Category Archives: Authors

Two Cultural Phenomena

                                     

Each August staff and volunteers begin to construct Black Rock City, a temporary city located in the hostile and haunting Black Rock Desert of northwestern Nevada. Every September nearly seventy thousand people occupy the city for Burning Man, an event that creates the sixth-largest population center in Nevada. By mid-September, the infrastructure that supported the community is fully dismantled, and by October the land on which the city lay is scrubbed of evidence of its existence. For nearly a decade Carolyn L. White has employed archaeological methods to analyze the various aspects of life and community in and around Burning Man and Black Rock City. With a syncretic approach, this work in active-site archaeology provides both a theoretical basis and a practical demonstration of the potential of this new field to reexamine the most fundamental conceptions in the social sciences. Ms. White talks with Norman B about her scholarly and fascinating book, The Archaeology of Burning Man – The Rise and Fall of Black Rock City.

Carolyn L. White is a professor in the Anthropology Department at the University of Nevada, Reno.

“How could a quintessential British TV sitcom, reimagined for an American audience become a massive success and a cultural phenomenon?” Rolling Stone senior writer, Andy Greene was expecting the question. In his explorative book, The Office – The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s, Greene takes readers behind the scenes of their favorite moments and characters. He gives the true inside story behind the entire show, from its origins on the BBC through its impressive nine-season run in America. Andy explains how NBC wanted to pull the plug after just six episodes and the failed attempt to bring in James Gandolfini as the new boss after Steve Carell left. He also agrees the incredible, genre-redefining show created by the family-like team, took a quirky British import with dicey prospects and turned it into a primetime giant with true historical and cultural significance.

Show #366

How To Enjoy Social Distancing

No matter who you are, where you live or how much money you thought you had at the beginning of this past week, the fact is, we are all now living in uncertain times. Is this the same feeling of uncertainty my parents suffered at the beginning and throughout World War Two? Can we equate this pandemic with anything we may have endured before? The rows of empty shelves at the supermarkets, the stockpiling of food and, yes, toilet-paper is bizarre and disturbing. Restaurants, bars, and almost all businesses are closed, streets are empty of people and rush-hour traffic has dwindled to mostly UberEats deliveries. “Weird!” “Unbelievable!” “Crazy!” Are just some of the descriptive words you hear repeatedly in any given conversation. And, a new vocabulary has stormed our everyday dialogue. “Coronavirus” may be slightly amusing if you choose to believe Mexican beer is associated with a plague from China.  “COVID-19” is just plain scary. Forget the initials, what does the “19” mean? Then, there are two words that you never thought you’d hear together, “Social Distancing”. Talk about a wacky contradiction. “Social distancing? It’s a bit millennial-biased!” Exclaimed my friend MS who also believes, “Good music stopped being made around 1977!” I will admit to feeling a little awkward when I first uttered, “social distancing”. It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue and yes, it does come across as a bit affected. Yet, here we are letting each other know we are doing it, we are “social distancing”. Now what? To help answer that bewildering question, we called upon some of our favorite guests who also happen to have exceptionally creative minds to share their thoughts on how to enjoy social distancing.

Film and media critic, Bob Ross, jaded as he sometimes pretends to be, always enthuses over his favorite movies. With a new book on the way, Demagogue For President – The Rhetorical Genius Of Donald Trump, Dr. Jennifer Mercieca turns away from politics to talk about baking while social distancing. The dry-humor of comedian, writer, musician, Dave Hill is unavoidable as he gives his sage advice on social distancing. While, best-selling author, Mark Haskell Smith offers pertinent tips for social distancing, plus enthusiastically raves about must-read books. Crosswords are Adrienne Raphel’s passion, her fascinating book, Thinking Inside The Box – Adventures With Crosswords And The Puzzling People Who Can’t Live Without Them was published just a couple of days ago, unavoidably in time for social distancing.

 

Show #365

Shakespeare In A Divided America

Often in writing a promotional piece for an upcoming show, we attempt to come up with a clever alternative to the title of a book as a headline. James Shapiro’s new book is so incredibly good, so perfect we could not even try to better the title for our header, Shakespeare In A Divided America. The subtitle, What His Plays Tell Us About Our Past And Future explains where Mr. Shapiro is going to take us. Yet, what you don’t know from the title and subtitle is the amazing adventure you are about to embark on from the very first page. Shapiro, with impeccable style and elegant wit delivers a rich and surprising argument for how William Shakespeare’s plays continue to command center stage in American discourse and debate, as they have for well over two centuries. Shakespeare In A Divided America is a story of conservatives and liberals, presidents and activists, students, writers, actors, lawyers, and soldiers who have all turned to the Bard’s works when wrestling with our political fault lines: race, gender, sexuality, violence, immigration, and free speech. With masterful research and narrative skills Shakespear scholar, James Shapiro traces how 400-year-old tragedies and comedies have been invoked and at times weaponized at pivotal moments in US history. Shapiro takes us from President John Quincy Adams’s disgust with Desdemona’s interracial marriage to Othello to Abraham Lincoln’s and his assassin John Wilkes Booth’s competing obsessions with the plays, to the early 20th century when The Tempest became an inflection point on anxieties over immigration, up through the fraught debates over marriage and same-sex love at the heart of the celebrated adaptations of Kiss Me, Kate and the 1998 film Shakespeare In Love. Shapiro’s narrative culminates with a chapter on the 2017 controversy over the staging of Julius Caesar in New York’s Central Park, in which a Trump-like leader is assassinated. In this chapter and throughout the book, Shapiro reminds us of the critical role the theater has always played as a meeting-place of classes, voices, and the backgrounds of American life. James Shapiro has written an exceptional book and true to form, he is a wonderful guest.

Show #364 V2

Pandemics And Human Evolution

“If the Corona Virus doesn’t change the way we behave – we are idiots!” The uncompromising words of Augustin Fuentes, professor of anthropology. Pandemics have been decisive markers in over ten thousand years of evolution and human behavior has changed in response explains professor Fuentes. Our future after the coronavirus pandemic will change, but Augustin suggests we should take a positive approach. After all, the resourcefulness of humans, technology and most importantly, our use of social media should be exciting. We will probably find new ways to interact with each other. How we go about and conduct our daily lives may change forever. Yet, in the here and now, the anthropology professor warns that we must heed the health risks and warnings. Our immediate response to implementing a workable national healthcare system in the United States is imperative. And, yes after a number of weeks of self-quarantine, we should expect in about a year, a boom in the birthrate.

Agustin Fuentes, trained in Zoology and Anthropology, is the Edmund P. Joyce C.S.C. Professor of Anthropology at the University of Notre Dame. His books include, Why We Believe: Evolution and the Human Way of Being (Foundational Questions in Science); The Creative Spark: How Imagination Made Humans Exceptional; Race, Monogamy, and Other Lies They Told You: Busting Myths about Human Nature. Agustin is a frequent guest on Life Elsewhere.

       

Show #364

Madame President? Fearless Cooking. New Music.

After November 8, 2016, first came the sadness; then came the rage, the activism, and the protests; and, finally, for thousands of women, the next step was to run for office – many of them for the first time. More women campaigned for local or national office in the 2018 election cycle than at any other time in US history, challenging accepted notions about who seeks power and who gets it. The Democratic candidates for the 2020 presidential election saw an unprecedented and a record number of women running for office. Now Super Tuesday is behind us and as if time has stood stubbornly still, two late 70s white men are the front runners. To begin to unravel how we ended up without a woman to effectively fumigate the White House of the most debased misogynist of all time, we revisit our 2019 interview with journalist Caitlin Moscatello. She reported on the wave of female candidates who decided to run for political office after the 2016 election. Caitlin followed four candidates throughout the entire process, from the decision to run through Election Day, Her excellent book, See Jane Win takes readers inside their exciting, winning campaigns and the sometimes thrilling, sometimes brutal realities of running for office while female. What she discovers is that the candidates who triumphed in 2018 emphasized authenticity and passion instead of conforming to the stereotype of what a candidate should look or sound like, a formula that was intended to be more relevant than ever as we approach the 2020 presidential election. This look back at Caitlin Moscatello’s exuberant work serves as the forerunner to future examinations of why “Madame President” is not likely to be heard for at least another four years.

Food stylist, recipe developer, and cookbook author, Susan Spungen has a lot to say about Fearless Cooking and Entertaining. In her appealing new book, Open Kitchen she gets straight to the point by telling the reader whether physical or spiritual, an open kitchen is a place to welcome company, to enjoy togetherness and the making of a meal. Her cookbook is full of contemporary, stylish, and accessible dishes, from simple starters such as Burrata with Pickled Cherries and centerpieces such as Rosy Harissa Chicken, to desserts such as Roasted Strawberry-Basil Sherbet. Norman B’s conversation with Susan is a mouth-drooling exercise in the love of food, cooking and the wonders of discovering new recipes.  

Also in the show, a selection of new music from an enterprising compilation, The Music Of Others. This came about when The Glad Cafe, a cultural hub in Glasgow’s south side discovered they were facing closure if they couldn’t come up with 40,000 pounds for repairs to the roof of their building. To help raise funds, the venue started a crowd-funding rally. The outcome was a new label imprint, Glorious Traces Recordings. In turn, they released a 22 track collection which sees a whole host of brilliant names covering each other’s songs…the result is, honestly one of the best compilations we’ve had the pleasure play in quite a while…here then are Wolf with Help This Animal originally by Paul Vickers & The Leg followed by Emma Pollack with Holy Smoke originally by Robin Adams Enjoy!

Show #363

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