The State of Things

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Host Frank Stasio.
Credit Ben McKeown / For WUNC

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Comic books have long reflected the culture that created them. Captain America represented the power and patriotism of America during the Second World War, and Superman is seen as a symbol of "truth, justice and the American way." But the times are changing. Superman renounced his American citizenship in a recent issue of Action Comics. He said he did not want to be seen as a tool of American policy. What does it say that the “Man of Steel” no longer wants to be associated with the United States? And what can we learn about ourselves by reading comic books?

Pop singer Ke$ha teaches Conan O'Brien how to play a Theremin

Next week, Moog Music will open doors to its new headquarters and studio in Asheville, NC. The electronic musical instruments manufacturer is known for producing Theremin kits, synthesizers and other analog equipment, but digital music era artists are crazy for the Moog sound. Bands like Rush, Coldplay and Weezer and pop singers like Lady Gaga, Ke$ha and Beyoncé have all scooped up sets of Moog gear for their recording sessions and concert performances.


May 17, 2011

Mardy Grothe's obsession with quotations began in college, but it wasn't until he battled cancer decades later that he finally sat down to write a book about them. He's been writing books ever since. His latest is called "Neverisms: A Quotation Lover's Guide to Things You Should Never Do, Never Say, or Never Forget" (Collins Reference/2011).

Devil's Ink

May 17, 2011

Jeffrey Pugh is a professor of religious studies at Elon University, so he is used to teaching students about God and the Devil. But in his new book, "Devil's Ink: Blog from the Basement Office" (Fortress Press/2011), Pugh takes on the role of Satan himself. Writing from the point of view of the Prince of Darkness, Pugh gives a different take on the world in a series of mock-blog posts.

The YWCA of the Greater Triangle’s Racial Justice Initiative aims to empower women and eliminate racism through dialogue, action and advocacy. Luckily, the ambitious goals are being taken on by a team that includes two women who have been challenging people to address racism head-on for many years. Crystal Hayes and Julia Dawson met in college where they began their advocacy work in favor of racial justice. In the beginning, Hayes, an African-American woman from New York, rejected the idea of a friendship with Dawson, a white Southerner who is about 10 years her junior. Eventually, their shared passion for bringing an end to racism brought them together – first as partners in activism, then as pals.

Mark Leong,

Chapel Hill-bred writer Wells Tower recently traveled to China on assignment for GQ Magazine. There, he caught up with former NBA player Stephon Marbury, who is remembered for his commendable performance on the court and his conversational behavior off the court during his time in the league. After publicly battling with coaches and being benched for most of the 2009 season, Marbury decided to leave the NBA – the same year a series of strange videos starring the player started popping up online. Marbury, also the owner of a sports fashion line called Starbury with offices in North Carolina, now plays in the Chinese Basketball Association with a team named the Foshan Dralions. Marbury’s career move to China is shaping up to be a unique kind of professional makeover.

On Saturday, the inaugural OutRaleigh festival on Fayetteville Street's City Plaza will celebrate lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered lifestyles with entertainment and information. Activities will range from a kids play zone to an appearance by The Tranny Roadshow, a traveling group of all transgendered performers who present songs, comedy and commentary across the country. Host Frank Stasio talks with three performers: Jamez Terry, Modern Day Pinocchio, and Ryka Aoki de la Cruz about keeping the “T” in LGBT. He will also speak with Bobby Hilburn, executive director of the LGBT Center of Raleigh, about the first OutRaleigh festival.

Ari Picker's novelistic childhood and difficult life story has been at the heart of his music since he started writing songs. He describes his band, Lost in the Trees, as making orchestral folk music, combining the passion and pathos of symphonic music with the intimacy and searching of classic folk music. The band's album "All Alone in an Empty House" has had more than one incarnation including the newest, released last summer.

Kenneth Kitts

Recently, the news was focused on President Barack Obama and his critics who publicly doubted that he was native born. In response, the President released his long-form birth certificate as proof of U.S. citizenship. Still, some don't believe him. What is it about conspiracies that draw people in, even after being presented with the facts? Host Frank Stasio talks about the Obama story and other famous conspiracy theories with Kenneth Kitts, a professor of political science at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke and author of the book, “Presidential Commissions & National Security: The Politics of Damage Control” (Lynne Rienner Publishers/2006).


May 12, 2011

Burning Coal Theatre Company in Raleigh wants young playwrights to have a chance to showcase their work. That's why staff there created Kidswrite, a contest that picks and performs the best plays written by junior high and high school students. This year's winning plays include an impressionist romance and a play told from the perspective of a hangman.

A Weaverly Path

May 12, 2011

Silvia Heyden has had a thriving career as a weaver, creating tapestries on commission in her native Switzerland before moving with her family to Durham, NC in 1966. She continues to weave, forging a new abstract tapestry form that is inspired, in large part, by the Eno River. Kenny Dalsheimer's new film, "A Weaverly Path," documents Heyden's long and colorful journey with the yarn, the loom and the river.

This year’s session of the North Carolina General Assembly has already been pretty heated. Lawmakers have to hammer out a budget agreement this summer, so things could get even more tense before the session ends. Revenue is down and budget cuts are inevitable, but how much to cut and where remains to be seen. Yesterday, the State Senate began its work drawing up a new budget. Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue and the State House of Representatives have hammered out plans as well.

How we spend our money says a lot about what we value. This holds true for governments as well as individuals. As we make our way through this lengthy recession, host Frank Stasio takes a look at what is really important to North Carolina, based on the state's budget priorities. Joining him to read the tea leaves in the state budget are Louisa Warren, senior policy analyst for the North Carolina Justice Center; John Hood, head of the John Locke Foundation; and Scott Huler, journalist and author of the recent book "On the Grid: A Plot of Land, An Average Neighborhood, and the Systems that Make Our World Work " (Rodale/2010). Listener call-in.

Segregated Halifax

May 10, 2011

Most counties have one school district for all of their students, but North Carolina's Halifax County is an exception. It has three districts for about 8,000 students, and The UNC Center for Civil Rights is targeting them for being separate and unequal. Despite the fact that Halifax County is 39 percent white, two of its districts have almost no white students while one has more than 70 percent.

Helping students become entrepreneurs has become part of the educational mission for many colleges and universities. North Carolina State University does this through its Entrepreneurship Initiative and the Garage. In the Garage, students can design prototypes, meet with investors or brainstorm with their peers. Host Frank Stasio talks about college entrepreneurship with N.C. State graduate students Angela Hollen, creator of the children's clothing company Spitter Spatter; Andrew Misenheimer, creator of SPARKmoto, a company that designs electric superchargers for motorcycles; Tom Miller, executive director of N.C. State's Entrepreneurship Initiative; David Townsend, assistant professor of entrepreneurship in the Department of Management, Innovation and Entrepreneurship at N.C. State; and Micah Gilmer, clinical assistant professor of social innovation at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Big Daddy Kane is one of the most influential voices from the golden era of hip-hop. In the 1980s, Kane entered the music scene with style, sex appeal and the skills to rhyme over rapid-fire beats – a combination that sealed his place in hip-hop history as one of the best emcees of all-time. The Brooklyn-born rapper now makes his home in North Carolina where he continues his creative work. He joins host Frank Stasio to talk about his influential career and his role as a rap music pioneer.

An 18th century home and several other historic buildings sit on a tract of land on Wake Forest Road in Raleigh known as Mordecai Historic Park. Neighbors of the property are atwitter about the city's plan to build an interpretive center at the site. At one time, the Mordecais owned one of the largest estates in Wake County and were among the area's most powerful families. They were also one of the few prominent Jewish families in central North Carolina during the 19th century. Host Frank Stasio talks about the family's remarkable history with author Emily Bingham, author of the book "Mordecai: An Early American Family" (Hill and Wang/2004).

The North Carolina Symphony follows the path of our country's cultural development, from ragtime to blues to jazz to gospel, with a program titled "Blues In the Night.” Joining the symphony will be guest artists Phil Wiggins on harmonica and Corey Harris on guitar.

Birds & Arrows

May 6, 2011
Bill Hudson

The Chapel Hill-based band Birds & Arrows has a new album that reflects the joy and sorrow of the band's past year. The honeymoon sweetness of their earlier work has been replaced with a maturity and depth appropriate for musicians whose lives and work are gaining seriousness and acclaim.

The Durham Arts Council is currently hosting a photography exhibit called “Beyond the Deadlines.” The exhibit features the work of two photographers who shoot for The Independent Weekly, as well as publications such as The New York Times, ESPN the Magazine, and Rolling Stone. Culling their favorite images from The Independent, they frame everyday life in the Triangle in fresh ways and give viewers an alternative glimpse into the world of photojournalism.

The Promised Land

May 5, 2011

“The Promised Land” is a public radio series hosted by environmental justice advocate Majora Carter. The newest season of the show, entitled “Voices From the Gulf,” focuses on those rebuilding in the Gulf Coast region after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill. Covering scientists, teachers, activists and other visionaries, Carter focuses on leaders who are truly changing their community for the better. She joins host Frank Stasio to talk about reconstructing the Gulf Coast and why people there are still hopeful about the future.

Saint John Paul II?

May 5, 2011

Earlier this week, Pope John Paul II was beatified in Rome, with 1.5 million people in attendance. Beatification is the penultimate step toward achieving sainthood in the Catholic Church. The process of canonization is something author Justin Catanoso came to understand while writing his book, “My Cousin, the Saint” (Harper Collins/2008).

For the first time in more than 90 years of awarding the top honors in journalism, the Pulitzer Prize jury decided not to hand out an award for breaking news this year. Experts say the jury's decision reflects a disconnect between traditional and new media. It's also a harbinger of a local news crisis.

Raleigh Ensemble Players has been presenting provocative theater in the capital city since 1982. Earlier this year, the company moved into a renovated theater space on Fayetteville Street, defying a recession that has plagued many arts organizations. REP’s first full-length production in the new facility will be "Distracted," a play about the challenges of dealing with Attention Deficit Disorder.

Before playwright Suzan-Lori Parks penned the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Top Dog/Underdog,” she wrote “The America Play.” The abstract narrative centers around a character called The Foundling Father, a grave digger who impersonates Abraham Lincoln in a novelty performance that allows people to act out the role of the President’s assassin. “The America Play” is currently in production at Greensboro’s Triad Stage UpStage Cabaret.

Mirror Image

May 3, 2011

The North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh presents "Mirror Image: Women Portraying Women," the second exhibition in its North Carolina gallery. The thematic group show features work depicting women done by women artists who live in the state, but have national and international reputations.

Professional tennis players like to say that to master the game, you must first log no less than 10,000 hours on the court. Rex Miller crossed that threshold before the age of 10. Both of Miller’s parents were tennis players and they often brought him to the court as a child, first to observe, then to learn the game.

The third annual InstroSummit - an all instrumental music festival - returns to North Carolina this weekend. Bands from all along the East Coast will descend on Chapel Hill with three days of lyric-free performances. The line-up includes The Space Rangers, a 4-piece surf rock band from Ulm, Germany.

Most Biblical scholars recognize that many books of the Bible were not written by the authors commonly attributed to them. But academics often excuse this because they believe writing in the name of another was a commonly accepted practice in the ancient world. In his latest book, "Forged" (HarperOne Publishers/2011), Bart D. Ehrman argues that forgery was not sanctioned in the ancient world.

MerleFest 2011

Apr 29, 2011

Each year MerleFest brings some of the best names in traditional music to North Carolina. It began in 1988 as a way to honor the memory of Doc Watson’s son, Eddy Merle Watson, and it raises money for Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro near where the Watson family lives.