Chattering Class


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How Bruce Lee’s Legacy Lives on After His Death

Each week on Chattering Class, we're schooled by an expert in some party-worthy topic. This week, the topic is the most famous martial arts fighter of all time, Bruce Lee. And our teacher is Charles Russo. His new book is called "Striking Distance: Bruce Lee and the dawn of Martial Arts in America." He examines how Lee’s passion for martial arts came to be and his life before movies made him a legendary fighting figure.


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Florence Foster Jenkins: One of the Best Worst Singers Ever

Each week in chattering class we're schooled by an expert in some party-worthy topic. This week our topic is "the worst opera singer ever." And our expert is a purveyor of fine, bad music author Darryl W. Bullock. He wrote "The World's Worst Records, Volume One and Two." And his new book's a biography called "Florence! Foster!! Jenkins!!!" Florence was an eccentric and beloved New York socialite who, in the 1900s, insisted on singing opera classics... stupendously badly. She became a local celebrity, and eventually, an international phenomenon.


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Yo-Yo Ma Gets Existential About ‘The Music of Strangers’

Yo-Yo Ma is one of the best-known classical musicians in the world. He's produced 90 albums and received 18 Grammy awards. In his new documentary, he gives us a closer look at his world/classical music super group, the Silk Road Ensemble, and tells us why music is a lot like a Martini.


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The Re-Emergence of Hailu Mergia

Hailu Mergia drives a cab in Washington, D.C. He's also responsible for one of the most popular songs in Ethiopian history.


(Photo courtesy of Film Movement)

‘Hockney’ Paints a Portrait of the Artist As a Grown Man

Each week on Chattering Class, we're schooled by an expert in some party-worthy topic. Today's subject: David Hockney -- one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. And our teacher is Randall Wright. He has directed a new eponymous documentary about the artist. In it, he explores the life of the man behind those iconic paintings of swimming pools and the good life of Los Angeles. The film is made up of interviews with Hockney himself, images from his career, and footage from Hockney's never-before-seen home movies.


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Duncan Sheik Blends Synths, Satire in ‘American Psycho’

Duncan Sheik has been penning pop music since the '90s, when his tune "Barely Breathing" was a top 20 hit. But these days he may be best known as a Broadway composer, and his latest stage project may also be his most unlikely: He's written the music and lyrics for a musical adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis' satirical horror novel, "American Psycho." He tells Rico why there's a little Patrick Bateman in all of us.


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Dan Colen on Painting Big Clouds in Big Cloud Country

World-renowned artist Dan Colen's work is a part of the Whitney museum's permanent collection, among others. The artist discusses a triptych of paintings he contributed to a show at the Marfa Myths festival which were inspired by a scene from the 1940 Disney musical "Fantasia."


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Dave Navarro Bares All in His Documentary ‘Mourning Son’

Back in the late '80s and '90s, the L.A. band Jane's Addiction became one of the defining rock bands of the era, Dave Navarro, the band's lead guitarist, recently produced the documentary "Mourning Son." It's an intimate look at how he came to terms with the death of his mother, who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend when he was 15 years old. Dave tells Rico about navigating the darkest moment of his life while his band was exploding in popularity.


Director Chris Bell with his parents, Rosemary and Mike Bell, and his brother Mark. (Photo courtesy of Alan Stephens)

Chris Bell’s Personal Lens on the Prescription Drug Epidemic

This week on Chattering Class, we look into prescription drug abuse and our teacher is documentarian Chris Bell. His first movie, "Bigger, Stronger, Faster*," examined the use of steroids in America through the lens of his family -- his brother Mark was a bodybuilder and his brother Mike was a pro wrestler. Nine months after the movie premiered, Chris's father called and told him Mike had died. Not from steroids, but from prescription drugs. That event inspired his new movie "Prescription Thugs," a look at America's pill habit.


(Photo Credit: Terri Loewenthal)

Chris Jennings’ Deep Dive into American Utopianism

This week's chattering class topic: Utopias. Specifically, a bunch of utopian communities that sprouted up in America in the 19th century. And our guest is Chris Jennings. His new book is called, "Paradise Now: The Story of American Utopianism," and it focuses on five of the hundreds of utopian experiments of that era. The author tells us about God-fearing communists and a few Utopian leaders, one of which believed that eventually the oceans would taste like lemonade (seriously).