Tag Archives: NPR One

Thoughts On Our Eco-Crisis Responsibility & A Chilling Account Of Motherhood

 

Nathaniel Popkin loves writing. And he is passionate about delivering his thoughts to his readers. He agrees that his latest book is a guidebook to what we need to be thinking, not what to do, but what to think about the eco-crisis. In To Reach The Spring – From Complicity To Consciousness In The Age Of Eco-Crisis, the Philadelphia-based writer doesn’t lecture, he shares his own thoughts on responsibility. In the shadow of an escalating eco-crisis—a looming catastrophe that will dwarf the fallout from COVID-19. Popkin asks, how can we explain our society’s failure to act? What will we tell future generations? Are we paralyzed because the problem is so vast in scope, or are there deeper reasons for the widespread passivity? Nathaniel Popkin explores the moral, social, and psychological dimensions of the crisis, outlining a path to a future spring, using a smart technique of writing a letter to an as-yet-unborn grandchild. We welcome Nathaniel back to Life Elsewhere and urge you to listen carefully to what he has to say.

It would be accurate, if not seem contradictory to suggest that Ashley Audrain is demure yet vivacious. Not unlike her debut novel, The Push, engaging yet chilling. In our Zoom conversation, the Canadian author smiles sweetly a lot then responds to questions with animated laughing. All the while we are talking about a dark tale about a woman whose experience of motherhood is nothing at all what she hoped for—and everything she feared. “The women in our family, we’re different,” Says Blythe Connor, this is the central character in The Push. Blythe is determined that she will be the warm, comforting mother to her new baby Violet that she herself never had. But in the thick of motherhood’s exhausting early days, Blythe becomes convinced that something is wrong with her daughter—she doesn’t behave like most children do. Or is it all in Blythe’s head? Ashley prompts the reader to ask, is this a novel that manipulates and exploits the fears and insecurities almost every mother has, however happy her own childhood? 

Over on our other show, ingeniously titled, Life Elsewhere Music we have 60 minutes of new releases, expertly curated for your listening enjoyment.

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Sex, Greed, Power, and Treachery

“How the KGB Cultivated Donald Trump, and Related Tales of Sex, Greed, Power, and Treachery” That’s just the sub-title to investigative journalist, Graig Unger’s latest book, American Kompromat. Jam-packed with what would otherwise be easily described as fantastical fiction, Mr. Unger’s intricate research and painstaking interviews unravel layer-by-layer a roller-coaster ride of truth. At the center is a person of such exaggerated ego, vanity, and willful ignorance, it would be absurdly cruel to create him as a fictional character. That he actually exists and actually became President of the United States is mind-boggling. Unger goes deep into the Trump-Russia connection, back to the 70s, and then carefully traces events up until the present day. Along the way, American Kompromat delves deep into Russian spies who brazenly used a small electronics store in Manhattan as a meeting place. We learn of the antiquated workings of the KGB; how Trump’s purchase of hundreds of televisions aided the KGB; Roy Cohn’s influence; the Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell connection; Opus Dei and Attorney General, William Barr; the former Florida deputy sheriff who received asylum in Russia and so much more. To set the stage for Craig Unger’s new book, we go back to the time of the Mueller investigation and share part of our conversation on House Of Trump. House Of Putin. Make sure you don’t miss one second of this show!

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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.” 

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2021 On A Positive Note With Pela

Here we are, at last, a new year. This is not just another new year, this is different, 2021 means the end of four extraordinary, incomprehensible, difficult – fill in the blank – years. Although we have fascinating guests and conversations already lined up for the new year, many of the topics cover distressing and serious topics. I decided the first edition of Life Elsewhere 2021 should start on a positive note. 

The music of Hannah and Olly aka, Pela caught my attention early in 2020. Since then and over the past year, while in isolation in Brighton on the UK’s south coast, this remarkable and talented duo have been carefully choreographing a series of brilliant new releases. I made a point of capturing them for an interview before they were swept away into stardom. 

This is my original introduction to Pela from July 17, 2020

Popular music has always been about image. From the brazen eighteen-year-old truck driver in Memphis, Tennessee who donned showy pimp-like garb slicked his not-yet jet-black hair into a pompadour, grew sideburns and applied eyeliner and rouge – to the spotty youth from Aberdeen, Washington with straggly blond hair and a habit for raggedy urchin-look cardigans,  image was all-important. It still is today. Recently,  I pondered on the relevance of image while chatting via Zoom to Hannah Coombes and Olly Shelton, who go by the moniker of Pela. The South London duo had made a couple of singles which led to my enthusiastic raving, in turn requesting an interview. Looking at the poised couple via Zoom I couldn’t resist mentioning how lovely they are. “You’re gorgeous!” I blurted out. But, my sense of what is politically correct stymied my urge to babble on about Hannah and Olly’s fabulous camera-ready looks. We are here to talk about Pela’s intriguing music, I reminded myself. Their singles, You Got Me and South Of are so good I included them back-to-back in Life Elsewhere Music Vol. 187Hannah’s sensual voice with Olly’s manipulated sounds presents a “now” sound with honest references to the best of past popular music. The duo has a distinctive sound that is thankfully difficult to categorize. Listen closely to the start of You Got Me, is that a needle dropping on a scratchy disc? The tinkered-with title is repeated then Hannah’s crystal-clear vocals come in as a plaintive piano coda plays with a guitar or processed “other” sounds appearing here and there. More manipulated vocals and the tune fades with a morse-code-like sound emanating from who knows what source Olly has played with. South Of opens with a keyboard riff or maybe it’s a processed guitar, after all in our chat Olly makes it clear he enjoys disguising the original sounds and instruments. Again, Hannah’s voice delivers emotive words. Is this a love song? Is she in despair of a lover leaving? Does South Of (Something) mean it’s all over? The absence of obvious drums with a bass directing the beat adds to the mystery. Olly’s deft hand at the mixing board and digital production are ion fine display on this track. Their latest release, Reverie sounds so familiar as it begins. You cannot help feeling you’ve heard this cut before. It’s that good. Except, it’s completely new. A sax appears to confirm this is an original masterwork of pop music. The title and the lyrics almost contradict Hannah’s seemingly laid-back delivery. She’s questioning, “Are we in reverie?” What happened? An unrequited love affair? “I think we might be holding on” she offers. Reverie sounds nothing like Human League’s Don’t You Want Me, yet here is a song with the same magic formula that’ll have you singing along with the chorus. Hannah and Olly very kindly allowed us to include an as-yet-unreleased track to round out the show, All The Way (With Me). Here Olly gets busy from the opening with processed vocal samples. Is that Hannah at a different pitch? The blips and beats could be micro edits of well anything…is that Hannah in reverse? We catch glimpses of lyrics, “All the way with me”, “In the morning sun…”. This is the most abstract of Pela’s work so far. It drives along with a percussive beat that will surely turn out to be anything but percussion. Then, All The Way (With Me) stops suddenly leaving the listener wanting more. Hannah and Olly are engaging, honest, and forthright. They make wonderful, innovative music and yes, they are delightful to look at.

A couple of weeks before the end of 2020, Pela sent me their superb cover of The Sundays, Heres Where The Story Ends. A fitting song to close out 2020.

Happy New Year!

Norman B January 1, 2021

The instrumental heard at the close of this show: I’m Very Sad by Clogs

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