Reluctant Habits

Ben Tarnoff (The Bat Segundo Show #541)

Posted by in Bat Segundo, Bohemians, coolbrith-ina, harte-bret, interview, San Francisco, stoddard-charles, tarnoff-ben, Twain, Mark

More than a century after his death, Mark Twain is often portrayed as a jolly and avuncular figure. Yet the truth is that Twain was a savage wit and an incendiary figure, and it took this free-spirited iconoclasm to push expression forward. We talk with Ben Tarnoff, author of THE BOHEMIANS, to discuss how California writers (including Twain, Bret Harte, Charles Warren Stoddard, and Ina Coolbrith) defied the East and reinvented American literature during the 1860s.

[MP3, 55 minutes]

[Notes and partial transcript]

Islamophobia, Extremism, and the War on Terror: Arun Kundnani (The Bat Segundo Show #540)

Posted by in Bat Segundo, Extremism, interview, Islamophobia, kundnani-arun, War on Terror

Twelve and a half years after 9/11, Islamophobia remains alive and well. Where did it come from? Why does it perpetuate in American and British culture? And what effect does it have on our democratic values? To get some answers to these questions, we talked with Arun Kundnani, author of THE MUSLIMS ARE COMING. It turns out that prominently positioned people continue to reinforce Muslim stereotypes, encouraging law enforcement agencies to adopt flawed radicalization models that are not predicated upon reality. These prejudicial policies have caused innocent Americans, whose only crime is to practice Islam, to be harassed, needlessly harangued by authorities, and falsely imprisoned. This 67 minute conversation investigates these issues at length.

[MP3, 67 minutes]

[Notes and partial transcript]

Dinaw Mengestu (The Bat Segundo Show #539)

Posted by in Bat Segundo, interview, mengestu-dinaw

MacArthur Fellow Dinaw Mengestu’s novels have been needlessly categorized as “immigrant fiction” when his work is about so much more. On the publication of his third novel, ALL OUR NAMES, Mengestu unpacks these issues with us, discussing how journalism helped him to peer into revolutionary turmoil, writing about quiet African immigrants, the American perspectives that are often overlooked, the depths of emotional trauma, and contemporary fiction’s relationship with the postcolonial.
[MP3, 49 minutes]

[Notes and partial transcript]

The Taming of Chance (Modern Library Nonfiction #98)

Posted by in hacking-ian, Law of Large Numbers, Mathematics, Modern Library, Nonfiction Challenge, Probability

What do statistics and probability reveal about the natural world? And how does chance factor into the story? In our third essay in the Modern Library Nonfiction Challenge, we tackle Ian Hacking’s history of how many mathematical maxims came to be. We’ve included a YouTube presentation to show you how you can prove the law of large numbers in your very own home!

Fred Phelps, Hateful Homophobic Monster, Dead at 84

Posted by in Obits, phelps-fred, Westboro Baptist Church

Fred Phelps, one of the most hateful men in America, is dead at 84. And while there’s undeniable relish in his passing, his death leaves me considering some of the more unexpected takeaways from his legacy.

Dorthe Nors, Save NYPL, and Blake Bailey (The Bat Segundo Show #538)

Posted by in bailey-blake, Bat Segundo, deblasio-bill, interview, nors-dorthe, NYPL, Save NYPL

In this triple-decker edition of Bat Segundo, we talk with author Dorthe Nors about Denmark, emotional connections to animals, the dangers of self-destruction and how folks songs fused with Swedish existentialism can produce an original voice, investigate Mayor Bill de Blasio’s silence on saving New York libraries and report on a protest, and talk with Blake Bailey about switching from literary biography to memoir.

[MP3, 58 minutes]

[Notes and partial transcript]

Save NYPL: How an Organized Movement to Stop the Destruction of Libraries is Being Ignored by Mayor de Blasio

Posted by in Central Library Plan, deblasio-bill, Humans of New York, Libraries, New York, NYPL, Save NYPL, zadrozny-matthew

The Central Library Plan threatens to decimate the New York Public Library System. Why is Mayor de Blasio so steadfastly silent? And can a growing movement stop this assault on New York culture? In this lengthy dispatch, we talked with members of the Committee to Save the NYPL and others to determine the present struggle and the protest strategy.

Julia Angwin (The Bat Segundo Show #537)

Posted by in angwin-julia, Bat Segundo, interview

Why are we so consumed with providing every moment of our lives to a faceless corporation who will share this data with other companies without our consent? What makes the NSA worse than the Stasi? And to what extent are we determined to become enslaved by convenience? We talk with journalist Julia Angwin, author of DRAGNET NATION, about these dilemmas, the inevitability of mutually assured disinformation, and why the black helicopter lifestyle is becoming more legitimate.
[MP3, 43 minutes]

[Notes and partial transcript]

RIP Harold Ramis

Posted by in Obits, ramis-harold

Harold Ramis, the director of GROUNDHOG DAY and the co-writer of GHOSTBUSTERS, has passed away. His crisp and subtle comedy deserves respect and remembrance.

Dave Itzkoff and Translated Literature: Mad as Hell (The Bat Segundo Show #536)

Posted by in Bat Segundo, chayefsky-paddy, grunberg-arnon, interview, itzkoff-dave, Mad as Hell, Network, post-chad, van-gelderen-oscar

This one hour program looks into two “mad as hell” scenarios. We talk with journalist Dave Itzkoff about MAD AS HELL, the making of NETWORK, Paddy Chayefsky’s colorful personality, and why something that seemed so absurd forty years ago became so real. We also investigate a controversy at Open Letter Books which may reveal an emerging ecosystem of smaller publishers being abused by agents on the make. That segment features Open Letter’s publisher Chad Post, Scott Esposito, and Michael Orthofer.
[MP3, 59 minutes]

[Notes and partial transcript]