Remembering Vincent Liff
Commentator Murray Horwitz remembers his friend, casting director Vincent Liff who died Wednesday of brain cancer at 52. Liff changed the face of Broadway by bringing more children, minorities and foreigners to the stage. His first success came in 1975, with the Broadway hit The Wiz. He went on to cast a string of long-running musicals and their national tours such as, Grease, Ain't Misbehavin', Dreamgirls, Cats, Miss Saigon, and The Producers.
Def White People
The embrace of African-American culture by whites has been going on for decades, according to commentator Leon Wynter. Wynter wrote a book about the subject, American Skin: Pop Culture, Big Business, and the End of White America. In it, he argues that racial integration in America has been achieved in the cultural marketplace, if nowhere else in the country. But he was not prepared for the white people who would read his book and assume that buying black culture means buying racial equality. He's not too sure what to make of these Def White People, who think that because they listen to Jay-Z, they do not partake of white privilege.
Commentator Nathaniel Comfort says today is the 50th anniversary of what may have been the most revolutionary misstatement in the history of science. Watson and Crick said they had found the secret to life. But Comfort says that it's a secret, but not the secret. So much of who we are isn't dictated by genes but by environment, and a computer couldn't possibly make a new you just because it had a record of your genome.
Six Feet Under
There's an old saying that goes like this: "There are no small parts, only small actors." Television writer Rick Cleveland knows that's just not true. He's written plenty of small parts, including one for a guy who dies of boredom during a bus tour on page three of the script. The actor who was cast had impressive credits in movies and on Broadway. Rick was embarrassed when they met.
The AOL Family
Commentator Andrei Codrescu describes an imaginary America Online household dealing with "spam," weird ads, all sorts of terrors and, when they log on, a series of mug shots of some notorious human beings. The imagined parents try to shield their young daughter from all this -- to no avail.
Germany and Iraq
NPR's senior news analyst Daniel Schorr says German opposition leader Angela Merkel has made recent speeches in Washington about her disagreement with Chancellor Schroeder's Iraq policies. Schorr says it's unusual for an opposition leader to attack a home government while on official visit abroad.
If you've ever passed a car with a booming stereo system, you know what bass sounds, and feels like. Noise ordinances in some cities, such as Cleveland and New York, are in place to try to tone it down. But Youth Radio's Andrew Howe says you just can't have music without the bass.
Commentator Marion Winik realizes that although her husband died nine years ago, his likeness is very much alive in her son.
Medical Trial Recruitment
Back before the VaxGen trial started, commentator Joe Wright worked for a government-sponsored HIV vaccine trial network as a community educator. Later, he was on VaxGen's community advisory board. When VaxGen was recruiting volunteers for their trial, they mainly signed up white, gay men. Today, the company tries to point to a hint of good news in what remains mostly bad news: The vaccine might work in some minorities, but it's hard to tell because there were so few minorities in the study. Wright says that we know that diversity is important for democracy and for fulfilling the potential of our society. We're reminded today that it's also important for science.
Commentator Holly Rossi noticed that many day spas are advertising more than pore-minimizing and massages, they also are offering spirituality. One big spa has a "spiritual awareness coordinator" on staff. But can a seaweed wrap really convey spirituality?
Saddam and Bush
NPR's Daniel Schorr says Saddam Hussein may be repeating his 1990 mistake of under-estimating the resolve of a President named Bush.
Cancer Diagnosis Brings Unsolicited Advice
A diagnosis of cancer can lead to life changes -- deeper religious commitment or more time spent with family. But commentator Heather King found that illness also makes for some awkward social interactions.
Commentator Andrei Codrescu ponders how we hide our feelings. In the light of a looming war, he wonders if that impulse will serve us well.
Oil and Oysters
When the oil tanker Prestige sank three months ago, people on Europe's Atlantic coast waited and worried as the oil came ashore. Commentator Nancy Coons witnesses the impact of the oil on the community of oysterers in France's Bay of Arcachon.
Having a boyfriend is a multimedia experience in a new poem titled "Remote Control" by Alicia Zakon. Alicia Zakon comes to us through Youth Radio (www.youthradio.org). Alicia performs with Youth Speaks, a spoken-word poetry project in San Francisco (www.youthspeaks.org).
The Weeping Buddha
In The Weeping Buddha, a new mystery by Heather Dune Macadam, a police detective investigating a murder finds clues to an older case, the disappearance of a friend who vanished many years earlier. But the plot of the novel isn't entirely fiction. It's based
on Heather Macadam's own experience with a friend who disappeared almost 20
years ago. She's found that basing a novel on people she knows could complicate her real life.
The Weeping Buddha is published by Akashic Books.
Last week, we heard an argument that the United Nations Security Council is the wrong place to look for legitimacy before a military action, although the U.N. is excellent for humanitarian and redevelopment efforts after a war. Now, we hear the opposite view from commentator Peter Gershwin: Security Council agreement is essential for legitimization of an attack on Iraq.
NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr says the president has short-changed homeland defense efforts, instead focusing on a low-cost method to protect against potential attacks: duct tape.
Commentator Elissa thinks she's earned the trust of a patient only to learn she's wrong. Both patient and doctor feel betrayed.
In 1997, the Food and Drug Administration relaxed the rules governing the advertising of prescription drugs. Since then, ads for Claritin, Prilosec, and other drugs have filled TV and magazine ad space. They are easily recognizable -- the FDA requires disclaimers and mention of side effects. Lately, commentator Michael Alvear has noticed commercials that looks just like those drug ads, but they aren't selling a prescription drug. They pitch an herbal supplement that promises "male enhancement."
Commentator Jane Gennaro wonders why love often means possession of another person. She remembers her first Valentine gift from a childhood boyfriend -- a box of candy -- and how she wanted it all. But her mother made her share. She thinks relationships often trigger the same feelings in people: give me all, all, all!
Kevin Kling thinks about power tools, procreating shrimp, cars, and Kafka's skull -- all in the name of love.
Friday, the world's attention will turn to the United Nations, where chief weapons inspector Hans Blix is set to give his latest presentation on the state of Iraq's disarmament. Secretary of State Colin Powell is planning to attend the session -- an indication of how seriously the White House is taking the report. Commentator Ken Adelman argues that the U.N. is not the right forum for deciding whether to attack Iraq -- but that it has a very important role to play after any fighting has stopped.
On a sunny Louisiana winter day, commentator Ed Cullen is working in his garden when some young girls ride by on their new fancy bicycles. It gives him pause to think about the vitality and freedom of youth.
NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr argues that NATO is being weakened by France and Germany's persistent challenges to the use of military force against Iraq.
Commentator Aaron Freeman would like to pay tribute to a very important player in his family's history: a mule. When his sharecropping grandmother met her future husband, the thing she found most attractive about him was that he had a mule. She knew that a mule would add to their ability to grow cotton and travel to town. The mule allowed the family to make enough money to open a business and educate their children, which made Aaron's mother curious enough about the world that she married a man with a car - and moved to Chicago. Aaron has traveled the world, instead of living in rural poverty, all because of the mule.
An At-Risk Baby
Recently, commentator and midwife Joan Combellick went to work -- and was surprised. She went in to the hospital to deliver the baby of a 15-year-old who had no support and seemed to have little interest in being a mother. "At Risk" was written in big letters next to her name on the delivery list. But the teenager rose to the occasion -- she had brought baby clothes, blankets and diapers and seemed more prepared for the birth and parenting than Joan had thought possible.
Hollis Speer Gillespie is a flight attendant. She finds that she's in demand for her skills as an interpreter, as well, in Germany. This is odd, because she can barely bumble her way through the language, let alone speak it fluently.
Bush Domestic Agenda
NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr says the President is having difficulty rallying support for his new budget that will significantly reduce social programs and shift costs to cash-strapped states.
Television commentator Cynthia Fuchs says that while two high profile new cop shows, Dragnet and Kingpin, are getting all the attention, there are other badges worth watching on TV. Fox's Fastlane and FX's The Shield have some surprising new approaches to race relations and institutional corruption.
A Seuss-Like Look at the Iraq Issue
Using Dr. Seuss's Green Eggs and Ham as a model, humorist Jay Klusky offers a child-friendly interpretation of the ongoing conflict between the Bush administration and Saddam (I am) Hussein.
Kevin Kling: The Girl with the Bat
Storyteller Kevin Kling remembers being young and in great fear of a young girl with a baseball bat. The story turns to thoughts of war, Vietnam draft-dodging and friendship.
Commentator Stephen Kuusisto recalls a night in his childhood when he and some friends broke into an abandoned farmhouse in western New York state. The evening is tinged with anxiety about going to fight in the Vietnam War, since the boys all are teenagers.
Ten Pivotal Days
In light of Secretary of State Colin Powell's presentation to the U.N. Security Council today, NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr says the next 10 days will be a pivotal time for the country and the world.
Getting Revenge on Telemarketers
Telemarketing agencies often invoke free speech in defending their right to call you just as you're picking up the dinner fork -- though earlier this year, at least one company promised to change its "cold calling" tactics. Commenator Tom Mabe makes a living turning the tables on telemarketers -- at least that's how he sees it. He waits for companies to call his number, then plays pranks on them. He then records his jokes and sells them on CD. Now that cold-calling is being phased out, he's worried.
NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr says that the wave of vulnerability felt by Americans since Sept. 11 has affected how they and the Bush administration react to national disaster.
Commentator Andrei Codrescu is in New York City and walks in on a meeting of young radicals toasting Old Communists. He notes the fact that old commies never say "die." They just die. He listens to them, believing some of the conversations may have started in the 19th century.
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