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An eye the size of a grapefruit, keeping an eye on me...
May 26, 2010 9:10 PM   Subscribe

...and there was just rope everywhere--it went around the whales mouth, around the whale's head, across her eye, over her back wrapped around the pectoral fins, all the way down to its tail. I thought there was no hope, there was no chance, we're looking at a dead whale, the whale just doesn't know it yet--but I knew that I had to try. ...It was a very surreal moment looking down and seeing the 20 crab traps and buoys just disappear into the abyss... And just like that, the whale was gone. ...I'm spinning around, where'd she go, where'd she go ? ...Now here's where the story takes a pretty startling turn. ...Next thing I know there's this fifty ton whale coming right at me...
From about 4:00 to 14:30 in nearly 23 minutes of the segment, Animal Blessings--in mp3 here, all 20 megs of it. Or you can try the podcast at RadioLab: Animal Minds. Either way, you are in for a most truly awesome anecdote. And listen to the whole program to have some back and forth science dropped on you in regards to what we think we know about what and how animals think.

For print versions--

See also Daring Rescue of Whale off Farallones

See also A Whale of a rescue

But do listen to the Animal Blessings if you can--the story verbatim is truly hair raising.
posted by y2karl (69 comments total) 43 users marked this as a favorite

 
this is awesome. still, though, I always think we dirt-dwellers had better watch our backs when somebody's patience *finally* runs out...
posted by toodleydoodley at 9:30 PM on May 26, 2010


Thank you.
posted by humannaire at 9:30 PM on May 26, 2010


I love this story! Thanks for posting it, y2karl.
posted by biddeford at 9:41 PM on May 26, 2010


Thank you for posting this and letting me go to bed with images other than dead, oil-soaked birds in my head. Great show.
posted by Heretic at 9:44 PM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Beautiful.
posted by amyms at 9:46 PM on May 26, 2010


I love radiolab.
posted by sophist at 9:49 PM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Radiolab is excellent and you should feel bad if you don't know about it. Their whole exploration into animal cognition was great.

The "Emergence" episode is simply one of the finest moments of radio ever, IMO. So is the parasites episode, so is the placebo episode, so is the musical language episode, so is the one about Carl Sagan falling in love...
posted by middleclasstool at 9:53 PM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


It was a very surreal moment looking down and seeing the 20 crab traps and buoys just disappear into the abyss...

Where they devastated an entire shoal of the ultra-rare Miracle Fish, fatally concussing the queen.
posted by turgid dahlia at 10:08 PM on May 26, 2010


Man, I wish I could get into Radiolab. I love public radio, I'm usually interested in the topics of the show, but the presentation just reminds me too much of those damn two-guys-in-a-car Sonic commercials (or the old husband and wife I Can't Believe It's Not Butter spots) for me to take seriously. I know beyond all reason of a doubt that I'm missing out on some great content, but the back-and-forth just annoys the hell out of me - and this is coming from someone that listens to *snortsnort* Cartalk *snortsnort* on a weekly basis.

Am I alone in the way I feel? Can I be cured? Should I keep trying?
posted by item at 10:10 PM on May 26, 2010 [8 favorites]


so is the one about Carl Sagan falling in love...

What? Direct link pretty pretty please? Whales terrify me, but Carl Sagan enraptures me. Something about those turtlenecks...
posted by Mizu at 10:17 PM on May 26, 2010


Item: Am I alone in the way I feel? Can I be cured? Should I keep trying?
The good news is you're not alone; my wife is also often irritated by RadioLab. The bad news is that I frequently cite this fact as further evidence of her insanity.

So far, she remains unconvinced.
posted by Western Infidels at 10:25 PM on May 26, 2010


I heard this a few months back and, I must admit, couldn't hold back a few tears at the end.
posted by littlerobothead at 10:26 PM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


posted by Item I wish I could get into Radiolab . . . Am I alone in the way I feel? Can I be cured? Should I keep trying?

You are not alone. I listen to the show and I'm trying to like it, but the constant interrupting-the-story-with-various-sound-effects is what prevents me from being a fan.

"We were walking in the forest [*footsteps*] and we heard a loud grunt [*Grunt! Grunt!*] so we turned around [*rustle rustle*] and in the clearing we could see [*Gasp!*] Elvis shaking hands with Bigfoot! [*Ah thank yew, thank yew very much*][*Grunt!*][*applause*]"
posted by mattdidthat at 10:44 PM on May 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


Am I alone in the way I feel? Can I be cured? Should I keep trying?

I, too, am irritated by RadioLab. They get points for popularizing science, but lose many points for ripping off This American Life so hard by having the host sounds exactly like Ira Glass (all right, maybe that's not his fault), and goddamn Robert Krulwich and his "I'm just an ignorant radio host, please explain this 'science'" routine. Yeah, I get that that's a technique, but it makes him seem borderline retarded.
posted by mrnutty at 10:51 PM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


constant interrupting-the-story-with-various-sound-effects

Yes! That too! Man, thank god they talk about science or I'd fucking hate that show. Almost as much as Michael Feldman's Whad'Ya Know?
posted by mrnutty at 10:55 PM on May 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


...hate that show. Almost as much as Michael Feldman's Whad'Ya Know?

THANK you. I mean seriously, I get through an hour of Car Talk in fine form, then an hour of "Wait, Wait..." feeling quite chipper. And then the sonic enema that is Feldman's attempt at folksy humor comes on - Lord, why can they not hire a decent writer?, - and I cannot dive to change the station fast enough.

I'm sure that makes me a bad, bad man, but still.

/NPR rant

This is the first time I've hear RadioLab. The whale story is awesome.
posted by darkstar at 11:05 PM on May 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


See also Lucy ("The Temerlins wondered, if given the right environment, how human could Lucy become?")(Pullquote: "I didn't tell Jane Goodall that I punched Goblin in the nose."
posted by NolanRyanHatesMatches at 11:13 PM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Am I alone in the way I feel?

No, sadly, I find the show to be virtually unlistenable as well, due to their precious cross-talk/sound effects/"I'm Broadcasting As Fast As I Can" style. Which is frustrating, because I know I'm regularly missing out on excellent content, like this.

Which also means that I thank you, y2karl, because I would have certainly missed it otherwise.
posted by scody at 11:24 PM on May 26, 2010


The episode that NolanRyanHatesMatches cites above is slated for broadcast later this week in the Seattle area, and it is a complete masterpiece. It is also the most emotionally devastating hour of constructed radio I have ever listened to, and I will not repeat the experience. If you like radio narrative and are an animal-lover-slash-pet-owner, you really should listen to it. Just don't drink or have a gun handy or have recently lost a pet.
posted by mwhybark at 11:25 PM on May 26, 2010


Also, FWIW, I should note that I am a member of the "RadioLab irritates me with the overlapping soundedit shtick" club. "Lucy" succeeds despite this technique.
posted by mwhybark at 11:28 PM on May 26, 2010


Wow, that Lucy epilogue with Janis Carter is incredible.
posted by darkstar at 11:42 PM on May 26, 2010


I love Radiolab. The blue placebo sleeping pill & Italian men (from the Placebo show) anecdote has actually worked itself into my regular "I have nothing substantial to say to you so here's an unrelated humorous fact" repetoire.
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 11:56 PM on May 26, 2010


Unashamed to love Radiolab, sound effects and all. But I am a person who also listens to The Story and, for years, was the only person under the age of 60 who regularly tuned in to Prairie Home Companion. So what do I know?

This episode, The Bus Stop, is my recent favorite. And thanks for this post!
posted by jeanmari at 12:22 AM on May 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm on team Radio Lab. I love the sound design, I love how they represent and explore science, and I like the personas of the hosts. But most of all I love their stories.

The OP story and the Lucy story are meant to go hand in hand and are some of the best podcasts I've heard. The Sagan story is one of my favorites as is the synchronicity episodes.

Along the same lines, A Life Well Wasted Is a high quality podcast that has a lot of the radio lab style but focuses on video games.
posted by doctoryes at 12:22 AM on May 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'd actually heard that story before.
posted by delmoi at 12:27 AM on May 27, 2010


Clive: "I'm wondering how well I'm going to be able to distinguish your voices".

Exhausting to listen to - I hard such a hard time keeping track of who was who. But an interesting story. Thanks.
posted by falcon at 12:30 AM on May 27, 2010


OK, I love whales and I'm intrigued by your teaser and I'm going to download it and listen and I so hope it's as good as you promise, because I just hate RadioLab. Every intriguing story they tackle they ruin (ruin!) with their idiotic, mannered, overlapping banter, infantile audio effects, and all the rest that makes RadioLab so... RadioLabby. I love good science journalism, whether on radio, or in print or on TV, and RadioLab - you, you... RadioLab! Argh!
posted by Auden at 12:41 AM on May 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


so is the one about Carl Sagan falling in love...

What? Direct link pretty pretty please? Whales terrify me, but Carl Sagan enraptures me. Something about those turtlenecks...


I'm fairly certain it's in this segment of their Space episode. I randomly heard that segment on Chicago's NPR station one night and I've been a big Radiolab fan ever since.
posted by kmz at 2:08 AM on May 27, 2010


The humpback stopped a foot from his chest. She nudged him, then turned away and swam in a circle around the divers. One by one she grazed by each of the four men.

Trying to explain the whale's behavior scientifically, Frances Gulland, the vet at the Marine Mammal Center, thinks that she probably swam in circles because her body had been kinked for so long. The divers just happened to be there while she was exercising.


Why do scientists have to be such party poopers?
posted by digsrus at 4:49 AM on May 27, 2010


I like radio lab, I really do, but one of the hosts sounds like Cousin Ira from Mad About You, and sometimes that derails my whole listening experience.
posted by Biblio at 5:07 AM on May 27, 2010


Why yes, let's go back to the days where radio was a unfriendly, monotone voice.

Oh please, RL has the most inventive sound design on the planet. Rarely are the effects the obvious ones as in the (made up) example above. But oh well. Haters gotta hate, I guess.

For me, this post reminds me to go to their site and make a damn donation already.
posted by fungible at 5:36 AM on May 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Man all of you surprise me sometimes. I thought a universal love of RadioLab would be on here.

But definitely count me in on Team Radiolab as well. The shows they did on Time and on Mortality…a-maz-ing.
posted by ShawnString at 5:47 AM on May 27, 2010


hey get points for popularizing science, but lose many points for ripping off This American Life so hard by having the host sounds exactly like Ira Glass (all right, maybe that's not his fault), and goddamn Robert Krulwich and his "I'm just an ignorant radio host, please explain this 'science'" routine.

RANT TIME:

Ripping off This American Life? Are you fucking kidding me? I understand if the sound design isn’t to ones taste it is in point of fact what I love about the show, but then again I’m a failed sound designer so I guess different strokes… But ripping off TAL? RadioLab runs circles around TAL. If I hear the fucking calliope song inappropriately attempting to button a not that illuminating epiphany one more fucking time I’m going to hunt Ira Glass down lock him in a box for 72 hours and force him to listen to it non-stop so that he associates it with being in a locked scary box and NEVER plays it again. All TAL is doing lately is ripping off The Moth and RadioLab. (Planet Money gets a pass because it’s a joint venture yadda yadda.) TAL has gotten lazy and complacent. Jad and Robert are still excited and learning and honing their craft.

This episode, The Bus Stop, is my recent favorite. And thanks for this post!

Every story Lulu Miller has ever produced makes me want to shrivel up and die and never try anything again, it's so good.

Also Car Talk can go die in a fire. (The show not any of the humans involved in it.) No one actually likes Car Talk everyone just grew up listened so wheezing gasping coughs and NOT FUNNY feels like being a little kid in mom and dad's car.
posted by edbles at 5:56 AM on May 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


The shows they did on Time and on Mortality…a-maz-ing.

Morality. Morality and War of the Worlds will fucking kick any radio show's ass any day of the week mofos.

GO TEAM RADIOLAB.

I'm going to look into making a shirt when I get home, for realsies.
posted by edbles at 5:58 AM on May 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I love me some radiolab; looking forward to listening to this on the train tonight.

One of my favorite radiolab segments starts with a story about a goat standing on the back of a cow, and becomes incredible shortly thereafter...
posted by kaibutsu at 6:06 AM on May 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've got to agree with Auden. I kept hoping that the hosts would just shut the fuck up and let the rescuers tell their story.
posted by Aizkolari at 6:07 AM on May 27, 2010


I'm another one who tried to dig Radiolab but couldn't get past the heavy-handed effects work. Instead of visualizing the story I end up with an image of a grinning sound editor hunched over a desk. That said, I will give this a listen.
posted by ChuqD at 6:13 AM on May 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thanks for this, y2karl. I read the story when it came out, and I look forward to listening to the RadioLab episode.

I always think that RadioLab is going to annoy me, but I get so into the stories that I forget to be annoyed. As a further data point, I hate Prairie Home Companion and wish that they didn't have good musical guests on, because then I wouldn't ever have to listen to it at all.
posted by rtha at 6:17 AM on May 27, 2010


I'll be podcasting.
posted by unliteral at 6:19 AM on May 27, 2010


Put me on the "annoyed at Radiolab for having interesting discussions in the most annoying way" team. I try and try and try to listen to them, and I just can't hang. For a few days WNYC replaced Fresh Air with Radiolab and I almost drove off the damned road.

That being said, I loved this whale story when I first heard it. Beautiful, and it allowed me to not mind the format for a few minutes.
posted by nevercalm at 7:16 AM on May 27, 2010


This is the podcast that led to me download the entire set. LOVE this show! I was just listening to "Where Am I?" on the bus portion of my morning commute today and I was awfully tempted to leave my headphones in as I switched to my bike. (Fear not, gentle reader: I resisted temptation).

Man, I wish I could get into Radiolab.

Item, this was my first reaction, too. Why the overlapping excerpts from each guy in the boat? Why the chitter chatter? Why be so disrespectful to the expert guests by lowering the volume on their voices as one of the hosts jumped in to summarize what they were saying? I plowed through several shows despite these elements, which bothered me to the depths of my ADD-soul ... and then I found that they just didn't bother me any more. It was kind of like jumping into a cold pool and being miserable for a few minutes until your body adjusted.

I have little tolerance for NPR/PRI/CBC preciousness, but some things, like Radiolab and Wiretap, somehow make it through despite these quirks.

Those of you who are willing to give it a go, try Limits, Lucy (as mentioned above), Emergence or Numbers.
posted by maudlin at 8:07 AM on May 27, 2010


I sometimes wonder if love/hate of RadioLab is also predicated on one's musical taste. Most of the people I know who love the show also have a keen interest in experimental electronic music, and there are many times when the show to me feels like an elegant mash-up of Negativland, Boards of Canada, and Steve Reich. I always feel like Jad is going for more of a symphonic approach to radio rather than a strictly narrative one, and I know that doesn't sit right with people who "just want their radio to be radio." (And I say this lovingly as an NPR-affiliated producer myself, but ... you have the rest of NPR to yourselves for that!)
posted by mykescipark at 8:07 AM on May 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


Thinking about this some more ...

Most radio shows are pretty linear and discrete. Host talks, host introduces guest, guest speaks, host and guest take turns, making sure not to interrupt each other, and maybe there's a musical piece at the end -- not background to the talk, but a discrete interlude -- then module 2 of the show (host, host and guest taking turns, music) plays, and maybe a few more modules, until the show is over.

This is a pretty clear and efficient way of delivering information. What Radiolab does is a little more cluttered and requires more of your attention. It's more like a radio play than a newscast. If you're visual and not very good and taking in things by ear (like me), it's a real challenge to keep straight. And if by temperament as well as physiology, you just want to absorb the information in the cleanest way possible, their methods may drive you nuts. (One thing that does still bother me is the multiple entrances by guests to mention sponsorship and the like. I have sometimes turned to the next episode, not realizing that the show wasn't over yet.)
posted by maudlin at 8:32 AM on May 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I tried to listen (HE TRIED TO LISTEN) to the broadcast but (BUT -- THERE WAS A PROBLEM) I found the announcer's (THAT'S ME, JAD ABUMRAD) constant interjections (LIKE THIS ONE!) really distracting. Half the time (FIFTY PERCENT) he just (REPEATS) what the interviewee just said (WHAT THE INTERVIEWEE JUST SAID).

The story is fascinating (REALLY INTERESTING) but makes me want to stab the host (THAT'S ME, JAD ABUMAAAAaargghhkk...) in the neck.
posted by CaseyB at 8:42 AM on May 27, 2010 [17 favorites]


I was about to do my impression of Radiolab, but CaseyB already nailed (HE REALLY NAILED IT).
posted by the jam at 8:57 AM on May 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Most of the people I know who love the show also have a keen interest in experimental electronic music, and there are many times when the show to me feels like an elegant mash-up of Negativland, Boards of Canada, and Steve Reich.

Mykscipark, add one more anecdotal datum to your theory. I adore Radiolab's content and swirling sense of surrounding -- NPR used to have this show where people would turn in ambient audo vacations and Radiolab makes me nostalgic for that.
posted by ntartifex at 9:06 AM on May 27, 2010


@mykescipark I sometimes wonder if love/hate of RadioLab is also predicated on one's musical taste. Most of the people I know who love the show also have a keen interest in experimental electronic music, and there are many times when the show to me feels like an elegant mash-up of Negativland, Boards of Canada, and Steve Reich. I always feel like Jad is going for more of a symphonic approach to radio rather than a strictly narrative one, and I know that doesn't sit right with people who "just want their radio to be radio."

I am thrilled by all variety of atypical music and sound design (inc. the artists you name), even some outright noise, and RL's narrative style seems to me to be a patronizing twee tone, just too distracting for the content. "Progressive" design is a thing to behold, when it transforms the original whole. Buuuut, I still listen and mostly enjoy the show despite these minor irritations, because I think their intentions are swell and they do a relatively good job reporting interesting popular science.
posted by methinks at 9:22 AM on May 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


The greatest moment of The Wire may have been Bodie discovering Prairie Home Companion while on a long road trip. Fadeout on him looking at the radio like it is a martian. Then much later he pulls into his destination still listening to Garrison Keillor.

I've enjoyed some of the Radiolab stuff but I'd have to be counted amongst those who find the overlapping banter off putting.
posted by Babblesort at 9:23 AM on May 27, 2010


Wow, so many cranky people in this thread.

Jad gave a talk at MaxFunCon about the difference between music & speech, how the two approach one another, and almost overlap. I think that Jad attempts to bridge the gap in order to make his points more vivid, hence the weird electronic music noise-fuzz and sound drops.

Jad also played an example of an interview clip before and after production. I agree that the sound effects can be distracting, but after hearing the difference between the two, I realized that scientists are pretty boring*. In the "before" clip, the researcher did a fine job of explaining her work, but I spaced out after a couple minutes of half-following. I needed a pen to keep up.

However, the "after" clip interspersed goofy sound effects & expository conversation with the researcher's words, and it really clicked. It may seem overly simple, but that's the only way the story is going to stick with most people, and the extraneous sounds painted a mental picture that I did not get from the researcher's words. I have a lot of respect for Jad & RadioLab's translation of scientific morass into an audio picture book.

So, I don't think that talking over the researcher is disrespectful. It's the only way to succinctly tell the story, because scientists are pretty jargony people.

Production is what makes RadioLab. Without it, the show would have a host interviewing scientists who do cool science things. Most people would think "Oh, science is cool, but I don't get it." That show is called Science Friday, and, while it is good, it is like every other live NPR show. However, I think RadioLab is a rare, super-creative, artistic gem with unique storytelling that makes people say "Science; I get it!"


* = For whatever it's worth, I'm a microbiologist. I can appreciate that, in my mind, I may be fantastic at explaining science in a straightforward, logical fashion, but most people are lost without oversimplification/repetition. Hence wacky sound effects.
posted by Turkey Glue at 9:38 AM on May 27, 2010 [9 favorites]


RL's narrative style seems to me to be a patronizing twee tone

There's a general rule in reporting that one must assume (in the best possible way) that your audience knows nothing. RadioLab knows that it is, at times, asking very naive questions, but it's necessary as a throughline to build up to more complex ideas. If they acted more "insider baseball" about science, I assure you they wouldn't have half the audience or station carriage they have. Now, you may agree or disagree about the precise manner in which they put it forward, but I personally wouldn't call it patronizing - it's more of a good faith effort to make sure everyone's on the same page. And if it has anything in common with TAL, it's this love/hate factor among its listenership.
posted by mykescipark at 9:45 AM on May 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Production is what makes RadioLab. Without it, the show would have a host interviewing scientists who do cool science things.

I would happily tune in every week for that.
posted by scody at 9:55 AM on May 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


I also love RadioLab. I am a total NPR junkie and enjoy the drier shows as well, but all the extra sound effects and the quirky format get me, well, more excited about the subject matter. Fun science shows are also a great gateway to learning more and exploring the more academic side of a topic.

I think they are trying to bring more people into the science fold, rather than preach to the converted. I happen to know a lot about chess (well, I used to) and could probably stomach a long interview with some random chess players, but a lot of other smart people who aren't chess players would probably not listen, or try to listen and think, "ok, but why is this interesting?" I think the RadioLab format is a great way to highlight the "WOW!!"" moments without constantly having to ask the guests "Ok, so boil this down for our listeners."


I wouldn't want every radio show to be like this, but variety is the spice of life.
posted by freecellwizard at 9:56 AM on May 27, 2010


Why yes, let's go back to the days where radio was a unfriendly, monotone voice.

Well, now that you point out that these are the only two options.

Maybe I'm just not bored by a straight feed of information. It's entertaining in its own right. I don't need bells and whistles and lights and feigned emotion.

I will check this out, though, and see if it isn't a prohibitive level of annoyance this time around.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:03 AM on May 27, 2010


RadioLab is not a science show. It's a philosophy show.
posted by edbles at 10:37 AM on May 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


Also for all you Krulwich haters, the man can make talking about sandwich construction interesting. Also I think this discussion shows you that his emotion isn't feigned. Krulwich is absolutely being himself on air. WARNING: False advertising, no science content.


Also along the Animal Minds Theme, Alex and Me is about this lady and the parrot that she studied animal learning with for 30 years, there is an awesome scene involving nuts (the food kind).
posted by edbles at 10:40 AM on May 27, 2010


Wow, someone should do a post about that!
posted by y2karl at 11:36 AM on May 27, 2010


Jad is a musician first and foremost and before he started Radiolab, focused solely on doing that, primarily with experimental electronic stuff. As mykescipark points out, half the point of the show is the sound design. He's trying to do something that doesn't sound like every other NPR show ever produced. Something that is interesting and informative while also playing with language as music. For Christ's sake, they even did a show about language as music.

It's fine if you don't like the way he does it, because it's stupid to argue taste, but seeing some people gig the dude for not doing the exact same kind of podcast you can get a dozen different places is, to put it as kindly as possible, frankly not the reaction I would expect from a place like this.

Also, Jad sounds like Ira Glass? Other than having a tenor voice, how?
posted by middleclasstool at 11:54 AM on May 27, 2010


I will say this: kids seem love Radiolab. Whatever that means. A listener anecdote about this even came up in WNYC's fund drive (which ends today--yay!).

The kids in the carpool I drive live for the days when Radiolab in on instead of Fresh Air, and my 14-year-old son listens to the podcasts while doing his homework.

And yeah, the whale story was amazing.
posted by torticat at 12:07 PM on May 27, 2010


Most of the people I know who love the show also have a keen interest in experimental electronic music.....kids seem love Radiolab...

I am an over-40 urban mom who counts (mefi's own) chococat among my favorite artists and can't stand electronica. (There is something about writing that which makes me want to type: DATAPOINT!)

TAL. Oh, dear. TAL used to be great. When they would travel the country actually interviewing OTHER PEOPLE FOR THEIR STORIES. Too often, lately, it's "Ira and Friends", and if I hear one more personal anecdote from one of his close cronies, I will explode with boredom. **shakes fist at kids on lawn, etc.** I've been listening via WBEZ practically since the damn show started and it has become "This--Whiny Aging Urban Personal Friend of Ira's--Life". Although I am not a personal friend of Mr. Glass, I am a whiny, aging, and urban so I know of what I speak. I care about stories that would normally not be told from otherwise average people. I get annoyed at Dick Gordon's style, but he's interviewing people who I would never get to hear about otherwise. Ditto Storycorps, and sometimes The Moth, 3rd Coast Festival, and American Radioworks. I think Planet Money is brilliant and more programs like it on other complex topics would be fantastic.

Love science and hate Radiolab? You are welcome to Living on Earth and Science Friday, two programs which have the potential to be interesting but rarely break out of drone mode.
posted by jeanmari at 2:48 PM on May 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


As a public radio host and producer myself, I'll just say that there's no better produced program on the radio than Radiolab. NONE. Ira Glass is a hero of mine, but Jad has stepped it up one notch further.

The complexity of information that Radiolab can convey in audio form is truly astonishing to me.

Their show bumps mine from the air on my biggest station, but I welcome it, because it's AMAZING.

Sometime in the next couple months I'll share Jad's talk from MaxFunCon. It was really revalatory, and the moment where he played the unedited content of an interview with a scientist from the show and then played their fully produced version was such an astonishing display of craft I still can't get over it.
posted by YoungAmerican at 3:10 PM on May 27, 2010


A Declaration of Cetacean Rights! All Should Be Granted Right to "Life, Liberty & Wellbeing"
posted by homunculus at 4:37 PM on May 27, 2010


"For Christ's sake, they even did a show about language as music."

That was the first episode I heard, which kept me subscribing, and I still refer friends to it. The defenses for RL's popular aesthetic (a motivation I hadn't really considered, that it was something of an art form) are more than fair, and my wet-blanket naggings aren't worth voicing, but that I was surprised to see others expressing similar thoughts. Still, it's a worthy production.
posted by methinks at 4:43 PM on May 27, 2010


Lastly: the hell is wrong with me and digressions? This whale story is very moving and nicely told.
posted by methinks at 5:46 PM on May 27, 2010


Sometime in the next couple months I'll share Jad's talk from MaxFunCon.

YAYAYAYAYAYYAY!...yay!
posted by edbles at 5:16 AM on May 28, 2010


I’m amending my previous statement:

RadioLab is not a science radio show. It is a philosophy oriented sound art piece produced monthly and funded by WNYC which happens to also broadcast it on the radio and to RSS feeds.
posted by edbles at 5:19 AM on May 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also for people criticizing the sound production choice you’re yelling at a painting for being a bad newspaper photograph. A painting’s job isn’t to capture the realism. It’s to show you the subject of the painting through a lens of the creators brain, so you can spend some time contemplating and reflecting on the subject in a more focused and detailed way. RadioLab isn’t trying to be an information IV it’s trying to be a nice juicy information steak au poivre.*

*Sorry vegetarians, but god damn I like steak, especially with pepper sauce.
posted by edbles at 5:26 AM on May 28, 2010


Just want to add--I enjoyed that show, and I've enjoy quite a few Radiolabs, but I always end up getting frustrated with Jad and Robert as the hosts. I mean, half of the time when they begin speculating about the deep, interesting questions about life, science, etc., I end up yelling at my stereo, is that REALLY the conclusion you're coming up with?!?!

For an example--on a show (I think it was "Who Am I") a guest was claiming that one day a powerful computer will be able to become us, if all the circuitry could mimic our memories and hold our thoughts. That computer WOULD BE YOU. So who would you REALLY be?

I mean, aside from the technological difficulties of creating this scenario, I thought to myself, NO NO NO, the computer would be a CLONE of us, at most. We (or the original version of us) would NOT BE the computer. Just because the computer has made a copy of our brain does not mean our existing consciousness JUMPS to the computer. We now have a copy of ourselves, but our existing consciousness will still remain intact, right?

But Jad and Robert seemed to challenge the guest on every other point BUT that one. They seemed to agree with the guest (or maybe it was just Jad...who I usually have the most trouble with) that there was some deep identity crisis now occurring. Who are you REALLY?!? Are you now the computer? Cue woozy music.

Stuff like this drives me crazy. And it happens on 9 out of 10 radiolabs I hear. I end up wanting to stick my head through the stereo speaker and say, "WHY AREN'T YOU ASKING THE MOST PERTINENT QUESTION!?!?" or "YOUR CONCLUSION IS OFF, GOOD SIRS!!!"

I actually have only listened to about half of many of the shows because I have to switch off the stereo in frustration.

Strangely, this never happens with This American Life.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 2:53 PM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Lady Humpback Whales Make Friends & Meet up for Summer Reunions
posted by homunculus at 11:36 AM on June 9, 2010


Sperm whale poo offsets carbon by fertilising the oceans with iron
posted by homunculus at 6:35 PM on June 16, 2010


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