Reporter's Notebook

The art and science of the interview

Archive for January 2013

It’s been an interesting last few days

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It’s been an interesting last few days.  Did three great interviews, one with gothic, Americana and time/space continuium bending author Caroline Miller.  The second was with Russell Hitchcock of the 80s soft rock group Air Supply.  The third was with former Shaw University President Irma McClaurin.  She was the keynote speaker for a local MLK birthday observance.  I snagged her and she agreed to let me talk to her.  It was a great conversation too.  The first two are up on my Soundcloud site and I’m pretty happy with both.  The last  one is in process and will be up in a couple of days.

Also did a couple of promos, one for a woman who is a analyst goddess of counter-terrorism and one for The Impaler, a music critic for a newspaper in Austin.

Meanwhile, I’m being driven crazy by an hum I can’t seem to track down.  The phone company said it’s 15 volts that is being induced by nearby power lines.  The manufacturer of the equipment I have says it’s not their box.  So, I have to use choke core filters on the inside line to try to get rid of whatever it is, RF or AC, I just don’t know.

I have a big interview scheduled next week.  This author wrote a book about 20 years ago that drove many many people crazy, and he’s just written a follow up.  He and I had a conversation about hisfirst  book and its contents on the terrace on top of the Library of Congress after a speaking engagement he had there.  I was there as part of an under-graduate program.  I’m looking forward to talking with him again.

Written by Interviewer

January 28, 2013 at 11:14

Posted in Scratchpad

Truth, Justice and the American Way

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Again, a post not about interviewing.

I don’t want to post just because I haven’t posted.  I want to actually have something to say.  So, today, I do.  I was thinking that the United States is a powerful country, partly, because it lets the world see its dirty laundry.  It fights with itself in the open, but it does so with such honesty that no other nation on Earth has the balls to copy it.  And that willingness to mud wrestle for its highest, best self in full view makes it strong.

And I think, in the same way, any person who is willing to question themselves and their assumptions; to cry deeply and to think contemplatively, is stronger than anyone who is so certain of their convictions that they would never question them.  To be willing to risk embarassment or worse to tell a King that he is bare assed naked is sweet indeed.

These people and our country win twice.  First, because they realize they can be weak and wrong, but are willing to act anyway.  And secondly, they have the courage of those convictions and are willing to suffer the consequences.  Sure, the King may order him killed.  But the King will forever know that everyone around him knows he was unjust.  But not just Kings.  Also Dukes, Squires, Lords and teeny tiny kingdom builders that hide behind the bureaucracy that they think makes them both invisible and invulnerable.  They sleep well in their beds like little Ivan Illychs, believing they are living the right life by doing the right thing.  But, they’re not always right.  They are not pristine.

And the process of vindication, which also resides within the bureaucracy, may be slow and may deliver results long after a wronged individual will see or appreciate its justice.  But the wheels of the Universe do grind on along a road that arcs toward that justice.  So the legal and ambivalent process, flawed as it can be, is worthwhile, and is worth engaging.  That’s enough for me.

Written by Interviewer

January 21, 2013 at 04:00

Posted in Scratchpad

You’re Crazy!

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Why is calling somebody “crazy” or telling them “you’ve got problems” the last stone people throw after they’ve thrown all of their others?  I mean, consider that many of us live sometimes with no real understanding of why we’re here.  We have to try to figure out what that meaning is.  And if you look at what people do with their short time here, you’d have to conclude that it’s a mad rush to either get something or avoid something.  Getting or avoiding that thing always means there are always people (including families and workplaces), religions, governments, lobbyists or corporations ready to tell us what that should be.  And they often try to coerce or frighten or threaten or shame us so that they can make us believe it.  Weakening people so they can be strong is the timeless story.  Delegitimizing person B or their concerns in the eyes of people C through Z to take away their legitimacy and build up ones own has a proven track record.  This slimy trick is as old as we are, so why is it something victims are always surprised to feel, and perps are never shy to do?

Likewise, why is it that the people who call shots think they’ll always be calling the shots?  I remember an experiment in college where the PoliSci prof divided the class so that everybody with A-M last names would get X more points added to their grade and everybody with N-Z last names would get X points taken away from their grade.  Instantly, there was animosity between the two sides of the room.  It was a thought experiment for God’s sake, but the students reacted just like thousands of years of political thinking predicted they would.  Then, he reversed the rewards and punishments and the downtrodden were now the shot-callers, and the formerly privileged class was now the underclass.  There were murmurs of reclaiming past glories and bringing down the uppity.  His point was that everybody eventually becomes the goat, and it’s always unfair and the privileged are privileged only as long as somebody else says so.

There are plenty of laws on the books and rules of decorum that say we’re better than that.  It’s what we keep telling ourselves. The most idealistic among us say eventually humanity will fulfill its Jeffersonian potential and such pettiness will disappear.  We will make just laws and follow them.  The watchers will no longer need to be watched.  But yet, people keep wanting or avoiding that thing, and that desire continues to be mysteriously and inextricably tied to power and control and coercion and influence and social pressure and politics.  And to say “that’s just the way it is” is a capitulation that admits that everyone from Jefferson to Hammurabi was a fool to believe otherwise, and that what we do to each other doesn’t matter as much as to what degree and who sees you do it.

This view of the universe; this tension between our highest ideals versus where we actually are and what we are actually capable of, is I think, the pivot point of difference between convervative and liberal ideologies.  Do you think we need to be managed by something larger than our individual selves because we’ve proven to ourselves to be treacherous, state of nature type creatures unable to see beyond our own selfish interests?  Or do you think that because we are free agents, natural law is all any of us need to show us how and what needs to be done to live together without laws?  It’s not a simple question but it has two simple roots; our trust in and confidence for each other, and our view of our own existence.  If we are so afraid that we have to use sticks to beat each other down, then we are doomed.  If we believe we will eventually transcend ourselves and leave our pedestrian selves behind, we have hope.  But to not admit where we are in our pathology right this minute, is a mistake.  As Kafka understood, you’d be crazy to think otherwise.  But it’s probably best not to think about it too much, right?

Written by Interviewer

January 11, 2013 at 03:27

Posted in Scratchpad