Friday, February 29, 2008

The Dancer and the Thief

Friday, February 29, 2008

My "Pick of the Week" goes to Thursday's program with Chilean novelist, Antonio Skarmeta. Every time I started getting academic, using words like "feminist," or raising questions like, "So you reminded Chileans of who they really are" - he always responded by bringing the conversation back to earth, saying "No, not so pretentious..." or "That's too intellectual for me..." He reminded me in this way of Fellini who used to throw his hands up in the air in exasperation at critics and journalists who were forever asking him about "the meaning" of his work.

There are great characters in The Dancer and the Thief, and what I liked best was the way Skarmeta expressed real delight in following his them around Santiago, discovering the surprises life throws at them and what they will do next, exactly the same joy that he grants his reader. It made me realize that a novel is something that is truly alive, that it unfolds as it's being written, unpredictably, just like life. My favorite moment in the program was when he became semi-convulsed remembering the chapter wherein Angel quizzes Victoria on her exam questions while making love to her.

The only thing that bothers me is that, almost invariably, when I host programs that are based on newly translated novels like The Dancer and the Thief which hardly anybody has ever heard of, nobody calls. So, is there any way to remedy that? It's wonderful to share the joy of discovering and introducing listeners to new literature from other countries, but I can't help feeling that a talk show that fails to attract callers is a failed talk show. Any comments, or ideas?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Feb 25-29 Programs

Dear Friends,

Just in case you noticed, Here on Earth's entire schedule for last week got scotched or scrambled, all except for Wednesday's program about the Turkish Ban on Head Scarves. We'll hope for better luck this week:

Monday: Ever wonder what it's like to fly the friendly skies over Africa and India? We'll get the skinny from Patrick Smith, who writes a wonderful column, "Ask the Pilot," for

Tuesday: If you're against hope, don't listen to this program! We'll talk with seasoned reporter John Parker who actually wrote an article called "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" for The Economist, detailing the evidence indicating that the world, unexpectedly, is becoming a prosperous and more peaceful place.

Wednesday: Jesus as a Samurai? The Bible re-configured as a Japanese cartoon.

Thursday: I recently spent a delightful Sunday during one of the worst storms of the season buried in The Dancer and the Thief, a bestselling new novel by the great Chilean writer, Antonio Skarmeta, who gave us Il Postino. The plot is set in post-Pinochet's Santiago and revolves around a cast of underworld characters who alternately horrify and charm you.

Friday: The Fortune Cookie Chronicles. You thought fortune cookies were Chinese, right? Think again.

I'm off to Philadelphia for a family reunion this weekend. But I'm sorry I'll miss seeing you at the Open House on Sunday.


Saturday, February 16, 2008

Feb 18-22 Shows

Dear Hereonearthians,

Salve! And yes, thank God it's over. Thank you all for your support, and let's all look forward to Here on Earth the way God intended it.

Monday: Joe Hardtke scored a big one for us in getting Iranian exile Marjane Satrapi to join us at the start of her American tour to talk about the huge success of Persepolis, her graphic novel, now an animated film (currently at Sundance in Madison) nominated for Best Animated Feature at this year's Academy Awards. (Feb. 24)

Tuesday: We've just learned that Steven Spielberg is boycotting this year's Olympic Games in support of Darfur and to protest China's support of the government of Sudan. We think it might be the start of a boycott movement and we're working to find the right guests. Any ideas out there?

Wednesday: Turkish Head Scarves. Many Turkish women are devout Muslims who are clamoring for the right to wear their head scarves in public buildings, a practice Turkey's traditionally secular government disallows. (It's the reverse of what you'd expect) Will the new Islamist government reverse the law? And does this portend a swing to Islamic conservatism for secular Turkey?

Thursday: Latin America: The Forgotten Continent. Michael Reid argues in his book that in spite of Latin America's struggles to create fairer communities, making it one of the world's most prosperous laboratories for democracy, it remains The Forgotten Continent.

Friday: What is the origin of the fortune cookie? Los Angeles and San Francisco both lay claim to it. Chinese and Japanese restaurants both offer them. But is it only American after all? This hour we crack open the fortune cookie.

We need each other to get through February. Please stay plugged in, and check out my blog entry, "Broccoli Rape for Breakfast."


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Broccoli di Rape for Breakfast

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

We Italian Americans have a special fondness for broccoli di rape, a bitter green vegetable that, like arugula, has started showing up regularly in some American supermarkets in the last several years. Who eats it besides us, I wonder? It is one of those foods, like rice to the Japanese, or lutefisk to the Norwegians, that carries identity. We take a perverse delight in relishing it, because we think it belongs to us and to nobody else. There are jokes about it, because it induces fatulence; and there is even a poem written about it by an Italian American woman named Rosella I met the last time I was in New York. She has perfected the art of steaming it with olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt, and caramelized onions.

So I had it for breakfast this morning, thinking of Rosella, who makes it better than I do. There was a bunch of it, and not much else in the refrigerator, and it had started to turn yellow. Wasting a bunch of broccoli di rabe is a sin for an Italian American, and I'm trying to avoid sinning during Lent.

So I stood there at the kitchen counter and ate the whole thing with my hands right out of the pot, stripping the delicate leaves from the limp green stems, relishing the oil as it annointed my lips and mouth, enjoying the sting of the hot pepper flakes, and the crunch of the fibers between my teeth. I thought of Annie Lanzilotto and her search in downtown New York for a lunch that "would honor her ancestors."I thought too of St Teresa of Avila who said, when she was caught wolfing down roasted quails all by herself in the convent's refectory, without apology,"When I pray, I pray, and when I eat quail, I eat quail." Later in the morning as the bitter taste kept coming back to me, I remembered these lines from a poem by Stephen Crane, ..."ah, it is good, because it is bitter, and because it is my heart."

I am not in the habit of eating broccoli di rape for breakfast. Why did I do so this morning? Because I suffer from the winter cold and I needed something to kick my heart up, to assert my identity, my ancestry, my perverse lineage. And it worked.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Feb 11-15 Programs

Dear Friends,

It’s always a challenge to come up with programming that represents us at our best and is likely to inspire your support during pledge drives. If you have ay suggestions for future drives, we’d love to hear from you. Please send your ideas to

Here’s what’s coming up:

Monday: It’s the Bob and John Show: John Nichols and Bob McChesney team up to talk about how the 2008 presidential race is being covered in international media, and which presidential candidate is most likely to restore our tarnished image.

Tuesday: Just in time for the Wisconsin Primary, the editors of The Rough Guide have come up with a new, totally updated Rough Guide to Climate Change that includes an expanded “What You Can Do” section and profiles of each candidate’s position on global warming. We’ll gladly send you a copy in return for a modest pledge of support.

Wednesday: Where in the World is Stephanie? We catch up with Stephanie Griest, our ever-ebullient wandering modern nomad just as she returns from a trip to Mozambique.

Thursday: For a special Valentine’s Day program, what could be better than a bouquet of some of the world’s best love poems.

Friday: Hot Plants for Hot Pants! Find out if there really is such a thing as a Spanish fly when we talk with an ethnobotanist whose specialty is aphrodisiacs.

Pray for us!


Friday, February 01, 2008

With The Wine Guyz

Friday, February 1, 2008

I had a terrific time in La Crosse last weekend. First off, meeting Cajun Tim Hall was worth the trip in itself. Accomplished cook, raconteur, and all around great guy, Tim was born in Avoyelles Parish, Louisiana and knows the bayous and by-ways of his native state like a muskrat knows his swamp, which would have been obvious to anyone who was listening to Here on Earth last Friday. Tim and his wife Carol showed off their southern hospitality on Friday night, serving us a marvelous Cajun meal. My my, but that chicken and andouille sausage was out of this world - so lip-smacking I had to have two helpings. And that was only the second course.

Tim was such a big hit we invited him to come back again this Friday when we'll be featuring his cookbook, Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez, and DVD as a pledge premium. And he's also agreed to host a WPR Cajun Barbeque which will be held at Larry Meillor's bayou in June.

Saturday noon I arrived at The Wine Guyz, which is right across from The Pump House in La Crosse and adjacent to Piggy's, following the weekend's theme. The Wine Guyz turned out to be the perfect place for me to read from "Get Thee to a Winery," the third chapter in my book, I Hear Voices, which flips back and forth between the time I spent in St. Benedict's Monastery and the California wine country. Dan, the owner of The Wine Guyz, another perfect host, handed me a glass of Writer's Block zinfandel halfway through the reading which added immeasureably to the whole gestalt. The best thing was, everybody there seemed to enjoy themselves quite as much as I did!

There will be more readings coming up at various venues throughout the state in the next several months. Look for postings on our website.