Episode 168: Tim Gunn, Rian Johnson, and Salman Rushdie

This week, “Looper” director Rian Johnson rolls the bones… “Project Runway’s” Tim Gunn dresses down America for dressing down… Salman Rushdie talks fatwas and fake hair… famed author Sherman Alexie makes a Protest… A “Simpsons” writer’s favorite odd adaptations… And NYTimes photographer Todd Selby turns his camera on cooks. Plus: How corn helped thaw the cold war, and the official “best word ever.”

Icebreaker: Sherman Alexie
Writer Sherman Alexie sees three ships – and a punch-line – sailing to America.

Small Talk: Sadie Stein

Sadie Stein, Deputy Editor of the Paris Review, brings us the results of a lexical battle royale: “Diphthong” vs. “gherkin.”

A History Lesson with Booze: Corn for Commies and “Roswell’s Weapon

This week in 1959, Iowa farmer Roswell Garst and Soviet leader Nikita Khruschev struck up a most unusual friendship. Learn how corn helped thaw the cold war (for a time), then shuck this drink:

“Roswell’s Weapon,” as grown by Ashley Guillaume of the High Life Lounge in Des Moines, IA (very near Coon Rapids.)

To a chilled martini galss, swirl:

  • A small amount of dry vermouth

Dump out the excess and set aside.
Then, to a shaker, add:

  • cracked ice
  • 4 oz. (or appropriate amount for glass size) corn vodka

Stir and strain into the martini glass. Garnish with Niman Ranch pepper bacon – an Iowa mainstay – twisted and stuffed with blue cheese. Say something corny, preferably in a Russian accent. Resist the urge to throw the glass, or fall into a ditch.

Guest List: Michael Price

You may’ve seen Emmy-winner Michael Price’s name in the credits for a little show he co-exec-produces and writes called “The Simpsons.” His latest project, “Lego Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Out,” debuted this week on The Cartoon Network. It takes the world of Star Wars… and recasts it in the form of animated Legos. He lists some other unusual adaptations.

Guest of Honor: Rian Johnson

Writer/director Rian Johnson’s first feature, the high school crime noirBrick,” nabbed a special jury prize at Sundance for “Originality of Vision.” That title could just as easily be applied to his stunning new sci-fi thriller “Looper,” about a hit man who — thanks to the miracle of time travel — is assigned to kill his older self. Equal parts nerve-jangling thriller and thoughtful rumination on cycles of violence, it’s garnered near-universal praise and opens in theaters this weekend. Rian talks to Rico about (talking about) time travel, the studio system, and his bones abilities.

Eavesdropping: Sherman Alexie

Twenty years ago, the story collection “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven” marked Seattle writer Sherman Alexie as as one of the country’s finest (and funniest) storytellers. Since then, he’s written numerous books of fiction and poetry, along with the screenplay for the film “Smoke Signals” and the semi-autobiographical bestseller “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.” Today we overhear Sherman reading from his new collection “Blasphemy” (out this week.) The story is called “Protest.”

Main Course: Edible Selby

Taking photos of food has become so commonplace, the smartphone’s now basically a fourth utensil. (Sorry, spork.) But some folks are better at it than others… and one of the best is Todd Selby, mastermind behind the New York Times column “Edible Selby.” This week, he releases a coffee table book (also called “Edible Selby”) chock-full of beautifully-shot kitchen spaces. Brendan checks in with Todd at Mast Brothers Chocolate in Brooklyn – one of the many places he photographed – to learn why we’re so fascinated with where other people work.

Etiquette: Tim Gunn

For now 10 seasons, fashion maestro Tim Gunn has served as “mentor” on the fashion competition show “Project Runway,” offering contestants sharp advice…and a shoulder to lean on. He was a longtime faculty member – and later fashion design chair – at “Parsons The New School for Design” in New York. His latest style guide is “Tim Gunn’s Fashion Bible: The Fascinating History of Everything in Your Closet” (out now). Tim warns us about the plague of cargo capris, then gracefully addresses listener questions about power(point) ties and ill-suited party wear.

Chattering Class: Salman Rushdie

Author Salman Rushdie’s celebrated work includes the fiction novels “Midnight’s Children” and “Luka and the Fire Of Life.” But his real life is just as compelling, and probably stranger. Rushdie’s new memoir “Joseph Anton” recounts 14 surreal years following the publication of “The Satanic Verses,” after the Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa (death threat) against him. He tells Brendan about his life undercover (complete with wigs), and about bursting his own bubble.

One for the road: Sky Ferreira “Everything is Embarrassing”

This week 20-year-old actress/model/singer Sky Ferreira releases the EP “Ghost,” the first single from which is already setting the internet ablaze. It’s called “Everything is Embarrassing,” and it’s perfect for a thoughtful strut across the dance floor.

Other Music in this week’s show:

The Sea & Cake – “The Argument”

Aphex Twin – “Boy/Girl Song”

Tipsy – “Liquordelic”

The Wedding Present – “Tiutiunyk”

John Barry “From Russia With Love”

Frankie Goes to Hollywood – “Two Tribes”

Barry DeVorzon – “Warriors Theme”

Frank Sinatra & Nelson Riddle Orchestra – “My Kind of Town”

Carl Stalling – “Looney Tunes” theme

Carolina Chocolate Drops – “Cornbread”

Architecture in Helsinki – “Vanishing”

Medeski, Martin & Wood – “Uninvisible”

Chad Vangaalen – “Burning Photographs”

Berry Weight – “Magician’s Assistant”

Sucre – “Hiding Out”

Sky Ferreira – “Everything is Embarrassing”