Podcast: A Place To Rest

Emily Raboteau tours the Promised Land on the Virtual Memories Show

Virtual Memories – season 4 episode 2 – A Place To Rest

“We reach for stories to be able to take risks.”

Emily Raboteau, author of Searching for Zion: The Quest for Home in the African Diaspora (Atlantic Monthly Press), joins the Virtual Memories Show to show to talk about the many notions of “home” for black people. Along the way, we talk about the many notions of what constitutes a black person. As Ms. Raboteau discovered in the travels chronicled in her book — encompassing Israel, Jamaica, Ethiopia, Ghana and America’s deep south — there are a lot of ideas about who’s black and what blackness means.

“As my husband told me, ‘You can’t valorize the oppressed just because they were oppressed. It doesn’t make them saintly; more often than not, it makes them want to step on someone else to elevate themselves.'”

We also talk about churchgoing in New York City, what it’s like to travel to Antarctica, why the story of Exodus is so pivotal in the black American experience, why Jewish book reviewers thought she was pulling a bait-and-switch, why she chose to explore her black roots instead of her white ones for this book, what motherhood means, and what it was like to give a talk about faith on behalf of Bobby McFerrin.

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

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About our Guest

Emily Raboteau is the author of a novel, The Professor’s Daughter (Henry Holt, Picador), and a work of creative nonfiction, Searching for Zion: The Quest for Home in the African Diaspora (Grove/Atlantic), named one of the “Best Books of 2013” by The Huffington Post and the grand prize winner of the New York Book Festival. She recently visited Antarctica and Cuba to research her next novel, Endurance, about a shipbuilder and his autistic son. Her fiction and essays have been widely published and anthologized in Best American Short Stories, Best American Non-required Reading, Tin House, The Oxford American, The Guardian, Guernica, The Believer and elsewhere. Honors include a Pushcart Prize, The Chicago Tribune’s Nelson Algren Award, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Christopher Isherwood Foundation and the Howard Foundation. An avid world traveler, she resides in New York City and teaches creative writing in Harlem at City College, once known as “the poor man’s Harvard.”

Credits: This episode’s music is Promised Land by Johnnie Allan. The conversation was recorded at the home of a friend of Emily’s on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder. The intro and outro were recorded at home on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Garage Band. Photo of Emily Raboteau by me.

Podcast: The Least Insane of Cartoonists

Virtual Memories – season 3 episode 22 –
Pete Bagge: The Least Insane of Cartoonists

“I was asking not to be taken seriously, but I was also getting annoyed that I wasn’t being taken seriously.”

WrebPeter Bagge, the comics legend behind Hate!, Neat Stuff, Apocalypse Nerd and Everybody is Stupid Except for Me, joins us to talk about his new book, Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story. We have a great conversation about why he chose to write about the founder of Planned Parenthood, how he made the shift from fiction to nonfiction comics, who his favorite “pre-feminist feminists” are, why he decided to stick with comic books over paperback books (and why he came around on the latter), what the strangest sketchbook request he ever received is, and how he feels about being a comics convention prostitute.

We also talk about how he never got a word of approval from his dad or his editor, how his libertarian politics got him ostracized after the 2008 election (and how some people seem to be coming around on that), why he doesn’t draw elbows, and what it felt like to be considered the “least insane of cartoonists” by R. Crumb.

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

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

About our Guest

Peter Bagge‘s newest book is Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story. He is best known for the 1990s comic book series Hate!, which followed the exploits of slacker ne’er-do-well Buddy Bradley (collected vols. 1, 2, and 3). He is a contributor to Reason magazine, which led to the collection Everybody Is Stupid Except For Me, and Other Acute Observations, and his work has appeared in Weirdo (where he served as managing editor), The Stranger, New York Press, Entertainment Weekly, Details, Seattle Weekly, Screw, and more. He is also the author of Peter Bagge’s Other Stuff, Reset, Apocalypse Nerd, Other Lives, and Bat Boy: The Weekly World News Comic Strips, among other works.

Credits: This episode’s music is Hateful Notebook by the Descendents. The conversation was recorded at the Bethesda North Marriott during SPX 2013 on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 mics feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder. 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. Photo by me.

Nuclear Family

I’ve tried to avoid writing about politics and politicians for the last few years. This post is a pretty clear example of why I chose to do that.

I read a news item this morning about Obama’s announcement of $8 billion in loan guarantees for nuclear reactor construction. Awesome, thought I! Go on with your bad self, Our Friend The Atom!

Then I read another paragraph in:

“On an issue that affects our economy, our security, and the future of our planet, we can’t continue to be mired in the same old stale debates between left and right, between environmentalists and entrepreneurs,” Obama said in a stop at a job training center outside Washington. “Our competitors are racing to create jobs and command growing energy industries. And nuclear energy is no exception.”

Foreign countries are “our competitors”? Really? So it’s a zero-sum game if, say, China builds up its use of nuclear power and reduces its use of fossil fuels? That’s bad for us how?

I thought it was just a bizarre, pandering anomaly when Obama made his SOTU comment about “foreign companies” and “foreign entities” being able to, um, buy U.S. elections with TV ads.

I could’ve sworn the 2008 election was supposed to be — in part — about restoring America’s stature overseas. Little did I know it was going to be about jingoistic nationalism. Not so awesome.

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.


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