11.28.16: Mount Washington, Bad Singing, & The Library of Congress

Nov 28, 2016

Yellowstone may be the first national park, but it was New Hampshire's White Mountains that for decades prior captured the imagination of American tourists, scientists, and artists. Today, a portrait of Mount Washington's artistic history.

Plus, from Bob Dylan to Yoko Ono, audiences have long had a fascination with the off-beat or out of tune - so why do we love some bad singers and love to hate others?

Then, America's great repository of world knowledge faces an existential predicament. In a world where information is stored in servers and googled at will, can the Library of Congress really keep up?

Listen to the full show.

Mount Washington: The Crown of New England

Yellowstone has the distinction of being the first US National Park, as signed into law by Ulysses S. Grant in 1872. But it was the White Mountains of New Hampshire that for decades prior came to capture the imagination of American tourists, symbolize the raw beauty of the American landscape, and influence a generation of American artists.

A new exhibit at the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, New Hampshire explores how artists, scientists, and changes in technology helped to influence our ideas of beauty and wilderness, and transform the White Mountains into a center for early American tourism. The exhibit is called "Mount Washington, the Crown of New England" and joining us to tell us more is Andrew Spahr, the Currier's Director of Collections and Exhibitions. 

Black Folks in Nature

Hitting the trails is a popular past-time for many New Hampshire residents. But for many black Americans, outdoor activities aren't on the itinerary. A 2012 study by the outdoor foundation found that only 11% of outdoor recreation participants are black. And the national park service estimates that black Americans comprise only 7% of its annual visitors. One organization in Oakland, California is working to change those statistics.  Producer Todd Whitney from Crosscurrents brings us the story. 

You can listen to this story again at PRX.org

Why We Love Bad Singing

When it comes to music, Americans have a bit of a love affair with the off-beat, the musical misfits, those out of tune vocalists that manage to captivate audiences despite having less than perfect technique or tone. But it's more complicated than that... because sometimes we love to love bad singing, sometimes we love to hate it, and sometimes bad singing transcends it's badness and somehow becomes good.

Carl Wilson is a music critic for Slate where he recently wrote about this very subject - a sort of meditation on our cultural attraction and repulsion to bad singing.

The Future of the Library of Congress

Storing the world's knowledge involves a lot more than just the printed word these days.  That's why, since the 1990s, the Library of Congress has made various attempts to go digital.  And yet, it has been tech companies that have emerged as the archivists of the internet age...which begs the question: when so much information is stored in servers, does the Library of Congress still have a purpose?

Kyle Chayka has written for the Verge, the New York Times MagazineBillboard, and more. His recent article, "The Library of Last Resort" appeared in N+1.