Fresh Air on WEKU

Weekdays 3-4PM
Terry Gross

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 4.5 million people listen to the show's intimate conversations broadcast on more than 450 National Public Radio (NPR) stations across the country, as well as in Europe on the World Radio Network.

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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2:27pm

Mon December 23, 2013
Commentary

Sorry Assiduous (adj.) SAT-Takers, Linguist In Dudgeon (n.) Over Vocab Flashcards

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 4:01 pm

Decades ago, the SAT test was seen as a measure of raw ability, not as something students ought to cram for. Now, test prep is a huge industry. Linguist Geoff Nunberg wonders what exactly students learn when they're flipping through vocabulary flashcards.
Mario Tama Getty Images

When I took the SATs a very long time ago, it didn't occur to us to cram for the vocabulary questions. Back then, the A in SAT still stood for "aptitude," and most people accepted the wholesome fiction that the tests were measures of raw ability that you couldn't prepare for — "like sticking a dipstick into your brain," one College Board researcher said.

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2:08pm

Mon December 23, 2013
Movie Reviews

Great New DVD Box Sets: Blasts From The Past And 'Breaking Bad'

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 4:01 pm

A new MDV Entertainment boxed set called Here's Edie: The Edie Adams Television Collection features the widow of Ernie Kovacs, in shows from her 1962-64 ABC variety series, which was televised just after her husband's death.
AP

Here's a short list of some of the most exciting recent TV offerings on DVD. These are sets you can still order and receive in time for the holidays — and regardless, they're perfect to dive into over the vacation period, enjoying an episode or two a night.

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2:08pm

Mon December 23, 2013
Television

'Getting On' With It: A New HBO Show Doesn't Tiptoe Around Death

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 4:01 pm

Alex Borstein (left) and Niecy Nash star as nurses in the HBO comedy series Getting On, which was modeled after the hit BBC series of the same name.
Lacey Terrell HBO

When they set out to create the HBO series Getting On, Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer wanted to create a different kind of workplace comedy — one that celebrated the workplace and the employees in it.

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9:03am

Sat December 21, 2013
Fresh Air Weekend

Fresh Air Weekend: The Coen Brothers And 'Anchorman 2'

Originally published on Sat December 21, 2013 11:50 am

Joel (left) and Ethan Coen wrote and directed Fargo, The Big Lebowski, O Brother Where Art Thou?, No Country for Old Men, A Serious Man and True Grit. Their latest film is Inside Llewyn Davis.
Stuart C. Wilson Getty Images

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:

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1:26pm

Fri December 20, 2013
Remembrances

Fresh Air Remembers Country Music Artist Ray Price

Originally published on Fri December 20, 2013 3:24 pm

Country Music Hall of Famer Ray Price, pictured above in 1983, died Monday at age 87.
AP

Pioneering country music artist Ray Price — who created hits like "Heartaches by the Number" — died Monday of pancreatic cancer. He was 87 years old. Price was born in Cherokee County, Texas, in 1926. When he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1996, he was described by musician Kris Kristofferson as a living link from Hank Williams to the country music of today.

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12:18pm

Fri December 20, 2013
Movie Reviews

A Man And His Machine, Finding Out What Love Is

Originally published on Fri December 20, 2013 3:24 pm

In the sci-fi romance Her, a lonely man (Joaquin Phoenix) finds love in a rather unexpected place — with a computer operating system named Samantha.
Warner Bros.

Her is the best film of the year by a so-wide margin. It's gorgeous, funny, deep — and I can hear some smart aleck say, "If you love it so much, why don't you marry it?" Let me tell you, I'd like to!

I certainly identify with the protagonist, Theodore Twombly, who falls in love with his computer operating system, his OS, which calls itself — sorry, I gotta say "who calls herself" — Samantha, and who sounds like a breathy young woman.

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12:18pm

Fri December 20, 2013
Interviews

Jason Isbell Locates His Musical Compass On 'Southeastern'

Originally published on Fri December 20, 2013 3:24 pm

Jason Isbell was previously a member of Drive-By Truckers. His solo albums include Sirens of the Ditch and Here We Rest.
Eric England Courtesy of the artist

This interview was originally broadcast on July 17, 2013.

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2:00pm

Thu December 19, 2013
Movie Interviews

A 'Kind Of A Big Deal' Gets Even Bigger In 'Anchorman 2'

Originally published on Thu December 19, 2013 2:43 pm

Will Ferrell and Christina Applegate reprise their roles as competing news anchors in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.
Gemma LaMana Paramount Pictures

Way back in the 2004 film Anchorman, Ron Burgundy was a local TV-news host in '70s San Diego. Fast-forward to this year's sequel, and that epic haircut is national news: Set in 1980, Anchorman 2 follows Will Ferrell's vain, shallow character as he graduates to a CNN-style cable news network.

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11:26am

Thu December 19, 2013
Commentary

Narcissistic Or Not, 'Selfie' Is Nunberg's Word Of The Year

Originally published on Fri December 20, 2013 11:48 am

President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron pose for a "selfie" with Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning Schmidt during the memorial service for Nelson Mandela.
Roberto Schmidt AFP/Getty Images

I feel a little defensive about choosing "selfie" as my Word of the Year for 2013. I've usually been partial to words that encapsulate one of the year's major stories, such as "occupy" or "big data." Or "privacy," which is the word Dictionary.com chose this year. But others go with what I think of as mayfly words — the ones that bubble briefly to the surface in the wake of some fad or fashion.

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3:20pm

Wed December 18, 2013
Religion

In Francis' First Year, A 'Radical Pope' Seeks To Save His Church

Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 3:55 pm

Pope Francis began his papacy in March. In his first year as pope, columnist James Carroll says, Francis has put unprecedented focus on "the dilemma of the vast majority of human beings who simply don't have enough to live decently."
Filipo Monteforte AFP/Getty Images

"Who am I to judge?" With those five words, Pope Francis "stepped away from the disapproving tone, the explicit moralizing typical of popes and bishops," writes columnist James Carroll. Francis made that statement in July, in response to a reporter's question about the status of gay priests in the Church.

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3:20pm

Wed December 18, 2013
Music Reviews

Michele Rosewoman Goes Back To Afro-Cuban Jazz's Future

Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 3:57 pm

Michele Rosewoman (bottom right) is joined by batá percussionists in performance with her New Yor-Uba Ensemble in 2013.
Tom Ehrlich Courtesy of the artist

When Michele Rosewoman was growing up in the Bay Area, she played piano from childhood and congas from her teens. After moving to New York in the late 1970s, she began making music in two areas: modern jazz and traditional Cuban music. Before long, she started combining the two in her New Yor-Uba band.

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2:53pm

Tue December 17, 2013
Best Music Of 2013

Ken Tucker's Top 10 Albums Of 2013

Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 12:21 am

Jason Isbell's Southeastern was Fresh Air critic Ken Tucker's favorite album of 2013.
Courtesy of the artist

2:36pm

Tue December 17, 2013
Movie Interviews

The Coen Bros. On Writing, 'Lebowski' And Literally Herding Cats

Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 12:21 am

Joel (left) and Ethan Coen wrote and directed Fargo, The Big Lebowski, O Brother Where Art Thou?, No Country for Old Men, A Serious Man and True Grit. Their latest film is Inside Llewyn Davis.
Stuart C. Wilson Getty Images

If you ask the Coen brothers about how they write their films, you might not get a straight answer. "It's mostly napping," Ethan tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross.

"We go to the office, we're there, we're in a room together," Joel adds. "We take naps, but, you know, the important thing is that we're at the office, should we be inspired to actually write something."

The brothers don't split up writing responsibilities — they "talk through" the dialogue and "work it out together," Joel explains.

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2:39pm

Mon December 16, 2013
Music Interviews

Fresh Air Remembers Jazz Pianist Jimmy Amadie

Jimmy Amadie.
Courtesy of the artist

For decades, Jimmy Amadie played solely in his home, heard only by his students when he'd play for them during lessons. His performing career was derailed because of severe hand problems. But later in life, he achieved some fame for his albums — and for the story of what he'd had to overcome to make it possible for him to record. Amadie died of lung cancer on Dec. 10. He was 76.

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2:33pm

Mon December 16, 2013
Music Reviews

A Former Girl-Group Singer Goes 'All Or Nothing'

With new songs and covers, La La Brooks' All or Nothing isn't just an attempted career comeback.
Jacob Blickenstaff Courtesy of the artist

A half-century on, La La Brooks still sings about boys and girls falling in love. At an age when other veterans of first-generation rock movements are thinking about retirement or oldies tours, Brooks has come up with a fresh, energetic collection that doesn't deny her past, but also refuses to succumb to mere nostalgia.

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1:40pm

Mon December 16, 2013
Music

Holiday Music To Bring Folks Together

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. With so much contention in air around holiday get-togethers, jazz critic Ken Whitehead wonders if music might help bring together folks with opposing views. He has some listening and viewing recommendations for seasonal dinners.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TEEN TOWN")

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1:30pm

Mon December 16, 2013
Remembrances

The Camels Were 'Impossible': Peter O'Toole Remembers 'Arabia'

Originally published on Mon December 16, 2013 2:19 pm

Peter O'Toole rides across the desert in Jordan during the filming of Lawrence of Arabia in November 1961. He says that at first, learning to ride a camel was "impossible."
AP

"I have a host of memories which I see very clearly," actor Peter O'Toole told Fresh Air's Terry Gross in 1993. "And though I'm very aware of the tricks of memory, I'm also aware of the concrete nature of these brilliantly lit pictures in my mind. They're ineradicable."

O'Toole, who died Saturday at the age of 81, was instrumental in making many "brilliantly lit pictures" for movie lovers during his decades-spanning career. Nominated for eight Oscars, the tall, blond, blue-eyed actor captivated audiences, on-screen and onstage.

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9:03am

Sat December 14, 2013
Fresh Air Weekend

Fresh Air Weekend: Robert Redford, Ella Fitzgerald, Michael Sheen

Originally published on Sat December 14, 2013 11:46 am

In All Is Lost, Robert Redford plays an unnamed sailor, stranded at sea on a badly damaged yacht.
Daniel Daza Roadside Attractions/Lionsgate

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:

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2:46pm

Fri December 13, 2013
Remembrances

Celebrating The Centennial Of Lyricist Sammy Cahn

American songwriter Sammy Cahn, pictured above in 1987, would have celebrated his 100th birthday this year. He died in 1993, at the age of 79.
David Gaywood AP

2013 marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of lyricist Sammy Cahn, who was born Samuel Cohen, on the Lower East Side of New York City, on June 18, 1913. We didn't want the year to end without celebrating this centennial.

Cahn had his most successful and enduring partnerships with composers Saul Chaplin, Jule Styne and Jimmy Van Heusen. Several of his songs were written for Frank Sinatra. Cahn died in 1993, at the age of 79.

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2:09pm

Fri December 13, 2013
The Fresh Air Interview

Fresh Air Remembers Jazz Guitarist Jim Hall

Originally published on Fri December 13, 2013 7:57 pm

Jim Hall performs at the 2013 Newport Jazz Festival.
Adam Kissick for NPR

Jazz guitarist, composer and arranger Jim Hall died in his sleep Tuesday; he was 83. Hall was known for a subtle, lyrical playing style, a gift for innovation and collaborations with a host of talented musicians in a career that stretched more than seven decades.

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12:34pm

Fri December 13, 2013
Movie Reviews

A 'Hustle' With Flow (And Plenty Of Flair)

Originally published on Fri December 13, 2013 2:46 pm

A '70s con-artist couple (Christian Bale and Amy Adams) are forced to team up with an FBI agent (Bradley Cooper, right) in American Hustle, inspired by a real-life sting targeting corrupt politicians.
Francois Duhamel Columbia Pictures

David O. Russell hovers at the top of my list of favorite directors. He captures the messy collision of self-interests that for him defines America. In American Hustle, he whips up a black comedy based on Abscam, the late-'70s FBI sting that centered on a bogus sheik and led to the bribery convictions of sundry U.S. politicians. But he doesn't tell the real Abscam story; he adapts it to fit his theme, which is that most of us are busy reinventing ourselves and conning one another.

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1:40pm

Thu December 12, 2013
Movie Interviews

At 77, Robert Redford Goes Back To His Roots

Originally published on Thu December 12, 2013 6:23 pm

In All Is Lost, Robert Redford plays an unnamed sailor, stranded at sea on a badly damaged yacht.
Daniel Daza Roadside Attractions/Lionsgate

Robert Redford isn't merely the star of the movie All Is Lost — he plays the only character. He plays a man stranded alone on a small yacht in the Indian Ocean, and New York Times film critic A.O. Scott says it's "the performance of a lifetime."

We don't know the man's name, why he's there, or anything about his background — but when disaster strikes, we learn that he's resourceful and doesn't succumb to panic. After a stray shipping container rams his vessel and leaves a gaping hole in the hull, he must make the boat seaworthy again in order to survive.

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1:19pm

Wed December 11, 2013
Books

Need A Read? Here Are Maureen Corrigan's Favorite Books Of 2013

Originally published on Wed December 11, 2013 4:10 pm

Illustration of woman and books.
Nishant Choksi

First, a word about this list: It's honestly just a fluke that my best books rundown for 2013 is so gender-biased. I didn't deliberately set out this year to read so many terrific books by women.

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1:19pm

Wed December 11, 2013
Movie Interviews

Michael Sheen On The 'Accuracy And Invention' Of Real-Life Roles

Originally published on Wed December 11, 2013 2:25 pm

Michael Sheen plays Dr. William Masters, the senior member of a research team that conducted pioneering studies for more than three decades into the physiology of human sexuality.
Michael Desmond Showtime

Michael Sheen's show may be called Masters of Sex, but ultimately, he says, it's a study of intimacy. It's about: "How do we deal with being vulnerable with each other?" he tells Fresh Air's Dave Davies. "How do we deal with the challenges of intimacy and the kind of games we play and the defenses we have?"

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1:19pm

Wed December 11, 2013
Music Reviews

Ella Fitzgerald's Early Years Collected In A Chick Webb Box Set

Originally published on Thu December 12, 2013 9:44 am

Ella Fitzgerald sings with bandleader Chick Webb in Asbury Park, N.J., in 1938.
Hulton Archive Getty Images

Drummer Chick Webb's 1930s orchestra terrorized competitors in band battles and sent dancers into orbit at Harlem's Savoy Ballroom. They could be similarly explosive on record, but only rarely. Early on, they did have some hot Edgar Sampson arrangements that Benny Goodman would soon turn into hits, like "Blue Lou" and "Don't Be That Way." But the Webb band also had an old-school crooner, Charles Linton, with pre-jazz-age enunciation.

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1:56pm

Tue December 10, 2013
Politics

How ALEC Serves As A 'Dating Service' For Politicians And Corporations

Originally published on Wed December 11, 2013 12:07 pm

President Bush speaks to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in Philadelphia, on July 26, 2007.
Mel Evans AP

A batch of internal documents recently leaked to The Guardian has revealed new insights into the goals and finances of the secretive group called ALEC. The American Legislative Exchange Council is a group that brings together state legislators and representatives of corporations. Together, they develop model bills that lawmakers introduce and try to pass in their state legislatures.

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1:56pm

Tue December 10, 2013
Music Reviews

A Nostalgic — But Bumpy — Journey With The Beach Boys

Originally published on Tue December 10, 2013 5:44 pm

The Beach Boys in 1964. Top row: Carl Wilson, Dennis Wilson. Bottom row: Mike Love, Al Jardine, Brian Wilson.
Hulton Archive Getty Images

All it takes is two seconds of hearing "Round round get around / I get around" and you're there — in the sun, on the beach, in the '60s. The Beach Boys vaulted up the charts while branching out from surf music to psychedelia. This year the remaining band members released Made in California, a six-CD box set loaded with outtakes and other rarities. Critic Ed Ward examines the rise and long decline of a beloved group with a unique sound.

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1:00pm

Tue December 10, 2013
Book Reviews

Frustrating Heroine Stars In Fresh, Feminist 'Nightingale'

Originally published on Tue December 10, 2013 3:33 pm

iStockphoto

There's an unforgettable moment in the diary of the great Polish writer Witold Gombrowicz. He's on the beach and he spots a beetle that's been blown on its back by the wind and now lies there helplessly, legs wiggling, unable to right itself. Gombrowicz saves it by turning it over. He sees another upside-down beetle, and turns it over. Then, another. Looking along the sand, he realizes that there are so many beetles he can't possibly save them all. Eventually, he gives up trying.

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1:38pm

Mon December 9, 2013
Music

Review: Jonas Kaufmann Sings Wagner And Verdi

Originally published on Mon December 9, 2013 4:28 pm

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. At 44, the German tenor Jonas Kaufmann may be the most popular tenor of his generation and one of the most versatile. Music critic Lloyd Schwartz reviews two of his recordings this year, dedicated to both Verdi and Wagner, celebrating the bicentennials of their birth.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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1:38pm

Mon December 9, 2013
Author Interviews

Delia Ephron On The Closeness And Complexity Of Sisterhood

Originally published on Mon December 9, 2013 4:56 pm

Delia Ephron is a novelist and playwright. Her essays have been published in The New York Times, O, Vogue and the Huffington Post. Her older sister, writer Nora Ephron, died in June 2012.
Elena Seibert Penguin Group

In the opening chapter of her latest book, novelist Delia Ephron writes that losing her older sister, writer Nora Ephron, was like "losing an arm, it's that deranging." Nora, who wrote When Harry Met Sally, died of acute myeloid leukemia in June 2012. Delia and Nora were writing partners; they co-wrote the movies You've Got Mail and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants as well as the off-Broadway hit Love, Loss and What I Wore. Delia was an assistant producer on Nora's film Sleepless in Seattle.

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