Steven contributes to the Underreported and Backstory series. Before joining the Lopate team as an Assistant Producer in 2008, he produced two radio documentaries for Pacifica and Sirius Satellite Radio, one on the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and another on gay marriage called “Regulating Love,” for which he won the 2005 NLGJA Student Journalist of the Year Award. He graduated from UC Davis in 2006 after a two-year stint as General Manager of KDVS, his college radio station. He joined the show as an intern shortly after stumbling off the plane. A California native, Steven currently resides in Brooklyn.
Janet Hamlin has been the sole court illustrator documenting the trials at the US Prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba since 2006. Her book, Sketching Guantanamo will be published in October.
Valentino: How did you come to work at Guantanamo?
Hamlin: The Associated Press was one of my clients and it was their turn to pool report from Guantanamo. They sent me for the first three trips and after that I started going as a freelancer. So, I kind of had a rut in the road, having been there the first three times. And it is a strange venue.
Valentino: What’s strange about it?
Hamlin: Usually, in the United States we can sit in the same physical space as the charged person, but in GITMO we are in a walled, glassed-in booth in the back that’s soundproof. So, you’re drawing from a distance. You’re drawing from the back and you’re drawing with a sound delay. The other thing is you’re dealing with is the constraint of your work being signed off by the Pentagon or the Homeland Security officer. Everything has to be signed and labeled before it can go out to media.
To get a good sense of a what a floodproof city can look like, check out Hafen City in Hamburg, Germany.
When he accepted the presidential nomination earlier this month, Barack Obama joked about the nature of modern politics—and the amount of money required to run a media campaign— by saying “If you're sick of hearing me approve this message, believe me, so am I.” There was sustained applause.
The Museum of the Moving Image has a great collection of Presidential campaign advertisements and posted below are a few examples of the lost art of the political jingle. The lyrics in most of these ads aren’t exactly at Cole Porter levels of word-play. A few notable clunkers include: “He is the gov that brings the dove of peace and joy” and “Reachin’ out across the sea, makin’ friends where foes used to be.” But many of them are catchy.
Take this 1952 ad for Adlai Stevenson. The Democratic governor of Illinois may have lost two consecutive Presidential elections, but he did produce at least one hummable advertisement. The show-tunes vote has been an essential swing constituency ever since.
The top object in our countdown is perhaps the most accidental of New York icons. In its heyday the Anthora cup, with its crisp blue and white Greco design, was the way you drank hot beverages on the go. But, as Leonard pointed out, sometimes the coffee itself wasn’t always that great. Oh, the power of nostalgia. (continue reading)
It might seem odd that our listeners chose an object that hasn’t been used in New York City for nearly a decade as number two on our list. But as Robert Del Bango of the New York City Transit Museum told us, it’s actually “a very smart object” to tell the story of New York. (continue reading)
Eating outside has always been a part of the New York City way of life. “The early colony was downtown,” Fabio Parasecoli of The New School told us. “Food had to be brought to southern Manhattan from the nearby farms.” Often, that food was sold and consumed on the street. (continue reading)
Our listeners chose the lowly oyster—not the exalted bagel— as the only edible object on our list of ten items which define New York City. In a number of ways, the rise and demise of the harbor oyster is the story of the city itself.
“The history of New York is the history of gobbling up everything,” Mark Kurlansky, author of The Big Oyster explains. “When there was deer and elk and lynx and all sorts of things on Manhattan, people ate that stuff. The wild fruit trees that once covered New York are all gone too. It reaches the point where the one natural resource that’s left to eat are oysters.” And by most accounts, early New Yorkers ate oysters by the bucketful. They were harvested by the Lenape Indians and loved by the Dutch and British colonists. The bivalve was once synonymous with New York City. “Today, people come to New York and take in a Broadway Show—it used to be that people from all over the world would come here for the oysters,” Kurlansky said. (continue reading)
This object is an example of New York’s past colliding with its present.
“We’ve never seen a boat like this before,” Warren Reiss a maritime historian and archeologist at the University of Maine explained. “There are a number of things about how this vessel was built that we are still scratching our heads about.” Reiss was the principal investigator of a ship the New York Times dubbed the “S.S. World Trade Center.” “We don’t even know if it had one mast or two,” Reiss said. (continue reading)
It was slightly surprising that Frank O’Hara’s 1964 collection Lunch Poems came in at number six on our list, but it turns out to be a very good way of looking at New York City. As NYU professor Lytle Shaw, author of the book Frank O’Hara: The Poetics of Coterieexplains “Lunch Poems is a condensed and highly accessible book that is smaller than a subway map.” That feature makes it easy to take the book anywhere. Shaw described it as having the potential to “acclimatize you to the things New York has to offer.” (continue reading)
The seventh object on our list violates the central rule of our contest that it “must be able to fit in a museum”—but just this once we’ll make an exception. Richard Haw, a professor at CUNY and author of the book, Art of the Brooklyn Bridge: A Visual History, told us that the bridge is a particularly good selection for this project. “It helps illuminate different parts of the history of the New York: political, economic, demographic, social, transport, technological, literary and artistic.” (continue reading)
The Wall Street sign is the first object on our list that is central to both the long history of New York City and the current moment. William D. Cohan, author of Money And Power told us “You can not overstate Wall Street’s importance from either a literal or symbolic point of view. It’s not up there with the Statue of Liberty, but it’s a symbol of what America is all about. That’s why there is so much disappointment about their behavior over the last few years.” (continue reading)
Who knew so many of our listeners were geology enthusiasts? Or that, to use a pun Leonard would probably dream up, they really know their schist? Charles Merguerian, chairman of the Geology Department at Hofstra University, seemed surprised and then pleased that New York City bedrock made the top ten of our list. He said “People always ask: What came first the chicken or the egg? But the answer is rocks. Rocks are so fundamental and basic to us and our existence that there is a natural tendency towards wanting to know about them.” (continue reading)
It’s fitting that we kick off our countdown of the 10 objects that tell the story of New York with an object that, quite literally, lets us explore the city. Even the most savvy, life-long New Yorker ends up consulting the subway map regularly. That's probably the case because — for better or worse — a subway map is the map that explains much of the city’s geography to us. (continue reading)
High Line creators Joshua David and Robert Hammond said they were enthusiastic about a long-shot proposal to turn the Tappan Zee Bridge into an over-water park on today's Leonard Lopate Show. Asked about Greenburgh town supervisor Paul Feiner's suggestion to convert the cantilevered bridge into a pedestrian walkway, both David and Hammond said they found the idea "exciting" and that they'd "love to take a walk on it." The bridge is currently slated for demolition and details about Feiner's idea to re-purpose the link between Rockland and Westchester counties are few, but according to yesterday's New York Times it draws a fair amount of inspiration from the equally popular High Line park in Manhattan and the Walkway Over the Hudson, further upstream. Construction of a new Tappan Zee Bridge has been fast tracked by the Obama Administration.
Today's Please Explain is about radiation. We present for you a primer on uranium, the radioactive rock:
Uranium is one of the heaviest and certainly one of the most volatile elements in nature. It’s also fairly abundant in the universe and can be found in the Earth's crust at a rate nearly 40 times that of silver. It's nucleus is so densely packed that uranium atoms can only be produced through the extreme force and pressure of a supernova. >>>
A conversation that happened on Tuesday, March 22, 2011 in the Lopate Show offices...
Blakeney: On Wednesday's Patricia T. O’Conner segment we’re talking about “cat words”—like “cat’s pajamas” and “kitty corner.”
Steven: That’s exciting. I’ve always wondered what’s up with the phrase “sitting in the cat bird seat.” It doesn’t make any sense to me. At all. Is it about a cat that that is perfectly poised to catch a bird sitting in a seat? Since when do birds sit in seats? Has it caught and eaten a bird and is sitting in the bird’s seat? I do not understand this idiom! Then again, as a child, I imagined the phrase “shooting fish in a barrel” involved shooting fish out of some kind fish shooting device into a barrel on the other side of a field, not using a gun to shoot fish swimming around in a closed container. So, maybe I’m not the right person to be thinking about these things.
Blakeney: I think it’s about being in advantageous position. As in: you’re a bird, sitting in the seat above the cat. But we could just look it up… >>>
"One of the things that a cell phone network allows you to do in particular is to pinpoint the locations of individuals. And one of the things we do know about the Egyptian security state is that they depended on surveillance much more heavily than other countries might… One of the more cynical takes here is that the Egyptian government knew what they were doing. They wanted to shut down communications to take away organizing tools…This turned out not to work…It can’t be a coincidence that they turned the networks on at the exact same moment they began the crackdown that we are now witnessing... For activists that have just been casual users of cell phones, which is basically everybody but a small group of people who took precautions, the government will know their phone numbers, know how to reach them and how to look for them out on the streets...Those activists may be vulnerable.”
—Andrew McLaughlin, former deputy Chief Technology Officer for the Obama Administration discussing why the Egyptian government shut down the internet and suddenly turned it back on, on today’s Leonard Lopate Show. You can hear the full interview here.
Today, just hours before Hosni Mubarak’s announcement this evening that he would not seek another term as President, Leonard spoke with New York Times reporter Kareem Fahim in Cairo. There have been a number of developments in the last 48 hours, from the Finance Ministry saying that people out of work because of the demonstrations would be eligible for unemployment benefits, to the military’s announcement last night that it would not use force against demonstrators. The latter, according to Fahim, opened the door for today’s massive protest in Tahrir Square, which some news organizations say was attended by over a million people. (As a side note the Iranian government has said it supports the protesters; which is only a little ironic.)
Fahim told us that “The range of responses [from the Mubarak regime] is very hard to read or understand at this point. There are a number of new actors in the government and it’s not clear if everyone is acting under the President’s direction or if some of the people under him are trying to ease his path from power.” Mr. Mubarak took a step down that path this afternoon, but in his speech maintained that he will “die on [Egyptian] soil.”
Nobel Laureate Mohamed ElBaradei is known in this country mostly as a foil to the Bush Administration during his time as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, but he is now the most prominent (and media friendly) opposition leader in Egypt. Fahim said that while ElBaradei has “name recognition in the country. I don’t think he has any base of support yet, although there is a large activist community, especially in Cairo that’s enthusiastic about him. But I think he’s an unknown quality to a lot of people and he ended up speaking for the opposition for the moment probably because he represents sort of a consensus figure and maybe a figure who might be seen as more palatable to whatever outside powers are involved in these discussions at this point.” The American Ambassador and recently appointed Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman spoke with ElBaradei today.
Several of the other producers on the show and I have been watching Al-Jazeera’s English feed online for the past couple days (You can watch it here). The network remains off the air in Egypt and Fahim mentioned that state-run television has been painting a very different picture about what is happening in the country. The Internet also remains shut down, but according to Fahim some activists saw that as a boon to the movement, saying “I spoke to several Internet generation activists…and they said once they had to leave their computers alone, once they were off Facebook, once they were off Twitter, there was nothing left to do but go to the streets. And that’s what they did. They sort of credit the decision to cut off the Internet with enlarging the size of the crowds."
The Lopate Show will continue to cover events in Egypt this week.