Woody Guthrie's relationship with his home state has always been complicated. The singer-songwriter left Oklahoma and traveled the nation, composing some of the best-known songs of his time and ours. But to many in the state, his progressive political views did not fit with a strong conservative streak during the Cold War period. His reputation there is now closer to a full restoration as Oklahoma opens his archives.
For 20 years, Stephen King has had an image stuck in his head: It's a boy in a wheelchair flying a kite on a beach. "It wanted to be a story, but it wasn't a story," he tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. But little by little, the story took shape around the image — and focused on an amusement park called "Joyland" located just a little farther down the beach.
Srinivas Ayyagari onstage in 1992 (left); at right, Ayyagari today. "Seeing someone from ESPN commenting on your style and strategy was bizarre and weird. But it's the closest I'll ever come to being an athlete," Ayyagari says.
Credit Karla Miller
Karla Miller competed in the national bees of 1984, 1985 and 1986. Her best finish was 31st, when she went out on the word "dashiki." Today, Miller is a writer and editor. At right, a recent snapshot of Miller and her daughter.
Credit Raga Ramachandran
(Left) 1988 champion Raga Ramachandran gives a TV interview at age 13. Today, Ramachandran is a surgical pathologist at the University of California, San Francisco.
For an academic contest pitting young spellers against the dictionary, the Scripps National Spelling Bee has taken on the intensity of the fiercest athletic events. Feeling the warmth of television lights — not to mention nerves and distractions — all while sports commentators are analyzing your "style" and approach is something only a select club of young word-nerdy Americans gets to experience. How does that early experience affect these mostly middle-school-aged kids later in life?
Part of a competition in Northeast India, Pu Zozam ate five chili peppers, then collapsed. Food scientists call the Bhut Jolokia he ate one of the world's hottest peppers. Writer Mary Roach talks about her experience traveling to the state of Nagaland to try the pepper for herself.
This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm John Donvan in Washington. Neal Conan is away. A small hole in the ground, that's all it looked like the other day in the photo of the Christian Science Monitor, published in its coverage of a tornado that ripped through Moore, Oklahoma, a small hole in the ground surrounded on all sides by the wreckage of totally flattened homes, right up to the very edge of that hole in the ground, which oddly is rectangular in shape in the photo and has a door attached to it, flung open.