Comments by Jesse Dukes

Comment for "Greed"

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Review of Greed

One more proof that we don't live in a perfect world was revealed to us a couple of years ago when Skoglund was kicked off the radio in Maine. There may have been some valid reasons behind all this, but when a homegrown voice emerges from the St. George peninsula and can't find a place on the radio, something's not working. When I lived in Maine, I enjoyed The Humble Farmer in context--these essays would pop up in the midst of his Gypsy Jazz show and it made me feel like I was one of the few who get to share in a secret treasure. I'm not saying they didn't get a little corny sometimes--but groaning at the Humble Farmer is part of the experience. Now that he's off the radio in Maine, I can imagine these essays as drop-ins for the last 3 minutes of Morning Edition, or interstitials when your station is transitioning from jazz to classical program or some such. I can imagine dentists and lawyers hearing it and thinking: "What was that?"--chuckling, groaning, and feeling recognition when they here another one the next week. I can also imagine backwoods (or urban) philosphers in the bayou, dessert, mountains, or left coast recognizing a kindred spirit from a different place and wanting to get a little more involved in their local station. Skoglund will add a little more familiarity to your station.

Comment for "Ed and Dale: Porpoise Hunters" (deleted)

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Review of Ed and Dale: Porpoise Hunters (deleted)

This isn't a news piece--it's a bit of art that draws are attention to the Dale and Ed's relationship with their history, culture, and animals. While I'm certainly curious about whether there is a need for porpoise protectiong from an environmental standpoint, I disagree with Bill McKibben's review (although I really like his writing on environmental issues in general) which asks for more reporting. I like this piece as a moment frozen in time, suspending the uncertainty of what will happen and what ought to happen. This suspension of news elements lets us actually "get" Ed and Dale's relationship with porpoise hunting.

As a piece of art, it is rather coherent. There's a story, and even a narrative arc of sorts. We learn that Ed and Dale hunt porpoises. We get some sense of why, and then, we learn that there's a controversy. Then, when they explain why they do it again, despite the possible illegality, their relationship with past, culture, and nature takes hold more strongly.

I do think that an intro explaining some of the sounds would be helpful. I don't think the opening sounds like a blender, but it is an odd mix of sounds and I find myself wondering if this is supposed to be Ed and Dale on their boat or what. If it is, it doesn't remind me of boats I've been on. Maybe it's recorded underwater.

Comment for "Reflections on Return: Three Military Perspectives"

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Review of Reflections on Return: Three Military Perspectives

Three different perspectives of the Iraq war that help us understand the variety of experience and point of view of our military. The interview tape is good. The narrator (whose name was garbled in my stream) has a great deal of presence which really helps hold the story together. Without his narration, it would be hard to see what unites these three disparate perspectives. What holds it together is the connection of the narrator (presumably) and the three soldiers to the community of Oakland, which is specifically mentioned throughout the story. As such, the story becomes a part of an anthropology of a community in the midst of war. Each soldier makes sense of his individual experience in the war a different way, which in turn helps us address an important question: How is the war changing America? What are we learning? What are we losing?

Comment for "Intelligent Designs on Evolution"

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Review of Intelligent Designs on Evolution

Last week, the local alternative weekly ran an feature on the cover entitled "Darwin vs. God" which showed that iconic image of the hunched over ape evolving into an upright human in five or six images. I remember exclaiming out loud how I could not stand the way the intelligent design controversy is being reported. There are some exceptions to my complaint (NPR's David Kestenbaum produced a great feature that explored some of the isses last summer), but in general, the issue is cast in more or less the same terms as it was during the Scopes trial eighty years ago. Darwin's theory of evolution (sic) versus the Bible.

It is a complicated issue to report on because the evolution vs. god conflict is in fact still with us, but it is no longer the only issue. "Intelligent Designs on Evolution" helps us to understand that. The producers focus on an important question that is often glossed: What is "Intelligent Design" and who are the proponents? Is it science, philosophy or religion? Some believe that "Intelligent Design" is a watered down, court friendly version of creationism, a kind of wolf in sheeps clothing (or preacher in a lab coat), designed to sneak religion into the classroom. The piece is designed in such away to let us make a judgement after hearing from Philip Johnson who wrote "Darwin on Trial" among others. Johnson is revealed to be a truly inquisitive scientific outsider with genuine philosophical critique of evolutionary theory. What I learned is that Intelligent Design does not seem to have been intelligently designed to sneak religion into the schools--but, the idea is being so used.

"Intelligent Designs on Evolution" does not really get deep into the scientific questions involved, and I found myself wishing it would. (Maybe Radio Lab could take this on one day and help us understand how say, a cell could develop through random mutation and natural selection given gobs and gobs of time) However, I respect the decision, because the issues that are presented are important. We are helped to understand where "Intelligent Design" fits in the spheres of science, religion, and philosophy, and we can understand the struggles of students, teachers, school boards, parents, and courts to make sense ot of the issue. I would love to hear this on the radio again soon.

Comment for "The Plan- Elvis"

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Review of The Plan- Elvis

Dwelling intensely, a phrase associated with old school anthropological fieldwork comes to mine. This piece dwells intensely in Elvis's what? Wake? Legacy? It's as much about the space he's created for us than the man himself. But without being sonically intimate (no interviews of Elvis sobbing), it is strangely intimate somehow, which I have to attribute to the producers' choices. We hear Elvis's echoes in our popular culture, our intellectual culture. The best parts were the Resident's story of The Baby King, used to frame the whole mixture. The interview with Gillian Welch from WUNC was great, well edited, well selected, fitted well into the whole thing
(and I have wondered what that song was about). It was also great to hear Salt brother Adam Allington's "Elvis Cop", one of my favorite rose among roses of the Salt corpus; Another straight documentary might not fit as well, but Adam's editing allowed The Elvis Cop to merge into Elvis himself, and in so doing, merge into the overall mix.

And so, overall, we're invited to consider Elvis and we're permitted a simple narrative in which to do it and a conclusion to draw. Elvis was sad, he was the king of need, and we all need him. It might fall apart if you look at it too closely, so don't. Just listen. Dwell. Coming soon to a radio near me I hope?

Comment for "Johnny Cash: The Man in Black"

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Review of Johnny Cash: The Man in Black

It's hard for me to even think of this as a radio piece because I'm so in awe of the man and his story. I loved this and I hope it's aired where I live and everywhere.

This is the first of the series I listened to, and the subject is, in my mind, the most intriguing of the four segments. Perhaps Rodney Crowell's delivery is a little forced in places, but his intimacy with the subject is not.

Zeroing in on the Vietnam War was a good choice, and if anything, I could have stood a little more background on just how Cash's "stance" against the war was manifest. I guess we hear it in the "Man in Black" song and the other song about truth (which I'd never heard before--Cash's catalogue is bottomless!) but I wonder to what extent his views on the war were public, except as interpretable in the songs. Cash remains a hero to the type of "Country Music Fan" to the easily stereo-typed right wing Christian conservative country fan. We heard a lot from the younger generation and Cash's close friends (his children and sons in law, his bass player) but not so much from the generation of Cash fans who would have supported the war at the time.

Obviously, I was extremely engaged intellectually and emotionally in the segment. I hope to hear this on the radio soon. The inclusion of Rosanne's description of Cash's reaction to the war is some of the most powerful tape I've heard. The decision to include it in the piece is courageous and I appreciate it.

Comment for "Quidditch, Anyone?"

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Review of Quidditch, Anyone?

What the world needs now is more Quidditch. If you missed the manic Harry Potter scramble weekend, this piece is still timely for anybody who has children, works with children, or has ever been a child. The piece takes us into the heart of a brilliant piece of parenting; An actual game of Quidditch played by 7 year olds. The piece is loud, fun, herky jerky and barely coherent. Kind of like if you were to capture the soul of a seven year old and convert it to audio form. Pass the bogey flavored jelly beans and enjoy.

Comment for "Mandela: An Audio History (Hour Version)"

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Review of Mandela: An Audio History (Hour Version)

This is great. When I first heard about this idea, I wondered what value there would be in a non-narrated historical documentary. What sort of historical thread could be created without narration and how historically accurate could it be? "Mandela" succeeds, not as a factual history, but as the kind of storytelling that should accompany the heroes of our modern history. It is an emotional history, with enough archival tape from news broadcasts to hold the narrative together. The real strength comes from the interviews, located in context, so that the listener understands what it felt like to be part of the struggle to overturn apartheid and the power of that movement. We get a very clear sense of why this struggle was important.

"Mandela" does challenge the listeners a little as we seek to identify the different voices. A careful listener will have no problem recognizing Nelson Mandela's voice nor that of Desmond Tutu, both of which occur throughout. The casual listener may not recognize the voice of DeClerk and may find the abridged political analysis of Botha's collapse and Mandela's release to be confusing. Although it would be nice if these sections could be more clear, I am won over by the power of non-narrated history to, well bring us closer to the story, or even into the story. I am excited about what this says about the role of radio in helping us form a historical conciousness.

Comment for "Julian Bond on Race in America"

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Review of Julian Bond on Race in America

As a UVA alum, I listened to this with great interest. It made me wish I had taken Bond's class while at UVA. Just a well produced interview, clearly presented, well edited, with a certain depth. As white, educated, and fascinated by race in America, I felt like the program was well geared to me. I learned a little bit about Bond's personal history and the civil rights movement and then the interview turned to a quick surface discussion of race today. Sarah McConnell picked current and important topics on which Bond had something to say. Bond is clever and engaging, never at a lost for words; he is politically engaged but willing to explore truth with a degree of self-criticism. I was probably most interested in his comments on Trent Lott and parameters concerning the use of racially offensive language.

Note: I wrote this review in the Fall of 2005. As of fall of 2006, I am now working for With Good Reason as Associate Producer. I will leave the review up for now, as I stand by it, and believe it might be useful to stations. -JPD