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November 12, 2006


Author Frank McCourt talks to the Miami Herald about the American education system and his memoir, Teacher Man.

''Too many people have too much at stake in schools,'' he says. 'The bureaucrats and, above all, the politicians. They really don't want a thinking populace. And the parents are in on this. They don't want their kids asking questions. One of the typical questions is half sincere and half rebellious: `Why do we have to study this?' 'Because it's on the curriculum.' That doesn't answer the question. The real answer could lead to a rich discussion: 'What the hell we're doing here?' But they don't want that. They want the kids to be nice and obedient, because we have to compete with the world. We might be only No. 11, just below the Romanians, in calculus. We have to worry about things like that. Can you imagine Socrates viewing American education?''

The Denver Post profiles the new wave of "indie comedians."

"I think we all kind of owe it to David (Cross)," Posehn said. "He made that connection first with Sub Pop, and Patton (Oswalt) jumped right in and did it with Aimee Mann's label. It's so smart and so obvious too. We all kind of went, 'Oh yeah, of course. We should be on a music label."'

Country singer Gretchen Wilson talks to Metromix about her memoir, Redneck Woman: Stories from My Life.

Wilson said all she could do was compare book writing to songwriting. "In a song, you generalize so that listeners can put themselves into the story. But a book is just about you, so it's more detailed," Wilson said. "I hope people will read parts and think, `I know exactly how she felt. I can attach myself to that.'"

In the Chicago Sun-Times, Jim DeRogatis interviews Mick Jones, formerly of the Clash.

Q. Right. The Clash at its best was raw, ragged and very immediate. And I think that's what so many bands, from Rancid to Green Day and on and on, continue to imitate.

A. Perhaps. I just wish they would do their own style. I don't mind that they copy us, but I think in the end, you still need a bit of an idea of your own. I do believe in the punk ideal that everybody can do it, but you need to have a bit of an idea and some talent. The thing for me is that rock 'n' roll is more than just a type of music; it's so much more an attitude and a spirit.

Metromix lists Bob Dylan projects turned fiascoes.

The Asheville Citizen-Times profiles former resident, Marisha Pessl, author of Special Topics in Calamity Physics.

Pessl was in his first Advanced Placement English class. “There were very talented students in that class,” he said, mentioning two now in New York trying to make careers as actors, “but she was clearly the one who was going to do something great in literature.”

Unicorn Meat is an mp3 blog examining music from older 78s and LPs.

The Sunday Times talks to singer-songwriter Jarvis Cocker about playing Pulp songs solo.

What’s it like having to do Common People now, I ask. It’s such a colossal bit of rock heritage. Do you resent it, mind having to play it? “We used to jazz it up just to keep it fresh, but the audience really hated that,” he says. “You’ve got to do it exactly like the record. It’s their song, not mine, and actually it’s not a track you can just coast through. It’s quite emotional. Starts off quiet and gets pretty angry. You can’t fake it.” It’s a brilliant, brilliant song, I say. Jarvis looks pained behind the glazing: “Sorry, I don’t take compliments well.” So I change the subject.

The Associated Press talks to Thomas Pynchon fans as they await his novel, Against the Day.

"Pynchon was the guy who wrote for my generation, so much so I heard people joke at parties that he had a receiver by which he could read others' late-night falling asleep thoughts," he says. "The reason ... (Pynchon) is important to me and his `fans' is he seems a bit ahead of the curve in seeing what is important, and what will become the important issues we are faced with."

The Charlotte Observer interviews author John Updike.

Q. What happened to your first ambition to be a cartoonist? I think it got sublimated into being a writer. You can cartoon with words -- and a lot of my work is humorous or has an undercurrent of humor to it.

I went to Harvard at the age of 18, still thinking of myself as a prospective cartoonist, and I got on The Harvard Lampoon as a cartoonist and drew quite a lot in college.

There were a number of quite good cartoonists on the Lampoon and I learned from them. I was impressed by the fact that it's a competitive business and it takes a lot of daily new ideas. So the writing I was doing ... became more and more attractive. I began to feel that it was probably what I could succeed at.

When, shortly after college, I began to get a few things accepted by The New Yorker and other magazines ... cartooning was relegated to birthday cards for friends and that sort of thing. I still can draw a little bit, but my drawing basically hasn't advanced over what I could do when I was 21.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reviews my favorite novel of the year so far, Chris Adrian's The Children's Hospital.

What sets "The Children's Hospital" apart from silly, puerile fantasies and science fiction is that beneath the thin veneer of Adrian's narrative lies the fundamental and necessary interrogation of whether or not we humans can sustain hope in the face of and after a great tragedy, here a wholesale catastrophe. This is serious literary fiction, rest assured.

The New York Times examines state-sponsored musicians and their effect on the music industry.

From outward appearances, it might seem that the cultural compass just spins at random from one country to the next. But more and more the “next big thing” title may reflect the deliberate efforts of government trade and culture officials, who routinely attend American music festivals, organize junkets for critics and record executives, and arrange coaching and subsidies for their homegrown acts. In Canada, which has one of the most established programs, artists can apply for an array of grants or loans to finance up to 75 percent of recording costs, advertising, marketing or touring expenses.

Singer-songwriter Billy Bragg talks to Scotland on Sunday about being labeled as a "political songwriter."

"I was pleased with the reviews that said I'm a good songwriter," he says of the new boxed set. "I'm always in danger of being dismissed as a political songwriter. Because so few people write political songs, it's bound to be the thing that people know about me. But when they think that's all that I do, they miss out on the love songs that I've written."

Author Gore Vidal talks to the Sunday Herald about his new book, Point To Point Navigation: A Memoir, 1964 To 2006.

The New York Times reviews author Jay McInerney's wine book, A Hedonist in the Cellar.

Wine writer or novelist, the man is a storyteller and a good one. If he chooses to leave the carping and the ratings to the poobah of all wine critics, Robert M. Parker Jr., and the fan magazines, he’s entitled. If you give a wine person a good profile, does it really matter whether his petite sirah gets an 85 or an 86?

Liquor Snob finds that the songs of the Hold Steady make great drinking music .

We couldn't agree more - bar drinking is something that can be morose and introspective, but the Hold Steady's music is all about people who're just having a lot of fun with their drinking. They drink at parties, they sneak booze into places, and in one song on Boys and Girls manage to drink out of a purse.

Here is a Flickr photo of some of the swag Microsoft gave out at the Zune previews (a bag of quarters?).

A blogger at Forbes weighs in on Zune.

One blogger bought a Zune early, but can't use it until the release date.

The Deli is asking which band impressed you most at CMJ this year.

see also:

this week's CD & DVD releases


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