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Open Source with Christopher Lydon
50 minutes | 3 days ago
A year and a half into the COVID story, notice the many unknowns, and one big known. Even now, nobody can tell you absolutely whether the infectious virus might have leaked, or been leaked, from a Chinese lab in Wuhan. No one’s quite explained, broadly, why the people and governments in East Asia coped so much more effectively with COVID than Team West in Europe and the US. In the hindsight wisdom on COVID, what we do know is that nobody will write the story better than Michael Lewis, with more surprises (like George W. Bush’s foresight) and more heroes you hadn’t heard of before and now may never forget. Michael Lewis wrote Moneyball about big-league baseball, and The Big Short about the housing bubble; on the COVID crisis, he’s playing detective for the rest of us. Marc Lipsitch, whose work gets discussed in Michael Lewis’s new book, joins the conversation this hour. What the writer Michael Lewis delivers in book after book is not history exactly, and not hard science. It’s people, with their own ways of seeing baseball, Wall Street and now COVID. I read Michael Lewis as a nonfiction novelist of our American condition, and he’s done it again in his pandemic story, The Premonition, with his kind of characters out of the COVID cast – not Dr. Fauci and not Donald Trump, but doctors, one by one, who see through healthcare systems the way Billy Beane saw through big-league baseball, the way the short-sellers saw through the housing bubble in The Big Short. And now he gives us Charity Dean, M.D., public health doc in Santa Barbara, California, who saw herself as a dragon, at war with a pandemic that she knew was coming a week before the virus knew. Then the reflective, effective doctor and poet Richard Hatchett; then this genius of a people-watcher Carter Mecher at the V.A., the doc with dirt under his fingernails. The post Pandemic Premonitions appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.
50 minutes | 10 days ago
COVID in India
The humbling of India, the torment of India, is full of messages for the rest of us. Beware the second wave of the pandemic: that’s the one that has turned India’s boastful first round into a hellish reprise. India the pharmaceutical giant, and exporter of vaccines, claimed last winter to have “saved humanity” from COVID. Come spring, India is suddenly the epicenter of the virus. It’s run out of vaccines, also life-saving oxygen. And the new cases of COVID in India are running at 400,000 a day. The collapse of public healthcare could be the “Unmaking of India,” in one headline. It has broken the myth of a modern, privatizing, all-business India. Most of its vast population cannot get emergency help. Vaccination queue in India. India, it’s been said, is “a noisier version of the United States.” You can pick up a bit of that noise right here this radio hour: the sound of suffering and dismay in COVID-stricken India — cases spiking straight up in a country that thought it had licked the virus for the world. The post COVID in India appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.
50 minutes | 17 days ago
Armenia in History and the Heart
Where is Armenia, the place, the idea? Where then? Where now? And how come the delight on top of the darkness in saying “I am Armenian”? Armenians were a tiny, ancient Indo-European people, between East and West, the first Christian nation, when Turkey wiped most of them off the map in 1915. It was the twentieth century’s grotesque model of mass slaughter of a people, a genocide by any measure. Yet there the Armenians are today—6, 7, maybe 8 million people in 80 countries of the world: a lively, secret club, somebody said: invisible to non-members but instantly recognizable to other Armenians. A world people with their own alphabet, language, cuisine, music, nightmares abounding—but art, too, and humor, despite everything. Young Armenian dancers perform for their families at the Culturel Alex Manoogian de l’UGAB in Paris, France. The Armenian community in France, largely made up of the descendants of Armenian genocide survivors is the largest in Europe, and is extremely influential. They played an active role in the French resistance and in French culture overall – especially famed singer and actor Charles Aznavour. Photo credit: Scout Tufankjian. The mass slaughter of Armenians in Turkey starting in 1915 is a bone still stuck in the throat of history. And it’s a jagged scar, an area of darkness in the hearts of a global diaspora. More than a million people were killed, much more than half of the Armenian nation, a century ago. It’s an atrocity brazenly denied ever since by the government of Turkey, a crime unrecognized by most nations, acknowledged finally as a genocide this spring by President Biden. Both branches of Congress voted that verdict against Ottoman Turkey two years ago. We’re listening this radio hour not for the politics of the story but for the personal experience of unspeakable loss among survivors and their descendants—family histories too horrible to be forgotten, or remembered. Banner photo courtesy of Nubar Alexanian. Special thanks, too, to Laura Purutyan and Lerna Ekmekcioglu. The post Armenia in History and the Heart appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.
50 minutes | 24 days ago
The Free World
Recovery and renewal arrived on a flood tide that lifted all kinds of production—culture above all. This was the era that gave the world a new look: tail fins on new cars, Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings, new sounds like Kind of Blue and John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme. New films like Nicholas Ray’s Rebel without a Cause, and Susan Sontag’s “Notes on Camp.” Jack Kerouac had a hit with On the Road; he said: the “beat” in Beat poetry meant “sympathetic,” and now we get it. The postwar period in Luke Menand’s big book on The Free World is 1945 to the late ’60s: the American Century’s best quarter maybe, when the center of world civilization moved from Paris to New York and Los Angeles. Louis, or Luke, Menand. Luke Menand has written a monumental catalog of The Free World that staggered, then strutted out of World War 2 in 1945. His subtitle is Art and Thought in the Cold War. You can read it now as a cultural history of the Short American Century – 25 or 30 years through the ’60s, about us when we were young, us at our best perhaps: voracious, experimental, out-reaching, networking the codes of an adolescent empire, launching ideas that would shape a vast array of baby-boomers. Minority liberations were dawning. Education and entitlement were expanding through the GI Bill and the SAT. The post The Free World appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.
50 minutes | a month ago
Bidenomics is different, we are beginning to notice. Just keeping score in the trillions of dollars takes some getting used to. But some key rules have changed, too. Modern Monetary Theory holds that even massive borrowing at very low interest rates is almost free. The debt will be rolled over anyway, not paid back. So why not Go Big in Building Back Better? Inequality has been recognized as a deadly disease, to be treated by politics as well as policy. That’s new. Economics, on its recent record, has been cut down to size: it’s the dismal science again, not the promise of salvation. The name of the game is to isolate Republicans and head off a Trump revival. Adam Tooze and Steven Pearlstein. The deeper we get into Bidenomics, the more it feels bigger than Joe Biden and broader than economics. It feels new – even for Biden, who was a wobbly liberal centrist Democrat for so many years in the Senate. The new buzzword is “transformation” at the FDR scale. For a shut-down economy fighting back from COVID, Biden’s rescue plans are denominated in trillions here, trillions there. Total debt is running into real money, but the new doctrine is “don’t sweat the debt.” Borrowing is almost free. Barack Obama’s caution is gone; so is Bill Clinton’s war on big government. When the habitat is melting, you need better government, maybe more of it. For our guest, the economic historian Adam Tooze, the key question may be whether the fever dream of Reagan tax cuts and austerity has been broken at the level of popular politics. Are we ready for a new notion of the public good and a different way to get there? The post Bidenomics appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.
50 minutes | a month ago
The Life of Roth
Philip Roth, the late novelist, may hold the record for “most ways to tell his own story,” in fiction and fact; in his psychiatric farce around a boy’s solo sex in Portnoy’s Complaint, then a tender meditation on the making of an artist in The Ghost Writer, plus barely veiled memoirs of two miserable marriages, then epic fiction in American Pastoral and his counterfactual novel, The Plot Against America. Thirty-one books in all. What more was there for a biographer to reveal except that the Philip Roth contradictions were all real, inside him. The lonely monk at his writing desk was one Roth, the grotesquely hyper-sexual Mickey Sabbath was a fantasy version. “Let the repellent in” was the Roth mantra that will mark him in history, a key to what keeps him interesting still. Blake Bailey. Philip Roth was a giant of the literary profession who changed the job for readers as well as writers. It turns out in Blake Bailey’s 800-page biography, that Philip Roth, who died of heart disease three years ago, is still nearly alive, still embattled with his second wife Claire Bloom, still hurt and angry, funny and loving as well, still angling for the last word, still happy to be contradictory. This is a bold self-studying soul who could write through his favorite alter-ego Nathan Zuckerman that he was “frightened of everything, frightened of being known, frightened of being forgotten, frightened of being bizarre and frightened of being ordinary, frightened of himself and his instincts, and frightened of being frightened, unconsciously suppressing his talent for fear of what it might do next.” That’s pure Roth, and we’ll hear more in his own voice this hour – from a long conversation we recorded at his farm in Connecticut 15 years ago. Thanks to Chelsea Merz and David Miller for their work with the original Philip Roth recording in 2006. The post The Life of Roth appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.
50 minutes | a month ago
We’ll Always Have Casablanca
You must remember this, the song says. In fact, it’s hard to forget at Oscar time every April, that Casablanca, the Best Picture of 1942, was an all-time pinnacle of black-and-white Hollywood. To this day, it’s the whole world’s favorite American movie, for so many odd reasons — like the love triangle that ends unhappily, with Humphrey Bogart walking away with a French policeman and the incandescent Ingrid Bergman arm-in-arm with her tiresome hero, not her lover. See it again, and it’s better than you remember: music, acting, Hollywood at its most writerly, steeped in the life-and-death issues of its own day, fascism, refugees on the run, the political and social DNA of America. Leslie Epstein and A.S. Hamrah. The hope of every Oscar season is that a movie from somewhere can do what Casablanca did in winning best picture in 1942. It was a factory product, and war propaganda too. But the dialog has poetry with goosebump feeling in it, and the staying power of high art. It has more famous lines than Hamlet, delivered by bit players and big stars, with only three American citizens in a film by and about immigrants. It’s an astonishing work of screenwriting in a story that flies blind, without an ending until the last shot. Our guest, the novelist Leslie Epstein, is our inside authority on Casablanca. The film critic A.S. Hamrah is our Mr. Outside. The post We’ll Always Have Casablanca appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.
50 minutes | 2 months ago
Back to School
The public schools that are reopening this spring are not the same ones that shut down in the COVID cloud a year ago. “Learning in person” is back, yes, in the close company of teachers and other kids. But remote screen teaching, virtual education that ZOOMed in COVID time may be more entrenched than ever. Perhaps never again will you know an American school kid without a computer connection, with anything less than full Google access. Which is to say that Silicon Valley is on virtually every school board from Alaska to Florida, invited or not. Will we get to see public schools again as engines of freedom and upward mobility—and as community treasures, all at the same time? Noliwe Rooks, Jennifer Berkshire, and Linda Nathan. This hour it’s a parent-teacher conference around kids in schools coming back from a pandemic shutdown, out of their COVID eclipse. What have we learned or failed to learn about education in a blighted year? Is it true that American classrooms will be more segregated by race, class, income, and effectiveness than they were a year ago, or 10 years ago? What is the Joe Biden agenda, or our assignment for the new president? Can a divided country agree ever again that public schools are the core social project, the American Road to freedom, equality, middle class mobility? We have three angles of up-close experience in this conversation. Jennifer Berkshire is our journalist with a new book on the Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door. Noliwe Rooks is the W.E.B. Du Bois professor at Cornell who covers a wide swath of race, gender, culture of all kinds, including fashion and beauty. Her new book is titled Cutting School. Linda Nathan has done the impossible for decades: she has been a school builder and rule breaker inside the hidebound Boston public school system, and her book is called When Grit Isn’t Enough. The post Back to School appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.
50 minutes | 8 months ago
Wagner and Wagnerism
Richard Wagner, man and musician, was the embodiment of excess—too much of a good thing if you loved him, something worse if you didn’t. Those weren’t just operas he was writing, but total works of art: multi-media folklore festivals, orgies of mind-bending sound, frenzied and addictive. It took him 25 years to compose his Ring cycle, and it takes a long weekend of late nights to perform it. For the World War II generations, it ruined Wagner for a while that Hitler loved his music. Still, Wagner’s presence is palpable everywhere, not for his musical genius alone but for his imprint on culture for a century now, up to and including Star Wars, Game of Thrones, and the sound of Hollywood. Brünnhilde, by Arthur Rackham. One of the signature sounds of Richard Wagner is the battle hymn of the mythical winged warrior sisters, the Valkyries, and we know that it’s something more than music. But what? It’s a clue to what Alex Ross of the New Yorker magazine calls “Wagnerism,” meaning the bizarre visions and irresistible influence, the spell that one musical genius cast on the world, maybe forever. Wagner’s musical mega-shows in the 1860s were a far cry from the old Mozart and Verdi operas. His were longer, deeper, spell-binding fantasies of forbidden love and longing, wounded gods out of a jumble of world religions, German romanticism and ethno-nationalism all mixed up, naked river maidens in the Rhine and swooning beauty facing death in Tristan and Isolde. The post Wagner and Wagnerism appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.
50 minutes | 2 months ago
The CRISPR Challenge
The CRISPR challenge is back—first to grasp, then how to apply the biggest scientific breakthrough of our century so far. You remember CRISPR: nature’s own repair kit, guarding your genetic code, cell by cell, tuning up your DNA. Biologists had learned before CRISPR how to read the coded map of genes that make you a one-of-a-kind human being. What CRISPR shows them is how to write the code, as well, and rewrite yours, for this lifetime and all the generations that come after you. Then come the questions: change what, and why? Risks, side-effects, and mysteries: does anyone know enough about the infinitely complex human brain to tweak it? Ben Hurlbut. CRISPR, since we last talked about it, has won a Nobel prize for the two scientists who first figured out how to apply the miracle molecule to the human genome and the human condition. And just this week, from our guest, the tireless biographer Walter Isaacson, CRISPR gets heroic treatment in hard covers for the same breakthrough biologists. For most of us, the acronym CRISPR is code for the deepest issues we don’t know how to talk about. But Walter Isaacson could change that some, as the irresistible storyteller about the kinds of people Apple puts on its “Think Different” billboards: Ben Franklin and Albert Einstein, Apple’s own Steve Jobs, and back a few centuries Leonardo da Vinci, the original Renaissance man. The new Isaacson epic, titled The Code Breaker, centers on the first woman and only the second living person in Isaacson’s Hall of Fame. His subtitle is Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race. The post The CRISPR Challenge appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.
50 minutes | 2 months ago
Plague Year Two
We labeled it the Plague Year even before we began living it. The news last March came with medieval and bubonic overtones of catastrophe. A virus bearing down on the whole planet’s human population is still a shock and surprise, no matter that it had been forecast. One year in, it lives up to its grim billing. Two and a half million deaths worldwide, half a million in the U.S. It’s a $16 trillion virus, counting medical costs and opportunities lost. It’s been a stress test on this very social species of ours, lots of us living in isolation or behind masks. It’s been a mirror, too, both humbling and inspiring, of medical invention, and heroic kindness in care. It’s a map as well of race-and-class divisions we prefer not to see. The angel of death striking a door during the plague of Rome. Engraving by J.G. Levasseur after J. Delaunay. Credit: Wellcome Collection. A year in pandemic fog has challenged or changed our lives entirely: how we work, worship, worry, socialize, study, celebrate. On the first anniversary of our COVID consciousness, it’s easy to feel we’re drowning in information. At the same time, we’re bereft of understanding about the trouble we’re in and best ways out of it. So the mission this radio hour is to reach out of the fog for composite understanding of what’s unfolding in and around us. The post Plague Year Two appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.
50 minutes | 3 months ago
Billie Holiday at 100
This show first aired July 30, 2015. The astonishment about Billie Holiday in her 100th birthday summer is how differently we hear her. Back in the day — in her music, in her autobiography — Lady Day was the full catalog of suffering in a 20th-century underground: abandonment and child prostitution on the way to drink, drug addiction, and death at 44. “The most hurt and hurting singer in jazz,” said the authoritative Nat Hentoff. But resurrection in art jumps out of the soundtrack here — starting with her breakthrough film with Duke Ellington in 1934, when she sings, at age 19, “Saddest tale on land or sea, was when my man walked out on me.” Then, when we hear Billie Holiday’s recording of “I’ll Be Seeing You,” from 1944, she has stopped at our table in a small club and started speaking directly to us. There’s no other singer who ever made us cheer and cry at the same time. So Billie Holiday stands less for all that pain than for Hemingway’s dictum that a blues hero “can be destroyed but not defeated.” In Billie Holiday: The Musician and the Myth, the meta-biographer John Szwed (also of Sun Ra, Miles Davis and Alan Lomax) traces the self-invention of an icon and finds the life and art of Billie Holiday running side-by-side with a truth-telling drive that did not quit. In our conversation, Szwed finds that to the end she was “smarter, tougher, funnier” than all but a few knew. The Lovers, by Jacob Lawrence (1946). Five fine singers — Dee Dee Bridgewater, Dominique Eade, Marissa Nadler, Janice Pendarvis, and Rebecca Sullivan — are guiding us through their favorite Holiday songs: her vocal tricks and the social, emotional resonances of her music. Re-listening with them, we begin to understand and experience not just the Billie Holiday story, but the atmosphere of Harlem streets, nightclubs, and living rooms. We hear an “unflinching” voice and a “sophisticated” new sound in music. The greatest jazz singer? The perfect jazz singer? Perhaps the only jazz singer that ever lived. A Very Brief History of the Microphone Lady Day not only embraced the use of the microphone, she revolutionized it. By bringing the “Harlem cabaret style” into the studio, she helped introduce a more subtle and restrained style of singing to recorded music. Our guest John Szwed gives us the rundown on how Holiday—along with Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Orson Welles, and Johnnie Ray—helped to permanently change the way artists approached the mic. Read the complete story on Medium. —Zach Goldhammer Music From The Show “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” (1937) “Symphony in Black” (1935) “Solitude” (1941) “Fine and Mellow” (1939) “Love For Sale” (1945) “Them There Eyes” (1949) “Strange Fruit” (1939) “What a Little Moonlight Can Do” (1935) “Me, Myself, and I” (1937) “No Regrets” (1936) “I’ll Get By” (1937) “I’ll Be Seeing You” (1944) “God Bless The Child” (1955) “Gloomy Sunday” (1941) “Lover Man” (1945) “I’m a Fool To Want You” (1958) “The End of a Love Affair” (1958) “Fine and Mellow” (1957) You can listen to an expanded playlist here. The post Billie Holiday at 100 appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.
50 minutes | 3 months ago
Write Like the Russians
The invitation this hour, or maybe the dream, is to learn how to write short stories with the poignancy and power of the old Russian Masters, and how to become better versions of ourselves in the process. Anton Chekhov is our model writer; the modern American master George Saunders is our model reader and teacher, condensing his famous course for aspiring writers at Syracuse University. The Saunders idea—not quite a promise—is that Dr. Chekhov’s stories expand us morally. Follow his tricks and turns closely enough, and you’ll change your life. It’s something like the thought that just listening to Mozart’s sonatas can make a child smarter. Chekhov’s stories could make grown-ups less lonely, more effective, happier people. George Saunders. The literary master George Saunders shows us this hour, for starters, how to recognize a masterpiece in a mere short story. He’s also going to spell out how a handful of Russians—led by Dostoevsky, then Tolstoy, then Anton Chekhov—reset the standard of high art in the short story. George Saunders won high honors for his bestselling novel of three years ago, Lincoln in the Bardo (with Honest Abe in a sort of limbo, to grieve again with his son Willie, who died in the White House). Saunders is a triple threat: a writer first, but famous too as a reader of the classics and teacher of a celebrated writing course at Syracuse University, from which his new book is drawn. It’s called A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, “in which four Russians give a master class on writing, reading, and life.” The post Write Like the Russians appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.
50 minutes | a year ago
Malcolm X in Boston and Beyond
The life of Malcolm X is the classic hero’s journey, in a setting we almost know: a story of anointment, dedication, fate, faith, family, incredible risk and reversals. There was spontaneous poetry in it, enough sin to make salvation real, and redemption before an early, ugly death – all of it brilliantly told in an autobiography that wasn’t entirely Malcolm’s composition. The question is about the dateline of the life: whether the core of the Malcolm epic isn’t a Boston story: The spur of ideas in a talky town, on both sides of the color line; the force of family, specially Malcolm’s sister Ella; the oddly enlightened prison where young Malcolm found his way. Malcolm X, the equal-rights champion, rose to historic standing by blaming and shaming both white and black America — whites for oppressive racism and blacks for putting up with it. Foil for the Christian preacher Martin Luther King, Malcolm was the firebrand who did not turn the other cheek, who mocked the singing of “We Shall Overcome.” At Malcolm’s funeral 52 years ago, the actor Ossie Davis remembered his friend as a “howling, shocking nuisance” before his “brave, black gallantry” took hold. The post Malcolm X in Boston and Beyond appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.
50 minutes | 3 months ago
Casino capitalism is the polite old phrase for the rigged game of high finance. Shark tank frenzy is a better fit for the action on Wall Street this winter. You notice in the GameStop trading war that the mighty sharks and the vampire squid are billed in the big press as the good guys, the last hope of order in the rising chaos. But you also learn that those upstart little sharks who claim to be good guys—opening up a democracy of investment, brandishing names like Robinhood, but labeled as “foul-mouthed misfits”— are in truth like-minded offspring of the old monsters, and they’re playing by their own shark rules, their own shady practices like “commission-free trading” to lure their new-to-the-game clients. AMC, another stock involved in the Reddit frenzy. Mayhem in the markets has its own exotic vocabulary of panics and bubbles, terms to be translated like “short-selling,” “squeezes,” hoaxes like “trades without commissions,” or the “pump and dump” tricks of the traders. Our first reflex is to summon the straight-talking Scotsman Mark Blyth, political economist at Brown University, and ask him to decode—for example—the populist lingo around the GameStop spectacle on Wall Street: Robinhood and the day traders against the institutional sharks and vampire squid of high finance. We’ll get to the history of modern money politics with Zachary Carter, biographer of the great John Maynard Keynes; also with Matt Taibbi on the shaky journalism around GameStop; and then with the Olympian economist Joseph Stiglitz. The post Market Mania appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.
50 minutes | 4 months ago
Amanda Gorman did more than steal the show, more than capture Joe Biden’s inaugural moment. She may have opened a new road in poetry as well as politics with her ode to “a nation that isn’t broken but simply unfinished.” For showing what public poetry could do there was never a day quite like it, and nobody quite like the “skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother,” as she said, “who could dream of becoming president only to find herself reciting for one.” The lines are still resounding; the cadences of slam poetry, of Hamilton the show, that mind and voice trained on social media for a mass audience. Lincoln’s second inaugural address. We’re into the First Hundred Days of Joe Biden’s Executive Orders, the first hundred days of Amanda Gorman’s vision of a recovering country. Gorman’s gift was to set uplifting language in the service of moral clarity – an example and a challenge that the tribe of poets and writers took as overdue. The post Presidential Poetry appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.
50 minutes | 4 months ago
Thomas Jefferson said: “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just.” That is eighteenth-century American language for an intuition that never quite dies – the idea that people and nations are accountable sooner or later, that politics is not just “who gets what,” but a moral drama of right and wrong, rewards and punishments often hidden in the news cycle. God doesn’t have a speaking part in our pragmatic public culture, but still we want judgment. Hemingway’s line was that “what is moral is what you feel good after, and what is immoral is what you feel bad after.” So how are we feeling in the wreckage of the Trump rise and fall? Are there moral lessons for citizens and nations this inaugural week? The view from our Zoom room. The verdict on our politics comes in stages. First the voters decide, and the chattering classes try to explain. Historical clarity comes later. Just this side of a divine Judgment Day come the prophetic voices we are engaging this hour. At the center of our conversation, but not in it, is the late Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who wrote books about the Hebrew Prophets of old and spoke like them, in Nazi Germany and through the Civil Rights crisis in the US in the Sixties. “What is the essence of being a prophet?” Rabbi Heschel asked. “A prophet,” he said, “is a person who holds God and men in one thought at one time, at all times.” Our guest Susannah Heschel is his daughter, writer-professor of Jewish Studies at Dartmouth. Cornel West, philosopher-teacher at Harvard, is Rabbi Heschel’s disciple. They are speaking of our inaugural moment this week in a prophetic register you don’t hear much in the public square. Susannah Heschel.Cornel West. The post Moral Prophecy appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.
50 minutes | 4 months ago
The omens are powerful and clear for the American future—that is, for a reputedly sane and stable multi-racial democracy. It’s just that the two auguries of January 6 cut both ways and collide head on. First was the news that Georgia in a close vote had just elected two Democrats who will tip the balance of the US Senate: a black preacher, in the Atlanta lineage of Martin Luther King Jr., and a 33-year-old white Jewish film producer, who’ll be the first millennial in the Senate. Hours later came the counter-shock, on the north face of the US Capitol in Washington: a theatrical, threatening mob smashed its way past police into both chambers of Congress, demanding (on Donald Trump’s say-so) that Joe Biden’s presidential election be overturned. Stephen Van Evera.Tressie McMillan Cottom.David Blight. This week’s guests. And here we are at sea in mid-January 2021, in the dark, just days from the constitutionally appointed inauguration day, unsure what’s coming, even what to call this American condition other than “dire.” We face—pick your phrase—the American abyss, an apocalyptic unveiling of the real Donald Trump, a pandemic of fear, or fraud, or farce, a civil war reenactment or rehearsal of a coup, maybe a revolution. Never was there an American transition of power like this one: from a clear scorecard outcome to denial and dread, resistance and a theatrical rebellion. At the site being prepared for the ceremony of oath-taking, we’ve seen instead a warm-up show of defiant violence and contempt, all of it cued by the defeated president who was refusing to leave. The post The Abyss appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.
50 minutes | 4 months ago
St. Louis Blues
The city of St. Louis is the story of this hour. At the heart of North America, where the great Missouri River joins the Mississippi, it was the gateway to Thomas Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase—to Indian territory, the fur trade, the buffalo, the plains, and all the minerals below—redefined in the 1800s as the American West. The World’s Fair of 1904 made St. Louis a monument to American progress. It included a village of Filipinos captured by the young US empire in East Asia. Henry James came home from England to have lunch with Mark Twain at that fair. “Meet Me in St. Louis” was the song, the second most famous St. Louis song. But even then the fault-lines were clear before race war exploded in East St. Louis in 1917, and a great American city started disappearing. The question is whatever happened to the city of St. Louis, Missouri, facing southern Illinois across a bend in the Mississippi River. Where did it go and why? The World’s Fair of 1904 was its crowning moment. St. Louis was then the 4th largest city in the US, the emblem of America and where we were going. It was The Twenty-Seventh City in the title of Jonathan Franzen’s breakout novel in the late 1980s. Today on the list of cities by size, St. Louis is number 70. The Broken Heart of America is the title of a historian’s fresh take on the fate of St. Louis. It was one of the most compelling books I read toward the end of 2020. It is a merciless self-examination of a city by a native son of Missouri; an inquiry into a St. Louis “condition” that keeps showing symptoms over two centuries and more. “Racial capitalism” is the very short form of Walter Johnson’s long diagnosis. He is tenured on the Harvard history faculty, but he wrote this book “less as a professional historian than as a citizen,” he says, measuring a history that has benefitted him as a white man and a Missourian. The post St. Louis Blues appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.
50 minutes | a year ago
Yo-Yo Ma’s Bach
The force of art to rescue a world breaking down; the power of music in particular to heal people one by one, perhaps all together: this was Yo-Yo Ma’s breathtaking mission for himself in his 60s, to nail down the convictions that have sustained his humble self at the very pinnacle of major-league music. His project, nearly finished, was to do 36 concerts in 36 venues, from the top of the world in the Andes, to the street music scene in Dakar, West Africa, and to Flint, Michigan, in Rustbelt, USA. Everywhere he would play the same masterpiece: the Cello Suites of Johann Sebastian Bach, the rarest solo performance piece that can show you infinity. Imagine an old artistic masterpiece that’s also a modern showpiece for a solo performer who fills giant venues, East and West, indoors and out, in Chile and China, in Africa and the Andes, with audiences that seem to sit breathless for most of two and a half hours. The thought this radio hour is that there’s nothing in written music quite like the six suites for unaccompanied cello that Johann Sebastian Bach wrote, between his church assignments, right about 300 years ago. God’s own dance music, it’s been said, and there’s nobody who can produce a civic and cultural event each time he plays them as our guest Yo-Yo Ma has been doing: a sort of one-man dance band alone on the stage, no helpers for harmony or rhythm. Photos by Michael Lutch. The post Yo-Yo Ma’s Bach appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.
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