Doug Mishler as P.T. Barnum: The Something of Humbug

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PT Barnum, sometimes known as the Prince of Humbug, was born in Connecticut in 1810. In many ways, he personified the American character that Frenchman Alexis De Tocqueville described in his book, “Democracy in America.” Barnum delighted in making money and telling the truth, as he saw it. Some truths were told in the political arena, where he was twice a member of the Connecticut legislature and, in the interim, Mayor of Bridgeport, Connecticut. Some of his truths were lies when they were told to other people, like the history of some of his circus performers. Other truths were told in his newspapers. PT Barnum, ‘PT’ as he liked to be called, was best known as the creator of the ‘Best Show On Earth,’ the Barnum and Bailey Circus. I spoke with PT Barnum, personified by Doug Mishler, in the studios of Radio Curious in July of 1996 when this program was originally broadcast.

P.T. Barnum recommends “My Toils and Struggles,” the autobiography of PT Barnum. Doug Mishler recommends “The Culture of Complaint,” by Robert Hughes.

Originally Broadcast: July 24, 1996

McCloud, Scott: The Invisible Art

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Understanding Comics, A Rather Colorful Display: The Invisible Art

Comics have come to hold quite an important place in contemporary society. Satire, particularly political commentary, is perhaps closest to its essence when expressed in the visual comic. However, it also can be argued that comics have played a far greater role in the history of humanity, tracing back to all images depicting a sequential number of actions. My guest in this program is Scott McCloud, author of “Understanding Comics, A Rather Colorful Display: The Invisible Art,” a book about the history of comics.

Scott McCloud recommends “Jar of Fools,” by Jason Lutes.

Originally Broadcast: August 27, 1994

Fry, Dr. Bill: Psychology of Humor

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Our guest in this program was Dr. William Fry, a psychiatrist who has done extensive research in the field of humor. We discussed the psychology and genetics of humor. Much of Dr. Fry’s research has concentrated on Cocoa, the gorilla, and we discussed that as well. This program was originally broadcast in March of 1992, when Radio Curious was called Government, Politics and Ideas.

Originally Broadcast: March 2, 1992

Silha, Stephen: The Puckish Whimsical Life of James Broughton

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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 weeks edition of Radio Curious is “Twril” by Norman Arnold, from the movie, “Big Joy.”

Vogel, Lillian: Secrets of a Long Life: In Memory of Dr. Lillian Brown Vogel

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This program is presented in honor of my mother, Lillian Brown Vogel, whose vivacious 39,549 days finally caught up with her on December 29, 2017. She died at her home here in Ukiah, California at the age of 108. Smiling until she closed her eyes for the last time, she cherished her well lived life. I dedicate this program to everyone who seeks to lead a long, active and happy life.

My mother played the piano almost daily for 104 years. She voted in every election since 1930, the year she began medical school. She earned a Master’s Degree in 1933 and Ph.D. in 1961, both in psychology. She worked as a clinical psychologist, retiring in 2005, at the age of 96. In response to many queries about the secret of her long life, she published her memoir, “What’s My Secret?  One Hundred Years of Memories and Reflections,” on her 100th birthday in 2009.

My mother was driven by her curiosity and joy of life. She was able to get to the heart of most any matter with a few simple questions.  And then always wanted to know more.

This interview, originally recorded on October 31, 2009, was poetically updated, as you’ll hear, on September 9, 2014.
Now this edition of Radio Curious begins when I asked Dr. Lillian Brown Vogel, my mother and my initial mentor on how to be curious: ‘Mother dear, what makes you curious?’

The book Lillian B. Vogel recommended in 2009, is “The Blue Tattoo: The Life Of Olive Oatman,” by Margot Mifflin.

Samson, Don: The Creative Imagination of Don Samson

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The creative imagination of playwright Don Samson is the topic of this edition of Radio Curious.  In May 2015, I had the good fortune of seeing a ten minute play entitled “Blind Date,” written by my long time friend, who lives in nearby Willits, California.  For many years prior to becoming a playwright, Don Samson researched and wrote legal briefs for criminal defense attorneys, an experience we also discuss in this program.

After seeing the local production of “Blind Date,” I was curious about the circumstances that came to Don Samson’s mind when he created this play, so I invited him to visit the Radio Curious studios.  We met on May 22, 2015 and began our conversation with his description of those circumstances.

Don Samson recommends the book, which is also a play, “Antigone,” by Sophocles.

Jerome Waldie — Fair Play for Frogs Part-2

As a lawyer and a student of political science, I have come to appreciate the anomalies and humor of politics. One story that fits both of those categories well is the relationship between Nestle J. Frobish, the Chair-Creature of World-Wide Fair Play for Frogs Committee and the late Jerome R. Waldie, his former nemesis a Member of Congress from Antioch, just east of San Francisco, California. Their dissension arose in 1961 when Waldie was a freshman member of the California State Assembly and chose to introduce what came to be known as the “Frog Murder Bill,” resulting in Frobish organizing what turned out to be a 45 year campaign to get Waldie to renounce, what Frobish called his “vestigial impurities” visited upon him as the “mad butcher of the swamp.” Waldie finally acceded in 2006 and in this interview originally broadcast on June 11, 2007,  tells us why.

The book that Jerome Waldie recommends is, “It Can’t Happen here,” by Sinclair Lewis.

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Frobish, Nestle J. — Fair Play For Frogs, Part 1

Frogs play an important role in the world’s ecology and are their occasional demise is sometimes noted as an impending ecological disaster. In 1961, a newly elected member of the California State Assembly, Jerome R. Waldie, introduced a bill that read in full:  “Frogs may be taken using slingshot.” Little did he know that this bill would plague him throughout his political career, in the California Legislature, United States Congress, and as a candidate for Governor of California. Our guest is Nestle J. Frobish, the Chair-Creature of the World Wide Fair Play for Frogs Committee, an organization founded in Berkeley, California soon after Waldie introduced what became to be known as the “Frog Murder Bill.”

“Fair Play for Frogs, The Waldie – Frobish Papers,” the collected correspondence between Nestle J. Frobish and Congressman Jerome R. Waldie was published as political spoof in 1977.  Around that time some misguided people, including Congressman Waldie accused me of being Nestle J. Frobish.  Let me make it clear, here and now:  I Barry Vogel am not now, nor ever have been Nestle J. Frobish. However I did speak the with Chair-Creature Frobish by phone as he lurked near a pond at Frog Central in northern Vermont on May 21, 2007, so this rather preposterous story could be told from at least his perspective. My interview with Jerome R. Waldie, humbly presents his perspective and may be found on this web-site.  The interview with Frobish was originally broadcast May 21, 2007.

The book Nestle J. Frobish recommends is “State of Denial,” by Bob Woodward.

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Vedantam, Shankar — Have You Found Your Hidden Brain?

Part One

How do we make the big decisions in our lives?  Who to vote for—or who to choose as a life mate or form an opinion about politics or war?  Most of us are certain we consciously evaluate these decisions.  But, we may be fooling ourselves, if not being fooled by others.  Shankar Vedantam, author of “The Hidden Brain: How Our Unconscious Minds Elect Presidents, Control Markets, Wage Wars, and Save Our Lives,” encourages us to be aware of how our unconscious mind is capable of controlling our decision making capabilities.  In this, the first of two conversations with Shankar Vedantam, we explore the unconscious mind, how we rely upon it and how it is can be manipulated by advertising  and our anecdotal experiences.  These interviews with Shankar Vedantam were recorded on May 17, 2010 by phone from his home in Massachusetts.  We began with his description of the “hidden brain.”  Shankar Vedantam is a national correspondent and columnist for The Washington Post and 2009-10 Nieman Fellow at Harvard University.

The book Shankar Vedantam recommends is “A House For Mr. Biswas” by V.S.Naipaul.

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Part Two

Not too long before the pseudo religious organization known as “The People’s Temple moved to the remote jungles of Guyana in the northeast corner of South America where over 900 people killed themselves at the direction of Jim Jones in 1978, they were based in Redwood Valley, California, about 10 miles from Ukiah, the home of Radio Curious.   In this, the second Radio Curious conversation with Shankar Vedantam author of “The Hidden Brain: How Our Unconscious Minds Elect Presidents, Control Markets, Wage Wars, and Save Our Lives,” we explore what compelled these people to kill themselves. We’ll examine what compels suicide bombers of the early 21st century to take their own lives and those of others? And are we, in fact, all susceptible to these ideas? The conversation with Shankar Vedamtam, recorded from his home in Massachusetts on May 17, 2010, began when I asked him to explain the attraction of cults, who are drawn to them, and why.  Shankar Vedantam is a national correspondent and columnist for The Washington Post and 2009-10 Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. This interview was recorded on May 17th, 2010.

The book Shankar Vedantam recommends is “Heart Of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad.

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Stiefel, Frank — “Ingelore,” Speaking Without Hearing

What would it be like for you if you were deaf? If you could not speak your first word until you were six? If you had three years of education, your first language was German, and you later emigrated to another country where they speak English?  Ingelore is the first name of a woman who was born in Germany in 1924, and came to America in 1940 at the beginning of the Third Reich, right after Kristallnacht. The film “Ingelore” was made by Inglelore’s son Frank Stiefel, and it tells his mother’s story.  This edition of Radio Curious begins with we a piece from the movie “Ingelore” in which she explains who she is and a little of her story. As we hear is her ability to articulate words in English it’s important to remember  she cannot hear.

This interview was recorded on May 29th, 2010 with Frank Stiefel from his home in Santa Monica, California.

The books that Frank Stiefel recommends are “Hand Of My Father,” by Myron Uhlberg, and “The Road,” by Cormac McCarthy.

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