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Fresh Air Weekend

Opening the window on contemporary arts and issues with guests from worlds as diverse as literature and economics. Terry Gross hosts this multi-award-winning daily interview and features program. The veteran public radio interviewer is known for her extraordinary ability to engage guests of all dispositions. Every week she delights intelligent and curious listeners with revelations on contemporary societal concerns. 

Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master is both feverish and glacial. The vibe is chilly, but the central character is an unholy mess — and his rage saturates every frame. He's a World War II South Pacific vet named Freddie Quell, played by Joaquin Phoenix to the hilt — the hilt above the hilt. We meet him at war's end on a tropical beach where he and other soldiers seek sexual relief atop the figure of a woman made out of sand.

This interview was originally broadcast on Oct. 24, 2011. The third season of Boardwalk Empire starts Sunday.

HBO's Boardwalk Empire, set in Atlantic City in the 1920s, is about organized crime in the era of Prohibition. The show stars Steve Buscemi as Nucky Thompson, an Atlantic City politician who sees the coming of Prohibition as an opportunity to make even more money from illegal activities and kickbacks.

This interview was originally broadcast on April 12, 2012. Fernando Trueba's Chico & Rita is now out on DVD.

The animated film Chico and Rita is set in 1940s Havana, at a time when Cuban musicians were starting to leave the country and join the jazz scene in New York. It was also a time when musical styles were fusing — and changing the Afro-Cuban jazz scene entirely.

Last year, the broadcast networks didn't do well at all when it came to new series development. We got ABC's clever Once Upon a Time, which was about it for the fall crop, until midseason perked things up with NBC's Smash. Otherwise, a year ago, all the exciting new fall series were on cable, thanks to Showtime's brilliant Homeland and FX's audacious American Horror Story.

Before comic W. Kamau Bell became host of the new weekly political humor show Totally Biased, which mixes standup, sketches and interviews, he had a one-man show called The W. Kamau Bell Curve: Ending Racism in About an Hour.

"If you bring a friend of a different race, you get in 2 for 1," he tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross.

Every New York story ever written or filmed falls into one of two categories. The first — like Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, or the musical On the Town — regards New York as the representative American city, a jam-packed distillation of the country's dreams and nightmares. The second group views New York as a foreign place — a city off the coast of the U.S. mainland that somehow drifted away from Paris or Mars. Think every Manhattan movie ever made by Woody Allen.

Author Michael Lewis made a radical request to the White House that he says he was almost certain would be denied: He wanted to write a piece about President Obama that would put the reader in the president's shoes.

To do this, the Vanity Fair contributing editor would need inside access. So what did he propose?

A detection dog-training center opens Tuesday, on the anniversary of Sept. 11, at the University of Pennsylvania so scientists can train dogs for search-and-rescue missions — and study what helps them succeed.

Bob Dylan made the rare mistake of talking about his creative process shortly before the release of Tempest. He told Rolling Stone that he'd originally wanted to write a collection of what he called "religious songs," saying, "That takes a lot more concentration to pull that off — 10 times with the same thread than it does with a record like I ended up with." Which means that either his powers of concentration failed him, or he became distracted by other themes, topics and moods.

After Andrew Rannells pitched himself for a starring role in NBC's The New Normal, the show's creator didn't call for a month.

"I was like, 'Oh my God, I've completely overstepped — I've over-Oprah-ed this,' " Rannells tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "I've ruined my chances of working with this man because I was too bold."

Memphis has been a music town since anyone can remember, and it's had places to record that music since there have been records. Some of its studios — Sun, Stax and Hi — are well-known, but American Studios produced its share of hits, and yet it remains obscure. But that's all likely to change with Memphis Boys: The Story of American Studios, both a book and a CD out now.

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:

Long before Bridesmaids convinced studio executives that a raunchy, female-centric comedy could find a huge audience, Leslye Headland was busy adapting her play Bachelorette into a movie. So this isn't a copycat rom-com, but the themes do overlap. Each film turns on a female rivalry: In Bridesmaids, it's between the maid of honor, Kristen Wiig, and the bride's rich friend, played by Rose Byrne. In Bachelorette, the rivalry is more complicated, more ... ugly. It's between the three, 30-ish, unmarried central characters and the bride.

Your cellphone is a tracking device collecting a lot more information about you than you may think, says ProPublica investigative reporter Peter Maass.

"They are collecting where we are — not just at one particular moment in the day, but at virtually every moment of the day," Maass tells Fresh Air's Dave Davies. "They are also taking note of what we are buying, how we're purchasing it, how often we're purchasing it."

Martin Bayne entered an assisted living facility at 53 after he was diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson's disease. The disease affected his nerves so severely, it was impossible for him to take a shower and get dressed by himself.

"When I was in my 40s, I was physically fit and very active," Bayne tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "And to have to give all that up and stay in a wheelchair now and be helped by so many people to do the simplest of things — it takes a little getting used to."

On Monday, Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan told a campaign rally audience in North Carolina that "the president can say a lot of things, but he can't tell you you are better off." Later that day in Detroit, Vice President Joe Biden responded "America is better off today than they left us."

New York Times Washington bureau chief David Leonhardt argues that both Ryan and Biden are right: It's partly semantics.

Zadie Smith wrote her last novel On Beauty seven years ago — a long time in the anxious world of publishing. Her new novel NW was released in the U.S. on Monday. Critic Maureen Corrigan asks: Was it worth the wait?

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Mickey Edwards On Democracy's 'Cancer'

Sep 4, 2012

In his 16 years in Congress, Republican Mickey Edwards came to a strong conclusion: Political parties are the "cancer at the heart of our democracy," he tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross.

In his new book, The Parties Versus the People, the former Republican congressman from Oklahoma details how party leaders have too much control over who runs for office, what bills make it to the floor and how lawmakers vote.

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