This Week's Show • July 31, 2014
The jobless economy: a fully automated, engineered, robotic system that doesn’t need YOU, or me either. Anything we can do, machines can do better - surgery, warfare, farming, finance. What’s to do: shall we smash the machines, or go to the beach, or finally learn to play the piano?
Podcast • July 20, 2014
With hundreds of Earth-like planets discovered over the past few years, it’s fair to say we’re on the verge of finding alien life. Two new programs at NASA hope to find and analyze thousands more of these exoplanets, as they’re called. Scientists working on the Transiting Exoplanet Surveying Satellite (TESS) and the James Webb Space Telescope say there’s a very real chance of finding extraterrestrial life within the next two decades. So, if we're about to meet our extraterrestrial neighbors, let’s get to work on some opening lines. What if we're really not alone?
July 20, 2014
It’s a thrill to read about the graffiti genius Ganzeer in the New York Times Sunday Arts Section, and about his prominence in a big show at the New Museum in Manhattan. And it’s a chill to discover that Ganzeer is a refugee in Brooklyn now — because Egypt under military dictatorship again is not a safe place for an artist of revolution. Ganzeer’s imprint on the walls of Cairo was my epiphany in 2012 about the depth of the art and passion under the so-called Arab Spring, and the universal reach of its graphic language.
July 17, 2014
The borders that divide up our modern world hinge, sometimes, on decisions that have stopped making sense. The Middle East is still suffering from unhealed wounds resulting from the boundaries established a hundred years ago in secret by two men, Mark Sykes and Francois Georges-Picot, that carved the former Ottoman empire into today's Middle East. As geopolitics changes around the world, why don't those political maps?
Podcast • July 11, 2014
Everybody loves Yu Hua, a giant of the literary life in China today. He’s a free spirit with a critical eye, and a popular touch, a tragic vision, an easy laugh. It is a main theme in much of Yu Hua’s work and our conversation that China is hooked for a century now on something like an addiction to Revolution. And a revolution, he reminds me with heavy irony, quoting Chairman Mao, is not a dinner party. It’s an insurrection, an act of violence.
July 10, 2014
It’s the artists — from Orwell of Nineteen Eighty-Four, to Philip Dick and Margaret Atwood, to Trevor Paglen and Banksy — who raise the big questions: about voyeurism, about safety and risk, and the essence of our public and private selves. Is there a book or a movie that tells us what kind of world are we living in, or where the surveillance state begins and ends? What impact does mass surveillance have on our selves, on our national psyche, on the way we interact with each other, on the art we make and the way we live?
Podcast • July 8, 2014
Louis Armstrong came out of the Colored Waifs’ Home in New Orleans and the honky-tonks of the red-light Storyville district. Then and ever after Louis Armstrong’s time and phrasing, his tone and spirit made him the most influential voice in 20th century American music. We’re appreciating the man the world came to know as Satchmo. Thousands of musicians and friends called him Pops. Our guest this hour, the cornet star Ruby Braff, always called him Louis.
Podcast • July 7, 2014
“What we play,” Louis Armstrong said, “is life.” We’re learning that Louis Armstrong was not just the world’s greatest trumpet player, not just the most original and influential voice in jazz, not just the founding father of an American music with new forms and phrasing and feeling all indelibly marked by him; what’s seen and heard in perspective is that he was an actor and artist of range and depth, who shaped classic songs of American life as Dickens and Shakespeare formed classic characters of the English language.
Podcast • July 3, 2014
We've discovered some old gems in our radio archives and sprinkled them through a conversation with John Updike's biographer, Adam Begley, for our show this week. Begley talks about Updike's Pennsylvania boyhood, his wives and lovers north of Boston, his children, his spiritual life, his voracious reading, his travels — and how he created the most graceful prose of our time by cannibalizing all of it for his art.
Podcast • June 30, 2014
This week marks the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act. At the end of June, 1964, Stokely Carmichael, Martin Luther King Jr., and hundreds of civil rights activists marched across Mississippi to register African-American voters in one of the turning points of the civil rights movement. In remembrance of that "Freedom Summer," we're republishing this show with the Carmichael biographer Peniel Joseph, historian Isabel Wilkerson, and activist Jamarhl Crawford.