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Chicken Soup For The Ears: New Music To Cure What Ails You

by Jasmine Garsd
Apr 19, 2014

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Jasmine Garsd

I'm not entirely sure how I made it into the studio to tape this week's show. I was still recovering from a tremendous flu. But lured by co-host Felix Contreras' promises that he'd take over and play me some excellent new music, I hopped on a cloud of cough meds and rode it all the way to our recording facilities in Mexico City.

Children cried when they saw my greenish face as I mumbled and stumbled through the streets. Vendors crossed themselves when, in a Darth Vader-like voice, I asked to buy throat soothing candy.

But I made it, and it was worth it.

Not only did Felix humor my I've-only-eaten-broth-for-the-last-four-days loopiness — but my Don Corleone imitation was spot on — he also played some of the coolest music we've heard this year.

By the way, I'm feeling a lot better. And although I've suggested that Felix start a side business in which he DJs for the flu-stricken, I don't think he's that into the idea. So you'll just have to enjoy his musical healing powers in this week's show.

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The longitudinal British study checked in with 8,000 families across 40 years to trace the trajectory of a bullied child. (iStockphoto)

Mental And Physical Toll Of Bullying Persists For Decades

by Linda Poon
Apr 19, 2014

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What doesn't kill us only makes us stronger, right? Well, not when it comes to bullying.

Some may still consider bullying a harmless part of growing up, but mounting evidence suggests that the adverse effects of being bullied aren't something kids can just shake off. The psychological and physical tolls, like anxiety and depression, can follow a person into early adulthood.

In fact, the damage doesn't stop there, a British study published this week in the American Journal of Psychiatry suggests. It actually lasts well into the adults' 40s and 50s.

"Midlife ... is an important stage in life because that sets in place the process of aging," says Louise Arseneault, a developmental psychologist at King's College London and the study's senior author. "At age 50, if you have physical [and] mental health problems, it could be downhill from here."

And health isn't the only thing to worry about. Chronic bullying's effect on a person's socioeconomic status, social life and even cognitive function can persist decades later, too, Arseneault's research suggests.

The study began with a national survey of nearly 18,000 children in England, Scotland and Wales who were born during a single week in 1958. Their parents were interviewed twice — once when the kids turned 7, and again when they turned 11 — about how often their child was bullied. Researchers also noted the children's IQ score at the time and checked reports from teachers for any behavioral problems indicative of anxiety or depression in the kids. Then, for four decades, they checked in periodically with roughly 8,000 of those children, recording their health, socioeconomic status and social well-being at ages 23, 45 and again at 50.

More than 40 percent of the children were reported as having been occasionally or frequently bullied at age 7 and 11— not too far from today's estimates in the U.S., where up to 50 percent of kids say they've been bullied at least once within a month.

Researchers found that at age 50, those who'd been bullied - particularly those who were repeatedly bullied — reported somewhat poorer physical health than those who hadn't been, and also had an increased incidence of anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts. They also had lower education attainment; memory tests indicated that they tended, as a group, to have somewhat poorer cognitive function than those who weren't bullied.

The study accounted for other factors that might have confounded the results, Arseneault says, such as poverty during childhood, family conflict and evidence of physical and sexual abuse. Though the study couldn't definitively say the bullying caused the long-lasting problems, Arseneault says, other studies and statistical tests suggest the association is more than coincidental.

"In terms of relationship, they seem to be less likely to live with a partner, and to have friends who they can speak to or rely on if they're sick," Arseneault tells Shots. "As they get older, you would think that maybe they would grow out of it — but it's not what we're showing."

The study is impressive, says William Copeland, a clinical psychologist and epidemiologist at Duke University, who wasn't involved in the British research but has done work on the long-terms effects of bullying. "This is the longest follow-up study we have of victims of bullying to date," he says.

People need to shift their thinking on bullying, Copeland says, from considering it a "harmless rite of passage" to "this kind of critical childhood experience that can really change one's trajectory for decades and decades."

Bullying is somewhat different today from what it was in the '60s — cyberbullying on the internet has extended its reach. Copeland says the concept remains the same: singling out a weaker person as the target for repeated intentional harm. It's just that the abuse is no longer confined to schools and playgrounds, he says. It can happen in the no-longer-safe haven of a child's home.

Victims need some place where they can get away from the abuse and feel safe, Copeland tells Shots. "As you lose that, as you're getting teased constantly, that can lead people to have much worse outcomes, and to feel like there's really no way they can escape.

"As we see more and more studies like this," Copeland says, "I think people are going to be more and more comfortable thinking of bullying in the same way we think of [other sorts of] maltreatment in childhood — as something that's just not tolerated."

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"Any time you're playing someone with a cognitive disability of any kind it's dangerous territory," says Chris O'Dowd, of playing Lennie, in John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men. Leighton Meester plays the wife of Curley, the son of Lennie's boss. (Polk and Co.)

For Chris O'Dowd, 'Of Mice And Men' Is More Than An American Story

Apr 19, 2014

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George (James Franco, left) and Lennie (Chris O'Dowd) are laborers and unlikely friends in Depression-era California in the new Broadway production of John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men. x x x Brazilian rapper Karol Conka blew our minds this week.

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John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men — about George and Lennie, two laborers and unlikely friends during the Great Depression — may seem like a quintessentially American story. But Irish actor Chris O'Dowd, who plays Lennie in a new Broadway production the novella, says Steinbeck is "quite oddly" very popular in Ireland.

There's something about Of Mice and Men that appeals to the Irish people, O'Dowd tells NPR's Wade Goodwyn. "All of us have chased the American dream so there's something very universal about it," he says.

The production, which opened Wednesday, was directed by Anna D. Shapiro, and co-stars James Franco as George. O'Dowd talks with NPR about being Lennie — and about how in high school he fell asleep when the film version of Of Mice and Men was shown in class.


Interview Highlights

On signing on for the play

I had been looking for a play to do. I come from a theater background but I hadn't done a show in maybe five years or so. So I was feeling a little rusty and wanted to give it a go. I was familiar with this material, [but] I hadn't read it in a while.

On how he connected to the play

I come from an agricultural background so I feel I've been a laborer. ... I'm used to being around strong men who lift things a lot. Ireland is to a small extent still kind of an outlier ... out in the west coast of Ireland ... it's in a lot of ways a different kind of barren, but similarly barren to California as it would have been in the '30s. So I definitely feel that idea of being removed.

On the challenge of playing Lennie

It is hard of course, any time you're playing someone with a cognitive disability of any kind it's dangerous territory. ... I kind of based it on a guy I knew from London that kind of lived at the end of our road. I'm not 100 percent sure what was wrong with him. ... Steinbeck doesn't at any stage say what exactly is wrong with Lennie so it's very open to interpretation. By all accounts it's specifically about somebody that he knew.

On coming in without expectations

I feel fortunate in that I've never seen ... a production of it. I never saw the film. I think maybe they put it on in school but I fell asleep ... that's more about me as a student rather than the film ... I feel unburdened by any expectations of the play.

On appearing on Broadway

It's an absolute privilege. Every night I feel at various moments terrified that we have to go out and to this again but very confident because I feel the show is in a good place. In that last scene I feel very, very privileged to be able to do it — the writing is so good. Regardless of what we're doing with it — to bring it to people who have maybe never seen it before. I believe that this production will be seen by more people than have ever seen this play and that's absolutely exhilarating.

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Prince. (Courtesy of the artist)

Prince Fans, Prepare For The Deluge

by Michaelangelo Matos
Apr 19, 2014

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George (James Franco, left) and Lennie (Chris O'Dowd) are laborers and unlikely friends in Depression-era California in the new Broadway production of John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men. x x x Brazilian rapper Karol Conka blew our minds this week.

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Prince fans are accustomed to not getting what they want. That's one reason today's news came as a shock — that Prince has re-signed, for the first time in 18 years, with Warner Bros. Records, and that an expanded edition of Purple Rain, in time for its 30th anniversary, as well as a new album and unnamed "other planned projects" to come, are all on the way. Oh — and Prince now owns the master recordings of his iconic '80s recordings, the bone of contention behind his very public, very acrimonious split with the label in the mid-'90s.

Nice as it is to see people let go of long-held grudges, this was actually less surprising than it might have been. Exactly two weeks earlier, a different press release announced that Prince had gained control of his publishing. ("How 'bout them publishing rights? What a laugh," he sang on 1996's "White Mansion." "I don't know Bo but I do know math.") Not only does Prince now administrate his songbook via his own NPG Music Publishing, the latter "is now actively seeking placement for some of Prince's best-loved songs in film, television, video games and the commercial realm."

In short, we are likely in for a blitz. Frankly, it's about time. Prince's music hasn't necessarily gone anywhere, but in an era when even Interpol receives a deluxe, bonus-laden reissue, his are almost the only recordings in their league not to have been given at least a brush-up. And just to be clear about which league that is, for prolificacy, popularity, range, and sustained quality, the only pop catalog to come near Prince's '80s work belongs to the Beatles.

And make no mistake: The catalog can use it. Not because Dirty Mind and 1999 and Purple Rain and Sign 'O' the Times require further validation as masterpieces, but because for many younger listeners, a reissue given the push of a new release is generally the clearest path to attention in an increasingly cluttered and ahistorical array of listening options.

"I've seen a new television pantheon begin to take form: There's what's streaming on Netflix, and then there's everything else," Anne Helen Petersen wrote last year in the Los Angeles Review of Books. Like it or not, something similar applies to old music that hasn't been reintroduced to younger listeners as a kind of public event, however unnecessary it might seem to people who've lived with it their whole lives.

For devoted fans, the question remains, of course, precisely which goodies might be in store. Coexistent with the excitement the announcement has brought is plenty of well-earned skepticism. From the botched release of the 1997 rarities box Crystal Ball to his 2011 declaration that he didn't want other people covering his songs, Prince has more than his share to alienate his fans.

Though he was one of the first major pop stars to grok the Internet's possibilities for musicians, he also employs people to sweep the Web of unauthorized reproductions of both his image and music. Just today, a video featuring the complete first onstage performance of "Purple Rain" was not only pulled from Facebook (fair enough), so were all the posts and attendant comments containing them, a move one user compared to the NSA.

Too bad, because that video — the basis of the album and film version of "Purple Rain," complete with a fan's annotations of where the edits occurred — is a perfect example of why Prince cries out for the deluxe bonus treatment. The video contains an extra verse cut from the song, as well as a longer version of the iconic guitar solo. Exposing these things doesn't obscure the impact of the "Purple Rain" everybody knows; if anything, it's enhanced. We know Prince could write songs and play guitar; we might not know how cannily he could hear, even in his own work, precisely what worked and what didn't. And that's only one example.

There's no guarantee that a deluxe Purple Rain will be anywhere near as complete as the diehards want. (In my case, an ideal Purple Rain box set would include not only lots of live and bonus material, but also the Time's Ice Cream Castles and Sheila E.'s The Glamorous Life, the other two albums Prince wrote and produced in 1984. The former also contains "Jungle Love" and "The Bird," two of the movie's showstoppers.) Make no mistake — Prince owning his master recordings is a major victory.

But ownership of the masters was part — not all — of the issue. Warner Bros. never owned the live recordings and unissued outtakes that fans have traded and hoarded for years — Prince did. (A number were on Crystal Ball.) He also controls the many out-of-print albums that post-date his Warner Bros. years. Parsimony comes with the territory here.

Then again, Prince may well end up doing what David Bowie and Elvis Costello (both of whom have long controlled their complete catalogs) and the Rolling Stones (who control everything from 1971's Sticky Fingers onward) have for years — shop the corpus around for reissue to the label offering the highest bid.

In those acts' case, it's meant a confusing array of reissues and re-reissues, endlessly repackaging of the same albums: with bonus tracks, with a bonus disc, in a Digipack, with a sandwich. It's also meant real money in the artists' pockets, with the promise of more to come as labels wanting a piece of a sure thing are willing to outbid the last one. Or, as the man himself said on the 1988 relase, the 12-inch-only "I Wish U Heaven Pt. 3": "Take this beat, I don't mind/Got plenty others, they so fine."

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Google and other tech companies reported earnings this week, amid fears of another tech bubble bursting. (Getty Images)

Tech Week: Earnings, A Heartbleed Arrest And Digital Distraction

Apr 19, 2014

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George (James Franco, left) and Lennie (Chris O'Dowd) are laborers and unlikely friends in Depression-era California in the new Broadway production of John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men. x x x Brazilian rapper Karol Conka blew our minds this week.

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There was really only one tech story last week — the potentially disastrous Heartbleed bug. This week, we return to more of a panoply of tech-related news, starting with NPR stories in the ICYMI section, the broader topics in the industry in The Big Conversation and fun links you shouldn't miss in Curiosities.

ICYMI

Digital Distraction Remedies: Is a backlash beginning ... in favor of the physical world? Kids, gamers and restaurant-goers are finding ways to step away from smartphones and reconnect the old-fashioned way. Laura Sydell introduced us to Ingress, a video game that gets people to connect in person. Steve Henn's daughter reminded us that in some cases, parents are too distracted by devices and ignoring their kids. And the service industry says put those phones away and just enjoy breaking bread together, in a piece I reported on Monday.

Big Conversation

Tech Earnings: The tech bubble 2.0 questions keep swirling, and stocks started tumbling even before Google reported its numbers, which were disappointing to Wall Street despite 19 percent revenue growth. Yahoo performed relatively better in the eyes of investors, thanks to its stake in Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, which is poised for an IPO. More companies will be releasing numbers in the next couple of weeks, so as Time notes, it will all be interesting to watch.

Heartbleed Hacker Charged: It was a vulnerability that someone skilled could exploit, and law enforcement believe they found at least one guy who did. A 19-year-old Canadian student was arrested for allegedly exploiting the Heartbleed vulnerability to steal taxpayer data from as many as 900 Canadians. And researchers say an attacker used the bug to break into a major corporation.

Curiosities

The Verge: The Inventor of Everything

This profile introduces you to Mike Cheiky, a darkside version of Elon Musk. "He is either the world's most unheralded genius, or he's criminally insane," a former colleague says of Cheiky.

Wall Street Journal: Bitcoin Creator Satoshi Nakamoto 'Unmasked'...Again?

It wasn't that long ago that Newsweek caused a tempest over its claim that a man living in LA named S. Nakamoto was the father of the digital currency. He denies it and may sue. Now, a linguistic analysis points the finger at Nick Szabo, "a well known name in cryptography circles," the Journal reports. Szabo has also denied being Nakamoto.

Engadget: 'Wearable eyes' take all the work out of having emotions

A Japanese professor has designed a high-tech version of those novelty spectables with eyes drawn on them. "The digital eyes blink when you nod or shake your head, look up when you tilt your head down and (best of all) it stays open even while you doze off ... ," the tech blog says. They're designed "to make you look friendlier and less socially awkward than you actually are."

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