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Episodes

Give Everybody Everything: The Financial Life of Bernadette Mayer

4/18/2019
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The life of a poet is rich with meaning and beauty. But the financial life of a poet is decidedly less rich. The poet Bernadette Mayer is a case study in how literary influence does not translate into income. She dedicated herself to art knowing it wouldn’t make lots of money. Still, at 73, she has unavoidable expenses. Forget Silicon Valley billionaires — can a poor poet make the best case for Universal Basic Income?

Duration:00:46:30

The Narrative Line

4/4/2019
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We’re constantly telling ourselves stories — who we are, where we’re going, what comes next. But what happens when the story you’re telling yourself turns out not to be true? Or, more fundamentally, what if the narrative form you’re bending your life story to fit only falsifies it? Can we find alternative ways of telling stories that are more true to life? Or do all narratives warp reality, only in different ways?

Duration:00:42:54

Consider the Grackles

3/21/2019
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Touring a punk act pushes the limits of physical endurance — driving all day, sweating on stage, eating badly, sleeping worse. What keeps a band going for 14 years without a major commercial success? And what would possess someone old enough to draw Social Security checks to put himself through it?

Duration:00:31:09

Death in Twin Peaks

2/21/2019
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Twin Peaks was never just a TV show: it was an obsession and an apparition. In its 2017 incarnation, the real-life deaths of several cast members hang spectrally over the proceedings. Legendary critic Howard Hampton meditates on how the show’s obsession with mortality in its fictional universe overlaps seamlessly with our own.

Duration:00:21:21

A Call in the Night

2/7/2019
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Your phone rings at 3:30 in the morning. You answer the call, and a person who's just been woken up with a call from you is on the end of the line. The call is being recorded. Both of your lives are changed forever. In this episode we explore the surprising intimacy of anonymity. What happens when wires cross and someone you begin speaking with a total stranger as though you’re lovers?

Duration:00:21:01

Angelyne

1/24/2019
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For decades, Angelyne pouted down from Hollywood billboards, looking like a New-Wave Jayne Mansfield: a dense cloud of bleached blonde hair and abundant cleavage barely contained by furry pink bikini tops. No one was sure what to make of the ubiquitous billboards of the woman who roamed L.A. in a pink Corvette. The only clues they offered were her name and a telephone number for her fan club. Who was she? What was she?

Duration:00:25:56

The Dogfather

1/10/2019
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Today’s episode is about dogs.

Duration:00:24:19

Low Fidelity

11/1/2018
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What sounds don’t we hear when we listen? What sounds are discarded in digital processing, whether it’s through hearing aids or mp3s? This week we travel to Scottish lighthouses, professional sound-testing facilities, and animal slaughterhouses to find out. Our guests include animal scientist and autism advocate Temple Grandin and journalist Bella Bathurst, who regained her hearing after twelve years of deafness.

Duration:00:31:51

Between Speaking and Singing

10/18/2018
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Will spoken language become obsolete? What if, in the future, a simple conversation between two adults becomes a rarity, like an obscure musical piece that involves months of rehearsing and vocal training to be able to perform?

Duration:00:37:38

The Blindfold Challenge

10/4/2018
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In his audio diaries recorded while driving cross-country, artist David Wojnarowicz tries to describe how he feels after being diagnosed with AIDS. Writer Sandy Allen translates the autobiography of their schizophrenic uncle, presenting his hallucinations as facts. In the “Blindfold Challenge,” sighted people perform daily tasks while unable to see. Can art—or anything—help us understand a life different from our own?

Duration:00:47:20

The Secret Life of Plants

9/20/2018
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Stevie Wonder’s entire life, according to conspiracy theorists, is a lie. He’s been able to see all along. But what does that have to do with the idea that plants are conscious beings capable of communication?

Duration:00:32:04

Bingeing Texas

8/23/2018
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The national news media is mesmerized by a president who runs the White House like a reality show. Jen Rice takes a look at the weird relationship between political actors and public audience. In her recap of the 85th Texas legislative session, she explores the blow-out fights and cliffhangers that reality TV has made famous. What can Texas’s politics tell us about the current state of the U.S.?

Duration:00:57:42

Borderlands

8/9/2018
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This week, two stories from the U.S. borders. The first, from Javier Zamora, who crossed into the U.S. without his parents when he was nine years old. The other comes from our border with Canada, which Porter Fox navigated from end to end, by canoe, freighter, and rental car, encountering an increasingly policed border, Native American uprisings, and the unmistakable impact of climate change.

Duration:00:36:38

Two Years With Franz

7/26/2018
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The poet and Pulitzer Prize–winner Franz Wright recorded 546 audio tapes in the two years of his life after a terminal cancer diagnosis. The tapes show incredible vitality in the face of death. Over two years, Bianca Giaever listened to all 546 tapes, emerging with this hour-long story of poetry and mental illness and love. This story was originally produced by Bianca and Jay Allison for the public radio website Transom.org.

Duration:00:57:49

The Voice of God

7/12/2018
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Actor and writer Ellie Kemper (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), director Penelope Spheeris (Wayne’s World), and voice-over master Peter Coyote (Ken Burns’ documentaries, including The Vietnam War) describe voices from heaven, hell, and everywhere in between.

Duration:00:31:37

The Organist returns Thursday

7/10/2018
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From KCRW and McSweeney’s, the Organist returns with its fifth season on July 12!

Duration:00:01:42

Bonus: Neighborhood Secret

4/26/2018
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New Edition was an unlikely boy-band from Boston that launched Bobby Brown’s career and incubated the smooth 90s R&B of Bell Biv DeVoe.

Duration:00:34:20

Antigonick

12/30/2017
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Antigone is one of the most widely performed plays in the world. Poet Anne Carson’s experimental translation of Sophocles’ tragedy incorporates 2,500 years of its performance and interpretation. The play’s emotional core persists even as we view Antigone through all of the ways she has been viewed and used throughout her history.

Duration:00:52:30

How to Be in Two Places at Once: The Firesign Theatre in the US and Vietnam

12/14/2017
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Four comedians trained in poetry and psy-ops, Firesign Theatre created dense, album-length art-objects that could take multiple spins to understand. Comedy in the form of abrasive soundscapes that reviewers were as likely to call “frightening” as “funny.” This week, we explore how these albums were heard: in groups, at teenage house parties, in poet John Ashbery’s pot smoke-filled living room, and on military bases in Vietnam.

Duration:00:26:38

Antigonick

11/30/2017
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Antigone is one of the most widely performed plays in the world. Poet Anne Carson’s experimental translation of Sophocles’ tragedy incorporates 2,500 years of its performance and interpretation. The play’s emotional core persists even as we view Antigone through all of the ways she has been viewed and used throughout her history.

Duration:00:52:16