Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen

Saturdays from 3pm to 4pm
  • Hosted by Kurt Andersen

The Peabody Award-winning Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen, from PRI and WNYC, is public radio's smart and surprising guide to what's happening in pop culture and the arts. Each week, Kurt Andersen introduces you to the people who are creating and shaping our culture. Life is busy, so let Studio 360 steer you to the must-see movie this weekend, the next book for your nightstand, or the song that will change your life.

It’s rare for “creating art” and “paying the bills” to mean the same thing, so lots of artists lead double lives. The writer Kurt Vonnegut owned a car dealership (until it folded). Composer Philip Glass drove a taxi in New York City.

Comedian Courtney Maginnis has a day job, too — and it’s as unusual as her stand-up routine. She designs lingerie.

<a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Spoleto_Opening_2013.JPG">ProfReader (own work)</a>/<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en">CC BY-SA 3.0</a>&nbsp;(image cropped)

Just before President Donald Trump took office in January, the Washington, DC publication The Hill reported that the new administration was drawing up sweeping plans to cut government spending. One target? The National Endowment for the Arts, which the article says would be “eliminated entirely” under the proposed changes, along with its sister agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities.

A fascist America, as revealed by an Amazon series

Feb 14, 2017
<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/39908901@N06/7559015136/">m01229</a>/<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC BY 2.0</a>&nbsp;(image cropped)

Last December, Amazon installed an enormous billboard in Times Square depicting the Statue of Liberty giving a Nazi salute.

It was an advertisement for the second season of Amazon’s show “The Man in the High Castle.” Based on a Philip K. Dick novel, the drama imagines what the United States would look like in the 1960s if the Nazis had won World War II.

<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/doodlematt/6099569327">DoodleMatt</a>/<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC BY 2.0 (image cropped)&nbsp;</a>

The world’s enduring image of Marilyn Monroe — standing over a New York City subway grate, white halter dress billowing suggestively around her legs — comes from a scene in the 1955 film “The Seven Year Itch.”

Billy Wilder, who directed the movie, actually filmed the famous scene twice: Once on a street in midtown Manhattan, and later again, on a Hollywood sound stage. The movie used the sound stage take, and Wilder’s on-location footage was lost long ago. But as it turns out, there’s another recording of the famous Manhattan take, and it has a story of its own.

Bundeswehr-Fotos Wir.Dienen.Deutschland/<a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Festakt_zur_Neuer%C3%B6ffnung_des_Milit%C3%A4rhistorischen_Museums_der_Bundeswehr,_Daniel_Libeskind.jpg">CC BY 2.0 (image cropped)</a>

The Kurds are one of the world’s largest stateless ethnic groups, living at the intersection of Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq.

Eight years ago, as Barack Obama was about to be inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States, Studio 360’s Kurt Andersen asked the writer and cultural critic, Cintra Wilson, to leave a voicemail for the incoming president, saying what she wanted to see from his time in office. So, she took the opportunity to not only call in a few favors but, also, to compliment his threads. 

White House photo <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/obamawhitehouse/4186332415/">by Samantha Appleton</a>

For eight years, President Barack Obama was commander in chief. But was he also "tastemaker in chief"?

With Obama, "you always wanted to know what the book was next to his bed and what was on his iPod, right?” says Geoff Edgers, national arts reporter for The Washington Post. “I don’t think we had that before."

Last year alone, Obama brought musical acts like Common, The Lumineers, Usher, Kendrick Lamar, Janelle Monae, The Dap-Kings, Blake Shelton, Esperanza Spalding and more to Pennsylvania Avenue.

Mike Hutchings/Reuters/File Photo

If you remember Darth Vader’s famous line in "Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back," as “Luke, I am your father,” you’re not alone — but you’re not right, either. His actual words are “No, I am your father.”

<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/chipgriffin/2329007153/">Chip Griffin</a>/<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC BY 2.0</a>&nbsp;(image cropped)

What’s a nine-letter phrase for "colorful swallow?"

Before you hit the Audubon books, here’s another hint: “The English language is incredibly fluid,” says Brendan Emmett Quigley.

Quigley has been making crosswords for The New York Times for two decades, ever since he was a senior in college. That makes him a "cruciverbalist" — and as he explains it, his job is to twist the mind of the crossword puzzle’s "solver." 

How Pittsburgh remembers a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright

Jan 7, 2017
phillq23/<a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pittsburgh,_Pennsylvania.jpg">Wikimedia Commons</a>

The first film adaptation of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Fences” hit theaters around the country on Christmas Day. “Fences” is one of 10 plays in what the late playwright called his "Century Cycle," about African American life. There’s a play for each decade of the 20th century, and all but one is set against the backdrop of Pittsburgh, where Wilson grew up.

There is no curtain-raising in “The Encounter.” The show simply begins — with the actor Simon McBurney telling a story, and each member of the audience listening through a set of headphones.

Why the moons of Uranus are named after characters in Shakespeare

Jan 1, 2017

"What’s in a name?" Shakespeare’s star-crossed Juliet famously wanted to know. And for those of us peering skyward, it’s a question for the ages: Where do celestial bodies get their names from?

There are constellations and planets christened after Greek and Roman gods. The craters on Mercury are artists and musicians, like Bach, John Lennon and Disney. And the moons of the planet Uranus — there are, impressively, 27 altogether — have literary ties — 25 of them relate to characters in Shakespeare’s plays. 

Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

The writer John Wray learned a thing or two about Albert Einstein while researching his new novel, "The Lost Time Accidents." For one, he says that despite Einstein’s fame and charming persona, the physicist always had a surprising quality — a lack of interest in popularity.

“He really truly had no interest in the trappings of fame or fortune,” Wray says. “He truly was an outsider, even in Princeton. You know, he spent most of his time alone, and he truly had a remarkable sense of humor — about himself, as well as the society he was in.”

Courtesy of Abou Farman

When artist Leonor Caraballo was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, she naturally turned to art to expose and make sense of the illness working within her. Using a 3D printer and MRI images, Caraballo and Abou Farman, her husband and collaborator, created sculptures and jewelry in the knotted shape of her tumor. They called the project, “Object Breast Cancer.”

Emma Trim&nbsp;

Growing up, author Brit Bennett attended a black protestant church with her father and separately, a mostly white, Catholic church with her mother, who is also black.

"I had these very different cultural experiences," she said. "So, I think I’ve always been interested in church as a space that can be so culturally different, even when people are professing to believe the same thing."

cattalin/CC0

The word “moist” has had a hard run.

It’s been lambasted by late-night TV hosts, spurred scientific investigations into its distastefulness and topped lists of the most reviled words in American, British and Australian English. But still, moist lingers on, much maligned — and needed, for that matter. Would you really buy a box cake mix that promised a “super not-dry” cake?

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Math could use a brand ambassador. Educators are hotly debating how much math needs to be taught in schools, and recent studies have shown that our math anxiety can last well into adulthood, affecting even how our children learn the subject. Math needs a friendly face — and that’s where Eugenia Cheng comes in.