Category Archives: Authors

Not Just Another Book About #$%@&. An Untold American Story. Plus New Music

             

When the PR people from Penguin invited us to talk about a new book, I Alone Can Fix It – Donald J. Trump’s Catastrophic Final Year our first reaction was, Oh no! Not another book about him. After five years, haven’t we exhausted the conversation? Then, the authors of A Very Stable Genius, Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker were included. That was more than enough information to confirm this was a book we had to talk about. The acclaimed  Washington Post reporters pull back the curtain on the handling of Covid-19, the re-election bid, and its chaotic and violent aftermath. This is the true story of what took place in Donald Trump’s White House during a disastrous 2020. What was really going on around the president, as the government failed to contain the coronavirus and over half a million Americans perished? Who was influencing Trump after he refused to concede an election he had clearly lost and spread lies about election fraud? Carol Leonnig reveals to Norman B a dysfunctional and bumbling presidency’s inner workings in unprecedented, stunning detail. 

Between 1840 and 1910, hundreds of thousands of men and women traveled deep into the underdeveloped American West, lured by the prospect of adventure and opportunity. Alongside this rapid expansion of the United States, a second, overlapping social shift was taking place: Survival in a settler society busy building itself from scratch required two equally hardworking partners, compelling women to compromise Eastern sensibilities and take on some of the same responsibilities as their husbands. At a time when women had very few legal or economic – much less political – rights, these women soon proved they were just as essential as men to westward expansion. Their efforts to attain equality by acting as men’s equals paid off, and well before the Nineteenth Amendment, they became the first American women to vote. In New Women in the Old West, Winifred Gallagher brings to life the riveting history of the little-known women – the White, Black, and Asian settlers, and the Native Americans and Hispanics they displaced – who played monumental roles in one of America’s most transformative periods. Drawing on an extraordinary collection of research, Gallagher weaves together the striking legacy of the persistent individuals who not only created homes on weather-wracked prairies and built communities in muddy mining camps, but also played a vital, unrecognized role in the women’s rights movement and forever redefined the “American woman”.

Also in the show, new and very different music. UK-based, composer, producer, and late-night broadcaster, Hannah Peel’s latest album, Fir Wave is a wonderful assembly of ambient, experimental, and electronic music. Realistically, slotting Ms. Peel’s work into specific genres misses the point. Patterned Formation being a perfect example. This is music to indulge in. Harry Stafford and Marco Butcher have never met in person. The peculiar circumstances of Covid brought the two musicians together via the magic of the wireless (internet). Harry of Inca Babies fame and punk-blues veteran Marco teamed up and have produced a wonderful selection of cuts for the LP, Bone Architecture. The unintentionally timely, There’s Someone Tryin’ To Get In shows how these to gents have merged their respective talents to full effect.

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Tales Retold From A Remarkable Culture

 

They are rich, extraordinary tales from ancient Inuit culture that tell of remarkable northern vistas, unfamiliar narratives, strange gods, and unforgettable characters where women can marry dogs, birds beat their wings so hard they create a storm, an old woman turns into a man, and a woman kills her daughter to take her place for a man’s affections and wears her daughter’s skin as a disguise. Poet, Richard Price has respectfully, (lovingly perhaps) taken three Inuit stories and retold them with a sensitive, yet earnest approach in his new book, The Owner Of The Sea. The London-based Price, also the lyricist and vocalist for The Loss Adjusters has embarked on what he considers a formidable endeavor by interpreting venerated tales from a remarkable culture. Richard is proud of his work, the time, and the effort he has spent in creating this book, but he admits to being apprehensive of the Inuit people’s response. “I hope I get their approval and know I’m in awe of their stories”, he says. During our conversation with Richard Price, he reads from his book, this is a treat. His original Scottish rouge comes to the fore in full effect. He brings the characters to life, they become believable, even though they engage in mystical and un-human-like behavior. These are strange stories, originally told as lessons or guidance, not unlike the more obvious religious books. Richard explains his love of poetry was inspired by music, “Sam Cooke and Bob Dylan” he announces spiritedly. The Owner Of The Sea is a perfect example of the man’s love of words, of language, of the enchanting stories of the Inuit people. 

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Human Relationships To Animals & Information

   

“We are the smartest species on earth; why do we insist on being the dumbest, too?” Asks Henry Mance the chief features writer for the Financial Times, in his new book, How To Love Animals In A Human-Shaped World. That pertinent question comes after Mance has informed the reader:

“An abattoir is a disassembly line” 

“Zoos are imprisoned wildlife”

“Americans spend $100bn a year on their animal companions, which is double the USA overseas aid budget”

“We are quite happy to accept that some 1.5 billion pigs – mentally and socially complex creatures – will be killed this year around the world, but regard it as an outrage to slaughter a dog”

Stirring and thought-provoking statements, yet Henry Mance is a convivial guest and his book is anything but crusading in tone. We love animals, but does that make the animals’ lives any happier? With factory farms, climate change, and deforestation, this might be the worst time in history to be an animal. If we took animals’ experiences seriously, how could we eat, think and live differently? A one-time meant-eater, then vegetarian, now vegan, Henry takes on the darker aspects of how we treat animals with a smart wit. He covers an extraordinary amount of research and in-person observations in his book. As a talkshow guest, Henry Mance is a delightfully engaging raconteur.

One of the most peculiar and possibly unique features of humans is the vast amount of information we carry outside our biological selves. But in our rush to build the infrastructure for the 20 quintillion bits we create every day, we’ve failed to ask exactly why we’re expending ever-increasing amounts of energy, resources, and human effort to maintain all this data. Drawing on deep ideas and frontier thinking in evolutionary biology, computer science, information theory, and astrobiology, In The Ascent of Information Caleb Scharf argues that information is, in a very real sense, alive. All the data we create—all of our emails, tweets, selfies, A.I.-generated text, and funny cat videos—amounts to an aggregate life-form. It has goals and needs. It can control our behavior and influence our well-being. And it’s an organism that has evolved right alongside us. The Ascent of Information offers a humbling vision of a universe built of and for information. Scharf explores how our relationship with data will affect our ongoing evolution as a species. Understanding this relationship will be crucial to preventing our data from becoming more of a burden than an asset, and to preserving the possibility of a human future.

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The QAnon Question?

In January 2021, thousands descended on the U.S. Capitol to aid President Donald Trump in combating a shadowy cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles. Two women were among those who died that day. They, like millions of Americans, believed that a mysterious insider known as “Q” is exposing a vast deep-state conspiracy. The QAnon conspiracy theory has ensnared many women, who identify as members of “pastel QAnon,” answering the call to “save the children.” In Pastels and Pedophiles, Mia Bloom and Sophia Moskalenko explain why the rise of QAnon should not surprise us: believers have been manipulated to follow the baseless conspiracy. The authors track QAnon’s unexpected leap from the darkest corners of the Internet to the filtered glow of yogi-mama Instagram, a frenzy fed by the COVID-19 pandemic that supercharged conspiracy theories and spurred a fresh wave of Q-inspired violence. Bloom and Moskalenko showing how a conspiracy theory with its roots in centuries-old anti-Semitic hate has adapted to encompass local grievances and has metastasized around the globe—appealing to a wide range of alienated people who feel that something is not quite right in the world around them. While QAnon claims to hate Hollywood, the book demonstrates how much of Q’s mythology is ripped from movie and television plot lines.

Ms. Bloom is such an engaging guest we suggested she make a return visit to Life Elsewhere so we can explore more of her studies and research.

Also in the show, important new music, first from Wellington, New Zealand, Annie J says, “Every night in this country, over 167 women and children are too afraid to stay at home because of family violence.” In response to her concern Annie has released, Girl Who Cried Wolf. This is a pertinent, timely statement on the prevalence of assault. The song puts a fresh twist on the tale of a boy telling lies, instead focusing on the importance of acknowledging truth. The song is both a warning and an optimistic invitation to confront any wolfish, predatory behavior. Annie hopes it can contribute to some change in the world. All proceeds will be donated to Women’s Refuge “Gift a Safe Night” campaign. 

Made up of members Curtis Wakeling (The Ocean Party/Pop Filter) and his partner Kayleigh Heydon, a Visual Artist from the U.K, Deuce is a project out of Melbourne. They say their collaboration enables them to further understand each other’s stories and experiences. The outcome so far is their self-titled album with seemingly effortless songs that underplay well-crafted songs about relationships. There is a knowingness here in each song that could easily be the result of many years of working together, yet the immediacy of their relationship is never in doubt. That Curtis and Kayleigh each take turns in lead vocals proves the confidence they have in their collaboration. Such a good album, it’s hard to choose one cut, we selected, Swim.

Enjoy!

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Love & Publicity. Questions For The Doctor. New Music From France

Growing up in the south, where tradition reigns supreme, Cate Doty thought about weddings . . . a lot. She catered for them, she attended many, she imagined her own. So, when she moved to New York City in pursuit of love–and to write for The New York Times–she finds her natural home in the wedding section, a first step to her own happily-ever-after, surely. Soon Cate is thrown into the cutthroat world of the metropolitan society pages, experiencing the lengths couples go to have their announcements accepted and the lengths the writers go in fact-checking their stories; the surprising, status-signaling details that matter most to brides and grooms; and the politics of the paper at a time of vast cultural and industry changes. Reporting weekly on couples whose relationships seem enviable–or eye-roll worthy–and dealing with WASPy grandparents and last-minute snafus, Cate is surrounded by love, or what we’re told to believe is love. But when she starts to take the leap herself, she begins to ask her own questions about what it means to truly commit. Just like her memoir, Everything I Know About Love I Learned On The Wedding Pages, Cate Doty is warm and witty with an infectious laugh, as you’ll hear when Norman B asks, “So, what did you do with your Ken doll?”

Also in the program, frequent contributor, Dr. Binoy Kampmark, Senior Lecturer in the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies, at RMIT University, Melbourne. The learned scholar offers his take on 1. The origins of Covid19. Are politics always at the forefront of any pandemic? 2. How does the rest of the world view the Biden administration? 3. The hijacking of a RyanAir plane and what this could mean for future dissidents? 4. The demands for Bolsonaro’s impeachment? Should we take more notice of what is happening in Brazil? 5. Burned by the Diana cult and the fall of Martin Bashir. Should the royals have a say in the freedom of the press? 6. A mouse plague after a drought in Australia? Are Pied Pipers standing by?

Plus new music from French singer-songwriter, Raoul Vignal with Red Fresco, a delightful cut from his new album, Years In Marble

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