Nina Totenberg is a total boss

nina totenberg

As a big fan of NPR, I was pretty pumped when I heard that Nina Totenberg would be speaking at Brown. All my fellow radioheads recognize that she is a big deal, up there with Ira Glass (Class of 1982, by the way), Terri Gross, and Sarah Koenig. Totenberg specializes in the Supreme Court, and with decades of experience, she is a regular contributor to NPR’s newsmagazines All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and Weekend Edition. Her know-how is hard to match; she has been covering supreme court justices longer than any of the current nine have been sitting on the bench! Needless to say, there was a huge turnout when she came to Brown this past Tuesday; all kinds of people were there–undergraduates, professors, grad students, and even Providence locals.

Totenberg’s most striking feature is her voice, which is so unmistakably her own. She speaks like someone who understands their own importance, with crisp sentences and penetrating looks. Despite her intimidating demeanor, she opened with a joke about how she could not have gotten into Brown as an undergraduate. Her mother went here, though, and she explained how she always had a special spot for Brown in her heart.

Totenberg had no time for customary throat clearing, so she immediately got to the point of her speech; she understood why people had come and wanted to cut right to the meat of the lecture. First, she claimed that the folklore behind certain justices were simply myths. “They are just real people,” she said, explaining how in today’s world they’re “more accessible than ever.” (Just take a look at the Notorious RBG.) The way she spoke about each justice was riveting. Instead of being fixated on their conservative or liberal tilt, she showed listeners who they are as people.  Continue Reading

This Brunonian Life: Ira Glass ’82 on Spring Weekend ’11

Ira Glass ’82, radio host and subject of earnest college essays across America, was on campus this weekend. No big deal.

Courtesy of Julieta Cardenas

Well, maybe a little bit of one. Glass presented at the MCM@50 conference’s “Big Media” panel, where he spoke about various subjects including Roland Barthes, being a transfer student and the often inexorable pull of mediocrity. Those of you who missed hearing Ira’s dulcet tones and spot-on analogies in the flesh can check out the event’s Herald coverage here.

Amidst the coconut shrimp and admiring fans at the reception that followed, we were able to ask Glass for his thoughts on the 2011 Spring Weekend lineup. His skeptical response: “Like, P.Diddy? In 2011?”

On the other hand, he said, “TV on the Radio — awesome.”

Glass said he wasn’t familiar with Friday night supporting act Das Racist, but promised to check the band out, pulling out his iPhone and emailing himself a reminder. Did you hear that, concertgoers? Who’s that? Brooooooooooooooown.


You don’t have to wait for new music!

Interested in hearing Sufjan Stevens’ new album now?! Well then head on over to NPR’s First Listen site, where you can (legally) catch some of the biggest albums of the year exclusively posted a week or two before they’re released. First Listen has an amazing variety as well, from the most obscure jazz musicians to the biggest arena bands – I probably listened to The Suburbs 100 times before it was released. Who knew NPR was so hip?

(And as for Sufjan’s new album? A radical departure, but it works!)

Get fictitious, win more fiction

Short attention span? Love the phrase “economy of style”? NPR’s three-minute fiction contest might be the procrastination tool for you.

From the rules:

Your story must begin with the following line:
“Some people swore that the house was haunted.”
Plus, your story must end with this line:
“Nothing was ever the same again after that.”
Including these lines, your story must be 600 words or less. One entry per person. Your deadline is 11:59 p.m., EDT, on Sept. 26.

Michael Cunningham made up the rules and will have the ultimate say on which story wins the grand prize: signed copies of two of his books, and your story read on All Things Considered. (Hey, it’s listener-supported.)

It takes a certain kind of person to enter an public radio-sponsored writing contest, but we’re pretty sure some of you out there fit the bill. Plus, your mother will be so proud when she hears your story on her afternoon commute.