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The Balloon Hat Experience

From: Scott Gurian
Length: 06:10

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Addi Somekh has traveled around the world making balloon hats for people

Europagal03_small In 1996, Addi Somekh and his friend Charlie Eckert began traveling to different places in the world to make balloon hats for people and take photos of them. The goal was to show people all over the world laughing and having fun, and to emphasize the fact that all human beings are born with the ability to experience joy. To date, they have visited 34 states and 34 countries and have taken over 10,000 pictures. This is a piece about their experiences.

Piece Description

In 1996, Addi Somekh and his friend Charlie Eckert began traveling to different places in the world to make balloon hats for people and take photos of them. The goal was to show people all over the world laughing and having fun, and to emphasize the fact that all human beings are born with the ability to experience joy. To date, they have visited 34 states and 34 countries and have taken over 10,000 pictures. This is a piece about their experiences.

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Review of The Balloon Hat Experience

OK, I'm from Washington, DC and as you hear in this story, people in Washington just don't "get it" about balloon hats. There's a small stretch of this piece that has the balloon guy walking around Georgetown offering balloon hats. Everyone say "no thanks." So maybe that explains why this story left me empty. I never quite connected with what the big deal was and the narrator of the piece didn't tell me either. He merely assumed that I would be as taken with these balloon hat-making guys as he was and would instantly understand what the big deal was.

That's also my problem with the ending of the piece, which to me seems a bit of a leap. I certainly have not learned anywhere near enough about this person to care about his relationships with women or whether or not he'll ever have kids. And by the way, I also don't get why; if he spends all his time making kids happy, that would lead him to never want kids. That seem incongruous.

But I think the things I see as problems with this piece can be solved by restructuring. There's a very nice section in the middle that I think ought to go first. After the balloon hat maker is rebuffed in Georgetown, he goes to a poor section of town where people DO appreciate the balloon hats. If it were me, I'd put these two segments first, to show that while YOU may not appreciate balloon hats, some people do and then use that example to lead the listener to understand that while some people are jaded about this practice, these guys have gone all over the world using balloon hats to connect with all different kinds of people.

That would also solve the problem of there being no natural sound in the piece until the middle – something which, to my ears, adds to the piece's empty feeling. Let me hear some joy. Let me hear some acceptance. Let me hear something that gives me a sense of what it is about the balloon hat that (as the piece says) "expresses a level of positivity" that no one had ever experienced before.

As it stands, this is a moderately interesting story about a quirky guy. While it is by no means engrossing, I believe it could be with some work.

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Review of The Balloon Hat Experience

Add some whimsy to your listeners' day by airing this piece about an imaginative guy named Addi and his friend, Charlie, who travel the world making balloon hats and spreading smiles. The listener will hear the squeaks of balloons being twisted and the smiles in the voices of the balloon hat recipients. (The balloon hat website should definitely be mentioned so listeners can actually see the photographs or make it a web extra like on the NPR newsmagazine shows. Gurian does a great job of describing the balloon hats, but it's fun to actually see colorful examples.) Balloons - a non-threatening entry into diverse cultures - who knew? Great concept and a day brightener.

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Review of The Balloon Hat Experience

A tightly produced and enjoyable story about the effect that a balloon hat maker has on people of a variety of cultures. Well told and engaging, the piece talks about how balloons have an amazing ability to connect with people in ways that cross cultural barriers. Through interviews with a variety of people on the street, we find how much fun the art of making balloon hats is, and how much the balloon maker wants to pass along this knowledge to others. It’s a very imaginative and whimsical piece, and would fit in well with a magazine format.

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Broadcast History

A version of this piece aired on "The World" on 12/08/05.

Timing and Cues

Piece ends with about :10 of ambience, so you can easily fade out earlier if you need to pick up some time.

Additional Files

Related Website

http://www.balloonhat.com