Pico, Pio & Garza, Robert — Meet the Last Mexican Governor of California

Radio Curious goes back into California history about 165 years, and visits with the last Mexican governor of California, Pio Pico. Born at the San Gabriel Mission in 1801, Pico was of Spanish, Italian, Indian and African ancestry. Both as a politician and as an entrepreneur, he espoused the views of many native-born “Californarios” over distant seats of government.

As the last Mexican Governor of California, he presided over the secularization of the missions, and turned over their vast land holdings to private hands. Although he fled California during the American takeover, Pio Pico returned to build the first major hotel in Los Angeles. Later, he served on the Los Angeles City Council.

I met with Pio Pico, portrayed by Roberto Garza, in February of 1998.  When Pio Pico and I met in the person of Roberto Garza we began when I asked him to tell us about his life.

The book Pio Pico recommends is “Pio Pico, A Historical Narrative,” by Pio Pico. Roberto Graza recommends “Pio Pico Miscellany,” by Martin Cole and “The Decline of the Californios: A Social History of the Spanish-Speaking Californians, 1846-1890,” by Leonard Pitt.

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Patterson, Dr. Victoria — Native American Life, Before and After Europeans Part Two

Cultures that have no written language pass on their histories through oral traditions. The stories are the way that social values and traditions are taught by one generation to the next. Animals often play a significant character role in these stories.

In the Native American traditions of the northwest part of California, the coyote is a popular character. Dr. Victoria Patterson, an anthropologist based in Ukiah, California, has worked with native peoples for over 30 years. She knows these stories, and she sees them as windows, allowing us to imagine how original native peoples of northern California thought and lived.

I met with Dr. Victoria Patterson and asked her about the significance of the story where the coyote jumped off into the sky. Our discussion lead to a two-part program, originally broadcast in February of 1999.  In part one we discuss the indigenous stories and in part two we discuss how the northern California indigenous communities changed after European colonization.

The books Dr. Victoria Patterson recommends are “Deep Valley,” by Bernard W. Aginsky and “Under the Tuscan Sun,” by Frances Mayes.

Originally Broadcast: February 16, 1999 and February 26, 1999.

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Wallach, Amei — Art Outwitting Oppression:  The Kabakov Story

Amei Wallach, producer and director of the documentary film “Ilya and Emilia Kabakov: Enter Here,” about the lives of Ilya and Emilia Kabakov is our guest in this edition of Radio Curious.

Amei Wallach met Ilya Kabakov in 1987, when she was in the Soviet Union investigating the effect of perestroika on the arts.  Unavoidably intrigued, eight years later she published the first biography of Ilya Kabakov, “The Man Who Never Threw Anything Away.” 

“Enter Here” documents not only the lives and work of Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, Russia’s most celebrated international artists, who are now United States citizens, but also the lives of the average Russian from the Stalin era to the fall of the Soviet Union.  The film will be shown at the Mendocino Film Festival May 31, 2015, at 12:30 pm, in the Village of Mendocino, California.

Amei Wallach says her film documents how “art can outwit oppression.” When we visited by phone on May 10, 2015, she began with an explanation of how art outwits oppression.   

The book Amei Wallach recommends is “Vermeer in Bosnia: Selected Writings,” by Lawrence Weschler. 

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Offen, Bernard — The Power of Good and Evil

In honor of Yom Hashoah, the Holocaust Remembrance Day which falls on April 16, in 2015, we visit with Bernard Offen, a survivor of five concentration camps in Poland, when he was a young teenager during World War II. Bernard Offen leads tours of these concentration camps and says, “You don’t have to be a survivor or Jewish. It’s for all the wounded who want to understand the power of good & evil and want to create goodness in the world.”

When Bernard Offen visited the studios of Radio Curious in April 2005, he began our conversation by describing some of his early childhood experiences in Krakow, Poland in the years just prior to World War II. 

Bernard Offen recommends his own book that was published in 2010, entitled “My Hometown Concentration Camp.” 

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Nawa, Fariba — Child Brides & Drug Lords

Imagine Darya, a twelve year old girl in a remote village of Afghanistan. Her father forces her to marry a drug lord as part payment for an opium drug trade. Her father is not home and she is about to be taken from her family. Desperately, her hands trembling, she implores you, a complete stranger: “Please don’t let him take me.”

In this edition of Radio Curious we visit with Fariba Nawa, author of “Opium Nation: Child Brides, Drug Lords and One Woman’s Journey Through Afghanistan.” Fariba Nawa was ten years old when her family fled Afghanistan shortly before the Soviet invasion in 1979. Eighteen years later Fariba Nawa met twelve year old Darya when she returned to her native Afghanistan as an Afghan-American investigative journalist. Her book tells Darya’s story, and reveals what the Afghan opium drug trade is doing to her native land in the midst of war.

Fariba Nawa and I visited by phone from her home near San Francisco, California on January 23, 2012. We began with her description of coming to the United States and flight from Afghanistan.

The book Fariba Nawa recommends is “Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love and War,” by Annia Ciezaldo.

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Mbaabu, Brenda — A Contemporary Woman’s History

The experience of immigrating, at age 13, to America from Nairobi, Kenya, and bringing the traditional roots of her ancestors’ lives from the remote village of the Meru people of northeast Kenya, are the stories told in this edition of Radio Curious by our guest Brenda Mbaabu. She shares her tribal legends, family background, and her experiences in the United States.  A woman in her mid-twenties, now working as an AmeriCorps Volunteer in Ukiah, California, Brenda Mbaabu and I visited in the studios of Radio Curious on February 28, 2015.  We began with her description of the Meru, her family and their importance to her.

The books Brenda Mbaabu recommends are “The Bible” and “Little Bee” by Chris Cleve.    

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Totten, Sam — Genocide by Attrition

Black history is acknowledged in the month of February in the United States and is lived every day in the African continent. The history of the continuing genocide by attrition within the nation of Sudan is the topic of this edition of Radio Curious. Sudan is located in northeast Africa, south of Egypt, and east of the Red Sea and the nations of Eritrea and Ethiopia.

The people of Sudan continue to be killed by war and famine as has happened for generations.

Twice Radio Curious has considered this little discussed topic with University of Arkansas Professor Emeritus Sam Totten, author of “Genocide by Attrition: Nuba Mountains, Sudan,” and “An Oral and Documentary History of the Darfur Genocide.”  Totten is a scholar who has devoted his career to the study of genocide and genocide by attrition. In 2011, we first discussed the disaster in southern Sudan. Again in 2013, Totten described the genocide by attrition of the people of south Sudan, which has continued to become increasingly drastic in the past two years.

Professor Totten continues to follow this crisis between the people of the Nuba Mountains and the Sudanese government in the state of South Kordofan, Sudan. In late December 2014, he returned from what he described as “a tough, tough trip to the Nuba Mountains in order to carry up ten tons of food to desperate civilians who face daily bombing sorties by the Government of Sudan using Antonov bombers.” He reports some very close calls, traveling with rebels to recently bombed villages. When Sam Totten and I visited by phone from his home near Fayetteville, Arkansas, on February 19, 2015, he began with a brief history of this continuing crisis.

The book Professor Sam Totten recommends is “Touched With Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament,” by Kay Redfield Jamison.

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Massey, Orell — Racism in a Rural California Sheriff’s Department Part One

Our guest on this edition of Radio Curious is Deputy Sheriff Orell Massey—a black man, native of South Carolina and a 20 year veteran of the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Department. He is also a 21 year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps where he was assigned to the Embassy detail.  When I asked Sheriff Massey to be a guest on this program and share his experience as a black Deputy Sheriff, he asked:  “Are the people of Mendocino County ready to hear what I have to say?”   

In part one of our conversation, recorded on February 1, 2015, Deputy Orell Massey shares his experiences.  You may decide if you are ready to hear what he has to say.

In part two, Deputy Massey gives his personal response when asked, “what is it like to be the only black Deputy Sheriff ever in the history of Mendocino County?” Later he shares stories about his off duty life, his goals and aspirations.

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

Pereda, Marcos — The New Cuba: Reflections, Stories and Song

Marcos Pereda, a native of Havana, Cuba, and a singer-songwriter who lives in Ukiah, California, is our guest in this edition of Radio Curious. The background music in this weeks program is a song titled “Center” that he wrote and then performed on his guitar in our studios.  Pereda returned from a two month visit in Havana on December 20, 2014; he traveled there to attend his mother’s funeral. 

In our visit, recorded on December 22, 2014, Pereda shares his music and songs, his thoughts and experiences about life in Cuba and in the United States, and his hopes for the new relationship between the the two nations.  We began our conversation when I asked him to tell us about his mother. 

Marcos Pereda’s email is: marcosinsonte@hotmail.com.

The book he recommends is “The Little Prince,” by Antoine St. Exupery.

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Wells, Spencer — The Unforseen Cost of Civilization

In this edition of Radio Curious we revisit a conversation with Spencer Wells about his book, “Pandora’s Seed: The Unforeseen Cost of Civilization,” published in 2010.

Our interview is a follow-up to a 2003 conversation about his book, “The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey,” in which Wells traces our routes as small bands of hunter-gatherers when our ancestors walked out of Africa approximately 60,000 years ago and began populating the world.

“Pandora’s Seed” tells the story of what we humans, with our hunter-gatherer biological construct have created in the past 10,000 years. These multiple life style changes have produced what we call “civilization,” with systems and mechanisms that will not allow us to continue the life-styles that are emulated by many people world-wide, and exploited by those who have access to them. In other words, we can’t last much longer doing what we are doing without radically reducing the way we all live, if not outright killing our species.

Spencer Well is an Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C., where he leads the Genographic Project, which is collecting and analyzing hundreds of thousands of DNA samples from people around the wold in order to decipher how our ancestors populated the world. He is also a professor a Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

In this interview with Spencer Wells, recorded on July 19, 2010, we began by describing the changes necessary for our species survival.

The book Spencer Wells recommends is “The Histories,” by Herodotus, a 5th century B.C. Greek historian.

Click here to listen or on the media player below.