Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The interview: KC Currents on KCUR, 89.3 FM

I've always disliked the sound of my voice. I remember the first time I heard it, as a high school sophomore on assignment for our paper, The Patriot. I had tape-recorded an interview and was just playing it back, trying to transcribe the contents, except there were parts I couldn't get past because I recognized the idiot questioner, alternately mumbling and stumbling over words, as myself. I'd be listening along, catatonic, and every so often I'd stop, lean back and think, "Wow." Just an incredulous "Wow," or, if it was particularly bad, I'd add an expletive. I wore out the pause button. Many years removed from these first traumatic moments, I wish I could reproduce the contents of that tape, but I've repressed all of it except that distinct, unforgettable sense of disgust in this truly out-of-body experience.

RANDOM ENGLISH-MAJOR NOTE: There's this phase infants go through where they first recognize their self in the mirror and, out of a rather elaborate process Jacques Lacan terms "the mirror stage," begins to form an understanding of the imaginary and symbolic. I wonder what the aural equivalent of this is, or if there is one. I'm sure psychoanalysts have a theory, so if anyone wants to send me a link, please do.

I know I'm not the only one who disdains the sound of his own voice, but I've never quite shed my fear of it. Anyway... as you may know, I was recently interviewed for KC Currents, a weekend arts and culture show based out of Kansas City, produced by the wonderful Sylvia Maria Gross and hosted by Susan Wilson. It was, as I've written earlier, a harrowing experience, one I rather would not have relived.

But then I listened to this Pizza Buffet podcast -- Pizza Buffet is based out of Beijing, hosted by three sprightly gals -- where the hosts interviewed Austin Ramzy -- that's Austin Ramzy, China expert, sanguine smirker and Time China Blog/Time Magazine writer -- and I got to thinking: maybe no one sounds good on radio. Not to say Ramzy doesn't know his stuff, but his mumbles and mutterings sounded a lot like my own, and like a tightly bound roll of newspaper it hit me: radio is hard. It's okay to sound bad! Even better, it's almost expected that one sounds bad! It's okay not to speak in complete sentences or utter brilliant insights easily encapsulated within eight-second sound bites. It's okay if anything happens, because radio isn't real! It's like the infant's mirror stage, when he recognizes his body -- a perfect, lovable structure that he knows is his own -- yet has yet to develop his mind to the point of controlling this perfect thing, and so out of uncoordination arises misunderstanding and conflict and ego, super-ego, id, all our worries, pains, fears... (too much a stretch?). On radio, as long as one says words -- actual, definable words -- he or she will come out with mind-body relatively intact, with self-esteem that can be repaired.

With the bar thus lowered, I sucked in a breath and started listening to the show, which you can find here, and the experience turned out to be...


The segment was well produced, well introduced, well everythinged... and then there was me. Not to make too big a deal out of it, because it is, after all, just a radio interview, and there are certainly worthier things in the world to freak out about, but... wow.

And so it is yet again that I'm glad for my day job, and glad to stick by it.

(Wait... I don't actually have a day job...)

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