Blog: What if Kids Ruled The World?

Any kid who's ever played king of the mountain has wondered, "What if we ruled the world?" No grown-ups, no rules, just chaos, candy, and cacophony. Picture that grand experiment scaled down to 34 minutes of audio.

More sound art than documentary, this beguiling piece by Alessandro Bosettirequires some aural re-orientation. The narrative thread isn't immediately apparent, and if I hadn't read the description by the fine folks at Third Coast, I might have turned off this sonic abstract expressionism too soon.

The key to understanding this remarkable piece is to let storytelling fall by the wayside and approach it like modern art. The piece alternates between surprising precociousness and total immaturity. It leaves you guessing, just like kids everywhere inevitably do.

(photo by Jose Maria Cuellar via Flickr/Creative Commons)

Redux: Bee MPG

Sorry, no audio.

Honey bees are certainly useful (all that pollination brings us flowers each spring) and they're also kinda cute. Now, with the help of some creative mathematics, they've also proven to be some of the most efficient vehicles out there.

My radio hero Robert Krulwich has once again used his scientific magic to determine how far a bee could fly on one gallon of honey. Don't worry, they didn't pour a gallon of honey down some poor bee's throat a la foie gras. With little more than a bee-sized tether ball pole and some fancy math, they were able to figure out just how far a bee could fly without having to refuel.

It turns out, bees can fly pretty damn far on a gallon of honey, leaving the folks at VW quaking in their boots. The new L1 may be far more human-sized, but its 170 miles to the gallon looks pathetic next to the uber-efficient honeybee. Check out Neil Wagner's whimsical illustrations if you have any doubts.

Bees are great an all, but this story ignores one pressing question: how far can a jaguar go on 100 pounds of meat? Inquiring minds want to know, so get on it, Krulwich.

(photo by Paul Stein via Flickr/Creative Commons)

Blog: "Capturing the Brief Life and Death of an Infant" on ATC

I've been meaning to write about this piece since I first heard it on All Things Considered over a month ago. That day I was in a mad rush and had just turned in to the grocery store parking lot when I found myself pulled in to this story about a mother, her son, and the photographer who documented his very brief life and passing. I had one of those "driveway moments," even though I didn't even have a driveway at the time. I sat, very still, and listened right up to the very end - to the inevitable "produced by Mary Beth Kirchner" credit.

I write "inevitable" because almost any time I hear a story that is of a sensitive nature and is produced really amazingly, with a feeling of intimacy and grace, without the sense that the producer is even present, nine times out of ten, it's produced by Mary Beth Kirchner. She is my radio hero. I have raved about her on Public Radio Redux before, back when I was really impacted by her documentary, A Year to Live, A Year to Die and also by her talk at the Third Coast conference in 2007. She's not only a sensitive and smart producer, but she's really really nice, too. I love it when that happens.

Have a listen and when you're done, learn more about Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, the non-profit highlighted in this story that, with their network of over 7,000 volunteer photographers, "provides families of babies who are stillborn or are at risk of dying as newborns with free professional portraits with their baby."

Photo used with permission from photographer Ashley Hutcheson (thank you!).

Blog: The Ultimate Pledge

We all know that warm, glowy feeling we get from making a donation to public radio. It feels like basking in a fluffy toasted marshmallow (er, something). But who knew it could lead to wedded bliss?

Shawn Millard donated $500 to WAMU in Washington to have the host read this simple message,"Today’s programs are made possible in part by Shawn Millard, who asks that his most wonderful girlfriend become his most wonderful wife."

She said yes, everybody clapped, and instant marshmallow-hood was achieved. Public radio love. Aww.

(photo by Samiksha K via Flick/Creative Commons)

Blog: Happy Happy

Haaaaapy New Year! Yep, after all the beer drinking and horn blowing, it's time to make some resolutions. This year I will:

a) Blog more often. I kinda fell down on the job this year, so expect much more from Public Radio Redux in 2010

b) Have less stress in my life. This one will be tougher. Working on Word of Mouth has been amazing. I can't tell you how many fascinating things and amazing people I've encountered. But the daily deadlines are getting to me, and after much consideration (and a major health scare) I've decided to leave New Hampshire and go back to freelancing.

It's a big decision, especially in the uncertain world of radio. However, it's more important to be happy and healthy than to have a kick ass business card right?

All this to say, you'll be seeing much more of Public Radio Redux this year. Now that's worth a chorus of Auld Lang Syne.

Photo by sPaceCowGir via Flickr/Creative Commons

Blog: Don't Set That Alarm, Carl

After 30 years, NPR veteran Carl Kasell won't be setting his alarm for 1 a.m. tomorrow. He gave his final newscast on Wednesday and will soon retreat to civilian life, where it's dark out when he goes to bed and morning doesn't happen just after midnight.

As someone who's woken up before sunrise for many a radio show (although none as early and prestigious as Morning Edition), I feel Carl's pain. I also thank and admire him for decades of service to public radio listeners. I hope he wakes up tomorrow at 10am, drinks a big mug of coffee, and reads the New York Times cover to cover.

Never fear - ol' Carl will still be hosting Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me, giving our Sundays the perfect mix of hilarious quips and lame dad jokes. We'll have to limp along weekday mornings, but it just wouldn't be the weekend without him.

(Photo of that sweet purple alarm clock I really, really want by H is for Home via Flickr/Creative Commons)

Blog: We're back....

I'm sorry we've let this blog languish, but, like Jen, I'm ready to return to Public Radio Redux-ing! We hope you're still out there.

I wasn't going to go into why I've been absent, but then realized that I'd be missing an opportunity to spread the word about a subject that has become very important to me.

This summer I lost my father to suicide. He had been suffering from what we think was bipolar II, a disease that, from what I've come to understand from my reading, is pretty treatable with medication. If you know someone who is suffering from bipolar or depression, please please encourage them to seek help. There are tons of resources out there, among them the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, an organization which has provided a great deal of comfort and information to me and my sister in the immediate weeks following my dad's death.

A radio piece that has stayed with me from the first time I heard it years ago - well before I had a personal connection to suicide - is Jake Warga's Chasing Death: Understanding a Friend’s Suicide. Have a listen. And if you've been impacted by suicide, know that you're not alone.

Blog: Lend Me Your Ears

Okay, so I love the National Day of Listening. Not only is it a great alternative to the 4a.m. insanity of mall and big box stores (where people literally kill for the best deals), but it's also a great chance to sit down and really talk to the people you love. An opportunity to unravel all those old family stories and learn something new about each other.

Tonight we had a big, warm, sparkling family Thanksgiving at my in-law's house. Joining us were some wonderful family friends who emigrated from Russia with just a few hundred dollars. They taught themselves English, started a very successful business, and raised a happy family here. They are smart, determined people who have such an amazingly humble view on life. Plus, they were witnesses to one of the biggest shifts in power of the 20th century.

I'm so glad Thanksgiving gives us all a chance to ask questions and truly listen to each other. What will you be talking about this weekend?

Blog: Hello Out There

So you've probably noticed that Public Radio Redux has been ahem, a bit slow the past six months. That's because I've been up at New Hampshire Public Radio producing their fantastically compelling midday show Word of Mouth.

Someone once described it as all their favorite blogs in sound. It's a dizzyingly wonderful job, full of crazy deadlines and lots of fascinating topics. Just recently, we covered tech crafting, a Muslim teen handbook, undersea robots, holograms for business meetings, and a slew of other topics. I get to learn about four to five utterly interesting topics every day and speak to leaders in the fields of everything from robotics to religion. You should check out the podcast! Anyway, Word of Mouth keeps me pretty busy. Hence the radio silence over here at PRR.

I've been listening to plenty of radio, though. Lots of Fresh Air, The Story, and Dinner Party Download. Also, This American Life and Radio Lab have been pretty damn good lately.

So let us know what you've been listening to!

Redux: The Real LeWitt

Last week we went down to my favorite museum, MASS MoCA, for their 10th anniversary extravaganza. There was an opening for 3 new exhibitions, a black tie dinner (which we didn't go to), and a party with Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings. Best of all perhaps, we got to finally see the Sol LeWitt wall drawing retrospective.

MASS MoCA is built in 19th century factory buildings on a 13-acre campus. Only a portion of the buildings have been renovated and are in use. The retrospective is housed in an newly renovated building spanning 3 floors representing the 3 stages of LeWitt's work.

The wall drawings are deceptively simple in concept. The art is merely a set of instructions. They can be as simple as "The location of one hundred random specific points. (The locations are determined by the draftsman.)," but the execution is something entirely different. The exhibit took 65 people just about 6 months to install.

The result is breathtaking. Wall after wall of massively intricate pieces of art painted or drawn directly on the wall. At this point you are surely thinking, "If I have the instructions can't I just do it myself at home?" Studio 360 conveniently explored this topic the day before we saw the exhibit.

The official answer is that each drawing has an official certificate and if you sell the artwork, you hand over the certificate and have to paint over your wall. If you buy a LeWitt a team of official draftspeople come and install it on your wall of choice.

Between you and me, I'm thinking about drawing a Sol LeWitt in my house and I'm pretty sure it would make me happy too. This was the first time I really felt like I understood, not just appreciated, conceptual art and it was a really nice feeling.

I recommend everyone heads to North Adams and gets that really nice feeling. If you are too far away, MASS MoCA has a great web component to the retrospective and the catalog will be coming out in July (designed by friend of the blog and museum design director, Dan McKinley).

Also in this episode: speaking in (Klingon) tongues, Jill Sobule finds her long tail, and Design for the Real World tells us how to cubicle got so wrong.