Friday, December 18, 2009
When I first talked to Phil Kline about his boombox Christmas carol “Unsilent Night” (for a Village Voice article in 2002), I went in assuming that Kline was Jewish. Nothing weird about that, I figured; “White Christmas” is by Irving Berlin. Wrong. Kline was raised by devout Christians in Pennsylvania. Still, he rejected the idea that his piece was religious music.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
With yesterday’s announcement of the Golden Globe nominees, it’s officially awards season. Before you watch them work the red carpet (and, perhaps, get tipsy during the broadcast), hear how they got there in the first place. Listen to Kurt Andersen's conversations with nominees including Kathryn Bigelow, Jason Reitman, and Marvin Hamlisch.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
The Muppets have a proud tradition of taking the hit songs and making them their own: muppet-izing them, shall we say. The Sesame Street gang had a string of successes with “Letter B” (ala the Beatles’s “Let Her Be”), “Born to Add” (ala the Boss’s “Born to Run”) and “U Really Got a Hold On Me” featuring Smokey Robinson and a rather clingy Letter U.
Monday, December 14, 2009
We’ve about reached the halfway point in Copenhagen’s two-week long negotiating bonanza known as the UN Conference of the Parties. One hot topic (no pun intended) is the practice of carbon offsetting. Yes, offsetting is an economically efficient solution, but does it ultimately fail us?
Friday, December 11, 2009
This week on Studio 360, Kurt unpacks the songwriting inspirations of Rickie Lee Jones, the reigning 'Duchess of Coolsville.' In this gem from the cutting room floor, she discusses the songwriter who makes her think 'we're made from the same part of God's clay.' (Plus, don’t miss Kurt’s five-second debut as a back-up singer.)
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
This week, 15,000 delegates and 110 heads of state from 192 nations are in Copenhagen to (we hope) negotiate a treaty to address the causes of climate change. It turns out that a number of artists have also arrived in the Danish capital, intent on delivering their own messages about what is at stake.
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
On December 3, the United Nations named Stevie Wonder a Messenger of Peace. 'We all know Stevie Wonder is a musical genius whose songs have given pleasure and hope to millions of people around the world,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated. “He is also a great humanitarian who has campaigned against apartheid, for children in need and for persons with disabilities.'
Monday, December 07, 2009
Who knew procrastination could be so fruitful? Smith (White Teeth) wrote the essays collected here while missing deadlines for her novels. Among them: her father's experiences during the invasion of Normandy; thoughts on E.M. Forster and David Foster Wallace; and idolizing the women Katherine Hepburn played. The biggest surprise is her movie reviews -- nothing's stale about her takes on 'Munich,' 'Capote,' and 'Shopgirl.' And so much better than the films you never saw in the first place.
Saturday, December 05, 2009
Considering who his father is, you might think Jason Reitman left the womb grasping a sound boom in his tiny hand. Jason was still a toddler when dad Ivan Reitman was making Animal House (1978) and other classic comedies like Meatballs (1979) and Stripes (1981). By the time Reitman hit his stride with Ghostbusters in 1984 the path to the director’s chair for young Jason might have seemed inevitable.
Thursday, December 03, 2009
Twenty years ago today, at a press conference aboard the Russian cruise ship Maxim Gorky, the end of the Cold War was officially declared. And yet the fear accompanying nuclear weaponry remains, as evidenced by President Obama's explanation of the stakes in Afghanistan on Tuesday night: “We know that al Qaeda and other extremists seek nuclear weapons, and we have every reason to believe that they would use them.”
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
In this month’s Vanity Fair, contributing editor Jim Windolf tries to analyze the wave of cute overtaking our culture. From Hello Kitty to the laughing baby (you know which baby) (yes you do) (you don’t? Really?), Windolf leaves no fuzzy, big-eyed stone unturned. And he thinks it’s getting worse. Why now?
Monday, November 30, 2009
It may surprise some people that movie star Willem Dafoe (Spiderman, The English Patient, Platoon) has roots deep in the stages of experimental theater. Dafoe was a founding member of The Wooster Group in New York, along with director Elizabeth LeCompte and Spalding Gray. Recently, I was lucky enough to catch him back in his old stomping grounds in Richard Foreman's 'Idiot Savant' at the Public Theater.
Friday, November 27, 2009
Graphic nonfiction achieves a new level of elegance in a very rarefied subject: the career of Bertrand Russell – mathematician, philosopher, and educator -- and his search for the logical foundation of mathematics. Against the backdrop of two world wars, Russell tries to argue for humans to base their behavior on reason; but the cruelty of his fellow logicians gives the book its skeptical edge.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Here's a Black Friday deal that the big-box retailers can't beat. Buy the new album from the up-and-coming indie band Ezra Furman and the Harpoons and you'll get a personalized song thrown in, for no extra charge. Just send them a letter with your life story (or a condensed version, perhaps), and they’ll churn out a folk-rock ditty with your name on it.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
The hottest music out of Brazil at the moment might actually be from Minnesota. On Rádio do Canibal, Twin City beat-makers BK-One and Benzilla have crafted one of the most musical hip-hop records of the year. As the title indicates, the American DJs cannibalized a slew of records gathered on a recent trip to Brazil. Dirty salsa beats mix with Tropicália melodies in a seamless 19-track excursion from the City of God to the beaches of Ipanema. It helps that the roster of guest hip-hop talent includes such stellar wordsmiths as Black Thought, Murs, and Raekwon.