Rage Against the Machine


Lara St. John and her favorite non-furry friend


The ever-interesting violinist, blogger, and musical entrepreneur Lara St. John on Wagner and Madison Avenue’s idea of what constitutes “classical” music. Okay, I admit I ranted to her about it, but i’m grateful to her for the research and the writing. C’mon Rick Rubin, you can do better than that!
Rage Against the Machine

Storytelling: The Rise and Fall…and Rise Again? of American Design

As a lifetime listener (truly) and longtime producer in the radio vineyard, I’ve heard lots and lots and LOTS of stories.   But every now and then one comes along that stops you in your tracks.  Like this two-part series on Marketplace, which has it all:  powerful writing, editing, and delivery, terrific use of audio, and an original and important topic that almost never gets discussed in the mainstream media.

And what personalities, and what sound bites the give us!  Entrepreneur Jim Jacoby:  (“A company that needed to be profit driven and hit certain numbers… and I was trying to [save] the world… those two things are hard to square,”)  obsessive motorcyle designer JT Nesbitt, (“If Jim hadn’t shown up I would be serving you lunch,” and design expert David Lenk, who utters perhaps my favorite lines in all of Part 1:

 “You can walk through any flea market aisle today and find a Sunbeam blender or an Emerson fan or Bakelite Zenith radio from the late ’40s to early ’50s and, not only do they look good, they probably still work.”

But, said Lenk, things started to change in the mid-50s. “The Harvard MBA grads started fanning out with their evangelizing of planned obsolescence, and finance became more important than corporate traditions of design or quality. And by the mid 60s it was all gone. It’s just junk.”

Gratifying to see that I’m apparently not alone in my thinking, either — these are at the moment the top two most-popular stories on the show’s site. Kudos to all involved for a great piece of radio.

Two obsessed guys and a radical motorcycle design

And, yeah, I remember picking up lots of old Zenith radios in the yard sales of my youth…and they all worked splendidly!

Zenith radio

Storytelling: Where Have You Gone, Rosie The Riveter?


“People really haven’t been riveting for quite a while,” said Mary Grieco, metals control engineer for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. “It’s a learning curve for everybody. There are no specifications anymore that tell you how to rivet, so we make the best engineering judgment on how to do it.”



On the heels of the excellent Marketplace story discussing the decline of – and the attempt to, er, “kick start” – American Industrial Design, comes a fascinating story in today’s local rag explaining just why it’s going to take so long to refurbish the iconic Longfellow Bridge spanning the Charles River between Cambridge and Boston.   Turns out it’s all about rivets and rocks … or to be more precise, the elusive, prized Rockport Granite – “The Granite of Character.”  Worth a read!

Description of Rockport Granite, taken from Sweet's Catalogue of Building Construction, 1915

Description of Rockport Granite, taken from Sweet’s Catalogue of Building Construction, 1915

Ever Wonder What Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Subscribers Watch? Take A Look



Ever Wonder What Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Subscribers Watch? Take A Look

Sure, Gwen Ifill gets the headline….but check out the other “Over The Top” performances by other PBS programs too…including, I’m happy to say, Great Performances…

OTT stats

Netfilx views Household Rating Index – OTT devices




Amazon views

It Ain’t Over ‘Til Its Over, Pt. 2: “State of the Art 1940s Technology” – The Future of Light Bulbs?

Count me among the LED- compact flourescent haters for home lighting, so it was fascinating to read a story in today’s Boston Globe  (cribbed from the New York Times) about two startup – get this – light bulb makers right here in Massachusetts.   Yes, the demand is there:  As the story relates,

Incandescent bulbs — whether leftover store inventory of standard lights or halogen models that meet the new regulations, which went fully into effect in January — outsell other types by far at big-box stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s, lighting executives there say.

One of the new bulbs is called Finally, created by a Babson College grad named John Goscha who also came up with Idea Paint, the dry-erase whiteboard-type stuff that permits you literally to scribble all over the walls – and recently installed in many a ‘GBH conference room.  Turns out Goscha was a hater too:

Unhappy as a consumer with compact fluorescents and LEDs, he said, he decided to pursue making an alternative.  “I thought, ‘I don’t really want those, and there have got to be other people who don’t want those either,’ ” he said.

The Finally folks have term their bulb “Acandesence,” to explain their use of a hepped-up nano-sized version of old-fashioned induction technology found in your common long-running electric motors.  According to a review in the tech blog Gigaom today,

The big upside of the Finally bulb is that the company says its quality of light is similar to an incandescent — a warm solid glow — but without the crazy-high LED prices. Many consumers hate CFLs, because the light can be such a low quality, and until very recently LEDs have been in the two-digit dollar prices. The Finally bulb is 75 percent more efficient than an incandescent and lasts 15 times longer.

But before the Finally bulb hits the stores (still waiting, it seems to clear a plethora of regulatory hurdles), it may be beaten to the punch by another new bulb type – the VU1, which according to the Times article,

uses a technology like that of cathode ray tubes in televisions, a “state-of-the-art 1940s technology,”  …in which electrons hit a cocktail of phosphors on the glass, which then glows.

The Vu1

The Vu1: Coming Soon to a Big Box Near You?

‘Course, they have their own name for this new-old technology “Electron Stimulated Luminescence™, or ESL.  Whatever.  Here’s hoping these better bulbs-in-theory open to, er, glowing reviews.   Time to cue the Hank Williams...


R.I.P. iPod: Sony unveils cassette tape that can hold 64,750,000 songs

It Ain’t Over ‘Til Its Over, Pt. 1: The Cassette Comeback….

R.I.P. iPod: Sony unveils cassette tape that can hold 64,750,000 songs

Helen Keller, Beethoven Fan?

HelenKellerRadioAstonishing post in the San Francisco Classical Voice about a 1924 letter that blind, deaf, and mute Helen Keller wrote to the New York Symphony (the rival of the New York Philharmonic before they eventually merged in 1928), recounting the experience of tuning in to a  broadcast of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony on the radio:

Last night, when the family was listening to your wonderful rendering of the immortal symphony someone suggested that I put my hand on the receiver and see if I could get any of the vibrations. He unscrewed the cap, and I lightly touched the sensitive diaphragm.


What was my amazement to discover that I could feel, not only the vibration, but also the impassioned rhythm, the throb and the urge of the music! The intertwined and intermingling vibrations from different instruments enchanted me. I could actually distinguish the cornets, the roil of the drums, deep-toned violas and violins singing in exquisite unison. How the lovely speech of the violins flowed and plowed over the deepest tones of the other instruments! When the human voices leaped up thrilling from the surge of harmony, I recognized them instantly as voices more ecstatic, upcurving swift and flame-like, until my heart almost stood still.


Really? Congrats to San Francisco Classical Voice Writer Janos Gereben for this bit of sleuthing – the letter was apparently in the Helen Keller Archives of the American Federation of the Blind.  But I’m rather surprised that this story has never come up before – and the skeptic in me wonders is Ms. Keller did not indulge in a bit of a creative flight of fancy.  I don’t tend to think of a 1920s-era radio as capable of “surround sound,” but it sure is fascinating notion to imagine that someone who was doubtless as hypersensitive to vibrations as Helen Keller could actually pick out and detect a symphony that way.   Can anyone corroborate this?