Chiara Nicastro is an International Studies graduate from Portland State University, an Oregon Consular Corps Scholarship winner, and a Fulbright scholar. She was a fantastic guest on the latest episode of my podcast, Dispatch 7, in which she talked about the Fulbright program. If you’ve ever thought about doing this program after you graduate, or know someone who might be interested, this is worth a listen. Plus, Chiara is just a high energy and positive person, so she’s always fun to talk with. You can find the podcast episode here.
Like many people, I’ve been struck by the parallels between the current COVID-19 pandemic and the 1918 pandemic. In 1918 many media outlets in Europe and the United States did not initially give the outbreak adequate coverage, because they were censored during the war, or did not want to reveal their nation’s weaknesses. In the United States and Brazil now, populist leaders are dismissive of the news and data on COVID-19, because it reveals their failures. For this reason, their followers tend to view all COVID-19 information through the lens of partisan politics. Indeed, President Bolsonaro of Brazil has called his followers to storm hospitals to take photos and videos to show whether COVID-19 patients are truly filling hospital beds, as the hospitals and state leaders claim. Such denial has caused painful climbs in COVID-19 deaths in both Brazil and the United States. …
I have a new podcast!: “Dispatch 7: global trends on all seven continents.” The first episode is out: “Applying to Graduate School.” I interviewed Rosa “Rosie” David, who did her undergraduate and graduate studies at Portland State University. Since then Rosie has worked in both Mexico and Colombia. I’ve known Rosie for a long time, and was delighted when she was accepted into multiple graduate programs. The graduate school application process is sometimes a mysterious one, so I thought that people might want to hear about the experience of someone who had just successfully navigated it. It was really fun being able to have Rosie as my first guest, especially as I was anxious about doing the recording remotely. I’m working to establish a regular schedule, which will likely be every two weeks. Some upcoming topics? Tea, labor migration in India, and COVID-19.
I particularly want to thank Kirsten Fox, my former student, who came up with the podcast title. I shared a google form with a list of possible titles with my students last quarter, and her suggestion was by far the most popular. Thanks Kirsten!
I also want to thank my daughter Paige Smallman, who was the producer and sound editor. Without her, this podcast wouldn’t have happened.
Are you interested in applying to graduate school, and want to know some tested tips and tricks? Listen to Rosie’s advice.
You can find the podcast at the following links:
Google Podcasts: https://www.google.com/podcasts?feed=aHR0cHM6Ly9hbmNob3IuZm0vcy8xYjM5ODczOC9wb2RjYXN0L3Jzcw==
Radio Public: https://radiopublic.com/dispatch-7-global-trends-on-all-s-8X3Vl5
Pocket casts: https://pca.st/8ijvae4e
There is so much discussion of the coronavirus epidemic in the media that it can be hard to find reliable information. One good source of measured, thoughtful information is this podcast, “Coronavirus Infections—More Than Just the Common Cold,” which is an interview with Anthony, S Fauci, the director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease. You can also find this podcast on Stitcher and other podcast platforms. To listen to it on Apple podcasts, please search for “JAMA Author interviews,” and go to January 27, 2020.
If you are interested in learning more about live markets, you can read my work here. And this blog posts discusses quarantine and nCoV based on some historical context from the 1918 influenza pandemic.
Every year on Halloween I cover a suitable topic, such as a haunted house in Hong Kong, or a mystery ship in Canada. This year I want to briefly mention “Death in Ice Valley” which is a joint production between the BBC World Service and NRK. This particular podcast examines the mystery that surrounds the Isdal woman, an unidentified person who was found murdered in strange circumstances in a Norwegian valley in 1970. While there was considerable evidence that the woman was a spy, her identity has remained a mystery for all these years.
The mood of the podcast is set at the start of each episode by the sound of the drizzling rain and a haunting vocal. The degree of research that went into this production is simply staggering. The two reporters -one British, one Norwegian- travel from the remote fjords of northern Norway to the home of an aging crime reporter in Spain. They find the woman’s jaw, do DNA testing, and locate a secret file. And with every discovery a new door opens, and more questions surface. As the story progresses, we become swept into the Cold World era. The tale is worth of one of my favorite fictional characters, George Smiley. While there are no supernatural elements to this podcast, it is a haunting, atmospheric puzzling production. The podcast is available everywhere from iTunes to Overcast. Highly recommended.
If you are interested in a tale of the Northern supernatural, you may also want to put on the kettle, and read my book Dangerous Spirits. But it’s best not to do it in the midst of a Canadian or New England winter, especially if there is a blizzard, and the raccoon is making those sounds in the attic again.
Every Halloween I do a post on global folklore or an international mystery, from a haunted building in Hong Kong, to the mystery of the ghost ship Baltimore. This year I’m doing some additional posts on this theme, because I want to share a wonderful BBC podcast, the Supernatural North. Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough travels to Norway to look at how the weird in the North has haunted the European imagination. Along the way, she explores everything from a Sami shamanic drum made by a Californian (with an image of a surfer) to the witch trials of 18th century Finmark. What is impressive about the story she tells is how stories from this area with a relatively low population have shaped modern fantasy literature from the trolls in the Lord of the Rings to the White Walkers in the Game of Thrones. But these stories live on not only in literature but also popular memory. One Norwegian community is haunted by the history of the tragic 17th century witch trials in Finmark. Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough described an unsettling visit to a public art work built to commemorate those who were burned at the stake. You have to admire the work of someone who has been knighted with a walrus penis bone, and who is on the trail of a Norse Arctic explorer.(1)
After listening to the podcast, you might wish to watch the 2010 movie Troll Hunter, which the podcast suggests built carefully upon actual traditions. It’s also very funny, and doesn’t have too much gore, despite some twists. There’s nothing worse (spoiler alert) than a rabid troll. …
Living in the Pacific Northwest, we all know that a major quake is imminent. Oregon Public Broadcasting has had a great series, Unprepared, about the pending quake in Oregon. There are also a wealth of books on the topic. I particularly recommend John Clague, Chris Yorath, Richard Franklin and Bob Turner’s, At Risk: Earthquakes and Tsunamis on the West Coast. This well written book is filled with images and maps, to detail the potential risks of an earthquakes in different sections of the Northwest. If you live in Western Washington you’ll want to check out the map on page 117; Portland or Vancouver? See the map on page 118. And if you live on Vancouver Island or the Gulf Islands, you’ll want to look at the map of tsunami run-up potential on page 138. Then you’ll want to check out the photo of what a piece of 2 by 4 lumber did to a tire during a tsunami during the 1964 Alaska earthquake. The book conveys complex scientific information in clear and readable prose. The chapters on diverse topics also have a clear flow. If only all science writing was as approachable as in this book.
Still, I love podcasts, so my favorite resource is probably the five part CBC series Fault Lines. The series is organized by time, so that the first episode discusses different forms of quake that may strike Vancouver, while the second episode describes the quake itself. What makes the podcast particularly insightful, however, is that the majority of the episodes focus on the period of time after the quake. This compels the listener to imagine what that experience will be like for survivors, and how well prepared they themselves may be. Surviving the earthquake is only the first step on a long journey. The podcast is an unsettling and insightful exploration of the topic, which will leave you musing about the danger for days. Curious? You can hear the teaser here.
As a kid growing up in Southern Ontario in the early 80s, I enjoyed listening to a science program called “Quirks and Quarks,” on CBC radio. Imagine my surprise to find that -thanks to the wonders of podcasts- I could still listen to this program, which is as good as it ever was. One recent episode, “Let there be Light,” compares two different approaches to fusion. In France, ITER is a $20 billion project which has entailed 35 years of cooperation amongst multiple nations. The reason why this investment makes sense is that fusion would create a virtually limitless supply of energy, without the danger of either nuclear meltdowns or the long-term storage of nuclear waste. In contrast, a Canadian start-up has a radically different and smaller plan. What’s most interesting to me about this brief podcast (14:08 minutes) is the scientists discussion of the level of resources required to develop fusion. They contrast this amount with the $200 billion that Qatar may spend to host the World Cup. There is hope for a radically different energy system, if we as a civilization are prepared to make the required investments.
Shawn Smallman, 2017
Although most of my work over the last 15 years has focused on public policy and epidemic disease, I’ve also written a book about Indigenous religion amongst Algonquian peoples, in particular one evil and old spirit called the Windigo. I recently did an interview for the public radio program Backstory, which is part of their Halloween podcast episode, “American Horror Story.” You can listen to the full episode here, if you are interested in monsters in American culture and history. If you just want to listen to my interview, it is available at the link “Where the windigos are.” Elizabeth McCauley also wrote blog post about the windigo, which has both the interview and a clip from the TV episode of Supernatural that dealt with the windigo. I thought that her blog post did an excellent job discussing media depictions of the windigo, and the issue of cultural appropriation. If you are curious to read more, you might want to look at my book, Dangerous Spirits. Or for an entirely different mystery, please read my account of the ghost ship called the Baltimore, which was found with only a single person left alive aboard. And she was not whom she said. Have a good Halloween everyone.
Shawn Smallman, Halloween 2016
Every Halloween I explore a suitably spooky topic, from a book about an alleged Canadian haunting, to Japanese books on the supernatural. I’ve also suggested some international ghost stories for Halloween. Still, there is no substitute for hearing spooky tales in audio, so this year I will focus on the best podcasts that cover mythology, mysteries and folklore, all of which have at least some international content. I’ve also included podcasts that take a more skeptical and scholarly look at these issues.
The Night Time podcast covers the strange and the supernatural in Atlantic Canada. This is a relatively new podcast, and it has content that would be difficult to find in detail in other venues. In the first episode the creator of the podcast, Jordan Bonaparte, interviewed his own grandfather about a possible UFO sighting. He then interviewed his own grandmother about the same sighting in a subsequent episode. What I like about the series is that the creator carries out his own research and interviews, on topics such as disappearances, visions and archaeology, usually with a strong Atlantic Canadian flavor. Some of the episodes, such as the “Overton Stone,” shed real light on the region’s history. As an Oak Island skeptic, the interviews regarding that topic intrigued me less. I was glad, therefore, that he also recently did an episode (#21) titled “A Skeptical Look at Oak Island and Bell Island,” which consisted of an interview with Brian Dunning of the podcast Skeptoid.
Some of the best episodes of the Nighttime Podcast have dealt with disappearances, such as strange case of Maura Murray in New Hampshire (episodes 14 and 16), and the three episodes that covered the case of Emma Filipoff (episodes 2, 23 and 24), who vanished from Victoria, British Columbia. As always, Bonaparte interviewed people who were closely involved in the cases. For example, in episode 24, he had a lengthy conversation with one man who had been mentioned in an earlier podcast as a possible suspect in Emma Filipoff’s disappearance. Overall, the Night Time podcast is an original podcast with unique content, which will leave you feeling that you are sitting at a kitchen table in Nova Scotia, while listening to a neighbor tell a favorite story. …