You've got 10 minutes with Einstein. What do you talk about? Black holes? Time travel?
Why not gambling? The Art of War? Contemporary parenting?
Each week, host Jason Gots surprises some of the world's brightest minds with ideas they're not at all prepared to discuss. Join us and special guests Neil Gaiman, Alan Alda, Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood, Richard Dawkins, Maria Popova, Mary-Louise Parker, Neil deGrasse Tyson and many more...
Chris Moukarbel (filmmaker) – The closest thing to actual magic
When a subculture like drag goes global, it's easy to forget the courage it took, and still takes, for so many people to live on the outside what they know they are on the inside. The maker of WIG and GAGA FIVE FOOT TWO on bravery, authenticity, and the eternal power of youth.
- "For a lot of those kids drag was more punk than punk. Ok, you could shave your head and put on a spike collar… or you could throw on a wig and heels and traipse around Times Square. That was brave. That was radical."
- Lady Gaga writes a hook and the whole world suddenly takes notice…I always thought of it as casting a spell. It's the closest thing to actual magic. Because imagine an incantation that you can just repeat for 3 minutes and it can grab the attention of the entire world."
When I was in middle school in the suburbs of Maryland, a man—let's call him Robert—started doing some occasional gardening and housecleaning for my parents. By high school, Robert was our full-time housekeeper and a nanny for me and my sister, a family member, really. And he had become a she—let's call her Tina. My sister and I learned to use her new pronouns and we watched as her clothes and then, with the help of hormones and surgery, her body changed to that of a woman.
At the same time, the transition we went through with Tina at home was playing out in American popular culture. Homosexuality and drag and other queer lives and identities came out of the closet and onto the stage, screen, and streets. In 1984, in Mahattan's Tompkins Square Park, Wigstock was born. It started as a kind of afterparty and evolved into a DIY, outrageous, funny, and fabulous annual drag festival that by the 90's was drawing crowds in the thousands.
It's hard even to think back to the time when Robert who became Tina had to hide who she was for fear of upsetting her religious mother or—who knows—maybe not getting that job with my folks. In a world where RuPaul's Drag Race is going into its 12th smash season, It's easy to forget the courage it took, and still takes, for so many people to live on the outside what they know they are on the inside. My guest today is documentary filmmaker Chris Moukarbel, the director of Lady Gaga biopic GAGA FIVE FOOT TWO. In his new HBO documentary WIG, Chris and his stars—including Lady Bunny, Charlene Incarnate, and many more—take us back through the history of drag in New York City. And they show that now more than ever we need public spaces like Wigstock where we can perform, amplify, and celebrate our differences.
Surprise conversation starters in this episode:
These effective strategies can minimize harmful moral grandstanding – in yourself and in others.
- What is moral grandstanding? Here's a comprehensive explanation of the psychology that drives this disruptive and divisive online behavior.
- Moral grandstanding may have very serious consequences for social discourse, but calling it out and shaming moral grandstanders is unproductive, says Brandon Warmke.
- To defeat moral grandstanding, you can do several things. Before posting anything online, ask yourself: 'Am I doing this to do good or am I doing this to look good?'. You can deny attention and praise to moral grandstanders, and you can redirect your own impulse to signal morality into actual volunteer work instead of online posts.
Should all speech be free? How much intolerance should society tolerate?
- For society to stay open and free, you don't need to eliminate prejudice. You need the opposite: All kinds of prejudice pitted against each other.
- Intellectual diversity helps society as a whole learn the truth. And as long as society has rules that force ideas to be openly tested, the intolerant will not gain the upper hand.
- "In America it's legal to be intolerant. It may not be right. It may not get you accepted or respected. But absolutely it's legal and it should be legal," says Jonathan Rauch.
Picking up where we left off a year ago, a conversation about the homeostatic imperative as it plays out in everything from bacteria to pharmaceutical companies—and how the marvelous apparatus of the human mind also gets us into all kinds of trouble.
- "Prior to nervous systems: no mind, no consciousness, no intention in the full sense of the term. After nervous systems, gradually we ascend to this possibility of having to this possibility of having minds, having consciousness, and having reasoning that allows us to arrive at some of these very interesting decisions."
- "We are fragile culturally and socially…but life is fragile to begin with. All that it takes is a little bit of bad luck in the management of those supports, and you're cooked…you can actually be cooked—with global warming!"
How do you write away the personal hole in your heart when that hole was left by a man half the world idolizes? Steve Jobs' daughter, the writer Lisa Brennan-Jobs, on the process and effects of writing her beautiful memoir SMALL FRY.
- "If I hadn't gone back with a fine-toothed-comb, a lot of these assumptions I had would have just been the air I breathed into my future."
- "There is something like theft in a memoir. If you want to write about yourself you have to write about other people who are unwitting and don't want to be written about…"
Artist, "bird noticer", and concerned citizen of the digital state of the world Jenny Odell looks at many different ways of resisting the attention economy, sinking into the reality of our lives, and finding solidarity and agency with others.
- "Someone is defining the terms already by asking the question. And if you're not attentive, you will accept those terms."
- "It's really hard to draw a hard line around an entity in any ecological system. And I think this is a great description of the self, too."
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