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Studio 360 with 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.
Thursday, December 18, 2014 12:00am
The novels of Thomas Pynchon always seemed too weird and too long to make into movies. But the director Paul Thomas Anderson, a dedicated Pynchon fan, has taken on the challenge with "Inherent Vice." They’re not “unfilmmable — maybe just hard,” he says. Also, the story of Linda Ronstadt’s breakthrough album “Heart Like a Wheel.” And we search for the answer to a TV mystery: why was "The Newsroom" so bad?
Tuesday, December 16, 2014 8:00am
It’s the end of the year and there are more “Best of” lists than there are people to read them, but we figured we’d add one that seems to be missing: the Best of the Internet. With the help of past sideshow guests, Sean Rameswaram attempts to compile a collection of the best videos, sites, songs, and memes that thrived online in 2014. Good luck, kid.
Studio 360's Kurt Andersen - "Too Many Cooks"
“The guy raised the stakes for himself, and then met them and upped himself,” Kurt Andersen says of the surreal send-up of cheesy TV sitcoms made by writer Casper Kelly. The 11-minute parody rewards repeat views. “It is literally the first viral video I have ever gone back and looked at again,” Kurt says. “And I am a notorious one-time watcher of things.”
GIPHY's Tyler Menzel - SeeHearParty.com
It wasn’t easy for Tyler Menzel to pick just one thing that he loved on the internet this year because he spends his entire day deep-sea diving for gems as the editorial director at Giphy – a GIF search engine. He settled on seehearparty.com, a website that allows you to sync your favorite categories of animated GIFs to your favorite songs.
“One of the best things is when you start adding multiple tags,” says Menzel. If you were gonna cut my head open and look inside, it would look like a seehearparty.com of ‘No Flex Zone’ and Sailor Moon and cats on skateboards.”
Jezebel's Jia Tolentino - ClickHole
Jia Tolentino recently became an editor at Jezebel, but The Onion’s ClickHole – which posts satirical listicles, quizzes, and celebrity quotations every day – is her favorite site. “All websites in comparison are absolute garbage,” she says. “Including the one I work for.”
Funny Or Die's Jonathan Van Ness - Voguing Kid & Kim
Jonathan Van Ness, host of Funny or Die’s Gay of Thrones, couldn’t pick one thing he loved online this year, so he chose two. The first was the kid who interrupted a local Las Vegas news spot with refined voguing stylistics. “He was camera ready, he knew all of his angles, he did not get stale; it was amazing.”
Kim Kardashian and Paper Magazine tried to “Break the Internet” by releasing a series of oily nude photos this year, but instead they created a monster meme. “When I saw the one where they replaced her bum with that Krispy Kreme doughnut, it was the same texture, it was the same shine,” Van Ness says. “I loved that.” But not enough to download her supremely popular game.
Vulture's Margaret Lyons - "Transparent"
Margaret Lyons spends a lot of time watching TV for her job as a critic at Vulture, but her favorite show of the year was only available online: Jill Soloway's Transparent. “The show is amazing, it’s beautiful,” Lyons says of the dramedy about the patriarch of a Los Angeles family who transitions genders. It’s available on Amazon Prime, where Lyons also purchases her socks.
Gallery 1988's Jensen Karp - "Run The Jewels 2"
Jensen Karp was a rapper in his teens, but now he mostly curates exceptional fan artwork. His love for hip-hop remains strong thanks in part to Run the Jewels 2, the latest release from the rap supergroup of Killer Mike and El-P. “These two guys are on the third leg of their career each,” Karp says of the 39-year-olds. “And if you know hip-hop well, that’s impossible.”
The success of Run the Jewels 2 began online where the singles for “Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)” and “Blockbuster Night Part 1” hit big before the entire album was made available as a free download in October. After its release came universal critical acclaim for two independent rappers who have seen their share of victory and defeat over the years. “The things that are happening for both of these guys, you just sort of have to applaud it.”
Kutiman - "Symphony Orchestra Pachebel Canon Rehearsal"
Kutiman watches a lot of unknown musicians performing on YouTube. It’s kind of his job. Most of what he finds while scouting for his “Thru You” project is unusable, but some of that unusable stuff—like this video of middle school students annihilating Pachelbel’s Canon—is unforgettable.
Thursday, December 11, 2014 12:00am
The old ad said “StarKist don’t want tunas with good taste — StarKist wants tuna that taste good.” But some animals may have good taste after all. Scientists are recognizing cultural traits and behaviors in a growing number of species. We’ll hear from an ornithologist whose radical new definition of art includes the activities of birds and flowers. We’ll travel back in time to when whale songs showed up on the pop charts, and find out how the whales themselves pick new songs. And we’ll visit a very special concert — wolves only.
Thursday, December 4, 2014 12:00am
Bert Williams was the most famous African-American entertainer of his day. But for some reason, his first film was never released. Now, 100 years later, it’s finally being seen. Also, we hear from Boots, the little-known producer on Beyoncé’s last album. And Lisa Kudrow finally steps out of the long shadow of Friends’ Phoebe Buffay.
Tuesday, December 2, 2014 8:00am
Katja Blichfeld and Ben Sinclair don’t remember how the idea for High Maintenance came to them. Considering the show’s subject matter, that’s to be expected. Though some might dismiss a web series about a weed messenger and his customers, High Maintenance might be the finest TV made exclusively for the internet. Yes, it has won acclaim from High Times, but also The New Yorker.
Blichfeld, who won an Emmy as a casting director for 30 Rock, had always hoped to find an outlet to showcase the great, underused actors she came across – including her husband and co-conspirator, Sinclair, who plays the show’s nameless marijuana delivery guy. “I feel like on 30 Rock, unfortunately, so many of the roles I was casting people for were one and two-line parts,” she says. “Over time, I wanted to see them to do more.”
The couple’s actor friends are given ample screen time to shine in High Maintenance, which is essentially a series of character studies about users young and old dealing with life, love, and loneliness in New York City.
Watch “Trixie,” an episode of High Maintenance:
High Maintenance isn’t the first show to tackle drug culture, but it is among the most authentic. It’s about marijuana as much as Cheers is about whisky. “Truth be told, the weed story is the last thing to get figured out,” Blichfeld says about writing episodes with Sinclair. “What haven’t we seen before that happens in real life?”
As essentially the show’s sole recurring character, Sinclair is the face of High Maintenance. To celebrate the latest batch of episodes, Vimeo has plastered his likeness all over Brooklyn, Manhattan, and the internet. Thankfully, being a poster boy for the normalization of marijuana culture isn’t intimidating to the actor, who first inhaled at the age of twelve. But his love of the project is family-friendly. “The most wonderful thing is that I get to do this with Katja,” he says. “I imagine the pride that we feel in this project is tantamount to the pride that one feels for their children. And I don’t know a lot of people whose babies are painted on a 24-foot wall.”
Watch “Brad Pitts”: