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.
Newt Gingrich, Frencesco Schettino and singer Lana Del Rey. They've all had bad weeks and probably none of them wants to be lumped in with the other two. All three have come in for quite a bit of scorn over the last few days, and they'll all be discussed on this episode of The Nose.
Gingrich, of course, is in the thick of a fight for the Republican nomination and, even as he burst in the lead in South Carolina, he was dragged back into sordid and painful stories about the sloppy conclusions of each of his first two marriages.
It seems oddly fitting that today we're doing a show about performers and writers who, rather than seek the approval of publishers and entertainment companies, put everything together on their own. They produce. They publish. They market. They, if all goes well, collect.
You might have missed it, but this week saw an interesting discussion of the very nature of journalism. It was triggered by the New York Times Public Editor Arthur Brisbane, who wrote a column asking whether reporters should challenge, examine and in some case rebut vague but untruthful statements made on their beat.
Let me tell you about the last six days of my life. I've seen, in theaters, "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," "Martha Marcy May Marlene," "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," and, in IMAX format, "Mission Impossible -- Ghost Protocol." At the Bushnell, I saw opening night of the national tour of "Memphis." On television, I squeezed in "The Debt" with Helen Mirren. And the season opener of "Downton Abbey".
The word "meme" is a great example of a meme and of a word that was very quickly and totally absorbed into the language.
Thinker Richard Dawkins proposed the word in 1976 to refer to a unit of information that can be passed around. My guess is that it sat pretty quietly until the 1990s until it became a perfect way to talk about the spread of ideas across the Internet. We would eventually coin another term for this: "going viral."
The national political media spend about a month trying to convince you that Iowa's caucuses are important. Now they're going to spend a week telling you why they don't matter.
On his blog PressThink, media critic Jay Rosen argued this week that: "The Iowa Caucuses are presented as a news event, a mini-election with an informational outcome, a winner. But what they really are is a ritual, the gathering of a professional tribe, which affirms itself and its place in our political system by staging this thing every four years."
Friends often complain to me that they have a tough time finding new music which really wows them. They suggest that the current jazz scene needs more star power: after all, where are the Armstrongs, the Ellingtons, the Monks and the Coltranes of this generation?
The job we do here tends to breed a mild case of optimism, because we spend a lot of time talking about new ideas. If we spent a lot of time talking about the status quo, we'd be more pessimistic because so many basic institutions -- political, financial, medical and cultural -- all seem broken.
Like pretty much everybody else on the planet, I bought my first jazz recordings in college. Thirty-five years later, I still feel inadequate and intimidated by a lot of what I hear. I think listening to jazz is sort of a muscle. Either you use it or it atrophies.
For today's show, we asked three jazz experts to pull together about 15 of their favorite recordings from the past year. (Listed below.)
Everything contains its own opposite said the philosopher Heraclitus. From Freud and Erikson we came to understand this in terms of forbidden impulses. In his 2011 book "Boomerang," Michael Lewis dwells on the notion that Germans -- despite or because of -- their cultural obsession with order and cleanliness are also drenched -- through their sayings, idioms, folktales and riddles -- in the imagery of feces.
We're bringing our music experts in today to give you their picks, especially those of you who have to buy stuff for other people during the holiday giving season. I decided to get out of their way and not bring in any picks of my own, but I'll use this little unencumbered moment to mention a few things.
The person with the best take on the death of Christopher Hitchens would have to be Christopher Hitchens.
Here he is:
"The only position that leaves me with no cognitive dissonance is atheism. It is not a creed. Death is certain, replacing both the siren-song of Paradise and the dread of Hell. Life on this earth, with all its mystery and beauty and pain, is then to be lived far more intensely: we stumble and get up, we are sad, confident, insecure, feel loneliness and joy and love. There is nothing more; but I want nothing more."