Ideas

IDEAS schedule for August 2020

Highlights: the saxophone's forgotten spiritual roots (Aug 3); how the 2008 financial crisis led to political populism (Aug 7); how the global elite’s efforts to 'change the world' became part of the problem (Aug 10); exploring the social history of spinsters (Aug 26) and John Milton's Satan as a political rebel (Aug 31).
The shiny, handsome and undeniably cool saxophone has been a staple of jazz music and popular culture for nearly a century. But some music historians say that what’s often been overlooked are its deep roots in spiritual beliefs and religious ritual. (Alenavlad/Shutterstock)

* Please note this schedule is subject to change.


Monday, August 3

HORN OF PLENTY: THE SAXOPHONE AND THE SPIRIT
How did the saxophone make its way from being a 19th century marching-band curiosity to an instrument for the spiritual seeker?  How can a brass horn associated with the buffoonery of Benny Hill and the schmaltz of disco ball romance also possess such cosmic sensibilities? The work of jazz giant John Coltrane has a lot to do with it. But what is it about the instrument itself that has driven some of those playing it to plumb the depths of human experience, and the heights of spiritual striving? IDEAS producer Sean Foley traces the saxophone's path toward transcendence. *Originally aired on March 3, 2020.
 

Tuesday, August 4

IMAGINING THE WORLD: THE EVOLUTION OF CHARLES DARWIN
Darwin's ideas about evolution shifted the way we think about the place of humans in the world: we're not so special, it turns out, just another life form with a bigger brain and opposable thumbs. And the cockroaches are likely to still be here long after we've disappeared. What's the impact of this depressing news, and what else can we learn from Darwin in this late stage of civilisation? A discussion from the 2019 Stratford Festival with culture critic Adam Gopnik, evolutionary biologist Maydianne Andrade and science journalist Ivan Semeniuk. *Originally aired on March 16, 2020.

Darwin's ideas about evolution shifted the way we think about the place of humans in the world. What else can we learn from Darwin in our own epoch? (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Wednesday, August 5

WALKING THE BORDER: WALLS THAT DIVIDE US
PT 3: THE NEEDS OF STRANGERS
One of Michael Ignatieff's earliest books asked the question: what do I owe my neighbour? And, 35 years later, his most recent book discusses "moral order in a divided world." In between, and during the long course of a career as journalist, academic and politician, he's explored these and other big questions about how we might best live together. The nineteenth century philosopher John Stuart Mill didn't think it was possible for people of different cultures to create a common society.  Michael Ignatieff wants to prove Mill wrong. In a far-reaching conversation in his office at the Central European University in Budapest, Michael Ignatieff talks with Nahlah Ayed about citizenship, moral values, the rise of the Right and, what we still owe our neighbour. The third in our series Walking the Border: Walls That Divide Us.  *Originally aired on September 16, 2020.
 

Thursday, August 6

CBC MASSEY LECTURE: IN THE BEGINNING(S)
Starting in Whitehorse, Sally Armstrong begins her 2019 CBC Massey Lectures reflecting on the origins of her own awareness of gender imbalance and lack of power as a child. As she got older, becoming a journalist in the 60's, she found the same problems, even after the women's movement was gaining steam. She goes even further back, to the dawn of human civilization and what we know of it, taking us on a lightning tour through history as women inexorably lost power and status to men — all of which brings us to today. *Originally aired on November 11, 2019.

Journalist Sally Armstrong argues that gender inequality comes at too high a cost for all of us in her 2019 CBC Massey Lecture, Power Shift: The Longest Revolution. (Sinisa Jolic/CBC)

Friday, August 7

MARK BLYTH: GLOBAL TRUMPISM AND THE FUTURE OF THE GLOBAL POLITICAL ECONOMY
Pundits, analysts and others in the chattering classes were surprised and shocked at the election of Donald Trump and other populist leaders in Europe. But Scottish political scientist Mark Blyth saw it coming. In this talk delivered at Hamitlon's McMaster University as part of its Socrates Project, he asks listeners to consider the political and economic circumstances that led to these phenomena. Where is it all going? And why should we pay attention? Mark Blyth shares his thoughts in both his lecture and in a later conversation with our host, Nahlah Ayed. *Originally aired on October 15, 2019.
 



Monday, August 10

WINNERS TAKE ALL: ANAND GIRIDHARADAS
We're used to governments taking part of our tax dollars to spend on social projects and international development. But increasingly, wealthy private citizens are setting up their own social development non-profit agencies, and substituting their own values about who gets how much and for what, in some cases superseding the values and priorities of more neutral international bodies. It's the Gates Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative vs the United Nations and Oxfam. A former McKinsey analyst has a problem with this trend, and he's written a book about it. Anand Giridharadas in conversation with Nahlah Ayed. *Originally aired on January 27, 2020.


Tuesday, August 11

THE NEW MASTERS: CONVERSATIONS WITH THE 2019 SOBEY ART AWARD FINALISTS, PART 1
The Sobey Art Award is Canada's preeminent award for contemporary Canadian art. It's also a celebration of the next big thing in the art world. Meet 2019's four finalists and winner. Their work includes: humanity's relationship to nature, through archival records of a little-known 19th century zoo; how all income levels could fit into a single housing concept; the path back to art through weaving; reclaiming culture through slightly subversive soapstone carvings and giving a powerful voice to Filipino foreign workers. *Originally aired on March 5, 2020.

Spanning all regions of Canada, these five artists vied for the pre-eminent 2019 Sobey Art Award, clockwise from left: Anne Low, Stephanie Comilang (winner), Kablusiak, D'Arcy Wilson and Nicolas Grenier. (Loewe Foundation/Anne Amores/Elyse Bouvier/Chris Friel/Atelier Nicolas Grenier)

Wednesday, August 12

WALKING THE BORDER: WALLS THAT DIVIDE US — HUNGARY
Beginning in 2015 a great wave of migrants, mostly from North Africa and the Middle East, began to wash into Europe. We saw them coming on the nightly news, asylum seekers and economic migrants, in rickety boats, walking in long lines, and in hastily constructed camps. That wave became a flood, and most European nations didn't know what to do. In Hungary, however, they built a fence to keep everyone out. To see what happened, Nahlah Ayed visits the Hungarian border, and crosses over into Serbia. This is part four in our series, Walking the Border: Walls That Divide Us.  *Originally aired on February 27, 2020.


Thursday, August 13

CBC MASSEY LECTURE: THE MATING GAME
In Sally Armstrong's second lecture, this one delivered in Vancouver, she explore sex: the history of sex for procreation, for pleasure, for business. In our time, monogamy is the norm, but evolutionary biology suggests that in earlier times, it wasn't. We've moved through history to see more control over women and women's bodies. And this increased control affects women's roles in society — less power and agency, more responsibility to take care of the home and children — and as a result, the domination of women's bodies by men, which has led to the horrors of abuse we're all too familiar with today. *Originally aired on November 12, 2019.

Sally Armstrong:'Women's history is flawed' 3:10

Friday, August 14

MIND FIXERS: BIOLOGY & MENTAL HEALTH
Author and Harvard historian of science Anne Harrington talks with Nahlah Ayed about the ongoing hunt for a biological basis to mental illness. For individuals and families contending with depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia, finding those biomedical roots can mean everything from decreased social stigma to better treatments. Yet science and medicine have been inconsistent in their efforts and success. Harrington analyzes the trajectory of research, and how social factors from politics to media portrayals have fueled that inconsistency, both historically and in our own time. *Originally aired on October 28, 2019.
 



Monday, August 17

UNTIL THE END OF TIME: BRIAN GREENE
As the COVID-19 crisis trudges on, a physicist contemplates the ultimate end of the universe... and marvels at the wonder of all existence. "Nothing is permanent. Nothing lasts over sufficiently long timescales," says theoretical physicist and mathematician Brian Greene. He's the author of Until the End of Time: Mind, Matter and Our Search for Meaning in an Evolving Universe. *Originally aired on April 14, 2019.

Theoretical physicist and mathematician Brian Greene says in his book, Until the End of Time, that there is solace to be found by looking across the vastness of space and time — from the very beginning of the universe, to its ultimate demise far in the distant future. (Elena Seibert/Penguin Random House)

Tuesday, August 18

THE NEW MASTERS: CONVERSATIONS WITH THE 2019 SOBEY ART AWARD FINALISTS, PART 2
The Sobey Art Award is Canada's preeminent award for contemporary Canadian art. It's also a celebration of the next big thing in the art world. Meet 2019's four finalists and winner. Their work includes: humanity's relationship to nature, through archival records of a little-known 19th century zoo; how all income levels could fit into a single housing concept; the path back to art through weaving; reclaiming culture through slightly subversive soapstone carvings and giving a powerful voice to Filipino foreign workers. 

The five regional finalists are profiled over two episodes. West Coast and the Yukon: Anne Low. Prairies and North: Kablusiak. Quebec: Nicolas Grenier. Atlantic: D'Arcy Wilson. And the winner, representing Ontario: Stephanie Comilang. *Originally aired on March 6, 2020.


Wednesday, August 19

WALKING THE BORDER — THE 20-WALLED CENTURY
Canadian author and journalist Marcello Di Cintio is a wall traveller and says the 21st century has been a boom time for walls. In 2012, he wrote a book about our walled world and has made it his business to track them since. The Twenty-Walled Century is the fifth and final part in our series: Walking the Border: Walls That Divide Us. *Originally aired on February 28, 2019.
 

Thursday, August 20

CBC MASSEY LECTURE: A HOLY PARADOX
Sally Armstrong's third Massey lecture, delivered in Fredericton, focuses on the status of women in religious affairs throughout history. In prehistory, women appeared to have high status and were deeply respected. But in later times, their status seems to have lowered — women were pushed to the side in all the major religions. Leading the worship of God became a man's job. In cultural norms too, the power of women was curtailed — honour killings, child marriage, genital mutilation, all invoked as extensions of belief systems. A long way from where faith traditions originally started out. *Originally aired on November 13, 2019.


Friday, August 21

TAKE IT LIKE A STOIC: COPING IN THE TIME OF CORONAVIRUS
Early Stoics knew all about crisis: they lived through wars, exile and episodes of infectious disease, as well as the loss of loved ones. In the time of coronavirus, modern Stoics say their predecessors have lessons that speak directly to coping with the constraints of pandemic living. *Originally aired on April 3, 2020.
 



Monday, August 24

REPEAT AFTER ME
In 2011, one of the world's most respected psychologists proved the impossible. Daryl Bem, a professor at Cornell University, "proved" that precognition — the ability to sense and predict the future — is real. His study was explosive. This one paper shook the very foundations of psychology, leading researchers to question accepted research standards. Contributor Alexander B. Kim investigates psychology's replication crisis and its explosive aftermath. *Originally aired on November 1, 2019.
 

Tuesday, August 25

ORIGINS OF CONSCIENCE: PATRICIA CHURCHLAND
How do we determine right from wrong? According to Patricia Churchland, the answer is through science and philosophy. The distinguished proponent of neurophilosophy explores how moral systems arise from the influences of nature and nurture. Her book, Conscience: The Origins of Moral Intuition, delves into scientific studies — particularly on twins — to understand whether people have a predisposition to embrace specific ethical stands. Churchland also turns to philosophy to explore why the presence of moral codes is both universal to all societies, yet particular and distinct to each society throughout place and time. *Originally published on February 21, 2020.

Miss Dorothy Warner, a member of the newly-formed Spinsters' Club at the University of Southern California, gives the 'cold shoulder' to onlookers, circa 1950's. Girls who wear buttons bearing the name 'Spinster' were pledged to shun men at the university. (George Rinhart/Corbis/Getty Images)

Wednesday, August 26

THE RISE OF THE GLORIFIED SPINSTER
Throughout history, single women have been vilified, ostracized and shamed. And while there are more single-person households in Canada than ever before, that lingering stigma still follows the single woman. CBC Radio producer Alison Cook explores the social history of these "deviant" women in The Rise of the Glorified Spinster. *Originally published on May 21, 2019. 

Thursday, August 27

CBC MASSEY LECTURE: WHEN THE PATRIARCHY MEETS THE MATRIARCHY
Women have been trying to move the dial on equality rights for thousands of years. The handprints on ancient Stone Age cave walls were often made by women's hands — they were the artists — and right up through to the #MeToo movement, the impetus has been the same: women representing themselves. There's a recent movement to have 30% of women on corporate boards —  it's had spotty success so far, but Massey Lecturer Sally Armstrong says initiatives like this are the only way forward. *Originally aired on November 14, 2019.

Friday, August 28

COMPLEXITY FRONTIER: ROGER MELKO
In 1941, the Nazi Enigma machine could encrypt a billion-billion different combinations each time it was used. It was thought to be impossible to decode. But Alan Turing and others cracked it, and helped the Allies win the war. Now computers are billions of times more powerful than the one Turing used. What future awaits us? Will machines be able to think just like humans? Stephen Hawking thought that artificial intelligence could spell the end of humanity. But Roger Melko of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics thinks that maybe, just maybe, we're on the cusp of a wonderfully transformative age. *Originally published on January 17, 2020.
 



Monday, August 31

PARADISE LOST: BETTER TO REIGN IN HELL, PART ONE
In the 17th century, after the monarchy he rebelled against was restored, John Milton wrote his epic poem Paradise Lost during his house arrest. It was then that he created the most sympathetic Satan in literary history — a complex character with legitimate grievances against a repressive God.

Engraving by Gustave Dore for Milton's 'Paradise Lost’, circa 1850. Satan, the Fallen Angel, is flung from Paradise and nears the Earth on his way to Hell. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Nahlah Ayed talks to Islam Issa about how Milton's Satan has resonated with people at moments of rebellion throughout history — from the Arab Spring to Communist Yugoslavia. She also speaks with Gabby Samra and Maggie Kilgour about how Paradise Lost complicated the way we imagine evil in literature and pop culture, and with Ken Hiltner about how environmental degradation in 17th century England shaped Milton's conception of hell. The thesis: Milton's poem, and his character of Satan, are most compelling in periods of political upheaval. * Originally published on March 13, 2020.

 

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