Always an enigma, John Zorn, winner of a MacArthur Fellowship, founder of avant garde record label Tzadik proponent of radical Jewish culture, leader of the hard core group Naked City, creator of the Masada songbook, and hundreds of other things, has, with the likes of Mark Ribot, Cyro Baptista and Mike Pattoon, released a heart-breakingly lovely Christmas record, A Dreamer's Christmas. [more inside]
This past August a murder charge was dismissed against Nga Truong, a young mother who had confessed to Worcester, MA Police interrogators in 2008 that she had smothered and killed her 13 month-old baby, Khyle. A judge later concluded that confession was coerced -- extracted in part by police "deception," "trickery and implied promises" -- and the case was dropped. (pdf). Her case raises questions: What coercive power do detectives have who are driven to extract confessions? Under what circumstances might someone admit to a crime they have not committed? WBUR (Boston's NPR station) investigated Truong's case and has an extensive report, Anatomy of a Bad Confession: Part One and Two [more inside]
Paul Motian (wiki) (myspace) (allaboutjazz), one of the great jazz drummers of our time, is dead at 80. [more inside]
The goal of the new site Audiofiles is to be the Longreads of public radio, providing an easy-to-use, well-cataloged guide to the best radio stories ever told. Some background.
Daniel Yergin was recently interviewed on NPR's always informative Planet Money podcast. Yergin—most famous for his 1992 Pulitzer-winning opus on 20th century petroleum development, The Prize—has penned a sequel, of sorts, examining the modern quest for sustainable energy amidst the looming threat of climate change. If The Prize was an epic glorification of the quest for money, oil and power, The Quest is a look at those who might have to clean up the whole mess. "The heroes are the engineers and scientists of the energy world — the geeks, in other words." [more inside]
Marshall Terry, a reporter for WFAE in Charlotte, NC eats a pepper that is being submitted to Guiness as the world's hottest. Caution: there is hurling and hallucinating.
David Lynch's debut album, Crazy Clown Time, is streaming in its entirety on NPR first listen until November 8th. That is all.
Michele Norris is temporarily stepping down from All Things Considered until her husband's new role as Senior Adviser to the Obama Campaign is complete in 2012. [more inside]
"FAME is a fickle food / Upon a shifting plate, / Whose table once a Guest, but not / The second time, is set."
A Coconut Cake From Emily Dickinson: Reclusive Poet, Passionate Baker. [NPR.org] Poet Emily Dickinson withdrew from society for most of her adult life. And yet, she was known to lower a basket full of cakes from the window of the home she rarely left to crowds of expectant children on the street below. The Poet's House in New York City put on exhibit an original manuscript of a Dickinson cake recipe that contained coconut. That recipe calls for the following ingredients. 1 cup coconut, 2 cups flour, 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup butter, 1/2 cup milk, 2 eggs, 1/2 teaspoon soda, 1 teaspoon cream of tartar.
NPR doesn't like affiliate reporters participating in OWS. Lisa Simeone, host of World of Opera and Soundprints, which you may have heard on your local NPR station, had been speaking to the press at Occupy DC. NPR is calling her a "spokeswoman for Occupy DC" and is taking this very seriously. Simeone has been fired from Soundprints, with World of Opera still up in the air.
"... the album has an ebb and flow, much like the ocean near which it was recorded in North Carolina."
Balance, directed by Jay Buim, is a beautiful music video about two hitchhikers trying to get to the beach. The music comes from the latest album by NC/MD band Future Islands: On The Water. [more inside]
On Monday, me and some dudes are gonna tailgate outside the Kellogg School of Management before the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel is announced.
"I remember back in the '90s, when I first heard about their discovery of cell receptors activated by pathogenic microorganisms. I was in this bar called Alumni Club on Clark Street in Chicago. It's gone now, which is fine because it was terrible. Doesn't matter, I guess, but me and my buddies had just polished off a mound of wings and, like, seven buckets of Corona when this dude comes in blabbing about the critical role dendritic cells play in adaptive immunity. I almost kicked the hell out of him on the spot, but I have to admit the slides he brought made me a believer." Dennis O'Toole uses the Nobel Prize to satirize sports commentary in hilarious fashion. (SLNPR)
Dissolve my Nobel Prize! Fast! It's 1940. The Nazis have taken Copenhagen. They are literally marching through the streets, and physicist Niels Bohr has just hours, maybe minutes, to make two Nobel Prize medals disappear.
Over the summer, NPR solicited the input of its listeners to rank the top science fiction and fantasy books of all time. Over 60,000 people voted for the top picks which were then compiled into a list by their panel of experts. The result? This list of 100 books with a wide range of styles, little context, and absolutely no pithy commentary to help readers actually choose something to read from it. SF Signal comes to the rescue with this handy flowchart.
In their 25 year career San Fransisco-based Kronos Quartet might be most famous for creating the go-to dramatic movie trailer music but they've recently courted controversy with their latest album, 9/11, with Steve Reich (NPR First Listen). The album is another in a long line of collaborations with composers such as Phillip Glass, Terry Riley, and Pēteris Vasks. And like any good instrumental ensemble, they've covered Hendrix, Sigur Ros, and Tom Waits. Oh, and they've been on Sesame Street. [more inside]
Snap Judgement is a radio show airing on NPR stations; you can also listen to all of it online or via iTunes. The show bills itself as "storytelling with a beat". [more inside]
Since 2008, NPR's All Songs Considered has been doing the Tiny Desk Concert series in which they invite a musician or band or very large group to come and play a song behind the desk of the show's host, Bob Bollen, with the video camera running. The result can be intimate, absurd, raucous and just plain enjoyable. A browseable archive of all 150+ shows is here. [more inside]
NPR Books is asking people to vote for their ten favorite science fiction / fantasy books of all time. The list is exhaustive; the picking only ten is hard.
In the New Yorker: Getting Bin Laden, What happened that night in Abbottabad. The writer, Nicholas Schmidle, spoke with NPR about the article and gives a short audio account of the raid.
When Patents Attack. The team at PRI's This American Life and NPR's Planet Money bring you an hour long look into the growing "Mafia War" around software patents. Diving into the corporate filings, patent acquisitions, and office locations of Nathan Myrhvold's Intellectual Ventures and it's shell companies, Laura Sydell and Alex Blumburg uncover a disturbing protection scheme which threatens to undermine the competitiveness of the US tech industry[pdf]. [more inside]
How Much Does It Cost To Make A Hit Song? "Def Jam started paying for Rihanna's recent single, "Man Down," more than a year ago. In March of 2010, the label held a writing camp in L.A. to create the songs for Rihanna's album, Loud." [more inside]
A Canticle for Leibowitz (1981, NPR); an audio adaptation of Walter Miller's 1960 history of the Albertian Order of Leibowitz in the centuries after the Flame Deluge. [more inside]
Hidden Tunnels, Bugs, and Bigamy: A Strange and True D.C. Story: "Reports indicated that the tunnels were long and extensive – that they may have reached as far as Rock Creek Park. Some electric lighting was discovered inside. For days, wild theories abounded – was it a Confederate soldier hideout? A stop on the Underground Railroad? A liquor depot for bootleggers? A counterfeiter’s lair? Or maybe a secret laboratory for 'Dr. Otto von Golph’s' experiments?
None of the above." [more inside]
None of the above." [more inside]
The Declaration of Independence is perhaps the most masterfully written state paper of Western civilization. As Moses Coit Tyler noted almost a century ago, no assessment of it can be complete without taking into account its extraordinary merits as a work of political prose style. Although many scholars have recognized those merits, there are surprisingly few sustained studies of the stylistic artistry of the Declaration. This essay seeks to illuminate that artistry by probing the discourse microscopically -- at the level of the sentence, phrase, word, and syllable. The University of Wisconsin's Dr. Stephen E. Lucas meticulously analyzes the elegant language of the 235-year-old charter in a distillation of this comprehensive study. More on the Declaration: full transcript and ultra-high-resolution scan, a transcript and scan of Jefferson's annotated rough draft, the little-known royal rebuttal, a thorough history of the parchment itself, a peek at the archival process, a reading of the document by the people of NPR and by a group of prominent actors, H. L. Mencken's "American" translation, Slate's Twitter summaries, and a look at the fates of the 56 signers.
Marlon Brando. Yeah, sure, he could act. Very talented guy. But, hey, he also invented a radically innovative tuning system for conga drums. Played the congas, too. Yup. That's right.
On the Media's Bob Garfield demonstrates How to Turn a Fan into an Enemy in Under 140 Characters.
What does a post-American world look like? NPR interviews Fareed Zakaria on America's future role in world events.
"There are no national standards or regulations regarding forensic pathology and practices vary widely from place to place."
The Hardest Cases: When Children Die, Justice Can Be Elusive A joint investigation by PBS Frontline, ProPublica and NPR has found that medical examiners and coroners have repeatedly mishandled cases of infant and child deaths, helping to put innocent people behind bars. (Via. (Article contains descriptions of children that have been killed by abuse. May be disturbing / triggering to some readers.) [more inside]
GigaOM writer: "Anonymity has real value, both in comments and elsewhere." In the wake of the faux lesbian Damascus blogger, the question over whether or not to allow anonymous comments is being raised again. Some claim anonymous comments allow for dissent and are essential to democracy. Other claim that that anonymous comments lead to harsher, uncivil conversation that serves nobody. [more inside]
NPR's Alt.Latino is a new program that started almost a year ago. There is the main NPR sub-site that provide access to everything Alt.Latino, including the blog with a tracklist and links, and a 30 minute radio-type show, where the two hosts chat about the music, describing the lyrics for those not fluent in Spanish, and providing background on the musicians.
"Now is a better time to be a musician, or a fan of music, than any other time in all of human history." Last Friday, the NPR Planet Money podcast featured musician Jonathan Coulton, whose online success prompted one host to compare the man (or his brand) to the blanket-with-arms Snuggie, i.e. "we didn't know we wanted it, and then all of a sudden we did." Coulton responds with his own thoughts on new business models for musicians in the Internet/file-sharing age.
It is 2007, and R.P. Salazar is living in Waco, Texas. His email username is rpsalazar. One day an email arrives addressed to another rpsalazar, meant for someone with the same initials and surname but a slightly different email address. He sends it along to the right person, an R.P. Salazar living in Bangkok. Before clicking Send he adds a p.s.: "How's the weather in Bangkok?" Before the end of 2007, Ruben Salazar and Rachel Salazar are married. Storycorps and NPR report the whole story. (The text is good, but the audio is even better. Click "Listen to the Story.")
On May 7th, Robert Krulwich (of WNYC's RadioLab and accompanying NPR blog Krulwich Wonders) gave the commencement speech to Berkeley Journalism School’s Class of 2011 on the future of journalism. (Via) [more inside]
Coal cares! "Puff-Puff™ inhalers are available free to any family living within 200 miles of a coal plant, and each inhaler comes with a $10 coupon towards the cost of the asthma medication itself." [more inside]
"You've seen ants. Thousands of them. And most of the time, you've seen them in colonies, living as a group. But have you seen them float as a group? Apparently a single fire ant will struggle in water, but a cluster of them can bob happily for months. A new study has used time lapse photography to figure out why — and how — that is."
The Sad, Beautiful Fact That We're All Going To Miss Almost Everything. The vast majority of the world's books, music, films, television and art, you will never see. It's just numbers.
NPR's On the Media dedicated its hour this weekend to the new Egyptian media landscape (direct MP3 link). [more inside]
"First, Lord: No tattoos. May neither Chinese symbol for truth nor Winnie-the-Pooh holding the FSU logo stain her tender haunches." Tina Fey's The Mother’s Prayer for Its Daughter from her new book Bossypants. You can hear her read this piece at the beginning of her interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air.
On NPR Science Friday (1-hour audio), Werner Herzog and Cormac McCarthy discuss science, art and the abyss of humanity.
A love song to Ira Glass.
Sandwich Mondays! For the past year, the Wait Wait... Don't Blog Me! team at NPR has been blogging about a different sandwich every Monday. Some highlights include the most expensive burger in the world, the Kevin Butler (a "nonfictional sandwich from a fictional person"), , Paula Deen's favorite burger (it is even more impressive than you expect), and quite possibly the first sandwich ever made. And, from the Golden Arches, the
McGangBang McRedacted, the classic McRib, and the Mc10:35 (possible only during the magical moment when breakfast and lunch menus are available at the same time).
The US House of Representatives has voted to cut all federal NPR funding. To take effect, this would still need to make it through the senate, which most likely would not succeed. [more inside]
"Ron Schiller, NPR Foundation's senior vice president for fundraising, was recorded secretly on Feb. 22 by Republican filmmaker James O'Keefe, who is well known for his undercover stunts targeting various agencies. Schiller is seen on a videotape during a luncheon with men who were posing as members of the fictitious Muslim Action Education Center."* [more inside]
American women at work, by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The ratio of women's to men's earnings, for all occupations, was 81.2 percent in 2010. Of course, it was also at this level in 2005 and 2006. Give it another 40 years or so to women to get paid what men do for working the same jobs. Though the trend is stagnant at the moment (see Chart 1 on page 3 of this 2009 PDF) some are optimistic about the progress women have made. [more inside]
"Sixty years ago this month, a musical icon was born. If you've listened to any kind of popular music from the past 60 years, you've heard a Telecaster." [more inside]
Andy Carvin hasn't slept much for the last 19 days. Curation of news, social media, and rumor: is this the future of journalism? The story of @acarvin. [more inside]