Aspen Ideas to Go Podcast

Nearly two decades ago, author Colson Whitehead began thinking about writing about the Underground Railroad. “I remembered when I was a kid, I first heard those words…I thought it was a literal train beneath the earth,” he says. He put pen to paper and the result was the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Underground Railroad. In it, the historic secret network of safehouses for runaway slaves becomes a make-believe set of tracks and tunnels beneath southern cities and towns. The book tells the story of Cora, a runaway slave who makes various stops along the railroad in her search for freedom. Whitehead recreates the terror black people in the pre-Civil War era faced. It’s an essential read to understand America’s past and present, according to The New York Times. In this episode, he talks about the novel and about the process of writing.
Tuesday, February 19, 2019 - 19:00
When Americans elected their first black president more than a decade ago, some questioned whether the country had transitioned into a post-racial era. But today race is a more prominent and intransigent problem than ever. As the US grapples with issues like identity politics, the Travel Ban, a wall on the southern border, and Black Lives Matter, writers Jelani Cobb and Wajahat Ali question the likelihood of a post-racial America. Cobb, a staff writer at The New Yorker and journalism professor at Columbia, says America needs to closely examine its imperfections and reflect on its history of slavery. He speaks with Ali, who is a New York Times op-ed contributor.
Tuesday, February 12, 2019 - 17:00
When your dog wags its tail or welcomes you home, what are they thinking about? How do they perceive you and the world around them? Two canine cognition scientists, Alexandra Horowitz and Brian Hare, share what dogs know, understand, and believe. This field of research is growing and these scientists are gaining valuable insight in the minds of America’s most popular pet.
Tuesday, February 5, 2019 - 08:15
Should rules govern demeaning, disparaging, and degrading speech directed at certain groups? How can we resist hate while protecting free speech? Nadine Strossen, longtime president of the ACLU, says hate speech, as painful as it may be, is justifiably protected. Instead of censoring hate speech, she advocates fighting it with free speech. In her conversation with Conor Friedersdorf, staff writer for The Atlantic, she dispels the idea that censorship effectively counters the impacts of hate speech. Strossen is the author of HATE: Why We Should Resist It with Free Speech, Not Censorship.
Tuesday, January 29, 2019 - 15:45

Young people tend to say “LOL” and “like” a lot. Business jargon — such as “What’s the ask?”— is surfacing in boardrooms. Is the English language deteriorating before our ears? Linguist and author John McWhorter pushes back, saying these modern terms are examples of language evolving. Words’ meanings have always changed and those shifts will continue. “Language is like clouds,” says McWhorter. “If the clouds are in the same position they were in when we came in, something’s wrong.” In this conversation with Georgetown linguistics professor Deborah Tannen, he talks about his book Words on the Move and explains why we shouldn’t be frustrated when language changes.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019 - 20:00

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