The MaxFun Blog

Maximum Fun is your home on the internet for things that are awesome. Our blog will guide you and our family of podcasts will entertain and inform you. About

Jordan, Jesse, Go! Episode 137: Multiplicity with Dave Horwitz

Dave Horwitz

Dave Horwitz from the WB series "Downers Grove" joins us to talk about shape shifting robots, proper airplane attire, and more.

Podcast: The College Years: Mashup

Tyler MacNiven
Steve Almond
Marc Horowitz
Tony Goldmark
Jacob Slichter

The College Years is a look deep into the vaults of The Sound of Young America. Take a journey with us every week as we post a new program or two from our salad days.

Today's theme: Mashup, for which we've selected five interviews from the summer of 2004, with co-hosts Jamis MacNiven, Al Madrigal, and W. Kamau Bell.

Tyler MacNiven is a filmmaker and in this program he speaks to Jamis MacNiven and Jesse about his trek across the entirety of Japan. That journey would later be documented in Tyler's 2005 film, Kintaro Walks Japan.

Following that, Jesse interviews Steve Almond. In this episode, Steve Almond discusses his candy "freakdom" chronicled in the 2004 non-fiction book, Candyfreak: A Journey through the Chocolate Underbelly of America. His most recent book is Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life: A Book by and for the Fanatics Among Us.

Next, Jesse and Al Madrigal speak with Marc Horowitz. Marc Horowitz is a performance artist, actor, comic and filmmaker. He stops by to talk about a few of his performance pieces, including what happens when you mix burros with picking up the dry cleaning. You might also recognize Marc from one of his recent projects -- a piece that became a series of commercials, "Seven Days in a Sentra". You can find videos of Marc's work at his site, I Need to Stop Soon. He's also a co-host of the new TV series on G4, It's Effin' Science.

And lastly, W. Kamau Bell joins Jesse to interview Tony Goldmark and Jacob Slichter. A musical comedian, Tony Goldmark has been crafting song parodies a la Weird Al since he was a kid, with a debut album when he was only 13. In this episode, he talks about his album Rage Against the Mundane.

Jacob Slichter is a musician and a member of the band Semisonic. Jacob discusses his 2004 book, So You Wanna Be a Rock & Roll Star: How I Machine-Gunned a Roomful Of Record Executives and Other True Tales from a Drummer's Life. In the work, he details the often frustrating experience of dealing with the music industry.

Podthoughts by Colin Marshall: The Saltcast

| 1 comment

Vital stats:
Format: listening to and dissection of Public Radio Documentaries
Duration: 9m-40m
Frequency: biweekly
Archive available on iTunes: last 10

“Narrative arc,” “payoff,” “emotional release” and “sound-richness”: these are among the qualities that public radio program directors put next to godliness. The whole list is kind of scary in its programmatic Robert McKee-ishness, and it’s maybe why the the current growth of public radio’s audience ticks some distance under explosive. The Saltcast [RSS] [iTunes] provides an important service in using terms like these in a substantially less robotic context. It’s all about picking apart public radio and public radio-style documentary pieces and seeing what makes them tick, whether or not they fulfill slot machine-y buzzwords.

It’s tempting to draw a This American Life comparison to the pieces the show examines, but it’s more accurate to say that they and TAL descend from a common ancestor. This is the Public Radio Documentary, a form whose U.S. origins lie somewhere in the hazy 1970s, when receptive broadcasting venues and reasonably usable recording and editing technologies collided. It weaves together narration, interviews, field recordings and music in the service of exploring some topic. At best, PRDs illuminate interesting corners of society with the degree of art and intimacy that only radio can deliver so well. At worst, they preach, talk down to their audiences, hold death grips on their own threadbare tropes or grind political axes.

Since most pieces discussed on The Saltcast come from students of the titular Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Maine, they do all that stuff, good and bad. This makes the podcast as helpful for aspiring PRD producers as DVD commentaries are for aspiring filmmakers. Host and Salt instructor Rob Rosenthal also gets into PRDs of historical value or other lasting importance in the tradition, like David Isay’s 1993 Ghetto Life 101 [MP3].

It’s worth noting what else, in this context, jumps out as particularly intriguing. While Rosenthal doesn’t usually slide his own pieces under the Saltcast microscope, he discusses Nothing Predictable [MP3], a short documentary in which he kayaks up to an iceberg, because he feels it exemplifies narrative arc. Now, when I hear something “exemplifies narrative arc,” I start hovering my finger over STOP. But it turns out that Rosenthal’s piece applies the McKee stuff so lightly that it actually turns out excellent. It helps that it’s about something unusual (by public radio standards); better a kayak and an iceberg than foreign strife and sobbing oldsters, I suppose.

It’s especially telling that one of the show’s best recent pieces was one Rosenthal admits he thought wouldn’t work. In Just Another Fish Story [MP3], student Molly Menschel simply drove up to a town where a whale beached itself a decade ago and started asking around about it, tape recorder in hand. She wound up with a truly extraordinary collage which isn’t so much about the whale as it is about the nature of memory and the emergent nature of local history. By contrast, another piece about a family hacked up with machetes [MP3] just misses this boat. Hearing a quote late in the piece from the case’s judge, who saw herself as standing between the citizenry and pure evil, I thought, there’s the really fascinating stuff: a Hobbesian meditation. That may well have been more memorable than testimony about the (admittedly stiff) difficulty of being hacked up with machetes.

Menshel’s case would seem to be one of learning the rules to better break them, which, in my humble opinion, is pretty much the only reason to learn the rules. Salt students seem like a hope for the future, a future where public radio docs evolve faster, break existing forms, and thereby reach a wider audience than, as Merlin Mann said when I interviewed him on my own public radio show, “middle-aged people in fleece who don’t have much of an emotional life.”

[Podthinker Colin Marshall also happens to be the host and producer of public radio’s The Marketplace of Ideas, the blogger of The War on Mediocrity and the writer of The Ubuweb Experimental Video Project.]

Comedy: Matt Braunger on The Sound of Young America

Matt Braunger

Standup comedy from Matt Braunger, recorded live on The Sound of Young America in Washington, DC. His most recent album is "Soak Up The Night."

Boing Boing v. Max Fun


Mark Frauenfelder from Boing Boing visited MaxFun World HQ on Tuesday - I interviewed him about his lovely new book Made By Hand: Searching for Meaning in a Throwaway World. He posted a picture of me and one of Cocoa on BB and was kind enough to call The Sound of Young America "the most consistently interesting interview program on the planet."

He was, as ever, a joy. The interview goes up next week.

MaxFunsters for Zach


A bunch of MaxFunsters are rallying around the charming Zach Anner, who's in the running for a new television program, courtesy of the king of television, Oprah Winfrey. It seems The Big O is giving away a show to the winner of a pseudo-reality show on her show this year, which is preceded by an online vote. Check out Zach's audition tapes above, and vote for him here if you're so inclined.

Podcast: Coyle & Sharpe Episode 86: Rock Eating


Welcome to season two of Coyle & Sharpe: The Imposters! In the early 1960s, James P. Coyle and Mal Sharpe roamed the streets of San Francisco, microphone in hand, roping strangers into bizarre schemes and surreal stunts. These original recordings are from the Sharpe family archive, which is tended by Mal's daughter, Jennifer Sharpe. You can learn more about Coyle & Sharpe on their website or on MySpace. Their recent box set is These 2 Men Are Imposters.

On this episode: Coyle & Sharpe address reports of rock eating.

The AV Club on The Sound of Young America: June 2010

Kyle Ryan
Genevieve Koski

On this edition of The Sound of Young America, Kyle Ryan and Genevieve Koski from The AV Club meet with Jesse to talk about some of the "hip and happening" things going on in pop culture at the moment.

Film wise, Kyle and Jesse discuss the documentary Winnebago Man about... well the Winnebago Man. Next, Genevieve talks with Jesse about the direction of the Starz show Party Down.

On the musical front, Jesse and Kyle find relief in the latest release from the Roots, How I Got Over. And lastly, Genevieve chimes in about the new Robyn album, Body Talk Pt. 1.

Pledge Drive Volunteer Day

07/10/2010 - 11:00 - 17:00
Los Angeles, CA
Venue Name: 
Jesse's House in Silver Lake

Join a gaggle of charming MaxFunsters for 2010 Volunteer Day! We'll kick things off on July 10th at 11AM.

We'll be listening to fun tunes, gabbing, and most importantly... mailing out t-shirts! This will be our fourth (fifth?) volunteer day, and they're always a blast. Lunch will be provided.

Email to volunteer.

Syndicate content