Monthly Archives: August 2000

Joan of Arc

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Joan of Arc was only 19 when she was burned at the stake in 1431. But in her short life, this illiterate, peasant girl led France to battle and victory over the English in the 100 Years War.

The church that declared her a heretic has since made her a saint. Joan of Arc was the lightning rod of her time, and she continues to burn in the Western imagination. She’s the subject of great works by Tchaikovsky, Verdi, Shaw, and Twain.

Martha Graham made a ballet and Cecil B. DeMille an epic movie about her. Sarah Bernhardt and Ingrid Bergman have played her; Sinead O’Connor and Madonna plan to. Colleges offer courses in “Johannic Studies,” and historians still debate her place in history.

Artists and ideologues, feminists and nationalists, even the religious want to make this medieval girl-warrior one of their own. We’re talking about the Maid of Orleans and her story in this hour.
(Hosted by Christopher Lydon)

Guests:

Maria Warner, independent scholar and author of “Joan of Arc,” and Joan Acocella, staff writer for The New Yorker.

Architect Frank Gehry

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Frank Gehry has energized the field of architecture. He has challenged convention, inspired debate and startled our sensitivities.

He’s been designing buildings for 30 years, but it wasn’t until this last decade he had a personal breakthrough that led to designs/buildings throughout the world that are truly prophetic, culminating with the opening of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain.

The Bilbao Museum may well prove to be a cultural watershed, ushering us into a new era of architecture. In a world that is moving so fast, Gehry wanted to convey fluidity and openness and that’s when he entered his latest period of daring swoops and curves made in titanium and steel.

On the verge of the millenium, Bilbao is an immensely optimistic and positive piece of work. And no wonder, Gehry says, “I’ve noticed that buildings have an influence on behavior, people and culture. I like to do things that make people happy.”
(Hosted by Christopher Lydon)

Guests:

Frank Gehry

Autism

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Autism evokes images of endlessly rocking inpatients in turn of the century mental wards, or of socially retarded savants, like Rain Man.

Autism has milder forms, too – all marked by a more or less severe introversion, and strange repetitive behaviors like spinning. In its many forms, autism is on the rise. Some researchers are starting to say it’s epidemic in America.

A special survey by the state of California found autism cases increased more than 200 per cent in the past decade. And evidence of autism clusters is gathering, as in Brick Township, New Jersey, where 4 out of every 500 kids were diagnosed, calling into question the latest gene-based thinking on the root cause of the disease.

Genetics can’t explain the ongoing explosion in autism, so now researchers are searching for environmental factors like mercury or even childhood vaccines.
(Hosted by Christopher Lydon)

Guests:

Dr. Kerim Monir, Director of the Center for Autism at Children’s Hospital in Boston, and Karyn Seroussi, co-founder of the Autism Network for Dietary Intervention and author of “Unraveling the Mystery of Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorder: A Mother’s Story of Research and Recovery.”

The History of Zero

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It was written by the rivers of Babylon with a double wedge. The Sumerians used it as a place holder. The Alexandrians wrote it with an “0″ as we do today, but no one knows who invented it. Archimedes outnumbered all the grains of sand on all the beaches in the world without it. The Pythagoreans may have known it, but we’ll never know.

The Arabs first imagined it in its modern sense. The Europeans feared it when it came, and called it ‘dangerous Saracen magic.’ It’s the form of emptiness and emptiness of form, the glass unfilled, the great equalizer of numbers. It’s neither positive nor negative. Shakespeare loved it above all other figures. It marks the beginning point and maybe the end, too.

It’s the middle of the number line and the root of the Y2K problem. The early Greeks had no word for it, but we have plenty: Goose Egg. Cipher. Zip. Nil. Nada. Nihil.

We’re making much ado about nothing and the natural history of zero, on this hour.
(Hosted by Christopher Lydon)

Guests:

Dr. Kaplan

Memoir Motifs

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Katharine Hepburn might do it by the Oscar nominations she’s earned, Hillary Clinton by the haircuts she’s had and Julia Child by the meals she cooked. Liz Taylor, of course, can organize her life around her husbands, Warren Beatty around his girlfriends and Donald Trump around his buildings.

In the stories of our lives, what is the string that ties our memories together? Is it hairstyles? The long, straight hair reminds you of your first kiss, the shag haircut of your first marriage, the perm of your second?

Or is it cars? The Ford Pinto conjures up college, road trips, your first apartment; the Volvo station wagon your marriage, the mortgage, the twins; the Miata convertible your mid-life crisis.

Whether it’s the houses we’ve lived in, the clothes we’ve worn out, the pets we’ve loved or the places we’ve lived – we’re talking about the something the connects the events of our lives on this show.
(Hosted by Christopher Lydon)

Guests:

Betty Fussell, author of “My Kitchen Wars,” and Ilene Beckerman, author of “Love, Loss, and What I Wore.”

Albie Sachs

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Albie Sachs is one of the white heroes of the South African story. He was a member of the outlawed ANC and working as a civil rights lawyer in exile in Mozambique when he lost an arm and an eye in a car bomb attack in 1988.

In his life now as one of the judges on South Africa’s highest court and one of the main architects of its constitution, he practices what he calls soft vengeance. That’s when a lifelong struggle against apartheid gives you a front row seat as a founding father of a new democracy and a chief defender of its laws.

Soft vengeance is giving amnesty to your torturers, giving legal rights to the same people who denied you yours. Albie Sachs says if he could miraculously be given his arm back, he would refuse. His shape now, he says, has become irrecuperably embedded in the forward momentum of his country.
(Hosted by Christopher Lydon)

Guests:

The Tulip

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The tulip is a flower with a past that does not disappoint. Centuries ago, it was a wild jewel growing on the slopes of the Central Asian Pamir Mountains. It traveled from there, halted only by the extreme cold of the Arctic and the extreme heat of the Middle East.

In the 16th century, the French claim to be the first Europeans to grow and sell les fleurs. Tulipomania arrived in the Netherlands in the 17th century, and for a short time bulbs were worth more than the cost of an Amsterdam townhouse.

Tulipomania, though, did not stop there! One 18th century Scottish grower slept in a tent over his bulbs to watch every minute of their gentle flowering. The tulip made its way to the New World with the first Dutch colonists who tip-toed through them on the island of Manhattan.

There are more than 5600 hundred varieties today, from mahogany red Abu Hassan to pure white Zwanenburg. Tulipomania is on this hour.
(Hosted by Christopher Lydon)

Guests:

Gypsies

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The history of the Gypsies is a history of wandering and persecution. It is also a history that is virtually unknown.

The daily life of the Gypsies is similarly a mystery. The Roma, as Gypsies call themselves, keep apart from the rest of society. In the absence of knowledge, wild stereotypes take hold of the public imagination. The Gypsy is Carmen, dark-eyed and passionate, luring men towards violence. The Gypsy is the fortune teller who can cast spells to bring you love or destroy your life. The Gypsy is the pick-pocket/con artist fleecing the gullible at county fairs.

The reality of gypsy life is this: five hundred years of enslavement in Europe followed by liquidation in the Holocaust has convinced this group they are not really welcome — anywhere. Stay separate and keep your bags packed is their creed for survival. But that is slowly chaning. The separate world and brutal history of the Gypsies is on this hour.
(Hosted by Michael Goldfarb)

Guests:

Jasmine Dellal, Documentarian

Ian Hancock, Professor of English, Linguistics, and Asian Studies at the University of Texas, Austin, author of The Pariah Syndrome: An Account of Gypsy Slavery and Persecution.

Aleksandar Hemon

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When the critics compare a new author to Joseph Conrad and Vladimir Nabokov you have to pay attention.

Thirty-five year old Aleksandar Hemon is the recipient of those accolades — and attention is being paid. Like Conrad and Nabokov, Hemon, born in Bosnia, did not grow up speaking English. He didn’t begin to write in English until 1995. He might never have written in English at all if he hadn’t had to flee his hometown Sarajevo in 1992.

Hemon’s stories stand as witness to the horrors of the Bosnian Civil War and the reality of being an immigrant, an exile, a refugee in modern America — a reality that is different than it used to be because today you can watch your hometown being bombed to smithereens on CNN in real time. His stories are also like the best work about grim subjects — savagely funny.
(Hosted by Michael Goldfarb)

Guests:

Aleksandar Hemon

Raves

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Rave Culture. It is a culture of community — thousands of people dancing all night not with one person but by themselves and with everyone in the room. It is a culture of drugs — primarily the drug with the most accurate street name ever given to an illegal pharmaceutical — ecstacy.

It is also a global culture whose gestation began in Germany, who was born in Detroit and schooled in gay clubs in Chicago and New York before maturing in Britain and spreading to the four corners of the world. And it is a culture of music with many different styles: House, techno, trance, jungle, drum and bass, Asian breaks.

Rave culture today dominates the world of fashion. Wonder why the kids are wearing cargo pants and tank tops and sporting body art? It is the inspiration for a new generation of novelists. Ravers have redefined the boundaries of hedonism in a time of economic plenty. The drugs, the fashions and most of all the music: the history of raves is on this show.
(Hosted by Michael Goldfarb)

Guests:

Simon Reynolds, author of Generation Ecstasy

DJ Shannon Shalako.