MAY 29, 2009 6:35PM

Open Chat: Saturn Smith

Rate: 64 Flag

We're launching a new occasional feature on Open Salon  that we're calling Open Chats -- short, 5-minute or so interviews with Open Salon contributors -- and we're thrilled to kick it off with the site's very own Interplanet Janet, the great Saturn Smith. Aside from the occasional email, I only knew Saturn from her blog, and had no idea what the actual person would be like. All I knew is that I'd grown reliant on her sharp and timely analysis of all things political, with the occasional foray into economics. I was thrilled to make her pixellated acquaintance, as am sure you will be, too.

(As for the Open Chats -- we'll do these every couple of weeks. It's a cool and easy way to create a video [we just used Skype, recorded it with Call Recorder, and edited in iMovie -- though I'm sure there are myriad ways of doing this]. The quality is so-so [sorry, Saturn!] but we'll learn as we go on. And I hope those of you interested will try this at home -- and let us know what works for you.)

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My favorite political OSer breaks new ground! Huzzah!
Actually, it's wild to see and hear BOTH of you! :-D
Super cool! Thank you for this!
Wonderful to see you two animated! I love this idea.

SS, you ROCK!
I really like this interview of one of my favorite people let alone bloggers ;0) Thanks.
And we get commercials too... What's up with that? Otherwise, very cool. Great concept and interesting interview. It's nice to see the face behind the name. I LOVE Saturn and that she jumps on stories ahead of everyone else. Saturn Forever! On a side note, you have a serious, independent eyebrow, Kerry. It's very secret agent! ;)
Oh wow, what a cool idea! I look forward to hearing some more voices and seeing some more faces in the future!
Kerry...Leave Saturn alone. She has to finish her thesis this weekend! I know I've been there trying to finish up an M.A. thesis. (Though not being pestered by people who wanted to interview me on television, while trying to do that. Just distracted by the worst Ice Storm in the history of Canada)

But, kidding aside. I'm glad you did this. Is sounds like she may not be around forever. Damn!
This was a wonderful idea! It really humanizes the both of you. You're not just avatars; but real live people. I look forward to the follow-up interviews.

Shall I start a petition for MTK? :)
so cool! and I'm still in love, nice to have the imagination match up with the reality. SS is someone I always read, she's got a great (writing) voice and now an audio one too. Thanks so much Kerry for doing this. Loved hearing you both.
What a wonderful and appropriate way to take OS into another dimension. As far as I know, this is a first in the blogging world!
If anyone deserves a higher profile, it's the almost-insanely prolific Saturn.
This brings another dimension to the flat prairie of my monitor. Enjoyed it.
Hey, thanks, Kerry, for the nice intro and the interview, and thanks everybody for the kind comments!

Juliet -- heh, thanks! I actually got the thesis approved about 3 hours ago by the Big Bad Grad School, so... I'm pretty much finished now, except some grading. Woohoo! Good luck with yours, too.

Neil, that trade off of time and ease of life is totally on my mind going into law school; thanks for the words of wisdom, which I'm thinking come from experience, no?
What kind of Grace L. Ferguson Storm Door and Airline Graduate School are you in? When I was a grad student, it was acknowledged that such humans were the last legal source of indentured servitude; taking more than a couple of minutes a day (not counting the 3 hours allowed for sleep) of personal time was grounds for expulsion.

(You can check who Grace is, if you're interested. I didn't make it up.)
Hey! Congrats Saturn! That's great!
Cool! Congrats to you Saturn, law can be a fascinating career, but that first year is a killer. If you haven't read it yet, look for Scott Turow's first book, One L.

Great use of the technology Kerry. Did anyone else think it was a tad ironic that ATT was the sponsor (advert) for a piece produced using Skype?
Very cool! I hope this continues!
What an extremely cool treat to not only have you hosting interviews, but to get one w/one of our favorite heavenly bodies! (Um, that doesn’t come out right, does it?) Thank you!
Super first interview. It's nice to put a voice and face to a tremendous blogger: Saturn Smith.
It was nice meeting both of you--thanks Kerry!
I love this - voices to go with the words. And Saturn was the first thing that really drew me into OS so I am glad to get to know her a little better.
This is a very fine idea Kerry, I think it will be a very healthful and enlightening thing for all of us...
oh, hey, how cool is that?!
Talk about sexism (in my own perceptions). I thought Saturn was a guy!!

I'll listen to this later.

Thanks for this Kerry.

Any plans on transcribing these Open Chats? I like the eye candy, but I want to know what she's saying.
Well, confirming she is one cool woman! :) Very nice.
Very cool! Can I be next? hehehehe. I didn't think so. Very well done for a first go around. This should be a big hit. Can't wait for the next one. Very inventive.
Kerry, I'm going to take over your comments section! But for Jon and anyone who'd rather read -- here's a transcript (and I admit I edited out some of the "ums," mostly on my side. Wow, is that a habit I need to break):

Kerry: This is the first ever Open Salon Skype Interview – Skype-view, we could call them.

Saturn: Nice!

Kerry: And we're launching it with Saturn Smith, who is one of our most prolific, and I think really successful bloggers on Open Salon since we launched. You started I think in August?

Saturn: Yeah, I think so. It was really hot so I was stuck inside, is kind of what I remember.

Kerry: Is that right? How did you find out about it?

Saturn: Um, I actually had heard about it through two people who I went to school with, who were part of the earlier crowd, and they were talking about it, and I overheard it at a party, and I was like, hm, maybe I'll check that out, and then – yeah, it just kind of went from there.

Kerry: I think it was your first post, was kind of a personal post about death. It wasn't even what I think most people have come to expect from you now, which is political analysis. Is that – did you join kind of thinking you would do a lot of politics, or is that something you kind of just grew into?

Saturn: Yeah, I think – no, I didn't join thinking I would do much politics. I've spent the last couple of years doing a lot of personal essay writing and fiction writing, and so, that was where my mind was focused. But, then I, I think I saw someone else was posting on the invasion in Georgia, and it just became sort of interesting to have that conversation online. And yeah – wish I had a better story, like, oh no, I set out to conquer the political world, but really, no...

Kerry: We know a little bit about you, little piecemeal information here and there. I know you were a drum-major in high school, a little personal information. But what else, what else can you tell us about you?

Saturn: Um, I'm right now, I'm a graduate student, actually in creative writing, which, you know, very highly profitable market, with political science to fall back on, so – really, how can you go wrong?

Kerry: Because you have a bachelor's degree in political science.

Saturn: Yeah, and now I'm actually two weeks away from my master's in creative writing, so it gives me a lot of time to procrastinate on the Internet, getting my thesis done, basically.

Kerry: Well, congratulations on that. What though is the goal then, with the creative writing? Do you want to be a novelist?

Saturn: I did want to be a novelist for about two out of the three years, and um now, I'm actually, next fall I'll start law school. So, uh – yeah. Everybody says, “Oh, are you quitting writing?” No, but I assume I'll have much less time to do creative-type writing.

Kerry: Any particular kind of law?

Saturn: Ah--- I'm really interested in federal regulation type law, which, you know, is just fascinating, I hear! No, um, because I have trouble sleeping, and that seems like a good cure?

Saturn: Right now, the person that I read every day and enjoy the most is actually Andrew Leonard on Salon, the How the World Works. I just – he – I like the way that he cites things, but then also offers something new, kind of, in every paragraph. That's the style I admire most, is where you're taking information that's out there, and then, you know, you do some rephrasing, but you also add your own thoughts about it.

Kerry: I guess you've kind of answered this, because you're finishing up your MFA, which would suggest lots of unstructured time. Lots of hard work, I'm not saying it's – but you've probably been working on a big project, right, which you can either procrastinate or put off. Is that why you're able to be so prolific? Because you're amazingly fast, I mean there are times when you've, you will frequently beat all the Salon bloggers on something pretty important, which is great, but hard work to do.

Saturn: Yeah, I think, um, yes, I do have a lot of unstructured time right now, and I think it's going to come back to bite me in the fall when I start law school. I hear they don't let you sit in a coffee shop for a couple of hours every morning. I'm working to get them to change that, of course, but...

Kerry: Is there a particular reason that you wanted to create this kind of character, Saturn Smith?

Saturn: I – you know, actually, the whole story is I – like I said, I knew two people, I personally know two people who are on the site, and I didn't want them to know I was there. Um because that – first because I didn't want them to know I was there, but I also, both of them were getting a lot of reads, and I didn't want to seem like I was jumping onto their traffic, kind of? So I just sort of set out to see, you know, without my name, without anybody that I know, could I, would people read this stuff? You know, it's a good way to gauge I guess, if you're doing something that interests other people. And then it sort of stuck, so now I think I'm Saturn forever, pretty much.
Loved it. It put a human touch on our cyberworld.
Jon: We will be offering some sort of transcript in the future. I was going to offer it, belatedly, on Monday. But Saturn but me to it! Saturn truly rocks!
Eek! Sorry, Kerry! I just... once the request came in Twitter form, I couldn't do anything but obey. Twitter is like magic that way.
That was fun! Getting to see both of you really makes me, the reader, feel like I know your writing voice now. Thanks! Looking forward to many more!
I like this idea. Always fun to put pics and voices with my mental images. Saturn - your sardonic wit is just so natural - I like it!
@ Robert Young. During the 50's (God I really am old) I used to listen to Bob Newhart albums (33 rpm's) with my father. The Grace L stuff is still funny today.
Yay for the thesis and SUPER YAY for this interview. It's awesome, Saturn!
I love this. It's great to finally "meet" two of my favorite OSers quasi-live.

Neat idea & well done.
I'm not that old. I saw him do that bit on, either Jack Paar or Johnny Carson or Ed Sullivan. 1960 to 1970. IIRC, he really was an accountant.
Good viewing. Let none, no one, despise the youth.
A assumed Saturn Smith must be 100 years young.
Youth really encourage me. It was better than Fox.
A teevee has nothing to say? That encouraged me.
This was really fun, great job, Kerry and congrats, Saturn, you are so infinitely accomplished!
Which got me to thinking, when was that, anyway? WikiPedia didn't have that, but in the interests of accuracy:

The Mrs. Grace L. Ferguson Airline (and Storm Door Company) Graduate School
ooh! So fun! And I am also guilty of thinking you were a guy, Saturn. I am proud to find we are of the same species! Girls rock! :D
....although my writing will never reach the galaxy you inhabit, it's nice to watch you twinkling.
Very cool idea Kerry, you da man. (and so cute!)
Waiting for the next one!
This post deserves an editor's pick! :)
Nice launch and new dimension to OS.
This is a wonderful way to get to know you and Saturn better, and hopefully others in the community. Thanks.
I enjoyed getting some background info on one of our bloggers. It was nice to see the "real" person behind the words. Thanks Kerry and Saturn.
Fun! Great to "see" Saturn. Good job Kerry.

But, Saturn kinda makes me wonder what the hell I'm doing with MY life.

Congrats Saturn!
Enjoyed the interview. Great idea. I enjoy Saturn's youth and inexperience. I mean that in a good way. So many in the pundit business get locked into positions and become tape recorders. When I read Saturn, I always ask, "How come she got the angle the professionals are missing?"

As for law school, ick. We ain't got enough friggin lawyers? Write your book! You are a remarkable talent.
Kerry/Saturn - very cool. Love meeting her and hearing about how she got here. Law school! Well, certainly more employment opportunities than a writing Masters. But... well, we'll miss your steady contributions. Best of luck.
confirmed: Saturn Smith is, in fact, a real person! Nice interview. I hope we still hear from Saturn once law school starts!
Smart, funny, hardworking. . .

and I'm guessing we all respond to Saturn's enormous heart-- clear in every one of her postings, even the really wonky ones.

What oh what will we do when law school sucks up all her time?
This is a great idea--I enjoyed listening to this interview of one of my favorites.

Saturn--congratulations on the master's degree. Given your many posts about government, I think law and federal regulation are a good fit. But, you will need to continue to have that creative outlet, maybe on OS!
Wow - matching the people to their words is an interesting experience. I can't wait to see more of these!
Rated for Saturn. Good luck in Law School Saturn. I hope they're prepared for you! :--)
That was great! I loved seeing and hearing you both. There are so many people here that I hope you interview so I can also experience them videotronically....
This is a cool idea. Saturn seems to enjoy a fairly wide-reaching audience and was a good choice for a first interview. Good luck in the future, Saturn, and keep us updated with your law school experiences; that could be interesting.
Man, you guys are getting all Jetsons-fancy on me.
Thanks for the transcript, Saturn! I loved the discourse particles and fillers. Made it more human, if ya know whadda I mean.

Fascinating. An MFA type in Law School. Sounds like a movie script on par with Legally Blonde.
That was terrific! Thank you!
Thanks, Kerry. Good choice of interviewee.
So very cool to see you both!
Wow, everyone, thanks! This totally clears up the nervousness I had about appearing sans planetary stand-in graphic. Hee hee.

I promise to stick around during law school in some capacity -- just probably not an every day schedule. But who knows? People have done it. (Or so I hear). :)

Really, thanks, everyone, for the generous comments. I appreciate it.
Loved 'meeting' both of you. Saturn, you rock. I've come to depend on reading you. I hope you someday bring your fiction to this forum, whether as Saturn or whatever avatar (or none) that you choose. You are a gifted woman, and I'm so glad to share OS with someone like you!

Listen to Neil Paul.

Kerry - thanks for this. Excellent extension of OS. I for one was glad to see the commercial - felt like we're moving into the big time. Way to go - you're working hard for us, and I appreciate it.

This was just so cool! I know I'm not alone when in my thought "pick me, pick me!" Saturn was the perfect opening salvo for this gambit - she is exactly the sort of blogger one hopes to be - topical, intelligent, relevant, cool-headed. Well done, all around. I'm so pleased I'm here to witness and be part of this evolution of OS.
Well, when you've got Sandra positively gushing you know you've done something quite special. Kerry, Saturn, kudos all around.

On the law school question, if you feel you really desire a career in law by all means go for it. But if you don't have a vision of putting a law degree to work somehow, take it from one who knows - its value as cocktail chatter goes only so far.

Again, this is a fun new dimension to OS and I join all here in applauding both of y'all for a job well done.
Jon--Law school is a great dumping ground for undergrad degrees. History and Political Science, to be sure, but electrical engineering, Pre-Med, Petroleum engineering were all present when I was in. There are two types of people in law school--the 10% who really REALLY want to be lawyers, and the rest who don't know what to do next. Make sure which one you are. Either's fine, just know which you are. Me?--I'm a businessman who has a law degree. The law degree will always be an asset.
Saturn, I'm blown away by the quality of writing/analysis you get put out there and I thought it was fantastic getting to know you a little bit better via this video. Thanks, Kerry!
Squishing my way throught methane/ammonia slush...
The sarcastic cartoon tire from Canada is on a quest seeking the guy that looks like Kerry King from Slayer and the blacksmith here on Saturn. With all the methane here, fuel is no problem - but how do you derive oxygen?.... and with the heat from the forge in combination with the presence of oxygen, how do you keep the smithy from blowing up?
In cartoon world and the Twilight Zone, anything can happen!
I was looking for 123 Anystreet..... Oh... Earth Third rock from the sun, got it. Damn! I knew I should have taken that mysterious sliproad off I75! There are no tree rats on Saturn and its a
balmy -150 C - that's COLD by Canadian standards!
I gotta let ya go now - there is ammonia condensing on my valve stem and my rubber is getting brittle.
You fix flats? Great! I'll remember that next time I'm near Saturn.
Y'know some of those outer rings really need paving, but there are no tree rats to squish out there so why bother?
Canadian Tire
Couldn't be more thrilled to see Saturn being chosen. As I float through the salon reading all the blogs...I always leave Saturn for last...she always seems to either make me feel comfortable reading her take on issues that matter to me, almost like she's looking out for our well beings...or help me question things more deeply than I had planned.
You look very pretty Saturn! Good luck in law school.
Congratulations to Saturn! I emailed you privately a month ago telling you how professional your posts were and how well written and informative they were. You were modest about your talents but I am glad to see that OS has noticed! Well deserved.
Wonderful idea. Looking forward to seeing the open chats of many of my favorites on OS. Hopefully you will get around to quite a few--there are so many interesting and great writers on OS.
Loved this. Saturn's an old soul for someone so young. Great use of modern resources to highlight the human ones. Congrats to you both on breaking new ground. And who joins me in predicting Ms. Justice Saturn Smith someday?
What a treat to get to see and hear two of my favorite OSers! Saturn, you're one of my absolute favorite writers on OS. I hope that you'll be able to spare some time to visit us while you're in law school. Kerry, thanks for being so innovative as to allow us to get to know Saturn in a new way. Well done!
Thanks for sharing.
Stage fright!
Great idea!
Look forward to seeing your interviews of others.
"Ignore that 'girl' behind the curtain!"
PS - This is one very bright, upwardly motivated young lady! Great interview! Really puts a whole new persepctive on the person behind the writing. This should prove to be very fun and enlightening.
This was awesome and it was great "getting to know you" via this video. Congrats on your amazing success on OS. I really appreciated your post today about the tragic and disgusting murder of Dr. Tiller.
great piece Kerry. If your plan is to do this from time to time, I coudnt think of a better person to start with! Saturn is ALWAYS my first read when I sign on, and given the limited time I have, often the only one.
Now, if I can be so bold as to suggest - Kent Pitman. Thanks!
Nice - and cool - never imagined the Saturn till now -
If you can read this, you are too close!
Thanks for doing this, Kerry. I'm really interested in the potential for this kind of video interview for students learning English here in China; and, incidentally, to give the average Chinese a voice for viewers in the U.S. Saturn, you are so cool! Both of you rock.
Great work guys! This is awesome!
I think Kerry Lauerman should wear a Richard Nixon mask to introduce the interviewee, and that the interviewee should provide a soundtrack or otherwise be auto-tuned throughout. Also, both should wear hats or some other garment made from the fur of an animal featured at least once in a Berenstain Bear book.

This way, neither are nervous or comfortable at all.