Posts Tagged ‘MPR’

Michele Norris wrote a new memoir

The only thing I want more than to read Michele Norris’s new book, The Grace of Silence, is a few hours freedom to actually sit and read it. Norris relates stories of her own family’s experience to the overall backdrop of race relations in the United States, both then and now. Specifically, Norris examines how her family remained silent on some of their most personal racial incidents, including Norris’s father being shot by a police officer after serving in WWII and her grandmother’s job – no joke – as a traveling Aunt Jemima.

Using the intimacy of personal story to extrapolate grander issues is one of the most powerful ways memoir can touch us as readers. It’s a way of using true-to-life specificity as a relatable experience that readers can compare and contrast with their own. I say this as one who detests anecdotal evidence and meandering anecdote, something one of my instructors would likely call a “bathtub story.” However, listening to Norris report on a wide variety of prescient, fascinating topics over the years, something tells me she knows precisely how to make her family’s story not only interesting but relevant and meaningful to readers who are willing to explore their lives and how race relations affects it.

Listen to Tom Crann’s 12-minute interview with Norris from Minnesota Public Radio news today.

If you’ve read the book, please let me know what you think.



Noticing NPR background music

Is it strange for one to listen to Marketplace on National Public Radio and grin to oneself or even outright laugh when, during their “Do the Numbers” segment on the US stock market index final standings for the day, they play “We’re in the Money” in the background when stocks are up, “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” when stocks fluctuate, and “Stormy Weather” when stocks are down?

Is it odd for one to get at least mildly excited and then immediately disappointed when “Burnin'” by Daft Punk starts to play but ends up only being background music to an hourly station identification for 89.3 The Current, a station which by all accounts feels like it should be Daft Punk-friendly yet seemingly never has any full Daft Punk songs played as part of their programming playlist?

Is it bizarre for one to be listening to National Public Radio‘s news prgrams, or special hour-long segments about war, or even pundits discuss the latest political ballyhoo, only to feel as though they have a profound sense of what’s hip and to feel some sort of cosmic, kismet-like connection with some secretly suave NPR producer who’s decided if the program ends early, to broadcast approximately one minute of filler music by Air?

Between noticing background music cues and my private little game* of reciting “From NPR news in Washington, I’m…” and “From Minnesota Public Radio news, I’m…” along with the news reader and trying to say their name in succinct unison by recognizing their voice, it’s pretty clear I have an unhealthy obsession with NPR nuances.


* In my private little game, I can readily identify Jack Speer, Carl Castle, Lac Shmi Sing, Ann Taylor, William Wilcoxen, and Gretta Cunningham uncannily well, by the way. Craig Windham and Korva Coleman are tricky, while Phil Picardi and Steven John sound like exactly the same.

Richard Monette: Guts + Heart = Artist

09.11.2008 1 comment

I’d never heard of Richard Monette before last night’s CBC Radio program As It Happens detailed his passing away on Tuesday evening. But like hearing about the life of any great person, especially after their death, I wish I’d known of him sooner. He was a Canadian actor and director and served as the artistic director of the Stratford Festival Theatre for fourteen years where he favored cultivating local and regional talent over peppering his productions with thespian ringers from England. He was controversial and brilliant in that combined way which marks a person who cares about the craft of their art. But there’s one particular moment in his life that, in the estimation of his former colleague Mary Henry, “crucial, pivotal” turning point for Canadian theater.

Listen to this story. It’s a mere twelve minutes long and if you insist on skipping to the particular moment I’m writing about, it happens just before the halfway mark of the podcast. I think you’ll know it when you hear it…

That’s heart, people. Not only is that heart, it takes guts to put it all on the line and speak up for what one is passionate about, ignoring any possible political or employment ramifications. That’s an artist. I’m sure if I was on the opposite side of Monette’s argument I might have different feelings but I’m not on the opposite side. I like what he’s saying and I respect him for standing up. I don’t think I could do what he did, I really don’t (Could you? Have you?). Maybe that’s one way respect is born – when someone does something you don’t have the guts or heart to do yourself.

Do you know what I’m talking about? We all have different ways of quantifying abstract terms like ‘guts’ and ‘heart’ (I suppose another way to say ‘heart’ is ‘passion’ or ‘desire,’ and if one wished to they could replace ‘guts’ with other, lower-placed organs of the male body) but I think we can be united in deciding what these terms mean when we see such a genuine example of it. If you listen to the podcast, I’m sure you’ll agree Monette should be remembered for a lot more than just his heartfelt outburst, but for me hearing that was the tipping point. It was the profound moment in that particular man’s life that made me stand up and take notice of the kind of artist I might aspire to be.

By the way, As It Happens goes on the air after The Story with Dick Gordon, at least it does on Minnesota Public Radio. If you want more brilliant radio for your ears, brains, and perhaps even your heart and guts to enjoy, The Story has captured my attention like no other radio program. But that’s for another post…

Richard Monette, Artist (1944-2008)


Storyteller: Kevin Kling.

I’m a big fan on Minnesota Public Radio. It’s been a boon during my days commuting back and forth from Mankato for grad school (when I’m not in the middle of a good audiobook, that is), as well as quick trips across town. In particular, I’m a fan of spending my evenings with The Story with Dick Gordon, but that’s a program to praise on a separate post.

Last Monday, during their fall membership drive, MPR pulled out some of their top programming and Midday featured a reading by storyteller Kevin Kling. MPR has the program I heard available for download; check out Kling’s first three stories here and another three stories here (both are streaming Real Audio links). The stories are funny and interesting, plus some feature Minnesota-centricity, which I’m a sucker for (a story involving his brother’s bachelor party during a Minnesota Twins game at the Metrodome is a laugh-out-loud riot. Behind the content, however, making these stories worth knowing and passing along, is Kling’s storytelling ability.

Storytelling is all about selling it – confidence, confidence, confidence. A storyteller who exudes confidence can mess up royally and his audience will still be with him because they know the storyteller is apt to get back on track without much effort. Kling’s delivery isn’t perfect. He flubs words here and there, he stops himself to add bits to the stories, and he speaks with the speed of a man sentenced to death. But Kling clearly has passion for his material, for the stories he’s culminated over his lifetime and written down for the world, and he sells it. He has defined passion for telling stories with a delivery that’s every bit as compassionate as their content. Kling’s storytelling comes from a place of truth, and that’s what makes his stories so gripping, tension-filled, and when they come to a close, cathartic. Listen and consider how you can apply his passion for storytelling to your own performance or when reading your writing out loud.

Kling’s new book, The Dog Says How, is out now. Think the eccentric tales of David Sedaris meets the homespun yarns of Garrison Keillor. I’ll be picking up a copy soon and if you’re not sure where to put your book money nowadays, you could do much worse than Kevin Kling.


[tags]Kevin Kling, Minnesota Public Radio, storytelling, selling it[/tags]