Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Mitch Wertlieb Abducted by Aliens!

Where in the world is VPR's Morning Edition Host Mitch Wertlieb? In answer to the question posed by several listeners, Mitch sends this message: "I'm doing great and can't wait to be back!"

Mitch had hip replacement surgery in November. You may say "What? Mitch is too young for that!" Mitch is proof you're never too young to have hip problems. After many years of arthritic pain, he finally decided to go under the knife. When his daughter Gretchen started walking, it became clear that hip replacement was the only way Mitch could keep up with her.

He'll be filing a report on the experience when he gets back. You can leave your comments and wishes below.

In the meantime, many thanks to Peter Biello for waking up to that early alarm and keeping VPR listeners informed during Morning Edition.

Franny Bastian
Senior Producer

Monday, November 23, 2009

National Week of Listening

The second annual National Day of Listening is Friday, November 27th. This public radio campaign was created by the producers of StoryCorps to encourage all of us to create our own 'oral history'. Perhaps you caught Scott Simon's interview Saturday with his six year old adopted daughter or Danial Schorr talking with his son about living through the Great Depression. You'll hear more on NPR this week.

Here at VPR, we decided to turn it into a National Week of Listening and we hope that you'll join in. VPR Commentators were invited to get the ball rolling by sharing family stories that have been passed down through the generations. They jumped at the opportunity, and the stories they share with us this week are a delight: circus elephants grazing in a Vermont field, a Christmas tree cut in half and nailed to the wall, and the capture of a Confederate commander by the seat of his pants. Listen mornings at @7:55 and evenings at 5:55 and follow the series online.

Participating in the National Day of Listening is easy. Reserve time with someone important to you and sit down for a chat. If you have the equipment, record your interview and save it for others to hear. We hope you'll summarize your experience and share it with the VPR Community here.

Best wishes for the holiday from all of us at VPR - and happy listening!

Franny Bastian

We have another pro football team to support

For about half of the state of Vermont, Montreal is closer than Foxborough, Mass. So during football season, the New England Patriots don't have to be the only option for your football focus.

The Montreal Alouettes play in the Canadian Football League (CFL, or LCF in Quebec). I usually go to two games each season. The Als play most of their home games at quaint Percival Molson Stadium on the campus of McGill University. The team sells out every game in this 20,000-seat stadium that sits on a hill above downtown Montreal. For playoff games and some late-season contests, they dust off Olympic Stadium, former home of the Expos.

I made the trip to the Big O for the Eastern Final Sunday against the British Columbia Lions. As luck would have it, both Als' games I saw this year were against BC (there are, after all, only 8 teams in the CFL). Montreal posted the league's best record this season (15-3) and by virtue of Sunday's 56-18 victor over the Lions, they'll be heading back to the Grey Cup - Canada's equivalent of our Super Bowl.

Last year, I attended my first Grey Cup at which the Als lost at Olympic Stadium to the Calgary Stampeders. This coming Sunday, they'll play in Calgary for the title against the Saskatchewan Roughriders (quite possibly the longest team name in sports this side of German soccer team Borussia Moechengladbach).

So Vermonters, our other professional football team (not to slight all the semi-professional teams in the state) could use your support this Sunday as they go for their first CFL championship since 2002.

(Editor's note: Still want more football? Check out these pics from Castleton State's new football team and listen to the report here.)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Diamond Dust

Listeners in the Thetford/Fairlee area have reported seeing diamond dust - what looks like diamonds in the sky above a river or pond.

Chris Bouchard at the Fairbanks Museum replies: "I think that what you saw can be attributed to an exceptionally thick frost. I think being close to a large body of water made the frost even thicker, as the water is still relatively warm this time of the year, which led the water to steam away lots of extra water vapor, which was then converted over into the hearty frost in the chilly air. I suspect the floating particles you saw might have been caused by a light breeze shattering the fragile crystals on trees, causing then to gently fall to the ground. During very cold air outbreaks in the winter, we can get fog that develops very tiny ice crystals, which we call diamond dust. Typically this only happens when it is well below zero, which is why I suspect you saw a similar, but different phenomenon!"

Let us know if you see diamond dust on these frosty mornings!

VPR's prEview E-Newsletter, November 18

When we get together for the holidays, conversation usually comes around to my parents telling stories about their courtship. One of my favorites is how they used to call each set of parents to find out who was cooking the best dinner on any given night, and invite themselves over. Since both of their mothers were excellent cooks – my father’s for traditional meat and potatoes, my mother’s for Italian specialties – they often ended up having dinner twice! It’s just one of the reasons my parents are my heroes.

I’m taking a page from their book this Thanksgiving and having three different holiday dinners. To help keep things interesting and disaster-free, I’ll be listening to Turkey Confidential on Thanksgiving morning for ideas, advice and real-time turkey triage from the folks at The Splendid Table. There’s more about Turkey Confidential in this edition of prEview. Plus, VPR commentators share their own family stories in advance of the National Day of Listening. Plus, in VPR Cooks, Cheryl Willoughby shares a favorite Thanksgiving recipe that has nothing to do with a traditional turkey dinner.

Michelle Jeffery

Turkey Confidential
Thanksgiving Day, 11 a.m. on VPR
On the day even non-cooks are busy in the kitchen, Lynne Rossetto Kasper and the rest of the folks at The Splendid Table will take your culinary questions and turkey triage. You can call in during the program at 1-800-537-5252, join a live chat, or ask your question online. Visit the Turkey Confidential website for more information, recipes, and to share pictures and stories of your Thanksgiving successes and disasters.

VPR Cooks: Non-Traditional Thanksgiving?
In Cheryl Willoughby’s house, Thanksgiving dinner does not include turkey, mashed potatoes, or even cranberry sauce. Instead, she prepares a complex, special meal of some particular ethnicity. Indian cuisine (that's South Asian Indian, not Native American) is her favorite. Visit our website for her recipe for Sambhara (Gujerati-style cabbage with carrots).

National Day of Listening
November 23-27 at 7:55 and 5:55 on VPR
We hope you’ll join us for the second annual National Day of Listening. Listen all next week as VPR commentators share their families’ treasured stories. Then, on the day after Thanksgiving, set aside some time to have a conversation with someone important to you. Interview a relative, friend, or mentor. You’ll find more information and pointers at our website.

NPR: What We’re Reading
NPR covers a lot of books every week. Among them, there are always a handful of standouts — the shortlist, the books with buzz. "What We're Reading" brings you the NPR book team’s picks of the most interesting new fiction and nonfiction releases, along with candid comments from reporters, hosts and staffers.

Vermont Edition: Doug Racine
Friday, November 20, noon on VPR
The 2010 gubernatorial election is a year away, but several democratic candidates have already announced their intention to run. This Friday, we continue our series of candidate interviews when we’ll be joined by Chittenden County State Senator Doug Racine. Email your question for Sen. Racine to Check out VPR’s coverage of the 2010 gubernatorial election here.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Non-Traditional - Or Is It?

Not everyone loves the turkey, stuffing, cranberry jellies and slivered almond green bean casseroles that typify the culinary fare of Thanksgiving. In the diverse spirit of this country's cross-continental, multicutural heritage - one could ask how representative those dishes are of America, anyway?

In my house, we've moved away from turkey for the holiday meal. For many years now I've enjoyed taking the extra time the day offers to leisurely prepare a special meal of some particular ethnicity. It purely comes down to food preference rather than philosophy. Indian cuisine (that's South Asian Indian, not Native American) for its wide range of flavors, spice intensity, and cool/hot sensations has proven to be the favorite. With the hours of preparation and careful cooking it requires, we can usually plan on the holiday meal to be ready in the early evening. The result MORE than makes the anticipation worthwhile!

By around 6pm or so, my much-loved marble mortar and pestle (stained green from the jalapeno mint chutney) is resting on the counter, its work done at last for the day - and the numerous little bowls (I use my Chinese condiment dishes) that hold everything from chopped coriander, hand-ground cumin and cloves and turmeric and cardamom seeds are all emptied out, these ingredients having found a home aromatically simmering away in everything from Chicken Tikka Masala to spicy cauliflower (Phool Gobi aur Aloo Ki Bhaji) and handmade flatbreads (Naan).

Also non-traditional is the source of the many interesting, colorful dishes at my Thanksgiving banquet. My secret is not in time-tested recipes that have been handed down from (Scandinavian!) relatives - it's a dog-eared, broken-binding book I stumbled upon many years ago at a secondhand bookstore in Denver. As reliably as any family member, the stories it tells and secrets it has shared over the years now make Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking another welcome and familiar guest at our annual Thanksgiving dinner table.

Each family has its own reasons for making the food it does during the holidays. The important thing is to do what you do for a reason, and enjoy the results - whatever they are - together.

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at VPR! Whether it's turkey or from Turkey, may you enjoy a beautiful meal with enough to share with friends and loved ones, and maybe even have a little left over to enjoy again (and again) over the weekend.

Me? I'm waiting (not very patiently) for that second helping of honeyed pistachios and Gujerati cabbage/carrot salad with toasted black mustard seeds. You'll find the recipe for Sambhara here, as part of our VPR Cooks series. Enjoy!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Bob Kinzel Is Distinguished

The Vermont Association of Broadcasters recognized VPR's Bob Kinzel this week for something we've recognized a long time: his distinguished service.

Bob's been reporting the news from Montpelier since 1977 -- after a stint at WJOY in the Burlington area, where he was hired by VPR's own Joel Najman. For years, Bob operated the Vermont News Service. His stories were heard on radio stations around the state. Bob eventually started hosting call-in programs on VPR and joined the staff full-time in 2002. He's recognized in Montpelier as the dean of the Statehouse reporting corps.

Bob was one of two long-time radio journalists honored by the association with the distinguished service award. The other was Tim Johnson of WTSA in Brattleboro, who's been reporting from Windham County since 1973.

The VAB inducted two people into the Vermont Broadcasters Hall of Fame, including Marselis Parsons, the longtime WCAX-TV anchor who recently retired. The other was Belva Keyworth, a broadcasting pioneer who died in 2004. She owned WBTN AM and FM for nearly 50 years. VPR now broadcasts on WBTN-FM in Bennington, fullfilling Keyworth's vision to maintain the station as a community resource.

Our colleague in public broadcasting, Ann Curran of Vermont Public Television, was honored by the VAB as Broadcaster of the Year for her work in helping television stations in Vermont convert to digital transmission.

Community service awards went to Ray Kimball, general manager of WCFR in Springfield, WKOL-FM in Burlington, and Nassau Broadcasting’s WWFY-FM, WORK-FM, WSNO-AM, WMOO-FM and WIKE-AM.

Congratulations to Bob and the many other fine honorees!

Friday, November 6, 2009

On a Curiosity Bender

It’s been almost five years since we first heard about this crazy new program from WNYC in New York, Radio Lab. I still remember the first time it was explained to me: “Radio Lab is an investigation. They take One Big Idea and explore the science and culture behind it. It’s a patchwork of people, sounds, music, stories, and experiences.”

Oh, well that explains it. Wait….no it doesn’t. I still had no idea what I was in for. But the first time I listened, I was hooked.

But five years and countless episodes later, I still can’t really explain it any better than that. That’s because Radio Lab is all about sound. And you really have to hear it to get it. If you’re a fan of the show, you know what I mean. If you haven’t, you’re in for a real treat. Either way, I hope you’ll tune in for Radio Lab on beginning this Saturday at 4 p.m., through December 5. The big ideas examined in this new season include afterlife, stochasticity, parasites, the “new normal,” and numbers.

Learn more about the series here, and please let us know what you think!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Classical Music Coming to Addison County

I’m pleased to report that we’ve made significant progress on our campaign to bring VPR Classical to Addison County!

We started early this year with $346,000 needed to build a new full-power transmitter at 90.1 FM I am happy to report that we have only $22,000 left to raise before the Vermont Community Foundation will provide the last $10,000. We are so close that we will soon order the broadcast equipment needed to build the station, with the hope of beginning construction in the spring and broadcasting VPR Classical within weeks of that.

Once it’s on the air, the new signal will broadcast VPR Classical to a population of more than 83,000 in an area that stretches from Vergennes to Brandon, and from Port Henry, NY east to the Green Mountains.

I hope you’ll join me for a reception at the Lodge at Otter Creek in Middlebury next Wednesday, November 11. The evening features a performance by pianist Diana Fanning and cellist Dieuwke Davydov (left). And you can learn more about the expansion of VPR Classical. Please RSVP by calling us at 1-800-639-2192.

You can read more about the expansion of VPR Classical here, and click here for a coverage map of 90.1.

Hope to see you there! And please feel free to contact me anytime to learn more about the campaign and how you can help.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

prEview: All Cakes Considered, Radio Lab, Gordon Stone

At home, at work, at roller derby, and anywhere else I go, everyone seems to be fighting illness over the last couple of weeks. I’ve managed to avoid getting sick so far, but I’m not taking any chances…which is why I bring you this edition of prEview largely written from my couch.

In between frequent naps and cups of tea, I’m catching up on my podcasts of This American Life, Vermont Edition, and Radio Lab. I even dug up Jean Ferguson’s recipe for spicy chicken soup in VPR Cooks. It all keeps me connected with the world even when I’m trying to lay low. Read on to learn more about Lilly Ledbetter’s recent speech at Vermont Technical College, the new season of Radio Lab, and a recipe for sweet potato pound cake – tested and approved by NPR’s All Things Considered staff.

PS: This week two of Vermont’s highest-ranked political leaders join Bob Kinzel on Vermont Edition. Today, Gov. Jim Douglas will be on the show, and tomorrow, Sen. Bernie Sanders. Send your questions to, and listen at noon and 7 p.m.

Radio Lab Returns
Saturdays through December 5, 4 p.m.
Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich return to VPR beginning this weekend with five new episodes of Radio Lab, taking a big idea and following it wherever their creativity takes them, uncovering hidden connections and challenging your curiosity at every turn. This season they examine the topics of stochasticity, afterlife, parasites, the “new normal,” and numbers. Learn more, subscribe to the podcast and browse the new episodes here.

VPR Presents: Lilly Ledbetter
Online at
When Lilly Ledbetter learned her male coworkers were paid more for doing equal work, she filed a complaint and began a wage discrimination debate that landed in the Supreme Court. Now an advocate for pay equity, Ledbetter became the inspiration for the first bill President Obama signed into law. Ledbetter appeared at Vermont Technical College with Senator Patrick Leahy on Saturday, October 17th. Download her talk here.

Live from the Performance Studio: Pianist Di Wu
Thursday, November 5, 11 a.m.
Walter Parker welcomes pianist Di Wu for a live performance. She was a medalist at the most recent Van Cliburn International Piano Competition and will perform solo and with the Burlington Chamber Orchestra as part of the UVM Lane Series this weekend.

VPR Cooks: A Year of Cakes at NPR
Almost every Monday, All Things Considered producer Melissa Gray dashes off an e-mail that reads something like this: "Up front we've got sweet potato pound cake, still warm. Dig in, don't be shy." Her adventures in baking, and the staff's adventures in eating what she created, are recounted in a new cookbook called All Cakes Considered: A Year's Worth of Weekly Recipes Tasted, Tested, and Approved by the Staff of All Things Considered. You’ll find that recipe for sweet potato pound cake online here.

Gordon Stone Performs Live on Vermont Edition
Wednesday, November 11, noon and 7 p.m.
Local banjo and pedal steel guitar player Gordon Stone is a legend in the Vermont music scene. He's known for his bluegrass and jam-band music, played on a couple of instrumental Phish albums, and taught kids in the Washington West Supervisory Union the love of guitar, bass, banjo, and pedal steel. He’ll perform live and talk with VPR's Jane Lindholm.

Marketplace Money: Financial Futures
Marketplace Money has been exploring questions about kids and money. What should parents be teaching their kids about money, and when is the right time to start? Listen for a special episode next Saturday, November 14, and visit the show’s website for additional resources for talking to your kids about money.