Blog: Get Your Questions Ready

If you're dying to know how Andrew Bird spins his magical web of violin, guitar, cleverly disjointed lyrics (and of course his emblematic whistle), head on over to NPR Music for a live chat with Andrew Bird at 1pm EST today.

Tick tock - You have five minutes to come up with something brilliant.

(Thanks for the heads up, Mediavore)

Blog: The Tote Bags Will Rock Your World

Journalists: Pick up your guitars and turn up your amps. Journopalooza is about to rock DC. On Friday January 9th, writers from The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and other notable newspapers will be putting down their pens and picking up the mic in order to compete in a mega battle of the bands.

One glaring omission from the line up is National Public Radio.
In order to correct this egregious error, I now present...

The Tote Bags

This freak-folk, psychedelic/garage rock ensemble features:

Noah Adams - Guitar
Michele Norris - Vocals
Steve Inskeep - Bass
Mandalit del Barco - Drums
Terry Gross - Flute
Robert Krulwich - Glockenspiel
Frank Deford - Tambourine & Egg Shaker
Rob Sachs - Interpretive Dance & Laser Show

Bloomberg News: This means war!

(Photo of Adobe's Battle of the Bands by adrants.)

Redux: Carl Kasell: Answering Machine God

Carl Kasell has been awarding personalized answering messages to Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me winners for ages. It's one of those public radio "things" like the Morning Edition theme song and Ira Glass' glasses.

So of course Sir Kasell would be the perfect person to answer Rob's questions about how to leave a good message for his What Would Rob Do podcast. The tips are pretty straightforward: be brief, be coherent, and don't be a jerk.

The true gem of this podcast is Kasell's voicemail masterpieces. He reads whatever the winners want - he'll even sing a tune or act out the beep. Yep, it's time to start working on something clever.

Photo by pfv.

Redux: Where Were You At 7:15 Last Night?

Keeping a journal is one of those lofty goals that usually falls flat after a few days. Much like doing sit ups and eating more veggies, keeping a record of our daily lives is good in theory and hard to do.

What if you could document both the mundane and sublime with the push of a button? Just grab your camera and keep an eye on the clock. At 7:15 each night, take a picture of whatever you're doing.

It sounds simple, but the results can be startling. NPR's Leah Scarpelli followed Brad Walker and Michael Lease as they added the final photo to www.sametime715.com, a year long project in which photographers synchronized their cameras and took a picture each day at 7:15pm for the entirety of 2008.

Some listeners were enthralled by the project. Others called it nothing more than "A Sum of Zeros." Do you think there's value in documenting the vicissitudes of life, one photo at a time?

Photo by Leo Reynolds

Redux: This Just In: Ducks Walk On Fish... For Now

You may never have heard of it, but Linesville, PA is famous. Nearly 500,000 visitors a year flock a nearby dam to watch something spectacular: a school of fish so thick that ducks can literally walk on top of the fish's backs. But ducks may not stride across the fish for long. See, the ducks only walk on fish when there's bread to fight over. This seems like a no-brainer - just bus in a class of kindergarteners and a few loaves of Wonder Bread, right?

Well, local officials say that residents and tourists alike have been abusing their ducks-on-fish privileges by throwing everything from Twinkies to half-eaten birthday cakes into the dam. So they've decided to take away bread throwing altogether, much to the dismay of local business owners and small children. And we all know better than to disappoint small children.

Not only is this story quirky and fascinating, it is expertly produced. As part of Long Haul Productions' song/story series, the story is told without narration. Towns people's voices clamor over quacking ducks, news reports, and most importantly the lyrics of Tim Fite's song "Bread In The Water" which was written exclusively for this story. Hilarious and touching moments abound in this story you'll be dropping into casual dinner conversation well into '09.

Photo by Gaetan Lee

Redux: Save Money and the Environment in One Easy Step

It turns out that all of this worrying about the economy might actually be productive. So says Lester Brown, founder of the Earth Policy Institute. He says that every time we turn down the heat or reconsider that trip across town - all in the interest of saving money - we're helping the environment too.

This might seem like a "duh" statement - of course we're conserving oil when we drive less. What makes this news is the fact that we've reached a critical mass. All of our worrying about money is prompting millions of Americans to turn off lights, buy fewer plastic things made in China, and drive less even when gas prices are low. Have we finally given up our quintessentially American "more is more" philosophy? Probably not. But at least we're saving a few trees while we worry.

Cartoon courtesy of We Blog Cartoons

Redux: In Search of a Family

In preparation for my 16 (and what turned out to be 20+)-hour drive home for the holidays, I downloaded hours and hours of good radio. And what I found myself listening to the most -- out of everything from the New Yorker fiction podcast to This American Life -- were episodes of American Public Media's American RadioWorks. In my day-to-day life I seldom have the space for their hour-long pieces (and that is just plain sad), but on the road I was thirsty for them.

What I love about their approach is that they often spend a year or more, following their stories so you really get to know their subjects. We're not just hearing sound bites -- we're getting a glimpse into their lives and minds.

This is the case with their thought-provoking and moving, "Wanted: Parents," produced by Catherine Winter and Ellen Guettler. We follow Chris and Amanda -- two teenage siblings who were abandoned by their mother when they were just 10 and 11 years old -- as they struggle with whether or not they want to be adopted. It's a bit more complicated than you might think.

Blog: Goodbye Weekend America

Weekend America will be shutting down production on January 31st, according to an inside source at American Public Media. Thirteen full and part-time positions will be cut, although it looks like some of the staff will find new jobs within the company.

No word yet on who will stay and who will go, but I'd like to put my vote in for John Moe. The poor guy moved to St. Paul for the gig. Plus, his quirky delivery and amusing observations never fail to brighten the show. I hope American Public Media can find a good use for his talents.

Best of luck to everyone at Weekend America. Your show will be missed.

Redux: How to Tie a Scarf

Okay, it's winter and unless you live in Florida that means you need a coat, hat, gloves, and scarf. Most winter gear is pretty straightforward: insert harms into coat. Put hat on head. Hands go inside your mittens.

Before you haphazardly throw a scarf on top of it all, take a listen to Studio 360's Design for the Real World. Apparently, there is a right and a wrong way to tie a scarf. Veronique Vienne speaks with authority on the fashion faux pas of a limp neck accessory (so embarrassing for you and the scarf).

Clearly a well-tied scarf is a virtue, so grab your favorite and start practicing.

Photo by qusic via flickr

Blog: NPR Cuts 64 Jobs

Rumors that NPR was cutting Day to Day and News and Notes have been swirling for the past 24 hours, but no one guessed it would be this bad. National Public Radio cut 64 jobs today - 7% of its work force. Even worse, it will stop producing Day to Day and News and Notes in March. Throw in a 9% staff cut at WBEZ last Friday and you've got one sad month in public radio.

It's not because not because people aren't listening. Morning Edition and All Things Considered have a listenership of 26 million people. In fact, NPR execs thought they'd be hiring people this year. Then several of NPR's major funding sources started to falter. Underwriting and foundation donations are down and that $200 million dollar Kroc gift that was supposed to ensure NPR's financial future actually lost money this year because of its ties to the stock market. So it comes down to our crumbling economy. Again.

Laid off NPR (and Chicago Public Radio) staffers, we're thinking of you tonight...