December 28, 2012

Exploring JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit

This September marked the 75th anniversary of the publication of JRR Tolkien's novel The Hobbit. An estimated 100 million copies of the book have been sold since its publication, but interest in The Hobbit sees no signs of abating, as the first of a trilogy of Hobbit films by Peter Jackson opens this December. Author Corey Olsen, who produces a podcast called The Tolkien Professor, feels that The Hobbit has lived far too long in the shadow of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings books. His idea is to turn attention back to what he calls "this brilliant little book." Olsen is an Assistant Professor of English at Washington College in Maryland and the President and founder of the Mythgard Institute, a new online teaching center for the study of Tolkien and other works of imaginative literature.

This is a repeat broadcast from Tuesday, November 06, 2012, 10 am


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November 19, 2012

City of Scoundrels: The 12 Days of Disaster That Gave Birth to Modern Chicago

A blimp in flames crashes through the roof of a busy downtown bank; a racial incident at a hot, crowded beach spirals into one of the worst urban riots in American history; a transit strike paralyzes the city; the body of a missing young girl is found, the victim of a gruesome murder. The Great Fire of 1871 holds a notorious place in Chicago history – but these incidents over 12 balmy days in 1919 shaped the city in profound ways and paved the way for the birth of the modern American city.


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November 16, 2012

I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution

Did video kill the radio star? If so, it was with a lot of help from MTV. It's hard to remember that the initials MTV, now better known for reality programming, actually stand for "Music Television." In its first decade, MTV lived up to its name - it played music videos all day, the way a radio station played records. Though music videos had been played on television since the 1960s, MTV was the first outlet specifically programmed around music videos. We'll talk with Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum, authors of "I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution" about the tumultuous first decade of MTV and the videos that made the 1980s and early 1990s memorable.


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November 14, 2012

John Quincy Adams

The sixth President of the United States, John Quincy Adams fought for George Washington, served with Abraham Lincoln in Congress, witnessed Bunker Hill, and as a staunch opponent of slavery, foresaw that slavery would lead to civil war between the North and South. He is, in fact, the only major figure in American history who knew both the founding fathers and Abraham Lincoln. He negotiated an end to the War of 1812, engineered the annexation of Florida, and won the Supreme Court decision that freed the African captives of The Amistad. He served his nation as minister to six countries, secretary of state, senator, congressman, and president. His opposition to slavery inspired John F. Kennedy's Profiles in Courage.  Yet he remains one of the least-known presidents in our nation's history. We'll talk with biographer Harlow Giles Unger about John Qunicy Adams.


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November 13, 2012

Why Does the World Exist?

It’s hard to pass up any book that promotes itself as an “existential detective story.” That’s the subtitle of author Jim Holt’s new book “Why Does the World Exist?” In it, Holt traces efforts to grasp the origins of the universe, and suggests along the way that many discussions revolving around the classic question “why are we here?” are simply too narrow – that there are many more possible answers than the old God versus the Big Bang debate would suggest. Holt talks with philosophers, physicists, and a Buddhist monk, among others, as he seeks big answers to the biggest of questions.

This is a repeat broadcast from Friday, September 07, 2012, 10 am.


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November 09, 2012

The Beautiful Music All Around Us: Field Recordings and the American Experience

In the 1930s and 1940s, the Library of Congress commissioned audio recordings of amateur singers and songwriters throughout the United States. These have come to be called "field recordings," and the recordists travelled the country in search of them. Musician, recording artist, and writer Stephen Wade tells the story of thirteen of these recordings made across the United States between 1934 and 1942 in locations reaching from Southern Appalachia to the Mississippi Delta and the Great Plains. Working 18 years on this project, Wade travelled the country, seeking out the original artists, their families or friends present at the recordings and interviewed more than 200 people for the book. Most of the original artists were amateur singers or musicians who were being recorded for the first and only time; many of their famililes were not even aware that the recordings were made. And yet many of the songs have enjoyed long afterlives, influencing musicians and featuring in films. 

Stephen Wade is a musician and writer whose latest album is Banjo Diary: Lessons from Tradition, out on Smithsonian Folkways Records.


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November 06, 2012

Exploring JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit

This September marked the 75th anniversary of the publication of JRR Tolkien's novel The Hobbit. An estimated 100 million copies of the book have been sold since its publication, but interest in The Hobbit sees no signs of abating, as the first of a trilogy of Hobbit films by Peter Jackson opens this December. Author Corey Olsen, who produces a podcast called The Tolkien Professor, feels that The Hobbit has lived far too long in the shadow of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings books. His idea is to turn attention back to what he calls "this brilliant little book." Olsen is an Assistant Professor of English at Washington College in Maryland and the President and founder of the Mythgard Institute, a new online teaching center for the study of Tolkien and other works of imaginative literature.


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November 05, 2012

The Future of the Publishing Industry: Print, Digital or Both?

According to the Association of American Publishers, last year, for the first time, e-books garnered more revenue than any other format of adult fiction. Overall, net sales revenue for electronic books more than doubled in 2011 compared to 2010, and there’s every reason to believe that transition will continue here in 2012 and beyond.

Meanwhile, the industry has felt the effects of the bankruptcy and closures of Borders stores nationwide, another signal of a rapidly changing industry.

As more people download novels to their Kindles and Nooks, what’s to become of the publishing industry? Could we see a day when actual physical books are no longer printed? Is what’s happening with the newspaper and magazine industries a harbinger of things to come for books?


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November 01, 2012

Ethical Chic: The Inside Story of the Companies We Think We Love

There are many reasons to purchase goods or services from one company over another: price, quality, and convenience. But sometimes, the decision is a moral one; we seek out businesses we believe support or represent our world view – or avoid those that defy it. (The debate earlier this summer over Chick-Fil-A was a demonstration of both).

At the heart of such decisions is whether we deem a company to be socially responsible. But how do you really know? How can you be sure that a reputation is accurate and deserved? And what if the truth is mixed – what if a company leads on one ethical precept, but falls short on another?

Journalist Fran Hawthorne has contemplated these questions, and set out to uncover whether some of the most beloved, trusted companies who have built up a socially responsible reputation really live up to the hype. In the book Ethical Chic: The Inside Story of the Companies We Think We Love, Hawthorne takes us behind the scenes of companies with powerful brand loyalty, companies like Tom’s of Maine, Starbucks, and Apple. Along the way, Hawthorne finds out why these companies have earned seemingly unflagging devotion from socially conscious consumers. And she calls out the companies and consumers alike with a provocative question: Is it really about being socially conscious, or just looking like you are?

This is a repeat broadcast from Tuesday, September 04, 2012, 10 am


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October 31, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

Ed Kieser, Meteorologist

Kelly Formoso, Volunteer and Youth Coordinator, American Red Cross, Champaign IL

Jim Angel, Illinois State Climatologist

Host: Craig Cohen

“Super storm” Sandy continues to wreak havoc over the eastern seaboard and mid-Atlantic states. New York’s subways are flooded. The stock exchange closed for two days – the first time that’s happened for a weather emergency since 1888. A blizzard has blanketed portions of West Virginia and nearby states. The death toll continues to rise as a result of the storm, millions are without power, and the cost of damage to homes and businesses from the storm, its high winds, and subsequent flooding, is projected to be in the billions.

While the impact on the Midwest is significantly less, we are feeling Sandy’s effects. Loved ones are stranded, workers and volunteers from the two state region are headed to, or in the states affected.

While we all continue to monitor the damage caused by Sandy, we thought you might like an opportunity to understand, a bit deeper, exactly what happened to cause this “super storm.” So, our old friend, meteorologist Ed Kieser will join us. He’s been monitoring the storm from the moment it developed, and he’ll take your questions about Sandy, how it compares to other storms, and what conditions are necessary to create it. We’ll also be joined by Illinois’ State Climatologist, Jim Angel, to talk about the climate conditions necessary for such a storm, and whether we can characterize Sandy, amid more violent weather conditions of recent years, as a collective demonstration of our changing climate. We will also talk with Kelly Formoso, Volunteer and Youth Coordinator of the American Red Cross in Champaign about local relief efforts and ways to get news about friends and loved ones in the affected areas.


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