Monthly Archives: January 2016

Symphony Of The City: Nigerian Artist Draws Songs From The Bustling Market


"Market Symphony" is a new audio installation at the National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C. The exhibition layers sound from a market in Lagos, Nigeria. The speakers are installed on enamelware trays which are often used in markets.i

“Market Symphony” is a new audio installation at the National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C. The exhibition layers sound from a market in Lagos, Nigeria. The speakers are installed on enamelware trays which are often used in markets.

Courtesy of the National Museum of African Art


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Courtesy of the National Museum of African Art

"Market Symphony" is a new audio installation at the National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C. The exhibition layers sound from a market in Lagos, Nigeria. The speakers are installed on enamelware trays which are often used in markets.

“Market Symphony” is a new audio installation at the National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C. The exhibition layers sound from a market in Lagos, Nigeria. The speakers are installed on enamelware trays which are often used in markets.

Courtesy of the National Museum of African Art

To people who live in big cities, the sound of honking, the whir of traffic, the howl of street vendors and the clang of construction can just be background noise.

But for Nigerian sound and video artist Emeka Ogboh, the city is his palette — his symphony of sound. And his compositions can whisk the listener to another time and place.

Artist Emeka Ogboh was commissioned by the museum to create a site-specific audio installation.i

Artist Emeka Ogboh was commissioned by the museum to create a site-specific audio installation.

Adolphus Opara/Smithsonian National Museum of African Art


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Adolphus Opara/Smithsonian National Museum of African Art

Artist Emeka Ogboh was commissioned by the museum to create a site-specific audio installation.

Artist Emeka Ogboh was commissioned by the museum to create a site-specific audio installation.

Adolphus Opara/Smithsonian National Museum of African Art

“There are stories in the soundscape,” he says. “There are stories from the city. You can tell more about the city from just listening to the soundscape. And that’s what happened. I started finding it really interesting.”

Ogboh recorded hours of sounds to pull a listener through the song of the bustling Balogun open-air market in the Nigerian megacity of Lagos.

NPR’s Michel Martin spoke with Ogboh and took a tour of his new exhibition, “Market Symphony,” at the National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C. It’s the first time the museum has featured a sound art exhibition, and it opens later this week.

Click the audio link above to hear some of Ogboh’s soundscapes and his conversation with Martin.

To Rebuild ‘The Collapse Of Parenting,’ It’s Going To Be A Challenge


The Collapse of Parenting

How We Hurt Our Kids When We Treat Them Like Grown-ups: The Three Things You Must Do To Help Your Child or Teen Become a Fulfilled Adult

by Leonard, M.D., Ph.D. Sax

Hardcover, 287 pages |

purchase

As many know, parenting isn’t an easy job. It can be hugely frustrating and even lonely trying to figure out what’s best for your kid. Should you be a taskmaster or a best friend? Is there a middle ground? The pressures of full-time work and round-the-clock activities can make that question even more challenging to tackle.

Dr. Leonard Sax has experience in guiding these relationships as a family physician and psychologist in Pennsylvania. His new book, The Collapse Of Parenting: How We Hurt Our Kids When We Treat Them Like Grown Ups is informed Sax’s personal and professional observations.

“That’s what motivated it, but this is not a rant. It’s not a sermon,” he says, adding that his book is grounded in more than 400 studies.

In an interview with NPR’s Rachel Martin, Dr. Sax discusses what he sees as a widespread trend of dissolving healthy relationships between kids and their parents.

Interview Highlights

On the meaning of the book’s title

The point of the book is, look, you need to give kids choices in some domains but not in others. I’m seeing a lot of parents who are really confused about in what domain is it appropriate to give kids a choice. For example, is it OK for your 14-year-old to take their cell phone to bed with them? My answer is no. But so many parents think it is their job to be their child’s best friend. That’s not your job. Your job is to keep your child safe, make sure they get a good night’s sleep and give them a grounding and confidence and help them to know who they are as human beings.

On the problems with parent-child relationships he’s seen over the years

So many kids today care so much more about the opinions of other kids than they do about their parents’. And that’s really harmful because the regard of your peers, if you’re an 8-year-old or 14-year-old, that can change overnight. So if you’re concerned first and foremost about what your peers think, you’re gonna be anxious. And we’ve seen a 400 percent explosion in anxiety among American kids in the United States over the last 30 years. An American kid in the United States is now 14 times more likely to be on medication for ADD compared to a kid in the United Kingdom.

On the correlation between medication and the collapse of parenting

I can tell you exactly how it happens. Here’s a typical story: This boy tells his parents that he’s having trouble concentrating and focusing and they take him to a board-certified child psychiatrist. And the child psychiatrist says, “Ah, sounds like maybe ADHD, let’s try Adderall or Vyvanse and see if it helps.” And oh my gosh, what a difference — medication helps enormously. The child, the teacher, the parent and even the prescribing physician saying, “Hey this medication was prescribed for ADD, it’s clearly been helpful, therefore this kid must have ADD.” But he doesn’t.

The parents bring him to me for a second opinion and I ask some questions like, “What do you do in the evening?” and the parents have no idea, he’s in his bedroom with the door closed so his parents don’t know what’s going on and they think he’s asleep but he’s not. He’s staying up ’til 1 or 2 in the morning playing video games night after night. He’s sleep-deprived. And if you’re sleep-deprived you’re not gonna be able to pay attention and all the standard questionnaires, Conners Scales, etc. cannot distinguish whether you’re not paying attention because you’re sleep-deprived or because you truly have ADD.

On the challenges that will come with altering parenting style

It depends on how you’ve been parenting so far. And the earlier the child, the easier it is to make a change. If you’ve been the permissive parent who lets kids take their phones and their devices into their bedrooms with them, lets kids decide what’s for supper, it’s gonna be a challenge. And I recommend that you sit down with your child and say, “Hey, there’s gonna be some changes here.”

So, for example, one mom took the cell phone away because her daughter’s spending all her time texting and Snapchatting. And the daughter didn’t push back. And her friends were like “Oh, you know her mom’s the weird mom who took her phone away.” The real push back — and this is what surprised this mom — came from the parents of her daughter’s friends, who really got on her case and said, “How can you do this?” and this mom told me that she thinks the other parents are uncertain, unsure of what they should be doing and so that’s why they’re lashing out at her — the one mom who has the strength to take a stand.

How Do We Read Books Embedded With Racism?


A Birthday Cake for Washington has been the subject of much criticism because it portrays slaves as being happy.i

A Birthday Cake for Washington has been the subject of much criticism because it portrays slaves as being happy.

Scholastic


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Scholastic

A Birthday Cake for Washington has been the subject of much criticism because it portrays slaves as being happy.

A Birthday Cake for Washington has been the subject of much criticism because it portrays slaves as being happy.

Scholastic

Last week, a conversation on NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday, about reading books with difficult material surrounding race and gender to your children, sparked a lot of criticism.

NPR’s Rachel Martin spoke with editor Jeremy Adam Smith about the controversy over A Birthday Cake For George Washington, a children’s book that portrays a slave chef and his daughter preparing the desert for the president.

He’s the author of a piece called “How To Really Read Racist Books To Your Kids.”

The conversation prompted many people to respond to the article in multiple places online, so we’re revisiting the piece and incorporating some of your comments.

This week, we speak with Andrew Grant Thomas, a father of two who’s the founder of EmbraceRace, an online discussion community for parenting.

Here’s What Some Of You Said

Commenter Kathleen Jimenez wrote:

“Rachel,

With all due respect to your good work, your white privilege was showing this morning. No parent of color has the privilege of flipping past the pages about racism when reading to their children. Yes, even to a three year old. You passed up an opportunity to give your little one a lesson in compassion and empathy. Racism is not grown up material; it’s life material. Your son chose the book, as a parent you can walk through it with him. From all your reporting at NPR it is evident you are a brave reporter. Hope you’ll be an even braver mom…”

The website “Teaching For Change” wrote, in part (you can read their entire critique at the link):

“The statement that racist children’s books allows families the opportunity to dialogue about racism assumes that the audience is white. After all, what parent of color or Native American parent has the luxury of choice to wait for a children’s book to talk about race and racism with their children?”

“Teaching For Change” also noted a piece by NPR’s Eyder Peralta on the same topic, but called it “an excellent segment.”

Commenter Jhonna Amelia Turner wrote:

Huh. This discussion is clearly a representation of white privilege and the realities of many in-the-kitchen, liberal dinner party discussions about race, without a single person of color in the room. It’s just that this time it was broadcasted. Reading about race, discussing it among friends, and feeling “ambushed by…racial imagery” does not equate to empathy. To understand the damage and seriousness of introducing books of racial misrepresentation, you have to know that the effect could be horrific and extremely tragic — especially at such a young age. For instance, my six-year old niece (who’s black) for years wanted all her dolls to white. But not white just, blond hair with blue eyes … white. The reason being was that my six-year old niece didn’t understand that she was beautiful and amazing. She rejected any dolls that looked like her. In attempt to remedy this problem, I went straight to many bookstores to only find…nothing. Nothing that had to do with positive images of little girls of color (and color, I mean any other color besides white). Tragic, right.

This conversation is from two people who would probably consider themselves to be racially in tuned, but from reading/hearing, there are clear gaps of racial empathy. My question or thought is, how do you encourage others (clearly they’re talking about white people, right?) to have this conversation with their children about race in books, if they are not equipped to do so? It’s like having a loaded gun with an awful aim. The damage could be worse.

South Korea’s Newest TV Stars Are North Korean Defectors


Han Seohee (right) and fellow North Korean defectors Lee Gwang-sung (left) and Hwang Soyeon (center) are regulars on Moranbong Club, a South Korean talk show featuring North Korean defectors. "There's a lot of prejudice toward North Korean defectors in South Korea," Han says. "So I wanted to show South Koreans that we're living here and trying the best we can."i

Han Seohee (right) and fellow North Korean defectors Lee Gwang-sung (left) and Hwang Soyeon (center) are regulars on Moranbong Club, a South Korean talk show featuring North Korean defectors. “There’s a lot of prejudice toward North Korean defectors in South Korea,” Han says. “So I wanted to show South Koreans that we’re living here and trying the best we can.”

Haeryun Kang/for NPR


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Haeryun Kang/for NPR

Han Seohee (right) and fellow North Korean defectors Lee Gwang-sung (left) and Hwang Soyeon (center) are regulars on Moranbong Club, a South Korean talk show featuring North Korean defectors. "There's a lot of prejudice toward North Korean defectors in South Korea," Han says. "So I wanted to show South Koreans that we're living here and trying the best we can."

Han Seohee (right) and fellow North Korean defectors Lee Gwang-sung (left) and Hwang Soyeon (center) are regulars on Moranbong Club, a South Korean talk show featuring North Korean defectors. “There’s a lot of prejudice toward North Korean defectors in South Korea,” Han says. “So I wanted to show South Koreans that we’re living here and trying the best we can.”

Haeryun Kang/for NPR

North Korea is a mysterious place — even to South Koreans. Curiosity about life in the north has sparked a slew of new South Korean TV shows.

There is the Amazing Race-type program, in which North Korean women are paired up with South Korean men to take on various challenges, like trudging through mud carrying a bucket of water on their heads.

There are the talk shows, featuring panels of North Korean defectors talking about their dangerous escapes and difficult lives.

And then there are the dating shows, in which North Korean women are matched up with eligible South Korean bachelors.

It’s all part of an emerging genre on South Korean television: The defector reality show.

“I do think that it’s a new approach,” says Sokeel Park, research director for Liberty in North Korea, an international nonprofit that helps North Korean refugees resettle.

North Koreans, As Seen On TV

On My Way to Meet You 이제만나러갑니다: The oldest and best known defector talk show, in which North Koreans talk about their previous lives.

Moranbong Club: The show’s promotional materials describe it as “Confident and courageous beauties from the North talk about living in the South.”

Let’s Go Together 잘살아봅세: South Korean men and North Korean women take on outdoor challenges that might approximate what life was like in North Korea.

Where people from the North were previously seen only on the news or documentaries here, now they’re part of a softer, more entertainment-driven mass media south of the border.

Park says the shows are, “for the first time, exposing South Korean audiences at a mass scale” to North Koreans who aren’t their infamous political leaders.

People like Han Seohee. A former singer in Pyongyang, she’s a regular on the talk show Moranbong Club.

“There’s a lot of prejudice toward North Korean defectors in South Korea,” Han says. “So I wanted to show South Koreans that we’re living here and trying the best we can.”

On a typical episode, she’ll field questions from hosts about North Korean culture — its bands, its music offerings. And what it was like performing in the military’s singing troupe. But the topics really vary.

“They’re talking about the growth of markets and new technologies in North Korea,” Park says. “So gradually, the South Korean audiences are getting exposed to new kinds of stories or new characters from North Korea that previously there was just widespread ignorance of.”

Park says the programs are helping South Koreans get a better sense of the North Korean experience. But they’re also controversial. If you watch enough of these, you’ll notice a familiar pattern: They tend to feature young North Korean women paired with South Korean men.

The gender dynamic shows up in research on these programs. Lee Yunso watched a month’s worth of North Korean defector shows for her media watchdog group, Womenlink.

“By casting defectors in their twenties, the TV shows emphasize North Korean women’s innocence, and how little they know. They are used to portray[ing] submissive women inside the patriarchy,” Lee says.

She — and defectors like Han — also say the programs lack nuance on the differences between North and South. On the talk shows, life in the North is usually presented as uniformly bad, while life in the south is unquestionably good — ignoring difficulties for defectors in South Korean society.

“We need to show how North Korean defectors really live in South Korea, and try to show North Korea without any of the prejudices in our minds,” Lee says. “We need a process of gaining more understanding between each other.”

Haeryun Kang contributed to this story. For a behind-the-scenes look at our reporting in East Asia, check out Elise Goes East.

In the defector reality show Love Unification: Nam Nam Buk Nyo, North Korean women are paired with South Korean men to take on various challenges.

YouTube

South Korea’s Newest TV Stars Are North Korean Defectors


Han Seohee (right) and fellow North Korean defectors Lee Gwang-sung (left) and Hwang Soyeon (center) are regulars on Moranbong Club, a South Korean talk show featuring North Korean defectors. "There's a lot of prejudice toward North Korean defectors in South Korea," Han says. "So I wanted to show South Koreans that we're living here and trying the best we can."i

Han Seohee (right) and fellow North Korean defectors Lee Gwang-sung (left) and Hwang Soyeon (center) are regulars on Moranbong Club, a South Korean talk show featuring North Korean defectors. “There’s a lot of prejudice toward North Korean defectors in South Korea,” Han says. “So I wanted to show South Koreans that we’re living here and trying the best we can.”

Haeryun Kang/for NPR


hide caption

toggle caption

Haeryun Kang/for NPR

Han Seohee (right) and fellow North Korean defectors Lee Gwang-sung (left) and Hwang Soyeon (center) are regulars on Moranbong Club, a South Korean talk show featuring North Korean defectors. "There's a lot of prejudice toward North Korean defectors in South Korea," Han says. "So I wanted to show South Koreans that we're living here and trying the best we can."

Han Seohee (right) and fellow North Korean defectors Lee Gwang-sung (left) and Hwang Soyeon (center) are regulars on Moranbong Club, a South Korean talk show featuring North Korean defectors. “There’s a lot of prejudice toward North Korean defectors in South Korea,” Han says. “So I wanted to show South Koreans that we’re living here and trying the best we can.”

Haeryun Kang/for NPR

North Korea is a mysterious place — even to South Koreans. Curiosity about life in the north has sparked a slew of new South Korean TV shows.

There is the Amazing Race-type program, in which North Korean women are paired up with South Korean men to take on various challenges, like trudging through mud carrying a bucket of water on their heads.

There are the talk shows, featuring panels of North Korean defectors talking about their dangerous escapes and difficult lives.

And then there are the dating shows, in which North Korean women are matched up with eligible South Korean bachelors.

It’s all part of an emerging genre on South Korean television: The defector reality show.

“I do think that it’s a new approach,” says Sokeel Park, research director for Liberty in North Korea, an international nonprofit that helps North Korean refugees resettle.

North Koreans, As Seen On TV

On My Way to Meet You 이제만나러갑니다: The oldest and best known defector talk show, in which North Koreans talk about their previous lives.

Moranbong Club: The show’s promotional materials describe it as “Confident and courageous beauties from the North talk about living in the South.”

Let’s Go Together 잘살아봅세: South Korean men and North Korean women take on outdoor challenges that might approximate what life was like in North Korea.

Where people from the North were previously seen only on the news or documentaries here, now they’re part of a softer, more entertainment-driven mass media south of the border.

Park says the shows are, “for the first time, exposing South Korean audiences at a mass scale” to North Koreans who aren’t their infamous political leaders.

People like Han Seohee. A former singer in Pyongyang, she’s a regular on the talk show Moranbong Club.

“There’s a lot of prejudice toward North Korean defectors in South Korea,” Han says. “So I wanted to show South Koreans that we’re living here and trying the best we can.”

On a typical episode, she’ll field questions from hosts about North Korean culture — its bands, its music offerings. And what it was like performing in the military’s singing troupe. But the topics really vary.

“They’re talking about the growth of markets and new technologies in North Korea,” Park says. “So gradually, the South Korean audiences are getting exposed to new kinds of stories or new characters from North Korea that previously there was just widespread ignorance of.”

Park says the programs are helping South Koreans get a better sense of the North Korean experience. But they’re also controversial. If you watch enough of these, you’ll notice a familiar pattern: They tend to feature young North Korean women paired with South Korean men.

The gender dynamic shows up in research on these programs. Lee Yunso watched a month’s worth of North Korean defector shows for her media watchdog group, Womenlink.

“By casting defectors in their twenties, the TV shows emphasize North Korean women’s innocence, and how little they know. They are used to portray[ing] submissive women inside the patriarchy,” Lee says.

She — and defectors like Han — also say the programs lack nuance on the differences between North and South. On the talk shows, life in the North is usually presented as uniformly bad, while life in the south is unquestionably good — ignoring difficulties for defectors in South Korean society.

“We need to show how North Korean defectors really live in South Korea, and try to show North Korea without any of the prejudices in our minds,” Lee says. “We need a process of gaining more understanding between each other.”

Haeryun Kang contributed to this story. For a behind-the-scenes look at our reporting in East Asia, check out Elise Goes East.

In the defector reality show Love Unification: Nam Nam Buk Nyo, North Korean women are paired with South Korean men to take on various challenges.

YouTube

Book Diagnoses Darwin With Anxiety And Warhol As A Hoarder


Andy Warhol Was a Hoarder

Inside the Minds of History’s Great Personalities

by Claudia Kalb

Hardcover, 320 pages |

purchase

Was Andy Warhol a collector of beautiful and mundane things, or was he a full-blown hoarder? Did Abraham Lincoln suffer from melancholia, or was he clinically depressed? Did Albert Einstein have autism? These are the questions journalist Claudia Kalb seeks to answer in her new book, Andy Warhol Was A Hoarder: Inside The Minds Of History’s Great Personalities.

Kalb tells NPR’s Rachel Martin how she went about diagnosing the historic figures she talks about in her book.

Interview Highlights

On what makes her believe Andy Warhol was a hoarder

Warhol had this intense desire to shop and collect. And it started fairly early in his life and as he moved to New York and became a working artist in the city, he would shop daily at everywhere from a five-and-dime store to an upscale boutique. The other big thing about Warhol was his time capsules, where he had about 600 boxes, cardboard boxes, where he put everything into them. He swept stuff off his desk. He put old receipts, he put bills he had not yet paid, he put junk mail, even [an] old pizza crust — threw it into these boxes. … [He] put dates on them. He anticipated at some point potentially selling them. He thought maybe these would be sort of a collection of artifacts that people would be interested in. After all, it’s Warhol.

At the same time, he had such a difficulty getting rid of anything. He said in his journals and in his writings, “I can’t throw anything out.” And he even said, “I’d love to have a really clean space.” But he never could do it.

On her process of diagnosing a figure like Charles Darwin with anxiety

It was a wonderful task of looking both at biographical material as well as medical journals. So for Darwin, for example, his letters and journals are online. It’s an amazing resource. … You can look at what he was writing, what he was saying, how he was expressing his anxiety and the physical symptoms he suffered.

Related NPR Stories

And then at the same time, looking at the medical literature that has been published. There are hundreds of studies about what ailed Darwin. What was wrong with him? Why did he have these stomach aches, this dizziness, these headaches? … And then the third component was interviewing current-day mental health experts to talk to them about these conditions and to assess how the symptoms of these particular historical figures lined up with current-day diagnoses.

On what she hopes to accomplish by highlighting the mental disorders people like Warhol and Darwin may have had

I think ultimately, while writing it and thinking about it and talking about it, my overarching goal was to lay this all out for people in a way that they could look at it and say, “This looks like my friend, or my family member or a little bit like me.” … My goal, I hope, is that by reading about these people, there’ll be some less stigmatization of mental health disorders. We all struggle with all sorts … of things in our mind[s]. I found this a way to maybe relieve people a little bit — that if they are struggling, they are not alone.

Not My Job: We Ask ‘Madoff’ Star Richard Dreyfuss About Fonzie Schemes




MIKE PESCA, HOST:

And now the game where we ask accomplished people to accomplish one more thing. It’s called Not My Job. Richard Dreyfuss got famous from “The Apprenticeship Of Duddy Kravitz” and “American Graffiti.” He starred Steven Spielberg’s “Close Encounters Of The Third Kind” and what was then the highest-grossing movie of all-time, “Jaws.” He won an Oscar nothing for “The Goodbye Girl.” And now he stars as the title character in “Madoff,” where, unlike “Jaws,” this time he plays the shark. Richard Dreyfuss, hello and welcome to WAIT WAIT… DON’T TELL ME.

RICHARD DREYFUSS: Thank you, thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

PESCA: So…

(APPLAUSE)

PESCA: …I read – I read in an old interview that you once said that acting in “Jaws” and “Close Encounters” – that acting in those movies, your job was to make things that weren’t there seem believable. So that’s kind of good preparation for playing Bernie Madoff, right?

DREYFUSS: Yeah, I never thought of it that way. Yeah, in “Jaws” and in “Close Encounters,” Steven Spielberg once said to me, could I ask you a question? And I said sure. He said, you remember when we were doing “Jaws” and I was telling you to say things like oh, look at that, look at that and there was nothing there? And I said yeah. He said, did you ever feel stupid?

(LAUGHTER)

DREYFUSS: And I said Steven, you’re an authority figure. Don’t do this to me.

(LAUGHTER)

PESCA: So I watched – I watched “Mr. Holland’s Opus” with my kids a couple weeks ago. Now, I have to tell you, my dad’s a teacher, my mom’s a teacher, my sister’s a teacher , my brother-in-law is a teacher. Do other non-teachers always cry at “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” or is it just my family?

DREYFUSS: (Laughter) Well, actually, I – not only do I cry, there were a thousand extras in that film. And we were – we all were so taken by this plot and by this guy that we would shoot let’s say the scene where I do – I’m singing to my son. And I’d look out at the audience and there would be someone who would say, do it again.

(LAUGHTER)

PESCA: That’s beautiful. Now I want to ask you about “Close Encounters.” Did that change your relationship to mashed potatoes?

(LAUGHTER)

DREYFUSS: As someone who’s on a perpetual diet, I have no relationship.

PESCA: So in playing Bernie Madoff, how does it work as an actor? Do you try to identify with him? So even if you’ve come to think and study the case that maybe he’s as much of a symptom as he is just a bad apple, is there a way to convey that through your performance, or do you let everything else convey that point?

DREYFUSS: No, that’s not what my job is. In this film, my job was to play that bad apple. At the beginning before I had done any research, I was thinking well, I’ll probably, you know, find good attributes in him. But no, I never did.

(LAUGHTER)

PETER GROSZ: Wow.

PESCA: But I think when actors can go wrong in playing the con artist, they emphasize the con. But you are emphasizing the artistry. You have to show how good he was at conning people, not by twirling the mustache but by turning on the charm.

DREYFUSS: That’s exactly the right phrase. What I had to do was to be as friendly and gentle and loving as any uncle Bernie could be because no one else would be able to take people’s money from them. They’re not going to give it to the mustache twirler.

PESCA: Right.

DREYFUSS: And that’s also how I played Dick Cheney.

PESCA: Yeah.

DREYFUSS: (Laughter).

GROSZ: Yeah.

PESCA: I was thinking about that.

DREYFUSS: That was a lie. That was a lie.

PESCA: But you also were…

GROSZ: That was great though, I mean, there were a lot of good performances in that film.

PESCA: That was the movie “W.”

GROSZ: Yeah, the movie – film “W,” but you were almost as scary as I perceived the actual Dick Cheney to be watching that film. I thought it was great.

PESCA: With less nuclear weapons though is the point…

GROSZ: Yes, exactly.

PESCA: …Yeah.

DREYFUSS: I’ve played every Republican villain. I played Hague (ph), I’ve played Cheney. I’ve played them all. I remember being cast in the old days. Steven cast me because I had the ability to look at something which didn’t exist yet. And I always told him that the name of the book I would never write is “Have They Figured Out Yet What I’m Looking Up In Awe At?

(LAUGHTER)

DREYFUSS: So now I play villains. And one day, I’ll – I don’t know, play rope-jumpers.

PESCA: There’s another major category of role that you play as I was going over your career. You play – you are the guy who’s ballast (ph), who’s probity, who’s order. And then you come into contact with disorder, right – “Down And Out In Beverly Hills” with Nick Nolte or “What About Bob?” with Bill Murray. And I was wondering if there’s something about you that you tap into it ’cause you seem like a cut up, but are you a more serious guy than we know?

DREYFUSS: I am humanity’s face, OK?

(LAUGHTER)

GROSZ: That is a very bold statement, sir.

SHELBY FERO: I say that every time I walk into a room.

DREYFUSS: And I want you to know, it was halfway out of my mouth and I thought you’re making a mistake, Richard.

(LAUGHTER)

PESCA: So Richard, I read this article from 1978 that said that then – back then you never had gotten your Oscar engraved. And I wanted the update, have you since had it engraved?

DREYFUSS: Yes.

PESCA: OK, good.

FERO: They don’t engrave it for you?

DREYFUSS: No, they do. What you’re supposed to do is to give it back before you leave that night.

FERO: Oh, right.

DREYFUSS: And I took it, and I ran into this limo. And I went to this plane to fly to New York, where I was appearing in “Julius Caesar.” And I just clutched it until I got to the rehearsal room of the theater. And then I put it down in front of my space. And every actor did the same thing. They came in and said where is it, where is it? Let me – and then I said now listen, when I make my entrance tonight, there’s going to be applause. So just hold it.

(LAUGHTER)

GROSZ: (Laughter) Just won an Oscar.

DREYFUSS: Guess what happened? Nothing.

(LAUGHTER)

DREYFUSS: There was no applause. Every actor made it his business to walk by me during the show and say so, they were going to give you applause.

(LAUGHTER)

PESCA: All right, Richard Dreyfuss, we have asked you here to better play a game that we are calling…

BILL KURTIS: Sit On It.

PESCA: So as we said, in the ABC miniseries “Madoff,” you play the titular financier who was actually running a $65 billion Ponzi scheme. So with that in mind, we’re going to ask you three questions not about Ponzi schemes but about Fonzie schemes, the life and times of Arthur Fonzarelli, as portrayed by Henry Winkler from “Happy Days.” If you answer two of these questions correctly, you will win our prize – Carl Kasell’s voice on the voicemail of one of our listeners. Bill, who is Richard Dreyfuss playing for?

KURTIS: Gary Bentley of Temple, Texas.

PESCA: All right…

DREYFUSS: I’m so sorry, Gary.

(LAUGHTER)

PESCA: All right, Richard Dreyfuss, here is your first question. I know that you are heavily involved in civics through the Dreyfuss Foundation. But presidential politics was one of Fonzie’s passions as well. In an episode of “Happy Days,” which political action did Fonzie actually take? A, he endorsed Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower’s 1956 presidential campaign, saying I like Ike, my bike likes Ike, B, he decried Sen. Joe McCarthy’s tactics by telling a young Republican who supported tail-gunner Joe that he was a nerd of the highest order or C, he supported the Little Rock Nine by saying in one episode that Arkansas Gov. Orvaul Faubus was uncool to keep those kids out of school.

DREYFUSS: I’d say A.

PESCA: You are correct.

GROSZ: Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

PESCA: He did indeed endorse Dwight D. Eisenhower.

(APPLAUSE)

PESCA: Richie endorsed Adlai Stevenson, and we know how that went. All right, here is your next question. “The Fonz And The Happy Days Gang” was, of course, an animated TV series that lasted three seasons. Fonzie, Ralph Malph and a dog named Mr. Cool used a time machine to intervene in historical events. I don’t have to tell you this. You’re a student of the theater.

(LAUGHTER)

PESCA: OK, so which isn’t an actual plot to an actual episode of “The Fonz And The Happy Days Gang?” A, they went to ancient Iraq where they assisted King Nebuchadnezzar in protecting his famous Hanging Gardens from an evil prince, B, they went to England in 1066, where tried to distract William of Normandy with Chuck Berry music during the Battle of Hastings or C, they visited a Peruvian jungle in 1532, where Fonzie and the gang befriended kind Incas in order to save them from Francisco Pizarro.

DREYFUSS: You’ve got to be kidding me.

PESCA: Yeah, I know.

(LAUGHTER)

PESCA: Two of these were green-lit. Which wasn’t?

DREYFUSS: The last one.

PESCA: No, I’m sorry, it was William of Normandy. But you’ve got one more chance. Get this right to win. Here’s your last question. Fonzie is honored throughout our culture, as in which of these actual examples? A, is it true that a researcher dubbed an anonymous patient who would only wear blue jeans, a white T-shirt and a black leather jacket, the patient was dubbed Fonzie in the medical literature, B, neurologists look for a symptom called the Fonzarelli Sign, in which patients give a permanent thumbs up or C, a British air-conditioner company has three settings – hot, medium and Fonzie because Fonzie’s cool.

(LAUGHTER)

DREYFUSS: There was a Fonzie neurology thing.

PESCA: Yes, the – in neurology…

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

PESCA: …There’s a symptom called the Fonzarelli Sign.

(APPLAUSE)

PESCA: Bill, how did Richard Dreyfuss do on our quiz?

KURTIS: You won.

DREYFUSS: Gary, I hope you’re happy.

(LAUGHTER)

PESCA: Gary, Richard Dreyfuss did it for you. And Richard Dreyfuss is starring in the new ABC show “Madoff.” Richard Dreyfuss, thanks so much for being on WAIT WAIT… DON’T TELL ME.

DREYFUSS: Thank you very much.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “HAPPY DAYS”)

PRATT AND MCCLAIN: (Singing) These days are ours, share them with me. Oh, happy days. These days are ours…

PESCA: In just a minute, when Chinese food is too good, it’s our Listener Limerick Challenge. Call 1-888-WAIT-WAIT to join us on-air. We’ll be back in a minute with more of WAIT WAIT… DON’T TELL ME from NPR.

Copyright © 2016 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.

Alexander Chee’s Voice Shines Through In ‘Queen Of The Night’


Readers have waited almost 15 years for a second novel from the acclaimed Alexander Chee, following the highly-praised Edinburgh. The wait is over.

The Queen Of The Night is sprawling, soaring, bawdy and plotted like a fine embroidery. Lilliet Berne is the most famous soprano in the French opera. She is offered the role of a lifetime: an original part written for her. But then she sees that the opera must be based on a part of her life she’s kept under wraps.

Who would so precisely, exquisitely and cruelly use her past against her? Lilliet Berne’s journey to discover that, and herself, propels a story of the Second French Empire featuring a number of characters also drawn from history.

In an interview with Scott Simon, Chee discusses the inspiration for his protagonist, opera singer Jenny Lind, and his connections to a character who, on the surface, comes from a very different background and place in history.

Interview Highlights

Scott Simon: Did this story begin for you with a photo of a woman in a cape?

Alexander Chee: In a way it did. That was one of the elements that was the most powerful draw, I suppose — there were a number of things. Back when I began this novel I had a writing exercise I would give my students where I would ask them to take photos that they found particularly compelling, a group of them, and kind of arrange them in an order and make a story out of them. And I suppose I did something of the same. I found this one from the Minneapolis Ice Festival in 1882: a picture of a woman wearing a fur cloak inside of a castle made entirely of ice, holding a torch, and I couldn’t quite see her face in the picture and I just, I just kept looking at it.

Reading Recommendations From Alexander Chee

SS: You spent your childhood in South Korea, Kauai, Truk, Guam and Maine. Does that variety in your background give you some sense of identity with your character?

AC: I think in writing her, I was writing about a certain sense of placeless-ness, of feeling like I was not from any particular place.

SS: A lot of people believe that [Edinburgh] had to have autobiographical themes. This novel doesn’t have such obvious similarities — or am I missing something?

AC: I have joked that it is yet another autobiographical novel from Alexander Chee. But I think the autobiography in this — to the extent that there is any in this — is in things like: When you are a professionally-trained singer in a boys choir, you are very aware that there is a time limit on your voice. And I think it was then that I began to become fascinated with women sopranos who seemed to have less of a limit because I loved my voice so much as a child and I couldn’t imagine myself, once I could sing with it, I couldn’t imagine who I would be without it and so that is very much in this book.

SS: We encounter Lilliet in so many different incarnations. Is there something about her that is always true or does she shape shift within our imaginations?

AC: That’s a very good question. I think one of the things that I always loved about her was her fierce will to live and to have a destiny that she could believe in, in a sense. And so through all of her reversals of fortune, all of her adventures, all of the disguises — that remains. But all of it, in a sense, is done to protect that will that remains. Even, in a sense, when she at one point seems to give up on it. That she has some urge to survive that’s larger than herself.

‘Downton Abbey’ Composer Explains Theme Choices




SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The days dwindle for the folks of “Downton Abbey,” both upstairs and downstairs. The hit British TV show is counting down its final season. There have been so many marriages, deaths, secret births and intrigue over the past six years. And as Tim Greiving reports, accompanying it all has been the music of John Lunn.

TIM GREIVING, BYLINE: What would “Downton Abbey” be without John Lunn’s music? Just ask Mrs. Patmore.

LESLEY NICOL: Well, I mean, you can only look better when he’s got his hands on it.

GREIVING: Lesley Nicol, who plays the house’s tetchy cook, says the music matches the show’s subtle emotions as well as its grand photography.

NICOL: From the very beginning when I heard that theme tune, you know, I just fell in love with it because it’s beautiful. I mean, it’s properly clever music.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOHN LUNN SONG, “DOWNTON ABBEY – THE SUITE”)

GREIVING: John Lunn says this piece of music, the one that releases a flood of endorphins that tell your brain it’s time for some gorgeously wardrobed scheming and delicious repartee, was never actually meant to be the main theme of “Downton Abbey.”

JOHN LUNN: In series one, there was no main title in the first episode. They just started with a telegram and then we cut to a train and so I kind of had…

(SOUNDBITE OF PIANO)

LUNN: You know, this being the train.

GREIVING: Lunn sits at a keyboard inside his London flat, which was converted from an old spice mill near Tower Bridge. He has a modern film composer setup – a fully-loaded computer, multiple keyboards and giant speakers.

LUNN: And then it cuts to a guy alone in a train looking sort of forlornly out of the window. And so the train kept going…

(SOUNDBITE OF PIANO)

LUNN: …And then I got this sort of single piano tune that picked out this guy. It’s quite lonely.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOHN LUNN SONG, “DOWNTON ABBEY – THE SUITE”)

LUNN: I mean, the best theme tunes do give you a rough idea of what you’re about to see.

GREIVING: While Lunn’s bread and butter has been composing for British period dramas, his background is in both classical and electronic music. The Scottish native studied music in Glasgow and at MIT. He’s written three operas, a violin concerto and this piece for voice and orchestra based on a poem by Charles Baudelaire.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “LE VOYAGE”)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character, singing in French).

GREIVING: John Lunn has pretty much left the classical world behind.

LUNN: I don’t what it is about classical music, but the composers are always seen as this kind of sort of god, you know, and the musicians are all kind of underneath you and have to bow to you. And it’s quite a lonely place. Whereas in modern day now, you’re very much part of a team. You know, I have my own team. I have, you know, an orchestrator. I have somebody who mixes the music for me. They’re all very equal.

GREIVING: Everything in “Downton Abbey” is recorded with a 35-piece orchestra, with Lunn playing the piano himself.

LUNN: There’s no electronics. There’s no samples. It’s like a large sort of chamber orchestra. You could almost imagine it could be fitted into their house itself.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOHN LUNN SONG)

GREIVING: Lunn wagers he probably wrote 50 different themes for the show, little melodies that function like leitmotifs in opera.

LUNN: You know, there are multiple storylines going on that sometimes the storylines can go through several series, not just one. And so, I kind of use the music as a sort of shorthand of reminding people of what’s going on.

GREIVING: Like theme he wrote for Bates, the damaged manservant.

LUNN: He had this limp. And I felt, you know, sort of sorry for him. He’d been in a Boer war, and he looked like he’d been both physically and psychologically damaged. And I came up with a – it’s a bit of a limp, actually.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOHN LUNN SONG, “DAMAGED”)

GREIVING: Or several tunes for the will-they-won’t-they couple, Matthew and Mary.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOHN LUNN SONG)

GREIVING: Lunn says when Matthew died at the end of season three…

LUNN: He took all my best tunes to the grave with him, actually (laughter).

GREIVING: He admits he was often concerned about tipping things into the maudlin. To avoid that, he made sure the emotions in the music started somewhere personal.

LUNN: If I’m wanting the audience to cry at some point – if that hasn’t happened to me in the process of trying to make that piece of music, if it hasn’t happened at least once, I can’t expect the audience to go for it either. It has to happen to me.

GREIVING: “Downton Abbey’s” success has led to an unexpected market for Lunn’s music. He’s just released the second of two albums of selections from the show. He’s performed the music in concert in Europe and is toying with performing in old stately mansions here in the U.S. But as popular as “Downton” has been for Lunn, he admits this music isn’t really him.

LUNN: It’s not music I’d do if I was left to my own devices. I’d be writing much harder, rhythmic electronica.

GREIVING: Too bad the show’s not following the Crawley family into 2016.

For NPR News, I’m Tim Greiving in Los Angeles.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOHN LUNN SONG, “DOWNTON ABBEY – THE SUITE”)

Copyright © 2016 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.