Fresh Air

  • Hosted by Terry Gross

Opening the window on contemporary arts and issues with guests from worlds as diverse as literature and economics.

By now, viewers know what to expect from a David Simon drama. You expect an intense study of a precise location, as with Baltimore in The Wire and New Orleans in Treme. You expect flawed, fascinating and unforgettable characters — like Omar in The Wire, just to name one. And you expect the story to raise issues, especially about race and politics, that are unfortunately relevant to today.

Graphic artist and professor Phoebe Gloeckner had an unconventional upbringing. When she was 15, she lost her virginity to an older man — who also happened to be her mother's boyfriend. Gloeckner chronicled the experience in her teenage diaries, which she put aside and then revisited when she found them decades later.

"I remember I opened the box with the diaries and I was just stunned to start reading," Gloeckner tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "To hear this child's voice, kind of, talking to me as an adult, it felt like it was crying out to be heard."

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This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL")

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Some 30,000 African elephants die each year as a result of poaching, and many of their ivory tusks wind up hundreds or thousands of miles away. Investigative journalist Bryan Christy wanted to track the route of the poached tusks, so he commissioned a taxidermist to create two fake ivory tusks, which he embedded with specially designed tracking devices.

"These tusks ... operate really like additional investigators, like members of our team, and almost like a robocop," Christy tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross.

Lots of us are afraid to confront the things lurking in our basements. In mine, it's the spider crickets; in Denise Inge's, it was the bones, piles of human bones that reached almost to the ceiling of the stone cellar beneath her house.

With almost all the music you'd ever want to listen to available online digitally, the obsessive hunt for scratchy, fragile 78 RPM records may seem anachronistic. But author Amanda Petrusich says that those early records, which hold between two and three minutes of music per side, showcase the sound and spontaneity of a time before second takes were common in record studios.

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Fifty years ago, the Voting Rights Act outlawed literacy tests and other measures that had prevented African-Americans from voting. After its passage, Congress amended the act four times to increase its scope.

But in 2013, a Supreme Court decision blocked the act's enforcement provision, which opened the door for states to pass new voting restrictions. Journalist Ari Berman says that many of the new restrictions discriminate against poor people, young people and people of color.

Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:

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Jon Stewart hosts his last episode of Comedy Central's The Daily Show on Thursday, wrapping up a 16-year run in which he turned the once-obscure fake news show into a cultural phenomenon.

The Daily Show eviscerated politicians and media elites with video montages and Stewart's biting commentary, but in 2010 Stewart told Fresh Air's Terry Gross that the show made him more "emotional" than political.

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A just-published literary noir called "Dragonfish" puts a new spin on the old formula. Our book critic Maureen Corrigan has fallen hard for this tale of gamblers, dark alleys and dangerous dames. Here's her review.

Dolphins tend to strike a deep emotional chord in many people who encounter them. Famous for their intelligence and physical ability, there have been reports that the marine mammals have come to the rescue of humans at sea.

Writer Susan Casey tells Fresh Air's Dave Davies about an instance in which a scientist who was watching dolphins hunt noticed that they suddenly bolted for deeper water. He followed them and found that the dolphins had formed a circle.

Twenty-seven years ago, journalist Buzz Bissinger decided that he wanted to write about the big-time stakes of small-town high school football — he just needed to find the right town. At the suggestion of a college recruiter, he visited Odessa, a west Texas town with a high school football stadium capable of seating 19,000 — and a population of approximately 90,000.

"Odessa is just kind of a dusty, gritty place," Bissinger tells Fresh Air's Dave Davies. "And I see that stadium ... and it's like a rocket ship on the desert."

Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:

Jon Stewart, Faking It and Making It

Jul 31, 2015
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DAVE DAVIES, BYLINE: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies. Next week, Jon Stewart ends his 16-year run as host of "The Daily Show" on Comedy Central. A lot of "Daily Show" viewers share the sentiment expressed by President Obama when he made his seventh and final appearance on the show last week.

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Before Sarah Hepola got sober five years ago, she considered alcohol to be "the fuel of all adventure." These adventures included taking off her clothes in public, pouring beer on people's heads and waking up in strangers' beds. Frequently, Hepola didn't remember these incidents afterward because she had been in an alcohol-induced blackout.

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Animal trainer Teresa Ann Miller is used to working with furry performers, but she says the Hungarian film White God was especially challenging. "This wasn't necessarily a film with an animal in it," Miller tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "It was a dog leading the film and telling the story."

Directed by Kornél Mundruczó, White God tells the story of a mixed-breed dog, Hagen, who is abandoned alongside a highway and who then bands together with other discarded dogs to get revenge against the people who have mistreated them.

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Science journalist Anil Ananthaswamy thinks a lot about "self" — not necessarily himself, but the role the brain plays in our notions of self and existence.

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