"The Childe...More restless than the swallow in the skies..." -Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Sound Bite I'll Never Forget.

Thanks to working two part-time jobs, I sometimes get to catch NPR during the middle of the day as I drive from one job to the other. Midday programming is generally longer and more in-depth. So when you catch a topic of personal interest, it’s a real treat to listen in.

Jason Bateman was interviewed today on Fresh Air. From early stardom on Little House on the Prairie and Silver Spoons to a successful adult career in film and television, Mr. Bateman has accrued three decades of perspective on professional acting. It was a marvelous interview.

During the broadcast, Mr. Bateman gave one of the most intelligent, to-the-gut quotes I've ever heard about childhood stardom. Terry Gross, host of Fresh Air asked if he'd been worried about losing his career after adolescence. Discussing the trap that catches both child stars and their parents after tasting success, Mr. Bateman said this:

"You sort of end up buying the confidence and the attitude that you really need to be renting."

The quote struck me with its astuteness, wit, and undeniable wisdom. It applies well to one-hit wonders of any age group. He went on to discuss the challenge of mounting a career in professional acting:

"It's a very tenuous position. It's a very fickle business. And to think that it's going to last forever is naive at best. ...I've acted pretty consistently for thirty years now, and even with that there were some very painful, confusing dry periods. You don't know when, or if, you're ever going to come out of it...There's only so much you can do to regenerate that relevance in the industry."

Mr. Bateman went on for several more minutes, offering thoughtful observations about his career and the acting process. This is the second time I've heard him on NPR. In the extended interview environment, where intelligence and maturity can't be faked, he does very well.

If you are a Jason Bateman fan, or even if you just appreciate hearing successful performers discuss their work intelligently, this is a great interview to catch.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Some NPR-related thoughts, but first…

…the woman at the public computer station next to me is noisy. More annoying than people who chat on their cell phones while checking Facebook. She sighs, puts fingers to her lips, sighs again, then reads half of a sentence in a whisper. She can't be aware she is making any noise at all. A benevolent God protects such whippersnappers from self awareness.

Now she cocks her head forward, as if the key to understanding the text on her screen is to head-butt it. Fidgety fingers run the length of her necklace chain. Suddenly she huffs. A second later she sits ultra-upright--her back so straight that her butt juts out. No, I’m not staring lustily. Even if she was a knock-out, she'd be too damned much of a sonic nuisance to be attractive. What on earth is she reading on the screen that is causing such urgent audible responses, amplified by constantly shifting body language?

She proceeds through a dance of postures that say, “I am reading something that may significantly affect my life expectancy!” She hums ponderously and then leans over to rifle through her purse. I fantasize about applying foot to chair and sending her careening into the adjacent library classroom.

Confession: the only thing stronger than my annoyance is my curiosity to know what she is reading. It must either be a life insurance policy with terms in dispute, or a recipe for Sheppard's Pie that audaciously suggests substituting mashed yams for potatoes. I must know what she is reading.

I trundle behind her, casually en route to the water fountain. A quick peek establishes only that she is checking e-mail. I’ll never know what she is reading, but it causes her to experience what I can best describe as an epileptic fit of pensiveness. Now she is composing a reply, punctuating each sentence she types with a mulling-induced spasm. If it is in regards to a Sheppard's Pie recipe she disapproves of, I pity the chef who checks his e-mail later.

Before fidgety-whispering woman ruined my evening, I was going to blog about volunteering at the Michigan Radio Tent during the Ann Arbor Art Fair. It was very breezy both days, so few people took the giveaway fans like the one I am holding in the picture. But all things considered, it was a fun volunteer gig, boasting fresh air and live music.