Playlist: PRX Staff Favorites of 2012
Compiled By: PRX Editors
PRX staffers listen to A LOT of pieces, all day. Here are some of our favorites from pieces added to PRX in 2012.
From Jeff Cohen | 02:57
My five year old cut off my three year old's hair. A few weeks later, I decided to interview them and get their explanations. Here's what they told me.
Happy to say that this little radio story has taken another life. In the summer of 2014, it will be a children's book released by HarperCollins Children's Books. Take a look!
Neighbors of the Murrah Federal building recall the 1995 bombing that altered the life and culture of Oklahoma City.
Neighbors of the Murrah Federal building recall the 1995 bombing that altered the life and culture of Oklahoma City.
"Glass, Not Glitter" was produced by Abby Wendle for the 2012 Third Coast ShortDocs Challenge, a collaboration with EveryBlock, which invited anyone and everyone to produce short audio works featuring at least two neighbors, a color in the title, and three consecutive seconds of narrative silence.
From Paolo Pietropaolo | 13:31
This is the story of my tinnitus, which affects my ability to enjoy silence.
Through the telling of the story, I've tried to create a kind of music that questions where the edge lies between signal and noise.
Tinnitus (ringing in the ear) is one of the most common medical conditions in North America.
I've struggled with tinnitus since 2004. Sometimes, noise is my ally, especially at night. It’s made me think about what makes us call certain things noise, silence or music, and it’s led me to believe we’re suffering from a sort of societal tinnitus.
Featuring the voices of Gordon Hempton (sound ecologist, Grammy-award winning recordist, defender of One Square Inch of Silence) and Dr. Glynnis Tidball (my audologist, who runs the Tinnitus Clinic at St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver, Canada).
From WLRN | 58:31
20 years ago today (August 24th) Hurricane Andrew turned South Florida upside down. In this hour-long documentary, WLRN uses home videos, archival news footage, 911 calls, personal recollections and even a bureaucratic document from the British consul general in Miami to tell the story of Hurricane Andrew.
The documentary follows two main characters each changed by the storm in their own profound way: Jenny Del Campo, a typical teenager living in southern Dade County and Bryan Norcross, a TV weatherman.
20 years ago today (August 24th) Hurricane Andrew turned South Florida upside down. In this hour-long documentary, WLRN uses home videos, archival news footage, 911 calls, personal recollections and even a bureaucratic document from the British consul general in Miami to tell the story of Hurricane Andrew. The documentary follows two main characters each changed by the storm in their own profound way: Jenny Del Campo, a typical teenager living in southern Dade County and Bryan Norcross, a TV weatherman.
From WNYC | 57:00
This year women will enter the Olympic boxing ring for the first time. Hosted by actor Rosie Perez and producer Marianne McCune, "Go for It" explores why women fight and why we expect them not to. A compelling hour of radio that is perfect for airing before or during the Olympic Games. The opening ceremony is July 27 and the women's boxing competition begins on August 5th and runs through August 9th. This is sound rich and provocative sports reporting that you won't want public radio listeners to miss.
If you box, by definition, you’re a risk-taker. If you’re a girl and you box, you’re a risk-taker and a rule-breaker. If you’re a girl and you box and your aim is to be the first to win an Olympic gold medal - that’s going for it. Who does that and why?
Go For It: Life Lessons from Girl Boxers , is a one hour special that tells the story of women for whom boxing is an expression of ambition, drive, strength and – yes – aggression, qualities often admired in men and sometimes discouraged in women.
The special is the next logical step for Women Box, our series with photojournalist Sue Jaye Johnson (and in collaboration with the New York Times Magazine and Radio Diaries) chronicling the lives of a group of fighters who’ve spent the year competing to become the first women to box in the Olympic Games.
Go For It will take listeners inside the hearts and minds of girls and women who are not afraid to defy expectations, take chances and fight to become ‘the greatest.’ When Tyrieshia Douglas says, “It’s against the rules to have as many muscles as I have,” she’s daring the rules to stop her. And when Claressa Shields, at 16, asks members of a church in Flint, Michigan for a few hundred dollars so she can get to the next boxing tournament, her dream of an Olympic gold medal seems both impossible and inevitable.
We follow the ever-confident Claressa, now 17, to Qinhuangdao, China where she fights to qualify for the Olympics.
Finally, there’s the sobering backdrop: brain scientists are finding increasingly stark evidence that repeated blows to the head cause a long list of problems later on, from death to memory loss and depression. Most boxers, men or women, will tell you, ‘it’s not going to happen to me.’ Go For It will look at the risks to women who are embracing a sport increasingly criticized for exposing participants to serious injury.
Whether you love or hate boxing, Go For It aims to draw you into a deeply compelling conversation about what it means to be a girl and what it takes to be a champion.
Co-Produced by the award-winning reporter/producer of Living Nine Eleven , Marianne McCune has developed an intimate and powerful style of story telling you won't want to miss.
Promo available now. Embeddable slideshows on website.
Check out these websites for more details:
Sometimes it's an object's imperfections that makes you fall in love with it. And sometimes that object is an escalator.
[For Director's Cut version, go to: http://www.prx.org/pieces/89156-99-invisible-43-the-accidental-music-of-imperfe]
Ever since the industrial revolution, when it became possible for products to be designed just once and then mass produced, it has been the slight imperfections and wear introduced by human use that has transformed a quality mass produced product into a thing we love. Your worn blue jeans, your grandmothers iron skillet, the initial design determined their quality, but it’s their imperfections that make them comfortable, that make them lovable, that make them yours.
And if you think that a “slightly broken” escalator can’t be lovable, then our own Sam Greenspan would like to introduce you to Chris Richards. Chris Richards is a music critic for the Washington Post, and after years of ignoring the wailing and screeching of the much maligned, often broken escalators in the DC Metro, he began to hear them in a new way. He began to hear them as music.
- This story was adapted from one Sam Greenspan produced for his podcast, Whisper Cities, which tells stories of overlooked places and the people who find them.
- The designer of the first DC Metro stations was Harry Weese. Weese’s “Jailhouse Skyscraper” in downtown Chicago was profiled in 99% Invisible #26 by Dan Weissmann. The Metro ceilings may be brutalism at its best.
From The Truth | 10:32
Spin class gets personal.
On this episode of The Truth, we're going to spin class. Warm up that saddle and pick up the pace, as we go inside the imaginations of two very competitive women.
Chet Siegel as Sam
Emily Tarver as Lisa
Ed Herbstman as Kirk
Produced by Jonathan Mitchell
written collaboratively by The Truth, from a story by Chet Siegel
Special thanks: Peter Clowney, Kerrie Hillman, Madeline Sparer and Chris Bannon. Recorded at WNYC and on location in New York City
From Sarah Boothroyd | 05:42
Gleeful Barbarians features very silly noises, nearly-indecipherable toddler chitchat, and 27 different ways a two-year-old can say 'no.'
Gleeful Barbarians is an audio postcard from the often joyful, sometimes exasperating, and always busy world of early parenthood.
Featuring very silly noises, nearly-indecipherable toddler chitchat, and 27 different ways a two-year-old can say 'no.'
Creative Commons music provided by Travis Morgan and Mortisville.
Recipient of a Gold Medal for Best Editing at the 2013 New York Festivals Radio Programming Awards.
I was sitting in bed reading one night when I heard the strangest sound...
From HowSound | 18:58
Canadian producer Carma Jolly on first-person essays.
Initially, "The Secret" by Carma Jolly seems like it might be a story about Carma's brother and his near-death experience caused by Spina bifida .
But then, about four minutes in, the story takes a sharp turn and suddenly "The Secret" is about Carma and her depression and suicidal tendencies -- two topics rarely discussed publicly. I actually turned up the volume on my radio as that plot twist played itself out, a surprising bit of narrative magic. In that moment, I was hooked by the story and Carma as a producer.
"The Secret" originally aired in 2004 on Outfront , an incredibly inventive, daily radio program produced by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Carma worked for Outfront for many years. She's now a producer for CBC's Tapestry and a sound artist .
Got your ears on? You'll need 'em for this HowSound.
From Andrew Norton | 04:45
Buck Dietz is a figure model. That means he has to stand naked and completely still for long sessions while artists sketch him. But for Buck, it's more than just standing there. He shares his surprising techniques that make his artform... sing.
It was the summer of 1966 when a persistent 17-year-old with a high school radio show near Chicago got the interview of lifetime: Muhammad Ali. But only a handful of people ever got to hear this time capsule. Until now.
“There were so many fellows ranked over me I couldn’t just whoop them all. I had to out-shadow them by talking.” - Muhammad Ali, 1966
Interview by Michael Aisner. Read the backstory below.
It was in the summer of 1966 when a star-struck 17-year-old set out to interview his idol: Muhammad Ali. Twenty miles from the South Side of Chicago, in Winnetka, Ill., Michael Aisner was calling repeatedly to the gym where the boxing champ was training. Finally, a man named Mr. Shabazz — Jeremiah Shabazz, he suspects, the man who introduced Ali to Islam — picked up.
“Where are you from?” Shabazz asked the boy.
“I’m from WNTH, a high school radio station,” Aisner said.”The champ doesn’t have time to talk,” he said.
“Can I interview the champ?” he asked again.
Finally, Shabazz relented.
“Ok,” he told him. “The champ will meet you.”
Later that week, with a suitcase-sized tape recorder in a back seat, Aisner and his best friend Pat were driving from the northern suburbs of Chicago to the South Side of Chicago, where Ali’s fan club was headquartered. It was two years after Ali had trashed talked his way into a victory over Sonny Liston; a year before he would refuse to go Vietnam. At the time, many black Muslims, led by Malcolm X, were advocating for “total separation” of the races. And so, for a scrawny white boy from the suburbs, heading to the heart of Chicago’s gritty South Side was no small thing.
“We parked as close as we could to the building,” Aisner, now 63, laughs. “White Jewish boys from the suburbs did not go to the south side of Chicago.”
The Muhammad Ali fan club was housed in a small brick building on X street, a gold foil sign announcing itself out front. Next door was “Muhammad Speaks,” the black Muslim newspaper. From inside the club, Aisner and his friend watched out the front window as Ali screetched up in a red Cadillac convertible, parked in front of a fire hydrant, and jumped over the car door.
For the next 20 minutes, Ali talked boxing, footwork, why he wanted to fight — and launched into an epic, unprompted riff about traveling to Mars and fighting for the intergalactic boxing title. All went smoothly — until Aisner realized he’d forgot to turn on the tape recorder.
“I was mortified,” he says. “I said, ‘Champ, do you think you could do that again?’”
The champ obliged.
The interview aired a few weeks later, and Aisner went on to produce a radio show and a documentary in the decades since. But he’s never quite forgotten that first interview with his childhood icon. For 25 years, he kept the original reel-to-reel recording until he digitized it. But it sat. No one else ever heard it.
Then Aisner heard about Blank on Blank. And brought his interview of a lifetime back to life.
Boxing has been an Olympic sport since the time of the ancient Greeks. But only men have taken part. This year, that changes. For the first time ever, women will step into the ring at the 2012 summer Olympics in London. One of them is 16-year old Claressa Shields.
Boxing has been an Olympic sport since the time of the ancient Greeks. But only men have taken part. This year, that changes. For the first time ever, women will step into the ring at the 2012 summer Olympics in London.
One of the Olympic contenders is 16-year old Claressa Shields, a junior at Northwestern High School in Flint, Michigan.
Sue Jaye Johnson and Joe Richman of Radio Diaries followed Claressa as she prepared for the Olympic trials. They also gave her a tape recorder to keep an audio diary of her life. This is her story.
This piece was produced by Joe Richman, Samara Freemark and Sue Jaye Johnson of Radio Diaries, with editors Deborah George and Ben Shapiro.
It’s a collaboration with WNYC’s Women Box Project. You can find photos and more about Claressa Shields – and many other women boxers – at womenbox.com and radiodiaries.org.
Update: Claressa Shields is currently ranked #2 in the world in her wieght class! Her first Olympic fight will be August 5th.
For more updates follow us on twitter @radiodiaries
From Eric Molinsky | 07:47
Every year, a consumer research group surveys the most popular TV shows for liberals and conservatives. Independent producer Eric Molinsky investigates what makes a show Red or Blue, even if it's just supposed to be entertaining.
Have you ever come across a TV show and wondered, who watches this stuff? Who are these people? You might find the answer in a report by a consumer research group on the TV viewing habits of liberals and conservatives. The study doesn’t factor in race, gender or class, just people who self identify as very liberal or very conservative. But some very clear trends emerge. Studio 360s Eric Molinsky was curious what makes a show appeal to one side of the political spectrum, even when there’s no politics on the surface.
On a summer night in the early 1990s a small group of friends gather for a dinner party in Los Angeles. Just for fun, someone suggests having a séance with a homemade Ouija board.
By the end of the evening, perceptions of reality have been altered, relationships have been damaged, and the guests are forever changed.
Three people who were there tell the shocking, funny, and hauntingly tragic story of The Séance.
On a summer night in the early 1990s a small group of friends gather for a dinner party in Los Angeles. Just for fun, someone suggests having a séance with a homemade Ouija board. By the end of the evening, perceptions of reality have been altered, relationships have been damaged, and the guests are forever changed. Three people who were there tell the shocking, funny, and hauntingly tragic story of The Séance.
Here it is, the latest song in our "Year In Your Ear" series. We're calling it "Someone's Screaming Outside." Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman, one gunshot and our attempt at telling their complex story using only sounds found on YouTube. Should clear up all remaining questions, right?
NEW! Watch the "music video" (and we use that term loosely) at our series page or at YouTube under MadGeniusBlog.
While working on its debut album, the anonymous vérité pop collective Mad Genius decided to follow the real money with this foray into public broadcasting.
Keeping with what we do best, we're sampling the world's news and audio culture (both professional and amateur) in an effort to tell stories in a way that would make Ira either cry in pain or throw fits of furious envy. Maybe both, come to think of it. We're taking the talking heads and turning them into pop stars, making music with the media and nothing more. The goal is to create an hour-long musical time capsule by the end of the year. That is, of course, unless the apocalypse comes first.
Here's our latest episode. We're calling it "Someone's Screaming Outside." Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman, one gunshot and our attempt at telling their complex story using only YouTube reaction to the situation. Should clear up all remaining questions, right?
As we write this, we're developing our next track. A little Columbian samba that takes on the Secret Service. Our question for you: Should we be scared? Will M.I.B.'s visit our studio at Mad Manor? Stay tuned...
From WNPR | 52:00
Every year, more than a million kids drop out of school. Without a diploma, they will have a tough time succeeding. But the problem starts much earlier than high school. This hour, we'll ask the big question: What works?
Originally created for American Graduate Day in September, this special continues to be a timely look at education in America.
- Chicago, Duncan's hometown, where we try to find out why students leave school in the first place.
- San Diego, where a mentoring program has helped cut dropout rates substantially.
- Washington, DC, where we examine the cost of dropouts to families.
- Boston, where we look at whether the President's call for a "dropout age" of 18 could really work.
- And New Haven, Connecticut, where students are given the "promise" of college if they work hard and stay in school.
It's part of American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen, a public media initiative, supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), to help students stay on the path to graduation and future success.
From The Truth | 16:22
A satire about corporation that becomes a person.
Part "Frankenstein," part "2001: A Space Odyssey," this satire by Tony Award-winning playwright Greg Kotis (Urinetown) explores what happens when a corporation is given human-like consciousness.
Louis Kornfeld as Victor
Written by Greg Kotis
Produced by Jonathan Mitchell
For Labor Day: The work we do, from Wall Street traders to taxi cab drivers. People who work with brassieres, with dead bodies, and off-the-books in an underground economy. A tone-poem by Ken Nordine, a podcast from Love and Radio, and sound-portraits from Radio Diaries, Toni Schwartz, Ben Rubin, David Greenberger, and hosts Ann Heppermann and Kara Oehler.
Host: Ann Heppermann and Kara Oehler of Mapping Main Street
For Labor Day, the work we do, from Wall Street traders to taxi cab drivers. People who work with brassieres, dead bodies, lost golf balls, and off-the-books in an underground economy:
Grief and guts fill the work day of Aftermath,® Inc: Specialists in Crime Scene and Tragedy Cleanup, Trauma Cleanup, Accidental Death Cleanup. Interview with Tim Reifsteck by Laura Kwerel, produced by Nick van der Kolk; an excerpt from "Aftermath," a Love and Radio podcast. (L & R's slogan: "What Ira Glass might make if he showed up to work drunk.")
Retired school teacher Paul Neibuhr dons a full wet suit with air tank and transforms into a professional "Golfball Diver." Produced by Jeff Rice, with music by Leroy Anderson ("Plink, Plank, Plunk!" 1951; theme for the TV game Show I've Got a Secret for 24 years; CD: Leroy Anderson Favorites).
Ken Nordine wants to be "The Bullfighter" (2001 A Transparent Mask). A Radio Diary from "Selma Koch, Bra Saleswoman." Sez Selma: "Nobody says the retail business was gonna be easy." Produced by Emily Botein and Joe Richman with help from Ben Shapiro and Deborah George (2002 New York Works). Tony Schwartz talks with The New York Taxi Driver about "Females" as fares. "Open Outcry" is the trading technique heard on the floor of the New York Mercantile Exchange. This sound-portrait by composer Ben Rubin is a 2002 commissioned by Creative Time for Sonic Garden, World Financial Center, NYC. Features the voices of Madeline Boyd, J. Robert Collins, Jr., David Greenberg, John Hanneman, Vincent Viola, Elisa Zuritsky, and others. John, the Medicine Man does the "Chicago Hustles." An excerpt from the documentary on the city's underground economy by our hosts Ann Heppermann and Kara Oehler for the 2005 series Chicago Matters: Money Talks. Reinhardt "Buck" Buchli makes a "Fortunate Decision" (2005). A story told and production by David Greenberger of Duplex Planet. Music performed by Bangalore, composed by Phil Kaplan. The New York Taxi Driver waxes work philosophies with Tony Schwartz in "...The Way It Has to Be." Depeche Mode clocks out with Work Hard (1984 Singles Box 2). And mixed in there is "Toner" by Cornelius (2006 Sensuous). A "collaboration with Takagi Masakatsu produced for Japan's Sound & Recording magazine... inspired by inkjet printers!" Cornelius "Toner":
From YouthCast | 14:30
Jacorey is an aspiring radio producer who's working on a degree in radio broadcasting at Southern Maine Community College. He is also incarcerated at the Long Creek Youth Development Center.
And although you have to walk through five locked doors to see Jacorey and his friends at Long Creek, if you want to hear them, just press play.
"They write letters back and forth from female residents to male residents or vise-versa" Jacorey told me. Then, they put the letters under trashcans or in hiding places for the other to find. At Long Creek, they call this note passing "Illegal Mail."
In his piece, Jacorey interviews his friend, the "King of Illegal Mail," as well as Ms. Peevey, a staff member who confiscates these clandestine love notes. Jacorey is trying to understand why "illegal mail" is against the rules, and why some of his friends do it anyway.
From Youth Media Project | 02:40
Gabriel Martinez, a seventh grader, wrote this thoughtful and moving letter to his unknown father.
Blame it on the kids, blame it on the president, blame it on your mom, blame it on the rain. Lord knows, there is enough blame to go around, and we here at Snap Judgment, are bringing you stories from near and far about the act of shedding that blame, Absolution. This week on Snap Judgment, stories about forgiveness, unloading your burdens and owning up.
Back of the Bus
As a youngster, Glynn has a harsh introduction to a new school -- before he even arrives . . .
Producers: Mark Ristich and Pat Mesiti-Miller
Thao’s Grandma Makes A Statement
When indie rockstar Thao Nguyen isn’t rocking the stage around the globe, she’s listening to public radio. So of course we had to bring her in to tell a tale about her sweet, lovely grandma--who you definitely don’t want to mess with.
Thao composed all the instrumentals in this segment specifically for this story. The other two songs are from her album, We Brave Bee Stings and All. She is currently performing at Radiolab’s live show and is working on a new album.
Producer: Stephanie Foo
Next of Kin
A mortician must come between a mother and her daughter’s lover in a funeral home. Kyle Bowen is a graduate of the San Francisco college of Mortuary Science, and has worked as a mortician for over 15 years. He now writes and performs in Chico, CA.
Producer: Jamie DeWolf, Anna Sussman, and Renzo Gorrio
A young girl survives the holocaust, then the real struggle begins.
Producer: Anna Sussman
Jack McCarthy comes home to a missing sweatshirt and faces his own irrational anger. A retired working guy from Boston, McCarthy is considered a legend in Spoken Word circles. The Boston Globe has said, “In the poetry world, he’s a rock star.” He’s the author of 5 books of poetry and two CDs. Hear more of his work at http://www.standupoet.net/
Producers: Jamie DeWolf and Renzo Gorrio
13 years ago, John and Michael Arena were arrested and accused of molesting their 9-year old cousin, Stephanie. But believe it or not, this isn’t a story about a family that wants to hurt each other. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite.
Texas Voices is a nonprofit that is fighting for John and Michael’s case. Check out what you can do to help by checking out their site.
Producer: Stephanie Foo
Judge Joe Pigott served nearly two decades on the bench in Jackson, Miss. But he says no defendant confounded him more than the man nicknamed "Pip" whose exploits often landed him in Pigott's courtroom.
Producers: Storycorps and Mark Ristich
Original riot grrrl Kathleen Hanna remembers the DIY feminist punk scene she catalyzed in 1992 with Bikini Kill. (The band's first EP was re-released Nov 20, 2012, in 20th-anniversay vinyl). And she talks about how her musical energy takes new form in her current, much poppier band, Le Tigre.
From HowSound | 12:34
Pejk Malinovksy on producing audio tours including Passing Stranger: The East Village Poetry Walk
It used to be people would say "Oh, the 1940s and 50s, that was the Golden Age of radio." Maybe ten years ago they were right.
Now, I'd say the 2010s are Golden Age of Radio. Take radio itself then add on satellite radio, HD radio, the internet, podcasts, mobile devices... the deluge of audio content is ridiculous. And, I didn't even mention audio tours, the topic on this edition of HowSound.
Radio producer Pejk Malinovski has ventured into the world of producing audio tours. He thinks other radio producers should, too, if for no other reason than they both use the same tools and skill set. Pejk's first audio tour production was Passing Stranger: The East Village Poetry Walk . On HowSound, Pejk talks about the tour and some of the differences between producing for radio and producing for a tour.
You should be sure to visit the Passing Stranger site AFTER you listen to the podcast. It's fascinating to see how they repurposed the audio tour for the web. Insanely clever, I'd say.