Last night, I joined hundreds of nostalgic 30-somethings at a 30th anniversary screening of The Muppet Movie in Brooklyn. Seeing it on the big screen was pure delight, and proved the lasting genius of Jim Henson and co. Everything holds up: the snappy dialogue (Man in Swamp: “You, you with the banjo, can you help me? I seem to have lost my sense of direction!” Kermit: “Have you tried Hare Krishna?”); the irresistible soundtrack (the Electric Mayhem jams are the best); the hilarious cameos (Mel Brooks as Dr. Mengele-like mad scientist); and, of course, the unforgettable Muppets themselves (witness Miss Piggy transform from precious damsel-in-distress to gangster-ass-kicker, with her unmistakable battle cry: “HEEEE-YAH!”).
But all that I expected (I do, after all, own the DVD). The real surprise of the evening was the short film that opened the screening: Jim Henson’s “Time Piece” from 1965. There are no Muppets in this one – it’s a surrealist experimental film, in a similar vein as Bunuel and Dali’s Un Chien Andalou, but much less creepy. It follows an everyman (Henson) through life’s major cycles – work, love, war, death – with a jazzy, percussive, nearly dialogue-free soundtrack. It’s thought-provoking, but also funny. Watch a low-res version here, or, if you want a copy for yourself, the movie is now available on iTunes.
Paul Giamatti is an award-winning actor, a graduate of Yale, a member of Skull and Bones, and… a soul singer?! The last one surprised us too when we rediscovered his performance in Duets (2000) – about karaoke singers. Kurt got the chance to chat with oh-so-modest Giamatti recently, who says, “I didn’t, and still don’t think of myself as a singer.”
What do you think?
I love this poster for "Cold Souls"
You can hear the rest of the interview with Giamatti on this weekend’s show – he’ll talk about his new movie “Cold Souls”, which will hit New York and Los Angeles theatres August 7th.
We were saddened by the news this morning that Merce Cunningham has died. Cunningham was a giant of American modern dance and choreography – and an astoundingly talented dancer, who started his career dancing for Martha Graham, and appeared in his own company’s performances into his 70s.
We had the good fortune at Studio 360 to interview Cunningham in 2002 about his interest in chance as a principle of composition, and his embrace of computer-aided choreography:
My experience with it is that it is mostly visual–we look. And I thought, “That’s what you do with dance. You look at it.” So it seemed to me they were mated, so to speak. They haven’t gotten along very well yet. But I think there’s a really remarkable future, not immediate by any means, but future for dance with technology. I’m sure of it.
Merce has freed himself from music, he’s freed himself from storyline, from psychological motivation. Modern dance tried to establish long ago that it was nobody’s sleeping beauty, that it was nobody’s divertimento–for instance, in the opera world, when you want to show the inner life of the characters, you’ll suddenly cut away and have a dance sequence. Well, modern dancers said, “No, no, no, we don’t illustrate some other form. We are a primary form.”
Covered heads in the mosh pit -- Photo by: Kim Badawi
This week on Studio 360, Nick Heling talks to Muslim punk rockers The Kominas about taqwacore, the movement inspired by novelist Michael Muhammad Knight’s 2002 novel The Taqwacores. Photographer Kim Badawi met Knight shortly after Taqwacores was published, and in 2006 began tagging along on tours with taqwa bands The Kominas and Secret Trial Five, snapping pics of the scene in its infancy. Now that taqwacore is a raging adolescent, Brooklyn publisher powerHouse (which specializes in not-your-mamma’s coffee table books) has come out with a beautiful new book of Badawi’s photos: The Taqwacores: Muslim Punk in the U.S.A.. What I love about Badawi’s photos are the juxtapositions: there’s the obligatory sex, drugs, and thrashing guitars, but also veiled heads, prayer rugs, and band members bowed towards Mecca.
Bassist Basim Usmani getting married shortly before The Kominas' 2007 TaqwaTour...
...and playing a basement show in Chicago with Shahjehan Khan
Taqwacores crash on the floor of a mosque
Listen to Nick’s interview with Michael Muhammad Knight and The Kominas:
They Might Be Giants dressed up as...penguins? snowmen? All I know is that these guys crack me up.
If you’re ever in a room with They Might Be Giants, one thing’s for sure, watch what you say! At the Aspen Ideas Festival, Kurt got the chance to talk to band members John Flansburgh, John Linnell, and Marty Beller about their hilarious list of phrases that “nobody in the band is allowed to say.” TMBG compares expressions like “jump the shark” and “phone tag” to old chewing gum — so overused that they have lost their flavor.
“ ‘It is what it is.’ That has no meaning,” said Marty Beller in the interview. “That’s just a placeholder for language.”
The complete list went public when the band sent it out in their newsletter last May. Take a look at which “phrases from hell” TMBG have “voted off the island.”
These are all things we are not allowed to say within the band:
too much information
off the hook
that’s what (s)he said
that’s how we roll
I can’t work under these conditions
playing the (whatever) card
throw under the bus
drinking the kool-aid
don’t go there
it’s all good
it is what it is
talk to the hand
think outside the box
off the reservation
oh no you didn’t
I threw up a little in my mouth
one hundred and ten percent
jumped the shark
voted off the island
(anything) on acid
(anything) from hell
(anything) on steroids
literally (unless it’s actually used properly) Of course the list itself is now on the list.
*No worries enjoys a unique “workplace dispensation” where it can be used with a co-worker to help decompress a work situation.
Click here to listen to the interview, or to leave a comment and share which phrases you think should be on the list!
On July 4th, Kurt caught up with They Might Be Giants‘ John Flansburgh, John Linnell, and Marty Beller at the Aspen Ideas Festival and found out why the sun really shines. (The special show airs on Studio 360 this weekend.) Not in attendance were John and John’s sock puppet alter egos – the delightfully orange emcees of the They Might Be Giants’ Friday Night Family Podcast. If you haven’t checked out the podcast yet, you’re in for a treat. I may have mastered my ABCs and 123s long ago, but I still get a kick out of a puppet dressed like George Washington. Also in this episode (from President’s Day weekend 2008) a psychedelic ode to the always under-appreciated number two.
Oh, recession. What was once a swag deluge is now a trickle. Gone are the fat and happy days of bands promoting albums with faux airplane barf bags.
Air travel gear, including a barf bag, to promote The Saturday Knights' album.
But there was a hopeful glimmer the swag economy was picking up when this gem arrived last week. A sturdy cotton tote featuring SNL vet Chris Kattan seductively posing in plaid pants. We may not end up watching his new IFC series “Bollywood Hero”, but we are happy the swag gods have delivered once again.
On second thought, maybe we'll wait for the electronic version
Forsooth, the next item on our reference-book most-wanted list this fall is going to be the new Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary, due out in October. Forty-four years in the making, this puppy’s got 800,000 words (“almost every word,” they claim, from Old English to the present)–that’s more than double the size of Roget’s International. Vasty. And, like Roget, it’s organized by concept, so if you’re looking for the perfect synonym for “honey pie,” just flip right to the section on “Terms of Endearment.”
The most impressive thing about HTOTOED is that it even exists. When they started in the project, everything was on slips of paper, and a fire nearly destroyed a decade’s worth of work in 1975. Eventually the HTOTOED team switched from paper to computers, which are harder to burn. Once in print, however, the thesaurus will fill two volumes and 3,984 pages, and will be pretty good for pressing flowers, we’re guessing. (via Times of London)
Remember Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie? Kurt sat down with the up-and-coming Nigerian writer last December – on the 50th anniversary of the publication of Things Fall Apart – to ask how it felt being called the “21st-century daughter of Chinua Achebe.” Her answer? Pretty good. Now Adichie’s come out with a wonderful new collection of short stories called The Thing Around Your Neck. She read a selection from her story “The Shivering” at the Sydney Writers’ Festival in May – it’s subtle, funny, touching. Check it out (and start one minute in to get right to the story).
Listen to a rebroadcast of Kurt’s conversation with Chimamanda here:
Thao and the Get Down Stay Down get up on the roof
Ever since we ran this piece about Thao Nguyen, we’ve been hooked on her music–”Bag of Hammers” is so catchy! Our reporter went to visit Thao at her mother’s Laundromat in Virginia, where she grew up practicing guitar and making change.
Earlier this week, the folks at the Rumpus posted a short memoir that Thao wrote about the Laundromat, getting into the music business, and lots more. In it, she talks about how little her father was around during her childhood–she mostly remembers how charming and suave he looked to her:
When I drink alcohol I hold the glass the way he does because I watched it so much as a kid. And the way he leans onto, into the table while holding a drink. I do that. I didn’t realize I did that until I realized it.