Latest Entries

395: Ken Burns

He’s made a lot of films about war, from the Civil War to Vietnam, but his great themes are not death and destruction, he says: “Most of my films, despite the particular subject matter, besides the tragedy or the conflict, are ultimately about love.” He’s currently working on the Revolutionary War.  It’s complicated. And delightfully so. Continue reading »

Science & Medicine

394: Drew Lanham

This naturalist and writer is wary of “bad people having their names attached to perfectly good birds.” Audubon’s warbler evokes not just an ornithologist but also a slave-owner. “We should remove all human names from birds and let the birds tell us who they are—by their appearance, their behavior, their song.” Bluebird, woodpecker, whippoorwill. Elegant! … Continue reading »

Science & Medicine

393: Dr. Dave Ashok Chokshi

New York City’s health commissioner during the first two years of the pandemic—he stepped down on March 15, 2022—says he sees something admirable in our response: “We have gotten vaccinated not just to protect ourselves but to protect our communities.” Well, yes, if we have gotten vaccinated, says dour me, who sees something else. Produced with the New York City … Continue reading »


392: Michael Kazin

He did much of the research for What it Took to Win: a History of the Democratic Party, in the Manuscript Reading Room at the Library of Congress. “I don’t believe in heaven, but, if there’s a heaven for historians, this would be right in the center of it.” Plus some thoughts on the late Richard Hofstadter … Continue reading »


391: Danny Meyer

To this restaurateur—Union Square Café, Shake Shack—hospitality is as important as food. “Hospitality exists when you feel like someone did something for you, not something to you.“ He’s not talking just restaurants. Food as metaphor, food as food. Produced with the Municipal Art Society. Continue reading »


390: Ed Sorel

Drawing for The Nation, Vanity Fair, and The New Yorker, he created stinging caricatures of powerful people. You’d think they’d complain. You’d be wrong. “These people are delighted to be made fun of by the ridiculous people who think that they’re so funny. They know just how powerless we are.” Reflections at age 92 on the happy life of … Continue reading »


389: Sylvia Plachy

When I moved to New York, in 1973, The Village Voice was at the center of downtown life, and her weekly photographs were at the center of the Voice, capturing not just the way things looked but also the way they felt. Today? “Now I’m in my seventies, and I no longer have a community.” Art, aging, and angst—presented … Continue reading »


387: Lara Downes

H. T. Burleigh, Scott Joplin, and Hazel Scott were brilliantly accomplished, enormously successful, and shamefully overlooked, asserts this pianist, the host of NPR’s Amplify with Lara Downes. She deftly reconciles this paradox; you’ll stain the page with your tears. Or would if you were reading this on paper.  Continue reading »


386: David Amram

In his 91 years (admittedly, some spent a baby), he’s worked with Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, Allen Ginsberg, Langston Hughes. He scored The Manchurian Candidate, was composer in residence for the New York Philharmonic, and made an omelet for Charlie Parker. Another in our series “On Collaboration,” presented with violist Ralph Farris of the quartet Ethel. Continue reading »


385: Midori

Does learning more about music increase a listener’s pleasure? This esteemed violinist is wary of any barriers to an audience. “We can all be touched by music. Music is something that belongs to all of us.” Sure. But I’m not proposing an admission’s test at Carnegie Hall, just asserting that knowledge is rewarded with joy. But … Continue reading »