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No Time to Die, The Leaf Player Revisited
[This article has been edited from its original version.]

The Leaf Player Revisited

Got ten minutes?  Don't miss NPR correspondent John Burnett's sad, strange and somewhat surreal reunion with Mexico City "leaf musician" Carlos Garcia.

You may remember Burnett's remarkable profile of Garcia, which ran on "All Things Considered" in June 2001.  For more than four decades, the one-armed street musician has entertained passers-by with music performed on a piece of ivy, Burnett reported.  Yes, ivy: "Carlos produces his sound by holding the large, thick leaf against his mouth with his thumb and index finger so that the edge vibrates against his lower lip."  The story concluded with the realization of Garcia's fondest dream: to have his music performed on the radio.

Last month, having heard that a recording of Garcia's music had been included on a successful CD by Kronos Quartet, Burnett made a return visit to Mexico City -- and found Garcia no better off than before.  The Mexican company that sold the recording to Kronos Quartet never paid the 72-year-old musician, Burnett reports; in fact, Garcia hadn't even heard the CD.  "Carlos falls into the long tradition of unsophisticated folk musicians who get screwed," fumes the NPR correspondent.  In a brief essay, Burnett notes that Kronos Quartet has taken up a collection for the foliar maestro.  (NPR stories in Real Audio.)

Why does every National Public Radio show host sound the same?  Brian Montopoli ventures a guess in The Washington Monthly.


No Time to Die

If you hope to inspire loving obituaries from magazine writers, don't die between Christmas and New Year's.

That's the word from Slate columnist Timothy Noah, who points out that magazines love to list the year's most noteworthy deaths in December editions, mainly because obits can be written and edited in advance to allow staffers a year-end vacation.  Newsweek, Time, U.S. News & World Report and The New York Times Magazine all offered "The Year in Death" features, says Noah, but those unfortunate souls who passed on between Christmas and New Year's died too late for the 2002 roster, and too early for 2003's list.

"[F]or the moderately famous or the not-famous-at-all, [dying during the last week of December] poses a serious bar to immortality," writes Noah, who takes it upon himself to highlight newspaper obituaries of year-end bucket-kickers like director George Roy Hill, photographer Herb Ritts and Troll Doll toy maker Russell Berrie.  Noah himself snubs Joe Strummer, possibly because the Clash singer and guitarist died just before Christmas.  (Strummer suffered a different indignity at the hands of The New York Times photo editors.)  


Short Takes

My Father's Closing Night
Writer Adam Green remembers his late father, playwright and lyricist Adolph Green, in a touching essay from The New York Times Magazine's "death issue."

He Called the Cops
Celebrity magician Penn Jillette describes his response to an overly enthusiastic frisking by a Las Vegas airport security guard, on his own Web site.

Mass Death and Violence

Most of the 25 most-watched movies in North America feature remorseless killing, writes Christopher Reed in Canada's The Globe and Mail.

Beneath the Grime, Magic

A massive, eight-year effort has restored more than 400 damaged or hidden WPA-era murals in Chicago public schools, reports Kari Lydersen in The Washington Post.

Still Waiting

Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot" celebrates its 50th anniversary this week, notes Reuters.


A Note to Readers

After an almost five-year run as a regular weblog feature of the Online Journalism Review, The Spike Report is currently slated to cease publication at the end of this month if sponsorship for the column can't be found.

It's been a terrific five years.  Many thanks for your interest, feedback, tips and support.  

I look forward to continuing to write for OJR, on a less frequent basis.

Best wishes,
Spike -- aka Gideon Brower

Want more links? The Spike Report regularly follows links from these useful daily Weblogs: Jim Romenesko's MediaNews and The Obscure Store offer highlights in the areas of news, features and media gossip; Arts Journal and Arts & Letters Daily cover the arts and culture beat; the Utne Web Watch Daily cherry-picks the alternative press; E-Media Tidbits and the UK Guardian weblog find consistently interesting selections; Metafilter, Boing Boing and Eliot Gelwan's Follow Me Here offer an eclectic mix of political, technical, scientific and general-interest items.

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