Chattering Class

Director Chris Bell with his parents, Rosemary and Mike Bell, and his brother Mark. (Photo courtesy of Alan Stephens)

Chris Bell’s Personal Lens on the Prescription Drug Epidemic

This week on Chattering Class, we look into prescription drug abuse and our teacher is documentarian Chris Bell. His first movie, "Bigger, Stronger, Faster*," examined the use of steroids in America through the lens of his family -- his brother Mark was a bodybuilder and his brother Mike was a pro wrestler. Nine months after the movie premiered, Chris's father called and told him Mike had died. Not from steroids, but from prescription drugs. That event inspired his new movie "Prescription Thugs," a look at America's pill habit.

(Photo Credit: Terri Loewenthal)

Chris Jennings’ Deep Dive into American Utopianism

This week's chattering class topic: Utopias. Specifically, a bunch of utopian communities that sprouted up in America in the 19th century. And our guest is Chris Jennings. His new book is called, "Paradise Now: The Story of American Utopianism," and it focuses on five of the hundreds of utopian experiments of that era. The author tells us about God-fearing communists and a few Utopian leaders, one of which believed that eventually the oceans would taste like lemonade (seriously).

(Photo Credit: Clayton Cubitt)

Molly Crabapple Draws Blood, Dancers and Detainees

Molly Crabapple is an illustrator and activist whose work has appeared in Marvel comics, on protest posters for the Occupy movement, and she also traveled to Guantanamo to sketch the military hearings there. She just released a memoir called, "Drawing Blood." She reflects on her craft and what she learned from testing herself in "the naked girl business."

Author Photo of Randall Munroe ( Image Credit: Randall Munroe)

Randall Munroe Makes the Complicated Stuff Simple for Us (and You)

Randall Munroe is a cartoonist with a degree in physics. Years ago, while working as a roboticist for NASA, he started the webcomic "xkcd." The drawings are simple, mostly stick figures, but the concepts are big, as he takes on technology, computer science, and math. His latest book is called "Things Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words." He examines how we use language to describe complex ideas with Brendan and explains the thousand-word challenge behind the book.

Photo Credit: Philippe Halsman Courtesy of Cohen Media Group

‘Hitchcock/Truffaut’ Explores the Impact of a Chat Between Filmmaking Masterminds

Back in 1966, at the height of his career, French filmmaker Fran├žois Truffaut sat down with his hero, Alfred Hitchcock, and interviewed him about every film he'd ever made. That interview was transcribed into a hugely influential book called "Hitchcock-Truffaut." A new documentary explores the making of that book, and Rico talks to its director Kent Jones.


‘(T)ERROR’ Shines a Light on the FBI’s Murky Counterterrorism Tactics

Most Americans are probably aware that whole departments of the government are trying to prevent terrorist acts. But how exactly are they going about it? And how effective are they, really? The new documentary "(T)error" gives a rare glimpse into the world of assessing terror threats. Co-director David Felix Sutcliffe talks to Brendan about getting a rare glimpse into the world of an FBI informant.

Credit: Adrian Tomine

Adrian Tomine on Schlubby Dads and Melancholy Comedy

Considered one of America's great graphic novelists, illustrator Adrian Tomine's clean-lined illustrations have graced the covers of several issues of the New Yorker magazine, as well as album covers by bands like The Eels. His new collection, "Killing and Dying," made Publishers Weekly's list of the most anticipated books of the fall. He delves into the semi-autobiographical elements of his new graphic novel and explains how taking criticism to heart helped open up his creativity.