Fresh Air

M-Th 7p
  • Hosted by Terry Gross

Opening the window on contemporary arts and issues with guests from worlds as diverse as literature and economics.

Fresh Air's Terry Gross
Credit Will Ryan

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.

Stephen Colbert loves music and loves to sing. That's why Fresh Air's Terry Gross asked him to bring a few songs that mean a lot to him and tell her why. For example, as a kid, Colbert discovered his first lesson about character acting through "King Herod's Song" from Jesus Christ Superstar, even though he thought the words were scandalous at first: "Oh, so you are the Christ? You're the great Jesus Christ. Prove to me that you're no fool. Walk across my swimming pool."

On April 8, 2003, in the early days of the Iraq War, the Kachadoorian family found themselves in the middle of a firefight at a major intersection in Baghdad.

They had approached the intersection in three cars and didn't respond to Marines' warnings to stop and turn around; so the Marines opened fire, killing three men and shooting a young woman in the shoulder, not realizing that the people in the car were civilians.

In January, Ava DuVernay became the first African-American woman to win Sundance's best directing award for her second feature-length film, Middle of Nowhere. The film is about a young black woman named Ruby, who puts her life and dreams of going to medical school on hold while her husband is in prison.

Big Joe Turner's hardest-hitting singles have been collected on a new compilation, titled Big Joe Turner Rocks.

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:

On his major-label debut Blak and Blu, you can hear the roar in Gary Clark Jr.'s blues guitar, and in his vocal throughout "Bright Lights." It's one of the few straight-up blues songs on what is essentially an introduction to one of the most highly praised young blues guitarists in recent times. While Clark comes out of a blues tradition, he's also a twentysomething who's taken in all of contemporary music.

This interview was originally broadcast on Feb. 1, 2012. How to Be Black will be released in paperback on Oct. 30.

It's no coincidence that Baratunde Thurston's new memoir and satirical self-help book How to Be Black was slated for release on the first day of Black History Month.

In 1983, Berkeley poet and journalist Mark O'Brien wrote an article about sexual surrogates — women and men trained to help people with disabilities learn to use their bodies to give themselves and others erotic pleasure.

For O'Brien, the subject wasn't academic. After a bout of childhood polio, he had spent much of his life in an iron lung. He could talk, and tap out words on a typewriter holding a stick in his mouth. He could feel things below the neck. But he couldn't move his muscles.

His public words have inspired millions, but for scholars, his private words and deeds generate confusion, discomfort, apologetic excuses. When the young Thomas Jefferson wrote, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal," there's compelling evidence to indicate that he indeed meant all men, not just white guys.

As soon as Sherry Turkle arrived at the studio for her Fresh Air interview, she realized she'd forgotten her phone. "I realized I'd left it behind, and I felt a moment of Oh my god ... and I felt it kind of in the pit of my stomach," she tells Terry Gross. That feeling of emotional dependence on digital devices is the focus of Turkle's research. Her book, Alone Together, explores how new technology is changing the way we communicate with one another.

Long before singer and pianist Michael Feinstein became famous in his own right, he had the privilege of working closely with legendary songwriter Ira Gershwin, as his archivist and cataloger. In his new book, The Gershwins and Me: A Personal History in Twelve Songs, Feinstein writes firsthand about the musical world of the American composers and brothers, George and Ira Gershwin.

The Budapest String Quartet has always been my standard-bearer for chamber music. I grew up listening to their recordings, and especially admired not only their gorgeous sound, but also the uncanny interaction among all four players, even when there were changes in personnel. They had a way of playing as if they were speaking to each other, expressing deep and sometimes complicated feelings.

You might think that Bridget Lancaster and Jack Bishop — two of the culinary talents behind the public television shows America's Test Kitchen and Cook's Country — would have their cooking techniques pretty much figured out. Think again.

For the new Cook's illustrated book The Science of Good Cooking, Bishop and Lancaster tested principles they assumed were true — and as Bishop tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross, "Things that we thought were actually accurate turned out to be, perhaps, more complex."

Whenever Tyler Perry is in front of the camera, he's usually behind it as well. A screenwriter, director, producer and star, Perry grew up poor in New Orleans, but he has become a movie phenomenon — he was described in the New Yorker as the most financially successful black man the American film industry has ever known.

Roxy Music's eight studio albums have just been collected in one box set, titled The Complete Studio Recordings 1972-1982.

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:

Ben Affleck's Argo is two-two-TWO movies in one, and while neither is especially original, by merging them Affleck pulls off a coup. First, he gives you espionage with the You Are There zing of a documentary. Then he serves up broad showbiz satire. For his final feat, he blends the two into a pulse-pounding nail-biter of a climax. And this all really happened. Most of it. Except for that climax.

This interview was originally broadcast on Oct. 11, 2011. The Viral Storm will be published in paperback on Oct. 16.

The New Yorker once called virologist Nathan Wolfe "the world's most prominent virus hunter." Wolfe, the director of the Global Viral Forecasting Initiative, spends his days tracking emerging infectious diseases before they turn into deadly pandemics.

If you don't think of patents as a particularly exciting or interesting field, consider a point Charles Duhigg makes in his recent New York Times article, "The Patent, Used as a Sword": According to an analysis done at Stanford: "In the smartphone industry alone ... as much as $20 billion was spent on patent litigation and patent purchases in the last two years — an amount equal to eight Mars rover missions."

A.M. Homes is a writer I'll pretty much follow anywhere because she's indeed so smart, it's scary; yet she's not without heart. It's been a while since her last book, the 2007 memoir The Mistress's Daughter, which is certainly the sharpest and most emotionally complex account of growing up adopted that I've ever read.

Teaching jazz history got trumpeter Ron Miles deep into the pleasures of early jazz, with its clarity of form and emphasis on melodic improvising that doesn't wander far from the tune.

No one has a crystal ball, but Nate Silver has perfected the art of prediction. In 2008, he accurately predicted the presidential winner of 49 of the 50 states, and the winners of all 35 Senate races. Before he focused on elections, Silver developed a sophisticated system for analyzing baseball players' potential and became a skilled poker player — which is how he made his living for a while.

Iris DeMent possesses one of the great voices in contemporary popular music: powerfully, ringingly clear, capable of both heartbreaking fragility and blow-your-ears-back power. Had she been making country albums in the '70s and '80s and had more commercial ambition, she'd probably now be considered right up there with Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette.

Many of us think of death as the worst possible outcome for a terminally ill patient, but Judith Schwarz disagrees.

Schwarz, a patient supporter at the nonprofit Compassion & Choices, says prolonging death can be a far worse fate. For many patients, good palliative or hospice care can alleviate suffering, yet "a small but significant proportion of dying patients suffer intolerably," Schwarz writes.

When you consider how carefully staged and planned the debates are and how long they've been around, it's remarkable how often candidates manage to screw them up. Sometimes they're undone by a simple gaffe or an ill-conceived bit of stagecraft, like Gerald Ford's slip-up about Soviet domination of eastern Europe in 1976, or Al Gore's histrionic sighing in 2000. Sometimes it's just a sign of a candidate having a bad day, like Ronald Reagan's woolly ramblings in the first debate with Walter Mondale in 1984.

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