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Progress at Home Encourages Burmese Efforts Abroad...

Burma is the poorest country in Southeast Asia. Many of its people subsist on $200 a year. That barely covers the cost of living, let alone the cost of dying. The Burmese community in Woodside, Queens recently hosted a husband and wife who have been helping Burma’s poor give their dead a Buddhist burial since 2001. Two years ago when they first received an award from the Burmese diaspora, the meeting was impossible. For years, the Burmese diaspora has found ways around the military regime’s firewall, sneaking in money to support Myanmar’s domestic aid workers. But with democratic reforms under way, the barrier between Burmese abroad and humanitarians at home is coming down. This is a story about the transnational effort to provide for Burma’s poorest....
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South Bronx Gets Greener

The South Bronx has some of the highest asthma rates in New York City. Expressways run through neighborhoods like Mott Haven and Hunts Point, and trucks depart from their distribution centers. But the seeds of a solution are taking root. Business owners like Edward Taylor from Down East Seafood are investing in electric trucks, and this fall Smith Electric will begin manufacturing its green delivery vehicles in Mott Haven. Tom DiChristopher heads to the South Bronx for a glimpse of a greener future. [audio:http://cdn.journalism.cuny.edu/blogs.dir/447/files/2012/05/2012_04_05_electric_truck.mp3|titles=2012_04_05_electric_truck]...
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How This American Life Kept the Golden Apple Fresh...

Twenty-four hours at a diner. That could’ve gone wrong — been consigned to the bin of ideas labeled “Good Ideas in Theory.” But This American Life pulled it off. Here’s how. Establish the World Ira Glass closes his description of the diner with the octagonal pie case, transitioning into an actuality from co-owner Nick about how dessert sales are down. This brings the listener into the world of the diner, a place with its own nuances of supply and demand (“People just like desserts more when they’re moving”). Even if you’ve never worked in food service, it’s relatable. You start to think about all the little things that made up your world in various jobs. For me: the difficult-to-reach parts of the railings I painted during a job at an apartment complex one summer, or the recipe for antipasta at the deli I staffed in college. Follow the Character’s Lead You could say the reporter got lucky with John the butcher’s remembrance of his butchering baptism, but’s BS. Jon is clearly a raconteur. The reporter recognized that and thought on her feet. OF COURSE he remembered the first piece of meat he cleaved. Make the Listener Want to Know the Characters The reporter set up Donna as movie star. She calls her one of the most beautiful people she’s ever seen in person. That immediately makes me think: “What’s she doing working there?” I want to know her story, and she gives it to me. Recognize Significant Moments and Write to Them When the owner starts to describe the regulars, he lowers his voice. You get the sense that it’s out of respect — it’s rude to talk about people in the third person in front of them right? But there’s more there. The owner sort of feels bad for them. Right after this, the reporter introduces us to Robert. Robert hangs out at the Golden Apple drinking coffee because he can’t afford much else — and because he’s lonely. But he’s so bashful, he can’t talk to the waitress. I find myself hoping the waitresses will hear this story, and they’ll try extra hard to talk to Robert. Let Them Talk, or What We Talk About When We Talk in Diners The reporter let’s Mike and Liz go on about their relationship, and by staying out of it, letting them fill the silence, she allows them to say something without ever really saying it: these two probably still love each other. Or at least Mike still loves Liz. Liz maybe wishes that she still loved Mike. Or that she could’ve. I dunno. But there’s something there, and it’s potent. Ditto on Danielle and Allison. The silence allows the deeper relationship to break through. There’s jealousy, resentment, the heartbreaking certainty that this is a relationship not long for this world. And who doesn’t remember that? Expand the Universe If the diner is the world, the neighborhood is the universe. We get the history of this place through the elderly woman gives some history: keeps you interested in the place. Mike and Liz got pretty intimate — this segment re-establishes a sense of place, and in keeping with the theme, the reporter accomplishes this through character. I believe this woman because she’s honest with the audience. She’s imperfect. She admits her own bigotry in discussing the changes the neighborhood has gone through. I trust her and believe she’s not BSing me. Leave the World Back to Danielle and Allison. By getting...
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Real Nonnas, Not-so-real Ambient.

Great characters? Check. Competent script that sets up said great characters and moves the listener through the story? Check. Quality ambient? Ahem… quality ambient? Two outa three ain’t bad. “Italian ‘Nonnas’ Bring Taste of Home to Staten Island” could have been a grand slam. The anchor lede and the opening line (great use of Italian) introduced a concept I’d never heard of before: an Italian restaurant with a kitchen run by grandmas. But then that music kicks in. I’m not sure whether this was truly ambi, or a soundtrack the producer dropped in, but either way, it made a special place feel generic and maudlin. If indeed the music was captured as ambient sound, I have no idea why the reporter would have relied on it so heavily throughout. Give me more of Grandma Gambino. Her sound bites are great, but I want to hear her mixing it up with the other nonnas in the kitchen. She talks about these plump arancini pregnant with cheese — so why don’t I hear them frying up in a sizzling bath of oil? It could have well been that the reporter wasn’t granted the access he needed, or the interactions weren’t compelling (hard to believe from that photo), but nevertheless, the piece left me feeling a bit cheated — like he’d gone in, got the interviews, and got out....
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A Skate Park Grows in Brooklyn

In 2009, Traci Johnson set her sights on building a skate park at Brower Park in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Skateboarding was surging in popularity, but the nexus of Crown Heights, Bedford Stuyvesant and Brownsville was a skate park desert. The lack of sanctioned skate spots led to tension with police, with kids skating where they weren’t supposed to or ducking turnstiles to go to skate parks further off. Johnson lobbied State Senator Eric Adams, winning him by marshaling a critical mass of skateboarders to knock on his door. The park opened last fall with three skate elements. Johnson hopes to expand Brower park in phases, and open other skate spots in city parks along the same model. Listen to the story below....