Trimpin — Music and Thought: Pushing the Limits

Pushing limits in music and thought is the topic of this edition of Radio Curious as we visit with Trimpin, a man who makes music from unusual instruments.  He is the star of documentary film about his life’s work Trimpin, who uses a single word for his name received a Mac Arthur Genius Grant 1997.

He asserts that he is trying to “go beyond human physical limitations to play instruments in such a way that no matter how complex the composition or the timing, it can be pushed over the limits.”  The music, he said, starts with a sound in his head.  He then transforms that notion for us to hear.  The film Trimpin will be show at the Mendocino Film Festival the first weekend of June 2012, in Mendocino California.

I spoke with Trimpin from his studio in Seattle, Washington, on May 19, 2012, and asked him to comment on the characterization where he is described as a mad-scientist, a magician, or possibly a tour guide.

Rather than recommending a book, Trimpin said that he gave up reading sometime ago and replaced it with thinking.  He’d “rather think than read,” he said.

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Arlyck, Ralph — The Film Maker’s film: Following Sean… Technique and Life’s Stories

Sean, a four year old child living with his parents in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco in 1969 was the star of a short film about his life. He spoke openly his free-spirited parents, his crash pad home, watching cops bust head, and smoking pot.  Ralph Arlyck made the film while a student at San Francisco State University.

Thirty years later he located Sean and his family, and created the film Following Sean. Ralph Arlyck, our guest on this edition of Radio Curious has produced and directed more than a dozen prizewinning films.  Following Sean, is a film as much about Ralph Arlyck’s life as it is about Sean’s.  It will be shown at the Mendocino Film Festival, held in Mendocino, California, the first weekend of June, 2012, where Arlyck will receive the Albert Maysles Award for Excellence in Documentary Film Filmmaking.

Ralph Arlyck and I visited by phone from his home in Poughkeepsie, New York, on May 14, 2012, and began when I asked him how Following Sean also became a story of Arlyck’s own life.

The film Ralph Arlyck recommends isPatience (After Sebald,)” a British Film by Grant Gee.

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Reuther, Sasha — The United Auto Workers Union: Its Effect on American Life

As we all know every action has an equal and opposite reaction.  The reaction, however is not necessarily equal in time or unity.  It’s often spread over time with serial impacts.

In this edition of Radio Curious we focus on the treatment of workers in the automobile industry in the United States beginning in the early years of the 20th century. The story is portrayed in “Brothers on the Line,” a film about Walter, Ray and Victor Reuther, three brothers from West Virginia who organized the United Auto Workers Union beginning in the 1920s. With access to the National Archives, the Wayne State University Labor History Library and family records, Sasha Reuther, Victor’s grandson, directed the film.  It chronicles the working conditions and the successful strikes at the big three auto plants in Michigan; the political power of the United Auto Workers Union, and its involvement in the civil rights movement.  It also explains why Detroit, Michigan became the richest city in the United States in the 1950s.

Sasha Reuther and I visited by phone from his office in New York City on May 7, 2012.  We began when I asked him what happened once the automobile became a useful, if not necessary tool of life.

The book that Sasha Reuther recommends is “U.A.W. and the Heyday of American Liberalism, 1945 -1968,” by Kevin Boyle.

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Cherney, Darryl — The Bombing of Environmental Crusaders: “Who Bombed Judi Bari?”

In 1990 Earth First! activists from Mendocino County were on a road trip to rally support for a summer effort to help protect old growth redwoods in Northern California. For years prior, logging practices took well over 90% of the original redwood growth in the area. Darryl Cherney and Judi Bari, the organizers, were in their car in Oakland, California, in May 1990 when a bomb exploded underneath the driver’s seat where Judi Bari sat.  She and Darryl Cherney were immediately arrested and suspected of bombing themselves. Although charges were never filed against the two, authorities have yet to locate the bombers.  Darryl Cherney and Judi Bari sued and won a jury award of four million dollars against the Oakland Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for violating their 1st and 4th amendment rights.

The film, “Who Bombed Judi Bari?” produced by Darryl Cherney, attempts to answer the question posed in the title; it examines their struggle with law enforcement in finding the real bomber and chronicles the history of the local environmental movement here in Northern California.

Christina Aanestad, the Radio Curious assistant producer spoke with Darryl Cherney about the film he produced and his experiences resulting from the bombing. They visited on March 29, 2011, at the studios of KMEC radio, inside the Mendocino Environmental Center, which has a long history of supporting social and environmental movements, including Earth First! They began when Christina asked Darryl Cherney to describe the attempted assassination against him and Judi Bari.

The website for Darryl Cherney’s film is www.whobombedjudibari.com.

The book he recommends is, “The Alphabet Versus the Goddess” by Alan Shlain.

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Cohen, Jeff — When Journalism is Neither Fair or Accurate

Who gets to be in the media and who doesn’t?  That’s the topic of this edition of Radio Curious in a conversation with Jeff Cohen, co-founder of FAIR-Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting.

A commentator on Fox news, CNN and MSNBC, Cohen offers an insider’s critique of mainstream media today.  He is the author of “Cable News Confidential, My Misadventures in Corporate Media,” published in 2006.  We spoke in the studios of Radio Curious March 13, 2012 and began our conversation when I asked Jeff to discuss the subterfuge that exists in media today.

Jeff Cohen’s website is www.jeffcohen.org.

The book he recommends is Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States.”

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La Tigresa — One Woman’s Power: Fortitude and Poetry

Radio Curious Assistant Producer, Christina Aanestad speaks with performance artist and poet, La Tigresa about art and activism. La Tigresa made national headlines in 2000 for blockading a logging truck bare breasted while reciting poems of the Goddess, to save old growth redwood trees in Northern California.

The book La Tigresa recommends is “Pronoia is the Antidote to Paranoia,” by Rob Brezsny.

La Tigresa’s website is www.latigresa.net.

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Ensler, Eve –The Vagina Monologues

Radio Curious brings you an archived conversation with Eve Ensler, creator of the Vagina Monologues.

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Blank, Les — The Chef of Film Making

In this edition of Radio Curious we visit with Les Blank, film maker extraordinaire. Les Blank will receive the Albert Maysles award at the 2011 Mendocino Film Festival where his films “Burden of Dreams” and “The Blues Accordin’ to Lightnin’ Hopkins” will be presented.  John Rockwell, writing in The New York Times, describes Les Blank as, “…a documentarian of folk cultures who transforms anthropology into art.”

Though he had a long fascination with films, his career turned to film making after he saw “The Seventh Seal,” by Ingmar Bergman.   Our conversation, which was recorded by phone from his home in Berkeley, California on May 23, 2011, began when I asked him why he makes films.

The films Les Blank recommends are “The Seventh Seal” and “Through a Glass Darkly,” both by Ingmar Bergman.

Les Blank’s website is www.lesblank.com

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Frankel, Davey & Lakew, Rasselas — He Twice Ran and Won Olympic Marathons Barefoot

It is said that in the early part of World War II, it took 500,000 Italian soldiers to occupy Ethiopia, and one Ethiopian soldier to conquer Rome.

19 years later, this one Ethiopian solder, Abebe Bikila competed barefoot in the 1960 Olympiad marathon foot race in Rome, Italy, leaving all other runners in the dust. Winning the 42 kms, 195 meter race, Abebe Bikila became the first African to win an Olympic Gold Medal. Abebe Bikila, a shepherd from the plains of Abyssinia in rural Ethiopia, had never been away from his family and stunned the world with his extraordinary victory. He became the hero of Rome Olympiad and for years to come a national hero in Ethiopia. Four years later he won the Marathon at the Tokyo Olympiad becoming the first person to win two Olympic Marathon Gold Medals.

In this edition of Radio Curious we visit by phone with the Davey Frankel, from his home in Berlin, Germany and Rasselas Lakew, from his home in New York City. They are the writers, directors and producers of the movie “The Athlete,” the story of Abebe Bikila. Rasselas Lakew portrays Abebe Bikila in the lead role of “The Athlete,” and was born and grew up in Addis Abbaba, Ethiopia.

“The Athlete” tells the powerful and tragic story Abebe Bikila, a quiet man, who in many ways meets the Homer’s description in the “Odyssey.” “…the distant Ethiopians, the father outposts of mankind, half of whom live where the sun goes down and half where the rises.”

Beyond igniting East Africa’s dominance in long distance running, Abebe Bikila became a quiet champion of hope for a continent that was in the midst of its struggle for self-determination. During his career Bikila won 12 of the 15 marathons he entered. Abebe Bikila died of a brain hemorrhage on October 23rd, 1972, two and a half years after his final race and victory in Norway. He was 41 years old.

This interview with Davey Frankel and Rasselas Lakew, which was recorded on May 9, 2011, began when I asked them explain what prompted them to write and produce “The Athlete.”

The movie that Davey Frankel recommends is “My Life Without Me,” directed by Isabel Coixet. The movie that Rasselas La Lakew recommends is “Living Russian, Man With A Movie Camera,” directed by Dziga Vertov.

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Weidlinger, Tom — “Jim Thorpe, The World’s Greatest Athlete”

A sports icon of the first half of the 20th century, Jim Thorpe, was a Native American athlete who rose to athletic stardom at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, winning two gold medals at the 1912 Summer Olympics and continued, despite some controversy, to gain fame in professional baseball and football. In this edition of Radio Curious we visit with Tom Weidlinger, the director and co-writer and co-producer of the movie “Jim Thorpe, The World’s Greatest Athlete.”  Tom Weidlinger spoke from his home in the San Francisco bay area on Sunday, May 30th 2010.  I began by asking him “Who is Jim Thorpe?”

The book  Tom Weidlinger recommends is “Cutting For Stone” by Abraham Verghese.

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