REVIEWS AND INTERVIEWS
I decided to take a break and go for a long walk in the mountains, up to the Khumbu near Mt. Everest. I was there in 1986. I want to see how it’s changed. I’m in Kathmandu now. It’s two in the morning, still have jet lag and can’t sleep regular hours. But I’m getting on a bus at seven to head up to where you start walking. I bought a book by the Dalai Lama about the essence of Tibetan Buddhism. I plan on reading it four or five times until it sinks in. Click on the photo and it will get bigger.
This is from a radio series I worked on in 1986 called “Passages to India.” The producer was smart in that everywhere we went he found musicians who’d play for free.
She’s 16 years old with a shawl over her hair, sitting on the concrete floor of a small bedroom. Outside, it’s a small town in rural India, the air heavy with smoke from people burning wet wood in their homes to cook dinner. Cows in ancient stupor in the middle of muddy got a hand organ on the floour. One hand pumps the bellows, the other plays the keys. I’m sitting right in front of her with two big zeppelins pointed crosswise at her, wearing twenty pounds of recording equipment on a vest, and headphones, sweating profusely from the heat, the humidity, the incredibly hot spices in the dinner, and the annoyingly persistent fact that I am in India. Then she started to sing and I thought, I have the best job in the world.
Her little brother on drum.
I wish I would have taken her photo, but I didn’t.
A shorter version of this story was broadcast on the PBS show “Religion and Ethics Newsweekly” in 2008. This is the version I sent them to see if they were interested in the story. It was shot and edited by Lisa Miller. We had lots of help from Julian Cardona, Charles Bowden, and Lucky Severson.
Here’s a recent video about El Pastor by Vice. It shows some of his paintings.
Jose Antonio Galvan is perhaps the bravest man I’ve ever met.
November, 2011. The mayor of Portland announced that at midnight the police would clear the park of the Occupy Wall Street protesters. The police showed up in force, with new padded uniforms and riot squad equipment, but so did about 10,000 people from Portland who supported the protesters. They held off the police through the night, but in the morning everybody went home and the heavy equipment moved in, allegedly squishing Lucky’s puppy, Chubbs Motherfucking Norris.
With Creighton King, Lisa Miller, and the not-so-good-at-high-altitude Suu Kyi in the Winds, 2012.
A poem by Alex Caldiero, the man in the photo above.
I’m sorry, but I don’t know who did the music. I got it off one of Chesty Morgenstern’s Forbidden Loves, by Larry Massett and Art Silverman. (Yes, Vegor, this would be an excellent link, but there isn’t one. The Chesty series was considered by NPR, but it didn’t get much farther than one meeting.) Here’s part of one of the pilot programs, featuring the Dog Guy.
This story aired on This American Life in 1997 and was published shortly after in the Readings section of Harper’s Magazine. Thanks to Alix Spiegel and Ira Glass.
This was the first guy I met floating down the Green River. Click on his hat, it says DAMN I’M GOOD. His car is a Catalina. He was waiting to get a job on a ranch. The stories aired as a series on Weekend All Things Considered. I strung them together with music by Pat King.
This is a radio story from 1987 about an avalanche that happened in 1979. Seven young men went skiing in Big Cottonwood Canyon, just east of Salt Lake City. Three were caught in an avalanche. One died, one was buried but survived, one ended up on top uninjured. I talked to five of the survivors and asked them to tell me what they remembered of the day, from the beginning to the end, and then I edited their stories into one account. There were some discrepancies, some things that were different in the different accounts, but I tried to find the best way through it. It’s a sad story, one I think back country skiers to listen to.
Video footage from the Internet Archive
Ivan Besse collection: Britton, South Dakota 1938-39] (Part I) (1938)
Audio of shortwave ambience, not a mix.
Ken Larsen tells a dream he had when he was in first grade.
Footage from the Internet Archive
Ivan Besse collection: Britton, South Dakota 1938-39] (Part I) (1938)
This is a story that’s partly about my first trip to India, in 1986. I’d never been overseas before, never seen the poverty of the third world. India was not really a developed country back then, or just barely. I was horrified by the caste system, frightened by the masses. I think the trip left me a bit jaded.
The story aired on “The Savvy Traveler” in the year 2000 or so.
The Death of Ruth Tuck is a radio docu-drama about what happens after somebody dies–to the body and to the family, how our culture deals with death.
Ruth and her family are fictional, portrayed by actors, directed by my friend Kenny Larsen, aka The Dog Guy. The doctors, mortician, minister and grave digger are real.
I had a Bolex and I asked Rick Wyatt (climbing guide to presidents and kings) if he’d mind climbing something so I could film it. This is the waterfall in Provo Canyon, circa 1984.
Music by Peecola Shah.
Charles Bowden reading a passage from “Blood Orchid: An Unnatural History of America.”
This is a radio story I produced in 1991 about “Rubin and Ed” by Trent Harris. I saw the premier in Salt Lake City. The story builds to a one-line climax, and I just about threw up when I heard it from laughing and being overwhelmed by greatness.
Footage from the Tibetan and Himalayan Digital Library, Williamson reels
Music by U2-Beautiful Day
It was the winter of 1991 and we were bombing the shit out of Iraq. The news showed fighter jets and bombers taking off, one after another and another. I was upset about the war, upset about a lot of things, and it was a bitter cold winter. So I decided to go skiing in Nevada, in the basin and range, the place where the fighter jets and bombers used to train and play. It’s the home of about a hundred different mountain ranges separated by long, flat basins. Many of the mountains are worth skiing, although that winter was not a good one for snow. Also, everywhere I went, except in the mountains, it seemed people were involved in some form of violence–to themselves, to each other, to the land, the animals, whatever. It was anger and fear combined with loneliness and desperation. The war overseas seemed to be just another manifestation of the disease.
A radio story produced with money from the CPB and the NEA, circa 1986, one of a four-part series called “Man with a Microphone.” In this episode I was trying to follow Bill Owen’s photo-essay “Suburbia.”
Carolyn Campbell wrote the original print story on Harmston and his church for The Salt Lake City Weekly, I believe in 1996. I never would have been able to talk to Harmston and the members of his church without Carolyn’s help. This radio story was broadcast on This American Life in 1997 or so. Ira Glass helped a lot with the script. Alex Caldiero was my expert adviser on Mormon doctrine.
In February of 1983 I hitchiked from Salt Lake to Washingtion D.C. I thought I could interview people along the way and then convince someone at NPR to let me make a story. I was very lucky Alex Chadwick was working the day I got there. He let me in, and I just wouldn’t go away. So he and Larry Massett and Joe Frank and Art Silverman taught me how to make a radio story.
This is a cultural history of the Great Salt Lake Desert, aka the West Desert because it’s west of Salt Lake City. The story begins with Mark Twain’s description of the landscape while riding through on the Overland Stage in 1861, read by Carleen Jimenez.
Alyce with Buster at Squam Lake
Radio story from “This American Life.” Thanks to Jay Allison and Christina Egloff for their support.