TO achieve unexceptionalism, the political ideal that would render the United States indistinguishable from the impoverished, traditionally undemocratic, brutal or catatonic countries of the world, do the following:
If you’re a justice of the Supreme Court, ignore the first sacrament of a democracy and suspend the counting of ballots in a presidential election. Appoint the candidate of your choice as president.
If you’re the newly anointed president, react to a terrorist attack by invading a nonterrorist country. Despite the loss or disablement of untold numbers of lives, manage your war so that its results will be indeterminate.
Using the state of war as justification, order secret surveillance of American citizens, data mine their phone calls and e-mail, make business, medical and public library records available to government agencies, perform illegal warrantless searches of homes and offices.
Take to torturing terrorism suspects, here or abroad, in violation of the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, which prohibits the infliction of cruel and unusual punishment. Unilaterally abrogate the Convention Against Torture as well as the Geneva Conventions regarding the treatment of prisoners of war. Commit to indeterminate detention without trial those you decide are enemies. For good measure, trust that legislative supporters will eventually apply this policy as well to American citizens.
Suspend progressive taxation so that the wealthiest pay less proportionately than the middle class. See to it that the wealth of the country accumulates to a small fraction of the population so that the gap between rich and poor widens exponentially.
By cutting taxes and raising wartime expenditures, deplete the national treasury so that Congress and state and municipal legislatures cut back on domestic services, ensuring that there will be less money for the education of the young, for government health programs, for the care of veterans, for the maintenance of roads and bridges, for free public libraries, and so forth.
Deregulate the banking industry so as to create a severe recession in which enormous numbers of people lose their homes and jobs.
Before you leave office add to the Supreme Court justices like the ones who awarded you the presidency.
Jimmy Kimmel had ‘em rolling in the aisles at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner Saturday night. So did President Obama, although he’s probably grateful that he didn’t have to go on after Mr. Kimmel.
Obama may be able to launch drones and summon up Air Force One whenever he wants to. At last year’s dinner, he had to be funny knowing that he’d secretly ordered SEAL Team 6 to attack Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. But when it comes to humor, the President and his speech writers were in pretty competitive comedic territory at what’s known as Washington’s “Nerd Prom.”
Kimmel admitted to being nervous, but his jokes were solid (those that fluttered rather than killed he quipped had been written by Jake Tapper, senior White House correspondent for ABC News), his delivery was smooth, his timing right on.
In the middle of his routines, the great Mort Sahl would say: “Is there anybody here I haven’t offended? I’ll get to you in a minute.”
Kimmel got to just about everybody – political celebrities (Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich), media celebrities (Rupert Murdoch and Keith Olbermann), celebrity celebrities (Lindsay Lohanand Kim Kardashian). But it was in ways that merely tip-toed to the edge of personal insult, his dagger more rubber than steel.
Mr. and Mrs. Obama weren’t spared.
“I know you won’t be able to laugh at my jokes about the Secret Service,” Kimmel said to the President. “Please cover your ears, if that’s physically possible.
10 Things You Need to Know About Marco Rubio. DC is all abuzz about the wunderkind Florida senator and possible Mitt veep.
When it comes to Veepstakes 2012, one name towers above them all: Marco Rubio. The freshman Florida senator vaulted to national prominence when he rode the tea party wave to power two years ago. Team Romney sees a lot to like in Rubio: He’s Latino, young, fiercely conservative, from a battleground state, and backed by powerful political and corporate allies with names like Bush.
In recent weeks, Rubio has endorsed Romney,tagged along on the presidential campaign trail, and delivered a high-profile Brookings Institution speech calling for ”a more forceful foreign policy.” (Apparently, wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya and sanctions on Iran and Syria aren’t forceful enough.) The Rubio-a-go-go has gotten so feverish that he consistently leads all vice-presidential hopefuls among Intrade oddsmakers and has even been called “this election’s Sarah Palin.“
But how well do you know the fresh-faced Floridian? Turns out he’s got a lot in common with Romney: He’ll say anything to pander to the right, even if it contradicts what he’s said before. Here are 10 facts about Rubio that might surprise you.
No American was yet inside the residential part of the compound. The operatives had barely been on target for a minute, and the mission was already veering off course. Photoillustration by John Ritter.
Shortly after eleven o’clock on the night of May 1st, two MH-60 Black Hawk helicopters lifted off from Jalalabad Air Field, in eastern Afghanistan, and embarked on a covert mission into Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden. Inside the aircraft were twenty-three Navy SEALs from Team Six, which is officially known as the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, or DEVGRU. A Pakistani-American translator, whom I will call Ahmed, and a dog named Cairo—a Belgian Malinois—were also aboard. It was a moonless evening, and the helicopters’ pilots, wearing night-vision goggles, flew without lights over mountains that straddle the border with Pakistan. Radio communications were kept to a minimum, and an eerie calm settled inside the aircraft.
Fifteen minutes later, the helicopters ducked into an alpine valley and slipped, undetected, into Pakistani airspace. For more than sixty years, Pakistan’s military has maintained a state of high alert against its eastern neighbor, India. Because of this obsession, Pakistan’s “principal air defenses are all pointing east,” Shuja Nawaz, an expert on the Pakistani Army and the author of “Crossed Swords: Pakistan, Its Army, and the Wars Within,” told me. Senior defense and Administration officials concur with this assessment, but a Pakistani senior military official, whom I reached at his office, in Rawalpindi, disagreed. “No one leaves their borders unattended,” he said. Though he declined to elaborate on the location or orientation of Pakistan’s radars—“It’s not where the radars are or aren’t”—he said that the American infiltration was the result of “technological gaps we have vis-à-vis the U.S.” The Black Hawks, each of which had two pilots and a crewman from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, or the Night Stalkers, had been modified to mask heat, noise, and movement; the copters’ exteriors had sharp, flat angles and were covered with radar-dampening “skin.”
The SEALs’ destination was a house in the small city of Abbottabad, which is about a hundred and twenty miles across the Pakistan border. READ MORE………
Bob Dylan was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama on April 26, 2012. The honor is due in no small part to songs like “Blowin’ in the Wind” still asking the same hard questions 50 years later.
By 1962, Bob Dylan had been hanging around McDougal Street in Greenwich Village for a little more than a year. He was known as a nervous guy with a funny cap, a singer and writer of songs like dozens, maybe hundreds, of others. Happy Traum and Bob Cohen were members of a folk group playing the Village at that time, called The New World Singers. They would invite Dylan up on the stage to join them.
“He was very sort of rough around the edges,” Happy Traum notes, “and at the same time he had built this mythology about himself where we didn’t know where he came from; he just sort of appeared, hitchhiking or riding boxcars out of the Southwest or something like that. And so he was immediately this kind of iconic figure even for a 19- or 20-year-old kid.”
Rough as he was, Dylan had caught the eyes and ears of some important and influential people. John Hammond, already a legendary producer at Columbia Records, heard Dylan and signed him for the label. His first album contained just one original composition, “Song to Woody,” and sold only a few thousand copies. But Dylan continued to play and to learn. One night at Gerde’s Folk City, Dylan heard The New World Singers perform a Civil War era freedom song, one that Bob Cohen still remembers.
“It was very dramatic and a very beautiful song, very expressive. And Dylan heard that and heard other songs we were singing. And some days later, he asked us, he said, `Hey, come downstairs.’ We used to go down to Gerde’s basement, which was—is it all right to say?—full of rats, I don’t know, and other things. And he had his guitar, and it was kind of a thing where when he added a new song, he’d call us downstairs and we’d listen to it. And he had started—and he wrote, (singing) `How many roads must a man walk down before you can call him a man?’ LISTEN TO THE STORY……
Judge Thurgood Marshall (left) in discussion with President Lyndon Baines Johnson, following Marshall’s appointmentas a member of the Supreme Court, the first African-American to hold the post.
Robert Caro writes obsessively about power. Fittingly, it’s Lyndon Johnson — catapulted suddenly into the presidency “in the crack of a gunshot” — who consumes him.
The Passage of Power, the fourth volume of Caro’s massive biography of Lyndon Johnson, is released this week. Caro has dedicated decades to meticulously researching Johnson’s life, and the previous books in the series have been almost universally hailed as a significant achievement in American letters.
Those books told the story of Johnson’s rise to national prominence. In The Passage of Power, Caro takes up Johnson’s dismal years as vice president and his sudden presidency, which he used to shepherd the 1964 Civil Rights Act through Congress.
Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep talks to Caro about the book and his portrayal of the brilliant, sometimes ruthless president. LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW/READ MORE……..
Congressional scholars Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein are no strangers to D.C. politics. The two of them have been in Washington for more than 40 years — and they’re renowned for their carefully nonpartisan positions.
But now, they say, Congress is more dysfunctional than it has been since the Civil War, and they aren’t hesitating to point a finger at who they think is to blame.
“One of the two major parties, the Republican Party, has become an insurgent outlier — ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition,” they write in their new book, It’s Even Worse Than It Looks.
Mann, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, join Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep to talk about the book, which comes out this week.
Mann and Ornstein posit that democracy in America is being endangered by extreme politics. From the first day of the Obama administration, Ornstein says, our constitutional system hasn’t been allowed to work.
“When we did get action, half the political process viewed it as illegitimate, tried to undermine its implementation and moved to repeal it,” Ornstein says.
The authors make no secret of whom they blame for most of the dysfunction in Congress — the Republican Party. And Ornstein says some of his colleagues at AEI, which is known as a conservative-leaning think tank, “are going to be quite uncomfortable” with his position.
Before “The Mountaintop” opened on Broadway last fall, there were rumors that this fictional account of Martin Luther King Jr.’s last night before his assassination would present him as a flawed man, one who drinks and flirts with a motel maid. Kenny Leon, the director, told me recently, however, that he never would have had anything to do with something “that destroyed the iconic nature of Dr. King.” In fact, he said, when he first read the play, he realized that its innocently childlike King could be played only by “a sensitive actor bigger than life” — his friend Sam Jackson.
“Samuel L. Jackson will always be Samuel L. Jackson, no matter the role, but that is a good thing, as Bogart was always Bogart: something dark, intelligent, and barely restrained, always smoldering.”
Samuel L. Jackson, who is 63, has appeared in more than 100 films since 1972, and moviegoers would be hard-pressed to find in any of his roles someone who was innocently childlike. For the first part of his film career, his characters tended to appear in scripts as Gang Member, Drug Addict, Hold-Up Man. Even after his work in “Jungle Fever” earned Jackson a best supporting actor award at the Cannes Film Festival in 1991 (an honor created for that performance) and his work as Jules Winnfield in “Pulp Fiction” three years later made him world-famous, at 46, Jackson’s roles, no matter how fleshed-out or nuanced, have been far from innocent. Still, even as Jules tossed off vulgarities and obscenities as offhandedly as he shot people, like so many benign terms of endearment, he displayed the greater part of Jackson’s success as an actor — his ability to imbue even his vilest characters, spouting the vilest words, with a touch of humor, intelligence and humanity.
Jules was the moral center of “Pulp Fiction,” Jackson told me recently, “because he carried himself like a professional.” The same can be said of Jackson as an actor. “Before Jules,” he went on, “my characters were just ‘The Negro’ who died on Page 30. Every script I read, ‘The Negro’ died on Page 30.” He thundered in character as Jules for a moment, repeating his point in saltier language, then returned to himself and said: “After Jules, I became the coolest [expletive] on the planet. Why? I have no clue. I’m not like Jules. It’s called being an actor.” READ MORE…….
Dawn Kasper moved the entire contents of her home and studio into a room at the Whitney Museum.
ON most days, you can hear Dawn Kasper’s installation at the Whitney Biennial before you see it. Bessie Smith or the Beatles or an episode of “The Young Ones,” a British sitcom from the ’80s, might be playing scratchily on one of her many devices, spilling out into an adjacent gallery and accompanied by a throaty guffaw from the artist, whom you might then come upon sitting cross-legged on a mattress, wearing a Hawaiian shirt, eating a sandwich and entertaining a few strangers.
In late February, Ms. Kasper, a Los Angeles performance artist, moved herself and the entire contents of her apartment-slash-studio into the Whitney, where it and she will remain for the duration of the show (it closes May 27), in a kind of living sculpture she calls the Nomadic Studio Practice.
Though she is only 35, she has albums on vinyl, as well as VHS tapes and cassettes; there they are, in stacks on the floor. This is partly because she has a fondness for old media equipment and partly because she can’t afford to upgrade.
Indeed, Ms. Kasper’s finances haven’t allowed for a real studio since 2008, a common scenario in the life of an artist and one that generated this piece, which recalls the more festive aspects of Relational Aesthetics as well as a party in the room of a particularly messy teenager. (Ms. Kasper has sublet the room she rents in a two-room apartment in Los Angeles to a friend.)
While Ms. Kasper spends her nights sleeping in a rented room in Greenpoint, Brooklyn — the museum won’t allow her to sleep over — she has spent almost every day the Whitney is open in her reconstituted home, snacking, making collages and drawings, and chatting up the museumgoers who fill her room like shoppers in a cramped thrift store, squatting to sift through her records and paperback books. Small children will climb out of their strollers to dance. Ms. Kasper hands out markers and paper to the older ones; she has a stack of their drawings. Last week, two boys were convinced she was a robot, Ms. Kasper said, until she left her desk to draw pictures with them. Older patrons might sink gratefully onto a chair to rest. READ THE ARTICLE………….
Her voice is instantly recognizable. Her youthful exuberance, pure sound and positive energy just make you feel good. Her incredible technical abilities were self-evident, but when she sang, she radiated a joy consistent with her own character both on and off the bandstand.
Ella Fitzgerald was the undisputed queen of jazz singing and American popular song. She demonstrated extraordinary talent as a young teen, winning an amateur singing contest at the famous Apollo Theater in Harlem. Initially, she was going to dance, but a case of stage fright inspired her to sing, “Object of My Affection.” Soon after her Apollo Theater stint, drummer and bandleader Chick Webb asked the shy 16 year-old Ella to join his orchestra. At first, Webb was hesitant to bring her in because she didn’t have the standard good looks of a singing diva. Luckily, Ella had a voice that no one could match.
Ella’s rare combination of confidence and innocence reflected the spirit of mid-20th century America. Despite her popularity, she never deviated from her commitment to jazz as an art form. She could improvise right next to saxophonists like Charlie Parker, Coleman Hawkins or Lester Young, then turn around and perform a classic American ballad while infusing it with her natural swing. READ/LISTEN TO THE STORY
Pam Sakuda was 55 when she found out she was dying. Shortly after having a tumor removed from her colon, she heard the doctor’s dreaded words: Stage 4; metastatic. Sakuda was given 6 to 14 months to live. Determined to slow her disease’s insidious course, she ran several miles every day, even during her grueling treatment regimens. By nature upbeat, articulate and dignified, Sakuda — who died in November 2006, outlasting everyone’s expectations by living for four years — was alarmed when anxiety and depression came to claim her after she passed the 14-month mark, her days darkening as she grew closer to her biological demise. Norbert Litzinger, Sakuda’s husband, explained it this way: “When you pass your own death sentence by, you start to wonder: When? When? It got to the point where we couldn’t make even the most mundane plans, because we didn’t know if Pam would still be alive at that time — a concert, dinner with friends; would she still be here for that?” When came to claim the couple’s life completely, their anxiety building as they waited for the final day.
A Brief History of LSD
As her fears intensified, Sakuda learned of a study being conducted by Charles Grob, a psychiatrist and researcher at Harbor-U.C.L.A. Medical Center who was administering psilocybin — an active component of magic mushrooms — to end-stage cancer patients to see if it could reduce their fear of death. Twenty-two months before she died, Sakuda became one of Grob’s 12 subjects. When the research was completed in 2008 — (and published in the Archives of General Psychiatry last year) — the results showed that administering psilocybin to terminally ill subjects could be done safely while reducing the subjects’ anxiety and depression about their impending deaths.
Detail from the Marley movie poster.
Do you know Bob Marley? Sure, you do. Maybe you’re among his 33 million Facebook and Twitter followers. Maybe you own a Bob Marley ashtray, or one of 400 or so books about him. You definitely know a few of his tunes by heart — like “One Love,” which Jamaica’s tourism board has featured in commercials for years. But the reggae singer’s son Ziggy has news for you: You don’treally know Bob Marley.
“Over time, he has been summed up as just a ganja-smoking reggae singer, all love and peace — which is a part of it, but not the full story,” Ziggy Marley says. “There was another side.”
That other side is what Ziggy set out to capture in the film Marley, which he executive-produced.
“Being Bob’s eldest son, I never read a book or anything that anyone did on Bob, because I was like, ‘Who are these people?’ ” he says. “I reached a point where I said, to represent my father properly, I need to be involved in a definitive thing.”
Ziggy Marley enlisted Scottish director Kevin Macdonald to make that definitive film. Macdonald is best-known for his feature films, including The Last King of Scotland. The filmmaker recalls his first meeting with Ziggy Marley as one of initial skepticism and eventual agreement.
“He said, ‘What kind of film do you want to make?’ And I said I want to make a film about the man behind the icon,” Macdonald says. “We’re all so overinundated with Bob Marley imagery and the commodified version of Bob Marley. His music is everywhere, and yet I never felt like I knew who the man was, and what he was really singing about.”
But can any film really capture the man behind the myth? It’s a daunting task — and Macdonald isn’t the first to attempt it. British director Jeremy Marre has made several documentaries about Marley and says there’s precious little interview footage of the man himself. The Jamaican Broadcasting Commission even recorded over early footage of The Wailers because the broadcaster was short of tape.
Ted Nugent‘s violent remarks at the NRA’s annual paranoia-fest triggered (pun intended) a new round in the always-good-for-cable debate over extreme rhetoric in the political discourse. The episode showed—no surprise—that GOP presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney was unwilling to condemn an out-of-bounds Obama-hater when his campaign released a mealy-mouthed response to the uproar, ignoring Nugent’s specific comments and noting that “Mitt Romney believes everyone needs to be civil.” And Nugent’s threatening words were nothing new; in 2007, he held up two machine guns at a concert and told Obama to “suck on my machine gun,” adding, “Hillary, you might want to ride one of these into the sunset, you worthless bitch.” But his latest rant, in which he denounced Obama’s “vile, evil America-hating administration,” was part of a never-ending Republican/conservative crusade to portray the president as not a true American. And it’s an effort that Romney has played footsie with.
For years, conservatives have said (or implied) that Obama is not really one of us: He was born in Kenya, he’s a secret Muslim, he pals around with terrorists. They have also endeavored to attach this otherism to all Democrats. Ex-presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) accused Obama and his wife of holding “anti-American views” and called on the media to investigate Democratic members of Congress to determine if they were anti-American, too. Last week, Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.), a tea party darling, declared that “there’s about 78 to 81 members of the Democratic Party that are members of the Communist Party.” After he was lambasted for uttering this absurd charge, he defiantly proclaimed that he did not regret his statement and reaffirmed his stance: “I’m not going to back down. I’m not going to be afraid about the fact that I called a spade a spade.” (House Speaker John Boehner said nothing about West’s derogatory and fact-free claim.)
Most news from nature is depressing—species extinctions, changing climate, dying oceans. Yet it’s not all bad… though we might never know it, since positive news is underreported.
I wrote about this tendency in my latest MoJo print piece about my old friend Enriqueta Velarde and her work to save an island and a whole ecosystem called Can One Incredibly Stubborn Person Save a Species?
That article grew from a call-to-arms in a science paper in TREE last year: Conservation science must engender hope to succeed. The authors persuasively argued that by not reporting good conservation news, both the media and science journals facilitate a climate of despair and pessimism and create a self-defeating positive feedback loop. They suggested we work harder to broadcast successes stories and the people behind them.
So what works and where? Here are a few stories that caught my eye recently.
Chile’s Atacama Desert — the driest place on Earth, and home to both sophisticated observatories and the sober memories of a military regime’s abuses — is both subject and setting in Nostalgia for the Light.
April 20, 2011
Perhaps the most famous line in late-20th-century literature comes from Milan Kundera. “The struggle of man against power,” he wrote, “is the struggle of memory against forgetting.”
One man who has never stopped struggling is Patricio Guzman, the Chilean filmmaker who was imprisoned during the U.S.-backed coup that toppled Chile’s elected president, Salvador Allende, and installed a military dictatorship that lasted the next 17 years. Guzman’s documentaries have done as much as anything to keep alive the world’s memory of what happened to his country that Sept. 11, 1973.
Of course, it’s been 38 years since the coup, and Guzman is now 70; though he hasn’t forgotten anything, he has moved beyond horrified anger. Guzman never made a more beautiful or profound movie than his new one, Nostalgia for the Light, an exquisitely shot essay on ultimate things — time, space, memory and how creatures so small and frail as human beings find meaning in a gigantic cosmos.
Nostalgia for the Light focuses on the Atacama Desert, a 600-mile stretch of high plateau in northern Chile that is the driest place on earth — it never rains. Composed of salt, sand and lava, the place has the bleak, ravishing beauty of a distant and forbidding planet. But because it’s so high, so dry, and so far from big cities, its clear skies make it home to some of the world’s great observatories. At night, the stars shine so brightly they cast shadows.
Nothing grows in the Atacama Desert, but it does draw three kinds of people — all searching for the truth of the past. There are astronomers who study light from outer space, which means what they’re seeing in their telescopes is always something that already happened but is only now reaching Earth. There are archaeologists, who study the rock paintings and beautifully preserved bodies of the pre-Columbian peoples who traveled across the spare landscape.
And then there are old women who wander the vast desert with tiny shovels, looking for the remains of their sons, daughters and husbands. You see, the dictatorship used this hostile environment to jail political prisoners — they housed them in a desolate 19th-century mining camp — and to dump the bodies of those it had murdered. The women of the Atacama seek the past with particular urgency — heroically, obsessively, almost crazily searching for what became of their loved ones.
In fact, they’re after the truth more than physical remains. But historical memory remains an iffy business in Chile. In Santiago a few years ago, I got on the subway near the statue commemorating Salvador Allende and got out across from September 11th Avenue — a street commemorating the coup that ended in his death.
The last piece of published writing from one of America’s greatest writers was a series of letters he sent back from the front lines of war at the age of 64.
John Steinbeck’s reports shocked readers and family so much that they’ve never been reprinted — until now.
Steinbeck won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962 for a life’s work writing about those who had been roughed up by history — most notably his Depression-era novels, Of Mice And Men and The Grapes of Wrath. Four years later, Steinbeck left for Vietnam to cover the war firsthand.
His dispatches appeared in Newsday in 1966 and 1967 and are now collected in a volume called Steinbeck in Vietnam: Dispatches from the War.
University of Toledo professor Thomas E. Barden curated the collection. He tells Weekend Edition Saturday host Scott Simon that Steinbeck’s public support for the Vietnam War was too much for fans to accept — a reaction so overwhelming that the letters were kept out of public view for years.
“People worried about his reputation, saying maybe we should just never speak of these again. A lot of people on the left felt that it was a deep betrayal,” Barden says. “That attitude sort of went on for a long time — including within his family. I think his widow really didn’t want them out.”
At first, Steinbeck had been dubious about working forNewsday, which was owned by his friend Harry Guggenheim, Barden says.
“But then the war in Vietnam heated up, and one of Steinbeck’s sons was in it, and his other son was going to it, and then suddenly he wanted to be there,” Barden says. “So he made this arrangement with Guggenheim that he would go on behalf of Newsday.”
Steinbeck had another high-profile friend — President Lyndon B. Johnson — who also wanted him to report on what was happening in Vietnam, but Steinbeck was adamant that he wasn’t going there on Johnson’s behalf; he was his own man and not involved with the government. His reports, however, did seem to support the war.
Murray Gershenz at work during the filming of Music Man Murray.
There is a music store for sale in Los Angeles. It has old, sagging shelves stuffed with hundreds of thousands of recordings, from wax cylinders to 8-track tapes to LPs and CDs. The man who has owned the business since 1962 is Murray Gershenz.
“I wasn’t earning enough money to support my family, so I decided to get some extra income by putting my record collection up for sale,” Gershenz tells NPR’s Scott Simon. “I opened the store, built some shelves with the help of a rabbi friend of mine and, little by little, the music took over.”
Gershenz turns 90 next month. He and his shop are the subject of a new short film by Richard Parks, Music Man Murray. The filmmaker says he first visited the store as a teenager.
“It’s kind of like a temple when you go inside,” Parks says. “It doesn’t feel like you’re in a record store. It feels like you’re in someone’s personal collection.”
“People will call up and say, ‘You know, when I was very young, my wife and I loved this song. It was sort of our song when we were teenagers, and we’d like to be able to hear it again.’ And that’s what I enjoy the most,” Gershenz says. “Trying to find those things for people.”
Parks says he had his work cut out for him with Gershenz’s story, which also includes side careers as a cantor and an actor.
“It certainly was a challenge,” Parks says. “One of the more interesting things that I found inside this old record store was this great story about a father and a son, and what it’s like when a father is coming to the end of his life.” READ OR LISTEN TO THE STORY
Levon Helm performing with The Band in 1971.
Levon Helm, a member of influential rock group The Band, died in New York City on Thursday. The drummer, singer and actor, who backed Bob Dylan as he turned away from folk toward a more electrified rock sound, was 71 years old. Though Helm suffered from cancer for several years, he was known later in his life for Midnight Rambles, concerts he hosted at his barn in Woodstock, N.Y.
The first time I saw Levon Helm perform, it was already late in the game. It was the ’90s, and the soulful singing drummer was touring with the remains of The Band — as in The Band, who backed up Bob Dylanduring his first electric tour in the mid-’60s, then famously decamped with him to Woodstock, N.Y., where they recorded hours of offhandedly brilliant, rough-and-tumble folk-rock that would later be released as The Basement Tapes.
The Band also began recording music without Dylan, music that changed the shape of rock ‘n’ roll, veering it off the psychedelic highway that The Beatles and others were traveling and driving it down a dirt road, deep into the woods of America’s history, mythology and tangled cultural roots.
Missing from the particular show I attended, which took place at a roadhouse in Minneapolis called The Cabooze, was Robbie Robertson, the guitarist and songwriter who remained estranged from the group after the chapter-closing Scorsese-directed documentary The Last Waltz, and Richard Manuel, the tortured singer/pianist who committed suicide in 1986. It could’ve been one of those sad jukebox concerts, but it wasn’t. Alongside his pals Rick Danko and Garth Hudson, Helm played his Promethean grooves, those superpowered shuffles with their wicked backbeats and ever-shifting focus, the kind of flesh-and-blood timekeeping even the most brilliant drum programmer will never match.
Drummer and singer Levon Helm was a founding member of The Band. Helm and his group played as a backup band for Bob Dylan in the 1960s. Later the band became famous enough to simply be called The Band. LISTEN TO THE STORY…
During his trip to Detroit, yesterday, President Obama visited the Henry Ford Museum and had the opportunity to sit in the bus where in 1955 Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to make way for a white customer. That moment sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott and fueled the civil rights movement that made it possible for Barack Obama to become president.
Today, the White House’s photographer Pete Souza tweeted a picture of the moment:
President Barack Obama sits on the famed Rosa Parks bus at the Henry Ford Museum following an event in Dearborn, Mich. on Wednesday.
We think the picture speaks for itself, but here’s what the President had to say about his visit:
“I just sat in there for a moment and pondered the courage and tenacity that is part of our very recent history, but is also part of that long line of folks who sometimes are nameless, oftentimes didn’t make the history books, but who constantly insisted on their dignity, their share of the American dream.”
Woody Allen at the Italian-language premiere of To Rome With Love, in Rome, April 13.
After shooting in London, Barcelona and Paris, Woody Allen made his latest European backdrop Rome. To Rome With Love opens Friday in Italy — in Italian.
The movie is a magnificent postcard of the eternal city — a carefree romp along cobblestone streets nestled between ancient ruins and Renaissance palaces. A soft yellow glow pervades every scene. It projects an image of the sweet life with all the charms under the Italian sun, set to the tune of old standbys like “Volare” and “Arrivederci Roma.”
Allen has said he grew up watching Italian cinema and was influenced by its grand masters. While there’s nothing neorealist in his latest movie, it has an echo of Fellini’s The White Sheik, and Penelope Cruz’s performance in one segment calls to mind Sofia Loren’s high-end call girl in Vittorio de Sica’s Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.
The movie is made up of four separate vignettes about love swaps, mistaken identities and the cult of celebrity. One features Woody Allen himself playing a retired, neurotic opera director who tries to make a star out of a man who can sing Pavarotti-quality opera, but only in his shower. LISTEN……….
Senators George Stanley McGovern (left) and Hubert H. Humphrey talk with reporters after a televised debate in 1972.
The news business has changed a lot in recent years, and that’s especially true of political news. But when you ask about a book that captures what it’s like to report on a presidential campaign, one decades-old classic still rules: The Boys on the Bus by Timothy Crouse.
The rough-and-tumble account of the reporters who covered President Richard Nixon’s re-election against George McGovern back in 1972 is part of a Morning Edition series on political history.
The modern-day reporters who have read it include Jonathan Martin of Politico.
“It just features a, you know, behind-the-scenes account of the boozing, the writing, the cavorting of what was then a largely male press corps,” he tells NPR’s Steve Inskeep.
“We’re talking about typewriters, we’re talking about one deadline a day,” he adds, a dream situation for Martin and the two other political journalists who have gathered to discuss the book: Anne Kornblut of The Washington Post and Ashley Parker of The New York Times.
Today’s journalists say they now face endless deadlines, not just one. They also contend that they drink somewhat less than the guys in The Boys on the Bus.
But as Parker follows Republican Mitt Romney, she finds the book still relevant, and in fact inescapable — an NBC reporter brought along his copy. “He has basically been passing it around to all the reporters on the bus,” she says, “and his only rule is that you have to, you know, write notes in the margin, annotate it, and at the end so he’ll have this sort of great keepsake.” LISTEN OR READ THE STORY……..
Oil and natural gas drillers use equipment like this to separate the liquid, gas and sand that come out of wells at the beginning of hydraulic fracturing operations.
The Environmental Protection Agency announced new rules Wednesday to control the problem of air pollution coming from wells being drilled by the booming oil and natural gas drilling industry.
Currently, waste products from the drilling operations, which include a mix of chemicals, sand and water, can be pumped into open enclosures or pits, where toxic substances can make their way into the air. The new rules will require this fluid to be captured by 2015, and flared before that.
Some states, including Colorado, already require companies to do what the EPA will soon require everywhere.
Mark Balderston, who started working in the oil and gas industry 40 years ago, says that for most of his career, getting gas out of the ground has been an assault on his senses.
“It’s going to give you a real heavy, industrial, garage-kind of smell almost,” he says. “Real intense.”
Balderston, who is now a senior engineer overseeing well sites in Garfield County, Colo., is referring to the messiest parts of the operation, called well completion. It’s the centerpiece of the EPA’s new rules, and is the part of the process that pollutes the air the most. After a well is drilled, all the gas, mixed with water and other substances used to drill the well, comes gushing out.
In recent years, completions have become even messier because companies have started using an engineering technique called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which requires a lot more material to open up gas wells, and subsequently creates a lot more waste.
The general practice has been to send that waste into an open pit and let the gas coming up go directly into the air.
“A lot of that would be vented off — it’s just let go, it’s not contained anywhere,” Balderston says. “And that’s not good.” Balderston says that venting could go on for weeks. But Colorado has been doing something different: “Now, it’s all captured,” he says.
Balderston is referring to a technique the industry calls “green completions” — that means the stuff gushing out of the well is collected right away. Colorado started requiring this on some wells a few years ago, as did Wyoming. The EPA’s new rule will require them around the country.
Dick Clark, affectionately known as the “world’s oldest teenager,” has died. He was 82.
Richard Wagstaff Clark became a national icon with American Bandstand in the late 1950s, hosting the show for more than 30 years. Clark also hosted the annual New Year’s Eve special for ABC for decades. He weathered scandals, hosted game shows and renewed hisBandstand fame with a new generation by producing the nostalgic TV drama American Dreams.
Clark’s emergence on the national stage owed much to his being in the right place at the right time. After a childhood immersed in the world of radio — his father worked as a station manager at WRUN in Utica, N.Y. — Clark became an announcer with WFIL radio in Philadelphia and hosted the local show Bandstand.
Four years into his time at WFIL, Clark got his big break. A Philadelphia TV host on a local teen dance program called American Bandstand had been accused of sexual impropriety with some of the teenage dancers and arrested for drunken driving. The station faced enormous pressure to cancel its most lucrative program, and the producers needed a new host.
Music historian John Jackson says Dick Clark “had a clean-cut, impeccable image. He had a boyish look about him, an innocent look.” In other words, he was the ideal candidate.
At the time, rock ‘n’ roll still carried an air of danger and controversy, but as host ofAmerican Bandstand, Clark would make the scandalous look tame. He changed American pop culture by creating an image of wholesome American teen life to which bubbly pop music was fundamental.
Clark was one of the first to take kids seriously as consumers and use the music they liked as a marketing tool. Today the kids-as-consumers concept drives much of television programming, so it’s hard to imagine the kind of resistance Clark met from ABC studio executives when he first proposed that Bandstand go national.
“He was laughed out of the studio,” says Jackson. “They said to him, ‘Who wants to watch kids dancing in Philadelphia?’ “
As it turned out, a lot of people did.