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Rank #85 in Arts category

Arts

Open Source with Christopher Lydon

Updated 7 days ago

Rank #85 in Arts category

Arts
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Christopher Lydon in conversation on arts, ideas and politics

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Christopher Lydon in conversation on arts, ideas and politics

iTunes Ratings

885 Ratings
Average Ratings
528
327
12
6
12

Great Radio Program. I love this guy Chris his depth always provocative

By SF CA Lin - Sep 07 2019
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Great radio program - ideas, music, literature, drama, politics !! Thank You Chris Lydon !!!

The best radio/podcast

By goodems - Jun 23 2018
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Christopher Lydon is keeping me sane.

iTunes Ratings

885 Ratings
Average Ratings
528
327
12
6
12

Great Radio Program. I love this guy Chris his depth always provocative

By SF CA Lin - Sep 07 2019
Read more
Great radio program - ideas, music, literature, drama, politics !! Thank You Chris Lydon !!!

The best radio/podcast

By goodems - Jun 23 2018
Read more
Christopher Lydon is keeping me sane.
Cover image of Open Source with Christopher Lydon

Open Source with Christopher Lydon

Latest release on Mar 27, 2020

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Christopher Lydon in conversation on arts, ideas and politics

Rank #1: Billionaire Noir

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The most honored movie of the year looks to be Parasite, from Korea, about the soul-crushing advance of mega-wealth and the heartbreak of poor people with a dream of catching up. From the Pacific Rim, that is, it’s a movie that mirrors us! At the same time, from Hollywood, the hot HBO series is Succession: all about cruelty, greed, and family power-games under a vulgar tycoon who won’t let go of his company.  The family name might have been Murdoch, Corleone, Trump. Alongside our Impeachment drama, it’s pop-culture, screen culture, that’s telling an under-story of concentrated wealth; the lost confidence in middle-class life and a regular people’s democracy.

Bong Joon-ho.

Parasite’s a faraway mirror of what you know instantly is our American condition, too—maybe a universal affliction of yawning gaps in class and wealth and entitlement—in a financial order owned by an almost speechless, maybe clueless one percent. This is, we know, impeachment time in Washington and the news business. We’re picking up instead on the understory told in screen culture: In the case of Parasite, the story’s more interesting for mixing movie genres: this is a social comedy of two families before it turns sour and then sharply into a horror show. The story is told more in sadness than anger, and it leaves viewers with innumerable angles to replay and reflect on for days.

The post Billionaire Noir appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Nov 15 2019

50mins

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Rank #2: Lovecraft Country

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H. P. Lovecraft’s frightful horror fiction—dated between Edgar Allan Poe’s and Stephen King’s—is the weirdest of the weird. Lovecraft found ravenous, man-eating rats in the walls and foundations of our houses, and in our hearts and dreams just as creepily. For Halloween readers, he gave us ocean monsters the size of mountains; also, slippery scaly fish-people, flipping, flopping, and talking their way down the streets of Lovecraft’s favorite coastal towns near witchy Salem and the north of New England. There’s an idea in these stories—about human ignorance in an evil sea of telepathic enemies. There’s an open landscape, too, where horror fiction is growing a new crop.

Our Lovecraftians

Joyce Carol Oates (Credit: Dustin Cohen).

Paul La Farge (Credit: Carol Shadford).

Matt Ruff (Credit: Lisa Gold).

Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Credit: Martin Dee).

If you’re sensing something ancient, cosmically vast, inescapable and frightening this Halloween season, you may be catching a Lovecraftian breeze. Howard Phillips Lovecraft was a lonely, near-reclusive child of Providence, Rhode Island, who felt intimations of mind-melting infinity in New England of the twenties and thirties. The coast north of Boston inspired him with Gothic ideas, which he dished out in stories long and short for pulp magazines, thrilling readers who visited his mythical sites like Arkham, Miskatonic University, and Innsmouth—a fictional universe terrorized by creatures like Cthulhu, the ocean monster so complexly described that he cannot be pictured. Lovecraft specialized in such things: colors of no color, minerals not found on earth, languages that can’t be pronounced, and of course an unreadable and uncaring universe, “formed in fright,” as Melville put it speculatively. In Lovecraftian horror, the bleakness is doctrine.

The post Lovecraft Country appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Nov 01 2019

50mins

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Rank #3: The Bauhaus in Your House

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A conversation on art, architecture, and design with Tamar Avishai, Peter Chermayeff, Ann Beha, and Sebastian Smee.

Bauhaus was the art school in Germany that created the look of the twentieth century. We just live in it: loving its white-box affordability, or hating its stripped, blank, glass-and-steel uniformity, the world around. It’s the IKEA look in the twenty-first century, the look of Chicago skyscrapers and now Chinese housing towers, the look of American kitchens and probably the typeface on your emails, all derived from the building school in Germany between the world wars. It was the first omni-art school that taught painting and architecture, made new-look tapestries and chairs. It was the less-is-more school that made ornament very nearly a crime. It stood, and stands, for a few big ideas still hotly contested.

Walter Gropius at Harvard

Bauhaus, meaning ‘building house,’ was the name of the most influential art school in the history of the man-made environment. It was born just a hundred years ago in Weimar, Germany’s old-time cultural capital, seat of the shaky Weimar Republic after World War I. Bauhaus, the school, lasted only fourteen years, till Hitler’s Nazis suffocated it in 1933. Yet Bauhaus, the model of design, some would say, has ruled the world for a century now.

To kick off the show, we take a trip to the Gropius House in Lincoln:

Gropius House

We also talked to Boston architect Ann Beha about her work updating Gropius’s US Embassy in Athens, Greece:

We didn’t have time for all the great Bauhaus content we collected during the show, but while you’re here, listen to an OS extra: designer, architect, imagineer Peter Chermayeff explain how he designed the map for the Boston T.

The post The Bauhaus in Your House appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Apr 12 2019

50mins

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Rank #4: John Bolton’s War?

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Three guys walk into a bar in the Middle East. A Saudi: bin Salman. An Israeli called Bibi. An American—call him Donald. They all know one thing deeper than deep: they hated that nuclear deal with Iran, and now they’ve trashed it. They didn’t like that Obama guy, either, who sold the deal. It’s Iran that clings to the no-nukes deal, maybe just for the standing that comes with it in Europe and China; maybe it’s Iran’s dignity in the deal that the three guys hate most. None want to own a real war with Iran. But think about it: what might they do in a winking alliance, together? Like: outsource the scary war talk to that fourth guy, with the mustache?

National Security Advisor John Bolton.

We’ve seen a lot of this movie before, have we not? The crackling threats to punish unproven charges: it was weapons of mass destruction the last time; now it’s some unverified damage to tanker traffic, maybe. Again, the case is being made for a war of choice, by a pick-up “coalition of the willing”—this time, it would be an alliance of Sunni Arabs with the US and Israel, against Iran. Out front beating the war drum is the man with the mustache, John Bolton, who’s always loved “regime change” for Iran, who still defends the Iraq War, and who now runs the national security desk for President Trump, dropping phrases like “unrelenting force” against Iran if Iran should threaten or damage us. Part of what’s familiar in the picture is that Congress is largely out of the loop and the sovereign people are not in on the argument. A lot of what you can hear on the news is circus stuff, like the President’s lawyer, the sometime Mayor of America, Rudolph Giuliani, chanting, “Regime change!”

The post John Bolton’s War? appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

May 17 2019

50mins

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Rank #5: Impeach This

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The impeachment treatment for Donald Trump looks already an ultimate fighting contest with a nasty guy who makes up his own rules. We’re thinking it through this hour. Do you credit Nancy Pelosi with a leap of faith that there’s a way to rescue dignity, clarity, and a win by taking a clown-circus presidency with a cage brawl? Is there a Colin Powell doctrine for this sort of politics? Doesn’t the impeachment team need a clear, attainable objective in this battle and an exit strategy before it starts? However it ends for the elite political class, what about the people’s worries that run older and deeper than Donald Trump: climate change; social breakdown; worsening inequality; and a lot of bad wars.

The impeachment season has opened, and as we were supposed to know all along, it was never designed as an orderly court battle at law. It’s about politics, survival, and media war, virtually without rules, that takes the slanging tone of Trump up a notch, from a bad circus to mixed martial arts. The Marquis of Queensbury is looking away. President Trump is raising the insult level at what he calls “low life” Democrats and “stone-cold crooked” Bidens, father and son. And he’s raising his bet that he can’t be blamed for digging political dirt on Joe Biden in Ukraine; he said out loud he’d do it all again, asking China for dirt to match.

The post Impeach This appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Oct 04 2019

50mins

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Rank #6: Amazing Aretha

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Aretha Franklin made you believe you were hearing both heaven and earth. Her voice was not of this world: it was “a gift of God,” people have said. She was the reason women want to sing, said Mary J. Blige, who covered Aretha hits. James Baldwin said the way Aretha sings is “the way I want to write.” Our guest Ed Pavlić calls her voice a Hubble telescope, taking us back to the origin of time and truth.

She stands in an improvised church in Watts, Los Angeles in the troubled time of 1972, a shy woman with the blessed assurance that her people—which could mean all of us—needed a song, and a singer. Amazing Grace became the album of her lifetime (and the most popular gospel album ever)—reborn this year, on film, in a new documentary.

Aretha Franklin and the Southern California Community Choir. Courtesy of Neon.

Franklin was an institution through five decades, one of that handful of mega-stars we thought we knew. But we were wrong. We knew the rights-minded daughter of the radio preacher from Detroit who walked the fine line between church gospel and secular soul music and had a hundred danceable hits on both sides of the line. She sang opera, too, subbing for Pavarotti, no less, on a moment’s notice. And she sang “My country, ‘tis of thee” at Barack Obama’s inauguration.

But now, in the year after her death, the new movie feels like revelation: it’s Aretha at age 29, live with a church choir, coming home to the songs of her girlhood. But we’re hearing her differently because we can see her: a performing artist looking more like a prophet in her own right.

We’re joined by Reverend William Barber, Shana Redmond, and Wesley Morris.

The post Amazing Aretha appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

May 03 2019

49mins

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Rank #7: The New Hampshire Primary

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Say what you will about the cranky-Yankee New Hampshire primary, in a remote, mostly white state in the shape of a dunce cap on the map of New England. It’s still the place where presidential candidates have to go face-to-face retail, in the donut shop and the house party, where voters expect to make eye contact and shake a hand four or five times before they commit. The bigger point in 2020 is that New Hampshire is the place where the overarching, orderly narrative of our politics broke down four years ago and has yet to be put together. 2016 was wholesale rebellion: Trump 3 to 1 over Jeb and the Bush dynasty; Bernie’s Democratic socialism in a double landslide over Hillary Clinton’s party regulars.

Site of the in-process Pittsfield Historical Society in New Hampshire.

New Hampshire’s presidential primary marks the spot where the old-normal narrative of party politics fell apart four years ago. It was a sharper turn than many people noticed, and decisive for the country: Donald Trump out of reality television beat the patrician Republican Jeb Bush by a 3-to-1 margin. On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders added “socialist” to his ID and beat Hillary Clinton’s corporate centrism by 22 points, more than 60-40. Four years later, Donald Trump is a scarred-up president riding a bump-up in popularity for surviving an impeachment. Bernie Sanders, who’ll be 79 years old before the election day in November, has survived a heart attack and repair surgery. In New Hampshire, Sanders and Trump are the hot-button names for upstarts like Pete Buttigieg to contend with, but their stories have changed. The Trump theme of discontent is long gone: American carnage out; American comeback is his ticket. Bernie is in a bind. The stronger he surges, in Iowa and maybe New Hampshire, the more he rattles the old center of his party. So bad news is good, good news is bad, and the new story is still unwritten as we hit the trail this week: up I-93 to 89, Concord to Pittsfield, then Hanover to West Lebanon.

The post The New Hampshire Primary appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Feb 07 2020

50mins

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Rank #8: The CIA’s Covert Chemist

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We’re at home with Stephen Kinzer, the longtime reporter of secret U.S. operations in books like Overthrow and All the Shah’s Men. In a new book, Poisoner in Chief, Kinzer looks at a scientist named Sidney Gottlieb and the notorious “mind control” CIA program he led, MK-ULTRA.

Kinzer’s portrait induces the feeling of a bad trip: We’ve been to a completely different zone we know is there, but we can’t believe. He’s introducing us to the man who brought LSD into this world. Gottlieb’s experiments may have been responsible in part for Billie Holiday’s death, and putting Whitey Bulger on a two-year LSD regimen. At the CIA, Gottlieb was involved with assassination attempts of Fidel Castro and Patrice Lumumba. There are resonances of James Bond and Doctor Strangelove. Or maybe Josef Mengele.

Stephen Kinzer

“This is the first time I’ve been shocked by something I discovered in writing a book. I’m still getting over my shock from the process of learning who this Sidney Gottlieb was,” Kinzer told us. “I now conclude he was the most powerful unknown American of the twentieth century.”

You can catch our last episode with Kinzer, “America’s Empire State of Mind,” here.

And if you can, give us a tip over on Patreon—and thanks!

Photo illustration by Conor Gillies, photo courtesy of the author.

The post The CIA’s Covert Chemist appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Oct 01 2019

37mins

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Rank #9: 2020 Hindsight on Iraq

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We have a formal stand-down, meaning no war this week, between the US and Iran. On the long horizon of empires, rising and falling, it looks like an interval of restraint between hubris and nemesis—the ancient Greek names for defiant pride and its downfall, or undoing. The broken state of Iraq is what stares at us and the world, 17 hellish years after the US invasion and occupation. It’s the multi-trillion-dollar war that brought chaos and regime change that handed control of Iraq to Iran as if on a silver platter. It’s the war that discredited a generation of American party pols who voted for it. It’s the reason most Iraqis and their parliament want the last Americans out of their country. And still, the people that sold that Iraq war have another bigger one in mind if anybody will buy it.

Donald Rumsfeld, George W. Bush, and Dick Cheney in 2006.

We look ahead in the war-fogged Middle East this hour with some of the people who could have steered a much better path a generation ago. Our guests are a strong sample of an honor roll in commentary on such things.  All told there were 33 specialists in strategy, diplomacy, and Middle East history who paid for op-ed space in the New York Times as President George W. Bush was ginning up war against Saddam Hussein. September, 2002, six months before the war began, the scholars’ warning ran under a headline: WAR WITH IRAQ IS NOT IN AMERICA’S NATIONAL INTEREST. Each one of their six bullet points proved true in the real world: Saddam was in fact a bad old client of the US, and no part of the 9/11 attack. We could win a war in Iraq, these professionals stated, but we’d never get out of the mess we’d made.

The post 2020 Hindsight on Iraq appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Jan 10 2020

49mins

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Rank #10: Tech-Master Disaster: Part Three

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Take a walk through Kendall Square, Cambridge, this hour. It’s the Emerald City of biotechnology—as magical/mysterious as the Land of Oz, but it’s real, too. The new tech of genomic medicine, re-engineering life in wet labs, has brought a new frontier of work and wealth back from suburbia. Kendall Square is an urban ecosystem: pricey new real estate, rising higher every day on the edge of MIT and the Charles River, a mecca for the DNA generation of bio-scientists. It was born of both science and science fiction. Fun fact: novelist Michael Crichton dreamed up his Jurassic Park in Kendall Square in the mid ’80s. Scientists are enacting his fantasy of a re-creation, but they may have forgotten Crichton’s warnings about it.

Richard Attenborough as John Hammond in Jurassic Park.

Kendall Square can be taken as a model of the smart-city boomtown.  The question this hour is: how did it sprout, and what keeps it sprouting? For whom? And how did the Jurassic Park novelist Michael Crichton seem to feel Kendall Square coming, 30 years ago? Wasn’t he warning his readers and moviegoers to beware? Kendall Square is, in effect, a bio-science park: hundreds of companies and labs focused on the future in genomic medicine, meaning healthcare through reading and tweaking your DNA. Just one subway stop from the world-famous Massachusetts General Hospital, Kendall Square models the “entrepreneurial” university with MIT, along with “medical science as business.”

The post Tech-Master Disaster: Part Three appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Sep 27 2019

50mins

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Rank #11: The Inimitable Johnny Hodges

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There’s a big difference between the two greatest jazz stars on the alto horn. Charlie Parker had imitators without number; Johnny Hodges was simply inimitable. Parker, known as Bird, broke frontiers of speed, harmonic invention, and all-round excitement. Hodges, known as Rabbit, or Jeep, is best known for blues feeling, storytelling, and the sheer beauty of his sound and tone, in all the varieties and moods that could come out of an alto saxophone, at different moments lyrical, earthy, elegiac, and sensual. Hodges said he liked the idea of making “alley music,” yet he could sound like a whisper to your heart, as well.  This hour it’s Johnny Hodges’s turn, on the occasion of Con Chapman’s biography of him.

Johnny Hodges, right, plays alongside Al Sears in 1946.

Out of another age in high pop culture, we’re rediscovering songs without words this hour, from an expressionless man—until the moment he picked up his horn. From the 1920s into 1970, four decades, Johnny Hodges was the standby solo star in Duke Ellington’s jazz orchestra. Other bandleaders said Duke could afford not to feature a boy singer or a girl singer, as they were known then, because he had Hodges in his band.

Johnny Hodges’s voice came in three registers: blues, ballads and, a rarity in jazz, the art song. That sound of Johnny Hodges is the thread, the plot of this radio hour: about a forgotten grand master of American music whose biography has finally been written: Rabbit’s Blues from the Oxford University Press, by a Boston lawyer and fellow Hodges cultist, Con Chapman. It’s an overdue account of an artist who barely spoke but stirred hearts his own way, not so unlike Charlie Chaplin or the other silent movie star Buster Keaton, known as “the great stone face”—which described Hodges as well. What Johnny Hodges did was liberate and lift Adolph Sax’s mid-range horn out of the marching-band, into the far upper reaches of solo expression. And he played it with “a tone so beautiful,” Duke Ellington said, “it sometimes brought tears to the eyes.” 

In Boston, Hodges played at venues like the Black and White Club and Hotel Avery.

We’re close-listening to Hodges’s wide range of music—and taking a tour of the neighborhood where he hatched his sound. Long-time community activist and former state representative Byron Rushing is our guide. He’s walking us back into the intellectual and cultural cauldron of Hodges’ youth, a scene that included fellow saxophonist Harry Carney as well as journalist William Monroe Trotter and the painter Allan Crite. We’re joined also by Robin D.G. Kelley, the preeminent historian and biographer of Thelonious Monk.

On Sussex Street in the South End of Boston, Chris meets up with Byron Rushing, who says the small brick houses and apartments in the area here were originally “built for the working class.”

Thank you for listening. The YouTube playlist here and below contains (most of) the Hodges tracks contained in the the program. You can find an excerpt of Chapman’s new book here.

The post The Inimitable Johnny Hodges appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Jan 03 2020

50mins

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Rank #12: Origin Stories

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Origin stories can be educated guesses, or leaps of collective imagination as to who we are, how we got to this point. The Big Bang is one kind, Adam and Eve make another. 1492 and 1776 are American starting points. The argument gets stickier around 1620, when Mayflower Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock; and 1619, when the first African slaves came ashore in Virginia. Just a year apart, they’re the opening chapters of two very different epics of a single nation: one born in the flight of pious Puritans to freedom, the other born in the theft of people and land to build an empire of cotton and capitalism.

It’s a funny thing about origin stories—who we are, how we got here. We know going in that the stories are made up, one way or another. And we come to find out that a lot of them are just plain wrong. Then what? The Sunday magazine of the New York Times took a bold run this past summer at the year 1620 as the start of the American story— the year, of course, when the Mayflower landed about one hundred dissenting English Puritans, our pilgrims, at Plymouth Rock. But no, the Times argued, our first chapter was dated 1619, a year earlier when a ship bearing some 20 African slaves landed in Point Comfort, Virginia, which was to say the drive to implant a slavocracy in the new world had a step on building a temple of freedom.

We’re talking with Nikole Hannah-Jones, Philip Deloria, and Peter Linebaugh about national origin stories. The thread here is storytelling that explains and often hides what happened.

Nikole Hannah-Jones is the writer and editor who led what the Times called a major initiative at the paper to reframe American history. And she strikes the keynote of this radio hour around slavery at the foundations of U.S. history and in our own origin stories in general.

Peter Linebaugh is a transnational historian of economics and culture. He’s been tracking the privatization of common land in England and the New World. 1792 is his magic start date of what is now the world system.

The historian Philip Deloria—the first tenured professor of Native American history at Harvard—considers the Native American encounters with those colonists in the 1600s.

The post Origin Stories appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Dec 06 2019

50mins

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Rank #13: Malcolm X in Boston and Beyond

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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.

Feb 14 2020

50mins

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Rank #14: Ben Lerner’s Literary Charge

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This week we have an Open Source literary treat. It’s our producer Adam Colman in conversation with Ben Lerner, the MacArthur Genius who speaks as a poet, theorist, and storyteller in everything he writes. Ben Lerner’s latest novel, The Topeka School, has been leading lots of 2019 book-of-the-year-lists. It’s the third in a trilogy that includes Leaving the Atocha Station and 10:04. Our man Adam Colman is also the author of New Uses for Failure, the only book about Ben Lerner’s fiction not written by Ben Lerner himself. The two of them sat down in Brooklyn to talk about the emotional charge of literature, about auto-fiction (which is not about cars) and about the power of language most particularly in the scenes with of high school debate in The Topeka School, where success goes to the contestants who deploy what’s called “the spread,” a kind of weaponized rapid fire of information.

Adam and Ben.

A note from Adam: At the end of 2019, we’re looking back on a decade of disasters, but over the course of that same decade, Ben Lerner sensed glimmers of a better world. It’s this imaginative attention to our actual world that made me want to write a book about his fiction, which focuses on those glimmers of possibility found through language, through art. As he says in this conversation, he took to writing novels because they “seemed like a place where I could think through the question of the value of a lot of the arts I was engaged in, like poetry or visual art or whatever. And I’d like to dramatize . . . my anxiety about the value of artwork, but also my insistence on the value of artwork. And they could do it in a charged and funny and felt and hopefully entertaining way.” In this conversation, you’ll hear a case for why literary imagination matters—emotionally, politically, intellectually, and immediately.

(Banner photo credit: Catherine Barnett.)

The post Ben Lerner’s Literary Charge appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Dec 26 2019

46mins

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Rank #15: The Age of Illusions

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Soldier and citizen, Andrew Bacevich is the overqualified expert who turns the standard take on our distress inside out. It’s not President Trump that divides us, Bacevich says. Rather, Trump got to be president because the country was worse than split: it’s in a 30-year slow-burn rage around a loss of our restraint, our reputation, our identity. Donald Trump is the loathsome cover on our confusion, he says, but the confusion comes out of Clinton, Bush, and Obama time, in the arrogance of military might, unleashed by a Cold War victory, as if we were licensed to rule the world.  The reckoning Bacevich wants, with Trump or without, is about what three reckless decades have cost us abroad and at home.

Andrew Bacevich with Chris Lydon.

Young Andrew Bacevich felt a vocation to be a soldier, left home in Normal, Illinois, for West Point and battle, in Vietnam, then the first Gulf War. He’s rueful now about American wars in his long lifetime, and he is answering a second vocation to write what he’s learned about misplaced faith in force, and where it has taken his country.  His eighth book on military and foreign policy, just out, is titled The Age of Illusions: How America Squandered Its Cold War Victory. When we got a chance to talk about it in the Cambridge Forum, the usual book and author interview sounded at moments like two old Catholic altar boys lapsing in their seventies into musing: what became of the USA that was the toast of the world in their boyhood after World War II? 

The post The Age of Illusions appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Jan 31 2020

50mins

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Rank #16: The Costs of War

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A trillion dollars here, a trillion dollars there — pretty soon, as the man said, you’re talking real money. But you’re not even close to counting the costs of the US “forever wars” in the Middle East. The numbers are sky high, the questions are profound: more than $6 trillion paid out since 9/11 for missions to Afghanistan, Iraq ,and Pakistan, one trillion of the six just for interest on a borrowed-money war. Who owns that debt, and who will pay it, when? If you can’t think in trillions, try equivalences and opportunities lost: money for 21st century wars could have retired all student debt five times over; could have built thousands of miles of high-speed rail; could have financed Medicare for most of us. The government doesn’t audit its empire, but scholars do.

An old-fashioned war-financing effort.

The hidden costs of the long, losing war in the Middle East can break your heart when you learn the disproportionate deaths of innocents. They could break the bank when the credit card debt on six trillion dollars’ worth of war comes due. We are getting highlights this hour from a remarkable network of auditors, in effect, on the dangerous downside of empire.  About two dozen independent scholars of history, economics, and warfare are linked in a Cost-of-War project to tell us what the government would like us to ignore – starting with that point that our wars since 9/ll have been financed by borrowing, the main reason our debt exceeds our GNP, meaning we owe more than we produce in a year. Just the interest paid in on the credit-card war era is more than a trillion dollars. 

The post The Costs of War appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Jan 17 2020

50mins

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Rank #17: Impeachment Lite

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The impeachment season just opening begins to look like a required scandalous course for citizens on how your government actually works, and as the New York Times noted this week, it will not be pretty. Not President Trump’s strong-arming the government of Ukraine to trash his enemies and get himself reelected in 2020. And not the reckless routines of a surveillance state that bends the rules to spy on people, and apparently the Trump campaign of 2016, then smear them with gossip known to be sketchy. Speaking of un-pretty: there was the Washington Post report this week that the Pentagon knew through our 18-year, two-trillion-dollar war in Afghanistan that the US had no workable strategy, and as a top general put it, “We didn’t know what we were doing.”

Still, finally the impeachment fat is in the fire. It’s a smaller fire than it might have been, a short bill of just two particulars: that President Trump tried to shake down Ukraine for help in Trump’s own reelection campaign in 2020; also that he’d stonewalled Congress’s investigation. It is nothing like a frontal attack on the Trump presidency—on his climate denial, say, or breaking the anti-nuclear deal with Iran, or profiteering on public office, or cruelty to migrants at the border. In the week’s news of the American empire, it could seem a smaller story than the Pentagon’s confession about our losing war in Afghanistan.

The post Impeachment Lite appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Dec 13 2019

50mins

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Rank #18: Russiagate, Unredacted

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A conversation about collusion, obstruction of justice, and the full Mueller Report with Seth Berman, Andy Bacevich, and David Bromwich.

A second chance for Mueller Report to pin a Russian tale on Donald Trump’s election has not changed the score. “Game over,” said Mr. Trump, still president and not about to be indicted for whatever help he got from Russia, or for trying to deep-six the official investigation – largely because the ‘yes’ men on his staff said ‘no’ to his orders to fire the special prosecutor. Call it Trump luck or Democratic fantasy that un-did the Russiagate trap. 2020 reelection politics starts here, and Donald Trump has a stronger narrative than before: he’ll be the guy now who was spied on back in Obama time, and set up for a deep-state coup after election by rogue FBI and CIA, not to mention the failing New York Times, and he beat them.

The hard news of the long-form Mueller Reports seems to be the abundant testimony that Donald Trump ardently and persistently wanted and tried to kill the Russiagate investigation and fire its special prosecutor, but that his henchmen refused to execute the orders that would have turned his wishes into crimes. There would be no “Saturday Night Massacre” this time, said his disobedient White House counsel Don McGahn, referencing the cover-up that killed Richard Nixon’s presidency. And there would be no act of obstruction in the Trump case, so no indictment for it. 448 pages seem to have changed nothing: we have a runaway regime under a triumphant rogue who has slipped the noose yet again. And we still don’t quite know how this “very stable genius,” in his phrase, gets away with it. Or anybody else who could do what he’s doing. The soldier / scholar Andrew Bacevich is here to argue as Pogo did: we have met the enemy and he is us. David Bromwich, the Sterling Professor of English at Yale, is with us to parse language of combat and commentary. But we begin with the lawyer’s lawyer, Seth Berman, with the Boston firm of Nutter McClennen & Fish, sometime Federal prosecutor with the famous Robert Morgenthau in New York, and in the U.S. Attorney’s office in Boston, too.

What went wrong in the Mueller crusade?

The post Russiagate, Unredacted appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Apr 19 2019

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Rank #19: Hong Kong Crackdown

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“May you live in interesting times” was never in fact a Chinese curse. It’s a modern American cliché that could work as a caption on both China and the US as 2019 winds down. We’ve got our impeachment crisis to open a presidential election year, a “surveillance capitalism” crisis that mocks ideals of shared prosperity and privacy. China’s got an even starker “rule of law” crisis. Under Chairman for Life Xi Jinping, autocratic nationalism has taken its mask off in Beijing, and in Hong Kong the police crackdown on a freedom movement in the streets has turned sharply toward lethal force. Over there and here, the toughest question might be: are we looking at the future?

By the end of the police siege of Hong Kong Polytechnic University, students were crawling through sewers this week, jumping from a bridge and tunneling under barriers to get free. Not to surrender, exactly, or to flee, as one student said; just to get out of a hole getting deeper and more dangerous. The fight for almost six months now has been to preserve a measure of self-rule in the sometime British crown colony that reverted to China two decades ago—under a formula of one country with two systems of governance. But armed battle has pre-empted a political argument: bows and arrows, then fire bombs showed up in the hands of the opposition, facing water cannons and storms of tear gas from the police. No Red Army tanks yet, as in Tiananmen Square 30 years ago, but a popular protest movement is on the defensive and “crackdown” is in the air.

The post Hong Kong Crackdown appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Nov 22 2019

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Profits or People

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Week 4 was when dollar signs kept turning up, and up, astonishingly: price-tags on the virus’s damage, price-tags on fighting it. The bailout of bailouts came in at $2.2 trillion of disaster relief and, it’s fair to say, a pipeline of money to Wall Street, to the Boeing Company, and the airline industry. Who’d have expected Republican conservatives would bail out people, too: “four-figure checks” in mailboxes within three weeks, Mitch McConnell promised. The mantra is official now: don’t sweat the debt. Governor Cuomo in the virus’s bullseye of New York sounded desperate for hospital beds, but he also thought the spiky curve of cases was flattening.

Mark Blyth.

For an immeasurable public health disaster, Washington has come up with unheard of relief, about double what the federal government budgets for all spending in a whole year. And the case loads and death toll of the coronavirus keep rising, unevenly, unpredictably, and by far the worst in New York, city and state. Mark Blyth is our almost reflexive call: our political economist at Brown University, eagle-eyed and irreverent on those places where money and power mix and mingle and make rules for the world. He can sound like the noisiest know-it-all in a Glasgow pub, but people always say he has a gift for making sense where they hadn’t seen it.

The post Profits or People appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Mar 27 2020

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Springtime in the Plague Year

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It’s the virus’s world. We just live in it: isolated, locked down for the duration, sheltering in place, with an alternate risk of cabin fever. The theme of the week is the shutting down—of the city, the country, the world. Markets busted, borders closing. Bars finally emptied. Public schools locked up. College graduations cancelled. An incredible prospect: we won’t be taking trips for the foreseeable future; we won’t be going to meetings. And a Republican White House is getting ready to shower “helicopter cash” on the American people, the bailout of bailouts. And still there are giant holes in the numbers under the fear.

Italy is the eye of the Coronavirus storm, the epicenter of the chaos in treatment, and of the world’s heartbreak and dread. Italy’s death toll in the global pandemic passed 3,400 this week, exceeding the losses in China. At the same time, in the crazy-quilt of plague sites all over the world, even in Italy there are broad patches apparently untouched by the virus. And in the jumble of mis-matching statistics, there was plenty of reason to question and doubt the worst-case scenario: that the rest of Europe and even North America could be 10 days away from the Italy’s nightmare.

The post Springtime in the Plague Year appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Mar 20 2020

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Contagious Crisis

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Our journals of the plague year start this week. Coronavirus went pandemic, and the investors’ bull market turned free-falling bear. In the conversation market, the monopolist Donald Trump is upstaged after 5 years, by a microscopic bug out of China. We’ve seen Italy’s hospitals sinking under the viral load, and satellite photos of mass graves being dug in Iran. Pro-basketball shut down for the season, and college kids got told not to come back after spring break. Tom Hanks and his wife tested positive in Australia, and Americans found they couldn’t get tested at home. Offices and factories shut down, and some people got to love “telework.” Coincidentally maybe, Bernie Sanders’s campaign got crushed at the same time coronavirus made its case for socializing medicine.

Like nothing we’ve known or imagined, COVID-19, the novel virus, has arrived: the invisible bug that feeds on human lung tissue, the coronavirus, the omnidirectional killer and crisis that could feel more like a tsunami hitting than war breaking out. It is successor to epidemics like the modern ebola and SARS and the ancient bubonic plague. Its global spread has been formally designated this week a pandemic. But almost all the rest of the coronavirus is yet to unfold.

The post Contagious Crisis appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Mar 13 2020

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Plagues, Pathogens, and Panic

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Stuff we’re all learning in coronavirus time: the word miasma, for example, meaning noxious bad air; that we touch our faces 23 times an hour; that sanitizers like Purell were made to kill bacteria, not viruses, and they’re not worth $70 a liter on Amazon; more important maybe: that all our Ibuprofen and most of our prescription meds are made in China; that the face masks you can’t find on the shelves anymore don’t work anyway; and of course: that we don’t have a vaccine for this coronavirus. Crazy stuff, too, like: it takes two weeks for urban populations to go cannibal after everything else runs out.

A CDC poster from 1964, with timeless wisdom.

Take a deep breath. Wash your hands for 20 seconds, and don’t touch your face. We’re talking about the coronavirus out of China before we have solid grasp of its spread, its pre-symptomatic incubation time, and its kill rate among all the people who catch the virus. Neither do we have the means of testing big populations yet, much less a vaccine to inoculate us. We are speaking of a black swan in the form of a microscopic new bug that tears at commerce and culture all over the world. No school, all schools in Pakistan, Japan and Italy, for example. And on the trade routes across the Pacific, a pileup of stalled containerships between China and the California ports of Oakland and Long Beach. The plague for our times hasn’t yet sorted itself between impulses to cancel everything or brave it out, to shore up borders, or get our heads into a borderless age of pandemics.

The post Plagues, Pathogens, and Panic appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Mar 06 2020

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The New Red Scare

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The winter round of the presidential race goes to Bernie Sanders, not so much for winning the most votes from Democrats as for coining the key word, the big theme for 2020, which is: billionaires! Not just the billionaires on the ballot and billionaires backstage, it’s billionaire-ism coming to be the argument of this election in a country at odds more and more about money. We’re used to anger, right and left, but suddenly there’s alarm in the air – at MSNBC, the Democrats’ TV network, the bold march of Bernie’s anti-billionaire army reminded Hardball‘s Chris Matthews of the Fall of France to Hitler in 1940. It’s scary, and there’s a pick of scarecrows in this race: the Plutocrat; the Democratic Socialist, and the President.

MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, who’s invoked Cold War fears and World War II analogies to discuss Bernie Sanders.

This was wake-up week among the Democrats nominating a presidential candidate. Some woke up cheering that Bernie Sanders looks like the choice of the people. Some woke up screaming in horror that the rebellion against the Clinton era is real, that their party has been dying for four years, that the end is near. The sound of battle has gone raw, with survival at stake, not just egos.

The post The New Red Scare appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Feb 28 2020

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The Soul of Care

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Arthur Kleinman is a name that comes up again and again when you search around our big college town of Boston / Cambridge for people asking the great human questions, about our lived experience — about our inner and outer lives, secret lives, soul lives, and also about our vulnerabilities, our pain, and endurance. Dr. Kleinman is an M.D. psychiatrist who’s played anthropologist, too, in Chinese medicine, but he saved his best work and big discovery for last. In his sixties and seventies, he says, he learned more than he’d ever known before about doctoring through 11 years of caring night and day for the wife he adored in the grip of Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. Arthur Kleinman. Credit: Torben Eskerod.

Arthur Kleinman is a doctors’ doctor who learned the hard way about his lifetime in medicine. He’s been learning mainly about the limits of his heroic profession, about the difference between care-giving (which could mean surgery, or writing a prescription) and care itself, which means staring into an anxious patient’s view of the abyss. The Soul of Care is Arthur Kleinman’s 40th book. Most of his books have soulful titles, but this one is different: it’s a memoir of more than a decade after his wife and professional partner Joan showed first hints of Alzheimer’s disease.

Banner image credit: Torben Eskerod.

The post The Soul of Care appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Feb 21 2020

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Malcolm X in Boston and Beyond

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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.

Feb 14 2020

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The New Hampshire Primary

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Say what you will about the cranky-Yankee New Hampshire primary, in a remote, mostly white state in the shape of a dunce cap on the map of New England. It’s still the place where presidential candidates have to go face-to-face retail, in the donut shop and the house party, where voters expect to make eye contact and shake a hand four or five times before they commit. The bigger point in 2020 is that New Hampshire is the place where the overarching, orderly narrative of our politics broke down four years ago and has yet to be put together. 2016 was wholesale rebellion: Trump 3 to 1 over Jeb and the Bush dynasty; Bernie’s Democratic socialism in a double landslide over Hillary Clinton’s party regulars.

Site of the in-process Pittsfield Historical Society in New Hampshire.

New Hampshire’s presidential primary marks the spot where the old-normal narrative of party politics fell apart four years ago. It was a sharper turn than many people noticed, and decisive for the country: Donald Trump out of reality television beat the patrician Republican Jeb Bush by a 3-to-1 margin. On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders added “socialist” to his ID and beat Hillary Clinton’s corporate centrism by 22 points, more than 60-40. Four years later, Donald Trump is a scarred-up president riding a bump-up in popularity for surviving an impeachment. Bernie Sanders, who’ll be 79 years old before the election day in November, has survived a heart attack and repair surgery. In New Hampshire, Sanders and Trump are the hot-button names for upstarts like Pete Buttigieg to contend with, but their stories have changed. The Trump theme of discontent is long gone: American carnage out; American comeback is his ticket. Bernie is in a bind. The stronger he surges, in Iowa and maybe New Hampshire, the more he rattles the old center of his party. So bad news is good, good news is bad, and the new story is still unwritten as we hit the trail this week: up I-93 to 89, Concord to Pittsfield, then Hanover to West Lebanon.

The post The New Hampshire Primary appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Feb 07 2020

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The Age of Illusions

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Soldier and citizen, Andrew Bacevich is the overqualified expert who turns the standard take on our distress inside out. It’s not President Trump that divides us, Bacevich says. Rather, Trump got to be president because the country was worse than split: it’s in a 30-year slow-burn rage around a loss of our restraint, our reputation, our identity. Donald Trump is the loathsome cover on our confusion, he says, but the confusion comes out of Clinton, Bush, and Obama time, in the arrogance of military might, unleashed by a Cold War victory, as if we were licensed to rule the world.  The reckoning Bacevich wants, with Trump or without, is about what three reckless decades have cost us abroad and at home.

Andrew Bacevich with Chris Lydon.

Young Andrew Bacevich felt a vocation to be a soldier, left home in Normal, Illinois, for West Point and battle, in Vietnam, then the first Gulf War. He’s rueful now about American wars in his long lifetime, and he is answering a second vocation to write what he’s learned about misplaced faith in force, and where it has taken his country.  His eighth book on military and foreign policy, just out, is titled The Age of Illusions: How America Squandered Its Cold War Victory. When we got a chance to talk about it in the Cambridge Forum, the usual book and author interview sounded at moments like two old Catholic altar boys lapsing in their seventies into musing: what became of the USA that was the toast of the world in their boyhood after World War II? 

The post The Age of Illusions appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Jan 31 2020

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Greta Gerwig Meets Louisa May Alcott

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In the Oscar-excitement around the new Little Women, director Greta Gerwig has a note for all of us: her hero at the party is still the woman who wrote the book a hundred and fifty years ago. Louisa May Alcott was the real thing: a bolder, braver character than the version of herself called Jo. She was the strongest abolitionist in the Alcott family; her precocious writing paid the family bills, as father did not. In book and movie papa Bronson goes South to tend the Civil War wounded and dying, but in life it was Louisa who did that. Back in Concord she got love and respect from the creative giants of the neighborhood—Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne—who found the visionary Bronson a tedious sort of angel. We’re listening for Alcott Family footsteps in their “Orchard House” not far from Boston, in Concord—on Lexington Road. 

Left to right: Jan Turnquist (executive director of Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House), portrait of Louisa May Alcott by George Healy, and Christopher Lydon.

The writer of Little Women understated her own case. The real Louisa May Alcott had been an abolitionist from the age of three, a boyish girl who didn’t just long to see the horror and heartbreak of the Civil War: she was the one, not her father, who went to the front near Washington and held the hands of dying soldiers.

Painting by May Alcott, sister of Louisa and inspiration for Amy March. Used with permission of Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House.

In the creative classroom back home, the Alcott sisters’ playspace today is full of their costumes and props, swords and boots of their theatrical charades, along with the classic novels of George Eliot and the Brontë sisters, where the girls really did define themselves by reading.  Their drawings on the door-frames are intact. Oil paintings on the walls remind you of baby sister May’s ambition to be a great painter (John Ruskin, the ultimate critic, judged that she made it).

Pen on Louisa May Alcott’s desk at Orchard House.
The Concord School of Philosophy, the project of Louisa’s father, Bronson Alcott. The structure still sits next to the Orchard House in Concord.

The post Greta Gerwig Meets Louisa May Alcott appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Jan 24 2020

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The Costs of War

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A trillion dollars here, a trillion dollars there — pretty soon, as the man said, you’re talking real money. But you’re not even close to counting the costs of the US “forever wars” in the Middle East. The numbers are sky high, the questions are profound: more than $6 trillion paid out since 9/11 for missions to Afghanistan, Iraq ,and Pakistan, one trillion of the six just for interest on a borrowed-money war. Who owns that debt, and who will pay it, when? If you can’t think in trillions, try equivalences and opportunities lost: money for 21st century wars could have retired all student debt five times over; could have built thousands of miles of high-speed rail; could have financed Medicare for most of us. The government doesn’t audit its empire, but scholars do.

An old-fashioned war-financing effort.

The hidden costs of the long, losing war in the Middle East can break your heart when you learn the disproportionate deaths of innocents. They could break the bank when the credit card debt on six trillion dollars’ worth of war comes due. We are getting highlights this hour from a remarkable network of auditors, in effect, on the dangerous downside of empire.  About two dozen independent scholars of history, economics, and warfare are linked in a Cost-of-War project to tell us what the government would like us to ignore – starting with that point that our wars since 9/ll have been financed by borrowing, the main reason our debt exceeds our GNP, meaning we owe more than we produce in a year. Just the interest paid in on the credit-card war era is more than a trillion dollars. 

The post The Costs of War appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Jan 17 2020

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2020 Hindsight on Iraq

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We have a formal stand-down, meaning no war this week, between the US and Iran. On the long horizon of empires, rising and falling, it looks like an interval of restraint between hubris and nemesis—the ancient Greek names for defiant pride and its downfall, or undoing. The broken state of Iraq is what stares at us and the world, 17 hellish years after the US invasion and occupation. It’s the multi-trillion-dollar war that brought chaos and regime change that handed control of Iraq to Iran as if on a silver platter. It’s the war that discredited a generation of American party pols who voted for it. It’s the reason most Iraqis and their parliament want the last Americans out of their country. And still, the people that sold that Iraq war have another bigger one in mind if anybody will buy it.

Donald Rumsfeld, George W. Bush, and Dick Cheney in 2006.

We look ahead in the war-fogged Middle East this hour with some of the people who could have steered a much better path a generation ago. Our guests are a strong sample of an honor roll in commentary on such things.  All told there were 33 specialists in strategy, diplomacy, and Middle East history who paid for op-ed space in the New York Times as President George W. Bush was ginning up war against Saddam Hussein. September, 2002, six months before the war began, the scholars’ warning ran under a headline: WAR WITH IRAQ IS NOT IN AMERICA’S NATIONAL INTEREST. Each one of their six bullet points proved true in the real world: Saddam was in fact a bad old client of the US, and no part of the 9/11 attack. We could win a war in Iraq, these professionals stated, but we’d never get out of the mess we’d made.

The post 2020 Hindsight on Iraq appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Jan 10 2020

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The Inimitable Johnny Hodges

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There’s a big difference between the two greatest jazz stars on the alto horn. Charlie Parker had imitators without number; Johnny Hodges was simply inimitable. Parker, known as Bird, broke frontiers of speed, harmonic invention, and all-round excitement. Hodges, known as Rabbit, or Jeep, is best known for blues feeling, storytelling, and the sheer beauty of his sound and tone, in all the varieties and moods that could come out of an alto saxophone, at different moments lyrical, earthy, elegiac, and sensual. Hodges said he liked the idea of making “alley music,” yet he could sound like a whisper to your heart, as well.  This hour it’s Johnny Hodges’s turn, on the occasion of Con Chapman’s biography of him.

Johnny Hodges, right, plays alongside Al Sears in 1946.

Out of another age in high pop culture, we’re rediscovering songs without words this hour, from an expressionless man—until the moment he picked up his horn. From the 1920s into 1970, four decades, Johnny Hodges was the standby solo star in Duke Ellington’s jazz orchestra. Other bandleaders said Duke could afford not to feature a boy singer or a girl singer, as they were known then, because he had Hodges in his band.

Johnny Hodges’s voice came in three registers: blues, ballads and, a rarity in jazz, the art song. That sound of Johnny Hodges is the thread, the plot of this radio hour: about a forgotten grand master of American music whose biography has finally been written: Rabbit’s Blues from the Oxford University Press, by a Boston lawyer and fellow Hodges cultist, Con Chapman. It’s an overdue account of an artist who barely spoke but stirred hearts his own way, not so unlike Charlie Chaplin or the other silent movie star Buster Keaton, known as “the great stone face”—which described Hodges as well. What Johnny Hodges did was liberate and lift Adolph Sax’s mid-range horn out of the marching-band, into the far upper reaches of solo expression. And he played it with “a tone so beautiful,” Duke Ellington said, “it sometimes brought tears to the eyes.” 

In Boston, Hodges played at venues like the Black and White Club and Hotel Avery.

We’re close-listening to Hodges’s wide range of music—and taking a tour of the neighborhood where he hatched his sound. Long-time community activist and former state representative Byron Rushing is our guide. He’s walking us back into the intellectual and cultural cauldron of Hodges’ youth, a scene that included fellow saxophonist Harry Carney as well as journalist William Monroe Trotter and the painter Allan Crite. We’re joined also by Robin D.G. Kelley, the preeminent historian and biographer of Thelonious Monk.

On Sussex Street in the South End of Boston, Chris meets up with Byron Rushing, who says the small brick houses and apartments in the area here were originally “built for the working class.”

Thank you for listening. The YouTube playlist here and below contains (most of) the Hodges tracks contained in the the program. You can find an excerpt of Chapman’s new book here.

The post The Inimitable Johnny Hodges appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Jan 03 2020

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Ben Lerner’s Literary Charge

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This week we have an Open Source literary treat. It’s our producer Adam Colman in conversation with Ben Lerner, the MacArthur Genius who speaks as a poet, theorist, and storyteller in everything he writes. Ben Lerner’s latest novel, The Topeka School, has been leading lots of 2019 book-of-the-year-lists. It’s the third in a trilogy that includes Leaving the Atocha Station and 10:04. Our man Adam Colman is also the author of New Uses for Failure, the only book about Ben Lerner’s fiction not written by Ben Lerner himself. The two of them sat down in Brooklyn to talk about the emotional charge of literature, about auto-fiction (which is not about cars) and about the power of language most particularly in the scenes with of high school debate in The Topeka School, where success goes to the contestants who deploy what’s called “the spread,” a kind of weaponized rapid fire of information.

Adam and Ben.

A note from Adam: At the end of 2019, we’re looking back on a decade of disasters, but over the course of that same decade, Ben Lerner sensed glimmers of a better world. It’s this imaginative attention to our actual world that made me want to write a book about his fiction, which focuses on those glimmers of possibility found through language, through art. As he says in this conversation, he took to writing novels because they “seemed like a place where I could think through the question of the value of a lot of the arts I was engaged in, like poetry or visual art or whatever. And I’d like to dramatize . . . my anxiety about the value of artwork, but also my insistence on the value of artwork. And they could do it in a charged and funny and felt and hopefully entertaining way.” In this conversation, you’ll hear a case for why literary imagination matters—emotionally, politically, intellectually, and immediately.

(Banner photo credit: Catherine Barnett.)

The post Ben Lerner’s Literary Charge appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Dec 26 2019

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Labour’s Love Lost

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Britain’s long, lurching political campaign of self-discovery, on the eve of ours in 2020, was a shocker. Thunder on the right, collapse on the left, bye-bye to Europe and banging the door on the way out, the British election gave a floundering Tory clown Boris Johnson the fattest right-wing majority since Margaret Thatcher remade the landscape and found her American match on it with Ronald Reagan. That was 40 years ago, and more than ever the American puzzle is these ties that bind the English-speaking world, to the right, then left, in war and peace, and now to the odd pair in blue jackets and yellow hair who talk in Mad Joker slogans and keep winning.

British election returns can land in the US like weather forecasts. Margaret Thatcher in 1979 cued Ronald Reagan in 1980. Bush the first and John Major were a matched pair for the 90s. Then Bill Clinton here and Tony Blair over there steered back toward a new middle or muddle. The Brexit rebellion in 2016 was a foretaste of Donald Trump and America First. And now on the eve of our 2020 campaign comes a Conservative landslide in the UK, and a rich, rebel, right-wing so-called “populist” leading from London with a short list of slogans. It looks and sounds familiar: Boris Johnson as their Trump; the feckless Labor Socialist Jeremy Corbyn as their Bernie Sanders. Clamorous conservatism up, neo-socialism cooked. But does the quick impression survive inspection?

The post Labour’s Love Lost appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Dec 20 2019

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Impeachment Lite

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The impeachment season just opening begins to look like a required scandalous course for citizens on how your government actually works, and as the New York Times noted this week, it will not be pretty. Not President Trump’s strong-arming the government of Ukraine to trash his enemies and get himself reelected in 2020. And not the reckless routines of a surveillance state that bends the rules to spy on people, and apparently the Trump campaign of 2016, then smear them with gossip known to be sketchy. Speaking of un-pretty: there was the Washington Post report this week that the Pentagon knew through our 18-year, two-trillion-dollar war in Afghanistan that the US had no workable strategy, and as a top general put it, “We didn’t know what we were doing.”

Still, finally the impeachment fat is in the fire. It’s a smaller fire than it might have been, a short bill of just two particulars: that President Trump tried to shake down Ukraine for help in Trump’s own reelection campaign in 2020; also that he’d stonewalled Congress’s investigation. It is nothing like a frontal attack on the Trump presidency—on his climate denial, say, or breaking the anti-nuclear deal with Iran, or profiteering on public office, or cruelty to migrants at the border. In the week’s news of the American empire, it could seem a smaller story than the Pentagon’s confession about our losing war in Afghanistan.

The post Impeachment Lite appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Dec 13 2019

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Origin Stories

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Origin stories can be educated guesses, or leaps of collective imagination as to who we are, how we got to this point. The Big Bang is one kind, Adam and Eve make another. 1492 and 1776 are American starting points. The argument gets stickier around 1620, when Mayflower Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock; and 1619, when the first African slaves came ashore in Virginia. Just a year apart, they’re the opening chapters of two very different epics of a single nation: one born in the flight of pious Puritans to freedom, the other born in the theft of people and land to build an empire of cotton and capitalism.

It’s a funny thing about origin stories—who we are, how we got here. We know going in that the stories are made up, one way or another. And we come to find out that a lot of them are just plain wrong. Then what? The Sunday magazine of the New York Times took a bold run this past summer at the year 1620 as the start of the American story— the year, of course, when the Mayflower landed about one hundred dissenting English Puritans, our pilgrims, at Plymouth Rock. But no, the Times argued, our first chapter was dated 1619, a year earlier when a ship bearing some 20 African slaves landed in Point Comfort, Virginia, which was to say the drive to implant a slavocracy in the new world had a step on building a temple of freedom.

We’re talking with Nikole Hannah-Jones, Philip Deloria, and Peter Linebaugh about national origin stories. The thread here is storytelling that explains and often hides what happened.

Nikole Hannah-Jones is the writer and editor who led what the Times called a major initiative at the paper to reframe American history. And she strikes the keynote of this radio hour around slavery at the foundations of U.S. history and in our own origin stories in general.

Peter Linebaugh is a transnational historian of economics and culture. He’s been tracking the privatization of common land in England and the New World. 1792 is his magic start date of what is now the world system.

The historian Philip Deloria—the first tenured professor of Native American history at Harvard—considers the Native American encounters with those colonists in the 1600s.

The post Origin Stories appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Dec 06 2019

50mins

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Hong Kong Crackdown

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“May you live in interesting times” was never in fact a Chinese curse. It’s a modern American cliché that could work as a caption on both China and the US as 2019 winds down. We’ve got our impeachment crisis to open a presidential election year, a “surveillance capitalism” crisis that mocks ideals of shared prosperity and privacy. China’s got an even starker “rule of law” crisis. Under Chairman for Life Xi Jinping, autocratic nationalism has taken its mask off in Beijing, and in Hong Kong the police crackdown on a freedom movement in the streets has turned sharply toward lethal force. Over there and here, the toughest question might be: are we looking at the future?

By the end of the police siege of Hong Kong Polytechnic University, students were crawling through sewers this week, jumping from a bridge and tunneling under barriers to get free. Not to surrender, exactly, or to flee, as one student said; just to get out of a hole getting deeper and more dangerous. The fight for almost six months now has been to preserve a measure of self-rule in the sometime British crown colony that reverted to China two decades ago—under a formula of one country with two systems of governance. But armed battle has pre-empted a political argument: bows and arrows, then fire bombs showed up in the hands of the opposition, facing water cannons and storms of tear gas from the police. No Red Army tanks yet, as in Tiananmen Square 30 years ago, but a popular protest movement is on the defensive and “crackdown” is in the air.

The post Hong Kong Crackdown appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Nov 22 2019

50mins

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Billionaire Noir

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The most honored movie of the year looks to be Parasite, from Korea, about the soul-crushing advance of mega-wealth and the heartbreak of poor people with a dream of catching up. From the Pacific Rim, that is, it’s a movie that mirrors us! At the same time, from Hollywood, the hot HBO series is Succession: all about cruelty, greed, and family power-games under a vulgar tycoon who won’t let go of his company.  The family name might have been Murdoch, Corleone, Trump. Alongside our Impeachment drama, it’s pop-culture, screen culture, that’s telling an under-story of concentrated wealth; the lost confidence in middle-class life and a regular people’s democracy.

Bong Joon-ho.

Parasite’s a faraway mirror of what you know instantly is our American condition, too—maybe a universal affliction of yawning gaps in class and wealth and entitlement—in a financial order owned by an almost speechless, maybe clueless one percent. This is, we know, impeachment time in Washington and the news business. We’re picking up instead on the understory told in screen culture: In the case of Parasite, the story’s more interesting for mixing movie genres: this is a social comedy of two families before it turns sour and then sharply into a horror show. The story is told more in sadness than anger, and it leaves viewers with innumerable angles to replay and reflect on for days.

The post Billionaire Noir appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Nov 15 2019

50mins

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In Hoffa’s Shadow

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Jimmy Hoffa will never be found, and won’t be forgotten either. What was it about the Teamster tough guy that’s more compelling 45 years after his perfect-crime murder than in his larger-than-life career? He was a working class hero when a third of American workers belonged to unions, the top of the labor ranks despite his open marriage to the Mob.  Jimmy Hoffa’s place in memory is right out of the movies: out of The Godfather and the golden age of the Mafia; out of Goodfellas when order was breaking down; out of The Sopranos’ modern melancholy for  a lost era—brutal, corrupt, all of it, but connected with a myth of mid-century masculinity. Was it something about a take-charge guy whose orders got followed?

Hoffa, left, and Chuckie O’Brien.

Jimmy Hoffa is a fixture in American mythology by now. The two-fisted Teamsters’ leader who vanished in 1975 in a murder plot that left not a trace of hard evidence. Still a mystery, still mesmerizing, Hoffa’s a story that Martin Scorsese can tell one way this fall in yet another big movie, The Irishman, and that a Harvard law professor out of Hoffa’s extended family can tell very differently. Jack Goldsmith is our source this radio hour: in effect he’s the step-son of Jimmy Hoffa’s step-son—with his own history inside the federal justice machinery that was part of Jimmy Hoffa’s downfall. Jack Goldsmith’s book about his step-father Chuckie O’Brien is In Hoffa’s Shadow. Call it a fathers-and-sons love story inside the Hoffa epic, with a cool hindsight on Mafia power and FBI performance in the story, and second thoughts on the Kennedy brothers’ rough, righteous war on Hoffa the man.

Bonus: Listen here to Jack Goldsmith speaking further about the Department of Justice and surveillance—from the perspective of a DOJ veteran.

The Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice building in Washington D.C.

The post In Hoffa’s Shadow appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Nov 08 2019

50mins

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Great Radio Program. I love this guy Chris his depth always provocative

By SF CA Lin - Sep 07 2019
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Great radio program - ideas, music, literature, drama, politics !! Thank You Chris Lydon !!!

The best radio/podcast

By goodems - Jun 23 2018
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Christopher Lydon is keeping me sane.