“Almost all of the things that I say the evil geniuses did — discredit the idea of government, discredit the idea of progress, disbelieve science, make short-term profits and stock prices the lodestar of American society — all of that we see in how this administration and the right in general reacted to this pandemic.”
With his fantastic new book, Evil Geniuses: The Unmaking of America (Random House), Kurt Andersen explores how rich conservatives responded to the 1960s by pushing America on a pro-business trajectory that has led to record income inequality and a nation unequipped to handle a pandemic. We get into the one-two punch of this book and Kurt’s previous history of America, Fantasyland, the over-exaggeration of individualism and how puts us on the precipice of disaster, post-’80s cultural stasis and nostalgia, the way “if it feels good, do it” led to “profits over all”, the long-term impact of the Occupy movement, and how his kids give him optimism that this can all be fixed. We also get into his first New York City moment, the lessons learned from his 20-year tenure hosting Studio 360 on PRI, pandemic life and his re-integration into NYC, how we both treat our interviews like first dates, why he wants to get back to writing novels, and plenty more. Give it a listen! And go read Evil Geniuses (and Fantasyland)!
“I’m not without hope. As eye-opening and appalling as some of my discoveries were as I wrote this book, I find myself more hopeful than I did at the end of my last book.”
“My life when I did Studio 360 for 20 years was divided blissfully between spending mornings writing, and then going to the office and collaborating and making radio with smart, great, talented people.”
“We lost the defining American taste of embracing the new. Out of this terrible moment, could come the moment where we say, ‘We didn’t have to do it that way, we can do it this way.'”
About our Guest
Kurt Andersen is author of Heyday, Turn of the Century, and Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History, and frequently writes for New York and Vanity Fair. He is host and cocreator of the Peabody Award–winning public radio program Studio 360. In 2006, he founded Very Short List, an email service for connoisseurs of culture who would never call themselves “connoisseurs.” He was cofounder of Spy magazine, and has been a columnist and critic for the New Yorker and Time. Andersen lives with his wife and daughters in Brooklyn. His new book is Evil Geniuses: The Unmaking of America – A Recent History (Random House).
Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded remotely via Zencastr. I used 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 Kurt by Marco Antonio. It’s on my instagram.
“I really don’t want to test my introversion and find out where the vein peters out and empties into the magma core of horror.”
Jim Ottaviani, award-winning & best-selling author of graphic novels about scientists (think Hawking, Feynman, Fossey, Turing), provides a COVID check-in from Ann Arbor, MI. We talk about how he’s balancing his day job and comics writing with the compulsion to read the news and graph out infection rates. We also get into whether his science background has helped his perspective on the pandemic, how the university model might change when we’re past this, and what new books he has coming (fingers crossed). You also get a story from me about the limits of risk mitigation plans. Give it a listen! And go check out Jim’s work and his 2016 appearance on the podcast!
“This is teaching us what primates really are.”
About our Guest
Jim Ottaviani is the author of thirteen (and counting) graphic novels about scientists, ranging from physicists to paleontologists to behaviorists. His latest, Astronauts: Women on the Final Frontier, illustrated by Maris Wicks, features the first women astronauts. Others include Hawking, illustrated by Leland Myrick, tells the story of the renowned cosmologist and icon. Other books include 2016’s The Imitation Game, a biography of Alan Turing illustrated by Leland Purvis, which came out in 2016 and spent more than a month on the New York Times bestseller list; Primates, about Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas with art by Maris Wicks; and Feynman, with Leland Myrick, a book about the Nobel-prize winning physicist, bongo-playing artist, and raconteur Richard Feynman which debuted as a #1 New York Times bestseller list for graphic novels. His books are probably the only ones to have received praise from both Nature and Vampirella Magazine . . . and everything in between, from Physics World to Entertainment Weekly to Discover to Variety to Time.
Credits: The conversation was recorded remotely via Zencastr. I used 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 Jim by me. It’s on my instagram.