Comments by Sydney Lewis

Comment for "Brainstorm: An Experience of Brain Injury (58:00 / 53:00)" (deleted)

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Public Service Work (deleted)

Compelling, valuable piece from a producer skillfully working from inside the subject. Spare production allows the voices we hear to really sink into our brains. Important information from strong voices makes this a must air for brain injury month. Many suffer the effects of brain injury and the impact on a person's very soul can be difficult to overcome. This program brings us close to the complications and heartbreak inherent in surviving such an injury, as well as the transformation and recovery possible.

Comment for ""The Making of the War of the Worlds Broadcast""

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Review of "The Making of the War of the Worlds Broadcast"

Though 20 years old, this program, like the original War of the Worlds, still rates a listen. Thankfully, the producer interviewed WOW producer John Housman not long before he died (on Halloween of 1988). The story of this legendary Orson Welles broadcast is for the most part allowed to unfold through descriptions by Housman, and writer Howard Koch, along with voices recorded at Grover?s Mills 50th anniversary event. You can hear traces of amazement in the voices of people who heard that broadcast 70 years ago. Housman, reflecting 20 years ago on why the program still holds fascination, said: "It's history. It's one of the great events of the new age of mass communications." True still.

Comment for "Cars, Scars and Handlebars"

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Review of Cars, Scars and Handlebars

Lively, engaging look at the world of bike messengers. Perfect for biking season. Interviews conducted at Chicago biker bars, messenger bars, that is, are entertaining, as are person-on-the-street chats. Complaining pedestrians are balanced against bikers who?ve been tossed, tumbled, and near killed by buses, cars, and po?ed people. Especially amusing are the 50 year-old bike messenger who philosophically points out, ?You could die doing this interview,? and a younger messenger, recounting his interaction with a bus driver. Though it zips along wildly, like a bike messenger, at nine minutes it felt a couple of minutes too long to me.

Comment for "11 Central Ave #83. Plagiarism, written by James Reiss."

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Review of 11 Central Ave #83. Plagiarism, written by James Reiss.

I happened to be in Chicago when this aired during mid-morning news programming and it was a refreshing break from the madness of the day. Two parents, one slightly more neurotic than the other, fret over their daughter?s suspected plagiarism. My favorite line is when the kid says, ?Why are you talking about me in the 3rd person?? The writing is sharp and fast, the performances dead on. Though it?s fiction, it has the texture of real life, so one feels like a fly on the wall of their kitchen. Made me chuckle with recognition and I don?t even have kids. Great to have a little theatre pop out of the radio. I'll bet lots of listeners would get a kick out of work of this ilk.

Comment for "Asian-American Special - Don Ho Tribute (58:59 or 59:59)"

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Review of Don Ho Tribute Anniversary Memorial - His Life & Music (Full Version) 58:59 or 59:59

Hearing Ho?s version of ?Tiny Bubbles? has heretofore been the limit of my Don Ho experience. No more. I am not about to rush out and buy Don Ho?s greatest hits, mind you, but this smoothly produced hour gave me a genuine appreciation for why his audience loved him. I?d never realized how truly beautiful his pipes were.

The program host has a slightly old school style, but it works well in this piece and feels refreshingly different from current NPR voicing. The sound of waves in the background during the warm and relaxed interview is perfect; interview material nicely paced, interspersed with song.

Ho is Jimmy Buffet-like in his good time vibe, and while country music is Ho?s favorite, he knows for his audience he represents a certain spirit and he?s happy to oblige. Spirit is a word that comes up a lot in the interview, conducted a year after a stem cell transplant and heart surgery, and close to a year before he died.

Self-promotion is great, but insert 12 minutes in asking if I?m enjoying the program, urging me to let my public radio station know, falls like a thud. The pledge spot that follows also feels like an annoying interruption. I know, I know, it has to be that way smetimes. But In this piece, being pulled away from the waves is a jolt. Otherwise, really enjoyed this audio altar to the warm heart and generous spirit of Don Ho.

Comment for "An Angel-headed Hipster's Howl"

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Review of An Angel-headed Hipster's Howl

This lively reflection on the origins of "Howl" manages to be both lyrical and analytical, and is a great way to commemorate the 10th year of Ginsberg's corporeal absence from the planet. Poets who knew and were inspired by Ginsberg remind us how powerfully his youthful rage at the constraints of the fifties resonates in our post-911 world. Stanzas of "Howl" flow throughout, read by Ginsberg and others, and the piece includes a heart-lifting chorale version, as well as a very musical blending of an international language "Howl." Ginsberg's courageous candor and compassion feel truly "good to eat a thousand years."

Comment for "ONLY IN AMERICA: Program 6. No Dogs or Jews Allowed: The Story of Antisemitism in America."

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Review of ONLY IN AMERICA: Program 6. No Dogs or Jews Allowed: The Story of Antisemitism in America.

This is a very interesting hour of informative, fast-moving narrative skillfully threading together interviews, archival audio, and on-the-money music -- well edited, and thoughtfully produced. The program ranges back in time to the 16th-century's Portuguese Inquisition, when Jews were expelled or forced to convert to Catholicism, but briskly skips ahead to focus more intensively on anti-Semitism in the 20th-century.

Historian, psychologist, or other, the commentators hold your attention, and teach. If I once knew, I'd completely forgotten that Adolf Hitler was inspired by Henry Ford's virulently anti-Semitic newspaper, "The Dearborn Independent."

The program tracks the progression of Anti-Semitism and puts it within the context of larger social and political changes. It touches on third rail issues of immigration, discrimination, religious intolerance, genocide, war. Sound timely? Plus, we get to hear the voice of Edward R. Murrow as he unapologetically reports on the dark horror of Buchenwald. But I don't mean to make the program sound grim. It's engaging and offers glimpses of hope. Things change, always. Once in a while for the better.

Between the open -- American prep school boys cheering full-scale slaughter -- and the close -- a fantastic quote by Sartre -- lies an old-school hour of excellent radio. Program on appropriate holidays and historical anniversaries, but no need to ghettoize-- it's about people, so any time...

Comment for "For Kindred Spirits"

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Review of For Kindred Spirits

What a very lovely compilation of stories about animals, feeling and being connected in this world. We hear about everything from elephants to porcupines, along with lots of cat and dog tales, of course. We love our pets, yes, but this program encourages us to embrace, or at least respect a wider circle of life. The opening moments remind us that our ancestors felt respectful kinship with all of creation -- rocks, plants, insects, fish, birds, mammals considered as full of living spirit as two-legged beings. That's a fine thing to remember.

Though many of the stories were phoned in to the Kindred Spirits program, the quality is bearable and the insights and comments will move and amuse even the most hard-hearted of souls. To me, some of the music was just right, but certain choices came across as distractingly sappy. The stories stand strong with no need for emotion-tugging music. Refreshing, restorative, and recommended as something different from the usual fare. Would be great for a Sunday, or any evening.

Comment for "Shabbat: Conserving the World - An Earth Day Special"

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Review of Shabbat: Conserving the World - An Earth Day Special

Agnostic that I am, I found this an interesting, though restless-making hour. Which is ironic, since Shabbbat is all about slowing down. Rabbi Ismar Schorsch does a fine job of explaining the meaning and some of the rituals of Shabbat, both the practical and the poetic. A day dedicated to "stopping the clock," focusing on family, community, gratitude, and matters of spirit is so appealing. A day in which one behaves as a steward of the earth, refraining from the use of machines, not "tinkering or tampering," to again quote the good rabbi, going easy on the use of fossil fuels and energy, all good and valuable concepts to ponder. Shabbat as the heart of Judaism; Shabbat as a way to "manage the challenge of having too much," in host Larry Josephson's words. I appreciate learning all this about the meaning of Shabbat.

What made me restless was the repetition of the concepts. Very similar points made over and over. One thing if I'm studying Judaism, another if I'm a casually curious listener. Some beautiful music included, but its use sometimes frustrating -- small snippets in the first half, slightly longer stretches in the second. I'd just begin to feel the music when it would cease. And I wondered which was secular, which sacred. Fine editing and production quality, but for this listener less talk and more music would have made the difference in the number of stars.
NB: credits at 53:53, music at 54:12-54:36, more credits to 55:04 at which point music cuts out somewhat abruptly.

Comment for "Caught Live in the Act"

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Review of Caught Live in the Act

I am always happy to hear live music, off-key, off-mic, included. This year-end offering of some of the best live performances recorded by KUT is a pleasing, well-produced hour. David Brown hosts in economical style, sharing brief performance or performer details and then standing back to let the music carry the hour. Wasn?t familiar with all the acts, but enjoyed almost all, and glad for the introduction to Los Amigos Invisibles and Ghostland Observatory, both of whom got me bopping at my desk. Probably not for all audiences, but if your station skews young and music is part of your program day, a definite pick.

Comment for "Mary Jo's Kitchen - Hand-dipped candy"

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Review of Mary Jo's Kitchen - Hand-dipped candy

There is no "tones" choice labeled: mouth-watering, but Mary Jo's crisp enunciation, well-paced delivery, and clear directives have left me hankering after chocolate coated pecans and I am not remotely chocoholic! I think you'd have to be ready with pen in hand to write everything down, but if your memory still functions, the recipe is simple enough to hold in your head. Yum.

Comment for "Cool Yule"

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Review of Cool Yule

I have to admit, Aimee Mann does not spring to mind as a Christmas music kinda gal, nor does the Hawaiian born Bette Midler, come to think of it. But they, along with emotive Canadian singer/songwriter Sarah McLachlan, and a few new-to-me ringers, make for a fine and enjoyable change of pace from standard holiday fare. Features unpredictable song offerings, personal holiday musings, and original material ?? McLachlan points out the word Christmas makes for a tough rhyme. Steven Allen?s ?Cool Yule? swings warmly in Bette?s version, and Aimee Mann doesn?t say anything bad about Santa even though he?s a man. Seriously, something just a little different from usual Christmas fare, and a good pick for a holiday-stretch evening.

Comment for "My Favorite Things"

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Review of My Favorite Things

An amusing rumination that wanders from a look at one reason Rodgers and Hammerstein's classic, "My Favorite Things," (originally sung in a summer rainstorm) is such a holiday classic, to Hanukkah's festival of lights and that all important December activity: shopping. Any holiday piece that includes the word schlep is a-ok in my book, and in this one, you get to hear snippets of the animal version of "My Favorite Things." My dog insists this rates 4 stars.

Comment for "Baby, It's Cold Outside"

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Review of Baby, It's Cold Outside

Such a great song, and to hear Margaret Whiting's nightclub booze and smoke-cured sounding voice tell the back-story to the song's origin and her own recording is a fine winter story. Not a morning-time feel to it, but would be a good ATC or late night drop-in around the Christmas holidays.

Comment for "Turkey Hunting Tips"

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Review of Turkey Hunting Tips

Pleasing oral history nugget. This is a man who knows and understands the nuances of turkey mind: "Believe it or not, turkey's not a lot different than people." He has what I call a true accent, and an excellent gobble. A good drop-in if you're looking to fill a little air in seasonal fashion. Animal rights activists take note: don't listen. He is, after all, a hunter.

Comment for "The Man Who Didn't Die"

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Review of The Man Who Didn't Die

Dick Meister opens his compelling history nugget with the 1915 execution of Joe Hill, condemned organizer for Industrial Workers of the World, and moves back in time to explain what the fiery labor leader meant to the workers movement, and to the government which set out to squash him. Meister always packs lots of interesting information into his commentaries. His straight ahead delivery has improved by leaps and bounds in the past year or so. Not glamorous production, but solid, air-able, and damn valuable. Plus there?s a tasty nugget about postal workers invoking the Espionage Act to seize a packet of Hill's ashes. Which sounds like something that could happen this very day. With the minimum wage sitting stagnant year after year, and the 8-hour work day becoming a distant memory, and about 8,000 other things, this commentary led this reviewer to a moment of reflection on how painfully retro America has become. Dick Meister is a liberal, no doubt about it, and I'm his fan.

Comment for "Radiolab, Show 204: Where Am I?"

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Review of Radio Lab, Show 204: Where Am I?

This is a great hour of radio. I was hooked right off the bat: Robert Krulwich and Oliver Sacks in the same room, playing with a directional ball, and then Krulwich calls Sacks a weird guy! You can't beat that for a start. I laughed out loud a bunch of times, stopped what I was doing to listen and ponder, exclaimed wow, wow, wow, a lot, and when it ended, I wanted to listen again, and straight away. Fascinating content, production creatively and joyfully constructed and oh, yeah, it's about the brain. That's all I'll say. PDs, give your people a treat. If the rest of the series is as good as this, give them the whole dang smorgasbord.

Comment for "Bruce Springsteen: The Seeger Sessions"

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Review of Bruce Springsteen: The Seeger Sessions

I had a happy time making supper while listening to this pleasing hour, perfect for a Sunday evening, which it happened to be. Always inspiring to hear Pete Seeger's clarity and heart, music critic Dave Marsh provides incisive insight into Springsteen's approach, and Springsteen is his usual soulful straightforward self. And then there's the music. Seeger, Springsteen, swinging!

Comment for "RN Documentary: Not Enough Tears"

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Review of RN Documentary: Not Enough Tears

In this informative, moving portrait of a courageous human rights activist, doctor, teacher, and mother murdered for her beliefs, we get also a portrait of her family, as well as a fleeting yet panoramic view of politics and life in Sri Lanka.

Rajani Thiranagama?s husband, sister and daughter speak of their life before, during and after her death; their voices resonate as instruments of emotion, a small chamber orchestra of love and grief, its 4th player invisible, yet utterly present.

Sujan accents the words with ominous music, and one dramatic, but right-feeling fling of gunfire, but it?s the words, the poetry of phrase or insight, that kept me taut with attention. Hearing excerpts from Thiranagama?s letters, read by another, about how ?not moving, not making a shadow or a sound can kill the whole household,? brought my mind to other war zones; likewise her sister?s lamenting so many others killed, a ?community bereft.? Her daughter carefully assesses the mother she lost when only eleven, recounting lessons learned, among them that the most political work one could do in the war zone was to continue normal life. I highly recommend this story of one woman, one family, one war zone, or of anywhere, really, where people are fighting and dying.

Comment for "Johnny Cash: Personal File"

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Review of Johnny Cash: Personal File

Listening to this wonderful program, I'm sad all over again at the loss of Johnny Cash, but sad in a good way. The program description clearly offers the scope of a hugely rewarding hour, but can't remotely convey the satisfaction any Cash-loving listeners will feel after the last notes fade. Jam-packed with lovely moments, anecdotes and insights from Cash, his children and colleagues. And always, there's the music. These home recordings will soon be commerically released, but as yet, have rarely been heard, so this is a very special hour. Former son-in-law Crowell gently narrates a program beautifully produced with genuine appreciation for Cash's talent, humanity and spirit. Highly recommended.

Comment for "He Just Can't Help It"

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Review of He Just Can't Help It

Drawn to this because I know some parents struggling with ADHD kids, and grateful for an illuminating journey inside one family's experience of life with an ADHD child. Narrator Marybeth Whalen interviews her parents and hyper younger brother who at times seems to her like the devil. Her direct questions illicit good tape from all involved. A weary father lists all the ways you need to keep an eye out for Patrick; a tense mother defends her time away at work and urges understanding and compassion; Patrick talks about the craziness he feels inside until the medication kicks in; and Marybeth tries to see her way to a higher ground, one that does not involve throwing things in Patrick's direction. Though Marybeth's delivery occasionally feels stiff, her words and openness are refreshing. It's a common problem in this fast-paced world and many listeners would benefit from this work. Could be paired with news or information on ADHD.

Comment for "US Media Efforts to Reach Arab Viewers and Listeners"

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Review of US Media Efforts to Reach Arab Viewers and Listeners

Good report on difficulties US media outreach efforts face in trying to influence an unsurprisingly suspicious Arab public. Though it offers no real answers, this piece does serve as a reminder that the US must be more creative in its communications with the Arab world? to put it mildly.

Comment for "Blues File: 35 X 35 from Alligator Records"

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Review of Blues File: 35 X 35 from Alligator Records

Record producer Bruce Iglauer has spent decades nurturing and recording lesser-known blues artists, or those whose careers have slumped into stall. Meister provides a fast-moving, informative preview of Alligator Records double-CD anniversary album. Might not be standard NPR, but take a chance and give your listeners a few minutes of soulful sound. Good medicine, tapping to the beat.

Comment for "Will Work For Travel"

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Review of Will Work For Travel

Idiosyncratic painter, performance artist and coffee shop owner David Ford skips giving raises and instead annually treats his worker to a trip somewhere warm and interesting. In this engaging audio postcard from one such worker, we tag along to Chiapas. Kaufmann?s writing is slightly wry and she provides solid details, descriptions, audio and delivery. Made me smile and was a refreshing spritz in the middle of a workday. Hope she does more for radio. Could be aired alongside non-traumatic news of Mexico, travel pieces, or as a break from hard news.

Comment for "Black Gold -- Unique Summary of Amazing Black Success -- From Slave Trade (Captives) To Business ($$$) To Civilian (Medals) To Movie (Oscars) To Musical (Gold)"

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Review of Black Gold -- Amazing & Unique Summary of Black Success -- From Slave Trade (Captives) To Business ($$$) To Civilian (Medals) To Movie (Oscars) To Musical (Gold)

Rich with interesting facts about the slave trade and in the second half about the world of African American music and artistic achievement, this ambitious program would be great for younger listeners. The host's studied delivery reminds me of that of educational films shown in schools. In the first half are lots of narrated facts underscored by busily supportive sound effects. For example, mention is made of guns, elephants, and whisky, and we get gunshot, trumpeting and liquid pouring. The second half features some lovely musical excerpts and segments from an interview with a member of Duke Ellington's Orchestra. You can't beat some of the information and the music, I just wish the style were geared more for the adult listener.

Comment for "The Last Letter"

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Review of The Last Letter

Lovely, rich time capsule tribute to the intimate power of radio. In four minutes I?m transported from chilly oceanside modern day life to the plains of Texas, circa 1939. Potbelly stove, battery Philco, yearning hillbilly music evoke a way of life. Sharp details, wonderful voices, archival tape, a warm feeling inside. Why we love radio.

Comment for "British Jihad: Inside Out" (deleted)

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Review of British Jihad: Inside Out (deleted)

The most recent terrorist strike, in Britain, this day, is awful enough reason to post haste find an hour for this compelling look at the forces that have, in reporter Goldfarb’s words, allowed global jihadism to find “a narrow but secure perch in Britain.” Goldfarb has done a great job of providing historical, political and social context via interviews with knowledgeable professionals –– politician, historian, professor, lawyer. But most important, he’s spoken with Muslims living in Great Britain, including charismatic, stateless Sheikh Omar Bakri, for whom Great Britain has provided asylum these last twenty years. It is infuriating to hear Bakri’s smug appreciation for the free speech he enjoys in a country he wishes smashed, but a poignant reminder to Americans of what civil liberty truly means. Other Muslims interviewed include young men drawn to a more fundamental practice of Islam than that of their parents, and others struggling to make sense of the struggle within the Muslim religion. An articulate woman magazine editor, once friend to a suicide bomber, sees jihadism as a way to avoid dealing with multitude of social ills --–– unemployment, drug use, pregnancy –– and their changing role in the home, as women become more independent. A Muslim musician points to racism and ever increasing clashes as contributing to the rise of whahabism. The IRA taught the British many lessons about dealing with terrorism, but sadly, they don’t translate. The IRA’s complaints centered on locally negotiable issues, and though tragic, their attacks were small potatoes. Muslims in Great Britain are socially marginalized and the suicide bomber mentality encouraged is, as we witnessed today, in Madrid last year, here on 9/11, extremely go-for-broke. What is ironic and surreal is to hear all of this in English, from Bakri’s accented version, to that of totally British sounding young Muslims.
Issues based on generation, gender, doctrine, liberal vs. conservative factor into the mix. Just like here. We grow terrorists, too. We need to hear about theirs to help us think about ours. One world. As one young Muslim points out, if all Muslims united as one against the western world, we’d be toast. Though this excellent production doesn’t offer a solution, it offers reflection, insight, and crucial food for thought. Consider it a must air.
Note to programmers: This was produced in 2004, so will need host to provide timely introduction. Also: begins with one minute of tone, and has news holes with music beds: 2:00-7:30; 9:50-21:30; 42:48-44:02.

Comment for "War and Forgiveness"

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Review of War and Forgiveness

This hour, under Soundprint auspices (with intros to each half hour) is about people haunting and being haunted; about seeking, offering, avoiding apology; about ways in which war subverts the human heart and about how the spirit struggles to survive. The Korean Sharing House brings us into a Buddhist charity’s home for former “comfort woman” -- those stolen by the Japanese to service the troops. Brutal details provided by academics and the voices of surviving grandmothers, the term the women prefer, will linger long in my mind. That some of these once young virgins, given numbers and treated like “pieces of military supplies,” sometimes tortured beyond the torture of daily rape by scores of men, can be heard singing and laughing is a miracle of spirit. The second half hour portrays veterans of Holland’s ugly “police actions” in Indonesia. Undeclared war still feels like war to those involved and in this piece we hear from men who uncomfortably followed orders and are now unhappily followed by their memories. Academics offer historical context and we hear excerpts from a Queen Beatrix speech in which she awkwardly acknowledges Indonesia’s suffering without in any way owning the brutality of Holland’s colonial violence. There is much that resonates in this country, in this time. Such fine journalism touches the heart and prods the mind.

Comment for "Never Again: A Holocaust Memorial - with Elie Wiesel and Abraham Foxman"

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Review of Never Again: A Holocaust Memorial - with Elie Wiesel and Abr

Though others are interviewed, the bulk of this compelling and beautifully produced hour belongs to Elie Wiesel, one of humanity’s most powerful witnesses. It also speaks to the power and necessity of storytelling. Though Wiesel is well known, it is still deeply moving to hear this intimate, philosophical conversation. Particularly when Holocaust deniers, not yet shamed into silence, continue to spout fantasy, and large numbers of anti-Semitic groups flourish. The program locates us in the land of disruption and horror through three briefly limned experiences. One woman recalls arriving at Auschwitz where that day Mengele’s pointing decided their fates. She says, “I was not supposed to stay alive because I was not supposed to tell the story.” Abraham Foxman recounts being saved by his brave gentile nanny. Wiesel describes hearing about Jews being massacred from a local man who’d been deported, escaped, and returned. People didn’t want to hear it, Wiesel says: “No one believed him. I didn’t believe him, but I liked stories, so I was the only one to listen to him.” Not long after, Wiesel’s family was on its way to a camp. His mother and baby sister were immediately killed. It is, according to Wiesel, “sheer luck” that he survived.

During Josephson’s time with Wiesel he plays tape of a wonderful polish diplomat recounting a meeting with Roosevelt that prompts Wiesel's thoughts on Roosevelt having turned away the Jewish refugee-laden ship, the St. Louis, sending it back to Germany. This combination of probing questions and archival tape encourages the interview to range wide: God, faith, hatred, Israel, the late Pope, the ability of art to truly represent the horror – “It’s difficult to put in words things that were in the domain of the unspeakable.” But the unspeakable is a constant. Trials are finally being planned for some involved in Cambodia’s massacres, there are trials in the Hague, and now movies about Rwanda. Reporters bear witness to the genocide underway in Darfur. As Wiesel says: “The desire to bear witness must prevail.” This hour bears honorable witness and can be aired through April 30, 2006. Air it soon.

Comment for "Our Energy Future: The Strategic Initiative of Our Era"

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Review of Our Energy Future: The Strategic Initiative of Our Era

Do you buy Mr. Cheney’s argument that drilling in Anwar is the solution to the world’s looming energy crisis? You won’t after listening to this informative program on a subject that could not be more important or timely. Michael Klare is an historian of war, and his studies have led him to focus on oil and the dwindling energy resources available to an increasing number of users. The U. S. is a long-time big producer and guzzler of the black gold, but China and India are among the countries accelerating down the same trail and we’re all competing for an about to diminish pool of energy in some very unstable areas of the world. Klare sees unsettling similarities to the situation in the Balkans before WWI. In barely skimming the surface of his book, “Blood and Oil,” he provides a cogent summary of the current energy situation and future outlook. It’s enough to keep you awake at night. Fortunately, this is a bad news/good news hour, and Dan Carol, a progressive optimist, offers some encouraging signs from the Apollo Alliance, which he describes as a “Rehab center for paleo liberal groups and causes.” The Alliance is stirring a pot of labor unions, environmental groups, governors and some business organizations, attempting to create a major national investment in clean energy and jobs. Does it make sense to invest a few hundred billion in growing our own gasoline? Or should we spend a few hundred billion more to put our young people at risk in yet another Middle Eastern country? Help your listeners think about the future by airing this valuable hour.