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Gregg Richards

Most of the Western world is organized by alphabetical order, which is so much more than the twenty-six letters that make up the alphabet. Alphabetical order is an organizing principle that allows us to save, order, and access thousands of years of humankind's most precious documents and ideas. Without it, we'd never know what came before us or how to pass on what's with us. It's ubiquitous, yet invisible in daily life.

Today, a conversation about how we order our world and why we do it. 

Kate Hartman / Interactive Telecommunications Program, Tisch School of the Arts, New York University

Do you talk to yourself? Is it a silent inter-narrative or do you talk aloud? What form of address to you use to yourself?

When I'm mad at myself I sometimes address myself as Colin. But, I sense that when LeBron speaks to himself as LeBron, it's more affirming. 

I talk aloud quite a bit. A hangover, I think, from growing up as an only child.

Beth Beverly / Diamond Tooth Taxidermy

When you think of taxidermy, you may imagine a trophy room in which mostly male hunters have mounted the heads of 12-point stags along wood-paneled walls. If so, your image would be incomplete.

Taxidermy has gone through many iterations since gentleman scientists turned to taxidermy to understand anatomy during the Enlightenment. Victorians added a touch of whimsy, decorating their homes with birds under glass and falling in love with Walter Potter's anthropomorphized cats.

Brian Cornelius

At the start of this year, Jericho Brown addressed the graduates of the Bennington Writing Seminars Class of January 2020. 

He said, “If you can’t imagine these last few days without trees, I know you can’t imagine life without poetry. Literature fills needs we did not know we had. Poems and stories plant seeds for things we did not know we needed.”

A screen showing icons of multiple different television streaming services
Harrison Weber / Flickr

2020 is finally almost over, and it’s time for a break. But if your holiday plans are looking different than normal, we’ve got you!  This hour, we talk with NPR TV Critic Eric Deggans, who gives us his recommendations on what to binge watch over the holidays.

We also check in with Vox book critic Constance Grady about her recommendations from the best books of 2020.

And later: are you among the 67% of Americans who play videogames? We talk with Washington Post videogame reporter Gene Park about his favorite games of the year. If you’re not a gamer yet never fear—we talk about how to get started exploring the world of gaming.

Avis Charley / Avis Charley Art

Native Americans exerted their political power in the 2020 election. A record-breaking six Native-Americans were elected to Congress and Native American votes tipped the scales in Arizona - which went blue for only the second time in seventy years. And U.S. Representative Deb Haaland (D-NM) is on President-elect Biden's short list to be Secretary of the Interior. 

NPR's Book Concierge returns with more books than ever: 380+ new titles handpicked by NPR staff and trusted critics. Find eight years of Concierge recommendations all in one place – that's nearly 2,500 great reads.

Open the app now!

Trevor / flickr creative commons

As we were preparing for our show on underdogs, I kept saying that we shouldn’t overlook the fact that, often, to be an underdog in the first place, you have to be relatively bad at the thing you’re an underdog about.

The more we talked about it, the more I found myself making the case that losers and losing are fascinating.

And they are. There’s a whole podcast about political candidates who lost. We romanticize losers in movies and TV and songs and stories.

Universal Studios Home Entertainment

A hard-boiled private eye, a glamorous blond, and a hapless drifter all sit at a bar on the seamy side of town. It's night, the streets are wet, the shadows are long. They each nurse a drink to the notes of a mournful saxophone and a lonely piano. Smoke from the cigarettes swirls in the darkness.

We all know classic noir when we see it and hear it and read it; yet, we don't really know how to define the dark plots that expose humanity in all its moral ambiguity and loneliness.


The older I get, the more excited I am to be corrected when I’m wrong.

Sure, it may sting for a second because hearing someone say “actually…” can be kind of annoying, and if I’m wrong about something, then that means that contrary to my sparkling self-image, I don’t know it all.

Author photo of Rebecca F. Kuang
Kobi C. Felton

Rebecca F. Kuang started writing her first novel, The Poppy War, when she was just 19 years old. Now, the final installment in the author’s dark military fantasy series, The Burning God, comes out today.

This hour we talk with Kuang, who will also be starting a PhD program at Yale University in East Asian Languages and Literature. She has pursued an extensive academic career in modern Chinese studies—while also writing Nebula and Locus award-nominated fantasy novels.

Kuang’s stories weave the fantastic with her deep knowledge of twentieth century Chinese history.

Have you been reading The Poppy War trilogy?

Thomas Hart / Wikimedia Commons

Benedict Arnold's reputation as a traitor instead of a skilled warrior and confidante of George Washington, has become accepted history in the minds of Americans living hundreds of years removed from our founding. But that's too simple a story.  

Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian / flickr creative commons

It's been eight days since Election Day. It's been four days since Joe Biden was projected to become President-elect Joe Biden.

But we've still got the secretary of state saying, "There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration." We've still got any number of lawsuits flailing their way through the courts in various states.

Are we really going to reject democratic elections to soothe Trump's ego?

The Truth About Lies

Nov 10, 2020
Mike Roberts / Creative Commons

Laszlo Ratesic is a nineteen-year veteran of the Speculative Service. He lives in the Golden State, the only place left in what was once America. Laszlo's job is to bring the worst criminals to justice, those who tell lies. In his new novel, Ben Winters creates a world which might sound Eden-esque in our era of misinformation. 

Shudder

It's our annual Halloween special! For this year, the script kind of wrote itself. We look at the way our current, actual horror is likely to affect our future fictional horror through the lens of the genre's past distinct historical eras.

Plus: A new study that seems to say that horror fans were better prepared for the pandemic than the wimpy rest of us were.

And: Every year on this show, for no particular reason, we look specifically at some classic horror movie that's celebrating its 40th anniversary. Two years ago, it was Halloween. Last year, it was Alien. This year, it's Stanley Kubrick's The Shining.

Andry Fridman / Creative Commons

In the 1990s, the Southport Sockmen, otherwise known as Steven Bain and Steven Gawthrop, paid drunk people in Liverpool bars and clubs to give them the socks they were wearing. The Sockmen took photos of each “donor,” before placing each sock and its matching donor photo in a plastic bag. The police found 4,000 pairs of socks piled 18 inches deep when they arrived to arrest the pair for “acts of gross indecency.” The socks were also hanging from the furniture and lampshades -- and some were in the microwave. 

Alyssa L. Miller / Creative Commons

Our ancestors viewed sleep as a highly sensual and transcendent experience. Today, about a third of adults have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or feeling rested. We're becoming a nation of insomniacs.

Illustration by Chion Wolf

What does it mean to be a man? What is manliness? What is “toxic masculinity”? And what do - and don’t - specific body parts have to say about what it means to be male?

Hear from two journalists and authors about how the ideas of manhood physically and socially may be far more malleable than you think.

Bernardo Wolff / Creative Commons

The populist backlash that led to the election of President Trump was decades in the making.  Like other populist leaders around the world, Trump gave voice to the resentment directed toward “elites” who devalue the hard work and dignity of workers without college degrees.

Pixabay

This hour, it’s our Fall Pandemic Book Club - Connecticut Only Edition! The Connecticut Center for the Book joins us to discuss this year’s Connecticut Book Awards Finalists, and some of those finalists join us for the hour.

Coming up, our guests will tell us what they are reading, and what inspired their work. 

Olgierd Rudak / Creative Commons

We produced our first show on masks in the spring of 2020. It was when most of us were isolated at home to sidestep the life-threatening illness we've come to call "COVID." The show was about how rapidly masks had become a statement of political identity.

The intensity of the mask battles has begun to calm as we've acclimated to the pervasiveness of masks in our lives. Like them or not, they're here to stay, and they've begun to leave a lasting imprint on our culture.

Jonathan McNicol / Connecticut Public Radio

Bob Woodward is 77 years old. He's in his 50th year at The Washington Post. And he just yesterday published his 20th book.

Rage is Woodward's second book about the Trump presidency. Two years ago, on the day after the first one came out, we did a show about it.

So we've gotten that band mostly back together again, and we've spent the last 30 or so hours cramming.

Joe Giron / www.pokerphotoarchive.com

Maria Konnikova, best-selling New York Times author and a regular contributor to The New Yorker, has long been interested in understanding the balance between skill and luck. How much of her life could she take credit for and how much was the luck of her draw? So, she took a year away from work to become a professional poker player. 

Famed journalist Bob Woodward is addressing criticism he has received for not promptly sharing with the public what the president told him about the coronavirus and the government's response in a series of interviews earlier this year.

Woodward's new book, Rage, which details the interviews, is set for release Tuesday.

United Artists Releasing

Carole Baskin is going to appear on Dancing with the Stars. And with that, I've typed the least surprising opening sentence in the history of Nose posts.

And: When Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure came out in 1989, Alex Winter (Bill) was 23 and Keanu Reeves (Ted) was 24. Winter and Reeves are now 55 and 56, respectively, but that seems to be no reason not to put out a third Bill & Ted movie, 29 years after the second one. Bill & Ted Face the Music is now available on all your video-on-demand platforms.

And speaking of sequels to classic 1980s teen movies, the first two seasons of Cobra Kai have moved from YouTube to Netflix (who will produce a third season) and they've found a new audience.

Maggie Hallahan / Wikimedia Commons

Hillary Clinton has spent a lot of time in the spotlight. We know her as a First Lady, a U.S. Senator from New York, President Obama's Secretary of State, a candidate in the 2016 presidential election, and as the wife of former President Bill Clinton. 

Yet most everything we know about Hillary as an individual separate from Bill has been filtered through the media, through President Trump's Twitter feed, and through the many conspiracy theories linked to her name. 

Netflix, Inc.

This week, the NBA, the WBNA, MLB, MLS, tennis, and eventually the NHL all postponed games and matches in response to the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

And: A Tweet listing the "Top 7 Warning Signs In a Man's Bookshelf" -- including "Too Much Hemingway," you see -- caused a bit of a fuss on the Twitter.

Wisconsin Historical Society

America has long been attracted to charismatic demagogues who master the media of their time to tap into America’s insecurities. Long before Donald Trump descended a golden escalator in 2015 to announce he was running for president, anti-communist zealot Joseph McCarthy took America by storm.

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

What do the 2020 Doomsday Clock - you know, the calculation that tells us which technologies and conditions may annihilate us all - and the 2020 presidential election have in common?

Your vote impacts the outcome.

Taylor Swift/Republic Records

The Federal Communications Commission requires that The Nose cover each and every new Taylor Swift release*. Folklore is Swift's seventh number-one album, and it's become, in just two weeks, the highest-selling album of 2020 so far. But rather than just spending a segment talking about the album... We came across a term that's new to us: cottagecore. Folklore is, apparently, cottagecore. We're not entirely convinced that cottagecore is a thing, but we're covering it anyway, and we'll get to Folklore that way.

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