Friday, November 27, 2009

An Interview with the Burning House

[You Have Five Minutes will be broadcast on KUNM and on its website on Sunday at 6:00 PM mountain time. The program features several short plays, including two by your humble correspondent. On Friday, I sat down for this interview with myself, and found myself a rather boring conversationalist. But I hope you listen to the plays anyway.]


Two of your plays are part of this broadcast on KUNM this Sunday. Do you think anyone will actually listen?

I suspect more people enjoy radio than you realize. Drama, music, and news. Radio drama is fun to write, because you can do anything and you don't have to worry about your budget. It's fun to listen to because you don't have to wait for scenery changes -- you fill it in yourself with your imagination. Listening to radio is a creative act, and we are designed to be creative.

Do you have special plans for a listening party or anything on Sunday?

If I had known that "You Have Five Minutes" would be broadcast on November 29, I would have been tempted to write something in honor of the sham elections in Honduras, which are going ahead as scheduled on Sunday.

Before we get to your silly little plays, why are you so interested in Honduras? Why do you keep bringing it up?

It amazes me that there is so little coverage of this even in so-called left-leaning media. Because the entire hemisphere is calling this a coup d'etat. A coterie of upper-class citizens and politicians who have political issues with their President suddenly flew him out of the country at gunpoint this summer, and then started suppressing independent news media and cracking down on citizen dissent. While we were getting all misty-eyed at cell phone videos from Iran, this was going on in our own hemisphere and Obama had nothing to say about it. It now appears we were tacitly supporting it.

Why would we do that?

Oh I don't know, maybe because we're afraid of socialism catching on. President Zelaya veered to the left, and associated Honduras with the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas. It's not hard to guess why Honduran capitalists wanted him out -- it's a legitimate political conflict. That does not make the process legitimate. The suppression of free speech and peaceful assembly in Honduras continued well into the period that would be needed for legitimate electoral politics. This election is a show, just as much as my plays. It's theatre. These are not legitimate elections.

Are your two plays political at all?

One play is a farce on a political theme, and the other is a traditional science-fiction vignette.

The first one is called Simulated Drowning, which was the Bush administration's euphemism for a torture technique known as waterboarding. The phrase is Orwellian, because there is nothing simulated about the drowning. You could call it "controlled drowning," I suppose.

You wrote a comedy about torture?

Not at all. I wanted to make fun of the way Americans talked about torture in the news media, and how I imagined that played out in living rooms among ordinary Joes. The play is about two goofballs who have had a little too much beer and start arguing about waterboarding, the way we debated it over the last year -- "is it torture?" and that whole quadrille.

It's perfectly safe to listen: no one gets tortured, and I don't make torture the object of humor. It's really about the fumbling way some of us Americans talk about important issues. I am concerned that media personalities are training us to talk about politics in senseless ways.

All right then. What about this other play?

It's a science-fiction story. I read an article about the automobile industry's research into artificial intelligence and future generations of talking cars. The idea for this story appeared. Technology, human nature, the concept of compassion. It also gave me a chance to put a Zen Buddhist character into a drama who is not a stereotype -- he's not a kung-fu master or an Asian wizard or anything special, just a guy.

Thanks for this scintillating conversation.

Up yours, too.

2 comments:

skroy said...

I didn't know our government was still fighting the EVIL forces of socialism. How silly of me. It's fighting itself as we speak.

Nathan said...

"I wanted to make fun of the way Americans talked about torture in the news media, and how I imagined that played out in living rooms among ordinary Joes. The play is about two goofballs who have had a little too much beer and start arguing about waterboarding, the way we debated it over the last year -- "is it torture?" and that whole quadrille." My god, were you hanging out with a tape recorder at my step-family's thanksgiving yesterday?

Seriously, though, it's so true that even the "leftist" media has little to say about Honduras. I guess it's not "sexy enough," or something.

Thanks for the plug yesterday, by the way.

Bows,
Nathan