Profiles

Public Domain

The Salem witch trials haunt the American imagination as a time of extreme injustice. The story is most often told from the perspective of the accused and the accusers, but historian Richard Francis has spent years exploring the actions of Samuel Sewall. Sewall was among the judges who issued the harsh verdicts, but five years later, he became the only judge to issue an apology for his role in the trials. Richard Francis joins Doug to talk about Sewall, his idealism, and his conscience.


Henry David Thoreau famously went to Walden Pond to “live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life.” But as the scholar Laura Dassow Walls shows in a new biography, there was much more to Thoreau’s life and work than his brief experiment at Spartan living in the woods. He was an inventor, a manual laborer, a gifted naturalist, a writer of great originality, and an uncompromising abolitionist. Walls joins us Monday to explore Thoreau’s profound, complex, and influential life.

The next documentary in our Through the Lens series is a true story of desperation, scams, and goat testicles. Director Penny Lane joins us to talk about John Romulus Brinkley, a man who claimed to have a cure for impotence and many other ailments in 1920s Kansas. He took to newfangled radio to tout his unorthodox treatments, but soon found his nemesis in one Morris Fishbein, editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Lane’s film is called NUTS!

On the 4th of July, we're broadcasting our conversation with writer Nathaniel Philbrick about George Washington and Benedict Arnold. Arnold has long been regarded as the archetypal American traitor. But before he betrayed his country, he was actually one of Washington’s favorite and most trusted generals. In his book, Philbrick examines the complicated relationship between the two men. Ultimately, he says, it’s about their different reactions to a dysfunctional Congress that was driven by self-righteous opportunism. (Rebroadcast)

Memory's Last Breath

Jun 12, 2017

In 2010, Gerda Saunders learned that she has dementia. She was 61 years old at the time, and soon had to leave her post teaching at the University of Utah. So Gerda started writing what she calls her field notes on dementia. The result is a new memoir due out this week. We’ve been following Gerda over the last year with a series of short films documenting her journey, and Monday, Doug sits down to talk to her about her book. It’s called Memory’s Last Breath.

Matthew D. LaPlante, For the Deseret News

The homicide rate in El Salvador is 20 times higher than it is in the U.S., and nearly 5% of Salvadorans fled their county because of violence in 2016. Utah journalist Matthew LaPlante recently went to El Salvador to try and understand the impact of this on the nation’s children, and the desperation of many families to get their kids out. Wednesday, he joins us to talk about what he learned about life and survival in one of the world’s most dangerous places, and the risks of sending kids north.

Thomas Wirthlin McConkie is a descendent of two highly influential Mormon leaders.  And yet, his close ties to the LDS Church didn’t insulate him from questioning his faith. He left the church as a teenager and found spiritual fulfillment in Zen Buddhism. After almost 20 years, he returned to Mormonism, and he wants to help others navigate their own faith crises. McConkie joins us Monday to discuss how the tools of developmental psychology can help guide us through faith transitions.

Major James B Pond, University of Virginia Library, http://bit.ly/2a0uRqV

 

Friday, we’re telling the story of what author Richard Zacks calls Mark Twain’s “raucous and redemptive round-the-world comedy tour.” Twain was once America’s highest paid writer, but he was also a remarkably bad businessman. In 1895, with his career on the rocks and with what today would be millions in debt, Twain embarked on a 5-continent speaking tour he hoped would save him. Zacks joins Doug to talk about Twain’s wildly popular humor, his missteps, and what drove his quest for redemption. (Rebroadcast)

Casanova

May 12, 2017
Courtesy of personal collection / Bridgeman Images

The name Casanova is synonymous with seduction and sexuality. And while biographer Laurence Bergreen says that Giacomo Casanova’s favorite place was a brothel, it might surprise you that his second favorite was a library. The 18th century Venetian was born in poverty. He was intent on working up the social ladder though and saw sex as both pleasure and a “weapon of class destruction.” Bergreen joins Doug to talk about Casanova’s writing and philosophy … as well as his 120+ lovers. (Rebroadcast)

Phenomena

May 11, 2017
Photo by Tim Wang, CC via Flickr, http://bit.ly/2q4xD8L

If you’re a skeptic, you’re going to be outraged by the “scientific projects” conducted by the U.S. government into mind reading and other paranormal phenomena. For more than 40 years the government hired magicians and hypnotists to try to figure out what the enemy was up to. Investigative journalist Annie Jacobsen’s latest book tells the story of this top secret program, and Thursday, she joins us to explain what would make people spend so much time, energy, and money on such strange ideas.

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