Redux: As Urban as Taxi Cabs, As Rural as Cow Pies

(12:58)

When you think of Chicago, what comes to mind? Skyscrapers, taxis, and... pigs? It's easy to forgot that this major metropolitan city happens to be located in Illinois - a state known for its agricultural prowess. NPR's Scott Simon brings us to the very intersection of urban and rural: 111th Street and Pulaski Boulevard. It's the city block that abuts Chicago's High School for Agricultural Sciences' 72-acre working farm.

Simon's portrait of this public high school overflows with great sound. As your ears perk to buses and trucks whooshing by, slowly this weird, slobbery chomp, chomp, chomp comes into focus. It's Lucy the 350 pound pig, of course. She makes way for a diverse group of students genuinely enthused about farming - whether it's gossiping about a skinny goat or growing basil for the school's own pesto.

What makes this piece really sing is Simon's writing. It's clean, sharp, and frankly enviable. He captures simple, telling moments that make Chicago's "Ag High" a living, breathing place, not just a postcard or politician's cliche. Plus, he makes that pesto sound really, really good.

Photo via flickr by: Johnmuk

Redux: Outstanding Audio Collage Missing Some Voices

Sorry, no audio. Try the permalink.

Click here for a direct audio link.

Weekend America's "This Weekend in 1968" series is ingenious. So many fascinating things happened that year and what better way to understand them than to listen to the music, newscasts, and archival sound from the events themselves. The audio is so rich and well-researched, it's as if independent producers Ann Heppermann and Kara Oehler have freed hours of audio archives from dusty library shelves so that we can hear for ourselves what each weekend in 1968 sounded like.

I'm particularly enamored with this audio collage of political and cultural protests from 1968 to today. It's fascinating to hear how much has changed and how much has not. But I wish we could have heard more from conservative protesters. Pro-life and anti-gay marriage protesters have lined the streets of every city I've lived in. Their signs are often more graphic than their liberal counterparts. I've seen them standing their ground in rain, sleet, and snow. My curiosity is often piqued by their determination, but the few times I've asked conservative activists about their positions, they have simply repeated well-worn slogans. I would have liked to hear their fury side-by-side with AIDS rights and anti-capitalism protesters. Perhaps their message would make more sense in context.

Redux: Racism is Real

(12:30)

Tommy Lee is a lifelong Democrat. He's also voting for McCain. "I don't think blacks don't have enough to run the country," he tells NPR's David Greene. Greene payed a visit to Logan, West Virginia -- the self-proclaimed "Friendliest Town in WV" -- to take the pulse of swing state voters. While many people Greene spoke with have valid, well researched reasons for voting for one candidate or another, others are straightforward bigots. Lee doesn't say what he thinks African-Americans don't have "enough" of, but it's pretty clear what he's implying. Anyone who thinks America no longer has a problem with racism needs to hear his voice.

On a lighter note, this piece teems with sounds of small town life. From the barber shop to the bowling alley, it's clear that music and community are at the heart of this coal-mining town. To see for yourself, check out these beautiful photographs of life in Logan, West Virgina.

Blog: AIR Announces Public Radio Makers Quest 2.0

Today is an exciting day for producers and for public radio. The Association of Independents in Radio (where I just happen to work) and CPB today announced a new producer-focused initiative -- the Public Radio Makers Quest (MQ2.0). MQ2.0 will identify the best and brightest audio makers from within public radio and beyond and provide them with funds to experiment with new ways of producing for both traditional broadcast and new digital platforms.

For more details, definitely check out the FAQ.

Redux: The Saltcast: Like Sitting in Class with Rob

What would a blog written by two Salt grads be without a shout-out to the new PRX-distributed Salt podcast? The idea behind the Saltcast is simple yet brilliant. Rob Rosenthal, director of the Salt radio program and producer and teacher extraordinaire, introduces listeners to pieces produced by Salt students. He presents a dilemma the student faced or simply gives an intriguing back story. And then, what's especially cool (not that you're not uber cool on your own, Rob), is that listeners get to hear from the producer, with Rob asking questions about what the process was like. So basically, it's a lot like sitting in class with Rob, the idea being that he uses the stories and experiences of previous students as a teaching tool for incoming students. Pretty darn effective.

In this particular podcast, discover the connection between blood worms and Russian mail order brides. You read correctly. Blood worms and Russian mail order brides. Seriously, you can't make this stuff up.

Photo caption: Radio students from Fall 2007 take a lunch break.

Redux: The Ultimate Expression of Love: The Mix Tape

I've grown up making mix tapes - for myself, for my friends and family, for crushes and for boyfriends. And I remember the days of "dubbing" from one tape to another, timing it just right and hoping that I didn't inadvertently cut off the beginning or ending of a song. Choosing the ultimate order for a mix tape was also tricky - it had to be thought out in advance. Not like today where you can just reorder your playlist on a whim.

(And, yes, in my day I had to walk 5 miles to school in the snow. Uphill both ways.)

Entertaining as always, in this episode of What Would Rob Do, Rob not only tackles the subject of crafting the perfect mix tape, but he also gets some good advice from one of his favorite bands, The Squeeze. What song of theirs would they select to win over someone's heart? Listen and find out.

Redux: B to the J to the D: Ball Jointed Dolls All the Rage in Asia

OK. So, more often than not I don't have a clue why some stories make the "Most Emailed" list at NPR and others don't. (Bryant Park Project took a crack at this mystery as well, in their hilarious, "E-Mail This Story: Of Kittens, Quinoa & Ron Paul").

But this story, which is about 12:40 in, I understand. BJDs or "Ball-Jointed Dolls" are all the rage in Asia (mostly in Japan and South Korea). And this report doesn't really say why, exactly, but it highlights what has become an obsession for some. Think American Girl doll, only a bit creepier.

Redux: No Black Holes... Yet

Sorry, no audio. Try the permalink.

It looks like the universe lived to see another day, in spite of the Hadron Collider. The most powerful microscope ever built was activated early this morning, 300 feet under ground near Geneva. Doomsday scenarios crowded the internet, but none were as frightening as this fictional account of collider misfunction on Studio 360.

If you can make it through Martha Plimpton's reading of Lydia Millet's tale of sub-atomic disaster without getting goosebumps, you'll be rewarded with one of my favorite listener essays on punk rock, architecture, and DIY ingenuity.

Redux: Best of Krulwich: Playlist for the Burgeoning Science Reporter

I'm about to drive to Boone, NC to learn about quercetin. What's quercetin, you ask? Hopefully by the end of the day, I'll have a snappy, intriguing answer that will have you simultaneously craving an apple and thinking about its flavonoids.

Robert Krulwich is the master of inspiring curiosity in listeners who couldn't care less about science. That's pretty much my task, now that I'm a biotech reporter for WFAE in Charlotte, NC. Every month, I track down something unusual or surprising in the North Carolina biotech world. Today, it's the flavonoid quercetin and how it affects people under serious physical stress - like athletes and soldiers. Who knows, a sports drink that actually helps with immunity and mental clarity (instead of just printing it on the label) might not be too far off.

To help pass the time during my two hour drive to get the dirt on quercetin, I've put together a playlist of some of my favorite Robert Krulwich pieces. There are a few Radio Lab gems on the list, but one of my favorites is Krulwich's investigation into The Wonderful, Mysterious Yawn. Just make sure your boss doesn't walk by while you listen - there's no way you can make it through the whole piece without a giant, sleepy yawn.

Blog: What Audiobooks Should Be

I seem to be posting a lot of non-radio items these days, but when you come across something as good as web guru Charlie Nesson reading the introduction to Born Digital, a book by Berkmanites John Palfrey and Urs Gasser, you have to share with as many people as you can.

When I worked at the Berkman Center, John and Urs were in the very early stages of drafting this book, one of the outcomes of the Digital Natives project, a project that focuses on the implications of a generation "born digital" (those who grow up immersed in digital technologies). So I've read the introduction a few times. Never did I imagine it sounding quite like this. And that's all I'll say about it. Enjoy.