I’m a sucker for British pop of the 1960’s. For this I can probably thank my Dad, who insisted on saturating my brain, at around age 8, with repeated listenings of the Beatles’ “Abbey Road” LP — perhaps to provide me something other than “Star Wars” with which to be obsessed. But despite the band’s genius, I gotta admit the last time I listened to more than three of their tunes at a stretch was when a bunch of us at a public radio conference were comped tickets to see Cirque Du Soleil’s Beatles-scored Vegas freakout “Love.”
Not so with The Zombies, whose 1968 album “Odessey and Oracle” is on constant rotation not only on my stereo but in my subconscious. I blasted it through earbuds to take my mind off the pain when I got a tooth pulled — It’s that good, from the Beach Boys-inflected opener “Care of Cell 44” to the classic closer “Time Of the Season,” with stops along the way for bittersweet odes to the elderly (“A Rose For Emily”) and hymns to childhood (“Beachwood Park”).
So, when, during this year’s SXSW fest in Austin, I was invited to sit in on a Daytrotter Session featuring the Zombies’ lead singer and main songwriter playing an acoustic set in some guy’s living room, I didn’t quite believe it until it was actually happening. This explains why I had the presence of mind to shoot only a single tune from their performance — the beloved “Odessey & Oracle” track “This Will Be Our Year.” It’s a song of pure positivity that’s been covered by modern rockers from Foo Fighters to OK Go. But the Zombies still do it the best.
Check out the rest of their Daytrotter set — including “Time Of The Season” and “She’s Not There” — in far higher fidelity, here. And the band’s on tour in the U.S. now. Go.
To celebrate the release of our 200th podcast, here’s our bicentennial All-Icebreaker show. Dozens of jokes culled from the last two years’ worth of DPDs, as told by such luminaries as James Franco, Bryan Cranston, Alison Pill, the band Fun., and many more. Some are funny, most are not. But there are definitely a lot of them.
Only a portion of Brendan’s conversation with best-selling author, food expert, and, now, well-trained cook, Michael Pollan could make it onto the air this week. For those who want to go deep, we’ve uploaded the complete interview here. Take a listen for more details on the offensive aesthetics of microwaves, the feet of god, and the sweetness of “hand taste.”
In this web-exclusive extra, this week’s Guest of Honor Julia Stiles tells us about how, while filming her new movie It’s a Disaster, the cast hung out in the (possibly haunted, possibly sexy) Los Angeles home where Marvin Gaye lived - and died.
We know that great playlists are key to setting the perfect party mood - that’s why we have so many great artists come in and give us their picks. Several of you have been asking for a way to listen to all the music contained in each episode of our show and we’re happy to provide.
You can now listen to weekly playlists and keep up with our “One for the Road” tracks on Spotify and Rdio.
The streaming services don’t always have every song we use - and sometimes on the show we’re previewing tracks for you that aren’t quite out yet - but we hope this will give you at least a little taste of DPD’s musical flavor. Have a preference between these services or another favorite music sharing option? Please let us know!
This week back in 1892, a certain Lord Stanley of Preston purchased the most notorious punch bowl in sports history. (Okay, maybe the only punch bowl in sports history.) Learn about some of the (in)glorious moments in the lifespan of Stanley’s “Cup,” and then fill it with this sweet Canadian cocktail:
“Stanley’s Lament” as re-imagined by Brian Grant, bar manager at Pourhouse in Vancouver:
Stir together (with NO ICE):
1 oz. Canadian straight rye whiskey
1/4 oz. Benedictine
1/4 oz. Fernet Branca
dash of maple syrup
Pour into the biggest, shiniest, most ornate vessel you can find. (A normal cocktail glass works, too.) Top with a dash of champagne, then throw it around like you are the champions of the world.
The James Beard Awards are sort of like the Oscars of food. Every year, the best chefs, bar and wine professionals, restaurants, and cookbooks are honored by the foundation named after legendary culinary educator - and cookbook author - James Beard. The Beard Foundation also gives out awards for food journalism - for which we, mysteriously, were passed over again this year. That oversight aside, two of the 2013 finalists, announced today, have been featured on The Dinner Party Download - and we can only assume that they will carry the day…
Of course, the “Outstanding Bar Program” award has a special place in our booze-happy hearts - and we’re rooting for The Violet Hour. Their bartender Nandini Khaund whipped up a particularly delightful concoction for us to celebrate Chicago’s history of shady, smoke-filled rooms - which obviously in no way reflects on the James Beard Foundation’s selection process (unless they’re interested in making a deal with us…).
Behold, the coming of the 2013 Academy Awards — aka Geek Super Bowl!
As you busy yourself selecting a glamorous outfit to wear to your Oscar party of choice this weekend — you know, the outfit into which, after a long evening spent chugging champagne and bean dip in front of the awards telecast, you will no longer fit — don’t forget to make your picks for the inevitable Oscar party betting pool. Below, as usual, we handicap the likely winners of various awards, based on the only criteria that matters: whether the nominee appeared on our show.
Best Visual Effects
True, the new, perhaps overly crisp “48 fps” shooting format deployed by Peter Jackson in “The Hobbit” made many audiences uncomfortably aware of every grain of Dwarf makeup caked upon a performer’s face. Regardless, the film’s legendary VFX honcho Joe Letteri came on our show to give us a list of his favorite digitally-created characters, so he will win.
A tossup: David O. Russell’s deft directorial hand, steering actors Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper through his alternately funny, heartwarming and brutal “Silver Linings Playbook?” Or young first-timer Benh Zeitlin, who for “Beasts Of The Southern Wild” gathered together animals and a cast of first-time actors, threw them into boats in the Louisiana swamp, and survived? Both filmmakers were our Guests of Honor, both are thus deserving of the accolade. We give the advantage to Russell, because he also sang us a rendition of “Come Fly With Me.”
Best Adapted Screenplay
Another photo finish: “Argo’s” script is based upon an article by Josh Bearman, who of course appeared on “The Dinner Party” to offer a list of articles written by others which should also be made into films — what a gracious man, looking out for his fellow scribes! Then again there’s the lost-at-sea adventure “Life Of Pi,” based upon the novel by Yann Martel, who stirred our listeners’ souls with his list of equally wild adventure tales. We give it to Yann, just ‘cause he had the brass to call “Dante’s Inferno” a travelogue.
We keep hearing “Silver Lings Playbook’s” Jennifer Lawrence is the frontrunner. But we feel certain once the Academy compares the number of times she has been on our show (zero) to the number of times “Zero Dark Thirty’s” Jessica Chastain has been on our show (once, just a few weeks back), they will vote overwhelmingly in favor of… well, you do the math.
Best Documentary Feature
Obviously, this week’s “guest of honor” David France will take home the gold for his fierce, on-the-ground depiction of the AIDS activism in “How to Survive a Plague.” But wait… against impossible odds, a tie will be announced!? Believe it. “Searching for Sugar Man”’s Malik Bendjelloul and folk singer Rodriguez - once considered dead (in this category) - will ascend the stage, alive and calm as ever, to accept a second gleaming statuette. How will they have accomplished this coup? By charming our socks off (and Oscar voters’, too) last summer. Case in point: Rodriguez’s insistence on addressing Rico as “Rico Gagliano.” Confidently mark two winners on your ballots, and thank us later.
There’s been much discussion about the depiction of torture in “Zero Dark Thirty.” Some say that the movie implies torture was instrumental in capturing Osama Bin Laden, whereas many government officials say it wasn’t. Jessica doesn’t think that the movie is in any way pro-torture…and you can hear her explain why here.
Regardless of whether my preferred candidate wins today’s election, I got to meet ex-Monty Python comedy legend Eric Idle in our studios this morning, so everything’s fine.
Eric stopped by to talk about the soon-to-be-released-on-iTunes video of his play “What About Dick,” starring Eddie Izzard… and also to answer our listeners’ etiquette questions, because that’s what you want from a man who writes a play called “What About Dick.”
Afterwards, because I am giant fanboy, I had assistant producer Jackson Musker snap this pic of the two of us:
For the record, that’s as overjoyed as I’ll ever look. Eric likes our “on the air” sign because it reminds him of “What About Dick” for some reason.
P.S. Since we’re being cleverly puerile, here’s a comment Eric made that won’t be in the final cut of the segment. He said he attributes Python’s success in the U.S. to two aspects of the troupe’s comedy, both provided by their sole American member, Terry Gilliam: “T*ts, and violence.”
As of this writing we are T-minus four hours from the 2012 Emmy Awards. The telecast doesn’t quite inspire the viewing parties and wagering which surround the Oscars, but for those of you who’ll start an office betting pool on anything*, we offer our picks for tonight’s winners in a few categories, based as always on the only criteria that matters: Which of the nominees have appeared on our show.
BEST COMEDY SERIES
We’d certainly be happy to see the Emmy go to 30 Rock, this being the final season of one of the most brilliant comedies ever and stuff. But the groundbreaking Girls — one of the very few new shows to rack up some Emmy noms this year — has of course been the obvious shoo-in ever since co-star Zosia Mamet’s charming appearance on our show.
BEST COMEDY ACTOR
You’d think we’d pick Alec Baldwin here, what with him being a fellow public radio homeboy and also super great on 30 Rock. But Alec’s never been on our show, unlike House of Lies’ wondrous Don Cheadle, who will therefore win.
BEST SUPPORTING DRAMA ACTRESS
The Academy will surely reward Breaking Bad’s Anna Gunn for her searing performance as a woman pulled by her husband into and out of (and then back into) a life of crime… but more importantly for her appearance on our “Guest List” segment.
BEST VARIETY SERIES
A tossup. On one hand you have the genius Colbert Report, featuring the multiple Emmy-winning writing talents of Opus Moreschi, who graced our show with his list of the funniest things in all of 2011. But that was back in December, whereas Simon Rich, writer for the also-nominated Saturday Night Live, appeared on our show just this week. Sorry Opus, we’ve got short memories — advantage SNL.
BEST DRAMA ACTOR
Another tough one. Jon Hamm for Mad Men — the best television drama in history — who earlier this year came on our show to tell us about cosmic dark matter? Or three-time Best Actor winner Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad — the other best television drama in history — who came on our show to talk about environmentally sound residential architecture? But of course the winner will be both of them, in an unprecedented tie. We also predict they will perform a tandem acceptance speech and then share a Madonna/Britney-style kiss.
BEST GUEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
Hamm for 30 Rock, natch, but no one will notice ‘cause they’ll still be reeling from the kiss.
BEST SPECIAL-CLASS SHORT-FORMAT LIVE-ACTION ENTERTAINMENT PROGRAM
Adult Swim’s Children’s Hospital. This one’s sort of a gimme, since the Academy has already given out the award. But we coulda told you CH would win long ago. Not merely because creator/star Rob Corddry appeared on our show to answer listeners’ etiquette questions, but because you just don’t deny an award to a guy who wears clown makeup for a living, unless you’re really into being stalked by a clown for the rest of your life.
On this week’s show, VMA nominee Natasha Pincus (director of Gotye’s “Somebody that I Used to Know” clip) offered up an impressive list of single-shot music videos. Watch them below, along with a reel of Natasha’s work.
After Mexo-Americana band David Wax Museum dropped by to tape their “Guest List” segment last week, they graced us with an in-studio performance of the son jarocho folk tune “Chuchumbe.” According to Paste magazine, this little number was discovered in an archive 25 years ago, centuries after being banned by the Catholic church… but listening is probably the toe-tappingest heresy in which you’ll ever engage.
DWM’s album “Knock Knock Get Up” comes out September 4th.
In this week’s “Guest of Honor” interview, author Chris Cleave talked about everything from sport addictions, to getting cut down to (book jacket) size, to Tanya Harding’s latest exploits. (Vintage car racing?!) Here’s a bonus section that didn’t make it into the radio piece, in which Chris reads from the opening chapter of his winning new novel “GOLD.”
One day when I was ten or so, my Father brought home two library books for me. “The Martian Chronicles” and “R Is for Rocket.” I don’t know what possessed him to pick them; Dad’s not much a of a Sci-Fi fan. Maybe he had a feeling.
I devoured “The Martian Chronicles” in what I remember as about two hours but must have been more like six. When I cracked the book open it was early afternoon, and when I closed it the sun was setting. I was a loud, hyperactive kid, but that night at dinner I just sat there eating in stunned silence. My entire sense of the universe had been utterly changed. It was like being given a new brain, along with clumsy hands which I wasn’t quite sure how to operate. I sensed the world was darker and more fragile than before, and until I could maneuver my weird new self through it, I might fall a lot and shatter things.
After that, I read all the Ray Bradbury I could get my hands on. In 7th grade, when we got to the Creative Writing module in English class, we were told to write our own short story, based on one we liked from another author. I chose Ray’s “Frost and Fire.” It was the first real piece of fiction I ever wrote.
Twelve years later I moved to L.A. to get a Master’s in Screenwriting, and Ray Bradbury came to introduce a film in person: John Huston’s film adaptation of “Moby Dick,” starring Gregory Peck. Bradbury wrote the screenplay back in 1955, and he’d just published “Green Shadows, White Whale,” a book of stories inspired by the experience — the months he spent at Huston’s home in Ireland, trying to convince himself he was worthy of channeling Melville.
It was me, about 20 other screenwriters, and Ray Bradbury in a tiny campus screening room, and it was worth my entire grad school tuition, the loans for which I’ll be paying off for the rest of my life, to be there. I took breathless notes in my journal the whole time. “He’s standing one row ahead of me and three seats to my left,” I wrote. “He has white hair and jowls.”
I haven’t looked at those notes in a while, but a few hours after learning of Ray’s death yesterday, I fished them out.
He said some great stuff that night; pithy little anecdotes and one-liners and pearls of wisdom he probably dropped on all his audiences, but still pretty sharp for a 70-something guy whose knees, hearing and eyesight were all clearly failing. He was exactly the right blend of salty curmudgeon, living history book and wide-eyed poet.
About the movie:
“I only really saw ‘Moby Dick’ when I took my daughters to see the film. We sat front row center. It’s a goddamned good film.”
On waiting outside a movie studio, as a kid, to meet W.C. Fields:
“He signed my autograph book, held it out to me and said, ‘Here ya go, ya little son-of-a-bitch.’”
On Martin Scorcese’s “Casino:”
“The main character is well-developed. You don’t much care for the people around him, though. Also, too many F words.”
Advice to screenwriters:
“Read poetry every night before you go to bed. Cram your head with metaphors. If I had a cinema class, I’d have all my students write haikus. Then they’d shoot that.”
But there are a couple of notes I’d forgotten, which now strike me, the screenwriter-turned-radio-guy, as important:
“I’m as good a writer as I am because of radio.” His first stories were based on the radio adventure series Chandu The Magician.
First job was reading newspaper comic strips aloud on the radio Saturday nights.
Ray finished talking, everyone applauded. Then he apologized for having to leave — he was recovering from an ear operation and couldn’t sit through the film and chat with us afterwards. He bowed and wobbled out into the hall on his creaky legs.
As the lights began to dim and “Moby Dick” began to roll, I watched the screening room door start to slowly close behind him. Just before it entirely shut I jumped from my chair and sprinted out after him.
“Mr. Bradbury I’m sorry but could you please autograph my journal you’re kind of my hero you’re why I’m here.”
He stopped, took the journal. Flipped it open and smiled when he saw the word stamped in ink on the inside cover — a message from the friend who’d given it to me a year before.
During our fall 2011 taping with Henry Rollins, he told an unbelievable story about a backstage encounter between himself, Joe Strummer of the Clash, and Johnny Cash. As if that image isn’t jaw-dropping enough, Tom Petty, mega-producer Rick Rubin, and June Carter popped in, too. The tale was, alas, too epic for our radio show’s time constraints…but it SCREAMS to be heard, so we’re posting it here as a web special. Enjoy! (Cue Henry, answering the question: “What’s the most memorable get-together you’ve been to?”)
Our interview this week with ?uestlove got me thinking about the marriage of my two favorite things - food and music. While not all food-related songs are actual odes to the edible (“Cherry Pie”, anyone?), there is no shortage of tasty metaphors in the world of music.
This quickly curated list represents my 10 favorite picks, based on my brunch-time appetite for sound.
Caramel- Suzanne Vega
This song sets a sultry mood, all while priming you for dessert… and beyond.
Pabst Blue Ribbon- The Untamed Youth
This particular song is a nod to my former home of Portland, OR, where ironic Midwestern beer swilling was perfected.
Be Healthy- Dead Prez
If you’re looking to clean up your act, Dead Prez is full of helpful advice on the virtues of healthy eating.
Savoy Truffle- The Beatles
Being an Apple scruff at heart, I’d be remiss to not include this dessert-based song, penned by George Harrison about his sweets-addicted bestie, Mr. Eric Clapton.
Mother Popcorn- James Brown
While the song is truly about a dance rather than the food, it’s not hard to imagine busting a move to this song while waiting for your corn to pop.
Knock Me A Kiss- Louis Jordan
A swinging song, in which a man struggles, caught between his desires for food and the woman he loves. I feel his pain.
Lost in the Supermarket- The Clash
We’ve all been there, aimlessly wandering those endless aisles, with no idea what we’re doing. The piped in 80’s power ballads are never this good, though.
Buttermilk Biscuits- Sir Mix-a-lot
This throwback reminds those who are watching their figures to consume in moderation— buttermilk biscuits can lead to baby getting back.
The Coffee Song- Frank Sinatra
I’ve been repeatedly surprised at how few people are familiar with what I consider to be one of Frankie’s best songs. If this doesn’t have you dancing around the kitchen while grinding your beans, nothing will.
On this week’s episode, Ethan Miller — frontman of hard-rockers Howlin Rain — listed a few favorite tunes he likes to bust out in the tour van… including RTX’s “Knightmare & Mane.”
RTX, now known as “Black Bananas,” is fronted by Jennifer Herrema. If you’re familiar at all with her or her original outfit Royal Trux, you’ll appreciate this little tidbit that didn’t make it into the original piece: In which Ethan describes catching a glimpse of her and the band shambling through an airport. And even if you’ve never heard of her, it’s as good a description as any of what a certain brand of rock looks and feels like.
If you’re a sushi lover, it’s hard not to become insanely jealous when interviewing filmmaker David Gelb — our guest on this week’s “Chattering Class” segment. As the director of the new documentary “Jiro Dreams Of Sushi,” he found himself in the privileged position of photographing — and then often eating — innumerable pieces of edible art by Jiro Ono, probably the best sushi chef on Earth. You and I can also sample Jiro’s fare, of course, but we’ll have to shell out for a plane ticket to Tokyo plus $400 bucks or so per 20-piece tasting course at his restaurant. We’ll also have to score a reservation at the little 10-seat joint, which’ll now have an even longer waiting list thanks to Gelb’s film, damn his eyes.
Luckily, during our interview, Gelb suggested a couple of NYC restaurants where comparable sushi can be had: 15 East and Sushi Yasuda. Neither is inexpensive — and since Gelb also touted them recently in the pages of The New York Times, reservations probably won’t be any easier to come by for a while — but at least you won’t need a passport to get there.
As for the sushi-centric city of Los Angeles, Gelb says he’d have highly recommended the fabled Sushi Nozawa in Studio City… if chef/owner Kazunori Nozawa hadn’t retired a few weeks ago and shuttered the joint. For Angelenos still mourning the loss, here’s Gelb telling me about a chat he had with Nozawa about the chef’s Jiro-centric retirement plans:
While listening to last week’s show, something rattled in my brain when Rico and mead-maker guest William Bostwick compared boiling honey bees… to boiling lobsters. From the depths of my vast catalog of interesting-but-typically-useless food knowledge, I remembered a lobster/bee connection. Sure enough, a little Googling later, my hunch was confirmed.
Similar to your freaky, distant cousin with whom you can scarcely believe you share DNA, the lobster and the honey bee are both members of the Arthropod phylum: a classification of animals with exoskeletons and jointed limbs. While bees are technically insects, they do indeed fall into this classification — so you can think of them as little, angry flying lobsters. Which is either creepy or B-horror movie cool.
Kris Holechek Peters is The Dinner Party’s web guru and resident food science geek.
In the world of fruit, as in the hierarchy of high school, popularity has a lot to do with appearance. Which is why, as we noted on last week’s show, the delectable but ugly-as-hell “dekopon” was long neglected as a potential export from its homeland of Japan, before finally making its US debut last week.
We wish we could say it’s the only acne-scarred, socially awkward fruit to be passed over by the masses. But many unattractive, poorly-named or simply uncultivated fruits have slipped through the culinary cracks. Our favorites:
THE PAW-PAW: In the U.S., most people are still unfamiliar with the indigenous pawpaw, despite increased visibility at farmer’s markets and, incredibly, despite this very program giving it worldwide exposure on our second-ever episode, three years ago. Sure it may look like a bruised, misshapen pear, but the tropical pawpaw isn’t called the “Indiana Banana” for nothing - its exotic flavor tastes like a guava/banana hybrid and it’s grown in the US of A!
THE CHOKEBERRY: Similarly left to sulk in the shadows of the fruit-aisle-turned-homecoming-dance is the chokeberry. What’s not to love about something that sounds like it will kill you? The chokeberry is a little on the bitter side (who wouldn’t be, with a name like that?) but is used in making jams and even wine.
THE MEDLAR: It’s not often that you intentionally let your produce turn into compost before consumption, but the medlar is not considered ripe until it resembles a brown bag of mush. And while its popularity began to fall with Rome, the custardy medlar is still enjoyed in parts of Europe and the Middle East and can be found in some import grocers in the US.
Of course, the new kids always have a hard time fitting in. But with time and exposure, their stocks will rise as they climb the gourmand social ladder- so long as they don’t start sitting at the lunch table with outsider weirdoes like persimmon and quince. Then all bets of apple-caliber popularity are off.
As I write this, we’re about ten minutes away from the red carpet portion of tonight’s Oscar broadcast, which means there’s still time to join the betting pool at your Oscar-viewing party of choice. Below are our picks for a few of the categories, based on the only criteria that matters: whether the nominee appeared on our show.*
Best Sound Mixing
This is the only category we’d consider awarding to Transformers: Dark Side Of The Moon, because if there’s one thing director Michael Bay does well — and there is just about only one thing — it’s using a trillion dollars of gadgetry to make an unholy racket in a movie theater. About the only thing louder than this movie is Motorhead.
But we gotta go with War Horse for this one. Partly because Richard Hymns and Gary Rydstrom did such an amazing job of placing the natural sound of horses amidst the unnatural chaos of war… but mainly because Rydstrom was on our “Guest List” segment a couple of weeks back.
Rydstrom (with Andy Nelson, Tom Johnson and Stewart Wilson). Duh.
This is said to be a tossup between Jean Dujardin for The Artist and The Departed’s George Clooney. Nonsense; neither of them appeared on our show. But Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’s Gary Oldman did,and he imitated his favorite BBC reporter for us. Obvious choice.
This is a tough category: Do you go with Pina, directed by Wim Wenders — who had such insightful and heartfelt things to say about the film when he joined us as Guest Of Honor back in January? Or do you side with Undefeated — the tearjerking story of an underdog high school football team in gritty North Memphis — made by recent “Chattering Class” guests T.J. Martin and Daniel Lindsay? We predict the latter will emerge victorious, a.) Because Oscar voters appreciate a doc with a social message, and b.) Because Martin & Lindsay were such friendly young lads.
Best DirectorThe Artist writer/director Michel Hazanavicius is the front-runner — despite going up against the master, Martin Scorcese — and we predict Michel will indeed take the statue, mainly because we can’t imagine the Academy being anything but charmed by his Guest Of Honor interview on our show last week.
But fret not, Mr. Scorcese! We feel quite certain you’ll beat the odds and take home the Best Picture trophy for Hugo, as you were wise enough to base the film upon a wonderful illustrated book authored by Brian Selznick… who provided our Guest List this week.
Note: Neither The Dinner Party nor its parent company American Pulic Media condone gambling, nor do we guarantee any of our picks will actually win an Oscar, because the world — and particularly Hollywood — can be a cruel and unfair place
This week on the show we aired a chat with renowned artist Chris Burden about his newest installation piece “Metropolis II” — a complex model city through which cycle 1,100 little cars, at a scale speed of 240 miles per hour. Sadly, when I conducted the interview at the artist’s Topanga Canyon studio last year, he was disassembling it so it could be shipped to its final home: The L.A. County Museum Of Art (a painstaking process that incidentally took about 6 months)… so I didn’t get to see the thing in action. This weekend, LACMA finally unveiled the piece to the public, and it is indeed pretty cool to behold. Some video I shot:
As with many of Burden’s recent installations, it’s both charming and unsettling. All those little metal cars hurtling around the tracks make a serious racket (the “operator” standing in the center of the piece wears earplugs), and it definitely creates a sense of overwhelming speed: you find yourself trying to follow individual cars in their journey through the miniature city, and it’s just impossible for the eye to keep up. On the other hand, it’s telling to watch little kids encounter the thing: They are dazzled. Had LACMA opened this over the holiday gift-giving season, I bet L.A.-area Hot Wheels sales would’ve skyrocketed.
Seattle-ites! KUOW, your local public radio station, loves you! How do we know? Why, because for at least the next month, they’ve decided to give you the gift of, well, us. Yes, the Dinner Party will now be hearable on your actual radios, in all our hour-long glory.
We air on an unusual day of the week, for a show that preps you for weekend dinner parties — KUOW will be broadcasting the show Wednesdays at 10pm. Think of it as an early start to the weekend. And we know you’ll be wide awake to listen at 10pm, because of all the coffee you people drink.
KUOW are good people; they ran the show back when we were just a little bitty 8-minute-long appetizer. Now that we’re a full 60-minute meal, they’ve cleared some room for us at their audio table yet again, and we couldn’t be more pleased.
Land of Hendrix, Cobain, Gates and excellent salmon, we salute you.
P.S. If you’re in Seattle and dig the show, let the station brass know it by dropping them an email here.
P.P.S. Also, if you can get one of those Microsoft guys to fund an art project in which we position an enormous vinyl record over the Space Needle so it looks like the whole city is a gigantic upside-down turntable, that would rule.
This week, ‘tis the season to delight you with our favorite segments and interviews of the year: we’re currently assembling our annual “Best Of” episode!!
(Seriously, this episode is all about delighting you. It’s not at all about taking a coupla days off for the holidays)
(OK, it’s both)
Every year we enlist our listeners’ help in deciding which of our show-opening “Icebreaker” jokes was the best of the year. Post your votes below, won’t you? And if you need your memory jogged, you can sift through the contents of this year’s episodes here.
The home of Rocky Balboa, the liberty bell, and America’s first gridiron street system has now distinguished itself further — by joining the elite cadre of top-shelf cities airing The Dinner Party! Starting tonight, Saturday December 3rd, Philadelphians can hear the show on 90.9 WHYY-FM. Air time is 9pm. Tune us in as you cruise to your Saturday evening festivities, and you’ll arrive the better partier for it.
This is a particularly gratifying turn of events for expatriate Philadelphian — and Dinner Party co-host — Brendan Francis Newnam. His first-ever radio gig was as a researcher for Terry Gross’s Philly-based “Fresh Air.” Now he returns in audio form to the town that taught him what a good sandwich tastes like. He hopes to serve his homies well.
As for me, I hail from that other Pennsylvanian city of Pittsburgh, and since everyone outside the state mistakenly believes the two towns are right next to each other, I guess it’s a pseudo-homecoming for me, too. Cue “Gonna Fly Now” and let’s do this.
Heads up, midwest. Minnesota’s “The Current” — among the best modern music stations in the country — is airing the latest episode of “The Dinner Party” tonight at 9pm. Who cares if it’s supposed to get down to 37 degrees in MN tonight? Warm yourself by the radio and pretend the weekend’s just beginning.
The Current is 89.3 FM in the Twin Cities. Or click here for more frequencies around the state.
We just got word via the Dinner Party Ultra-Hotline (aka an email) that WUKY in Lexington, KY has added The Dinner Party to its weekend menu. Listeners can tune us in every Saturday at noon, starting November 5th. It’s going to be fantastic.
Brendan first fell in love with Kentucky when he realized the state sold booze on Sundays, unlike Ohio where he was attending college. And Rico once beat Kentucky basketball great Jamal Mashburn in a game of ‘horse.’ OK, that isn’t true. He beat Rajon Rondo.
How could we not love Lexington, the hometown of Mary Todd? Long before a tall drink of water named Abraham Lincoln came a-courtin’, she lived there in a two-story brick, late Georgian house.
We hope you love the show — feedback is welcome! Stay sexy Lexy…
“I heard the small talk segment about the water menu at a fancy restaurant… and was reminded of the “Penn & Teller’s Bulls—t” episode where they open a fancy restaurant with a water menu. So is this another joke or were Penn & Teller just ahead of their time?”
Well, Lee, it’s apparently not a joke. While the Wall Street Journal’s Mary Pilon — who wrote the article that started this storm of controversy — originally left the restaurant in question unnamed, she came clean today and revealed it to be L.A.’s Bazaar.
Anyway, here’s the eerily portentous video Lee’s talking about (NOTE - adult language). The relevant bit’s about five minutes in:
“There are no coffee mugs in the office kitchenette. We work in PUBLIC RADIO — how can we be short on COFFEE MUGS??”
Public radio fans — me included — love it when public radio people acknowledge public radio’s public-radioness, so the post attracted a bunch of amused comments, one of which came from one of the friendly folks over at Houston’s public station, KUHF, who wrote simply:
“I’m going to send you one.”
I smiled and gave it a Facebook “like” and didn’t think of it again until just now, when a package arrived on my desk, containing two of these:
All I have to say is, public radio people are quality people. And also, KUHF’s mugs are lovely blue etched-glass numbers — well worth a pledge.
So a coupla weeks back, Brendan and I were guests on the Bravo TV show “Rocco’s Dinner Party,” which marks the (first) (second) third time this summer we’ve appeared in a visual medium. That old chestnut about having a face made for radio? Apparently does not apply to us, y’all.
Anyway, since folks sometimes ask, it seems as good a time as any to recount a few things we remember from all these video shoots. Most of them happened weeks if not months ago, so let’s just go in the order stuff occurs to us.
1.) Curtis Stone is incredibly tall
Stone is the star-chef host of “Top Chef Masters,” and while we knew he had the rugged good looks of a supermodel, we did not know he was also sired by giants. Look at him towering over us in this picture. I am six foot one, for God’s sake.
2.) Yes, the food is really good
On “Top Chef Masters” especially, determining the best dishes was mostly a matter of splitting hairs. Which is something, considering the challenge the chefs had been given was to prepare an entree using a dollar’s worth of ingredients. On “Rocco,” the winner was much clearer, but it’s not like the loser’s food was lousy. We’d happily have her prepare us lunch any day.
But why, then, did you see us occasionally pretty critical of a dish? Well:
3.) They tell you to be critical
On “Top Chef Masters” we were told straight up to say something negative about every dish. Not to lie, but to find something worth criticizing. Otherwise there’d be no drama to the selection process, right? We don’t want it to sound nefarious — the process actually kept us from being unreasonably effusive with praise, since our instinct was to avoid being even slightly mean, on national TV, to talented chefs we’d never met. And Mary Sue Milliken’s BLT salad really was too salty. Sorry Mary — if it’s any consolation we still love Border Grill.
4.) Cooking competition shows are not rigged
As comforting as it might be to believe the chef you’re rooting for lost x, y, or z food challenge because he’s not photogenic, or she’s a woman, or he’s too flamboyant — and that the show’s evil producers made sure the hot guy won because he’ll make for better ratings — in our experience it’s just not true. As judges, no one ever told us which dish to pick. And we had no idea what had happened in previous episodes — none of them aired ‘til weeks later — so we weren’t making our choices based on inter-chef squabbles or politics. If anything, the producers were sort of scarily adamant that we pick the winners based completely on the food, and wouldn’t guide our choices even if we asked for input. At the last minute on “Top Chef Masters” I changed my mind about one of the dishes I favored, and it seemed to really freak out some of the crew. I think they suspected I’d been “got to”.
5.) You actually do forget the camera is there
Ever wonder why anyone on a reality show would say anything stupid, when they know it could eventually be broadcast to a million people? It’s because after a while you forget about the “million people” part, and even about the cameras. On “Rocco’s” we were fed two meals, ate on and off for several hours, and were filmed the whole time, and I think we were self-conscious about it for maybe 10 minutes. Especially during moments where there wasn’t a lot of chatter with the show’s host, and we were speaking quietly to the other guests, it somehow felt like we weren’t being watched, which is of course ridiculous; on some shows, that’s especially when you’re being watched — then they can take your whispered bratty aside, run some dramatic music under it, and presto: You’re evil! Luckily, most food shows aren’t in the habit of embarrassing their judges. But I’m pretty sure there’s footage that coulda been used to make us look like idiots/jerkfaces if they’d wanted to. P.S. Let’s also note the free-flowing wine did not raise anyone’s inhibitions.
6.) Our table manners went out the window
Look at me in these shows, talking with my mouth full. And then on our KCET “Free Lunch” segment Brendan and I kept eating straight off a shared platter instead of taking a portion and putting it on our own plates. One thing they graciously didn’t include in the final cut of our “Top Chef” episode was the moment when Curtis Stone had to remind me to use a knife, instead of my finger, to get a bite of food onto my fork. Thank you, editors, for sparing me a scolding from my Mom.
7.) It’s interesting reading about yourself in recaps
By way of explanation, for you public radio types who disdain TV: There’s a whole blogger universe wherein witheringly judgemental (and often very funny) writers “recap” the previous night’s episode of a given show. Brendan and I escaped their wrath mostly unscathed, but SF Weekly misspelled Brendan’s name twice, and then there was this from blogger Jordan Baker:
“[The Top Chef Masters’] guest diners are from American Public Media’s Dinner Party Download. I’m sorry… whose what now? Not to give away the store or anything, but I know more than most about Public Radio, and I have never heard about Dinner Party Download. Come on, Top Chef Masters. You couldn’t even get The Splendid Table lady?”
Believe us, Jordan Baker, we asked the same question ourselves. But I think they were pretty happy with us. Despite the thing with me and the knife.
A few episodes back, I took a trip up North to experience San Francisco’s super fun Underground Market. The idea of the monthly event is to provide a place for up-and-coming Bay Area chefs and food vendors to sell their fare… even if they can’t yet afford to get health-code certified.
Alas, all the attention from media folk seems to have brought the event some less-desirable attention… from the likes of, yes, the health department. Today, event organizer Iso Rabins sent out a message to his email list:
“As many of you have heard, the health department came to the last Underground Market on June 11th and served us a cease and desist letter, stating they no longer considered the market a private event.
“The market was able to function to this point because it was considered a private event […] We organized it in this way following a suggestion by the health department. Everyone who walks through the door is a member who knows they are eating un-certified food , so technically the health department doesn’t have to be involved.
“This was not an unexpected event […] This shutdown is an opportunity to find a workable model that can help not only The Underground Market in SF, but similar markets all over the country. ”
Rabins is asking for folks with legal and political organizing expertise to email firstname.lastname@example.org. And he’s seeking investors, designers, contractors and lawyers to help him set up a new “incubator project” for fledgling food businesses — contact him at email@example.com.
As for me, I promise not to air anything that will cause them further hassles by The Man.
We received oodles of fantastic responses to our call-out for “Dream Dinner Party Guests” - so many, in fact, that we included a number of YOUR voices on our special 100th episode last weekend. You can listen here to the show. Thanks so much for chiming in!
If you haven’t had a chance to create your dream guest list yet, you can still do so HERE. This project was such a blast that we’ll certainly do it again soon.
Without further ado, here’s a sample of who’d be arriving at your epic shindigs…
Virginia Arvizu in Corona, CA says:
I would love to have Harrison Ford there because I would hope that he would come dressed as Han Solo, and when I served dinner he could say “I got a bad feeling about this.” David Sedaris and Lyle Lovett, too, because they are highly entertaining people in very different ways. They might end up jammin later in the night, while Harrison makes a Light Saber Cocktail…
A recipe for how to deal with Kanye West from Nisse Greenberg in Brooklyn, NY:
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Vanessa McDaniel in Columbus, OH needs a bigger table for:
1.) John Steinbeck - My favorite author. I want to sit next to him and absorb some of his love for humankind.
2.) Liza Minnelli - An old school broad with a great sense of humor who could prevent any awkward silences.
3.) Paul McCartney - My chance to meet a Beatle, are you kidding? If I ever actually met him, I would probably cry and kill the party though.
4.) Caravaggio - He was a genius artist plus he had the balls to do a self portrait of himself as the severed head of Goliath. I just hope he doesn’t stab anyone.
5.) Idris Elba - He’s fascinating. Plus I just want to stare at him.
6.) Ed Ricketts - I can’t invite Steinbeck without his close friend and inspiration, Ed Ricketts. They’d be so happy to be reunited.
7.) Werner Herzog - I could listen to his Teutonic monologues forever.
8.) Stan Lee - My inner comic geek demands this.
9.) Brigitte Nielson - She just seems cool to me plus I’ve loved her since Red Sonja.
10.) Pepa - It’s Pepa.
Is this too many? [Answer: NEVER!] I have some more for dinner party #2: Ru Paul, Marc Chagall, Richard Dawkins, Jim Henson, Dolly Parton, Quentin Tarantino, Jack Kirby, Juliette Binoche, Alain Resnais, Joni Mitchell, Anatole France, Jill Clayburgh, Judy Blume, Gabriel Byrne, Lee Krasner.
Amanda in Maryland takes a different tack in making her guest list:
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Dan Harasty in Howell, NJ says:
Ever since I was a kid (no joke), I’ve had this fantasy: to be the “personal tour guide / personal assistant” for one of these great figures in science if they were to miraculously be transmitted through time — fully alive and at the peak of their prowess — to the present day. Imagine getting to explain to Thomas Jefferson about electronic communications and GPS. Imagine being the one to show and explain to Ben Franklin the internal combustion engine. Or explain to Newton the basics of the nuclear model of the atom. Wow….Just so things wouldn’t get too heavy, I’d be sure to invite a “writer-scientist” or two, like Jules Verne or H.G. Wells. Cocktails, anyone?
Sher Ireland in Tigard, OR picks:
Joni Mitchell…because the after dinner entertainment would be spectacular.
Reverend Ellen Cooper-Davis in The Woodlands, TX says:
Neil Gaiman-Author and generally fascinating guy. (Great twitter feed, btw). Jay Bakker, son of Jim and Tammy Fae, and outlaw preacher. Melissa Harris Parry, scholar, author, black feminist commentator. David Lynch (Could you PLEASE explain your films!?). Jonathan Franzen, author. All are on the edges of their fields—speaking up, speaking out in some way that challenges status-quo notions of our lives and culture.
Barbara June Dodge-Dart in Long Beach, CA would invite:
All members of my family who are dead - particularly my strange and exotic grandparents - whom I never knew: Hanan Ashrawi, Fareed Zakharia, Pankaj Mishra (getting a theme here?) Christopher Hitchens, and Shimon Peres. I would like for my Palestinian grandma to talk about what Bethlehem was like when she was a girl growing up there, and also get everybody to drink and talk about the intractable problems of the Middle East and their ideas about what creative solutions have not yet been attempted.
Bonnie Wilcox in Apple Valley, MN says:
I’d choose smart people without airs who love to laugh: Desmond Tutu, Jimmy Carter, Tina Fey, Steve Martin, Anne Lamott, Amy Poehler, Kevin Smith.
Silvia Vega in Miami, FL says:
I would like to see what the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu would tell Fidel Castro and Gaddafi - what two of the world’s leading spiritual leaders have to say to two of its greatest living tyrants. I would like to see what Elizabeth I has to say to Elizabeth II and what has become of Britain since her reign. As for Bono, Oprah, Steinem and Obama, I just want to meet them, and at the same time I think they’d have a lot to contribute to these two conversations.
Judith Brodnicki in Omaha, NE chooses:
*J.K. Rowling, Yo-Yo Ma, Elizabeth Zimmerman, Jon Stewart, Miriam E. (my best friend, knitting pal, and lover of music and books,) Odetta, Tim Gunn, Yeshua a.k.a. Jesus of Nazareth.
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DeLois Torrez in El Paso, TX fashions two classic lists:
Dinner party number one would include the Marx brothers, Red Skelton, and Bob Hope. Dinner party number two would include Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, John Huston, Katharine Hepburn, Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant.
Mr. Warren Lovingood in Decatur, GA invites:
God and Jesus, King David, Dr.Martin Luther King Jr. I would also like my two sons to come to dinner: Mr. Adrian Lovingood and Mr. Todd L. Lovingood Sr.
Three inspirational picks from Kat Danielsen in Wisconsin:
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Sammi Powers in Fairview Heights, IL says:
Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis are the dream team of creatives: musician and artist, also releasing a book this August for young adults, but geared toward everyone. Michal Chabon writes the most amazing prose I’ve ever read. “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay” makes my heartache. When I met him at a reading a few years ago, he was sweet enough to ask me if he did okay during his reading. I met Elie Wiesel at an event two years ago, and he was the sweetest, most insightful man. I’d love the opportunity to hear more about his incredible life AFTER the holocaust. J.K. Rowling wrote a defining part of my childhood. I want to talk to her about her life post-Harry Potter and have her answer a few questions about what the characters are doing after the war.*
In case you’re wondering…we read and counted all of the responses (including dozens that sadly didn’t make it to this page) and the most popular dinner party guests were J.K. Rowling, various Marx brothers, Jesus, and Tina Fey. You’re in good company!
I know, it’s unfair. Every week, WE get to choose the “Guest of Honor” for our show. To right this wrong, we’d love it if you’d let us know YOUR ideal guests. We’re looking for anyone you’d consider a fascinating tablemate - living, dead, famous, obscure, fictional. No limits.
Time to get this off your chest. Spill a glass of merlot on your boss’s snow white bijon frise? Congratulate your cousin on her “pregnancy”? Blow up the kitchen with your experimental souffle? Here’s to hoping you’ll get a little catharsis - or a big laugh - out of sharing your story… by clicking HERE.
We’re hoping to compile a web feature of the best (a.k.a. worst) tales. We might even integrate some into the show, with your permission.
In case you’re curious, MY story, which I’m sure could be easily bested, goes like this (in fast-forward): Soaked a vat of potatoes for St. Patty’s, left the sink running, got engrossed in a phone call, came back 15 minutes later to a flooded hallway, ruined the wooden floors, mopped up for an hour, and finally ate the mashed potatoes while listening to the wood boards crack as they warped, like a massive tuneless accordion….
But I’m sure there are far more awful/funnier disaster stories awaiting discovery. Thanks again for being bold and sharing yours with us.
Email anytime with questions:
Public Insight Network coordinator for the DPD
This Saturday, downtown Los Angeles hosts the “2nd 8th Annual” — aka 9th annual — Grilled Cheese Invitational. Thousands are expected to come sample grilled cheese sandwiches, and to watch a couple hundred pro and amateur chefs face off in several categories to determine who among them is a grilled-cheese-makin’ champeen.
The event’s now an L.A. tradition, but I was there at the beginning, back when it was basically a glorified loft party attended by a few dozen aspiring — and occasionally frightening — chefs; I remember one guy cooked his sandwiches with a flamethrower. And then there was the chef/freakshow performer whose secret ingredient was broken glass.
Things are more family-friendly now, with an emphasis on creating sandwiches that are actually edible. But the competition remains fierce. If you think you’ve got what it takes, today’s the last day to register as a competitor. And if you do, you may have the honor of getting your grilled cheese judged by none other than my very own self, as I’ll be among the panel of executive judges sampling the wares.
I’m not saying I accept bribes, but let me note that I was really sorry not to’ve snagged one of these on Record Store Day.
A few weeks back, DPD guests of honor Evan Glodell & Tyler Dawson — of the buzzed indie flick “Bellflower” — told us why they had to make their guerilla film far from the watchful eye of the law: Seems that during the shoot, they both had bench warrants out for their arrest, due to what Glodell claimed were $5,000 worth of unpaid parking tickets.
Well, make that $4,000. While taping an interview with Carson Daly at last month’s SXSW festival in Austin, Glodell received an unlikely visit from P. Diddy, who rained financial help upon the filmmaker in the form of cold hard cash. Video evidence:
Actually, in the video, Glodell says he’ll be using the money to drive himself and the film’s stunt car “Medusa” back home to California, where hopefully he’s worked out an installment plan with the parking authorities. Whatever, it couldn’t have happened to a more talented — and needy — actor/writer/director. Now here’s hoping Diddy also has a soft spot for microbudget public radio shows.
The DPD is happy to announce that we’ve partnered with the Public Insight Network! (DPD+PIN - it’s a marriage made in acronym heaven.) But what exactly do all those letters mean?
The DPD thrives on our connection with listeners. Everyday via Facebook and Twitter, YOU give us phenomenal comments about breaking stories, amazing music, and tasty morsels that we’ve featured…or that we should be featuring. So first of all, thanks!
The Public Insight Network provides a new way for us to interact with listeners and - more importantly - for you to interact with us. We’d love it if you would be a PIN “source” so that our coverage stays uber-fresh and relevant. This involves us emailing you no more than once a month to ask about your insights into stories that we and our partners at other shows (Marketplace, Being, etc.) are working on.
To join the amazing team of storytellers, taste-testers, and critics that comprise the Public Insight Network (PIN), click HERE. (It’s very painless - promise!)
Alternatively, you can automatically be enrolled as a source by answering any of our three fun, inaugural questions below. You’ll recognize the format, I think.
On our last episode, “Swamplandia!” author Karen Russell told us about a lonely whale with vocal problems whose love song supposedly chases lady whales away. Neither we nor Karen could verify the story’s authenticity at the time… but it turns out it’s true (sort of)(sadly).
According to a New York Times article from 2004, scientists have been sonically tracking the whale since 1992 due to its strange song. Nicknamed “The 52 Hertz Whale,” the creature sings at such a low high frequency that other whales apparently don’t respond to it. Not just female whales — any whales. So it’s been moping around the ocean for years, all by itself. Says researcher Kate Stafford of The National Marine Mammal Lab: “He’s saying, ‘Hey I’m out here.’ Well, nobody is phoning home.”
Here’s another article about the lonely misfit whale. Apparently not only is its song indecipherable to other whales, it also doesn’t follow the typical migration pattern of its species, making it even less likely to make any buddies. The good news for science, though, is that because this one whale’s song is totally different than any other whale’s, it’s easy to track it and hear how its voice changes over time. So now we know, for instance, that a whale’s voice gets deeper as it ages. Fat lot of good that does for the sad, sad whale, though, who would probably give anything for just one hug. :(
(Thanks to listener Ron Strelecki for the research)
Spike Lee is ostensibly hyping his new book about the making of “Do the Right Thing”… but our conversation covered a broad range of topics: the movie, the book, his discovery of silver-tongued co-star Rosie Perez, his love of Ann Margaret, the changing dimensions of Hollywood studios, the influence of Rashomon, and J-Lo’s backside.
Here’s the 16-minute extended cut. WARNING: MATURE LANGUAGE.
My New Year’s resolution is to not be hemmed in by boundaries and/or categorization, because, you know, I’m punk like that. So here’s some of the best stuff I encountered this year, regardless of whether it actually originated this year, in no particular order or category.
1.) Faygo Original Grape soda
I am a huge fan of grape soda, and at one point this summer I bought a bunch of different brands and tried them over the course of a week. They were all pretty close in flavor — basically Dimetapp-Meets-Something-Vaguely-Reminiscent-Of-Grapes — but somehow Faygo towered above the rest for me. Maybe it’s their retro-cool label. Anyway, turns out this is the one thing I have in common with fans of the Insane Clown Posse. Speaking of which…
2.) Jon Ronson’s interview with The Insane Clown Posse
One of my favorite journalists once again does the impossible — avoiding condescension even as he interviews a couple of profane misogynistic rappers who wear clown makeup and pen science-bashing songs about the “miracle” of magnets. Ronson’s writing is witty and humane without letting his subjects off the hook for a second. Hey, and the name “Ronson” reminds me of another thing that was best:
3.) This Video
A regional dish from the Northern Italian city of Bergamo; basically meat, cheese, breadcrumbs and something sweet (pear and almond cookies, f’rinstance) stuffed into pasta, shaped kinda like a peppermint candy wrapper, and fried up in butter and sage. I’m pretty sure it’s the greatest freaking thing I’ve ever eaten, but I discovered it this year in Bergamo on my honeymoon so I may be biased.
5.) Keith Maillard’s “Difficulty At the Beginning” novels
Author Keith Maillard’s four-novel series — following a young man from his teen years in the 1950s through the conflagrant ’70s — is some of the most unique writing I’ve read in a while. It manages a bunch of neat tricks, not the least of which is telling a story about Baby Boomers while avoiding the standard coming-of-age-in-the-60s cliches (example: JFK’s assassination happens between books 2 and 3). The series reads almost like autobiography; you get the feeling Maillard could write endlessly in the voice of his main character and it would never stop feeling true. Stick it out through the third and weakest of the series and you’ll be rewarded with the titanic and hallucinogenic fourth one, which is the toughest to get through but well worth it.
6.) True Grit
I love the Coen Brothers even at their most inscrutable, but it’s especially nice when they decide to make a movie that’s just basically entertaining. Everyone on screen seems to relish the Coens’ precise and often hilarious dialogue, and by the end we get as close to a true emotional climax as the Coens ever deign to mess with.
7.) “Paula Deen Takes Ludes and Makes Food”
A clip of Paula Deen & pal constructing an infarction-on-a-plate, slowed to depressant speed and spiced with sound effects. I think I watched this more than any viral video this year, and I don’t think I’ve found anything so continuously hilarious since Steve Martin’s “The Nervous Father.” It’s the music at the top that does it — transforming Deen’s sandwich into a melancholy symbol of self-destruction.
8.) The Ideal Cocktail (variation)
I don’t know where I stumbled upon this tart dry drink, but it’s been my go-to all year — refreshing in moderation, fairly sneaky in immoderation. How I’m mixing it:
In a shaker over ice, add:
1 oz. Plymouth gin
1 oz. dry vermouth
1/4 oz. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
dash Angostura bitters
caster sugar to taste (1/4 to 1/2 tsp. or so)
Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Gain incrementally more appreciation of life.
9.) Plain steel Zippo lighters
They are the perfect size, shape and weight to feel substantial in the palm, they’re pleasantly warm to the touch after use, and are practical and shiny.
10.) M-Jo - “We Know Why,” live 2008
A few years back, on a trip to The Netherlands, I was lucky to be introduced to “The Amsterdam Songwriters Guild,” a group of Dutch musicians who work solo and together on mostly folky musical projects. Among my favorites is M-Jo, who balances folk with Beatle-y pop and lo-fi. This year he finally put out a studio version of his song “We Know Why,” which inspired me to dig out a recording I made of him performing the song live back in 2008, at a club called De Nieuwe Anita that’s more like a comfy living room than a nightspot. The rhythm, by the way, was tapped out by a fellow musician on a picnic cooler.
Listener Kate Molitor of Minneapolis wrote in to tell us about some deja vu she experienced while listening to DPD #75. Namely, the sinking feeling that she’d heard Los Lobos fronthombre David Hidalgo’s icebreaker somewhere before.
She did some Googlefying and discovered she was right. Here’s Norm McDonald telling the same gag on Conan O’Brien last summer… though his epic take on it is half the length of our entire episode.
In DPD #75, bartender Wes Fraser (of our go-to Birmingham, AL nightspot Bottletree Cafe) fretted that he’d tried to make us a peanut-based cocktail, but couldn’t because “There is no peanut liqueur” — something Brendan and I found unfathomable in a world that abounds with liqueurs derived from far less popular nuts.
Thankfully, our listeners wrote in with good news:
“I heard you and your bartender guest say there was no peanut liquor. Nonsense! One of my favorite sipping and mixing liquors is Castries, a peanut rum from St Lucia. Hard to find but worth every drop!”
- Neil Fineman, Yorba Linda CA
“There is a peanut liqueur! It’s made in Jamaica, and is called Peenie Wallie (imagine the dinner party conversations that will inspire). The drink is peanut/cream flavored, infused with white overproof rum. It’s quite delish! You must go to Jamaica and try some.”
- Tracy Robert, Newport Beach CA
Thanks, Tracy, we’ll do that just as soon as our next 20 paychecks clear. Anyway, neither of these elixirs are exactly thick on the ground here in the U.S., but we’ve alerted Wes to their existence, and if he manages to track some down and create a drinkable PB & J we’ll be sure to post the recipe here, right after we sober up.
This morning at DPD HQ, we received this delightful donation from a semi-anonymous (and literal-minded) listener:
Tony, whoever you are, this made us feel a little like a groom receiving envelopes of cash at a mobster wedding, which is always cool. Of course, we don’t recommend everyone donate in this manner or, also like mobsters, we could get a visit from the IRS — but we gratefully accept virtual envelopes here. (Please, no fishes.)
When I worked as a research assistant for Fresh Air with Terry Gross, I was in awe of her ability to illicit great information from her guests, but mostly I was in awe of all of the free stuff she got. Books, cds, movies, Faberge eggs, gold bricks, it was incredible. You might be surprised to hear this, but here at the DPD we don’t get as much free stuff as Terry. We suspect it’s a post office problem, but it could be because people are more eager to get on Fresh Air than our show. That seems crazy, though.
Anyway, Rico and I buy the stuff we dig and now you can too. We set up an online store stocked with lots of the books, music, movies, and other stuff we talk about on our show. The prices are Amazon cheap, and the nice part is that every time you buy something, a bit of it goes to support public radio.
(NOTE: Unfortunately, Amazon does not sell booze.)
So if you dig the stuff you hear about on the show, now you have a one-stop shop where you can buy it. P.S. If you’re Terry Gross, I have your copy of The Corrections and I promise to get it back to you as soon as I can.
We love all our listeners equally. But this Thursday, September 9th, L.A.-area listeners have access to a special treat: Me and Brendan, live at the famed Troubadour nightclub. (Sorry to leave you out, other listeners, but consider this a reward to Angelenos for putting up with smog, traffic and Mel Gibson.)
So in our history segment last week, we told you the story of Esperanto — the “universal language” created by Dr. L.L. Zamenhof in the late 1800s. It’s spoken by about two million people worldwide, a large number of whom apparently listen to our show, judging from the piles of email we got from Esperantists taking us (gently) to task for our dismal attempts at pronouncing their mother tongue.
Gentlemen, I love DPD. I have to write to correct you on your terrible pronunciation, though. Not of English, but of Esperanto. One of the immutable rules of Esperanto is that in every word, the accent must fall on the next-to-last syl-LAB-le. Thus, “lingvo internacia,” the original name for Esperanto, should be pronounced more or less “LING-vo een-ter-not-SEE-ya.”
But don’t be too dismayed. The clip of “Incubus” you played shows that William Shatner has a terrible North American accent.
- Creede Lambard, Shoreline WA
Normally, the name of the language is written ‘La Internacia Lingvo’ although the other way is not incorrect. The letter C is pronounced like TS. So, Lah een tehr nah TSEE ah LEENG voe is the correct pronunciation.
The accent is always on the penultimate (next-to-the-last) syllable. So [in the case of the word “Doktoro”], doke TOE roe with a Spanish trill on the R is the correct way to say it.
Mi esperas ke, vi lernos Esperanto-n. I hope that you will learn Esperanto.
- William Munsil, Mesa AZ
Mea culpa maxima! We humbly apologize. Although we are heartened by Mr. Lambard, who insists, “It could have been worse. Like, say, if you’d been at a dinner party in Shanghai and messed up your Mandarin tones in an attempt to show off your Chinese. ‘Very amusing, Mr. Gagliano. Is “My duck nibbles the furnace” an American expression?’”
There’re tons of exciting developments brewing in the DPDniverse. We’re pleased to get you up to speed.
Firstly, big news for fans in the midwest: starting this week, The Dinner Party Download will air on 20 public radio stations in and around Minnesota — including KNOW-FM in the Twin Cities. Airtime is Friday nights at 6:20PM, right before “Marketplace.” We’re big fans of the land of Keillor, Westerberg and Prince, so to say we’re psyched is an understatement. But even more psych-tastic is what this means for fans in the rest of the nation. Namely…
WEEKLY DINNER PARTY DOWNLOADS!
It’s true: For at least the next three months, Minnesota wants its DPDtertainment every week. And that means all you podcasters get it every week too. Your deepest wishes and ours have been granted! Someone pour enough prosecco to get us all mildly tipsy.
A few things about our new schedule:
The current biweekly podcast will remain as it is - the 20 minutes of audio awesome you know and love.
But every other week you’ll receive the show we’ve created for the radio - a slightly different Dinner Party Download.
Each of these episodes will feature a new Guest of Honor, a re-imagined Small Talk segment (this one featuring newsmakers from around the media world, not just Marketplace), fresh banter, and highlights from past icebreakers and cocktails. That’s right - we’re going to rerun some past segments. Why? Because our new radio audience won’t have heard some of our favorite bits. When the guests come over you bring out your best china, yes? (This’ll also make the show possible to produce weekly with a total staff of two guys and a huge vat of coffee.)
The Dinner Party Download will now be heard Friday nights at 6:20PM ON THE ACTUAL RADIO in the Minnesota region.
The Dinner Party Download podcast will now arrive weekly!
The Dinner Party Download still has a crush on you.
And there’s more to come: We’ve been invited to do a whole bunch of new stuff (segments on other shows, live events, etc.), and we’re also planning on making our new segment available to stations around the country - something we hope you’ll help make possible when the time comes.
We’ve been doing this as a labor of love for the past coupla years. Now that our company has agreed to distribute us it’s becoming our job. That means we cost people money now, which in turn means we’ll be needing your support. In the next couple of weeks we’ll unveil a campaign that’ll let you tip us a few bucks for a job well done. This will be a major help - and it’s the best way to prove to the public media system that you think shows like the DPD are worth producing.
But enough of future plans. Right now, feel free to plan twice as many dinner parties, ‘cause you’re about to become twice as victorious per month.
So on this week’s show, I used the term “parasite-aurant” - to describe the relationship between Pal’s upscale sandwich shop and the humble corner store in which it lives.
Many listeners wrote in explaining that a better term would be “symbiot-aurant.”
As Tyson Read, a listener from Berkeley CA, explains, “…The biological/social relationship of the sandwich man and the corner store owner would be symbiosis, not parasitism. Symbiosis is where both parties benefit, parasitism is where one party benefits at the expense of another, and commensalism is when one party benefits with no harm to the other.”
So, I checked with our ombudsman, Google, and it turns out Tyson and the other listeners who wrote in are right.
In my defense, the last time I took something approximating a science class was back in 11th grade. The course was called Environmental Science, and somehow my lab partner Nick Hatchet and I convinced our teacher that if she let us spend the class period outside, collecting littered beer cans in the woods, we’d be be learning more about the environment than by spending 45 minutes a day watching PBS videos and exchanging notes with Joanne Passareli.
So three days a week we were excused from class, and we’d head into the woods behind the school to collect empty cans. Except instead, we would trawl the leaves looking for “loosies”— full cans of beer abandoned by kids the night before when their drinking parties were busted by the cops. We would carefully hide our booty in a hollowed-out tree, then come back on the weekend to enjoy it. Now some might argue that Nick and I were being parasitic, but I think the proper word to describe our behavior is commensalistic.
Jerry’s been selling used vinyl for over 33 years. And his philosophy has always been the same: to buy records from people who don’t want them, and then make them available, as cheaply as humanly possible, to those who do. Most of Jerry’s inventory is priced under five dollars. If he approves of your music selections, he might knock off a few bucks more. Even as a broke college kid I could always afford to stop by Jerry’s and take a chance on a few LPs. I don’t know exactly how much of my own record collection was purchased there, but a low estimate would be, oh, 99 percent.
Jerry refuses to sell records on ebay. He scoffs at record labels selling new vinyl records for $20 or $30 dollars a pop. All of that stuff, in his words, “is ruining the hobby.” He’d rather make a humble living serving fellow music-lovers than gouging them.
Are you getting the picture? Jerry Weber should be President of the United States. Or the President’s Chief Economic Advisor. Or at least he belongs on the Presidential seal — a replacement for the bald eagle, clutching record needles instead of arrows and a stack of LPs instead of an olive branch.
I taped this interview with Jerry at his store last fall. In it, he tells me how records can help homeowners save on winter heating bills, details his master plan for the nation’s failing car dealerships, remembers the day he gave away tens of thousands of records for free, and plays me an ultra-sweet tune from an ultra-rare album by ’60s soul group The Sapphires, which I’ve included here in its scratchy, lo-fi entirety.
Also included is a brief interaction between Jerry and his first customer of the day: a very odd and very happy regular named Frank. Listen for the part where Frank asks how much he should pay for his selections. “What do you wanna give me, Frank?” asks Jerry. I truly believe he would’ve taken any amount Frank offered, down to, like, pennies. Frank walked away with a couple of albums — one of them a three-disc set — for five bucks.
In our last episode, Brendan lamented the relative dearth, in the bartender’s canon, of “fish drinks” — cocktails with a fish component. After all, last year saw an explosion of interest in bacon-infused cocktails. Why not fish-infused? Especially since — this is my argument — fish are salty, like bacon, and salt+booze = awesome?
We asked our listeners to hep us to fishy tipples, and we were alternately intrigued and appalled by their responses. Feel free to add more in the comments, below. /RG
Matthew Conover, New York
You dudes asked for a fish cocktail. I had one that’s kinda close.
It was mezcal, plus a chaser made with the drippings from ceviche. The mezcal was smooth and the chaser was very spicy. They went together perfectly.
So our second-to-last episode featured an interview with comic Tig Notaro, in which she talks about portraying Joan Jett’s Mom in the punk-rock biopic “The Runaways.”
Well, we recently got around to seeing the film. And afterwards, we felt like the movie lacked something. Something like, oh… comic Tig Notaro.
We’ve since learned that sometime between the day we taped that interview and the day the movie opened, Tig’s scenes wound up on the cutting room floor. Our apologies if you went the film expecting to see her.
I know, it looks kind of like shredded wheat crossed with dried cow patty. In fact, I’d say just about every time a co-worker wanders past while I’m preparing my Weetabix, they smirkingly say something along those very lines. “That looks like a dried cow patty,” they say. Or, “What the hell is that? A dried cow patty?” Most of them have never tried Weetabix, and most swear they never will. It seems to be a point of pride with some people, like: “Say what thou wilt, but never shall a foodstuff so visually unappealing be granted passage through the glorious crimson gates of God’s own gift to faces, my lips.”
Well, naysayers, it just so happens Weetabix is among the more popular cereals in the English-speaking world. But don’t take millions of other people’s word for it: Here are my 10 rationales for pledging allegiance to these little wheatloafs.
1.) The name: “Weetabix.” It’s the double “e”s that make it the best. Why, it practically begins with the word “whee!”
2.) You can choose what texture you want your Weetabix to be. Pour your milk of choice on top of the Weeta-biscuits and it will soak right in — then you can mash them into oatmeal-esque porridge, or spoon off soggy chunks. Pour said milkstuff around the biscuits, however, and note how only the edges get damp, while the interior portion remains crispy! This is sensational.
3.) Fortified with vitamins!
5.) According to their website, each serving of Weetabix contains 537 kilojoules of energy. I bet that’s enough to punch through a wall!
6.) Their website also once proclaimed: “Crammed with all the natural goodness of wholegrain, you can almost taste the long hot summers and gentle spring rain in every bite, resulting in the softest, plumpest grain imaginable.” Doesn’t that sentence just make you want to have sex? Maybe that’s why they erased almost all trace of it from the internet.
9.) Weetabix has an annual “wheat art” contest, and here is last year’s winner, by a Lincolnshire UK farmer who calls it “Manny The Mammoth And Family.”
10.) Dry, Weetabix actually kind of doesn’t taste like anything, unless you consider crumbling old newsprint as having a “taste.” Thus it is the tabula rasa of cereals. A blank chalkboard upon which to scrawl your own individual gastronomic logarithm. An empty journal yearning only to be filled with one’s florid personal poetry of milks, fruits and sugars. Whee!
(And no: Neither I, the DPD nor APM are on Weetabix’s payroll. I’m just tired of the abuse.)
Historian, author and activist Howard Zinn passed away yesterday at age 87, of a heart attack.
I interviewed Zinn for the DPD last February. He was promoting his then-new movie “The People Speak.” In it, actors and musicians (we’re talking like Springsteen-level performers, which should give you an idea of the kind of esteem in which this frail octagenarian was held) sing songs and read historic documents celebrating the struggles of workers, disillusioned soldiers, minorities, the poor and the otherwise disenfranchised. The kind of people who, in Zinn’s view, have been the real engines of freedom and change in America.
I remember right before the interview I told a co-worker that I was about to speak with the famous Howard Zinn. “Oh, that old crackpot?” he said, smirking. So yeah, Zinn’s ideas weren’t exactly universally embraced. To some his views seemed naive or overly simplistic, and in the interview I felt compelled to ask if his old-school activist methods were outmoded in the modern era. Even so, as a WWII vet and a forceful participant in the civil rights movement of the ’50s and ’60s, he was undeniably a man who’d earned his view of history the hard way — he’d lived it. He was also, at his age, sharp as a tack.
Zinn was obviously proud of “the People Speak,” and most of what DPD listeners heard of that interview concerned the movie. But we had to leave out some of the most interesting stuff: Zinn’s reflections on his nascent activism, about witnessing the election of America’s first black president, and about the autographed baseball he got from Sandy Koufax.
Below is a transcript of a voice-mail message left for me yesterday by Tim Walker, organizer and chief instigator of the world-famous Grilled Cheese Invitational. Try not to think about it during “All Things Considered” tonight; I dare you. -/RG
Rico. It’s me. Listen, I don’t know if I shared with you this epiphany that I had or not. But if I didn’t, I apologize, and anyway here you go:
Um, it’s come to my determination, or my conclusion, or my attention… that the “All Things Considered” music? Reminds me of a large man pounding on a table demanding his dinner.
I’ve been trying to put my finger on it for literally years, and it finally hit me today. I can picture a large man, pounding on a table, going:
I have an imaginary blog about Los Angeles called “Getting Warmer.” It’s made up of imaginary postings about new businesses in LA that sound great, but don’t quite succeed in terms of being any place I would like to go.
For example, earlier this year I pretend-posted about The Fix, a café that opened near my house. Reviews said the coffee was great, the place had outdoor seating and wireless internet access - sounded perf. So I go. The interior of the café looks like the inside of Coldplay’s tour bus: Over-the-top mood lighting, minimal seating. Disorienting, but whatever, this is LA — I can just sit outside. But wait, something is on fire in the middle of the courtyard! Wait, it’s supposed to be on fire — it’s an eternal flame! An E -TER-NAL FLAME! At a coffee shop. Parents were desperately trying to keep their kids away from it. One child looked up at her Mom and asked “Why is it here?” I don’t know Jane, maybe to commemorate the death of good taste?
After three years of this sort of let-down, I was beginning to think it was me. Which it partially is. But when I went traveling over the holidays I encountered lots of great cafes. In fact, some of them were TOO perfect. Here are a few:
Iris Café in Brooklyn Heights - A new café in a schmancy neighborhood on an achingly charming one-way. The interior is standard-issue perfection: wood floors, brick walls, tin ceilings. Behind the counter, Christopher Reeves and Isabella Rosselini’s lovechild is doing a crossword puzzle. It’s 75% complete. It’s the SATURDAY NEW YORK TIMES PUZZLE. Next thing I know I’m ordering a cookie even though I don’t want one. Turns out it isn’t a cookie, it’s the most perfect cookie in the entire world. Might have been oatmeal chocolate chip, but it tastes like I’m skydiving and getting a massage at the same time. My high is enhanced by the perfectly-executed latte which has clearly been made from beans that were sustainably biked in from South America by two malaria-vaccine-wielding, recovering-drug-addict literacy tutors -and paired with the milk from a sacred cow, frothed to perfection and topped off with my initials written in foam, even though I didn’t tell him my initials.
Random Order in Portland OR - Since a glut of world-famous indie rock musicians clogged the restaurant where I’d initially intended to eat breakfast, I had no choice but to walk past a vegan belt store and head to the corner coffee shop — which of course was a perfect coffee shop. Beautiful toddlers with unusual names knitted scarves amidst a Benetton ad’s worth of smudge-eyed twenty/thirty somethings reading Jean Genet, MFK Fisher, and my mind. Patient, soulful, tastefully-tattooed counter guy unjudgementally takes my order while badass bike-messenger-cum-barista flirts with the girls and guys standing in front of her sparkling, espresso machine that looks like a silver Lamborghini without wheels. I read solicitations for CSA shares and flyers advertising my next favorite bands before the molasses cookie I’m eating plunges me into a dream-stupor that magically navigates me between rain drops and leaves me browsing in the poetry aisle at Powell’s.
La Colombe in Philadelphia, PA - The pastries are local; the baristas are imported. Accented staff take your girlfriend’s number while you tip them an extra dollar. Nice continental touches like real spoons instead of tongue depressors, abundant tables for lingering, and a shroud of secondhand smoke around the front door. High ceilings held up by sponge-painted walls held up by French women with haircuts and shoes. Match.com has nothing on this place.
If you know of a perfect café, please tell me about it. If it’s in LA, I’ll post about it on my other imaginary blog. It’s called “The Best Things about LA,” and it currently has no entries.
I couldn’t help but notice this the last time I moseyed electronically past Yahoo news:
TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN
Total Gross: $402,111,870
Autobots battled Decepticons to the top of the box office, not only becoming the top earning movie of the year, but also firmly planting itself at number 9 among the top ten highest domestic grossing films of all time.
The top earning movie of the year.
Now, as a film lover, I find this to be just a terrible personal blow. Especially since there were so many actually decent blockbuster movies this year. Film snob though you may be, you can’t say Up, Star Trek and Avatar weren’t at least imaginative and thoughtful films, given their big-budget profile. Some might even say they were excellent. But no — filmgoers in their wisdom decided to throw their financial vote to Transformers II. Which means in 2011 or so we’ll be forced to endure a Transformers III (as if that was ever really in doubt).
And as a reader of film reviews, I couldn’t be happier.
By way of explanation, here’s a small sampling of the critical reaction to Transformers II. It’s some of the most entertaining writing of 2009.
Transformers: The Revenge of The Fallen is beyond bad; it carves out its own category of godawfulness. -Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
If you want to save yourself the ticket price, go into the kitchen, cue up a male choir singing the music of hell, and get a kid to start banging pots and pans together. Then close your eyes and use your imagination. -Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
Revenge of the Fallen is like listening to rocks in a clothes dryer for 2½ hours. - Michael Philipps, Chicago Tribune
So what if he can’t put a coherent series of shots together? [Director Michael] Bay is going for pure sensation, and everyone knows dramatic continuity is for women and the weak. -Ty Burr, Boston Globe
If when you were a child—either with Mr. Wizard or alone—you had passed a magnet over a pile of iron filings, you would have unknowingly created the action scenes of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. -Brandon Judell, CultureCatch
I’ve just spent 2 1/2 hours watching a movie and another hour thinking about what I saw and I have no earthly idea what Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is about. -Colin Covert, Minneapolis Star-Tribune
If it sounds as though the script was written in serial-novel form during an all-night mescaline bender, well, I have no evidence that it was not. -Christopher Orr, The New Republic
And my favorite:
Compared to this sequel, the first Transformers ranks right up there with Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. -Joe Morganstern, Wall Street Journal
You see what I’m saying? When this movie came out we got more clever invective in a single day than our nation’s print media typically manage to publish in an entire year. The success of Transformers II bodes ill for the art of filmmmaking, but it bodes very well for the art of the hatchet job. And this Film Studies B.A. looks forward to a bumper crop of excellent hatchet jobs in 2011. Assuming we still have newspapers (with, less likely, full-time movie reviewers) in 2011.
The air is crisp, the Times Square Ball has been adorned with spankin’ new waterford crystal, and it has become temporarily impossible for journos like ourselves to get sources to return phone calls. Must be New Year’s week.
And so we are assembling our 2nd annual year-end “Best Of” show. It’s a chance to showcase our favorite segments from the last 12 months, and also an opportunity to piece together an episode super-quick so we can spend our New Year’s eve chugging prosecco with loved ones instead of trapped in a studio entertaining you people.
And speaking of you people… we’d like you to chime in on this. What were your favorite DPD moments of 2009? What joke was so cringe-inducingly awful it came all the way back around to being awesome? Which Guest of Honor do you wish you could host at your table? What Main Course made your mouth water? What historical anecdote won you a dinner party? Which cocktail inspired you to have a $30,000 bottle of rare overproof Siberian Lychee-Absinthe Devil Rum airlifted to your house just so you could whip one up at home?
Leave your picks below, and if we use your suggestion on the show you’ll win a waterford crystal cupcake. Don’t tell Brendan.
Our guest blogger today is Steve Thornton — owner and operator of The Indiepop List, an online forum for lovers of pop music, particularly in the Belle & Sebastian vein. That’s where Steve first posted this vigorous defense of Ringo, and where I first read it. I should note Steve’s opinions do not necessarily reflect those of the DPD or of American Public Media. But they may very well provoke some poptastic arguments at your next dinner gathering… or in the comments section below. /RG
Ringo was the coolest Beatle.
I don’t see how anyone could dispute that; it’s obvious. It’s not even close, really.
Just watch “A Hard Day’s Night” again.
It’s fashionable to say John was the coolest, because he was so smart and cutting. Sure, he was a great songwriter and a great singer, but honestly, as a person he left a great deal to be desired. “Better run for your life if you can, little girl” — isn’t that charming. John was simply not a nice person. He was bitter and mean and and hurtful and held grudges, and he spent way too much time engaging in idiocy like “Bag Peace.” And singing “Imagine no possessions” behind the wheel of a $50,000 white piano in your hundred-acre country estate — OK then. Working Class Hero my ass; he grew up in a posh detached house. I’ve seen it.
George certainly wasn’t the coolest. He was pretty cool when he was young, with his bad-teeth smile and great lump of hair and “these shirts are grotty” lines, and yeah, he wrote a couple of decent songs, but somewhere along the way he turned into a religious nut. The Maharishi? I don’t think so. Krishna? Um, no thanks. “The lord helps those who help themselves” — OK, now you’re actually starting to get on my nerves, Georgie. I know he’s dead, which means he’s a saint, but I’ve never been interested in saints. I can’t imagine anything more boring than being stuck in a long conversation with Sanctimonious George.
Girls sometimes go for Paul, because he was the cute one, and Paul’s pretty cool. His image suffered under the relentless assault of John’s campaign against him, but Paul was always a pretty laid-back pot-smoker. But he also sang “My Love.” “Silly Love Songs” I can almost forgive because he’s making a statement, and indeed, “what’s wrong with that?” But what’s wrong with it is the sheer hackery of “My Love.” It’s not even a good tune; Paul’s songs often display holes and weaknesses that audibly cry out for John to come along and bridge the gaps. He just couldn’t quite do it on his own.
So who does that leave? Ringo.
And he’s no default choice, either. For starters, though The Beatles were often claimed to be working class, Ringo was the only one who really was. He was the only one born at home, in the grottiest of grotty council estates in a crappy part of Liverpool, and grew up in a pub. He’s always had a becoming modesty about him, even when, at his more recent concerts, he’s strutting around shouting “WHAT’S MY NAME?” “Ringo” they answer, and no one is more surprised or happier than he is. But he’s not cool because of what he’s like now; he’s cool because he was the coolest then. He was the one who’d been in lots of other groups and was locally famous and smoked with ten times the authority of trying-too-hard kid amateurs like John and Paul, and he wore rings on every finger. He knew who he was and where he came from, and how he got there.
People who don’t know what they’re talking about like to say Ringo was a lousy drummer. Ringo was a great drummer. Like everything else about him, his drumming was unpretentious; no thunderous crashes or bombs going off like Keith Moon. Ringo was a songwriter on the skins, crafting musical patterns that expanded the songs and tied together the sometimes disparate parts without drawing attention to them. Most Beatles songs can be instantly identified from the drum part. And he had the beat; there is no better introduction to the art of straight rock ‘n’ roll timekeeping than the first two Beatles albums (unless it’s the first Ramones album). An awful lot of modern rock drummers would do well to spend a few weeks learning to keep up, and to leave the theatrics behind. Ringo never, ever messed up. Supposedly he couldn’t execute a drum roll; excuse me, but when’s the last time you thought to yourself “man, what this song needs is a honkin’ big drum roll!” That’s what I thought. Keep your drum rolls in your marching band, and leave me with the tumbling toms of “Ticket To Ride” or “She Said She Said”. Ringo’s drums dance.
“A Hard Day’s Night” is about celebrity and the sudden power and imprisonment of a new kind of fame in a world that was totally unprepared for it. John and Paul and George put on the requisite rebel sneers, but they ring hollow. Look at John’s darting eyes, and Paul’s stiff eagerness. They’re playing at being aloof, but they can’t pull it off. Their longing for the camera betrays them, and while they’re cute and funny, they’re just not that cool. Ringo is. When the going gets tough, he takes off, in the movie’s most endearing scene, and goes “parading”, meeting up with the truant kid, kicking tires, wandering down by Kew Bridge, trying to take a time exposure with his Pentax but dropping it in the water, trying it on with a passing girl (in disguise) but getting shouted down, helping the dollie bird cross the puddles with his coat…. He is the distilled essence of cool.
Ringo’s solo career produced some of the highlights of the post-Beatles output. “Photograph” is the best thing any of them did afterwards. Have you actually HEARD “Two Virgins?” Ringo knew what pop music was about, and just as importantly what it wasn’t about.
Ringo never bought into the BS. He never claimed to find God (or to be God), he never wrote any songs calling his friends jerks, he never pontificated about anything. He was never conned, not by silly religion (the Maharishi’s place “was like Butlin’s,” he said), not by Yoko, not by radical politics, not by any of it. Sure, he turned into a bit of a drunk, but he was never a friggin’ heroin addict. What’s cool about that? Nothing! What’s cool about Ringo? EVERYTHING.
Even the nose is cool.
Fnarf (Steve Thornton) resides in Seattle, Washington, with his wife and her tropical fish. He is not cool at all.*
For the past few months we’ve been camping out at our Facebook Fan Page and crashing at Twitter, but today we finally have a place to call our own: Welcome to the Dinner Party Download’s new home on the web.
Getting nervous about impromptu dinner parties is now a thing of the past! You can rest assured that we’ll keep this website stocked with witty reparte, perfect songs and charming historical facts for you to draw upon. We’ll also keep some exclusive downloads, musings about etiquette and long form interviews around in case you want to go deep.
This site was built by a bunch of web ninjas that work for American Public Media. We thank them. We also thank illustrator David Heatley for providing us the nifty banner art. In the near future we’re going to invite you to submit photos for our banner, but for now, sit back, have a cup of tea and explore….
Google has been eyeing the web’s most democratic (and often most obnoxious) review site. Some deets from Bloomberg:
Google Inc., owner of the world’s most popular Internet search engine, is in talks to acquire the do-it-yourself review site Yelp Inc. for more than $500 million, a person familiar with the discussions said.
The timing of a deal hasn’t been determined, said the person, who requested anonymity because the talks aren’t public.
I assume some DPD listeners hope this deal, like an overcooked souffle at a certain French restaurant I won’t mention, collapses. Thoughts?
Today is National Cupcake Day. It may also be August 18th, or October 18th. Perhaps it’s a sign of how widespread cupcake-phenia has spread that we have multiple people creating fake holidays around it. While we’ll be eating pie today, if you must, enjoy some cupcake porn. Or be like your dad, and just read it for the articles.
The Dinner Party Download is a fast and funny ‘booster shot’ of news and culture designed to help you dazzle your friends and family at this weekend’s dinner party. Hosts Rico Gagliano and Brendan Francis Newnam set the table every Friday. Hear what our guests are saying about us inside... more