Colin McEnroe


Colin McEnroe hosts the daily WNPR show, The Colin McEnroe Show. He is a weekly columnist and blogger for The Hartford Courant and a contributing editor at Men's Health. He has recently concluded a series of columns for Bicycling magazine.

He is the author of three books and one play; and his work has appeared on the New York Times Op-Ed Page and in Mirabella, Best Life, Cosmopolitan, Forbes FYI and Mademoiselle. It is not his fault that only one of those magazines still exists. He frequently moderates the Connecticut Forum and teaches media studies at Trinity College. His books, columns, magazine articles and radio shows have won numerous awards, all of which are in boxes somewhere.

There are times when he still can’t believe it’s not butter. 

Ways to Connect

An Ode to Opera

Jan 22, 2015
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In 2012, the New York City Opera -- what Mayor LaGuardia called "the People's Opera" -- declared bankruptcy. This is/was the opera that introduced Americans to Placido Domingo and Beverly Sills. Make what you will of the fact that the bankruptcy announcement coincided with the presentation of a new opera about Anna Nicole Smith.

This is either a problem very specific to the New York Opera, or part of a virus that has been taking down opera companies all over the U.S. and maybe all over the world. In Italy, where opera receives much more public and government support, one fourth of all major opera companies were in a version of bankruptcy as of 2008.

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If you want to reach people, sing to them, and make them sing. Experience tells us that singing changes people's relationships to reality, maybe even getting them ready to experience pain in a protest march.

Here's a term that was new to me anyway: "Collective Effervescence". It was coined by the sociologist Emile Durkheim to describe a lot of things, including the state we might achieve if we all got together and sang a song about our political aims. You see this in times of protest, from the streets of Ferguson to the streets around Tahrir Square. When people sing, or hear someone else sing, it activates them.

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There is a simple formula for restoring respect for democracy and other American institutions: just study everything that happens in Bridgeport and do the opposite.

On our weekly news roundtable The Wheelhouse, Colin McEnroe guest-hosts with check-ins on Bridgeport, New London County, and Hartford. 

The capital city is part of a different formula: study how Hartford runs elections and do the opposite. Also, don't park in a handicap spot, especially if you're a lawmaker using your official state plates.

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The Oxford Dictionary word of the year for 2014 is vape. I can get behind that. It's a word that describes something a lot of people are doing and it really did come of age in the last 12 months. The American Dialect Society, not so much. Their controversial word of the year is #blacklivesmatter, which is not a word or even close to being one word.

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Academy Awards are not intrinsically important; therefore, Academy Award nominations are not intrinsically important, but these things are great moments for starting conversations and taking stock. They work pretty well as mass cultural Rorschach blots, and as is the case with many things, the ways in which they make us unhappy are probably the greatest source of interest.  

Earlier today, Julianne Moore got an Oscar nomination for "Still Alice." She is by far the betting favorite to win the best actress award. But you may remember her better as Franny Hughes Crawford on "As The World Turns." And four or five years before Ellen said "I'm gay," Bill Douglas came out as a gay teenager on One Life to Live. That character was played by Ryan Philippe. In fact, Leo DiCaprio, Maria Tomei, Tommy Lee Jones, Parker Posey, Kevin Bacon, Meg Ryan, they all worked on soaps before they moved on. 

Now there are only four soap operas left – drawn out, dramatic stories that used to be sponsored by soap manufacturers, and now are struggling to maintain relevance to house wives who have a lot more options in the middle of the day. We'll talk about this slice of Americana with those in the industry, and a professor who co-directs “Project Daytime.”

The Spice of Life

Jan 13, 2015
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The word spice has a kind of urgency. You don't need spice but historically, it's something people wanted enough to travel long, unfamiliar routes to find and bring back. We're going to talk about the lust for spice that helped open up trade and colonization. It's not just the taste or the smell - it was status and a class marker. One was either the sort of family that had turmeric or one was not.

Today on the show, we talk about the history of spice and about its present. It hasn't stopped, in certain quarters, being a luxury item and a status marker.

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Today on the Scramble, we talk to two cartoonists about the road ahead from the Charlie Hebdo massacre. I'm still wrestling with some of my own questions about what this story means to the world of satire, which I consider vitally important to the health of the world.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Later in the show, we discuss this essay in praise of the conventional office life, but first, Colin writes: 

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What is it we salute when we salute the flag of Jeopardy?

I really don't know the answer nor do I know how to put it in the form of a question.

There are some obvious answers. Jeopardy celebrates competence. It acknowledges the idea there are things worth knowing and that people who know them deserve a slightly different status than people who don't.

In 1954, Roger Bannister did the previously unthinkable. He ran a mile in under four minutes. Six weeks later, his chief rival John Landy, did the same thing, and bettered Bannister's performance.

Thirteen months later, three other runners broke four minutes. Bear in mind that this had been considered impossible for as long as there had been time-keeping at track meets.

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There's a mostly forgotten story by the mostly forgotten sci-fi writer, R.A. Lafferty. It's called, "What's The Name of That Town." We meet a team of scientists and an amusing sentiant computer examining clues that suggested something existed once upon a time and has now been erased.

It turns out to be the city of Chicago which has been obliterated in an accident so traumatic that the city's existence has been wiped from all records and from peoples actual memories. 

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It’s so hard to keep up on jazz, especially for the person with only a casual interest. That’s why, every year, critic Gene Seymour and some musicians get together on our show to talk about what they liked and why. On this show, pianists Noah Baerman and Jen Allen round out the panel.

SONGS (in order of appearance):

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One nice thing about the holidays is that David Edelstein, America's Greatest Living Film Critic, comes back to his hometown and joins us for a conversation about movies. Recently on Fresh Air, he told Terry Gross that 2014 was a "very, very depressing year for film because none of the great material came from Hollywood studios."

Which are you? The kind of person who can't wait to talk about Serial? Or the kind of person who doesn't do it, doesn't get it, and dreads having other people bring it up? The former sort of person was summed up by a recent New Yorker cartoon that showed a woman on a city sidewalk, flagging down a fellow pedestrian and saying "Excuse me, do you have a minute to talk about the latest episode of 'Serial'?"

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It's just unthinkable to me that "Why Can't It Be Christmas Time All Year" is not a classic, and a staple of holiday music. But it's not. In fact, you've probably never heard of it or Rosie Thomas, who recorded it. And that helps explain why it has been 20 years since any song became a mainstream hit. "All I Want For Christmas Is You", released by Mariah Carey in 1994, did what is now impossible - it survived its first season, and became a song that is played every year during the holidays, and performed by other people. It got a big boost, of course, from the movie "Love Actually", but that's not the only reason it stuck around. But 20 years is a long time to go without another success in that department.

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It doesn't really even make any sense what has happened at the Goodspeed Opera House every since  Michael Price took over the late 1960s. East Haddam, which is conveniently located near absolutely nothing, has played host to Mike Nichols, Idina Menzel, Jerry Herman, Mark Hamill, Kristin Chenoweth, Sutton Foster, Julie Andrews...I could go on.

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Which are you? The kind of person who can't wait to talk about Serial? Or the kind of person who doesn't do it, doesn't get it, and dreads having other people bring it up? The former sort of person was summed up by a recent New Yorker cartoon that showed a woman on a city sidewalk, flagging down a fellow pedestrian and saying "Excuse me, do you have a minute to talk about the latest episode of 'Serial'?"

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Let me set the stage a little: A movie called "The Imitation Game" will be released nationwide Christmas day, the latest of several attempts to tell the story of Alan Turing. That story is so big, it can only be told in little pieces.

The piece most people focus on is Turing's work as the single most important code breaker in World War 2, the man who built a machine that broke apart the deeply encrypted Nazi code, and then gave the Allies an advantage that they were forced to conceal.

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Legend holds that years after the the Hartford Convention, a visitor from the South was touring the Old State House and asked to be shown the room where the Convention met. Ushered into the Senate chamber, the southerner looked at the crimson in the face of George Washington in the Gilbert Stuart portrait hanging here and said, "I'll be damned if he's got the blush off yet.

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Thomas Moore was, for 13 years, a Servite monk. In 1992, he burst onto the national scene with "Care of the Soul", which combined the psychotherapeutic of Jung and James Hillman with ancient and contemporary religious and spiritual ideas. It was number 1 on the New York Times best seller list, and stayed on the list for a year.

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Hollywood sometimes has an image problem and recently leaked emails from Sony executives are not helping that image. Responses from some of those executives, including filmmaker Aaron Sorkin, may actually be making it even worse. 

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Pope Francis changed our plans for The Nose today when it was revealed informally that the souls of animals may go to heaven. In fairness, the Pope was consoling a boy whose dog had died but nonetheless, the pronouncement kicked off a larger conversation that ranged from the outreach Christian wing of PETA - who knew there was one - to the National Pork Producers Council.  

Chion Wolf

Botox was first approved for medical use 25 years ago. It's famous as a quickie cosmetic fix but new uses pop up all the time.

Today, Botox applications are being tried for MS, Parkinson's Disease, migraines, bladder problems, profuse sweating and TMJ.

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Casting is an underrated art. There used to be an Academy Award for it, and there probably still should be. We honor actors, but not the people who pick the perfect actor for the role, so that actor doesn't have to act quite so much.

"Downton Abbey" is immaculately cast, and the choice of Elizabeth McGovern to play Cora, the Countess of Grantham, seems especially nuanced and inspired. Cora is an American Jew, a transplant to English nobility, who wears all the status and tradition comfortably without fully buying into it. McGovern herself is a transplant, married to a British director for 22 years, long enough to slip effortlessly into Cora's skin.

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The Scramble reacts to new developments in the University of Virginia case of alleged sexual assault and Rolling Stone’s concern about some its reporting. 

Then there's a second magazine story: what’s behind the mass -- and we do mean mass -- resignations at The New Republic. Most of its full-time staff and stable of contributing editors quit on the same day. Why?

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We. Are. Obsessed. When you watch the news, scroll through Facebook, check in on Twitter, everybody always seems to be talking about the same things: From Peter Pan to Bill Cosby, from cronuts to Kardashians, from Michael Brown to Serial, we are increasingly collectively obsessed. What's behind that? Speaking of obsessions, we'll also take a long look at hate-watching last night's live Peter Pan on NBC, and how they dealt with Native American stereotypes.

Chion Wolf

I got interested in this topic last year when the Yale Medical School got a $10 million Blavatnik grant for more work in the specific area of  Immunobiology.

Chion Wolf

In a recent essay in the New York Review of Books, Tim Parks contrasted E.L. James, who wrote "50 Shades of Grey," with Haruki Murakami, a more critically-acclaimed literary novelist. Parks wrote that  both addressed "the individuals need to negotiate the most intimate relationships in order to get the most from life without losing independence and selfhood." Wow.

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First and foremost, we're really sorry about the Wally Lamb cell phone connection. Do not adjust your radio (or streaming device).

It's the usual three-ring circus on the Scramble today starting with the five players for the St. Louis Rams who put their hands up in a "Don't Shoot" gesture during their introductions for Sunday's game. That gesture, of course, has become part of the iconography of the Ferguson Missouri story, and we talk to ESPN the Magazine's Howard Bryant about the role athletes play in raising consciousness and defying conventional news narratives.