Jun. 29th, 2013 10:22 pm
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I'm so delighted I just have to share this right now. I've just paused about ... well, exactly 11:25 into last Sunday's episode of BBC Radio 4's Open Book. Which is to say, about a third of the way into a half-hour conversation in which the host and her guest seem to be, it is only somewhat hyperbolic to say, taking turns making one-another squee. The host is  — Mariella Frostrup, who I'd never heard of before but will definitely be looking for in the future: She's a fantastic interviewer with what may well be the best voice for radio I've ever heard. And her guest, who is clearly having a ball, is Neil Gaiman.

And now, I go back to listening. :)

Edit: Pausing again, less than three minutes later, to squee about having just heard the story of how one of you got your name. Is there an emoticon for shit-eating grin?
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There's an essay percolating in the back of my head on the theme of why radio is more powerful than television. In the mean time, let me argue by example.

Exhibit A: Bad science kills.   From the early 20th century through roughly 1960 the psychology establishment viewed loving behaviour toward children as a problem. At one point the head of the American Psychological Association declared "When you are tempted to pet your child, remember that mother love is a dangerous instrument" and "there are serious rocks ahead for the over-kissed child" — and then defined over-kissing as kissing your child more than once a year. There were US Government pamphlets warning parents not to touch their children. "Never kiss a baby, especially on the mouth. Don't rock or play with children." In the 1940s health care workers (quoting now from the story linked below) "started noticing that some children in hospitals who were treated this way — never picked up, never loved — would wither and die. Literally die. But even this did not change the opinion of the psychological establishment."

For more on this, and some equally heartwrenching related stories, listen to the Unconditional Love episode of This American Life. I suggest keeping a box of kleenex close to hand.

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I started listening to podcasts recently, and being a long time fan of NPR, I started with what I could find on the NPR podcast page. One of the sections there is something they call alt.NPR, so I decided to see what NPR's idea of edgy programming sounded like. And found an amazing piece of work.

It's not clear how something gets to be an alt.NPR podcast, but if this item from the Love and Radio site isn't entirely tongue-in-cheek, it may very well be that someone at NPR decides what you're doing is cool and poof!, you're alt.NPR.

Somehow, Love and Radio has managed to become an alt.NPR podcast, helping us move into stage two of the Official Love & Radio Business Model. It should come as no surprised that both Adrianne and I are pumped beyond belief to be associated with the gentle and reassuringly reasonable voice we've known since childhood. And I for one can't wait for those NPR groupies to start lining up.

Currently, L&R is the only podcast on with an tag, and we plan to milk that baby for all it's worth....
The first episode I listened to simply blew me away. It's sort of a disjointed audio montage, which makes it hard to have as a background audio channel while doing something else, which is my usual mode of listening to NPR. A clip of someone describing something odd. Followed by a couple of minutes of interview, subject unknown, about an apparently unrelated topic. Then the first voice again, describing something else, without context...
This one is a drawn image of Babar, from the children's book, and next to it there's a story that reads "When I was a child I was constantly terrified that my entire life was just a story being read by King Babar to his children, and that some day he would close the book, and my life would end.
And suddenly it isn't background anymore; a chill goes down my spine and the podcast becomes the focus of my attention. Another odd little story, another description, a hint that sends me googling to find one speaker's web site ... all gradually fleshing one-another out into this remarkable reflection on life. I highly recommend it.

The episode "Secrets" is not yet on the Love and Radio site, but you can subscribe from the NPR page and listen to episode 11, "Secrets".

Spoiler alert: Reading the next paragraph and/or following the link below, while rewarding on its own merits, may detract from the 'unpacking a puzzle box' aspect of listening to "Secrets". You may want to listen before reading further.

The hint that set me to googling took me to PostSecret, an amazing community art project that's clearly grown well beyond what its originator could have possibly imagined. Some of the contributions are stupid, some purile; some are chilling, and some heartbreaking:

-----Follow-up Message-----
Sent: Thursday, July 27, 2006 10:41 AM
Subject: Thank You for posting my Secret

I finally got around to checking PostSecret and there was my card. I don't know if you are aware of the importance of this project. I am 31 years old and for the first time since that boy molested me 25 years ago, I cried.


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