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On Being with Krista Tippett is a public radio project delving into the human side of news stories + issues. Curated + edited by senior editor Trent Gilliss.

We publish guest contributions. We edit long; we scrapbook. We do big ideas + deep meaning. We answer questions.

We've even won a couple of Webbys + a Peabody Award.

Herman Cain Sings Gospel Song at The National Press Club

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Herman Cain is trending on Twitter again. But, this time it’s not for his latest television ad but for his rendition of a gospel song at The National Press Club. Facing some tough questions about the sexual harassment allegations made against him and his tax plan, the current GOP frontrunner for the presidential nomination ended by taking the opportunity to “share a little bit” about his faith with “He Looked Beyond My Faults.” The man can sing.

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Oh my buttery goodness. This one’s for slathering on my morning toast and evening bread. Thanks to soulfliesfreelikeawillowtree for posting:

Chris Turner’s cover of “If You Want Me to Stay” <3 YES.

~reblogged by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

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Novelist Asks Ira Glass If He’d Hide His Family in the Attic

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

"If there’s another Holocaust, can I hide in your attic?"

Novelist Shalom Auslander puts this question to the host of This American Life and a couple of other TAL alumni — Sarah Vowell and John Hodgman — as part of his promotional effort for his new book, Hope: A Tragedy. Playing on the theme of the "collective Holocaust guilt" of Jews that runs throughout his novel, he crafts some pretty brilliant (and entertaining) video trailers touching on some rather delicate religious ground.

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Mike Wallace Interviews Music Genius Franz Liszt (video)

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

It’s been some time since we’ve posted a Friday video snack. So how about ten minutes of the comedic genius of Victor Borge with one of the toughest journalists in the business, Mike Wallace.

(A good, ol-fashioned doff of the cap to Performance Today.)

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Thanks for the reminder, NPR:

Happy Birthday Thelonious Monk!

Blue Monk (by rboliveira)

~reblogged by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

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Hearing Herself for the First Time

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

“My whole life I’ve been complimented on how well I speak. I don’t really have an answer for you other than I have always had a passion for reading, grammar, and English. My hearing loss was/is considered severe to profound. I’ve worked very hard to be able to interact and blend in…only thing I can say is ‘God is good.’”
Sarah Churman

Here, in the public radio world, we often find ourselves preaching about the importance of listening. Somehow witnessing this video of a 29-year-old woman truly listening to herself for the first time after receiving a middle ear implant makes our words seem shallow. The beauty of sound personified.

Born deaf, Ms. Churman had been wearing hearing aids since the age of two, she replied to one commenter, but “hearing aids can only help so much.” We can only imagine the overwhelming music of hearing oneself laugh and speak and cry for the first time. Oh, and if you’re wondering, she has a Texas accent!

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Snug as a Wug in a Rug

by Nancy Rosenbaum, producer

"We’re talking about pure science that’s as important as outer space or the deep sea. We’re learning how human beings think."
Jean Berko Gleason

The Original Wug TestIn the world of linguistics, Jean Berko Gleason is a huge rock star. She’s best known as the mother of the groundbreaking “wug test,” which demonstrated how children as young as four can internalize complex language rules (like forming plurals) — and apply these rules broadly, even to nonsense words (like "wug") they’ve never encountered before. You can see how the test works in Nova's ”Secret Life of Scientists & Engineers” segment above.

As Berko Gleason explains in her paper “Language Acquisition and Socialization,” the wug study proved that “children are not simply learning bits and pieces of the adult linguistic system but are constructing generative systems of their own and that this results not from adult instruction but from the children’s inborn grammatical capacity.” This finding was so huge that it forever changed the field of linguistics and even inspired some aspiring linguists to get wug tattoos.

The complexity of our “inborn grammatical capacity” is a distinguishing feature of our humanness. And yet, how this hard-wired capacity evolved in our brains is a scientific riddle that hasn’t been neatly resolved. The great mysteries of the universe don’t just reside in the cosmos, they reside within us.

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Animated Shorts on the Lessons of Forgiveness and Repentance for the High Holy Days

by Susan Leem, associate producer + Trent Gilliss, senior editor

The son of an Israeli nuclear physicist, the artist Hanan Harchol moved to the United States with his family when he was two years old. And it’s his father’s accent that Harchol impersonates and argues with in these two humorous and enlightening animated shorts for the High Holy Days. 

But, these illustrated videos mining a deeper understanding of the Jewish concepts of teshuva (repentance) and slicha (forgiveness), Harchol says, weren’t inspired by a personal sense of devotion or religiosity. Just the opposite, in fact. The requirements of the project stipulated that he immerse himself in the texts, and through studying them he reevaluated the essence and spirit of Jewish teachings he had ignored or rejected for many years:

"I spent my life gravitating towards, and making, narrative art that explores the human condition from a psychological, philosophical, and existential perspective. While Judaism offers thousands of years of wisdom on the human condition, I avoided it as a source because of what I perceived to be its preachy, judgmental, and shaming tone.

Then, in 2009, I was commissioned to create a short artistic animation that interpreted the eating of bitter herbs during Passover. As part of the project, I was mandated to participate in a monthly Jewish study group under the leadership of a dynamic and brilliant rabbi named Leon Morris. To my surprise, I discovered that the human themes we were discussing and wrestling with in the study group were precisely the kind I had always been exploring in my personal artmaking. Even the process itself of sitting around a table, debating and wrestling with these human concepts (a process I did regularly with my friends and in my artmaking) proved to be a fundamental part of the Jewish study and learning process.

I became filled with questions about how much my Jewish heritage had influenced how I was raised, how I behaved, how I thought, and even who I was as a person and an artist. What I discovered was a wealth of wisdom. Within the Jewish texts were crucial teachings and lessons that applied as much to our contemporary lives as they did when they were written. By avoiding the Jewish writings because of their religious nature and tone, I was missing out on thousands of years of deep thought and study on the human condition itself. I had thrown the baby out with the bath water.”

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The Vulnerability of Listening

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

"Listening entails vulnerability. Listening requires a willingness, even a longing, to understand another."

A few weeks ago, our very own Krista Tippett stopped by the offices of Huffington Post in New York City to tape this short feature. The result: "Two Minutes of Wisdom with Krista Tippett."

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Classical Flash Mob Stuns Commuters

~Susan Leem, associate producer

Jesper Nordin conducts the Sjællands Symfoniorkester (Copenhagen Philharmonic) in a flash mob at Copenhagen Central Station playing Ravel’s Boléro. This kind of performance art reminds us that, when you least expect it, you can become submerged in beauty within moments: anywhere, by anyone (in street clothes, hauling a bassoon), and it can disappear just as quickly.

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