While traveling earlier this week, I was thinking about how easy it is to research almost any aspect of an experience and get an online, nearly real-time appraisal of the restaurant, hotel, shuttle service, store or tourist attraction you're dealing with. Sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor take a lot of mystery out of life (which could be a bad thing) and put a lot of control in the hands of average consumers (which could be a good thing).
Why are we talking today about "Game of Thrones," an HBO series that begins its second season Sunday night?
The numbers alone are impressive. Three million people watched the final episode of the first season, which is a lot for a fantasy show on a cable premium channel. When you add in all the other ways to watch, it's more like 8 million sets of eyeballs per episode. The books by George R.R. Martin have sold more than 15 million copies worldwide.
One of the many nice things about working here at WNPR is that our chief engineer Gene Amatruda actually seems to like setting up our studio for concerts. And every time Gene does it, the studio sounds a little better. I caught some of String Theorie on Where We Live last week, and I was knocked out by the sound.
I grew up thinking I didn't like Irish music, because I thought Irish music was "Danny Boy," "Dear Old Donegal," "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling," and "McNamara's Band." I was well into what passes for my adult life when I started to hear both Irish traditional music -- they call it "trad" back home -- and the contemporary music that builds -- with care and respect -- on the rhythms and idioms of the old jigs and reels and ballads and songs. And I was fully in love.
Today we'll profile an interesting program happening at Central Connecticut State University within the English Department. It’s in collaboration with the “Veteran’s Project” which is putting together a “Welcome Home” event on March 31 at the Armory in Hartford. English professor Mary Collins is working with her creative writing students to tell Veteran's stories.
True story ... last week, the Connecticut legislature's Environment Committee's public hearing agenda included, on the same day, An Act Permitting the Possession of Reindeer Year Round and An Act Concerning the Hunting of Deer with a Pistol.
This is why I don't celebrate April Fool's Day. Life is like this every day. Break that story apart into separate scenes, and your mind is flooded with images of a man plugging a deer with a Saturday night special or a young couple walking their reindeer on a leash.
The Joseph Kony internet meme is racing across our hive mind with a speed and force almost unprecedented, at least for something serious. The video about the Ugandan opposition leaders seems to have had about 35 million views in one day. And the videos and its makers now have the support of Justin Bieber, Barack Obama, P. Diddy, Taylor Swift, Ryan Seacrest and Tim Tebow. So Joseph Kony, your days are numbered.
What is the truth? It's a question that comes up a lot in the news. Is Barack Obama a Muslim? Were there weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? Did 9/11 happen as we were told? Was JFK killed by a lone gun man? Were there any real instances in which Vietnam veterans were spat upon? Is there any such thing as post-traumatic stress disorder? Do certain vaccines cause autism? Is evolution a theory or a scientific truth?
Maybe choice and autonomy are overrated. We live in a world where the notion of marrying someone picked out by somebody else is damn near terrifying. Autonomy! We have to have it, right? But then, a lot of our marriages don't work out so well. The rate of divorce in the world of arranged marriages is far, far lower, although there are -- of course -- multiple explanations for that. But there really is a chance that happiness can be arrived at by taking a different route than the first one that comes up on our emotional GPS device.
Today's show is already breaking some kind of record for communications from the outside world received in advance of the actual episode. As soon as the promo started airing, we started getting emails, and what those emails told us was:
I'm even grumpier than usual about the Oscars, which I both love and hate. Most years, I have a movie I love that's somewhere in the hunt. Last year, even though I knew "Winter's Bone" wasn't going to win anything, it was fun to root for it.
The year before, I most rooted against "Avatar," and cherished the notion that "District 9" was in many ways the most original and thoughtful movie among the nominees.
The year before that -- well, at least there was the certainty that Heath Ledger's performance in "The Dark Knight" was the best work anybody did all year.
Mort Sahl was one of the true American -- actually he was from Canada -- ironists, in the sense that his lines -- I can't really call them jokes -- were more likely to make you think than make you laugh.
Of President Bush in 2004, he said, "He's the face on the can. But who canned that soup?" In the same routine he claimed that God watches what liberals do. "If we support someone we don't believe in and say he's electable, then God will make sure he's not elected and hope we do better the next time."
At the outset, Downton Abbey looked like just another PBS costume drama. But it came in from England with a little extra buzz, and then it picked up steam with viewers.
By the end of its first season, it had become appointment television for a lot of people who don't ordinarily watch PBS on Sunday nights. In its second season, which concluded Sunday night, it had reached the stage the programmers crave. It was a water cooler phenomenon, heavily discussed on social media and among real live human beings the next morning at work.
I cook whenever possible. I experiment a lot with ingredients. But I wouldn't say I had a sharp sense of taste. I'm in the group of "medium tasters" who make up 50 percent of the human eating population.
Lately I've been using pink salt, mainly because a guy at a farmer's market gave me some to try. And I like the look of it. It does seem, even to my unrefined palate, that something a little different happens when I substitute it for more conventional salts.
What is 3-D printing? One of our guests today, Michael Weinberg explained it better than I could:
"Essentially, a 3D printer is a machine that can turn a blueprint into a physical object. Feed it a design for a wrench, and it produces a physical, working wrench. Scan a coffee mug with a 3-D scanner, send the file to the printer, and produce thousands of identical mugs."
We're in New Haven today, borrowing the Faith Middleton studio to do the Nose with a stellar Elm City lineup of Emily Bazelon from Slate, Jack Hitt, often heard on This American Life, and Mark Oppenheimer, who is pretty much everywhere.
The topics, however, are not all that different. The Republican nomination drama seems to fuel our conversation every week. They are the new Kardashians, and if it seems like it's dragging on a long time, well not really.
Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon, but the first man to urinate there was Buzz Aldrin, just a little ahead of Neil. The two astronauts relieved themselves into bags within their suits, then removed the bags and left them on the lunar surface. When you gotta go, you gotta go. It was time to go.
Do Super Bowl commercials hold up a mirror to, well, anything? Maybe, by the time you've paid three or four or seven million dollars for the time, plus your production costs, you've entered such a realm of insanity that it would be impossible to connect your final product back to anything going on in the real world.
Today, we'll be analyzing a lot of the ads you saw yesterday. Some of them can only be discussed in terms of whether they worked or not. Did they entertain you? Did they make you want to buy a Chevy or a bag of Doritos?
The sudden news that the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation has apologized and essentially reversed itself on the issue of defunding Planed Parenthood is yet another example of the incredible power of the internet.
Today we have what I think of as the Terry Gross Problem.
I'm always impressed by the way Terry Gross just leads with her own pop culture tastes and doesn't seem to worry too much about whether her audience is on the same page. She'll do a whole show interviewing people from the show "Justified" and just count on her audience to roll along with her, whether they watch "Justified" or not.
Even if you think you have absolutely no relationship to Christian metal, you might have to think again, especially if you were a faithful watcher of "Friday Night Lights." Remember Landry's band Crucifictorius, which was almost called Stigmatalingus? That was a Christian speed metal band.
Here's a quote: "A clown is funny in the circus ring. But what would be the normal reaction to opening a door at midnight, and finding the same clown standing there in the moonlight?"
Sounds like a 21st century post-modern take on clowns, but it actually comes from Lon Chaney, the horror movie star who died in 1930.
Almost one hundred years ago, somebody understood that clowns can be scary. To Chaney, it was all a matter of context. What we've almost forgotten in our 21st century post modern mood is the first part of Chaney's statement. Clowns are funny.
"What a night - couldn't see my hand in front of my face, so dropped down on all fours and crawled in the direction of the tractor, - just a few feet away mind you, and I just don't know how long it did take me to reach the back door of the tractor which was now half buried in the snowdrift...recorded -60 below." wrote Connecticut native John Henry Von der Wall on September 25, 1934. Von der Wall was a member of an Antarctic expedition led by Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd. Byrd was the first person to fly over the South Pole and North Pole.
OK, how many of you have at least thought or daydreamed about putting on a costume and fighting crime. Childhood doesn't count.
As a kid I had my whole superhero life planned down to the smallest details. I had figured out -- this is depressing -- that my secret lair would be inside a certain wooded hillside and I had worked out how my means of transportation, a kind of souped-up go-kart, would emerge from the hill and roll out onto Braeburn Road as I headed off to do battle with evil.
Here's one by Deirdre Marie Capone called, "Uncle Al." The press release refers to Al Capone as her uncle and promises us inside-the-family insights about the Valentnie's Day Massacre as well as "authentic Capone family recipes." It concludes: Deirdre relates what life was like growing up the grand niece of Public Enemy #1, Al Capone.