Conan O’Brien Plays Charlie Rose, Talks Presidential History with Edmund Morris

“This is my dream job,” Conan O’Brien says while in con­ver­sa­tion with pres­i­den­tial biog­ra­ph­er Edmund Mor­ris. He did­n’t say it when he brought Mor­ris onto Conan, his late-night talk show on TBS. He says it on Seri­ous Jib­ber-Jab­ber, an alto­geth­er dif­fer­ent oper­a­tion. On Conan, he talked to Mor­ris for sev­en min­utes; on Seri­ous Jib­ber-Jab­ber, they talk for 47 min­utes. Offi­cial­ly described as a web series where­in “Conan O’Brien has lengthy, unin­ter­rupt­ed con­ver­sa­tions with inter­est­ing peo­ple on top­ics which fas­ci­nate him,” the show casts the icon of Gen‑X irrev­er­ence not as a pur­vey­or of intel­li­gent silli­ness, but as a con­ver­sa­tion­al­ist in the mold of Char­lie Rose. In any case, he does it prac­ti­cal­ly on the set of Char­lie Rose: a table, chairs, a back­ground of purest black, and no fur­ther dis­trac­tions. (If you’re going to bor­row, they say, bor­row from the best.) O’Brien’s fol­low­ers may not know he has a fer­vent inter­est in pres­i­den­tial his­to­ry, but after watch­ing his inter­view with the man who wrote three vol­umes on Theodore Roo­sevelt and one on Ronald Rea­gan, they’ll cer­tain­ly have found out.

Though the show’s title con­tains the word Seri­ous and O’Brien speaks with gen­uine curios­i­ty through­out, it also con­tains the words Jib­ber-Jab­ber, and I doubt he has it in him not to crack jokes. This is wel­come, and a rea­son why I’d like to see him direct all of Team Coco’s con­sid­er­able resources to these inter­views from now on. He even gets into the sub­ject of pres­i­den­tial sens­es of humor — evi­dent­ly pres­i­dents aren’t allowed to have them any­more — which he picks up again in the show’s sec­ond inter­view, with com­e­dy writer and film­mak­er Judd Apa­tow. Though we get a warn­ing that O’Brien will only tape more of these con­ver­sa­tions “when­ev­er time and fate allow,” I per­son­al­ly await the next one with bat­ed breath. Some­how, the man who gave the world the Horny Man­a­tee, the Coked-Up Were­wolf, and the immor­tal Mas­tur­bat­ing Bear real­ized the most impor­tant thing about view­ers like you and me: we’d much rather watch two peo­ple dis­cuss enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly and at length sub­jects that inter­est them rather than swift­ly man­gle sub­jects they guess might inter­est us.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Conan O’Brien Writes Chica­go Blues Songs With School Kids

Conan O’Brien @ Google

Conan O’Brien Kills It at Dart­mouth Grad­u­a­tion

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

Radiohead-Approved, Fan-Made Film of the Band at Roseland for 2011’s The King of Limbs Tour

Hav­ing seen Radio­head a few times since their post-2000 Kid A trans­for­ma­tion, I can tell you first­hand that while their last sev­er­al records have trend­ed toward bed­room rock, the live show is still a full-on expe­ri­ence. No twid­dling behind lap­tops and drum machines. And if you haven’t had the plea­sure of see­ing them per­form since their break with noisy alt-rock, now you can, thanks to the fans who pro­duced the above film, shot at NYC’s Rose­land Ball­room and the sec­ond of only three shows the band played in 2011 in sup­port of The King of Limbs.

Edit­ed togeth­er from the YouTube footage of ten dif­fer­ent fans, the video is a remark­able exam­ple of crowd­sourced ded­i­ca­tion. Radio­head gen­er­ous­ly donat­ed the audio straight from the sound­board, pro­vid­ing stel­lar sound, and the fan-edi­tors obtained at least two cam­era angles for every song, giv­ing this pro­duc­tion the look of a pro­fes­sion­al con­cert film. It’s quite an achieve­ment over­all (and not the first time this has been done).

The pro­duc­ers of the film have made it avail­able for free down­load (via tor­rent). You can find more infor­ma­tion on the film at the project coordinator’s blogspot. The band and fan film­mak­ers ask that you con­sid­er donat­ing any funds you might have used to pur­chase the film to orga­ni­za­tions ben­e­fit­ting the Haiti Earth­quake Fund, or to those help­ing Hur­ri­cane Sandy vic­tims, such as Doc­tors with­out Bor­ders or the Red Cross. The film is ded­i­cat­ed to Scott John­son, the Radio­head drum tech­ni­cian who died in a stage col­lapse at an out­door con­cert in Toron­to last June.

Final­ly, in the spir­it of fan col­lab­o­ra­tion, YouTube user MountainMan1092 help­ful­ly typed up and post­ed the track­list below:

0:00:58 Bloom 0:07:23 Lit­tle By Lit­tle 0:12:07 Stair­case 0:17:02 The Nation­al Anthem 0:22:03 Fer­al 0:26:20 Sub­ter­ranean Home­sick Alien 0:31:24 Like Spin­ning Plates 0:34:50 All I Need 0:39:06 True Love Waits/ Every­thing In Its Right Place 0:44:49 15 Step 0:49:04 Weird Fishes/ Arpeg­gi 0:55:08 Lotus Flower 1:00:55 Codex 1:06:43 The Dai­ly Mail 1:10:33 Good Morn­ing Mr. Mag­pie 1:16:22 Reck­on­er 1:24:00 Give Up The Ghost 1:29:19 Myx­o­mato­sis 01:33:24 Bodys­natch­ers 1:41:28 Super­col­lid­er 1:47:17 Nude

via Slate

Josh Jones is a doc­tor­al can­di­date in Eng­lish at Ford­ham Uni­ver­si­ty and a co-founder and for­mer man­ag­ing edi­tor of Guer­ni­ca / A Mag­a­zine of Arts and Pol­i­tics.

Library of Congress Releases Audio Archive of Interviews with Rock ‘n’ Roll Icons

Back in the mid-to-late 1980s, some of the fig­ures we con­sid­er Rock and Roll icons were near or at the nadir of their pop­u­lar­i­ty. With Duran Duran, The Police and Michael Jack­son at the top of the charts, artists like George Har­ri­son, Bob Dylan and even David Bowie had put out their last great records and were wait­ing for the nos­tal­gia wheel to turn.

Enter Joe Smith, record­ing indus­try exec­u­tive and for­mer disc jock­ey. Over two years in the late 80s, while pres­i­dent of Capi­tol Records/EMI, Smith record­ed near­ly 240 hours of inter­views with a cat­a­log of major musi­cal artists from Mick Jag­ger, Bowie and Paul McCart­ney to Yoko Ono, George Har­ri­son and Lin­da Ron­stadt.

Smith used excerpts of the inter­views for the book Off the Record, pub­lished in 1988. Now retired, he has donat­ed the archive of unedit­ed audio inter­views to the Library of Con­gress. The Joe Smith Col­lec­tion will fea­ture talks with more than 200 artists. As an indus­try insid­er Smith had extra­or­di­nary access. It’s not that these artists aren’t already heav­i­ly inter­viewed and doc­u­ment­ed. It’s the inti­mate tone of the con­ver­sa­tions that pleas­es and sur­pris­es.

In a leisure­ly con­ver­sa­tion with Smith, David Bowie (above) talks about tak­ing class­es from Peter Framp­ton’s father in art school. Yoko Ono, inter­viewed in late 1987, comes across as still liv­ing in the shad­ow of her late hus­band. By now, Ono has a big­ger rep­u­ta­tion as an artist in her own right. Lin­da Ron­stadt, who Smith signed to a record­ing con­tract, reflects on her years per­form­ing at L.A.’s Trou­ba­dour night­club dur­ing the rise of coun­try rock.

By now each of these super­stars has writ­ten his or her mem­oir and the gold­en era of major labels has been dis­sect­ed by musi­cal dig­gers. So lis­ten­ing to these inter­views from the 1980s takes on a nos­tal­gic feel of its own. Smith’s ques­tions sound naive now. Isn’t it amaz­ing, he remarks to the leg­endary pro­duc­er George Mar­tin, that the Bea­t­les were so heav­i­ly influ­enced by African-Amer­i­can blues?! It’s sweet to hear leg­endary artists and an indus­try insid­er stum­ble upon obser­va­tions like that one, which have now been so thor­ough­ly digest­ed.

Smith tran­si­tioned from broad­cast radio to record pro­mo­tions, even­tu­al­ly ris­ing to exec­u­tive ranks as pres­i­dent of Warn­er Broth­ers, Elektra/Asylum and Capi­tol Records/EMI. He signed the Grate­ful Dead, Jimi Hen­drix and Van Mor­ri­son, so it’s no sur­prise that Mick­ey Hart is inter­viewed, shar­ing an inti­mate sto­ry about his father.

So far, audio for only 25 inter­views is avail­able on the library’s site. More inter­views will be uploaded over time, includ­ing one with Smith him­self in which he talks dirt about his rela­tion­ship with for­mer busi­ness part­ner Frank Sina­tra.

Kate Rix writes about dig­i­tal media and edu­ca­tion. Read more of her work at and

Ira Glass Makes Balloon Animals and Gives NSFW Advice to Teens — At the Same Time!!

Pri­or to pub­lic radio super­star­dom, Ira Glass enjoyed mod­est suc­cess as an ama­teur teenage magi­cian with a side in bal­loon ani­mals. At the behest of Rook­ie, an online mag­a­zine by and for teen girls, Glass shared some trade secrets gleaned from the 1974 pam­phlet, Roger’s Rub­ber Ark, Vol­ume II. Ignore the dia­bol­i­cal squeak­ing, and you’ll come out of this video know­ing every step that goes into a seat­ed Snoopy and a sur­pris­ing­ly ele­gant French poo­dle.

Even bet­ter than the bal­loon how-tos are Glass’ straight­for­ward respons­es to Rook­ie read­ers’ ques­tions, a chal­lenge pre­vi­ous­ly faced by Jon Hamm and Paul Rudd.

He applauds the courage of “Anony­mous,” who revealed her true feel­ings to a crush via text mes­sage. But, when pre­sent­ed with the facts, Glass con­cludes unequiv­o­cal­ly that her sen­ti­ment is not shared. (It’s not.)

The entire­ty of wom­ankind will embrace him for what he has to say to nerdy girls and those with short hair­dos.

And when the top­ic turns to con­dom eti­quette and fel­la­tio, well, let’s just say that the teenagers of the world could use more sex edu­ca­tors like Ira Glass.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Ira Glass on the Art of Sto­ry­telling

Filming a Sprinting Cheetah at 1,200 Frames Per Second

Chee­tahs are the fastest land ani­mals on Earth, able to reach speeds of up to 70 miles per hour.

Ear­li­er this year, the team at Nation­al Geo­graph­ic vis­it­ed the Cincin­nati Zoo and filmed chee­tahs run­ning at full sprint, as seen in the majes­tic video above. The Nation­al Geo­graph­ic team used a Phan­tom cam­era film­ing at 1,200 frames per sec­ond to cap­ture every nuance in the chee­tah’s gal­lop. The film­ing took three days and, so as not to bur­den the ani­mals, five dif­fer­ent chee­tahs were filmed.

You can read more about this ini­tia­tive here. Also be sure to check out the accom­pa­ny­ing Nation­al Geo­graph­ic arti­cle, “Chee­tahs on the Edge.”

Eugene Buchko is a blog­ger and pho­tog­ra­ph­er liv­ing in Atlanta, GA. He main­tains a pho­to­blog, Eru­dite Expres­sions, and writes about what he reads on his read­ing blog.

15,000 Balloons Promote TEDxAmsterdam (Watch It Live on November 30)

So what is human nature? Who are we, how do we think, feel and act? What are our lim­i­ta­tions, and how can we over­come them? What do we share, how we are dif­fer­ent, how we can be fooled and how lucky are we to be alive?

Those are the ques­tions at the heart of the 2012 edi­tion of TEDx­Am­s­ter­dam, and you can watch it live online, in HD, start­ing tomor­row morn­ing at 9am Ams­ter­dam time. (The video will stream from the TEDx­Am­s­ter­dam home­page here.)

If you check out the pro­gram, you’ll see that Dan Ariely will be among the speak­ers. He’s the Duke prof who will teach “A Beginner’s Guide to Irra­tional Behav­ior,” a Mas­sive Open Online Course (MOOC) start­ing next year. (It’s in our col­lec­tion of Free Online Cer­tifi­cate Cours­es & MOOCs from Great Uni­ver­si­ties.)

In antic­i­pa­tion of the event, artist Gui­do Ver­hoef blew up 15,000 bal­loons to reveal the true face of human nature. You can see what it looks like above.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

1377 TED Talks List­ed in a Neat Spread­sheet

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Watch as Alberto Giacometti Paints and Pursues the Elusive “Apparition” (1965)

The Swiss artist Alber­to Gia­comet­ti is most often remem­bered for his famous­ly thin, elon­gat­ed sculp­tures of the human form. But Gia­comet­ti was a sim­i­lar­ly bril­liant and orig­i­nal draughts­man who main­tained that draw­ing was the cen­tral skill of an artist. “One must stick exclu­sive­ly to draw­ing,” he once said. “If one dom­i­nates draw­ing even a lit­tle bit then every­thing else becomes pos­si­ble.”

Gia­comet­ti the draughts­man had a dis­tinc­tive way of rework­ing a line, of going over it again and again as if he were sculpt­ing in plas­ter. “When I make my draw­ings,” Gia­comet­ti said, “the path traced by my pen­cil on the sheet of paper is, to some extent, anal­o­gous to the ges­ture of a man grop­ing his way in the dark­ness.” The result­ing tan­gle of lines give his draw­ings a spe­cial vibran­cy, a sense of motion and depth on the two-dimen­sion­al plane.

In this excerpt from the 1966 film Alber­to Gia­comet­ti by the Swiss pho­tog­ra­ph­er Ernst Schei­deg­ger, we watch as Gia­comet­ti paints the foun­da­tion­al lines of a por­trait at his stu­dio in Mont­par­nasse. The footage was prob­a­bly shot in 1965, the last year of Gia­comet­ti’s life. The artist report­ed­ly saw the film not long before his death on Jan­u­ary 11, 1966. Watch­ing the film, we get a sense of Gia­comet­ti’s care for geom­e­try as he draws orga­ni­za­tion­al lines to work out the pro­por­tions. Gia­comet­ti would often leave these inter­sect­ing ver­ti­cal, hor­i­zon­tal and diag­o­nal lines–which would emerge organ­i­cal­ly as he went along–in his fin­ished works.

In the Ger­man nar­ra­tion, the speak­er describes Gia­comet­ti’s almost mys­ti­cal sense of the process: A face appears on the can­vas which is his own face but also that of anoth­er, dis­tant per­son who will appear out of the depth if only you reach out for him. But as you do reach out the per­son recedes, remain­ing just beyond your grasp. “The appari­tion,” Gia­comet­ti once said: “Some­times I think I can trap it, but then I lose it again and must begin once more.”

Spe­cial thanks to Matthias Rasch­er for his lin­guis­tic help.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Vin­tage Footage of Picas­so and Jack­son Pol­lock Paint­ing … Through Glass

Wass­i­ly Kandin­sky Caught in the Act of Cre­ation, 1926

A Poignant, Elegant Tribute to the Mars Rover Curiosity

The Curios­i­ty mis­sion on Mars will soon bring us some big news. We don’t know what it is. We just know, accord­ing to one NASA sci­en­tist, the dis­cov­ery “is going to be one for the his­to­ry books.” As we await more infor­ma­tion, we bring you this: a short film by Dan Win­ters and Shervin Shaeri that weaves togeth­er com­men­tary from NASA engi­neers and some arrest­ing pho­tographs. Togeth­er, they remind us of the heart and soul that went into putting a state-of-the-art rover on a red plan­et some 200 mil­lion miles away from our own “pale blue dot,” as Carl Sagan once called it.

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