State of Wonder State of Wonder features interviews and reporting on the latest in visual arts, theater, music, literature, culture and more.
State of Wonder

State of Wonder

From Oregon Public Broadcasting

State of Wonder features interviews and reporting on the latest in visual arts, theater, music, literature, culture and more.More from State of Wonder »

Most Recent Episodes

Dec. 16: Remembering Vera Katz, Best Music Of 2017, Minor White, Explode Into Colors

This week on "State of Wonder," we discuss the legacy of former mayor and arts booster Vera Katz, the best music of 2017, and get a glimpse into Portland's past through the photos of Minor White. Remembering Beloved Former Mayor, Vera Katz - 1:24 This week, Former Portland Mayor and Oregon House speaker Vera Katz died. A trailblazer who steered Portland into an unprecedented period of growth and vitality (see: Pearl District, South Waterfront, East Bank Esplanade, etc), she always had her eye on how arts and creativity could enrich public life. We look back on Katz's legacy and then sit down with two arts leaders who worked during Katz tenure: Eloise Damrosch, the long-time head of the Regional Arts and Culture Council, and Linda K. Johnson, a dancer, choreographer, and teacher who brought many projects to life inside and outside the public sector, including an Artist-in-Residency program in the early days of the South Waterfront. The Year In Jazz With KMHD - 16:35 We're going to take some time to look back at the year that was in music. First up, we talk the ever-widening world of jazz with the mighty triumvirate behind KMHD Jazz Radio: program director Matt Fleeger and hosts/producers Isabel Zacharias and Derek Smith. They talk some of the best albums and best concerts of the year (hey, Solange!) that remind us why jazz continues to be so important — it uplifts, inspires, reflects and makes space for honesty. opbmusic's Favorite Music Of 2017 - 26:35 It's been a big year for local pop, rock, and hip-hop artists. opbmusic's Jerad Walker joins us to talk the two biggest songs to come out of Portland maybe ever: Portugal. The Man's "Feel It Still" and Amine's "Caroline" (don't miss Portugal's performance of their whole album live in the OPB studio). Then we move onto some of the year's other breakouts and best live opbmusic sessions, including The Last Artful, Dodgr, Kelli Schaefer, and Wild Ones. Bullseye Glass: The Heavy Metal Saga Continues - 34:46 Bullseye Glass came under heavy state and county scrutiny last year after scientists found heavy metals in air and plants near the art glass maker's southeast Portland headquarters. The company has since spent millions of dollars to comply and now has now sued the state for civil rights violations, claiming Governor Kate Brown's actions were arbitrary and capricious, and violated the company's right to due process. City Council Approves Portland Art Museum's Expansion - 37:49 Last year, the Portland Art Museum announced plans for a new entrance called the Rothko Pavilion that would connect the museum's two existing buildings and fix its notoriously inaccessible layout. However, advocates for disability, pedestrian and bicycle rights argued that the expansion would obstruct the current pedestrian passage along Madison Street. This week, the council voted 3-1 in favor of the museum. Minor White's Photographs Of The Portland Before Old Portland - 39:18 We talk a lot about how much Portland has changed in the last few decades, but if you want to really blow your mind, look at the city compared not to the 1990s, but to the 1930s. Talk about a whole different town. The artist Minor White spent several years photographing Portland for the Works Progress Administration. Now there're two exhibitions of his work: "In the Beginning: Minor White's Oregon Photographs" at the Portland Art Museum and "Parting Shots: Minor White's Images of Portland, 1938-1942" at the Architectural Heritage Center. Eric Slade dropped by to discuss Oregon Art Beat's recent profile of White. Explode Into Colors Are Back In The Music Game - 43:56 The reunion of Explode Into Colors for two epic live shows last fall fall — and an opbmusic studio session — had Portland music fans in ecstasy. They liked playing together so much that they're back for a two-night stand at Mississippi Studios Dec. 30 and 31.

Dec. 16: Remembering Vera Katz, Best Music Of 2017, Minor White, Explode Into Colors

Dec. 9: Todd Haynes on Wonderstruck | Christian Scott Atunde Adjuah | Phoebe Bridgers

This week on "State of Wonder," we talk to Todd Haynes about his newest film, "Wonderstruck," and the fall of Harvey Weinstein; we explore Christian Scott aTunde Adjua's groundbreaking contemporary jazz; and discover the story of a painting that saved a family's lives during the Holocaust. Embers, the Iconic Portland LGBT Bar, Closes Its Doors - 1:32 Another landmark of old Portland has closed. The downtown bar and dance club Embers opened almost half a century ago when the world was — to say the least — a very different place for gay men and lesbians. Last week club managers announced on social media that owner Steve Suss had suffered a massive stroke and that Embers must close almost immediately. Kevin Cook, who performs as Poison Waters, took part in the final party as one of the club's hall of fame drag performers and talked with us about the club's legacy. Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah Stretches Jazz: 5:15 Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah's newest three-LP release, "The Centennial Trilogy," includes post-bop harmonic foundations, boom-bap hip-hop feels, Afro-Cuban percussion and the electric beat manipulations of trap music — all while sounding unmistakably his. "The Centennial Trilogy" bears all the markings of a landmark jazz release, while itself marking a historic milestone: this year is the 100th anniversary of the first-ever jazz recording. Not that Scott is a big fan of that word, "jazz." He prefers the term "stretch music" to describe his genre and its boundlessness. Eleri Harris on the Tasmanian Murder of the Century: 14:16 On the other side of the world, in a city roughly the size of Corvallis, a murder mystery has kept news watchers and voyeurs on the edge of their seats for eight years. A wealthy scientist from Hobart, Tasmania disappeared in 2009. The ensuing investigation was, in Tasmanian terms, the trial of the century. Portland-based artist Eleri Harris wanted to bring out the tragic family story behind the case in her seven-part serialized comic, "Reported Missing." This gorgeously rendered, and binge-worthy story lays out the case in patient detail, as well as the surprising developments that keep the case alive to this day. Phoebe Bridgers' Profoundly Melancholy Debut - 23:48 Phoebe Bridgers' new album, "Stranger In The Alps," is a profoundly melancholy offering packed with heavy songs about grief and breakups. It even contains a number called "Funeral" — and yes, she really was once hired to play at a funeral. Like the artist herself, the music has a well-developed and wry sense of dark humor running through its core, making for an impressive and surprisingly mature debut from the 23-year-old LA musician. Bridgers and her band stopped into the OPB studios earlier this fall before a gig opening for The War On Drugs. You can see the videos here. Filmmaker Todd Haynes Pivots to Children's Cinema - 32:55 Portlander filmmaker Todd Haynes might seem an unlikely director to make a children's movie. He first attracted attention and controversy with a film where Barbie dolls acted out the life of singer Karen Carpenter. That was followed by melodramas, including 2015's "Carol," which conjures a forbidden lesbian affair in the 1950s. Now Todd Haynes has taken a turn into entirely new territory with his film "Wonderstruck," where you'll find wide-eyed children chasing around the magical dioramas of New York's Museum of Natural History. Haynes spoke with Rene Montagne about the film, as well as the accusations against Harvey Weinstein, who has distributed some of Haynes's films. Searching for the Painting One Jewish Family Traded for Escape from the Holocaust - 41:01 This story is about the power of art — or the power of one painting in particular. In the fall of 1938 in Munich, Germany, the Nazis rounded up thousands of Jews and sent them to concentration camps. A Jewish woman left her apartment carrying a painting and came back with carrying a visa that allowed her to escape the Nazis. Now the...

Dec. 9: Todd Haynes on Wonderstruck | Christian Scott Atunde Adjuah | Phoebe Bridgers

Dec. 2: Five Oregon Podcasts You Have to Hear

This time we live in is a feast of audio storytelling. You can find a podcast for any interest, from Harry Potter to stories of death-defying survival, and it turns out Oregon is a hotbed of homemade shows. In fact, several enterprising producers have joined forces to host the first-ever Portland Podcast Festival on Dec. 2 at the Hawthorne Theater. We're taking this as an opportunity to talk to them about their shows, and to spotlight some more of our favorites made in Oregon. On this week's episode: Minority Retort - 1:30 Jason Lamb's morning drive drops as part of the XRAY-FM feed feature conversations that reflect what's going on in communities of color — often featuring stand-up artists Lamb's met hosting the monthly "Minority Retort" comedy showcase. Funemployment Radio - 5:31 Greg Nibler and Sarah X Dylan have chops honed by years in the trenches of terrestrial radio. But when they turned their powers to podcasting, freed from the constraints of 3-5 minute breaks, their creativity found a fifth gear. Voted Portland's Best Podcast in the Willamette Week's 2016 and 2017 Readers' Polls, Funemployment Radio tackles all kinds of subjects, but shines brightest on the weird stuff. Roam Schooled - 13:58 Musician, sound engineer, and producer Jim Brunberg is best known to music fans around Portland as the founder and co-owner of two iconic venues: Mississippi Studios and Revolution Hall. But this side project, undertaken with his twin 8-year-old daughters, is an audio odyssey. Brunberg and the girls hit the road and interview everyone from the governor of Oregon to gun shop owners and Big Foot experts, as they explore big (and sometimes silly) issues, like death, the Second Amendment, fear, memory, and more, under the guiding principle: "Let's go find out." While the touchstone from each episode are questions from the girls, this podcast is one for the grown-ups. Jay and Miles X-Plain the X-Men - 23:34 In 2014, Jay Edidin and Miles Stokes launched a grand experiment to tease out one of the most confusing — and compelling — storylines in comics: the saga of the X-Men, a group of outsider superheroes, mostly hated and feared by humanity. Taking on all the storylines, duplicate backstories, and alternate universe complications in order was no small task, but they ultimately took an even thornier storyline to unravel in their own lives. We love the podcast for their ultra-brainy takes and intensive research on the publishing history and the sheer glee they derive from Marvel's intricate superhero soap-opera. Outside Podcast - 35:47 Gorgeous production values and edge-of-your-seat storytelling are the hallmarks of this podcast offshoot from "Outside Magazine." Whether telling harrowing survival stories (getting cast adrift at sea, getting struck by lightening, getting treed by a jaguar, oh my!), interviewing extreme athletes of all stripes, or wandering far and wide with stories of the natural world, Portland-based Robbie Carver and Peter Frick-Wright are laser-focused on bringing each episode home with a slam-dunk narrative clinch.

Nov. 25: Celebrating Brian Doyle's Big, Bold Oregon Legacy

This week on "State of Wonder," some of the Northwest's most prominent writers come together to share stories and memories of the man the "New Yorker" called "the Portland sage." It's hard to imagine a more quintessentially Northwest writer than Brian Doyle. He was not from Oregon, but he was of Oregon. His tales of off-kilter small towns played out in an Oregon where the land and the animals speak, sometimes metaphorically, sometimes literally. He was famously nominated for eight Oregon Book Awards in four categories, before finally winning one. No less than the writer Ian Frazier immortalized Doyle's place in the literary landscape in a 2016 poem for the "New Yorker," writing: "The Brian Doyle, the Portland sage;/His writing's really all the rage." Brian Doyle died in May after developing a brain tumor. Several hundred people attended a memorial for him Sept. 21, including some of the region's most prominent authors. Listening to them talk, we fell in love with Doyle anew, and wanted to share the event with you. So today, in partnership with Literary Arts, OPB presents memories and readings from that memorial from the following friends and writers. The poet Kim Stafford, one of Doyle's longtime friends and master of ceremonies for the evening - 4:00 Robin Cody, author of Richochet River - 5:54 The writer and environmental philosopher Kathleen Dean Moore. (Love her writing as much as we do? Listen to our interview with her around her Oregon Book Award–nominated "Great Tide Rising.") - 9:57 Chip Blake, the editor-in-chief of "Orion Magazine" - 17:01 The Oregon Coast writer Melissa Madenski - 22:45 The award-winning nature writer and lepidopterist Robert Michael Pyle - 24:56 Ana Maria Spagna, an author living in the North Cascades in a remote town you can only reach by foot, boat or float plane - 33:59 David James Duncan, the author of the bestselling novels "The River Why" and "The Brothers K" - 37:56

Nov. 18: Wordstock: Chuck Klosterman, Hannah Tinti, Katie Kitamura

This week on 'State of Wonder,' we bring you the second show we recorded live at Wordstock, this time with the culture writer Chuck Klosterman, who pulls back the curtain on his celebrity profiles, and two ace authors, who discuss their thrilling new novels. Want more books? Check out the first show we recorded at Wordstock this year, with the creators of the hit podcast and novels "Welcome to Night Vale" and the seriously hilarious poets Morgan Parker and Tommy Pico. Chuck Klosterman Explains the 21st Century of Pop Culture - 1:26 What do Taylor Swift, Tim Tebow, and the search for free will in "Breaking Bad" have in common? They are all pop culture casualties of Chuck Closterman, one the keenest critical minds writing today. Growing up in North Dakota, Klosterman cut his teeth in the Midwest before heading to New York to write for the "New York Times," "GQ," "Grantland," and practically everyone else. His 2003 essay collection "Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low-Culture Manifesto" launched him into the culture writing stratosphere, and he's published several collections and two novels since. Now he's out with his tenth book: "Chuck Closterman Ten: A Highly Specific, Defiantly Incomplete History of the Early 21st Century." He takes us behind the scenes on his essays, plus talks about his recent move to Portland. Katie Kitamura's Psychodrama About a Wife's Search for Her Husband - 19:27 In a landscape scorched by wildfire and summer sun, a woman, frozen with grief, comes searching for her estranged husband. Death of their marriage muffles her like a thick veil; she can barely see what's going on around her. So begins Katie Kitamura's elegant, suspenseful novel, "A Separation." It's a great read for the dank winter days, full with burned landscapes and arid Mediterranean atmosphere. Hannah Tinti's Coming of Age Mystery - 33:52 Every parent is a mystery to their child. But few bear the secrets of Samuel Hawley. His scarred body maps out a life of theft, guns and murder, but for his daughter Loo, they're just scars. That is, until they settle into the New England hometown of her deceased mother and she begins to question her father's past and what truly happened to her mom. Such is the central mystery for Hannah Tinti's second novel, "The Twelve Lives of Samuel Holly." Ann Patchett called it "one part Quentin Tarantino, one part Scheherazade, and twelve parts wild innovation." Tinti is one of those gloriously creative writers, whose plots sparkle with suspense and emotion. Her best-selling debut novel, "The Good Thief," was an American Tall Tale of sorts, starring an orphan and a con man at odds with a mouse trap magnate. Tinti also co-founded and edits the the award-winning magazine "One Story."

Nov. 11: Live at Wordstock with 'Welcome to Night Vale' Creators and Poets Morgan Parker a...

Wordstock — Portland's book festival — is that most wonderful of days, when Oregonians' book lust reaches a fever pitch, culminating in increased secret police presence at book signings, reader mobs storming the gates of Powell's, and more mayhem. We talked to a slew of fantastic authors at this year's event: Tom Perrotta, Katie Kitamura, Chuck Klosterman, and more. We'll serve these up on our podcast in the coming weeks, but for now, feast on this live show, recorded at noon with four writers on the vanguard. "Welcome to Night Vale" with Creators Jeffrey Cranor and Joseph Fink For the past five years, the creators of the runaway hit podcast, "Welcome to Night Vale" have spun tales of a fictional Southwestern desert town, where people live side by side with the supernatural. Hooded figures, shadowy government agencies, and ravenous ghosts abound— but also girl scouts, coffeehouses, and a community radio station. "Night Vale" is about finding humanity, seated right there next to unspeakable horror at the local diner, enjoying pie and coffee. Its creators have taken Night Vale to the page with a a second novel, "It Devours." It's the story of a young scientist trying to unravel the town's mysteries, and decipher her own outsider status. We talked to Fink and Cranor about the novel, the podcast series, and the Night Vale live shows. Just how popular are those staged events? The next Nightvale live show in Portland is scheduled at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, which seats 2700 people. Poets Tommy Pico and Morgan Parker - 27:11 The authors of two of the most anticipated poetry books of the year just so happen to be dear friends. Morgan Parker's poems have appeared in the "Paris Review," the "New York Times," and "Best American Poetry," and have won her Pushcart and Gatewood prizes. Her new book is "There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyonce."Tommy Pico is the author of "IRL" and the zine series "Hey, Teebs," a Lambda Literary Fellow, and co-host of the podcast "Food 4 Thot." His new book is "Nature Poem." Together, they curate the reading series Poets with Attitude in New York City. "We were tired of being the only person on a bill who cared that the audience was there." - Tommy Pico on State of Wonder Both their books were published by Tin House, the bi-coastal publisher split between Portland and Brooklyn.

Nov. 11: Live at Wordstock with 'Welcome to Night Vale' Creators and Poets Morgan Parker a...

Nov. 4 - Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne | Comics and Book Publishing | Taneka Stotts | Samiya B...

Crawl inside this week and prepare to be dazzled: we visited an installation made by the team behind some of rock's most amazing live shows, science powers up spellbinding poems by Samiya Bashir, and why comic book publishers are retooling their business model to fit the book-format market.

Nov. 4 - Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne | Comics and Book Publishing | Taneka Stotts | Samiya B...

Oct. 28: George Saunders, Scary Movies, Jessica Jackson Hutchins, Polybius Conspiracy and More

Gather round all you ghoulies and goblins. "State of Wonder" is going to channel up some ferocious wonders on this week's episode. We've got picks for some of the best scary films, an interview with the producer behind a new podcast about one Portland's most eerie urban legends, and then we're heading to the cemetery for one of the most original takes on the after-life since Dante's Inferno, George Saunders' first novel, the Man Booker Prize-winning "Lincoln in the Bardo." Movies to Scare You - 1:24 Once you have your outfit and your candy on lockdown, the only essential left pending for Halloween is some good-quality scary movies to watch. John Rosman, enterprise producer on OPB's digital team, got to talking about what to watch with horror aficionado Geoff Todd, editor at large at the popular film blog Film School Rejects. You may have seen the amazing Twitter feed he created, One Perfect Shot. The Polybius Conspiracy - 7:58 Maybe you heard the rumors about a mysterious arcade game seen in Portland in the 80's that resulted in all sorts of weird side effects, like dizziness, nightmares, mind control and maybe even abduction? Well, a new Radiotopia podcast is on the hunt to prove or disprove the urban legend of Polybius. It's called "The Polybius Conspiracy." Consider it "Serial meets "Stranger Things." Into the Woods with an Insect Curator - 15:54 Here at "State of Wonder," we take our name very seriously. Wonder is all around us, even though we might not see it because we're not looking in the right spot, or we're distracted by our cell phones, or it's literally under ground, burrowing away in the dirt beneath our feet. This next story takes us out of doors with a type of curator we don't get to spend much time with: a curator of insects. George Saunders' "Lincoln in the Bardo" - 21:00 Some things are worth waiting for: after years of writing short stories and essays and winning just about every accolade out there, George Saunders finally published his first novel earlier this year, "Lincoln in the Bardo," and just last week, it won the Man Booker Prize. All of the action takes place in one night in a graveyard full of the spirits of people who don't realize they're dead and are visited by Abraham Lincoln, come to mourn his young son Willlie. Saunders blends his imagined, talkative souls with historical texts about the president. Jessica Jackson Hutchins on 'Oregon Art Beat' - 35:51 Jessica Jackson Hutchins is one of the best-known contemporary artists Oregon has produced, but that recognition lies largely outside the state. Her paintings and large scale ceramics are regularly seen in New York galleries and in international venues — like the 2010 Whitney Biennial. Oregon Art Beat Kelsey Wallace caught up with her this summer during the Portland Biennial. Puerto Rican Artist Antonio Martorell at Linfield Gallery - 42:26 The visual artist Antonio Martorell was in San Juan when Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico. He lives a couple hours away in a small beach town, and he spent several frantic days worried sick about his family and workshop before he could make it back, but this gracious 78-year-old gentleman — seldom seen without one of his trademark hats — takes disaster as a matter of course, and he found a way, despite blackout conditions, to get his prints, sketches, sculpture — and himself — to Linfield College for an exhibition two years in the making.

Oct. 28: George Saunders, Scary Movies, Jessica Jackson Hutchins, Polybius Conspiracy and More

Finding Grace in Disgrace - Artist Antonio Martorel

Eminent Puerto Rican artist discusses his show at Linfield College. Themes of rain and deluge took on a horrific resonance after Hurricane Maria hit, weeks before opening.

Oct. 21: Eastern Oregon Film Festival, Where Big Movies Meet Small Town

If you're sitting in a dark room with a cattle rancher, a fish biologist and an English professor, watching a sci-fi film shot on a $200,000 budget, chances are good you're at the Eastern Oregon Film Festival. Filmmakers come from all over the country to share their work, listen to Northwest bands, and learn to throw hatchets at artists' brunches — a combination that has landed it on the list of the world's coolest film fests in "MovieMaker Magazine" multiple times. The little fest is playing out for its eighth successive year in theaters and pop-up venues around La Grande, Oregon, and "State of Wonder" is broadcasting live this week from the festival headquarters. The Little Fest That Could: Christopher Jennings And Ian Clark From the minute we arrived, festival co-founders Christopher Jennings and Ian Clark have been running around nonstop, greeting guests, trouble-shooting projectors, setting up bands, serving as walking answer boxes, and more. We get them to sit still long enough to talk about how the festival grew out of a film challenge and learn about how they manage to lure filmmakers from all over to a small town in the mountains of Northeast Oregon. A Man, A Woman, And A Talking Robot Head Walk Into A Desert ... The opening night film is a sumptuous sci-fi fable about a guy, a girl and a robot head hiking across a desert looking for a mythical lake. "Everything Beautiful Is Far Away," starring Julia Garner and Joseph Cross, premiered this year at the LA Film Festival, where it won the U.S. Fiction Cinematography Award. It's not hard to see why: filmed entirely in the Imperial Sand Dunes in Southeastern California, the characters wander through hills of white sand against a backdrop of blue sky with colors and lighting so soft and delicate that Garner's porcelain skin simply glows. The pacing is patient, the dialogue spare, but the whole film is such a potent meditation that when the characters stare straight into the camera, we are more than happy to just lose ourselves in their eyes. We sit down with the writer and director Pete Ohs. The Do's And Don'ts Of Screenwriting With Jon Raymond Jon Raymond will be the first to say that he accidentally stumbled into the world of screenwriting. He had just published his first novel in 2004 when a friend of his asked to adapt his short story "Old Joy" into a film. That friend was the director Kelly Reichardt, and that film started a working relationship that took them both into theaters across the world with the award-winning films "Wendy and Lucy," "Meek's Cutoff" and "Night Moves." Raymond also co-wrote the teleplays for the five-part HBO series "Mildred Pierce" with his friend and Portland filmmaker Todd Haynes, which got him an Emmy nomination. He's at the fest for a talk about screenwriting, and we asked him to give us the Jon Raymond Golden Rules. Sara Salovaara And 'Let Me Die A Nun' Directed by Sara Salovaara, the six-part web series "Let Me Die A Nun" bills itself as "the opposing but intersecting trajectories of a lesbian soon-to-be nun, her Jewish stalker, and the object of her affection." We had to have Salovaara on to discuss this contemporary, comedic take on the 70s nunsploitation films (yeah, we didn't know that was a thing either). We also ask Salovaara, a regular writer for "MovieMaker Magazine," to help us understand just what sets the Eastern Oregon Film Fest apart from all the others. Zombie Puppets And Other Furry Monsters Portland filmmaker Jesse Blanchard claims "Frank & Zed" is the world's first puppet movie, which raises the question: How has this never been done before? Is there anything better than puppet-brain-eating puppet zombies? Or fire-breathing puppet monsters and bloody puppet limbs flying this way and that? Festival-goers are getting a first look at this work in progress, in which Blanchard and his Puppetcore Films team lovingly build every stitched eyeball, puppet skull and hurtling ax by hand. Could this be the next cult...

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