Sunday, December 26, 2004

Confessions of an N.P.R Addict

Recently, I was forced to confront an addiction that has been plaguing my life for years but has only now begun to become recognized by those around me and perhaps even to myself as something that is infringing on my lifestyle.

It is not drugs.

It is not alcohol.

It is N.P.R.

When I began listening to National Public Radio in high school I had no idea that it would so ingratiate its way into my life that I would find myself, one recent Saturday, at a crossroads, balancing whether to join dear friends at a festive get-together or stay home, plopped in a living room chair, an ear bent towards the glowing radio dial. But there I was.

There is no better medium for intelligent reporting, hard-hitting analysis or astute discourse than N.P.R. (sorry my beloved but deluded FOXNEWS-philes). The public radio network renowned for journalistic excellence and standard-setting news, information, and cultural programming is the standard by which I judge all other news sources, radio or otherwise.

But N.P.R. is so much more than its daily news juggernauts, Morning Edition or All Things Considered, phenomenal as they are.

Here are a few of my absolute favorites:

Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me: NPR's weekly news quiz program is one of the best hours you will spend in your week. Host Peter Sagal tests your knowledge against some of the best, brightest, and utterly funniest personalities in the entertainment world. Think you're up on your current events? We'll see!

This American Life (produced in affiliation with P.R.I.): Each week This American Life chooses a theme and invites different writers and performers, from David Sedaris to Sarah Vowell, to contribute items on that theme. The show, hosted by Ira Glass is, quite simply, just a show of stories. And it is, quite simply, mesmerizing.

Car Talk: Don't think a show about automobiles can hold your interest for an hour? Think again. Host brothers, Tom and Ray (Click and Clack) Magliozzi take calls on cars, car repair or any sort of vehicular nonsense with the minds of the M.I.T.-trained veterans they are and the funny-bones of the Italian comedians they must have been in a past life.

A Prairie Home Companion: Three decades ago this year, Garrison Keillor started a small show in Minnesota that is now heard by over 4 million people each week across the globe. A live variety show best known for whimsical stories from Lake Wobegon, A.P.H.C. is a delicious cornucopia of stories, music, comedy, and conversation. N.P.R.'s most beloved darling.

The Thomas Jefferson Hour: Teasing out the truth according to the founding father and visionary third president of the fledgling United States, Humanities scholar and author, Clay Jenkinson, adopts the persona of Jefferson each week to comment on current events and answer questions the public may have about Jefferson.

Weekend Edition Saturday: Scott Simon is simply brilliant. The Peabody Award-winning correspondent spends his program effortlessly blending insightful news coverage, thoughtful commentary, and hilarious observations into a pair of hours that leave the listener both well informed and smiling from ear to ear.

Other honorable mentions include: Whad'ya Know?, The World, Fresh Air, The Infinite Mind, and The Thistle and Shamrock.

And that is only scratching the surface of N.P.R.'s vast stockpile. Check out these fine programs and others you have just discovered you cannot live without. To find your local N.P.R. station, please visit

And so there I was, torn in two directions, balancing time spent with friends and time spent with inanimate electromagnetic radiation transmissions.

Which did I choose?

I'll have to tell you later. Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me is about to begin...

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Merry Christmas from the Fibbs!

Of the last 365 days, one stands out in particular – September 4, when we joined our lives, our dreams, our hopes, our aspirations together in the holy bonds of matrimony. Since then, we’ve been working on merging all the other trappings of life, including this, our Christmas letter.

BRANDON: Over the past several years, these Christmas letters have marveled at the speed with which my life has begun to move as legitimate adulthood becomes less of an abstract, intangible specter and more of a daily companion that stares at me from my mirror every morning. While this year is certainly no exception, it will be remembered not for its speed but for the sheer density of the momentous events it contained.

Some people say my smile returned in March with Stephanie, after we had spent eight months apart without seeing one another. It is wonderful to have her home again.

In April, my mother decided to move to Portland, Oregon, to be nearer to my grandparents. After nearly 30 years in Colorado, we packed everything from my childhood home into a moving truck and drove her thousands of miles to her new home. Although the transition was understandably a difficult one for her to make, she is settling into her new life well.

The penultimate event of my life this year was graduating from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs with a bachelor’s degree in English literature with a minor emphasis in Film. I do plan to pursue a master’s degree in Film, though not this year.

Since graduating, I’ve been juggling numerous part-time jobs, including a stint as a youth mentor (and as a wedding planner). All that is changing in the new year. This January, I begin teaching at the University of Colorado as an Adjunct Professor of Film Studies and working as a producer at a local film production company, balancing my dreams for a career in film with scholarship in one hand and creation in the other. After a decade of working weekends and nights in the Navy and through college, I cannot tell you how much I am looking forward to a “typical” job.

STEPHANIE: After spending eight months in Germany, I returned to America on the last day in February. Despite the frustrations I faced, I am thankful for the experience and the opportunity. Without a doubt, one of the best things about the entire experience was the hospitality and generosity of my guest family in Wilhelmshaven, the Deußens. I can honestly say they are the reason I learned German – and a greater appreciation for the culture of Germany. The Christmas season has brought a sweet nostalgia for Germany, which is its most wondrous at Weihnachzeit. I am working to maintain and expand my grasp of the German language.

In an effort to suppress reverse culture shock, I began work again only four days after my return. The Space Foundation generously welcomed me back. I have been working for the Coalition for Space Exploration, a joint public relations effort from throughout the space industry to support the nation’s new Vision for Space Exploration to get the space shuttle flying again and pursue a renewed focus on exploration and discovery.

It’s been a fascinating job that has also sent me packing on several business trips. In April, I visited Las Vegas for the first time since I was a girl; “sin city” seems an apt moniker after a few walks down the strip (Brandon would like me to point out how excited he was that I visited the Star Trek Experience). In June, I took two separate trips to Washington, D.C., and was able to stay a few extra days. August took me to Cape Canaveral, Fla., where I barely missed the hurricanes and the impact of my job came alive as I toured the Space Coast and stood underneath the space shuttle Discovery, marveling at the engineering and courage that sends a craft that huge into space. And just a few days before our wedding, I had the privilege of helping with a space industry-sponsored party held during the Republican National Convention in New York City. Finally, I traveled to Omaha, Neb., in October. Whew. I do expect more travel again beginning in February.

In addition to all my work-related travel, Brandon and I drove to Iowa this summer to join the family for a celebration of my grandmother Olivia’s amazing 90 years of life. Since most of my extended family was unable to come out for the wedding, it was nice to introduce him to all his new relatives.

I returned to playing soccer, an outlet and friendships I had certainly missed. I play on both a year-round indoor team and an outdoor team that plays in the fall and spring. Hopefully, I will find some weekends and fresh powder for some snowboarding again this winter.

US: In between and among our other activities, we spent the summer planning our wedding. We were married September 4 in a traditional liturgical service at First Lutheran Church. Our wedding was simple, elegant, and so beautiful. It was wonderful to have so many of our family and friends gather together with us and witness our sacred day; we truly reveled in the amazing day. We honeymooned first at the Broadmoor Hotel then traveled to Estes Park, where we spent our days hiking through magnificent vistas that we shared with bugling elk in Rocky Mountain National Park. Since then, we’ve been settling into our cozy Victorian apartment in downtown Colorado Springs and meandering through the complexities and joys of mingling our lives and our things. We find married life suits us well.

We wish you and yours blessings and grace during this sacred season and in the year to come!

Wednesday, December 15, 2004


The spiral in quality did not escape the fans. Last season, loyal viewers of NBC’s West Wing watched as the show’s usual sophistication and wit took a nose dive with the departure of the show’s uber-creator and inspired genius, Aaron Sorkin. Producer John Wells did his best to shore up the imaginative hemorrhage, but he simply could not duplicate the multiple Emmy-winning drama’s riveting power and urbane intelligence. Reduced to shock tactics and sensational story-lines, West Wing’s decline looked to be both prolonged and inevitable.

That was Season Five.

This season (I shudder at my own blasphemy in saying it), it’s as if Sorkin never left. Sure, the vast majority of the witty repartee is missing and kinetic energy of the dialogue is now only sporadic, but West Wing has done something I did not think possible—it has rediscovered its soul. And what a great, broad, and deep soul it is.

West Wing has not simply been good this season, it has been great. It is once again television at its most inspired. It’s early storylines about the urgent and imperative need to embolden the Middle East in the peace process was not only superb drama, it was a sensible, credible, and even inspired road map of its own, pointing our planet’s real leaders in a direction that was both lucid and executable.

The human drama has not been overlooked for the global picture. Donna’s fight for her life inspired emotions and devotion in Josh that viewers knew was there all along, even if he did not. Leo’s massive heart attack was handled brilliantly, as was his protracted and laborious return. And now, in the twilight of his presidency, Josiah Bartlett faces his most difficult test of all—the crippling prospect of a colossal deterioration in health due to an attack of Multiple Scleroses.

With its usual luminous cast, engrossing storylines and wonderful guest stars in place (Jimmy Smits, Alan Alda), West Wing is once again on top. Don’t you dare miss it.

We miss you Aaron, but honestly haven’t thought much about you lately…


I got out of the Navy in September of 2001. I had enough on my plate re-acclimating to America, finding a job, and beginning full-time university work to worry about the fall television season’s hot new shows. And so it was that, although I heard glowing and even gushing reports about ABC’s new darling, Alias, I decided that it was an investment of time I could not spare.

Stupid choice, Brandon.

I now know what I’ve been missing. Season One on DVD was leaked to me by a covert operative and after analyzing it’s data I find that I am hopelessly enmeshed in a celluloid conspiracy beyond my power to resist.

Alias is mesmerizing. Part thriller, part camp, J.J. Abram’s pet project is an astounding cornucopia of unpredictable plot twists and cliff-hangers, exotic locales, sexy women, heart-pounding action and the sort of spy mythology that both borrows from and simultaneously reinvents the universe of James Bond. Inexplicable and impossible, Alias nonetheless somehow transcends its built-in shortcomings and rises to the point of nearly flawless plausibility. Not an easy thing to do in a show like this.

Secret Agent Sydney Bristow’s tragic need to suppress the very truth in her private life that she is searching for in her public life makes for stellar drama. Surrounded by a cast of characters both sympathetically insidious and darkly virtuous, Alias has become a massive cult phenomenon and it is not hard to figure out why.

I realize I am way behind the curve. I also realize Season Four debuts January 5th. Which is why I must sign off for now. Season Two awaits me and I have a lot of catching up to do and a short amount of time to do it in.

This message will self destruct…
Ut In Omnibus Glorificetur Deus