Mike Leigh (BSS #238)

Mike Leigh is the filmmaker behind Naked, Life is Sweet, Vera Drake, and, most recently, Happy-Go-Lucky, which is currently playing the New York Film Festival (among many others) and opens in the United States on October 10.

Play

Condition of Mr. Segundo: Too unhappy and too unlucky.

Guest: Mike Leigh

Subjects Discussed: Vocational symmetries within Leigh’s films, Oscar Wilde, looking at a community, bad teachers, Leigh’s considerable frustrations about Poppy being “too happy,” the difficulties of filming Poppy’s jewelry, audience members misperceiving details, the confusion over Scott being a taxi driver, Bechdel’s Rule, depicting women who aren’t in relationships, the duty to portray life, Leigh’s problems with semiotics, collaborating with cinematographer Dick Pope, feeling the buzz of a visual instinct, devising Naked‘s opening shot, getting an Ozu fix, pursuing the issue of technology, flamenco dancing, MySpace, drawings and investigating domestic violence, “En-ra-ha,” Aleister Crowley, gloomy bookstore employees and literary references, shooting in High Definition, and film financing.

EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

Leigh: But as to the jewelry as a symbol of cyclical anything, I don’t know whether I’d go along with that one.

Correspondent: Okay. Well, fair enough.

Leigh: (laughs) Nice try.

Correspondent: Well, let’s talk about another possible symbol. The back pain that she experiences. This to me suggests that here we have Poppy moving forward as her specific identity — “happy-go-lucky” — and yet there is this pain in the back. And, of course, she laughs it off while she’s at the chiropractor’s office. But the thing that’s fascinating about this to me is that, well, this is behind her. So it’s almost as if she has her blinders on. She’s so focused in on moving forward that she doesn’t notice what she’s feeling in the back. And I’m wondering again how much one should read symbols into these particular choices.

Leigh: I think as we progress into this conversation — I think you are plainly a fundamental, unreconstituted, top-rate intellectual. Which I’m not. I think it’s fascinating, your analysis. But I think it’s a load of old rope. Basically. And I can’t go along with it at all. I mean, the fact is, she gets a bend in the back because she pulls her back when she’s trampolining. And it happens to be her back because that’s what she pulls. The back muscle. I think what’s more interesting about that unfortunate thing that happens to her, which gets fixed by an osteopath, not a chiropractor…

Correspondent: My apologies.

Leigh: No, no, you couldn’t, you know. But I think what is interesting, I’ve found, is that, you know, a lot of people — this has nothing to do with your question, but it’s talking about the same part of the film.

Correspondent: Sure.

Leigh: The same aspect of what happens to Poppy. You know, people are conditioned — mainly, courtesy of Hollywood — into the inevitability that something terrible is going to happen. And a number of people have thought, “Oh! She’s got cancer of the kidneys! That’s what this film is about!” Partly because the last film I made was about an abortionist. The fact is that it’s not about that. People say, “Well, couldn’t something terrible happen to her in the film?” And then you think of that. And you say, “No. Because that’s not what it’s about.” Of course, this could become a film about a woman who dies of cancer of the kidneys. But so what? That’s not what it’s about. It’s about somebody who giggles at stuff and is positive.

Correspondent: You also quibbled in another interview over people identifying Scott as a taxi driver instead of a driving instructor.

Leigh: Yeah, people say “that scene with the taxi driver.” I mean, it’s amazing. The number of people everywhere — here, in Paris, in London, in Berlin, and we’re talking about international fests — who call him a taxi driver. And it’s very curious. It’s as though this is a film about an airline pilot and people are calling him a doctor. It’s very strange.

Correspondent: I mean, I’m wondering. Could it be the way that you actually shot him? Because I know that you and Mr. Pope actually used lipstick cams to get…

Leigh: No, no. Come on. You cannot construct any correlation between how the film was shot and the fact that, for some reason, people call a driving instructor a taxi driver. You really can’t do that.

Correspondent: So it’s the audience’s problem. Not yours.

Leigh: No, no. It’s just a weird thing. I mean, I don’t think it’s even a problem. It’s just a strange quirk. But I don’t think anything should be made of it really.

Categories: Film

Bonnie Tyler (BSS #237)

Bonnie Tyler is the legendary singer behind such tracks as “Vernal Equinox of the Mind” and “Holding Out for a Supervillain.”

Play

Condition of Mr. Segundo: Nothing he can say, a total eclipse of the Bat.

Guest: Bonnie Tyler

Subjects Discussed: Tyler co-writing most of the tracks on the album, Wings, singing vs. songwriting, breaking up with managers, shyness, hairs that stand up on the back of the neck, turning down a song by Jim Steinman, songs that involve the devil, Desmond Child, James Bond, Tyler turning down the Never Say Never Again theme, Heartstrings and recording cover songs mostly from male recording artists, the song selection process, Meat Loaf, rehearsing “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” the seven minute opuses on Faster Than the Speed of Night, a group of passengers who were traumatized by Tyler singing on an Air France jet, Noel Gallagher, contending with hardcore fans, a 15-year-old Australian who claimed to be Tyler’s daughter, avoiding retirement, the number of shows Tyler performs a year, the endless onslaught of greatest hits albums, the Psion SMX and iPods, country music, Duffy, what Bonnie reads, Les Dawson, Tyler tells a bawdy joke, Botox, ageism, music videos and photo shoots, being judged on physical appearance, looks vs. voice, MTV and YouTube videos, the nightmare of making music videos, restrictions from record companies, independent labels, and music and the Internet.

EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

Correspondent: Going back to Wings, I actually wanted to talk about “Crying in Berlin.” This song, out of all the songs that I’ve listened to of yours, sounds the most like a James Bond song. And I do know the Hindustan Times reported in 2006 that the only thing that could bring you out of retirement was recording a James Bond theme of some sort. I’m wondering if you’ve considered approaching the Bond producers to sing a song just as you called up and contacted [Jim] Steinman, and said, “Hey, I want you to go ahead and produce this particular album.”

Tyler: No. It just happened. They just asked me. Would I like to do a song? And they sent me the song. “Never Say Never,” right?

Correspondent: Yeah.

Tyler: And I listened to it, and I thought, “Ugh! Shit! I don’t like it.”

Correspondent: It is one of the weakest of all the Bond themes.

Tyler: I really would die to do a James Bond song, you know? But I can’t do it. My heart wouldn’t have been in it. I had to turn it down. Now how many people turn down a Bond song, I don’t know. But I turned it down because I didn’t like it. And I was proved right. Because I think out of all the songs.

Correspondent: Who remembers it?

Tyler: I can’t even remember it.

Correspondent: (sings) “Never say never again.” Yeah, I know.

Tyler: I don’t remember. It didn’t appeal to me at all. So I turned it down. And that’s the only regret that I have. But it was…

Correspondent: It wasn’t actually an official Bond movie, technically speaking. Because it was produced outside the [Albert] Broccoli camp. So I think you’re on safe ground.

Tyler: It was a Bond movie!

Correspondent: It was a Bond movie, but it wasn’t official under the Albert Broccoli camp. It was a Sean Connery once-over. Because it was also Thunderball revisited.

Tyler: Whatever. I got offered one and I turned it down.

Correspondent: Did you consider reapproaching them and saying, “Hey, I’d love to do a James Bond song. But this one doesn’t cut it. Can I bring in one of these many songwriters who are sending me songs?” Did you try that tactic?

Tyler: No, I didn’t. But you’ve just given me a good idea. (laughs)

BSS #237: Bonnie Tyler (Download MP3)

Categories: People

Segundo Torrents

The first 200 shows of The Bat Segundo Show are now available in torrent form. There were initially six torrent packs that were released last year. But a hard drive crash wiped those files. I have repacked the first six packs, and added four more. You can download these files using any torrent client. If you’re just starting out, I recommend utorrent.

Here are the links for the torrents:

Bat Segundo Torrent Pack #1 (Shows #1-20) — Includes David Mitchell I, Jonathan Ames I, Bret Easton Ellis, Octavia Butler, Aimee Bender, Chris Elliott, and Dave Barry.

Bat Segundo Torrent Pack #2 (Shows #21-40) — Includes William T. Vollmann, Jay McInerney, Erica Jong, Alex Robinson, Tom Tomorrow, Sarah Waters, and Harvey Pekar.

Bat Segundo Torrent Pack #3 (Shows #41-60) — Includes Colson Whitehead, John Updike, the two-part David Mitchell, Jonathan Safran Foer, A.M. Homes, Jeff VanderMeer, and Robert Birnbaum.

Bat Segundo Torrent Pack #4 (Shows #61-80) — Includes Alison Bechdel, Julia Glass, Tommy Chong, Annalee Newitz, Nora Ephron, Joe Eszterhas, Richard Dawkins, and Edward P. Jones.

Bat Segundo Torrent Pack #5 (Shows #81-100) — Includes Mary Gaitskill, Kelly Link, Francine Prose, Claire Messud, Simon Winchester, Amy Sedaris, Nina Hartley, Richard Ford, Christopher Moore, Neal Pollack, and David Lynch.

Bat Segundo Torrent Pack #6 (Shows #101-120) — Includes Martin Amis, Ron Jeremy, China Mieville, Tao Lin, Lionel Shriver, Scarlett Thomas, and the two-part Berkeley Breathed.

Bat Segundo Torrent Pack #7 (Shows #121-140) — Includes Gary Shteyngart, Richard Flanagan, Katie Roiphe, Kate Christensen, William Gibson, Marianne Wiggins, Gabe Kaplan, and Naomi Klein.

Bat Segundo Torrent Pack #8 (Shows #141-160) — Includes Chimamanda Adichie, Katha Pollitt, Steven Pinker, Naomi Wolf, James Lipton, Richard Russo, the two-part Tom McCarthy, Andrea Barrett, and Will Self.

Bat Segundo Torrent Pack #9 (Shows #161-180) — Includes Stewart O’Nan, the two-part David Rakoff, Sue Miller, Jami Attenberg, A.L. Kennedy, Charles Burns, Charles Bock, and Steve Erickson.

Bat Segundo Torrent Pack #10 (Shows #181-200) — Includes Samantha Hunt, Chip Kidd, Stephen Chow, Bill Plympton, Michio Kaku, Jennifer Weiner, Richard Price, and Nicholson Baker.

More details (and torrents) to come.

Categories: Uncategorized

Markos Moulitsas (BSS #236)

Markos Moulitsas is most recently the author of Taking on the System.

Play

Condition of Mr. Segundo: Refusing to cut and run from Kenny Loggins and company.

Author: Markos Moulitsas

Subjects Discussed: Speculation on the effectiveness of protests, influencing the gatekeepers, Amy Goodman and other journalists arrested in St. Paul, small-time bloggers, Cindy Sheehan, “Free Mumia” promoters and promoting a message of unity, isolating activist sectors, Peter Dauo’s triangle of influence, Vietnam, whether or not Daily Kos has become a gatekeeper, getting media attention, Sheehan’s run as an independent candidate against Nancy Pelosi, Kucinich and the impeachment option, Ned Lamont vs. Sheehan, political narrative, the aborted Democratic presidential debate on FOX News vs. Obama’s appearance on The O’Reilly Factor, Sarah Palin, getting through to the other side, Moulitsas’s conclusions about FOX News viewers*, spreading misinformation and conjecture vs. open source journalism, why Moulitsas hasn’t employed a fact checker for Daily Kos, whether Moulitsas considers himself a journalist, and doing anything to win for politics.

EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

Correspondent: I wanted to actually ask you about your site. I mean, the Daily Kos was responsible for spreading the rumor that Sarah Palin’s son, Trig, was her daughter’s son. Howard Kurtz at the Washington Post actually asked you about this. And you said to him, “Our people are doing the vetting. Even if some of it is hitting dead ends, other ones are striking direct hits. My role is to sit back and let the citizen journalists do their job, and I amplify the stuff that shakes out.”

But I’m wondering, if this is misinformation or conjecture, what is this doing to increase the level of political discourse? Or to even help the credibility of Daily Kos? I mean, aren’t you essentially doing the exact same thing as the people who looked to Al Gore and said, “Oh, he invented the Internet.” Even though, as you pointed out in your book, well, it was intended as a joke. It was completely misconstrued. I mean, what of this? I know you have an engineer who you’ve hired. Why not hire a fact checker? Why not try to get it right? Why not actually go ahead and push the levels of reason higher than the mainstream newspapers who sometimes get things wrong?

Moulitsas: So you’re talking about me becoming the ultimate gatekeeper online by stifling anything that hasn’t been vetted by the great and mighty Kos. It is open source. It is a community. People are talking. They’re having a chat. It’s like the corner of — it’s like a sports bar. People get together and they talk about things. And, yeah, some of them are — some misinformation happens. But as a whole, the community shakes things out. This guy, who wrote the one diary, which is now infamous, right?

Correspodent: Yeah.

Moulitsas: Eventually he took it down. Because enough people at Daily Kos pointed out the flaws in the argument. And so the community was self-policing and finally realized, okay, this was a dead end. Now, of course, there was a lot of irregularities about that pregnancy that still are pretty much unexplained. I don’t think they’re explained by the original theory. But there’s some weird stuff. I mean, you don’t have your water break and then you wait ten hours to go the hospital. Because you give a speech and you go on a commercial flight to Seattle, and sit around, and take a commercial flight to Anchorage, and take a one hour drive to your hometown, and then have a baby when your water breaks. Especially a special needs child. Like Trig was. But that said, it’s her choice to make those decisions. You know, I’m a progressive. I’m assuming a doctor said it was okay for her to do that. You know, it’s between her and her doctor.

I am not Sarah Palin. I’m not trying to inject my morality into the public space. But there are some weird things that led people to ask questions. I think that’s perfectly natural. And they led to the reality that Bristol was pregnant. Which normally wouldn’t be relevant. Except that her mother (1) is a fierce opponent of sex education, is all about abstinence-only, and (2) she vetoed funding for a halfway home for pregnant teenagers. Right? So it actually matters when you legislate morality how that will affect your family life. I mean, the hypocrisy and everything else that’s attached to it.

Now that said, there’s also a great deal of investigative stuff that came out of Daily Kos that is now part and parcel of the confirmed background of Sarah Palin. Like her association with the Alaska Independence Party. The separatists.

Correspondent: Sure. But I’m talking about this misinformation here. I mean…

Moulitsas: Well, it’s all…

Correspondent: People are going to catch wind of this early part and then they’re going to look to you and say, “Well, I don’t know about Daily Kos. Sometimes, they get it right. Sometimes, they get it wrong. And I have to constantly fact check on top of this.”

Moulitsas: No, no, no. Good. I want people to look at media with a skeptical eye. Are you kidding me? If people did that, would we have rushed to war in Iraq so quickly? If people didn’t just blindly trust Judith Miller in the New York Times reporting?

Correspondent: Even at the expense of your own credibility?

Moulitsas: It’s not. The question isn’t credibility. Not my own. I didn’t write the stuff. Daily Kos people. I mean, this author’s credibility might be impacted. I don’t know. I didn’t write that stuff.

Correspondent: But the fact of the matter is that “dailykos.com” is in the link.

* Note: The specific report that Moulitsas may be referring to is this 2003 PIPA study which pointed out that FOX News watchers more most misperceptions than those who watched other networks. But there is a significant difference between FOX News watchers experiencing misperceptions and Moulitsas claiming that this audience is “the most reliable Republican constituency in the Republican party.” [sic]

Categories: Ideas, People

Daniel Levitin (BSS #235)

Daniel Levitin is most recently the author of The World in Six Songs.

Play

Condition of Mr. Segundo: Recalling a traumatic musical episode from his marriage.

Author: Daniel Levitin

Subjects Discussed: Songs that straddle multiple categories within Levitin’s taxonomy, neurological response vs. societal perception of a song, the original eight categories, oxytocin, “I Walk the Line,” Nine Inch Nails, hypothetical subspecies of comfort songs, angst and emo, Janis Ian, social comparison theory, joy songs and advertising jingles, chemical levels rising in relation to specific musical genres, serotonin levels and music, cortisol, responding to Steven Pinker’s “auditory cheesecake” controversy, Steven Mithen’s The Singing Neanderthals, the evolution of language and music, David Huron’s “honest signal” hypothesis, attempts to predict hit music, advertising and music, insincere pop music, smart audiences, the pernicious use of music, the use of Van Halen’s “Panama” to get Manuel Noriega out of his bunker, music used to torture people in Abu Ghraib, and using music in ways that it wasn’t originally intended.

EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

Correspondent: We have six categories. Can you name a single song that can be applied for all six categories? Have you considered examples along these lines?

Levitin: I’m sure if you gave me enough time, I could.

Correspondent: You have thirty seconds. (laughs)

Levitin: (laughs) Well, I’m going to go with “I Walk the Line.” Because I think it’s a very rich song. In the book, I make the case that it crosses two categories.

Correspondent: It really walks the line here.

Levitin: Right. At the surface level, I believe that it looks like a love song. A guy singing to the woman he loves, “Because you’re mine.” There’s a “you” in it. “Because you’re mine / I walk the line.” I’m not cheating on you. But the point I make in the book is that really I think at a deeper level, he’s not really singing it to her. He’s singing it to himself. It’s like a musical string around his finger reminding me of all he has at stake here. “I find it very, very easy to be true / I’m alone when each day is through.” I don’t think so. I don’t think you’ve been alone every night. And I don’t think that you find it that easy to be true. I mean, I think it’s a struggle. And he’s reminding himself of all that he has at stake. That’s a knowledge song. Self-knowledge.

Now at the same time, I think that you can argue that there’s an element of comfort here. People who have been in a similar situation take comfort in hearing it expressed this way. I listen to music often because the songwriter helps me to understand feelings that I haven’t been able to articulate. The right song comes on. Aha! That’s how I feel. And I find that comforting.

Correspondent: I’m wondering also if identifying song by the six categories is a matter of identifying perhaps a dominant and a recessive category for each particular song. Perhaps a stronger song is more likely to have at least two categories attached to it. Or maybe some songs are utterly simple and just intended to serve one purpose. I mean, it all depends on any number of factors. Maybe you can talk about this a little bit.

Levitin: Well, I think the other aspect of it is that it’s not that the songs themselves fit into six categories. It’s that these are the six ways that people use music. The six ways that people have had music in their lives. The six ways that they use to communicate with one other.

Correspondent: I wanted to ask you about comfort songs. You cite specific personal examples. But I wanted to give you a personal example that I had as a teenager. I had a tendency to blast Nine Inch Nails quite loud. It was a comfort song to me largely because I would listen to this man who was utterly depressed. And I’d say to myself in a sad state, “Oh, you know, there is someone who is worse off than me.” And it was a way for me to corral my emotions with reason. However, the examples that you use in the comfort chapter tend to be people who are looking just for emotional comfort, but not this association between reason and emotion. And I was wondering if it’s very possible that we could be talking about two subspecies of comfort songs.

Levitin: What do you mean? The connection between reason and emotion?

Correspondent: Well, by listening to Trent Reznor, I would be able to immediately understand that my own particular emotions were somewhat folly in some sense. And the rational part of my teenage brain would kick in. And I’d say, “I’m beating myself up here for no reason.”

Levitin: Kind of like listening to Morrissey.

Correspondent: Yeah, exactly!

Levitin: “I want to kill myself.”

Correspondent: Any of the emo.

Levitin: “Everything’s bad tonight.” (laughs)

Correspondent: Yeah, exactly. I mean, should we draw two types of distinctions in comfort songs along these lines? I mean, we have to factor in emo. We just do.

Categories: Ideas

Courtney Humphries (BSS #234)

Courtney Humphries is the author of Superdove

Play

Condition of Mr. Segundo: Severely underestimating the carnivorous impulses of pigeons.

Author: Courtney Humphries

Subjects Discussed: Eating squab, pigeon dining options in restaurants, Robert Dunn’s pigeon paradox, urban forms of nature, pigeons as an ineluctable aspect of the city, people’s attitudes towards wildlife, the pigeon’s place in the food chain, pigeons as the garbage disposal of Mother Nature, feral pigeons, interbreeding, when baby pigeons fend for themselves, distinguishing pigeon types, corpulent vs. svelte pigeons, individual variation, Daniel Haag-Wackernagel’s efforts to reduce the pigeon population in Basel, Switzerland, synanthropy vs. symbiotic relationships, the human failure to consider other species within our current habitats, being a social synanthropic animal, cooing sounds, birds imitating urban sounds, the difficulties of raising funds to study pigeons, Richard Johnston’s Feral Pigeons, artificial selection, General Mills’s funding of B.F. Skinner’s Project Pigeon, the folly of the pigeon-guided missile, overstating the cognitive potential of pigeons, Robert Cook’s experiments at Tufts, and Charles Walcott and pigeon homing.

EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

Correspondent: You’ve actually dined on squab. You allude to the fact that it’s delicious, that it’s dark meat. But as a carnivore and somewhat of a curio, I had to ask whether it tasted like chicken or like duck or like turkey. I mean, you didn’t go into specifics here. And I’m wondering if the experience was possibly unsettling or you couldn’t convince yourself completely that it was delicious. Because you also sympathized with these birds. But what of this?

Humphries: Yeah, I was a little bit nervous about eating them. At the time, I had been looking at pigeons for a long time and was working on this book. And so I was very interested in them. So I was a little worried about eating a pigeon, how I’d feel about it. But it was really good. Because it’s dark meat. They’re small birds. So you’re not getting huge pieces of meat. But it’s kind of a dense meat. It’s not fatty like duck is. But it’s good. And I had it again recently in Chinatown — in Boston, where I live — and it was crispy fried squab, where they didn’t deep-fry the whole bird. And they serve it to you cut in pieces including the head. So that was a little more.

Correspondent: With the head included, yeah.

Humphries: That was a little unnerving to me to have the head just lying there.

Correspondent: But you ate it anyway.

Humphries: I did. But I have to admit that I didn’t feel as great about it as the first time I had it, which was a very nice upscale restaurant. They just served some pieces of the squab sitting on some rice.

Correspondent: So that’s twice you’ve had pigeon?

Humphries: Yes.

Correspondent: Have you had it any other time?

Humphries: No, well, for one thing, it’s very expensive when you go to the nice restaurants. It can cost you a lot. You know, I wouldn’t mind trying more different varieties. I do feel that if I was eating pigeon all the time and talking about how great they are, maybe I wouldn’t. I’d feel strange.

Correspondent: You’d be branded in some sense.

Categories: Ideas

The Bat Segundo Show Now on Litstation

For those of you who hoping that the Bat might put you to sleep, you’re in luck. The new season of Litstation has started, and The Bat Segundo Show can now be listened to every night at midnight EST (9PM PST). To tune in, go to the Litstation page, and click on the “Listen on a PC” or “Listen on a Mac” button, depending upon your computer of choice. Every night at midnight, you’ll hear a random interview from the first 230 shows. We’re airing smack dab between the Poetry and Music Mix and The Left Hand Reading Series. And be sure to listen to Litstation’s many offerings if you can.

Categories: Uncategorized