Jim Sheeler wrote about Major Steve Beck, a Marine Casualty Notification Officer. Sergeant John McCary reads his 2004 email about the brutal nature of the insurgency. Kyle Haussmann-Stokes struggled alone with his PTSD, but eventually got help and made a film about it. Brigadier General Loree Sutton describes what the military is doing to combat the alarming statistics concerning suicide, alcoholism and PTSD in returning vets. War blogger Colby Buzzell been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and struggles with addiction.
Ben Schott trolls the internet for new and noteworthy words and blogs about them for the NY Times. Richard Fairmont produced a set of CDs that include rare recordings of the voices of prominent writers from Britain and America. Robert McCrum describes how a version of English he calls Globish has become a sort of common tongue. Jack Bowen studies the amazing philosophical concepts that can fit on a bumper sticker.
Mike Hoyt and the staff of the Columbia Journalism Review questioned embedded reporters about the embed system and the war. Brian Palmer was embedded with the First Battalion/Second Marines and made a documentary film about the experience. Philip Gourevitch and filmmaker Errol Morris have written a book that examines what really happened at Abu Ghraib. Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez served as Commander of Coalition Forces in Iraq from June 2003 to June 2004, during which period the scandal at Abu Ghraib took place. Deborah Scranton gave cameras directly to troops on the ground, then spent months editing the footage they sent her into a documentary called “The War Tapes.”
Johns Hopkins neuroscientist Roland Griffiths studies psilocybin, a classic hallucinogen commonly known as magic mushrooms. Stefanie Syman describes how the 60’s acid generation turned on to Yoga to get high without drugs. Dennis McKenna and his brother Terence were on a lifelong study of hallucinogens. Psychiatrist Charles Grob studies the effects of psilocybin on patients with terminal cancer.
Richard Todd thinks that authenticity is less a condition in itself than a desire. Sherman Alexie discusses some of the perils of being a Native American writer. Yuval Taylor says that authenticity in music is a complicated business. Vikram Chandra, who writes in English, faces accusations that he’s not really an Indian. Barry Glassner thinks you shouldn’t look for authenticity on your plate, either! Alan Doyle and Bob Hallet are two of the founding members of Newfoundland’s Great Big Sea, a band with roots in traditional folk music.
Barbara Bradley Hagerty interviewed mystics, skeptics and scientists to see if her faith could stand up to the latest scientific research. Adrian Wooldridge explains that religious faith has not only survived into the modern era, it’s thriving. Gina Reticker’s film tells how a group of Christian and Muslim women used the power of prayer to end the civil war in Liberia. Robert Wright describes how the history of monotheism was shaped by the political events of the turbulent ancient Middle East.
Noam Chomsky urges intellectuals to speak the truth and expose lies. James Der Derian describes the Human Terrain System, hired civilian anthropologists and social scientists as on-the-ground advisers to soldiers. Astra Taylor filmed eight prominent philosophers, including Cornel West, Peter Singer, and Slavoj Zizek, talking about big ideas. Christopher Hitchens follows his own involvement with the role of the intellectual.
Eric Booth shares his thoughts on how to engage children through arts education. Musician Michael Doucet has an extensive background in arts education and is educating people about Cajun culture through Cajun music. Katie Salen describes what children can learn from designing and playing games. Film critic David Gilmour let his son, Jesse, drop out of school, provided that he agree to watch three movies a week with his father.
Glenn Albrecht coined the term “solastalgia” to describe how people feel when a place they love has been damaged. Scott Russell Sanders feels the best way to fight the homogenization of America is to reclaim its particularity. Novella Carpenter created an urban oasis and farm in Oakland CA. Adam Nicolson grew up at Sissinghurst Castle and is restoring the home farm at Vita Sackville West’s celebrated gardens.
Rick Steves comments about the advantages of travel in war-torn areas. Mark Johnson travels around the world recording street musicians. Lynn Sharon Schwartz finally admitted to herself that at this stage in her life, she doesn’t like traveling. Raphael Kadushin discusses travel writing’s utility for the armchair traveler. William Least Heat-Moon has written about traveling along America’s back roads.
Patricia Pearson describes her own anxieties and says why she thinks Americans are so anxious. Ethan Watters argues that American versions of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and eating disorders are spreading around the world. Daniel Carlat is a psychiatrist who believes psychiatry is in crisis. Brian Kane describes “acousmatic sound” and talks about its place in the works of Franz Kafka.
Anne Akiko Meyers incorporates Asian and western classical music traditions in her performances and recordings. Jade Simmons plays classical piano, but also works with Hip Hop composers. Rita Dove wrote a book-length poem about violinist George Bridgetower. Violinist Joshua Bell talks about his instruments and his working relationship with composer John Corigliano.
Daniel Tammet describes life with his autistic brain. Tricia Regan produced a film with autistic children who decide to put on their own show. Karl Taro Greenfeld has written a memoir about growing up with his autistic brother, Noah. Ian Hacking analyzes the use of the alien metaphor as applied to people with autism. Tyler Cowan says some of the patterns of autistic thinking can be very productive.
Lynda Barry reminisces about her favorite monsters. Justin Cronin’s engrossingly horrific account of a post-apocalyptic America came out of a discussion with his eight-year-old daughter. Stephen Asma explores what makes us loathe and love monsters. Joshua Blu Buhs studies the myth of America’s favorite native monster, Bigfoot. Richard Holmes describes how Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” came directly out of the scientific climate of the time.
Clark Strand found Americans decline to affiliate with any particular religious group, but still consider themselves spiritual people. Brad Warner became a Buddhist at the end of a truly atrocious year and now he values the sacredness in everyday life. James Carse argues that one can be a religious person without believing in God. Tsultrim Allione describes the Tibetan practice of feeding one’s demons and how it relates to Western therapeutic techniques. David Plotz decided to read the entire Old Testament, and the experience has changed his life.
Michael Pollan says healthy food may cost more up front, but it all evens out when you factor in the health care costs of eating junk. Brad Kessler lives on 75 acres in Vermont with a small herd of goats. Lynda Barry, cartoonist and left-wing intellectual with an urban sensibility, now lives off the grid in rural Wisconsin. Michael Perry describes his life, combining writing with animal husbandry.
Patricia O’Conner found that what Americans think of as a British accent is a fairly recent development. Roy Blount Jr. is a humorist and word maven. Dan Everett became captivated by the Amazonian Indian people and their totally unknown language. Arika Okrent tries out her Klingon and explains why people make up languages. Irene Pepperberg teaches animal cognition at Harvard and worked with a remarkable grey parrot named Alex.