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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!

Comment on piece: Mother's Day Diary

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Review of Mother's Day Diary

Brilliant. Thank God some stations haven't filled absolutely each and every minute this Sunday. If they are wise, they will find three minutes EVERY HOUR to play this. This should be a perrenial (a word I still can't spell after a month of gardening) from year to year. PRX needs to develop a calendar that will recognize the shift of holidays from year to year. Wait a minute! I just wiped away the last tear.

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 wo

This piece has received several, almost universally positive vox pop reviews, the snappy title could have been the draw, but the main reason is that this is a great piece. It is a lovely vox pop account of what makes collectors tick, it goes by way quicker than the 6 or so minutes it lasts, and has some great musical scoring. This is part confessional, part portrait and a lot of good listening, and best of all it is tender and respectful in its treatment of the subjects.

Comment on piece: Heartland Medicine

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Review of Heartland Medicine

This piece is a periscope into the communities cared for by three country physicians. Through the lens of the doctor/patient interaction, we hear poignant tales from the lives of people living in rural Nebraska. The quality of the sound and the balance between hearing from the doctors and their patients brought me right into their world, as sun-baked, homegrown and eccentric as it is. A beautiful, in-depth, humanistic examination of what it sounds like caring for and being cared for by people you know. This story would work well with news stories about how underserved our rural communities continue to be or how family medicine, once a favorite specialty of the 90s, is becoming a less popular career choice of today's subspecializing medical students.

Comment on piece: Josh's Diary, Part 1: Growing Up with Tourette's

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Review of Josh in New York City: Growing Up with Tourette's

Painfully honest poke inside the head of a kid, clearly soon to be an adult, with Tourettes. All the typical teenage stuff is there: angst, depression, insecurity masked with anger. But the noises and expletives make the difficulties somewhat harder to shrug off as merely "awkward years".

Awkward is what it must be for all involved in the production of this item, as Tourettes provokes particularly difficult situations in our society.

It's no different here except that, instead of tuning Josh out like you would on the street, you'll want to listen more to his vulnerability through the safe filter of your radio.

Comment on piece: Part 1: The Birth of Apartheid (1944-1960)

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Review of Part 1: The Birth of Apartheid (1944-1960)

"One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter."
This is extraordinary, powerful radio. Presented without narration and interwoven with historical broadcasts, the main players in the struggle against apartheid unravel the story in their own words.
The only disadvantage of choosing to work without narration is these authoritative and moving voices remain anonymous to those not initimately familiar the details of recent South African history.
Regardless, this is a masterfully crafted piece of work.

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Review of The Voices Of Civil Rights Project (deleted)

This is a wonderful piece, maybe one of the best I've heard on PRX. The stories are moving and well-read, Wade and Rick are well-spoken interviewees and most of all the whole thing is so inspirational. These stories need to be heard by everyone, no matter the skin color, no matter the background. This isn't just interesting, or compelling, but necessary and important. The stories in this piece, and their sibling stories, will be an important part of our recorded history.

Comment on piece: Jimmy & Jewel: A Love (?) Story [long version]

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Review of Jimmy & Jewel: A Love (?) Story [long version]

Very personal and surprisingly interesting. Sometimes it's hard to do a story on your family or people close to you, but when it comes out this good, it's all worth it. I could hear this piece on This American Life or maybe a number of smaller shows that deal with medium-length stories like this.

Comment on piece: Davy Rothbart, Found Magazine

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Review of Davy Rothbart, Found Magazine

!! WOW, I love this piece. This, to me, is what PR should be playing between all of the polished news and people talking. Not that this isn't polished, but it is very different, at least this episode.

I would like to see a regular series on Found Magazine, new stuff that's found, mixing with different people, and Davy's awesome laugh. Found items can be more than just written notes when colored by Davy's explanations of their origins.

Comment on piece: Yo-Yo Ma ENCORE: In his own words

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Review of Yo-Yo Ma ENCORE: In his own words

In this piece you learn a lot in under two minutes. And what's even better is that you don't know it. This is an elliptical piece. Ma's words and music wash over you, leaving you with a renewed understanding of his music and technique. This is perfect for classical radio stations to use, particularly for interstitial programming.

Comment on piece: What is Poetry?

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Review of What is Poetry?

As a Sandburg fan, I would be interested in hearing this piece and would be concerned if it was not done with the appropriate respect. It succeeds on all counts.

It is clear this is a contemporary production, but the accompanying music is totally appropriate and tasteful. It's clear the producer has an affinity for the subject, and the warmth of Sandburg sails through.

I am not sure if the question posed by the title of the piece is answered. Nor am I sure that is important.

We need more work like this on the radio.