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Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

The middle of summer is when the surprises in publishing turn up. I'm talking about those quietly commanding books that publishers tend to put out now, because fall and winter are focused on big books by established authors. Which brings us to The Dream Life of Astronauts, by Patrick Ryan, a very funny and touching collection of nine short stories that take place in the 1960s and '70s around Cape Canaveral, Fla.

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This is the first in a series of essays concerning our collective future. The goal is to bring forth some of the main issues humanity faces today, as we move forward to uncertain times. In an effort to be as thorough as possible, we will consider two kinds of threats: those due to natural disasters and those that are man-made. The idea is to expose some of the dangers and possible mechanisms that have been proposed to deal with these issues. My intention is not to offer a detailed analysis for each threat — but to invite reflection and, hopefully, action.


Agrarian Maps

Feb 20, 2013
Originally published on October 17, 2013 10:03 am



Let's bring up our next two brave contestants. We have Deb Amlen and Jonathan Corbblah.


EISENBERG: Jonathan, you teach chess, huh?

JONATHAN CORBBLAH: I do. I am a chess master and I've been teaching it in New York for the last ten years.

EISENBERG: Wow, a chess master.


EISENBERG: I'm going to call you a chess king. Does that happen a lot?

CORBBLAH: Well, I'll take it.

EISENBERG: You'll take it, okay.

CORBBLAH: Sure, I like them all.

EISENBERG: And Deb, what is this, you write word play for the New York Times?

DEB AMLEN: I do. I write the crossword blog for the New York Times.

EISENBERG: All right, so this is - yeah, this is going to be a good competition here.


EISENBERG: Two thinkers. What are we playing, Art?

ART CHUNG: Ophira, this game is called Agrarian Maps. I'm going to describe a map of an agricultural area and you have to name the crop grown in that area. You guys ready?

EISENBERG: So fun. That is a fun game. Yeah.

CORBBLAH: That sounds great.


EISENBERG: Yeah, it's also a drink mate. Audience, when you know the crop, you just take a drink, all right?


CHUNG: Okay, actually, Agrarian Maps is an anagram. It's an anagram of the words "Anagram Pairs," because each answer in the game will be a pair of words. The second word in each phrase will be an anagram of the first word.

So, for example, if I said the clue: goodness gracious, what swine, the answer would be gosh hogs. G-O-S-H is anagram of H-O-G-S. Okay?

EISENBERG: Right, easy stuff. Move it along.

CHUNG: I'm going to give you clues, hopefully, you know, many clues to get you to the right answer. The contestant who gets more right moves on to our Ask Me One More final round at the end of the show. Here we go. Mr. Presley is not dead.


CHUNG: Jonathan?

CORBBLAH: Elvis lives.

CHUNG: Elvis lives, correct.


CHUNG: Fidel impersonators.


CHUNG: Jonathan?

CORBBLAH: Castros actors.

CHUNG: Castro actors, correct.


CHUNG: The more sexually explicit metalworker.


CHUNG: Jonathan?

CORBBLAH: Lewder...

CHUNG: No, close. Deb?

EISENBERG: You're so close.

CHUNG: Deb has her eyes closed in fervent concentration.

AMLEN: I'm focused.

CHUNG: A couple of seconds, Deb. No, don't have it? Is there anyone in our studio audience have it?


CHUNG: Lewder...

EISENBERG: Lewder welder, right.

CHUNG: Welder, yes.


AMLEN: Yeah.

CHUNG: And iPad or a Nexus 7 for use in wartime.


CHUNG: Jonathan?

CORBBLAH: Tablet battle.

CHUNG: Tablet battle, battle tablet, yes.


CHUNG: Slovenly or messy nakedness.



AMLEN: Untidy nudity.

CHUNG: Yes, you're on the board.


AMLEN: I was bound to get the dirty one right.

CHUNG: To speak well of ancient Iran.


CHUNG: Jonathan?

CORBBLAH: Aspire Persia.

CHUNG: Sorry, that's incorrect.



AMLEN: Praise Persia.

CHUNG: Praise Persia, correct.


CHUNG: An immune hypersensitivity to art exhibitions.


CORBBLAH: Gallery allergy.

CHUNG: Correct, Jonathan.


CHUNG: A new parent's misery and not having Pampers at the changing table.


CHUNG: Jonathan?

CORBBLAH: It's diaper despair.

CHUNG: Diapers despair, correct.


EISENBERG: All right, Jonathan, you are the winner of this round. Congratulations. That was a tough one.


EISENBERG: Thank you so much, Deb. Jonathan will be moving on to our Ask Me One More final round at the end of the show. Another hand for them, that was unbelievable.

(APPLAUSE) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.