Betsy Kaplan

Producer
Colin Bartlett / Creative Commons

Mini-golf was created for children but today's children are less and less interested in playing because of video games. Nintendo Wii for example, makes mini-golf video games. Now, that seems so wrong. You should go somewhere to play mini-golf. That's kind of the idea, or is it.

The recent death of actor Robin Williams left many people shocked, and it re-started the conversation about suicide, its warning signs, and ways to get help. We revisit a show we did about the illness last year.

We also hear a moving story about depression from author Andrew Solomon, who shared it at The Connecticut Forum earlier this year.

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Mark Coddington from the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin joins us to talk about how events like Ferguson are reported on social media. Facebook and Twitter are not equal in what and how they cover news. Assuming Twitter is the best place to get breaking news, how does Twitter change the way it's reported? How does it affect the work of the journalist trained to see the big picture but forced to focus on smaller, always breaking details? Does the urgency of Twitter discourage them from carefully checking facts? How should Twitter handle graphic images, such as last week's beheading?

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Presidents and their vacations are a chronic paradox. The job is way too hard and pressure-laden to do without occasional breaks. The job is also so important, that breaks always seem a little self-indulgent, and they're barely even breaks. The nuclear football is never far from the basketball hoop, and all the other duties of office follow you right onto the sailboat. President Obama taking some heat right now for playing golf while on vacation, right after processing and speaking about the tragic murder of James Foley. This is a little bit about a presidential vacation, and a little bit about this particular president, who frequently stands accused of having a peculiarly icy set of emotional reactions.

Katy Tresseder / Flickr: Creative Commons

Poetry, prose, sculpture, painting and music composition: Humanity's final frontiers beyond which no computer will ever go... right? Perhaps not. As technology advances and the dawn of true A.I. draws near, Machines are usurping creative domains once thought to be solely the province of man. 

Happy 25th, Seinfeld!

Aug 20, 2014
Steve Harris / Creative Commons

Pop culture is ephemeral.

People eventually lose interest in music and television shows once a new fad surfaces and piques their interests. Not so for Seinfeld. It is still relevant after 25 years for a whole new generation of viewers.

But, it wasn't always that way. In the beginning, it didn’t test well with audiences. It had weak ratings, bad scheduling and creative differences. It survived under the wing of a lone NBC executive who believed in the show's emphasis on characters who felt like family.

Chion Wolff

Here's my theory just in case I don't get a chance to say it during the show: I think food has become more like sports. People kind of root for things. Ted Allen and Anthony Bourdain are more like sport stars than people whom you would seek out for actual cooking information. People go to Chelsea Market just because they know the Food Network is somewhere upstairs. And, because of that, there's a lot more pressure on food to be exciting. When you pick up the sports pages you want news, not just the same old same old. So, driven by that pulse and a group of media engines that flow alongside it, we always have new things to cheer for. Yay bacon salt! Go gastropubs! Today on the show: where food trends come from and why they succeed, or fail. 

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"What is your value to the world or to anything if you're not useful?" asked M.E. Thomas, a self-proclaimed sociopath, and author of Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight, on The Colin McEnroe Show Thursday. She continued, "It gets to the fundamental question of what makes humanity valuable, and why we should treat anyone as a person."

Chion Wolf / WNPR

It has been a busy week in culture. There were the deaths of Lauren Bacall and Robin Williams, and the latter death brought up questions about how people behave on social media when an icon passes. Also, he who is tired of sharks is tired of death. But we might be getting tired of sharks!

The Psychopath Show

Aug 14, 2014
Chion Wolf

You know lots of sociopaths right?

It could be anyone from your ex-spouse to the guy who cut you off on your drive to work today. It's a term we throw around loosely to refer to anyone whoever lied to us or didn't follow the rules. 

Meme Binge / Creative Commons

Once upon a time you opened your first email account and picked out a password. You probably don't know what it was now but let's assume you weren't the type of person to pick out "password" or "123456." So, maybe it was the name of a dog or a kid or two dog and kid names mushed together. Easy to remember, right?

Today, you probably have passwords tied to multiple email accounts, a few social media platforms, a few credit cards and banks, and an unclassifiable hodgepodge of other stuff from Dropbox to Airbnb.

Tammy Strobel / Flickr Creative Commons

I live in a small house on a street of big houses. And when I say big, some of the houses on my street are 7,000 and 8,000 square feet. A big house signifies an important person, right? The governor lives in a mansion. The Archbishop of Hartford lives down the street from him in a house that's even bigger.

Ben Newton / Creative Commons

We cover a lot of the ground on The Scramble this hour. We starting with Maria Konnikova, a New Yorker writer, who’s going to lead me through a conversation about proposals for a drastically reduced work week, about ways in which having more choices may actually reduce our sense of happiness and fulfillment, and about the illusion that we can taste something—wine, in this case —in a state of pure isolation and detachment from outside influences. 

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Watching Richard Linklater's "Boyhood", you keep waiting for the car crash, or the random act of violence that puts one of the characters into Intensive Care. Not because he gives you any reason to expect that, but because watching a lot of movies and television conditions us to anticipate a rhythm of plot points and dramatic upheavals, and then they don't come. Because one of Linklater's points is that time itself is a series of upheavals. Just growing up and growing old is a harrowing, exciting, and mind-blowing process. It turns out that the best way to make a movie about everything is to make a movie in which not much happens. We'll talk about the wildly original "Boyhood" on The Nose.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Here are some songs from your life, "Backstreet Girl" by the Rolling Stones, "Joey" by Bob Dylan, "Road to Nowhere" by the Talking Heads, "Boy In The Bubble" by Paul Simon, "July Fourth, Asbury Park", better known as "Sandy" by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, "Wouldn't It Be Nice" by the Beach Boys. They all rely heavily on the accordion.

Tonynetone / Creative Commons

It's been 40 years since former President Richard Nixon resigned the presidency over Watergate. But, the story of Watergate is almost impossible to tell. It's too big and too murky. It's full of files that were burned and a tape that was erased. It's full of characters named McCord and Magruder and Mitchell, who are hard to keep track of. With each passing year, it becomes more of an inert thing and less of a breathing, wriggling, writhing creature.  

digitalbob8/flickr creative commons

What happens in our early childhood has a lot to do with how we develop as humans. Dr. Paul Harris researches the role the imagination plays in helping children grow into healthy adolescents. He says we tend to think of the imagination as something divorced from reality, when in fact it is deeply intertwined with how we determine reality from fantasy.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Can you ever make sense of a whole decade? That's what the National Geographic Channel tries to do with its three-part documentary on the '90s. So we get Bill Clinton, the building of the internet, Waco, O.J., the Oklahoma City bombing, Prozac, Starbucks, Tanya Harding, Kurt Loder, In Living Color, Rodney King and Reginald Denny, Anna Nicole Smith, the rise of SUVs and NMA, the fall of the Walkman and Tamagotchis, the Great Gretzky... This is starting to sound like a Billy Joel song.

Chion Wolff

The death of handwriting could be viewed as the end of a tyranny. Especially for those of us who were unable to learn penmanship. That includes me. I’m pretty sure that no teacher I ever had got training in how to teach cursive to a left handed person for whom the process really is radically different. I arrived at college to find halls full of desks from which a small writing area protruded from the right side. I often took two hour exams at those desks, scrawling essay question answers in a blue book with my body twisted around uncomfortably.

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If you were dreaming up a new religion, maybe you wouldn't include the idea of hell. But in traditional forms of Christianity, even as they evolve, hell seems almost grandfathered in. They can't quit hell. Or can they? A 2013 Harris poll found that while 74% of U.S. adults believe in God, and 68% believe in heaven, only 58% believe in the devil and in hell, down 4 percentage points from 2005. Still, 58%! That seems like a lot.

Jukka Zitting / Creative Commons

The Avett Brothers are riding the crest of the modern Americana music wave. John Hall, after a stint in Congress, is back leading Orleans and singing a song so catchy that simply to mention it would glue it to your eardrums for the rest of the day. Glen Phillips is leading Toad The Wet Sprocket after a long layoff and successful Kickstarter campaign that launched their latest album, New Constellation.

National Geographic Channel

This hour's Scramble starts fun and gradually grows darker. We begin with David Rees, host of a television show in which he layers expertise onto simple acts like opening a door or making ice cubes. Its motto is "de-familiarizing the ubiquitous so as to increase our appreciation and wonder thereby." We can get behind that.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Breathes there a man with soul so dead that he has never written a song parody?

Everybody does right? They get passed around on the schoolyard from the time we're little. Jingle Bells, Batman Smells, etc.

And, you might knock one out for a co-workers retirement party.

And, the internet is one big old song parody farm. In between last week's Nose on which we talked about a really terrible Comcast users service call and now, somebody on YouTube has set that call to music.  No kidding.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Take a few seconds to reminisce about your childhood "best friend." Maybe it was a boy, a girl, an imaginary friend, or perhaps a stuffed toy. This stuffed toy was your childhood confidant that you dragged everywhere, from the local supermarket to the preschool sandbox, a transitional object that temporarily stood between you and your relationship with your parents. 

Bruce Szalwinski / Creative Commons

Imagine two people. One of them is named Betsy Kaplan, the other, Betsy F.P.R. Academic studies suggest people, on average, would infer a higher intellectual capacity for Betsy F.P.R. Kaplan and be more likely to admire her and think she made more money than plain old Betsy Kaplan. A middle initial, says the scholarly literature, is basically a free ticket to higher status. 

Which makes it odd that each successive generation is less likely, overall, to use them. 

Chion Wolf / WNPR

The song of the summer is not always pretty, but there always is one, and unless something is done quickly, this year's will be "Fancy" by Iggy Azalea, which will make you nostalgic for last year's "Blurred Lines."

Fibonacci Blue / Creative Commons

Werner Oyanadel, Executive Director of Connecticut's Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission, said on Monday that Latino and Puerto Rican advocates in Connecticut were disappointed with Governor Dannel Malloy's refusal to temporarily house 2,000 of the 52,000 Central American children requested by the federal government. 

They made sure their disappointment caught the attention of the governor.

Fibonacci Blue / Creative Commons

I was reading a story about some refugees who cabled the President asking for asylum. The President never responded. The federal government had decided not to take extraordinary measures to permit the refugees to enter the United States. A state department telegram stated that the passengers must await their turns on the waiting list and qualify for and obtain immigration visas before they may be admissible into the United States.

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We've never done this before but last night the three Nose panelists and I gathered at my house so we could all watch Snowpiercer, a sci-fi summer action movie with a brain. Snowpiercer is a meditation on leadership, climate change and socioeconomic inequality and it manages to tackle all of those topics without skimping on the bloody axe fights. It's based on a French graphic novel and it stars the actor who played Captain America in two movies and we're going to spend a lot of time today in that universe.

What with the death of Archie and the news that the new movie Captain America will have a black actor and the new Thor will be a woman. Also, on our topic list will be the viral audio of a guy trying to cancel his cable subscription against spirited resistance from a comcast rep on the other end. 

The Prodigy Paradox

Jul 17, 2014
Baby Einstein / Creative Commons

In a society which rewards brains over brawn, who better than a prodigy to place your bets on? The answer may surprise you.  

Bobby Fischer was terrible at everything  except chess. His entire life was punctuated by extreme paranoia, bouts of seclusion, and cascading, erratic behavior. Ted Kaczynski, a child math and science prodigy… I don’t have to tell you how that one worked out.  

Thomas Chatterton was writing publishable poetry by the age of 12, and in the immediately ensuing years, wrote work that left its mark on the literature and influenced the  romantic movement. He took his own life with arsenic three months shy of 18. 

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