Monday, August 20, 2007

91.5 WUNC

I like NPR. I have a contentious relationship with some of the "star" shows: I often hate This American Life, but every time I want to shoot my radio in hopes that it will blow Ira Glass's shit-eating hipster smile right off his face, David Sedaris does a story and I am sated. And every time Dick Gordon (of The Story) puts on his smarmiest Canada-voice and tries to milk a cry out of a Vietnamese boat person, I realize that the stories he does are actually pretty incredible. I heard one in which he interviewed a woman who had been a comfort woman during World War II. I nearly broke down. The horribly improvised "sketches" on A Prairie Home Companion are nearly unbearable, but "News From Lake Woebegone" can be disarmingly potent, and the show nearly always has an interesting musical selection.

That said, none of the hosts of these shows can compete with my three favorite NPR personalities:

1. Diane Rehm: She's completely smart and unforgiving with her guests. If a guest makes a statement, she'll say "Why?". Today, I heard her let a guest finish a sort of non-committal, boring spiel. After he finished, she chirped "No! No! No! The question was X." She tackles really tough and diverse issues and has an excellent handle on all of them (today's topic was subprime lending and its effect on global markets). She's awesome. I don't even notice her voice when she holds court.

2. Lynne Rossetto Kasper: "Bubbly" would be an easy way to describe Lynne, but I prefer to use "passionate." She really knows her food, and you can hear her love for great cooking, eating, and drinking when you listen to her show, The Splendid Table. She also speaks about food with such a conversational grace that even pretty highbrow stuff seems really accessible.

3. Frank Stasio: He's probably not on a lot of people's lists, as he hosts a niche show about goings-on in North Carolina, but he manages to make what could be a pretty dull subject engage all sorts of rigorous material. He really gets art, especially, and is obviously well-educated. He's an incredibly incisive and fun interviewer. He has a nice voice, too, I won't lie.


Remi said...

I wrote a whole big thing picking apart your picks (short version: all of them suck), but I realized I don't really like NPR all that much. Color me uninformed!

the dynamo said...

I only really like "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me!" but Callie will ONLY listen to NPR, and never music, when she is in the car. I think she likes it more than she likes me.

alison p.h. said...

i don't know man, i really really like this american life, and for the past few years, some of my favorite books have been from essayists who contribute to that show. i also just really enjoy reading essays.

this time, i agree with the dynamo that wait, wait don't tell me is one of the best shows of all npr time.

i used to hate car talk so so much, but i've come to kind of accept and even admire click and clack. at least a little bit.

i love the splendid table. diane rehm and the state of things come on during a time of the day when i am rarely listening to the radio.

i also really like marketplace. they talk about really interesting shit every day and often break news about things that will later come out weeks or months later. i'm thinking mostly about when there was all that buzz about the government taxing money made off of MMORPGs.

all in all though i really do just love npr.