Friday's Show

The Road Not Taken

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood . . .” Those are the first words to Robert Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken." One hundred years after their publication, Frost’s immortal lines remain unbelievably popular. The poem seems straightforward enough: it's about boldly living outside conformity, right? Wrong, says poetry columnist David Orr. He says nearly everyone hopelessly misreads Frost's poem. Orr joins us Friday as we explore the meaning of "The Road Not Taken" and the history behind it. [Rebroadcast]
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At one time, Rome was just an insignificant village in central Italy. At its height, it was, as renowned classicist Mary Beard points out, a sprawling imperial metropolis of more than a million people that served as the capital for a vast empire. Beard says ancient Rome is important because it underpins Western culture and politics, and in a new book she chronicles how the Republic grew, persisted, and declined by exploring how the Romans thought of themselves. She joins us Thursday to talk about it. (Rebroadcast)

Journalist Lesley Hazleton says that if you want to understand headlines from the Middle East today, you have to understand the story of Islam’s first civil war. When the prophet Muhammad died, factions in the young faith became embroiled in a succession crisis. The power grabs, violence, and political machinations resulted in the schism between Sunni and Shia. Hazleton joins Doug to tell the story of Islam’s sectarian divide and to explain how that history influences current events. [Rebroadcast]

Where does genius come from? Some people say geniuses are born, or that they’re made by thousands of hours of work. But what if genius is actually grown, like a plant? Travel writer Eric Weiner has scanned the globe and come to exactly that conclusion. He says genius arises in clumps at particular places and times when certain ingredients are present. Think Ancient Greece, 14th-century Florence, or modern-day Silicon Valley. Weiner joins us Tuesday to explain his theory of the geography of genius. [Rebroadcast]

Taber Andrew Bain via CC/Flickr, http://bit.ly/1SVrd1W

In a new book, legal scholar Mehrsa Baradaran argues that America has two systems for personal banking. The rich have personal bank accounts at brick-and-mortar businesses, while the poor either don’t bank at all or rely on payday lenders and check cashers that charge exorbitant rates and fees. The result, Baradaran says, is a sadly ironic situation where “the less money you have, the more you pay to use it.” She joins us Monday to explain how we got into this mess, and how we might get out of it. [Rebroadcast]

Meet Me in Atlantis

Jul 15, 2016

Around 360 BC, the Greek philosopher Plato wrote about a marvelous city that disappeared millennia earlier. Atlantis is one of the world’s great unsolved mysteries, despite the efforts of scholars, amateur sleuths, psychics, and conspiracy theorists. The journalist Mark Adams went on his own quest - not to find Atlantis itself, but to understand the people searching for it. Friday, he joins us to talk about the sunken city and the place it holds in our imagination. [Rebroadcast]

The Mormon Jesus

Jul 14, 2016

Did you know that in the 1850s some Mormons argued that Jesus was married and had children? Or that even today, there’s LDS theology around Jesus Christ that leads Evangelicals to say The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints isn’t really Christian? Thursday, scholar John Turner is Doug’s guest. He’s written a book called The Mormon Jesus and he joins us to discuss how the LDS concept of Jesus Christ has changed over time, and what it reveals about Mormonism in American religious life.

Greg Westfall (cropped), via CC/Flickr, https://goo.gl/GWoald

For years, Daniel Kunitz lived the life of the mind. His body though “became a trash depot.” Then he started running, which led to swimming, weightlifting, and eventually CrossFit. His health and his life steadily improved. Kunitz’s personal quest got him wondering how fitness culture has changed through the years. Why were the Greeks so buff? Why do guys do dumbbell curls? How have women changed exercise as we know it? Kunitz joins us to share what he’s learned about the evolution of fitness.

Trump and Me

Jul 12, 2016

In 1996, New Yorker staff writer Mark Singer was assigned a profile of Manhattan businessman Donald Trump, and it wasn’t long before Singer realized this was no ordinary subject. The piece has been called one of the best pre-campaign portraits of Trump there is, but Trump wasn’t impressed. He wrote Singer a note to call him A TOTAL LOSER whose WRITING SUCKS! Well, Singer’s at it again with a book that revisits his deeply reported, psychological portrait, and he joins us Tuesday to talk about it.

Major James B Pond, University of Virginia Library, http://bit.ly/2a0uRqV

Monday, we’re telling the story of what author Richard Zacks calls Mark Twain’s “raucous and redemptive round-the-world comedy tour.” Twain was once America’s highest paid writer, but he was also a remarkably bad businessman. In 1895, with his career on the rocks and with what today would be millions in debt, Twain embarked on a 5-continent speaking tour he hoped would save him. Zacks joins Doug to talk about Twain’s wildly popular humor, his missteps, and what drove his quest for redemption.

Historian Pamela Haag says there’s a mythology around American gun culture. The conventional wisdom is that since the Revolutionary War we’ve had some primal bond with our firearms. But Haag argues that our guns were once just another tool of everyday life, and that the gun industry convinced us we needed to be armed. In a new book, she follows the rise of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company and the marketing campaign she says created our gun culture. Haag joins us Friday to tell the story. (Rebroadcast)

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Monday's Show

The Mormon Struggle for Whiteness

Monday, we're joined by University of Utah professor Paul Reeve to talk about his book Religion of a Different Color. In it, he explores how America's Protestant white majority characterized Mormons as racial outsiders in the 19th century. Protestants were convinced that members of the country's newest religion were not merely a theological departure from the mainstream, they were racially and physically different. Medical doctors even supported the claim. Reeve says the LDS church responded to those attacks with aspirations for whiteness that may have been a little too successful. (Rebroadcast)
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VideoWest

Gerda: Downhill From There

Gerda Saunders has progressive dementia. We followed her to her doctor's office, where she had her latest memory evaluation. The results have given her a sense of urgency, and oddly, relief.

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