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The Halloween Tapes

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The Halloween Tapes

The Halloween Tapes

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SHANE MCKEON: Hi, this is Shane. I'm the intern here at PLANET MONEY. And this is going to be a bit of a weird episode because a couple of days ago, we got this mysterious email with an audio file attached. And I think what I should do is just play this audio file for you. OK. Here you go.


Check, check one, two, Kenny Malone here.


Is this the right place?

MALONE: Yeah, that is what it said. But yeah, it's not what I expected either.

HELM: All right. Well, it is Sunday, October 28. Kenny Malone, Sally Helm walking up to a creepy manor house.

MALONE: It's 10:56 at night.


MALONE: Weird - definitely was not supposed to rain tonight.

HELM: This house has, like, turrets on top. There are weird, purple vines everywhere. I mean, Kenny, this is really creepy. What did that email say again?

MALONE: It said living at this address was a plain-spoken professor who talks exclusively in metaphors and anecdotes and could explain to us how the market for Florida avocados explains the entire global economy.

HELM: All right. Fair enough.


MALONE: You know, Sally, Florida avocados - highly underrated.

JAN JOHNS: (As character) PLANET MONEY. It's 10:58. We have no time.


HELM: Sorry we're late.

JOHNS: (As character) Please, please step inside.


JOHNS: (As character) Please follow me.

HELM: Kenny, is that a theremin?

MALONE: I think it is.

HELM: I'm really sorry, Professor, do you mind if I could turn off the music, just, you know, get a clean...

JOHNS: (As character) No.

HELM: ...Sound?

JOHNS: (As character) No, I can't control it. It plays through the whole house. Please, I need you to follow me.

MALONE: Hey, cool. This is a - you have a portrait of Ben Bernanke here?

JOHNS: (As character) Oh, yes. We love Benjamin here.

MALONE: It kind of feels like his eyes are following us, ooh (ph).

JOHNS: (As character) Please keep moving. OK. Step inside. Step inside. Here we are, the study - just in time.

HELM: Yeah. Here we are. I guess - why don't you stand by that bookshelf? Maybe block some of the theremin music. And can you just give me your name and title, Professor?

JOHNS: (As character) Oh, I'm not a professor. I made that professor story up to trick you into coming here.

MALONE: Wait. So the Florida avocados...

JOHNS: (As character) They're terrible. And they explain nothing about the world economy. I'm actually the caretaker of this house.


JOHNS: (As character) And there's something you need to see.

HELM: Whoa. That copy of Andrew Ross Sorkin's "Too Big To Fail" just flew off that shelf.


MALONE: Ow (ph). Tim Geithner's "Stress Test" - why did all of these financial crisis books have to be 500 pages long?

HELM: Also why are they flying off of the shelf? Caretaker, what's going on?

JOHNS: (As character) Yes, this is what I needed you to see. Every night when the clock strikes 11, crazy stuff starts happening. The books fly, the portrait of Ben Bernanke starts talking.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As Ben Bernanke) Our ability to pay interest on excess reserves...

JOHNS: (As character) Listen. I would have hired some paranormal investigators. But all of this stuff, it all seems to be related to 2008, to the financial crisis. I didn't know what else to do. And so I called PLANET MONEY.

HELM: And you want us to...

JOHNS: (As character) You have until the clock strikes midnight to explore the house. I'll save you the trouble. There's no cell phone reception here. All the doors are locked. The only outdoor space you can access is a cemetery with 15-foot walls. You're not allowed in the basement. And one last piece of advice - take a look at the bookshelf.

MALONE: Sally, there's only one book left.

HELM: "Crashed: How A Decade Of Financial Crises Changed The World."

MALONE: The Adam Tooze book, thank God that didn't fly. It's, like, 700 pages. I mean, if you just try to pull it off the shelf...


HELM: Secret tunnel.

MALONE: (Yelling) Hello, and welcome to PLANET MONEY.

HELM: Dude, do you always have to shout into every large space?

MALONE: It's how we show how big a room is.

HELM: Caretaker, did you say we have until - she's gone. So now we are alone, trapped in a haunted house.

MALONE: OK. Not great, not great, but let's think this through reasonably.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As Ben Bernanke) You should split up.

HELM: Was that the Bernanke portrait?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As Ben Bernanke) Yes. The two of you should split up to explore the house.

HELM: That seems like probably a good idea.

MALONE: I'll take the secret tunnel. Do you have your iPhone to record yourself?

HELM: No. I turned on the voice memo recorder and then secretly planted it on that caretaker.

MALONE: Nice. There was something weird about her. She totally reminded me of somebody. But you still need a recorder. So here, take my cell phone.

HELM: Let's preserve battery. Don't record until you absolutely need to.

MALONE: OK. Let's do this, shutting down now.


HELM: Test one, two. Test one, two. OK. It is now 11:15 PM. I am in the conservatory. Apparently, I have 45 minutes to wander around this haunted house and, I guess, find out what ghosts from 2008 are still haunting it.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As Alan Greenspan) Accommodation.

HELM: Are you kidding me? - another talking fed portrait - this time, Alan Greenspan.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As Alan Greenspan) Accommodation can be made for a measured course towards an exterior path.

HELM: This is impenetrable fedspeak. I can't...

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As Alan Greenspan) Sally, irrational exuberance is conceptually identical to and the inverse of stagnation.

HELM: I know you're trying to tell me something. But I have no idea what you're saying.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As Alan Greenspan) Fine. How's this?


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As Alan Greenspan) Go outside.

HELM: Oh, OK. I will go into the graveyard, chairman. So a lot of headstones out here. Here lies wage growth, dead since the 1970s. And what's this one over here? RIP Sally Helm. That's me.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As old Sally) Stand up straight.

HELM: What? Are you - are you zombie me? You're dead. You're, like, 80 years old.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As old Sally) I'm rich, Sally. I'm Rich Sally.

HELM: I see. You are wearing a fancy ball gown and have a diamond ring on each finger.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As old Sally) I'm the version of you that died in 2008. The financial crisis crushed American GDP. That cost you around $70,000 over your lifetime. And that's just a per capita measure estimated by the San Francisco Fed. The real cost is what happened to your mind.

HELM: My mind?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As old Sally) You. Your whole generation, afraid to buy homes, afraid to start building wealth like your parents did.

HELM: Yeah. I mean, I guess I do feel like there's a pretty good chance I'll never own a home.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As old Sally) I bought the most beautiful little house by the ocean in Maine. I lived there. But you don't get to.

HELM: Well, can you at least tell me about the stuff the financial collapse didn't ruin for me? Like, I don't know. Did I get married? Did I ever learn to play the mandolin? Who was still living at the end of "Game Of Thrones?"

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As old Sally) Oh, my God. I forgot. You haven't seen it yet. So Cersei and Jon Snow - oh. Wait. This has to be off the record.

HELM: Please. Tell me.


MALONE: Hello? Hello? OK. So secret tunnel opens up to the kitchen, which opens up into...


MALONE: ...The ballroom.


MALONE: And now the ballroom piano is playing by itself.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As child ghost) I know what scares you.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As child ghost) I know what scares you.

MALONE: Whoa. Whoa. Wait. Is it hyperinflation? Does hyperinflation scare me?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As child ghost) No.

MALONE: Is it stagflation?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As child ghost) No.

MALONE: All right. Listen. Can you just, like, show yourself, please? It is very hard to talk to a disembodied voice.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As child ghost) OK.


MALONE: Oh. You're, like, a Victorian schoolboy ghost.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As child ghost) I used to be a schoolboy. Now I work from home full-time, trading cryptocurrency.

MALONE: Oh, my God. Yeah. Cryptocurrency is what scares me. I'm totally scared of missing out while everyone - including, apparently, a child ghost - makes money.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As child ghost) Yup. I just made $34 million while you said that.

MALONE: Yeah. But at the same time, crypto is super volatile.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As child ghost). Yup. I just lost $30 million while you were saying that.

MALONE: Yeah. Plus it's clearly become this speculative bubble. Ah. It's my maximum FOMO. You got me. That's my fear, fear of missing out. But wait a second. It seems like a very new fear. I thought this house was full of 2008 haunts.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As child ghost) You're right. There's a story you need to hear. I call it...


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As child ghost) ..."The Tale Of A Ghost In The Machine."

MALONE: OK. OK. The crypto ghost has just made an old Gateway desktop computer up here in the corner of the room.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As child ghost) Look at this.

MALONE: That's the code that created the first cryptocurrency, bitcoin. It was written by a shadowy figure known as Satoshi Nakamoto.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As child ghost) When this code appeared in 2009, people started digging through it. And eventually, they discovered...


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As child ghost) ...This.

MALONE: Oh, my God. Is that a...

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As child ghost) Yes, brah (ph). A secret message left by Satoshi Nakamoto. Hidden inside the code is the name of a British newspaper, a specific date and a headlines from the front page that day.

MALONE: OK. It says, The Times. January 3, 2009. "Chancellor On Brink Of Second Bailout For Banks."

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As child ghost) You see, Kenny Malone? May I call you Kenny?

MALONE: Yeah. Sure. Sure.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As child ghost) Thanks, brah. It all goes back to the financial crisis.

MALONE: Financial crisis, right. It's as if Satoshi were saying, I'm creating this new currency because everything we trusted has failed us - the banks, the government.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As child ghost) Cryptocurrency's just a symptom. What's been haunting you and me and all of us since 2008 is this little whisper of a voice in the back of our heads, saying, everything you trusted is shattered. No one will save you. They'll steal. They know nothing. It's built on sand. It's pronounced HODL.

MALONE: Crypto ghost? Are you - are you there? You know, now that I think about it, Satoshi Nakamoto buried an actual secret message in the code of bitcoin? That seems super unlikely, right?

Hey, crypto ghost? If that story is 100 percent true, can you just give me a sign? Just, like, a sign.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As child ghost) This is real.

MALONE: It's true.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As child ghost) Your battery's dying.

MALONE: Oh, crap. Also it's true. Saving battery now.


HELM: Hello? Hello? Check. Check. Billiards room, old-timey gramophone playing. This is super weird. There is also a landline phone in here. And check this out. When you pick it up...


ADAM TOOZE: Adam Tooze.


HELM: Like, what? I didn't even dial anything. It does that every time.


TOOZE: This is Adam Tooze.

HELM: Adam Tooze?

TOOZE: Adam Tooze.

HELM: Adam Tooze, author of the 700-page book, "Crashed: How A Decade Of Financial Crises Changed The World?"

TOOZE: Yes. I have no idea what's going on. I've gotten hundreds of calls from this phone number. Who is this?

HELM: I'm Sally. I'm in a haunted house, and it appears the only person the house will let me call is you. And listen, I've got, like, five minutes to kill before the clock strikes midnight. Want to chat?

TOOZE: Yeah, all right. I was just watching a game. But what do you want to talk about?

HELM: Well, OK. This house has already shown me how I'm personally being haunted by 2008. But that's not the whole story. I mean, how is this haunting American society?

TOOZE: Well, what the crisis did was to really split the American labor market into two pieces. The jobs available to Americans with high school education or less, those just got massacred in 2008, and above all in rural America.

On the other hand, you have the America that comes back from this crisis - college graduates in the Bay Area or in Manhattan. If you're in one of the dynamic hotspots of the U.S. economy, you put all this behind you. And no one even remembers 2008.

HELM: OK. Splintering job market, growing inequality - those are big haunts.

TOOZE: And of course, we have to talk about the families that lost their homes. Ten million American families were forced out of their homes by the crisis. It's the largest forced movement of Americans since the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. And so those people, you know, they lose their hold on the wealth ladder completely.

HELM: So we talk about the recovery. But for a lot of people, there hasn't really been one.


HELM: Oh, Adam, the clock is striking midnight here. I have no idea what's about to happen. But I've got to get back to the haunted study. By the way, they love your book here. It opens a secret tunnel.

TOOZE: (Laughter) Sorry. Cheerio then.

HELM: OK. The house is kind of shaking. This does not seem optimal.


MALONE: Hello? Hello? OK. So no big deal, the house appears to be coming to life.

HELM: Kenny, where are you?

MALONE: Sally, help. Come to the front door. I think the house is coming to life. Sally, I have to tell you about the crypto ghost.

HELM: Kenny, I have to tell you about rich Sally.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As haunted house) Hello and welcome PLANET MONEY.

HELM: OK. So at midnight, the house can talk.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As haunted house) Today on the show, the secret history of me.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) I'm just worried.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As character) Worried about what? - finding another house?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) No, not that, really.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #4: (As Abby) All clear.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) Abby, double-check.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As haunted house) Don't worry, they can't hear you.

HELM: We're watching some kind of flashback.

MALONE: When are we, house?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As haunted house) September 6, 2008 - the worst day of my life.

HELM: Because this family is moving out.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As haunted house) Because my family is moving out.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #4: (As Abby) Mom, do you think I'll be able to go to the same school?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) We'll see.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As haunted house) Did this family need a house with a ballroom and a conservatory? Who knows. But their adjustable rate mortgage spun out of control. They were underwater, and they defaulted. And I was broken. My mortgage had been sliced into a million pieces. It was scattered across the financial system and now suddenly, I was empty.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) You did the final check, Abby.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #4: (As Abby) Mom, yes. Everything's cleared out. There's nothing left behind.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) All right. All right.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As haunted house) But there was something left behind. In the library next to the candlestick...


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As haunted house) ...Abby's mp3 player.

AUTOMATED VOICE: Podcast download complete.


ALEX BLUMBERG, BYLINE: I'm going to explain in a second. But first, let me tell you I am...

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As haunted house) Abby didn't want me to be lonely. She knew exactly who could keep me company - a brand new podcast.


BLUMBERG: We're calling it PLANET MONEY.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As haunted house) Abby set up her mp3 player to automatically download and play every PLANET MONEY episode.

HELM: Was there open Wi-Fi in here this whole time?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As haunted house) Yes.

HELM: Drat.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As haunted house) Week after week, you were my friends.


BLUMBERG: OK. I think you and I are sort of the big housing maniacs here at PLANET MONEY. So...

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As haunted house) You understood me and what I had gone through.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: Toxie's birth - Chapter 1 in the life of our toxic asset.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As haunted house) Eventually, something changed.


CAITLIN KENNEY, BYLINE: Today on the show, the upside-down world of raisins.

MALONE: Oh, I love that episode.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As haunted house) I mean, honestly, me too. It's amazing.

MALONE: Zoe and Caitlin are the greatest.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As haunted house) The best - but still, you moved on. You forgot about 2008 and the financial crisis.

HELM: We didn't forget. I mean, we had to move on as a show, as a global economy.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As haunted house) No. Don't you get it? We're all still haunted by 2008. The trust is still eroded. The wealth is still gone. And I mean, housing markets are heterogeneous. But generally speaking, homes aren't being built. People are scared to buy houses. Do you know how horrible that feels as a house?

MALONE: I cannot even imagine, man.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As haunted house) It feels horrible.

HELM: I know. I know. Just open the doors.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As haunted house) Horrible.

MALONE: House, settle. House, settle.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As haunted house) Horrible.

HELM: Kenny, what are the chances we're standing on a trap door?

MALONE: Ground zero.


HELM: Kenny.

MALONE: Yeah, Sally, I'm over here. It is pitch black.

HELM: I assume we're in the forbidden basement, right?

ROBERT SMITH, BYLINE: Oh, you are 100 percent totally in the forbidden basement.


MALONE: I thought you were supposed to be off doing some prestigious fellowship.

SMITH: Yep, that was the plan. But I got lured into this house by a fake story about a cube satellite cartel.

HELM: Robert, how do we get some light in here?

JACOB GOLDSTEIN, BYLINE: I got your light right here.


HELM: I thought you were off writing a book.

GOLDSTEIN: So I was going off to report my book. I was told on good information that there was this town that was still on the gold standard and was doing universal basic income - dream come true. No, here I am.

SMITH: Yeah, that would have been a good story. Jacob's been stuck here longer than I have. He's actually learned how to make candles out of his own earwax.

GOLDSTEIN: I got your candles right here - so many candles.


MALONE: Whoa, this basement is literally a crappy podcasting studio.


SMITH: Congratulations. You're now part of the haunted house's new family.

GOLDSTEIN: It is the podcast version of the existentialist nightmare. We have to be in this house forever, making podcasts about the financial crisis that no one will ever listen to.

SMITH: Can I ask you guys a question? Does the caretaker remind you of anyone? She's just so familiar. I cannot put my finger on it.

MALONE: Yes, totally. We couldn't place it either.

HELM: Oh, no.

SMITH: What now?

HELM: I just remembered I secretly planted my iPhone in that caretaker's pocket.

MALONE: Sally - a lot of good that does us in the basement now.

HELM: Well, here's something that could happen. I keep my phone in one of those special cases with extra juice.

MALONE: Right.

HELM: It'll record for - I don't know - days on end.

MALONE: Makes sense.

HELM: And if this house has open Wi-Fi, my recording should...

HELM AND MALONE: ...Automatically back up to the secret PLANET MONEY server.

HELM: But yeah, you're right. We'll never get to hear it down here in the basement.


MALONE: Oh, crap. My recorder's about to die.

SMITH: I have something that I need to tell you because I have spent these months...

MCKEON: Hi. This is Shane, PLANET MONEY intern again. So that is where the file cuts off.


AUTOMATED VOICE: New item synced to PLANET MONEY secret server.

MCKEON: Weird. What is this? Sally iPhone recording. And it's 72 hours long. OK. They might want me to transcribe this whole thing, so I'll be right back.


MCKEON: So I quickly went through that 72-hour-long recording. And most of it is just, like, pocket sounds and some lady humming to herself. But there is this super weird bit at the very end. It seems important. I don't know. I'm just Shane, the PLANET MONEY intern. But I think if I play this bit for you, it might explain, like, everything. OK. Here you go.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As haunted house) So caretaker, have you been watching any good shows lately?

JOHNS: (As character) You don't let me have TV, man.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As haunted house) Right, right. I'm sorry. I'm so bad at small talk. I know I'm a haunted house. And I know that I've trapped you here to do my bidding. And I just wanted to follow up on the big plan. While Sally and Kenny and Robert and Jacob were sleeping, you sneaked into the basement where they are trapped.

JOHNS: (As character) Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As haunted house) You stole the tapes that Sally and Kenny recorded while wandering around me, the house.

JOHNS: (As character) Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As haunted house) You emailed those recordings to the PLANET MONEY team.

JOHNS: (As character) Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As haunted house) I guess that's it. It's just a waiting game now. I mean, I'm sure the team will come to save their colleagues, and then my plan will be complete.

JOHNS: (As character) Listen. Everyone's in the basement. They never see me anyway. Do I really need to be in this caretaker disguise right now?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As haunted house) Oh, no, no. I'm so sorry. You're totally right. Let me change you back.

JOHNS: (As character) I've been thinking. When your plan is done...

BLUMBERG: This PLANET MONEY family of yours is going to be pretty big, so maybe you could afford to let me go.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As haunted house) Oh, Alex Blumberg, you're the co-founder of PLANET MONEY. You're my first friend and victim. You're never leaving.

BLUMBERG: Oh, OK. It's just I have this whole other company right now and this new show called Without Fail that I'm supposed to be hosting and...


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As haunted house) Alex, back into character, I'm sorry.


KAREN DUFFIN, BYLINE: Hey in there. It's Karen Duffin.



BRYANT URSTADT, BYLINE: Hey, it's Bryant. It's Bryant.


GOLDMARK: Yeah. We know that Sally and Kenny and Robert and also Jacob are all in there.

DUFFIN: Yeah, we heard Sally and Kenny's recording.

GARCIA: We're coming to the rescue.

FOUNTAIN: Yeah. We got a mysterious email with these recordings and detailed directions to the house and - oh, crap. This is a total trap.


GOLDMARK: Oh, man.

BLUMBERG: Hello, and (coughing)...

JOHNS: (As character) I mean, hello and welcome, PLANET MONEY.


MCKEON: I found these credits on Kenny Malone's desk. They say, please tell the world that they should be listening to a podcast called "Twenty Thousand Hertz." It's made by professional sound designers. It tells amazing stories about the most famous sounds in the world. And there's a little note here. Kenny writes, if I ever make a weird Halloween episode of PLANET MONEY, I would absolutely make that in collaboration with the amazing team that makes Twenty Thousand Hertz.

Alex Goldmark is PLANET MONEY's supervising producer. Bryant Urstadt would edit our stories if he were here. Special thanks to Uri Berliner, Neil Rouch (ph), Cathy Helm (ph), Hannah Sampson (ph), Seneca Stag (ph), Carlos Rafael Rivera (ph) and Spencer Gaffney (ph).

And it looks like there's one final note here from Kenny. If, theoretically, I ever needed someone to pretend to be the knowing caretaker of a haunted house or the Victorian child ghost, I would definitely use voice actor Jan Johns. That's all that's written here. If you have any thoughts about haunted houses, hit me up - I'm Shane, the PLANET MONEY intern. Thanks for listening, I guess.

OK. I don't know how to shut this down. OK, well...


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