Betsy Kaplan | Connecticut Public Radio
WNPR

Betsy Kaplan

Senior Producer

Betsy started as an intern at WNPR in 2011 after earning a Master's Degree in American and Museum Studies from Trinity College. Prior to that, Betsy worked as an intensive care registered nurse in several Connecticut hospitals.

While taking time off from nursing to have fun with her three young daughters, she was elected to three terms on her town's Board of Education and worked at a local museum. 

She's produced shows for Where We Live and the Colin McEnroe Show, several of which have won local awards.

She is currently the senior producer for the Colin McEnroe Show

The Allure Of Advice

Jun 15, 2021
Fred Palumbo, World Telegram Staff Reporter / Library of Congress

John Dunton started the first advice column in 1690. He called it the Athenian Mercury. John, a bookseller, and his four "experts" wanted to answer "all the most Nice and Curious Questions proposed by the Ingenious of Either Sex." One person wondered why they would trouble themselves "and the world with answering so many silly questions." But it was a hit.

People have always been drawn to advice columns. They're a public forum for private thoughts; they're communal, yet anonymous; they reveal human strength, yet vulnerability. Despite their popularity, until recently, most readers in the recent decades have been white women. That's changing.

Photo taken by PepBear at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston / Creative Commons

We don't do grief very well in this country. We don't talk about it, we get uncomfortable around it, and in some mind-twisting way, we hope grief will leave us alone if we pretend it doesn't exist. But that's not how grief works.

Even professionals trained in grief tend to pathologize it when those living in grief don't 'get over it' or 'recover ' from it fast enough. 

Today, a hard look at grief, including how to survive it and how we can all better support those who are living in it.

Clocking Out of Work

Jun 10, 2021
Seattle Municipal Archives / Wikimedia Commons

Many people are reassessing how they view their work after a year of Covid. The pandemic magnified everything we don’t like about modern work - too many hours for too little pay in the context of a loosely woven national safety net. Some people are switching jobs, others are dropping out of the workforce entirely.

courtesy of Erwin C. Smith Collection / Texas State Historical Association

Nat Love was born a slave, but died a free cowboy and a legend of the Old West. After the Civil War freed Love from slavery, he walked to Dodge City, Kansas, and got a job breaking horses - after he could prove that he could rope a bucking horse, climb on its back without a saddle, and ride him without falling off. He got the job. Thus began Nat's life as a cowboy.

We don't typically include Black cowboys as part of the American story of the West,  even though one in four American cowboys are Black. Black cowboys are as American as baseball. 

Suzanne Proulx / http://www.suzanneproulx.com/

Dust is everywhere, but we rarely see it. We shed it from our skin, hair, and nails, leaving little bits of DNA wherever we roam.  More than 100 tons of cosmic dust fall to Earth each day, leaving an archive of every "geochemical" substance that has fallen - at least some of it into our homes.

Finchlake 2000 / Creative Commons

Beavers build sophisticated dams and deep-water ponds that slow erosion of riverbanks, create cooler deep-water pools for temperature-sensitive plant and fish species, and increase the water table, a big deal for Western states coping with drought. And they're social animals who have mates, kits, and an active social life. 

But centuries-old myths and fables about the beaver have led to their destruction and prevented us from recognizing their charms and value to the ecosystem. We fear them, dislike them, and use them for all the wrong reasons, like killing them for their pelts.

Let's celebrate the beaver!

Betsy Kaplan

Francisco Goldman made a big choice as a young man. He chose to spend a year in Guatemala living with his uncle instead of pursuing the MFA he could have had from a prestigious school offering him a full scholarship. It turned out to be one of the most consequential decisions of his early life. 

Today, Colin talks with Francisco about his new novel, Monkey Boy, a story about the legacy of violence on a family, and much more, including how his decision to go to Guatemala has shaped his life. 

Alachua County / Creative Commons

'Cancel culture' has become a phrase that means so much that it means nothing at all. It originated in Black culture as a way to hold the powerful accountable, but was eventually appropriated as a political weapon for (mostly White) conservatives and liberal progressives, each group using it in very different ways.

Cancel culture has brought much-needed attention to societal inequities, but also toppled careers - some justifiably, others more questionably. In the end, the most powerful scalawags seem too big to cancel.

We parse out the nuance of 'cancel culture' with three thoughtful people, including one who has been canceled and who now counsels the canceled. 

Mark Buckawicki / Wikimedia Commons

Using our private bathrooms while working from home opened our eyes to how uncomfortable it can be to use public bathrooms at the office - especially when you have a digestive issue.

Also this hour: "Familect" are the invented nicknames, references, and jokes shared by people who live together. For example, my husband calls me "diller," because I remind him of the hard-headed armadillo that kept crashing into our tent on our honeymoon. 

Lastly, the semiotics of unmasking. 

Wisconsin Historical Society

The GOP continues to embrace Donald Trump's "Big Lie," that he won the 2020 election, Republican state legislatures are trying to pass voter suppression laws, the House stripped Rep. Liz Cheney from her post for calling out Trump's lie, and a majority of Republican voters believe Trump won the 2020 election. 

The parallels many writers see between President Trump and Senator Joe McCarthy are not coincidental. President Trump's former attorney Roy Cohn taught him everything he learned from McCarthy's playbook when the served as McCarthy's chief council during his second term as a Wisconsin senator.  

Past is prologue. We reair our August 2020 show on McCarthyism. 

Bill Smith / Creative Commons

Profanity used to be about someone swearing insincerely to God. Then the Reformation came along and made profanity about sex and the body. 

Today, our most unspeakable words are slurs against other groups at a time when BLM, #MeToo, and cancel culture are driving our cultural narrative.

We talk about the past, present, and future of profanity. 

Steve Jurvetson / Creative Commons

Alex Trebek’s imprint as the host of "Jeopardy" looms large over the show, making it hard for anyone else to live up to the impeccable standard he demanded during his 37 seasons as the show's iconic host. But more than a dozen guest hosts have tried, from big winner Ken Jennings to Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Who will the next host be and what will the next iteration look like?

David Stewart Home Gets / Creative Commons

Many of us subscribe to a few (or many) newsletters of our favorite writers and thinkers. Newsletters have become a great way for journalists and others to dive deep into less covered topics and engage directly with their readers in ways not always possible in the mainstream media ecosystem.

The platform Substack is making it easy for them. The subscription-based model offers writers more editorial control and the ability to offer free content and earn a sustainable salary at a time when public trust in media is low, local news is thinning and media content is often driven by social-media algorithms.

OnCall team / Creative Commons

Applications to nursing schools spiked during the pandemic from those who wanted to help. They chose to be nurses at a time when the risk to their own health was never greater. Why are some people willing to run toward the fire when others are running away from it?

Most of us fall somewhere on a spectrum of altruistic behavior. We might adopt a stray pet, donate a liter of blood, or check on an older neighbor. Others pursue a career based on helping others, and, at the extreme end of the spectrum, some choose to donate their kidney to a stranger or rush into traffic to save a stranger's life.

We talk to two nurses, a kidney donor, and a psychologist about nursing and the nature of altruism.

Jjron / Wikimedia Commons

Aaron Rodgers leaked his dissatisfaction with the Green Bay Packers just before last week's NFL opening round. The NFL draft drew about 2 million people and has become something of a cultural event. In essence, he made himself the story within the story. So, what's going on with Aaron Rodgers? Does he have a future with the Packers, another NFL team, or will he head to Jeopardy and date Shailene Woodley?

Werner Schutz / Creative Commons

We're so caught up in fetishizing (mostly) female breasts in film, literature, art, and in the anatomy-defying breasts of comic book heroines, that we overlook the breast as a vital source of food and and as a body part vulnerable to cancer, including young women under forty. How often should we get that mammogram? To breastfeed - or not?

Lastly, how come men can go topless in America but women can't?

The Legacy Of Covid-19

Apr 26, 2021
Alyssa L. Miller / Creative Commons

Yale University's Dr. Nicholas Christakis explores what it means to live in a time of pandemic. He looks at historical epidemics and current medical and social research to help us understand the potential long-term impact COVID-19 will have on people and culture. 

Greek mythology holds that the arrows of plague Apollo shot down upon the Greeks led to great death and suffering. The plague that has brought death and pain over this past year was not brought by an angry god, but an infinitesimal virus that has wreaked global havoc and exposed the best and worst of human behavior. 

We spend an informative and insightful hour with Nicholas Christakis. 

Denali National Park and Preserve / Creative Commons

We're not the same people today that we were before covid upended our lives last spring. We found ways to survive a deadly and invisible virus, even as it threatened our survival. We learned to work from home, sew masks, Zoom, and create new words to describe our unique situation. And scientists developed vaccines so we could adapt faster than the virus could mutate. 

Now, we're realizing that we don't want to leave behind all of our new "normal" as we prepare to return to the routines of our pre-pandemic "normal."

We talk about that and play some of your essays. 

Bernardo Wolff / Creative Commons

Americans like to believe we live in a meritocracy but the odds are stacked in favor of the already lucky and fortunate. We congratulate the "winners" and humiliate the "losers," who are told to better themselves or carry the burden of their failure. 

The 2016 election of Donald Trump was decades in the making.  Like other populist leaders around the world, Trump gave voice to the resentment directed toward “elites” who devalue the hard work and dignity of workers without college degrees.

Picasa / Google

The jury will begin deliberations later today on whether George Floyd's death was caused by his inability to breathe under the weight of Derek Chauvin. Breathing is so automatic that we don't think about it until lung disease, dirty air, poor breathing habits and, now, COVID-19 and police brutality make it hard to do.

We take breathing for granted; we don't breathe deep enough, we breathe too much, and we often breathe through our mouths instead of our noses. 

Bruce Andersen / Wikimedia Commons

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof recently wrote a column proclaiming that "America Is Not Made for People Who Pee." It hit a nerve. People responded with stories that all seemed to agree with him.

So, why don't we complain about locked doors, long lines (for women), or the lack of a public toilet where one should be? Lezlie Lowe might say that we don't like to talk about bodily functions that are perceived as kind of, well, gross.

Ajay Suresh / Creative Commons

Fox News broadcast the first episode of Greg Gutfeld's new late-night show, Gutfeld!, earlier this month. They're betting that Gutfeld can turn his talk show format into a successful late-night comedy show for conservatives. The problem is that conservatives don't do political satire any better than liberals do opinion talk radio.

Dannagal Young believes that opinion talk is political satire for the right and political satire is opinion programming for the left. They serve the same purpose; both formats are responses to a lack of trust in mainstream media. Which one appeals to each of us depends less on how "smart" we are and more on how we process information.

Reprise Records

Joni Mitchell's album Blue turns 50 this year. It may not have the artistic sophistication of her later albums, but Mitchell's vulnerability endeared her to fans, if not early critics unused to such intimate storytelling. That was okay with Mitchell. She said her "music is not designed to grab instantly. It's designed to wear for a lifetime, to hold up like a fine cloth."

AbdulBokeh

We'll be taking your calls during this hour -- and during more of our Monday shows moving forward. We'll still invite guests when we think it's important. Otherwise, we want to talk to you. Call us today at 888-720-9677 between 1 and 2 p.m. EDT.

I'm not sure what you want to talk about today, but consider this: Nicholas Kristof, opinion writer for The New York Times, complained that "America Is Not Made for People Who Pee." It's great that President Biden wants to rebuild highways, fix aging schools, and upgrade our electrical grid, but what about public toilets? Have you had to search for a public toilet, especially during the pandemic? If so, you're not alone.

The Allure Of Advice

Apr 1, 2021
Fred Palumbo, World Telegram staff reporter / Library of Congress

John Dunton started the first advice column in 1690. He called it the Athenian Mercury. John, a bookseller, and his four "experts" wanted to answer "all the most Nice and Curious Questions proposed by the Ingenious of Either Sex." One person wondered why they would trouble themselves "and the world with answering so many silly questions." But it was a hit.

People have always been drawn to advice columns. They're a public forum for private thoughts; they're communal, yet anonymous; they reveal human strength, yet vulnerability. Despite their popularity, until recently, most readers in the recent decades have been white women. That's changing.

Erich Ferdinand / flickr creative commons

Did you get enough sleep last night? If you're like most Americans, probably not. You might feel pretty good after six hours of sleep and a strong cup of coffee, but the physical and mental toll of sleep deprivation is high.

We become more impulsive and less mentally agile, and we make more mistakes. Long term, lack of sleep (six hours or less per night) can mess with mood, hormones, and immune systems, and it can increase our risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Tony Webster

A number of media critics gave poor grades to reporters questioning President Biden at his first formal press conference last week. Is there a disconnect between what the media cares about, such as the filibuster and the 2024 election, and what people care about?

Douglas Fernandes / Creative Commons

After a year of pandemic, we're all itching to break from the restrictions of the pandemic. We want to travel and explore. It makes sense; we're hard-wired to explore. Our ancestors would not have survived absent the drive to seek food and safety from the dangers of the day. Safe and satiated, they later sought new lands to conquer and later still, to escape the constraints and cruelties of rapid industrialization.

If the recent pandemic left you yearning to explore, you might be inspired by this show we first aired in 2017. 

Marcela McGreal / Wikimedia Commons

Last week's violence at three spas in Georgia, followed a year of escalating violence against Asian Americans, some of it captured on videos that went viral. Despite visual evidence, New Yorker writer Hua Hsu, writes that this current moment stresses the "in-between space Asian Americans inhabit." It's hard to prove bias when we lack a historical understanding of what Asian American racism looks like. 

jseliger2 / Creative Commons

Writer and essayist Lauren Oyler, joins Colin to talk about Fake Accounts, her new novel on internet culture. They'll also talk about literary fiction, cultural criticism, ghostwriting, and her staunch defense of semicolons, among other things.

Lauren Oyler will be at the Mark Twain House & Museum, Tuesday, March 23, 7-8 pm. The event is free. You can register at marktwainhouse.org

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