While I was combing the tubes of the internet this morning for interesting items to intrigue, delight, inform and entertain the NCPR audience for another few hours on a winter Saturday, it occurred to me how much my job was coming to resemble that of Scheherazade in The Thousand and One Nights. You may recall the tale:
The Persian king Shahryar (I believe the name translates as “grumpy”), disappointed by an unfaithful love, had developed a wasteful habit of marrying women, spending one night with them, and chopping their heads off at dawn. Enter the vizier’s daughter Scheherazade, who forestalled her grisly fate each night with a fascinating new tale, which she would interrupt at dawn at a cliff-hanging moment, gaining another day on the planet. She ran out of new stories after 1000 nights, but by that time, she had converted the cruel king into what the ratings folks call “core audience,” and they lived happily ever after.
Scheherazade didn’t write her stories. According to Burton, “She had perused the works of the poets and knew them by heart; she had studied philosophy and the sciences, arts and accomplishments; and she was pleasant and polite, wise and witty, well read and well bred.”
While I can’t claim all those qualities, I do my best to keep the pantry stocked with a liberal (in the liberal arts meaning of the word) selection of tales. Because the job has to be done anew each day. So one day it’s a video of llamas on the lam, the next it’s Fifty Shades of Politics, then on to an Adirondack hermit, or exploring the science of the mind, or deep space. New art, new ideas, tales of love and mayhem. Mind-boggling images, alluring music.
And it’s not just me. It’s the whole station, the whole network, all the networks and magazines and papers, and blogs and websites and feeds. You gotta feed the beast, because you know what will happen if you run out of fodder.
That’s right–it’s off with your talking head and tomorrow night the “king” will spend the night with cat videos, and the next will be reality TV, then on to the game shows, or teenage vampire thrillers. It would be a grisly fate.