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Season 9 | Episode 4

The Soul Patch

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Taped window Taped window (xtopalopaquetl/flickr)

This hour, stories of unlikely (and surprisingly simple) answers to seemingly unsolvable problems.

We get to know a man who struggles, and mostly fails, to contain his violent outbursts...until he meets a bird who can keep him in check. Then, Oliver Sacks and Chuck Close, who are both face-blind, share workarounds that help them figure out who they’re talking to. And a senior center stumbles upon an unexpected way to help Alzheimer’s patients -- by building a bus stop.

A Form of Hope

We begin in the middle of a phone call with Lulu Miller, who tells us the story of a couple with a seemingly unsolvable problem. It's the 1970s, and Richard and Tucker are very much in love. They'd like to get married, but it's against the law. And that would have been the end of the story...except that Richard, worried about Tucker and frustrated that he couldn't legally provide for him, came up with a very unusual (but totally legal) solution.

Lulu says these moments, where one little switch can reframe reality, are a kind of duct tape for the ethereal sadness. It's a form of hope, where an imperfect workaround opens up a door and makes life a little bit better.

And that brings us to a man named Jim Eggers, who suffers from a problem that not only puts his life at risk--it jeopardizes the safety of everybody around him. Producer Pat Walters explains how Jim found a way to manage his anger with the help of a bird named Sadie. African Grey Parrot expert Irene Pepperberg helps us understand how this could work, and shares some insights from her work with a parrot named Alex.


Comments [23]

About Face

Oliver Sacks, the famous neuroscientist and author, can't recognize faces. Neither can Chuck Close, the great artist known for his enormous paintings of...that's right, faces. 

Oliver and Chuck--both born with the condition known as Face Blindness--have spent their lives decoding who is saying hello to them. You can sit ...

Comments [11]

A Bus to Nowhere

There’s a common problem faced by Alzheimer's and Dementia patients all over the world: lost in their memories, they sometimes get disoriented, and wander off. When this happens, they can end up far from home and frightened, or even hurt. So what are you supposed to do if your loved ...

Comments [13]

Comments [32]

Laurajane from Massachusetts

What incredible empathy on the part of those in charge with caring for patients with Alzheimer's. Viewing it is "lying" to the individual comes from those not effected by the disease as in the moment of agitation "getting home" is very real to the sufferer and being able to calm them in their reality is a true kindness.
My mom was diagnosed in her late 50's and I remember on more than one occasion walking with her as she set off for "home" or letting her know I "spoke" with her mom and dad and they said she could stay a little longer. Though I truly wish she never suffered from the disease, I'm moved just thinking that I had the opportunity to be there for her in a way that benefitted her the most.

Mar. 17 2018 04:31 PM
Evan from Washington State

I have just listened to your broadcast, and in the story "A Form of Hope" the narrator states that the subject "even got her [his parrot] registered as a service animal." I use a service animal. In the United States, there is no official registry for service animals. Many sites catering to those who want to buy "service dog" gear offer as part of their service to "register" your animal with their site/organization, but it has no legal meaning whatsoever. Furthermore, the only animals that are recognized as potential service animals according to Federal law are dogs and miniature horses. I do not doubt that this parrot is helping this man, but it is not correct to say that he has a legitimate service animal, because he does not.

Mar. 17 2018 04:20 PM
Vanessa Alleyne, Ph.D. from Montclair, NJ

What a powerful story on so many levels!

I teach counseling to graduate students. One of the maxims that students hear throughout their degree work is to "meet the client where they're at." I can think of no better example of this than this story.

I'm currently teaching a course about counseling throughout the lifespan. I have downloaded A Bus to Nowhere for my students to listen to when we reach the section on working with seniors and the very elderly. Thank you RadioLab for bringing these amazing stories into our classrooms and our lives!

p.s. And what a perfect song at the end!! Old School at its best.

Mar. 17 2018 01:55 PM
Diane from Toronto

this was a great ep, I feel I would definitely have been in that group that failed this face test. :)

May. 08 2014 04:00 PM

Why this is not in the podcast stream?

Apr. 06 2014 11:38 PM
Jonathan Buchan from Scotland

This podcast changed my entire life, I now understand why I am the way I am. I listened to this podcast a while ago and now and realise that I have prosopagnosia (facial blindness) thank you so much.

Feb. 14 2014 11:35 AM
Gabrielle from L.A. from Los Angeles area

Great show :) put a smile on my face, esp about conversation on face blindness, Thanks! I wanted to know about that musical composition at 45:12min, what was the name of that tune, I really liked it. Thanks!! :)

Dec. 02 2012 09:09 PM
Sharon from Eastern Ontario

Awesome program....Jim and his parrot made me smile...the "bus stop to nowhere" story made me cry! If this is "filler" as stated above, keep it coming , please!

Dec. 02 2012 04:39 PM
Mary Bertke

Mr. Gruebel, was that the name? The interviewer kept missing the "R"!

Aug. 16 2012 02:12 PM

This episode was obviously more filler, but the frustrating thing is that while the little filler segments like Robert Louis Stevenson's dream story or Neil deGrasse Tyson's bits are usually done using good storytelling methods and leave you with a sense of fulfillment at the end, stories like these reach the epiphony in the middle and then meander around in an inritatingly "Of course..." fashion that feels like they are just dragging on.

Mar. 07 2012 11:39 AM
Egg Nogg

RE " A form of hope; Dear Producer, you really irritated me with this one...

After the failure to get evidence from recordings and witnesses, you finaly getting an expert to admit it IS possible, but...I dont hear Jim getting the benefit of the doubt.

Aug. 03 2011 01:51 AM

The song at around 3 minutes was Doing The Wrong Thing by Kaki King

Jun. 14 2011 04:13 PM
Steve Baker from Austin, Texas

Seeing faces where they aren't is called "Pareidolia" and it's very common. I don't think there is evidence that it's the opposite of face blindness. Most face-blind people can tell that they are looking at a face - they just can't match a face to a name.

May. 28 2011 02:44 PM
Nancy from Seattle

Hey! I am one of those folks who has a special talent for finding faces where they don't exist. In the bark of trees, in clouds, or in the swirls on faux marble bathroom stall doors. I was wondering if I might be toward the other end of the face-blindness continuum, so I took an online version of the hairless celebrity test and found that I do score significantly above average. Do other people who score above average experience similar false positives?

May. 10 2011 08:55 PM
Camille from British Columbia, Canada

I'm 16 and Radio Lab enables me to have interesting conversations! Thank you!

Apr. 25 2011 08:35 PM

When I was taught nursing in the early 80s, the mantra was "reorient" for anyone who was not in touch with current reality. Thank heaven someone discovered that forcing a person into current reality (whatever we mean by that) is crueler than meeting them wherever they are.

I, too, would protest if I had to get home to my parents and strangers were restraining me and denying me. Fortunately, we are slowly chipping away at the belief that we need to restrain people to "keep them safe." And walking to the bus stop together provides a little exercise for the older adult who otherwise would get very little.

Lovely piece. Thanks for informing people, RL.

Apr. 23 2011 04:47 PM
Robin Morris from Monterey

At the senior living facility where I work, they describe the "bus stop" type idea as "sharing the journey". I settled into a job there where i work with a group of seniors who are semi-independent...they can still socialize in many ways, and are in the moment except when they try to use their memories, when things get difficult. Another part of the building has alarmed doors, and houses people that mainly live in shards of their past. Their ability to deal with others and their own identities is more limited. Dementia seems to be a gradual slipping from a balance of present, past and future imagining, to a holding on to the present while losing the past and future, (some of them say "what do we do now?" a lot...) to a state where only the past exists, and the present must almost be supplied by others (caretakers) and the person cannot imagine anything in the future.
In this they seem resigned, except for the moments when they attempt to "run away". Then, as in a dream from childhood, they may physically try to go from this futureless space to a remembered place, a past home, or a deceased loved one. They are Dorothy awakening in Oz, and the path away from their difficulties is the Yellow Brick Road. Then death becomes the place where we once were happy, and ruby-slippered heels click
three times. It's true: there's no place like home. The staffers , if they are good at it, play the Tin Woodsman, Scarecrow, and Lion on the journey, and help the child within to realize the goal, fighting off witches, flying monkeys and false wizards along the way. Somewhere we may find the cures that allow a person to hold onto past, present and future... for now we supply a present, promise a future, and honor the past. To work with the less severely affected, as i do, the job is also very challenging- I see it as providing experiences so interesting that new memories can be formed, fighting to build newer bridges in the brain where old ones have fallen. To fill the precious still-working spaces there with matters that are significant somehow, and may be linked with cherished memories that the residents have stored deeper down. Thanks, radiolab, for delving into these important topics. I am about to introduce my neighborhood to your show...sharing the stimulating topics you cover in an entertaining fashion may become part of the battle to preserve these people's rationality a bit longer- a service we claim to provide.

Apr. 19 2011 04:13 PM

if it's reruns, just say so. please

Apr. 17 2011 11:27 PM
Brooks from Decatur, Georgia

Very clever, guys . . . using a workaround to create a show about workarounds. Seriously, I love it. I appreciate that even without having new stories to listen to, I got a full-out smile out of the episode by just reading the description. Thanks.

Apr. 17 2011 09:10 PM
tanya from UK

Yup! Please let us know what music you play, great stuff!

Apr. 16 2011 08:07 AM
Jake from Rochester, MN

I totally agree... I had to look down at my media player to make sure it was not This American Life. I know that all great shows have the occasional clip show, but this really has followed the recent downward trend of Radiolab. The recent shows no longer have a strong theme, a central scientific investigation/breakdown, or really much to do with science at all. I can't say the segments aren't somewhat enjoyable and informative (because they are), but ... when you make people fall in love with a show and then decide to turn it into something else, it won't fly well.

Apr. 15 2011 03:08 PM
thumbingdown from bigtimebummertown

Oh snap! A new Radiolab! My day just got better!

Oh...uh, turns out it's all stuff I've heard before.

I thought the podcast shorts were bits that didn't make it into the real shows, but I guess now it's just the components so there's no reason to actually listen to full episodes.

Especially since it appears the topics have gone from big solid subjects like Laughter or barely-related This American Life style variations on a flimsy theme. Bummer.

Apr. 14 2011 01:34 PM
jrudy from Xi'an China

Oh yea... Thats right. The tune is called "Doing the Wrong Thing" and its by Kaki King

Apr. 12 2011 02:14 AM
jrudy from Xi'an China

Another spectacular episode...

And another vote here for a page listing music used in episodes.

And spencer: I am dying to know what that song is too!!! a very familiar tune, and its haunting me that i can't place it...

Apr. 11 2011 07:07 AM
Charlotte Hinckley from Shell, WY

Thank you guys for your excellent work. You are my favorite podcast.

Apr. 10 2011 11:00 AM
Philip from San Francisco Bay Area

This is exactly the approach we use with our Alzheimer's/Dementia senior citizens in home care--and it does work. It works to calm them (ala Gottman, in his studies on relationships), provide them with dignity, and allow them to come back into the "now" when they're ready. All our employees are recruited specifically for their ability to think/manage in this way and trained to work within the Alz's patients' minds. It's definitely a special skillset--perhaps only 20% of health care workers are predisposed to interactive sort of approach we use.

Apr. 08 2011 10:00 PM
Graham from Ann Arbor, MI

Spencer, I'm with you, that music around minute 44 is awesome.

Apr. 07 2011 04:49 PM
Eric from San Francisco, CA

I can't help but feel a little bit cheated by episodes like these that are just an amalgamation of previous shorts. Great stuff regardless though, I'm looking forward to the symmetry episode.

Apr. 06 2011 07:54 PM
Spencer from Eugene, Or

What is the music playing during the first segment and that first break?
Also is there somewhere that all the music used in episodes is listed because that would be pretty awesome.

Apr. 06 2011 03:39 PM
Andrew from Ottawa

Amazing episode

Apr. 06 2011 12:10 PM
Matt from Washington, D.C.

A Bus To Nowhere - I hope people who run rest homes listen to Radio Lab!

Apr. 06 2011 08:39 AM
Drew from New York

I'm so in love with Radiolab that if I can't marry it I'd want to adopt it as my son.

Apr. 02 2011 09:37 AM

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