KUSP Latest

Author Don Winslow

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920x920Enter the hearts and minds of those fighting on both sides of the war on drugs as host Rick Kleffel speaks with author Don Winslow about his novel The Cartel.

Winslow explores the intersection of economics, politics, crime and law enforcement the drive a conflict that has little visibility and offers few prospects for resolution

Conversations with the Late Alan Cheuse

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Author and literary scholar, Alan Cheuse. Photo: Peter Hedlund / flickr http://bit.ly/1Keg0Cx
Author and literary scholar, Alan Cheuse. Photo: Photo: Peter Hedlund-flickr-http://bit.ly/1Keg0Cx

Author and critic Alan Cheuse died last week at age 75. He regularly participated in interviews with KUSP Rick Kleffel. On this week’s Agony Column Literary Magazine show, listen back to a selection Cheuse’s insightful interviews.

Troy Jollimore, Guest Poet

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Show. He sat down with host Dennis Morton to read from and discuss Troy’s newest poetry collection, titled Syllabus of Errors, which will be published on September 29. The title is perhaps partly a reference to a Vatican document by that name (1864), which comprised an extensive list of “errors” on a wide range of “modern” subjects.

The poems in this book have a lot to say about truth, lies, falsehoods, and authority – and the often problematic relationships among them. We should expect no less from a philosopher - Troy teaches that subject at Cal State Chico. At another point in the interview, Troy noted that his students sometimes complain that he answers questions with questions. These poems employ some of that same Socratic approach.

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This is Troy Jollimore’s third visit to the Poetry Show. The first was was back in May, 2007, to talk about his first published book, Tom Thomson in Purgatory. Apropos of nothing, the timing of that visit made him the second earliest guest poet in our podcast library. Although the KUSP Poetry Show stretches back into the mists of the early 1970s, we only have podcasts from May, 2007. A second visit, in August 2011, coincided with publication of a second book, At Lake Scugog

For our most up-to-the-minute blog readers, be advised that Troy Jollimore will be reading at Bookshop Santa Cruz on Tuesday evening, August 11. This is the regular monthly “second Tuesday” poetry reading, sponsored as always by Poetry Santa Cruz. Joining Troy will be Maggie Paul – also a past Poetry Show gues

Album Review: Neil Young Protests GMO’s on ‘The Monsanto Years’

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neil-young-the-monsanto-yearsOn his latest album, “The Monsanto Years”, Neil Young, is angry. Really angry.  He’s unleashed a fiery burst of rock n roll fury aimed squarely at box stores, corporate farming and ag chemical use.

For the most part the premise works, but Neil does stretches his credibility with a few “you can see it coming” groaners like rhyming “GMO” with “Monsanto” on the whistling-snappy “A Rock Star Bucks A Coffee Shop”. How’s that for a title?

Nelson Brothers Rock

Young, who will be turning 70 this year, has long championed the family farmer and protested the use of GMOs, donating money to various causes and years of gratis performances at Willie Nelson’s Farm Aid concerts. Young’s new five piece backup band is called Promise of the Real, featuring guitar singer brothers, Lukas and Micah Nelson, sons of Willie. These young’ns are the perfect foil for Young’s style of frenzied guitar grunge and sense of urgency. The Promise certainly seems to be drinking their elder’s kool aid because they rock every bit as solid as Young’s old band Crazy Horse and seem just as upset about these earthly matters.

Young lets no one off the hook with stinging lyrics about Walmart, Safeway, Starbucks and consumers alike who all get their britches toasted on several songs such as “Big Box”, where the people “line up for more” at the expense of Main Street’s mom and pop small businesses.

In many ways, Neil Young and Promise of the Real have made  “The Monsanto Years” his most energized political rock album since “Ragged Glory”.  Despite the over all raucous, snappy hard driving rock and all eco-politics aside, not everyone wants to “realty check” along to four songs about Monsanto and 5 more targeting other corporations. And Young is fully aware of this and says so on “People Just Want to Hear About Love”.

American Gothic?

Is Neil Young’s “The Monsanto Years” just an aging geezer’s rant or a rallying call for action? It’s both. What Young is saying loud and clear, is that we need to pay attention to what’s going on with the world’s food chain right now instead of  later.  Or there will be no more Harvest Moon.

- Eric Berg

Additional notes: Check out the album cover which is a takeoff of the “American Gothic” painting with farmer Neil and his current flame, actress turned eco-activist, Daryl Hanna, holding the pitchfork. The cd version of ”The Monsanto Years” includes a very good dvd of Young and The Promise rocking out in a studio setting.

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C. J. Sage, Guest Goet

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Local poet and animal-rights advocate C. J. Sage visited the Poetry Show on August 2, 2015. She and host Dennis Morton read and discussed poetry primarily about animals. Ms. Sage edits The National Poetry Review, and has five published books:

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In addition to poetry, Dennis and C.J. discussed a rescue and sanctuary center for dogs, focused especially on a group of hunting dog breeds known as “sighthounds”.  The center is run by a 501(c)3 nonprofit called Hound Sanctuary Inc. Learn more at houndsanctuary.org.

Love and Mercy

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Listen above to the review by David H. Anthony. (Transcript posted below.)

Bill Pohlad’s Love and Mercy: The Life, Love and Genius of Brian Wilson probes links binding creative impulses and emotional trauma the Beach Boys’ gifted leader faced.

By now, many will have heard the film’s outlines. It innovatively uses actors Jeff Holman as Brian Wilson present and Paul Dano and John Cusack to depict Wilson at strikingly separate stages of adult life, past (60s) and future (80s), respectively. This may bring to mind far more complex multifold portrayals of Bob Dylan in He’s Not There.

Love and Mercy is distinct from other biopics seeking to reconstruct vivid scenarios illustrating poignant parts of the life of a tortured artist, first, because Wilson, still quite alive, called the film “very factual.” Thus it is his story in more than one way.

This may seem simple but it actually matters a great deal. Tragic tropes like neglect and abuse must be factored into the tale but so too should the protagonist’s survival.

That detail alone lends this work a rare degree of contemporaneity with its subject. However horrific the treatment meted out to the main character, he clearly endured.

Love and Mercy also addresses questions of what forms artistic inspiration might assume and the high cost of imaginative and innovative gifts. Wilson evinces agony in the act of composing. It might be as excruciating an ordeal to experience mentally while creating as can it be exhilarating in its outcome, that is, if success is achieved. Indeed often more emphasis is placed upon the price of the process than its result. Consequently, lovers of Wilson’s work may feel shortchanged in the amount heard.

At the same time, learning what it took out of him to construct it increases its value.

Also noteworthy are Elizabeth Banks as Melinda Ledbetter, Paul Giamatti as über manipulative Dr. Eugene Landy and Bill Camp as Murry Wilson, Brian’s callous dad.

Adding up the pain he felt within his brain and beyond, in the fetters with which he was shackled, it is remarkable Wilson was able to manifest anything he heard inside.

What are we to make of such an excursion into the darkest corners of consciousness and worse, the systematic denial of light by those who elected to deprive Brian of it?

There are no facile replies to those queries. To these eyes, Love and Mercy demonstrated the tenacity of a human spirit to not only withstand the evil excesses of uncaring and cruel captivity, literally and figuratively, but to prevail, passionately and persistently producing art in a manner dictated by the irrepressible imagination of the artist.

That would make Love and Mercy worth donating two hours of a viewer’s existence.

Why the Civil War Isn’t Over: David Blight and Tony Horwitz

No sooner had the nation finished celebrating the sesquicentennial of the Civil War’s end this past spring than the Charleston massacre and confederate flag fracas reminded us that the past isn’t past and the conflicts at the heart of the war still smolder. Historian David Blight has been pointing that out for years in books such as Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory. David says that America dropped the ball when it set aside Reconstruction and set about reconstructing memory itself, embracing some convenient myths and turning its back on civil rights and African Americans in the process. We talked about a legacy of lost opportunities and broken promises, willful forgetting and whitewashed history.

In part 2 of the show, Pulitzer prizewinning writer Tony Horwitz on confederate nostalgia, the “Lost Cause” tradition and Civil War revisionism. Tony explored the ways in which the war is remembered and misremembered in his 1998 bestseller Confederates in the Attic and again in a recent essay, How the South Lost the War but Won the Narrative.

Click the play arrow above to hear the interview, or the download icon on the upper right to get your own mp3. Click the share icon (the box with arrow) to embed the interview in a tweet, Facebook post, etc.

Also of interest: Our 2011 interview with Tony Horwitz, discussing his bookMidnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War.

Stephen Kessler Translates Spanish Poet, Luis Cernuda

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Layout 1On the June 21, 2015 Poetry Show, local poetry luminary (and past Poetry Show host) Stephen Kessler joined host Dennis Morton to read from and discuss his new book, a hefty volume of translations titled Forbidden Pleasures: New Selected Poems [1924-1949], by the Spanish writer Luis Cernuda. Published by Black Widow Press, the 400+ page book features Kessler’s new English translations, side-by-side on the pages with the original Spanish text.

Cernuda was one of the “Generation of ’27” (Spanish: Generación del 27), a group of young poets that arose during the 1920s. The members were scattered by the onset of the Spanish Civil War in 1936. Best-known to Americans of the group is probably Federico Garcia Lorca, who was assassinated in the early days of the war. Cernuda spent many years in the UK and US before ending up in Mexico late in life. He never returned to Spain.

20 - S. KesslerThe stars have been in alignment for the Poetry Show (or maybe it’s the hard work of Dennis Morton in scheduling guests and subjects). Last week we learned that a previous guest, Juan Felipe Herrera, has just been named United States Poet Laureate. In honor of that honor, we re-broadcast Mr. Herrera’s 2014 visit to the show. This week’s guest, Stephen Kessler, was also a guest on that 2014 show because of his long-time association with both Herrera and the Poetry Show.

Forbidden Pleasures will have its official Santa Cruz introduction on July 18 at Felix Kulpa Gallery, presented by A New Cadence Poetry Series.

CD Review: JD McPherson’s “Let The Good Times Roll”

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This is the JD’s second album for Rounder Records. Produced by Mark Neil and JD McPherson. Released February 10th, 2015. Audio review and text produced and written by KUSP’s Eric Berg.

Rjd-mcpherson-let-the-good-times-roll-846x8451etro – yes, he’s a – modern rocker  J.D. McPherson’s highly anticipated second album is finally out. It’s called “Let The Good Times Roll” and although it’s not quite as red hot as his 2012 debut, “Signs & Signifiers”, this sophomoric follow up smokes!

A former art teacher and visual artist, Oklahoma native singer-songwriter plus guitarist McPherson skirts the “retro” pigeonhole with his uncanny knack of successfully mixing musical genres and making it all seem…uh…modern, contemporary?  He takes just the right amount of traditional Americana – particularly country blues and knockdown rockabilly and lately, soul…and adds a few twists of alt rock.  By the way, McPherson has noted he did not grow up on roots music and listened to a lot of rock music like Hendrix, Zeppelin and David Bowie.

100% Original

All the songs on “Let the Good Times Roll” are written by McPherson including the title track which has nothing to do with Earl King’s song of the same name but obviously inspired by it with a big nod to both Chuck Berry and Arcade Fire.

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JD McPherson

McPherson is joined on the album once again by the Chicago based Signifier crew – musical partner and bassist Jimmy Sutton and drummer turned recording engineer Alex Hall who mixed the entire album but doesn’t a lick on it.  Co-produced by JD himself, “Let The Good Times Roll” is at times little bit too slick as in “commercial sounding” here and there. JD does seem to be venturing in to James Hunter/Jimmie Vaughn territory with a few tracks that are more blue eyed soul than twang .  Fortunately these slowed down soul pieces are more than serviceable. At times, the smooth sailing track, “Bridgebuilder” as well as  “Precious” both sound at first an awful lot like something Jimmy Cliff might have written. And on first burst of “Everyone’s Talking ‘Bout the All American” my brain screamed “David Bowie!”, but I calmed down and got with the program.

Infectious!

Okay, I really am  being too nit picky here, because, J.D. McPherson’s “Let the Good Times Roll” does just that and in a big way. “Shy Boy” and “You Must Have Met Little Caroline?” are real stand outs.  By toning the down the wild retro-billy twang a smidgen in favor of a more contemporary, polished sound, McPherson’s second album still has more than a boatload of infectious hooks and the potential to reach a larger audience seeking a little more rock’n’soul in their retro. – Eric Berg

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7th Avenue Project: Rick Doblin & MAPS: Psychedelics and Psychotherapy

Visit: 7th Avenue Project webapge.

The criminalization of psychedelic drugs in the 60s did little to halt their recreational use, but succeeded in making it nearly impossible to do legitimate research on their safety, effects and medicinal potential. Rick Doblin has spent most of his life trying to change that, and over the last 30 years, he and the organization he founded, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), have been making steady headway. After a series of successful government-authorized pilot studies on the therapeutic use of drugs like LSD, MDMA and psilocybin for a variety of psychological disorders, large-scale trials and FDA approval may soon follow. MDMA, for example, may be greenlighted for treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder as early as 2021.

On today’s show, I spoke to Rick about the long road from proscription to prescription; where the previous generation of psychedelic advocates went wrong and what’s going right this time; how psychedelics might work to assist psychotherapy for PTSD, severe anxiety, drug and alcohol addiction, and other conditions; and how that model differs from conventional psychopharmaceutical approaches. Also Rick talks about his own psychedelic experiences and why mind-altering drugs can be so life-altering.

Click the play arrow above to hear the interview, or the download icon on the upper right to get your own mp3.

Check out these audio extras:

Rick Doblin on psychedelics and placebos: in a placebo-controlled drug study test subjects aren’t supposed to know whether they’ve gotten the real thing or a dummy dose. That’s the whole point. But how do you pull the old switcheroo in psychedelic research, where the difference between a sugar pill and a hallucinogen is, er, noticeable? Rick discussed some novel solutions he and his colleagues have come up with.

Anthropologist, ethnobotanist and explorer Wade Davis from a recent conversation we had, on his own cross-cultural psychedelic investigations and those of his mentor, ethnobotanical trailblazer Richard Evans Schultes.

Writer Don Lattin on his book The Harvard Psychedelic Club, from our 2010 interview. I also spoke to Paul Lee, one of psilocybin-takers in the original 1962 Good Friday Experiment at Boston University’s Marsh Chapel.

Don Lattin on an earlier wave of consciousness explorers, including Aldous Huxley and Gerald Heard.