I’ll pass on the Calamari

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I started by listening to Doppelgangers because I the title captured my interest. After all, who hasn’t been told they resemble someone else? Most recently I’ve been told I look like Zosia Mamet best known for her role in Girls. Sorry gang, my agent won’t allow me to post my real picture.

Zosia Mamet

The story started off with “Ira Glass” talking about Doppelgangers, then the audience finds out that the person speaking is in fact not Ira Glass but Fred Armisen,  a comedian from Saturday Night Live and Portlandia imitating Ira Glass. I haven’t listened to Ira Glass to know how good the impression was but it lead to an interesting conversation between Ira and Ira’s impersonator.

After the brief conversation they cut to an audio clip from a Saturday Night Live skit where Fred is pretending to be Ira. The skit is abruptly halted and Fred and Ira continue to speak. The show continues with a format where a brief part of the skit is played loudly then shifted to the background at Ira and Fred analyze various aspects of the skit and the current state of NPR’s funding. As she show continues Fred in Character as Ira and Ira continue to alternate speaking so it’s difficult for the listening to distinguish who is who.They decide to host the show together and sound effects like rustling paper are heart in the background.

The first featured story was about pork bung, yes pork bung, being substituted for calamari. The host spoke to a man who worked in a pork plan and the man informed the host (and audience) that pork bung was used as imitation calamari in China. Our host did additional research with the USDA which was inconclusive at best. They key point is that food is often mislabeled (as much at 55% of fish is mislabeled in LA). Initial research showed that China was the most likely place where “bung” could be sold at calamari, thankfully not the US. Fortunately, a rare food expert confirmed that although bung has some of the same consistency properties as calamari it would be difficult to make it taste as delectable, to put it nicely. In conclusion, although the man who worked in a pork plant said it was happening, it doesn’t appear that anyone with discerning taste buds could be fooled. I’m going to consider this Myth Busted! myth busted A few key elements of sound that were included in the story were:

  • Narration over the sound of restaurant “hustle and bustle”
  • Phone dial tone and distortion of person’s voice “on the line” to make it sound like they were on the phone (to make it seem more realistic)
  • Music playing while the narrator explains what “pork bung” looks like and how much “pork bung” we’ve eaten (to lighten the mood perhaps?)
  • Music playing as the narrator read disturbing stats about food being mislabeled and no one catching it/any time something seems “silly”

The Second story has a much different tone, more serious. The story was about two young men who both had PTSD. Both men has very different experiences, one was a soldier in Afghanistan, the other, a drug dealer in the inner city Philadelphia. Despite each having unique experiences they shared several similarities in both story and the way they dealt with their experiences. Key audio elements included:

  • Narrator was the primary storyteller who offered color commentary and teed up the story
  • Music played at transition points below the narrators reading
  • First person storytelling with highly sensitive audio recording so the listener can see the inflection in the storyteller’s voice
  • The main story was told in the voice on young men then we heard the other young man share a similar experience to help the audience see the parallels between the stories
  • Music was played beneath the young men’s voices  to emphasize emotional points/make the listener think
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One thought on “I’ll pass on the Calamari

  1. Great observations on this show. Even with the pork bung myth busted, it still gives my pause when I see it on the menu.

    I hope you have a new appreciation for the subtleties of sound, as well as the complexity of how shows like this are put together.

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