On podcasts and changing my mind.

I often have very random preconceived notions about celebrities–ones I like, ones I dislike for whatever random reason. We all do, right? And it’s been intriguing me lately how their appearance on say, Jimmy Fallon or a late-night show rarely changes how I feel about them. But a 30- to 45-minute podcast interview, on the other hand, can have a huge effect.

For instance, I never watched That ’70s Show but I loved Topher Grace in both Win a Date with Tad Hamilton AND In Good Company. After listening to him and his idea for his new web site on The Nerdist podcast? Nope. The web site idea sounds a million years too late and what he wants to do on it has been so well and widely done elsewhere. No one who was really smart would think it was a good idea at all.

Whereas, say, B.J. Novak for whom I have harbored a perhaps (PERHAPS) irrational complete hatred for, for years, thanks to The Office and Inglorious Bastards, things I loved lots of things about and hated him in–after listening to him on the Nerdist, I think he’s so much smarter than I ever realized and I am totally going to buy his book of short (in some case, very short) stories.

In case you were wondering. Don’t lie, this is all stuff you couldn’t have gone on living without. Heh.

Big Screen: Arbitrage

Yes, there are holes you could find in the plot after the fact.

BUT I really liked this movie, both in the moment and afterward. It was super tense, pulled out almost to the breaking point, and there were some really excellent performances.

I liked it even more after listening to director Nicholas Jarecki’s interview on The Treatment with Elvis Mitchell, my favorite and most often listened to podcast.

The one place I felt the movie really faltered was in the girlfriend/Richard Gere relationship. Make us think he actually loves her and this film would be that much stronger. As it is, she’s too irrelevant for some of the plot points.

Five Things.

Three great pleasures in life: Music, Food, Sex.
-Anthony Bourdain*
Two certainties: Death, Taxes.
-Benjamin Franklin
*Listened to Bourdain’s appearance on the 1/27/08 SoundOpinions podcast while I walked home. Very entertaining. A favorite line (not an exact quote / I’m paraphrasing): you even show the appearance of enjoying Billy Joel’s music in my kitchen and you’re immediately fired.

Live Via Podcast

If you’re not a concert-going freak like myself, but sometimes think “I wish I could hear these guys in concert,” then you might want to check out the KEXP Live Performance podcasts as well as NPR: All Songs Considered which recently has had a couple great live shows, such as The National, which was very similar to what I heard them do in concert (other than the live energy and the fact that you would have to turn a podcast up very VERY LOUD to have it be like being there in concert). KEXP had Band of Horses recently which I was psyched about since they are playing Chicago two nights in a row and I AM WORKING BOTH NIGHTS so I can’t go. Stupid j-o-b, always interfering with my real life priorities!!! One of them (um, yeah, I can’t remember which! Bygones) did an Okkervil River live podcast recently that was good, too. It was a much more raw show – more like dudes playing in a smokey bar than in a concert hall – a bit rough and tumble, and a few too many fans in the audience that wanted to make their presence known (“I love you, Will!” that’s great, moron, a) shut up and b) what about the rest of the band. geez. have some respect). There’s also a pretty long interview with aforementioned lead singer/writer/etc. Will at the end. I’m going to see Stars tomorrow night and I think I have a pretty good idea how cool and atmospheric their show is going to be after listening to their podcast with interview (KEXP or NPR? can’t remember!) where they talk about how much more important they find it to set up a real stage show/presence now that they’re playing to larger crowds.
So, in conclusion, if you can’t make it out to shows, or you can’t manage to get tickets the way I can here in Chicago (something I haven’t really gotten over, there are very few shows here where I haven’t been able to if I wanted [there is the rare show where I decide I just can’t go and then don’t try to buy them], and the only two I really remember are ones where I was an idiot and forgot that the tickets were on sale…), both NPR and KEXP are posting pretty solidly representative live podcasts. So you can go to the concert in your own living room or on your ipod on the El train. Woot. Check what they’ve got available for September/October and you should find all the ones I mentioned (as well as others).

Paste Culture Club 12/19 Edition.

This is a great introduction to Joseph Arthur, if you’re not already on his bandwagon (I am). Really good live performances of a bunch of songs, including a new one not even on the most recent album. Pretty funny guy and does not seem nearly as religious as some of his lyrics make you wonder. (As opposed to say, Josh Ritter, who talked a LOT about “spirituality” when he appeared on the show.)
Also a pretty interesting conversation with the guy/girl that make up the Weepies. But oddly no performance / just a song (or maybe two? can’t remember?) played off the last album. So interesting, but not as satisfying as the Arthur segment.

KCRW’s Bookworm: Zadie Smith 11/9

Zadie Smith’s become sort of the young female version of Phillip Roth: for a while there it was really (REALLY) popular to hate her and her books, or to talk about how you just didn’t get the hype.
That was during her first two books (“White Teeth” and “The Autograph Man”), BOTH of which I LOVED. Then her third book “On Beauty” came out and suddenly all the Zadie haters faded away and she became the critics’ darling. Sadly, I did not like that book very much. It was not nearly in the same league as the first two, in my opinion, and I certainly didn’t understand the hype this time around.
So if you’re like me, put aside the fact that On Beauty is one of the primary topics of this podcast, because once you get past that, it was a really great conversation. Much deeper/more insightful than many author chats I’ve read/listened to.
Smith said this book was intended to be a traditional English novel / a tribute to her idols/elders, that she hadn’t done before. She commented that she’s always told by people “your books are about the search for identity” and she always wants to say “yes, the realization that it’s a POINTLESS search for identity.”
They talked about David Foster Wallace and how you have to get beneath the surface. That it’s very easy for critics/readers to dismiss him due to his smart-aleck, wise-ass exterior, but that what’s he’s really trying to figure out is what truth is.
She talked about how the new modern model of a reader is that of a film watcher “here I am, entertain me” whereas the classical model of a reader (which is mostly lost at this point) was that of an amateur musician, sitting down in front of a piece of music you don’t know, that may have elements your skills will not let you comprehend, yet putting forth the effort, using all your skills to try and learn it and get to know it and the more you give, the more you will get back. I agree, and that evolution into stupidity is a real loss we’ve suffered (and continue to) as this world has evolved.
As Silverblatt replied: “This was once known: the reading of novels and poetry was instruction in how to be human.”
She also talked about how to be a good writer is more than just craft; you must educate your consciousness. When you write a bad book, it’s not just that the book was bad, but that you were a bad author of it, that you failed in your writing.
She disputes the (in her words) “currently very popular” idea that the whole point of life is to “find out who you are.” And said that the idea behind On Beauty was that it was full of people terrified of becoming less of who they are by pursuing what’s most meaningful to them.

Paste Culture Club 12/5 edition

More than half of this podcast is dedicated to one band, and I really (REALLY) liked them! Definitely going to have to check iTunes for this album when I get home tonight! They’re called Guggenheim Grotto. They’re on the acoustic/folk-y side of pop. They’re Irish. They’re livelier than, say, their fellow countryman Damien Rice. A bit more cheery, Beatles-y in both the lyrics and the mood department. Their album came out in 2005 abroad but just this Fall here. The MP3s you can listen to on their site are different songs than the one on the podcast so you can really get a wellrounded feel for them before you’ve even bought the album. And they’re apparently playing NY on Jan 30 and Feb 3, but unfortunately that does not fit into “possible weekends I can leave town”.
Damien Jurado and Rosie Thomas appear in the last bit of the podcast. Fun conversations / Sufjan comes up quite a bit.

Columbo Shoutout.

I haven’t watched an episode in years but somehow Peter Falk is still a god to me. If you are also a fan, then I highly recommend the Leonard Lopate podcast from 1/23. Lots of very cool Columbo facts revealed. Falk sounds a lot older (doh) and super raspy but still sparklingly intelligent and fun. Go Columbo!