Railroad tracks turn into canvases. Via Lost at E Minor
Project Runway’s Tim Gunn spoke to Terry Gross about being gay in the ’60s and ’70s vs. being gay today:
"[In] the late 1960s going into the early ’70s, [being gay] was considered to be something you ‘fixed.’ This was an adolescent psychiatric hospital, so people were teens into early 20s, and there were some people there who were there to have their gayness ‘fixed.’ So for me, it was like treating a disease — you have to do something about it. … I remember thinking, ‘I have enough issues without adding this to the list.’ I thought, ‘Oh, God, but for the grace of God, there go I.’
On the one hand, I’m not envious of any young person who is going through a struggle with their sexual identity, I’m not envious at all — but on the other hand, there’s so many more and more positive role models these days. When I was kid, who were the gay people? They were the decorators in the Doris Day movies, they’re the fashion designers, they’re flitting about. I mean, I think about Paul Lynde on Bewitched, I mean, he was a caricature. And today, we recognize that every flavor of humanity comes in every possible size, and color, and shape, and we have so much more awareness of the diversity of everyone. Whenever anyone tries to stereotype gay men, it’s like, ‘Wait a minute, there’s just as many who live like slobs!’”
The premiere of season 13 of Project Runway aired last night.
David Edelstein reviews A Most Wanted Man, starring the late Philip Seymour Hoffman:
Part of me wishes that Philip Seymour Hoffman’s final lead performance, in A Most Wanted Man, wasn’t very good. I know that sounds perverse. But if he’d been flailing as an actor at the end, it would make his loss easier to bear from an artistic—if not a human—perspective. The thing is, though, the actor we see in this movie is at his absolute peak. This might even be my favorite Hoffman performance of all, damn it.
Human Rights Watch researcher Letta Tayler just got back from Iraq where she documented tales of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) forcing mass expulsions and murders of Christians and ethnic minorities who are told to convert. Tayler explains the recent edict ISIS issued for Christians in the city of Mosul:
"ISIS issued an edict around mid-July and it said, "You’ve got three choices: convert, pay us a jihad tax, get out of town—and if you don’t do those, you’ll face the sword."
This was, of course, an absolutely chilling message. It was disseminated throughout the city and on the Internet as well, and at that point most of the Christians had already fled Mosul, but the few remaining families, and we’re still talking several hundred, apparently, just packed up and left. Some left with nothing but the clothes on backs, others piled whatever precious possessions they could into their cars and some of them then found at ISIS checkpoints that they were robbed of those few precious possessions that they had hoped to bring out with them. So it has been an absolutely terrifying part of a broader campaign to “cleanse” … Mosul and surrounding areas, of anyone who does not espouse this strict interpretation of Sharia that ISIS espouses.”
Propaganda image of ISIS via NBC news
A debut novel by Yelena Akhtiorskaya puts a fresh, comic spin on the age-old coming to America story. Her novel is called Panic in a Suitcase and Fresh Air book critic Maureen Corrigan has a review:
I can’t tell you the names of my great-grandparents, left behind in Poland and Ireland, because nobody ever mentioned them. The break was that final.
These days of course, it’s different. Within the space of a few hours, people can fly across oceans; through skyping and e-mail, they can electronically commute between Old World and New. Three cheers for The March of Progress, right? Except, if you want to make a definitive break how can you when the Old World is always calling you on the phone, texting, and crashing on your living room couch for extended visits? That’s the crucial question Yelena Akhtiorskaya mulls over in her sharply observed and very funny debut novel, Panic in a Suitcase. Akhtiorskaya, who was born in Odessa and emigrated to the Russian immigrant enclave of Brighton Beach, Brooklyn at the age of seven, writes of the fictional Nasmertov family, whose move from Old World to New imitates her own.
"All I want is education, and I am afraid of no one."
Malala Yousafzai as Rosie the Riveter.
As a veterinarian who specializes in behavioral medicine, Dr. Vint Virga has treated many household pets in his clinic. But for the past five years he has been working mostly with leopards, wolves, bears, zebras and other animals living in zoos and wildlife parks. He deals with such issues as appetites, anxiety and obsessive behavior.
In the interview he discusses how zoos have changed to improve the animals’ well being:
"I think the most important things that zoos have done in the past 10, 20 years, is that they [have] focused primarily on the animal’s well-being. And, depending on their feedback and responses, looked at their behavior, looked at their overall happiness and contentment and used that as the gauge for what to do for the animal.
They’ve also applied as much [as] science knows about the animals in nature. What that looks like is providing them with a space that’s a lot more rich and full than just a place that is an exhibit. So it’s really shifting from not a cage, because most zoos don’t even have those anymore, but from an exhibit to a habitat. The environment is much richer and more complex rather than flat and uniform, so that we can see them.
[Zoos are] providing [animals with] opportunities to escape from view of the public — and that can be difficult for a zoo. … Visitors complain to the zoo if they can’t see the leopard, the bear or the lion. But on the other hand, if the lion doesn’t have any choice of getting away from the public at times, particularly if there [are] crowds or noisy visitors, then we’re taking away their sense of control over their environment.”
For the 50th anniversary of A Hard Day’s Night by The Beatles,eviews the DVD release:
"In the unmistakable alchemy of their sound – and in their authentic laughter as they run from shrieking fans during the film’s opening credits – The Beatles embodied the hope and vitality the world was looking for then and still loves to this day. Like Louis Armstrong, they created music that, even when sad, is bursting with joy. All those hard days and nights paid off, for more than any band I can think of, they captured the yeah-yeah-yeah of happiness."
Read the full review: 'A Hard Day's Night': A Pop Artifact That Still Crackles With Energy
Photo via Janus films
Arthur Allen's book, The Fantastic Laboratory of Dr. Weigl, tells the story of two scientists—one Christian and one Jewish—who battled typhus and sabotaged the Nazis during WWII.
Transmitted by body lice, typhus killed untold numbers of soldiers and civilians during the war. Today’s interview explores the labor-intensive process of making the vaccine and the way the lab sabotaged the Nazis by weakening their vaccines and sneaking doses into Jewish ghettos.
Allen explains how the Nazis used lice imagery after they invaded Poland:
"The Nazis … always described the Jews as "vermin" and sometimes used the word "lice." …And this was an ideology that was belittling and obviously also associating Jews with sort of filth and contamination, parasitism — all of these things that you metaphorically can link lice to.
[The Nazis] made it very concrete after they took over the first Polish cities, that there were signs that went up all over Warsaw, for example … that would have a picture of a bearded Jew with a louse that said, “Lice, Jews, typhus,” to make that association in the minds [of] Poles — the idea of keeping them from protecting Jews, [of] seeing Jews as part of this invasive, parasitic, dangerous force that they had to avoid and exterminate.”
German anti-Jewish propaganda: “Jews, lice, typhus.” Poster printed in Warsaw in 1941 and distributed throughout the GG. Courtesy of ŻIH.
Today we’re playing an excerpt of Terry’s interview with Elaine Stritch, a performer lucky enough to have debuted songs by Noel Coward and Stephen Sondheim, and to have been coached by each of them. She died last Thursday at the age of 89.
Stritch used to describe herself as “a Catholic, diabetic, alcoholic, pain in the ass.” Her Broadway career began in 1946. She was Ethel Merman’s understudy in the Irving Berlin musical Call Me Madam in the early 50s, and starred in Noel Coward’s 1961 Broadway musical Sail Away, in a role that he expanded to suit her large talent. In 1970 she co-starred in the Sondheim musical Company, where she sang what became one of her signature songs, The Ladies Who Lunch. In 2002, she was on Broadway in her autobiographical one woman show Elaine Stritch At Liberty. In 2010, she replaced Angela Lansbury in Sondheim’s A Little Night Music. TV audiences knew her from 30 Rock playing Alec Baldwin’s mother.
Terry spoke with Stritch in 1999, when she was starring in a revival of Sail Away, in honor of Noel Coward’s centennial.
PS. Allison Janney is recording with us this afternoon. Stay tuned!
Flooding from summer storms that brought parts of Britain to a halt over the weekend is gradually subsiding and forecasters say much of the country will enjoy dry weather on Monday and over the coming week.
Lightning illuminates Brighton pier, East Sussex. Photo: Max Langran/Apex
As the great, great grandson of Texas slaveholders, Chris Tomlinson wanted to find out what crimes his ancestors had committed to maintain their power and privilege. In his new book Tomlinson Hill, he writes about the slave-owning part of his family tree. He also writes about slaves who kept the Tomlinson name after they were freed, and traces their lineage.
Chris Tomlinson says that he intended the book to examine America’s history of race and bigotry through the paternal lines of these two families. Tomlinson is a journalist who spent 11 years with the associated press, reporting on wars and conflicts, mostly in Africa, including the end of apartheid and the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide. All the conflicts he covered included an element of bigotry:
"It was inspiring to me to be in South Africa after the election [of Nelson Mandela] and to see that reckoning. Bishop Desmond Tutu established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and at the time his argument was that before there can be reconciliation, you have to have a sharing of the truth and it has to be a common truth. One community can’t have one idea of what happened and the other community … a different idea. If you want them to reconcile, they have to agree about what happened. And that requires — for lack of a better word — confession and contrition.
…I don’t think that’s something that’s happened in the United States. And it certainly didn’t happen in my life. And so writing this book was my opportunity to go through that process — if, for no one else, [than] for the African-American Tomlinsons and my side of the family, that we have that truth and reconciliation.”
Photo of Tomlinson Hill plantation sign, via Chris Tomlinson/ Lisa Kaselak, Fosforo Films