American Culture

Sure, you loved "The Catcher in the Rye" at the age of 16...but would you still love it? You appreciated "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "Cannery Row" way back when, but would that still be the case today? And on the other hand, if the plays of Ibsen or Shakespeare didn't exactly knock you out during that long-ago sophomore year of college, do you think they'd still miss the mark? Or might they be worth another shot?

(Please note: This show first aired in December of last year.) On this edition of ST, we speak by phone with Jacob Tomsky, whose new book, "Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality," has been getting some glowing reviews from all over. A longtime veteran of the hotel biz, Tomsky here offers a detailed and unflinching yet also down-to-earth and amiable --- and, throughout, quite well-written --- autobiography about what it's really like to work (in every capacity) at an upscale hotel in America.

"How the 99 Percent Live in the Great Recession"

May 10, 2013

If the stock market these days is surging higher and higher, and if corporations near and far are reporting record-setting profits, why is the American middle class struggling to get by with less and less pay for more and more work? And why, in the years since the Great Recession first hit, does every facet of business and industry seem to have bounced back except for the American work force?

Food, glorious food --- it's so much more, of course, than what we eat. Food is memory, food is family, food is love, food is culture, and food is community.

The "new KAKC" --- an AM Radio titan from the annals of Tulsa broadcasting --- emerged in the middle 1950s, when rock and roll was just starting to make its very significant mark on American culture. KAKC was the Top 40 station in our community, and invariably one of the most popular stops on the radio dial, well into the 1970s.

What does it mean when the recent financial meltdown is fully understood by only one American citizen (or two, at the most) out of every 100 randomly chosen individuals? What should we make of law-makers --- based in Washington, DC, or elsewhere --- who debate nuclear policy when they've never taken a class in physics? What happens when people everywhere become more and more reliant on technology even as they understand less and less of it?

Our guest on this edition of StudioTulsa is A.O. Scott, who's been a film critic at The New York Times since 2000. Scott will appear at a "Talking Heads" lecture/Q&A this evening (Thursday the 4th) at Congregation B'nai Emunah in Tulsa, near 17th and Peoria. The event begins at 7pm, and there's an optional dinner beforehand, beginning at 5:45pm.

"Hank Greenberg: The Hero of Heroes"

Apr 1, 2013

The 2013 Major League Baseball season officially got underway yesterday, Sunday the 31st, with a night game between the Houston Astros and the Texas Rangers. Welcome back, baseball! And therefore, on this edition of ST, we're talking about the life, career, and influence of one of the all-time great hitters, Hank Greenberg, who joined the Detroit Tigers in 1933 and went on to share the spotlight with the legendary sluggers of that era, including Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, and Lou Gehrig.

Today on ST we speak by phone with Benjamin Lytal, who grew up in Tulsa and now resides in Chicago, and who has written for The Wall Street Journal, The London Review of Books, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Sun, The Believer, McSweeney's, and other publications. Lytal's first novel, "A Map of Tulsa," has just been published, and he'll be doing a free reading/signing in connection with this book tonight (Tuesday the 26th) at the Harwelden Mansion here in Tulsa at 7pm.

"Vex, Hex, Smash, Smooch" (Encore presentation.)

Mar 25, 2013

(Please note: This program originally aired last year.) On this installment of our show, better living through savvy verb deployment. Our guest is Constance Hale, the bestselling author of "Sin and Syntax" and other books on language, writing, and word choice. A veteran journalist and teacher, Hale has a new book out called "Vex, Hex, Smash, Smooch: Let Verbs Power Your Writing." It's a work in four chapters, each as informative as it is entertaining, and it's that rare example of a "how to" book on English usage that's genuinely accessible from start to finish.

Our guest is Richard Soudriette, who's the President of the Center for Diplomacy and Democracy, which is based in Colorado Springs. He also served as founding President of IFES, or the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, from 1988 to 2007. Under Mr. Soudriette's leadership, IFES grew into one of the premier organizations offering technical assistance around the globe in matters related to elections, civil society, rule of law, and governance. Thus he's played a key role in launching networks of elections officials in Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe, Africa, and Asia.

On today's ST, we speak by phone with the journalist, author, and veteran urbanologist Alan Ehrenhalt, whose books include "The United States of Ambition" and "The Lost City." Ehrenhalt's latest book, "The Great Inversion and the Future of the American City," is just out in paperback. This book argues that the roles and characteristics of America's cities and suburbs are basically changing places with one another --- younger adults and affluent retirees are moving into the city, while immigrants and the less affluent are moving out to the 'burbs.

On this installment of ST, we speak by phone with the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Edward Humes, whose previous books include "Force of Nature" and "No Matter How Loud I Shout," and whose latest book, just recently out in paperback, is "Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash." This book presents an unsettling yet fascinating and highly detailed profile of America's biggest export, its most prodigious product, and perhaps its greatest legacy: garbage.

Dorothy Parker (1893-1967), the great American critic, fiction writer, poet, and satirist --- that famously witty (and frequently scathing) scribe whose many brilliant assertions include "I don't care what is written about me so long as it isn't true" and "if all the girls who attended the Yale prom were laid end to end, I wouldn't be a bit surprised" --- is now back in business. That is, she's cracking wise all over again, in a manner of speaking, in a new book.

On StudioTulsa today, we speak by phone with Dr. Steve Perry, a passionate, down-to-earth, and plainspoken --- make that outspoken --- education-reform advocate who's best known as the founder and principal of Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford, Connecticut. This school has sent one-hundred percent of its predominantly low-income, minority, first-generation high-school graduates to four-year colleges every year since its first class graduated in 2006. Dr.

When Bruce Sorrell was starting his tenure, about a year ago, as Executive Director of Chamber Music Tulsa, someone told him that this outstanding organization --- which will turn 60 next year, and which has been bringing world-class music ensembles to our community for decades --- was "one of Tulsa's best-kept secrets." As he tells us on this edition of ST, Sorrell wants to change this.

When we say that someone is a "tinkerer," we might be offering a word of praise...or a put-down. Today's edition of ST explores the positive definition of the "tinkerer," as a creative inventor or innovator.

(Please note that this interview originally aired in October of last year.) Our guest is Jeanne Marie Laskas, the director of the writing program at the University of Pittsburgh. She's also an acclaimed journalist whose writing has appeared in GQ, The Washington Post Magazine, Smithsonian, and Esquire.

Today on ST, we speak by phone with the author and journalist, Tanya Biank, whose book, "Army Wives," is the basis for the popular series of the same title on Lifetime TV. Biank is also the daughter, sister, and wife of U.S. Army colonels, and during her days as a newspaper reporter, she traveled around the globe with American soldiers. Biank's new book, just out, is called "Undaunted: The Real Story of America's Servicewomen in Today's Military" --- and this is what we're discussing with her on our program.  Given the decision, announced one week ago, by U.S.

On this installment of ST, we speak by phone with Frank Chaves, the artistic director of River North Dance Chicago, a critically acclaimed dance organization, founded in 1989, that continues to perform at leading venues around the world. This company is recognized for its skilled and emotive dancers, stimulating music, and bold choreography. Chaves, who's also the company's main choreographer (and who's been with the company for two decades now), tells us that River North Dance Chicago is especially dedicated to merging jazz, ballet, and contemporary styles of movement.

Marcel Proust has his little madeleine cakes. Calvin Trillin has Arthur Bryant's BBQ in Kansas City. And Tulsa-based writer and editor Mark Brown has, well, his mother's bygone fried chicken. Food, for so many of us, is about much more than taste and sustenance, much more than flavors and rations. It's about culture, society, tradition, and practically everything else --- about the past, the seasons, our memories, our loved ones. Food is as basic to the human species as are celebrations, rituals, fingerprints, or dreams.

Talk about the influential use of language.... Did you know that "bloviate," "lunatic fringe," "iffy," "military-industrial complex," "Anglophobia," "public relations," and "ottoman" are all terms or phrases that have been either coined or popularized by various U.S. Presidents over the years?

On this "best of" edition of our show, we're listening back to a discussion we had by phone last year with Jack Hitt, who's a contributing editor to The New York Times Magazine, Harper's, and public radio's This American Life.

On this "best of" edition of our show, we're listening back to a discussion from earlier this year with Professor David Blight, the acclaimed Civil War historian based at Yale University.

The Best of ST in 2012: "Panther Baby"

Jan 2, 2013

On this "best of" edition of our show, we're listening back to a discussion from earlier this year with the author and activist Jamal Joseph. Joseph's autobiography, "Panther Baby: A Life of Rebellion and Reinvention," is the focal point of our chat; it's an engrossing hybrid of coming-of-age candor, street-savvy wisdom, and recent socio-political history.

The Best of ST in 2012: Bob Balaban

Dec 27, 2012

On this "best of" edition of our show, we're listening back to a discussion with the well-known Hollywood actor --- and children's book author --- Bob Balaban. When we spoke with Mr. Balaban by phone, back in early October, he had just put out a book called "The Creature from the Seventh Grade: Boy or Beast" (Penguin Young Readers Group). We spoke with him about this work, and about his efforts as a writer and actor --- and film producer / director / screenwriter --- more generally.

The Best of ST in 2012: Arlie Russell Hochschild

Dec 26, 2012

On this "best of" edition of our show, we're listening back to a discussion with the noted sociologist and bestselling author, Arlie Russell Hochschild. The focal point of our interview is Hochschild's latest book, "The Outsourced Self: Intimate Life in Market Times." You can read a full description of this discussion --- and hear a free, on-demand "stream" of same --- at this link.

Our guest on this installment of ST is J.B. Kaufman, an author and film historian on the staff of the Walt Disney Family Foundation. He's just put out an extensively detailed and lavishly illustrated coffee-table book, "The Fairest One of All: The Making of Walt Disney's 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.'" This year marks the 75th anniversary of this classic film's initial release, and Kaufman's hefty volume explores every facet of the making of the film, with pages and pages of never-before-published facts and artwork.

On this edition of our show, we speak by phone with Keith Ochwat, the Managing Director of the non-profit Documentary Foundation, which has produced some notable films that have appeared on PBS-TV. This organization's latest film, "Age of Champions," is due to appear on PBS in 2013. It's an inspiring, highly engaging group portrait of several different athletes/participants in the National Senior Olympics, and Ochwat is the film's producer.

Remembering Dave Brubeck, a Jazz Titan

Dec 6, 2012

On this edition of StudioTulsa, we remember the great jazz pianist and composer Dave Brubeck, who died yesterday at 91. (He would have turned 92 today, the 6th.) Rich Fisher spoke with Brubeck back in the fall of 1996, prior to a Tulsa concert appearance. Brubeck's quartet with saxophonist Paul Desmond and drummer Joe Morello was among the most popular bands (of any sort) of the 1950s and '60s, and even today, their 1959 album, "Time Out," remains one of the most popular jazz recordings of all time.

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