Getting to Know Katherine Hepburn

With Scott Berg

Scott Berg at the age of 33, had a scheduled interview with Hepburn which turned out to be a close friendship that lasted till her death. He then went on to do an insightful and fascinating biography of her as “one smart cookie” who managed to be a movie star for sixty (!!) years.  Here is our conversation from 2003 including one delightful clip from “The Philadelphia Story.”


The Awe-ful Harry Shearer

With Harry Shearer

The meaning of the title is that both Harry and I experience “awe” when contemplating the oddities and delights of his career as actor, satirist and all around great mimic. Here he is, seriously kidding around in a conversation back in 2006 and tracking from Saturday Nite Live to the still persisting Harry Shearer Show. Simple confession: Harry is one of my favorite show biz people.


Communism as an American Minority Culture

With Ronald Radosh

Ronald Radosh was raised within that culture and ranks as one of the leading and former “red diaper babies.” He went on as an academic to be one of the major investigators of that culture, its works, ways and achievements. Here, in 2001, he discusses, his book, “Commies: the Old Left, the New Left and the Left-Over Left.”  To this day he remains a controversial figure in American  academic life.


Hitler’s Last Western Campaign….

With four veterans of the bulge

….was, of course, the so-called ”Battle of the Bulge .” In 2003, four American veterans of that last great assault share their vivid memories of how the Wehrmacht advanced with massive force and was, after a dreadful month of unrelenting combat, routed by the American and British armies led, respectively. by Patton and Montgomery.


The Dean of the “Arabists”

With Bernard Lewis

Bernard Lewis has been the single most influential, academically-based scholar of the history, religion, politics and present disorder of the Arab world. Now in his nineties and still productive he has propounded a general interpretation of “What Went Wrong” (the title of one of his most important books) with the once-flourishing and now disordered Islamic civilization. Here, in 2004, he discusses with us–and in his words–”the roots of Arab rage.”


Ebola, ISIS and Putin

With Gary Saul Morson

What’s Putin doing in the title? That’s to remind ourselves that if the first two items don’t totally exhaust our correlated capacities for worry, pessimism and despair, there’s always the reactivated cadaver of the Soviet Union to keep us in persisting dysphoria. There are Russianists and Russianists and lots of them still linger in Fukayamish optimism that at least the “cold war” ended years ago. A few of the best “on the scene” students of present Russian reality think otherwise and have good and easily demonstrable reasons. One is David Satter who has appeared here on two of our earlier podcasts. Another is Gary Saul Morson of Northwestern University who recorded this conversation with us a few weeks ago, just before the emergence of the ISIS and Ebola nightmares. Here, then, is his properly pessimistic reading of Putin and the anti-democratic culture from which he comes and by which he and his happy army of kleptocrats are sustained. In other words, when the Ebola scourge has passed and Islamic Jihadism has finally been brought down to a manageable level, the Russian threat to east European societies will still be there and may have done them a good deal more damage than Ukraine has already sustained. For a strong and persuasive analysis along these lines do consider closely what Gary Morson has to say here.


A Great Surgeon and Author and the Conquest of his Burden

With Sherwin Nuland

That burden was nothing less than mental disease which kept Sherwin Nuland in a mental hospital for over a year. A distinguished Professor Of Surgery at Yale he is also the celebrated author of many finely-wrought books drawn from medical science and culture, among them “How We Die” and “The Wisdom of the Body.” Though I had known him for years I was stunned by what he revealed in this conversation in 2003 and in his then new book “Lost in America.”


Are Public Intellectuals a diminishing Species?

With Richard Posner and Ron Grossman

The term means a truly intelligent commentator who addresses the larger issues of the time or of eternity. Perhaps Cicero, Thucydides, Seneca? And in almost modern time such contributors as Edmund Wilson, George Orwell, Hannah Arendt or George Steiner. Are such figures still with us or have the universities swallowed them all? These questions are addressed and many other great public intellectuals discussed and evaluated in this discussion from 2002. The discussants are Judge Richard Posner who had just done a book about the decline of public intellectuals and Ron Grossman former professor of history and now a cultural journalist.


Crazy Horse and the Forty Years War

With Joseph Marshall and Brian Hosner

Those forty years in the nineteenth century ended at Wounded Knee with the final defeat of Indian counter forces. A great figure in this extended war was Crazy Horse who is memorialized in a fine and vivid biography by Joseph Marshall,  himself a leading member of he Lakota Sioux tribe. He is joined in this discussion from 2004 by Brian Hosner, a leading historian of this epic struggle.


The Art and Question of Nepotism

With Adam Bellow

Publisher Adam Bellow, son of Saul, looked to his famous father to land his first job. My son did the same and that provides a good basis for a wide ranging discussion in 2005 of nepotism in our time and across history. Beyond the moral issue of should it be done are the sociological issues of: How often is it done? How is it well or poorly done? Is it a benefit or burden for the larger society? As we kick these matters around some surprises are bound to show up.