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Segment 1: An article from The Atlantic sparked debate over the merits of gym class last year.

Gym class in school is supposed to be fun. But according to a study, it may have a negative impact on students. In today's conversation, we explore the merits of gym and how a new crop of physical education teachers is trying to make P.E. enjoyable for every kid.

Segment 1: A key player in Kansas City's hip hop community died unexpectedly.

In addition to being a producer for Ces Cru, Justin "Info Gates" Gillespie started the Beat Academy of Kansas City at the Plaza Academy, touching a lot of teens. Now the hip hop community is banding together to carry on his legacy and make sure those teens will continue to be supported.

Segment 1: Who gets to tell what stories? 

Controversy over a novel called “American Dirt” led to a canceled book tour—a week before author Jeanine Cummins was set to come to Kansas City. Critics have a problem with the fact that Cummins is white, yet wrote a book about a Mexican family trying to make it across the US-Mexico border.

Simon and Schuster

How did Harry Houdini make an elephant disappear?

It happened in 1918 in New York. One night, the great magician showed the audience a huge cabinet. After feeding Jennie the elephant some sugar, she was led inside. Curtains were closed around the cabinet. And when they reopened, Jennie was gone.

Segment 1: New paintings by a Kansas City artist examine the 'brash volume' of public discourse.

Rodeo clowns, talkshow hosts, preachers. To Michael Schliefke, they're symbols for what public discourse has become. 

Segment 2: A Kansas-born author creates literary buzz with 'halal fiction.'

courtesy of Natasha Ria El-Scari

When it comes to talking about sex, the accepted wisdom is that parents and kids alike would just rather not. But Kansas City poet Natasha Ria El-Scari doesn't think that's healthy.

Neither does her college-age son, who says he's benefited from his mother's openness and candor in a way his peers are missing out on.

"You need to write a book and call it the 'Mama Sutra'," he once told her. "You can thank me later."

Natasha El-Scari is out with a new book, Mama Sutra: Love and Lovemaking Advice to My Son.  She wrote it for anyone who needs understanding going into intimate relationships that they did not receive, with a focus on respect for oneself and others. In this conversation, El-Scari shares the experiences with intellect, womanhood, motherhood and community that led her to this project, and others to come.

Don Christensen / American Crossword Puzzle Tournament

By the time he was 14, David Steinberg had been constructing crossword puzzles for two years. He thought they were pretty good, so he began sending them to New York Times puzzle editor Will Shortz.

Attempts one through 16 received a hard no.

"Then the 17th one came back as a 'maybe,' instead of a 'no,'" Steinberg said. "It was a code-related puzzle, it had kind of a coded message, and he wanted the message to be related to code somehow. I had to rethink the theme a little bit."

Scott Thomas

Kansas native Scott Thomas' writing style has been described as Midwestern Gothic. His new book "Violet" easily fits the definition of gothic horror, even if it doesn't match the genre's usual characteristics.

European gothic tales involve castles, wherein lie the sins and dark secrets of the aristocracy — beheadings and betrayals. In Southern gothic, Spanish moss-obscured plantation mansions hide the secrets of the slave owners. The Midwest isn't exactly famous for a particular style of structure that would lend itself to the gothic.

Segment 1: How a fractured school system contributes to problems with transportation.

Kansas City, Missouri, public school kids travel to school on dated buses that crisscross the city inefficiently. That cuts into school budgets, as well as time spent in class and on extra-curriculars. Big thinkers are taking on the issue and envisioning new models for getting kids to and from school.

Segment 1: UM System President Mun Choi speaks to the impact of enrollment, funding and a new health initiative across campuses.

The University of Missouri System recently launched a new health initiative, which President Choi says is "the most important and the largest project in the history of the UM System." President Choi says university enrollment is steady right now, and that the Columbia campus has recovered from the tumult of 2015. He does note, however, that state funding this year is the same as it was 1998, even though there are 40% more students. 

Segment 1: State task force on bullying looks to multiple stakeholders for information on harmful harassing behavior 

The Kansas Department of Education has brought together educators, legislators, students and others to garner recommendations as part of its efforts "to better understand how to combat" bullying. The co-chair of the task force discussed how big the problem is, the impact of technology as a means of bullying and why application of the state policies on bullying may not be applied equally by school districts across Kansas.    

Marc Havener / Resonate Pictures

It's tempting to say that for nearly 40 years, Lawrence bankruptcy attorney John Hooge has led a bit of a double life. He built a successful law career and raised a family, but there was also the art and the writing — and the trees.

This month, Hooge (pronounced "hoagie") releases the first in a self-published, four-part series of illustrated novels called Leafensong, broken down into Leafensong: Tellings one through four.

The books were 35 years in the making.

Shelley Staib

Shelley Staib held the "best job ever" for 30 years. In 1975, the Shawnee writer was one of the first women to become a lineman for Bell Systems. The position gave her a great deal of independence, allowed her to work outside, and every day was different.

Paul Darling

Retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Paul Darling made his wife beef wellington for Mother’s Day. Like anyone does in a relationship, he says that she thinks of him a certain way.

"My wife has a vision of me as father and husband. I don’t think she really liked seeing what I was in combat," Darling says of his wife's response to the book he wrote about his time in Afghanistan.

Segment 1: If laughter is the best medicine, can a doctor write a prescription for a joke? 

In this conversation, we break down what makes a successful joke, and invite listeners to share a few wisecracks.

  • Dan Margolies, pun enthusiast, KCUR's health and legal affairs editor
  • Ameerah Sanders, stand-up comedian

Segment 2, beginning at 18:49: Books that tickle the funny bone.

Seg. 1: Boomer Entrepreneurs. Seg. 2: Terry Teachout

Feb 28, 2019

Segment 1: More baby boomers are choosing to open up their own businesses. 

Retirement? Not for these people. Despite the trope of the young, millennial entrepreneur, research shows that people between 55 and 64 make up about a quarter of new entrepreneurs. In this conversation, we talk with an author who's reported on this trend and a 69-year-old businessowner who's living it. 

Seg. 1 Gym Class. Seg. 2: Bob Stewart

Feb 6, 2019

Segment 1: A recent piece from The Atlantic sparks debate over the merits of gym class.

Gym class in school is supposed to be fun. But according to a new study, it may have a negative impact on students. In today's conversation, we explore the merits of gym and how a new crop of physical education teachers is trying to make P.E. enjoyable for every kid.

Segment 1: Indigenous women's leadership in the Heartland.

With the election of the first two indigenous women in Congress, including Kansas' 3rd District representative Sharice Davids, we look at what leadership means for indigenous women in our area and how that leadership develops within our community.

Segment 1: Fight the winter blues with adorable baby animals.

The Kansas City Zoo welcomed a baby king penguin named Blizzard. We hear about how Blizzard and other new babies are doing, along with the ways animals are "encouraged" to mate.

  • Sean Putney, Senior Director of Zoological Operations, Kansas City Zoo

Segment 2, beginning at 16:30: Kansas City filmmaker's latest work selected for Sundance Film Festival.

Lisa Rodriguez / KCUR 89.3 file photo

Segment 1: After a failed gas tax proposal, how does the Missouri Department of Transportation continue to keep roads and bridges safe?

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

The Writers Place is pulling up stakes from the Valentine neighborhood. 

Since 1992, a castle-like house at 3607 Pennsylvania has served as a "literary community center," home to countless poetry readings, workshops and art exhibitions. The non-profit organization headquartered there plans to relocate to a small office inside The Nonprofit Village, a co-working space at 31 W. 31st Street, in December.

Seg. 1: Election Words. Seg. 2: National Novel Writing Month.

Nov 6, 2018

Segment 1: Where does the word vote come from?

Voting and elections have their own vocabulary, with words like poll, tally, ballot, and candidate. We discuss with scholars to learn the origins of voting words and how they came to be associated with the election season. We also check in with a KCUR reporter out at the polls on this election day.

U.S. Navy, National Archives

Brian Turner was packed and ready to ship out for Iraq when his grandfather finally broke a decades’ long silence about his own combat experience. When the words came, they were to say that Turner should grab the biggest weapon and as much ammunition as he could carry.

Adib Khorram

Jul 26, 2018

Kansas City author Adib Khorram talks about his new buzz-generating novel for young adults, Darius The Great Is Not Okay. It turns out, Khorram has a lot in common with his teenage protagonist, from growing up half-Iranian in the United States to navigating life with depression to being obsessed with Star Trek and hot tea.

  • Adib Khorram, author, Darius The Great Is Not Okay

Paul Andrews / paulandrewsphotography.com

It's okay not to be okay. That's the essential message of a new book for young adult readers by Kansas City author Adib Khorram.

Darius The Great is Not Okay follows a boy with an Iranian mom and teutonic, white-guy dad through the cruelty and tenderness of adolescence. Darius lives in Portland. He struggles with depression. He's bullied at school, and he's unsure of his place at home. He doesn't speak Farsi, like his mom and sister, and he's convinced he's a disappointment to his dad. His only comforts come from hot tea and Star Trek

Mike Peyton

It's a stormy summer afternoon in Columbia, Missouri, when the writer Ibtisam Barakat arrives at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute for a book group discussion. She's wearing boots, a colorful skirt, and large hoop ear rings, carrying a large tray of manakish, a Palestinian traditional flatbread.

Katie Moore/The Topeka Capital-Journal

Annette Billings says poetry isn’t about precious kittens and pretty flowers. Rather, she says, the form often calls for much harder, more controversial subject matter.

“Sometimes I feel compelled to write about a murder,” she says, “or a woman who’s living in a domestic violence environment.”

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Segment 1: How do university students ensure their priorities have a voice in state government?

Students in Kansas and Missouri have concerns that go beyond their next exams and life after graduation. They point to soaring tuition rates, concealed weapons on campus, sexual harassment and assault, and state support for higher education. To communicate their concerns, student lobbyists work the hallways in both state Capitols. Today, we met the students who do this important work.

Anne Boyer

Kansas City poet and essayist Anne Boyer, who teaches writing at the Kansas City Art Institute, is among this year's winners of the Whiting Award, a prestigious honor that comes with $50,000.

The awards, presented to emerging writers, "are based on the criteria of early-career achievement and the promise of superior literary work to come," according to the Whiting Foundation. Boyer is one of ten winners announced Wednesday evening at a ceremony in New York City.

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