After he died, Albert Einstein became a figure of international kitsch: Appearing in computer and Pepsi ads, showing up a comic character in movies with Meg Ryan, and until very recently his brain was on the loose without his family's consent...in the unauthorized possession of the doctor who did the autopsy, a man named Thomas Harvey. Mike Paterniti took a cross-country roadtrip with Dr Harvey and the brain.
What if you're remembered in ways that you don't like? What if you're remembered for something someone else did? In this act, we consider the case of Marguerite Oswald, mother of Lee Harvey Oswald. In 1965 she spent three days with reporter Jean Stafford, who wrote about Mrs.
Dirty political attacks go back to the very beginning of the American Republic. What's different today, says historian Richard Norton Smith, is that television and the other electronic media have made our contact with the candidates so intimate.
Keith Gessen, a young Russian emigre, revisits the heroes of his youth: the brave Soviet dissidents who risked their lives at the height of the Cold War. Many of them resettled into comfortable suburban lives in America.
Host Ira Glass talks with Stephen Nissenbaum, author of a history called The Battle for Christmas, which explains when people started believing in a Santa who arrives Christmas Eve carrying presents. It was in 1822, and incredibly, the poem that created our modern idea of Santa is still around, known by heart by tens of millions.
Host Ira Glass describes the moment when black single mothers became a national political issue—and a national symbol. It was 1965, when a young Assistant Secretary of Labor named Daniel Patrick Moynihan issued a report calling for action on the issue of African-American single mothers, and black leaders, including the Rev.
A campaign diary from writer Michael Lewis from four years ago, about a politician you've heard a lot about: John McCain...and the story of a moment when the opposite of normal politics became normal politics.
Reporter Jeremy Goldstein tells the story of a man who had many books change his life, even though he'd never read them.
What happens to you if you stay in sales all your life? 76-year-old salesman "Diamond" Jimmy Roy has sold everything from used cars to antiques to jewelery. Independent producer Dan Collison shadowed Jimmy Roy in his native Braddock, Pennsylvania, to talk to him about the philosophy that's kept him going as a salesman for over fifty years.
More stories from Wen Huang that contradict what you think you know about the 1989 student uprising in China.
If part of the impulse behind the Tiananmen Square uprising was the pure desire to feel like life had possibility, that the future had potential...that impulse was behind another movement. This one among young people in Eastern Europe back before the Berlin Wall fell.
Sarah Vowell has a theory that you can tell the entire history of the United States by standing on one street corner—specifically at Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive in Chicago—and describing all the events that happened within eyeshot of the corner. She covers three centuries of history, from Louis Joliet to Keanu Reeves.
Ira talks about the classic biography of an American pimp, Iceberg Slim's Pimp: The Story of My Life, and explains today's show. He warns listeners that although there's no sex in the show at all, there is a scene or two in which men hit women.
Jackie and Kenny Wharton were kids in the tiny town of Canalou, Missouri, off of old Highway 61. They moved away for 40 years but always dreamed of moving back.
Modern-day fables of two different kinds of do-gooders during and after the 1994 genocide in the African country of Rwanda. Philip Gourevich, author of the book We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda, tells first about international relief workers who served as "caterers" to some of the Hutu powers as they continued their policy of ethnic cleansing after fleeing to refugee camps.
The tendency toward self-reinvention is so deep in American culture that we have an entire industry, a self-help industry, telling us how to transform ourselves into someone new. And usually, we see this as a positive thing.
Over the course of his life, Keith Aldrich was a child of the Depression in Oklahoma; a preacher-in-training in booming California; an aspiring Hollywood actor; in the 1950s, a self-styled Beat writer, and then a man in a gray flannel suit; in the 1960s, a member of the New York literati, and then a hippie; in the 1970s, a denizen of the suburbs with a partying, Ice Storm kind of life. Then in the 80's, when the moral majority helped put Ronald Reagan in office, he became a born-again Christian. Today we're devoting our entire show to story of Keith's life, as told by one of his nine children, Gillian Aldrich.
Ron Copeland is a historical interpreter at the Conner Prairie Living History Museum, outside of Indianapolis. For several months a year, in his job, he pretends to be a slaveowner in the old south.
Alix Spiegel travels with a group of white suburbanites as they pretend to be runaway slaves, at the Conner Prairie Living History Museum. Her goal: to find out what it is that people actually get out of this elaborate game of pretend.
Host Ira Glass reads famous last words from Bing Crosby, Oscar Wilde, W.C. Fields, and talks about what we want from people's last words.
The story of a White House scandal from the year 1881. President James Garfield lay dying of a gunshot wound during that summer.
Germs were first understood at the turn of the 20th century and it turns out that the aesthetics of everyday life during this century—the way we dress, the way we groom ourselves, the way we make our homes—are all partly a response to this newfangled idea of germs.
The burden of keeping germs from hurting us in our everyday lives has fallen mostly on women, from the time science fully understood about the existence of germs. After all, women had to keep the home clean, had to prepare food safely.
Denis Wood talks with host Ira Glass about the maps he's made of his own neighborhood, Boylan Heights in Raleigh, North Carolina. They include a traditional street locator map, a map of all the sewer and power lines under the earth's surface, a map of how light falls on the ground through the leaves of trees, a map of where all the Halloween pumpkins are each year, and a map of all the graffiti in the neighborhood.