Walden Pondered

“Walden” doesn’t really have a plot. It’s one part memoir, one part self-help and 10 parts rant about everything wrong with American society. So why do we still read Henry David Thoreau’s memoir about living in the woods? It was a blast to produce this piece for Studio 360’s long-running American Icons series, and to… Continue reading Walden Pondered

Guilty Pleasure: Christian Rock, for a Nonbeliever

Sam Cook grew up in a fundamentalist Christian church outside Joplin, Missouri. “Speak in tongues, lay on hands, put holy water on people, a literalist view of the Bible,” he says. Part of that upbringing involved avoiding “secular” pop culture, instead watching Christian movies and listening to Christian rock. Then he moved away to Kansas… Continue reading Guilty Pleasure: Christian Rock, for a Nonbeliever

Every Picture Tells a Story

Linden Frederick paints realistic scenes of mysterious-looking buildings at twilight. About that time of day, Frederick says, “Somebody described it as the point where the dog becomes the wolf.” He’s particularly interested in the unglamorous stretches of the country that the economy has left behind. Looking at his paintings, you can imagine the kinds of… Continue reading Every Picture Tells a Story

As You Dislike It

Wikimedia Commons

Sometimes you don’t like what everyone expects you to. When you’re a critic, that can look contrarian or intentionally provocative. Longtime Pittsburgh theatre critic Ted Hoover is neither of those things, but he does throw some very entertaining shade on Shakespeare in this feature I produced for Studio 360.

Way to Go, Einstein

On the 100th anniversary of the publication of the theory of relativity, I produced an episode of Studio 360 (PRI + WNYC) looking at how Einstein upended the way we see space and time, his effect on pop culture, and how one of his most preposterous ideas was ultimately proven right. For this hour, I came… Continue reading Way to Go, Einstein

Is Laughter Good for Your Health?

Rod Waddington

For this episode of Studio 360, Kurt Andersen and Only Human host Mary Harris go to a session of laughter yoga to find out about the health effects of laughter. We trace the origin of laughter with researcher Robert Provine, and look at laughter’s effect on the brain with neuroscientist Sophie Scott. Chris Gethard talks about… Continue reading Is Laughter Good for Your Health?

Hilary Mantel Reimagines History

Hilary Mantel

The novelist Hilary Mantel has definitively updated our idea of Henry VIII—and our notion of what historical fiction can be. In her stylistically daring and formally inventive novels “Wolf Hall” and “Bring Up the Bodies,” she focuses on a less well-known figure who’s always been depicted as kind of a weasel: Thomas Cromwell. He was the son of a blacksmith who… Continue reading Hilary Mantel Reimagines History

Claudia Rankine on the Experience of Racism

Graywolf Press

Claudia Rankine’s 2014 book of poetry Citizen: An American Lyric became the first book ever nominated in two categories by the National Book Critics Circle Awards — poetry and criticism. That reflects the book’s varied literary approaches as well as its timely, acute critique of racism in contemporary American culture. I produced this interview for Studio 360.

JFK Sings on the Moon

Fort Worth Opera

Recently, the Fort Worth Opera decided to commission a new opera to tell the story of JFK’s final night—a night he spent with the first lady in a Fort Worth hotel room. They turned to two up-and-coming stars of contemporary opera, the composer David T. Little and librettist Royce Vavrek. I interviewed Little and Vavrek and… Continue reading JFK Sings on the Moon