McWhorter, Professor John — Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue

What is it about the words we speak that convey concepts, nuances, ideas and sometimes even start wars?  Where do they come from, what is their history and how do they shape our minds and ability to communicate?  These are just some of the questions we asked Professor John McWhorter, author of “Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue,” when we spoke with him from his home in New Jersey on December 1, 2008.

The book Professor McWhorter recommends is “Ziegfeld: The Man Who Invented Show Business,” by Ethan Morddenn.

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Fogg, Laura — Travelling Blind

The ways different creatures, especially people use their senses has for a long time attracted my curiosity. I have wondered about the dreams of blind people or deaf people.  From time to time I’d see an attentive woman walk past my office with a young person who carried a white cane with a red tip. Laura Fogg is this woman, the author of “Travelling Blind: Life Lessons From Unlikely Teachers,” and our guest here in the studios of Radio Curious. Laura Fogg has worked as an Orientation and Mobility Instructor for the blind in Mendocino County since 1971. In doing so, she has pioneered the use of the white cane with blind students who are very young or who have multiple impairments, traveling from student to student through the rather special backroads between their homes. Laura Fogg visited Radio Curious on December 1st, 2008 and talked about some of the life lessons she has learned.

The book Laura Fogg recommends is “My Year Of Meats” by Ruth Ozeki

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Pereda, Marcos — Soft Sounds Of Spanish Guitar

Spanish songs sung and played on guitar is something I have enjoyed beginning when I lived in Peru in the mid 1960’s. I often have the pleasure of listening to and talking with Marcos Pereda, a person who can do just that. Marcos was born in Cuba and made his home there until the end of the last century when he moved with his American wife to the United States and soon thereafter to Mendocino County where he has settled, and can often be found playing his guitar and singing the soft sounds of his songs. Marcos Pereda joined Radio Curious at our studio in Ukiah on the 24th November 2008.

The book Marcos Pereda recommends is “The Course of Miracles” by Dr. Helen Schucman.

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De Grassi, Alex — A Cumulous Cloud On Guitar

Alex De Grassi is a guitarist extraordinaire whose interpretation of the Radio Curious theme, entitled “The Last Cowboy”, you may hear if you listen carefully. In this edition of Radio Curious he asks us ‘What does a cumulous cloud sound like when played on guitar?’ Alex De Grassi will share that sound with us in this interview. De Grassi played the trumpet as a child and when he was about 12, his brother was given a guitar, which soon gave Alex inspiration… allowing us to hear what a cumulous cloud sounds like. Our conversation began when I asked him about his relationship with the guitar. You can learn more about his work at his website Alex De Grassi came to the studio of Radio Curious for this conversation on November 12th 2008.

The book Alex De Grassi recommends is “Musicophilia: Tales Of Music And The Brain”, by Oliver Sacks.

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Chevigny, Katy – Election Day, Fairness In The Voting Booth

In 2004, filmmaker Katy Chevigny followed eleven Americans from dawn until past midnight and put a face on the voting rights issues to reveal the disparity between wealthy and poor neighborhoods, and the disenfranchisement of former felons. This became the documentary film, “Election Day.”

Katy Chevigny founded Arts Engine, a film making group with the goal to explore social issues in 1998. “Election Day” is now the centerpiece of  “Art Engine’s Ten Year Anniversary Collection,” a series of ten feature-length documentary and short films. Take a look at their website, for more information.

With fairness in the voting booth during the 2008 election in mind, I spoke by phone with Katy Chevigny on October 23, 2008. Our conversation began when I asked her to discuss how she became involved in making social films and the drama they carry.

The movie she recommends is, “Thrown Down Your Heart,” created by Sasha Paladino

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Posner, Rabbi Phil

In this edition of Radio Curious, we cross the line, if there is one, between politics and religion and visit with Rabbi Phil Posner to consider, among other things, ethics and moral courage. Rabbi Posner is the author of a fictional encounter, “Food For Thought, Character and Soul,” where he gathers well known historical figures including, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Desmond Tutu, Jimmy Carter and Bill and Hillary Clinton to discuss empathy, justice and moral courage. Our conversation, recorded on October 20, 2008, began when I asked Rabbi Posner about his intention in creating this unusual book.

The books that Rabbi Posner recommends are, “Van Loon’s Lives,” by Hendrik Willem Van Loon, “Melungeons: The Last Lost Tribe In America,” by Elizabeth C. Hirschman and “An Interrupted Life: The Diaries of Etty Hillesum 1941-43,” by Etty Hillseum.

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Mendel, Janet — Fine Spanish Cooking

In the story of Don Quixote, the author Miguel Cervantes tells, among other things, what Don Quixote ate for dinner every day of the week. This, in part became the inspiration for a book entitled, “Cooking from the Heart of Spain: Food of La Mancha,” written by Janet Mendel, an American woman who has lived in Spain for approximately 40 years. This book and the name of the author ignited my spontaneous curiosity, so when Janet Mendel and I visited by phone from her home on the southern coast of Spain in June 2007, I asked about her focus and inspiration to write a cookbook centered around Don Quixote de La Mancha.

The book she recommends, not surprisingly, is “Don Quixote,” by Miguel Cervantes, in the English translation by Edith Grossman.

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Patrick, William — Loneliness and How It Affects Us

How many of us are lonely? What is loneliness and how does it affect us? Approximately 25 years ago, when asked the number of friends in whom we could confide, most people in the United States said “three.” When that question was asked recently most people said “none.” Inquires reveal that twenty per-cent of people, — 60 million in the Untied States alone — are feeling lonely at any given moment. And, it appears that chronic loneliness may well compete with smoking, obesity and lack of exercise as a significant health risk.

In this edition of Radio Curious we visit with William Patrick, the founding editor of The Journal of Life Sciences and co-author of “Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection,” along with University of Chicago psychology professor John Cacioppo.  My conversation with William Patrick, recorded on October 13, 2008, began when I asked him to define loneliness as used in their book.

The book William Patrick recommends is “The Lost Gospel: The Book of Q and Christian Origins,” by Burton Mack.

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Ketchum, James M.D. — Non-Lethal Chemical Warfare to Make You Sit Down and Laugh

Non-lethal chemical warfare may be an oxymoron to some, but it was actually the goal of a U.S. Army research program in the 1960s and 70s at Edgewood Arsenal, an army arsenal in Maryland. The research goal was to find incapacitating non-lethal chemical weapons that would cause the enemy to lie down, smile and laugh. The research team was lead by a then colonel in the U.S. Army, psychiatrist Dr. James S. Ketchum. The team attempted to determine if LSD, cannabis, or belladonna could achieve the goal. Dr. Ketchum, the author of “Chemical Warfare: Secrets Almost Forgotten,” visited the studios of Radio Curious on August 1, 2008.  We began our interview when I asked what originally drew him to participate in the project at Edgewood Arsenal.

The books he recommends are “Pihkal: A Chemical Love Story” and “Tihkal: The Continuation,” by Alexander and Ann Shulgin.

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Ebershoff, David — How Many Wives are Enough?

Polygamy used to be a central aspect in Mormon beliefs. However, it has not been for over 100 years now, due partly to considerable effort by Ann Eliza Young, one of Brigham Young’s many wives. In this edition of Radio Curious we visit with David Ebershoff, the author of “The 19th Wife”, recorded on August 29, 2008. “The 19th Wife,” is the story of Ann Eliza Young, and her realization and then quest to let the world know that marriage should only pertain to two people, instead of one man and a plethora of wives who were referred to as “sister wives.” We discuss what marriage is, how religion plays a large role in many people’s lives, and how the quest that Ann Eliza had effected her world and the world we live in today. Our conversation began when I asked David Ebershoff why Ann Eliza wanted to apostate (or leave without approval) from the Mormon Church in relationship to the politics then and now.

The book that David Ebershoff recommends is, “American Wife: A Novel” by Curtis Sittenfeld.

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