Virginia Prescott

Host, Word of Mouth

Virginia Prescott invites listeners to take a break from breaking news and explore a world of under-reported stories on New Hampshire Public Radio as the host of Word of Mouth, a daily radio program and podcast. Prior to joining NHPR, she was editor, producer, and director for NPR programs On Point and Here & Now, and directed interactive media for New York Public Radio.

Throughout her radio career, Virginia has worked to build sustainable independent radio in the developing world and has trained journalists in post-conflict zones from Sierra Leone to the Balkans. She has been honored for her contributions with a Gracie award for her work on Word of Mouth, a Loeb Fellowship at Harvard University, and was a member of the Peabody Award-winning production team for Jazz from Lincoln Center with Ed Bradley. Virginia loves working in public radio, but regrets that so many good outfits go unnoticed.

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mariahcarey.com

The song, “All I Want for Christmas is You” by Mariah Carey was released in 1994, and has become a Christmas standard, consistently topping the billboard holiday charts. Despite the sleigh load of holiday albums released every winter, there hasn’t been an original holiday single with the staying power of Mariah Carey’s hit for nineteen years.

So, has our culture stopped welcoming new holiday songs? Has our Christmas carol quota been met?  Chris Klimek, is here to weigh in, his article for Slate:  “All I Want For Christmas Is A New Christmas Song,” pretty much says it all.

Shannon Brinkman / preservationhalljazzband.com

The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, one of New Orlean’s most legendary bands, will be rousing the crowds at The Music Hall in Portsmouth this Saturday with its “Creole Christmas” show… a joyful mix of Christmas tunes, jazz standards, and original music that busts out of the nutcracker and King Wenceslas mold. 

Ben Jaffe is creative director and sousaphone player for the band and joined us from the road.

Dan Klimke via flickr Creative Commons

Well, the holidays are upon us and there’s nothing quite like a well-told story for seeking refuge from the chaos or a little too much quality time with family. A lot of big-name authors had terrific new titles out this year, but we have a fondness for books that don’t get full page ads or window displays – call it the literary equivalent of the island of misfit toys – great books waiting for a good home; you just have to know that they are there. 

With us today are two seasoned purveyors of overlooked books. Michele Filgate is a writer and critic as well as the events coordinator at community bookstore in Brooklyn. Liberty Hardy is events coordinator at Riverrun bookstore in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. She’s also contributing editor for Book Riot.

sarah-ji via flickr Creative Commons

Today the ground is covered with snow, but imagine if you will, a verdant community garden in late July, brimming with flowers and vegetables, happy neighbors kneeling cheek-to-cheek, shovel to shovel, baskets overflowing with greens and the late afternoon sun bathing the scene in gold. We interrupt that idyll to bring you “Thievery, Fraud, Fistfights and Weed: The Other Side of Community Gardens.”   That’s the title of Jesse Hirsch’s article for Modern Farmer, where he’s a staff writer.

fanpop.com

The holidays are a time for gathering with friends and family. For dudes; not so much. A study published by the American Sociological Review found that white, heterosexual men have the fewest friends of any American demographic – which may be why the 'bro-mance' movies like I Love You, Man hit so close to home. Lisa Wade is professor of sociology at Occidental College and principal writer for Sociological Images. She wrote about the American man’s friend crisis for Salon.

SamsungTomorrow via flickr Creative Commons

Whether scoping out plasma-screen HDTV’s, or picking up a PlayStation 4, consumers upgrading their entertainment systems this Christmas are generally looking for products promising a better picture, superior sound, or next-generation graphics.  We’ve come a very long way since the VHS and Atari 2600.  So far, in fact, that one may wonder how much better the visuals, sound and graphics on entertainment systems can get – and would the casual user even be able to tell the difference?  

Joining the conversation about where entertainment technology can go from here is Jamin Warren – founder and editor-in-chief at Killscreen, a videogame arts and culture magazine, Slate music columnist Carl Wilson, and, David Ewalt, contributing editor at Forbes.

pawpaw67 via flickr Creative Commons

The digital age has rendered letter writing, paperboys, and checkbooks as old-fashioned as the rotary phone. While the proliferation of e-books, e-mail, and online newspapers appear to be hastening the death of the printed page, Nicholas Basbanes argues that we are far from becoming a paperless society. Nicholas is an impassioned bibliophile and author of On Paper: The Everything of its Two-Thousand-Year History.

Rebecca Lavoie

It’s kind of the season for objects and artifacts of sentimental value. Consider the Christmas ornament: we trundle them out every year and unpack our memories. Whether it’s the tacky bulb from your childhood Christmas tree, your grandmother’s crèche or your child’s first handmade snowflake, we’d like to see yours. Post a picture--and even a story--of your most treasured holiday ornament on our Facebook page, wordofmouthradio, or tweet it to us @wordofmouth. You can also email your photos to our producers!

Matt Mendelsohn

There’s a lot of pressure on a wedding photographer, after all the expense and attention to planning the day, the photographer is charged with capturing all of it -- the fleeting expressions, the flattering angles and happy guests – images that reinforce the undisputable rightness of a couple’s decision to unite. But it’s just the beginning of a union. Only when the guests have gone home and the camera’s been put away does marriage begin in earnest.

Matt Mendelsohn is a writer and professional photographer of more than 450 weddings since 1999.  Matt explores the meaning of marriage by reconnecting with five couples whose weddings he photographed years before, to find out whether they’re relationships have grown, evolved, or ended.

sfroehlich1121 via flickr Creative Commons

Ok, here it goes…

Sally sells seashells by the seashore.

Sally sells seashells by the seashore.

Sally sells seashells by the seashore.

From Sally and her shells, to Peter and his pickled peppers, tongue twisters have a long history of tripping up even the most professional of broadcasters. But these fun phrases offer more than simple entertainment. A team of MIT scientists recently released research on what tongue twisters reveal about human speech patterns and brain processes. Joining us is a member of that team, Stefanie Shattuck-Hufnagel, principal research scientist with MIT’s speech communication group.

via dallasnews.com

As part of its “30 for 30” series, ESPN recently released a short documentary detailing the escapades of perhaps the most prolific sports prankster of all-time, Barry Bremen. Between 1979 and 1986, Bremen was responsible for over twenty hoaxes in professional sports. In the documentary, Bremen along with a few former Kansas City Kings, remember the warm-up layup line at the NBA all-star game.

In recognition of Barry’s impressive history of ‘impostering,’ Bryan Curtis, staff writer for Grantland, compiled a list of memorable practical jokes played in the world of sports.

Logan Shannon / NHPR

We at Word of Mouth would like to remind you that while you may be feeling the pressure and stress of another jam packed December, you should definitely make time to relax with an hour long block of our prodigious Saturday show. Make a cup of hot cocoa, put down the remote, and curl up next to the dog/cat/heater/fireplace/snuggie and let the sweet calming sounds of public radio fill your ear sockets.

On this week's show:

courtesy of Tim Schreier, flickr creative commons

Since Newtown, debates over gun violence have focused largely on how to keep guns out of the hands of people who kill other people. The truth is that - by a margin of nearly 2 to 1 - suicide is the leading cause of death by gun violence.

It’s a toll not often discussed, but one that some law enforcement and public health officials say is worsened by easy access to guns.  We spoke to Leon Neyfakh this past January when he wrote about the topic in the Ideas section of The Boston Globe.

©Jonas Bendiksen/National Geographic

As the first snows fall, weekend warriors from all over New England will pack up the car, strap the skis to the roof and hit the slopes for a fairly expensive getaway. But in some places, skiing is a strategy for staying alive. Mark Jenkins, a contributing writer for National Geographic traveled to the northern most fringe of western China where skiing was invented many millennia ago. He spoke with the people who carry on the earliest skiing traditions, using the same resources and methods as their ancestors.

lindarodriguezmcrobbie.com/

As long as there have been stories of princesses, there have been little girls to love them. The Disney princess phenomenon seeds young imaginations with shiny pink costumes, and gossip magazines continue the fantasy with pages devoted to Kate Middleton, and before her, Princesses Grace and Diana – the latter proving that becoming royalty is no guarantee of living happily ever after. Beyond these two dimensional characters are scores of real princesses  -- sometimes tragic, often extraordinary human beings who left scant record of their lives. Mental Floss columnist Linda Rodriguez McRobbie scoured through history for stories of women who fought, stole, schemed and survived, and pulls them together in her new book, Princesses Behaving Badly: Real Stories From History – Without The Fairy-Tale Endings.

Courtesy of Andrew Pinard

Andrew Pinard’s website features video from the kinds of performances you might expect from a contemporary working magician: entertaining audiences at conventions, business meetings and a group of teens at a post-graduation party.

On Saturday, Andrew will take on another guise, and another century. He’ll be performing as the 19th century magician Jonathan Harrington at Canterbury Shaker Village, and he’s here to give us a preview, and a little bit of information on just who this Harrington is.

snooze via Flickr Creative Commons

With 7.6 million subscribers, more people play the multiplayer online game World of Warcraft than live in the state of Massachusetts. According to NSA documents disclosed by former contractor Edward Snowden, at least some of those slaying dragons on World of Warcraft are posing as elf mages and dwarf warriors, but are actually American and British spies. The leaked NSA docs identified Worlds of Warcraft, Second Life and some Xbox games as a potential “target-rich communication network” allowing suspects “a way to hide in plain sight. The snarky comments following the leak charge intelligence agents as just wanting to play video games. Joining me now to talk about this discovery is Mark Mazzetti, who covers national security for the New York Times, and reported on the strategy.

NYU Press

One day you check the mail, and flipping past the usual assortment of bills, credit card offers, and shopping catalogs, you find a letter that begins “Dear citizen"—a summons to serve jury duty. Whether met with annoyance, anxiety, or a burning desire to game the selection process, this (albeit inconvenient) civic duty is an intrinsic part of being an American.

Jen Goellnitz via flickr Creative Commons

While an increasing number of states and retailers are looking to pass GMO labeling laws, planting genetically modified corn, soybeans, and cotton remains the norm among North American farmers.  Seed makers claim that of modified – or treated – crops resist pests and disease, reducing the need for expensive herbicides and pesticides. In pockets across the nation, however, farmers who once championed GMO seeds are complaining that they no longer deliver on those claims. Some are reverting back to conventional seeds for their commodities crops.  Elizabeth Royte is a contributor for Fern, The Food and Environment Reporting Network.  Her article, “The Post GMO-Economy” is featured in the winter issue of Modern Farmer.

Corie Howell via Flickr Creative Commons

Sebastian Thrun, the man behind perhaps the most disruptive idea to hit higher education -- massive open online courses or more commonly... MOOCs -- has decided to pack it in. While some traditional educators might be saying “I told you so”, proponents of online education are worried about what this shift means for its future. Rebecca Schuman is education columnist for Slate and adjunct professor at the University of Missouri. She wrote about Sebastian Thrun -- the acknowledged godfather of MOOC’s -- and his pivot away from them.

David Grove via flickr Creative Commons

In 1984 Congress passed the National Organ Transplant Act to address the nation’s critical organ donation shortage and improve the organ matching and placement process. The act made it illegal for anyone to give or acquire an organ for material gain. Now, almost three decades later, the act is making headlines again but this time in response to the push to rescind a ruling by the U.S. court of appeals for the ninth circuit. The court ruled that certain types of bone marrow donors could be compensated. Now the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is attempting to overturn the decision, arguing that bone-marrow is subject to the 1984 act and as such, may not be compensated.

Dr. Sally Satel is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research and a practicing psychiatrist and lecturer at the Yale University School of Medicine; she examines mental health policy as well as political trends. She wrote the article “Why It’s Okay To Pay Bone-Marrow Donors” for Bloomberg.com.

In early September, 1965 a UFO sighting was reported near Exeter, New Hampshire.  Air force investigators were sent to question several eye witnesses who reported a “big orange ball” and a “huge dark object as big as a barn with flashing red lights” in the sky.  They dismissed the sighting as “nothing more than stars and planets twinkling…owing to a temperature inversion.” The incident is one of the best documented accounts of an alleged close encounter with the paranormal.  New Hampshire’s brush with paranormal fame makes it the perfect setting for a new compilation of short stories called Live Free or Sci-Fi. The book features stories that bend science and reality together into hair raising tales of speculative fiction.

Rick Broussard is the editor of Live Free or Sci-Fi and creator of the New Hampshire pulp fiction series. He is also the editor of New Hampshire Magazine.

Iqbal Osman via Flickr Creative Commons

In the new movie “Delivery Man,” Vince Vaughn discovers that his “donation” has been used hundreds of times without his knowledge. Far-fetched plot? Maybe not. The United States does not track sperm donations. We have no idea how many there are, how often they're donated, nor how many children are born from those donations. Rene Almeling is an assistant professor of sociology at Yale. She wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times about “The Unregulated Sperm Industry.”

Sustainable Sanitation via Flickr Creative Commons

More than a third of the world’s population don’t have access to clean, safe toilets. It’s a humanitarian and global health hazard, that the world bank drains $260 billion off the global economy each year. The Gates Foundation challenged engineers to develop commodes that are clean, cheap, and don’t require electricity, a sewage system, or even water. But as with and new product, you have to test it. That’s where John Koeller comes in. He’s principal engineer at Maximum Performance, a company who tests toilet efficiency, using its own – ahem—patented material.

©Diane Cook and Len Jenshel/National Geographic

Tumbleweeds rolling? Must be a western. The cinematic signal of high plains desolation has an even more pernicious side: it’s an invasive species known as Russian Thistle, and it’s wreaking havoc across the United States. George Johnson is a writer based in Santa Fe, and a regular contributor to National Geographic, where he wrote about fighting the tumbleweed menace in his own backyard. To see more photos click here.

Arnett Gill via Flickr Creative Commons

We all know laughter can be contagious. But can it be a good workout?  A form of therapy?  Even a skill?  Many happy devotees think, yes. Inspired in part by the growing popularity of laughter yoga, filmmaker and journalist Albert Nerenberg hosted the first official laughing contest in Montreal back in 2011. He’s also the director of the 2009 documentary, Laughology.

Rafael Viana Araujo via Flickr Creative Commons

You may be familiar with the ordeal of introducing children to broccoli and spinach.  Two new studies suggest that finicky eaters might have picked up their discriminating habit in the womb. Forget genetics, personal responsibility, and discipline. Your taste for junk food and soda may have a lot to do with how your mother satisfied her cravings.

Kristin Wartman, is a food, politics and health journalist. She recently wrote about the new science of food choices for the New York Times.

Logan Shannon / NHPR

The Word of Mouth Saturday show is like a big bowl of hearty soup on a blustery day. It warms you up, has all the ingredients you love, and is the right combination of healthy and indulgent. We pack our Saturday show with the good stuff, interesting and fulfilling stories, you can always feel free to have an extra helping. On this weeks show:

Pulitzer Prize-winning author and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin joined Word of Mouth’s Virginia Prescott at the Music Hall in Portsmouth for Writers on a New England Stage. Goodwin was there Wednesday to talk about her best-selling book, “The Bully Pulpit: Teddy Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and the Golden Age of Journalism.”

But the first question for the famously rabid baseball fan was what she made of Red Sox centerfielder and lead-off hitter Jacoby Ellsbury jumping to the New York Yankees. The author of “Wait Till Next Year” and “Team of Rivals” said that, in light of the team's championship run in 2013, she's not willing to second guess the decision to let him go.

Leo Reynolds via flickr Creative Commons

On today's show:

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