February 26's Ear Cave in Hartford

The other night I attended the Ear Cave, a monthly series of audio and video stories. The series is overseen by Catie Talarski, who's a producer at Hartford's WNPR. Curating this month's collection of pieces was Tina Antolini, who's a producer for the show State of the Re:Union. She's also the author of a great piece that went online earlier this month titled "So You Want to be a Radio Producer" which is a great, thoughtful read for anyone interested (I've read it a few times).

I'm a big fan of State of the Re:Union (or SOTRU), which in each episode explores a different community. They've traveled from one corner of the country to another and found some really fascinating stories about different people and places with a lot to say. It was joked that they still have yet to do episodes on Key West and Hawai, but Antolini spoke a little about how they work . She described how she ends up with about 30 or so hours of tape for what ends up as a single episode (roughly 50 minutes) and how the crew spends a busy week in each location.

The first piece was a clip that Antolini produced for the Greensburg, Kansas episode. She described her goal to get as many people as possible talking about the same event. In this case they're discussing the tornado that wiped out the town and though I know that I heard the episode a while ago, it was a radically new experience just by virtue of sitting quietly in a darkened room focusing on it. The sound design really jumped out for me as the piece begins with a series of voices, builds to a moment of complete silence for a few seconds, and then the sound is even louder, representing the storm. It was striking and a little beautiful. A good reminder that often those little moments on the radio that we half listen to have been labored over in an attempt to get it just right.

The second piece was another of Antolini's that she produced more recently. For an episode about internet communities she produced a piece titled "A Social Networking Site...for Dead People." It's really quite a beautiful and wonderful piece, though I admit the title did make me wonder exactly what would follow.

The next piece is a short one from Helena de Groot titled "Lonely Night." The full audio piece is available on cowbird and it's a short vignette that Antolini said stood out for her because of de Groot's voice, which just draws you in, and the music, which comes in at just the right moment.

Antolini next played a piece of hers which is up on cowbird, "A Love Story with a 70-Year Gap." which came out of a piece she was doing. This story came to her attention and even though it wouldn't fit into the piece she was producing, it was a great story so she created a short piece about a couple who first met in college and then after they were married to others, had kids and careers, met again in their eighties and got married.

There was a loud and pronounced "aww" out of the crowd.

The Truth is a podcast that comes up at the Ear Cave on a regular basis and Antolini played "Eat Cake," because it's the time of year when everyone needs to play/tell/perform a romantic story. Of course one person objected to the story saying that the moment after the story ended she expected something horrible and gusome to happen and Antolini joked that this was far and away the sweetest episode of The Truth.

Then she played the final act of a 2003 episode of This American Life. Episode #241 titled "20 Acts in 60 Minutes" about teenage girls in a detention center who perform a song for their parents and it's wonderful and sweet and sad and touching. A great piece but also a great finale to the episode.

"That's why he's the shit," Antolini said of Ira Glass.

As the finale, Antolini played a segment she did for SOTRU about Southeastern Washington. This one happens to be about slurpees, and it's a lot of fun. A nice light-hearted moment.

She mentioned that she'll be moving to New Orleans this year, and it's clearly Northampton's loss, but it should be interested to hear what stories she picks up while she's there.

Antolini's personal website:
Antolini on twitter:
Antolini's cowbird page with more stories:


The Inaugeral Mouth at The Mark Twain House

Last Friday the Mark Twain House hosted The Mouth, a storytelling series inspired by The Moth, which was organized and hosted by Chion Wolf (the famous WNPR producer/announcer/personality/photographer). The free event also featured complementary alcohol. Vodka. Huckleberry flavored vodka, no less. (It is the Twain House, after all). It's also an alcoholic beverage that I will not be having again anytime soon.

Of course I think that free alcohol should be required for all events where the theme is love. Though I am admittedly very single and a well-known curmudgeon.

Wolf got the evening started by telling a story of her own, which was sad and thoughtful and had elements of confusion, mixed signals and an unrequited crush to which many of us could relate and really did a wonderful job of setting the tone of the evening.

After that Joe Barber, Jennifer Lynn Bethke, Drew Brathwaite, Adam Delaura, Josh Dobbin, Luke Foster, Meghan Freed, Samaia Hernandez, and Adam Prizio got up and told us stories. I won't share them; they're not mine to share. Between them they shared their own stories and other people’s. They told stories with happy endings, the relationships they are currently in, and the ones that fell apart or never quite came together. They made us laugh and they made us cringe at how much we could relate and they made us wince in pain and sympathy.

It was also an especially geeky event as there were multiple Dungeons and Dragons reference, a Muppet Movie reference (specifically the neglected classic “I’m Going to Go Back There Someday” as sung by the Great Gonzo, aka puppeteer Dave Goelz), and a reference to the Challengers of the Unknown (certainly not one of the best, but one of my favorite Jack Kirby creations). Plus one of the storytellers was Luke Foster, the noted webcartoonist behind "The Center of Somewhere" and the recently wrapped "Moon Freight 3."

In other words, totally my crowd. Though again, I would have preferred another theme. Of course they may have preferred a less cynical, bitter audience member. I won't complain if they won't.

The plan is for four more events this year in May, June, September and December. For more information, check out the facebook group:

Rob Rosenthal and Malaga Island

Late last week at the Charter Oak Cultural Center in Hartford, Rob Rosenthal presented his radio documentary, “Malaga Island: A Story Best Left Untold” Rosenthal is a noted radio producer who’s well known as a teacher. He started the radio program at The Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland Maine and taught there for more than a decade. For the past few years he’s been overseeing the Transom Radio Workshop in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. Rosenthal also hosts How Sound, a great podcast I love and which is essential listening for anyone interested in radio and audio storytelling. The How Sound website ( and twitter feed ( are also essential reading.

Malaga Island is off the coast of Phippsburg, Maine. Back in the day it was a relatively poor island community notable because many of the inhabitants were of mixed-race descent. Unusual in Maine then as now, in 1912, by order of the governor, the inhabitants were evicted from the island. Eight residents were committed to the Maine Home for the Feeble-Minded. The island’s schoolhouse was moved to another island. The graveyard was dug up and the people were reburied on the grounds of the Maine School for the Feeble-Minded.

The reasons for this mass eviction were many, relating to both race and class, economic development. In the conversation afterward with the audience, people spoke about the uses of eminent domain to displace people for economic development projects, the many other government-ordered evictions of people of color throughout the country over the centuries.

It’s a great piece. The radio documentary, photographs and other material is online. Check it out at