Posts Tagged ‘NPR’

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.



Chicago Improv Festival – My Trip, Day 1 (Part II)

I’m writing this post about Thursday on Friday, hence references to “last night” and such, even though this is “Day 1, Part II.” Just go with it. 🙂

Google Maps was absolutely right, my trip took just over seven hours, including a bit more that’s all my fault. I got a late start between packing and getting the apartment ready for the weekend so I was rewarded with Twin Cities rush hour to kick off the trip. I listen to audiobooks on my road trips and this trip had me listening to “Birth of the Bomb” from NPR’s The Story and I’m halfway through From a Buick 8 by Stephen King. I listened to this book on audio a few years ago and I’m remembering why I enjoy it so much. King touches on writing this just a bit in On Writing, by the way.

I missed the 9:00pm White Jazz show (bummer, I wanted to see that one) and I pulled in to town just in time for the 10:30pm Messing with a Friend show. Susan Messing was the first teacher I had at my first CIF outing back in 2001 and she was amazing. Got me to be physical in my improv, relax and have fun. She paired herself up with her longtime collaborator, Mick Napier, who I’ve also taken some tremendous CIF workshops from back in the day. I want to say I’ve seen them perform together before, but I can’t remember. What really matters is last night’s show.

Two improvisers having fun. That’s what it boils down to. Susan and Mick showed their audience what a show can be like when the only concern to the performers is to have fun together. The show had a lot of audience interaction, with Susan and Mick coming out into the audience several times. A woman felt Susan’s “pregnant” belly during one scene, and Susan took Minneapolis improviser Aric McKeown’s gum from his mouth (Aric was in the audience and got a nice shout-out from CIF Producer Mark Sutton for The Moustache Rangers who appear at the Annoyance at midnight on Saturday). A slew of scenes depicted the most dysfunctional marriages in the world and at one point the audience were labeled the worst middle school class in the world as teacher Susan berated us for a good ten minutes. I hope her voice holds out for the rest of the festival. Line of the night: “If I had a nickel for every time I was told, ‘Take the lobster bib…'”

The party at the Annoyance was okay, but I was too tired to get involved. Spoke with Joe Bill for a while and, always the diplomat, he introduced me to a few improvisers. I caught a few minutes of the new TJ Jagodowski & Dave Pasquesi improvised documentary, Trust Us, This Is All Made Up in the theater – fun stuff, but again I think I was too tired to appreciate it. Readers in the Twin Cities should go see it at the St. Anthony Main this weekend, however. The TJ & Dave Show is some of the best improv I’ve ever seen (they take no suggestion; the title of the documentary is traditionally the last thing they say before diving into an improv set) and if you can’t see them in-person in Chicago, the documentary may be the next best thing (I rank the film high above their Sonic commercials). When my host for the weekend, Paul, showed up, I was more than ready to leave the party and make my way to a fold-out couch.

A note on parking in Chicago: I love the challenge. Last time I drove to CIF (2005), I had a lot of luck with parking for venues and parties but not-so-much with the friend’s place where I was crashing. One night, I drove around for over an hour looking for a parking space in the neighborhood. That maybe wouldn’t have been so bad if it wasn’t for the particular hour spent trying to park falling between 2:00am-3:00am. This year, I think it will be a mixed bag, too, though luck has been good so far. I found a spot only one block from the Annoyance for the show. Heading up to Evanston, Paul and I parked a few blocks from his and Susie’s apartment building (a beautiful old brick building that tastes of boarding house even before you’re told it is a former abbey). Will my luck hold out? Stay tuned…


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.