Here Be Monsters Podcast

The Podcast About the Unknown

HBM047: Peacocks Without Tails [EXPLICIT]

When Hippocrates noticed that the hair on the top of his head was falling out, he fought it by applying various ointments of opium to his scalp.  But none of them worked.  So he called it a disease and named it "Alopecia" (translated to "disease of the fox") after the mangy, hairless foxes that wandered Greece in those days.  His friends called it something different though, they called it a "Hippocratic Wreath."

He also tried sheep urine.  That didn't work either. 

Like Hippocrates, HBM Host Jeff Emtman is concerned about his hair loss.  And unlike Hippocrates, Jeff is staying away from opium and sheep genitals.   However, he wants to know if there's a relationship between baldness and vanity, so he found three bald (and bald-ish) people asked them to share stories of their hair and how they lost it, how they fought it, how they dealt with it, along with their wishes and regrets.  

Jeff Emtman interviewed: 
- Brian Emtman (Jeff's brother), who lost his hair at 20
- Eric Nucci, who has genetically thin hair
- Carrie McCarty, who has trichotillomania, a hair plucking psychiatric disorder

Brian Emtman Hiking in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State. 

Eric Nucci in 7th grade

Carrie McCarty composited on to the body of an antelope (per her request)

If you're a die-hard Here Be Monsters fan, you'll recognize Carrie's voice from a short radio piece called Psychic Blob, wherein Carrie extracts a benign tumor from Jeff's arm in her backyard.  

Please note: this episode has some foul language.

Track image for this episode comes from an app called Make Me Bald (free, Android only). 

Music: Monster Rally ||| Lucky Dragons ||| The Black Spot ||| Flowers ||| Serocell

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HBM046: Crooked Skirts

Growing up in Queens, NY, Karen Smith had no reason to suspect anything was wrong with her. Even when it hurt to sit for too long, or when her clothes didn't fit right, everything seemed fine. That's because Karen's mother did everything she could to hide the fact that Karen had Spina Bifida.  The condition gave Karen severe scoliosis, a curve in her spine that made walking painful and made her skirts hang crooked.  Her mother removed any full-length mirrors from the house in attempts to keep Karen from becoming self-conscious. But as she grew older, her scoliosis became more severe.  And by the time she was in fifth grade, Karen had to be hospitalized in a children's ward, in and out of a corrective halo.  This was just the beginning of three long years of treatment.

Bedridden and limited in her mobility by body casts and back braces, Karen judged the passing of time by the sounds around her as her vision progressively worsened. She found solace in her AM radio, pulling in stations in from far away in the middle of the night.  She heard sounds of the courtyard below, filtering up through an open window.  She wondered if the other kids would be too old to play with her by the time she's healthy enough to join them. 

Music: Garrett Tiedemann of American Residue Records

This story was produced and scored by Garrett Tiedemann, creator of The White Whale podcast.  Garrett also works for Sister Story, a series that shares the daily lives of Catholic nuns.   Bethany Denton and Jeff Emtman edited this piece. Nick White is our editor at KCRW.

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HBM045: Deep Stealth Mode (How To Be A Girl)

Marlo Mack gave birth to a son.  At least, she thought she did.  As a toddler, her son crawled towards dresses, wanted to be a princess, asked to grow long blonde hair.  And at age 3, Marlo's son requested to return to her tummy so he could come back out as a baby girl.  Marlo thought it was a phase--it wasn't.  So she started learning how to raise a very young transgender daughter.  She started keeping audio diaries. 

In this episode, Marlo sends her child to a new summer camp, and struggles with giving her autonomy in revealing her gender identity to other children.  

Marlo faces questions daily about how to best raise her daughter.  How can she stimulate her child while protecting her in a world often unkind to transfolk?  She tells her daughter that there are some people who are like Darth Vader, just too sad to be kind anymore. 

Marlo Mack and her daughter produce a podcast about their life together called How to Be a Girl.  Marlo generously gave us access to her raw recordings for use on this episode.  How to Be a Girl is part of The Heard, a new podcast network.  Marlo also writes a blog called Gender Mom

Marlo Mack is a pseudonym.  She will keep their true identities secret until her child is old enough to understand the risks of revealing her identity.  These risks are real.  2015 has been an especially bad year for trans folk;  2015 has already seen the murders of at least 15 American trans women.  Marlo and her daughter exist in what they call "deep stealth mode." 

So, when do you tell people that you're a girl with a penis? When is it safer to hide?

This episode was produced by Marlo Mack.  Jeff Emtman edited it with help from Bethany Denton and Nick White. 

Music:  The Black Spot 

Resources for trans children and their parents: 
Trans Youth Family Allies   - for families of trans youth
The Trevor Project - specifically crisis and suicide prevention
YouthResource - specifically for trans/lgbt youth
Human Rights Campaign - list of resources for trans youth

Video by Marlo Mack.

Marlo's daughter meets advocate and actress Laverne Cox.

HBM044: Distant Warfare

Bridget Burnquist was backpacking around Southeast Asia. After weeks of drinking cheap liquor on beautiful beaches, she was beginning to feel as though her experiences were merely superficial. She heard rumors that the nearby country of Myanmar (formerly Burma) was home to beautiful mountain villages that have hardly changed for centuries, accessible only by hiking for days in the Burmese jungles. So she headed west into Myanmar, despite (or perhaps, because of) warnings from the U.S. State Department that essentially said, “If you get into trouble, you're on your own. Travel at your own risk.”

It was spring of 2014, just a few short years after Myanmar had emerged from decades of isolation imposed by its shuttered military rulers. Hundreds of unique ethnic groups within the borders of Myanmar have since been fighting for political representation. Unbeknownst to Bridget, a civil war still waged within its borders.

Bridget soon arrived in the Shan State.  This region of Myanmar is home to mountainous terrain and diverse ethnic communities, accessible only by foot. She joined up with a local guide and a fellow Western traveler.  The three decide to backpack through the Palaung tea country and up into the higher, wilder areas of Myanmar.  One night in the mountains, Bridget and her travel companions had an unexpected encounter with Palaung rebel soldiers that left her questioning her perception of violence and proximity.

Valley where William heard RPGs

Valley where William heard RPGs

WARNING: The videos below contain images of warfare that may be disturbing to some viewers.   These videos were uploaded a group claiming to be the TNLA, a Palaung rebel army.  We sampled sounds from these videos for the episode.   Jeff examined the first video, and believes that the sounds of gunshots were added in post-production.

Since Myanmar gained independence in 1948, an estimated 130,000 civilians and soldiers have been killed in civil conflict; over 700 people have been killed this year. Recent peace talks between the Burmese government and rebel groups ended in a stalemate in August 2015. An election is slated for November 2015. 

Aung San Suu Kyi, a Burmese advocate for democracy, is attempting to run for president against militant incumbent Thein Sein. Her candidacy has recently been disqualified by lawmakers, but Aung San Suu Kyi continues to advocate for constitutional change to allow her presidential campaign.

Bridget Burnquist produced this episode with editing help from Jeff Emtman and Bethany Denton. Our editor at KCRW is Nick White.

Music:  The Black Spot   |||  Serocell   |||   Nym   |||   Lucky Dragons

Lying in a Stranger's Grave

Carlos Gemora loved the feeling of the dirt at the cemetary where he used to dig graves.  One day he climbed down into the loamy, silty soil and looked up at the sky.  It felt like a womb... a death womb. 

This piece was produced by Alex Kime and Jeff Emtman, with support from Bethany Denton. Our editor at KCRW is Nick White.

Music by Nym and Lucky Dragons