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.

David J. Murray, Cleareyephoto.com

Anyone who's ever been an awkward adolescent knows that for decades now, dog-eared copies of Judy Blume's books have been passed around school playgrounds like secrets, or read under the covers after lights out. Her best known books - Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, Deenie, Blubber, and Forever - offered young readers plain language and shame -free stories about periods, bullying, sexual urges and, even 'going all the way'.

Fuse809 at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], / via Wikimedia Commons

If you could take a pill that would enhance your concentration, increase your productivity, and reduce your stress levels, would you do it? Or is that cheating? On today’s show, the science and ethics behind a growing class of so-called "smart-drugs". 

Plus, a portrait of bias: in the aftermath of the great depression, the WPA commissioned hundreds of interviews with former slaves and descendants of slaves and recorded their stories as part of the Federal Writer's Project. However, the circumstances under which the interviews were collected have given researchers pause.

Writers on a New England Stage: Judy Blume

Jul 25, 2016
David J. Murray / Cleareyephoto.com

Today on Word of Mouth, a conversation with Judy Blume, recorded live at The Music Hall in Portsmouth for Writers on a New England Stage, a partnership between NHPR, and The Music Hall. 

Judy Blume was one of the first authors to write frankly about the confusing, and often humiliating transition from childhood to adolescence. Her best known books were published in the 1970s. Are You There God? It's Me Margaret, Deenie, Blubber, and Forever offered young readers plain language and shame-free stories about periods, bullying, sexual urges and, even “doing it”. 

Politics in Hip Hop, Sleepover Podcast, & Twinkies

Jul 22, 2016
Jenn Durfey via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/8VUiJf

Since it's early days, hip hop have critiqued oppressions both political and economic - while flashing their own wealth and bravado. Donald Trump became a symbol of the latter, but recent mentions of him in hip hop have become much less positive during his campaign for president in the 2016 election. 

Plus, 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. How are we preserving the mythical, magical Twinkie.

7.21.16: Finding Music After 40 & Sleepover Podcast

Jul 21, 2016
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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.

freddiefraggles via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/bqvjLy

Since it's early days, hip hop have critiqued oppressions both political and economic - while flashing their own wealth and bravado. Donald Trump became a symbol of the latter, but recent mentions of him in hip hop have become much less positive during his campaign for president in the 2016 election. 

And, we’ll talk with a computer scientist who will forever be remembered not for his AI research, but as inventor of the emoticon. Plus, a writer attends her first autopsy, and says Hollywood gets it all wrong.

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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.

Writers on a New England Stage: Daniel Silva

Jul 19, 2016

Daniel Silva was a journalist based in the Middle East before he published his first novel in 1996. That story, The Unlikely Spy hit the New York Times best-sellers list and introduced the world to Gabriel Allons -- a Mossad assassin turned art restorer. Now 16 novels into the series, Allons is known as "The Jewish James Bond" and has joined the pantheon of legendary fictional spies that includes George Smiley, Jack Ryan, and Jason Bourne.

Kate Ter Haar via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/8dSmPK

In 2014, Southeast Asian was the new "it" cuisine. Then it was southern Mediterranean, then Peruvian... Now simple, "back to the land" cooking is decidedly on-trend. So why aren't locavores swarming around Native American cuisine? Today on the show, the challenges of branding America's truly native food.

Then, in some of its darkest hours, America has turned to superhero comics for an escape - so have the nation's citizens. We speak to the editor of an anthology exploring the relationship between writers and the heroes who inspired them.  

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Here at Word of Mouth, we spend a lot of time researching, recording, and listening to wonderful – and sometimes weird – audio. Today, a new installment of “Overheard.” This time we pull in some NHPR colleagues to share some of the best examples of sound the internet has to offer – some healthy curiosity required.

Then, a Pokebattle for the ages. Two teams duke it out over whether Pokémon go helps or hinders the experience of being in the natural world – and tussle over who has the right to decide that.  

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The manufacturers of  Whill Model M, a new high-tech, compact wheelchair, boast that its tight turning radius and ability to handle any terrain will allow users to go anywhere you want.  The only thing limiting accessibility? The price tag. Today we’re looking at the widening gap between innovation and affordability in the mobility device market.

Then, it’s a lifesaving medication for millions of people – so why are so many trying to find alternatives to the effective, easy to use EpiPen?

Sara Plourde, NHPR

Donald Hall is now 87 and no longer writing poetry, a pursuit he calls "a young man's game" which takes "too much testosterone." But Hall, former Poet Laureate of both New Hampshire and the United States, long ago cemented his place in literary history. In this episode of the 10-Minute Writer's Workshop, Virginia and Sara traveled to Hall's home in Wilmot, NH, to speak to him - getting lost along the way, and, ultimately, finding themselves right at home.

7.11.16: Debunking Internet Myths & Jay Craven

Jul 11, 2016
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If you're on Facebook, chances are tragic shootings and a hotly contested political climate have turned your social media feed into a forum for emotions, a place for sharing support, airing opinions and spreading lots and lots of misinformation.  On today’s show, how Buzzfeed aims to combat internet  hoaxes and fake news through their own tried and true method - an online quiz.

And this summer's hottest filming location - Nantucket?  We'll speak with New England director Jay Craven about shooting a historical film off the cape on a shoestring budget and college students as crew.

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Concepts of gender are shifting in workplaces, schools and public bathrooms across America. But how about on the track, or court or pool where athletes compete as male or female?  Today, how new Olympics guidelines define gender, and a fair fight.

And later in the show, an upset among the dignified crosswords puzzles set! We'll find out why the New York Times puzzle makers are being called tone-deaf. 

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Calls for gun control follow a familiar path: a horrific shooting shakes the public's sense of security.  Concerned citizens mobilize and demand action from their elected leaders, then, the president calling for action. The pattern was set long before Sandy Hook or San Bernadino...try 1934. Today, we'll learn about the year when fear of gangsters drove gun control legislation.

Plus, the movie critic once reigned over the arts pages of newspapers and magazines...with the power to make or break a film. Today, the once lowly TV critics have all the juice.

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These days just about every coffee shop, bookstore, and restaurant touts offers free wi-fi to its customers - but at what cost? Today, we'll find out the hidden dangers of public wi-fi.

Later, the road to become a professional wine sommelier is tough – it’s filled with endless taste-tests, and requires an expansive understanding of geography, and an incredibly sensitive palate. But how exactly does one become a water sommelier? We'll meet America's only one and talk about his restaurant, which features a 44-page water menu.

7.4.16: Happy Independence Day

Jul 4, 2016
Victoria Pickering via flickr Creative Commons / https://flic.kr/p/oh4jvW

It's the 4th of July, time to celebrate America's independence with family, fireworks, and food. On today's show, J.M. Hirsch, the former AP Food Editor and current Editorial Director of Milk Street Kitchen shares goes beyond the burgers and dogs and fires up some original outdoor cooking ideas. 

Then we'll head to the Hollywood Bowl to talk to the pyro-musical team that scores and designs Los Angeles' annual fireworks display.

To catch a thief, you have to think like one. To prevent a crime, you have to case a joint like a potential infiltrator and find the weak spots. On today’s show, a design critic gives us a burglar’s eye view of the built environment.

Plus, canceling a wedding isn't just emotionally traumatic - it can be a financial disaster. Now, websites are popping up to help unhappy couples sell their canceled weddings & give thrifty couples a chance to get hitched on the cheap.

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Identifying potential terrorists is crucial to thwarting future attacks. The challenge is discerning real threats from bravado. Today on the show, how do security analysts survey thoughts?

Then, we’ll learn about two young men who embarked on a bold crime spree, stealing thousands of dollars worth of gold and weapons right in front of their victims…the hitch? It all went down in a video game.

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Last year, President Obama toured a federal prison in Oklahoma - an unprecedented move for a sitting president and a clear sign of the administration's focus on criminal justice reform. Among its proposed reforms is a call to "ban the box" – which would move or remove questions about a job applicant's criminal history. Today, should the box also be banned from college applications?

Then, hip hop has been key to the runaway success of Hamilton...suddenly people are rapping about American history. Now, an educator and lyricist is applying that formula to the classroom. 

The bestselling author of Major Pettigrew's Last Stand - and bonafide Charming British Lady - Helen Simonson lets us in on her writing process, her thoughts on sunshine, and the perils of HGTV. Her latest novel, set in 1914, is The Summer Before the War.

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DNA evidence broke ground by taking the uncertainty out of criminal convictions. But what was once a slam dunk to judge, jury and the public is increasingly under scrutiny. Today, unraveling genetic evidence.

Plus, Marshall, Texas is not what you'd call an innovation hub, yet a quarter of the nation's patent cases are filed there. A reporter looks into why patent holders and trolls choose this sleepy town and its one powerful judge to settle their suits - fast.

Bookish: A Celebration of Books

Jun 27, 2016

We're trying something a little different today on the show. In nine short chapters, we present the life cycle of a book -- the cliff notes version. You'll hear tales, tips and anecdotes on all sorts of odd parts of the process - from pitching a publisher to crafting the perfect blurb, and everywhere in between.

So whether you're an aspiring writer, an avid reader, a constant procrastinator, or an audiobooks aficionado - there's a little something for everybody.  

How To Pitch A Book Agent

Jun 27, 2016
Photo: Jessica Lund/National Library of Sweden / via flickr Creative Commons

Perhaps you’ve had the idea for a novel or memoir floating around in your head for years. Maybe your first draft is already finished! Now, it’s time for the most intimidating part - pitching your idea to an agent or publisher. In anticipation of our book show, we asked listeners to submit their 150-word book pitches and in turn, we sent them to Michelle Brower, a literary agent with Zachary Shuster Harmsworth.

In Conversation With Richard Russo

Jun 24, 2016
Camille Gévaudan via Wikimedia Commonc CC

Today, a conversation with Richard Russo, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Empire Falls and Nobody's Fool, which was adapted into a film starring Paul Newman as Donald "Sully" Sullivan -  a quick-witted under-achiever eking out a living in a decaying factory town.

6.23.16: How We Can Be More Nordic & Citizen Khan

Jun 23, 2016
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Bernie Sanders’ proposals for free education and healthcare were flatly rejected by those who said "we are not Denmark". A new book argues that the policies and protections in Nordic countries don't work because of shared benevolence, but because they benefit everyone's selfish interests. Today, a Finnish expat gives the US a pep talk.

Then, Zarif Khan migrated to America in the early 20th century and became prosperous and beloved in his Wyoming town...though the law prevented his citizenship.

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There are a lot of adjectives used to describe great white sharks:  Giant. Fearsome. Deadly.  But author and naturalist Sy Montgomery has seen sharks up close and might choose another word - like sublime. Today, the ocean's most mysterious and misunderstood predator gets a closer look.

Then, maybe you heard about the guy visiting Yellowstone who put a cold, abandoned baby buffalo in his car and drove it to a ranger station.  Attempts to reunite the little guy with its herd failed and it was euthanized - inciting an online riot over how humans interact with wild animals. 

Holly via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/9njS1o

With a divisive candidate at the top of the ticket, some republicans up for re-election in 2016 are looking to pivot their campaigns towards local issues. But can these low-level contenders avoid being tarred by the brush of presidential politics?

On today’s show, how Democrats and outside groups plan to play the trump card against local GOP candidates.

Also today, crowd sourced ratings of movies, TV and music allow everybody to chime in, but from movie critics boycotting the new Ghostbusters movie, to dismissing Taylor Swift songs as shallow, the whiff of sexism is all over online reviews...or is it?

Listen to the full show:


In Conversation With Russell Banks

Jun 20, 2016

Russell Banks is one of contemporary fiction's most acclaimed writers. With six short story collection and more than a dozen novels to his credit, Banks has portrayed the hard scrabble lives of people hemmed in by class, race and geography. 

Virginia sat down with Russell Banks in front of a live audience at the Shapiro Library and Learning Commons at Southern New Hampshire University. The event commemorated the 10-year anniversary of the SNHU's Master of Fine Arts in Fiction and Non-Fiction program. 

Happy Father's Day

Jun 17, 2016
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