Profiles

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)

Bonnie & Clyde

Jan 18, 2016

When Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were laid to rest in May of 1934, thousands of people thronged to get a glimpse of the notorious outlaws. Bonnie and Clyde had robbed banks and businesses in a half-dozen states, and their gang killed at least four men. They may have been small time compared to other criminals of the day, but many Americans were transfixed by Bonnie and Clyde’s dramatic romance. Filmmaker John Maggio explores their story in a new PBS documentary and he joins us Monday.

Custer's Trials

Jan 11, 2016

Even in his lifetime, George Armstrong Custer was controversial. He was ambitious and flamboyant as well as courageous and talented. Though largely remembered for his death at the Little Bighorn, T.J. Stiles' paints a fuller picture of Custer's colorful and complicated life. Stiles says Custer lived at a “frontier in time.” He helped usher in the modern American era, but couldn't quite adapt to the modernity he helped create.  Stiles joins us Monday to talk about his new book "Custer's Trials."

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. Tuesday, Hazleton joins Doug to tell the story of Islam’s sectarian divide and to explain how that history influences current events.

 

  Mary Norris has spent more than three decades in The New Yorker's copy editing department, maintaining the magazine’s high standards for grammar, punctuation, and style. In a new book, she shares her vast knowledge, good cheer, and sharp pencil with the rest of us. It’s partly a book of practical advice on language usage, and it also offers a peek inside the hallowed halls of one of the world’s most important publications. Norris joins us Wednesday to share what she's learned as a self-proclaimed "comma queen." [Rebroadcast]

Janis: Little Girl Blue

Janis Joplin is one of the most revered and iconic rock & roll singers of all time. She’s also a tragic and misunderstood performer who blazed new creative trails before she died in 1971 at age 27. Virtually every female rocker since claims Joplin as an influence. In a new documentary, filmmaker Amy Berg explores Joplin’s singular, complicated, but often beleaguered life. Berg joins us Monday to offer new understanding of a complex woman whose meteoric rise and sudden demise changed music forever.

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