Archive for February, 2010

Would you trust this man with your radio program?

First movie greatness; then starring in TV’s smartest, funniest show; co-hosting the Academy Awards — all culminating in his performance as guest host of Studio 360.

It is the role of Alec Baldwin’s lifetime.

You heard it right.  Kurt Andersen will leave the keys when he goes on vacation, and Alec will take over for the March 26-28 show.

Alec is a longtime Studio 360 listener and fan of public radio.   Recently he began hosting New York Philharmonic This Week.   For his Studio 360 debut, Alec has invited Laura Linney (currently in Donald Margulies’ Time Stands Still on Broadway), and writer Mary Karr, whose book Lit: A Memoir was one of the New York Times‘ 10 best books of 2009.

You’ll want to go to there.

– David Krasnow

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This week, Quentin Tarantino stops by Studio 360 to talk about the Academy Award-nominated film “Inglourious Basterds.” Of course, he’s no stranger to the awards circuit — he was nominated for an Oscar for Directing “Pulp Fiction” (1994) and won a little gold man for writing the film’s original screenplay. But he says one of the best perks of the buzz is meeting some of his childhood idols. In this sneak preview of his conservation with Kurt, Tarantino remembers his comic hero at age 5:

from imageshack.us

Despite all his acclaim, Tarantino is still that awestruck kid in the video store.

Kurt’s full interview with Quentin Tarantino airs this weekend:

– Jess Jiang

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Last week’s show about the Lincoln Memorial reminded me of the opportunity I had a few years ago to see Lincoln’s handwritten draft of the Emancipation Proclamation at the New-York Historical Society.

Emancipation Proclamation p. 1

The document is so fragile that it can be displayed only 10 days out of every year. It seems Lincoln wrote the landmark document in pencil on whatever paper he happened to have around his office. The cross-outs and changes are by Secretary of State William H. Seward.

Emancipation Proclamation p. 2

Here is a work with an undeniably huge impact. Though it didn’t actually free any slaves (that couldn’t happen until the Civil War ended), it was a critical precursor. It reminds me of the power of words – and that even penciled noodlings can change the course of history.

– Cary Barbor

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Move over American Idol. Presenting: Studio 360’s American Icons.

Sure, Abraham Lincoln isn’t most people’s idea of a triple threat (though his voice was said to be a reedy tenor). But his memorial in Washington, DC, has staying power. History was made there, and continues to be made there. It was the backdrop for opera singer Marian Anderson’s barrier-defying concert in 1939 and the setting for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963. Last week we explored how the monument became America’s soapbox and guidepost – with the help of Sarah Vowell, David Strathairn, Suzan-Lori Parks, and Doris Kearns Goodwin.

The Lincoln Memorial is just one episode from Studio 360’s American Icons series. American Icons shows take a work of art – something that’s changed the cultural conversation – and unpack it, often with surprising results. Among these special episodes, Lincoln shares top billing with Superman, Barbie, Moby Dick, The Great Gatsby, and “The Wizard of Oz.”

One of the defining aspects of an American Icon is that it can both reflect and absorb our interpretations. We all have our own memories and experiences of these works of art. Now we’re at work on our next series, and we’d love to know what you think of the new Icons we’ve chosen  In the fall of 2010 we’ll broadcast episodes exploring The Autobiography of Malcolm X, “I Love Lucy,” Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.

Do you have particular memories about these works?

Post them below…we’re eager to hear…

– Michael Guerriero

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Bright Star

If pale young couples on the misty heath isn’t your cup of Earl Grey, “Bright Star” will change your mind about British costume dramas. Jane Campion (“The Piano“) wrote and directed this exquisite film based on the heartbreakingly short life of the poet John Keats and his intense romance with Fanny Brawne. Though its only Oscar nod is for costume design, the writing and the raw emotion of the actors will leave you spellbound.

– Michele Siegel

If pale young couples on the misty heath isn’t your cup of Earl Grey, Bright Star will change your mind about British costume dramas. Jane Campion (The Piano) wrote and directed this exquisite film based on the heartbreakingly short life of the poet John Keats and his intense romance with Fanny Brawne. Though its only Oscar nod is for costume design, the writing and the raw emotion of the actors will leave you spellbound.

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In this week’s show, Kurt says that we can find the Lincoln Memorial on the back of any old penny. Well, that old penny is getting a new backside. Last week, the United States Mint released a new one-cent coin, in honor of the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth. While it still features his head on one side, the memorial will no longer be engraved on the tail.

(courtesy of usmint.gov)

In its place is a union shield — with 13 vertical stripes, representing the states, joined by a bar inscribed with E Pluribus Unum, “out of many, one.” That shield has a special association with Lincoln. An artist commissioned to create work for the U.S. Capitol building during Lincoln’s presidency used the shield in frescoes that still hang on its walls. And the union shield is prominent in some Civil War memorabilia.

Feeling nostalgic for the Lincoln Memorial? Listen to our show about the American icon:

– Jess Jiang

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With the Winter Olympics in full swing, you may have noticed there’s a lot of competition for your attention as well. In between the slaloms and the triple axels, there’s also the slightly shameful attraction of (dare I say it) the advertisements. Take this awesome one from AT&T featuring silver medal-winning snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler:

What struck me was how the tone of this ad differed sharply from the advertisements I watched a couple weeks ago between plays of the Super Bowl. In contrast to Bleiler’s cosmic athleticism, several of the Super Bowl ads depicted emasculated men reclaiming their masculinity in hyper-macho, if not misogynistic, ways. Like this one, for example:

Apparently, that put enough bees in enough bonnets to inspire this retaliatory spoof:

This sort of tit-for-tat is amusing, but something else leaves me unsettled: the retort has women lashing out not just against the advertiser, but against men in general. To me, what starts (in both videos) as a playful battle of the sexes, ends up revealing something vicious and truly disconcerting. This isn’t just about advertisers routinely preying on our insecurities, it’s about stoking fires that lead to discrimination and leave both sides burned.

And even though I may not run out to buy a shiny new AT&T cell phone after seeing Gretchen Bleiler swoop up that half-pipe into outer space, at least the message is true to the real spirit of sport: “Here’s to possibilities.”

– Erin Calabria

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Halfway into the first week of the Vancouver Winter Olympics, some athletes have already taken issue with the judging. But at these games, there is no discordant French judge at the center of the controversy. Instead, it’s the style police stirring things up.

Figure skater Johnny Weir has provoked two fashion-related confrontations. The first was between Weir and animal rights activists protesting fox fur in his costume. The second was between his fox fur costume and good taste. But at least Weir’s threads show ambition – unlike Kevin Van der Perren of Belgium, whose sparkly skeleton outfit looked like a four-year-old’s Halloween costume from the 1980s.

Canadian American national hockey team goaltender Ryan Miller has also drawn ire – not for his play, but for the artwork on his helmet. During last night’s game between Canada and Switzerland, Miller was forced to cover the “Miller Time” logo on the back of his helmet with a large, white piece of tape. International Olympic Committee rules forbid “advertising, demonstrations, and propaganda,” and the question of whether Miller was promoting ice-cold refreshment or his own on-ice performance was too murky to resolve before Canada’s victory over the Swiss.

But perhaps the biggest style uproar of the 2010 Olympics is about the “anti-uniform” – the plaid jacket and faux-denim jeans worn by the U.S. Snowboarding Team. Designed by snowboard manufacturer Burton, the ensemble has raised some questions about the appropriateness of wearing jeans to a formal event, such as an Olympics medal ceremony. Burton defends the faded and torn look – the pants are actually made with waterproof Gore-Tex fabric – as representative of the snowboarder ethic, but at the same time thoroughly American.

Leaving aside the question of how true to snowboarder culture a mass-produced “distressed” line of high-tech athletic wear may or may not be…I think the anti-uniform just looks cool. Snowboarding invigorated the Winter Olympics when it debuted as a medal sport four years ago in Torino in 1998 in Nagano. Now Snowboard Cross is one of the most exciting and most popular events of the games. The snowboarders are clearly doing something right. They probably deserve the benefit of the doubt – and a little room to experiment – in both sport and fashion.

– Mike Guerriero

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Our Valentine Redesign Challenge elicited many great entries to our Flickr page.  And we received mailed-in submissions too.  They ranged from a set of miniature cards “inspired by a muse and faces of love” to my favorite, a three-foot tall by two-foot wide poster from Victor Stabin.  He created the “microcephalic minotaur” — a small-headed monster once imprisoned in the Cretan Labyrinth — as the new ambassador of the day.

Victor Stabin's Microcephalic Minotaur

But is Stabin’s monster still living in the Cretan Labyrinth or has it broken free to spread the seeds of romance?  I hope it’s the latter, because love as proffered by a monster seems so apt for the messiness of modern day romances.

Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love and Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage, picks a winner out of all the submissions in our most recent show:

And the husband-and-wife graphic design team Under Consideration rebrands the whole holiday:

– Jess Jiang

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We got nearly 200 great entries to our redesign Valentine challenge. And on last week’s show, Elizabeth Gilbert picked the winning entry: a bouquet of rolled bacon strips that look like roses (only yummier!) by Sarah Tisdale. As Gilbert said so aptly, “Nothing can compete with a bacon bouquet.”

"Broquet" by Sarah Tisdale

It made me wonder why we don’t use food more often as an artistic material. Aside from the ice-swan centerpiece or the happy face of chocolate chips on your pancakes (if you’re very lucky), it’s just not done enough, in my book.

That’s why I was particularly blown away by the food sculptures on the site fabulously40.com (some of which are below).  These people are serious about playing with their food.

– Cary Barbor

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