Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Story of STUFF

Volume 2, Number 3 -- January 20, 2009

This week in New World Notes, #48 -- January 20 & 23:

Apart from the speaker's voice, this is great radio! I know: we're getting pretty close to, "Apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?" But hear me out.

Annie Leonard is a serious person; a good researcher, writer, and editor; and a talented filmmaker. On-screen she's dressed and made-up comfortably and very plainly, with only a smidgeon of conventional femininity--as though she planned to go out back and dig up the garden as soon as filming was over
But her voice! It's the cutesy, squeaky, faux-kindergarten-teacher style: high-pitched, with too great a range of intonation. She's the lady on the supermarket PA system, cooing about how your cat will love Acme-brand Kitty Treats . . . and you! But speaking twice as fast. Melanie Griffith on amphetamines. (Shirley Temple, for you old-timers.)

But don't touch that dial! Two minutes into her talk, the voice was bothering me much less. Three minutes in, I stopped noticing entirely. What she was saying was a brilliant, cogent synthesis of politics, science, and economics. She was explaining--clearly, persuasively, and in ways almost anyone could understand--why our globalized system of production, consumption, and disposal is bad news for almost everybody everywhere and also completely unsustainable.

Let's go back a few steps. Leonard produced a 20-some-minute video called The Story of STUFF. It's available, free, on the Internet. The visuals alternate between her (speaking to the camera/viewer) and some animated stick-figures drawn in pencil. This was the easiest video in the world to adapt for radio, since the heart and soul of the work are Leonard's spoken words. Though, I hafta admit, the stick-figures are awfully cute.

Auld acquaintance and now acclaimed Lefty folk-singer Anne Feeney turned me on to the video. Thanks, Anne! Later I discovered that the Unwelcome Guests Collective ( had already broadcast the piece on their nationally-distributed radio program. Well, if you live in southern New England, you may have missed it, so here's another chance.

I still have no idea why God gave the world Melanie Griffith. I should check the Book of Job for clues. But Annie Leonard's contribution to the universe is easier to discern. Everyone--especially every American--should either see her video or else listen to a fine radio adaptation of it, such as . . . well, modesty forbids. . . .

This week's music:
  • Chumbawamba, The Good Ship Lifestyle
  • Intro: Warren Zevon with Something Happens, Werewolves of London

Catch New World Notes . . .

No comments: