Arts and Culture

Leo Reynolds via Flickr Creative Commons

Our favorite content of the week, neatly packaged for your audio pleasure. On this show, the secret science behind sports fan-dom, dogs audition for a starring role in a New Hampshire play, Cryonics is (maybe) reborn, New Hampshire prospectors pan for gold, and Baz Lurhmann talks about a new album of 20's-style jazz covers of songs by Beyonce, Jay-Z, Alicia Keys, and other pop stars.

Douglas Davis via Whitney Museum

A conservation conundrum, that’s what the Whitney Museum of American Art faced recently when it set out to restore a piece of early digital art…it was uncharted territory for the cadre of conservationists who are typically tasked with matching paint colors and cleaning centuries-old sculptures. But in 1995 when the Whitney acquired Douglas Davis’s digital creation: “The World’s First Collaborative Sentence,” there wasn’t a conservation plan in place for the restoration of digitally created work. In 2011 the Whitney began the complicated process of restoring Davis’s piece, which lay dormant since a server switch in 2005. Melena Ryzik is culture reporter for the New York Times and joined us to talk about the Whitney’s process of restoring a relic from the early days of the internet.

One of NPR’s Fifty Favorite Albums of 2012 was the self-titled debut album from Debo Band. The eleven member band, based in Boston, blends 1960’s Ethiopian music with American funk, brass band music, and rock. Tonight, the Debo Band is playing on the Dartmouth Green in Hanover. Band leader and saxophonist is Ethiopian-American Danny Mekonnen, who we spoke with about the band and their unique sound.

Carl Hiaasen

Jun 26, 2013
David J. Murray,

The #1 New York Times bestselling author is back doing what he does best: spinning a wickedly funny, fiercely pointed Florida tale in which the greedy, the corrupt, and the degraders of pristine land get their comeuppance in a mordantly ingenious, diabolically entertaining fashion.

Hiaasen joined us in Portsmouth to talk about Bad Monkey and his other books on Friday, June 14th.  First, he shared his thoughts on storm-chasers, Hollywood monkeys, and what not to do with a dead raccoon.  Then he sat down with Virginia Prescott for a great interview about Florida scam artists, his foray into YA, and the twisted true stories behind his twisted fictional plots.

Writers on a New England Stage is a co-production of New Hampshire Public Radio and The Music Hall in Portsmouth.

Andrew Wilkin via flickr Creative Commons

Developmental reading disorder, or dyslexia, is the most common  learning disability. It often manifests as difficulty in learning to read or spell fluently, resulting in poor performance on written tests. Abelardo Gonzalez is a software developer based in New Hampshire and the creator of Open-Dyslexic – an open source computer font designed to help make reading easier for those with dyslexia.

The Search For The Next Big (Dog) Star

Jun 25, 2013
Sara Plourde

The musical “Annie” opens this Friday at the Prescott Park Arts Festival in Portsmouth…more than 60 dogs barked their way through an open audition for the role of Sandy, little orphan Annie’s loveable and loyal canine sidekick. Producer Zach Nugent went to the Sandy Search  to get a look at the next big doggie sensation.

Hopkins Center TEST

We spoke with beatboxer, comedian, musician, and kinda TV talk show host Reggie Watts about his music and other ongoing projects. Reggie takes suggestions submitted via Youtube and turns them into original songs which have never before been performed, and may never be performed again. It’s all part of his online comedy collective called Jash with comedians Sarah Silverman, Tim and Eric, and actor Michael Cera. In addition to his online performances, Reggie has also been playing shows and festivals around the country. He’ll be at the Portsmouth Music Hall in the fall.

If you’re a New England sports fan of a certain age, chances are you can describe exactly what happened during game 6 of the 1986 World Series when Bill Buckner missed a roller at first.

That error allowed the Mets a winning run and further cemented the “Curse of the Bambino” in the minds of Red Sox fans…many of those same fans still get weepy when thinking of 2004 – when the Sox finally reversed the curse and won the World Series.

Along with the thrill comes the agony …just ask any Bruins fan who watched Boston’s 2 - 1 lead in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals squandered  by two Blackhawk goals in the last 76 seconds of the game.

We spoke to science writer and Radiolab contributor Eric Simons before the Bruins crushing defeat. Eric’s latest book “The Secret Lives of Sports Fans,” is his attempt to figure out the science and psychology of sports fans…and it begins with a play-by-play of heartbreak.


“Yellow Cocktail Music: The Great Gatsby Jazz Recordings”, is a kind of way-back machine for the contemporary songs featured in the new film adaptation of The Great Gatsby. Jay-Z, Will-I-Am, and Beyoncé, are featured on the original soundtrack and this follow-up album imagines what the songs might have sounded like coming out of a Victrola in 1922…with help from the Bryan Ferry Orchestra. Joining us to discuss the album is Baz Luhrmann; the distinctive director, producer, and screenwriter for Romeo and Juliet, Moulin Rouge, among others, including the movie that kicked off the summer blockbuster season – The Great Gatsby.


The Colonial Theatre in Bethlehem, New Hampshire, is among the oldest continually running movie theatres in the country, and is currently the only venue for showing independent movies in northern New Hampshire. Now, nearly 100 years after opening its doors, The Colonial may have to stop showing films. Like many indie theaters across the country, The Colonial has to convert to the digital format adopted by the film industry if it wants to show new releases. The theatre recently launched a $10,000 Kickstarter campaign to help pay for and install digital projection equipment. Stephen Dignazio is executive director of The Colonial Theatre and joins us to discuss the campaign.

Leo Reynolds via Flickr Creative Commons

Our favorite content from Word of Mouth's weekday show...all wrapped up in one gratifying and glam program.

This week: The emerging forum for high school confessions on Facebook; a sunny picture for the relationship success of online daters; a documentary looks at the life of experiential journalist George Plimpton; Dr. Who's potential recast as a woman; and Glam matters more than you know.

Glam rock paraded its outrageous self across the stage between the early and late 1970s… David Bowie, Lou Reed, and bands like T-Rex, and Roxy Music traded in mad men and hippy era masculinity for flamboyant hairstyles, blue eyeshadow and platforms shoes. Glam came from Britain, but conspired with America’s Me Generation…dropping a glitter bomb of theatrics, androgyny and gay camp on a country lurching between deprivation and hedonism. Without glam, there would be no punk, no Flock of Seagulls hair bands, goth rock or KISS…  cultural critic Mark Dery argues that glam was surprisingly radical…planting the seeds of genderplay in the minds of middle class kids, one guitar riff at a time. Mark is author of “All the Young Dudes: Why Glam Rock Matters,” the inaugural e-reader release from the new Boing Boing imprint.

If there was ever a man who knew how to fail fabulously, it was writer, journalist, and editor George Plimpton.  Ten years after his death, and sixty since he helped launch esteemed literary magazine The Paris Review, Plimpton is probably best known for his amateur antics among pro athletes – taking hits from light-heavyweight champ Archie Moore, playing quarterback for the Detroit Lions, and taking the mound at Yankee Stadium. His accounts of these stories, now acknowledged as the beginning of participatory journalism, effectively transformed Plimpton one of the greatest everyman writers in modern memory. 

For the new documentary Plimpton!, directors Tom Bean and Luke Polling combed through countless hours of footage to create a film posthumously narrated by its own subject.  Already out in select cities, Plimpton! opens Friday, June 21st at the Coolidge Corner Theater in Brookline, Massachusetts. 

© Michelle Gienow

For many of us, rekindling a connection to our food means lingering a little longer in the organic produce section while trying to pick the perfect pepper. But the “hyper-local” and “slow food” movements have created a new demand for the old ways of connecting to food…food you can grow, catch, gather and even kill…D.I.Y. style. A wide range of workshops have cropped up all over the country that offer hands-on experience with identifying edibles in your own backyard. Our next guest took a decidedly more aggressive approach to connecting with his food.

Bill Heavey, editor at large for Field and Stream, is the author of a new book which chronicles his own “mis-adventures” in hunting and gathering: It’s Only Slow Food Until You Try to Eat It.

Back in March, we spoke with Vermont novelist David Blistein, about his latest book, David’s Inferno. The book is part memoir, part brain research, part rough guide to Dante’s Divine Comedy…and it’s also, surprisingly funny. David will read from the book and talk with the audience this evening, June 6, at Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord. He spoke with us about the razor thin-line between creativity and mania, and how ricocheting between those extremes was how he thrived for many years career as an ad agency executive. Here is the earlier conversation with David Blistein, the novelist, essayist, and blogger.

Logan Shannon

This past weekend, Funspot arcade in Laconia, New Hampshire, played host to the International Classic Video Game Tournament. Gamers from all over the world have been traveling to Funspot for the past 15 years to compete against each other, sometimes on video games that were born long before they were. For many, it's a chance to play rare games that they've only heard about. For others it's a great chance to connect with like-minded friends over a friendly, albeit competitive, game of Tapper.

The competition runs for four days as participants try to post the high score on each of the tournament games. Outside the cordoned-off area reserved for the tournament, the rest of Funspot's American Classic Arcade Museum is open to the public. Mixed in amongst the novice players, you're likely to see world record holders trying to beat their high scores in between their tournament play. I spoke to three gamers who have made the nostalgic trip to Funspot repeatedly, enticed by the pristine machines and the sense of camaraderie among the players.

Special thanks to Derek Janiak for his help wrangling the elusive video gamers in their natural habitat.

lightplays via Flickr Creative Commons

Depending who you ask, the literary genre known as street lit began when Charles Dickens published Oliver Twist …or in 1969, when Iceberg Slim came out with Pimp. These gritty, slightly lurid, often violent stories focus on the underside of city life.

People like Wahida Clark, a New York Times best-selling author three times over, are becoming more and more successful as thug lit comes into its own. Other popular titles in the genre include Brother and the Dancer and The Ski Mask Way. Now, with several new imprints and tie-ins with the hip hop market, street lit is making a play for the mainstream market. Darren Sands is a New York based writer and a freelance reporter for the New York Observer, where he wrote an article called “Holler if You Read Me: African-American Writers -- and Readers – Fret Over the Future of Thug Lit.” We spoke with him about the state of thug lit and its rising popularity.

Fatoumata Diawara,

West African singer-songwriter Fatoumata Diawara has a backstory not unlike many of today’s cosmopolitan Africans. She was born in Ivory Coast to parents from Mali and now lives in Paris. She’s a stage and film actress, singer, and songwriter, all of which has given her a world of experience which shines through on her 2011 solo album Fatou. The album plays to her roots, but retains an infectious pop sensibility. Fatoumata is performing next Thursday, June 13th at the music hall in Portsmouth. We spoke to her last year before her performance at Dartmouth, just after the release of the album Fatou which is also her nickname, reflecting the very personal nature of its songs and production.

The Audio Orchard For June

Jun 4, 2013

1.Postal Service, Brand New Colony

June 12, Bank of America Pavilion, Boston, MA

2.David Byrne & St. Vincent, I Should Watch TV

The Thing in the Spring Facebook

The Thing in the Spring is coming to downtown Peterborough, New Hampshire next weekend, June 6-9th. The quirky music and arts festival has over twenty bands playing in various venues around town and its own arts fair. The ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­founders of the festival, Eric Gagne and Mary Goldwaith came to give us the scoop on “The Thing.”

We have music from some of the bands who will be at the festival, under the cut.

Alex Giron via Flickr Creative Commons

Our favorite content, all in one spit-polished piece of ear candy. 

This week, a program pairs juvenile delinquents with Russian literature, a musician asking NYC commuters what inspires them, a play about traumatic brain injury, Pulitzer Prize winning author Elizabeth, and the healing power of a special horse named Chester.


The novelist and former television producer Kate Wenner is the writer behind “Make Sure It’s Me,” a play about five Iraq War veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury and the doctor devoted to helping them. The play is premiering in New Hampshire on June 1st at Portsmouth’s West End Studio Theatre. Leslie Pasternack is the show’s director – she’s also associate director of “Act One”. 

Tristan Omand

May 23, 2013
Logan Shannon

Tristan Omand, a Manchester based singer-songwriter tells stories of America’s rough edges, his songs tend towards characters who’ve been kicked around by life, their surfaces hardened by  booze, women, and lives spent on the road. Last week Tristan came in to play a few songs in Studio D and talk about the characters and stories in his songs.


We dug up this interview from 2008 with Jason Crigler, the composer of the musical score for Make Sure it’s Me.

In August of 2004, Jason Crigler, a highly-regarded guitarist, suffered a brain hemorrhage during a gig in New York City. His pregnant wife rushed him to the hospital and got the bad news: doctors told Jason’s family that he might not live through the night, and if he did, little of the Jason they knew would be left.

Vinx has performed, recorded and toured as a singer and percussionist with Sting, Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock, and many others.  As far as we know,  he's the only R&B crooners of his caliber currently working and residing in the state of the New Hampshire.  This memorial day weekend he’ll be leading Soul Kitchen Volume 29 – that’s three days of collaborative jams and songwriting workshops hosted at Dreamsicle Arts and Entertainment Studios in Suncook Village.  But first, we invited Vinx to our Concord studio to tell us a little bit about the event, and maybe even give us a lesson or two.

Geraldine Petrovic via

While everyone else is going somewhere, musician Cathy Grier is staying still. She's the New York City Subway Girl.

“Books Behind Bars” is program which pairs undergraduates from the University of Virginia with inmates at the Beaumont Juvenile Correctional Center to read classic Russian literature. Prison staff notice a marked change in behavior among inmates who take the class, and researchers have documented similar improvements in decision-making, social skill, and civic engagement among prisoners and undergrads who participate in the class.

Blue Window Creative

Artists from one hundred and thirty-five countries have submitted sketches, doodles and ambitious notebook illustrations to The Sketchbook Project, a crowd-sourced art project that’s been exhibiting collective creativity from contributors worldwide since 2006. With more than twenty-seven thousand sketchbooks housed in its Brooklyn Art Library and a trusty mobile library hitting the road for a nation-wide summer tour, Sketchbook’s ever-growing collection of art shows no signs of slowing down; Steven Peterman, founder and director of operations for “The Sketchbook Project”, joins the program to tell us more.


Hemingway, Darwin, Joyce, Tesla and Picasso were all remarkably different in their temperament and creative output, but they had one thing in common: a successful routine. From Franklin’s solitary nude reading hour to Picasso’s silent lunch gatherings, the outstanding rituals and habits that created genius are as fascinating as they are unexpected. Combing through over 160 accounts of creative minds, Mason Currey’s new book “Daily Rituals: How Artists Work” uncovers the daily almanac of history’s most eccentric, troubled and genius figures. Mason’s writing has appeared in Slate, Print, and Metropolis, where he was an editor for six years.

Greta Rybus

The works of two important Chinese artists, the return of a festival of experimental sound, and a retrospective by a legend of pop art are all on the summer events radar of Michelle Aldredge.  She’s a writer and photographer and the creator of the Gwarlingo website and podcast. It’s an online resource for conversations about creativity and finds in the world of contemporary art.