Comments by Joseph Dougherty

Comment for "Sly Crooner Episode #8 The Fly"

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Review of Sly Crooner Episode #8 The Fly

As a writer and performer, Geoffrey Tozer works a hep-highwire from which many have fallen. But Mr. Tozzer stays effortlessly and breathtakingly on the wire mixing a potent martini that evokes Jean Shepherd and Ken Nordine, but plays a riff all his own.

The episodes of "Sly Crooner" pass my long standing test of quality: "Do I want this program coming out of my dashboard on a long night drive across the desert?" Absolutely.

Program directors, this show can own the overnight for you.

Comment for "The Latvala Files: Hangin' Out in the Vault"

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Review of The Latvala Files: Hangin' Out in the Vault

"Don't you think it's time you started taking life a little more seriously? Your mother and I understand how much you like this music, it sounds like a bunch of noise to us, but you like it and that's fine...I suppose. But you can't spend your whole life doing this. I mean, this isn't a career. This isn't how normal people make a living. Okay, it's fun, and it makes you feel like you're 'part of something.' But normal people just don't dedicate their entire lives Don't you want to settle down? Don't you want to be like everybody else? Okay, you 'get chills' when you listen to this band, but you can't put something like that in the bank. 'Getting chills' doesn't pay the rent, young man."

"Yeah, dad, but paying rent don't give me chills."

Remember, you can get just as high listening to this series without drugs. And if you do it straight, the radio doesn't change shape during the broadcast.

Comment for "Walking With My Father"

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Review of Walking With My Father

Simple, but not simplistic, this elegant setting for Charlie Rizzo's memories of his father is a remarkably patient and elegant narrative. Uncluttered, impeccably edited and produced, it has that intimacy only radio can achieve. Certainly programmable in the context of fathers and sons, but appropriate for discussions of loss and storytelling and the elusive qualities of manhood. Because of its tone it deserves to be used in day-parts where people can take the time to pay attention.

Comment for "Dear Radio"

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Review of Dear Radio

Breaking up is hard to do. Carolina Wheat's Dear John letter to Frequency Modulation would be funnier if it wasn't so depressingly true; if she didn't nail the relationship some of us have had with radio...intimate, forbidden, secret...and how that auditory lover has grown increasingly stupid and unresponsive. Witty and well produced, the piece would add perspective to any discussion of the concentration of corporate owned media and our personal relationship to what we listen to.

Comment for "Table For Two (Empty Chairs)"

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Review of Table For Two (Empty Chairs)

Part beat reverie, part Ken Nordine soundscape, Ken Girardey confidently sculpts music, language and wishful thinking to create a contemplation of loss and regret on the road to eternity. Perfect overnight programming, this passes my test for appropriate audio company on a late night drive across the desert.

Comment for "What Would Scarlet Do?"

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Review of What Would Scarlet Do?

There's a theory about objects retaining energy and bits of personality. It may be true, or it may be something we profoundly wish. Either way, a prom dress can be about so much more than one teenage night. A pink gown can pack all the wallop of a Proustian cookie. Clear, uncluttered, honest, this is a simple essay about complex memories. Programable anywhere, certainly in discussions of mothers and daughters and the price of Alzheimer?s disease, but it's also about memory and what we value and what physical things we keep from our pasts. A small, precious cameo of a piece.

Comment for "Sun Tunnels"

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Review of Sun Tunnels [S. Carrier]

One of the things really good conceptual art can do is force a debate about what the hell constitutes art in the first place. This visit to the Sun Tunnels will do one of two things: Fill you with a deep burning need to drive four hours outside of Salt Lake City to experience a set of concrete tunnel sections lined up with the winter and summer solstice. Or its excessive mellowness and ersatz beat sensibilities will send you running for fresh air and a Big Mac. Both reactions would be completely valid. Which makes this little item such an interesting auditory Rorshach test.

Comment for "Me and George W (No good deed goes unpunished)"

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Review of Me and George W (No good deed goes unpunished)

The sort of carefully crafted observational narrative you crave from a classic short story...but you'd reject as too perfect if it was presented as fiction. A superb look back in time that goes a long way to explain certain current situations, told with a inventive flare in a genuine voice. Programable anywhere, but would be a remarkable and unexpected punctuation mark to any discussion of American politics.

Comment for "Father Figures- HV Special" (deleted)

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Review of FATHER FIGURES Father's Day Special (deleted)

A bittersweet father's day sampler paced and produced with polish by Hearing Voices. Fatherhood is a damn treacherous line of work, you'll never really know until it's way too late if you were getting it anywhere close to right. Fathers and kids, sometimes the best we can manage is a sort of short-wave communication, fading in and out of clarity. Father Figures is a mix of father-centric pieces ranging from the self-conscious to the completely unexpected, mixing the perspectives of fathers and sons and daughters, all elegantly balanced. The mark of success here is how each piece leaves you hungry for the next.

Comment for "What's the Word? Shakespearean Queens"

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Review of What's the Word? Shakespearean Queens

There's a conspiracy out there that has spent the better part of a century trying to convince us that Shakespeare is really, really hard to understand; that there is no way into the plays without the sophisticated guidance of people who are smarter than we are. This is the work of bacon-fed knaves and milksops. "What?s the Word" comes dangerously close to being excessively authoritative, but manages to remember that the plays of Shakespeare are vibrantly alive and profoundly accessible with modest effort. The takes on three of Shakespeare?s queens presented here are open, informed and careful to avoid freezing the characters in official interpretations. The only thing that's missing, and it's a surprising exclusion, are samples of the plays themselves. The characters are discussed, but we never get to hear their words. Shakespeare wrote to be performed, and one wishes we could hear the speeches intercut with the commentary.

Comment for "Murakami's Well"

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Review of Murakami's Well

I remember an old Zen chestnut: "There's the thing and then there's the name for the thing, and that's one thing too many." And that's the problem at the heart of this exploration of Japanese writer Haruki Murakami. My brush with Murakami has been brief, but memorable: the book of short stories "After the Quake." I remember the stories and I remember the hotel room I was in when I read them. So for my money anything that can nudge a reader toward the fiction of Murakami is to be encouraged. This is an earnest and serious effort to make you turn off the radio and pick up a Murakami book. However it runs the risk of ossifying what it's praising. One should be leery of all critics, especially literary ones who speak with the dry tone of expertise. But the mission here is a noble one. Will it move anyone toward Murakami or will it send them running for the hills? Depends on the listener. For me, if you're trying to decide if you should read Murakami, the only thing you need to know about him is who he has chosen to translate into Japanese: F. Scott Fitzgerald and Raymond Carver.

Comment for "HEAT -- The Contenders"

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Review of HEAT -- The Contenders

"Radio is strange." Deft interviewer and journalist John Hockenberry effortless updates material from his series "Heat" produced way back in the 90's. The effect is that of someone carefully re-editing a vintage magazine and finding that the really relevant stuff doesn?t change. Calm, confident, patient, intimate, this is radio conversation at its best and its most unexpected.

Listening to Spalding Gray and Hockenberry switch host/guest roles is a rare gift to the audience.

Programable anywhere, but deserving of careful placement. Weekends and overnights would permit the pieces the space they need to breathe.

Comment for "RN Documentary: Whitman - Songs of the Poet"

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Review of RN Documentary: Whitman - Songs of the Poet

As scrupulous as it is conventional, this two part study of Walt Whitman runs the risk of explaining the poet right out of existence. The saving grace is radio's ability to not just discuss the musical influences on Whitman, but to share the music itself. But there is a heck of a lot of discussion. There's no challenging the depth of research and impeccable production values, hallmarks of pieces from Radio Netherlands, but it all feels slightly academic, which seems in conflict with its subject. It is a formal piece that wants to be used formally.


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Review of Louder Than a Bomb 2007 (deleted)

You can almost hear the "beat" torch being passed to a new generation as you listen to the pieces in this series. Each one brims with energy and imagination. There is nothing polite about these performances, but that's one of the things that makes them so vital. Some are ragged, some are wise, some are angry, some are all three things at once and more. The thrill that lives in these pieces is the palpable sense of young people testing the weight of words and experiencing the rush of wielding the tools of language. The programing possibilities are as limitless as the passions of the writer/performers. They could be folded into a music mix to fill a half-hour or an entire overnight block.

The spirit of Ferlinghetti is alive and well.

Comment for "Cheesing!"

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Review of Cheesing!

"What did that mean?" Marjorie Van Halteren's essay/performance piece lives comfortably on the continuum between Laurie Anderson and Ken Nordine. Polished rather than slick, smart rather than clever, self deprecating, observational and well produced this piece passes my ultimate test: Do you want it on a long night drive through a desert? Programable anywhere and a welcome addition to any discussion of language and cultural perspectives.

Comment for "Are we moving yet? (The men of the Fulton Fish Market)"

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Review of Are we moving yet? (The men of the Fulton Fish Market)

"The sun comes up, it's almost over."

A simple, unpretentious tumbling portrait of the voices of the men of New York's Fulton Fishmarket. It's meant to ramble, but as such it probably would benefit from programming in the context of a wider discussion of the American work place or labor in general. But the voices themselves are the irresistible heart of the piece. Studs Terkel would approve.

Comment for "Conversation with Norman Mailer"

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Review of Conversation with Norman Mailer

As stated in the introduction to this interview, Norman Mailer has often been accused of being overly ambitious as a writer. Arguably true, but that means he has never been afraid to write large, loud, and passionately. Once you decide to live and write like that, the only thing you can guarantee is that you will, more than once, fall on your ass.

My taste in prose has always run in a different direction from Mailer, but listening to this interview there seemed less of the bombast I remember from the past and an encroaching spirituality built in equal parts of God, American intelectualism, and Texas Hold 'Em.

A Mailer fan or not, it's always a pleasure to listen to the confident voice of a powerful writer.


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Review of Jack Kerouac Disembodied School of Poetics (deleted)

An appropriately jagged series presenting the jagged work of poets aggressively struggling with the language and their own emotions, where the difference between a poem and incoherence can boil down to the attitude living in the writer's voice. All these dark flowers blossom from an archive with a provenance at the core of the beat movement. This isn't Wordsworth, this isn't even Whitman. This is a collection of ragged, not always successful attempts to carve something out of the air. Successful or unsuccessful they all fearlessly test the limits of words and the definition of writing.

The quality and impact of the individual pieces are all over the spectrum. The ones that speak to you should be programmed carefully, setting them in a music mix like dangerously sharp diamonds.

Just remember, in some cases, "angry" is exactly what the writer wants you to feel.

Comment for "Songs of the Troubles"

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Review of Songs of the Troubles

There's a painfully appropriate Tom Lehrer lyric about protest music, "They may have won all the battles, but we had all the best songs."

Bitterness and weary sadness run through the music of both sides of the Irish Troubles documented in Charles Lane's richly detailed program putting the folk music of Ireland in historical context.

Folk songs have a habit of outliving their political references and this program re-sets several centuries of Celtic music in the bloody conflict that surrounded its creation.

Certainly appropriate for programming around St. Patrick's Day, stations should note the seriousness of this presentation. The music here is a tool for understanding or at least trying to put a human voice to a tragic conflict and should not be casually programed as exclusively musical fare.

Comment for "Tales From the Morgue: Can't Stand the Heat" (deleted)

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Review of Tales From the Morgue: Can't Stand the Heat (deleted)

If there's a radio equivalent to the gooey indulgence of macaroni-and-cheese, this is it. Gleefully derivative of everything from "Lights Out" to "Mystery Science Theater 3000," this audio evocation of those youth destroying EC horror comics, the ones Stephen King used to hide under the mattress, is pure guilty pleasure. Uncontaminated by seriousness and higher purpose, produced with a careful eye for B-movie details, the piece is unrepentant balderdash and should be welcomed at any time of the programming day. "But, Jasper, you're a scientist. Surely you don't believe in this nonsense."

Comment for "Women Who Can Fly: Trina Robbins and Superheroines"

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Review of Women Who Can Fly: Trina Robbins and Superheroines

Elizabeth Chur?s interview with comic book creator Trina Robbins is comparatively dry as programing but charged with the appropriately super energy and insight of its subject. Trina Robbins who can look at the history of the world and come to the curious, but completely understandable conclusion that ?All through history men have been intimidated by women who fly,? is well worth meeting and the piece presents her in a clear, uncluttered way. Beyond comics and post-post feminism Girl Power, Robbins is someone worth knowing about as a creative beacon. Chur describes her with what could be the best life instruction I?ve ever heard: ?When there?s a book she wants to read that no one has written yet, she has to write it herself.? Programable anywhere, but because of its almost austere production values, it would benefit from carefully selected wraparound material.

Comment for "Secrets"

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Review of Love and Radio: Secrets

This program passes my ultimate test: Do I want to listen to it in a car on a late night drive through the desert. An Idiosyncratic, playful, anecdotal, essay on the nature of secrets and the irresistible need to release them to someone, somewhere reaches the strangely counterintuitive conclusion that a secret isn?t really a secret unless you tell someone. Well produced, flexibly programable and very appropriate for desert driving.

Comment for "Butterbeans and Susie: A Vaudeville Cabaret" (deleted)

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Review of Butterbeans and Susie: A Vaudeville Cabaret (deleted)

The considerable pleasure taken from a program like this is tempered by the sense of how much has been lost and, inexcusably, how much has been forgotten. This revisionism free celebration features recreations of work from early twentieth century stars Butterbeans and Susie, performed by Vernel Bagneris and Topsy Chapman and set, like vintage gems, in a program of crisp jazz from The Jim Cullum Jazz band, all performed in front of an appreciative live audience.

Beyond the entertainment value, the Riverwalk Jazz Black History Month Special uses Butterbeans and Susie to frame a rare and important primer on the history of black vaudeville. Well produced and seamlessly programable anywhere in the day.

Comment for "Bob & Ray THE LOST EPISODES Program 1"

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Review of Bob & Ray THE LOST EPISODES Program 1

I?ll gladly confess a personal prejudice here: I think I?ve spent more time laughing out loud listening to Bob & Ray than I have to any other comedians. The dry wit and casual surrealism of Bob Elliot and Ray Goulding blasted the imaginations of countless radio listeners for more than a generation. Sophisticated and timeless, The Lost Episodes is an infectious collection of comedy that belongs on any station that celebrates radio drama.

Comment for "This I Believe - Kathy Dahlen"

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Review of This I Believe - Kathy Dahlen

Part of the eclectic ongoing series of ruminations on the nature of faith in all its forms, Kathy Dahlen?s first person essay finds proof of the soul by considering what?s left behind. As an English major she looked for something tangible to balance the world of ideas and philosophies, a search that led to her witnessing an autopsy. It takes a particular courage to spend time with death; we figure we?ll learn all we need to know about it soon enough. But Ms. Dahlen finds unexpected confirmation of something intrinsic and immeasurable in the presence of a young suicide?s body as it?s examined and quantified. Accessible and thought provoking this essay would be a stimulating addition to discussions of mortality and immortality. Although not overwhelmingly graphic in describing the autopsy, programmers should listen and judge for themselves how their audiences will take to the material.

Comment for "Girl Detectives-Expanded Version"

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Review of Girl Detectives-Expanded Version

One of the saddest and most consistent traits of the human heart is the need to make sense of the senseless. Part of what powers the search for answers, the need to turn the comprehensible into something graspable, understandable, is the knowledge of how fragile life is, how so many worlds can change catastrophically because of something as benign as a decision to go to the movies.

Profound in its simplicity, Sue Mell?s calmly courageous documentary about the painful ripples radiating from the violent death of a friend and the chillingly dismissive attitude of authorities that followed echoes with loss and frustration.

The discussion of conflicting sex-roles is appropriate, but not the most valuable lesson of the piece. The message that cuts across the gender lines is the vital importance of participation. Even in the worst moments of our lives, we need to be present, ask questions and demand answers, of those in power, those we love and ourselves.

Comment for "Finding My Place"

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Review of Finding My Place

Judah Bruce Leblang is both unselfconscious and without self-pity as he tells of a slice of his life thickened and weighed down by the internal slow-motion that is depression and its echoes. Visiting strange places gives him courage and there?s more than a little detachment in hearing him talk about his own life as if it were being observed from a not quite comfortable distance. His voice adds richness to what would otherwise be an austere description of a life where connections are either unavailable, misunderstood or consciously avoided, leaving us with the image of a man who dismisses his brother?s suburban life while at the same time envying the structure it provides. Operating at its own deliberate pace, the piece is almost antiseptic in its presentation and as such would need to be carefully placed and supported by appropriate programing on either side.

Comment for "POWDER RIVER. Season 1. Episode 1: THE PREACHER" (deleted)

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Review of POWDER RIVER. Season 1. Episode 1: THE PREACHER (deleted)

Well produced and uncontaminated by irony, Powder River makes the assumption that there are still adolescent imaginations capable of stimulation by something other than the surrogate mayhem of an X-box. This is the sort of radio drama that speaks to the inner twelve-year-old boy, best listened to on the living room rug with a mug of Ovaltine, facing the fabric-covered speaker of an Atwater-Kent. As such, it makes another assumption: That the target audience has or is willing to develop an attention span.

Powder River is both a promise and a challenge to its young audience and should be programed away from the sort of high-octane children's radio that might overwhelm the simple strengths of this very faithful homage to the sort of radio that once shaped a nation.

Comment for "The Long Weekend"

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Review of The Long Weekend

Well acted and carefully produced to create a sense of aural-cinema, ?The Long Weekend? is a subtle, cumulatively discomforting tale of a couple alone in a country house, plagued by mosquitoes, their own carefully carved secrets, and noises approaching from the dark woods that might turn out to be something much more lethal than simply a metaphor for a shaky marriage.

Creator Billy Senese requests that his plays be listened to ?late at night, with the lights off and the imagination free to roam.? He knows that the best theater resides in the space behind our eyes and I?d suggest honoring his request.

Comment for "The Undiscovered Explorer: Imagining York"

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Review of The Undiscovered Explorer: Imagining York

?The Undiscovered Explorer: Imagining York? stakes out a daunting triple agenda for itself: First, documenting the true story of the only African-American to travel with Lewis and Clark, Clark?s slave, York. Second, putting the various myths and interpretation of York in social context. And third, commenting on the difficulty of learning the truth, any truth, at such a distance.

The piece begins and ends with questions and York remains a mix of myth, invention, and a handful of tantalizing facts. But the story of this one man serves to crack open a larger debate and pose more lasting questions.

Arguably a tad over-produced and teetering on a certain generic presentational slickness, the piece is ultimately most successful in using York as a cultural spine, a way to track the image of the black male through American history.

The program also benefits from an ability to speak to several different audience age levels simultaneously, making it perfect for use in any day-part. Certainly this would be a solid addition to programming during Black History Month, but the piece doesn?t deserved to be restricted to February.