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The Road to Now

In 2006, Bob Crawford (The Avett Brothers) & Dr. Benjamin Sawyer (MTSU History) sat down to talk history in a Detroit coffee shop. Their discussion lasted a couple hours, but the conversation kept going. Join them as they trace the road between past and present with the help of great thinkers from the academy, the media, politics, entertainment and more.
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Oct 19, 2020

Journalist David Menconi has documented the people and sounds of North Carolina’s music scene for almost three decades. In this episode, Ben and guest co-host Dolph Ramseur speak with David about his new book Step It Up and Go: The Story of North Carolina Popular Music, from Blind Boy Fuller and Doc Watson to Nina Simone and Superchunk, and how the music of “The Old North State” is both reflected in, and a reflection of, its people.

David Menconi spent 28 years writing for the Raleigh News & Observer and was Piedmont Laureate in 2019. His other works include Ryan Adams: Losering, A Story of Whiskeytown" (University of Texas Press, 2012); "Comin’ Right at Ya: How a Jewish Yankee Hippie Went Country, or, the Often Outrageous History of Asleep at the Wheel. (co-written with Ray Benson, University of Texas Press, 2015). You can follow him on twitter at @NCDavidMenconi.

Guest co-host Dolph Ramseur is the founder of Ramseur Records and a member of the North Carolina Hall of Fame.

If you’re enjoying The Road to Now, please consider joining us on Patreon, giving us a 5 star rating/review on Apple podcasts and sharing this episode with a friend who might also enjoy it. Thank you!

This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.

The Road to Now is a member of the Osiris Podcast Network.

Oct 5, 2020

This episode is a reair of RTN #48 (with an updated intro).

George Washington is one of the most revered figures in American history. As Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, Washington led his troops to one of the most unlikely and world-shaking victories in modern history, and his selection as President of both the Constitutional Convention and the new government designed that summer in Philadelphia, demonstrate the unmatched faith that the founders had in General Washington. Today, however, we tend to remember Washington more for the positions he held than for the personal qualities that made him a peerless member of the founding generation, but the wisdom left to us by our first President in his farewell address is perhaps more relevant today than ever before. In this episode of The Road to Now we explain why in our discussion with Daily Beast editor-in-chief John Avlon about his book Washington’s Farewell: The Founding Father’s Warning to Future Generations.  

Sep 21, 2020

2020 has been “eventful” so Bob & Ben decided to take an episode to sit back and cover what’s been happening lately and answer questions from our Patrons. We discuss Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the state of politics in the US and major developments in the 2020 election. Ben also gives a rundown of the recent White House Conference on American History (read his twitter thread here) and what appears to be the agenda behind Trump’s announcement of the 1776 commission to “Promote Patriotic Education.

In other words, there’s a lot here. Thank you for listening.

This episode was recorded live via zoom webinar. If you’d like to be in the zoom room for our upcoming live conversations, join us on Patreon: Patreon.com/TheRoadtoNow

This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.

The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.

Sep 7, 2020

The confrontations between demonstrators and police that have taken place in the last few months have resulted in a national debate about law enforcement. The expanded use of Federal officers in American cities and the use of unmarked vehicles to detain citizens are concerning recent developments, but some scholars have pointed out that these tactics bear striking similarities to the strategies pursued by the US abroad. In this episode, Ben & guest co-host Alex Galarza speak w/ Johns Hopkins’ Stuart Schrader about the ways that US counterinsurgency abroad came to transform American policing from the 20th century to today.

Dr. Stuart Schrader is Lecturer/Assistant Research Scientist in Sociology and the Associate Director of the Program in Racism, Immigration, and Citizenship at Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of Badges Without Borders: How Global Counterinsurgency Transformed American Policing (University of California Press, 2019) and has contributed to several major media outlets, including The Washington Post, The Nation & American Quarterly. You can follow him on twitter at @stschrader1.

This week’s guest co-host Alex Galarza is Digital Scholarship Librarian at the University of Delaware. He is a specialist on Latin American history with a focus on the history of sport. Alex also appeared in RTN #99 The History & Politics of the World Cup w/ Alex Galarza & Matt Negrin. You can follow Alex on twitter at @galarzaalex.

This episode was edited by Aaron Weber. The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.

Aug 24, 2020

Ravi Patel has been a lot of things– an investment banker, an actor, the co-founder of an organization that benefits undernourished children– but in recent years, he’s set out to find the answers to life’s big questions and to share what he finds with others. In this episode, Ravi joins Bob and Ben for a conversation about family, friends and what he discovered from traveling the world for his new series Ravi Patel’s Pursuit of Happiness, which premieres August 24th on HBO MAX.

Ravi Patel has appeared as an actor in several hit television shows, including Scrubs, Master of None and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and received multiple awards for his documentary, Meet The Patels, which he co-directed with his sister, Geeta. In 2013, he co-founded This Saves Lives w/ fellow actors Kirsten Bell, Ryan Devlin & Todd Grinnell to help alleviate child malnutrition around the world. And did we mention that his new show Ravi Patel’s Pursuit of Happiness premieres August 24th on HBO MAX (seriously, it’s fantastic- we hope you’ll watch it!).

Love audiobooks? Want to support your local bookstore and The Road to Now while you listen? Then check out our sponsor, Libro.fm. Click here to check out a playlist of books by our recent guests and use promo code RTN to get 2 books for just $15!

This episode was edited by Aaron Weber.

The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.

Aug 10, 2020

In 2006, Roger McNamee played a crucial role in convincing Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg not to sell his company to Yahoo!. A couple of years later, he helped bring Sheryl Sandberg in as Facebook’s COO. Yet despite this personal connection, and his role as an early investor in the company, Roger now believes that Facebook has become a threat to democracy. In this episode, Bob and Ben talk with Roger about his book Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe, the role Facebook has played in spreading disinformation, and the steps he believes we should take to regain control over the tech giants of the modern world.

Roger McNamee is Managing Director of Elevation Partners, which he co-founded in 2004 with U2’s Bono. Roger is also a member of the band Moonalice, which plays live stream every day at 4:20pm.

Jul 27, 2020

The military engagements of the US Civil War came to an end in 1865, but the ideology of the confederacy was not so easily defeated. In this episode we speak with Dr. Heather Cox Richardson about her new book How the South Won the Civil War: Oligarchy, Democracy, and the Continuing Fight for the Soul of America and how the worldview of antebellum southern elites came to be embraced by the “movement conservatives” who are at the helm of the modern Republican party. Heather also talks about how she’s able to make history relatable to a general audience, her writing process, and why she is fearful, but optimistic, about the future of democracy in the United States.

Dr. Heather Cox Richardson is Professor of History at Boston College and the author of six books on US history. Her “Letters from An American” are published almost every day on her facebook page and on substack, where you can subscribe to support her work. You can follow her on twitter at @HC_Richardson

The full unedited video of this conversation is available on our Patreon page.

For more on Dr. Richardson’s work, check out The Road to Now #38 The History of the Republican Party from Abraham Lincoln to Donald Trump w/ Heather Cox Richardson.

This episode was edited by Ben Sawyer

The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.

Jul 13, 2020

Cellist Joe Kwon joins Bob & Ben to talk about his journey from aspiring classical musician to Bob’s bandmate in The Avett Brothers. Joe shares his experiences as a Korean immigrant growing up in North Carolina, why he decided to become a cellist, and where he learned to play the cello standing up. Joe and Bob also discuss how they first met, Joe's first show with the band, and why Joe has such a deep appreciation and passion for cooking and food.

For more on Joe, check out his website KwonKwon.com, designed by Charles and Destiny Crossingham at Seven Ages Design.

The Road to Now is part of the Osiris podcast network. This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.

Jun 29, 2020

As Americans grapple with the devastation wrought by the dual pandemics of racism and Covid-19, it is critically important to understand the vast racial disparities Covid-19 has exposed within the African American community (specifically), but communities of color (generally). The legacies of housing policies sponsoring residential segregation, and the associated racial gaps in wealth, educational achievement, health inequities, and lethal police encounters resonate nationally, but global white supremacy and migration patterns have contributed to powerful displays of international solidarity.

In this episode, Dr. Louis Woods speaks with experts in multiple fields to examine how the sudden shock of the Covid-19 pandemic has illuminated the centuries-old pandemic of racism in western culture, and particularly in the United States. Sociologist Dr. Tony Brown discusses underlying health disparities. Dr. Terah Venzant Chambers describes educational funding discrepancies contributing to racial achievement gaps. Dr. Sharita Jacobs-Thompson explores the invaluable contribution her co-taught “History of Policing” class has made to DC Metropolitan veteran officers and police cadets. Dr. Michelle Stevens examines the link between PTSD and trauma in the black community and emphasizes the critical importance of self-care. Dr. Glenn Chambers provides international contexts to the global protest movement associated with murder of George Floyd. Dr. Louis Woods then concludes with an analysis of historical housing policy and the generational impacts witnessed today.

It took the world stopping, for a critical mass of white Americans to hear, in many instances for the first time, the legitimate outcries of police brutality made generationally by African Americans. This podcast episode provides a holistic exploration to the tragedies that made this latest iteration of white police terror both a national and an international movement.

This episode is part of RTN’s Pass The Mic Project. This episode was recorded by, and remains the property of, Dr. Louis Woods.

Jun 22, 2020

Tom Nichols is University Professor at the Naval War College, where he specializes in international affairs, and a respected commentator on US politics and international security. A former Republican, Tom broke from the party during the Trump administration and has since been a vocal critic of the current administration. In this episode Bob and Ben speak with Tom about the current state of American politics and his book The Death of Expertise: The Campaign against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters, (Oxford University Press, 2017). You can follow Tom Nichols on Twitter at @RadioFreeTom

This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.

The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.

Jun 15, 2020

Michael Bonfiglio is an award-winning filmmaker whose work as a director and producer includes May It Last: A Portrait of the Avett Brothers (2017), the ESPN 30 for 30 documentaries You Don’t Know Bo: The Legend of Bo Jackson (2012) and Doc & Darryl (2016), and From the Ashes (2017). Mike joins Ben & Bob to talk about the art of making documentary films, how his work engages with the historical narrative, and how the coronavirus epidemic has changed filmmakers work.

This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.

The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.

Jun 1, 2020

Since going viral with his Liberal Redneck videos in 2016, comedian Trae Crowder has become well-known for sharing a perspective that is southern in origin, but not quite what most people expect. In this episode, Trae joins Bob and Ben for a conversation about southern culture, the south’s bizarre embrace of Donald Trump, and how his work helped a lot of southerners with less conservative viewpoints to ‘come out of the closet.’ We also talk about how Trae’s family and education helped to shape his understanding of the world, and what it’s like when you have your work suddenly go viral.

For more on Trae, visit the WellRED Comedy Tour's website and subscribe to The WellRed Podcast, w/ Trae Crowder, Corey Ryan Forrester, and Drew Morgan. 

We also announce that this summer, The Road to Now will be going to a bi-weekly schedule. We've got some great guests lined up, and you can join us for the recordings by supporting us on Patreon! For details: Patreon.com/TheRoadToNow

This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.

The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.

May 18, 2020

There was a lot happening when Bob and Ben launched the first episode of The Road to Now on May 19th, 2016. It was the year of a Presidential election, there was an intense feeling of partisanship in the air, and people were everywhere- at concerts, in classes, on the sidewalk….

Four years later, Bob and Ben are still going strong, so we decided to make this year’s anniversary episode a party and to invite our Patrons. It’s not a typical episode of RTN, but we hope you enjoy it!

Thanks to everyone who has supported us on Patreon, attended a live show, bought our merch, told a friend about our work, or even just taken the time to listen to an episode. RTN matters to us because it matters to you.

This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.

The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.

May 11, 2020

Baseball is part of America’s cultural fabric, and few people know the game and its place in society as well as Jayson Stark. As a celebrated sportswriter, Jayson has witnessed baseball’s transformation for more than four decades, and has had a front-row seat to some of the biggest moments in the sport’s history. In this episode, Bob & Ben talk with Jayson about baseball’s place in American culture, how the scandals in the sport reflect moments in American history, and how Major League Baseball has persevered through some of our country’s hardest times. Jayson also talks about his path from beat writer covering the Phillies to award-winning sportswriter, what he considers important when casting his vote for the Baseball Hall of Fame, and why nobody wants to visit the National Baseball Hall of Purity.

Jayson Stark covers Major League Baseball for The Athletic. In 2019 he received the 2019 J.G. Taylor Spink Award, for which he was honored at the Baseball Hall of Fame. He is the author of three books on baseball, has won an Emmy for his work on Baseball Tonight and is a two-time winner of the Pennsylvania sportswriter-of-the-year award. He’s so good at covering baseball that Topps honored him with his own baseball card in 2017.

Thank you to everyone on Patreon who joined us for our live zoom recording!

This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.

The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.

May 4, 2020

On June 22, 1941, Nazi Germany launched an attack on the USSR that caught Soviet leaders completely off guard. Over the next four years, the Red Army was transformed, as were the lives of more than 34 million men and women who served in its ranks. In this episode, Ben speaks with Brandon Schechter about his new book The Stuff of Soldiers: A History of the Red Army in World War II Through Objects (Cornell University Press, 2019) and how examining the objects used during World War II- from rifles, to shovels, to spoons- can give us a deeper understanding of soldiers’ lives and the war as a whole.

Dr. Brandon Schechter is Visiting Assistant Professor of History at Columbia University, where he specializes in the history of the Soviet Union and material culture.  

The images discussed in this episode can be seen on our website at http://www.theroadtonow.com/episodes/e170.

This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.

The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.

Apr 27, 2020

The Kinks are one of the great rock bands of the 20th century, and like all artists, they reflect the times and places they’ve inhabited. In this episode, we speak with Mark Doyle about his excellent new book The Kinks: Songs of the Semi-Detached (Reaktion Books, 2020) and how the band, their origins, and Ray Davies’ lyrics can teach us a lot about both the real and imagined spaces of mid-20th Century England.

Dr. Mark Doyle is Professor of History at Middle Tennessee State University, where he specializes in the history of the British Empire. His research and teaching have won him numerous awards including the Stansky Book Prize (co-winner, 2017) and MTSU’s Outstanding Teacher Award (2014-15). Ben once described him as “the Patton Oswalt of academic twitter,” so we recommend you follow him there at @DrMarkDoyle.  

The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network. This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.

Apr 20, 2020

This is a rebroadcast of an episode that originally aired on March 20, 2017

Note: Given that we are relying more than ever on technology to communicate and work during this epidemic, we thought it was a good time to share our interview w/ Nicholas Carr.

The internet has revolutionized the human experience in the 21st century. Our ability to communicate with others, find locations in unfamiliar places, and access information from across the globe has never been easier, and new media like blogs and podcasts have connected voices with audiences in ways that were not possible just a few decades ago. Yet, despite all these incredible benefits, many of us are beginning to sense that all this connectivity is affecting the way we think and interact with one another. How is the internet affecting our brains, and should we be concerned about it? How is the internet different from other media technologies such as print, radio and television? And is google making us stupid? In this episode of the Road to Now, we get the answer from New York Times Best Selling Author Nicholas Carr.

A special thank you to Middle Tennessee State University and Dr. Susan Myers-Shirk for arranging this interview as part of MTSU's Scholars' Week Talk. 

For more on this or other episodes of The Road to Now, please visit our website: www.TheRoadToNow.com.

This episode of the Road to Now is a re-air of episode #149 The History of Technology w/ Nicholas Carr. You can get the other episodes in our history of energy series by supporting us on Patreon.

Apr 13, 2020

As people try to make sense of the Coronavirus epidemic, some have unfortunately turned to conspiracy theories linking Covid-19 to the installation of 5G networks. In this episode, Bob and Ben speak with Stacy Wood about her research on conspiracy theories, the past conspiracy theories that have converged in the 5G theory, and the reasons some people are willing to accept these explanations of the world in spite of strong evidence to the contrary.

 

Dr. Stacy Wood is Assistant Professor at the School of Computing and Information Science at the University of Pittsburgh. She is a critical scholar of archives, information policy and information studies who engages with the legal and cultural aspects of records and technology. You can find out more about her at her personal website, StacyEWood.com and follow her on twitter at @StacyEWood. You can also hear Stacy in RTN episodes #12 and #146.

The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network. This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.

Apr 6, 2020

When we think of epidemics, we often imagine the central struggle as between microbe and epidemiologist. But as the coronavirus outbreak has reminded us, our individual actions can compound in ways that have a very real implications for any epidemic. The narrative we adopt to understand these events- ie the story we tell ourselves about who is responsible, who can save us, and what power we have in that struggle- shapes our decisions, and therefore shapes the outcome of these tragic moments. In this episode we speak with Dr. Priscilla Wald about her research on what she calls the “outbreak narrative” and how understanding it might help us respond better in the present.

Dr. Priscilla Wald is R. Florence Brinkley Distinguished Professor of English at Duke University and the author of Contagious: Cultures, Carriers, and the Outbreak Narrative, (Duke University Press, 2008).

The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network. This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.

Mar 30, 2020

Based on what you’ve told us on social media, it’s time for a break from the outbreak. So in this episode, Bob and Ben talk about the French Revolution, nationalism and colonization (aka the books assigned for Bob’s Graduate European History Seminar). They also talk about the art of teaching and Ben’s approach to transitioning to teaching his history classes online (which he recently had to do for an unspecified reason).

 

And, admittedly, they did slip up a couple of times and mention a particular epidemic, but mostly in a positive way. (It’s mostly at the end.)

 

The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network. This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher. 

Mar 23, 2020

Note: Bob and Ben start off talking about the Covid-19 outbreak and plans for upcoming episodes of this podcast. We shift to our discussion with Dr. Cohen at about 10:30.

The suburbanization of the American landscape after World War II left the country’s older urban centers in crisis. Revitalizing cities was no easy task, and many of the most inspiring plans for reconstructing America’s urban space went unfulfilled. These visions may have never come to fruition, but Lizabeth Cohen says there is much to learn from the visionaries. In this episode Dr. Cohen joins us for a conversation about post-WWII America, the pros and cons of biography, and her new book Saving America’s Cities: Ed Logue and the Struggle to Renew Urban America in the Suburban Age, which recently won her a second Bancroft Prize for American History.

Dr. Lizabeth Cohen is Lizabeth Cohen is the Howard Mumford Jones Professor of American Studies and a Harvard University Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of History at Harvard. Cohen’s previous books include Making a New Deal: Industrial Workers in Chicago, 1919-1939, winner of the Bancroft Prize and a finalist for the Pulitzer, and A Consumers’ Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America.

Note: Bob and Ben start off talking about the Covid-19 outbreak and plans for upcoming episodes of this podcast. We shift to our discussion with Dr. Cohen at about 10:30.

 The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network. This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.  

Mar 16, 2020

Disasters abound, and what comes next is all about making good decisions. Ben talks about the Nashville tornado of 1998, the Nashville tornado of 2020, and the coronavirus, and Dr. Andy Bruno shares his expertise on the origins of natural disasters and what we can learn from studying them in history.

Mar 9, 2020

Bob and Ben speak with Dr. Chuck Keeney about the history of coal in the United States. Chuck explains the ways that the coal industry has shaped not only the physical landscape of mining towns, but also, through lobbying efforts and information campaigns, the way we understand our nation’s history. Chuck is uniquely qualified to tell the story of coal; not only does he hold a PhD in history from West Virginia University, he is the great-grandson of coal miner and labor organizer Frank Keeney, who was part of The Battle of Blair Mountain.

(The Battle of Blair Mountain was a 1921 shootout between coal miners and the coal companies that was the largest domestic insurrection since the Civil War. If you want to know more, it’s all in this episode. Or you could stop by the West Virginia Mine Wars Museum where Chuck Keeney is on the Board of Directors).

Chuck Keeney was featured in the 2017 NatGeo Documentary From the Ashes, which was directed by Michael Bonfiglio. We highly recommend you take the time to watch!Chuck Keeney was featured in the 2017 NatGeo Documentary From the Ashes, which was directed by Michael Bonfiglio. We highly recommend you take the time to watch!

The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network. This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.

This is a reair of RTN #61, which originally aired on July 19, 2017. You can get the other episodes in our history of energy series by supporting us on Patreon.

Feb 24, 2020

For many years now, Tim Mossberger has been building an incredible collection of material objects, music, and information on Bob’s band The Avett Brothers. In this episode, Bob and Ben talk with Tim about how he became the Avett Archivist, where he gets his rare items, and how he processes, preserves, and organizes the massive amount of material he’s acquired over the years. Bob and Tim also talk about the history of The Avett Brothers & the turning points that helped the band bring their music to a wider audience.

The Avett Archives are open and available to the public at http://www.asmylifeturnstoasong.com/. You can follow Tim on twitter at @AvettArchivist.

We’ve also posted some of Tim’s deep cuts on the page for this episode, available by clicking here.

Bob and Ben are taking the show on the road and we’ll be hitting towns across the US this year. Click here for show dates and tickets!

The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network. This episode was edited Gary Fletcher.

Feb 17, 2020

The Road to Now is celebrating our fourth Presidents’ Day by launching our first Presidents’ Day episode! To mark this momentous occasion, Bob and Ben both sat down with a list of three significant moments in presidential history and discussed how they changed the country. Are there Roosevelts? Yes. Are there presidents born in three different centuries? Yes. Should you listen instead of asking any more question? Yes! We hope you enjoy the episode!

 

This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher. The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network

Bob and Ben are taking the show on the road! See our calendar of events by clicking here.

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