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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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