The Arts Drive It Home for Me
Krista Tippett, host
One hangover from living for a time in England is that I am a devotee of BBC radio plays. Thanks to the wonderful world of the Internet, I can continue to listen. I’ll often put a play on in the background as I fold laundry or pay bills or even do busy work in the office.
This week, while we’ve been producing a program on the new science of “neuroeconomics” — exploring the physiology of trust and virtue in economic life — I stumbled on a series in this week’s BBC 4 “Afternoon Plays.” They deal with the human dynamics behind the Enron collapse — a subject on which our neuroeconomist guest Paul Zak has done extensive research.
These two plays were written by a noted British economics correspondent. The first, "Power Play," includes tapes from Senate hearings and the voice of figures like Enron’s CEO Kenneth Lay. The second, "Wilful Blindness," revolves around imagined discussions between Kenneth Lay and a former employee who turns up as his gardener in his Aspen home after this conviction.
I found intriguing echoes here with some of the insights not only of Paul Zak but also of Darius Rejali. A discussion between the gardener and the CEO about how good people are drawn into doing bad things is a wonderful example of how the arts can drive home big ideas as well as any erudite analysis — or illustrate them so that we can truly grasp them.
But, you better listen fast. The material goes offline in a few days!
Spiritualism: A Radio Documentary
Trent Gilliss, Online Editor
Early this morning, the BBC World Service rebroadcast this CBC documentary about the uniquely American religion of Spiritualism. Lily Dale, a small town in southwestern New York state, was founded by a socially progressive group of Spiritualists in 1879 and is the epicenter for its practitioners.
Wondering what is a Spiritualist? Here’s the town’s definition:
One who believes, as the basis of his or her religion, in the continuity of life and in individual responsibility. Some, but not all, Spiritualists are Mediums and/or Healers. Spiritualists endeavor to find the truth in all things and to live their lives in accordance therewith.
To expand on that definition, Spiritualists believe in a divine power and the afterlife. The dead can be contacted through mediums, individuals given the gift of channeling and contacting these spirits. These spirits are in a state of evolution, and by contacting them, embodied people can gain greater understanding about moral and ethical issues.
If you’ve got 30 minutes, Frank Falk’s doc is worth a listen.
Speaking of Faith Wins a Webby!
Trent Gilliss, Online Editor
Just as we were getting used to our Peabody success, we learned we won a Webby Award — yes, the “Oscars of the Internet” — for our site. Our fellow nominees included some heavyweights we think highly of: BBC Religion & Ethics, NPR’s This I Believe, Beliefnet, and Faith & Values Media’s Youthroots (our former underwriter).
There’s electricity in the air and Kate won’t stop buying food, everything from bagels and five tubs of cream cheese to yogurt-covered pretzels and cinnamon gummy sombreros. She said she would eat her hat if we won both awards in the same year… and so she did. ;)
In 2005, we were the first public radio program to win a Webby. Back then, it was more of a one-man show trying to create and expand an online identity for a burgeoning radio program with unbelievable content and an unrepresentative site: small images, swooping lines, baroque hues of gold and red with a visiomaticized (great term from Tufte) navigation scheme (Would you like to see a snapshot?). My intent was to defy those uninformed stereotypes, break the rules on image size and quality, bring a human perspective, and create content that paralleled the depth people were hearing on the radio.
In 2008, we have a different story to tell. The staff mindset has shifted and stepped up in unbelievable ways and contributed significantly to the effort — through blog posts, writing particulars, producing multimedia elements, etc. — a true group effort:
- Krista writes a weekly essay exclusively for online use and even blogs on occasion. (I’m working on this busy professional to post more with less, but she always has so much to say that’s worthwhile.)
- Kate is a blogging wunderkind who’s armed with an iPhone. She’s got the camera mastered. Now we need to put her vocabulary arsenal and vivacious sass to work and begin “tweeting/twittering” (look for that later this year *fingers crossed*).
- Mitch, well, this guy does it all: accommodates my video requests, blogs, creates best-of playlists, produces narrated slideshows, you name it.
- Colleen does more quietly and thinks in online ways from the get-go. Her interview with a choral director for a multimedia piece on the marginalia on Bach’s Bible is fascinating, along with her putting John O’Donohue’s reading of a poem to pictures. She blogs from the inside and from the outside (see post about her doggy Oban). The list goes on…
- Shiraz and Rob are relatively new staff members, but these young whippersnappers (How old am I?) have already posted some incredible material. Shiraz blogs the news, religious conventions, and sci-fi like nobody’s business — not to mention recently producing a wonderful audio slideshow of black belts mastering acts of kindness in the ultimate test of skill. Rob is the Cliff Clavin of SOF. He has an uncanny ability to take disparate facts and little-known trivia and weave meaningful blog posts (cue entries on Mr. Rogers and the personality of numbers) and interesting anecdotes in each week’s annotated guide to the program.
- Andy, the latest staffing addition. He’s only been on staff six weeks but has had a major impact in subtle and dramatic ways. He’s finally got our free transcripts to print within the margins — important indeed — and coded a dynamic mapping application that gives voice to hundreds of Catholic stories that would have otherwise been silenced in a database. It continues to grow.
- And, even our interns have stepped up: Anna was the first production intern to contribute, and Alda has become a blogging regular, as well as a compiler of links and resources for each week’s program.
Honestly, we didn’t think we would win. We appreciate that our graphic design and navigation paired with our content was recognized as something special. Hoka-hey!
*UPDATE: Seki reminded me in the comments section about an idea we had. The beauty of the Webby Awards is that each winner can give a speech no longer than five words. I botched it last time, so I’m counting on you to make us look good, clever, intelligent… Add a comment to this post and the staff will select one of your suggestions to be spoken loud and proud at the Webby Gala on June 10 in NYC. This should be good.