A couple of weeks ago, my friend Rob Paterson wrote a blog post about the new NPR show, The Bryant Park Project, and its use of the community messaging system Twitter. With the subtitle “My Diner in the Morning,” Rob’s post talked about how he’s experienced the show via Twitter – in particular, the slow progression of observing, and then interacting with BPP staff. And it really got me thinking about the role of Twitter in developing community around radio programs.
Archive for January, 2008
For those of you who followed the trials and tribulations of Sajani Shakya, the kumari of Bhaktapur last year, you might be interested to know she has just retired from her status as a living goddess. I got an email a few days ago from Marc Hawker, co-producer of Living Goddess, the documentary that featured Sajani, who wanted to pass along news of this milestone.
“Sajani this week performed a ritual to become a ‘teenager’ and to retire from being a goddess,” Marc told me while on a shoot in Bhutan. “She is really happy and we are working with her family to get her into a good school in Nepal.”
I’m glad to hear Sajani has graduated to goddess emeritus, if you will, and can begin the process of returning to a normal teenage life. As you may recall, Sajani briefly lost her status as a living goddess after local religious leaders were furious about her visit to the United States, which they felt impurified her. Eventually she was restored as kumari following a re-purification ritual, and because of this, she gets to retire with a modest kumari pension that will help support her family and education.
There was no word, however, on whether she received a grandfather clock as a retirement gift, or whether the other local kumaris got together for a roast at the Kathmandu Kiwanis Club. Either way, congratulations, Sajani! -andy
On this week’s broadcast of Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me they opened the show with what I thought was a joke about a painting owned by President Bush. But it wasn’t a joke.
Here’s the story. For years, President Bush has owned a painting he’s referred to as “A Charge to Keep,” in reference to the Methodist hymn by Charles Wesley. Here’s a picture of the painting:
According to Bush, the picture shows a man on horseback trailed by a group of followers – in other words, a Methodist evangelist spreading the Good News across the American West with his flock. The painting has been so influential on Bush he’s even used it as a name for one of his books.
White House commentator David Gergen wrote about the painting and its symbolism in a 2003 article:
As Bush recalls in his memoir of the same title, he then sent a memorandum to his staff: “When you come into my office, please take a look at the beautiful painting of a horseman determinedly charging up what appears to be a steep and rough trail. This is us. What adds complete life to the painting for me is the message of Charles Wesley that we serve One greater than ourselves.”
Bush’s personal identification with the painting, which now hangs in the Oval Office, reveals a good deal about his sense of himself as a political leader–who he thinks he is, the role he plays, and the centrality of his religious faith. But the way we respond also reveals a good deal about us, his intended followers, and about the effectiveness of his leadership style.
His followers today tend to see in Bush what he sees in the painting: a brave, daring leader riding fearlessly into the unknown, striking out against unseen enemies, pulling his team behind him, seeking, in the words of Wesley’s hymn, “to do my Master’s will.” They see him as a straight shooter and a straight talker. They take comfort in his religious faith and think he is leading us toward a mountaintop.
His critics can look at the same painting and see something very different: a lone, arrogant cowboy plunging recklessly ahead, paying little heed to danger, looking neither left nor right, listening to no voice other than his own. They think he is careless, even deceptive, and often says one thing while doing another. That he believes he is doing the Lord’s work only increases their apprehension. He’s not taking us up a mountain, they fear, but over a cliff. Indeed, some believe he is the most dangerous president in a century or more.
It turns out, though, that the story behind the painting isn’t exactly correct. In his new book on the Bush White House, Jacob Weisberg conducted research on the painting’s provenance.
After wrapping up a trip to Los Angeles for an NPR retreat at the University of Southern California, I had the pleasure of catching an on-campus appearance by Alan Alda. Perhaps best known for his Emmy-winning role as Hawkeye Pierce on the TV series M*A*S*H, Alda has also dedicated a great deal of energy towards the sciences – in particular, making science more accessible to the general public. As the host of the long-running PBS Series Scientific American Frontiers, Alda has interviewed some of the greatest scientists of the modern age. He spent more than an hour covering everything from his admiration of Richard Feynman and the use of play in scientific discovery, to the role of government in funding the arts and sciences.
The conversation, moderated by science journalist K. C. Cole, began with Alda talking about the historical relationship between art and science, and how they’ve diverged in recent centuries.
“There was a transition period, even when people were just experimenting,” he explained. “They were just trying to figure things out, just like the other philosophers were. They were one thing at one time…. then science and art started to pull apart and become oppositional…. We’re faced with two different cultures now – the culture of science, the culture of arts and humanities, People would say proudly, “Oh, I don’t know any mathematics,’ like it was a badge of honor.”
Watch the Video
Like pretty much everyone else, I totally blew it. Before the voting wrapped up in New Hampshire on Tuesday night, I posted a note on Twitter predicting that Barack Obama would beat Hillary Clinton by 10 points. Talk about missing the mark. (I nailed the GOP race, though, calling it for McCain over Romney by five points, but who’s counting.)
At least I was in good company, as pretty much every pundit, professional and otherwise, predicted an Obama blowout. And they based that assumption on the polls. These polls leading up to the primary were generally consistent, showing Obama leading Clinton by double digits. Yet in the end, Clinton beat Obama by three points. So for more than 48 hours now, the media has spent an inordinate of time analyzing what went wrong with the polls.