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Comment on piece: Nightfall in Chester County

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Review of Nightfall in Chester County

NIGHTFALL

Another great piece from Helen Borten. I'm very impressed with her whole series this comes from her series - A Sense Of Place. This tale of the once oppressed now oppressing is universal and gives thought. Nightfall takes you to may sides of the clash of Quaker farmers and the migrant workforce that attempts to unionize. It's great to hear a documentary with so much sound material of events actually happening - a "you are there" rather than a "I'm telling you what happened" approach. My only question is does this piece need to be updated with an outro? I'm not sure how long ago this piece was made and it might help if the producer could put an outro that would let stations know if this is still an ongoing problem in Chester County or somehow give an update to the piece. Otherwise, stations would do well to look at running this piece with other A Sense of Place pieces to create a great one-hour special during the summer.

Comment on piece: What's Left is Not Who We Are

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Review of What's Left is Not Who We Are

This piece is low-key, thoughtful and quite affecting. A view of something I've not much thought of.

Comment on piece: Kitty Keeps On Singing

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Review of Kitty Keeps On Singing

I have to admit I didn't finish listening to this piece. Maybe it's not fair of me to write a critique, but I have to say, I was 3 minutes in (I believe the piece is 6:30) and I had heard no tape. I believe that this is an adaptation of another piece I heard on PRX called "Kitty (somebody)'s War" where a family had bought a phonograph-record-making-machine and there's tape of people singing and talking. So I was expecting to hear some tape. When I hadn't heard any after 1/2 the piece had played, I gave up.

Perhaps the producer was saving this tape for the end. Perhaps she felt this added suspense. If so, for what it's worth, personally I didn't feel it.

I wonder whether the producer made an effort to find others to help her tell this story. I expected, for example, reminiscences from the people being spoken about. Or perhaps there would be reminiscences from those people's children or grandchildren. What I heard was one woman reading a litany of woes. That would have been fine if there had been an effort to universalize these woes. I did not hear that. What I heard was "Here's the tough time my relative had."

I should also say that the audio quality of the voice tracks was quite poor. It's particularly noticeable at one point where the voice track ends and the music sweeps in. There's some kind of hiss or crackle that suggests the voice tracks were recorded with inferior equipment.

Comment on piece: No Email from Oaxaca

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Review of No Email from Oaxaca

The Editorial Board review from Goldstein prompted me to listen to this piece. His praise is deserved. I'm just a normal average NPR listener, and I really enjoyed this piece. I think my favorite moment was when 'what's-his-name's' invisibility was compared to the phone lines strung above our heads. That line begins a well-metered, marching, thrust toward the end of the piece. It's very well done. I agree with others that this piece doesn't force any grand point, but it spawned a lot of reflection for me - which is kind of a big point in itself. Mostly, it knocked me down a few notches and made me feel a bit smaller. I appreciated the reminder.

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Review of Hans Blix on "Disarming Iraq" (deleted)

Those following events leading up to the Iraq War won't find anything new, but it's always valuable to hear Dr. Blix's rational, coherent opinions about the inspection process, “pre-emptive war,” and the crucial importance of accurate, or at least extremely convincing intelligence. This is a phone interview, but the quality is decent. The interviewer allows him to answer at length, and we get a little more than the ME, ATC allotted time for these kinds of interviews. Though listed at 14:02, the actual interview ends at 12:25.

Comment on piece: Summer Camp

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Review of Summer Camp

What a delightful piece and perfect for stations to air during the summer. The camp experience is something young and old can relate to and Borten brings together voices of all age ranges to describe and recreate the joys and challenges of summer camp. This is and sound collage at its best and would work well with another of Borten's half hour pieces to create a great summer special.

Comment on piece: No Email from Oaxaca

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Review of No Email from Oaxaca

I really related to this piece. I've always wanted to reach out to understand what it's like to be a non-English speaking immigrant in the US, but I know even less Spanish than the author. I can only smile and say hello. I thought about those encounters as I listened to this. Here the author learns a little about this man, just a little, as I would if I had the language skills.

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Review of The Voices Of Civil Rights Project (deleted)

Important! The subject of Civil Rights can never die. We still fight for it today. The letters used in this show could be a teaching tool for this new generation. I did not understand the issues involed in civil Rights at an young age. It was just an old story to Afro-Americans of my age group. It had nothing to to do with the freedoms we enjoy today, But I found out about information that change my point view. The PBS show Eyes on the Prize became a bible for me. I learned more about Civil Rights from it then any class in school. This sad but true. Quality is were you find it.

Comment on piece: Reserved for Father

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Review of Reserved for Father

I love Elizabeth Dribben's delivery. This is radio at its most finely tuned dramatic -- never too much, just a breath above too little. Some listeners might feel cheated in the end, but that is part of the story too. A no-brainer for PDs. Any innocuous short spot on WESUN is worth sacrficing for this.

Comment on piece: Hard to Say

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Review of Hard to Say

In today's "fast-paced" world, it is difficult to take the time to appreciate the love we are blessed with. Ed Werler's tender account of the love he shares with his wife Martha reminds us of the importance of those precious moments spent dancing around the kitchen. When Ed reveals that Martha now has Alzheimers, it becomes even more clear why he must "renew old memories"; this surprising twist makes the piece even more poignant.

On the technical side, Bente Birkeland eloquently crafts this story with great sound and editing. I especially love his choice of "Sentimental Journey," which brings us back to a time of big band music, dancing and old-fashioned romance. This is my grandparents' song, which I sang at their 50th Anniversary celebration; I imagine it has similarly strong associations for many listeners.

"Hard to Say" would be perfect on Valentine's Day, but I would love to hear it at any time. Even in the middle of a standard broadcast, it would bring people away from their day-to-day stresses and serve as a great reminder of what truly matters in life. I am sure that everyone listening could not help but be inspired by Ed Werler's profound devotion.

Comment on piece: Summer Camp

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Review of Summer Camp

What a great story/commentary/narrative. Really brings you into the "mood" of the piece. So often producers try to conjure a moment, or a tone, with all sorts of slick ambient and protools wizardry. Just goes to show that good storytelling and writing will always make good radio. This would be a good piece to play almost anytime, but especially in Spring or Summer.

Comment on piece: David Byrne: In his own words ... on 'Grown Backwards'

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Review of David Byrne: In his own words ... on 'Grown Backwards'

My greatest concert regret after 23 years+ in radio might be pasing on the Talking Heads "Remain in Light" tour. Doing overnights and living a big city (Chicago) lifestyle, combined with a 45 minute drive out to the dreaded SUBURBS and I just had to pass. I napped that night instead and gave my comp tickets away. Now that I have totally shot my credibility, I'll go on with my review.

As a poet fascinated by the unorthodox process of folks like Michael McClure, Charles Olson and the like, I have become a lot more interested in process since, what was it, 1984? To get an IN into David Byrne's process, and hear the clips of what he was up to, was well-worth the PRX click I had to do to listen. Carrying around the micro-casette and humming melodies is not unlike my practice of writing down little 17 syllable poems (American Setences) I do at least once a day. A serious artist finds a way to keep her hand (or ear) in the creative process.

In his own words indeed. The title lives up to its billing and I'd stay in the car to her the rest of this if I got home before it ended.

Comment on piece: Memorial

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Review of Memorial

Since I joined AIR Media within the last year, I've seen the emails and heard about the reputation of Dmae Roberts. As I get a little deeper into what one might call the PRX community, I saw this piece and decided to listen.

Two things stood out immediately. The first was Dmae's voice. Unaffected and clear, I found it very easy to listen to and authentic. The second was the overall production. The writing was concise and the way the degenerating voice of her mother told the story through voice mail messages was extremely effective. Dmae has achieved a level of mastery that we may be in danger of losing given the state of commercial radio and the tendency of NPR to emulate it.

It must have been hard to create this piece, but it is one I will not forget soon. I hope I can create something as moving when my Mother dies. Dmae's reputation is well-deserved.

Comment on piece: Brooklyn Oil Spill

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Review of Brooklyn Oil Spill

A very important story. Would be a perfect fit for any local news station in or around NYC, or perhaps an environmental show. The producers writing and production are top notch. However, in my opinion there just seems to be too much info coming at the listener too quickly. Granted, it is a very edgy newsy time piece, but at almost 7 minutes I think it is just too much for the average listener to follow especially with the clips come so fast. As I said, a very important story, it seems like there must be a way to get the main points across while in less time.

Comment on piece: Catrin Finch, harpist (2 tracks)

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Review of Catrin Finch, harpist (2 tracks)

This interview would be best served if broadcast on classical radio stations--it really needs that context. . It's a broad interview that covers a lot of territory at the expense of getting some real insigt into Catrin Finch as a musician. After a 12 minute interview you'd hope to have some new insights into classical music and the artistic process. This deoesn't happen but perhaps if you played some tracks from her new almum, which is the hook to this interview, you'd have a stronger understanding of Finch and her gift as a musician.

Comment on piece: The Rocks at Rock Bottom

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Review of The Rocks at Rock Bottom

This is such a gratifying portrait and it does what all effective portraits do: use one pixle of someone's being to create a larger, more textured picture. In understanding Jerry's compulsion to skip rocks we get a renewed understanding of psychology, a renwed appreciation for the good old human spirit and renewed faith in the mysterious ways in which this world works. The simplicity of the production is nice. This is elegantly edited: we are allowed to take in a lot of profundity without being told that it is profound. If you have the time broadcast this, it's timeless.

Comment on piece: Brooklyn Oil Spill

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Review of Brooklyn Oil Spill

Very informative and to the point. This piece is particularly useful for freshman students because of its length and easy language, high interest. Of course, accompanied by visuals would naturally add to its value, it works well as an audio piece.

Comment on piece: Naked Barbies and Deflated Basketballs: A look inside the world of collectors

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Review of Naked Barbies and Deflated Basketballs: A look inside the world of collectors

This light-hearted and charming piece explores the seemingly bizarre habits of various collectors. A few such habits are hillarious in a fascinatingly morbid way, such as one woman's collection of naked barbies that she dismembers and assorts into wreaths. Although the story is unlikely to inspire listeners to display dolls' body parts on their doors, it portrays its subjects' quirks as more endearing than disturbing.
At 6:30, the piece is perhaps a bit lengthy, but the ingenious editing makes it speed along. The jazz music also helps to keep the pace upbeat, adds interest and creates a flow between the speakers without distracting from the content. Additionally, the subject has a wide audience because most people have some experience with eccentric collectors. Listening to this account reminded me of a couple I once stayed with who collected pig memorobilia -- we counted 300 pigs in the kitchen alone! I would love to hear this aired between a couple of classical songs or rather dry stories. Its unique character and flair would definitely enliven a broadcast.

Comment on piece: Three Days Before Christmas in the Zombie Hut

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Review of Three Days Before Christmas in the Zombie Hut

pure madness. I felt very much at home in this tumble and while it seems pure madness there is some very clever revealment about character and the species. (except for maybe the crotchless reference..) Excellent fare for the shopping holiday season , if nothing else but to remind people what NOT to give. I'll put this in my calendar for next year's show.

Comment on piece: Behind Barbed Wire

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Review of Behind Barbed Wire

A wonderful occasion for a story -- German POWs return to visit the Maine town where they were imprisoned. Okay as is, but a little scattershot, trying to cover too much ground in one story. There are probably three or four stories actually lurking in this piece.