Banned Books – The Classics, with Oh No! Lit Class podcast

This week’s special guest is Megan Dangerous from Oh No! Lit Class.


Walk into your local library this week and you’re likely to see a display of books that have been banned in different times and places for a variety of reasons.  Standard choices include
Animal Farm, Fahrenheit 451, Huckleberry Finn and maybe some more recent additions like The Kite Runner.  Most of us glance over it was we walk by, but not so for a group of pastors in Maine.  They want to ban the display of banned books.

The pastors don’t seem to mind the books banned for racist language, violence against women or drug use, just the ones that shine a positive light on LGBTQ characters.  The library refused to remove any books from its display and one can only hope opened a dictionary to the entry for ‘irony.’ Banned books fall into two major categories: those banned by specific institutions, such as a school district, and those banned by countries.  

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Got Your Goat

In addition to my previously mentioned career in burlesque, I also used to make my living raising the internet’s second favorite animal, a ruminant quadruped that gives us milk, meat, fiber, and hilarious videos.  Legend has it they also discovered the Dead Sea Scrolls, cataract surgery, and coffee. They can climb seemingly impossible heights and escape every kind of fence mankind has invented. They feature in the zodiac and the mythologies of most of the world.  

 

 

Goats and humans have a long and productive history together.  They were first domesticated some 11,000 years ago in the Near East, one of our earliest livestock species, as we transitioned from hunter-gatherers to agriculture-based societies.  There are approximately 500 million goats in the world, of which China has 170 million. Much of the worldwide goat population is in the developing world. Bonus fact right off the bat: Developing nation is the preferred term over third world country.  For starters, third world was a reference to a country’s alignment, or lack thereof, during the Cold War, with the US and capitalistic nations being the first world and the eastern bloc nations being the second world. The largest importer of goats is the U.S. and the largest exporter of goats is Australia. Continue reading

What’s In A Nickname? Places edition

What’s in a name?  That which we call a city by any other name would smell as sweet.  Some nicknames are obvious. Denver, CO is the Mile High City because it’s precisely one mile above sea level.  Dallas, Texas is The Big D; everything’s bigger in Texas. But which American city can also be called The Emerald City, which state is the Land of Lincoln and what’s a buckeye or a Sooner?

Let’s start our tour of land labels and city sobriquets here in the States. One of the cuter-sounding nicknames is Boston, MA’s moniker of “Beantown.” The origins are a bit nebulous. It could come from baked beans which Puritan settlers would cook on Saturdays and keep warm in crocks by the hearth all day on Sunday when they were forbidden from working, including cooking, on the Sabbath. Continue reading

Mixed Bags of History

Genghis Kahn’s empire killed 2/3 of Northern China, but people under his rule knew unrivaled gender equality and religious freedom. Mother Teresa gave aid to the poor, but also encouraged their suffering. Spiky cacti sometimes contain life-sustaining water, and even the most beautiful roses have thorns. We’re all some mix of good and bad.

Content advisory: today’s episode includes racial language in its historical context.

For 50+ years, the only thing people have known singer/actor Al Jolson for is for appearing in blackface in the first motion picture with embedded sound, The Jazz Singer. But he also promoted the work of playwright Garland Anderson, leading to the first all-black Broadway show, as well as pushing to hire a black dance group at a time when black performers were outright banned from Broadway. Beloved country singer Johnny Cash was an impassioned spokesperson for prison reform, going so far as to appear before a Senate subcommittee, to call for things like as separating first-timers from hardened criminals and focus on rehabilitation. But, he also started a forest fire that burned over 500 acres and displaced or killed dozens of endangered condors. Continue reading

This Is Only A Test


Tests are all around us, ubiquitous to every day.   You probably took a test the minute you were born.  Today we look at a number of test, from movie theaters to hospitals, that are named for the people who created them.

It’s known as the Bechdel test, and it goes like so: For a given work of fiction, usually a movie, to pass the test, the piece must have at least two female characters in it, with names, who talk to each other about something other than a man.  That must be pretty common, you say to yourself. You’d be surprised how many movies don’t meet the criteria. Think back to the original Star Wars or Lord of the Rings trilogy. Those movies have so few female characters that you can count them on one hands and those characters rarely share a scene, let alone a conversation. Continue reading

Stolen Innocents

Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Funny how that only seems to apply to bad things. Without getting into current politics, which you’re safe from here, we can’t ignore the plight of children seized from parents of a particular group. And it’s not the first time either. The American government took tens of thousands of children from Native families and placed them in boarding schools with strict assimilation practices. Their philosophy – kill the Indian to save the man. My name’s Moxie and this is your brain on facts.

That was the mindset under which the U.S. government Native children to attend boarding schools, beginning in the late 19th century, when the government was still fighting “Indian wars.” There had been day and boarding schools on reservations prior to 1870, when U.S. cavalry captain, Richard Henry Pratt established the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania. This school was not on a reservation, so as to further remove indigenous influences. The Carlisle school and other boarding schools were part of a long history of U.S. attempts to either kill, remove, or assimilate Native Americans. “As white population grew in the United States and people settled further west towards the Mississippi in the late 1800s, there was increasing pressure on the recently removed groups to give up some of their new land,” according to the Minnesota Historical Society. Since there was no more Western territory to push them towards, the U.S. decided to remove Native Americans by assimilating them. In 1885, Commissioner of Indian Affairs Hiram Price explained the logic: “it is cheaper to give them education than to fight them.”
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Good Mourning To You

with special guests, Life In Stories podcast.

When I die, we’re not having a funeral.  That’s not to say my body won’t be properly disposed of.  Obviously it will be, otherwise my cats will eat me. What I’m staunchly against are depressing affairs full of silent discomfort and the worst thing of all, the viewing.  Thankfully, there is a literal world of funeral practice options to choose from, everything from an Irish wake to Tibetan sky burial.

 

Before you brace yourself for another serious episode, don’t worry.  Talking about death doesn’t have to be depressing. Death is a part of life and I feel we should be able to talk about death as easily as we talk about birth.  They’re fundamentally the same – a momentous life event that your family deals with more than you do and tends to be at least a little messy. There are as many ways to celebrate a person’s life as there are kinds of people in the world.  So in the spirit of celebration, let’s begin with something close to home, the New Orleans jazz funeral.

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Life After Death, with Dumb & Busted podcast

Death doesn’t mean everything stop for you. There are lots of ways we can live on after shuffling off the mortal coil. From body parts taken from famous bodies, to cells that won’t stop growing, to a taxidermied person on display in a museum, we look at bodies and body parts that don’t let death slow them down. Thanks to our special guests, Dumb & Busted podcast.

Turn of Phrases

For more than a century, the taxidermy diorama “Arab Courier Attacked by Lions” – a man on camelback, fending off Barbary lions with a long dagger – has stood in Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Throughout all those years, the piece has kept a disturbing secret from hundreds of thousands of visitor eye. Created by French taxidermist Edouard Verreaux in 1867 and acquired by industrialist Andrew Carnegie for the museum in 1899, “Arab Courier Attacked by Lions” was long known to contain real human teeth. As recently as last summer, however, staffers believed it contained no other human remains. During a restoration that began last year, a CT scan revealed that—like its camel and lions—the display’s rider was constructed with “natural” materials. In this case, an actual human skull. My name’s Moxie and this is your brain on facts. Continue reading

Swiss Army Wife, with Bunny Trails Podcast

I’m pretty good at this wife business, but I can’t say that I would take over my husband’s public office after his death, re-edit his film to launch a genre-defining franchise, or kill an enemy general after he was over-run. However, there are a lot of women in history who would, and did, all those things and more.

From French pirates to Chilean warrior to American filmmakers, we look at women who earn the title “super wife,” with help from Bunny Trails Podcast.

It’s not uncommon, across the world and throughout history, for a woman who has been widowed to take over her husband’s business. This may be a ranch or a store, even a mine, but what if your late husband earned his bread in the US Congress? Believe it or not, there is a protocol known as “widow’s succession” or “widow’s mandate.” “Widow’s succession used to be THE way that women got into Congress, with very few exceptions,” explains Debbie Walsh of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. It wasn’t a blue-moon occurrence. 47 women have taken over their husband’s seat, 8 in the Senate and 39 in the House. Neither was this an old-timey system that’s been long forgotten. The practice actually peaked in the mid-twentieth century. “There was a period when you could look at all the women serving in Congress, and a majority had initially gotten in that way.” Widow’s Succession has declined, but two women are serving in Congress presently because of it – Lois Capps and Doris Matsui, both Democrats from California.
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Ink and Pain: Tattoos, with Hobbit from GUI Podcasts

“The body is a temple and it’s our job to decorate it.” From tatau in Polynesia to Sailor Jerry to the oppressed class that gave rise to the Yakuza, we touch on some highlights from the history of tattoos.

Huge thanks to my guest presenter Mike “Hobbit” Bickett from Geeks Under the Influence Podcast network. Check out the episode of Smack My Pitch Up he let me do with him.

For those who don’t know me personally, I’m coming to you today from Richmond, VA, the #4 most tattooed city in America, depending on which list you’re looking at, a city with 15 tattoo shops per 100,000 people. Our unnofficial motto is “The body is a temple and it’s our job to decorate it,” right after “We don’t like the way things are, but don’t you dare suggest changing it.”

Tattooing is one of the earliest visual art forms and has served as a means of self-expression for thousands of years. The process was probably discovered when ash or dirt became embedded in an open wound, leaving an indelible mark when healed. The word tattoo is derived from the Tahitian word ‘tatau’ which means to mark. The earliest known reference to the word was made by Joseph Banks, a naturalist aboard Cpt. Cook’s the Endeavour, “I shall now mention the way they mark themselves indelibly; each of them is so marked by their humour or disposition”. By the 1700s, the word tattoo was in use in Europe. The term and knowledge of the practice was probably re-introduced to Europe by sailors returning from Polynesia. I say “re-introduced,” because early Britons used tattoos in ceremonies. The Danes, Norse, and Saxons tattooed themselves with clan sigils, an early form of family crest. The practice took a major hit when Pope Hadrian banned tattooing in the eighth century, but it was the Norman Invasion of 1066, with its ink-antagonist Normans that caused it to disappear from Western Europe until the 16th century.
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