Virginia Prescott

Host, Word of Mouth

Prior to joining NHPR, Virginia Prescott was editor and producer for the nationally syndicated programs On Point and Here & Now, produced at WBUR in Boston. Virginia grew up in New Hampshire, but began her radio career at WWOZ Radio in New Orleans. She moved to New York City and worked for the team behind NPR’s Peabody Award-winning Jazz from Lincoln Center series with Ed Bradley. Virginia then joined WNYC to launch the station’s website and oversee all its interactive media sites. Throughout her radio career, Virginia helped set up independent radio stations in developing regions in southern and West Africa. She has also trained journalists in post-conflict zones from Sierra Leone to the former Yugoslavia. She was awarded a Loeb Fellowship at Harvard University where she studied how broadcast media could spark dialogue and build community across terrestrial borders.

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Word of Mouth
11:18 am
Wed January 22, 2014

Rethink 2014: Paying For Creative Content

Credit Sara Plourde

This is “Rethink 2014”, presenting ways of challenging our habits and assumptions and the status quo. Today: paying for creative content. It’s the axiom of the era: you can find anything on the internet--for free!  The challenge has been figuring out how artists, writers, musicians and content makers get paid for their work. Take the music streaming service Spotify. Sure, users can discover new artists and find a lot of great music, but Spotify is under fire for failing to compensate the artists who make that music. In an opinion piece for the The Guardian last October, David Byrne wrote, “If artists have to rely almost exclusively on the income from these services, they'll be out of work within a year.” Maybe the big-name musicians have it wrong. We bring you the story of an unknown songwriter who is raking in the Spotify royalty checks, one song at a time. PJ Vogt of On The Media’s new TLDR podcast and blog, has the story.

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Word of Mouth
1:44 pm
Tue January 21, 2014

Rethink 2014: Sex and Relationships

Credit Matt Romack Photography via Flickr Creative Commons

For centuries, marriage functioned as a political, practical, and economical union, depending on your station in life. For the aristocrats, a good marriage secured fortunes and position. For common folk, it meant having enough kids to work a farm. It is only in the last 100 years or so that the idea of a passionate marriage took hold of the popular imagination. Today, most of us are less worried about basic survival and can focus more on what we desire in a union. Usually a healthy, dynamic, secure, relationship that is predictable, but not when it comes to sex, which people want to be anything but staid and predicable. Our guest is Esther Perel, she's based her career on how to unite those conflicting desires. She’s a psychologist, sex therapist and author who specializes in couples and sexuality. Her TED talk (watch it below) on “The Secret to Desire in a Long-term Relationship” has over 2 million views. Her bestselling book is called “Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic and the Domestic.

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Word of Mouth
1:43 pm
Tue January 21, 2014

Is Sochi Safe?

A giant ad promotes a resort complex for the 2014 Olympics. Critics say it uses fascist-inspired imagery.
©Thomas Dworzak National Geographic

While landing the 2014 Winter Olympic games was a crowning political achievement for Russian President Vladimir Putin, preparations for the Sochi games have not been so triumphant. With just three weeks until opening ceremonies, security officials are actively chasing down members of a terrorist group that has publicly threatened to disrupt the games. The seaside resort town of Sochi and neighboring sites of Olympic events have a long history of anti-government friction. Only a day’s drive from Chechnya, the region borders recently disputed territory with Georgia and was the site of an alleged genocide perpetrated by Russian Tsars in the 19th century. Our guest is writer Brett Forrest, he examined the landscape and geopolitics of the upcoming 2014 games in the January issue of National Geographic magazine.

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Word of Mouth
10:14 am
Tue January 21, 2014

The Story Of A 20th Century Swiss Family Robinson...In Siberia

Credit Wikicommons

Imagine this: a family of six, living for more than 40 years in an isolated tiny cabin on the vast Siberian Taiga. If this were the 19th century, it might not be so far-fetched. But, it was 1978 when four geologists prospecting for iron discovered the Lykovs. Patriarch Karp Lykov and his wife, Akulina, fled the Soviet purges of the 1930s and headed for the forest where they raised their children, completely unaware of WWII, the moon landing, the cold war, or the advent of television.

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Word of Mouth
12:00 pm
Mon January 20, 2014

The War On Poverty Starts With The Economy

Credit Hanibaael via Flickr Creative Commons

Fifty years ago this month President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed a nearly $950-million anti-poverty bill into law, creating Head Start, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Economic Opportunity Act. President Johnson envisioned a wealthy country where no child would go unfed or unschooled.  Five decades on, the official poverty rate has dropped, but childhood poverty is on the rise, as is income inequality. With no victory to declare, is it time for another war on poverty? Our guest is Angela Glover Blackwell. She responded to that question in New York Times’ “Room for Debate” series. She is founder and CEO of Policy Link, a national research and action institute which works to improve access and opportunity for people of color and residents of low-income community. 

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Word of Mouth
12:00 pm
Mon January 20, 2014

The Songs That Shaped 'I Have A Dream'

Mahalia Jackson
Credit Archives de la Ville de Montréal via Flickr Creative Commons

On August 28th, 1963, minutes before Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his landmark 'I Have a Dream' speech, gospel singer Mahalia Jackson electrified and moved the crowd with took to the stage and sang two traditional  spirituals. Our guest, Jonathan Rieder says her performance wasn’t intended only to evoke an emotional response, but also, to connect the struggle for civil rights to the fight to abolish slavery more than a century before. Jonathan’s article in The New Yorker,  called “Songs of the Slaves: The Music of M.L.K’s ‘I Have a Dream’" details how traditional black music fueled Dr. King’s ground-breaking  speech.

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Word of Mouth
12:03 pm
Fri January 17, 2014

Word Of Mouth 01.18.14

Credit Taylor Quimby

Like a good music festival, Word of Mouth's Saturday broadcast satisfies your tastes, but also challenges them.  We've got some headliners that you really look forward to hearing - and some unexpected rookies that you might have missed if we didn't put them in the lineup.  And even better, you'll never have to wait in line for a Porta-potty.  So pop in your earbuds or turn up the woofer - here's what's coming up:

  • Rethinking Catholicism:  As part of our month-long series "Rethink 2014", we talk with Father James Martin, editor-at-large of the Jesuit magazine, America, about whether Pope Francis is ushering in a new era for the Catholic Church.
  • From Rocker To Raffi: a conversation with Chris Ballew, frontman for The Presidents of The United States of America, about making children's music under the alias "Caspar Babypants".
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Word of Mouth
1:09 pm
Thu January 16, 2014

Rethink 2014: Reframing Alcoholism

Credit Sara Plourde

The centers for disease control and prevention recently reported that doctors don’t adequately warn patients about the dangers of drinking. CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden said, “there are at least 38 million Americans who have problems with alcohol. For every alcoholic, there are six people who drink too much to the point where it adversely affects their lives”. Our guest is Lance Brendan Young, he argues the problem doesn’t begin in the doctor’s office, but dates back to 1849 when the term “alcoholism” was first described as a chronic, relapsing disease. Lance is assistant professor of communication at Western Illinois University and has researched and written extensively on the language used to frame alcohol abuse. He doesn’t think the condition should be treated as a disease 

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Word of Mouth
1:05 pm
Thu January 16, 2014

"Something Like The Gods"

Credit Johnhenryf via Flickr Creative Commons

In the words of author Stephen Amidon, “no other figure is the focus of so much passion, controversy, expectation, and disappointment…” regardless of whether it is football or soccer, figure-skating or hockey, watching the world’s top athletes borders on hypnotic… and sometimes stands as proof of our ability to exceed physical human limitations and become something like the gods. That’s the name of long-time sports-lover and novelist Stephen Amidon’s new cultural history of the athlete, detailing sport from the first Olympic Games, to the rise of Lebron James.

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Word of Mouth
12:53 pm
Thu January 16, 2014

Rethink 2014: TED Talks

Credit Sara Plourde

Since its inception in 1984, the annual TED conference has grown to attract the likes like Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Jane Goodall and many other big-name speakers . Today, TED talks routinely go viral across social media platforms, and the concept has multiplied into countless international TED Global and regional TEDx events, and even spawned an NPR program, the TED-radio hour.  Despite that undeniable success, our guest Benjamin Bratton spoke at a recent San Diego TEDx event and dared to ask whether the ideas presented at TED really are worth spreading.

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Word of Mouth
12:32 pm
Thu January 16, 2014

The Trip To Echo Spring: On Writers And Drinking

Credit via npr.org

The idea of writing a book about writers who drank too much sounds a little like shooting fish in a barrel. The relationship between addiction and creativity remains somewhat mythic…and frequently mimicked. Remarkably talented writers and champion boozers like John Cheever, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Tennessee Williams drank through successes and failures and kept going even as their creativity crumbled and their lives circled the drain. 

Olivia Laing traveled across the U.S. to follow the paths of six famous literary alcoholics, two of whom ended up suicides, the others dead by middle age. Her new book is called “The Trip to Echo Spring”.

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Word of Mouth
2:48 pm
Wed January 15, 2014

Rethink 2014: America's Place In The Global Economy (Or, What's Wrong With Being Number Two?)

Credit Sara Plourde

After years of isolationism, the U.S. rose in the 20th century to become the world’s sole superpower. Today, economic growth is slow, unemployment and income inequality are rising, and political impasses have ground policy initiatives to a halt. America’s status in global manufacturing, education, and innovation is slipping. Many economists project that China is poised to overtake the U.S. as the world’s largest economy. It all sounds pretty bleak…but economist Charles Kenny paints a much rosier picture. In his book The Upside of Down: Why the Rise of the Rest is Good for the West he argues that Americans should stop worrying and learn to love the decline.

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Word of Mouth
11:41 am
Wed January 15, 2014

The Los Angeles Poverty Department: The "Other" L.A.P.D. performs At Dartmouth This Weekend

Credit courtesy of lapovertydept.org

Los Angeles’ skid row has the nation’s largest concentration of homeless people. For nearly 30 years, this nexus of impoverished shelters and cardboard boxes has also been home to the Los Angeles Poverty Department, an arts and performing arts group comprised of people who live and work on skid row. The other LAPD makes theater about experiences common to people living in poverty – like addiction, incarceration, and the psychology of victimization – for stages all over the world. Their play “Hospital” follows the dysfunction of the American health care system, and is being performed at the Hopkins Center for the Arts on January 17th and 18thJohn Malpede is Founding Artistic Director, and Kevin Michael Key is a performer and Community Coordinator for the group.

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Word of Mouth
11:27 am
Wed January 15, 2014

Rethink 2014: The Psychology of Scarcity

Credit Sara Plourde

Scarcity is a kind of great equalizer. Whether it be less sleep, security, time, food, money or whatever a person needs, scarcity hijacks the mind, diminishes intelligence, and lowers resistance to temptation. Eldar Shafir, Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs at Princeton set out to find evidence for what happens to our minds when we have too little – and how scarcity shapes our choices and behaviors.  He's coauthor of the new book is Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much.

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Word of Mouth
2:01 pm
Tue January 14, 2014

From Rocker To Raffi: Chris Ballew Of "PUSA" And Caspar Babypants

Chris Ballew/Caspar Babypants
Credit via presidentsrock.com and babypantsmusic.com

The Presidents of The United States of America - the same band responsible for the enigmatic 1995 hit single “Lump”  - is releasing their 6th studio album in February, their first since 2008.  Since then, PUSA’s frontman Chris Ballew has been keeping himself busy making music geared towards an entirely different generation of listeners: the three and four year old set!  Under the alias “Caspar Babypants”, Chris has released 7 albums of children’s music, including a collection of Beatles tunes.  In this interview Chris explains why he started making music for families, how “being a parent is a little like being in a penitentiary in 1887”, and gave us a preview of songs off PUSA’s new record!  

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