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Satire: PBS’ Ken Burns Just Throwing Stuff Together Anymore

Award-winning PBS documentary filmmaker and American icon Ken Burns, whose previous work on the Civil War, Jazz and Baseball has furthered the art of historical storytelling, admits now he just throws together whatever old black and white clips he turns up and calls it a day.

“Yeah, so what?” demanded the angry director. “What the hell have you ever accomplished on PBS? ‘Donating’ $800 for a logoed tote bag? I just got bored.”

Burns went on to describe his current creative process. “I have this way-too-serious film student intern, you know, all nose ring and gauges want to save some tribe or whatever. I send her off with a bus ticket to the Library of Congress and tell her to bring back about an hour of whatever black and white footage she can find laying around. It no longer matters to me if it’s rare stereoscopes of Rutherford Hayes, an Abe Lincoln sex tape or some stock footage of old-timey trains. Just fill the bag and get back to the studio pronto.”

“Did I tell you? The other day someone thought I was Dave Barry. I had to slap him down– ‘I’m Ken Freakin’ Burns’ dammit.'”

“Anyway, once I roll out of bed, I just splice all that crap together in whatever order it comes off the floor. If the whole thing doesn’t fill the hour, I just have PBS run it twice. I got this CD of Peruvian pan flute music I bought off the street as background music– no copyright fees to pay on that ’cause the musicians are illegals– so I make a few extra bucks. I call up my old pal Morgan Freeman, we do some blow, and then I have him just read random things off the web into a microphone and we call it narration. That guy is something else. He can make reading the list of ingredients off a box of Captain Crunch sound important. Sometimes I get the intern to give it all a title, sometimes I just label the shipping container ‘Blah Blah Blah: A History by Ken Burns’ and that’s that.”

“I used to do all this research, but now that’s about as appealing to me as eating aluminum foil. Plus PBS killed me with the pace. ‘Yeah Ken, keep it classy and really dig into the subject, explore, but hey man, we also need a new doc from you every other week. And no more cheating us on time. 57 minutes isn’t an hour.'”

“The sickest part is that those people soak it up. Everytime PBS runs one of my films, pledges go up like 187% compared to when they play one of those ‘Golden Oldies, Music of Yesteryear’ things. Those losers ought to try porn and see what that does to their donations.”

Burns ended the interview: “I hate myself.”

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Peter Van Buren writes about current events at blog. His book,Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99Percent, is available now from Amazon

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Peter Van Buren

Peter Van Buren

Peter Van Buren has served with the Foreign Service for over 23 years. He received a Meritorious Honor Award for assistance to Americans following the Hanshin earthquake in Kobe, a Superior Honor Award for helping an American rape victim in Japan, and another award for work in the tsunami relief efforts in Thailand. Previous assignments include Taiwan, Japan, Korea, the UK and Hong Kong. He volunteered for Iraq service and was assigned to ePRT duty 2009-10. His tour extended past the withdrawal of the last combat troops.

Van Buren worked extensively with the military while overseeing evacuation planning in Japan and Korea. This experience included multiple field exercises, plus civil-military work in Seoul, Tokyo, Hawaii, and Sydney with allies from the UK, Australia, and elsewhere. The Marine Corps selected Van Buren to travel to Camp Lejeune in 2006 to participate in a field exercise that included simulated Iraqi conditions. Van Buren spent a year on the Hill in the Department of State’s Congressional Liaison Office.

Van Buren speaks Japanese, Chinese Mandarin, and some Korean (the book’s all in English, don’t worry). Born in New York City, he lives in Virginia with his spouse, two daughters, and a docile Rottweiler.

Though this is his first book, Peter’s commentary has been featured on TomDispatch, Salon, Huffington Post, The Nation, American Conservative Magazine, Mother Jones, Michael Moore.com, Le Monde, Daily Kos, Middle East Online, Guernica and others.

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