We're working on a new version of PRX. Want a sneak peek?

All Comments

Comment on piece: Harlem's Perma-Card Poet

User image

Portrait of an Artist as a Street Vendor

How can you not love someone who describes himself as being "39plus?"
Well this is just a taste of Abdul Hakein's poetic talents. The entrepreneurial wordsmith sells his work on the streets four days a week. Averaging only $20.00 dollars a day Hakein certainly meets the starving- artist criterion. He also gets you thinking about the hardships these street vendors face. This is an excellent portrait. Hakein not only shares his artistic process and inspiration but also reads his work, which offers a compelling worldview.

Meyer's voicing and writing are just right. He offers wonderful insights and details that enhance your understanding of Hakein but do not make you too aware of Meyer 's role as the producer. ( e.g. Meyer tells us that Hakein prefers that his grandchildren call him "GP" instead of Grandpa. )

This piece is timeless--as long as poetry and street vendors are still around. This is the kind of piece you’d expect to hear on Market Place or Scott Simon's Weekend Edition. This would be a great choice for the 4:00 minute break that the ATC clock now offers (the piece is 4:29 but 30 seconds could be cut off). It would also be perfect for Labor Day.

Comment on piece: Charley the Spelling Whiz

User image

Review of Charley the Spelling Whiz

Nice feature. Sound rich, smooth and focused. I don't think the producer was trying tto probe into the behind the scenes working of the National Spelling Bee--just one kid's story. Still, I wanted to hear more about actually being in a spellng bee--the pressure, the thrill, the fun?

This would make an interesting color sketch for any station or show to air on or during the national spelling bee.

Comment on piece: Charley the Spelling Whiz

User image

Review of Charley the Spelling Whiz

This piece lacks the spell of the feature length documentary film but it's trying to achieve the same thing. At less than three and a half minutes there's not a full enough portrait of Charlie and cutting between spelling words and some quick biographical details doesn't seem to work so well either. This story doesn't seem to have an ending. How did Charlie do in the competition? Were we listening to the official Bee or a warm-up? Who won?

Comment on piece: The Children of Logan

User image

Review of The Children of Logan

In this installment of Borten’s series, A Sense of Place, the producer offers a-study-in-contrast style portrait of her childhood neighborhood from the forties through the end of the century. Both the neighborhood and Borten’s perceptions evolve –– her first effort took place in 1989, and she returned eleven years later. Borten’s kaleidoscopic approach makes for a rich half-hour.

Tape of Jewish immigrants, who, escaping from Hitler’s version of homeland security, eventually found sanctuary in the Logan neighborhood echo off later African American residents, who sought sanctuary in the stability of home ownership, and Hispanics who followed. But the literally unstable Logan area ground led to houses sinking, even abandoned, and the accompanying societal woes of troubled inner city neighborhoods. Then there were the hazards behind closed doors, which one family poignantly shares.

There are great details of life during the war period, woven with music of the time, and compelling tape of residents throughout the years. At moments, not thinking about the title, I wasn’t sure where the piece was heading –– was it about environment? Memory? But a sense of this place, this neighborhood, seen over time, demands a certain amount of non-linear, spider-webbiness. In the end, the piece is about survival, and the survival of children is of paramount importance, then, now, always.
Program any time.

Comment on piece: The High Stakes of Today's Testing

User image

Review of The High Stakes of Today's Testing

This is a Soundprint documentary that puts human voices behind the never-ending testing debates.

This is a well-worn subject, which poses an interesting set of problems for producers. With a story that is well covered in other media, public radio has an opportunity to expand the story in unique directions. That doesn't necessarily mean covering stories or elements of stories simply because others are or aren't covering it (that kind of lifeless decision-making puts other media in control of your story selection). Instead, public radio can utilize out Core Values to add essence, color, and depth to stories. This point is where this documentary excels.

Debates about testing usually focus on politics and numbers, but this documentary goes inside a school for an extended view on how testing affects educators and students. It is incredibly poignant (and chilling) to hear students recite, "burn the test" (as in "burn-up," as in "do well") at a school spirit-laden pep rally focused on test scores. The children even have songs about scoring well on tests that are down right disturbing. This is bothersome because, as is subtly pointed out in the doc, the children are totally focused on doing well to show they are as smart as the suburban schools and their school deserves recognition. Never once does a student or educator mention that "educating children" is a concern or priority. Instead of students, these children are test-taking warriors, drilling to succeed in battle. For them, the effort feels weak and purposeless. This doc gives you an intimate front row seat.

It is inevitable that school testing debates will come up, as will the privatization of public schools (also a factor in this story). Bookmark or license this piece now—you’ll be glad its there for you when the story surfaces.

Again, if stations do not normally carry Soundprint, the presence of the brand may be unnecessary. It would be nice to have an edited version for stations that don't carry the series.

Comment on piece: God is Talking to Me

Caption: PRX default User image

Review of God is Talking to Me

A funny story with a good ending. I like the overdrive pace, but you have to listen close to pick up everything.

User image

Review of Pridefest Audio Postcard (deleted)

A quick visit to the Gay Pridefest parade - and easily places the listener. When I heard a vivid description of what one person was wearing, the piece went technicolor and I wished for more - ! Even though, the content of what others had to say about living as a gay was equally important - it made me feel good in a strange sort of traditional 4th of July kind of way. The evidence of a change in attitude is hopeful.

Comment on piece: The Singing Yeast Cell

Caption: PRX default User image

Review of The Singing Yeast Cell

Bravo! It is so encouraging to hear work that captures the wonder and mystery of science, as well as the routine and accidental aspects of lab research--all without a reporter's voice.

In a way, THE SINGING YEAST CELL is a marvelously "dated" kind of feature in that it hearkens back to the cult film THE SECRET LIFE OF PLANTS (with Stevie Wonder) and to various 1970s and 1980s NPR documentaries--for example, on the Electromagnetic Spectrum--which used tones and music imaginatively and effectively. (Alas, nowadays such radio techniques are all too often dismissed as inappropriately artistic, confusing, even 'manipulative.')

I especially appreciated Claes' use of "mystery" sounds: sounds which are not explained, or not immediately explained, or which are self-explanatory over time. Such sounds make make the radio piece all the more vivid.

By the way, this superb feature reminds me of when, at NPR ages ago, I assigned a reporter to do a piece about certain cells in the human cochlea which apparently vibrate at a constant frequency and thus "broadcast" a tone. I would now like to encourage Claes to consider producing a piece about--THE SINGING EAR CELLS.

Caption: PRX default User image

Review of Pridefest Audio Postcard (deleted)

I like the use of ambient sounds as segways. Actually, the entire production was great. I also like the VoxPoxen but it seemed like the piece could have benefited from a wrap. It would have given the piece more relevance to have it setup and concluded.

Comment on piece: Hard to Say

User image

Review of Hard to Say

The piece is beautifully edited with music and ambient sound. The narrator is very easy to listen to, and he captured my ear from the beginning. I felt as if I was right there listening to him. I really enjoyed this piece!

Comment on piece: Hard to Say

User image

Review of Hard to Say

This is a real good example of careful editing, and obviously very competent interviewing and recording of a subject - this man must have felt very comfortable with the producer. The nice thing about using this on the radio is that, if necessary, it could be used without any introduction or talk-out - it's completely self-contained - and it could probably make a few listeners' days, too. Not too short, not too long - just right.

Comment on piece: Don't Take The Colors Apart

User image

Review of Don't Take The Colors Apart

Many times, poetry and play readings don't work on radio--they require too much attention and aren't compatible with the way most contemporary listeners use radio. However, this piece is a perfect example one tactic to make spoken art incredibly poignant on the radio.

The documentary profiles the life of Venila Hasu Houston, whose ethnicity is African-America, Japanese, and Native American. What makes this documentary interesting is it explores the stories, complexities, and emotions behind her unique mixture of DNA.

First, the documentary details her families history: how her parents met, their life in Junction City, Kansas, and the peculiarities of growing up with the product of such a unique cultural mix. Just this section alone justifies a listen.

Then, as the story evolves and takes on additional depth and color, the story is partially told through readings of Houston's poetry and plays. These readings are woven with interview segments and narration. It sounds like a lot--but it works. It works well.

Additionally, the documentary has a great sense of craft. It is meticulously recorded, edited, and produced. It is 26 minutes, but feels like it lasts about five.

Wonderful work.

Comment on piece: Justin on the Inside

User image

Review of Justin on the Inside

Yet another interesting production from Salt. This brief documentary tells the story of a person, named Amy, who feels s/he is a man trapped in a woman's body. S/he takes the name of "Justin" and lives life, as much as possible, as a man.

The doc is an interesting collection of self-observations, anecdotes, and stories. Most interesting, Amy/Justin doesn't consider him/herself a lesbian and, though painfully passionate about living as a man, isn't interested in sexual reassignment surgery. S/he compares him/herself to others who bear physical deformities or diseases: the feminine physical characteristics are no different than someone born with a misshapen arm or suffering from MS. Amy/Justin is a sincere person and disarmingly honest--and his/her openness is well-captured here.

While the program does a good job of providing an overview of Amy/Justin's life (and the challenges of that life), it doesn’t offer much context. While a listener would find the situation interesting and enlightening, such a straight forward profile doesn't offer enough to keep a busy person's attention for eight minutes--there has to more of a reason to listen. A bit less detail, replaced with a deeper penetration of why Amy/Justin's story is important, would go a long way.

Comment on piece: Singing BeeGees in the Pit

User image

Review of Singing BeeGees in the Pit

NICE! Good choice to go with no narration. This whole job is a complete surprise to me and it's always nice to hear about people working for the love of the art . . . sort of. The physical descriptions of the space and the show going on above create a great mental image. As a fellow shower-singer, I would be curious for a little more background on how you move up to the pit. A great listen.

Comment on piece: Mandela: An Audio History (Hour Version)

User image

Review of Mandela: An Audio History (Hour Version)

Radio Diaries at its best. An amazing and powerful use of archive and new interviews, assembled with such skill the listener goes on a tour of history--like tuning a short-wave radio through an all too recent past. A tasteful refrain of non-scene music and other pure documentary techniques makes this one of the best tributes our country has to a great and peaceful man.

Comment on piece: The Devil's Radar C1

Caption: PRX default User image

Review of The Devil's Radar C1

The overlapping of lines combined with long silent pauses is a bit disorienting at first. For the first half of it the editing kept distracting me from the story. My recomendation to the contributor would be to sort of ease the listeners into that editing style.

I'm not really into the Christian stuff so I won't really comment on the plot.


User image


I really like the content of this piece, but I think it needs to be re-issued in a different format. The wealth of unique, cool ansi art information in this piece is remarkable. The printer music was really cool, and the information about ANSI art was also compelling -- even without the images to view.

The longform presentation didn't work that well, though. With a little cleanup, or a change of format, I think this would be very interesting, and I think that it would be one of those pieces that could generate a lot of discussions and "did you hear about" watercooler discussions. I could hear it as a Fresh-Air type interview, or with a change of format even a This American Life piece (especially during one of the live TAL shows). It needs tightening and focus but there are overall generic themes that Ira and the gang seem to love... the humor, surprise and "Americans can turn anything into art" plot. Throw in the surprisingly interesting backstabbing at the art group level and you have the narrative story that TAL wants.

Comment on piece: Mami Basketball

User image

Review of Mami Basketball

A novel twist on the basketball story with Mexican mothers in the Bronx who take over the courts every afternoon to shoot some hoops. Basketball is traditionally a woman's game in Mexico and these women in the Bronx sound quite experienced. This piece highlights the cultural and gender clashes on the courts between the moms and the kids. Great sound, great interviews. The only criticism is focusing more on the women and finding out more about them and their world outside of basketball. But a great feature for news magazines especially for the summer.

Comment on piece: Frank Sabatino, Fisherman

User image

Review of Frank Sabatino, Fisherman

Before I launch into the meat of the review, know this: I am from Brooklyn. I am, in fact, from Sheepshead Bay and went fishing regularly with my father on the very boats mentioned in this piece. We used to buy our fish caught by the mates from the piers. For a brief period, I dreamed of being a mate, gutting and cleaning fish and throwing the rest to the gulls as they followed the boat's wake hoping for scraps. So do I enter into this with a sentimental involvement with the subject matter? Oh yeah!

I did not know Frank Sabatino, but I could have. And how well I know that accent. And how well I know the loud sound of those crappy little boat engines as they strained to pull the boats through the soupy, polluted waters of the bay heading out to the cleaner (read edible fish) Jamaica Bay and Long Island.

This vignette paints the somber hues of a fading way of life. And it does this nicely. But it suffers from the problem of wanting to say too much in too short a time. As a result, it is cut too quickly. The fast pace does not allow the richly layered sound effects to establish themselves. The final result sounds a bit rushed, the effects, a little too loud, the music, distracting.

Nevertheless, it is engaging listening and would easily find a home into many a magazine program.

Comment on piece: The Ice hotel

Caption: PRX default User image

Review of The Ice hotel

Very creative choice of topic and the story is well crafted as the producer discusses the "Ice Hotel's" complete assault on the senses. It is easy to envision a feeling of calm & serenity even in the harsh environment.

The producer was very thorough and insightful by examining many subtle humanistic nuances of the "Ice Hotel". Sleeping on a bed of ice, the 'relative' warmth within the hotel, etc.

As a production tool, going directly into the story is a great way to quickly pull the listener into your story but, unless explained shortly thereafter, can leave the listener uneasy.

If you absolutely want to begin with the monologue, after setting the tone you can give your audience an introduction...what are they getting into for the next 30 minutes?