The Uncommon and Common

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Friday, September 16, 2011

Mike Pesca fills in for Leonard Lopate. On today’s show: Fawaz Gerges explains why he thinks the increase in homegrown terrorism in the West is a sign that al-Qaeda’s influence is on the decline. Then, master caricaturist Drew Friedman tells us about his tribute to the Borscht Belt, Even More Old Jewish Comedians. Playwright Itamar Moses and actor Karl Miller discuss the new drama “Completeness.” Plus, this week’s Please Explain is all about common sense—it's pretty common, but it's not always sensible!


Mike Pesca

Fawaz Gerges on the Rise and Fall of Al-Qaeda

Fawaz Gerges gives a history of al-Qaeda, showing its emergence from the disintegrating local jihadist movements of the mid-1990s-not just the Afghan resistance of the 1980s. In The Rise and Fall of Al-Qaeda, he reveals that transnational jihad has attracted only a small minority within the Arab world and possesses no viable social and popular base. He also describes how the democratic revolutions that swept the Middle East in early 2011 show that al-Qaeda has no influence over Arabs' political life. Gerges argues that the West has become trapped in a "terrorism narrative," but that Al-Qaeda is no longer a serious threat.

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Old Jewish Comedians

Master caricaturist/portraitist Drew Friedman talks about his craft and his Borscht Belt heroes. Even More Old Jewish Comedians, the third and final installment of his series, includes figures like Olive Oyl voice Mae Questel, Ed Sullivan show regular Jean Carroll, stand-up comedian and "Law & Order: SVU" detective Richard Belzer,  "Welcome Back, Kotter"’s Gabe Kaplan, and other and pop culture legends.

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Playwright Itamar Moses discusses his new play, “Completeness,” about a computer scientist who hooks up with a molecular biologist. He's joined by actor Karl Miller, who plays the character Elliott, who builds a computer program to help Molly with her research project, the variables in their evolving relationship shift as rapidly as the terms of their experiment. “Completeness” is playing at Playwrights Horizons Mainstage Theater through September 25.

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Please Explain: Common Sense

Common sense seems simple enough, but it can be more complicated and less helpful that you would expect. Duncan J. Watts, sociologist and Yahoo! Principal Researcher, explains the benefits and limitations of common sense and looks closely at how common-sense reasoning can be misleading. His book Everything You Know Is Obvious once You Know the Answer draws on the latest scientific research and real-life examples to show how common sense attempts to predict, manage, and manipulate social and economic systems often fail, and looks at the implications in politics, business and everyday life.

If you have a question about common sense, or some examples of when it works and when it fails, call us at 646-829-3985, or leave a comment.

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