Comments by Jonathan Goldstein

Comment for "The Poet and the Painter"

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Review of The Poet and the Painter

This piece is a gem. It is compact and intellectual, but at the same time has a highly whimsical quality. It recounts the story of how Bill Corbett wrote a poem based on a drawing by Phillip Guston and how this artist in turn was inspired to create drawings based on the very book in which that poem was collected. What is wonderful about this piece is how it is able to really capture the way that artists are inspired by one another. It deconstructs this process by pointing out which images of Corbett’s poem struck Guston and shows how he reinvented them. This piece in all its complexity still manages to capture the simple and pure way in which artists appreciate one another. Instead of having a heavy, overly academic feel, it conveys the innocence felt by two schoolyard nerds who compare their notebooks and suddenly become best friends. This is something that high-budget bio-pics often fail at.

Comment for "Linda's Gift"

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Review of Linda's Gift

This is a great little piece, being at once entertaining and intelligent. It recounts in a light, literary manner the narrator’s search for a violin that will reproduce a specific sound—a sound that has been hauntingly playing in her head. She compares searching for a violin to looking for a true love. Impressively, this comparison really rings true. She is looking for something that will complete her and fulfill a certain nostalgic ideal born from childhood. Most musicians feel that their instruments are living things. It’s a kind of mystery that I’ve always suspected can only be really grasped if you are a musician; but his piece helped me to see how each instrument can be unique and alive, possessing its own personality and history. For Catherine Girardeau each violin is, in its way, The Red Violin.

Comment for "Alcoholic at Birth"

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Review of Alcoholic at Birth

In this piece, alcoholism is presented as a curse that can afflict even the gentlest and nicest of people. It is a brief but poignant description of the way in which parents’ faults can torment the lives of their children. Zack’s mother was an alcoholic and he attributes all the major problems in his present life to her illness. Indeed, it is impossible not to draw a direct link between his mother’s abandonment of him and his subsequent life in and out of foster homes and later, his incarceration. He does not have faith in his own freewill and believes that he is predetermined to be an alcoholic. He doesn’t seem to have many people in his life who are willing to negate this idea either. He calls his sister and his grandmother and they all seem to share the same dread that he will end up an alcoholic. (His sister even reminds him of scientific facts and draws attention to the fact that his father’s alcoholism further increases his own susceptibility to the illness). No doubt this mantra has unfortunately been repeated to him through his entire life. “Alcoholic at Birth” is a real portrait of an incarnated soul. Interestingly, because of his mother’s absence and utter neglect of him as a child, he seems more under her influence than the average person. An interesting lesson is presented in this piece: part of being a good parent is allowing your child to distinguish themselves from you. By the end you are left rooting for Zack, that he will discover his own potential, independent of his biology. It is this potential that might ultimately define us as human beings and not just case studies.

Comment for "Barry, Bob & Me"

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Review of Barry, Bob & Me

This is a very honest and interesting piece about Beatty’s seven year attempt to emulate the prose of his favorite writer, Barry Hannah. It captures the reverence we can feel for someone whose art we admire. It also reveals how this admiration can lead us into an obsessive and detrimental one-way relationship. Beatty.admits that he gave up trying to write in his own style and out of his own experience in order to simply recreate the work of Barry Hanna, as he considered him to be both a superior writer and person. The piece is never sad though and remains funny throughout. Beatty’s honesty and candor about his own misguided path gives this piece its lightness of touch. Indeed the very act of holding up a mirror to himself and his past has allowed him to become a talented essayist in his own right. As with most good stories, this piece transcends the author’s own experience and reflects universally on the relationship that people have with art and artists that they admire. Virtually all of our lives have been influenced in some capacity by the artists that we admire. In many instances, this influence has yielded positive results. Other times, as followers of Sid Vicious and Kurt Cobain can attest, the results can be destructive. In this case the results are bitter sweet.

Comment for "Transit Duchess"

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Review of Transit Duchess

Van Halteran attempts to create a realistic portrait of riding the subway on a Saturday night. She allows the listener to visually recreate her own private experience through her vivid details. The background ambient noise adds to the feeling of an nterior monologue in the midst of the public sphere. She whispers to enhance the feeling that she is taking you along for the ride. It also allows her to position herself as an equal participant in the subway’s activity and not just as some omniscient narrator. By describing the various images and sounds, she delivers a sort of Rauschenberg-like collage. Rauschenberg always insisted your art had to be at least as interesting as what you see on the street and Van Halteran takes on this challenge by making her art capture street life as intimately as possible.

Comment for "Graham Shelby on Public Assistance"

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Review of Graham Shelby on Public Assistance

In this piece Graham Shelby describes applying for social assistance from a distinctly middle class perspective-- which is pretty unusual, but then his circumstances are unusual. He needs Medicaid after his triplets are born, but he doesn’t consider himself down and out or a member of the lower class. Shelby presents his need for social assistance as funny because it is so out of character for him. His main obstacle is the embarrassment and indignation at having to ask for help, and having to reconcile himself with the stereotypical image of a welfare recipient. He explains how lucky he was that his own parents were well off and were able to raise him middle class. He is determined that he and his children will always have the dreams and personality of the lucky, even when they lack money. In the end, this is a light musing on the nature of need and class. In the end being broke doesn’t change his sense of self and dignity. It would be nice if everyone could feel that way. This might be a helpful entry point into more in depth programming that covers welfare and poverty in America.

Comment for "Graham Shelby in Vietnam"

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Review of Graham Shelby in Vietnam

In this piece Graham Shelby and his wife, who are both children of Vietnam vets, take a trip to Vietnam together. Shelby, quite nicely, describes Vietnam through his and his wife’s eyes. A happy boy without an arm that he encounters on the beach becomes a metaphor for what they make of Vietnam: a land that has been traumatized by war but yet is recovering and full of life. Shelby juxtaposes the Vietnam he is witness to with the Vietnam he has seen in documentaries and war films. I would have loved to hear it further juxtaposed against the images of Vietnam his and his wife’s parents described to them as children. Shelby has a pleasant and open attitude to all he sees which gives this short piece an unexpected richness. He is a relatable tour guide; as such, this piece should fit in nicely with some travel programming.

Comment for "Heroin and Me"

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Review of Heroin and Me

There is something plaintiff and lovely about Cassie’s delivery. There are moments where it almost has the effect of someone singing. Cassie is a very young recovering drug addict who was herself a child of drug addicts. She gives you an incredible amount of information within a short period which has the effect of an outpouring; yet this also means that at times she merely grazes over the facts of her life. The journey of her addiction touches on many fascinating subjects and you might be left wanting to hear more. For instance, she briefly mentions how when she lived with her dad for a time, he had her dealing drugs for him, and referred to her affectionately as his ‘little drug dealer.’ Cassie has dozens of stories to tell. If someone asked her questions that persuaded her to linger over the events that have happened to her and explore their consequences and meaning I think she’d be an ideal interview subject. Maybe this short piece could be an accompanying prelude to a longer form interview.

Comment for "An Encounter With Hunter S. Thompson"

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Review of An Encounter With Hunter S. Thompson

In the wake of so much that’s being said and written about Thompson this felt like a quiet little haiku. It’s very straight ahead, well-written, and most importantly, it captures something of Thompson’s spirit without trying too hard. It’s short and sweet and feels personal, while still managing to be about Hunter (one of the regrettable things that happens with Thompson eulogies is that writers feel like it’s the right moment for them to try on their Gonzo hats). It leaves you with a lingering sense of HST’s intense, burning aliveness—a sense that, in light of his suicide, is an important thing to remember…. to remember that even though he was eccentric and often destructive, he was still on the side of life. In an odd way, this could perhaps be played alongside Linda Lavin’s memories of Arthur Miller, another great writer we’ve recently lost.

Comment for "Sing To The Glory of God"

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Review of Sing To The Glory of God

“Sing” takes as its starting point the inherent anti-Semitism in Bach’s choral repertory and moves on to the problem of what do you do with a piece of music that is incontestably hateful yet also sublimely beautiful. What’s nice about this piece is that, although there’s a lot of talk, it comes from individuals who, while experts in their subject, are also passionate, common-sensical and moral. They also sound like they’ve wrestled with the issue of what to do with this problematic music. Instead of dismissing the music outright, or even creating apologies for it, they make a very balanced enquiry. They also offer a kind of primer on what exactly a passion story is. If film school students can study “Triumph of the Will” for its well-doneness, than there is certainly an argument for appreciating this music in all its complicatedness. It’s a study of the power of music-- when that power is used for evil rather than good. This could be an interesting addition to classical music programming.

Comment for "Sara - An Iraqi Girl's Story"

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Review of Sara - An Iraqi Girl's Story

Sara tells her story over the phone from Jordan because Baghdad is not safe during the election. In Iraq, her father stays behind to watch the house so that it is not looted. There is no water because the main pipes have been bombed. It’s a glimpse into the actual day-to- day life there-- the fears and concerns. There’s a real cynicism that comes through when Sara talks, which is more than just disconcerting-- it’s depressing because it’s so understandable-- though much of what she prophecises about election day does not come to pass. She was hopeful at the beginning of the invasion, but now you can hear the resentment in her voice “What’s freedom,” she says. “I can’t leave my home. It’s hard. I’m just breathing. I’m not living.” It might be a bit tricky to figure out how to place this piece, because it talks about the Iraqi elections which have passed.

Comment for "Finishing the Picture; Linda Lavin on Arthur Miller" (deleted)

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Review of Finishing the Picture; Linda Lavin on Arthur Miller (deleted)

Well kiss my grits, Linda Lavin is a great talker. She has a nice common touch and sounds as awed as any of us would had we met Arthur Miller. She’s not talking as a celebrity, but as a fan and her tone is always warm and reflective and never professorial—though she offers some really interesting takes on the playwright’s life. She gives you a real sense of the man’s physical presence, too-- what he was like at rehearsals on a day-to-day basis. She speaks as a peer but also as someone who’s been reading his work since she’s a kid. She gives you a sense of him as a genius but also as a mensch.

Comment for "Funny Business"

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Review of Funny Business

It starts off with the pronouncement, “People have always laughed at me.” The reading style is very deadpan and unflashy-- sad almost, in a way that recalls Charles Bukowski’s reading style. I’ve never heard a radio documentary on this subject and I listened with great curiosity. It’s quite funny and enjoyable and has a built in story to it. He wants to try his hand at being a stand up comic and he takes us all the way through the training process at a kind of comedy school where students learn the seven levels of comedy. Beatty rings the inherent absurdity out of being taught how to be funny—the humor that emerges from the gulf between theory and practice. The only thing I would say that’s missing is some tape of the actual event at the end. The desire to hear how it goes becomes so great—because of how engaging the narrative is-- that by the end you just crave a bit of a bigger dramatic pay off.

Comment for "Petals of Hope"

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Review of Petals of Hope

The story of the attack and its emotional aftermath is told by the people affected by it in the town and it is terribly, often brutally, sad. This work is completely intimate, expertly intercutting voices that are thoughtful and emotional. For many, it seems, it is the first time that they are actually talking about their loss. It’s the kind of in depth story-telling rarely captured at all on the nightly news. It’s also amazing how the story ends with a sense a healing and a very courageous reaching out. It’s genuinely touching. The production and the use of scoring music is also well done.

Comment for "RN Documentary: Holland's Second Queen - Annie MG Schmidt"

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Review of RN Documentary: Hollands Second Queen: Annie MG Schmidt

The mundane facts of Schmidt’s life, a woman who is arguably the most popular writer that Holland has ever produced, is not cut from the same mold as the regular romantic stories of genius. She sounds like an ordinary person who had a great gift for the kind of literature she wrote. The flip side is that the average American listener might find the facts of her life a little too mundane to exist as a primer on who she actually is as a writer. Although three million copies of her work have sold in Holland, making her sales only second to the bible in that country, I imagine most here are probably not familiar with her and in the piece you don’t actually gain access to the worlds she created. It might have been helpful to have heard a little bit more of the work itself. It’s sort of like explaining fifty years from now to the Dutch who the woman who created Harry Potter was. It’s hard for us to understand her importance without more of a context and access to the work itself. The archival tape of her Dutch musical radio soap operas in the 50’s are really nice as is the brief readings and the use of music to evoke the age. This would be nice as a part of a series on writers from other countries.

Comment for "The Trouble With CAFTA" (deleted)

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Review of The Trouble With CAFTA (deleted)

With so much talk about NAFTA, discussions of CAFTA don’t receive as much airtime. This piece explains what exactly CAFTA is, and the speed in which it came into being. I walked away thinking that although globalization might be an unalterable fact of the new economy, there’s still a lot of room for discussing how exactly the deal will go down. There are alternative policies that can be put into place that will allow for proper health care, greater financial security and a better environment for the countrys involved. What’s happening now is that cultures are being destroyed and big businesses possess more rights than the countries they invade. The piece is mainly made up of talking heads and would have benefited by more scene tape of the actual day-to-day living conditions of the workers, but just the same, this was an education.

Comment for "Cat Show"

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Review of Cat Show

This is such an afectionate portrait of an event. The tone of the interviews are never judgmental or ironic. (Best question: “How would you describe the look on [your cat’s] face.” Answer: “Inquisitive.”) He’s sincere, and he loves cats, too, so I don’t think he thinks of himself as being too outside the whole thing, which allows the tone to feel more intimate. The sound of the cats is great, as well. The production and the use of music in general are really nice. It takes you into a whole other world, and integrates you into it... and the world you are entering isn't presented as absurd or ridiculous, but sweet. It’s sort of like Best in Show, except with cats. This could fit in with some programming about people and their pets.

Comment for "What I did for Drugs"

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Review of What I did for Drugs

This does not fit into the regular drug rehab narrative of hell and redemption. You feel like you’re getting it unfiltered, with no attempt to moralize. It’s just straight-ahead, hard-boiled facts. It’s a cool format… I interview you, you interview me. We both have stories worth telling. It feels real and raw. So often stories of drug use are fodder for movies and books. Here it is in all its mundane truth. The subjects have not made anything of their experience yet because, perhaps, they are still too young and close to it. It’s like a snapshot… something like a Larry Clarke photo. It has that kind of matter-of-factness. This could offer a nice change of perspective and tone within some programming about drug abuse.

Comment for "Josh"

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Review of Josh

It is so interesting to see someone do a profile of a random person…I mean, not a national figure, a celebrity, or someone with some kind of claim to fame… just someone that clearly fascinates the producer. There’s something very pure and inspiring about that. The piece is a kind of exploration of that fascination. She does not attempt to label or diagnose her subject; she merely describes him and explains how he sees the world is such an interesting and unusual way. She sees the beauty in his odd quest to create card games with titles like “Super Nova Dragons” and, by proxy, so do we.

Comment for "Lenny Bruce Gets Busted"

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Review of Lenny Bruce Gets Busted

There are certain skits from early episodes of SNL that I defy you to find anything funny about. Pedophilia jokes… mastectomy jokes... offensive… but not funny. Offensive can be funny… just not always. So much of comedy is dated. So much of it is has to be understood in the social context of the time. The laughs come from discomfort, the pleasure in breaking social taboos. What’s nice about this piece is that they provide a context for Bruce’s comedy, very succinctly. It takes comedy seriously, taking a scholarly approach that still manages to remain conversational. They explain the social context in the late fifties and I think even beyond it, Lenny Bruce still stands up. He is funny and when he isn’t ha-ha funny, he’s still interesting. And what’s different about his version of stand up is you can hear the wheels in his mind spinning… making it up, like impromptu conversation, as he performs. It’s so different than a lot of the slick, honed stuff you hear today. The piece provides an arc, too, that ends melancholically with many of Bruce’s sad obsessions, drug problems, and legal nightmares. Nicely done. Break out those old Alan Sherman records and devote some programming to comedy.

Comment for "Sounds Like Yesterday"

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Review of Sounds Like Yesterday

This is a completely charming piece that, more than just being a valentine to the great old radio days, is also a portrait of sixtiesish/seventiesish yearning, a tribute to the power of imagination, as well as a celebration of the magic that happens when a group of like-minded, similarly passioned individuals find each other. So much takes place within these thirteen minutes… you even get a behind the scenes look at how radio sound effects are done. As someone in the story says, when you listened to the old radio shows, you didn’t see what everyone else saw. The selection of old radio clips is great, too. What talent these actors had. The whole thing is a warm, deserving tribute to the beauty of the medium… and as such, it could probably play nicely as a part of a radio pledge drive.

Comment for "Critical Condition" (deleted)

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Review of Critical Condition (deleted)

America is ranked 29th in the world in terms of health care. What’s going on? For such a rich country this is scandalous. Barlett and Steele are really lucid in their analysis of the system’s workings, and Lena Berman brings in very provocative questions. Together, they break it down and, in a very intelligible way, help you to understand how the government is failing its people. They present a very bleak picture of people making money off the misery and death of citizens—an industry full of fraudulent practices, where too much money goes into bureaucratic administration; but what’s nice is that they also leave you with common sensical solutions. Health Care in America is sure to become an even more discussed topic internationally as film-maker Michael Moore’s next film is “Sicko,” a doc about America’s troubled health care system.

Comment for "RN Documentary: Love Exile on the Road"

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Review of RN Documentary: Love Exile on the Road

The argument the piece makes is that to not recognize gay union is to not recognize their love, their personhood. Love Exiles is a very apt term. A lot of what’s here though is second referenced… responses to speeches after the fact and not many stories about the struggles and actual relationships themselves. The focus is on the eight-day caravan… the nuts and bolts of the journey. It has a very summer campy feel. Everyone is very self-conscious about the romantic and historically important trip they are making. It’s nice, but I think it would be better heard as a companion piece alongside some other programming that deals with actual stories, political reporting and opinion pieces. On the topic of gay marriage. Love’s Exiles is, for better or for worse, a travelogue—a road diary-- that walks you through what it must have been like to have been along for the ride. I imagine that anyone who couldn’t be there for the caravan will take great comfort and solace in being able to be a virtual travel companion to these people through this radio program. As long as respected public figures are still saying hateful things about gays and gay kids are still trying to kill themselves rather than come out to their families, programming like this is a must. “If gay people can get married just like straight people I must be as deserving as respect and dignity as anyone else.” That’s what these rights are all about.

Comment for "Every Day, on My Way to Work, Somebody Tries to Kill Me"

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Review of Every Day, on My Way to Work, Somebody Tries to Kill Me

The production style is, to my taste, sort of cheesy-- she says go ahead and make my day and then plays Spaghetti Western music-- but the piece speaks out in defense of bikers, which, in and of itself, is a really worth while thing. I was able to relate to many of the things she says. It’s amazing what hostility is unleashed when people get behind the wheel of a car. It’s just that the piece never manages to surprise you. It’s always just indignant and you know where it’s going. In order for it to be more than just an angry rant you’d share with friends, it has to transcend, say something about people… about why we get this way in our cars. She gets at the bullying mentality… the Darwninianess of the whole thing, but to sustain a piece of this length there should probably be some tape. That would be surprising… some tape of her riding to work and then stopping to record someone who was honking at her would have been really satisfying. Like this, it’s closer to just venting and riffing on a gag for a bit too long. It’s a really great title, though.

Comment for "Greeting Card to Esther"

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Review of Greeting Card to Esther

An intercepted open letter that captures Christmas in New York in all its grandeur and absurdity. You can hear the love for the city in Palladino’s voice, and it’s contagious. Of course this is a sure fit for Christmas 2005, but there’s such a nice heartfelt intimacy to the letter form that it makes you think it would also be a nice part of programming that brings the audience other audio open letters… from all over the country and the world. It’s a nice spin on the personal essay, using ambient sound and a tone that feels especially conversational.

Comment for "Beefy Guy Buys Organic Beef" (deleted)

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Review of Beefy Guy Buys Organic Beef (deleted)

This is one man’s odd, often funny and quite sincere story of making a small attempt towards doing the right thing. He likes hamburgers and does not want to stop eating them; he just wants to switch to organic beef. He sounds like a regular guy, too, which is refreshing. He’s instantly relatable in the opening scene as he stands looking at himself, naked, in the mirror as he prepares for his shower. He does not like what he sees. The moment is intimate…. almost voyeuristic. The story is simple and straight-ahead, which is not to say it does not draw you in. This would be a nice addition to programming about food or self-image, or organic farming. It would be nice because he does not sound like your standard professorial expert; he sounds like a man who wants to eat hamburgers, that is, everyman.

Comment for "Tom's Story" (deleted)

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Review of Tom's Story (deleted)

Tom’s life is presented in this precise chronological way that is often only reserved for historical figures. His ex-wife is even spoken with. There’s this very newsy approach to what is a very emotional subject and the results are really affecting. The facts are presented simply and no easy conclusions are drawn. Of his young brother killed by a drunk driver, Tom says, “I did not handle the death very well.” The tone is terse but as the facts slowly compile, rather than feeling like your listening to a morality tale, you feel genuine empathy, which is far more complex.

Comment for "RN Feature: Under Threat - International Humanitarian Law"

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Review of RN Feature: Under Threat - International Humanitarian Law

The piece starts off with an excellent scene that hooks you right in. The reporter is in an ambulance with a Palestinian woman about to deliver as she nears an Israeli checkpoint. Women in the occupied territories suffer such anxiety before delivering—about whether they will make it past the checkpoint to a hospital—that many of them are opting for cesareans in order to pinpoint the exact time of the birth. The story zeroes in on one particular disturbing phenomenon within the greater context of a society driven to a state of constant fear and paranoia. Dealing with the fear of terror attacks—in the form of ambulances or the stranger on the bus beside you—has put humanitarian law in jeopardy. Beauchemin gives you insight into the lives of the victims affected by the absence of these laws. Would be a nice addition to your Middle East coverage.

Comment for "Great American Scandals"

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Review of Great American Scandals

Did you know that Warren Harding just couldn’t say no? That Eleanor Roosevelt and her mother-in-law couldn’t get along? "Scandals" bridges the gap between gossip and history, presenting the former as a valuable historical artifact. What’s heard here also makes you realize that political scandal is nothing new. Hearing about all the quirks of historical figures puts a human face to history lessons that can sometimes feel generic. It’s sort of like if the writers of US magazine wrote U.S. History textbooks. It moves along at the pace of reading the Page Six, but it’s also educational. No easy feat.

Comment for "Ramen Jiro"

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Review of Not the Soup Nazi

I love how this piece takes for granted your knowledge of the term “soup Nazi” and then takes it from there. Andy explains the Ramen Jiro noodle restaurant in such a way that makes it sound like an initiation rite, an iron man competition, and a heroin den all rolled into one. He describes a world with it’s own logic and rules. It’s almost like science fiction. Like for instance, you have to finish your entire bowl or you will insult the owner, a man who seems to run the place like a prison warden. Or there’s the fact that the first time you eat the pork dish you will become ill, but then after that you will need it every day. It goes to show that good writing can be about anything. It can turn the mundane into the epic, as all good radio should. This is playful and funny… absurd and utterly charming, and would really spice up your food programming.