by: Barbara DeMarco-Barrett
Tani Tinuviel hosts “What Would Arwen Do?” an elvish perspective on life, Tuesdays 4-5pm on KUCI 88.9FM. As a modern-day elf, she teaches yoga, stays close to the music of the sea, and enjoys walking under starlight.
I remember meeting you when you were an intern—you interned on my show. How did you find the station and decide to do a show?
I found the station in 2005 through a young UCI biology student I use to talk to at the coffee house across the street. We both loved The Silmarillion, JRR Tolkien’s mythology of the Elves and Middle Earth. He knew about my little experiment of living like an elf. One day he had to run off to do his radio show. I said, “What?” He looked about 19 to me. He told me about KUCI and how once a year they open the DJ training to community members and that they were always looking for unique and interesting public affairs shows. Then he said, “Hey! You should come and do a show about your life as an elf!” I had no experience in radio or public speaking—but KUCI gives you all the training you need, and the people here, like you Barbara, are willing to help newcomers succeed. Does it show that I love KUCI?
Talk about “What Would Arwen Do?” and the theme of the show.
The elf is blessed to be on the air every Tuesday from 4-5 pm and most of my shows go up on podcast within a day or so. “What Would Arwen Do?” was inspired by an experiment I started over 10 years ago, in 2002, after seeing The Fellowship of the Ring. I was struggling in my Christian faith at that time. America’s retaliations after the 9/11 attack, the war and bombings, the evangelical claim that this was a “just war,” some Christians even condoning the use of torture as a way to prevent terrorist attacks. Being myself a Christian and a follower of Jesus, I couldn’t believe this was consistent with the way Jesus asks us to live. I began to question a lot of things. So many Christians and denominations had differing ideas, all claiming to be right, that I felt that I just didn’t know what a “being a good Christian” looked like. Then I discovered the Elves. JRR Tolkien’s Elves seemed to embody everything that was best and noblest in people, even Christian virtues. At one point in The Fellowship of the Ring movie, Arwen risks her own life to escape the Nazgul and get Frodo to Rivendell. After she faces up to them at the Ford of Bruinen and invokes the power of the river to carry the ringwraiths away, Frodo lies dying of a stab wound in her arms. She cradles him and pleads, “No, no, Frodo, don’t give in…not now…” and then she closes her eyes and whispers, “what grace is given me, let it pass to him…let him be spared…save him!” With that I was hooked…I thought, well, I don’t know how to be a good Christian but maybe I can be a good Elf. That’s when I started asking, “what would an Elf do?” and “if a Middle-earth Elf lived today what would her life look like?” And asking that question has transformed my life on so many levels—from resolving my battle with being overweight to overcoming my terror of dragonflies. So that is kind of the general theme of my show: the things that concern the Elves, and that I think concern all of us, too. Things like caring for the planet, celebrating beauty, never losing hope, fostering community and service to others, appreciating and supporting the arts and music, and finding our place in the Story, the adventure, we find ourselves in. One of my favorite scenes from The Lord of the Rings is set in deep, dark Moria and Frodo tells Gandalf he wishes the Ring had never come to him and "I wish none of this had happened." Gandalf replies, "So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us." That, I hope, is the main theme of the show…that we all find ourselves in some great tale, and we get to choose how to respond to the challenges and the joys. And I really love the works of JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis and it’s a privilege to share their genius and ideas with listeners. Plus it’s just a whole lot of fun.
You've seen the station go through quite a few changes since you've been here. What would you say the difference is between when you first began at KUCI and now?
Oh my…have there been many changes? (laughs) In the wisdom of the Elves Legolas once said, “change and growth is not in all things and all places alike. For the Elves the world moves both very swift and very slow…The passing seasons are but ripples ever repeated in the long long stream…” This is how it seems to me. Every quarter at KUCI we have some new shows and new students and fresh inspiration and talent. And yet, after 8 years, the station still has that same feel of community and shared passion for great music and unique and engaging talk shows that it had when I first came here. The real difference seems to be more in me…I have grown in so many ways as a result of my involvement at KUCI, and I have met some of the most amazing people, both through the station and as my guests.
Did you use any shows—either here at KUCI or on another station—as template for your show?
Not really. The shows on KUCI are all so unique. And so unlike the cookie-cutter format of mainstream radio. I like organic. My own show doesn’t always follow a strict format. There are segments, but sometimes if I get a chance to interview someone really cool or have a musician on, we just take the whole hour. That’s part of the bliss of KUCI, the DJs and PA hosts get to run the show and have flexibility to change things up if they want to.
What's your car radio tuned to?
Well, it’s mostly tuned to KUCI and a few pop stations. But if I had my wishes it would be playing Sirius FM a lot of the time. I love the Spa channel and Coffeehouse. But KUCI really has amazing music variety…I think it is (unfortunately) one of the best kept secrets in radio. Hopefully that’s changing…where else can you hear totally cool, totally non-mainstream indie, pop, electronic, reggae, blues, zydeco, hip hop, world, etc, etc with no commercials and fun and funky personalities who put together their own shows? Plus, plus, KUCI streams live though the Internet 24/7 so people can listen from anywhere on this magnificent planet, or catch the podcasts afterwards on iTunes or our website at kuci.org. I have some listeners who tune in from England and Washington and Canada. How fun is that?
What's been the best thing about being involved with KUCI?
Oh, this is a tough question…because KUCI has enriched my life on so many levels. One “best thing” is the amazing people I have had the opportunity to meet and interview…People like Doug Adams who wrote The Music of the Lord of the Rings Movies, and Andre Viens, founder of Theatre Sans Fil, and Max McLean, star and creator of Screwtape Onstage. But I think the best “best thing” is the people, the other disc jockeys and talk show hosts and managers at KUCI. It’s a community of over 100 wildly diverse and wildly creative volunteers with all kinds of views and talents and passions, and yet kind and fun and supportive. It all feels very elvish to me…If Arwen or Galadriel lived today and wanted to host a radio show, she surely would choose KUCI.
You've had co-hosts and have hosted solo. Which do you prefer?
For a couple of years I had the best co-host an Elf could ever hope to have…the dear Hobbit Milo Loamsdown. It’s a whole different dynamic hosting solo. I love both. Solo you get to connect more directly with your audience, it’s more intimate. With a co-host you are speaking to each other and your audience is listening in on the discussion. Milo was great and had this amazing voice and had an extensive background as a film critic. I love the movies, but I’m really the book girl. It’s an Elf thing…tales and poetry and mythos. But it was grand having a Hobbit to discuss things with…
What is one bit of advice Arwen would give us DJs and PA hosts, and the UCI community?
Hope was a central theme of The Lord of the Rings and Tolkien’s Tales of Middle-earth. In the movie, Lord Elrond asks his daughter Arwen, “why do you linger here when there is no hope?” She replies, “There IS still hope…” That, to me, is a bit of elvish encouragement for all of us. There is always hope that we can make things better and make amends for some of the wrong we have done to this lovely planet and to each other. But probably my favorite of elvish advice comes from Arwen’s grandmother Galadriel to Frodo, when he fears he may fail in the quest…She reminds him, "Even the smallest person can change the course of the future." And I think that is a very good thing to remember.
Barbara DeMarco-Barrett is host of “Writers and Writing” Wednesdays at 9 a.m. PT. She is founder of the Pen on Fire Writers Salon and author of Pen on Fire. Her story, “Crazy for You,” is anthologized in Orange County Noir (Akashic, 2010). More at penonfire.com. If you’re a KUCI DJ or Public Affairs host, and wish to be featured in this spot, email email Barbara .