Friday, March 17, 2006

Roundup of stuff worth reading or hearing

» The great Hank Stuever in the Washington Post: "A Bicepsual Concept of 'Manliness'" Great story and headline. (Get it: flexing your manly "biceps.") I love how Stuever makes it a point of picking out all the "un-manly" details of the event. Amazing excerpt: "If you've ever walked around downtown Washington and struggled with life's big questions (Subway or Cosi?) and looked up at those bland office buildings and wondered what's going on inside, this is it: Pleasant little lectures about ideas that are too big to really scintillate, in books that go unread, followed by some politely antagonistic Q and some deftly bunted A, and then free chardonnay." Slightly related, although more positive on the trend: "In the Age of the Overamplified, a Resurgence for the Humble Lecture"

» From the Times' ThursdayStyles: "Write Grandma a What?" All about the declining art of letter writing, including this fearsome prediction: "It is not far-fetched to predict that today's young people ... may never again in their lives put pen to paper to write a personal letter." I almost feel guilty blogging about this, instead of snipping it out from newspaper with scissors like old times, and enclosing the clip in a letter to a friend.

» Touching Village Voice profile of a real NYC character: "Tonight at Six: Professor Alvarado." I've seen him many times before, below Union and Times squares, and snapped a photo of him and his beloved dancing toy dolls. Apparently, that kitschy touch with the dolls was the difference between him getting and not getting a spot among the Music Under New York pantheon of performers. Also: He was a real professor of music back in the day, and still gives lessons. I should've given the guy much more credit! He's definitely getting my dollar the next time I see him. But someone oughta tell the Voice reporter that it's Beethoven's "Fur Elise," not Beethoven's "F Elise," unless that's an online typo or a joke or variation or something.

» Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley makes an appearance on NPR's site, with a cover of "Handle With Care" as the song of the day. Indie icons Ben Gibbard (of Death Cab for Cutie and The Postal Service) and Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst also sing on the track.

» And of course, it was Friday morning, so there was another minor tear-jerker of a StoryCorps excerpt on NPR, this time a son with Asperger's Syndrome asking his mom the tough questions, like "Do you have any mortal enemies?" and "Have you ever lied to me?" It was interesting how the son, born in England but living in the States now, retained his British accent, even though his mother, Sarah Littman, speaks like an American. Click through to check out Joshua's hilarious "Family Guy" T-shirt! Hearing this segment was especially meaningful since one of my friends recently told me that her younger brother was diagnosed with this condition. I think I'm acquiring a Pavlovian response to these StoryCorps excerpts. The intro music plays, the hosts introduce the interviewer and interviewee, and then their hearts open and I can't help shedding a tear or two usually, because so many of the people who are featured give such honest and true answers.

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