Thomas, Sam — Midwives and Murder

The rather fascinating tale of midwifery and murder in York, England set in the mid 1640s is the topic of our conversation with Sam Thomas, author of “The Midwife’s Tale,” and “The Harlot’s Tale.”  While researching English history for his Ph.D. thesis, Thomas happened on to the Will of Bridget Hodgson, a midwife.  A fictionalized version of her life forms the basis for Thomas’s mystery series set in York, in which Bridget Hodgson is the protagonist.

Our conversation with Sam Thomas, recorded by phone on December 27, 2013 from his home near Cleveland, Ohio, where he teaches high-school history, begins with his characterization of York, England, in 1644.

The books Sam Thomas recommends are “An Instance of the Finger Post,” by Iain Pears, and “The Lock Artist,” by Steve Hamilton. 

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DeWitt, Jerry — From Pentecostal to Atheist Part Two

This is the second of two conversations with Jerry DeWitt author of “Hope After Faith:  An Ex-Pastor’s Journey From Belief to Atheism.”

In our first visit, Jerry DeWitt talks about his childhood experiences that led him to be a fundamentalist Pentecostal preacher.  His website is an interesting source with links to the curious conundrums fomented by religion. 

In this conversation, recorded by phone from western Florida on December 13, 2013, we begin with Jerry DeWitt’s process of coming out as an atheist, after twenty-five years as a fundamentalist Pentecostal preacher. 

The books Jerry DeWitt recommends are those that “show the human side of renowned ‘non-believers,’” written by Richard Dawkins, Carlton Pearson, Michael Williams, Dan Barker, and/or Daniel Dennett.

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Click here to listen to part one.



DeWitt, Jerry — From Pentecostal to Atheist Part One

The freedom to think and the freedom of religion are constitutional keystones and givens in the United States.  However, when those freedoms lead a Pentecostal pastor to come out as an atheist, he is shunned by some and praised by others.

Jerry DeWitt, whose ministry began when he was seventeen, is the author of “Hope After Faith:  An Ex-Pastor’s Journey From Belief to Atheism.” He’s our guest in this two part conversation about his 25 year dialogue with faith, his early beliefs, his evolving skepticism and his embrace of free-thinking humanism.

As it is for all of us, early life experiences are most often taken for granted and form the basis by which we compare subsequent experiences and develop new understandings. 

So when Jerry DeWitt and I visited by phone from western Florida on December 13, 2013, we began the first part of our conversation with a description of his early childhood.

Jerry DeWitt’s website provides information about his book and links to the resources and topics discussed in our program. 

The books Jerry DeWitt recommends are those written by Joseph Campbell.

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Click here to listen to part two.

Bernstein, Paula & Schein, Elyse — Identical Twins Meet

In our unsatisfied curiosity about the difference between nature and nurture we visit with Elyse Schein and Paula Bernstein.  These women are identical twins separated as infants and reunited in 2003 when they were 35 years old.  They are the authors of “Identical Strangers:  A Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited.” 

Their mother, as we will hear was unable to care for them and as babies they were placed for adoption.

When we visited by phone on November 10, 2007, we discussed their separate childhoods, how they learned that they had a twin, their similarities and differences, and their attempt to learn about a study of twins in which they unknowingly participated.

We began when I asked them to describe aspects of their twin-ship which they still find strange.

The book that Elyse Schein recommends is “Later, At The Bar:  A Novel in Stories” by Rebecca Barry. The book that Paula Bernstein recommends is “Borrowed Finery:  A Memoir” by Paula Fox.

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Brown, Don — Make Dreams a Reality

Imagine being about 36 years old having completed only the 6th grade, worked for years as a laborer, and one day waking up in a hospital from knee surgery to a dream induced by morphine for your severe pain.   In the unrelentingly dream you to college, Harvard Law School and then walk across the United States from Boston, Massachusetts, to Big Sur, California.

Those sixty-three words summarize the story of Donald L. Brown, now 67 years old who had that dream and lived it.  He’s the author of “The Morphine Dream:  Delusions of Grandeur or Relentless Ambition?  Sometimes it’s Hard to Tell the Difference.” He has 6 other forthcoming books some of which will be published in 2014.

Donald L. Brown visited the studio of Radio Curious on November 9, 2013 to share his story.   We began our visit with his description of this morphine dream an actual event in his life and how he lived it.

The book Donald L. Brown recommends is “The Glass Castle,” by Jeannette Walls.

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Where’s the Water? Ask the Dowser.

Finding water on a ridge top, as in where is a good place to drill and how deep will it be before there’s good water, is the topic of this edition of Radio Curious.  Our guest is Rob Schroeder, a water well driller based in Ukiah, California and employed by Weeks Drilling of Sebastopol, California. 

Rob Schroeder says he’s also an amateur dowser.  That’s a person who tries to locate a good spot from which to drill for water by using a divining rod, which is a bent metal rod or a forked branch from a tree.  Rob and I walked in the redwood forest on a ridge top about half way between Ukiah, California and the coastal village of Mendocino, a distance apart as the crow flies of about 35 miles.  In addition to the divining rod, he looked for certain trees and other signs indicating that a vein of water could be near.  You’ll sometimes hear the crunch of leaves as we walked among the trees on November 10, 2013. 

We begin with Rod Schroeder’s description of the divining rod that he uses, how to use it and a guess as to why it works.

The book Rob Schroeder recommends is “Where White Men Fear to Tread: The Autobiography of Russell Means,” by Russell Means and Marvin Wolf.

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Binder, Mark & Freund, Hugo — Latkes & Turkey: A Holiday Special

The Jewish celebration of Hanukkah which means “dedication” in Hebrew, commemorates the rededication during the second century B.C. of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, where according to legend Jews had risen up against their Greek-Syrian oppressors in the Maccabean Revolt. It begins every year on the 25th day of Kislev and usually falls in November or December.  The Jewish calendar is based on lunar cycles, and Hanukkah, often called the Festival of LIghts always starts five days prior to the last new moon before the winter solstice.

Thanksgiving is a celebration common to cultures and religions world wide, often after harvest.  It is held in the United States on the fourth Thursday of November which. 

In this the Hebrew calendar year 5774 and the Gregorian calendar year 2013 these two holidays converge with Thanksgiving falling on the second day of Hannukah.  Thus some people will eat latkas, also known as potato pancakes, with turkey and/or stuffing. 

In this edition of Radio Curious we combine two archive editions and tell the story of two very fun holidays.  We start with our 2011 conversation with Mark Binder, author of “A Hanukkah Present!” followed by a 2002 conversation with Professor Hugo Freund about the history of Thanksgiving in the United States.

We begin with Mark Binder explaining the purpose of telling stories around Hanukkah.

We continue with a 2002 visit about the roots of Thanksgiving with Sociology Professor Hugo Freund recorded in a noise hotel lobby at the American Anthropology Association in New Orleans, Louisiana.  

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Buckley, Mary: What Are You Afraid Of?

“What Are You Afraid Of?” is the title of a cd released in August 2013 by singer and songwriter Mary Buckley, our guest in this edition of Radio Curious.  Mary has a wide range of skills and experiences and has been singing her songs since she was a young teenager in the mid-1970s.  She visited the studios of Radio Curious on November 10, 2013, and began her story when I asked her what prompted her to create a cd.

The book Mary Buckley recommends is “A Pattern Language,” by Christopher Alexander.

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Organic Grapes, Wine & Charlie Barra

One might say that wine is the life blood of Charlie Barra, the founder of Barra of Mendocino Organic Wines.  He’s our guest on this edition of Radio Curious.

Barra was born in 1928, close to his winery, about five miles north of Ukiah, in Mendocino County, California.  His parents, both immigrants from the Piedmont region of Italy, had a long history in the vineyards and grew only organic grapes.  Barra continues that policy now in his vineyards and grows only certified-organic crops.

He says that for the past 67 years he never missed a harvest, claiming that pay day comes once a year, after the harvest is sold.

Charlie Barra and I visited in the kitchen of his home in Ukiah, California on November 1, 2013, and began our conversation with stories of his early memories.

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Luke, Gregorio — The Day of the Dead

Most countries in the world send ambassadors to talk about and promote what their country is like and to carry on political affairs between and along other nations.  These ambassadors often have assistants known as “cultural attaches.”  They bring and share their nation’s culture, history and the folklore with their host countries. 

The cultural event known as Halloween in the United States is celebrated annually on November 1st as the Day of the Dead in Mexico and other Latin American Counties.

In 1997 Radio Curious invited Gregorio Luke, the cultural attache from the Republic of Mexico based in Los Angeles, California, to our studios when he was the Consul for Cultural Affairs. His job at that time was to broaden the Mexican cultural presence in the United States.

Our conversation began when I asked Gregorio Luke to describe the cultural gaps he sought to bridge in presenting Mexican and to tell us about the Day of The Dead.

The book Gregorio Luke recommends is ”The Crystal Frontier,” by Carlos Fuentes.

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