18-42 Segment 1: The Art of Video Games

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Video games are often considered child’s play, or at least something below “real” art. Author Andrew Ervin argues that’s not true, and that video games are now big-business for TV networks and advertisers, as well as a source of true artfulness.

Guest:

  • Andrew Ervin, author, Bit by Bit: How video games transformed our world

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18-42 Segment 2: What We Can Learn from Lists

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Lists are a part of our everyday. Often, they are a forgotten part of our everyday. But Shaun Usher read through countless lists to compile a stunning collection of lists throughout time that shed light on the times, our collective history, and the list makers themselves.

Guest:

  • Shaun Usher, author, Lists of Note: An eclectic collection deserving of a wider audience

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Culture Crash 18-42: The Old Man & the Gun Allows Robert Redford to Age Gracefully

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Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine American culture. What’s new and old in entertainment.

Movies with bank heists tend to be action-packed movies full of chase sequences and maybe a dramatic shoot-out. What bank robbery films tend not to be are quiet meditations on aging. But that’s exactly what director David Lowery’s latest film, The Old Man and the Gun set out to be.

The Old Man and the Gun gained some press over the last few months because star Robert Redford announced it would be his final film performance. If that holds true remains to be seen, but if it is, it’s a fitting send-off. Redford stars as an aging bank robber, based on the real-life criminal Forrest Tucker. In the film, Tucker is a gentleman stick-em-up artist, a man who wields a gun at banks before complimenting the tellers, calming their fears, and walking out with a bag of cash. The film also follows his budding romance with Jewel, a similarly-aged woman who is not a bank robber, played by Sissy Spacek.

The Old Man and the Gun features several robbery scenes, but never becomes an action film. The music score is relaxing and the film itself is shot on an old filmstock that makes it look like it came from the 70s.

Lowery is probably not a director most audiences know: he’s responsible for the live-action version of Pete’s Dragon as well as the indie darlings Ain’t Them Bodies Saints and A Ghost Story. At this point in his career, Lowery’s signature move is being incredibly patient. He lets shots linger a longer than most other directors would and allows silence to hold moments together. These two simple strategies make his movies feel warmer, more lived it. It’s a style I love and one that many people would probably describe as boring. Maybe so, but it works here, and it allows Redford and Spacek both the opportunity to display their incredible acting talents, even late in their careers. Spacek turns in a wonderful performance, but ultimately the movie is most interested in giving Redford a graceful send-off far from the worlds of comic books movies or crime thrillers.

The Old Man and the Gun won’t be a box office juggernaut, but it is incredibly charming, and a must-see for lifelong fans of Robert Redford.

I’m Evan Rook. 

18-41 Segment 1: Stutters, Stammers, and Vocal Fillers

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If you’ve had to speak in public, you know the nerves that come with public speaking. So you probably also know the pain of umming, uhhing, or misspeaking. We explore where these vocal blunders come from and what they might mean.

Guest:

  • Michael Erard, author, Um: Slips, Stumbles and Verbal Blunders and What They Mean

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18-41 Segment 2: Growing Up Poor in Rural America

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Sarah Smarsh is a journalist and author who grew up poor on a farm in Kansas. She discusses life in rural America, how our culture treats people living in poverty, and the causes she attributes to America’s wage gap.

Guest:

  • Sarah Smarsh, journalist and author, Heartland: A memoir of working hard and being broke in the richest country on earth

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Culture Crash 18-41: Better Call Saul’s unique pacing and why it works so well

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Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine American culture. What’s new and old in entertainment.

Television is a medium that heavily relies on shock. Over the years, cliffhangers have come to define TV. A season, or even an episode, almost always ends on a twist or a reveal designed to set up anticipation for the future.

One of the traditional ways that TV shows have kept these shock-and-awe moments coming is by moving things along quickly. As soon as some incredible act of deceit takes place, the show starts speeding toward that next signpost.

That’s where Better Call Saul, AMC’s Breaking Bad spin-off, differentiates itself. That show often moves at a glacial pace. It’s a law show with no case of the week format. It’s a show about drug cartels that focuses on the politics of the cartels much more than actual drug deals.

The nature of Better Call Saul is that it’s a prequel series to doom. We don’t want the flawed but lovable protagonist Jimmy McGill to become the scumbag we know we will become, Saul Goodman. As a result, Better Call Saul has a fanbase that revels in the slow, meticulous pace that sounds to outsiders like it would be boring. The faster the show moves, the quicker we’ll lose the characters to the madness that is Breaking Bad.

Most shows have no interest in slowing down, and for good reason. Audiences generally want to see the big moments, and don’t care much for the mundane ones. Better Call Saul has found a way to flip that dynamic on its head and still keep audiences totally engaged. It’s a daring experiment gone completely right.

The first three seasons of Better Call Saul are available to stream on Netflix. Season four is available on-demand through AMC.

I’m Evan Rook. 

18-40 Segment 1: The Joy of Retirement: How people can look forward to retiring and make it the best time of their lives

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Retirement can be bittersweet. On one hand, it’s something you build toward your whole life, but it can also be intimidated to lose your purpose in the workplace. We talk to Helen Wilkes about how she found a new passion in her retirement, and how she’s helping others make their retirements more fulfilling.

Guest:

  • Helen Wilkes, author, The Aging of Aquarius: Igniting passion and passion and purpose as an elder

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