The State We’re In – Now a Podcast!

The State We're InThe State We’re In was a terrestrial radio program until 2012 on Radio Netherlands Worldwide. It was cancelled after budgetary cutbacks to the dismay of its substantitive fanbase. Most NPR fans know The State We’re In Through its syndication run on WNYC.

To the delight of many, it became a podcast one year later with the help of WBEZ in Chicago with Brooklyn native Jonathan Groubert as host. WBEZ is also the parent station for This American Life.

Ira Glass, host of This American Life, has called Groubert “one of the best radio interviewers [ever]”.

Having worked in public radio, I’m ashamed to say, until this morning, I’d never listened to the program.  I now, indisputably, get it.

The State We’re In is framed as a human rights program, where the producers spotlight real people’s unique stories in intimate one-on-one vignettes. Well, the story I heard wasn’t short enough to be a vignette, but 28 minutes isn’t exactly War and Peace either.

In episode 1, we hear from Stuart Sharp, and Englishman, who after the death of his son, composed a symphony — despite his inexperience with clasical music. He says he was guided by angels or “snow people” in his endeavor.

I was a fan almost instantly. Obviously the show is thought provoking, but what’s more is how adeptly Groubert and his producers execute the narrative. It truly is theater of the mind — without heavy-handed sound effects or long-winded asides from the host.

I am completely and totally sold. Time for a backlog binge.

Posted in: NPR |

Tiny Desk – Shovels & Rope

I’ve listened to Tiny Desk before. In fact, whenever I run across NPR’s brief music vignette, it’s no skin off my nose to take in one of its abbreviated concerts. It’s MTV Unplugged, without the bused in crowds, the fanfare, and the pretension. Well, there’s a touch of pretension. This is music journalism after all.

Tiny Desk was created  in 2008 by Bob Boilen, of All Songs Considered fame. These intimate 10 or so minute performances are recorded at Boilen’s desk in the NPR offices. The video casts reveal the eclectic, cramped, atypical setting that these mostly folky shows take place in. It really is a show, at a desk, with pens, books, laptops, and other clever distractions lurking around.


The intimacy of a Tiny Desk performance reveals how much we miss at louder, noisier venues. Between the drunk singer alonger standing on her seat in front of you and the ear plugs some of us now have to stick into our old ears, the nuance and the little things get washed away.

Recently, I was introduced to Shovels & Rope on the show, a husband and wife duo from Charleston, South Carolina. They performed a pair of songs from their album O’ Be Joyful. All in all, a pleasant afternoon distraction, and just “tiny” enough to make you want more.