29 December 2008

Motor City Rebound - Airs Jan. 5 + Jan.12

State of the Re:Union is the effort of two talented radio producers: Zak Rosen and Alfred Letson. Their new show tours the USA, putting a new spin on cities you thought you knew. Their first visit is to Detroit find out how the area creates community and answer the question, “What happens to the people when their local government fails them?”

Segments include:

Letters to Detroit – Heard throughout the episode, residents read their a letter they’ve written to their city.

Walking on Broken Glass – Two young Detroit artists collect broken car-window glass from the streets of the city and transform it into community based art.

Interview with Grace Lee Boggs – 93 year old activist and her young protégé outline the issues Detroit faces and their ideas of how the city can move forward without the promise of industry or government.

Avalon Bakery – Small-business owner Jackie Victor talks about Detroit’s open entrepreneurial landscape and how the city’s lack of infrastructure has brought the community closer together than she thought possible.

Inner City Green – Detroit is leading the country in an urban agricultural revolution. By transforming the city’s many vacant lots into farms and gardens citizens are making communities healthier and bringing people together.

Bakers Keyboard Lounge – An interview with the current owner of the oldest consistently operating jazz club in America. In hearing the history of this well known spot, we learn how it has become a pillar of the community.

15 December 2008

Joe Strummer's London Calling: Airs Dec. 22 + Dec. 29

Joe Strummer, the legendary gravel-voiced punk-poet from The Clash, loved to listen to music on the radio. Even as he toured the world with "the only band that matters," he still had a dream to one day spin records for the BBC World Service, where he heard the latest UK hits over the shortwave band as a teenager in Africa. He finally got his wish in 1999, when BBC World Service premiered Joe Strummer's London Calling. Between then and 2002, Strummer hosted a series of programs with a simple format — one man and his eclectic record collection. On the Dec. 22 show, listen to an interview with Strummer. On the Dec. 29 show, listen to Joe Strummer's first show for the BBC, unedited.

10 December 2008

Face to Face - Airs Dec. 15

This program follows the stories of 10 people whose relationships have profound implications on the way they live their lives. From the patient who's disability means he has to rely on his carer for the most basic of needs, to the hold a New York-based dominatrix has over her slave, these are the controlling forces in the lives of different people from different backgrounds across the world. Listen in at 7 p.m. on Dec. 15 on the Listening Lounge on KFAI, 90.3 FM Minneapolis and 106.7 FM St. Paul.

05 December 2008

Our December Schedule: Dogs, gays, 10 lives + joe strummer

Dec. 1
Hearing Voices: Dog Plan
Listen to stories about Afgan dogs, blind dogs, Barrett Golding's childhood dogs, dog dreams and a story by Minnesota's Kevin Kling called "Dogs." It's all from Hearing Voices and a really cool 29-minute show called "The Dog Plan." (I aired it Monday, but you'll find it in the KFAI archives.)

Dec. 8
Radio Netherlands Documentary: Pride and Prejudice
To be a gay man in the nineteenth century was to live in the shadows. And to be openly homosexual meant almost certain alienation from family and friends. But how does this compare to the twentieth century, a period of great social and legal change? Three men whose lives span the majority of the twentieth century discuss their lives, while the author of 'Strangers: Homosexual Love in the Nineteenth Century' looks at that century's highs and lows. By comparing the two we can see how social attitudes and norms have changed — perhaps not quite as much as we may think.

Dec. 15
BBC: Face to Face
This program follows the stories of 10 people whose relationships have profound implications on the way they live their lives. From the patient who's disability means he has to rely on his carer for the most basic of needs, to the hold a New York-based dominatrix has over her slave, these are the controlling forces in the lives of different people from different backgrounds across the world.

Dec. 22 + Dec. 29
Joyride Media: Joe Strummer's Radio Clash
Joe Strummer, the legendary gravel-voiced punk-poet from The Clash, loved to listen to music on the radio. Even as he toured the world with "the only band that matters," he still had a dream to one day spin records for the BBC World Service, where he heard the latest UK hits over the shortwave band as a teenager in Africa. He finally got his wish in 1999, when BBC World Service premiered Joe Strummer's London Calling. Between then and 2002, Strummer hosted a series of programs with a simple format — one man and his eclectic record collection. On the Dec. 22 show, listen to an interview with Strummer. On the Dec. 29 show, listen to Joe Strummer's first show for the BBC, unedited.

24 November 2008

The Dog Plan - Airs Dec. 1

Listen to stories about Afgan dogs, blind dogs, Barrett Golding's childhood dogs, dog dreams and a story by Minnesota's Kevin Kling called "Dogs." It's all from Hearing Voices and a really cool 29-minute show called "The Dog Plan."

Woof woof.

17 November 2008

Talkin' Turkey Thanksgiving Show - Airs Nov. 24

On November 24, we'll help you get ready for the big Thanksgiving Day feast with several funny, poignant or environmentally-friendly stories.

On tap:

100 Mile Meal: A Homegrown Thanksgiving, by Dustin Dwyer
The Environment Report

Turkeys, by Scott Carrier
Hearing Voices

After Thanksgiving, by Sandra M. Gilbert
Poetry Foundation

Buffalo Turkey Butt, by Andy Raskin
The story or man and his search for tasty turkey butt. (We don't quite have the rights for this piece on turkey butt yet, but we're optimistic!)

10 November 2008

November 3, 10 + 17 shows

On November 3, November 10 and November 17, we air three weeks of winners from the Third Coast International Audio Festival ("the Sundance for Radio"). Listen in to here this great work.

November 3 show

*BEST NEW ARTIST: Except Me- by Erin Davis for prx.org (USA)

*BEST DOCUMENTARY (SILVER): Growing Up in the System-Reported by Shirley Diaz, produced by Melissa Robbins, with Marianne McCune, Kaari Pitkin, Sanda Htyte for WNYC's Radio Rookies (USA)

*BEST DOCUMENTARY (HONORABLE MENTION): Searching for Farming's Future in its Past- by Rachel Leventhal for NRDC's OnEarth Magazine podcast (USA)

November 10 show

*BEST DOCUMENTARY (GOLD): Dr. Phil-by Starlee Kine, edited by Alex Blumberg for This American Life (USA)

November 17 show

*AUDIO LUMINARY: Chris Brookes (Canada)

This year's prestigious Audio Luminary Award went to veteran Canadian producer Chris Brookes, whose work with the CBC has richly documented the history of his native Newfoundland and expanded the modern radio documentary across the globe.

27 October 2008

Three Weeks of Third Coast Winners

Beginning November 3, we'll air three weeks of winners from the Third Coast Festival. The starred pieces listed below will air in November on the Listening Lounge. (Details in future posts.)

The Third Coast International Audio Festival ("the Sundance for Radio") chose nine outstanding audio pieces for this year's Third Coast Festival/ Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Competition.
This year's prestigious Audio Luminary Award went to veteran Canadian producer Chris Brookes, whose work with the CBC has richly documented the history of his native Newfoundland and expanded the modern radio documentary across the globe.

Top honors for Best Documentary went to writer Starlee Kine and producer Alex Blumberg for Dr. Phil,originally produced for Chicago Public Radio's This American Life.Starlee finds so much comfort in break-up songs that she tries to write one herself - and turns to a rather surprising expert for help - the legendary Phil Collins.

This American Life'sGiant Pool of Moneyepisode explaining the U.S. housing crisis was voted Director's Choice and received an honorable mention for Best Documentary.

A new award for Best News Feature went to Melissa Block and Andrea Hsu of NPR News for ShatteredSchool. Among the victims of this year's earthquake near Chengdu, China are hundreds of students who are trapped in the rubble of their middle school.

Winning pieces will be broadcast on public radio stations nationwide over Thanksgiving weekend. View the broadcast schedule, listen to excerpts and learn more about the producers at http:// http://www.thirdcoastfestival.org/.

*AUDIO LUMINARY: Chris Brookes (Canada)
*BEST DOCUMENTARY (GOLD): Dr. Phil-by Starlee Kine, edited by Alex Blumberg for This American Life (USA)
*BEST DOCUMENTARY (SILVER): Growing Up in the System-Reported by Shirley Diaz, produced by Melissa Robbins, with Marianne McCune, Kaari Pitkin, Sanda Htyte for WNYC's Radio Rookies (USA)
BEST DOCUMENTARY (BRONZE): Hearts, Lungs and Minds-by John Wynne for BBC Radio 3 (UK)
DIRECTORS' CHOICE AND BEST DOCUMENTARY (HONORABLE MENTION): The Giant Pool of Money- by Alex Blumberg, Adam Davidson for This American Life (USA)
*BEST DOCUMENTARY (HONORABLE MENTION): Searching for Farming's Future in its Past- by Rachel Leventhal for NRDC's OnEarth Magazine podcast (USA)
BEST DOCUMENTARY (HONORABLE MENTION): Dreaming of Osama-by Pejk Malinovski for BBC Radio 3 (UK)
BEST NEWS FEATURE: Shattered School-by Melissa Block, Andrea Hsu for NPR News (USA)
RADIO IMPACT: The Diary of Leanne Wolfe-by Ciaran Cassidy with Peter Woods for RTE Radio 1 (Ireland)
*BEST NEW ARTIST: Except Me- by Erin Davis for prx.org (USA)

20 October 2008

Night Frights - Airs Oct. 27

It’s the middle of the night. You wake up with a start. There’s a presence in the room watching you. You sense that it is evil. But you are paralyzed and powerless. It’s your worst nightmare – Or is it? Radio Netherland's Michele Ernsting explores the strange and surprisingly common condition of sleep paralysis with Dr. Al Cheyne, a leading expert on the subject and several victims of “night frights." Inspired (in part) by The Nightmare, the 1781 painting by Henry Fuseli.

17 October 2008

Ghetto Life 101

We've aired Ghetto Life 101, the classic 1993 radio documentary about growing up poor on Chicago's South Side, on the Listening Lounge. Now the BBC is airing the original and a follow-up story about what the teenagers featured in the show are doing now. Here's the link. I hope to air both soon on the show.

03 October 2008

Third Coast Festival announces winners
The Third Coast International Audio Festival, which takes place in Chicago from Oct. 9-11, announced the winners of its annual awards competition. I haven't listened to all the pieces yet, but I did hear a good chunk of "Giant Pool of Money" the other day: It does a really good job of explaining the complicated — and sometimes boring — mortgage crisis and why the people involved did stupid things. (Hint: They made a lot of money doing it and everyone else did it too.) So for some good listening, go to the Third Coast website and listen in with a pair of headphones.

22 September 2008

American Icon: Superman - Airs Sept. 29 + Oct. 6

We've aired several stories from the American Icon series created by the folks at Studio 360. Listener response has been enthusiastic to the American Icon pieces on The Great Gatsby, The Wizard of Oz and Moby-Dick, so why not explore the Man of Steel?

Here's a summary: Studio 360 leaps tall buildings in a single bound. Disguised as a mild-mannered reporter, Kurt Andersen explores the history of Superman accompanied by Jules Feiffer, Art Spiegelman, Bryan Singer, Michael Chabon and Margot Kidder. Is this strange visitor from the planet Krypton derivative of Jewish mythology? Is The American Way epitomized by someone who wields ultimate power for a moral good? What's up with the blue tights?

15 September 2008

The Ground We Lived On + 2 - Airs Sep. 22

The Ground We Lived On, by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc
Summary: The Ground We Lived On documents the loving relationship between journalist Adrian Nicole LeBlanc and her father, Adrian Leon LeBlanc, in the last months of his life. Using recordings she made of her father, namesake and inspiration from his hospital bed in the family living room, The Ground We Lived On is an ode to the ordinary ways we continue loving even as we are letting go.

We also air two other stories on the show:

Grandpa, by Lu Olkowski
Summary: A father and son have a contest to take the best pictures of their dying grandpa, the result is an up-close portrait of death.

Meet the Bees, by Lu Olkowski
Summary: How I roped my parents into becoming characters on Creature Comforts, a claymation show on CBS. (Come on, listen to it... my parents are funny people.)

08 September 2008

The Hitchhike Plan - Airs Sept. 15

Hittin? the Road, Thumbs Out

A series of stories about hitchhiking, produced by Barrett Golding of Hearing Voices. Barrett doesn't like long descriptions. But if you like long ones, here's the playlist:

1. Belgium | All Happy Right Now | Nachtfahrt
2. Jonathan Mitchell | A Beginner's Guide to Hitchhiking |
3. Red Sovine | Phantom 309 | Phantom 309
4. Belgium | All Happy Right Now | Nachtfahrt
5. Scott Carrier | New Shoes | HearingVoices.com
6. Lemon Jelly | Ramblin? Man | Lost Horizons

01 September 2008

How Are You Who Are You? - Airs Sept. 8

In 1995, Douglas A. Nadeau of Marblehead, Massachusetts underwent a pallidotomy at Mass. General Hospital, an operation designed to eradicate neurons in his brain that no longer responded to dopamine, the naturally-created chemical that facilitates movement. Nine years earlier, while on a business trip, Doug had been bitten by an insect and developed strange Parkinsonian symptoms, such as the inability to keep his eyes open while talking. These caused numerous problems for Doug, a high-powered corporate lawyer in Boston. Over time, the symptoms worsened until Doug lost his mobility at night and was reduced to a hospital bed. Following the procedure, in which Doug practically walked off the operating table, he found he was unable to inhibit certain antisocial tendencies that, prior to the surgery, he'd kept repressed. To make matters worse, his surgery turned out to be a failure, and his symptoms returned one by one. The next nine years tested the boundaries and limits of love, marriage, and tolerance, both within the family and in the Nadeaus' wide circle of friends and acquaintances.

Also airing on Sept. 8 is a fantastic piece from the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies called "I Played D&D on Monday." It's the portrait of a 25-year-old who lives at home with his parents, plays Dungeons and Dragons and is hoping to overcome a major problem.

Sacco & Vanzetti + Bible Salesman - Airs Sept. 1

Sacco & Vaznzetti: Eighty Years Gone
The trial, seven-year imprisonment and ultimate execution of Nicolo Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti on August 23, 1927 was the subject of worldwide debate and protest. In the wake of the First World War, Bolshevik Revolution and "Red Scare," it was impossible for a couple of Italian immigrants, anarchists and draft dodgers to get a fair trial. In our post-9/11 world, their story continues to resonate. This 15-minute soundscape features the voices of Winnipeg anarchist Eton Harris, NYC film director Peter Miller — whose film on S&V has just been released — ACLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman, and the voices of people on Union Square, Manhattan, recalling (or not) the protests that unfolded there eighty years ago. The soundscape also features several of the songs Woody Guthrie wrote in Sacco and Vanzetti's honor. This story was produced by David Kattenburg.

Bible Salesman
It’s an occupation on the verge of extinction — door-to-door salesperson: the Fuller Brush man, the Avon lady, the encyclopedia hawker. Producer Dan Collison went in search of the last of the dying breed — in this case a door-to-door bible salesman. He found Jim Baker, one of the characters in the now-legendary 1969 documentary “Salesman” produced by David and Albert Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin. This beautifully-produced story details this lost "art."

18 August 2008

'Great Gatsby' American Icon - Airs Aug. 18 + Aug. 25

How does F. Scott Fitzgerald's immensely popular, compact novel capture the essence of the American Dream? This program travels from the tony suburbs of New York to the Midwest and back again to find out.

04 August 2008

I'm Not a Doctor, But I Play One at the Holiday Inn - Airs Aug. 11

A former heroin addict realizes that he wants to help other addicts kick their habits. The problem is, he wants to do this using a hallucinogenic drug — Ibogaine — that is completely illegal, and which requires medical expertise he doesn't have. This is a harrowing piece of radio produced by Trey Kay and Lu Olkowski.

28 July 2008

Blue Highways: Energy Frontiers - Airs Aug. 4

This on-the-road magazine special looks at our sources of energy — present and future — beginning with our Virginia producer who traces her household electricity to its source, a mountaintop removal coal mining operation. Then we head to Alaska to look at two controversial projects - a proposed miniature nuclear power plant and a land swap that some call the "back-door to ANWR." Finally, it's off to southern New Mexico to visit the fully-off grid and nearly fossil fuel free Funky Butte Ranch. Listen in to our Aug. 4 show, which airs at 7 p.m. on KFAI.

21 July 2008

Thinness and Salvation - Airs July 28

Why are we so terrified of fat? What does it symbolize? How are we projecting other anxieties onto fat people and the fat body? In order to answer this question, producer Sarah Yahm interviews Christian dieters, Northern California foodies and fat activists during this 30-minute documentary.

Here's what Public Radio Exchange (PRX) reviewer Rebecca H. wrote about Yahm's documentary: "This is a very well conceptualized and produced piece that presents a lot of voices in a concise form that should challenge listeners to reflect on their own relationships with food, consumption, and morality. It is both accessible and nuanced so as to appeal to the causal listener as well as those involved into more activist and academic projects."

14 July 2008

Bonnie's Budget - Airs July 21

When Bonnie Everill's husband left her, she had a decision to make. Fall apart or stand up and survive. Bonnie chose the latter. Since then, she has raised her three daughters on less than $20,000 a year. But according to Bonnie, she is anything but poor.

In addition to Bonnie's Budget, we'll air another story from the CBC Radio One's award-winning show Outfront: The Life of Pie. Here's the program description: For Tara Hughes a homemade pie kindles memories of Gran, harvest, and life on the family farm in Alberta. So why does making her own pies fill her with anxiety?

07 July 2008

Tony Schwartz: 30,000 Recordings Later - Airs July 14

Listen to a profile of Tony Schwartz, an innovative and inspired sound gatherer, recording the sounds of America since 1945. Schwartz died on June 14 at the age of 84.

This story was produced by the Kitchen Sisters (Davia Nelson & Nikki Silva) and documents how Schwartz recorded nearly everything (jukeboxes, cabbies, babies, fruit sellers, etc.) in his Manhattan neighborhood during his lifetime. If you love people who love radio, don't miss this show.

More on Tony Schwartz:
TonySchwartz.org, includes links to obits and interviews
Daisy: The Complete History of an Infamous and Iconic Ad
Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds of My City
Smithosonian Folkways: New York 19

Also on the July 14 show: Out of Smoke and Ashes, produced by Sarah Miller of the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies.

30 June 2008

The USA Plan - Airs July 7

Listen to An All-American festival of fireworks-fueled patriotic fury. Although the title of this show sounds like it might be a typical Fourth of July special, it's not. Barrett Golding of Hearing Voices has a great way of doing things his way. Listen in. (Photo courtesy of jcolman at flickr)

19 May 2008

June 2008 schedule

I've posted our June 2008 schedule on this blog. I'm really excited about it. It's local, it's musical, it's haunting, it's riveting.

Here it is:

June 2 - Heard Here: KFAI Producers Showcase
June 9 - The Beauty of Lois Vierk
June 16 - StoryCorps Griot Special
June 23 - Painted Lady
June 30 - The Train Plan

And don't forget about our Memorial Day show:

May 26 - Vietnam Blues

The Train Plan - Airs June 30

The Plan, Barrett Golding's half-hour radio shows "cast a very wide sonic and thematic net for each topical half-hour," writes reviewer Gary Covino. "This one, about trains, starts with a very funny and quirky interaction between Amtrak's sort-of-human but really mechanical telephone ticket attendant and a mixed-up, not-quite-sure-where-to-go-next actually human potential passenger. From there it's on to Pullman Porters, an amazing hobo story, pure sound and music -- with the elements flowing from one to the other with a kind of intuitive grace. (By the way, if Barrett rides the trains again for this series, it would be worth checking out Reverend A.W. Nix's incredible 'Black Diamond Express Train To Hell' sermon.) This is the kind of show that sends your mind and spirit off to some very unexpected place when it pops out of your radio. Public radio in general used to do that a whole lot more than it does these days. Maybe, one day, it will again. We can always hope..."

Join us on June 30, as we ride the rails with Barrett Golding on The Train Plan.

Painted Lady - Airs June 23

There are not many women who can tell the stories Elizabeth Hudson has to tell. Most like her die young. And if they make it out alive, keep their past a secret. Elizabeth used to work the strolls in Calgary and Vancouver as a heroin-addicted prostitute. On June 23, she takes us into that world.

On the show, we'll air both part one and part two of "Painted Lady," stories Elizabeth and a radio producer from the CBC produced for the award-winning series Outfront. Elizabeth Hudson is also the author of Snow Bodies: One Woman's Life on the Streets.

StoryCorps Griot Special - Airs June 16

StoryCorps Griot records the voices, experiences and life stories of African Americans.

The Griot Initiative is inspired by the role of the griot in West African culture. The griot (pronounced gree-oh) is a role of honor, designating someone who maintains community traditions and memory through storytelling, music, and dance.

The StoryCorps Griot mobile recording booth will make stops of up to six weeks in nine locations across the country, partnering with radio stations, historically black colleges and universities, and other cultural institutions.

The StoryCorps Griot Initiative will place a special emphasis on the stories of World War II veterans and men and women involved in the Civil Rights struggle.

This Special program features 10 stories from African Americans, recorded as part of the StoryCorps project. StoryCorps is a national project to instruct and inspire everyday people to record one another's stories in sound.

The Beauty of Lois Vierk - Airs June 9

Most of the time when public radio airs a story about a musician or composer, you learn about her biography and her next album. Not so on the Listening Lounge.

On June 9, we present The Beauty of Lois Vierk, a 6-minute radio story about the post-minimalist composer on the show. Jonathan Mitchell produced the piece but it includes no traditional narration. It's an edited conversation, really, that focuses on the way she works. Their interview is interrupted by a noisy rain storm, which Mitchell incorporates into the story.

Now the other thing that's unusual is that we'll sandwich this radio story in between a pair of long pieces by Vierk. We'll play "River Beneath the River" (13:03) and "Red Shift" (12:17) before and after the Jonathan Mitchell story.

Heard Here: KFAI Producers Showcase - Airs June 2

The producers here at the Listening Lounge have been editing and re-editing radio stories for the debut edition of "Heard Here: KFAI Producers Showcase."

We'll begin the show with "Joe Savage: Perennial Sideman," a profile of a local pedal steel guitar player by Joel Grostephan. Unlike traditional public radio stories, Joel doesn't narrate this piece. Instead, we hear from Joe Savage and his crying pedal steel. It's a moving piece and you won't want to miss it.

Then it's on to a pair of funny essays on the subject of "People We Like Who Don't Like Us, But We Can't Help But Fancy Them." Diane Richard remembers the girl's bathroom at high school that she was supposed to avoid. Kristina Lund tells us about trying to convince her friend at work to become her friend in real life. "I have plenty of friends outside of work ... I just don't like them as much. They'll do in pinch, especially when I need to know that I am likable and not desperate. Sometimes when I run into you when I am out and about, thankfully I have one of my slackies with me."

Listen in.

Vietnam Blues - Airs May 26

Monday, May 26 is Memorial Day. And we've got the perfect slice of radio for you to honor America's veterans.

Vince Gabriel is a Vietnam veteran who's written an album of songs chronicling his experience of the war. In this documentary, called Vietnam Blues, he takes listeners back to 1968, to the jungle of Vietnam. Vietnam Blues was produced by Tina Antolini, a reporter at WFCR in Amhert, Mass.

Here's what reviewer Whit Richardson wrote about Vietnam Blues: "I am a big fan of this piece. The production was smooth and seamless. Vince Gabriel's intimate narration paired with his music and lyrics was a very powerful method for telling his story. I was drawn in and remained absorbed throughout."

Vietnam Blues airs at 7 p.m. on Monday, May 26 on KFAI, 90.3 FM Minneapolis and 106.7 FM St. Paul.

30 April 2008

Three by Joe Frank - Airs May 19

When I first heard a Joe Frank radio piece, I was mesmerized. His approach is deceptively simple. Write an essay, play music under the narration, done. His writing is crisp, his storytelling is imaginative and his take on subjects is unconventional.

Salon magazine writes that Joe Frank "conjures up the nightmares that This American Life and Prairie Home Companion have when they go home at night. Read more here.

He's the bad boy of public radio.

On May 19, we'll play three stories by Joe Frank.
  • Palestinian Dreaming
  • News
  • War v. Peace
Here's what a couple of reviewers have written about Joe Frank's work.

"You don't have to close your eyes to appreciate Joe Frank's dense audio universe cascading out of your radio. It helps, though, because there are so many layers - of sound, philosophy, of reality-coursing through his dramas .... Come to think of it, after awhile, you won't want to close your eyes because in Frank's short stories for the radio, the tension and pathos are as enveloping as they are intriguing .... No one else in radio is doing what Frank does."

The Washington Post

"A strange, different, wondrously offbeat, frequently hilarious, altogether brilliant piece of work .... There's never been anything quite like it .... Joe Frank is an audio Fellini."

The Los Angeles Times

Seamus Heaney: Bogging In Again - Airs May 12

I don't care what month it is. Poetry doesn't get enough attention. So on May 12 we bring you an entire half-hour dedicated to the Irish poet Seamus Heaney, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995. According to Radio Netherlands, "his lines have been quoted by world leaders, his new translation of Beowulf: A New Verse Translation has become a best-seller and he has praised rapper Eminem for encouraging interest in poetry among young people."

In his latest collection, District and Circle, Heaney returns to some of the darkest images of his work in the 1970s ... when the violence in Northern Ireland was still his main preoccupation.

Listen to Seamus Heaney: Bogging In Again (produced by Radio Netherlands) at 7 p.m. on May 12 on The Listening Lounge.

The Grandma Plan - Airs May 5

Mother's Day is Sunday, May 11. But where would your Mom be without your Grandma? That's right. This show gives your Grandma some love because she deserves it. The program begins with U.S. Marines singing and marching to the tune of "My Grandmother was 71," continues with a piece by the talented Jake Warga called "Eat Your Eggs" and goes on from there. Listen in.

21 April 2008

American Icon: Wizard of Oz - Airs April 21 + April 28

You may think you know the story, but Kurt Andersen and guests will take you to places in the land of Oz that are more wonderful, and weirder, than you ever imagined. We'll meet the original man behind the curtain, L. Frank Baum, who had all the vision of Walt Disney, but none of the business sense. We'll discover how Oz took over the Soviet Union. We'll check in with filmmakers Neil LaBute and Nora Ephron, novelist Salman Rushdie, performer Bobby McFerrin and others from across the world who find magic, meaning and inspiration in Oz.

The Listening Lounge airs Mondays at 7 p.m. (Central Time, USA) on KFAI, 90.3 FM Minneapolis and 106.7 FM St. Paul.

14 April 2008

My Lobotomy - Airs April 14

"My Lobotomy" is the story of Howard Dully's quest to discover why his parents had a doctor perform a transorbital "ice pick" lobotomy on him at age 12.

Produced by Sound Portraits, this documentary explores the history of lobotomy in America through the story of one person. It's a moving, riveting tale.

This is the kind of great radio we bring you every week on the Listening Lounge on KFAI Radio. If you love this kind of storytelling, show your support by pledging tonight at 612/375-9030. Or do it online.

Every dollar counts. I'd love to receive several $10, $20 or $60 contributions to the show. Thanks.

06 April 2008

Show us the love, baby

It's pledge drive at KFAI, our broadcast home.

Which means we have a very special "Listening Lounge" show planned for 7 p.m. on April 7.

Join us for The Change in Farming, a 1998 classic by Adam Goddard, a Toronto-based composer. It is a celebration of the life and character of his grandfather, a farmer in rural Ontario.

We'll also air Embroidery Felon, a Jonathan Mitchell story about an imprisoned armed robber who turns to embroidery for salvation and profit.

Be sure to pledge your support for great radio by calling us on Monday night or by pledging online and mentioning "Listening Lounge" as your show of choice.

24 March 2008

A Dutch Love Story - Airs March 31

Anouk is a young Dutch girl who lives with her boyfriend Said. He’s Dutch too, but from a fairly traditional Moroccan Berber family. Both of them are Dutch and Muslim. They have what should be a perfectly ordinary relationship, but in these times its anything but ordinary.

Holland is a country famed for its culture of tolerance. However in recent years, two prominent Dutch men have been gunned down for their publicly expressed opinions. The murders of politician Pim Fortuin and film maker Theo van Gogh have changed Dutch society and the question on every Dutch person’s lips is: “are we still a tolerant nation?”

Anouk and Said are on the frontline of a battle about loyalty and identity that is currently raging in The Netherlands.

Related websites and news stories:

21 March 2008

Battle for Tibetan Freedom - Airs March 24

Tibet is back in the news. Activists are pressuring the Chinese government to give Tibet independence again or at least regional autonomy. Mass protests in recent weeks have killed many people, though no one knows the exact number due to lack of a free press.

In this edition of the Listening Lounge (airing at 7 p.m. on March 24), we learn more about Tibet.

In Honk for Tibet (by Todd Melby), we hear from pro-Tibetan protesters in Minneapolis. There, we meet Teinzin Dadon, an 18-year-old high school student. Dadon's father escaped from Tibet three decades ago. After arriving in India, he made his way to the United States. Today, Dadon shouts from a bridge in Minneapolis, asking drivers to support her father and all Tibetans.

Also on the program, Tibetan Uprising: The Meaning of March 10 and Willing for Trouble: Profile of Tibetan Poet & Freedom Fighter Tenzin Tsundue. This story was produced by The Tibetan Connection, a one-hour radio program that airs on KPFK in Los Angeles.

Learn more about the Tibet situation at BBC News:
More articles and opinion pieces:

10 March 2008


There are lots of ways to explore a city. Some people do it on foot, others on bike, still others drive and stop, drive and stop. At Chicago Public Radio, they've encouraged listeners to submit "soundmarks" to their website, which they later put on the radio. These audio postcards are designed to give other listeners an aural snapshot of a place. Check out soundmarks of people playing badminton, Tibetan Singing Bowls, Union Station and other places.

05 March 2008

Blue Highways: Iraq's Forgotten Home Front - Airs March 17

This is the debut episode of Blue Highways, a new national 'road trip magazine' that looks for people, places and stories that make connections across the class, racial, geographical, urban/rural and countless other 'divides.'

This first installment looks at stories from the 'Forgotten Home Front' of the 'War on Terror.' Producer Todd Melby takes to the road to visit a small North Dakota town struggling with a doctor shortage that's being exacerbated by the ongoing deployment of Guard and Reserve troops, many of whom work in health care back at home.

We also hear about a program to address the doctor shortage, and then we listen in on the audio diaries of one National Guardsman in Iraq and his family back at home in upstate New York. We follow Chaplain Major Eric Olsen on his trip home from Iraq for a few weeks with his family - time that inevitably goes by much too fast.

Finally, our last segment tries to answer the question - Where have all the artists gone since 9/11? Turns out many artists are fleeing the cities for once rural backwaters. Three such transplants take us on a tour of Taos, New Mexico.

Girl Detectives - Airs March 10

What do you do when a friend's husband is murdered? Girl Detectives is a poignant and personal piece about the struggles of three women to cope with that loss in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Frustrated and unsatisfied with the findings of the police, they try to do some investigating of their own. Listen to producer Susan Mell's deeply personal piece about love, loss and the attempt to make it right.

27 February 2008

A Shortcut Back to 1968 - Airs March 3

An unpopular war was raging overseas, as an unpopular President spoke of his "awesome responsibility" and chose not to seek re-election, while his party fought for a change toward "new policies" and the crew of Apollo 8 embarked on a journey to the moon.

1968 was a year that brought the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy. The Vietnam War took a record number of casualties. Many cities burned as people took to the streets against the war and against racism. It was also an election year with protests at the 1968 Democratic Convention, political trials of the "Chicago 8" and the Catonsville 9 for burning draft files in Maryland. It was also a time of intense resistance on college campuses across the country, with battles between hawks & doves, rich and poor, young and old, black and white.

Using only the sounds, music and voices of one of the most explosive and memorable years in history, this 40th Anniversary mix captures a time when America came to a crossroads that almost destroyed the dream and any bridge for that famous "generation gap".

Featuring "Yippies" Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, and underground and counter-culture heroes like The Fugs, Cat Mother & The All-Night Newsboys, David Peel & The Lower East Side, the Amboy Dukes, Jimi Hendrix, Sly and The Family Stone, the Rolling Stones, the Band, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Aretha Franklin, the Beatles, the Monkees, the cast of "Hair," Simon and Garfunkel, Cream, The Firesign Theater, with Dustin Hoffman, Richard Nixon, Hubert Humphrey, Huey P. Newton, LBJ and many more.

Recorded and mixed in analogue on a Tascam vintage 4-track, "A Shortcut through 1968" features no narration, it's message evolves from the careful juxtaposition of the various elements, including airchecks from the archives of WBAI in 1968 (with the voices of free-form radio founders Bob Fass, Steve Post and Larry Josephson) mixed with interviews on "what do you remember about 1968?"

18 February 2008

Secret Asian Woman - Airs Feb. 25

Secret Asian Woman is a personal exploration of identity and Mixed Race by Independent Producer Dmae Roberts, who has to make a daily decision to reveal her ethnicity. Through her personal story, Dmae charts four decades of a search by multiracial peoples for a name. The politics of calling out racism has changed through the years as has identification. In this half-hour radio documentary, Dmae talks with other Mixed Race Asian women with identities not easily recognized and addresses with humor the complexities involved in even discussing race. This piece perhaps creates some understanding of why Barack Obama no longer talks about being Mixed Race.

11 February 2008

Thelonious Monk, Tar Heel - Airs Feb. 18

The jazz pianist and composer Thelonious Monk is usually remembered as a hip New Yorker. He was a pioneer of Bebop who lived most of his life on Manhattan's West Side. But Monk was born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, and raised by his mother, a native of that tobacco and railroad town. Monk's son and the writer Alan Gurganus, among others, reflect on Monk's often-neglected Southern roots -- and, by extension, those of many other jazz greats.

In Thelonious Monk, Tar Heel, we'll discover Monk's early roots with producer John Biewen. Then it's off to a mini-concert by Silver Leaf Gospel Singers at an MLK Celebration in Portland, Oregon. Listen in.

07 February 2008

The Only Reason You and I Are Here - Airs Feb. 11

"If a picture is worth a thousand words, the sound of cicadas buzzing in trees may be worth a thousand pictures," writes reviewer James Reiss of a non-narrated tour through Chicago's parks called The Only Reason You and I Are Here.

Continues Reiss: "Although Julie Shapiro produced this piece in summer 2004, it is as vivid and dazzling as ever in 2008. 'Close your eyes,' Shapiro seems to say, 'and learn to listen.' After a little under 17 minutes of non-narrated audio footage recorded in Chicago's parks, you may realize that the only reason you and I are here is to experience the richly layered sounds, the beautiful orchestration of tones and echoes, which envelope us. What could be a better raison d'etre for public radio fans?"

We'll air this lengthy, engrossing audio story on the Listening Lounge at 7 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 11. Before the airing this piece, we'll talk with producer Julie Shapiro about her work. Grab a pair of headphones and join us!

31 January 2008

Bouncing Queen + Mardi Gras: Airs Feb. 4

A quirky tradition at the St. Paul Winter Carnival is the Bouncing Team: Fourteen guys holding a round, canvas blanket rocket a young woman 30 feet into the air. She does an aerial gymnastic move. They catch her. The Winter Carnival started in 1886, so did the Bouncing Team; they've been tossing woman skyward ever since -- not one dropped yet.

Listen to a story produced by host Todd Melby. It also aired on NPR's Day to Day and Hearing Voices.

And then we're off to another festive event: Mardi Gras.

We'll air a piece called "Costuming for Mardi Gras" by Eve Abrams. Here's a desription of that story: "If you live in New Orleans, you have to know a thing or two about costuming. A handful of New Orleanians explain how it's done, what it means, and why it's so darn important."

And then we'll conclude with another piece called "Mardi Gras Indian Music." The title pretty much says it all. But if you want more information, here it is: "On Mardi Gras Day, tourists line New Orleans' wide avenues to watch the grand parade floats. The celebration tourists rarely see takes place on the strrets and stoops of the Treme, Black Pearl and the Ninth Ward, some of the neighborhoods hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina. Those are the parade grounds of New Orleans Black or Mardi Gras Indians. The Wild Magnolias, the Fi Yi Yi, altogether about 40 tribes march in elaborate costumes inspired by the noble Native Americans who were not enslaved by whites. , Some say the tradition reflects West African masking and dance rituals. While their numbers have diminished since Katrina, a number of tribes have recorded music through the years. Producer Virginia Prescott dusts off the stacks to hear the music of the Mardi Gras Indians."

It'll be a great show. Tune in!

07 January 2008

January is Jon Kalish Month

I spent Christmas Eve sipping He'Brew beer at Grumpy's bar in Minneapolis. The alternative-to-that-other-holiday event was called Jewbilee and it was sponsored by Indie Jews of the Twin Cities. That wasn't enough Old Testament for me.

So, I've decided to dedicate most of January to Jewish-themed documentaries. We begin with Jimmy Breslin: The Art of Climbing Tenement Stairs on Jan. 7, followed by Rabbi Abulafia's Boxed Set on Jan. 14 and Brooklyn According to Kalish on Jan. 21 + Jan. 28. All three documentaries were reported and produced by Jon Kalish, a New York-based producer whose work frequently airs on NPR. The tour de force in this set is the two-part series on Brooklyn's Orthodox community. Reviewer Eric Nuzum says the program "offers a deep view into Orthodox and Chasidic Jewish life that few outsiders have a chance to observe. The intimacy of the piece is almost palatable--leaving you to feel like you should whisper while listening, so not to revel yourself."

Here's hoping you listen in. And don't be afraid to sip a He'brew while doing so.

Brooklyn According to Kalish airs. Jan. 21 + Jan. 28

In 1983 New York-based radio reporter Jon Kalish started covering the Orthodox and Chasidic Jews of Brooklyn for NPR. In 1999 he produced "Brooklyn According to Kalish" for WNYC. The hour-long documentary utilizes recordings Kalish made for pieces he produced for "All Things Considered," "Morning Edition," "Weekend Edition," as well as WNYC and other outlets. Rich in sound and featuring the extraordinary access Kalish gained in the close-knit Orthodox world, this program explores all aspects of the lives of religious Jews as seen through the eyes of Kalish, who is Jewish but grew up outside the realm of Torah-observant Jews. From the yeshivas of Flatbush to the bungalows of the Catskills where Brooklyn chasidim summer, "Brooklyn According to Kalish" explains the mysterious world of the black hats to secular Jews and Gentiles alike.

"Brooklyn According to Kalish" is a 60-minute documentary. Listen to it on Jan. 21 and Jan. 28 at 7 p.m. on KFAI, 90.3 FM Minneapolis.

Rabbi Abulafia's Boxed Set airs Jan. 14

For more than two years in the 1950's, avant-garde ethno-musicologist Harry Smith recorded a Lower East Side Rabbi's cantorial music, folk songs and Yiddish story-telling. The Rabbi's eccentric grandson, 82-year-old Lionel Ziprin, is hoping to re-release a condensed version of this material. It's a holy mission for him. Ziprin is a Lower East Side legend who sounds uncannily like the late Lenny Bruce. But, unlike the comedian, Ziprin hangs out at a Lower East Side yeshiva and his life has been a lot wilder.

Reporter Jon Kalish first met Ziprin in 1998 when one of the reporter's elderly Yippie friends introduced him to the man. Kalish did a short radio piece and a newspaper article about Ziprin's rescue of the 15-LP's his grandfather, Rabbi Nuftali Zvi Margolies Abulafia, recorded with the eccentric Harry Smith but knew the story would ultimately make a compelling radio documentary.

Listen to "Rabbi Abulafia's Boxed Set" by Jon Kalish on Jan. 14 at 7 p.m. on KFAI, 90.3 FM Minneapolis. (Photo courtesy of NPR)

Jimmy Breslin airs Jan. 7

Love him or hate him, Jimmy Breslin has always been a force of nature in the world of print journalism.

On November 3, 2004 after calling the election for Kerry, the Pulitzer Prize winning reporter and author announced he was leaving his thrice-weekly post as, arguably, New York’s most famous columnist and champion of “the little guy.” He hasn't stopped writing -- he’s working on at least three new books and is involved in a movie project based on his “The Church That Forgot Christ,” -- and he’ll contribute a column for Newsday “from time to time.” But that voice of moral outrage, from one the hardest working muckrakers in the newspaper business, no longer appears regularly in newsprint.

Jon Kalish, an independent radio producer and freelance newspaper writer based in New York, first met Breslin when Kalish was a young reporter, and over the years, he’s covered Breslin’s various headline making exploits. Kalish also learned a thing or two about reporting from Breslin, who taught him the importance of climbing tenement stairs.

In “Jimmy Breslin: The Art of Climbing Tenement Stairs,” a half-hour documentary commissioned by public radio station KCRW, Kalish talks to Breslin’s friends and nemeses, from pal Pete Hamill and the late investigative reporter Jack Newfield, to the former mayor of New York, Ed Koch. He’s along for the ride as Breslin sleeps on the streets with New York’s homeless, and talks to the columnist right after Breslin broke the story of the the city’s Parking Violations Bureau kickback scandal. There’s even an excerpt from Breslin’s 1986 hosting of "Saturday Night Live." Kalish also talks to Breslin’s second wife, Ronnie Eldridge, a former New York City councilwoman.

But most of all, it’s the hard-hitting, no-nonsense gritty voice of the irascible Jimmy Breslin that commands the attention of your ears, in the same way his columns grabbed the attention of readers for decades.

“The Art of Climbing Tenement Stairs” is produced and hosted by Jon Kalish.

It airs on Jan. 7 at 7 p.m. on KFAI, 90.3 FM Minneapolis. (Photo courtesy of Associated Press)

Singing Salvation Army Bellringer

If you tuned in the Dec. 31 show, you didn't hear my piece on Arthur Jackson, a singing Salvation Army Bellringer. We'll try airing that piece again soon. In the meantime, check it out on the NPR Day to Day site.