A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Bit of Fresh Air

I've got my iPod working again and I'm routinely checking my favorite podcasts for something to inspire or edify. Today there were some particularly dark but interesting stories. For example, I listened to an augmented rebroadcast of a March 2010 interview Terry Gross conducted on the show "Fresh Air" with the historian Tony Judt, who died the other day of ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease). The interview itself is a testimony to this man's tour de force determination to remain vital despite incredible obstacles. In this interview, Judt speaks from the heart about his approach to life, such as it was at the time, and his hopes for the future - not his own but those of our children. He talks about his article Ill Fares the Land, which he says he wrote to encourage the next generation not to despair in the face of the spoiled world they are set to inherit.

The other podcast I enjoyed today was also on Fresh Air. Dave Davies interviewed the author of "Hot Time in the Town," a history of New York City's heat wave of 1896, in which 1200 people died during ten days from hell. 90 degree days without a breeze,without AC, without elevators, mostly without running water in the home. More deaths in a single event than the Great Chicago Fire. The author tells how the laissez-faire policies of the day kept the mayor from doing anything to help alleviate the suffering of the mostly poor and working class residents of the city. Those who died at home were left for days until a busy coroner could visit and file the required reports before burial could be arranged. People sleeping on rooftops, fire escapes, and piers seeking to cool off were experiencing serious injuries or death as a result of falls in the night. This tragically included children. Horses died by the thousands and were left to rot in the streets while the man contracted to pick them up found himself overwhelmed by the sheer volume of carcasses. Most interesting, the author tells of then Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt's gestures of leadership in the crisis.

I recommend a bit of Fresh Air now and then to help you peer out on new vistas. If it doesn't suit you, check out the other great shows on NPR.


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