacy. Talking and listening creatively is craft and art. Bringing awareness down the chakras and integrating it with each dimension of our being is enlightening.

    What we usually have in consensus falls so far from that. We have rationalized the fruitless painful failures.

  • Suzanne Petrucci says:
    It’s an Art.

    I don’t know, correct me please, but as I remember talk radio (at least as it began on NPR during the Gulf War with Daniel Schorr on TOTN) was to:
    -give us information ( up to the moment)
    -give us as good and varied analysis on the issues as was available
    -and, perhaps most importantly, be a constructive way for people to express their anxieties, fears and even home grown wisdom. (Talk radio as valve on a pressure cooker).

    I believe that talk radio still serves those functions especially at this moment.

    What Chris and Mary (at their best) gave us was something more refined. So maybe to do that, the input from callers had to be more controlled. But again so much has come from unusual places that being too controlled may work against the emerging of something wonderful and unexpected.

    I think a lot also depends on the host being open, on top of things (moment by moment awareness) as well as creative (or poetic), graceful and showing lovingkindness ( insofar as possible).

    Chris in your better moments you had all of that going.

  • Barry Kort says:
    Respect and Contempt

    I’ve been studying an obscure piece of research known as FaceWork Theory. It addresses the issue that Asians call Face.

    FaceWork Theory examines 5 or 6 axes:

    1. The Respect-Contempt Axis

    2. The Approval-Condemnation Axis

    3. The Cooperation-Antagonism Axis

    4. The Freedom-Taboo Axis

    5. The Trust-Mistrust Axis

    6. The Comfort-Anxiety Axis

    In the Argument/Debate Culture, the participants tend to migrate to the right on each of the above axes, generating mutual and reciprocal disrespect, disapproval, antagonism, and mistrust.

    In the Dialogue Model, the participants seek to create common ground, and seek to migrate themselves to jointly shared respect, and mutual approval and cooperation.

    It saddens me to note that we are more adept at Negative FaceWork Dynamics than Positive FaceWork Dynamics. We are adept at criticising, shaming, and blaming the other side, and poor at building bridges and finding common ground. We are gifted at conflict and poor at peacemaking.

  • james Carmody says:
    Missing Chris

    The thing I always liked about Chris’ show was that it was conversation as though your life depended on it. It wasn’t an ‘interview’ or a ‘discussion’. It is more than that – of course it is unpredictable – that’s the vitality of it – it becomes a living thing and develops a life of its own.. I think a host like Chris has a driving curiousity and is passionately interested in the world and their place in it and takes nothing for granted as ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ or ‘true’ or ‘false’. Chris’ show was the only one I’ve ever found in which those characteristics ruled. NPR is left with the same dreary predictable stuff – the intellectual wheels can practically be heard grindng away. I still fail to understand how the Board of WBUR would have let him go, ahead of the person who tried to sack him. I know nothing about the workings of NPR (or WBUR) but I suspect that there is a bureaucratic filtering process that somehow eliminates people like that – they’re like any artist – a little dangerous – not sure where they will go next. But that’s what kept me listening – and I suspect a lot of the others. Anything else puts me to sleep – or rather reaching for the ‘off’ switch.

    I don’t care how you do it Chris – get yourself back on the air. We need you.

  • Nannette Drake Oldenbourg says:

    Jay Allison September 27, 2001 11:43pm

    >On the Internet, the host does not rule. He can try, by applying a little energy here, a little discouragement there. He can cajole, persuade, thrust and parry, know when to disappear and when to shout. If he has
    b enemies
    , they can do the same…

    >I
    b fear
    the conversational dynamic in the culture right now. The President has framed
    b the debate in binary terms
    internationally "are you with us or against us?" that can too easily be echoed on the streets, dividing patriot from patriot.

    As usual, I’m 90.1% inspired by what Jay Allison has to say, and I am moved by the grace with which he says it.
    On second thought, though, Jay, would you want to change the word "enemies" to "people at cross purposes"?
    I’m not into sugar-coating just to be superficially nice. I’m talking effective language that backs noone into a corner… here in our little pocket of microcosm that can ripple out intent and language…

    >Somehow, the community decides… if enough people agree to have the conversation, it can keep going without falling into anarchic disarray or bipolar war.

  • Nannette Drake Oldenbourg says:
    and as for shunning…

    I’m grateful for any and everyone out there who sat on their hands to hold their fire, evenif Scientiella’s comments brought up fears.

    "Listened" to, rather than momentarily deflected, he took only 2 posts and however many lines to come around to something substantive and positive!

    I know it isn’t always so easy or so successful. But that’s part of the question on the agenda, isn’t it? "What are the recipes for bringing in ideas froom folks (with various levels of adrenaline) within the various constraints of air and internet?"

  • Naomi Gurt Lind says:
    sense and consensus

    Yes, yes, and yes to all who so eloquently point out the value of deep listening. Even (especially?) when it is uncomfortable. Look, despite the Disney doctrine, it is a big world, a full world. Our "enemies" have opinions and motivations which make perfect sense under the umbrella of their lives and cultures. We don’t have to agree with others’ perspectives, but it benefits us all to realize that they *have* their perspectives. Call it the Jean Renoir principle, if you wish: "Tout le monde a sa raison."

    You’re asking yourself what this has to do with craft and radio and Christopher Lydon in particular. I have a favorite Lydonism, a quotation from the possessor of the dulcet vox himself:

    It was on a show about rock & roll, and someone called in with a highly unorthodox viewpoint, one with which it was patently obvious Mr. Lydon disagreed. He listened, took a deep breath, and said: "Everyone’s entitled to an opinion on The Connection."

    As the news outlets get more and more inundated with officialspeak, with the unintended (?) consequence of tuning out the voice on the street, we need a news inlet, somewhere where all our voices matter.

  • Ben Dover says:
    CL Washed Up?

    It might be useful to note that only Chris Lydon is interested in what Chris Lydon has to say!

  • scientella says:
    patriot from nationalist

    Patriot being pride in country, nationlist pride in country and belief in superiority to others.. First good,latter repulsive, one on slippery slope to teh other in my opinion.

    All this flag making makes me shiver in revulsion. Why does an -attack by crazy extremists – a reaction to American atrocities and policies which would enrage any person with a sense of justice (ie me and many millions around the world and a suprising number in this country) evoke this repulsive and idiotic flag waving. Passion for the flag is an idolatorous and unreflexive love (and therefore support) for a blanket of all things American. What is needed instead is to bury the patriotic/nationlistic stuff, see America as as a permeable boundary, a loose category, a taxation jurisdiction perhaps, a part of and therefore with a responsibility to the world. A country with a nice constitution (which it seems to think that it made up all by itself – England and France giggle at this) a repugnant history in civil rights, a loathesome disregard for its own and the poor in other locales, accommodating many stupid policies and stupid policy makers, and many biased and careerist journalists who wave the flag while pursuing personal agendas. This is against the tide of the future – global environment, global trade unions, global court, global human rights. go global go. This flag waving is ridiculous. Those mourning love ones are mourning people, individuals, not the American sense of invulnerability.

    And as for my previous comments about Israel. Check out the double speak now from Washington. OH so the Bush White House WAS ABOUT to declare support for Palestinian statehood before the terrorist attacks.. Sure it was. It is reacting to the attacks, but trying to waylay Kissingers fear that it appears to do so.
    Now the US is holding back its 100 million aid to Afghani refugess because it fears that the food may get into the hands of the Taliban!
    The US is still playing stupid bullyboy. 7000 in the US dead, how many more to come. If America buried the flag, dropped its arrogant towel snapping flippancy and gave gave gave then the widespread support the terrorist now enjoy would fade away.

    And as to my tone again. Why does the popular press use nothing but emotive speak and the petty intellectual media none? Has reason died in the popular press – has , the ability to take a stand died in the petty intellectual? Or is it that the petty intellectual supports such inherently a-moral position that it must resort to using words like respect, civility, non-confrontational, to support which is a globally disrespectful, barbaric and confrontational position.

  • Chris Lydon says:
    Ground Zero

    Just back from New York, and staring for hours into that busy burnt-out hole behind 195 Broadway in lower Manhattan. The outpouring of good old American eloquence all around the scene is quite overwhelming. The sense of loss is unspeakable, though nobody stops talking. The big hand-made signs say: "GRACE," "Welcome" and "Courage." The postings of prayers, and names, and missing persons are chilling and exalting. Someone posted on a street sign a couple of lines of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass: "I bequeathe myself to the dirt, to grow from the grass I love; If you want me again, look for me under your boot-soles."

    The book I’m reading and recommending, meantime, is Joseph Conrad’s "The Secret Agent," which was a meditation on the anarchist and terrorist threat as of 1907. A brilliant and cautionary tale, in several dimensions. The mission in the tale, based on a real event, was to blow up the Greenwich Observatory outside London. The agent was, of course, a double agent, posing as a workers’ revolutionist but actually under the control of a reactionary foreign power. The point was to scare the English middle class into suspending their normal freedoms and suppressing a proletarian revolt before it happened. Mr. Vladimir, the mastermind, explained to Mr. Verloc, his secret agent, that the selection of the right target was crucial. No attack on the church or the monarchy would be as terrifying as an assault on the "sacrosanct fetish" of the day, which was Science, embodied in the Observatory. It might well be said that World Trade, or the Global Economy, is the sacrosanct fetish of our day; and probably the plotters of 9.11.01 picked their target just as carefully as Mr. Vladimir picked his. Does it help to reflect that this "Attack on America" was more precisely an attack on a multinational abstraction–with a famously polyglot workforce doing jobs that have been quickly transferred to London and elsewhere. That is, it didn’t target Yankee Stadium or the Statue of Liberty. So before we lock into the idea that what the terrorists hate about us is our way of life and our freedom, should we consider the possibility that, no, they hate this faceless economic machine known as World Trade? How many divisions can the world trade system put into the field of the coming battle? And where should they come from?

    Any other Conrad fans out there? All best, Chris Lydon

  • cafe des artistes says:

    >>Or is it that the petty intellectual supports such inherently a-moral position that it must resort to using words like respect, civility, non-confrontational, to support which is a globally disrespectful, barbaric and confrontational position.<<

    what does this mean?

  • Abby Vigneron says:
    Stories that aren’t being told

    I want someone to talk about Kipling on Afghanistan and how it was that Alexander the Great managed to conquer it.

  • Jackson Braider says:
    What "petty intellectual"?

    Just because one doesn’t have Dubya’s disinterest in language, that doesn’t mean that words like "respect" shouldn’t count for something.

    And Chris, I’ll forgive you a lot for speaking of The Secret Agent. I think it’s particularly interesting as the subtext of the upper middle class pilots (renting porn films on the side) and the uneducated henchmen with the box cutters begins to reveal itself.

  • Susan Jenkins says:

    >It might well be said that World Trade, or the Global Economy, is the sacrosanct fetish of our day; and probably the plotters of 9.11.01 picked their target just as carefully as Mr. Vladimir picked his.

    It’s more incidental than Conrad, Chris, and at the same time, more specific. The target was clear, but it was American narcissitic arrogance in the identity of us as the example of economic vibrancy for the rest of the world that invested our World Trade towers with such symbolic potentcy.

    I agree, it was not so much "our way of life," as politicians like to suggest. It was our influence. These things are both significant, but seperate. But "World Trade" is yet another thing still. This "faceless economic machine," as you put it, is but an afterthought, a symptom of our influence, that disempowers ideologically as it proposes to empower financially. Financial power, regardless of how significant it may be as support for the activities of groups that propose to desecrate our land and people, is still secondary to ideology. Ultimately it is competing ethics that have to be rationalized. Money, i.e. World Trade, is only a means to an end,not ultimately what we face as nations of humans trying to deal with the existences of the other.

    Or at least that’s what I’d like to think. But I’m often naive.

  • Suzanne Petrucci says:
    "the last and most magnificent of towers"

    Chris- thanks for your report and the inspiration.

    "The Secret Agent" is on a short list that I made while listening to a conversation which happened to mention examples of terrorism in literature. The other two mentioned are "The Ravine" by Chekhov and "The Possessed" by Dostoyevsky.

    I’d like to submit here an excerpt from F.Scott Fitgerald "My Lost City", written in the "dark autumn" of 1931. I think it is quite beautiful. Well it touches me anyway- I grew up in New York City and have the city imprinted in me for life.
    ————–

    "From the ruins, lonely and inexplicable as the sphinx, rose the Empire State Building and, just as it had been a tradition of mine to climb to the Plaza Roof to take leave of the beautiful city, extending as far as the eyes could reach, so now I went to the roof of the last and most magnificent of towers. Then I understood-everything was explained: I had discovered the crowning error of the city, it’s Pandora’s box. Full of vaunting pride the New Yorker had climbed here and seen with dismay what he had never suspected, that the city was not the endless succession of canyons that he had supposed, but that it
    i had limits
    – from the tallest structure he saw for the first time that it faded out into the country on all sides, into an expanse of green and blue that alone was limitless. And with the awful realization that New York was a city after all and not a universe, the whole shining edifice that he had reared in his imagination came crashing to the ground. That was the rash gift of Alfred E. Smith to the citizens of New York. "

  • scientella says:
    go globalization go

    "should we consider the possibility that, no, they hate this faceless economic machine known as World Trade? How many divisions can the world trade system put into the field of the coming battle? And where should they come from? "

    I dont think so. The anti-globalization, anti-free trade sentiment is a post-industrialized movement. The last "them there" (although there aint no "them there") for the disenfranchised, unfocused left to attack.

    Global free trade has no rational challengers. It is simply the best system. The problem is that temporing, offsetting controls to the exercise of free trade cannot be implemented at the national level. Of course national trade unions (the erstwhile left) have no bargaining power over international companies (the erstwhile right). Nor is it suprising that the same erstwhile left now band together with the nationalists and flag wavers of the erstwhile right in a cry for protectionism. Both are misguided.
    (What is needed are global controls and measures, global trade unions, global taxation, global environmental policy).

    However this is not the view of the oppressed in Palestine and Afghanistan, where the fury of desperately poor, segregated, violated teenagers is met with state sanctified murder of more innocents and ex judicial assasignation? Terrorist petri dish. What do the Palestinians care about world trade more than teh desire to become part of it?

    No they picked the World Trade center because it could be flown into, kill the maximum number of people in the most high profile city in America. Dont forget the other planes were heading somewhere else.

  • scientella says:

    From the Quran, Sura 9:29

    "O believers, many rabbis and monks devour man’s wealth wantonly and bar men from the way of God. And those who hoard gold and silver without spending it in God’s way, tell them O prophet of a painful punishment".

    Nothing wrong with trade, gold and silver, to the Arab merchant its what you do with it.

    Along with fasting from dawn till sunset (tricky for Muslims in an Artic circle summer) during Ramadan, praying,and treating Women as tillage, a central tenet of Islam is to giving alms to the poor.

  • Jay Allison says:
    Nightline Daily Email – Watch What You Say

    This topic has an interwoven thread about options for non-mainstream views in these times.

    Transom.org has referenced the Nightline Daily Email in other places — it’s the single best daily insider source for journalistic decision-making in tv news I know of — and I’m often tempted to post material here from colleagues Leroy Sievers, Tom Bettag, Sara Just or RIchard Harris, but usually restrain myself, since you can sign up yourself at the ABC News site if you want to.

    But this subject seems to me so central to what we do on our own air and in our own work that I can’t help but paste it here. Sorry. It won’t happen again.

    (Richard is a former producer of "All Things Considered" by the way)

    ================================

    Date: Wed, 03 Oct 2001 14:31:49 -0700
    Subject: NIGHTLINE: Watch What You Say
    To: "Nightline Mailing List"

    TONIGHT’S SUBJECT: We are living in sober times, where words matter even
    more than before September 11. Whether it’s news reports compromising
    troop movements (as in "loose lips sink ships") or simply being
    politically incorrect in this pre-war period, tonight we’ll address the
    questions of what to say and how to say it.

    As this email goes out, we’ve just obtained newly released New York City
    police and fire department tapes from September 11. You’ll hear those
    tonight. But our main focus will be political dissent at a time of crisis.

    —-

    Is dissent in wartime unpatriotic? It’s a perennial question with no easy
    answers. While there’s been no official war declaration, President Bush
    has described the terrorist attacks as an act of war. One writer who’s
    been critical of Osama bin Laden still worries that a prevailing
    "pseudo-unity" will, as the CHICAGO TRIBUNE noted, "choke off the spirit
    of dissenting individualism crucial to defeating" what he calls "Islamic
    fascism." Put another way, does fear trump constitutional rights?

    It’s a question some citizens are asking after losing their jobs for what
    they’ve written or said in the wake of the September 11 horror. The
    OREGON DAILY COURIER columnist, the University of New Mexico professor and
    the host of the ABC program POLITICALLY INCORRECT (which follows NIGHTLINE
    in many cities) all know what it’s like to be stung after their words
    ruffled feathers. The first two were fired. POLITICALLY INCORRECT’S Bill
    Maher has had some advertisers abandon his broadcast. Some would say the
    marketplace of ideas is working. But others argue free speech is taking a
    hit during this difficult time for the country.

    Tonight, in another special one-hour NIGHTLINE, Ted Koppel will speak with
    people who have different perspectives on White House Press Secretary Ari
    Fleischer’s misunderstood admonition that in times like these, people
    "need to watch what they say, watch what they do. . ." Among them writer
    Susan Sontag, who asked in THE NEW YORKER, "Where is the acknowledgement
    that this (the Sept. 11 terrorist attack) was not a ‘cowardly’ attack on
    ‘civilization’ or ‘liberty’ or ‘humanity’ or ‘the free world’ but an
    attack on the world’s self-proclaimed superpower, undertaken as a
    consequence of specific American alliances and actions?

    Strong words. Not popular, especially in these times. But does she have
    the right to speak her mind? Or the TEXAS CITY SUN editor who was fired
    for writing a column critical of the President following the terrorist
    attack? Or Republican political operative Ed Gillespie who says "the
    events of 9/11 cause all of us to reevaluate. And I think we see a
    reevaluation of moral relativism."

    Lots of food for thought. We hope you’ll partake.

    Wednesday, October 3, 2001

    Richard Harris
    Senior Producer
    NIGHTLINE OFFICES
    Washington, D.C.

  • scientella says:

    Go Susan Sanity go, and Richard Harris, and Jay Allison for that matter. It makes me a little calmer and saner myself to hear this.

  • Jay Allison says:
    non sequitur

    By the way, I’ve had a recurring non-political thought these days, and Chris’s post from ground zero reminded me.

    In the kids’ game, Rock-Paper-Scissors, I was never quite clear on the dominant relationship described by paper-covers-rock. Now it makes sense to me.

  • Nannette Drake Oldenbourg says:

    I’m happy for the info. (why say it won’t happen again? who knows?)

    What an important message. But I was disappointed with the last part.

    I was glad to read Susan Sontag’s words, but I didn’t think they were especially strong.
    b Inadvertently, characterizing them as "strong words" adds to the hysteria and polarization and the tendency to point fingers. ("ooh! strong words from Susan Sontag!")

    Do we need to underline this way to make an email/essay strong enough? to make a television show punchy enough? Why not leave the description as "unpopular?" or "less popular" or "questioning" or simply "alternative." or "some would call those strong words"

    I understand the email and show is carefully sounding an alarm, but I fear self-fulfilling prophecies.

    We decry battle lines, but draw more in the process.

    Deborah Tannen, where are you??

  • Andy Knight says:

    Hmmm… what’s with this line:
    >different perspectives on White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer’s misunderstood admonition that in times like these, people
    "need to watch what they say, watch what they do. . ."

    "misunderstood admonition"? What was misunderstood? Why would Richard Harris lay this down as fact without backing it up? These days I really miss Leroy Sievers.

    I’ve been quite shocked lately that Bill has taken this much flak over nothing. He didn’t lie, he didn’t exaggerate, he just sat there and told the truth. If the truth gets people pissed off, fine, but right now they’re just killing the messenger. My local, gutless ABC affiliate has yanked the show… bastards. Now, why is it ok for Ari Fleischer to backpedal and say that his whiney threat was misunderstood, but it isn’t ok to acknowledge that Bill’s comment was grossly misunderstood? Poor Chandra, it should have been Ari. I hope that isn’t misunderstood.

  • Susan Jenkins says:
    Fleischer trips

    "On the Media" on WNYC on Sunday got snagged on the "what you say" part and criticised its implication heavily. When I heard it, frankly, my eyes bulged out of their sockets and my heart stopped for a second.

  • Sean McElroy says:
    Do We Really Need to Understand Their Message?

    This may seem a callous statement. Oh, I hope I haven’t stepped into the "what you say" snare. They blew up some buildings and people. That is the obvious "message." Who "they" are is as yet unclear. All else is justification, rationalization.

    "World Trade" is so much grander a concept, it’s current; it’s rife with opposing views. What devil is going to advocate on behalf of senseless murder? Can those who, in the hapless pursuit of lucre on a global scale, be held accountable for all this?

    We may be irritated, upset, pissed-off over the artist drenching our sacred symbols in dung but for all its implied violence, no lives were lost. We’re all alive and well and ready to be repulsed. As difficult as it may be in this ever-connected media frenzy, we can ALL actually refuse to be influenced by this artist.

    It’s perhaps only recently that one feels secure enough to walk the streets of New York without the nagging dread that a mugger or rapist is not lurking just around the next corner. San Franciscans and Los Angelinos live at the obvious mercy of the Mother Nature with her finger on the San Andreas Fault button. Who really understood that INY was a commitment to human frailty? And as of yet, no great cities have been evacuated. On the contrary, one hears tourism of a most gruesome nature is actually up.

    Frankly, wouldn’t it be more appalling if the entire population of a little rural town were evaporated than the WTC? Were not Nagasaki and Hiroshima similar in that fashion? In the homeland expectations are of a modicum of safety and security. The city has been abandoned like the staph-infested hospital. There is no great respect for the metropolis out there. Homelanders are instead perplexed. What twisting of human will has condemned these poor people to a life in the city?

    How is our anger so roused by the faceless criminal kicking us in what is already widely acknowledged as our most vulnerable places? Could it be that they just aren’t playing fair? Where’s the outrage at the starving poor, the raped grandmother, the genocide; places of equivalent vulnerability – and unfairness? If we’re going to police the schoolyard, shouldn’t we try to keep Johnny from hanging by one hand from the Jungle Jim? Or should we wait for the bully to step on his hand then bring out “The Big One” as we address an obviously justifiable indignation.

  • DrDan says:
    Lydon/McGrath get-together Oct. 27, Cambridge MA
      Pls pardon this "aside" — but I wanted to tell you folks in this Transom Topic that the group of Lydon/McGrath supporters I mentioned earlier ( DrDan September 25, 2001 07:25pm ) will be having our third potluck-dinner get-together on Saturday evening, October 27th, on the Harvard campus. This will be our first post-September-11th gathering — so it has a special significance. :-(

      As with our two previous evenings, Chris will be joining us; hopefully Mary as well! :-)

      If you’re interested in learning more, you can either email me by clicking here, or you can join in another web discussion area specifically about this get-together by clicking here.

        (Please consider SUBSCRIBING to that other web discussion Topic so that when anyone else posts to it, you will get email. That way you’ll be kept up-to-date on our plans.)

      I’m going to be in and out of town for the next few days so if you email me, please don’t worry if I don’t get back to you real soon; I definitely will as soon as I can. There are some Lydon/McGrath fans here that I, for one, haven’t met, and I sure hope you can join us.

    … and now back to our previous discussion!

  • Barry Kort says:
    The Newer, Shorter Version of Pete Seeger’s Song About Recursion

    Where have all the flowers gone?

    Gone to graveyards, ev’ry one.

    Where have all the graveyards gone?

    Gone to flowers, ev’ry one.

    When will they ever learn?

  • sceintella says:
    food droplets

    Did you see what starving Afghanis get??? Tomatoe Vinagrette!!!Small tup peanut butter, musli bar. About the size of a bad airline meal. AND A PREMOIST TOWLETTE to clean up after. What an outrageous joke. Where did these hermetically sealed packets comefrom. Some executive combat training course?

    Doctors without frontiers say that much less money would have been spent on suspending this useless bombing for days letting thousands of truckloads of supplies in to Afghani (hostage proof) relief workers, and that at best these snacks may be dangerous as idiotic drops over mine fields encourage starving people to run to collect.

    Can someone please tell me exactly WHAT STRATEGY is the administration following, or is it just throwing money out the window and killing MORE innocents to save face.

  • Jay Allison says:
    Life is Local in the World

    I want to ask about radio again… Mary? Chris?

    Here’s the thing: there are hundreds of public radio stations around the country with local news staffs, hosts, reporters, producers and … local call-in shows. Some of those people are likely to be here at Transom.org, trolling for ideas.

    This is a time of national and international concern and all the networks are working overtime, albeit often redundantly and spoon-fed. It’s a hard job these days. The trick is to separate information from disinformation. Truth is the first casualty, etc. It also remains a time of mourning and reflection, despite the new demands on our attention. There is powerful need now for thoughtful national media coverage, full of debate and poetry and history and complexity — although it’s questionable whether that is happening much — but in the midst of this, what can a local broadcaster do?

    You know something about this because you made the transition from local to national. You know the differences between talking to all your fellow citizens and to your community. You have had to frame national issues for a local audience, or find local points of focus in larger questions.

    What would your advice be to local public broadcasters now? Where would your attention be? Who would you be talking to, so that you contributed to community understanding, uncovered truths, and avoided a pale reflection of an already anemic national media forced to talk to itself, consultants, retirees and flaks.

  • Jackson Braider says:
    Think globally…

    I think they (whoever they are) call it semantic differential. Where, for example, is the line between so-called "justice" and so-called "retribution"? Rate it on a scale from 1 to 10 where justice equals 1 and retribution equals 10.

    One of the curious elements describing the discussion of September 11 is the absence of local sensibility. Think globally, apply universally. But we are a nation of localities and special interests, each with its own agenda and mission. Is the universal question being appropriately defined? We’ve heard so much and yet learned so little about Islam. We know, historically speaking, next to nothing about Christendom — who would think that "Crusade" would be so loaded?

    So Jay’s question is really important. Does one begin with the desecration of Islamic sites? Always a local event. Or does one begin with the generality of what Islam may or may not mean ? A somewhat superficial question that may or may not explain the catastrophe.

    It seems to me we are trying to find some kind of "otherness" as a rationale for what we do next — the otherness of the Soviet Union during the Cold War, for instance.

    Perhaps the challenge — responsibility? — of local and, subsequently, national programming is not to consider "otherness" but why we need "others" like bin Laden to enhance our sense of identity.

  • Chris Lydon says:
    Talk Local

    Jackson Braider’s last entry on the global/local axis and Jay Allison’s posting with local broadcaster’s in mind recall to me W.H. Auden line that Mary and I used to toss around when The Connection first stretched beyond Boston and we worried about losing our flavor. "A poet’s hope," Auden said, is "to be, like some valley cheese, local, but prized elsewhere." Paraphrasing another great poet, Tip O’Neill, all conversation is local. We were in fact reluctant to see The Connection "go national," and wouldn’t have done it if were didn’t think there was a communitarian glue in the the program’s tone of voice that would keep it from being a sort of "news from nowhere" forum of voices anywhere out of the phone network. Every big town needs its own hard, patient, smart conversation on this crisis and now this war. But then I have to add that the local so-called talk shows since September 11 are driving me nuts. They’re the price we pay for free speech–not the exercise of free speech. Never do you hear doubt, curiosity, pain. Never do you hear hope, history, caution. Never do you hear all the marks of the conversations that you and I, all of us, am actually in on. I’m actually getting hooked on the awfulness of these rant shows–starting with Howard Stern on the very day of the attack who said in so many words: there are too many people in the world already and we should start by wiping out Iran (yes) and the Palestinians. This has been the level of the toxic spewing of the radio greats: make Afghanistan glow in the dark; ship all undocumented immigrants out of this country immediately; better 10 million dead Muslims than 1 dead American. And on and on, with what sounds like a taped cycle of five audience voices cheering on the studio war hero. As I opined earlier, popular "talk radio" is a comedy format that’s just grotesque in a situation like this one. So my suggestion to public-spirited broadcasters would be: go on the air immediately with a call-in forum open to all that lets people speak in their own voice and refuses to let the leather-lung bullies and cocktail comedians take over. I’d get the conversation started today by asking people what it means to be carrying a flag on your car–or not to be carrying a flag. Rudolph Giuliani’s performance in New York makes you believe that a lot of mayors out there could host these conversations, and might want to. Town moderators, too. High School principals. There’s a historian on every college campus who could lead the discussion. And then there are church folk, social workers, psychiatrists. The key would be to refine and tune the conversation until it sounded like something you’ve heard over your own kitchen table–until, in the Auden line, it forms a sort of audio postcard you could send to the rest of the country.

  • Jay Allison says:
    Auden’s Cheese

    Great cheese quote from Auden.

    I like your exhortation to local stations to drag in the community wise ones and put them on the air to moderate local conversation. That could work. Has anyone here tried that? Heard that?

    What are you hearing on local air, besides the usual ranting and stuff piped in from elsewhere? Have you heard anything good? I’m particularly interested in what small town radio stations (like ours) might be doing–places with no university, no obvious connection to recent events but still rocked by them, places like most of non-urban America.

    What we did (lacking a regular talk show) was put out a call to our listeners asking them to phone our voice mail and tell us what they were thinking about, to offer their useful thoughts to their neighbors ("useful" was key, I think). The response was terrific. We used almost all of it on air. Some of it is here on the Transom or on the APM site. I’ll dig out the links in a bit.

  • Jackson Braider says:
    I think LaGuardia did that

    And so has Rudy — ah, but if only Rudy had read the funnies from time to time!

    Jay, I understand and appreciate your interest in *small-town* material, but is there really such a thing? I mean, it’s not like Wood’s Hole doesn’t have JONA (or whatever it’s called).

    Still, we should all be "Calling All Listeners." Terrorism is the focus now, but maybe we can consider this time an opportunity to reassemble our various and sundry communities. An instant like this allows us to contemplate who and where we are. Bringing in our selected — and elected — representatives to supervise, deconstruct, reconstruct our diverse voices would be wonderful, to say the least.

    Which leads me, Jay, to query what you mean by "good"? An individual voice that speaks for the masses (I mean this in the best sense, BTW) or an individual voice, like David’s in the "During" piece, that feels so individual?

    Public Radio should dwell, it seems to me, between both kingdoms.

  • Viki Merrick says:
    talkin’ rennet

    The question of what to do locally is somewhat a trick. We did have one call in show here in Woods Hole with a Rabbi (and a radio rabbi at that !) and a psychiatrist. The response was surprisingly quiet, and not very evocative or provocative. I find I have grown absolutely allergic to most talk radio these days – thoughtlessly venemous or uninspired and in both cases remarkably repetitive.
    An excellent project was Jay’s listener call to share SOMETHING. and I found those responses far more meaningful, well thought out and yet seemingly spontaneous in their frankness. Maybe we can put up the collage somewhere (or is it already up?) as fine evidence of what local access can do/be.
    Maybe the Listener Line offers the genuine sanctuary of a confessional of some sort – behind the curtain, free to finish, be heard out and re-say. The mix of story and expression itself provides variation and air to a very dense and complex situation (right now). Of course this is one kind of solution but doesn’t address the need for smart conversation or good cheese – but perhaps it (this format) could serve as fodder for a larger conversation – rennet, if you will. Just wandering.
    and Chris, watch the awfulness addiction, we need you whole.

  • Viki Merrick says:
    Food and Radio

    I’m gonna make a million dollars on a book culling all the food references from Transom for it’s First Year anniversary. I could call it Eat your Radio or …?

  • Ozymandias says:
    Modulation

    The best lack all conviction while the worst…"

    Joyce’s Ulysses would have been about nothing had it not been about Dublin.

    There is a tendency to whisper to those near to us and shout at the world. The Lydon/McGrath Connection somehow managed to transcend universality.

  • Andy Knight says:

    Chris, in starting over you have so many options availible to you. Like, have you considered taking callers out of the equation? What changes have you considered and what changes have you decided to make?

    Also: Have you had a chance to listen in to the webcasts of some of the other disenfranchised radio folks out there? For example, St.Louis radio veteran Onion Horton’s webcast. What do you you think about what is out there, how/if it will change over the next few years, and how these webcasts can somehow survive.

  • Jackson Braider says:
    What about "duty"?

    As an appendage to Andy’s question, what about the Letterman technique — simply calling people?

    As things have rolled out over the past month, a kernel of a societal question has been forming in my mind. Ari says "Watch what you say." The boy king speaks vaguely of "sacrifice." Condee Rice encourages the media to be "responsible" in their handling of bin Laden tapes. And Cheney goes yet again to another undisclosed location — if we’re lucky, maybe that means they’ve lost him.

    Duty and responsibility are elements of the societal glue, but these words mean different things to different communities. Americans feel duty-bound to support their president — that’s the only thing the polls are really saying — but I think it’s somewhere in the second verse of our national anthem (one of the many we’re not singing these days) that speaks of "our cause, if it be just."

    I know. With this crowd, I might as well be throwing raw meat to a pack of wolves, but where do we discover the interplay between "duty," "responsibility," and public radio?

  • Jonathan Hyde says:
    Elements of Conversation

    Having consumed an appalling amount of news, discourse and analysis over the past month for someone who is drawing a weekly paycheck, I offer the following analysis of how Chris’ Connection differed from all that is currently proffered.

    The CL Connection demanded and returned receptiveness and respect for the conversation. These qualities differ markedly from politeness or political correctness. The concept of respect does not resent an unpopular opinion nor is receptiveness defined by valuing everyone’s opinion equally. Rather these characteristics require an active listening and an honest attempt to assess the heart of the other’s opinion. Respect and receptiveness are the pathways by which the imperfect vehicle of communication seeks to provide a connection between the vast distances of the consciousness of two human beings.

    Observe the recent discourse between two bright and thoughtful people such as Noam Chomsky and Christopher Hitchens (re-published online by The Nation). After Hitchens layed a solid foundation for an internecine left-wing fight what followed was several incomprehensible volleys of "half-truths and characterizations (see his)" the interesting and challenging positions these two writers occupied at the beginning of their conversation had descended into a petty tangential featherweight bout where each side keeps it’s own scorecard leaving the sanity-spattered spectator to dream wistfully of the missed opportunity for a genuine conversational scrum between two great opinionators.

    The technical/procedural quality of the CL Connection, as detailed in several exchanges above, was also beyond reproach. Callers were stirred into the mix judiciously and with consideration for the direction of the show. Chris’ deft hand should also not be understated. Understanding when to interpose (not interrupt), when to push a point, and the smoothing out of the inherently scattered conversation into a wobbly but solidly progressive direction must be derived from an innate sense and considerable practice before reaching this level. Suffice to say that "Let’s try to shove in one more call before the hour. You’ll have to be quick." and "Let me interrupt you . . ." and "Let me summarize your point . . ." misses this point entirely.

    Perhaps the most important aspect of the CL connection was it’s attempt to engage the complexity of an issue. This quality is without a doubt the most difficult to achieve and thus was probably where the Connection failed most often. But as compared with "conventional" media the difference is enormous. Let’s ignore most media which embraces failure on this score by active avoidance. While those, such as the recent incarnation of the Connection, which are not only aware of the complexities but acknowledge the dangers of simplifying still engage in rampant broad-brush questions and responses without follow-ups, challenges or attempts to draw valuable distinctions. It takes poise and restraint to resist the urge to say "We have only a minute before the break and we haven’t discussed this last topic on my list, so let me ask you professor, in one sentence or less, Would you describe the response of the Muslim world to America’s recent actions as enthusiastic or restrained?" There is at least four interesting and quality potential shows in that last question. What gets included in the response is the same bland answer that any intelligent well-read listener could have supplied himself. What gets left out of the response is the nuance and the understanding that a full Connection program would provide. Why not instead ask "What is restraining the Saudi’s from publicly endorsing the U.S. use of force?"

    The quality of the listeners, guests and host is another important distinction between the Connection and nearly everything else. How to press this point without being elitist I’m not sure. Let me just point out that almost any other threaded web discussion I have seen, no matter how "high-brow" the source would have long-ago descended into a mud-throwing, name-calling or worse inane niggling over the proper definition of radical left-wing feminist. That these discussions can take place in a "public" fora without some Smithian invisible hand censoring the puerile amongst us speaks to the quality of the participants. Perhaps there is more "guidance" than I give credit for. But even given that a certain amount of censoring takes place we all know that fervid and on-topic discussion does not sustain itself.

    There is a certain overlap between these points and they all reinforce and supplement each other to some degree. I offer these thoughts as a summation of previous sub-threads in this group and my thoughts on what is necessary for a good conversation that leads to a connection. Whether CL achieved these lofty sentiments so thoroughly is not important. What is important is your additions, and subtractions, your thoughts and comments, I look forward to reading them.

    Let me also add that I welcome this forum for discourse, I enjoy having the opportunity to participate with a deliberate tone and in familiar comfort beyond the klieg lights and invisible shot clock of conventional radio.

    I apologize for the length of my response, as you can see I’m big on complexity and probably not well-suited for a call-in show.

  • Mary McGrath says:

    Jonathan,
    You got it and you’re more eloquent and articulate about it than I.
    The critical ingredient in the special sauce is a host who is just plain curious and likes ideas and people and conversation. It’s pretty basic but the media isn’t good at the basics. Jay asked earlier how local stations not in range of a university could get a conversation up and going post 9/11. I’d start by thinking of the most interesting people in town — people whose house you’d love to be invited to for a dinner party. What Chris Lydon calls The Chattering classes live everyhwere. Maybe they’re newspaper people, maybe they’re local writers or adult ed teachers, maybe their just citizens. You can always pipe others in by phone.The thing is to just do it. Try it and don’t be afraid to screw up.

  • benjamen walker says:
    its a DESERT out there

    just got back from a long desert driving trip … listened to a lot of radio.. lots and lots of blabbering say nothing voices… I found myself thinking a lot about what it is that Chris and Co. did so well on the radio and I am glad I have the chance to add my two cents here… Chris said its an "audio postcard" that you would be happy to send to the rest of the world.. I like that except for the word postcard – a postcard only goes one way and the connection never used to be a one way thing. it was always a conversation.. I know chris doesn’t want to give away any secrets but he has nothing to worry about – even if he put the secret in big black letters on his web site the goons that are doing the third rate talk shows will never ever get it – I think they truly believe that what people want is answers and information – and they are more than happy to give them this – they get off on it because this way insures that it is all about themselves – these frauds don’t give a DAMN about conversation. they could care less about learning something – especially from some caller… and as far as the "chattering class" that Mary speaks of – they want nothing to do with these people either – these people often tend not to be "experts" and they take way too much time away from the host… it was never like that with chris and company. and that’s why HIS show was so special – and I hope he’s not mad at me for letting the secret out but like I said they won’t get it anyway… its something you can’t fake -

  • Michael Joly says:
    Transistor Radio Test of Special Sauce

    Listening to the replay of Terry Gross interview novelist Jonathan Franzen (The Corrections) last night, I had a thought about the "Special Sauce" – the unique ingredient of great talk radio we’ve been talking about.

    Different cooks have different secrets, but here’s a tasting method that can be applied to all, let’s call it the Transistor Radio in Bed Test.

    Better than a table top clock radio, a little hand held "transistor" is key. (I still love the use of that word – the name for an electronic switching device used to mean "portable radio receiver"). You can really get your hands on the material being tested.

    Anyway, get all cozy in bed and put the transistor radio on a pillow on tummy. Now, then. Do those voices coming out of the transistor radio seem like they belong in that intimate setting?

    Is the "pillow talk" real?

    A variation is the Kitchen Counter Top Clock Radio Test – but its’ not quite as stringent.

    happy listening!

  • Nannette Drake Oldenbourg says:
    The Communion Connection

    To me, your words are key. The introductions to the Lydon Connection and the call-in invitations that Jay aired were poetic and whole, setting a special tone.

    Both brave and challenging and a touch warm and fuzzy, they reach inward and outward, allowing people to risk a bit, to jump in with more than just acceptable opinions at high volume. They allow people to consider calling in with a whisper as much as a yell.

    I imagine a call for comments about the flag could benefit from a poetic note. Otherwise people are tempted to only repeat what they’ve heard.

    I certainly have to admit to the confessional aspect Viki brought up. And lately I’ve been aware of how much people want communion. Of blood if they can give it, of money, of words…

    If not called, by example, to confess deeper thoughts, some people only regurgitate anger. Or something. Just to be part of the communion.

  • Michael Joly says:
    Communing With the BBC

    The upside to post-attack sleep disorder is that I’ve been listening to the BBC more.

    Last night, their weekly show "Focus on Faith" http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/programmes/foc_fai.shtml

    "… reported on the religious and ideological clash between the those who’ve condemned American and British attacks across Afghanistan and those who want to be America’s friend.

    Also in the programme the Muslim convert who has the ear of the American President. And the world’s best loved cartoon family in a curious new light, when we hear all about the Gospel according to the Simpsons!…"

    Even though produced, rather than a talk radio format, "Focus on Faith" sheds light on less angry and deeper thoughts Nannette suggests are needed to enrich the radio communion.

    Ps – I mean this one, "mutual participation" from the Latin "communis" not the capital C one.

  • Nannette Drake Oldenbourg says:
    How Do You Know What You Know? Pillow Talk in the Desert Continued

    How Do You Know What You Know? Do you have some guideline or mantra?
    Many posts above I congratulated about the listening skills (and patience) you have. Now I wanted to acknowledge the other half of it — your knowing when to say "no" and knowing what you’re looking for. I appreciate that you’ve saved us from rant –at least the hate rants.

    Do you have some guideline or mantra you keep in mind under pressure to help you know what to look or ask for? (Do you say anything like "I’ll need that to be translated into a positive request limited to two minutes" or just say "goodbye?")

    It seems to me a healthy, balanced ego and presence of mind are key, to keep you from stumbling into defensiveness and sarcasm. Perhaps you’re clear enough that you’re looking for answers, not just scoring points. Was it harder when you were in another role, e.g. as mayoral candidate?

    I wonder what kind of training, spiritual orientation, & emotional support from others allows you to keep so clear about what you can handle on the air.

    And I wonder what it would take to get you to add some more comments here?

  • DrDan says:
    Pledge $ to get Lydon/McGrath back on Boston’s air

    ==== BEGIN EMAIL TO BOSTON GLOBE =========
    Date: Wed, 17 Oct 2001 10:52:54 -0400
    To: "Editor, Boston Globe” &lt;Letter@globe.com>
    From: DrDan
    Subject: Pledging support for Chris Lydon broadcasts
    Cc: "Scott Lehigh" &lt;lehigh@globe.com>, "Mark Jurkowitz" &lt;jurkowitz@globe.com>

    To the Editor:

    Boston’s public radio stations are doing heavy fund-raising. Scott Lehigh (Globe, Oct. 12) says Boston talk radio needs Christopher Lydon. I could not agree more.

    Many people I know are not pledging because their favorite conversation radio show, "The Connection" — as hosted by Chris Lydon, with Chief Producer Mary McGrath — is no longer available. Boston"s first team is not on the field.

    I hereby pledge $1000 to to whichever Boston Public Radio outlet picks them up and syndicates them to a national audience.

    I know I am not alone in my desire to hear thoughtful radio conversation again.

    To join me in this pledge drive, please send your web browser to

    &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;http://www.petitiononline.com/pubradio .

    As I write, I am the only pledger. But that will change because I am publicizing this petition to others via email and the web.

    Please stop in and sign it yourself!

    Sincerely,

    /s/
    ====== END EMAIL TO BOSTON GLOBE =========

      When I signed this petition, I got confirmation from petitiononline.com that had this part "suitable for forwarding." If you sign, you can email your own copy to like-minded friends. Or, feel free to use this!

    == BEGIN EMAIL FROM PETITIONONLINE.COM ==

    Dear Friends,

    I have just read and signed the online petition:

    "Here’s Pledged Money to put Lydon & McGrath back on Boston’s air"

    hosted on the web by PetitionOnline.com, the free online petition service, at:

    &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; http://www.petitiononline.com/pubradio

    I personally agree with what this petition says, and I think you might agree, too. If you can spare a moment, please take a look, and consider signing yourself.

    Best wishes,
    ==== END EMAIL FROM PETITIONONLINE.COM ==


    Would you like more info about the upcoming October 27th (Saturday evening) gathering of Lydon/McGrath supporters in Cambridge 02138? Then please send your browser here to learn more. Hope to see you there.

  • Michael Joly says:
    Oh, The Synchronicity

    On my list of Lydon & McGrath shows I’d like hear would be one based on A.O. Scott’s hallucinatory melding of his prose and Herman Melville’s celebrating the 150th anniversary of the publication of “Moby Dick” today.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2001/10/18/arts/18MOBY.html?pagewanted=1

    Scott retraces Ishmael’s steps and muses on contemporary parallels to Melville’s poignant observations of isolation and camaraderie in the “insular city of the Manhattoes.”

    Soundtrack? Early work from electronica recording artist Moby – a descendent of Mr. M.

  • Jay Allison says:
    More Cheese

    Assuming your permission, Chris, I’ll pose that question about the American flag to our listeners at WCAI/WNAN for our listener line. We’ll see what we get, and if we get response that reaches beyond the community — exceptional local cheese — we’ll post it here.

    Re. Local Cheese. We have a variety of it at our radio station. We air these tiny community portraits all day long, little stories of our neighbors that we go out and record. You can hear some at this page.
    http://atlantic.org/projects/cainan/sonic_id.html

    I think they carry beyond our community, but they are especially good here. Each place has its own shorthand, its jargon. There is a genuine "we." The Cape and Islands are no different. That must be what you missed when you went from Boston to National.

    We also have our local listener line, where people get to speak their minds for the record. Giving them that responsibility seems to work pretty well. We get a very high percentage of usable messages, recently relating to Sept. 11th which you can check out here in our timeline.
    http://www.transom.org/shows/2001/200109.days.stories.html

    Voicemail has a very different dynamic than the guided conversation you, Chris and Mary, create. Advantages to both, but the great advantage you have is the depth and blend that you can build over an hour. While we all agitate in our different ways to get you back on the air, I’m still interested in your thoughts on the craft of that job.

    How to Build an Hour: A Manual. Please riff on this for the benefit of the commons.

  • Jay Allison says:
    While I’m at it…

    We have an occasional call-in show at our stations, and even more occasionally, I host it. I am a duffer, but enthusiastic to discover what fun it is. But the thrill for me is the localness, the sense of talking to an actual community that exists outside the context of the program. A couple weeks after the 11th, I hosted the show to talk about Bird Migration. The idea was to take a deep breath and look at the skies with something other than the memory of horror. This was the intro:
    >I’m Jay Allison and this is The Point. Today, Birds. That’s right, a look back to the skies, with an appreciation for life ongoing. In our studio is Vern Laux, the Bird Man of Martha’s Vineyard, and I can virtually guarantee that he will help expand your thinking in a positive direction for the next hour. An affirmation of life, of hope, the thing with feathers. Next on THE POINT here on 90.1 CAI Woods Hole Martha’s Vineyard, and 91.1 WNAN Nantucket. First, this news update.

    There’s a page on this show, and audio here:
    http://atlantic.org/projects/cainan/20010914.point.laux.html

    We could get away with this locally because we look at the same sky, the same birds. We have something tangible in common. Place. I don’t know if it would have worked as a national show. Doing this show was also like a community gathering where people get together who haven’t seen each other in a while. Everyone had been focusing on tragedy, on the nation, and in this hour they could say… "hey, how are things over on YOUR island?"

    The full flavor of local cheese like this is best appreciated by locals, I think.

    I wonder if you, Chris and Mary, think of just staking out a place and starting over fresh, local.

  • Jackson Braider says:
    Anybody found a nice smelly Herkimer cheddar recently?

    Jay, I think birds could have gone nationally. Think of the January 1 birdcount.

    Birds, of course, are a touchy subject to me because I cued them for the last two years of Robert J Lurtsema. So I don’t want to talk about them any more. They mean, sniff, so much to me…

    In other words, no matter what you do, someone’s got a thorn to bear.

    Beyond that, thinking local is not necessarily the same as thinking small. There are, for example, still (or so I hope) many places that have their own cheddars, aged cheeses, and excretions of goat. "Hey, wherever you are! Do you wrap ‘em in grape or oak leaf?" I mean, sure we have American singles, but aren’t there Canadian singles as well?

    When you say:

    The full flavor of local cheese like this is best appreciated by locals, I think.

    I think you’re forgetting the exoticness of local cheese to outsiders. I suspect that that was one of the brilliant aspects of the Kuralt On the Road pieces. Locals and outsiders have a different sense of smell.

    On the other hand, Chris and Mary, when you made the switch from local to national, did you feel obliged to shift your subject base? It didn’t seem that way to me. You both seem to recognize that there are different ways of defining "locality" — Jay, you speak of "locality" of place, but there is also locality or community of interest. Birdwatchers in New Mexico are going to be intrigued by what birdwatchers on the Cape and Islands see. Chris and Mary seemed to bounce from locality to locality in terms of community of interest.

    And yet…

    And yet there is also a line that distinguishes the local from the provincial. "The Connection" under Chris and Mary went national — not, as Chris said, without some trepidation — but the carriage was not in the hundreds of stations. I’d be interested to hear where and how Chris and Mary tried to feel their way through a maze that involved the local, the provincial, and the national.

  • Michael Joly says:
    Sonic Ids

    Gosh Jay, those story/IDs you pointed us to are beautiful, thanks.

    I have to admit the simple authenticity of those voices got my tear ducts lubed. After they finished telling their stories I loved how the speakers communicated their pride of ownership when they announced, “…This is 90.1 CAI Woods Hole Martha’s Vineyard, and 91.1 WNAN Nantucket”.

    Wow. They really meant it – you the listener, are really hearing something from a particular place. How different that sounds from “golden-voiced talent” reading a station slogan cue card.

    The 0:60 format is such a great length – quickly engaging, long enough to be satisfying and short enough to seduce me into suspending my life for a moment to listen.

    Actually, it was 13 moments plus this post.

  • Chris Lydon says:
    Special Sauce: answering Jay’s How-To Question

    At Symphony Hall in Boston a couple of years ago, an usher at as Yo-Yo Ma concert (a moonlighting actor, as it turned out) took my ticket with a discreet nod of recognition and said, sotto voce: "I am a searcher, too." It was one of the dearest and most acute comments I can remember, and it comes as close to giving away the special sauce as I think is wise. The program that Mary McGrath and I worked on for nigh onto seven years was animated, deep down, by a huge hunger to know this world and our places in it. My curiosity about almost everything is genuine, and I don’t blush to admit it. It’s not that I’m don’t love the distractions of life; God knows I’ve spent altogether too much energy over the years (as journalists are wont to do) on digressions from the main road. But I love more the spirit of Proverbs 4:7: "Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding." I know I am drawn back and back to the big musicians and big writers who confront the big questions. Cornel West refers to himself as a blues man in the ivory town, a struggling Christian with a permanent affinity for the sensibility suggested by the range from Chekhov to Coltrane. Thank you, Corn; I would presume to say much the same about myself, though the tallest, most treasured peaks might be Dostoevsky and Duke Ellington. I hope that’s enough about me for the moment–more than enough for the mockers to feed on, if they want. The point about our radio work is just that for all the fun we have had with it every day, we were never kidding around. And we never thought of our show as mere entertainment. We had high-school students on the production staff at points, but we were all grown ups. We care intensely about the work. We love eachother. We never fought. We slaved at the job. We never stopped trying to make it better. We are unutterably grateful that so many people remember programs that "worked." Small wonder that people remember programs with musicians, and programs and guests and callers that had an aura of spiritual mystery about them. In conceiving the program and the daily iterations, the general hunch that Mary and I shared was that most media is in the business of kidding people. Our project, trying not to sound too solemn about it, was to keep applying the ol’ shit detector: is this story worth it? Is this book notion new, or sound, or interesting? Narrowly we were always asking: has it been done already, most particularly on NPR by the likes of TOTN or Terry Gross or ATC? And more broadly, we began by asking what if any light a program might shed on the path to truth and beauty. A lot of celebrity book writers were automatically, eagerly embraced; but with all of them Mary was relentless in trying to get an hour of radio, not an hour of "book." Mary was always asking: what is the question on listeners minds for which this author-expert-guest might have an ideal answer? The emphasis, that is, was on listeners and questions, not on the visiting celeb’s latest production. The inescapable goad, ten times a day, was: what’s the question for callers? These all came to be habitual preparation for every program, the starting point for a long meeting we had each day at noon. And maybe Mary will pick up the baton here, with a major extension on how we execute programs–and with whatever corrections she wants to impose on what I’ve just writ.

  • Jay Allison says:
    Curiosity and Enthusiasm Will Out

    Genuine curiosity. And genuinue enthusiasm. When we ponder public radio’s "core values," I put those high on the list. They are the pillars of Authenticity…. a value which, by definition, you can’t fake. That’s what I heard on the Connection. It was not only the product of an institution we heard, but the loving labor of individuals…listeners included.

    I choose to believe that curiosity and enthusiasm will out and that Chris and Mary, after some transformative event suitable to this Greek saga, will return. In the meantime, the scraps of sauce recipe buried in your postings are very useful and I hope you’ll continue with the master class a bit longer.

    Failure is how we learn. What were your worst shows? Why? Was it often your fault? Can you save a terrible show half-way through? Do you remember moments you found the key to a bad guest and unlocked him? Can a great caller turn things around… do you keep some in reserve?

    How did you deploy staff? You had a good-sized team. Most local shows don’t. we don’t even have a phone computer thing… they just hold up a dry marker board in the control room….("Mary from Boston on Line One!") Mary, are you out there…?

  • Jay Allison says:
    To Hell with Paragraphs

    May I also say that Chris’s utter disregard for paragraph breaks in this topic reminds me of his on-air intros which were paragraphless tours-de-force of galloping prose.

    That’s another difficult-to-imitate flavor in the secret sauce.

    Hockenberry sometimes pulled it off. And Suarez. The trick is getting us to be absolutely enthralled by something we had no idea interested us at all. The Lydon Intro was tops at this.

    Chris, did you do those at the last adrenaline-filled minutes? Did you riff them out loud and then type? Do they have uneven right-hand margins on the page?

  • Suzanne Petrucci says:
    Sprezzatura

    Though it’s not for Chris or Mary to say about themselves, we can say that they have a "sprezzatura". (I just came across this word so I have to use it).

    Sprezzatura- doing difficult things with an effortless mastery or the art of effortless mastery. Sprezzatura is anything but effortless: mastery of any skill requires more perspiration than inspiration: the social mask or the disjunction between appearance and reality. (Coined in 1528 by Count Baldassare Castiglione in his famous Book of the Courtier, synthesizing the ideals of the medieval courtly gentleman with the new "Renaissance man.")

    Chris’s long paragraph made me go right to this quote I have saved for about 25 years:

    From Jacob Bronowski "The Visionary Eye": The Nature of Art

    "….there is a common pattern to all knowledge: what we meet is always particular, yet what we learn from it is always general. In science we reason from particular instances to the general laws that we suppose to live behind them, and though we do not know how we guess at these laws, we know very well how to test them. But in a poem the specific story and the detailed imagery that carries it create in us an immediate sense of the general. The experience is made large and significant precisely by the small and insignificant touches. Here the particular seems to become general of itself. The detail is it’s own universal."

    ———————————-

    Among your listeners, Chris and Mary and "fellow decampers", I believe there are many fellow searchers. (We are searching for a way to get you back.)

    Paying attention to daily life (laundry ) saves me too. I find the universal in these details. I still need to search in order to come back. Spiritual nourishment comes with (cultivated) openness, which brings curiosity and wonder and Art. Enthusiasm- a positive energy- says "this is good, no wonderful" or "this can be good or even better". It’s infectious and something gets awakened that is universal. .

    Last week, walking around the WTC site, people seemed more open, slashed open, and you could pick up a conversation with someone you have never met and speak from the heart. Curiosity and wonder, delight and love was present amidst the sorrow more than a month from the attack. A man from Colorado asked "what makes the fires burn so hot for so long?" He was nagged by the question and wanted a technical answer.

    How did you, Chris and Mary, manage to keep up with all of the reading listening, and looking and reflection necessary to be well prepared for each show? Ten hours a week to be well prepared with thought to the oncoming weeks boggles my mind. And still Chris, you managed to send me a heartfelt quick note about a clipping I sent you.

    It can’t be the just the sauce. It’s not merely the recipe. It’s the hard work, carefully chosen ingredients I am sure but also or more the sensibility that puts them together. That’s why I say Art. I think that’s what attracts and inspires the callers too.

    I notice the callers are very different now, the sensibility, the personal world view is very different.

  • Mary McGrath says:
    Special Sauce

    Failure is how we learn. What were your worst shows? Why?

    Mary from Boston here. Failure is indeed how we learned Jay. There were some classic failures — when the Dalai Lama left after the first half to catch a NASA space shuttle launch; when the singer Nina Simone showed up a half hour late and then decided she didn’t want to talk; when the science fiction writer Harlan Ellison walked out of the studio midday through the program because Chris called him a science fiction writer when he’d told a producer he didn’t want to be called a science fiction writer.

    Was it often your fault? Can you save a terrible show half-way through?

    I would say those ones weren’t our fault. You can sort of save a show by adding more guests or playing music in the case of Nina Simone. The callers saved the Harlan Ellison show in a rather spectacular way. Admittedly Chris isn’t much of a sci fi fan and so the callers rushed in to offer their own explanations why explain why Harlan Ellison was offended and they grabbed copies of books and stories he’d written and read selections of his prose on the air to gently guide us to the end of the hour.
    The key to a great show is an interesting angle on a story or an interesting topic with a very strong advocate. We’d pre-interview guests thoroughly and “trade up” throughout the day and even into the next morning the get the best possible people on the program. I have impossibly high standards and the fact that seven producers shared the goal of making each program the very best it could be is proof of how amazing our staff was. Our post-show editorial meeting was the most fun of the day. For an intense hour we would evaluate the program we’d just finished and talk about show ideas for the next day and the rest of the week. Visitors who sat in were always amazed at the fun and intelligence and intensity of the group. A staff of people of very varied interests, ages and backgrounds weighed in on nearly everything. We all shared a basic curiosity about life and we learned a lot from each other. One woman is a writer whose interests were mainly literary. She couldn’t care less about national politics but the best of those shows it seems were the ones that she got excited about before hand.
    We’d often dare to be boring, but the standard was to be edgy and provocative. We all labored over writing billboards and opens trying out different leads and copy on each other all afternoon and into the late evenings at home. We didn’t worry about balancing every program left and right. That creates a MacNeil/Lehrer kind of effect and the show can become predictable and boring. Why add the Jesse Helms or the voice of an opposition politician if you know exactly what they’re going to say? We could often count on our callers to even out a guest with strong opinions. This is not to suggest that controversial shows were one sided; on most shows we’d have call-outs – people we’d call out to for a quick comment or an interesting perspective that would take the second part of the hour in a different direction.
    The pace of the show was very important too. The phone screener signaled the callers to be quick and we’d gently cut them off if they weren’t. We continually improvised and didn’t have a set script for any program. Chris never had a set list of more than a couple of questions to get the show going. That way we were open to digression and surprise. To often on the radio you hear a host working through a list of questions and he or she will miss a critical follow up because they’re following a set format.

  • Jackson Braider says:
    I Like the Bronowski

    Suzanne: thanks for bringing Bronowski into the mix. (A nice "Connection" would have turned on why we Americans don’t have minds like that)

    And I also appreciate Jay’s comment about Lydon’s intros. Chris, what would you have done without jazz?

    Forgive me if I say the whole "special sauce" motif calls to mind nothing so much as McDonald’s annoyingly intrusive ad about the Big Mac, where (one is supposed to assume) innocent men and women on the street recite (or sing) the recipe on camera. Chris, surely you could have found a stronger metaphor than that!

    Finally, Chris and Mary, what would you have done with this anthrax business? A multilayered dilemma if there ever was one. I have seen up close the anxiety these little mail bombs cause. Would you demystify the issue? Would you take it on as metaphor?

    In memoriam to the late photo editor from American Media, Inc., "Enquiring minds want to know."

  • Chris Lydon says:
    Failures, etcetera

    Mary doesn’t remember how she raked me once for an introduction to a Charles Mingus hour that didn’t explain who Mingus was (musically, emotionally, politically)in the pantheon between Duke Ellington and the Monk generation. She was severe and I was wounded, but we absorbed the general lesson that these billboards and introductions had to be addressed to the everyday Martian, and they had to be tested on eachother for rhythm and fun as well as clarity of information. My daughter Amanda, who’s a chef, says the joy of cooking is all about learning from failures; was it not among Julia Child’s giant contributions that the souflee could fall–so could the chicken, on the floor–and we could still feel good about ourselves. In interviewing for talk radio, the prime worry, the definition of failure, was the program that did not bring out a guest’s main idea: amazing how people can get so absorbed in their golfer’s waggle and never quite come up with a swing! Joan Didion didn’t really want to talk about her own book. Lots of other people are shy about their own ideas. I tell every guest: think hard a minute (and don’t tell me before the program) what you want the dentist’s wife in Westwood to remember when the conversation is over. The flip side is guests that surprise themselves with digressions and even with passion that they didn’t expect to share on the radio. Harold Evans, a.k.a. Mr. Tina Brown, wrote a photo-history love letter to the American Century, in which I sensed the emotional mainspring was his own memory as a teenager of American Lend-Lease that saved England before the US entered WW2. So I worked him around to talking about FDR’s adviser Harry Hopkins who delivered the promise to Churchill with a marvellous speech quoting the Book of Ruth: "whither thou goest.." And sure enough Harry Evans burst into big tears as he told the story. Andrew Sullivan cried on our show. I’ve cried on our show. Tears cover a multitude of sins, and failures, too. There are so many kinds of failures: too many guests, not enough guests; guests and callers that run on. I am often accused of interrupting people, but we made more mistakes letting people repeat themselves. Yes, callers can turn a show right around. Among our faves is a Christmas Eve show on "The Gift of the Magi," the O. Henry story and the idea of the perfect surprise gift: early on came a caller who with her husband was giving their best friends what they wanted above all… it was a child, as the story developed, and it was due on Christmas Day. The theologian in the studio, Harvey Cox, was overwhelmed, as I was, but the one superb call, as often, generated many, many more. The first caller sets the standard for the hour. With the novelist Kazuo Ishiguro, it helped immeasurably with a difficult novel, "The Unconsoled," that a pianist Andrew Rangel called in off the bat and explained to Ishiguro and to us what the novel really meant about music, culture, modernity, Europe, language and the rest. The last point about failures, if I may, is that we’re often the worst judges of our flops and our hits, both. The listener may hear a failure when I felt a triumph, and vice versa; all the more reason to get back on the horse each time as if we were inventing the medium anew.

  • scientell says:
    David Hirst

    Where terror begins

    Arabs are asking why Israeli brutality is deemed self-defence while Palestinians are vilified as terrorists

    David Hirst in Beirut
    Friday October 26, 2001
    The Guardian

    Some Arabs did criticise the assassination of Israeli cabinet minister Rehavam Zeevi. But not because it was an act of terrorism. They simply shared the widespread apprehension about its impact on the hoped-for renewal of the peace process.
    For there could hardly, they conceded, have been a more legitimate target for any act of terror than Zeevi. It was the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine’s straightforward retaliation for Israel’s assassination of their own leader, Ali Abu Mustafa. It was precise; there was no accidental death of uninvolved civilians. It was about as symbolically appropriate as one could get. An advocate of the "transfer" of all Palestinians out of Palestine, a man who used words like "lice", "vermin" and "cancer" to describe them, Zeevi was the incarnation of all that is most extreme, bellicose and racist in Israeli society.

    Yet Israel reacted to the killing with greater ferocity than it has to any previous acts of terror, including even Hamas suicide bombings in which tens of innocents died. Apparently, the fact that Zeevi was not merely a civilian, but a minister and elected representative of a democratic country, put it, morally, in an entirely different category from Israel’s own assassination of Palestinian leaders. But probably the real cause of Sharon’s ferocity was the fact that, as one newspaper said, it was such an effective "blow to the head of the Israeli political system".

    It also gave him the pretext to further his political agenda, which some Israelis see as nothing less than eliminating any need to make peace by eliminating the only party, Arafat and the Palestine Authority, with which it could be made. He first issued an ultimatum to the PA that was virtually impossible for it to fulfil. He then mounted the biggest military operation of its kind ever undertaken, killing almost 40 Palestinians so far. This has been accompanied by a barrage of propaganda that seeks to persuade the world that the PA has exactly the same relationship with Palestinian terror as the Taliban do with Osama bin Laden, and Israel the same right to destroy the one as the Americans do the other.

    Yet it’s hardly debatable: in method (individual assassination) and target (a key protagonist of the other side), what the PFLP did was the equivalent of what Israel has done countless times. So why is it, asked Arabs everywhere, that what Israel does is called self-defence, and when Palestinians do exactly the same thing it is terrorism? And why does Israel have the right to demand the extradition of culprits while the Palestinians don’t?

    Rarely have such contrary viewpoints so starkly illustrated the cliche that one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter – or, in Arab eyes, the imperative need for an internationally recognised, UN-promulgated definition of just what terrorism is. Largely because of their long-standing reputation as a breeding-ground of terrorists, the Arabs have long been to the fore in pressing for one. The lack of one is part and parcel of their lukewarm response to joining the US-led global coalition against it. For it makes it easier for the US to shape an agenda with which they do not agree. They think that more should go into the definition than the State Department’s terse description of it as "premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets by sub-national groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience."

    Broadly speaking, they want it to cover state as well as non-state agents, and to take into account both the nature of the violence and its motives and aims. They contend that Israel is a practitioner of "state terrorism". Its violence may indeed be carried out by the armed forces of an internationally recognised, lawfully constituted entity, and it may not be deliberately directed at non-combatant civilians, but in practice it ends up as a form of terrorism and, given such disproportionate firepower deployed in civilian neighbourhoods, is inherently bound to do so.

    But more important, in the Arab view, is the cause. At bottom, Israel uses violence for what is internationally recognised as an illegitimate purpose, the maintenance of its occupation, and the Palestinians are using it for what is recognised as a legitimate one, the ending of it. This does not mean that their resistance cannot constitute pure, unbridled terrorism, as it does when the Islamists of Hamas carry out their suicide bombings inside original, pre-1967 Israel, territory which neither the world nor the PA recognise as occupied. But it does, or should, mean that it is much harder for the world to condemn the resistance when it confines its targets to the soldiers and settlers who are the instruments and symbols of occupation – a policy which secular groups like mainstream Fatah usually try to follow.

    Soon after September 11, the US seemed to realise that of all the possible impediments to its "war on terror", the Palestine question was the most serious and potentially disastrous. As a result, after Sharon’s latest excess in his war on terror, it once again finds itself at loggerheads with him. In Arab eyes the US is quite simply hoist with the petard of its traditional, institutionalised indulgence of its Israeli protege – and of a definition of terrorism which, till now, has entirely suited Israel. It is a complaisance, said Egypt’s leading state-owned newspaper al-Ahram, which must come to an end; otherwise all the Anglo-American talk about a new drive for peace, and a "Palestine state" at the end of it, will be so much "political bombast".

  • Michael Joly says:
    The Craft of Balance

    Tom Regan in today’s Christian Science Monitor writes "It has been my experience as a journalist that nobody likes the media when they cover an issue near and dear to his or her heart."

    He tells how two friends, one Jewish the other a Turk, were both angry that a piece he wrote was biased toward the other side and ignored "obvious facts".

    http://www.csmonitor.com/2001/1026/p25s2-coop.html

  • Michael Joly says:
    New Edward Said Piece

    I haven’t heard much talk in the media about the "interconnectedness of innumerable lives" and the inadequacy of cultural labeling as Edward Said suggests in a recent article:

    The Nation – October 22, 2001
    http://www.thenation.com/docPrint.mhtml?i=20011022&s=said

    "…How finally inadequate are the labels, generalizations and cultural assertions. Primitive passions and sophisticated know-how converge in ways that give the lie to a fortified boundary not only between "West" and "Islam" but also between past and present, us and them, to say nothing of the very concepts of identity and nationality about which there is unending disagreement and debate.

    A unilateral decision made to draw lines in the sand…doesn’t make the supposed entities any easier to see; rather, it speaks to how much simpler it is to make bellicose statements for the purpose of mobilizing collective passions than to reflect, examine, sort out what it is we are dealing with in reality, the interconnectedness of innumerable lives, "ours" as well as "theirs."

  • Jackson Braider says:
    Degrees of Separation

    Michael, thanks for mentioning the Said piece. I was trying for — in retrospect — a similar yet somewhat soppier (more sentimental) PoV in a narrative that attempted, on the one hand, to relate my one degree of separation from death at the WTC to my two degrees of separation from Ariel Sharon. As the old sign on the Brooklyn side of the Brooklyn Bridge used to say — is it still there, anyone? — one out of seven people in the world is related to someone in Brooklyn.

    Upon reflection, the interconnectedness of innumerable lives really erases any meaningful difference between "ours" and "theirs" in the grand scheme. Our government, or so it seems to me, in their offensive and simple-minded reference to "evil-doers" is depending on just such pettiness to rationalize a course of action that will lead nowhere.

    What we’re watching, in a very perverse sort of way, is a "did/didn’t" on a grotesque scale.

  • Jackson Braider says:
    Not "Did/Didn’t"

    Upon reflection, while the Administration is behaving childishly, the discourse involving "evil-doers" evokes a particularly repulsive twist on the idea of "holier than thou."

  • Sean McElroy says:
    Hate

    Andrew Sullivan in his New York Times Magazine article "What’s So Bad About Hate?"

    >As the Times put it, "Hate arrived in the neighborhoods …, in the early-morning darkness."

    >But what exactly was this thing that arrived in the early-morning darkness? For all our zeal to attack hate, we still have a remarkably vague idea of what it actually is. A single word, after all, tells us less, not more. For all its emotional punch, "hate" is far less nuanced an idea than prejudice, or bigotry, or bias, or anger, or even mere aversion to others. Is it to stand in for all these varieties of human experience – and everything in between? If so, then the war against it will be so vast as to be quixotic. Or is "hate" to stand for a very specific idea or belief, or a set of beliefs, with a very specific object or group of objects? Then waging a war against it is almost certainly unconstitutional. Perhaps these kinds of questions are of no concern to those waging war on hate. Perhaps it is enough for them that they share a sentiment that there is too much hate and never enough vigilance in combating it. But sentiment is a poor basis for law and a dangerous tool in politics. It is better to leave some unwinnable wars unfought…

    >There is, for example, the now unfashionable distinction between reasonable hate and unreasonable hate. In recent years we have become accustomed to talking about hates as if they were all equally indefensible, as if it could never be the case that some hates might be legitimate, even necessary. But when some 800,000 Tutsis are murdered under the auspices of a Hutu regime in Rwanda, and when a few thousand Hutus are killed in revenge, the hates are not commensurate… If the victims overcome this hate, it is a supreme moral achievement. But if they don’t, the victims are not as culpable as the perpetrators…

    >The theorists behind these isms [sexism, racism, etc.] ascribe to all blame to one group in society – the "oppressors" – and render specific others – the "victims" – completely blameless. And they want to do this in order in part to side unequivocally with the underdog… It [ism theory] does exactly what hate does: it hammers the uniqueness of each individual into the anvil of group identity. And it postures morally over the result…

    >One of the stranger aspects of hate is that the prejudice expressed by a group in power may often be milder in expression than the prejudice felt by the marginalized. After all, if you already enjoy privilege, you may not feel the anger that turns bias into hate…

    >In an increasingly diverse culture, it is crazy to expect that hate, in all its variety, can be eradicated… This may not be fair, or perfect or admirable, but it is reality, and while we need not endorse it, we should not delude ourselves into thinking we can prevent it. That is surely the distiinction between toleration and tolerance. Tolerance is the eradication of hate; toleration is the coexistence despite it. We might do better as a culture and as a polity if we concentrated more on achieving the latter than the former…

    >Do we not owe something more to the victims of hate? Perhaps we do. But it is also true that there is nothing that government can do for the hated that the hated cannot better do for themselves… Indeed, our media’s obsession with "hate," our elevation of it above other social misdemeanors and crimes, may even play into the hands of the pathetic and the evil, may breathe air into the smoldering embers of their paranoid loathing… There is a danger that if we go too far, if we punish it too much, if we try to abolish it altogether, we may merely increase its mystique, and entrench the very categories of human difference that we are trying to erase…

    >A hater cannot psychologically wound if a victim cannot psychologically be wounded. And that immunity to hurt can never be given; it can merely be achieved… In this, as in so many things, there is no solution to the problem. There is only a transcendence of it. For all our rhetoric, hate will never be destroyed. Hate, as our predecessors knew better, can merely be overcome.

    The article is originally a reflection on a new genre of crime, "hate crime." I couldn’t help but add "religious fundamentalism" and "terrorism" to his list of isms and the entire meaning of the piece began to transform. The article seems so much more appropriate now than it did when Sullivan was addressing a arguably provincial US-centric concern, i.e. hate crimes and how to address them with legislation and political initiative.

  • Gwendolyn Stewart says:
    THE CONVERSATION CONTINUES….

    CHRISTOPHER LYDON interviews KANAN MAKIYA:

    I’m Christopher Lydon and this is the Real Thing, The Wide World, The Re-Connection, whatever you want to call it.

    Our guest, Kanan Makiya, is an Iraqi architect and writer who exiled himself from the regime of Saddam Hussein when he wrote the first real inside account of it all. His book, an American best-seller during the Gulf War, was called Republic of Fear, published under a pseudonym. He came out as the author on our "The Ten O’Clock News," which touched me. I had read his book and met him over lunch that day, and I immediately called John VanScoyoc, our producer, and said "John, cancel everything else, we’re gonna do half an hour tonight with Kanan Makiya." I’d sensed in him a terrific zeal for the truth and the courage to tell it. About the Gulf War, he argued with passion and detail what I felt intuitively in that spring of 1991: (a) that George H. W. Bush’s Gulf War might prove a huge mistake. It was recognizably a kind of American Oil War in place of what might have been a self-policing Arab war against the regime of Saddam Hussein. And (b) that having done the job, it could be a crime for the US not to finish it–that in the end the American intervention was going to overwhelm the politics of the Arab world without improving it at all. Ever since that time among people I know Kanan Makiya is the one who has confronted the whole nightmare of that world – the US betrayal of the Kurds, the devastation of Iraq, the cynicism, the cruelty that are still rampant in the region and in our policy. He wrote a marvelous book called Cruelty and Silence and was decorated for a program he did with "Frontline" called "Saddam’s Killing Fields," about the Kurds. He’s been on "The Connection" with us any number of times. It gives me great pleasure to be talking again with Kanan Makiya. His new book is called The Rock. That’s another matter that we’ll get to…

    Q: Go back to the first moment, Kanan. What did 9/11 mean to you? What is this war about?

    continued on:
    http://www.christopherlydon.org

  • Michael Joly says:
    Finally, The Sounds of The Pashtun

    Tonight NPR aired a piece by John Burnett about the politics and culture of the Pashtun people of Afghan and Pakistan during the "culture segment" of the broadcast – about 50 minutes into the hour. The piece, peppered with voices and music of the Pashtun, ended with a love song played on a traditional oud-like instrument.

    Back in #37 above I complained that, to my knowledge, only the Christian Science Monitor had opened a door into Pashtun culture in a piece dated Sept. 24:
    http://www.christiansciencemonitor.com/2001/0924/p6s1-wosc.html

    I’d like to think that Lydon & McGrath, had they been on the air, would not have waited 6 weeks to bring us these same field recordings made in 1971 and would have found an expert guest who could engage and inform us about the music. By the way, these recordings sound similar, but in more "folky" way, to the ecstatic Kawali singing of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan…but I would have loved to be introduced to them in a two-way conversation rather than a one-way NPR culture piece.

    The dearth of sonic documentation so far in this war on terrorism only strengthens my belief that our current "problem" in Central Asia has cultural ignorance as one of its origins.

  • Nannette Drake Oldenbourg says:
    ?

    I keep hoping Chris Lydon will be tempted to answer some questions various regular folks asked at the beginning.
    I suppose I thought it would be like the time you spoke in Woods Hole and answered questions.
    Were the queries here overwhelming? Are interested people and interesting questions expendable?

    It feels a little crumby at this end.
    Still hoping.

    I heard Scott Simon recently joke that he remembers when people would call Chicago Public Radio to ask when All Things Considered was on and they would answer "when would you like it on?"

    and of course there is the real or legendary story of Ira Glass delivering pizza…and tattoos

    Contrast that attitude with what one web show planner told me last week: "web sites are repositories for fans."

    Repositories? Really?

    Seems such a waste of gifted spirit and potential. (fans’ & yours)

    I wish you well…

  • Jackson Braider says:
    Nanette: You go, Girl!

    I have found the Transom site incredibly stimulating, incredibly enlightening. Even when guest hosts retreat, participants generally leap to the barricades to maintain the conversation.

    It’s all very well and good to speak of "special sauce" — a McDonald’s additive, as I recall — but somewhere along the line, people really must deliver the goods here. Just as Ira Glass did, in fact, deliver pizza as part of a WBUR festive occasion (read "pledge").

    Forgive me for saying this, Chris, but there have been a lot of people carrying your water over the past 150+ entries. Nanette’s reiteration of neglected issues and concerns is absolutely right. Many in this circle admire your approach to talk on the radio, in collaboration with Mary McGrath. Prevarication is fine for Ari Fleischer and Donald Rumsfeld (does anyone else see him as the kindly pharmacist who spends his idle hours with the KKK?) — but we deserve more straight talk here.

  • Jay Allison says:
    From the Transom Side

    You should know that the agreement Transom makes with its guests is to write a manifesto and hang out. That’s all. They determine how often they can contribute over their month’s tenure and obviously many factors come into play.

    This odd medium of exchange, where threads knot and unravel is tricky to navigate at the best of times, and especially when Israel and Palestine and Afghanistan and downtown Manhattan are smashing up against the craft of the radio talk show.

    In a week or so we’ll distill the topic into The Transom Review, culling for radio-specific content. I’ve been looking at the rough cut. When it’s done, check it over and see if you don’t think it’s worth the price of admission.

    Chris and Mary, you stepped into the breach in a very difficult time, both in your own careers and in the nation. I am grateful to you for doing so. I learned new tricks from your postings. I was inspired. Big thanks to both of you. I hope you’ll keep dropping by the site and this topic is yours as long as we’re here. And please come down to our radio station sometime and let’s do an experiment with sauce.

    Next up, within a day or two, is Norman Corwin, the 91-year-old bard of wartime radio. After a couple of weeks, Norman will take your questions aurally and record his answers in a big batch which we’ll transcribe and put on the site. It’s different every time.

  • Chris Lydon says:
    No, No, Nannette

    I must confess I’m puzzled here. What were the questions I failed to answer? Ari Fleischer I am not. Let’s reopen the Woods Hole gabathon, Nannette, and I’ll respond to anything you want. The constraints I was aware of–maybe overly so–began with a certain awkwardness of referring to our work in the past; it’s very much in the future, in the spirit of the radio renaissance, but we’re not ready to say yet just where and when it’s going to hit the air; and it’s no fun bouncing that mystery back and forth. Then there really are some personal secrets of how we interacted in the gestation and production of The Connection, but I pretty much gave them away at least in coded form that Ben Walker says none of our rivals will understand anyway. Yes, Jackson Braider, a lot of correspondents here were very generous about our work–more generous than I could have been out loud, under my own name, no matter how much I agree with them. Thanks to all, in any event, from the heart. Now what more was it you wanted me to say? I know my time is up, but I’d be happy to check in to satisfy anyone who’s still hunger. All the best, Chris Lydon.

  • Nannette Drake Oldenbourg says:
    Yes, Yes, Chris!

    Okay, I’m going to use up my third-to-last stitch of reputation to admit that when I read that Christopher Lydon had written -in bold- "No no Nannette" SPELLED RIGHT EVEN, my heart went all a-flutter and I completely forgot about the olive-oil laden frying pan in the next room. Can you blame me? the man obviously has my number, inviting me to a "gabathon" without any irony even. and I’m getting to write back with out any irony even.

    Kitchen Conflaguration has been averted, for now. But I suppose I should attend to things domestic before I give a suitably studied answer -er question.

    Meanwhile, Chris, you might just scroll back to the beginning and look over the questions. Did you really answer all you wanted to? I got the sense that people went out on various limbs to talk about passions and things they somehow believed you would understand. I’ll have to check to see whether they were radio-related. I assumed they were, since they meant to say that your radio ways would be uniquely suited to deal with their topics or approaches.

    i I’ll put water on the stove instead, it’s safer.

    I suppose one definition of being a fan is to feel a soul connection with someone who doesn’t have time for you. It rarely gets analyzed that crudely, because there rarely are expectations that it would be otherwise. But here, what are we doing? Using the same potentially powerful technology that has sent people across continents to marry, start and lose companies, etc… we’re inviting people to connect too… and they risk a little to do so… this is not an anonymous chat room. There are lurkers for a reason. It’s risky to get out here and possibly look foolish on the dance floor. [I've never thought anyone looks foolish on the dance floor, but they think they do.]

    I just want posters to be honored as much as callers, partly because I sense more potential. I think you could start more of a useful fire with so much passion coming your way. We may end up helping you stir the sauce somewhere, somehow, not even invented yet.

    Yes, yes, Chris!

  • Jay Allison says:
    Tricks

    Speaking of sauce, we stole Chris’s idea of asking our station listeners about their display or non-display of the American Flag. As proof, we posted some of the call and response here in the Transom "Days That Follow" timeline.

  • Jackson Braider says:
    A Gasho to Chris

    Chris:

    I haven’t seen a discussion here that has prompted so much pro and con (in all their varying shades) as you have. You may be looking to the future, but history is always lurking somewhere over your shoulder.

    Having said that, I must apologize for the Ari Fleischer remark — cheap shots are, at best, a dime a dozen — and I cannot help but admire the aplomb with which you conducted yourself here. The world of the internet is laced with firewalls, and I wonder if sometimes we don’t embed such prophylactic devices in our own brain circuitry when we enter online discussions like this one. I fear I have done exactly that more than once over the course of this Transom talk.

    The beauty of this virtual place is that it is a laboratory where we (or at least I) are not looking for perfection. In such a place, ideas can be the clay pigeons for shootists like me.

    Or, in the curious circumstances of Kabul today, they can be like the kites that are once again catching the cool breeze off the Himalayas.

    Good luck, old bean, and thanks for all the brain food.

  • Chris Lydon says:
    Nannette, you doll

    Welcome back, Nannette et al., to the irony-free zone. You say it awfully well–that we have this passion for conversation that doesn’t insult our intelligence, or play power games around information; that’s fundamentally egalitarian; that’s forceful but forgiving; that covers at least suggestively the range of our curiosities and enthusiasms; that’s continuing and somehow connected with its own memory and that builds up a feeling of non-exclusive "membership" in the on-going search. This is the Emersonian ideology that we discovered after a few years of doing the old, real Connection for a few years. Ralph Waldo Emerson’s great teaching (he had a few) was about "the infinitude of the private man;" he said in effect that human beings were defined by their hunger, and their aptitude, for the experience of the universal soul. He anticipated modern brain science in understanding the equality of our mental equipment: we each and all have (very nearly) the mind of Aristotle. He loved conversation, and he was interested in everything. I am forever quoting his goal for The Dial, the magazine he founded in 1840 with Margaret Fuller: he wanted The Dial to serve as "one cheerful voice amidst the din of mourners and polemics." That is, in his own even-tempered way he wanted to change the public conversation, just as we did and do. And then he did it! So, for a while, did we! And we’ll do it again, entirely in the spirit of your posting, Nannette. I’m still not sure if this is the rant you want to hear from me. I believe it all very passionately indeed, but sense sometimes that eyes glaze over… or people think I’m just pounding my chest. Basta! Sing out if you want to pursue more particular themes. I’m still here… All the best, Chris Lydon

  • Naomi Gurt Lind says:
    Sing out, Louise

    Chris, all this time I thought it was your dulcet vox that kept me aching for your return to radio. I still love your voice but now I am realizing that an equal part of your magic is your ability to listen. Actively, deeply, and generously.

    In message 158, you invited us to sing and since that (she said modestly) is what I do, I’m ready to sing, pal! I’ve got rhythm…and questions and thoughts.

    A co-guest I’d recommend for the program Nannette envisions (is there an aural equivalent to envisioning?) is my friend, the dramaturge, director, musical midwife, and collaboration/systems thinking guru Ben Krywosz.

    So what I’ve really been mulling over today is this. We have two threads in our culture: the "take care of your own" principle and the "everyone is equal" principle. Until this morning, I hadn’t realized how completely at odds the two are. (Call me slow.) When we make our choices based on supporting those who are most like us, we necessarily decide that those who are less like us are not equal. For example, given the choice between equivalent products, if I choose to patronize the store owned by members of my ethnic group, I can’t call myself a person who regards all as equal. Yet I think most people go through life thinking they can have it both ways. Or was it just me, until that moment of enlightenment over my poached eggs?

    My other big question is why do so many people hate the Jews? I know, it reads like a dummy question. But really. (I also get that it looks inflammatory. I guess it is.) Having heard Kanan Makiya speak of the historical cooperation between Islam and Judaism to build and honor the Dome of the Rock, it is painful and mystifying to see how things now stand in that part of the world. What is it about some religions (not always Islam and not just Islam) and cultures that makes them incorporate into their very fabric the idea that Jews cannot and should not exist? Looked at simply, it just makes no sense.

  • Jake says:
    People who hate Jews

    700+ dead Palestinians, 44 percent under the age of 18.

    Look, I’m aware of anti-Semitism. I know it is disturbingly commonplace. But please. In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last 15 years, Israel has been criticized for the way it treats the Palestinians. American Jewish culture puts strong emphasis on unconditional support of Israel, so Jews in this country are commonly associated with Israel. Perhaps that’s not the reason anti-Semitism is so prevalent, but at least acknowledge it in your question…

  • Naomi Gurt Lind says:
    Yes but

    You make a fine point, Jake. Of course many people (including me) question Israeli policy and grieve at the damage, both Israeli and Palestinian that continues at an alarming rate.

    The question I wanted to ask was not specifically about the last 15 years, but rather centuries and centuries. Hell, even just this last century. There was no Israeli policy against Palestinians in 1939 was there? I hate that this kind of question always gets mired in keeping score over which group has suffered worse. It’s not a competition, for pete’s sake.

    I’m actually a bit mortified this morning at what I wrote last night, not because I don’t stand behind it but because it really doesn’t belong on this forum. I signed on this morning to try to delete it, but since it’s generated a response, that seems cowardly now. Buh. Anyway, to all, I apologize for using this forum to blather about things which have nothing to do with its intended purpose. I’ll try to be more circumspect in the future.

  • Jake says:
    Understood

    That’s the thing about these BB’s. You end up thinking out-loud, and before you know it, everyone is reading your thoughts.

    I regret the lack of thoughtfulness in MY post. My apologies…

    Sorry, Chris, to get tangential here, but I’ll post one more thing…

    I browsed some books at Temple this weekend about this very topic…I’m not Jewish but my wife and kids are. If I may be so bold as to generalize, I love the Jewish people: I love their warmth, honesty, humor, and passion for life.

    There are many good books on the subject. They outlined several factors that may be responsible for widespread anti-semitism throughout history:

    1. Jews have been both separate from and a part of the societies in which they’ve lived. If Jews were more like the Amish and roped themselves off from the rest of the world, one author argued that anti-Semitism may not have been so prevalent.

    2. Jews live by the rule of law (Torah) rather than thru divine intervention. Judaism says that mitzvah (good deeds) are what saves one’s soul; Christians say that accepting Jesus as one’s Lord and Savior is enough. (Perhaps this is why death row inmates tend to convert to Christianity and not Judaism). At any rate, Christians may see Judaism as an attack on the idea that Jesus (God) is the key to redemption, not mitzvah and Torah.

    3. The Israel issue. Jews are both a nation and a state. Most societies separate the two these days Hence, friction.

    4. Jews tend to do better than other people in the societies in which they live. Hey, what can you say? Judaism works. Live by the Torah and Talmud and chances are you’ll do OK. Jews have suffered far less alcoholism, divorce, and domestic abuse than other people (though this is changing in the U.S. as Jews become secularized). Jews have also attained more education; this is of course a bridge to professional and financial success. If you see someone doing better than you and you aren’t doing too well yourself, jealousy is often the result.

    Again, apologies to Chris for harping on this topic, but anti-Semitism has been on my mind a lot lately. I’m conflicted in many ways. Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians trouble me greatly, but the harsh, widespread hatred for Jews in the Muslim world and even here in the U.S. troubles me even more. The fact that if one types the word "Jew" into a search engine half the links tend to go to hate sites is evidence that anti-semitism is alive and well. My kids are Jewish. My wife is Jewish. I am leaning toward converting to Judaism myself. I worry about this stuff on a very personal level.

  • Naomi Gurt Lind says:
    Thanks Jake

    I appreciate your thoughtful response and am mulling it over. Thank you for taking the time and effort to articulate your points. I also experience the cognitive dissonance inherent in being Jewish (or sympathetic to Jews) and being distressed at the conditions in Israel. I really want to believe that it doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game, that the world can include both Jews and Palestinians under the umbrella of peace. I wish I knew *how* that could work.

    Now, about my attempt at circumspection…

  • Barry Kort says:
    Chris Lydon at MIT Tomorrow

    Here’s a reminder to Chris Lydon fans who live in Boston…

    Chris will be hosting a panel discussion at MIT’s Wong Auditorium at 5:30 PM, Tuesday, November 27th, featuring pioneers of technological innovation (including Steve Wozniak, Ray Kurzweill, and Doug Engelbart, among others).

    The Panel Discussion is entitled . It is free to the public. Click on the link for details.

  • Jackie Sauter says:
    Program Director, North Country Public Radio

    Reading through the Chris Lydon conversation is wonderful and painful…how very much we miss him on our air. After all these months listeners are still calling and writing to ask when he’ll be back. It’s unbelievable that public radio can’t find a way to get real talents like Chris and Mary back where they belong.

  • Jay Allison says:
    Jamaica Soon

    In just a minute now we’ll be posting a new essay from Chris about his recent stint as a talk radio host in Jamaica. Soon after that, we’ll also have it available as a downloadable issue of The Transom Review.

  • Christopher Lydon says:
    PARACHUTE RADIO

    I. Dropping In

    "Parachute radio" was one slogan we were trying out in Jamaica. To ourselves we kept quoting from the old revolutionaries’ manual: "First, seize the radio station…"

    The idea was to drop into a country we didn’t know (English speaking, in this case, and geographically handy) and say: "take us to your interesting talkers." And then the mission became to strike up a nightly radio call-in conversation on all things Jamaican, hosted in effect by a curious Martian. Part of the trick, and the test, would be to make engaging sense to the local broadcast audience and, equally, to Internet listeners in the States and elsewhere who tuned in live, or archivally.

    And so for two very lively weeks in December we guest-hosted "Tell Me About It" on Jamaica’s mainstream (commercial) radio station, RJR. The show was long-established; our themes were our own. Late-night radio was the perfect medium for the conversation–the only medium, I’m convinced, that could be so expansive, digressive, intimate, satisfying, real.

    Would you tell me, I asked, for example, about Jamaica’s identity as the child of Africa and the British Empire, in the Caribbean family, off the superpower’s shores?

    Would you tell me about post-Marley reggae and dancehall music?

    Could we talk about Post-Colonial Sex, from the renta-Rasta trade in resorts like Negril to the balances of power, pleasure and pain in the conspicuously macho public culture of Kingston?

    In the season of V. S. Naipaul’s Nobel Prize (nine years after Derek Walcott’s) could we talk about Caribbean books?

    Could we talk about Jamaica’s halting, polite, very popular drive to take the criminal curse off mere possession and private use of its banned, beloved weed, ganja?

    Could we talk about the flawed heroism of Jamaica’s Maroons, the rebel and runaway slaves who in 1738 (nearly 40 years before the North Americans) beat the Brits into a treaty that gave them freedom and their own territory–on condition that they mercilessly chase down any new refugees from the colonial plantocracy?

  • Christopher Lydon says:
    II. Talking With Strangers

    And of course what we really wanted to know was: could we sustain an authentic conversation with strangers–of a color not mine, in many shades? Jamaicans are English-speakers who move in and out of their own patois, not a dialect but a Creole language. They are islanders with vital attachments to our mainland (there are 400,000 Jamaicans in Brooklyn alone) and much more knowing about us than we are about them. Could I learn the gentle rhythm of their speech? (My producer Ben Walker ran in with notes on the first few nights: "Ease up, man, you’re in Jamaica.") Would we gather some insight into ourselves, our North American culture and politics and the imperial travails ongoing in the war in Afghanistan and the search for Osama bin Laden?

    Well, you can hear me wrestling with accents and equipment on our website: http://www.christopherlydon.org. Maybe you will understand the long and lovely bursts of patois that blew past me like birdsong; I learned to study the faces of our in-studio guests, and lean on them for an implied translation. And then you may answer the larger questions on your own. For ourselves, we felt we’d stumbled into a wondrous intersection of an old medium (broadcast radio) and the Internet future. Some of us want to go immediately to Singapore, or Ghana, or Zimbabwe, or India. Or, because we’re not restricted to the Anglophone red-colored lands of the old British Empire and Commonwealth, to Eastern Europe, or Japan. The mission is to open many more conversations–why not a continuous series?– that can be local and instantly global, wide-open as to subject matter, candid and incisive when they choose to be, also smart, modern, unofficial, inexpensive, non-commercial and memorable.

  • Christopher Lydon says:
    III. Thematic, Cultural, Nosy

    "We are an excessive people!" a music producer shouted at me. "Likkle but with tallawah," said another Jamaican, "that is to say: we’re a small but dynamic and exciting nation." These were the bass lines under every radio show we did.

    Jamaicans love to talk, and they are old hands at talk radio–much of it, like the local North American variety, given to pothole complaints and the parsing of newspaper stories and the daily scandal. The tempo is slower, but the picture is familiar: man alone in studio, trolling headlines, seeking controversy and phone calls. On as many as six Jamaican stations radio chat is a day-time staple. The afternoon host of "Perkins On-Line" on HOT-102-FM, one Wilmot known as "Mutty" Perkins, is a national institution and a true phenomenon. An erudite and stentorian basso, "Mutty" declaims for five hours a day in the persona of a deeply disapproving neo-colonial schoolmaster. Jamaica should be studying Singapore, he was browbeating the faithful when we arrived. "We are not organizing ourselves to be rich, but to beg, borrow and t’ief our way in the world," he observed. In the newspapers and on rival radio stations, Perkins was being roundly condemned for stirring the hornets in his own head: black people are better off as a result of slavery and colonialism, he was arguing and re-arguing daily, as also Jews, he insisted, got benefits from the Holocaust, like their own state of Israel. "But for slavery most of us would not be here at all," he repeated–not exactly a persuasive argument in slavery’s favor, but exactly the kind of verbal and political mischief that Jamaicans seem to be hooked on.

    We decided at the start to duck politics–starting with the reparations-for-slavery debate underway everywhere, it seemed. We would err on the side of the thematic, the cultural and the nosy. We leaned heavily on guests that Jamaicans knew but not on talk radio–figures like Luciano, the leading singer in the roots-reggae revival; the novelist ("Waiting in Vain") Colin Channer; and the folklorist and comedienne Joan Andrea Hutchinson.

    Among radio buffs, a little bragging is in order just for the talking medium itself, the warmth of the human voice, the closeness of callers we never saw. Jamaicans open with "Good night, Christopher" where we would say, "Good evening." Rastafarians greet you endearingly with, "Bless-ed." One repeat caller who never identified himself is well known to other listeners as a blind man named Garnett: "I am enjoying the conversation with my visionary caller," said another woman on the line. I had the feeling I was in a very wide circle of familiar enthusiasts who were taking liberties on talk radio to be themselves. And furthermore I felt that spontaneous radio gave them the opening to make arguments about race, sex, and Jamaican identity that would not appear among Letters to the Editor. One example: "Bongo Jerry" Small, a poet and maverick historian, observed on our air that in any international track meet today there will be Jamaican sprinters and jumpers scattered among half a dozen or more national teams–but not milers or marathoners. "Most of the Jamaican accomplishment is explosive," he said, making a sorry connection as well with Jamaican domestic and political violence. On paper he would have been a target for PC world police; on radio he was just interesting.

  • Christopher Lydon says:
    IV. Starting In Prison

    Our inaugural plunge dealt with prison reform because our sponsor from the Harvard Law School, Professor Charles Nesson and his Berkman Center for Internet and Society, were already studying the drive in the prisons of Kingston toward spiritual regeneration and self-management by the prisoners themselves. This was part of the substantive agenda that helped trigger our trip in the first place. Kingston is the murder capital of the Caribbean, with as many killed by gangsters and police this year as have died in the second Intifada, Israelis as well as Palestinians. "It should be called a civil war," said a Jamaican lady from the countryside. "And it would be, but for the fear of scaring tourism away. If we had a Fidel Castro in Jamaica," she added, "he’d stop the uptown/downtown war in Kingston."

    Curiously the only popular figure in that relentless war is Jamaica’s Corrections Commissioner John Prescod, a professional military man who has set a course among prisoners and the public in the direction of self-help, education, work-release and rehabilitation of criminals. "Reverence for Life" is the name of the redemptive movement that has taken root in the worst of the prisons we saw on arrival–the General Penitentiary on Tower Street in Kingston. Were we looking at a light unto the nations that have given up on rehabilitation? Or were we looking, as Professor Nesson wondered aloud, at "another Jamaican scam?" In truth we never did sort out the collision of impressions inside Tower Street. 1400 men are bunked four-to-a-cell in a dilapidated brick warehouse; most seemed to have a free run of the dusty courtyards and exercise areas where we met them. It seemed to me a confoundingly medieval but not demoralized pen, full of high-spirited men who cheered loudest of all in our presence when their chief warder and hero, Colonel Prescod, said he believed in holding prisoners until they can read and write! "I believe in what I am doing," Prescod said, "because I believe in you." It was a prisoner on hand that day, dubbed "Phantom," who, Prescod said, had taught him the basics: "There are two things we need," Phantom had said. "Hope, and discipline."

    The prison conundrum was, at least, a starting point. Our nightly radio conversations began with Prescod on criminal rehabilitation, "the revolution from inside" and the challenge of changing a prison culture. It was not so long a leap on our second night to inquire how societies heal themselves, or don’t, after imperialism and slavery. Fidel Castro is revered in Jamaica for driving a stake through the heart of colonialism, and holding it in place for 40 years. Jamaicans, by contrast, are stuck (articularly, nay volubly so) in a long post-colonial moment. They are embarrassed to be stymied still by plantation hierarchies of color and class, by shade-ism if not racism, by fierce physical divisions of Kingston between the new hotel and shopping-mall zones and the "no-go areas" downtown, the garrison housing projects and the musical Trenchtowns that Bob Marley sang about. The "Reverence for Life" guru and visionary Desmond Green, as a guest on our program, made a direct connection with prisoner rehabilitation and social recovery. Jamaica, he said, has yet to forgive itself for being born in slavery. A culture of violence comes naturally, he said, in "a nation that thinks it is bad."

  • Christopher Lydon says:
    V. Voices of The People

    A culture of young bands and endless new musical grooves comes naturally, too, from a nation that produced Bob Marley and thinks of itself, 20 years after his premature death, as still the song-and-dance capital of the world. Colin Channer, called "the reggae novelist," a citizen now of Kingston and Brooklyn, N.Y., outlined on our program a "reggae aesthetic" that extends to all the arts, and fiction in particular: a vital narrative force encompassing (as Marley’s songs did) sex, prayer, poor-people’s politics, ganja highs, Jamaican roots, world consciousness, Rastafarian spirituality, Marcus Garvey’s race-consciousness and Afro-centrism and Garvey’s still larger social inclusiveness ("One God, One Aim, One Destiny"). Or "One Love," in Marley’s thematic song. It is a powerful combination, as the music historian Lloyd Bradley observed: reggae gave the Rastafari a world stage; and the depths of Rastafarian thinking meant that Jamaican reggae musicians would always have something to say. But really, do they today? The dominant pop music of Jamaica in the 90s, much ruder than the nice old "rude boys," was the "dancehall" sound of guns, gangstas and x-rated "slackness." Dancehall fans argue that its violence validates it as just what downtown music was always supposed to be: music of hard-core reality, the newspaper of the ghetto, or as Prince Buster said in the 1950s, "the voice of the people." But dancehall does not travel as well as traditional reggae did, and the younger musicians we met are trying to get over it. The voice that Jamaicans aspire to is a mix of Marley and Garvey, born, buried and still revered in Jamaica. The poet and historian Robin "Bongo Jerry" Small said it best to me: "The Afro-centric movement will continue–and Jamaica will continue in it–as long as suffering and poverty are issues in the world, and as long as music and dance and expressive culture that’s rooted in Africa are valued."

  • Christopher Lydon says:
    VI. This Life

    Jamaican views on the United States can veer from near-worship to asperity, in the same sentence. They remind me of the Irish on the English–shrewd and witty commentators from the underside of empire. "And what about this American boy in Afghanistan, John Walker?" began the painter Ken Abondarno Spencer. "A great American heeeeero! The real t’ing! And they want to hang him in Ground Zero. They should make him the U. S. Ambassador to all the Arab countries. He is… what’s the word? An adventurer! He wanted to learn their languages so he could understand their religion. This is a great American, and you want to kill him!" Jamaicans on the radio phone line kept hammering on the phrase, "cultural imperialism." As in: CNN, KFC, BET. "When I take my nephew into Kingston," said a man in rural St. Elizabeth parish, "he doesn’t want to eat Jamaican jerk chicken; he wants Kentucky Fried." For better and worse, Jamaicans also see a lot their own gold-draped, sexually charged self-imagery coming back to them on BET. They are betting (more confidently than I would) on the power of their own voice, their deeper voice of suffering and survival, in the world conversation.

    Well, these were the kinds of things we talked about in what we wanted to call, with a tip of the hat to Ira Glass, "This Jamaican Life." Paul Theroux might have kayaked across the island. Johnny Apple might have eaten his way around it. At another point in my own life, as a New York Times reporter, I would have been angling for an interview with the Prime Minister. I liked it much better that we had our chance just to talk with Jamaica through the middle of the night on the radio, and after a couple of weeks they were calling me "Christopher" like a new friend, and we felt we were getting the hang of this universal love of gab, in a new place. So many places out there.. and so many conversations. Shall we talk about it?

  • Susan Jenkins says:
    Tantalized by the idea of This Maldivian Life

    Wow, Chris, this is great. Not many would risk jumping into a new culture in a new place and saying "what’s up?" Your fearlessness is inspiring.

    It seems like the seed of your next big thing has started to sprout. Kudos.

  • Joshua Barlow says:
    Lydon Audio

    Just to let everyone know, we will be soon be posting audio excerpts from Chris Lydon’s trip to Jamaica here and in his most recent essay for the "Transom Review."

  • Joshua Barlow says:

    Audio Excerpts From Parachute Radio
    (Notes by Benjamen Walker)

    Prison
    Listen Real Audio or MP3

    The first show we did was with Colonel John Prescod, the commissioner of the prison we visited in Kingston.

    Maroons
    Listen Real Audio or MP3

    This is from a program we did about the maroons, a group of runaway slaves who won their freedom from the British in 1739.

    Ganga
    Listen Real Audio or MP3

    This is from a show about Jamaica’s ganga politics.

    Identity
    Listen Real Audio or MP3

    We did a show on Jamaica’s identity with Amina Blackwood-Meeks, who spoke at length about their "Africa Connection."

    Waiting in Vain
    Listen Real Audio or MP3

    This is Collen Channer, author of "Waiting in Vain," who discussed with us the reggae aesthetic.

    Post Colonial Sex
    Listen Real Audio or MP3

    From a show we did with Jamaican actor and musician Peter Lloyd.

    Dennis Howard
    Listen Real Audio or MP3

    When we did a show with music writer Dennis Howard, the legendary performer Ernie Smith called in.

    The Last Show
    Listen Real Audio or MP3

    Storyteller Andrez Hutchenson joined us for our last broadcast in Jamaica.

  • bw says:
    FEARLESS CHRISTOPHER

    I would like to add to the comment about Chris’s fearlessness… Listening to him (actually I got to watch him too) sit there in the studio with headphones on listening to callers who he sometimes could not understand AT ALL!! and moderating conversations in which he was very much THE outsider.. in every way possible… I heard loud and clear that there was no fear – none – he loved every minute of it and what he couldn’t catch in words he would catch through emotion (I’m not making this up – it actually happened in the last show) It hit me how necessary conversations like this are right now… We are at a point in time where international conversations are not just necessary but IMPERATIVE and Chris Lydon is the man to get them going…

    I can’t wait to hear where he goes next!!!

  • Susan Jenkins says:
    just see what you can do!

    That’s the thing about fearlessness, though. You get to really challenge yourself and then the rewards are great. One word into a conversation with somebody from another world piques your curiosity so strongly that fear evaporates. And people so want to be seen, and heard–really listened to. Curiosity leads the way.

  • desarfat says:
    Retired Pastor

    I would like an email address to send Chris a book review of Jack Spong’s new book. Paperback due in fall of 02.
    Thanks,
    Dudley E. Sarfaty, Long time listener.

  • Abdi Ali says:

    Chris,

    Marley sings, "roots, rock, reggae," and you add, "radio." To hear your theme, check out LL Cool J, in the 80s, who raps, "I can’t live without my radio." Radio is the instrument, you are medium among media (as you carefully record),

    Bless-ed.

  • Jay Allison says:

    The indefatigable Chris is in Singapore now, talking on the radio.

    In our effort to keep up with him, we just posted his report on Parachute Radio in Ghana

    "Ghana is a rich mine for talk radio. I’ve never heard radio
    callers like Ghana’s. Typically they introduced themselves by
    name, then said, "I’d like to make a contribution." …
    A caller to our program, Mawuli, may have been speaking for the
    rising generation when he complained that ‘the phrase we hear
    a lot around here is: let’s bury our differences. This is the
    rule in societies in which the defeated never have a chance
    to tell their story. In the conflict between the slavers and
    the enslaved we’ve always tried to solve the problem by
    covering it up. But when we bury our differences we bury our
    history.’"

  • Jay Allison says:
    Tease

    Permit me to tease you toward this issue of the Transom Review with a couple of quotes, the first from Chris:

    >"My mission, continuing from Jamaica, heading next to Singapore, is to tease the possibility of an inclusive conversation in a polarizing world–a conversation across the color lines and poverty lines through the human population, starker and uglier since September 11. In radio land, we find ourselves at a new intersection of local-broadcast and global-electronic technologies. My ongoing question is: what sort of environment, what sort of ecology might this cross roads-these crossed wires-produce? And how might we nudge the answer in the direction of civility, openness, substance?"

    and the next, a warning from a guest on Chris’s talk show stint in Ghana, musician Faisal Helwani:

    > "Play something you don’t like three times a week, and you’ll get to love it."

  • operations says:
    Parachute Radio Update

    We’re pleased to announce two new Chris Lydon features here on Transom:

    The Internet Question Ghana
    The Internet Question

    A special Show feature, Chris Lydon and guests discuss the effect of the Internet on Ghana’s economy and culture. Produced by Mary McGrath with help from Transom and the Open Studio Project for the WGBH Culture Desk and WNYC’s "On The Media."

    Chris Lydon in Singapore Singapore Sling: Online | PDF
    Chris Lydon went to Singapore to host a nightly call in show at the state-controlled NewsRadio 938. Read his essay about the complex contradictions of a place once referred to as "a theme-park version of Chinese authoritarianism."
  • Jackson says:
    Okay for "The Internet Question," but…

    where is the line between reporter and commentator? In a long-ago-and-a-far-away, I wanted to give Chris dope slaps for reading poetry by poets who were sitting right there in the studio. The crux of this piece, upon first hearing, comes at the end, and who’s voicing it? Lydon, not the person he’s quoting. It sounds verbatim, which suggests tape, which suggests…

    The problem, to my ears, is that with Lydon voicing it, it seems as if this were Lydon’s idea, even though he’s scrupulous in the credit. It’s as if he’s saying "I agree with this, I will make this mine."

    I admit to a certain crankiness about Chris, and will relinquish the floor to others who are far less sensitized than I. The stuff here is , for the most part, really interesting. I would have preferred local voices making many more of the key points in the story.

  • Joshua Barlow says:
    Dual Roles

    There was something odd about this piece in it’s current form and i think it has to do with a certain "aural" confusion over Chris and the part he plays. Is he a reporter? Is he a host?

    Well… he’s both. he’s a former talk show host presenting an 8 minute report on his experiences as a host. Where i think the confusion comes in is that as Chris narrates/reports the piece, his voice carries the same qualities as his other "host" self. there blurring the lines between hosting and reporting.

    For most of the piece, both in the writing and the delivery, I don’t feel as if he is presenting an 8 minute story that will be included as a part of some radio magazine. It feels like he’s running his own show. His roundup at the end really clenched that for me. In fact, listening to this piece i kept thinking that we need to get Chris back on the air again – doing longer special features where this approach would fit perfectly. At 8 minutes, though the content and commentary are exceptional, the story feels like it wants to be an entire program.

    Chris, Mary – if you’re out there – what challenges, if any, did you find working in short feature form? Were there certain habits that needed to be overcome? Was there ever a discussion about Chris’ script and vocal style for this piece?

  • Jackson Braider says:
    Josh, you hit on something…

    It is the host (aka agent provocateur) slash reporter dichotomy at work here. I think psychologists call it "cognitive dissonance" — we have learned Chris’s voice as host and participant. It’s this "hearing" that we bring to this piece.

  • Joshua Barlow says:
    Aural Conditioning?

    For me, not so much. I never had a chance to listen to Chris on The Connection when I lived in DC, and didn’t hit the Boston area until after he’d left. I’ve heard some of the archived shows online, but not with the kind of regularity that his voice activates any automatic assumptions or associations in the brain.

    That being said, I do hear the host. Both in his voice and in the script. The fact that the script is making reference to his experience as radio host on his journeys and that much of the tape comes from those hosting duties amplifies that.

    Perhaps, with this piece, there was no way to escape that. The fact of the matter is that his role in Ghana as drop in host IS a part of the story. Had Chris been reporting on something completely unrelated to his tour of the world as host, i don’t think I would feel the same way.

  • Sydney Lewis says:

    Chris sounds hosty, because he is nothing if not a host. And he’s a commentating type host, so we get comments. And he’s guest-hosting in another country, and this is only 8 minutes and tightly focused on one topic. And the topic being the internet makes sense since that’s tied in with his doing this wide world radio work, and with transom and all of that.

    But I was a little disappointed in the tape used. Given that it’s a short short piece, it seemed like a big chunk of it was a couple of white American guys talking about Africa. Lydon and Barlow were balanced by one philosophical Ghanaian, Hess (sp?), and that was good, but…. The other talk sampled seemed like it could have come from new internet users in any country, and could have been summed up by Lydon in two sentences. I love hearing accented voices, but I kept thinking, why am I listening to this audio?

    The piece is mostly a Lydon report/commentary, with a sprinkle of sound that makes you wish you could actually hear a conversation. While some of the content was really interesting, I don’t know…it’s kind of an odd meal, and not entirely satisfying….But really, I’m grateful for anything even semi-raw from another country!

    I would be curious to know how much of a struggle it was to wrestle the Ghana experience down to this 8-minute piece. Is the McGrath/Lydon work process similar to that on the "Connection" or have you had to re-jigger the dynamic. And were there other topics considered or was the internet topic it from the start?

  • Jackson Braider says:
    Still, Lydon is a trendsetter…

    Did I imagine it, or did I read somewhere that Jerry Springer is going to guest-host on South African TV?

  • John Harding says:
    My Guess Is They Don’t

    Christopher Lyndon’s article "Singapore Sling" starts of on the right note; gets off the track in the middle; and crashes at the end.

    I will limit my remarks to the crash.

    Lyndon calls Abraham’s Choice by Singapore novelist Philip Jeyaretnam a "masterpiece, stating that it "is a parable of his father’s downfall."

    Does Lyndon realize that, while the father, Benjamin Jeyaretnam, has been destroyed by lawsuits for defamation from the Singapore government, that the son, Philip Jeyaretnam, is a lawyer and is on Singapore’s Censorship Review Committee?

    Philip Jeyaretnam works for the law firm of Helen Yeo & Partners. His boss, Helen Yeo, is the wife of Singapore Cabinet Minister Yeo Cheow Tong.

    When Helen Yeo sent me a letter threatening to sue me for defamation for her part in my book, Escape from Paradise, who did she copy in her letter but Philip Jeyaretnam.

    Through her threats to Singapore’s leading bookstore, Kinokuniya Books, Helen Yeo blocked the sale of Escape from Paradise in Singapore. She had no court order and no legal basis for her action. The book was banned by the whim of an individual, not by Singapore, and not by the law!

    Subsequently, the 25 copies of Escape from Paradise in Singapore’s National Library were withdrawn from circulation as soon as the books were returned. This was a time consuming task, as all copies of Escape from Paradise were checked out. (Escape from Paradise was so popular at Singapore’s National Library that there was a waiting list of borrowers.)

    We answered Helen Yeo’s letter, and she never replied to us. The Recorder, San Francisco’s leading legal publication attempted to contact Helen Yeo regarding the matter by telephone and by email, but she did not answer.

    Lyndon ends his article with a quote from Philip Jeyaretnam’s book, "I suppose we have to ask ourselves: do we have the fundamental underpinnings as a nation so that we can start agreeing to disagree? My guess is we do."

    Knowing that Philip Jeyaretnam is on the Censorship Review Committee, works for Helen Yeo, and is the opposite of his father, my guess is they don’t.

  • Pasha says:
    your opinions of jamaica

    I think that you are wrong for belittling Wilmot "Mutty" Perkins(our beloved jamaican talk show host) .
    He would never say the jews benefitted from Hitler or the holocaust(as I would not say the palestinions or arabs generally are benefitting from the isrealis and america). he does not praise the oppressers at the expense of the oppressed… He was simply stating the fact that africa the continent is not the place that most of us(black people) would survive and like to be, Even as afrocentric as we sometimes tend to be.
    Mr Perkins is a brilliant man who is fearless. while you are busy laughing at other people’s country and showing your condescension by the words you choose,it would do better if you watch your racist cuntry and your not-very-smart president who loves to strike war at defenceless countries (he lies about iraq’s so-called connection with al-queada so that he can get their oil and remain popular in the bloodthirsty supporters of his eyes).
    Dont get me wrong… most people don’t hate america, we are simply annoyed that you behave in such hateful, egotistial,self-serving ways. believe me,despite the words of this text I still have love for you.
    Pasha.

  • jamaica_butterfly says:
    What is next?

    In a world full of do’s and dont’s tell me what is stopping jamaica from becoming a nation of 1st class citizens. everyone always plays the best cards first and wish for better when the going get rough. I don’t believe that jamaicans are being given the tools they need to sucssed in this world. jamaica is one of the few coutries left that has alot of natural resoures that are not being shown to it’s people do to the fact that in some twisted way i strongly think that poeple like Desmond Green and so many of fear the "what if" factor to the point that they keep the poor….poor and the rich….rich. and Lead outsiders to think that jamaicans turn to vilonce because they can’t deal with the fact that they were once an enslaved country.Give me a brake.i’m going to need someone,anyone to understand that the past is were we as people went wrong with so many thing but the future is there to correct it. So i ask you what’s next?
    xoxo
    jamaica butterfly

  • traceyharrisdowdell says:
    good stuff

    Your organization is doing very powerful stuff; It goes well beyond merely being talk radio, your connecting the world.

  • S.G. Waite says:

    I have recently returned from Singapore and am thinking of doing my Masters paper on how Jamaica may be able to learn from Singapore. The material from your broadcasts and the related commentary has confirmed some of my ideas and given me a new perspective on Singapore, because I must admit that I am thoroughly impressed with those neurotic people, and am now convinced that Jamaica needs to trade in its own psychological baggage for a healthy dose of paranoia Singaporean style. It saddens me as a Jamaican to see us wasting what we have, to see that we are proving our colonial masters right, that everyday we are confirming the stereotype and at the end of it they win and we lose. They have divided and conquered. Have you ever seen a set of people that disliked themselves so much? That felt so sorry for themselves? The problem with slavery is the terrible inferiority complex it has given us as a people. A complex that we act out every single day. I am a confused child, I don’t know whether I am proud or disgusted to be a Jamaican. We have everything, we have intelligent people, we have natural resources, we have geography, yet we have overcome all of that to be noted for crime, slackness and economic mismanagement. A land of the mediocre, where if you have a little potential the whole community will back you to go abroad and advise you not to look back except to send some money and the occasional barrel. I want so much for my country, but what do you do when the majority of the people don’t feel themselves deserving of or capable of the very best. And by best I do not mean Escalades and Cristal. I mean social harmony and economic well-being based on intra- and inter- generational equity.

    A previous post asked the question what next? and the only answer to that is for each of us to begin saying that we can do better (and that does not mean migrating). We can make this country a place worthy of us, our children and their children. I want a country in which the Prime Minister does not feel it necessary to inform everyone that his annual medical takes place at John Hopkins Hospital, but one that believes that the quality of medical care in Jamaica is of a standard that even he can dare trust a local medical practitioner to see to his medical needs.

    We can be even better than Singapore, that is what is sad about Jamaica, a whole lot of unused and misused potential. It’s about time we started applying ourselves.