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Playlist: News Station Picks for August '10

Compiled By: PRX Curators

 Credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/39046851@N08/4581150872/">Mutasim Billah</a>
Image by: Mutasim Billah 
Curated Playlist

Here are August picks for news stations from PRX News Format Curator Naomi Starobin.

What Naomi listens for in news programming.

Maybe these slow news days of August have you thinking about something fresh, new and lively. Well, you can’t give each of your listeners a yappy puppy, but how about a new series? Great stuff out there. I had a look around on PRX and it was hard to pick just a few. This list displays a range from series with short interstitial pieces that you can plug in to a news magazine or show, to longer ones that would make great choices for weekend hours that right now just aren’t quite dazzling your audience. Have a listen!

Volunteers and Design

From Smart City Radio | 59:00

This is one in the series from Smart City Radio. All of the pieces are about cities...sometimes specific cities and how people are dealing with particular problems (Detroit, Syracuse), and other segments, like this one, are issue-oriented. These are heady and intellectual, and well-suited for an audience that is concerned or curious about urban life and its future.

It's hosted by Carol Coletta.

Default-piece-image-0 Ten years ago, two undergrads from Yale noticed the fundamental gap between their university and the community surrounds it.  To bridge this divide they formed the volunteer training organization that's now known as LIFT.  We'll speak with Ben Reuler, the executive director of LIFT, about harnessing the energy of students to engage them in the community and help combat poverty.


Good design can do many things, but can it change the world?  My guest Warren Berger has written a book on how design is doing just that.  The book, titled Glimmer,  shows how design in action addressing business, social, and personal challenges, and improving the way we think, work, and live.

Unconventional Archaeology -- Groks Science Show 2010-07-28

From Charles Lee | Part of the Groks Science Radio Show series | 29:42

For that half-hour time slot, go science! Lots of lively interviews in these segments, along with commentaries and a question-of-the-week. This series is produced in Chicago and Tokyo by Dr. Charles Lee and Dr. Frank Ling, who also host the show. They are natural and curious, and lean toward short questions and long answers.

There are pieces on cancer-sniffing dogs, outsmarting your genes, number theory, ant adventures, and lots more, displaying great breadth.

It's geared to listeners who are interested in science...no college level inorganic chem required.

Grokscience_small Archaeology is often portrayed as a romantic adventure to the remote corners of the globe. But, what is the life of an archaeologist really like? On this program, Dr. Donald Ryan discussed unconventional archaeology.  For more information, visit the website: www.groks.net.

Are Freckles Just Cute or Something More?

From Dueling Docs | Part of the Dueling Docs series | 02:02

Dueling Docs is a great idea, well executed. Each two-minute piece answers a simple medical or health question. The host, Dr. Janice Horowitz, lays out a question (Should you get cosmetic surgery? Is dying your hair bad for you? Can stretching make you more prone to injury?), presents opposing views, and concludes with advice.

This would fit in nicely during a weekend or weekday news show. A good two minutes.

Duelingdocs_prx_logo_medium_small While the rest of the media doesn't bother to challenge the latest news flash, Dueling Docs always presents the other side of a medical issue, the side that most everyone ignores.  Janice gets doctors to talk frankly about controversial health matters - then she sorts things out, leaving the listener with a no-nonsense take-home message

Reading Russian Fortunes

From Rachel Louise Snyder | Part of the Global Guru Radio series | 03:03

This series, Global Guru, claims to "ask one simple question -- just one -- about somewhere in the world." Those questions have included: "How do the Hopi bring rain to the desert?" "How and why do Thai people categorize their food?" "Why are there so many barbershops in Tanzania?" This is a great series of three-minute pieces you can squeeze into just about any hour. Rachel Louise Snyder out of Washington, DC is the producer. She says "each week, our mandate is to surprise listeners." Your listeners would say she succeeds.


The Global Guru is a weekly public radio show that seeks to celebrate global culture, particularly in countries where Americans have either single narrative story lines, like Afghanistan (war), Thailand (sex tourism), Rwanda, (genocide), or perhaps no story lines at all, like East Timor, Moldova, Malta, Lesotho, etc. Engaging and rich in sound, the 3:00 interstitial seeks to enrich our collective understanding of the vastness of human experience. Presenting station is WAMU in Washington, DC and sponsored by American University in DC. Some of our favorite past shows include: How do Cambodians predict the harvest each year? How did Tanzania become the capitol of barbershops? How and why does Thailand categorize food? What is Iceland’s most feared culinary delight? How do you track a Tasmanian devil? What are the hidden messages in Zulu beadwork?

A Way with Words (Series)

Produced by A Way with Words

Public radio listeners, as you know, are curious and intelligent. And they are, as you know, sticklers for language. Satisfy their curiosity with this hour-long series. It's hosted by Grant Barrett and Martha Barnette, who talk about word usage and origin, and take questions from callers. Often those questions center around a word or expression that the caller recalls from childhood and is curious about. The mood is informal and the hosts joust a bit in a friendly way with their answers.

Most recent piece in this series:

Yak Shaving (#1548)

From A Way with Words | Part of the A Way with Words series | 54:00

Awww_logo_color_square In a passage from How to Think Like Shakespeare: Lessons from a Renaissance Education, Scott Newstok, a professor at Rhodes College, offers an apt description of class letting out and students wandering about while focused on their phones.

Caitlin calls from Laredo, Texas, to ask about the slang term for breakfast tacos popular there. Why are they called mariachis? In American Tacos: A History and Guide, Jose Ralat relates a story that links the name to a restaurant that prepared tacos spicy enough to make a person let loose with a grito typical of mariachi music.

A Minnesota listener wonders about a phrase her father always used: the juice was worth the squeeze, meaning the result was worth the effort. It's simply a reference to squeezing a piece of fruit. The musician Lizzo suggests a similar idea in her song "Juice," one of the tunes featured in her NPR Tiny Desk concert.

The Spanish phrase aburrido como una ostra or "as bored as an oyster" is an apt simile.

Quiz Guy John Chaneski's brain teaser features two- and three-word expressions that end with an ee sound. For example, what two-word title might apply to a song about a participation dance with a distinctive tune and lyric structure that reflects an unhealthy obsession with body parts?

John, a 10-year-old from Dallas, Texas, wonders why an unpredictable or uncontrollable person can be referred to as a loose cannon.

Victor Hugo's 1874 novel Ninety-Three includes a terrifying description of a heavy cannon coming loose on board a ship, an event he calls "perhaps the most dreadful thing that can take place at sea."

Caroline calls from Clinch Mountain, Tennessee to ask about two puzzling uses of the word fell, and not as in the past tense of fall. In books by J.R.R. Tolkien, she's seen fell used as an adjective meaning "dreadful" or "evil." It's the same fell in the phrase one fell swoop, originally the swift and merciless attack of a bird of prey. In the books of James Herriot, the word fell is sometimes used as a noun to denote a hill or other elevated feature of the landscape.

Greg in San Antonio, Texas, who works in the tech industry, says he and his co-workers use the phrase shaving yak hair to describe a monotonous, tedious task. The phrase was inspired by a 1991 segment of "The Ren and Stimpy Show," in which the title characters celebrate Yak Shaving Day, a bizarre holiday that involves hanging diapers, stuffing coleslaw into rubber boots, and of course, waiting for the shaven yak to float by. 
In How to Think Like Shakespeare: Lessons from a Renaissance Education, Scott Newstok, a professor at Rhodes College, points out that William Shakespeare never had what we might think of as an "English class." Instead, he was taught rhetoric, disputation, critical thinking, and more -- all in Latin. Newstok says that creative thinking is a craft that can be taught, just like any other. He also points out that a playwright crafts plays, just as a boatwright crafts boats, a wheelwright crafts wheels, and a wainwright fashions wagons. 

Quincy works as a delivery driver in San Diego, Calfornia. His wife's been teasing him that while she's stuck at home, his job lets him go out having fun, gallivanting, and "running into the strumpets." What, he wonders, is a strumpet?

Pickthank, now an archaic and literary term, denotes a sycophant who curries favor.

Mike calls from Bloomsberg, Pennsylvania to ask about the word picayune, meaning "petty." Why would a New Orleans newspaper call itself The Times-Picayune? The adjective picayune, meaning "trifling" or "insignificant," derives from French picaillon, the name of a small coin of little value. In the 19th century, when the newspaper was first established, it was sold for just a picayune, or around 6 cents. 

Tricia in Chesapeake, Virginia, says if her father was annoyed with her mother, he used to jokingly tell her: Go sit on a tack! It's another way of saying "Leave me alone!" Similar phrases include go fly a kite, go climb a tree, go chase yourself, go run in traffic. Go sit on a tack is one of the more polite ones, and goes back at least to the 1880s. Etymologist Barry Popik has unearthed a joke that goes "What time is it when you sit on a tack? Springtime!"

This episode is hosted by Grant Barrett and Martha Barnette.