This hour, we talk about two Connecticut dance halls, each springing from the vision of two very different men who took their respective dance halls down very different paths. One's dream soared, bringing thousands of concert-goers to over 3,000 acts over an eleven-year history. The other's dream stalled, his elaborate dance hall sitting idle for decades.
Last year, a little known new-music vocal octet came out of nowhere to win the Grammy Award for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance.
If that group had been called, say, the Contempo Voices or Sounds of Today, or something more or less conventional like that, it might have had a slightly tougher time coming to the attention of the restless Grammy voters.
But in fact the group is called Roomful of Teeth. And the music it makes is as original and as attention-getting as its name.
On the basketball court, a player is “in the paint” when he or she is inside the area closest to the hoop. Visitors to the William Benton Museum of Art at the University of Connecticut can imagine what that might feel like at an exhibition opening Friday called “In the Paint: Basketball in Contemporary Art.”
If a doctor would call a restaurant for a reservation and immediately identify himself as Dr. Williams instead of Mr. Williams, why wouldn't a sanitation engineer call the same restaurant and identify himself by his profession? Titles announce something about us, and they say something about us when we choose to use them.
Connecticut Voices for Children has launched a campaign to create a book by children writing about their experiences with the Connecticut Department of Children and Families.
Addressing potential contributors in a flyer, Connecticut Voices for Children says, "The book will be shared with the public, advocates, and government officials to help them better understand your experiences and create better laws based on your suggestions." Children who wish to can remain anonymous.
In 2012, the New York City Opera -- what Mayor LaGuardia called "the People's Opera" -- declared bankruptcy. This is/was the opera that introduced Americans to Placido Domingo and Beverly Sills. Make what you will of the fact that the bankruptcy announcement coincided with the presentation of a new opera about Anna Nicole Smith.
This is either a problem very specific to the New York Opera, or part of a virus that has been taking down opera companies all over the U.S. and maybe all over the world. In Italy, where opera receives much more public and government support, one fourth of all major opera companies were in a version of bankruptcy as of 2008.
If you want to reach people, sing to them, and make them sing. Experience tells us that singing changes people's relationships to reality, maybe even getting them ready to experience pain in a protest march.
Here's a term that was new to me anyway: "Collective Effervescence". It was coined by the sociologist Emile Durkheim to describe a lot of things, including the state we might achieve if we all got together and sang a song about our political aims. You see this in times of protest, from the streets of Ferguson to the streets around Tahrir Square. When people sing, or hear someone else sing, it activates them.
Think of "room escape" like a fancy cocktail: one part mystery, one part problem-solving, and two parts teamwork, with a dash of adrenaline-inducing claustrophobia on top.
If you're still puzzled, then congratulations -- that's the point.
Room escape is a new form of puzzle-based entertainment that's only just begun to catch on in America. It involves transforming ordinary rooms into extraordinary playscapes: richly themed environments in which willing participants are locked inside, and forced to solve mind-bending puzzles in order to escape.
The Oxford Dictionary word of the year for 2014 is vape. I can get behind that. It's a word that describes something a lot of people are doing and it really did come of age in the last 12 months. The American Dialect Society, not so much. Their controversial word of the year is #blacklivesmatter, which is not a word or even close to being one word.
To enter, contestants just have to make a video of a performance of an original song. And -- oh, it has to be behind a desk of any kind or size.
Monday, January 19, is the last day to submit entries, so in case you've been thinking about it, fire up the iPhone and make a video! I'd really like to have bragging rights next time I'm at NPR HQ, knowing that a Connecticut artist took home the prize.
Originally published on Mon January 19, 2015 12:07 pm
It's morning meeting time. "When Dr. King was little, he learned a golden rule," sings a class of 4- and 5-year-olds with their teacher, Carolyn Barnhardt.
John Eaton Elementary School, a public school in Washington, D.C., is unusual. It sits in one of the District's wealthiest neighborhoods, but the majority of students hail from different parts of the city, making it one of the most racially and economically diverse elementary schools in the nation's capital.
Earlier today, Julianne Moore got an Oscar nomination for "Still Alice." She is by far the betting favorite to win the best actress award. But you may remember her better as Franny Hughes Crawford on "As The World Turns." And four or five years before Ellen said "I'm gay," Bill Douglas came out as a gay teenager on One Life to Live. That character was played by Ryan Philippe. In fact, Leo DiCaprio, Maria Tomei, Tommy Lee Jones, Parker Posey, Kevin Bacon, Meg Ryan, they all worked on soaps before they moved on.
Now there are only four soap operas left – drawn out, dramatic stories that used to be sponsored by soap manufacturers, and now are struggling to maintain relevance to house wives who have a lot more options in the middle of the day. We'll talk about this slice of Americana with those in the industry, and a professor who co-directs “Project Daytime.”
Originally published on Thu January 15, 2015 1:26 pm
Listen to the Conversation
[At the top of this post, you'll find a discussion I had with Stephen Thompson, my Pop Culture Happy Hour co-panelist, about the Oscar nominations. Tomorrow's full PCHH episode more fully covers the film Selma.]
Things burn: Our environments, resources, and all forms of monument to self. And since the beginning, so too has our imagination. The inspiration humans have drawn from fire throughout the millennia is as impressive as it is immeasurable. Why fire occupies such an elemental place in the creative wellsprings of our consciousness is certainly a debate to had.
Although first trained in the intellectual rigors of classical music and later well-schooled in the cerebral practices of free jazz, the exceptional Japanese-born pianist/composer Eri Yamamoto most prizes the invention of pure, basic, heartfelt melody.
A man named Billy Williams became a legend during World War II, but not only for his heroic actions; Williams, stationed in Burma, became an elephant "whisperer." The book Elephant Company describes the man's exceptional ability to understand the elephants around him, and the stunning ability of the elephants to understand and communicate with him, in return.
The word spice has a kind of urgency. You don't need spice but historically, it's something people wanted enough to travel long, unfamiliar routes to find and bring back. We're going to talk about the lust for spice that helped open up trade and colonization. It's not just the taste or the smell - it was status and a class marker. One was either the sort of family that had turmeric or one was not.
Today on the show, we talk about the history of spice and about its present. It hasn't stopped, in certain quarters, being a luxury item and a status marker.
Today on the Scramble, we talk to two cartoonists about the road ahead from the Charlie Hebdo massacre. I'm still wrestling with some of my own questions about what this story means to the world of satire, which I consider vitally important to the health of the world.
The Katio Window Litter Box has the potential to eliminate some of the household odor that goes with indoor litter boxes. It's such an obvious solution, but no one thought of it until Katio designed it to install and look like an air conditioner in your window.
Originally published on Mon January 12, 2015 11:25 am
Surrounded by his cast mates and the show's executive producer, Transparent star Jeffrey Tambor faced a crowd of journalists backstage at the Golden Globe awards Sunday, and made the case for why his win as best actor in a comedy meant more than a typical Hollywood honor.
"This is about changing people's lives," said Tambor, who won his award playing a 70-year-old coming out as transgender. Earlier, while accepting his award on national TV, he dedicated his award and performance to the transgender community.