Get smart! NYC's top winter talks and lectures 2013

Flex your gray matter and learn something at these winter talks and lectures given by writers, politicians, artists and musicians.

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Illustration: Andy Forshaw

Baby, it’s cold outside. So stay indoors—at a fireplace bar, a TV screening party or one of these winter talks and lectures. Not only will you get smart and expand your horizons, but you’ll be able to impress your friends with fun facts about robots and death cults (or chat to your boss about health care and the Supreme Court). You’ll also get to hear from musicians, comedians, authors and politicians, including Norah Jones, Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, and Al Gore.

The Art of Betty & Veronica discussion and signing

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

Comic book archivist and historian Craig Yoe discusses the longevity, popularity and cultural influence of Archie cartoons, which have been published since 1941. He’ll be joined by Victor Gorelick, who began working on the strip at age 17 and in 2007 became editor-in-chief of Archie Comics, plus writers and cartoonists Dan Parent and Fernando Ruiz. Purchase a copy of Yoe and Gorelick’s new book, The Art of Betty & Veronica ($29.99), or a $10 store gift card to attend.

  1. Strand Book Store 828 Broadway, at 12th St
  2. Thu Jan 16
More info

Exploring Legends Interview Series: Charles Duke

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Don’t have $200,000 to blow on a Virgin Galactic ticket? Hear about space travel from General Charles Duke, an Apollo 16 astronaut who became the tenth—and youngest—man to step on the lunar surface, in 1972. The 77-year-old will be interviewed by Bloomberg BusinessWeek contributing editor (and Virgin Galactic ticket holder) James Clash, as part of an ongoing interview series at the Explorers Club. The talk starts at 7pm, but turn up early for a 6pm reception.

  1. The Explorers Club 46 E 70th St, between Madison and Park Aves
  2. Fri Jan 17
More info

“Kyle Gann: No Such Thing as Silence: John Cage’s 4’33” ”

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

On the final day of the National Academy Museum’s exhibit “John Cage: The Sight of Silence,” music scribe Kyle Gann discusses his new book, which focuses on the avant-garde composer’s seminal work 4’33”: a piece conceived of without a single musical note. Apt musical theorist Gann gives a cultural context to the much-criticized work by discussing the philosophical and musical developments that inspired the piece.–Sarah Hucal

  1. National Academy Museum 1083 Fifth Ave, at 89th St
  2. Fri Jan 17
More info

“Not Just Roommates: Cohabitation After the Sexual Revolution”

  • Critics choice

University of Illinois professor Elizabeth H. Pleck gives an illustrated presentation on the tumultuous history of couples moving in together. She’ll discuss the struggle of people living together and detail the large number of arrests, prosecutions and revoking of social benefits that occurred from the late 1960s to the present day.

  1. New York Public Library, Mid-Manhattan 455 Fifth Ave, between 39th and 40th Sts, 10016
  2. Thu Jan 23
More info

“Judith Bernstein and Paul McCarthy in Conversation”

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

In anticipation of her first solo museum exhibition, “Judith Bernstein: HARD,” the influential painter joins multimedia maven Paul McCarthy to discuss the themes of violence and sexuality apparent in their work. The down and dirty conversation will be moderated by exhibition’s curator, Margot Norton.

  1. New Museum of Contemporary Art 235 Bowery, at Prince St
  2. Fri Jan 24
More info

“Medieval Robots: Automa Since the First Millennium”

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

Anyone who thought robots were dreamed up for the film Metropolis or an Isaac Asimov novel is in for a surprise. Our mechanical friends have appeared in literature, art, courtly ceremony and liturgical ritual since the Middle Ages. Elly R. Truitt, who teaches medieval history at Bryn Mawr College, presents an enlightening illustrated lecture on how robots created by artisans and even sorcerers during the 5th to 15th centuries were thought to have strange powers, such as the ability to predict the date of your death.

  1. Observatory 543 Union St, between Bond and Nevins Sts, 11215
  2. Fri Jan 24
More info

“The History of the Graphic Novel”

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

This two-day class delves into the history of illustrated stories, from the comic books of the ’40s to the genre’s evolution into long-form narratives with adult subject matter. Sarah McDaniel Dyer, the editor-in-chief of “nerd publishing start-up” Old Timey Hedgehog, discusses how the medium got to where it is today, and why comics are worth studying.

  1. Brooklyn Brainery 515 Court St, at 9th St
  2. Mon Jan 21 - Mon Jan 28
More info

“Fixing Health Care: A Conversation Between David Goldhill and Malcolm Gladwell”

  • Critics choice

The New Yorker’s heavy-hitting monthly discussion series, the Big Story, kicks off 2013 with a discussion between staff writer Malcolm Gladwell and TV executive David Goldhill. The chat will revolve around the latter’s new book, Catastrophic Care: How American Health Care Killed My Father—And How We Can Fix It, which explores America’s failing health-care industry and outlines Goldhill’s radical suggestion to repair it. . Reservations recommended, R.S.V.P. at newyorker.com/magazine/bigstory.

  1. Joe's Pub at the Public Theater 425 Lafayette St, between Astor Pl and E 4th St
  2. Tue Jan 28
More info

“Portlandia Live: With Fred Armisen, Carrie Brownstein and Director Jonathan Krisel”

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Flaunt your bird-printed items at what is sure to be an entertaining evening, presented by the cocreators and cowriters behind the quirky IFC series. New York Times reporter Dave Itzkoff will interview the sketch show’s creative team about their colorful cast of caricatures and lampooning stereotypes associated with Portland, OR.

  1. The Times Center 242 W 41st St, between Seventh and Eighth Aves
  2. Mon Feb 3
More info

“An Evening with Al Gore”

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

The former Vice President and leading climate-protection advocate spends an evening at the 92nd Street Y, presenting the contents of his new book The Future. The Nobel Prize winner’s latest work lays out six challenges humanity needs to tackle in order to achieve a healthier planet, such as redirecting our global economy toward biotechnology.

  1. 92nd Street Y 1395 Lexington Ave, between 91st and 92nd Sts
  2. Tue Feb 4
More info

“A Conversation with Norah Jones”

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

In another high-profile TimesTalks event, New York Times chief pop music critic Jon Pareles gets intimate with the Grammy Award–winning singer-songwriter. The conversation will be augmented by live music from her latest album, Little Broken Hearts.

  1. The Times Center 242 W 41st St, between Seventh and Eighth Aves
  2. Tue Feb 4
More info

“Viva la Muerte: The Mushrooming Cult of Saint Death”

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

The Morbid Anatomy Library celebrates the release of Dr. Andrew Chesnut’s Devoted to Death: Santa Muerte, the Skeleton Saint, in which he sheds light on the controversial worship of the patron saint of death in Mexico. The talk will be followed by a Q&A with Morbid Anatomy’s resident scholar, Salvador Olguín, and a party featuring cocktails ($3–$4) and traditional Mexican music by Mariachi Tapatio de Alvaro Paulino. Be sure to grab a piece of the “Santa Muerte and Jesus Malverde” wedding cake, which pays homage to traditional Mexican folk art depicting the unlikely pair tying the knot.

  1. Observatory 543 Union St, between Bond and Nevins Sts, 11215
  2. Sun Feb 3
More info

The Society for the Advancement of Social Studies (SASS)

  • Critics choice
  • Free

This free monthly lecture series is designed for those who like to drink while they’re learning—or learn while they’re drinking. Enjoy a Mighty Aphrodite cocktail ($5) at the second Valentine’s Day–themed edition and listen to lectures on vaguely romantic topics such as Gotham's bygone cathouses and the history of the engagement ring, plus see a presentation of vintage beau portraits. Put your knowledge to the test with the “Missed Connections of History” trivia game; the winner goes home with a $50 gift certificate to the Brooklyn Brainery. For details, visit getsaucedatsass.tumblr.com.

  1. Public Assembly 70 North 6th St, between Kent and Wythe Aves
  2. Tue Aug 13
More info

“Graydon Carter and Jonathan Becker: 30 Years at Vanity Fair”

  • Critics choice

Speaking publicly about the magazine for the first time together, Graydon Carter (editor-in-chief since the early 1990s) and Jonathan Becker (the influential photographer who contributed some of his best work to VF) dish the dirt on what has gone on behind the pages of this popular publication in the last three decades. The event celebrates new photography book Jonathan Becker: 30 Years at Vanity Fair, which features the shutterbug’s signature society shots of the rich and famous, including modern-dance mogul Martha Graham and former First Lady Jackie Kennedy. The pair will indulge the audience in a Q&A and booksigning, so don’t be afraid to ask everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the larger-than-life personalities captured in the tome.

“Met Talks: Parsifal”

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Quests for the Holy Grail, heartthrob opera stars and a behind-the-scenes look at the Met’s spectacular productions? Count us in. In this opera talk, the theater’s general manager, Peter Gelb, engages director François Girard (who has also staged productions for Cirque du Soleil) and members of the Parsifal cast (fingers crossed that hunky Jonas Kaufmann, who plays the title role, will be among them). They’ll discuss the challenges and rewards of bringing Richard Wagner’s final masterpiece to the prestigious Lincoln Center stage; the show runs from February 15 through March 8. Go to metoperafamily.org for details.

  1. Metropolitan Opera House (at Lincoln Center) Lincoln Center Plaza, at 65th St
  2. Thu Feb 7
More info

Nerd Nite

  • Critics choice

Brainiacs unite at this monthly series meant for mingling and learning. Tonight, in anticipation of Valentine’s Day, 25 love-seeking guys and gals can take part in pre-event speed dating, before listening to presentations by filmmaker Ryan Scafuro (“Bending Steel: Professional Filmmaking on a DIY Budget”) and music teacher Matt Van Brink (“Tricked into Learning: Singin’ the Facts”). In addition, Princeton Ph.D. candidate Kristen Windmuller will discuss The Lion King, Toto’s “Africa” and other depictions of the world’s second-largest continent in popular culture and how America has defined itself by situating Africa as its opposite.

  1. Galapagos Art Space 16 Main St, at Water St
  2. Until Fri Sep 19
More info

Intelligence Squared U.S. Debates

  • Price band: 3/4
  • Critics choice

At the lively Intelligence Squared debates, audience members get a chance to register their opinions before the sparring starts, and then again at the end, to measure which side was more persuasive. A world where parents control their offspring’s height, eye-color and intelligence may be closer than we realize. Tonight’s debate asks whether such a future should be avoided. Tufts University professor Sheldon Krimsky and Imperial College’s Lord Robert Winston argue for the prohibition of such genetic technology, and Duke Law professor Nita Farahany and Princeton professor Lee Silver root for biological engineering to run its course.

  1. Elaine Kaufman Center 129 W 67th St, between Columbus Ave and Broadway
  2. Until Wed Apr 9
More info


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