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:
Former president of the ACLU Nadine Strossen discusses whether our society should always defend free speech rights, even for groups who would oppose such rights.
- Former ACLU president Nadine Strossen understands that protecting free speech rights isn't always a straightforward proposition.
- In this video, Strossen describes the reasoning behind why the ACLU defended the free speech rights of neo-Nazis in Skokie, Illinois, 1977.
- The opinions expressed in this video do not necessarily reflect the views of the Charles Koch Foundation, which encourages the expression of diverse viewpoints within a culture of civil discourse and mutual respect.
The wonder and the ethics of deep time. The "wood-wide-web". The claustrophobia of the Anthropocene. In our 200th episode, UNDERLAND author Robert MacFarlane takes us on a journey deep into the Earth and ourselves.
- "We think of ourselves as this surface species. Of builders. But we are a species of burrowers and borers. And we are leaving warrens behind us that dwarf any ant's nest…"
- "That handprint on the cave wall is testimony to that urge to move into darkness in search of meaning—in search of different orders of time."
An ordained Lama in a Tibetan Buddhist lineage, Lama Rod grew up a queer, black male within the black Christian church in the American south. Navigating all of these intersecting, evolving identities has led him to a life's work based on compassion for self and others.
- "What I'm interested in is deep, systematic change. What I understand now is that real change doesn't happen until change on the inside begins to happen."
- "Masculinity is not inherently toxic. Patriarchy is toxic. We have to let that energy go so we can stop forcing other people to do emotional labor for us."
With MIND IN MOTION, psychologist Barbara Tversky offers a stunning account of movement in the world as the foundation of abstract thought, from logical problem-solving to taking other people's perspectives. We discuss gesture, abstract art, animal intelligence and much more.
- "Our feet take us from place to place. A place is a dot and the path between places is a relation. And if you think about thought, it's the same."
- "There's all this work done now on how you can preserve an aging mind. Crossword puzzles…brain training…none of that works as well as moving in the world. Just keep moving."
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