Oh man, incredibly excited to be asked to contribute to NPR’s annual calendar this year. It took a few years after moving here, but for awhile now I have become a WNYC/NPR junkie. Like many New Yorkers, I turn to the radio more and more not just for news, but to learn interesting stuff and, in some ways, find comfort; it always seems to be the voice of reason when you most need it. There is something timeless and magical about listening to the radio and frankly no one does it better than WNYC.

Thoughts printed in the calendar: “NPR is a reliable companion. By nature, radio has a sense of nostalgic romance. Listening late into the night to the unique voices, thought-provoking programming and music gives us knowledge. Many times, public radio has made me think differently, or given me an idea. It nurtures free thinking and innovative dreams.”

Watch on blog.franchesca.net

Pigmentocracy: Real Talk About Fair Skin (via WNYC)

Last month I worked with the folks at WNYC on a piece about skin lightening. Truthfully, I’ve never had any negative feelings about my skin tone so I had no idea this was such a big business. So for me, this conversation was both sad and incredibly eye opening. Have you ever felt self conscious about your skin tone or considered using lightening products?

The Cicadas are Coming (to the Northeast)

When I think childhood summers, I remember long days, sno-cones, playing outside, and that the ever-present hum of cicadas. Their wing-beating buzz was, and is, the ambient soundtrack to warmer months. 

The northeastern US is about to get a visit from a very special bunch of these sporadic summer visitors. Certain groups of cicadas only rise to the surface to breed every 17 years, littering the ground with their exoskeletons and bodies, and the air with their constant call.

When the soil temperature begins to steady in the mid-60’s, "Brood II" magicicada nymphs will hatch underground and crawl to the surface by the billions, and the air from Georgia to Connecticut will start to come to life. While not every cicada species hatches in 17-year patterns, these particular “broods” may follow the pattern to avoid predators predicting their arrival or to keep from going extinct during long periods of cold weather. For many of you, this may be the first time in your life that this group has hatched.

Most of all, get out there this summer and just stop. Listen, look and take a moment to appreciate just how much life is lurking under and above us at any moment. 

And watch where you step. Crunch.

Watch on blankonblank.tumblr.com

David Foster Wallace on Ambition

“If your fidelity to perfectionism is too high, you never do anything.” - David Foster Wallace.

It’s Episode #3 from our new series with PBS Digital Studios

Interview originally aired on the Leonard Lopate Show WNYC | 1996

Subscribe for more animated interviews: www.youtube.com/blankonblank


Two Tough Women Artists Who Stand Up to the Bad Boys 

“This is an art season that could make you think that the feminist movement never happened,” art critic Deborah Solomon said on WNYC last month.

The fall lineup–Balthus at the Met, Magritte at MoMA, Chris Burden at the New Museum, Robert Indiana at the Whitney, Robert Motherwell at the Guggenheim, and Mike Kelley at MoMA PS1–makes it seem as though the bad boys are not the artists, but the people who program the city’s art museums with a depressing consistency of race and gender.  

There’s some good news, though. Women might be finally getting credit for cave painting, for one thing. Also, the feminist sensibility is alive and well in other art venues, if you know where to look.

Here are two examples: Wangechi Mutu, whose show Fantastic Journey is at  at the Brooklyn Museum, and Renaissance painter Artemisia Gentileschi, whose most violent and famous painting, Judith Slaying Holofernes (ca. 1620), is on loan from the Uffizi to the Art Institute of Chicago

Meet the rest of the “Ten Tough Women Artists Who Stand Up to the Bad Boys” at artnews.com

(From Top): Wangechi Mutu, The Bride Who Married a Camel’s Head, 2009, mixed-media collage on mylar. ©WANGECHI MUTU. COURTESY DEUTSCHE BANK COLLECTION, GERMANY, K20100083. IMAGE COURTESY OF SUSANNE VIELMETTER LOS ANGELES PROJECTS. PHOTO: MATHIAS SCHORMANN. Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith Slaying Holofernes, ca. 1620, oil on canvas. COURTESY GALLERIA DEGLI UFFIZI, FLORENCE.

The internet isn’t really capable of a measured response. Once you’re on the front page of the internet, it doesn’t matter if you’re getting scorn or praise — you’ll almost certainly get more than you deserve.

On an old-but-gold episode of the excellent TLDR podcast, WNYC’s Alex Goldman drops some timeless wisdom on the nature of the web. 

For a definitive manifesto on handling the internet’s unmeasured response, see Anne Lamott’s brilliant essay, then revisit Daniel Dennett on how to criticize with kindness.

At night, that basically means you don’t see the Earth… not at all. When it’s a moonless night you don’t see the Earth. In fact, all it might look like to you is the absence of stars.

Astronaut Dave Wolf, relating what darkness looks like in space.

This is from the latest Radiolab, "Dark Side of the Earth", in which Wolf tells the gripping tale of being trapped outside of the Russian space station Mir for days, waiting for a dark death to set in, and how he lived through it. And in the end, he says, if you’re floating just right, space can be a very peaceful place to hang out.

Give it a listen.

Watch on nprmusic.tumblr.com

Watch Julianna Barwick loop hypnotic choral voices with “Forever” at WNYC’s Soundcheck.


This is kind of a big deal…. Zappa freaks have been trading this thing in lo-fi form for years. 


The legendary 1981 tribute to Varèse at New York City’s Palladium. The concert famously hosted by Frank Zappa (a longtime Varèse fanatic) and performed by Joel Thome’s Orchestra of Our Time, bootlegs of which had been circulating for decades.

Ana and Mia: How Eating Disorders Evolved Online
  • Ana and Mia: How Eating Disorders Evolved Online
  • WNYC New Tech City

Such an unsettling, thoughtful, and important episode of WNYC’s New Tech City on how the social web changed eating disorders – a phenomenon that belongs with the 100 ideas that changed the web.

A striking factoid from the story – anorexia has the highest mortality rate of all mental disorders.