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Arts and Culture

Ed Dunens / Flickr

As President Trump talks about draining the swamp in Washington D.C., we turn our attention to actual swamps. Associated with death and decay, while also celebrated for their beauty and biodiversity, few landscapes evoke such contradictory sentiments as swamps.

Quinn Dombrowski / flickr creative commons

"It is the rare person who doesn't own a pair of sweatpants." I am, it turns out, that rare person. Sweatpants are just too warm, is my take. But I do own a number of pairs of cotton pajama pants. They're my sweatpants proxy.

Back before the pandemic became the central preoccupation of our existence, back when we made our radio show in, ya know, a radio studio, I would always get a little dressed up on my show days. I'd wear a jacket. Or a tie. Or a jacket and a tie.

Now that we're all working from home all the time, I spend the great majority of my work hours in pajama pants and stocking feet and a bathrobe. But when it comes time for one of my shows -- like this one, for instance -- I change out of my PJ pants into jeans or chinos. That's what "a little dressed up" means these days: putting real pants on. (Or even "hard pants," as they're now known.)

Bob Ross, Inc.

It's been 25 years since Bob Ross died and 26 years since his The Joy of Painting went off the air. But there are 52 episodes of the show available to stream on Netflix. Bob Ross and Chill is a thing. The 403 full episodes available on YouTube have accumulated something approaching 250 million views. And last summer, The New York Times did a big Bob Ross investigation.

This hour: a look at the undying force for permed hair and puffy little clouds and happy little trees that is Bob Ross.

Plus: Could we do a show about Bob Ross without also talking Thomas Kinkade? No we could not. And so no we do not.

Taylor Swift/Republic Records

The Federal Communications Commission requires that The Nose cover each and every new Taylor Swift release*. Folklore is Swift's seventh number-one album, and it's become, in just two weeks, the highest-selling album of 2020 so far. But rather than just spending a segment talking about the album... We came across a term that's new to us: cottagecore. Folklore is, apparently, cottagecore. We're not entirely convinced that cottagecore is a thing, but we're covering it anyway, and we'll get to Folklore that way.

Sasa Tkalcan / Jimmy Webb

Jimmy Webb was possibly the most successful songwriter of the 1960s and 1970s. Classics like "Galveston," "Wichita Lineman," "Up, Up, and Away," and "MacArthur Park" were recorded by hundreds of artists from Glen Campbell to Donna Summer. Webb wrote the songs that others made famous.

Jonathan McNicol / Connecticut Public Radio

Laura Nyro's most famous compositions -- "Stoned Soul Picnic," "Stoney End," "When I Die," "Wedding Bell Blues," "Eli's Coming" -- are jewels of mainstream music, and her covers of songs like "Jimmy Mack" and "Gonna Take a Miracle" are legendary.

But she was uncomfortable under the spotlight and withdrew from it to become the Belle of Danbury.

Sasa Tkalcan / Jimmy Webb

We're reairing this show from September, 2019, when our team traveled to Glen Cove, New York, to interview legendary songwriter Jimmy Webb

We waited a long time for this interview and it was worth every minute of the wait. It was a special day. We broke bread together, met kind people, and enjoyed a day of music and stories from Jimmy Webb's decades of making music. 

Home Box Office, Inc.

This New or Second or Third Golden Age of Television has been going on for 20 or 25 or 30 years now. Peak TV just won't stop peaking. For decades, there's just been no way to keep up. But then… suddenly we've all got a lot more time on our hands in our houses. And instead of finally watching The Wire and The Americans and Homeland and whatever else, we're all just rewatching Parks and Rec for the eleventeenth time.

And, hey, whoa: The New York Times bought Serial productions.

And finally: I May Destroy You is a BBC One and HBO show starring and written and created by Michaela Coel. Set in London, the series is a comedy-drama about consent and, ultimately, trauma.

Reddit

​On Tuesday's Colin McEnroe Show: How we define what it means to be a hero depends a lot on the values shared by the group that's in power at any given time.

We're seeing it today in the push and pull over the statues of men whose values no longer reflect the values of a changing community.  And time tends to wash away the nuance and complexity of heroes that stand as a symbol of a prior generation. 

Yet, America loves their heroes,  even if only for a time. But ​we have a way of using the language of “heroism” to sacrifice the very heroes we admire.  Many of the essential workers we deemed heroes of the pandemic had to choose between their health and a paycheck. They didn't choose to be heroes. Some didn't want to be.  Others were silenced or shamed for speaking out about unsafe conditions .

Ryan Lindsay / Connecticut Public Radio

Black Lives Matter murals have been popping up across the country since the killing of George Floyd by police. In Hartford, a mural is tucked away in the city’s North End, with another in the works downtown. And in Stamford, the affirmation Black Lives Matter has been painted on a main street.

Jonathan McNicol / Connecticut Public Radio

My son, Simon, is a year old. His mother and his grandmother are both librarians. His father is, well, me. Simon is, predictably, obsessed with books.

Back before everything changed, we'd gotten into a pretty good reading routine. Every morning before Simon went to his grandparents', we'd read a big pile of books. Every evening when I got home from work, we'd read a big pile of books.

We'd read Goodnight Moon. We'd read Little Blue Truck. We'd read Peek-a Who? and Peek-a Moo! and Peek-a Zoo! We'd read Who Hoots? and Who Hops? We'd read Dear Zoo and Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? and Each Peach Pear Plum and Spooky, Spooky, Little Bat and Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? And then we'd probably read them all again.

Claire Winter / Flickr Creative Commons

From ancient Egypt to Greek mythology, through Abrahamic religions, in ancient African and Native American spiritual traditions, in medieval Europe, and 16th century France (remember that Nostradamus guy?), humans have reliably attempted to predict the future, read minds, and communicate with the dead.

And at this moment in our history, with a pandemic, protests, an upcoming election, climate change... On top of the innate chaos of being a human being, it would surely be more psychologically manageable if we could somehow see into the future.

Do You Speak Corona?

Jul 23, 2020
EpicTop10 / Creative Commons

It took two years for the word AIDS to get from coinage to dictionary. It took COVID-19 thirty-four days. The pandemic has inspired a thousand new or repurposed words, slang, nicknames, and neologisms.

It has changed the way we speak.  

Photography by Clay Williams

Did you ever play the game Statues as a child? This is how you play:

Megan Moss Freeman / Pilobolus

The Connecticut dance ensemble Pilobolus’ annual Five Senses Festival is a go for this year, but with a new social distancing twist. The world-renowned company will take this year’s festival into the lush hills of northwest Connecticut for what’s being called the “Five Senses Safari.”

Hotel du Vin & Bistro / flickr creative commons

Historian Christine Sismondo says that "America, as we know it, was born in a bar."

Taverns were where the Boston Tea Party was planned. They were where court cases were carried out, where land was bought and sold, where immigrants came to congregate.

Over the centuries since, bars have fostered so much social change. And today, they're where we go to meet people, to catch the game, to talk about our problems, to relax.

Erich Ferdinand / Creative Commons

Religious scholar Elaine Pagels trusted the Gospel of Thomas to get her through the almost unbearably painful years after the death of her six-year-old son -- born with a congenital heart defect -- followed one year later by the unexpected death of her husband. 

Disney

Four years ago, over the course of three days, film crews documented the musical Hamilton as performed by nearly its entire original Broadway cast. Eventually, Disney bought the distribution rights to the movie and planned to release it in theaters next fall. But then there was a pandemic, and people were stuck in their houses, and the film dropped on Disney+ earlier this month.

Flickr

We’re reaching the middle of the summer here in Connecticut. Although many of our favorite summer activities aren’t feasible this year, there are lots of ways to get outside.

Alyssa L. Miller / Creative Commons

Our ancestors viewed sleep as a highly sensual and transcendent experience. Today, about a third of adults have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or feeling rested. We're becoming a nation of insomniacs.

We Like To Watch

Jul 15, 2020
Jana Vanden Eynde / flickr creative commons

For decades, we didn't take television seriously. We saw it as ephemeral, as "chewing gum for the eyes," as, literally, furniture.

And then, around the turn of the century, things started to change. There was The Sopranos. The Wire. And, at the same time, shows like Big Brother and The Amazing Race. For Emily Nussbaum, it was Buffy the Vampire Slayer that forever changed her take on television.

And now... the president is a TV character.

This hour: A serious appraisal of television with The New Yorker's television critic.

Tre' Sowers / Flickr

It’s summer reading time! After spending the last four months quarantined indoors, it might be hard to find fun activities for your kids. 

Summer reading can be fun and it’s important for children, especially when you consider learning loss.

This hour, join us for our next installment of our Pandemic Book Club to talk about making reading your new favorite family activity.

Coming up we talk about some of our new and old favorite young adult and children’s books. Wondering how to connect with your local library this summer? One of Connecticut’s local children’s librarians joins us to discuss how to connect, get books and stay reading all summer long! 

What are you reading this summer? We want to hear from you.

GUESTS:

  • Kate Capshaw - past president of Children’s Literature Association. She is also a professor at University of Connecticut (@katcapshaw)
  • Chandra Prasad - an author based here in Connecticut, and writer of the young adult novel Damselfly (@chandrabooks)
  • Caragh M. O’Brien - a young adult author based here in Connecticut, best known for the Birthmarked Trilogy (@CaraghMOBrien)
  • Carol Waxman - Children's Services Librarian at the West Hartford Libraries (@whpl)

Walking with Dante

Jul 12, 2020
FreeParking / Creative Commons

"Dante's Inferno" is the most famous section of Dante Aligheri's 14,000 line epic poem, The Divine Comedy. But it's only the first part of Dante's long pilgrimage through the afterlife. He first enters the circles of hell, filled with beasts and sinners doomed to the Inferno for crimes like gluttony, lust, and treason. 

Tony Hisgett / flickr creative commons

Sand is the most abundant material on Earth. And, other than water and air, sand is the natural resource we consume more than any other -- more, even, than oil.

The pyramids are made of sand. Our roads and driveways and sidewalks are made of sand. Concrete buildings and their concrete foundations are made of sand. From computer chips to computer screens, window panes to lightbulbs, breast implants to the Hubble telescope, sand is basically the essential building block of civilization.

Humans are estimated to consume almost 50 billion tons of sand and gravel every year.

Oh, and, by the way: We're running out of it.

Peter Biello / NHPR

Elizabeth Marshall Thomas has spent most of her life observing the natural world and writing about it. She’s written 14 books over her half-century career, including the New York Times-bestselling book “The Hidden Life of Dogs.” Her new book, “Growing Old: Notes On Aging With Something Like Grace,” came out this year. Thomas, 88, joined NEXT and talked about enjoying the slower pace of aging.

New York Public Library

Do you know how to make an Election Cake? What about the history of the Connecticut Witch Hunters

This hour, state historian Walt Woodward joins us to talk about his new book Creating Connecticut: Critical Moments That Shaped a Great State and answer all your questions about the Nutmeg state, starting with why do we call Connecticut the Nutmeg State? 

Universal Pictures

The raft of renaming going on right now obviously hasn't spared popular culture. The Dixie Chicks and Lady Antebellum are now The Chicks and Lady A, respectively. Björk's record label changed its name. Democrats want to rename John Wayne Airport. FedEx has formally asked the Washington Redskins to change their name, and Guilford's board of education voted to drop the town's "Indians" nickname. And, while Splash Mountain is going to keep being called Splash Mountain, it won't be based on Song of the South anymore.

And: The King of Staten Island is the sixth feature film directed by Judd Apatow. It stars Pete Davidson (who also co-wrote the movie with Apatow and Dave Sirus) as a 24-year-old high school dropout who lives with his mother on Staten Island. It's available for rental on digital platforms.

Wilson Ring / AP Photo

For more than a decade, Vermont tattoo artist Alex Lawrence has been offering to remove racist tattoos — such as swastikas or the white supremacist slogan “white power” — for free. Recently, as protests over police violence continue and his work has gotten more exposure, Lawrence has seen an uptick in clients taking him up on the offer.

Joe Giron / www.pokerphotoarchive.com

Maria Konnikova, best-selling New York Times author and a regular contributor to The New Yorker, has long been interested in understanding the balance between skill and luck. How much of her life could she take credit for and how much was the luck of her draw? So, she took a year away from work to become a professional poker player. 

New Haven Symphony Orchestra
New Haven Symphony Orchestra / Facebook

The New Haven Symphony Orchestra will not perform in front of a live audience until 2021. Instead, the ensemble will focus on virtual programming. The decision is a response to the ongoing threat of COVID-19.

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