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Oceans Apart

Last night at dinner, I offered the prayer before the meal and happened to mention the situation of a potential epidemic in West Africa. Why wouldn't I pray for a solution. Ebola is a scary thing, and I knew it was risky mentioning it around tender ears of the young children who could hear me: ages 1, 6, 7, 10, and 11. It’s always the younger kids in a family who have to grow up fast, because they always hear things that the older kids can process better. It’s a delicate balance.

Anyway, when you sit down to enjoy a meal together, to be nourished in a safe place with people you love, it’s easy to forget the global situation. If you have appetite for it, you can keep in the back of your mind that other people, in other situations, have it really, really bad. I guess it was a humbling, sobering prayer, and my children certainly seemed a little somber as well as keenly interested as they asked a bunch of questions about Ebola. Would the disease come here? What happens to you when you get it? Should we be worried? As parents, my wife and I steered the conversation toward the whole idea that we all need to care. Care about people generally. Care a whole lot about this situation (as with any situation where we know people are suffering). Still, to put my children at some ease while also teaching something about compassion—and to keep the conversation “age-appropriate”—I was able to say that there’s a really big, protecting ocean that separates us from Africa, the Atlantic Ocean. Ebola probably won’t cross. Probably.

It seems to me that big oceans divide people more often in ways that are not strictly geographic. We leave oceans, abstractly, between our experience and the experience of others. I don’t need to think about Ebola—it’s a world away with an ocean in between. I don’t need to think about children left in hot cars who die of the heat. That’s somebody else’s world—with an ocean in between. I don’t need to think about the violence in Guatemala that is creating a crisis of refugees coming to the U.S. border. Mexico may as well be made of salt water—an ocean of a country situated between me and the violent, extortion-practicing gangs of Central America.

You see my point. Closing the distance is what we’re really about here on the Morning Show and on BYU Radio, whenever we go after important stories. Making the oceans smaller, not pouring in new ones to preserve immense difference between ourselves and others. For grown-ups, it’s actually age-inappropriate for us to be looking for bigger oceans, hoping for barriers, seeking for some illusion of distance from the sufferings of others.

Life is short and precarious for so many people. When I see my children around the dinner table, I think of children at the U.S. border, children in Sierra Leone who may contract Ebola, children in Gaza who are daily in harm’s way. The oceans need to be smaller between us and people who suffer. No man an island … everyone a piece of the continent, part of the main. Something to learn about. Something to pray about.

--Marcus Smith

Sing a Song of Sales

by Julie Rose, producer of “The Morning Show” on BYU Radio

“I’m free! I’m free! I’ve closed out the world, I’m free,” belts a woman on stage, admiring herself in a mirror. 

It is 1969 and this is the 1969 American-Standard Distributors convention.  You’re here to learn about the latest toilet and sink innovations. 

“My bathroom!” croons the woman on stage. “My bathroom is my very special room where I primp and fuss and groom.”

Welcome to the world of industrial musicals, where major corporations like Sears, Ford and American Standard hired professional composers, lyricists and performers to stage full musical productions like “The Bathrooms Are Coming!” and “Diesel Dazzle” for use at company meetings and industry conventions. 

How I wish I’d been a corporate salesman back then. Or, even one of the marketing minions in a Mad Men-like agency dreaming up the plot line for a musical to tout the versatility of silicone, the latest line of Keds sneakers, or the miracle of electricity.

That last one came with its own double-entre-laden ode to electrical current: “Please don’t alternate,” purrs a woman with a sultry voice over a bossa nova beat. “Please don’t vacillate. Please don’t start to purr and let your current variate! Cause I need to feel your spark, constantly.”

GE commissioned that musical (called “Let’s Go Fly a Kite”) from Broadway legends John Kander and Fred Ebb, the team behind “Cabaret” and “Chicago.” It was the show that first turned Steve Young onto the industrial musical genre. (He was trolling record shops for “unintentionally funny” music to feature in a segment on the Late Show with David Letterman, for which he writes.)

Young became obsessed with tracking down more recordings of these little-known industrial musicals. He met many of the composers and performers. (The woman who sang “My Bathroom” married another cast member of “The Bathrooms Are Coming” and danced to the score at their wedding!)

The best of these musicals are compiled in a new book by Young and Sport Murphy called “Everything’s Coming Up Profits: The Golden Age of the Industrial Musical.”  And since Young shared some of his favorite tunes on “The Morning Show” this week, I cannot get them out of my head! They’re so catchy and fun and well-written, you almost forget you’re swaying along to a tune about tractor. 

They’re corny, to be sure. But Young says these industrial musicals embody an age when hope for prosperity and the American dream were in full bloom.  A time when a woman could sing about being a farmer’s wife, proud that her husband has a Diesel tractor and now his business is growing. He’s no longer “a one man operation.”  He’s always got a smile on his face and he has time for the kids and they go on vacation. See, the industrial musical wasn’t just about talking up the new product or sales strategy.

“Composers have told me about watching from the wings as managers and dealers just had tears streaming down their faces watching this stuff, because a really well-done song that hits home and tells them, ‘You guys are doing the job and we know it and appreciate you,’ that was powerful,” says Young.

Times have changed, to be sure. This week on “The Morning Show” we also talked with Dick Bolles, who wrote the best-selling book, “What Color is Your Parachute?” more than 40 years ago. It’s still an indispensable guide for job-hunters. Sure the internet has changed the way we apply for jobs, but the best way to get one hasn’t changed, says Bolles: Decide what you like doing and where you’d like to do it. Then go convince that company to hire you. 

What’s really changed since Bolles wrote “Parachute” in 1972 is the relationship between companies and their employers. There’s not as much trust as there used to be, he says. People can’t count on having a job at the same company for their entire career. They can’t count on having a pension in retirement. They can’t even count on retiring at 65, anymore.  

No wonder it’s hard to imagine a large corporation today getting anything but scoffs from employees for staging an industrial musical to rally the troops at a company meeting. 

And yet . . . 

“I do think that we might turn the corner and get back to a world where America manufactures stuff and feels like we’re charging ahead and walking into a better future,” muses Young. “These shows were often a part of that feeling. I don’t know if we’ll ever see a return to exactly this stuff, but I hope the spirit of it will reassert itself.”

Me, too.

Fun and Games

by Julie Rose, producer of “The Morning Show,” on BYU Radio

Hey kids, don’t look now, but we’re learning stuff!

“You literally trick the kids into learning,” says professional magician Brian South. He’s created a curriculum showing teachers how to use magic in their classrooms.  He taught us a thing or two while in The Morning Show studio this week. 

“It’s called a memory peg,” South explains. “The kids will remember the lesson because of the trick.” (Incidentally, he teaches Sunday School and says his students always remember last week’s discussion topic because he uses magic with every lesson.)  “Kids must be banging down your door to get in your class!” chuckled Morning Show host, Marcus Smith.

The fact is, we learn better when we’re having fun. A new card game called “My Gift of Grace” uses the same concept. 

“We recognized the need to help people have difficult conversations related to living and dying well,” says Jethro Heiko, co-founder of The Action Mill which designed My Gift of Grace. “We’re taking something we’re really good at – playing games – and using it to help us do something we’re not good at: talking about death.”

The Action Mill team discovered the need for a game about end-of-life issues after interviewing doctors, nurses, hospice workers and funeral directors.

“People need permission to have these conversations – to voice their wishes about dying – and the game gives that permission,” says Heiko. 

Like other card games, My Gift of Grace has elements of chance (a coin toss), elicits stories from players and, yes, has winners and losers.

Both Heiko and magician Brian South are using their skills (games and magic tricks) to facilitate greater understanding.  I think that’s what we’re doing at The Morning Show, too.  On a daily basis, I find myself mentioning in conversation something I learned from an interview on The Morning Show

South mentioned on The Morning Show this week that he lies in bed at night happy at the thought of school kids laughing and smiling in class because of a magic trick he taught their teacher. 

Is it too cheesy to admit I lie awake at night excited, thinking about the conversations we’ve had on The Morning Show and eager for those we’re going to bring you? 

Because I do.  

P.S. Speaking of fun and games, watch magician Brian South blow our minds live on The Morning Show

Lost in Translation

by Julie Rose, producer of “The Morning Show,” on BYU Radio

I wish you could have seen how animated Kei Ikeda was in “The Morning Show” studio this week. 

When he talked about the struggle – as a deaf student – of keeping one eye on the professor, one eye on his sign language translator, and one eye on his notes (impossible unless you have three eyes!), Ikeda made a sign like his head was exploding. 

That’s when the importance of BYU’s Project Signglasses really became clear to me. Ikeda can’t contain his excitement over working on the project: helping create the software to put video of a sign language interpreter right on to the lens of a specially-equipped pair of glasses. No more looking from one to the other. A deaf student can look at the professor writing on the board and simultaneously see a sign language translation of the lecture. 

The technology is exciting, and even nifty. But the real story is the human one, says “Morning Show” host Marcus Smith.  “You can explain the tech stuff in five minutes. The heart of it is how it will change the lives of young people.”

Ikeda nearly teared-up reflecting on how hard his own hearing mother worked to help him learn to read as a youngster.  “I’m so grateful to her,” he said, through his interpreter Jodi. 

Getting the human story of current events, science, and society, is what we aim for on “The Morning Show.” It’s a luxury for most of our guests to settle in and spend 15, 20 – even 30 minutes talking about their latest research or life’s work. They enjoy it. We learn something. Hopefully you both learn and enjoy.  That’s the heart of it.

Maybe We Could Think of Them as Pets?

by Julie Rose, head producer of “The Morning Show," on BYU Radio

“I did look at the bacteria under a microscope.  They’re very cute,” says writer Julia Scott.  

Scott spent a month cultivating a colony of very special bacteria on her skin in the name of science. We read her fascinating – and skin crawling – account in the New York Times Sunday Magazine and had to know more, so we rang Scott up. 

Few of us would go without soap, deodorant or shampoo for a single week, let alone four. But Scott did, and says the friends and family she coerced into sniffing her during that time were not repulsed by her scent.  Why? Because she was misting herself daily with an active culture of bacteria called Nitrosomonas eutropha which feast on ammonia (a key contributor to body odor).

As soon as the experiment ended and Scott went back to using soap, her carefully-cultivated microbiome of body-odor-beating-bacteria went buh-bye.   “I was sorry to see them go. I’d become kind of attached and felt like I’d committed mass-bacteriacide,” she lamented to us on The Morning Show. 

Sitting in the control room during that interview, I watched a range of reactions flash across host Marcus Smith’s face. He was grossed-out, but also fascinated. And by the end of the conversation, he’d clearly warmed to the idea of growing his own Nitrosomonas eutropha.  “Maybe we could think of them as pets?” he queried.  (To which Scott replied, “Down boy!”)

Isn’t that exactly what a self-proclaimed Luddite would do? Soap is, after all, a new technology that appears to have fundamentally disrupted the natural, bacteria-rich state of our skin (putting them out of business, just like the powered looms and spinning frames Luddite artisans protested in 19th Century England.)  Marcus made the connection himself, during the interview with Scott: if you eschew new-fangled developments, well then, maybe you should say no to suds!

We’ll let you know if he makes the leap.  

Welcome to #themorningshow

by Julie Rose, producer of “The Morning Show” on BYU Radio

"'Our roof literally picked up and dropped,' says Marcella Rich, describing the Moore, OK tornado from 1 year ago. #themorningshow”

That’s a quote from the @byuradio Twitter feed during The Morning Show this week.  We (and by “we” I mainly mean @marcussmith62!) have some reservations about boiling our in-depth conversations into 140-character bites and hashtags, but, we’re eager to have more interaction with you, our listeners. Twitter seems like a natural place to start that conversation. 

Follow us. Retweet us. Direct message us. Let us know what you like about the show, what you’d like to hear more of and what we can do to make #themorningshow an even better part of your daily routine!

Campus Is Our Disneyland

by Julie Rose, head producer of “The Morning Show" on BYU Radio

 “I fell madly in love with BYU when I was just six or seven,” confessed new BYU President Kevin J. Worthen on The Morning Show last week. “When I could come to anything at BYU, it was like coming to Disneyland.”

BYU is like Disneyland for us at The Morning Show, too, but not for the manicured flower beds or mint brownies in the Cougareat.  This campus is a treasure trove of fascinating stories, expert insight and breakthrough discoveries. Just in the last few weeks we’ve met a BYU microbiologist who’s discovered an anti-bacterial substance that’ll kill even the strongest “super bug” and an engineer working with NASA on a giant solar panel that will fold like origami for transport into space.

We’ve tapped the expertise of top legal experts for help understanding the public lands standoff in Nevada, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on prayer in government meetings, and the debate over whether Constitutional protections extends to your cell phone. They all happen to teach at the BYU Law School. 

We even had a BYU professor blow our minds with his explanation of how American politics and policy was shaped by the discovery of LSD’s hallucinogenic powers.

Sure, “The World is Our Campus.” But when it comes to bringing you engaging conversations and new insights on The Morning Show, we think our campus is as good as Disneyland!

You Had Us at 'Hello'

by Julie Rose, executive producer for “The Morning Show” on BYU Radio

“We’ll gladly take you as one of us!” laughed Katty Kay, anchor of BBC World News America, when speaking with Morning Show host Marcus Smith this week.  Kay and ABC News reporter Claire Shipman were on the show talking about their new book, “The Confidence Code,” which argues that women suffer an “acute lack of confidence that is holding them back in the workplace.” 

“Nearly all seemingly-confident, successful women, if you scratch the surface, will admit to self-doubt or lack of self-assurance,” says Kay and Shipman. 

“So many at even the top levels are grappling with a feeling that they don’t quite own the right to be at the top,” says Kay.  And she admits she’s one of them: tending to defer to male colleagues and thinking that anything short of perfection is unacceptable. Kay and Shipman point to genetic and social reasons for this “confidence gap” between men and women. 

And that’s when Marcus admitted he suffers from similar feelings of inadequacy. 

“So how do we – and I’m not a woman, of course – but how do we overcome this inclination to think we’re not good enough?” he asked.  “We’ll gladly take you as one of us!” Kay laughingly reassured him. 

How do we overcome the confidence gap?  “For starters,” Shipman says, “remind yourself it’s okay to feel nervous, and then use that as an empowerment tool to act.”

Bet you wouldn’t have pegged Morning Show host Marcus Smith as the insecure type, would you?

You’ve probably never met him, but based on his voice, would you call him dominant? Friendly? Trustworthy? This week on The Morning Show we heard from a professor at the University of Glasgow who says all it takes is hearing the word “Hello” for us to build an image in our minds of the type of person the speaker is.  “The first two traits we zero in on are dominance and trustworthiness,” says Glasgow psychologist Phil McAleer.  

“If you’re a man and you want to sound more dominant,” McAleer says, “lower your voice.”  (No, Marcus, growling like a dog doesn’t do the trick, but it was fun to hear you try!) Want to sound more trustworthy? Bring your tone up a few notches. “Women have a harder time sounding dominant,” says McAleer. “But a trustworthy-sounding woman generally moves her voice to a lower note at the end of words and phrases, as opposed to ending every word and sentence as though it were a question.” 

So think about that the next time you’re looking to make a first impression. Your first words matter. We’ll try our best to keep bringing you conversations that matter on The Morning Show.

Easter

by Maddy Richards, who helps produce “The Morning Show” on BYU Radio

Easter is a beautiful time of the year when people reflect and ponder on their spirituality. I find it’s a time when more people are kinder than usual. I think it probably has something to do with the focus on what many believe Jesus Christ did for every person when he was alive.  

While not everyone may share the same beliefs on who Jesus Christ is, or what his life was, everyone can agree that there is room for more goodwill and kindness in the world. We get refueled at Christmas with reminders of good cheer and happiness. But I think Easter is another beautiful time to remember our neighbors, to call our family members and let them know we love them. I also think it’s a wonderful time for self-reflection and evaluation. 

Easter has passed, and now I’m back into the lull of routine and reality. However, I hope that we all can take this past weekend as a reminder of what’s truly important, and why it’s important. Without these reminders I think life would become monotonous and dull. As I connect with my spirituality, I find life more meaningful. 

Stress

by Maddy Richards, who helps produce “The Morning Show” on BYU Radio

Finals are upon us! Well upon me, anyway. I’ve often heard people reminiscing about their college days, but I’m not sure they want to go back to the sleepless nights, studying until their brain feels like it will explode, forgetting to shower and eat because they were working on a project that’s due in roughly 20 minutes….the list goes on and on. I have loved every second of college, but this whole finals thing, I could’ve done without. 

So, for my own sake, as well as the sake of those close to me, here are a few tips on how to get through a highly stressful time:

1. Wake up, and make breakfast. Nothing looks so bad after a good meal, and we’ve all been told breakfast is the most important meal of the day!

2. CLEAN UP. Make your bed when you wake up, take two minutes to wash your dishes after a meal, take a shower and get ready! You may not have a lot of time to do these things, but taking a few seconds to pick up will make you feel immensely less stressed later.

3. Take some breaks. Whether you’re studying for a test, working on a work project, tackling spring cleaning, or taking care of a child all day, it’s important to take breaks! Be sure to take some time to recharge, and do something for you!

4. Make a list. Some people don’t like making lists because it stresses them to see all the things they have to do. But lists are a highly effective way of outlining what needs to get done, identifying the order and importance of the tasks, and not forgetting to do anything!

5. Sleep. I know, you don’t have time. But try your very, very hardest to at least get some sleep at night. It may not be a lot, but it will be what you need to push you through. Sleep is your friend during this stressful time!

You may not be going through a highly stressful time right now, or maybe you are. Either way, these little tips have helped me so much in both the stressful, and not-so-stressful times!

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