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.”

“Rolf, the mandolin-playing terrier, was regularly featured on Art Nudnick’s Musical Menagerie. The Sunday afternoon variety program was a hit for the better part of 1925.”

Photo ‘discovered’ by the NYPR Archives Dept. on April 1, 2004 and used in the WNYC History Notes e-newsletter. Thanks to former Senior Archivist Cara McCormick.

When a white man tries it...

Audience Member: My name is Alan Rich, I’m a discrimination lawyer … Crissle, one thing that you said about Sarah Silverman– I get the impression that you take her work at face value.  And I think that so many comedians who are really funny – I don’t think that she’s making fun of black people in any way shape or form about black people when she does blackface. Because those of us who know the history of blackface is that not only white people did blackface, black entertainers had to do black face to get jobs.

Crissle West: Wow, so you have to be really white to make that statement. That is just the whitest thing–

Audience Member: It’s a comment about how ridiculous we as a society can be.

Crissle Can we not? I’m really not about to do this.

Audience Member: I’ve never walked out on Paul Mooney, so you have to give me a pass.

Crissle: And you’re a discrimination lawyer? Holy God. Sooo… I’m  gonna go ahead and address that by saying first of all that I can absolutely say that you’re racist for being a white woman in 2014 or whenever it was that she did this to put in blackface and go on television. Yes I can absolutely call you racist for that. you know the history behind it and you did it anyway. That is racist. I can say that. I’m a black woman, I’m gonna just go ahead and take my word over yours on that. That’s racist. And I don’t like her for it.

Audience Member: [Sic] Tell her! But you don’t know her. You don’t know what’s in her mind.

Crissle: Where is my access to Sarah Silverman? I don’t have to know her– I don’t have to know what’s inside Sarah Silverman’s head. I’m looking at her actions because her actions are what she’s presented to me. She didn’t put put a book called Sarah Silverman’s Diary here read my innermost thoughts and see how I came to these fuck ass conclusions that I have here today. She got on TV in blackface and decided that that was funny and it was not. And you as a white man trying to tell me that my feelings are invalid because I don’t know her is a crock of shit … and that’s why I get on my show every week and say what I need to say because white people like you feel like you have a goddamn point.

– This great exchange and more happened last night at WNYC’s Funny Or Racist panel at The Greene Space. Check out our livetweet and coverage fresh on The R today.

Every bite is a precious resource so enjoy it, says Dan Pashman, host of the WNYC podcast The Sporkful and author of the new book Eat More Better: How to Make Every Bite More Delicious. Pashman believes that even the most mediocre of foods, the limp lunch sandwich, the unflavored airplane snack, can be made more delicious.

He offered NPR’s Rachel Martin on Morning Edition some tricks on assembling more delightful lunches and dinners.

Friction Can Save Your Sandwich, And Other Tips For Better Bites

Illustration: Courtesy of Alex Eben Meyer, Simon & Schuster


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.


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

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Hey smartphone owners — when was the last time you were truly bored? Or even had a moment for mental downtime, unattached to a device?

Many of us reflexively grab our phones at the first hint of boredom throughout the day. And indeed a recent study by the research group Flurry found that mobile consumers now spend an average of 2 hours and 57 minutes each day on mobile devices.

Are we packing our minds too full? What might we be losing out on by texting, tweeting and email-checking those moments away?

Manoush Zomorodi, host of the WNYC podcast New Tech City, is digging into that question. She talked with NPR’s Audie Cornish about a project the podcast is launching called Bored and Brilliant: The Lost Art Of Spacing Out.

Bored… And Brilliant? A Challenge To Disconnect From Your Phone

Illustration credit: John Hersey/Courtesy of WNYC


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.

Wordplay is a big part of Chinese culture, but the Chinese government will no longer tolerate being the butt of a punny joke. China’s media-regulating body is officially banning the use of puns in all press, broadcasts and advertisements; the reason, it says, is wordplay misleads the public, especially children. 

Evidence of political Mao-feasance.

It’s like they’re building a Great Wall to keep the puns out.

A Wanton disregard for free speech.

It’s Tso wrong to do that.

Can’t they all just get oolong?

(ed. These are the stories our intern lives for.)

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.

Karen Russell On Balancing Writing, Technology, and Boredom
  • Karen Russell On Balancing Writing, Technology, and Boredom
  • New York Public Radio
  • Leonard Lopate Show

Karen Russell on Balancing Writing, Technology, and Boredom

Karen Russell published her first short story in The New Yorker when she was 24 and has already been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for her novel Swamplandia!, and she’s only 33, so it’s safe to say that we all want to be her*.

But her youth also makes me trust her advice on writing, disconnecting, and the internet more seriously than I might a 65-year-old writer who spent most of her life without the distractions that we millennials grew up with. The whole Bored & Brilliant series is awesome, and this is an especially great listen!

Edit: I think some readers are misinterpreting the above paragraph, so let me clarify. I often hear older generations of writers talk about how they abstain from social media, disconnect from technology, and isolate themselves in order to be productive writers. And while I think that is sage, valid advice, I also take it with a grain of salt because older generations have a different experience with technology than those of us who grew up in ~the internet era~. Technology use, for us, is much more ingrained. Because Karen Russell is a millennial and has grown up in a similar technological climate, her advice on managing tech distractions feels a little more relatable and refreshing to someone my age (I’m 8 years younger than her). I may also have been unclear when I said “writing, disconnecting, and the internet”; I meant the combination of all 3—for example, I wasn’t making the generalization that I trust only her writing advice simply because she is younger. Writers of all ages, including older ones, are full of wisdom that I always love to hear!

Edit 2*: This was semi-facetious. I, at least, would like to be her.