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Bringing You Wretches and Jabberers

Friday, April 01, 2011

Today we aired our interview with Tracy Thresher and Larry Bissonette, two autistic men who are featured in Geraldine Wurzberg’s new documentary film “Wretches and Jabberers.” They use computers and iPads to communicate with the rest of the world.

It was unlike any other pretaped interview we’ve done on the show. Along with Tracy, Larry, and Geraldine, there were 2 professional aides in the studios, helping Tracy and Larry slowly type their answers to Leonard’s questions. The taping took us 41 minutes to get about 13 minutes of conversation, with our engineers making sure that we had the equipment and the studio time we needed to record the whole thing.

Parts of the interview are moving, others funny. We hope you enjoy this unusual conversation as much as the Lopate Show team has enjoyed bringing it to you. 

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Uranium: Useful for Atom Bombs & Dinner Parties

Friday, March 25, 2011

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. >>>

 

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A Duet

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The one and only Angela Lansbury stopped by the show today. She even sang a brief duet with Leonard.

Click here to hear it!

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More on Please Explain Wool

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wool was the topic of a Please Explain segment in December, but because winter is not quite over (it’s snowing as I write this), many of us are still wearing scarves and hats and heavy winter coats made of wool, so I'm continuing the conversation. There were a few unanswered questions about wool and about animal cruelty in the wool industry, and Clara Parkes was kind enough to e-mail some answers, which I’ve included below.

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Sitting in the Catbird Seat

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

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… >>>

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Unrest in Yemen Leading Toward Civil War?

Monday, March 21, 2011

"I think, I really fear, that the countdown to civil war in Yemen has just begun. It’s not just about protests in Yemen. You have some major defections by army generals in the last 24 hours. You have internal divisions within the ruling party of Pres. Ali Abdullah Saleh. Some elements from his own tribe are calling for him to step down. You have now a military standoff between special forces led by his son and the first division of the army of which the generals, some of his closest generals, have defected. You have turmoil engulfing most of the Yemen. You have a separatist movement in the South; you have a tribal insurgency in the North. But most important of all, I would argue, the new democratic revolt that has been sweeping the Arab world has reached Yemen with a vengeance."

Fawaz Gerges, professor of Middle Eastern Politics and International Relations at the London School of Economics. For more of the interview, click here

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The Best (or Worst?) Examples of Photographic Manipulation

Friday, March 18, 2011

On today's Please Explain, Leonard will be talking to David Pogue and Katrin Eismann about digital photography. One of the issues we'll be exploring is whether digital imagery is more prone to alteration—and if this manipulability means that we have come to distrust digital photographs more than film photographs.

Below, we've created a slide show of some of our favorite faked images throughout history—both film and digital. Let us know in the comments of some other egregious—or subtle—examples of photographic fakery - and if you think digital is less trustworthy than film.

In case you're curious, the Museum of Hoaxes has a great page devoted to photo hoaxes from the 1850s to the 1950s.

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Our Favorite Hamantaschen Recipes

Friday, March 18, 2011

This Saturday is Purim—the Jewish holiday that celebrates the victory of Persian Jews over Haman the Agatite, who was trying to annihilate them. To celebrate, most Jews dress up in costumes and eat a pastry called hamantaschen, which literally means "ears of Haman." Traditionally filled with poppy seeds, dried fruit, or nuts, the pastry is always shaped in a triangle.

Since we often cover food on the Lopate Show, and recently we've covered quite a bit of Jewish home cooking, we thought we might share some of our favorite hamantaschen recipes with you. Below, we've asked Joan Nathan and Gil Marks—two frequent guests on our show—to share their hamantaschen recipes with us. If you're interested in the history of the holiday, you should also check out an interview Leonard conducted in 2006 with Houman Sarshar, the director of publications for the Center for Iranian Jewish Oral History and author of the book Esther's Children. He explains the Persian roots of the holiday, and debunks some widely held myths.

Let us know in the comments if you have a Purim recipe or memory you'd like to share!

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Great Interviews with Award-Winning Authors

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A number of authors who have recently won awards for their work have been guests on the Leonard Lopate Show, where they talked about their books and their careers as writers.

Jennifer Egan won the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction for her novel A Visit from the Good Squad. She was on the Lopate Show on June 10, 2010, to talk about the book, life in Brooklyn, and composing stories in PowerPoint. Listen to that interview here.

Isabel Wilkerson won the National Book Critics Circle Award for nonfiction for her book The Warmth of Other Suns, about the history of migration of African Americans who left the South for northern and western cities. You can listen to her interview with Leonard here.

Darin Strauss won the the National Book Critics Circle Award for autobiography for Half a Life, about being in a car accident as a teenager that killed a classmate. In October he spoke with Leonard about the accident and of writing about it, and you can listen to that interview here.

Deborah Eisenberg won the 2011 PEN/Faulkner Award for The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg, a compilation of her short stories. She was on the Leonard Lopate Show April 5, 2010, to talk about her writing career and her craft. You can listen to that interview here.

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Just What Is A Nuclear Meltdown, Anyway?

Monday, March 14, 2011

In the wake of the 8.9 magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami that hit Japan, the country's nuclear plants have been in a state of emergency. As of this writing, at least three nuclear reactors were experiencing partial meltdowns, with the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station reportedly experiencing the worst radiation disaster since Chernobyl. Over the weekend, I was keeping an eye on the disaster, but after each news report, I'd been left with one burning, unanswered question: just what exactly happens during a nuclear meltdown?

Thankfully, my dad—who is a physicist—was kind enough to answer my question, even as he gave me a look that said "I told you that you shouldn't have changed your major from chemistry to literature." His response, as well as supplemental information from some of the Lopate Show's past coverage of nuclear energy, is after the jump.

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Your Favorite Pieces of Long-Form Journalism

Monday, March 14, 2011

Today, Leonard spoke to ProPublica's Steve Engelberg and Frontline's Raney Aronson about long-form storytelling in a short attention span world. Part of the discussion centered on sites like Longreads and Longform.org, which aggregate good long-form pieces, new and old. Here at the Lopate Show, we thought we'd share some of our own favorite pieces of long-form reporting—both pieces that we've discussed and others—and ask you, our listeners, to tell us your favorites. Let us know in the comments below!

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Five Things You May Not Know About Tsunamis

Friday, March 11, 2011

On today's Please Explain, Leonard spoke to geologist Lori Dengler and seismologist Geoff Abers about the tsunami in Japan. In addition to finding out that earthquakes can cause whirlpools, we found out a lot more about how tsunamis are closer to us than we think.

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Two Things You May Not Know About Guantanamo

Thursday, March 10, 2011

On today’s Backstory segment we spoke with The Miami Herald's Carol Rosenberg and Emily Berman from the Brennan Center for Justice about the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which just turned 9 years old. Here are a two things we learned about the facility and the legal concepts that sustain it.

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Before there was gravity, there was...the cat piano

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The world of 17th century scientific and mathematical experimentation was, as Edward Dolnick told Leonard today, one of alchemy, experimentation, and god-fearing superstition. The experiments undertaken by the Royal Society may have led to some incredible discoveries, but some had less serious goals and were, in truth, nothing more than idle amusements. Take the cat piano.

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It's All In The Presentation

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Today, Leonard spoke to chef Grant Achatz, whose restaurant, Alinea, is consistently named one of the best restaurants in America for its creative takes on traditional food. Achatz is known as one of the leaders of molecular gastronomy, which places an emphasis on the chemical properties of food. Molecular gastronomists like Achatz are often known for their elaborate, almost surreal plating techniques.

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Manhattan: Place of Inebriation

Monday, March 07, 2011

The origins of the name Manhattan are a murky business. Today, Leonard spoke to James and Karla Murray, who have set about documenting the varied store fronts of New York's rapidly disappearing mom-and-pop stores. As part of their book, Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York, they include historical descriptions of New York's neighborhoods. In addition to the interesting tidbits and trivia (who knew that the Yonah Schimmel Knish Bakery was still making yogurt with a culture brought over from Romania in the 1890s?), I was surprised to find out that the origins of present-day Manhattan could be traced to so many different words. Here's a sample of the few the Murrays named:

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Winter Vegetable Recipes

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

On Wednesday cookbook author Rozanne Gold and farm coordinator for Katchkie Farm, Alice Walton, were on the show to talk about winter vegetables, which are plentiful but often overlooked. It can be hard to know what to do with rutabagas, turnips, cabbages, beets, and celery root. Here are a few of the recipes that Rozanne and Alice brought up during the interview.

Listen to that interview here.

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How the Protests in Egypt Are Helping Break Down Sectarian Barriers

Thursday, February 10, 2011

“In fact, many Egyptians believe that the security apparatus played a key role in fueling sectarian tensions because that played into its hands. And the reality – I’m not saying there were no tensions - but the scenes in the Liberation, the Tahrir, Square really show very clearly that Egyptians are finally getting to know one another and this is really one of the most important lessons of what has happened in Egypt.”

-- Fawaz Gerges, professor of Middle Eastern Politics and International Relations at the London School of Economics. You can hear his whole conversation with Leonard about the many different roles of mosques in the protests in Egypt here.

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Al Jazeera's Coverage of the Turmoil in Egypt

Friday, February 04, 2011

Although Al Jazeera English is not available on most U.S. cable providers, the network has emerged as a major source of information for Americans interested in what’s happening in Egypt—they're accessing the network on the Web, and live streaming of it has surged over the past week. On Friday Leonard spoke with Al Jazeera English's White House correspondent, Patty Culhane about Al Jazeera's ongoing coverage of events in Egypt.

 

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Rising Food Prices and Egypt's Uprising

Thursday, February 03, 2011

“In looking at Egypt, for example, the protesters are focusing on getting Mubarak out of office, but the food issue hangs over Egypt because they import such a large amount of their grain. In fact, I think Egypt is currently the world’s leading wheat importer, having surpassed Japan and Brazil which are the other big 3 wheat importers. But what happened with Egypt was that a year or so ago, they signed…a 5-year contract with Russia to supply the Egyptians with 3 million tons of wheat a year, and the ink was hardly dry on that contract before the Russians were announcing  that they were embargoing all grain exports. And so suddenly Egypt had to scramble to replace what they were expecting to get from the Russians.

-Lester Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute and author of World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse. You can hear the entire interview here.

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