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Remembering Stanley Kubrick.

Host Terry Gross pays tribute to Stanley Kubrick, who recently died.

04:08

Other segments from the episode on March 8, 1999

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, March 8, 1999: Interview with Garrison Keillor; Review of Naftule's Dreams's and King Django's albums "Smash, Clap!" and "Roots & Culture"; Commentary on Stanley Kubrick.

Transcript

Show: FRESH AIR
Date: MARCH 08, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 030801np.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: Garrison Keillor
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:06

TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Garrison Keillor has a new book satirizing his new governor, Jesse Ventura. The former wrestler has also been the subject of satire on "A Prairie Home Companion." He's a much more flamboyant subject than the residents of Lake Woebegone, who would never dream of wearing pink feathered boas -- neither the men nor the women.

The book is written in the form of a memoir by a wrestler turned governor named Jimmy (Big Boy) Valente, ghost written by Keillor. It's called "Me: by Jimmy (Big Boy) Valente as told to Garrison Keillor." Let's start with a reading.

GARRISON KEILLOR, HOST, MINNESOTA PUBLIC RADIO'S "A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION;" AUTHOR, "ME": "Politicians think that getting elected makes wise and elegant. Indeed, they sit in their royal chambers wearing their French cuffs and are addressed as `my distinguished colleague' and `my learned friend,' go off to a $35 lunch of linguini and shrimp and sun dried tomatoes with some lobbyists in blue pinned stripe suits who treat their every opinion as a precious pearl.

And the pols start to imagine that this is true and they forget all about the heavyset folks in the taverns knocking back a beer and bitching about their cars, their kids, their sore backs. And those lying, cheating, butt-kissing, backstabbing bozos they elected to office.

Believability is my biggest asset, Jimmy (Big Boy) Valente is a guy you'd enjoy sitting next to in a bar watching the Vikings pound on the Packers. That's something the voters sense instinctively about me. I am not a yuppie. I don't collect art or drive a Blazer. I can bench press 325 pounds. I don't care for fruit.

I feel that almost any dish could be improved by putting bacon and melted cheese on it. I was elected governor of Minnesota because the people of Minnesota can see through blizzards of BS and appreciate common sense.

I rode around Minnesota in a rented motor home with `Defoliate' and `98' painted on the sides and raised the flag of rebellion, and told the people I can do the job and I am not a politician and I do not lie.

My platform was exactly as follows: I will not tell a lie. I make no promise except to do my best. Any tax surplus goes straight back to you, the folks. I will scorn big business and special interests in favor of you, the taxpayer and voter. The trough is closed. There will be action not just a lot of yik-yakking. No weenies need apply. Let's party."

GROSS: That's Garrison Keillor reading from his new satire, "Me: by Jimmy (Big Boy) Valente as told to Garrison Keillor." It's a satire about Jesse "The Body" Ventura and his run for governor.

Now, your version of Minnesotans as shy repressed people on "Prairie Home Companion" is just the opposite of who Jesse Ventura is. And those images couldn't be further apart. Is that part of why you're interested in him?

KEILLOR: People who are shy and habitually polite may ever so often enjoy an entertainer who is exactly the opposite. And Minnesotans for years have -- Minnesotans have enjoyed professional wrestling going back to the days of Gorgeous George and Killer Kowalski.

They have enjoyed rock and roll. They have enjoyed sitting in darkened theaters and watching all sorts of mayhem and brutality, which they choose not to practice in their private lives.

GROSS: This has led me to think about what it would be like if you shaved your head and put on a feather boa and entered the ring and tried to intimidate opponents.

KEILLOR: You're one of the few people who could talk me into doing it.

LAUGHTER

GROSS: Now are you surprised that somebody as flamboyant as Jesse Ventura would enter politics -- from Minnesota of all places?

KEILLOR: I think it's a good sign. I think it's, first of all, a sign that people are confident about the future in Minnesota. They -- there is no sense of crisis whatsoever. There's a sense of well-being here, and so we can afford this. We can afford to have this man as governor.

GROSS: Now you had and opinion piece about him in "Time" magazine right after the election, and you described him as "this great big honking bullet-headed shovel-faced mother who talks in a steroid growl and doesn't stop."

And you said, "we've taken the janitor and made him the CEO." And when you wrote that did you see him as an entertaining chapter of show business and politics merging, or as something to take more seriously because after all it is politics?

KEILLOR: After all it's politics? What does that mean?

GROSS: Well, it means he's your governor. I mean, the people of Minnesota...

KEILLOR: ...so what?

GROSS: ...have a lot at stake here.

KEILLOR: Government runs itself, Terry. Government is a big insurance company. And there is an immense bureaucracy that consists largely of very bright capable people and they run this. And the man you elect as governor does not have a huge effect on it.

I was amused by how aghast people were at his election, including myself. I think that when jaws drop and people are weak in the knees, that this is the great comic moment that we all wait for. The election of Jesse "The Body" Ventura as governor of Minnesota is like a great gift.

I mean, how can you not -- how can you not be astonished and amused at this man's election and his ability to stand up and say things that a lot of people secretly think, and wouldn't dare say.

GROSS: Like what?

KEILLOR: This is what we elect performers for. Whether they're actors or rock stars, they go out on a stage and they say things right out in the open that we don't dare say because we're very nice people.

GROSS: What do you think he said that fits in that category?

KEILLOR: He stood on the steps of the state capitol with a bullhorn and addressed a group of people who -- I forget exactly what they were coming to. I believe that they were welfare mothers. And he was addressing a woman who had just spoken who was a single mother who was trying to get back to college.

And she was looking for state aid. He stood with a bullhorn and he told this woman that she should have thought about this before she had those kids.

GROSS: Is this the woman to whom he said the government shouldn't have to pay for your mistakes?

KEILLOR: Exactly. And none of us would ever dare say this, and most of us -- certainly those of us who are liberals, and I am a liberal -- if we sat down and thought about it we wouldn't agree with that at all. It's not our philosophy, and yet there is something in us that wants to tell people, "shape up. You can't go on making mistakes endlessly. Get real. Think."

So we elect somebody who will say those things for us. But he won't change the system that much that provides a safety net for these people. He'll just stand up and yell at once in a while.

GROSS: Now Jesse "The Body" Ventura didn't have a great sense of humor when he first found out that you were writing a satire about him. He said, "Garrison Keillor is writing a book based upon be without my permission, without anything of my involvement. To me, that's cheating."

Was he thinking then that you were cheating him out of kind of copyright royalties because you were using his trademarked persona?

KEILLOR: You can't trademark a persona. And especially after you are elected to public office, you can't. The governor was a little confused about himself. He had been used to thinking of himself as a marketable commodity, because he is entirely a self-invented person.

But once you've been elected to office you cross a line and you become public property. The "Minneapolis Star Tribune" does not have to pay him to use photographs of him on its front pages and to sell the paper. And the local news stations don't have to pay him for footage that they take of him in his capacity as governor, which includes everything that he does.

So he was confused about that. The governor is in the process of remaking himself and he's doing it in public. And he's a work in progress.

GROSS: Do you see Governor Ventura as being as much a persona as Jesse "The Body" is?

KEILLOR: Yes. Yes. Very much so. He used his wrestling persona to get elected. He used some of that stage swagger and bravado. He used -- he used a macho character to the point of self-irony to run for office. He ran for office as a kind of knowing joke.

And now he's trying to reinvent himself as a serious governor -- as a public official. And he's very serious about it, and he's not that bad. He's a man who can -- who you can put up on a stage in front of interested citizens asking him very detailed questions about taxation and state programs, and he's done his homework.

If you were managing this man you wouldn't be afraid of running him out in front of the press and taking up questions. This guy is not a stiff.

GROSS: Garrison, what was your reaction when Governor Ventura cut all state funds in Minnesota for public broadcasting? And by the way, said -- when he was talking about the money spent on public broadcasting -- he said, he'd like to see your W-2.

KEILLOR: I never knew that public radio got state money. I was surprised. We get state money for capital expenditures for equipment and also to build transmitter relays for people who live up in the north woods.

GROSS: Now do you think that public radio is getting punished because of your book of satire which Jesse -- Jesse "The Body" Ventura didn't want you to write?

KEILLOR: No, I think that -- I think that Governor Ventura never liked public radio going way back. He has a real chip on his shoulder about public radio. And he's, you know, he comes from a different -- a different world, and a world in which 325 pound people throw each other against the ropes and people drink beer out of 40 ounce cartons and throw it at the wrestlers. And that's not public radio. You know, we're a bunch of Liberal Arts majors sitting around with -- in rooms full of books.

GROSS: With 325 pound books.

LAUGHTER

KEILLOR: We don't even throw books at each other.

GROSS: That's right. My guest is Garrison Keillor. His new book is a satirical memoir based on the life of wrestler turned governor Jesse Ventura. We'll talk more after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.

BREAK

GROSS: My guest is Garrison Keillor. His new book is a satirical memoir based on the life of wrestler turned governor Jesse Ventura.

Had you followed wrestling before you decided to write this book?

KEILLOR: I hadn't followed it at all. But wrestling is not difficult to pick up. You can pick up an hour long video of wrestling highlights and you pretty well get the idea.

GROSS: Is that what you did?

KEILLOR: Oh yes, it's basic melodrama. And Jesse "The Body" Ventura in the ring played a heel. He played an odd kind of heel in which he was very arrogant and he claimed to have Hollywood connections. He was a Hollywood guy, and he was beautiful.

He had the most beautiful body in America. People adored him. People envied him. And he paraded as this -- as this narcissistic wearing dangling earrings and a pink feathered boa. He wasn't that physical as a wrestler.

When he bulked up in his youth he seemed to lose a lot of agility, and he wasn't as acrobatic. One of his favorite maneuvers was to flee from his opponent and stand outside the ring and harangue the crowd. He was able to get such a rise out of arenas full of people and get them to stand up and hate him from the bottom of their hearts and scream obscenities at him. He really got people excited in ways that you and I would hesitate to do.

LAUGHTER

GROSS: That's a fair staement.

KEILLOR: But think about it sometime in your quiet moments. Think about if you and I did not seek to ingratiate ourselves or to amuse people or to interest people, but instead we sought to get people to hate us so much that they would come out -- pay money to come to arenas in the hopes of seeing us bleed.

This was how he earned his living. There were aspects of his persona that to me had -- were of a drag queen nature. And towards the end of his career he started to look a little pitiful. He let his hair go back to its natural brown, and he's bald on top even with hair.

He has this fringe of hair and he had it cut close. And he had a mustache and he still had the earrings. And he looked like a CPA come out for Mardi Gras. It was very confusing to see him. And then he retired. And he sort of bounced around for a while not quite sure what to do with himself.

And here, he has a second act in his life. F. Scott Fitzgerald said there are no second acts in Americans lives. Nonsense. There are second and third acts. Our governor is enjoying one.

GROSS: I'd like you to read another excerpt of your new book. Your satirical autobiography -- told to autobiography -- of Jimmy (Big Boy) Valente which is your homage to Jesse "The Body" Ventura. And this is from a chapter in which he creates his wrestling persona.

Actually, he's had earlier wrestling personas but this is the one that's really going to stick.

KEILLOR: "I patterned him after James Arness, Larry of the Three Stooges, Spiro Agnew, the grand exalted potentate of the Zuris Shrine (ph) and Bo Diddley -- taking the best from each. I shaved my head and powdered my face and wore a red fez festooned with plumes and Ruby's and spangly tights and a peacock smoking gown. And pink chest hair and rose tinted shades as big a salad bowls and long sparkling earrings.

I wore an Herman robe (ph) and gold Arabian slippers with curved toes, and I carried on in an extravagant manner like a French count at Versailles bestowing elaborate contempt on my enemies; strewing insults like flowers. This was a breakthrough for a boy from Minnesota. A state of Lutherans, of people who don't believe in flaunting the goods or fighting to win. They believe in being humbled and learning to accept it.

It's not a showbiz state, Minnesota, it's a state of folks in earth tones. I broke the mold. Every night Jimmy (Big Boy) sashayed through the crowd which was struck dumb at the gaudiness and grandeur of me. And I climbed into like a lion mounts a hylic to scan the Serenghetti for wapiti (ph).

I bore a gilded torch aloft in my right hand and when I squeezed the grip a blue flame blew 20 feet high, and a backfire went "bawham" and I could see the patrons jump -- even the drunks -- you could see their eyes twitch. I was the first pyrotechnic artist in professional sports. I was a flaming genius.

Every night it was a ring of fire. I climbed into the ring and circled it, and plenty of people booed and I didn't give a hoot. Hero or villain, bad egg or Boy Scout -- it made no difference. Jimmy (Big Boy) transcended every petty moralistic distinction. I was the first modern existential wrestler."

GROSS: Garrison, have you thought about how much you think Jesse Ventura really has a grasp of the wrestling persona he created and why it connected to people and what his own motivations were for choosing that particular persona? Do you think he probably introspects about stuff like that?

KEILLOR: I don't think that he sits around and thinks about himself in abstract terms. I think like most good performers he has a visceral sense of his audience and their reaction. And he is going out now -- in the early weeks -- the early months of his term as governor and he's talking to packed houses of people -- students. A lot of young people.

To them, he's a box office star, which is unusual for the governor of Minnesota. You know, the governor of Minnesota never used to be such a big deal even in Minnesota. You'd see him on the street and try not to stare. And Jesse -- Jesse Ventura is a big deal here.

GROSS: Garrison Keillor. His new memoir is called -- his new satirical memoir -- is called "Me: by Jimmy (Big Boy) Valente as told to Garrison Keillor." Keillor will be back in the second half of the show.

I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.

BREAK

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Back with Garrison Keillor, the best-selling author and host of "A Prairie Home Companion." His new book is a satirical memoir recounting the rise of a wrestler turned governor named Jimmy (Big Boy) Valente. It's based, of course, on the life of Keillor's new governor in Minnesota, Jesse Ventura.

Now you've created other wrestlers for your book including Dave The Postal Worker and Todd Kafka.

KEILLOR: Todd Kafka, yes.

GROSS: Do you want to describe them?

KEILLOR: Dave the Postal Worker is a very nice guy who comes into the ring and does his best to put up with the shenanigans of his opponent. And then one thing just drives him over the edge and he goes berserk before your eyes. And he commits unspeakable acts of bestiality and terrible atrocities in the ring.

Todd Kafka is the journalist. He's kind of a little pointy-headed guy and very serious and kind of creepy. And he talks a lot, and people hated him so much because he was a journalist, that they had to retire him after one bout because he aroused too much loathing. You couldn't control 10,000 people in the presence of one journalist.

GROSS: Did you go back and research the whole Jesse Ventura mythology which includes his days in the Navy SEALS, and you have your character being a WALRUS instead of a Navy SEAL.

KEILLOR: He's a member of WALRUS, which stands for Water Air Land Rising Up Suddenly. No, I didn't do research on him. I watched an hour long video of his wrestling highlights, and I read a little bit in the paper about him.

I watched him in a debate in the election campaign. And that was the extent of it. His persona, I think, is pretty basic and that's its secret. So I wanted to create a parallel -- a parallel person -- and create some more detail.

I write about his birth, his orphaned origins and his adoption and his growing up as a dork, and then his discovery of the little ad in the back of the magazine that offers a boy a chance to have whatever body he would like. Just send in your money to the post office box in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

GROSS: Now the premise of this book is that this wrestler turned governor is telling his story to you. And you, Garrison Keillor, are the ghost writer of his autobiography. So there is, of course, a moment where he describes you and he says, "Mr. Keillor is a tired old hack with a gecko face and thinning hair and a body like a six-foot stack of marshmallows. He's wearing a corduroy jacket and brown slacks and hush puppies. This book is his big break, and now maybe he can afford to buy a gym membership and a pair of decent shoes."

Was it fun to imagine how the wrestler might see you? How you might look to him?

KEILLOR: I may have been a little hard on myself.

LAUGHTER

But I think that's probably -- but that's probably how he sees me. I've been brought in. I've been hired to write his memoir. And he's quite proud of his own literary ability, Jimmy (Big Boy) Valente. He wrote a movie script for Arnold Schwarzenegger on the labors of Hercules and he wrote it first draft. He wrote it in about eight hours.

And Arnold -- it's completely wrecked in the rewriting. He brought in other writers; it went into development, and it became "The Predator." But Jimmy (Big Boy) is very proud of his own ability. He can do a better job. He doesn't really need me. If he had time he would be able to do a much better job.

And he has a literary streak, I think, in his description of his own war experience in Vietnam. He -- they're Hemingway-esque passages. Hemingway-esque by way of GI Joe.

GROSS: Garrison, it strikes me you're getting into more controversial territory lately. I mean, your new book is a satire of the governor of your state. And your previous book was a satire of public radio which was, you know, it's a subject very close to you.

And it made some people pretty angry. Some people were pretty offended because they knew that they were the character -- they were the person that the character was based on. So I'm wondering what it's been like for you to get into more controversial territory in which individuals might see reason to take offense.

KEILLOR: This book was so much fun to write. I was sitting and plowing ahead manfully on a little memoir of my college days and sort of dozing fitfully over it. And suddenly Jesse Ventura comes across the horizon -- this great gift.

And I put the memoir aside and I sat down and wrote about him. I had a wonderful time writing about him. The book -- "Woebegone Boy," the last book -- the hero is a manager of a public radio station. And once I decided to have him be in radio then of course I had to write a little bit about public radio and represent his point of view.

He happened to be somebody who adored classical music and opera and he pretty much despised news and information sorts of programs, which is the losing position as you and I know in public radio today.

I had my character take the losing position. Classical music stations are gradually been dying out in this country. And it's a losing proposition if you were to start a public radio station. And news and information stations are zooming ahead and are increasing their audiences.

I think there's honor in standing up for a losing position. Jesse Ventura is -- has the approval of, at last word, 72 percent of my fellow Minnesotans. I'm in a losing position here, and I'm quite satisfied with it.

GROSS: Writing this parody of Jesse Ventura interrupted your work on your memoir about your college years. It seems almost out of character for you to be writing a memoir about your college years. You usually prefer, I think, to speak through fictional characters. So what inspired you to begin this memoir?

KEILLOR: I wouldn't describe it as inspiration. I just -- I was -- my conscience was struck by the idea that the unmemoired life, is it worth living?

LAUGHTER

You know, one should go back and write about this interesting time. I went to college during Vietnam and the Civil Rights movement at the University of Minnesota. I was a draft dodger. I sort of miraculously avoided the draft. And there are things that happened to me back then that are sort of interesting to me.

The problem is that sitting down and writing about them I didn't feel -- I didn't feel I could make them interesting to other people. So I was glad to interrupt working on it. Writers crave interruptions and I'm very pleased to have written this little tiny instant book.

GROSS: It seems to me there'd be a real danger zone for you involved in writing about your college years. And that's this: the college years are usually times of sexual awakenings for people which would be exactly the kind of territory, it seems to me, you'd be wanting to stay away from because I don't think you'd be comfortable talking about that -- in non-fiction.

KEILLOR: Well, it wasn't a time of sexually awakening for me. It was a time of sexual slumber and other sorts of -- there were other sorts of awakenings. I firmly decided when I was in college that I was going to be a writer and that I would never occupy myself with a job that I did not -- that I did not love.

I decided that there would be no weigh stations in my life. And I decided that -- it was a serious decision. I really meant it. I didn't want to be a writer who taught as a way of supporting himself until he could be a writer. Because I knew that I wasn't a teacher and I didn't want to teach. I had no stomach for it.

And so I went straight to -- straight to the goal. And I went straight into radio which I dearly loved and then quit it to write fiction for "The New Yorker." So I thought there would be a way to write about this for the reader, but I just -- I dread the idea of droning on about one's life.

And I wasn't able to find a way to do it that enables you to escape the chronology, you know, that's the prison of...

GROSS: ...oh well, I know it's the prison of certain interviews too. That you kind of get trapped in getting from here to there. And there are so many stops along the way that, yes, you get trapped in chronology.

KEILLOR: Right.

GROSS: Yeah.

KEILLOR: And then the following fall -- I mean, it's nothing terrible -- trap for any...

GROSS: ...well, it's so true that a lot of autobiographies after the college years or after the coming-of-age are "and then I continued with my work" for the next 300 pages. You know what I mean? With every detail along the way. So are you going to finish this book even though it's been difficult for you? Are you giving up or are you going back to it?

KEILLOR: Oh, it's just there.

GROSS: Mmm-hmm.

KEILLOR: It sits in a little stack of paper on a shelf.

GROSS: Shaking its finger at you.

KEILLOR: I bring it down and I looked at it this morning and then I put it back. I think I took a wrong turn on it and I think -- I think that for the sort of writer I am -- I'm sort of a cowardly writer and I really take the easy way out. I believe in it. I don't think it's worth the trouble to go back and re-work it all. I think maybe I should reinvent it as a novel and stick in some sexual awakening.

LAUGHTER

GROSS: Only in fiction.

KEILLOR: Yeah. Yeah.

GROSS: Garrison Keillor. His new book satirizing the life of Jesse Ventura is called "Me: by Jimmy (Big Boy) Valente as told to Garrison Keillor."

This is FRESH AIR.

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

TO PURCHASE AN AUDIOTAPE OF THIS PIECE, PLEASE CALL 877-21FRESH
Dateline: Terry Gross, Washington, DC
Guest: Garrison Keillor
High: Host Garrison Keillor of Minnesota Public Radio's "A Prairie Home Companion." His new book has caused quite a stir. "Me: by Jimmy (Big Boy) Valente as told to Garrison Keillor" satirizes Minnesota's new state governor and former professional wrestler Jesse Ventura. the governor, who plans to write his own autobiography, called Keillor's book for Minnesota's public radio and TV. He also singled out Keillor saying he'd like to see his W-2.
Spec: Entertainment; Media; Television and Radio; Politics; Jesse Ventura; Lifestyle; Culture; Garrison Keillor

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1999 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1999 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Garrison Keillor

Show: FRESH AIR
Date: MARCH 08, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 030802NP.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: Milo Miles
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:45

TERRY GROSS, HOST: Music critic Milo Miles has been listening to a wide range of contemporary klezmer music. He says he's a conservative when it comes to the old world Jewish party band style. He wants new groups to sound like the old groups: fun, adventurous and unpredictable.

Two new groups that meet his criteria are Naftule's Dream and King Django. Here's his review.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP OF MUSIC -- SAMPLE OF KLEZMER MUSIC)

MILO MILES, MUSIC CRITIC: During the period when klezmer music was moribound in the late 1960s and early 1970s it had a reputation for being sentimental and stiff. Old music that reminded old people of the old country in Eastern Europe and the Ukraine.

To my ears, the klezmer revival that started in the late 1970s didn't do much to rehabilitate the music at first. There was a hot house protectiveness about the albums and they sounded as mired in precision and history as bad bluegrass. The novelty numbers were "fun," and the craziness was presented like an antique Charlie Chaplin short.

This preservationist klezmer gave way to the real revitalization about 10 years ago with the Klezmatics (ph), who knew rock and soul and funk in their klezmer. And Don Byron, who heard of postmodernist statement in a the comedy klezmer of Mickey Katz.

It's a tricky business pushing this traditional music into the future. One current band that stands out as being equal parts vigorous klezmer and vigorous avant-garde is Naftule's Dream. This is the first track from their amazing second album "Smash, Clap!"

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP OF MUSIC -- NAFTULE'S DREAM PERFORMING KLEZMER MUSIC)

MILES: You can hear that the members of Naftule's Dream, particularly Trombonist David Harris, guitarist Pete Fitzpatrick and drummer Eric Rosenthal know plenty about rock and free jazz, funk and noise band. But they evoke the rollicking circus spirit of klezmer more directly than anything else.

As with the best of the old klez groups the arrangements are impulsive and on target. I'm most fascinated how Naftule's Dream manages to never get lost in virtuosity. How they keep the momentum high and the riffs fat and meaty. Not that they don't have mysterious reveries. I want more of Michael McLaughlin on accordion.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP OF MUSIC -- NAFTULE'S DREAM PERFORMING KLEZMER MUSIC)

MILES: Someone else who does a fine job combining experiment and tradition is King Django, who like Naftule's Dream, makes klezmer into his personal mouthpiece. Except that he adds equal parts ska. That's right, ska music.

In King Django, the horn mad sound of Trenchtown meets the horn mad sound of the schtetyl (ph).

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP OF MUSIC -- KING DJANGO PERFORMING KLEZMER MUSIC)

MILES: King Django's album is called "Roots & Culture," and it's absolutely not some novelty record or long shot fusion project. Trombonist Django has sparked some of the best neo-ska bands such as the Stubborn All-Stars, and he recognized similarities in the bass patterns and horn charts of ska and klez.

"Roots & Culture" is hardly the only album that combines ska and klezmer, but it's the best. More than that, ska and klezmer fit together in his art as the music of play and protest from the ghetto. It helps that he has a flair for roughing up sweet old melodies.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP OF MUSIC -- KING DJANGO PERFORMING KLEZMER MUSIC)

MILES: Other tunes like "A Single Thread" combine ageless Yiddish wisdom with the unity message of Jamaican anthems. But the most impressive invention is the anti-Holocaust tune "Slaughter," where King Django uses fierce rhythms to attack history's vilest down pressers.

The impulse behind "Roots & Culture" is the same one that drove ska and klezmer from the start: you use what you got to express who you are.

GROSS: Milo Miles is music editor at soundstone.com He reviewed "Smash, Clap!" by Naftule's Dream on Tzadik, and King Django's "Roots & Culture" on Triple Crown Records.

This is FRESH AIR.

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

TO PURCHASE AN AUDIOTAPE OF THIS PIECE, PLEASE CALL 877-21FRESH
Dateline: Terry Gross, Washington, DC
Guest: Milo Miles
High: Critic Milo Miles reviews the work of two contemporary klezmer bands, "Smash, Clap!" by Naftule's Dream and "Roots & Culture" by King Django.
Spec: Entertainment; Music Industry; Lifestyle; Culture; Milo Miles

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1999 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1999 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Milo Miles
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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A more moderate Taliban? An Afghan journalist says nothing has changed

Afghan British journalist Najibullah Quraishi has had trouble sleeping for more than two hours a stretch ever since the U.S. withdrew troops from Afghanistan in August and the Taliban came back into power. Quraishi grew up in Afghanistan under Soviet and Taliban rule, and began reporting on the Taliban before the Sept. 11, 2001, al-Qaida attacks and the onset of the U.S. Afghan war. He's currently in Kabul reporting for his upcoming PBS Frontline documentary, Taliban Takeover, (airing Oct. 12) which details life in Afghanistan now.

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