Redux: Who Knew Presidents' Day Was So Hilarious?

Presidents' Day coverage can be pretty bland. If it's not a review of a new presidential bio-tome, it's a cut and dry interview with a Smithsonian archivist about a recently discovered piece of faded paper. But weekend America has broken the mold.

Rather than rehash the familiar textbook fables, WeAm dug deep into the pasts of our favorite presidents to find stories both scandalous and banal. Was Abraham Lincoln gay? You'll have to ask his male bodyguard who shared his bed and pranced around in his nightshirt. What about William Rufus DeVane King? What, who is William Rufus DeVane King? Imagine - devoting precious airtime to forgotten Vice Presidents. Brilliant.

Redux: Been There, Haven't We?

Radio Rookie Catalina Puente conveys what it's like to be really obsessed with someone. Not just a little bit obsessed. We're talking obsessed, with a capital "O." And haven't we all been there at some point? I remember I had a crush on a boy in the 6th grade and I would just call his house and hang up, call it and hang up, over and over again. And I think I read his (oh-so-generic) yearbook message to me so many times that the ink started to rub off. Uh... yeah.

But back to "Obsession." I love Catalina's willingness to talk openly with her friends and family (there's a particularly moving scene in the beginning between Catalina and her dad). I love her use of repetitive sounds to illustrate her obsession. And, most of all, I admire her courage for revealing what a lot of us have gone through, but are probably embarrassed to admit.

Redux: "AAA For the Sightless"

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Cartography for the blind could easily make for a dull radio piece - the "let's call this expert, and then let's call that expert" brand of journalism often referred to as "acts and tracks." Few reporters break this mold, mostly because news directors like it and also because it takes a lot of work and imagination to find a different way to tell a simple story.

KQED's Amy Standen has done it. She takes us on a tactile neurological quest for braille maps. Thought they already existed? So did I.

First we slosh along next Amy and neuroscientist Alex Wade on a particularly rainy San Francisco day. Alex points out all the obstacles a blind person might run into on this busy street. As he ushers us around potted plants and rain filled gutters, we get a totally pain-free neuroscience lesson. Thanks - now I know what my parietal cortex does.

Next we're off to meet Josh Miele, a blind scientist who has created a braille map that he and his co-worker can't get enough of. They giggle and coo over this piece of bumpy white paper like it's a brand new iPhone. It's hard to believe braille maps haven't existed until now. Apparently, scientists once thought that the sightless couldn't use their parietal cortexes to make a mental map because they couldn't "visualize" large spaces or far distances. Josh Miele's invention proves they can.

Amy Standen takes risks in this piece that would make some stodgy journalism school professors cringe. She starts off with the word "I" and sticks with the first person throughout the piece. She trades in scientific jargon for snappy writing and fun analogies to keep the science interesting. Most importantly, she took the expert out of the booth and put him in the real world where real blind people are now enjoying beautiful maps made just for them.

Redux: Why Outfront Rules...

I discovered Outfront about a year or so ago when a friend of mine from PRX recommended I listen to a unsettling account of a pilot who crashed his plane. It's one of those rare pieces that stayed with me. I can still recall the sound of the pilot's voice, his pacing, the tension I felt as I waited for his story to unfold. And this is what Outfront does best -- tell first-person stories without anyone else getting in the way. No narrator. No host. Just everyday people, revealing their lives in an honest and heart-felt way.

In this episode of Re:sound, we learn how Outfront succeeds in getting people to dig down down deep, to share things about themselves that they might not otherwise tell. For the documentary-obsessed, it's like a magician revealing the secrets behind his magic tricks.

Redux: It's a Scary World out There...

Maybe I just thought this was hilarious because I used to work on a project that was all about how young people go online. We used to bristle when we'd read reports that painted the "cyberspace" as predator-filled. Rob gives some advice on how to handle the oh so scary world that is the World Wide Web. Just... just have a listen and enjoy.

Redux: Humanitarian By Day, Indie Rocker By Night

Most struggling musicians sell everything they own and move to a dirty studio apartment in Brooklyn. The OaKs' Ryan Costello's route to indie rock-hood was decidedly more original. In 2003 he left everything behind to join a humanitarian organization in Afghanistan. When he wasn't learning Farsi or teaching refugees innovative farming techniques, he was writing songs based on the sights and sounds of this dust-swept land. The result is The OaKs' new album Songs for Waiting. On this episode of Fair Game, The OaKs regale Faith Salie with a lush new song and a few vivid tales of life in Afghanistan.

Redux: The Political Trenches

As pundits and pollsters spout their wisdom from every media outlet in the nation, few radio shows give us a sense of what it's really like to work in politics. The deluge of faces and names, critical levels of sleep deprivation, and a pervasive sense of bleary-eyed awe characterize most young people's experiences on the campaign trail. This episode of The Story brings us two very different accounts of youthful devotion to a political cause.

Redux: "He Does Kinda Look Like Jesus"

Osama Bin Laden as a hottie Jesus look alike? Only at the Ohm dinner table. This and more stories of "tough rooms" and people who dare to say the wrong thing to the wrong people. From The Onion to Malcolm Gladwell, celebrities abound in this first new episode of This American Life all year.

Redux: Bring on the Bacon

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Eat less, move more, quit smoking, blah blah blah. It turns out that Uncle Sam would rather we eat and smoke to our heart's content. That way we'll kick the bucket before the truly expensive nursing home costs rack up, according to a new study out of the Netherlands. Maybe that's why the Dutch have so much fun.

Redux: Revisit 2006 in Sound

Peter Bochan is one of my favorite producers. Since the 1970s he's been pulling together what he calls "shortcuts," which are masterfully-edited year-end wrap-ups in sound, combining music, interviews, and soundbites from the year. By juxtaposing these he creates meaning where perhaps none (or not the same meaning) existed before. The folks at Third Coast share a snippet of his Shortcuts - 2006 piece and talk to Peter about his process.