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The Road to Now

Bob Crawford (The Avett Brothers) & Dr. Ben Sawyer (MTSU History) share conversations with great thinkers from a variety of backgrounds – historians, artists, legal scholars, political figures and more –who help us uncover the many roads that run between past and present. For more information, visit TheRoadToNow.com If you'd like to support our work, join us on Patreon: Patreon.com/TheRoadToNow
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Now displaying: 2016
Dec 26, 2016

In episode 36 of The Road to Now, Bob and guest co-host Keith Larson speak with Turner Simkins about his new book Possibilities. Turner tells of the struggles his family went through after his son Brennan was diagnosed with a rare subtype of Leukemia on his 7th birthday, and what they learned as Brennan went from a dismal prognosis to a remarkable recovery. Turner also explains how the inspiration that Brennan took from Band of Brothers inspired him to wake up every day with the will to fight, and shows how the lessons of history can be a powerful force in our everyday lives.

More on this episode and The Road to Now can be found at our website: www.theroadtonow.com.

Dec 18, 2016

Jimmy Carter’s Presidency is one few Americans remember fondly. In a 2013 ranking created by statistician Nate Silver, Carter took the #26 spot, right between William Howard Taft and Calvin Coolidge. The economic crises Carter inherited upon taking office in 1977 plagued his administration, and his perceived weakness in fighting the Cold War only added to the sense of unease created by America’s loss in Vietnam and the Watergate scandal. But is it possible that Americans’ perceptions of Carter don’t match the reality?

Dr. Nancy Mitchell says that’s the case, and she joins Bob and Ben to explain why. She explains Jimmy Carter’s Presidency through the lens of his foreign policy in Africa, and argues that Carter was not an ideologue, but a full-fledged Cold Warrior who was committed to maintaining US influence abroad. Nancy also discusses the legacy of Carter’s Presidency today, and applies her expertise on US Foreign Policy to assess Barack Obama and Donald Trump’s approach to diplomacy.

Dr. Nancy Mitchell is a Professor of US Diplomatic History at North Carolina State University. She has published extensively in her field of expertise, and her most recent book, Jimmy Carter in Africa: Race and the Cold War (Stanford University Press, 2016) recently won the American Academy of Diplomacy’s Douglas Dillon Award for Distinction on the Practice of American Diplomacy.

More on this episode and The Road to Now is available at our website: www.theroadtonow.com

Dec 12, 2016

Tom Shadyac has probably made you laugh. He was the youngest ever staff joke writer for Bob Hope and he directed some of the biggest comedy films in recent memory, including Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and The Nutty Professor. A lot of people would say Tom has “made it.” Tom would disagree.

Tom joins Ben and Bob for a conversation about his life and the path that led him to abandon the pursuit of fame and material abundance to focus on helping others. He tells of his 11 year period of unemployment as he struggled to find success in the Los Angeles comedy scene, his relationship with Jim Carrey, and how following his own passions led him to take a risk with Ace Ventura. Tom also talks of his approach to teaching film, and explains why he defines success as a state of mind.

You can find out more about Tom's story and philosophy in his book Life's Operating Manual and his documentary film I Am (which we highly recommend!).

More on this episode and The Road to Now podcast can be found at our website: www.theroadtonow.com

Dec 5, 2016

There’s a good chance you don’t appreciate how engrained professional wrestling is in American history and culture, and this episode is about to change that. We didn’t know all this either until wrestling legend Jim Cornette was kind enough to spend an hour taking us from wrestling’s origins in the late 19th century up to the sport as it exists today. Jim knows the sport like no other- he’s been part of the professional wrestling scene since the 1970s, and currently hosts the tremendously popular podcast The Jim Cornette Experience. Jim has also been ringside (and sometimes in the ring) for some of wrestling’s greatest moments, including the April 5, 1982 showdown between Andy Kaufman & Jerry “The King” Lawler (that was his first time on national television), and his storytelling is second-to-none.

This episode also features wrestling aficionado Jon Burr making a special appearance as guest co-host. Jon is the host of the NBA podcast Fastbreak Breakfast, the front man for the band How I Became the Bomb, and Ben’s friend & neighbor.

More on this episode and The Road to Now can be found at our website: www.TheRoadToNow.com.

 

Nov 28, 2016

American politics has changed a lot in the last few decades. Jimmy Williams, has observed this from inside the beltway, and has made a few changes himself. When he first arrived in DC in 1992, he was a Republican working for the George H.W. Bush’s reelection campaign. A few years later he was a Democrat working on the staff of Democratic Senator Dick Durban. Since then he has been a lobbyist, a contributor at MSNBC, the founder of his own online media outlet and, most recently, the host of the political podcast Decode DC.

In our interview, Jimmy tells Bob and Ben of the road that led him through all of these career changes, and the path that led him from a Republican to a self-professed “progressive Democrat who owns guns.” Jimmy discusses his experience of coming out as gay in the 1990s and the ways his faith have informed his political views. We also discuss HB2 in North Carolina and the greater history of discrimination and inclusion in American politics.

Jimmy Williams is a political commentator and the host of the Decode DC podcast, which explains how politics in Washington, DC affects Americans’ daily lives.

More on this episode and The Road to Now can be found at our website: www.TheRoadToNow.com

 

Nov 21, 2016

The 2016 election is over and many Americans are trying to understand how Donald Trump was able to defeat the political establishment and reveal major flaws in the ways experts assess public opinion. To help us understand this election, Bob and Ben speak with Dr. Brian Rosenwald about his research on the history of conservative talk radio. Brian traces the rise of Rush Limbaugh and other conservative radio hosts in the 1980s, and the ways they have both reflected and shaped their listeners’ views. He also explains why there is truth to claims of liberal bias in the mainstream media, but not for the reasons most critics assume.

Our conversation with Brian also provided an excellent opportunity for Bob and Ben to discuss the 2016 election and our take on the best ways to move forward. 

Dr. Brian Rosenwald is a fellow at the Robert A. Fox Leadership Program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is currently converting his doctoral dissertation, “Mount Rushmore: The Rise of Talk Radio and its Impact on Politics and Public Policy,” into a book for Harvard University Press. Brian also conducts research for the Slate podcast Whistlestop.

For more on this and many other episodes of The Road to Now, check out our website: www.theroadtonow.com

 

Nov 14, 2016

The relationship between the United States and Russia was hotly debated in the 2016 election, and will likely be one of the most important issues in US foreign policy for years to come. To help us better understand how this relationship looks from the Russian perspective, we spoke with Dr. Arch Getty, Distinguished Professor of History at UCLA. Arch explains where Vladimir Putin fits within the greater history of Russian leaders, as well as the ways that history and geography have shaped Russians’ understanding of their place in the world. He also shares his own story of living in Moscow in the last year of the Soviet Union, and the changes he’s seen since he first visited Russia in the late 1970s.

Dr. J. Arch Getty is a Distinguished Professor of History at UCLA whose work focuses on the Stalin period of Russian history. Arch is a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow, a Research Fellow of the Russian State Humanities University (Moscow), and has been Senior Fellow of the Harriman Institute (Columbia University), and the Davis Center (Harvard University.) His most recent book, Practicing Stalinism: Bolsheviks, Boyars, and the Persistence of Tradition, was published by Yale University Press in 2013.

A special thanks to Roscoe and Lucy Strickland for the generous donation that supported Dr. Getty’s visit to Middle Tennessee State University, and to the Department of History at MTSU for arranging this interview.

Links and more info on this and other episodes can be found at our website: www.theroadtonow.com

Nov 7, 2016

For the final installment in our election week series, we speak with Bruce Carlson, the creator and host of the podcast My History Can Beat Up Your Politics podcast, about the interesting moments and valuable lessons from the history of American Presidential Elections. Along the way we discuss party realignments, “October surprises,” and other moments that shaped American politics. We also discuss the history of podcasting, and Bob reveals that he and Bruce went to college together at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey (now Stockton University).

 Bob and Ben highly recommend My History Can Beat Up Your Politics, which you can get anywhere you get The Road to Now (or you can click on the link below).

For more on The Road to Now: www.theroadtonow.com

For more on Bruce Carlson's My History Can Beat Up Your Politics:
http://www.myhistorycanbeatupyourpolitics.com/

Nov 3, 2016

In the second installment of our election week series, Road to Now contributors Matt Negrin & Alex Trowbridge of Bloomberg Politics offer up another round of Path to the Present (the podcast inside a podcast) to explain the role that surrogates have played in Presidential Elections in the past and present. Through their own research and interviews with Donald Trump’s Senior Advisor/Surrogate Boris Epshteyn & Hillary Clinton surrogate/US Congressman Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Matt & Alex discuss what motivates individuals to speak on behalf of a candidate, what we can learn from speaking with surrogates, and what makes a surrogate good (or bad) at their job.

For more on The Road to Now: www.theroadtonow.com 

Oct 23, 2016

Dr. Charles Hughes of Rhodes College joins Ben and Bob to talk about his recent book Country Soul, which examines the history of music in the “Country Soul Triangle” studio towns of Memphis, Nashville, and Muscle Shoals. Charles explains how the working relationships between these three towns, and the musicians who performed in the studios, created the sound of Country Music and Soul Music in the second half of the 20th Century. The conversation also covers a variety of other topics, including the Civil Rights Movement, the history of professional wrestling, Elvis Presley, and the trends that led us from the “outlaw country” of the 1970s to the country music of today.

We’re also happy to announce that our friend Ian Skotte has joined The Road to Now team as our producer. Ian joins us at the beginning to introduce himself to our listeners and talk about a few things we have in the works for the podcast in the upcoming months.

Dr. Charles Hughes is a historian and director of the Memphis Center at Rhodes College in Memphis, TN. His most recent book, Country Soul: Making Music and Making Race in the American South was named one of Rolling Stones’ “10 Best Music Books of 2015.” His current project looks at the history of Professional Wrestling and race in the United States. 

Recorded October 6th, 2016 on the campus of Rhodes College in Memphis, TN.

More on The Road to Now and links to info on our guests can be found at our website: www.theroadtonow.com.

 

Oct 17, 2016

In 2009, Ben Sawyer read Jefferson Cowie’s Capital Moves while studying for his doctoral exams, and he loved it. In 2016, Jeff joined the department of history at Vanderbilt, conveniently located about 5 miles from Ben’s house in Nashville. Upon learning of Jeff’s move, Ben quickly wrote to ask if he’d be a guest on The Road to Now. Jeff said yes, and we’re happy to say he’s as impressive in an interview as he is in print.

In our interview, Bob and Ben speak with Jeff about Capitol Moves as well as the books he’s written since then, which have explored the history of the working class and American politics in the 20th Century. Jeff explains the central argument of his most recent book, The Great Exception: The New Deal & The Limits of American Politics, and why he thinks looking back to New Deal policies is unproductive in 21st Century America. The conversation also touches on several important topics including outsourcing, ObamaCare, Social Security, & workers’ rights, and the ways history can help us make better decisions as we address these issues moving forward.

 Dr. Jefferson Cowie holds the James G. Stahlman Chair in the Department of History at Vanderbilt University. Prior to moving to Vanderbilt in 2016, he taught at Cornell University for eighteen years.

Recorded October 8, 2016 at Vanderbilt University w/ Bob via video call.

For more on this episode and The Road to Now: www.theroadtonow.com

Oct 9, 2016

Restoring voting rights for Americans convicted of felonies has been a major issue in the last year, most recently in the state of Virginia. According to The Sentencing Project, almost 6 million Americans are prohibited from voting due to laws that take the right to vote away from those convicted of a felony.

To better understand the origins of felon disfranchisement laws, we invited Dr. Pippa Holloway of Middle Tennessee State University to join us for a discussion about her most recent book Living in Infamy: Felon Disfranchisement and the History of American Citizenship. Pippa explains the ways that these laws were developed as a strategy to prevent black Americans from voting in the post-Civil War-era. This strategy was later exported to other states such as Idaho and Hawaii for the purposes of excluding groups whose interests were in opposition to the ruling party. Pippa also discusses the current impediments to Americans’ right to vote, and offers suggestions to ensure that Americans are not denied a voice in our political process. Recorded October 4, 2016 in Nashville, TN w/ Bob via video call from Memphis, TN.

For more on the podcast: www.theroadtonow.com

 

Sep 25, 2016

The 2016 Presidential Election is in full swing, and The Road to Now has been working hard to place this election cycle within its historical context. We were therefore thrilled when Dr. Kathryn Cramer Brownell agreed to speak with us about her research on the history of Hollywood’s influence on American politics!

 Kathryn, an Assistant Professor of History at Purdue University, takes us back to the 1960s, when American politicians and media advisors came to see the adoption of Hollywood’s style of engaging the public as key to running a successful campaign. She traces the ways that the media changed the power structures within political parties, allowing individuals to bypass the party establishment by appealing directly to the public. We also discuss the winners and losers in this process, and the ways that this lens allows us to better understand Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and the 2016 election. Along the way, Kathryn blows the doors off some of the major assumptions we have about the past and present of Presidential elections. You know that story about the 1960 televised debate being a key reason for Nixon’s loss? Kathryn discovered that it was created by Nixon and his advisors six years after the debate was over. (This blew our minds!).

Recorded September 20, 2016 w/ Ben Sawyer in Nashville and Dr. Brownell in West Lafayette, IN.

For more info on the podcast: www.theroadtonow.com

Sep 19, 2016

The first Presidential debate of 2016 is fast approaching, and Bob & Ben have put together a Debate Extravaganza to help you get ready for this highly anticipated showdown!

Never before has The Road to Now offered so many brilliant minds in a single episode! Bob and Ben begin by going through some of the most important moments in the history of Presidential debates since 1960, when John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon became the first candidates to debate live on television. Bob and Ben then hand the microphone to RTN favorites Matt Negrin and Alexander Trowbridge of Bloomberg Politics for an outstanding piece on the origins of the “spin room” and the role it plays in modern debates, featuring interviews with Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz and With All Due Respect’s Mark Halperin. Our extravaganza concludes with a tremendous conversation with The Washington Post’s Chris Cilliza about the 2016 debates and what strategies may be best for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

You’re probably thinking “Matt Negrin and Alex Trowbridge…. haven’t I heard of those guys before? Well of course you have! They’re the hosts of Path to the Present, a podcast within a podcast, brought to you by the podcast Double Down and Out, brought to you by Double Down (still available on Amazon and still kind of relevant), featuring The Road Less Traveled, a micropodcast featuring deleted scenes from The Road to Now. They’ve also joined our team as official contributors to The Road to Now, and we couldn’t be more excited! (Trust us, this will all make sense once you listen to the episode!)

For more on The Road to Now: www.theroadtonow.com

 

Sep 13, 2016

In The Road to Now’s first episode abroad, Bob and Ben are joined by Sir Alan Meale for a conversation about the politics and recent history of the United Kingdom. Meale, a Labour Party politician who has served for nearly three decades as a Member of Parliament from Mansfield (Nottingham County), offers his perspective on the political system of the UK, the European Union’s impact on the history of the UK and Europe, and the challenges that the UK faces as it severs its ties with the EU. He also shares his own personal history, and the reasons he decided to join the Labour Party and devote his life to public service through politics.

Recorded September 1st from the Parliament of the United Kingdom, London, England (w/ Ben via Skype from Nashville, TN).

You can find out more about The Road to Now on our website: www.theroadtonow.com

 

Sep 5, 2016

In the first episode of The Road to Now recorded over the Internet via Skype, Dr. Bradley Fidler explains the key moments in the development of the Internet and gives his take on the issues facing us as we move further into the 21st century. An episode about the Internet, recorded over the Internet? Yes, and it gets better because we recorded the interview at UCLA’s Boelter Hall ARPANET exhibit, and ARPANET was one of the most important networks in the early Internet.

Dr. Bradley Fidler is a researcher and historian with UCLA Computer Science whose research examines the remarkably complex and brilliant process that brought us to the Internet that we ended up with today. As Bradley makes clear, today's networks have deep roots that involve a number of actors in both the private and public sector (and yeah, Al Gore didn’t invent the internet, but his role in its expansion was probably more significant than most people realize).

Interview recorded Friday, July 22nd at the Boelter Hall ARPANET exhibit on the campus of the University of California-Los Angeles (w/ Bob via Skype from Portland, Oregon).

For more on our podcast: www.theroadtonow.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aug 3, 2016

During a recent trip to Nashville, Dr. Carlos Aleman caught up with Ben and Bob for a great discussion about the history of Nicaragua and US relations with Central America in the 20th Century. Carlos’ expertise on this topic is both personal and professional; he was born in Nicaragua in 1979, immigrated to San Francisco, CA as a child, and earned his PhD in Latin American history from Michigan State University in 2012. In his interview, Carlos explains the history of Nicaraguan politics, the role the country played in the Iran-Contra scandal, and the ways these larger events affected his own road from Grenada, Nicaragua to Birmingham, Alabama, where he is currently an Assistant Professor of History at Samford University.

The conversation also covers a variety of other topics, from Nashville-born William Walker who invaded Nicaragua, and proclaimed himself President of the country in the 1850s, to the state of immigration policy today.

Recorded August 20th, 2016 in Nashville, TN w/ Bob via Skype from North Carolina.

For more on The Road to Now, check out our website: http://www.theroadtonow.com/

Aug 2, 2016

In the lucky 13th episode of the Road to Now, Bob and Ben sit down with the multi-talented Scott Avett to talk about the influences, events, and family history that led him to his life as an artist. Scott is a founding member of the award-winning band The Avett Brothers, which he established more than a decade and a half ago along with his brother Seth, and Road to Now host Bob Crawford. Scott is also an accomplished painter whose art has been shown across the United States.

The hosts of the Road to Now have a long-established friendship with the guest, and both Bob and Ben agree that Scott’s personal history and worldview are remarkable. We therefore hope you will enjoy what is not only a fascinating interview, but a convergence of three individuals whose lives have roots that span most of their adult lives.

Recorded Wednesday, July 20th, 2016 in Portland, Oregon.

More on this episode and others can be found at: www.theroadtonow.com

 

Jul 26, 2016

In episode 12 of the Road to Now, Bob and Ben discuss the Hillary Clinton email controversy and the history of government documents with archives specialist Stacy Wood. Wood places the Clinton controversy within its historical context and explains how tricky it can be to walk the line between secrecy and preserving documents for posterity.

Stacy Wood is a critical scholar of archives, information policy and information studies who engages with the legal and cultural aspects of records and technology. She hold a Masters Degree in Library and Information Studies with a specialization in Archival Studies, and is currently a doctoral candidate in Information Studies at UCLA.

Recorded July 22nd, 2016 at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles.

For more information on The Road to Now, check out our website:  www.theroadtonow.com

 

Jun 22, 2016

During a recent trip to Denver, Bob and Ben were fortunate enough to sit down with journalist and historian Dick Kreck at the historic Brown Palace Hotel for a conversation about the history of Denver and its establishment in the 19th and early 20th century. Dick Kreck has more than four decades of experience as a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner, The LA Times, and The Denver Post, and has published numerous books on the history of Colorado and the west. Kreck shared his incredible knowledge about western migration, the construction of the trans-continental railroad, and the ways that the Denver of the 21st century reflects the region's past. Recorded June 18th, 2016 at the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver Colorado. For more information on this episode and links to topics discussed in the interview, please visit www.TheRoadToNow, and follow us on twitter: @Road_To_Now.

Jun 16, 2016

On this episode of The Road to Now, we speak with Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper about his new memoir The Opposite of Woe: My Life in Beer and Politics and the ways that his peculiar & fascinating life interact with the greater history of our country. Gov. Hickenlooper shares his family history, which he traces back to the earliest settlers of the Pennsylvania colony in the 1680s, and talks about a wide variety of fascinating topics including the urban/rural split in Colorado, the Grateful Dead, and his friendship with Kurt Vonnegut. Gov. Hickenlooper also talks about his years as a geologist, working in real estate, opening Denver's first brew pub, and the value that comes from hanging a light on one's weaknesses in the pursuit of excellence. We hope you enjoy this episode as much as we enjoyed our time with Gov. Hickenlooper. Hosted by Ben Sawyer and Bob Crawford. Recorded June 15, 2016 in the Colorado State Capitol Building in Denver, CO. 

Jun 9, 2016

Tara Houska (Honor the Earth; Native American Affairs Advisor to the Bernie Sanders Campaign) and Dr. Joseph Genetin-Pilawa (Assistant Professor of History at George Mason University) join Bob and Ben to talk about Native American culture and history. They discuss the use of Native American imagery in American popular culture, and link these depictions of American Indians to a long history of discrimination and marginalization in US history. Recorded June 3rd, 2016 on the Campus of George Mason University.

Jun 6, 2016

Bob and Ben speak to Thomas Hanchett (former Curator of the Levine Museum of the New South) about the history of Charlotte and the rise of the "New South" cities following the Civil War. Dr. Hanchett discusses the ways that city, state, and federal policies have shaped Charlotte as it is today, as well as the ways that new patterns of migration and development are changing what it means to be "southern." Dr. Hanchett also places the controversy surrounding North Carolina's HB2 in historical context. 

Recorded May 31, 2016 at the Levine Museum of the New South in Charlotte, North Carolina. 

May 19, 2016

Bob Crawford of the Avett Brothers talks to Producer Alexander Trowbridge and Writer Matt Negrin of Bloomberg's "With All Due Respect," which is hosted by "Game Change" authors Mark Halpern and John Heilemann. The show was also recently picked up by MSNBC. They discuss how they got involved with the show, the history of entertainment news, and their take on the rules of politics in the 21st Century. They also discuss the impact of Jon Stewart and the "Daily Show" on the history of the news media. The show begins with a conversation between Bob Crawford and historian/co-host Dr. Benjamin Sawyer of Middle Tennessee State University. Recorded Wednesday, May 11 at Bloomberg Studios in New York City. 

May 19, 2016

In episode 1, Bob Crawford of the Avett Brothers and historian Dr. Benjamin Sawyer of Middle Tennessee State University explain their goals for the Road to Now podcast and attempt to trace the historical roots of the new populism that is reshaping American's political landscape in the lead up to the Presidential Election of 2016. Recorded May 6, 2016 at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. 

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