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Playlist: Radio Picks for Prof. Quin's Class

Compiled By: Genevieve Sponsler

 Credit: <a href="http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-224910985/stock-photo-red-retro-radio-on-white-background.html">Shutterstock</a>
Image by: Shutterstock 

Here are some favorites, for different reasons -- a real variety. Some audio art, some documentary; some are by station-based producers and some are indies. Some have more experience producing than others. You don't have to listen to them all, but I hope you enjoy them!

(I put my own notes in italics with each piece.)

-- Genevieve


From John Biewen | 03:00

A (very) short story of love and anxiety. A child grows to age 13 in three minutes while a father muses on parental fears.

This uses audio John Biewen collected over a period of ten years, then made into this perfect 3-min. piece. - Genevieve

John Biewen

Harper-john-small_small This essay/montage was produced for the Third Coast Audio Festival's 2008 Audio Challenge, Radio Ephemera.  The challenge was to produce a piece of no more than three minutes based on any two of five books selected from the Prelinger Library of San Francisco -- and to include the voice of a stranger.  "Scared" is based on the books, "Control of Mind and Body," and "The Stork Didn't Bring You!: The Facts of Life for Teenagers."  The stranger is the voicemail lady.  

Buck, Naked

From Andrew Norton | 04:45

Buck Dietz is a figure model. Hear how he makes it through standing perfectly still for long periods of time.

This short piece is a great mini-documentary and has one of my favorite quotes of all time: "My idea of heaven is to be totally nude while signing songs from the great American Songbook."

The radio producer who made this piece also made this hilarious fake how-to tape sync video that you should watch. - Genevieve

Buck, Naked
Andrew Norton

Bucksml_small Buck Dietz is a figure model. That means he has to stand naked and completely still for long sessions while artists sketch him. But for Buck, it's more than just standing there. He shares his surprising techniques that make his artform... sing.

Two Little Girls Explain The Worst Haircut Ever

From Jeff Cohen | 02:57

My five year old cut off my three year old's hair. A few weeks later, I decided to interview them and get their explanations. Here's what they told me.

A reporter for WNPR in CT recorded this and put it up on PRX, where it sat for four months before the internet discovered it. It went viral and ended up all over buzzfeed, metafilter, and so on. It got him a children's book deal.

Here's an interview with Jeff on how he made the piece and how it went viral. - Genevieve

Imag0242a_small Happy to say that this little radio story has taken another life. In the summer of 2014, it will be a children's book released by HarperCollins Children's Books. Take a look!

Living Nine Eleven

From WNYC | Part of the WNYC 9/11 Anniversary Programming series | 59:00

Created for the 10th anniversary by Marianne McCune at WNYC.

If you don't have time to listen to it all, just listen to the opening segment. A powerful use of archival audio. -- Genevieve

Living Nine Eleven

Wtc_jurfon_small Ten years after the terrorist attacks of September 11th,  as part of WNYC's "Decade: 9/11" coverage, this special explores New Yorkers' most visceral and immediate emotional reactions to the attack on the World Trade Center and how they are - and are not -- still with us today.

Fear and shock, grief and guilt, anger, gratitude and solidarity -- these emotions overwhelmed many New Yorkers along with the billowing cloud of smoke and debris after the Towers collapsed.

WNYC's award-winning news team spent days, months, and then years reporting on the attacks and their aftermath. Through a mix of their recordings at the time and interviews with people ten years later, WNYC reporter Marianne McCune guides us through the stories of people who were directly impacted by what happened and have been struggling for a decade to make sense of it.

For more on WNYC's "Decade Nine Eleven" project, please visit our website:

The Moth: Unforgettable Thanksgiving

From The Moth | 04:56

For graphic designer and writer Jeffery Rudell, one Thanksgiving in particular stands out in his mind.

PRX and The Moth worked together to turn their successful stage show and podcast into a successful radio show, too. Here is a fun short story from one of their shows. - Genevieve

Pastedgraphic_small Most Thanksgiving dinner tables are where we hear fun family stories, some involving memorable holiday meals of the past. But for graphic designer and writer Jeffery Rudell, one crazy Thanksgiving in particular stands out in his mind. He told this story at a Moth Story Slam, and it has been featured on The Moth Radio Hour and on All Things Considered.

Hear more Moth Radio Hour stories and get the shows for broadcast here.

Learn more about The Moth.

Learn more about where to hear The Moth Radio Hour

About Jeffery Rudell
A graphic designer and writer, Rudell is currently writing a series of books for Sterling Publishing.  He won The Moth's annual Story Slam championship in 2003 and was a featured performer on the National Storytelling Tour in 2007.  He has performed his stories at the New York Public Library, the Long Wharf Theater and The Player's Club, and they can be heard on National Public Radio and the Moth CD's Audience Favorites, Vol 1 and Love Hurts.  Rudell live in New York City with his partner, Albert.

I Don't Know

From Andy Mills | 04:11

A child's Christmas thoughts spring into song.

This is an original song made with quotes from a little girl. This gets me in the Xmas spirit every year more than anything. - Genevieve

I Don't Know
Andy Mills

Winterformusic_small This piece was produced by Andy Mills in collaboration with the musicians Matt and Jacob Boll, Corey and Cobey Bienert and Enoch Kim.

We were looking for new ways to play with sound and story.

The album that we released can be downloaded for free here:


Four Seconds: Suicide off the Golden Gate Bridge

From Jake Warga | 13:38

Search for meaning of a friends suicide.

This is heavy, but beautifully done. -- Genevieve

Ggbridgesmall_small A portrait of a friend, and a personal struggle for meaning. Opens: "It takes four seconds after jumping off the Golden Gate bridge to hit the ocean 220 feet below. Four long seconds. Last October my friend Phil was riding his bicycle over the bridge. Around mid-span, he stopped, took off his helmet?and jumped to his death. One-one thousand. Two-one thousand. Three-one thousand. Four-one thousand... 8min version aired 11/28/05 "AllThingsConsidered" This is the 12min version--all things considered (13:10 with out music). 8min available, but not encouraged. Brother of Phil: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/Radio_Episode.aspx?sched=1061

Maurice Sendak on Being a Kid

From Blank on Blank | Part of the Blank on Blank series | 06:00

"I still think the same way I thought as a child. I still worry. I'm still frightened... Nothing changes." - Maurice Sendak in the 2009 interview used in this piece.

Blank on Blank uses found audio from reporters that they just had sitting in drawers and turns it into new radio pieces plus animations. New life! -- Genevieve

Maurice_sendak_square_small "I still think the same way I thought as a child. I still worry. I'm still frightened... Nothing changes." - Maurice Sendak In 2009 Newsweek's Andrew Romano and Ramin Seetodeh interviewed Sendak. They wrote a great article. But no one had ever heard the poignant conversation. Until now.

Everybody SCREAM!!!

From The Truth | 10:32

Spin class gets personal.

Modern audio drama, much of it improvised by the actors. And it's FUN. - Genevieve

Disco_ball_purple_small On this episode of The Truth, we're going to spin class. Warm up that saddle and pick up the pace, as we go inside the imaginations of two very competitive women.

Chet Siegel as Sam
Emily Tarver as Lisa
Ed Herbstman as Kirk
Produced by Jonathan Mitchell
written collaboratively by The Truth, from a story by Chet Siegel

Special thanks: Peter Clowney, Kerrie Hillman, Madeline Sparer and Chris Bannon. Recorded at WNYC and on location in New York City

Shades of Gray

From Jonathan Mitchell | 58:27

A mosaic about abortion in America.

Engrossing and bi-partisan -- gives you voices from all sides, surrounded by beautiful sound design. -- Genevieve

2_small Pro-choice. Pro-life. Most people have already chosen sides in the ongoing debate, so why revisit the issue? Shades of Gray shares a range of stories told by people young and old who have been directly affected by abortion, instead of the polemics of irreconcilable extremes. It's a carefully crafted audio mosaic and a stark portrayal of the intensely personal nature of our relationship with abortion. Originally distributed nationally by PRI in January, 2003 Winner of the 2004 Golden Reel for National Documentary.

PRX homepage image from Shutterstock

99% Invisible #103- U.T.B.A.P.H. (Standard 4:30 version)

From Roman Mars | Part of the 99% Invisible (Standard Length) series | 04:30

The everlasting architecture of Pizza Hut.

This show is all about design, a very visual thing. Yet it's one of the most popular shows on iTunes (head there for longer, weekly episodes). -- Genevieve


It started with some Pittsburgh humor.

Pittsburgh-based  comedian Tom Musial does a bit about a GPS unit that can give directions in “Pittsburghese.” Because in Pittsburgh, no one calls it “Interstate 376,” it’s “The Parkway.” It’s not “The Liberty Tunnel,” it’s “The Liberty Tubes.”

And directions are often given by way of what used to be there.


(Tom Musial on WDVE in Pittsburgh.)

One day Tom was trying this routine out on his friend, Mike Neilson. Mike is not from Pittsburgh–he grew up on the other side of the state. When he moved to the Steel City, he had a hard time figuring out how to get around. Because Pittsburghers are always telling him to turn left at something that isn’t there anymore.

And then, as Mike was listening to Tom’s Pittsburgher GPS routine, he noticed that in in one iteration of the joke he said, “turn left at the place that used to be a Pizza Hut.”

This resonated with Mike. He realized that, because the architecture of a Pizza Hut is so distinctive, he could easily identify any building that used to be a Pizza Hut. The former Pizza Hut was thus a beacon of light shining through a thick fog of impossible directions. Here, in his friend’s comedy routine, was the one Pittsburghese direction he could give that anyone, regardless of where they’re from, could comprehend:

Turn left at the place that used to be a Pizza Hut.

For the unacquainted, this is the archetype of the dine-in Pizza Hut:


(Credit: Tom Arthur)

There are two identifying features that make Pizza Huts look really distinctive. First there’s the shape–it’s like the whole thing is built out of trapezoids. Second, there is a roof hump that shoots straight up over the trapezoidal awnings.

pizza hut bldg(Trapezoids in red, roof hump in blue.)

Not every Pizza Hut looks like this.  Franchise owners have a lot of freedom as to how they want their stores to look, so not every Pizza Hut has the “lid” roof, and the trapezoid features in some might be more striking than in others. Yet there’s still enough commonality among Pizza Huts them that once you’ve seen one, you can easily identify any other.

And, you can easily identify any building that used to be a Pizza Hut.

The aforementioned Mike Neilson has been building a global atlas of  buildings that used to be a Pizza Hut. He calls them UTBAPHs, the abbreviation for “Used To Be A Pizza Hut.”

subway hut

(“Subway Hut” in New Zealand.  Courtesy of Mike Neilson.)

chinesehut (1)

(Chinese Hut in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Courtesy of Mike Neilson.)


souvlaki hut

(Souvlaki Hut in Dandenong, Australia. Courtesy of Mike Neilson.)



(Kaos Adult Koncepts in Brisbane, Australia. Courtesy of Mike Neilson.)

olsens funeral home

(Courtesy of Mike Neilson.)

Olsen’s Funerals in Revesby, Australia. This one had a lot of renovation, but Mike Neilson assures us this is a bona fide UTBAPH.


(Courtesy of Mike Neilson.)

For the Des Moines Police Traffic Unit in Des Moines, Iowa, Mike Neilson writes:

“We all love the idea of the police chief telling all of the cops week after week that if they don’t get their shit together and get traffic violations under control, they will have to work at a Pizza Hut, then the mayor coming in and breaking the news that they would, indeed, all be working in a Pizza Hut. Evidence room in the cooler. Interrogations happening in the booths. Secretaries playing table-top Pac Man instead of solitaire. That is how I picture this one, and I love it.”

Pizza Hut never meant for architecture to be the focus of their brand–at least at first.

Pizza Hut began in 1958 in Wicthita, Kansas, by the brothers Dan and Frank Carney. The story goes that after they bought their first building, they got a sign that only had only had room for eight letters. They figured the first five ought to be “Pizza.” Looking at the building, someone decided that one way to describe their building in three letters would be to call it a hut. So they called it Pizza Hut.


(The first Pizza Hut in Wichita, Kansas. Moved from its original location, it is now on the campus of Wichita State University. Credit: Sanjay Acharya.)

And yes, there’s a plaque.

pizza plaque

(Credit: ThePizzaFan)

As you’ll notice, there’s nary a trapezoid anywhere. Pizza Hut’s signature look was the work of architect Richard D. Burke, a friend and classmate of the Carney brothers.

Burke wanted $32,000 to do the design. The Carneys gave a counter-offer of $100 per Pizza Hut to subsequently open. Burke accepted, and created a lot of the features that we can now recognize today as irrefutably Pizza Hut’s.

From there, Pizza Hut’s architecture and their corporate image became intertwined.

And so the Carneys and their franchisees began lining the American landscape with Hut after Hut after Hut. But in their ascendency, Pizza Hut couldn’t, or simply wouldn’t imagine a time when the people would not come out in droves to enjoy a personal pan pizza, or a zesty breadstick. But market trends shifted from the dine-in experience to delivery. Many Pizza Huts closed. And as their trapezoidal windows went dark, and their roof humps rose up over empty parking lots, it was as if the company had littered the world with monuments to its own decline. 

Even though Pizza Hut is not knocking down closed restaurants, they are curbing the continued rise of UTBAPHs. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Pizza Hut shifted towards a carry-out and delivery model. Today, about half of the Pizza Huts in the United States operate out of generic-looking structures.

2014-02-25 09.50.48 am

(A Pizza Hut on the corner of Shattuck and Alcatraz Avenues in Oakland, California. Credit: Google Maps)

When these new-style Pizza Huts go out of business, the UTBAPHs they leave behind are completely unrecognizable as such.


(The same Pizza Hut, now an UTBAPH. Credit: Sam Greenspan)

Many overseas Pizza Huts are following suit.


(“Pizza Khat” in Moscow. Credit: Maarten)

If Pizza Hut phases out their signature buildings, it will be a huge mistake. Because Pizza Hut has achieved a level of greatness here. How many other structures have there ever been in history whose true essence can shine through whatever might come after it?

So let us stand in awe of the mighty The Pizza Hut! Which–more than just about any other once-beloved establishment since crumbled beneath the sands of time–can reach into the future and proclaim: just try and forget about me. Just try.

hut in flames

(Technically, this also used to be a Pizza Hut. Courtesy of Mike Neilson.)

99% Invisible producer Sam Greenspan spoke with Mike Neilson about his blog,Used To Be A Pizza Hut, and also with Doug Terfehr, Director of Public Relations at Pizza Hut.

Special thanks to producer Margaret Krauss for Pittsburgh field production. Thanks also to Andrew Wasson, who wrote a history of Pizza Hut’s iconic roof for the wonderful zine Dairy River and to comedian Tom Musial.

BONUS! More Pittsburgh psychogeography jokes specifically referencing UTBAPHs:


Sponsors: You, Tiny Letter, and welcome back Facebook Design!

Music: “Hey June”- Melodium; “Revival”- Beats Antique; “Breezin”- Podington Bear; “Valeglas”- Melodium; “Small Memory”- Jon Hopkins; “dlp 1.1 Live at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, September 11, 2011″ – Wordless Music Orchestra; “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell”- Das Racist; “How To Cure A Hangover In April”- K-Conjog

The Poison Squad: A Chemist’s Quest for Pure Food

From Sruthi Pinnamaneni | 08:03

Meet Harvey Washington Wiley, the mastermind behind this experiment where young government employees were fed poison-laced foods months on end. He's also the founding father of the Food and Drug Administration.

This was produced for our STEM Story Project. Great use of science plus history. - Genevieve

Prx_1_small In the winter of 1902, twelve robust, young men in suits gather in the basement of a government building in Washington DC.  Waiters serve them dinner prepared by chefs, courses like chipped beef and applesauce, served on fine china. The room and board is free.  The men eat what is served, though they know each course has been spiked with a dose of some unnamed poison.  They do this every day, three square meals a day, for the next six months.

The press named the group of men the “Poison Squad.”  Harvey Washington Wiley, the chemist who conceived this experiment, would go on to become the founding father of the FDA and the "Watchdog of America's Kitchens". A moral man, his heart with filled with righteous anger when confronted with tomatoes preserved in salicylic acid and eggs sprayed with formaldehyde.  His fight for "pure food" would span three vigorous decades, and he would take on tough opponents like Coca Cola or sodium benzoate, losing more often than he won.

This short radio documentary tells the story of Wiley and a colorful human experiment--one that began in a basement dining room and continues on our dinner plates today.

Editor and engineer: Brendan Baker

There were ghosts everywhere: AIDS in Provincetown

From Sarah Yahm | 12:13

Residents of Provincetown, a small fishing village and world reknowned gay vacation destination, remember the devastating affects of AIDS.

I love the voicing, the personal stories, and the sound. - Genevieve

Provincetowneastend_small From Memorial Day to Labor Day Provincetown Massachusetts is one of the world's largest and most well known gay vacation meccas.  This small fishing village is festooned with pride flags, drag queens, and gay couples of all ages holding hands and ice cream cones.  But in the late 80's and 90's, while the party continued, 10 percent of Provincetown's year round population was dying of AIDS. And most of the remaining 90 percent were tending to them. This piece is about what it was like to live and die in this small town in the midst of this epidemic and the surreal mix of celebration and devastation.