Teasing “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”

Update: One day after I published the post below about “The Hobbit,” the NY Times published this interesting piece today about the Tolkien archive, which is housed in the US, at Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI. Also, please note an earlier blog post of mine, J.R.R. Tolkien Renounced Racial Politics in 1938 Letter to a German Publisher.

Some readers of this blog may recall that I happen to share a birthday with J.R.R. Tolkien’s hobbit protagonists Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, having written about that literary link in a piece on this site labeled Personal History. Since my teens I’ve been a fan of Tolkien’s work and then enjoyed Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” film trilogy. My wife and son and I already have tickets to see “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” when it opens late next week. I’ve seen a trailer or two for the film but have steered clear of reading much about it, not wanting to have the element of surprise hijacked by reading details I don’t need to know yet.  Still, I crossed paths today with a very encouraging Hobbit teaser on, the website of Chris Hardwick, ebullient host of “The Talking Dead” fan show that is boradcast on AMC TV after the zombie-apocalypse program “The Walking Dead.”

What’s good for the book is also good for the film–a sense of humor. Though some of LOTR‘s self-importance is being retroactively returned to the tale, Bilbo is simply a much more fun reluctant-hero than Frodo, whose dewy-eyed earnestness was way too goody-goody at times. Martin Freeman [cast as Bilbo] also played Arthur Dent in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and that character–quite correctly–shares spiritual DNA with this Hobbit, who wants to live out the simplest pleasures of the countryside, but gets whisked into something bigger, and complains all the time. It also feels like the themes here are more tangible for kids to relate to than abstract ultimate-good versus ultimate-evil, such as the benefits of going outside and making friends instead of sitting around the house (granted, LOTR had a team of friends too, but it broke up rather quickly. This group stays together).

I greatly enjoyed the 2005 film version of Douglas Adams’ modern SF classic The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, directed by Garth Jennings, which featured not only the aforementioned Martin Freeman, but also Mos Def, Zooey Deschanel, Sam Rockwell, and the voice of Alan Rickman. So, if Peter Jackson’s new Hobbit film can conjure up some of that cinematic pleasure, then we’re in for a treat.

Carrying On the Tradition of a Brave Human Rights Rabbi

Dec. 6 Update: As of noon today, the NY Times article about the expression of support for the UN’s endorsement of Palestinian statehood by the rabbis and board at B’Nai Jeshurun was the most emailed story on the Times website. Also, for any readers of this blog who would like to discover more about Marshall Meyer, my friend and longtime BJ member Jane Isay reminds me of Marshall’s posthumous book You Shall Be My Witness, which she edited with Marshall’s widow, Naomi.

Though I have not officially been a congregant for the past several years, I was for more than a decade (1985-97) an active member of Congregation B’Nai Jeshurun, a Manhattan synagogue. Its lead rabbi during the years I was active, until his untimely death in 1993, was Marshall T. Meyer. I met Marshall in 1985, shortly after he returned to the United States from Argentina following a lengthy sojourn as a rabbi there, during which time he became an outspoken critic of the military junta that imprisoned, tortured, and ‘disappeared’ thousands of people they deemed opponents in the country’s “dirty war.” The dedication of the searing 1981 book, Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number, by Argentine activist and former prisoner Jacobo Timerman, reads,

To Marshall Meyer

A rabbi who brought comfort

to Jewish, Christian, and atheist prisoners in

Argentine jails.

After the murderous generals fell from power, Marshall served on the national commission that investigated and chronicled the full range of crimes and abuses they had committed, the only non-Argentine to do so. He told me in sadness that after his service on that body he found he could no longer be an honest pastoral counselor to victims’ families, having learned disturbing details of the torture prisoners endured; he felt torn between sharing what he knew when grieving survivors asked him about their relatives’ last days. Wanting to spare them more agony, they sensed he knew more than he could say. Marshall–who as a rabbinical student worked with spiritual giant Abraham Joshua Heschel, typing several of his book manuscripts prior to publication–had a big personality and was unflinchingly vulnerable. He gave and received a lot of hugs. When he returned to the States from Argentina, he soon became rabbi of B’Nai Jeshurun, then a moribund Manhattan congregation, and within a short time had made it one of the most vital synagogues in New York City. It even gained a nickname, ‘BJ.’ During his tenure, Marshall recruited two younger rabbis to serve alongside him there, Roly Matalon and Marcelo Bronstein–from Argentina and Chile, respectively–who fully took the helm after his wrenching death, at only age 63. Though I’m not much involved with the congregation these days, I still consider myself a sort of lay disciple of Marshall’s, and a friend to Roly and Marcelo and to the congregation.

As a reading of Marshall’s NY Times obituary will attest, provided here in a link and below as a scan of my original clipping, Roly and Marcelo carry on Marshall’s committed rabbinate. The NY Times reports tonight that the two rabbis, along with BJ’s longtime musical director, Cantor Ari Priven, and rabbinical colleague Felicia Sol, and the institution’s board, have made public an open letter they wrote, seconding the UN’s vote last week that endorsed Palestinian statehood. The Times article reprints the entire letter, as I will do too.

Dear Friends,

Yesterday’s vote at the UN on Palestinian membership was a day which will go down in history, although what history will write about it only time will tell.

In this week’s Parashat Vayishlach, Jacob battles with the angel and earns the name Israel. It is the first time we are recognized as the people of Israel. Our own struggles were rewarded exactly 65 years ago on 29 November 1947 with the UN partition plan that acknowledged the right of the Jewish people to an independent state.

The Parasha also tells us how Jacob prepares to meet his brother Esau again, 20 years after fleeing from him. The risks are real — Esau has threatened to kill him. This meeting is the biblical prototype of confrontation between Israel and the nations. Before the meeting with Esau, Jacob prepares in three ways: he divides his camp in two, he prays to God, and he sends Esau gifts and conciliatory messages. These three tactics mirror the basic strategies that Israel has at its disposal: preparation for battle, prayer, and diplomacy.

We as a nation have had to rely on all three at different times. Today we feel it is critical that we remember the crucial role that diplomacy played in achieving independence for the State of Israel.

The vote at the UN yesterday is a great moment for us as citizens of the world. This is an opportunity to celebrate the process that allows a nation to come forward and ask for recognition. Having gained independence ourselves in this way, we are especially conscious of this. Every people has the right of recognition, every person has the right of recognition.

As Jews deeply committed to the security and democracy of Israel, and in light of the violence this past month in Gaza and Israel, we hope that November 29, 2012 will mark the moment that brought about a needed sense of dignity and purpose to the Palestinian people, led to a cessation of violence and hastened the two state solution.

We continue to pray for a lasting peace between Israel and her neighbors.

As soon as I read about what they’d done at BJ, I tweeted this out with the link to the Times piece:

Philip Turner ‏@philipsturner
Proud of NYC’s Cong B’Nai Jeshurun, its rabbis&board for boldly voicing support of UN vote for Palestinian statehood.

Now I’m happy to share the news even more widely, here on this blog. For the record, I will state that I believe in co-existence and a two-state solution as the best hope for resolving the decades-long conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. I’m grateful to have known and shared a deep friendship with Marshall, and appreciative of the legacy that his successors faithfully carry on at BJ.

Green-wood Cemetery, Pumelled By Sandy

Ever since Superstorm Sandy hit NYC October 29th, I’ve wondered how Green-wood Cemetery in Brooklyn–with its 470 acres and 1000s of trees–had fared. Earlier in October, I had written about my first visit there, when a new statue at the graveside of New Orleans composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk was unveiled. At the time, I wrote this about the cemetery:

The complex, 478 acres of rolling hills (making it more than half the size of Manhattan’s Central Park), big hardwood trees, and sparkling views of Manhattan and NY Harbor, was founded in 1838 as a non-denominational burial ground that also offered what was described then as a “rural” location. To the urbanites who conceived Green-wood, it was important to create a pastoral, soothing place for mourners to say goodbye to their loved ones. . . . It is still pastoral and still a balm to the daily cares of city-dwellers.

Sunday’s NY Times had the regrettable answer about the effects of Sandy on Green-wood. According to the story by David Dunlap, and the accompanying photo slideshow, 100s of trees were toppled in the storm and many headstones and gravesites were broken and wrecked, as can be seen here in one of Dunlap’s photos. The harm done at Green-wood is is just one more of the many injuries suffered by New York City in the past month.

Mitt Affirms His 47% Remarks in Pathetic 1st Stab at a Campaign Post-Mortem

I’ve been blogging less about politics since the campaign ended last Tuesday, but am still keeping my eye on the news. An item crossed my path tonight that must be shared: Mitt’s first public post-mortem since his concession speech. As reported in the NY Times this evening, Romney and his campaign finance staff held a conference call with donors today. According to quoted portions, Romney attributed his defeat to President Obama having effectively won votes of lower-income voters by awarding them with “gifts.” The loser made, basically, the same argument as those gross super-pac ads being shown until last Tuesday, where an inner-city African-American woman talks excitedly about the “Obama phone” she’d supposedly been given by the federal government. His excuse for losing–to an audience of people whom he has an interest in convincing he didn’t piss their money away– was very similar to what he told donors in the 47% fundraising pitch. Interesting that he was speaking to contributors both times. The quotes are really offensive. Here are a couple chunks of it, from Ashley Parker’s story in the Times:

In a conference call on Wednesday afternoon with his national finance committee, Mr. Romney said that the president had followed the “old playbook” of wooing specific interest groups — “especially the African-American community, the Hispanic community and young people,” Mr. Romney explained — with targeted gifts and initiatives.
“In each case they were very generous in what they gave to those groups,” Mr. Romney said.
“With regards to the young people, for instance, a forgiveness of college loan interest, was a big gift,” he said. “Free contraceptives were very big with young college-aged women. And then, finally, Obamacare also made a difference for them, because as you know, anybody now 26 years of age and younger was now going to be part of their parents’ plan, and that was a big gift to young people. They turned out in large numbers, a larger share in this election even than in 2008.”
The president’s health care plan, he added, was also a useful tool in mobilizing African American and Hispanic voters. Though Mr. Romney won the white vote with 59 percent, according to exit polls, minorities coalesced around the president in overwhelming numbers — 93 percent of blacks and 71 percent of Hispanics voted to re-elect Mr. Obama.
“You can imagine for somebody making $25,000 or $30,000 or $35,000 a year, being told you’re now going to get free health care, particularly if you don’t have it, getting free health care worth, what, $10,000 per family, in perpetuity, I mean, this is huge,” he said. “Likewise with Hispanic voters, free healthcare was a big plus. But in addition with regards to Hispanic voters, the amnesty for children of illegals, the so-called Dream Act kids, was a huge plus for that voting group.”

On the tactical failures of his campaign,

“I’m very sorry that we didn’t win,” he said on the call. “I know that you expected to win, we expected to win, we were disappointed with the result, we hadn’t anticipated it, and it was very close but close doesn’t count in this business.”
He continued: “And so now we’re looking and saying, ‘O.K., what can we do going forward?’ But frankly we’re still so troubled by the past, it’s hard to put together our plans from the future.” . . .Still, Mr. Romney, ever the data-driven former consultant, offered a brief post-mortem analysis of where he and his campaign had fallen short. Last Wednesday and Thursday, he had convened informal what-went-wrong sessions in his Boston headquarters, where he and a small team of senior advisors pored over the numbers with Mr. Newhouse. And on the call, Mr. Romney also echoed a theme from the campaign trail, saying that while the Mr. Obama “made a big effort on small thing,” his message had been about ‘big issues.’
“Our campaign, in contrast, was talking about big issues for the whole country —military strategy, foreign policy, a strong economy, creating jobs and so forth,” he said. “And by the way, as you’ll hear from Neil, our strategy worked well with many people, but for those who were given a specific gift, if you will, our strategy did not work terribly well.”

You’ll note Romney indulges in the “shellshock” meme to describe his reaction to losing, with a weak claim that he, like the donors, had also believed their own polls and persuasion apparatus. He avers that like them he’s still getting over it all. On TPM there’s been a vigorous debate about whether it’s plausible that the Romney-Ryan camp was really shocked to lose last week, and is supposedly still getting over it. I have a few questions in this area: ) Could they have been so naive as to believe their own hype? 2) Should we call them true believers enclosed in a bubble they’ve stopped noticing even surrounds them? 3) Or cagey pols who want to move on from this without a taint on their reputations, having through political and moral malpractice actually misspent so many hundreds of millions? I agree with Josh Marshall that Romney and his staff would rather be associated with the former than the latter.

Not only does Mitt’s portrayal of President Obama as Gift-Bestower-in-Chief show a consistent worldview–from the 47% remarks to today–show that he really believes a majority of American voters expect ‘stuff’ from the government. Worse, though, he also degrades the ‘stuff’ given them, like they were all baubles. Healthcare, college tuition, and legal status for immigrants–these are hardly luxuries. What a selfish man, for one who has so much to believe that taxpayers and the government should be miserly with people who have so much less.

Remembering 9/11/01–Running through a Dust Cloud in Lower Manhattan

In May 2001, Avalon Publishing Group–the Berkeley, California company I worked for as an editorial executive with Carroll & Graf Publishers–moved all its New York employees to new offices on 161 William Street in lower Manhattan, near City Hall Park, behind Park Row and the J&R Music World stores, 2-3 blocks east of the World Trade Center. I had enjoyed our original space on W. 21st Street, and didn’t appreciate the longer commute from the Upper West Side of Manhattan, but soon got used to the new neighborhood, new restaurants, new sights and sounds.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I rode the train downtown and emerged from the Fulton Street subway station, at the corner of William and Fulton, with a customary single earbud stuck in one ear, tuned in to local public radio station WNYC, alert to what might be going on at street level. I detected uncharacteristic alarm from the on-air voices of host Brian Lehrer and correspondent Beth Fertig. Before I could comprehend the source of their concern, my gaze turned west and up in to the air toward the World Trace Center towers, startled to see flames, smoke, and debris pouring from the structures, against a backdrop of a California-type deep blue sky. The air around me was palpably hot, a weird sensation I couldn’t account for, even after seeing the flames above me in the sky.

What in the world?

Turning the corner and hurrying toward my office building, I focused again on the radio voices, hearing something about an airplane having crashed into one of the towers, and then, that a second such crash had occurred only moments before I came out of the subway. Lehrer’s and Fertig’s alarm was in real time. Any idea I had momentarily entertained, associating this incident with the incident in the 1940s when the Empire State Building was struck by a light plane, was dashed. I ran in to 161 William, took the elevator to our upper floor and found a handful of Avalon colleagues who’d arrived before me. I hustled over to the western side of the floor, joining them as we all took in a clear view of the twin towers, with a valley of lower buildings below and between us and the conflagration. The volume of flame, smoke, and debris were all much greater than when I’d first seen them downstairs. The debris included a fluttering cascade of myriad loose sheets of white paper. Midway between our building and the two towers, I noticed a lone man on a rooftop across the way and below our floor. The figure seemed to be in a prayerful pose, kneeling on a rug, wearing a white skullcap. I never learned what he was doing there, and have in the years since pondered it with colleagues such as Keith Wallman who also saw the man that morning.

In those days, neither my wife nor I owned a cell phone. I rushed into my office, on the east side of the building, and used my phone there to call Kyle. The lines worked the first time I tried our home line. She’d just gotten in from taking our son Ewan to kindergarten; on her way home she’d heard about the events downtown. I told her what I’d seen and she said she had TV on and warned me to leave the office building right away. I said, yes, but I don’t know what’s going on at street level. What if the buildings fall, and topple in the eastern direction? What if people are panicked or trampling each other? Maybe I’d be safer upstairs.  These were some of my thoughts. Kyle said she was going to go out and get cash and drinking water for our apartment, then go back to school and bring Ewan home. We talked a few minutes more and I told her I was going to go back to the other side of the floor to see the latest developments. I stayed a few minutes and finally decided, yes, it’s time to leave. I tried my home line again but now couldn’t get a call through. I would’ve left a message, telling Kyle I was leaving and that I would try to call her again later, but couldn’t get through at all. A colleague and I decided to descend in the elevator together, and then make a run for it when we got out on William Street. My companion was my fellow editor Tina Pohlman. As we were rushing from the western windows in to the open elevator car–I know now it was at 9:59 AM–we heard one of the weirdest sounds I’ve ever experienced, made by the collapse of the first tower. First, came a deeply guttural bass sound, created probably by the tremendous downdraft of air from the vertical collapse–something almost felt more than heard. The next instant, I registered a high, trebly, tinkling noise made up, I think, of breaking glass and splintering metal.

Tina and I descended without incident and saw out the lobby’s revolving door hundreds of people running past our building front, engulfed in a dusty, smoky cloud. Without hesitating more than a few seconds, we pushed out the door and joined the massing throng pushing north and east, toward the Brooklyn Bridge. Tina hoped to head over to the lower East Side, where she lived, if permitted by police. My direction was uptown, all the way to West 102nd Street, my home. We were immediately surrounded by the cloud, a murk that wasn’t pure gray or black, examples that TV footage would later show; this cloud actually had some shafts of sunlight in it. It was more ochre than gray. Still, it was pretty opaque and a specific fear registered that if debris were flying in it, we might not even see it heading at us. We made a right turn on Beekman Street, past New York Downtown Hospital, and turned left on Pearl Street, running together for several blocks until we ran under the Brooklyn Bridge.

Though still surrounded by the blanket of dust, and impelled to keep running till I was clear of it, I was beginning to fear that I couldn’t keep up the pace. I wasn’t so much out of breath–the problem was the shoes I had worn that morning: a pair of newish ankle-high boots. With the beautiful fall weather that morning, I had considered them appropriately autumnal and so decided to don them. But I hadn’t broken them in yet, and they proved terrible to try to run in, or even to try walking fast. I would regret my choice of footwear for many months that followed.

I tried to ignore the nascent pain and resumed my nervous, awkward jog, continually hitching and hauling up the knapsack slung over my shoulder. Surrounded by earnest and fearful strangers, all of us still shrouded by the murk, my route passed through unfamiliar parts of Chinatown. Approaching Canal Street the cloud began to thin a little. Finally, we crossed Canal Street and burst into patches of clear air. Tina and I said goodbye and wished each other well as we headed off in our separate directions. I was relieved to be in clearer air and thought, Now I just have to get home. Problem was, I still had a long way to go. Any city buses that passed were insanely overcrowded, and moving at a crawl anyway. Yellow cabs and livery taxis were also full and barely moving through the dense surface traffic. Continuing to listen to the radio, I learned that the second tower had fallen, at 10:28. With both towers now down, I was now confirmed in my horror that thousands of people had died this day. Meantime, the subways had been halted, and it was unknown when they would resume operation. I had no choice but to walk all the way home, about 8 miles.

I pushed up Broadway, through Soho, past Union Square, the Flatiron Building, Madison Square, Times Square, the Theater District, Central Park, Columbus Circle, and Lincoln Center. Every now and then on this odyssey I’d stop and try Kyle on a pay phone. The lines were all dead. She didn’t know when or even for sure if I had left my office. At last, I hit 72nd Street and was on the Upper West Side. It felt good to be back uptown, but I still had thirty blocks to go. I kept pushing, increasingly hobbled, eventually ringing our bell and announcing I was home. It was around 3PM, about five hours since I’d left William Street. Kyle and Ewan were waiting for me and I collapsed into their open arms. I sat down and removed my shoes and socks. Both feet were raw and blistered, from ankles to toes. I tuned in to TV for the first time all day and saw with my eyes the enormity of the loss that everyone else had been viewing all day via the visual medium. Not wanting to disturb Ewan any more than he might be already, we shut off the set until he went to bed.

Avalon’s offices would remain closed for about a week and a half. I tried to stay off my feet and let them heal, but the need to be ambulatory prevailed and I resumed walking around. Unfortunately, my gait was much altered by what I’d endured, which led to a series of foot, ankle, calf, hamstring, and leg injuries over the next couple years. Damage to the #1, 2, and 3 subway lines in lower Manhattan was so serious that my longer commute was lengthened further; a trip that used to take 30-40 minutes often ran to 90 minutes or longer. It was a horrible burden every day to come to work in the same neighborhood with the toxic brew a few blocks west that was already making recovery workers on the pile ill. For some reason, cold air seemed to magnify the odor that drifted eastward in the neighborhood. On winter evenings, I would leave the office and rush down in to the subway station, covering my mouth with a handkerchief to cut the horrible, vile crippling smell that I knew contained a mix of plastics, circuit boards, burnt upholstery, carpets and human remains.

A new normal kind of took over, but nothing really seemed normal anymore. I read about and followed the 9/11 Commission and was appalled at what had been the Bush administration’s failure to heed urgent warnings from counter-terrorism officials, as we were reminded again this morning with Kurt Eichenwald’s NY Times Op-Ed, The Deafness Before the Storm. I was deeply and personally offended when Bush held his 2004 convention in NYC, using the still-healing city as a backdrop for his bogus triumphalism. He and Dick Cheney claimed to have kept us safe–except I always hastened to add–when they had failed, big time. I was enormously relieved when Avalon moved offices again, back into Chelsea, a welcome removal from the still-stricken neighborhood downtown.

Each year on 9/11 our UWS neighborhood welcomes mourners, firefighters, police, and families to the Fireman’s Memorial on Riverside Drive at 100th Street. Last year, on the tenth anniversary, the day’s observances drew firefighter crews from all over the U.S., anglophone and francophone Canada, Scotland, France, and Australia. I’ll conclude this personal remembrance of September 11, 2001, and its aftermath by sharing nine of the photographs Kyle and I took at the special day last year. I will close by saying I hope your 9/11 anniversary this year, 2012, has been a soothing day. Shalom.
Please click through to read entire post and see all photos  . . . //more//

Sally Kohn, FOX News Contributor, Dismantles Paul Ryan’s Lies/w/ NYT Update

Saturday Update: I shared Sally Kohn’s scathing demolition of Paul Ryan on Thursday, and am glad to see that her column is continuing to be widely read and shared. Late Thursday, on Facebook Sally wrote that her piece had by then already had 46,000 shares/reads. Today, Charles M. Blow of the NY Times mentioned it up high in his column recapping the RNC. Blow quotes my fave sentence from her piece, the one I also excerpted below: 

Sally Kohn, a contributor to Fox News, said:
“Ryan’s speech was an apparent attempt to set the world record for the greatest number of blatant lies and misrepresentations slipped into a single political speech. On this measure, while it was Romney who ran the Olympics, Ryan earned the gold.”

Evening Update: Along with the critiques of Ryan’s speech that I cited below, Daily Kos has come up with an even more list, readable here. H/t friend and colleague Phil Gaskill.

A number of excellent critiques of Paul Ryan’s acceptance speech have appeared since he gave it last night, such as this one by Jonathan Cohn on the New Republic website and Jonathan Bernstein’s takedown at the Plum Line, and Adele Stan’s at AlterNet.

My fave so far is this excellent column by FOX News contributor and Facebook friend Sally Kohn, itemizing all the lies and self-serving statements in Ryan’s speech. With Sally publishing the piece at, it’s great to imagine many FOX readers being shocked at their conservative hero being knocked down several pegs. Among Sally’s best lines is this one:

“Ryan’s speech was an apparent attempt to set the world record for the greatest number of blatant lies and misrepresentations slipped into a single political speech. On this measure, while it was  Romney who ran the Olympics, Ryan earned the gold.”

I recommend you read the whole column and share it among your contacts. It’s an excellent rebuttal to the lying Romney/Ryan ticket.

NY Times Profiles CBC host Jian Ghomeshi

Jian Ghomeshi of CBC Radio’s ‘Q,’ one of my favorite talk shows on radio, has been profiled by the NY Times John Schwartz in an article headlined “A Wild Mix of Culture by Way of Canada.” I had recently written about Jian and ‘Q’ in this post, after he won the Gold Award for best talk-show host at the New York Festivals International Radio Awards. I am pleased to see him making so much headway in New York City, and throughout the States, where the program is now carried on 120 public radio stations, including WNYC 93.9 FM at 10 PM on weeknights. I took the photo below of Jian (l.) and CBC host Grant Lawrence when I was recently in Toronto for NXNE, and along with a group of CBC Radio 3 fans was given a tour of the broadcast facility.


In Depth Profile of CBC Radio’s Jian Ghomeshi

July 25 Update: Jian Ghomeshi of CBC Radio’s ‘Q’ has now also been the subject of a NY Times profile, and here’s a link to it. I’m really pleased to see Jian and his program making so much headway in New York City, and throughout the States.

CBC Radio One’s morning program ‘Q‘ is one of my favorite shows on any radio network. Though normally produced at CBC’s headquarters in Toronto, host Jian Ghomeshi and his producers occasionally take their show on the road, which allowed my son Ewan and I to attend a live taping held in WNYC’s Greene Space in 2011. That night Jian interviewed guests Joy Behar and Fran Leibowitz and the band The National played too. He was very personable when we talked afterward, and pleased to meet U.S. listeners like us. That visit to NY was a prologue as the show has a spot on WNYC’s evening schedule this summer, 10 PM on the FM frequency, 93.9. I still listen on the Internet most mornings while at my desk, but it’s also great that I can hear it in the evenings if I missed it earlier.

Last month, during the NXNE festival, when fans of CBC Radio 3, the indie rock outpost of CBC, got a tour of CBC HQs, producer Pedro Mendes and Radio 3 host Grant Lawrence brought Jian out to meet the group. He was charming, and when I (re-) introduced myself he remembered having met me and Ewan in NY more than a year ago. That afternoon I took this photo of Jian, in the soccer jersey, and Grant, in flannel. 

Today I was glad to read a profile of Jian in the Globe & Mail from last weekend. Reporter Brad Wheeler adopts a somewhat snarky tone, but overall, it’s a good article, with info like this:

“Last month, Ghomeshi won the Gold Award for best talk-show host at the New York Festivals International Radio Awards. Q, the popular daily arts, entertainment and culture magazine he hosts with aplomb and a soothing baritone, air[ing] on 120 public radio stations south of the border, including in major markets such as New York, Chicago and San Diego. . . . Q’s unprecedented American victories are explainable. The show takes pop culture seriously, attracts A-list guests, engages in lively debate and manages a rhythmic flow of its varied content. You have a host in Ghomeshi who comes with an exotic cultural background, a radio-friendly baritone, and who’s cocky and well-read enough to take on a variety of issues and interview subjects in an in-depth way. ‘The type of show Jian does draws on a lot aspects of the host’s personality,’ says Robert Harris, long-time CBC personality and producer. ‘It stretches your brain power, and the audience reacts to it.’ . . . . Some of the new listeners no doubt react to Q’s hip list of musical guests. Moreover, the artists and labels themselves are on board. Would rapper andQ guest Jay-Z have done Radio One five years ago? No chance. ‘American managers are reaching out to me, wanting to know which shows they should do,’ says Patrick Sambrook, a prominent artists’ manager whose clients include Kathleen Edwards and Sarah Harmer. ‘Q is on the top of the list for international artists coming to Canada. It’s the show that you want to be on.’”

To this I would add that ‘Q’ broadcast a nearly one-hour interview with Neil Young and Daniel Lanois, when “LeNoise” was released last year, a rare bit of media access that Neil chose to give ‘Q.’ More recently, Jian interviewed Chinese dissident artist, Ai Weiwei, who chose to appear on ‘Q’ despite continuing threats to his freedom by the Chinese government. I haven’t heard Ai WeiWei on any NPR programs. Clearly, ‘Q’ has become a go-to show for artists, authors, and many public figures. If you enjoy filling your day with intelligent talk radio, I recommend you listen to this terrific program. Being nowhere near Canadian air waves doesn’t matter, as it’s easy to listen to CBC on the Web.

Jian, whose family comes orginally from Iran, moved from England to Canada when he was fourteen is writing a book, 1982, about his teenage obsession with David Bowie, which will be published in Canada, and he told me, the U.S.