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Interchange – What Makes Us Vulnerable: The Essential Ellen Willis

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Our topic for the next hour is the cultural and critical writing of Ellen Willis who was the New Yorker‘s first rock critic and the cofounder of the radical feminist group the Redstockings. Her essays have been described as always unsettling, combining passion and moral clarity, espresso for the feminist soul, and relevant as ever, with a continuing influence on critics of American culture today.

Ellen Willis was a great fan and a great “reader” of Bob Dylan. I’ll have to admit as someone with little invested in Dylan and it was only in reading Willis’s “breakout” essay on Dylan published first in the magazine Cheetah in 1967 (and called “Dylan”) that I was intellectually engaged in thinking about Dylan and the album that the song appears on, John Wesley Harding. This album, appearing to be a retreat back onto well-trod ground, was rather a work serving the purpose of liberation…that is liberating Dylan, and the rest of us, from the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper. More on that in the program.

Joining us via phone is Nona Willis Aronowitz, the daughter of Ellen Willis, who has edited two collections of her mother’s essays both published by the University of Minnesota Press, one called Out of the Vinyl Deeps, consists of Willis’s Rock criticism and the other, The Essential Ellen Willis, spans four decades and seems to cover nearly every topic of social and cultural importance you might think of (abortion, radical feminism, sexism terrorism, the family, male supremacy, terrorism, motherhood, racism, Judaism, fundamentalism, liberalism, and on).

A key theme that often runs through Willis’s work is vulnerability and her writing style seems to be pitched towards always understanding that common quality. The best way to understand this I think might be to think of it simply as respect for any audience to which she might be speaking. This seems more and more a very rare quality.

Guest
Nona Willis Aronowitz is the editor of TalkingPointsMemo’s The Slice and TPMCafe. Previously, she was an education and poverty reporter at NBC News Digital, a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, and an associate editor at GOOD magazine. She’s written for The Atlantic, Washington Post, NYMag.com, The Nation, The American Prospect, Tablet, and Rookie, among others.

Related
Ellen Willis Tumblr
There are photos and many links to Willis’s essays and reviews of the two collections edited by Nona Willis Aronowitz along with some video.

Music
“All Along the Watchtower” by Bob Dylan
“Maybe” by Janis Joplin
“Someday Never Comes” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
“Beginning to See the Light” by The Velvet Underground

Credits
Host & Producer: Doug Storm
Board Engineer: Joe Crawford
Executive Producer: Joe Crawford

Interchange – W. Kamau Bell: Jokester Without Borders

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Guest W. Kamau Bell with WFHB General Manager Cleveland Dietz, Interchange host Trish Kerle, and Interchange producer Doug Storm.

Guest W. Kamau Bell with WFHB General Manager Cleveland Dietz, Interchange host Trish Kerle, and Interchange producer Doug Storm.

Host Trish Kerle’ welcomes comedian W. Kamau Bell, whose work openly challenges racism, sexism, homophobia, and more. The New Y0rk Times called Kamau “the most promising new talent in political comedy in many years.”  Face Full of Flour, his standup comedy album, was named one of the Top 10 Best Comedy Albums of 2010 by iTunes and Punchline Magazine.  His comedy series, Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell, premiered in August 2012 and became a critically acclaimed, though short-lived, television show executive produced by Chris Rock.  W. Kamau Bell has just launched his first major comedy tour and he will be performing at the Comedy Attic here in Bloomington, Indiana on March 12, 2014.

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