Category Archives: Media

The Secrets Of Groceries & The Passion For Baking

Benjamin Lorr – The Secret Life Of Groceries  – The Dark Miracle Of The American Supermarket

What does it take to run the American supermarket? How do products get to shelves? Who sets the price? And who suffers the consequences of increased convenience end efficiency? In his alarming exposé, author Benjamin Lorr pulls back the curtain on this highly secretive industry. Combining deep sourcing, immersive reporting, and compulsively readable prose, Lorr leads a wild investigation, revealing the secrets of Trader Joe’s success from Trader Joe himself. He talks about why truckers call their job “sharecropping on wheels” and the truth behind the alarming slave trade in the shrimp industry. Benjamin’s book is a page-turning portrait of an industry in flux, filled with the passion, ingenuity, and exploitation required to make this everyday miracle continue to function. The author’s enthusiasm for his story is evident in this engaging conversation with Norman B.

Chef Kelly Fields – The Good Book of Southern Baking – A Revival of Biscuits, Cakes & Cornbread

Celebrated pastry chef Kelly Fields has spent decades figuring out what makes the absolute best biscuits, cornbread, butterscotch pudding, peach pie, and, well, every baked good in the Southern repertoire. In her first book, Fields generously shares her boundless expertise and ingenious ideas. With more than one hundred recipes for quick breads, muffins, biscuits, cookies and bars, puddings and custards, cobblers, crisps, galettes, pies, tarts, and cakes—including dozens of variations on beloved standards—this is the new bible for Southern baking. Chef Kelly talks about pastries, pies, and puddings but also gets into why she is so passionate about her culinary skills, and the star chef also explains how the pandemic has helped her take a fresh look at life and being inspired by the music of Sleater-Kinney.

 

Show #390

Martha Graham, The Dancing Diplomat. A Tribute To Toots.

 

 

Martha Graham’s Cold War frames the story of Martha Graham and her particular brand of dance modernism as pro-Western Cold War propaganda used by the United States government to promote American democracy. Representing every seated president from Dwight D. Eisenhower through Ronald Reagan, Graham performed politics in the global field for over thirty years. Why did the State Department consistently choose Martha Graham? As with other art forms such as jazz or avant-garde paintings, modern dance was seen to demonstrate American values of individualism and freedom; the choreographer used the freed body to make a new dance technique that could find the essence of human narratives. Graham targeted elites and its youth with modern dance to propound the ‘universalism’ of human rights under the banner of American democracy. In her choreography, argues author Victoria Phillips, Graham recast the stories of the Western canon through female protagonists whom she captured as timeless, seemingly beyond current politics, and in so doing implied superior political and cultural values of the Free World. Centering on powerful yet not demonstrably American female characters, the stories Graham danced seduced and captured the imaginations of elite audiences without seeming to force a determinedly American agenda. When her characters grew mythic on stage, they became the stories of all mankind, as Graham termed it. “My dances are ages old in meaning,” she declared. But Graham took the pro-American argument one step further than her artistic compatriots. She added the trope of the frontier to her repertory. In the Cold War, Graham’s particular modernism and the woman herself ossified, as did political aims of cultural diplomacy based on an appeal to foreign elites. Phillips lays bare the side-by-side trajectories between the aging of Graham’s choreography, her work as an ambassador, and the political dominance of the United States as a global power. With her tours and Cold War modernism, she demonstrated the power of the individual, immigrants, republicanism, and freedom from walls and metaphorical fences through cultural diplomacy with the unfettered language of movement and dance.

Toots Hibbert died of complications due to Covid-19 at University Hospital, Kingston, Jamaica on September 11, 2020. The 77-year-old reggae legend is widely credited as the genesis of the genre name reggae, after his 1968 song, Do The Reggay. The youngest of eight children, he became an orphan by the age of 11 and went to live with his brother John in the Trenchtown neighborhood of Kinston. In 1962, while working at a local barbershop, he was heard singing by Ralphus “Raleigh” Gordon and Nathaniel “Jerry” Matthias. They become a trio, The Maytals, named after Hibbert’s hometown May Pen. In 1962 the trio was discovered by producer Clement “Coxsone” Dodd, who signed them to his Studio One label.  Hibbert’s soulful lead vocals were often compared to US soul icons, Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett. After two years with Studio One, The Maytals briefly worked with producer and ska pioneer Prince Buster before signing on with another Jamaican record man of note, Byron Lee, in 1965. The Lee-produced material showed that The Maytals were developing a more mature and polished approach, but the group hit a serious roadblock in 1966 when Hibbert was arrested for possession of marijuana; he was convicted and would serve a year behind bars. This experience provided the inspiration for one of his best-known songs, 54-46 That’s My Number. Hibbert was one of the first artists to use the word “reggae”, in 1968’s Do The Reggay. Reunited with Matthias and Gordon, the trio became known as Toots & The Maytals.  Hibbert’s stay in prison coincided with ska fading from the musical landscape in Jamaica as the proto-reggae sounds of rocksteady took its place. The new style suited Toots & The Maytals, and they signed with producer Leslie Kong, with whom the band would record some of their biggest hits, including Pressure Drop, Sweet and Dandy, Monkey Man, and 54-46 That’s My Number. Chris Blackwell, whose Island Records label was enjoying success releasing reggae material in the U.K. and U.S signed Toots & The Maytals releasing a revamped version of the album Funky Kingston in the United States in 1975. By the mid-’90s Hibbert had assembled a new version of Toots & The Maytals without Gordon and Matthias and toured extensively while recording a handful of albums for various reggae specialist labels. Toots & The Maytals made a high-profile comeback in 2004 with the album True Love, in which Toots re-recorded a number of his best and best-known songs with a stellar collection of guest stars, including Eric Clapton, No Doubt, Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt, Keith Richards, and The Roots. After this Grammy-winning collection of duets, Hibbert stepped back to the spotlight on his own for 2007’s Light Your Light, and in 2012 his latest edition of The Maytals set out on a global acoustic tour to commemorate the 50th anniversary of their recording debut. A pair of concert albums, Reggae Got Soul: Unplugged on Strawberry Hill and Live! appeared that same year. After a 2013 incident in which Hibbert was hurt by a vodka bottle thrown by an intoxicated fan, he eased back on his career, performing occasionally but staying away from the studio. However, when noted musician and reggae fan Zak Starkey launched a new label, Trojan Jamaica, one of the first acts he signed was Toots & The Maytals, and their first release for the company, Got to Be Tough, arrived in August 2020. Frederick Nathaniel “Toots” Hibbert, O.J. will be long remembered as one of popular music’s most important contributors.

Show #389

Us & Them & Them & Us

                                

Ian Buruma – The Churchill Complex – The Curse of Being Special, From Winston and FDR to Trump and Brexit

It’s impossible to understand the last 75 years of American history, through to Trump and Brexit, without understanding the Anglo-American relationship, and specifically the bonds between presidents and prime ministers. FDR of course had Churchill; JFK famously had Macmillan, his consigliere during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Reagan found his ideological soul mate in Thatcher, and George W. Bush found his fellow believer, in religion and in war, in Tony Blair. And now, of course, it is impossible to understand the populist uprising in either country, from 2016 to the present, without reference to Trump and Boris Johnson, though ironically, they are also the key to understanding the special relationship’s demise. There are few things more certain in politics than that at some point, facing a threat to national security, a leader will evoke Winston Churchill to stand for brave leadership (and Neville Chamberlain to represent craven weakness). As Ian Buruma shows, in his dazzling short tour de force of storytelling and analysis, the mantle has in fact only grown more oppressive as nuanced historical understanding fades and is replaced by shallow myth. Absurd as it is to presume to say what Churchill would have thought about any current event, it’s relatively certain he would have been horrified by the Iraq War and Brexit, to name two episodes dense with “Finest Hour” analogizing. In The Churchill Complex, distinguished author, Ian Buruma offers more than a reflection on the weight of Churchill’s legacy and its misuses.  It’s never been a relationship of equals: from Churchill’s desperate cajoling and conniving to keep FDR on the side in the war on, British prime ministers have put much more stock in the relationship than their US counterparts did. For England, resigned to the loss of its once-great empire and the diminishment of its power, its close kinship to the world’s greatest superpower would give it continued relevance, and serve as leverage to keep continental Europe in its place. And now, even as the links between the Brexit vote and the 2016 US election are coming into sharper focus, the Anglo-American alliance has floundered on the rocks of the isolationism that is one of 2016’s signal legacies. Ian Buruma is a keen observer and a delightfully informative guest.

Wendy Holden – The Royal Governess  – A Novel Of Queen Elizabeth Ii’s Childhood

In 1933, twenty-two-year-old Marion Crawford accepts the role of a lifetime, tutoring the little Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose.  Her one stipulation to their parents the Duke and Duchess of York is that she brings some doses of normalcy into their sheltered and privileged lives. At Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, and Balmoral, Marion defies stuffy protocol to take the princesses on tube trains, swimming at public baths, and on joyful Christmas shopping trips at Woolworth’s. From her ringside seat at the heart of the British monarchy, she witnesses twentieth-century history’s most seismic events. The trauma of the Abdication, the glamour of the Coronation, the onset of World War II. She steers the little girls through it all, as close as a mother. During Britain’s darkest hour, as Hitler’s planes fly over Windsor, she shelters her charges in the castle dungeons (not far from where the Crown Jewels are hidden in a biscuit tin). Afterwards, she is present when Elizabeth first sets eyes on Philip. But being a beloved confidante to the Windsors comes at huge personal cost. Marriage, children, her own views: all are compromised by proximity to royal glory. Best known for her comic novels, Wendy Holden’s diversion into what she calls “hybrid” writing, is almost a self-effacing description of a brilliant melding of fact and fiction. You’ll be enchanted by the bestselling author’s enthusiasm for her story of a progressive young teacher who became governess to children of a family frozen in time.

Show 388

Conversations On Fascists & Fascism

                                

When Attilio Teruzzi, Mussolini’s handsome political enforcer, married a rising young American opera star, his good fortune seemed settled. The wedding was a carefully stage-managed affair, capped with a blessing by Mussolini himself. Yet only three years later, after being promoted to commander of the Black Shirts, Teruzzi renounced his wife. In fascist Italy, a Catholic country with no divorce law, he could only dissolve the marriage by filing for an annulment through the medieval procedures of the Church Court. The proceedings took an ominous turn when Mussolini joined Hitler: Lilliana Teruzzi was Jewish, and fascist Italy would soon introduce its first race laws. In The Perfect Fascist: A Story of Love, Power, and Morality in Mussolini’s Italy Victoria de Grazia pivots from the intimate story of a tempestuous seduction and inconvenient marriage―brilliantly reconstructed through family letters and court records―to a riveting account of Mussolini’s rise and fall. It invites us to see in the vain, loyal, lecherous, and impetuous Attilio Teruzzi, a decorated military officer, an exemplar of fascism’s New Man. Why did he abruptly discard the woman he had so eagerly courted? And why, when the time came to find another partner, did he choose another Jewish woman as his would-be wife? In Victoria de Grazia’s engrossing account, we see him vacillating between the will of his Duce and the dictates of his heart. De Grazia’s landmark history captures the seductive appeal of fascism and shows us how, in his moral pieties and intimate betrayals, his violence and opportunism, Teruzzi is a forefather of the illiberal politicians of today. Professor of history, Victoria De Grazia is an exuberant story-teller – a wonderful guest who passionately shares her treasure trove of research – and opinions. 

One of our most frequently downloaded Life Elsewhere Podcasts from the last year is The Ten Pillars of Fascist Politics.  Jason Stanley, a scholar of philosophy and propaganda and as a child of refugees of WWII Europe, understood Fascism means the dividing of a population to achieve power. But even he was surprised by its prevalence at home. First, with the rise of the birther movement and later the ascent of Donald Trump, he observed that not only is the rise of fascist politics possible in the United States, but its roots have been here for more than a century. Drawing on history, philosophy, sociology, critical race theory, and examples from around the world from 19th century America to 20th-century Germany (where Hitler was inspired by the Confederacy and Jim Crow South) to 21st-century India. How Fascism Works identifies ten pillars of fascist politics that leaders use to build onto power by dividing populations into an “us” and “them”. Stanley uncovers urgent patterns that are as prevalent today as ever and pins down a creeping sense that fascist tendencies are on the rise. By recognizing them, he argues, readers might begin to resist their most harmful effects. For this show, we have included an excerpt from our original interview with Jason Stanley.

Show #387

The Artist Who Says The Art World Isn’t A Good Place For Artists

 

“If you’re an artist, the art world is not a good place for you. If you’re an accountant, the art world is a good place for you.” Says Peter Harris who also happens to be an artist, film-maker, and musician. His work often involves experimenting with new ways of making self-portraits, many of which become collaborations.  In 1998 he began working ‘by proxy’, inviting family and cultural icons who have had an influence on his life to give him ideas for paintings, searching for his identity through those who had played a part in constructing it. His longest-running and most well-known association is with Jamaican music legend Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry. Since 2003 they have been working on a series of drawings, paintings, and films as well as music projects. In 2003 Harris collaborated with the London Mennonite Society to make the short film Hymn which was screened at the National Film Theatre. His feature-length cult documentary Higher Powers (2004) features interviews with a host of eclectic personalities including the future Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Ken Russell, Uri Geller, a gangster, police chief, religious leader as well as artists interspersed with performance art pieces and animations. In 2018 he began working with Trashmouth Records and released his first solo album Adverts which included guest performances by Lee Perry and Vic Godard. Each album contained an ‘art advert’ in the form of a one-off painted collage. He is also working with Zsa Zsa Sapien from the South London band Meatraffle on a collaborative music project under the name ‘The Hi-Fi Twins’. 

BombArt, is Peter’s current project with Mark Stewart, artist, vocalist, producer, and songwriter from Bristol, widely known as a founding member of The Pop Group, Mark Stewart & The Maffia, and as a soloist. 

Peter Harris spoke with Norman B about BombArt, his art, and music, dealing with Covd19 and his views on the art world. 

The music included in the program:

1.Peter HarrisYou Will Be My Dad, mixed by Adrian Sherwood, from the album, Adverts on Trashmouth Records

2. Unreleased track, BabymanBabyman, an art and music collaboration with Them Driver

3. Peter Harris and Lee “Scratch” PerryGod Save The Queen, mixed by Adrian Sherwood

4. Mark Stewart & The MafiaJerusalem produced by Adrian Sherwood (1982 12” On U Sound) 

5. Max Romeo, Lee Perry & The Upsetters – Norman (1976 12” produced by Lee Perry) 

Learn more about Peter Harris, Mark Stewart, and BombArt 

Show #386

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