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Opening the window on contemporary arts and issues with guests from worlds as diverse as literature and economics.

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Journalist Ryan Lizza says there's one far-reaching, controversial issue President Obama will soon get to decide all by himself, without having to ask Congress. He alone can approve or reject construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, designed to take heavy crude oil extracted from Alberta, Canada, through America's heartland to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

Elizabeth Smart has the kind of fame no one would want: In the summer of 2002, at the age of 14, she became one of the nation's most famous kidnap victims when she was abducted from her bedroom in Salt Lake City, where she lived with her devout Mormon family.

Geography is destiny in Jhumpa Lahiri's new novel, The Lowland. Her title refers to a marshy stretch of land between two ponds in a Calcutta neighborhood where two very close brothers grow up. In monsoon season, the marsh floods and the ponds combine; in summer, the floodwater evaporates. You don't need your decoder ring to figure out that the two ponds symbolize the two brothers — at times separate; at other times inseparable. But there's still more meaning lurking in this rich landscape.

In April 2009, Somali pirates boarded an American-flagged container ship and took its captain, Richard Phillips, hostage on a small lifeboat. That led to a five-day drama at sea, much of it covered on television, as a U.S. Navy destroyer tailed the lifeboat and Navy SEAL sharpshooters eventually freed the captain. In 2010 Phillips wrote a memoir called A Captain's Duty and the harrowing experience has now been adapted into a film called Captain Phillips.

Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:

In a season in which we're all talking about AMC's phenomenal Breaking Bad and Netflix's elating Orange Is the New Black, Hollywood needs you, your kids and everyone in Europe and China to get out from behind those TV monitors and into theaters. Movie studios are falling behind on compelling narratives. But they can give you what TV can't: absolute, total bombardment.

This interview was originally broadcast on July 30, 2013.

William Masters and Virginia Johnson became famous in the 1960s for their groundbreaking and controversial research into the physiology of human sexuality. Instead of just asking people about their sex lives, Masters and Johnson actually observed volunteers engaging in self-stimulation and sexual intercourse. Changes throughout their bodies during arousal were measured with medical equipment.

Before you read any farther or click the audio above, we have two words for you: Spoiler Alert. Also, a warning that if you have never seen Breaking Bad, we may touch on some plot points that will be hard to understand without context.

We don't often think of professional athletes improving with age, but Jamie Moyer was a better pitcher in his 40s than he was in his 20s. Moyer became the oldest pitcher to win a Major League Baseball game when, in April 2012, at the age of 49 years, 150 days, he pitched the Colorado Rockies to a 5-3 win over the San Diego Padres.

Before Chris Matthews grilled politicians and their surrogates on his MSNBC show Hardball, he was a top aide to House Speaker Tip O'Neill, advising him on how to deal with the press. Now Matthews has written a new book drawing on those experiences, called Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked.

It's a look at how Speaker O'Neill and President Reagan managed to work together and reach compromise in spite of the fact that they disagreed not only on policy, but also on the role of government.

The quartet on jazz bassist Dave Holland's new album Prism is more electrified, and usually louder, than bands he's led before. Some reviewers see its music coming out of his early work with the electrified Miles Davis, but the parallel doesn't go far. Holland played bass guitar with Davis, not his usual bass violin. Plus, early electric Davis was gloriously unruly, while Holland loves the elegance of interlocking rhythm cycles, wheels within wheels.

If you got sick, you probably wouldn't go to an evolutionary biologist to get treated. But Daniel Lieberman, professor of evolutionary biology at Harvard University, says that his field can help you understand why you got sick, and make you more aware of healthy and harmful behaviors.

Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:

This interview was originally broadcast on Oct. 14, 2010.

Jazz musician Vijay Iyer started playing the violin when he was 3, but when he was 4 or 5, he wanted to play another instrument: the piano.

"The piano was around because my sister was taking lessons, and so I just started messing on it and figuring things out little by little," Iyer tells Terry Gross. "I can't really pinpoint the beginning of it."

This interview was originally broadcast on May 23, 2012.

In phe last decade, Joseph Gordon-Levitt has worked hard to establish himself as a serious actor, and he's been so successful it's easy to forget he came of age in the '90s sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun. The guy has comedy chops, and he's exercising them again in a smart new movie he wrote and directed called Don Jon.

Millions of Americans have seen the fictional world of meth use and production in AMC's Breaking Bad, but journalist Jonah Engle has spent a lot of time in the real world of meth.

Way back in the 1950s — before people tweeted snapshots of their privates or posted their hookup diaries online — it was considered inappropriate to talk too much about sex. The guardians of culture treated it as something better kept in the dark.

Perhaps the most important military commander in Syria's civil war is not Syrian at all. He's Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Suleimani, and he's the subject of an article by Dexter Filkins in the current edition of The New Yorker.

We're kicking off a new fall TV season this week. A generation ago, even less, that was cause for major media focus, as new shows from the broadcast networks jockeyed for attention and position while old favorites returned with new episodes. Also back then, the Emmys were a celebration of the best, and clips from the nominated shows reminded you just why they were considered the best of the best.

But now? In 2013? All bets are off.

After winning a National Book Award for her novel Salvage the Bones, Jesmyn Ward has written a memoir that's framed by the deaths of five young men in her life. The cause of each death was different, but she sees them all as connected to being poor and black in the rural South:

The first thing you notice about Lucy Schwartz's Timekeeper is the singer's voice — both her physical voice, which is at once ringing and adroit, and her writer's voice, which is precise yet elusive. When Schwartz sings "Ghost in My House," the production renders her tone in an echoing manner that signifies spookiness. It also suggests a metaphor — memory as a ghost, the haunting of someone who's no longer in her life. In general, Lucy Schwartz is in love with the sound of her own voice, and for once that phrase is not meant as a criticism; I think she has good reason to be.

Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:

This interview was originally broadcast on May 21, 2013.

Director Steven Soderbergh had been looking for a way to frame a film about the extravagant entertainer Liberace for years when a friend recommended the book Behind the Candelabra: My Life with Liberace.

The book — a memoir — is by Scott Thorson, who for five years was Liberace's lover, though that wasn't publicly disclosed at the time.

Nicole Holofcener's Enough Said is her most conventional comedy since her 1996 debut, Walking and Talking. I don't love it as much as her scattershot ensemble movies Friends With Money and Please Give, but it has enough weird dissonances and hilarious little curlicues to remind you her voice is like no other. I love it enough.

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