Episode 138: Stephin Merritt, Vengeance Eating, and Alka-hol

Photo by Marcelo Krasilcic/Stephin Merritt

This week: Stephin Merritt’s attraction to love… Actress Amy Brenneman adjudicates listener etiquette… A vengeful lunch with Joel Stein… an Alkaholic drink… Neil deGrasse Tyson defends space… Bill Plympton’s favorite animation… and a 3-song prescription from Dr. Dog. Plus: Aggie yells, a Dinner Party Timeout, and a cross-word joke from singer Cate le Bon.

Icebreaker: Cate Le Bon

Welsh songstress Cate Le Bon uses her lov’ly accent to get her point a-cross. Cate’s new album Cyrk has been widely lauded; she’s currently on tour.

Small Talk: Jake Silverstein

Jake Silverstein, editor of Texas Monthly, brings us up to speed on Texas A&M’s male-only tradition of yell-leading. Then he attempts the signature Aggie holler “Farmers Fight.”

A History Lesson with Booze: Headaches and Cures

This week in 1899, Bayer Corp. patented a little pill they called “aspirin.” For a healthy heart, listen to the history of it’s creation once a day, then take two of these and call us in the morning:

THE B3, as concocted by Summer Voelker, mixologist at Salt of the Earth bar in Pittsburgh, home town of Bayer Corporation USA:

Pulverize the following, as you would a chemical compound:

  • 1 capful sodium bicarbonate tablets (Italian grocery stores stock them)
  • 1 sugar cube
  • 1/2 lemon, zested and dehydrated

Place the powder into a cocktail glass, then add:

  • 1 1/2 oz. chilled vodka (preferably Pittsburgh’s Boyd & Blair)

Give the compound a quick stir with a spoon and marvel at chemistry in motion.

Guest List: Bill Plympton’s Forgotten Animation

Independent animator Bill Plympton has drawn and directed some of the most distinctive features, shorts, and music videos of the last quarter century. He was twice nominated for Oscars for best animated short, and he’s the only person ever to have drawn every frame in a full-length animated film. This week, the Los Angeles Animation festival is honoring Bill for his achievements. But for today’s list, he honors others in the field.

Guest of Honor: Stephen Merritt

Singer and songwriter Stephin Merritt is the force behind the pop band The Magnetic Fields. Their album “69 Love Songs” is often called one of the best albums since 1999, when it came out. He’s composed movie soundtracks, stage musicals and operas. The new Magnetic Fields album “Love At the Bottom Of The Sea” (their 10th) comes out Tuesday and contains “Andrew in Drag” – a catchy little tale of infatuation worthy of O. Henry. Stephin tells Rico about his attraction to “love,” productive blackouts, and Pondicherry schemes.

(Web extra: Stephin talks about the mood-confounding bubblegum pop tunes that shaped his songwriting)

Eavesdropping: S.H. Carlyle

We like to say our show can help you “win” your dinner party. But writer S.H. Carlyle takes the concept to a whole ‘nother level in his satirical piece “Dinner Party Timeout” – recently published by McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. Prepare to be crushed

Chattering Class: Neil deGrasse Tyson

Once voted the “sexiest astrophysicist alive,” Neil deGrasse Tyson sure knows how to make science attractive. He buzzes with enthusiasm about the mysteries of space and time, finds creative connections between pop culture and physics, and generally makes us wonder why we’re not already on Mars. This week, he released a compendium of his wisdom called The Space Chronicles. He schools Brendan in some quirks and quarks about the universe.

Etiquette: Amy Brenneman

Actress Amy Brenneman broke into the limelight with her Emmy-nominated work on the groundbreaking cop drama “NYPD Blue.” She created and starred in “Judging Amy,” a courtroom saga partly based on her mother’s real-life career. And she currently co-stars on “Private Practice,” the hit spin-off of the series “Grey’s Anatomy.” This week, she offers us judicious advice on parenting, celebrity worship, and ‘auditory processing.’ (Note to LA Listeners: Amy premieres a documentary about The Chime Institute and its hyper-inclusive education next Saturday, March 10th, at CSUN. For more info and tickets to the “Chimapalooza” fundraising event, head here.)

Main Course: Over Uni

Uni – Japanese for “sea urchin” – has been creeping up on all sorts of restaurant menus. But is the tentacular food really that spectacular? Joel Stein covers food and culture for Time magazine and other outlets, and he recently wrote that he’s sick of uni. Brendan joins him for one last uni meal, and talks about how it became so popular.

Dinner Party Soundtrack – Dr. Dog

Philadelphia rockers Dr. Dog just released Be the Void – another album of smart, inviting pop. Bassist Toby Leaman takes a break from touring to suggest some tunes that’ll keep your party guests in excellent spirits. The Meters

Other Music in this week’s show:

The Sea & Cake – “The Argument”

Aphex Twin – “Boy/Girl Song”

Tipsy – “Liquordelic”

Bangkok Impact – “Aspirin”

Shawn Lee – “Brazilian Bubble”

James Baskett – “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah”

Julie McKenna – “Grendel Grendel Grendel

Shinichiro Watanabe – “Mind Game Theme”

The Magnetic Fields – “Infatuation With Your Gyration”

The Magnetic Fields – “Andrew In Drag”

The Magnetic Fields – “Fido, Your Leash Is Too Long”

Angelo Badalamenti – “Dinner Party Pool Music”

Balanceman – “Some Dinner Music”

Of Montreal – “The Party’s Crashing Us”

Altair Nouveau – “Space Fortress”

Bob Dylan – “Went to See the Gypsy”

The Melodians – “The Rivers of Babylon”

The Meters – “Cissy Strut”

Dr. Dog – “Big Girl”