To The Best Of Our Knowledge

News & Information: Sat • 5pm-7pm | Sun • 8am-10am
  • Hosted by Anne Strainchamps

A thoughtful and penetrating interview magazine featuring nationally and internationally-known guests whose passion for new ideas challenge and engage.

From Telephones to Auto-Tune

Nov 22, 2015

For as closely linked as the voice is to our body and sense of identity, there are also a lot of external forces affecting our voices, both social and technological. In fact, when we're talking about mediated voices—voices we hear in music, film, and of course, on the radio—we're actually not talking about "voices" any more. We're talking about signal processing. And, as media historian Jonathan Sterne tells Craig Eley, signal processing shapes the sound of all vocal media, from your telephone calls to the music of T-Pain.

Does He Sound Gay?

Nov 22, 2015

David Thorpe is a filmmaker who went in search of his voice. Specifically, he wanted to know why he and many other gay men ended up markers of a "gay voice"—one with precise enunciation and sibilant "s" sounds. He spoke with his family and several speech therapists to better understand, control, and inhabit his voice.

Hearing a Disappearing World

Nov 22, 2015

While we humans are out there making a lot of noise, we're not the only creatures on the planet that vocalize. Birds, whales, frogs and toads—all of these things make noise. But do they have a voice? And if so, what do their voices tell us about our natural world? Bernie Krause is a musician who has been recording environmental sounds all over the world since the 1970s. He recently spoke with Steve Paulson about what he's learned in a lifetime of listening.

Sounding Off On Vocal Fry

Nov 22, 2015

In and around public radio there is growing chorus of people talking about "vocal fry," the low vibrations in the voice that usually come at the end of sentences. Critics say it makes for bad sound, but if that's true, why are only women being criticized for it? In this piece, our host, Anne Strainchamps, talks with NPR pioneer Susan Stamberg, podcast star Ann Friedman, and voice specialists about this so-called "problem."

Hollywood's "Urban" Voice Problem

Nov 22, 2015

Before and since Keith Powell's breakthrough role on as Toofer on the sitcom "30 Rock," he has been forced to confront Hollywood's problem with black male voices. In this interview, he tells us how he works within an industry that desperately needs more diverse voices but doesn't truly want them.

Gifting is, well, complicated

Nov 21, 2015

Is it actually possible to give a truly selfless gift? Anthropologist David Graeber says it's not only impossible, the entire idea of a "free gift" is nothing but a construct born in opposition to impersonal market economies. In other words, it’s you know, complicated. 

How to Cultivate Gratitude

Nov 21, 2015

So – time for a lesson in Naikan.  A Japanese tradition, or spiritual discipline, that teaches people how to deliberately cultivate gratitude – by noticing how much we take for granted.  Gregg Krech teaches Naikon in Middlebury Vermont – and he says if you want to give it a try, be thankful for more than the turkey this Thanksgiving - thank your roof, your furnace, even the lane lines in the street.  

Raising Gracious Children

Nov 21, 2015

Want to sum up a parent’s job in one word? It might be “giving”.  Here’s commentator Marion Winik on teaching her youngest child to be giving too.

Patti Smith

Nov 21, 2015

Punk legend Patti Smith.  40 years ago, she came out with the seminal punk album Horses –with cover photo by her friend and lover Robert Mappelthorpe.

The Problem with Gettng Help

Nov 21, 2015

Most of the time, it’s kind of clear when you should be grateful.  For instance, if someone gives you something, or even holds the door for you… you say thank you.  But what if you didn’t actually want help?  What if complete strangers kept insisting on giving you a hand? Haddayr Copley-Woods says she's been trying to figure out how to deal with that for years, since she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

Jesse Eisenberg the Writer

Nov 6, 2015

You've probably seen Jesse Eisenberg in films like "The Social Network," "The Squid and the Whale" and "The End of the Tour." But have you read his fiction debut, "Bream Gives Me Hiccups." Eisenberg was in Madison recently and he stopped by our studio.

Addicted to Short Stories

Nov 6, 2015

Ben Marcus is a novelist and short story writer. His latest collection is called "Leaving the Sea." He also just edited an anthology called "New American Stories." He talks about how the addictive quality of language is a big part of what makes short stories so powerful. 

How do you go from producing riveting stories about real people for "This American Life" to writing surreal short stories. Diane Cook is the person to ask. Her debut collection of short stories is called "Man V. Nature."

Ben Marcus talks about another one of the stories he chose for the "New American Stories" anthology -- "Going for a Beer" by Robert Coover.

Imagine you'd lost your job and you were living in your car, trying to fend off roving thugs. And then you saw an ad that promised the comforts of a nice suburban home, along with a full-time job. There's just one catch -- you only spend half your time there; you spend the other half living in a prison cell. That's the premise behind Margaret Atwood's new novel, The Heart Goes Last," a blend of dystopia and social satire.

In the Newton Archives

Oct 31, 2015

If you really want to get a feel for Isaac Newton - perhaps history's greatest scientist - the best way is to see his original manuscripts at Cambridge University Library. But they're so valuable, it's hard to get permission to look at them. They did let Steve Paulson in, but only in the company of 4 archivists, plus Newton historian Sarah Dry.

Is Adulthood Dead?

Oct 31, 2015

Writer Scott Westerfeld believes the widespread popularity of youth culture is turning us all -- adults and adolescents alike -- into teenagers.

On Being Terry Gilliam

Oct 31, 2015

Welcome to the wonderful, wild mind of Monty Python's Terry Gilliam, who went on to direct the acclaimed films "Brazil," "Time Bandits" and "12 Monkeys." In an interview that can only be described as "Gilliamesque," Doug Gordon talks to the comedy legend.

Did We Find an Alien Civilization?

Oct 31, 2015

Astronomers have detected strange light patterrns around a star 1500 light years away. The usual explanations fall short, so Jason Wright says one possibility is a massive structure created by an advanced alien civilization.

The Unknowable Universe

Oct 31, 2015

Physicist Alan Lightman likes living in a universe filled with mystery. He finds it in the unanswered questions about the cosmos and also in his personal life, including a remarkable interspecies encounter with two ospreys.