Word of Mouth

Word of Mouth highlights trends, surprising turns in pop culture, and the news, science, and tech stories you aren't hearing about in the day's headlines. A daily program and podcast produced by New Hampshire Public Radio.

11.27.16: Lots of Leftovers

Nov 25, 2016
Ginny via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/4Jo3Sb

Now that the long, stressful, divisive election season is behind us, maybe it's time to talk about something that unites us in pleasure: food. Now, a cultural history of one food that makes everything a little bit better: butter. 

Plus, the resurgence of rainbow sprinkles. Whether you call them jimmies, funfetti or unicorn food, those brightly colored sugary bits that top cupcakes, cookies & ice cream sundaes, are having a bit of a moment. We’ll talk to a food writer from the New York Times about the current funfetti explosion.

IIP Photo Archive via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/AUCETe

From textbooks to westerns, Native American history and culture has often been reduced to stereotypes. Today, we’re breaking down the most pervasive myths about American Indians, including their role as welcoming host at Thanksgiving.

Then, we'll tackle an issue many of us will face when getting together with our families tomorrow:  passive aggression. Plus, the crew revisits the tense dinners of holidays passed.

11.22.16: Hi, Anxiety, A #NoDAPL Map, & Overheard

Nov 22, 2016
Takuya Goro via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/jjTdDi

Feeling anxious or worried is part of being human, but for those suffering from an anxiety disorder, even tackling mundane tasks can be debilitating...and isolating. Today, a look at the condition affecting an estimated 25 million Americans, generalized anxiety disorder, and how to manage it.

Plus, mapping DAPL - as clashes between law enforcement and protestors erupt near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, a new map offers new perspective on a long-running dispute.

Fake Plastic Alice via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/5L2wa8

Today, voices of Terezin, the Nazi concentration camp used to divert attention from the final solution. We'll hear about how prisoners held under brutal conditions created art and music amid the horrors of the holocaust

Plus, what happens when a protest movement professing all-or-nothing absolutism splits in two? We'll find out how a splinter group of vegan activists toned down their goals and built a powerful machine for change.

In HBO's new series Westworld, a futuristic amusement park is populated with androids who look and sound convincingly human. So in the age of 3D printed organs and advanced artificial intelligence, how close are we to making realistic robots? Today, we compare science fact with science fiction.

Then, whether it's the overuse of like, saying "nuculear", or using the word "literally", figuratively, misuse of language has a way of getting under our skin. A linguist assures us that language is always changing...so loosen up. Today, why dictionaries and grammar sticklers can't stop improper language.

Sara Plourde / NHPR

A National Book Award winner, Pulitzer-Prize nominee, Guggenheim fellow, and winner of a MacArthur "genius" grant, Colson Whitehead's new book, The Underground Railroad, was one of the most anticipated works of fiction this year.

Virginia caught up with him backstage at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord, New Hampshire before a reading with novelist Ben Winters hosted of Gibson’s Bookstore.

turn off your computer and go outside via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/nPxtL2

In HBO's new series Westworld, a futuristic amusement park is populated with androids who look and sound convincingly human. So in the age of 3D printed organs and advanced artificial intelligence, how close are we to making realistic robots? Today, we compare science fact with science fiction.

Then, Netflix and Amazon Prime make it a breeze to watch their content, but a movie critic worries young people can't easily find films from Hollywood's golden age. Can a new streaming service save classic movies?

Plus National Book Award winner Colson Whitehead shares his creative process with the 10-Minute Writer’s Workshop

Mahdi Abdulrazak via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/5Ri8JW

People tell little white lies all day long, to be polite, avoid confrontation...or just because they seem so harmless. Today, how wearing down our truth telling muscles affects the brain.

Then, a reporter looks at the established legal practice of using race, class and gender to to calculate damages in wrongful death and injury cases - the result? Women and minorities lives are worth less.

Plus, New Hampshire author Jacquelyn Benson talks about feminism, Indiana Jones, and the unconventional romance in her debut novel, The Smoke Hunter.

Potluck? Meh. Try a 'Soup Swap' Instead!

Nov 15, 2016
Yvonne Duivenvoorden via Chronicle Books

Winter is coming. It's getting steadily colder and darker, and the nation is still reeling from a presidential election that pretty well split voters down the middle. It may be a good time for a healing bowl of soup, or better yet, a soup swap. 

Joseph Brent via flickr Creative Commons / https://flic.kr/p/J2ZcxU

The U.S. stands alone in sentencing juvenile offenders to life without possibility of parole. On today’s show, a new report out of Harvard finds the youth prison system costly, ineffective, and destructive.

Also today, we set aside post-election divisions and get tips for bringing good food and good friends together over the winter—and it's not a potluck!  It’s a soup swap!

Virginia talks with Chef Kathy Gunst about cooking and community. Plus, virtuoso mandolinist Joseph Brent talks about his music.

11.14.16: Nonstop Metropolis & Words on the Move

Nov 14, 2016
http://giphy.com/gifs/timelapse-new-york-city-manhattan-SuG8hEiyKDCDe

Whether it's the overuse of like, saying "nuculear", or using the word "literally", figuratively, misuse of language has a way of getting under our skin. A linguist assures us that language is always changing...so loosen up. Today, why dictionaries and grammar sticklers can't stop improper language.

Plus artists, researchers and cartographers re-interpret the city that never sleeps... Illustrating its distinctive culture, history and variety through maps.

A long stressful election season is behind us. The dark is coming earlier. Thanksgiving is around the corner. Maybe it's time to talk about something that unites us in pleasure: food.  On today’s show, a cultural history of one food that makes everything a little bit better: butter.

Plus, the resurgence of rainbow sprinkles. Whether you call them jimmies, funfetti or unicorn food, those brightly colored sugary bits that top cupcakes, cookies & ice cream sundaes, are having a bit of a moment. We’ll talk to a food writer from the New York Times about the current funfetti explosion.

And we’ll look at some of the craziest, most innovative home gadgets of 2016. 

brooklyntheborough via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/5RyRoi

It's here - the day of reckoning for the most bitter, acrimonious, controversial election in recent memory. But not, it might be a relief to know, in American history. Today, some historical perspective on contentious elections with Brady Carlson: and spoiler alert - our democracy survived.

Then we'll check in with transhumanist presidential candidate Zoltan Istvan who is just one of the nineteen hundred people who decided to run for president this year. We'll talk to him about what it was like to be on the campaign trail for over a year and what he learned.

In Conversation With Colson Whitehead & Ben Winters

Nov 4, 2016
Courtesy Sara Plourde, NHPR

Colson Whitehead and Ben Winters joined Virginia in front of a live audience for the "In the Spotlight" series at the Capital Center for the Arts in Concord, New Hampshire, presented in partnership with Gibson's Bookstore. Today, we're listening to that conversation with two writers who made the imaginative leap from what we already know happened, to what could have happened.

Peter Roome via flickr Creative Commons / https://flic.kr/p/ckY7tj

Millennials are less religious than their predecessors—so what does that mean for the future of the abortion issue? On today’s show, the growing number of young pro-life activists who are—or call themselves—secular feminists: the new generation of pro-life activists who are separating themselves from the GOP, and the religious right.

Plus, a new 10-Minute Writer's Workshop with Jodi Picoult. Her newest book carries on her tradition of tackling tough subjects with an ensemble of narrators, and this time, it's race. 

Matt Allworth via flickr Creative Commons / https://flic.kr/p/7ZZiPM

Doctors Without Borders provides emergency medical aid to people the world over, and is funded almost entirely by individuals. So, why did they turn down free pneumonia vaccines from Pfizer? On today’s show we’ll look into the hidden costs of free vaccines.

Plus, futuristic TV shows and movies make facial recognition technology seem like a sure bet, but a new report reveals problems with racial bias, and reliability. And like it or not, it's already being used today.

We’ll also check in with the latest installment of The Bookshelf with author Chelsey Philpot.

David J. Murray, cleareyephoto.com

It’s our 30th episode, this time with the phenomenally successful Jodi Picoult.

Dave Herholz via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/311W1T

Flagrantly unsubstantiated "facts", misrepresented news, and deliberately false memes whooped up by the partisan fringes have been fast and furious this election... And thanks to Facebook's algorithm, fake news stories continue to trend. Today, if you yell at the Facebook echo chamber to stop, does it only get louder?

Then, in a contentious election season full of bombshells, boasts, and social media driving the outrage, how do newsrooms determine what deserves attention what doesn’t?

Ingvild Hunsrød via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/pQnNv3

As one of the most densely populated placed on earth, Hong Kong has a very competitive retail market. But deals can be had, if... You're willing to put up with a few ghosts. Today, the haunted house hustle.

Also today, it's been almost 70 years since Shirley Jackson's chilling classic "The Lottery" shocked readers. We'll talk with Jackson's grandson about his graphic adaptation of the story, and with Jackson's biographer about the author's many faces... Comically besieged housewife, channeler of nightmares, witch?

Jeff Clark via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/8n6Qpb

Parenting blogs are full of forums discussing "no touch" policies at school around the country. Today, much less discussed among the nanny state is the physical punishment that’s still happening in some public schools.

And then, in an effort to save public face, some universities have went all-in on chasing college rankings. While these lists don’t fully represent the college experience, the tangible, advertised results are invaluable to administrators.

Writers on a New England Stage: Jodi Picoult

Oct 26, 2016
David J. Murray / ClearEyePhoto.com

NHPR and The Music Hall present Writers on a New England Stage with Jodi Picoult recorded live at The Music Hall in Portsmouth. 

Picoult is a phenomenally successful novelist, with more than 14 million books in print worldwide. Small Great Things is her most recent. Like previous books, it debuted at number one on best-sellers lists.

Picoult devotees will recognize the relatable, everyday characters thrashing through controversial ethical issues seemingly ripped from the headlines. But for her, Small Great Things was different. It’s about racism, white privilege and the inherited inequities of America’s past and present. She says it was one of the hardest books to write. The Washington Post called it her most important

Doug Kerr via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/9uDD5F

New Hampshire's largest city has a rich industrial history as mill town. Today, it's a hub for tech and companies and education. Today, a Manchester resident says it's time the re-awakened  queen city got a new guide.

Plus, a comprehensive map of the world’s weirdest places – from Brazil’s Snake Island to an Icelandic elf school, to a giant burning hole in Turkmenistan, Atlas Obscura's new book is sure to make your next vacation a little stranger.

10.24.16: Prison Labor, Messy, & Jack Kirby

Oct 24, 2016
Mars Hall via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/4n8JYF

In September, 24 thousand inmates launched the first-ever national prison strike - a story largely lost to election news. Among the complaints: prison labor is akin to slavery.  Today, we'll look at the cost of labor on the inside.

Plus, the tidying -up trend got people throwing out stuff and organizing their way to serenity. An economist argues that there are upsides to leaving life a little “messy”. 

Jason Garrattley via flickr Creative Commons / https://flic.kr/p/d4sUb5

In late August Marvel announced that it would be celebrating Kirby week: in honor  of legendary comic book artist Jack Kirby’s 99th birthday.  But Jack Kirby, who died in 1994, wasn’t on good terms with company that distributed his work.

Even if you’ve never read a comic in your life - there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Stan Lee, the creator of characters like Spiderman and Iron Man. It’s less likely that you’ve heard of Jack Kirby.

Craig Duffy via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/f66Frj

80s movies like Back to the Future and The Breakfast Club banked on the boredom, buying power and  dramatic urges of teenagers - but were they groundbreaking cinema classics?  A superfan says John Hughes and his teen flick colleagues got at truths beyond adolescence angst and suburbia. 

Then, a group calling itself New World Hacking took down the websites for BBC Global in January, 2016 through denial of service – or DDOS attacks. Other hacks have hit the Trump campaign and MasterCard. The hackers say it’s just the beginning. That could affect all of us, thanks to our increasingly connected lifestyles. Our tech dude explains the internet of broken things.

Martin Cathrae via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/4kF8SM

When asked about what it was like to live with Alzheimer's disease, Donald Burke said, "like standing on melting ice." Today, a husband and wife dig into the metaphor to find meaning.

Also today: how is it that humans can send rovers to Mars and 3D print organs, yet still not control rats?  For thousands of years, humans have been losing the battle against the vermin that destroy crops, spread disease, and proliferate on an almost unimaginable scale. We're learning about a tech-startup run by a biologist Buddhist who may stumbled into a cruelty-free solution  - rodent birth control.

10.19.16: What is DDOS, Willa Cather, & The Bookshelf

Oct 19, 2016
bert boerland via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/ejjyN8

A group calling itself New World Hacking took down the websites for BBC Global in January, 2016 through denial of service – or DDOS attacks. Other hacks have hit the Trump campaign and MasterCard. The hackers say it’s just the beginning. That could affect all of us, thanks to our increasingly connected lifestyles. Our tech dude explains the internet of broken things.

Also, novelist Willa Cather wrote of pioneers on the plains from a farm in Peterborough. More than 65 years after her death, a series of local events and newly published letters reveal the hidden side of a fiercely guarded writer.

Sara Plourde / NHPR

In this episode of the 10-Minute Writer’s Workshop, singer-songwriter, musician and novelist Josh Ritter – who might say writer first, musician second. It was a song that spun into his 2011 novel Bright's Passage. Josh Ritter’s songs draw deeply from the narrative traditions of American and Scottish folk music he studied after dropping out of the neuroscience program at Oberlin.

Michael Mees via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/9LJQ6B

In 1976 presidential candidate Ronald Reagan used "welfare queen" when describing a serial criminal who bilked the government for tens of thousands of dollars in aid - what was true then and still true today:  the typical welfare recipient is rural and white. But it stuck as code for urban, black, and working the system. Today, how the myth of the “welfare queen” gets in the way of helping real families.

Plus, his byline appeared in thousands of international papers celebrating American free market economics in but "Guy Sims Fitch" did not exist. Unraveling the identity - or identities - of a Cold War-era propaganda program that is still protected by CIA secrecy. 

Mary Fedotovska via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/pM7pHt

According to estimates, there are some seventy to eighty million stray and feral cats in the United States - one for every four and half humans.  Today, the cat wars - an ecologist faces off against passionate cat lovers in order to make a controversial argument: that the cuddly subjects of so many popular gifs are actually an invasive species that threaten biodiversity and human health.

Plus, 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?

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