Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

05 Nov 2003, 15:02 p.m.

Sumana Looks At Her Works Sheepishly

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2003 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

Sarah, here's an interview with Ira Glass for you.

O: Do you enjoy doing the live broadcasts?

IG: No, I hate it, actually. It's the worst part of the job, next to the pledge drive. In all the other parts of the job, there's room to soar. If you're writing something or you're editing something or talking with somebody, you're wondering, "What could this story be like? Who else should we get?" You laugh and you make up stuff and it's fun, whereas the actual performance of the show is like flying a very complicated aircraft or something. All you can do is f*** up. Every single act is just another opportunity for something to go wrong, but if everything goes right, it'll be invisible, and nobody will know what happened. The whole thing is an exercise in "Oh, please, don't blow this."

O: But isn't there an excitement and an adrenaline rush in doing something like that?

IG: There is an excitement, but it's the excitement of being hunted, not being the hunter....

...we turned to the people at Medieval Times and asked them to give us some tips, and they said we should get horses, because people love horses. So we staged a jousting match on horseback between the newscaster of All Things Considered and the newscaster of Morning Edition. At the end of it, we sort of said to the audience, "Is this what it will take? Is this what you want? Okay, then we've done that, too."

O: Did anybody get hurt in the jousting match?

IG: Fortunately, it was a jousting match done completely through the magic of sound effects. I have to say, I found it very satisfying to do, because you never get to use a horse whinnying in my normal line of work. You're like, "Cue the horse whinnying!" [Impersonates whinnying horse.] The heroic music comes in and [newscaster] Carl Kasell comes in and yells "Take that!" ....

...It's really, really hard, and I'm sure we don't succeed with every story on every show. Basically, anything that anyone makes... It's like a law of nature, a law of aerodynamics, that anything that's written or anything that's created wants to be mediocre. The natural state of all writing is mediocrity. It's all tending toward mediocrity in the same way that all atoms are sort of dissipating out toward the expanse of the universe. Everything wants to be mediocre, so what it takes to make anything more than mediocre is such a f***ing act of will. Anyone who makes something for a living, or even not for a living, if they're really excited about it... You just have to exert so much will into something for it to be good. That feels exactly the same now as it did the first week of the show. That hasn't changed at all. That's the premise of what it takes to make something.