Fresh Air

Weekdays 3-4 p.m., rebroadcast 9-10 p.m.
  • Hosted by Terry Gross

Fresh Air opens the window on contemporary arts and issues with guests from worlds as diverse as literature and economics. Terry Gross hosts this multi-award-winning daily interview and features program. The veteran public radio interviewer is known for her extraordinary ability to engage guests of all dispositions. Every weekday she delights intelligent and curious listeners with revelations on contemporary societal concerns.

For Boston: A Dave McKenna Concert

Apr 19, 2013

Fresh Air pays tribute to Boston with a 1988 performance by the late jazz pianist Dave McKenna. From 1981 to 1991, McKenna had a standing gig at Boston's Grand Dame Copley Plaza Hotel. He was also a loyal Red Sox fan. He died in 2008.

Fresh Air TV critic David Bianculli talks with Terry Gross about the media coverage surrounding the explosions at the Boston Marathon.

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR and we're talking about what's happening in Boston. With me now is our TV critic David Bianculli. And David, usually when there's breaking news like this you're watching, like, a lot of TVs at a time.

DAVID BIANCULLI, BYLINE: Right.

GROSS: Trying to see how different networks are covering it. And you've done this for years. You've done this through many different crises. So how does this past week compare to other crises that you've monitored in the media in terms of the coverage?

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. Today we're following events in Boston. We have several guests standing by. Our first guest is Seth Mnookin, a professor of journalism at MIT. He's become famous for live-tweeting the events in Watertown last night. He's a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and was a senior writer at Newsweek. Seth, are you joining us on the phone there?

SETH MNOOKIN: Yes, I'm here.

GROSS: Thank you for being with us. So how did you end up being on the scene at Watertown last night?

War photographer Tim Hetherington said he thought war was wired into young men. And he risked, and ultimately gave, his life to capture these young men in photographs and video — in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and other war zones. Hetherington was killed by shrapnel from a mortar round while taking pictures in Libya in 2011, during the uprising against President Moammar Gadhafi.

In his cover story for the April 29 issue of The New Republic, "The Hell of American Day Care," Jonathan Cohn writes that "trusting your child with someone else is one of the hardest things a parent has to do — and in the U.S., it's harder still, because American day care is a mess. And about 40 percent of children under 5 spend at least part of their week in the care of somebody other than a parent."

Brad Paisley's Wheelhouse is yet another very good album from a singer, songwriter and guitarist who's made a bunch of them in a row. It features a slew of shrewd songs about finding pleasure and comfort in a frequently unpleasant, uncomfortable world. The music includes a bone-cracking song about domestic violence written from a woman's point of view, one that praises Christian values from the perspective of a jealous skeptic, and one that samples the great Roger Miller as deftly as any hip-hop production.

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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. When the bombs went off Monday, my guest Amby Burfoot was seven-tenths of a mile from the finish line. Burfoot has a special place in the history of the Boston Marathon - he was the winner 45 years ago in 1968. To celebrate the anniversary of his win every five years he runs the Boston Marathon again. Many runners have turned to Burfoot for advice over the years.

Ken Burns has said that no matter what subjects he tackles in his documentaries — baseball or jazz, Mark Twain or the Civil War — they always seem to boil down to two things: "race and place."

That's certainly true with his latest film, The Central Park Five, which tells of the violent assault and rape of a female jogger in 1989. The place was New York City — and because of citywide racial tensions at the time, the story was seized upon by New York tabloids and national TV newscasts alike.

We're used to thinking of adoption as a way for infertile couples or single people to start a family or take in a child in need of a home.

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. We are so saddened and outraged by the bombings yesterday at the Boston Marathon - we're going to start the show, today, with a brief call to Dan Shaughnessy, a Boston Globe sports columnist who's covered many of the Boston Marathons. He's been named Massachusetts Sportswriter of the Year eight times and seven times has been voted one of America's top 10 sports columnists by AP sports editors.

In 2003, police in Somerset County, N.J., arrested a hospital nurse named Charlie Cullen who was suspected of injecting patients with lethal doses of a variety of medications. Cullen would turn out to be one of the nation's most prolific serial killers, murdering dozens, perhaps hundreds of people in nine hospitals over a 16-year period.

Journalist Charles Graeber spent six years investigating the Cullen case, and is the only reporter to have spoken with Cullen in prison. In his new book, The Good Nurse, Graeber pieces together the elements of Cullen's story.

No one is certain why food allergies are on the rise. By now nearly 15 million Americans have a food allergy, ranging from moderate to severe. One of every 13 children has one. Nuts, soy, milk, egg, wheat and shellfish are some of the foods that most commonly set off allergic reactions. In some cases, the reaction can be so severe that it results in the throat swelling up and closing, leading to death. For a child with a severe food allergy, every meal that isn't made under appropriate supervision can be hazardous.

Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:

Lemony Snicket Dons A Trenchcoat

Apr 12, 2013

This interview was originally broadcast on Dec. 10, 2012.

It has been more than six years since Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket, concluded his enormously popular 13-volume young adult series, A Series of Unfortunate Events. Handler recently revived the Snicket narrator, however, in his YA novel Who Could That Be at This Hour?

The voiceovers from Terrence Malick's To the Wonder, which has a lot of them, are intoned on the soundtrack while the characters stare into sunrises or sunsets — whenever the light is right, what cinematographers call, "the magic hour." This film and Malick's last, The Tree of Life, suggest that he's evolved into a blend of director and Christian minister: These are psalms writ on film.

Laurie Edwards has a chronic respiratory disease so rare that she's met only one other person who has it — and that was through the Internet. In and out of hospitals her entire life, Edwards, now 32, wasn't accurately diagnosed until she was 23. Before they correctly identified her condition — primary ciliary dyskinesia (PCD), which is similar in some ways to cystic fibrosis — doctors thought she might be an atypical asthma patient, that she wasn't taking her medications correctly, or that her symptoms were perhaps brought on by stress.

I've loved Patricia Volk's writing ever since I read her evocative 2002 memoir, Stuffed, which told the story of her grandfather — who introduced pastrami to America — as well as the rest of her family, who fed New Yorkers for more than 100 years in their various restaurants. Stuffed, like the best food memoirs, served up so much more on its plate than just a bagel and a schmear. So when I picked up Volk's new memoir, Shocked, my appetite was already whetted for the humor of her writing, its emotional complexity and smarts.

By 1928, Earl Hines was jazz's most revolutionary pianist, for two good reasons. His right hand played lines in bright, clear octaves that could cut through a band. His left hand had a mind of its own. Hines could play fast stride and boogie bass patterns, but then his southpaw would go rogue — it'd seem to step out of the picture altogether, only to slide back just in time.

In 1955, John R. Cash was a sometime auto mechanic, sometime appliance salesman who liked to play the guitar and sing, mostly gospel songs. The "R" in his name didn't stand for anything — and, in fact, he'd been named J.R. at birth and had to come up with "John" when he joined the Air Force. He'd spend the rest of his life reinventing himself.

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. The CIA and the military have been transformed in ways that have blurred the boundaries between them. The shape of the new military intelligence complex is the subject of my guest Mark Mazzetti's new book, "The Way of the Knife." He writes: The CIA is no longer a traditional espionage service, devoted to stealing the secrets of foreign governments. The CIA has become a killing machine, an organization consumed with man-hunting.

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(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. We're going to remember Annette Funicello. She died yesterday at the age of 70 from complications of multiple sclerosis, which she had had for more than 25 years.

For years, Jherek Bischoff has played in indie-rock bands, including Amanda Palmer's Grand Theft Orchestra. But on his new album, Composed, he found himself moving away from a rock sound and writing his own orchestral arrangements.

Mental is madder than madcap. I heard one critic sniff, "It's kind of broad" — and, Your Honor, the defense agrees! But if broad means "unsubtle," it doesn't have to mean "unreal." Mental makes most other movies seem boringly, misleadingly sane.

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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. David Kuo died Friday of brain cancer at the age of 44. We're going to hear an excerpt of my interview with him. When President Bush created the office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives in 2001, Kuo, a conservative, evangelical Christian, became its deputy director. When he left the office in 2003, he accused the Bush administration of manipulating conservative Christians to get the Christian vote.

As the U.S. economy struggles to recover from the financial crash, and Europe is buffeted by a series of banking crises, attention has focused on the presidents and prime ministers who've tried to cope with it all. Journalist Neil Irwin, an economics writer for The Washington Post, says there's an elite group of policymakers who can make enormously important decisions on their own, often deliberating in secret, and in many ways unaccountable to voters.

Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:

Fresh Air remembers the film critic and bon vivant Roger Ebert, who died Thursday, with a roundup of interviews from our archive.

In one, from all the way back in 1984, host Terry Gross talks with Ebert alone; in a second conversation, from 1996, Terry interviews both Ebert and his late partner Gene Siskel onstage at Northwestern University.

In two very special conversations, Ebert himself interviews iconic directors Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese.

And finally, critic-at-large John Powers discusses Ebert's 2011 memoir Life Itself.

As a Mormon missionary, Ryan McIlvain spent two years ringing strangers' doorbells, even as he experienced doubts about his own faith. McIlvain left the church in his mid-20s. His debut novel, Elders, is based on the experiences he had trying to convert people to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "Elder" is the term used for a young Mormon on his mission.

It's a funny thing about dictionaries. First we're taught to revere them, then we have to learn to set them aside. Nobody ever went wrong starting a middle-school composition with, "According to Webster's ..." but that's not how you start an op-ed commentary about terrorism or racism. When it comes to the words that do the cultural heavy lifting, we're not about to defer to some lexicographer hunched over a dusty keyboard.

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