Redux: Nuclear Holocaust + Gogol Bordello = Best Studio 360 Ever

Ever since I saw footage of Chernobyl in Mrs. Wray's 6th grade science class, I've been a wee bit obsessed with the idea of a nuclear holocaust. Sure it's kind of morbid, but the idea that the human race could be wiped out by its own creation is oddly appealing. And since robots haven't turned on us yet, a nuclear meltdown is the most likely scenario (not that I think about these things).

This week's Studio 360 focuses on America's cultural fascination with all things nuclear. Highlights include:

- A noted psychiatrist who helped America through a generation of nuclear disaster phobias.

- An incredible interview with Gogol Bordello's front man Eugene Hutz whose near escape from Chernobyl and the gypsy relatives with whom he took refuge still inspire his music today.

- An aging hippie who lives inside a decommissioned nuclear base and has made a real estate business out of selling abandoned nuclear silos in Kansas. Don't miss the slideshow.

The only thing that could possibly improve this episode would be this Josh Ritter song:

Blog: Morning Becomes Someone Else's Problem

After 10 years as music director at KCRW and host of Morning Becomes Eclectic, Nic Harcourt will be moving on. Since 1998, he has been hosting the 3-hour daily music show from Los Angeles after leaving Woodstock, NY's WDST.

Each week the 15 hours of music gets boiled down into the best 2 hours for PRI's Sounds Eclectic. If that wasn't enough "the most influential DJ in America" also hosts a weekly video podcast, Tuned In.

Why is Nic leaving? Let's hear it straight from the source:

"As a parent of two young children, I believe it’s time for me to explore new career opportunities and expand upon my other activities in movie, television, voice over work, advertising and the Internet. My heartfelt thanks and gratitude go to KCRW, the staff and volunteers who have supported my work through the years, but most of all to the listeners."

Don't fret too much... Nic will still be hosting a weekly show on Sundays between 6pm and 9pm.

We can't wait to see what happens next, but KCRW's General Manager says they are actively seeking a new voice to fill the void. Don't worry, Ruth, my demo is in the mail. If you think my complete lack of experience is a problem, maybe you'll consider our other favorite music director/host, Matt Shiv from WOXY.com.

Redux: Spooky, Scary

For all of the vampires and zombies that come crawling out of our collective imaginations on Halloween, sometimes nothing is scarier than the truth. In its post-Halloween spectacular This American Life tells us what we should really be afraid of - real life. So turn off the lights and curl up with your mp3 player for a hauntingly good time. You'll never look at raccoons the same way again.

Photo by alasam via Flickr

Redux: First Time Voter, 95 Years Old

Aredelia Edmondson has lived through two World Wars and 17 different Presidents, but never voted until this fall. Raising ten children and four grandchildren - all while working the night shift - left her with no time to vote, she says. But this year she curled her hair and got dressed up to vote for Barack Obama. As an African American who lived through the Jim Crow South, she says she couldn't be prouder.

The Story's Dick Gordon drove an hour and a half to Wilson, North Carolina to sit on Ardelia's couch and talk to her about what it mean to vote for the first time. It's a beautiful piece of oral history that we are lucky to have on tape.

Blog: This is What Democracy Looks Like

If you're heading out to the polls in Illinois today, don't forget your camera. WBEZ wants pictures of your polling place for their Polling Place Photo Project. There is something visceral about these beautiful old churches, schools and community centers. Some are more ornate than others, but they all convey that proud, jittery, patriotic feeling of democracy at work.

Photo by zen

Redux: You Talkin' To Me?

More than TV or newspapers, radio has a certain "reach out and grab you" quality. It's the feeling that the voice on the other side of the speaker is talking just to you, with a wink and a nod through the airwaves. Last night, while I was grilling chicken and chopping carrots, Weekend America called my name.

About halfway through the podcast, host John Moe introduced the Weekend Soundtrack segment. Mark Delmonte's struggle was familiar: searching for a place to call home. Mark spent a year living in different cities and towns across the country, all while listening to "City Boy" by Keb' Mo'. I'm not much of a Keb' Mo' fan, but last year my husband Rich and I packed up the Honda tried out four different cities, looking for a place to settle down. Like Mark, we wanted to live someplace affordable and full of natural beauty that would make us smile each morning. It turns out that we all found the exact same place: Asheville, North Carolina. What are the odds?

But then John Moe brought up something that has haunted me since I was six years old: Large Marge from Pee-Wee's Big Adventure. It was a segment on kids movies that terrorize us long into adult hood. The scene when Large Marge's eyeballs bugged way out of her skull gave me nightmares for years. At the end of this week's show, John Moe watched a YouTube clip of that very scene while on the phone with listener Matt Franks who was also scarred by this terrible movie. They didn't play the audio, but waiting for John Moe's reaction made my skin crawl. I could see Large Marge's eyeballs bulge with a vividness I didn't think possible. Suddenly I was six years old again. My heart was racing and I just wanted it to be over.

Blog: Driving Uphill for Sound

Last week I drove up a steep gravel path, deep in the mountains of Western North Carolina. After beeping my horn to encourage a slow moving cow to mosey on out of the road, I found Alan Orovitz's house. Sure, Alan's house doesn't show up on GoogleMaps, but that didn't deter NPR's Joel Rose. The Philly-based freelance journalist was working on a story about white spaces, or the broadcast airwaves that could be used to deliver high-speed internet to rural or under served areas - like Alan Orovitz's house - if the FCC vote goes through.

Since the road from Philly to rural North Carolina is a long one (and I live a scant 45 minutes away), NPR sent me to do the recording. Joel interviewed Alan over the phone and I recorded Alan's answers. This is called a "tape sync" and it's one of the tools that freelancers use to keep costs down. It's expensive (and time consuming) to fly to the location of every story you want to do. So instead, NPR hires people like me to do the recording for them. I got to drive through a beautiful mountain town, meet new people, and even pick up a few story ideas. All in all, not a bad use of a morning. Plus, my '97 Honda got to stand bumper to knee cap with a cow for the first time.

Click here to hear Joel Rose's finished piece which aired on Morning Edition today.

(Photo by Daysleeper724 because I forgot my camera. Doh!)

Redux: With Less Than a Week to Go....

I find myself listening to On Point with Tom Ashbrook every day, partly because of the diverse topics the show focuses on, but mostly because Tom is a great live radio host. He asks good questions, he knows when to move from guest to caller and then back again. He never acts as if he knows everything already - something that I'm discovering is what I really value in a radio host (but should be a given).

In the week leading up to one of the most important presidential elections of my life, this particular episode of On Point helped me wrap my head around where McCain and Obama differ and agree on the Iraq war. A must-listen if you're like me and couldn't really articulate the nuances of the two's views and approaches.

Redux: Goodbye Studs Terkel

Sorry, no audio. Try the permalink.

The world lost one of its great listeners today. Studs Terkel -- the great oral historian, author, and radio host -- loved to listen to everyday people, ask them questions and revel in their memories. Whether the topic was the Great Depression, World War II, or simply Work, Terkel never gravitated towards the rich or elite. He believed that average, hard-working Americans had the best stories to tell. As Joe the Plumber and Joe Six Pack are propped up for political angling, I'm curious what questions Studs would ask them. I quite positive they'd have more to say than Drill Baby Drill.

Blog: Name That Tune

By now you've likely heard the hubub surrounding the "creative" editing and anonymous YouTube posting of a 7 year old Obama interview. The year was 2001. Usher had a hit song, gas cost $1.30 a gallon, and Illinois State Senator Barack Obama was a guest on the now defunct Chicago Public Radio program Odyssey. Now some anonymous McCain supporter has edited Obama's remarks on civil rights into a four minute rant on the redistribution of wealth. Ah, the perils of free editing software.

Now that the initial scandal has passed, Chicago Public Radio's Josh Andrews has some some funny things to say about the joys of digging through archival tape. Namely, Odyssey's theme song.

See, choosing a radio theme song is no easy task:

a) It must be catchy, but not too catchy. Never forget that you'll be hearing the damn thing every day.

b) It must command gravitas or at least sincerity. No one wants their news served up with a side of Barney.

c) It must also convey the lively moments and perhaps even the fun you'll be having on the air. Somber timpani solos are not the answer.

But way back at the turn of the century, the fine folks at Odyssey found the perfect song: "Son of My Father" by some random Russian guy named Miguel Ramos. Ramos never made it to the internet age, but Josh Andrews managed to dig up an even zanier version of the same song. Please note the lead singer's outstanding hair, after the jump.