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Playlist: O'Dark 30 episode 121 (3-17)

Compiled By: KUT

Caption: PRX default Playlist image

KUT's O’Dark 30 celebrates the end of an era at the BBC with more of the very best from the world of independent radio production this week. Every Sunday at midnight on Austin's KUT 90.5 and also at 4pm on digital KUT2 we present 3 hours of a little bit of everything from the world of independent radio production.

Episode 121 (3-17) includes Lean & Hungry Theater's "Macbeth"...Clever Apes: The happiness machine...Clever Apes: Curveballs from space...#1 Behind the Comedy: Thirty Years of Duck's Breath Mystery Theater...99% Invisible #47: US Postal Service Stamps...San Miguel (A Postcard from Mexico)...#5 The Natural State

Lean & Hungry Theater's "Macbeth"

From Lean & Hungry Theater | 52:31

One-hour modern adaptation of Shakespeare's "Macbeth" set in the White House, using narration, original music, and sound effects.


Lean & Hungry Theater, DC’s only radio drama company and Washington DC’s NPR affiliate WAMU-88.5, present this radio drama adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.”

The one-hour production was originally broadcast by Washington DC NPR affiliate WAMU 88-5 on Halloween, October 31, 2010.

Set in modern-day Washington, DC Lean & Hungry’s “Macbeth” recasts Shakespeare’s classic characters in The White House and the surrounding area, with modern “journalists” narrating through “breaking news.”

The cast of “Macbeth” includes artists who have appeared with or taught at The Folger Theatre, The Shakespeare Theatre, The Baltimore Shakespeare Festival, The Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, The Washington Shakespeare Company, Studio Theatre, and other local and national companies.

“The story of ‘Macbeth’ is among the best known – and most frequently taught – of Shakespeare’s plays,” said Jessica Hansen, Lean & Hungry’s Artistic Director. “In keeping with our educational mission to provide easily understandable Shakespeare for all, we’ve once again focused on a reading list standard.”

 “We’re making it particularly relevant and understandable to younger and underserved audiences by placing it in a contemporary setting with modern-day sound effects.” Hansen added. “We also have edited the production to one hour, with modern-language narration providing recap of the original text throughout the show. It’s an ideal way to introduce the broadest audiences to this important work.”

Lean & Hungry Theater is the only company in the Washington, DC metropolitan area dedicated to adapting works of Shakespeare and other classic playwrights for radio broadcast.


The productions and recordings of Lean & Hungry Theater productions are endorsed by the National Federation of the Blind.

Clever Apes: The happiness machine

From WBEZ | Part of the WBEZ's Clever Apes series | 08:25

Host Gabriel Spitzer explores how doctors are using magnets to tweak the brain's machinery and treat depression. Plus, how magnets and radio waves are being used to hear molecules.


The human brain is full of wonder, mystery, perhaps even spirit. But it’s also a machine. And so even though it might sound far-fetched to suggest that a device can beam happiness into someone’s head, for some people living with depression that is the truth.

Transcranial magnetic stimulation, the subject of the latest installment of Clever Apes, works by sending an intense, focused magnetic field about an inch deep into someone’s forehead. The field comes in pulses – about 3,000 per session. The pulses activate a neural network on the surface of the brain, which in turn sends signals deep inside that stimulate brain structures in charge of your mood. The result, for about half the people who use it, is real relief from major depression. And these are generally people for whom medication hasn't worked.

TMS is sort of the younger, gentler cousin of electro-convulsive therapy, or shock treatment. It seems to affect the same brain circuit as ECT (which is still considered the gold standard for treatment-resistant depression). In fact, almost all the medical approaches to depression, including surgical techniques like deep brain or vagus nerve stimulation, antidepressant drugs and even some kinds of talk therapy, all go to work on that same neural network.

The actual mechanism by which they make someone feel better is still a mystery to science. It may have to do with increasing the production of brain chemicals that affect mood. Or it may overwhelm certain neurological ruts that our brains get into and help them reboot. Whatever the case, it means thinking about the brain less as the center of some mystical life force, and more like an engine that a smart mechanic can recalibrate. Indeed, the real happiness machine is the one inside our heads.

Also in today’s episode, we revisit our occasional series Ask an Ape, where we answer a listener’s question about science. This was a succinct one: “Magnets?” We chose to take this simple question and needlessly complicate it, by delving into nuclear magnetic resonance. Atoms in a strong magnetic field will align with (or against) that field, like little compasses. If you then feed them some radio waves, they’ll broadcast them right back to you. Who cares? Well, this allows you to identify mysterious atoms and molecules … and it also plays music, sort of.

Josh Kurutz, senior scientist for NMR at Northwestern University, gives us a little primer. He has made art from the resonant signals of molecules, as well as lots of other great nerdy stuff. His website is well worth a visit.

Clever Apes: Curveballs from space

From WBEZ | Part of the WBEZ's Clever Apes series | 08:31

Astronomers re-evaluate origins of our solar system and entertain the idea that the universe is shaped like a small doughnut.


Often in science, a new insight doesn’t fit in with the old patterns. That means something, of course, is wrong – either the fresh idea, or everything we thought we knew leading up to it. In the latest installment of Clever Apes, we consider two of these curveballs. One has already rewritten the solar system's history. The other seemed, for a while, like it might mean the universe is either left-handed, or shaped like a small doughnut.

For starters, many of us learned in school that the solar system formed by a nice, orderly process. Tiny things gently coalesced into bigger objects, settling into this pleasant little arrangement of planets and moons. But now, scientists think it was probably a bloodbath, with would-be planets snuffed out in cataclysmic collisions. In some parts of the solar system, as much as 99.9 percent of the material that was once there has been completely ejected from the solar system.

Mark Hammergren, Adler Planetarium astronomer and Friend to the Apes, is trying to recover that lost history. He’s searching for traces of planetesimals, a nearly extinct race of giant asteroids that were the seeds of our planets. Their story shows just how rough of a neighborhood the early solar system was. Jupiter, for example, probably lurched around like a bull in a china shop, its gravity knocking asteroids and planetoids into each other and, in many cases, out of orbit completely.

The fate of those ejected bodies leads to one of the most evocative consequences of this model of solar system formation: interstellar space could be thick with “rogue planets,” whipping through the blackness. Some, says Hammergren, could even still be heated by their molten cores, leading to the speculative, but awesome, possibility that some could harbor life.

Second, the story of a curveball that threatened to topple some very basic ideas about space and time. Scientists, including the Adler’s Chris Lintott, started several “citizen science” initiatives, which enlist the help of tens of thousands of people at their home computers to help sort through data. In this case, they’re categorizing pictures of galaxies from the Hubble Telescope and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. People log on, look at a galaxy and enter its shape, orientation and, if it’s a spiral, which direction the arms are moving. Before long, Lintott noticed that they were getting significantly more counterclockwise galaxies than clockwise galaxies. This was a little scary.

There’s no reason there should be a bias toward one or the other, because it all depends, of course, on which way you look at the galaxy. If there is more of one kind than the other, that would have some very spooky implications (for example, the universe might be quite small and doughnut-shaped). It would require scientists to throw out well-established axioms about the universe.

So Lintott and his team worked to get to the bottom of this crazy observation. I won’t give away the punch line, but let’s just say the answer caused Lintott to invoke this quote from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Click the “listen” button above for the whole story. 

Lintott, by the way, is a fascinating fellow in his own right. Besides his gig at the Adler, he does research at Oxford, hosts a long-running series on the BBC called The Sky at Night, and even wrote a book on cosmology with the guitarist from Queen.

#1 Behind the Comedy: Thirty Years of Duck's Breath Mystery Theatre/Kings of Comedy

From Duck Spots | Part of the Behind the Comedy: Thirty Years of Duck's Breath Mystery Theatre series | 58:30

This is the self-help episode, with many religious types, shrinks, and experts offering useless advice. Also, Naked People's Court, and a gaggle of public radio satires. More.

Default-piece-image-0 One of five hour long shows celebrating 30 years of Duck's Breath Mystery Theatre, this episode, Kings of Comedy, is hosted by Bill Allard and Merle Kessler (from the Ducks). It features Sensitive Male Hotline, The Swami, One True Radio, Trucker poet Grudge Hanson, success expert Mike Kobra, Bad Books For Sale (dirt cheap!), the Kwok Family, Mother Theresa, the Ballad of Ronald McDonald, Ted Burns, the Door to Door Candidate, Heroes of the Future, a presentation of the Body Monitor, the World's Champion Miniature Golfer, Minute Mystery, Life Unearthed, Naked People's Court, the Department of Corrections and Clarifications, and more.

99% Invisible #47- US Postal Service Stamps (Standard 4:30 version)

From Roman Mars | Part of the 99% Invisible (Standard Length) series | 04:30

They are NOT tiny paintings.

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San Miguel (A Postcard From Mexico)

From Jay Allison | Part of the Stories From Carmen series | 04:17

In this essay, Carmen Delzell tells how she initially left Texas and moved down to Mexico with no ability to speak Spanish and $600 cash from used stuff she sold. She writes about arriving and settling in the town of San Miguel. It was recorded in 1999 but the piece is evergreen.

Phpthumb_generated_thumbnailjpg_small In this essay, Carmen Delzell tells how she initially left Texas and moved down to Mexico with no ability to speak Spanish and $600 cash from used stuff she sold. She writes about arriving and settling in the town of San Miguel. It was recorded in 1999 but the piece is evergreen.

#5 - The Natural State

From HowSound | 21:42

A little bit of criticism is okay. It’s good to hear constructive (and, sometimes, not-so-constructive) feedback. However, a LOT of criticism, especially if it’s pointed, well…. that’s just plain hard to take.


A little bit of criticism is okay. It’s good to hear constructive (and, sometimes, not-so-constructive) feedback.

However, a LOT of criticism, especially if it’s pointed, well…. that’s just plain hard to take.

National Public Radio received a slew of listener complaints about Dan Collison and Elizabeth Meister’s July 8 story “The Natural State” which aired on All Things Considered. Robert Siegel and Michele Norris even read a few ‘jabs’ on-air.

“The Natural State” is part of Dan and Elizabeth’s on-going series Song+Story where they meld traditional reporting and song writing — an adventurous approach to storytelling. But, apparently, it’s too adventurous for NPR’s listeners.

Dan and Elizabeth talk about the public reaction to the story on this edition of HowSound. And, of course, we feature the piece, too. Have a listen.


PS – Here’s a link to all of Dan and Elizabeth’s work posted at PRX.