Tag Archives: NPR

Still Impressed by Donald Sobol

Encyclopedia Brown

Apparently last week the world lost children literature author and Encyclopedia Brown creator, Donald Sobol.

Most kids my age grew up reading the books. I tried to get my son interested in the series more recently, but could not get him hooked on it. I may need to try a harder sell.

Reading the obituary, I was impressed to learn that Sobol wrote almost until the end of his life. In fact, this October will see the release of the 28th book in the series, Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Soccer Scheme.

In the wake of his death, I went looking for an interview with Sobol. I was fortunate enough to discover  Just My Show: The Retro Pop Culture Podcast. Back in 2007, the show interviewed him and he shared how he kept the books ageless. He noted that he once referred to an expensive car in one of the earlier books and quoted the cost of the car ($5,000). Of course, by today’s standards, that’s not a substantial amount for a car–and Sobol expressed his appreciation that in revised releases of the book the cost had been edited.

Also in the interview, Sobol referenced newspaper column of his, the Two-Minute Mystery, that lead to him pursuing Encyclopedia Brown. Thanks to Google News’ archives, I was able to find one of the columns from 1967.

Sobol’s impact on writers and readers is far reaching, as evidenced by this tribute by crime novelist Jonathan Hayes on NPR.

Thanks for enriching a lot of folks’ childhood reading, Mr. Sobol.

Musician J.D. McPherson on Signs & Signifiers

Article first published as Musician J.D. McPherson on Signs & Signifiers on Technorati.


These are busy times for musician J.D. McPherson, seeing as this week he will be making the rounds at SXSW, then next month will see Rounder Records re-release his album, Signs & Signifiers (initially released by his bass player Jimmy Sutton’s HiStyle Records in 2010). McPherson is a singer/songwriter who clearly has an affinity for music’s history, but with a distinctive voice that defies any comparison and that is garnering him an increasing amount of attention. Last week he learned that his music had been nominated in the rock/hard rock category by the Independent Music Awards. This was on the heels of learning last month that Decca Records will be releasing his Signs & Signifiers in the United Kingdom, news that pleased him so much that he tweeted “This is more special than gold to me”. McPherson was recently kind enough to answer a few of my questions about the making of his album in this email interview. After reading the interview, be sure to check his tour page to see if he’s playing near you.

How important was it to you to be able to record Signs & Signifiers in 100% analog?

It was my first experience recording in this way, and I can promise you that I have no interest in recording in any other environment from here on out. It was a completely exciting and rewarding process.

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Novelist Diana Abu-Jaber on Birds of Paradise: A Novel

Birds of Paradise: A Novel

Article first published as Interview: Novelist Diana Abu-Jaber on Birds of Paradise: A Novel on Blogcritics.

If you are a regular listener to NPR, you likely have heard one of novelist Diana Abu-Jaber‘s frequent essays. Next week (September 6, to be exact) marks the release of the award-winning author’s newest novel, Birds of Paradise [Editor’s note: Of course, the book is out as of this past Tuesday]. While I was already aware of Abu-Jaber, thanks to NPR, I did not realize she had finished her new book until an early July tweet by Bethanne Patrick (aka @thebookmaven). Soon after learning of the new novel, I reached out to Abu-Jaber for an email interview–and she was more than happy to entertain my queries. As described by her publisher (W. W. Norton & Company): “In the tropical paradise that is Miami, Avis and Brian Muir are still haunted by the disappearance of their ineffably beautiful daughter, Felice, who ran away when she was thirteen. Now, after five years of modeling tattoos, skateboarding, clubbing, and sleeping in a squat house or on the beach, Felice is about to turn eighteen. Her family—Avis, an exquisitely talented pastry chef; Brian, a corporate real estate attorney; and her brother, Stanley, the proprietor of Freshly Grown, a trendy food market—will each be forced to confront their anguish, loss, and sense of betrayal. Meanwhile, Felice must reckon with the guilty secret that drove her away, and must face her fear of losing her family and her sense of self forever.” In addition to the book, we also delve into her recent mention in a New York Times piece on email manners.

How early in the development of Birds of Paradise did you realize it had to be set in Miami–and what appealed to you in terms of setting it there?

Miami was present from the very first page. My husband and I moved to Miami eight years ago and I knew I wanted to use it as a setting. Ever since my second novel, Crescent, I’ve been very inspired by sunlight and water and I always like to use a strong setting for my stories– like the city of Syracuse and the blizzard that seems to keep blowing throughout Origin, my third novel. Birds of Paradise is a reflection of Miami’s many layers– its outward dazzling tropical colors and beauty, its racial and cultural collisions. I’m fascinated by that complexity and challenged by it. Setting my new novel here gave me a way to reflect on my adopted city and to push myself to learn more about it.

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Missed It: NPR Reflects On Three Years of Tiny Desk Concerts

Man, I am so glad that NPR archives just about everything.

“After close to 150 performances captured on video, we figured it was time for a look back at one of NPR Music’s most unpredictable creations: Tiny Desk Concerts. … On this episode of All Songs Considered, Bob [Boilen] and NPR Music editor Stephen Thompson share their stories of the most moving and surprising moments from three and a half years of live music in the NPR offices. “

Interactive List: NPR’s The Decade’s 50 Most Important Recordings

So when my friend, Ralph Klein, told me about NPR’s project, The Decade’s 50 Most Important Recordings, he admitted that he was not familar with some of the recordings. Musically pompous fellow that I can be, I thought to myself–well I’m sure I’ll be able to ID all 50 of them fairly easily. Boy was I wrong. I own under five of the 50 and I only recognize about 35 of the recordings.

Consider this list (which NPR conveniently breaks down into smaller chunks with sample recordings for each artist), which I provide after the “more” link.

Continue reading Interactive List: NPR’s The Decade’s 50 Most Important Recordings