Saturday, October 03, 2009


So I’m rolling along doing the continuity for the Vook we’re doing about Cinematheque, watching the vids, meditating, then trying to come up with something that speaks to the images. The third one is Tim with his motorcycle leather cap on backwards, confessing that he lied to Jackie Lyden on NPR about being Nasdijj. (She didn’t ask. He had not been unmasked at that point.) He apologizes. I have earlier blogged about listening to the interview and being amazed to hear Tim sounding like an Indian, “doing Nasdijj,” humble and gentle. (

In the vid Tim explained how he was sequestered in a little room with only a microphone and presumably Jackie Lyden must also have been in a similar room facing HER microphone, thousands of miles away but sounding as though they were at the same table. He talked about how the audience probably assumed they were good buddies and would go out to lunch together, because everyone in Manhattan knows each other and hobnobs with the rich and famous -- isn’t that why we all struggle to write best sellers and be part of the inside group? But he says that, in fact, one does business by phone, letter and email and never meets even one’s own agent. These are business transactions, more like managing magazine subscriptions than being recognized and taken seriously. It was a short interview. You can find it by googling Nasdijj alongside NPR or Jackie Lyden -- probably.

This time with the vook, I thought I’d be diligent and google Jackie Lyden, though I assumed that she was one of the good gray ladies who went to the Sister Schools to get her fine education that made her so sympathetic even to faux pitiful Indians.

I was stunned. As Tim is always saying, “You will be surprised.”

It turns out that Jackie Lyden has since written a memoir of her own: “Daughter of the Queen of Sheba.” A reviewer says, “Lyden vividly captures the seductive energy of her mother's delusions, which were both an inspiration and a threat as she set out on her own impassioned journey. In her twenties she joined a traveling rodeo. Later, as a radio journalist, she interviewed Arafat and maneuvered her way through Baghdad at the height of the Persian Gulf War. Always, her mother's exotic fantasies were an irresistible lure.”

Jackie’s mother was first called just plain crazy, then manic-depressive, then bipolar. The labels change but the behavior remains. Jackie was also a victim of abuse, but I’ve only just ordered the book this minute, so I couldn’t tell you what kind or how much. Nevertheless, it sounds to me as though Jackie Lyden was in a position to really understand what Tim Barrus/Nasdijj’s life was really like and to have had some penetrating questions IF she had really been face-to-face. The weird media arrangements, meant to provide predictable “labeled” publicity, actually PREVENTED the kind of recognition and understanding between two people that would be worth listening to on the radio. This whole damn culture is crazy, but what label should we use: denial? Commodification? Separate padded cells?

Once I found out about Jackie’s memoir and ordered a copy, I began to plow through all the Google entries for her name and that was the second surprise: post after post by the same kind of haters who constantly stalk and threaten Tim and the Cinematheque guys. Here’s a sample from a blog called “The Straight Dope.” (The author is “the Scrivener” which embarrasses me because it’s similar to my married name, Scriver. He’s a dope all right. Dunno about straight.)

“NPR's Jackie Lyden, what do you require by way of fuck-you money? Because on many a Saturday and Sunday late afternoon I find myself wishing that you'd variously (according to my mood): a) find another job, preferably one that doesn't involve much speaking; b) otherwise be replaced as "Weekend Edition" host -- honestly, just about anyone would be preferable, including the guy who delivers bottled water to NPR's offices, provided he speaks any English at all; or c) get whisked off the planet by aliens fascinated by your affected speech, constipated delivery and vocal tics, and determined to scan and probe your larynx, pharynx, mouth, sinus cavities and brain until they solve the mystery of just how you manage to be so fucking annoying every time you open your mouth.

Where do they come from, these anonymous haters and stalkers? I thought people who listened to NPR were liberal and a little overcivilized. I was prepared to tease Jackie about that, but nothing like this. This is low class, I’m-gonna-kill-your-cat talk. Why don’t they go listen to some cowboy shit-stomping station and leave Jackie alone? I found post after post mocking NPR people personally, calling them names and urging them to get off the air. Tim Barrus used to machine gun the hostiles and I have a sharp tongue, but we use our real names. These people (both genders) were looking for someone to hate who would have to take it, who would have to accept such bullying. ALL of them were anonymous. Out there in the dark. Themselves afraid to even be seen. Who spawns them? Where is Jackie Lyden now?

Here’s an idea for NPR: Suppose Tim Barrus is on “All Things Considered,” not as the person being interviewed, but as the interviewer OF Jackie Lyden. He could say, “Jackie, you were in Baghdad during the Gulf War. Tell me, are the Taliban there as bad as the American Taliban that wants to control and punish everyone?”

I expect she’ll say, “Omigod, Tim! These American Taliban are the worst in the world! They are trashing democracy and we’re letting them do it. They even hate and stalk the President of the United States.”

At the end Tim could ask, “Say, Jackie, in your days with the rodeo did you ever run across Zebo Boozer, the bucking Brahma bull that I once had to load into the elevator of the veterinary medicine building at the university so we could get him up to surgery and treat a bad wound?”

Jackie would say, “Good heavens, Tim! Are you kidding? Zeebo Boozer was notorious! I can’t believe you did that and lived to tell about it!”

It would turn out that they had acquaintances in common after all and go out to lunch together, like proper authors and media interviewers. No bull.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

As to who spawns the "haters," I have to monitor a locally based Internet forum because it intersects with one of my part-time jobs.

It's content is mostly vilification of local public officials (the school superintendent, the sheriff, the prosecuting attorney...), with some "So-and-so is a slut"/"No I'm not--you're a slut" exchanges and quotes from Glenn Beck.

The tone--bad spelling and grammar, vile vocabulary--is surprisingly consistent with the "I hate Microsoft" threads on the computer tech forums I follow. You could characterize it as a "literary" genre--call it "Internet flamers."

But back to the local forum--I know some of the people doing the character assassination. They are unhappy people--a mentally ill former teacher who lost his job, a woman on home confinement for a drug offense, a lonely retiree.

Attacking people with apparent power (like a job in the legal system, or a radio commentator) gives them a feeling of power and participation which they cannot generate on their own. In a small community like ours, or a small audience, like public radio, the personal attacks even have a chance of hurting someone's feelings. (Not much chance calling the President a bad name on a website will change his mood.)

Anonymity just turns people loose to be cruder, and sloppier in their comments.