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Open Source with Christopher Lydon

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.

Five Surveillance Artists To Watch

By Max Larkin Whether or not we’re doing so out of a sense of centenary obligation, it’s a good thing that readers are revisiting The Great War in Modern Memory, by the late critic Paul Fussell. ...

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?

Ai Weiwei, China's Artist/Enemy #1

Not perhaps since Alexander Solzhenitsyn in the Soviet Gulag has there been a dissenting artist who got to be as famous as the government that hounds him. But Ai Weiwei’s situation is one-of-a-kind.He’s a scathing ...

Andrew Bacevich: America's War for the Greater Middle East

How do you end an endless war? Thirty years ago Jimmy Carter declared the Persian Gulf a "vital" focus of American foreign policy. Since then, U.S. forces have invaded, occupied, garrisoned, bombed or raided 18 nations, absorbing thousands of casualties and getting little in return in terms of peace or goodwill.

At Peking University: the Rising Generation

What I went least prepared for was the openness of Chinese people in what we call a closed society. So the last audio postcard from this trip is a 10-minute distillation of a conversation that sprang up like music to my ears in a dormitory room with five students at the venerable Peking University in Beijing. These are aspiring middle-class kids – a random sample of the top of the heap

Help Wanted: Department of Revenue

We're nine months into our Open Source re-launch and making plans for a bigger and better Year 2! Every week on our radio show we talk to the most interesting people we can find on hot topics ...

WWI: The War of the Century

This week we’re talking about the guns of August, fired one hundred years ago this month. And we’re wondering what kind of century we inherited from the First World War. Alongside power politics and industrial killing, there was a revolution in art, in the novel, in music and in antiwar ideas in exhausted Europe and over here.

WWI: The Shock of the New

Out of the wreckage of World War 1 come the incandescent modernists -- none burning brighter than James Joyce and his Ulysses. And don't forget Virginia Woolf, Ezra Pound and Pablo Picasso, too. It’s a rebel alliance of high-art anarchists. A century later, their lights are still on. Do you still hear the rebellious voice in the modernist masterpieces?

WWI: Adam Tooze Reviews "The Deluge"

In 1916, two years into the war, Americans reelected the president who’d kept us out of the battle. But by the summer of 1917, the same Woodrow Wilson had committed the US to fighting alongside Britain and France against Germany. For me the hair-raising fascination in our conversation here, on the eve of publication, is in the foreshadowings — of a century of horrific hot and cold sequels of the Great War, but also of the very-2014 tensions between democracy and capitalism, and of course the rise of a new giant in China.

WWI: Remaking Music

In the last show in our series on the Great War, we're listening to the sounds that emerged from its ashes. In Vienna concert halls and New York jazz clubs, from Maurice Ravel’s piano elegies to Igor Stravinsky’s explosive symphonies, we’re coursing through the composers who defined a modern era, reacting to the terrible violence of total warfare through art.

WWI, In 12 Photos

The World War I photographs are as horrible as any current-events coverage Taylor might post, but they're also weird. They have a mood; they are uncanny. You don't know how to dismiss them, and so you can't. Looking at the French priest blessing a prop plane in the mire, you have to ask, “What was he thinking?”

Hacking Democracy

Do we dare look under the hood of American democracy? Or do we have the suspicion that Supreme Court decisions and political battles conceal a drift into corruption? This week we're asking our panel of estimable guests where the problems lie with our government, and how to go about fixing it.

What's Left of Liberal Zionism?

We're looking at liberal Zionism, enduring a crisis after a brutal summer in Gaza. It's prompted handwringing for American Jews and Israelis who are still looking for a way to peace, and still worried about the clash of democratic and Jewish ideals in the political culture of Israel.

Rick Perlstein's Second Draft of History

Rick Perlstein is the hyperkinetic close reader of politics just yesterday. The Invisible Bridge is his third big brick of a book — an 800-page magnifying glass on just three abysmal years between Richard Nixon’s ...

The End of the Lone Genius

Joshua Wolf Shenk's new book, completely fascinating and a safe indoor sport for any number of parlor players, is called Powers of Two. The core idea is that the creative spark that rules our lives — in music, comedy, sports, even scientific discovery — is not a single flame, it’s almost always pair of creators sparking off each other. Whether you’re talking about Watson and Crick, Gilbert and Sullivan, Bird and Magic, or the Wright Brothers—it takes two.

Inside the Islamic State

We're looking inside the Islamic State: as a phenomenon and as America's latest enemy in the endless war on terror. Do we know who they are, or how we plan to defeat them? President Obama says they aren't Islamic and aren't a state. It's clear they're a dangerous mad storm of Arab anger armed, in part, with hand-me-down American weapons. Could this be the coming Caliphate that Dick Cheney warned us against? What if it’s blowback that his Iraq War fired up?

America's War of Ideas

In the run up to another war in the Middle East, after stalemate in Afghanistan and Iraq, what is it in the American DNA that makes us think it it will be different the next time? What is the story we continually tell ourselves about our indispensable nation that seems to cloud the facts on the ground?

James vs. Roosevelt: Letters to the Crimson

Jackson Lears has dramatized the relationship between Theodore Roosevelt and William James, but evidence of that conversation is actually hard to find. We turned up one interesting chapter in the conversation turning around the Venezuelan Crisis of 1895, and playing out in the pages of the Harvard Crimson.

Hacking Climate Change

Can we hack our way toward solutions for climate change? While governments dither, Congress negates and the world warms, how about deploying private finance, atmospheric chemistry and every kind of ingenuity to tackle the problem that’s too big to solve?

Jeremy Grantham: In a Climate of Risk

Jeremy Grantham is a Boston financier who has found himself in the thick of the fight over climate change for more than twenty years. He's the founder and chief strategist of Grantham Mayo van Otterloo, or GMO, which manages ...

Give Peace a Chance

In the late-night impromptu dialogs, the play of character, mood and role reversals, in the petty bickering and grand stakes -- it’s small wonder that Wright wrote this story first as a stage play. He is re-hatching the only (and unviolated) peace treaty between Israelis and Arabs, “one of the great diplomatic triumphs of the twentieth century.”

Report: The People's Climate March

The march announced itself by force of numbers, and by its feel. No one seemed angry. This is not to say that the marchers had been bought off, or didn't understand the long odds facing them, or even that they aren't angry. But they are taking a clever rhetorical detour around a problem.

Sounding the Sea

Composers of classical music often put performance directions or notes throughout their scores. John Luther Adams, a composer known for expansive, landscape-themed music, includes only one word on the score of Become Ocean, a 42-minute ...

Big Data: Who Are We On The Web?

On a corporatized Web, we’re often the sum of our all data — packaged and sold to data brokers for pennies. But the dream of the Internet was that we would be the producers, not the product: participants in a conversation outside of the force of gravity of moneyed media.

Risa Puno: "Please Enable Cookies"

Last weekend, in one of Brooklyn's hippest neighborhoods, DUMBO, interactive installation artist Risa Puno sold cookies at an unusual cost: your personal data. Want a homemade Pink Peppercorn Pistachio cookie? Try giving up your home address and driver's license number. Would ...

Is Capitalism Working?

Casey Stengel raised the question about baseball’s miserable Mets long ago: anybody here know how to play this game? It’s the question more and more of us ask about economists and some of them ask about one another.

Breaking the Fever

With Ophelia Dahl just back from Liberia and Sierra Leone, Jeffrey Sachs, the economist and poverty guru, and Dr. Jim Cunningham, the virus detective, we’re reckoning with Ebola, still the world's biggest story. We're looking for long-term cures that will outlast this feverish moment in American media.

Daniel Bausch, Ebola Doctor

For almost twenty years Dr. Daniel Bausch — director of the Emerging Infections Department at the U.S. Naval Medical Research facility in Peru — has been back and forth to West Africa, treating cases of hemorrhagic fever caused by Ebola and viruses like it (Lassa and Marburg among them). Bausch may know Ebola, up-close and personal, better than any American doctor working today.

American Horror Stories

165 Halloweens on, we still call on Edgar Allan Poe when we want a disturbing kind of classic — all of the horror with none of the guilt. His most famous stories are taught and read and all but buried ...

Jill Lepore: The Feminist and the Superhero

The Harvard historian Jill Lepore – prolific, impish, a super-mom, politically engaged and still professorial – is giving us the kinky inside story of Wonder Woman that you never suspected reading the old comic book.

The Big-Money Midterm

The news from the big-money midterm is: meh! Democrats are out, the Republicans are in, and the country's feeling bluer than ever. Six years after the rise of Obama, we are coming together as a country: not around the ‘hopey, ...

Cornel West's View From Ferguson

"To be on fire is to have a deep love that ignites a holy anger and a righteous indignation and moral outrage at unemployment, decrepit schools, wealth inequality and callousness toward poor and working people."

Back in the U.S.S.R.

The Berlin Wall came down twenty five years ago this week — kicking off the collapse of the Soviet Union, ending the Cold War chapter of world history (or so it seemed), and breaking the heart of ...

Stephen Kotkin: Who's Bigger Than Stalin?

Princeton historian Stephen Kotkin has taken on the most important biography he can imagine: the life, rise and thirty-year reign of Josef Stalin. The first book of a trilogy (out now) goes from Stalin's birth in ...

Capitalism and Chains

We're continuing our series on capitalism by going back to its unspeakable origins. A new wave of  historians say that the  "peculiar institution" of slavery explains more about the present than we'd care to admit: not ...

In Memoriam: Richard Eder, The Exemplary Reader

The beloved Richard Eder had the gift he admired in John Updike and that that sparkled in his own prize-winning book reviews: he “snored” metaphors and similes the way J. S. Bach could “snore” fugues. ...

The BSO's Andris Nelsons: Maestro of ‘Emotionality'

The Boston Symphony’s new maestro Andris Nelsons is a boisterous young athlete in an old man’s job – one of the rising 30-somethings in front of the great orchestras of the world. And still he ...

Ferguson is Everywhere

We’re all caught in the floodlights of Ferguson, Missouri, still reeling from the death of Michael Brown and the non-indictment of Darren Wilson, the man who shot him. We seem to be seeing American society ...

Boston Noir

Noir heroes tend not to be gangsters of Whitey Bulger’s grandeur; not tough cops either: they’re punched-out boxers and junkies, little perps, prisoners, victims reduced to victimizing each other and themselves.

Steve Pinker's Prose Guide

Our friend the linguist and psychologist Steven Pinker has written a manual on prose style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century, as he calls it. We asked Steve to bring along some samples of his favorite lines and paragraphs and we tried out some of ours on him, too. We invite you to play along.

The New Kids On The Block

The protests chanting "Black Lives Matter" and "I Can't Breathe" in the wake of the police killings in Missouri, New York, and elsewhere, will draw comparisons. They're less pious than the Civil Rights Movement and they have the same ...

Beethoven at the Piano

We're getting the Beethoven fundamentals, as never before, at my own piano. At a short safe distance from the keyboard, I’m learning, among other things: As volcanic was the man's painful life and descent into ...

"Why, it's Christmas"

After the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 2, which our mama always read to us on Christmas Eve -- and maybe O. Henry’s story, “The Gift of the Magi” – I don’t know an account of ...

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