NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Talk Show

Here Are Some Of Central Standard's Favorite Conversations Of 2018

Amado Espinoza
In May, Kansas City-based Bolivian musician Amado Espinoza spoke with KCUR's Central Standard about his hand-made instruments.

Hosted by Gina Kaufmann, KCUR's Central Standard explored more than 500 topics and invited more than 700 people to share their expertise and stories on the daily talk show in 2018.

With so many conversations, there's no way to convey the breadth and depth of topics we covered. But in the spirit of year-end reflection, we decided to highlight some of our favorite dicsussions.

1. Sarah Smarsh on her book, 'Heartland'

Sarah Smarsh

In October, shortly after the release of her book "Heartland," a memoir based on her family's story, writer Sarah Smarsh came on the show to talk about growing up poor in Kansas.

"One of the uniquely female experiences of poverty is the relationship between having a physical womb and being a creator of life, and being poor," said Smarsh.

"So poverty makes motherhood harder and motherhood makes poverty harder."

Her grandmother and mother were both poor and became pregnant at young ages, and Smarsh talked about how this shaped their lives and hers.

"The most common type of poor, poor household unit in this country is the single mother," said Smarsh. "And we don't talk about women's stories enough."

"Heartland" went on to be a finalist for the National Book Award.

2. Artist Ted Riederer, on capturing a vinyl time capsule of Kansas City

Ted Riederer

This year was the inaugural Open Spaces, a two-month citywide arts festiva. Among the more than 150 artists and performers was New York-based Ted Riederer of Never Records, who set up what looked from the outside like a record store in the Crossroads.

Inside, instead of selling records, he invited people to come in and make recordings that he cut to vinyl on the spot. Riederer made two copies of the vinyl recordings, one for the performer, and one for his own archive.

Rieder first came on Central Standard in September, shortly after he moved into his space. We invited him back at the end of October to share some of what he recorded.

"The idea is that by coming together in a space that's free of the overt professional considerations of, say, money or fame, you essentially get a community center that's almost like a secular church," he said. "If you take money and fame out of the art game, you get this beautiful space."

Here Are Some Of Central Standard's Favorite Conversations Of 2018
Listen to both conversations with Ted Riederer of Never Records

3. Madisen Ward & The Mama Bear, on their new single 'Childhood Goodbye'

Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear

Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear are the Independence, Missouri, mother-son duo whose 2015 debut made them a national name.

Early in 2018 they released a new single, "Childhood Goodbye," collaborating with the actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt on the music video.

In March, soon after the single was released, they came on Central Standard to talk about how their relationship and musical process has grown.

"Anytime anything has happened to us on this journey, it's been a pretty big, just kind of 'Close your eyes, shut up and do it' kind of thing. We'll process everything later," said Madisen Ward.

Here Are Some Of Central Standard's Favorite Conversations Of 2018
Listen to Gina Kaufmann's conversation with Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear.

4. David Hawley, on discovering sunken steamboats

David Hawley

In Malta Bend, Missouri, 80 miles east of Kansas City and 37 feet underground, sits the sunken steamboat Malta.

The boat had long been rumored to be buried on the Backes' family farm, but nobody was sure it was there until David Hawley of Kansas City's Steamboat Arabia Museum got involved with the search. Using a metal detector and a drill, he confirmed that the steamboat was likely buried underground with its contents preserved deep in the mud.

"There is no oxygen, there is no sunglight. Those boats, even the ones that sank in the 1820s and the 1830s, they remain there basically as they were when they sank," said Hawley.

"Not only is this buried treasure, it is historical treasure that is all about, in this case, Missouri."

Hawley came on Central Standard back in October to talk about this new discovery, and the questions it raises about the future of the Steamboat Arabia musuem as the Malta remains buried.

"We've got to find a bigger space somewhere, because not only is there the Malta, there are also a couple of other boats that would be amazing to add to this collection," said Hawley.

Here Are Some Of Central Standard's Favorite Conversations Of 2018
Listen to Gina Kaufmann's conversation with David Hawley of the Steamboat Arabia musuem, Steven Mertensmeyer, whose mother grew up on the farm where the Malta is buried, and historian Karla Deel.

5. Amado Espinoza on his junkyard orchestra

Amado Espinoza is a Bolivian musician living in Kansas City who makes instruments out of found objects and preforms with what he calls his junkyard orchestra.

He's made a bagpipe from a yellow dishwashing glove and a cello from a metal trash can.

On Central Standard in May, he showed off the beautiful sounds he was able to create with common household objects.

Here Are Some Of Central Standard's Favorite Conversations Of 2018
Listen to the conversation with Amado Espinoza and hear the sounds of his musical instruments.

6. Central Standard's food critics on the best pork in Kansas City

Michelle Tyrene Johnson

"Since the dawn of Kansas City, I would say pork's been having a moment," KCUR food critic Jenny Vergara said on Central Standard in September. 

The food critics shared their recommendations for some of the best places to find pork dishes in the city, with favorites ranging from BLT's to tofu stir fry.

KCUR's Michelle Tyrene Johnson also stopped by Kitty's Cafe to try the famous pork tenderloin sandwich and to tell the story behind this iconic Midtown eatery.

And Howard Hanna, chef and owner of The Rieger, talked about the Samoan tradition of pig roasts on special occasions and shared some tips on pork preparation.

Here Are Some Of Central Standard's Favorite Conversations Of 2018
Listen to the Central Standard episode that was all about pork.

7. Tim Finn on music, loss and love

Paul Andrews/

Tim Finn covered music for The Kansas City Star from 1996 until he was laid off in early 2018, leaving fans of his writing to wonder what his next chapter would be.

Having lived a life full of music and late-night shows, Finn has plenty of interesting stories. His father was a CIA agent, and during his career at the Star he interviewed legends such as David Bowie and Metallica.

Tim Finn visited Central Standard in June to talk about his life, sharing perspectives on love, loss and new beginnings.

Ten years ago, Finn unexpectedly lost his wife, Lauren Chapin, who was the mother of his two daughters and the Star's food critic. He focused on being a strong father and family who man, and said dealing with loss helped him have a different perspective on life.

"The trivial stuff hardly even reaches me, whether it's being cut off in traffic or, you know ... the little stuff that annoys you if you let it. But then I think, no," said Finn.

Here Are Some Of Central Standard's Favorite Conversations Of 2018
Listen to Gina Kaufmann's conversation with Tim Finn.

8. Musician Eems on his dreams

Suzanne Hogan

Kansas City's ukele hip-hop musician Philip Jackson, also known as Eems, had a busy year touring the country and releasing his 'Dreems' EP.

In July, Eems visited Central Standard to talk about growing up in Kansas City and how he discovered his love for music when he was 13. Since then he's been exploring his identity through different instruments and genres.

"I hate to say this because I think this is terrible marketing, but I don't think I have a genre," said Eems. "I don't set out to be a genre, I don't set out to make folk or be a singer-songwriter, or I'm not a rapper, but I rapped on my last EP," he said. "I just make music."

Here Are Some Of Central Standard's Favorite Conversations Of 2018
Listen to Gina Kaufmann's conversation with Eems and hear some of his music.

Suzanne Hogan is a contributor for KCUR 89.3. You can email her at

KCUR serves the Kansas City region with essential news and information.
Your donation today keeps local journalism strong.