The Scramble

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Before cyber-bullying was even a term, one person was experiencing it from the internet world mercilessly: Monica Lewinsky. Nearly twenty-years after her affair with President Bill Clinton was discovered and she became the internet's target, she is returning to public life. Last week, she gave a TED Talk and addressed the scandal and its aftermath directly.

Also, the City of Hartford is restoring damage to a well-known sculpture that was unknowingly marked by work crews with orange paint.

Finally this hour, a look at the new album by Kendrick Lamar, which has been the talk of the town among rap fans and critics alike.

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On Wednesday we find out the finalists for Hartford's new minor league baseball team. Will it be the Hartford Blue Frogs? How about the Hartford Honey Badgers? Do you like the Hartford Yard Goats better? I got it! How about the Hartford Huckleberries! What do you mean it's not on the list? 

This hour, lots of people call and tweet with their favorites. Take a listen. 

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Arthur Chu argues that Andrew Jackson is the worst president we've ever had, and his face should be removed from the $20 bill. For starters, Andrew Jackson removed about 46,000 Native Americans from their established homelands to make way for White settlement leaving a "Trail of Tears" of starvation, disease, and death.

That's just the beginning of a long line of horrors: he annexed Florida, executed militia members after the War of 1812, and dismantled the central bank to push wildcat banks. Maybe America has never been a paragon of the ideals we hold dear, and maybe America would rather forget our past than deal with it. 

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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.

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.

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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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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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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.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

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."

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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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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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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.

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On the Monday Scramble, we're all about helping you survive the holidays. 

Let's say you've got a long -- maybe eight hours! -- drive ahead of you. God forbid you should talk. So what will you listen to? Audiobook? Podcast? Music? We know this married couple, Amanda and Neil. She's mostly a musician. He's mostly a writer. This hour, we imagine that eight-hour drive and let each of them program four hours of it.

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Let's play a game. I'm going to name five things and you tell me what they are - "An Unnecessary Woman," "All the Light We Cannot See," "Redeployment," "Station Eleven," "Lila." They are the five fiction finalists for this year's National Book Award which will be given out this week.  Don't feel bad if you didn't get the answer - I wouldn't have either. My  connection to the nominees begins and ends with having picked up one of the five books from a table at - of all places - Whole Foods.

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First up on the Scramble today, writer and thinker Nicholas Carr, whose new book, "The Glass Cage" is about our blind surrender to automation. Most tellingly about the way we surrender (unthinkingly) control to sophisticated computer tools. 

You'll hear for instance, the story of a luxury cruise ship that ran aground on a sand bar because the GPS was spitting out wrong information and the entire crew ignored visual evidence that should have been a dead giveaway.

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Scandal is a theme today. 

One of our guests today is Anne Helen Petersen, who left academia to write full-time about celebrities and television and celebrity gossip.  One of the themes her first book, "Scandals of Classic Hollywood," is the history of Hollywood scandal so lets get my own theory out of the way. 

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Okay, I'm warning you. You're going to have to adjust the band on your thinking cap. Christian Bok, our first guest, is an experimental poet with some fascinating ideas, some of which will strike you as unfamiliar and maybe dissimilar to any other ideas you ever heard. In a nutshell, Bok is part of a small movement of thinkers and writers who want to revolutionize the way literature is produced, stored and consumed. For example, Bok has spent years trying to encode  a poem into the DNA of a bacterium able to survive extreme conditions, like vacuums.

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Talk to any demographer. Marriage is in irreversible decline. According to Isabel Sawhill, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of "Generation Unbound," 40% of young people are unmarried. Now, that doesn't mean people will stop getting married. You've been to a bunch of weddings this year. What it means is that marriage as a precondition to parenthood is no longer the established norm from which everything else is a deviation.

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We're back today after a one-week hiatus. 

Ben Nadaff-Hafrey is also back, this time as our Scramble SuperGuest.

We start today with a conversation about the embrace of U2 by Apple, and end with a chat about embraces in general.

So, leading off earlier this month, Apple had one of its special events. When people stop what they're doing to watch a big company roll out a new product, in this case the iPhone 6, Don Draper would be drooling in envy, right?

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On Sunday, the New York Times ran an article full of President Obama's behind-the scenes reflections and conversations about ISIS and the Middle East. From that article: "He was acutely aware that the operation he was about to embark on would not solve the larger issues in that region by the time he left office. 'This will be a problem for the next president,' Mister Obama said ruefully, 'and probably the one after that.'"

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Today's Scramble leads off with Annie Lowrey, who tackles a subject that's been dominating a lot of conversations around here lately. What's the matter with Connecticut? is the question Annie Lowrey asks in her weekend essay for New York Magazine. ​​Is there a collective malaise and is it based on economic factors? Annie notes that Connecticut has somehow managed to become both the richest and poorest economy in America--at the same time.

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Mark Coddington from the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin joins us to talk about how events like Ferguson are reported on social media. Facebook and Twitter are not equal in what and how they cover news. Assuming Twitter is the best place to get breaking news, how does Twitter change the way it's reported? How does it affect the work of the journalist trained to see the big picture but forced to focus on smaller, always breaking details? Does the urgency of Twitter discourage them from carefully checking facts? How should Twitter handle graphic images, such as last week's beheading?

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We cover a lot of the ground on The Scramble this hour. We starting with Maria Konnikova, a New Yorker writer, who’s going to lead me through a conversation about proposals for a drastically reduced work week, about ways in which having more choices may actually reduce our sense of happiness and fulfillment, and about the illusion that we can taste something—wine, in this case —in a state of pure isolation and detachment from outside influences. 

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This hour's Scramble starts fun and gradually grows darker. We begin with David Rees, host of a television show in which he layers expertise onto simple acts like opening a door or making ice cubes. Its motto is "de-familiarizing the ubiquitous so as to increase our appreciation and wonder thereby." We can get behind that.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

I'm excited about today's Scramble. WNYC podcaster Anna Sale, host of Death, Sex & Money, is our superguest, which means she gets to pick three topics for her conversation with me.

Her choices are LeBron James and the notion of going home, a new Jenny Lewis song about a ticking biological clock, and the long agonizing death of the husband of NPR broadcaster, Diane Rehm. At least on paper, that's a perfect combination for the Scramble.

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I'm pretty sure that in the summer of 1992, somebody tried to tell me about Monty Python's Flying Circus. I didn't get it, and there weren't that many chances to  break in as a Python fan. Their actual television show didn't begin airing on public TV in America until October of 1974. Then, in the space of about two years, they changed the face of American comedy. 

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It's that time of year when nine people who were never elected decide all manner of questions about how we live. Monday marked the last round of Supreme Court decisions. By now, you probably know that in a five-four decision, they sided with Hobby Lobby in affirming the rights of employers to invoke their religious principles to opt out of the requirement to provide certain contraceptives otherwise mandated by Obamacare. 

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On Monday, we do The Scramble. And on the Scramble, we always start with a SuperGuest, which means that in defiance of public radio logic, we pick the person first and then figure out what the topics will be. 

This week we started with June Thomas, one of my favorite Slate.com writers and talkers, and someone I assumed would want to riff at least a little bit about pop culture. Instead, her top two choices are Gay Pride month and dentistry.

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Henry Alford is a very funny writer. I've been laughing at his writing since about 1990, when he erupted in Spy Magazine, with hilarious speculative pieces like, "What If The Pope Were A Dog?"

Not long ago, he was asked to review a collection by another funny writer, Garrison Keillor. He did it, keenly aware that many people who find him funny are the kinds of people who find Keillor tiresome. And, maybe a bigger problem, Keillor had written some columns about gays and atheists that riled up not just Alford's fans, but people he knows pretty well. So what's a critic to do? Alford actually admired some things about the book, and said so. There was pushback. We'll talk about that today on The Scramble.

Freakonomics god Stephen Dubner is our SuperGuest for today's Scramble, and he talks about how to think more rationally and creatively, the upside of quitting, and the latest studies on happiness. Then, we chat with sports economist Andrew Zimbalist, and WNPR's capital region reporter Jeff Cohen, on the value of publicly-funded sports arenas. What's the status on the possible building of a baseball stadium in Hartford? Is it a done deal? What else have we learned and expect to understand about what a business like that may do to the city?

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