17-49 Segment 1: Making an Impact as a Citizen Scientist

Citizen Scientist: Searching for Heroes and Hope in an Age of Extinction, authored by Mary Ellen Hannibal, attempts to rekindle the notion that science is available to all citizens, not just the experts. Charles Darwin, was a so-called citizen scientist, with no degree or training, he is now considered the ‘father’ of Evolution.

With modern technology, it’s easier than ever to collect data and share it with anyone on the planet to create mass collections of data. Hannibal says we are currently in a mass extinction of plants and animals, and argues it’s crucial that citizens come together to share their observations. She explains observing and recording different species of plants and animals, like Darwin did, can lead to the same kind of groundbreaking analysis that led to the theory of Evolution.

The director of Audubon Society’s annual Christmas Bird Count, Geoff LeBaron, says average citizens can be the eyes and ears of big data collection. LeBaron shares many scientist were apprehensive to use data collected by citizens, but because of the techniques created scientists now accept the findings of studies like the Christmas Bird Count. If you’re interested in getting involved in citizen science, go to the Nature’s Notebook webiste: https://www.usanpn.org/nn/become-observer to become part of an observational science team.

Guests:

  • Mary Ellen Hannibal, author, Citizen Scientist: Searching for heroes and hope in an age of extinction
  • Geoff LeBaron, director of Audubon Society’s annual Christmas Bird Count

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17-49 Segment 2: Author Jack London’s Writings and Social Activism

 

Jack London is known for the adventure and intrigue of his writings. Lesser known are the struggles London faced before he became a published author. He was well acquainted with manual labor under terrible working condition for minimal wages. The plight of laborers and the injustice they felt is woven into his fast paced plots.

Cecelia Tichi, Professor of English and American Studies at Vanderbilt University, as well as author of Jack London: A Writer’s Fight for a Better America, went back and reread all of London’s writings with social activism in mind. She found that London made a habit of commenting on social topics, specifically poverty and exploited workers.

Tichi explains Call of the Wild, London’s breakout work, contrasts American ideals with poverty and exploitation. She argues London deserve to be recognized as a forward political thinker, not just an author of exciting plot twists. Learn more at Tichi’s website: jacklondonbook.com  

Guest:

  • Cecelia Tichi, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of English and professor of American Studies at Vanderbilt University, author, Jack London: A writer’s fight for a better America.

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Culture Crash 17-49: The Simpsons’s Apu Problem

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Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine american culture. What’s new and old in books, film, and entertainment.

The Simpsons is a cultural touchstone for countless Americans. Spanning what is now 29 seasons and having aired over 600 episodes, it is the longest-running American scripted primetime television program ever and has given us a whole town full of memorable characters, like Homer and Bart, Krusty the Clown, and Mr. Burns.

But maybe the most problematic character is Apu, the clerk at the simpson’s local convenience store, the Kwik-E-Mart.

Apu is an Indian character, or caricature. Almost every joke made at Apu’s expense has to do with indian culture. Even his voice is meant to elicit a laugh, an exaggerated Indian accent voiced by white actor Hank Azaria.

(Clip 1)

Apu is a character that has been dreaming of being a “real American” with his thick accent for years and now, comedian Hari Kondabolu is bringing his objections to the character forward in his documentary The Problem With Apu.

In it, Kondabolu talks to strangers on the street and fellow actors Kal Penn, Whoopi Goldberg, Sakina Jaffrey, and others about racism in our culture and how characters like Apu or old-fashioned racist minstrel shows came about and impacted the culture.

Actor Utkarsh Ambudkar explains in the documentary that a basic problem with Apu is that for a long time, before Mindy Kaling, Aziz Ansari, or Dev Patel Apu was the only South Asian representation on TV.

(Clip 2)

The documentary investigates how this lack of representation developed, how racist characters are hurtful, and what the legacy of Apu has meant for Indian-American actors trying to break through in Hollywood.

For a more in-depth look at these issues and more, The Problem With Apu is available to stream on Trutv dot com.

I’m Evan Rook.