Kurt recently stopped by the Aladdin Theater in Portland, Oregon for Live Wire — an old school variety show with a modern twist, recorded in front of the hippest audience west of the Mississippi.
It’s a heck of a good time: smart conversation, a killer house band, and live radio theater that could give our buddy at Lake Wobegon a run for his money. All that, plus some great performances from slam poet Anis Mojgani and indie folksters Horse Feathers.
It airs on Oregon Public Broadcasting — listen online HERE:
“No Particular Place to Go” as Chuck Berry sang in 1964 is as good a metaphor as any to describe the current plight of the U.S. auto industry. It was just announced that the once mighty Pontiac is no more, and at least two of the Big Three are in serious danger of being relegated to museum status. Ironically, a museum is where I recently saw an exhibit celebrating General Motors’ 100th (and perhaps final?) anniversary.
An exhibit honoring GM's 100th anniversary at the Petersen Automotive Museum in L.A.
The Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles is a rather impressive display of beautiful automobiles and the culture that grew up around them. It’s also a good place to learn about L.A.’s reputation for car customization and innovation.
An exhibit showing off L.A.'s grand tradition of customizing old cars
A recent visit to the Petersen inspired many of the ideas in our current, very timely episode on the future of the American automobile. The takeaway? If anyone can save Detroit, it might just be Los Angeles. Host Kurt Andersen takes a tour of L.A.’s singular car culture from hot rodders to low riders, old-school customizers to next-generation designers. And we get a glimpse of the future behind the wheel of the all-electric, super aerodynamic Aptera, one of several scrappy, independent car companies sprouting up all over southern California. Kurt concludes, “instead of the Big 3 we may have a return to the Little 10.”
We were psyched to hear that Steve Reich was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his composition “Double Sextet.” The piece is written to be played by two identical sextets of instruments, each made up of flute, clarinet, violin, cello, vibraphone and piano — or by one sextet playing against a recording of the other.
This wasn’t the first time Reich used symmetry in his compositions — we talked to him about it a couple years ago: listen HERE.
My time in Los Angeles is coming to an end. I will miss the phantasmagorically perfect weather, the hiking trails (with coyotes!) 5 minutes from my house, the focused and talented students (and faculty) of Art Center, and all the interesting strangers who tend to be, I think, more gratifyingly…open than your typical New Yorker. But it’ll also be good to get back to a place where urban life teems just outside one’s front door, where I don’t have to drive everywhere, and where the city (physically as well as culturally and intellectually) is more coherent, more truly (or at least obviously) a city.
Coming up soon on Studio 360 will be further chronicles of my L.A. adventures and investigations — the car culture, a cool band from Tijuana, etc. — and for now here’s a link to a podcast I did with the L.A.-based Jesse Thorn of PRI’s The Sound of Young America.
The LA Times just did a nice feature about Kurt and his spring semester post as “Visionary in Residence” at the Art Center College of Design. Now if only they could get his name spelled right! They fixed it!
They leave every day from Grand Central Terminal — train cars and subway cars. But yesterday, New Yorkers witnessed a rarer departure: art cars.
Two weeks ago, an installation of four BMW art cars arrived at Grand Central straight from a show at the L.A. County Museum of Art. Yesterday they left NYC on an express line to Mexico for a three-city museum tour.
I got to see the show when it stopped in here in New York: four BMW race cars painted by some of the greatest artist of the modern era. Cars by Frank Stella and Andy Warhol were a special treat. They’re numbered (having actually raced) and for me, that removes some of the preciousness inherent to modern art and replaces it with high-performance automobile design. Joining them were cars by Roy Lichtenstein and Robert Rauschenberg and a huge swath of Robin Rhode’s “An Expression of Joy” canvas. It’s a 30X40-foot section of a bigger work that Rhode painted with a 2009 BMW Z4 Roadster. (That’s right, with.)
Rauschenberg: 635 CSi
Lichtenstein: 1977 BMW 320i
Stella: 1976 BMW 3.0 CSL
Warhol: 1979 BMW M1
Robin Rhode: 2009 BMW Z4 Roadster
The art cars on tour belong to a collection of 16 that BMW has commissioned over the years. The first was the brainchild of Hervé Poulain. Hoping to make his car more distinctive in the 24 Hours of Le Mans race, Poulain asked his friend Alexander Calder to give it a paint job. What followed was what may be the best ever execution of corporate sponsored art. (Ernest Fuchs, A.R. Penck, David Hockney, and Jenny Holzer are just a few of BMW’s other contributing artists.)
Predating what I consider to be an unfortunate homogenization trend in automotive design, the signature BMW look of these cars would be a treat to behold even without cosmetics — but with, they were enough to rubberneck even the most focused of New York’s racing commuters.
If you’re sorry to have missed this bit of automotive goodness (and you won’t be in Mexico anytime soon), fear not. Studio 360 has a couple of car segments in the shop getting tuned up for broadcast in the not so distant future.
We recently spent some time with one of the most interesting people in Los Angeles. He’s a leading light in the so-called Makers’ Movement – people who believe that making things yourself, or fixing the things you have, is lots better than mindlessly buying new stuff.
His name is Peter but he goes professionally by Mr. Jalopy. Like a sort of new-age Rube Goldberg, he can build elegant contraptions out of the junk he finds at garage sales, or, in this case, fashion together what he calls the world’s largest iPod.