Martin, Buzzy — Teaching Guitar in San Quentin Prison

Buzzy Martin began teaching music to at risk kids in Juvenille Hall. He then taught guitar in San Quentin Prison for three and a half years, where he gained a unique “insiders” perspective about prison life, prisoners, and the guards. His book, “Don’t Shoot! I’m the Guitar Man,” chronicles his experiences teaching prison inmates, including rapists, child molesters and murderers how to play the guitar. Martin shares his experiences with incarcerated youth, to teach them that prison is not a “badge of honor,” and he reveals how music can be a universal language to open the hearts of people who may think they don’t have one.

Buzzy Martin’s memoir will be made into a movie. Visit his website for more information. 

The interview with Buzzy Martin was recorded on October 11th, 2010.

The book he recommends is, “The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, A Toltec Wisdom Book,” by don Miguel Ruiz.

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Samson, Don — The Creative Imagination of Playwright Don Samson

The creative imagination of playwright Don Samson is the topic of this edition of Radio Curious.  In May 2015, I had the good fortune of seeing a ten minute play entitled “Blind Date,” written by my long time friend, who lives in nearby Willits, California.  For many years prior to becoming a playwright, Don Samson researched and wrote legal briefs for criminal defense attorneys, an experience we also discuss in this program.

After seeing the local production of “Blind Date,” I was curious about the circumstances that came to Don Samson’s mind when he created this play, so I invited him to visit the Radio Curious studios.  We met on May 22, 2015 and began our conversation with his description of those circumstances. 

Don Samson recommends the book, which is also a play, “Antigone,” by Sophocles.

Click here to listen to the program or on the media player below.

Vogel, Barry and Gravois, John — A Interview with Radio Curious Host Barry Vogel

For this edition of Radio Curious, broadcast at the beginning of our 25th year on the air, I invited my friend John Gravois to interview me about my experiences, reflections and thoughts over the past 24 years that I’ve been the host and producer of Radio Curious. 

John Gravois is the deputy editor of Pacific Standard magazine and a contributing editor to the Washington Monthly. His work has appeared on This American Life, in The New York Times Magazine, The New Republic, and Slate, among others. He lives in Albany, California.

John Gravois and I visited in the studios of Radio Curious on December 27, 2014.  We began our conversation with his comments about the archives found on the Radio Curious website.

The books that I recommend are “The Warmth of Other Suns:  The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration,” by Isabel Wilkerson and “Jacobson’s Organ and the Remarkable Nature of Smell,” by Lyall Watson.

Click here to listen to the program or on the media player below.

Pereda, Marcos — The New Cuba: Reflections, Stories and Song

Marcos Pereda, a native of Havana, Cuba, and a singer-songwriter who lives in Ukiah, California, is our guest in this edition of Radio Curious. The background music in this weeks program is a song titled “Center” that he wrote and then performed on his guitar in our studios.  Pereda returned from a two month visit in Havana on December 20, 2014; he traveled there to attend his mother’s funeral. 

In our visit, recorded on December 22, 2014, Pereda shares his music and songs, his thoughts and experiences about life in Cuba and in the United States, and his hopes for the new relationship between the the two nations.  We began our conversation when I asked him to tell us about his mother. 

Marcos Pereda’s email is: marcosinsonte@hotmail.com.

The book he recommends is “The Little Prince,” by Antoine St. Exupery.

Click here to listen to the program or on the media player below.

Levene, Bruce — James Dean in Mendocino

John Steinbeck’s novel, “East of Eden” was published September 1952 and the movie-made soon thereafter-is the subject of this edition of Radio Curious. Our guest is Bruce Levene, author of “James Dean in Mendocino: The Filming of East of Eden.” The Mendocino Film Festival will screen “East of Eden” on Friday, November 21 and Sunday, November 23, 2014.

Soon after “East of Eden” was published, plans began immediately for a motion picture. Warner Brothers bought the rights and director Elia Kazan hired playwright screenwriter, Paul Osborn to write the film script. After several attempts to encompass the sprawling 560-page novel, they decided to use only the last 90 pages—the story of Adam Trask, his sons Aron and Cal, their mother Kate, and the girl Abra.

It’s a story about the search for love, the desperate search for his father’s love, by the son Cal, the fanciful search for his mother’s love by Aron, and the futile quest by Adam for the love of all humanity. John Steinbeck wrote of his book, “The subject is the only one that man has used of his theme. The existence, the balance, the battle and the victory and permanent war between wisdom and ignorance, light and darkness, good and evil.”

By 1954, when Kazan began searching for locale to use for the filming of “East of Eden,” neither Monterey nor Salinas, where the stories took place, looked much like California in 1917. Warner Brothers had made “Johnny Belinda” in Mendocino in 1947, which might have influenced the director.

Or perhaps as one wire service reported:  “Like many other voyagers, he just wandered up the Mendocino Coast and found what he was looking for.”

In late April, preparations for filming began and the fist day of shooting took place on May 27. In that amazingly brief time the Mendocino scenes were completed and by June 3, the Warner Brothers production team was gone, leaving local residents with fond remembrances.

Bruce Levene writes, “I first saw “East of Eden” on the fan tail of a US Navy destroyer in the Caribbean in 1956. I’d read the book but never traveled west of Des Moines. California was unseen, Mendocino was unheard of. I thought “East Eden” had been filmed in Monterey and Salinas, wherever they were.”

“East of Eden” became Levene’s favorite motion picture. Not particularly because of James Dean, although he was certainly unforgettable.

“Whatever the man was in real life, saint or sinner,” Bruce Levene writes, “we will never really know.  It’s undeniable however, that in front of an audience or camera he was remarkable. And that, for an actor, is the best thing that can be said. Dean was just something else.”

For Bruce Levene, it was how he felt about the whole movie—the shoreline, the town, it’s people, the actors: Julie Harris, Joe Van Fleet, Raymond Massey and Burl Ives (Massey and Ives didn’t go to Mendocino), and Leonard Rosenman’s wonderful music. A totality in feeling, rare in motion pictures, was only enhanced to Bruce Levene when he moved to Mendocino in 1969.

When Bruce Levene and I visited from his home in Mendocino, California, on November 11, 2014, I asked him what prompted him to write his book “James Dean in Mendocino.”

The book Bruce Levene recommends is “The Immense Journey” by Loren Eiseley.

Click here to listen or on the media player below.

Rovics, David — The Art of Political Song

Songs of a political nature are not surprising given the similarities and parallel community structures of politics and religions, with each community promoting the behaviors and concepts it supports as being the most appropriate.  The art of political song, which has been crafted and heard world wide since time immemorial, is the topic of this edition of Radio Curious.

In this program we visit with singer–songwriter David Rovics, a veritable troubadour and folk musician of our time.  He visited the studios of Radio Curious on December 9, 2012, and began our conversation when he described his work, his songs, and how he creates them.  

The following is his biography taken from his website. 
”David Rovics grew up in a family of classical musicians in Wilton, Connecticut, and became a fan of populist regimes early on. By the early 90′s he was a full-time busker in the Boston subways and by the mid-90′s he was traveling the world as a professional flat-picking rabble-rouser. These days David lives in Portland, Oregon and tours regularly on four continents, playing for audiences large and small at cafes, pubs, universities, churches, union halls and protest rallies. He has shared the stage with a veritable who’s who of the left in two dozen countries, and has had his music featured on Democracy Now!, BBC, Al-Jazeera and other networks. His essays are published regularly on CounterPunch and elsewhere, and the 200+ songs he makes available for free on the web have been downloaded more than a million times. Most importantly, he’s really good. He will make you laugh, he will make you cry, he will make the revolution irresistible.”

Click here to listen to the program or on the media player below.

Silha, Stephen — The Puckish Whimsical Life of James Broughton

The puckishly whimsical life and times of poet and film maker James Broughton is the topic of this edition of Radio Curious in a visit with Stephen Silha, the producer and director of “Big Joy,” a biographical film of the life and times of James Broughton.   

Broughton believed that in order to live an authentic life we each should follow our own weird. He says:

“I don’t know what the left is doing said the right hand.

But it looks fascinating.”

And:

“I may be infecting the whole body

said the Head

but they’ll never amputate me.”

Stephen Silha and I visited by phone from his home near Seattle, Washington on Mother’s Day, 2014.  He began our conversation by telling us what drew him to make a film about his friend James Broughton.   

The book Stephen Silha recommends is “The Man Who Fell in Love With the Moon,” by Tom Spanbauer.

The music in this week’s edition of Radio Curious is “Twirl” by Norman Arnold, from the movie, “Big Joy.”

Click here or on the media player below to listen.

Luke, Gregorio — The Day of the Dead

Most countries in the world send ambassadors to talk about and promote what their country is like and to carry on political affairs between and along other nations.  These ambassadors often have assistants known as “cultural attaches.”  They bring and share their nation’s culture, history and the folklore with their host countries. 

The cultural event known as Halloween in the United States is celebrated annually on November 1st as the Day of the Dead in Mexico and other Latin American Counties.

In 1997 Radio Curious invited Gregorio Luke, the cultural attache from the Republic of Mexico based in Los Angeles, California, to our studios when he was the Consul for Cultural Affairs. His job at that time was to broaden the Mexican cultural presence in the United States.

Our conversation began when I asked Gregorio Luke to describe the cultural gaps he sought to bridge in presenting Mexican and to tell us about the Day of The Dead.

The book Gregorio Luke recommends is ”The Crystal Frontier,” by Carlos Fuentes.

Click here to listen or on the media player below.

Click here to download the podcast.

Levitin, Dr. Daniel — Your Brain on Music Part Two

The understanding of how we humans experience music and why it plays a unique role in our lives is this topic of two interviews with Dr. Daniel Levitin, author of “This Is Your Brain on Music, The Science of a Human Obsession,” recorded from his home in Montreal, Quebec, Canada in late October 2006.

Professor Levitin runs the Laboratory for Musical Perception, Cognition and Expertise at McGill University in Montreal, Canada.  He asserts that our brains are hardwired for music and therefore we are all more musically equipped than we think.  He says that music is an obsession at the heart of human nature, perhaps even more fundamental to our species than language.  Professor Levitin believes that the music we end up liking meets our expectations of what we anticipate hearing just enough of the time that we feel rewarded, and the music that we like violates those expectations just enough of the time that we’re intrigued.

In the first interview Dr. Levitin begins by describing how the human brain learns to distinguish between music and language.

The second interview begins with a discussion of what happens when people listen to music they like.

Professor Daniel Levitin’s website is www.yourbrainonmusic.com.

The books Dr. Daniel J. Levitin recommends are, “Another Day in the Frontal Lobe,” by Katrina Firlik, and, “The Human Stain,” by Philip Roth.

Originally Broadcast: November 1, 2006 November 8, 2006

Click here to begin listening to part one.

Click here to begin Listening to part two or on the media player below.

Click here to download the podcast.

Levitin, Daniel Dr. — Your Brain on Music Part One

The understanding of how we humans experience music and why it plays a unique role in our lives is this topic of two interviews with Dr. Daniel Levitin, author of “This Is Your Brain on Music, The Science of a Human Obsession,” recorded from his home in Montreal, Quebec, Canada in late October 2006.   

Professor Levitin runs the Laboratory for Musical Perception, Cognition and Expertise at McGill University in Montreal, Canada.  He asserts that our brains are hardwired for music and therefore we are all more musically equipped than we think.  He says that music is an obsession at the heart of human nature, perhaps even more fundamental to our species than language.  Professor Levitin believes that the music we end up liking meets our expectations of what we anticipate hearing just enough of the time that we feel rewarded, and the music that we like violates those expectations just enough of the time that we’re intrigued.

In the first interview Dr. Levitin begins by describing how the human brain learns to distinguish between music and language. 

The second interview begins with a discussion of what happens when people listen to music they like.

Professor Daniel Levitin’s website is www.yourbrainonmusic.com

The books Dr. Daniel J. Levitin recommends are, “Another Day in the Frontal Lobe,” by Katrina Firlik, and, “The Human Stain,” by Philip Roth.

Originally Broadcast: November 1, 2006 November 8, 2006

Click here to begin listening to part one.

Click here to download the podcast.