Arts & Culture Podcasts

A look at our world through the culture and art that define it


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A look at our world through the culture and art that define it



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What was served at the REAL first Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving is a time when we pretty much know what's going to be on the dinner table. It's almost religion that we have turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce. But here's some hard truth: almost NONE of that was on the table at the first thanksgiving in 1621. CultureCast food editor Sasa Woodruff is here to blow our collective minds! Sasa also has some ideas for old-school recipes for a more authentic Thanksgiving dinner. This come to us from Mrs. Hale's New Cook Book: Cider Shortcake: "Cider cake is very good, to be baked in small loaves. 1 1/2 lb. of flour, half a pound of sugar, quarter of a pound of butter, half a pint of cider, 1 tea-spoonful of pearl ash; spice to your taste. Bake till it turns easily in the pans. I should think about half an hour." Pumpkin Pie (American) "Take out the seeds, and pare the pumpkin or squash; but in taking out the seeds do not scrape the inside of the pumpkin; the part nearest the seed is the sweetest, then stew the pumpkin, and strain it through a sieve or cullender. To a quart of milk, for a family pie, 3 eggs are sufficient. Stir in the stewed pumpkin with your milk and beaten-up eggs, till it is as thick as you can stir round rapidly and easily. If the pie is wanted richer make it thinner, and add sweet cream or another egg or two; but even 1 egg to a quart of milk makes " very decent pies.” Sweeten with molasses or sugar; add 2 tea-spoonsful of salt, 2 table-spoons-ful of sifted cinnamon, and 1 of powdered ginger; but allspice may be used, or any other spice that may be preferred. The peel of a lemon grated in gives it a pleasant flavor. The more eggs, says an American authority, the better the pie. Some put 1 egg to a gill of milk. Bake about an hour in deep plates, or shallow dishes, without an upper crust, in a hot oven." Pumpkin Pie (English) "Take out the seeds, and grate the pumpkin till you come to the outside skin. Sweeten the pulp; add a little ground allspice, lemon peel and lemon juice ; in short, flavor it to the taste. Bake without an upper crust. " Carrot Pies "These pies are made like pumpkin pies. The carrots should be boiled very tender, skinned, and sifted." Squash Pie "Pare, take out the seeds, and stew the squash till very soft, and dry. Strain or rub it through a sieve or cullender. Mix this with good milk till it is thick as batter: sweeten it with sugar. Allow 3 eggs to a quart of milk, beat the eggs well, add them to the squash, and season with rose water, cinnamon, nutmeg, or whatever spices you like. Line a pie plate with crust, fill and bake about an hour." Custard Pie "Beat 7 eggs, sweeten a quart of rich milk, that has been boiled and cooled; a stick of cinnamon, or a bit of lemon peel should be boiled in it. Sprinkle in a salt-spoon of salt, add the eggs, and a grated nutmeg, stirring the whole together. "Line 2 deep plates with good paste, set them in the oven 3 minutes to harden the crust ; then pour in the custard and bake 20 minutes."


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The man who predicted digital 'hell'

Twenty three years ago, John Eger, a presidential advisor to Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, predicted a digital "hell," in which the internet will fuel social divisions and spread misinformation so unchecked that it can threaten our sense of reality. We talk with Eger about how he could predict our current problems with such accuracy in 1995, what his proposed solutions were, and what he predicts for the next 20 years. Also, we debut a new feature: time capsule -- looking at some of what has been on our collective minds since our last episode. On our debut edition, we talk about the feud between Taylor Swift and Kim Kardashian-West, the hashtag campaign #WhyIDidn'tReport, and the video game phenomenon Fortnite.


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The human toll of migrant family separations

The migrant family separations that were undertaken by the Trump administration, in an effort to discourage immigration through the unequivocal prosecution of migrants and the separation of their children at the US-Mexico border, have taken a profound toll on the children and the adults. Much of that toll has been hidden from the public, but details are now beginning to emerge. Testimonies filed in federal court offer am arresting look at the suffering incurred by migrants during the months that the policy was in place. In this episode, we hear excerpts from some of those testimonies, read by actors. We are also looking at new summer food trends in our latest episode -- from the croissushi -- cross between a croissant and sushi -- to freak shakes. Not all of these are a good idea, but all are on the agenda during our conversation with CultureCast Food Editor Sasa Woodruff. CREDITS: Thanks to actors Zamara Jimenez, Jim McCaffree, Debba Rofheart and Jaime Soria for contributing to this episode. (Photo Courtesy: Nina Robinson / BBC World Service via Flickr-Creative Commons )


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Nazis and fascism: The sobering rhetoric entering our cultural discourse

The forced family separations at the US-Mexico border that occurred under a get-tough immigration policy by the Trump administration have opened up the floodgates of comparisons to dark periods of recent human history in the US and elsewhere. We speak to a London-based human rights expert about whether the comparisons are fair, and the danger signs he sees in events in the US and Europe. Meanwhile, Michelle Obama, speaking about her upcoming memoir "Becoming," offers words of inspiration to counter the very world events that are causing such dark comparisons. (Photo courtesy: Romel Jacinto / Flickr )


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The baroness and her viral video

An unlikely video has gone viral online -- sparking debate over whether it is an example of the type of sexism women have had to battle for generations or an innocent relic of its time. The video is of a 1970 BBC interview with Janet Fookes, at the time a newly-elected member of Britain's parliament. In it, the interviewers seem more interested with the lawmaker's personal life and looks than her opinions and politics. The video has inspired recent news stories. But no one has heard from the subject of the video: Janet Fookes. On our latest episode, the Baroness Fookes of the UK's House of Lords joins us for an extended interview about that BBC appearance five decades ago, her sudden Internet celebrity, and her assessment of women's progress over the decades.


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The Parkland school shooting: should we blame video games?

On this episode: mass shootings and the media. After the high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, one idea for change has gained ground -- restricting children's access to violent popular entertainment such as video games and movies. "I'm hearing more and more people say the level of violence on video games is really shaping young people's thoughts," President Donald Trump said days after the tragedy. The idea is not new. For decades, politicians and others have pointed to the role violent imagery might play in shaping children's thoughts and in affecting their mental health. Students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have had other ideas. They want the focus on guns. "We need to pay attention to the fact that this isn't just a mental health issue. He wouldn't have hurt that many students with a knife," said Emma Gonzalez at a powerful rally. We take a look at how Parkland students have upended the usual mass shooting narrative. We also look at how the news media is debating whether its coverage of mass shootings has been too sanitized. Nicole Dahmen of the University of Oregon has studied that very issue and joins us in conversation. "We do have some evidence that suggests that images can hit us in the gut," Dahmen said. The question, she said, is how to balance the public's interest in knowing about the horrors of mass shootings with the media's responsibilities to not exploit the tragedy.


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"Ready Player One" and "Warcross": One a Spielberg movie, one not

(Photo by: Jaap Buttendijk / Copyright: © 2017 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC.) On this week's episode, CultureCast book editor Loretta Williams focuses on two books lighting up the Internet. "Ready Player One," a book by Ernest Cline and "Warcross" by Marie Lu are getting a lot of comparisons to one another. "Ready Player One" was adapted by Steven Spielberg into a movie that comes out in March. The sci-fi story tells of a future dystopia where the virtual world is as -- if not more -- important as the real one. "Warcross" is a novel with a heroine as its protagonist, that tells of yet another dystopia where virtual reality tail wags the real world dog. Are these novels a lot a like? Is one better than the other? Listen to this week's episode to find out! (in the photo above: TYE SHERIDAN as Wade Watts in Warner Bros. Pictures,' science fiction film "READY PLAYER ONE.")


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Christmas foods from Christmas songs; How to make GOOD fruit cake

Christmas time brings us scores of familiar songs. Many of them include references to foods and drinks that we may not really know much about in our modern times. We explore the myths surrounding the origins of candy canes, the reason figgy pudding is actually an example of GOOD British food, the wassail drink, and how to make the dreaded fruit cake actually taste good -- and the historic reason why it usually doesn't. We discuss all of these in our latest episode looking at Christmas foods in Christmas songs!


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Women finding their voice

Our culture - from the artistic to the political - has been rocked in the last couple of months. We’ve had many allegations of misconduct and sexual harassment — mostly on the part of powerful men. A striking theme in much of the last few weeks has been that women, who most often were the targets of abuse, often didn’t speak up for a long time. So in this episode, we are taking a look at the idea of finding one's voice — from a female perspective. We're listening to the words of Michelle Obama and of Carling FitzSimmons, founder and director of the all-female a cappella group La Caccina, whose latest album "Open Book" includes the powerful song "We are." By the way, if you are in Chicago, you can see La Caccina in concert by checking out their performance schedule. (Note: The photo of Michelle Obama was by official White House photographer Joyce N. Boghosian.)


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Religion and the FBI

Until recently, James Comey's twitter handle was "Reinhold Niebuhr." Not exactly a household name, but a significant figure in American culture and political thought throughout World War II and the Cold War. And what Niebuhr had to say gives us insight into Comey's thinking, how he handled Trump and the investigation into Russia's meddling in the 2016 election. In this week's episode, we explore Comey, Niebuhr, and the FBI's fraught relationship with religion.


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Pumpkin pie's shocking secret REVEALED!

'Tis the season for pumpkin pies, and pumpkin spice flavored lattes, cookies, bread... and so many more. We break down a dirty little secret about pumpkin pies, and tell you a great way, which you may not have thought of, to make the delicious holiday treat. We also explore the origins of pumpkin spice mix. And what's in the mix anyway? You'll know the answer after our latest episode. Plus, we are remembering a true American musical genius, Leonard Bernstein on the anniversary of his death, and the 100-year mark of his birth.


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A gripping book about terrorism, and a raging sci-fi debate

CultureCast book editor Loretta Williams offers a listener challenge with a $25 prize! And we discuss the gripping novel The Association of Small Bombs, as well as a raging online debate over two sci-fi books.


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Photographing Houston

How do you photograph a tragedy like Hurricane Harvey? Our guests offer answers to that difficult question. (Photo courtesy: Lt. Zachary West , 100th MPAD, Texas Military Department)


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Are Confederate monuments art?

We consider the history and artistic merit of Confederate monuments. Are they painful symbols of oppression or important cultural relics? Share your opinions for a future episode by clicking "Contact" on (Photo courtesy: OZinOH on Flickr)


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A "masterpiece" book; How to read for deeper understanding

We discuss some of the best contemporary books out in print right now, especially an award-winner that is a true "masterpiece," according to CultureCasts's book editor Loretta Williams.


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The life-changing art of organizing; Police officers' art

Those who practice the Kon Mari method of organization swear by its life-changing power. We take a look at the ideas behind it, Marie Kondo -- the woman who created it, and the people who practice it. Police officers in Chicago are creating art work to help deal with the incomprehensible tragedies and unique pressures of their daily jobs. We visit an exhibit. On the show, we'd promised you the full video of Marie Kondo's presentation at the Chicago Humanities Festival. It turns out, it wasn't available. Our mistake! But, we have her presentation at the South By Southwest Festival below: