In 1955, John R. Cash was a sometime auto mechanic, sometime appliance salesman who liked to play the guitar and sing, mostly gospel songs. The "R" in his name didn't stand for anything — and, in fact, he'd been named J.R. at birth and had to come up with "John" when he joined the Air Force. He'd spend the rest of his life reinventing himself.
For years, Jherek Bischoff has played in indie-rock bands, including Amanda Palmer's Grand Theft Orchestra. But on his new album, Composed, he found himself moving away from a rock sound and writing his own orchestral arrangements.
Mental is madder than madcap. I heard one critic sniff, "It's kind of broad" — and, Your Honor, the defense agrees! But if broad means "unsubtle," it doesn't have to mean "unreal." Mental makes most other movies seem boringly, misleadingly sane.
As the U.S. economy struggles to recover from the financial crash, and Europe is buffeted by a series of banking crises, attention has focused on the presidents and prime ministers who've tried to cope with it all. Journalist Neil Irwin, an economics writer for The Washington Post, says there's an elite group of policymakers who can make enormously important decisions on their own, often deliberating in secret, and in many ways unaccountable to voters.
This is FRESH AIR. David Kuo died Friday of brain cancer at the age of 44. We're going to hear an excerpt of my interview with him. When President Bush created the office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives in 2001, Kuo, a conservative, evangelical Christian, became its deputy director. When he left the office in 2003, he accused the Bush administration of manipulating conservative Christians to get the Christian vote.
Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:
Fresh Air remembers the film critic and bon vivant Roger Ebert, who died Thursday, with a roundup of interviews from our archive.
In one, from all the way back in 1984, host Terry Gross talks with Ebert alone; in a second conversation, from 1996, Terry interviews both Ebert and his late partner Gene Siskel onstage at Northwestern University.
In two very special conversations, Ebert himself interviews iconic directors Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese.
And finally, critic-at-large John Powers discusses Ebert's 2011 memoir Life Itself.
It's a funny thing about dictionaries. First we're taught to revere them, then we have to learn to set them aside. Nobody ever went wrong starting a middle-school composition with, "According to Webster's ..." but that's not how you start an op-ed commentary about terrorism or racism. When it comes to the words that do the cultural heavy lifting, we're not about to defer to some lexicographer hunched over a dusty keyboard.
As a Mormon missionary, Ryan McIlvain spent two years ringing strangers' doorbells, even as he experienced doubts about his own faith. McIlvain left the church in his mid-20s. His debut novel, Elders, is based on the experiences he had trying to convert people to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "Elder" is the term used for a young Mormon on his mission.