Blog: Build-a-Song

If you've ever wondered how artists like Dosh and Andrew Bird make their layered soundscapes work on stage, take a look at this video. The fine folks at Minnesota Public Radio have likened Dosh's looping techniques to a chef in the kitchen - a dash of drums, a smattering of keys - just set it and forget it! Well, it's a bit more complicated than that. See for yourself.

Redux: Who Needs Flowers?

We all have questions we'd like to ask our Mom. Usually, we keep them tucked away, slyly sneaking one in when we think she's not looking. But 10 year old Rasheed doesn't flinch when he asks his Mom about her childhood, his father, and the question every kid wants to know - what do you really think of me?

The result is sweet, thoughtful conversation between mother and son. I couldn't think of a better Mother's Day gift from StoryCorps. Way better than a pile of pansies.

Blog: The Sounds of Anything But Silence

I'm all moved in and the one thing I can't get used to in my new house (other than the contents of the moving van exploding all over the living room floor) is all the new sounds.

The creaking stairs, the birds out the window, that funny singing noise the toilet makes after you flush - they all baffle me. I know I'll get used to them soon, but until then, I'll run around with a microphone recording them. And just as soon as my freelance works calms down a bit, I'll put together a little audio postcard of my new home. Right after I mow the lawn.

Blog: Squirmy and Inarticulate about The Bridge

I've been meaning to write about The Bridge since I saw it a few weeks ago. It came out in 2006, but somehow I only recently caught wind of this documentary film about the large number of suicides that take place each year off the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

It was beautifully shot and the stories/interview footage were captivating. But it made me squirm. For so many reasons. Multiple camera crews were stationed all around the bridge, waiting to capture that moment when someone jumped. (They managed to capture 23 of 24 suicides.) And even though the crew of the film was given explicit instructions to call the police if they feared someone was about to take a leap, if they *didn't* capture that footage, they wouldn't have a film.

And another thing... The family and friends of those who committed suicide were interviewed, but weren't told until after their interview that the filmmaker had footage of their loved ones jumping to their deaths.

I would love to hear what people think about this approach to documentary work. It's taken me a while to write about because it's hard for me to articulate my feelings about it. Thoughts?

Redux: It's Groundhog Day. Again. And again.

There's really not enough good live radio in the world. Sure, there are the commercial radio morning talk shows that make me (us? who's with me?) wince, but I think it's really difficult to do live radio well. Enter Ken and Andy of WFMU's Seven Second Delay. Sure, some may say they're an acquired taste, but once you're hooked, you're a 7SD Lifer. And this is because their banter is genuine. They're friends. Have been for over a decade. And they're both hilarious, even when their shows turn out to be train wrecks, which is pretty often.

In this episode, Ken and Andy do the same 20-minute show THREE times in a row, asking listeners to call in and tell them about a concert experience. Three times. And what if they weren't able to call back in at the appointed time? Salt alum Andrea Silenzi filled in for them -- worth listening to if only to hear her renditions of a couple of the callers. If you're out there, Andrea, and reading this, A+, my friend. A+ performance.

Redux: "So Much Of Our Culture Happens To Be In A Maximum Security Prison"

Before you listen to this story, you must wrap your mind around two things: 1) There is a maximum security prison in Louisiana that holds a bi-yearly rodeo. 2) The public is invited to taste the inmates' home cooking while watching large animals buck humans.

Okay, now that we have that out of the way, the most remarkable thing about this prison rodeo is the fact that it is a bastion of pre-Katrina culture. Unlike so many New Orleans residents, the prisoners couldn't relocate. They kept their food, music, and stories inside Angola prison. These are gifts they now share with thousands spectators twice a year.

The Kitchen Sisters take us on an gastronomic tour of the inmates' concession booths featuring everything from chicken on a stick to boudin balls. Along the way, we learn what brought these men to Angola and why cooking the foods their Momma taught them brings joy to their lives behind bars.

Blog: 804 Miles of Voices

After listening to podcasts non-stop while driving from NY to NC, I honestly can't tell you what I've heard. All of these voices have blended together into one nondescript mush. Hearing 13 hours of stories didn't lead to any earth-shattering observations, other than listening to the radio keeps one awake while driving. Shesh, I was hoping for something a bit more meaningful than that. Well, at least I arrived in North Carolina in one piece.

Redux: Moby: Witty and Self-Effacing since 1965

Okay, maybe his geekster charm didn't start at birth, but Moby was pretty damn funny on Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me this week. Like a lot of people, I stopped paying attention to Moby once soccer dads started blaring his music out their mini-van windows, but his remix of the Wait, Wait theme music wasn't bad. His cheeky back-and-forth with host Peter Sagal was even better. Here are several redeemable facts about this shiny headed mix master: he played classical guitar as a kid, was in a punk band, and thinks the bass guitar is the world's sexiest instrument. And according to Wikipedia, Moby was a childhood nickname given by his parents in honor of some dude named Herman Melville (I hear he liked whales too). Who knew?

Blog: The 13 Hour Playlist

With the start of a 13 hour road trip from Upstate New York to Western North Carolina planned for tomorrow, I've thrown together two playlists of my favorite podcasts for the audio-hungry drivers in my caravan: Long Drive in a Yellow Truck and Long Drive in a Green Car. Maybe I should try to market these to Penske. They could throw in packing tape and an atlas and call it the Cross Country Moving Special. Take that, U-Haul.

Redux: Pure Boyish Charm

One of the best things about working in radio is being surrounded by intelligent people who truly love what they do. No, I'm not (necessarily) talking about people who work in radio. It's usually the guests who are the most passionate and fun to talk to.

Filmmaker Garth Jennings is definitely one of those guests. His latest film is about two British boys who discover filmmaking. I happened to catch it at Sundance and it was one of those infectious movies that kept coming up in conversation.

The exuberance that shines through Jennings' films is true to life. As you can hear in this interview with Faith Salie, he is just as fascinated with life as the characters in his films. You have no choice but to marvel at the world along with him.