Wednesday, August 8, 2007

autumn descending

The end of every summer breaks my heart. From the summer I fell in love at art camp (I was eleven, but I swear it was the real thing) to last year, when I left my internship a day early so I wouldn't have to watch all of my friends leave before me, the transition from care-free summer to the darkening days of autumn has never been easy.

Standing on third street promenade yesterday, the imminence of ending dawned upon me. As my friends and I walked past carts and book shops discussing future plans, I began realizing I wouldn't be a part of them--their lives and plans would quickly fill in the hole in our social circle that I would be leaving behind. It is the same way at work--not that I'm getting pushed out, but as I start giving my contacts and notes to other bookers and producers, as I begin wrapping up bookings and not receiving new assignments, it's like I can almost catch the scent of autumn in the office. Hosts begin talking about air dates that are several weeks after I leave, and already I have had to say goodbye to close friends at the office who are leaving this week for vacation. We can't believe I'm leaving for good.

As the show discusses stories for its "back to school" edition at noon in the Angeles Room, I sit silently, trying to grasp that this is the beginning of the ending of my summer here. I can't quite picture what it will be like to tune in to Day to Day without knowing the rundown beforehand, without eagerly awaiting the interview I have already heard, without the smug satisfaction of knowing that at the end of the week, the host will read my name along with a list of people I have grown to really care about.

I know that it won't take long for that list to change, for the new, unrecognized names of fall interns to be added. And I also know that I will forget the layout of NPR West, the taste of the coffee here, the names of the streets I take to get to Santa Monica, even Katerina's extension (well maybe not, I've dialed it so many times I think it's hardwired into my brain), and all the little things that make up daily life here.

This September, I will drive my Subaru from Boston to my new internship in Chicago. And of course, I will be listening. I am almost looking forward to the oblivion; there’s something oddly appealing about going back to being just a listener. Everyday I will greet the show with rapt attention and curiosity, innocent to what awaits on today’s show, unaware of the close calls and the pains taken to make the stories sound seamless and the voices crisp and clean on my radio. I really do look forward to it, to staying connected through ears and radiowaves, just distant enough to really see the full effect of all the elements coming together.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Music to my ears

It has been a rough summer. Until yesterday, I had spent the past three months missing hundreds of songs I had (gasp) bought on iTunes. After calling the Apple help desk several times, and receiving, well, no help, I didn’t have the strength to wait on hold any longer.

“I’ll just get music from the people I work with,” I thought. I did, but I needed something more.

I wasn’t always getting entire albums. Instead, I was getting playlists. And while they were truly wonderful, well-executed, perfectly-timed playlists, the songs on them kept reminding me of the songs I’d been missing. In fact, they were the songs I was missing, only these were free and sans the full-length album.

What’s this? Sondre Lerche? I used to have his cd, until someone tried to break into my iTunes account! Camera Obscura? I could have really used all of you this summer, not just one song!

It may not be the worst feeling in the world, but it certainly isn’t fun to have the music you’ve paid for at your fingertips, only to find out that, when you press play, your account has been disabled for security reasons. It’s such an evil trick! I should have known that flirting with the Mac Genius to get a new logic board for free would bring bad karma my way. But who can resist!?

What I needed, though, wasn’t my music; it was piece of mind. Most of my friends download music for free and (il)legally, but for some reason iTunes has me hooked. It’s like I have monopoly money and can buy whatever I want, and the only reality check is when the account receipt forwards to my inbox…or when I’ve bought hundreds of dollars in music only to have it locked up before my very eyes.

BUT!...

Yesterday morning my spirits were revived by the iTunes support center. While there is no call-help line, one of my countless e-mails was finally answered, and, thanks to Michelle at iTunes, I now have a freshly authorized computer and about 500 of my best friends—truly alive and kicking.

To be honest, it hasn’t been that difficult to get through this summer without them, but everything sounds better when they’re around. And after all, absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Pants and Counter-pants

Patrick, I decided to respond to your post about pants. See, I'm also afflicted by a pants wardrobe with limited applicability beyond a particular region.

In high school, I never really gave much thought to my pants. They fit. They looked fine. They're pants. How complicated could it be? My beloved home of Cincinnati is a city best classified as part Midwestern, part Southern. From the Midwest, we inherited practicality and a lack of curiosity. From the South, we inherited all of the redneck but none of the charm (thanks a lot, Kentucky). That's how I can best explain my pants wardrobe in high school: practical and complacent, but not particularly charming.

North Carolina, where I attend college, is a land of bow ties, pastels, ribbon belts, seersucker, and boat shoes. I was coming from a land of flat-front khakis, Birkenstocks, and nicely pressed shirts. No longer would pants be such a straightforward matter.

As I outgrew my clothes from high school, my wardrobe gradually changed. Content in my Southern haven, I hardly even noticed. But every so often, I was offered subtle reminders. Whether on a trip home to Cincinnati or a semester abroad in London, I learned that there are many places in this world where a man wearing Nantucket red is not taken seriously. Trust me.

I have pairs of pants--pants that I've grown attached to--that I'm unable to wear every time I leave the South. From white linen to green seersucker, I left a chunk of my wardrobe behind this summer when I moved to DC. Patrick, if you think that men in light-colored pants are funny, then my closet would be a Mitch Hedberg stand-up act.

Someday, I might take a job in a city that chews up and spits out men who dare to wear pants with a little bit of color. When I'm old and wise and thirty, it might not seem like such a big deal. But right now, it's a notion that I'm having a hard time accepting.

Monday, July 30, 2007

The Telecommunications Act

Day in and day out, I am constantly reminded of the one remaining goal I have yet to achieve at NPR.

Every morning, I walk to my perfectly-situated corner cubicle, sit down at my desk, turn on my computer, and within 30 minutes, I am inevitably made aware, once again, that I have unfinished business at this company. I prepare myself to concentrate on my various pressing labors, yet without fail, just as I have focused on a task, the heavens interrupt my attempt to ignore my, uh, calling:

“Doug Mitchell, please dial extension 3644.”

I pause, direct my eyes upward, and survey the room. A ponderous silence.

“Doug Mitchell,” it reiterates, “3644."

Curs├Ęd speaker box! Why will you not bid me my peace? Do you not know how I wish to occupy, to possess you, to abuse you for my own secret mirth? Are you so unaware of my sordid wishes that you must taunt me with your unceasing proclamations, imperatives, and fiats?

“Michel Martin, you have a guest in the lobby.”

No longer do I care that you, the reader, condone or pity my madness. Verily, I only ask that I may describe it, that you may begin to comprehend my squalid predicament.

Freely, I admit! My quest is thus: to say something funny on the intercom system. Ideally, it would be uproarious and side-splitting for at least a select few; more likely, it would be mildly amusing and easily forgettable. (It may involve a pun.) But laughs will ring out! For one moment, I will be the purveyor of merriment to an organization which, like all similar building-bound organizations, ought to be reminded once in a while of the fundamentally absurd posture of the office environment and its multiform communication technologies. Once I have delivered my simple, elegant stanza, instant gratification will commence for all! My heroism will be anonymous, courageous, and life-affirming.

Of course, the necessity or comedic inspiration has never arisen. But! I am imbued with the demented passion and resolve of a protagonist in a Russian novel: one day, it will happen. From Olympian heights, Renee Montagne will smile in my general direction, the opportunity will be granted me, and I will shine.

“Someone from All Things Considered please call 2110.”

O, that this too, too solid flesh would melt, thaw, and recite its piece through the fiber optic network! For the love of Robert Siegel and everything else that is holy in this non-profit corporate entity, I know of my depravity! But the flame in me burns magnetic, incessant, undeterred!

Furtively, I continue to plot my machinations as I fill out Excel spreadsheets and deftly manipulate the URL Dictionary feature in the Content Management System. Yes, one day, one glorious, resplendent day! I shall reach for the receiver, trembling, and breathe deeply; when the moment has come, my nerves will still, and calmly, deeply (but not too deeply), professionally, I will declare my joyful memorandum for the entire company to hear. I shall, I shall! [Ascending bugle fanfare.] And at least two people in Newscast will chortle, mildly distracted!

(Should the opportunity never come to pass, I will settle for a brief, witty all-staff ISO e-mail.)

Friday, July 27, 2007

A Day in the Life of Day to Day

I have not had much time to process and reflect on my internship here so sometimes I forget how bizarre my job really is. A few days ago I called home and my sister asked me how my day had been. As I prattled on, it suddenly struck me how delusional I must sound when I start talking about my job here. The stories. The people. The chaos. To illustrate this and to devote a moment to reflection, I'm just going to take a look back at the first couple of hours of my day yesterday to see what daily life at Day to Day is like.

The first thing one needs to know about Day to Day is how young it is. Tomorrow, it will celebrate its fourth birthday, but additionally, the mean age of the people who work on the show must be around 30. The part of the West office devoted to the show is always bustling and energetic with people laughing and voicing opinions at the giant white board. Someone is always excited about something, whether it's the interview that's coming in five minutes or the frosted left on the table or the latest Youtube video.

Yesterday morning, when I arrived a bit before six there were a couple gaps in the show (blank slots on the giant white board): not good news. My initials were already next to two story tags under the category "chasing" (this would change several times over the course of the morning).


But before I could begin to pursue a San Francisco cabbie with the unlucky a medallion number of “666”, our line producer was asking me to put in a request for an interview with Senator Charles Schumer. And then, Arlen Spector. When one of my requests was denied, I could feel a slight rise of panic in the air as the gaps in the show remained. After a quick brainstorming session, I was asked to find a Washington correspondent who could confirm for us if a retired general involved in the Pat Tillman case would be demoted. This is the part of the day where things started to get...messy. I placed a few calls to correspondents from different news outlets and then waited. (Waiting is always the hardest part). As I waited however, I started looking up contacts for other stories. I called a professor in England about cycling and a facilities manager in Texas about crickets. As I jotted down contact information for wildlife conservationists in Rwanda, I started getting calls back from the Washington journalists. And then emails from the library about taxi cab numbers in San Francisco. As I put people on hold and tried to keep up with the emails I was getting back, our producer called me over. "Quick! Watch this," he said, and on his computer screen, hundreds of Philippine prisoners danced to Michael Jackson's Thriller. I stared at our producer blankly as my phone continued ringing. "Can you get us in touch with a prison guard in the Philippines? Or maybe the person who originally posted this video? It'd be great on today's show."

The most exciting and frustrating thing about working here is how fast-paced it is--every day is a chance to start fresh, fill in the gaps, to get a little better at booking, chasing, etc. All of the previous days victories or confusions are wiped clean at the end of each day when Neal washes off the board and my initials disappear. Days here flash by and my last two weeks will no doubt go by as the past two months. And one of these days, my initials are going to be wiped off the board for good. I'll leave my press pass and right to say "This is Haley Bridger, calling from National Public Radio" at the door.
It's gone by fast, hasn't it?

Anyway, I need to get back to pursuing prison guards in the Philippines and find out more about gorillas at a park on the border of the Congo and Rwanda. And who knows what else in an hour from now!

Happy fourth birthday, Day to Day.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Touched By an Angel? Not quite.*

This week I have been touched not by an angel, but by another winged creature -- the pigeon.

*Due to the shift from mind speculation to blog entry, this will probably not be as interesting to you as me. But I'll try.

I love my office. It's really a cubby, a random narrow alley furnished with a desk that leads to a huge ten-foot window. Not bad, not bad at all.

There's a big cement block coming out of the wall next to my window, and there's a big sheet of window glass on the face of it that extends past the sides of the cement. This forms a little corner of cement and glass just outside my window, a perfect shelter for birds. These avian visitations have been welcome by me, as I like looking at nature while I'm working.

But recently, a gray pigeon with a black head and orange eyes has taken up permanent residence in the corner ledge. It sits calmly and, I discovered, has a pigeon mate.

This pigeon is the source of my unexpected fascination: It's a black-and-white patchy pigeon and I think it's the male (I don't understand how birds are sexed). I have never seen pigeon nest-building behavior until now, and it's fascinating -- I really had no idea pigeons could be so smart. At first I only saw it arriving, stick in beak, to deposit the find either on the nest or on the other pigeon, who would navigate it into a new position. This afternoon on my way back from Phillips Cafe, I saw the sprightly guy fly over and start vigorously bobbing up and down the sidewalk looking for choice sticks. It turns out pigeons are extremely detail-oriented! I thought he would just pick whichever stick came first, but no. He first picks up a stick that looks good, and weighs it by picking it up and dropping it a few times, and then shaking it up and down with his beak. I have seen the pigeon actually REJECT a stick -- how sad is that stick? After he's found a good one, the pigeon flaps back up to the nest-in-progress, and starts the process all over again. He's been at it for days now.

Sure, it's a pigeon, but this is a pigeon building a home and a future. I can't help but feel for this cute pigeon pair. And I can't help but worry about speeding cars when I see Mr. Stickfinder bobbing around on the street. And I have to admit I find it pretty awesome that the Discovery Channel is right outside my window when I walk over for a break.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Enough Already!

This is totally ridiculous:

Kids' Grief Counselors Wait By Phones in Case Harry Potter Dies


I am holding back a full fledged rant here but real quick:

I am sick of Harry Potter. If you're 12, fine. If you are 20, not fine. Please grow up. I am eternally glad that I (hopefully) won't have to hear about Harry Potter anymore other than stomaching the inevitable last two films.

I am almost certain that tonight I will be losing friends because they are waiting at midnight. Sad.


OK. Venting over. But real quick...















....Harry dies.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

I'm Addicted to Guitar Hero

Well, not really, but when I found out that I could be a rock star in the privacy of my own living room while playing ZZ Top and Deep Purple, I was hooked. My brother didn’t really like that his 23-year-old sister was not more amused with things like books and socially interacting with people. Eventually I got bored, though.

I’m a pretty lame example, but I might go as far as to say that some people are actually addicted to video games. Like extreme gambling and drug use, daily life activities can take a back seat to the thrill of rolling the die just once more, getting one more hit or getting to the next level on World of Warcraft.

The American Psychiatric Association says no, extreme gaming isn’t an addiction, but I could probably name someone, or someone who knows someone that has missed school occasionally or gotten out of work, or not showered for an entire day because the mission is to finish the game. I can see how it’s appealing though… The ability to stop or restart a game whenever you want? To be another person for a while and alter your own reality?

Recently, Europe’s first rehab center dedicated to video game ‘addiction’ opened, set in the canals of Amsterdam in a 16th century townhouse. Countless tales of kids and adults dying from heart failure for playing too long and committing suicide are out there.

So…extreme gaming: addiction or vice?

On the Other Side of I-295

For the interns that have yet to leave DC this summer, this weekend is the time to get out and wander over the border into MD! Growing up in this area, one of my favorite summer events has always been Artscape. Sadly, I won’t be able to attend this year, but hopefully some of you all can check it out!

Artscape is a Baltimore arts festival where both local artists and artists from across the country are showcased. There’s everything from paintings and crafts to performance art like dance and fashion shows. And most of the art is pretty out there and eclectic so it’ll keep you quite entertained. Culinary art is also a part of the festival with a whole section that showcases international cuisine from local vendors. For you music lovers out there, there are free concerts with local bands and national headliners (I noticed Lupe Fiasco on the list) happening on the four or five stages located throughout the festival. And the best part is that it’s all FREE! For most specific details check out: http://www.artscape.org/index.cfm

Now how do you get to the other side of I-295 to attend this fabulous event??

For you car-less folks (which I assume are most of you), if you go Friday after work, you can take the MARC commuter train out of Union Station to Baltimore Penn station (Penn Line). From there you can take the Light Rail shuttle to the University of Baltimore/Mt. Royal Avenue stop where the festival is going on. The last train to DC leaves at 10:10 PM and gets back to DC at 11:00. This will cost you about $15 roundtrip.

For the Penn Line MARC schedule: http://www.mtamaryland.com/services/marc/schedulesSystemMaps/Penn_Line_4Web10.pdf

For Light Rail Information: http://www.mtamaryland.com/services/lightrail/


If you’d rather go on the weekend, you can take the AMTRAK out of Union Station to Baltimore’s Penn Station & then take the Light Rail shuttle to the University of Baltimore/Mt. Royal Avenue stop for the festival. The AMTRAK will cost you more than the MARC (probably $30 roundtrip) but you can make a day-trip to Baltimore out of it!

Enjoy!

A Brief Treatise on Socks

Noting the recent posts on the topic of pants, I feel we need to appreciate the sartorial contributions of pants' slightly lower, often overlooked bretheren: the socks.

Socks are not just a means of keeping your feet warm, or getting sweat off your feet if they're hot, or keeping your shoes from getting really smelly. Socks offer an important window into someone's personality. For example, how does someone choose which socks to even buy, much less wear, among the various designs? Obviously, one picks the socks the appeal most to them. It is a matter of aesthetics. So at the very least, someone's socks tell you a little about what they think looks good (i.e., their aesthetics).

Socks are also a means of personal expression, especially if one rolls their pants up a lot. As one who appreciates a sense a style, I salute all those who wear brightly colored, stylish socks. Just make sure they match. Or don't. While some people may read into your sock wearing habits (i.e., someone whose socks don't match is disorganized), your socks are still a personal expression of your own aesthetics, and for that reason, are a reflection of your beliefs. As such, your socks, whatever style (or however mismatched) they may be, should be celebrated. They are a unique, personal expression of the wearer's preferences, as should be respected as such.

Essentially, Socks are Awesome.
Here are some more reasons why:
1) The provide cushioning for uncomfortable shoes.
2) They protect my feet from sharp rocks.
3) If you put them on your hands, you instantly have mittens!
4) They makes great puppets. Or pets. Whatever you want, I guess.

So please, appreciate your socks. They can do a lot.

Different Perspective on the Middle East

A group of University of North Carolina students who are traveling or studying in the Middle East this summer started a blog called Tar Heel Travelers.

Now, I like NPR's coverage of the Middle East.

The BBC does a good job, too.

But it's difficult to find news that does not focus on militants, peace talks, the war in Iraq, or Iran's nuclear capabilities. There's a lot more to the Middle East, much of which is rarely discussed in the media. I think that truly understanding America's relationship with the Middle East requires something beyond the ability to properly pronounce "Ahmadinejad."

Which I can't really do, anyway.

If you're interested in the Middle East, I encourage you to check out the blog. In the last two posts, topics included overused motifs, the public portrayal of autocratic leaders, and ghost riding across Midan Tahrir. It's interesting to read the reactions of peers who are living in the region. Pretty insightful stuff.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

TP

With plans to head out to a birthday party in Bethesda shortly following work yesterday, I left the office in an excited haste. However, realizing that my apartment had run out of toilet paper, I stopped at the CVS before the China Town metro to pick some up. As I dug around in my cavernous purse to pay for it, I discovered that my wallet was missing. After running through the days events, I reasoned that I hadn't even left the building and that it HAD to be at my desk. I called a friend still at the office who sits near my desk, and my assumptions were confirmed. After running back to the office to pick it up, I realized I would never had known it was missing if i hadn't stopped to get toilet paper. And with my bar essentials inside, ie my photo id, credit card and cash there was no chance of me getting into the party. Then it made me chuckle to myself to think that toilet paper saved my a$$.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Rollin' on the River

If you're going to drink beer at 11 am--on a Sunday--then I think you should have to earn it.

And I say that waking up at 7 after a night of light partying, then trekking across town to the Waterfront and baking in the DC sun for a few hours counts as earning it. That's how I spent last Sunday along with Nicole, Becky, and Whitney, in kayaks on the Potomac.

The Potomac looks different when you're sitting a couple inches above its surface. I usually see it from the Yellow Line, looking out over the bridge that connects the Pentagon and L'Enfant Plaza Metro stops. The water appears dirty. There's no impressive boat traffic, except for the fleet of paddle boats by the Jefferson Memorial. Most of the bridges are rather ugly. The river is a mere 15 seconds of my morning commute.

But when you're in a kayak, the river is a.) huge and b.) beautiful. Remember the scene in Dead Poets' Society where Robin Williams/John Keating makes the boys stand on top of the desk for a different perspective? If you paddle past Georgetown for a few minutes, it's possible to forget you're around the bend from a big city. As long as you can ignore the stream of commercial jets 100 feet overhead.

Being in that kayak was the most relaxing thing I've done since I moved to DC. This city doesn't seem to relax very often. I'm from the Midwest, and I go to college in the South. I appreciate the art of relaxation.

Ah, but back to the beer. After a couple of hours, we docked the kayaks, compared sunburns, and took a walk along the Waterfront. On hot, sunny mornings like last Sunday, those outdoor bars and their $6 beers hold an unfair advantage over anyone whose ID says they are 21. The fight was over before it started. We soon found ourselves sipping on $6 bottles. For goodness sake, there's a bar in Chapel Hill where $6 can conceivably buy 30 beers on a Tuesday or Thursday night.

But the beer tasted good, and when the guy on the stool next to mine started strumming a ukulele, I decided that it was worth the price.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Griffith Observatory

Last night, curled up in my seat on the Coach bus traveling down from Griffith Park along Santa Monica Blvd with five different kinds of chocolate covered tart desserts stuffed in my knapsack, I could think of only one word to describe the evening: satiating. I had spent the night at a special event at the Griffith Observatory, one of the must-see spots on my list of Los Angeles sites and places. I had found out about the event from two of my friends who are also working as science writers in the Los Angeles area. Originally intended as an opening event for PBS to launch a television press junket, the trip to Griffith Park had been opened up to local reporters and science writing types. My friends and I were intrigued not only by the lure of the Observatory but also by words that no intern can resist: free food.

This is not to say that interns are not highly evolved creatures with a sense of refinement and class, but certain situations (i.e. abject poverty and long hours) can easily reduce us to a more primitive state. Basic needs take over and suddenly we are driven by the instincts of our ancestors. Take an average day at NPR West for me for example.

Mornings begin before dawn when I creep about my cave-like apartment scavenging for clothing and the occasional piece of toast in the dark. By 5:45 I am at work, busily booking, adrenaline pumping through my system as I conduct research on Live Earth for Frangela. By 11:30 when it’s time for lunch, I cautiously scarf down my sandwich, carefully watching to make sure no one tries to steal my yogurt and banana. By late afternoon, with lunch gone, I am suddenly aware of every piece of edible food in the entire building. Someone unwraps a lifesaver three cubicles away, and I can sense it. The moment a half finished box of Wheat Thins is left on the counter, I can immediately smell the nutty, wheaty fragrance of the slightly stale crackers. Before the generous Wheat Thin donor has even finished writing “Please Take Some” in Sharpie on a paper towel, I am there, hands outstretched. I hate to conform to these stereotypic intern behavior patterns, but I honestly can’t resist my caveman instincts. The need for food—both powerful and blinding—consumes me and I can suddenly picture what it must have been like for primitive man, always hunting, always searching, never satisfied.

But last night, plentiful feasts abounded. The PBS and Wired Science event at the Observatory was catered by Wolfgang Puck, which meant enough chicken tostatadas and guacamole plantains to feed an entire cave of interns. And those were just the hor dourves. As the sun set and the dim lights of the buffet table illuminated the Observatory’s courtyard, I imagined what it must have been like to gather about a campfire after a long hunt and feast. It must have been here, their needs momentarily met, that my ancestors discovered the heavens and connected stories to its constellations.

Rising above us over the brightly lit, smog filled city of Los Angeles, the sky is full of…nothing. No stars. No moon. Merely a red reflective smear of pollution. But inside the Observatory’s planetarium, the sky is illuminated. As lights and shadows twinkle across the concave screen, a dramatic voice explains the stories of the heavens, the big dipper, Ptolemey’s theory of crystal spheres, Galileo’s observations of Jupiter’s moons, Hubble’s giant telescope, and the mystery of dark matter and dark energy. The panoramic show takes us from the big bang to the edges of our expanding universe and slowly back to the familiarity of the Milky Way and our tiny, precarious home.


Watching the giant universe swallow up our little planet is always a haunting, disorienting reminder of how delicate the balance of our lives on Earth are. And how rare, amid the race for food and bookings, are the moments when we can truly look heavenward, and be filled the same feeling of astonishment and satiation humans must have felt since the dawn of the zodiac and the first storytellers. On the bus ride home from the Observatory, looking out across the glowing din of the city, I squinted and turned the LA skyline into a sea of starry light.

Monday, July 9, 2007

West Coast Skinny III

Last week was full of fireworks and powerful moments for the West Coast interns. Although July 4th landed in the middle of the week, we were all kept busy covering stories, doing bookings, and finding our own voices.

A few highlights:

This week, Ellie met the young men and women who will be the voices in her piece on the transpac race. Standing on the docks of Long Beach, Ellie captured the sounds of the lapping water, boats, etc. along the dock and spoke with the team members of one of the youngest and most well-trained groups of transpac sailors. Although Ellie has gone out to cover stories for newspapers before, this was her first venture into the world of sound and radio. I went along as Ellie's producer, and I think both of us had a heightened sense of awareness about the sounds that enveloped us on the docks. Ellie's fourth of July was equally scintillating. She went out on a boat with her aunt and uncle and had a great view of the fireworks as they were launched from the Queen Mary, which is stationed in downtown Long Beach.

Over at News & Notes things are hectic, but that’s just the pace Kenya likes. For Kenya, there’s never a dull moment. This week she booked, scheduled and interviewed guests for shows on the controversial racial dissension around the Jena 6 trials in Louisiana, the promising Call Me Mister program in South Carolina which helps put more black male teachers in elementary classrooms, a not-so-surprising yet still dismal study on student’s performance in minority segregated schools, and possible closure of the last black theater in California. The most gratifying moment was when Kenya’s piece on Disparities Among Black and White Children With Autism aired. It was her piece from start to finish. “I was reading about Holly Pete Robinson’s ordeal with her autistic child and how much they were spending on the treatments and I wondered, how many people can really afford that,” Kenya says. The question led to research, the research led to her pitch, the pitch led to her sourcing guests, the sourcing led to awesome interviews and the interviews made for a fantastic, informative and emotional story. “One of our best lately,” says her senior supervising producer. After listening to the piece air, Kenya realized YES-- this is what it's all about...this is why I am here. A great NPR moment for Kenya indeed.


Meanwhile, at Day to Day, Bernie and I have struggled to schedule interviews in a process that one producer likened to "nailing jello to a wall." While I pursued Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul, Bernie worked to find a man who survived Katrina and moved to Texas, only to be flooded out yet again. As Bernie searched for the hurricane victim, I researched the impact of global warming for several stories. I looked into the cap and trade system Arnold Schwarzenegger is endorsing and gathered materials for an interview Day to Day will be having with the "governator" later this week. At the same time, I started looking at how the Netherlands and other coastal mega-cities are bracing for rising sea levels. I booked reporters in Indiana, Ohio, and New Mexico for a conversation this morning on defecting senators and I'm hoping to book Cameron Crowe for an interview to air on Friday, his birthday and mine. Last week, in honor of the 4th of July, I got to chat with a man who has written the definitive book on competitive eating (listen to Alex Cohen's interview with him here). Alex's piece on green weddings is up now too--thanks Allison for some great tips on going green!

Life here is such an adrenaline rush that sometimes it's easy to lose track of the small moments of triumph when a story airs, an interview lines up, you get the perfect clip, and the jello sticks to the wall. However, as all of us find our stride at NPR West, we've had a little more luck and a little more of a chance to find our perfect moments. Look for more West Coast adventure updates next week!

Friday, July 6, 2007

Word for the (un)Wise

Pepperoncini, also known as Tuscan peppers, sweet Italian peppers, waxed peppers, and golden Greek peppers, are a variety of Capsicum annuum. While called "pepperoncini" in American English, in Italy these and other sweet varities of peppers are known as peperoni (singular peperone), while the term peperoncini (singular peperoncino) is used for hotter varieties of chili peppers.

Evidently I had never been exposed to this word beforehand, and thought it was a typo for "pepperoni" on the Port of Piraeus menu. The relevance here is that I have a hard time with anything spicy. I mean, I had heard of sweet peppers before, but not this. Am I alone here?

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Married With Children

I don’t know if I am the only one of us interns Married with Children – but even without my husband being Al Bundy (Thank God!) – life is not easy as I pursue this radio career. It’s 15 years after I getting my B.A. and now at age 34, with a husband and 2 babies in tow – I am getting my Masters in Broadcast Journalism. As interns, we are all on the same path. But I wonder how many of you, especially the women in the group, have considered how challenging it will be to go full force in life as a journalist and a parent, if you choose to do so. I’m not eliminating the men from this conversation, but the truth of the matter is 1) career-driven men are more likely families than women and 2)the bottom line is no matter how 50/50 your marriage is, mom’s innately have more responsibilities than dads. It’s not a sexist thing – it’s just the way it goes. My husband is a there-all-the-time Dad and my kids love their Daddy to pieces -- but in the middle of the night if they have a nightmare, they instinctively call for mom. When they climb into our bed at 3am in the morning, they scrunch up on mommy’s side. When the ouchie hurts, they run to mom. It’s just our lot in life as moms – and I embrace it whole-heartedly. I was a stay-at-home mom for three years before I went back to school – and evening admitting that not only do I have to work – but that I want to work is a hard pill to swallow. Some kind of way, it’s perceived that you are saying my career is more important than my kids. I eventually got over that Mommy worry, but now after being here at NPR for a month and especially after hearing all the accolades and achievements for employees at the employee appreciation lunch, it feels so selfish to say “I want to do that too!” (like covering the Pope’s death, being stationed in N.O. for Katrina and touring with a presidential candidate). It’s like I am saying I wish I had that life over the life I have now. And while I obviously love my husband and kids to pieces, I do feel cheated out of a career I really want. I guess in Him anything is possible – but it’s hard to cover the nation’s top stories and take the kids to gym class and swim lessons at the same time. Something’s got to give. Just some food for thought for you “youngin’s” as you conquer your dreams in journalism. At some point, if you choose to have a family – you may come to this crossroads too. But I must say – my satisfaction comes when I think about someday watching my son at his first school play, or dropping him off for his first day of kindergarten, and as time goes on, playing midnight basketball with them on a Friday night. I have to believe no breaking news, no story, no award will ever live up to those moments. For now – I just go forward doing the best I can with all I got.
Kenya Young, NPR West

What to Do On Your Lunch Break

The NPR offices in Washington have the advantage of being situated near a number of sights worth seeing. While you can't get too much done in an hour, here are a few museums and other attractions nearby.

Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery
Open every day from 11:30 a.m. until 7 p.m.
Free!
The recently restored Reynolds Center houses both the American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery. Three floors of art to explore! Main entrance on F St. but you can also enter on G St. at 8th.

National Building Museum
Open Monday - Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Free, $5 suggested donation
The building itself is an architectural gem, but the museum also houses exhibits devoted to architecture, design, engineering, construction, and urban planning.

International Spy Museum
Open every day from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., last admission at 6 p.m.
$16
F St. between 8th and 9th Sts.
The secret world of espionage isn't so secret anymore.

Ford’s Theatre and Peterson House
Open every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Free
10th St between E and F
Operated by the National Park Service, you can pop in and see the site of Lincoln’s assassination in Ford’s Theatre or the room where he met his demise across the street at the Peterson House.

The Bead Museum
Open Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 6 p.m.
7th and D Sts.
This small museum “promotes cultural understanding through the interpretation of beads.” The collection includes a 38-foot timeline of beads and an exhibition featuring religious uses of beads. (“Beads are very big right now—anklets, necklaces, you name it.”)

And because I'm a library nerd:
Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library
Open M-Th 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., F-Sa 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
At 9th and G Sts.
The central branch of the DC Public Library system -- not the prettiest building around, but you can’t beat free books, movies and music!

Is Your Internship Better than Trevor’s?

Being an intern can be a lowly profession. People tell us to fetch things, they take our desks and then they make us pay $35 if we want to get on the air. Not much exposure, huh? Well, there is one summer intern who seems to be drawing a crowd.

If you haven’t met Trevor, let me introduce you: http://www.mentosintern.com/

This is Trevor, a 19-year-old college student from Ownesboro, Ky., who has been hired this summer as the Mentos Intern. What does this entail you ask? Well, anything that you want it to. That’s right. All day long, Trevor sits at his desk at the candy maker’s headquarters in Erlanger, Ky., talking into a live webcam that is broadcast over the web. He spends his day taking schedule requests from visitors to the site, responding to instant messages from curious spectators and answering phone calls from those who want to make a real connection.

When Trevor comes to the office in the morning, he takes a look at his schedule. If there are openings in the day, visitors can schedule an appointment with him and have Trevor do whatever they’d like. This past Tuesday, for example, Trevor displayed an act of patriotism at 9 a.m., performed yoga at 1 p.m., and will call someone’s sister at 3:45 p.m.

Why not put Trevor to use for NPR? Need to research an author? Transcribe the lyrics of a song? Come up with a new on-air promotion? Trevor could be your man.

Warning: After visiting the site for the first time, watching Trevor’s internship became bizarrely addicting. He’s not talking about anything particularly interesting or being asked to do anything too outrageous. But, there was something about Trevor and this bizarre human experiment that held my attention…for an extended period of time.

So what does this mean? Well, it means that those folks over at Mentos are pretty smart. This viral marketing scheme is sure to make it’s way around to the computer screens of thousands of interns this summer, who will most likely forward it to their co-workers, friends and family. Admirers will add Trevor as a MySpace or Facebook friend, play him on Xbox Live, or blog about him (I am such a joiner). And maybe, just maybe, all of this will have people thinking about Mentos is a new, quirky way. All hail marketing 2.0.

This site even has me taking time away from my own internship to write about Trevor’s internship. Yup, I think Mentos is going to have a good summer.

Caroline Herter

Why Size Matters...

So I've been reading this book ("Why Size Matters") by some biologist (John Bonner). It is about why size is important in the biological world. But I've been wondering if his ideas can be extended to the non-biological world. I've concluded that they can. The effects of size in the non-biological world, are such:

1. Bigger things are more impressive.

For an example, consider why the Washington Monument is the tallest structure in D.C. instead of only being, say, 10 feet tall.

2. The physical constraints of our world (existence in this realm of dimensions, physical laws, etc.) makes certain objects of certain sizes impossible.

This might take a little more thought. Obviously, why something very, very large is hard to build is obvious. The larger the structure, the larger the base and the more engineering marvels that must go towards producing it. It might no be so obvious why we cannot build something very small. It is beacuse, oddly enough, we don't fully understand the physical dynamics of the submolecular world (i.e. quantum mechanics or string theory). This is partly because it is nearly impossible to observe.

My point in all of this is that there is a reason why our world, and civilization, looks the way it does. It is beacause if is either physically impossible or impractical for it to look any other way. True, it may not have the variety of a Frank LLoyd Wright skyline, but a boxy skyscraper uses less materials to build as is just as strong, if not stronger. If you look around, you can see the implications of a structure's size on its shape, purpose, and really, the essence of what it is, or at least was supposed to be. Size gives us clues about the world around us, about why something is the way it is. And from that, I think its pretty clear that size does matter, probably more than a lot of other things.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Karma Is a Beeeep.

Got nabbed for a DUI in 1975? Inhaled as a teen? Got caught shoplifting Dr. Scholl’s gel foot-support inserts at CVS? Turn around, you’re not getting into Canada any time soon.

Ok, Canada might not be your premiere vacation destination, but geez, the land of Avril Lavigne and Celine Dion has recently gotten ultra-strict on their immigration rules. Earlier this year, many Americans trying to cross the border into Canada-land by car got a little surprise when the border patrol didn’t exactly wave them past check-point. A new system database refined between U.S. Homeland Security and Canadian intelligence has made it near-impossible for anyone who has a minor offense on their record (say, possession of marijuana in Iowa or shoplifting in Nevada) to cross the border.

The agreement began in 2002, but apparently they just fine-tuned their database, because until about five months ago, this wasn’t even an issue. According to reports, this idea was conceived post-9/11. Go figure.

The San Francisco Chronicle has a commentary with one scenario that could hit close to home with some crazy college partiers out there: One man was involved in a fraternity prank. He was on a scavenger hunt and was dared to steal something from the Piggly Wiggly supermarket. Man got caught. Man had to pay a fine and sweep the police station parking lot as punishment…20 years ago. He forgot his mistake, but Canadian police did not.

Moral of the story: If you want to get into Canada and you’ve been a bad girl or boy, you should apply for a “Minister’s Approval of Rehabilitation” to wipe your record clear.

And considering a recent research study found that 1 in 3 Americans have abused alcohol or gone into rehab in their lifetimes, I’m pondering, does this mean George Bush can’t go to Canada? Hey, at least we know Paris Hilton won’t be going skiing in British Columbia in the near future.

The West Coast Skinny II

Here in Los Angeles, celebrity sightings and exciting stories abound. For further info on Kenya's celeb sighting including a photo of her new "friend" see below! Some of us have had more luck than others--Kenya's experience was by far the coolest, but the rest of us have been this close to catching up with famous people!! Maybe we'll have Kenya's good fortune next week.

As for the rest of us, Bernie has spent this week trying to track down a basketball celebrity: Hall of Fame Basketball Coach Jack Ramsey. Like many intern endeavors however, this one hasn't yet panned out. Bernie successfully pitched his basketball story to a crowd of opinionated and occassionally ruthless producers and editors who loved it, but he hasn't yet been able to pin down the elusive coach. If anyone out there has an in with basketball hall of famers, definitely hook Bernie up!

Meanwhile, Ellie has been doing some extra-curricular celebrity spotting. At work, she's been researching more stories and also sitting in on interviews as she tries to learn as much as possible about radio. But when she's not in her cubicle, she's been able to spot the stars. This weekend's c-list celeb sightings include: lil’ romeo and that old woman from Austin powers who has a crush on dr. evil.

I've heard that a good place to catch a glimpse of Hollywood's rich and famous are the farmers markets (no joke--no one likes fresh fruit as much as Tom Cruise). This weekend, I dragged recording equipment and Ellie to Santa Monica's farmers market, where we interviewed vendors, chatted with patrons, ate delcious apricots, and spotted zero famous people. This week I also visited the Getty Center, a surreal experience that is more modern park than museum; Rodeo Drive where I tried on just about every pair of sunglasses Coach has to offer; and Abbot Kinney and the Venice Canals in Venice. Still no celebs for me :o(

Last week, I got to go with Alex Cohen to interview a woman who had her own green wedding and I got to track down one of the few people still alive today who was a witness to the Roswell, NM UFO sighting sixty years ago. He's my new favorite 71 year old.

So apart from stars, sports, and UFOs, life out in the West has been relatively normal. Hope all of you are enjoying DC, and your kayak trips and crab feasts and pool parties...from all of us out here, happy July 4th!

All the best,

Haley, Kenya, Ellie, and Bernie

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Me and Master P

So there are perks at NPR. In a last minute pinch I scored big time when I was able to book Hip Hop Icon Master P as a guest on Monday's show. Despite having to wait for him at the door and madly rushing him into the studio because he was running late (he blames me for my directions "which led him nearly to Mexico.") - the interview was great and he was the perfect source for our piece on Hip Hop and Violence. Check out the audio from Monday's News & Notes (6/25) on the web.
Best of all he says "I gotta have you as my new friend because we all need friends in high places - and NPR is about as high as it gets." So in short, we interns ARE in the right place according to Master P himself.
- Kenya Young, NPR West

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A 50-Cent Piece For Your Thoughts

So I rode my bike to work again today. I didn't have a camera on me, so I stole this image from the Internet. But I swear this is what I saw:


Does anybody else find this funny?

NPR is Mad Sexy, Yo.

TOTN just did a piece on social networking sites and I was reminded of a recent article about NPR’s NYC affiliate hosting a mixer for their listeners to meet other like-minded people. Apparently a lot of people identify themselves as “NPR-listeners” on dating and other social networking sites. So, I decided to do a search on Facebook to see what kinds of NPR-related groups are out there and how many members they have. As it turns out, there are a lot of groups. Here is a sampling…

General addiction and NPR omnipresence…
i heart npr. (4,344 members)
Addicted to National Public Radio (339 members)
Hold on, I’m listening to NPR (690 members)
National Public Radio owns my soul (29 members)
NPR minds in a FOX News world (196 members)

The superiority of NPR…
I listen to NPR. That means I have better taste than you (82 members)
NPR makes me feel educated (50 members)

Obsession with particular shows and hosts…
I have a hero…his name is Garrison Keillor (152 members)
Lakshmi Singh is my favorite NPR Anchor! (22 members)
ira glass is the second coming of jesus (19 members)
Science Friday…the best day of the week (780 members)
The Diane Rehm Show Made Me Smarter (20 members)
All I want for Christmas is Carl Kasell’s voice on my answering machine (81 members)

Defiance of stereotypes…
I am under 30 and I listen to NPR! What NOW! (182 members)
I watch the Sci-Fi Channel and listen to NPR. There, I said it out loud (10 members)
Conservatives who unabashedly listen to NPR (14 members)

And finally…
NPR is Mad Sexy, Yo. (34 members)

Beth Furtwangler

Where Am I From?

I moved to the United States four years ago, but I never felt more like a foreigner until I was back in my homeland of Taiwan last summer. It was a sunny afternoon and I was being kicked out of a cab by a short-tempered driver who had strong feelings about his country.

"Are you Chinese?" he barked at me, moments before dumping me on the street. "You speak Taiwanese with a Chinese accent."

I was barely able to explain to him that while I was born in Taiwan, my father is of Chinese descent. Next thing I knew, he was shouting at me: “Get out of my car! I don't drive Chinese.”

My grandmother once said that everyone is a foreigner. Now her words have meaning to me.

I don’t feel Chinese or Taiwanese and I certainly will never be American either. So who am I? I often wonder what “foreign country” and “home country” really mean. What does it mean to be Taiwanese, Chinese, or American?

Is it a language?

“When I first took your dad home, his fluent Taiwanese bluffed my family into believing that he was a native of Taiwan!” My mother, a native born Taiwanese, giggled when she told me the story, “Otherwise I’d never be allowed to marry him!”

Is it a birthplace?

Ironically, my mother was not as lucky as my father was with the language skills. She applied for a reporter position at a Taiwanese radio station when she graduated from Journalism School in 1971. She was asked to say “Algeria” in Taiwanese during the job interview. Although she was a native born, due to her pronunciation, she never got the job.

Or is it an appearance?

After I moved to America, I often heard other Asian Americans complain about how hard it is to be a “foreigner” in this country. Most of them were born in this country and speak fluent English, but were bothered by the color of the hair and skin.

If being Taiwanese, Chinese, or American doesn’t meant speaking a certain language, being born in a certain place, or appear to be a certain way, what does it mean?

My grandparents escaped from Mainland China to Taiwan during the civil war with their two children, including my father. Every single day of my grandfather’s life in Taiwan, he wished to return to China.

I usually sat on his lap when I was a little girl and listened to all those civil war stories. I was taught that we were Chinese and we would go “home” one day. However, the tension between China and Taiwan rose. My grandfather’s wish never came true. He eventually passed away with deep regrets.

I remember my father arranged a “home-returning” trip for my grandmother when the Chinese and Taiwanese governments first permitted people from the two countries visiting each other in 1987. We were surprised when my grandmother resisted going.

“But, Mom, we thought you and dad always want to go home!” my dad said.

“It has been thirty years…I don’t know where home is anymore,” my grandmother mumbled. “Every homeland was once a foreign land...everyone was once a foreigner…”

I was young and did not pay much attention when she said so. However, after so many years, when I was kicked out of the taxi in that sunny afternoon, the scene of my grandmother mumbling those words appeared before my eyes, clearly.

To-Wen Tseng

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

When Bikes rule...

I am in the middle of trying to re-orient my life styles to include biking. So far so good. Mike you are completely right on all things; it is so much more fun to ride a bike on these streets of DC rather than the stagnant Buses or Metro. But, I do sin now and again because I brought my Car(read SUV) to DC and there are times when up in Georgetown, sitting a top a hill, I can't get myself to put the keys down after just riding up the the opposite hill maybe an hour earlier. So yes I am still a car clinging lazy American, but if I didn't drive sometimes where would I ever find the time to listen to NPR?

If Bill Nye said it, then it must be true.

“Bicycling is a big part of the future. It has to be. There is something wrong with a society that drives a car to work out in a gym.”
-Bill Nye
So, here I am, writing about bikes. Again. I promise this post won't discuss how I royally screwed up my breaks while replacing my tube, my crank that snapped off mid-rainstorm last Thursday, spandex, or any of my other shortcomings as a bike commuter.

Why I ride.

I don't have a car at college, and I don't have a car in DC. My car in high school occupies a corner of our driveway in Cincinnati. Right now, I don't want a car! I would rather ride my bike.

My friends don't get it (I tell them I bike to work, and they call me a hippie).

A lot of college kids don't get it (see the Facebook groups "Drivers who hate bikers that think they are cars," "For those who hate cyclists on the roads," and "I hate campus bikers" among others. Hate? Seriously?).

An unidentified taxi driver doesn't get it ("Move it, a**hole!").

The car is deeply ingrained in American culture as cool and necessary, and for people to change their habits and saddle up on bikes in droves would require something so outrageous that driving a car would be totally illogical. Like, say, gas prices above $3.50 per gallon.

But until that outrageous event takes place, let me suggest a few reasons to stop driving and start riding NOW.
  • Exercise is good for the body. Save time and get a workout while getting somewhere.
  • No paying for gas. I would rather rely on fuel that I cook in my kitchen.
  • Exhaust stinks. There is strong evidence that the combustion of fossil fuels directly impacts climate change, but regardless of one's beliefs, car exhaust is not pleasant. I don't want the stuff filling my lungs, and I'm not going to contribute to it if I don't have to.
  • And my favorite-it adds some adventure to the day! Try to describe your most exhilarating Metro ride to me. Still thinking?
I readily acknowledge that America's transportation infrastructure is not bicycle-friendly. In fact, in many parts of the country, a car is necessary in everyday life. Someday, I may rely on a car myself, toting around spouses and kids and kids' friends, and I promise that I'll be pedaling up to the day I trade in my helmet for a set of keys. But I think everyone, myself included, drives when it is not necessary to do so.

Give biking a try-at the very least, you'll make progress toward breaking a nasty habit.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Bathroom.

I have a little obsession with: bathrooms. Or, if you want to be more accurate, restrooms. Or, if you're not from the US, toilets.

I value them highly, and often judge restaurants and other establishments primarily on their Johns and Janes. I think of the restroom as the dirty little hidden secret of every establishment -- either you care about it and it shows, or you don't...and it smells.

I have sometimes considered going into the field of Bathroom Architect. I know it's probably not a real job, but one can always fantasize and use it as a pretense for complaining. Throughout my career, I would boldly and relentlessly pursue the complete eradication of nonsensically built bathrooms. After I was through, all bathroom doors would be push to get out, pull to get in -- no one would ever have to awkwardly navigate themselves out of a door-cramped stall or dirty their hands post-wash again. And all soap would be nicely scented.

That being such, I will go into my main post, which is called:

I JOINED NPR BECAUSE OF THE TOILET

I joined NPR because of its restrooms. This is of course in jest, but also partially true. Since small childhood, I have LOVED almond-scented soap that many restaurants have. I am always disappointed when the soap is pink, but no, not almond, not luscious almond. At the NPR Internship Fair last spring, I went to use the Conference Center restroom and discovered not only did NPR sound gloriously from restroom ceiling speakers, but that this fantastic source of news also had - gasp - almond-scented soap! And not just the pink stuff, but high-quality, silky-pearl-colored almond soap. Truly a rarity in the restroom world.

I think I am over the limit now, and so I'll end by saying that this has left a lasting impression on me, and is another reason why I admire NPR.

Dalet Training=Marantz Training

Interesting, I did not know that.

NPR Photogenics

This is my ID picture:














Yeah, take a good look at it.









AHHHHHHHHHHH!

One word comes to mind: yikes. Was this an "it's early Monday" thing? Doubt it. Was this a "I'm too sexy for my ID picture" thing? Doubt it. Was this proof that every picture I take is a crappy one? Probably. So now I'm stuck with this scathing representation of myself. Every morning I put in in my pocket and wince. So when you don't see me wearing my ID around my next, you'll know why.

But, over the past three weeks I have been able to come to terms with this atrocity.

First there was denial: "There is no way that I look like that. Look at the quality of the picture! I swear it's the pixel resolution's fault!"

... then anger: "I don't care if I can't open doors. I'm not bringing this thing anywhere."

... barganing: "Maybe I could just take Patrick Jarenwattanon's. I mean who would even notice?"

... depression: "I have lost the will to live."

... and finally... acceptance: (see next paragraph)

So then I started thinking, "well this IS radio after all." Ahhh the beauty of radio: the beauty of non-beauty. Here we are behind microphones and computer screens. And will anyone know a difference if we are wearing tuxedos or bathrobes? Doubt it.

Thanks ID picture for being such a pain in the ass, that I actually like taking you around.

-pjf

Friday, June 22, 2007

Stupid wallet....

Mornings are bad for allot of people. I usually need a Rockstar or similar beverage and at least one cup of coffee before being considered "functional." So, I guess it might be understandable how I thought I lost my wallet a few mornings back.
I had returned from my interview the night before around nine or ten after a very long ride on the metro. I put the gear carefully on the floor under the desk a flung the rest of my belongings onto the bed, grabbed my towel and toiletries and hit the showers.
After dealing with the DC "tunnel funk" I grabbed some dinner, kicked most of my stuff (purse, hoodie...etc...) to the floor, crawled in between the covers and was out.
Soon my cell phone's alarm was going off, time to get ready for work. It tookme about half an hour to make myself presentable and I was out the door. On the way to the elevator drunk-guy-from-down-the-hall said good morning and we started chatting. (He wasn't drunk this particular morning, he was just spectacularly drunk the first night I really remember seeing him and the title stuck.)
By the way, I'm staying in the dorms of an unnamed university. More on that later.
So, while exchanging pleasantries, I dug in my purse for my wallet. I wanted the bills in my hand and ready to go when I reached the energy-drink vending machine in the lobby.
Hmmm, no wallet. I excused myself from Drunkie waved bye to the people holding the elevator doors and went back to the room I share with another NPR intern. (She's probably okay with me naming her here, but I'd rather wait to do so...it's like suspense, but not as interesting.)
Once back in the room, I start looking around. I check the top of the dresser, the desk and the bed.
My roommate wanted to know "what's up?" "I can't find my wallet," I said distractedly throwing all the clothes out of my cardboard box laundry hamper onto the floor. I checked the pockets of every pair of pants as I put them back into the box. I looked on the bed, the desk and the top of the dresser again, then under the bed, in my underwear drawer and on the shelves where I store my food. The whole time I was doing this I felt like I was moving faster and faster in the tiny shared space. I repeated the process three or four times. It's not like there were new places to look magically appearing.
My poor roommate was staying home from work, sick with strep. She started to look concerned when I dump the contents of my purse onto the floor... for the third time.
Ten minutes into my frantic tear around the room, I started thinking about everyplace I took my wallet out of my purse the day before. The metro, the gas station, that's it. The gas station, right before my interviews.
I left it someplace! That's the only thing that made sense as I shoved the bed away from the wall for the second time to look in the space between.
As I searched, I start thinking about my debit card....my credit card....my target card... Damn the paperless economy! Then I went cold. I left my social security card in there. I had put it in when I had to fill out the hiring forms at NPR. I never took it out. That is when I started cussing. My roommate began to look alarmed.
I made the first call. The bank representative was sort of sympathetic. He explained that if I didn't cancel the debit card "RIGHT NOW", I'd be responsible for any charges on the account. I asked him to stay on the line for one more second. I was tearing the blankets off of my bed again. I knew that I'd find the damn thing as soon as I canceled the card.
I was late for work. He wanted off of the phone with the crazy woman. He offered to leave the card active with a note that I called and may call back in a second to cancel the card. He said he didn't know if I'd still be held responsible for any fraudulent charges. I canceled the card.
I found the wallet -according to my roommate- less than a minute after getting off the phone.

The West Coast Skinny

Maybe you've seen our names on this blog. Or maybe you've heard us (or, not heard us?) during brown bag lunch teleconferences. Or perhaps you've just seen us, bleary eyed at 6:30 a.m., video-conferencing with you for our weekly IE meetings on Fridays. Chances are, you are probably wondering: who are these crazy, California interns?

To help you get to know us better, we're going to post here at the end of each week, just to let you know what we've been up to and to convince you that, no, we don't spend all day lounging around on the beach! California, is like, so totally not like that.

On Ellie's desk this week, you'll find biographies, transcripts, and clips on just about everything! From the 2008 Olympic torch, to the poisoned Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, Angelina Jolie, and Colombian conflict authors, Ellie has covered a wide range of stories already. Ellie's here early, arriving at the office at 6 a.m. everyday to work on Morning Edition (more like, Pre-Dawn Edition) After work, she heads straight to the docks to race sailboats. After the races, she has just enough time to shower and get in bed before her early start the next day..

How busy is Kenya? Just ask Farai Chideya. Or better yet, listen to this podcast! Kenya was interviewed ON AIR by Farai for the program's Staff Song Pick of the Week. And Farai is right--Kenya is one of the hardest worked and hardest working people here! Whether she's up until the wee hours of the morning contacting politicians in DC or acting as a liaison between NPR West interns and the IE staff on the East Coast, Kenya is determined and passionate to make connections between the coasts work.

Meanwhile, Bernie spends his days making important connections between members of Day to Day, the show that both he and I work on. While I sit here in my cubicle, Bernie is running--literally--around the place. He runs scripts (i.e. hand delivers freshly printed scripts to both hosts and producer), puts everything up on DACS, pitches stories, and, in his spare time, helps in the production of podcast promos. If you listen to Day to Day, you'll hear the promos that Bernie has written! (You'll have to listen to the whole podcast to hear them, but from my perspective--as a fellow intern for Day to Day--that's not such a bad thing).

According to the approximately 5,000 post-it notes I have attached to the edges of my computer monitor, it's been a busy week for me too. This week I've researched everything from how to plan your very own green wedding to how anime guru Miyazaki incorporates environmental themes into his films. I've also spoken to education policy experts about Supreme Court cases on desegregation, to the CEO of a green technology company that works on hybrid cars, and to representatives from the Panama Canal Authority about the canal's expansion.

Definitely the highlight of my week was helping Alex Cohen on a story about the California frozen dessert giant Pinkberry. After reading heated blog entries and watching a horror movie about yogurt that turns humans into zombies, I watched as Alex collected, assembled, and edited the pieces of her story, which you can listen to here.

Phew! As you can tell, life on the West Coast is busy. However, most of our days do end with sunshine and can (if we're willing to put up with a long haul through traffic) end with a long walk on the beach. We all hope you're enjoying life in DC--we're jealous of your birthday bashes and kayak trips, but nonetheless wish you the best.

From all of us at NPR West, have a great weekend!!

-Haley & Ellie &Kenya & Bernie

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Hello, My Name Is ...

The idea of parallel universes has long been the stuff of science fiction and occultist metaphysical speculation. But if they aren't real, then explain this:

There are two different interns named Patrick working at NPR this summer. Both are working on the 5th Floor of 635 Mass. Ave, in Digital Media. Specifically, both are working with the music staff, recently folded under the Digital Media umbrella. Both are about 6'2", own black Converse All-Stars, and grew up close to the Illinois-Wisconsin border. Both have aliases on this Intern Edition blog. Both are also strikingly [cough] intelligent and good looking. Excuse me, I have something in my throat. Something strikingly intelligent and good looking, that is.

One of these Patricks is, obviously, me. I cannot explain the existence of this other, second me.

My background in the liberal arts leads me to suggest literary, albeit admittedly implausible explanations. (What else is the academy for?) Writers have long theorized the concept of a double or an other to dramatize existential self-doubt. In a related vein, the idea of the doppelganger, the sinister apparitional twin, has also held currency in paranormal myth and legend.
Neither idea seems to me particularly appealing, though. For one, I know I exist: cognito, ergo sum. The other Patrick, while a good guy--I cannot confirm his reality.

Neither can anyone else in the music department. Stephen Thompson, online music producer, refuses even to attempt to distinguish between us. "I'll treat both of you as interchangeable," he said. "When I ask one of you to do something, I'll assume that I can ask the other for a status report. And when I call for one of you, I expect both of you to come running." (Something tells me that Stephen is being a little bit facetious, though. After all, this is a man who spent the overwhelming majority of his adult life at The Onion; furthermore, you never see anybody running in the hallways here.)
When we were introduced to the staff on our first day, Bob Boilen (director, "All Things Considered"; host, "All Songs Considered") tried to devise a classification system for us Patricks. The other Patrick quickly reserved "Patrick 1" to him and assigned me--O Grave Affront!--"Patrick 2." I immediately disputed this claim. If anything, I am clearly the primary Patrick, for I was assigned a far superior cubicle, quite possibly the best in the room. (This is also anomalous, since I seem to be the youngest, least experienced, and least skilled human being in the Digital Media room. Not that I'm complaining.)

All kidding aside, Pat and I are buddies, and sometimes we even hang together doing nothing other than celebrating our freakish similarity. I mean, c'mon: how many people in the world can there really be who are named Patrick AND like good music? If there are others, they must live in parallel universes.
Patrick Jarenwattananon
Music Intern
Not Patrick Frank

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Finally...One Teeeeeeny Step

For the first time in years, I can say that the Peruvian government has taken one super-MINI step forward. I’ll probably kick myself for praising Garcia’s government later (I’m quite a cynic when it comes to presidential leaders these days), but, at last…the Ministry of Energy has begun to show some support for indigenous, unprotected tribes in the Amazon that are in the direct line of fire from the exploration plight of internal and international oil companies.

Earlier this month, the Peruvian government blocked the second oil company -- this time, the US-owned Barrett Resources – from doing preliminary exploration in certain oil concessions in the Amazon, claiming that their environmental reports did not take account of uncontacted indigenous tribes. The concern over the last couple of decades, as oil exploration and drilling became practically Beatle-mania popular, was that indigenous tribes would have no defense against the types of negatives that go along with drilling in the Amazon. Examples: frequent pipe bursts and spills, water pollution, malaria…the list goes on. (breathe...I get pretty fired up about these things, people.)

This is one small step for Peruvian-kind. No giant steps ahead, it seems, as nearly 70 percent of the Amazon is now blocked off for oil concessions and the government often denies that there are even truly indigenous populations out there.

Does anyone else follow this?

Monday, June 18, 2007

Bike Commuting, Ch. 2 (Or, "How I Walked to Work Last Wednesday")

My first experience bike commuting was marvelous; both my bike and I made it to NPR and back home injury free, and I really enjoyed it. My original plan was to take the Metro on Wednesday and wait until Thursday to ride to work again, but I was so eager to get back on the bike that I decided not to take a day off.

Wednesday morning, I woke up at 7 and looked outside to make sure the weather wasn't threatening. Sunshine--we're good to go. I once again dressed myself in my spandex shorts and saddled up for another ride.

As I rode by the Reflecting Pool, I started to notice a sound, a squeak coming from the rear tire. "I probably just need to adjust my brakes," I thought. Then, as I climbed the gentle incline alongside the Washington Monument, I noticed that I wasn't picking up speed regardless of how hard I pedaled. It dawned on me that I had probably blown my rear tube at some point in the ride, but I kept on pedaling, in denial. I couldn't have a flat tire here, a 30-minute walk from work, ill-equipped to make the simple repair!

Eventually, I could hear the wheel grinding on the pavement. This marked the end of my denial, which was about to get a lot more expensive if I didn't get off the bike. I slowly looked back at my rear tire and saw that it was miserably deflated. I'm usually not big on literary devices, but I think you could call it a metaphor.

So I walked with the bike in tow and eventually turned onto Pennsylvania Avenue from 15th. When you walk along Pennsylvania Avenue around 8 a.m. on a weekday morning, you're going to see a lot of people. People wearing suits, people looking very official. I was wearing spandex. I don't mean Lance Armstrong-yellow jersey-hardcore cyclist spandex. That would've been okay. I mean a pair of spandex left over from my rowing days paired with a raggedy UNC t-shirt. And I love my bike--a Specialized Hard Rock that I got for my 15th birthday and have refused to part with--but it's starting to show its age. For example, my "replacement" handlebar grips were found on the ground near railroad tracks in Chapel Hill (true story). With an old duffel bag slung over my shoulder, I'd like to think I looked like a bohemian who had taken a wrong turn on his way to Haight-Ashbury, but I probably just looked really weird. Okay, ten more blocks to go.

Offering eye-contact and a smile to anyone who would reciprocate ("I'm on my way to work just like everyone else. No big deal, right?"), I trekked to the NPR office where I could finally park my sorry bike, drown my sorrows in the lower level showers, and change into a less eye-catching outfit. An interesting way to start the day.

The moral of the story: ride your bike to work. Best case scenario, you'll get some exercise and save $1.55; worst case scenario, you'll get a good story and save $1.55.

Regarding Robert Siegel

One of the unique things about working at NPR is the voice recognition factor. I now work with people that I have heard on the radio for years. At first, hearing these voices come out real people was surreal, it was like the phantoms inside my radio box came alive and told me to log their tape and dub their audio. The whole experience of meeting these people is especially strange when their actual faces don’t match the phantom images in your mind.

I learned this lesson on my very first day of work as I walked down the hallway, a man and a woman walked by me. The woman spoke casually as they passed and walked towards the elevators. The man started talking, and as soon he opened his mouth, I froze.

It was Robert Siegel.

I was star struck. I stood there and thought, “I should go introduce myself,” but then I didn’t. I was too nervous and shocked by being ambushed by a famous NPR personality in the hallway.
For most people, this would happen if they met Kelly Clarkson, or Johnny Depp, but for me, it’s Robert Siegel. My friends at home don’t understand this, but I have spent so many hours in the car and at home with these people, I may as well be meeting Oprah. Now I constantly use the internet to hunt down the faces of those NPR personalities I have yet to meet. So the next time I’m walking down the hallway and Lakshmi Singh crosses my path, I’ll be prepared.

Benjamin Frisch
Arts and Information Desk

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Where did it come from?

I saw a young deer tonight off Wisconsin street. It looked terrified. I was afraid that somehow I would be the one to hit with my car. It looked terrified. His head was going back and forth looking for a way to serenity, calmness; a place without concrete or carbon credits. I felt bad for it. I wanted to help it but didn't know how.

So Glad to Meet You, Angeles

Los Angeles does not believe in sunrises.

Instead, each day dawns slightly cloudy, with a chance of meatballs (or, in my case an 80 percent chance of peanut butter toast and orange juice). I know that somewhere behind the gray smear of fog and clouds, somewhere between the hours of five and six, the sun is rising. But I've never seen it.

Los Angeles is also a city that seems to revel in its irony. I have quickly learned that here, we like tofu and fresh produce, but most of us don't seem to care whether the produce is organic or not and whether the tofu is grown locally or shipped here by a giant jet from Sri Lanka. Eco-chic is totally in and so is the environment, but if there were a march to raise awareness about global warming, EVERYONE would drive there in their cars. If Los Angeles is concerned about its ecological footprint, chances are it is less interested in the size and more interested in whether it was made with a pair of this year's Manolo Blahniks or Jimmy Choos from last season.

In a city where everyone is looking for their place in the sun, it amazes me how little sun we actually see. June gloom doesn't burn off until until noon or so--and every morning, I begin doubting the sun's ability to break through the heavy cloud cover. Walking out of the office, I am always amazed to be greeted by sunlight and balmy, 75 degree weather. And equally amazed to walk past seemingly hundreds of people sitting in traffic inside their air-conditioned cars (and hopefully listening to NPR), completely oblivious to the miracle of sunshine.

A lot I guess gets lost in the haze of LA movers, rumors, and trends. One thing that does shine clearly here is that there may be a big difference between those who believe ardently in causes, and those who follow the latest movement or fad. Los Angeles, to me, seems like this amazing intersection between the believers and the trend-setters...a place where maybe, just maybe you can have both on the same side of the issue, combating environmental injustice or embracing a vegan lifestyle for very different reasons, but achieving more than lone activists in most places in this country. In spite of its SUVs, I really do think LA has something going for it--if we're willing to take its sunshine, flippancy, and irony in stride, maybe it is worth believing a little in the City of Angels.

Friday, June 15, 2007

A Happy Medium

Every afternoon from 3:30-4, I sort mail. A categorically "intern" task, it's tedious, but I find ways to work deliberately and make it purposeful. "These three copies of the same press release sent to 3 ex-producers of my program are not garbage," I tell myself. "They're an opportunity to recycle!" And into the eco-friendly blue bin they go.

So it continues. Extra books and CDs are placed on the "free stuff" shelf, newspapers and magazines are stacked near the meeting table. Sometimes we'll get a really creative package from a listener, like a paperback novel about a female mannequin with superpowers who fights crime. This envelope included a personal fan letter and a photo album of the hand-carved wooden action figure in stunt poses.) Opening mail, though an under-glorified task, has become a simple pleasure of my day.

I sort through e-mail as well, sometimes, if reporter wants feedback on a story. Most e-mails are requests for tape or share a personal experience regarding a story. Some, however, are quick, vicious tirades about how NPR is nothing but a brood of sexist pigs or lefist man-haters. The contrasting sentiments where striking.

After reading a furious digression on the back of an empty, sealed envelope accusing NPR of radical anti-feminism, I asked my producer what he thought of the varied responses: liberals accusing us of being too conservative, conservatives condemning us as liberals.

He responded simply, "That's how we know we're doing our job."

Aww, yeah.

Becky Martinez
Weekend Edition Saturday

What to do When the opening act is better than headliner?

Next week, the 20th, Talkdemonic will be opening for The National and Shapes and Sizes. This concert lineup speaks directly to the tried and true fact of life that The National, the most accessible of these bands has garnered the fan support to headline around the country, while the most talented, Talkdemonic, probably will play to about 50 people, one of which will be me. I fronted the cash, the lions share will no doubt become the gas money for The National. Hey, it's a Wednesday night so I know there can't be that much going on, so I implore?/encourage everyone to check out these bands' myspace pages(if you google the bands, usually the myspace page is the third link) and join me at the 9:30 club(you know you wanna check out this much talked about venue) On a different note, did anyone make it to the Feist show last night?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

(No) Thanks, NYC

In the last month, I graduated college, moved to Washington, D.C., signed the lease on my first rental, and started a full-time, nine-to-five internship at NPR. But what I really want to talk about now is pants.

All throughout high school I liked to wear light-colored pants. Specifically, the dark-tan, flat front khaki variety, worn somewhat low, but I was amenable to all manner of light-colored pants. It seemed to me a socially acceptable, and, if presented correctly, slightly classy sartorial decision.

Perhaps you have not been to New York and looked at peoples' pants. Well, I have. I just went to school there for four years. In New York City, they do not wear light-colored pants. I don't understand it, but it is an observable phenomenon. Dudes who publicly wear pants which are white, off-white, beige, sand-colored, tan, even light brown generally fall into one of two categories:

1. Tourist
2. LAME

I wore my khaki pants proudly for about a month during freshman year of college until I realized that the unofficial uniform regulation segregates bearers of such pants within the aforementioned bipartite classification. Reluctantly, my decisions in pants slowly became darker and less khaki-like throughout subsequent years. I even bought myself a pair of those jeans with that vertical striated hatching which people in New York seem to own in place of light-colored pants. And I was not lame again, at least with regard to textile considerations.

Well, here in the District, it’s OK to wear light-colored pants again. This is good, and normal. New York's collective insistence on ostracizing light-colored pants is really yet another aberration characteristic of the city least aware of its provincialism. In all other places in the United States, including here in DC, all manner of guys wear several styles of light-colored pants, and somewhat commonly at that. People deem them publicly presentable, and perhaps moderately stylish.

My problem is: I don't anymore.

In fact, four years of anti-khaki conditioning has driven me to the opinion that khaki and, in fact, all light-colored pants make men look funny. I can no longer help but think that light-colored pants, and by extension their owners, are a little, you know, lame. Which is really a shame, because it's pretty hot in DC during the summer, and I could sure use another pair of pants which fits a business-casual dress code. But I no longer own khaki pants, nor will I purchase them. My tastes and preferences congealed some time ago on this matter, and I fear that this will be impossible to change.

Shame on you, New York City, for banishing perfectly good vestments from your collective wardrobe. Dear Washington D.C., why do your residents dress so ugly?

What a freaking tragedy.

Patrick Jarenwattananon
Music Intern