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The Month Ahead

What to read, watch and listen to in February

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© London Transport Museum

Mind the Chap

A new book gives Frank Pick, the genius behind the London Underground, his due

Frank Pick is one of those historical figures whose impact far outstrips his fame. This month, V&A Publishing aims to set the record straight with Frank Pick’s London: Art, Design and the Modern City, a celebration of a man whose influence on London has been likened to Robert Moses’ impact on New York City.

A lawyer by training, Pick joined the Underground Electric Railways Company of London Limited (now the London Underground) as a lowly administrator at the turn of the 20th century, working his way up the ranks and imposing his vision on every aspect of the system’s design—from its map and logo to station architecture and the fabrics used on seats.

While Pick portrayed himself as a staunch utilitarian—“The test of the goodness of a thing is its fitness for use,” he said—there’s no denying the gorgeousness of the designs he developed and the role he played in forging the identity of modern London. (Feb. 4)

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Portrait of an Artist as a Boy-Crazy Teen

This month, author Pamela Ribon plumbs the depths of her high school years with Notes to Boys: And Other Things I Shouldn’t Share in Public. Here, Ribon shares a few of her excruciating diary entries (which, barring one, were sent to the boys in question).

ENTRY: What possesses a boy to change his mind in the course of 24 hours? My heart aches at the loss. Then I thought of his words, “I hardly know you.” WHAT DID I DO? WHAT CAN I DO? Boys are weird.
SENT TO: “A boy I never even kissed but I guess I called him my boyfriend the day after I met him and that made him totally freak out and dump me.”
WHAT HAPPENED NEXT: “Shockingly, this letter did not win him back.”

ENTRY: Love sucks, and I’m not going to take it anymore. Nothing can penetrate this heart. Not all of the roses in this world. Not all of the bottles of rain. I’m ICE PAM. Heart of ice. Soul stone cold. I will never melt again.
SENT TO: “The one who kept me firmly in the Friend Zone despite all my efforts to shift him into boyfriend territory.”
WHAT HAPPENED NEXT: “Pretty sure I immediately begged him to be my boyfriend. Possibly while holding an actual bottle of rain.”

ENTRY: He’s wearing a T-shirt that says “Free Nelson Mandela” and a suede jacket over it. Then I see his face. Even though he had on a baseball cap and sunglasses, one look at those cheekbones and I knew who I was staring at. Johnny Depp.
SENT TO: “Myself, I hope.”
WHAT HAPPENED NEXT: “That passage you just read is the closest I’ve ever gotten to the real Johnny Depp.” (Feb. 11)

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Joel Kinnaman;Abbie Cornish

Keep Calm and Eat Your Popcorn

RoboCop star Abbie Cornish insists that fans of the original film have nothing to worry about

José Padilha’s remake of the 1987 sci-fi classic RoboCop is fraught with the potential for controversy. The most rabid devotees of the original film tend to fall into two camps: those who are opposed to the idea of meddling with cinematic perfection, and those who won’t even consider discussing it.

Abbie Cornish, who plays opposite Joel Kinnaman in the new film, has a message for the doubters: “Don’t worry.”

The Australian-born actress—whose previous films include Limitless and Sucker Punch—believes she is in as good a position as anyone to set fans’ minds at rest. “As a kid, I had this film on rotation in the VHS,” she says. “I’m on that team too.” So how good is the update? “Really good.”

Of course, this is exactly what you’d expect from someone doing a promotional interview, but Cornish insists her enthusiasm is genuine. “I’m a really critical person,” she says. “I don’t say good things about a film just because I’m in it.”

While not slavish toward the original, Cornish says, the new RoboCop “has that ’80s vibe, that attitude,” and “the action is off the charts.” What she doesn’t say is that, as the wife of a mangled (and subsequently mechanized) Alex Murphy, Cornish bucks the trend among leading ladies of breezing through sci-fi blockbusters with glib detachment.

“I care about what I do; it means something to me,” she says. “I play a mother in a family that gets blown apart. I wanted to ground that in reality. I likened it to a husband going to war and coming back severely injured.” After all, Cornish adds, “the basic elements of what it is to be human don’t change unless you yourself become half robot.” —CHRIS WRIGHT  (Feb. 12)

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“Many of the nominees were returning: love, Jesus Christ, Julia Louis-Dreyfus on ‘Seinfeld,’ losing gracefully (which never won, but was always nominated), sunrises, peace (which was often a finalist during times of war but was otherwise not nominated) … Love always won. Everyone knew that and watched anyway.”

—“The Best Thing in the World Awards” from One More Thing, screenwriter B.J. Novak’s new short story collection. (Feb. 4)

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Ready to Rumble

This month, two Broadway shows—Rocky and Bronx Bombers—have sports figures as their central characters; here’s how they square up

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Bronx Bombers

ODDBALL FACTOR
There’s nothing inherently remarkable about Yogi Berra being the subject of a Broadway drama—there’s hardly a historical figure who hasn’t been. What is odd about Bronx Bombers is that the Yankees legend shares the stage with Babe Ruth and Derek Jeter. As for how these past and present pinstripers got mushed together—it was just a dream!

PRECEDENT
The 1955 Broadway musical Damn Yankees, later made into a movie. The story, a spoof of the Faust legend, featured a Washington Senators fan who sold his soul to the devil in exchange for his team beating the Yanks.

LEADING MAN
Peter Scolari made a name for himself opposite Tom Hanks in the 1980s sitcom “Bosom Buddies.” While not known for his pithy, Yogi-ish aphorisms, he did briefly flirt with Twitter, where he reached his rhetorical peak with: “Yes, I am he who is known as Peter Scolari.”

KEY QUOTE
“Baseball is 90 percent mental. The other half is physical.”

Bronx Bombers opens at the Circle in the Square on February 6

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Rocky

ODDBALL FACTOR
The Broadway production of Rocky aims to transform Sylvester Stallone’s side-of-beef-punching, stair-running lug into a natty song-and-dance man, even as he bludgeons his opponents into oblivion. As if that weren’t enough of a dramatic challenge, there’s also the near-impossible task of finding suitable rhymes for “Adrian!”

PRECEDENT
Cutman: A Boxing Musical, which was staged in Chester, Conn., in 2011. Though aimed at a younger, more hip-hoppy audience than Rocky, this one also had cast members belting out I-just-gotta-be-me!-style songs while belting each other about the ears.

LEADING MAN
Andy Karl would seem to be more suited to giving dirty looks than right hooks. Previous projects include Joyful Noise and Legally Blonde: The Musical, neither of which required excess reserves of testosterone. Even Karl’s role in Jersey Boys was more jazz hands than clenched fists.

KEY QUOTE
“You don’t like my house? Does my house stink? That’s right, it stinks!”

Rocky previews begin February 11 at the Winter Garden Theatre

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Going Solo

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, new releases by three innovative female solo artists show us that it doesn’t always take two to make a thing go right. Here, we give each album a how-hot rating using our highly scientific candy heart system.

culture_album1Little Red, Katy B (Feb. 3)
South London singer-songwriter Katy B follows up her 2011 debut, On a Mission, with Little Red, an homage to club love and early ’90s dance music. Featuring disco beats, major chords and gated synths, the album promises to put a little love (and nostalgia) in your heart.
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culture_album3Blank Project, Neneh Cherry (Feb. 25)
Known for “Buffalo Stance,” her ’80s hit about a hip-hop pose (arms crossed, looking over one shoulder), Neneh Cherry is back with her first solo record in 16 years. Blank Project has the attitude of her early hits, with input from Swede pop queen Robyn. It’ll definitely keep you dancing (on your own).
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culture_album2St. Vincent, St. Vincent (Feb. 25)
Annie Clark, a.k.a. St. Vincent, follows her collaborations with David Byrne with a self-titled solo effort. The album refines Clark’s signature near-chaotic instrumentals to a symphony of fuzzy guitars and swelling chorals in arrangements only she could imagine. Our love for this record is giant.
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—ERIN BRADY

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Visions of the Future

Rapper Nayvadius Cash is slated to be the next hot thing—again

Almost every young rapper claims to be an OG (original gangster), but few have the cred of Nayvadius Cash. Nicknamed “Future” by such actual Atlanta OGs as Andre 3000, Big Boi, Sleepy Brown and Cee Lo Green, Cash is also the cousin of Organized Noize producer/songwriter Rico Wade.

“I got my name by being a young, ambitious dude around a much older crowd,” says Cash. “They were just like, ‘Man, you are the future of us.’ So it just stuck with me, and that’s what I became. The future.”

The prognostications were realized in 2012, when Cash, as “Future,” dropped his first studio album and saw it land in the top 10 of the Billboard charts. Tracks he’d written for other artists, such as Rihanna and rapper YC, were hovering near the top as well. Seemingly everywhere at once, Future was proclaimed the hot new thing by The New York Times and Spin. But don’t think Cash fell into his good fortune.

“I’m a workaholic—that’s why I do guest features,” he says. “I can only put 12 to 14 tracks on my album, and some days I’m recording four songs a day. I have tons of music that’s just sitting on my hard drive, so anytime I get a chance to work with an artist and I pull a track up and they feel attached to it, I don’t wanna just hold it for myself.”  

That strategy—and Cash’s industry connections—pushed his latest effort, Honest (due this month), to the top of 2014’s most anticipated list. It features collaborations with everyone from Nicki Minaj to Miley Cyrus. Andre 3000 himself spent time in the studio working on it. “I love just going back and forth with me and ’Dre over ideas,” says
Cash. “Anytime you have a songwriter of his caliber, who’s achieved what he’s achieved in the music industry—just to have his opinion and his word means everything to me.” —JACQUELINE DETWILER

Do I Make Myself Cle-ee-ea-ar?

Possibly the only Auto-Tune adherent more dedicated than T-Pain, Future sounds off on his use of the occasionally obnoxious art of digital voice processing

You’ve got a great, gravelly voice. What made you decide to Auto-Tune it?
“Man, I was doing it for so long because of expression, you know. But at the end of the day, I never believed that defined the artist that I am. It just gives me a better way to broaden my horizons and my creativity and span. Just to go beyond what the average artist will do to make you feel it.”
 
Do you ever sing without it?
“Yeah, I sing without it. People are so used to Auto-Tune they don’t even know whether it’s off or on. I’m like, ‘Hey, man, it’s not even on!’ [laughs] But it is what it is, you know what I mean?”

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Also out this month

MOVIES George Clooney and Matt Damon set out to save the (art) world from the Nazis in The Monuments Men // Drama, romance and molten lava aplenty in the period epic Pompeii TV The treacherous fun continues as ABC’s “Scandal” returns from its midseason break ART New York’s Guggenheim hosts its Italian futurist extravaganza “Reconstructing the Universe” MUSIC U.K. pop tweeny-pies Little Mix release Salute // Indie statesman Beck returns from a six-year hiatus with Morning Phase BOOKS Matthew Quick, author of the quirky hit The Silver Linings Playbook, publishes the equally quirky (and, he hopes, hit-y) The Good Luck Right Now

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