Arts/Culture

WNPR Arts and culture reporting focuses on the world of ideas in fine art, crafts, writing, music, theater, performance, design and creative activities that make us unique and make us human

Robert Couse-Baker/flickr creative commons

My motto on The Book Show is: Life is short, but it can be ever so wide.

Join me and my book buddies for a call-in show recommending terrific books to read in all categories. If you're in a book club, please tell us what you've read and enjoyed.

Mark Twain House

Hal Holbrook has played Mark Twain in his solo show "Mark Twain Tonight" for more than 60 years, and at almost 90 years old he's still channeling the author.

It's a show that Holbrook never expected to catch on when he first started performing off-Broadway in his mid 30s. It took more than three hours to do his makeup, he told WNPR's Colin McEnroe Showto get in character as an aging Twain. 

Holbrook was an unknown actor in 1959 when the New York Times critic gave him rave reviews, calling it "an extraordinary show," and saying "there should have been posters up all over town to herald its arrival."

Alan Light / Creative Commons

I get to talk to a lot of remarkable people and still I tell you that you're about to hear a conversation with one of the most remarkable people I've encountered in five years. 

janet galore/flickr creative commons

Add almonds and butter to your frozen green beans… throw canned chick peas and a jar of curry sauce into the blender to make killer Indian hummusgreat soup from a can of tomatoes… a Dr. Pepper hot toddy... Chamard wines from Connecticut… and we have you covered in the cocktail department, too, with a calorie-friendly Honey-Earl Grey tea martini

katiethiroux.com

Katie Thiroux, 26, a gifted string bassist and singer/songwriter from Los Angeles, celebrates the release of her fine debut disc at 8:30 pm on Friday, February 6, as she leads her tight-knit quartet at The Side Door Jazz Club in Old Lyme.

If you’ve never even heard of this melodic, rich-toned bassist and fluent singer -- a two-in-one instrumentalist/singer package in the swinging, non-commercial mode of the early recordings by singer/pianist Diana Krall -- then you’re in for a pleasant surprise at the popular shoreline jazz spa.

You might even be doubly pleased by both Thiroux and her swinging, simpatico sidemen, tenor saxophonist Roger Neumann, guitarist Graham Dechter, and drummer Matt Witek. A genuine working band, this is the same lineup heard on Thiroux’s plainly titled new disc, Introducing Katie Thiroux.

As second novels go, this one should prove a doozy. More than five decades after Harper Lee published her first — and, so far, only — novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee's publisher has announced that she plans to release a new one. The book, currently titled Go Set a Watchman, will be published July 14.

Steve Slater/flickr creative commons

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.

Chuck Olsen / Creative Commons

People have been predicting the death of the sitcom since at least 1999, but the current TV season has been so toxic towards them that some observers have wondered whether the sitcom, which has been around since the birth of television, has anything left to say to us. But then again, what is a sitcom? Do sitcoms have to air on network television? Do they have to have a laugh track? Or fill a half-hour time slot? Do they even have to be comedies?

This hour, we consider the art form of the sitcom with producers and critics of the genre. What is your favorite sitcom and what makes it your favorite?

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When I first heard about the work of Find Me, I wasn't sure what to think. On a social visit, drink in hand, I stared across the living room at my impeccable source, Joni Evans, among the most respected and successful professionals in publishing, now retired as Publisher and President of Simon & Schuster and Random House. (Evans serves on the Find Me board of directors.) 

Brian Friedman / Mike Lavoie/Creative Commons

I know what you're asking yourself. You're thinking, I know the Colin McEnroe staff is amazing, but how do they manage to book two big celebrities with the same initials?

Well, you're right. They are awesome. but we did not actually hatch a plan to have guests with the initials M.B. Anyway, we already did a long interview with Michael Bolton. 

At the end of last year, I had a conversation with food writer Mark Bittman, whom I've known since the earliest days of his career. We've been looking for a chance to share that interview with you.

Then we got a chance to talk to Mike Birbiglia, a comedian and teller of monologues who has been on with us twice before.

Deb West / Flickr Creative Commons

On the Nose this hour: pre-watching Super Bowl ads.

Super Bowl advertisers have forced us (conned us?) to live in their world, not just for Sunday, but for days spreading in either direction. This piece explains how, in 2011, a VW ad was released on the YouTube's days in advance of the game and went viral, setting the stage for what we have now: a protracted debate about various ads. You probably have to, on YouTube, sometimes watch an ad so you can watch an ad.

Today, that 2011 ad has 61 million views on YT. Those are people volunteering to watch it, as opposed to people waiting for the game to resume.

Challenging The Whiteness Of Public Radio

Jan 29, 2015

Editor's Note: This essay originally appeared on Transom.org, with a shorter version published on BuzzFeed. Author Chenjerai Kumanyika will join Code Switch — along with African-American public radio journalists — in a Twitter chat Thursday moderated by lead blogger Gene Demby. Join Code

CONCORA

Just before Valentine’'s Day, lovers of choral music have the chance to hear the premiere of a work called “"Un Bacio (A Kiss)”" in early February.  

PopTech / Creative Commons

Toronto-based engineers Cameron Robertson and Todd Reichert set out to achieve the impossible: to build the ever first human-powered helicopter. Decades of attempts by aeronautical engineers had proved unsuccessful. But for Robertson and Reichert, that was no deterrent. 

Tim Jenison

The New Britain Museum of American Art will show a documentary film on Thursday about one man's quest to duplicate the painting technique of Dutch master Jan Vermeer. "If my idea was right, we're seeing color photographs, more or less, from 350 years ago," said inventor Tim Jenison.

In the documentary "Tim's Vermeer," Jenison is convinced Vermeer used optical gadgets to achieve his almost photographic paintings, and becomes obsessed with figuring out exactly how.

Heinrich Klaffs / Creative Commons

As near as I can determine, Frank Sinatra never sang a Bob Dylan tune. No lush Gordon Jenkins arrangement of “I Want You”; no swinging, finger-snapping treatment of “Sad-Eyed Lady”; no symphonic Nelson Riddle big-band rethinking of “Masters of War.”

As of Tuesday, February 3, however, the reverse will not be true. That’s the day Dylan’s new album, Shadows in the Night, is due to be released. The album is just ten tunes, and all of them are standards that Sinatra recorded, and in some cases made famous.

To be certain that the release is duly noted by all the relevant demographics, Dylan has granted a long interview on the project (reportedly the only one he gave) to AARP Magazine. It will be in the February issue.

One hundred fifty years ago on Saturday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the 13th amendment to the Constitution, which abolished slavery.

To commemorate, Connecticut's Second District Congressman Joe Courtney issued a resource guide for students that details Connecticut's part in passing the amendment.

The guide also corrects a glaring mistake in Steven Spielberg's 2013 movie "Lincoln."

Alpha/flickr creative commons

Going Light: Easy Pho Soup... Quick Yogurt Dip for Veggies... Spicy Tuna Tartare... Dr. Yavari's Egg White Salsa Omelet to get your day started in a high protein way... Plus fantastic Flank Steak Tacos that are easy on the waistline and irresistible...

Gulnara Khamatova / wayneescofferymusic.com

Tenor saxophonist Wayne Escoffery, one of the best and the brightest of New Haven’s major contributions to the international jazz scene, hopes that his many friends and fans in Connecticut will show up to help him celebrate several major milestones in his life and career as he leads his new band in a six-night stint from February 3 to February 8 at the Village Vanguard.

Along with the sheer joy of playing once again at the Vanguard, a jazz shrine located in Greenwich Village, Escoffery, a formidable saxophonist, composer, bandleader and consummate sideman, is celebrating his 40th birthday on every one of those nights in the venerable venue.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Here's my favorite one. Eighty-four percent of Frenchmen rate themselves as above average lovers. Ninety-three percent of young drivers in another survey said they were above average. And, 68% of the faculty at the University of Nebraska place themselves in the top 25%.

All of those numbers reflect misplaced confidence. It seems to be genetically wired into us in certain ways.

Anthony Quintano / Creative Commons

Calling in to WNPR's Where We Live on Tuesday, Michael from Middletown shared a poem he wrote in honor of Blizzard 2015. 

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra arrives at Carnegie Hall with a program that portrays choppy waters and changing tides, opening with Mendelssohn's Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage Overture followed by Debussy's La mer.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

We decided to bow to reality, and make this hour all about getting ready for the storm. You’ve heard about the storm, right? We begin today with NBC Connecticut meteorologist Ryan Hanrahan, and find out why this particular storm has his profession in such a lather.

Then we move on to what most -- ideally all -- of you will be doing from Monday night through Wednesday morning: staying put.

Culture critic Linda Holmes and I will discuss some viewing recommendations. Watch them until the power goes out. If and when that happens, maybe you’ll still be able to read. You’ve still got time to add to your e-reader or physically pick up some of the books our final guest John Warner and I will be discussing. Warner is one of the commentators in a March tournament of literary fiction.

Bill Selak/flickr creative commons

Sleeping is studying? Distractions are good?

Turns out both those things can help us learn faster and better. Cognitive scientists have been putting learning to the test, and once you cruise through the most important studies, you see myths about learning popping like balloons. Concentration? Repetition? Not so much.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

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.

Roomful of Teeth

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.

Awol Erizku / Hasted Kraeutler Gallery, NYC

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.”

Jasleen Kaur/flickr creative commons

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.

Dwayne Bent/flickr creative commons

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.

An Ode to Opera

Jan 22, 2015
David Shankbone / Creative Commons

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.

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