FROM Ross Simonini
Borderlands This week, two stories from the U.S. borders. The first, from Javier Zamora, who crossed into the U.S. without his parents when he was nine years old. The other comes from our border with Canada, which Porter Fox navigated from end to end, by canoe, freighter, and rental car, encountering an increasingly policed border, Native American uprisings, and the unmistakable impact of climate change.
Two Years With Franz The poet and Pulitzer Prize–winner Franz Wright recorded 546 audio tapes in the two years of his life after a terminal cancer diagnosis. The tapes show incredible vitality in the face of death. Over two years, Bianca Giaever listened to all 546 tapes, emerging with this hour-long story of poetry and mental illness and love.
The Voice of God Actor and writer Ellie Kemper (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), director Penelope Spheeris (Wayne’s World), and voice-over master Peter Coyote (Ken Burns’ documentaries, including The Vietnam War) describe voices from heaven, hell, and everywhere in between.
Antigonick Antigone is one of the most widely performed plays in the world. Poet Anne Carson’s experimental translation of Sophocles’ tragedy incorporates 2,500 years of its performance and interpretation. The play’s emotional core persists even as we view Antigone through all of the ways she has been viewed and used throughout her history.
The Gospel of Ndegeocello Meshell Ndegeocello’s debut album kicked off the era of neo-soul, inspiring Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, and D’Angelo. Twenty-three years later, Ndegeocello is still making art, but she’s expanded her medium with a new project that’s part theater, part church revival, with an unexpected saint at its center.
A 700-Foot Mountain of Whipped Cream From in utero to the studio, Clive Desmond gives us a history of the golden age of radio ads, featuring Frank Zappa, Ken Nordine, Linda Ronstadt, and Randy Newman. While the 1960s shift in print and TV advertising has been heavily documented and mythologized by Mad Men, Madison Avenue’s radiophonic collision with the counterculture is less well known. Here, in Clive’s private tour, each jingle becomes a Proustian madeleine.
The Ideological Organ In Stockholm, an organist plays hymns in a cathedral; at night, he sleeps in a makeshift recording studio in the cathedral’s basement where he composes otherworldly electronic music based on a Hungarian translation of the Tibetan Book of the Dead.
Incense, Sweaters, and Altadena: An Interview with Martine Syms Fresh off her first solo show at the MoMA, Martine Syms talks with the Organist about how growing up in Altadena, a red-lined suburb of Los Angeles led to her fascination with DIY culture and conceptual art. Syms draws inspiration from both famed furniture designer Charles Eames and the Ten-Point Program of the Black Panthers as she pushes herself to continually experiment in new media and new forms.
magnificentwebsite.com In this four-part episode, MF Doom, in absentia, sends imposters to wear his steel gladiator mask and rap at his concerts. Joshua Cohen, author of Moving Kings, writes a novel live online while heckled by Reddit-grade hate speech. Novelist Fiona Maazel explores the nascent form of the podcast from a 4 am retirement home toilet seat, as performed by actor Zoe Lister-Jones. Brian McMullen recites his epic catalog of unclaimed URLs.
The Show About the Show About the Show In the vein of Werner Herzog, Larry David, and Spalding Gray, the radical documentaries of Caveh Zahedi find comedy in pushing social norms. His oddly life-affirming efforts to merge lived experience with art trigger the dissolution of his marriage. When our producer Rachel James visits the set of Zahedi’s The Show about the Show, she too becomes drawn into its inescapable vortex of metanarrative.
Private Ears This week we’ll hear from two artists whose work investigates the growing prevalence of surveillance in societies around the world. Both Lawrence Abu Hamdan and Trevor Paglen approach their art as investigations: They see themselves as detectives, trying to document, though sound and image, corporate and governmental operations that are difficult for the average citizen to see or hear.
Ravening for Delight Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, and the Alien movies all trace their tone of cosmic dread back to the horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, whose stories were published in pulp magazines in the 1920s and 30s. Paul La Farge’s latest novel, The Night Ocean, takes Lovecraft as its subject (or one of its subjects): It's a fictionalized investigation into Lovecraft's unusual relationship with one of his fans, a teenager named Robert Barlow.
Previewing James Comey's blockbuster testimony Former FBI director James Comey testifies Thursday in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee, but his opening statement has been released. In it, he says he felt pressured by Donald Trump to declare loyalty to him and publicly clear him of any wrongdoing in the Russia investigation.
Securing Public Spaces, Super Wealthy Asians Vehicles are increasingly being used as weapons, as seen in the London Bridge attack over the weekend and in New York’s Times Square last month. The Compton-based company Calpipe is designing security bollards to help make public spaces safer. And novelist Kevin Kwan satirizes the “crazy rich” Asian jet set and their luxurious tastes in his latest book, “Rich People Problems.”