Podcast: American Graffiti

2 muslim woman w mural for j hyman europe promo

Virtual Memories – season 3 episode 18 – American Graffiti

Jonathan Hyman is the first guest of our two-part 9/11 special! Jonathan began photographing 9/11 murals, tattoos and other memorials immediately after the attacks and continued the project for 10 years, amassing a collection of 20,000 photos, as well as field notes and interviews. (We first met when a mutual pal told him about my 9/11 tattoo.)

University of Texas Press recently published a collection of critical essays about Jonathan’s work, The Landscapes of 9/11: A Photographer’s Journey. The book includes more than 100 of his amazing photos, including 32 pages in color (so you can see this guy in full splendor). Jonathan co-edited the book (along with professors Edward T. Linenthal and Christiane Gruber), and wrote one of the essays as well as all of the captions.

We had a fantastic conversation about his decade-long project, the notion of these mementos mori as American folk art, the reticence of non-New Yorkers to let him photograph them, his own 9/11 experience, how he became a photographer, and his struggle to keep this work from defining him as a person.

Jonathan Hyman talks 9/11 on The Virtual Memories Show

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes! Part 2 of the 9/11 special will go up on Sept. 10, featuring a conversation with author and law professor Thane Rosenbaum on revenge!

Related conversations:

Follow The Virtual Memories Show on iTunes, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Jonathan Hyman is a freelance photographer and Associate Director for Conflict and Visual Culture Initiatives at the Solomon Asch Center for Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict at Bryn Mawr College. A graduate of Rutgers University, he earned his Master’s degree in Fine Art from Hunter College in New York City where he studied painting and photography. At Hunter he was an Eagelson Scholar and a Somerville Art Prize recipient. His main areas of interest include memory, memorialization, social class, the American funerary tradition, vernacular and folk art, and public speech. He has lectured widely in the U.S. and Europe about his work and experience documenting the folk art made in response to the 9/11 attacks. His photographs have been exhibited in solo exhibitions at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, the National Constitution Center, the Duke University Library, and the Wald/Kim Gallery in New York City Hyman’s work has been published in Time magazine, the New York Times, and featured on television on the PBS NewsHour and other print and online media outlets in the U.S. and Europe. He lives in the upstate community of Bethel, New York, with his wife, Gail, daughter Jane, and German Shorthaired Pointer, Quincy.

Credits: This episode’s music is America by David Bowie (covering Simon & Garfunkel). The conversation was recorded in Jonathan’s studio in Smallwood, NY on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 mics feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder. There was some trouble with mic placement, so I apologize for all the plosives. I tweaked the EQ to try to reduce them without damaging the overall quality of Jonathan’s conversation. The intro and outro were recorded in my home office on a Blue Yeti USB microphone. File-splitting is done on a Mac Mini using Audacity. All editing and processing was done in Garage Band. Top photo copyright Jonathan Hyman. Photo of Jonathan by me.

Podcast: Cartoon Character

Virtual Memories – season 3 episode 6
Matt Wuerker – Cartoon Character

“Political cartoonists have it easy: we turn on the TV or computer and Sarah Palin has said some inane thing . . . and the cartoons can write themselves. In the world of cartooning, we’re the lazy bastards.”

Matt Wuerker, winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning, joins The Virtual Memories Show to talk about his career (including his fascinating non-comics work and his prescient move to the online world with POLITICO), the experience of winning “the Academy Award for cartoonists”, his artistic and political influences, what it takes to get on the NRA’s Enemies List, the opportunities for editorial cartoonists in a post-print world, how his parents felt about his decision to become a cartoonist, whether he had it easier during the Bush/Cheney era or the Tea Party era, and why he thinks the golden age of cartooning is still ahead of us!

“One of the great cosmic quandaries for cartoonists is that what’s bad for the world is great for cartooning.”

Matt Wuerker on The Virtual Memories Show

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out our archives for more great talks!

Follow The Virtual Memories Show on iTunes, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Matt Wuerker has been POLITICO’s editorial cartoonist and illustrator since its launch in 2007. In 2012, he won the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning, POLITICO’s first Pulitzer win. In 2009, he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in editorial cartooning. Over the past 25 years, his work has appeared in publications ranging from The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times and The New York Times to Smithsonian and the Nation, among many others. Along the way, he’s also pursued other artistic tangents that have included claymation, outdoor murals, teaching cartooning in prison (as a visitor, not as an inmate), book illustration and animating music videos. Matt thinks Saul Steinberg is a cartoon god and the Peter Principle explains pretty much everything, and he also thinks the maxim “If you’re not confused, you’re just not thinking clearly” is one of the wisest things ever said. Matt lives in Washington, D.C., in close proximity to the National Zoo and the Swiss Embassy. Depending how bad things get, he hopes to find asylum in one or the other.

Credits: This episode’s music is Nobody’s Home by Ulrich Schnauss. The conversation was recorded at the Hay-Adams Hotel in Washington, D.C., on a pair of AT2020 mics, feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder. I recorded the other material on a Samson Meteor Mic USB Studio Microphone into Audacity. All editing and processing was done in Garage Band.

Podcast: God’s Way of Teaching Americans Geography

Virtual Memories – season 3 episode 4 –
Fred Kaplan – God’s Way of Teaching Americans Geography

Every generation, we find ourselves fighting one of these insurgency wars, but the last one — Vietnam — was so awful that the generals threw out all the training manuals and lessons from it, saying, “We’re not doing that ever again.” The problem was, they didn’t have a choice.

Why was the U.S. Army so unprepared for the insurgency in Iraq? Why did it take years after the fall of Baghdad for the military and its civilian command to understand what sort of war we were fighting? What did we achieve in Afghanistan, and what did we hope to achieve? Fred Kaplan, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War, discusses all this and more in the latest episode of The Virtual Memories Show! (My contribution is a comparison of war analytics to pharmaceutical clinical trials.)


There’s a tendency for people to believe that everybody around the world is pretty much like us, and to the extent that they’re not, it’s because a dictator is stomping his boot on their heads. The thinking goes, when that boot is lifted, they’ll become like us. It’s a very one-dimensional view of conflict.

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out our archives for more! (If you dig this one, you’ll probably like the episode with Ron Rosenbaum from January ’13.)

Follow The Virtual Memories Show on iTunes, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Fred Kaplan writes the War Stories column at Slate.com and jazz reviews for Stereophile magazine. In addition to The Insurgents, his books include 1959: The Year Everything Changed, Daydream Believers: How a Few Grand Ideas Wrecked American Power, and The Wizards of Armageddon (Stanford Nuclear Age Series). His articles, reviews and essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The LA Times, The Boston Globe, Time, Newsweek, New York Magazine, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, The Atlantic, The New York Observer, The Forward, Architectural Digest, Home Theater, GQ, and a whole lot of other venues over the years. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1983 while at the Boston GlobeVisit his website for more about his work.

Credits: This episode’s music is Start a War by The National. The conversation was recorded at Willard Spiegelman’s home in New York City, on a pair of AT2020 mics, feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder. I recorded the other material on a Blue Yeti USB mic into Audacity. All editing and processing was done in Garage Band. Also, I have a yucky headcold, so that’s why the intro/outro sounds so bad this time around. I’ll come up with another reason for next episode’s bad intro/outro.

Pardon the Interruption

I was happy to see that our new president made the same flub in his oath of office that I did during my marriage vows, speaking before the officiant finished his first line. I’m also happy that our officiant did a better job of keeping his composure than Chief Justice Roberts did.

I thought his inauguration address as a bit flat, but I suppose it makes sense: Obama’s high-flying rhetorical style is more fitting for a campaign, and yesterday’s event was an occasion for letting the American people know what challenges lie ahead, or something like that. Marc Ambinder at The Atlantic did a pretty good job of rhetorical annotation of the address here and here.

Anyway, the subject that interested me in the last days of the Bush regime was that of pardons. The previous president, we recall, got into some hot water with the late pardon of Marc Rich, which turned out to be of a piece with the Clintons’ “it’s all for sale!” regime.

Pres. Bush’s final pardons — commutations, to be exact — were for a pair of border patrol agents who shot an unarmed man in the back and tried to hide the evidence. Taking a stand against mandatory minimum sentences — in a drug crime, no less! — the president determined that the two men had served enough time for shooting an unarmed man in the back and trying to hide the evidence.

The fact that Pres. Bush issued fewer pardons and commutations than any other two-termer should come as no surprise, given his record on executions while governor of Texas. But I admit that I was curious about whether he would revisit the case of the American Taliban, John Walker Lindh.

I have a fascination for people who have gone so far from “normal” that they become nearly unrecognizable. Lindh is one of those personae, having followed a path from a comfortable suburban life to a fetid basement of a prison in Afghanistan, at the age of 20. How does someone get alienated from his life that he winds up in a world so far from his ken?

A year or two later, Lindh was in the Supermax prison, having taken a plea agreement in which he agreed to make no public statements for the duration of his sentence (17-20 years, depending on good behavior), and to drop any claims that he’d been tortured after he was captured. (He’s in a medium security facility in Indiana now.)

And it’s that aspect of the case that made me wonder if the former president would commute Lindh’s sentence. It’s not that I think he should be excused for what he did; it’s more a question of what was done to him. I think Lindh’s case provided an   early example of how the War on Terror could lead to rampant abuse of rights, a blurring of the duties of the departments of defense and justice.

I didn’t really expect our departed president to engage in any degree of introspection about Lindh’s case, or about the bigger issues that it presaged about our government’s abuse of law in the past eight years, but it would’ve been an interesting signal if he’d chosen to revisit that case. It’s not like we’ve been dealing in nuances this decade.