7.19.16: Twinkies, Couch Potatoes, & Inner Lives of Animals

Jul 19, 2016

A few years ago, one of America's most beloved snack cakes was in danger of disappearing forever - until investors swooped in and saved the day. What started out as a rescue mission quickly evolved into a business strategy, and resulted in substantial changes to the brand. Today, preserving the mythical, magical Twinkie.

Plus, awareness of mental health issues is on the rise, but it's not limited to people. We'll speak with an expert working with animals to resolve their mental health issues and better understand the inner lives of creatures who don't have the words to express it.

Listen to the full show. 

Twinkies Are Back and Last Longer Than Ever

In the early aughts, Hostess announced it was on the brink of bankruptcy, and that Twinkies, Honey Buns and Ding Dongs were going down with it. That was before a private equity firm took over and launched what it called "the sweetest comeback in the history of ever" - but not without some heavy costs. Drew Harwell is a staff writer at the Washington Post and wrote What It Took to Save the Twinkie.

Where Have All the Couch Potatoes Gone?

Today's TV viewers are no longer glued to their couch, leading Laurence Scott to wonder if the vegetative viewer exists anymore. He's a writer and teaches English and Creative Writing at Arcadia University in London. He wrote about the extinction of the couch potato era for The New Yorker.

Cell Phone Eye Exams

Most Americans regard being glued to a cell-phone or iPad screen as detrimental, but in other parts of the world, small screen technology is solving problems that were once nearly impossible - like getting a pair of prescription eyeglasses in Sub-Saharan Africa. Cynthia Graber brought us this story, which originally aired on the World Vision Report.  

You can listen to this story again at PRX.org

Inner Lives of Animals

In 2016, public awareness of mental health issues is at an all-time high.  According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 adults in the US, 43.8 million people, experience mental illness in a given year - and less than half get treatment. Now, imagine if those suffering didn’t have the words to tell express it.

Dr. Vint Virga works exclusively with this population...animals. Specifically, zoo animals. Dr. Virga's book, The Soul of All Living Creatures, and his job as an animal behaviorist depend on understanding the inner lives of animals.

Battling Internet Porn Addiction

In 1964, Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart famously said of obscenity, "I know it when I see it."  You've got to wonder what he'd see today - when online pornography, is free, and so abundant that it's almost unavoidable.  Some people don't pay attention to this reality of the digital age, but for others, online pornography is a compulsive and destructive habit. 

In the case of Alexander Rhodes, it was the latter. He's the founder of "No-Fap.com" - a somewhat vulgar-sounding website with a religious-sounding mission : to help users abstain from pornography and masturbation.  But rather than employ a moral angle, Alexander uses gamification and a decidedly secular approach to combating what he sees as a growing societal problem.

Sridhar Pappu profiled Alexander Rhodes for the New York Times.