The Unspeakable Podcast
A Portrait of the Humorist as a Young Woman: Merrill Markoe on Drawing (Literally) from her Early Diaries

A Portrait of the Humorist as a Young Woman: Merrill Markoe on Drawing (Literally) from her Early Diaries

October 25, 2020
Merrill Markoe is an Emmy award winning television writer and celebrated humorist. She’s worked on shows ranging from Sex and The City to Moonlighting but is probably best known for her association with The David Letterman Show, where she was the head writer from the show’s inception in 1981 until the late 1980s. She’s also the author of nine books, including the brand new graphic memoir We Saw Scenery: The Early Diaries of Merrill Markoe. Here, Merrill draws from an enormous cache of diaries she kept from approximately the fourth grade through her first year of college. In this conversation, Merrill talks about the book, about growing up female and funny, about harnessing that funniness into a career, and about working with—and being the longtime girlfriend of—David Letterman. She also talks about what it’s like to pursue comedy in this era of heightened sensitivities and why it’s a myth that you’re not allowed to be funny anymore.
 
Guest Bio:
Merrill Markoe was recently awarded the Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Television Writing Achievement. Her new book, We Saw Scenery: The Early Diaries of Merrill Markoe, is just out from Algonquin Books. 
Everyone’s a Podcaster Now! Josh Szeps on How to Talk, How To Listen, and When To Shut Up

Everyone’s a Podcaster Now! Josh Szeps on How to Talk, How To Listen, and When To Shut Up

October 18, 2020
Australian broadcaster Josh Szeps is known for his fiercely intelligent and at-times wickedly funny approach to interviews and news analysis. A founding producer and host of the award-winning Huffpost Live, he can currently be heard on ABC Radio Sydney and, during his time in New York, hosted a live show-turned-podcast called #WeThePeople LIVE. Last summer, Josh launched Uncomfortable Conversations, an interview podcast virtually indistinguishable from this one other than the host being Australian and slightly younger and more famous. Josh spoke with Meghan about why podcasts like theirs are so desperately needed in these dark times and how the fate of the world of ideas rests on their shoulders. They also talked about the pronunciation of Meghan’s name, why Alec Baldwin’s calling a paparazzo a “c_sucker” was not an expression of homophobia, when they stopped feeling young and precocious, and what makes Josh a “fox” rather than a “hedgehog.” 
 
Guest Bio:
Josh Szeps is the host of the new podcast Uncomfortable Conversations and can be heard on ABC Radio Sydney. He lives in Sydney with his husband and twin toddlers. 
Can Old-School Intellectualism Make a Comeback In A New Era? A conversation with Leon Wieseltier

Can Old-School Intellectualism Make a Comeback In A New Era? A conversation with Leon Wieseltier

October 12, 2020

Leon Wieseltier, who was for decades the literary editor of The New Republic, is a legendary cultural and media figure. But in 2017, just as he was set to launch a new publication, he was accused of #MeToo transgressions and his professional connections were severed almost overnight. After three years out of the public eye, Leon has reemerged with a new quarterly journal called Liberties, which aims to be “slower, longer and deeper” than just about anything else around. In this conversation, Leon talks with Meghan about his hopes for the magazine, his frustrations with political and cultural discourse today, and the fallout and lessons from the #MeToo allegations made against him. They also talk about sexual dynamics in mentor relationships, the virtues of the Louis CK film Pootie Tang, and why Leon wishes he could list “intellectual” on his passport as his occupation. 

Guest Bio:
Leon Wieseltier is the editor of Liberties - a Journal of Culture and Politics. From 1983 to 2014, he was the literary editor of The New Republic.

Inspecting The Machinery of Identity Politics: A Conversation with Writer and Scholar Laurent Dubreuil

Inspecting The Machinery of Identity Politics: A Conversation with Writer and Scholar Laurent Dubreuil

October 4, 2020
We hear about “identity” so often now that the word no longer carries much meaning. By extension, the term “identity politics” has become a culture war cudgel, recklessly deployed by race baiters on the right as well as some activists on the social justice left. But Laurent Dubreuil, a professor of literature and cognitive science at Cornell University, has studied identity in ways that plunge far deeper than standard discussions about tribalism and narcissism. He’s interested in what an identity-based worldview—and the technology that feeds it— is actually, physiologically, doing to our brains.
 
In this conversation, Laurent talks with Meghan about how social media has undertaken a collective cognitive reprogramming of human beings and the world at large that could have catastrophic effects. He also explains how part of the danger of Twitter is that it’s based on “soliloquy,” how academia’s preoccupation with identity robs students of their rightful educations, and how the recent controversy surrounding the French-Senegalese film Cuties forebodes a time in which we might have to “say goodbye to the arts.”
 
 
Guest Bio:
 
Laurent Dubreuil is a Professor of Comparative Literature, Romance Studies and Cognitive Science at Cornell University, where he founded the Humanities Lab and heads the French Studies Program. His comparative research explores the powers of literary and artistic thinking at the interface of social thought, the humanities and the sciences. He is the author of more than twelve books and in 2019 he released in French La dictature des identités, an essay on the current state of “identity politics 2.0” in the United States. Laurent's essay Nonconforming: Against the Erosion of Academic Freedom by Identity Politics, appeared in the September 2020 issue of Harper’s. 
Why Does Exposing Social Media Hypocrisy Feel So Damn Good? An Interview with Katie Herzog

Why Does Exposing Social Media Hypocrisy Feel So Damn Good? An Interview with Katie Herzog

September 27, 2020
Katie Herzog is a co-host, with Jesse Singal, of the new and wildly successful podcast, Blocked and Reported, which analyzes internet dramas and attempts to bring missing facts to supposedly foregone conclusions. A lifelong liberal who, a few years ago, found herself questioning certain assumptions of both the political left and the queer community to which she’d always belonged, Katie has become beloved figure among heterodox thinkers even as some of her old ideological allies have turned away from her. She talks with Meghan her political evolution, her professional evolution, COVID confusion, media laziness, and why poking holes in social media hysteria is so delectably—if also guiltily—satisfying.
 
An extended version of this interview is available for second and third tier level Patreon subscribers. Visit www.Patreon.com/theunspeakable to join!
 
 
Guest Bio:
Katie Herzog is the co-host of the podcast Blocked and Reported. She is a former staff writer at the Seattle alt weekly The Stranger, and her work has been published by an array of outlets, including the Atlantic, the Guardian, and Mother Jones. 
How To Let Your Kids Live More Dangerously: A conversation with “America’s Worst Mom,” Lenore Skenazy

How To Let Your Kids Live More Dangerously: A conversation with “America’s Worst Mom,” Lenore Skenazy

September 20, 2020

Journalist Lenore Skenazy was dubbed “America’s Worst Mom” in 2008 for a column about letting her nine-year-old ride the subway alone. The controversy led her to speak out about finding safe ways to allow kids to be more independent and she founded the Free Range Kids movement. In 2018 she co-founded Let Grow, a nonprofit that offers resource materials, school curricula and even does policy work with an aim toward helping kids be more self-sufficient (and helping their parents allow them to be). In this interview, Lenore talks with Meghan about her work, her own parenting and the fact that, as she puts it, “There’s never been a safer time to be a child in America.” 

Guest Bio:
Lenore Skenazy is co-founder and president of Let Grow, a nonprofit promoting independence as a critical part of childhood. Ever since her column “Why I Let My 9-Year-Old Ride the Subway Alone” created a media firestorm, Lenore has been declaring that our kids are smarter and stronger than our culture gives them credit for. She is the author of Free-Range Kids, the book-turned-movement that garnered her the nickname, “America’s Worst Mom.”

Can The Artist Survive? A Conversation with Writer and Performer Sandra Tsing Loh

Can The Artist Survive? A Conversation with Writer and Performer Sandra Tsing Loh

September 13, 2020
When Sandra Tsing Loh was beginning her career in the 1980s, she modeled herself after avant garde performance artists like Laurie Anderson. She even put the “Tsing” in her name because she thought it sounded “Yoko Ono-ish.” But after becoming an established figure in the Los Angeles arts scene and a prolific writer for alternative publications, Sandra’s life began to change and so did the notion of artistry itself. In this interview, Sandra talks about the realties of making art in the current economic and cultural landscape, the tyranny of promoting your work on social media, “not being Asian enough,” and much more.

An extended version of this interview is available for second-tier Patreon subscribers at  www.Patreon.com/theunspeakable.

Guest Bio:
Sandra Tsing Loh is a writer, performer, and radio commentator. Her work has been heard on NPR’s Morning Edition and This American Life. She is a contributing editor to the Atlantic and host of the syndicated daily radio “minute,” The Loh Down on Science. Her latest book is THE MADWOMAN AND THE ROOMBA (W.W. Norton, June 2020). She lives in Pasadena, California.

Uncomfortable Truths About Dating (At Least The Heterosexual Kind): A Conversation with Evan Marc Katz

Uncomfortable Truths About Dating (At Least The Heterosexual Kind): A Conversation with Evan Marc Katz

September 6, 2020
"We make long term decisions based on short term feelings.” — Evan Marc Katz 

Evan Marc Katz is a dating coach who specializes in high achieving women seeking male partners. But instead of telling his clients to settle for nothing less than their financial, educational, and professional equals, he encourages them to get real about the dating economy and accept some hard truths about human mating patterns. In this conversation, Evan talks about why people overvalue chemistry, why dating apps are better for men than for women, and whether men, as a rule, are more prone to suffering than women are these days. He also razzes lone wolf Meghan about her stubbornness when it comes to romance. 

Billed as a “personal trainer for smart, strong, successful women,” Evan Marc Katz is a dating coach who has been helping singles since 2003. He is the author of four books, most recently Believe In Love, and has been featured in hundreds of media outlets, including Today, the New York Times, and CNN. Since 2015, Evan’s blog has over 30 million readers, his podcast has over 1 million downloads and 12,000 women have graduated from Love U, his six-month video course that helps women understand men and find love. Evan is very happily married and lives in Los Angeles with his wife and their two children. Visit him at  www.evanmarckatz.com.

What Does Postmodernism Have To Do With Social Justice? Helen Pluckrose Explains It All

What Does Postmodernism Have To Do With Social Justice? Helen Pluckrose Explains It All

August 30, 2020

British academic Helen Pluckrose is the co-author, with James Lindsay, of Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything About Race, Gender, and Identity—And Why This Harms Everybody. She was also part of an infamous academic hoax wherein “grievance studies” papers about subjects such as fat bodybuilding and dog park rape culture were accepted for publication in established journals. In this interview, Helen talks about how the social philosophy known as critical theory came to inform mainstream culture and politics and how we can understand it better while also stop pretending to understand what is fundamentally nonsense. She also gives a concise definition of “intersectionality” and offers tips on what to say when your friend or boss asks you to read White Fragility

 

Helen Pluckrose is a liberal political and cultural writer and commentator currently focusing on postmodernism and Critical Social Justice scholarship and activism.  She is the editor of Areoa digital magazine looking at politics, culture, science and art from a broadly liberal and humanist perspective. Helen's background is in late medieval and early modern religious writing by and about women. She took part in the "grievance studies affair" with James Lindsay and Peter Boghossian and her book with James Lindsay breaking down Critical Social Justice scholarship is entitled Cynical Theories: How Universities Made Everything about Race Gender and Identity - And How This Harms Everyone.

Why Are So Many Kids Saying They’re Trans? (And How Big A Deal Is This?)

Why Are So Many Kids Saying They’re Trans? (And How Big A Deal Is This?)

August 23, 2020

We forget that beyond thoughts and ideas and language there is a three-dimensional reality that gives us valuable experiences and can teach us a lot about how to be in the world.  — Sasha Ayad

In this edition of the podcast, Meghan speaks with Sasha Ayad, a Licensed Professional Counselor who treats adolescents and young adults dealing with issues related to gender identity. Over the last few years, the number of teens announcing transgender identities has increased dramatically. Some statistics point to increases of more than 1000 percent in the annual rate of children seeking specialized gender services. Sasha talks about what may be driving this phenomenon, why it’s more common in girls, why trans identification often appears in clusters within peer groups, and how the power of trans activism has affected treatment models and standards of care.

Sasha Ayad is a Licensed Professional Counselor who works in private practice, and has treated adolescents for over 10 years. Her work focuses on teens and young adults struggling with issues of gender dysphoria and gender identity. She became interested in the sharp rise in teenagers, mostly girls, who declare a trans identity for the first time during adolescence. She discovered, through working with hundreds of families, that teens were developing gender dysphoria only after adopting a transgender identity. She questions the practice of medical transition for children and adolescents, and her clinical work focuses on a developmentally appropriate, least-invasive-first talk therapy approach to gender dysphoria. Visit her at www.inspiredteentherapy.com

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