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Radio Open Source with Christopher Lydon

Norman Lebrecht: Why Not Mahler?

Norman Lebrecht is  the English culture buff and blogger, author of Why Mahler? How One Man and Ten Symphonies Changed Our World. He’s made a lively career stalking the life inside the man’s music – and he still speaks of Gustav Mahler in the present ...

Teju Cole: the Consummate Mahlerian

As part of our education in the music of Gustav Mahler, we spoke  with the Nigerian-American novelist Teju Cole. In his triumphant debut titled Open City in 2011, Teju Cole built his story to a climactic performance of Mahler’s 9th Symphony in Carnegie Hall.  Teju Cole ...

Video: Four Paths to the End

As a companion to our show this week with Ben Zander, we've cut together four of the most acclaimed performances of the last movement of Mahler's Ninth Symphony, the closest art can bring us to the experience of death (to draw on Chris and Teju Cole's podcast conversation.) Tell us which one you like best in the comments, and thanks for watching!

Pick Your Piketty

A Piketty Primer: "Capital" in 10 Graphs

In the Piketty surge to the top of the best-seller list, there's a misleading polemic evolving (and not from people who have read the book, it turns out): it's been attacked on the right as a new call for communism and heralded on the left as proof that capitalism simply doesn't work. Here's my take on Piketty's arguments, in 10 figures from the book.

The French Sensation: Income Inequality in 700 Pages and a Hundred Graphs

Capital is a giant, data-packed tome on income inequality covering three hundred years of history by the French economist Thomas Piketty. Is there a reason he’s getting the rock star treatment? Is it the symptoms that resonate so — our drift into oligarchy — or the cure — a progressive tax on wealth?

Ben Bradlee, Jr.'s Ted Williams: The Kid

What do we talk about when we talk about Ted Williams? Our friend Ben Bradlee Jr. has written 800 pages on the subject of baseball’s greatest hitter, and I’ve savored every word of it. But in this conversation we’ve dared each other to get the epic of Teddy Ballgame down to ten stories, pictures, memories, shivering emotions that do not fade. Ted Williams's hold on us is that of an artist more than an athlete -- very nearly that of a god, an Apollonian figure of perfect form, order, light and beauty.

Seeking a Digital Marketing Maven

Open Source is looking for some digital media marketing help this summer. The trick is to find ways to "push" content to new verticals each week and come up with a playbook of SEO, social media and marketing techniques. Our candidate ideally has an interest in radio and public media generally.

Higher Ed By The Numbers

This week, we've asked lots of people two questions: What's the matter with college, and is it still worth it to go? The trends in American higher ed toward higher tuition, more debt, and away from public funding of higher ed. But what's life without a degree in the new economy? We've tried to reduce the story to the tale of the tape. What do the numbers tell us about the state of higher learning?

Who Needs College Anyway?

On the way to commencement season, what’s college really good for, if the cost is out of sight, and your degree doesn’t point you to a job; if there’s too much drinking, cheating and grade inflation; if it’s not safe enough for women; what if the whole bloated model is outdated in a digital age? Who’s got a better idea? Schools are almost out, but will they still be there in September?

What's the Matter With College?

The question, Thomas Frank's and ours: how did higher education, in general, turn from the days of the GI Bill — and the land grant colleges long before that — to being a trap for seventeen-year-old kids who are signing away their lives into eternity with student loans? College has turned into a trap, maybe, for all of us. Will it be the undoing of the great American middle class?

Reading Chekhov VI: "About Love"

Welcome back to my living room. We're reading the story, "About Love," from 1898. Chekhov tells it as a conversation among three men on a hunting weekend -- a veterinarian, a school teacher and a small landowner-farmer Alekhin. On the surface, at least, this is Chekhov's case for the irrational but unconditional demands of the heart.

Dealing in Dreams

We're drilling down on the essential question around the higher ed challenge - namely why does it cost so much, and it is it worth it in the end? Here are 1500 American colleges and universities plotted by their 4-year sticker price on the x-axis and 30-year net return on investment (based on the median salary of graduates) on the y-axis.

Chasing the Dream: Arts School

Show biz is center stage next in our higher ed series: Two venerable private art schools in Boston's Back Bay—Emerson College and the Berklee College of Music—are booming, if you can believe your eyes. Both have built major gleaming signature buildings in the Back Bay. Emerson has a satellite campus in Hollywood. Berklee is teaching in China and has a campus in Valencia. More students are chasing the dream and mastering a craft, under a load of debt, with maybe fewer job prospects. Where's the line between chasing a dream and betting on a bubble?

Chris Cooper & Marianne Leone: Becoming Actors

For the perspective of experience and solid accomplishment, we're asking two pro’s in the middle of enviable careers what they learned in and out of school, where they’d be looking for training, how much they’d pay, if they were starting out again. Chris Cooper is a Hollywood hero in supporting roles. He won an Academy Award for one of them, in Spike Jonze’s Adaptation. His wife Marianne Leone played the gangster mama Joanne Moltisanti in The Sopranos on HBO.

Where Does All That Money Go?

College tuition is rising faster than medical costs, inflation, and certainly the income of 99% of Americans. Four years at a private university now costs as much as a new Ferrari, and a student at a public university can expect to graduate $25,000 in debt. But does anyone know where all that money is going?

Art-School Advice: To Go or Not To Go?

By Max Larkin We're sending along some free advice for aspiring artists from the ones who've made it. Whether to go to school, and for how long? If not, what do you do instead? It's a topic discussed online, on stage and off, and continuously ...

Derek Bok: The View from the Top

Derek Bok is the only two-time president of Harvard University, which is to say he has twice reinvented the management of the oldest, richest, maybe the best university in the country. So he’s a qualified fixer of the university and a comprehensive student of the American system, from a vantage point at the very top of the heap.

The New U.

Continuing our series on higher ed, we're hacking our way to a better model; call it New U. There won't be a football team or a building and grounds department and maybe no president and no tenure. We might think of adjuncts with more power. We could surely MOOC up in order to spend way down and eliminate the frats, kegs, mixers and majors. Where would you start in reimagining the American university?

Sebastian Thrun: MOOCs, Angry Birds, and Lifelong Learning

We're speaking with a hot name in disruptive innovation, Sebastian Thrun. He’s part of our conversation on hacking higher education. He’s the founder of the Google X lab, immersed in robotics and artificial intelligence, in building driverless car, but he’s more than all that. Three years ago he offered his Stanford University introduction to Computer Science class -- online for free -- and quickly had an enrollment of over 160,000 students from all over the world.

Reading Chekhov

Our “Reading Chekhov” series culminates in a full hour on the Russian physician who spun the small happenings of old Russia into some of the most popular plays in the world and into stories that stay with us and feel new. We're talking through the dreams, the heartbreak, and the truth of the writers’ writer.

Rosamund Bartlett: Chekhov as a Modern

Speaking of the Russian playwright and short-story master, Rosamund Bartlett is a Chekhovian to the core, a translator of his stories and biographer of his life. We talked about what Chekhov's biography explains about him: the perfect esteem among his countrymen, specially writers; his generosity and decency as a person; his interest in truth beyond ideas, which he didn’t entirely trust.

Chekhov's World, In Pictures

In his stories Chekhov captured, with an almost photographic talent and simplicity, the look of a country at the end of the day. But he died five years before Sergei Prokhudin-Gorkii took his prototype color film camera around Russia. He must have learned to see from the painters around him — his closest friend Isaac Levitan and his brother Nikolai. Below, a view into that beautiful old Russia, with Levitan's portrait of a young Chekhov, a view of his desk at Melikhovo, and a few of Prokhudin-Gorkii's most Chekhovian subjects.

Reading Chekhov VII: "A Medical Case"

We're reading Chekhov in my living room again, with actors and friends, sipping wine, nibbling on cheese and olives. Chekhov is the world standard of short story writing, the best model there is of the doctor-writer, a tradition that goes back a long way to the gospel writer, Luke, who is supposed to have been a doctor, and of course it includes Walker Percy and William Carlos Williams.

A Writer's Writer

From Andre to Anton: The Writer's Writer

Our Twitter experiment this week came from Sonia Chung's wonderful essay, "I Heart Chekhov", from The Millions. We wanted to design some postcards. We used what Nabokov considered to be Chekhov's chosen color register, "a tint between the color of an old fence and that ...

How Would Burke Makeover the GOP?

Next time on Open Source, the conservative hero Edmund Burke, the 18th-century British statesman who befriended the American Revolution, hated the French version, loved liberty and hated violence, and believed that empires like his and ours must answer to the whole world. Move over, Bush and Boehner. What if Edmund Burke were leading our Republicans in 2014?

Chris's Postcards from China

I’m going to China next month, and I’m looking for your encouragement and leads. It’s my first trip to the mainland after exactly 50 years of vivid dreaming about it. I land in Shanghai on June 15, to extend a radio-podcast series over several years and many countries we’ve called “parachute radio.” The recurring question is always something like: “What are we going through, you and I?”

Evan Osnos on China's "Age of Ambition"

On the verge of my own first plunge into China, I’m in conversation with Evan Osnos of The New Yorker. He’s been eight years in the new China, reenacting the role of the foreign correspondent on the grand scale: covering an impossibly big story of politics and culture, police stories and natural disasters, with bold strokes and a novelist’s eye.

Sino-American Relations: An Interactive Timeline

By Matt Ellison & Will Madaus View Full Screen With Chris heading off to China this month, we took a look back at where our two countries have been and what we've done for and about each other. From Isolation to Entanglement, US-Chinese relations from ...

China Rising

China is in its own gilded age, says The New Yorker writer Evan Osnos, into a second generation of ultra-modern tech, a still-developing country bristling with billionaires. On the eve of Chris' trip to China, we're wondering how a country with nearly a century of poverty, collectivism, and authoritarian rule adapts to its instant prosperity?

Robin Kelley's Transcendental Thelonious Monk

Robin Kelley‘s superb biography brings the Thelonious Monk story back from the ragged edge to the creative center of American music. And it brings my reading year to a blessedly loving, gorgeously swinging, dissonant, modernist, and utterly one-off climactic note. There may be another jazz ...

Miles Davis' Kind of Blue

In advance of our show with the jazz pianist Vijay Iyer this Thursday, we dug through our old Connection archives and found this wonderful conversation about Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue” recorded in 2000. From a humble birth in 1959 as forty-five minutes of improvised music recorded in two sessions, “Kind Of Blue” has become the best-selling classical jazz record of all-time.

Vijay Iyer: Jazz in the 21st Century

Where is jazz headed in a new century? With the pianist Vijay Iyer as guide, newly tenured as a professor at Harvard, it tends toward the experimental, with drummers, young musicians and slam poets. If it doesn’t always swing, it’s surprising and takes you in new directions. Will jazz be forgotten or just re-shaped by new, emerging artists like Vijay Iyer?


How to Listen to Our Podcast

Getting our podcast is easy and free. No matter what internet device you are using, iPod, smartphone, PC, or another, you can get every episode of our show and listen on your own schedule. Chris Lydon hosted the first podcast, and currently we're the longest running podcast series in the world! We make every show available under a Creative Commons license, so store them, copy them, and pass them on.

David Foster Wallace on The Connection with Chris Lydon, February 1996

In February 1996, David Foster Wallace came to Boston. He was the not-quite recognized writer of the massive book, Infinite Jest, which was just beginning to capture the attention of reviewers, readers and a generation of writers. Chris interviewed David Foster Wallace on The Connection on WBUR in Boston, and told him he seemed to be living in between a moment of cultish obscurity and international artistic celebrity, perhaps even immortality.

Revisiting David Foster Wallace's Boston

The novelist David Foster Wallace has resurfaced on film and in our radio archive, so we’re revisiting one of our favorite shows of the year this week: “Infinite Boston,” a tribute to Wallace's magnum opus "Infinite Jest" and its roots in Cambridge and Brighton. We dug up the famous Connection interview with Wallace from the spring of 1996, in which Wallace spoke about the book, Boston AA meetings, the lonely and lost Generation X, and his place in U.S. literature.

Stokely Carmichael and Black Power

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act. At the end of June, 1964, Stokely Carmichael, Martin Luther King Jr., and hundreds of civil rights activists marched across Mississippi to register African-American voters in one of the turning points of the civil rights movement. In remembrance of that "Freedom Summer," we're republishing this show with the Carmichael biographer Peniel Joseph, historian Isabel Wilkerson, and activist Jamarhl Crawford.

The John Updike Radio Files

We've discovered some old gems in our radio archives and sprinkled them through a conversation with John Updike's biographer, Adam Begley, for our show this week. Begley talks about Updike's Pennsylvania boyhood, his wives and lovers north of Boston, his children, his spiritual life, his voracious reading, his travels  — and how he created the most graceful prose of our time by cannibalizing all of it for his art.

Updike in the Archives

By Max Larkin As a companion to our show on John Updike — now gone five years and at the same time back with us thanks to our guest Adam Begley's brilliant biography — we're seeking the writer in the trail he left behind: the postcards he sent ...

Wynton Marsalis on Louis Armstrong

“What we play,” Louis Armstrong said, “is life.” We’re learning that Louis Armstrong was not just the world’s greatest trumpet player, not just the most original and influential voice in jazz, not just the founding father of an American music with new forms and phrasing and feeling all indelibly marked by him; what’s seen and heard in perspective is that he was an actor and artist of range and depth, who shaped classic songs of American life as Dickens and Shakespeare formed classic characters of the English language.

Ruby Braff's Tribute to Louis Armstrong

Louis Armstrong came out of the Colored Waifs’ Home in New Orleans and the honky-tonks of the red-light Storyville district. Then and ever after Louis Armstrong’s time and phrasing, his tone and spirit made him the most influential voice in 20th century American music. We’re appreciating the man the world came to know as Satchmo. Thousands of musicians and friends called him Pops. Our guest this hour, the cornet star Ruby Braff, always called him Louis.

One Nation Under Surveillance

It’s the artists — from Orwell of Nineteen Eighty-Four, to Philip Dick and Margaret Atwood, to Trevor Paglen and Banksy — who raise the big questions: about voyeurism, about safety and risk, and the essence of our public and private selves. Is there a book or a movie that tells us what kind of world are we living in, or where the surveillance state begins and ends? What impact does mass surveillance have on our selves, on our national psyche, on the way we interact with each other, on the art we make and the way we live?

Yu Hua: China's Revolution Addiction

Everybody loves Yu Hua, a giant of the literary life in China today. He’s a free spirit with a critical eye, and a popular touch, a tragic vision, an easy laugh. It is a main theme in much of Yu Hua’s work and our conversation that China is hooked for a century now on something like an addiction to Revolution. And a revolution, he reminds me with heavy irony, quoting Chairman Mao, is not a dinner party. It’s an insurrection, an act of violence.

The Five NSA Programs You Should Know About

It’s been a little over a year since revelations from Edward Snowden’s historic NSA leak started appearing in newspapers around the world, and information about new surveillance programs is still surfacing every month. Last week, The Washington Post analyzed 160,000 NSA records and found that “ordinary Internet users, American and non-American alike, far outnumber legally targeted foreigners in the communications intercepted” by NSA surveillance programs. Four days later, Glenn Greenwald released the names of five distinguished Muslim-American men whose emails were being monitored by the NSA, none of whom are suspected of any wrongdoing.

Lines In The Sand

The borders that divide up our modern world hinge, sometimes, on decisions that have stopped making sense. The Middle East is still suffering from unhealed wounds resulting from the boundaries established a hundred years ago in secret by two men, Mark Sykes and Francois Georges-Picot, that carved the former Ottoman empire into today's Middle East. As geopolitics changes around the world, why don't those political maps?

Artist in a Revolution: Ganzeer and his Wounded Cat

It’s a thrill to read about the graffiti genius Ganzeer in the New York Times Sunday Arts Section, and about his prominence in a big show at the New Museum in Manhattan. And it’s a chill to discover that Ganzeer is a refugee in Brooklyn now — because Egypt under military dictatorship again is not a safe place for an artist of revolution. Ganzeer’s imprint on the walls of Cairo was my epiphany in 2012 about the depth of the art and passion under the so-called Arab Spring, and the universal reach of its graphic language.

Earth 2.0

With hundreds of Earth-like planets discovered over the past few years, it’s fair to say we’re on the verge of finding alien life. Two new programs at NASA hope to find and analyze thousands more of these exoplanets, as they’re called. Scientists working on the Transiting Exoplanet Surveying Satellite (TESS) and the James Webb Space Telescope say there’s a very real chance of finding extraterrestrial life within the next two decades. So, if we're about to meet our extraterrestrial neighbors, let’s get to work on some opening lines. What if we're really not alone?

The End of Work

The jobless economy: a fully automated, engineered, robotic system that doesn’t need YOU, or me either. Anything we can do, machines can do better - surgery, warfare, farming, finance. What’s to do: shall we smash the machines, or go to the beach, or finally learn to play the piano?