Archive for October, 2005

Marga & Beth

On this evening's show, I interview two luminous and talented women. First, the genius comedienne and monologuist Marga Gomez, whose most recent one-woman show, Los Big Names, is her most brilliant work yet. Next, the whimsical and wonderful Beth Lisick, whose talents are so multi- that I will vainly attempt to break them down as follows: author (most recently of the bestselling Everybody Into the Pool), bandleader ("The Beth Lisick Ordeal"), and co-curator of the magical Porchlight storytelling series. ... In between the two in-studio interviews will be a "Wandering Josh" segment in which I begin my quixotic quest to learn to drive. ...

I should mention that this show, though the fifth to be broadcast, was the first one we actually taped (and this was the first WJ we did as well), so my nerves were at their nerviest. I had a great time talking with both of these charming women, and they were incredibly gracious and patient with their jittery host. But you may find yourself wondering why, for example, coming out of the WJ segment, I don't refer to the fact that I am now suddenly with a different guest and in a different part of the set. The answer is that my synapses were overflowing with more basic concerns, like don't spill coffee on anyone and remember that the camera is your friend.

Marga and Beth -- if you happen to read this little blog item -- let me just say again: THANKS!!!

5 comments October 3rd, 2005

A Tree Falls in Berkeley

The buzz-saws are whirring outside. The big old magnolia tree behind our building just got reduced to little more than a stump, and by 5 p.m. it's scheduled to be gone completely. Apparently it was dying -- and the theory going around among my neighbors is that its illness was due to the management company's curious decision, several years ago, to cover the soil all around the tree with some heavy plastic material. Or maybe not so curious: it seems that the plastic simplified maintenance of the grounds, somehow.

The tree looked great eight years ago, when our son was born. We had just moved in, and he could see it from his crib. Its branches were lush, dark-olive-colored, elegant. I don't know much about magnolias -- in fact, truth be told, I'm not sure of the relationship between the tree and the flower (what is it? is the flower the blossom of the tree or some unrelated thing?) -- but I have the vague sense that the trees, at least, go back to dinosaur times. Or at least that's what we told our son, as he was going through his dinosaur-obsessed phase a couple years back. (Let me also mention here, gratuitously, that P.T. Anderson's beautiful 1999 film Magnolia never fails to lift my spirits. The soundtrack album is incredible, too, until -- as Daniel Handler has pointed out -- "the Supertramp songs come on and spoil everything.")

Lately we noticed that the branches were looking notably sparse. We hear now that the roots, denied water by the plastic, were unable to bring needed moisture to the rest of the plant. So we're upset at the management company for (allegedly) mistreating the tree and at ourselves for (definitely) not really focusing on the matter until now.

A glimmer of hope, as usual, comes from our amazing upstairs neighbor Tedi Crawford -- a grandma, an indefatigable volunteer at our local public school and in Berkeley at large, and just generally a great citizen. This weekend, Tedi called the woman who actually owns the building (the management company only manages it -- who knew?); the owner, also very sad about the de-magnoliazation, assured Tedi that a new tree (presumably a sapling) will be brought in as a replacement. Tedi suggests that when the new tree is planted, we residents do some sort of welcoming dance around it.

Which I think is a great idea. Also, we're going to look out the window now and then and make sure we don't see plastic covering the roots. ...

UPDATE: The magnolia tree has been completely removed. The workers looked very sad.

2 comments October 3rd, 2005

Show of Hands

So I'm still kind of behind on the stagecraft of being on TV. Out of the many examples, let me just pick one: Apparently, I wave my hands a lot when I'm interviewing people. In normal conversation, this might be somewhat irritating to my interlocutor -- as well as a danger to nearby glasses of orange juice, etc. -- but basically no big deal. But being as I'm currently talking to people on TV, my hand-waving creates a more pragmatic problem: it tends to block my guest from the camera's view.

And it seems to be getting worse. Last week, while I was animatedly interviewing Alan Alda (who, by the way, ate a Rice Krispy Treat -- my only guest, so far, to do so! I was practically verklempt!), it got to the point that my stage manager on the set, the very hip and spiritual Margaret Clarke, started holding up a little whiteboard on which she had written: "Hands Down!"

With the professionalism for which I am quickly becoming known throughout the broadcasting world, I nodded, put my hands down, and then, moments later ... forgot all about it and started flapping my hands around again. Once more with the sign: "Hands down!" At this point, I felt a bit like the guy in Evil Dead II whose arm takes on a life of its own and starts banging him over the head with dishes and such. I physically grabbed one wrist with my other hand and kept it pinned there for the rest of the interview.

The next week (yesterday), as we prepared to tape a conversation with the hilarious author Daniel Handler, crew member extraordinaire Harry Betancourt made the helpful suggestion that I use only my left hand (or maybe it was my right) to gesticulate or reach for coffee; this way, my gesture wouldn't block the camera trained on the guest. Unfortunately, during the interview I misremembered his instructions and -- wrongly -- used my right hand (or maybe it was my left).

I wonder if Ted Koppel ever makes that mistake. Probably not. Probably never did. Well, at least I have better hair. ...

2 comments October 1st, 2005

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