Stream 160 In-Depth Radio Interviews with Clive James, Pico Iyer, Greil Marcus & Other Luminaries from the Marketplace of Ideas Archive

Would you like to to hear a long-form conversation about the history of the vinyl LP? Or about the history of human rights? About the plight of book reviewing in America? The wild excesses of the art market? The nature of boredom? The true meaning of North Korean propaganda? What it’s like to live in Bangkok? What it’s like to go on a road trip with David Foster Wallace? The answer to all of the above: of course you do. And now you can hear these conversations and many more besides in the complete archive of the public radio show The Marketplace of Ideas, which has just now come available to stream on Youtube.

How, you may wonder, did I get such early word of this interview trove’s availability? Because, in the years before I began writing here on Open Culture, I created, produced, and hosted the show myself. The project grew, in a sense, out of my dissatisfaction with the radio interviews I’d been hearing, the vast bulk of which struck me as too brief, fragmentary, and programmatic to be of any real value.




What’s more, it was often painfully obvious how little interest in the subject under discussion the interviewers had themselves. With The Marketplace of Ideas, I set out to do the opposite of practically everything I’d heard done on the radio before.

Like all worthwhile goals, mine was paradoxical: to conduct interviews of the deepest possible depth as well as the widest possible breadth. On one week the topic might be evolutionary economics, on another the philosophical quarrel between David Hume and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, on another the history of American film comedy, on another the legacy of Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and on another still the ascent of Californian wine over French. (This principle also applied to the political spectrum: I delighted in bringing on, say, the granddaughter of Barry Goldwater as well as a former member of the Weather Underground.) An interesting person is, as they say, an interested person, and throughout the show’s run I trusted my listeners to be interesting people.

The same went for my interviewees, whatever their cultural domain: novelists like Alexander Theroux, Tom McCarthy, Joshua Cohen, and Geoff Dyer; scientists like David P. Barash, Alan Sokal (he of the “Sokal Hoax”), and Sean Carroll; critics like James Wood, Greil Marcus, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Dave Kehr, and J. Hoberman; economists like Tyler Cowen (twice), Robin Hanson, Steven E. Landsburg, and Tim Harford (twice); biographers of Brian Eno, Nick Drake, and Michel de Montaigne;  translators of Jorge Luis Borges, César Aira, and Robert Walser; broadcasters like Peter Sagal, Robert Pogue Harrison (of Entitled Opinions), Jesse Thorn, and Michael Silverblatt; philosophers like Kwame Anthony Appiah and Simon Blackburn; technologists like Steve Wozniak and Kevin Kelly; filmmakers like Ramin Bahrani (director of the existential Werner Herzog-narrated plastic-bag short previously featured here on Open Culture), So Yong Kim, Andrew Bujalski, Aaron Katz; and musicians like Nick Currie, a.k.a Momus (twice), Jack Hues of Wang Chung, and Chaz Bundick of Toro y Moi.

The Marketplace of Ideas aired between 2007 and 2011, and the passage of a decade since the show’s end prompted me to take a look — or rather a listen — back at it. So  did the fact that a fair few of its guests have since shuffled off this mortal coil: Arts & Letters Daily founder Denis Dutton, film critic Peter Brunette, literary scholar Angus Fletcher, documentarian Pepita Ferrari, writer and editor Daniel Menaker, cultural polymath Clive James. That interview with James was a dream fulfilled, due not just to my personal enthusiasm for his writing but the ideal of intellectual omnivorousness he represented — an ideal toward which I strove on the show, and continue to strive in my pursuits today.  Even more than our conversation itself, I fondly remember an exchange after we finished recording but before we hung up the phone. He thanked me for actually reading his book, and I told him I’d thought all interviewers did the same. His response: “That’s the first naïve thing you’ve said all hour.”

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Radio vs. Podcasting: A Discussion with Jason Bentley (KCRW, The Backstory) on Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #81

Jason was music director at KRCW, the LA NPR station, is also a DJ with a lot of experienced interviewing musicians, and now hosts a new podcast, The Backstory. He joins Mark and Erica to discuss the creative and business possibilities of podcasting in comparison to radio, what their futures may hold, and his own journey between the two media.

Follow Jason @thejasonbentley. Listen to his Backstory interview with Kristen Bell and his current radio show, Metropolis.

Here’s some comparison data and other basic information on radio and podcasts:

Hear more of this podcast at prettymuchpop.com. This episode includes bonus discussion that you can access by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts.

Stream 48 Hours of Vintage Christmas Radio Broadcasts Featuring Orson Welles, Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Jimmy Stewart, Ida Lupino & More (1930-1959)

The Golden Age of American Radio began in the 1930s and lasted well into the 50s. That makes nearly thirty Christmases, not one of which passed without special broadcasts by the major networks. This Christmas, thanks to The World War II News and Old Time Radio Channel on Youtube, you can experience the Golden Age’s three decades through 48 straight hours of holiday broadcasts. Strung like an audio garland in chronological order, these begin with an episode of NBC’s Empire Builders, quite possibly the first-ever Western radio drama, first broadcast on December 22nd, 1930 — a rare year from which to hear a recorded radio show at all, let alone a Christmas special. The compilation ends one day shy of 29 years later, with a Top 40 broadcast from WMGM in New York.

Throughout this all-Christmas listening experience, old-time radio enthusiasts will recognize many of America’s very favorite shows: Lum and AbnerAmos and AndyFibber McGee and Molly and The Great GildersleeveThe Jack Benny Program and The Charlie McCarthy Show. For many seasonally appropriate episodes of those series as well as one-off variety broadcasts, networks would wrangle as many big names as they could into the studio, from Bob Hope and Lionel Barrymore to Gary Cooper and Frank Sinatra to Carmen Miranda and Ida Lupino (director, film noir fans know, of The Hitch-Hiker).




In 1947, CBS’ Lux Radio Theater put on a full production of It’s a Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed, stars of the film that had come out just the year before. Even U.S. presidents like Franklin D. Roosevelt and Dwight D. Eisenhower turn up to deliver Christmas addresses.

Open Culture readers may well remember CBS’ 1941 production of Oscar Wilde’s “The Happy Prince” featuring Orson Welles and Bing Crosby, but even those of us who know our classic radio will hear a good deal in these 48 hours of broadcasts that we’ve never heard before. Though all of them celebrate the season in one way or another, they do so in a host of different forms and genres, even beyond the broad divisions of drama, comedy, music, and celebrity chat. In gradually passing from living memory, the golden age of American radio comes to seem a longer era than it was. But through that relatively brief window, opened by the household adoption of radio and closed by the rise of television, came an abundance of creativity that can still surprise us — and indeed inspire us — here at the close of the year 2020.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

Take a Virtual Drive through London, Tokyo, Los Angeles & 45 Other World Cities

When asked once about his beliefs, This American Life creator Ira Glass replied that he believes “the car is the best place to listen to the radio.” That seems to be a culturally supported perception, or at least it has been in over the past half-century in America. But does it hold true in other countries? Does listening to the radio in the car feel as good in London, Buenos Aires, Mumbai, and Tokyo as it does in Chicago, New York, Miami, and Los Angeles?

You can see and hear for yourself with the wealth of virtual urban-driving-and-radio-listening experiences on offer at Drive & Listen, where you can take your pick from any of the aforementioned cities and 40 others besides. The site makes this possible by bringing together two forms of media that have come into their own on the internet of the 21st century: streaming radio and streaming video.

In most every major metropolitan area, radio stations now make their broadcasts available online. At the same time, Youtubers have by now shot and uploaded a great many through-the windshield views of all those places, creating the once-unlikely entertainment genre of the driving video.




Here we’ve included some prime examples from popular Youtube driver J Utah, whose scope includes American cities large and small as well as such world capitals as Tokyo, Paris, Singapore, Hong Hong, and São Paulo. All in 4K video.

Click on one of the cities on Drive & Listen’s menu, and chances are you’ll see one of J Utah’s videos. It will come with a streaming-radio soundtrack, sourced from one of the stations in the city or country on display. Your virtual Havana drive may be accompanied by announcements of the news of the day, your virtual Istanbul drive by Turkish rock, your virtual Chicago drive by an NPR affiliate (perhaps even WBEZ, home of This American Life), your virtual Guadalajara drive by soccer scores, your virtual Miami drive by straight-ahead jazz, your virtual Berlin drive by Patti Smith.

Each time you select a city, you’ll get a different combination of radio station and driving footage. As every driver knows, day driving and night driving — to say nothing of rush hour versus the wee hours — feels completely different, and so the drivers of Youtube have shot at all possible times. Some of their routes thread right between downtown skyscrapers, while others stick to freeways along the outskirts. As a resident of Seoul, I can tell you that Drive & Listen accurately conveys the experience of riding in a cab through that city — provided you first crank the video speed up to 2x.

Enter Drive & Listen here.

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A Trip Through New York City in 1911: Vintage Video of NYC Gets Colorized & Revived with Artificial Intelligence

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Reading While Driving, Seriously?

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

The Original Star Wars Trilogy Adapted into a 14-Hour Radio Drama by NPR (1981-1996)

When it opened in 1977, Star Wars revived the old-fashioned swashbuckling adventure film. Within a few years, National Public Radio made a bet that it could do the same for the radio drama. Though still well within living memory, the “golden age of radio” in America had ended decades earlier, and with it the shows that once filled the airwaves with stories of every kind. Radio dramas seemed extinct, but then, before George Lucas’ space opera turned blockbuster, so had movie serials like Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers. The episodic nature of such source material resonated with the similarly episodic nature of classic radio drama, and that must have brought within the realm of possibility a bold and near-scandalous proposition: to re-make Star Wars for NPR.

The idea came from a student at the University of California, who suggested it to USC School of the Performing arts dean and radio-drama enthusiast Richard Toscan. There could have been no institution better-placed to take on such a project. Since Toscan had already produced dramas on the school’s NPR-affiliated radio station KUSC, he made an ideal collaborator in the network’s effort to breathe new life into its dramatic programming. And as Lucas’ alma mater, USC inspired in him a certain generosity: Lucas sold KUSC Star Wars‘ radio rights, along with use of the film’s music and sound effects, for one dollar. Founded just a decade earlier, NPR still lacked the experience and resources to handle such an ambitious project itself, and so entered into a co-production deal with the BBC, which had never let radio drama go into eclipse.




When the Star Wars radio drama was first broadcast in the spring of 1981, fans of the movie would have heard a mixture of the familiar (including the voices of Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker and Anthony Daniels as C-3PO) and the unfamiliar. With science-fiction novelist Brian Daley brought on to add or restore scenes to the script of the original dialogue-light feature film, the story stretches out to thirteen episodes for a total runtime of six hours. The series thus stands as an early example of the expansion of the Star Wars universe that, in all kinds of media, has continued apace ever since. An Empire Strikes Back radio drama followed in 1983, with Return of the Jedi following, after prolonged development challenges, in 1996.

You can hear all fourteen hours of these original Star Wars trilogy radio dramas at the Internet Archive (Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi), or on a Youtube playlist with fan edits combining the originally discrete episodes into continuous listening experiences. NPR’s gamble on adapting a Hollywood hit paid off: the first Star Wars radio drama drew 750,000 new listeners, many from the youthful demographic the network had hoped to capture. It was the biggest science-fiction event on American radio since Orson Welles scared the country with his adaptation of H.G. Welles’ The War of the Worlds more than 40 years earlier — a broadcast produced by John Houseman, who in his capacity as USC’s artistic directory in the 1970s, encouraged Toscan to bring radio drama back. In recent years, NPR’s audience has continued to age while the Star Wars franchise has in theaters, on television and elsewhere, gone from strength to strength. Has the time come for radio to use the Force once again?

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

An Archive of 1,000 “Peel Sessions” Available Online: Hear David Bowie, Bob Marley, Elvis Costello & Others Play in the Studio of Legendary BBC DJ John Peel

Before he became the most influential music broadcaster of all time on the BBC, John Peel had to become John Peel. Born and raised in England, he spent a stretch of his early twenties in the United States, working for a cotton producer (his father’s industry), selling insurance, and writing punchcard computer programs before finding his way onto the airwaves. Hosting work in such locales as Dallas, Oklahoma City, and San Bernardino primed him to return to his homeland and take his radio career underground — or rather offshore, to the former minesweeper anchored in the North Sea from which Radio London broadcast in the mid-1960s. In those days, British “pirate radio” took place on actual ships, and it was on Radio London’s MV Galaxy that the returned son of Heswall, born John Robert Parker Ravenscroft, quite literally made his name.

Pirate radio existed because the BBC couldn’t, or wouldn’t, play the quantity and variety of pop and rock music younger audiences demanded — and over in the States, were already getting. After Radio London’s 1967 shutdown, Peel joined the Beeb’s newly launched pop station, Radio 1. But even there limitations continued to apply, and today they sound draconian: the Musicians’ Union and Phonographic Performance Limited, for instance, once limited the number of commercially released records that could be played on air.




The BBC’s solution was to cover popular songs with its in-house orchestra; Peel’s less square solution, as it evolved, was to bring the bands in to do it themselves. Over Peel’s 37-year career at the BBC, these “Peel Sessions” would number over 4,000, about a thousand of which you can enjoy on Youtube today.

Compiled by a fan named Dave Strickson, this list of Peel Sessions available on Youtube goes all the way from the Mancunian pop-punk of A Certain Ratio in 1979 and 1981 to the Glaswegian new wave of Zones in 1978. (Yes, the list technically begins with the numeral-featuring acts as 14 Iced Bears and 23 Skidoo.) In between, Peel’s guests include A Flock of Seagulls (1981), Billy Bragg (1983, 1991), Bob Marley and the Wailers (1973), Cocteau Twins (1982, 1983, 1984), David Bowie and the Spiders from Mars (1972), Elvis Costello & the Attractions (1977, 1978, 1978, 1980), Fairport Convention (1968, 1969, 1969, 1974), Joy Division (1979), Morrissey (2004), Roxy Music (1972, 1972), Shonen Knife (1992), Sonic Youth (1986, 1988, 1989), Tears for Fears (1982), The Jesus and Mary Chain (1984, 1985, 1985, 1988, 1989), and Yo La Tengo (1997).

And of course, Strickson’s list also includes no fewer than eight Peel Sessions by The Fall (1978, 1980, 1981, 1986, 1987, 1991, 2003, 2004), the legendary DJ’s favorite band — or at least the band that took up the most shelf space in his formidable record collection. But as Peel’s fans know, he only met The Fall’s mastermind Mark E. Smith (like Peel, an outspoken Northerner) two brief times in his life. One such fan, a Metafilter commenter by the name of Paul Slade, notes that “Peel used to make a point of staying away from session recordings, partly because he didn’t want to hear the new music till it went out live. That way, he knew he’d be able to react honestly on-air to anything in the session that surprised or delighted him.” His between-song comments do indeed constitute an unexpected charm of these vintage broadcasts, though surprisingly many have nothing to do with the session at hand. Peel undoubtedly loved music, but he seems to have loved Liverpool Football Club even more.

via Metafilter

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

A New Online Archive Lets You Listen to 40 Years Worth of Terry Gross’ Fresh Air Interviews: Stream 22,000 Segment Online

As the weather grows colder, we look for reasons to stay inside, snuggled up under a blanket, steamy mug in hand.

Or sometimes we look for an incentive to bundle up and go for a long freezing constitutional.

Either way, 40 years’ worth of Fresh Air, Peabody award-winning radio journalist Terry Gross’ interview show, is just the ticket.

A complete digital database of over 22,000 segments is now available for your listening pleasure.




Feeling overwhelmed?

Scroll down on the home page to delve into a recent episode.

Or dial it back to one of the earliest extant installments.

(In the first decade of the show’s history, many episodes went untaped or got recorded over.)

The massive database, created with help from library scientists at Drexel University, is also searchable by guest and topic.

If you feel like handing over the controls, home station WHYY in Philadelphia has some suggested collections—Jazz LegendsSaturday Night LiveHow the Brain Works

If you’re open to anything, try the wild card option at the bottom of the screen. Click play for a random episode.

Or try typing one of your interests into the search bar.

“Cats” yielded 1713 results, from a chat with author John Bradshaw on the evolution of house cats to an interview with zoologist Alan Rabinowitz on endangered large cats to some training tips, courtesy of feline behavior specialist Sarah Ellis.

Of less direct relevance, but of no less interest, are:

A review of Iranian director Bahman Ghobadi’s film No One Knows about Persian Cats, which netted the 2009 Special Jury Prize at Cannes.

A review of Margaret Atwood’s 1989 novel Cat’s Eye.

A History of Catskills resorts.

A post-mortem with comedian (and avowed cat person) Mark Maron following then-President Barack Obama’s 2015 appearance on his WTF podcast (an occasion which required Maron’s house cats to be corralled in his bedroom).

The Coen Brothers on writing The Big Lebowski and the difficulties of wrangling Inside Llewyn Davis’s feline performer:

Gross: So how do you cast a cat for your film?

One Coen brother: Ooh, that was horrible. We just used on the advice of the trainer—the animal trainer, kind of an orange, kind of a marmalade tabby cat, just because they are, you know, common, and so easy to double, triple, quadruple. There were, you know, many cats playing the one cat and, you know, the whole thing is actually pretty, it comes across well in the movie, but the whole exercise of shooting a cat is pretty nightmarish because they don’t care about anything; they don’t want to do what you want them to do. As the animal trainer said to us, a dog wants to please you; a cat only wants to please itself. It was just long, painstaking, frustrating days shooting the cat.

Other Coen brother: What you have to do is basically find the cat that’s predisposed to doing whatever particular piece of action it is that you have to film. So you find the cat that can—isn’t afraid to run down a fire escape or this, you know, the cat that’s very docile and will let the actor just hold them for extended periods of time without being fidgety. And then you want the fidgety cat—the squirrely cat—for when you want the cat to run away and you just keep swapping them out—depending on what the task at hand is.

If something really catches your fancy, you can add it to a playlist to share via social media or email.

Readers, what would you have us add to ours?

Begin your exploration of Fresh Air’s archive here.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, December 9 when her monthly book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain celebrates Dennison’s Christmas Book (1921). Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Yo-Yo Ma Performs the First Classical Piece He Ever Learned: Take a 12-Minute Mental Health Break and Watch His Moving “Tiny Desk” Concert

For those who feel their enjoyment of J.S. Bach’s gorgeous Prelude from Cello Suite No. 1 in G major has been undercut rather than enhanced by its frequent TV and film appearancesYo-Yo Ma’s 2018 NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert is a tonic.

As he explains above, the prelude was the first piece he learned as a beginning four-year-old cellist, adding one measure per day, an incremental approach he recommends.

He and the 300-some-year-old composition have done well by each other throughout a relationship spanning nearly six decades.




His first recording of the Suites, in 1983, resulted in his first Grammy.

Currently, he’s wrapping up the Bach Project, playing the Suites in 36 iconic locations around the world, believing that Bach has a unique ability to unite humans and inspire collaboration, especially in “a time when our civic conversation is so often focused on division.”

The legendary cellist’s unassuming, friendly demeanor is also a unifier, well suited to the informality of the Tiny Desk Concerts.

(Producer Tom Huizenga—a non-cellist—recounts how Ma passed him his bow, along with a 1712 Stradivarius, encouraging him to “play something.”)

Music is a clearly a major part of Ma’s DNA, and also the way in which he experiences the circle of life. He introduces the Sarabande as the heart of the suite, telling how he played it at two friends’ weddings and then again at their memorial services, illustrating the ways in which music is a cumulative emotional proposition.

As he told NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly immediately following his performance:

You try and transcend technique to get to what you think is there. Instead of saying, “Here are these notes and this is difficult and I’m going to try and nail it,” you try to express it.

With the sand quickly slipping through the hourglass of his 12-minute performance, he treats his audience to Bach’s tiny, populist Gigue.

Set List:

J.S. Bach: “Prelude (from Suite No. 1 for Solo Cello)”

J.S. Bach: “Sarabande (from Suite No. 6 for Solo Cello)”

J.S. Bach: “Gigue (from Suite No. 3 for Solo Cello)”

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, November 4 when her monthly book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain celebrates Louise Jordan Miln’s “Wooings and Weddings in Many Climes (1900). Follow her @AyunHalliday.

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