Radiote Recent Tracks
Classic Labor Songs from Smithsonian Folkways
Internationalen och Andra Revolutionära Arbetarsånger
Songs and Letters of Joe Hill
You Say to Brick: The Life of Louis Kahn. By Wendy Lesser. Farrar, Straus & Giroux; 397 pages; $30.
AYN RAND’S politics may be less popular than they used to be, but in one way her influence endures: in the popular image of the architect. When architects appear in books or on screen, they are politer than the chiselled Howard Roark in “The Fountainhead”, but they are just as jut-jawed and sure of themselves. Yet when Gary Cooper, playing Roark in the film, says that a building must be true to its own idea, this misleadingly suggests that a building emerges perfectly formed from an architect’s imagination.
Wendy Lesser’s new biography presents Louis Kahn as a likeable version of that archetype. Kahn was a brilliant architect who would rank even higher in esteem if his greatest work—the National Assembly in Bangladesh—weren’t so far from critics’ usual promenade. Yet Kahn, born in Estonia and raised in poverty in Philadelphia, produced enough outstanding buildings in America to be appreciated as one who, like Le Corbusier and Alvar Aalto, expanded the repertoire of Modernism: the new...Continue reading
THE honour of having made the first rock’n’roll record is usually given to Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats for “Rocket ‘88’” (1951). Like all musical firsts, this is hotly argued over: landmark singles by Bill Haley, Big Joe Turner, Elvis Presley and Bo Diddley are often considered close rivals. But any doubt about the arrival of true, flat-out rock was extinguished by “Maybellene” (1955), a two-minute ditty by Chuck Berry, who died on March 18th. What distinguished “Maybellene” was not so much the lowdown distortion of Mr Berry’s “chitlin’ circuit” lead guitar and the raw sound of his band, but the song’s departure from the swinging R&B polish of its contemporaries. Mr Berry was behind the wheel, and though he was heading somewhere new, he knew exactly where.
When rock’n’roll hit the mainstream, he was pushing 30 and had more than a decade of hard luck behind him. It made him a unique rock’n’roller, both a flamboyant showman and a canny businessman. His break came when he recognised a popular trend and focused his imagination on how to mythologise it. He quickly found a middle ground between the smooth music he was raised on and the...Continue reading
The Road to Somewhere: The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics. By David Goodhart. Hurst; 278 pages; $24.95 and £20.
WHY did Britain vote to leave the European Union? Why did America elect Donald Trump? Why are populists on the rise all over Europe? David Goodhart, founding editor of Prospect magazine and now a proud “post-liberal”, has found a culprit. Populism, he argues in his new book, is an understandable reaction to liberal overreach.
Focusing on Britain, he identifies a new divide in Western societies, pitting a dominant minority of people from “anywhere” against a majority from “somewhere”. The first group, says Mr Goodhart, holds “achieved” identities based on educational and professional success. Anywheres value social and geographical mobility. The second group is characterised by identities rooted in a place, and its members value family, authority and nationality.
Whereas Anywheres, whose portable identities are well-suited to the global economy, have largely benefited from cultural and economic openness in the West, he argues, the Somewheres...Continue reading
AT FIRST glance, it sounds about as surprising as the sun rising in the east: on March 22nd the United States baseball team was crowned as world champions. In the semifinals of the World Baseball Classic (WBC), the quadrennial international tournament organised by Major League Baseball (MLB), America took advantage of two uncharacteristic defensive errors by Japan, a two-time champion, and escaped with a 2-1 victory. The following night, in front of over 50,000 fans at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, they blew out the previously undefeated Puerto Rican team, holding their rivals hitless for the first six innings and going on to win 8-0.
Well, duh: baseball is an American sport. The game was born in the USA (though not in Cooperstown, New York, as the myth tells it); the world’s finest league by far is based there (with a lone Canadian team); and the majority of that league’s players and stars are American. Just as one would assume that the world champion of Australian-rules football would probably be Australian, and the world champion of hurling might well be Irish, it stands to reason that...Continue reading
THERE was a time when film and television producers thought that English-speaking audiences were allergic to subtitles. Such was the fear of foreign languages that successful films such as Sweden’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and television series like France’s “The Returned” were remade entirely for Anglophone viewers. Most foreign-language hits never made it to English-speaking markets at all.
Now it seems that media firms are more willing to serve up foreign titles to their audiences. Scandinavian series such as “The Killing” and “Borgen” had British audiences hooked. Then, in 2015, Netflix took a bold step with “Narcos”, a drama about the life and death of Pablo Escobar, a Colombian drug lord. Though the story was told through the voice of an American agent of the Drug Enforcement Administration, most of the dialogue was in Spanish. Audiences in the United States and Latin America alike lapped it up.
On March 24th Netflix is launching a new series that it hopes will pull off the same trick. “Ingobernable” stars Kate del Castillo as a Mexican first lady who is on the run following the mysterious death of her husband, the president. The title, which means...Continue reading