Category Archives: Miscellany

Carnival Stories

Bob Dylan was just 20 years old when he appeared on the Folksingers Choice radio program on WBAI FM in New York City. He’d arrived in Manhattan just a few years earlier and was playing in the coffee houses of Greenwich Village – at one in particular he was paid “a dollar plus a cheeseburger.”

We uncovered the hour-long interview at Pacifica Radio Archives. It was conducted by Cynthia Gooding, a folk singer who played in the coffee houses and clubs in New York City’s Greenwich Village in the 1950s and 60s. She hosted Folksingers Choice. During their conversation, Dylan played some of his own songs (“The Death of Emmett Till”, “Standing on the Highway”) and covers of classics by Howlin’ Wolf, Hank Williams, and Woody Guthrie. I scored this episode, animated by Patrick Smith, with Dylan tuning up his guitar and playing his harmonica.

It’s a wonderful snapshot in time, with a young Dylan before he was famous and before he even released his debut album. He’s nervous and funny. He’s just a guy with a guitar with a little mischief underneath.




Jackson House Rules

Longtime journalist, author and music historian John Pidgeon told us about an interview he recorded with Michael Jackson back in January 1980, in Los Angeles.

In order for Michael Jackson to allow himself to be interviewed, he had one condition: John was not allowed to speak to Michael directly. Instead, he was required to ask his questions to then 13-year old Janet Jackson, who would relay them back to her brother. This, even though the interview took place in one room, all three persons seated next to one another.

I love how animator Patrick Smith interpreted this scenario. Watch the result here.


Champion on Mars

In the summer of 1966, a star-struck 17-year-old working at his high school radio station in Winnetka, Illinois set out to interview his idol: Muhammad Ali. With a suitcase-sized reel-to-reel tape recorder in the back seat, Aisner and a friend drove from the northern suburbs down to the south side of Chicago, where Ali’s fan club was headquartered. It was two years after Ali had trash-talked his way into a victory over Sonny Liston; a year before he would refuse to go Vietnam. At the time, many black Muslims, led by Malcolm X, were advocating for “total separation” of the races. And so, for a scrawny white boy from the suburbs, heading to the heart of Chicago’s African-American South Side was no small thing.

Though Aisner met and interviewed other celebrities and went on as an adult to work in media, he’s never quite forgotten that first interview with his childhood hero. For 25 years, he kept the original reel-to-reel recording until he digitized it. But it sat. No one else ever heard it.

Then Aisner heard about Blank on Blank. And here’s what we did with it.

Shouting Theater At A Crowded Fire

The Blank on Blank project came across a box in New York City. In it was a cassette tape recorded in 1984, and on that tape was legendary Beat poet Allen Ginsberg and Julian Beck – the actor and theatrical director who founded The Living Theater. Ginsberg brought a tape recorder as a gift to a Manhattan hospital where his friend Beck was undergoing treatment for cancer – again. It’s an intimate document of a decades old friendship that will soon be cut short, and of a man coming to terms with dying.

Here’s how we presented it.

Massage Therapist

picture by Paul Calhoun

Paul Marren, 45, is a Certified Massage Therapist specializing in neuromuscular massage, advanced orthopedic massage, and cranio-sacral therapies. These approaches seek to relieve physical tension by manually palpating and manipulating muscles, tendons, and ligaments. He uses a variety of techniques ranging from direct to more subtle interaction with the structures and systems of the body. The oldest of nine children, Mr. Marren grew up on Chicago’s near north side in an Irish-American Catholic household infused ideas of social justice and the importance of serving others. A number of his siblings have in fact chosen care-giving, service related professions such as teaching, nursing, and counseling. Before coming in his mid-thirties to massage therapy as a career, Mr. Marren , who holds an MBA, worked in the corporate financial world for just under a decade as an employee of Continental Bank. There, he says, he had no actual contact with the people he was supposedly serving. As a self-employed massage therapist hiring out his services, Mr. Marren , married and father of two, admits that he will never make as much money as he did in the corporate world. Nor will his work ever be as lucrative as such other health professions as medicine or surgery. Mr. Marren, however, embraces the fact that his work allows him to spend an average of one to two hours with his clients and give them a kind of attention and focused care that a medical career would not easily allow.

A version of this audio portrait aired on (the now sadly defunct) Weekend America.


Mrs. Lynn (Lynn Ristich) has worked as psychic consultant for over 30 years. She’s been in the same location in downtown Chicago for over 10. Her work follows family tradition: Mrs. Lynn’s mother and grandmother were both psychic as well. Her practice offers a variety of spiritual services, including tarot card, astrology, and palm readings, energy clearing, soul mate uniting, and meditation classes. Mrs. Lynn says that the vast majority of her clients have sought out a psychic before. Most of her clients are repeat customers. She often becomes very close to her clients. She’s invited to many weddings and baptisms. Her office is filled with gifts of appreciation from customers she’s helped, like the large, soft-colored painting of the Pieta given to her by a grateful art student that hangs above the waiting room couch. Though her sign outside says “psychic,” Mrs. Lynn describes her practice as being more accurately “spiritual intercession…. Being able to know what is obstructing a person spiritually, whether that be a negative emotion or experience they’ve had, and being able to isolate and get rid of that problem, whether through prayer, meditation, or the person changing a certain situation in their life.”

A version of this audio portrait aired on the (now sadly defunct) Weekend America.

Pan Twardowski

There once lived a nobleman named Pan Twardowski. Not your typical member of Krakow society, he made mischief with magic and rode around on a giant rooster. Then he made a deal with the devil…

The Dragon of Wawel Hill

Long, long ago, Kraków was a small village terrorized by a big dragon.

Until a humble shoemaker had an idea…