Beth Wenger — Jewish Americans: Three Centuries of Jewish Voices in America

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North America, as we have known for millennia, has been populated by ethnic groups looking for a new place to live. Beginning in the early 17th Century and through the present time, Jewish people from around the world have seen North America as a favored place to live and in waves of migration over time have come here to make a new life as part of the American fabric. In the winter of 2008 the Public Broadcasting System presented a major six hour television series: “The Jewish Americans: Three Centuries of Jewish Voices in America.” A companion book to this series with the same name, written by Beth Wenger, the Director of the Jewish Studies Program at the University of Pennsylvania, is a collection of first person stories about lives of American Jews who maintained their own culture as they became part of the American culture. Our visit with Beth Wenger in January 2008, by phone from her office at the University of Pennsylvania, began when she described the distinctions and similarities of the Jewish American experience as compared to other immigrant groups. This program was originally broadcast January 30, 2008.

The book she recommends is, “The Yiddish Policeman’s Union,” by Michael Chabon.

Charles Ferguson — “Will This War Ever End?”

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“The Endless War,” a movie released in late July 2007, written, directed and produced by Charles Ferguson, depicts the blunders and ill-prepared manner in which the United States initiated and carried out the war against Iraq. This full-length feature film juxtaposes the statements and actions of the Washington leadership of the war, which at the outset failed to include President Bush – the Commander-in-Chief, with the leadership’s actions and grievous consequences that followed.  Charles Ferguson holds a Ph.D. in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has extensive experience in foreign policy analysis, and lives and works in the San Francisco Bay area. When I spoke with him on July 20, 2007 we began with his explanation how the war and the occupation of Iraq were shaped by an extremely small group of people In Washington D.C., with limited foreign policy and post war occupation experience.

The film he recommends is “The Lives of Others,” a story about East Germany under the community regime.

 

Tom Allman- “The Sheriff and Marijuana”

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This program was originally broadcast on June 19, 2007.

Marijuana, some say, is on the lips of many people here in Mendocino County, California, and likely many other places throughout the world, to some with pleasure and to others with distaste. Nonetheless it doesn’t seem that marijuana will go away. Not withstanding federal laws prohibiting use and possession of marijuana, the people of the State of California adopted the Compassionate Use Act in 1996 and in November 2000, the voters of Mendocino County approved a resolution by a vote of 58% to 42% to decriminalize the personal use of marijuana. In this edition of Radio Curious we visit with Tom Allman the Sheriff of Mendocino County to discuss the enforcement of the many conflicting marijuana laws. Estimates of the value of the crop produced in Mendocino County vary from five to ten billion dollars. We began when I asked the Sheriff to comment on this estimate.

Tom Allman recommends “The Hunt for Red October,” by Tom Clancy

Stephen Most – “The Klamath River”

Originally Broadcast: March 21, 2007

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River of Renewal, Myth & History in the Klamath Basin

Since the last Ice Age ended about 12,000 years ago, human beings have traveled along the Klamath River and it tributaries in the northwest corner of California and the coast of southern Oregon. Many people finding an abundance of food, have stayed. The main source of their food was salmon. The power of the myth of the salmon may derive from the fact that wild salmon spread out across the Pacific Northwest about the same time that human beings did, at the end of the last Ice Age. In this edition of Radio Curious we visit with Steve Most, author of “River of Renewal, Myth & History in the Klamath Basin,” a book that tells the story of the history of the Klamath River and the people who have continuously lived there for the past 12,000 years. Steve Most is a playwright and documentary storyteller. Among many other works, he wrote the texts of the audio voices and videos for the permanent exhibit of the Washington State History Museum. In this interview recorded in mid-March 2007, I spoke with Steve Most from his home in Berkeley, California. We began our conversation when I asked him to give a perspective of the geological and human aspects of the Klamath River and its place in history.

Stephen Most recommends the “Essays and Letters of Ralph Waldo Emerson.”

Clarina Nichols portrayed by Eickhoff Diane – “The Revolutionary Heart of Clarina Nichols”

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Originally Broadcast: January 13, 2007

Revolutionary Heart, The Life of Clarina Nichols and the Pioneering Crusade for Women’s Rights

The life of Clarina Nichols and her work in the early women’s rights movement of the United States has been greatly overlooked. As one of the country’s first female newspaper editors and stump speakers, Clarina Nichols spoke out for temperance, abolition and women’s rights at a time when doing so could get a woman killed. Unlike other activists, she personally experienced some of the cruelest sufferings that a married woman of her day could know. In her pursuit for justice she traveled westward facing all of the challenges of being a single mother and a women’s rights activist of her day with good humor and resourcefulness. Clarina Nichols was portrayed by Diane Eickhoff in this Chautauquan style interview.  We began when I asked Clarina about her childhood.

http://clarinanichols.googlepages.com/home

Clarina Nichols recommends “The Sexes Throughout Nature (Pioneers of the woman’s movement),” by Antoinette Louisa Brown Blackwell.

 

Dr. Daniel J. Levitin – “Music On The Brain” Part 2

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Originally Broadcast: November 8, 2006

This Is Your Brain On Music: The Science of a Human Obsession

The understanding of how we humans experience music and why it plays a unique role in our lives is this topic of two interviews with Dr. Daniel Levitin, author of, “This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession,” recorded from his home in Montreal, Quebec, Canada in late October 2006. Professor Levitin runs the Laboratory for Musical Perception, Cognition and Expertise at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. He asserts that our brains are hardwired for music and therefore we are all more musically equipped than we think, and that music is an obsession at the heart of human nature, perhaps even more fundamental to our species than language. Professor Levitin believes that the music we end up liking meets our expectations of what we anticipate hearing, just enough of the time that we feel rewarded, and the music that we like also violates those expectations just enough of the time that we’re intrigued. In the first interview Dr. Levitin begins by describing how the human brain learns to distinguish between music and language. The second interview begins with a discussion of what happens when people listen to music they like.

www.yourbrainonmusic.com

Dr. Daniel J. Levitin recommends, “Another Day in the Frontal Lobe,” by Katrina Firlik, and, “The Human Stain,” by Philip Roth.

Dr. Daniel J. Levitin – “Music On The Brain” Part 1

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Originally Broadcast: November 1, 2006

This Is Your Brain On Music: The Science of a Human Obsession

The understanding of how we humans experience music and why it plays a unique role in our lives is this topic of two interviews with Dr. Daniel Levitin, author of, “This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession,” recorded from his home in Montreal, Quebec, Canada in late October 2006. Professor Levitin runs the Laboratory for Musical Perception, Cognition and Expertise at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. He asserts that our brains are hardwired for music and therefore we are all more musically equipped than we think, and that music is an obsession at the heart of human nature, perhaps even more fundamental to our species than language. Professor Levitin believes that the music we end up liking meets our expectations of what we anticipate hearing, just enough of the time that we feel rewarded, and the music that we like also violates those expectations just enough of the time that we’re intrigued. In the first interview Dr. Levitin begins by describing how the human brain learns to distinguish between music and language. The second interview begins with a discussion of what happens when people listen to music they like.

www.yourbrainonmusic.com

Dr. Daniel J. Levitin recommends, “Another Day in the Frontal Lobe,” by Katrina Firlik, and, “The Human Stain,” by Philip Roth.

Anthony Arthur– “Changing America: Upton Sinclair Style”

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Originally Broadcast: September 6, 2006
Radical Innocent: Upton Sinclair

Since I was young, I have been intrigued by the work of Upton Sinclair. I remember as a boy hearing about Sinclair’s books and efforts to change the world. A close friend of my family was the writer for Sinclair’s campaign newspaper, when he ran for governor of California in 1934 and, although that was long before I was born, the stories rolled during his later visits. Sinclair is perhaps best know for, “The Jungle,” published in 1906, which openly revealed the inhumane conditions of the Chicago stockyards and how the meatpacking industry operated, resulting in the passage of the pure food and drug laws within months after the books publication.

“Radical Innocent: Upton Sinclair,” is a biography written by retired professor Anthony Arthur, released in June 2006, 100 years after the publication of, “The Jungle,” and tells the story of Upton Sinclair’s life and work. Arthur weaves the strands of Sinclair’s contentious public career and his often-troubled private life, which Sinclair at times willingly revealed, into a compelling personal narrative. Anthony Arthur rates integrity as Sinclair’s greatest strength, and claims his eloquence in writing and speech, along with his reputation for selflessness as the basis of a ground swell of support for Sinclair and his ideas. When I spoke with Professor Anthony Arthur at the end of August 2006, from his home near Los Angeles, California, he began by describing what attracted him to study and write about Upton Sinclair.

Anthony Arthur recommends, “Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph,” by T.E. Lawrence.

Paul Goldstein – “The Artist’s Right of Ownership”

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Originally Broadcast: August 9, 2006

Errors and Omissions

Who owns the rights to a play, a song, or a work of art? How important and fragile is the authorship? These and other issues of intellectual property rights begin to be revealed in, “Errors and Omissions,” a novel by Stanford Law Professor, Paul Goldstein. “Errors and Omissions,” follows the story of Michael Seeley as he locates a World War Two era Polish refugee who is the author of a screenplay that has the potential to make a huge amount of money not only from the movie rights, but also from the sale of associated paraphernalia. Goldstein, who began writing fiction at the age of twelve, hopes now, fifty years later that readers of his first full length novel will carry away the sense of the fragility of authorship, when an artist creates a work out of thin air. I spoke with Paul Goldstein from his office at Stanford University and began by asking him to define intellectual property.

Paul Goldstein recommends, “Aspects of the Novel,” by E.M. Forster.

Bruce Patterson – “Old Time Tales of Anderson Valley”

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Originally Broadcast: August 30, 2006

Walking Tractor And Other Tales of Old Anderson Valley

Stories of the days that no longer exist in rural areas tell us how things were, how people worked, lived and played, and bring to life conditions that most of us never knew existed. “Walking Tractor and Other Tales of Old Anderson Valley,” is a collection of stories written by Bruce Patterson, who lives in Philo, a rather small community in rural Anderson Valley, Mendocino County, California. The introduction to, “Walking Tractor,” quotes Ernest Hemmingway as saying, “You can only write about what you know,” something that is verified in the stories of Bruce Patterson, who is known to his friends as Pat. I met with Pat in the studio of Radio Curious, in the last week of August, 2006 to learn about his life, his stories and the man he is.