Terry Gross and the Art of Opening Up

Susan Burton, writing for The New York Times Magazine:

The control room had an anticipatory backstage feel. Moments earlier, a director was gesturing like a conductor, asking an engineer to ‘‘Hit it!’’ with an audio clip. In high school, Gross wanted to be a lyricist; one of the things she loves about radio is that it has ‘‘just enough theater.’’ ‘‘Fresh Air’’ is intensely collaborative, and many staff members have been there for years, including the executive producer Danny Miller, who started as an intern in 1978.

‘‘Hello, is this Sarah? Hi, this is Terry Gross. I’ll be doing the interview with you today.’’ Gross’s voice is briskly warm, with a luster that conveys the pleasure she takes in it as an instrument. For years, she took singing lessons; she told her instructor that she wasn’t trying to become good at singing — ‘‘I just want to be inside a song, to the extent that I can be. To just have my body inside a song.’’ The goal was raptness in a form she loves.

‘‘If I ask you anything too personal — I know your book is personal, but say I cross a line, just tell me, and we’ll move on,’’ she said to Hepola. ‘‘And you can tell me anything on the record or off the record. O.K.? Swell.’’

I settled in to listen. Along a long panel of buttons in the front of the room was a white plastic square with a big red arrow under it and a label that said, TALK TO TERRY BUTTON.

The best part of this piece was realizing that I’m not the only person who has rehearsed my future Fresh Air interview.


Th Atlantic Interviews The Rolling Stones—In 1971

Sara Davidson, writing for The Atlantic:

Jagger lay on his side on a couch, drinking Château Lafite-Rothschild from the bottle. The hotel in Copenhagen faced the North Sea, and the windows were thrown wide-open. With him were three other members of the Rolling Stones and a few friends, playing poker, clowning, laughing, and smoking. Much lost all the money he had on him, borrowed some, lost that, threw in his socks, and finally his room key. “There,” he said, laughing. “That’s worth a lot. It was the first night of the Stones’ Grand Tour of Europe, 1970—eight countries, nineteen cities, in six weeks—and the kickoff, a press conference at the Marina Hotel, was a letdown or both press and Stones. Reporters had come from all over Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Germany, and Austria, but they filled barely four rows of seats. The band walked in a half hour late with Jagger at the head, revved up and laughing, wearing a straw hat with flowers and ribbons in the brim, enormous round sunglasses, a blue shirt open in front, and close-fitting blue trousers. He flopped in a char and started banging the table. “Can you hear the drums?” he called to guitarist Mick Taylor, and cackled, flapping his slips. Turning to the reporters, he mugged, “Good afternoon, children. We’re here today to talk about religion.”

I forget how I stumbled across this, but man, is it a good read.


Alan Sepinwall’s Interview of Matt Weiner

Matt Weiner, responding to Alan Sepinwall’s asking why no actor on Mad Men has ever won an Emmy for their performance:

I don’t know. I don’t know. There’s always a story every year, is all I can say. There’s always a story why someone else should get it or what it is. I don’t understand awards handicapping, but I do not vote in the actors’ categories. I’ll tell you one thing. No one treats them like they haven’t won. They are revered, and I see the way other actors respond to their work. It’s the way you want. It’s like part reverence, part jealousy. They’re competitive. They are at the top of that pyramid in whatever way you want. And being nominated means that, and having the work means that.

But I have one personal theory, which is that the acting style is different on the show. That it’s very naturalistic and that is not a showy — you know, I don’t write Emmy scenes for them, either. Maybe that’s it. Elisabeth Moss always jokes that whenever she works somewhere else people are always like, “Cry your eyes out.” And I’m almost like, “Don’t cry. Do everything you can not to cry,” because I feel like that produces more emotion in the audience. But maybe it’s too much of an ensemble? I don’t know.

That’s good art—successful art—in a nutshell. Not crying when everyone else thinks you should cry.


I Love Apple, But We Should Be Leery of Them Anointing a Particular Version of Their History

Brian X. Chen and Alexandra Alter, writing for The New York Times:

The book-on-book criticism is a rare public cavalcade from Apple executives, who under Mr. Jobs kept quiet about the company’s activities. It shows the lengths that Apple is going in its effort to reshape the posthumous image of Mr. Jobs as a kinder spirit, rather than a one-dimensional mercurial and brash chief. To that end, Apple gave the authors of “Becoming Steve Jobs” interviews with four executives, including Mr. Cook. In another sign of the company’s implicit approval of the biography, the writers will discuss the book and field questions about it on Thursday at the Apple store in Soho.

Apple is also promoting the book heavily in emails and in the iBooks Store. And just to be clear, I pre-ordered the book. I’m excited to read it. But I cannot not point out just how wrong The Apple Press is about this topic in general.

I don’t doubt the sincerity of the friendship that Tim Cook, Jony Ive, et al., had with Steve Jobs. And I’m not even willing to say that their frustration with elements of the Walter Isaacson biography (a biography, as the above linked-to piece points out, that “Isaacson interviewed Mr. Jobs more than 40 times and spoke to more than 100 of his friends, relatives, rivals and colleagues, including Mr. Cook, Mr. Ive and Mr. Cue” for) isn’t real or sincere.

But the fact of the matter is that, going forward, Steve Jobs still plays a role at Apple—as part of the Apple mythology. And I don’t say that in a negative way. I think it’s totally reasonable. But let’s face it—a company that is currently set to release “the most personal product [they’ve] ever made,” a product that allows you to literally send someone a recording of your heartbeat (as well as a company that is poised to start selling their company brand as the hub of all of their products) is harmed, even in the smallest way, by the element of the Apple mythology that includes a cuss-spouting, employee badgering, disabled vehicle parking spot-taking founder. It’s the kind of stuff that any Apple Follower (myself included) knows at least a couple of stories about. And we all chuckle about them in that that’s-kind-of-horrifying-but-man-he-was-cool! way, but from a business perspective, it’s a conflicting message to say the least.

Tim Cook, Steve Job’s friend, might, for very real, personal reasons, want to see a biography that paints a more serene picture of Jobs. But Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple? As well as all of the other members of Apple’s senior leadership that have spoken out against Isaacson’s book by way of speaking up for Becoming Steve Jobs? (By the way—nobody in The Apple Press find its at least a little coincidental that this newfound disregard for the Isaacson book is only coming to light now that there’s a new, much more favorable book about to hit the shelves? Yeah, sure, they don’t talk much, but Isaacson’s book came out in October of 2011. If they found it that flagrant, I’m sorry, it would have come up by now.) You’re totally off in La La Land if you can’t see the conflict here.

I trust Apple with an awful lot of information about my life. And I don’t regret it. But the last thing we should trust them to do—or expect them to do—is abide by journalism ethics and standards. I’m going to read Becoming Steve Jobs, and I’ll probably enjoy it, but I won’t ever be able to totally forget the gross way in which Apple tried to get me to.


Livin’ Thing: An Oral History of ‘Boogie Nights’

Alex French and Howie Kahn, Grantland:

Philip Seymour Hoffman
A bunch of us visited a porn set one day.

Nicole Ari Parker
It was a female director running the shoot, really a tough cookie — a former porn star, I think. She was a real serious director in jeans, a T-shirt, and a baseball cap giving the actors direction about positioning. It was a very authentic film shoot except for the two people having sex, doggy-style, by a pool.

William H. Macy
She looked like any director I’ve ever worked with. She had X amount of hours to shoot X number of pages, and she had that same frantic gait. And the actors are sort of la-di-da, having a grand old time, you know, not worrying about the clock. Looked like any other shoot. It could have been Masterpiece Theatre.

I know, I know. Oral histories. It feels like there’s a new one every week. But this is one you should make time for. I mean, you could quote from this thing for days:

William H. Macy
This is what happened. Ricky Jay stops me and I said, “Listen, do you mind, I’m a little distracted. There’s a guy with his dick in my wife’s ass.” And that was take one. And then a second take, I said, “My fucking wife has an ass in her cock.” And Paul said, “You said, ‘ass in her cock.’” And I said, “Oh, I did? Sorry. Ha, ha, ha.” So take three, I think I did it right. Take four, he said, “You said it again.” I said, “No, I didn’t. I didn’t. I’m sure I didn’t.” He said, “You did.” I said, “I didn’t. I’m pretty sure.” We did another take. And then when I saw the film, he’d decided to use the “ass in her cock.” And that’s the genius of Paul Thomas Anderson.

Chuck Klosterman Asks Jimmy Page Some Really Ballsy Questions

Chuck Klosterman and Jimmy Page, GQ:

Did you ever need to go to rehab?


But you supposedly had a serious heroin problem, so how did you quit?

How do you know I had a heroin problem? You don't know what I had or what I didn't have. All I will say is this: My responsibilities to the music did not change. I didn't drop out or quit working. I was there, just as much as anyone else was.

There are some seriously cringe-worthy moments here. But there are also some surprisingly lucid answers. Come for the six paragraph intro, stay for the interview.


In Conversation: Chris Rock: What’s Killing Comedy. What’s Saving America.

Frank Rich and Chris Rock:

What has Obama done wrong?

When Obama first got elected, he should have let it all just drop.

Let what drop?

Just let the country flatline. Let the auto industry die. Don’t bail anybody out. In sports, that’s what any new GM does. They make sure that the catastrophe is on the old management and then they clean up. They don’t try to save old management’s mistakes.

That’s clever. You let it all go to hell.

Let it all go to hell knowing good and well this is on them. That way you can implement. You hire your own coach. You get your own players. He could have got way more done. You know, we’ve all been on planes that had tremendous turbulence, but we forget all about it. Now, if you live through a plane crash, you’ll never forget that. Maybe Obama should have let the plane crash. You get credit for bringing somebody back from the dead. You don’t really get credit for helping a sick person by administering antibiotics.

Tremendous interview. Such a smart fucking guy.

/via kottke.org


Anthony Bourdain Has Become the Future of Cable News, and He Couldn’t Care Less

Rob Brunner:

Parts Unknown is the flagship of Bourdain's somewhat accidental empire. He also presides over two other current TV programs: the PBS docuseries The Mind of a Chef (which he both narrates and executive produces) and the Esquire Network travel show The Getaway. He's a mentor on ABC's reality competition The Taste (season 3 premieres in January), and he oversees an Ecco/HarperCollins imprint that has released four books since it kicked off in May 2013. He has written six food books of his own--including his 2000 memoir, Kitchen Confidential--and several crime novels. Recently, and much to his surprise, he's even become a new face of CNN, which is currently being overhauled by former NBCUniversal president and CEO Jeff Zucker. His show could lead an industry-wide shift toward a more documentary-focused cable-news landscape.

For Bourdain, it has been a long evolution: from heroin-addicted chef to punk-rock-foodie author to global citizen on a mission to simply understand a bit about our world. It's a testament to Bourdain's work ethic and creative drive that after 14 years on television, he's still pushing to get better, go deeper, seek out complexity, avoid the obvious and conventional. At a time when he could simply coast, Bourdain seems as energized as ever.

But right now, at Tori Shin, he’s mostly just hungry.

I was a Bourdain groupie for a long, long time. I checked out towards the end of No Reservations, but after reading a few write-ups about Parts Unknown, I decided to give him another shot. I’m glad I did. I thought something about it felt different and this really great piece confirmed it. Make sure you read to the end to see what his future plans are.