Susan Davis

Producer, The State of Things

Meet Steve Sager

Feb 27, 2012
Rabbi Steve Sager arrived at Congregation Beth El in Durham over 30 years ago.

Rabbi Steve Sager arrived at Congregation Beth El in Durham over 30 years ago. He was 27 years old, trained in the Reconstructionist tradition of Judaism and new to North Carolina. His academic bent and his interest in conversation made the move a good fit. Sager retired last year from the pulpit. Now he has started a new venture that's called Sicha, which means conversation. He wants to help people embrace ancient texts and traditions while deepening their modern lives. Rabbi Steve Sager joins host Frank Stasio in the studio today to talk about his new spiritual chapter.

Nido Qubein

Since Nido Qubein took over as president of High Point University in 2005, the small private school, has gone from a regional college to a regional university, doubling in size and stature. Qubein is not your typical college president. He's authored a dozen books including "How To Be a Great Sales Professional" (High Point University Press/2006) and "Stairway to Success: The Complete Blueprint for Personal and Professional Achievement" (Wiley/1997). Has his businessman's approach to running the university paid off? Has running the university altered his point of view as a businessman?


Feb 21, 2012

Is political gridlock in Washington worse than ever? Duke University professors David Schanzer and Don Taylor, of the Sanford School of Public Policy, think so. They are teaching a class in the hopes of raising awareness among young people about the troubles facing our country. If compromise doesn't make a comeback, could the United States face total collapse?

Courtesy Michael McFee

Michael McFee has been teaching poetry at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill for decades and by his own admission that makes him one lucky guy. Growing up outside of Asheville, McFee never expected to be a poet, let alone a tenured professor of English at his alma mater. But his 10th volume of verse attests to his longevity and importance.

The 5th Annual Writers for Readers events take place in Chapel Hill, NC this weekend. The events are designed to raise awareness about literacy and raise funds for the Orange County Literacy Council. Local literary legend Lee Smith and writers Marisa de los Santos, Kevin Wilson and Robert Goolrick are featured at the upcoming festivities.

The Upside of Irrationality

Feb 16, 2012
Dan Ariely explores the limits of logic and what we have to learn from human irrationality.

We all do irrational things. Perhaps the strangest thing of all is convincing ourselves that we don’t. What if we embraced the irrationality of human decisions? Would we find that there are advantages to making illogical decisions? Duke University Professor Dan Ariely thinks so. In his book, “The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home” (Harper/ 2010), he shows how logic isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Guest host Isaac-Davy Aronson talks about the limits of logic with Dan Ariely, professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke.

George W. Bush and Bill Clinton were born in the same year and came of age during the Viet Nam War. They took different roads to avoid fighting in the conflict, but that didn't hurt their presidential campaigns or their ability to lead. Every U.S. president since Nixon has been affected by the American involvement in Viet Nam. Legendary journalist Marvin Kalb and his daughter, Deborah Kalb, examine the relationship between the war and the American presidency in their new book, "Haunting Legacy: Viet Nam and the American Presidency from Ford to Obama" (Brookings Institution Press/2011). The Kalbs join host Frank Stasio to discuss why the legacy of the Viet Nam War endures and what it means for the current war in Afghanistan.

Jeffrey Beam is a well known poet around the Triangle and for 35 years he was a librarian at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Bernard Thomas

Jeffrey Beam is a well known poet around the Triangle and for 35 years he was a librarian at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His love for the people of that institution and its campus is reflected in his work. Beam retired from the university in November. On Thursday, February 9th, he will give a special reading called “Carolina Valentine” at Historic Playmakers Theater on the campus of UNC.


Feb 3, 2012

“Cymbeline” is unanimously considered Shakespeare’s most difficult play to stage. That might be because it’s incredibly hard to follow on the page, even with the help of color-coded flow charts. The play includes a war, a decapitated head, poison, mistaken identity, the appearance of a Roman god and an ending scene with 17 revelations in a row. The Fiasco Theater Company of New York has fearlessly staged “Cymbeline” to rave reviews. The six-member ensemble brings their production to the campus of Duke University this weekend.

Sea Cow

Feb 3, 2012

The Durham-based band Sea Cow describes their sound as, “rocked out pop” or “pop with an edge.” They say they love to harmonize vocally. They love loud guitars. And, according to them, “their songs tend to have a sardonic, occasionally humorous touch, mixed with neurosis and self loathing.”

Washed in the Blood

When Lisa Alther finds herself confused about a topic, she sits down and writes a novel about it. So when it came to light that her ancestors were Native American and Portugese, she decided to write her way into understanding how she could be connected to them. The result is a series of linked novellas called "Washed in the Blood" (Mercer University press/2011). In the book, Diego Martin and Daniel Hunter, a Spaniard and a Quaker, come to Appalachia to change the place and wind up changed themselves. The stories of their descendants and the changes to the landscape make "Washed in the Blood" a sweeping Southern epic.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit is hearing arguments today from attorneys on two sides of a case involving schools and segregation. This case involves Pitt County, North Carolina, a district that was formed when the Greenville and Pitt County Schools merged in 1985. Both districts were under court order from the 1970s to desegregate – an order that still exists today. Last year, the district enacted a new student assignment policy.

Design in Nature

Jan 26, 2012

Adrian Bejan is a professor of mechanical engineering at Duke University who is particularly interested in how to make things more efficient. Not long ago, he discovered what he calls the constructal law in nature. This law basically says that for a flow system to persist in time, it must evolve to provide greater and better flow. For instance, a river basin changes over time to ensure that the water from one body flows more efficiently into the water of another body. It sounds simple, but it’s actually quite revolutionary.

Jo Rae Wright

Jo Rae Wright was a cell biologist, professor, dean, beloved friend and mentor at Duke University for more than 17 years. When she died earlier this month after battling breast cancer, the university lowered its flags in her honor. Peter Lange, Provost of Duke and Sally Kornbluth, Vice Dean for Basic Science and a Professor of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology at Duke’s School of Medicine, were friends of Wright. They join host Frank Stasio to remember their colleague and detail her legacy to Duke.

Poet and writer Alan Shapiro expected to be a basketball star, not a literary star, but an injury took him off the court and left him alone with his grief. He found his way into verse and never left. Shapiro is the author of ten books of poems, two memoirs, a collection of criticism and now the novel "Broadway Baby," which was just released by Algonquin Books. He also has a new collection of poetry out called "Night of the Republic" (Houghton Mifflin/2012).

Why is Durham, NC called the City of Medicine? What’s the first publicly supported liberal arts college for African-Americans in the nation? What was the original name of Duke University? What did explorer John Lawson call Durham when he chronicled the region in 1701? The answers to these and other questions about the Bull City will all be answered by the proposed Museum of Durham History, which is one step closer to existence with the recent hire of co-directors. One of them, Katie Spencer, joins host Frank Stasio, along with Tom Krakauer, the past chairman of the museum’s board and the current CEO, to talk about the city's big plans to archive and exhibit its history.

Between 1976 and 1983 close to 30,000 Argentineans were kidnapped, tortured and murdered by their own government. The military dictatorship rounded up everyone with any possible connection to the left wing. Their plight came to international attention through the weekly demonstrations of a group of women known as “the mothers of the disappeared”. Charlie Tuggle is a professor of broadcast journalism at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has been traveling to Argentina to teach every summer for many years, and in 2009 his two daughters, Brynne and Bethany, joined him there.

Mipso Trio

Jan 13, 2012
Mipso Trio

Mipso is a made-up word. If you ask the guys in the band Mipso Trio what it means they might answer with “What do you want it to mean?” When the three University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill juniors came up with the name for their bluegrass inspired band they were just trying to avoid being called anything involving mountains and boys — no grass mountain boys, or steep mountain boys… you get the idea. They take the stage at Cat’s Cradle tomorrow night but first Joseph Terrell on guitar, Jacob Sharp on mandolin and Wood Robinson on the stand up bass join host Frank Stasio in the studio for a live performance.

Fracking Music

Jan 12, 2012

Mark Little, known in the world of music as MGL, will present a new sound composition inspired by the Ackland Museum's new exhibition, "The Spectacular of Vernacular." In keeping with the spirit of the collection, this new work seeks to make art out of the mundane.

 Cynthia Bulik

As a seasoned researcher, the author of two previous books on eating disorders and the director of the University of North Carolina’s Eating Disorders Program, Cynthia Bulik was deeply familiar with the psychology of women between adolescence and menopause. Those are her patients as well as the subjects of her writing. But two encounters in locker rooms led her to worry about girls and older women. She was with some 6- to 8-year-old girls while they were changing to go swimming and she heard them complain about their bellies and being fat. Then she was with some women in their 70s and 80s in the locker room of a retirement facility and those women were also complaining about being fat and considering plastic surgery. And Cynthia realized that body image issues plague women from the cradle to grave. Her new book is an attempt to address this affliction. It's called,“The Woman in the Mirror: How to Stop Confusing What You Look Like With Who You Are” (Walker & Company/2011).

Orin Starn

Orin Starn’s first experience with a culture different from that of his parents came when his father, a historian of the Italian Renaissance, moved the family to Florence. Orin went to public elementary school there, learning about Catholicism, cigarettes and girls. Orin did everything he could to avoid getting a university education, including dropping out of two different colleges in the 1970s before wandering onto a Native-American reservation 
and working as a janitor and cook. His natural inquisitiveness about other people, their communities, rituals and customs, sent him back to school and into anthropology because it was the path of least resistance. As he learned about anthropology, his love for the science grew, and eventually he decided he wanted to be a part of a generation of anthropologists combining intensive study with engagement and action. He has since turned his anthropologist’s eye on political unrest in the Andes and Native-American issues in the United States. His newest book is called “The Passion of Tiger Woods: An Anthropologist Reports on Golf, Race, and Celebrity Scandal” (Duke University Press/2012) He reads tonight at The Regulator Bookshop in Durham, but first he joins host Frank Stasio to talk about sports, the cultures of sports and the new age of anthropology.

There's nothing better than the end of the year "The State of Things" staff favorites week. Senior Producer Susan Davis kicks it off again for 2011 with moments from a conversation about the wildlife of our bodies with North Carolina State University biologist Rob Dunn. Davis also enjoyed a discussion about Alzheimer's disease and how writers are treating it in a show about the literature of forgetting. Author and marketing expert Steve Stoute talks about race relations and what he calls "the tanning of America." Also, Southern Culture on the Skids plays some spooky Halloween music…plus, there's a quick appearance by the Jade City Pharaoh.

Rebecca Newton

Singer Rebecca Newton has been performing as the front woman of Durham-based band Rebecca & the Hi-Tones for more than 30 years. The band is made up of her high school pals. But around the holidays, Newton likes to be surrounded by friends and family so she’s performing a special Christmas concert called The Newtonanny. The show will bring Newton to the stage with her daughters, grandchildren and local musical luminaries. It takes place tonight at the Blue Note, but first Newton joins host Frank Stasio with a preview of her performance.

Long Leaf Opera Company

The Triangle’s Long Leaf Opera Company is one of the few opera organizations in the country to feature works composed originally in English. The company has been running continuously for 14 years and is the brainchild of Artistic Director Randolf Umberger and conductor Benjamin Keaton. Unberger died this fall leaving Keaton to run the season by himself. Keaton’s effort to honor his predecessor’s memory has been heroic, but he can’t keep doing it alone, so he has announced that this season will be the company’s last.


Dec 13, 2011

In the late 1960s, North Carolina had the largest and most active Klu Klux Klan organization in the country. That was largely because of a charismatic man named George Franklin Dorsett, the Imperial Kludd or Chaplain of the United Klans of America. Dorsett’s fiery speeches and magnetism attracted more than 6,000 men to the Klan. Dargan Frierson was an FBI agent in Greensboro with the agency’s COINTELPRO program. This was J. Edgar Hoover’s plan to infiltrate and destroy any organization that Hoover himself deemed a threat to American security, be it the Klan or the Black Panthers.
Dargran Frierson succeeded in disrupting the Klan in North Carolina. His success came when he recruited Dorsett as an informant. Dargan’s son, Michael Frierson, is a filmmaker and professor at U-N-C-Greensboro and his film “FBI KKK” tells his father’s story.

Open Durham

Dec 9, 2011
Open Durham is an interactive website that maps Durham's past and present.

Dr. Gary Kueber first came to Durham, NC as a student at Duke University. After graduating, then moving back many years later, he started looking into the history of physical Durham. His discoveries inspired the blog Endangered Durham that detailed which buildings in the city were at risk of demolition. Recently he launched Open Durham, an interactive website that maps Durham's past and present with an eye toward informing the future.

In 2003, Mayor Charles Worley of Asheville, NC proclaimed December 18th "Warren Haynes Day." Haynes is a revered singer, songwriter and guitarist. He plays with The Allman Brothers Band, Gov’t Mule and is a Grammy-nominated solo artist, but it’s not just his virtuosity that got a day named for him. Haynes has used his skills and connections to improve life for his hometown’s most vulnerable citizens. He has hosted a Christmas Jam concert in Asheville for the past 23 years, sending the proceeds to the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity.

Duncan Murrell

Duncan Murrell got an early start on being an outside observer. He went to college on an ROTC scholarship where he vigorously protested apartheid in between military drills. And when Murrell became a Marine, his left wing politics never kept him from being promoted and honored. He went to journalism school as one of the only military veterans, and he covered the Gulf Coast for a paper in Mobile, Alabama after growing up in the North. He's written several groundbreaking stories for Harper's Magazine about New Orleans, edited author Robert Morgan for Algonquin Books and now runs the literary program at The Center for Documentary Studies.

The  Cantari Voices Ensemble
The Cantari Voices Ensemble

The Chapel Hill Community Chorus has been serenading audiences in the Triangle for 30 years. The 130-member group consists of professional and amateur musicians who love to sing, including a group of 25 called The Cantari Voices Ensemble. A few of the chorus join Host Frank Stasio to perform live and talk about the busy holiday concert season.

Freedom to Marry

Nov 29, 2011

Next May, North Carolina voters are scheduled to go to the polls to vote on a proposed amendment to the North Carolina state constitution that will ban same-sex marriage. Yet, according to recent polls, support for same-sex unions is on the rise. Nearly 53% of Americans favor the right to marry for everyone. That’s up from 42% five years ago.