Comments by Yolette Garcia

Comment for "President Clinton at Harvard-Kennedy School May 4, 2007 raw audio"

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Review of President Clinton at Harvard-Kennedy School May 4, 2007 raw audio

President Clinton gives the "road rules" for what presidents and other leaders should do in timely ways to prevent catastrophic events, all in a 44 minute speech without pause. He exhibits what he is best known for: a casual conversation about complex issues based on his ability to digest hundreds of facts and to synthesize them in a cogent manner.

He believes presidents should never allow politics to substitute for competence, nor allow ideology to overshadow facts; work collaboratively; and take small steps to avert disasters if big steps can't be taken. He applies these rules to re-think the reduction of greenhouse gases, American healthcare, Katrina, resource depletions and population explosions. As he begins, it seems as if he is taking his digs at the Bush administration, but then he talks about the American public's responsibility in preventing bad circumstances from happening. Following his own rule of not allowing ideology to overshadow facts, he praises Bush for what he is doing right.

After his speech he takes questions from the audience, but the questioners are not miked. This is raw audio of a speech and program directors would be wise to edit out the Q&A for quality and continuity sake. I smiled as I listened to the first question, but all you can hear is Clinton popping a soda can open--a diet Coke perhaps?

The speech is worth setting up and running because of the importance of potential global catastrophes and hearing Clinton's nimble mind at work.

Comment for "HV Special: Wordshakers (Poetry)"

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Review of WORDSHAKERS Poetry Special

"Wordshakers" is a beautifully rendered compilation of the spoken word, not only because of its rhythms, but also because of its wit and relevance. The narrative presence of host and poet Andrei Codrescu is strong. He seduces listeners into his revelry of poets, readings, and songs.

He hooked me from the start with Thomas Edison's scratchy and hard to understand recordings of Tennyson and Whitman. Codrescu, who calls Whitman the Daddy-O of American poetry, knows what he hears in that unstinting recorded voice: "I hear Whitman in my dreams," he says. And it's on to a re-mixed Carl Sandburg, the everyday poetry of a hot dog vendor, the provocative piece by a stripper and the Beat poets, among others.

What's interesting is that during the two half-hour segments, different producers shape how each poet sounds with high production values. One moment it's the re-fashioning of Sandburgs's dramatic and tremulous voice with contemporary music, and for another, it's a counterpoint between wordshaker Alex Caldiero and producer Scott Carrier. For me the most moving piece features Jan Kerouac's poetry about her absent father, Jack. This segment is produced by Marjorie Van Halteren
and it snaps with brilliant beat: one of jazz, one of Jan and one of Jack.

Who can argue with hearing the joy of double-dutch rhymes, cheerleading chants and the poignantly realized sing-a-long of a teenaged girl with of Phoebe Snow's recording of "Poetry Man"? All of these voices are included with their poetic truths. High marks for a terrific hour.

Comment for "Pastures of Plenty: The Future of Farm Labor"

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Review of Pastures of Plenty: The Future of Farm Labor

Producer Rachel Anne Goodman does a Herculean job of looking at the history of California farm workers. In this last part of her series, Goodman focuses on the current influx of Mexican migrant workers and how their future is tied to ours.
With recent anti-immigrant sentiments and attempts to reform immigration laws, Goodman has the perfect peg for her story.

She does a good job of bringing in the voices of the laborers, who just want to make a living wage. As one of the workers states,"Everyone has the right to eat." She also peppers her program with experts such as historian Sandy Lyon and former Texas Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower. But the most interesting and least predictable observation comes from Photographer Richard Stevens Street, who informs how workers from Oaxaca, Mexico live in camps at the bottom of canyons. His description of their lives is moving."It's Grapes of Wrath all over," he says.

The freshest stories are at the end which explore best practices by organic farmers --those who treat their workers as human beings in an environment that's free from pesticides. The final story is about Alba Farms, a place that teaches farms workers how to start their own farms.

To my ears there are two weaknesses. One's a small hole in the narrative of worker Jackie Olivares, daughter of an immigrant worker who also is a college graduate. You hear her say how good it is to be working side by side with immigrant men, but you never hear why this is preferable to do after she graduates from college. The other problem is synching up the English translations of the Spanish-speaking workers. Some don't match up, plus depending on the translator, some accuracy may be blurred. Perhaps some re-scripting could help.

Nevertheless, I appreciate her production and welcome her series that contextualizes current farm labor issues witin its painful historical precedents. Regretfully the same conditions seem to happen over and over again.

Comment for "Edge of the Rez, Hour One"

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Review of Edge of the Rez, Hour One

This one-hour special is an insightful account of how Hopi and Navajo peoples in Arizona navigate their dislocation from the reservation (Rez). The featured voices and stories render the pain and some humor about loss, racism and stereotypes.

For me, the most interesting stories were the ones woven between the opening and closing bookends of news reports. I understand the wisdom of re-tooling news reports, but the actual storytelling from a first-person account is much stronger. Plus, the news reports contain references to local pegs, which aren't relevant to stations around the country.

But what unfolds is powerful. Whether you're listening to Mona Seamon return to her birthplace in Navajo country and talk about what lies in ruin because of the government's mandate to move, or to Radmilla Cody, a biracial (African-American and Navajo), professional singer, who talks about how she was ostracized by many in her Native American family because of race, the storytelling hooks you.

Getting subjects to open up and share their innermost thoughts and feelings is hard. I also know that for Native Americans, the proposition is doubly difficult. Why should they entrust their stories to non-natives? KNAU succeeds here.

If you wish to gain good understanding about our ignored native tribes, of which many end up in more urban environments, this piece lays a strong foundation with well-produced sound and content.

Comment for "Soundprint_00049_news: Violet Flame/God Knows Why" (deleted)

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Review of Soundprint_00049_news: Violet Flame/God Knows Why (deleted)

The juxtaposition of these two, half-hour pieces makes sense since they deal with the intangibles of religious calling, but the structure and clarity of each piece differs. The first one, "Violet Flame," is confusing because the producer leaves the narrative in the hands of her interviewees without a framework and identification. She begins well by telling us she wants to understand her sister's participation in The Church Universal and Triumphant, but then she stops assembling a structure. She strings her interviews together without informing us who the characters are and why they are important to the story. I may surmise who they might be, but I'm left to guess their relevance.

Her natural sound is good, especially when it comes to accessing the believers' chants and practices, but she never resolves her quest to understand her sister's membership in this church. We just hear an explanation of what the congregants believe and much of it is sounds like New Age ideas. I was curious enough to dig a little on the origins of these beliefs, which are based on Saint Germain and his Violet Light. I learned that much of this is based on Theosophy and Rosicrucian mysteries. I wish the producer would have explained this instead of me having to look this up.

The second piece, "God Knows Why," revolves around three simple voices and the voice of producer, who conducts her interviews clearly and compellingly. Julie Kimberley is a wonderful storyteller, who allows her Aunt Janny to explain why she entered a cloistered convent, and follows up on how her family has reacted to the situation. You can hear hurt and some harsh judgments from Aunt Janny's brother (Julie's father), and acceptance from her father's younger sister, Maryanne. Aunt Janny stands tall with her beliefs and gives insight into why her devotion to humanity and Christ is strong. This is a beautiful and sad story about a family ruptured by the love for God. I just wish this piece were paired with another just as strong.

Comment for "Hospice Chronicles"

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Review of Hospice Chronicles

As our population grays and larger questions about health care and palliative medicine grow, "Hospice Chronicles" attempts to shed light at least on how we face death with community support. The producers, Dan Collison and Elizabeth Meister, follow two hospice volunteers--Joe and Betty--as they are trained and placed with clients. Their stories are divergent, but give us glimpses not only of the clients, but especially of Joe and Betty. It takes particular character to spend volunteer time with people who are dying.

Betty had worked in social services and was her husband's caregiver, so as a volunteer she had a sense of purpose and clarity. Joe didn't: all he knew is that he wanted to do good, and was a Buddhist on a journey. The surprising twist is that Betty understands impermanence better than Joe, but Joe has a secret he doesn't disclose till the end. The sum of this documentary is who actually helps whom.

The voices are brutally frank, vivid and moving, from Joe and his assigned client, Roger, to Betty and her 97 year-old client Mamie, who shuts down before us. As this documentary shows, human frailty and vulnerability deserve mounds of compassion. After hearing "Hospice Chronicles," we know that death with dignity starts with the acceptance of life in all of its transmutations.

Comment for "Thanksgiving Echoes" (deleted)

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Review of Thanksgiving Echoes (deleted)

Beautiful performances stacked high with flawless musicianship make two hours of listening simply glide by. Producer John Diliberto essentially has segmented four half-hours, each featuring the compositions of specific musicians. He lightly intersperses these performances with interviews about the work.

The acoustic variety is nice, starting with classically infused Appalachian music by Mark O'Connor suggesting land, harvest and tradition. The second half-hour has performances by Al Petteway and Amy White, whose music allows the listener to sense nature's sounds. The third features famed Windham Hill Records founder and guitarist, Will Ackermann, and the fourth is cellist Eugene Friesen, who is associated with The Paul Winter Consort. Both musicians have defined contemporary music in strong, distinct ways.

While I appreciate the Thanksgiving theme of reflection, the artists bring their own timelessness that makes seasonality seem irrelevant. Nevertheless, this is lovely musical programming for celebrating. Thanksgiving Echoes can run for two hours or be segmented into the half hours-the production is seamless either way.

Comment for "Soundprint_00040_news:April in Paris/At Home on Cape Cod" (deleted)

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Review of Soundprint_00040_news:April in Paris/At Home on Cape Cod (deleted)

The seasoned work of Alice Furlaud continues to delight and teach listeners-- whether they've heard her for years on NPR or just found her. These two pieces for "Soundprint" are centered on her life in Paris and later, on Cape Cod. The first is a clever, de-mystifying look at Paris and the second, the discovery of life alone back in the U.S.
"April in Paris" is a collage of romantic notions Americans have about Paris, and Furlaud, ever the realist, pulls them apart, lovingly of course.
She looks at almost everything, ranging from the true meaning of the expression, "O, la la" to how most of the Parisian cabaret dancers are American. But the funniest moment comes when Furlaud describes how Paris is so devoid of stereotypical lovers cuddling on park benches that the government is bent on creating the right atmosphere by hiring "lovers" to parade around. I howled at how Furlaud, the straightforward Yank, convinced a French government minister to unlock the secret. I played right along until the credits at the end share that the French minister was played by Max Furlaud, Alice's husband. I laughed even harder. The piece is so brilliant, it will be timeless.

Furlaud's second piece, "At Home on Cape Cod," is elegiac. It's a tribute to Max, who died of Parkinson's two years after their return to Cape Cod. Furlaud explores memory, sights, and sounds of a place called home that vanishes upon the death of her beloved companion. She does this with her usual funny and unstinting observations, but clearly with sadness. By the end, we learn of yet another loss, all of which would seem hard to bear, but she remains with us. Furlaud is one of the best essayists of life and culture. Luckily she proclaims it all for us to hear.

Comment for "Kawthoolei with newshole"

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Review of Kawthoolei with newshole

This documentary is stunning work. Simply said, it gives the unheard voices of the repressed Burmese a chance to relate how the government's cruelty, torture and ethnic cleansing has nearly annihilated them, except for the hope that still lives in the quiet work of women activists. The listener becomes captivated by the determination of these people, and the sounds of their everyday life, as difficult as it may be.

The world has come to know of their aspirations through Aung San Suu Kyi, but just as eloquent are the voices of women who have organized illegally to advance not only their people's survival but dreams of a peaceful homeland. Kawthoolei is the name the Karen people--the largest ethnic group in Burma--give to their mythical place of origin. Their wish is to recast that place in Burma. The Karen Women's Organization has trained refugees living in camps on the Thai border to become literate, to gain life skills, and more importantly to receive medical care. The stories of Dr. Cynthia's clinic and her Backpack Medics are astounding.

Producer Jack Chance guides us through this Burmese journey with insight, good writing, and exquisite use of sound, music and tone. The hour is gripping because of the way it is put together, and also because it delivers an exceedingly complex topic in a crystalline way.

Comment for "Are You Dialed In? (Full hour version)" (deleted)

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Review of Are You Dialed In? (Full hour version) (deleted)

Connecting voters with their lawmakers through a national call-in show is a terrific idea. Congratulations to the CNC team for getting the funding to do a special on rural America. The format is defined by a couple of elements, starting with set-up pieces by reporters, and followed by reporter debriefs with host Melinda Wittstock. This technique allows the program to be segmented by topics. The featured lawmakers give a good sense of how rural issues impact their regions. Particular ones, such as Sen. Ken Salazar or Congressmen John Peterson, Peter DeFazio and Henry Cuellar may be brought in and out of the conversation, depending on the issue (rural economies, immigration and renewable energy).

Although I like the vision of the format, the pacing seems frenetic at times with little opportunity for the host, callers and guests to really have a conversation. I didn't get a sense of a natural rhythm at all. Also, there is such an earnest attempt to deliver a program that is so balanced with who the callers are and where the lawmakers stand that it deflates good dynamics. I believe you can accomplish a very journalistically sound program without being so anchored to balance. Fairness to the callers and guests, after all, is the key, and there is no question that the CNC team adheres to the best journalistic standards.

Producing and engineering a call-in is no piece of cake, so I appreciate the work. It would be good to have more even levels of sound, as hard as that is to do with varying phone lines. And one minor observation as a station producer: it also would be good to have more consistent music for the breaks, and in one case, eliminate a music bed with lyrics.

That being said, the content was expansive and interesting, and for this urbanite, I was fascinated with the rural topic. For the record, my station subscribes to CNC services.

Comment for "Rembrandt Anniversary Special"

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Review of Rembrandt Anniversary Special

How comforting to know that as we grapple with global threats and wars at the beginning of the 21st century we can count on the durability and beauty of human expression. The fact that the Dutch are celebrating 400 years of Rembrandt's impact on art and culture reminds us of our universalities, not our differences.

Radio Netherlands has produced a cornucopia of programming to commemorate their great Baroque master. This documentary is just one of the offerings. (For more programming, see the website.)

Producer Marijke van der Meer has thoroughly researched her subject from biographical notes and stylistic analysis to the changing perceptions of the artist through the ages. It's interesting, for instance, that he was romanticized in the 19th century by a poet as unsentimental as Baudelaire, and worshipped by the tortured Van Gogh, who longed for spiritual nurturing. As the documentary looks back on our recent 20th century history, we can see that Rembrandt was claimed as a Germanic model by the Nazis, and later grabbed by Marxists. Good interviews with experts and nice scripting keep the narrative fresh.

For me, the second half of the program is the most interesting because the producer interviews a Rembrandt copyist, a collector and a curator to inform how the artist resonates today. I appreciate van der Meer's tenacity in getting her subjects to respond in unvarnished ways.

At a time when European nations are reclaiming art from American museums for repatriation, it is refreshing that Radio Netherlands is willing to share its cultural icon with the rest us.

Comment for "American Soundways - Fort Worth, TX"

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Review of American Soundways - Fort Worth, TX

Understanding the history of a city by looking at the artistry of its musicians is a splendid notion, and "American Soundways" with Tripp Clarke takes big steps in the right direction. Since I live near Fort Worth, and have overseen television series on local history, I have a decent grounding in what has shaped Ft. Worth and Dallas. So I can attest that Clarke researches well and writes clearly, and he doesn't disappoint when he sets up his quick profiles and adds the music.

I was impressed with his initial backgrounder, explaining how Ft. Worth was settled and then moving nicely into what made the settlement notorious in the 19th century-- an area of bordellos and bars called Hell's Half Acre. Why is that important? Because music was essential to the entertainment there. And in fact, an equally notorious area, the contemporary Jacksboro Highway with its juke joints and all, has brought terrific musicians to the fore, who are with us today.

I'm disappointed that there are some disjointed seams in the chronology, such as sticking in a current local musician before we hear about Roger Williams ("King of the Road"), and the same goes as he inserts another current band before we understand Townes Van Zandt. I appreciate hearing how Willie Nelson cut his teeth in Ft. Worth, although Austin totally claims him. Two of the most fleshed out profiles are of Delbert McClinton, who does an interview with Clarke, and another of T-Bone Burnett. I would have liked to have heard more substance in the McClinton interview.

Clarke is good about mentioning jazz and do-wop contributions, but it's slight, and there is no mention about Tejano music either. I understand, though, this program isn't all encompassing.

Would we as a local station pick this up? You bet. Should others? Why not, if a music format is primary. The hour-long program is segmented in three, 20 minutes parts. Each segment has a minute cutaway.

Comment for "Episode 2 - Life Distilled: Four Decades of U.S. Poet Laureates"

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Review of Episode 2 - Life Distilled: Four Decades of U.S. Poet Laureates

The idea of recollecting the conversations and work of the U.S. poet laureates is a good one. Thanks to New Letters on the Air, listeners can gain a sense of who The Library of Congress deems representative of the American voice. Episode 2 gives a good sampling, albeit chronological, of who these poets are.

Beginning with Joseph Brodsky, the Soviet emigre, who would bring an everyday sensitivity to poetry, the program serves up a pastiche of interviews and readings. I wish all of the segments were more fluid and equally strong, but they aren't. The interview with Brodsky seems the weakest because of the interviewer's presumptions and Brodsky's rapid fire answers. I could barely hang on to it. However, the next segment with Mona Van Duyn settles in; her readings and conversation become soothing. Van Duyn also focuses on the everyday in her poetry, but talks about her breaking out from more personal poetry to writing about big ideas and changes in contemporary life.

Robert Pinsky, who is credited here with moving poetry into the 21st century because of his online work with Slate and his "Favorite Poem Project," really speaks to the rhythms and feel of poetry. As he observes, "Poetry is a column of air shaped into words." So is radio, and when you meet the perfect aural experience it's golden. Pinksy provides perfect moments with his readings. They are beautiful. One moment he is elegiac and another, pure jazz.
PRX is credited with helping New Letters on the Air get some bearings.

For a programmer, this episode would be good to include in a celebration of the spoken word. The full series should be considered in spite of this program's rough edges. Perhaps the best use would be to provide segments for podcasting. The program accommodates the NPR newscast at top for broadcasting.

Comment for "Epidemic" (deleted)

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Review of Epidemic (deleted)

Depression is a topic worthy of significant exploration because of the misunderstanding that surrounds it. This hour-long piece provides no insight into the illness at all. Instead, the producer provides rambling and repetitive expressions of an unidentified expert and two college-age women who try to unearth the meaning of depression and tie it to societal ills. It doesn't work.

First of all, there is no introduction or rationale for what we are about to hear. The piece starts with an uncredentialed expert who philosophizes about "malaise," not depression, and his opinion is carried throughout the piece. I could barely wade through his points. He is intercut with women talking about their own depression, but there is no meat there. For me, the women don't provide an honest struggle, or any effort to delve into what they were feeling or why.

The whole piece is done with phone tape. The women are simply having an extended phone conversation, and I don't know why we need to eavesdrop. I can forgive phone tape when there is no other alternative, but it can't be the sole material for a piece.

The producer interjects a few questions to move the conversation along, but he should have written a narrative for the piece. In addition, there is a long music bed running under people talking; it gets in the way. Music should be used judiciously to enhance mood and tone.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I think there is an attempt to mimic some elements of "This American Life." Any aspiring producer needs to realize that there is a tight story arc in the material that Ira Glass produces, and there is also an art in developing characters and sound. "This American Life" is a product of imagination and discipline.

Comment for "Between Friends"

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Review of Between Friends

Through a first-person essay, Jody Porter talks about her darkest secret-- being sexually abused by her father when she was ten. Porter courageously discusses the trauma and disrepair that she continues to struggle with, and makes it palpable.

Central to her account is that she took her father to court twenty years later and won. Her best childhood friend, Melissa, testified on her behalf and in a way, the story is a testament to her friendship.

Porter's technique, as it is for the rest of the CBC series, is to narrate her story simply with some music and ambient sound. There is a critical moment in her account when she goes back to her childhood house and remembers the terror of going to bed and listening for her father's footsteps. It is painful for her and for listeners.

As emotional as this audio passage is, I wish that the visit back home could have been set up more clearly before we hear her recollection. For instance, I'd want to know why she did this. Was it for the piece or for catharsis or for both?

In terms of the narrative, I would have appreciated hearing from her mother a bit earlier than where she positioned her. Also, Porter only hints at the relationship she now has with her mother, and it would be good to know more.

That being said, Porter has a powerful piece, and one that is difficult to hear. Placing an advisory with this piece is important.

Comment for "Walt Whitman: Song of Myself"

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Review of Walt Whitman: Song of Myself

This highly produced hour exploring the life and poetry of Walt Whitman gleams with polish and light. Narrated by writer Carl Hancock Rux, "Song of Myself," delves into the poet's liberating language, the rhythms of his beloved New York and the democratic view he had of the nation.

Just as Whitman's poetry flows in syncopation to life around him, so does this program move in relation to the poet. The content here is enormous and all of it is a pleasure to hear. It is exciting to hear scholars, writers, musicians, and choreographers talk about Whitman in frank ways. This includes a discussion of Whitman's sexual expression, and his longing for true intimacy, which sadly, he never achieved.

Also, the poetry readings woven into the narrative resonate so deeply that you will want to dash out, find your copy of "Leaves of Grass," and read it out loud too. I thought the producers are particularly creative when they ask people on the street to read "To A Stranger," edit it into layers of a montage and then ask the readers what the poem meant to them. Kudos to WNYC for producing the program for starters, and then for giving it verve.

Programmers should note that "Song of Myself" certainly should run during Poetry Month in April, but it can run anytime during the year. As for myself, I could hear it over and again. There is a detailed rundown of the show, along with promos that can be customized.

Comment for "Southwest Side Stories: Goodbye Playground, Goodbye Childhood"

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Review of Southwest Side Stories: Goodbye Playground, Goodbye Childhood

I like this reflection about enjoying a day in the park, remembering a childhood past. But I think the piece needs an introduction that explains more about Romana, the producer, and Tori, her friend.

Romana makes an unexplained reference about Tori early in the piece, and it confused me. Who is Tori and why does she matter? How does she figure in the piece? It ends out that the producer is crossing the playground to go find Tori, who is at home, and then they both return to the park.

I don't think the piece even needs Tori as a character. The producer could have written her essay just about her own memories and feelings. Her writing and delivery are expressive and I encourage her to continue developing her great, descriptive style. There is some ambient sound of the playground gates and sounds of children playing, but again, since the producer wants to include her friend, she could have recorded her and given her a true place in the story.

If this piece could be clearly set up, it would be worth running as a commentary.

Comment for "Shamans"

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Review of Shamans

The producer uses an interesting narrative technique of describing the rescue of two Mongolian children who've overdosed on pills to spin off profiles of two shamans. His story is told from a personal point of view, weaving in how shamanism is changing and prospering in an evolving society.

The sound is full and particularly rich as he captures shamanistic rituals. The weak link in the narrative chain is the set up and inconclusive ending about the sick children he went to find. There's not enough information about how the kids were ultimately cured. Although he talks about being in search of shamans, he doesn't clarify how he was traveling or how his companions (medical personnel) were involved. This may seem like a small point, but it's good to wrap up all loose ends so the story has context.

The producer's technique reminds me a little of magical realism, but it still needs clear facts to leave listeners fully satisfied. It is an engaging piece,though.

Comment for "Innocent Voices"

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Review of Innocent Voices

This 30-minute interview with filmmaker Luis Mandoki and screenwriter Oscar Torres deals with the topic of children and their conscription in war. The content is informative and moving, but I wanted to hear more from Torres, who as a child lived in El Salvador during guerilla and government warfare, and escaped. Mandoki is eloquent in describing why the film was important to make and how he worked with Torres to get at a deeper story, but interestingly, it is he who provides the emotional content, not Torres.
Produced by the Maryknolls, who are known and respected for their social justice ministry, the program begins with a long, heavy-handed set up before we get to the interview. Once the host reflects on what a normal childhood is, the interview can begin. Unfortunately the interviewer is off mic, and you have to listen carefully to hear her questions, but the answers are clear. The program ends with a vox pop done with viewers leaving the film, and that's effective. On the whole, I think the anti-war message comes across well enough through the interviews; the host and the interviewer don't have to punch up that message themselves, as they do.

Comment for "El Americano Dream"

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Review of El Americano Dream

As compelling as it is to hear youths express their hearts and minds, this impassioned piece could use steady guidance. The producer aims to show how difficult life is here for immigrants and how different it is than they imagined. The narrative is disjointed and hard to follow, especially at the end. The account begins with a description of migrant workers, but no migrant worker voices are featured. Only the voices of migrant organizers are heard, so the description lacks authenticity. Then the producer interviews two of his cousins, who talk about their disappointments with the American dream, but their comments have little connection to the beginning of the story. The interviews are conducted in Spanish and though interwoven with the producer?s narrative, they get lost without translation. The piece requires good script editing and even-handed production values.

Comment for "La Llorona"

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Review of La Llorona

New Mexican Cipriano Vigil recounts the popular legend of La Llorona through poignant music and storytelling. La Llorona is a tragic story of a mother who drowns her children in revenge for losing her husband to another woman. Vigil's resonant voice gives emotion to the thread of regret found throughout the song. His is a northern New Mexican version, which according to his lyrics, is as fiery and delicious as green chilies. This is a beautiful rendition of cultural lore.

For an interesting pairing, you can listen to the version of La Llorona, produced by Linda Sher with writer Angela Cervantes from Kansas City. Cervantes gives a vivid account of the legend she experienced as a kid. It is pure delight.

Comment for "A Gift for Tia, Long Overdue"

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Review of A Gift for Tia, Long Overdue

Intimate and mournful in tone, the producer describes the last visit he paid to his ailing aunt. Years after her death, he realizes the debt he owes her.

Framed by classical guitar music to underscore his emotion, the producer allows his piece to stand tall with simple and beautiful language. All of it is eloquent. It is a remembrance with vulnerability laid bare.

Comment for "Rehabbing the Fourth Estate"

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Review of Rehabbing the Fourth Estate

Almost by acclamation, three lecturers at the 2005 Nieman Conference on Narrative Journalism, believe that "objectivity" is killing the craft of the Fourth Estate.

Randy Cohen, who writes "The Ethicist" for The New York Times, posits that journalists are confusing "objectivity" with "even-handedness," and so stories become a ping-pong played out by sources. He sees capitulation to political pressure, and complacency as major newsroom failings. To him, journalism ethics need to reflect civic virtues, as reporters and editors seek out what a just society is and means.

Phillip Gourevitch, the editor of "The Paris Review" speaks about the bubble of covering a presidential campaign, and how journalists obsess over access to the candidate, when in fact, they have none, especially when they are traveling with the candidate. He also observes that the result of this pack journalism is homogeneity, and/or what other reporters are thinking. Stories are much more interesting and authentic when traveling off the beaten path. Where, he wonders, is the interest in seeking the truth? Also, he believes that after 9-11 journalists feared delivering bad news, and became softer.

Doug McGill, who retired from foreign assignments from The NY Times and other major dailies, was the most compelling. He now practices what he calls "glocalism," a brand of journalism that he does from Rochester, Minn. by cultivating and reporting on the international communities in the city. He publishes on the internet and has broken major international stories. He believes that journalism today operates as a branch of social science since objectivity is its highest goal. He reminds that journalists used to be interpreters of human events.

The hour goes by fast with these good deliberators. I only wish that we could hear the three come together and conclude their separate presentations for some overarching thoughts. I think the lectures can instruct those of us who are in the profession, and those of us who are on the outside wondering what the heck is going on. One technical note, there is a brief billboard at the beginning, followed by a long block of music (6 minutes), before it starts.

Comment for "Youth Take Action against Violence in Belize"

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Review of Youth Take Action against Violence in Belize

An intriguing voice comes forward to articulate the increase of youth violence in Belize. Marleni is a twenty-one year old youth activist who eloquently gives thought to the problems facing her nation and the Caribbean. Produced by UNICEF Radio about a UNICEF project, the piece gives me pause since it carries an agenda, albeit a noble one. I know that at my station we would have a big discussion about transparency.
That being said, I wish the piece could be more than actualities and tracks. Marleni thinks and speaks so well, I would prefer to have had her do her own piece. I see that there is a ?digital diary? by another youth with the UNICEF Radio, and for me, that has more validity. UNICEF, on the whole, deserves insightful review of its work, and the more that can be done by outsiders or by kids with a point of view, the stronger that would be.

Comment for "Commentary: 40 Years Later, UFW's La Causa Lives"

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Review of Commentary: 40 Years Later, UFW's La Causa Lives

The UFW's struggle to win farm worker rights is an important piece of American labor history. Dick Meister gives more of a short history about La Causa, rather than his opinion on the significance of the movement and where it needs to go today. As acknowledged, this piece has not been broadcast nationally. Should it be, it would require some audio editing to eliminate some stumbles and some production values to make it move forward.

Comment for "Vaqueros"

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Review of Vaqueros

I must admit my strong, positive bias toward the work that comes from Next Generation Radio. On a couple of occasions, I have mentored students or young professionals in this program, so I know first-hand how hard everyone works to make the radio pieces top notch and engaging. This piece is no exception; it shines. Written and produced from a first-person perspective, the piece is buoyed by clean and meaningful prose, and rich sound. I love the producer's approach to finding a bit of history and making it her own. I'm also struck by the freshness of a younger producer's perspective--including her thinking that she was the sole media person on a quest to find a vaquero! This commentary is a solid piece examining western culture and the vanishing of the original cowboy.

Comment for "Daze of Labor, Days of Change" (deleted)

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Review of Daze of Labor, Days of Change (deleted)

This segment of "Making Contact," The National Radio Project's magazine program, attempts to bring contemporary national and local labor movements into focus. The producers do a good job in giving a snapshot history of Labor Day and moving into current issues, such as undocumented workers in Seattle and the rift within the AFL-CIO. The reports are interesting and offer varied perspectives. The last piece on the songs and poetry of the labor movement felt a little trite and wasn't as meaty as the other reports, but shows a bit of history, which can be helpful. Of course, running this on Labor Day would be optimum, but can hold a listener's interest beyond September. Programmers need to be careful about the news pegs getting outdated.

Comment for "Death by heatstroke: a farmworker's story"

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Review of Death by heatstroke: a farmworker's story

The singular voice of farmworker Juan Cruz describes the death of his brother, Constantino, in aching detail. He talks about what happened and how his brother was not allowed to drink water during work. The piece is a simple, extended interview. Though the story is heartbreaking, it would be difficult to use as it is. There would need to be more context for it, such as inserting it in a larger story on undocumented farmworkers.

Comment for "Roads on the Isthmus"

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Review of Roads on the Isthmus

Good sound and a clear, descriptive narrative define this piece about a strategic region for Mexican globalism. The tensions surrounding development are high. The producers interview villagers, an American banker, and a Mexican official about the consequences of developing a poor area for tourism and trade. The reporting is interesting because the villagers don’t approve of a superhighway or a tollway linking them to other cities. They regard tourism as a contaminant, even. The government, in many cases, has had to back down. Although the producers don’t specifically identify the region, the title hints that this is the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, which links the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico. The isthmus has been the target of development throughout history and it remains to be seen how aggressively Mexico can pursue its plans. This is an informative piece.

Comment for "Freshmen Formations: Juan Medrano"

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Review of Freshmen Formations: Juan Medrano

This profile of Juan Medrano is produced by a peer at Carlton College. It gives a snapshot of how Medrano, who's from the Dominican Republic, has adapted to living in this country and attending college. Because dance is important to Medrano, the student producer inserts music to give the profile some flavor. The mix at the beginning is problematic because the audio levels are off-- it’s hard to understand Medrano’s comments. There are some good attempts to enliven the piece with Medrano’s dance instructions and also by inserting a version of “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” when Medrano is speaking of besting his competition in dancing, but again, more attention should be made to the mix. The piece needs a strong ending and technically it is abrupt. This profile may appeal to college students and college radio stations