Many of the guests who we interview at Big Think can be described as “giants” in their fields, but this week we actually hosted our tallest guest ever. John Amaechi, the 6’10” former basketball pro, made headlines in 2007 when he announced that he was gay—a first for the NBA. Amaechi is also one of a very small handful of basketball players with a Ph.D; he completed a graduate degree in psychology after retiring. During his interview, he spoke candidly about being gay in the NBA, about reconciling black identity and gay identity, and about the troubling lack of emotional illiteracy among adolescent males.
Mitch Horowitz, a scholar of all things esoteric, also came by the Big Think offices this week to regale us with stories of America’s occult past. Because of its religious freedom, the United States became a laboratory for all sorts of religious and spiritual experiments, he told us. And that influence has reached as far as the White House: Abraham Lincoln and his wife Mary Todd are reported to have had more than one séance in the presidential abode, hoping to conjure the spirit of their dead son Willie. Horowitz also gave us an academic history of the Ouija board.
British filmmaker Mike Leigh also stopped by our studio while he was in town for the New York premiere of his new film Another Year. The 67-year-old auteur has spent his career making films about ordinary people, whom he says are far more interesting than the superheroes and bigshots in Hollywood films. But he is not, of course, the first realist director; he told us about the long tradition of realism in filmmaking, beginning with the first documentary films in the 19th century through the Italian neorealists and Japanese masters like Kurosawa and Ozu.