At a time like this, when we are pretty much limited in our ability to see art in traditional indoor museum settings, I was happy to stumble over the website Art At A Time Like This. Created almost exactly a year ago, in March of 2020, a month I think we all remember, Barbara Pollack and Anne Verhallen set to work creating an internet art museum. One of their first projects was to document an outdoor billboard project called “Ministry of Truth” that addresses the increasingly authoritarian direction of our culture and politics.
Click on the triangle or mp3 link above to hear my interview with Barbara and Anne as broadcast today on the Arts Express radio program on WBAI FM NYC and Pacifica affiliates across the nation.
Roy Zimmerman has been described as “Lenny Bruce meets Stephen Sondheim meets Phil Ochs in Brian Wilson’s living room.” He’s a master of satirical political songwriting, the lyrical heir to Tom Lehrer, as well as a damned fine musician. I’ve been listening and laughing at his sharp wit for years, and I was very happy to do an extended interview with him.
Click on the triangle or mp3 link above to hear Part One of my interview with Roy as broadcast today on the Arts Express radio program on WBAI FM NYC and Pacifica affiliates across the nation.
Our friend of the blog, Dennis Mayne, wrote me and said that since I like tap dancers so much I just had to read Rusty Frank’s book, TAP!: The Greatest Tap Dance Stars & Their Stories, where she interviewed all the tap dancing legends! Well, I got the book, and for the last month every morning with my coffee I have been delightedly reading these wonderful primary source interviews with Bunny Briggs, Jimmy Slyde, Hermes Pan, Shirley Temple, Ann Miller and so many more. Fortunately I was able to contact Rusty and we had a delightful interview about her book and she even gave me a little on-air tap dancing lesson!
Click on the triangle or mp3 link above to hear my interview with Rusty Frank as broadcast today on the Arts Express radio program on WBAI FM NYC and Pacifica affiliates across the nation.
I was led to Montreal-based singer/songwriter activist Louise Dessertine by poet Steve Bloom who had sent me a YouTube video of her singing her extraordinary song, “Put Your Red Dress On.” I was able to contact her and we had a lovely Zoom talk. You can listen to our conversation as well as some of her wonderful songs by listening to the radio segment I put together, which was broadcast today on the Arts Express radio program on WBAI FM NYC and Pacifica radio affiliates across the country.
In 2017, Mark Baumer an artist activist with all the energy of a young Jim Carrey, started walking across the United States, barefoot. His aim was to warn of the dangers of climate change, but came up against his own dangers. I spoke with Julie Sokolow, the director of a new documentary called Barefoot about that journey. In interviews and on-the-road footage she paints a portrait of an artist fighting to save the natural world he loved so much while grappling with his own need to find significance in his life.
Click on the triangle or link above to hear the interview as broadcast today on the Arts Express radio show over WBAI.org and Pacifica stations across the nation.
I like to do a Favorites of the Year post on our blog’s birthday, so here are some of the interviews or written pieces which we enjoyed most over the past year that you may have missed, or may like to view again:
In 1980, Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan created the wildly successful television series and book, Cosmos. Now, forty years later, Ann Druyan has come out with a third series of Cosmos and a companion book called Cosmos: Possible Worlds. I was happy to interview Ann Druyan about the new series.
To hear the interview as broadcast today on the Arts Express radio program on WBAI FM and Pacifica affiliates across the nation, click on the image or the triangle above.
Welcome to part two of my interview with Johanna Fernández author of The Young Lords, a deep but very readable book about the history and significance of that revolutionary 1960s political group. Last week in Part 1 we talked about the origins of The Young Lords and their successful church and hospital occupations in East Harlem. This week, we continue their story, as I ask Johanna to talk about the women who had become members of The Young Lords.
Click on the small triangle or the image above to hear the interview as broadcast today on Arts Express on WBAI.org and Pacifica affiliates across the nation.
In her fascinating new book, The Young Lords, Professor Johanna Fernández makes a compelling case that the Young Lords were one of the most important revolutionary groups of the late 60s and early 70s. They won lasting victories by coupling street smarts, sophisticated organizing techniques, and intense political analyses. There’s much to be learned from their story, both successes and failures, which is cogently and lovingly told by the author.
Click on the triangle or image above to hear my interview with Johanna Fernández, as broadcast today on the Arts Express radio program, heard on WBAI NYC and Pacifica stations across the nation.
In the new documentary film, The Social Dilemma, a group of founding tech wizards warn of the dystopia awaiting us because of our fundamental misunderstanding of the true nature of the social media giants like Facebbok, Twitter, and Google. I was happy to be speaking with the director of The Social Dilemma, Jeff Orlowski, about how social media manipulates all of us.
To listen to my conversation with Orlowski, as broadcast today on the Arts Express radio show on WBAI FM NYC and Pacifica affiliates across the nation, click on the triangle or mp3 link above.
As children are getting ready to go back to school this month,–either online or in person–one thing has not changed: some students are still subject to bullying, both online and off. What can be done to prevent bullying and how should parents and teachers handle it? I recently spoke with Dr. Elizabeth Englander, Professor of Psychology, whose research focuses on bullying. Her most recent book is titled 25 Myths of Bullying and Cyberbullying.
Click on the triangle or link above to hear my interview with Dr. Englander as broadcast today on the Arts Express radio show on WBAI NY, WBAI.org and Pacifica affiliates across the nation.
Who has not looked up in the sky at birds and wished they could fly? Jennifer Ackerman has spent a good part of her adult life thinking about and writing about birds and the natural world. She is the author of eight books including a favorite of mine, The Genius of Birds. Her latest book is called The Bird Way: A New Look at How Birds Talk, Work, Play, Parent, and Think. I was pleased to talk with her on Arts Express and learn some startling stories about birds .
Click on the triangle or mp3 link above to hear my interview with Ms. Ackerman, as broadcast today on radio station WBAI FM NYC and Pacifica affiliates across the country.
When your job entails strolling through mine fields, dodging snipers, reporting on seven civil wars, rogue militias, vigilantes, and drug cartels, you might become a bit picky about your personal security. Veteran Reuters correspondent and safety consultant Judith Matloff talks about how to keep safe through disasters, both natural and manmade, from tear gas and batons to tornadoes and hurricanes.
Click on the triangle or mp3 link above in order to hear my interview with Judith Matloff, as broadcast today on the Arts Express radio program on WBAI NY, WBAI.org and Pacifica affiliates across the nation.
When an arts center depends on its community, how do you deal with lockdown conditions? Ellen Kodadek, artistic and executive director of Flushing Town Hall, talks with us on Arts Express about some of the strategies they have implemented at her institution, including virtual hangouts and virtual jazz jams.
Click on the triangle or mp3 link above to hear the interview as broadcast today on Arts Express on WBAI NY radio and Pacifica affiliates across the country.
Two summers ago at the Ashokan Summer Hoot in upstate New York, a young woman named Nora Brown just knocked the crowd out with her amazing virtuoso banjo playing and evocation of traditional Appalachian music. I was very happy to interview her for the Arts Express radio program.
Click on the triangle or the mp3 link above to hear the interview with Nora Brown and some of her music as broadcast today on Arts Express on WBAI NYC and Pacifica affiliates across the country.
Last week I posted Part One of my interview with Jodi Dean, author of the new book, Comrade. In that part of the interview, she talked about the origin and unique importance of the word, “comrade,” and how it differs from other terms like friend or ally.
This week we continue with Part Two of that conversation as we talk about what happens when comrades and party part company, and what the opening for a real politics might be in the time of pandemic. As events occur at lightening speed, her point of view becomes more important than ever.
Click on the triangle or the mp3 link above to hear the interview as broadcast today on Arts Express on WBAI NYC and Pacifica affiliates across the country.
In Jodi Dean’s provocative new book called Comrade, she argues that the word “comrade” is an indispensable one that describes a unique political relationship not captured by words like citizen, colleague, friend, brother/sister, or even ally. If the future of revolutionary change is through the vehicle of the revolutionary political party, she says, then the understanding of what “comrade” really means is vital.
I was happy to interview Jodi Dean on the Arts Express radio program. To hear Part One as broadcast today on WBAI 99.5 FM NYC and Pacifica radio affiliates across the country, click on the triangle or mp3 link above.
Eagle-eyed readers of this blog may have noticed that recently I put up a new website link at the top of the blogroll over there on the lower left hand side of the page.
That’s a link to the shiny new Arts Express Newsletters archive. As you may be aware, every month we’ve been putting out a full color newsletter filled with interviews, scripts, essays, photos, and more. It’s a kind of companion to the Arts Express radio program. We offer a continuing subscription to the newsletter for free as an email attachment to those who drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and put the word “subscribe” in the subject line (Try it and see!)
Recently, we were requested to create an archive of past newsletters which we’re glad to do. By clicking on this link or the picture above, you’ll be taken to the archive of past newsletters, where you can access any of the individual issues.
In 2016 Ibram X. Kendi wrote an acclaimed book called Stamped from the Beginning, The National Book Award winning history of how racist ideas were created, spread, and deeply rooted in American society. Now that book has been adapted by Kendi and Jason Reynolds in what they call a remix for young audiences.
You can listen to my interview with Ibram Kendi and Jason Reynolds as broadcast today on the Arts Express program on WBAI 99.5FM NYC, WBAI.org, and Pacifica stations across the country by clicking on the triangle or mp3 link above to listen.
During the Great Depression an editor for the NY Times wrote: “We do have to convince millions of our young people that we have not yet come to a social doomsday, and that there is something better for them to do than jump off the deep end ” Well, that was written not in 2020, but in 1936, but it still seems quite applicable for our times.
Jason Boog is the author of a new book published by OR books called The Deep End, and I spoke with him about radical poets and novelists of the 30s, and what we can learn from them in an age of pandemic.
You can listen to my interview with Jason Boog as broadcast today on the Arts Express program on WBAI 99.5FM NYC, WBAI.org, and Pacifica stations across the country by clicking on the triangle or mp3 link above to listen.
Merri: “The Good die young, But evil is forever.” –John Donne. Hello this is Stale Air, and I’m Merri Boast. Today I’m interviewing our special guest, in this time of coronavirus, an expert in all things diseased and evil, The Devil. Welcome to Stale Air.
Devil: Hi, thank you Merri. Love listening to your show. Big fan of the station. Learned the name of so many different kinds of cheeses from it. And I just never get tired of those Car Talk reruns.
M: Thank you, but before we begin, how are you doing? Is the shelter in place affecting you?
D: Oh, thanks for asking, Merri. It’s tough being confined to the nether realms, 24/7, but I think we’re making do. Can’t complain. Keeping warm. Super busy. I’m very proud of this coronavirus project we’ve been working on. If you don’t mind me tooting my own horn, I think it’s one of the best things we’ve come up with in a long time. People understand now that the world is no longer in a state of limbo, but actually it’s Permanent Hell. And down here we’re pleased as punch to parade our brand–so to speak–parade our brand in front of the population as much as we can. And Oh and speaking of Hell—I want to thank Jeff Bezos , a real buddy, at Amazon for continuing to crack the whip.
M: Good to hear that you are doing well. I’m—I’m not quite sure how to address you. Is Prince of Darkness or Mephistopheles all right?
D: Well, we don’t like to use those names anymore, Merri. They’re kind of stuffy and old-school, and frankly just a wee bit pejorative. Prince of Darkness, really? To tell you the truth, Merri, I prefer Beel-ze-bub. Or for short, just plain Bill is fine. That’s a good Christian name…if you’ll pardon the expression.
M: Bill it is, then. Bill , we all recognize that this has been an unprecedented time—
D: –Thank you–
M: and most of us are wondering if the rest of us are going to make it through this coronavirus epidemic. Do you have any insight into this?
D: Well that’s a great question, Merri. It’s not as simple as it might first appear. Now some may say, what’s the problem, just spread the virus and kill as many people as you can. Clear win for our side. But actually I feel that’s short-sighted. It’s totally forgetting one of the tenets of our side, which is to maximize the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth for the greatest length of time. I’ve brought along a little graph here, cooked up by our art department—thank you Jared and Ivanka—and you’d see on the graph, if my ZOOM connection were better, how the line spikes upwardly very quickly over just a few days. Seems like a clear touchdown, but really, just about anyone can do that. I mean, any of your minor demons could probably have accomplished that. It’s not rocket science. We felt though, that we wanted to go the extra mile to extend the weeping and wailing and particularly the gnashing of teeth as much as possible. And that’s where really we needed to call in our staff, our entire team.
M: So you don’t work alone?
D: Oh, good Lord, no. There’s just too much to be done. I’m basically a hands on guy, and while I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty, I can’t do it all alone. I can’t be everywhere at once. I’m not a miracle worker. It takes a village.
M: I’m wondering, where do you find your staff? Aren’t people horrified when you call on them?
D: Oh no, not at all. We offer a very nice benefits package, 12 vacation days a year, 401K. Cafeteria with a hot foods buffet. Healthcare plan if you choose to buy into it. So we’re very competitive with most non-European enterprises. It’s true, though, that there have been some periods in history, I’ll admit, where it was hard to find people willing to come over to the Dark Side. It was touch and go there for a while during the Garden of Eden thing—and I want to give a shout out to The Snake: Thank you Snake, never gets old. Big Hugs. Now the 60s were tough, finding assistants to insert ourselves into the whole peace, love and anti-war movement was challenging, but we managed, and of course the whole post 9/11 era. Actually, I have to give you guys credit. We borrowed the embedded propaganda approach from you. So well done. And the mass illegal warrantless wiretaps?—really a stroke of genius on the part of your government. We couldn’t have come up with that one ourselves. It’s great to see stuff like that crowd-sourced.
M: This is Merri Boast for Stale Air and I’m talking with Beel-Zee-Bub, Master of Chaos. We’re discussing his plans to cause the maximum of pain and suffering for the greatest length of time. Bill, I was wondering if there was anything in your childhood that might have influenced your present life’s work? Were you an odd child?
D: Ha. Well Merri, that’s funny you should ask that. I was talking with some friends about that the other day, and they were making fun of me because as a child, believe it or not, I didn’t lie. I mean I just could not lie. Every time I thought about lying, I would just get this funny feeling in the pit of my stomach and I would just clam up.
M: Well you certainly seemed to have gotten over that.
D: Thanks, Merri. I say immodestly perhaps, we feel we’ve come a long way. Interning for Mark Zuckerberg did wonders for us. And I want to acknowledge, too, the great work you folks at your station have been doing. We’re just so darn proud of the lies your station has spread. The whole lead up to the Iraq war, the consistent demonizing of the Venezuelan socialists, and the ongoing excuses for the worst depredations of capitalism, all coated with a veneer of hip humanity, really brings joy to my heart. It makes me feel appreciated, and like our work has not been in vain. So kudos to you.
M: Thank you. I’d like, if you don’t mind, to get back to this coronavirus situation. You spoke about maximizing the pain and suffering. Could you tell us a little more about that?
D: Sure. Our team felt that we didn’t want it over in a day or two. So we tossed around the fireball a bit to brainstorm how we could draw this thing out. And I don’t remember who it was, but one of the team members—might have been Mnuchin or Miller, I forget right now—suggested that we have an out. In other words, don’t let people die right away, but hold out the possibility of some hope to extend the timeline.
M: And that’s where you got the idea of social distancing.
D: Exactly, Merri. It is a genius plan, but you see there’s the danger you can go too much the other way, too.
M: Meaning what exactly?
D: Well, meaning our plan to offer up hope might work out too well. What if social distancing actually worked and the virus was completely wiped out?
M: That wouldn’t fit into your plans would it?
D: It certainly wouldn’t, Merri. So we had to figure out a way to provide mitigating circumstances and yet make sure they were not too mitigating.
M: And that’s where the President came in.
D: Yes thank God for him. He really did such yeoman work in sending out mixed messages as to whether social distancing really worked. He made sure that some of the population would quarantine and some wouldn’t. Really perfect to extend things. Oh, and the masks! I don’t mind telling you I LOL’d when I heard him say that he personally would not be wearing a mask. Genius. Keep the people in a state of total confusion as to what works and what doesn’t, and this thing can extend out to the Second Coming.
M: The Second Coming?
D: Slouching towards Bethlehem, Baby, Slouching towards Bethlehem.
M: Thank you, Bill.
D: Thank you, Merri. I’ll be seeing you real soon, okay?
M: I’ve been speaking with Beel-ze-bub, co creator of the coronavirus, The Macarena, and The Ellen Show. Next week we’ll be talking with Vice President Joe Biden about his no-malarkey recipes for grilled cheese. This is Merry Boast …for Stale Air.
(And in a bit, I’ll have the Arts Express audio production posted.)
It may seem as if Americans have never been more polarized than they are today. But America has always been full of splits, and Shakespeare scholar James Shapiro has written a new book, Shakespeare in a Divided America, which explores those conflicts in a unique way. He examines how Americans responded to Shakespearean productions at key times in American history, and his investigations are full of insights and surprises.
Click on the triangle above to hear my interview with James Shapiro as broadcast today on the Arts Express radio program on WBAI 99.5FM NYC, WBAI.org, and on Pacifica affiliates across the country.