Sarah Abdurrahman is a producer for On the Media
OTM Staff Picks: October 31st 2011
Monday, October 31, 2011 - 02:53 PM
Your weekly dose of recommendations from the staff of OTM. Give us some of your own down in the comments section and enjoy!
Sarah Abdurrahman: "In a Sentimental Mood" performed by Duke Ellington and John Coltrane. Listening to it will put you in a sentimental mood, but the story of how Ellington composed the piece is actually kind of funny. Ellington said he came up with the piece after a performance in Durham, North Carolina:
"We had played a big dance in a tobacco warehouse, and afterwards a friend of mine, an executive in the North Carolina Mutual Insurance Company, threw a party for Amy. I was playing piano when another one of our friends had some trouble with two chicks. To pacify them, I composed this there and then, with one chick standing on each side of the piano."
It's a beautiful piece. Take a break from your day and listen to it:
Doug Anderson: I have a confession to make: I am a huge fan of the Oprah Winfrey Network. In particular, I've fallen under the spell of a documentary/reality series called "Our America With Lisa Ling." Each hour-long episode focuses on a marginalized subculture in the US: from gay evangelicals to rural heroin addicts to polygamists. As someone who usually prefers more dry, investigative documentary programs like PBS's "Frontline", I was originally turned off by Lisa's teary confessionals in this show. I've since come to appreciate her role in helping us interpret these stories with compassion and tolerance. The show is in its second season and airs Sundays at 10/9c.
Jody Avirgan: On this Halloween, some fantastic pictures of people getting scared out of their pants at a haunted house Niagra Falls, Ontario.
Through the magic of Longform.org and Instapaper, I usually discover one or two long nonfiction pieces per week that I wouldn't have otherwise. This week I'm blown away by Meghan Daum's 1999 piece on ambition, class, architecture and debt in New York City. Read My Misspent Youth if you've ever lived or thought about living in New York City.
And finally, the soundtrack to this past weekend (as #snowtober descended) was Duncan Browne's 1968 album "Give Me Take You." I've read an interview in which Browne, like virtually all musically-inclined teenagers in the mid-60s, discusses how he was enamored with Bob Dylan. But it was Dylan's guitar playing and tuning that fascinated Browne, not his lyrics. I like hearing that—Dylan doesn't get enough credit as a guitarist—and the influence comes through on this album. Next time the weather turns lousy, give it a spin.
Bob Garfield: "Caterina in the Big City". In this charming, funny, intermittently inspiring and heartbreaking little 2003 film from Paolo Virzi, we come to discover that it isn't about money, it isn't about knowledge, it isn't about talent, it isn't even about ideology. It's all about class—except when innocent desire transcends even that. This movie uses cartoonish stereotypes along the path to subtle observations. And it's delightful.
Alex Goldman: In 2009, Edan, the Boston based emcee/producer extraordinaire, best known for his 2005 psychedelic hip-hop masterpiece Beauty and the Beat (and some other great tunes), was given complete unfettered access to the archives of The Traffic Entertainment Group to put together a mix tape. Who is the Traffic Entertainment Group, you say? Well, they’re the parent company of a host of classic hip hop record labels including B-Boy Records, Delicious Vinyl, Cold Chillin, Dope Brothers, Sleeping Bag and Strong City. The end result is the 29-minute mix tape Echo Party, an entertainingly weird, unrelenting hip-hop freakout. Check out this four-and-a-half minute snippet from Echo Party, accompanied by some Technicolor craziness.
Chris Neary: My staff pick this week is "The Real Rocky" a new documentary from ESPN. The "Real Rocky" is Chuck Wepner—the boxer who inspired Sylvester Stallone to write the movie. (How much Wepner is in the Rocky character is a matter dispute between Wepner and Stallone). "The Real Rocky" is creative about telling the story of someone’s life the same way that "American Splendor" was—and they both end up redeeming an underdog.
PJ Vogt: The Death of Ivan Ilyich, this novella by Tolstoy. It is so good. Not good in the sense of, "You should read old Russian novellas because they're like vegetables for your brain," but truly enjoyable. It's grim and funny and absurd, like a Coen Brothers movie or "The Wire". It takes place right after the death of a government official, and it's about how his family, friends, and acquaintances react—basically they all concoct schemes to work their friend's death to their advantage.
Anyhow, don't take my word for it, read it for free on the internet!