Christmas Chaos

Saturday, December 21, 2002

We’ve gone a little Christmas crazy, but of course, on the Next Big Thing, that means Christmas with a twist. We visit with Quebecois tree-sellers, a Brooklyn video store proprietor and a crowd of boombox carolers. Also, new music by jazz pianist Jason Moran, and an investigation into poetry’s new status as a millionaire’s business. And tales of attraction from our Department of Transportation.

Hand Held

It’s late at night, verging on early in the morning. The commuter train’s crowded. The passenger sitting next to you keeps “accidentally” touching your hand. What to do? A true train story from PATH train rider Jay Brenneman.

The Singles Car

It’s a well-circulated urban legend: they say the first subway car on every line is the “pick up” car. Not in a position to find out for yourself? Not to worry. The Next Big Thing’s Department of Transportation offers this investigative report by author Jonathan Ames. What it lacks in scientific method it makes up for in… well, you’ll see.

Noël in a Foreign Land

We all have our particular rituals around the holidays. For Next Big Thing producer and Canadian ex-pat Amanda Aronczyk, December means time to hit the streets and chat up – in Quebecois - the guys selling Christmas trees. Sure they’re busy, but they don’t seem to mind the company.

Christmas B-List

Every year, at Christmas time, Lormet Video in Brooklyn puts out their collection of nearly 60 Christmas movies, most of which you’ve probably never even heard of. Proprietor Anthony Viola takes us on a tour of his collection of forgotten – and in some cases, forgettable – films.

All or No TV

For nearly twenty years, Jon Nichols has made the same New Year’s resolution: to turn on, or turn off, the TV, depending on which year it is. Host Dean Olsher asks Nichols to explain the ins and outs of this alternative lifestyle.

Rich Verse

One of the strangest news stories of this year has to be the announcement that Poetry Magazine is the proud recipient of a $100 million bequest. We’re left wondering… what on earth are they going to do with $100 million? Next Big Thing contributor Sean Cole trails poet Jim Behrle as he attempts to live the life of a poet and a millionaire for a day. For more on Behrle, go to his website.

Boombox Christmas

Heard on the street… the 10th annual “Unsilent Night.” It’s a composition by the event’s organizer, Phil Kline, and it’s played simultaneously on hundreds of boomboxes by any and all who show up in Washington Square Park on a wintry Saturday night. Produced by Amy Farley.

Word Jazz

There is an obsessive quality to a lot of the music that jazz musician and composer Jason Moran plays. This makes him particularly suited to his latest project, which involves the painstaking transcription, into music, of people speaking – in Turkish, or Mandarin, or the language of his grandparents. Moran stops by the studio to play from that suite, “Word,” and to give his fresh take on an old standard.

WNYC archives id: 30339

Hosted by:

Dean Olsher

Produced by:

Emily Botein


Jonathan Ames, Amanda Aronczyk, Jim Behrle, Jay Brenneman, Sean Cole, Amy Farley, Phil Kline, Jason Moran, Jon Nichols and Anthony Viola


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About The Next Big Thing

The Next Big Thing is Public Radio International's weekly radio features magazine. Produced by WNYC, New York Public Radio, The Next Big Thing may actually resemble a city or town near you: listeners find it a fascinating place to visit, full of little-known street corners, compelling stories, lively music, and original comedy.

The Next Big Thing is full of unusual sounds and memorable voices. It's a show in which well-known artists like Stanley Tucci and Suzanne Vega casually rub shoulders with subway strap hangers, park bench philosophers, street-corner humorists, and kids on the local basketball court.

On The Next Big Thing, creator and host Dean Olsher collaborates with some of America's most talented writers, humorists, and musicians. Regular contributors include: Meg Wolitzer, Henry Alford, Miranda July, Jesse Green, Jonathan Ames and Matt Power. In addition to soliciting stories from these great writers and reporters, Olsher also commissions original plays, music and soundscapes for his beloved medium, radio, creating an aural environment unique to The Next Big Thing.

Olsher's team of producers is inspired to seek out unusual, offbeat and sometimes quietly affecting subjects: they may ride along with former prisoners who bring puppies to those still behind bars; risk life and limb on homemade roller coasters; listen in as a young man attempts to cure his stutter; and track down an illegal immigrant facing deportation after 9/11 despite the successful, middle-class life he's made for himself in the U.S.

The program's variety is designed to appeal to the broad interests of its public radio audience. Listeners on 90 public radio stations nationwide have heard actor Ethan Hawke in a play written for the show by novelist Rick Moody. Humorists Jonathan Katz, Mark O'Donnell, David Rakoff, and Janeane Garofalo have lent their talents to satire and improv comedy, but the show is also home to sonically-enhanced serious fiction from writers like Richard Ford and poetry from Poet Laureate Billy Collins, among others. The result is a sound-rich, intimate, frequently funny, and always engaging radio show.

Says Olsher, "In many ways, The Next Big Thing is a way of paying homage to radio itself. It's about tickling that part of the mind that only radio can reach, using all the forms at which the medium excels: literary journalism, one-on-one interviews, interpretive essays, comedy, drama, and music. It's about personality, ideas, companionship, and speaking to the heart and soul through the eyes and ears of interesting, unusual people."

Olsher began his career in broadcasting at the age of 14, as a freshman at Hunterdon Central High School in Flemington, NJ. After being awarded a Bachelor of Arts at Simon's Rock College, he studied and worked in Chapel Hill, NC, before joining NPR in 1987 as a cultural reporter. At NPR, he defined his beat broadly, from the grand ("Major American Poets Gather at the White House") to the grandly absurd ("Lorena Bobbitt Found Not Guilty"), landing at WNYC in 1999 to create something new - The Next Big Thing


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