Tag Archives: NPR

USA – (PBS + NPR) = WTF?

Really? We need to cut spending and this is where we start?

Why is this even a left vs. right issue anyway? Isn’t it appalling enough that your elected officials – supposedly representatives in the full sense of the word – align and vote according to party lines rather than for their constituents? Are there really communities of people who don’t want the availability of television (PBS) and radio (NPR) that is not owned and operated by a corporation’s political contributions? FOX shills for the right, MSNBC shills for the left, and those seeking unbiased reporting about America have to turn to the BBC?

PBS is a proven source of educational programming whose effects upon participants is well documented. Programs like Sesame Street and Reading Rainbow revolutionized the way television could be used to jump-start a child’s ability to grasp and learn fundamental skills. Granted, the issue is not targeting specific programs but the funneling of public money to arts channels. But those matching grants and supplemental contributions are often the difference between whether a program gets made or not. And with the economy in the toilet, public contributions are down, because people cannot afford to be as generous.

But those people aren’t buying twelve hundred dollar hammers or giving themselves lifetime perks of retirement funds and health care (that they deny to the very people who elected them to serve). These contributors are mostly people like you and me trying to heat our homes and put food on the table.

I’m sure I could find fat on the bone somewhere else. So can you.

I mean, what has to be done to convince these political dunderheads that our failing educational system is an integral part of our fall from grace (right alongside corporate greed, public indifference and the insistence on propping up governments around the world to support our corporate interests while our own population is underemployed, hungry and in need of basic human services)?

Do I have to type shorter sentences?

Do I have to sign yet another petition?

Does LeVar Burton have to appear on Community to remind us how we didn’t save Reading Rainbow?

Or can we perhaps just get it through our thick skulls that the very name “Corporation for Public Broadcasting” is an oxymoron? Maybe we don’t need to cut funding, but to fund better?

Maybe Congress should be spending some time figuring out how to better fund and manage an institution that is supposed to service the entire country by providing funding to “promote ideas and perspectives that are ignored or underrepresented in the commercial media“.

Of course that would mean Congress has less time to pointlessly witch-hunt Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, but dammit, sacrifices must be made.

If you want more information or want to get involved, click here.

Today’s topic was brought to you by the letters E-L-I.

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At The Movies…Reborn?

Roger Ebert is reviving At The Movies!

From an article in Friday’s edition of The New York Times:

The balcony has reopened. Less than a month after the final episode of At the Movies, the long-running film criticism show, was broadcast, Roger Ebert said he would bring back a version of the series that will be shown on public television next year. In an announcement on his blog at the Web site of The Chicago Sun-Times, Mr. Ebert said the new series, called “Roger Ebert Presents At the Movies,” would start in January and will have as its hosts Christy Lemire, film critic of The Associated Press, and Elvis Mitchell of NPR and a former film critic for The New York Times. In a statement, Mr. Ebert said the revival of the series was “the rebirth of a dream.” Mr. Ebert, who lost his lower jaw to throat cancer, said he would appear in segments on the new At the Movies using a computerized voice but would not debate his co-hosts

This is great news for those of us who have grown up enjoying the various editions of the classic program where two film critics discussed film, usually in an intelligent and thought-provoking manner. Besides promoting the radical ideas of thinking and expressing ideas and opinions, the show was an oasis in an ocean of bad entertainment television more often in search of a sound bite and a celebrity kiss-up than an actual critical review.

Sadly, I don’t see the name of Richard Roeper in that press release. Ebert and Roeper had discussed starting their own program when they were unceremonially pushed aside for a newer, hipper version of the show…a colossal mistake which lasted less than a season and went down in flames like a gasoline-soaked lawn dart.

But as always, go to Roger Ebert’s Journal for the facts…and some of the most entertaining and intelligent conversation on the web.

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Chilton Classics

Not in sales, no - but in impact? Oh, yes.

“Thinking ’bout what to say / and I can’t find the lines…”   

Alex Chilton died the other day, and so did a piece of me. I first heard Alex when his booming gravel voice launched out of my transistor radio with “The Letter”, the brilliant Box Tops single that didn’t waste a second of it’s not quite two minutes. I was still buying singles then, and follow-ups like “Cry Like A Baby” and “Soul Deep” made it all the way from Memphis to my ears. 

From The Box Tops to Big Star

But most singles bands from the 60s had their moment and hit the wall when music turned towards FM radio and longer, more sophisticated album cuts. And although I was getting into progressive rock and glam and the beginnings of heavy metal with Black Sabbath, I retained my passion for short sharp pop songs. I wouldn’t realize until years later that the Box Tops weren’t a group of friends hanging out and writing songs like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones were, but rather they were a staunchly controlled vehicle for a group of writers and producers and that a disillusioned sixteen year old was in fact that singer who sounded like he had already lived a hard life. I was half right. 

Thanks to someone’s insight in a rock magazine – I’ll wager that it was Creem – I was tipped that this new band was aces and I was able to grab a copy of the first Big Star album called #1 Record. What an audacious title, I thought, but dropping the needle on that album was an electrifying experience. Here was an album of impeccable chestnuts, from the rocking “Don’t Lie To Me” and “In The Street” to the sweet and fragile “Try Again” and  “Give Me Another Chance” (and when that crescendo of angelic vocals comes crashing in…oh, my God!). The fist fight between the tambourine and ringing guitar chords in “When My Baby’s Beside Me”. And that dagger-through-the-heart, “Thirteen”, which dripped with teenage angst. 

December Boys got it bad

The second album, sans Chris Bell, was almost as good, a little sloppier and esoteric with absolute standouts like “Back of A Car”, “September Gurls” and “O My Soul”. Meanwhile “What’s Going Ahn” and “Daisy Glaze” and “Morpha Too” hinted at the fragility that was to come in Third / Sister Lovers. Despite some genuinely upbeat sounding moments in “Thank You Friends” and “Jesus Christ”, it was painful to listen to “Holocaust” and “Big Black Car”, almost the soundtrack of a man falling apart. 

A perfect album title; he could have used it twice.

The post-Big Star years were a mixed bag; there were moments of pure joy and fun and others of witnessing painfully inept performances. I remember being in a club with my friend Bill waiting for a band to come onstage, and the most horrific atonal version of “The Letter” came over the sound system. As we cringed, the bartender informed us that it was a tape of a recent Alex Chilton performance; I remember thinking that he sounded like he would die mid-set. 

But in the coming years he regrouped and rebounded, issuing some solid EPs before getting talked into reforming Big Star with Jody Stephens and a pair of Posies in Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer. When The Replacements blasted out the dynamic single “Alex Chilton” the legend was reborn; more indie bands started to admit the influence and at long last Chilton was getting the popular response to match the critical hurrahs. 

 

But Alex took it full circle and reunited The Box Tops, for as esoteric and varied as his playlists had been over the years – from soul to powerpop to MOR standards – the New Orleans via Memphis vibe never left. He seemed to enjoy the Box Tops shows more than the Big Star ones, and perhaps that’s why their reunion album In Space was a disappointment – his heart wasn’t in it anymore. 

But his soul and his heart and his pen and his voice came together often enough to leave behind an incredible legacy. So here are ten tunes that are a huge part of my life, songs that hit me like a ton of bricks or dovetailed with the emotions I was going through when I first heard them. They are fresh and timeless and will resonate with me no matter how old I am. I’m in love…with that song. 

And now the show for SXSW will go on as a tribute.

Icewater

 * September Gurls. December boys got it bad, I know, Alex, I know. Me too. 

* Cry Like A Baby. “Today we passed on the street/and you just walked on by/my heart just fell to my feet…” 

* The Ballad of El Goodo. “I’ve been trying hard against unbelievable odds” 

* Take Me Home and Make Me Like It. Is that the best pick up line ever? Hilarious and sloppy. 

* Soul Deep. Pop Soul Perfection. Neil Diamond shat himself when he heard this. 

* I’m In Love With A Girl. I can’t help but smile every time I hear this simple, fragile love song. There’s so much angst and pain in Alex’s catalogue; this is a nice exception. 

* No Sex. More for the fact that the EP signaled his return than the song itself. 

* Back of a Car. Thinking about what to say, and I can’t find the lines

* The Letter. The two minutes that started it all. 

* Thirteen Maybe the most poignant song about fumbling adolescence ever written. This one went through my heart like a spear, even though I was eighteen when I heard it. 

Rest In Peace, Alex.

All Music Guide tribute from Steven Thomas Erlewine 

Memphis Commercial Appeal says goodbye 

Some thoughts from pop critic Mike Bennett

Alex Chilton wiki with links to multiple discographies

The tribute at Popdose

Auditeer and music columnist John Micek remembers

Ed Ward from NPR chimes in

Anthony Lombardi talked to John Fry about Alex.

Others pay tribute from SXSW.

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Stand Up Wit…Moshe Kasher

"It's almost odorless!"

Everyone You Know is Going To Die (And Then You Are…Unless You Die First) is a mouthful of a title for a debut album. And while it also references the least funny bit in his live show, it does hint at the absurdist approach of Moshe Kasher. His material is an intriguing combination of cerebral humor and crude imagery, but it’s his precision with language that sets him apart from the pack – he’s a great writer who’s also a talented performer.

I’ll admit up front that mixing studio cuts within a live performance (as done here)  is a concept that usually doesn’t work well for me. When the live show is clicking – and this one is – the inserted bits usually break up the momentum of the show. These stand-up bits are all short and imaginative, and I think running them together followed by the set pieces would have made a stronger presentation, especially since the live show is relatively short (approximately twenty-five minutes). But that’s a small nit to pick.

His stage show is very funny, with good takes on familiar topics like religion and sex and great routines about the consequences of mistaking one French phrase for another, the myth of LA/SF turf wars, and how to possibly compliment the female privates. His material is lean and tight (nothing is longer than a minute or two) and Kasher is as expressive with his voice as he is with physical gestures. You lose very little by just hearing it on an audio CD.

As for the recorded monologues, “An Open Letter to Modesto, California” probably works the best because it’s an increasingly bitter and vulgar rant against some homophobic pinheads at a prior show that immediately follows two routines about gay-bashing. It’s also incredibly well-written, a slow volcano of seething anger and frustration heightened by subtle sound effects that are also very funny (the spit-take from the imaginary Yefet character – and Moshe’s subsequent exchange with him –  is hilarious). It’s almost nine minutes long without one weak moment.

Two of the other studio monologues (“White Pube” and “Getting out of Speeding Tickets”) are funny enough, Kasher reciting twisted thoughts in his best NPR voice, but they’re not natural segues where they are placed within the live show. (“Speeding Tickets” sounds like a Jack Handey routine gone off the rails). A fourth piece (“Emails I Have Received”) wears thin after the first minute, but the concept was a good one.

I’d go see this guy in a heartbeat. And selfishly, as much as I enjoy the audio monologues, I’m hoping his next album contains a longer live performance.

Moshe Kasher‘s site and MySpace site.

Rooftop Comedy Productions

Video: “Adventures in France

The "Gitler" haircut

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