Saturday, January 31, 2015

Dubious Achievements

New World Notes #361, 28:28 (February 3)
Broadcast quality MP3 (39 MB)
Decent quality MP3 (13 MB)

We remember magazines that have bit the dust--and defunct magazine features, too--notably Esquire magazine's wonderful Dubious Achievement Awards (died February 2008).  This funny annual satire on the year's vice and folly is much missed--and much needed today.

Surely a Dubious Achievement Award would have gone to the Keystone Pipeline. And to Saudi Arabia, for joining the recent Paris march celebrating freedom of the press.  And to the U.S. Senate, which just decreed that humans are not causing global warming.  And to ...

We still have Conn Hallinan's "Are You Serious?" Awards. We'll read some of the latest. Plus another take on the Keystone Pipeline by singer David Rovics.

 Conn Hallinan

Saturday, January 24, 2015

A Salute to General Weirdness

New World Notes #360, 29:02 (January 27)
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Decent quality MP3 (13 MB)

Instead of gloom and doom this week, we take a look at events that are just ... weird.

How about a plan to reduce carbon emissions in Australia by shooting wild camels? (Their burps and farts contain methane, you see.)

How about a required history unit on Estee Lauder in Texas schools?

Plus journalist Conn Hallinan's Are You Serious? Awards; odd newspaper items from Connecticut; and satire (or is it?) by The Onion, Roy Zimmerman, and George Carlin.

This installment is a replay of NWN #207 (February 2012).

Photo by Barry Pinkowitz.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Jean Shepherd vs Creeping Meatballism

New World Notes #359, 28:08 (January 20)
Broadcast quality MP3 (39 MB)
Decent quality MP3 (13 MB)

A look at radio great Jean Shepherd's humorous critiques--from the 1950s--of Americans' conformity, consumerism, and false sense of "progress."

KD reads (and briefly discusses) Shepherd's famous short essay, The Night People vs. 'Creeping Meatballism.' Then--on the same theme--we hear selections from one of Shep's late-night radio broadcasts (May 2, 1959).

Here Shep talks about credit cards ... Green Stamps ... a used atom-smasher for sale ... "progress" ... self-help advice from Senator Lyndon Johnson ... how many ice cream flavors Howard Johnson's restaurants actually have* ... and the brief but glorious crime spree of Ronald Medsker.

* (Claimed = 28. Highest number observed = 26, at the HoJo's at the New Bedford exit of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.)

Recording of Shepherd's 1959 broadcast courtesy of Flick Lives!  Many thanks.

More by Jean Shepherd.  We explored Shepherd's art from a different perspective--and heard a different sample of his work--in an earlier installment of New World Notes.  This was NWN #52 (February 2009), rebroadcast August 2012.  Click the links to take a look or listen.

Jean Shepherd, searching in vain for a size "small" tube of toothpaste. Illustration by Wally Wood to Shep's essay "The Night People ...," in Mad magazine, April 1957.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Searching for the Authentic on a Motorcycle

New World Notes #358, 29:47 (January 13)
Broadcast quality MP3 (41 MB)
Decent quality MP3 (14 MB)

This week's show is mostly monologue.  It's an extended "personal essay" by me, more or less in the tradition of Blue Highways and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.  With I guess a few echos of "News From Lake Wobegon."

It's about authenticity and its opposites.  It's also about motorcycle design, and simplicity versus clutter, and the rebirth of the "Indian" brand, and the quiet, subtle virtues of a Harley-Davidson. It's about how New England place-names sort of begin to make sense after you've lived here 20 or 30 years.

It's about corporate franchises and their phony food and their phony architecture--including fake gables, fake windows and even fake "widow's walks."  And it's about taking a motorcycle to search for "the authentic"--and sometimes even finding it when you get far enough out of town.  Uncasville, maybe.

The photos (Click to enlarge)

Top: Mel's Diner, Uncasville, Connecticut, January 2, 2015, by Kenneth Dowst. (Copyright. Creative Commons license: Attribution--Non-Commercial.)  The diner is discussed in this installment.

Above: K.D. and H-D Road King.  Photo by Barry Pinkowitz.