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.

Richard Russo and Jenny Boylan on plot twists in books — and life

Aug 17, 2017

Richard Russo was in his early 40s when he published "Nobody's Fool" in 1993. The novel focused on the residents of a fictional mill town in upstate New York called Bath, including Sully, who Paul Newman played in the movie version of the book, and his slow-on-the-uptake friend, Rub.

Guilty pleasure: The word 'moist'

Aug 17, 2017
Carrie Arsenault

People really hate the word moist. The little adjective has been voted out of the dictionary, endured tirade after tirade on blogs and forums, and even prompted a scientific investigation into its unpleasantness.

The writer was born in Nigeria; the tale comes from medieval Germany; the setting is a small New England town in the 1950s.

Johnathan Alcorn / Reuters 

Claudia Rankine’s book of poetry, “Citizen: An American Lyric,” won the the National Book Critic Circle Award in Poetry, and was the first book ever nominated in two categories — poetry and criticism. That reflects the book’s varied literary approaches as well as its timely, acute critique of contemporary American culture.

Don’t put Shamir in a box

Aug 10, 2017

Just a couple of years ago, Shamir Bailey was a teenager making music in his North Las Vegas bedroom. Since then, he’s been the toast of SXSW, seen his face on a Times Square Billboard, and heard one of his songs in an ad for Google’s smartwatch.

Guilty Pleasure: The Eagles, 'Already Gone'

Aug 10, 2017

People love to hate The Eagles. “They’re not a cool band to like,” admits composer and indie musician Kelly Pratt. The serious musicians Pratt hangs out can’t understand it, but Pratt genuinely loves their song “Already Gone.”

Pratt rediscovered the song in a grocery store in Portland, Oregon.

“At first listen, this song is pretty straightforward, standard Eagles. It’s a guitar driven rocker, standard breakup lyrics, a lot of patented Eagle-isms.” But Pratt points out that there’s a lot more going on.

The music of 'Twin Peaks'

Aug 10, 2017

It’s impossible to imagine “Twin Peaks” without the music of Angelo Badalamenti — but why do those languid synth ballads and cool-jazz numbers capture the essence of the show so well?

“Breaking Badcomposer Dave Porter and “X-Files composer Mark Snow break down Badalamenti’s iconic score, and explain what makes the music so haunting. 

In the mid-1990s, Seattle was the center of the music world. And at the center of one of its biggest bands — alongside Nirvana and Pearl Jam — was Carrie Brownstein, a founding member of the all-female rock trio Sleater-Kinney.

Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

Some of the most famous lines in film are the result of actors going off-script, from “Here’s Johnny” to “Here’s looking at you, kid.” But given the meticulous choreography behind the scenes of movies and TV shows, how does improvisation even find its way on screen?

Was Van Gogh's 'Starry Night' inspired by a scientific drawing?

Jul 17, 2017
Wiki Commons

Over the last decade, some of the most awe-inspiring images of outer space have appeared in the books of journalist, filmmaker, and photographer Michael Benson. Combing through images produced by space probes as well as terrestrial and satellite telescopes, Benson has collected photos that showcase the sublime beauty of the cosmos.

Studio 360

Like his character on "Parks & Recreation," Nick Offerman is a master woodworker.

"I grew up using tools in a farm family in Illinois, which helped me a lot when I started working in theater in Chicago. I wasn’t very good yet at acting, so I would trick them into giving me a small part in a play so that I would build the set. I milked that scam for years until I became more decent as an actor," he said.

What a new MoMA exhibit tells us about the history of American race relations

Jul 17, 2017

From around World War I through the 1960s, there was a giant demographic shift in this country, which was as massive and consequential as the pioneers who rode wagon trains into the frontier a century earlier. Millions of black Americans in the rural South moved to the cities of the North in search of better living conditions and jobs.

African Americans escaped Jim Crow racism in the South, only to find racist cops, segregated housing and inequal schools in the North. We’re still dealing with the fallout today.

Cee-Lo Green

The Internet loves lyrics.

As soon as we could connect to the web, we used it to connect with our favorite music — and we keep finding new ways to do that.

At first it was clunky websites that gave you lyrics — though not necessarily the right ones — and plenty of ads for tracks and ringtones you didn't want. But now musicians and fans alike are getting creative with videos that showcase lyrics in new ways.

John Ridley's American Crime has upended the TV crime drama

Jul 17, 2017
Courtesy of ABC

Crime shows have long been a staple of the American TV diet, but ABC’s new drama American Crime is unlike any that has come before it in an important way. It’s not a procedural — none of the major characters are police, prosecutors, CSI technicians or detectives. Instead, the focus stays on one crime, and the families of the victim and the accused during the entire 11-episode season.

TORRES gets personal in her new album, Sprinter

Jul 17, 2017

If you believe the music blog hype, 2015 is going to be a big year for up-and-coming female musicians who are exploding the stereotype of the confessional singer-songwriter. And none has more buzz than 24-year-old Mackenzie Scott, who performs as TORRES.

Her new record, Sprinter, brings together her southern past and her current existential confusion. The result is a lot more rocking than what you might expect from a typical super-sensitive singer/songwriter.

The story of one of the world’s 'sexiest songs'

Jul 17, 2017
Photographer unknown/<a href="">Wikimedia Commons</a>

“Sexual Healing,” a hit Marvin Gaye song, was not actually authored solely by Marvin Gaye. How the song came about is a long story that involves music writer David Ritz. 

"When I met [Marvin Gaye], the intense drama in his life had just begun,” Ritz says. “He was in the throes of a tumultuous new marriage, which also ended in divorce. But I also met him at a strange time in his career because he was cold — he hadn't had a hit since ‘Got To Give It Up.’ ... 

Brigitte Lacombe

Rebecca Miller subscribes to the truism “if you want something done right, do it yourself.”

Miller writes novels and stories that she adapts into screenplays — and then she directs the movies herself, movies like “Personal Velocity” and “The Private Lives of Pippa Lee.”

There's so much more to Sylvia Plath's legacy than suicide and 'The Bell Jar'

Jul 17, 2017

Fifty years ago this spring, Sylvia Plath’s book "Ariel" was published posthumously in the United States. It sealed Plath’s reputation as one of the most innovative poets writing in the English language. The voice in the poems is often aggressive, rude, and outrageously offensive.

As writer Erica Wagner says, “We don’t often think of women speaking out in this way.”

With “Ariel,” Plath opened a door for women poets coming after her to write with greater freedom in new emotional registers.

Arts and cultural organizations desperately need funding, but should they draw a line at who they accept it from?

'He's kind of like the Jesus of hip-hop'

Jul 8, 2017

A new movie about Tupac Shakur, called “All Eyez on Me,” tells the rap artist’s story from childhood until his murder at age 25, in 1996.

Some say the biopic — like a lot of coverage of Shakur’s life — doesn’t get beyond myth. Shakur’s longtime friend Jada Pinkett Smith took to Twitter after the film came out, calling its reimagining of their relationship “deeply hurtful.”

What's behind the humor of Hasan Minhaj on Netflix

Jun 24, 2017

Three weeks. That’s how long comedian Hasan Minhaj had to prep for his now-legendary presidential roast at April’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner.

“It was one of those things no one wanted to touch but I thought that 'hey, this is it,'” he says.

In fact, he wove that into his address: “I would say it is an honor to do this, but that would be an 'alternative fact,'” he said, warming up the crowd of journalists. “No one wanted to do this, so of course it falls in the hands of an immigrant.”

The second season of Netflix’s comedy “Master of None” debuted some weeks ago to admiring reviews — not unlike the first season, which won an Emmy for its writing.

Decades after its cancellation, the cult show “Twin Peaks” is making a brief prime-time comeback: “Twin Peaks: The Return” premieres Sunday on Showtime, and its 18 episodes promise to feature many of the original cast and characters.

The new Broadway musical, "War Paint," is about the rivalry between two of the 20th century's biggest cosmetics moguls, Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein. It posed a special challenge for the show’s makeup designer.

The woman who signed on to the daunting task of designing the theatrical makeup for two makeup legends is Angelina Avallone. She has designed makeup for the Broadway productions of "Cabaret," "The Little Mermaid," "The Color Purple," "Julius Caesar" and about a hundred other shows.

The hashtag that acts as a 'bat signal' for black cosplayers

May 14, 2017
Brian Snyder/Reuters&nbsp;

Cosplay — dressing up as a favorite fantasy character, then heading out to public gatherings like comic-cons — used to be considered so nerdy that even comic geeks teased others who did it. But thanks in part to social media, perceptions are changing: As cosplayers post videos and photos of themselves in fantastical, meticulously designed costumes, cosplay has become more accepted, even cool.

<a href="">William A. Crafts/CC BY 2.0 (image cropped)</a>

When Margaret Atwood wrote "The Handmaid's Tale," published in 1985, she took inspiration from the rise of the Christian right in America during the 1970s and early '80s and the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran.

<a href="">Official White House photo by Pete Souza</a>

“Amazing Grace” is a hymn that’s recognizable to almost every American, regardless of religious background.

“It seems kind of like an all-purpose, hopeful song,” says Steve Turner, author of “Amazing Grace: The Story of America's Most Beloved Song.” But while the song has a universal message, its origins are much more complex.

The new season of HBO’s political comedy “Veep” just got underway this past weekend, which means we’re in for a fresh dose of spicy insults (“Put that world’s tallest pile of garbage on the phone right now!”) and punchy one-liners from Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), and her staff (or ex-staff), as they navigate life in Washington and beyond. 

But behind the scenes, the writers of TV comedies like “Veep” banter with each other using lingo that may be less familiar. Can you use “zhuzhing” in a sentence?

Last year, Mattel announced that it was giving Barbie a makeover — introducing new body shapes, skin tones and even flat feet to make the iconic doll look more realistic. “Barbie reflects the world girls see around them,” Mattel president and COO Richard Dickson said.

Elias Weiss Friedman via Twitter (image cropped)

On a chilly recent morning, photographer Elias Weiss Friedman was camped out at the dog run in New York City’s Washington Square Park, preparing to shoot the compelling, eye-level portraits he’s best-known for.

Like any working photographer, he was dressed for his beat. “I'm wearing … cargo pants that I've destroyed about 15 pairs of,” he says. “But underneath, I have kneepads, and I wear them underneath because I don't like to give away that I'm — just a little bit more under the radar.”