Fresh Air on AM 870 NewsTalk

Weekdays, Noon - 1pm

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, the Peabody Award-winning weekday magazine of contemporary arts and issues, is one of public radio's most popular programs. Each week, nearly 4.5 million people listen to the show's intimate conversations broadcast on more than 450 National Public Radio (NPR) stations across the country, as well as in Europe on the World Radio Network.

Though Fresh Air has been categorized as a "talk show," it hardly fits the mold. Its 1994 Peabody Award citation credits Fresh Air with "probing questions, revelatory interviews and unusual insights." And a variety of top publications count Gross among the country's leading interviewers. The show gives interviews as much time as needed, and complements them with comments from well-known critics and commentators.

Fresh Air is produced at WHYY-FM in Philadelphia and broadcast nationally by NPR.

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Poetry
11:57 am
Wed February 8, 2012

Donald Hall: A Poet's View 'Out The Window'

Poet Donald Hall spends much of his time in his blue armchair, looking at the landscape out his window. The 83-year-old former poet laureate has lived for years on the same New Hampshire farm that his grandparents used to own, and still writes in the room he slept in as a child.

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Music Reviews
11:28 am
Wed February 8, 2012

Chuck Prophet's 'Beautiful' Homage To San Francisco

Chuck Prophet.
Charlie Homo

Chuck Prophet's new album, Temple Beautiful, takes its name from a former synagogue that hosted punk-rock shows in the late '70s and early '80s; it was next door to the temple overseen by cult leader Jim Jones. That may sound like a grim or black-humored reference point around which to erect an album, but with Prophet, grimness, humor, fact and fiction mingle freely. Before anything else, he's a guitar player with a melodically nasal voice whose phrasing favors the whimsical and the querulous.

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Author Interviews
10:42 am
Wed February 8, 2012

Finding 'Life, Death, And Hope' In A Mumbai Slum

cover detail

Originally published on Wed February 8, 2012 12:01 pm

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Katherine Boo spent more than three years in Mumbai's Annawadi slum to do research for her new book, Behind the Beautiful Forevers. Residents of the slum — which is located next to the Mumbai airport and in the shadow of several luxury hotels — live in devastating poverty.

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Television
10:31 am
Wed February 8, 2012

Two Rowdy Talk Shows Showcase Vintage Humor

Writers for Sid Caesar include Mel Brooks (front, lower right corner) and Neil Simon (back row, upper left corner.)
courtesy of Michael Hirsh

The two DVDs I want to talk about today are hilarious, but they aren't sitcoms. They're talk shows — well, one's a talk show, and one's a filmed seminar. But they're both fascinating examples of a specific pop-culture moment frozen in time.

And they're something else as well: Both are highly entertaining real-time examples of talk-show Darwinism. Both shows feature a large, unwieldy guest roster, all of the guests competing for attention at the same time — and by the time the programs are over, the winners are apparent.

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Author Interviews
11:34 am
Tue February 7, 2012

The Risks And Rewards Of Practicing Yoga

Five people on a beach stand in the warrior pose.
iStockphoto.com

Twenty million people practice yoga in the United States. William Broad, a Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer for The New York Times, is one of them. Broad started doing yoga as a freshman in college in 1970 and has been practicing ever since.

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Music Reviews
11:01 am
Tue February 7, 2012

Matt Wilson: Trios, Quartets And 'Don Knotts'

Like a comedian, drummer Matt Wilson knows about offhand dexterity and split-second timing.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed February 8, 2012 10:35 am

Brooklyn drummer Matt Wilson keeps busy with many bands and projects — other people's and his own. Two new Wilson albums find him as part of a co-op all-star trio, and at the helm of one of his own quartets. Part of Wilson's appeal is that he keeps things light, in a good way.

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Movie Interviews
11:36 am
Mon February 6, 2012

Meryl Streep: The Fresh Air Interview

As of 2012, Meryl Streep holds the record for the actor with the most Academy Award nominations — her tally stands at 17.
Kevin Winter Getty Images

Originally published on Tue February 7, 2012 10:39 am

Meryl Streep is known for completely enveloping herself in her characters, capturing their nuances, speech patterns and personalities. In her films, she's transformed herself into such disparate people as the chef Julia Child, the writer Susan Orlean and plutonium-plant worker Karen Silkwood, winning countless honors and awards along the way.

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Music Interviews
11:17 am
Fri February 3, 2012

A Studio On The Road To 'Fame' For Soul Musicians

Ace Records

Rick Hall and Billy Sherrill were a couple of Alabama boys in their teens when they started writing songs. At first, the only place they had to record was in a room in the back of the Trailways bus station in Florence, Ala. But one of the songs they recorded there, "Sweet and Innocent," became a small local hit, and a guy named Tom Stafford read about it in the local paper. He built a recording studio above City Drugs in Florence and went into business with the two young men. It didn't last long: Sherrill was hugely ambitious and was soon off to Nashville.

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Movie Interviews
10:00 am
Fri February 3, 2012

Going In '50/50' On A Cancer Comedy, With Laughs

In 50/50, Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Adam, a public radio host stricken with cancer who enlists his best friend, played by Seth Rogen, for moral and physical support.
Chris Helcermanas-Benge Summit Publicity

Originally published on Fri February 3, 2012 11:26 am

This interview was originally broadcast on September 28, 2011. 50/50 is now available on DVD.

When screenwriter Will Reiser was 24 and diagnosed with a rare form of spinal cancer, he coped by thinking up ideas for cancer comedies with his best friend, actor Seth Rogen.

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Fresh Air Weekend
2:02 pm
Thu February 2, 2012

Fresh Air Weekend: Baratunde, Stew, Leonard Cohen

Baratunde Thurston is an American comedian and the digital director of The Onion. He co-founded the black political blog Jack & Jill Politics. He is also a prolific tweeter.
Courtesy of the author

Originally published on Sat February 4, 2012 10:24 am

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:

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Energy
12:20 pm
Thu February 2, 2012

Clean-Tech Industry Facing Lean Times After Solyndra

President Obama tours the headquarters of the Solyndra solar panel company in Freemont, Calif., on May 26, 2010.The company declared bankruptcy in August 2011.
Pool Getty Images

Three years ago, venture capitalists were pouring billions of dollars into technologies like solar power, wind power, biofuels and fuel cells. The federal government followed, directing some $44.5 billion into clean technology from late 2009 to late 2011 through loans, subsidies and tax incentives.

But now the clean-tech industry is facing leaner times, in part because of cheaper natural gas prices, the effects of the financial crisis and China's growing solar industry.

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Music Reviews
11:58 am
Thu February 2, 2012

Lana Del Rey: The Self-Made Pop Star As Target

Lana Del Ray
Nicole Nodland Shore Fire

Lana Del Rey appeared on Saturday Night Live recently, giving two rather tentative performances that, depending on your point of view, were awkward and amateurish or shrewdly restrained and vulnerable. Del Rey, in her mid-20s, attracts polarizing opinions.

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Television
11:04 am
Thu February 2, 2012

The Producers Behind NBC's Musical 'Smash'

Ivy Lynn (played by Megan Hilty) is one of two actresses vying for the coveted lead role in Smash, which premieres Monday on NBC.
Will Hart NBC

Originally published on Thu February 2, 2012 12:30 pm

Producers Neil Meron and Craig Zadan have been making musicals together for almost 20 years. They're the team behind movie musicals like Hairspray, Chicago and Annie, and the TV musicals Gypsy and The Music Man.

Now Meron and Zadan have teamed up once again on the new NBC series Smash, a drama that goes behind the scenes as a motley crew of creative types put together a Broadway musical based on the life of Marilyn Monroe.

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Book Reviews
10:48 am
Mon January 30, 2012

'An Available Man': Love After Loss

cover detail

In my family, we referred to them as "the brisket brigade" — those single ladies of a certain age who began bombarding my brother-in-law with casseroles and commiseration soon after my sister-in-law died. It's a cruel fact of life that nobody plies widows with months of home-cooked meals and baked goods; as Jonathan Swift might have modestly proposed, widows might as well eat each other — there's a surplus supply of them, anyway. But, a new widower gets the Crock-Pots and the romantic fantasies all fired up.

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The Fresh Air Interview
10:24 am
Mon January 30, 2012

Stew: 'Making It' After A Tough Breakup

Stew.
Courtesy of the artist

Stew's new album Making It is, in part, about his relationship with his ex-girlfriend and songwriting partner, Heidi Rodewald.

The two musicians, who still work together professionally, dated each other for years. They collaborated on songs for their band The Negro Problem, as well as on orchestrations for Passing Strange, their semi-autobiographical Broadway musical about a young African-American trying to understand himself while traveling around Europe. But during Passing Strange's initial run in Berkeley, Calif., Stew and Rodewald broke up.

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Fresh Air Weekend
9:53 am
Sat January 28, 2012

Fresh Air Weekend: Glocks, David Milch, The Smiths

This Glock was used at a police department and then sold at an auction.
iStockphoto.com

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:

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Television
10:49 am
Fri January 27, 2012

HBO's 'Luck': A Winning TV Show, Set At The Track

Nick Nolte plays a horse owner who spent most of his career working as a horse trainer in Luck.
HBO

It isn't a long shot that David Milch's newest series for HBO, called Luck, will be on par with his HBO series Deadwood. It's a sure thing. HBO sent out all nine episodes of the show's first season for preview, so there's no guesswork here.

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Movie Interviews
10:31 am
Fri January 27, 2012

Woody Allen: Blending Real Life With Fiction

"Making a movie is a great distraction from the real agonies of the world," filmmaker Woody Allen told Fresh Air in 2009.
Brian Hamill/MGM PBS

This interview was originally broadcast on June 15, 2009.

For someone who has spent the majority of his career making comedies, Woody Allen sees the world — and his lifelong profession — through a surprisingly dark lens.

"Life is a terrible trial, and very harsh and very full of suffering ... [Film] is a different kind of pain. Making a movie is a great distraction from the real agonies of the world," Allen tells Terry Gross.

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Music Reviews
11:46 am
Thu January 26, 2012

Jimmy Owens Navigates Monk's 'Brilliant Corners'

Jimmy Owens mostly dresses Monk's tunes for uptown wear — Monk the Harlem jam session swinger.
Stephanie Myers

Originally published on Thu January 26, 2012 3:27 pm

In 1974, trumpeter Jimmy Owens helped prepare and played on a Carnegie Hall concert of Thelonious Monk's music. On the night in question, the orchestra featured a surprise soloist: Monk himself. It was one of the pianist's last public performances.

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Movie Reviews
11:23 am
Thu January 26, 2012

In 'Albert Nobbs,' Glenn Close Does More Than Pass

Albert Nobbs (Glenn Close) and Helen (Mia Wasikowska) go on a series of awkward dates in Albert Nobbs, a film based on a 1918 George Moore story.
Patrick Redmond Roadside Attractions

Originally published on Thu January 26, 2012 1:39 pm

As Albert Nobbs, Glenn Close has hair that's cropped and orangey, and a voice that rarely rises above a nasal croak. She lives and works as a waiter in a high-toned hotel, where she stands with lips pressed together, tight yet tremulous, her searching eyes her only naturally moving parts. She resembles no man I've seen, but no woman, either. She's the personification of fear — fear of being discovered to be a woman. Because hers is a society that treats all poor people badly, but poor women worse.

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Television
12:13 pm
Wed January 25, 2012

David Milch: Trying His 'Luck' With Horse Racing

Luck, the new HBO drama created by David Milch, is about the inside world of horse racing.
Gusmano Cesaretti HBO

Veteran TV writer and producer David Milch grew up in Buffalo, N.Y. But a few times each year, Milch would accompany his father across the state to Saratoga Springs, where the two would bet on horse races.

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Music Reviews
11:17 am
Wed January 25, 2012

Long Live The Smiths' 'Complete Works'

The Smiths.
Wright Photo/Rhino Records

When Steven Patrick Morrissey was 13, he was watching The Old Grey Whistle Test, a BBC rock television show, when the New York Dolls came on. Later, he called it "my first real emotional experience." It was hardly his last: Growing up awkward, tall and shy in suburban Manchester, he was the archetypal kid who didn't fit in, writing poetry and letters to members of the British rock press, disagreeing articulately with their critics.

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Television
11:00 am
Wed January 25, 2012

A Boy's Magical 'Touch' Predicts The Future

When Kiefer Sutherland ended his series of very long, very intense days as Jack Bauer on the Fox series 24, few people, including Sutherland himself, expected him to be starring in another TV series right away.
Fox

The new Fox series Touch stars Kiefer Sutherland as a father — a widower — raising a withdrawn preteen son with behavioral problems.

But it doesn't begin with Sutherland.

It begins, instead, with the son — Jake, played by David Mazouz — providing the narration that opens the series. By the time the opening narration is over, you already know you're watching something a little different.

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Fresh Air Weekend
12:50 am
Sat January 21, 2012

Fresh Air Weekend: Michael Fassbender, Mushrooms

Uncomfortably Numb: For Brandon (Michael Fassbender), the endless pursuit of sex doesn't involve any particular pleasure — only a driving obsession.
Fox Searchlight Pictures

Originally published on Sat January 21, 2012 11:17 am

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:

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Music Interviews
12:14 pm
Fri January 20, 2012

Remembering Bandleader And Producer Johnny Otis

Johnny Otis (center), shown playing with his band The Johnny Otis Revue.
Charlie Gillett Collection Redferns Via Getty Images

Bandleader and producer Johnny Otis, who launched and then nurtured the careers of many of R&B's greatest singers, died Tuesday at his home near Los Angeles. He was 90.

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Movie Interviews
12:11 pm
Fri January 20, 2012

Brad Pitt: On Life, Movies And 'Moneyball'

Brad Pitt, left, plays Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland A's, in the movie Moneyball. His assistant Peter Brand is played by Jonah Hill.
Melinda Sue Gordon Sony Pictures

Originally published on Fri January 20, 2012 12:16 pm

This interview was originally broadcast on September 22, 2011.

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Remembrances
11:54 am
Fri January 20, 2012

Etta James: The 1994 Fresh Air Interview

Etta James onstage at the 2009 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.
Rick Diamond Getty Images

Originally published on Fri January 27, 2012 10:54 am

Etta James, the legendary vocalist who is perhaps best known for her version of the song "At Last," has died. She was 73.

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Author Interviews
10:57 am
Fri January 20, 2012

The Inquisition: A Model For Modern Interrogators

An illustration shows heretics being tortured and nailed to wooden posts during the first Inquisition.
Hulton Archive Getty Images

Originally published on Mon January 28, 2013 1:42 pm

The individuals who participated in the first Inquisition 800 years ago kept detailed records of their activities. Vast archival collections at the Vatican, in France and in Spain contain accounts of torture victims' cries, descriptions of funeral pyres and even meticulous financial records about the price of torture equipment.

"[There are] expense accounts [for things] like how much did the rope cost to tie the hands of the person you burnt at the stake," says writer Cullen Murphy. "The people who were doing interrogations were meticulous."

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Movie Reviews
11:57 pm
Thu January 19, 2012

'Coriolanus': A People's Hero Turns On His Own

Bare-Knuckle Politics: The battle-hardened Roman general Coriolanus (Ralph Fiennes) runs for office at the urging of his mother (Vanessa Redgrave) — but it turns out he's no booster of majority rule.
Larry D. Horricks The Weinstein Co.

Originally published on Fri January 20, 2012 12:16 pm

Ralph Fiennes showed up for a frenzied cameo near the end of Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker, and her hand-held, adrenaline-charged approach clearly inspired his film of Shakespeare's Coriolanus, which he both acts and directs the bloody hell out of.

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Movie Reviews
11:52 am
Thu January 19, 2012

In 'Miss Bala,' Bullets And Beauty Pageants Collide

Stephanie Sigman plays Laura, a beauty queen drawn into the world of Mexican drug cartels, in the film Miss Bala.
20th Century Fox

Originally published on Thu January 19, 2012 1:57 pm

If you read the headlines, you know that the Mexican government is engaged in a long, deadly battle against the country's astonishingly powerful drug dealers, known as narcotraficantes or simply narcos. Hardly a day goes by without news of another shootout or massacre. Nearly 50,000 people have died in the 5-year-old drug war, the majority of them innocent citizens.

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