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The Road to Now
64 minutes | Jul 26, 2021
Laughing at Stalin w/ Jon Waterlow
Bob and Ben speak with Jon Waterlow about his book It’s Only a Joke Comrade! Humor, Trust and Everyday Life Under Stalin and the role humor plays in helping humans make sense of the world in even the darkest times. Jon also shares his take on humor’s role in politics under Stalin and today, the process he went through to uncover these jokes, and how the artistic technique of crosshatching helps us understand what it was like to live under the Stalinist system. He also discusses his decision to forego publishing his book with an academic publisher and why he decided to leave a bright future in the academy to purse fulfillment elsewhere. Dr. Jonathan Waterlow received his Doctorate in History from the University of Oxford and was a Postdoctoral Fellow at St. Anthony’s College (Oxford) and the University of Toronto. He is also the cohost of the Voices in the Dark podcast, which is available anywhere you get The Road to Now. This episode is a rebroadcast of The Road to Now #107 and was edited by Gary Fletcher.
67 minutes | Jul 19, 2021
#202 A Tour Guide’s History of Los Angeles
Millions of people from across the globe visit Los Angeles every year, but only a lucky few have gotten a tour of the city from tour guides/stand up comics, Rivers Langley, Anna Valenzuela & Carter Glascock. In this episode, Ben speaks with Rivers, Carter and Anna about their favorite stories from Los Angeles’ history, what it’s like to work as a tour guide, and what makes a good (and bad) day at work. For images and links to other material discussed in this episode, visit our website episode page: RTNpod.me/202. Carter Glascock is stand up comic and co-host of The Goods From The Woods Podcast. His first album, The Crystal Pistol is available on Spotify and Apple Music. You can follow him on twitter at @carter_glascock. Rivers Langley is a LA-based stand-up comedian and host of The Goods From The Woods Podcast. You can also find him announcing the matches at Wrestling Pro Wrestling. You can follow him on twitter at @RiversLangley. Anna Valenzuela is a comic, writer and host of the podcast 12 Questions. whose appearances include Comedy Central’s Roast Battle. You can follow her on twitter at @annavisfun. This episode was mixed by Rivers Langley and edited by Gary Fletcher. The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.
50 minutes | Jul 12, 2021
How the American Dream Became Temporary w/ Louis Hyman
Three generations ago, large American corporations offered their employees the stability of life-long employment and the promise of a pension-funded retirement. In the 21st Century, that model has given way to the "gig economy" in which people work multiple jobs. In this episode, Bob and Ben speak with Cornell University’s Louis Hyman about the forces that led us from then to now, what it means for our daily lives, and how we might structure the economy of the 21st century in a way that offers the freedom of the gig economy without the insecurity that so many face under our current institutions. Dr. Louis Hyman is a historian of work and business at the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University, where he also directs the Institute for Workplace Studies in New York City. His book Temp: How American Work, American Business, and the American Dream Became Temporary was published by Viking in 2018. This is a broadcast of an episode that originally aired on The Road to Now on August 20, 2018. This re-broadcast was edited by Gary Fletcher. The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.
56 minutes | Jul 5, 2021
#201 Game Show Archive w/ Bob Boden & Chris Bensch
Game shows have been featured in network lineups from the very beginning of television and, like all forms of entertainment, they tell us a lot about the culture in which they exist. Fortunately for us, The Strong Museum of Play recently announced the establishment of The National Archives of Game Show History to preserve this history and make it available to the public. In this episode Ben speaks with archive co-founder and veteran game show producer/executive Bob Boden (The Price is Right, $25,000 Pyramid, Funny You Should Ask!) and Strong Museum Vice President of Acquisitions, Chris Bensch, to learn more about their work to preserve this history and how an archive focused on game shows can be valuable for those looking to understand the past. For more about The Strong Museum of Play, visit their website: MuseumOfPlay.org. Check out Bob Boden’s current show, Funny You Should Ask! at FunnyYouShouldAsk.tv. This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher. The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.
50 minutes | Jun 28, 2021
Coffee with The Avett Brothers (Expanded Rebroadcast)
This is an expanded version of episode 72, which originally aired in September 2017. In this episode of The Road to Now, we sit down for coffee and conversation with Bob’s bandmates in The Avett Brothers for a discussion about art, technology, and challenges of creativity. We cover the historic relationship between genius and madness, the ways one’s self is reflected in what we create, and the how they’ve adapted to the changes that have come their way since they began playing music. The Avett Brothers was the nexus that brought Bob and Ben together in creating The Road to Now, so we’re really excited to bring it all together and share this conversation with our listeners. This episode was edited by Ben Sawyer. The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.
62 minutes | Jun 21, 2021
#200 American History in Russia w/ Sean Guillory
Since establishing Sean’s Russia Blog in 2005, Sean Guillory has been one of the most prominent public-facing scholars in Russian and Soviet History. In this episode, Sean gives his insight on the gap between academic research and public perceptions, offers his take on why Cold War-era tropes continue to dominate US-Russia relations, and explains why some Americans left the US in search of a better life in the Soviet Union. Ben & Sean also discuss the ways that studying Americans in the USSR provides valuable insight into the history of the United States in the 20th Century. Dr. Sean Guillory is Digital Scholarship Curator in the Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. Since 2015, he has hosted and produced the SRB Podcast, whose mission is to provide a space for experts to share their research with a wider public audience. You can follow Sean on twitter at @SeansRussiaBlog. This episode was edited by Ben Sawyer. The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.
64 minutes | Jun 14, 2021
#199 Reaganland w/ Rick Perlstein
The Republican Party of today may look a lot different than it did just a decades ago, but it rests on many of the same organizations and ideologies that formed the modern conservative movement in the 1970s. In this episode, Rick Perlstein joins us for a conversation about his newest book Reaganland: America’s Right Turn, 1976-1980 and how Ronald Reagan, Orrin Hatch and other prominent Republicans were able to harness the social and political forces of the 1970s to form the modern GOP. Rick Perlstein is the award-winning author of multiple New York Times bestsellers, including Reaganland (Simon & Schuster, 2020), Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America (Scribner, 2009) and Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus (Bold Type Books, 2009), as well as a board member at InTheseTimes.com. You can follow him on twitter at @RickPerlstein. In this conversation we also discussed Rick’s recent article “This Is Us: Why the Trump Era Ended in Violence,” The New Republic, January 20, 2021. This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher. The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.
59 minutes | Jun 7, 2021
#198 Juneteenth w/ Annette Gordon-Reed
Juneteenth, which celebrates the emancipation of enslaved Americans at the end of the Civil War, has gone from a local holiday in Texas to a national day of celebration for many Americans. In this episode we speak with legal scholar and Pulitzer Prize winning historian Annette Gordon-Reed about her new book On Juneteenth and the ways that the holiday, her personal story and the history of the US can help us better understand the world today. Annette Gordon-Reed is Charles Warren Professor of American Legal History at Harvard University, where she is also the Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and a professor of history in the university’s Faculty of Arts & Sciences. You can follow her on twitter at @Agordonreed. This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher. The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.
36 minutes | May 31, 2021
The History of the Harlem Globetrotters
The Harlem Globetrotters are one of those great parts of American culture that almost everyone knows and loves. For most of us today, the Globetrotters are outstanding entertainers. But did you know that in the mid-20th century the Globetrotters were probably the single best basketball team on the planet? Did you know that they did travel the globe as agents of the US Department of State during the Cold War, but that they are not, in fact, from Harlem? If you want to know how all of this happened (and how the Globetrotters saved the NBA), you’re going to love this interview with historian Ben Green on the History of the Harlem Globetrotters.
59 minutes | May 17, 2021
#197 Energy Crises: A Half-Century of Hard Choices w/ Jay Hakes
Since the OPEC oil embargo of 1973, policy makers have had to make hard choices to ensure that American citizens can access the cheap and plentiful energy to which we have become accustomed. Although the US has returned to a position of energy independence in recent years, a variety of problems, from climate change to cyberterrorism, mean the hard choices are far from over. In this episode, Bob & Ben speak with Dr. Jay Hakes about his new book Energy Crises: Nixon, Ford, Carter and Hard Choices in the 1970s (University of Oklahoma Press, 2021) and what the decisions of the past can teach us as we deal with the crises of today. Dr. Jay Hakes is a Presidential & energy historian with a long history of working on energy issues, including as Administrator of the U.S. Energy Information Administration during the Clinton administration and as Director for Research and Policy for President Obama’s BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Commission. He also served for thirteen years as the Director of the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library. For more about his life and work, visit his website: www.JayHakes.com This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher. The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.
71 minutes | May 3, 2021
The 5th Anniversary Party
It’s the 5th anniversary of The Road to Now so Bob and Ben invited a brilliant lineup of past guests to answer one question: “What has been the most unexpected turn you’ve seen in the last 5 years and how has it changed the way you understand the past?” The lineup: Senator John Hickenlooper Heather Cox Richardson Jefferson Cowie Stacy Wood Joe Kwon Matt Negrin Doug Heye And, as you may expect, we covered more than just that question. Thank you to all of you who have listened to our show and kept us going for 5 years! This episode was edited by our Associate Producer, Gary Fletcher. The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.
54 minutes | Apr 26, 2021
#195 Fixing Elections w/ Louis Woods
Proponents of voting restrictions such as those recently enacted in Georgia have argued that these laws will restore voters’ faith in democracy. History, however, offers a long list of reasons to be skeptical. In this episode, Bob and Ben are joined by Ben’s MTSU history colleague Dr. Louis Woods for a conversation on the history of voting laws and the ways that ostensibly neutral changes have been used to exclude people of color, as well as the ways that new laws will likely impact access to voting in Georgia. Dr. Louis Woods is an Associate Professor of African-American History and the Presidential Fellow for Social Justice and Equality at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU). His previous contributions to The Road to Now include “#118 The GI Bill and the Legacy of Racial Discrimination” and “I Can’t Breathe: Surviving the Dual Pandemic of Racism & Covid 19,” which he produced independently for our podcast. This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher. The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.
62 minutes | Apr 12, 2021
#194 The Rise and Fall of the American Suburbs w/ Kyle Kiismandel
In the years after World War II, Americans moved to the suburbs in search of the peace and safety that many came to equate with the “American Dream.” By the end of the 1970s, however, suburbanites had come sense that their privileged was under siege from satanic cults, drug dealers and kidnappers. In this episode, Bob and Ben talk w/ Kyle Riismandel whose new book Neighborhood of Fear examines how Americans responded to the real and perceived threats of suburban life and in doing so, shaped American society and politics in the late-20th Century and beyond. Dr. Kyle Riismandel is Senior University Lecturer and Interim Director of the Law, Technology, and Culture Program in the Federated Department of History at the New Jersey Institute of Technology/Rutgers-Newark. His new book Neighborhood of Fear: The Suburban Crisis in American Culture, 1975-2001 was published by Johns Hopkins University Press in 2020. You can follow him on twitter at @AccusedWizard. This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher. The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.
44 minutes | Mar 22, 2021
#193 Understanding the American Rescue Plan Act w/ Erlinda Doherty
The $1.9 billion stimulus plan that President Biden signed into law on March 11th has implications for everyone in the United States, but understanding it isn’t easy. In this episode we speak with Erlinda Doherty, who is Director of the Budgets and Revenue Committee at the National Conference of State Legislatures’ (NCSL) to find out more about how this plan is playing out at the state level and what it can tell us about American politics today. The National Conference of State Legislatures is a non-partisal organization that represents the legislatures in the states, territories and commonwealths of the US. It’s mission is to advance the effectiveness, independence and integrity of legislatures and to foster interstate cooperation and facilitate the exchange of information among legislatures. For more on NCSL visit NCSL.org. This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher. The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.
61 minutes | Mar 15, 2021
#192 The History of Financial Bubbles w/ William Quinn
Market bubbles can make and break fortunes, and which side of things you end up on has everything to do with what you’re holding when the bubble busts. But what separates a bubble from sensible investing? It’s always hard to tell in the moment, but history has some valuable lessons. In this episode, Ben talks with Dr. William Quinn, whose new book Boom and Bust lays out a brilliant formula for understanding the causes of financial bubbles and examines some of the biggest examples in history. The conversation covers the Great Depression, why some bubbles have limited effect and others bring down economies, and why both Ben and William have some concerns about Bitcoin. William Quinn is a Lecturer in Finance at Queen's University Belfast Management School. His new book Boom and Bust: A Global History of Financial Bubbles (Cambridge University Press, 2020), which he coauthored with John D. Turner, was a Financial Times Book of the Year in 2020. You can follow William Quinn on twitter at @wquinn05 This episode was edited by Gary FLetcher The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network
55 minutes | Mar 1, 2021
Gerd Schroth's Road from Child of Nazi Germany to American Citizen
The Nazi regime that came to power in Germany in 1933 unleashed the most brutal and comprehensive war that humanity has ever seen. The horrors of the Nazis and the destruction they left behind is something most of us learned about in history class, but for Gerd Schroth it is the story of his childhood. Born in Germany in 1938, Gerd came of age on the scorched earth left behind by the German war machine. Gerd’s father had joined the Nazi party because he thought Hitler could restore Germany’s greatness, but he bequeathed to his children a world in ruins. Seventy-six years after the end of World War II, Gerd is still writing the story of his life. He is now an American citizen, and his children were born in the United States. Gerd has moved on from the tragedy of his youth, but he has never forgotten it. He has thought a lot about how his parents’ generation and why they embraced the horrifying ideology of Nazism. He has found value in past traditions while abhorring the actions of his ancestors. And in doing this, he has built a much stronger legacy for future generations. In this episode of The Road to Now, we revisit our 2017 episode in which Gerd shares his personal story of life as a child of Nazi Germany, refugee, immigrant, and now, American Citizen.
67 minutes | Feb 15, 2021
#191 A Conversation with Ken Burns
Ken Burns joins Bob and Ben for a conversation about American history and the themes he sees playing out in the US today. Ken shares his process for selecting subjects for his films and explains how his new 3-part film Hemingway (co-directed w/ Lynn Novick) highlights Ernest Hemingway’s individual genius while also revealing the universal aspects of life that we all share. We also discuss how our time and place influence the way we view the past, the importance of acknowledging both the light and dark in American history, and why Ken argues that much of life’s meaning comes from the struggle. Ken Burns’ new film Hemingway, which he co-directed with Lynn Novick, premieres April 5-7 on PBS. For more on the series visit https://kenburns.com/hemingway/ UNUM is a new site by Ken Burns and PBS that allows users “a new way to explore American history through select scenes from across our over 40 films..” with the goal of “providing historical context for the conversations we are having today.” You can visit UNUM at: https://www.pbs.org/kenburns/unum This episode was edited by our Associate Producer Gary Fletcher. The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.
47 minutes | Feb 8, 2021
#190 American Militias w/ Amy Cooter
Bob and Ben talk with Dr. Amy Cooter, a sociologist at Vanderbilt University whose research examines American militias. Amy shares what she’s learned in the hundreds of hours she’s spent interviewing American militia members, how it can help us moving forward, and how different “nostalgic groups” have mobilized to defend their vision of America. She also helps us understand how Ruby Ridge, Waco and other moments in the 1990s relate to the more recent rise of domestic terrorism, and how listening can be an effective strategy in the struggle against extremism. Dr. Amy Cooter is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Vanderbilt University, where her teaching and research interests include race & ethnicity, masculinity, nationalism and crime & deviance. You can read her dissertation and learn more about her work on her website, AmyCooter.com, and follow her on twitter at @AmyCooter. This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher. The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.
38 minutes | Feb 1, 2021
#189 Space Lasers
Bob and Ben respond to feedback about their episode on the 1776 project, evaluate the “worst President ever” claim, and discuss the utopian vision of “unbiased history.” Ben tries to focus on asking Bob questions and doesn’t exactly pull it off. Ben learns about Marjorie Taylor Greene’s conspiracy theories for the first time from Bob and they contemplate how to deal with the proliferation of conspiracy theories. Ben spends the whole episode being happy that Bob’s back. This episode was edited in an unspecified location by RTN Associate Producer Gary Fletcher. Follow him across the country at @GaryOffTheGrid on twitter and Instagram. The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.
78 minutes | Jan 25, 2021
#188 Why the 1776 Report Still Matters w/ John Fea
One of Joe Biden’s first acts as President of the United States was to sign an executive order that disbanded his predecessor’s advisory committee to promote “patriotic education.” This came just two days after the so-called 1776 Commission had published its report, leading many critics to see the report as old news. In reality though, the 1776 report is indicative of social and political forces that transcend Trump’s time in office. In this episode Bob and Ben talk with historian John Fea about the content of the report, how it relates to the New York Times 1619 Project, and the many problems that come from setting out to write a “patriotic history.” John Fea is a Professor of History at Messiah University and author of the blog/host of the podcast, The Way of Improvement Leads Home. You can follow him on twitter at @JohnFea1. Hear Bob Crawford's first conversation w/ John Fea in RTN Theology #2: Was America Founded as a Christian Nation? This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher. The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.
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