The Biography of 100,000 Square Feet

Intro from Jay Allison: Benjamin Temchine's carefully-crafted portrait of place, his master's project at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism.

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From Benjamin Temchine

UN Plaza
Photo: Benjamin Temchine

In the center of San Francisco, there is a plaza with no benches and a fountain with a fence around. It’s a place that most people cross the street to avoid. How does this happen? Why does a public space fail? Is it just the homelessness and the drug addicts and dealers? Or is there something more to the story, something deeper? Is there a point where good intentions and idealism become so removed from reality, they actually border on negligence?

“The Biography of 100,000 Square Feet” was the master’s project for my journalism degree at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. To graduate with a Radio focus, you have to report, write, produce and air a 29-and-a-half minute long documentary. A half-an-hour is an awfully long time to tell a story; you have to pick a pretty big one to fill it.

Choosing the subject for my master’s project was simple. The perpetual presence of people on the streets has split San Francisco in half. The “homeless problem” dominated local politics for almost two decades. It ended the political careers of two mayors and launched the political careers of two mayors. It was more or less my beat 30 minutes is a lot of tape and a lot of research. Three months of research; four months of reporting; 35 recorded interviews, close to four-hundred pages of newspaper clippings, photos, public spaces theory, four complete re-writes and one twenty-foot long scotch-taped chain of A4 office paper and note cards stretched out in the hallway of my apartment. The editing and reporting process was greatly complicated because I had no idea what I was doing. The longest piece I had ever made before this was four and a half minutes. The longest piece I had been paid for was all of fifty seconds long.

UN Plaza
A miniature model of the fountain at UN Plaza. Photo courtesy of the office of Lawrence Halprin

Problem is, people shut off stories about homelessness in San Francisco because most are ideological cant, boring, clichéd or all three.

In the fall semester of my second year at UC Berkeley, I was in a Features Writing Class with the brilliant Cynthia Gorney. During the class, we decided that many of the pitfalls of lousy homelessness and poverty writing in general could be avoided by taking a microscope to a specific place and specific people. I focused my interviews on the people who worked, designed, cleaned or lived in UN Plaza. My hope was that I could tell a better story by focusing on the smaller, human details of a part than a general trudge through the history of homelessness.

UN Plaza
Photo: Benjamin Temchine

UN Plaza was a great mystery to me. I had often reported from failing neighborhoods and I was no longer shocked by daily encounters with degradation in such a beautiful city. What surprised me was the prominence of the display: not hidden in the crack alleys of the Tenderloin, but at the intersection of Market Street, San Francisco’s most important street, and the Civic Center, just outside the Mayor’s window.

In the constant flux of city life, we can sometimes forget that places, not just people, have memories, and forgetting that leads to tragedy.

Benjamin Temchine

About
Benjamin Temchine

My name is Benjamin Temchine. When I am not on the out surfing, on my bicycle or my motorcycle, I am a producer for Your Call, a daily political affairs call-in show and Philoso?hy Talk ("We question everything but your intelligence.") Both are broadcast out of KALW public radio in San Francisco; Nicole Sawaya runs the place. I graduated from the University of California Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism in May of 2004. Before matriculation at North Gate, I worked as a paralegal, rode my motorcycle from Baltimore to San Francisco and was a Peace Corps volunteer in Senegal. I want to thank my wonderful parents, Judy and Daly, and my sister Jen and brother Mike for all their love.

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  • Jay Allison

    1.18.05

    Reply
    The Biography of 100,000 Square Feet

    Portraits are tough in radio, because you must take something inherently static and make it move. All character, no action. A portrait of a place may be even tougher. No character, no action, just scene. Here’s how Benjamin Temchine describes his challenge to portray the failed public space of UN Plaza in San Francisco:

    "30 minutes is a lot of tape and a lot of research. Three months of research; four months of reporting; 35 recorded interviews, close to four-hundred pages of newspaper clippings, photos, public spaces theory, four complete re-writes and one twenty-foot long scotch-taped chain of A4 office paper and note cards stretched out in the hallway of my apartment. The editing and reporting process was greatly complicated because I had no idea what I was doing. The longest piece I had ever made before this was four and a half minutes."

    Now on Transom: "The Biography of 100,000 Square Feet," Benjamin’s carefully-crafted portrait of place, his master’s project at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.

  • roman

    1.19.05

    Reply
    The Halprin interview

    Hey Ben,

    I’m a big fan of this doc, of course. Well done. One of my favorite moments in the piece is when Lawrence Halprin, the famed landscape architect, gets pissed at you for questioning his design. It’s completely riveting and I marvel at it each time I hear it. I was just wondering what that was like in person. It was certainly fun to listen to, but it was probably a bit uncomfortable.

  • Joe Richman

    1.19.05

    Reply
    Note card hell

    Great subject and great piece. Congratulations. There is often a price in knowing your topic so well, and it seems you paid it with your 20 foot scotch taped chain of paper and note cards. Do you have a photo of that? It should be on the Transom home page. You said you had no idea what you were doing. So what would you have done differently if you could do it over again? I hope this experience hasn’t soured you on note card art.

  • Benjamin Temchine

    1.19.05

    Reply
    Thanks.

    First, I wanted to say how humbled and yet stoked I am that the first three people to comment on my doc are such fine and excellent producers whose work I greatly admire. Thank you all for the praise. It is such naches my mother is kvelling like you would NOT believe.

  • Benjamin Temchine

    1.19.05

    Reply
    The Halprin Interview

    b Roman:
    Before I go on, I wanted to point out that Roman Mars first aired my piece on Invisible Ink the very day of my graduation from Berkeley. Thanks, and sad to see you leave KALW. Our loss, WBEZ’s gain.

    That being said, I love that part of the interview as well.

    I interviewed Halprin last, after about 35 interviews. By the time I finally finagled 30 minutes (stretched to 45) from his very protective and very efficient assistant, I had a pretty good idea what I wanted. Halprin is rightly famous for designing welcoming and inclusive public spaces, but the burdens this place carries simply overwhelm his dreams for it.

    And he was very angry about that.

    Once the interview started, it was almost inevitable we would have the confrontation. I had read so much about UN Plaza, talked to so many people who lived or worked or were slowly killing themselves in that space that I felt like I knew it as intimately as he did, the guy who imagined and gave birth to it. So he couldn’t say I didn’t understand what he was hoping for and he couldn’t dismiss me as ill-informed or merely a cynic. Preparation paid off and that moment is the emotional core of the whole piece.

    I actually cut the Halprin interview first, before doing anything else on the documentary. From the 45 minutes of tape I cut it down to 5 minutes that I thought could air almost by itself. It has its own arc, separate from the narrative. Everything else hangs off his story, and his dreams and his disappointments are echoed in the lives of the people who inhabit his space. I like this organizational structure, almost hiding an independent story in the middle, and will probably use it again.

  • Benjamin Temchine

    1.19.05

    Reply
    Note Card Hell

    Joe:
    I am extremely flattered you liked my piece. I am < > a true fan. And along with you and Roman, an Obie.

    Unfortunately I do not have any photos of the 20 foot monster, but happily I still have the thing. I guess I could unroll it and take a picture.

    I am still a firm believer in index cards. I only found out after I finally taped it up, all proud of myself for being so smart, that I was told it is fairly standard practice. Apparently I missed the day they taught that at Berkeley. Up until that point I had been using an excel spreadsheet, a very useful and excellent way of doing things for five minute features, but I just couldn’t make sense of a story this big. Only when I taped it together, and could walk the floor and read it, did I get a sense of how it broke up into smaller, organic chunks, some of which could be literally cut away and moved or cut away and discarded.

    It is hard to know what I would do differently because the piece ended up so differently from I what I wanted to do at the start. UN Plaza was originally just the location, a gimmick almost, that I was going to use to focus a documentary about homelessness. Only about half way through my interviews did I realize that my gimmick was really my story. So about 10 interviews were thrown in the bin, but what I learned from them was not.

    I am even glad I took a shot at making this a narrator-less piece, a quixotic essay that by all accounts failed in every way. I mean can you imagine: a portrait about a vast empty space with no narrator? I apologize to everyone who I made listen. But I think because I tried, the final piece was much tighter, and I did not try to fill gaps in the story with narration. I filled them by getting the tape.

  • Wayne Munn

    1.20.05

    Reply
    Bio of 100k

    A wonderful production that brings many insights, depending on your background. As a volunteer and community activist in a rust belt town I heard echos of a common roadblock we’ve faced. Getting politicians and committees involved (and yes I’ve been one of them 🙂 is likely to result in disaster. When I heard Lawrence Halprin get POed my sense was that he was venting from years of frustration dealing with people who have a deficiency in their power to intellect ratio. IMHO that definition fits too many politicians, but I digress.

    I don’t remember being to the plaza when I’ve been to SF on business and I couldn’t find any pictures on the web so I’m trying to picture the fountain. Are the 673 stones that make up the 165′ long fountain really 4,400 TONS each? Or could the total weight have been 3 to 4 million POUNDS, not tons?

    Keep up the excellent work and thanks for sharing it on TRANSOM.

    BTW, WBEZ is my local NPR outlet and I’m addicted to creative audio production (like This American Life) so I’m interested in what Roman Mars will be doing there. Maybe he’s going to get Ira under control? I certainly hope not 🙂

  • Ben Temchine

    1.20.05

    Reply
    The weight of the stones

    I got the weight of the fountain from the contractor.

    It is an awfully imposing thing. Within the fountain the size of the stones varies greatly, with some truly massive granite rocks weighing thousands of tons a piece. I will try to post a few more pictures to my web site.

  • Paul McEvoy

    1.20.05

    Reply
    Great Job

    Just wanted to say great job on the piece. I had one listen through while I was doing some work at home, and I’m going to burn it onto CD so I can listen to it some more. Very impressive, great job at keeping a coherent flow through the whole thing.

    If you don’t mind a tangental question: I’m very interested in the UC Berkeley J school, particularly with a radio emphasis. It’s obvious that you’ve developed great skills, were you happy with the Berkeley program? I’d be grateful for any information you wanted to share about that.

    Thanks
    Paul McEvoy

  • Joe Richman

    1.20.05

    Reply

    Ben: "Only about half way through my interviews did I realize that my gimmick was really my story."

    nice.

    On the subject of narration…. I don’t think the issue is so much whether a story has narration or not, but whether that narration feels like it’s a natural part of the piece. Some narration sounds like exactly what is is: script read in a studio. Some narration feels like it’s living and breathing alongside the rest of the tape. This story was definitely the latter.

    By the way… another public radio producer from Oberlin! What’s going on? There was a whole string on this when Robert Krulwich was a Transom guest. Someone needs to document this phenomenon (or, problem).

  • Joshua Kilpatrick

    1.22.05

    Reply
    Something Facinates Me

    Something fascinates me about the difference between an idea and reality. Particularly when I observe (or am shown) a thing that is a present reality and hear about how different the original idea was. For some reason the piece felt spooky to me, and I don’t think it’s just because I feel uncomfortable with drugs, poverty, and lawlessness. It just felt spooky to hear the really smart, gifted voice of Halprin (almost god-like) pushed up against the simple (yet powerful) observations of everyday people. It just felt so confusing and heavy.

    It all had a neat and humbling effect on me. Whatever we may think or respect about the genius of design, it’s amazing how human experience can transform it – good or bad or whatever.

    A small group of radio friends of mine from KBOO in Portland are going to use this piece for a discussion group. We’re throwing around ideas about stories we might like to tell and are going to use our reactions to this piece to help us figure out what we all have in common (or what we all have in difference). I hope they all like it as much as I did.

    Joshua

  • Robert Krulwich

    1.22.05

    Reply
    Oberlin, Oberlin, Oberlin

    So now we have another one!
    One who takes his first bow with a story on the fate of a public space.
    Not the likeliest, nor the easiest of ideas, but it’s brought off with quiet elegance, even when folks are grabbing for food.
    If I had any bones to pick, I would have recommended more conflict. I would have liked to have heard Ben telling the architect what he’d learned; I would have liked to hear the awkwardness…unless, as may be the case, it wasn’t all that awkward, or interesting.
    In any event, I thought it quietly powerful.
    So congrats to Ben, and as for the Oberlin thread–who knows why there is Joe and Jad and Alex and now Ben and all the others? Collectively we feel like a cliche, I know. But individually,
    let’s pretend we’re a collection of gems.
    No one’s going to bother to tell us otherwise and anyway, as Joe says, there are some moments on Transom when we Oberliners are the only ones here.
    (sigh)
    ‘cept for those Cape Codders. And in time, they’ll all get honorary degrees.

  • Benjamin Temchine

    1.23.05

    Reply
    Conflict

    Robert:

    I am flattered that you took the time to listen and liked it. Thanks.

    Actually i wanted to downplay the conflict between me and Halprin. It is an interesting question though, one i thought about a lot. I thought there was plenty of conflict in the story, between those who believed that people were the problem, those that balked at describing people as a problem and the dreamers who insisted that the problems weren’t their problem.

    Also, I really admire Halprin. He is a stout 80 years old, all gristle and hemingway beard. His dream for this place was very compelling: the tides moving up from the bay to the Sierras connecting our little island to the country beyond with those broad straight lines (very greek and democratic that)

    In the end I developed such sympathy for everyone struggling and failing to make this place better (even the silly woman with her hamburgers from God) that i tried to present the conflict without confrontation, without identifying someone as a "villain".

    Thirty minutes is a really long freaking time. The one advantage of having to fill so much was giving everyone room to tell their story in their words. Hopefully everyone came through the very deforming editing process still recognizable as human beings alive in the world with us.

    This is also an advanatge of having six months to work on a piece…

  • Benjamin Temchine

    1.23.05

    Reply
    Proud Yeomen

    Add to the list of Jad, Robert, Joe and Robert the inimitable Roman Mars, late of KALW now at Resound at WBEZ and Third Coast. Jad, Roman and I were all at Oberlin the same time actually.

  • Robert Krulwich

    1.23.05

    Reply
    On Hostility, Conflict and Making a Story Move

    On the one hand, it’s true, very, very true, that any number of reporters take little disagreements or no disagreements and cut them into conflicts because a binary, yes/no, smack/bam world creates its own energy and they use that energy, whether real or no, to drive their tales.
    That’s bad. It’s also dishonest. But most of all, it’s lazy. As you say, "villains" are easy to concoct.
    On the other hand, a reporter who expresses his affection or his empathy for a character by erasing or muting conflict is not necessarily adding to the audience’s understanding.
    In Halprin’s case, why not hear you challenging him? Why not hear how he, in fact, dealt with the criticism, which is, after all building up throughout the piece? Why saw yourself off, and leave him responding to…what? We can’t hear it.
    We don’t know what you said, and not knowing, it’s harder to gage the kinda guy he is.
    What’s more, as an editor, trying to create rhythms, why deny yourself the rythm of give and take, thrust and parry?
    Did you think it was impolite to include your questions? Or maybe you think that’s not your role, to butt in with your own notions inside the narrative. Your notions, of course, create the narrative, but maybe hearing yourself makes you uncomfortable.
    I don’t know.
    These are interesting things to think about, I think.
    For me, the only two questions that matter are:
    Was I fair to everybody in the piece (meaning, could I play the tape and stare right into their eyeballs at the same time and not turn away with embarassment) and, to tell the story, did I use my palette (my voice, my writing, my edits, all my choices) as well as possible to hold my audience?
    If it’s a double yes, then i’m fine.
    If not, then…
    Self-loathing time.

  • Jackson Braider

    1.24.05

    Reply
    Soooo…….. Let’s talk music

    A great piece of work, Ben. Sympathetic but not sentimental, clear-eyed without being cold. Terrific writing as well. I am intrigued by Sgr. Krulwich’s thoughts on including the thrust and parry of the interview with Halperin. In the audio equivalent of hindsight, I don’t think any of the other interviews would profit from the to and fro. Maybe a measure of the preparation you had already gone through by the time you got to the Grand Man?

    What informed your musical choices in the piece? It seems that you use a lot in the course of the work and I’d be intrigued to hear your thoughts about it.

  • Ben Temchine

    1.25.05

    Reply
    Stepping on my own best tape

    Maybe I was a little unclear when I said I liked Halprin. I do. I also think his design failed to meet the needs of the place. Exactly how is complicated enough to fill 30 minutes.

    I chose not to include a personal confrontation with Halprin because I didn’t think it added anything. The story is better because people who live and work and clean the design told stories. That is simply more compelling to me than either a personal confrontation or design criticism.

    I always felt that the heart of the piece is when Halprin says, "You’re talking about my life’s work for Christ sake." Nothing I could add would embellish the obvious pain and disappointment he feels. So I left it out.

    Halprin, by the way, has never told me what he thought of the thing, though I offered to go down and listen to it with him. Never heard back.

  • Ben Temchine

    1.25.05

    Reply
    Music

    I will try to put together a list of the music.

    I had some music (Mainly from the bands Air, Floris, the Japanese DJ Cornelius and a song from Phillip Glass) that I had in mind and listened to while cutting it.

    The best advice I got was from Nikki Silva who told me that the using music presented dangers in documentaries. It can become too editorial, judgmental or even mocking. It probably restrained some choices I might have made otherwise.

    The opening and after the Food Riot I chose because it was this perfect blend of melancholy and optimism. Roman Mars was quite helpful during these final choices.

    Unfortunately my laptop just committed Hari Kari so I don’t have a track name. When/if i get the thing back I will post the name for all you curious trainspotters.

  • Ben Temchine

    1.25.05

    Reply
    Something Fascinates Me

    "It just felt spooky to hear the really smart, gifted voice of Halprin (almost god-like) pushed up against the simple (yet powerful) observations of everyday people. It just felt so confusing and heavy."

    Thanks a lot Josh, that is what I was trying for. I am stoked to hear that it is what you heard. Please let me know how it turns out in Portland. And I hope they like it too

    FYI, emails sent to your registered account get bounced.

  • helen woodward

    1.25.05

    Reply
    "You’re talking about my life’s work for Christ sake."

    I must agree; this was the most poignant moment of the piece, and it sounded like his heart was breaking over the failure, i have listened again and again to how he spoke. it seemed like we reached that point after such a tormented descent: your interviews with the users of the space shaped it, and your choice of music enhanced it.

    this is a great piece,
    thanks Benjamin.

  • Sue Mell

    1.25.05

    Reply
    Lasting Affect

    Hey Ben.

    I first heard your piece when it aired on Invisible Ink and was knocked out.

    The Biography of 100,000 Square Feet aired in San Francisco in May. This is January and often as I’m sitting at the light at 7th and Market–on my way home from work, or Rainbow, or wherever–I find myself looking to the left and thinking about this story.

  • Jonathan Mitchell

    1.25.05

    Reply
    Great piece!

    Nice writing, great tape, and I thought the story was well told. I also liked your use of music (with one exception – I thought the Philip Glass made it sound like an Errol Morris doc…) I also liked the way you used archival tape.

    This being one of your first pieces, I’m wondering if you could talk a bit more about the editorial direction you had while working on this. How did the piece change based on other people’s responses to it? Was there advice that you found particularly helpful?

    Also, I’m curious to know what you’re working on these days.

  • ben Temchine

    1.26.05

    Reply
    Thanks

    Once again I want to say how bowled over I am at the positive response. I really appreciate it.

    As I said in the intro on the transom site, it started out as written feature about homelessness. At heart the question I wanted to grapple with was inspired by a commentary in the only Evangelical Christian Humor magazine I know of, The Wittenburg Door.

    I found the magazine through some especially vigorous and random time killing via the web. The story is at http://www.wittenburgdoor.com/archives/lastword-165.html

    At base homelessness interests me because it raises the question what we owe one another. What do the poor and homeless owe the creators of a society they do not benefit from and what do the beneficiaries of our particular social system owe those who do not thrive in it.

    I began the project while in a class taught by Cynthia Gorney. It became clear to me that I wanted to a radio piece. Cynthia is an excellent teacher but not very experienced writing for radio, so a lot of her advice was on helping me narrow and narrow the focus of the piece.

    The best advice I got in the editing process came from two pretty illustrious people who were teaching at the Journalism school at the time, Nikki Silva, one half of the Amazing Kitchen Sisters and Peter Sellars, the artist. Both of them are dedicated to revealing human connections by respecting someone’s story.

    In other words, I could have a laudable philosophical goal and an interesting question at the root of my documentary, but it needed to be focused on letting people speak or it would be crap.

    The other main editorial influence was my former girlfriend, Karen St. Onge, who after a year and a half of me reporting on homelessness and four years of San Francisco politics was just sick of hearing about homelesssness. My job, among others, was to come up with something that she would not roll her eyes about and turn off. So I had a specific audience in my mind. Her.

    As to what I am working on now. I work as a producer on Your Call on KALW, a daily political affairs and cultural call-in show which takes up a surprising amount of my time. But my next project might again be about a place, the utopian corporate owned suburb I grew up in outside of Baltimore. It is still in early stages so it may go no where, but there you go. I am also interviewing people about some harrowing near death experiences.

    What about you? What are you working on?

  • ben Temchine

    1.26.05

    Reply
    Lasting Affect

    Thank you Sue. That is so killer! I am also stoked you actually heard it on the radio and not on the web. Old fashioned and cool.

  • Robin Amer

    1.30.05

    Reply
    the death and life of american public spaces

    hi ben-

    this is a really great piece, that i guess appropriately made me really mad. it hit a nerve.
    these are subjects close to my own heart: urban history, contemporary urban problems, the decisions that cities make that work and those that don’t, the criminalizing of social problems, class warfare hidden underneath seemingly well intentioned bureaucratic planning.

    i like the premise of the piece, and after listening to it i was trying to answer the question myself. why did this space fail? the easy answer bad design and bad maintenance. but i think the harder, truer answers (that i think your piece does touch upon)are the ones that are more deeply rooted in our misunderstandings about public space, about the ways people function in cities and the ways cities do or do not function on behalf of certain people. public spaces in america have almost always been war zones like this. just look at thompkins square park in the 80s, when the city of ny did something very similar, and barricaded the park as part of efforts to gentrify the lower east side. clearly san francisco failed at so many other things besides the design of this park, and the plaza became the place where all the other problems spilled out into. i know san francisco is notorious for criminalizing homelessness and drug use, and it really showed through in the tape you got.

    what really got me was the tape of the designer asking, what, you want me to design for social problems? actually, yeah, that’s exactly what i want. public spaces are for people to use, and the reality of most cities is that those are the people who use that type of space.

    i applaud you because it’s really difficult to do a radio piece about a place. a place you can’t see, a place most of us have never been to. but you managed to capture the feeling of the place, the details, the ethos, beyond just the voices of the people there and the sounds.

    i don’t know if you’re familiar with jane jacob’s classic book the death and life of great american cities, but she has a whole section about why parks sometimes work and sometimes don’t, what we thnk makes good public space, etc. i think you’d find it really interesting. another truly amazing book is neil smith’s new urban frontiers: gentrification and the revenchist city, which talks about thompkins sq. park and the efforts by cities to "reclaim" spaces that have been divested of capital and interest.

    on some techncial points:

    i really liked the music at the end of the piece. the tone and effect was perfect. and the tape of truman was a good way to end.

    the one content piece that tripped me up was the
    placement of the farmer’s market section. it felt long and i wasn’t sure where it was going, and somehow it distracted me from the narrative arc.

    on a small technical note, you might want to watch your mic placement during interviews, cause it seems like you’re getting a lot of p-pops in your tape.

    good job ben. i hope you keep exploring these types of issues in your work. any plans for the future?

    best,
    robin

  • Robin Amer

    1.31.05

    Reply
    prx

    hey benjamin

    i just licensed your piece thru PRX and now we’re going to air it this wednesday on BSR in Providence!

    robin

  • Will Bostwick

    4.09.05

    Reply
    100,000 Sq. Ft.

    I agree with Robin that you did a wonderful job of capturing the spirit of a visual space in a non-visual format. I particularly liked the segment on the distribution of food to the homeless there, and how you used it to represent the over-arching problems of the space, and of public spaces in general…

    The part about the farmers’ market might have been a bit too long, but I think it is an important part of the story — an effort to use what some call an unusable space. Actually, I think that the connection you made btw the Farmers’ Market and the Thieves’ Market was the best part of the piece. It really captured the conflicting ideas, uses, people, etc etc. that move in and around the park.

    Well done.

  • joe78

    3.18.06

    Reply
    I have a photograph in my house…

    …of my wife on the ground at UN Plaza, in an SFPD chokehold. She and others were being arrested for protesting the fencing off of the grass, where people like to sit.

    …I’ve been on most of the rooftops around that area, done bike repairs, eaten free dinner, taken a crap around the corner in front of the hindu-cult vegetarian restaurant…

    it smells like pee.

  • Elizabeth White

    5.15.06

    Reply
    thoughts and questions

    Ben,

    Great piece. Very funny was the "have you ever been to Paris?" (in that wistful, lofty tone) compared with the ‘get-real’ of "this is not Italy". That juxtaposition was the piece to me: the dream and ideal taken from a distant place and time, that, when realized in granite, only perpetuated the unfortunate realities it ignored.

    Two criticisms. 1. I also found the farmer’s market segment too long, and the "oh my god, it’s the united nations" epiphany weak and tangential. 2. Great idea to use the Truman tape, but I thought your introduction was too easy – "I want to consider some words of advice" – especially given the speech was somewhat trite. Did you struggle with how to introduce Truman’s tape? How DID you consider his words?

    Overall though I found the piece evocative and compelling. It was a pleasure to listen to.

    Thanks,
    Elizabeth White

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