18-06 Segment 2: Norwich, Vermont’s Olympic Formula

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During the Olympics, most of the focus is on the talent and success of the individual athletes. Yet, Karen Crouse, a writer for the New York Times and author of Norwich: One Tiny Vermont Town’s Secret to Happiness and Excellence, believes that one small town deserves the same attention.

Norwich, Vermont, a town with a population of 3,000, has produced eleven Olympians since 1984. Inspired by the instant connection she felt with the tiny town because of her personal experiences as a swimmer in Santa Clara, California, another Olympic powerhouse, Crouse wanted to discover just what it was that was helping Norwich become so successful.

After talking with the athletes and their families, she noticed two factors that contributed to these athletes’ successes. The first was a domino effect, when one individual witnesses the excellence of another, it normalizes the experience and allows the goal to appear more attainable. Another reason Crouse attributes to Norwich’s success is the role that the adults play in the athletes lives. They do not tell them what to do, but rather, encourage them to make their own choices. These practices have allowed Norwich to create a community that promotes a healthy environment that breeds future success.

Guest:

  • Karen Crouse, writer for New York Times and author of Norwich: One Tiny Vermont Town’s Secret to Happiness and Excellence

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Culture Crash 18-06: YouTube’s Logan Paul Problem

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

Tweens, teens, and young adults aren’t lining up to buy DVD box sets anymore. By and large, they’re watching things exclsively online. Netflix shows like Stranger Things are big, sure, but one of the biggest entertainment spectacles of all for today’s high school crowd are YouTube vlogs.
YouTubers like Tyler Oakley or Miranda Sings have millions of subscribers and they typically release videos weekly. Those videos regularly rack up hundreds of thousands of views, and occasionally hit the millions, views driven primarily or entirely by 13 to 25 year olds. This videos can mean big money for YouTube stars thanks to ads and sponsors.
The biggest of these stars is- or was- Logan Paul. Paul is internet-famous for his prank and parody videos. In the final week of 2017, Paul was in Japan filming his usual brand of videos: in one, he and his friends dressed up as Pokemon characters and pretended to be playing for real on a busy street corner.
His channel was occasionally criticized for racism or misogyny but mainly, his fans kept watching and those who disliked him simply ignored him. But in the first week of the new year, he uploaded a video many say made light of suicide. He and his friends were in Japan’s notorious Sea of Trees or Suicide Forest when they stumbled upon a dead body- a man who had apparently committed suicide hours earlier. Instead of deleting the tape and leaving the forest, Paul posted the video, including footage of the body itself and of Paul laughing and joking around in the moments after finding the body.
The backlash was quick and fierce. Within a few days, he removed the video from his channel and issued an apology. But forgiveness hasn’t come so quickly- many internet users have called for Paul to be banned from YouTube. Though YouTube has said he won’t be banned for this, over a month later, Paul still hasn’t returned to his regular schedule of making silly vlogs.
In the age of internet viral-videos, entertainers are constantly trying to push the envelope. Logan Paul’s situation offers us a look at how the internet marketplace will regulate itself without typical FCC or network executives overseeing content creation. How and when Paul is able to put his suicide forest video behind him will set a benchmark for what it takes to overcome controversy in the wild wild West of internet memes.
Resources for people contemplating suicide are available at suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

I’m Evan Rook.

Culture Crash 18-05: TV Theme Songs

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

Our senses can trigger all kinds of nostalgia. Maybe the smell of your mother’s cooking reminds you of childhood or the sight of your high school brings back memories of the awkward years. But most things pale in comparison to the sound of an old TV show’s opening credits song.

For you, it may be Full House. If you’re like my dad, it’s the whistling from The Andy Griffith Show, but all of us have some show’s song that got lodged in our heads and stayed there for life.

More recently, the Mad Men opening song had the strange ability to drop us into the 1950s world of Don Draper and HBO’s Game of Thrones takes audiences on an epic journey throughout Westeros at the start of each episode. But have you ever stopped to think about the evolution of opening credits?

They used to be set to cheesy made-for-TV music, feature silly yellow fonts and exist just to credit the cast. Each character would turn, face the camera and smile while their name appeared on the bottom of the screen. Then, shows went mainstream. Who could ever forget the iconic Friends sequence where the characters danced in a fountain to the tune of “I’ll Be There For You” by The Rembrandts? The Friends credits were such a hit that the song, which was written for the show, ended up on the top 20 on Billboard’s Hot 100.

As TV grew more serialized and darker, these sequences grew up with them. They became more artsy and cinematic in shows like Six Feet Under or The Wire. And now shows may not even include opening credits, opting instead for a simple title card. But many shows, especially on Netflix and HBO, have learned to set the tone for their show with beautiful opening credits.

The internet went crazy for Stranger Things‘ simple credits which featured spooky music and a closeup of the retro font coming together to spell out the show’s title. And who hasn’t sang along to Orange in the New Black‘s Regina Spektor opening as picture of inmates fly by?

Whether you fast-forward through them or find something new to enjoy every time, opening credits occupy a lot of time for any TV watcher. I particularly loved the 11-second opening to NBC’s short-lived The Black Donnellys and the various versions Boy Meets World ran through over its run.

TV credits are so simply but have somehow come to mean so much.

I’m Evan Rook.

18-04 Segment 1: The Real History Behind the Evacuation of Dunkirk

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In the last year, two movies including Christopher Nolan’s latest blockbuster have introduced the story of Dunkirk to American audiences. We talk to Michael Korda, a historian and author, who explains some of the real history, including why Hitler and Churchill acted the way they did throughout the ordeal.

Guest:

  • Michael Korda, author, Alone: Britain, Churchill, and Dunkirk: Defeat into Victory

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18-04 Segment 2: Working to Maintain a Healthy Marriage

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Maintaining a relationship or a marriage is a wonderful thing, but sometimes it can be tricky. We hear tips from an expert clinical psychologist on how couples can communicate better, understand each other more deeply, and work through some of the issues common in modern marriages.

Guest:

  • Dr. Daphne de Marneffe, clinical psychologist and author, The Rough Patch: Marriage and the Art of Living Together

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Culture Crash 18-04: The Ringer’s Binge Mode podcast

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

One of the biggest trends over the last few years in our culture is our gravitation toward podcasts. They help us get through long commutes, they entertain us, inform us, and ever since season one of Serial, they have been obsessing us.

One podcast that is built for the obsessive fans among us is the Ringer podcast called Binge Mode.

It began last year with a quest: to recap and analyze every episode of Game of Thrones before the HBO fantasy show’s seventh season. Hosts Jason Concepcion and Mallory Rubin are hardcore fans who have pored over every word of the books and every moment of the show multiple times. They guided listeners through all 60 previously aired episodes and then the entirety of season seven as it aired. For their work, they were lauded, even being named Time Magazines best podcast of 2017.

This year, they were faced with a conundrum: Game of Thrones won’t be airing until 2019, so how would they fill the time?

They decided to launch Bing Mode weekly, a more traditional format where they interrogate different subjects every week. One episode focused on coming of age stories and the film Coco and then a few weeks later, they were discussing what it means to be a hero or a villian within Star Wars.

But the secret to Binge Mode’s success is that they don’t just recap and discuss. They truly inform the audience with their deep-dives. They don’t just recount the story of Coco, the discuss the themes of family bonds, feeling like an outsider, and growing jaded by the cruelties of the world within the context of the Pixar family, comparing the film extensively to other Pixar movies like Up, Wall-E, and Inside Out.

Listening to Binge Mode feels less like listening to a pop culture podcast and more like going to a college-level course on storytelling.

In a world of hot takes and broad strokes, Binge Mode uses pop culture as a launching point for larger discussions relevant to the themes and ideas that serve as motivation for much of the art we all appreciate so much in the first place.

Binge Mode is available on Apple Podcasts and Stitcher.

I’m Evan Rook.

18-03 Segment 1: American Cities: Why they matter and a plan to save them

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Cities, from New York and Chicago to New Orleans and San Francisco, are a vital piece of our country. We talk about the reasons for cities, their role as cultural epicenters, and a radical plan to stop American cities from decaying under our very feet.

Guest:

  • Joshua Jelly-Schapiro, co-author, Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas
  • William Goldsmith, retired professor of city and regional planning at Cornell University and author, Saving Out Cities: A progressive plan to transform urban America

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