Episode 253: Conor Oberst, Colson Whitehead, and Freakonomics

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Musician Conor Oberst gives us a topography lesson … A new movie – and fail-safe flirting tips – from actor Griffin Dunne… ‘Freakonomics’ Stephen Dubner is your kryptonite …. Colson Whitehead becomes a gambling man … Inventing the futuristic fastener Velcro … Why bad words might be good for you … Annabelle Gurwitch finds lust in a hopeless place … And we inspect teff: a tiny grain with a huge upside.

Photo Credit: Audrey Sackner Bernstein

"Sharp Hybrid Design" - Stephen Dubner


An uncomfortable joke the author originally wrote for a twelve year old.

Graham Denholm / StringerCollection:Getty Images Entertainment

Foul Language for Fine Health

Small Talk

Studies suggest that swearing can have physiological benefits and help to ease pain and stress.

Getting Stuck with Velcro

A History Lesson With Booze ®

How an Alpine plant inspired the space-age 'zipperless zipper' we know as Velcro.

Colson Whitehead Deals Out Poker Lore

Guest List

For his newest book, acclaimed author Colson Whitehead inserted himself deep into the world of high-stakes poker. He shares a list of poker inspirations from books and film.

Conor Oberst Moves Midwestern Mountains

Guest of Honor

The indie-folk musician behind Bright Eyes and other projects talks about music as a process of finding truth and coping with an overwhelming world.

I Fell in Love with a "Genius"


Actress Annabelle Gurwitch reads an excerpt from her memoir, “I See You Made an Effort: Compliments, Indignities, and Survival Stories from the Edge of 50,” about needing a little help from a young man at the Apple Genius Bar.

Photo Credit: Audrey Sackner Bernstein

Stephen Dubner Offers to Retrain Your Brain


Half of the bestselling "Freakonomics" duo applies behavioral economics to our listeners' etiquette dilemmas.

Tiny Teff Hits a Huge Market

Main Course

A new company is betting Ethiopia's staple grain -- tiny, tiny, Teff -- will catch on with gluten-freers in America... and in the process help Ethiopian farmers. Rico learns it makes pretty good pancakes, too.

Jamie McCarthy / :Getty Images Entertainment

Discovering Griffin Dunne (Again)

Chattering Class

Actor, director, and film producer Griffin Dunne talks about returning to the starring role after years behind the camera - and shares some secrets about his famous aunt, Joan Didion.

Playlist: Episode 253


Music from this week's show.