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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12.27.15: The Holiday Cocoon Show

Dec 25, 2015
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Last winter researchers set off for Norway’s northern reaches where the sun barely rises above the horizon to find out how residents cope with the cold and darkness and discovered something remarkable. Today, we reveal the Norwegian secret to enjoying a harsh winter.

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This week, SpaceX overcame a huge hurdle for commercial space flight--by landing a reusable rocket less than an hour after launching it into space. But technical barriers are one thing; how will a blossoming space tourism industry deal with the physical and psychological issues presented by space flight?

Plus from birth dates as ATM pins to pet names as security questions; a look at the surprisingly deep stories behind our digital passwords.

And a preview of our new podcast - The Ten-Minute Writers Workshop. Bestselling author  Alexander McCall Smith talks about the worst distraction and best advice for aspiring writers.   

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The family that owns the craft chain Hobby Lobby is opening a Museum of the Bible just blocks from the National Mall. It will be the first time their vast collection of biblical artifacts will be open to the public, but where exactly did these artifacts come from? On today’s show, a look into the provenance of the bible museum.

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Last winter researchers set off for Norway’s northern reaches where the sun barely rises above the horizon to find out how residents cope with the cold and darkness and discovered something remarkable. On this Solstice day, we reveal the Norwegian secret to enjoying a harsh winter. Plus, how Granite Staters feel about the lack of snow this holiday season. Then, for some parents, Christmas raises a conundrum – how to navigate the magical world of Santa. 

It's Official: This is the Best Holiday Song EVER

Dec 21, 2015

After a contentious battle, our first ever, December Madness Holiday Song Showdown winner has been crowned: White Christmas by Bing Crosby. Poor She & Him didn't stand a chance against Bing; it was a landslide victory.

Maybe it's because the weather outside hasn't been too frightful and Jack Frost hasn't been doing much nipping at our noses here on the East Coast. Or maybe when it comes down to it, a classic song sung by a classic crooner is what we really want to hear come December. 

A big thank you to everyone who participated, and to everyone who shared their picks for the holiday song they can't live without. We've compiled a list of most of those songs below  so you can create your very own, Word of Mouth crowd sourced holiday playlist. (We left out Pump up the Jam and Stairway to Heaven because we're pretty sure we were being punked with those choices.)

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Among the challenges for people transitioning genders: learning a new voice.

On today’s show, a number of vocal coaches are now working with clients who are self-conscious about their speaking voices. The butterfly music transgender chorus is teaching them to sing.

Then, for all its cheer, December brings with it a number of potentially awkward or befuddling situations. We'll get advice from Slate's Dear Prudence who has some solid ideas for how to handle the holidays. 

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No matter how polished, prepped, and put together he or she may be, every presidential candidate copes with an Achilles heel. On today’s show, we'll find out how Marco Rubio capitalized on reaching for the water bottle...again and again and again. Then, need a gift idea for the book lover in your life? We'll go beyond the best seller list for a sampling of the best overlooked books of 2015, including a collection of short stories from Kelly Link.

Scoring Dreamscapes: The History of Sleep Music

Dec 17, 2015
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If you're a fan of HBO programming, you've probably heard the work of composer Max Richter - he's responsible for scoring one of its dark dramas, The Leftovers. But recently, Richter released something a little more subdued: an eight-hour album called Sleep, which he calls a “lullaby for a frenetic world”. Ambitious though it may be, Richter is hardly the first composer to send people nodding off, or to try and score a dreamscape. 

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Today's college students are reliable consumers, with annual budgets for furniture, clothes and gadgets. Much of which ends up in a dumpster. On today’s show, how a group of UNH students kept mounds of trash out of the landfill and turned it into cash...a model now being copied on campuses across the US. Then, business schools call it Enya-Nomics – after the new-age icon who's defied every record industry trend – selling more records than Beyoncé without touring, tweeting, talking to the press, or even leaving her Irish refuge.

Andrew Councill / New York Times

Recently, author and famed political satirist Christopher Buckley - son of William F. and the man behind Thank You for Smoking -  spoke with us about his latest novel, The Relic Master. We asked him to give us an inside look at his writing process. The conversation is part of a series we call the 10-Minute Writer's Workshop.

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Personal branding is a part of all political campaigns, but female candidates face different considerations. On today’s show, a look at what the evolution of Hillary Clinton’s name signifies for women in politics, and why she took on Bill's surname in the first place.

Then from Newton and the apple to the solitary genius of Darwin, the scientific world is rife with myths and legends. Among the most pervasive, that Galileo’s imprisonment was long and excruciating.  We’ll find out more about the origins of these stories, why they persist, and how they shape our view of science.

Leo Newball Jr. via flickr Creative Commons / flic.kr/p/6j8MRH

No matter how polished, prepped, and put together he or she may be, every presidential candidate copes with an Achilles heel. On today’s show, we'll find out how Marco Rubio capitalized on reaching for the water bottle...again and again and again. Then, need a gift idea for the book lover in your life? We'll go beyond the best seller list for a sampling of the best overlooked books of 2015, including a collection of short stories from Kelly Link.

Kenny Louie via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/eaGPCC

The annual tsunami of best-of book lists is upon us - a time for critics to tell us what we should have been reading, watching and listening to in 2015. Here at Word of Mouth, we tend to root for the underdog...so we are proud to present a sort-of Island of Misfit Toys equivalent of the year's best. 

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After Fidel Castro nationalized Cuba’s farms and businesses, thousands fled, leaving factories, farms and assets that now add up to eight-billion in claims from Exxon to Walt Disney. On today's show, the complicated task of settling decades old suits and how these kinds of Cold War hangovers could affect US/Cuba reconciliation.   

Then, we shift into holiday gear. Cookbooks are a wonderful gift for the foodies in your life, but sifting through the thousands of new selections can be daunting. We'll hear about 2015's best from AP food editor J.M. Hirsch.

Jacob Davies via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/5V5dpM

Cookbooks are a wonderful gift for the aspiring foodies in your life. But how do you choose one you'll actually use from the paleo, gluten-free, Mediterranean-rich, tea-infused, grind-your-own pasta flour variety that were published by thousands in 2015?

Associated Press Food Editor and bestselling cookbook author J.M. Hirsch sifted through the pile for the most useful, interesting and inspiring food books of the year - he joined us to share his top picks.

Lots of concerned parents are bucking the digital age and forbidding their kids any screen time. On today’s show a tech researcher tells us that's not only unrealistic, but possibly damaging. Then, in times of mourning, we emphasize the cyclical nature of life and death - and yet, American burial practices are mostly designed to halt the natural process of decomposition.  We'll look at the historical forces that pushed America towards embalming and containment.

Sara Plourde / NHPR

Recently, the writer dubbed "The Queen of the Summer Read," Elin Hilderbrand, sat down with us backstage at the Music Hall Loft to talk about her writing process. She was there to talk about her latest novel, Winter Stroll, as part of the Writers in the Loft series. The conversation is part of a series we call the 10-Minute Writer's Workshop.

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The skill, planning, and access required to successfully dupe the art world easily captivates the public imagination. On today's show, we’ll explore the meticulous effort behind some of the greatest art frauds. And, few people realize the danger works of art can face while safely housed inside a museum – from docents.

Milly via flickr Creative Commons / flic.kr/p/8QM5Sg

Since they were first introduced in 1847, postage stamps have become a staple of American life and taste. On today’s show,  a look at America’s most memorable stamps, and why some were beloved, while others were surprisingly contentious. Plus, what happens when a pro-wrestler abandons the ring for Santa’s sleigh?

Fiona Wen Hui C via flickr Creative Commons / flic.kr/p/8cnsk4

At 5,525 miles, the US and Canadian border is the longest and friendliest in the world, but the long relationship between the two nations is not without conflict. Today, a history of US-Canadian skirmishes and why a war between neighbors isn’t out of the question. Plus, researchers in Virginia may be turning a long held belief about early America on its head. 

mrd00dman via flickr Creative Commons / flic.kr/p/4Ar6iz

As the obesity epidemic grows, so does the business of weight-loss - a nearly 60 billion dollar industry devoted to the promise that losing weight improves quality of life, health and self-esteem. But does shedding pounds make you happier? On today’s show, we’ll explore the tenuous relationship between losing weight and improving your mood. Plus, a scholar investigates the history of religious satire from Martin Luther to Monty Python, and explains why comedy, rather than rage, is more likely to affect change.  

The (New) Luddite Show

Dec 3, 2015
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The Luddites led a violent labor movement against 19th century technologies that threatened their jobs - today we use the label to describe people who still write letters with paper and pen or aren't on Facebook.  On today’s show we’ll look into what we’re referring to as “The New Luddites”; swathes of folks, from digital natives to millennials to boomers, who feel nostalgic for the simple way life used to be -- whether real or imagined.

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Local, fish to fork and farm-to-table eating is a robust trend among celebrity chefs and in urban centers. For others, it's a way of life. On today’s Word of Mouth, best-selling memoirist and passionate eater Kate Christensen moves from Brooklyn to New England and discovers how to cook a moose and other lessons of eating close to home. Also today, does a crunchier-sounding potato chip taste better? Scientists are exploring how the senses are heightened by working together. 

Department of Defense Photo by Marvin Lynchard / flic.kr/p/A2mXcC

Since the attacks in Paris, the question of how to engage ISIS and Syria has been front and center. Underlying that debate is the changing nature of America’s armed forces and how technology is shaping the future of soldiers. On today’s show a look at how America’s colleges and universities are reflecting the new military. Then, America’s bright young minds are being lured to jobs offering perks from gourmet food to telecommuting, that's stiff competition for the ordered and inflexible military. We’ll hear about the Pentagon's plan to fight "brain drain".

mendhak via flickr Creative Commons / flic.kr/p/8NVvt5

Cryptography is a complex field of mathematics that gets more complicated every day, and yet movies that feature ciphers, code breaking and puzzles that would break the minds of most math students make cryptography seem quick and easy. 

Here are five movies that feature code breaking and manage to make math seem more magical than logical.

The Imitation Game

Adam Foster via flickr Creative Commons / flic.kr/p/b99vsi

We all use encryption technology to keep our data and credit cards safe. ISIS does too - for communication and recruiting. The Obama Administration and some lawmakers want tech companies to provide access to encryption codes, but would making data more vulnerable make us safer? We’ll take a look into the complicated issue of encryption. Then, a tech researcher conducted a two-year study on how families maneuver the digital world and found that restricting screen time is unrealistic and counterproductive. An argument for why parents shouldn’t be ashamed of technology. 

Sara Plourde / NHPR

Recently, the author of The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency series Alexander McCall Smith sat down with us in the Portsmouth Music Hall green room to talk about his writing process. The conversation is part of a series we call the 10-Minute Writer's Workshop.

What's harder to write -- the first sentence or the last?

I think the first sentence is harder and is immensely important, because in a lot of cases that’s the only sentence someone is going to read. And so you have to be very powerful in your first sentence.

Writers On A New England Stage: Alexander McCall Smith

Nov 23, 2015
Sara Plourde

  Today on Word of Mouth it's Writers on a New England Stage with Alexander McCall Smith, recorded live at The Music Hall in Portsmouth.  Best known as the author of The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, McCall Smith made his living for many years as an esteemed lawyer, medical law professor, and international authority on medical ethics and bioethics. He was born in what is now Zimbabwe, and helped found a law school in neighboring Botswana. It is there that he set his first novel about  Precious Ramotswe, who brought the innate curiosity and traditional wisdom honed as a child in the Kalahari desert to bear as Botswana's first ever lady detective.

Alexander McCall smith joined us shortly after publication of The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine, the 16th novel in a series that's sold more than 20 million books worldwide and been translated into 40 languages. 

Marcelo Lima via Flickr CC https://flic.kr/p/zF352E

A new study has confirmed a sad truth about our listening habits - people stop discovering new music around age 33.  Today on Word of Mouth, a seasoned music editor offers tips on how not to get stuck listening to the songs you loved in high school for the rest of your life. Plus, Song Exploder takes apart a track by Chet Faker, and a comedian wrestles with how the world should think of Bill Cosby's decades of standup material. 

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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.  Plus, a Candia man chains himself to a waterslide in hopes of saving his business from auction, and a history of the humble mason jar.  

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