Comments by Emon Hassan

Comment for "Lost & Found Sound and Beyond: Hour One"

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Review of Lost & Found Sound and Beyond: Hour One

This is sound poetry at its best. I could almost feel these people sitting next to me and tell me stories...just me. As the TV performer - when he'd asked why he couldn't feel the intimacy with his audience- was told that he shouldn't try reaching all the buckaroos; he simply needed to address one little buckaroo.

Francis Coppola is our guide to these lives, even stopping for a moment in his own nearly thirty years ago. We see a different side of Coppola, as a father- as one of five-year old Sofia. The recording of her talking to herself in the future is revealing, but not in realizing she had a reflection of who she has become today. It's how the Coppola's interacted with each other, age notwithstanding. At the time she wore an Oscar necklace her father had made for her-the Oscar for best screenplay: The Godfather- and we all know where that circle ended.

But first, Sam Phillips, the man responsible for capturing the sounds that would shape the future of music; forget just Rock n' Roll....music. Phillips has the first lenghty, but intimate, conversation about his love for music and sound. The man's love of sound infected his recordings while shining on unknown talent. 'Sun,' eh?

The pieces are woven into a comfortable piece of sound cloak, if I may, and I finally understood - and maybe I'm way off in the name's history- why the producers call themselves Kitchen Sisters. The conversations, all of them, felt like people sitting at your kitchen table and baring their souls. From the Mohawk iron workers group that has a long history in the buildings of New York City, to the steel drummers of Trinidad, all seem so close to us - to me, the little buckaroo in me- and open and trusting.

You give an hour of your time to this piece and I won't be able to stop you from listening to hour two. I promise you.

Comment for "Radiolab, Show 202: Musical Language"

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Review of Radio Lab, Show 202: Musical Language

Another Radio Lab gem! This hour-long piece does not show us the ABC's of the musical language, but takes us on a journey and opens the eyes of our ears. What is it that makes Chinese children 60% more successful in recognizing pitch compared to American children? Can verbal language, no matter how foreign to one another, have similar musical grammar to touch, soothe, and praise the minds of infants...and adults, years later? Why did Stravinksy's 'Rite of Spring' performances, separated by just a year, have two completely different effect on the audience?

Truth is, the exploration-which what this piece is really- of musical language posed is just the surface being scratched and played with. Would you believe it if you were told that all the beautiful and all the awful sounds you hear every second of your life is the result of information being tapped either in harmony or disharmony inside your ears? Ravi Shankar had once mentioned that he gets physically sick when he hears dissonance played without context. Yes, dissonance revealed in context is music too.

There is a revealing moment in the piece when Krulwich and Abumrad talk about the amazing ability of the ear - the brain- to tune itself, to be prepared to receive the same information with more acceptance over time. Abumrad mentions composers have created works that take dissonance even further. "Some people love that stuff," he says. The revealing moment. Why do some people love that stuff? Perhaps their ears are more accepting to that; perhaps it's a familiar voice - minus the words - they've grown up listening to. When the heavy metal band, Black Sabbath, was once asked to describe where their sound came from, they recalled the industrial area they'd grown up in and the sounds had simply become part of their musical language.

I'll spare you what may seem like a broken record, praising and admiring Radio Lab. This is a series you should never miss or never hesitate to share with others. You should have heard me say the last two sentences out loud. The intonation in that alone would have made you a believer. Oh, the way we marry our words with our personal music. Sometimes, they do behave so strangely.

Comment for "Why Ahmad Never Got to Celebrate Halloween"

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Review of Why Ahmad Never Got to Celebrate Halloween

Ahmad recalls a story his mother shared from her childhood in Afghanistan that resembles trick or treating during Halloween in America. What Ahmad can't figure out is why he was always forbidden to go out trick or treating with his friends. This humorous piece shows the difference in perception of similar traditions based on one's cultural and religious beliefs. Ahmad's mother sees no religious significance in her dressing up to go hunt for candy while she's convinced it does, still, with Halloween.

Comment for "Jazz from Enceladus"

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Review of Jazz from Enceladus

Jazz musicians react to the sounds of Enceladus and create their own that would have made John Coltrane proud. Listen to 'Interstellar Space' with Rashied Ali and you'll see what I mean. Jazz and the solar system...I guess I finally see a similarity there...boundless space for discovery, yet everything held together by a strict structure, movement, and rhythm by the creator.

Comment for "Virtuoso Voices - Sharon Isbin (When Tragedy Strikes)"

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Review of Virtuoso Voices - Sharon Isbin (Performing at Ground Zero)

Classical guitarist Isbin reflects on the moment she realized her role as a musician is more than playing music for people. At 31 seconds, this is the shortest piece I've reviewed, but the importance of her words is not lost due to the length.

Comment for "RN Documentary: "Copyists, Collectors and Curators" (Rembrandt's 21st century legacy)"

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Review of RN Documentary: "Copyists, Collectors and Curators" (Rembrandt's 21st century legacy)

Rembrandt's work has no doubt influenced many artists over the four centuries since his time; his mastery at understanding and capturing light, shadow, and subject to tell stories has fascinated photographers and cinematographers even.
This piece tells us three ways his work is still having an effect. First, we listen to an artist, Klarenbeeek, who is devoted to studying the master's work by re-creating his paintings - in the way pupils would have during Rembrandt's time - but not by duplicating them. Sitting in the same room, using the same limited color palette, and even employing the eye to hand measurement technique that the master had himself. Perhaps it's a method best suited to understand technique and method than the product.

The remaining two sections take us to collectors and inheritors of Rembrandt's works. You'll find that owning a Rembrandt may have nothing to do with the admiration one may have for the artist, but everything to do with the prestige and reputation it brings. People will say anything to sell or buy a Rembrandt. When you can't afford a painting, just convince yourself, or others, that Rembrandt was a engraver and drawer than a painter.

Maybe he was, I don't know. But to hear some of them talk about what the pieces are worth, or will be, reminded me of the Beanie Baby craze a few years ago when parents 'invested' in them to fund their little Timmy's college tuition and how they'd buy tag protectors and glass cases, whereas, all little Timmy cared for was the bear.

Now if you switched little Timmy with Klarenbeek and the parents with the modern day collectors and buyers, you'll understand where I'm going with the analogy. Regardless, the unpleasant contrast is captured in the piece, intentionally or unintentionally, to prove there exists such.

Comment for "Greener Ways to Green Lawn"

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Review of Greener Ways to Green Lawn

The best way to describe this piece..."Lawn Care 101." And you probably won't need a sequel. Didn't know a piece about lawn care and lawn mowers would be this interesting. Packed with information and tips, the piece does a great job of answering common and uncommon questions about lawn care, and keeps it simple for the audience. Simple always works. Great piece for anyone who looks at her/his backyard, looks at the lawn mower, then looks up at the sky and yells out, "Why me?"

Comment for "When the Levees Broke - Spike Lee's new documentary"

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Review of When the Levees Broke - Spike Lee's new documentary

The piece is basically a promo for Spike Lee's new HBO documentary. Regardless, it makes an important contribution to the film by giving the audience an understanding of its tone and voice. A four hour documentary may seem too long for some, and not long enough for others. What can you expect from a film that long? This radio piece certainly gives you glimpses of the issues that will be tackled in the film. It gives you a clear idea of what to expect and what not to expect.
As for myself, I will definitely be watching.

Comment for "Erika Stucky - A Swiss-American between the worlds" (deleted)

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Review of Erika Stucky - A Swiss-American between the worlds (deleted)

Piece is best suited as a musical overview of an artist who maybe familiar to the audience already. Otherwise, it plays off as a 'Best of..' album with songs played back to back, sometimes, with snippets of the artist's comments and thoughts. Is her music breaking new grounds or saying something new, or differently? That's up for debate and is something best left out of this discussion. I am, however, left unsatisfied with a lack of insight into the artist's world. Sure the music is there for me to have that window, but I'm left with frankly... very little.

Comment for "COMEDY-O-RAMA SHORT #13: "Dummies Books for Dummies"" (deleted)

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Review of COMEDY-O-RAMA SHORT #13: "Dummies Books for Dummies" (deleted)

This piece sounds a lot like what the 'Blue Collar TV' guys would come up with. While it's meant to mock the whole 'For Dummies' series, I fear there might be such a book found on bookstore shelves. That is if people can afford a navigation system to find their way to the self help section.

Comment for "COMEDY-O-RAMA SHORT #26: "An Interview With Yogi Bear"" (deleted)

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Review of COMEDY-O-RAMA SHORT #26: "An Interview With Yogi Bear" (deleted)

Folks who grew up watching Yogi Bear cartoons will find this piece might find it nostalgic. However, if you're expecting Woody Allen style interviews where famous character re-creations deliver comic moments by revealing a darker, or more complex characteristics deadpan, you'd be disappointed. The interview is, perhaps, also appropriate for children who currently watch Yogi Bear, or those who haven't but may discover this classic creation.

Comment for "La Plebe Tour Eastern Europe"

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Review of La Plebe Tour Eastern Europe

Imagine The Sex Pistols playing with a brass section from Mexico. Now imagine The Sex Pistols playing with a brass section from Mexico rocking it out in Serbia, Bulgaria and Macedonia. La Plebe is, however, less rebellion and more fusion...of cultures, music, and people. The band grew out of a mix of worlds that is part youth movement and part globalization. The band's tours are more like exchange programs that allows them to teach their mix culture and learn from others.
The band is another proof that education needn't be framed within textbooks, needn't be in English, and doesn't require a desk. A concert stage will do just fine.

Comment for "The Free Monks"

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Review of The Free Monks

The Free Monks rule! This group is another example of two worlds living side by side in harmony. The members are not your typical set of people. They define cool in a way that is surprising and refreshing. The message of tolerance, positivity, and open-mindedness stays the same, but the medium is bound to change with time. But these guys make an effort to understand what it means to be young in this age and they do so with rock music. Rock music that actually you can listen to and not feel pressured to conform to given ideas.

This is why I love PRX; it gives wonderful pieces like this a home to find listeners.

Comment for "The Trouble with Harry (Nilsson)"

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Review of The Trouble with Harry (Nilsson)

Short glimpse of a man who primarily thought of himself as a songwriter. Excerpts of an interview, that took place some 27 years ago, are placed throughout the piece, sometimes next to famous Nilsson songs. Whereas singers and songwriters spend an awful lot of time showering with stage lights, flash bulbs, and celluloid, Nilsson has never given a concert. Why? His answer is so simple that you'd think he's crazy. Maybe he is crazy...but in a Werner Herzog way.

Comment for "Crusts - Ray Ohl - Optical Physicist"

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Review of Crusts - (4) - Ray Ohl

Every industry should have a person like Ray Ohl. His skills as an Optical Physicist aside, I mean. Rarely do we meet someone with such clear ideas about life, profession, and focus (no pun intended). If only I had an advisor in school, college, or anywhere to cut away the fat from the advice I was given. Ohl's simplicity with which he has approached life is remarkable. He is comfortable with what he has and doesn't, and he is at peace with himself.
The piece is a must listen for anyone who needs a morale and confidence booster. Trust me, this man's words will get you energized and ignite that little dream inside of you that has been laying dormant.
Not making sense, am I? Check this piece out and see what I mean.

Comment for "Green Roofs"

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Review of Green Roofs

We all know the brutal beating our environment gets each day, from us and from our confused nature. If the planet was a person and limped and coughed and ached from sickness, and if a visit to the doctor revealed that the person's days were numbered, it would be a cause for concern.
Sadly, most of us keep on ignoring the fact that with each day's passing, we are crippling our planet. The countdown has started already. This heatwave, that hurricane, and those floods are just symptoms. Happily, yet, we find that a few good citizens are not wasting time talking about it.
I'm sure what's written above have been conveyed to you in many permutations and combinations, but I was happy to learn from this piece that New York City, being 4 to 5 degrees warmer than its surrounding boroughs, employ a strict Green Roof rule, and that its Mayor has written a bill to support it. This piece reveals, besides the obvious benefits of having a Green Roof, the pursuance of people in making sure the planet doesn't die young. It may sound like I'm exaggerating the seriousness of the demise of our planet a bit prematurely. I see your point. You and I won't have to witness it. Maybe not our kids, even. But what after that?

This piece, I must clarify, is not about the end of it all. Its about making a difference, one Green Roof at a time.

Comment for "The Writers Studio Season 2, featuring James Ellroy"

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Review of The Writer's Studio Season 2, featuring James Ellroy

At first, you may be struck by how young Ellroy sounds. Then again, why would I assume he'd sound old? Okay, getting off track here.
The Writer's Studio series is a taped live event with well known writers as they talk about their work and read from their work. Moderated appearances are rarely any good, but this one with Ellroy is a breath of fresh air.
Why? Because the author himself is a reflection of the way his words are on page...they leap off and stick inside your head like a catchy song that ceases to let go. Ellroy's genius is in his rhythmic ability with words. But that doesn't quite explain it. He, at first impression, comes off a bit arrogant and brutal in his opinions, but as more minutes sink in while listening to him, we realize that he and his opinions are as honest as his characters are. False modesty? Not in Ellroy's make-up.
Humor? He's got a brand of his own. They say style comes from having clarity in one's thought and expression. James Ellroy confirms a style all his own in this piece and The Writer's Studio captured the hour, as always, with virtuosity.

Comment for "Man in the Bed"

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Review of Man in the Bed

My review about this piece will be biased. And from this word on it promises to be. Ask me if I care. Lost my dad when I was 13. It happened in a hospital bed, with my little sister, my mom, my brother, my grandmother watching as he slowly faded away. He was 46. I guess some of us grieve in increments the remaining days of our lives from losing someone. Why else would a song have such a strong impact 17 years later?

This song did tear me apart and it's as simple and raw as that. Why it makes some of us who relate to it so devastated, I can't explain. It does and the songwriter captures the emotion with perfect marriage of words and music.

There. That's the most I've opened up in public and the most I am willing to. But...this piece was meant to come my way and this review wasn't destined to leave me any other way. Now, I'd very much like to be selfish and believe that I own this unique emotion and I'd very much like to say, "You'll never know what a loss feels like." But I'm proven wrong every second.

Comment for "The Lemon Tree"

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Review of The Lemon Tree

One of the best pieces on PRX. Why? It does not take sides, it does not preach, it does not stir up muddy waters, and it does not try and differentiate between right and wrong. It simply tells the story of a home, a tree, and two people who're attached to the place's past and future. But, wait, that's not why I think it's one of the best pieces on PRX. Its greatness comes in the way it unfolds the story, and the narrative smoothness and tone that it possesses. A great piece makes a native out of a foreigner. Don't ask me what that means, and to use Louis Armstrong's words when asked about Jazz, I'll only say, 'Man, if you have to ask, you'll never know." If a piece can put me next to the people it's portraying, as if I were actually there, or as if I felt their happiness and pain, then it's a success in my book. And I'm sticking to it.

Comment for "Building Community Through Soccer"

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Review of Building Community Through Soccer

The piece is able to convey in less than 5 minutes that the love of soccer for this community goes beyond simply playing the game. For them, it's creating a home away from home and rejuvenating the mind and body after extreme hardship during the week. The league brings together people from far away cities and towns with soccer as their common language and culture.

Comment for "Jazz Inspired - Tim Johnson" (deleted)

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Review of Jazz Inspired - Tim Johnson (deleted)

The piece attempts to explain how the storytelling process musicians employ in Jazz is similar to how animation work is done. The discussion between the two musicians, guest and host, is lively, intimate, and filled with mutual admiration for each other's work and knowledge. The piece, however, leans more toward the storytelling aspect of music than animation, although Johnson's animation work is inspired by the enormous freedom of expression within strict boundaries of Jazz music structure. There are stretches of musical examples from various concerts and albums throughout the piece only Jazz lovers who also love animation might appreciate. Will animation lovers who don't know much about Jazz like the same? It will certainly make them curious.

Comment for " Women In Science special series: "Girls on the Trail of Biodiversity:Smith College Summer Science and Engineering Program for High School Girls"" (deleted)

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Review of Women In Science special series: "Girls on the Trail of Biodiversity:Smith College Summer Science and Engineering Program for High School Girls" (deleted)

The Smith program, in short, helps bring science on a more hands-on basis for high school girls. The summer program, made possible by Smith College, gives these young, would-be scientists a chance to get a taste of life in a field that has been discouraging to women, last thing we expect coming from the scientific community.
Opinions vary about the presence of discrimination in the scientific community, but the piece nicely balances opinion and information.

Comment for "RN Documentary: Family Mystery, Family Myth"

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Review of RN Documentary: Family Mystery, Family Myth

Every family has its own story about how they've ended up in the present. Some are well documented and some are collection of remembrances that turn into a myth. Myths make for good family history because they give the existence of a family importance, depth, and cultural relevancy.
Groubert takes on the myth about his ancestors' name and their journey from Konin to America. In doing so, he embarks on a journey of his own to establish ties with this roots, without knowing if there'd be any to compliment his family's myth. The piece establishes early on that the myth could be just that. But the piece engages us because we, as does Groubert, it seems, want to find out, not what's there, but what never has been.
The piece, on another level, if you think about it, is perhaps not about how those myths about the family bear relevancy to Groubert, but an excuse to find his way back to Konin, as a Groubert. Being there, leaving his imprint, and therefore not letting the family traces fade away from Konin soil allows relevancy to rise and displace the existing family myth to pass on to the next generation of Grouberts.

Comment for "HV013- Crossing Borders"

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Review of CROSSING BORDERS Special

There's a line, I learned of from this piece, that's often said by the Chicanos, "We didn't cross the borders, the borders crossed us." It's a statement heavily drenched in sadness and frustration. That statement is a historical fact. It begs the question, have Mexicans been crossing borders to find a better life, or have they always been 'crossing' to find their way back home?
That 'philosophical' introduction was necessary to help you understand this piece, or, rather, a collage of pieces. In two sections, the piece, in the first half, is the witnessing of a physical journey people take to cross borders, risking their own lives and their loved ones. Scott Carrier wants to find out what they come from to understand why they take on 115 degrees of heat and days of walking while not knowing if they'll even make it to the other side alive. We find out that guards on the Mexican side of the border assist people to cross over. The law does not prohibit people from migrating, it only prohibits the 'coyotes.' People on both sides have their say about it and it seems the reality of border crossing is similar to accepting the sun coming out in the South. You complain about the heat, but you deal with it because it gives light.
The second part is a series of poetic works read by the authors that delve into the spiritual aspect of border crossing, death, the future, and the separation of families, identities, land, and structure of the new generation. Heartbreak and loss coming from the physical and spiritual journey are the building blocks that only seem to pile up into a larger wall. The works by the authors is a lament.
In summary, the piece gives you reality, but does not leave you with facts and figures. That would be a blindfolded vision. There's a living, breathing, growing soul behind each number that tallies up in your daily papers as stats.
Now, if you'd really, really like to understand why thousands say goodbye each day, not knowing if it'll be forever, this piece is a great start.

Comment for "Life on 'The Ave'"

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Review of Life on 'The Ave'

'The Ave' is a ten block area where a permutation and combination entities have come together, brush past one another, or remain unknown, still, after years of being side by side. The author draws a clear picture of the place with specific details that makes up the neighborhood. But her descriptions come to life with the ambient sounds while the many voices brings the character of 'The Ave' to life.
The piece approaches 'The Ave' as a living, breathing place, a place that has witnessed and endured both good and bad. Times change and so does the clockwork. What's noticeable is the underlying sadness in the sounds and voices, even if they don't appear to be. A young woman, late in the piece, says she'd rather live a short but happy life instead of a long and uneventful one. Why do I have a feeling that's exactly what 'The Ave' would say about itself?

Comment for "Music from the Nortec Collective reflects life on the border"

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Review of Music from the Nortec Collective reflects life on the border

Nortec Collective does reflect life lived at the border. The band is also a reflection, fusion, and mix of influences growing up during the 70s and 80's in Tiijuana and being exposed to cultures from both sides of the Mexican-American border. The band members talk about their roots, not in the cultural sense, but the musical fragments that beat, pump, and ooze with a calming rhythm. Think northern Mexico's various musical elements rerouted through electronic equipment, something they started doing in 1999. That is not to say the band doesn't have much to say with the fused style. There has to be a reason for musical evolution. In their song 'The Big Failire', the band members explain the feeling of 'nostalgia' and 'fading love' (paraphrasing here) despite the upbeat nature of the music. The voices they represent are not only human voices, but musical instruments as well.
The band recognizes how the world views Tijuana as an infested city, creeping with ugliness. It has its beauty too, and both sides reflect in their music. It's living in Tijuana in the 21st century. As it turns out, being a Tijuana native is, after all, a blessing. It's easier to get Visas to come to the States, not so for Mexicans from other parts of the country, and the border radios broadcast great music.
The piece provides a good history of the band and its musical style. For a new listener, it might not sound so foreign, after all. (S)he might sense a familiarity in those tunes.

Comment for "Hollywood Science"

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Review of Hollywood Science

Can Hollywood be harming itself by making science films and not bothering with scientific accuracy? Is the audience coming out of the theatre with a twisted idea about Geology and Astronomy?

The two physicists and film reviewers take on that debate and help point out couple of gigantic mistakes, among many, Hollywood makes in science films. Some premises are downright hilarious! I laughed out loud when I heard clips from 'Armageddon,' and especially the clip from 'The Core'.

In response to the space ship sounds in space; the ones in 2001: A Space Odyssey didn't make sounds in space. Maybe they started adding swooshing sounds to assure people, "No, you've not gone deaf" This makes for the beginning of a new form of movie watching experience. Watch a tragic science movie in the theatres, then watch again to spot the mistakes, learn right science by double checking accuracy, re-watch it on DVD and make it a knee slapper evening with friends.

Comment for "Author Sherman Alexie"

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Review of Author Sherman Alexie

When the piece was over, Sherman Alexie was no longer a Native American writer's name I had been familiar with. This piece, featuring one live appearance by the esteemed author, in Iowa, is enough to reveal and revel in the brilliance of a writer who happens to be Native American.

Alexie reads one story, Lawyer's League, from his 'Ten Little Indians,' a book he describes as a collection of stories about 'white collar Indians.' Most authors don't read their own material well, but, as evident here, no other can read Alexie better than Alexie. He writes the way he thinks and talks; a mile a second, an observation a minute, like a long distance runner who's also a great sprinter. Lawyer's League is so well presented in the piece that you could mistake it for a well executed improv where everything comes out exactly as un-planned and as easily as the next moment. Now, that's great writing.

The length of the piece may be of concern to listeners, but there's not a moment that drags. It goes by like 'that'. Yes...'that'. If you've never been to something that is a seminar, reading, and stand-up combined, this is it.

Comment for "Singing for sanitation: Teen in rural Nepal teaches her village about water safety"

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Review of Singing for sanitation: Teen in rural Nepal teaches her village about water safety

Complete a sentence using the following: Teenager, songs, and sanitation club. Give up? 14 year old Shanta, the youngest of 7 children, has not only completed the sentence, she lives it. Shanta heads a sanitation program in Nepal that teaches villagers lessons in a long and healthy life via songs about cleanliness and hygiene. Her mission has had a positive effect on other aspects of village life beyond sanitation. She doesn't have a great singing voice, but she does one that is all heart and courage to make a difference. It takes a village, they say. No, it doesn't.

Comment for "This is Spoken Word: Poems and Conversations w/ Taylor Mali" (deleted)

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Review of This is Spoken Word: Poems and Conversations w/ Taylor Mali (deleted)

Taylor Mali had me at, "I think I could be a poet because I like to wear a lot of black." This opening line from McIver's piece will have you hooked or not, depending on who you are. It had me hooked. For those of you who know Mali may smile and say, yes this is so him. For someone like me, who has never heard of Mali, and who thinks sarcasm plus truth makes for great comedy makes for an audience who is educated by the sound of their own laughter, it is a breath of fresh air to hear someone tell the truth...in verses. Credit McIver for deciding to open the piece with that line. This choice alone deserves a 5 star rating. Allow me another analogy from another movie. Opening shot of biopic 'Chaplin.'

Let's step away from analogies and get to the heart of this piece. A teacher turned slam poet extraordinaire, Mali's contribution to the art form is unattainable. He is no stranger to controversy and to the world of slam. In 2000, Mali made his intentions known to create a 1000 teachers by the year 2006. How many would you say he has been able to? You'll have to listen to find out. You'll hear him recite three poems, each brilliantly composed and delivered; each making a point, making you recognize, realize, and react. There are a couple of swear words and the bleeps aren't quite able to hide them, but they are minor technical problems. You don't know Mali's poetry if you haven't heard him recite them himself. In essence, it's his interpretation of his own words that, if may I another, completes them.

Two pinkie's way up!!