Madeleine Brand is a broadcast journalist and the host of KCRW’s “Press Play.” Before moderating a Zócalo/Daniel K. Inouye Institute event titled “How Can Americans Defend the 14th Amendment When the Government Won’t?” she spoke in the green room about being a self-starter, learning to surf, and how she found out that bees evolved from wasps.
How did you get started in radio?
I started in college, at the radio station at UC Berkeley. I was looking for some extracurricular activities, and it looked fun to work at the radio station and to try and get some real-world experience. And I really loved it, and then I graduated and kept doing it.
Was there anyone doing radio at that time who had inspired you?
No. It was weird; at Berkeley a whole bunch of different extracurricular organizations were presenting their thing. The guy who made the presentation was really effective, and he made it sound really fun, and it was really fun. So I ended up doing news and I did some deejaying. I did write for my high school newspaper, so I did start there, I guess.
Was there a professor or teacher who really influenced you?
I’m kind of a self-starter when it comes to that. I’ve had various teachers that were great. My French teacher in high school is coming to mind, because he just had this really open, kind of curious demeanor, and he made speaking French exciting and interesting when it can be really dull. But it was also about just being open to other cultures and being curious about the world, and he kind of inspired that kind of thinking as well.
What are you reading for pleasure right now?
I’m reading the second book in the Rachel Cusk trilogy, Transit. I love it, so I’m going to read the third. I read a lot for non-pleasure, but it ends up being pleasurable. So I just finished a book about bees called Buzz. It’s kind of like, “Huh!” Little factoids. Like, did you know bees evolved from wasps during the dinosaur period? So the wasps were around because there weren’t a lot of flowering plants, so they were sort of feasting on meat. But then flowering plants started to emerge, and so another strain of the wasps evolved to be vegetarian, and those are the bees that we have today. And honey is bee vomit; they vomit up the nectar.
What’s your next career?
I’d be a painter.
Do you paint, and what do you paint?
I do. Oils. I just finished a watercolor. I’m not that good, but I really do enjoy it.
Was that a self-starter project too?
Self-starter. I’d never studied it. I’d never drawn a circle or anything, and I just said, “You know what? I’m going to learn how to do this.” Now I take a weekly painting class, and I’m slightly obsessed with it. Like, if people say, “Can you do something on Monday night?” I say, “Nope.” Because I’m painting.
Are there other things you’ve taken up, self-started?
Oh yeah. I’m just starting to learn how to surf.
No, with instruction! Oh my gosh—heavy with instruction. It’s terrifying out there. I’ve just always been attracted to it. It looks fun and exciting. And also relaxing, and I really like the ocean. And then a friend of mine, she just started, and she started going out with her sons, and she asked me to tag along one day, and I did, and it was really fun. We go away from the real surfers. These are baby waves.
What do you do to unwind, besides all this?
I like to cook. It’s instantly relaxing, and it’s gratifying. I don’t have to think and make decisions: I follow the recipe. I like to be told what to do. Exercise, I do a lot of that. It’s kind of boring but you have to do it.
Where would you time travel if you could?
Sixties or Twenties, either one.
Fun, wild, no rules. And women got to have a really good time.