25 December 2007

Dec. 31 show: Alan Johnston and Singing Salvation Army Bellringer

Before you hit the town on New Year's Eve, take time for great radio. We'll air a pair of stories, one from reporter Alan Johnston on his 114 days in captivity in Gaza and the other a portrait of a Singing Salvation Army Bellringer. Read more about both in posts located just below this one.

21 December 2007

Alan Johnston: My 114 Days As a Hostage

Alan Johnston is an experienced foreign correspondent working for the BBC. But nothing could have prepared him for the day he was snapped up by a group of men with guns in Gaza. They held him captive for 114 days while his family in the U.K. wondered whether he'd live or die. He wondered the same thing. On December 31 at 7 p.m., we'll air a 22-minute essay from Alan Johnston on his life as a hostage. He speaks about the boredom, the food, his captors and fear. I listened to a podcast of the story the other day and cried.

Alan Jackson: Singing Salvation Army Bellringer

I met Alan Jackson while reporting a story for The World. I was hanging out with Icelanders at the Mall of America when I noticed an engaging Salvation Army bellringer. Had he been a run-of-the-mill bellringer, I would have recorded him for a bit and moved on. But he was fantastic. He opened doors for shoppers. As they scooted out of the mall, he reminded them to wear seat belts. And he sang. This story aired on NPR's Day to Day on December 19. You can hear it on the Listening Lounge on December 31 at about 7:20 p.m. Cheers.

Amen! Visit the House of Mercy

It's the hippest church in the city. Musicians Ralph Stanley and a member of the Violent Femmes have performed at House of Mercy church in downtown St. Paul. Take a visit there yourself. Listen to Joel Grostephan's story on this quirky house of worship. It's available at the KFAI archives until December 30. Just click on Listening Lounge and enjoy.

03 December 2007

Stories From the Heart of the Land - Airing Now



If you could tell any story about people and the natural world, what would it be?"


That's the question radio curator Jay Allison asked his favorite producers and they went ... all over.

All this month on the Listening Lounge, we'll air Stories from the Heart of the Land, collected by Jay Allison

On December 3 and December 10, we air the following stories:

1. Out in the Great Bear Rainforest, Elizabeth Arnold discovers that, though she may be ready for the "Great", and for the "Rainforest", she is not so ready for the "Bear."

2. Armed only with a tent, a pack of hot dogs, and a twelve-year old, Jonathan Goldstein confronts his fear of the woods.

3. The Kitchen Sisters' portrait of activist Mark DuBois and his dramatic effort to save a wild river in the west.

4. What is it like to be exiled from a landscape that you can see from your window? When his legs fail him, Chris Brookes finds out.

5. The story of one man's prairie, and his work to let it flourish, even after he dies. Kelly McEvers visits Bob's Prairie in Illinois.

6. Through every season, 97-year-old rancher Attilio Genasci tends to his cattle and his alpine valley in California. A portrait of a man in his landscape by Jesikah Maria Ross.

On December 17 and December 24, we'll air these stories, most of them tackle the subject of nature.

1. Wild Crafting
Vermont
For more than 25 years, Nova Kim and Les Hook have made a living by foraging the woods of Northern Vermont. Produced by Emily Botein.

2. Graun em i Laif
Papua New Guinea
After a rootless childhood and a hopscotch youth, Skye Rohde settles down in Papua New Guinea and discovers what it's like to belong to the land.

3. Stone by Stone
Lake District, United Kingdom
For twenty years, rain or shine, Andrew Loudon has been building stone walls in the Lake District. Produced by Kim Normanton.

4. Faith in Fishermen
Stonington, Maine
These things are clear about Maine fishermen: They keep secrets. And they distrust scientists. Unless, of course, you're Ted Ames, who is both fisherman and scientist. Produced by Neenah Ellis.

5. Desert Blooms
Arizona
Charles Bowden on the ecstasy of Selenicereus plerantus, which offers its bloom on just one night -- the hottest and blackest of the year. Produced by Jeff Rice.

6. Elbow Room
Alaska, China and Mongolia
How much land does a person need? Elizabeth Arnold, who lives in Alaska, goes in search of even more wide-open space and ends up with a case of claustrophobia in Outer Mongolia.

The Listening Lounge airs Mondays at 7 p.m. on KFAI, 90.3 FM Minneapolis and 106.7 FM St. Paul and streaming online at www.kfai.org.

26 November 2007

India Rising

Can't get enough of India Rising? Listen to more stories from the BBC series we recently aired on the Listening Lounge. It's at the BBC World Service website.

29 October 2007

Bells in Europe

I've always wanted to play "Bells in Europe," a classic German documentary, on the Listening Lounge. It's a 1973 feature about how German leaders melted down most of the country's church bells to use as weapons during World War II. Now you can hear this timeless piece on the Third Coast International Radio Festival website. The creator of the documentary, Peter Leonhard Braun, is this year's Third Coast Festival's Audio Luminary Award recipient. By the way, if you do take the time to listen to the doc, listen to the German version ("Glocken in Europa") with your best speakers at high volume and read along with the English translation, which you can download and print.

India Rising: Oct. 29 - Nov. 26


Don't miss our "India Rising" series from the BBC. It's a fantastic introduction to India today, its wealth, its poverty, its challenges moving forward. Here's the schedule. (And remember, if you miss a show, you can catch it in the KFAI archives for up to 2 weeks after the broadcast date.)

New Wealth - Airs October 29

Among the most visible and palpable changes to strike India is both the ability and willingness of its consumers to spend. This new materialism is shown in the new urban skyline, the luxury apartments, and the shopping malls. But is this all change for the better, or are there costs, too?

Inside India's Heart of Darkness - Airs November 5

Lazy brown rivers curl through lush greenery; small boys perch on water buffalo. A brief look at the Indian state of Bihar seems idyllic - but on closer inspection, the squalor and dereliction is obvious. Bullock carts are more common than tractors. The roads are appalling. Nothing has changed in the last 20 years. While the rest of India is going through an economic revolution, what has happened in Bihar?

TV Nation - Airs November 12

India is an incredibly diverse country. There is a multiplicity of different cultures, custom and languages. And yet, as Indian people watch the same kind of television shows, they are beginning to absorb the same kind of values. It permeates people's lives, and is one of the prime agents in spreading the new Indian culture. New media is having an impact, too. The spread of knowledge that the internet can provide a way to chisel away at less desirable aspects of the status quo.

Can It All Hang Together? - Airs November 19

There is no doubt that the economic revolution has enabled India to benefit financially. But what are the cost of such rapid expansion? The pollution has made some industrial areas unliveable. The people who stay do so for no other reason than survival. Could a disregard for the needs and rights of the poor lead to social unrest -- and even revolution?

Debate - Airs November 26

In this concluding program of the India Rising series, George Arney chairs a discussion involving all four guests from this landmark documentary season. Guests include: Amitabh Behar of the National Centre For Advocacy Studies, Alka Chaudhary of , Confederation of Indian Industry, Preeti Reddy, a leading consumer and retail expert.

19 October 2007

India Rising - Begins Oct. 29


China isn't the only Asian country emerging as a world superpower. Its more populous neighbor to the south, India, has also been making economic and political inroads in recent years. I've traveled there twice --- once to Mumbai and the south and a second time to New Delhi and the northern regions. It's a giant, complex, fascinating and increasingly important player on the world stage. And it's probably time you learned something about it. This five-part series from the BBC takes the pulse of India today. We explore its new wealth, its poorest rural region (Bihar), its infatuation with television and its future prospects. Join us for shows every Monday night at 7 p.m. beginning Monday, October 29 - Monday, November 26.

11 October 2007

Biography of 100,000 Square Feet - Airs October 22

In the center of San Francisco, there is a plaza with no benches and a fountain with a fence around. It's a place that most people cross the street to avoid. How does this happen? Why does a public space fail? Is there a point where good intentions and idealism become so removed from reality, they actually border on negligence?

Producer Benjamin Temchine explores one city's attempt to remake a desperate public space. Several reviews of Biography are published on PRX. Read more about this piece on Transom.

The Tomato and The Big Apple - Airs October 15

This is an edgy documentary by a young Dutch producer named Alwine Van Heemstra. Her quest: Learn how NYC deals with its waste by following a tomato through the city's waste treatment process. Ugh, but cool.

Here's a review by Bill McKibben of the PRX Editorial Board: "Do you like shaggy dog stories? I do, and
this is a great one. Following a tomato in its journey back to New York is only a semi-interesting conceit, but the stories that go along with it are magnificent -- especially the pugilistic truck driver, who is a latter-day Damon Runyon character. If you know Joe Mitchell's finest work (and if you don't, you have a treat in store) you will realize the tradition of New York stories to which this belongs. A few more facts might have been helpful --like how much of these biosolids are actually used -- but what the hell. This is a very fine piece, from a mind that will clearly produce much more of value. I can't wait."

There's more here at Transom.

26 September 2007

Witness to an Execution - Airs Oct. 8

We aired this documentary during our David Isay/Sound Portraits month in November 2006. If you heard it then, it's worth another listen. If you didn't, don't miss this chance.

Here's Todd Melby's Public Radio Exchange (PRX) review on the documentary:

"You'll never hear another sound like a mother
wailing whenever she's watching her son being executed," says reporter Leighanne Gideon. "There's no other sound like it. That wail surrounds the room." At the time this documentary was recorded, Gideon had watched Texas kill inmates on 52 separate occasions. Witness to an Execution weaves the harrowing tales of reporters, prison guards, the warden and others who have observed or participated in state-sanctioned murder. Although Texas kills inmates by lethal injection instead of the rawer electrocution, the result is the same. One of the wonders of this documentary is that it doesn't get political, it doesn't state a position about the death penalty, it simply leads the listener through the process of an execution. One important step in that process is the action of the "tie-down" team. These are prison guards whose job it is to strap the inmate onto the gurney before lethal injection. Kenneth Dean, a member of the "tie-down" team says many inmates thank him after Dean has secured them into place. "After all the straps are done, they will look at you and say 'Thank you.' And here you've just strapped them into the (execution) table ... You know that's kind of a weird feeling." Dean believes in what he does, but another prison guard, Fred Allen, quit the job after the impact of dozens of executions left him in tears one day. Listening to Allen talk, however haltingly, is moving. There are many other great moments here, all worth airing.

Josh in New York City: Growing Up with Tourette's - Airs Oct. 1

Pledge drive isn't an annoying, turn-the-channel kind of event at KFAI. It's a fun time to listen because you get a chance to connect with the on-air hosts that bring you fantastic music, great discussions or in the case of the Listening Lounge, inspiring documentaries.

On our Oct. 1 show, we feature two stories from Joe Richman of Radio Diaries. He's a talented producer who lets his subjects speak for themselves. One story we'll air is called Josh in New York City: Growing Up with Tourette's. Here's a description: Josh has Tourette's Syndrome, a neurological disorder that causes uncontrollable tics and involuntary verbal outbursts. "It feels like there's a big balloon inside my stomach," Josh says. "And the balloon keeps growing bigger and bigger, like every second extra the tic stays inside it feels like somebody blows up the balloon another notch, until I let it out."

We'll also air Amanda from New York: Girlfriend, the story of a bisexual Catholic girl struggling with her sexuality.

24 September 2007

Birdathon - Airs September 24

Every spring since 1989, bird lovers in Berrien County, Michigan, (directly across the lake from Chicago,) have taken part in the annual Southwest Michigan Team Birdathon.

Birdathons are much like walkathons, but instead of racking up miles for charities, people pledge donations based on the number of birds a team sees or hears. The proceeds are, for this particular event, donated to nature or conservation groups

Participants in the southwest Michigan birdathon can start at midnight and go all out until 7 p.m., tracking down as many species as possible within Berrien County. And because the event is held at the height of spring migration near the shores of Lake Michigan, a major corridor for migrating birds, there are literally hundreds of different species teams can tally on their official checklists.

Producers Elizabeth Meister and Dan Collison followed two of the 24 teams who took part in last spring's event. One team was made up veteran birders who won the previous year's Birdathon. The other included younger, less experienced members.

03 September 2007

Third Coast Audio Festival in Chicago

If you dig the pieces we air on The Listening Lounge, you might consider attending the Third Coast International Audio Festival. It's an annual gathering for audio and documentary producers that convenes in Chicago each autumn. This year's conference is scheduled for November 1-3. The conference is an opportunity for producers to come together, listen to each other's work and share ideas and expertise. The three-day conference features listening sessions and panel discussions about topics ranging from the practical to the philosophical and culminates with an awards ceremony honoring the winners of the TCF / Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Competition.

You don't actually need to travel to Chicago to benefit from the conference. Organizers upload audio files of presentations and sessions on their website.

31 August 2007

Super Split Single - Airs Sept. 17

Vinyl records are as much a thing of the past as the Titanic. At least that's what most of us think. One Minneapolis man refuses to give up on vinyl, though. His name is DJ Christian Fritz of Mpls Ltd and he'll be our guest on the Listening Lounge. Listen to a radio story I created on Fritz' Super Split Single (it features a Minneapolis band on one side of the 7-inch 45 rpm record and a European or Russian band on the other side), learn the behind-the-scenes story on the creation of the Super Split Single, meet the members of Mercurial Rage (a Minneapolis band featured on a single) and listen to the records on a real turntable in real time. Awesome!

Who's Your Daddy? - Airs Sept. 10

When Jenny went to Hawaii, she wasn't expecting to have the epiphany of a lifetime. And she certainly wasn't expecting to have another one upon her return. This is the story of a woman's attempt to defeat the physics of relationships, love, marriage and child-bearing, as told to producer Sean Cole.

Also on the show, The Miltyway, another story about a Dad, by Minneapolis producer Kristina Lund. As a child, Lund received unusual gifts from her father: Recordings of her favorite songs. But not by the stars. By her father, Milt. In her audio essay, The Miltyway, Lund remembers those days. "My father was the most famous person I knew. His backup singers were Neil Diamond, Waylon Jennings and Tanya Tucker ... I felt a sense of pity for the other 4-year-olds in my neighborhood with their boring Dads. My father would present me with cassettes of his newest hits." Listen in as Milt sings, Lund remembers and a star isn't born.

If you missed the show, tune in the KFAI archives ... the show will be available there for 14 days.

The Jobs Plan - Airs Sept. 3

This week it's all about the J-O-B ...

What a better way to celebrate Labor Day than to listen to a documentary about work? (OK, OK. One might grill brats and drink a beer, but the beautiful thing about radio is you can do both at the same time.)

In this show, hear the sounds of postal workers at the University of Ghana and go along with a golf ball diver in America. It's The Jobs Plan from Hearing Voices.

24 July 2007

'Til Death Do Us Part - Airs Aug. 27

Love may have blossomed over 40 years ago at Deering High School where Judie and Morrell York met. But it blooms at Independent Death Care, where this couple, just finding each other again and newlywed, tend to the dead and the families that loved them. Listen to 'Til Death Do Us Part, produced by Sara Archambault. It's one of several stories we'll air by students at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies.

The Cairo Trilogy - Airs Aug. 20

Michele Ernsting talks to leading Arab intellectual Fouad Ajami (Director of Middle Eastern Studies, Johns Hopkins University) about "The Cairo Trilogy," one of the most important works of literature by Egyptian writer Naguib Mahfouz. Mafouz, who died August 30, 2006, is the only Arab to have received the Nobel Prize for Literature. He was a dissident, who suffered a serious stabbing by Islamic extremists in 1994. He was considered to be one of the most influential Arab writers of the 20th century. To learn more about Mahfouz, here are links to his obits: BBC World Service, Guardian and New York Times.

Moby Dick - Airs Aug. 6 + Aug. 13

Set sail in search of the White Whale. Herman Melville's "Moby-Dick" survived its battle with Captain Ahab only to surface in the works of contemporary filmmakers, painters, playwrights and musicians. Host Kurt Andersen explores the influence of this American icon, with the help of Ray Bradbury, Laurie Anderson, Tony Kushner and Frank Stella, among others. This two-part special was produced by Studio 360 and won a Peabody award. Studio 360 has done several shows on American icons, including Superman, Great Gatsby, Wizard of Oz and the Lincoln Memorial. Here's the link to the Moby-Dick page.

The Big Payback: A Tribute to James Brown - Airs July 30


A tribute mix to the Godfather of Soul, The Hardest Working Man in Show Business and Soul Brother #1 -- James Brown. Featuring interviews with Don Cornelius, Dave March, Sammy Davis Jr, Harry Weinger, Mike Douglas and of course with James Brown himself. Montages of all his hits and much more ...

13 July 2007

The Parrots Who Landed on MAARS - Airs July 23

There are cat shelters for unwanted calicos and Siamese. There are dog shelters for discarded beagles and shepherds. Less well known are bird shelters for abandoned cockatoos and cockatiels. KFAI’s Hilde de Roover visited a Midwest Avian Adoption and Rescue Services (MAARS) in the Twin Cities, learning about the people who care for captive birds. Listen to her documentary (“The Parrots Who Landed on MAARS”) at 7 p.m. on July 23.

02 July 2007

Strawberry Fields Forever / Penny Lane: Best Single Ever? - Airs July 16

Forty years ago, in 1967, pop radio listeners were hearing a new sound from the top band of the time, and some say, of all-times, the Beatles. Like many of the songs on Revolver, The Beatles daring and inventive album from 1966, the single released in the spring of 1967 shook things up as well. The recording sessions that would eventually in result their landmark Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band also produced what some call the greatest single of all-time. Reporter Paul Ingles assembled a panel of musicians, writers and fans to recall what was noteworthy about Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane.

Listen to Strawberry Fields/Penny Lane at 7 p.m. on July 16 on the Listening Lounge.

An Angel-Headed Hipster's Howl - Airs July 9

In October 1957, American poet Allen Ginsberg was hanging out in Amsterdam jazz cafes. At the same time in San Francisco, a Federal Court judge ruled that his poem "Howl" was not obscene. The work became a rallying cry for the movement known as the Beat Generation with its famous opening line: "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness..."

Fifty years later, with more than a million copies in print, Howl continues to inspire artists and activists. David Swatling of Radio Netheralnds explores the origins of one of the most celebrated and controversial poems of the 20th century and discovers its striking relevance to the world today.

Angel-Headed Hipster's Howl airs 7 p.m. on Monday, July 9 on KFAI.

20 June 2007

July 2: Listening Lounge moves to Mondays

As part of a major scheduling change at KFAI, the Listening Lounge will be broadcast at a new time. Beginning July 2, the Listening Lounge moves to 7 p.m. on Mondays. We promise to bring you the same great mix of documentaries, innovative audio profiles and riveting youth radio. So change with the times: Listening Lounge, now at 7 p.m. on Mondays.

If you can't listen at 7 p.m. on Mondays, listen to the last two episodes at the KFAI Archives.

14 May 2007

June 2007: Generation Next


"Young people tend to get a pretty raw deal in the mainstream media. It's one of the reasons why the web is so attractive to teenagers and children." So says the BBC. Several months ago, the world's largest broadcast service aired a five-part series on global youth. We'll broadcast the series on June 6, June 13, June 20, June 27 and July 2 on The Listening Lounge. Join us to learn more about teen rebellion, sex, responsibility and citizenship.

For the Fallen - Airs May 23 + May 30

From the independent producer collective Hearing Voices, comes For the Fallen. The host is Green Beret and poet Major Robert Schaefer, U.S. Army Special Forces. This documentary, created in honor of veterans for Memorial Day, features voices of veterans remembering their comrades. We hear troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, reading their emails, poems and journals. We hear the history and sounds of a Military Honor Guard. And we attend the daily ceremony by Belgian veterans honoring the World War I British soldiers who died defending a small town in western Belgium.

Thembi's AIDS Diary - Airs May 16

South Africa has the largest number of people with HIV/AIDS in the world. More than 5 million South Africans are HIV positive. Thembi is one of them. For the past year, she has been carrying a tape recorder and keeping an audio diary of her struggle to live with AIDS. Thembi's AIIDS Diary was produced by Joe Richman of Radio Diaries. For photographs, background information, and the AIDS Action Toolkit, visit: http://www.radiodiaries.org/aidsdiary

01 May 2007

Crossing Borders - Airs May 2 + May 9

Crossing Borders, a Peabody award-winning documentary, offers a fresh look at America's immigration debate. On the Public Radio Exchange, reviewer Emon Hassan had this to say about Crossing Borders: "There's a line, I learned of from this piece, that's often said by the Chicanos, "We didn't cross the borders, the borders crossed us." It's a statement heavily drenched in sadness and frustration. That statement is a historical fact. It begs the question, have Mexicans been crossing borders to find a better life, or have they always been 'crossing' to find their way back home? That 'philosophical' introduction was necessary to help you understand this piece, or, rather, a collage of pieces."

23 April 2007

City X: Airs April 25

We had an impressive number of calls during our Pledge Drive show last week. Let's keep those calls coming on Wednesday, April 25. For inspiration, we're rebroadcasting Jonathan Mitchell's quirky documentary City X.

Here's what I wrote about that documentary on PRX: "Who wants to walk around downtown in the middle of winter?" asks a character in this futuristic, suburban, head-spinning, insightful documentary by Jonathan Mitchell. The answer, of course, is this: "Nobody." In City X, Mitchell masterfully layers interviews with average people, architects, bus drivers (who knows really, none of them are identified) into a mosaic of sound that gives us a clear understanding of why Americans love malls. Here are just a few comments, each delightfully enunciated in the documentary: "It was metropolitan ... When it came, we were hip and happening. We were a real town. We weren't just some little spot in the middle of the cornfield. We've made it!" There's also great stuff in here about mall culture: How the boys go there to scope out girls, how the girls go there to be scoped out by the boys, the mysteries of how to pronounce the "exotic" gyro and a debate about where to find the best parking spot. One person loves the lower level down by Sears. Another absolutely swears by the entrance that leads right into the middle of the Food Court. And to push the narrative forward, Mitchell uses Muzak, real Muzak, as his sole musical accompaniment.

18 April 2007

Melby wins national journalism award

Todd Melby, host of KFAI's Listening Lounge program, has been awarded a 2006 Sigma Delta Chi award for best radio documentary.

Melby produced Flatlined: How Illinois Shortchanges Rural Students (with Diane Richard) for Chicago Public Radio's Chicago Matters: Valuing Education series.

The documentary aired on the Listening Lounge on June 7, 2006.

"The narrative-style writing and use of natural sound hooked the judges from the beginning," wrote the Sigma Delta Chi judges. "The reporters introduced us to many of the story's characters, and capturing sound and interviews on different locations was a plus. Perhaps the most notable aspect of this documentary was the subject — inadequate educational systems and funding. It is an incredibly important — and difficult — topic to cover."

The Sigma Delta Chi awards, which recognize work published or broadcast in 2006, will be presented July 20 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

“These awards represent the best of American journalism,” said Christine Tatum, Society of Professional Journalists president. “In an age when it is increasingly difficult to differentiate between fact and opinion and news and entertainment, the outstanding work of these journalists is a powerful reminder of the importance of ethical and responsible news gathering that is of true public service. This award winning work is what all journalists should strive to deliver every day.”

Pledge Drive Shows - Airs April 18 and April 25

If you haven't seen KFAI's new website, there's no better time to check it out then today. That's because it's pledge drive ... a time to show your support of the outstanding, individual, eclectic programming this great station offers every day.

On the Listening Lounge the past six months, I've been obsessed with the work of two talented producers: David Isay and Jonathan Mitchell. We'll air two of my favorite pieces during pledge drive.

On the April 18 show, we'll air My Lobotomy, a harrowing documentary about Howard Dully, a man who underwent the surgery as a child. It's produced by David Isay (left) and Sound Portraits.

On the April 25 show, we'll air City X, a funny, insightful and entertaining doc on why people love shopping malls. It's produced by Jonathan Mitchell, who is both a radio guy and a composer. You can hear his musical skills in the way his pieces are edited. Listen closely.

The Listening Lounge airs Wednesdays at 11:30 a.m. on KFAI, 90.3 FM
Minneapolis and 106.7 FM St. Paul.

30 March 2007

The Gambling Plan - Airs April 11

Brushing up against Lady Luck. Barrett Golding of KGLT in Bozeman, Montana has produced another evocative documentary. His style is unconventional. Using snippets of music, commentary and reportage, he creates half-hour shows on specific subjects. This time we're off to the casino, the land of lost hope. Listen in.

Who is Vern Nash? - Airs April 4

The day Thelon Oeming moved into an apartment in a working class area of Toronto he saw a hunched back man shouting to himself in the middle of the street. Soon after that, the sound of an accordian floated across the street and Thelon discovered that this apparently crazy man was not only his neighbor but a musician. His curiosity was aroused. Who was this talented man tormented by demon voices?

12 March 2007

Voice of the Troubles - Airs March 21 + March 28


Sectarian violence isn't unique to Iraq. It's happened in India, Bosnia and Ireland. In this two-part series, Charles Lane explores conflict in the modern world through the lens of Ireland. Here's how Lane describes Voice of the Troubles: "The program begins with an intimate conversation with a hunger striker's brother who was with him on his last night alive. We then hear two starkly different interpretations of the riots and protests that followed. The second segment follows the earlier lives of two children growing up during the Troubles, the good times and the bad. The program concludes in a soundscape of wisdom on the effects of conflict, how it erodes even the most fundamental elements of society."

28 February 2007

Grey Ghost - Airs March 14

According to New Zealander Rhys Buckingham, the South Island kokako is the "most beautiful songbird in the world." He likens its resonant call to the ringing of Tibetan bowls, or the tolling of a cathedral bell. Problem is, the bird may not exist. At least, Rhys hasn't been able to find it, and he's spent 24 years looking. Produced by Alan Coukell, Grey Ghost is a documentary about belief and the beauty of straining to hear. Don't miss it.

City X - Airs March 7


If you loved Jonathan Mitchell's Shades of Gray, which we aired on the Listening Lounge a couple of months ago, you're in for a treat. On March 7, we air City X. Jonathan describes the documentary as "a history of the modern shopping mall through perspectives of people living in a real, yet unnamed, city. Using a sound rich audio mosaic of observations and ruminations, all scored to Muzak, the universal mall experience comes to life, for better or for worse." City X was commissioned by Hearing Voices radio with funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. R. Tyler Mack praises the documentary's "beautiful sound design." I call it great fun, especially the part where we hear drivers complain about the lack of parking at the mall or why the best place is near the entrance that empties into the Food Court. I've posted my review of City X on the Public Radio Exchange website.

16 February 2007

Dear Birth Mother - Airs Feb. 28


On this week's show we air a great piece on transracial adoption. It's called Dear Birth Mother. Here's their summary of the documentary: "After waiting in vain for Mr. Right - and after years of fertility treatments - Suzanne, a single, white woman in her forties, decided to adopt. She chose transracial adoption. Long Haul Productions documented the entire process - beginning with workshops designed to "teach white people to raise kids of color," baby-shopping trips with Mom at Target, a critical rendezvous with a young mother at a pancake house, and, finally, a magical night at a suburban restaurant chain. Producers Dan Collison and Elizabeth Meister followed Suzanne for several months as she waited to see if she would become a parent; she offered extraordinary access into her home, and really, into every aspect of her life."

Three Photographs - Airs Feb. 21


War photographer Thorne Anderson has photographed events in Iraq since before the second gulf war. He's seen the society strain under the pressures of sanctions and occupation. His portraits are both striking and at times painfully intimate. In them he tries to captures the dignity of Iraqi people and their sense of helplessness in the face of powerful geopolitical interests. Listen to Three Photographs, a documentary by Radio Netherlands, about an eyewitness view to a brutal war. To view the photographs that will be the subject of this documentary, follow this link to the Radio Netherlands website.

More work by Thorne Anderson is available at Unembedded, a website featuring the work of four independent photographers working in Iraq.

07 February 2007

Spirit and Body Willing - Airs Feb. 14


We celebrate Valentine's Day with an award-winning documentary from Todd Melby and Diane Richard. Here's a description of Spirit and Body Willing: "The sexuality of older Americans is an unspoken subject. After all, who can imagine their parents having sex, much less their grandparents? But for many people age 70 and above, sexuality often remains an important part of life and their identity. And they may face obstacles to fulfilling their needs for physical and emotional intimacy, among them, skewed demographics, lack of sexual information, health and medical issues, children's attitudes and the reactions of nursing aides and peers." Helen Woodward of Atlantic Public Media calls the documentary respectful and engaging. Shawn Marquis describes the piece as great stuff.

01 February 2007

At the Movies - Airs Feb. 7

On Feb. 7, we go to the movies. The show begins with Sound Design from Hell, as we tag along with Jonathan Mitchell on a visit to a sound design studio. Then it's an inside look (so to speak) at the porn industry with an affable young man named Sam Stern. Next, it's another piece by Jonathan Mitchell --- Time in Film. And then we conclude with an examination of film noir with Sara Fishko of WNYC. Here's what I had to say about the porn piece in a review on Public Radio Exchange: Sam Stern wants to be a new kind of porn king. He wants to be one whose work doesn't degrade women. He wants to return to the days when porn wasn't violent, when the men were more important than just their "tool." And yet he found himself making and starring in low budget L.A. porn films that showed violent acts. In this piece, he talks of hitting a woman (as an actor) and strangling her (as an actor). It's fascinating, chilling stuff. It's not really creepy though, because Sam is such a likable young man. He sounds like your best friend's son, a naive 20-something who moved to L.A. and did some weird stuff. Now he's in therapy trying to work it out and he talked to this radio producer about some of the stuff he did. I'm airing it on the "Listening Lounge" on KFAI. I want to see if the phones light up.

29 January 2007

The Engine Plan - Airs Jan. 31


This week, the Listening Lounge is "loud, fast and firing on all cylinders." I stole that line directly from Barrett Golding, the independent producer of Engines, part of his 29-minute "The Plan" series. In Engines, Golding focuses on fast cars that excite people, including Flamin' Betty Berkland, a 63-year-old grandmother who races Hemi engines. In the first piece on the show, she talks about the kind of car one wants to be driving when one crashs a car and how she got her nickname (something about an engine on fire). Other pieces on the show are from the very funny Amy Borkowsky and an excerpt from Hog Heaven, something connected to Harley-Davidsons, no doubt.

03 January 2007

Shades of Gray - Airs Jan. 10 + Jan. 17 + Jan. 24

I've never aired taken three weeks of Listening Lounge airtime to air a single program. But that's exactly my plan for Shades of Gray, an unusual documentary on a much discussed subject. Producers Jonathan Mitchell and Ahri Birnbaum-Golden present what they call an "audio mosaic and a stark portrayal of the intensely personal nature of our relationship with abortion." This program uses sound and music in a way that is seldom done in radio documentaries. One reviewer called it "impressive ... artistic and balanced." Shades of Gray won a Golden Reel Award from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters in 2004. Listen in.

James Brown + Clandestine New Year - Airs Jan. 3


In addition to the world debut of Miltyway (see earlier post), we'll feature two other stories on the Lounge: In Search of James Brown and A Clandestine Recording of My Parents at New Years. The Godfather of Soul died just days ago and a Listening Lounge tribute is definitely in order. And the piece on New Years is just as its billed. A young woman takes her tape recorder and points it in the general direction of her parents and their friends as they watch TV and quack like ducks to celebrate the new year. Weird. And worth hearing.