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Rank #51 in Philosophy category

Arts
Society & Culture
Philosophy

Here Be Monsters

Updated 2 months ago

Rank #51 in Philosophy category

Arts
Society & Culture
Philosophy
Read more

The Podcast about the Unknown

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The Podcast about the Unknown

iTunes Ratings

1094 Ratings
Average Ratings
793
224
31
18
28

Always beautiful

By rozhmarin - Dec 26 2019
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& nicely done ✅ - the topics, the sonics (🗯🎶) even the awkward bye’s. 🙃💕

Thank you!

By ToDdRanD - Oct 18 2019
Read more
Love the podcast, the content is so unexpected and thought provoking. Keep up the great work!

iTunes Ratings

1094 Ratings
Average Ratings
793
224
31
18
28

Always beautiful

By rozhmarin - Dec 26 2019
Read more
& nicely done ✅ - the topics, the sonics (🗯🎶) even the awkward bye’s. 🙃💕

Thank you!

By ToDdRanD - Oct 18 2019
Read more
Love the podcast, the content is so unexpected and thought provoking. Keep up the great work!
Cover image of Here Be Monsters

Here Be Monsters

Latest release on Jun 24, 2020

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The Podcast about the Unknown

Rank #1: HBM123: Water Witches

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Some time in the 90’s, Kathy Emtman received a gift from her husband, Rick. It was a pair of bent metal rods, each shaped into long ‘L’. Nothing special, not imparted with any kind of magic, just metal rods. Colloquially, these rods are called “witching rods” or “dowsing rods”. 

HBM producer Jeff Emtman (child of Rick and Kathy) remembers a scene that took place the night of that gifting: each family member taking turns holding the rods, testing who had the gift of water witching. Each person held the rods by their short end with the long ends waving around in front of them. Gripped loosely enough, the rods spin freely, seemingly with a life of their own.  And believers say that when the rods cross, that’s where there’s water underground. That is...if a true witch is holding the rods.

Who’s a water witch? Well it depends who you ask. Some say that the gift is rare, some say that it’s in nearly all of us. It’s a folk belief, one not canonized in any central text and one not well supported by science. However, it persists (strongly in some places) as a regular thing for people to do when they need a well dug—cited as a way to gather a second opinion before paying a well driller to dig on their property. 

And this desire for a second opinion seems quite understandable. Wells in the Palouse Region of Eastern Washington State (where Jeff grew up) often require digging hundreds of feet to find water of sufficient quality and quantity to sustain a family or a farm. These wells might cost $10,000 to $30,000 each. Further, the well drillers charge per hole dug, regardless of whether there’s water down there. So, picking the right spot is paramount.

Well driller Brett Uhlenkott calls water witching a “farce”, preferring to drill based on his understanding of the landscape, his readings of the geologic maps and his knowledge of nearby successful wells. But he’s had clients who request he drill in a spot a witch found. And if that’s what his client wants, then that’s where he drills. 

Brett says there’s no mechanism for any information to travel the great distance between a witcher’s rods and a tiny vein of groundwater that runs hundreds of feet below the surface. Despite this, Brett keeps a pair of rods himself, saying that it might work for things closer to the surface. He cites an instance where he was able to locate a pipe or cable located several feet underground using the rods.  Brett thinks it might have something to do with minerals, or that it might just be something that we imagine in our heads.

The mechanism most often cited for the seemingly organic movements of a witcher’s rods is so-called ideomotor movement, which is the same thing that makes Ouija boards work.  Simply put, these motions are the result of unconscious movements we make when we feel something should work.  With witching, these motions get amplified by the long rods, resulting in movement that seems to emerge from nothing.  

Attempts to prove the validity of witching exist. Proponents cite a study by Hans-Dieter Betz that claimed incredible success rate in witched wells in countries with dry climates.  This paper received criticism for its unusual methodology.  Betz published another paper on water witching in a controlled environment, where he found a select few people who he claimed could reliably witch water, however that study also received criticism for its method of data analysis.  

Back in the 90’s.  Jeff held the rods, and he was able to find the pipes in the house, the sprinkler lines in the yard.  The rods moved convincingly, crossing where they were supposed to, uncrossing where they weren’t. 

In this episode of Here Be Monsters, Jeff revisits his hometown, debates the merits of black-box thinking with his parents (Rick and Kathy Emtman), talks with his grandma (Peggy Emtman) about the desire to have a talent she can’t have, interviews three farmers and a former farmhand (Ian Clark, Asa Clark, Ron Libbey and Owen Prout) about their experiences with witching, and asks his parents’ pastor (Wes Howell of Trinity Lutheran Church) to explain the origin of the term “hocus pocus”.

Others who helped with this episode include Lindsay Myron, Nick Long-Rinehart, Brandon Libbey, Mary Clark, Joe Hein, and Kirsten O’Brien.


Owen Prout and Ian Clark look for metal rods suitable to turn into witching rods at Clark Farms outside of Albion, Washington.
Owen Prout bends a metal rod to make it into the “L” shape of a witching rod. 

Pastor Wes Howell of Trinity Lutheran Church in Pullman, Washington. 

A drilling rig used by Brett Uhlenkott Well Drilling.  

When the boom arm is up, it is approximately 30 feet tall. 

Well digging on a currently vacant lot outside of Winchester, Idaho. 

Brett Uhlenkott estimates this well will cost his client about $9000. 

Farmer and amatuer water witch Ron Libbey. 

Ian Clark demos the characteristic crossing that happens when a witcher stands over water. 

Brandon Libbey (Ron LIbbey’s grandson) is not a water witch. 

Ron Libbey holds his grandson’s elbow saying that sometimes the skill can be

transferred to another person temporarily if there’s physical contact. 

Kathy Emtman, Rick Emtman and a formerly stray cat named Bert in the field behind their house,
looking for the pipe of a geothermal line. 

Kathy Emtman holding a the witching rods that her husband made for her in the nineties. 

The Emtman’s witching rods, which normally hang on a nail in the basement. 

Smoot Hill, near Albion, Washington. 

A proposed scientific mechanism for water witching.  

Oct 30 2019

48mins

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Rank #2: HBM046: Crooked Skirts

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Growing up in Queens, NY, Karen Smith had no reason to suspect anything was wrong with her. Even when it hurt to sit for too long, or when her clothes didn't fit right, everything seemed fine. That's because Karen's mother did everything she could to hide the fact that Karen had Spina Bifida. The condition gave Karen severe scoliosis, a curve in her spine that made walking painful and made her skirts hang crooked. Her mother removed any full-length mirrors from the house in attempts to keep Karen from becoming self-conscious. But as she grew older, her scoliosis became more severe. And by the time she was in fifth grade, Karen had to be hospitalized in a children's ward, in and out of a corrective halo. This was just the beginning of three long years of treatment.

Bedridden and limited in her mobility by body casts and back braces, Karen judged the passing of time by the sounds around her as her vision progressively worsened. She found solace in her AM radio, pulling in stations in from far away in the middle of the night. She heard sounds of the courtyard below, filtering up through an open window. She wondered if the other kids would be too old to play with her by the time she's healthy enough to join them.

Music: Garrett Tiedemann of American Residue Records

This story was produced and scored by Garrett Tiedemann, creator of The White Whale podcast. Garrett also works for Sister Story, a series that shares the daily lives of Catholic nuns. Bethany Denton and Jeff Emtman edited this piece. Nick White is our editor at KCRW.

We're just shy of 400 ratings on iTunes, please write a review!


Karen as a baby. 1958. Photo courtesy Karen Smith.


Karen wearing earmuffs after a snowstorm. 1961. Photo courtesy Karen Smith.


Karen petting a dog. 1970. Photo courtesy Karen Smith.

Sep 16 2015

16mins

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Rank #3: HBM041: Crossing The River, Being Watched

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In his junior year of high school, Here Be Monsters host Jeff Emtman left his home and everything he knew to study in a tiny village nestled in the Cascade Mountain Range of Washington state.

An outsider among outsiders in a tight-knit rural community, it wasn't long before Jeff felt the unmistakable feeling of being watched.

This is the first episode of season 4 of Here Be Monsters. The podcast recently joined KCRW. If you'd like to know what that means for the show, you can read a little bit about our acquisition here.

Music: Swamp Dog ||| Serocell ||| Flowers

Produced by: Jeff Emtman and Bethany Denton

KCRW Editor: Nick White

Below, photos from Jeff Emtman's time living in the Cascade Mountains.

Jun 24 2015

18mins

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Rank #4: HBM097: Fox Teeth

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In the Westfjords of Iceland, people wait for birds to come ashore so that they can gather the feathers they leave behind. These birds, called Eider Ducks, are the source of eiderdown, a ridiculously expensive and rare stuffing for bedding.


Icelandic Language documentary on the production of eiderdown

This has (literally) landed the Arctic Fox in the crosshairs. These relatively common foxes are opportunistic eaters who snack on eider ducks if they get the chance.

So the Icelandic government placed a bounty on each fox killed (if you can provide its tail as proof). Hunters of the Westfjords set up elaborate baiting ambushes for the foxes, and wait in darkened houses with rifles in the middle of blizzards.


An Arctic Fox (vulpes lagopus).

But foxes are smart enough to not always take the bait.

Megan Perra heard a rumor of a three legged Icelandic fox named “Tripod” that beat the odds. A fox that grew to almost twice the normal size from stealing food from traps for three full years (or so the legend goes). Megan is an illustrator/journalist from Portland, Oregon, and she’s currently working on a video documentary about the foxes’ interactions with humans.

Megan retraces the steps of Tripod, from his birthplace in the Westfjords, to the lab in southern Iceland where he was dissected, and to his current home in a glass case at the Arctic Fox Centre.


The taxidermied body of “Tripod”, a three-legged fox. 
Pictured here carrying the body of a seabird (a razorbill).

She visits a rural gas station where she finds Jóhann Hannibalsson, the hunter who finally shot Tripod after years of trying. The two of them go on a snowmobile ride that brings them to a cabin where, in the dark, Megan witnesses Jóhann’s version of a fox hunt.


An Icelandic hunter, Jóhann Hannibalsson,
at a remote cabin where he intends to shoot a fox

Megan Perra produced this episode. Jeff Emtman edited with help from Bethany Denton. All visuals accompanying this episode are courtesy of Feral Five Creative Co / Megan Perra. Along the way, Megan also speaks to Ester Unnsteinsdóttir (a fox researcher), Siggi Hjartarson (a hunter), Stephen “Midge” Midgley (Manager at the Arctic Fox Centre), and Þorvaldur “Doddi” Björnsson (the taxidermist who preserved Tripod’s body).


                            The Northern Lights over an Icelandic mountain range.

Music: The Black Spot ||| Serocell

In other news, if you live in the Boston area, and would like free shipping on our HBM Meat Poster, Jeff will deliver you one on his bike (while supplies last). Just purchase the poster as usual, then we’ll refund you the shipping cost. Feel free to contact us if you’d like to know if the offer’s still good or to see if you live within delivery range.

Apr 25 2018

20mins

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Rank #5: HBM034: The Grandmother And The Vine Of The Dead

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Ayahuasca is one of the most powerful and most illegal hallucinogens in the world. It contains DMT. But, for as long as anyone can remember, it's been used by people who have wanted to know more about the universe.

These people have traditionally been involved with shamanic tribes of the Amazon Rainforest, but in recent years, more and more people have had access to Ayahuasca through ceremonies lead by shamans in countries near the South American Equator.

Ayahuasca (also called Iowaska, Yagé, Vine of the Dead, La Madrecita, El Abuelo, etc.) is not a party drug. In fact, it can be absolutely terrifying...Ayahuasca has a reputation for spewing up the taker's darkest fears in front of visuals of multi-dimensional cosmic weirdness and forcing them to confront every dark thought they've ever had. But it also has a potential for intense healing.

In this episode, producer Lauren Stelling visits her old boss Cherub, who was facing a lot of grief after her best friend's daughter, Zippy, was killed in a freak accident of nature.

Cherub was seeking alternatives to the common American treatments for grief, so, she flew away from her home in Washington State, down to a tropical rain forest where shamans guided her on a week-long Ayahuasca journey to find healing from her grief.

The episode was produced by Lauren Stelling. She's a photographer living and working in Seattle, Washington. Check out her beautiful photographs. laurenlstelling.com

Big thanks to Choque Chinchay Journeys, who provided the recordings of icaros for this episode. biopark.org

Music:

Serocell unclassedmedia.com ←New!

Monster Rally monsterrally.bandcamp.com/ ←New!

Half Ghost gloriaandjohn.bandcamp.com/

Please rate the show on iTunes and/or tweet it to all your pals.

Learn more about the show here: http://HBMpodcast.com

Jun 04 2014

1hr

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Rank #6: HBM045: Deep Stealth Mode (How to Be a Girl)

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Marlo Mack gave birth to a son. At least, she thought she did. But her son crawled towards dresses, wanted to be a princess, and asked to grow long blonde hair. At age 3, Marlo's son asked to go back into mommy's tummy, so he could come back out as a baby girl. Marlo thought it was a phase--it wasn't. So she began learning how to raise a very young transgender daughter. Along the way she kept an audio diary.

In this episode, Marlo sends her 7 year old child to a new summer camp, and struggles to give her the autonomy to reveal her gender identity to other children.

Marlo faces daily questions when raising her daughter. How much can she protect her in a world often unkind to trans folk? She tells her daughter that there are some people who are like Darth Vader, just too sad to be kind anymore.

Marlo Mack and her daughter produce a podcast about their life together called How to Be a Girl. Marlo generously gave us access to her raw recordings for use in this episode. How to Be a Girl is part of The Heard, a new podcast network. Marlo also writes a blog called Gender Mom.

Marlo Mack is a pseudonym. She will keep her and her daughter's true identities secret until her child is old enough to understand the risks of revealing her identity. These risks are real. 2015 has already seen the murders of at least 15 American trans women. So Marlo and her daughter exist in what they call "deep stealth mode."

When do you tell people that you're a girl with a penis? When is it safer to hide?

Music: The Black Spot

Marlo Mack produced this episode. Jeff Emtman edited it with help from Bethany Denton and Nick White.

Resources for trans children and their parents:

Trans Youth Family Allies - For families of trans youth

The Trevor Project - Crisis and suicide prevention

YouthResources - Help for trans/LGBT youth

Human Rights Campaign - List of resources for trans youth

How to Be a Girl from gendermom on Vimeo.

THE FACTS (about transgender kids) from gendermom on Vimeo.


Self portrait drawn by Marlo's daughter


Marlo's daughter wants to grow her hair as long as possible


Marlo and her daughter after a manicure


Marlo's daughter meets transgender advocate and actress Laverne Cox

Sep 02 2015

20mins

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Rank #7: HBM042: Deers

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Andy Wilson and Ryan Graves are best friends, despite having very different opinions on the hierarchy of human and animal life. The two come face-to-face with those differences after a fatal encounter on a frigid winter day in northeastern Idaho when Andy's dogs chase a deer into Lake Chatcolet.

Today, Andy is happily married (celebrating his year anniversary next week), working as a fine woodworker at Renaissance Fine Woodworking, and living in Pullman Washington. He now has three brown dogs and Quincy (the brown dog from the story) knows the word "deer" - but is less likely to chase it in his 11th year.

Ryan works as a nurse in Pullman Regional Hospital and lives just outside of town. His duck died last week, but he's looking forward to the five muscovy ducklings he's going to acquire soon. And he's looking forward to deer season.

This episode is heavily adapted from a short animated film also called Deers, produced by John Summerson. His film received support from the Princess Grace Foundation USA. Bethany Denton produced this piece, with editing help from Jeff Emtman and Nick White.

Deers from John Summerson on Vimeo.

Music: Flowers ||| Lucky Dragons ||| Flower Petal Downpour

Below, images courtesy of John Summerson.

Jul 08 2015

14mins

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Rank #8: Fear of Silence

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HBM producers Jeff and Bethany are having more and more trouble bearing silence. On this episode, Jeff calls back crow researcher Kaeli Swift and asks her what it was like to sit in silence with a stranger. And Bethany explains the differences in the anxieties that she and Jeff have towards silence.

May 20 2015

1hr

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Rank #9: HBM038: Do Crows Mourn Their Dead?

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Crows have really strange habits around death. When a bird dies, crows gather, squawking loudly and gathering as many other birds as they can find to come and look at the dead body.

Much of what we know about crow funerals comes from the work of John Marzluff a biologist at the University of Washington in Seattle. He and Kaeli Swift (one of his grad students) are trying to get to the bottom of these strange phenomena using taxidermy crows and masks and Cheetos and raw peanuts.

On this episode of Here Be Monsters, We look at the strange behaviors of crows and how they might be able to teach humanity about the origins of funerals and emotions.

We have a great photo album from the show up over at HBMpodcast.com. Check it out.

This episode was produced by Jeff Emtman.

Many thanks to David Kestenbaum of NPR's Planet Money for his help on a short version of this piece made for radio...keep your ears peeled. Listen to Planet Money here: www.npr.org/blogs/money/

Many thanks to Brian Emtman for tipping us off to this story.

Some of the crow sounds in this episode came from Cornell's Macaullay Library. Citation: macaulaylibrary.org/audio/45291

Other sounds came from the users of Freesound.

Creative Commons Attributions:

LukeIRL: freesound.org/people/LukeIRL/sounds/176128/

RTB45: freesound.org/people/RTB45/sounds/149186/

renatofarabeuf: freesound.org/people/renatofarabeuf/sounds/242122/

klankbeeld: freesound.org/people/klankbeeld/sound/208165/

Music from

Flower Petal Downpour: @flower-petal-downpour

Serocell: unclassedmedia.com/

The Black Spot: theblackspot.bandcamp.com/

Sep 10 2014

1hr

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Rank #10: HBM063: The Art of the Scam, by Malibu Ron [EXPLICIT]

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Presumably, any given mystic falls into one of two groups: true believers and scam artists. But it's near impossible to know which they are unless they tell you outright.

On this episode of Here Be Monsters, Jeff Emtman has a conversation with a scam artist. Vice Media would call an "Etsy witch"; he calls himself a "haunted demon seller". Regardless, he doesn't give out his real name.

For the purpose of this show, let's just call him "Malibu Ron". Malibu makes his living selling trinkets supposedly imbued with spirits: sex demons, werewolves, mermaids, djinn, vampires, etc. Malibu sells the intangible beings and spells for as little as $5 and as much as $11,000.

Malibu got into the business, ten-ish years ago, while he was very sick. He had to take extended leave from his job selling cell phones. In his months of recovery, he read a lot online. He found out about Etsy Witches and, as a joke, tried to sell a cheap ring imbued with a sex demon. It sold for $12. He decided not to go back to his old job and instead focus on expanding his magic business. He now manages many (he won't tell us how many) identities and stores online.

Malibu spends his money shoes. He values his personal collection of Nike Dunk SBs and Air Jordans at over $20,000. Several of his pairs are one-offs, meaning he's the only one in the world who owns them. His home, his clothing, and all of his other outward appearances (apart from the shoes) are modest. Malibu says that he lives well, but that he's no Donald Trump--he's not rich.

Malibu feels no guilt in his scam. He doesn't sell death curses, or sex enslavement enchantments, or spells that could heal you from a terminal illness. That's where the moral line is, and he doesn't cross it. And further, he says his clients are mostly rich.

Why do some believe in magic? Malibu says it's to protect them from realizing their cosmic insignificance. And he doesn't believe in magic (except for God, and maybe aliens).

Jeff Emtman produced this episode with help from Bethany Denton and Nick White.

Music: Serocell ||| The Black Spot

Like the show? Please review us on iTunes. Want to send us a sex demon? Do it on Twitter @HBMpodcast



Malibu Ron's shoe collection, sans several pairs that are one-offs that only he owns.

  Malibu Ron.

Sep 14 2016

21mins

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Rank #11: HBM100: Faraway Minds

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Anna Klein thinks that tea tastes better on the Faroe Islands than in Denmark. She thinks the water’s more pure there, and the Northern Lights let the sky be whatever color it wants to be. She often thinks about moving there.


A sandy beach in Skagen, the northernmost town of mainland Denmark

But she also worries that her fantasies of running away to the remote corners of the world may be a familial urge to isolate herself, the same way her father did...a tendency that ultimately contributed to his early death.

It was a loving and hurtful relationship that led Anna to retrace her father's life. From her home in Aarhus, to his dying place of Copenhagen, to his hometown of Skagen, and then back to Aarhus again via the museum at Moesgaard.


(L) Anna Klein’s mother and father, (R) Anna's parents on their wedding day


Childhood photo of Anna wearing face paint

Anna Klein produced this episode. Jeff Emtman and Bethany Denton edited. Nick White is our editor at KCRW, where there are a lot of people we don’t often get the chance to thank, but help us to make this show: including Gary Scott, Juan Bonigno, Adria Kloke, Mia Fernandez, Dustin Milam, Christopher Ho, Caitlin Shamberg, JC Swiatek, and many others.

We’ll be back in the fall with new episodes. In the meantime, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for updates from the off-season. Rate us on iTunes and tell a friend too.

Music: Lucky Dragons ||| The Black Spot

Jun 06 2018

34mins

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Rank #12: HBM040: The Reformation Bible Puritan Baptist Church [EXPLICIT]

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Eric Jon Phelps knows a lot of things. He knows that the Pope controls the world. He knows that it was the Jesuits who poisoned him in Tampa. And he knows that we can avoid the Vatican's plans to incite global race wars is to keep the races separate. Eric is the pastor of rural Pennsylvania's Reformation Bible Puritan Baptist Church.

The strange thing about Eric is that he's completely open he is about his views--and he doesn't shy from criticism. He's exceedingly knowledgeable about the Protestant Christianity which makes him a fantastic and outspoken preacher. However, the teachings of his church have landed him a spot on the Hate Map of America, which is where HBM Producer Emile B Klein found him.

In this episode, Emile visits the church to investigate the story of Eric's rise and fall in the bizarre, radical, niche world of anti-papal internet talk radio and finds out how Eric's upbringing in the Civil Rights Era informed his views on white supremacy.

Emile also speaks with Mark Potok, who is a Senior Fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, who thinks that Eric should be ostracized and shunned by society.

Eric Jon Phelps speaking about the dangers of The Vatican at a conspiracy theory convention while wearing a black, hooded cloak.

This episode, more than any other in our archive, is morally troubling, for many reasons. One resource on that Emile recommends as supplementary reading for this episode is Jonathan Haidt's wonderful book, The Righteous Mind.

The Righteous Mind was essential for Emile's epiphany [spoiler alert] that hating hate is unproductive. Emile says:

"All in all, I know that I am taking a pretty unlikable stand, but it's a stand I think is decent in the long run."

This episode contains a 6 minute excerpt from a roundtable intervention between multiple First Amendment Radio hosts. It has been highly edited for time. The original intervention lasted 2 hours and can be heard in its entirety right here.

Please note that this episode is full of bad language and bigoted ideas and factual errors. We tread on some pretty delicate subjects on this episode, please let us know how we're doing.

Emile B Klein and Jeff Emtman co-produced this piece. Emile is a radio producer and a painter who’s been touring the country by bike for the last 4 years. He is the Director at You’re U.S., which is a non-profit that highlights the qualities that tie together modern Americans through arts and craftsmanship.

This episode is Dedicated to Roy Silberstein, who always fought for the underdog.

Music on the show from

The Black Spot | Olecranon Rebellion | Serocell | Cloaking | Lucky Dragons

Oct 29 2014

1hr

Play

Rank #13: HBM024: The Friendliest Town In Texas [Explicit]

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Shoppingspree Clark showed up on the side of the road outside the “Friendliest Town in Texas” with nothing more than a sketchpad and the burnt-out ruin of the RV he’d just bought.

Coleman, Texas’ self-claimed title is true because it used to be on a billboard above the highway. And the people that live there are diverse, troubled, religious, unusual…and friendly.

This episode contains many adult themes, including suicide, prejudice, and racism. There are also unbleeped swear words and racial slurs. Use discretion.

This episode was originally released by Shoppingspree Clark in June 2013 right here: User261897410 – Friendliest-town-in-texas-aac

Most of the music on this show comes from Shoppingspree himself. His moniker, Crunchy Person, has music on Bandcamp: crunchyperson.bandcamp.com/

Other tracks are by Javelin: javelinjamz and Seagull Invasion: seagullinvasion.bandcamp.com/

Show your HBM Love! Hit us up on the internet: HBMpodcast.com and on the ol’ FB: is.gd/HBMfacebook/

This episode of HBM is brought to you by Squarespace. For a free trial and 20% off your new website (this month only), go to squarespace.com/ and use the promo code monsters9.

Sep 04 2013

1hr

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Rank #14: HBM064: A Shrinking Shadow [EXPLICIT]

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Erin was fat as a kid. Since middle school, she tried all different methods to lose weight. From a young age she developed the idea that the most important thing she could do with her life was lose weight.

That's part of why she and HBM producer Bethany Denton were such good friends in high school. They were both fat, nearly the same size. Both tried and failed to lose weight since childhood. Together they felt safe to enjoy food without judgment.

But they parted ways after high school.  Bethany moved to Washington State and Erin to Indiana for college. They fell out of touch, observing each others’ lives mostly through the distance of a Facebook news feed.  

And there, Bethany began to notice changes in Erin.  She looked thinner, but also more hollow.  Her eyes sank into her head.  Bethany was ashamed that she felt jealous.  She also thought her old friend might be gone...turned into a shrinking shadow of her former self.

On this episode of Here Be Monsters, Erin explains how she developed her obsession with exercise and her intense desire to lose weight.  She explains how she descended into a dangerous place with her eating disorder.  She would later understand her symptoms of anxiety, insomnia and irrationality to be typical of starvation, as observed in a 1940s experiment known as the Minnesota Starvation Experiment.

After losing over 100 lbs, Erin hit rock bottom the summer after graduating from college. Her anxiety became intolerable, she was constipated, and her hair was falling out. After months of living with every characteristic of anorexia nervosa, she was given an official diagnosis once she became underweight.

In 2014, Erin sought treatment. The first step in her recovery was a process called re-feeding. It's the process of replenishing a calorie deficit, providing a starving body much-needed energy to repair internal damage.

Erin has since made nearly a full recovery. Today she lives in Portland, Oregon and works at a bakery. She keeps a blog about her experiences with anorexia.

If you are suffering from an eating disorder, you can get help today. A good place to start isEating Disorder Hope. Erin also recommends the website Performing Woman; she personally found it inspiring to her recovery.

photo: Bethany (left) and Erin (right) as teenagers.

This episode was produced by Bethany Denton, and edited with help from Jeff Emtman and Nick White.  

Sep 28 2016

27mins

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Rank #15: HBM121: True North

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Angels saved Here Be Monsters’ host Jeff Emtman once.  They picked him up and took care of him after a bad bike crash.  It was just one of many times that Jeff felt watched over by God.

Jeff used to think he might be a pastor someday.  And so, as a teenager, he made an active effort to orient his thoughts and deeds towards what God wanted. 

In this episode, Jeff tells four short stories about faith (and the lack thereof) through the metaphor of declination, or the distance in angle between the unmovable true north, and the ever shifting magnetic north.  

We have new stickers, commissioned from the incredible artist Violet ReedGet your HBM Can O’ Worms sticker at our store.


A 180 degree panorama in the middle of Holden Village, where Jeff spent his Junior year of high school. 
Trees discussed on the episode are pictured far left.  

Fields of wheat near Jeff’s childhood home.

Summer stars in the field behind Jeff’s childhood home.

A country highway near Jeff’s childhood home.

Meadow in the North Cascades near Holden Village. 

Jeff in the mountains near Holden Village several years after he attended high school there.

Spider Gap, a high mountain pass near Holden Village in the North Cascades. 

Oct 02 2019

34mins

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Rank #16: HBM108: Witch of Saratoga

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Angeline Tubbs may have been as old as 104 when she died alone in the woods, in a hut she made with her own hands. She came to America with a British officer who fought in the Battle of Saratoga (see HBM074: Benedict Arnold Makes People Nervous).


Only known photograph of Angeline Tubbs. Circa 1860.  
Republished in the January 30th, 1959 issue of The Saratogan.

It’s uncertain what happened to the officer, but soon after the battle, Angeline began living a hermit’s life, on the outskirts of society, alone in the forest with her cats. She foraged and hunter her food. Only rarely did she venture into the newly forming town of Saratoga Springs, where she made money by telling fortunes.

On this episode, producer Alessandra Canario walks into the woods near where Angeline Tubbs lived and died. She builds her own shelter, makes a fire, and cooks her own food. Alessandra wonders if she too might be a “witch,” due to a kinship she formed with trees as a child. But she also hears echoes of her mother’s warnings against being outside without a man for protection.


Alessandra Canario camps in a homemade shelter in the woods near
Saratoga Springs, New York.  Photo by Alessandra Canario.


Leaves falling in the woods.  Captured by Alessandra Canario.

Dec 19 2018

18mins

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Rank #17: HBM068: The Wake Up Stick [EXPLICIT]

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When Dylan Wright placed his first Craigslist ad back in 2006, he called himself a “nice and genuine person with waking up problems.” He was looking for someone to help him in the mornings. First it was phone calls, but those didn’t work, so he moved on to something more personal.
Dylan’s problem is that, left to his own devices, he sleeps and doesn’t stop sleeping: “Seventeen hours was the longest I ever slept...that’s like four times as much as some people get daily.” And he’s tried to fix it in a lot of ways—bright lights suspended over his bed hooked to a timer, multiple alarms—nothing worked. He lost jobs, missed flights, messed up personal relationships, all because he couldn’t wake up.

So for most of the last decade, Dylan’s hired someone to come to his house, and physically wake him up. “Nothing weird or inappropriate about this, it’s just a job.” he says. Dylan estimates he’s had ten people fill this job. Most of them quit abruptly, or just stopped showing up. But he likes his current guy, who doesn’t even come into the house. Instead, he’s taken to knocking on Dylan’s bedroom window with a long stick (that way he doesn’t have to stand in the flowerbeds). He knocks until Dylan gets out of bed puts on clothes and makes himself some coffee.
It’s $10 per day, five days per week, sometimes six.

Lisa Cantrell produced this piece. She’s the host of An Inexact Science, which is a show about human psychology.
Music: The Black Spot


In other news: there’s a chance that you subscribed to our podcast while you were looking for the work of another podcaster named Derek Hayes. He has a show that’s also about monsters (though his are more the bigfoot, chupacabra and hellhound variety). Until recently, his show had a very similar name to ours. So, to clear up any confusion, Derek’s changed his podcast’s name to Monsters Among Us.

Nov 23 2016

14mins

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Rank #18: HBM071: The Evangelists of Nudism

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Growing up Mormon in Montana, Bethany Denton had a phrase drilled into her mind from an early age: “modest is hottest.”  To her, it became a mantra even while many of her friends, especially other girls, struggled with Mormonism’s strict modesty standards. But never Bethany–she was fat enough to know that no one wanted to see that anyway.

By the time Bethany moved to Washington State for college, she had rejected the church and was looking for new, broader experiences.  She got a job as a campus security officer, started drinking, and began wading into feminism.  She looked for new, non-Mormon role models to help her find adventure. That’s when she met Helen, a punk rock pirate who invited Bethany to join her for an all-expenses paid nude vacation, courtesy of an eccentric tech millionaire who evangelized the merits of nudism.

Bethany said yes, and went with Helen to California to bake in the sun for a week, and to learn about the body she’d been hiding for the past 20 years, learn to de-couple nakedness from sexuality.

And when she returned, she felt utterly changed.  But she’d soon tearfully discover she was not entirely untangled from childhood guilt.

Names in this story have been changed.

This episode was written and produced by Bethany Denton, and was edited by Jeff Emtman. Nick White is HBM’s editor at KCRW.

Music:  Nym | | | Half Ghost  | | |  Lucky Dragons

Review us on iTunes and follow us on Twitter.
"Artist's" Rendering of what Bethany saw:

Jan 18 2017

22mins

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Rank #19: HBM084: Are You Sure You’re Awake?

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Chrissy was having trouble remembering who she was when she woke up.  First she thought it was early-onset dementia, then she thought it was schizophrenia.  She had recurring hallucinations about being stalked by a beast that would talk to her while she slept.
Chrissy's bed

A doctor eventually told her she was waking up frequently throughout the night, some 30+ times per hour.  It was this inability to maintain a regular sleep cycle that helped her get a diagnosis of narcolepsy, explaining Chrissy’s excessive sleepiness, hallucinations, sleep paralysis, and episodes of cataplexy (sudden loss of muscle control after an emotional response).
Chrissy’s diagnoses frightened her. She tried to pretend it wasn’t true. But this attitude was forced to change one day when she woke up in traffic, driving 100kph with her kids in the back seat.  She finally accepted her illness, recognized it as a beast, and looked for ways to feed it that wouldn’t affect her children.  She says that’s the only way it’s won—if it gets her kids.


Some of Chrissy's Medications

This episode was produced by Bec Fary. Bec is a freelance audio producer and creator of the podcast Sleep Talker. Bec’s show is about sleep, dreams, and nightmares, and she’s covered narcolepsy before.

This episode was edited by Bethany Denton and Jeff Emtman. Our editor at KCRW is Nick White.

Music: Phantom Fauna | | |  The Black Spot

Before you go…

There are two things you can do to help us out.

First, KCRW wants to know more about you - who you are, and how you listen. Head over to kcrw.com/survey. It’ll take just three minutes of your time, and we’d really appreciate it.

Second, we want to hear from you for an upcoming episode.  Here’s the question, what is unknowable to archaeologists of the future? A lot of knowledge can be preserved in writing, or in landfills, or in collective consciousness. But there must be things that the archaeologists, 3 million years from now, fundamentally can't understand about the world today. Maybe it's the smell of snow melting after a long winter. Maybe it's the softness of a stingray's skin. Maybe those archaeologists will look in vain for those "complete breakfasts" we were supposed to be eating with our Corn Pops.

Leave us a voicemail at (765) 374-5263.

Nov 08 2017

19mins

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Rank #20: HBM069: Redwoods of the In-World [EXPLICIT]

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Ariadne, Jacqueline, North, and others unnamed are all part of the same system.  They share a single body.  They take turns “fronting” the body, controlling it.  And when they’re not fronting, the system members are free to roam an infinite landscape, a pocket reality that they call the “in-world”.

Together, they go to work every day, spend time with friends and lovers, go to shows, play video games, and live many aspects of a typical life. But when multiple people with varying interests, social skills, and gender identities share a single body, some things are tough.  It’s tough to live in a world that doesn’t understand you, doesn’t know your secrets, or just wants to diagnose you.

The system members refer to their living situation as being “plural” or “multiple”.  Psychiatry calls similar situations Dissociative Identity Disorder.  The system members don’t identify with this diagnosis, as it requires the multiplicity to be hinderance.  They say it’s the opposite of a hinderance--it’s what lets them survive.

Another perspective on multiplicity can be found in the work of philosopher John Perry.  1978, he published a paper called A Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immortality which critiques popular assumptions of personal identity.  This writing was brought to our attention by Barry Lam, the producer of a soon-to-be released philosophy podcast called Hi-Phi Nation.  

We mailed our spare recorder to the system’s home in the spring of 2016.  Over the course of several months, system members created diary entries and field recordings to share the world that Ari calls too “bright and loud”.

Producer Jeff Emtman did an interview with Jacqueline, where she also described the building process of the in-world, including the creation a spot of reverence within it--a grove of redwood trees modelled on a forest near Oakland.

One day, Jacqueline hopes to move from the city to the wilderness and have dogs.  Jacqueline said that there are no current plans to integrate the system.

We found out about Ari, North, Jacqueline et al because we asked for listeners to tell us their secrets.   If you have a secret you’d like to share, please get in touch.

Content Advisory:  This episode contains a brief description of sexual violence (and casual swearing too, but we don’t usually warn you about that).  The description of sexual violence is short and mostly non-graphic.  If you don’t want to hear it,  you just need to skip ahead about two minutes when you hear us talking about the state of Georgia.

This episode was produced by Jeff Emtman and Bethany Denton.  Nick White is HBM’s editor at KCRW.  

 Music: The Black Spot

In other news:  there’s a chance that you subscribed to our podcast while you were looking for the work of another podcaster named Derek Hayes.  He has a show that’s also about monsters (though his are more the bigfoot, chupacabra and hellhound variety).  Until recently, his show had a very similar name to ours.  So, to clear up any confusion, Derek’s changed his podcast’s name to Monsters Among Us.


Photo art by Ariadne and Morgan (different person, different body)

Photo art by Ariadne and Elle

Dec 07 2016

37mins

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HBM140: The New Black Wall Street

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There used to be a neighborhood in Tulsa where Black people were wealthy. They owned businesses, built a giant church, a public library. Some Black Tulsans even owned airplanes. Booker T Washington called it “Black Wall Street.” Others called it “Little Africa” and today, most call it “Greenwood.” 

In the early 1900s, the neighborhood was prosperous and thriving, but Black Tulsans were still a racial minority in a young city that already had a reputation for vigilante justice. A local chapter of the KKK was starting to form. 

In the Spring of 1921, a Black shoe shiner named Dick Rowland was brought into custody for allegedly assaulting a white woman. Over the coming night and day, a huge mob of white Tulsans burned and looted and murdered in Greenwood and the surrounding areas. Dozens or possibly even hundreds of Black Tulsans died, thousands became homeless

Damage from the Tulsa Race Riot on June 1, 1921. Used with permission from the Oklahoma Historical Society

But authorities never held anyone responsible. In fact, they detained many Black residents, some for up to a week. And insurance claims made in the aftermath were denied, as the insurance policies did not cover “riots.” 

Further reading on the Tulsa Race Massacre:

Official Report from 2001 which describes the events of 1921 in detail and with context. 
Educational comic about the massacre published by the Atlantic and sponsored by HBO’s Watchmen
Riot and Remembrance by James S. Hirsch.

Rubble and brick walls after the fires subsided after the Tulsa Race Riot. Used with permission from the Oklahoma Historical Society. People searching through rubble after the Tulsa Race Riot. Used with permission from the Oklahoma Historical Society.
Iron bed frames in the rubble of burned buildings after the Tulsa Race Riot. Used with permission from the Oklahoma Historical Society.

In the decades that followed. Records of the event went missing, some fear they were destroyed. The mass graves have yet to be found. And many Black Tulsans believed they could face retribution for speaking out about the event. It wasn’t even taught in school until recently

As a result, a lot of Tulsans still don’t know the history of Greenwood. 

Local rapper Steph Simon was one of them. He grew up near Greenwood, and he went to middle school there. But it wasn’t until his 20’s when he stumbled upon a documentary about the massacre on Youtube. From there, he became obsessed with learning more about the true story of Tulsa. And in 2019, he released an album called Born on Black Wall Street where he reintroduces himself as “Diamond Dicky Ro” in homage to the young shoeshiner whom white mobs tried and failed to lynch on that night in 1921. 

In 2011, an Oklahoman journalist named Lee Roy Chapman wrote an article for the publication This Land. Chapman’s story, The Nightmare in Dreamland, was a devastating re-telling of the life’s story of an Oklahoman legend--a “founder” of Tulsa named Tate Brady. Brady was well known as an oil tycoon and hotel owner who ran in the elite circles. However, buried by history was Brady’s legacy of violence and racial animus. He was a defender of the Confederacy, he was credibly accused of tarring and feathering some IWW union members, and for part of his life, he was in the Ku Klux Klan. And on the night of the massacre, Brady was there, acting as a night watchman. He reported seeing several dead black people in the streets in or around Greenwood. 


Lee Roy Chapman tours Tulsa showing locations significant to Tate Brady, including his former mansion. 

With these revelations, a movement started to remove the Brady name from Tulsa. That movement succeeded partially, but the Brady name is still a part of the Tulsan landscape. 

When Steph Simon shot the cover image for Born On Black Wall Street, he wanted to incorporate the symbolism of Tate Brady. So he went to Brady’s former mansion—a house modelled visually after the house of Robert E. Lee’s, with murals of the Confederacy painted inside and big stone columns out front. It sits on a hill overlooking historic Greenwood. And he stood on the front steps of the mansion only to see a childhood friend driving by. It was Felix Jones, an ex-NFL running back. The two grew up together. To Simon’s surprise, Jones revealed that he’d just bought the mansion. And he invited Simon inside. 

Together they thought up ideas on how to transform the legacy of the house from something hateful to something loving. So Simon invited about a hundred Black kids to come have a party on the lawn while he filmed the music video for his single “Upside”. 

After that, Simon and Jones started throwing concerts there, drawing huge crowds and starting the slowly re-contextualizing the house into something positive. They renamed the house “Skyline Mansion.”

As this transformation took place, another local DJ and producer, Stevie Johnson woke up in a cold sweat one night. He’d had a dream about rebuilding Black Wall Street, figuratively and literally. He opened his laptop and wrote down his ideas frantically, trying to remember his vision. And soon after, he started to act on it. 

His first step was Fire in Little Africa: a commemorative rap album to mark the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, featuring nearly sixty artists from Oklahoma. And over the course of a weekend in early 2020, rappers and community members and businesses filled Skyline Mansion to record dozens of tracks for the album. 

Fire in Little Africa will be available in February of 2021. Their podcast is out now. They’re also curating spotify playlists of the featured artists, and they’re accepting donations via the Tulsa Community Foundation. 

On this episode of Here Be Monsters, Taylor Hosking visits the former Brady Mansion to talk to the musicians who are looking to build a new Black Wall Street in Tulsa. Taylor also published an article in CityLab called Avenging the Tulsa Race Massacre With Hip Hop.


The front of the former Brady Mansion in 2020. Photo by Taylor Hosking.

Jun 24 2020

48mins

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HBM139: Acceptable Pains

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Hedonism seems pretty appealing right now—seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. On HBM137: Superhappiness, the hedonist philosopher, David Pearce imagined a future free of the systemic harms we currently experience: poverty, oppression, violence, and disease. 

But David thinks that even an idyllic, egalitarian society wouldn’t ensure universal happiness. He thinks that the only way to make everyone blissfully happy is to use technology and genetic engineering to make physical and emotional pain obsolete 

HBM producer Bethany Denton doesn’t fully agree. She thinks that heartbreak, homesickness, grief can all be good pain, pains that can make us better and kinder people in the long run. So what should the role of pain be in society? And further, what about the pains that we opt into, the pains we volunteer for? On this episode of Here Be Monsters, Bethany interviews people about long distance running, unmedicated childbirth, and voluntary crucifixion in the Philippines.

Will James is a reporter for KNKX Public Radio. Ashlynn Owen-Kachikis is a special education teacher. Carlo Nakar is a social worker and recurring guest on HBM.

Jun 10 2020

1hr

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HBM138: Did Neanderthals Bury their Dead?

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There’s a large cave in the foothills of Iraqi Kurdistan. It looks out over green and yellow fields and a river far below. Starting in the 1950’s, the American archaeologist Dr. Ralph Solecki led a team who excavated a trench in Shanidar Cave, discovering the remains of ten Neanderthals who died about 50,000 years ago. 

Dr. Solecki’s discoveries helped ‘humanize’ Neanderthals, a species of early humans often thought of as the brutish, stupid cousins of our species. In sharp contrast, Solecki believed Neanderthals to be nuanced, technologically adept, interested in art and ritual. Solecki suggested that the bodies at Shanidar Cave were intentionally buried. 

Shanidar Cave, near Erbil, Iraq. Photo by Graeme Barker

Many of Dr. Solecki’s theories on the complexity of Neanderthal minds seem to be correct. But he also made a famous claim about one of the bodies, named “Shanidar 4.” This individual was found with flower pollen around the body. Solecki suggested this was a ‘flower burial’, an intentional death ritual where flowers were laid on the body, possibly to signify the passing of an important member. This interpretation was not universally accepted, as others pointed out there are several ways for pollen to wind up on a skeleton. 

Half a century later, Dr. Emma Pomeroy from Cambridge University went back to Shanidar Cave with a team of archaeologists. They kept digging, hoping to help contextualize Solecki’s findings. To their surprise, they found more bodies. And their findings seem to support Solecki’s theories. The bodies were likely intentionally buried, and they were discovered in soil that contained mineralized plant remains, meaning that the pollen in Solecki’s findings couldn’t have come from modern contamination. 

Ribs and Spine of a Neanderthal in Shanidar Cave. Photo by Graeme Barker

It’s possible that Shanidar Cave may have been a significant spot for Neanderthals. But Dr. Pomeroy believes that further work is still needed. Currently, their excavations and lab work are on hold due to the current coronavirus pandemic. 

Dr. Pomeroy admits to imagining the lives of the Neanderthals she studies. She wonders how they spoke to each other, and what they believed about death and the rituals surrounding it. These things don’t preserve in the fossil record though, so we’re all stuck interpreting from clues, like the source of a bit of pollen or the maker of a tiny piece of string.  These clues have the ability to teach us the “humanity” of some of our closest evolutionary cousins. 


Dr. Emma Pomeroy in the excavation site at Shanidar Cave. Photo by Graeme Barker

May 27 2020

29mins

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HBM137: Superhappiness

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David Pearce thinks it's possible to end suffering. He’s a philosopher* who studies “hedonic zero”, the state of being which is completely neutral--neither good nor bad. He believes that, despite our momentary joys and sadnesses, most of us have a set point we tend to return to. And that “hedonic set point” falls somewhere on the spectrum of positive to negative. 

For David, his set point is negative. He’s always been melancholic and he has depression. He remembers his interest in philosophy sparking in his teenage years, when he felt an outcast.  He’d sit in the dark, and listen to pop music and try to figure out how to end the world’s suffering. 

He bought a book that introduced him to the concept of wireheading, which is the artificial stimulation of the brain.  The wireheads could experience instant bliss with nothing more than electricity. This concept was huge for David: promise of a concrete mechanism to elevate his mood, instantly and without drugs. 

Since then David has dedicated his life to understanding hedonic set points and how to manipulate them through physical interventions (like wireheading), gene manipulation (which is arguably already being done with IVF babies), medication, and the eventual transition to post-humanity

In 1995 David wrote The Hedonistic Imperative. He is the co-founder of Humanity+ (formerly the World Transhumanist Association).  He currently sits on their advisory board.

*David Pearce’s views align him with several philosophical movements, most notably transhumanism, negative utilitarianism and soft antinatalism.

May 13 2020

1hr

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HBM136: Jacob’s Lost Biography

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In 2012, Jacob Lemanski started writing his autobiography a few words at a time when he signed his name on the digital card readers at the grocery store. He read somewhere that the credit card companies keep the signatures on file for seven years. He thought he might report his card stolen in 2019 so that some grunt at Mastercard would find the story of his life...or…more likely he thought it was a project destined to evaporate and never be seen by anyone. 

His inspiration came from an email forward containing a certain Kurt Vonnegut quote about making art for the sake of making art—whether it’s singing in the shower or writing bad poems. Vonnegut argued that art is one way to make the soul grow. 

Jacob considered turning this into a lifelong project. At the time that he and HBM producer Jeff Emtman first talked, he was four entries into the project. On this episode, Jeff checks back with Jacob about his grocery store autobiography. 

Jacob is a longtime guest on HBM and is a retired ant farmer living in Boulder Colorado.

Also on this episode, voicemails from listeners, who share stories about their bodies, sounds from the world around them, and the things that make them feel guilty. Call us anytime (765) 374-5263.

Apr 29 2020

18mins

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HBM135: Dying Well

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We live in a culture of “death denial”. That’s what Amanda Provenzano thinks. She sees it when medical professionals use euphemisms like ‘passing away’ instead of ‘dying’. She sees it when funeral parlors use makeup to make it look like a person is not dead but sleeping. Most often she sees it when her clients’ loved ones insist their dying family member is going to pull through, despite all evidence to the contrary.

Amanda is a death doula, someone who provides practical, emotional, and spiritual support to people who are about to die. Sometimes this means that Amanda helps dying people and their families sort out their end-of-life paperwork and advanced care directives; Sometimes she helps dying people plan their own memorials. And sometimes she sits with people as they die. She says the tasks she performs are different for every person, but that her goal is always the same: to advocate for the wishes of the dying.


Amanda touches the side of a freshly dug grave. Courtesy of Amanda.

Amanda says that, in her experience, death is often harder for the loved ones to accept than it is for the person who is dying. “It’s almost like, in Western culture, it’s not OK to die… Like we guilt the dying person into trying to keep them here longer, with medicine and medical procedures because we, the survivors, are not capable of letting go of that person.” Because of this, Amanda recommends that people grieve by holding and touching the bodies of their loved ones after they die. She believes that talking about death openly will help people be less afraid.

Amanda and her dog. Courtesy of Amanda.

Apr 15 2020

19mins

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What Can You Hear? (Love Me)

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This is a bonus episode from the wonderful CBC podcast Love Me.  Listen, subscribe, and learn more about the show at cbc.ca/loveme

This episode originally aired on Nov 20, 2018. It was produced and edited by Lene Bech Sillesen, Cristal Duhaime and Mira Burt-Wintonick. It was mixed by Cristal Duhaime. Original episode copy below. 

Hotline volunteers at the world's oldest suicide prevention network share how they respond to crisis callers through the practice of active listening. How can you empty your mind and be fully present during someone's call for help? Music and voice intertwine in this documentary about bridging the gap between strangers who will never meet face to face.

For more information about the Samaritans, visit their website. Big thanks to Alan, Denise, Marilyn and Casey for speaking with us for this piece. 

Where to get help:

Canada Suicide Prevention Service: Toll-free: 1-833-456-4566. Text: 45645. Chat: crisisservicescanada.ca.

In French: Association québécoise de prévention du suicide: 1-866-APPELLE (1-866-277-3553)

Kids Help Phone: Toll-free: 1-800-668-6868. Chat: kidshelpphone.ca. App: Always There by Kids Help Phone.

For information within the U.S., visit Suicidepreventionlifeline.org or call 1-800-273-8255.

If you're worried someone you know may be at risk of suicide, you should talk to them about it, says the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention.

Here are some warning signs:

Suicidal thoughts.
Substance abuse.
Purposelessness.
Anxiety.
Feeling trapped.
Hopelessness and helplessness.
Withdrawal.
Anger.
Recklessness.
Mood changes.

Apr 08 2020

24mins

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HBM134: Questionable Hobbies of the Socially Isolated

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Searching for something to do during government-mandated social distancing, Here Be Monsters host Jeff Emtman recently digitized his cassette collection, and re-edited them into blackout poems and proverbs. 


Jeff’s mixtape from 1999.

While in the process of doing this, Jeff re-discovered a mixtape he made in 1999, the product of endless hours of waiting by the boombox in the basement with a hand hovering over the 🔴 button.  And on this old mixtape, a 10 year Jeff attempted to make a fancy edit: swapping out the intro of one song for another’s. It didn’t sound good at all, but it may have actually been Jeff’s first ever audio cut, predating the start of HBM by over a decade.  

On this episode, Jeff shares a couple dozen of his recent blackout proverbs and short poems, made from a variety of bootlegged self-help audiobooks found in the thrift stores of New England. 


Jeff’s author headshot from a short book about aardvarks that he wrote for an assignment in third grade, circa 1997. 

Apr 01 2020

19mins

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HBM133: Prey of Worms

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Bodies are odd.  Anyone who can see their own nose will tell you the same.  So will anyone whose diet changed their body odor. And so will anyone who’s ever felt their phone vibrate in their pocket only to later realize it was a phantom ring.

Our bodies make stuff up constantly and do plenty of questionable things without asking our permission first.  It can feel disorienting, especially due to the fact that being our sole points of reference, they’re hard to see outside of.  So, people invent analogies for the body, ways to understand what it is, and how to use it.

On this episode, Jeff interviews the operators of several bodies on the models they’ve developed to help them navigate the strangeness of the world we live in.

Dr. Kelly Bowen is a naturopath in Seattle, Washington.

Juliana Castro is the senior designer at Access Now and the founder of Cita Press.

David Schellenberg is the singer and guitarist of Tunic, a noise punk band from Winnipeg, Manitoba. 

Divya Anantharaman is the owner of Gotham Taxidermy in New York City. Divya’s been on the show before dissassembling birds and explaining taxidermy.  See HBM093: The Brain Scoop.

Tammy Denton Clark is a medical social worker in southern Utah.  She’s also the mother of HBM co-host Bethany Denton.

In the life of a man, his time is but a moment, his being an incessant flux, his senses a dim rushlight, his body a prey of worms, his soul an unquiet eddy, his fortune dark, and his fame doubtful. In short, all that is of the body is as coursing waters, all that is of the soul as dreams and vapors; life a warfare, a brief sojourning in an alien land; and after repute, oblivion.  —Marcus Auralius, Meditations, circa 180 AD. Translation by Maxwell Staniforth.

Mar 18 2020

31mins

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HBM132: Moral Enhancement

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Natalia Montes was a teenager living in Florida when Travyon Martin was killed.  She says his picture reminded her of her classmates, “It could have happened to any one of us.”

The Trayvon Martin shooting, as well as subsequent high profile police shootings and the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement, sparked an interest in Natalia for trying to understand one of the most difficult elements of human psychology: implicit bias

Natalia calls implicit bias “the cognitive monster.”  And she says it lives inside all of us; this unconscious, unintentional prejudice that works against our best efforts to be egalitarian. Natalia says this cognitive monster is especially dangerous for police officers, because they’re more likely to perceive black and brown people as threatening. She, like many social scientists, believes that implicit bias is at the root of police shootings of unarmed black and brown civilians. This was especially apparent to Natalia during the trial of Darren Wilson, the police officer who killed Michael Brown in 2014. Wilson described Brown this way, “He looked up at me and had the most intense aggressive face... it looks like a demon, that's how angry he looked.” 

Natalia studied psychology and philosophy at the University of Washington, and as an undergrad, she worked for the Center for the Science of Social Connection. Part of her job was to research implicit bias displayed by people trying their best not to be racist. One of the ways Natalia and her colleagues measured bias was the Implicit Association Test. The IAT is designed to measure the association people have between concepts (e.g. black people, white people) and evaluations (e.g. “good”, “bad”). The IAT is the most common way that implicit bias is measured, though it has come under scrutiny in recent years.

As an undergrad, Natalia came across a study out of Oxford University. The intention of the study was to see if implicit bias could be treated with medication. The researchers administered the IAT to 36 participants. After the implicit and explicit bias of each participant was measured, half of the subjects were given a beta blocker called propranolol. Beta blockers are a common kind of blood pressure medication that block the effects of adrenaline. They can also be an effective treatment for anxiety. The results of the study showed that the participants given beta blockers displayed lower levels of implicit bias.

Reading this study gave Natalia an idea: if medication could have this kind of effect on implicit bias, perhaps it should be administered to police officers. The implications are still theoretical, but Natalia argues that police officers are required to meet a level of physical fitness, so mandating officers take these drugs would ensure their moral fitness as well. 

Natalia wrote about her idea in a 2017 essay, and won an award from the International Neuroethics Society. A year later, she was approached by another philosopher, Paul Tubig, to expand her idea into a longer paper. As of 2020, the two are preparing to submit their paper for publication, and have presented their essay at the Northwest Philosophy Conference.

Mar 04 2020

22mins

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HBM131: A Cure for Carsickness

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Bethany Denton has a long history of carsickness. Ever since she was a little girl, long car rides made her nauseous and gave her stomachaches. Once, when she was four years old, her carsickness was so bad that she made her dad take a detour to look for a cure at the grocery store.

At the time, they were driving through Central Idaho, visiting all her dad’s favorite places from childhood.  They drove to Kooskia and Kamiah, two small neighboring towns where Bethany’s dad lived for some time with his cousins. He used to love playing outside with his cousins, and hear stories about the land around them. One of his favorite places to go was The Heart of the Monster, a landmark that is sacred to the Nez Perce people. They also made the trip to the Denton family plot at the Pine Grove Cemetery in Kooskia, so that Bethany and her brother could visit their Grandpa Bill’s grave. Bethany’s grandpa was Bill Denton, a sportscaster for KREM-TV in Spokane. She never met him, he died years before she was born.


Bethany in Montana, 1992. Also pictured, the big brown van.
Bethany Denton, 1990
Bethany and her brother Jared, 1994
Bethany (bottom center) and her family, 1993.

Feb 19 2020

23mins

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HBM130: Mother Pigeon / Sister Marta

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Mother Pigeon says the wild animals of New York City are hungry.  So she feeds them.

Each morning, a flock of about 150 pigeons waits for her at her local park in Bushwick.  She feeds them twice a day if she can afford it, and once a day if she can’t. Peas, lentils, millet and other grains, and corn in the winter to keep them warm.  “When you go out to feed birds, you’re treated like a criminal, so I like to call myself ‘The Pigilante.’”

Mother Pigeon considers herself a press agent for the city’s “maligned animals”—animals strong enough to survive in urban environments, but not charismatic enough to become our pets. Animals like rats, squirrels, raccoons, and of course, pigeons.  She considers much of the information available on pigeons to be propaganda from greedy exterminators. Less controversial though, are the dangers of inhaling the dust from dried pigeon droppings, which often carry fungus spores harmful to those with compromised immune systems.


Mother Pigeon in her Bushwick workshop. 

It’s completely legal to feed birds in NYC’s parks. Though in 2019, the city proposed a rule that’d make what Mother Pigeon does punishable by fines and/or jail time.  She and some others vocally opposed this rule—it did not go into effect. 


Mother Pigeon plays an ocarina while her flock feeds.

On this episode of Here Be Monsters, producer Jeff Emtman visits Mother Pigeon’s studio.  She tells him about the illegal capture of the city’s pigeons for transfer to Pennsylvania for live pigeon shoots.  And she tells the story of how she used to pretend to be a nun to gain access to the captured pigeons and surreptitiously re-release them. 

Mother Pigeon sells felt and wire animals (pigeons and rats, mostly).  You can find her and her fake animals many days in Union Square Park in Manhattan.  She posts her whereabouts on Instagram and sells her art in-person and on Etsy.  


A doll made by one of Mother Pigeon’s fans. 

Feb 05 2020

19mins

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HBM129: The Underearthlings

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Lars Christian Kofoed Rømer claims his red hat is mere coincidence. He wears it because his mother-in-law knit it for him 15 years ago and he quite likes it. However, it also makes him visually match the mythical underground people he spent three years studying on the Danish island of Bornholm. 

Bornholm folklore sometimes references “De Underjordiske”, a kind of people that live under the many ancient burial mounds that spot the landscape. Lars sometimes calls the people “subterraneans”, “pixies” or “underearthlings”. They’re known as a militant group, fiercely defending themselves, their homes in the mounds, and the island. But not an unthankful group either, rewarding humans for kindness or bravery.


A tree growing on top of one of Bornholms numerous burial mounds. Photo by Jeff Emtman.

It’s worth clarifying that Lars is no “troll hunter” (as the press often gleefully mistakes him to be), nor is he in the business of saying whether reclusive, sometimes-red-hatted people are real or legend. He is, however, in the business of collecting those legends and learning what they can teach us about us. And also what the legends can tell us about the archaeological significance of a Batlic Island that’s been conquered so many times that history’s forgotten who actually made those mounds in the first place. 


Lars Christian Kofoed Rømer near a spot where he found a standing stone. Photo by Jeff Emtman.

Pursuing legends is difficult though, as Lars attests to in this episode of Here Be Monsters. He tells producer Jeff Emtman stories of both the underearthings and the stories of the skepticism he faced when he pointed the anthropological lens on the place where he grew up. He says, “That’s why there was so much talk about this project. Had it been an anthropological study of shamans in Siberia, or something in the Amazon, then there would have been then public expectation that, ‘of course people there have spirits and stuff like that.’...But when it’s about what happens in your own back garden, then I think that’s where it gets more controversial...there’s certainly magic in distance.”

Lars is an anthropologist and the author of Tales in an Underground Landscape, a dissertation he wrote while pursuing a PhD at University of Copenhagen

Many thanks to producer Rikke Houd, who connected Jeff to Lars and has interviewed him about De Underjordiske for the BBC show Short Cuts


The Baltic Sea, as seen from the Rønne-Ystad Ferry. Photo by Jeff Emtman.
Lars hovers his shadow over the cup marks of the boulder at The Devil’s Bowling Alley. Photo by Jeff Emtman.

Bornholm’s biggest town, Rønne, with population approximately 14,000. Photo by Jeff Emtman.

A common rocky Bornholm shoreline. Photo by Jeff Emtman.

Lars standing on top of an ancient rampart, the site of a legend related to the underearthlings aiding a single patrolman in fending off the Swedish navy. Photo by Jeff Emtman.

Jan 22 2020

27mins

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HBM128: Seeing Auras

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Colby Richardson’s mom got leukemia when he was young. He has trouble remembering her. Soon after her death, Colby and his siblings wound up at a house in Hope, BC where he met Santo, a childhood friend of his mom’s. Colby remembers that Santo’s voice to be soft and extremely calm. 


Colby’s mother, Rita. Courtesy of Colby Richardson. Image by Jeff Emtman. 

Santo told Colby that he had a beautiful, green aura, a glow that surrounded his body. Back when his mother was alive, Santo had been able to see her aura too, the same green, but with a deep purply violet mixed in. 

That afternoon, Santo and Colby sat in a living room with their eyes closed. Santo led him in a visualization exercise where they breathed slowly together until a door emerged in their minds’ eye. They opened the door and let light shine down. And when Colby opened his eyes, he could see auras floating around too. 


Santo, pictured center, holding a camcorder. Courtesy of Colby Richardson. Image by Jeff Emtman. 

Colby only saw Santo that one day, but it made an impression. In middle school and high school, Colby would sometimes stare to see the moving shapes of light around people. Eventually the ability faded. 

But even today, Colby still sees clouds of green and purple before he falls asleep. He says it makes him feel connected to his mom, like she’s watching over him. But he also worries that he was tricked into believing in magic while he was in a susceptible state, grieving the death of his mother. 

So, these days, Colby is uncertain about how to reflect on that afternoon in 2003. In the intervening years, he’s thought about getting in touch with Santo, but never found the right time.  Just recently, he finally reached out. He found that Santo’s health has degraded, and he may have missed his chance to get clarity about his experience with auras. 


Colby Richardson and his two cats in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Image by Jeff Emtman.

Jan 08 2020

21mins

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HBM127: QALYs

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Most of us want to help.  But it can be hard to know how to do it, and not all altruistic deeds are equal, and sometimes they can be harmful.  Sometimes glitzy charities satisfy the heart of a giver, but fail to deliver results.

That’s the paradox: motivating people to give often demands glitz, but glitzy causes often don’t provide the improvement to people’s lives than their less glamorous charity counterparts.  GiveWell is a organization that quantitatively evaluates charities by the actions they accomplish.  Their current suggestions for effective charities include groups treating malaria, de-worming, and direct cash giving to the poorest people in the world.  These effective charities are able to accomplish more with less resources. 

GiveWell is a part of a philosophical and social movement called Effective Altruism.  EA practitioners look for ways to maximize the effect of donations or other charitable acts by quantifying the impacts of giving.  This approach has been called “robotic” and “elitist” by at least one critic. 

In 2014, a post showed up on effectivealtruism.org’s forum, written by Thomas Kelly and Josh Morrison.  The title sums up their argument well: Kidney donation is a reasonable choice for effective altruists and more should consider it

They lay out the case for helping others through kidney donation.  Kidney disease is a huge killer in the United States, with an estimated one in seven adults having the disease (though many are undiagnosed).  And those with failing kidneys have generally bad health outcomes, with many dying on the waitlist for an organ they never receive.  There’s currently about 100,000 people in the country on the kidney donation waitlist.  An editorial recently published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology estimated that 40,000 Americans die annually waiting for a kidney

The previously mentioned post on the EA forums attempts to calculate all the goods that kidney donation can do, namely adding between six and twenty good years to someone’s life.  Quantifying the “goodness” of a year is tricky, so EAs (and others) use a metric called “Quality Adjusted Life Years” or QALYs. 

The post also attempts to calculate the downsides to the donor, namely potential lost wages, potential surgery complications, and a bit of a decrease in total kidney function.  

The post concludes that kidney donation is a “reasonable” choice.  By the EA standards, “reasonable” is pretty high praise; a month or so of suffering to give about a decade of good life to someone else, all with little long term risk to the donor.  

On this episode, Jeff interviews Dylan Matthews, who donated his kidney back in 2016.  His donation was non-directed, meaning he didn’t specify a desired recipient.  This kind of donation is somewhat rare, comprising only about 3% of all kidney donations.  However, non-directed donations are incredibly useful due to the difficulty of matching donors to recipients, since most kidney donors can’t match with the people they’d like to give to. 

When someone needs a kidney transplant, it’s usually a family member that steps up.  However, organ matching is complicated, much moreso than simple blood-type matching. So, long series of organ trades are arranged between donors and recipients.  It’s a very complicated math problem that economist Alvin E. Roth figured out, creating an algorithm for matching series of people together for organ transplants (and also matching students to schools and other complex problems).  This algorithm is so helpful that it won him a nobel prize.

While the problem of matching donors to patients is difficult no matter what, it becomes much easier when a non-directed donor like Dylan can start a chain of donations.  Dylan started a donation chain that ultimately transferred four good kidneys to people in need. And since Dylan’s donation was non-directed, the final recipient on his chain was someone without a family member to offer a kidney in return—someone who otherwise wouldn’t have had a chance to receive a new kidney. 

Dylan speaks about his kidney donation experience to break down something that he sees as a unhelpful misconception: the perception that organ donors must be somehow unusually saintly.  He argues that kidney donation is a normal way to help others, and an option that most can consider.

If you’re interested in kidney donation, Dylan recommends the National Kidney Registry and Waitlist Zero

Dylan Matthews is a senior correspondent at Vox and the host of the podcast Future Perfect.  Jeff found out about Dylan from the podcast Rationally Speaking with Julia Galef

Also on this episode: 

Beth’s looking for help. She’s been thinking about some media she consumed as a kid that no else seems to remember or have even heard of. She’s tried Googling and checked various message boards, but hasn’t had any luck.

The first is a movie (or maybe a TV show). In it, a time traveler, who is an older man, travels to the “future” (which at the time of Beth’s viewing was the mid-1990s.) The Time Traveler is stranded when his time machine breaks, but he is hopeful and friendly, and he ends up enlisting some neighborhood kids to help him find the parts he needs to repair his time machine. Eventually the kids are caught by their parents, who call the authorities. The police confiscate the time machine and take The Time Traveler into custody. As he’s being arrested, the once-jovial Time Traveler is distraught. He cries, “I want to go home, I just want to go home!” over and over.

The second is a book. In this book, there’s a family of three or so kids, a mom, and a mean step-dad. The mom dies, and the kids are left with their mean step-dad. They grieve, and the step-dad gets meaner. Then there is an alien that gets into their house, possibly crawling down the chimney. The alien gets into one of the closets, and slowly starts taking over the house. The siblings find the alien in the closet and observe it. There is either a beep, or maybe a flashing light, that is beeping/flashing slowly, but gradually starts beeping/flashing more rapidly. They realize the alien doesn’t want to hurt them, it just needs to use their house to build a spaceship.  The house changes, getting stranger and stranger, and the beeping/flashing gets faster and faster. The kids realize the beep/flash is a timer, and that soon the house will blast off into outer space. Just as the house is about to take off, the siblings lock their mean step-dad in the closet, and he is whisked away in a spaceship that used to be their house.

Do either of these sound familiar to you? They both made an impression on Beth, and she’d love to revisit them as an adult to see how her memory holds up.

Please call, tweet, or email with any leads.  (765)374-5263, @HBMpodcast, and HBMpodcast@gmail.com respectively. 

Dec 25 2019

37mins

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HBM126: Sounding the Deep

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How familiar are you with the shape of the continents?  What about the shape of the seafloor? 

If you’re unfamiliar with the contours of our planet’s underwater mountain ranges and plateaus and valleys, then you’re not alone.  No one really knows what’s down there; at least, not in any great detail. That’s because, well, the water is in the way, and that makes it hard for our mapping satellites to see down there.  Even the seafloor maps we now have, the ones that include prominent underwater features, are often based on predictions from satellite observations of the oceans’ surface instead of observed data. At present, as much as 80% of the seafloor has yet to be mapped in detail. Even the Moon and Mars are mapped at a higher resolution than our own oceans.

Dr. Vicki Ferrini wants to change that.  She is a marine geologist who specializes in bathymetry, the science of mapping underwater topography, and uses sonar to take measurements of water depth.  She uses these measurements and other data to create topographic maps of the seafloor.  Vicki is part of a global effort called Seabed 2030, an initiative sponsored by the Nippon Foundation and the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (GEBCO) to create a high-resolution map of the entire ocean by the year 2030.  Having a completed map will inform almost everything we do in the ocean, including modelling currents and the climate, exploring for minerals, oil, and gas, and managing fisheries and underwater habitats.  Seafloor mapping was essential to the plate tectonics revolution, and some scientists think that a more detailed map could lead to another major shift in oceanography.

Vicki isn’t just interested in mapping the deep ocean.  In this episode, Vicki tests a small sonar designed for shallow waters.  She and her colleagues need it to map a shallow lake in the middle of a crater on a newly-formed island near Tonga in the South Pacific.  Mapping this small lake will give Vicki and her colleagues some insight into how the island formed, and why it hasn’t eroded as quickly as other volcanic islands like it.


Vicki holds a sonar transducer, which sends and receives pings underwater. Photo by James Dinneen.
Vicki uses her sonar unit while her wife Zlatke tows the rowboat with her kayak. Photo by James Dinneen.

Producer James Dinneen went to Vicki’s childhood home on Cape Cod in Massachusetts to record as she tested the sonar device she was about to send off to her colleagues in Tonga.

This episode includes archival tape, used with permission from San Francisco Maritime National Park Association.


The screen, or “topside unit” of Vicki’s sonar displays data about water depth and GPS. Photo by James Dinneen.
A preliminary map of the island's shallow waters, made with data from Vicki's sonar. Image provided by Vicki Ferrini. 

Visualization of the creation of a new island that formed in Tonga, 2015. Animation by NASA.

Dec 11 2019

16mins

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HBM125: Deepfaking Nixon

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There’s a beautifully written speech that was never delivered. Written for President Richard Nixon by Bill Safire, the speech elegizes astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong of Apollo 11, who’d become stuck on the moon, and were left to die there.  In reality, Buzz and Neil made it home safely, but this contingency speech was written anyways, just in case. Sometimes it’s called The Safire Memo and is sometimes called In Event of Moon Disaster.

The latter title share its name with an installation that’s (as of publish date) on display for the first time at IDFA in the Netherlands.  This project by Francesca Panetta and Halsey Burgund explores an alternate past where Aldrin and Armstrong don’t make it home from the moon.  The film portion of the installation heavily features a reading of The Safire Memo by a computer generated version of President Nixon sitting in the Oval Office, reading from notes, making all the familiar facial expressions, sharing the same vocal tics, presidential timbre, and some of the Nixonian je ne sais quoi that makes the fake nearly believable. 

But it’s not Nixon.  And it’s not entirely accurate to say it’s an actor.  It’s a kind of mix of the two, a synthetic Nixon generated by a booming form of artificial intelligence called “deep learning” which creates mathematical models of complex systems, like speech.  Lewis Wheeler  (the actor tasked with providing the voice of Nixon) did not have to imitate Nixon’s voice, only provide a proper pacing an intonation.  From there, the artists hired several companies (including Re-Speecher and Vocal ID) trained a computer model to translate Lewis’s voice into Nixon’s.

This kind of deep-learned fakery (called “deepfakes”) currently usually falls somewhere in the uncanny valley—the tech is good enough to get create a strong impersonation of a voice, but one that sounds still a bit mechanical, or metallic.  This won’t be the case for long though, as more and more convincing deepfake voices emerge with each generation of new code.  

And on the visual front, current video deepfakes are often so good as often pass the gut check of credibility.  This may have been most famously demonstrated in a Buzzfeed article where comedian Jordan Peele impersonates President Obama’s voice and a video deepfake moves his face along with the spoken words.  

With the 2020 presidential elections looming, it seems almost inevitable that deepfakes will enter the media fray that’s meant to discredit political enemies, creating scandals that never happened.  And outside of politics, deepfake pornographers take up the task of swapping pornographic actresses’ faces with those of celebrities or the faces of female journalists they seek to discredit.  

On this episode of Here Be Monsters, Francesca and Halsey tell producer Jeff Emtman that deepfakes aren’t going to rupture society.  We’ve dealt with this before, whether it’s darkroom manipulations or photoshop, societies eventually learn how to detect deception. But the adjustment period can be rough, and they hope that In Event of Moon Disaster will help educate media consumers on the danger of taking media at face value, regardless of whether it’s deepfakes or just old-fashioned photo mis-captioning.

Also on this episode, Ahnjili Zhuparris explains how computers learn to speak, and we listen to some audio examples of how computer voices can fail, using examples from the paper Location-Relative Attention Mechanisms For Robust Long-Form Speech Synthesis.  Also heard: a presidential  parody deepfake from user Stable Voices on Youtube. 


Excerpt from the installation In Event of Moon Disaster by Francesca Panetta and Halsey Burgund.  This video is a deepfake.

Nov 27 2019

1hr

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HBM124: Banana Softies

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“Gene” says it started because he wanted to be a veterinarian. So he took a job as a research associate at a vivarium that studied cancer drugs. He was often alone in the lab at night with hundreds or thousands of research animals around him.  The monkeys were his favorite, especially the rhesus macaques. He loved to give them treats, play movies and Celine Dion for them. And sometimes he’d lean up against the cages to let his monkey friends groom him. He knew the work would be hard, but he believed his  was justified because the primate research helped people in the long run.

In his two years at the lab, Gene radiated a lot of monkeys.  He and his colleagues studied the deteriorating effects of radiation and the side effects of experimental cancer drugs seeking FDA approval. Once a monkey became too sick and lethargic, it was Gene’s job to euthanize them. He would hold them as they died and tell them he was sorry. 

After one study with a particularly high radiation doses, Gene found himself alone again in a lab late at night, euthanizing more monkeys and thinking to himself, “Those were my friends... Those were my fucking friends.” These words became the screamed lyrics to the unfinished, unpublished song that Gene performs in this episode.

Gene left the job shortly after writing the song, but he still works in medical research. He no longer performs euthanizations. 


Gene says that the monkeys enjoyed watching this adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. 
An island in South Carolina where rhesus macaques are bred for scientific study

Nov 13 2019

16mins

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HBM123: Water Witches

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Some time in the 90’s, Kathy Emtman received a gift from her husband, Rick. It was a pair of bent metal rods, each shaped into long ‘L’. Nothing special, not imparted with any kind of magic, just metal rods. Colloquially, these rods are called “witching rods” or “dowsing rods”. 

HBM producer Jeff Emtman (child of Rick and Kathy) remembers a scene that took place the night of that gifting: each family member taking turns holding the rods, testing who had the gift of water witching. Each person held the rods by their short end with the long ends waving around in front of them. Gripped loosely enough, the rods spin freely, seemingly with a life of their own.  And believers say that when the rods cross, that’s where there’s water underground. That is...if a true witch is holding the rods.

Who’s a water witch? Well it depends who you ask. Some say that the gift is rare, some say that it’s in nearly all of us. It’s a folk belief, one not canonized in any central text and one not well supported by science. However, it persists (strongly in some places) as a regular thing for people to do when they need a well dug—cited as a way to gather a second opinion before paying a well driller to dig on their property. 

And this desire for a second opinion seems quite understandable. Wells in the Palouse Region of Eastern Washington State (where Jeff grew up) often require digging hundreds of feet to find water of sufficient quality and quantity to sustain a family or a farm. These wells might cost $10,000 to $30,000 each. Further, the well drillers charge per hole dug, regardless of whether there’s water down there. So, picking the right spot is paramount.

Well driller Brett Uhlenkott calls water witching a “farce”, preferring to drill based on his understanding of the landscape, his readings of the geologic maps and his knowledge of nearby successful wells. But he’s had clients who request he drill in a spot a witch found. And if that’s what his client wants, then that’s where he drills. 

Brett says there’s no mechanism for any information to travel the great distance between a witcher’s rods and a tiny vein of groundwater that runs hundreds of feet below the surface. Despite this, Brett keeps a pair of rods himself, saying that it might work for things closer to the surface. He cites an instance where he was able to locate a pipe or cable located several feet underground using the rods.  Brett thinks it might have something to do with minerals, or that it might just be something that we imagine in our heads.

The mechanism most often cited for the seemingly organic movements of a witcher’s rods is so-called ideomotor movement, which is the same thing that makes Ouija boards work.  Simply put, these motions are the result of unconscious movements we make when we feel something should work.  With witching, these motions get amplified by the long rods, resulting in movement that seems to emerge from nothing.  

Attempts to prove the validity of witching exist. Proponents cite a study by Hans-Dieter Betz that claimed incredible success rate in witched wells in countries with dry climates.  This paper received criticism for its unusual methodology.  Betz published another paper on water witching in a controlled environment, where he found a select few people who he claimed could reliably witch water, however that study also received criticism for its method of data analysis.  

Back in the 90’s.  Jeff held the rods, and he was able to find the pipes in the house, the sprinkler lines in the yard.  The rods moved convincingly, crossing where they were supposed to, uncrossing where they weren’t. 

In this episode of Here Be Monsters, Jeff revisits his hometown, debates the merits of black-box thinking with his parents (Rick and Kathy Emtman), talks with his grandma (Peggy Emtman) about the desire to have a talent she can’t have, interviews three farmers and a former farmhand (Ian Clark, Asa Clark, Ron Libbey and Owen Prout) about their experiences with witching, and asks his parents’ pastor (Wes Howell of Trinity Lutheran Church) to explain the origin of the term “hocus pocus”.

Others who helped with this episode include Lindsay Myron, Nick Long-Rinehart, Brandon Libbey, Mary Clark, Joe Hein, and Kirsten O’Brien.


Owen Prout and Ian Clark look for metal rods suitable to turn into witching rods at Clark Farms outside of Albion, Washington.
Owen Prout bends a metal rod to make it into the “L” shape of a witching rod. 

Pastor Wes Howell of Trinity Lutheran Church in Pullman, Washington. 

A drilling rig used by Brett Uhlenkott Well Drilling.  

When the boom arm is up, it is approximately 30 feet tall. 

Well digging on a currently vacant lot outside of Winchester, Idaho. 

Brett Uhlenkott estimates this well will cost his client about $9000. 

Farmer and amatuer water witch Ron Libbey. 

Ian Clark demos the characteristic crossing that happens when a witcher stands over water. 

Brandon Libbey (Ron LIbbey’s grandson) is not a water witch. 

Ron Libbey holds his grandson’s elbow saying that sometimes the skill can be

transferred to another person temporarily if there’s physical contact. 

Kathy Emtman, Rick Emtman and a formerly stray cat named Bert in the field behind their house,
looking for the pipe of a geothermal line. 

Kathy Emtman holding a the witching rods that her husband made for her in the nineties. 

The Emtman’s witching rods, which normally hang on a nail in the basement. 

Smoot Hill, near Albion, Washington. 

A proposed scientific mechanism for water witching.  

Oct 30 2019

48mins

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HBM122: Should Cows Have Names?

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Mike Paros lives in two worlds. In one world, he’s an animal welfare specialist and mixed animal vet, meaning he works with both “companion” animals like cats and dogs, and large animals like horses, cows, goats, and sheep. He spends much of his time as a veterinarian working with animals that eventually become meat, and most of his human clients are farmers that lean right politically.

In the other world, Mike is a college professor at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. There he teaches anthrozoology and agriculture to a predominantly liberal student body -- lots of vegans and anarchists. Crossing back and forth between these two worlds invites Mike to have many discussions about how to ethically treat animals, within and outside of the meat industry.

Producer Bethany Denton spent a day shadowing Mike as he disbuds and castrates dairy calves, and she asks him whether he thinks meat can be eaten ethically.

Bethany interviewed Mike in 2018 about a class he was teaching called “Liberal Education in the College Bubble: Crossing the Political and Cultural Divide.” You can listen to that story here.


Iris, the “pretty little heifer” just after being disbudded. Thurston County, Washington. Photo by Bethany Denton.
Dairy cows in stanchions waiting to be examined. Thurston County, Washington. Photo by Bethany Denton.

Oct 16 2019

30mins

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Always beautiful

By rozhmarin - Dec 26 2019
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& nicely done ✅ - the topics, the sonics (🗯🎶) even the awkward bye’s. 🙃💕

Thank you!

By ToDdRanD - Oct 18 2019
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Love the podcast, the content is so unexpected and thought provoking. Keep up the great work!