Tuesday, August 03, 2004

KLH Pushes Airwaves Through My Soul 

So somehow, JM's comment on the Plato's cave post made me think about something quite divergent. I went from thinking about the power of education to transformative experiences where one doesn't expect them. And from there I went to the remarkable experiences I've had listening to radio over the last few years. And from there I went to, "Why do I listen to the radio at all?" And that brings us to the story of the KLH.

Growing up, my parents had a KLH Model Twenty One table radio in the kitchen. As my mother cooked dinner, she would listen to our local NPR station, usually All Things Considered. I didn't know what she was listening to at the time, I just knew the theme song; and that only in the deep recesses of my unconscious mind. For years, that Model Twenty One and a Model Eight which I got for my bedroom when my brother went to college, were my internal references for the word "radio". Radio meant a KLH, either a Model Eight or a Model Twenty One. It was, to return to an earlier theme, the platonic ideal of the word radio for me.

Years later, I began to spend time with a woman with whom I'd been friends for a year or so and a number of coincidences brought me to Rhode Island, where her parents live. We had a running joke about how similar we were and how often we said the same thing at the same time, as if we were twins. When I went to her parents house for the first time, I entered the house via the kitchen door and suddenly blurted out, "Hey! Your parents have the radio!" There, on their kitchen counter was a Model Twenty One. More or less in the same position which our KLH occupied in my parent's kitchen. This was clearly a sign.

Now we are married. We have our own home. An apartment. And on our kitchen counter sits my mother's Model Twenty One. As we cook dinner, we listen to NPR. Over the years, we have discovered the other NPR programming. A lot of it is stuff that didn't exist when our parents listened - and cooked. And some of what we have heard is astonishing, educating, and potentially, if you're in a receptive mood (pun intended), transformative work. Below are some great shows we've enjoyed over the years on our KLH.

The Age of Enchantment
The remarkable story of a father, Laurence Weschler (who happens to have written one of my favorite books) and his daughter. It details the lengths a parent may go to entertain a child in their world of imagination. and how that can go horribly awry. Weschler decided to humor his daughter by writing letters from "The Borrowers" and it just went too far. Father and daughter are unbelievably poised as they share the story of their folie au deux. A strange and strangely moving tale.

Hamletin Prison
A reporter goes to a prison in the Midwest where real murderers and rapists perform Act V of Hamlet. Wonderful developments occur as they explore the play. The actor playing Hamlet's ghost feels the ghost of the man he killed present as he speaks his lines. The actor playing Horatio develops a fascinating view of the play and explains cogently why "Hamlet is a chump". And the actor playing Laertes discovers that he is, in fact, an actor.

The Langley School Music Project
It's the 70's and a creative music teacher in Canada taps into the tangled souls of his students as he teaches them. The recording of their work survives today as what might be called outsider art. It is awful, beautiful, peculiar and heartfelt. Don't miss the version of The Eagles' "Desperado" and the haunting interview with the woman who sang it solo as a very young girl.

Santa Claus vs. the Easter Bunny
The incomparable David Sedaris shares his experiences mangling French along with other students while living in France. It all goes wrong as they try to explain Easter to a Morrocan woman in class with the defenseless French language as their only weapon. You will never view the word "morsel" in the same way again.

Squirrel Cop
In a fabulous episode of TAL devoted to first jobs, a cop regales us with the story of how trying to impress a young wife by capturing the squirrel in her house only led to despair, destruction and embarassment beyond belief. Hysterical and absolutely not to be missed!

Oh yes yes! Transformative radio! How could I forget???? The power of the voice meets insight meets imagination. (Our radio right now is a Zenith H725 AM/FM (I adore its dials and knobs. Such a pleasure to tune them and adjust them for your ear.)

And NPR just has that transformative quality...the little twists and turns...the REVEAL! (Most important) Where through, the power of story, we learn along as others learn about themselves. And, therefore, we learn about ourselves. Magnificent.

I know all of the ones that you have mentioned... here are a few more:

Act One of Guns at the thislife.org by Sarah Vowell.

Or photographs. I am passionate about documentary photography...especially black & white candids. What photographs stop us cold in our tracks, to stare and study and reflect on something we just didn't see before it was presented to us in this way? The work of Henri Cartier-Bresson, Peter & David Turnley, Steve McCurry...all allow me to reflect and comtemplate a section of life otherwise moving too quickly to reflect upon.

Poetry can also illuminate the soul in this way: Mary Oliver, the lyrics of Gil Scott Heron, or even a poetic author like Annie Dillard. Anne Lamott. They brush away the shadows cast on the wall in different ways at onece painful and beautiful.
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