Bluff The Listener Our panelists tell three stories about an artist whose pursuit of their craft got them into trouble, only one of which is true.
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Bluff The Listener

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Bluff The Listener

Bluff The Listener

Bluff The Listener

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Our panelists tell three stories about an artist whose pursuit of their craft got them into trouble, only one of which is true.

BILL KURTIS: From NPR and WBEZ Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME, the NPR news quiz. I'm Bill Kurtis. We're playing this week with Luke Burbank, Faith Salie and Adam Felber. And here again is your host at the Chase Bank Auditorium in downtown Chicago, Peter Sagal.


Thank you, Bill.

SAGAL: Right now it is time for the WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME Bluff The Listener game. Call 1-888-WAIT-WAIT to play our game in the air.

Hi, you're on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.

MARY ELLEN DASTON: Hi. This is Mary Ellen from Cincinnati.

SAGAL: What do you do there in Cincinnati?

DASTON: I work at the local children's hospital. And I work for a program for young people with developmental disabilities.

SAGAL: Oh, wow.

DASTON: We helped them make the transition from...

SAGAL: That's great.

DASTON: ...High school to adult life.

SAGAL: Well, thank you for doing that. And it's nice to have you with us. Mary Ellen, you're going to play the game in which you must try to tell truth from fiction. Bill, what is Mary Ellen's topic?

KURTIS: Mamas, don't let your children grow up to be painters.

SAGAL: We all say artists should be free to pursue their dreams, whether it's the visual arts, the musical arts, the art of the deal. But this week...

SAGAL: ...We read about an artist whose noble pursuit of their muse got them into some trouble. Our panelists are going to tell you about it. Pick the one who's telling the truth you will win our prize - Carl Kasell’s voice on your voicemail. Are you ready to play?

DASTON: Yes, I am.

SAGAL: All right, first let's hear a story of a wayward artist from Luke Burbank.

LUKE BURBANK: Before there were selfie sticks and Instagram there was "Arrangement In Gray And Black No. 1," the official name of the painting most of us simply know as "Whistler's Mother." Painted in 1871 by James McNeill Whistler, it both made his career and, in a way, ruined his life.

This all revealed in a new book out this week by art historian John Vruwink (ph) in which he reveals Whistler's mother, Anna McNeill Whistler, wasn't even supposed to be in the painting that day, but the original model didn't show up. So she gamely volunteered, never one to shy away from the limelight. The problem was that when she saw the painting, she was livid her son had painted, as she put it, quote, "the side of my face that doth make me appear an old husk of a crone."

BURBANK: Translation - she thought he painted her bad side. Whistler and his mother had always had a tense relationship, but as the fame of the painting and her embarrassment grew, things completely fell apart. She eventually cut James out of her sizable will, leaving him penniless with little prospects for marriage.

Even so, at the end of his life, James claimed he did not regret the decision to paint his mother from that angle. And he really didn't regret the decision to have her leave her dress on as the original plan had been to paint a live, female model in the nude.

SAGAL: So "Whistler's Mother," the painting, not liked by Whistler's mother, the mother. Your next story of an artist aggrieved comes from Faith Salie.

FAITH SALIE: According to her bio, artist Rebecca Moss, quote, "stages interventions, stunts and games wherein comedy is understood to arise in moments of friction between a mechanical system and the nature into which it is inserted." And if you understand what that means, then you'll enjoy her oeuvre, which includes a video entitled "Frog" featuring someone dressed in a frog costume jumping in a puddle on a pogo stick.

That kind of artistic audacity won Moss, a 25-year-old Brit, a residency sponsored by a Vancouver gallery. As part of an experience called 23 Days At Sea, Moss set sail on a Korean container ship named the Hanjin Geneva. However, because Hanjin's parent company is $900 million in debt, the ship is now not allowed to dock - like, anywhere.

Moss may have embraced the life of a starving artist, but she never intended to be a stranded artist somewhere off the coast of Japan. Now that "Frog" video may seem jejune to Moss. Food and water are being rationed. She can only communicate by email and Facebook updates.

For her, the still waters run deep with artistic metaphor. She reports, even a calendar swinging on the wall because of the motion of the boat becomes suddenly significant and interesting. Moss has been contemplating what she calls the absurdity of all the containers of frozen french fries and animal skins. What did they die for, she asks, presumably about the animals and not the potatoes.

SALIE: Surely, the young artist is mining this for comedy, not so much haha funny as global-financial-crisis funny. Let's just hope she doesn't go oeuvre-board (ph).

SAGAL: An artist's residency on a container ship all of a sudden becomes indefinite when it is not allowed to dock. Your last story of a creative type in trouble comes from Adam Felber.

ADAM FELBER: Everything was going great for up-and-coming rapper Eric Boardman (ph), aka Eric Bis-natch (ph), aka E-Bizzy (ph). Not only was he rising through the Los Angeles hip-hop scene, but he'd long since figured out a way to pay the bills on his way up - by recording corporate and commercial songs on the QT. And that worked fine until the internet discovered a video he'd made a couple of years back, last week. He'd made it for the annual conference of Depends adult undergarments. Overnight, it was a viral sensation and online wags were calling E-Bizzy P-Wizzy.

FELBER: I can't possibly do it justice, for I am not a rapper, but here's an excerpt from his funky and fresh Depends throwdown. (Rapping) I'm rich and getting richer but mad and getting madder. Loyalty from my homies but betrayed by my bladder. Don't dare to even try to speak, sing or dance. There's way too many risks when there's leaks in your pants. It's physical, not mental, so I needed gentle. Depends made me serene. Now I'm transcendental. Wear it everywhere, but I'm stealth like Yentl. They've got me covered like medical and dental. I'm incontinent, but I'm intercontinental. Got my friends in my Benz and the party never ends. I'm rolling with my crew and rolling with Depends. Peace.

SAGAL: All right then. Let's summarize these stories, each one about an artist who suffered for their art. From Luke Burbank, the revelation that Whistler's mother did not like the painting of herself and that destroyed her relationship with Whistler. From Faith Salie, the story of an artist who took up a residency on a container ship and is now stuck at sea because it cannot dock. Or from Adam Felber, a rising rapper whose career might have been derailed by the fact that a video of him rapping about Depends undergarments has come to light. Which of these is the real story in the news of an artist in trouble?

DASTON: All right. Well, I loved Adam's hip-hop. I would love to choose that one. But I have to go with Faith's story about the container ship.

SAGAL: You're going to go with Faith's story about the artist stuck on the container ship.


SAGAL: Let us see if you are correct. We spoke to a reporter who was covering this story.

KEVIN GRIFFIN: Rebecca Moss, she's stranded 13-nautical miles off the coast of Japan. Her ship hasn't been able to dock anywhere...


SALIE: You did it.

SAGAL: That was Kevin Griffin, a reporter for the Vancouver Sun, talking about Rebecca Moss, the artist who has - enjoying an extended stay on a Korean container ship. Congratulations, Mary Ellen. You got it right. You earned a point for Faith Salie just for being honest and not for her puns. And you have won our prize - Carl Kasell's voice. Congratulations.

DASTON: Thank you so much.

SALIE: Thanks, Mary Ellen.

SAGAL: Thanks so much for playing. Thanks for playing with us today. Buh-bye.

STYX: (Singing) Come sail away. Come sail away. Come sail away with me. Come sail away. Come sail away. Come sail away with me.













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