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A Look at RadioLab
April 8, 2011 8:59 AM   Subscribe

Rob Walker, who writes the "Consumed" column for the New York Times Magazine, talks with Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich about the whys and wherefores of their popular WNYC science radio show and podcast, RadioLab.
posted by ocherdraco (67 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
Interesting article about a great show. The idea that in the past, radio was something that was broadcast once and immediately forgotten, but now Radiolab writes and produces shows to be thought about and reheard though podcasting is really interesting; it says a lot about what makes the show so unique, but it's also really cool how the internet, far from destroying established mediums like radio, is capable of rejuvenating them.
posted by Rinku at 9:51 AM on April 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I appreciate that this article focused so heavily on the production style of the show, because it is quite impossible to set aside from the content.

I really enjoy RadioLab, but honestly, I'm not a huge fan of the 'blurps' and cuts, nor really of Krulwich's speaking style (I realize I'm in the minority here). At the very least, I have to be in the right mood to listen to it. I usually listen while I'm driving (where I listen to most of my podcasts), and if I'm tense or tired, I find it seriously irritating. Whereas I can listen to This American Life just about anytime because it has a calming rhythm to it. However, the topics and science that Radiolab covers mostly make this annoyances worth enduring.

The stories they do on the infinitely strange way the human brain works are as compelling as anything else I listen to.
posted by dry white toast at 9:59 AM on April 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


I've never been able to enjoy Radiolab much, despite often loving This American Life (which everyone always compares it to). I haven't been able to articulate why before, but I think this momentary puncture in the generally fawning tone of this piece helps get at it:
“Normally a reporter goes out and learns something and writes it down and speaks from knowledge,” Krulwich added. Jokes and glitches puncture the illusion of the all-knowing authority, who no longer commands much respect these days anyway. It’s more honest to “let the audience hear and know that you are manufacturing a version of events,” he noted later.
Between those "jokes and glitches" and its other forms of down-playing asides and interruptions and general aw-shucksiness, the show often seems to me more condescending than "honest." It's like the reporter/producers don't really trust their audience to follow, or to be interested in, complex material on its own terms. It can feel like listening to a bad intro-course lecture, full of irrelevant crowd-pleasers and desperately trying to hold your attention, when more meaningful content is what you actually want. And then there's the music, too, often as heavy in its emotionalism as a '40s Hollywood tear-jerker. I feel like, where TAL trusts and respects its audience enough to let it respond on its own to serious stuff, Radiolab is instead constantly prompting and leading and cajoling and instructing, because it's so desperately afraid of losing us by seeming too dry.
posted by RogerB at 10:01 AM on April 8, 2011 [15 favorites]


Man, I love RadioLab. My partner and I constantly remind each other of things we learned from RadioLab.

Maybe I appreciate it because I DON'T have much of a science background - they really explain things well for a smart but unscientifically-minded person like myself.
posted by stray at 10:03 AM on April 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I love the stories that RadioLab covers, but I also cannot really handle the weird editing and sound techniques that they use to put together the show.
posted by Aizkolari at 10:16 AM on April 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


I feel like, where TAL trusts and respects its audience enough to let it respond on its own to serious stuff, Radiolab is instead constantly prompting and leading and cajoling and instructing

Wow, how you feel about Radiolab is exactly how I feel about TAL.
posted by cyphill at 10:22 AM on April 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


To all the haters: Just remember how good Homicide became once you got past the choppy camera technique.
posted by whuppy at 10:24 AM on April 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I like RadioLab's production, including the jokes and cuts and glitches just fine. I just wish they had more than 5 minutes of content in a 30 minute episode.

On a typical story they spend about 10 minutes leading up to a question, then get a pull-quote from a scientist that they play over and over and over for another 2 minutes. Then for the remainder of the show, rather than ask any further about the science, one of the two of them will say "nuh uh because HUMANITY IS SPECIAL" while the other tries to talk them down.

They had a story, last year I think it was, that was supposedly about math. In actual fact, it was about the day this particular guy, who happened to be a mathematician but that wasn't important to the story AT ALL, learned to cry.
posted by DU at 10:29 AM on April 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


I like 95% of Radiolab. The part I really don't like is the added sound effects.
posted by drezdn at 10:35 AM on April 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


When I first started listening to RadioLab, I remember complaining to a friend of mine about the sound editing. I found it distracting and annoying, and being startled while driving is never a good thing. I stuck around because I'm a sucker for science-y things, especially the cognition stuff they tend to focus on.

Eight months later, and I find I sometimes miss the soundscapes when I'm listening to other shows. I have moments where I'm consciously appreciating an effect in RadioLab. It's like a really well-done illustration in a book -- all of a sudden, it just clicks.

I think it's especially effective when they're talking about a brain disorder or someone's internal experience. The feelings these people are talking about are totally unfamiliar to me (and most of the listeners I imagine), but somehow Jad and the other producers manage to put me in that person's brain, and suddenly I understand what they're experiencing.
posted by natabat at 10:38 AM on April 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


I like Radio Lab, and I get the appeal of the noises, but it makes it a pain to listen to anywhere but my computer. With tiny iPod-style earbuds, the noises can be too loud relative to the volume of the speaking, and in the car, they make me nervous and think I might be hearing noises from the environment or my car.

I also feel like the stories end too soon. Just as soon as they get to the most interesting element and I start to feel really engaged and curious, they move on to the next story.
posted by mccarty.tim at 10:39 AM on April 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


I just listened to RadioLab for the first time recently and it's quite heartening to hear that so many others are put off by the choppy, jokey, sly, look-how-unprofessional-we-are-but-seriously-take-us-seriously tone that's derived from their "unique" editing style. I couldn't last the show. It's like it's scientifically designed to annoy your nipples off.
posted by mikoroshi at 10:40 AM on April 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


Metafilter: It's like it's scientifically designed to annoy your nipples off.
posted by ocherdraco at 10:43 AM on April 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


I like RadioLab, it's cute and gimmicky, but if it actually succeeds in getting people interested about science and how the universe works then I think it's doing it's job.

When I was young the shows on PBS that resonated most heavily for me were stuff like Cosmos, Connections and the Day the Universe Changed. Sagan and James Burke weren't so much doing shows about specific scientific knowledge so much as popularizing science as a way of interacting and exploring the universe around us. I don't so much remember the specific content so much as getting the impression that science and learning were cool and it was okay to have questions and to look for those answers.

I feel like RadioLab is trying to do some of the same things just in different, hipper packaging. It's not so much a program made to educate scientists about scientists or even about specific scientific knowledge. It's a program that makes it cool to explore the world and think about things that you might otherwise take for granted.

I like that the really good RadioLab episodes force me to examine or re-examine some of my preconceived notions about how the world works. Yes it's sometimes light on content but I don't think most people really want a detailed technical treatise in a radio program.
posted by vuron at 10:45 AM on April 8, 2011


I am astonished to discover that there are people who don't like RadioLab. I really had no idea. I thought a love of RadioLab was a universal, same as bacon.

(Have you never heard the episode about the geese in the toxic pond?)
posted by thehmsbeagle at 10:45 AM on April 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


yeah, I find it totally insufferable and smarmy. And the worst part is that they tackle such interesting topics before they ruin them.
posted by Auden at 10:45 AM on April 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


I can't stand the smug pomposity of Radiolab or Krulwich, but I guess that puts me in the minority. When they deal with subjects I know well, they always dumb them down to the point of distortion, and the (over-)production is seriously annoying.
posted by fourcheesemac at 10:46 AM on April 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


In fact, if defunding NPR meant getting rid of Krulwich, I'd be all for it.
posted by fourcheesemac at 10:46 AM on April 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


PS A lot of what you "learn" from RadioLab is like what you "learn" reading David Brooks or Malcolm Gladwell, which is to say, wrong.
posted by fourcheesemac at 10:48 AM on April 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


PS A lot of what you "learn" from RadioLab is like what you "learn" reading David Brooks or Malcolm Gladwell, which is to say, wrong.

Why should I believe you?
posted by The World Famous at 10:56 AM on April 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


choppy, jokey, sly, look-how-unprofessional-we-are-but-seriously-take-us-seriously tone that's derived from their "unique" editing style.

I'd agree that part of their editing/presentation is to sound more conversational and less professionally distanced. But if that were all there was to it, they would sound more like TAL, and in my opinion it's a misunderstanding to say that the editing is about unprofessionalism or just a desire to have some kind of unique gimmick.

I think much more of it is in Jad's music composition background. At least, the aesthetics of a lot of what they're doing seems familiar to me from studying/listening/trying various electronic composition forms (note: not electronica, more music concrete-ish). That's why you get the repetition, the spatial editing, the rhythm/lilt of their phrasing, some of the effects. They're trying to make their entire production more like a piece of music.

Like a lot of music, it finds an audience that enjoys it and annoys other people.
posted by weston at 10:58 AM on April 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I came for the Radiolab lovefest that I assumed would be going on here. What a disappointment. I'm glad you all have your Weekend Edition Saturday to enjoy, at any rate.
posted by rusty at 11:00 AM on April 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


Man, I really like RadioLab, and I am also a little surprised to hear so many people say they hate it.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:00 AM on April 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


I'm glad you all have your Weekend Edition Saturday to enjoy, at any rate.

what

probably the only thing on NPR more "insufferable and smarmy" than RadioLab is Saturday morning's Scott Simon.
posted by Auden at 11:07 AM on April 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have been a fan and regular listener of This American Life for as long as it has existed. I just started listening to Radiolab about, I think, a year ago. At first, the editing style was a little disorienting. But it has really grown on me. Maybe it's because I'm an audio geek and recording producer/engineer. Anyway, I really love Radiolab's style and content. I don't hear it as talking down to the listener, but rather as sort of a radio play about curiosity and inquiry in the middle of an informational podcast; a way to answer basic questions without being, frankly boring or judgmental of the listener. Knowing that Krulwich is highly-educated and intelligent helps, since it makes it clear that his questions are a sort of prop designed to draw out information relevant to the narrative.

And, after listening to and getting used to Radiolab's approach, This American Life really seems smug and judgmental in comparison. But that might have something to do with the subject matter of the two shows and the fact that TAL's subject matter is, necessarily, something about which people tend to get judgey.
posted by The World Famous at 11:08 AM on April 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Color me also somewhat surprised at the pile-on.

It seems to me that at it's best, Radiolab is all about storytelling; the sound design supports the story.

I was glad to see the NYT piece picked out the Emilie segment of Lost and Found; I almost had to pull off onto the shoulder of the freeway during that one.

Also: I kinda like the "Shorts" pieces on the Radiolab podcast; sometimes their stuff works better in smaller standalone doses rather than crammed together under a not-always-cohesive theme. (This American Life has the same problem: sometimes it feels like they wanted to use a story and had to shoehorn it into a theme in which it doesn't really fit.)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 11:10 AM on April 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I also thought love of RadioLab was universal, and that I was a lone detractor in finding its production aggravatingly unlistenable. I cannot count how many episodes I've started and stopped after having lost patience with abrupt jokey interruptions and jarring sound effects. Everyone I know disagrees with me, though, so I'm happy for the unexpected validation that this thread has provided.
posted by youarenothere at 11:11 AM on April 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I am also a little surprised to hear so many people say they hate it

I don't know, a goodly chunk of the criticisms here are along the lines of 'They have good stories, but the twitchy production and inane bits really takes away from the content'; not that much hating, really.

I do hate their banter, though. Shut up and tell me the story, jerks.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:12 AM on April 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've already expressed my surprise about Metafilter's apparent dislike of Radiolab, but every time I see it it still surprises me! I like both of those things very much, and if ever I thought there were overlapping demographics I would have figured they'd be between Radiolab and Metafilter.

I can't help but get the feel that these complaints are more "this isn't what I'm used to!" than "I don't really like this". I think (as I said before) you have to see Radiolab in a different light, and the article goes over this a bit. This is not 60 minutes, this is the equivalent of an HBO show, and I think that it is much more interesting, valuable, and entertaining when treated as such. I might sit down on an evening to watch Californication, Breaking Bad, or The Wire, or I might listen to Radiolab or This American Life. I see these as very similar pieces of entertainment, and I enjoy them all near equally. I rewatch and relisten because even though I already know the stories, everything is just so damn great I can't help but enjoy it again.

I earnestly wonder if the people making complaints about the sound effects are treating the program in this light.

I think that pushing boundaries in any medium should be appreciated, now more than ever. Even if it's not exactly for you, I think that we can all agree this is a good thing both entertainment AND journalism. I love new, creative things I've never experienced before. Radiolab does just that, a lot, frequently, just like some of my favorite TV shows, movies, and podcasts.
posted by ejfox at 11:12 AM on April 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


I've only just listened to a few minutes of the show, so I obviously don't have a representative sample, but it reminded me of a GYBE track more than anything.

I can see how that would trigger my rage centres if I wanted to just get some solid information out of it rather than a pleasant experience, but then I guess that's why I tend to prefer reading the transcript of a podcast unless it's a comedy or drama thing. I wouldn't have the patience for it if I was really interested in the topic, but you can always just go and look up some articles.
posted by lucidium at 11:13 AM on April 8, 2011


Man, I love guitars, but I hate the way Picasso represented them. I wish he would have just made an actual guitar.

I am not saying that RadioLab = Picasso, but I love the show and really appreciate what they are creating and the work they put into this. After reading this article, I would really refer to radiolab as a sort of "composition". It isn't just about the content, it is also about the show as a whole -- the sounds, the feelings they are trying to elicit, the overall soundscape. If they just did a straight interview for an hour, it wouldn't be radiolab. It can be jarring at times, or distracting, but they are really playing with and pushing the medium -- it never occurred to me that people would think they are just trying to be the definitive source for the content they are using as the basis for their shows.
posted by This_Will_Be_Good at 11:14 AM on April 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


I would love to see Jad Abumrad at a trip to the DMV:

"Next in Line please!"

wait wait

This

"...so I look at my licence and I see that

This is

*background laughter*

JAD abumrad here to

"...it's almost expired, so clearly I need to

UPDATE MY license

a production of WNYC in New York

BEEP!
posted by leotrotsky at 11:15 AM on April 8, 2011 [7 favorites]


probably the only thing on NPR more "insufferable and smarmy" than RadioLab is Saturday morning's Scott Simon.

Yeah, ok, that was too mean. I take it back. I was angry, and I may have said some things we both regret, but let's let them be bygones now.

My Saturday mornings are punctuated with the sentence "Oh Scott Simon, is there nothing too trivial for you to report on?"
posted by rusty at 11:16 AM on April 8, 2011


I don't mind the sound effects as much as the stilted/scripted banter or the disingenuous requests for clarification. "Wait, wait, so are you saying…"
posted by Houyhnhnm at 11:22 AM on April 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


I agree with all of you. I'd like a little less Jad/Robert and a little more of the guests/researchers they have on. A lot of the researchers they have on also write books/article for a general audience and are good at it. And, I mean, how great would a weekly podcast from Oliver Sacks be?
posted by AceRock at 11:26 AM on April 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


Radiolab is just about my favorite program and art production in any format. "Parasites" is a classic. They're experimenting, they're having a great time, and they tried something new and succeeded. Everyone's entitled to their opinion. But to me, it's pure pleasure, I get excited when a new one comes out, and I just love it.
posted by oneironaut at 11:27 AM on April 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


disingenuous requests for clarification

Exactly. The show keeps going "Gee whiz, that's complicated, could you explain it to me again like I was five years old?" to itself. Eventually it becomes hard not to conclude that this is what it thinks of its audience.

I would love to see Jad Abumrad at a trip to the DMV

Philip Glass Buys a Loaf of Bread
posted by RogerB at 11:28 AM on April 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


When I hear Krulwich on Morning Edition or All Things Considered, I feel like I'm being talked to like a five year old. He's got a delivery like a kid's show host. It's aggravating, too, because often what he's talking about really interests me, as in the amazing story about the powers of recognition of crows. It's so hard to get past the flop sweat and the low rent sound effects.

What it says to me is that the American public, even NPR listeners, who are supposedly better educated than most, can't be trusted to find science interesting on its own terms without dressing it up in a clown suit and dumbing it down. Even Morning Edition smacks of this, with the forced banter and goofy news stories. I mean, part of it is just that NPR's brand of 'humour' is just so... awful and dessicated, but there's more to it than that.

if you listen to the BBC podcast, In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg, the contrast is both stunning and depressing. Like science, history can be perceived as being dry, but Bragg has a few historians on and moderates a discussion on what's usually a fairly specific topic. The historians just bring their knowledge and an obvious passion for their subject. They're almost always articulate, energetic and respectful of each other even when disagreeing. It's content by adults for adults. Why is that so hard to do in the US? I'd love to have a show like RadioLab to listen to, but I have no desire to be pandered to.
posted by picea at 11:29 AM on April 8, 2011 [7 favorites]


And plus Bragg gets feisty with the guests when they piss him off and then it gets awkward for two seconds and then they get back to business.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:31 AM on April 8, 2011


To me, Krulwich and Abumrad love what they are doing. They are two people with the best jobs they could possibly imagine. The show started as an experiment (and flopped in an early incarnation on This American Life) and they can't believe they get to keep doing it. So when I hear them, I hear two people who are so enthusiastic and curious and just plain psyched, about everything they are doing, and that comes through. You'd be hard pressed to find many hosts as uninhibitedly fascinated by what they're talking about, and open, themselves to learning and surprise. It's wonder at the world.
posted by oneironaut at 11:35 AM on April 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


And, I mean, how great would a weekly podcast from Oliver Sacks be?

Yes, now *that* would be great. Which reminds me: Whenever they do let an actual scientist talk for more than a couple of seconds, my main impression is that the scientist is thinking to themselves "can you get over that part? because we haven't even gotten to the interesting stuff yet."

I don't really care about the "smugness" or whatever of Krulwich and Abumrad. What I hate is the faux stupidity. "Hyuck, we hate math and science just like y'all and we're gunna get those pointy hairs to 'splain themselves"
posted by DU at 11:37 AM on April 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh and, this.


I would really refer to radiolab as a sort of "composition". It isn't just about the content, it is also about the show as a whole -- the sounds, the feelings they are trying to elicit, the overall soundscape. If they just did a straight interview for an hour, it wouldn't be radiolab. It can be jarring at times, or distracting, but they are really playing with and pushing the medium -- it never occurred to me that people would think they are just trying to be the definitive source for the content they are using as the basis for their shows.
posted by This_Will_Be_Good at 2:14 PM on April 8 [+] [!]

posted by oneironaut at 11:38 AM on April 8, 2011


Philip Glass Buys a Loaf of Bread

Oh Lord, that's funny. I didn't watch the whole thing (it's a little repetitive), but the concept is so great.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:38 AM on April 8, 2011


Though I agree with most of what's being expressed re sound editing and vocal stylings, the episode on Lucy the chimp had me in tears.
posted by HotPatatta at 11:38 AM on April 8, 2011


I liked the episode about the fake bus stop outside the German rest home.
posted by emelenjr at 11:55 AM on April 8, 2011


I remember hearing some interview of Krulwich and Abumrad at Oberlin, where they both went to college. What stuck with me is that Abumrad studied weird electronic music production, and that part of their production process is for Krulwich to kind of talk him down from the more-weird production elements that might otherwise appear in the show.

I love the show. They can be a little slow and fakey-astounded by basic tenants in fields I'm familiar with, (fake e.g. "What? You mean that if you flip a coin 99 times, the odds of it landing heads-up on the 100th flip are still 50/50??") , but I really like their overall sense of, "Holy Cats, This Thing Actually Happens! Just Think Of That!"

It makes sense that that's totally off-putting to a lot of people, but it really kind of appeals to me.
posted by nicething at 11:58 AM on April 8, 2011


It totally appeals to me to for the first several minutes of each episode. Then I'm like "shut up about that part and how you don't get it because I do and I'd like to know more!"
posted by DU at 12:06 PM on April 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh god, Lucy the chimp. That story was just crushing.

It took me a bit to get used to RadioLab's editing style, but I've grown to like it. I think the fact that it's so idiosyncratic is a good reminder that you're getting a very particular point of view, which I prefer to faux-objectivity.
posted by smartyboots at 1:06 PM on April 8, 2011


Radiolab is a tragedy. So much amazing content, and such an excruciating method of delivering said content. Although they seem to think otherwise, the editing is not cute, it isn't clever, and it adds nothing to the actual subjects explored. What a horribly wasted opportunity.
posted by ghastlyfop at 1:18 PM on April 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


For me Radiolab (along with TAL) is like Joss Whedon creations or Mass Effect games: while I can totally see and understand the detractors' points, I still love them.
posted by kmz at 1:34 PM on April 8, 2011


The first time I listened to Radiolab, I was hungover as hell and absolutely hated the editing style. It made my headache worse, so I turned it off after 10 minutes and didn't listen again for a year or so. Since then, I've listened here and there and mostly enjoyed the show despite the editing.

I have no problem with them aiming for something different (in fact I wish more radio people would) but their particular style just drives me up the wall.
posted by brundlefly at 1:35 PM on April 8, 2011


This thread makes me want to channel my inner Beiber fan: FUCkAll 'yallRADIOLab Is AW3SOME!!!!!<3!!!!

I piss in your Haterade!
posted by Diablevert at 1:42 PM on April 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Although they seem to think otherwise, the editing is not cute, it isn't clever

"Your favorite presentation style sucks."
posted by weston at 1:58 PM on April 8, 2011


So much amazing content, and such an excruciating method of delivering said content.

OPPOSITE THIS
posted by DU at 2:17 PM on April 8, 2011


I think the reason RadioLab rankles but This American Life doesn't is that TAL pulls off that magic radio trick of making you feel it's a friend talking. If radio allowed you to talk back to Ira Glass somehow, you feel like he would listen and engage with you. RadioLab, despite what I guess is an attempt to sound 'down-to-earth', just comes across as *snobbish*. It feels like two guys just *showing off*, and you feel that their conversation is not open to anyone else because no-one's as funny and clever as them.

That said, it's worth gritting your teeth through to get to the good bits. Like the aforementioned 'Finding Emilie'.
posted by sleepcrime at 2:17 PM on April 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


If radio allowed you to talk back to Ira Glass somehow, you feel like he would listen and engage with you.

I love TAL and I really like Ira Glass, but I feel like he would listen and then say "Eeeeehhhhhh, I'mnotsosureaboutthat."
posted by The World Famous at 2:38 PM on April 8, 2011


Yeah... to find so many people on Metafilter hating RadioLab is a disappointment akin to dating an attractive, interesting, intelligent person, then finding out they don't much care for, say, Jon Stewart.

Or like finding out how many people on MeFi don't care for Jon Stewart.
posted by theDTs at 3:13 PM on April 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


I listen to radiolab often, and even occasionally use it as a supplement in my classroom. The one thing that really irritates me about the show is the religious spin that Robert Krulwich sometimes applies to stories about science. I realize that not every story that they do is about science, but it really bugs me that a journalist who is a science correspondent for NPR injects so much of his own religious belief into the explanations for scientific phenomenon. There are plenty of ways to express wonder without using religious terminology.
posted by amelliferae at 3:20 PM on April 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I thought a love of RadioLab was a universal.

Yup. I genuinely thought people who didn't love it just hadn't heard it yet. But the one thing that bums me out about MetaFilter is this tendency to pile into a thread just to state that you don't like the subject, often (though not always*) in unproductive ways, which, really guys? If you want straight up interviews with scientists, there's plenty of that out there (Science Friday, the Planetary Society Podcast, etc.). If you don't like the audio style, fine, but you really don't need to go out of your way to pop in just to say you think it's "smarmy."

Plus, it's one thing not to like a certain style or type of media, and I get that even if I don't share it in this case. But automatically perceiving people who are genuinely excited and joyful about their job as being fake posers is a totally depressing way to go through life. I hate the attitude that centers around cynicism being valuable in its own right, and enthusiasm being somehow less cool.

*leotrotsky's comment totally made me laugh.
posted by you're a kitty! at 7:04 PM on April 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


Yeah! And all you movie editors out there - what's up with the flashbacks and the cutting back and forth and using sound effects and music and craft to tell a story? Why can't you just let the stuff play in real time? Can't you just give us the info without trying to entertain us?

/s
posted by fungible at 8:55 PM on April 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


If you want straight up interviews with scientists, there's plenty of that out there

CBC's Quirks & Quarks is pretty good in that vein.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 9:09 PM on April 8, 2011


I think it comes down to this: too many public radio shows seem to be made for their hosts and producers, not for their audiences. They seem self-indulgent.

And all that inside baseball, look at how hip and edgy I am, here's my personal spin stuff is only interesting for so long. After a point, the personality of the host eclipses the subject matter s/he's ostensibly informing the audience about, and it becomes essentially a blog with high production costs.
posted by orthogonality at 9:19 PM on April 8, 2011


Yeah! And all you movie editors out there - what's up with the flashbacks and the cutting back and forth and using sound effects and music and craft to tell a story?

That's silly and weak, even by MeFi sarcasm standards. No one is saying the techniques are inherently bad, they are saying how RL uses them impairs their enjoyment of a program that otherwise has a lot going for them.

Your point would be just as inane as someone claiming that Raging Bull and [Insert Tony Scott Movie Of Your Choice] are peas in pod, since they both use so much gosh-darn editing.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:21 PM on April 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, you just compared Radiolab to a Tony Scott movie. I see this getting settled some time around when that whole middle east situation works out.
posted by fungible at 7:10 AM on April 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Listening to RadioLab, with all the twists and turns, and elements that just pop out of nowhere, reminds me of reading Metafilter.
posted by ZeusHumms at 9:29 AM on April 9, 2011


Does Krulwich finally confess that he's also Howard Chackowicz from WireTap?
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 9:53 AM on April 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm with those who found the kooky affectations and asides in the podcasts irritating. I like everything done straight, except sex of course.
posted by joannemullen at 7:31 PM on April 9, 2011


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