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Podcast: JJGo Ep. 46: Halloween Spooktacular

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This week on the show Jordan and Jesse talk with Adam Kempenaar from the podcast Filmspotting and we hear about Jesse's new dog - basically there aren't a lot of scary things.

THIS WEEK'S ACTION ITEMS:
* What was your worst holiday ever and why? Tell us the story!
* It's the semi-final of the battle of the animals. It's Hippo vs. Bear!

CONTINUING ACTION ITEMS:


* Review the show on iTunes.
* Do you have a dispute Judge John Hodgman can solve on a future broadcast? Email it to us! Put Judge John in the subject line.
* Have personal questions for Jesse and Jordan? Call 206-984-4FUN and tell us what they are!
* Does It Hold Up? JJGo's new action item!! Tell us about the things you liked in your youth that are still entertaining in 2007! Call 206-984-4FUN!
* Would you like to play Would You Rather with us on a future episode? Email us or give us a call at 206-984-4FUN.

Call 206-984-4FUN to share your thoughts on these ACTION ITEMS.

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Our theme music: "Love You" by The Free Design, courtesy of The Free Design and Light in the Attic Records

RIP Pimp C

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RIP to Pimp C of UGK, the Underground Kings, who was found dead this morning in his Hollywood hotel room. One of the most influential and respected groups in the history of Southern hip-hop is no more.

Holiday Cheer

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Last night, my better half (she said I could call her that now that we're engaged) insisted I put on Christmas music. It worked out great. Are you in the holiday mood yet?

Here's a great way to do it...

Listen to The Sound of Young America Holiday Special!

Because of music rights issues (the Holiday Special is heavy on music), I can't podcast the show. Luckily... I've posted it on PRX.org, a really great distribution site for public radio producers.

The site works like this: producers sign up for accounts for a modest fee (this covers the site's costs). Members of the site (including producers, stations, and just plain folks who can sign up free) listen to pieces and review them. Stations license shows from the site, and play them on the radio. Producer gets paid, station gets content, system filters out the lousy stuff, everybody wins.

So, here's what you can do... sign up for a PRX account. You can do it for free, and it's very easy. Then, listen to the Holiday Special. Then review it. Then dick around the website, listening to all the awesome stuff for free. Try this hour-long Jonathan Katz special, for example.

Happy holidays! (And don't forget the holiday contest!)

Podthoughts by Ian Brill: "The Bugle"

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During this WGA strike you’re probably jonesing for some of that Daily Show/Colbert Report goodness. Unfortunately Jon Stewart hasn’t started a podcast yet but for fans of The Daily Show’s British correspondent John Oliver you'll be happy to know he's still putting out great material available every week. He and his comedy partner Andy Zaltzman give us The Bugle – Audio Newspaper for a Visual World, from Times Online (iTunes Link).

The subtitle gives you an idea of what The Bugle is about. It’s not too different from The Daily Show, only from a British perspective (although Oliver does his contributions from New York). Each show has a main story that Oliver and Zaltzman attack with a real satirical bite, be it the unrest in Pakistan or OPEC summits. After that the smaller sections like sports and editorial are introduced. The show is committed to the idea of being an audio newspaper, starting off with sections that go straight into the bin (or "trash can" as we Americans would say). Zatlzman even has a crossword puzzle clue for each show. The very fact that he sticks with this, offering listeners a vague phrase every week followed by how many letters are in the answer and which direction it goes in, is very funny.

The Bugle has actually made me laugh more than any other podcast. It’s the first time I’ve ever actually had to hit pause on my iPod because I was laughing so hard and didn’t want miss what was next. I was floored, in a good way, to hear Oliver say “guns scare the British. The last time we were allowed to have guns we conquered 2/3rds of the world and induced slavery. Hand on heart, if given back guns I can’t say we wouldn’t try it again.” I was unfamiliar with Zaltzman before listening to The Bugle but I’m happy to report that he’s just as funny and quick as Oliver. “OPEC meetings are like buses. You wait forever for one and they’re useless without fuel,” might be favorite line of his.

If you’re worried about the show being too full of British and international references don’t let that stop you. There’s nothing here that a reasonably well informed American would be thrown off by. The show centered around immigration in Britain gave me some trouble (I had to look up whoever the Hell Enoch Powell was) but that was a rare occurrence. There are plenty of references to American politics and media. It’s funny to hear to British people take about baseball even if it is only because they love the name of St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols. They occasionally have a segment entitled “Ask an American” where a New Jersey native answers listener questions in a hilariously arrogant way. Could that be the Trenton-raised Jon Stewart doing the voice?

Oliver and Zalztman prepare most of their pieces but are comfortable ad-libbing with each other, often making the other laugh and break their news presenter facade. When the show hits those notes it comes across as The Daily Show meets Never Not Funny, which is a bit like saying “that one awesome things meets that totally awesome other thing.”

Interview with circuit benders Beatrx*JAR

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Photo by Emily Utne

Necessity is supposedly the mother of invention but what about creativity? Minneapolis duo Beatrix*JAR (she's Beatrix, he's JAR) stand somewhere in between the worlds of technology and the arts. They are circuit benders. What that means is that they take electronic instruments and toys that make sound, open them up and play around until they make new sounds the manufactures never intended. They turn these explorations into music, putting out two records now I Love You Talk Bird and Golden Fuzz. In addition to playing shows the duo also put on workshops so that others can learn the fun of crafting new sounds out of old toys. I talked to the Beatrix*JAR about their particular brand of music.

Ian Brill: Some of the songs on I Love You Talk Bird like "Oral Fixation" combine the circuit bending sounds with singing and lyrics. The songs on Golden Fuzz are more like dance songs with these hypnotic beats under them. Why the move in that direction?

Beatrix*JAR: Our move into the dance direction stems from our experiences as live performers. We aren’t trained musicians and we found that when we were doing live vocals it was easy to get to get thrown off by different and unfamiliar environments and various sound systems. With Golden Fuzz instead of singing live we sampled our voices in the safety of our studio for a few tracks.

I Love You Talk Bird was a mellow experience (in terms of tempo) but we found with the more songs we created our natural progression grew into experimenting more with tempo and rhythm. We also find that the faster beats in live performance engage us more as performers and that energy passes on to the audience.

IB: Where did the idea to do not just shows but also workshops come from?

B*J: Honestly, it stems from the fact that people didn’t really understand what we were (are) doing sonically. The workshops became this way to inform and inspire people with hands-on circuit bending and also give them the language and experience to understand what circuit bending is – and we hope that with that knowledge they will approach our music and other benders music with open ears and maybe be inspired to make music this way themselves.

IB: What are some of the best toys you have found in your quest for new sounds?

B*J: The Casio MT-540 is always our favorite, we use it as the demo machine in our workshops and it never fails – the machine is unlimited in its sonic options.

IB: I know JAR started doing work like this alone. What is the benefit of being a duo. I imagine it's a lot more fun trying to find the right sound from a 1980's toy with two people than it is with one.

B*J: We reinforce one another. We’re the two people always dancing at the show.

Maybe it all comes down to chemistry. We have unique and shared musical sensibilities and it just works – there are these unspoken exchanges that make for this fun and playful experience. It’s always so great to look onstage and see the other – nodding – affirming – dancing.

Each of us is always encouraging the other - so when one of us hits the wall the other is there to help bust through – even in the most intense moments of frustration we are happy to be there for each other – 80’s toy or life issue.

IB: In addition to manipulated toy sounds songs some of the songs on Golden Fuzz have these great speech samples, like the one about a kid creating a DIY robot in "Arthur Golden" (which is related to what you guys do musically); Where are the places you find the sources for those samples?

B*J: Like circuit bending, it’s really all about searching for sounds that are pleasing to our ears. We find audio sources from reel to reel tapes, old records, archive.org, old drive-inn movie intermission reels, training and instructional videos. Some of the speech samples come from the Speak and Spell too. There is some quality that catches our ear that works as a building block to the composition. With Arthur Golden it was the Do It Yourself Robot – we were like yes! *Laughing*

Beatrix*JAR's website
Beatrix*JAR on MySpace
The Minneapolis City Pages on Beatrix*JAR

I endorse Cooperstown Ballcaps

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I don't often endorse products on this blog, but I figured I'd share this one, since a lot of folks have been asking me about clothes and baseball lately.

The Cooperstown Ballcap Company
makes the best baseball caps I've ever seen. I have several. They are made to order, of exceptional quality, and can be purchased with almost any team logo in the past 100 years. Each hat has a soft leather band, can be ordered with a low or high crown, short, medium or long bill, and can be worn in almost any casual-wear context. They're really beautiful.

Anyway, they normally cost like $45, which is worth it, but they're all 25% off for December. A perfect gift for a baseball fan you know, or just someone looking for really high quality streetwear. Or you.

A hint: they also sell returns for 50% off. Since it's a made-to-order business, you never know what you'll find available on the returns area of their site in your size, but it's always worth a look.

Interview: Antoine Wilson, author of "The Interloper" by Tim Noble

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One of the great things about hosting a show about things you think are awesome is that people who share your values listen -- and often they're awesome themselves. Novelist Antoine Wilson and I had emailed about the show before I even knew he was a writer. When he wrote a new (and highly critically acclaimed) book, "The Interloper," I had former intern Tim Noble, a fiction writer himself, talk with him about the book and writing. - Jesse

Tim Noble: The Interloper hinges on a very unique and rather drastic decision by its protagonist. How did the idea for The Interloper come about? How much was plotted beforehand and how much came about "in the moment"?

Antoine Wilson: I can trace the origins of the germ to a single thought I had while cruising eastbound on the I-80 in a silver Lincoln Town Car in the summer of 1998. The thought was this: What if, at one of these gas stations, or behind the desk of one of these motels, or in a random bar, what if I ran into the man who had murdered my half-brother almost twenty years before? What would I do? That germ remained in the back of my head another four years before it turned into Owen’s cockamamie plan. As far as plotting goes, it was all plotted “in the moment.” Only that moment lasted two years.

TN: Do you think it's possible to write a novel so closely dealing with death without the type of experience you went through?

AW: Absolutely it’s possible. Thinking deeply about experiences that are not your own is one of the novelist’s most crucial muscles. It’s the quadriceps, for heavy lifting. But of course the biceps get all the attention. In any case, what I meant by my statement was simply that I wouldn’t have chosen the subject matter if it hadn’t come from personal experience. I’m not interested in writing crime fiction, per se.

TN: The book deals in some dark and strange areas of the human psyche, but at the same time, contains a good bit of humor and reads fairly quickly. Is there a line between literature and "pop" fiction, and, if so, do you give much thought to what category your own writing might fall under? I'm thinking during the editing process particularly.

AW: I’ve been trying to define some of these things for myself recently, so it’s good you ask. My working distinction between so-called pop or genre fiction and so-called literature is that while the former aims to create a specific, almost programmatic experience for the reader, the latter is more open to how it is read and received. You get the sense in the former that the writer has created an entertainment, whereas with the latter the writer is engaged in trying to understand or bring order to human experience.

Of course there are genre and/or pop books that go quite deep despite their trappings, and there are plenty of literary-labeled stories of struggle and redemption that are no more than potboilers. I don’t think too much about what category I belong to; I’m aspiring to literature all the time, in that I’m more interested in creating something organic and true than perfecting an entertainment. That said, The Interloper is a fairly lean and tight machine—the fact that Owen is pursuing a plan pushed it in that direction, I think. I pared away quite a few thematically-based digressions before the manuscript went out. It didn’t have to do with making it more pop or less literary; I was just staying true to the concerns of the book.

TN: What led you into fiction writing? Was there a particular moment that the light bulb went on, and you thought, "This is what I want to do for a living?"

AW: Who makes a living? Perhaps it would be better to say, “This is what I want to do with my life.” For me it happened somewhere in the middle of college. I had always written, had always wanted to write, but it wasn’t until I decided to quit my job as an EMT and decide not to apply to medical school that I put my chips down, so to speak. I was influenced in this decision by three books (all of which I’m afraid to go back and read now): The New York Trilogy, by Paul Auster; Another Country by James Baldwin; and V. by Thomas Pynchon. I don’t know exactly how those three worked their magic on me, but they did.

TN: You attended the prestigious writer's workshop at the University of Iowa. Could you talk about your experience there? Many aspiring writers today see an MFA as the only logical step after college – are these workshops worth all the hype?

AW: I had a great experience at Iowa. Two years under the umbrella of the academy with no goal other than to write fiction. I’m sure I picked up lots of craft tips, and I know I became a better writer, but I’d say the most valuable lesson I learned was to take myself seriously as a writer. And to begin to take myself seriously as a human being. As far as the hype, well, you know what Public Enemy had to say about that. I don’t mean to be glib. In general I highly recommend MFA programs for people who really want to write—at the very least you become a better reader and a better critic of your own work. I just wouldn’t suggest going into massive debt to attend one.

TN: You occasionally teach writing classes at UCLA. How do you approach the prickly task of teaching others to write, a talent some would say falls under the category of "you either have it or you don't"? Has the experience helped your own writing at all?

AW: I have no idea whether teaching helps my writing. They’re two very different things, and I’m always struggling to bring them together. While it’s probably true that “you either have it or you don’t,” I’m not sure it’s my job to be the judge. I remember my own early stories. They blew chunks. Misguided, immature, poorly developed chunks. So I try to nudge people forward in doing whatever it is they’re trying to do. And while I encounter a lost cause now and then, every once in a while someone blows my socks off, which is always a treat.

AW: Who's the best author we've never heard of?

AW: If you haven’t heard of Thomas Bernhard, it’s Thomas Bernhard. If you have, it’s Bohumil Hrabal. If you’ve heard of him, too, maybe Lars Gustafsson. If all of those are old news, try the stories of Maile Chapman or Jack Livings—neither of them have a book yet, so you probably haven’t read too much of them. If you have, how about Eric Bennett? You’ll have to wait on him, but it will be worth it.

If you want to see some of the raves for Antoine Wilson's new novel "The Interloper," just visit the front page of his website, where they are tastefully laid out.

Podcast: Nick Hornby

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Show: 
Bullseye


Nick Hornby is the author of a number of notable books, including Fever Pitch, High Fidelity, About a Boy and most recently Slam. Slam concerns a teenager who impregnates his girlfriend. Oh, and also, he talks to a poster of Tony Hawk. Nick talked with us about how he struggled to find himself and his vocation as a young adult, how he relates to a teenage boy, how he discovered literature that he actually liked, and more.

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You might also enjoy these past interview programs:
Satirist George Saunders
Artist/Writer/Filmmaker Miranda July
Comedian Dave Hill

Podcast: TSOYA Classic: Odd Ends

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Show: 
Bullseye

We continue our journey into The Sound of Young America's vast audio archive with this program from The Sound of Young America Classics.

This week’s show Odd Ends, as the name suggests, has a varied mix of entertaining guests and features some of the weirdest things that have ever been on TSOYA. Kasper Hauser, the San Francisco comedy sketch group talk about scamming internet scammers and things go drastically awry when interviewing a scout for Steve Harvey’s Big Time. We get some ‘ninja insight’ from Robert Hamburger and Charlie Todd, founder of Improv Everywhere talks about their pranks on the streets of New York.

In this archive episode of TSOYA check out some hilarious tips from the Kasper Hauser guys on how to scam people on the internet (in a nice way) and they also give a run-down of their alternative craigslist. Worth a listen!

Jesse also talks to Mr. Robert Hamburger, self-proclaimed ninja master. Check out his website www.realultimatepower.net for some insightful ninja ‘facts’.

Since its inception in August 2001 Improv Everywhere has completed over 70 missions involving thousands of undercover agents. Based in New York City, creator Charlie Todd tells TSOYA about some of their most successful and notorious pranks.

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