I’m not, per se, a huge fan of cop shows, (although I enjoyed, and miss, NYPD Blue.)
But three shows have really caught my attention: Wallander (the Swedish version), The Tunnel and Inspector Lewis.
There are two versions of Wallander, the Swedish one (with English subtitles), filmed in the small southern coastal town of Ystad, and the English one, with Kenneth Branagh. For a variety of reasons, I prefer the Swedish.
I love the craggy, grumpy Wallander (pronounced Vall – AN -der), played by Krister Henriksson, who always looks like he could use 10 more hours of sleep, some coffee and a shave. He supervises two young detectives, Pontus and Isabelle, and their relationships form an interesting backdrop to the storylines.
I love the moody gray, blue and black palette of each 90-minute episode, which feels — to a North American viewer accustomed to 30 or 60-minute shows punctured with ads — luxurious and immersive, like a movie.
I love seeing Sweden’s gorgeous landscapes and beaches, and I like the way they say “Tack!” like a gunshot (Thanks, or please) into their cellphones.
I sat riveted every Sunday evening to see The Tunnel, a BBC production that is — a first — bilingual, half in French, half in English. It’s also the first time that officials allowed anyone to film inside the undersea tunnel that runs between England and France.
I missed the first episode, but it begins with the discovery of a woman’s severed body, half on the English side of the tunnel and half on the French side.
“Ah, les rosbifs“, sigh the young French female detectives as the grizzled English cops arrive, as they now, resentfully, have to work together to solve a bi-national crime.
I saw no North American press coverage of this amazing show, and think Clemence Poesy is astounding as Elise Wasserman, the pale, taciturn blond who leads the French investigation. Her leonine face seemed to be make-up free, her hair always un-brushed, focused laser-narrow on her work.
Her British counterpart, Karl Roebuck, is a tough old thing who has multiple children with multiple women — and can’t keep his trousers zipped. He’s used to charming his way through most situations, a tactic Elise (even tougher) is utterly immune to.
The storyline is complex , with a surprise twist at the end.
It’s violent, of course, at times but emotionally compelling, and I found myself deeply involved with the two key characters. This 10-episode series also had a very distinctive aesthetic — pale, washed-out, everyone wearing blue, black, green or brown.
The scene switches constantly from England to France, from one culture and language and procedural style to another. (As someone who’s lived in both countries, and speaks French, I loved this element of it.)
Set in and around the gorgeous city of Oxford, and on the university campus, its three major characters are as likely to head to the pub for a pint as to gather at a murder scene.
I haven’t yet been to Oxford, (or Ystad), so I enjoy seeing the gorgeous scenery and the creamy stone buildings of the university. There are endless little digs at class difference and a wry perspective on the insularity of academic life.
Like Wallander, Morse plays a somewhat avuncular role with his younger sidekick, and it’s interesting to watch that relationship.
These shows allowed me to enjoy visiting Europe each week, without a long flight or jet lag.
On a recent visit to Paris, (my husband having insisted on us taking a taxi in from the airport), we had a good hour to listen to the cabby’s choice — and discovered our new favorite station, TSF Jazz. It’s fantastic, and a much better mix of music than my New Jersey jazz station, WBGO, which tends to include far too much talk.
Few things make me as happy as listening to the radio, maybe a holdover from my teen years growing up in Toronto, (a good town for radio), and the glories of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
When I moved to the U.S. in 1989, I started listening to National Public Radio and its panoply of shows: All Things Considered, Studio 360, (my favorite, a weekly review of culture), the New York talk shows of Brian Lehrer, (I’ve been a guest a few times), and Leonard Lopate, The Moth, This American Life and Radiolab.
A favorite is John Schaefer, and his WNYC show New Sounds, which introduces me every single time to bands and types of music I’ve never encountered.
I tune in most days to WFUV, which stands for Fordham University’s voice — Fordham is the Jesuit university in Manhattan, and FUV offers a mix of rock, folk and blues.
We also like WQXR, New York’s only classical music station, although they play far too many warhorses and waltzes for my taste.
When I can make time, I’ll tune in to BBC World News, which runs here in New York for a full hour, from 9:00 am ET; I often hear many stories there, and in more detail, than I read or hear from American media.
Some of you might be old enough to remember Radio Caroline, the British pirate radio station that recently celebrated its 50th anniversary — it began broadcasting, from an offshore ship, on March 27, 1964. It was the UK’s first commercial station and challenge to the BBC.
My earliest media memories are of lying in bed in the dark, around age seven, listening to — what else? — the Beatles on my transistor radio.
I’m bereft without the radio.
In Nicaragua, in the village with no electricity or running water, there was, even there, a transistor radio hung on a large nail. At night, it played a politician’s speech for hours, and, in the morning — in the native tongue, Miskitu — familiar Christian hymns How Great Thou Art and What A Friend We Have in Jesus.
Long before the Internet or television, radio linked us. It still does.
I listen to a great deal of National Public Radio, especially topic-specific shows like The Moth (story-telling by regular people); The Brian Lehrer show (NY-area politics and economics), the Leonard Lopate show (culture); Studio 360 (ditto), This American Life (three segments on a theme), RadioLab, Fresh Air and The Diane Rehm Show (smart, long-running interview shows hosted by women), and others.
This American Life, with 2.2 million listeners, is now considering handling its own distribution. I was heartened to read here, that I’m not the only fogey still using an actual radio:
While online and mobile listening are growing rapidly, particularly among younger listeners, “there’s still a lot of listening going on in radio,” said David Kansas, chief operating officer for American Public Media, whose other offerings include “Marketplace” and “Prairie Home Companion.” Distributors, he said, do not just provide technical support, they also work with stations to raise the visibility of a show in local markets: bringing in program hosts, creating content related to local issues and helping with live events.
When I have an hour in the morning, I listen to BBC World News and always hear stories I never would know about from American media. You might also try the Canadian evening national news showAs It Happens; when I lived with my father in my teens, every dinner began with its theme music.
I love being able to iron or cook or clean or just lie on the sofa in the dark and focus on the music and words; television tethers me to a specific spot and steals all my attention.
Do you listen to the radio?
What sort of shows or music do you enjoy?
What are some of your favorite shows — and where can we find them (streaming on-line)?
This evening, in D.C., I’ll be receiving an award for my cover story — ooooh, glamorous! — in Arthritis Today, about what it was like to stay active and athletic, despite 2.5 years of constant left hip pain, before I had it replaced in February 2012. Here it is, if you’re interested.
We’ll stay with friends in the area and I have a business meeting and then we drive to coastal Virginia to stay with friends of my husband, from when he was a photographer in the White House Press Corps for eight years. Jose is the photo editor of the New York Times business section, with six meetings every day, responsible for finding photographers all over the world to shoot assignments for the section’s stories. So he, too, is very ready for a break.
Eat, sleep, read, repeat! The only writing I plan to do is blogging and working (a bit) on my book proposal, hoping to finish the damn thing so I can send it to my agent.
It’s been an insane few months, and while I’m grateful indeed for a steady freelance income, I’m fried. Last week I had four stories due in four days and attended two all-day conferences, where I learned a lot, especially about social media.
In addition to which, I’m pitching ideas to people almost every single day and following up those pitches — and chasing payments that are always late.
I did get a terrific email from someone I met recently, introducing me to a potentially hungry new market, the BBC’s website, which actually pays well. Yay! So I have that to look forward to when we get back.
The challenge of working for yourself is that no one ever gives you a raise or a bonus. They almost never say “Good job. Thanks!” because they’re too busy and our business just isn’t one for a lot of back-slapping. So I asked one regular client for a raise, and she’s giving me a 20% boost. It’s only an extra $200 per story, but I’m damn glad to have it, since so many places simply refuse — even after decades at the same rates — to offer more.
The good part of working for myself is that I can take off whenever and wherever I choose, as long as the bills are paid. So I’ll have these 10 days, come back to New York for a week, then head to Tucson, Arizona for two weeks, where Jose is teaching The New York Times Student Journalism Institute. If you’re a college student studying journalism, join the Hispanic Journalists Association, stat! You do not have to be Hispanic…if you are chosen for the Institute, you’ll get two weeks’ working with NYT staff, a stipend and an all expense paid trip to Tucson.
The BBC, and other broadcasters, have faced consistent criticism about the lack of female experts on air. Last year a report by Sound Women, a pressure group set up to represent women working in radio, found that 84 per cent of the reporters and guests on Radio 4’s flagship Today programme are men….
The ‘expert women database’ contains the details of the 60 women who have so far received free training via these days, as well as the contacts of a further 120 women who “showed promise” in their applications to the BBC Academy. More than 2,000 women applied for the first BBC Academy female expert training day but there were only 30 spaces. The BBC Expert Women YouTube channel features videos of successful Expert Women trainees presenting to the camera on their specialist topic.
This is an urgent matter. American women face the same challenge, as VIDA catalogs each year; here’s a longer story about this four-year-old group’s efforts.
In the United States, reputational power relies on a web of relationships, and media visibility is a direct result of this. If your work, and ideas, are not audible or visible, you’re unlikely to win grants and fellowships or get your book(s) published. You have to prove your “platform”, that you have an audience eager to hear your thoughts.
And if you’re an ambitious, smart writer focusing on politics, economics or social commentary, you’ll also want your work, at some point, to appear in Harper’s, The Atlantic or The New Republic, to name three.
I interviewed for a staff job, unsuccessfully, at Newsweek three times. I was told (seriously!), they only wanted writers who write for The Atlantic, which I hadn’t then and still haven’t. What a bullshit barrier to erect!
Here’s the stats for 2012:
Harper’s — female bylines, 31, male bylines 158
The New Republic –male book reviewers, 79; female 9
The New Republic — female bylines, 77; male bylines 389.
So, what’s the deal?
Women don’t speak up?
Women have no ideas suitable for these publications?
Or their ideas are getting shot down?
Or they haven’t built/created the networks of (Ivy educated men) gatekeepers to these publications?
A few months ago, I saw something that made me want to weep with excitement — all six columns of the front page of The New York Times were stories written by women.
For those of you not working in journalism, there is no better placement in a newspaper than front page, above the fold — i.e. the first place readers look, on paper or on-line.
Women’s voices need to be heard. We have wisdom, humor, insights, analysis and ideas to share. We vote. We run companies. We’re raising the next generation, or teaching them or nursing them or selling them stuff.
The gatekeepers to media — the radio and television producers, the editors and reporters and freelancers — are busy, overwhelmed and/or lazy. They reach for who they know. So that’s a hurdle of inertia we all have to leap.
If you’re a female journo, aim high(er)!
If you’re a woman expert, reach out to your local newspaper, websites, television and radio stations.
The day began with gusty wind and torrents of rain — and a fresh hairdo thanks to Ilda, who arrived at her salon at 7:40 a.m. to help me prepare for my BBC television interview.
The BBC studio, a very small room with lots of lights and a camera mounted on a tripod in the corner, is part of their New York City office, which shares a wall (!) with Al Jazeera next door. Both of them, like some sort of journalistic Russian matryoshka doll, are inside the offices of the Associated Press, in a huge building at 450 West 33rd — the same building where I worked in 2005-2006 as a reporter for the New York Daily News.
During the live hour-long show, which was heard worldwide, I perched on a stool with an earpiece in my ear, producers’ tinny voices from London competing with the five other guests, from Arkansas to London to Connecticut. Afterward, I went to the lobby and sat in Starbucks and drank tea and read magazines for an hour just to calm down. It’s thrilling to be part of an international broadcast, but also a little terrifying.
I went to the Post Office to buy five stamps. I stood in line for almost 25 minutes, in a line full of people bitterly grumbling at the only clerk.
I took the subway uptown and northeast and decided to wander the West 50s. (For non New Yorkers, the West side begins at Fifth Avenue.)
The narrow gloomy depths of St. Thomas Episcopal Church offered respite, its white stone altar a mass of carvings, saint upon saint. Enormous Christmas wreaths of pine hang on the bare stone walls. The church is still and calm, an oasis of stillness amid the crowds and noise and light and frenzied spending of money all around it.
Lunch is a lucky find, Tina’s, on 56th, which sells Cuban food. The place is packed with nearby office workers gossiping. For $14, I have pernil (roast pork), spicy black beans, potato salad and a passion fruit batido (milkshake)– across Fifth Avenue at the St. Regis Hotel, a single cocktail would cost more.
I love it: powerful, simple drawings of an almost impossible economy of line. Some of them are raw and graphic, of women with their knees drawn to their chest, legs splayed, naked. They were done 100 years ago, between 1911 and 1918. Schiele and his wife, then six months pregnant, died three days apart in the Spanish flu epidemic that killed an impossible 20 million people.
He was 28, and his final drawing was of his dying wife, Edith. I find everything about his life somewhat heartbreaking. Dead at 28?!
Two small ancient white terriers, one named Muffin, kept bursting out of the gallery office, barking madly.
I loved the pencil drawing of his mother — “Meine Mutter” written on one side, drawn on deep tan paper — with her rimless glasses and dour expression, her hands half-hidden beneath her dress.
His women almost burst from the weathered pages, one woman’s right leg, literally, stepping off the edge of the paper as she lunges towards us. They often wear no make-up or jewelry or furs. Some were said to be prostitutes, his association with them scandalous in bourgeois Vienna.
In our jaded, virtual era of all-pixels-all-the-time, I revel in the physicality of these works on paper, their edges thick and smudged, their cotton fibres crinkled and wrinkled. You can imagine his hands holding them a century ago, his young fingers so confident in their vision, so soon to be stilled.
Some of the works are for sale, for $45,000 to $1 million+; only one has sold, but the young woman at the front desk won’t tell me for how much. Oh, how I long to win the lottery! A Schiele has long been on my most-wanted list.
In the cold, gray dusk, I walked the 15 blocks south to Grand Central Station, down Fifth Avenue, crammed with contradictions. For the fanny-packed and white-sneaker-shod from the heartland, agape and moving waayyyyyyy too slowly for the impatient natives actually trying to get somewhere quickly, there’s Gap and Juicy Couture and Friday’s, all comforting reminders of home.
For the oligarchs, jetting in privately, there’s Harry Winston, a legendary jeweler, whose precious gemstones are the size of my thumbnail. This is not a place to browse. I wonder when, on this list of their outposts, the latter four were added. How times change!
Throngs of tourists are lined up — to get into Hollister, a national clothing chain they can see at home in Iowa or Florida.
At Godiva chocolates, a woman is dipping strawberries.
A huge, glittering snake made of lights encircles (en-squares?) the edges of the corner building holding the luxury jeweler Bulgari.
For a hit of hot carbs, carts sell pretzels and roast chestnuts.
Outside the enormous private University Club, people of power and privilege sitting in its tall windows, a black man sits in a wheelchair holding a plastic cup in which to collect donations. I give him a dollar and, to my surprise, he hands me something in return — a glossy postcard, a close-up of his artificial legs.
“What happened to your legs?” I ask.
“Poor circulation,” he replies. (Diabetes, surely.)
Amid the temples of Mammon — Bulgari, Fendi, Ferragamo, Henri Bendel, Saks, the Gap, Barnes & Noble, Prada
— there are three churches, St. Thomas, Fifth Avenue Presbyterian and St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
One might stop to pray.
One might pray to stop.
On Madison in the mid-40s, I pass Paul Stuart, with the necessities of male elegance, like these…
The two bastions of classic male style, Paul Stuart and Brooks Brothers, entered my consciousness when I was 22, on one of my first visits to New York — because the offices of magazine publisher Conde Nast (named for the man who founded it), sat right between them at 350 Madison Avenue. It’s now for rent.
Can you imagine my excitement when I stopped by Glamour and Mademoiselle, in the days when I carried a large artists’ portfolio with clips of my published articles, to meet the editors? As a young, insatiably ambitious journalist from Toronto, this was the epicenter of writing success, an address I’d memorized in my early teens.
Glamour liked one of my stories — typed on paper — tucked in the back and not even yet published by the Canadian magazine that had commissioned it. So it ran three months later in Glamour as a resale. Swoon!
Back to Grand Central Station to meet Jose at the entrance to the 5:38, the express train speeding us home, non-stop, in 38 minutes.
If you have any interest in this subject, I’m speaking at 15:00 GMT (10:00 a.m. ET) on BBC television tomorrow, Friday Dec. 21, about the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut and the reaction to them.
The call-in show is an hour, and will have five guests, three of them from the U.S., me and two men, one a colleague who has lived in Newtown for 19 years and a gun-owner from Arkansas.
In the past few days, I’ve done a BBC interview, written an op-ed for a Canadian newspaper and given an interview that ran in two German newspapers, Berliner Zeitung and Frankfurter Rundschau; here is the brief interview that ran in Frankfurter Rundschau.
The world is horrified by the massacre and many people — like many Americans — simply cannot understand why so many Americans insist on owning a gun.
If you have no idea what they are saying to their members — and do not understand how organized and well-funded they are — it’s more difficult to fashion any useful counter-arguments or marshal useful and effective opposition.
The guns used in this attack belonged to a woman, 52-year-old Nancy Lanza, a middle-aged small-town divorcee, probably the last person many would expect to own five guns, including a Sig Sauer 9-millimetre pistol, a Glock 10-millimetre pistol and a Bushmaster AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.
Why, asked one of my Facebook friends, an artist in California, did she even choose to collect guns? “Why not bicycles or butterflies?”
Because, for millions of American gun owners, owning a gun is as key to their identity and core beliefs as their support for, or opposition to, abortion. For some women, knowing how to shoot accurately and having a firearm in their home and/or vehicle, maybe even in their purse, also reflects the American ethos of individual rights and self-reliance.
President Obama has vowed to take action, but to do so he needs to involve women. He should create, this week, a multidisciplinary committee — composed not of politicians whose alliances and funding have impeded federal gun legislation for decades — but of those most directly involved in gun use and violence.
Perhaps most important, the committee should include its fair share of women — both those who have been affected by gun violence and those who own firearms. Many women with useful insights into this issue are afraid to speak out publicly for fear of being vilified and shunned in ways that male gun-owners are not.
It might include: emergency room doctors and nurses; hospital administrators bearing the significant costs of treating gun shot wounds; law enforcement and criminologists; public health advocates like Harvard’s David Hemenway; moderate, concerned individual gun-owners; experts in diagnosing and treating mental illness; domestic violence experts; and primary care physicians and pediatricians wary of — even legally forbidden from — discussing how their patients may store their guns and ammunition.
Until all sides are negotiating at the table together — gun owners and victims of gun crimes, public health workers and private gun shop owners, men and women — a viable solution will continue to evade this society.
What do you think of this idea of a Presidential committee?
I think we desperately need new and fresh ideas, no matter how odd or challenging they appear to put into action.
The TV listings in my local paper, The New York Times, have 106 channels, including nine premium cable.
In the past month, I’ve turned the television on maybe four or five times. I wish I could say I miss it terribly, but I don’t. My TV fast began in June when I house-sat in Vermont, with a screen that needed three remotes, none of which I understood. Instead, I went to a barbecue, a minor league baseball game and read.
You know, books.
It continued at my Dad’s house when I was house-sitting in late September. I’d light a fire — a luxury we don’t have at home — eat dinner on the coffee table and settle in with a huge stack of unread magazines. I didn’t miss TV at all.
I normally watch NBC Nightly News every evening at 6:30, fully aware that it’s a narrow, slick, over-produced reduction of what’s happening in the world. Foreign news is almost unheard of in the United States, except for wars affecting U.S. interests and huge natural disasters. If you want a clue that the world beyond the U.S. exists, you need to follow BBC and consume on-line media from other countries.
I often follow the news with Jeopardy, (a quiz show in the U.S., for which I qualified in 2006, but was never called to appear.) My granny used to watch it, so it’s something of a tradition. I also want to stay in trim as I plan to try out again on my next visit to L.A. The host is Alex Trebek, a fellow Canadian, who once hosted a Canadian quiz show for high school students called Reach For The Top. I was on our school’s team two years in a row and helped take us to the quarter finals.
I enjoy What Not To Wear (which helps you figure out how to dress better) and Project Runway. I avoid all talk shows and political coverage, as I get plenty of that from my print and on-line sources already. How many opinions do I want to hear every day?
The TV stays dark most of the time right now because I’m burned out on the hyper-stimulation, the silliness, the repetition and its incredible time-suck.
I do watch movies, often, and eagerly await the January start, here in the U.S., of the third season of Downton Abbey.
I recently discovered “Wallander”, the original series in Swedish, shot in a town of 18,000 in southern Sweden, and loved it. I was so struck, in one episode, by the dominance of a very specific color, a deep teal — in clothing, wall colors, the evening sky, upholstery. I love the differences in every detail: the cars, the light, the landscape, even the electrical outlets. (I think I need to do some overseas travel soon!)
I had seen the British version, starring Kenneth Branagh, but much prefer the Swedish one.
But here’s a sampling of shows on offer — and why I’m able to resist:
The American Bible Challenge
Shocking Hip Hop Moments
High School football
The Real Housewives of Miami
I’m reading a lot more books. Talking to my husband and friends. Calmer and less distracted.
One friend, whose boys are two and six, limits their entire weekly screen time — including anything with a screen — to one hour every Friday night. Imagine.
Inspired by her discipline, I’m also trying to severely reduce the time I spend staring into any screen, whether phone, Ipad, computer or TV.
In the past few weeks, I’ve re-discovered a lost pleasure, that of diving into a book and disappearing in it for uninterrupted hours. I read, and loved two novels, “The Expats”, by Chris Pavone and Richard Ford’s newest, “Canada.”
I got the coolest email this week, from the programmer for the Vancouver Film Festival — it’s on today at 12:20 for those of you who live there — asking about my Dad, Ron Kelly, whose early films about that city in the 1960s are being honored. (It’s where I was born.)
One of them, about violent youths, was never broadcast by the CBC because of its content. Here’s his Wikipedia entry. He’s alive and healthy at 83, just back from Turkey and heading off to Chicago then Asia in the next month.
In 1962, he won the Palme D’Or at Cannes for “The Tearaways”, another film about misspent youth, this time British, which the BBC also refused to air. Love it!
So when I spend my career looking for tough topics others shy away from, I have a role model for it in him. (My mother also worked as a radio, TV and print reporter, once smuggling tapes of the Chicago 8 trial north to the CBC.) I grew up watching my parents make a nice living digging under intellectual rocks going “Ooooh, look!”
It never really occurred to me to think otherwise, that being polite and obedient and deferring to authority was normal behavior, as it is for many people. I’m hardly a 24/7 hellion, and I’m conventional enough to have a mortgage — but I’m usually most attracted to stories that will piss someone off.
I think far too much “journalism” today is lightweight crap meant to please advertisers and amuse readers, instead of telling truth to power.
I think the world is filled with tough, difficult stories that need to be well-told.
I think many people are too scared to piss off the wealthy who increasingly own our democracies.
My husband, a lovely, gentle man who has worked in the same place for almost 30 years, is pretty much my polar opposite in this regard. He’s a PK, a preacher’s kid, and PKs are typically raised in a bubble of high expectations, docile/polite behavior and the need to get along with everyone. He learned it from his Dad.
But Jose has also has done his share of mixing it up, as a news and sports photographer for The New York Times, telling amazing and difficult stories, like covering the end of the Bosnian War. The way he managed to get a photo of General Manuel Noriega is so insanely inventive it makes me think he missed his calling as a spook. His sangfroid on 9/11 also helped the Times win a Pulizter.
People who go into hard news journalism tend to like poking sharp objects at things. In that respect, it’s a terrific field for a woman like me, who’s nosy, pushy and rarely satisfied with pat answers. It rewards brass-balled women, otherwise generally socialized to “be nice.”
I’d rather have front page above the fold, thanks.