"We're Not Good."
February 3, 2007 4:19 PM   Subscribe

Robert Krulwich tells the tale of Dr. Alan Rabinowitz and his friend... "Dawi told Alan the terrible secret that explained why there were so few Taron (left in the world). And then Alan told Dawi a secret of his own..." (includes audio link)
posted by ZachsMind (12 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Please understand that I don't do Front Page Posts anymore. I've done about half a dozen since 2002. There is a reason for that. I promised myself long ago I'd stop making them at all, but every once in awhile, I come across something that I think deserves a sliver of blue.

I hope in this one instance, you agree.
posted by ZachsMind at 4:19 PM on February 3, 2007

This is an amazing story!

But there's a weird discrepancy. In the interview, Dr. Rabinowitz describes a key experience: in which his shoe caught on fire, and Dawi laughed, and that breaks the ice for further conversation.

In the text of Rabinowitz's book, instead of a shoe catching on fire, it says that he grabbed the teapot with his bare hands and singed them, leading to Dawi's laughter.

I suspect Dr. Rabinowitz is doing some imbellishment. Sigh.
posted by honest knave at 4:39 PM on February 3, 2007

I'm not going to sit around and listen to some interview or whatever

This National Geographic article (via wikipedia) doesn't bury the lead.
posted by delmoi at 5:01 PM on February 3, 2007

I'm not a big Krulwich fan - as delmoi notes, he makes you wait to know why you should care - but I like the idea of what he's trying to do, bringing Ira Glass-style hookiness to audio science journalism. I happened to catch this story and feel that it's one of the stronger pieces he's done.

In particular, the story's appeal is based on the use of literary tropes and in particular the doubled protagonist. That noted, if the interview portions predominated and had been arranged with the hook up front and the reveal in act three, the piece would accomplish in full what Krulwich is after. I suspect that he's overly bound by a journalistic practice of not prompting his subjects, and once he's nailed the source's audio portion, instead of prompting them to clarify in their own words to accomplish a given narrative goal, he interjects his own explanatory passages.

I wish him the best, and hope he keeps at it until he starts really getting it right. Maybe he could try working directly with Ira, if they could get along (I imagine the relatively high profile and multiple commitments of each gentleman might well make collaboration difficult).
posted by mwhybark at 5:16 PM on February 3, 2007

Oh, come on guys. This is brilliant and wonderful. I love Krulwich's voice, the pace, the way he interposes his narration with the interview to make it seem like the two of them are sitting there together telling you a story, interrupting one another with detail in their enthusiasm. Krulwich shapes the sounds of the voices so softly and gently that he's inside you without you even knowing you've let him in, and then the story's over and Krulwich has brought you back from the caves of Taron to his radio booth in New York. Thanks for posting this.
posted by bukharin at 5:33 PM on February 3, 2007

Great little story, thanks.
posted by interrobang at 5:50 PM on February 3, 2007

Krulwich's editing sucks...

Krulwich, "Until..."

Rabinowitz, "I found..."

Krulwich, "a..."

Rabionwich, "book..."

I exaggerate a little, but I mean it's like listening to stereo music and switching the balance from left to right as quick as possible.
posted by wfrgms at 6:02 PM on February 3, 2007

Did Krulwich learn from Ira or vice versa?

I was listening to Ira Glass just now and the way he put the following has a more eerie context, after having experienced Krulwich's recent piece about The Choice of Extinction.

"...Between a half and a third of everything that we try, we'll go out, we get the tape, and then we kill it. ...You thought it was gonna be good. ...The chemistry was wrong. You can't even name what it was, and why even bother to try? ...It's time at that point to be the ambitious superachieving person who you're gonna be and to kill it. It's time to kill, and it's time to enjoy the killing, because by killing you will make something else even better live. Not enough gets said about the importance of abandoning crap."

- Ira Glass (YouTube link)

"We're not good." - Dawi

Broadcasting follows the same laws of Evolution. Why even bother to preserve species that are going extinct, when killing them or letting them die can make something else hardier and sturdier thrive?

"It's an evolutionary imperative!" - Sylar
posted by ZachsMind at 6:26 PM on February 3, 2007

Please understand that I don't do Front Page Posts anymore.

Stop making excuses. You're no better than the rest of us.

And Krulwich is brilliant. Well done.
posted by homunculus at 8:04 PM on February 3, 2007

What to do about Burma
posted by homunculus at 9:21 AM on February 4, 2007

hm, now i'm interested enough to try to see if i can dig up some stories that might illuminate the hypthetical working relationship between Glass and Krulwich.

I wonder if the interjection style Mr. K. favors might not be an attempt to craft a distinct authorial voice that clearly is rooted in the enthusiast-explicator modes of, naming two who have used the slightly breathless voice-of-wonder, Sagan or Ira Flato. Framed another way, as Krulwich's pieces feature three signature techniques, interjection, the voice of wonder, and narrative-stream effects, does he see himself as attemting to redefine audio science journalism or to extend the established techniques to interview-derived projects?

I mean, with the distiction that the interview source is always included, the methodology reminds me very much of stuff that Cal did in Cosmos, y'know?

Come to think of it, the enthusiast narrator seems to be a very basic trope in pop-market science journalism - think of Alan Alda in SA Frontriers, for example, excitedly waving his hands about some roboot or something. Hm. Interesting.
posted by mwhybark at 11:10 PM on February 4, 2007

gar, 'Cal' = 'Carl,' of course. sri.
posted by mwhybark at 11:11 PM on February 4, 2007

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