Fresh Air

Weekdays, 3:00 PM - 4:00 PM

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, the Peabody Award-winning weekday magazine of contemporary arts and issues, is one of public radio's most popular programs. Each week, nearly 5 million people listen to the show's intimate conversations broadcast.

Though Fresh Air has been categorized as a "talk show," it hardly fits the mold. Its 1994 Peabody Award citation credits Fresh Air with "probing questions, revelatory interviews and unusual insights." And a variety of top publications count Gross among the country's leading interviewers. The show gives interviews as much time as needed, and complements them with comments from well-known critics and commentators.

Fresh Air is produced at WHYY-FM in Philadelphia and broadcast nationally by NPR.

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The dinosaurs were killed during the Fifth Extinction — which scientists suspect was caused by an asteroid. Now, we are living through an epoch that many scientists describe as the Sixth Extinction, and this time, human activity is the culprit. As one scientist put it: We're the asteroid.

Elizabeth Kolbert is the author of the new book The Sixth Extinction. It begins with a history of the "big five" extinctions of the past, and goes on to explain how human behavior is creating a sixth one — including our use of fossil fuels and the effects of climate change.

Frank Wess' new album, Magic 201, is a sequel to last year's similar helping of ballads and midtempo strollers, Magic 101. The new album is very nearly every bit as good, and made a little more poignant by Wess' death just before Halloween. On his last session as a leader in 2011, he was still sounding strong at 89.

Dr. Kevin Fong works on "the edges" of medicine — researching how humans survive extremes of heat, cold, trauma, outer space and deep sea. "We're still exploring the human body and what medicine can do in the same way that the great explorers of the 20th century and every age before them explored the world," he tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross.

In his book Extreme Medicine, Fong describes how avant garde medicine is challenging our understanding of how our bodies work and the boundary between life and death.

Eric Church is working on a level that few other country artists of his generation can touch. Now, one of the things I mean by that is that Church is willing to take big chances such as "The Outsiders," the title track from his fourth album, and clearly a manifesto he's proud of.

Kayla Williams and Brian McGough met in Iraq in 2003, when they were serving in the 101st Airborne Division. She was an Arabic linguist; he was a staff sergeant who had earned a Bronze Star. In October of that year, at a time when they were becoming close but not yet seeing each other, McGough was on a bus in a military convoy when an IED went off, blowing out the front door and window.

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:

Fifty years ago, on Feb. 7, 1964, The Beatles touched down at JFK airport. Two days later they broke TV viewing records and changed music, fashion, history — and basically an entire generation — when they appeared live on The Ed Sullivan Show.

George Clooney's The Monuments Men tells the largely true story of a squad of art experts who, near the end of World War II, are assigned to protect the masterworks of European society from Nazi theft and Allied bombardment. You'll notice those are two separate goals.

The appearance of Penny Penny's Shaka Bundu in the American market is welcome not only in itself, but also as a sign of a larger trend. Five or six years ago, it was clear the music business was going into long-term sales decline, and I was certain that a prime victim of that would be African pop. The established imports of the '80s and '90s would be available as MP3 downloads, but surely new discoveries and reissues would slow to a trickle, if not cease altogether. I'm grateful that that has simply not happened.

For an increasing number of Americans, access to high-speed Internet has become an essential part of our lives. We do work, email friends, find restaurants, watch videos and movies, and check the weather. And the Internet is increasingly used for important services, like video medical consults and online education, and is relied upon by businesses for critical operations.

In the opening paragraph of Moby-Dick, Ishmael tells us he takes to sea whenever he feels the onset of "a damp, drizzly November in [his] soul." I know how he feels. Whenever the frigid funk of February settles in, I, too, yearn to get out of town. This year I have, thanks to two exquisite vehicles of escape fiction. Both Rachel Pastan's Alena and Katherine Pancol's The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles are smart entertainments perfect for curling up with on a winter's night.

"Make it work," fashion guru Tim Gunn tells young designers on Project Runway. But life hasn't always "worked" for Gunn. "I can't even recite the number of schools I went to as a kid because I was constantly running away from them," he tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "It's so ironic that I would become a career educator because I hated school so profoundly. It wasn't the learning experience that I hated. I hated the social aspects."

The Danish television series Borgen about a female party leader who unexpectedly becomes Denmark's prime minister was a hit in its home country and in the U.K. It won numerous international prizes, and a cult following in the U.S. after its sporadic TV broadcasts — Stephen King named it his favorite piece of pop culture of 2012. The third and final season has just been released on DVD by MHz Networks, which also brought out seasons one and two.

When you're a parent — even when you're a miserably sleep-deprived parent — sometimes magical things happen in the dead of night. Jennifer Senior's son was 1 month old when, during a late-night feeding, he looked directly at her and cooed. "It was this recognition, like 'Oh, you're my mom,' " she tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "I'd like to think that when I'm dying I'll remember that. ... Even in my depressive, sleep-deprived, hysterical, Looney Tunes state, I remember thinking that was just the bomb — that was magic."

It's easy to lose yourself in Philip Seymour Hoffman masterful portrayals, but those performances were anything but effortless.

"Like any job," he told Fresh Air's Terry Gross in 2008, it could be exhausting. In our day to day lives, "we're not too introspective," he said. "We don't walk around our lives just constantly trying to delve into the understanding of ourselves unless you're in therapy or something. But that's what actors do, you know? We really explore ourselves and other people."

Hoffman was found dead on Sunday in his Manhattan apartment. He was 46.

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:

When soprano saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom plays Kurt Weill's "My Ship" on her new album Sixteen Sunsets, a pale glow around her notes comes from a simple special effect: pointing her horn under the hood of a piano whose strings are free to resonate. Bloom has always been preoccupied with sound, and has one of the prettiest, clearest tones around on soprano.

The second best quality Diane Johnson has as a writer is that she's so smart. Her first best quality — and one that's far more rare — is that she credits her audience with being smart, too. Whether she's writing fiction, biography or essays, Johnson lets scenes and conversations speak for themselves, accruing power as they lodge in readers' minds.

This interview was originally broadcast on Sept. 12, 2013.

Transcript

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. To find out what it feels like to play pro football and to play in the Super Bowl, we reached out to former quarterback Ron Jaworski who is now a football analyst for ESPN. Jaworski spent spent 16 years in the NFL, most of them with the Philadelphia Eagles, the team he took to the Super Bowl 15 in 1981. Jaws, as he was often known, had a great passing year then but a rough time in the big game.

On Sunday, the Super Bowl will draw a TV audience of more than 100 million people, spawn countless watching parties and generate a week's worth of chatter about the half-time show and the best commercials. But at the heart of it is a game — one that Ray Didinger has been covering for decades for a variety of media organizations, including NFL Films.

On Jan. 9, people in and around Charleston, W.Va., began showing up at hospitals: They had nausea, eye infections and some were vomiting. It was later discovered that around 10,000 gallons of toxic chemicals had leaked into the Elk River, just upstream from a water treatment plant that serves 300,000 people. Citizens were told not to drink or bathe in the water, and while some people are now using water from their taps, many still don't trust it or the information coming from public officials.

In 2008, as scientists documented a record melt in the Arctic ice and Al Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth was in theaters, a half dozen major investment houses launched mutual funds designed to take advantage of financial opportunities offered by climate change.

Pete Seeger believed songs were a way of binding people to a cause. He popularized "This Land is Your Land" and "We Shall Overcome" and wrote "If I Had a Hammer." In 1940s, he co-founded The Weavers, who surprised everyone, including themselves, when they became the first group to bring folk music to the pop charts — until they were black listed. Seeger refused to answer questions about his politics when he appeared before House Un-American Activities committee in 1955.

It's commonly thought that the Catholic Church fought heroically against the fascists when Benito Mussolini's party ruled over Italy in the 1920s and '30s. But in The Pope and Mussolini, David Kertzer says the historical record and a trove of recently released archives tell a very different story.

It's fascinating, Kertzer tells Fresh Air's Dave Davies, "how in a very brief period of time, Mussolini came to realize the importance of enlisting the pope's support."

Shortly after sunrise, on the morning of Feb. 20, 1805, sailors on an American ship called the Perseverance, anchored near an uninhabited island off the coast of Chile, spied a weird vessel drifting into view. It flew no flag and its threadbare sails were slack. The captain of the Perseverance, a man named Amasa Delano, decided to come to the aid of the ship, whose name, painted in faded white letters along its bow, was the Tryal.

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:

Transcript

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. "Gloria" is a new film from Chile that centers on a late-middle-aged divorced woman whose life is full of uncertainties. She's played by Paulina Garcia, who won the top acting prize - the Silver Bear - at the 2013 Berlin Film Festival, where the movie was a surprise hit. It opens this week in New York and Los Angeles, and wider next month. Film critic David Edelstein has this review.

This interview was originally broadcast on Oct. 7, 2013.

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