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Person Place Thing with Randy Cohen
28 minutes | Jan 28, 2023
She’s filmed a lot of musicians—Michael Tilson Thomas, Metropolitan Opera productions—but her heart belongs to Doña Carlota Joaquina, princess of Portugal, the Shrew of Queluz: “Any woman who is known as a shrew I would probably like.” Produced with Ralph Farris. Music by Ethel.
28 minutes | Jan 21, 2023
As president of the Ford Foundation, he supported Monticello’s efforts to improve its depiction of the enslaved Black people who built it and of Thomas Jefferson, who owned it. “I believe that Thomas Jefferson and his home are one and the same.” Produced with the Municipal Art Society. Guest host: Jami Floyd. Music: Rashad Brown.
28 minutes | Jan 14, 2023
Rightly proud of her field, she declares, “We’ve been the most trusted profession in the country for twenty-some odd years.” Police? Priests? Tech execs? Finance weasels? Yeah, right. Nurses! She’s the dean of the Columbia University School of Nursing.
28 minutes | Jan 7, 2023
“Many people think that the big words are the big part of the dictionary,” says this lexicographer, “but it’s the little words that are so full of life and variation and complexity,” We talk about “go” and more as Person Place Thing becomes Word Word Word.
28 minutes | Dec 31, 2022
Like Conrad, Nabokov, and Beckett, this novelist—In the Distance, Trust— writes in a language other than the one he spoke as a child, and it helps him see the world afresh: “If you move out of one language and into another, it is like moving out of one country and into another.” A conversation at Rizzoli Bookstore. Music: Hubby Jenkins.
28 minutes | Dec 10, 2022
When he was in college, he met Duke Ellington. “I was a freshman with a huge afro, an Angela Davis afro, and he pointed at me across the room and said, ‘You must be a musician.’” Thus anointed, he went on to compose operas including X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X and the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Central Park Five.
28 minutes | Dec 3, 2022
This terrific bass-baritone likes white orchids in his dressing room. They’re beautiful and ephemeral, like—oh, I don’t know—music? Now everything seems like a metaphor. “Everything is a metaphor,” he says. The joys and jolts of a person of color in the world of classical music.
28 minutes | Nov 27, 2022
Suzanne Vega and Gene Pritsker
This singer-songwriter and this composer met at artist Mark Kostabi’s house. “He’s attracted to lots of different kinds of people,” she says. “He brings them together, feeds them, gives them wine, and tells us to perform.“ Isn’t that pretty much the Island of Dr. Moreau? Music: Suzanne Vega, Bill Anderson, and the CompCord quartet. Presented with Composers Concordance and Marsyas Productions.
28 minutes | Nov 19, 2022
This graphic designer is admired for his decades as an art director at the New York Times, for his teaching, and for his books, including his most recent, Growing Up Underground,a memoir of his youth in the East Village of the sixties: ”It was disgusting, but in a good way.” Produced with the Type Directors Club, part of The One Club for Creativity. Music: Stephanie Jenkins.
28 minutes | Nov 12, 2022
The best medical outcome is that the patient doesn’t get sick in the first place, notes New York City's health commissioner, and yet, “We spend four trillion dollars on health care, and we spend about three cents of every dollar on prevention and public health. Something has to give.” He’s right, but what? Challenging! Presented with Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health. Music: John Sherman.
28 minutes | Nov 4, 2022
As a poet and essayist (Inciting Joy), he is acutely in touch with his feelings, and yet he refers to “the many ways I try not to be aware of what’s breaking my heart.” A paradox reconciled, plus pickup basketball as a model of self-government, and the pawpaw as a model fruit. Produced with Orion magazine.
28 minutes | Oct 29, 2022
When he was 12, he joined the Children’s Crusade in Birmingham and was thrown in jail. At 15, he entered college, studied mathematics, and went on to lead the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, bringing legions of under-represented students to STEM studies and STEM professions. He is America's secret STEM mentor.
28 minutes | Oct 22, 2022
Lt. Col. Jordan Becker
He served in the special forces in Iraq, as a defense policy advisor to NATO, and now teaches international relations at West Point, where a woman colleague gently explained male privilege. He got it: “I had this advantage, in that I’m kind of a fat-headed, broad-shouldered man with badges and gadgets.”
28 minutes | Oct 15, 2022
The CEO of PEN America, she has good news and bad news. “We’re not seeing a lot of book burning, thankfully, but we are seeing a kind of forest fire of book banning rippling it way across the United States.” Actually, that’s simply bad news.
28 minutes | Oct 8, 2022
Rachael Price & Taylor Ashton
These musicians admire the Buddhist teacher and “spiritual entertainer” Alan Watts, despite his having led a flamboyantly imperfect life. Debauchery is not strictly required, however; saintliness, too, has its appeal. “If you can be a shining example on this earth, that’s absolutely inspiring as well,” Rachael tells the New York Baha’i Center.
28 minutes | Oct 1, 2022
Affectionately called “Train Daddy,” he has run transit systems in London, Toronto, and New York, where few people in such jobs are affectionately called anything. He reflects with feeling on subways, seaports, and the almost moral duty to support your home team. “You can’t chop and change.”
28 minutes | Sep 24, 2022
This costume designer, known for his work with playwright Taylor Mac, rejects the old saw, there’s no accounting for taste. “Yes, you account for taste. It is part of who you are. And maybe I’m judging you right now. No. I’m kidding.” I don’t think he’s kidding. We talk sense and sensibility and suits at Materials for the Arts.
28 minutes | Sep 17, 2022
When Homer refers to the “wine-dark sea,” does he mean red, white, or rosé? He intends no color whatever, asserts the author of Greek to Me, who offers an ingenious alternative. Wine and the Greeks: in the ancient world, the modern world, the world of mythology. Presented with The Neal Rosenthal Group. Music: Avram Pengas.
28 minutes | Sep 10, 2022
This writer is astute and amusing about manners, aging, and their intersection: “The shusher in the movie is always much louder than the person who’s talking; I’ve become a shusher.” Impressively, he has the self-awareness to recognize it, the courage to admit it, and the sense of humor to make it bearable.
28 minutes | Sep 3, 2022
Ulysses Owens Jr.
When this Grammy-winning drummer was just a kid, Wynton Marsalis performed at a local high school. “There were all these people in this auditorium, and I looked at Wynton, and it almost felt like everybody disappeared, and it was just me and him.” A musician meets his destiny. Presented with Ralph Farris of the quartet Ethel.
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