Episode 183 – Jeff Gomez

Virtual Memories Show #183: Jeff Gomez

“The reason we enjoy these finely-tooled story-worlds is because we love dollhouses. We love miniatures. We love to see a universe that is created in such a way that they convince us somehow, even for a moment, that they’re real.”

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Transmedia producer Jeff Gomez joins the show to talk about the evolution of storytelling. We get into how the internet is driving communal narrative, the role of fandom in our culture, the way every new media is touted as the Destroyer of Worlds, the outgrowth of “canonical” storytelling and his one-time role as Keeper of the Canon at a comic company, the parallels between sports-nerds and fantasy-nerds, the old entertainment properties he really wishes he could work on, and just what it was in his childhood that led him into this role! Give it a listen!

“Story existed in one form from the dawn of human history until just a couple of hundred years ago, when it was disrupted. The disruption is ending.”

We also get into the impact of fan fiction, the economics of the IP feeder system, playing D&D as a way to connect with people, why the Fantastic Four movies didn’t work, the transition from The Hero’s Journey to The Collective Journey, and how it feels to get criticized today for comics he made in 1996. Plus, I ask the nerdiest closing question in the history of the show. Now go listen to the show!

“I saw a lot of violence growing up, but everyone got along when they were in the movie theater.”

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About our Guest

Jeff Gomez, CEO of Starlight Runner Entertainment, has the greatest job in the universe: he designs, expands, and defends the integrity of some of the biggest blockbuster worlds in all of pop culture! Jeff served as a creator for the story worlds of Magic: The Gathering, Turok Dinosaur Hunter N64, Hot Wheels World Race, and Coca-Cola Happiness Factory.

As the most renowned Transmedia Producer in the entertainment industry, Jeff takes blockbuster movies, hit videogames, and major toy brands, and develops and extends their fictional worlds across multiple media platforms. He also serves as an advisor and consultant on global trends in technology, youth culture, and social media to studio heads, publishers, licensing agencies, C-suite executives, and government leaders.

Jeff has worked on such exciting franchises as Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean, James Cameron’s Avatar, Hasbro’s Transformers, Sony Pictures’ Spider-Man, 343 Studios’ Halo, and Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He also teaches transmedia storytelling for social good to non-profits, educational institutions and non-government organizations across the globe, including Mexico, Colombia, Australia, and the Middle East and North Africa region.

Growing up on the rough streets of New York City, Jeff has always championed the causes of young people. His Never Surrender! seminars teach kids how to deal with bullies, and he regularly provides career counseling to imaginative teens and young adults who are facing challenges in life.

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 Mr. Gomez’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 Blue enCORE 200 Microphone feeding into a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. Photo of Mr. Gomez by me.

Episode 159 – Burton Pike

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Virtual Memories Show #159:
Burton Pike

“When you translate, you are digging into not so much the psyche of the author but the psyche of the author’s use of language.”

51EULu1tNBL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Translator and emeritus literature professor Burton Pike joins the show to talk about his lifetime in the arts, the musicality and rhythm of language, the experience of translating early Proust, whether national literature departments are an outdated concept, the peculiarities of various Swiss ethnicities, how his dream project — Musil’s The Man Without Qualities — fell into his lap, and more! Give it a listen!

“The Man Without Qualities is written not from a literary but a scientific point of view. It’s predicated on the fact that everything changes and nothing stays stable. And of course that includes this novel itself.”

We also talk about the joys of hitchhiking across Europe in the ’50s, the reasons he came to New York and the reasons he stays, the disappearance of high German culture — Goethe, Schilling, et al. — from postwar Germany, the problems with Moncrieff’s fruity translation of Proust, his objection to calling Die Verwandlung The Metamorphosis, and more! Go listen!

“When a German is in sight, Swiss Germans revert to their native patois, because they’re horrified that they’ll be taken for German. The French look down on French Swiss and Belgians, of course, because they’re not French. The Swiss French, their faces are glued to the window pane of France. And the Italian Swiss? They’re perfectly happy and at home and have no problem.”

Also, if you want to find out who Burton is reading nowadays and get a list of the books we talked about in this episode, join our Patreon and become a monthly contributor to The Virtual Memories Show! At the end of March, the new episode of our patron-only podcast, Fear of a Square Planet, will go up with a bonus segment about who he’s reading and why.

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes! You might like:

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About our Guest

25535972945_f40867c27e_zBurton Pike is professor emeritus of comparative literature and Germanic languages and literature at the CUNY Graduate Center. He did his undergraduate studies at Haverford College and received his PhD from Harvard University. He has taught at the University of Hamburg, Cornell University, and Queens College and Hunter College of the City University of New York. He has also been a Visiting Professor at Yale University. He is a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies, and a Fulbright fellowship. He was awarded the Medal of Merit by the City of Klagenfurt, Austria, for his work on Robert Musil. Finalist and special citation, PEN/Book-of-the-Month Club Translation Prize for editing and co-translating Robert Musil’s The Man Without Qualities. He is the winner of the 2012 Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator’s Prize for Gerhard Meier’s Isle of the Dead.

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 Professor Pike’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on the same setup. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Photo of Mr. Head by me.

Episode 130 – The Cult of Experience and the Tyranny of Relevance

Virtual Memories Show #130:
Elizabeth Samet –
The Cult of Experience and the Tyranny of Relevance

“How do you learn things? How do you acquire the patience to admit when you don’t know things? I think those are really important things for an Army officer to know.”

41X6zxtIM4L._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_Elizabeth D. Samet has been a professor of English at West Point since 1997. We talk about the tension between education and training at the military academy, the importance of books to soldiers and officers serving overseas, learning West Point’s unique argot, preparing her students to be unprepared, trying (and failing) to convince Robert Fagles that Hector is the moral center of the Iliad, why she doesn’t teach Henry V to plebes, how not to get caught up in the tyranny of relevance, why she balked at learning the fine art of parachuting, and more! Give it a listen!

“The question I’m endlessly fascinated with is, what do we call war and what do we call peace and can we draw these nice distinctions? It seems to me right now that we can’t.”

NOTE: The opinions Elizabeth Samet expresses in this interview are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of West Point, the Department of the Army, or the Department of Defense.

We also talk about teaching students who are both future Army officers and 18-year-old kids, how West Point and the student body changed after 9/11, her new anthology (Leadership) and her first two books (Soldier’s Heart and No Man’s Land), her house-on-fire list of books to save, her quarrel with Plato, and her adoration of Simeon’s Maigret novels. Bonus: I tell a long, awful and emotional story from last weekend (it starts around the 75:00 mark, so feel free to stop long before that).

“I have this idea about Plato: no one loves Plato who does not already think himself a guardian.”

We talk about a lot of of books in this episode. Here’s a list of ’em (Note: if I ever go to a Patreon crowdfunding model for the show, this is the first thing that goes subscriber-only):

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Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes! You might like:

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About our Guest

Samet_0044F PUB-Bachrach©Elizabeth D. Samet is the author of No Man’s Land: Preparing for War and Peace in Post-9/11 America (FSG). Her first book, Soldier’s Heart: Reading Literature Through Peace and War at West Point (Picador), won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Current Interest and was named one of the 100 Notable Books of the Year by The New York Times. Samet’s work has appeared in various publications, including the The New York Times, The New Republic, and Bloomberg View. She is also the editor of Leadership: Essential Writings by Our Greatest Thinkers, which is out this month from Norton. Samet won the 2012 Hiett Prize in the Humanities and is also the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. She is a professor of English at West Point.

Credits: This episode’s music is On, Brave Old Army Team by West Point Marching Band. The conversation was recorded at Prof. Samet’s apartment on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Formal photo of Prof. Samet by Bachrach; bookshelf photo of Prof. Samet by me.

Episode 107 – Silence in Translation

Virtual Memories Show:
Yasmina Reza – Silence in Translation

“When you write a novel with a classical structure, you’re writing horizontally. [In Happy Are The Happy, I can] speak as a character, and the character is also somewhere in the spirit of another. It allows you to see the characters in many ways that naturalism would not allow.”

51PvahAbjAL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Playwright and author Yasmina Reza joins the show to talk about her new book, Happy are the Happy (Other Press). We also discuss the confluence and divergence of love and happiness, her surprise when “Art” was produced in Iran and Afghanistan, the appeal of Sarkozy as a literary character, her love of The Wire, and why she let James Gandolfini transpose The God of Carnage from Paris to Brooklyn. We also get to talking about writing a novel like a constellation, being unapologetic for writing intelligent plays that are accessible, the playwrights in her theater pantheon, and why she’s French first, Jewish second, and nothing third. Give it a listen!

YASMINA REZA (2010)

“A play is good if it can be seen in different cultures, in different languages, different actors. That’s the strength of a play. Just to be played in Paris would have been for me a kind of failure.”

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About our Guest

Yasmina Reza is a playwright and novelist whose works have been translated into more than 30 languages and include Art and God of Carnage, both winners of the Tony Award for Best Play. The film adaptation of the latter, Carnage, was directed by Roman Polanski in 2011. She has written six books, including Dawn Dusk or Night: A Year with Nicolas Sarkozy (Knopf, 2008). Her newest book is Happy are the Happy. She lives in Paris.

Credits: This episode’s music is The Paris Match by Style Council. The conversation was recorded on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Photo of Ms. Reza by Pascal Victor.

Podcast – May God Remember

Virtual Memories Show: Daniel Goldhagen –
May God Remember

“The phenomenon of antisemitism in areas where no Jews are present has no parallel, and it shows this is an extremely deeply seated and broad cultural construct, first in Christianity and then in Islam. . . . These notions have and continue to spread antisemitism around the world.”

Daniel Goldhagen on The Virtual Memories Show

During the middle of the High Holidays, two Jews sit down in Manhattan to talk about antisemitism! Daniel Goldhagen joins the show to talk about his newest book, The Devil That Never Dies: The Rise and Threat of Global Antisemitism. We discuss the public expression of antisemitism and why it’s permitted in so many regions (and why it’s not in America), how it’s progressed through medieval, modern and global phases, how Jews have been able to survive millennia of ill-treatment, why “eliminationism” is a better term than “genocide”, and how a guy who writes books on topics like this manages to stay upbeat.

“People in Germany don’t look at Jews anymore and see devils in human form. That’s progress.”

Along the way, we also talk about the Goldhagen family business, Daniel’s writing routine (which fills me with shame), what it’s like to be the first topic that comes up when you search “genocide” on YouTube, and what the man behind The Goldhagen Debate thinks about the adage that there’s no such thing as bad publicity.

The episode also includes my tribute to DG Myers, who died the previous weekend. Go visit his site to learn more about his life, death, and donations you can make in his honor.

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About our Guest

Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, a former professor at Harvard University, is the author of Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust, A Moral Reckoning: The Role of the Church in the Holocaust and Its Unfulfilled Duty of Repair, and Worse Than War: Genocide, Eliminationism, and the Ongoing Assault on Humanity, in addition to The Devil That Never Dies: The Rise and Threat of Global Antisemitism. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, New Republic, and newspapers around the world. There’s a much more extensive bio available at his website.

Credits: This episode’s music is First We Take Manhattan by Jennifer Warnes (in tribute to DG Myers). The conversation was recorded at Mr. Goldhagen’s rather echo-y 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 Mr. Goldhagen by me.

Podcast – The Peace Poet

#NJPoet on The Virtual Memories Show

Virtual Memories Show: Charles Bivona – The Peace Poet

“I think people are experiencing a lot of things in America that they just don’t have the words for. If I’m going to run around and wave this POET flag, then my job is to jump into the difficult situations and try to put them into words.”

Charles Bivona‘s business card reads, “Poet, Writer, Professor,” but he’s a lot more than that. Over the course of an hour, we talked about what it means to be known as NJPoet, his theory on the transmissibility of PTSD (based on the first-hand evidence of his father’s Vietnam War trauma being visited on his family), the value of building a massive Twitter network, the lessons of growing up poor, how Walt Whitman saved him on one of the worst days of his life, the virtues of a gift economy, and why getting bumped out of academia for blogging may have been the best thing for him.

“I think the core of my project is asking you, ‘What do you think your children think about what you’re doing right now?'”

We also discuss the role of poetry in America today and the poets who saved him in his youth, why he doesn’t publish poetry online, whether Twitter is more like The Matrix or The Watchmen, how his responses to Occupy Wall Street and Hurricane Sandy elevated his online presence, and why it’s important not to put yourself in an ideological cocoon.

“If you relax your ego, and say, ‘I’m here as a student and a teacher,’ you’ll get a lot out of social media.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes! Related conversations:

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Luz & NJ Poet

About our Guest

Charles Bivona (pictured above with his wife, Luz Costa), has the following on his About page:

Charles Bivona would tell you that he’s just trying to help his creative friends figure out ways to reach their goals, to help them in any way he can—writing letters, Twitter endorsements, all-out social media campaigns, word-of-mouth networking. Whatever helps. Otherwise, he’s reading, tweeting, listening to alternative news media, producing blog posts, and writing the first of hopefully several Kindle books and paperback poetry collections.

If you push him to be more philosophical, to talk more specifically about the social media strategy that built his audience, he frames his work as a Zen Buddhist approach to engagement based on mindfulness and honesty. With this in mind, he’s gathered an artistic social network that simmers with creativity, compassion, and humor. The writing itself, the poetic prose on his website, is also clearly informed by a Buddhist literary theory, rooted in practical teaching, mindfulness, and a vivid social reporting.

“It’s more of a life philosophy and a daily practice than a marketing plan,” Charles often says. “I’m using the web to make an attempt at Buddhist Right Livelihood, to try to make a living as a working poet in the United States.”

Credits: This episode’s music is Ladder of Success by Ted Hawkins. The conversation was recorded at Charles’ 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 Charles Bivona and me by Luz Costa. Photo of Charles and Luz Costa by me.