Perhaps you, too, suffered through the interminable John Kerry interview conducted by MTV's Gideon Yago, wherein Mr. Kerry intoned his belief in rap music as "powerful and important." Entirely believable that John Kerry sits around his congressional office listening (with grave intent, no doubt) to Dr. Dre albums. And in an election year, no less. Very timely. (Kerry later stated he was more of an Eazy-E man; typical Kerry.)
By contrast, pop-culture icon and conservative humorist Ben Stein professed his fascination with Dre's Chronic 2001 in a 2003 "Monday Night at Morton's" column written for E!'s online service, and his admission seems sincere and well reasoned. With an open mind and a genuinely curious ear, Stein listens to the album and tries to understand this world that Dr. Dre and other gangsta rappers inhabit. Stein's conclusion -- that the music is materialistic, coarse and misogynistic -- is typically conservative; his admission that he can't stop listening to Chronic 2001 because its visceral impact is rivaled only by "the mightiest pre-1979 Bob Dylan and old Rolling Stones" most certainly is not.
But Stein is that rarest of conservatives. He's a right-winger with a sense of humor and a sense of empathy. Stein's body of written work is rife with thoughtful attempts to understand the other point of view.
Stein's latest book, co-written with Phil DeMuth, Can America Survive?: The Rage of the Left, The Truth, and What to Do About It recognizes that liberals have issues with the current administration and then seeks to find the roots of this anger (note to the sensitive, angry liberals: Stein and DeMuth equate your anger with the actions of fifth columnists). It may not be for everybody. Stein discusses and signs copies of his book at 6:30 p.m. at the Millennium Student Center on the campus of the University of Missouri- St. Louis (1 University Boulevard; 314-516-5291). The event is free, and you're welcome to disagree with him. Such is the American way. -- Paul Friswold
You and Perú
Perú Negro makes it happen
Perú Negro doesn't put on a typical stage show. If you attend the group's premiere St. Louis performance, Faces of Love: From Peru, you won't sit quietly in your seat, applauding politely after every song-and-dance number. In fact, you won't sit quietly at all. The 26 Afro-Peruvian performers get your feet tapping with their unique percussion instruments (wooden boxes called cajóns and the vibrating teeth of dried-out donkey jawbones), overwhelm your body with their rhythmic dancing and have you belting out tunes to their call-and-response singing. Skip Saturday's Halloween party (the Pikachu costume isn't flattering anyway) and attend this intense celebration of Afro-Peruvian culture at 8 p.m. at the Community Music School of Webster University (560 Trinity Avenue; 314-968-5939). Tickets are available through MetroTix (314-534-1111 or www.metrotix.com) for $38 (or $47 for VIP tickets). For more information visit www.gitana-inc.org or call 314-721-6556. -- Amy Helms
Space Froeb 1
"The Cosmonaut" in inner space
If novelists were baseball players, the all-stars of AAA ball would be in The Best New American Voices, an annual anthology of talented writers who are likely to get called up to the majors. They've had some hits, they have the talent, and they may go to a big house in the first round. The new Best New has just been released, and the work of local writer Ian Froeb is included. (Maybe you've seen his name in these pages.) His short story "The Cosmonaut" is an elegant, piercingly clear portrait of a life examined too late. What's best about it, though, is that it accomplishes a feat often unseen in today's literary fiction: None of the characters in it are writers. He gives a 7 p.m. reading this Thursday at Left Bank Books (399 North Euclid Avenue). Tamara Guirado, another all-star, reads as well, if not better. Call 314-367-6731 for more info. -- Mark Dischinger
It's Pablo, Honey
The Studio Theatre is the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis' hip little brother -- it's a small stage beneath the Rep with open seating and productions that are usually ahead of the curve. The Studio opens its season with Jeffrey Hatcher's A Picasso, which finds the twentieth century's most famous painter (played by Matt Landers) forced into a clandestine meeting in the catacombs beneath Paris with a Gestapo agent (played by Felicity La Fortune) who demands he authenticate three paintings. The historical conflation is neat, sure, but that's only the beginning: As the interrogation deepens, it becomes a defense of art against those who would censor or destroy it. The Studio Theatre is at 130 Edgar Road. Tickets are $29 to $44; the play runs from Wednesday, October 27, to November 14. Call 314-968-4925 or visit www.repstl.org for exact times and dates. -- Mark Dischinger
The Age of Enlightenment
After taking one look at Kevin Burke of Rob Becker's Defending the Caveman, you assure yourself, "This guy can't teach me anything about relationships." And right there, you've just made the first mistake of your life (you always win "love" quarrels, right?). Your second mistake would be not listening closely throughout the one-man comedy, which points out gender differences that go beyond the typical "wifely headaches" and "TV-is-for-dudes" jokes (although there are a few of those, too). See the show beginning at 8 p.m. Wednesday, October 27, at the new-again Playhouse at West Port Plaza (I-270 and Page Avenue; 314-469-7529); after opening night the show plays Thursday through Sunday until November 21. Call 314-534-1111 for times and for your $35 to $39.50 tickets -- your enlightenment and amusement are free. -- Alison Sieloff