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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.
Friday, July 25, 2014 12:00am
Holler If Ya Hear Me, the Broadway musical based on the work of Tupac Shakur, closed after just one month of performances. Reviews were lackluster and ticket sales disappointing. But the show’s star, poet and actor Saul Williams, says Broadway audiences need to get over recycled shows like Rocky and start dealing with real stories. And we take a serious look at Mad Magazine, the goofy, bawdy, sarcastic kids’ magazine that made America snarky. Also, a live performance from Lydia Loveless, the 23-year-old country belter who has to choke back tears when she sings about losing her family’s farm.
Friday, July 18, 2014 12:00am
What does today’s sci-fi mean for our real-life future? Cyberpunk author Neal Stephenson argues that it’s time to get over our love of dystopia. A class at MIT searches sci-fi classics for technologies they can invent right now, although maybe they shouldn’t. Geoengineers take a tip from Carl Sagan – who saw a green future for Mars – to see if we can save Earth. And we meet some scientists who think that if we ever want to see the stars, we’d better start building the starship.
Tuesday, July 15, 2014 8:00am
The greatest interview ever recorded won’t get as many hits on YouTube as a cat giving a high five. The people behind Blank on Blank want to make audio go viral. They take audio gems that fell on the cutting-room floor, or low-fi cassette tapes that were never aired, and create original animations of two to five minutes. Producer David Gerlach selects the audio (everyone from Fidel Castro to Meryl Streep to 2Pac), and gives it to animator Patrick Smith, who visualizes the words in charming lo-fi videos. Blank on Blank is now drawing millions of views, and Sean Rameswaram talked with Smith talk about tricking people into watching audio.
“Me and David are a packaging element,” Smith says. “We take something that someone may not have noticed before and put some eye candy on there that really lifts it up.” The animation isn’t terribly flashy. Each video is comprised of 40 or so compositions. You see David Bowie pensively reflecting on his career, his animated words bouncing around the frame, and scarecrow-like shadows of his previous personas surrounding him. Smith says he most often tries to steer away from literal interpretations, using as much symbolism and “weird” imagery as possible. “It’s very fulfilling to have these wonderful pieces of audio from these brilliant people and actually get a chance to define their words visually.”
Blank on Blank’s most popular videos have featured dead artists: Kurt Cobain, David Foster Wallace, Philip Seymour-Hoffman, and Janis Joplin, to name a few. It’s a daunting challenge for an animator. “You know [Hoffman] is dead. You know he’s brilliant. And you’re in charge of visualizing these words. It’s scary.” He finds that the hardest recordings to animate often yield the best results, forcing him to think past the obvious. Smith’s animations – sketchy, vibrant, and witty, like the best New Yorker cartoons come to life – are unquestionably the secret to Blank on Blank’s success, but he defers to the strength of his creative partnership with Gerlach. “I’m an animator who needs a producer who can push me,” he says. “All artists are lazy. Left to our own devices, we make the worst decisions.”
Friday, July 11, 2014 12:00am
Are young people getting less creative? New research suggests teens’ fiction is a lot less interesting than it was in the 1990s. Performance artists tell what they really think of Shia LaBeouf and James Franco muscling in on their turf. A new trend in stripped-down, minimal motorcycle design harkens back to classic British bikes without all the baggage. And Andrew Bird and the Hands of Glory sing about what really scares them.
Friday, July 4, 2014 12:00am
From Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to George Orwell’s 1984 to Spike Jonze’s Oscar-winning Her, artists have imagined what the future will look like. In this week’s episode, Kurt Andersen explores how science fiction has shaped the world we’re living in right now. The inventor of the cell phone gives credit to Star Trek’s communicator; International Space Station superstar Chris Hadfield explains the ups and downs of space; and science writer Carl Zimmer says the giant sandworms of Dune got him interested in life on Earth. And we answer the age old question: where’s my flying car?
(Originally aired: January 24, 2014)