Focus

WILL - Focus - April 18, 2014

Life Itself: director Steve James and Chaz Ebert on the new documentary about Roger Ebert

During this Focus interview, Jeff Bossert talks with Steve James and Chaz Ebert about capturing the life of a critic on film.  

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(Duration: 50:26)

Flm critic Roger Ebert in Chicago in 2005

After he lost his voice, some say film critic Roger Ebert became an even better writer, pouring all his efforts into movie reviews and other columns. As he further mastered his craft, legendary writer, historian, actor and broadcaster Studs Terkel sent him a note about his ‘new’ voice. “This – what you write now, it’s more than about movies. Yes, it’s about the movies but there is something added. A new REFLECTION on life itself.”

Those last words became the title for Roger Ebert’s 2011 memoir, and is now the title of a new documentary about his life. Steven Zailian, screenwriter for ‘Schindler’s List” among other films, first approached director Steve James (Hoop Dreams, 2005) in late 2012 about the project. When James first met with Chaz and Roger about the direction the film would take, no one could have predicted he would pass away just five months later.

During this Focus interview, Jeff Bossert talks with filmmaker Steve James and Chaz Ebert about capturing Roger’s life, and his death, on film. 


WILL - Focus - March 12, 2014

Encore: Onward Toward What We’re Going Toward

When Ryan Bartelmay published his debut novel, he based it in central Illinois. This hour on Focus, he talks with host Jim Meadows.

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(Duration: 51:26)

book cover

If you were going to create a town with fictional characters who could live anywhere in the world, where would those characters go when they go home? Your first inclination may not be central Illinois. After all, there are much more exciting places to set a novel. But Morton native and author Ryan Bartelmay says he wouldn’t think to write about characters living anywhere else. This hour on Focus, we'll listen back to when he talked with host Jim Meadows about his debut novel, “Onward Toward What We’re Going Toward.” We’ll hear about why he writes about cultures in small towns in the Midwest and will hear about a set of characters who make a living working at a pumpkin canning factory.


WILL - Focus - March 06, 2014

The University of Illinois Chess Team’s Cinderella Story

The team has no grandmaster, no local coach, little funding to speak of and no formal recruitment. Yet the U of I team has made it to the Final Four of competitive chess in the U.S. for the second consecutive year. 

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(Duration: 51:35)

In late December, the University of Illinois chess team qualified for the Final Four for the second consecutive year. U of I junior Michael Auger is a big part of the reason why and is one of 4 team members who will be going to the tournament in April. Auger recruited Eric Rosen, the most accomplished and highest-ranked member of the team, away from top chess schools, like te University of Texas-Dallas, Texas Tech and the University of Maryland-Baltimore County.

This hour on Focus, host Jeff Bossert talks with Auger about the team’s success and where he thinks they're headed next. We’ll also hear from Al Lawrence who is the director of Texas Tech’s chess program and former executive director of the United States Chess Federation, the largest chess governing body in the United States. He'll tell us more about the world of collegiate chess is like across the country, and gives us a better sense of what the U of I chess team is up against in April.

During this hour, we want to know from you how chess plays a role in your life. Did you grow up playing it? What do you like about it? We're on Twitter during the show @Focus580. 

Categories: Art and Culture, Sports

WILL - Focus - February 28, 2014

The 86th Academy Awards

The Oscars are the most-watched film award show; how do they influence the industry?

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(Duration: 51:50)

For nearly a century, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has been hosting the Oscars. For just as long, the awards have influenced marketing, distribution, taste and conversations within the movie industry. But not everyone agrees completely about how meaningful the awards are. Austin McCann, the general manager for the Art Theater Co-op in Champaign, says that he doesn’t put much faith in the Oscars’ ability to select what he considers to be a good film.

Nationally, the Oscars are just one part of an interconnected series of film festivals and awards shows around the world, says Erik Childress, film critic for WGN and contributor to Indiewire.com. He closely watches and analyzes the awards season each year. This hour on Focus, host Jeff Bossert talks with both McCann and Childress about the influence of the Oscars and their favorite films this year (Oscar-nominated or not).

What were your favorites this year? Were you able to see them all? This hour, Bossert will talk with McCann about how the Art selects films for the theater long before they become Oscar nominees. 


WILL - Focus - February 20, 2014

Flyover Lives

Do you have a sense of your own history? What stereotypes about the Midwest do you agree or disagree with? Today on Focus, Lisa Bralts talks with Diane Johnson about her new memoir “Flyover Lives.” 

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(Duration: 50:05)

book cover

Over drinks at a dinner party, a French friend was frank with essayist and novelist Diane Johnson about her opinion of “Americans” and our sense of heritage. She described us as “indifferent.” Johnson disagreed, and a few years later, we have her response in the form of her new memoir “Flyover Lives.” She has a sense of her family’s history and a lot of other Americans, specifically Midwesterners, do too.

This hour on Focus, Lisa Bralts talks with Johnson about her upbringing in Moline, Illinois, and how that’s shaped her outlook on life. We’ll hear about how she traced her family back to the 18th century and learned more about her own family’s roots in Illinois while writing the book and will delve into perceptions of Midwesterners across the country, and across the globe.

Do you have a sense of your family’s history? How did you learn about it? Have you been accused of not knowing? We’d love to hear from you today on Focus!


WILL - Focus - February 13, 2014

The Negro in Illinois: The WPA Papers

After sifting through thousands of documents, Brian Dolinar finished a book started over 70 years ago. The work he helped to complete? "The Negro in Illinois: The WPA Papers."

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(Duration: 51:14)

The question: What was life like for black Americans in Illinois during the 1930s?

Before World War II, President Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration funded a special division of the Illinois Writer’s Project that employed black writers living in Illinois. The special program, which was led by Harlem Renaissance poet Arna Bontemps and white writer Jack Conroy, encouraged major black voices who lived in Chicago in the 1930s to write about everything from aspects of domestic life to politics, literature and religion. Novelists Richard Wright and Frank Yerby, and dancer and choreographer Katherine Dunham were among those who wrote or did research for a projected volume on African-American history in Illinois.

When funding for the project was diverted to the war, the papers written by those voices were put into a box and set aside – until Brian Dolinar uncovered them and complied them into a new book “The Negro in Illinois: The WPA Papers.” This hour on Focus, Jim Meadows talks with Brian Dolinar about discovering those lost writings after all these years.

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WILL - Focus - February 05, 2014

Preserving heirlooms and treasures from the past

Do you have an antique or a photo album that has been in your family for generations? How do you preserve those things to ensure they’ll last?

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(Duration: 49:38)

We spend lots of time caring for artifacts from the past and are always looking for new ways to improve techniques for preserving the history found in our photographs, books and other heirlooms. There are entire industries built on preserving photos in scrapbooks or in digital slideshows, and there are museums and historical societies caring for everything from old pieces of clothing to handwritten letters and books. On an individual level, we all have things that are important enough to invest that kind of energy in caring for, but how do you go about doing so?


WILL - Focus - December 27, 2013

Encore: Understanding Personality Tests

Have you ever taken a personality test to see what it says about you? Today on Focus, we find out what they actually measure and what we can and can’t learn from them.

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(Duration: 51:28)

The International Society for Arboriculture uses the "True Colors" personality test. Employees keep their colors on puzzle pieces outside their door in the office.

Personality tests inform hiring selections, career paths, dating options and any number of other decisions in business, academia and culture. But what do personality tests actually measure, and do our personalities change over time? Why do we seem to love to taking personality tests so much? This hour on Focus, we'll listen back to a conversation host Jim Meadows had with Professor Brent Roberts about the science, popularity and limits of personality tests. Cindy Harris, a human resources manager, from the International Society of Arboriculture also joins the program. The Champaign-based organization says using the “True Colors” personality test has been really helpful in its workplace culture.
 
Have you taken a personality test? Did you find it useful or useless? Do you have questions about how it scored you? Give us a call this hour on Focus!
 

Categories: Art and Culture

WILL - Focus - November 07, 2013

Superheroes on and off the page

What defines a super hero? This hour on Focus, host Jim Meadows talks with Bill Rosemann, editor at Marvel comics and Mark Hughes, film critic for Forbes, about the rise of the super hero on and off the page.

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(Duration: 51:40)

Marvel editor Bill Rosemann

We’ve long been fascinated by super heroes, but why? According to Bill Rosemann, an editor at Marvel comics, it’s because they are relatable. This hour on Focus, host Jim Meadows talks with Rosemann about what makes a super hero super and why they’ve captivated us for decades. Rosemann also talks about Marvel’s newest character, Ms. Marvel, a Pakistani-American character from New Jersey who is muslim.

Then, in the second half of this hour on Focus, Meadows talks with Mark Hughes, a comic book aficionado and contributing writer for Forbes. We’ll talk with him about the rise of the super hero on screen and how companies like DC and Marvel have expanded their stories across the media landscape.

What do you think makes a super hero “super?” Post in the comments section below!

Categories: Art and Culture

WILL - Focus - October 30, 2013

A conversation with Tim Yoder, and the CU Woodshop

This hour on Focus, host Jim Meadows talks with Tim Yoder, the former host of PBS Create’s “Woodworking Workshop with Tim Yoder,” and Mike Van Pelt of the CU Woodshop.

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(Duration: 51:41)

a person turning a woodturned bowl

Woodturning has been an art since around 1300 BC when the Egyptians first developed a two-person lathe, but it’s only been popular in the United States for the last few decades. This hour on Focus, we’ll talk about woodturning and the satisfaction of making something tangible.

Categories: Art and Culture, How-to

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