The Colin McEnroe Show

The Colin McEnroe Show, hosted by Colin McEnroe, is looking for your phone calls and comments. Got an idea for a show? Know someone you'd love to hear Colin talk to? You can stream us live. While we are live, call us at (860) 275-7266, or email us at colin@wnpr.org. We're also on Twitter @wnprcolin.




Contact producers:

The executive producer is Catie Talarski. The digital editor is Heather Brandon.

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In his book Classical Cooks, Hartt professor Ira Braus explores the link between musical and culinary taste. This hour, he joins us to explain the relationship that composers had with food, and the impact this had on their musical output. Were some of your favorite symphonies and operas inspired by some fatty meats or tasty sweets? Join us to find out.

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Why do we vote the way we do? The easy answer, of course, is that we pick the politician whose values, beliefs and opinions most closely resemble our own. But while that does play a part, there are other, less obvious influences as well.

It turns out that much of why we make the voting decisions we do comes from our subconscious: biases we hold towards things like a candidate's height, weight, looks, tone of voice, and even choice of clothes. Campaigns have known this for years and, with every vote being fiercely sought, have employed a variety of tactics to make their candidate appeal to parts of our psyche we're not even aware of.

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There is a lot of news about the fallibility of memory. Brian Williams is currently out of the NBC Nightly News anchor chair because of problems with some of his war stories. Coincidentally, Maria Konnikova wrote about "flashbulb memories" for the NewYorker.com, which is what Williams' problems may be attributed to.

This weekend, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals granted a request to review the case of Adnan Syed. His conviction of murdering his ex-girlfriend was the subject of the podcast Serial, but in many ways was also about memory.

In many high schools over the last few decades, students have been introduced to author Harper Lee through her debut and only novel To Kill A Mockingbird. Many people never expected a follow-up book but last week, it was announced that Go Set A Watchman will be released later this year.

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Our plan, from the  beginning, for today’s episode of The Nose had been to ask the panelists to see “American Sniper” and then discuss this unusual movie – unusual because director Clint Eastwood’s intention was to make an anti-war statement but the movie has been embraced far more ardently by boosters of the Iraq conflict.

By the numbers, it’s a surprising story. “American Sniper” grossed a quarter of a billion dollars in the month of January. Released on December 25, it’s capable of becoming 2014’s highest grossing film, although it would have to catch the latest “Hunger Games” iteration.

Eggstrordinary Eggs!

Feb 5, 2015
Shawn Zamechek / Creative Commons

Just about all of us eat eggs and when we say that, we mean chicken eggs. But, there are all kinds of other eggs you can eat. I cook occasionally with duck eggs and I've tasted goose and quail.

Today on the show, we talk to a farmer who ranches exotic eggs, including emu, and a chef who cooks with them.

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I get to talk to a lot of remarkable people and still I tell you that you're about to hear a conversation with one of the most remarkable people I've encountered in five years. 

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People have been predicting the death of the sitcom since at least 1999, but the current TV season has been so toxic towards them that some observers have wondered whether the sitcom, which has been around since the birth of television, has anything left to say to us. But then again, what is a sitcom? Do sitcoms have to air on network television? Do they have to have a laugh track? Or fill a half-hour time slot? Do they even have to be comedies?

This hour, we consider the art form of the sitcom with producers and critics of the genre. What is your favorite sitcom and what makes it your favorite?

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I know what you're asking yourself. You're thinking, I know the Colin McEnroe staff is amazing, but how do they manage to book two big celebrities with the same initials?

Well, you're right. They are awesome. but we did not actually hatch a plan to have guests with the initials M.B. Anyway, we already did a long interview with Michael Bolton. 

At the end of last year, I had a conversation with food writer Mark Bittman, whom I've known since the earliest days of his career. We've been looking for a chance to share that interview with you.

Then we got a chance to talk to Mike Birbiglia, a comedian and teller of monologues who has been on with us twice before.

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On the Nose this hour: pre-watching Super Bowl ads.

Super Bowl advertisers have forced us (conned us?) to live in their world, not just for Sunday, but for days spreading in either direction. This piece explains how, in 2011, a VW ad was released on the YouTube's days in advance of the game and went viral, setting the stage for what we have now: a protracted debate about various ads. You probably have to, on YouTube, sometimes watch an ad so you can watch an ad.

Today, that 2011 ad has 61 million views on YT. Those are people volunteering to watch it, as opposed to people waiting for the game to resume.

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Toronto-based engineers Cameron Robertson and Todd Reichert set out to achieve the impossible: to build the ever first human-powered helicopter. Decades of attempts by aeronautical engineers had proved unsuccessful. But for Robertson and Reichert, that was no deterrent. 

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Here's my favorite one. Eighty-four percent of Frenchmen rate themselves as above average lovers. Ninety-three percent of young drivers in another survey said they were above average. And, 68% of the faculty at the University of Nebraska place themselves in the top 25%.

All of those numbers reflect misplaced confidence. It seems to be genetically wired into us in certain ways.

Puzzles: The Joy of Being Perplexed

Jan 27, 2015
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People have been puzzled since the beginning. And while that might sound like a problem, it may in fact be our preferred state of being. Since the first fires needed to be lit with tinder too damp to kindle, we've been problem solving. When one problem was solved, another was found. And when seemingly, we could no longer find enough problems to satiate our appetites, we created puzzles: problems in a box; food for our minds.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

We decided to bow to reality, and make this hour all about getting ready for the storm. You’ve heard about the storm, right? We begin today with NBC Connecticut meteorologist Ryan Hanrahan, and find out why this particular storm has his profession in such a lather.

Then we move on to what most -- ideally all -- of you will be doing from Monday night through Wednesday morning: staying put.

Culture critic Linda Holmes and I will discuss some viewing recommendations. Watch them until the power goes out. If and when that happens, maybe you’ll still be able to read. You’ve still got time to add to your e-reader or physically pick up some of the books our final guest John Warner and I will be discussing. Warner is one of the commentators in a March tournament of literary fiction.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

This hour, we talk about two Connecticut dance halls, each springing from the vision of two very different men who took their respective dance halls down very different paths. One's dream soared, bringing thousands of concert-goers to over 3,000 acts over an eleven-year history. The other's dream stalled, his elaborate dance hall sitting idle for decades.

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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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.”

Fire: Sparking Imagination Since Two Million B.C.

Jan 14, 2015
BriSaEr / Flickr Creative Commons

Things burn: Our environments, resources, and all forms of monument to self. And since the beginning, so too has our imagination. The inspiration humans have drawn from fire throughout the millennia is as impressive as it is immeasurable. Why fire occupies such an elemental place in the creative wellsprings of our consciousness is certainly a debate to had.

The Spice of Life

Jan 13, 2015
Sarah Marlowe / Creative Commons

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.

Aurelien Guichard / Creative Commons

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.

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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.

Andrew Turner / Creative Commons

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. 

Mark Wyman / Creative Commons

The year is off to a tumultuous and sad start. Some New York Police Department officers continued their protest of Mayor Bill de Blasio at a funeral for a fallen colleague and reducing arrests for minor offenses. The protest is entering what Matt Taibbi described as "surreal territory." We also remember the iconic ESPN sportscaster Stuart Scott, who died Sunday. Finally, we discuss the news out of New Haven that The Anchor served its last drink this weekend.

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"Molly" is the nickname for MDMA, or Ecstasy, and it's short for "Molecule", meaning you're getting the "real thing", chemically speaking. Except you almost never do. On this show, we'll talk about the dangers of Molly, the medical uses of MDMA, and the curious romance between the drug and the form of music known as EDM, Electronic Dance Music.

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If you've ever watched "Nashville," you've heard the songwriting of "Big Al" Anderson. If you've ever listened to the band NRBQ (The New Rhythm and Blues Quartet), you've heard him loud and clear. And if you tune into this show, you'll hear this Windsor native and Jim Chapdelaine perform live, talk about the craft of songwriting for himself and for other people, defining an era with "No Good to Cry" with his band, Wildweeds, and more!

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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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