In his new documentary, called simply Tyson, filmmaker James Toback turns his camera on Mike Tyson — the controversial former heavyweight boxing champion. Tyson, infamous for taking a bite out of Evander Holyfield’s ear in 1997 — and for his 1992 rape conviction — talks directly to Toback’s camera, telling his own story in between excerpts of archival footage from his life and career. Toback, the screenwriter behind Bugsy and director of films including Two Girls and a Guy, has been Tyson’s friend since the boxer was 19 years old; Tyson premiered in 2008 at the Cannes Film Festival, and opened in the U.S. April 24. ALSO, journalist Elmer Smith first met Mike Tyson when the future heavyweight champion was just turning 18. Smith, who worked as a boxing writer, a general sports columnist and a general news columnist, went on to cover the ups and downs of the boxer’s career. Smith is an editorial columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News and a member of the paper’s editorial board.
Many students are introduced to Henry David Thoreau‘s “Walden” in high school. Thoreau’s essay on Civil Disobedience is legend in influencing Gandhi and King. In “The Thoreau You Don’t Know: What the Prophet of Environmentalism Really Meant,” our guest, writer ROBERT SULLIVAN dispels the American myth of Henry David Thoreau as an intentional recluse, walking around the Concord, Massachusetts woods. The “secular priest of solitude” may have been introspective, but he enjoyed a robust social life and wasn’t kind to the local trees. Listen to the mp3
“America is an apsirational society” writes Joe Queenan in a recent column the “Guardian.” He should know as he grew up in the Schuylkill Falls housing project near East Falls in Philadelphia and is now a successful culture critic and author of several books. Queenan’s new book, “Closing Time” is about growing up in working-class Irish American Philadelphia in the 1950s and 1960s. Listen to the mp3
PREVIOUSLY ON PHAWKER: Oscar Wilde famously postulated that all of us are in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars. Writer Joe Queenan wasn’t born in the gutter — actually it was somewhere near the false bottom of the Irish Catholic working class of Philadelphia circa 1950 — but you could see it from there. His father was a study in boozy failure and casual brutality whose self-inflicted setbacks would drag the family Queenan — Joe, three suffering sisters and an emotionally-remote, enabling mother — down to the ranks of the lower class for a four-year exile in Philadelphia public housing where they endured all the attendant deprivations, miseries and daily indignities to be found there. It was reading, along with a few fully-functional relatives and the pageantry of Catholic ritual, that showed Joe it didn’t have to be like this. And thus began Queenan’s long ladder climb up from the bottom, all of which he renders with stark clarity and wicked humor in Closing Time, his just-published memoir. It is no exaggeration to call it a heartbreaking work of staggering genius — you’ll laugh, you’ll cry and in between you might even learn something. Today Queenan is a highly-regarded humorist, critic and author with eight books under his belt, including the Baby Boomer-eviscerating Balsamic Dreams and Red Lobster, White Trash, and the Blue Lagoon, his snark-fueled odyssey through the deepest depths of the American low brow. MORE
Will Oldham is a bit of a chameleon. The Kentucky-based singer, songwriter and actor has presented his work under a series of monikers, including The Palace Brothers and Palace Music in the early ’90s, as well as his current handle: Bonnie “Prince” Billy. Oldham has acted in indie films such as Junebug and Old Joy, and has released 17 albums in the past 16 years. Embracing elements of folk, Americana, indie rock, punk and country, Oldham embodies the essence of DIY music. His approach to songwriting remains sincere and honest, as his voice exudes a worldly, fragile charm. Beware, Oldham’s seventh album as Bonnie “Prince” Billy, sensitively explores new depths of human emotion through a swirl of guitars, vocals and fiddle. With his own brand of heartfelt and softly sung tunes, Oldham has once again topped his previous work with an album that’s almost frighteningly beautiful. In a session with host David Dye, Oldham discusses what he feels to be the best way to experience music.