Author posts

Jad Abumrad (“Radiolab”, “Dolly Parton’s America”) – American Multiverse

To create the podcast series "Dolly Parton's America", Jad Abumrad and his producer Shima Oliaee took nine trips into the "Dollyverse"—that complex American multiverse of music and culture that surrounds country singer Dolly Parton. In this episode Jad and host Jason Gots talk about some of the astonishing discoveries he made along the way.

Norman Fischer (poet, zen priest) – the only way out of the catastrophe we’re in

"Body, breath, awareness…that's your life. Every problem you ever have, every joy you ever have, depends on that." In this week's episode of Think Again, host Jason Gots talks with acclaimed poet and zen teacher Norman Fischer about the imagination as a tool for living a good life.

Yancey Strickler (Kickstarter co-founder) – you, me, us: now and in the future

Having helped transform how creative work is financed, Yancey Strickler has moved on from Kickstarter, the company he co-founded toward a kind of values reset that moves us away from a narrow, unsustainable, inhumane obsession with profit at all costs.

Elif Shafak (writer) – the cemetery of the companionless

Following the Booker shortlisting of her novel 10 Minutes, 38 Seconds in This Strange World, British-Turkish author and activist Elif Shafak returns to Think Again to talk about forgotten lives, the nature of evil, and what we mean by progress.

Reginald Dwayne Betts - Nothing to resurrect after prison

"I think when you come to grips with what happened, it gives you a chance of doing something different. What's really dark is when you're going through something and you have no perspective." By revisiting—through poetry—his 9 years in prison for a teenage carjacking, Reginald Dwayne Betts finds freedoms most of us have never known.

Ibram X Kendi – Antiracism 101

For too long, we've treated racism as a personality trait or a vague systemic menace rather than the result of policies and ideas created deliberately to benefit some groups at the expense of others. As a result, too many anti-racist efforts have collapsed into name-calling sessions, failing to achieve their goals. Ibram X. Kendi, author of How to be an Antiracist, sees a better way.

Gail Collins (NY Times columnist) – The brief social media life of Glam-ma

Though what constitutes "getting old" for women in America has been a moving target throughout US history, it has rarely been a picnic. But our history's also full of women who have raised hell and pushed back in a hundred different ways against the cultural and literal corsets America keeps trying to stuff them into.

Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie: the cognitive segregation of America

A talented young programmer, Christopher Wylie found himself at the center of a complex plot to overturn the cultural order in the United States and Europe—one that most likely tipped the scales on Brexit and the 2016 US presidential election.

men, masculinity, and the unfinished conversation, with Liz Plank

Progress for women can only go so far while men still struggle with ideals of masculinity that teach violence and emotional disconnect. Liz Plank is trying to change the conversation.

the Epicurean cure for what ails ya, with philosopher Catherine Wilson

From atomic theory to evolution to utilitarian pragmatism, the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus was way ahead of his time. In the writings of his school, philosopher Catherine Wilson finds answers to many of our most vexing modern problems.

Downton Abbey film director Michael Engler – the best idea in the room

Fears and discoveries in translating an intimate world to the big screen. How experience helps you deal with people yelling at you. Why 21st century audiences love to be transported to Edwardian England, in spite of all the class hierarchy…

Etgar Keret (writer) – a tunnel dug under the prison floor

Etgar Keret's stories are as funny, painful, and surreal as life itself. We talk about the craziness of his native Israel, his new collection of short stories FLY ALREADY, marijuana, dementia, and much more.

one night in Istanbul, with Chef Musa Dağdeviren

Taped on the Asian side of Istanbul, Turkey: The ancient art of coffee ground reading. Food as a citizen of geographic, not national borders. Chef and food ethnographer Musa Dağdeviren, author of THE TURKISH COOKBOOK, and his ambitious project to preserve Turkey's rich and diverse cuisine.

a Think Again mixtape for 2019

When I was a teenager and music was still on cassettes, a mixtape was an act of love. In this episode, I'm putting together some of my favorite moments of 2019, strung together with minimal interruption from me.

This incredibly rich machinery – with Antonio Damasio

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.

Lisa Brennan-Jobs on growing up without, with, and in spite of her dad

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.

Attention as an act of resistance – with Jenny Odell

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.

private hate, public love, and everything in between – with Jeffrey Israel

Picking up the thread of a conversation they started two decades ago in Jerusalem, with some help from Lenny Bruce, philosopher Martha Nussbaum, and other influences along the way, host Jason Gots and Williams College professor Jeffrey Israel go deep on private grievances, public life, and where the two overlap.

identity, intolerance, and change in the American heartland – with Jeanine and Catherine Butler

The first church to marry gay couples in Oklahoma. The merging of a congregation founded by a white supremacist with the members of a black Pentacostal congregation. The film American Heretics explores the complexities of religious life in the Bible Belt as it intersects with politics and race.

Elif Shafak - the story no one hears

"We live in an age in which there is too much excessive information, less knowledge, and very, very little wisdom." Elif Shafak has faced trial and investigation in her native Turkey for giving voice to the voiceless in her novels. We talk about her book THREE DAUGHTERS OF EVE and the fight for nuance in a world of binaries.

30 years on, Captain Tracy Edwards, MBE on her historic race around the world

"You're all going to die" was one typical comment about the all-woman crew of the sailing ship Maiden, the first of its kind in the Whitbread round-the-world race. 30 years later, its captain Tracy Edwards, MBE reflects on the documentary MAIDEN and an act of will and teamwork that changed the world.

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.

Think Again Podcast's 200th episode! Robert MacFarlane (writer) – deep time rising

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.

Lama Rod Owens – the price of the ticket to freedom

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.

World makes mind – with Barbara Tversky

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.

Eve Ensler (author, activist) - No way out but through

For all the women in the world who never got the apology they needed, and all the men who haven't found the words, and above all for herself, Eve Ensler (THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES) wrote THE APOLOGY. In this searing, unflinching, often surprisingly funny conversation we talk about trauma, compassion, and what it means to apologize for real.

Extraordinary machines – with neuroscientist Susan Hockfield

Convergence 2.0: Engineers are using the "natural genius" of biological systems to produce extraordinary machines—self-assembling batteries, cancer-detecting nanoparticles, super-efficient water filters made from proteins found in blood cells. Neuroscientist and MIT President Emerita Susan Hockfield and host Jason Gots discuss what all this could mean for our future.

Adam Gopnik on the rhinoceros of liberalism vs. the unicorns of everything else

Torn between absolutism on the left and the right, classical liberalism—with its core values of compassion and incremental progress whereby the once-radical becomes the mainstream—is in need of a good defense. And Adam Gopnik is its lawyer.

Jared Diamond (historian) – Look inward, Nation

Personal crises and national crises have more than a few things in common. From Brexit to the partisan divide in America to Germany after World War II, Jared Diamond talks with host Jason Gots about how we get through them (or don't).

with 'Hadestown' creator Anaïs Mitchell - sometimes the god speaks through you

With 14 Tony nominations, HADESTOWN is redefining what a Broadway musical can be. Its creator, songwriter/singer Anaïs Mitchell sits down with Jason Gots to talk about the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, making old things new, and leaving her songwriting cave (temporarily) for the theater.

Land of paradoxes: the inner and outer Iran – with Delphine Minoui

Secret Spice Girls dance parties of the wives of anti-western morality police. Book deals for political prisoners still in jail. Iran is a land of contradictions where oppression and freedom uneasily coexist. Born in France, Delphine Minoui lived in Tehran for 10 years to understand her grandparents' country from the inside.

The philosophy of tragedy & the tragedy of philosophy - with Simon Critchley

Tragedy in art, from Ancient Greece to Breaking Bad, resists all our efforts to tie reality up in a neat bow, to draw some edifying lesson from it. Instead it confronts us with our own limitations, leaving us scrabbling in the rubble of certainty to figure out what's next.

Terry Gilliam - The impossible dream

The film becomes the story of the making of the film. From his Monty Python days to now, Don Quixote is a metaphor for Terry Gilliam's whole career, and for his 30 year project of making a film about a film about the knight of the woeful countenance. We talk about Muppets, time, and basically everything else two humans can talk about.

Ross Kauffman - Tigers and the humans who love them

Love + fear = awe. And awe can inspire the best and the worst in us. From 100,000 wild tigers a century ago, we're down to around 5,000. Oscar winner Ross Kauffman's TIGERLAND tells the story of the lengths some will go to to protect them.

Frans de Waal (primatologist) – You’re such a social animal

Love, grief, and moral disgust aren't unique to humans. Like chimps, humans sometimes struggle for dominance, but our first impulse is trust and connection. Frans de Waal has spent decades showing that most of what we believe about animals, humans, and the differences between us is wrong.

Aml Ameen – how the world teaches you who you are

For Idris Elba's directorial debut YARDIE, actor Aml Ameen (Sense8, Kidulthood) went back to his family's Jamaican roots, learning patois and sound clash chat—using method acting to become "D" - a lost soul on a quest for revenge. The process changed him forever.

It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine

Killer robots. Alien invasions. Climate change. Josh Clark of Stuff You Should Know and the new podcast The End of the World thinks a lot these days about existential threats. Believe it or not, he's optimistic.

Mitchell S. Jackson — Notes from the Other America

In the 1980's, Northeast Portland was a black neighborhood hustling to survive. Today, it's full of pilates studios and handlebar moustaches. As a writer, professor, and former inmate, Mitchell S. Jackson has lived in and learned from both worlds. In SURVIVAL MATH, he puts the pieces together.

Ha Jin on the wild and tragic life of China's greatest poet, Li Bai

The 8th century AD was a tough time to be a genius from a poor family in China. Poet and novelist Ha Jin on the tortured life of the legendary drunken poet Li Bai. Also: panpsychism, the value of idleness, and humanities education in America today.

Don’t get too comfortable: Marlon James on his “African 'Game of Thrones'”

Man-Booker prizewinning author Marlon James in a freewheeling game of verbal ping-pong on African mythology, '80's hip hop, heavy metal, tattoos, and billionaire philanthropy.

Really actually truly great English (with the copy chief of Random House)

Why does Faulkner use "inchoate" so much? Maybe because Benjamin Dreyer wasn't his copy editor. The author of DREYER'S ENGLISH is here to remind us that there's no absolute authority on the English language. Still, please avoid "onboarding".

Edith Hall – from Aristotle to Oprah and back again: how to live your best life

Classicist Edith Hall reminds us that Aristotle's "virtue ethics" was a sophisticated, subtle approach to the pursuit of lifelong happiness a couple millennia before Oprah thought of inviting us to live our best life.

Douglas Rushkoff – It’s not the technology’s fault

It's up to us humans to re-humanize our world. An economy that prioritizes growth and profits over humanity has led to digital platforms that "strip the topsoil" of human behavior, whole industries, and the planet, giving less and less back. And only we can save us.

Joseph Goldstein – Lighten Up: mindfulness, enlightenment, and everyday life

One of the most influential Buddhist teachers and writers of the past half-century, Joseph Goldstein helped bring Vipassana (insight) practice to the West. We talk about love, pop-mindfulness, and how even a philosopher can learn to quiet the mind.

Area 51 and the epistemology of the unexplained

30 years later, a new investigative documentary on Bob Lazar's claims about Area 51 raises some ghosts, some hell, and some unsettling questions.

Helen Riess, M.D. – Empathy in the brain and the world

Empathy makes us human. Humans make structures that rob us of empathy when we need it most. Helen Riess is trying to reverse that trend.

Ruth Whippman—a mindful, productive, super-positive nation of nervous wrecks

With the help of positive psychology and the happiness industry, many of us seem to be running in the exact opposite direction of happiness.

Wesley Yang - The Souls of Yellow Folk

What do the "seduction movement," the Virginia Tech shooter, and the Asian-American experience have in common? Wesley Yang thinks and writes with devastating clarity about loneliness, invisibility, and the incoherence of American life.

A trans family in the holy land

Amit Tzuk and Ofir Trainin, the subject and director of an FAMILY IN TRANSITION, an Israeli documentary about a small town father of four who becomes a woman.

Conflict Photographer Lynsey Addario on Art, Love, and War

For two decades she's traveled the world, photographing humans in crisis. Pulitzer and MacArthur winning photojournalist Lynsey Addario on what it's all taught her.

Ben Marcus' reality is only slightly askew from our own

Notes from the Fog author Ben Marcus on Elon Musk, the weird existential joys of the reality TV show Castaways, and whether we will eat in the future.

Gary Shteyngart: reality catches up to dystopian fiction

Our modern-day Kafka on his new novel Lake Success and the dark comedy that in 2018 pretty much writes itself

Manoush Zomorodi on how blockchain might save journalism. Maybe.

Why would two intelligent women running a hugely successful podcast at one of the most respected studios in the audio world quit to risk everything on a technology almost nobody understands?

As fact and fiction blur, America’s finally ready for Polish author Olga Tokarczuk

Man Booker prize winners Olga Tokarczuk and her translator Jennifer Croft on maps that lead nowhere, plasticized anatomies, and humor across national borders.

Jill Lepore: Why America keeps going to pieces

A nation born in revolution will forever struggle against chaos. Jill Lepore, author of THESE TRUTHS, on the political divide, public shaming, and the future of democracy.

Merve Emre: Four-letter you (Myers-Briggs personality indicator)

How a mother-daughter obsession became a massive and dangerous industry. The weird history of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.

Emily Nemens (Editor, The Paris Review): The literary industrial complex

A seismic shake-up at a venerable literary gatekeeper. Shallow and not-so-shallow consumerism. The Paris Review's new editor on old ghosts, new voices, and what's worth keeping.

Daniel McCabe: This seemingly impossible knot

Congo is one of the most culturally diverse, mineral rich, and beautiful places on Earth. But the “heart of darkness" colonizers dreamed into being still bleeds. Daniel McCabe's documentary This is Congo lets this wounded nation speak for itself.

Bassem Youssef: Now I have to answer for this?

In Egypt, comedy can be a matter of life and death. But life in America's no cakewalk either. Political satirist Bassem Youssef on reinventing yourself, crossing cultural lines, and the future of space exploration.

Paula Eiselt: Change is made by the ones that stay

When you’re a Hasidic woman in Borough Park, Brooklyn, starting an ambulance corps is a radical act. Documentary filmmaker Paula Eiselt on the push-pull of identity and cultural change in her film 93Queen.

Parker Posey: I see a dachshund in you

On hallucinating a teensy Virgin Mary in a water fountain, our weird relationship to fame, her stint as an elf-hunting camp counselor, and more in what feels like a 4 am college conversation with the inimitable Parker Posey.

Jason Heller: The Spiders From Mars

Do not succumb to “funklessness”. Join us as we nerd out to a staggering degree on utopian afrofuturism, David Bowie, and the sci-fi-inflected music of the ‘70s. With Jason Heller, Hugo-award winning author of Strange Stars.

Christopher C. King: While you live, shine

Think Again like you've never heard it before. A trip deep into the oldest living folk music in the Western world — that of Epirus, Greece — and what it reveals about why we make music at all.

Lauren Groff: We should die of that roar

In her vivid, dreamlike new book of short stories, Florida is a humid, seething organism that wants to eat you. Snake-infested. Full of sinkholes. A thing to resist, get lost in, surrender to, and sometimes, temporarily escape.

Jonathan Safran Foer: One thing we can all agree upon

Maybe everything we do is bad. But it’s not all bad to the same extent. Writer Jonathan Safran Foer on factory farming and free-range parenting in 2018.

Priya Satia—Guns: the Genie and the Bottle

Guns as currency. Guns as status. Guns as the power of the unpredictable. Stanford Historian Priya Satia on how we got where we are today.

Filmmakers Lorena Luciano and Filippo Piscopo: Where You Gonna Run To?

Humanity is on the move. Fleeing war, oppression, poverty . . . millions worldwide leave their home countries daily in search of asylum. IT WILL BE CHAOS filmmakers Lorena Luciano and Filippo Piscopo on what this means for Europe and the world.

Jessica Abel: Practical magic

While figuring out how to steer her own creative ship, Jessica Abel has learned powerful, practical lessons about how to help others do the same.

David Sedaris: Sir David of the Spotless Roadways

Walking all over the English countryside picking up trash, the genitalia of the spotted hyena, and many other subjects comical and deadly serious.

Yanis Varoufakis: Happiness, Inc.

The moral bankruptcy of the European Union, the backlash against Steven Pinker’s defense of progress, and where we go from here.

Jonathan Lethem: Batman's greatest enemy

Hanging out with a bat vs. being a bat. Why 'titanic' artists are too big to float. Bob Dylan's very worst song, and more.

Ronan Farrow: A failure to communicate

By putting its relationships in military hands, the US is losing its power abroad.

The Impossible Problem – Michael Gazzaniga – Think Again - a Big Think Podcast #145

If you've ever heard that there are differences between the "left and right brain", you can blame Michael Gazzaniga. His new work aims at closing the gap between the meat of the brain and the magic of consciousness, and maybe saving us a lot of future headaches.

Neil Gaiman – And Then It Gets Darker – Think Again - a Big Think Podcast #139

The myths of an inhospitable land. Imposter Syndrome. That feeling when one of your characters unexpectedly murders another. Literary mage Neil Gaiman on the dark arts of fiction and everyday life.

Imaginary Histories, Possible Futures – Jacob Sager Weinstein (Children's Author) – Think Again - a Big Think Podcast #134

Wild boars in the sewers of London. Augmented humans of the future. Jason's high school friend, celebrated children's author Jacob Sager Weinstein, on imaginary histories and possible futures. 

Mark Epstein, MD – I, Me, Mine – Think Again - a Big Think Podcast #130

While the unchecked ego might be popular at parties, it can get us into all kinds of trouble. Mark Epstein, MD combines psychotherapy and Buddhism to help people live with the self. 

Fatih Akin – This Blood-Drenched Earth – Think Again - a Big Think Podcast #129

Fatih Akin has first-hand experience of strong cultural cross-winds. Ethnically Turkish and raised in Germany, he has made many films dealing with sudden dislocation and how people respond to it. 

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