Sunday, September 15, 2013

Show for Sept 15, 2013. James Dawes on “Evil Men.”

We love monsters and villains – can’t get enough of them – as long as they’re confined to fiction, the page or the screen. But how many of us confront real iniquity in human form? James Dawes has written extensively on atrocity and trauma, but he’d never encountered flesh-and-blood perpetrators until he visited Japan in 2008. He went to interview reformed war criminals from the genocidal Sino-Japanese War of the 1930s and 40s, when Japanese forces raped, tortured and killed millions of Chinese. His meetings with the now-elderly men, and the memories they shared with him, left him unnerved and beset by questions. After some years of processing the experience, he’s written a wide-ranging meditation on the causes and nature of inhumanity, the stories we tell about it and the very complicated business of bearing witness.

Click the Listen arrow at the top of this post to listen to the show, or you can download the MP3 here (if using a Mac, control-click the link and choose “Save Link As…” If using a PC, right-click and choose Save Target As…”)

And here’s an extra segment from the interview that didn’t make it into the final edit – further thoughts on the utility of evil as a moral category, on hatred, lifelong culpability and the efficacy of punishment. Click here to listen.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Show for May 5, 2013. Jill Wolfson: Justice, Retribution, High School and Young Adult Fiction.

Jill Wolfson was last on the show discussing the Beat Within writing program for incarcerated teens. You can hear my interviews with Jill, her colleague Dennis Morton and some of kids they work with in Juvenile Hall in this program from 2010. Jill has also written extensively on juvenile justice, crime and retribution as a journalist and non-fiction author, and those themes figure prominently in her latest young adult novel, Furious. Inspired by Greek myth and the tragedies of Aeschylus, it’s about three high school girls who become modern incarnations of the avenging Furies. We talked about the challenges of writing for the “YA” audience, the wages of revenge, the indelible impress of high school and Jill’s own teen years.

You can download the MP3 here (if using a Mac, control-click the link and choose “Save Link As…” If using a PC, right-click and choose Save Target As…”)

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Show for Jan 27, 2013. Life and Death in Angola Penitentiary.

Louisiana State Penitentiary, better known as Angola, is in many ways a world apart: a former slave plantation bigger in area than Manhattan, nestled in a crook of the Mississippi, where prisoners still work the fields overseen by guards on horseback. Many live out their days there and are buried on the grounds. It’s a world Marianne Fisher-Giorlando counts herself lucky to be a part of. She’s a criminologist who’s spent a good share of her life studying and volunteering in Angola. She’s become an authority on its workings, culture and history, and despite the fear and loathing the place may evoke, her experiences there have been surprisingly upbeat.

I met Marianne through filmmaker/musicologist Ben Harbert, when we did a show on his documentary film Follow Me Down: Portraits of Louisiana Prison Musicians. After hearing her story, I decided to share it with listeners.

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Marianne Fisher-Giorlando in the Angola Museum.



Angola on Animal Planet (go figure). Some good glimpses here, despite the sensational treatment.

You can download the MP3 here (if using a Mac, control-click the link and choose “Save Link As…” If using a PC, right-click and choose Save Target As…”)

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Show for Nov 4, 2011. Don Lattin on East-West Spirituality, Early Psychedelia and the Recovery Movement.

The last time I had journalist and author Don Lattin on the show, we discussed his book The Harvard Psychedelic Club, about Timothy Leary & Co. This time, we talked about a previous generation of consciousness raisers. Don’s new book, Distilled Spirits: Getting High, Then Sober with a Famous Writer, A Forgotten Philosopher and a Hopeless Drunk, tells the intersecting stories of Aldous Huxley, spiritual voyager and Doors of Perception author; his compatriate Gerald Heard, a soi-disant mystic and early acid head; and Bill Wilson, friend of Heard and founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. The book is also a memoir of Don’s own psychedelic experiences, his drug and alcohol addiction and AA-assisted recovery.


Courtesy of Don Lattin, a TV clip of an early acid experiment and rare footage of new age proto-prophet Gerald Heard.

You can download the MP3 here (if using a Mac, control-click the link and choose “Save Link As…” If using a PC, right-click and choose Save Target As…”)

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Show for Oct. 7, 2012. Steven Pinker on the Decline of Violence (rebroadcast).

I was on hiatus last week, so I replayed this interview from last year: cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker discussing his latest book, The Better Angels of Our Nature. Pinker argues that, modern mayhem notwithstanding, human violence has been trending downward for centuries. We discussed whether, how and why people have been getting more peacable.

You can download the MP3 here (if using a Mac, control-click the link and choose “Save Link As…” If using a PC, right-click and choose Save Target As…”)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Show for Sept. 9, 2012. Our Man in Hanoi: Historian Mike Vann.

Down the mean streets of old Hanoi goes Mike Vann, a historian specializing in Vietnam during its nearly 70 years under French rule. Mike has uncovered some wonderfully tawdry tales that reveal a lot about the whole strange business of colonialism, when much of the globe was claimed by a handful of European countries. We discuss sex in the colonial city, the great rat massacre, murder on the Rue Hue, Hanoi in the time of cholera, and some charming French postcards.

 
 
L to R: “La Mission Civilisatrice”; French Hanoi; colonial humor; Mike Vann at Angkor Wat.

Click the Play arrow at the top of this post to listen to the show, or you can download the MP3 here (if using a Mac, control-click the link and choose “Save Link As…” If using a PC, right-click and choose Save Target As…”)

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Show for March 11, 2011. Gay Writers and Gay Rights.

In his new book, Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed America, Christopher Bram says it was literature more than any other art form that opened America’s eyes to same-sex relationships and paved the way for gay rights. In the years following World War II, when homosexuality was taboo territory for movies, TV and other mass media, it was writers who broke the silence. Chris and I discussed the impact of writers such as Gore Vidal, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, James Baldwin and Allen Ginsburg; the sometimes nasty critical reaction to their work; and how Chris himself read his way out of the closet.

Chris’s previous nine books include Father of Frankenstein, the basis for the movie Gods and Monsters.

Click the Play arrow above to listen to the show, or you can download the MP3 here (if using a Mac, control-click the link and choose “Save Link As…” If using a PC, right-click and choose Save Target As…”)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Show for Nov. 6, 2011: Peter Singer on Ethics in Theory and Practice

Peter Singer may be the world’s best-known ethicist. He’s regarded as the intellectual father of the animal liberation movement and has staked out prominent positions on euthanasia, abortion, the use of military force and economic inequality. We talked about those and other sticky moral questions, as well as Peter’s brand of utilitarianism, which aims to provide a single logical framework for all ethical decision making. Originally broadcast in 2006.

You can download the MP3 here (if using a Mac, control-click the link and choose “Save Link As…” If using a PC, right-click and choose Save Target As…”)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Show for Oct. 16, 2011. Remembering Frank Kameny

As mentioned in an earlier post, I was saddened to learn this past week that gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny had died. For today’s show I replayed my 2010 interview with Frank, in which he looked back on his life as an activist. This is a somewhat longer cut of the original 2010 broadcast. In part 2 of the show, more on the subject of political activism and the sacrifices it sometimes calls for: an excerpt from a 2009 interview with former track star John Carlos, who talks about the famous black power salute he and fellow medalist Tommy Smith gave at the 1968 Olympic Games.

You can download the MP3 here (if using a Mac, control-click the link and choose “Save Link As…” If using a PC, right-click and choose Save Target As…”)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Frank Kameny, 1925 - 2011

I just got the unwelcome news that Frank Kameny died yesterday. Frank was an early leader of the gay rights movement in the US, an extremely effective activist, and certainly one of the most important civil liberties trailblazers that most Americans have never heard of. Aware that he’d been staging Fourth of July demonstrations for gay equality as far back as the mid-1960s, I interviewed him on my July 4, 2010 show. He was 85 at the time we spoke, feisty and funny and trenchant as ever. I had hoped to speak to him again. Regrettably, I never got the chance. But I’m grateful for the one conversation we did have, which you can hear below. The interview with Frank starts around the 32-minute mark.

You can download the MP3 here (if using a Mac, control-click the link and choose “Save Link As…” If using a PC, right-click and choose Save Target As…”)


Sunday, October 2, 2011

Show for October 2, 2011. The Life Unconscious: Psychologist Brian Nosek

Just how well do we know our own minds? For the last 15 years, Brian Nosek has been studying the hidden biases, preferences and thought patterns that lurk just below the threshold of self-awareness. Those unconscious attitudes are often at odds with our conscious account of ourselves, yet they may influence our outlook, our choices and even our actions. One of the tools Nosek and colleagues have used to expose latent racial preferences and other forms of bias is a simple online test, the Implicit Association Test, or IAT. In this edition of the show, I take the test myself and talk to Brian about implications of his research for our understanding of the mind, decisionmaking, politics and society.

Visit Project Implicit and take the IAT yourself.


This diagram is nonsense, but I needed something to put here.

Click the “play” arrow above to listen to the show, or download the MP3 here (if using a Mac, control-click the link and choose “Save Link As…” If using a PC, right-click and choose Save Target As…”)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Show for September 25, 2011. Down and Out in Dogpatch, Pt. 2

In part 1 of this two-part series, I talked to sociologist and writer Teresa Gowan about her years among the homeless recyclers of San Francisco’s Dogpatch district. As we walked through the neighborhood, Teresa described how much it’s changed. Most of the homeless have been pushed out, and therein hangs a tale of societal attitudes—toward poverty, property and rootlessness—going back hundreds of years. In this second and final part of the series, we found out where some of Dogpatch’s remaining homeless are holing up and how they’re hanging on.


Maya (front left), Iona (back) and Teresa.

Click the “play” arrow above to listen to the show, or download the MP3 here (if using a Mac, control-click the link and choose “Save Link As…” If using a PC, right-click and choose Save Target As…”)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Show for Sept. 4, 2011. Down and Out in Dogpatch, Part 1

The sociologist Teresa Gowan spent years getting to know a community of homeless recyclers in San Francisco’s Dogpatch neighborhood. She recounts the experience in her book Hobos, Hustlers and Backsliders: Homeless in San Francisco. It’s about many things: not just homelessness but also the ways we talk about it and how they hem us in; the meaning of work (which is why I chose to run this on Labor Day weekend); class and underclass in America; and the not-so-heartening history of attitudes toward poverty and “vagrancy.” Those are some the things we discussed as we paid a visit to a very different Dogpatch than the one Teresa once knew. The neighborhood has gone upscale in recent years, and many of the homeless have been driven out. We talked a lot about that, too.


Warm Water Cove, one of the spots in Dogpatch that Tereza Gowan and I traipsed through. Once a homeless camp, now a park.

Click the “play” arrow above to listen to the show, or download the MP3 here (if using a Mac, control-click the link and choose “Save Link As…” If using a PC, right-click and choose Save Target As…”)

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Show for July 3, 2011. Celebrating In(ter)dependence Day

Stories about becoming American: where we come from, how we got here, the connections we make and the connections we keep, at home and abroad. In part 1, KUSP’s Sean Rameswaram joins Team America and swears some oaths. In part 2, filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi attends naturalization ceremonies in all 50 states, meeting new US citizens. In part 3, Mwende Hahesy, also of KUSP, pays a visit to her mother’s homeland and reflects on the relationship of family and nationality.

 
Citizen Sean, fully naturalized.                                                   Mwende in Kenya with her grandmother Esther.

Click the “play” arrow above to listen to the show, or download the MP3 here (if using a Mac, control-click the link and choose “Save Link As…” If using a PC, right-click and choose Save Target As…”)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Pledge Drive Continues: Still Time to Give

Many thanks to those of you who made contributions during our pledge drive show yesterday. Same to all who’ve pitched in during this drive. And to those of you who haven’t (yet), there’s plenty of time. Just call 888-777-1507 or go to KUSP.org. It’s soooo easy. And tell them what your favorite shows are.

On yesterday’s 7th Ave Project, we aired some choice bits from the past year’s shows. An accidental (and pledge drive-relevant) throughline emerged. If you want to hear the full stories from which the segments were taken, here are the links: