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Comments by Jackson Braider

Comment for "Bonjour Chanson. French Popular Music for an American Audience." (deleted)

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Review of Bonjour Chanson. French Popular Music for an American Audience. (deleted)

There is much to admire here, but Yankees -- sadly unimpressive learners of foreign tongues -- have not proved themselves enthusiastic listeners to francophonic broadcasts.

The fundamental of this program is to reach across cultural divide, but the narrative evidenced here doesn't quite do that.

To work on American outlets, the producers need to remind their audience that multilingual narrative is not limited to babywipe packaging manufactured in Quebec. I'm not sure how to do that, especially now that the Loony kicks the American dollar in the butt; stlll, they need to prepare their radio audience on how to engage with such programming.

Comment for "Are There Any More Rare, Plastic Ponies?"

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Review of Are There Any More Rare, Plastic Ponies?

Having a sister-in-law who has always loved horses and a brother who became a late convert to the beasts, I have learned to appreciate the connection between humans and these particular ungulates. The non-narrator form of radio piece can be transcendent, but when the ambitions are to connect the filaments between ponies and plastic model horses, the almost-hardwired human tendency to amass and collect, and the apparent secret wish to groom among girls to groom massive animals that they will control -- that's a lot to accomplish.

Julie Shapiro very nearly succeeds here. I would argue the musical choices here -- there's lots of music out there in the real world that has nothing to do with cowboys that would have informed the human sensibility of horsiness here -- were inconsequential. And yet those horsey pieces would have imbued the story with an undeniably ungulate rhythm that isn't matched by the strains chosen in their stead.

But don't let that qualification stop you from reading on.

Even more challenging in Shapiro's storytelling task is making the connection between collecting model horses and horseback riding. How do the model collectors care for, feed, and maintain their stables? We hear from owners of tens, hundreds, thousands of plastic ponies. It would be terrific to discover how they make their petrochemical models worthy of being considered for best in show.

All of which is to say that Shapiro's story is so terrific it allowed me to think enough about what she did here to conceive of alternate endings. The production and mix are impeccable. As is, it would be a terrific thing to hear anywhere, any time.

Comment for "Compact Discoveries 33: One-Hit American Composers"

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Review of Compact Discoveries 33: One-Hit American Composers

It is always terrific to encounter concert music programming featuring American composers. To paraphrase Charles Ives quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson, we have listened too often to the far courts of Europe. It was a fact back in the 1800s; it's a fact that remains true today.

Sadly, in his overview of "one-hit American composers", the producer of Compact Discoveries overlooks such distinctive American voices as Ferde Groffe and William Grant Still, choosing instead to promote those composers who showed themselves to have, perhaps, devoted a little bit too much to Europe in their figurative rearview mirrors.

American concert music has always been fraught subject matter for any number of reasons -- anybody remember who was branded the American "Beethoven"?

In the end, though, there is, in effect, so much missing here we can finger only nothing.

Comment for "At Home with Ani DiFranco"

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Review of At Home with Ani DiFranco

As a long-time student in Buffalo, I salute Ani DiFranco as a gifted songwriter, performer, and musician. Buffalo, for those there in 1977, was (and remains) the City of No Illusions.

I salute PRX, too. It is a wonderful place to discover surprising and engaging work, like this hour with Ani DiFranco.

I have just one problem with this program: It seems to be four years old. Not that I am saying everything posted on PRX needs Budweiser's "born-on" date etched on the proverbial can, but we can only push the timelessness of radio thing only so far. Things have changed in DiFranco's work and DiFranco's life since this was first produced, and nothing here would suggest otherwise.

Sad proof that there really is a difference between evergreen programming and old news.

Comment for "Bob & Ray THE LOST EPISODES Program 1"

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Review of Bob & Ray THE LOST EPISODES Program 1

From the get-go, THE LOST EPISODES are a treasure. I start off by saying I have always loved Bob and Ray -- I memorized one of their albums in my youth and can still quote verbatim at length.

But there is brilliance here we can't even know these days -- the closest, perhaps, was Elmo's appearance a year or so ago on WAIT WAIT, when Elmo suddenly interrupted his voice. One of the exquisite things about B&R were their multiple roles in the likes of their Mary Backstage stories and how they'd skip from role to role with the ease of square dancers.

The glory of Bob and Ray to my ear -- old or young -- is their capacity for nonchalant surprise. They aren't interested in dazzling us -- I doubt they ever did overdubs, for example -- but each piece is a muzzled tour de force. For those enamored by the recent pursuit of the likes of irony, Bob and Ray are delivering like goods from the Irony Age.

Fans of John Hodgman will appreciate his succour upon the fumes of Bob and Ray's tailpipe. The resident authority chose his inspirations brilliantly.

Comment for "The Beatles One-Hour Radio Special: "Help! Is On The Way..." Narrated by Michael Palin"

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Review of The Beatles One-Hour Radio Special: "Help! Is On The Way..." Narrated by Michael Palin

A wonderful reminder of just how good "Help" the film was. Lester has long argued that Help! was a terrific film; this doc brings the listener into the materials of the soundtrack -- songs, for example, you may have forgotten to remember.

A loving bunch of audio -- for once, PDs, you'll need to figure out how to turn 48+ minutes into 59 mins. I urge you to draw upon PRX content, but whatever you do, don't let faux resources get in your way.

This is engaging material, incorporating Bealte programming we'd forgotten to remember to remember...

Jackson Braider

Comment for "The Reunion"

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Review of The Reunion

Barbara Bernstein's exploration of a 40th anniversary of a sixth-grade class is reason enough for the slaves of broadcast clocks to break their chains and say, "Yes, here is a 20-minute reason why we are taking you from the known world."

But we all know that PDs are lazy -- "Where does this fit on the clock?" "Will I miss the news block?"

Still, as my grandmother would have said, "Really? Surely you have a job to do!"

Bernstein's piece is a kind of sweetness we don't feel too much these days. Summer lies before you programmers like a patient etherized upon a table -- this is infinitely engaging. If I had heard this driving home, I would have headed out of my way so the story would end before I reached home.

Comment for "WNYC's Fishko Files: An Hour with Ned Rorem"

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Review of WNYC's Fishko Files: An Hour with Ned Rorem

There is one thing I really love and admire about Sarah Fishko's work -- her capacity to be at once engaged with and yet detached from her material. This interview with Ned Rorem is an extraordinarily apt example of this: Just as Rorem defines his own visions of "red" and "blue" (read German and French), Fishko lets the listener experience Ned Rorem's charm while staying true as a compass point to -- forgive me -- the necessity of art.

And as we learn in the course of this hour, Ned Rorem is a galvanizing thinker about how, and where, and why we choose art to express ourselves.

I hope that PDs with classical music programming in their charge will find an hour for this. It's worth more than that, of course, but so much of what we hear on the classical air is Dawn of the Dead material, it's a wonder there's anyone living actually doing anything. Fishko's Rorem interview is a terrific reminder that this music matters every bit as much as a dope slap from Click and Clack.

Comment for "English Learners in California Schools"

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Review of English Learners in California Schools

A terrific subject that needs more attention. Kates does a good job of covering the issues, and he's found a great bunch of sources.

But we're caught up right from the start by a linguistic tick: "English learners." While it's a bit cocky to note that LA is the home of the largest contingent of Brit-expats in the US -- which gives an entirely different meaning to "English learners" -- I fear Kates's thrust suffers from political correctness.

A political correctness, I should add, weighed down by the American ambivalence toward learning a second language.

My instinct would be to go back and discover where the indigenous tribe (so-called "Americans") have determined where the linguistic threshold stands. The story here sets such questions into motion..

Comment for "The Graceful Art of Breaking Up"

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Review of The Graceful Art of Breaking Up

A terrific little piece that tackles the appropriate protocol for breaking up. IM'ing is out; e-mail is only slightly less bad. The work moves nicely; interesting use of sonic treatment to distinguish the various source voices in the story. The tie-in with Valentine's Day makes sense, but people break up every day -- I would urge the producer to write a closing line that doesn't suggest Valentine's Day.

Comment for "Samuel L. Jackson en francais"

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Review of Samuel L. Jackson en francais

Beautiful use of juxtaposition between Samuel L. Jackson's dialog and the French translation. Thierry Desroses is an engaging talker who dwells nicely on the aesthetics of dubbing. I was particularly touched by his comments about watching the eyes of the people he portrays.

One little quibble: How did Desroses tackle the bust-out line from "Snakes on a Plane"? Something that turned on the notion that "there are f&$%(ing snakes on this f*7&$#@ing plane!" Beep the original, leave the French intact. We are, after all, the people who invented Freedom Fries, so who would know?

Just a passing thought...

Comment for ""Shakespeare in Performance"" (deleted)

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Review of "Shakespeare in Performance" (deleted)

Methinks this program offers a bit of auditory whiplash -- a touch of Yankee hucksterism ("Shakespeare" as American icon -- or is it "idol"?) mixed with conventional adoration of the Bard. Praises for scoring Sam Waterston as narrator -- he who would be Lincoln -- but there is nothing here that demonstrates Americans have more claim on Shakespeare than, say, the Irish, who are learning his speeches in the fifth grade and reciting them before their peers, or -- God help us! -- the English. Absent too here Australians. Lovely, of course, to have a touch of Willie on the radio. Why must Americans "own" Shakespeare? Didn't we have a revolution just to avoid that confusion?

Comment for "Recruiting Musician Soldiers"

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Review of Recruiting Musician Soldiers

A surprising piece -- who knew the Army would turn to Craig's List to find musicians to fill their ranks?

PDs should block out space on their ATC clock for this piece -- we've got too little good military news these days.

Comment for "Unquiet Graves"

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Review of Unquiet Graves

A lovely piece.

For those weaned on wars where personal sacrifice has been neither a prerequisite nor an option, the stuff Marjorie describes might seem strange, archaic. But in this wonderful concoction, she reminds us that radio is always about people -- not just the jewel-like traditionbearers who "put you there," but all the people who chat along the lines of parade routes, among the ghosts of former battlefields.

For those who think 9/11 changed everything, they clearly weren't there for Paschendale during the Great War, but 245,000 men were lost here.

I don't know how PDs should make a piece like this relevent, but listeners seem sensitive to numbers, don't they?

A curious mix of heart-breaking and inspirational. An obvious thing for 11.11, but post-war tape informing the story would be fabulous on any date.

Comment for "Gray Matters: Crossroads and Frontiers" (deleted)

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Review of Gray Matters: Crossroads and Frontiers (deleted)

An episode from a series to remind us that while certain distribution channels -- read "cable news" -- are built upon an obsessive adherence to timeliness, we in radio can take the long view. And what better example of long-view production than a program from Gray Matters touching upon, amongst other things, memory and memory loss.

Nothing surprising here -- no revolutionary use of sound, no short-cut sound bites to drive the listener to a particular conclusion. Good, solid writing with nice twists of thoughtfulness that make problematic subject matter accessible to a general listenership.

PDs: programs like this deserve more than dropping in on quiet hours during your Sunday night line-up. Get the promo, make the audience understand that there's a date to be made with your station because you're airing this show.

Comment for "This I Believe - Cecile Gilmer"

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Review of This I Believe - Cecile Gilmer

Apart from losing John McCain's voice in the first utterance of this year's model of TIB -- to my mind, he's just too busy politically, which makes this sound like an endorsement for a particular candidacy -- this is one of the few instances of make-a-date radio going on right now.

PDs: Sure they're just repeats of what hitting ME and ATC on Mondays, but as the series has proven, repetition is not a bad thing. A mid-week date in the middle of rush hour -- TIB gives us a reason to want to be stuck in traffic. So we can pay attention to what someone else is thinking.

Now, how often are we allowed to do that?

Comment for "After 23: Conversations on Direction"

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Review of After 23: Conversations on Direction

An interesting idea built upon some good tape, but exhausting to the ear from very early on. Hard to tell why the rush to conclusion in this mix -- multitracking effects here do not necessarily clarify the proverbial meaning of the message. Editorially speaking, I'd love to hear from the start who these people are and why we're hearing their stories.

Comment for "How to Observe Presidents' Day, Observed"

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Review of How to Observe Presidents' Day, Observed

There is something strangely comforting in the just slightly off-perfect mix of the show as it opens -- a good reminder that this stuff is LIVE. It's kind of singer/songwriter type radio without the painful pretension of the singer/songwriter's craft. The atmosphere of the program has the intimacy of a coffeehouse -- not the awe and silence of a concert hall crowd.

For example, Sarah Vowell offers a possessed reading from her latest -- the kind of thing that just doesn't hit the air often enough. Nice addition of bits from Sondheim's Assassins makes this visit to destinations on Assassination Vacation a must-hear and -- perhaps a first -- Ms. Vowell performs in a musical number for the edification and hallucination of all. In sum, a blast.

But other performers are not to be denied -- Joshua Berman offers spirited presentations that one can only seem to find among the Little Gray Book Lectures.

And then there's John Hodgman, who, while not arriving at the level of cinema, has nonetheless arrived at television (albeit cable). As always, the line between fact and fact seems a bit blurrier, a bit hazier, a bit more disquieting once Hodgman has brought his expertise to bear on matters presidential.

PDs, your presidents day programming will be noncomplete without this Little Gray Book lecture,

Comment for "Hamas/Ahmadenijad and Radical Islam's continued success"

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Review of Hamas/Ahmadenijad and Radical Islam's continued success

Few people in the climes of public radio exercise brain muscles in quite the same way as Michael Goldfarb. His thought pieces are little tours de force of brainpower, amplified by reason, informed by honest-to-god reporting.

And if the lucky PD salleys further into the piece, he/she will find here two bits for air as opposed to the usual one. The music -- singularly uninformative except as divisory material between the two pieces -- can easily be dropped.

The point here is that there are two really thoughtful think pieces in this posting that address questions about the Palestinean election and the current Iranian political mental state American audiences really should listen to, think about, and take with themselves to the ballot box.

Particularly nice here is the reminder that Western perceptions are not necessarily those of the people in the driver's seat.

Goldfarb's writing is wonderfully fluid as always. Between ME and ATC, there should be time enough on local stations to bring these works to the air -- just don't let the music get in your way.

Comment for "Art of the Song #33 with Richard Shindell" (deleted)

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Review of Art of the Song #33 with Richard Shindell (deleted)

Richard Shindell is a great character -- terrific songwriter, a guy who can talk the paint off a house.

Some things in the presentation here concern me -- the opening of the program has the pace of a 60-second billboard before the news. But there's no news and "hurry" is not a feeling one gets with Shindell's music.

The other thing is to watch for sliding into general chat about the creative process. The thing Shindell really gives us is his work, not his process.

That said, it's great to hear full songs -- might suggest making the song/chat split 60/40 rather than 50/50.

Comment for "Lewis&Clark_week 70" (deleted)

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Review of Lewis&Clark_week 70 (deleted)

I'm sorry not to have caught this series sooner, but dropping in on the middle of this proves to be okay. Driven forward by diary entries, this charting of the expedition is frequently more a passing of details than the big-foot tromp of HISTORY. And this is nice, too, in how the enthusiasms and imaginings (witness the belief in Welsh Indians) are presented really without prejudice.

PDs: If you aren't carrying this, you can join the expedition in mid-stream. When the news is proving so woeful as it is these days, it's good to have the illuminating example of Lewis & Clark to remind listeners that sometimes good can come from human endeavor.

Comment for "Ralph Waldo Emerson" (deleted)

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Review of Ralph Waldo Emerson (deleted)

For fans of Christopher Lydon, this program is a beautiful demonstration of his craft. His enthusiasm for Emerson -- the "American Plato" -- and the terrific guests make for great conversation. Ideas are the stock of Lydon's five-and-dime and the air is crackling with them here.

A nice use of space in this program -- a walk in the woods near Walden, a visit to the room at Harvard where Emerson shocked the world -- unusual for this kind of show. A nice reminder that sense of place has a place in radio.

Comment for "Literary Friendships #1: Robert Bly & Donald Hall" (deleted)

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Review of Literary Friendships #1: Robert Bly & Donald Hall (deleted)

Here's the rub: Interviewing before a live audience is no guarantee that the content garnered will be incredibly illuminating. And while I love much of Keillor's work -- and he's not a bad interviewer -- I had imagined (or do I mean hoped for?) something more worked, more intimate than what this show offers.

This is not to say that the idea behind the program isn't lovely -- it is. But while the show is supposed to be about the relationship between two people, there's always this third guy.

Having said that, Hall and Bly are wonderful talkers, and they both know how to play an audience. Entertaining, certainly. But with such powerhouses as these two poets, don't you kind of want to walk away with a hefty box of metaphorical rocks to ponder over?

Comment for "Buckets of Gold"

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Review of Buckets of Gold

A lovely piece, nicely set up. A good thing to drop in anywhere any old time. The beauty here is not so much the actual subject as it is the quality of the attention Linda pays to the beach and the things she finds there.

I would venture to say an especially good piece for landlocked stations on a quiet no-news day.

Comment for "Poetry Combine"

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Review of Poetry Combine [Larry/Andrei]

Andrei and his students do "upbeat" in this field trip to three poets of New Orleans. If it goes without saying public radio needs more from the dog man or the burlesk queen of iambic pentameter, then I wouldn't have to say it. But the sad fact is I do: Lucky students to have Andrei as their spirit guide in the happy streets of New Orleans. Happy us that there was someone who knew what to do with a recorder when they met the poets. This is the kind of thing that might possibly make National Poetry Month vaguely tolerable -- and then some.

Comment for "HV Special: Home Team (Baseball)"

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Review of HOME TEAM Baseball Special

Baseball has always been a writer's sport -- think Roger Angell and that other Roger, the Aga's brother -- and HOME TEAM proves that baseball is radio's sport. I've always loved Gwen M's tone: a kind of warm and welcoming with just a hint of the acerbic. And the stories are perfect in a baseball way -- witness the potato story and the sheer headtwisting weirdness of the dugout. PDs: by my New Englander's reckoning, you've got four weeks to air this before there's absolutely no hint of snow in the forecast. Don't dawdle.

Comment for "Little Gray Book Lecture: How to Communicate Without the Use of Wires"

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Review of Little Gray Book Lecture: How to Communicate Without the Use

The phrase that immediately leaps to mind about this Little Gray Book Lecture: it's the anti-slick. Paul Tough has a lovely essay about the quest for extraterrestrial communication and his dad, John Hodgman does a wonderful twist on the call-in show, and Starlee Kine is charming. Smart people, good with words -- and as far as I can tell, not a jot of steroidal sound-sweetening or audio tummytucks. This show is a terrific reminder that what the listener gets doesn't have to be polished to be engaging or communicative.

Comment for "True Story of St. Patrick"

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Review of True Story of St. Patrick [BG]

St. Patrick's Day may be the happiest of all holidays, as one of the people in this story say. But it brings a tear to the eye, knowing that there was a time long ago when you could hear such great, fresh-sounding stuff on ATC. This piece still sounds great. A wonderful surprise for PDs to drop in during drive time on March 17 -- your O'Public Radio fans will love it.

Comment for "Biography of 100,000 Square Feet"

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Review of Biography of 100,000 Square Feet

A wonderful piece of work -- engrossing and engaging. Great characters emerge from the interviews; solid writing, too. Thanks to Temchine's happy turn of phrase, I'll never look at a street cleaning truck the same way again. PDs should drop a half-hour of the same old same old one day to give this worthy story some air. And don't let the tape noise stop you -- it adds to the gritty charm of the storytelling.

Comment for "Proust, cattle and self-governance"

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Review of Proust, cattle and self-governance

A wonderful and incisive 10+ minutes, exploring, via an idealistic two-year college out west, the relation between social class, education, and labor. This is far beyond a doing-well-by-doing-good story -- PDs! This *must* be placed in any program or news block devoted to education, especially now that the administration imagines an expansion of NCLB without any recognition of what students say or need. This piece reveals an unusually highly engaged collection of students -- the very element missing in so much talk about reforming education. Why aren't there more schools and colleges like this?