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Review of Pop Vultures #9: Pink & Most Memorable Concerts (deleted)

Disclaimer: I am an avowed Pop Vultures Fan. I continue to marvel at Kate Sullivan's prodigious knowledge of pop music and I wonder who else could get away with talking about Lesbian musicians on the radio or saying this:
"That's the biggest shock about seeing a Rolling Stones concert live --is that they're actually the Stones and Mick is actually Mick and he actually does all the things that Mick Jagger does."
After having listened randomly to several programs I'm confused at times about whether Kate is talking to us in a kind of monologue or whether her co-Vultures are with her in the studio. I prefer when the show starts seemingly in the middle of a conversation with Garth Belkin. Kate is the band leader but it's the back and forth with her bandmates that gives the show a kickin' tempo.

Question: Kate often refers to interviews she's done (in this program she mentions Joan Jet). Are they recorded? Does she write for any music publications? This is obviously good material for the web site. There's lots of possibilities here too for local stations that run the show to use the web to develop a community around this program.

Comment on piece: 10 minutes telling you all you need to know about caveats, intel reports and finding the truth!

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Review of 10 minutes telling you all you need to know about caveats, intel reports and finding the truth!

This piece reminds me of short wave radio broadcasts: freeform, personal, loose, unpredictable, and a little intense and preachy.

This is a straight opinion piece, no context. Often directly addressing his absent subjects (Mr. Cheney, President Bush, Richard Clarke, and so on), this is one person's rolling political commentary. There is not a clear idea how a general audience might benefit from listening.

It's difficult to tell how this piece would be useful to stations. There are some production and technical issues (there are mic plosives about every ten or fifteen seconds). Further, it is packaged as a ten-minute program (though the length is actually 11:40), which is a difficult length for many stations to accommodate. The host tends to rush his delivery, so it is sometimes difficult to understand what he is saying (the web site he mentions three times is almost impossible to pick up).

If the producer is interested in distributing their work, a better format might be to take their thoughts and restructure them as a 3-4 minute political commentary rather than an independent program.

Comment on piece: Crossing the River Lethe

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Review of Crossing the River Lethe

At first, the voicing of this commentary felt a little wooden and staid. However, as the story unfolds, the listener finds himself or herself pulled in to the story. The voice discretely reveals a loving, emotional tone and the listener is hooked. The piece is sweet, sentimental, and poignant without even a trickle of melodrama or sappiness. The piece offers a touching portrait of a woman coming to terms with her mother's illness and her own journey into the keeper of her mother’s memories.

Some of the sound effects and music are especially effective, but a few could be cut down and/or eliminated all together (the counting dance steps audio could be kept at bed level, brought up for just a second or two, then brought back down--without diminishing the piece).

Our station used this piece on Mother's Day, but it would be appropriate for just about any time. This is an example of what sets public radio commentary apart: smart writing, effective delivery, and a catalyst for lingering thoughts and emotions.

Comment on piece: Willard

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Review of Willard

Good stuff, an intriguing mini documentary about a New York mental hospital. Opens with an unusual discovery of inmates' belongings in a forgotten room. Listeners primarily hear the voices of staff who worked at Willard: what it was like, the way the institution and the town complemented one another. Any sort of "company town" audience will take an interest.

Comment on piece: Mystery Train

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Review of Mystery Train

The excellent music mix supports, even elevates this finely-observed remembrance -- an emotionally painful exchange between three young people. The producer wonderfully captures the complexities of love and sex, self-respect, and a whole bunch of other stuff in a very short time. Her imagined endings to the train ride successfully round off what comes before. Excellent pick for youth-geared programming, but parents of teens might want to listen up as well.

Comment on piece: Willard

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Review of Willard

Very good oral history-esque portrait of a unique company town. Interviews with townsfolk, former staff members, and even a patient provide great details and make the place come alive. One of the staff, cleaning up after the psychiatric center closed down, offers a compelling description of finding an attic room filled with 400 suitcases – the personal belongings of former patients, containing everything from sweaters to FDR campaign posters. We hear about the gravedigger patient, the long-time staff member who kept only one memento from his time in this “haven for incurables,” and conditions good and bad. The producer writes well, the piece flows along. This is a valuable snapshot of a certain place in time, and a particular method for treating the mentally ill. The talk ends at about 12:00 – there’s a long music trailer that can easily be faded as needed. At this length, hard to program into NPR slots, but if you’ve got a mix-slot, or special programming on mental health issues, include this.

Comment on piece: WAMM Pot Giveaway at City Hall

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Review of WAMM Pot Giveaway at City Hall

Hard news feature with a bit of a slant. Exhaustive coverage of a subject that holds it's strongest relevance for one particular community or at the most, for the state of California and it's laws regarding use of medicinal marijuana.
I suppose usual for these times, there was no explanation from the feds as to WHY they were overriding a state law. California won't take it lying down and while that's interesting, ...to be a genuine hard news story, there should be a little more equal representation in the reporting.

Comment on piece: The Fair

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Review of The Fair

The only reason this probably is better for the Internet than the radio is because the Flash presentation adds so much to it! The piece is very impressionistic, visually and aurally, but it really makes clear the double nature of the fair - the day-time fair and the night-time fair. This is accentuated by slightly different visual styles in the day and night Flash sections. What I really like about this piece is the ambiguity in the narrator's tone, which is something that I've always felt towards the fair. You just don't know what to make of it sometimes and all you can do is watch and observe. In that way, I felt like I could empathize with this piece very much. There are also some great moments where the "actualities" sync up with the narration to underscore important parts.

Comment on piece: Crayola

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Review of Crayola

A laid back speaker gives the history of Crayolas while young crayon users chime in favorite colors and reviews of each others' art. Allington's impeccable timing and creative mix will spice up any broadcast about creativity, arts education, or design.

Comment on piece: Davy Rothbart, Found Magazine

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Review of Davy Rothbart, Found Magazine

Fresh, funny, spontaneous. All this and a flawless mix. Any community that will soon host Davy Rothbart and a Found Event will love to hear this on the airwaves. This piece is alive!

Comment on piece: 2003 National Audio Theatre Festivals' Live Performance

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Review of 2003 National Audio Theatre Festivals' Live Performance

A rare opportunity to hear an in-the-moment production that successfully combines a theatre audience, stage band, sound effects teams and live actors. It's not old time radio theatre --it's new time audio theatre using time-tested techniques and components to bring listeners fresh entertainment.

Comment on piece: Turnstyles 002 Hour 1: Sex Mob

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Review of Turnstyles 002 Hour 1: Sex Mob

The term "broadcasting" has agrarian roots--it comes from the idea of scattering seeds, spreading them out over a parcel of land. It is very appropriate--be it in the form of interviews, music, performance, news reporting, or whatever, we are spreading the seed of ideas, emotions, and context.

Listening to Turnstyles takes the agricultural analogies even deeper. Ask a farmer what happens when you plant seeds to close together, or mix together too many varieties in close quarters—and what happens? None of them grow to their potential.

Musically, Turnstyles is one of the most tasteful programs I have heard. However, the program is too diverse and its one-hour length proves problematic.

In many cases, music mix or "needle drop" programs tend to be little more than an exercise in taste self-expression for the host and producer. They don't translate nationally. You can't swing a dead cat anywhere in this country without hitting a music "expert" with ultra-refined tastes. However, Turnstyle host Sam Fuqua is on a much higher level than most--a man of extraordinary taste. He pulls together sets of music that, on the surface, might seem like silly explorations of eclecticism--but they work. This program features electronica, blues, world music, even some jazz. Often these disparate elements are lined up together. It shouldn't work as a music mix, but it has amazing synergy.

The music is the program's greatest strength, but also its greatest weakness. No radio program has ever created significant public service by appealing to music geeks like me. For a great majority of public radio listeners, the show is too all over the place. Repeatedly, these eclectic music shows have proven to only attract a very small audience and not offering much to the rest of the station's listeners. Plus, if a station is interested in establishing a beachhead with different listeners by offering a unique musical format (unique as in different than the station normally offers)--the station will need to offer a significant and consistent number of hours to do so. Airing just a one-hour program won't cut it.

The program also offers a large chunk of time to an interview and "live" performance (in a pre-recorded show--it is a little dubious to refer to it as a "live" performance). The interview subject was interesting, and the music really engaging, but the interview segments were way too many and way too long. If an interview can build my interest in 2 or 3 minutes--great. Get to the pay-off (perform some music)--don't keep talking! The interview should be there only to enlighten the performance and shouldn't last a second longer than necessary. If it is a music show, then it should get to music as quickly as possible, every time. (I was driving while listening, so I can't tell exactly how long the interview segments were--it felt like many, many minutes a piece.)

Producing this program as a one-hour show for public radio feels like stuffing a square peg in a round hole. This music mix and the talents of the host and producer would be better used creating an unique Internet audio stream or a larger block of programming for one station (or perhaps a block of programming for a small number of AAA or college stations).

Comment on piece: Too Curvy and Not Enough Shoulder

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Review of Too Curvy and Not Enough Shoulder

Debruicker has a knack for revealing life in her world. It's especially appealing since it's not mainstream living (see For the Blood is the Life) and the simplest thing almost seems astonishing. This is a sweet example of life in Kentucky- but it's not as effective as it could be. (Notes to producer) I look forward to more work from her - she gets right in close.

Comment on piece: Part 3: Robben Island (1964-1976)

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Review of Part 3: Robben Island (1964-1976)

Remarkably compelling with an amazing amount of information and visual/political landscape imparted in such a short amount of time. Intimate details of life inside prison for Mandela and his peers as well as life outside for family of the detained and all the South Africans fed up with the yoke of Afrikaans. Exquisite editorial choices made with a mix of archival and current tape.

Testimony to that is the fact that in spite of the narrator-less collage of voices which can often promise a certain amount of chaos, the content was so interesting and well placed that I didn't need to know who the voices were beyond a chorus of political prisoners.

Outside this anniversary - whenever and wherever the struggle for freedom is celebrated or acknowledged - this is a story to be aired, again and again. I'm chanting for a solid hour version.

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Review of Packin' Heat (deleted)

This is the sort of piece that makes public radio look bad. A reporter is assigned to cover Ohio's new concealed carry law and profiles herself -- a card carrying vegetarian whose never touched a gun before -- taking the required weekend gun safety course. Get the picture? Some 15 other men and a few couples have signed up for the course. We don't hear from them at all though it's likely that their stories would have been more interesting. Later the reporter complains that the course wasn't "straight", there was lots of complaining about liberal politics so she decides to call some of her liberal friends and air out some predictable gun control bromides. Unfortunately the audience isn't getting this story straight. We don't learn much. Perhaps if the reporter is well known in her area this sort of treatment works; for the rest of us better to label it striaight -- as a commentary.

Comment on piece: Willard

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Review of Willard

The story held my interest. It was informative, and gave a little history of Americana.

I thought the music trailer at the end was way to long. I fell it could have added a lot more to the story if it was cut to about 30 secods, with the pertinent part faded in and out.

Comment on piece: Mother's Day Diary

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Review of Mother's Day Diary

Damn thats funny!.... very slick and tightly produced. A perfect slam dunk for any station on or around Mothers Day.

Comment on piece: Memorial

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Review of Memorial

Lovely and touching--a delicate journey through the process of coping with loss.

Comment on piece: Mother's Day Diary

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Review of Mother's Day Diary

HILARIOUS side-splittingly funny. download it NOW for your programming tomorrow. I did www.cainan.org at 7pm

It is chock full of stuff with perfect pace and has at least one element that everyone can relate to and choke on it laughing.

too bad Hans put it up so late...it is perfect for Mother's Day. If you can't use it tomorrow (although I can't think of any good excuses) then save it in your calendar for next year.

Comment on piece: The Last Christian Standing

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Review of The Last Christian Standing

It's hard to stop someone when he/she has hit the mother lode. There isn't a moment in this story I would go, "Hey, what's happening? -- and yet there are dozens of moments in this recording when I, as listener, could (should?) have said, no.

An incredible rant, dead on. Thank god there are other avenues in really odd places!