Archive for October, 2010

What do Lucille Ball and Malcolm X have in common?

They’re both part of Studio 360 American Icons series.  This fall, we’ve traced the impact of The Autobiography of Malcolm X on race relations and glimpsed the dawn of the American sitcom with I Love Lucy.  Last week we visited Monticello – Thomas Jefferson’s home in Virginia – and in wandering the building and the grounds, confronted some lingering questions about the country and its founding.

Monticello (photo by Geoff Kilmer / Monticello)

Now we’re turning to you for a little “listener support.”  No, it’s not a pledge drive (though we encourage you to support your local station…).

Tell us what we’ve missed. We’ve produced nine new Icons — we want you to decide the tenth.  If your pick is selected, we’ll make a radio story about it — and you could be a guest on an episode of Studio 360.

We put out the call a few weeks ago, and our listeners have already come up with some surprising and impressive ideas. They range wide across America’s cultural landscape: from My Antonia and The Sound and the Fury to Bugs Bunny, from the Airstream Trailer to Apollo 11.  Daniel Leathersich, of Kutztown, Pennsylvania, suggested Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road” because it’s a “quintessential song of the dreams of youth, the wonder of escape, and what people become from their memories.”

We need to hear from you.  Tell us your ideas…and listen for our tenth American Icon!

– Michael Guerriero

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The TED Conference has a reputation for attracting and honoring international dignataries, prize-winning scientists, and even rock stars. Always keen to shake things up, it’s giving its top honor — the TED Prize — to a graffiti artist. The 27-year old Parisian known publicly only as JR has been awarded the $100,000 prize.

Taking his work to the streets, JR photographs people living in poverty-stricken areas around the world. Then he enlarges the portraits and posts them (often illegally) on rooftops, building walls, or wherever he sees fit. His work has “shown” around in the world – including Kenya, Brazil, and China – on walls, broken bridges, and in slum villages.

In addition to the money, JR also gets “One Wish to Change the World” – an opportunity to create and lead a philanthropic project, funded by the TED community and staff, and Sapling Foundation. When asked what his “wish” will be, JR told The Independent, “I go to local communities, forgotten communities or antagonistic communities, and try to energize them and bring them together and make them think, through the medium of art. I would want my ‘wish’ to be something like that, but on a global scale.” He will present a plan for how to do that at next year’s TED Conference.

Past winners of the TED prize include Jamie Oliver, Bono, and Bill Clinton.

You can see a great slideshow of JR’s work here.

-Georgette Pierre

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The World Series starts tonight.  And if you’ve watched any Major League Baseball this year, you’ve probably noticed the twisted metal chains many of the players wear.  If not, take a closer look at the necks of Texas Rangers’ shortstop Elvis Andrus or San Francisco Giants’ outfielder Andres Torres. The necklaces, which are often coordinated with team colors, are all over the league – they caught my eye mainly because they look really uncomfortable to wear.

Andres Torres, San Francisco Giants (Ben Margot/AP)

So what is this cumbersome accessory?

The necklaces are made out of titanium by a company called Phiten.  It claims the jewelry is specially designed to enhance an athlete’s performance by providing pain relief, improving circulation, and reducing stress: “Phiten products work with your body’s energy system, helping to regulate and balance the flow of energy throughout your body. Proper energy balance helps to alleviate discomfort, speed recovery, and counteract fatigue. Athletes find that they tire less easily and recover faster from intense physical activity.”  Former Yankees pitcher Randy Johnson is credited with starting the craze after discovering the product on an All-Star trip to Japan in 2001.

There is no scientific proof that Phiten’s products work, but players from 2003 World Series MVP Josh Beckett to 2008 and 2009 NL Cy Young Award-winner Tim Lincecum use and endorse the necklaces.

A Phiten titanium necklace costs around $40.  The company has several other products on the market as well, including lotions, stress relieving patches, bracelets, socks, and compression shirts and shorts.  The accessories are even starting to be used in other sports as a legal performance-enhancer.  Whether the effect is bona fide or placebo (athletes are, of course, also known for their superstitions), for many these necklaces are a must-have on the field.

– Max Bass

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Feeling adventurous this fall season? Well National Geographic has you covered with this zebra-printed Great Migrations reusable accessory. If you’re in need of a new handbag, tote bag, grocery bag, or Mary Poppins bag (you know, the ones you just throw a lot of junk in and call it a purse), this is your lucky day.

This bit of swag promotes the episode “Zebra on the Move” from the new series Great Migrations, premiering November 7th.

There’s also a beautiful book of photos that goes along with the series.

We also got a blue super air blaster from co-sign collective (a group of independent business owners and contractors within the entertainment industry) — but this has us scratching our heads. How do you use it?

Air Blaster anyone?

When you find out let us know!

– Georgette Pierre

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The Vaselines (photo by Wattie Cheung)

The Vaselines were persona non grata in the US when the late Kurt Cobain called them his favorite songwriters. Cult status was instantaneous, but the band had already dissolved. After a 20 year hiatus, the Scottish pop duo has reunited, though not remarried. On last weekend’s show, Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee told Kurt what brought them back together — and they played songs from their new album Sex With an X.

You can hear their conversation with Kurt here:

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Girl in a Coma‘s creation story reads like a fairy tale: teen girls plaster bedroom walls with posters of dreamy pop star; start a band named after pop star’s song; play hard in that band for 10 years.  Until one day… the phone rings.  It’s the man from the posters.  Morrissey.  He invites them to open for him on tour.

The young San Antonio trio — sisters Nina and Phanie Diaz and their close friend Jenn Alva — are now paying tribute to the  music that shaped them on their new album, Adventures in Coverland (out tomorrow). While no Morrissey tunes show up on this record, songs by artists who contributed to his rockabilly bent (and pompadour) are there, like Ritchie Valens — alongside fellow new wavers Joy Division.  Coverland showcases Girl in a Coma’s unexpected mix of influences — they grew up listening to Selena alongside moody Britpop.

They somehow manage to blend it all beautifully: Nina’s Patsy Cline-ish croon crossed with crunchy post-punk guitars and a touch of Tex-Mex twang just works. Check out their new video (directed by drummer Jenn) of  “Walking After Midnight.”

I spoke to the band in 2009 about their musical roots and their unlikely Morrissey story. “I loved him so much it hurt,” said Nina.  But once the band met him, said Jenn, “everything just switched and the whole fan just shredded off, and it was time to work.”

– Leital Molad

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This summer, Luke Geissbuhler, the cinematographer behind the mokumentary-style movie Bruno and the upcoming film The Virginity Hit, masterminded a very different kind of movie.  With nothing more than a weather balloon, an HD camera and a GPS device, Gessbuhler and his 9-year old son created a homemade spacecraft and set out to capture its journey on video. The duo encased the camera, GPS and a parachute in a foam container, tied it to the end of the balloon and released it near their home in Newburgh, New York. Hoping to view the video once the balloon fell back to earth, Geissbuhler tucked a note inside the foam container promising a reward to anyone who returned the spacecraft to its rightful creators.

Turns out, the spacecraft was found in a tree later that night, not far from where it was released. But when Geissbuhler and his son watched the video they were amazed to find out that their experiment was a tremendous success. Their makeshift spacecraft had spent the afternoon in space!

To me, the video is a testament to the adage that anything is possible. With a bit of tenacity, research, and a few “flight tests,”  the duo engineered a device that overcame huge odds. Their tiny balloon made it through 100mph winds, reached the upper stratosphere of Earth in only an hour, and managed to land only 30 miles from where it was released! Oh yeah and the resulting film is pretty fantastic too.  Geissbuhler managed to tailor the spacecraft to keep it from spinning and the result is a steady and watchable short film.  When the balloon first breaks past the white clouds and reaches the blackness of space, the view is truly breathtaking. For all of you who wondered as a kid what happened to those birthday balloons that got away, you now have your answer.

-Julia Botero


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