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Retired from the U.S. military, these bomb techs are helping dispose of mines in Ukraine

 February 20, 2023 at 1:44 PM PST

S1: A group of U.S. military veterans is lending help in Ukraine.

S2: Most of us were veterans who were working in.

S3: Tech until we were.

S2: Ready to take this prime time.

S1: I'm Jade Hindman. This is KPBS Midday edition. Cold and wet weather is headed our way. What you can expect later in the week.

S3: This one's quite on the stronger side and it's going to make its way far enough south to really impact us here.

S1: And the research being done on Lake Tahoe's , crystal clear water. Plus , a conversation with author Anthony Daw. That's ahead on Midday Edition. President Joe Biden made a surprise visit to Ukraine today , marking the one year anniversary of the beginning of the Russian invasion. During the visit , Biden said we'll back Ukraine for as long as it takes. American government involvement in the Ukraine war has been mostly limited to providing weapons , training and humanitarian aid. But a group of retired U.S. military personnel has been volunteering to help Ukrainian authorities disarm mines and other explosives. Corey Vaillancourt reports for the American homefront.

S2: Across the vast plains of Ukraine. A small American nonprofit conducts training sessions with members of the national Police of Ukraine.


S2: They're a small organization started in a Bakersfield , California , garage in 2018 by a former Army explosive Ordnance disposal officer , Matthew Howard.

S3: Most of us were veterans who were working in tech until we were ready to take this prime time and do the mission that we had always wanted to do. In February , it became abundantly clear that that time was right now. I needed to focus on this full time.

S2: Within a week of Russia's invasion of Ukraine , bomb techs Without Borders began a social media campaign educating Ukrainians about the dangers of unexploded munitions.

S3: That was something that we could do immediately while in the background we were spinning up and preparing to deploy personnel forward. The first person who went forward , of course , was John.

S2: He's talking about John Culp , a bomb disposal technician who served as a U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq. Culp retired as a special Forces lieutenant colonel and lives in the North Carolina mountains when he's not on the battlefields of Eastern Europe. When the invasion occurred , I immediately wanted to do something. I'll be 70 in a week. I'm I'm not exactly the.

S3: Right guy to be carrying a rifle and sloshing around in a. Trench.

S2: Trench. I really felt strongly about the wrong and the right of the situation.

S3: And I just felt like this.

S2: Was something that was going to be very important to America and to the West , and I wanted to be a part of it. Culp found bomb Techs Without Borders and has since been to Ukraine twice. As fundraising has grown , the group has rented apartments , bought gear and started sending unpaid volunteers to Ukraine. Their mission is humanitarian to educate and to build a sense of community among Ukrainian first responders. The group has a cordial relationship with the US Department of State , says Howard , and devotes a significant amount of time to recording the types of munitions they find in a Best Practices guidebook. What they're finding are outdated and poorly maintained Russian weaponry , which means there's way more duds lurking in the ground waiting for civilians , soldiers and disposal techs. Right now , Ukraine , I believe , is the most mined country. It's a huge problem. That's John Ferrucci of Oklahoma State University's Institute for Global Explosive Mitigation , which acts as a hub for various non-governmental organizations engaged in this type of work. There are a lot of organizations that are trying to help context to their borders. They're really , you know , hostile. And to get things done , if we can add more of these people , we can solve some of these problems. Cobb says those problems will be felt in Ukraine for years as air raid sirens like this one in Kiev in early December continue to herald more Russian ordnance.

S3: As Matthew is fond of saying , you.

S2: Know , in ten years , the Ukrainian EOD teams , the odd technicians , are going to be the best in the world because they won't have any choice. I usually add to that the ones that are left because they're getting killed and that's that's all there is to it. Howard says that bomb Techs Without Borders is always looking for people with technical experience and those who might be available for travel to Ukraine. But since they're all technicians , what they're really looking for is people with nonprofit fundraising experience. I'm Corey Vaillancourt in Maggie Valley , North Carolina.

S1: This story was produced by The American Homefront Project , a public media collaboration that reports on American military life and veterans. Funding comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Bob Woodruff Foundation. Following the wet weekend. San Diego County is set to experience some of its wettest , coldest weather of the year this week , starting Tuesday , with strong winds then on Wednesday. Temperatures are forecast to drop to the mid-forties overnight with wind and rain. The cold and wet combination could trigger San Diego's inclement weather shelter program. That means more shelter beds could be available to people experiencing homelessness. Joining me now with more on the forecast is Adam Roser , a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. Adam , welcome to Midday Edition. Hi.

S3: Hi. Thanks for having me.

S1: All right.

S3: It's really coming in from Washington and areas to the north and Alaska and coming all the way down here. So it's going to impact a lot of areas in the west and the southwest here in California. So quite the cold , anomalous system. So it's a pretty big one for the week coming up.


S3: So this one's quite on the stronger side and it's going to make its way far enough south to really impact us here. Sometimes they stay more to the north. You know , you hear about the winter snow and Montana and all of that , but sometimes they do dip all the way into the southwest here. So we're going to see a lot of cold and wind with this as well.

S1: And I know the temperatures do something completely different in Ramona than , say , maybe Oceanside or downtown San Diego.

S3: Think so. Yeah. With this system , it's , you know , it's going to be chilly at night , but , you know , slightly below average. But really the big story is going to be during the day. It's not going to get very warm , especially starting on Wednesday and then into the end of the week. So you got by Wednesday and Thursday , you know , we're mainly going to see highs , you know , 50 to 55 degrees for much of the valleys and the coastal areas. And then , you know , like places like you mentioned , Ramona will probably stick in the forties for much of the day , Wednesday and Thursday. And then the mountainous areas will obviously be much colder. Highs will be in the twenties and thirties for much of the area.

S1: And mentioned that this combination of wet and cold could trigger the city to open its inclement weather shelters. The threshold for that is anything below 50 degrees with more than a 40% chance of rain , which is in the forecast.

S3: As you mentioned , later on Tuesday and into Wednesday. So to me , very windy. That's going to make it feel much colder. And then starting on , you know , middle of the week through kind of the end of the week , it's going to be , you know , kind of some rounds of rain here. So definitely impacting those who are homeless and everything. So definitely something to watch by the middle of the week.

S1: And the Weather service is also predicting high winds , as you mentioned.

S3: And then by Tuesday night into Wednesday , it's going to be quite the windy and cold day for much of the region. And so , yeah , if you have any items , property outside , definitely time to bring those in or secure those to prepare for the wind. And then of course , if you're driving the you know , if you're out and about , especially the morning commute on Wednesday , it could be very windy and then there could be rain in the mix as well. So looking kind of dicey , especially by Wednesday.

S1: I mean , could we should we expect maybe downed power lines or trees toppling over ? Because , you know , when the ground gets I.

S3: Would definitely see that in previous events. You know , some of these trees don't , you know , very strong. So especially toward the coastal areas , you know , we could see gusts of 45 to 50 miles an hour. So that can definitely bring some power lines down , some trees down , definitely debris in the road. So those are definitely things you do want to be wary about if you're , you know , near your home or traveling.

S1: And there's been a lot of focus lately on how much rain we'll see when temperatures like this roll around.

S3: So we're really going to see , you know , probably some lighter precipitation , maybe as early as Tuesday afternoon or evening , and then Wednesday , a little bit heavier than Thursday and Friday especially. We could just see some , you know , some nice moderate rain through much of the day , off and on , you know , cloudy , cold and then rainy conditions. So , you know , it's really looking. What ? And this system seems to be quite prolonged , maybe even into the weekend. We could see that rain kind of continuing. So , you know , there definitely may be some flooding impacts , especially toward the end of the week. We'll have to watch the San Diego River and all of that as well. But definitely , you know , couple inches of rain is definitely not out of the question here.

S1: Rain expected here. Snowfall is also expected in some parts of the county.

S3: So , you know , we're really going to see those snow levels start to drop. You know , mainly areas above 3000 feet or so are going to see those snow. So they're definitely if you're traveling along Interstate eight in the mountains , that will be impacted starting late Tuesday night into Wednesday and then kind of continuing through the week as well. But yeah , we could see , you know , inches of snow. Mount Laguna could see , you know , at least a couple of feet in total when this is all said and done so. But , yes , Mount Laguna to Julian , all it's looking quite snowy as we get towards the middle latter part of the week. So definitely make sure you're looking at , you know , the chain control restrictions and all of that with Caltrans and everything.

S1: This February has already been a notably cold one for San Diego. And you know what ? Because it's all relative here. So I'll say chilly. I'll call it chilly. It's been a notably chilly one for San Diego. Why is that ? Yeah.

S3: For sure. Yeah. It's definitely been quite the quite the wintry season here. Temperatures well below average. And yeah , we kind of have you know , we get this colder trough pattern , we like to call it here in the west. And then if you have any friends back east. No , I'm from Ohio. So , you know , my family is basking in the warmth and not a lot of snow. Florida is going to be in the nineties this week. So what goes up must come down. So it's kind of the opposite effect out east.

S1: I've been speaking with Adam Roser , a meteorologist for the National Weather Service. Adam , thanks so much for speaking with us today.

S3: Yeah , you're very welcome. Thank you. You.

S1: You're listening to KPBS midday edition. I'm Jade Hindman. Now to an on the water field trip to Lake Tahoe. It's a year round vacation destination for many Californians. And you might have noticed a bumper sticker around town that reads Keep Tahoe Blue. Well , scientist and ecologist affiliated with UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center have been studying the lake , which is famous for its crystal clear water for decades. Using both low and high tech devices , they are looking at everything from threats to Lake Tahoe's clarity from invasive species to the impact of smoke and ash from wildfires on the wider Tahoe basin. The California report host Al Gonzales takes us there.

S2: On a bitter cold winter morning. I'm aboard a small research boat traveling toward the middle of Lake Tahoe. As choppy waters hit the hull , Brant Allen is the boat's captain and a Tahoe researcher. We're heading out to one of our four , the ways that we share with NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab. As we make our way across the largest Alpine lake in North America , we seem to have it and the panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. Pretty much to ourselves. And I just notice I mean , I don't see any other vessel out on the water right now. That's the second most beautiful thing about winter. You get to enjoy it all by yourself. What's the first ? The snow on the mountains and the scenery. A couple of miles off shore , we reach our destination. One of four big research buoys in the lake. NASA's using these boys to very accurately measure the surface temperature of Lake Tahoe from space. The satellite connected boys are some of the newest tools being used to monitor the health of the lake by UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center. Scientists with the center have been studying Lake Tahoe since the late 1960s , and it's field work that doesn't need to stop for winter because Tahoe , with an average depth of a thousand feet , never freezes over. Jeffrey Shadow is the Research Center's director.

S4: And because Lake Tahoe doesn't freeze , it is a year round operation. We're out here 12 months , a year. So know for some things literally every week.

S2: Over the past half century of work , scientists have amassed huge amounts of data about Lake Tahoe's , physics , chemistry and biology. Schlatter says because of factors like climate change and drought , he's seen big changes to the lake since he joined the research effort in the 1990s.

S4: Yeah , very different. And I know that it isn't just my eyes on my mind or imagination. I can go back and look at the data. What's changed ? Well , you know , the iconic thing that Tahoe is known for is its clarity.

S2: Exceptional water clarity is what gives the lake its striking cobalt blue sheen. And clarity is also seen as a marker of the lake's health , says Brandt. Allen. Yeah , kind of. Our general pattern is that our clearest water is in the wintertime. But Tahoe's clarity has diminished in recent decades , from 100 feet to about 60 to 70 feet. To study changes to the lake's clarity. Researchers regularly lower collection receptacles into the water to take samples of microscopic life called zooplankton. We're going to run our nets down with the winch. A sample of Tahoe's water collected more than a hundred feet below the surface. Looks like it's filled with bits of ground pepper. Like paprika. Yes , that paprika is called diet , Artemus. It is one of our native zooplankton. They have a red exoskeleton. Carotenoids , like just like a lobster or crayfish would. Maintaining a healthy population of this. So plankton is one key way to keep tahoe's waters clear , says Allard. So the zooplankton , their food source is the algae that is out here in the lake. And algae is one of the factors that is clouding the lake and causing it to lose clarity. And these guys eat the algae , so they are natural lake cleaners that live out here in the water. The algae is an old threat to Lake Tahoe , but there's a big new one. Massive wildfires that have burned through the Tahoe Basin in recent years. Jeffrey Shadow says scientists are just starting to understand how smoke and soot from wildfires threaten both Lake Tahoe's ecology and the people who live in lakeside communities.

S4: The last few years with these mega fires we're having , visibility is terrible. Things are falling into the lake.

S2: And are there days where you're getting air pollution levels that are kind of equal to a big urban area on some days ? Oh , worse. Worse.

S4: Oh , yeah. I mean , air quality index values are five and 600. And people are one. Do go outside when it's 150.

S2: Decades into their work , researchers say there's still much more to be learned about Lake Tahoe and the risks it faces. Key to protecting Tahoe's health for future generations , says FLATOW , Is public education and support. After all , this lake is both a wilderness and a playground.

S4: We get something like 15 million visitors a year here. I mean , it's more than Yosemite , Yellowstone and Glacier combined. So it's how do you you can't really manage those people. We're not a national park where we can say , you can't go here or there. This is this is public land. Private land. People can do as they please. If they do things in a responsible way , then I'm sure we can preserve those essential features that the ecosystem needs to survive.

S2: FLATOW And his team released the annual State of the Lake Report. The next one will be out in the coming months.

S1: That story from the California Report host Saul Gonzalez. The Oceanside International Film Festival returns this week to the Brooks Theater in Oceanside. There will be five days of film screenings and special events. Founded 12 years ago , the festival showcases shorts , documentaries and feature films around the globe. KPBS arts reporter Beth ACCOMANDO previews the festival with its executive director , Lou Niles. Lou , you are on the eve of another Oceanside International Film Festival. And , you know , we're still dealing with pandemic issues and all that.

S5: I mean , last February , we were at the edge of a new surge and thought we would have to cancel and and everybody turned up. It was really great last year. So we're really looking forward to no surges this time and really having everybody back in person and doing our kind of grand opening world premiere events and afterparties and things like that.

S1: One of the things I like about.

S6: Your festival is that it has a.

S1: Personality that you guys pick films that are important to you. So I want you to talk about your opening night film because you guys do love.

S6: Music as.

S1: Events and as topics for films.

S5: Yeah , absolutely. I mean , I've got so many years in the music business in San Diego and L.A. , a long history with local music. And so it's really exciting to present the world premiere of a film called I Am All Right , which has a lot to do with mental well-being and the pressures of the music business , featuring a local legendary band called the Silent Comedy.

S2: It seems so simple when you're young and you start a band. We got swept up in this thing that had a mind of its own. From that point , things really accelerated.

S5: So it's excited to present that for a couple different reasons because of the side of comedy being local legends and just some of them friends in the community. The drummer lives and works in Oceanside. And then the mental wellbeing aspect of it , the fact that years ago when they broke up and nobody heard , why not that it wasn't cool , but it wasn't okay really to talk about mental wellbeing and why , you know , they might never get a record deal again if they said , you know , hey , the pressures melted me down. But now , with all the more open talk about mental wellbeing , it's really nice to be able to tell that story and be open and honest about it , about what happened and what the what the future holds now that everything has gotten better for them. We're going to have a Q&A afterwards and kind of open that discussion about those pressures and how the music industry can sometimes really want you to. They sign you , but then they want you to be somewhere else after they sign you. It's kind of crazy. And then comedy will perform a few songs semi acoustically with some special guest , local special guest. So it's going to be a really great special event.

S1: And you also focus on a lot of short films and some local filmmakers. So tell us about the Shorts program.

S5: Yeah , I mean , there's tons of shorts. I mean , we we like it because there's so much creativity in it , you know , knocking out a great story in a short amount of time. And then we also get to have more films from more places around the world. In the festival , we do have a number of features this year , but we do focus a lot on on these shorts. Saturday is a great shorts program. I think you can see 13 films for one ticket price starting at noon and going to almost 7 p.m.. And then there's just great shorts with sprinkled together to support the features each night , Wednesday , Thursday and even Friday night too.

S1: Now we recently saw the official closing of the Cannes cinema , but you guys are actually going to be at a single screen venue up in Oceanside. So tell us a little bit about the Brooks Theater.

S5: I think we're really lucky here in Oceanside to have theaters like the Brooks Theater and the Oceanside Theater Company , performing arts organization , the Star Theater , and that historic theater and the great Space. They have a lot of performing arts there , too , but also have a screen. So it's just really neat. The Brooks is a historic and intimate environment. The star a little bit bigger. They both have marquees , traditional marquees. That's super exciting to have the Oceanside International Film Festival name up there. We like to support the community of these historic theaters and have everybody come to the theater. Get that experience. Have the Q and A's mingle with the filmmakers , the cast and crew , and just enjoy films from all over the world. And in fact , a lot of local filmmakers , too.

S1: And would you like to highlight any of the.


S5: I have a few favorites. Wednesday night there's a feature , a narrative feature called Publisher Paris , and it's about a professor who's obsessed with reaching tenure.

S2: You should know I'm not a big fan of tenure. Once you get tenure , it's nearly impossible to lose your job unless you do something really stupid.

S5: And then he accidentally kills a student and the hilarity kind of snowballs , and it gets even worse from there. Thursday night , there's a documentary called Jack Has a Plan , and it's about a gentleman in San Francisco who has a terminal brain tumor , and he wants to film that story.

S2: You want the whole thing on tape ? Yeah , completely. Why ? That's insane. We all die at some point. It has to deal with knowing it's going to happen and how you live your life and how you try to accept the death is going to get you.

S1: I just got home one day after work , and I was like , I quit my.

S5: Job and he wants to end his life at a certain point. And so it's a it's kind of a fascinating story. It's a it's a lot more uplifting and amazing than you might think that type of storyline exhibits. And we'll have a Q&A after that with some end of life discussion as well. That'll be pretty fascinating and interesting. And then Friday night , Big Wave Guardians is just amazing , epic surf film about the people that guard the North Shore and protect people's lives and some of the most dangerous waves in the world.

S2: When a surfer's knocked unconscious , you only have about 4 to 6 minutes before they run out of oxygen. Lifeguards.

S1: Lifeguards.

S2: It's like a group of warriors in a moment's notice. They'll put their life on the line to save a perfect stranger.

S1: I've had multiple friends smash their head into the reef , and , you know , thank God the lifeguards from there , I don't think they would have made it. And you enjoy having surf films at the festival ? That's part of the personality there.

S5: Yeah , it really is. I mean , like you said about the music , we always try to have something music related. We always try to have something. Surf and skate related. We're light on skate this year. We didn't really get any feels for that , but we've got a great a full night of surf on Friday night that starts at 5 p.m. with one session that's headlined by Sweet Adventure , which is an incredibly innovative surf film with three shorts before it. And then the second surf session is one last Mini found a wonderful story short about a person who lost his father when he was young , who was a shaper , and then just kind of wanted to check it out and look at some surfboards later on in life and found out how many people loved his father and how much how many people he impacted with his shaping and who he was as a person. So it's a great story. And not once tacked on to the big wave Guardians surf block.

S1: Well , I want to thank you very much for talking about the Oceanside International Film Festival.

S5: Thank you so much for having us. We appreciate your. Support.

S2: Support.

S1: That was Beth ACCOMANDO speaking with Lou Niles. The Oceanside International Film Festival runs tomorrow through Saturday at the Brooks Theater in Oceanside. You're listening to KPBS Midday edition. I'm Jade Hindman. Anthony Daw is the author of six books , including the Pulitzer Prize winner All the Light We Cannot See , which is being adapted for Netflix to be released later this year. His latest book , Cloud Cuckoo Land , is both historical fiction and speculative fiction , spanning centuries in time. And it was a finalist for the National Book Award. Door spoke with KPBS arts producer and editor Julia Dixon Evans in advance of his appearance at the Writer's Symposium by the Sea at Point Loma Nazarene University tomorrow.

S6: Hi , Anthony. Thank you so much for joining us.

S3: Oh , thanks so much for having me , Julia.

S6: So your 2014 Pulitzer Prize winning novel , All the Light We Cannot See is being adapted for a four part Netflix series.

S3: I don't have a date for anybody yet and for episodes. The book is about 500 pages and they've got it into four one hour episodes. I think episode four might be a little longer than an hour. And yeah , it's exciting. I got to go to Budapest with my son and got to see them making this big thing , you know , see all the people employed because something I've made up in my basement was incredibly humbling. And to see that , you know , the costumes and the set design , I you of course , you think as a novelist , you have to imagine every single corner of somebody's attic in 1939. But then when you see it come to life , you know , somebody put details just in case the camera just grazes past it. Mark Ruffalo is in it and Hugh Laurie. And we found this amazing young actor to play Mari , who is blind. There's a young version of Mari , who's eight and then an older version. Her name is Aria , and she plays teenage Mari. And to see them with a blindness consulted walking through this set , it's really moving. So yeah , I really hope to I hope it's a great show and I hope that people learn a lot about the power of radio during the Second World War and and also are entertained.

S6: And in the time since all the light we cannot see. You've written another book , Cloud Cuckoo Land , which came out in 2021.

S3: In many ways , as you probably can guess , Julia , as a writer yourself , all the light we can see follows two characters German boy and a French girl. And although there are deviations , primarily the structure moves back and forth between the two a bit and back and forth , kind of like a tennis match. This new book , Cloud Cuckoo , that has five protagonists , though , is more like a star shape than a line back and forth between two points. And there are a lot of plates to keep spinning. I set the book in the past and the present and the future. So it was this huge architectural challenge for me to build. And I was also paranoid and anxious the whole time that my reader might get confused as I'm moving back and forth from the 15th century to that 21st century and into even into the future. But it was a ton of fun as well. You know , I got to learn a lot about the history of manuscripts. And as much as I'm researching 15th century Constantinople , where about a third of the book is set. I'm also researching the future and learning about the promises and the dangers of artificial intelligence , the threats of climate chaos. So there was always something really interesting to work on and maybe similar to your job. I just felt like every day I was learning something. I was chasing my curiosities. And that's just an immense privilege of this profession.

S6: And you mentioned this this like star shape.

S3: I try to dispel the notion that at least for me , characters come to you fully formed. You know , it's not like lightning strikes and you're just sitting there listening to opera music , typing out , you know , your inspiration. For me , they're just clunky creations that are this low accretion of days and days of thinking at work. So , you know , I have these five young people in this novel and they don't come to me first. All I know is that this book , this old book , this this what might be the very last copy of an old book called Cloud Cuckoo Land is important to each of them , and that each of them is an outsider in his or her own culture and time. And it's only through time , you know , you sleep and you wake up. That's the beauty of reading a book is that you get to read something in , say , three days or three nights that somebody worked here on me sitting , or all this accumulation of observation and wisdom and thought and reflection and of course , revision , because lots of times you have a character do something , you sleep and you reread it. You're like , she didn't think she would do that and you claw that away. And , you know , so I'm often writing , you know , even for , say , a 20 page short story , I'll write one. Cases are something of prose because you're you're cheating yourself. You're trying that kind of moving through this this labyrinth , this garden in the dark. And you don't always know where you're going. You know , as Americans , we're kind of taught to worship efficiency , and that can be challenging sometimes for me. I have to remember , like , this is not a straightforward A to B process. I'm often just trying things and then you sleep and read it over in the morning and think , God , that's not quite what I hope. But hopefully by taking that false start or that dead end or that wrong turn , you learn something. And from that little bit of failure , you can come back and say , okay , maybe sure , we'll say this and this situation.

S6: And cloud Cuckoo Land is is such an ode to books and to libraries. And I also recognize this in all the light we cannot see.

S3: You're right. You can turn on the light we cannot see. I'm playing roulette , interjects Duality in that novel. Marie , this blind girl is reading a Braille copy of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea , and I play with a few elements of that novel inside my own novel and Cloud Cuckoo. And I really blow up that idea of inner sexuality. I invent 24 fragments of this lost book. There were novels , believe it or not , written in the ancient Greek world. We know of five full copies , and we know the titles of about 20 lost books. So I invented a lost book written by a novelist named Antonia Step Agnes. All of his writing is lost. BE Sounds like he was a really playful writer. He was played with genre in interesting ways , played with Metafiction was kind of like a Nabokov or Jorge Luis Borges of the Ancient World , apparently. And so I wanted to see if I could invent something that he might have written. I put 24 pieces of that book , not the entire thing , but just a little sense of that as folios into my book and have the characters read it , have it kind of tumble down the pegboard at time and drop into the laps of each of these five characters. I wanted to explore different ideas of stewardship as I get into my middle age. Think about , you know , what kind of world do we want to pass down to my kids ? And as my kids get older , I hear it's this great deep centering that happens when you're in middle age. I say , Oh , maybe I'm scared about the world. I think stewardship in a bunch of different ways has become important to me. Libraries where they steward culture is a huge element of the way I think and the way I'm grateful for all the privileges I've had in my life. And then , of course , in terms of the natural world , what kind of biodiversity , what kind of temperatures on this planet do we want to hand down to our kids ? So I hope as the reader turns pages , she's not only entertained in Google , but she's also asked herself questions about stewardship. You know , what is it that lasts and what outlasts us ? And isn't there something instead of kind of frightening about it , it's kind of beautifully humbling. I think there's a great , sweet humility and it helps me kind of accept my aging to think I'm just one link in this really long chain of human culture.

S6: There's the walled city of Constantinople , the Argos , the libraries. I'm wondering what inspired each of these realms.

S3: I could love these in the structure of the book. And if the most simple way is kind of spheres within spheres , within spheres. So if you want to start in the past , the , you know , the siege of Constantinople , these wall , these city walls stand around the city stands for over a thousand years. They withstand 23 these sieges successfully before the city is finally breached. And the libraries inside the city help because of these walls helped preserve , you know , the cultural heritage of the ancient world. The Greek and Roman texts that were decaying in North Africa , across Europe , you know , really started to enter the Arab intellectual worlds. And then the Europe kind , intellectual world kind of formed the seeds of the Renaissance because of those copies , preserved it copied over by hand inside the libraries of Constantinople. So I envision that kind of most basic way as a circle with this character. Her name is on a trapped in the middle of this circle. And then I started to build each of the characters in their way , trapped with this book in their lap inside the center , a circle. So I have in the present day , I have a rural library where the state where I live here in Idaho , I try to play with these ideas of grand libraries , really humble libraries. This is just one that's a leaky library with three employees and they can't always get the heat to work. But these kids are refer to a version of this really old story called Cloud Cuckoo Land with this elderly guy , but a translator. And there there's a siege on that library , a cloud of modern day. It will be quite familiar to all of your listeners , of course , of modern day. Shooter incident. And then in the future , I have this girl trapped in a vault for reasons I probably shouldn't spoil , but she's got the book in her lap , too. So I tried to start with that as my starting point in the purest way each of these characters is trapped in the book. This book in their lap , a silly old tale , offers them a way to transcend their circumstances , to slip the trap of their predicaments. And that's really what books have been for me in so many ways. They've helped me slip outside the walls of my own skull and into the lives of other people. They're both an escape and this tunnel into another world. And , you know , in many ways the whole novel is an homage to that act. What reading can do for us. It can help us multiply our experiences up the world.

S6: And your characters deal with some of the things that dominate our present day headlines disease , radicalisation , war technology , even A.I. and and machines like , like one called Sybil. How do you thread such conflicts and their impacts across this massive span of generations and centuries.

S3: Right ? Yeah. Yeah. I tried to cram , like all of my preoccupations into this novel. It really is. You know , at some point the characters are playfully calling this this other book , this book of everything. And in many ways , this novel was my book of everything. I was trying to , you know , explore the fragility of memory because my grandmother had Alzheimer's. And I feel this kind of urgency to get these books out before , you know , my cognition failed. And , you know , I'm no longer capable of building these complicated things. And I think I also was , you know , feeling this mortality thing ticking as my kids get older , they , you know , are twin boys. And they were 10 to 18 during the eight years that I wrote this book. And , you know , watching this , you know , enormous amounts of change that the world's going through as they become teenagers and then the pandemic hits. So , you know , I was reading about the possibility , strangely , as reading about the possibility of viruses , you know , weaving wild populations of animals and entering human cities. Long before that , the coronavirus pandemic began. So if there's even a pandemic in this novel. So yeah , and of course , the cheapening of the natural world , you know , in my lifetime we've lost , you know , something like 3 billion birds have disappeared from North America alone. So what does it be for this great quilt of interconnected life on this planet that we're stripping out so many creatures ? And , you know , what does it mean to have this kind of false dichotomy between the human and the natural worlds ? And each of the characters , I think , kind of feels that. And I hope the reader feels the kind of the richness of the characters interactions with animals in the 15th century and how now they're much more fraught and danger to the present day. Of course , in the future , the really only experiences that this character Constance can have with Wild Creatures is they're all virtual , they're all built by. And I called , said , Well.

S6: I also think that Cloud Cuckoo Land is the story , the celebration of rebellions , many of them small , and some of them pretty significant. Can you talk about the way you write some of your characters ? You refer to them as outsiders , but I like to think of them as as rebels or underdogs.

S3: Every artist in some way is a rebel in her own right. And I think , you know , even the way I think about , say , cliché or existing stories , you know , when I first read a sentence , I'm often , you know , immediately grasping for the habitual grabs , grasping for the words in combinations that are familiar to me. And it's only on revision. You think I need to rebel against those habits a little bit. I can't just say the sun glinted on the water because it's been said so many times that it won't feel quite clear to the reader. It's , you know , every cliche in a way is sort of a lie because they've been repeated so many times that they've lost their kind of impact. So there's always these tiny acts of rebellion , I think , as you're writing , because you're trying to think , how can I make this do ? How can they kind of invert the precedents that have been set before me ? And I think that's true. And character creation to most interested in these characters who are able to recognize what's going on around them , what other people take for granted. They think , Let me pay attention to that. Maybe , maybe make it a little less familiar and see if I agree. And certainly Ada and Ogier are quite different in their time in the 15th century. And then it takes zero. This older guy in the present a long time , I think , to recognize his kind of place as a rebel. But he is quite a rebel , even though he's just helping these kids make this little silly play. It's kind of a really a wonderful radical act that he's doing. And of course , he in the end of the book , he's helping keep them alive during the siege on the library.

S6: So you'll be speaking at the Writers Symposium on Tuesday. There will be some writers and lots of readers in attendance. You've talked quite a bit about the the books and there's so much text in. This novel. I'm wondering if you can recall back to a time when you hired a writer that you admire , speak , and what you took away from that.

S3: Here's one , because he just died last year. Barry Lopez , a wonderful writer from the Northwest where I live , but of course , a man of the world , very much moved around so much and saw so many things and , you know , spent time in the Arctic , in the Antarctic and just a terrific essayist. He came to Boise where I live and spoke at the Egyptian Theater , which holds maybe seven or 800 people. And he created this essay a course just for this event , probably to become a month a writer longer. And he had this sparkle , you know , that going to get his age reviews in his sixties when he spoke and just this the people who practice or who are able to find wonder in the world on a regular basis always inspire me. And it just seeing him talk reminded me kind of what motivated me to want to do this in the first place. And that can sleepwalk through my life to be able to practice observation and translating this huge , big , clattering , gleaming , pulsing thing that is the world into language. Seeing Barry speak in person. Sometimes , you know , when you meet your heroes , they kind of disappoint you because they're human and they have bad breath or whatever. But he was just even better than I had dreamed. And it put so much labor and kindness and generosity into that talk that it really reminded me , like every day why you're here , why you're why you can , you know , try to bear witness to the grandeur of this special place before we're gone.

S6: Anthony , thank you so much for speaking with us.

S3: Thanks so much for having me , Julia.

S1: That was Anthony Daub , author of Cloud Cuckoo Land and All the Light We Cannot See. Speaking with KPBS , arts producer and editor Julia Dixon Evans. Dora will appear at the Writers Symposium by the Sea at Point Loma Nazarene University at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

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