The Best Christmas Story On NPR (One Reporter’s Opinion)


Credit: US Coast Guard Academy/FLICKR

The Christmas season can be kind of slow for radio news. The institutions that usually drive our coverage–the legislature, schools, businesses–grind to a halt, and newscasts get filled with the inevitable travel and weather forecasts and retail projections.

Every so often, though, a Christmas story comes along that has never been told before. For your enjoyment, here is one of the best Planet Money episodes ever made: #506: Bell Wars.

Like all the best Planet Money episodes, this one introduces listeners to to offbeat characters populating very specific, hidden business universes. In this case: the cutthroat world of handbell manufacturing.

The story: In Pennsylvania, there are two high-end handbell producers (down the road from each other!) that have warred for decades not only over whose bells sounded better, but also over accusations the two companies were spying on each other to try and learn everyone’s deep, dark handbell trade secrets.

But it’s more than a great topic that makes “Bell Wars” such a perfect 19 minutes of public radio:

If you listen to the story, you hear David Kestenbaum (who now, just like other PM alums Zoe Chase and Chana Joffe-Walt, departed for This American Life) give very little narration. He lets the characters tell their own story and then gets out of the way. This is classic NPR: it’s expressive, intimate, surprising and built around the human voice.

Also: the story is about handbells. Most of the arguments between the two companies focused on what exactly the two handbells sound like. Being able to hear these differences (or non-differences) in real time draws listeners into the story in way a magazine article, no matter how well-written, just wouldn’t be able to do.

Even though it’s approaching its third anniversary, NPR sometimes re-runs “Bell Wars” around the holidays. If you don’t catch it during your holiday drive this year, you can always listen to more Planet Money episodes during Morning Edition and All Things Considered.

A Guide To Indiana Public Broadcasting’s New Voices

avengersLoyal WBAA listeners might have heard some unfamiliar voices on the air reporting state-wide news over the last four months. Those voices belong to a group of new reporters referred to within Indiana Public Broadcasting as “the RJC,” and in a more official capacity, “IPB News.”

Navigating the world of public radio can sometimes feel like swimming around in a bowl of alphabet soup. There are so many acronyms. (WBAA, NPR, PRI, APM…) It can get confusing! Here’s the breakdown:

“RJC” stands for “regional journalism collaborative.” This is a fancy name for a group of reporters and editors who comprise a “regional newsroom.” Indiana Public Broadcasting’s regional newsroom is seven reporters spread out across four stations. About half of the reporters are brand-new to Indiana Public Broadcasting. The other half consists of existing network reporters who have shifted to work inside the collaborative.

Even though the reporters are spread out geographically at different stations, they work together as a single team, creating news that’s then sent to all the Indiana Public Broadcasting stations in the state. Each reporter also has a specific beat to cover, so the state-wide news is more in-depth and comprehensive. Where the reporters are stationed has a lot to do with where lots of the action on their beat happens.

Here’s the lineup:

Annie Ropeik, based at WBAA in West Lafayette: Annie covers business, from agriculture to the steel industry, while also finding more offbeat stories to cover, such an upcoming feature about economics and 4-H fairs.

Sarah Fentem (me) also based at WBAA: I cover health and science along with my duties as a local reporter for WBAA. I’ve published stories on topics ranging from data-driven reports on the state’s Hepatitis and HIV epidemics to state-wide and federal legislation battling the opioid use epidemic.

Nick Janzen, works at WBOI in Fort Wayne: Nick focuses his time on energy and the environment. Nick’s expertise in coastal science (he is from Louisiana) means he can delve into science-based stories about the ecosystems around Lake Michigan that might scare less-experienced reporters away.

Jill Sheridan of WFYI in Indianapolis: Jill also covers health and science. She always finds a human face to put on stories about health policy and trends. Jill’s reporting often focuses on healthcare disparities among different demographics.

Brandon Smith, Indianapolis: Brandon is most likely the voice most WBAA listeners already know. He’s been covering the Statehouse for five years and now brings that experience to the RJC. The election cycle means Brandon has been super busy covering legislation as well as Mike Pence’s surprise vice-presidential nomination.

Claire McInerney, at WFIU in Bloomington: Claire is also a familiar voice to Indiana Public Broadcasting listeners. Claire’s covered education as part of the StateImpact Indiana team and, like Brandon, has shifted to work with the new collaborative. She has been tirelessly covering the state’s standardized testing saga for the past two years.

Peter Balonon-Rosen, also at WFIU: Peter, who also covers education, loves deep-dive stories about hard-to-tackle topics. In his short time in Indiana, he’s written stories on the implications of school advertising and the lack of diversity in teacher training programs.

The collaborative is headed up by Managing Editor Sarah Neal-Estes in Bloomington, who worked in public radio in Alaska before teaching audio reporting at Indiana University (She actually was my teacher before she was my boss.) Lauren Chapman, in Indianapolis, is the RJC’s digital editor. She works with the reporters to translate their sound into online stories with nifty graphs, visuals, and videos.


Education reporters Claire and Peter brainstorm at the RJC’s very first meeting

Indiana’s regional journalism collaborative is funded by a two-year grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting with the goal of creating more local news coverage.

For BAA listeners, there are two main benefits of the new reporting system:

  1. Because the RJC has hired multiple new reporters, there will be an increase in state-wide coverage. Because the reporters have a specific topic to specialize in, that state-wide coverage will be more in-depth and comprehensive than when multiple stations were covering things in a piece-meal fashion.
  2. Because state coverage is being taken care of by the reporters, there will be an increase in local coverage as well, because reporters at local stations can focus entirely on news happening in their communities.

Stay tuned to BAA to hear the latest state and local news! While our stories do air occasionally on other programs, you will always be able to catch the RJC during the local newscasts during All Things Considered and Morning Edition.



WBAA’s Community Voices: Rev. Shoop’s ‘A Cross Country Parable’

There once was a boy who played a lot of video games. He always got picked last in gym class and he had started to believe he wasn’t ever going to find something he was good at.

There once was a girl who had lots of friends but lived in fear they would find out her secret shame.  She lived in a household with lots of pain.  She wondered if the scars would ever disappear.

There was another boy for whom running came easy.  He was good at it, but had never really risked working too hard. It was easier to give it half an effort and feel ok about the results, than it was to give it his all and not live up to his potential.  He liked hearing people talk about how good he could be.  Deep down he was afraid they were wrong.


Rev. Marcia Mount Shoop

And there were more—some happy, some melancholy, some supported, some alone. Some were anxious about their changing bodies, and some were awkward in theirs.  There were kids new to town, and kids whose parents had lived in that place for generations. All of them were figuring out who they are—that’s the cross you bear in middle school after all—so many variables to navigate and so little hard data on the depth of your own reserves.

Somehow they found their way to cross country practice. Many of them weren’t sure why, but whatever brought them there told them it might be worth a shot.  Maybe there was something there for them.  Maybe they could find a place their place.  Maybe they would find friends, teammates, comfort for their pain and a way to excel.

The crazy thing was they found a different kind of discomfort, but it felt good.  They found hard work and they figured out new things about themselves in the process.  They found teammates who were figuring things out, too.  And they heard voices shouting their names with “you can do it” attached to people who they never knew cared about them.

All those young ones find a way to practice not shying away from a challenge. They find a way to keep going when it’s hard; they find out they can do it.  They try out building something within themselves one step at a time. They can run when they are tired, they can move out of their comfort zone, and they can finish the race. They can get better at something. They can surprise themselves with what they are able to do.  These young ones carrying all these feelings and questions and fears and aspirations create a team, and that team makes many people rejoice and be glad.

Redemption is a lot like that:  you learn you can keep going when it’s hard, and you find provisions and support sometimes where you least expect it.

And life is like that:  a series of challenges and new adventures where your resilience helps your story find its rhythm.

Cross Country isn’t about running fast, it’s about living life with courage.

And so the moral of the story is that courage isn’t what we learn from life, it’s what we find within ourselves when we take a chance and give ourselves to life.  And finding our courage and feeling its capacity to make good things happen makes the world a better place.

*The descriptions here are a conflation of stories of different runners I have coached these last few years, but no one description refers to a specific runner. I often wonder how I would have made it through my adolescence and teenage years without running. So, there’s a part of me in those descriptions, too, I am sure. In the spirit of parables, the story points us beyond itself to a larger wisdom about life. The middle school runners I coach inspire me to re-member that everyday.

The Rev. Marcia Mount Shoop, PhD is a theologian, minister and author of Touchdowns for Jesus and Other Signs of Apocalypse: Lifting the Veil on Big-Time Sports. Marcia and her family have been involved in football in the NFL and at Division I collegiate levels for over two decades. She is also a middle school cross country and track coach in West Lafayette, IN. 

WBAA’s Community Voices: Helen Hudson’s ‘Is A Compost Pile In Your Future?’

I’m holding in my hand the most delicate vessel.  It is exactingly made and of a lovely bulbous shape.  Its thin walls curve outward then back, suggesting a perfect pear.  The front side has a small aperture in it.  Could this be an elegant drinking cup? Or a special wren house?  Its pale ochre-colored surface, stippled with gray and livened with a bumpy texture, would make a decorative piece for the mantel.  Although its walls appear fragile, it also possesses qualities of wood.  When tapped, the hollow container produces a pleasant, musical sound.  Maybe this found treasure is a folk instrument?


Helen Hudson

So, OK.  The mystery object is not some venerable heirloom being puzzled over and evaluated on Antiques Road Show; it’s not even of human construction.  This alluring ornament is the empty shell of a gourd from the compost pile, the remnant of vegetation transformation.

Ah, compost—dust to dust and ashes to ashes.  Without all that decomposing we’d have no soil, no food, no us.  When you have a compost pile, it gives “getting back to your roots” a whole new meaning.

During the first part of May, when it was either raining or about to rain, I carried yet another brimming basket of veg trimmings out to our compost area.  On that misty morning, I saw it was high time to turn under or pull out all the new green plants sprouting out of our two compost heaps.  After I’d done that, I tossed my new detritus into the heap and grabbed the old garden rake, ready to bank up some of the newer materials against the old to speed up the breakdown.  I squelched right on into the grapefruit rinds, potato peels, onion tops, and coffee grounds, happy to witness naked nature converting one kind of life into another—with a good deal of help from a zillion microorganisms, the bugs, and the worms.

On that fragrant spring morning, tromping around on the squishy ground, my book-loving self transported me immediately to Florida and I was there a century ago with Janie and Teacake down “in de muck” of the Everglades—I could practically smell the rich, loamy land.  In Zora Neale Hurston’s great novel Their Eyes Were Watching God these two lovers, along with hundreds of fellow seasonal workers, travel to plant crops in the dark soil of the pre-drained Everglades, familiarly know as “de muck.”  Janie is plain overwhelmed by those fertile fields —and also by her man Teacake.  Along with the other poor transients, they plant beans and for awhile it’s the really good life…

Daydreaming, I grab a bunch of desiccating stuff with the rake tines intending to shift it.  Whoa!  My attention snaps back to the here and now.  There under “de muck” beneath my feet, I’ve uncovered thousands of wriggling red worms and night crawlers, all tangled, all busy digesting our food scraps.  At that moment I realized that my eyes were watching God–and I raked the material back over the worm orgy.  Let them do for now what they’re born to do.  I’ll move the compost when the weather gets drier and they’re down deeper.

Anyone can make compost.  Sure you can be fancy and make “brown tea” and interlayer portions of green and brown materials.  You can go to the Athens Stables and get horse manure.  You can track the temperature of your pile.  Or, you can just create a little area, say under a tree in the corner of your yard, and throw veg trimmings, grass clippings, and leaves in.  You can heap it on a hillside.  Despite rumor, an outside compost pile doesn’t smell.  Churn it around now and again with a rake or a shovel, and magically, over time, you’ll get good black humus.

As a composter, you’re doing favors for your soil and for the environment whether you grow flowers and vegetables or not.  As “Just Eat It,” the first film in the Wabash College Library and League of Women Voters’ Green Film Series this summer, reminded us, we North Americans waste 40% of the food we buy; and, 97% of that ends up in landfills where it creates methane, a potent greenhouse gas.  Each year we produce $218 billion dollars worth of food that’s not eaten. Digest that for a moment: what an irony.

Moving from the planet’s health to yours:  having compost makes you more likely to use fresh food since you have a healthy place to dispose of vegetable matter.  Even without a yard, you can have a compost spinner in your garage or a specially designed compost bucket under your sink.  Have a look on line.  In Seattle, the city itself collects compost and provides bins to citizens.  We’ll get there eventually, but right now you can start improving soil at home.

When you come down to the Farmers’ Market on Saturday, ask a farmer-grower about how she or he uses compost.  Local vegetables taste better not only because they’re fresh and not shipped long distances, but also because they’re grown in healthy soil and so have a more robust and varied nutrient profile.  Only a 5% increase in organic materials quadruples soil’s water holding capacity.

If all the beautiful fresh salad ingredients, flowers, trees, pastured meat, free-range poultry meat, and eggs don’t lure you, how about some freshly-popped kettle corn?  We have a new vendor who sells bags of the excellent (and addicting) stuff.  I’ve yet to get a bag home for anyone else to share.

Helen Hudson is a former Icelandic scholar, professor and teacher. Her educational career took her to Colorado, Washington, Wisconsin and Indiana — all away from her Iowa birthplace and upbringing. An addiction to her passion for food and sustainable living, she works with passenger mail and is involved with community organizations in Crawfordsville where she lives.


WBAA’s Community Voices: Tim Brouk’s ‘Think Before You Cover’



Tim Brouk


The cover song can be a loaded weapon for a live band.

Used correctly, it can incite a crowd, perk up their ears and get them moving. Used poorly, a bad cover song can raise questions of your chops, your taste and your overall role as a musician. Are you a weekend warrior? Do you have an artistic bone in your body?

Let’s talk about some good and bad with local bands’ use of the cover song bomb.

In the past month or so, I’ve been a part of some interesting cover music experiences.   to the Ramones timed around lead singer Joey Ramone’s birthday. Seventy five percent of the original Ramones died from forms of cancer so proceeds go to Purdue Oncological Science Center programming. The night is full of Ramones covers as well as originals. This year, I opened it up to Motorhead and David Bowie cover tunes, as Lemmy Kilmister and Bowie recently passed from the disease. All six bands at the Bash nailed it and the night was capped off by local garage rockers Popular Ego taking on Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” album in its entirety. I batted leadoff in my band, The Fantasies, and we covered a handful of Ramones classics and one Motorhead tune.

A week later, Popular Ego played the record again with a local Bowie cover band, The Band That Fell to Earth, at The Spot Tavern. It was a night of tremendous music from two bands that worked hard to do The Thin White Duke justice.

The flipside of the cover song coin can be seen more regularly around here. Bad covers played by lazy musicians are everywhere. Recalling a recent visit to a downtown bar, I heard the most obvious Tom Petty track for Indiana bars – “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” – and I immediately wrote this band off. If it was a deeper cut – “Don’t Come Around Here No More” or even “I Won’t Back Down” – I would have been much more lenient.

My staunch stance on covers first came to me a few years ago when I visited my old college town, Springfield, Mo., a city of about 160,000. Bigger than Greater Lafayette but not by too much, I checked out a show every night during my six-day stay and I knew I wasn’t going to get Wilco or Slayer or Kendrick LaMar every night. Usually it was pick-up bands doing their favorite songs. But their choice in material was superb. I recall Bo Diddley. I recall Chuck Berry – and not the obvious “Johnny B. Goode.” It was “Memphis.” It was “Jaguar and Thunderbird.”

I came back to Lafayette and I saw a ‘90s rock cover band at a downtown bar where I guessed seven of their songs in a row after they – for some reason – announced what band they were about to cover. Weezer’s “Undone — Sweater Song.” “Glycerine,” from Bush. And Pearl Jam’s Alive. Duh. Snore. You’re boring. The one that broke my streak was when they announced Alice in Chains and they did “Rooster” instead of “Man in the Box.”

The most recent, positive cover experience I had occurred last month at the Lafayette Theater. The Moonshine Mason and the Rot Gut Gang reunion was a marvelous event. It doubled as a tribute to the band’s fallen hero – the legendary Merle Haggard, who passed away on April 6 — and as a benefit for a friend of the band’s healthcare costs.

Moonshine Mason did some of The Hag’s most popular tunes – “Mama Tried” and “Okie from Muskogee” – as well as deep cuts. They hit up some other country legends as well, including the great George Jones, another recently departed Hall of Famer.

Opening this show was The Old Golds, a new Bakersfield-style country band featuring former members of Woodstove Flapjacks and many other local bands of recent years. It was the band’s first show and the tremendous set was bolstered by a tasty take on Gram Parsons’ classic “Streets of Baltimore” — a great tune that is known to those with good taste and beats the heck out of “Mary Jane’s Last Dance.”

WBAA’s Community Voices: Lauren Ehrmann’s ‘Art Clubs: Why Artists Create In Groups’


Lauren Ehrmann

   On the third Tuesday of every month, in the studio on the second floor of the Frankfort Community Public Library, something amazing happens. Wood carvers, painters, jewelry makers, and milliners all meet to make prints. Ideas are shared. Advice is given. And at the end of the evening each artist leaves the studio with a head full of new ideas and a portfolio full of new prints.

    These are the Tuesday Night Inkers. It’s a printmaking group, but artists of all kinds are encouraged to come and no previous printmaking experience is required.

    Many people are wont to imagine artists as solitary scribblers, locked away in their studios, obsessively realizing their unique, individual artistic vision. However, this is often not the case. Art is frequently as much a community effort as it is an individual undertaking. And while most works of art are, in the end, the creation of one person, the inspiration and ideas and revisions that go into the work are often the product of a community of artists. Artists must have teachers, mentors, muses. They must have others to bounce ideas off of. They must have a community of people around them to give them confidence, offer just the right amount of pointed criticism, inspire them, and generate the excitement necessary to create. In short, artists need other artists.

    This is not a recent phenomenon. Artists have always banded together in groups. Salvadore Dali hung out with Pablo Picasso, Renee Magritte, and Juan Miro in Paris. Frida Kahlo’s house was a refuge for artists of all kinds, and she even married another artist, Diego Rivera. Architect Walter Gropius went so far as to found a college where art and architecture students could all study the Bauhaus style together. And it was a group of Dutch artists in the 1600s who first began the time-honored tradition of artists meeting in cafes.

    My experiences as a member of the Tuesday Night Inkers printmaking club help illustrate the reasons why artists are so interested in congregation. I first began attending the club when I was very young because my mother, a printmaker, was one of the founders. Initially I came because the time  set aside once a month for making prints helped keep me motivated and printing regularly. However, as I grew older, I began to appreciate the conversation and art of the diverse people around me. Because the group was not just printmakers, I was able to garner new and interesting ideas and inspiration from the other artists. It was always fascinating to see how the chosen media of each artist transferred to the media of printmaking. Peter, the woodcarver, made prints with all the precision with which he measured each piece of wood to make furniture. Daniel, the painter, created detailed genre scenes with a level of detail a printmaker would generally not attempt, but which was natural to him as a painter. Tammy, the hat maker, printed on bright colors in bright inks and sometimes incorporated fabric into her prints. Being exposed to all these disparate ideas and backgrounds was refreshing. As an artist, it was easy for me to get caught in a rut stylistically. Attending the Tuesday Night Inkers allowed me to see fresh perspectives on printmaking, to consider new ways that prints might be made, and to incorporate fresh ideas and ways of looking at things into my own work.

    Furthermore, asking for advice from any of these artists was always helpful. Many of the problems I encountered in my art turned out to have easy solutions, but I was too stuck in my own way of thinking to see them. The benefit of working with other artists of different media is that oftentimes they have a different way of viewing the world, a different instinctive solution to problems. For example, for years I had had enormous difficulty centering my prints on paper when I printed them. I was simply bad at eyeballing center, but I never thought that I could do anything to fix this problem. One night at Inkers, I was complaining about this and one of the other members mentioned that he had solved this problem by making a simple frame on hinges so the print was always centered. This very simple solution had never occurred to me. It took someone with a different expertise and point of view to see the obvious solution.

    The final, and most important benefit of working in a group of artists is less concrete. It has to do with energy, with enthusiasm, with creativity. There have been entire months and even years of my life during which I did not feel particularly creative. When I was in this kind of artistic slump, there was always one sure solution: go to a meeting of artists. When you get all these creative people together in one room, bursting with ideas and eager to share and critique them with others, an atmosphere of potential is created. It is almost impossible not to be inspired at these meetings. I have been to Inkers meetings where I did not even plan to make art because I was feeling uninspired and have come away with pages and pages of potential prints. Even when I would walk in without any ideas of my own, hearing others speak so passionately about their own projects and seeing their latest art always sparks inspiration. If you walk into any art club with an open mind, you will walk out with a head full of ideas. The simple truth is that creative people inspire people to create.

    And so I would like to leave you with this: art clubs are not just for artists. Perhaps you have not touched a paintbrush since the last mandatory middle school art class. Perhaps the most you can manage is stick figures. But the kind of creativity that is present at art clubs can help inspire you in any aspect of your life. It may help you come up with the perfect pitch for your boss, help inspire you to write a story, give you an idea for a new way to organize your bathroom drawers, or make you think of a new game to play with your kids. Working with people who think creatively can help you see solutions to problems that you would never have thought of otherwise. So go out with your artist friends, or walk in during the meeting of a local art club and ask each artist what they are working on. Who knows what you might be inspired to create?

Lauren Ehrmann is a senior at Frankfort High School. She is a professionally exhibiting artist, a member of the Frankfort Arts Council and member of the Tuesday Night Inkers. Lauren is a recipient of the Wells Scholarship and will be attending IU Bloomington in the fall to study art history.

WBAA’s Community Voices: Rev. Shoop’s ‘Moneyball And The Myth Of The Unpaid Collegiate Athlete’

The circularity of many arguments against paying collegiate athletes is enough to make you dizzy. Round and round universities and the NCAA go with their “they shouldn’t be paid because they shouldn’t be paid” arguments.


Rev. Marcia Mount Shoop

I don’t know about you, but I get tired of going around and around in circles.  I prefer either stopping and taking a closer look at why we’re going in circles, or making a decision to try something different in order to move forward.

In our most recent podcast, my husband, Coach John Shoop, and I interviewed Economist Andy Schwarz, an expert on the economics of price fixing, collusion, and anti-trust laws.

If anyone can stop the collegiate sports establishment from continuing their pathological circularity, Andy Schwarz can. He’s someone they might actually listen to, because he is talking about money. And he’s actually got some convincing data on why the current circularity of collegiate sports will cost universities in the long run.  Listen up athletic directors, coaches, and university presidents; Mr. Schwarz is speaking your language. And he’s blowing your cover all at the same time.

I can’t go into all of the many myths that Schwarz busts in his work. Suffice it to say, if you are interested in leaving the collegiate sports echo chamber, his appendices to Joe Nocera’s and Ben Strauss’ new book Indentured is a good place to start.

Let’s just investigate one myth here, and that is that collegiate athletes cannot, by virtue of their status as collegiate athletes, be paid.

The first thing we need to get straight is that collegiate athletes are paid. They just aren’t paid fairly. Here’s where Schwarz’s work is immensely clarifying. Collegiate athletes are already paid, in the form of scholarships and cost of attendance money.  And some athletes already make more than others. Some players have full scholarships and some players are walk-ons in the revenue sports. In the Olympic sports only a select few have full scholarships, others are given partial assistance based on how much a team values their participation on their team.

According to Schwarz, the realities of scholarships are a revealing one. It is price-fixing through and through. The NCAA and its members institutions are colluding to keep labor costs low for the revenue generating sports. They use scholarships, cost of attendance money, and lavish facilities to attract the best possible labor force they can to their institutions. And their use of scholarships in this exchange keeps wages low and distributes profit to others (like athletic directors and coaches) whose wages continue to rise to more and more exorbitant levels.

And scholarships represent a smoke screen of perceived value for collegiate athletes. Many schools like to boast that they are spending millions of dollars on revenue athletes to attend their universities.  And these expenditures mean that athletes are getting a “good deal” when they come to play collegiate sports and receive a “free” education. The problem is, the dollar values of those scholarships are distorted in this equation.

Scholarships are fake money.  They are what economists call “related party transactions.” In other words, you take money from one pocket and put it in another pocket. The true costs of scholarships are a complicated and contextual math problem that includes whether a university is using a spot that would have been a full paying student when they award an athletic scholarship.  And this equation must also take into account what the pay off of the scholarship student will be. In the cast of revenue generating athletes, their capacity to generate revenue, for instance, may far out stretch the actual cost of the scholarship for the university.  So, taking the cost of enrollment at Purdue, for instance, and saying that is the actual cost the university is spending on a scholarship athlete, is disingenuous at best and downright deceitful at worst.

Athletic departments and universities choose how to spend the revenues generated from sports like football and basketball and the cash flow they are allotted from their conferences. The salaries of coaches and athletic directors are going up while the wages for players are fixed.  Expenditures on lavish facilities and the recruiting “arms race” are through the roof.  The money is being spent, but it does not go directly to the ones who are generating the revenue.  And the mythology around the value of this business agreement suggests that everyone should feel the players are “lucky” to get a full ride to school in exchange for the honor of competing for their respective schools.

In any other economic context in America, this is called collusion and price-fixing and it is against the law.  People even go to jail for it. Collegiate sports has us all enamored of an agreement not many of us would tolerate if we were in the player’s shoes.  Moneyball collegiate style means that players are already paid, they just are not paid fairly. Instead of circling the wagons on honest conversation about that fact, let’s start moving toward ideals we American’s say we value: fairness and true competition.

Click the link to tune to Shoop’s latest podcast –


WBAA’s Community Voices: Helen Hudson’s ‘Cooking Up Wellbeing to Combat Cranky May’

In this installment of the Community Voices Project, Helen Hudson explains the benefits of culinary therapy to combat a wide range of mental and behavioral health conditions.

Once upon a time, in the role of Guinevere, Vanessa Redgrave lolled around in a forest clearing clad in a gold gown, her red hair gleaming in the sun.  These were the earliest days of Camelot.  “It’s May, it’s May, the lusty month of May,” she sang.  And there it was—quintessential, foxy, cheerful, sunny May.   By definition this month is supposed to be blue-skied and blossoming.  It’s no time to be grumpy.  But look out the window—chilly, windy, wet, gray weather!  The cross country teams running this afternoon along the Crawfordsville High School track sport hoodies.  I even see a winter hat or two bobbing along up above those bare, pale legs which seem to churn in slo-mo.  Hypothermia may be setting in.



Helen Hudson


Barely into its brand new season, our Farmers’ Market has been kicked in the pocketbook by cold, pounding rain.  A few intrepid farmer souls set up tents; a few intrepid customers got some exquisite asparagus.  Mostly everyone stayed home and pouted about heaps of mulch moldering under tarps in the driveway and about newly set out pots, beds, and baskets of plants being whipped and pommeled into near oblivion.  The lusty month of May?  Rubbish.

While we wait scowling—Oscar the Grouch has no leg up on us—for a spate of real May days and fresh food from the Farmers’ Market, most of us can do with a little mental health therapy for our unexpected May blues.

Psychologist Linda Wasmer Andrews observes in Psychology Today:  “At the end of a long workday, one of my favorite ways to unwind is by slicing and dicing vegetables for dinner.  The steady chop, chop, chop of my knife against the cutting board quiets my mind and soothes my soul.  Cooking is meditation with the promise of a good meal afterward.”  This benefit of home cooking is too little recognized in this era of drive-thru dining and frozen entrees, neither of which provide the simple centering mindfulness of preparing fresh produce for cooking.

Recent research by the Wall Street Journal, Psychology Today and elsewhere reports that “culinary therapy is the treatment de jour at a growing number of mental health clinics and therapists’ offices.  It’s being used for a wide range of mental and behavioral health conditions including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, ADHD and addiction.”  The winner of the 2012 Great British Bake Off says baking became the successful way to treat his depression.

According to Wall Street Journal writer Jeanne Whalen, “Psychologists say cooking and baking are pursuits that fit a type of therapy known as behavioral activation.  The goal is to alleviate depression by boosting positive activity, increasing goal-oriented behavior and curbing procrastination and passivity.”  Well, that fits–so let’s get moving.

First, grump your way into the kitchen, pick up a cutting board and a solid knife.  Do not threaten the cat nor other members of the family with it.  You’re going to have some culinary therapy.

We’re going to make Roasted Red Beets with Mustard Sauce and Italian Celery Egg and Tomato Soup.  I promise you’ll feel better and more hopeful soon…likely by dinner time.

Set your oven at 375 degrees, cut the tops of your beets (save those greens), wrap the bulbs (leaving their tails and an inch of stem intact) in aluminum foil.  Set them on a cookie sheet and bake them for about an hour.  We’ll get back to these later.

Now for the Italian soup which is simple and provides excellent chopping therapy.  You can find the full recipe at WBAA’s website.

In a saucepan, fry some onions and celery in the olive oil for 2-3 minutes, or until slightly softened.  Add vegetable stock, season with salt and pepper, and bring to a boil.  Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

Add tomatoes and eggs and return to a boil for two minutes.

Ladle into soup bowls.  Sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Now back to those beets.  When they’re done (a sharp knife can go right through them, foil and all), let them cool and make a mustard sauce for them.  Put three tablespoons of whole grain or Dijon mustard in a bowl and whisk in three tablespoons of red wine vinegar.  Then whisk in the olive oil in a steady stream until the sauce is smooth and creamy.  Add in a medium onion, chopped.  Salt to taste.  When the beets are still warm, cut them into chunks and let them marinate in the sauce for several hours.  Stir before serving.  Sit down to a warm, tasty dinner.

Feel better?  Good. Well, I suppose we’ll have to admit that this year’s redbuds have been spectacular.  They are part of Indiana’s deep magic.  Traveling west on Earth Day a couple of weeks ago, we saw them in their myriads, spraying out of foggy woods like purple rain, a fitting tribute to Prince who had died the day before.  Over across the Mississippi, though, the redbud trees become scarce and spindly and soon vanish.  Back home in Indiana, the redbuds’ fellow travelers, the dogwoods too have especially lush and creamy blossoms.  On a two-foot young tree in our yard, the velvety blossoms measure five inches across.  Hmmpf.  Guess our spring has been lusty.  See you at the Farmers’ Market.  Let’s hope we won’t need umbrellas.

Here we go:

2 large onions, coarsely chopped

1 head of celery, sliced (leaves and all)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 ½ cups vegetable stock

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 can diced tomatoes

3 hard-boiled eggs, chopped in large chunks

4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

A Chance Meeting Years Ago

I can’t imagine he’ll remember this, but I met Indiana’s newest Supreme Court justice (in a totally non-journalistic context) years before he was appointed to the bench.

A few years ago, a friend was in an Indianapolis hospital undergoing treatment for cancer. I went to visit on a Saturday afternoon and, as we were talking, Geoff Slaughter happened in. I remember thinking he was bookish-looking (as you might expect for a lawyer) — tall, slim and wearing horn-rimmed glasses.

He was very cordial as we all spoke, and you always want to think your friends are getting visitors when they’re laid up for a while, so I appreciated that he’d taken the time to visit.

Turns out Slaughter knew our mutual friend from their time together at Indiana University, where they both wrote for the Indiana Daily Student. It seems both Justice Mark Massa and Justice Slaughter served on the IDS editorial board during their time at IU — so you budding Supreme Court justices take note: collegiate journalism can be your key to sitting on the bench in Indiana.

In the years since, Slaughter’s name had been considered several times — for open seats that eventually went to Loretta Rush and Steven David. Now he’s got one of his own.

WBAA’s Community Voices: Tim Brouk’s ‘The Resurrection Of The Purdue Student Band’

In this installment of the Community Voices Project, Tim Brouk describes the Indiana hip hop groups, Grey Lamb & Ghost Club.  

You hear it all the time: “Purdue University doesn’t have a music school.” “Purdue is just for engineers,” or, more recently, it’s “STEM or bust.”

There’s just no time for Purdue students to start bands, let alone good ones.

The last few years, I would have to agree. Not since the fantastic Jurassic Park/ Jurassic Pop scene of the late aughts and early teens has a Purdue band impressed me.  The Jurassic guys helped bring about acts like Dirty Rotten Sunshine, Broken Light, Faux Paw, Dino DNA, High School Girls and a few others. But then the core musicians of those bands moved away and broke up the bands by 2013 or so.


However, a new hope for Purdue live music has finally come. Last month, I was able to catch a fantastic hip-hop act called Grey Lamb & Ghost Club. The trio consists of emcee David Zuccarelli, keyboardist/beatmaker Zane Johnson and drummer Eric Swanson.

Grey Lamb has had a following for more than a year and I was proud to see a Purdue act shine. They are the best hip-hop act in the area and definitely in the top 10 bands around here today.

Grey Lamb will be playing the June 18 Taste of Tippecanoe in downtown Lafayette.

When Grey Lamb played the West Lafayette Record Store Day bash, which I helped book along with Purdue Student Concert Committee and the West Lafayette Public Library, they drew a big crowd – mostly female, a great sign for a college band – and sounded fantastic. Zuccareli announced shows in Muncie and a great slot at the Deluxe in the Old National Center in downtown Indianapolis.

That’s a sign that they get it. Playing in West Lafayette every month won’t get you very far. It’s more impressive to get booked regionally. It shows widespread success and an effort to make it to the next level.

When I think of Purdue bands, Dow Jones & the Industrials always comes to mind. The first West Lafayette punk band, Dow Jones was huge around here in the late 70s and early 80s. The band’s legacy was captured on the “Hoosier Hysteria” split LP with their Bloomington counterparts, The Gizmos. A first pressing of the band’s seven-inch is worth hundreds.

Dow Jones’ impact is still felt today. Bands like Yo La Tengo cover their music and new generations of punk rock fans fall in love with the Jones sound, which was cultivated and captured in a Salisbury Street basement.

It’s too early to tell if Grey Lamb will get on Dow Jones’ level but it’s a treat to have a band like Grey Lamb & Ghost Club proving that Boilermakers can make compelling, original music. No music school, no problem.

Tim Brouk covered the local music scene for 12 years as Arts and Entertainment Reporter for the Journal & Courier. Today, he is a proud employee of the Purdue College of Science and a music writer, photographer and videographer for