Episode 137: Geoff Dyer, Bug Juice, and Damn Good Advice

Photo by Marzena Pogorzaly

This week: British writer Geoff Dyer takes us into the “Zona”… Top Chef’s Gail Simmons survives internship hell and gets her Angel wings… Damn Good Advice from legendary ad man George Lois… bees you can drink… a big empire built on small change… winning an election… and nomophobia on the rise. Plus, picture books for adults, Islands with Hallways, and a Fun joke.

Icebreaker: Fun

Andrew Dost of the breakout band Fun puts drummers in their place. Fun’s new album Some Nights, featuring the breakout single “We are Young,” came out this week.

Small Talk: Reyhan Harmanci

Reyhan Harmanci, culture editor of the Bay Citizen, tells us about an increasingly common condition some call “nomophobia.” Brendan calls it “life.”

A History Lesson With Booze: The Wooly

This week back in 1879, a young F.W. Woolworth opened the first Five-and-Dime store. Learn about how he turned small change into a massive empire, then drink down a cocktail direct from the source.

THE DARK AND WOOLLY, as mixed by Eric Adolfsen at The Wooly, a special-events bar tucked at the back of the Woolworth Building in Manhattan.

Into a classic brown paper cup (the old drugstore variety), add:

  • 1 shot Cruzan Black Strap Rum
  • 8 oz. Cola
  • dollop of icecream (if you’re feeling fancy, laboratorio del gelato)

Assemble as you would a coke float. Then sidle up to a tall stool, shoot the breeze with your chums, and pretend you only paid a dime for it.

Guest List: Brian Selznick

Author/illustrator Brian Selznick has earned high praise (and a Caldecott Award) for his novels The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck. His fantastical hybrids of image and text create an almost-cinematic effect. So it’s fitting Martin Scorcese took an interest; his Selznick film adaptation Hugo is up for 11 Oscars this Sunday, and comes out on DVD Tuesday. To celebrate, we’re revisiting Brian’s list of his favorite picture books… for grown-ups:

Etiquette: George Lois

George Lois’ magazine covers, TV commercials, and ad campaigns helped define the last half-century. Just a few examples: ESPN’s “In Your Face” ads, Robert Kennedy’s winning election campaign, and Esquire magazine cover shot of Muhammad Ali-as-martyred-St. Sebastian, among many others. George’s forthcoming book Damn Good Advice: for People with Talent! condenses lessons learned from decades in the communication biz into memorable bits… so it seemed fitting to ask him for some damn good advice about ugly babies, talentless “Mad Men,” and unforgettable lunches.

Eavesdropping: Gail Simmons

Most of us know Gail Simmons as the smart and spunky judge on TV’s Top Chef. But before her TV gig, she navigated odd jobs, chef gigs, and ultimately landed at Food and Wine magazine. She writes about it all in her new memoir “Talking with My Mouth Full.” this week we overhear her reminiscing about cutting her chops under Jeffrey Steingarten, the formidable (occasionally fanatical) Vogue food critic.

Chattering Class: How to Win An Election

Elections are as old as antiquity… and so are the rules for winning, them, apparently. At least that’s Philip Freeman’s thesis — he just released How to Win an Election: An Ancient Guide for Modern Politicians, a translation of an election manual written by Quintus Tullius Cicero circa 64 BC. Philip schools Rico in the tactics contained therein – from mudslinging to promising voters the world.

Main Course: Mead from Bees

You probably know mead as Renaissance fa(i)re, but the fermented honey drink is trickling into the mainstream. Folks are brewing it at home, it’s available more and more in stores, and next weekend enthusiasts will gather at the Mazer Cup mead competition in Boulder, Colorado. William Bostwick, beekeeper and author of the how-to guide “Beer Craft” tells Rico about the drink… and about a special kind of mead that took some guts to make. Secret ingredients: Every single thing in a beehive.

Guest of Honor: Geoff Dyer

Writer Geoff Dyer digresses. That’s his thing. He sets out to write a book about D.H. Lawrence and ends up writing a book about travel, history, art, relationships, tennis… and finally, in the end, D.H. Lawrence. Sounds annoying, right? It would be if Dyer wasn’t such a whip-smart, fun-loving companion. In his new book Zona, the subject is Stalker – the critically acclaimed sci-fi movie directed by auteur Andrei Tarkovsky. But, per usual, Dyer ends up talking about whatever crosses his mind: desire, wish-fulfillment, 9/11, coincidence, and oh yeah, Stalker. Dyer speaks to Brendan about ‘tall prose,’ imaginative fiction and “bunking off.”

One for the Road – Islands – “Hallways”

Born from the ashes of much-adored indie-pop band The Unicorns, Islands have consistently produced inconsistent albums. Until now. Their new album A Sleep and A Forgetting is a piano driven harmony pop romp that features one nicely polished gem after another. “Hallways” has the hummable melodies and quirky charm that have made Islands a go to on Ivy League mixes for the past half-dozen years.

Other Music in this week’s show:

The Sea & Cake – “The Argument”

Aphex Twin – “Boy/Girl Song”

Tipsy – “Liquordelic”

Gilbert & Sullivan – Pro-Arte Orchestra: “HMS Pinafore Overture”

X-Ray Spex – “Warrior In Woolworths

“Wooly Mammoth”

The Minutemen – “History Lesson Part II”

Michaely Ezersk – “Asking Around”

Karen O and the Kids – “Rumpus Reprise”

Barrett Martin – “Muhammad Ali”

UB40 – “Food for Thought”

Talking Heads – “Found a Job”

Tussle – “Nightfood”

Cass McCombs – “Don’t Vote”

Of Montreal – “So Begin Our Alabee”

Eduard Artemyev – “Theme from ‘Stalker’”

Islands – “Hallways”