“The built environment is not inert. It’s an active agent in the shaping of people’s lives.”
Why are our buildings crushing our quality of life? Sarah Williams Goldhagen joins the show to talk about her new book, Welcome to Your World (Harper), and how we can live in a better built environment. We get into cognitive neuroscience and the theory of mind-body-environment consciousness, the perils of lowest-common-denominator construction and design, the perils of the “starchitect” phenomenon, the limits of Jane Jacobs’ urban proscriptions, the experience of going on urban planning vacations as a kid with her dad, how she and her family wound up living in a converted church in East Harlem, the challenges of architecture criticism, how her book was predicted by one of my favorite 1980s comics, the planning process a year-long around-the-world trip, and more! Give it a listen! And go buy Welcome to Your World!
“It’s all architecture, and it all needs to be as well-designed as you can make it. And at any level of investment, you can make a better building or a worse building.”
About our Guest
Sarah Williams Goldhagen taught at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design for ten years and was the New Republic‘s architecture critic until recently. Currently a contributing editor at Art in America and Architectural Record, she is an award-winning writer who has written about buildings, cities and landscapes for many national and international publications, including the New York Times, The American Prospect, and Harvard Design Magazine. She lives in New York City. (There’s a more extensive bio at her site.)
Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Sarah’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Sarah by me. It’s on my instagram.
“I feel like the soul of writing is character, and the writers I admire the most are those who can evoke characters who are nothing like themselves.”
Myke Cole joins the show to talk about military fantasy and his fantasies about the military, his journey from IT to CIA to merc to Coast Guard to fantasy writer, his biggest nerd-out author moments, how he came up with his “Black Hawk Down Meets The X-Men” Shadow Ops series, what PTSD feels like, the importance of having a plan for crisis management, reconciling his art, politics, job, and readership, and more! Give it a listen! And go buy his Shadow Ops books, starting with Control Point!
“I take a tremendous amount of pride in being a difficult person to kill.”
Unfortunately, before you can get to it, you’ve gotta wade through nearly 15 minutes of intro! It’s almost Marc Maron-like! If you wanna get past me talking about getting stood up by a publisher and discovering that I’ve become an anecdote in a business book (as well as my Myke intro), then skip to the 14:30 mark! Now go listen to the show!
“Intelligence, at its root, is breaking the laws of other countries and stealing their shit. I understand it’s necessary, but it’s not nice and it’s not ethical.”
About our Guest
As a security contractor, government civilian and military officer, Myke Cole’s career has run the gamut from Counterterrorism to Cyber Warfare to Federal Law Enforcement. He’s done three tours in Iraq and was recalled to serve during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
All that conflict can wear a guy out. Thank goodness for fantasy novels, comic books, late night games of Dungeons and Dragons and lots of angst-fueled writing.
Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission of the artist. The conversation was recorded at a friend’s apartment in NYC on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Myke Cole by me.
It’s the ONE-HUNDREDTH EPISODE of The Virtual Memories Show! And they said it would never last! To celebrate hitting the century mark, I asked past guests, upcoming guests and friends of the show to interview me this time around!
This special episode includes questions and recorded segments with Maria Alexander, Ashton Applewhite, John Bertagnolli, Lori Carson, Sarah Deming, Paul Di Filippo, Michael Dirda, Robert Drake, Aaron K. Finkelstein, Mary Fleener, Drew Friedman, Josh Alan Friedman, Kipp Friedman, Richard Gehr, Ben Katchor, Sara Lippmann, Brett Martin, Zach Martin, Seth, Jesse Sheidlower, Ron Slate, Tom Spurgeon, Levi Stahl, Maya Stein, Rupert Thomson, Peter Trachtenberg, Wallis Wilde-Menozzi, Frank Wilson, and Claudia Young.
Find out about my reading childhood, my dream list of pod-guests, my best practices for productivity (don’t have kids!), my favorite interview question, my top guest in the afterlife, the book I’d save if my house was on fire, what I’d do if I won a Macarthur Grant. and more! Give it a listen!
About our Guest
Gil Roth is the host of The Virtual Memories Show and the president of the Pharma & Biopharma Outsourcing Association.
Credits: This episode’s music is Stupid Now by Bob Mould. Several of the conversations were recorded on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro and the self-interview segments on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Photo of me by Aaron K. Finkelstein.
“I’ve been very lucky. I’ve had three separate careers: freelance illustrator, then set designer, puppetteer and animator, and now fine artist. I just bluffed my way into every one of ’em.'” –Wayne White
Artist Wayne White joins the show to talk about how his life and art have changed since he starred in the documentary Beauty is Embarrassing (which, if you haven’t seen it, go do so now now NOW!). We talk about the allure and absurdity of hubris, how much of the movie-Wayne maps onto the real version, how LA influenced his word-paintings, how he balances art and commerce, what happens to the giant puppets that he makes for installations, what he thinks of Jeff Koons, why he’s moving toward art-as-public-spectacle, what art form he’s dying to get back to, what his next big project is, when he’s gonna get rid of that beard, and more! Give it a listen!
“Cartooning is the hardest craft I ever did, because it’s no-shit-everything-has-to-work. With a painting, you can fudge things. Everything in a cartoon has to work, like a car, or it won’t run. I learned a lot about craft and discipline from cartooning, way more than painting.” –Wayne White
But first, we have an interview with Wayne’s wife, Mimi Pond! I interviewed Mimi last May (go listen to it!) at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, shortly after the release of her graphic memoir, Over Easy. This time around, we talk about the success of the book, the surprises of the book tour, how the sequel’s progressing, how it felt to win a PEN Center USA Literary Award, and more! (There are also some overlapping questions, and I thought you guys might dig hearing their different perspectives on topics like LA vs. NYC, and becoming empty-nesters.)
“In LA, it’s the law that you must be engaged in writing a screenplay with your hairdresser, pool boy, personal trainer, life coach, dog walker, or yoga instructor.” –Mimi Pond
About our Guests
Wayne White is an American artist, art director, illustrator, puppeteer, and much, much more. Born and raised in Chattanooga, Wayne has used his memories of the South to create inspired works for film, television, and the fine art world. After graduating from Middle Tennessee State University, Wayne traveled to New York City where he worked as an illustrator for the East Village Eye, New York Times, Raw Magazine, and the Village Voice. In 1986, Wayne became a designer for the hit television show Pee-wee’s Playhouse, and his work was awarded with three Emmys. After traveling to Los Angeles with his wife, Mimi Pond, Wayne continued to work in television and designed sets and characters for shows such as Shining Time Station, Beakman’s World, Riders In The Sky, and Bill & Willis. He also worked in the music video industry, winning Billboard and MTV Music Video Awards as an art director for seminal music videos including The Smashing Pumpkins’ Tonight, Tonight and Peter Gabriel’s Big Time.
More recently, Wayne has had great success as a fine artist and has created paintings and public works that have been shown all over the world. His most successful works have been the world paintings featuring oversized, three-dimensional text painstakingly integrated into vintage landscape reproductions. The message of the paintings is often thought-provoking and almost always humorous, with Wayne pointing a finger at vanity, ego, and his memories of the South. Wayne has also received great praise for several public works he has created, including a successful show at Rice University where he built the world’s largest George Jones puppet head for a piece called ‘Big Lectric Fan To Keep Me Cool While I Sleep.’ He was the subject of Neil Berkeley’s 2012 documentary, Beauty is Embarrassing.
Mimi Pond is a cartoonist, illustrator and writer. She’s created comics for the LA Times, Seventeen Magazine, National Lampoon, and many other publications. Her TV credits include the first full-length episode of The Simpsons, and episodes for the shows Designing Women and Pee-Wee’s Playhouse. She lives in LA with her husband, the artist Wayne White. She is currently working on the sequel to her 2014 graphic memoir, Over Easy.
Credits: This episode’s music is I’m Ragged but I’m Right by George Jones. The conversation was recorded in Wayne and Mimi’s dining nook on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. The intro and outro were recorded on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Garage Band. Photos of Mr. White and Ms. Pond by me.
“Knowing that things are finite gives life meaning. Avoiding mortality means you’re avoiding living, not avoiding dying. Aging is living.”
Ashton Applewhite is on a crusade against ageism (lack of gray hair notwithstanding). She joins the show to discuss the myths and roots of ageism and her talk series, This Chair Rocks. We also discuss her Yo Is This Ageist site, why she scoffs at the Life Extension crew, how her critique of ageism intertwines with her critique of capitalism, what it’s like to suffer from analexophobia, why we should all consider ourselves old people in training, and how she launched the Truly Tasteless Jokes empire. Give it a listen!
And if you’re in NYC, you can go hear Ashton’s This Chair Rocks talk on October 27! Details here!
Bonus: my yearbook picture from 1989!
“It drives me crazy when I get the AARP bulletin and the only gray-haired person in it is Bill Clinton.”
About our Guest
The voice of This Chair Rocks and Yo Is This Ageist, Ashton Applewhite is a Knight Fellow, a New York Times Fellow, and a Columbia Journalism School Age Boom Fellow. She is the author of Cutting Loose: Why Women Who End Their Marriages Do So Well, media liaison to the board of the Council on Contemporary Families, and a staff writer at the American Museum of Natural History.
Credits: This episode’s music is Golden Years by David Bowie (it was either that or Never Get Old). The conversation was recorded at Ms. Applewhite’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. The intro and outro were recorded on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Garage Band. Photo of Ms. Applewhite by me.
“Language is a proxy for our thoughts. And if you’re upset by something, it’s usually not the words but the underlying concept. We’re squeamish about sex, about excrement. We don’t like for our gods to be insulted. These are perfectly normal things to care about.”
Lexicographer Jesse Sheidlower joins us to talk about his work at the Oxford English Dictionary, the process of pitching The F-Word, how what we find offensive has changed over time, the ways words get into the language, the OED’s transition to digital, the roots of “dropping an F-bomb”, the value of kids’ texting habits, and the importance of hosting dinner parties and wearing fine suits. Plus, you get to listen to me obsess over word choices and still embarrass myself!
“Many things that people bring up as signaling the end of language as we know it tend to mean the exact opposite.”
Note: if you’re uptight or sensitive about F-words, N-words, or other “strong” language, don’t listen to this episode.
About our Guest
Jesse Sheidlower is currently the President of the American Dialect Society and Editor at Large (North America) of the Oxford English Dictionary, where he has been since 1999. His current responsibilities focus chiefly on the revision of American and Canadian entries for the OED. He is also the author of The F-Word, a detailed historical study of the word fuck. He has been profiled on the front page of The New York Times and on 60 Minutes, and New York Magazine has named him one of the 100 smartest people in New York. Before he joined the OED, he was an editor in the Random House Reference Department, specializing in slang and new words. While there he was also project editor of the Historical Dictionary of American Slang. For more information, visit jessesword.com.
Credits: This episode’s music is Word Up by Cameo. The conversation was recorded at Jesse’s home in NYC on a pair of AT2020 mics, feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue Yeti USB mic into Audacity. All editing and processing was done in Garage Band. Photo by Miss Scorpio.
The May episode of The Virtual Memories Show is up and ready to go! This time around, my guest is John B., a pal of mine who died last year (but got better!)
There’s also a little rant about the publicity-industrial complex, the Avengers, the new book by Robert Caro, and the redemptive powers of a certain margarita-soaked musician.
Credits: This episode’s music is tied into the conversation with John, so you’ll have to listen to the episode to find out what it is. I recorded the intro on a Blue Yeti mic, and the conversation with John was recorded on a pair of Blue Encore 100 mics, feeding into a Zoom H4N recorder. The conversation was recorded in an exhibit hall during a trade show, so getting the sound quality up to snuff was a little work.
I may be questioning/reconsidering what I’m writing and why, but that doesn’t mean I can’t share some fun/awesome links with you, dear readers! Enjoy!
What I’m reading: When The Shooting Stops . . . The Cutting Begins: A Film Editor’s Story, by Ralph Rosenblum. It’s a book about the art of film editing, with a ton of awesome anecdotes. I also bought a bunch of books off my Amazon wish list last week: Jamilti & Other Stories (Rutu Modan), Mister i (Lewis Trondheim), Little Nothings: The Prisoner Syndrome (Lewis Trondheim), Collected Essex County (Jeff Lemire), The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, and Your Movie Sucks (Roger Ebert).
What I’m listening to: Boxer (The National), Dear Science (TV on the Radio), Chimera (Delerium), Oblivion with Bells (Underworld), In Our Nature (Jose Gonzalez) and Bill Simmons’ two-part podcast with Chuck Klosterman. I had a bunch of driving to do last week.
What I’m watching: Bored To Death, South Park, not a lot else. Oh, and Glee because, hey, Jane Lynch.
What I’m drinking: Silverado cabernet sauvignon 2005, during my Peter Luger dindin on Thursday. First time I drank in 2+ weeks.
What Rufus is up to: A fun trip to the Ridgewood dog park on Thursday, but no Sunday hike, on account of parental laziness. We got in at 1 a.m. from dinner in NYC on Saturday night; sue us.
What I’m happy about: The Years Have Pants, Eddie Campbell’s massive anthology of his Alec comics, comes out this week!
What I’m sad about: I discovered a few days ago that Robert Caro gave a lecture on biogrphy in NYC last month. Two upsides:
- I found there’s an audio recording of his speech online
- On Saturday, walking through Columbus Circle, Amy & I passed a shoe repair shop that included Mr. Caro on its customer “wall of fame” in the window:
What I’m worried about: I won’t have a meal as amazing as last Saturday’s dinner at Marea for a long time. And, yes, this description of the ricci by the NYTimes reviewer was apt:
The very first item on the menu at Marea is ricci, a piece of warm toast slathered with sea urchin roe, blanketed in a thin sheet of lardo, and dotted with sea salt. It offers exactly the sensation as kissing an extremely attractive person for the first time â€” a bolt of surprise and pleasure combined. The salt and fat give way to primal sweetness and combine in deeply agreeable ways. The feeling lingers on the tongue and vibrates through the body. Not bad at $14 a throw â€” and there are two on each plate.
What I’m pondering: What it’ll take me for me to get on the wall of fame at a shoe repair store.