Culture

Culture, Ideas, Religion

Last week’s presidential election marked the fifth time that there was a split on the popular and electoral college vote. Of course, it wasn’t the first time it’s happened in the early years of 21st century, and that’s got a lot of people are asking: why do we have an electoral college? How’d we end up with this obscure voting method? Defenders argue it’s a cornerstone of the American republic, while opponents counter that it doesn’t value each vote equally. Thursday, we’ll hear from both sides of the debate.

Wherever you turn these days, commercials, sponsored social media, and other advertising efforts await your attention. The influential thinker Tim Wu says we have the “attention merchants” to thank for that. In a new book, Wu argues that the concerted efforts of advertisers to attract our attention at every opportunity has made us more distracted and less focused than ever before. Wu joins us Monday to explore the rise of the attention merchants and the human costs of their efforts.

In Donald Trump’s Presidential victory speech, he struck a tone that some found hard to believe after the vitriolic race. He called on Republicans, Democrats, and independents to “come together as one united people.” But if you’ve been on social media recently, you know that’s a tall order. So Thursday, we’re looking at the state of polarization in the country and the internet’s effect on our political views. We’ll also talk to activists who are imagining a “Reunited” America.

Why Empathy Matters

Nov 8, 2016

Tuesday, we're offering a mid-day reprieve from election coverage with a conversation about empathy. The philosopher Roman Krznaric suggests you forget the idea that it’s some fluffy, feel-good concept. Krznaric argues that empathy is radical and dangerous, because it offers the possibility of real change. He also says it’s not a concept to reserve for the down and out. To really address the world’s empathy deficit, we must equally apply it to our neighbors and to people in power. (Rebroadcast)

On Trails

Nov 4, 2016
Rich via CC/Flickr, https://goo.gl/uk4xos, https://goo.gl/xYWc9B

In 2009, while thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, Robert Moor began to wonder about the paths beneath our feet. On every scale of life on earth, he says, trails form that “reduce an overwhelming array of choices to a single expeditious route.” But how do they form? Why do some paths improve while others disappear? How does order emerge from chaos? Moor joins us Friday to explore how pathways serve as an essential guiding force for trailblazers and trail followers, alike. [Rebroadcast]

When the Mormon Church’s LGBT policy made headlines last November, it shocked a lot of people. Most mainstream Mormons have worked through it with official clarifications, but faithful LGBT members are still in pain and struggling to understand their place in the LDS Church. Critics say it’s also led to increased youth suicides, broken families, and mass resignations. Thursday, we’re talking about the effect of the policy at its one-year anniversary.

Last November, the LDS Church made policy changes that deeply affected LGBT members and their families. It labeled people in same-sex marriages as apostates subject to discipline and said children living with an LGBT parent would be barred from sacred rituals like baptism. Wednesday, in the first of two conversations on the policy’s anniversary, we’re asking how these changes came to be, why they took so many people by surprise, and what it says about LDS leadership and faith today.

Benjamin Bergen is a cognitive scientist and he loves swearing. He actually studies it for a living. In a fascinating new book, Bergen examines why we use swear words, why they’re so powerful, and how they work in our language and on our minds.  Swearing, he says, can be useful, funny, and cathartic. It also helps us express the strongest human emotions. Doug spoke with Bergen earlier this week, and Thursday we’re airing that conversation. But don’t worry: we’ve bleeped all the swear words.

Taber Andrew Bain via CC/Flickr, http://bit.ly/1SVrd1W

 

In a new book, legal scholar Mehrsa Baradaran argues that America has two systems for personal banking. The rich have personal bank accounts at brick-and-mortar businesses, while the poor either don’t bank at all or rely on payday lenders and check cashers that charge exorbitant rates and fees. The result, Baradaran says, is a sadly ironic situation where “the less money you have, the more you pay to use it.” She joins us Tuesday to explain how we got into this mess, and how we might get out of it.

Ghostland

Oct 24, 2016
The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado is said to be haunted, and inspired Stephen King's novel "The Shining." William Andrus, CC via Flickr, http://bit.ly/2e8rrFw

Monday, we’re taking a haunted tour of America with writer Colin Dickey. Don’t worry though, we won’t try to convince you that ghosts or the paranormal are necessarily real. Dickey’s new book explores the bigger cultural questions behind these tales. Traveling to haunted mansions, brothels, industrial ruins, parks, and more, he asks why we tell these stories and how they help us make sense of our world. Dickey joins us to talk about what he calls “an American history in haunted places.”

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