Comments by Todd Melby

Comment for "Here There is No Moon (European version 31:54)"

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Review of Here There is No Moon (European version 32:28)

As one of the leading causes of death, suicide is a topic worthy of a documentary, both from a public health perspective and because it is misunderstood and scary. Here, the producer of "Here There is No Moon," weaves interviews with people who have attempted suicide (including a chilling account of one man who survived a leap from the Golden Gate Bridge) with music and readings from fictional texts. The piece lacks narration and doesn't focus long on any single story, choosing to move back and forth between stories. This unconventional approach didn't work for me. I found myself wanting to be guided, even just a little bit, by a narrator. Also, just as a particularly effective piece of audio was sending a chill up and down my spine (I especially liked the clip from the police officer telling someone --- a possible jumper? --- "Open your eyes, sir"), another piece of audio from a separate story was arriving. This montage continued throughout the documentary.

Comment for "Now You MOMbo: Hour 3: Worry and Work/Home" (deleted)

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Review of Now You MOMbo: Hour 3: Worry and Work/Home (deleted)

Like most parents, Nanci Olesen wants to be the best mother she can be. However, clouded by doubt, this Minneapolis-based producer worries she's not up to the task. And that's the key to the sucess of this show and others in the "Now You MOMbo" series. As a mother of three children (ages 10-14), Olesen is an experienced, and one would guess, pretty damn good Mom. But if that's the case, Olesen never lets listeners in on this fact. Instead, she explores doubt and a myriad of parental issues that many listeners will enjoy hearing. The tone of her show (Olesen is host, interviewer and the prime creative force here) is that of women gathering in a breakfast nook over a cup of coffee as the kids engage in some creative, educational activity in the room next door. Men looking for acknowledgment of the importance of Dads should start their own show. This is, Olesen, reminds listeners, is a show created "by Moms and for Moms." And chances are, they'll enjoy it.

Comment for "Owning Guns"

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Review of Owning Guns

Too many writers feel the need to bash audiences over the head with their message. They pose dilemmas and promply offer solutions. The best part about Jay Allison's "Owning Guns" are the questions left unanswered. In this essay, he talks about his desire to buy a gun after his divorce, not for bad intentions, but for a sense of ... we don't know exactly. He doesn't say. He hints the handgun purchases might offer a sense of emotional safety, not physical safety. (The writer fired guns as a youth.) And he's smart enough to check in with his kids about it. His daughter advises him against it: "It's not you, Dad." He goes ahead anyway, buying a couple of handguns that he later fools around with while watching TV. We hear the click-click-click of the empty chamber as we imagine Jay watching TV, allowing the numbness of the media to wash over him as he ponders his uncertain future. There are other great audio snippets: A gun shop owner matter-of-factly describing his wares, the interaction with his kids and the bang-bang-bang of the gun on the firing range. This piece already aired on ATC, but it's worth another listen.

Comment for "The Essence of Dick Cheney's RNC Speech"

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Review of The Essence of Dick Cheney's RNC Speech

To some listeners, this piece may seem like an attack on the vice president. To others, it might appear to be a missive about the dangers of a post-9/11 world and, of course, the relative safety of Bush/Cheney v. Kerry/Edwards. The producer does a fine job of taking the essence of Cheney's apocalyptic warnings and knitting them into a tidy, and at 2:02, a very tight package. The words come so fast, I found myself chuckling: "Danger ... 19 men armed with knives ... Fanatics ... Terrorists ... Nuclear weapons ... Technology ... Communism." I only wish the producer had come up with a similar piece on Edward's optimism or Kerry's unending use of the phrase "I have a plan ... I have a plan ... I have a plan."

Comment for "The Economist Swing State Reports: Minnesota"

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Review of The Economist Swing State Reports: Minnesota

As a Minnesota resident, I've followed state politics here for more than 20 years and this 2:55 summary of the 2004 election campaign is an excellent primer. It delves deep into the geo-political details, noting that Anoka County is Ventura country (nicknamed for the former wrestler-governor) and that the state hasn't elected a Democrat for governor since the 1990s. The reporter also rightly notes that the Democrats here aren't really Democrats; they call themselves DFLers or members of the Democrat-Farmer-Labor party. I think what the Economist is trying to do here is a mini-version of their exhaustive eight-page country surveys that appear in the magazine. And while I find all of this political minutia fascinating, I wonder if people outside our friendly borders will.

Comment for "HV Special: Home Team (Baseball)"

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Review of HOME TEAM Baseball Special

It's difficult to believe a special could be both amusing and dark, but "Home Team" is both. We just aired this on KFAI in Minneapolis. Host Gwen Macsai does an embarrassing rendition of the National Anthem at a minor league game, Dan Collison recounts an odd footnote in baseball history: The Potato Ball Caper. (The catcher sneaks a potato onto the field and uses it to fake out a runner, later tagging him out with the real baseball. It's like something you did as a kid!)

And then there's the eeriy "Dug-Out," a long piece that's sure to intrigue listeners. I don't know quite what to make of it, but I like it. Actors with southern accents tell a disjointed story of violence, exploring the real meaning of the word "dugout." According to this piece, baseball dugouts were originally called "graves" because they were rectangluar and dug into the earth.

Listeners are sure to be entertained in the first 30 minutes of this program and a little confused in the second 30 minutes.

And that's a good thing.

Comment for "RN Documentary: Intersex"

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Review of RN Documentary: Intersex

This subject is certainly worthy of a documentary. In the United States, journalist John Colapinto's 2001 book, "As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised A Girl," elevated awareness about the topic of intersexuality. In the book, Colapinto describes the story of a Canadian boy whose penis was severed during a botched circumcision in the late 1960s. His parents took him to the leading sexologist of the day --- Dr. John Money of Johns Hopkins University. Money recommended the boy become a girl. His tragic tale is the centerpiece of Colapinto's book.

While this documentary doesn't have the benefit of such a single, powerful story, it does a fine job of giving listeners an introduction to the intersexuality.

"For most of us, it's not about gender," says one person born with an intersex condition. "It's about shame, secrecy ... we were told by doctors not to tell other people about our coniditon. Not telling ... is more difficult than the condition itself."

By educating physicians and the public about intersex, activists are attempting to remove the condition from the shadows of secrecy. The most active group in the U.S. is the Intersex Society of North America ( Programmers looking to provide a full hour on this topic could air the documentary and interview Colapinto and/or an ISNA spokesperson.

Comment for "Sounds of the Suburbs"

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Review of Sounds of the Suburbs

This soundscape could serve as "Exhibit A" for those in favor of the suburbanization of America. Kids run around unfettered by adult supervision, someone slices wood with a saw, a car door opens and one hears the sound of a friendly beep, a shopper visits a grocery store ("Would you like paper or plastic?") and the piece concludes, just as it opens, with the sounds of crickets in the quiet night. Only the hum of faraway Interstate traffic can be hear in the distant background.

In short, I liked it!

However, about three minutes in, I found myself looking at the clock wondering how much longer the piece would run. Some impatient listeners (and program/news directors) might prefer a shorter piece or multiple, shorter pieces focused on specific activities (kids playing, grocery shopping, etc.)

Having said that, I'm going to recommend the piece to the producers of a documentary/soundscape show I host on my local community radio station.

Comment for "Vegetarian for Dinner (es#73)"

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Review of Vegetarian for Dinner (es#73)

Life poses many large ethical questions: Do you support the war in Iraq? Should you send your kids to a racially-integrated public school, even though the academics might be shaky?

This piece poses a more down-to-earth question: What do you do if you accidently include chicken broth in the meal you're making for your vegetarian friend? Do you keep mum, hoping she won't notice? Or do you fess up?

In this fast-paced piece, the producers offer listeners a light-hearted debate on the subject as upbeat music plays underneath their voices. At 1:59, it's a perfect length for many purposes. I'd recommend it.

My only beef (pardon the pun), is that the conversation sounded a bit scripted.