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Philosophy & Other Big Ideas

Open Source with Christopher Lydon

Christopher Lydon

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Open Source is the world’s longest-running podcast. Christopher Lydon circles the big ideas in culture, the arts and politics with the smartest people in the world. It’s the kind of curious, critical, high-energy conversation we’re all missing nowada...Show More
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30:34 | Oct 3rd, 2017

Karl Ove Knausgaard wrote a 6-volume selfie that a lot of us can’t stop reading. My Struggle he called it, looking inward and talking to himself for thousands of pages. Autumn, his new book, is ...
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49:44 | Sep 8th, 2017

John Ashbery seemed to lower, not raise, his voice when he spoke his poems. “Hammer and tongs, as it were, tended to drive ideas and meanings away,” he thought.  “They only come back in when ...
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49:58 | Aug 23rd

The jazz DJ Tom Reney has been telling people for 40 years about the true American art form. This hour he’s telling people about himself for a change: the inner life of a taste-maker, in ...

50:11 | Aug 16th

Herman Melville, at his 200th birthday, is the American Shakespeare if only for his epic prose poem Moby Dick, or The Whale. That’s Maximum Melville; we’re celebrating, instead, his short story “Bartleby, the Scrivener.” It’s the ...

50:17 | Aug 9th

Spoiler alert! (Really.) The big movie to reckon with this summer may be as much about the mood of 2019 as about the Helter-Skelter 1960s. It’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Quentin Tarantino’s ninth ...

50:13 | Aug 2nd

It’s been Marianne Williamson’s week in the presidential campaign, by the new metrics of Tweets (running less and less snarky), and Google searches asking who is this ageless New Ager, this fount of love and toughness, ...

50:15 | Jul 26th

“You must remember this,” the songwriter said, but is it ever that simple? Same for all the admonitions: never to forget. Really, never? Lewis Hyde is back, the wisdom-writer and provocateur, to wonder if we’ve ...

50:17 | Jul 19th

Middlemarch, a novel by the woman who gave herself a man’s by-line, “George Eliot,” may be the most honored masterpiece you’ve been avoiding all your life. Here’s the point: read it this summer. You’re ready ...

50:12 | Jul 12th

Casino gambling makes an odd fit with old bean-and-codfish Boston, even with Boston today: the best big college town in the country, the leading edge of genomic medicine, the home address of sports champions and ...

50:17 | Jul 4th

Composer Matt Aucoin stands for the proposition that the kid playing baseball next door in Medfield, Massachusetts, can grow up to be all music, all the time: mind, heart, spirit, to his fingertips. He remembers ...

50:14 | Jun 28th

Migrants from the Congo and Angola, by way of Texas, stepping off buses in Portland, Maine, by the hundreds, taking shelter and sleeping on cots on a hardwood floor built for professional basketball? You’ve seen ...

49:58 | Jun 21st

The Democratic debates are going to feel like a long weekend with the whole extended family: grandfather figures banging the table, no-nonsense women in the clan taking the old guys to task; up-start kids you ...

50:14 | Jun 14th

Richard Holbrooke makes a case study in American power. He had a diplomatic career, starting in Vietnam, of heroic ambition and hyperactive persistence. He had a peace-making triumph that ended the Balkan wars, then a ...

50:13 | Jun 7th

China in the 1980s can sound like a Paradise Lost—paradise crushed by tanks on Tiananmen Square 30 years ago, paradise erased by massacre and state propaganda ever since, an unmarked memory hole. Except that people ...

50:14 | May 31st

The Stonewall Uprising, fifty years ago, was chapter one in modern LGBTQ history. It was rough and ready in New York.  It was sexy and often celebratory in the San Francisco version. In Boston, true ...

50:16 | May 24th

Pico Iyer once described himself as “a global village on two legs.” He’s the writing champion of cosmopolitan consciousness who lived awhile inside the Los Angeles airport just to feel the great stream of humanity, ...

50:00 | May 17th

Three guys walk into a bar in the Middle East. A Saudi: bin Salman. An Israeli called Bibi. An American—call him Donald. They all know one thing deeper than deep: they hated that nuclear deal ...

49:48 | May 3rd

Aretha Franklin made you believe you were hearing both heaven and earth. Her voice was not of this world: it was “a gift of God,” people have said. She was the reason women want to ...

50:03 | Apr 19th

A conversation about collusion, obstruction of justice, and the full Mueller Report with Seth Berman, Andy Bacevich, and David Bromwich. A second chance for Mueller Report to pin a Russian tale on Donald Trump’s election ...

50:13 | Apr 12th

A conversation on art, architecture, and design with Tamar Avishai, Peter Chermayeff, Ann Beha, and Sebastian Smee. Bauhaus was the art school in Germany that created the look of the twentieth century. We just live ...

50:18 | Apr 5th

Esperanza Spalding’s eyes sparkle when she says she’s “drawn to greatness” in other musicians, greatness meaning the charisma of boldness in the interval between solid tradition and scary experimentalism. Listeners of all sorts can see ...

50:30 | Mar 29th

In the annals of public conversation, we seem to have reached toxic meltdown in the close of the mighty Mueller investigation. We’re past the “liar, liar, pants on fire” stage of a race to the ...

50:15 | Mar 22nd

A conversation with Greg Grandin, Valeria Luiselli, and John Lanchester. A reckless wall-building era runs round the 21st century globe. Reckless next to the New England farmer in Robert Frost’s famous poem. He’s mending his wall in ...

49:57 | Mar 15th

Siri: what is ‘artificial intelligence’? In computer science, she says, AI can refer to any device that senses its environment and responds to reach a goal. A simple translation of A. I. as, say, ‘robotic ...

49:56 | Mar 8th

A conversation with John Kaag and Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen on Nietzsche, philosophy, and life. The news about Nietzsche, as you may have heard, is that the nastiest old name in German philosophy doesn’t scare us anymore. ...

42:14 | Mar 4th

Could it possibly be that Stanford’s great humanist Robert Pogue Harrison invented René Girard out of sheer longing for an omni-theorist of our interlocking social and spiritual trials? Harrison presented Girard in a striking piece ...

50:02 | Mar 1st

A conversation with George Church and Antonio Regalado about gene editing and the future of biotech. Ready or not, we are at the gateway into CRISPR world and CRISPR think: CRISPR the acronym for biology’s ...

44:32 | Feb 22nd

A conversation about the movies with A. S. Hamrah, Beth Gilligan, Katherine Irving. We’ve reached that odd ritual of cultural reckoning. Between the Super Bowl and Opening Day of the national pastime, Hollywood holds up ...

39:09 | Feb 14th

Mahatma Gandhi led the liberation of India from British rule in the first half of the 20th Century, by massive and peaceful resistance. He is said to be out of political fashion in India these ...

50:12 | Feb 8th

A conversation on the crisis in Venezuela with Alejandro Velasco, Jeff Sachs, Greg Grandin, and Leo Blanco. The ruin of Venezuela and the world’s answer to it mark the climax of an epic, late in ...

50:13 | Feb 1st

A conversation about Astra Taylor’s new documentary What Is Democracy? with Astra Taylor, David Runciman, and Kali Akuno. We used to know what we liked about that word ‘democracy,’ and we were ready to fight for ...
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0:00 | Jan 28th

We loved that man, on top of worshipping his cool, insightful, hilarious Times column. Newspaper guys didn’t say this sort of thing, but Russ Baker made your heart flutter. Lunch or even a few words with the ... The post RIP: Russell Baker (no audio...Show More

49:57 | Jan 25th

Yes, Virginia, the world did change direction in the late summer of 2001, and it’s been changing us ever since. 9/11 had everything to do it, but it was also the panicky season of the ...

26:53 | Jan 19th

A conversation with Andre Dubus III about his new novel, Gone So Long.  An old-fashioned sort of writer from this part of the world, and a writer we love for his swerves and surprises, Andre Dubus ...

50:12 | Jan 11th

A conversation about the “Green New Deal” with Bill McKibben, Naomi Oreskes, and Daniel Schrag. The mission, as it turned out, was to transform the American economy and save the country, no less, over twelve years. ...

50:09 | Jan 4th

A conversation with Stephen Walt and Fintan O’Toole on the state of the world at the beginning of 2019. At the start of a new year, count the new normals in a changed world: new ...

49:57 | Dec 21st, 2018

A tribute to Leonard Bernstein with Nigel Simeone, Jamie Bernstein, and Augusta Read Thomas. Leonard Bernstein, the multi-musician, did it all in his lifetime. At his 100th anniversary this year, the only question people still ...

50:13 | Dec 14th, 2018

A conversation about Brexit, yellow vests, and the state of the European Union with Arthur Goldhammer, Vanessa Bee, Julian Bourg, and Alan Rusbridger. A nasty winter of discontent is in the air, blowing around old ...

50:09 | Dec 7th, 2018

You know you’re embedded in the Digital Age when you’re typing your anxieties into the Woebot app to get free, anonymous CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy). It’s Digital Age anxiety we’re all cringing at in the ...

50:02 | Nov 30th, 2018

“The genie is out of the bottle,” says George Church, and he should know. Dr. Church at Harvard Medical School has been a respected keeper of the keys to the miracle, or monster, that is ...

50:10 | Nov 16th, 2018

A conversation with Frederick Wiseman on his new film, Monrovia, Indiana, and a lifetime of observing. We’re way back home in Monrovia, Indiana, in Frederick Wiseman’s deep cinematic dive into Red State America. This is corn-and-hog, ...

50:09 | Nov 9th, 2018

A conversation with David Bromwich, Jill Lepore, David Bosworth, Briahna Gray, and Mark Blyth. The political armies, red and blue, both won tough battles at the midterm. What plain people got, at a minimum, was ...

49:56 | Nov 1st, 2018

A conversation with Howie Carr, David Boeri, and Richard Marinick. Jimmy Bulger, known as Whitey, was a nasty curse on the old Irish urban village of South Boston. At the same time, he was the ...

50:12 | Oct 26th, 2018

A conversation with Stephen Kinzer, Sarah Leah Whitson, Steve Simon, Chas Freeman, and Shireen Al-Adeimi. Speaking of Saudi Arabia, in the ghastly light of Jamal Kashoggi’s dismemberment: what more do we care to know, about ...

49:58 | Oct 18th, 2018

Historian David Blight on his new biography of Frederick Douglass. Frederick Douglass, scarred and tormented seeing men made slaves, set the course of his life to show how a slave became a man. In the ...

0:00 | Oct 12th, 2018

A conversation with Astronomer Royal Martin Rees, environmental policy expert Adil Najam, and social and political theorist Ajay Singh Chaudhary. We’re closer than we knew to falling off the cliff into climate hell – not ...

50:11 | Oct 4th, 2018

TDS is the acronym. Trump Derangement Syndrome is the full name: a distaste for Donald Trump so severe that sufferers abandon all logic and reason, all sense of proportion. But what if the breakdown they ...

49:53 | Sep 28th, 2018

“What’s past is prologue,” Shakespeare’s phrase from “The Tempest,” is carved in stone in front of the National Archive in Washington. Ronald Reagan liked to say that what it means about America is “you ain’t ...

50:12 | Sep 21st, 2018

The Roman Catholic Church is staring transfixed at a cascading scandal of crime and non-punishment. Sex crimes by priests against children are turning up now in far corners of the world, and a pattern of ...

50:05 | Sep 14th, 2018

It’s only a game, we used to say, but this season, between the US Open in tennis and pro-football’s opening games, our wide world of sports is an arena for every kind of cultural politics ...

49:59 | Sep 7th, 2018

It’s Labor Day week 2018, and “The American Worker” doesn’t fit any single poster shot. Is it the Uber driver – working flex time in the ‘gig’ economy, for a magic dispatcher of taxis around ...

50:13 | Aug 24th, 2018

At a madcap mid-point in the Age of Trump, it is the season suddenly of Alexandria Ocasio Cortez in the Democratic party. A.O.C. time, for the bold young waitress and straight-ahead socialist who toppled the ...

50:18 | Aug 16th, 2018

A new wave of black arts has surfaced in the mainstream of American popular culture. It’s not your standard entertainment, and not “art for art’s sake” either. On big screens and tiny ones, in music ...

0:00 | Aug 12th, 2018

This interview with V.S. Naipaul was released October 25, 2010. We are re-posting the podcast on the occasion of the author’s death Saturday. V. S. Naipaul, in the winter of his long writing life, doesn’t ...

50:17 | Aug 9th, 2018

The Shostakovich story — man and music in the apocalypse of world war and Cold War — seems to get more frightfully irresistible with every remembrance, every new CD in the Boston Symphony’s Grammy winning ...

50:00 | Jul 26th, 2018

The jobs are back.  It’s the work that feels fishy: so much of it paid but pointless; safe and even secure, but often un-satisfying if you were looking for hands-on and heart-felt work that could ...

50:12 | Jul 20th, 2018

Calling on the spies we know best – all of them fictional – to explain the Helsinki summit: If it was spy-craft in plain sight, what would James Bond or Jason Bourne have seen that we ...

50:14 | Jul 13th, 2018

Grenfell Tower was that giant pillar of public housing on the West side of London that went up in flames a year ago.  Suddenly it was a smoky chemical torch in the night, fueled by ...

50:12 | Jul 6th, 2018

Your friends and other experts will tell you the songs and sounds that are new and hot. What the music makers are happier telling you is: what’s old, what abides, what is true, what connects ...

16:52 | Jun 29th, 2018

Listen fast, podcast people, because the beloved artist-satirist-global muckraker Molly Crabapple talks fast, the same way she draws and paints a sort of carnival of conflict out there: in Syria, in storm-damaged Puerto Rico, in ...

50:36 | Jun 29th, 2018

The shock of migrant kids-in-cages on our border with Mexico is surfacing tough questions if you’re willing to look back at our history and ahead to an emerging world disorder. The issues run deep: why ...

49:54 | Jun 15th, 2018

From “fire and fury” to a “terrific relationship” in less than a year sound like a happy turn in the Trump-Kim dance around nukes and North Korea. Better news coming is implied in the Singapore ...

50:30 | Jun 8th, 2018

Anthony Bourdain introduced us almost 20 years ago to Systeme D, the crisis procedures in the best kitchens that get the chef out of a jam.  I was eager to interview him not least because ...

49:58 | Jun 7th, 2018

Seymour Hersh, known as Sy, made a brilliant career, at his best, of exposing Official US, at its worst: the Army massacre at My Lai, in Vietnam. The sadistic prison management at Abu Ghraib in ...

49:56 | Jun 1st, 2018

The Studs Terkel edge on the radio was, first of all, picking guests who would sound more interesting 50, 60 years later: Mahalia Jackson, Bucky Fuller, Toni Morrison, Bertrand Russell. Simone de Beauvoir on her ...

50:03 | May 22nd, 2018

Our long, gabby afternoon with Philip Roth in 2006, at his farmhouse in Cornwall Bridge, Connecticut, was a sort of pay-off. I’d helped him find just the right Boston location for a scene in his ...

49:53 | May 18th, 2018

One split screen wasn’t really enough for the asymmetries we’re looking at now, but there it was: Ivanka unveiling the Trump embassy plaque in Jerusalem, and 40 miles away, the massacre at Gaza, Israeli soldiers ...
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49:50 | May 11th, 2018

Dropping out of the Iran nuclear deal has the feel of dropping into the John Bolton phase of the Trump era.  Trump in Full. Trump Extra. The theme is No More Mr. Nice Guy, or ...
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29:55 | May 8th, 2018

This is an unlocked, bonus segment of Open Source. You can hear weekly conversations and extended interviews like this one by subscribing and supporting our work on Patreon. The writer Zadie Smith first clued us ...
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49:56 | May 4th, 2018

A specter is haunting human affairs these days: it’s the thought that Karl Marx (on his 200th birthday this week) may have been more right than wrong about rich-get-richer bourgeois economics.  He may have been ...
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49:46 | Apr 27th, 2018

Henry David Thoreau founded our literature of trees, glorying in the Eastern White Pine as the “emblem of my life,” to stand for “the West, the wild.” His friend Emerson, one step closer, felt an ...
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49:57 | Apr 20th, 2018

What President Trump said he wanted was to get US firepower out of Syria. “Let the other people take care of it now,” in his words. What he settled for with his own generals was ...
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22:35 | Apr 17th, 2018

This is an unlocked, bonus segment of Open Source. You can hear weekly conversations and extended interviews like this one by subscribing and supporting our work on Patreon. In her new book, Natural Causes: An ...
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49:57 | Apr 13th, 2018

Three questions they didn’t get Mark Zuckerberg to consider. For openers: that leak of 87 million identities to Cambridge Analytica: was it a bug in the system, or a feature of it?  Facebook’s core business ...
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49:57 | Apr 5th, 2018

There’s a quick, strange turn in our weather and it’s not just springtime. Public school classrooms, oddly enough, are the source of the storm winds: first the take-charge teenagers of the Parkland generation, ready to ...
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49:57 | Mar 29th, 2018

In the annals of rock music albums, Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks is one of a kind. In an earthy medium, it’s a masterpiece of abstraction.  Indecipherable. Irresistible. Influential. Accidental, it seemed, from the first licks ...
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49:58 | Mar 16th, 2018

Martin Luther King Jr. comes to seem larger in his absence these last 50 years, himself a cosmos, in Walt Whitman speak, containing multitudes—and not contradictions so much as multiples. He was a midnight-oil Ph.D. ...
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49:51 | Mar 9th, 2018

The case for prison education is alive again, in the land of mass incarceration, the case for reimagining prisons as colleges and universities of life. Malcolm X in his Autobiography gave the classic example: when ...
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49:58 | Mar 2nd, 2018

Black Panther, the movie, is heading toward $1-billion at the box office on just its third weekend. Already it seems that commercial success is likely not what Black Panther will be remembered for. It is ...
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50:04 | Feb 23rd, 2018

“Call me by your name,” the lovers say, “and I’ll call you by mine.” In the movie running strong for Oscar honors, the breathless word play is all about self-discovery in mad love for the ...
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49:32 | Feb 16th, 2018

The Syrian war is not over, meaning the war of the Assad regime to crush large swaths of its population. Syria, the proxy war of great powers and close neighbors, may in fact be getting ...
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49:56 | Feb 9th, 2018

Behold the Almighty Algorithm, a snippet of computer code coming to stand for a Higher Authority in our secular age, a sort of god. Algorithms are provoking a backlash, too, against the very idea of ...
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49:58 | Feb 2nd, 2018

Despite what the president might say—the state of the union is: “divided,” “mixed,” “fractured,” and maybe “headed towards oblivion.”  These were some of the reports we heard from the citizens of Greater Boston this week, ...
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50:34 | Jan 26th, 2018

We’re beginning our series of 50th anniversary programs this week with one of the great shocks of 1968: the Tet Offensive. When the Vietnamese insurrection broke all over the map in late January, the CBS ...
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49:56 | Jan 19th, 2018

In cities across the country, working and middle-class Americans are struggling to keep their homes, pay their rent, and fight off eviction and foreclosure. Somerville, Massachusetts has an acute case of a national dilemma—call it ...
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50:02 | Jan 12th, 2018

The election of Donald Trump supposedly ushered in a new era of “fake news” and “post-truth” politics. Democracy would die in darkness, we were told, unless we renewed our subscriptions to the traditional organs of ...
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49:55 | Jan 5th, 2018

The people’s economist Mark Blyth is a perpetual fan favorite for Open Source listeners. The Brown University professor, who never left behind his working-class Scottish roots, brings a vernacular wisdom and wit to his deep ...
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50:25 | Dec 29th, 2017

We’re ringing in the new year with a rerun of our conversation with Billy Bragg, a troubadour for British radicalism for more than thirty years as well as a democratic guitar-playing socialist with a steadfast ...
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50:23 | Dec 21st, 2017

Noam Chomsky for 50 years has been America’s Socrates, our public pest with questions that sting … not the city-square of Athens but a vast global village in pain and now, it seems, in danger. ...
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50:24 | Dec 15th, 2017

Nukes are on people’s nerves again, for good reason.  Our tremors, though, could be a symptom of sanity.  What do you mean: fire and fury, the incineration of nations, on one man’s decision? What they ...
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50:25 | Dec 8th, 2017

The news in our scandal-sick USA is that a woman can complain of sexual oppression with some assurance that she will be heard. Toxic masculinity is now a firing offense, for a change. The women saying “no” ...
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50:24 | Nov 30th, 2017

Otis Redding’s five magnificent years in showbiz transformed the sound of soul music. His grainy, growling, and “squawking” voice kept the music rooted in the older traditions of the black church and black life in America. Yet ...
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50:15 | Nov 23rd, 2017

This Thanksgiving, we’re replaying our episode on the issue of opioids. Their epidemic running rampant has a 30-year back story and a grisly punch-line for 2017: drug deaths this year alone are heading toward the US ...
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52:24 | Nov 17th, 2017

It’s Thanksgiving season again, and the double shadow on our great American food holiday is feast and famine, both. A bounteous industrial food system is wasting the land and leaving a billion of us humans ...
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50:55 | Nov 10th, 2017

It’s Mark Zuckerberg’s world, and we are just scrolling through it: 2 billion of us now, a quarter of all humanity. We’re the unpaid production staff of the fourth most valuable company in Silicon Valley, ...
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49:56 | Nov 3rd, 2017

President Trump is on tour in Asia this weekend: relieved maybe to be “getting out of Dodge” as his campaign team is getting indicted in D.C.  But it’s awkward, and unprecedented over there, too, that our ...
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49:55 | Oct 27th, 2017

Amazon, the online everything store with the arrow-headed smile in its logo, is ready to build its second headquarters (outside Seattle this time) in a post-industrial urban dreamscape.  And there’s barely an American city out ...
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49:56 | Oct 20th, 2017

The “intelligence explosion” foretold 50 years ago, could be here any minute. Artificial intelligence has now survived the “AI winter” — and is back in public conversation. It’s not just a Silicon Valley buzzword or a subject ...
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49:59 | Oct 12th, 2017

At Thelonious Monk’s hundredth birthday, it’s our ears that have changed, not his sound.  Instead of odd angles and eccentricity we hear orchids in music, various and beautiful.  The truth of the man’s life is ...
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49:53 | Oct 6th, 2017

An eerie suspense hangs over this Post-Puerto Rico moment.  Seas rising, spirits falling.  Awareness dawning, self-destruction by carbon, full-steaming ahead.  This week, we’re staring down climate dystopias with a motley crew of imaginative thinkers...Show More
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49:56 | Sep 29th, 2017

Puerto Rico, a territory of three-and-a-half million US citizens, is unplugged, de-sheltered and desperate for months to come. This tiny little island in the Caribbean, with more people than the Dakotas, Wyoming, Alaska and Vermont ...
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49:52 | Sep 22nd, 2017

Betsy Devos’s “Rethinking School” tour can feel like a mission to dismantle the whole system, public schools first. Choice, charters and change are DeVos’s keynotes, along with a call for more and more crushing competition. ...
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18:24 | Sep 20th, 2017

Claire Messud is a novelist of social nuance, especially concerning the crushable inner lives of girls. You could say her new book The Burning Girl, is a suburban Boston version of Elena Ferrante’s Linu and Lena ...
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49:57 | Sep 15th, 2017

At the brink of who knows what with North Korea, we seem to be back on the scary ledge as in the old Cold War cartoon: enemy rock-climbers hanging off a cliff by the same ...
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19:24 | Aug 31st, 2017

Amiri Baraka‘s death prompts me to repost a conversation we had about the music of John Coltrane, which inspired Baraka and ennobled the ambitions of his Black Arts movement. “Trane was our flag,” Baraka remembered ...
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29:27 | Aug 23rd, 2017

Akhil Sharma is a magician with language, on the page and in what feels for me anyway like instantly intimate conversation. He walks into my living room and immediately he’s teaching me something about myself. ...
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0:00 | Aug 18th, 2017

It’s plague time in America. We’ve reacquainted ourselves with the wannabe centurions of white supremacy: their faces, their weapons, their torches. We have a new notion of what homegrown American fascism could look like in the ... The post The Plag...Show More
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49:55 | Aug 10th, 2017

The dawn of a new age flashed across the news this summer – dateline Oregon: scientists from the US, China and South Korea together had tweaked the genes of a living human embryo to correct ...
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49:56 | Aug 4th, 2017

If you can believe your eyes, and ears, your screens, your Twitter feed, this is your mind, your country, our very public American life, “on Trump.”  There is no following this story, this confounding condition, this ...
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49:57 | Jul 27th, 2017

Billy Bragg has been the premier troubadour for British radicalism for more than thirty years: a democratic socialist with a guitar and a steadfast commitment to fighting fascism, racism, and homophobia.He was the voice of the ...
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49:45 | Jul 20th, 2017

The opioid epidemic running rampant this summer has a 30-year back story and a grisly punch-line for 2017: drug deaths this year alone are heading toward the US death toll in Vietnam over ten years. ...
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50:03 | Jul 14th, 2017

Henry David Thoreau on his 200th birthday has invited us back to his woodsy, watery old town of Concord, Massachusetts where crystalline American prose was born and grew up.  “The biggest little place in America,” ...
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51:16 | Jul 7th, 2017

Henry David Thoreau, our specimen of American genius in nature, wrote famously short, and long.  “Simplify,” in a one-word sentence of good advice.  But then 2-million words on 7-thousand pages in his quotable lifetime journal. ...
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49:54 | Jun 30th, 2017

Henry David Thoreau, on his 200th birthday, is an American immortal who got there the hard way – against the grain of his town and his times.  By now he’s the heroic non-conformist who modeled ...
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49:49 | Jun 16th, 2017

In the first summer of Trump, 2017, there’s something happening and it feels bigger than the Comey hearings, even Russia-gate. Who knew that a British election with an inconclusive photo finish could re-channel the anger ...
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18:28 | Jun 8th, 2017

Noam Chomsky had two giant careers: one in the science of language, another in the rough and tumble of anti-war politics, beckoning the question is it one Chomsky or two? In our two weeks of interviewing, ...
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49:55 | Jun 2nd, 2017

Noam Chomsky for 50 years has been America’s Socrates, our public pest with questions that sting … not the city-square of Athens but a vast global village in pain and now, it seems, in danger.The ...
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52:05 | May 26th, 2017

James Baldwin was the prophetic voice of an era that isn’t over. Fifty years ago, he was a young, bug-eyed man from Harlem who wrote, in essays and novels, his own version of the civil-rights movement. Now his words ...
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49:50 | May 19th, 2017

Welcome back to Nixonland: After four decades, the Oval Office is once again the seat of empire, occupied by a paranoid pilot hellbent on an unremittingly personal fight, and no holds are barred. Between US Presidents ...
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50:30 | May 12th, 2017

In John F. Kennedy’s hundredth birthday spring, we’re looking again at the family portrait we all know, by the painter Jamie Wyeth.His canvas summoned the late president as a ruddy sort of ghost, face aglow against deep brown ...
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49:54 | May 5th, 2017

What did we learn in Vietnam?
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24:37 | May 3rd, 2017

Ian Johnson won a Pulitzer Prize covering China for the Wall Street Journal–mostly economics–but then discovered what felt like a bigger story: a full-blown spiritual crisis inside a frenzied money culture.  In Chinese villages and ...
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49:51 | Apr 28th, 2017

100 days of Donald Trump in the White House, 100 days of Democrats in the wilderness, 100 dumbfounded days of dismay at the New York Times, 100 days for a lot of white America to ...
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49:55 | Apr 21st, 2017

Robert Lowell was the last of his kind: a New England aristocrat of Olympian thunder and civic weight, dead-set from boyhood on artistic greatness, “the pure air of the mountain peak,” he said.  All the ...
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49:54 | Apr 14th, 2017

With Barack out of the White House, Obamacare now looks something like a 7-year-old orphan: the unwanted child of yesterday’s Washington; a needy patchwork mega law with holes in its coverage.  Strange part is that Obamacare ...
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49:47 | Apr 7th, 2017

Is American history a cyclical thing; a series of concentric circles endlessly repeating? Are its contours defined by temporary revivals of old hopes and old fears, inevitably renewed and repeated every 80 years or so? Or ...
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46:30 | Mar 31st, 2017

"Conspiracy thinking is our response to the unimaginable."
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27:51 | Mar 28th, 2017

Yale historian Timothy Snyder has 20 pills he wants us to take, and keep taking, perhaps to save our country. The stark premise that he laid out for us a month ago is that the ...
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49:54 | Mar 24th, 2017

We’re looking for big answers from big thinkers this week, in the first episode of our series on the American Condition.Pick one: the American Experiment (A) has run its course, (B) is catching its breath ...
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25:30 | Mar 21st, 2017

The Pakistani fictionist Mohsin Hamid is acutely expert on our American hang-ups about others who look something like him. His new novel, Exit West, is a very modern sort of love story about a thoughtful ...
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49:54 | Mar 17th, 2017

In recent weeks, our comments section has been filled with request to define a term we use constantly on this show: neoliberalism. For people who like buzzwords parsed and spelled out, this hour’s for you.There ...
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49:51 | Mar 10th, 2017

It wasn’t a war of ideas that produced Donald Trump, but his election surprise has produced a war of ideas to define Trumpism. In our program, the battle will be waged by ambitious, 20-somethings hungry ...
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49:57 | Mar 3rd, 2017

The ICE age: ICE for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Federal agents that will swoop down if they think your citizenship is irregular. Suspense, surprise, and a certain arbitrary striking power are essentials in the ...
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31:39 | Feb 28th, 2017

The story master George Saunders is widely revered as the nicest guy in the writing game, but it’s sweeter and deeper than that. I met him in the Boston Public Library the other day to gab about ...
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50:42 | Feb 17th, 2017

Should Donald Trump have spelled it out that what he really had in mind for Washington was regime-change?  The darkest truth about the squalling Trump administration is that nobody knows what’s happening.  Old-time news guy ...
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50:06 | Feb 10th, 2017

The battle over the travel ban echoes our history from the founding, slicing deep into the heart of American sympathies: Are refugees and migrants coming ashore to be seen as humble ‘guests of the nation?’ or ...
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35:02 | Feb 7th, 2017

Why are we everywhere in the world, so often with guns drawn? The provocative reporter Stephen Kinzer has covered a number of our “regime-change” interventions in the world, from Guatemala to the Middle East. And ...
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49:54 | Feb 3rd, 2017

On Super Bowl weekend, we’ve lined up a couple of hall of fame political players who run outside Establishment lines to help us watch the game that’s unfolding so far in the Trump White House.  Pat ...
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49:43 | Jan 26th, 2017

Millions of people marched over the weekend, showing the outlines of a global, feminist, anti-racist, anti-Trump resistance… maybe. The question on our minds this week is whether the protesters can sustain and direct their dissent to create real ...
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49:52 | Jan 20th, 2017

What the “Yes I Can” president wanted most of all was to bring together a robust democracy in spirit if not every line of substance. What he ran into was a rockslide of revolt and ...
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49:56 | Jan 13th, 2017

According to Henry Kissinger, “Donald Trump is a phenomenon that foreign countries haven’t seen.” Don’t tell that to the Italians. The parallels between Donald Trump and former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi are as striking as ...
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49:57 | Jan 5th, 2017

In transition time, pre-inauguration, was there ever a clearer cue for Gospel music?  “Good news for bad times,” it’s been called. Sanctified music for a broken world. While Michele Obama’s hope is challenged, the giants ...
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0:00 | Dec 29th, 2016

Resolved in this New Year: read, and listen closely, to more poetry.This week, we’re starting with one of our favorite local poets, Stephen (or Steph) Burt.Burt, beyond his formal role as professor of English at ...
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51:15 | Dec 21st, 2016

This show originally aired December 2014.We’re getting the Beethoven fundamentals, as never before, at my own piano. At a short safe distance from the keyboard, I’m learning, among other things: As volcanic was the man’s ...
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49:54 | Dec 16th, 2016

"Donald Trump is a post-democratic leader. The liberal democratic model—of which Obama was the last president—is completely dead."
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49:56 | Dec 7th, 2016

Bob Dylan, the poet, has been singing more than 50 years, but have you ever really stopped to listen to the words? Now that Dylan is a Nobel giant of literature, we asked Christopher Ricks, professor of English ...
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49:59 | Dec 1st, 2016

Trump says he knows more than the generals, so this week we’re talking to the colonels about the future of U.S. foreign policy.Col. Lawrence Wilkerson joins us to try and sort through all the noise and ...
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49:57 | Nov 22nd, 2016

Zadie Smith is the writer who likes to say she learns more from dancers – Fred Astaire to Michael Jackson, Baryshnikov, Beyoncé – than from writers and a young lifetime of reading. Author of the ...
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50:12 | Nov 18th, 2016

Last week, the election of Donald J. Trump came as a thunderclap. This week, the echoes are still ringing in the ears of the American polity. Reports of the demise of the Republican party turned ...
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50:24 | Nov 11th, 2016

So! It happened. Hillary Clinton failed. Donald J. Trump will become the 45th of the United States. His election marks an earthquake in American politics – one that the seismic monitors of Big Media political pundits, data ...
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49:58 | Nov 4th, 2016

Here in Massachusetts, in the birthplace of Horace Mann’s free American ‘common school’, an intense battle over charter schools — one with outsized national stakes — will be decided at the ballot box next week. ...
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49:56 | Oct 27th, 2016

The most urgent existential risk facing the world today has received barely a footnote’s worth of attention in this presidential campaign. Over the course of the past three presidential debates, a grand total of five ...
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50:12 | Oct 21st, 2016

Thomas Paine, Jesus Christ, Abraham Lincoln, Saint Augustine, and Thomas Hobbes all agreed: A house divided against itself cannot stand. In this election season, the massive fault lines of gender, race, and class—snaking deep underneath the ...
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50:01 | Oct 14th, 2016

Donald Trump’s gross behavior towards women has been self-evident for years. Even The Donald himself, seen in this Howard Stern video from 2006, agrees that Donald Trump can be called a sexual predator. So how do ...
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49:58 | Oct 7th, 2016

Can a secret still be a secret if everybody knows about it?Top brass US intelligence officials, including former NSA director General Michael Hayden, seem to think so. “Stuxnet, no comment!” echoes like a mantra throughout ...
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49:48 | Sep 30th, 2016

Working-class whites are now the reigning champs of pessimism in America.  No other group of working-class Americans — Black, Hispanic, or Asian — holds a more despairing, more dire outlook on the future of our country. ...
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52:30 | Sep 21st, 2016

If all elections are about the future, why does this one come with so much baggage from our political and cultural past?It was in the misfit decade of the ‘90s that both Donald Trump and ...