Beethoven would try as many as 70 different versions of a musical phrase before settling on the right one. But other great ideas seem to come out of the blue. Bob Dylan, for example, came up with the lyrics to the chorus for "Like a Rolling Stone" soon after telling his manager that he was creatively exhausted and ready to bail from the music industry. After going to an isolated cabin, Dylan got an uncontrollable urge to write and spilled out his thoughts in dozens of pages — including the lyrics to the iconic song.
In his latest book, Pakistan on the Brink, journalist Ahmed Rashid writes that he fears Pakistan "is on the brink of a meltdown."
"I fear almost anything could [send it over the edge]," he tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "There could be a major terrorist attack in the U.S. or Europe which is traced back to Pakistan. ... Then there's a very, very critical economic crisis in the country. There's no investment, no money, there's no energy — I live in Lahore. We've had no gas for six months."
Dick Teresi wanted to write about how science determines the point between life and death. After a decade of research, Teresi says he still doesn't know what death is, but that the breadth of his ignorance has been widely expanded. Teresi's findings have been published in his new book, The Undead: Organ Harvesting, the Ice-Water Test, Beating Heart Cadavers — How Medicine Is Blurring the Line Between Life and Death.
Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors, and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:
At age 44, Will Ferrell has played an anchorman, championship NASCAR driver, ice skater, an elf, and George W. Bush. What's his next challenge? Making a movie in which he speaks nothing but Spanish. The Mexican-set action comedy "Casa de mi Padre" is directed by Matt Piedmont, who collaborated with Ferrell on his website Funny Or Die. Film critic David Edelstein has a review.
I think everyone can agree that the Republican Party's search for its presidential nominee has been a long, strange trip. For me, one of the strangest things about it is that, after all this time, I barely know who's running Mitt Romney's, Rick Santorum's and Newt Gingrich's campaigns. You see, over the past 30 years, political strategists have gone from being shadowy figures to being celebrities in their own right.
Some years ago I was visiting Disneyland and had a culture-clash encounter there with my one of fellow Americans. I was standing with my daughter on the miles-long meandering line for "It's a Small World After All" and I fell into a conversation with another mom; when this woman found out I was a native New Yorker, she treated me to her verdict on the city: "It's so dirty there!"
I was in my local independent bookstore last week, enjoying the endangered pleasure of wandering around and snuffling through interesting-looking books when I overheard two women talking in front of the new releases section. "I need a new British novelist," one of them said. Ladies, I should have spoken up, but the moment passed and, besides, it was too awkward to explain that the one of the best British novelists writing today was born in New Jersey.