Tales from the American West are marked by heroism, romance and plenty of cruelty. Among those stories, the saga of the Donner Party stands alone — a band of pioneers set out in covered wagons for California, and eventually, stranded, snowbound and starving, resorted to cannibalism.
Oliver Stone's new film Savages is a violent thriller starring Taylor Kitsch and Aaron Johnson as pot growers caught up in a Mexican drug war. Critic David Edelstein says the movie is deeper and more complicated than Stone's famously bloody Natural Born Killers.
In California, lawyers are two weeks into a landmark federal court case challenging California's Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage in that state. Margaret Talbot has been blogging about the trial for The New Yorker's Web site, and she has written about it in this week's issue of the magazine. A veteran journalist and a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, Talbot writes about family life, women's work, children's culture, and politics and moral debates as they intersect with science and law.
In Paul Thomas Anderson's new film There Will Be Blood, the young actor Paul Dano plays a rural preacher at odds with the oilman (Daniel Day-Lewis) at the center of the story. Dano previously appeared in Little Miss Sunshine, playing the teen who was an elective mute.
Matt Dillon, who recently starred in the comedy You, Me and Dupree, next plays the lead role in Factotum, based on a novel by Charles Bukowski. Dillon was nominated for an Oscar for his performance in the film Crash.
Dave Alvin is best known for his work in the Blasters and X, as well as his solo career. His new CD West of the West is a tribute to California songwriters, and features Alvin performing songs by Jerry Garcia, Tom Waits, Brian Wilson, Merle Haggard and others.
Peralta wrote and acts in the new movie 'Lords of Dogtown'. The feature evolved from Peralta's 2002 documentary 'Dogtown and Z-Boys.' Both films are about the community of skateboarders in California in the 1970s who originated extreme skateboarding.
Harry Shearer wears many hats — writer, actor, director, comedian and radio host. His new film, which he wrote and directed, is called Teddy Bears Picnic. Its a satire of the goings-on at the Bohemian Grove, an exclusive retreat in the Northern California woods. The richest and most powerful men gather in the Grove. Their activities are kept secret, but a lot of drinking is involved. Shearer visited the Grove in order to write the script. Teddy Bears Picnic opens March 29. Shearer hosts Le Show, now in its 19th year on public radio.
English professor and author Greg Sarris is part American Indian, Filipino, and Jewish, and was raised in both Indian and white families. He has just written two books related to his experiences growing up. "Grand Avenue" is a collection of short stories about whites and Native Americans tied by a common ancestor; "Mabel McKay: Weaving the Dream" is a biography of Sarris' aunt, a world-renowned basket weaver. Sarris teaches at UCLA.
Language commentator Geoffrey Nunberg has some thoughts on the different accents you'll find in California. Not all of them are as distinctive as those of a "Valley Girl." (originally broadcast 3/9/88).
Edmund (Pat) Brown, the former governor of California. From 1959 to 1967, Brown commuted the death sentences of 23 convicts, but allowed 36 others to go to the gas chambers. He has written a book, Public Justice, Private Mercy: A Governor's Education on Death Row, about the extraordinary personal and political pressures that came to bear on each decision, and of the evolution of his thinking on the death penalty from his inauguration to his last day in office.
Photographer Larry Sultan. In a photography exhibit now on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, Sultan is represented by work from a project he began in 1983 about his family's history. A key feature of the work, and a feature that appears in all of Sultan's work, is capturing subjects at "off" moments, situations where they least expect, or wish, themselves to be photographed.