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30 minutes | Dec 18, 2017
Episode 4: Dolgeville
In upstate New York, about an hour and a half northwest of Albany, sits the small town of Dolgeville: population 2,000. The scenery is beautiful: nestled in a valley surrounded by gentle green hills, forests of elm trees, and a rushing river that further downstream turns into a series of picturesque waterfalls. The town itself is somewhat less remarkable. To anyone passing through, it looks like a typical northeastern mill town: a few stores, a high school, a vacant former mill. In fact, there’s pretty much nothing about this place that would lead you to believe it had been the testing ground for some of the major progressive innovations we all take for granted now: things like kindergartens, hydroelectric power, and even Social Security. In this episode, we explore a major social experiment—a utopian feat of town planning with world-changing ambitions—one that’s now barely a footnote in U.S. history. At the center of this story is the German industrialist Alfred Dolge, the man who gave the town its name.
32 minutes | Jun 1, 2016
Episode 3: The People's Instrument
If you flip through any musical instrument catalog, one fact will become blindingly clear: the guitar is by far the most popular instrument in America. But that wasn’t always the case, and I’ve often wondered: if the electric guitar hadn't gotten so popular, what would we be playing instead? To answer this question, I take a trip back in time by means of the 1903 Sears Roebuck catalog and a series of Philadelphia junk shops. In the process, I discover a type of instrument that used to be hugely popular and is now all but forgotten: the fretless zither. After finding and restoring a host of instruments I’d never seen before, including phonoharps, Marxophones, and Taishogotos, I end up building a harp of my own.
33 minutes | Feb 9, 2016
Episode 2: Zombie Nightmare
My grandmother was a lot of things: an abstract expressionist painter, a social worker, a collector of antiques. But as far as the internet is concerned, she had just one real claim to fame: she was the associate producer of Zombie Nightmare (1987), a movie so bad it's featured on the IMDb's "Bottom 100" list. Strangely, it stars Adam West and Tia Carrere. In this episode, I do a deep dive into this extremely minor footnote in my family’s history. I rewatch the movie and try to get to bottom of what makes it so bad, and I also reach out to people who were actually involved in creating it. Terrible movies don’t make themselves. A movie this bad has to have a lot of secrets. Related Links: - Zombie Nightmare IMDb Profile: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0092297/ - The paintings of Eleanor Hilowitz: http://www.eleanorhilowitz.com - Frank Dietz's Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1824891397/sketchy-things-the-art-of-frank-dietz - Paul Corupe's Canuxploitation Website: http://www.canuxploitation.com
27 minutes | Nov 24, 2015
Episode 1: The Fiverr Song Project
In this episode, I explore the bizarre world of Fiverr, a website that lets you purchase services for five dollars. As an experiment in online music collaboration with strangers, I take one of my own songs and replace each instrument track with a new recording made by a Fiverr session musician. The episode chronicles the process and culminates in a version of the song produced entirely by the Internet.
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