Piece Comment

Review of How to Observe Presidents' Day, Observed

There is something strangely comforting in the just slightly off-perfect mix of the show as it opens -- a good reminder that this stuff is LIVE. It's kind of singer/songwriter type radio without the painful pretension of the singer/songwriter's craft. The atmosphere of the program has the intimacy of a coffeehouse -- not the awe and silence of a concert hall crowd.

For example, Sarah Vowell offers a possessed reading from her latest -- the kind of thing that just doesn't hit the air often enough. Nice addition of bits from Sondheim's Assassins makes this visit to destinations on Assassination Vacation a must-hear and -- perhaps a first -- Ms. Vowell performs in a musical number for the edification and hallucination of all. In sum, a blast.

But other performers are not to be denied -- Joshua Berman offers spirited presentations that one can only seem to find among the Little Gray Book Lectures.

And then there's John Hodgman, who, while not arriving at the level of cinema, has nonetheless arrived at television (albeit cable). As always, the line between fact and fact seems a bit blurrier, a bit hazier, a bit more disquieting once Hodgman has brought his expertise to bear on matters presidential.

PDs, your presidents day programming will be noncomplete without this Little Gray Book lecture,