After I aired the first few Marketplace of Ideas interviews, I figured this e-mail was, give or take a few months, well on its way:
From: Public Radio Bigshot
To: Colin Marshall
You have flawlessly reintroduced lively, intelligent conversation to the airwaves. To allow you to continue doing this without compensation of any kind would truly be a crime. I am prepared to offer practically enough money to sustain a decent existence.
But the town belle doesn’t just jump on her first suitor. I figured this e-mail would follow shortly thereafter:
From: Another Public Radio Bigshot
To: Colin Marshall
I cannot, in good conscience, let any other public radio bigshot claim you as their own. I would be remiss in allowing the depth and seriousness conferred by a program like The Marketplace of Ideas to accrue to any other public radio network. I am prepared to offer enough money to not only sustain a decent existence, but to rent an apartment with a garbage disposal.
I would be tempted — who wouldn’t? — but I would hold out a week or two longer for this e-mail:
From: A Third Public Radio Bigshot
To: Colin Marshall
You have created a program that, once listened to, cannot go unlistened to. Clearly, you are the life force that will revitalize public radio, that will make it vital and engaging to millions. I am thus naturally prepared to offer a lavish compensation package, including a paycheck each month of an amount sufficiently high that some money will remain even at the beginning of the next. We will march on a road of bones.
I understood the real bidding war would be much larger, uglier, and more complicated; the imagination always streamlines these things. But strangely, as The Marketplace of Ideas enters its fourth year, I haven’t even gotten the first of these messages. I assume the public radio bigshots are getting my address wrong. It’s colinjmarshall at gmail, guys. Colinjmarshall. There’s a j in the middle.
So while they straighten that out, I’ll continue the yearly tradition of naming my five favorite MOI interviews of the past twelve months.
Hardly a day goes by when I don’t think about something I discussed with Nick Currie, also known as Momus, back in February. We somehow managed to cover about thrice as many topics as I usually do in an hour — old computers, boarding school, creating parallel words with lies where those lies are true, North Korea, Japan, Plato’s cave — all from the launching point of talking about the closure of his Livejournal, of all things. He shuttered it on his 50th birthday, the same day I aired the interview, so it was a pleasing coincidence of big events.
I got into North Korea in much more depth the very next week, when I talked to Brian Reynolds Myers about his book on understanding North Korea’s mindset through its propaganda. The conversation became very popular when I transcribed it for 3Quarksdaily. Distancing myself from the role of interviewer an reading or hearing it just as someone fascinated by North Korea — most people are — I can see why it’s fascinating. I especially like how Myers also gets into bits and pieces of his own background, especially regarding his drive to study closed societies. Yet this one didn’t seem to win me too many new subscribers, which I can’t quite explain. I wanted to tell these single-serving fans, “But all the interviews go this deep!”
If, when I was fifteen, you told me that in ten years I’d be talking to Wang Chung’s Jack Hues, I’d have freaked in the best possible way. (If, however, you told me that a t-topped vehicle would still remain nowhere in sight, I’d have freaked in the worst possible way.) You know those stories people tell about finally talking to creators whose work they’ve long admired and coming away disappointed? This was the exact opposite of that. If anything, he was even smarter, more candid, and more articulate that I could ever have allowed myself to expect.
This is what I find fascinating about our long tail-y media: a guy in a band that’s been a household name for 25 years is a celebrity to me, but so are two guys about my age who talk about movies in a North Hollywood apartment every Thursday. Whether or not this is the Age of Personal Celebrities, I met two of mine, Tyler Smith and David Bax of the movie podcast Battleship Pretension, by interviewing them. I wanted the conversation on my show to be as funny and freewheeling — “double-F,” I call it — as an episode of theirs, and I got my wish. But we also got surprisingly incisive about what cinema is as an art form (and how cinema is never not an art form).
Maybe this is recency bias, but I think my conversation with KPCC’s John Rabe might turn out to be one for the ages. The genius revelation dawned on me not long ago that, if I’m going to be a radio personality, it might be advantageous to include some of my personality in my radio ventures. Rabe and I got in touch after I reviewed his show Off-Ramp on Podthoughts. Our on-air talk that followed seems to me like a new high point in the “actually be a two-person conversation” aspect of MOI’s mission. It helps that we talked about stuff I can speak to, like the city of Los Angeles and the bizarrely low assumed audience engagement level of most radio programs.
By the time you read this, I’m pretty sure those public radio bigshots have gotten on the whole e-mailing thing. But until then...