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Podthoughts by Colin Marshall: The Field Negro Guide to Arts and Culture

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Vital stats:
Format: One Presumably Thirtysomething Black Comedian and and One Fiftysomething Black Rock Star Bullshitting About Culture
Episode duration: ~1-2h
Frequency: erratic

Am I even allowed to review this podcast? When Max Funster Andreas “Duus” Pape — “mentioned at Min 30 sec 41 of Episode 162 of JJGO,” according to his e-mail signature — suggested I Podthink about The Field Negro Guide to Arts and Culture, my first impulse objected on grounds of my lack of qualifications: “But that’s not for white people!” My second impulse revealed the silliness of the first one. “Think of all the nerd-stuff podcasts you’ve written up,” it said. “If you can listen to two hours of discussion on Ringworld, you can damn well listen to a podcast with Negro in its title.”

It helps that this particular podcast with Negro in its title comes from two of the most likable fellows I’ve ever heard speak through an RSS feed. I already suspected I liked one of its co-hosts, comedian W. Kamau Bell, after hearing his JJGO appearance, which included a discussion of this very podcast in which Jesse brought up, with astonishment, the identity of its other co-host: Vernon Reid, guitarist, founding member, and “main guy” of the band Living Colour. As often as I deride the dominant podcasting format of Two Twenty/Thirtysomething Guys Bullshitting About Culture, hearing One Presumably Thirtysomething Black Comedian and and One Fiftysomething Black Rock Star Bullshitting About Culture comes as a veritable breath of fresh air.

Despite the early reservations about my suitability to review Bell and Reid’s program, I don’t actually buy the idea of a sharp cultural divide between “stuff for white people” and “stuff for black people.” I wondered if The Field Negro Guide would insist upon such a divide, but it actually does its part to muddle things up. Some think of space operas and comic books as white people-oriented, but damned if Bell and Reid don’t get into deep discussions of Star Wars and Spider-Man. Some think of rock music as white people-oriented, but damned if Living Colour isn’t a rock band and, if I can go by what I’ve heard from them, one hell of a rock band.

A career like Reid’s naturally generates all kinds of gripping stories — hopping on a plane moments after a show to secretly play on Mariah Carey’s debut album comes to mind — but so, even with fewer years racked up, does a career like Bell’s. For my money, their best moments come when comparing notes about the nature of performative careers, coming at performance as they do from two different angles. I’d normally prefer this, with infinite vastness, to analyses of Batman, but Bell and Reid at least do them with enough intelligence that the subject matter almost becomes irrelevant. You might expect this degree of sharpness from Bell, but Reid’s oratorial bombs impress me even more. I mean, who expects guitar geniuses to do just as well verbally? How did he find the time?

None of this is to say that these guys don’t get racial, especially as pertains to black presidents and black rock bands. All well and good, since I consider U.S. politics a branch of space opera anyway and, without the super-sized episode of Fishbone [MP3], I wouldn’t know much about Fishbone. I mostly just don’t understand a lot of it. I get what black is and what white is and all that, broadly speaking, but I find too few commonalities within those vast swaths of humanity for claims about “black people” and “white people” to resonate with me. So I wind up not feeling racial anxiety about all this, but anxiety about my absence of racial anxiety. (And if that reasoning seems tortured, wait until you see me review the other podcast “Duus” suggested.)

[Podthinker Colin Marshall also happens to host and produce The Marketplace of Ideas [iTunes], a public radio show and podcast dedicated to in-depth cultural conversation. Please hire him for something.]

My Brother, My Brother and Me 54: Thorwatch 2011

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Hope you guys like Thor. We're talking Thor. It's basically all we're about, now. Advice, and also Thor, and sometimes long-since-cancelled television crime dramas. But mostly, just the Thor, thanks.

Suggested talking points: Loki Love, Willpower, Party Avoidance, PB Proboscis, Minigolf Kidnapping, Tantric Relief, C'mon and Graduate, Cold Case, Yabba-Dabba Divorced

Werner Herzog, Writer, Director and Producer: Interview on The Sound of Young America

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Werner Herzog

Werner Herzog is an acclaimed (and prolific) film writer and director, known for narrative films like Aguirre, the Wrath of God as well as documentaries like Grizzly Man.

Herzog is known for pushing the boundaries of filmmaking and exploring humanity's extremes.

His newest film is a 3D look into the Chauvet Caves of France, where the oldest known cave paintings exist, practically untouched over thousands of years. Cave of Forgotten Dreams is in theaters now.

JESSE THORN: It's The Sound of Young America, I'm Jesse Thorn. Werner Herzog has always been known for pushing film making to its limits. His 60 feature films in 40 years have reveled in humanity at its extremes. From self taught naturalist Timothy Treadwell and the documentary Grizzly Man to crack-crazed madman Nicolas Cage in the crazy and fictional Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. In his latest film, he's found a new human boundary to push: time.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams is a 3D look into the Chauvet Cave, home of the earliest known cave paintings in the world. With a tiny crew and jury-rigged 3D cameras, Herzog looks at some of the first images ever created. The caves are tightly controlled, only open to tiny groups of researchers approved in advance by the French government. It took Herzog years to obtain the permissions necessary to even bring in a skeleton crew. He takes this rare opportunity not just to present to us the beauty of the caves, and they are amazingly beautiful, but to consider what it means to create and how we define our own humanity. In this clip from the film, a research explains why the cave paintings are tucked so far back in the cave, and Herzog narrates his first look at a painting of a bear.

Werner Herzog, thank you so much for joining me on The Sound of Young America.

WERNER HERZOG: You're very welcome.

Click here for a full transcript of this interview, or click here to stream or download the audio.

Judge John Hodgman Episode 23: Arby's-tration

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Is it appropriate to ask a cab driver to take you through a drive-thru after a long night of drinking? Nick brings this case against his friend Brandon, whom he considers a repeat offender in a breach of taxicab etiquette.

Take a ride in the Justice Cab to find out who's in the right!

Don't miss an episode: subscribe to the podcast today in iTunes or through this RSS feed.

You can also find the photo referred to in our Docket Clearing segment behind the jump.

Comedy: Jordan Ranks America, May 2011 on The Sound of Young America

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Jordan Morris

Want to know what's good in the US of A this month? Our contributor Jordan Morris has the scoop.

Stop Podcasting Yourself 164 - Jayden Pfeifer

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Guests: 
Jayden Pfeifer

Improviser Jayden Pfeifer joins us to talk karate, sneezing, and speed dating.

Download episode 164 here. (right-click)

Brought to you by: (click here for the full list of sponsors)

My Brother, My Brother and Me 53: Doctor Jamilton

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This episode of My Brother, My Brother and Me comes to you courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue. Also, courtesy of the Millwall Football Company, people who are naked all the time and an irrational anger towards science and God.

Suggested talking points: Back-up Lover, Sex and Robotics, Potluck Contest, Nakedness, Food Babies, Soccer Wedding, Jim Charm, Mister Brad, Hug Safari

Jordan, Jesse, Go! Episode 173: Enos with Mary Roach

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Guests: 
Mary Roach

Jesse and Jordan are joined by Mary Roach, author of "Packing for Mars," among other best-selling books. They discuss the committed onanism of a particular space chimp, Thor, Werner Herzog and more.

Phil Rosenthal, Creator of Everybody Loves Raymond: Interview on The Sound of Young America

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Phil Rosenthal

Fifteen years ago, Phil Rosenthal created the sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond, a show based on the absurdities and drama of normal people's real-life experiences (including those of the star, Ray Romano). The show became a huge hit and ran for nine seasons.

Now, he's the subject of a new documentary called Exporting Raymond, about the process of adapting his hit show for a Russian audience. He discusses culture shock and the challenges of translating Everybody Loves Raymond -- including tailoring it to viewers for whom the traditional sitcom is relatively unfamiliar, without losing the heart of the show itself.

Judge John Hodgman Episode 22: Tips and Tricks and Justice

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In this episode, we are joined by SPECIAL GUEST and EXPERT WITNESS Morgan Webb, of G4 TV's X-Play. John argues that using a strategy guide when playing a video game is cheating, pure and simple. His friend Josef argues that while it provides an advantage, it's not out of line to use a guide and constitutes no cheating.

You may view the evidence for this case behind the jump, and subscribe to the podcast in iTunes or through this RSS feed.

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