Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Don't Miss "Entitled Opinions"

I seldom promo anything on this hitherto commercial-free hub of the North. But as today marks the return of my absolute favourite podcast, an exception is made. "Entitled Opinions" flows out from a basement studio at one of the world's finest universities, Stanford. The head honcho is Robert Harrison, a professor of Italian and romance literature there. The format for the show is that he kibitzes for about an hour with a leading luminary on subjects whose variety will astound. If I read the list correctly, it all began with a couple of shows about Freud almost 6 years ago, and then traversed terra creativa from conversations about Kurt Weill's music and life, through several excursions with Harrison's esteemed Dante to sessions on the Jesuits, tennis, the Blues, Emily Dickinson and Jimi Hendrix...and a whole lot more. What is striking for me is just how passionate and knowledgeable Harrison is on so eclectic an array of topics.

On top of this, as of last year, the opening switched from an old Enigma cut, to a haunting and voluptuous song which I could not track down for quite a while. Then, I learned that it was the Entitled Opinions team comprising several academics including Harrison and his brother, Tom. Harrison is a damn fine guitarist, adding to his intellectual and broadcasting abilities, the kind of Renaissance man that you are glad exists somewhere but are also happy that your high school rival didn't grow up to be! . The music group which he's formed, Glass Wave, has cut a fascinating literary excursion which, in contrast to other high-concept academically inspired offerings, is also just a real good listen. Eclectic as ever, Harrison's group with vocals by Entitled Opinions producer and Stanford doctoral candidate, Christy Wampole, travels broadly through canonical literature - Narcissus, Hamlet, Frankenstein, Moby Dick, Virginia Woolf, Poe's "Annabel Lee," etc. - not only making good music but also providing original and critical insights into the story-lines and characters of these classics. The cut, "Ophelia", for example, broadened my longstanding perspective on Hamlet, disabusing me of the belief that I had heard everything and much more that I ever needed about the play.

Well, the wait is over and another season of Entitled Opinions is now underway, alas with Christy departing so as to finish her dissertation. The opener is on Moby Dick. Listen, friends! Subscribe!

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