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 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 2: When a Young Person Gets Sent to Adult Prison

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There are millions incarcerated in American prisons, even many juveniles who were sentenced to long terms alongside adults. We talk to guests about how and why this happens, whether it should continue, and what life is like for young people behind bars.

Guests:

  • Peter K. Enns, Associate Professor, Department of Government at Cornell University and author, Incarceration Nation: How the United States became the most punitive democracy in the world
  • Jean Trounstine, Professor, Middlesex Community College and author, Boy with a Knife: A story of murder, remorse, and a prisoner’s fight for justice

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Culture Crash 18-40: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing and the difficulty of classifying art

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

Sometimes, classifying art in one specific genre can be tricky. Look at Star Wars. It’s a space opera, sure. But what does that mean? It was built to be a Western. And sci-fi. With some fantasy aspects? And who is the intended audience? Is it for kids? Teenagers? Adults? All of the above? That can be the difficulty in classification.

So it is with Hank Green’s novel, An Absolutely Remarkable Thing. His brother is responsible for the young adult hits Looking for Alaska, The Fault In Our Stars, and Paper Towns, so many people are rushing to call Hank Green’s book YA as well. And the cover certainly makes it look like a YA book. But it’s not actually about teenagers. It’s about a 20-something woman with a career to think about. In fact, none of the main characters are under the age of 20.

The term YA can be limiting. Many people look down on that designation, which is itself an arbitrary reason to eliminate something from your radar because, in essence, all PG-13 movies are for young adults and adults still go see Jurassic Park movies and Marvel movies.

Ultimately, An Absolutely Remarkable Thing falls into that group… as do John Green’s books for that matter. They’re PG-13 stories that are appropriate for young adults and also just wonderful stories that everyone can embrace. An Absolutely Remarkable Thing tells one woman’s story as she is thrust in the center of an international affair. It tackles the issues of social media, of civic duty and tolerance, and it’s a fun story that will keep you on the edge of your seat. It’s sort of a sci-fi adventure dramedy. Give it a chance, it’s good!

Hank Green’s book An Absolutely Remarkable Thing is available now.

I’m Evan Rook. 

18-39 Segment 2: Spies and Soldiers: The roles women held during the Civil War

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We know so much about the men of the Civil War, but the women from the war are all but forgotten in our history. Historian Karen Abbott decided to change that. She tells the story of several women who helped their sides during the Civil War.

Guest:

  • Karen Abbott, historian and author, Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy

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