Category Archives: Books

In A Word It’s Madness!*

“We have to start with what has happened in the past week, which is that the President of the United States of America in the service of the conspiracy theory that he has been peddling since the election and for years, he whipped up a frenzied mob and directed them to the US Capitol and enrage them to attack not just the legislative branch but his own Vice President, which where I come from s an act of insurrection – sedition. And, the house is at this moment voting on whether to impeach him – which is needed and necessary. And we are watching the Republican Party splinter on live television.” So begins my conversation with author and political commentator, Jared Yates Sexton. We both took one hour out from staring at our monitors in disbelief to talk about exactly what had happened and try to figure out why. Jared continued, “Certain parts of the GOP want to protect their corporate donor base, others want to distance themselves from Trump for their future political careers, and then we have another group who are performing for the very people who broke into the Capitol in order to be their chosen representatives in the future – in a word it’s madness!”* In the sixty minutes we chatted, Sexton shared his well-considered thoughts on not just the recent events that led to the 2nd impeachment of Trump but also his take on the state of the nation, dropping quotable observations along the way – “The promises Trump made in 2016 were just catchy slogans” or “Trump knew how to pluck the strings of manipulation, he became a faux-populist President” and “If it wasn’t possible he will be arrested and held accountable, the post-Presidency would be the ideal job for Trump”. Jared Yates Sexton is an associate professor in the Department of Writing and Linguistics at Georgia Southern University, his most recent book is American Rule: How a Nation Conquered the World but Failed Its People. 

I thought some contemplative music would be welcome, to take you to the closing credits, Possible from the EP Snowmelt, by Zoë Keating out of Burlington, Vermont who describes herself as a one-woman cello orchestra. 

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Who Stormed The Capitol Building?

When the results for the 2020 Presidential election were finally announced we here at Life Elsewhere were relieved yet hesitant to announce that Donald John Trump would not feature in yet another of our shows. For well over four years we have interviewed many authors, discussed with professors, experts, and pundits the phenomena of Trump. Back in 2015, we asked the question “Could a caricature become President?” Since then, day-by-day, week-by-week, and year-by-year the 45th President proved again and again that the bar for the absurdity of incompetence could and would get lower and lower. The late-night talk shows no longer satirically-mocked him, instead, they became some of the most serious and loudest voices of condemnation. So, the unforgivable outrageous events of January 6, 2021, happened. We are all in shock, anxiously hoping to get through the next few days until the inauguration of Joe Biden without further tragedy. I use the word “we” sparingly because there are those who refuse to accept that Trump lost the election. They unabashedly hang on to the falsehood of voter-fraud or somesuch other screwball reason to stage an insurrection. At this point, we are exhausted from even attempting to comprehend the raison d’être of Trump. There is though, an urgency to unravel who are the individuals who stormed the United States Capitol building last Wednesday. To that end, we return to our interview with David Neiwert in May 2018.                   

Norman B, January 9, 2021

Donald Trump’s victorious campaign for the US presidency shocked the world, the seemingly sudden national prominence of white supremacists, xenophobes, militia leaders, and mysterious “alt-right” figures mystify many. But the American extreme right has been growing steadily in number and influence since the 1990s with the rise of patriot militias. Following 9/11, conspiracy theorists found fresh life; and in virulent reaction to the first black US president, militant racists have come out of the woodwork. Nurtured by a powerful right-wing media sector in radio, TV, and online, the far-right, Tea Party movement conservatives and Republican activists found common ground. Figures such as Stephen Bannon, Milo Yiannopoulos, and Alex Jones, once rightly dismissed as cranks, now haunt the reports of mainstream journalism. Investigative reporter David Neiwert has been tracking extremists for more than two decades. In his latest book, Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in the Age of TrumpNeiwert provides a deeply researched and authoritative report on the growth of fascism and far-right terrorism, the violence of which in the last decade has surpassed anything inspired by Islamist or other ideologies in the United States. David Neiwert joins Norman B for the next edition of Life Elsewhere to talk about his years of reportage, including the most in-depth investigation of Trump’s ties to the far right.

Also in the program, new music from Copenhagen-based singer-songwriter, Ellis May. About her song, Father she says this, “Father is the most personal work I have done. It’s about loss. It’s about carrying on. It’s about acceptance, and about how accepting things will move you forward, and get you through hard times and push you onto your own path.” 

Show 406

 

2020. That Was The Year That Was!

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As I write this, there is less than a week to go in 2020. I imagine the history books will be filled with seemingly never-ending footnotes about the past twelve months. And the headlines will probably start with something like, “A Year Like No Other”. Yes, it has been an extraordinary year, one we all wish was already over. At Life Elsewhere we covered so many topics and spoke with a wide variety of guests. So, to begin the last edition of Life Elsewhere of 2020 we start with a journey back in time to the first week of 2020 when we asked seven guests to give their predictions for the coming year. First up is, Anthropologist Agustin Fuentes who was not referring to a pandemic when he suggests, “Here’s the big one, a lot more people are going to lose hope!” Musician, Erika Bach speaking from her home in Greece continued in the same vain with, “Most of my predictions are going to be negative.” While Penguin – Random House chief copy, Benjamin Dreyer was little more optimistic. Film critic, Bob Ross said he was out of the loop and self-proclaimed hillbilly soul singer, Ronny Elliott predicted more hope, but little change. Author and regular contributor to Life Elsewhere, Mark Haskell Smith reasoned that we would all work towards a more healthier planet. Then rising-star British singer-songwriter, Arlo Parks predicted young people would get together to make a change in our world, yet she modestly did not predict her own success in 2020

I interviewed many authors in 2020, John Tierney co-authored the timely, The Power Of Bad – How the Negative Effect Rules Us And How We Can Rule It, and Caitlin Moscatello almost brought me to tears with the opening of her book, See Jane Win. For our Valentine’s day special we asked the guests two questions. You’ll the honest and moving answers from the talented Sylken Somers

No matter how many topics we covered in 2020, we couldn’t get away from you-know-who. A fitting example is Shakespeare In A Divided America by James Shapiro. Conversations with new music discoveries are always a feature of Life Elsewhere, so it was a pleasure to gather together the members of Brighton-based, Slum Of Legs. Their music was, of course, discussed but our chat veered off into other areas, including body image. Vagablonde, the brilliant debut novel by LA-based author, Anna Dorn led us into learning about the author’s opinion on sex and sexuality. 

2020 will be remembered for a long long time for Covid. Agustin Fuentes gave us his anthropologist’s take on what it all means for the future and how we can learn from the past. 

As “social distancing” became an everyday phrase, we talked about it on the show, often. Comedian, Dave Hill alarmed by the restriction on earning a living shared his idea for coping – learn to play an instrument, well – like a banjo. If there has been any good to come out of this horrible global situation, it has to be the outpouring of creative talent. In Italy, Andrea Vascellari compiled a superb benefit album, Love In The Time Of Covid from musicians he loved. To close the show, beautiful music from an artist featured on the album, Barzin

Much will be written about 2020, we all have our own stories, some of us have lost dear friends, partners, lovers, relatives, it has all been far more than we deserve. I have been in isolation for over nine months producing Life Elsewhere we have covered an enormous number of topics on the show and spoken with wonderful guests, far too many to include in this brief overview of 2020, you can hear all the shows from the past year over at Mixcloud or right here at the Listen page. I look forward to producing more Life Elsewhere shows in the coming year and I thank you for your continual support. I wish everyone a wonderful and happy new year.

Norman B 12.25.2020

Show #404

A Conversation With Dr. Camilla Pang. Richard Gabriel On Infamous Verdicts

Camilla Pang An Outsider’s Guide To Humans – What Science Taught Me About What We Do And Who We are

“Blessed with the solid combination of ASD, ADHD, and Ph.D. – I use the powers of neurodiversity to navigate the under-passed connections of how human psychology can meander beyond the norm. The study of humans and analogous evolving systems are my life long passion which is fed by books, observation, and intricate sensing which I process through the lenses of science and art in my writing.” These words are on the website of Dr. Camilla Pang, who shares her story with uncompromising grace, honesty, and subtle wit in her writing and in person. Diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at the age of eight, Camilla Pang struggled to understand the world around her. Desperate for a solution, she asked her mother if there was an instruction manual for humans that she could consult. With no blueprint to life, Pang began to create her own, using the language she understands best: science. That lifelong project eventually resulted in An Outsider’s Guide to Humans, an original and incisive exploration of human nature and the strangeness of social norms, written from the outside looking in–which is helpful to even the most neurotypical thinker. Camilla Pang uses a set of scientific principles to examine life’s everyday interactions. “I use the microscope of science to shed light on the bigger pictures of social norms, and advocates for neurodiversity being a hidden treasure of human evolution.” Camilla writes, adding,My mother is an artist, and my father is a scientist, and being honest I am somewhere caught in between.” Camilla Pang holds a Ph.D. in bioinformatics from University College London and is a postdoctoral scientist. Her career and studies have been heavily influenced by her diagnoses of Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and ADHD and she is driven by her passion for understanding humans and how we work. Pang is also a volunteer cancer researcher at the Francis Crick Institute and volunteers on socio-psychological projects for mining communities in Africa. She is an active contributor to art and science initiatives and often partakes in mental health and decision making research projects.

Richard Gabriel Acquittal: An Insider Reveals The Stories and Strategies Behind Today’s Most Infamous Verdicts

It was October 3, 1995. The shocking outcome of the O.J. Simpson trial leaves a nation divided. Then, July 5, 2011. Casey Anthony walks free despite being convicted by millions on cable news and social media. There are times when something as supposedly simple as a just verdict rises to the level of cultural touchstone. Often these moments hinge on logic that seems flawed and inexplicable—until now. Lead trial consultant, Richard Gabriel explains in his book Acquittal how some of the most controversial verdicts in recent times came to be. Drawing on more than twenty-eight years of experience, Gabriel provides firsthand accounts of his work on high-profile cases, from the tabloid trials of Casey Anthony, O.J. Simpson, and Phil Spector to the political firestorms involving Enron and Whitewater. An expert on court psychology and communications, Gabriel offers unique insights on defendants, prosecutors, judges, witnesses, journalists, and the most important people in the room: the jury. Don’t miss Richard‘s answer to the question, “What verdict surprised you the most?” 

Show #403

The Annual Life Elsewhere Holiday Gift Show

As 2020 draws to a close a collective sigh of relief can be heard around our troubled world. Covid is not over, yet, but vaccinations are on the way and, a new administration is ready to lead with decorum and integrity. The holiday season this year may not be joyous rounds of non-stop gatherings but we can give each other a gift (albeit delivered) to celebrate the season. At Life Elsewhere towers, once again we present The Annual Life Elsewhere Holiday Gift Show. It’s our way of giving you an entertaining show with lots of unique gift ideas. We asked our panel of extraordinarily talented, and well-qualified guests to select three books and one non-book as gifts. The results are fascinating and intriguing when you try to figure out who selected what? Take a look at their photos below and then see if you can match each person with the gifts they selected. It’s far more difficult than it looks. Listen, closely, because you are in for interesting surprises.

Our guests are:

Kate Clarke Writer, whippet lover, country music fan, Mrs. Terry Clarke, humorist, and fervent Twitterer. Kate will be appearing on Life Elsewhere again, soon

Agustín Fuentes Primatologist and biological anthropologist at Princeton University and formerly the chair of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Notre Dame

Katherine May writer of both fiction and non-fiction. Her most recent works include Wintering – The Power Of Rest & Retreat In Difficult Times, The Electricity of Every Living Thing

Josh Idehen Vocalist, musician, including Benin City, Hugh, Calabashed, poet, spoken word artist, writer & actor. Josh appears on Life Elsewhere often

Amy Rigby singer-songwriter, recording artist, writer, blogger & Podcaster, her memoir is Girl To City. A frequent guest on Life Elsewhere

Mark Haskell Smith Writer of fiction, including Salty, Baked, Blown and non-fiction, Naked at Lunch: A Reluctant Nudist’s Adventures in the Clothing-Optional World, he is also a frequent contributor to Life Elsewhere

A Very Happy, Merry, Jolly, Holiday!

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