Opinion

Audio Astra: From sublime to newsy, from speculative to touristy, all in podcasts

August 27, 2021 3:33 am

Electric vehicles are displayed before a news conference with White House Climate Adviser Gina McCarthy and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg about the American Jobs Plan and to highlight electric vehicles at Union Station near Capitol Hill on April 22, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Audio Astra reviews recent audio reporting on Kansas news, including podcasts and radio stories. Eric Thomas directs the Kansas Scholastic Press Association and teaches visual journalism and photojournalism at the University of Kansas.

Writing a headline for this weekly recap can be easy when there are tidy connections or overlaps between one podcast and another. Not so this week. The best that Kansas audio had to offer includes an MC grooving about his birthdays, a speculative story about electric cars, a profile of a candidate for attorney general and a festival showcasing Swedish dancing. Sometimes, it turns out, the media do all follow the same thread.

A Pandemic Taught Kadesh Flow To Love His Birthday

Real Humans, Aug. 22, 2021

I have found my muse for this moment.

From Gina Kauffman of KCUR’s “Real Humans,” we have this meditation on how to approach new beginnings during the pandemic. Our tour guide from right across the Missouri state line is Kadesh Flow, a rapper, MC and trombonist.

Flow gives us a hip-hop infused meditation on his birthdays during the last few decades. He describes how these birthdays give him moments of reflection. The analog for me and many people is obvious. We are starting a school year, and, for many parents, that means a very different work situation from the past 18 months.

Much like Flow, who was wayward during his previous few years, I have felt incredibly unmoored during the pandemic at times. There were months and months that seemed to go by in a blink. Meanwhile, some days seemed to take months. There were times that were optimistic and uplifting. Other times felt like a limestone grind.

What Flow accomplishes here — with the help of his excellent backing music and some incredible editing from Kaufman and Mackenzie Martin — is poetic. It’s a languid 10 minutes of music and narration that relaxes your senses while also super charging you for whatever is coming next. In need of a jumpstart? Plug into this episode on the way to work and see if it refreshes your perspective.

Forget The Cities, Are Rural Kansas And Missouri Ready For Electric Vehicles?

Up To Date, Aug. 21, 2021

I sometimes imagine climate change as a sprawling puzzle that we are trying to solve. Some of the puzzle pieces are stuck in couch cushions. We haven’t even located all of the edge pieces yet.

With that state of confusion, it’s reassuring when any puzzle pieces start to fit together. That’s the case with Brian Grimmett’s report from KMUW saying that rural Kansas is ripe for the purchase of electric cars, one incremental solution to climate change.

What makes electric cars the logical choice on Kansas county roads? Economics. For instance, Grimmett points out that the number of miles driven by rural Kansans — which can be up to 50% more than those driven by suburban or urban residents — would make electric cars a much more economic choice in agricultural areas.

New models, like the fully electric Ford F-150 pick-up truck, offer prime features for rural Kansans. For instance, the truck’s portable generator can power a worksite — or even your home in the case of an emergency.

Like most of the steps that will slow climate change, the move of rural Kansans to electric cars is incremental and demands patience. The number of charging stations is probably still too few to reassure Kansan about range anxiety (the worry that your car will run out of electric charge). Kansans have reason to worry if they want to drive a long way until high-speed charging stations become more common. Plus, car owners in rural areas hang onto their cars longer than the average Americans, demanding more time for the change over to electric cars.

In other words, even this puzzle piece isn’t quite snapping together perfectly yet.

Retired assistant U.S. attorney Tony Mattivi campaigns for Kansas attorney general

Kansas Reflector, Aug. 23, 2021

This podcast introduces us to Tony Mattvi, one of the Republican candidates for attorney general in Kansas. Mattvi’s approach to Tim Carpenter’s interview questions avoids torching the discussion with a political flamethrower. His firm answers don’t denigrate the other side, but instead reveal his legal read on the situation.  

During the interview, his answers to three consecutive issues positioned him far from my policy hopes. Yet, his plain and frank language suggests that he would apply the law as attorney general in a way that I could stomach, if not support.

Such is the political landscape in 2021 that we are happy to shrug at politicians, if they don’t give us indigestion immediately.

Svenk Hyllningsfest

Uncovering Kansas, Aug. 22, 2021

Ever had a “viking on a stick?”

It’s three meatballs and three cubes of Swedish rye bread dipped in pancake batter and fried up. This is one of the delicacies of Svenk Hyllningsfest, the Swedish festival being held in Lindsborg in October. And the event is the subject of this week’s episode of “Uncovering Kansas.”

With the festival approaching, the podcast profiles the event in a timely way, giving listeners time to book a room in the charmingly described town.

On previous episodes, the host took us through Kansas to discover little hidden treasures or explain well-known destinations: the Oak Grove School, the Flint Hills Discovery Center and the Kaw Valley Farm Tour.

The episode about the festival describes the dancing, food, vendors, parades, shops and art at Svenk Hyllningsfest. Consider the fortune that this festival had with its timing. It occurs every other year on odd years, so it was able to dodge the disastrous pandemic in October 2020. And here’s a toast to COVID receding even more to allow Lindsborg and its festival guests to celebrate this fall.

New Laws Have Basically Ended Vote Registration Drives In Some Parts of The U.S.

NPR, Aug. 24, 2021

“There hasn’t been a problem.” That is the underlying truth (voiced by one of the sources in this story) about most of the legislation passed by conservatives blocking access to voting. Yet, in spite of the facts, we live with the restrictions today. 

Frank Morris of KCUR traveled to Lawrence to meet with a voting registration activist who normally enrolls hundreds of potential voters in a weekend. Now? Her group is doing next to nothing in terms of in-person registration in fear of being charged with impersonating an election official, which is now a felony — a felony that could disenfranchise activists of their own right to vote.

What did we miss? Email [email protected] to let us know of a Kansas-based audio program that would be interesting to Audio Astra readers.

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Eric Thomas
Eric Thomas

Eric Thomas directs the Kansas Scholastic Press Association, a nonprofit that supports student journalism throughout the state. He also teaches visual journalism and photojournalism at the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. He lives in Leawood with his wife and two children.

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