Redux: Total. Radio. Crush.

(listen to all April 6th Fair Game posts to hear the full episode)

Fair Game's Faith Salie is bubbly, hyper-articulate, and quick on her feet with a sly sense of humor. In this episode alone, she vacillates between Russian, Georgian, and Atlantan (thanks ya'll), asks Aiden Quinn about the last time he nearly killed someone on stage, and bemoans the recent Olympic torch bashing by comparing it to a Andrew Lloyd Webber musical.

She succeeds in making every single one of her guests laugh AND spews multisyllabic words with ease. Plus she's humble to boot! Oh, Faith Salie - will you give me radio lessons? I'd be happy to rip off Scott Bierko's idea and interview you in my bathtub. Lavender bath salts are a tax deduction, right?

Redux: Get That Giraffe a Coat!

(Skip to minute 25)

We've all been there. One arm into the coat, one arm out, wondering if spring is really here. But what if you're 16 feet tall and made for African grasslands?

This is the predicament that Oakland Zookeepers face every day, winter through spring. Is it warm enough to let little Tiki (yes, Tiki) out without her coat? Weekend America's Krissy Clark is there for every indecisive moment - including early attempts to get Tiki into her giant hunger green jacket (the sound of the velcro is enough to get your mental image rolling). She also raises the question: Should zoos keep animals in climates so different from their natural habitat that they require coats? Just ask that Chihuahua shivering on the corner beneath his Marc Jacobs dog shawl.

Redux: News Alert: Norah Jones is a Sweetheart

I've never been much of a Norah Jones fan. Her music always seems to be something adults bring up when they're trying to prove that they're still "with it" and into "hip" music, whatever that means. She's stayed more or less under the radar since her 2003 Grammy sweep, putting out an album or two and trying out a few musical side projects. Until now I've pretty much shrugged and said, "Eh."

But this interview with Faith Salie made me smile. She came of as humble, sweet, and entirely likeable. I even kind of wanted to see her new movie, despite its ho hum reviews. And I definitely took a moment to check out her new band El Madmo. She's right: it's not punk rock. But it's definitely not elevator music either. Norah Jones, I have misjudged you.

Redux: George Foreman Is My Hero

If we had a canon of radio, the work of the Kitchen Sisters Nikki Silva and Davia Nelson would inevitably be on the list. They have a real gift for blending and layering voices (most of the time without the use of a narrator!) to convey a story.

This episode of Hidden Kitchens takes a look at an appliance that most of us probably own, the George Foreman grill, and gets us to (perhaps) think about it in an entirely new way--as a "de facto kitchen" for those who are kitchen-less. Plus, we get to hear from George Foreman himself. I loved him before, but even more after this.

Blog: Take That, Robbie Murray!

Sometimes it's good to be small. I didn't always feel that way, especially when Robbie Murray was taunting me on the school bus with cries of "shortie!" or "little little mama!" (OK, writing that out makes it seem ridiculous, but to a third grader, those names were traumatizing.)

A couple days ago I was recording a meeting in a pretty small office space. I started off sitting in one of the chairs, but quickly realized there was no way I'd get the sound I'd need. So I curled up in a little ball and literally sat in the middle of this meeting. On the floor. For one hour and thirty six minutes. With my mic in one hand spiraling out to capture the different voices. And I was struck by how physical this sound recording can be, how it takes stamina and the ability to be flexible--the ability to curl up into teeny tiny spaces so that you are as non-intrusive as possible.

And it's all worth it when one of the people in the meeting says to you afterward, "It was like you weren't even there - you didn't disrupt the flow at all."

Shortie prevails!

Redux: A Different Kind of Ghost Story

Like many radio producers, I credit This American Life with introducing me to the wonderful world of radio documentary. I remember the first time I heard an episode--it was on a late-night drive through South Carolina and I was flipping the radio dial and came across this voice, talking about what it was like to be goth. I was hooked immediately. I haven't been as engaged by TAL in recent years, but this episode, The Ghost of Bobby Dunbar, kept me up past my bedtime. (For a provocative article on This American Life and its impact on public radio, check out AD Ira: Is There Life After This American Life?)

Though the Ghost of Bobby Dunbar is a complicated story that takes place mostly in the past with no active or ambient sound, it feels as if it's unfolding in front of us. This is because we follow along as Bobby Dunbar's granddaughter, Margaret Dunbar Cutright, pieces together newspaper articles, conversations, and the family story she's heard all her life to arrive at the truth. A truth that is at once troubling and inevitable.

Blog: Getting Started

Believe it or not, I've never been much of a procrastinator. I turned my college thesis in a week early and I've never missed a deadline. And yet... I have a really hard time kicking off the editing process.

Part of me feels like once I've gathered my sound and recorded my interviews, I'll break some sort of spell by listening to them again. As if that initial chemistry will be lost when I start adjusting levels and editing out unwanted tangents. And to some extent, it will. Soon those intimate conversations will become part of a script that an editor will review and shape. I'll obsess over tiny voice inflections and maybe loose sight of the big picture for a day or two. It's what has to happen in order to make good radio, and every time, I dread it.

So here I sit, cup of coffee and a notebook by my side, editing software open and ready, waiting to break the spell. I guess now is as good a time as any.

Redux: Fighting Addiction, One Keg Stand at a Time

Sam was never a good kid. He stole beer from his parent's fridge when he was 11. By 13 he was smoking pot. And by the end of high school, things got much darker. Sam was an addict before he was anything else, until he found sobriety through one of the nation's only college-based addiction programs.

Stellar indie producer Hillary Frank explores the "before and after" worlds of Sam by going to frat parties, asking tough questions, and by just being there as Sam defines his new life. She captures a slew of funny and touching moments, like when "new Sam" teaches himself to play Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata with one ear to his ipod and the other to the school's dusty old piano. It's a far cry from "old Sam's" cocaine-fueled video game marathons. And it's the kind of moment that a skilled producer can catch by investing time and asking the right questions. Kudos, Hillary.

(Skip to minute 30)

Redux: You say Jean, I say Jen

I had my NPR debut yesterday - Yep, a piece I produced at Salt went national. Aside from a slight name botch (who names their kid Jean these days?) it went off without a hitch. To hear the audio, skip to minute 51 in the podcast.

A note on story hunting. This story was unearthed during my first weekend at Salt. They drove all 32 of us up to the middle of rural Maine, dropped us off for the night, and said, "Find a story by 6pm tomorrow." It was radio bootcamp.

With Erin Mishkin and several other brave documentarians by my side (including photographer Jenny Calivas whose photos are below) we scoured the tiny town of Machias, Maine. We hit up diners and garage sales until we saw a notice in the local paper for a Final Moving Sale - Everything Must Go, Lots of Firewood. Why would someone move in September if they already have wood for the winter? We had to find out.

When we arrived, we found two old men behind a huge table filled with old pots and pans, mugs, and clocks. After a few minutes of chatting, we found out why they were moving. You'll have to listen to the piece to hear the rest.

It was a true collaborative effort. Erin put John at ease and asked him so many tough questions about what the next few months of his life would be like. The rest of our group chatted with Cedric about his house and his pets, until he gave us a tour of the house his father built years ago. I spent many hours with Cedric and John after that, but if weren't for my group (and in particular Erin's gentle coaxing with John) this story would not have been possible. Thanks guys!

Note: To hear the full story (NPR edited out the first minute) visit my site.

Redux: Speak it Easy

There's something magical about live storytelling. The spontaneity and sheer courage it takes to stand up in a room of people and talk about your life is admirable - especially to those of us who prefer to whisper our secrets into sound proof booths.

This funny and highly personal story about the birds and the bees is part of the new Radio Speakeasy podcast. This DC-based podcast is in its earliest stages, mostly broadcasting stories from its live storytelling series. But soon, very soon, they will feature their own SpeakeasyDocs - chock full of sound rich pieces documenting hilarious and heartbreaking moments of everyday life. DC is ripe with stories just waiting to be told. I, for one, can't wait to hear them.