Levene, Bruce — James Dean in Mendocino

John Steinbeck’s novel, “East of Eden” was published September 1952 and the movie-made soon thereafter-is the subject of this edition of Radio Curious. Our guest is Bruce Levene, author of “James Dean in Mendocino: The Filming of East of Eden.” The Mendocino Film Festival will screen “East of Eden” on Friday, November 21 and Sunday, November 23, 2014.

Soon after “East of Eden” was published, plans began immediately for a motion picture. Warner Brothers bought the rights and director Elia Kazan hired playwright screenwriter, Paul Osborn to write the film script. After several attempts to encompass the sprawling 560-page novel, they decided to use only the last 90 pages—the story of Adam Trask, his sons Aron and Cal, their mother Kate, and the girl Abra.

It’s a story about the search for love, the desperate search for his father’s love, by the son Cal, the fanciful search for his mother’s love by Aron, and the futile quest by Adam for the love of all humanity. John Steinbeck wrote of his book, “The subject is the only one that man has used of his theme. The existence, the balance, the battle and the victory and permanent war between wisdom and ignorance, light and darkness, good and evil.”

By 1954, when Kazan began searching for locale to use for the filming of “East of Eden,” neither Monterey nor Salinas, where the stories took place, looked much like California in 1917. Warner Brothers had made “Johnny Belinda” in Mendocino in 1947, which might have influenced the director.

Or perhaps as one wire service reported:  “Like many other voyagers, he just wandered up the Mendocino Coast and found what he was looking for.”

In late April, preparations for filming began and the fist day of shooting took place on May 27. In that amazingly brief time the Mendocino scenes were completed and by June 3, the Warner Brothers production team was gone, leaving local residents with fond remembrances.

Bruce Levene writes, “I first saw “East of Eden” on the fan tail of a US Navy destroyer in the Caribbean in 1956. I’d read the book but never traveled west of Des Moines. California was unseen, Mendocino was unheard of. I thought “East Eden” had been filmed in Monterey and Salinas, wherever they were.”

“East of Eden” became Levene’s favorite motion picture. Not particularly because of James Dean, although he was certainly unforgettable.

“Whatever the man was in real life, saint or sinner,” Bruce Levene writes, “we will never really know.  It’s undeniable however, that in front of an audience or camera he was remarkable. And that, for an actor, is the best thing that can be said. Dean was just something else.”

For Bruce Levene, it was how he felt about the whole movie—the shoreline, the town, it’s people, the actors: Julie Harris, Joe Van Fleet, Raymond Massey and Burl Ives (Massey and Ives didn’t go to Mendocino), and Leonard Rosenman’s wonderful music. A totality in feeling, rare in motion pictures, was only enhanced to Bruce Levene when he moved to Mendocino in 1969.

When Bruce Levene and I visited from his home in Mendocino, California, on November 11, 2014, I asked him what prompted him to write his book “James Dean in Mendocino.”

The book Bruce Levene recommends is “The Immense Journey” by Loren Eiseley.

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Farrell, Tom — A Visit to Wind Cave National Park

Wind Cave National Park, the eighth National Park established in 1903 and located in the Black Hills of southwest South Dakota, is the subject this edition of Radio Curious. Our guest is Tom Farrell, Chief of Interpretation at Wind Cave National Park.

Lakota stories speak of a hole in the Black Hills that blows air which is a sacred place for their people. The tipi rings, near the present day elevator building at Wind Cave National Park, indicate that Indians camped in the area and knew about the cave’s small natural entrance. Sitting Bull’s nephew is quoted as saying that “Wind Cave in the Black Hills was the cave from which Wakan Tanka, the Great Mystery, sent the buffalo out into the Sioux hunting grounds.”  

One of the stories tell of a beautiful woman, known as the buffalo woman, who came out of the cave and gave the bison to the Lakota people.

In 1881 a couple of non Lakota deer hunters happened on to the cave when one of them was following a wounded deer up a ravine and heard a loud whistling sound. The hunter noticed grass caught in a strong breeze on what otherwise was a calm day. Investigating, he found a small hole blowing with such force that it blew his hat off.  Returning to show what he thought was a phenomenon to some friends, one of them put a hat in front of the hole which was sucked into the cave because the wind had switched directions.

The direction of the wind is in fact related to the difference in atmospheric pressure between the cave and the surface. To understand this phenomenon it’s important to understand barometric or atmospheric pressure.

At sea level gravity is strongest and air pressure is greatest. And because gravity weakens as you go up, air pressure is lower at higher altitudes. However, the barometric pressure at any given location on the earth is constantly changing. On the surface, weather is driven by the sun, which heats some areas of the earth more than others. Temperature differences lead to pressure differences which produce winds, bring in clouds, or clear skies. Understanding barometric pressure readings help forecast the weather. A rising barometric pressure often suggests clearing skies and fair weather where falling pressure indicates that wet or stormy weather may be on the way. Areas of very low pressure are associated with severe storms, such as tornadoes or hurricanes.

Because Wind Cave is so large and has a lot of space, it also has an air pressure system. That air pressure system is always working to be equal to the air pressure system on the surface. So if a high pressure system is on the surface, air will be forced into the cave to create a high pressure system in the cave. When there is a low pressure system on the surface, the high pressure in the cave forces air out so the cave will have a low pressure system also. This is referred to as cave breathing.

Barometric airflow through the natural entrance of Wind Cave not only gave the cave its name, but also provides an opportunity for determining the approximate volume or size of the cave passages. Monitoring and recording the barometric airflow through the cave’s natural entrances help us understand the volume of air in the cave and that can be used to calculate the total volume of cave passage. By using the amount of air that comes from the cave we can determine the volume of space in the cave. At this time it has been estimated that than 10% of the caves volume has been found.  That does not mean however that the mileage of the cave is identifiably known. There could be many, very small passages or one great huge one. But it does give us an idea of how big the cave could be.

Many caves are big enough to have barometric winds. However, the wind at Wind Cave is noticeable because of its very small, natural entrance. Wind Cave, one of the longest caves in the world, is also one of the most complex caves known. Currently most all of the cave lies beneath about a 1 mile square area of land.

Wind Cave became the eighth National Park in 1903.

When Radio Curious visited Wind Cave National Park on September 23, 2014, we met with Tom Farrell, the Chief of Interpretation, and began our conversation when I asked him to describe the discovery of the Wind Cave. 

The book Tom Farrell recommends is “Wind Cave:  An Ancient World Beneath the Hills,” by Art Palmer.

Click here to listen or on the media player below.

Vogel, Lillian Ph.D. — Secrets of a Long Life

September 11, 2014, marks the 105th birthday of a woman I know well:  A woman who has played the piano for 98 years, and in my opinion is the best mother in the world.  In 2009, her book “What’s My Secret?  One Hundred Years of Memories and Reflections,” a memoir of her first ten decades was published.  This book imparts thoughts and ideas to those of us who seek to lead a long and active life.

Lillian B. Vogel, Ph.D., is the author. She is also my mother.  And as such, I have often been curious about the role she had in fomenting my curiosity.  She has always been able to get to the heart of most any matter with a few simple questions.  

On September 9, 2014, my mother and I met for lunch at her home to review the plans for her upcoming 105th birthday celebration.  When I explained that Radio Curious would feature our 2009 conversation she offered to read the poem from the conclusion of her book.  You’ll hear it at the end of the interview.

And so, from the Radio Curious archives, I wish to honor this extraordinary woman on her 105th birthday by sharing our conversation, recorded on October 31, 2009, which began with the inquiry:  What makes Lillian Vogel curious?

The book Lillian B. Vogel  recommends is “The Blue Tattoo: The Life Of Olive Oatman,” by Margot Mifflin.

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Von Drehle, David — Triangle, the Fire that Changed America

Until September 11, 2001, The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire of March 25, 1911 was the deadliest workplace disaster in the history of New York City.  The fire shocked the nation and exposed the life-threatening conditions in America’s sweatshop industry.  It gave energy to the labor movement and unions, and remade the Democratic Party of the time. 

Our guest, David Von Drehle, is the author of “Triangle, the Fire That Changed America,” a book that presents a detailed examination of how this single event changed the course of the 20th century politics and labor relations. In this book, Von Drehle concludes:

As for the mostly nameless young women and men who went on strike in 1909 and bravely walked those relentless picket lines through a freezing winter—and especially those remarkable young people who later died at the Triangle—their memory grows.  Their individual lives are mostly lost to us, but their monument and legacy are stitched into our world. 

David Von Drehle and I visited by phone from New York City in early September 2003, and began with his description of the fire on March 25, 1911 that changed America.

The book David Von Drehele recommends is “Plunkitt of Tammany Hall” by William Riordan. 

This program was originally broadcast on September 9, 2003.

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Brown, Seyom — Contradictions in U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy

Contradictions in the United States’ nuclear weapons policy is the subject of this edition of Radio Curious. Our guest is Dr. Seyom Brown, who during the past 55 years has taught at major universities, been a special adviser to the Department of Defense and Department of State, and has written twelve books on the United States’ foreign policy and international relations.

Dr. Seyom Brown is currently an adjunct senior fellow at the American Security Project, in Washington, D.C. and previously held senior research and policy analysis positions at the RAND Corporation, the Brookings Institution, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and the Kennedy School of Government. He has served as a Special Assistant in the Office of International Security Affairs at the Department of Defense, and to the Director of Policy Planning in the Department of State. Dr. Brown has also taught at Harvard, Brandeis, John Hopkins, Columbia, University of Chicago, and UCLA.

His current work is the study of and writing about what he describes as the “disturbing contradictions” in United States’ nuclear weapons policy. When we visited in the studios of Radio Curious on July 4, 2014, I asked him to explain and discuss these contradictions.

The book Dr. Seyom Brown recommends is “Five Myths About Nuclear Weapons,” by Ward Wilson.

The article to which he refers in this interview, Beyond MAD: Obama’s Risky –But Realistic –Effort to Reduce the Role of Nuclear Weapons is found in the December 2013 issue of Survival Magazine.

You also may hear two 1995 Radio Curious interviews with Dr. Seyom Brown discussing President Clinton’s foreign policy here.

For full disclosure, Dr. Seyom Brown is the uncle to Radio Curious host and producer, Barry Vogel.

Click here to listen to the program or on the media player below.

Rovics, David — The Art of Political Song

Songs of a political nature are not surprising given the similarities and parallel community structures of politics and religions, with each community promoting the behaviors and concepts it supports as being the most appropriate.  The art of political song, which has been crafted and heard world wide since time immemorial, is the topic of this edition of Radio Curious.

In this program we visit with singer–songwriter David Rovics, a veritable troubadour and folk musician of our time.  He visited the studios of Radio Curious on December 9, 2012, and began our conversation when he described his work, his songs, and how he creates them.  

The following is his biography taken from his website. 
”David Rovics grew up in a family of classical musicians in Wilton, Connecticut, and became a fan of populist regimes early on. By the early 90′s he was a full-time busker in the Boston subways and by the mid-90′s he was traveling the world as a professional flat-picking rabble-rouser. These days David lives in Portland, Oregon and tours regularly on four continents, playing for audiences large and small at cafes, pubs, universities, churches, union halls and protest rallies. He has shared the stage with a veritable who’s who of the left in two dozen countries, and has had his music featured on Democracy Now!, BBC, Al-Jazeera and other networks. His essays are published regularly on CounterPunch and elsewhere, and the 200+ songs he makes available for free on the web have been downloaded more than a million times. Most importantly, he’s really good. He will make you laugh, he will make you cry, he will make the revolution irresistible.”

Click here to listen to the program or on the media player below.

Dole, Robert — Homosexuality and Schizophrenia

In honor of LGBT Pride Month, this edition of Radio Curious discusses one man’s personal experience in recognizing his homosexuality. Until the mid 1970s many people considered homosexuality to be a mental disorder and/or a crime, as it is still in some personal and political belief systems. Homosexual people sometimes were housed in mental institutions, given medication and suffered an array of treatment methods, including shock therapy and other forms of behavior modification.

Professor Robert Dole, our guest in this edition of Radio Curious, was one of many individuals subjected to behavior modification. In his book, “How to Make a Success of Your Schizophrenia,” he explains how the “treatment” he endured as an attempt to alter his homosexual preference made him schizophrenic. His personal memoir describes his experiences growing up in the 1960s as a gay man, his institutionalization at the McLean Hospital in Massachusetts, the insanity that consumed him as a result of his treatment, his self-led recovery, partially based on a spiritual experience, and his subsequent extraordinary life in academia.

Professor Dole, who is fluent in seven languages, teaches English as a Foreign Language at the University of Chicoutimi in rural Quebec, Canada, where he has lived for 30 plus years. He is the author of several books including, “The American Nightmare.” Robert Dole and I visited by phone from his office at the University of Chicoutimi on November 4, 2011 and began our conversation when I asked him to describe the schizophrenia he experienced.

The books he recommends are: “The Death of Ivan Ilych,” by Leo Tolstoy and any book from Stefan Zweig. 

Click here to listen to the program or on the media player below.

Franklin, Benjamin – Archbold, Ralph — Two Visits with Benjamin Franklin Part Two

We continue with the second of two archive visits with Benjamin Franklin, as portrayed by Ralph Archbold. Archbold has made a career of interpreting Benjamin Franklin for over 30 years.  

In part one of this series we discussed Benjamin Franklin’s early life, his inventions, his role in the secession from England and in the formation of the Confederation and later the United States of America.

This second part was recorded in July 1994, at the City Tavern, as it has been called since it opened in 1774.  It quickly became a center of political events of the times.  Paul Revere went there to announce the news that the British government closed the Port of Boston.  Many influential people in the colonies gathered in Philadelphia to decide on a response to the British government’s closing of Boston’s port and other acts.  When John Adams, who later became the second President of the United States, went to Philadelphia in August of 1774 to attend the first Continental Congress, he was greeted by leading citizens and immediately taken to the City Tavern.  He characterized it as “the most genteel tavern in America.”  For the next decades, the City Tavern would be a familiar sight to leading figures of the American Revolution.

When Benjamin Franklin, as portrayed by Ralph Archbold, and I visited at the City Tavern over lunch, we considered many aspects, past and present, of American life.   We began our conversation when I asked Benjamin Franklin about the history of the City Tavern.

The book Benjamin Franklin and Ralph Archbold recommend is “The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin.”  

Click here or on the media player below to listen to part two.

Click here to listen to part one.

Franklin, Benjamin – Archbold, Ralph — Two Visits with Benjamin Franklin Part One

This is the first of two archived visits with Benjamin Franklin, as portrayed by Ralph Archbold.

Benjamin Franklin arrived in Philadelphia as a young man and became an inventor, printer, scientist, author, governor, activist in the war for independence from England, an ambassador to France, and the first post master general in the United states, among a multitude of many other accomplishments. Ralph Archbold has portrayed Benjamin Franklin in theater, for conventions, and in the media for over 30 years.

Benjamin Franklin, through the person of Ralph Archbold, met with me in Franklin Court where his home and printshop were located, in Philadelphia. We met on July 18, 1994. We discussed his early life, his inventions and his role in the cessation from England and the formation of the United States. We began our conversation when I first asked him when he first came to Philadelphia.

The book Benjamin Franklin and Ralph Archbold recommend is “The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin.”  

Click here or on the media player below to listen to part one.  

Click here to listen to part two.

Silha, Stephen — The Puckish Whimsical Life of James Broughton

The puckishly whimsical life and times of poet and film maker James Broughton is the topic of this edition of Radio Curious in a visit with Stephen Silha, the producer and director of “Big Joy,” a biographical film of the life and times of James Broughton.   

Broughton believed that in order to live an authentic life we each should follow our own weird. He says:

“I don’t know what the left is doing said the right hand.

But it looks fascinating.”

And:

“I may be infecting the whole body

said the Head

but they’ll never amputate me.”

Stephen Silha and I visited by phone from his home near Seattle, Washington on Mother’s Day, 2014.  He began our conversation by telling us what drew him to make a film about his friend James Broughton.   

The book Stephen Silha recommends is “The Man Who Fell in Love With the Moon,” by Tom Spanbauer.

The music in this week’s edition of Radio Curious is “Twirl” by Norman Arnold, from the movie, “Big Joy.”

Click here or on the media player below to listen.