Comments by Richard Paul

Comment for "Ecobikes Dublin"

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Review of Ecobikes Dublin

I should say that the producer of this piece contacted me and asked me to write this review. I asked him, "What if I hate it?" And he said, "Write about it anyway." This is a little slice-of-life piece about ... something. I'm not really sure what. There's no scripted introduction for a station's announcer to read before the piece, so as a listener I'm left wondering -- throughout the piece -- what is the thing that this story is about? That -- it seems to me -- is a basic fact that a reporter might put into a piece.

Comment for "Vibrator Technology" (deleted)

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Review of Vibrator Technology (deleted)

I listened to this piece. But only for the articles (ha, ha).

There are some interesting facts revealed in this piece, but I found it confusingly produced. Specifically, it makes some odd and -- to my ear -- unnecessary uses of sound effects (not natural sounds; sound effects). For instance, the principal voice in the story says "I was looking through magazines" and you hear pages ruffling. She says "I took notes" and you hear a pen scribbling. Later, someone says "egg beater" and you hear an egg beater. Personally I found this so distracting that I had to go back a second time and listen to the piece to understand its content. Obviously your listeners won't be able to do this.

Also, at one point the principal interviewee is interviewing someone. I *think* this is from a documentary that is referenced in the piece, but I'm not sure. Also, there is mic. handling noise at 5:12

This piece is produced for IEEE and, to my ear, it promotes the Institute in the first mention that's made of it in the piece ("The preeminent - something/something").

Comment for "Shakespeare's Garage Sale"

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Review of Shakespeare's Garage Sale

This is adorable. A very short, cute little piece of people picking through old costumes. Goes on just long enough. Very nice piece.

Comment for "The Military Honor Guard (long version)"

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Review of The Military Honor Guard (long version)

This is a straight-forward reporter piece that walks the listener through a military funeral. It?s the sort of thing you hear on local ?Morning Edition?s all over the country.

Comment for "Certifiable: Laughter Club Training"

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Review of Certifiable: Laughter Club Training

I believe one needs to be skeptical of any story that presents its subject in a 100% positive manner. There is no questioning on the part of the producer/reporter about any of the claims made by the subject of this piece. I find that troubling. If Dr. Kataria were selling a new massage chair or new skin cream and making all kinds of claims about their physical, spiritual and existential benefits, wouldn't it be expected that a reporter would ask questions like, How much do you make off of this? What tangible benefits can you point me to? These answers may exist and it's possible that if they were addressed, they would make the doctor's claims more valid (and make the story stronger). But because they are not asked, this story comes across a little bit like an info-mercial.

Comment for "My Muslim Hairdresser"

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Review of My Muslim Hairdresser

This is an interesting idea. It's a self-narrated story about a Muslim convert who cuts hair, but keeps her own hair covered. Self-narrated pieces, by their nature depend entirely on the strength of the subject. In this case, the speaker is not the most compelling. The piece suffers because of that, but it's still a slice of life that's worth hearing. I have a question though: The producer's intro is in the first-person so you are led to believe that this will be about the producer. But then the producer disappears and all you hear is the hairdresser. So why's the producer in there to begin with?

Comment for "Frustrated Filipinos"

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Review of Frustrated Filipinos

This is an interesting ax-and-trax piece about something Americans don't focus on enough -- public opinion in another country. Play this soon, however before the situation in the country changes again.

Comment for "American Soundcheck - Fort Worth, TX" (deleted)

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Review of American Soundcheck - Fort Worth, TX (deleted)

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the host of this show tells Nick Spitzer "Wow, you're the dreamy-est!" The host seems to do everything he can to sound like Nick Spitzer both in his vocal inflection and his writing -- placing strings of adjectives just-before the names of the artists he's promo-ing, and wistfully intoning words like "blues" and "icon."

When it's not derivative, the writing is as simple as a 5th grade book report -- "We'll look at significant events, then we'll hear a song. The song has a connection. Later we'll tell you what that connection is" -- and as stirring as a citation out of the Encyclopedia Britannica. There are references that are not explained ("Camp Bowie and the ensuing martial law"!?) and at one point, the word “place” is used three times in 11 seconds. Throughout the show I listened to, music pops in underneath narration at levels that are too hot and then pops out abruptly which is equally distracting. And the host steps on his posts -- a punishable crime in DJ-land.

Comment for "Wealth and Poverty: Predatory Lending" (deleted)

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Review of Wealth and Poverty: Predatory Lending (deleted)

This is a good story well told but it misses a key opportunity to do some good. The story talks about a problem that is faced by consumers. But the reporter takes the position that this problem can only be stopped by government. This is where the story falls short. Near the end of the piece, we're told education about predatory lending "is sorely needed." Unfortunately, this story misses an opportunity to provide it. A story that says "There's a problem, this is a person who experienced the problem, these are the kinds of people who have the problem, this is legislation that might address the problem" is OK as far as it goes. But the good thing about public radio is that it gives you the time to offer people some advice on how to avoid the problem in the first place. The reporter might have spent some time telling people how, in the short term (absent a bill coming out of Congress), they can avoid being victims of predatory lenders.

When it gets to the "make sure you don't do this" part, the reporter lapses either into jargon that she doesn't explain (what does "bait and switch" mean in this context? Can I get an example?) or bank-speak ("sub prime lender," "interest-only loan"). Are there nonprofits I can go to who’ll advise me? Are there websites I can check if someone comes to my door offering one of these loans? We are not told. It’s too bad because the reporter obviously did a lot of hard work on this story.

Comment for "Put it Away After Labor Day?" (deleted)

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Review of Put it Away After Labor Day? (deleted)

To paraphrase the White-Down-Jacket-and-Cashmere lady in the story, this is a cute piece. The producer has an interesting premise. She goes to (it sounds like) about 50 people and asks them about the acceptability of wearing white after Labor Day. But that's all she asks. It never goes beyond that first step and so this becomes a one-joke piece. I was hoping it would build from this one premise, but it didn't. It turns out to be a lot more factual than what one is led to believe is coming from the opening, which sets you up for "funny." So it's an inoffensive little piece that it won't kill you to run the day before Labor Day next year.

Comment for "Dark Fluorescence: A New Piece of New Music" (deleted)

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Review of Dark Fluorescence: A New Piece of New Music (deleted)

This is a very long, sprawling and – to my ears – quite unstructured story that is deeply in need of some discipline. The narrator has a nice conversational style. However, the quality of the audio in the voice tracks is surprisingly bad and the piece does not appear to have been equalized. Music blasts at you at alarmingly high levels one second, and then the next, you’re struggling to hear what someone is trying to say from across the room. I found this incredibly distracting and it made it almost impossible for me to maintain my attention on the subject of the piece.

I should also say this; 2 minutes into a story about an orchestral piece I hadn’t heard any music. Five minutes in; I'm hearing a piece of classical music but I don’t know whether I’m hearing the piece that is the subject of this story. It's not clear. And it's not clear whether I've heard anything from it up to now. Eight minutes in same thing. If I'm hearing it, I haven't been told. And if I haven't heard it, why not? Eleven minutes in and I still hadn't heard the piece of music that's the subject of the story. Finally, 12 minutes into the story we hear a snippet of the piece.

To me, that seems like asking a lot of patience from your audience.

Comment for "Denny Zeitlin"

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Review of Denny Zeitlin - Jazz Perspective

This is a somewhat interesting opportunity to listen to the very pretty jazz of a little-known performer. But what does the fact that this man is a psychiatrist have to do with the story? The topic is raised and then dropped as we go on to hear the performer talk about a handful of pieces of his music. Why bring it up? It raises expectations in the listener that don't get realized.

The man profiled is engaging, but there doesn't seem to be enough time allowed to get to know him. There are long-ish clips of music, music analysis, and the subject's personality all crammed into a 3 1/2 minute piece. Maybe a little less might have yielded more.

Comment for "Bridge Spitting"

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Review of Bridge Spitting

I applaud the effort to get more storytelling on the radio. That said, in this case ... I just saw "Urinetown" night-before-last and there's a passage from the show that seems apropos to this story:

Little Sally: Oh, I guess you don't want to overload them with too much exposition, huh. ……
Officer Lockstock: Everything in its time, Little Sally. You're too young to understand it now, but nothing can kill a show like too much exposition. …..

There's a sense of self-satisfaction in the presentation of this story -- I get a feeling that the writer is a person of significance within this organization and so no one dares tell him that his work might be better if he'd tone it down a little. There seems to be a lot of the Jean Shepherd-wannabe in this piece that comes off sounding like something you'd hear from a Damon Runyon character -- he says things like "Thusly" and "Viscous Expulsions" that -- to my ear anyway -- scream out "Ain't I cute!?"

And watch out -- in a bid for verisimilitude, I believe someone yells "the F word."

Comment for "Back to School in a Garbage Can"

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Review of Back to School in a Garbage Can

This is very close to being the realization of a really good idea. I understand that the problem is: You have work with what you have -- they can't make up additional stuff that wasn't in the trash. So it's not their fault when this becomes a bit too jumbled. Overall, it's short enough that it's not a problem that it only comes close to being exactly what it wanted to be. It's a great idea. I give them credit for coming up with it. And, as I say, they almost get it right. Oh, and the music's too loud.

Comment for "Backwoods Debaters Kick Butt"

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Review of Backwoods Debaters Kick Butt

This was a story about a debate team, so why didn't we hear any debating? The great thing about radio is that it can bring you to the place you’re learning about. When a reporter doesn’t take advantage of the primary benefit of the medium, I believe the story suffers. In this piece, for instance, we are told and told and told by the reporter that this debate team is good. If the reporter had demonstrated this, the piece would have been less talky (this is a very talky piece) and might have given us more of the students’ humanity.

There are some other things about this piece that struck me as odd. Though this is a story about a group of kids who live in a particular community, at one point there is a back-and-forth between two kids who DON'T live in this community that seems to go on longer than any of the sound bites in the piece WITH kids from the community. This back-and-forth also has nothing to do with the topic of the story. It’s just two kids flirting with each other. The community being profiled is described as very strictly religious. So the sound of two kids who are not from the community flirting seems an odd choice, as does the use of the phrase “kick butt” in the title. One wonders what the elders of the community would think about either of these things. There is also some writing about the community that sounds like it was taken from a press release. We are told, for instance that newlyweds "dwell" in their own homes. Dwell?

I believe this could have been a very interesting story.

Comment for "Prom Prep 101 2005: Episode 3" (deleted)

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Review of Prom Prep 101 2005: Episode 3 (deleted)

This turns out to actually be someone offering a check-list of things to do before the prom. No jokes, minimal commentary; just music with someone talking about things to do. I suppose it might be helpful if I needed this information, but it sort of comes across like someone reading the instructions on how to put a bicycle together or something. Actually it's two pieces. One ends and then the next starts.

Comment for "Singing Sanitation Worker"

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Review of Singing Sanitation Worker

This is a cute, little piece. The garbage man has a terrific voice and it does put a smile on your face to hear him. The piece feels a little long, even at 3:40, but that’s mostly because he doesn’t have that much to say. This is the sort of thing you don’t even think about, let alone hear.

Comment for "Barry, Bob & Me"

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Review of Barry, Bob & Me

Not knowing what you're talking about, I have a hard time knowing what to say about this piece. I hear this piece and I say "Uh-huh" and then I go on to the next thing I'm doing. I'm guessing it's because I haven't a clue who Barry Hannah is or what his writing sounds like.

Comment for "Bi Chic"

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Review of Bi Chic

This piece is great! A topic you don't hear enough about from a perspective you never hear. And it's done with wit and style.

It's a little long, gets repetitive, the music and some tracks are mixed too hot here and there, and it really could have used an adult perspective, but this is a terrific piece.

Comment for "Julie the Amtrak God"

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Review of Julie the Amtrak God

Very weird but in a really nice way. I think the term "zen-like" is overused and misused so I won't use that to describe this piece. But it is hypnotic in a way and lovely in a way too. The human voice has a lazy sexiness that makes this encounter alluring in a way one wouldn’t expect. I've heard this technique used before, but it's always in other direction – the recorded voice is always messing-around with a human. I guess that's one thing that’s so wonderful about this; the person is messing with the machine which is something we're told we're not allowed to do anymore.

Comment for "Lessons from Hiroshima, 60 Years Later" (deleted)

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Review of Lessons from Hiroshima, 60 Years Later (deleted)

There are two sides to every story. This documentary gives you one of them. It wears its politics quite obviously on its sleeve. The first 1/2 of this show is a workman-like recitation of the "anti" side of the argument about using the atomic bomb to end WWII -- civilians died, others were badly injured, soldiers were sent into irradiated areas without proper gear, America lied, America covered up, the American people were kept in the dark, etc. We do hear one person who says this was the right decision (about 40 minutes into the show), but even this person is used to criticize America for pushing Japan to send troops to Iraq. .....Twenty-five minutes into the show, we leave the subject of Hiroshima and go to a conversation with the head of the IAEA about the present state of nuclear weapons, including praise for the Europeans for doing a better job of negotiating with Iran than the US, an attack on John Bolten's approach to the UN and a slap at Israel. ..... Then it's back to Hiroshima survivors and others who criticize the US and Israel. ..... If you're interested in telling this story on your station, you might consider following this show with a discussion that might include the Rape of Nanking, the Bataan Death March and other mitigating factors that have led America to a 47/46 split on the question of whether using the atomic bomb in Japan was a good idea.

Comment for "Black Tension"

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Review of Black Tension

There is interesting information here, but the structure of the story defeats it. Points are raised, but there does not seem to be an effort to link them together. As a result, the story is sort of all-over-the-place -- They cut hair. They speak their native language. They come from Liberia. Black Americans say they don't like them. Affirmative Action should be reserved for people who were once slaves. Until about 2 minutes in, I wasn't even sure what this story was about. It might help for the reporter to put a thesis much nearer the top. It needn't be in her words. She seems to have enough experts to say whatever point it is she's trying to get across. Also, the pacing of the story is very languid. It could do with some tightening. On a technical point, natural sound pops in at 2:37 for no reason.

If this piece was about 2 minutes shorter and more tightly written, it could serve to address some very important issues.

Comment for "The Balloon Hat Experience"

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Review of The Balloon Hat Experience

OK, I'm from Washington, DC and as you hear in this story, people in Washington just don't "get it" about balloon hats. There's a small stretch of this piece that has the balloon guy walking around Georgetown offering balloon hats. Everyone say "no thanks." So maybe that explains why this story left me empty. I never quite connected with what the big deal was and the narrator of the piece didn't tell me either. He merely assumed that I would be as taken with these balloon hat-making guys as he was and would instantly understand what the big deal was.

That's also my problem with the ending of the piece, which to me seems a bit of a leap. I certainly have not learned anywhere near enough about this person to care about his relationships with women or whether or not he'll ever have kids. And by the way, I also don't get why; if he spends all his time making kids happy, that would lead him to never want kids. That seem incongruous.

But I think the things I see as problems with this piece can be solved by restructuring. There's a very nice section in the middle that I think ought to go first. After the balloon hat maker is rebuffed in Georgetown, he goes to a poor section of town where people DO appreciate the balloon hats. If it were me, I'd put these two segments first, to show that while YOU may not appreciate balloon hats, some people do and then use that example to lead the listener to understand that while some people are jaded about this practice, these guys have gone all over the world using balloon hats to connect with all different kinds of people.

That would also solve the problem of there being no natural sound in the piece until the middle – something which, to my ears, adds to the piece's empty feeling. Let me hear some joy. Let me hear some acceptance. Let me hear something that gives me a sense of what it is about the balloon hat that (as the piece says) "expresses a level of positivity" that no one had ever experienced before.

As it stands, this is a moderately interesting story about a quirky guy. While it is by no means engrossing, I believe it could be with some work.

Comment for "Local News Sucks"

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Review of Local News Sucks

This is a really cute piece, unfortunately the audio is atrocious. That's a shame. The actual clips from the evening news are breathtaking in their idiocy and they do everything they are supposed to do to make the commentator's point. But you can barely hear them. The voice tracks have a freshness and they sound real, like you're sitting with this guy at a bar or a party and he's just raving about how stupid the local news is. He does go on a little too long and it starts to sound like an Open-Mic Night routine ("Hey, the evening news, what's with THAT?!") after a while. But overall, this seems like a good first draft.

Comment for "GeoQuiz Parody #2"

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Review of GeoQuiz Parody #2

I think it was Peter Sagal who once told me that there's a difference between funny and "NPR funny." This piece is "NPR funny." Also, there's a really ripe P pop in the middle of it.

Comment for "Funny Business"

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Review of Funny Business

You say that they laughed. I would have loved to have heard what made them laugh. As it is, this commentary moves from point A to point B, but I would have liked a little more humanity. I think you have the "bones" of a piece, but I feel that those bones need some meat on them. And while you're at it, it wouldn't hurt to make those bones funny.

Comment for "50 States in 5 Minutes"

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Review of 50 States in 5 Minutes

I thought this piece was an absolute riot. But at the same times it’s poignant and sweet without being cloying. I love the mixture of old and new recordings and the ones with the little kids really touch your heart. Find an opportunity to use this on election night. It’s a wonderful achievement.

Comment for "Fiat 500 Fan"

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Review of Fiat 500 Fan

Cute use of music. But I have to say ... You know how sometimes someone tells you a story, and they're laughing while they tell it, and then they notice that you're looking at them with a quizzical look and they say "Well I guess you had to be there"? That's how I felt listening to this piece. The reporter obviously thought there was something magical or interesting or unusual about this old car. But as I listener, I feel that she doesn't do enough to "show" me the car. We have to take her word for it that this car is in-some-way unusual or interesting or magical. I'm not saying the piece needs to be narrated. Maybe if she has some tape of someone explaining better what's so unusual about this car. It's an old car. And ... ? For some reason it reminds people in Berlin of "being on holiday." Why? There seems to be the start of a delightful piece here. But as it stands I find it very confusing.

Comment for "My Future Self, Age 30"

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Review of My Future Self, Age 30

So they'll still be writing letters 30 years in the future? That's a relief. If I understand it, this woman will be doing "something important enough that you'll all know about it" in 30 years which will consist of "doing stuff" that's "not really important" and "trying to find work that's not 9-to-5" and having "commitments, but whatever." Huh? I don't get it. Is this -- this conversation that I'm hearing, this letter I'm hearing her read -- is this what she's going to be? Is this what she hopes to avoid? Is there something that the editor "got" about this piece that I missed? Am I too dumb to get it? Too old? I'm sorry, this to me was two dull kids talking on the phone. I'm tempted to call that number in London that the guy gives and see who answers.

Comment for "Kitty Keeps On Singing"

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Review of Kitty Keeps On Singing

I have to admit I didn't finish listening to this piece. Maybe it's not fair of me to write a critique, but I have to say, I was 3 minutes in (I believe the piece is 6:30) and I had heard no tape. I believe that this is an adaptation of another piece I heard on PRX called "Kitty (somebody)'s War" where a family had bought a phonograph-record-making-machine and there's tape of people singing and talking. So I was expecting to hear some tape. When I hadn't heard any after 1/2 the piece had played, I gave up.

Perhaps the producer was saving this tape for the end. Perhaps she felt this added suspense. If so, for what it's worth, personally I didn't feel it.

I wonder whether the producer made an effort to find others to help her tell this story. I expected, for example, reminiscences from the people being spoken about. Or perhaps there would be reminiscences from those people's children or grandchildren. What I heard was one woman reading a litany of woes. That would have been fine if there had been an effort to universalize these woes. I did not hear that. What I heard was "Here's the tough time my relative had."

I should also say that the audio quality of the voice tracks was quite poor. It's particularly noticeable at one point where the voice track ends and the music sweeps in. There's some kind of hiss or crackle that suggests the voice tracks were recorded with inferior equipment.