Monthly Archives: December 2003


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If we consider the book of Genesis, the first written record of guests, then it had to be those three angels who showed up unannounced at a barbecue hosted by Abraham. Centuries have passed, from the babble of small-talk at tribal gatherings, to the tinkle of martini glasses, and only one thing remains unchanged.

Neither guest nor the host can be relied on to behave like angels. That’s why, from the very beginning, human beings have established rules for social behavior, guidelines to eat, mix, and mingle by. They include directions on how to greet the hostess, what present to bring, and which utensil to use when approaching the buffet table. Some of the rules still come in handy, others are hopelessly out of date. Trouble is no one ever tells you which is which.


Sally Quinn, a reporter for The Washington Post, and author of “The party: a guide to adventurous entertaining”

Jesse Browner, Author of “The Duchess who wouldn’t Sit Down: An Informal History of Hospitality”

Martin Booe, a contributor to the Los Angeles Times Magazine and to Bon Appetite.

Stories for Christmas

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Christmas is a time for stories, its started many years ago with the tale of a manger and some animals and a baby, in the celebration of that event, new stories come to us every Christmas.

For example, recalling the year that your sister’s family spent the day in the small room of that indistinct motel in upstate New York, unable to make it through the snow to the family get-together, or hearing once again, the story of that fire somewhere in Wales, those “clouds of smoke and Mr. Prothero standing in the middle of them, waving his slipper as though he were conducting. ‘Do something,’ he said. And we threw all our snowballs into the smoke” Up next, our own story-teller – Jay O’Callahan, takes us to his own magical world of Pill-Hill and Brookline Massachusetts.


Jay O’Callahan, storyteller.

Shoutout From On High

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The Roman Emperor Julian wasn’t a big fan of the yodel. The sing-songy shout out that conjures images of mountain maidens with long blond braids reportedly irritated the 4th century ruler. In his short three-year reign he wasn’t able to silence the many centuries, and styles, of yodeling that would come after him.

What likely began as a communication means for cattle herders in the Swiss Alps has enjoyed some artful adaptations, from cowboy ballads and the blues, to rap and rock n’ roll. And the story of the yodel’s evolution from occupational past-time to cultural icon, and from the agrarian Alps to Appalachia and beyond, is as much about migration as it is about music. The hills, and our studio, are alive with the sounds of music.


Bart Plantenga, author of a new book about yodeling, “Yodel-ay-ee-oo: The Secret History of Yodeling Around the World.”

Children's Book Awards

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It may come as some surprise to learn that E. B. White’s enduring classic about the barn stall travails of a spider and a pig did not win the most prestigious literary prize of its day. That honor, the Newbery Medal, went to a book about an Incan boy with a royal heritage and a herd of llama in Peru.

Both books received critical acclaim, but “Charlotte’s Web” is the one that’s more likely to be on your child’s book shelf today. Children’s book awards honor creativity and charm, but they can’t predict longevity, or how much a kid will like a book. More than a half century after “Secret of the Andes” rose to the top of the pile in 1953, the debate continues about just how much weight parents should give prizes when choosing books for their own kids. Reading into the awards, and assessing the real winners.


Eden Ross Lipson, children’s book editor, The New York Times

Roger Sutton, editor in chief, The Horn Book Magazine.

Paul Fussell

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War is hell. And Paul Fussell should know. He was there. At the age of 21, Fussell led a rifle platoon in the 103rd Infantry Division and was severely wounded in France. He survived, went on to become an English professor and a well regarded historian of World War II.

He wrote his most recent book, “The Boys Crusade,” because he wanted to throw a fistful of dirt in the face of the Greatest Generation view of history. He says most American troops were not brave, or convinced that what they were doing was the right thing. Instead, they were hungry, sick, scared, and 99 percent of them “would have escaped if there had been any non-shameful way out.” Fussell writes of a battlefield where dysentery and death were everywhere, and moral certitude nowhere to be found.


Paul Fussell, author of “The Boys’ Crusade.”

Technologically Addicted

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This holiday season nothing is flying off the shelves faster than those gadgets and gizmos meant to make life easier. From blackberries, to multipurpose cell phones that do everything except fix your lunch, people have become increasingly reliant on technologies that once held the promise of freedom.

But for some, these technologies no longer offer freedom, but instead the burden of addiction. This hour, we explore America’s love affair with the gadget, the electronic geegaw, and all things technological. We’ll hear from a pastor who gets his daily prayers off a Palm Pilot to a therapist who runs an Internet addiction program.


Wesley Roberts, Pastor, Peoples Baptist Church of Boston;
Omar Wasow, Technology Expert and Executive Editor,

Dr. Maressa Hecht Orzack, Director, Computer Addiction Study Center

Dean LeBaron,
Founder, BatteryMarch Financial Management

Stanley Milgram

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In 1961, a young assistant professor at Yale conducted what some say was the most important psychological experiment of all time. Stanley Milgram wanted to test the limits of authority in a supposedly civilized country to see just how much cruelty would average people inflict on their fellow citizens just because they were told to. In the famous electroshock experiment, 65 percent of the volunteers — some of them clean-cut Yale men — believed they were torturing Milgram’s test subjects, and did so just because a man in a lab coat told them to. The famous experiment is still Exhibit A in every college psychology course. But what did it prove?


Dr. Alan Elms, Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Davis. He was Milgram’s research assistant during his 1961 study on obedience

Dr. Thomas Blass, Professor of Psychology at the University of Maryland and author of the upcoming biography “The Man Who Shocked the World: The Life and Legacy of Stanley Milgram”

Lauren Slater, psychologist and author of the upcoming book “Opening Skinner’s Box: Great Psychological Experiments of the 20th Century.”

Secrecy in Government

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The Bush administration is known for being tight-lipped. The president doesn’t like talking to reporters. The vice president has refused to reveal the inner workings of his energy task force. U.S. News investigative reporter Christopher Schmitt says the administration’s appetite for secrecy goes way beyond these high profile examples. He argues that this administration has been more aggressive about withholding information from the public than any in history. From information about national security, to the quality of drinking water, to the safety of automobile tires, the White House is distributing information only on a need to know basis, and this is frustrating activists, reporters, and increasingly, the general public.


Christopher Schmitt, investigative reporter for U.S. News and World Report

Joseph McCormick, grassroots activist

Ray Tyson, spokesman for the Traffic Safety Administration

Laura McCleary, counsel on auto safety for Public Citizen

Trimming the Fat on Kids

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Childhood obesity is epidemic in America. These days, fifteen percent of children are overweight, up from only four percent back in 1990. But beyond inciting teasing on the playground, obesity is wreaking havoc on kids’ health, causing such conditions as adult onset diabetes. Many medical experts now call it a disease.

They point to sedentary lifestyles, video games, and fast food as the main culprits, but solutions are hard to come by. The Food and Drug Administration recently approved the use of a fat-blocking drug for teens that until now has only been prescribed for adults. But are drugs with serious side effects the way to go? Has America given up on the idea of exercise ?


Marc S. Jacobson, Division of Adolescent Medicine at Schneider Children’s Hospital in New Hyde Park, New York

Caroline Apovian, director, Nutrition and Weight Management Center at Boston Medical Center

David Ettenberg, owner of Camp Shane, a weight loss camp for children

The Arab World Without Saddam

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The reaction of the Arab world to the capture of Saddam Hussein has been mixed. For those who see Saddam as a hero, his humiliating defeat at the bottom of a spider hole, without even so much as a shot fired, adds insult to the injury caused by the American occupation.

For those who feared and hated him, news of his capture was met with expressions of relief, celebration, and joy. But for Arab and Muslim leaders in the region, especially those who preside over authoritarian and repressive regimes, the news has been quite unsettling. Examining the future of democracy and dictatorship in the Middle East, now that the lion of Araby roars no more.


Rami Khouri, Executive Editor, The Daily Star;
Fouad Ajami, Director of Middle Eastern Studies at the School for Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University