Talk of Iowa

David Cavagnaro, born and raised in California, started taking pictures of insects and plants at 14, becoming fascinated with what he calls "the land of the small."  Throughout his life, he has used this love of plants to push hard to save our agricultural diversity.

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Hip-hop artist Dahlak Brathwaite was arrested after being caught with magic mushrooms as a youth.  During a show he calls Spiritrials, he raps about his arrest and how he was treated by the criminal justice system. 

"The way the criminal justice system is set up, if you are caught with drugs, you are labeled as a drug addict who needs help," he says.

Laura Beth McConahie / Flickr

Psychotherapist Jeanne Safer found the roots of her 1996 book, Beyond Motherhood: Choosing a Life Without Children, in her own life.

“I became interested because I had to be interested. I really was struggling myself to make this decision. It took me five years to do it. I really worried about it, I thought about it, I didn’t talk to many people about it because I didn’t really know anybody who was going through it.”

But once she started researching the book, she found she wasn’t alone in that struggle.

Peter Miller / Flickr

Heartening news out of Mexico this week: monarch butterfly populations at the southern end of their migration pattern are up from last year. They covered 10 acres of land, more than five times larger than their all-time population low in 2013. There’s still room for improvement—in 1996, they covered 45 acres. Donald Lewis, Iowa State University extension entomologist, says this news, while good, doesn’t mean the problem is solved.

Photo Courtesy of Pyramid Theatre Company

Pyramid Theatre Company, which intends to feature black actors and draw from plays by black playwrights, is announcing their opening season in Des Moines this summer. Ken Matt-Martin, founder and executive director of the company, says a company with this mission is needed.  

Damian Gadal / Flickr

We’re a long way from the shopping mall’s dominance of the late 80s and early 90s, but shopping still has a big effect on our culture and our economy. Dave Swenson, associate scientist in the Department of Economics at Iowa State University, says any new, sizable store almost guarantees an economic impact.

Washington Area Spark / Flickr

In May of 1917, the first class of African-American officers in U.S. military history were trained at Fort Des Moines.

Chad Williams, associate professor of African and African-American Studies at Brandeis University, says the fight to establish the class was an arduous one. Joel Spingarn, a white man and former NAACP leader, struck a deal with the General Leonard Wood: if he could find 200 acceptable candidates, they would create a training camp for them. In the end, 1200 men came to train, and 639 graduated.  

Photo Courtesy of the Institute for Figuring

The Paleozoic Era is the last time a coral reef existed in Iowa. Now, with the help of some dedicated crocheters, a coral reef, or an approximation of one, will be in the state once again.

Margaret Wertheim is the co-creator of the Crochet Coral Reef. First created in her native Australia and now spread to 35 cities in 12 countries, complex coral reefs are woven from yarn by groups of volunteers in imitation of a rapidly dying natural phenomenon.

Conservation Fund

Prairie-chickens once thrived in the prairies of Iowa, but by just after 1900, they were on the verge of extinction.  Today, these beautiful birds with a unique mating ritual can be found in only 9 of Iowa's 99 counties.

Ohio University Press

An immense and untold number of young persons have been devoted to and greatly influenced by the Nancy Drew mysteries which first appeared in 1930.   Maybe Iowans don't realize that author "Carolyn Keene" was really Ladora, Iowa native Mildred Wirt Benson, born the daughter of a country doctor in 1905.

Casey Lessard / Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons 2.0

When searching for a home, we often ask ourselves if it's a place where we can grow old, but we don't often ask whether it's the home that will allow us to age in place. Universal design helps make homes function for people with varying levels of mobility.

In this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with home improvement expert Bill McAnally and Mary Yearns, a former ISU Extension Housing Specialist, about three big design features that make a home more accessible for people of various ages and abilities.

Dennis van Zuijlekom / Flickr

When Sarah Gustason had her children, she knew she had to use her children’s naptime effectively.

“If I cleaned the living room while they napped, in thirty seconds they would have it destroyed. But if I sewed two pieces of fabric together while they were napping, they were going to stay together for a very long time. So it was good mental health for me.”

And so her love of sewing and handicraft, instilled in her at a young age by her grandmother, reignited. Gustason now sews and crafts as her career, but that hasn’t stopped her from doing it in her free time.

Distant Hill Gardens / Flickr

While the cold is still here, last weekend’s reprieve from freezing temperatures reminds us that winter won’t last forever and preparation for spring gardens begins now. That means starting seeds. On this Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Richard Jauron, horticulture specialist with the Iowa State University Extension, and Aaron Steil, assistant director of Reiman Gardens, about seed choice, temperature regulation, and timing.

Kentucky Country Day

A national survey from 2011 shows that 60 percent of teachers avoid the topic of evolution in their classrooms.

Marcinson Press

Tom LaMarr became a dad when he was 48 years old.  Parenting an infant at that age brings with it a host of challenges.  This hour, Charity Nebbe speaks with LaMarr, author of the new book, "Geezer Dad: How I Survived Infertility Clinics, Fatherhood Jitters, Adoption Wait Lingo and Things That Go 'Waaa' in the Night."  LaMarr, a Dubuque native, is a graduate of the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop and now lives in Colorado.

Astrid Westvang / Flickr

Every year, thousands of Iowa children are diagnosed with ADHD, Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. While the condition is common and one of the most studied disorders in medicine, it still remains controversial.

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Shannon Krone, a mother who struggled with her son’s behavior problems from an early age. Her son’s ADHD is more manageable with treatment, but still poses obstacles in day-to-day life.

Photo Courtesy of Steve Cannon

Steve Cannon, originally from Mediapolis, became the first person to run all the way around Lake Michigan in 2012. He’s written about the experience in his new book “40 Days.”

When he set out on the run, it was three times longer than any other run he’d begun.

“Setting records isn’t really that difficult if you choose something dumb enough that nobody else would try it,” Cannon laughs.

Ty Smedes

Iowa is a beautiful state, but if you need someone to convince you of that, photographer Ty Smedes is the guy for the job.  His latest collection of Iowa nature photos is now out and they are moving and stunning.

The many wonderful photos of Iowa critters is collected in Smedes' new book, "Iowa's Wild Beauty" (Iowan Books).  Ty says he went to every corner of the state, from prairies to streams to forested wilderness areas, to take his pictures of rare plants, birds, mammals, reptiles and colorful butterflies. 

Elaine Aronson

On this Talk of Iowa segment, Charity Nebbe talks with Cydney Kelley, a screenwriter in Los Angeles who writes for the new sitcom, Zoe Ever After.

The show debuted on January 6th and stars actress and singer Brandy Norwood as a newly single mom and business woman in New York City.

Kelley grew up a long way from New York City and Hollywood, in Cedar Falls. In this interview, she talks about how she made her way from the Midwest to the City of Angels, and she paints a picture of what it's like to write for television.

Courtesy of Robert John Ford, creator and producer of Caucus! The Musical

Zachary Michael Jack, a farmer and teacher, is a seventh-generation Iowan who still lives in rural Jones County. He has followed Iowa’s caucuses his entire life.

In fact, he’s followed them closely enough to write a novel based on the quadrennial political gatherings, Corn Poll: A Novel of the Iowa Caucuses. On this edition of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe talks with Jack about his inspiration for the book.

Filip Lachowski

A recent poll by NBC News/Survey Monkey/Esquire finds that "49 percent of Americans say they're angry more often than they used to be over current events and the news."

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe sits down with a panel of guests to explore the question - is the U.S. becoming an angrier society?

Emily Wentzell, an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Iowa, says that people report feelings of anger when they feel threatened, and right now, many people feel their way of life is endangered.

Dianne Dillon Ridgley

Two events put Henry Hampton on the path to creating an award-winning documentary series about the Civil Rights movement. That's according to his friend, human rights and environmental activist Dianne Dillon Ridgley.

Photo Courtesy of Alyssa Leicht

If you dreamed about running away to join the circus, it’s not too late. In fact, you don’t even have to run away. There’s a growing community of circus performers right here in Iowa. During this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Felicia Coe and Laura Ernst, who are the co-founders of the Iowa Circus Academy in Des Moines. 

They are offer circus fitness classes for beginners, flexibility classes, and more advanced courses as well. 

The subject matter of comic books goes far beyond the Marvel and DC superheroes we all know.

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe hosts a discussion about how black women are represented in comics and graphics novels, as well as their influence on the industry, with Deborah Whaley, the author of Black Women in Sequence: Re-inking Comics, Graphic Novels and Anime.

Kuviin / Wikimedia Commons

Regular exercise is the single most effective way to reduce the risk of many serious health conditions, but many of us still struggle with making it a part of our lives. Would you be more likely to exercise if your doctor prescribed it?

Dr. Britt Marcussen says that if you’re trying to start a new habit, stick with it.

“We are all creatures of habit. It takes a long time if you’re not an exerciser to become an exerciser and have it be second nature to you. If takes several months of working a program before it becomes a habit,” he says.

Joshua and Lori Kagavi

Iowa State University’s Jack Trice Stadium and Drake University’s Johnny Bright Field are memorials to two African American football players whose college careers ended tragically and prematurely due to violence on the field. 

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe revisits the stories of these players and the lesser known story of Ozzie Simmons, who played for the University of Iowa in the 1930s.

Lake Superior State University in Michigan has been issuing its "Banished Words List" since 1975.  The wordsmiths there now have over 800 entries on their list of overused, tired and shopworn words and phrases. 

Mark Kortum / Flickr

Parenting in Iowa has changed a lot over the decades.

“We have the luxury of giving lots and lots of time and energy to kids that our great-grandparents didn’t,” says Pamela Riney-Kehrberg of Iowa State University.

Iowa Digital Library / Flickr

From one room country schools to high tech multi-million dollar facilities, schools in Iowa have changed a lot. What goes on inside the schools has changed a lot too.

“Every decade or two we see these large transformations in what the school is asked to do."

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe kicks off "Iowa Week: Then and Now" with a look at education in Iowa over the years.

Markus Grossalber / Flickr

"Remember the reason for the season" is an oft-repeated platitude, intended to rebuke the commercialization of Christmas and bring to the forefront thoughts of Jesus in a manger. But Bruce Forbes, professor of Religious Studies at Morningside College in Sioux City and author of Christmas: A Candid History, says the reason for the season is more complicated, and far older than Jesus' birth.

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