Every so often, you make a request that you don’t expect to be fulfilled. You ask someone to do you a favor and you fully anticipate that they’re going to say no. And when they do say no, that sucks, but you kinda get over it because you were prepared. But when they say yes, well… When they say yes you get up and dance a jig. Especially when they say yes in about five minutes.
Case in point: I’m applying for something. It needs letters of rec. The normal thing to do in this situation is to ask for a letter between 3 and 4 weeks before the due date. More than that is a little excessive; less than that is cutting it close. If you’re asking 2 weeks out, you apologize for the urgency of the situation. If you’re asking 1 week out, you look like a fool.
But what do you do if you only just found out about something because the application period only opened this weekend and the due date is Friday. Yes, Friday. Five days from now. Friday. You scream in frustration and you contact people who already have letters written for you; people who merely have to tweak the letters they’ve already written on your behalf. You pray that they don’t have a busy schedule this week.
But what do you do if the best person to write a letter for you was your internship coordinator for this summer, who has never needed to write you a letter of recommendation before? Who doesn’t already have a template in their “Letters of Rec” folder saved under your last name? You send them a very flattering, very nicely worded email in which you basically beg. And you pray that they don’t have a busy schedule this week.
Then you think about who else would write a good letter. Until your inbox chimes. Because four minutes after you sent your kind and flattering begging email, they’ve written back.
“Of course!” you read.
“Thank God!” you think.
And then, since it is midnight, you go to sleep. Or at least consider it.
The summer has come to an end, which means that my internship at Forum is over and I have moved on to what is shaping up to be a crazy fun, crazy busy, and crazy difficult senior year. But, over the course of the summer, I was working on something at Forum that I haven’t written about here. Namely, I was writing!
In addition to my internship duties at Forum, helping with researching shows and finding guests and everything else, I’ve been working to write blog posts for other parts of KQED based on Forum shows. In essence, the station tries to connect online, TV, and radio coverage as much as possible by cross-referencing. Things that get put on air are often written about online, and the articles include the audio clips. Forum has a social media specialist who usually writes posts like these, but she was on leave this summer. I like writing, so I tried to write some posts along those lines. I wrote and had four posts published for both the State of Health blog and the Science blog:
Using Disney Movies to Reach a Son with Autism: This was the first post I wrote and, interestingly, the last one that actually went online. From the beginning, I helped with this guest for Forum, reading most of Suskind’s book before he joined us on air (book review here), and even having a really interesting conversation with him about Sleeping Beauty after the show. This post was fun to write, and was based a little bit on the Forum hour and a little bit on the book itself; it was the only of the four posts I wrote that dealt with our second hour, and the hardest to write but a lot of fun.
5 Things You Should Know About Sun Protection: The second post I wrote and the first one online, this was a lot of fun but also a bit challenging. I listened to the full hour twice over, collected all the experts’ tips, and then distilled them down into a single post of five tips. I got a lot of suggestions from the State of Health editor on how to make it a better post, which turned out well for my next two posts also.
Sleep Apps, Myths, and More: Strategies for a Good Night’s Rest: I wrote this post on my very last day at Forum – the hour was Tuesday morning, I wrote the post Tuesday afternoon, and the post was published later in the week. It was nice to get a rapid turnaround for the site, and to show myself and the KQED editors that I was able to get it done. Also, this post was published on the State of Health site, but also linked to and visible on the Science page, which I found exciting.
Gardening in the Drought: What Makes a Plant ‘Drought-Tolerant’: My only post for the Science page exclusively, this one was the only post for which I did serious research in addition to listening to Forum. Instead of basing it exclusively on the hour, I used our drought-friendly gardening hour as a peg for a post that answers a question I’d been asking myself – why are some plants called ‘drought-tolerant’? I did the research and wrote the post from both my research and our guests’ quotes, which was an interesting challenge that I think I was able to complete.
As someone who isn’t a journalism major, I came into my internship feeling a little bit out of place. But the conversation we had at the beginning of the summer, in which we were encouraged to write for the KQED blogs, I felt a little more in my element. After all, I write a blog on the regular, so to speak. Once I got started, I actually enjoyed the process much more than I expected. I received a lot of valuable editorial suggestions, and was able to publish four posts on the website of the largest public radio station in the nation, and one of the biggest news sources in the greater Bay Area. I got compliments from the editors, who said they were impressed with my writing and my ability to take corrections/make edits. Most importantly, I discovered that I really enjoyed the process. Even though three of my four posts were primarily health-based, they all have at least a bit of a science spin to them. I don’t know if science journalism is something I want to actively pursue, but it would certainly be some good fun, and it is (yet another) idea to keep in mind.
Every so often, I come across a book that I love not because the story line is particularly exciting or because the characters are well written. Sometimes I love an author’s way of writing, or perhaps I’m just entranced by the cover. (They say don’t judge, but if we judge positively, who cares?) This time, though, I got obsessed with Life, Animated because of Disney. Ron Suskind is an author of epic proportions – Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, author of a bunch of expose-esque political books – but as far as I can tell this is his first non-political book, and the most meaningful one. That’s because it’s all about his son – Owen.
Owen has autism. He was diagnosed after he stopped speaking at age 3. From that point forward, his typical childhood obsession with all things Disney exploded into an incredible way to understand the world.
At this point, it is hard to believe that anyone doesn’t know something about autism. Hopefully everybody reading this knows that autism is NOT caused by vaccines, so if your child isn’t up to date on their vaccinations, please stop reading. My blog will still be here when you get back from the doctor’s. But people probably also know that most kids with autism find it incredibly difficult to interact with the world around them. The inability to read emotions makes social interactions exhausting to the point of impossible.
For Owen, the only way to deal with the real world is through Disney-colored glasses. As a preschooler, he watched Disney animated movies – like The Little Mermaid and Aladdin – on repeat, watching and mimicking the faces to learn how to speak. For years, he could only converse through Disney dialogue, until his father (the author) had their first heart-to-heart. Under a blanket. Pretending to be Iago, the bird from Aladdin. In elementary school, Owen essentially taught himself to read by sounding out all the names in the credits; at the same time acquiring encyclopedic knowledge of the voice actors, animators, and everyone else involved in the creation of Disney magic.
The book was beautiful. It was fun to read. It was informative. It was inspiring. Even though neither myself nor any of my family has autism, I related to the Suskind family. I sympathized with their challenges and simultaneously learned from them. I watched the story unfold, watched the parents discover Owen and watched Owen discover himself, and I was rooting for them the whole time. It is clear that the author is skilled, both as a writer and as a father. I’d absolutely recommend it for anyone looking to understand a life with autism or a life with a family member who has autism.
This post marks the end of an era. Technically, the end of a summer. An amazing, fabulous summer filled with friends and fun and camping and the most amazing internship I ever could have asked for.
When I decided to apply for and eventually accept the internship at Forum this summer, I didn’t expect it to be what it was. I expected to go in, sit down, get some work done, go home. I expected to love it at the start of the summer, and merely like it (if even that) by the end. I expected it to be just another job that I worked on for a few months. I expected to learn a lot and meet a lot of cool people and work with a lot of radio personalities and have a good time.
But Forum was a lot more that that. I met so many amazing people at KQED who go above and beyond every single day in trying to get the most and the most interesting news to the public. They inspired me with their commitment and their critiques and their professionalism and their passion. I got to see people in a hundred different professions come through, got to talk to them and ask them questions about their jobs. (Too bad I haven’t found my perfect profession yet!) I worked on every single part of the live show process – the research, the calling, the pre-interviewing, the meeting & greeting, the screening, the reading, and the thanking. All that’s left is the actual hosting! I actually looked forward to Mondays. (I was going to continue with the amazing-ness of my summer internship, but I think that pretty much sums it up.)
So one door is closing. I said goodbye to my internship for the last time yesterday. But another one is opening. I’m leaving tonight to start my senior year. I’m super excited for all my classes, and I’m excited to be living off-campus with my three best friends.
I sent a box yesterday that weighed 22 pounds and was full of books. (Don’t worry, I sent it Media Mail, and it cost < $15.) But if you looked in that box, or you looked at my Amazon orders list, or you looked at my class schedule, you might be a bit confused. Because … well …
- Particle and Nuclear Physics
- International Relations Seminar – US Foreign Policy in East Asia
- Advanced Japanese
- Physical Chemistry
- Literature of Haruki Murakami
- African Dance
I expect this semester to be a bit difficult, to say the least. I expect Japanese and Physics to have the hardest classes and tests, Lit and East Asia to have a lot of reading and essays. I’m hoping Chemistry is easy, but we shall see. And yes, they’re all part of my majors/minor. (Except Dance. That’s just fun.)
Last Monday, exactly 7 days ago now, Robin Williams committed suicide. Last Monday, like every Monday this summer, I was at work from 8am-4pm. The news about Williams was announced a bit after 3pm. This is significant only because it meant that I was at KQED when the news broke. In fact, one of the Forum producers broke the news.
She lives in Marin, so she always has a tab open to the Marin Independent Journal; Robin Williams lived and died in the jurisdiction of the Marin Sheriff’s Department, and they led the investigation. They wrote the press release and the Marin IJ were the first to see it and publish it. Our lovely producer saw the press release, and told us about it so fast that nothing came up on Google. (Because, as Dan pointed out, Google is an important source: “If it isn’t on Google, it isn’t true!”)
After a simple email to the entire news room with the news and the link, everyone was moving. Within about three minutes, Forum producers had determined if Williams had ever been on the show (he hadn’t). About three minutes after that, the emails started and the people walked down to ask if he’d ever been on the show. Since photos don’t exactly come across well on radio, people were looking for audio clips, which we unfortunately couldn’t provide.
We’d planned a show for the 9am hour. In fact, there were two shows planned (each 30 minutes). As sometimes happens, however, breaking news replaced the previously selected topics, and a Robin Williams show was instantly being crafted. By the time the decision was really made and the potential guests lined up, it was nearly 4pm. And, with the time sensitive nature of the show, the producers did all the work anyways. They know who’s been on Forum in the past, who they’d most like on the show, etc, without needing to ask questions, which always slow down a process.
It was fascinating to watch the process of breaking news being digested, interpreted, and reported on in the station around me, as tragic as that news may have been. I certainly didn’t expect anything along those lines when I began my internship at Forum, but it was certainly an interesting experience from which I learned a lot.
There are certain people that we’ve always idolized. Actors we’ve grown up loving. Radio personalities we listen to daily. Authors or playwrights we read without regard to the topic of their work because their words are so phenomenal. Dancers and choreographers we would kill to be good enough to work with. Professionals we wish could be mentors, and mentors who are really heroes.
Everyone has these people, even if we don’t necessarily think of them that way. And I think it is interesting that these people inevitably pop up in our lives when we least expect them to. Sometimes you meet an actor on the street, or you recognize a voice in the hallway or a face in the airport. But what do you do?
I walked past Brian Wilson one day in San Francisco. He was just standing on the corner, staring at his phone, reading an email or maybe checking a map. No-one walked up to him, no-one asked him questions or for an autograph. He seemed like a completely normal person, just chilling out on a street corner, waiting for a friend to show up.
A friend of mine saw Fik-shun (So You Think You Can Dance) in an airport, and went up to say hello. Now they’re hanging out, drinking wine, being friends. Because sometimes your idols, though completely normal people, are also, well, normal people. They have normal friends and normal relationships and normal interactions with normal people.
Over the summer, I’ve met a lot of KQED reporters and voices that I’ve literally grown up with coming through the little box in my room and in the car. When we listen to their voices, we have an image of who they are, and sometimes (often) they don’t look like that. Just like the actors and actresses that are cast as our favorite characters don’t always fit the mental images we form while reading the book, these radio voices don’t always – rarely, really – fit the mental images I form while listening to them. Peter Sagal (Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!) makes fun of himself every live show because he “doesn’t sound bald.” But the truth is that we can’t tell what someone looks like by the sound of their voice, and we often create false images. And every time you meet someone and they shatter your personal characterization of them, it is surprising. But it also reminds me that these characterizations are so absurd and so incredibly likely to be false. I’ve met dozens of KQED voices, including Joshua Johnson, Rachael Myrow, Craig Miller, and of course Michael Krasny. All of them were different from what I expected. For one, they’re all way nicer than I expected. (Did I expect KQED staff to be mean? No. Did I expect them to welcome any and all questions, offer to buy me lunch, and be quick to ask “can I help you find somebody” whenever I looked even the slightest bit lost? Also no.) They all look like…themselves, they all sound like themselves, but when they don’t look like they sound it is weird. I don’t really know how to explain it.
I started this post this morning, about six hours before the news of Robin Williams’ death broke. But now, it somehow seems even more fitting. He was such an amazing comedian; my favorite movies of his are Mrs. Doubtfire and Flubber. To see such a wonderful talent on the silver screen, such comedic genius, it is infinitely more painful for me to learn that he struggled with a fight against depression for so long. Of course, he has dramatic roles too (my favorite is Good Will Hunting), and I can’t help but think that he brought his real-life struggles into those characters. I guess everyone has a secret life, and maybe it should stay that way. RIP, Robin Williams, and may you always laugh.
KQED’s Forum is first and foremost a live radio show, which means we welcome calls, emails, tweets, online comments, and facebook posts throughout the show. From the very beginning, the interns have been responsible for collecting all the comments from all the online platforms and bringing them into the studio. But last week, things started getting interesting!!
Last week, we were encouraged to spend some time with the producers figuring out how the phone works. What to click, what to say, etc etc. And then, at the end of last week, I got an email that basically said come in next week and you can actually answer the phones. So that is what I did. Today’s 9-10am hour was all about melanoma, sun exposure, and sun protection. If, for some reason, you called into Forum today between 9:30ish and 10, you would have spoken to me!
To say it was nerve-wracking when I started would be to describe the ocean as big. True, but not really expressive. When I picked up the first caller, I could feel my heart pounding in my chest and I was more than a little nervous. But Tina is really amazing at being supportive enough without smothering, so just having her stand there was helpful. Plus the fact that I’ve been carefully observing the producers every time I walk in to bring comments in for approval, so I already had a pretty good sense of what I was doing. I asked a lot of questions about which button to click, so I didn’t mess anything up too bad, but it worked out.
I got to record comments for a half dozen callers or so, and I was busy the whole time (because both hours today were particularly exciting and elicited a lot of comments and calls.) I was responsible for deciding which caller had the most interesting and pertinent things to say on air and, subject to Tina’s approval, suggesting those callers to Michael to welcome onto the show.
I’ve been watching the various producers perform what seems to be an incredible juggling act in the studio every week, but I think I’m slowly figuring out that it isn’t really so impossible. Just like I figured out all the bits and pieces of stage management with time, producing a radio show seems to be quite similar. Once you’ve got one job mastered you tack on another, until you’re basically doing it all.
Obviously, as an intern, I’m not expected to master or perform all the tasks, nor do I expect myself to; I’m sure there are jobs I don’t even know exist that the producers do every day. But as time has gone by, my responsibilities have slowly grown to include sending emails to potential guests, pre-interviewing guests, writing blog posts for KQED online content that ties into Forum shows (more on that later this week, hopefully!), and now helping to answer the phones. I’m really excited that I’ve gotten to see all these different aspects of a show being put together, and I can’t wait to see what I learn over the next four weeks!
On a less happy note, tomorrow will be 2/3 of the way through my summer and my time at Forum :(. I should probably start looking for a job for the fall…