“Global Guru” Host to Speak at AWP Conference

Rachel Louise Snyder, author and host of National Public Radio’s “Global Guru” is scheduled to join a panel discussion on writers in radio at the annual AWP Conference in Washington, DC.

The Association of Writers and Writing Programs will sponsor the panel, “Listening to Literature: Opportunities for Writers in Public Radio.”

The discussion will center around broadcasting careers for writers, and literature’s place on the radio waves.

Other NPR personalities on the panel include Maureen Corrigan of “Fresh Air,”Sarah Koenig of “This American Life,” and Chris Turpin of “All Things Considered”

The panel will be held on Friday, Feb 4 at 12 noon in the Virginia A Room at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel.

Snyder is the author of Fugitive Denim: A Moving Story of People and Pants in the Borderless World of Global Trade’ (WW Norton 2007) and professor of literary journalism at The American University in Washington, DC.

The Association of Writer’s and Writing Programs will hold their annual conference in Washington, DC in 2011. The conference, Feb 2 through the 5, will take place at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel and the Omni Shoreham Hotel. Registration is required. Please go to http://www.awpwriter.org/conference for more information.

-Jay Melder


Happy Birthday Mary Todd, Britney, and S

Happy Birthday Mary Todd, Britney, and Sun!

All Night Long in Tehran

December is a big month for birthdays.  Christians all over the world are celebrating the birth of Jesus of Nazerath, the US mint is commemorating the 192nd birthday of Mary Todd Lincoln with a coin struck in 24 karat gold, and way back home in south Louisiana my people are donning party caps and serving up birthday cake for our native daughter, Britney Jean Spears.  Happy twenty-nine, Brit!  And in Iran, people are staying up all night to ring in the birthday of someone pretty special:  the sun.

This week, the Global Guru travels to Iran by way of historic Georgetown in Washington DC to celebrate the birth of the sun with food writer, chef and friend of the show, Najmieh Batmanglij.  Batmanglij is a master of Persain cuisine and has invited Rachel into her home to experience the food and traditions of Shab-e yalda, the Iranian Winter Solstice Festival.  Shab-e yaldo dates back to 600 A.D. and is a pre-islamic ritual based on the dualistic concepts of good and evil, light and dark, hot and cold.  There’s also a lot of eating involved, which is pretty cool.  Iranians call this kind of eating Chap Charee, or “night grazing.”  Sounds like a good holiday to me.  There’s melon and watermelon, apple, persimmon, orange, pomegranates, and grapes, pistachios and almonds, dried mulberries, apricots and figs, white rice cookies, carrot halva, baklava and pumpkin seeds all out on the table for a long night of grazing—the longest night of grazing, actually, given that it is the Winter Solstice.

New Food of Life
, one of Batmanglij’s many books, recounts many of the traditions of Shab-e yaldo and the foods that are prepared for Chap Charee.

So tune in to the show and listen as Rachel and guest, Najmieh Batmanglij, stay up all night and await the rising of the sun in nothing but his birthday suit,and learn about the foods and traditions of the Irainian winter Solstice Festival.  You can graze a while for Britney, too.

Thoughts? Questions? Comments? We’d love to hear from you! Email us at globalguru@american.edu
-Jay Melder

The Global Guru Gets Bitten!

I remember the first time I saw the tarantella danced. I was living in Urbino, Italy, and Stephano, my hyperactive Italian neighbor from the South, decided to demonstrate the traditional Italian folk dance for us Americans. My Italian roommates began strumming their fingers and singing a quick tune as Stephano leapt from his seat and broke out into a lively dance. The whole scene was so memorable in large part because it was so comical! It was only later that I learned how classic this dance is and what an integral part it plays in Southern Italian folk history.

This week, the Global Guru learns how to dance the tarantella. It is lively and flirtatious, which seems at odds with its origins of being a dance to ward off the poison inflicted by a spider bite. The three most famous versions are from Calabria, Naples and Sicily, and each has their own particular take, both in dance and melody.

We learn about the Sicilian tarantella on this week’s program from Michela Musolino, who specializes in Southern Italian folk music and dances. She explains what makes the Sicilian tarantella so distinct and how this dance has been passed from generation to generation. Listen as she describes the movements and sensations that make it so beloved.

Thoughts? Questions? Comments? We’d love to hear from you! Email us at globalguru@american.edu

-Devon M. Malene

The Global Guru Goes Punting

Ah, Oxford. Just saying the name of this eminent University City brings to mind highbrowed English professors and literary greats. The mind’s eye conjures up images of stately old buildings and proud surroundings that are vaguely reminiscent of scenes from a Harry Potter film. While Oxford is best known for its scholarly superiority, even us mere academic mortals can partake in an activity that is quintessentially Oxford: punting.

What is punting, you ask? Well, it’s boating… in a punt, which is a long flat-bottomed boat with a square bow and stern. You use a long pole to propel yourself down the river, and it actually sounds much easier to do than it actually is. I mean, would you go to Venice and commandeer your own gondola to navigate the Venetian canals? Probably not.

As such, the Global Guru went to the Magdalen Bridge Boathouse for an authentic punting experience. Listen to this week’s show as the Global Guru and her family partake in a true Oxford tradition, punting on the River Cherwell.

Thoughts? Questions? Comments? We’d love to hear from you! Email us at globalguru@american.edu

– Devon M. Malene

The Global Guru and the Ties That Bind

I love the fall. It is the time of year when leaves turn from pleasant greens to vibrant reds; when wearing multiple layers of clothing is weather appropriate; and, when bonfires, smore’s and storytelling are the main event on a Friday night. Most of us probably already know which story is coming when our best friend says, “do you remember that time when…” and we can reliably predict the story our sibling will share about “that one summer when I was turning 15…”

But there is something uniquely comforting in that shared knowledge and common understanding. Admittedly, some of us are better than others at telling stories. Not everyone has the same knack for providing richly layered content in a way that keeps an audience in rapt attention. Some people are just born storytellers.

This week the Global Guru learns about those exceptional few that were born to tell stories. Griots are West African oral historians, who train their entire lives on how to best narrate stories to provide meaning and continuity to their listeners’ collective memories. Their accounts can contain a blend of music, poetry, song, and vocal intonation.

While there are a number of well-known griots, Papa Susso – an oral historian and kora (African harp-lute) player from Gambia – is featured in this week’s program. Papa Susso hails from a long line of Griots of the Mandinka people. Listen to this week’s program as he performs classic songs of the griot repertoire.

Thoughts? Questions? Comments? We’d love to hear from you! Email us at globalguru@american.edu

– Devon M. Malene

I Smell a Rat…

Worshipping with Karni Mata’s finest. Photo here.

I’ve always considered myself an animal lover. When I was 12, we had to put down my beloved hamster, Winnie, after he grew a neck tumour the size of a small lemon and lost all his hair. I cried for weeks.

But despite this professed affinity for creatures great and small, my first reaction to the photographs of the Karni Mata temple in Rajasthan, India, was an uncensored shiver. The reason? 20,000-odd rats swarming over the richly tiled floor and weaving through the gilded gates.

As you’ll hear on our show, Karni Mata was a 14th century mystic believed to be an incarnation of the powerful female goddess Durga. This legend, like many in India, shows the blurred line between the human and the holy – a fuzzy, liminal space in which humans can ascend to the gods, and gods may choose to be earthbound.

Speaking with Prof. Vasudha Narayanan about the temple, I was struck by her explanation of how the temple echoes the Hindu belief that divinity can be manifest in any body – animal, vegetable, mineral – and yes, even in rats. The temple rats are venerated as the descendents of Karni Mata, reincarnated as happy, plump rats, and spared the fate they’d face on most city streets: a good dose of rat poison.

Anyone may visit Karni Mata and pay worship. If you do go, cross your fingers that you’ll receive one of the greatest blessings – a rat racing across your bare toes – and test for yourself the power of the furry temple guards. And send me a postcard – I might just have to take your word for it.

Tune in or download our podcast to learn more. And get in touch – globalguru@american.edu – we love hearing from you!

– Meghan Nesmith

The Global Guru Talks China & Cigarettes

On 31 May, the PBS News Hour aired the first of a three-part global health report on China. Coinciding with the World Health Organization’s “World No Tobacco Day,” the first report focused on the ubiquity of smoking in China and the uphill battle the country faces to curb this mounting health risk. In a country of 1.3 billion people, it is estimated that between 300-350 million people light up every day. As PBS points out, that means China has more regular smokers than the United States has people, and that does not even take into account all the nonsmokers who are inflicted by the harmful affects of secondhand smoking. Although China committed itself in 2006 to implementing a “thorough indoor smoke-free” environment within five years when it signed on to the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the Chinese Ministry of Health has since clarified that “only medical institutions will ban smoking” in 2011.

This week, the Global Guru talks to Peter Hessler of the New Yorker, about why smoking is so omnipresent in Chinese society. Peter is the author of three books about China, River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze (2001), Oracle Bones: A Journey Between China’s Past and Present (2006), and Country Driving: A Journey Through China from Farm to Factory (2010). His experiences in China have given him unique insight as to why, in light of all evidence proving the harmful effects of smoking, cigarettes are such in integral part of Chinese culture.

Thoughts? Questions? Comments? We’d love to hear from you! Email us at globalguru@american.edu

– Devon M. Malene

Conflict Resolution, Timor-Leste Style

Sacred. The dictionary defines it as something that is “devoted or dedicated to a deity or to some religious purpose; consecrated.” That’s a fine definition except that it doesn’t quite capture the personal nature of the word. Sacred is more than just a religious concept. It can also be a feeling, a purpose, an idea or even a place.

This week the Global Guru looks at a place that is considered sacred to the people of Timor-Leste. The “umalulik” or sacred house can be found in villages across the island nation. The umalulik, though, is more than just a revered location. It is a place where villagers can meet to engage in a form of conflict resolution. It’s sort of like each village’s own local chapter of the U.N…. except it works.

Timor-Leste Ambassador to the United States, Constancio Pinto, believes strongly in the power of the umalulik. And being a spiritual person myself, I understand why. Sometimes it takes more than belief in a higher being to find a resolution. Sometimes what’s needed is a place where you can go to talk about what’s on your mind. In the Western hemisphere that sometimes means a church or a chapel, a temple, maybe even a community center. In Timor-Leste…that means an umalulik.

– Devon M. Malene

Leave us a comment or email us at globalguru@american.edu We’d love to hear your thoughts!

Photo attributed to file on Wikimedia Commons; copyright can be found at: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

Champagne and swords….

The thing everyone seems to want to know when you talk about learning to open champagne with a sword – the French art of sabrage, which is more or less around the world now—is how sharp the sword needs to be. We can tell you… dull, dull, dull! It’s really a dirty little secret that sabrage can be done with an ordinary, everyday butter knife; you’re not whacking the cork off machete-style, you’re coaxing it off. These days, swords are used simply because they’re so much more dramatic.

Philippe Brugnon and the sabrage brotherhood, as they’re generally called, take this stuff pretty seriously. There’s even a sabrage record – 56 bottles of champagne opened in a single minute! Pretty impressive.

Of course, we at the Global Guru make every effort to always be culturally sensitive, so it would have been rude to refuse a taste of the fabulous Brugnon champagne once we’d sabrage’d it. Swords, champagne, French sunsets over golden wheat fields… it’s a hard livin’ for we Gurus!

Hope you enjoy this week’s show!

– The Global Guru

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