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RadioLab – “Killer Empathy”

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“Killer Empathy” – http://www.radiolab.org/blogs/radiolab-blog/2012/feb/06/killer-empathy/

Wow. This radio show was just… wow. Speaking strictly about the context, I found myself both in awe, and in disbelief. “Killer Empathy” features Jeff Lockwood, a professor at the University of Wyoming. Jeff Lockwood experimented with and observed Gryllacrididae, which are basically psycho crickets. Throughout the first part of the radio show, Lockwood discusses these crickets and their habits. They’re incredibly smart; when placed in a certain environment, they immediately begin to make their own nest. Additionally, they can tell their own nest from another. Lockwood also tells a story about how he accidentally split one of these crickets right in the abdomen with the top to the cage when it was trying to escape. Instead of just laying there and dying, like one would assume most bugs would, it began to eat its own insides. Ew! So as the show went along, I assumed the focus was on the bugs because I hadn’t read the summary all the way through or anything. But then it threw a curve ball, and deeply discussed Lockwood’s understanding (or, not so much) of the actions of this crazy cricket compared to the actions of a fellow human being. Lockwood’s mentor, Dr. Jeff LaFage, had been murdered in cold blood by a random person on the street. (The story was told by Tamra Carboni, who had been with Dr. Lafage.) The story then turned into Carboni’s story and Lockwood’s view on the whole situation, and how it related to the Gryllacrididae. All in all, Lockwood could better understand why the crickets could eat themselves rather than how one of his own kind could take another person’s life for no reason at all.

As far as the techniques of the show go, they were amazing. I have to admit, I’ve never actually paid attention to any of the “behind-the-scenes” stuff of a radio show before. But now that I have, I noticed so much more! Radiolab’s use of music and sound effects to emphasize a particular moment was perfect, especially toward the end. When the discussion on Dr. LaFage was coming to a close, they used a certain mellow and calm, yet very sad and slow, collection of sounds to put a certain feeling into the story. And their bumper in the beginning was great! It was short, sweet, and to the point. It was clearly customized for Radiolab, and it was very creative. It definitely reminded me of something I’ve heard on the radio before, but I had just never noticed. Finally, I think my favorite technique that I noticed was the way they put in direct quotes from Lockwood and Carboni. They would tell the story, but instead of just simply repeating what Lockwood or Carboni had said, they would directly insert their voices and words. It was as if they were writing a paragraph and quoting it, but they turned it into audio. But at the same time, it didn’t sound overly scripted.

This radio show definitely gave me some great ideas for the audio group work. At the very least, I will be able to recognize how a radio show is supposed to sound. I think my group and I will definitely benefit from this assignment. We will be able to use different effects to improve our radio show even more!

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