Category Archives: Talk Radio

Bad Books, Bad Movies, & Polite Behavior

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Since its publication in 1966, Jacqueline Susann’s Valley of the Dolls has reigned as one of the most influential and beloved pieces of commercial fiction. Selling over thirty-one million copies worldwide, it revolutionized overnight the way books got sold, thanks to the tireless and canny self-promoting Susann. It also generated endless speculation about the author’s real-life models for its larger-than-life characters. Turned in 1967 into an international box-office sensation and morphing into a much-beloved cult film, its influence endures today in everything from films and TV shows to fashion and cosmetics tributes and tie-ins. Susann’s compulsive readable exposé of three female friends finding success in New York City and Hollywood was a scandalous eye-opener for its candid treatment of sex, naked ambition, ageism, and pill-popping, and the big-screen version was one of the most-seen and talked-about movies of the time. Stephen Rebello’s new book, Dolls! Dolls! Dolls! Deep Inside Valley Of The Dolls, The Most Beloved Bad Book & Movie Of All Time dishes the dirt on that hugely successful book and movie and uncovers how the movie has become a cherished widely imitated camp classic. 

Continuing on from over-the-top performances we asked film and media critic, Bob Ross to share his idea of best bad movies. He focuses in on the decade, ’79 – ’89 and suggests bad movies can also have great soundtracks, like Rock & Roll High School featuring The Ramones. Bob also warns that his list of bad movies should be watched alone for fear of ridicule by those with a more sophisticated taste.  

From bad books and movies, we turn to bad behavior. Vulgar, rude, obnoxious, unrefined are just some of the epithets used to describe the current President. Polite behavior seems to have escaped his daily routine. If it were possible, we believe he could learn a lot from Galateo: Or, The Rules of Polite Behavior. Although written in Renaissance Italy, it’s just as fresh and pertinent today. Editor and translator, Matthew Rusnak offers a droll take on academia, explaining how the author, Giovanni Della Casa, gives instructions for civilized behavior, which includes making sure nothing falls out of your nose when passing someone a drink.

Show #376

Black Says

In a recent edition of Life Elsewhere Music we invited Josh Idehen and Tom Leaper of Benin City to talk about their new, timely single, Hold Them Close. A song, written over a year ago, that urges us all to remember to care about each other, even in these trying times of Covid-19. Josh Idehen wasted little time in expressing his displeasure of our so-called leaders in the UK and the US on how they have handled the pandemic and ongoing racial problems. Josh, along with being a talented musician, is also an acclaimed poet and spoken word artist was motivated to speak at an event in London, after the tragic murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. We have included the audio from the video of Josh Idehen reciting Black Says in the latest volume of Life Elsewhere Music. The powerful words of Josh Idehen’s Black Says can be heard at the end of this volume. Please listen carefully.

We begin with Know Like Dat by East Man. The cut is from Prole Art Threat the new LP by producer Anthony Hart, aka East Man. On this long-player, Anthony brings together talented MC’s from all over London. And, the title, Prole Art Threat is a big nod of respect to the late, Mark E Smith of The Fall. Next up I Left You a track from the debut EP y? by Julia Sophie from Oxford who says, I Left You” is a song about struggling with love and life, being torn in all kinds of directions, choosing how to live and who to live for”. We admit to being fascinated by covers, so the EP Reestablishing Connection from Sega Bodega demanded our attention. Teardrop originally by Massive Attack was selected as reworked by Sega Bodega & Lafewndah. Salvador Navarrete is Glaswegian producer, singer, songwriter, and label head aka Sega Bodega. He shares that all profits will be donated to the AIM COVID-19 Crisis Fund, providing vital support to contractors and freelance workers in the independent music industry. Next, it’s off to Reykjavic, Iceland the home of Katrín Helga Andrésdóttir – also known as Special K with Dinner For 1 from her EP, Lunatic Thirst. Followed by Alpha Steppa out of London featuring Eva Keyes with Fever and Fever Dub, from a superb compilation, Raise The Ark on Steppas Records. We stay in London to hear from Joel Baker with, London She’s Just Not You a cut from Bran Flakes Vol 1.5. Originally from Nottingham, Joel has made an LP you need to check out. Su Lee has a fascinating charm which she happily demonstrates in what appear to be her home-made videos. She also makes enjoyable “indie pop on speed” she insists. The delightful, Go My Way is from her EP The Rough. Barry Snaith is a big fan of this show as we are of him. In his guise as TIJ (The Inconsistent Jukebox), Mr. Snaith has produced a new LP. Gig Economy demonstrating his excellent taste and talent, you’ll hear Left Me In A Dream. Mark Gardener & 2 Square are next with Chained. Gardener is best known as a songwriter, lead vocalist, and guitarist with Ride and 2 Square is Stephan Haeri of Telepopmusik out of France. From rural England comes Archie Stagers with Beneath The Surface, who sent a sound file to us with this message: “I’ve really been enjoying your isolation mixes so far and wanted to submit a song of my own”. We discovered Archie Stagers runs a small indie label, Crafting Room Records – a not for profit label for passionate musicians, based in Wiltshire. From rural UK go over to Nashville to hear from Sophia Boro with And He Said To Me from her debut EP due out later this year. We close the show with the eloquent Josh Idehen and Black Says.

Thank you for listening

The Food Of Dictators. The Music Of Love.

        

Imagine you have the task of cooking meals for a dictator? What was Pol Pot eating while two million Cambodians were dying of hunger? Did Idi Amin really eat human flesh? And why was Fidel Castro obsessed with one particular cow? Traveling across four continents, from the ruins of Iraq to the savannahs of Kenya, award-winning journalist, Witold Szabłowski tracked down the personal chefs of five dictators known for the oppression and massacre of their own citizens—Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, Uganda’s Idi Amin, Albania’s Enver Hoxha, Cuba’s Fidel Castro, and Cambodia’s Pol Pot. Witold listened to their stories over sweet-and-sour soup, goat-meat pilaf, bottles of rum, and games of gin rummy. Witold Szabłowski joins Norman B to talk about his remarkable book, How To Feed A Dictator – Saddam Hussein, Idi Amin, Enver Hoxha, Fidel Castro, And Pol Pot Through The Eyes Of Their Cooks.

Over the last few years, London-based musician and spoken word artist, Josh Idehen has made frequent appearances on Life Elsewhere. First representing his band Hugh and their sublime music, then, more recently as part of Benin City, a three-piece with Tom Leaper and Shanaz Dorsett. “The name Benin City was chosen” says Josh, “because I grew up there, even though I was born in London and we are two-thirds black and two-thirds gay, so it seemed to fit.” It’s the slightly irreverent attitude that comes to the fore in their music. Benin City doesn’t shy away from expressing their opinions, yet they cleverly manage to concoct catchy popish sounds to do it. Their latest single, Hold Them Close was written over a year ago, long before Covid-19. While in isolation, they determined the sentiment of the song was exactly what everyone needed – Hold Them Close. In our conversation, as is typical when talking with Josh, we quickly diverted off into a tangent about politics and the responsibility of governments in the UK and the US. In listing major concerns, Josh touches on a topic not well known outside of the UK, the Windrush scandal a 2018 British political issue concerning people mostly from Jamaica and other Caribbean islands who were wrongly detained, denied legal rights, threatened with deportation, and, in at least 83 cases, wrongly deported from the UK by the Home Office. Our conversation with Josh Idehen and Tom Leaper was recorded via Zoom and will be available soon. 

Show #374

The Way Of Birds. The Ways Of Prue.

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Jennifer Ackerman photo by Sofia-Runarsdotter

The Bird Way: A New Look At How Birds Talk, Work, Play, Parent and Think by Jennifer Ackerman

“There is the mammal way and there is the bird way.” But the bird way is much more than a unique pattern of brain wiring, and lately, scientists have taken a new look at bird behaviors they have, for years, dismissed as anomalies or mysteries –– What they are finding is upending the traditional view of how birds conduct their lives, how they communicate, forage, court, breed, survive. They are also revealing the remarkable intelligence underlying these activities, abilities we once considered uniquely our own: deception, manipulation, cheating, kidnapping, infanticide, but also ingenious communication between species, cooperation, collaboration, altruism, culture, and play. Drawing on personal observations, the latest science, and her bird-related travel around the world, from the tropical rainforests of eastern Australia and the remote woodlands of northern Japan to the rolling hills of Lower Austria and the islands of Alaska’s Kachemak Bay, Jennifer Ackerman shows there is clearly no single bird way of being. In every respect, in plumage, form, song, flight, lifestyle, niche, and behavior, birds vary.

Anna Dorn

Vagablonde by Anna Dorn

Prue is a 30-year-old attorney who wants two things, the first is to live without psychotropic medication, and the second is to experience success as a rap artist. Her life is good on paper: she has an easy government job and a nice girlfriend who gets her into all the right shows, but she wants to truly thrive. When Prue is introduced to music producer Jax Jameson, a human disco ball as manic and unpredictable as he is talented, they instantly vibe. Prue joins Jax’s “Kingdom,” a collective of musicians and artists who share Prue’s aesthetic sensibilities and lust for escapism. Soon, she’s off her meds, closing her law practice, and becoming entangled with a suspect crew of heavy drug users. The group they form, Shiny AF, quickly reaches cult status, and using the stage name Vagablonde, Prue finds herself in a new reality dependent on self-commodification and her growing fandom’s approval. This is the background to LA-based writer, Anna Dorn’s debut novel. But, as you will discover in Anna’s conversation with Norman B, there’s more: a revealing study of LA’s millennial-hipster-scene, drug use, music-obsessives, sexual fluidity, and the big question – is Prue, Anna Dorn

Show #373

Hyper Education & The Twitter Exile

In Hyper Education – Why Good Schools, Good Grades, and Good Behavior Are Not Enough, Pawan Dhingra uncovers the growing world of high-achievement education and the after-school learning centers, spelling bees, and math competitions that it has spawned. It is a world where immigrant families vie with other Americans to be at the head of the class, putting in hours of studying and testing in order to gain a foothold in the supposed meritocracy of American public education. A world where enrichment centers, like Kumon, have seen 194 percent growth since 2002 and target children as young as three. Even families and teachers who avoid after-school academics are getting swept up. Drawing on over 100 in-depth interviews with teachers, tutors, principals, children, and parents, Dhingra delves into why people participate in this phenomenon and examines how schools, families, and communities play their part. Moving past “Tiger Mom” stereotypes, he addresses why Asian American and white families practice what he calls “hyper education” and whether or not it makes sense. By taking a behind-the-scenes look at the Scripps National Spelling Bee, other national competitions, and learning centers, Dhingra shows why good schools, good grades, and good behavior are seen as not enough for high-achieving students and their parents and why the education arms race is likely to continue to expand. We are delighted to welcome Pawan to Life Elsewhere and look forward to more conversations with him.

Dave Hill is a comedian, musician, actor, author, raconteur, dilettante, fashion icon, and…wait-for-it…a Twitter exile! The droll,  mild-mannered Hill voiced his opinion on Twitter about a draft-dodger who also happens to unfathomably hold a high office. The rabid supporters of the draft-dodger took exception to Hill’s accurate albeit caustic one-liners. To counter the onslaught of Twitter vitriol against him, Dave Hill took to what he refers to as “mom jokes” as if spewed out by an adolescent boy. This further outraged the draft-dodgers increasingly unhinged followers and prompted one bitchy Tweeter to question Dave’s sexuality, apparently based on the comedian’s penchant for velvet and silk and flowing scarves. The diatribe had now sunk to a new low, says Dave. So he countered by going even lower and more absurdist. “It was ridiculous!” Says Dave, “I could make hateful racial jokes and that was OK, but inferring I had sex with your mother or father, now that was too much for Twitter.” Dave received a message from Twitter…you are banned for life! 

Dave Hill has a new comedy album, Let Me Turn You On

Norman B’s conversations with Pawan Dhingra and Dave Hill were recorded using Zoom and will be available on our new YouTube channel soon.

Show #371

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