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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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. 

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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".

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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

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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.

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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.  

Staff Picks: What We're "Gobbling" Up This November

Nov 18, 2015
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David Bowie Is Waiting: The above David Bowie gif was submitted for Staff Picks without comment by Maureen, our fearless leader, though not before she sent it around to ask about assignment updates. 

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Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. 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. Today on Word of Mouth, a look at the historical forces that pushed America towards embalming and containment, and the growing "green burial" movement. Plus, how American judges are grappling with a difficult to interpret form of evidence that's starting to be introduced in the courtroom - the emoji.

Sara Plourde / NHPR

Recently, the multi-talented poet/artist/rock legend Patti Smith joined us to discuss her latest memoir, M Train, for our program Writers on a New England Stage. Before the show, we sat down with Patti in the greenroom of the Music Hall to talk about her 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?

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Four more women just joined the federal defamation suit being brought against Bill Cosby. Even as fans and colleagues and celebrities distance themselves from the once beloved Cosby, there's still the question of how to handle his comedic legacy. Today, can you separate an artist's work from their deeds? Plus, when was the last time you really got into a new album or musician? If you're an adult, it's probably been a while. We're speaking with a life-long music lover about how to keep growing your musical tastes. 

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Snitches, rats, finks, and narcs – criminal informants may not be popular among their peers, but are crucial to the work of law enforcement. Today, the risks investigators face when it uses criminals to catch other criminals. Then, we use fonts so often, it’s easy to forget that typefaces are licensed products – and just like other forms of media, they can be pirated and plagiarized - we're confronting the rampant problem of typeface piracy. Plus, the founder of NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, urges our inner-writer out of its shell. 

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Last month China ended its controversial one-child policy – but is the change as radical as it’s been made out to be by officials and news outlets? Today, a reporter on China's new "two-child policy"... and why the country really needs to focus on sex-ed. Plus, Millennials are sometimes derided as a generation slacktivists, and don't have the spending power of their elders – but non-profits are betting on them for the future. From socially conscious spending, to gimmicky donation challenges, we explore how Millennials are changing the face of charitable giving.

11.11.15: Veterans Day

Nov 11, 2015
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Since World War II, as many as 100,000 service members have been “less than honorably discharged” for being gay. Now, four years after the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” gay vets look to change the record. Today, what goes into rewriting history. And prior to the Civil War, images of battle were the stuff of legends and mystery – then came the photographs of Alexander Gardner. Plus, other stories about our nation’s veterans. 

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Garamond, Times New Roman, Helvetica. We use them so often, it’s easy to forget that typefaces are licensed products – and just like other forms of media, they can be pirated and plagiarized. Today, we confront the rampant problem of typeface piracy. Then, the founder of NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, urges our inner-writer out of its shell. 

Writers On A New England Stage: Stacy Schiff

Nov 9, 2015
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On today's show it's Writers on a New England Stage with Stacy Schiff, recorded live at the Music Hall in Portsmouth. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of biographies of Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov, Benjamin Franklin, and Cleopatra, is known for discovering the real overlaid by popular mythologies. Her most recent book takes on the enduring fictions of one of the most confounding and hysterical events in American history: the Salem Witch Trials of 1692.

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Although New Hampshire’s First in the Nation Primary is still months away, the invisible primary is in full swing, and many votes have already been cast – by endorsements. Just how important are these political endorsements? And who is leading the invisible primary? 

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