Profiles

The Witches of Salem

Feb 25, 2016

It started in the year 1692, in Salem, Massachusetts, during an exceptionally cold winter, when a minister’s daughter began to scream and convulse. Less than a year later, 19 men and women had been executed as a result of the Salem witch trials. In a new book, the writer Stacy Schiff examines what she calls America’s tiny reign of terror, which affected every rung of Salem’s Puritan society. She joins us to explore the events of 1692 and the curious ways they shaped our world today. (Rebroadcast)

Tuesday, we’re telling the story of the incredible life and work of naturalist Alexander von Humboldt. At the turn of the 19th century, Humboldt trekked across Latin America, exploring rain forests, mapping rivers, and climbing volcanoes. The journey led him to a groundbreaking vision of nature and a prediction of human-induced climate change. Doug’s guest is historian Andrea Wulf, whose new book combines biography and science to remember the man she calls the father of the environmental movement. (Rebroadcast)

(T)ERROR

Feb 19, 2016

Friday, we're profiling a documentary film that exposes the government’s controversial domestic counterterrorism tactics. The filmmakers behind (T)ERROR were on the ground as Saeed Torres, an aging Black revolutionary turned informant, aided the FBI in an active sting operation. Torres is just one of a growing number of covert operatives in America who straddle the murky line between preventing crimes and inciting them. Director David Sutcliffe joins us to talk about his film. (Rebroadcast)

The Hour of Peril

Feb 15, 2016
Harper's Magazine, March 9, 1861

Monday, we're telling the astonishing story of a plot to kill Abraham Lincoln on the way to his first inaugural. Our guest is biographer Daniel Stashower, who says the President-elect hadn't even left Illinois when the threats started to arrive. In 1861, it was hard for Lincoln to believe that political hatred could lead to murder. Legendary detective Allan Pinkerton believed though and it was his team of operatives that raced to thwart the "Baltimore Plot." (Rebroadcast)

Saint Augustine is one of Christianity’s most influential figures, and yet his path to sainthood was wayward. For his first 30 years, Augustine studied rhetoric, Gnosticism, and philosophy, all the while indulging in lust and greed. He struggled to understand the nature and world of God. In a new book, historian Robin Lane Fox explores how Augustine's quest for knowledge and faith led him to Christianity and celibacy. Fox joins us Monday to discuss Augustine’s journey from conversion to The Confessions.

Frank Zappa wasn’t just a musician, bandleader, and self-taught composer who released more than 60 albums in less than three decades. He was also a passionate and outspoken proponent of free expression. Filmmaker Thorsten Schutte has made a new documentary that draws from Zappa’s numerous interviews and TV appearances, using the iconic musician’s own words to explore his unique career and provocative opinions. Schutte joins us Thursday as we continue our coverage of the Sundance Film Festival.

  Filmmaker Will Allen was 22 when he joined a community of people led by a man named Michel. Allen says at first he seemed elegant and smart and he promised them enlightenment. But it became clear Michel was a megalomaniac and he was soon leading by manipulation, paranoia, and abuse. As the group fell apart, Allen knew he had to find a way out of what he came to realize was a cult. Wednesday, he and former member Christopher Johnston join Doug to talk about the Sundance documentary HOLY HELL.

Wayne Miller

Friday, we’re talking about the life of poet and activist Maya Angelou. A new documentary premiering at Sundance tells the story of Angelou’s journey past racism and abuse to become one of our greatest voices. But filmmaker Rita Coburn Whack says she didn’t want this film to be just about what Angelou did in her life, but also about who she was and how she loved. Whack and co-director Bob Hercules join Doug to explain how Maya Angelou’s story gives us a sense of who we all are as Americans.

Thursday, we begin our coverage of the Sundance Film Festival with the story of John Hull. Hull went blind in 1983 and he knew that if he didn’t try to understand this massive change, it would defeat him. So he kept an audio diary of his experiences. While he may have appeared to be adjusting well on the surface, his tapes reveal a desperate inner struggle. Directors James Spinney and Peter Middleton will join us to discuss their innovative documentary about Hull’s journey to a “world beyond sight.”

Downwind

Jan 19, 2016

Tuesday, we’re talking about the effects of nuclear weapons on people who lived near uranium mines and downwind from testing sites during and after the Cold War. Historian Sarah Alisabeth Fox says that all wars happen where people live, grow their food and raise their children. So to understand what happened, she talked to ranchers, farmers, and housewives who suffered from cancer and economic ruin. Fox joins Doug to talk about “A People’s History of the Nuclear West.” (Rebroadcast)

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