Saturday, August 30, 2008

A Great Story, But It Won't Come to You on Radio

Lisa Bu

People in the radio business often say that it's the guest, not the topic, that makes or breaks a program. A great guest can make any topic interesting, a bad guest can ruin the most interesting topic. It's often true.

This week I'm really excited about the story of Paolo Soleri, an Italian architect who built an extraordinary eco-city in the Arizona desert in the 1970s. But he was too ahead of his time and struggled for the past 30 years to make all his visionary plans into reality. Finally the world caught up with him and now recognizes his genius and vision. You can see him offering sage advice in Leonardo DiCaprio's documentary The 11th Hour.

Since Soleri is popular on the lecture circuit, he could be a good radio guest. So my fellow producer, Dan, and I set out to find him for a possible radio interview. Yes, he's still in Arizona at age 89. Oh, no, he has a very heavy foreign accent and is not up to conduct a full hour live interview. So we ran into a classic problem for radio producers: a great topic but unsuitable guest. Reluctantly, we decided to drop the topic. What a pity!

Thanks to this blog, at least I can tell you about this great man. His life story is inspiring for all of us even though you may never hear it on radio. Now you may also understand a little better why that great topic you emailed us has never become a radio show.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Jewel of Medina

Joe Hardtke

Have you heard of Sherry Jones? She's the former Montana newspaper reporter who was inspired by 9/11 to write The Jewel of Medina, her novel about the prophet Muhammed and his feminist leanings. Then the troubles began.

This has become a very controversial topic, but it's tailor-made for a show like Here on Earth. I hear her publisher is trying to keep her out of the press, but I'm going to see if she's willing to talk to us, if only for part of the show. Any thoughts?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Joe In The Studio

Ever wondered what it looks like on my side of the studio glass? Ever wanted to see my pretty face? Well, check out this pic sent to me via Facebook from former producer Patrick Peczerski.

You can tell it's winter. I'm rocking my 10-below beard.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Bless the Garlic - Air date - 9/5/08 - 4 p.m. (ET)

Lisa Bu

Update - 9/5/08: This show has aired. You can download the MP3 from our archive. Let us know what you think!

I just booked Melissa Clark, a food writer for the New York Times, to talk about garlic on Friday, Sept 5. She wrote a very entertaining article about her family's love for garlic which was in every meal including breakfast and evening snack. Her father even tried to make garlic ice cream!

I love garlic as well, both as food and as a "weapon" to get rid of bad energy in my environment, an old Chinese belief. Taped to my computer monitor is a long dry garlic stalk given to me by a colleague. I'm positive that it has protected me from getting sick in the office where Joe had been coughing for weeks. My confidence about garlic comes from my childhood in China. During the flu season in spring, my mother would order me and my brother to eat a few raw garlic cloves soaked in rice vinegar before every dinner. Yuk!

But cooked garlic is yummy. In Hunan Province, you can find garlic cloves in every kitchen and in almost every dish: vegetable, meats, fish, etc. As my mother did, I always chop garlic cloves just before cooking to preserve their potency. One day last year I prepared a huge meal for a party and chopped a ton of garlic. The next day I could still smell garlic on my fingers. It struck me that I had become my mother because that's the exact same aroma that my mother's hands had smelled of when I was growing up. I knew she had done a lot of cooking for the family, but the garlic smell on my fingers finally made me truly realize how much she had cooked. Thanks, mom!

Do you love garlic or hate it? Have you heard any great tales about garlic and its medicinal or spiritual power? Leave your stories in comments, or better yet, in our hotline (608-890-0269). I would love to incorporate them into the show on Sept 5. You may even hear yourself telling your story on air.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Reception in the Sahara? Amazing.

Maria Putzer

I'm sitting in the call booth right now listening to the show and waiting for your calls. This guest is awesome and his trip sounds completely crazy - getting stuck in a mine field, being able to get cell phone reception in the Sahara, deflating tires in order to get through sand? Wow. Also, any story that begins with "So I'm going through the Sahara..." is automatically very cool.

It makes me want to go buy a beat up old car and go driving in the desert. I think that feeling will wear off by the time I get home.

Give us a call at 1-800-642-1234 - we want to hear your crazy road trip stories too!

My Mercedes Is Not For Sale

Joe Hardtke

Update - 8/20/08: This show has aired. You can download the MP3 from our archive. Let us know what you think!

So today's show features the very cool Dutchman Jeroen Van Bergeijk (check out his blog), who drove a beat up Mercedes across the Sahara to sell it on the used car market in Ouagadougou. Just a crazy tale. I hope you can join us live at 4 p.m. (EST). As always, you can stream us live at, or check out the podcast after the show and post your thoughts here. We'll read them back on a future show.

It begs the question: Any wild road trip stories?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Madison World Music Festival

Joe Hardtke

Our program on the Madison World Music Festival was terrific. Our substitute host, Lori Skelton, seemed right at home and the music was flowing throughout the show. I hope you liked it as much as I did. Of course, being a musician, I'm biased. I simply love putting music shows together. Any comments? You can download the MP3 here.

Books books books!

Maria Putzer

One of the best things about being a Here on Earth producer is the incredible amount of books we get to review. Some of my favorites include:

Back in Time: Echoes of a Vanished America in the Heart of France - Kent Cowgill
Our show with Kent in January 2008

This is a wonderful, difficult to describe book that chronicles the author's travels through France shortly after the 2004 election. If you want to understand the French, this book is a good place to start. After reading it, it made me want to go to France more than I already do - quite a feat, considering that I've wanted to go to France at the age of 12. It's a bit difficult to find online, as it's published by a French company, but here it is on the Barnes and Noble website:
Back in Time, Kent Cowgill, Book

The Wisdom of Whores: Bureaucrats, Brothels, and the Business of AIDS - Elizabeth Pisani
Our show with Elizabeth in July 2008

Elizabeth Pisani has a great deal of excitement and enthusiasm for her topic, something that clearly comes through in her book. This is, by far, the most readable book about AIDS that I have ever read and her arguments are simple, clear, and make a heck of a lot of sense. Period. She also has a blog at www.wisdom of where she dishes on sex, drugs, and AIDS. Here's a link to the book on
The Wisdom of Whores, Elizabeth Pisani, Book

Girls of Riyadh (بنات الرياض binaat al-riyadh) - Rajaa Alsanea
We're working on getting Rajaa on the show - look for her either later this week or in early September!

Girls of Riyadh began as a weekly e-mail after Friday prayers to the members of an e-mail group. These e-mails tell the stories of four female university students - their love lives, their studies and jobs, their rebellions against the strictness of Saudi society. When it was published in Arabic in 2005, it was the source of controversy for many and revelation for many more. Some have described as Sex and the City, but set in Riyadh. I think that description is true - it's a very quick and juicy read and I bet you'll find more similarities than differences with the girls. (It probably helps that I'm a female university student as well...)
Here's the book on
Girls of Riyadh, Rajaa Alsanea, Book

Diversity on the Runway - Airdate - 9/2/08 - 4 p.m. (ET)

Joe Hardtke

Update - 9/2/08: This show has aired. You can download the MP3 from our archive. Let us know what you think!

This program is looking very strong right now. Marketing consultant Jerri DeVard has said she wants to join us. Maria has another guest she's working on. Once we get some open dates from her we'll schedule this show for air.

Depending on everyone's calendar, maybe we'll bump this show ahead and air it in place of the Olympic Wrap-Up show, which seems to be struggling right now.

Did the Olympics Change Your Mind about China? - Airdate - 8/27/08 - 4 p.m. (ET)

Joe Hardtke

Update - 8/27/08: This show has aired. You can download the MP3 from our archive. Let us know what you think!

I'm still trying to find good guests for the Beijing Olympic Wrap-Up program. We've contacted some great sources at The New York Times and The London Times. No luck. I have a call out to the BBC and I'm hoping to hear back from their sports blogger this morning.

Here on Earth's Blogging Queen, Kaitlin, referred me to the sports writers at I don't usually read their posts. Any thoughts?

Lisa Bu has a Beijing contact, Susan Brownell. She appeared on our program Will The Olympics Change China? Perhaps we can convince her to join us at 4 a.m. Beijing time.

If you know any journalists with a strong perspective on the Beijing games, please drop me a note.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A tale from the on-air production booth

Lisa Bu

On-air producing is hectic: answering and forwarding callers to the studio, checking listener emails, checking instant messages on 2 accounts, communicating with host and engineer via computers, listening to the interview -- all at the same time! But the stressful job has its reward: each on-air producer has a sizable collection of moving, hilarious, or weird stories involving callers.

Here's one in my collection: A phone line flashed. I picked up the phone and asked the caller his name. He said "wrong number." I told him that the number he just dialed is Wisconsin Public Radio's number. No problem. Goodbye. One minute later, he called again. I started to get impatient because I needed to keep phone lines open for REAL callers. So I quickly pointed out that he's still talking to WPR and hung up. But he was insistent and called yet again. This time, after some confusing exchange with him, I finally figured out that he WAS trying to reach us and "Ron Number" (not wrong number) is actually his name! It turned out that he is a professor at the university. Guess which department? Mathematics. How perfect.

Friday, August 15, 2008

OK. Champaign gone... Now it's off to work.

With the sound for today's show, "Know Your Deli Man," almost complete, I turn my attention to a wrap-up program on the Olympics. We've scheduled it for next Thursday, but I'm currently struggling to get guests together. There's something about getting up at 4 a.m. in Beijing that conflicts with most people's schedules. I can't blame them.

We've got calls out to bloggers and sports writers from The New York Times and the BBC. Sadly, Simon Barnes from The Times in London couldn't make the program. Does anyone know of any great sports writers who can recap the inspirational stories while being critical of this Olympiad's shortcomings? Whose work are you reading?

Maria and I are working on a program about Vogue Italia's latest issue featuring only models of color. Jerri DeVard has expressed interest in being on the show. We're just trying to nail down a date.

It's a busy office this morning.

...and we're off!

It's my honor to officially christen Here on Earth's Blog Without...

(Ding) Ahem...

The Blog Without...

(Ding) Uh...


...can someone get me another bottle of champaign?

That's more like it! Welcome everyone to Here on Earth's Blog Without Borders. Let's talk radio...