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Latest Episode / Thursday, July 24, 2014 Edit This

Past and Present: In India, Italy and Iraq

Simon Denyer, former Indian bureau chief for the Washington Post, looks at corruption, the expanding middle class, and the people who are shaping democracy and politics in India. Joseph Luzzi talks about Italy’s passion for art, food, and family, and the country’s north-south divide, and why Italian Americans have a complicated relationship with the “old country.” The Sporkful’s Dan Pashman and Leonard debate whether a hot dog is a sandwich. Roy Scranton, a veteran who served in Iraq in 2003, on returning to Baghdad and the state of that country 10 years later.  

Segments and Articles

Is a Hot Dog a Sandwich?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Dan Pashman, host of The Sporkful, dives into the heated debate over whether hot dogs are sandwiches. He’ll also talk about the finer points of both foods—his trip to Hot Doug’s in Chicago and the engineering that goes into what making a great sandwich.

Dan Pashman is hosting a Twitter chat about sandwiches at 1:30 pm on July 24. His Twitter handle is @TheSporkful. To join in, use #notasandwich.

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An Iraq War Vet Returns to Find Baghdad on the Edge of Ruin

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Roy Scranton served in the United States Army in Iraq 2003. He returns to Baghdad 10 years later as sectarian violence and chaos threaten to overtake the country and after ISIS has taken Fallujah, Mosul, and other cities. Scranton reflects on his time in there a decade ago, the role of the U.S. in securing Iraq, and what’s happened in the country since. His article “Back to Baghdad: Life in the City of Doom” in the July 31 issue of Rolling Stone.

 

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Fighting Corruption in India's Unruly Democracy

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Simon Denyer, former Indian bureau chief for the Washington Post, looks at the characters that are agitating for change in India. He discusses the country's most troublesome issues—from corruption to populist politics, from gender relations to education, analyzes the India's economic malaise, its growing middle class, and its politics. In Rogue Elephant: Harnessing the Power of India's Unruly Democracy Denyer explores the battle between the deep-rooted system of graft and patronage and the forces demanding change and supporting democracy.

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Great Art, Dismal Politics: A Tale of Two Italies

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The child of Italian immigrants and an award-winning scholar of Italian literature Joseph Luzzi tells his family’s story and links it to Italy’s north-south divide and the country's passion for art, food, and family. His book My Two Italies gives an account of his Calabrian father’s time as a military internee in Nazi Germany—where he had a love affair with a local Bavarian woman. Luzzi also looks at Italy’s contradictions—it has produced some of the world’s greatest art but it also suffers from corruption, political fragmentation, and an enfeebled civil society.

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California: A Dystopian Novel by Edan Lepucki

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Edan Lepucki talks about her debut novel, California, which imagines a frighteningly realistic dystopian future. Cal and Frida live in a shack in the wilderness, working side-by-side in the face of hardship and isolation. But the tentative existence is thrown into doubt when Frida finds out she's pregnant. They set out for the nearest settlement, a guarded and paranoid community with dark secrets.

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Cheating Teachers and Failing Hospitals

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

New Yorker staff writer Rachel Aviv investigates a widespread, long-term culture of cheating among educators in Atlanta’s public-school district—and the pressure that test score targets put on schools. Director Adam Kahan discusses his documentary about the one-of-a-kind instrumentalist Rahsaan Roland Kirk. Edan Lepucki talks about her debut novel, California, which imagines a frighteningly realistic dystopian future. Plus, we’ll examine the distressed healthcare system in Brooklyn and find out why so many of the borough’s hospitals are struggling.

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Why Teachers Decided Cheating Was the Right Thing to Do

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

New Yorker staff writer Rachel Aviv investigates a widespread, long-term culture of cheating among educators in Atlanta’s public-school district. When faced with what they saw as out of reach, data-driven district targets—as well as progress measurements outlined in No Child Left Behind—school district administrators and teachers began systematically fixing students’ incorrect answers on standardized tests. Aviv’s article “Wrong Answer” is in the July 21 issue of The New Yorker.

 

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Racism, Blindness and Paralysis Could Not Stop the Unrelenting Rahsaan Roland Kirk

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Director Adam Kahan discusses his documentary, “The Case of the Three Sided Dream,” about multi-instrumentalist Rahsaan Roland Kirk. Kirk was not only a musician but was also a fighter for racial equality and for fair treatment of disabled persons (he was made blind as an infant by a wrongly administered eye medication). He also started a political movement to get more jazz, which he called Black Classical Music, on television. At the apex of his career Rahsaan suffered a debilitating stroke, which left half of his body paralyzed, yet he continued to play, record and tour, with the use of only one hand, literally until the day he died. “The Case of the Three Sided Dream” is playing July 26 at Rooftop Films Brookfield Place (formerly World Financial Center).

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Can Anything Resuscitate Brooklyn’s Ailing Hospitals?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Kim Velsey, New York Observer real estate editor, talks about Brooklyn’s severely distressed healthcare system. This year, Long Island College Hospital was shuttered—only the vestige of an emergency room remains. Another hospital, Interfaith, was saved from the same fate by emergency funding from the state, given with the understanding that its closure would have disastrous consequences for the surrounding Bedford-Stuyvesant community. A state report from 2011 identified at least three other Brooklyn hospitals “at risk of imminent financial collapse.” The report advised major changes: multiple mergers and the creation of a vast outpatient network across the borough, recommendations that have gone almost entirely unheeded in the past three years. Her article “A Nice Place to Live, but I Wouldn’t Want to Get Sick There” is in the July 16 New York Observer.

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Masks, Accents and Bugs: Things That Inspired Marlon Brando

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Susan L. Mizruchi finds a side of Marlon Brando others have missed—he collected four thousand books; rewrote scripts, trimming his lines to make them sharper; consciously used his body and the objects around him to create believable characters; and used his fame to promote Indian rights and Civil rights. In her book Brando’s Smile: His Life, Thought, and Work Mizruchi looks at Brando’s life, letters, audiotapes, and annotated screenplays and books to show how Brando’s embrace of foreign cultures and outsiders led to brilliant performances in unusual roles.

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Why We Hang on to Too Much Stuff – and How to Stop

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Hoarding is a disorder marked by the persistent need to hold onto things and extreme anxiety at the thought of having to part with objects, even things with no value or use. But even people who don’t have hoarding tendencies can find it difficult to get rid of things and to clear away clutter. Dr. Simon Rego, Director of Psychology Training and Director of the Cognitive Behavior Therapy Training Program at Montefiore Medical Center, and Collette Shine, who runs a professional organizing company called Organize and Shine and is the New York Chapter President of the National Association of Professional Organizers, discuss the psychology behind clutter and hoarding, why we find it so hard to let go of certain items, and what that reveals about our personality.

 

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Trying to Escape Violence, Gangs, and Crushing Poverty by Coming to America

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Ian Gordon, editor at Mother Jones, discusses the issue of what to do with the child immigrants crossing into the United States. He’s traced the journey back home for children that are deported and he has reported from the shelters built to house migrants in the interim. Gordon discusses the Mexican government's response to Central American migrants, why border agents shouldn't decide whether child migrants can stay, and looks at why child migrants are fleeing their home countries. His most recent article about the crisis is “70,000 Kids Will Show Up Alone at Our Border This Year. What Happens to Them?” and is in the July/August issue of Mother Jones.

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Music Brings Ailing Brains Thrillingly to Life

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Director Michael Rossato-Bennett talks about his film “Alive Inside,” which looks at the power music has to reawaken memories in people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. He’s joined by Dan Cohen, founder and executive director of Music & Memory, a non-profit that brings personalized music into the lives of the elderly and infirm. “Alive Inside” opens July 18 at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema.

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Why We Hang on to Too Much Stuff

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

We’ll take a look at the psychology behind hoarding and how we can learn to purge what we don’t need and live with less. Michael Rossato-Bennett on his documentary “Alive Inside,” about the healing power of music. He’ll be joined by Dan Cohen, founder of Music & Memory, who uses music to treat Alzheimer’s patients. We’ll find out about how the things Marlon Brando read, collected, and cared about influenced his performances. Ian Gordon, editor at Mother Jones magazine, on what happens to the unaccompanied child immigrants who are sent back home after they’ve crossed into the United States.

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Jonathan Demme, André Gregory, and Wallace Shawn on Making 'A Master Builder'

Monday, July 21, 2014

Jonathan Demme, André Gregory, and Wallace Shawn discuss bringing their interpretation of Henrik Ibsen’s “The Master Builder” to the screen. This Ibsen classic tells the tale of a successful, egomaniacal architect who has spent a lifetime bullying his wife, employees, and mistresses, and who wants to make peace with himself as his life approaches its final act. Wallace Shawn, who wrote the screenplay, plays the cruel, guilt-ridden architect. Director Jonathan Demme based his direction on the stage production by André Gregory. The film “A Master Builder” premiers at July 23 at Film Forum.

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Do You Have to Be Crazy to Be a Genius?

Monday, July 21, 2014

Neuroscientist and literary scholar Nancy C. Andreasen tries to answer the question: If high IQ does not indicate creative genius, then where does the trait come from, and why is it so often accompanied by mental illness? Andreasen has studied the neuroscience of mental illness and has worked with many gifted subjects, including Kurt Vonnegut, John Irving, and John Cheever, from the Iowa Writers' Workshop to investigate the science of genius. She’s currently working with artists and scientists including George Lucas, the mathematician William Thurston, the novelist Jane Smiley, and six Nobel laureates. Her article “Secrets of the Creative Brain” is the cover story of the July/August issue of The Atlantic

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From Mandela’s Enemy to His Right Hand

Monday, July 21, 2014

Zelda la Grange grew up white in segregated South Africa, supporting the regime and the rules of apartheid. Her conservative family referred to the imprisoned Nelson Mandela as “a terrorist.” Yet just a few years after his release and the end of apartheid, she had become one of the president’s most loyal and devoted associates. La Grange’s memoir, Good Morning, Mr. Mandela, looks back at her time as one of Mandela’s private secretaries during his presidency and as an aid and spokesperson in his retirement. Working and traveling by his Mandela’s for almost two decades, La Grange found herself negotiating with celebrities and world leaders, supporting Mr. Mandela in his many roles.

 

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Our Delusional Brains

Monday, July 21, 2014

Joel Gold and Ian Gold take us on a journey through the delusional brain to explore the intersection of neuroscience, biology, and culture. The current view of delusions is that they are the result of biology gone awry, of neurons in the brain misfiring, but the Golds argue that delusions are in fact the result of the interaction between the brain and the social world. Their new book, Suspicious Minds: How Culture Shapes Madness uses case studies and the latest research in schizophrenia, and looks at the role of culture and the social world in the development of psychosis. 

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The World Around Us Shapes the Delusions Inside Us

Monday, July 21, 2014

On today’s show: Zelda la Grange grew up supporting the rules of apartheid in South Africa, but she later became one of Nelson Mandela’s most loyal and devoted aides. She tells us about working and traveling by Mandela’s side for almost two decades. Jonathan Demme, André Gregory, and Wallace Shawn discuss bringing their interpretation of Henrik Ibsen’s “A Master Builder” to the screen. We’ll investigate how interactions between the brain and the world around us can give rise to delusional thinking. Neuroscientist Nancy C. Andreasen looks into where creative genius comes from and why it’s so often accompanied by mental illness.

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Building an Eco-Friendly Mushroom Tower at MoMA PS1

Friday, July 18, 2014

David Benjamin, principal of the architectural firm The Living, tells us about his project, Hy-Fi, a cylindrical tower built our of bricks made from cornstalks and the root-like structures of mushrooms, called mycelium. Hy–Fi is this year’s winner of The Museum of Modern Art and MoMA PS1’s Young Architects Program, and it’s in the courtyard of MoMA PS1 through September 6.

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