Word of Mouth

Airs at 2 pm Monday through Thursday, weeknights at 9 pm, and noon on Sundays.

Word of Mouth is the sound of new ideas, hosted by Virginia Prescott

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Guy Sie via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/6gdiLA

The word vitamin has only been around for just over 100 years.  But now vitamins are a $36 billion dollar-a-year industry. Today, the history and science behind a mostly unregulated market.

Plus, can a dress shirt be racist?  An online retailer has come up with an algorithm they say ensures a near-perfect fit... But part of that data set includes ethnicity, prompting questions about the connection between ethnicity and biology.

4.18.16: Small Bombs & the Penny Poet of Portsmouth

Apr 18, 2016
Todd Van Hoosear via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/ozXTre

In the age of global terrorism, some attacks get more attention than others. We got blanket coverage of coordinated bombs in Brussels, but little on explosions in Turkey just nine days before or the devastating suicide bomb in Iraq a week later. Today, the far-reaching effects of "small" bombs - those exploding in Middle Eastern and South Asian cities with alarming regularity that often go ignored.

Then, a writer reflects on her friendship with Robert Dunn, a character seemingly from another age, known as Portsmouth's Penny Poet.

David Ewalt via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/36BPST

Human beings spend a lot of time satisfying primal urges, but relatively little talking about or studying them. On today’s show, what we can learn by studying hedonism.

Also, hell can mean a bad day, other people, or a threat to sinners, but it wasn’t always so. We'll talk about how hell has evolved, from a place of flaming torture, to tangible horrors here in the real world.

And, at the height of the Ebola epidemic last fall, the hardest hit areas in West Africa not only struggled with containing the virus, but respectfully burying the dead. We’ll take a look at how funeral rites were handled during history’s worst epidemics.

4.14.16: The Great Outdoors

Apr 14, 2016
Onasill ~ Bill Badzo via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/kra5oK

"Look deep, deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better." - Albert Einstein, 1951

Ah, the great outdoors. A place for life, death, and seemingly infinite inspiration. Today is all about the outdoors: capturing its beauty through photography, creating its beauty through manipulation, and rediscovering its beauty in the most unlikely places. Join us for a walk through the wild then share your thoughts on our Facebook and Twitter.

Listen to the full show.


Sandra via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/jFBvc4

When we were growing up, eggs were eggs - packed by the dozen in cardboard cartons, consumers weren't all that picky about what they were taking home.  Walk into a grocery store today... And the choices are overwhelming. Today we decode grocery store egg labels.

Plus, a look at an app designed to split restaurant bills by inequality of wages based on gender and race.

4.12.16: Jackson vs. Trump & Birds, Birds, Birds

Apr 12, 2016
PROscreenpunk via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/4JiDy2

Imagine a political outsider who's thin on policy and big on celebrity.  He's crude. He draws enormous crowds, and his popularity has party leaders panicking.  I'm talking of course about presidential candidate Andrew Jackson. Today, we'll look at some parallels between the elections of 2016 and 1824.

Then, New Englanders are cautiously optimistic about the end of a mild winter - with one devoted group especially keen to see what the spring brings – birdwatchers. 

Chiot's Run via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/a9qgh4

Once a staple of medicine, the case study is in decline - replaced in recent years by a treasure trove of patient data.  But what happens when doctors and doctors-in-training rely on statistics over story?  Today on Word of Mouth, a defense of the medical case study.  

Then, crowdfunding has been used to fund countless projects and but now people are turning to it for a whole new purpose - staying out of jail.

Plus, a history of the humble mason jar.  

Shane Burkhardt via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/yZ34mF

For decades, environmentalists have fought to keep plastic, glass, paper and other recyclables out of landfills where they’d sit for thousands of years…so, is recycling truly making a difference in the health of the planet? Today, some data that challenges recycling’s sanctified status.

Then, India’s government says it will clean up the horribly polluted Ganges, the river which supports ten percent of the world’s population. The first step: working with the Hindu belief that the Ganges is holy, self-purifying and the place to be buried. 

takomabibelot via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/8KAyxE

A while ago came the news that the US is in grave danger of a clown shortage. Today we'll get a report from a clown convention and find out why membership is down, but why clowns are still unlikely to completely disappear. 

We'll also talk to a futurist about ectogenesis, or artificial wombs. Often referenced in science fiction, the idea of children being grown outside of a mother's body is inching closer to reality.

Plus, the latest 10-Minute Writer's Workshop with anatomical historian Alice Dreger. 

Erich Ferdinand via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/dkxRSV

Things are important. They help us get places, allow us to sit back and relax, provide entertainment, memories, sustenance, and warmth. I used to vow intense dislike for the word "things" ("It's so vague; what does it mean?!"). But truthfully, things - and the many uses of the word - are important. On today's Word of Mouth, we're exploring a lot of things. Really. 

Plus, word craft for fast times: a writing teacher celebrates the beauty and efficacy of writing short. 

duncan c via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/7XEruh

Why is six scared of seven? Because seven, eight, nine. Jokes like this are only one example of the ways that we humans like to assign personality traits to the numbers that dictate our world. Today, we explore this seemingly universal tendency to create emotional associations with numbers. 

Then, is tipping culturally determined? Freakonomics investigates the nuances of tipping in the United States with the help of Cornell professor Michael Lynn.

Plus, Botox is well known for freezing the faces of many a Hollywood starlet, but how about freezing out negative emotions? We hear from journalist Taffy Brodesser-Akner about how Botox is being used to treat depression.

Melissa Wang via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/bUX21Q

Bombs on bats and dolphin mine sweepers.  First, we learn about the Navy’s long-running acoustic warfare program...mimicking mammals for weaponry.

Plus, we know where your cat lives. An artist uses all those adorable cat photos on the internet to pinpoint your location.

And, want to make sure your face isn’t recognized on surveillance cameras? All it takes is a little make-up and creativity. Today we’re looking at the digital footprints we leave all over the internet.

ゴンザレス 森井 via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/5vBzBZ

Facial recognition software is now everywhere - in airports, stores, on our gadgets and on social media. The goal is improving security and improving public safety, but along with our growing dependency on biometrics comes a problem: not all faces are treated equally. Today, the inherent bias of facial recognition software.

Plus, are we at the end of the app bubble? We'll hear why, less than ten years after the app store launched, small and medium sized developers are getting squeezed out. 

Prayitno via Flikcr CC / https://flic.kr/p/hmR8pM

Millennials are obsessing over a show about a group of twenty-somethings living their lives and making mistakes in New York City. No, it isn’t Girls, Broad City  – in fact you've probably have seen an  episode of this show...or two...or maybe two hundred. Today, the surprise resurgence of Friends.

And from low-brow sitcoms to high-brow performance - at nearly 20 epic hours, Wagner's Ring Cycle is rarely staged outside of the world's premiere opera houses. We'll hear about one man's mission to condense the masterpiece for local audiences.

Calsidyrose via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/fA4tsd

Facial recognition software is now everywhere - in airports, stores, on our gadgets and on social media. The goal is improving security and improving public safety, but along with our growing dependency on biometrics comes a problem: not all faces are treated equally. Today, the inherent bias of facial recognition software.

Plus, once the drug of choice for dropping out of the rat race, LSD is now being touted as a "hot new business trend".  We'll talk to a journalist who tried out the new Silicon Valley method of taking tiny doses of acid to improve performance at work. 

Kim Keegan via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/bpGvm3

With the final four now chosen, the frenzy of March Madness is more or less over - and by now, your bracket...may not be looking so good.  But what were the chances you'd get it right anyway? Despite the odds, some folks have managed to take their brackets pretty darn far. Today, we look at three very different strategies for predicting college ball.

And, from waiting for rides at Disney World, to standing for days in hopes of getting the first iPhone, we'll explore at the relatively short history of everybody's least favorite activity: waiting in line.

PBS NewsHour via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/d3bnvu

While Trump leads in delegates, the Republican Party has yet to coalesce around him as nominee...and many are predicting a contested convention...which is what exactly? Today, we'll talk to a political scientist about the nuts and bolts of how a contested convention might go down. 

Also today, a philosopher on why, despite historically unprecedented access to information and knowledge, we'll never be able to Google our way to the truth.

Plus, are we at the end of the app bubble? We'll hear why, less than ten years after the app store launched, small and medium sized developers are getting squeezed out. 

The Caped Crusade, Dark Heart, & Alexander Chee

Mar 25, 2016
nur_h via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/6c3Msd

Today, from TV's campy crusader to the Dark Knight, Batman has been reflected American anxieties and social norms for almost 80 years. We'll explore his appeal as a mere mortal among superhumans, making him a magnet for our heroic dreams. 

Then, the phrase, "if it bleeds, it leads" has long been a critique of journalism, but a new book of pulp-fiction style stories by New England reporters plays up the lurid, sensational, side of following crime. Today, we'll talk to two of the veteran reporters behind Murder Ink.

Plus, a pair of true crime writers comb through the dark fantasies exposed at the trial of Seth Mazzalia.

Tamás Mészáros via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/eimCUu

The phrase, "if it bleeds, it leads" has long been a critique of journalism, but a new book of pulp-fiction style stories by New England reporters plays up the lurid, sensational, side of following crime. Today, we'll talk to two of the veteran reporters behind Murder Ink.

Also today, a look back at the roots of film noir, and a pair of true crime writers comb through the dark fantasies exposed at the trial of Seth Mazzalia.

Eli Duke via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/bqQp3T

No bullying, no questionable photos, no posting after hours. When it comes to social media, parents often set strict rules for their kids, but ignore the same guidelines themselves . Today, why kids want more rigid boundaries for what their parents post online.

Plus, a new federal guideline requires schools to test students for at least one non-academic measure... Traits like empathy, self-control, and one important quality that education scholars are calling "grit".  Put how do you score on a child's personality?

Plus, a conversation with James Felice of the folk and country-rock band, the Felice Brothers.

M. Sharkey

Alexander Chee is a careful craftsman of language. As we came to find out, when we talked to him from Argot Studios in NYC, he is as measured, unassuming and thoughtful in his speech. A retiring man, who prefers to write in transient spaces, he also just so happens to have penned the most hotly anticipated literary novel of 2016 - The Queen of the Night, a sophomore work fifteen years in the making*.

Stephen Little via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/dThgwp

This weekend Batman and Superman will face off in multiplexes across America. It will be, as the trailer promises, a classic set-up.

Thomas Hawk via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/5VMVjQ

In 2013, journalist Adrienne LaFrance scanned her own reporting and found that only 25% of people mentioned in her reporting were women. Two years later she did the same thing. The result was…disappointing. Today, a reporter owns up to perpetuating gender bias.

Then, from TV's campy crusader to the Dark Knight, Batman has been reflected American anxieties and social norms for almost 80 years. We'll explore his appeal as a mere mortal among superhumans, making him a magnet for our heroic dreams. 

UncoveringWestport via Flickr / https://flic.kr/p/4JX1zF

Bullying, R-rated topics and shouting matches during presidential debates have left some Americans wondering whatever happened to civility in politics?  But in the British Parliament, being rude is a long-standing tradition. Today, a history of Parliament's bad manners.

Also, while we usher in spring with a last minute nor'easter, we’re looking back at the most devastating storm in New England history: the hurricane of 1938. 

Plus, a tech reviewer looks at a hot new item in the world of consumer drones.

Charles Henry via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/DcY452

Baby Boomers like to thumb their nose at Millennials for being entitled narcissists who refuse to grow up, and Millennials tend to poo-poo the Boomers because they're out of touch old folks. But one group seems to get left out of the conversation entirely. Today, what ever happened to Generation X?

Then, many people would rather just say nothing than take a stab at saying something shallow, boring, or potentially offensive, but small talk does have its merits. So what are they? 

angeladellatorre via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/9Ng42y

Studying medicine requires intelligence, discipline and considerable expense, making it one of the most prestigious professions in America. But that wasn’t always the case.  We take a look into the shady practices that lead the people of New York City to riot against doctors in the eighteenth-century. 

Agustín Nieto via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/nSseJW

Gluten-free? Olive or coconut oil for cooking? Mediterranean or paleo? If nutrition is a science, why does the research vary so wildly, and why all the zany correlations between who we are and what we eat? On today’s show, faith, party affiliation and other fictions from food science.

Plus, truth in advertising? Think again. From TV ads, to menus and billboards, we all know food photography looks too good to be edible- today we'll hear the truth behind those perfectly crisped turkeys, immaculately sculpted ice cream cones, and more.  

I Want a Poster via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/kJ7HVv

Today, what's the point of being internet famous if you can't pay the bills? We’ll talk to a YouTube star about the sad economics of internet celebrity.

Plus, "Cash for Your Warhol",  the story of a fake business that became surprisingly real.

3.14.16: Lists of Note & The Ghost in the MP3

Mar 14, 2016
Pekka Nikrus via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/dktav6

Grocery lists, to-do lists, guest lists – human beings are compelled to put things into manageable order…and sometimes the result is anything but mundane. Today we look at some of the most memorable lists ever written – from Walt Disney’s un-used dwarf names, to a day in the life of country legend Johnny Cash. 

Overheard: March Edition

Mar 11, 2016

Amid the barrage of “best of” lists at the end of last year, the Word of Mouth team shared some of our favorite audio of 2015.

The list included moments from comedy podcasts, multi-media websites, and public radio programs.

We had such a blast doing that, that we thought we'd expand that a bit and share bits of lost and found sound available online each month.  

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