Arts and Culture

Leo Reynolds via flickr Creative Commons

Welcome to the Word of Mouth Saturday show where we take all our freshest content, pop it in the audio blender and pour out a refreshing glass of public radio awesome. On this week's show:

  • Hogwarts for orphans? Natasha Vargas-Cooper tells us about San Pasqual Academy, a new kind of group home that is trying to create a stable environment for teenage foster kids.
  • A Disney convention for die-hard fans. Move over Comic-con, Disney is trying to create the ultimate fan event. Jordan Zakarin covered this years D23 event in Anaheim for Buzzfeed.
  • Vietnam through the eyes of photographers. Curator Kurt Sundstrom stopped by the studio to tell us about the Currier Museum of Art's new exhibit, "Visual Dispatches from the Vietnam War."

Jessica Verma

Vaud and the Villains is the 19-piece group known for putting on rollicking musical theater and cabaret shows with a "New Orleans in the 1930s" twist. The band is performing this weekend at The Music Hall in Portsmouth.

Joining us is bandleader Andy Comeau, also known as "Vaud Overstreet," as well as his wife, Dawn Lewis, A.K.A "Peaches Mahoney."

Sam Kinison, the comedian known for screaming politically incorrect rants with the passion of a preacher, became on of the biggest comedy acts of the 1980's. He died in 1992, just shy of his 40th birthday.

Chris Canibano has helped turn the life of Kinison, whom many regard as a comedic genius, into a comic book called, simply, "Sam Kinison."

© Don McCullin, courtesy of Hamiltons Gallery, London.

America’s ambivalence about the Vietnam conflict began with the photograph of a monk, engulfed in flames, sinking to the pavement on a Saigon street, and another image, capturing the moment a uniformed officer fires a bullet into the head of a man in a plaid shirt, and still later, a naked girl,  screaming as she runs from a cloud of black smoke.

These iconic pictures are among those collected in “Visual Dispatches from the Vietnam War” on view at the Currier Museum of Art until November 11. The show’s curator, Kurt Sundstrom, talked with us about the show and its groundbreaking images.

kndynt2099 via Flickr Creative Commons

You don’t have to be a geek to know about the San Diego Comic Con, the annual convention that attracts celebrities, industry big-wigs, and fanboys and girls dressed as their favorite comic book superhero or villain.  

In Annaheim, California this August, thousands of costumed super-fans descended on another massive expo… some decked out as superheroes, but more princesses, pirates, mermaids and mice.

The D23 Expo is a bi-annual celebration of all things Disney.  Jordan Zakarin is Entertainment Reporter for Buzzfeed, where we found his exploration of the peculiar brand of obsession that sets Disney super-fans apart. 

Via Photobrew

Gary Burton was thirteen when he first heard jazz. By then, he’d been playing the marimba for seven years, and had toured around his home state of Indiana with his siblings. “The Burton Family” band came apart shortly after Gary heard Benny Goodman’s band playing a song called  "After You’ve Gone."

That song helped launch a career that has spanned the globe, the decades, collaborations with musicians from Chick Corea to Stan Getz to Astor Piazolla, and originated what’s called the "Burton Grip," playing the vibraphone holding two mallets in each hand.

Now 70, Gary Burton is a seven-time Grammy award winner. He’s the former Executive Vice-President at Berklee College of Music and has spent the majority of his life playing and teaching jazz. Burton has a new album, called "Guided Tour," and a new autobiography called, Learning to Listen: The Jazz Journey of Gary Burton.

Abigail Washburn

Aug 29, 2013

Abigail Washburn and Bela Fleck are a banjo playing husband and wife duo. Bela,  a fifteen time Grammy winning virtuoso on the instrument plays "Scruggs Style". Abigail  plays "Clawhammer" and sings…together they whip their respective styles into intricate music that sounds big and new. We asked Abigail Washburn about her peculiar journey into music and life on the road with her family. The duo will be at The Music Hall in Portsmouth tomorrow night.

Guus Krol via flickr Creative Commons

Not so long ago, “Americana” was the term for rusty milk jugs, embroidered pillows and souvenir spoon collections found at antique stores. In the mid-1990s, it became the nickname for the rootsy, twangy, weather-beaten music of bands like Uncle Tupelo, Alison Krauss, and a man who embodies rebellion against the country music establishment…Johnny Cash. Americana stalwarts like Wilco, Ryan Adams, Gillian Welch and the big-selling collaboration of Alison Krauss and Robert Plant revived the music of an America that was appealing to boomers and those to the left of the “real” America celebrated by conservatives.


Say the name "Joyce Maynard" and you’re likely to get some pretty visceral reactions…from those who’ve admired her career since her time as a reporter for the New York Times and her later syndicated column “Domestic Affairs,” and from her detractors…those who are critical of her relentless self-examination and her revelations about her relationship with J.D. Salinger. Salinger was living as a recluse in Cornish, New Hampshire when he began exchanging letters with Maynard after reading an article she wrote as a freshman at Yale. She dropped out of college and moved in with Salinger. She was eighteen…Salinger was 53.

Eric Schwortz Photography via Flickr Creative Commons

Contemporary music, local and international acts, ten concerts, seven venues and three days of music…that’s the promise of the Parma Music Festival that begins Aug. 14 and runs through the 17 in Portsmouth.  Music fans can hear world musicians, hometown artists, classical, contemporary and chamber music alike; music for film, electronica, SCI panel discussions, a kid’s concert… and many of these events are free!  Dipping into this all you can eat buffet of music is Bob Lord. We guarantee that listeners will have heard his theme for NHPR’s “The Exchange” and his clever covers of thematic songs as leader of Dreadnaught, the house band for our Writers on a New England Stage series.  He now wears his other hat as CEO of Parma, and the keynote speaker for the festival.

Apollo 13 Comes Safely To New Hampshire

Aug 8, 2013
Todd Bookman

“Houston, we have a problem!”

Tom Hanks’ famous line as astronaut and Apollo 13 Flight Commander Jim Lovell has become an emblem of a dramatic slice of American history.  Now, a youth theater in Wilton is bringing Apollo’s big drama to a much smaller stage.

Actors age 8 to 18 will be taking on deep-space, mission-control and an iffy re-entry in Apollo 13, an original musical opening tomorrow night at Andy’s Summer Playhouse. NHPR’s Todd Bookman sat in on rehearsals, and produced this audio postcard.

The City Dark

Aug 8, 2013
(Photo by Dave Dehetre via Flickr)

PBS is hosting an encore broadcast of the documentary The City Dark. The film, part of the POV series, will be airing on August 12. Last year we spoke with director Ian Cheney about light pollution and the development of the film. Here is our conversation with him after the debut of the documentary last summer.

Donato Cabrera is the music director of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra, resident conductor of the San Francisco Symphony, music director of the Green Bay Symphony Orchestra, and most recently, the director of music for the New Hampshire Music Festival.  The six-week celebration of classical and chamber music performed each summer at the Silver Center at Plymouth State University is coming to a close on Aug. 16.  Back in June, Virginia Prescott spoke with Donato Cabrera about his work and the then upcoming festival.

Playing Pac Man In The Library

Aug 6, 2013

According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, younger patrons don’t use libraries only as a place to study, they also go there to “hang out” in place that feels calm. It’s a little less serene at the Chattanooga Public Library.  Justin Hoenke is the teen librarian there...we were a little stunned to find an article Justin wrote called “Why I bought an original 1981 Ms. Pac Man Arcade machine for my library”


Recounting his relationship with Dungeons and Dragons, David Ewalt writes, “I don’t know if I played D&D because other kids my age thought I was a nerd, or if they thought I was a nerd because I played D&D.”  The progenitor of many of today’s role-playing games has gained a reputation for attracting social outcasts and misfits and as a gateway for teenage boys to consider Satan and suicide. Like millions of kids who played twenty-side die in basements and game rooms across the country, Ewalt grew up…and had less time for a game that could suck up the idle hours of youth. He’s among those picking up the old dice bag for a D&D revival. David Ewalt is now an editor for Forbes, and author of the new book Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons and Dragons and the People Who Play It. It hits stores August 20th.

Chris Valdes and Ted Griswold via Kickstarter

Los Tigres del Norte’s 1972 breakthrough hit, “Contrabando y Traicion” – is a song which, despite its cheery tone and instrumentation, tells the dark tale of two lovers trafficking marijuana in the tires of their car…a story that ends in betrayal and murder.   The song is what is called a “narco-corrido”, or drug ballad.  After returning from a two-year stint teaching grade-school in one of the most dangerous parts of Honduras, Ted Griswold and Chris Valdes find themselves wanting to return… they’re raising funds on Kickstarter for a documentary film about Honduras’ most famous underground drug-ballad band, Los Plebes de Olancho.

A Plot Twist We All Saw Coming: Writers Like Alcohol

Aug 1, 2013
tout_moi via Flickr Creative Commons

The notion that the creative muse can be found in booze is as old as the ancient Greek myths. Literary genius, unlocked by alcohol, is part of the legend of Tennessee Williams, F Scott Fitzgerald, Dorothy Parker, Dylan Thomas and countless other sodden successes. Many of whom we imagine at the typewriter in a sepia-toned, romantic haze, rather than embarrassing themselves, sloppy, or shaking with DTs. 'Why do writers drink?'  wondered Blake Morrison  -- himself a poet – author and professor of creative and life writing at Goldsmiths, University of London. He’s also a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, who wrote about why …and how…writers drink for The Guardian.

rbrucemontgomery via Flickr Creative Commons

Children’s books are delightful, colorful, and whimsical ways to introduce children to reading. Although parents may find it a wee bit annoying to repeat the same stories night after night, reading to kids is crucial to healthy childhood development and helps form their vision of a world outside of their own. A study released last year found that children’s books are woefully under-representative of cultural diversityJason Boog is editor of the publishing website GalleyCat – he’s working on a book about reading to kids, and has been keeping an eye on content for kids.

Brian House via

IBM calculates that the human race creates 2.5 quintillion bytes of data per day, with information ranging from scientific research to consumer tracking to social media output. As businesses, governments and researchers continue to search for new ways to parse through this vast amount of information, one man is searching for the bridge between data collection and everyday life. In his project “The Quotidian Record,” Brian House interprets a year’s worth of his own location and movement data into an 11 minute musical track, morphing binary code into warm vinyl rhythm. House is a doctoral student at Brown University in the Music and the Modern Culture and Media Departments; he also teaches at the Rhode Island School of Design. He created the quotidian record while he was a member of The New York Times Research and Development Lab.

Harper Collins

Nearly three years have passed since Long Island police uncovered the bodies of four dead girls along their local ocean parkway. Following the discovery, authorities uncovered commonalities among the deceased that included internet prostitution and a poor, working class socio-economic background. These revelations, coupled with a fifth girl who disappeared nearby under similar circumstances, resulted in the pursuit of a faceless serial killer who left behind very few leads.

laudachooos via Flickr Creative Commons

You’ve heard of whiffle-ball… how about whiffle-hurling?  Class-conscious kickball?  Imaginary soccer?  These absurd-sounding games are among the growing number of highly conceptualized art-sports invented by artists and shown on YouTube, and other online video sites. Brooklyn-based artist Tom Russotti is founder of the Institute for Aesthletics… yes, that’s athletics and aesthetics rolled into one. The institute combines sports, participatory art and conceptual social activities. Tom’s games have been invented, played, performed, and experimented with at museums, schools, and arts organizations all over the world.

Leo Reynolds via Flickr Creative Commons

Our favorite content, curated in one amazing hour of radio. This week, the science behind J.K. Rowling's unmasking, a guy who played Mr. Darcy at a Jane Austen Summer Camp, the Libertarian festival for Seasteaders, a new telescope technology that will send balloons into space, regular folks drive NASCAR cars, and a musician who writes songs based on the New York Times column, "Modern Love."

Courtesy Jared Mezzocchi

The Little Prince is one of the most read and beloved books in the world. The novella, written by the poet and aristocrat Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, drops two main characters from the sky…a downed pilot and a prince fallen to earth on a tiny asteroid. Though known mostly as a children’s story, The Little Prince was written during the escalation of World War II and contains clever criticism of society, lessons on human nature and whimsical watercolor illustrations. The Little Prince has been adapted for radio, film, ballet, and opera, and stage – including a production at Andy’s Summer Playhouse in Wilton, New Hampshire in the late 1990s that was especially memorable to our guest, Jared Mezzocchi. Now a successful multimedia director and projection designer, Jared is back to stage his own production of The Little Prince, which runs until July 27th.

Thalita Carvalho via Flickr Creative Commons

Last week, author J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame was uncovered as true author behind The Cuckoo’s Calling, a mystery novel written under the pen-name Robert Galbraith. Signed first editions of the book are now selling for over six thousand dollars, a testament to the value of a name. The reporters at the Sunday Times who broke the Rowling story consulted several academics whose methods of determining authorship relied heavily on software they had developed for that very purpose.

UNC Chapel Hill Jane Austen Summer Program on Facebook

This year marks 200 years since the publication of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Britain has been celebrating all things Austen…from a proposal that the author’s portrait will grace the new ten-pound note…to erecting a giant replica of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy emerging from a river in Hyde Park.

Leo Reynolds via Flickr Creative Commons

Our favorite content of the week, wrapped up in one audio-licious program. This week, author Chuck Klosterman defines villainy, the Cronut craze catches a Harvard researcher's eye, head transplants are given an examination, robots roll into vinyards, and a pair of hard-partying vegetarians share their take on potato salad (spoiler alert: it's got Doritos in it!)

Festival Indie Rock via Flickr Creative Commons

There’s plenty to do this summer weekend in New England, including a few Word of Mouth favorites and others yet to be discovered. In the favorites category, Ethan Lipton, the man Time Out New York says is to lounge lizardry what Peter Sellers's Inspector Clouseau is to policing, performs “No Place To Go” at the Hop at Dartmouth on July 20th.  The Obie-Award winning theatrical song cycle is about the anxieties and driftlessness of being suddenly jobless. Ethan and his orchestra then travel to the Music Hall in Portsmouth to play songs from their vast and repertoire of old-timey style swing and songs.

Chuck Klosterman Tells Us Who Is More Villainous

Jul 16, 2013
Comitted Few/GCPanthergirl via Flickr Creative Commons

After speaking with Chuck Klosterman about his new book, I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling With Villains, and the nature of villainy, we gave him a quick quiz about some of the subjects he writes about in the book. He tells us who is more villainous with frequently hilarious, and thought-provoking, answers.

sarahelizamoody via Flickr Creative Commons

Our sunniest content of the week, all in one smart and snazzy hour. This week, misogyny online, the return of legal internet poker, an app that proves you're on a public beach, surprising summer reads, and a photographer's documentation of vanishing highway rest stops.

stevec77 via flickr Creative Commons

There’s nothing more tempting than a day off spent soaking up the sun on a hot beach with a good read. Summer reads don’t have to be mindless, though. Michele Filgate likes to find the perfect book for every occasion, and isn’t afraid to add some substance to the usually light fare offered by summer reading suggestions — Michelle is a writer, book critic, and independent bookseller at Community Bookstore in Brooklyn.