Me + the BBC on Venice Beach on Wednesday Morning

I fought through insane amounts of traffic on the 10 on Wednesday morning to meet up with the BBC World Have Your Say crew to do the 2-hour show. The Venice Beach circus was in full force. I’m not sure Ros and the gang were quite expecting the passersby to be so colorful.

I sat at a table with the head producer Ros Atkins; Mark Sawyer, political science professor at UCLA; editor Ted Johnson from Variety (who had been arrested during the protests outside the RNC); and a reporter named Maria Joyouspirit who has a show on KPFK. We all wore headphones and shared a couple of microphones. Ros choreographed the entire show like a maestro, with instructions coming down between our ears from Madeline, the “M” of the whole operation back in London, as text messages, calls and emails flew in from all directions.

We spoke with an array of fascinating people from all over the world — like Lance Price, who’d been Tony Blair’s spin doctor, and a French MP (whose name escapes me). The topic was about style and spin, and whether they’ve destroyed our trust in American politics. Towards the end I actually got to ask Lance a question directly. But the best part was when the producers pulled in a ridiculously hot surfer named “Ben” from the waves. Bare-chested “Ben” was dripping with brine water and hairless. Of course, I’m not sure I actually heard whatever Ben said, but I do believe he said something into the microphone.

Click here to listen to the 50-minute MP3 podcast file. Or you can get the podcast on iTunes.

Live Tweets from the BBC World Service Pre-Stage

lamaupin I’m tweeting from the pre-staging of the BBC World Service show. It’s chilly out! about 3 hours ago from mobile web

lamaupin Ros just showed me the inside of the BBC bus. Swank! Well, compared to most buses. about 3 hours ago from mobile web

lamaupin Is it bad to kinda want to snog Ros? Right. Back to politics. about 3 hours ago from mobile web

lamaupin Finally I got some photos. I forgot to bring my camera. Doh! There are some interesting folk coming. about 3 hours ago from mobile web

lamaupin I forgot to mention that, in the bus, a picture of Palin came on the TV and I nearly lost it. I can’t take it! about 3 hours ago from mobile web

lamaupin Getting a cookie as I ponder what question to ask. Cookie makes smart politics. about 3 hours ago from mobile web

And then when the show started, Ros asked everyone to turn off their cell phones so they wouldn’t interfere with the microphones. Damn!

One of the surprise guests was the VP of YouTube Steve Somebody. (God, I’d make the worst journalist.) Anyway…photos!

Afterward, no less than two BBC folk hunted me down to make sure I’d be in tomorrow’s show.

In the immortal words of Paris Hilton, “See you at the debates, bitches!”

Gender and Musical Instruments

I was reading this BBC article called “Why Don’t Girls Play Guitar?” and snickering as I read the list of instruments by gender preference (see below).

When my family moved to a school where they had band instead of symphony (I played violin but desperately wanted to play cello), my order of preference for instruments was:

French Horn

Guess what instrument my parents forced me to play? The flute. How…girly. I wound up playing piccolo because I was usually principal flautist.

electric guitar 81%
bass guitar 81%
tuba 77%
kit drums 75%
trombone 71%

harp 90%
flute 89%
voice 80%
fife/piccolo 79%
oboe 78%

African drums
French horn
tenor horn

Even the Beeb Gets the Pain In the Diodes Down My Left Side All Wrong

I loved seeing an article on the Beeb devoted to the 30th Anniversary of the debut of Douglas Adams’ radio show.

I was kind of appalled, though, to see that the writer managed to say this bit of nonsense about the number 42:

“Ever since, speculation has been rife as to what Adams meant. There is the “paperback line theory” – 42 apparently being the average number of lines on the page of a paperback book. Was Adams paying homage to the medium of his success?”

Um, hello? The radio series came before the books, which were an adaptation of the radio series — you know, that thing whose anniversary we’re celebrating, as stated at the beginning of the article? 42 couldn’t possibly have alluded to the success of the paperback book, which came long after the radio series had been written, aired and seen success. Unless, of course, Adams wrote it in the Starship Heart of Gold. Then maybe in one of those moments when everything was happening at once and his head was sprouting a penguin beak he noticed the books and made this astounding observation.

You’ll see in the comments that there’s a guy named Peter Stilliard who gets it right:

“Douglas Adams was asked many times during his career why he chose the number 42. Many theories were proposed but he rejected them all. On 3 November 1993 he gave an answer on ‘The answer to this is very simple. It was a joke. It had to be a number, an ordinary, smallish number, and I chose that one. Binary representations, base thirteen, Tibetan monks are all complete nonsense. I sat at my desk, stared into the garden and thought ’42 will do’. I typed it out. End of story.’ “

If only the Beeb had done such good research on Adams before writing about him. I’m sure that Adams would have loved that, despite the journalistic mangling, his true fans have not forgotten him.

Yesterday, All My Troubles

I had some email with Ros, the producer of the WHYS show, and expressed my disappointment with how they chose the flow. He apologized for not coming back to me, but really felt okay with letting the young girl speak as much as she did.

After I’d slept on it, I realized that part of the problem is that I’m really sensitive to America’s image as being full of naive, ignorant voters who don’t care much for the process. I felt that giving so much airtime to someone who was admittedly naive tapped into that nervousness and self-consciousness, especially after experiencing the stereotypes of the French about us. Living abroad can really affect your sensitivity to how you and your home is perceived. Since the WHYS audience is enormous and global, I had hoped to show the world we weren’t all scratching our voting cards with green ink.

Of course, I expressed this to Ros.

I’ve been pulled back into the ad agency project, but that should soon be over. I’m really glad for it, too, because of the bills I’ve generated with Mad-ame Scientist. But the moment I’m done, I’m back to writing for Thrilled! When I’m on, I’m writing about 500 good words a night, which isn’t bad after an exhausting day here.

Speaking of here…

Me and the Beeb (and It Was Soooo Exciting!)

So, I did get to participate in the talk today, but only early on. If you want to hear it, just go to the WHYS site and download today’s podcast. (You’ll see it easily enough.)

The problem that plagued the last show I was on continues: the guy who is hosting the show now is not very good at balancing the speakers. Today he let a gushing 20-year-old in Minnesota talk three times, but me only once. He interrupted me at one point and then came back saying — to her — “Oh, I’m sorry. I interrupted you.” She had nothing to fucking say except “Oh, it was sooo exciting!” over and over. And over.

Do you want the “opposing view” or not? Do you want a balanced show?

I wrote to Ros, the producer, thanking him for having me again but this time I complained. I don’t mind spreading around the talk with the two radio guests who really had something to contribute. And sure, it’s nice to hear a young voice express some enthusiasm. But to let a young girl with virtually nothing to add speak three times wasn’t their finest moment in programming, especially when I could have contributed information about the French, which would have addressed the actual comments coming in on the blog and SMS about money affecting our democratic process. Or even spoken to other important problems.

And while I have you, I’ll speak to that point: The French hava a law that says every candidate must be given equal time in every medium — radio, TV, newspaper, etc. This keeps the playing field level for poor people who run for office, since they can’t afford TV ads and all that. So what they typically do is hold tons of these town halls and debates to get the candidates on TV and radio. This works because France isn’t nearly as big as the U.S. The candidates can travel around, participate in these town hall discussions and put up political posters.

It doesn’t work for the U.S. because we’re so damned big. We have to have major media to reach everyone. We also have a capitalist society. Making money is part of our culture, but at least it’s transparent (that is, we have to know where the contributions come from).

The part, though, I really wanted to say (knowing that time was short) was that it’s legal here to lie in these media ads. That’s the part that’s so incredibly wrong and broken.

But, gee, I’m glad the world instead knows it was all soooo exciting. Because that was the focus of the show, obviously.

Behold! The Flying Spaghetti Monster!

I did my Beeb bit.

To me, that felt like the most uneven of the three shows I’ve done. Things felt rather heavily tilted towards the theists weeping that atheists just talk too loudly these days.

The summary of my response to that was, “So what? Atheists have had to listen to the voice of theists turned up to ’11’ for centuries. Just because some atheists are speaking up loudly back, we’re all gonna cry now?”

Gobs of dumb. It was hard not to laugh at them. Actually, I did laugh at them. I fell on the bed, weeping with giggles when the professor of the divinity college said those atheists throw away all “the facts.” Then Kelly from the Rational Responders replied to Mr. Facts, “What facts are you talking about? Where are YOU getting your facts?” That was the best!

The most problematic moment was when Mr. Facts said his son had proof of God because a voice told him not to go into work at the Twin Towers that morning of the 9/11 attack. Okay, so what does that say about his son’s God who cherry picked certain people to die a horrible death that day? Proclaiming on international radio your son’s incredibly cruel, irrational God is somehow nicer than someone writing a book about the lack of evidence of any God whatsoever? I’m confused. Why would I be comforted by that anecdote? I’m not an atheist — more of a rational mystic — and I’m utterly horrified by this.

At one point, I took on something said by Terry Waite, ex-envoy of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Ooo!

I’ll post a link if the Rational Responders recorded it. I’m hoping that they did, given that Sapient recorded the Blasphemy Challenge show I did on WHYS back in January.

I need a rub down and people saying, “You did good that round, Rocky!”

Another Night of Ungodliness on the BBC

I’ll be on the BBC’s World Have Your Say program tonight defending some of my favorite people: atheists.

The show is in response to an article in The Guardian, “New Atheists loathe religion far too much to plausibly challenge it,” by Madeleine Bunting. The quick summary of the article is that because the latest books on atheism take religion to the cleaners a bit too soundly, we ought to therefore ignore the arguments.

Should be an interesting evening, to say the least!