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  1. Episode 030: How to Take Smart Notes with Sönke Ahrens - Blokeology | Podcast on Spotify

    Listen to this episode from Blokeology on Spotify.

    Episode Notes Sönke Ahrens has written a book How to Take Smart Notes that could completely revolutionise how you go about this deceptively simple task. This episode digs into a slightly different area of lifestyle - reading, writing, and thinking. It doesn’t matter if you are an academic, a student, a non-fiction writer or just someone who wants to understand anything at a deeper level then you’ll get a lot from this episode.  It builds on the ‘slip box’ technique (Zettelkasten) used by a professor of sociology, Niklas Luhmann, in the late 20th century. It’s well know to academics in Germany and in the sociology field, amongst others, but has made little impact beyond those borders. Sönke’s book is a detailed explanation of the technique but also builds on the evidence in areas such as education, multi-tasking, ego depletion and willpower, and problems such as confirmation bias. It’s a complete system that can allow anyone to build their own ‘second brain’ in a Zettelkasten to think more deeply and be more productive. What’s not to like about that? Links Take Smart Notes website - find Sönke here Amazon: How to Take Smart Notes by Sönke Ahrens - find The Archive software there. I also mentioned nvALT and Brett Terpstra. If you are looking for a simple and effective notekeeping software then you should check it out - it was used to form the backbone of The Archive software that I am using for my own Zettelkasten. Podcast Promotion We’d love it if you could please share #blokeology with your Twitter followers. You can do that by clicking here.  If you got something out of this episode then please mosey on over to Apple Podcasts and kindly leave a rating, a review and you can subscribe there too! Other ways to subscribe to Blokeology

    Click here to subscribe via Apple Podcasts Click here to subscribe via RSS Click here to subscribe on Android You can also subscribe via Stitcher

    Sign up for the Journal of Blokeology newsletter It’s my regular newsletter that shares some cool evidence-based health, fitness, and lifestyle advice. And get your free Healthy Bloke Action Plan. Head over to to do that. Feedback I would love to hear from you and your own experiences. Best bet is to email: Or there are numerous options via social media as well. You don’t need me to point them out. Try these links: Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest

    —Huffduffed by AndrewHazlett

  2. The Enemy Within | Love + Radio | Listen with headphones on

    It was a hot summer day, I remember that, and I was probably sweating a little bit more than the heat required, because I was afraid of how people were gonna take what I knew I had to say.

    It was a meeting of civil rights leaders in Washington DC in 1984 — The Civil Rights Coalition Leadership Council I think that’s what they might have called themselves, Leadership Council in Civil Rights. And looking out the faces of these, you know, you see them on the television, they’re on the news, they are quote “our leaders” closed quote. They wanted to hear from me so I felt a certain pride.

    I did feel a little trepidation that people were going to be mad at me but at the same time I was a little bit excited at that prospect because I’m the town crier, I’m the fellow who’s saying the emperor has no clothes. I felt empowered by this idea that I’d seen something that was important, that other people weren’t seeing and I was there to announce it to the world.

    And… I showed up and I gave my spiel.

    [FROM ESSAY: The moral victory of the civil rights movement is virtually complete, and yet racial divisions remain. Since the 1980s we’ve been faced with a new American dilemma, one that is especially difficult for black leaders and members of the black middle class.]

    And I draw a contrast between “the enemy without” and “the enemy within.”

    “The enemy without,” which is white racism — sure, it continues to exist, but much constrained by the legislation of civil rights and voting rights and so forth — and “the enemy within” being problems in African-American society that ended up limiting our ability to take advantage of the opportunities that had been opened up with the successes of the civil rights movement.

    [FROM ESSAY: The bottom stratum of the black community has compelling problems that can no longer be blamed solely on white racism, and that forces to confront fundamental failures in black society.]

    And then I’d have a long discussion of the character of this enemy within. Families with fatherlessness and early unwed pregnancy and so on. Criminal behavior that made it hard to do business in certain neighborhoods and limited the life chances of the people who had to live there. Poor school performance, low attachment to the labor force. I would go down a litany of statistics about the so-called pathology of African-American social life, especially in the lower classes, and conclude that these are matters that needed to be addressed directly, and that the instrumentalities of civil rights protest were not effective.

    [FROM ESSAY: To admit these failures is likely to be personally costly for black leaders, and it may also play into the hands of lingering racist sentiment. Not to admit them however is to forestall their resolution and to allow the racial polarization of the country to worsen. If the new American dilemma is not dealt with soon, we may face the possibility of a permanent split in our political system along racial lines…]

    We were standing in the early 1980s. Ronald Reagan had been elected president; we were within two decades of the end of the civil rights big achievements of the 1960s, and so there was a kind of taking stock idea. I was trying to say: Where are we? Where have we gotten ourselves to? The civil rights movement is over.

    Looking around the room, who did you see?

    Well I’m standing here in my seat, you know, at a table with ten people around it, and sitting on my left as it happens is Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King’s widow, and I’m winding up my argument to the effect that the civil rights movement is off the track… So I look down and I see that this woman, this iconic figure, the symbol of civil rights martyrdom, is weeping. There are tears coming down her cheeks; I’m alarmed, of course, but I’m also startled. Weeping about what? I mean, what did I say that would bring you to tears? This woman is a trip. I mean, is she off her meds? I really thought, “Come on… You’re weeping? You’re weeping at someone making a set of critical observations about the character of contemporary politics? I mean, who could take such a person seriously?” I thought.

    I’m 33, 34 years old, I’ve just been made a professor at Harvard University, I am this bright, young kid, I’m the future, you know, I’m the first black to have tenure in economics at Harvard, people see this as an achievement, people are proud of me, I’m the fruit of the civil rights movement, so there’s a sense of despair in people that a guy like me, a product of their efforts would have gone off the rails.

    I think I was reluctant to embrace the idea of myself as a conservative, rather that I was simply a contrarian. I began having concerns about affirmative action for example very early on the in the arc of my move to the right. Maybe even a neoconservative in the sense of liberal who’s been mugged by reality.

    There undoubtedly is a personality dimension of me which likes being in your face and iconoclastic, but there’s also a lot of stupidity and confusion in the world. There’s a lot of error. And there’s a lot of circling the wagons around error.

    So as the jails filled up as the school failure totals came in, as the 15-year-old mothers proliferated, my feeling was, you know, we’re sailing over a cliff and somebody had better call attention to that. Now that’s not my characterological flaw of somebody who loves to be at the center of controversy. That’s me being right and them being wrong about something that’s vitally important for the welfare of my people.

    I mean, the way I felt about it was many of these predictably liberal African American intellectuals didn’t know diddly about the underclass. They didn’t know anything about the ghetto. They wouldn’t know what to do if they were actually confronted with real hardcore tough minded, tough living black people. They lived in a bubble. Their audience was liberal whites. They were performing an act. I actually had to go home to those neighborhoods. I had to go home to my family which was diverse in its socioeconomic and cultural makeup. And I felt like “You’re gonna tell me that I don’t care about our people? You’re gonna tell me that I’m not black?”

    I grew up in Chicago in the 1950s and ’60s. I was born in 1948. I lived on the South side of the city. I lived with my mother who was divorced and my sister in a small apartment upstairs and in the back of a grand house that my aunt — my mother’s sister — and her husband owned.

    My mother, who was a wonderful, loving woman, but not the most responsible and effective parent, was staggering through her own life, you know, one husband to another and moving around a lot. I was in five different schools before finishing the fifth grade. My aunt, my mother’s sister said “This can’t go on, we need some stability in your life. I want you to come over here and live here. You’ll pay rent but it would be a discount,” and I don’t think my mom really had much other alternative than to move in with her sister.

    This was a beautiful house, in a nice neighborhood. It had been a white neighborhood when my aunt and uncle first moved into it, but it flipped over within three or four years to being all black.

    Yes, so I was 16 years old when I graduated from high school in 1965. I had been always a really good student in school. I got a scholarship to study at the Illinois Institute of Technology. However, I was graduating high school at 16, just turned 17 as I was starting my college, and I had always been younger, sometimes two years younger than the other kids, and I was kind of a nerd, kind of a social misfit. And when I came out of high school and started college, I also started coming into my own in terms of being able to successfully court people of the opposite sex, and have sex with them. I mean, that’s kind of what it comes down to at the end of the day okay? And I was really a lot more interested in doing that than I was in going to classes at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

    So two things happened. I flunked out. I mean literally, I got bad grades and they ultimately asked me to leave. And the other was that Charlene, my girlfriend, became pregnant. Charlene was 16 and I was 18. That was in March 1967.

    I merely wanted to not have my father look at me with contempt. My father, who worked very hard for everything that he ever had, who got himself certified as a public accountant and became a auditor for the Internal Revenue Service and worked his way up till finally toward the end of his career he was a high-level manager. My father knew that I was smarter than him, he told me that every time I saw him. He was deeply concerned that I was squandering my gifts, appalled at the idea that I would marry Charlene. He said “Take care of your children, but don’t marry that girl, that’s a mistake.”


    He thought that her class background within the African American community of being from parents from the South who were relatively unsophisticated — her mother worked as a laborer, and her father was a janitor — they weren’t particularly well-educated people. He didn’t think we were going to prove to be compatible over the long run.

    We ultimately did marry, and I think he rather imagined that I was repeating his mistake. He knew that — as his own example showed — a man could be a father to his children without having to be a husband to their mother.

    My girlfriend gets pregnant, she gets pregnant again, I go to work full-time, we marry. But while this is happening, I’m saying, you know, I really need a college degree. So I begin to take a couple of courses at a community college.  Somewhere along in my second semester, one of the inspired teachers, Mr. Andres, said to me, “You know, I think that you could do well at a real university, and I want to recommend you for a scholarship at Northwestern, which is my alma mater.” And I said “Sure” without having any idea what I was getting myself into.

    They looked at my portfolio. My test scores were always high, but my record was I had flunked out of college. There’s no way that such a person was going to get admitted to a place like Northwestern, but for the fact that the university wanted to bring kids from the South side of Chicago to study at Northwestern, and I looked like a good bet. You can call that affirmative action, I’m not hiding from the fact that they wanted more black kids at Northwestern and that they brought me in under the conditions that I’ve described, but once I got there, I can tell you this, I tore the place up.

    I had no idea that I could compete with those white kids, those rich, white kids up there at Northwestern. I was intimidated by them. But I got into the classroom, and this was mathematics, economics, philosophy, literature. The teacher was saying my paper was brilliant. They pushed me and they encouraged me.  “You have to make something of yourself!” So come the end of my time at Northwestern, I was beginning to feel that I was really called — in retrospect, it’s kind of a religious metaphor — but that I was called to something higher. And toward the end of my stay at Northwestern I settled upon economics as the area of study that I wanted to pursue.

    The early 1970s, Charlene and I moved to Cambridge Mass together when I began graduate school at MIT. She was employed as a secretary in one of the laboratories and I was a graduate student. We were together maybe for about 15 months before we separated.

    Charlene didn’t fit in well there. I hang with a little clique of the black graduate students and I had a kind of way of smoothing over my relations with people who had rather different class backgrounds than I did although they were black. Charlene didn’t have that. One thing led to another and we decided to separate. And the winter of 1974 I moved into the YMCA.

    I met my second wife, Linda, a few months after I separated from Charlene in 1974. She came to MIT as a graduate students and things blossomed from there between the two of us. After she took a job at the University of Michigan I moved from Northwestern to the University of Michigan’s faculty.

    When I got the job at Harvard, Linda put her foot down and said I ain’t moving across the country and leaving my job without you making some commitment to this relationship. And I realized that she was right, and she and I married.

    I came to Harvard in 1982. I was the first African American to be a tenured professor of economics at Harvard. Tenured professor of economics and of African-American studies, although in those years they said Afro-American studies.

    Here’s the truth about my early years at Harvard: I was absolutely terrified of failing in the Economics Department, as a professor of Economics. I still harbored in the back of my mind the possibility that I wasn’t really up to it. In my mind, race had a lot to do with it. I’m the guy they hired because they wanted to hire a black guy. It wouldn’t have been the first time I had those feelings. And when I got to Harvard this was like the ultimate test. I was anxious and I wanted to measure up and didn’t have anything to judge it by, didn’t have anybody really that I felt that I could confide in. And lived with a constant panic, really that I wasn’t going to succeed.

    In my mind I envisioned everyone sitting there behind those tall wooden doors in their cloistered Harvard offices with their toes tapping and their arms folded waiting for Glenn Loury to prove that he deserved to be here. I go to the point where I didn’t even feel uncomfortable into Littauer Hall even though I was a full professor in that department.

    The man who really became my mentor at Harvard, Thomas Schelling, suggested an alternative avenue for me, which would be to move over the Kennedy School of Government. The Kennedy School was a relatively new institution, it was only really becoming what we know today to be the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. My economic theory expertise would be respected and welcomed, but I’d also have the latitude to pursue my interest in public policy and race related issues. It wouldn’t be a distraction, it would be part of my job there.

    I flourished at the Kennedy School. I mean, first of all, I brought some heft to the economic faculty there. But I was also this guy that was now making a name for himself as an outspoken conservative critic of civils rights establishment on the race issues. I was getting in the magazines, I was getting attention from the media. I fit right in.

    So Reagan is elected president and I started meeting some of the more prominent neo-cons. The young William Kristol was a colleague of mine at Harvard in the early 80s. And I’m seeing that I have a lot in common with these people. Soon enough they were soliciting input from me for their magazines and stuff.

    [FROM ESSAY: Since the 1980s we’ve been faced with a new American dilemma, one that is especially difficult for black leaders and members of the black middle class.]

    This was around the time that I was working the piece that became “A New American Dilemma”, my kind of manifesto piece, and a draft of that piece had circulated amongst some civil rights leaders. The meeting that I had with the civils rights leaders in 1984 came out of this very same period.

    [FROM ESSAY: If the new American dilemma is not dealt with soon, we may face the possibility of a permanent split in our political system along racial lines…]

    The next year I had Esquire name me one of the people under 40 who was changing the nation. In one of those lists of celebrities that the magazines like to put out. And I’m young. I’m this hot new thing. But I’m a neo-con.

    I met Clarence Thomas in these years and he was with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission at that time time, and he invited me to come down and brief him on some of the research ideas I had about labor market inequality and race. And I was coming to the attention of some of the people in the Reagan administration. We get to 1986 and I’m invited to a state dinner at the white house and seated at the president’s table.

    The Reagan administration wanted me to be undersecretary of the Department of Dducation – the number two person in the Department of Education.

    I felt proud. I felt like I was winning. Okay winning against what? My battle lines were not conventional left/right, you’re a Democrat, I’m a Republican. My battle lines were more within the African American intelligentsia, I’m a traitor and the rest of them are on the team. And I was a bad boy, I was a renegade I was one of those troublesome, confused, identity-messed-up negroes who thought that Ronald Reagan might actually have something useful to say to African Americans, I was the enemy.

    Well, the enemy, me, who might not get invited to the cocktail party and even if he were invited, had to imagine that people were snickering behind their hands about him, was winning. He was in Time magazine, he was the one who was at the National Press Club, he was the state dinner with the United States and he was the one who was telling the truth about the conditions about his people.

    The world was my oyster. I could anything. I could run for senator, for governor. I could do anything in the fullness of time.

    If you want, I know this is kind of where the story turns and it might be a good place to, if we want to get more water or use the restroom…

    I’m fine. I’d just as soon go ahead.

    I know we want to get to the part where I start using the cocaine, okay? But what I want you to know is that that part doesn’t come until 1987, and I came to Harvard in 1982 and I joined the Kennedy School in 1984. I do not believe that I was using the drugs in those later years because of the pressures that I felt in adjusting to being at Harvard. That was a different story.

    This is all in the public record more or less… So I met Pammy — that’s how I remember her, that’s how I used to call her, I used to call her Pammy — Pamela was a student and then a graduate, living in New York City and working some job in New York. She was interested in political matters and race in America, and I was beginning to write about these things in the magazine, and she was reading these pieces and she started corresponding with me. “Oh, you know, can you help me with my ideas about this paper? I was thinking this or that or the other,” and I’d write back. Then she says, “Oh, I would love to meet you.” It happened that Pammy was going to be in Washington, and I suggested that we meet for a drink after the official meetings of my committee, at the hotel. And we did meet for that drink.

    I can remember what she looked like. I can remember what she smelled like. Roses and lavender. Very dark skin. She was bubbly, effusive, she was full in all the right places… You guys are embarrassing me. She was, I dunno, 12, 15 years my junior. She was just so young and fresh, I could see her nipples through her blouse. And she was a flirt. But she was thoughtful, she had done a lot of reading.

    I’m trying to play like I’m the disinterested professor who’s just meeting a young woman who is interested in my ideas and who I might be able to help with her career or something, but constantly thinking “How am I gonna get her upstairs, how am I gonna get her upstairs?” I suggested that we might wanna retire to my room where it would be more private.

    It wasn’t the first affair, okay? It wasn’t the first time, it wasn’t the second time. It wasn’t the third time. I was a womanizer, okay? What can I say?

    I was still living with my wife at home, but I had this apartment up there on Union Park Avenue in the South end of Boston that I was renting, and Pamela was living in it. So one day I come there to this place, and there was a dressmaker who had a shop down on the ground floor, and apparently she had gone there and ordered some dresses to be made for herself. It was a sum of money, I don’t remember how much, it wasn’t trivial. And the guy was talking to me about paying for it. He said, “Your wife is, blah-blah-blah.” So I go up and we start talking about her committing me to some dresses that we hadn’t discussed. And that blew up into a big fight — it was not the first fight that we had — and I lost it, and I ultimately said “Look, I’m not doing this anymore.” And whatever she said to me, one thing lead to another and I said, “Look, I’m done, and I want you out of there. I want you out of here now.”

    I push her out of the door of the apartment. She seeks shelter at a women’s refuge and is counseled that, “This man has assaulted you and you ought to go to the police about that.”

    She claimed I dragged her down the stairs and that I kicked her. I was charged with assault with a deadly weapon, a shod foot. I had to be arraigned in court. She showed up to that arraignment in a neck brace. There wasn’t anything wrong with that woman’s neck, and if there was something wrong with her neck, it happened after she and I had our altercation, because I didn’t do anything to that woman or to her neck, but I did push her through the door out of an apartment, I did throw her belongings behind her, I treated her very shabbily, and I was charged with assault.

    In retrospect I think the record will show that I did not assault her, in the sense that the charges were subsequently dropped and so forth. And I did not assault her, although I treated her very badly in the relationship.

    The front page of the Boston Herald, depicted me being arraigned, I’m standing with my attorney on one side and a police officer on another, entering a courtroom in Boston. On one side of the page there was this photo of me and on the other side of the page there was this photo of Pamela with her neck brace on, and the headline was “He dragged me down the stairs”. And I bring the thing home and I’m sitting in my bathtub, weeping, looking at this photograph in the newspaper and wondering “Oh my God, what will the world think of me? Oh my God, what am I going to do?”

    This happened literally weeks before my nomination to be undersecretary of the Department of Education was going to be forwarded to the relevant committee for Senate confirmation. But this altercation and my being arrested killed all of that. I had to withdraw.

    One night I was out cruising the streets of inner city Boston, and I picked up this young woman. I thought it was going to be a commercial transaction, I was gonna give her some funds, she was going to give me some head, and she suggested, “Hey, do you wanna do something that’s fun? Have you ever tried to do this?” and I said “No.” And the “do this” was smoking crack. She takes me to her apartment and asks me for 50 dollars, and I give it to her, and she goes and she comes back with these crystalline cocaine bits that she crumbles and puts on top of a makeshift pipe. The pipe was a soda bottle, a plastic soda bottle with a piece of aluminum foil stretched across the top. That was my first hit on a crack pipe. I loved it.

    There was no sex between us, we were too interested in the drugs actually. I went back again, maybe a couple nights later, looking for her and found her in roughly the same place, standing on the street. I asked her where she was getting it and she told me. I figured out that I can go without her and get it myself. I discovered that it was actually better to cook the cocaine yourself rather than to buy the crystal already cooked.

    How often would you say you were doing cocaine?

    Well, at first it would have been once a week. Maybe I’d go on the weekend, maybe I’d go back during the middle of the week once, but it soon enough became pretty much every day that I wanted to use.

    The next thing you knew, I was ditching classes, cancelling meetings, hiding from my wife, drawing two or three hundred dollars a day out of the bank account. Finding those Dominican guys that used to hand out on Tremont Street, that I came to know pretty well, who could always give you an eighth of an…uh, uh ….a little piece of plastic with enough cocaine in it to keep you high for a few hours…An eight ball, whatever you call it. Anyway.

    I could start out at 9 o’clock, 9:30 in the morning and then my only concern was not running out when I was still in the flow. I wanted to make sure I could get enough so that it would carry me through to 3 o’clock in the afternoon when I knew I was gonna have to start getting my act together, because my wife would be coming home soon. It was a kind of horrible, surreptitious double life that I was leading.

    Did you ever teach under the influence of crack cocaine?

    No, I didn’t. I mean, not that I was above it, but just that the logistics probably wouldn’t have been right. The point is this: when you start consuming this drug you don’t want to stop. The last thing you wanna do is take a couple of hits before you have to go in and do something else for 90 minutes, I mean this is like…it’s not like that — for me it wasn’t, anyway. It was an all-consuming thing.

    Now, the weirdest part of this I think is that I was really proud of the fact that I could walk both sides of the street, and none of my colleagues — I don’t care what color they were — at Harvard, I thought, and I could be well wrong about this, could have possibly done it. So I was going where no man, woman or child had gone before. I was doing the impossible, I was invincible, I was a time traveler, I could move between worlds.

    I was arrested in early December in Boston, in possession of drugs. The arrest of course made the newspapers. The Boston Globe sends a team back to Chicago to investigate my life before, and things are coming out about my life, all these stories are being written in the Chicago Sun-Times. Everybody is calling me a hypocrite. “Oh, he prescribes Victorian values for the under-class, but is a libertine himself.”

    I say to Richard — my friend Richard Neuhaus, the theologian and Catholic priest — I say, “You know, Martin Luther King wasn’t faithful to his wife either. Nobody thought that that diminished the force of his public leadership.” They’re incommensurates, they’re not the same thing at all. I never said that I was a saint. And Richard rebuked me. He smacked the table with his flat hand, he was angry. He said, “Don’t you ever say that, that’s wrong. Don’t you ever say that. King’s flaws were profound moral missteps on his part. They hurt the movement. He was less effective as a moral leader, for his own private misdeeds. If you stand up and you tell people how to live, then you have a responsibility to live decently yourself. You’re either a moral leader or you’re not. Now you choose. ”

    At the time I thought, “Okay Richard, I’m not gonna argue with you about this. I hear you,” but deep in my heart of hearts I didn’t feel that I had somehow behaved hypocritically. I felt that I had behaved in a way that was self-destructive, that was harmful to other people, that was morally wrong, and that was about me, okay? But I didn’t feel that that had anything to do with whether or not two thirds or three quarters of African-American children being born out of wedlock was or was not a factor in perpetuating black poverty. Okay, now maybe I’m no longer a good messenger for that message, okay? I grant you that, my saying it won’t be as effective given what you know about me, but it doesn’t make me into a hypocrite. I never said that I was a saint.

    And in retrospect I can see that he was right, and more generally I’m prepared to say that my fixation on the enemy within African-American society almost surely was to some degree a reflection of my misgivings somewhere in the back of my mind about the moral foundation of my own life. The extent to which I had rage and fury and contempt for the way in which black people were living, if we were to do a psychoanalysis on Glenn Loury, almost surely is connected with the extent to which some part of me had profound misgivings and a kind of self-contempt about the way in which I was living. So these things are all, these things are all, it seems to me, all connected to one another.

    I find myself in the Hamilton Recovery Homes, which — it’s  halfway house.

    One of the disciplines of being a resident at the halfway house was the mandatory nightly AA or NA meeting — Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. When I first started going to these meetings I would say very little; after maybe a few months I began to speak up a bit and share.

    So I can remember the first time that I think I spoke genuinely from my heart in one of these AA meetings. I was thinking about my relationship with my wife. My wife who stuck with me through thick and thin.  And you know I’ve said it here I hadn’t been faithful to her, but I hadn’t really plumbed the full depth of my mistreatment of her.

    So Linda lost a couple of pregnancies before finally she was able to carry one, our oldest son Glenn, to term, and on one occasion where she had a miscarriage, I was relieved. I mean I didn’t show it, I would have performed just as a grieving husband in comforting his wife for the loss of their child, would have performed. I would have said the words that a person was supposed to say, but deep down inside I was relieved.

    I hadn’t even admitted it to myself. I hadn’t admitted fully to myself that this is how I felt. I came to understand that I was glad that woman lost that baby.

    And when that thought became vivid in my mind, when I realized it, that “Oh what a wretched man I am,” this kind of thing. I had come into an understanding of just how corrupt, just how craven, just how selfish, just how debased my life had become, and I spoke that out in the meeting. And as I was speaking it out I could feel the tears coming up, I could hear my voice beginning to quiver, I could see the room transfixed by people. You could have heard a pin drop in the room.

    The guard was down, the pretense was gone. There wasn’t any fake, there wasn’t any front. I wasn’t performing, I wasn’t projecting an image, I was simply laying my soul bare.

    Higher power. I came to believe that a power greater than myself could restore me to sanity.

    I was being converted to rather conservative, charismatic and fundamentalist protestant Christianity, this African Methodist Episcopal Church. I went at first just for quiet, for peace of mind, for support.

    And I can remember many services in which even this hardened, hyper-rational, mathematical economist, PhD intellectual type forgot about reason, forgot about explanations, forgot about plausibility.

    I sat there in the pew, listening to the music, which reminded me of many of the services that I had attended as a boy, and I wept, I felt powerfully moved. I did not get up from my pew and go to the altar and surrender my life to Jesus, and in fact I subsequently relapsed and started using cocaine again, and had to go back into the hospital. But something happened where a door was opened, where the emotional power of being in the presence of others, of worshipping and of hearing a sermon that preached about how Christ had died for me. Not for the abstract humankind; for Glenn Cartman Loury. Jesus had died for me. God sought to establish a bridge between his exalted self and our fallen humanity. That was the person of Jesus Christ. A concrete path to salvation. That bridge was available to me, Glenn Loury. The sky didn’t open, there was no lightning bolt, I didn’t suddenly feel a chill of electricity running through my body, but I did begin to entertain a possibility in a more serious way than I had ever done before.

    And months later after the relapse, going back into the hospital, going to the halfway house, coming out of the halfway house, seeing my son Glenn born, finding myself back out into the working life and family life, trying not to use, trying to stay straight, trying to put one foot in front of another one day at a time, I began to visit this church with my wife, and we found ourselves drawn in more and more.

    And despite my rationality and my dubiousness, seeing the tears in the corners of the eyes of people, seeing the trembling in their hands and their vibrations, seeing them hug each other in joy, seeing them weep. When a room full of people are swept up in that feeling you know, you can get with that. At least this person was able to get with that.

    I was baptized at the age of 40, and a deacon for the better part of the decades through the 1990s. I look back on that as a period of a kind of benevolent self-delusion. I was in the right place. I’m living in the right way. Here are these two beautiful young children who are like another lease on life, I’ve gotten past the drug addiction, the humiliation, and the destruction of reputation attendant to my very public collapse. I’m rebuilding my life one step at a time. I’m in the right place.

    I didn’t really believe. And I came to realize that I didn’t believe that Jesus had been raised from the dead by an almighty God who decided to reach down into human affairs and alter the course of history. I saw it to be a benevolent mystification. A kind of mythic epic that I couldn’t literally believe. I still don’t believe it. On the other hand, I still have very warm feelings about this effort of people to, know, quiet the storm, to assure themselves, to find hope, to get the strength to continue to go on.

    “The good that I would do, I do not. The evil that I would not, that I do. Oh, wretched man that I am, who will save me from this body of death?”

    There’s good that I would do but I don’t do it, and there’s evil that I swore I would not do and yet here I am doing it. That’s our condition. That’s my condition.

    So there are two points here. One is that if I’m gonna preach virtue, I have to practice it in my own life, or else I’m a hypocrite and I’ve come to accept that, although for years and years I resented it. It’s not okay that I’m just running around while my wife is in that home waiting for me, but I’m going around telling the rest of the world they need to be chaste. That’s hypocrisy.

    But the other piece to this is knowing the fact that, you know, I’m susceptible to the same temptations as anybody else leaves me with a more forgiving, a greater understanding, a more malleable sentiment of judgment in viewing the behavior of the others, including the little girls who get pregnant when they’re 17 years old. After all, I became a father at 18, and again at 19, and again at 20. Uh, including the kids that run with the drug-selling gangs. I didn’t run with drug-selling gangs, but I was glad that there were drug-selling gangs on the streets of Boston when it was time to cop some cocaine.

    So knowing my own fallibility, the ferocity and the certitude and the arrogance with which I might preach virtue should be tempered. I can’t expect more of the others than I am able to deliver myself.

    I believe Pope Francis said this recently about a certain Republican presidential candidate: “You can’t be a good Christian and turn your back on people in need!” Whether they’re trying to get across the border because they’re looking for a better life or they’re poor living in the ghetto and they don’t have housing and they don’t have enough food to eat.

    The Sermon on the Mount is actually not at all ambiguous about this, okay? You’re called to higher ground.

    The Glenn Loury of the 1980s was not concerned about solving problems, he was concerned about exposing what the thought to be rot in the thought of the establishment, of the liberal negro public intellectual establishment. I thought the NAACP was on the wrong track, I thought these mayors running these cities were on the wrong track, and so on. I was mainly concerned about critiquing something, not about building something. And I think my Christian experience disabused me of the idea that it was simply enough to critique something.

    That congregation, they were socially conservative, but they definitely knew that the neighborhood needed to be built up. They knew that people fall and you give them a hand. They were committed to creating an institution in our community of uplift, of stability, of affirmation.

    And so at these various convocations when I would come and I would hear people talk about the poor, I was hearing that talk differently than I had heard it before. I began to have misgivings.

    It wasn’t as if I thought that the liberals had suddenly become right; the racial liberals, the civil rights community, the people who had hated my guts. However, I became more keenly aware of what seemed to be a mean-spiritedness and a kind of contempt for people in the conservative community.

    We get to talking about how bad the leader Jesse Jackson is and so forth, and we get to talking about problems of the ghetto and so forth, and I don’t disagree with any of this. We get to talking about how the civil rights people are asking for the wrong thing at the wrong time and the typical stuff. But I have a ‘but’, and I say “Yes, but we have to try to figure out a way to help these people.

    I think my experience with the church left me still with an approach to life that’s less combative, that’s more open to doubt, and also more sympathetic to the conditions of people.

    [FROM ESSAY: Much evidence suggests that managing social dysfunction via imprisonment is now a primary means by which racial stigma is reproduced in the United States. But, racial disparity in the realm of punishment is not merely an accretion of neutral state action applied to a diverse social flux – the chips having fallen as they may, so to speak. Instead, it is a salient feature of contemporary American social life best understood as the residual effect of a history of enslavement, violent domination, disenfranchisement and racial discrimination. For massive inequality by race in the incidence of punishment in this country is one of two things: It is either a necessary evil given the need to maintain order, or it is an abhorrent expression of who we have become as a people at the dawn of the 21st century. Nothing in the data, nothing within empirical social science, can tell us which of these alternative narratives is the correct one. So, I am free to take the latter view. On the whole, we have concluded that those languishing at the margins of society are simply reaping what they have sown. Their deviance is seen to have nothing to do with us — it is not taken as a systemic failure, entailing social responsibilities, correctable via public action. This is wrong-headed in my view.

    What does this state of affairs say about our purportedly open and democratic society? What manner of people does our punishment policy, particularly its racial disparate incidence, show us Americans to be? As I see it, we are acting as though some of us are different from the rest and because of their culture, their bad values, their self-destructive behavior, their malfeasance, their criminality, their lack of responsibility, they deserve their fate. I wish to suggest that this posture is inconsistent with the attainment of any distribution of benefits and burdens in our society that could rightly be called ‘just.’]

    [ESSAY continued] In other words, we have lawbreakers out there and they have to be dealt with. But they did not simply fall from heaven. They are themselves a product of the structures in society, which we are responsible for. If we respond to their lawbreaking as if the only issue at hand is their punishment, we absolve ourselves of responsibility for those structures. Justice means more than a reckoning with an individual for his own wrongdoing.  Justice means ordering our relationships with one another so we don’t have hundreds of thousands and millions of individuals in that miserable condition. It’s something that we can do if we had the will to do it.

    I think where I am now is thinking that the enemy without is best attacked by a broad trans-racial progressive movement that tries to get the state, our government, our policies, expanding basic opportunity for people. Whether it be healthcare — including mental healthcare. Whether it be investment in education in those parts of our society that are not flush, that the stake that we have in generating jobs for people or being less punitive in our punishment policies, is a human rights argument, not a civil rights, in the racially specific term, argument. In the training of police, the protocols under which they operate, the systems of accountability that they have to reckon with are things that we all have a stake in. And changing that is something that would require changing laws and so forth. So, racial injury may be the impetus that pushes up to look for reform. But political coalations that reach across racial lines are the only way that we’re ever gonna get it.

    I moved to Brown in 2005, after having been at Boston University for 14 years. I’ve been here at Brown for the last 11 years at the economics department and most recently the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs. It’s a bit of a precious, politically correct hothouse here, I’m not going to deny that, but one gets used to it.

    So stepping back a little bit, if you were to paint the whole intellectual trajectory, what are the different eras and what would you call them and how would you characterize them?

     Okay at the beginning I was a technocrat, mainly concerned about my equations and getting published in the journals, not very political at all. I got inducted into the neo-conservative pantheon and I found myself happily ensconced there. Ended up breaking with many of my associations on the right over an increasing sense that I was in the wrong place politically. I didn’t think they really cared about solving the problems in the inner city I was deeply concerned about.

    What would you call yourself?

    I referred to it on more than one occasions as being a man of the left. For example, on affirmative action, I came around, but I don’t think that’s an accurate characterization.

    If someone said, “Oh Glen, you were a neo-con, where are you now?

    I’m not sure these labels are important… centrist Democrat? Stephanie, what are you asking me?

    I think part of what we’re trying to do is, as we’ve worked on this piece, a lot’s happened in the national conversation about race since we’ve started this project. We’re trying to figure out if you’re still evolving your political beliefs.

    I’m trying to tell you, even though I’m not necessarily coming up with a label. I used to think pretty much it was enough to be right about the liberals being wrong. by the time I get to the nineties, that’s not good enough. But I have to tell you that today, as I listen to these recycled and you know… I feel like I’m still back in the 1980s sometimes when I listen to the kinds of arguments people are making. Or I pick up the manifesto of the Black Lives Matter consortium, and I look through the list of demands about this or about that. Or read read Ta Nehisi Coates, or Jelani Cobb or Charles Blow or somebody like that. I feel like I’m back in the 1980s thinking these people are idiots! I wouldn’t wanna be quoted saying that necessarily, although I don’t really care. I don’t really care! They’re probably not idiots, but my reaction is, my God! Look at the level of this arguments!

    Does anybody really believe this? Does anybody really believe that the greater threat to the integrity of the black body are rogue police offers shooting people down because they’re unarmed and the police officers get their jollies shooting people?

    Or, that these police are deployed, in the numbers that they are in the situations that they are in, coming into contact with African American men, some of whom are armed and some of whom are not, has mainly to do with the disorder in those communities which constitute a first order threat to the quality of life of the people who have to live there day in day out? Just count the bodies as they pile up on the street.

    Does anybody believe the fact that there are not enough blacks at Caltech or MIT is because those institutions are not open and inclusive? They they’re excluding people of color? Maybe it has something to do with the acquisition of mastery over the technical curriculum that is the lifeblood of innovation in the 21st century. All you have to say to the fact that blacks are not acquiring that level of expertise in comparable numbers, is to wave the bloody shirt of racism? You’re an idiot!

    I mean, that’s how I’m sometimes thinking today. So I don’t know if I’m answering your question or not. Sometimes I feel like I haven’t gotten off of square one, when I circle back — are you really gonna tell me Rahm Emanuel is planning to give a speech in which he says, “I’ve been to funeral after funeral after funeral of these guys killed in gang violence in my city, and I don’t see any fathers. I don’t see any fathers in their lives — this is Rahm Emanuel, mayor of Chicago. “Father absence and neglect of children is an important part of the story of violence in my city,” that’s what he wants to say. He’s already been criticized and a ton of bricks is going to fall on him when he gives that speech. How dare he, a white man, say anything about the integrity of the black family? Seventy percent of African American children are born to women who are not wed at the time of the birth. Even a sociologist should be able to understand that that’s pathological.

    So this is Glenn Loury in 2016, you’re going to tell me it doesn’t matter if mothers and fathers are together when they’re trying to bring children into this world? I don’t believe that, I don’t believe that for a minute and I frankly doubt that the people who are saying it believe it.


    I’ve got a couple thoughts. And I’m glad you went there because this is all stuff that we wanted to ask you about and you touched on almost all of it in this moment. Let me just throw this out there and I’ll have you react to it how you want. And I’m just speaking for myself, when I hear you talking about police shooting in particular… The police shootings are obviously the most outrageous thing you can get people behind in order to sort of also talk about the bigger issues. That’s why when I hear people talk about difference between “all lives matter” versus Black Lives Matter, I get why saying “black lives matter” is important because it’s about the bigger message and about getting attention. And I’m curious to how you respond to some of these thoughts.

    Um, here’s what I think. We’re in 2016. I mean we’re already one sixth into the 21st century. The Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964. That was more than a half century ago. I mean it’s a long time, okay. Now we’re still talking about people who are native born American citizens, for whom every opportunity in this society that immigrants struggle to get here to avail themselves of, is pretty much open. But still, a third to 40 percent of that community languishes. We don’t have anything better to say about that than to repeat the same tropes about racism, bigotry and exclusion, about people embracing confederate flags, about them being alt-right ultra nationalist, Ku Klux Klan, etc. etc. Those are avoidance of the actual reality. And the failures in African American society — for which there is plenty of historical explanation, but they’re failures nonetheless, they are failures — can’t be even called that. It has to be someone else’s problem.

    So, yeah, Black Lives Matter is successful at calling attention to certain injustices and certainly there are injustices, there’s not any doubt about that. But I’m struck by how many of these cities are actually run by black people. I’m struck by how frequently the cops who are the bad acting cops, are black people. The police commissioners in many of these cities. The President of the United States, the Attorney General of the United States, and so on. So I’m like, you wanna make a point? You wanna draw attention to something? I’m not impressed with that anymore. Sorry I’m rambling Brendan, I think I need to…

    I guess when you say, “Yeah there are black folks in power now too,” That doesn’t change the system, that doesn’t change the long-standing inequities that are built into the system that we have. And I feel like the conversation about race has shifted more to the kind of conversation you’re talking about in terms of people are now more aware of systemic and institutional forms of racism. The kinds of things that lead to the structural problems that you’re interested in, that you’re exploring.

    Yeah… but. The but is, while we’re waiting to reformulate and restructure a system and there are a lot of things that can be put on the table to be indicted here. Capitalism would be one of them. While we’re waiting to restructure and reform the system, the world is moving on, willy nilly. It’s being transformed right before our very eyes. This is the 21st century and time is moving on and this lament, to be content with a lament, that the system is rigged… Yeah, but even if it is, that’s the hand you’ve been dealt. Are you gonna play it or what? Are you gonna sit back and wait?

    And by the way, you’re empowering white people when you lapse into this posture of waving this bloody shirt of racism.

    Can you explain?

    Yes, I can explain that very clearly I think. You know, the Black Lives Matter consortium is putting out this list of demands, saying “We demand this, we demand that.” Well, how do you think anything is gonna happen? It would happen if by your getting the attention — you shut down traffic on the interstate. Okay so now we’ve got the attention of people, and we press our demands, we’re disruptive.

    It is presumably because they — that is the powers that be, the politicians and ultimately the voters themselves — are gonna acquiesce to your demands. They will be moved to do something different. So now guess what? They become actors. They become morally responsible agents and we imbue them with the power to make our lives better. Whereas about ourselves, we’re saying everything negative that you see about African American life is somebody else’s fault. We’re puppets at the end of the string, dangling there, subject to all the historical forces that blow us this way or that, waiting to be made whole.

    I mean, reparations. Think about that argument. “We demand reparations for slavery.” That argument is morally infantilizing for black people. It makes white people moral agents that can or cannot grant reparations. It makes black people baubles at the end of a string, waiting to be pulled up by their morally superior white brethren.

    We don’t have the capacity to make our own futures? Really? I don’t think that’s the history of ethnicity in America, in fact I think if we were prepared to get out of our bloody shirt waving business and get serious about examining our history we would find that African Americans are not the first, or only people to be shunted to the margins of society, to be spat upon by history. And we would find that almost to a group, the way people overcome such insurgency is through their own effort, not through petitioning their own oppressors to be made whole.

    But that sounds to me like a pretty conservative bootstrapping idea.

     That last little bit of the speech was a pretty conservative bootstrapping thing. You heard what I read earlier so you gotta put that in the mix. But yeah. I am what I am.

    And as I steel myself engaging more vigorously arguments about these things. The role that I want to play now today in 2016, as I address these issues in the last part of my life is a role I play for my country. The people, if I say it, my people now are the American people, they’re not just the African American people.

    I’m an American. I’m an American here in the 21st century. It’s my country that I’m concerned about.

    —Huffduffed by AndrewHazlett

  3. Dina Temple-Raston on how the teenage brain is susceptible to poor decision-making.

    Listen to Episode 908 of Slate’s The Gist: Subscribe in iTunes ∙ RSS feed ∙ Download ∙ Play in another tab Slate Plus members: Get your ad-free podcast …

    —Huffduffed by AndrewHazlett

  4. Meghan Daum - The Mental Illness Happy Hour

    Episode notes:Visit Meghan’s website.    Click here to read her "Music is My Bag" article.   Read her other novels, My Misspent Youth, and My Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived in That House.  Use our search link on the homepage to buy them from Amazon.

    Episode Transcript:


    Paul:  Welcome to Episode 43 with my guest Meghan Daum.  I’m Paul Gilmartin; this is the Mental Illness Happy Hour, an hour of, oh what the fuck is it an hour of? An hour of honesty, that’s it about all the battles in our heads from medically diagnosed conditions to everyday compulsive negative thinking, uh, feelings of dissatisfaction, disconnection, inadequacy and that vague sinking feeling that the world is passing you by, passing us by, passing everyone by…You give us an hour and we’ll give you a hot ladle of awkward and icky.  This show is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advice, it’s not a doctor’s office; it’s more like a waiting room that hopefully doesn’t suck.  The website for this show is, please visit it.  There’s all kinds of stuff there, there’s surveys you can take, there’s the forum…um, you can donate to this show if you’d like you can shop through Amazon there and we get a couple of nickels. Um, what do I want to say?


    Um, let’s kick things off with a survey respondent, this is from the Shame and Secrets survey that people have been taking and the respondent’s name is Lisa, she’s straight, she’s in her 20’s, she was raised in a stable and safe environment, but clouded by depression, um, wasn’t the victim of sexual abuse but some stuff happened that she doesn’t know if it counts as sexual abuse, we get a lot of people picking that as the answer from the multiple choice thing.  I think a lot of people some stuff kinda’ happened in between that can be kind of confusing.


    Deepest darkest thoughts:


    ‘The only reason I keep my eating disorder in check is that I can’t put my mother through any more pain.  When she dies, no one will care or matter enough to inspire me to keep trying.’


    Oh that bums me out to hear that, but I get it.

    What are your deepest darkest secrets?


    ‘I have at times used my depression, disordered eating and narcolepsy to reflect responsibility and make others feel guilty for  “abandoning” me.  I’ve repeatedly had confusing dreams about being inappropriately touched by a family member who I have no reason to believe did these things.’


    What kind of thoughts and feelings do these generate?  She writes


    ‘I’m disgusted by my desperate, underlying desire to be cared for in a dependent, childlike manner and feel nauseated that my mind has tried to make me believe that the above referenced family member is a monster.’


    I just find that- I don’t know, fascinating, and I don’t judge anybody on this show, anybody that fills these forms out, I think we all have demons in our head, and from our past, and shit we have trouble reconciling and thoughts that pop into our head that we have no control over, but it sounds like you’re being really hard on yourself and I hope that you can mellow out and a little nicer to yourself.  We constantly compare ourselves to other people, and we use that as a barometer of our success, but would you do that to a friend of yours, would you say you’re really not as successful as you think you are, look at this person that has done more than you.  That would be an abusive relationship, but why do we do it to ourselves, and I’m one of the worst offenders and I don’t know why that is and every day is a struggle to get better with that.  And to the question is there anything you would do to make the pod cast better?  Lisa writes:


    I think you’ve been letting your guard down fighting the need to eradicate silence with humor.  Thank you.  I know it’s not easy.


    Thank you Lisa




    Paul:  I’m here with Meghan Daum and I might not even be pronouncing that correctly. We were talking about that before we started rolling and I asked her the pronunciation of her last name and you said let’s talk about it while we’re rolling.  Has it always been a little bit of a sticky point about the way that people pronounce your name?


    Meghan:  Well, I love the how you just pronounced it cause you put an oh-ahh in it.  You actually combined—


    Paul:  I spoke a little German in college…


    Meghan:  You combined both versions, so there’s, yeah, well—


    Paul:  Really? What are the two versions?


    Meghan:  So, I grew up with Daum.  Meghan Daum.  It’s D.A.U. M. So, on one hand you might think Baum as balm and not Bomb but everyone always sorta said Daum as a default and I was always having to correct everybody and my parents corrected everybody and you know, then I got older and I realized my cousins and things that I really had no relationship with, I mean my parents distanced themselves from their families, um, just for all sorts of neurotic, snobbish, aspirational reasons—


    Paul:  Ooh let’s get into those…


    Meghan:  We’ll just jump right in, but it all revolves around the name pronunciation, so I noticed my relatives said DAUM and my parents were always saying Daum and it turned out that when they were first married you know they had grown up in real provincial settings in southern Illinois, now I know you’re from the Midwest—


    Paul:  I’m from Chicago, yeah—


    Meghan:  And many, many miles south there is another land—


    Paul:  It is, if you go just 15 miles south of the suburb of Chicago that I grew up in, it’s the boonies.   It’s like—


    Meghan:  And this is like, near the sort of Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, this is like the south…


    Paul: I know exactly where you’re talking about.


    Meghan:  Um, so my parents escaped this setting and—


    Paul:  They both grew up in the same hometown?


    Meghan: Yeah, they grew up…  My father grew up in Centralia.  Do you know where that is?


    Paul: Yep.


    Meghan: And my mother grew up in Carbondale, where SIU is—


    Paul:  Where SIU is, yeah…


    Meghan:  So they went there.  And then through these academic channels, they escaped and they ended up in University settings and they actually ended up at Stanford where I was born, um, so I guess somewhere along the way they ran into like a German professor and he said its DAUM its DAUM, that’s how you pronounce your name.  And they were like mortified that they had been such hillbillies in saying Daum all this time—


    Paul:  And they’d been saying DAUM? Okay?


    Meghan:  And so um, my brother and I were raised saying Daum and that’s what we always said and it’s like, just literally like a year or two ago I said its Daum I’m going to say Daum. At first, it was like I just stopped correcting people, like that was kind of the first step and I just said this is ridiculous, if the only way I can emancipate myself from my parents is just to you know, mispronounce the mispronounced name…


    Paul: Right.  Isn’t it, isn’t it, you know the way your parents were pronouncing their name though— should it matter what a professor thinks how it should be pronounced?


    Meghan:  Absolutely it matters!  No, I mean, so I mean, we were one of those…


    Paul:  Are you saying that tongue in cheek?


    Meghan:  NO! No, we were one of those families that, uh, Academia was everything.   My father he’s a musician and uh, and he was teaching music in various places, uh, in universities and he would like, and you know, he’s like not a very political person so he would like not get tenure and stuff but you know, my mother all she ever wanted to be was an academic wife and there was, it was like an aesthetic thing.  She wanted the house with the Oriental rug and the built in bookcases and the copper pots hanging from it, like you have a little, bit, well, they’re not copper, well maybe they are, but you are on the right track—


    Paul:  They’re anodized aluminum, close enough?


    Meghan:  Yeah, close enough…


    Paul:  So do you think your mother kind of felt like there would be a certain safety in that picture, if that picture could be fulfilled that you’d be sophisticated and cultured and there would be a sense of financial security? I mean it sounds good to me, I mean I’ve always looked at university professors and—


    Meghan: Yeah


    Paul:   Think what a great life that’s ‘gotta be, I mean you’ve got job security, you’ve got culture because all college campuses have some degree of culture, um—


    Meghan:  Even SIU, although my parents would never admit that, you know…


    Paul:  Right, You’ve got intellectual stimulation wherever you want it, that, that kind of makes sense to me, but as you write so eloquently, Meghan by the way, is a freelance writer, but she’s written a couple of books and she has a column in the L.A. Times, and I read a couple of her articles, and you write so eloquently about the creation of fantasy and when reality comes in and disrupts that fantasy, that’s one of the reasons I why wanted you on the pod cast, and I saw you that you were a listener to the show—


    Meghan: Yes…


    Paul:  And you had tweeted something and I so I looked up who you were—


    Meghan:  So you’re looking up who tweets about you, aren’t you?


    Paul:  Well, sometimes, if they’ve say something that sounds interesting, or –


    Meghan:  We all do it, it’s a horrible function on twitter, that you can see what people are saying about you—


    Paul:  oh yeah, oh yeah and I look at internet comments, I’m as needy and shallow as they get, and um, I saw that you had a title of a book called  My Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived in That House.  And I said that is the perfect kind of guest for this show because that is its own particular type of…Sickness is too strong a word, but—


    Meghan: it’s a kind of pathology…


    Paul:  A pathology; that’s perfect—


    Meghan:  A worldview gone awry…


    Paul:  And I think everybody is kind of a slave to that to some degree or another, we just may not be willing to admit it, but can you talk about the seeds of it in your family?


    Meghan:  Yeah, you know, my mother, first of all she was really talented at creating a beautiful space, she had a real eye and even when we didn’t have any money we always lived in a very appealing looking house, even if it was kind of a like a dumb, dinky house.  But there were a couple of different threads going on, I mean, we never made any money, my father he’s kind of a savant, he’s this brilliant musical arranger and he’s a composer …but he’s really like an arranger and an orchestrater, so um—


    Paul:  Is he a people person? (Meghan Laughs) Or is he more comfortable with notes and numbers?  Because my dad was a mathematician…


    Meghan:  A little Asperbergy?


    Paul:  borderline Aspbergers kind of..


    Meghan:  There is some of that.  He’s very, as he would say gregarious.  So, he likes to talk to people, but he likes to talk about the things he knows.  He will lecture you, he will talk about this minutia when it comes to music, and really obscure details and highly, highly, highly critical.  My parents were like, the original commenters.  Before there was Internet commenting, that is what we did in my house all day.


    Paul:  Your piece about Music is My Bag, we’ll put a link to this up on our website too to some of this stuff you wrote and obviously to your home page where all your L.A. Times articles are up—


    Meghan: I’d better update it—


    Paul:  Specifically the one you wrote about coming from a musical family and the pressure to be, to excel at music is so, is such a great article.  It paints this incredible picture.  I felt like I was in your living room watching your parents—


    Meghan:  Oh no, I’m sorry…


    Paul:  Watching your parents give you feedback and criticism as you played the Oboe.


    Meghan:  That is the punch line there.  I had to play the Oboe.  I was an Oboist.  And part of it was that they wanted me to win, they wanted me to win the competitions; and get in the all state orchestra and this and that, so…


    Paul:  …which you did.


    Meghan:  Yeah, but, I mean the funny thing is that they didn’t put it together that if I had played the violin, I probably would have been as good and still gotten into the orchestra.  Just because a lot of people play the violin, doesn’t mean a lot of people are good enough to get, to win the competitions, so they thought…


    Paul: Ooh? Was the Oboe—


    Meghan:  They thought it was more of a shoe in.  They didn’t want me to be deprived of the experience of being in like, the North Jersey Regional Band or something…


    Paul:  Right, like the guy in the rock band who plays bass, he knows he can get in, cause you always need a bass player because very few people set out to play bass because it’s not inherently, a compelling instrument


    Meghan:   Well it’s not front and center and all that.  It’s funny because I was listening to an interview with Rainn Wilson from The Office and he revealed that he was a Bassoonist and I thought ooh perfect, that’s perfect—


    Paul:  That explains a lot.


    Meghan:  He’s exactly the guy that would be a bassoonist and one of the indignities, one of the many indignities of being an Oboist is that people often confuse it with the Bassoon, and so, the words have a similar sort of  shape to them, just coming out of your mouth, like so they  would say, oh, the oboe, isn’t that that big thing, and you know, it’s not it’s small –


    Paul:  The Bassoon is that even a reed instrument?


    Meghan:  Yes, it is.  It’s a double reed instrument—


    Paul:  What’s a double reed instrument?


    Meghan:  Meaning like, you know, the clarinet has just a single piece of wood that you attach to the mouthpiece of the instrument.  So, the Oboe, the reed is made of two pieces and it’s actually bound together with string and cork and you stick it in there and part of being an Oboist and a Bassoonist too I guess, is that at some point, you’re expected to make your own reeds.  You literally— All Oboists, serious ones, professional ones have a whole workshop and they have tools and shavers and wood and all this sorts of thing and they have to make them.  It’s like some sort of 19th Century exercise where you need an apprentice and I just never learn how to make the reed, I just couldn’t get it, so even if I had been the like most dedicated, you know, serious Oboist, I would have been hindered by my total lack of fine motor skills.


    Paul:  Is the Oboe closely related to the Clarinet, or is that an insulting question?


    Meghan:  My Oboe teacher, in fact, once said: “the Clarinet is not an instrument; it’s not an instrument.”  The thing about the Oboe is the reason that it plays the A that tunes the orchestra is that it doesn’t…  It’s the hardest instrument to tune, so the rest of the orchestra has to literally tune to the Oboe because it’s hard to adjust and that’s just the perfect metaphor for all Oboists, I mean, they will not change, stubborn, they won’t change, they’re not going to sway to anybody—


    Paul:  Do you think it’s a little bit, “I’m going to claim my place in life that I can defend, I’m going to set up my fort that is off the beaten path so I don’t have to compare myself to other people and then I can say my thing is unique and singular and nobody can really offer up a good compelling argument because nobody else does it.


    Meghan:  Or nobody else knows what it is, or knows about it—


    Paul:  Right.


    Meghan:  Well that is probably true but none of that appealed to me, I was not into being a misfit or anything like that in high school.  I mean, the name of the game for me was fitting in, affiliation, you know…


    Paul:  Which do you think was stronger?  Your desire to fit in with your peers or your desire to please your parents?  Were they both strong?  You okay?


    Meghan:  Yeah, what happens if I cough are you going to edit that out?


    Paul:  No, no…


    Meghan:  Oh, it’s so real.  What was stronger?  My desire? Well… that is a good question, I mean part of it, you know, my parents wanted me to— you know it’s that horrible catch 22, it’s funny I always say my parents are like the whitest Asians you ever met.  You know, you see this in a lot of Asian parents, like they want the kid to succeed, but they don’t want them to be social.  Like they want them to popular, but they don’t want them to do any of the things that’s necessary to be popular, and I know I’m making a huge generalization, and I know I’m going to get, like I’m being really racist, and I don’t mean it that way at all—


    Paul:  I don’t think you’re being racist—


    Meghan:  It’s a thing you see that you see in high achieving, often first generation immigration parents and my parents were none of those things, I mean they were high achieving in the most particular way, I mean, they didn’t care if I basically failed half my classes if I was playing the Oboe well, if I was practicing, they didn’t care and I did fail Math, quite often, but, to answer your question, I think they wanted me to be, to be well adjusted and to represent them well in the world, but they didn’t like me acting like a kid, and certainly not like a teenager.


    Paul:  What do you think they wanted you to act like? A prodigy? A well-behaved musical prodigy?


    Meghan: …or just like an adult…


    Paul:  Cause you were kind of a prodigy, you didn’t practice that much and you made the all state band and you made first chair—


    Meghan:  There weren’t that many Oboe players.


    Paul:  I think you’re being self deprecating the fact that you made first chair in your college orchestra and you didn’t practice—


    Meghan:  No, I didn’t practice, I mean, I had a huge aptitude, my brother and I both have, uh…  My brother actually pursued music, and went on and does it now, but not in like a way, you know, we never learned theory and all that kind of stuff I mean obviously, we read music, but no, I think I had enough of, I had inherited enough aptitude from my parents, especially my father, and I had my father standing over me beating a pencil against the music stand every night for hours, and crying and screaming, I mean you know, all that and—


    Paul:  You crying and screaming?


    Meghan:  Of course—


    Paul:  Or him crying and screaming?


    Meghan:  No, me…


    Paul:  Describe a typical day, a typical practice session…


    Meghan:  Well, he would be, up in his studio working, he worked at home.  He worked in the attic.  We lived in New Jersey by the way, most of this is taking place in New Jersey and he had his studio up in the attic and he would be working and I would come home from school and you know had to practice for a certain amount of time and I would get it out and I would start practicing and he would come running down, he would interrupt his work and come running down and it would just, a few pointers would turn into this hours long coaching session and there would be screaming and tears and I would be stomping off and you know what’s so funny about that about that, that piece, Music is my Bag, it ran in Harper’s Magazine a long time ago, like more than ten years ago, and uh my father hated it, he hated the piece, he was really insulted, he was very embarrassed, um and he was angry with me.  I mean this has been a pattern with my parents, they’ve really, they’ve not been fans of my work.  I mean, they’re supportive and all that, but the actual content, again it’s like we want you to be successful but we don’t want you to do or say the things that are necessary for you to be like successful in an authentic way…


    Paul:  Sure-


    Meghan:  And he was upset about the piece for all kinds of reasons and I would talk to friends about it and they said ‘Really? I would think the only thing that would be upsetting to a parent about that piece is your description of the practicing, and the screaming and the crying, and and my father actually said, ‘Oh no, that didn’t bother me at all, that? No, why what’s wrong with that?  That’s like an example of—


    Paul:  What bothered him?


    Meghan:  Oh, just sort of…


    Paul:  Cause I assume that’s what would’ve bothered him that he came across as controlling…


    Meghan:  No, oh-no, he was proud of that, he was proud of that.  That was not an issue for him at all… oh it was things like just sort of mocking, sending up, the culture of the like marching band and the band culture, I mean the piece is called Music is My Bag because, I don’t know if you’ve ever…Do they still—


    Paul:  Oh my god…


    Meghan:  Do these things still exist, the tote bags?  Like from NPR that you know you would get in the pledge drive and they said, “Music is my Bag”


    Paul:  I think so.   I was not a, um, though I played music, it was more my friends and I would get together, smoke weed and play Led Zeppelin, so you—


    Meghan:  So you played like guitar or something?


    Paul: Yeah, not officially like in bands, bad, I mean mediocre, the definition of mediocre.  Um, we did it to entertain ourselves, but I knew your group of people because you hung out at a certain table in the lunchroom and you nail it so well in your article…


    Meghan:  But here’s the thing, I didn’t eat at that table.  I refused to eat at that table.


    Paul: Who did you hang with?


    Meghan:  Oh, well I sort of, I couldn’t commit to any group.  I mean this has always been my problem.  Like, I can’t, I don’t really want… I think everyone is fake; like this is really, sort of my root, my root problem, I think is that I can’t quite believe anyone is for real, so like if it would be…Well for one thing there’s a big distinction between the band geeks and the orchestra geeks, so if I had to choose I’d be in the orchestra—


    Paul:  Please, please highlight that difference for me…


    Meghan:  Well, the band, well, the band people were like, they were really taking this seriously as a social outlet, it was like, this is where, this was like geek love, you could get yourself laid by another geek if you were in the band and you would take this really seriously.  Orchestra people were too, uh…they, they were real, and they were sorta like better students and more serious.  Again, like more Asians, right, because you had more strings and everything.  The band was not as serious about music as the orchestra.


    Paul:  The band was wearing it as a badge of this is part of my personality whereas the orchestra people were more it was a love of music and achievement?


    Meghan:  Yeah, I mean don’t get me wrong, there were some people in the orchestra you know, the rock stops here, right, the rock stop is the thing that cellists put on the bottom of –


    Paul:  And the scarf with the piano keys…


    Meghan:  Oh the piano keys scarf.  You saw those in the band too.  But you know the band it was like you didn’t necessarily have to be good.  The band had like a kind of a science fiction vibe to it.


    Paul:  Almost like a Star Wars convention with instruments.


    Meghan:  Kind of, kind of, kind of…


    Paul:  yeah…


    Meghan:  So, I, no I didn’t want to hang out with the band and I didn’t really want to hang out with the orchestra and then it was like, I was on the speech team also, and I liked that, but…


    Paul:  What moved you at that age?  What did you love?


    Meghan:  You know… what did I love?  I loved the idea of escaping.  And um by, I guess, I mean, we had moved to this affluent, very white bread suburb in northern New Jersey when I was about nine and before that we had lived in Austin, Texas and I mean can you imagine being taken away from Austin and, and


    Paul:  And being plopped down in…


    Meghan: In New Jersey.  And so there was always this kind of cognitive dissonance that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. There was something too starchy about this town and too, uh…


    Paul:  Describe what you did in the article about where you were living in New Jersey and the fact that it was this affluent neighborhood where people moved there because the school system was good and so really weren’t people there who weren’t parents or kids.  Can you talk about that dynamic, about that culture?


    Meghan:  These places exist.  This is like


    Paul:  I grew up in one.


    Meghan:  Okay, you did?  In Chicago?  Outside of Chicago?


    Paul:  In the suburbs of Chicago.


    Meghan:  What suburb are you from?


    Paul:  I’m from Homewood, but we shared a high school with the wealthy suburb called Flossmore and so, um, when I went to high school and I saw suddenly, oh, these are the children of millionaires…


    Meghan: Oh…


    Paul:  Oh, these are the kids that take A.P. classes and do this.  You know, I came from kind of a more of a, I wouldn’t say blue collar but definitely not that, not from millionaires and these people were loaded.  The people who lived in Flossmore and their kids were driven really, really hard. And all of a sudden I went from feeling like ‘Oh I’m a person of average intelligence’ to like ‘Holy Shit there are a lot of smart people and a lot of driven people out there in the world and I all of a sudden I was like, well fuck—


    Meghan:  So you were smoking pot out on the—


    Paul: I can compete with these people; I’m just gonna hang out in the middle of the pack and get C’s…


    Meghan:  But that’s kind of liberating—


    Paul:  Uh, I suppose so, but when it’s under a cloud of weed and you’re four foot ten and weigh eighty-five pounds and you have glasses, nothing about that feels, feels good, except getting high, but I wanna go back to talking about your—


    Meghan:  So…yeah, my town, it, you know, we, I don’t think there were, I’m sure there were a few millionaires, but no, it wasn’t like a millionaire town.  It was a town where a lot of the dad’s worked on Wall Street, you know, they would take the train. 9-11, this town got hit really hard, 9-11 a lot of cars in the, you know train station parking lot, kinda thing.  I mean, this was a town, very Catholic, very um, sort of Protestants and Catholics, but it had a real sort of Roman Catholic feel to it.


    Paul:  How far from Manhattan?


    Meghan:  (laughs) Well, as the crow flies, about 20-25 miles, but nobody ever went into the city, it was like unheard of.  And you know I think my parents had moved to the New York area, I mean, I think they thought we just basically sort of lived in New York, or they thought that’s they were getting into and then when we got there, like our neighbors hadn’t been to the city in 12 years or something.  So you get these towns where the public schools are good and people move there solely for their kids and so what you have is a population where it’s like there’s a bunch of kids and often they can’t afford to really move there until they get a little more established and so the kids aren’t really, there’s not a lot of 5 year olds even.  They start around nine, ten, you know.  So you have a lot of people between nine and eighteen and you have a lot of parents between like, I don’t know, 35 and 55 and then there’s no one else—


    Paul:  Yes, yes…


    Meghan:  I mean, I didn’t know what a graduate student was, like.  I knew what a college student was, sort of, cause they would come back and they would put the sticker on the car.  That was the big thing.  But no, there was like nobody else.  You were like a kid or a parent.


    Paul:  Right, so you described in the article, how, what your cultural choices were as a kid that didn’t have exposure to anything other than your parents and other kids, and you talked about the music you would listen to and the way you guys would dress and I was like Oh My God, you’re like you’re describing exactly where I grew up.  I mean we wore button down shirts.  We wore polo shirts.  We didn’t—


    Meghan:  Yeah, this is funny, you’re conflating, there’s two articles, no…


    Paul:  Oh? Two different articles? Cause I did read two different—


    Meghan:  No, no, but it’s great cause they come together, you’re going back and forth and there’s one where I talk, where I think I talk about the button down shirts and that was in this piece called My Misspent Youth


    Paul:  Yes!


    Meghan:   which was in the New Yorker, originally, I think in 99, and it’s the title piece to my essay collection from many years ago, but okay, so that I was talking about, you know the Risky Business aesthetic, you know, the pink oxford—


    Paul: Yes!


    Meghan:  -And the kids their idea of kind of a wild time was to go to somebody’s house and put on the Big Chill Soundtrack—


    Paul:  Right.


    Meghan:  Remember that? It was like yeah! Jeremiah was a bullfrog! Woooo!  You know, like that.  They were imitating some kind of nostalgia of their parents, like they were imitating, it was like this fifties thing.


    Paul: Yeah, when I started going to this high school where we merged with the rich kids all of a sudden people cared what kind of beer you were getting loaded on and were snobby about stereo systems and it was like this whole world where all of a sudden every body was so much more materialistic and I could recognize it and it saddened me in a certain way but you know it’s like you throw your lot in with a certain group of people and you’re in with that lot and you kind of go with the flow and you become a little more materialistic but the way you described it, when you went to college at Vassar, can you talk about, um, starting with when you decided you wanted to go to college and creating that, actually start with telling the story of when you went into that apartment into New York and creating that fantasy.


    Meghan:  Yes, seminal moment.  So when I was a senior in high school I guess it was the summer before my senior year in high school my father, uh, you know, like I said he does a lot of, he was an orchestrator so he had to go to the apartment of a music copyist to pick up some parts or drop them off or something and so we drove, I was learning, I had just gotten my license, I was learning how to drive a stick shift and so we drove in our little Plymouth Horizon from New Jersey into Manhattan and this guy’s apartment was on the upper west side, um you know, in like one of those kinda funky, but beautiful grand buildings—


    Paul:  Pre-war gargoyle…


    Meghan:  Pre-war with the elevator that has the gate that closes and kind of rattles up…


    Paul:  Scatman Crothers working the buttons…


    Meghan:  No, No, not even that…you know like it has that, everything smells a little bit like urine, you know but also like musty, it’s that old, it’s a sense of authenticity… that’s a word I really overuse and I always have, but, it was that feeling, and I went into this apartment and it was pretty modest and it was, you know, they had the oriental rugs but they weren’t trying too hard, it was that very solid kind of, you know, stone architecture and the wood floors and everything and I said to myself this is the life I want and this was probably on like 101st Street and West End Ave, something like that, and from that moment on I became, (I don’t know what’s wrong with me)  From that moment on I became totally devoted to the cause of getting into this kind of life and it affected what kind of college I was going to go to and—


    Paul:  Specifically New York you mean?  You wanted to live in that type of –


    Meghan:  Oh yes, I wanted to live on104th and West End Ave.  Like, this is my problem, I’ve always, I’m like very specific, I can’t let go, it’s like I.  I can’t just say this is generally what I want, like I fixate on something, so yeah, I wanted to do this and I kind of thought I was going to be a writer, I mean I certainly wasn’t going to be an oboist so I had this kind of system for choosing what kind of college I was gonna go to and part of it came from reading the wedding announcements in the New York Times and seeing where these people went to college and what kind of jobs they had and also where I was gonna get in.  I mean, the thing is, I was like one of these people; I was a horrible student in math and science, like I would fail.  I would be like in the most advanced English class and you know, brilliant oboist…


    Paul:  How did you get passing Math and Science, and—


    Meghan:  Well see this is one of my, when we do the fear-off I will tell you I am afraid that Vassar is going to realize I never even got in in the first place, so can you graduate from a school that you actually didn’t get in to?  Like, that’s, I mean I was so obsessed with, my big fear was that I was going to end up like going to Rutgers or something and not that Rutgers is a bad school but that my social milieu would not change…


    Paul:  It wouldn’t have the cache…


    Meghan:  I would be stuck with the Benetton sweaters and the Big Chill soundtrack, you know if I was lucky for the rest of my life because I was failing math, I mean that’s what’s horrible about being in high school especially in this kinda school, like you get to the point where you’re thinking and it’s kinda true that if I don’t pass this class or get an A or whatever, my life will literally not line up the way that it should, so it was really intense…


    Paul:  Where do you think that comes from?  Do you think it comes the brain that that kid has that there’s that negativity and creativity that extrapolates their life out to the nth degree or do you think that’s pounded into you by your environment?


    Meghan:  I think it’s pounded into you in that there’s no, there’s only sort of one trajectory, I mean, you know, I could have, what I realize now is I probably, I could have gone to like a big state school somewhere in the Midwest for instance and found a niche for myself, and found interesting people and found some version of the oriental rugs and the hardwood floor and it would have taken a little longer but I did not have the imagination at that time or something.  I was so terrified of not kind of getting to where I felt I needed to be.  It was like one of these things, I felt like I was a good writer and I that I was fairly interesting but that I had enough handicaps that if I didn’t like really nail it, if I didn’t really get to where I needed to be; I was never going to make it.  And it was ironic cause then I went to Vassar and I hated it.  I spent the whole time like I just need to graduate and be able to say I went to Vassar…


    Paul:  And what made you choose Vassar cause when you looked at these social pages of the New York Times you saw a lot of people had graduated from Vassar and you thought well that will get me into that pre-war building that I love?


    Meghan:  Yeah, that was my logic and that’s what it says in the brochure about Vassar, it says if you go here, you will get to live on 104th street and Broadway if you go to this school.  No it was like, it’s like an annex to New York City, you know, the places I could have gone with my grades, I mean obviously if I could have gone to Yale that would have been better but there was no way in hell I was going to Yale so, uh, I managed to get in there, I mean, I pitched myself as an oboist, I said you need an oboist in your orchestra, I made a tape, I sent it to them.  I flung myself at them.  Uh…


    Paul:  Vassar you’re talking about?


    Meghan:  Yeah, yeah and so—


    Paul:  Did you apply to Yale?


    Meghan:  No! I mean my guidance counselor wouldn’t even let me apply.  This is the other thing about these towns.  They don’t want to have kids not getting into schools on their record.  They don’t want to have rejections, so they don’t let you apply to the places that would be a stretch.  I don’t think my guidance counselor wanted me to apply to Vassar even.


    Paul:  Describe what that was like when it sunk in when you got to Vassar and you realized this was a whole new world for you?  What did that feel like?  What were you thinking?


    Meghan:  I realized that there were people from these wealthy private schools who literally dropped acid every day and still had gotten into Vassar.  It was like I had had to just, I had to do everything possible, you know, everything in my toolbox, I had to get it out and really make a case for myself and these people… L.S.D. every day of high school and they got in!


    Paul:  And were they succeeding at Vassar?


    Meghan:  Well they succeeded enough to get in.   I mean you can’t really flunk out of a school like that…


    Paul:  You can’t?


    Meghan:  No, no, it’s hard.  It’s hard.  They want your money—


    Paul:  And a lot of junkies too in Ivy League schools, surprising number of heroin addicts…


    Meghan:  You mean like heroin?


    Paul:  Oh yeah


    Meghan:  Really?


    Paul:  Oh yeah, from what I’ve heard um there are, um I mean it’s not like it’s littered with junkies—


    Meghan:  there are syringes all over the Vassar campus


    Paul:  I’ve heard more than a few stories about you know the kids at Harvard that shoot heroin on the weekend or snort heroin on the weekends—


    Meghan:  I had heard of a few people snorting heroin, but i hadn’t, but I wasn’t aware of anybody being an addict…um, no, so yeah, I mean it was just—


    Paul:  I like to expand things in my mind.  I flesh it out.  I’m punching it up—


    Meghan:  There’s no reason we shouldn’t believe it.


    Paul:  I like to punch it up in my brain.


    Meghan:  Yeah, I, I just, again…


    Paul:  Did you feel like it was a mistake at a certain point in your freshman year where you were like, Oh My God this is, this is a group that I can’t compete with or this is a group I don’t even want to compete with?


    Meghan:  No, cause I was determined to make it work.  The thing with me is that the way I am wired I was unable to see that there were like a whole lot of people there who were on scholarships and who were not these private school people, and I was just not interested in hanging around with them.  I wanted to sort of be, in the cool group and then I didn’t really like the cool group and again it goes back to like I don’t eat at the band table.  I could never find a group that that I wanted to be a part of.  I felt like everyone was faking it.  I joined the newspaper for a while and then I quit.  I quit because I couldn’t stand sitting around there like on deadline and they’d be like ‘Get on the Horn!’  They were like imitating people in a newsroom and I just thought I just can’t bear it


    Paul:  And if you could’ve created that you would’ve felt comfortable with at your school, how would you describe them?  What would they have been like?



    Meghan:  I really don’t know.  I think that there’s something wrong with me.    This is just something that I do..


    Paul:  Is it that Grocho Marx thing where you can’t respect anyone who would wanna hang out with you?


    Meghan:  I don’t want to belong to any club that would have me as a member. Um, yeah and then it’s just that I can’t…I think I’m so obsessed with what is real and what is fake and if someone is acting fake or if they’re…my mother had this transformation when she was about 50 where she became like this theater person, this is a whole other story, she was like…


    Paul:  kind of affected?


    Meghan: She went from being miserable, slightly frumpy really frustrated housewife basically to becoming this diva and very affected and it really it just, I couldn’t take it, I mean I was like allergic to it.  I just think I’ve been allergic to these things generally all my life.  I still do it.  I have friends.  I have a circle of friends.  I am more comfortable now than I ever have been with my world and the people I know and I certainly don’t like, I’m never going to have a clique, I mean that I just don’t understand—


    Paul:  It sounds to me as I listen to you talk:  criticism never takes a break in your head.


    Meghan:  Never, no.  It’s like, it’s really the default setting and it’s hard because it’s one of those things, on some level it serves me well.  I’ve made my career out of it; I’m an opinion columnist.  I’m a cultural critic.  Um, but, you can’t, no, it never, no, it never stops.


    Paul:  Outside of writing, talk about what that voice in your head does.


    Meghan:  Well, I mean…


    Paul: How dark does it get in your head?  In your emotions?


    Meghan: I criticize myself, oh constantly…


    Paul:  Have you ever thought about suicide or is that too dark?


    Meghan:  No, I have had moments where I can understand how somebody would get to this point, I can understand because I you know, it’s like, I think this is probably true of a lot of people, you’re growing up and you’re in your twenties and you’re struggling and you’re even in your thirties and you think like I’m kinda depressed, I’m kinda down, but it’s situational it’s because I don’t want to be in this, like you know, I want something better and I’m not happy with…And then you get to a point where it’s like you have what you want, I’m married, I have a beautiful house, my career is okay you know it could be better, but it could be a helluvalot worse and it’s like wow, you still feel this way, this ringing is still in your ears and that, that is scary


    Paul:  That is scary and I can tell you somebody who has lived that and wanted to commit suicide and with all the stuff on paper that society tells you you need to have to be happy and that is a scary fucking crossroad to be at but in many ways it can be the most liberating thing in your life because it forces you to really look deeply within yourself at what it is that you hold important and what it is that your obsessing about and what it is that you’re worrying about because if it’s going to kill you, you pretty much have to let it kill you or jettison it or otherwise it’s kind of like this— Maybe I should just speak for myself but it’s this kind of day to day thing um, and it doesn’t go away forever, it’s funny, just yesterday I was thinking to myself “shut up” that voice in my head that keeps telling me… it keeps offering up something that has to be wrong, it’s not possible that everything is okay.  And—


    Meghan:  At least you say shut up to that.  I say shut up to myself in daily life, like you know I’ll go to the dry cleaners, ‘shut up!’


    Paul:  So you always believe that the critical voice is correct.


    Meghan:  Yes!  All critical voices are correct, otherwise its sentimentality, how can you believe it?


    Paul: That’s such a lie, that’s such a lie.


    Meghan:  I’m saying this intellectually.  Yes, I know this is a lie.


    Paul: But how do you get there emotionally; that’s different.  You can know that intellectually you’re beating yourself up but still not be able to stop it, and I think at the core is this lie that tells us that self criticism is the path to being a better person and


    Meghan:  Right, right…


    Paul:  At a certain point it served us but then it begins to destroy us and how do you know when to turn that critical voice on and off.


    Meghan:  Yeah…


    Paul:  And I was thinking about this yesterday and I think it’s recognizing the difference between your conscience and what is your critical voice and your conscience, I think is a good thing to have, that’s when you’re able to reflect and look at yourself and that benefits not only yourself, but society.  And I think for me, I know a thought is coming from my conscience when it is about what is the right thing to do.  It’s my self-critical voice when it’s “will this enable me to survive?”


    Meghan:  Hmm, but do you find also that there’s something self-soothing about the critical voice?


    Paul:  It used to be…


    Meghan:  Oh see, you’re ahead of me…


    Paul:  No, I just had to hit the depths to find another way to live.


    Meghan:  It almost feels like an OCD thing.  It’s like cutting.  I’m not a cutter I wasn’t a cutter.  But like that, oh I’m going to beat myself up now.  Like it feels good, it feels—


    Paul: It feels familiar.


    Meghan:  Yeah, yeah…


    Paul:  And I’ve said this before on the pod cast, uh, often times, the painful known feels like a better choice then the supposedly promised comfortable unknown because the unknown is often scarier than anything.


    Meghan:  And it really ties into what we were emailing about the internet comments and all that stuff because if you are somebody with a penchant for criticism and self criticism reading stuff people write on the internet, that’s like porn, reading the vitriole and people going off on other people, its like totally addictive.


    Paul:  Do you think the reason that is not necessarily that it makes us feel bad about ourselves?  But it allows us to keep thinking about ourselves.


    Meghan:  Well its narcissism, yes, um, yeah, I mean, I think for me, I had to stop reading my own comments


    Paul:  What do you mean your own comments?


    Meghan:  Sorry, on the Internet.  One of the things about being a newspaper columnist is that the thing is up on the web and invariably every week there are pages and pages of people telling me that I need to be fired and that I’m an idiot and it’s like sometimes its really personal and you can read it and I think you sort of keep reading because you’re waiting for someone to come along and defend you and it just goes on and on and I made myself stop reading my own comments but what happened is now I read everyone else’s comments like I cannot read an article on line without looking at the comments and I see some idiot saying something and I just keep going until somebody else bashes that person and it’s like watching these little fights, um, its created this whole little world, this subculture of hate…


    Paul:  Its like 21st century soap opera, but it’s real


    Meghan:  Yeah, but it’s so ha… It’s so interesting to me, this is something I’ve been writing about lately, this idea of hate, you’re a hater  and there’s all these iterations of hate.  If you read like the cool blogs of the twenty something’s, they talk about hate-er-aide and hate-itude…


    Paul: Right, you know who I hate?  People who spell it “h” and the number “8”


    Meghan:  Oh, I know.  I don’t care like, with twitter and all that, if I can’t spell out a word, with all letters it’s really, I don’t need to say that, I don’t need to tweet that…


    Paul:  What do you think?  The classical way to look at this, is these are people who hate themselves so they go on the Internet because it’s easier to hate somebody else than to really look inwardly at what you don’t like about yourself.  Do you think there’s anything beyond that?


    Meghan:  A lot of them hate themselves, but it’s funny, I met somebody the other day at a party, this lovely woman, I was talking to her and it turned out she’s a commenter, she’s an internet commenter.  It doesn’t mean she’s one of those awful ones, but she spends a lot of time commenting, and I’m thinking is this providing some outlet that people didn’t use to have?  Is there a lack of face time, like is there some, maybe people don’t, the argument discourse has changed… we’re less in a culture where intelligent debate is easily accessible and it just becomes either this screaming on cable TV or this like subverted anonymous, mean commenting…


    Paul:  Well it doesn’t surprise me, because our culture prizes winning above everything.  Everything is made into a list, what is number one .  Did you win?  Did you lose?  So why wouldn’t opinions also fall into that category?  It’s just  natural progression. Our country is so uncomfortable with the idea of being number two…


    Meghan: Yeah, we like rankings and—


    Paul:  Right, so for something to be valid it often has to be did you win, were you the best? And that is its own particular sickness that I, I think, is one of the most destructive forces that you can plant in children’s minds is that if they aren’t the best, if they aren’t number one then somehow they have failed—


    Meghan:  So did you feel like you had to be number one growing up?  Even with—


    Paul:  At certain things—


    Meghan:  Even with these kids from the other town who we dominating you?


    Paul:  I remember feeling like I had to be the funniest person in the room, starting probably around high school, my ego began to become attached to… because I was small, I had glasses, I had nothing going on and the only thing I felt I could compete  with other people with was my sense of humor.  I took great pride in that, but if I was in a room and someone said to somebody else, ‘you’re the funniest person I ever met’ that would just crush me.  Because  I would think how can I ever become a professional comedian if I’m not even the funniest person in the room of non-comedians.


    Meghan:  That’s such a no-win because nothing is more subjective than humor.  You can’t possibly rank that.



    Paul:  Tell that to a four-foot narcissist who’s high with Zeppelin playing in the background…


    Meghan:  When people think, when you think about how long the family circus has been in print, that’s all you need to think—



    Paul:  How does criticism not work it’s way over to the comic strip Nancy


    Meghan:  Nancy?  Do you mean Cathy?


    Paul:  No, Nancy was pre-Cathy…


    Meghan:  I don’t know what Nancy is


    Paul:  I would look at that comic strip every day as a kid and go who likes this?


    Meghan:  Yeah, there are those people though.


    Paul:  How is this still.. I didn’t even understand where the joke was in it?


    Meghan:  Yeah and it’s terrifying-


    Paul:   At least Family Circus, I could at least see what they were attempting to make you laugh



    Meghan:  Really?  Yeah, as a creative person that kind of thing is so terrifying it’s like wow they really aren’t gonna get it.  Like, enough people have no interest in what I’m doing  I shouldn’t bother.  But that’s what this kind of thing- this time of with like pod casts and this, it’s very niche, like niche is rising…


    Paul:   Yeah, it really is, and you put yourself on the Internet and you read enough comments and you realize you are somebody’s Nancy, you know, as much as you hate to admit it.


    Meghan:  I just want to be Cathy and you know eat a whole Hagen Das as my answer for everything, eh, I ate a whole Hagen Das


    Paul:  One of the things that you wrote about I found really interesting was when you talked about going to graduate school and taking out these school loans because you still had this fantasy of living in this prewar building and being a writer and can you kind of  talk about how that began to unravel and the stress, the mental stress of that?  This piece you had written was in 1999 and I hadn’t read anything since then.  So when you showed up at my door I had no idea you’d dug yourself  out of this debt, so I would like to hear your perspective, starting from graduate school and the fantasy, to where you are today.


    Meghan:  This is so great.  This is great.  This means I am 29 to you.  I might as well be 29, which I was in 1999.  Um, yeah, so I graduated from college and I moved to New York, I got an apartment on 100th st between Riverside and West End


    Paul:  A successful woman would’ve gotten an apartment on 104th…


    Meghan:  Well, successful in my terms, obviously… I got a job at Conde Nast, I got a job at a beauty magazine, uh, Allure, I worked at Allure, it’s a magazine about skin and it’s a lot of exfoliation…


    Paul: An were you happy?


    Meghan:  No, No, I did not want this job.  I wanted to, I thought I could get a job at Esquire.  I considered myself like a literary person but, you know jobs, this sounds horrible to say, now, compared to what these graduates  are going through, but it was 1992, it was a bit of a recession, it was really hard to get a job, so I was lucky at Conde Nast, big famous company…


    Paul:  So did you think it was a stepping-stone to where you would eventually want to work?


    Meghan:  Yes, which it was, it was.  And I worked there, it was kind of great in a lot of ways.  I had a boss so insane and she basically couldn’t read and I just got to do her job, I mean she was one of these people that knew enough to let her assistant really do the job.

    So, I did a lot , I was very miserable in the culture of Conde Nast, I mean, the Devil wears Prada that is like the perfect description of that world



    Paul:  Give me some slices of, of this—


    Meghan:  Oh, throwing up in the bathroom, I mean there’s a lot of anorexics—


    Paul:  You were then?—


    Meghan:  No, no, I could never get it together enough to be like anorexic or anything.  You know, that’s another failure.  Like I can’t even….you know—


    Paul:  Well you’re kidding of course…

    Meghan:  No, I, well, I know that’s a terrible to say… No, but it’s like I can’t, this is why I love what.. I know Theresa was on your show, I know this is where I heard her, I was so moved by what she was saying, because its like you can hate your body but part of it is that you can’t, you hate the fact that you can’t even be anorexic, its like your sort of a failed, I was constantly thinking I’m fat , I’m a failed anorexic, I can’t even get to the, I’m not even in the real stuff.  I didn’t have enough money, I dressed horribly these are these are girls who would like, their parents were paying for their own apartment on Fifth Avenue and they would have time shares in the Hamptons , um I was like schlepping down from 100th st which I wanted to be, I mean my sensibilities was this more intellectual, literary, I was not into fashion, I was not into society..


    Paul:  Was that area considered intellectually hip because Columbia was near there?  It’s closer to Harlem…


    Meghan:  Yeah, it’s just always been, I mean now it’s gentrified… well, its just, its not, its was always sort of this socialist, kind of literary academic neighborhood, I mean it’s so gentrified now, that I think these distinctions are probably moot, but at the time it was above 96th street, it was like “oh, you live above 96th street..”


    Paul:  So it was a little bohemian…


    Meghan:  It was little sketchy, it was a little bohemian and so, I hated this world of Conde Nast and again I felt I was back in high school like how am I going to get out of this?  I’m succeeding at this job, I’m pretty good at this, I could continue to get promoted and continue to work at magazines and continue to be surrounded by these people and it’s not what I wanted, I wanted to be a writer


    Paul:  And you’re struggling to make ends meet…


    Meghan: I was making 18,000 dollars a year. yeah, I had roommates…


    Paul:  And you’re living in Manhattan


    Meghan:  Well, back then I had two roommates and we had this rent stabilized apartment

    the rent was, I’ll never forget this… the rent was 1776.76


    Paul:  Hilarious


    Meghan:  So just about 1800 dollars, uh, 76 cents is on the end of that so I was paying like around five something and it was okay, but I, I finally said the only thing that’s going to make me happy, because at one point, I got really depressed, I remember I came out of a , I went to a movie at Lincoln Center and I came out of the movie, I was still working at Allure at this point, it was like this fall day and there were all these great looking people with their great looking scarves and their cool looking glasses and things and I came out of the movie and I saw the line of people standing, waiting to go into the next show and I thought they just have no idea how bad this movie is, I know something that don’t and its how bad this movie is and it was also I’m never going to be like them there’s a yawning gulf between this world I am inhabiting at this magazine about skin and exfoliants and this world of like people who are engaged in the arts and have cool scarves and glasses and I can’t get there, and the only, it was actually, I became profoundly depressed, it was a scary, not profoundly, but depressed to the point um, I started going to therapy, it was for the first time, and I finally figured out that the only way I could save myself was to go to an MFA program  which is not something that most psychiatrists would recommend…


    Paul:  Right, for those that don’t know, an MFA is a Masters In Fine Arts


    Meghan:  Masters of Fine Arts, a totally useless degree, for creative writing, I was going to be a fiction writer.  Um, I was writing short stories.


    Paul:  And what had you majored in?  English?


    Meghan:  English, of course.  Yeah, I wrote a creative thesis, basically, in college I majored in smoking cigarettes and staring at the wall, I really did, I did very little work, I was really; I’m really ashamed of it… We have the shame thing coming up later, right?  This is one of the things I’m really ashamed of my college performance.  I did not take advantage of the education; I just kind of had like, fucked up relationships and ya know, all that kind of stuff…


    Paul:  But isn’t that part of…


    Meghan:  Which is part of…yes, yeah,yeah


    Paul:  Isn’t that part of being at college, you’re finding out who you are at the same time as you’re trying to forge your path economically in the world and it’s so, there’s so much anxiety behind that I don’t think anybody does it without, I don ‘t think anybody does it flawlessly and with comfort.


    Meghan:  No, no, I think we all sort of wish we could go back although I certainly do not want to go back, um, but, uh…


    Paul:  And there’s a lot of people that would’ve killed just to have gotten a college degree.


    Meghan:  Of course, of course… Yes—


    Paul:  Especially at an IVY League school—


    Meghan:  Yes, Vassar is not an Ivy League school, but it


    Paul:  It’s not?


    Meghan: No, it’s a 7 sisters school.  It was all women until 1970 and now its women and gay men—


    Paul:  The p

    —Huffduffed by AndrewHazlett

  5. Episode 14: How Many Birds can be Angry? | Simply Apple

    On the last 2011 Simply Apple episode, Eugene and Mark cover exactly how many sales make an App Store star, whether Amazon’s Price Check app is a good thing, and managing all of you Mac app updates. But we didn’t stop there – this week we learn about DEVONthink from Nathan Douglas, a DEVONthink power user extraordinaire who shares the power and flexibility of the app and describes why DEVONthink users love the app as much as they do.

    To go along with our interview, the fine folks at DEVONtechnologies have graciously provided two full licenses for DEVONthink Pro for our Simply Apple listeners.

    To enter the giveaway, all you have to do is leave a comment on this post and tell any of the following:

    How you plan on using DEVONthink

    What you think Apple will release in 2012

    What apps you’d like us to review on the show

    What Mac/iOS problems you have that you’d like answered on the show

    How you think we’re doing or how we can improve

    The giveaway will end on Wednesday, January 8th at 11:59pm PST, so be sure to enter and spread the word!

    As always let us know what you think of the show, structure, or content using our Tip/Feedback form on the Simply Apple website or follow us on twitter @simplyapplepod.

    Mentioned in this episode:

    How Many Downloads Does an App Need to Reach The Top of The Free Charts on iOS? via AppAdvice


    DEVONthink Version Comparison

    DEVONtechnologies Forum (find our guest Nathan there!)

    DEVONthink Overview via Mac OS X Screencasts

    DEVONthink on the Mac App Store

    Subscribe to the Simply Apple podcast

    Podcast: Play in new window

    | Download

    —Huffduffed by AndrewHazlett

  6. BoingBoingBoing podcast 006: Steven Johnson / Boing Boing

    Episode #6 of the Boing Boing Boing podcast is ready for downloading. Our guest for this edition is author Steven Johnson, whose new book "The Ghost Map" my blog-mate Pesco describes as:

    An account of an 1854 cholera outbreak on London’s Broad Street [and]

    a magnificent combination of science thriller, cultural history, and celebration of cartography as a powerful tool to help us understand the dynamics of urban life.

    Cory, Pesco and I talk with our guest about a slew of recent BoingBoing topics (Boy Scout MPAA badges, Borat vs. Mahir, Paul Allen’s Brain Atlas, and Kevin Poulsen’s MySpace hack), and about another big new release from Steven:, a tool for participating in the online conversations taking place about your community within your community.

    LISTEN: Podcast Feed, Subscribe via iTunes, Direct MP3 Link (64K), other MP3 file download options from Link, or listen at Odeo: Link.

    Browse previous BB posts about Steven Johnson: Link.

    • Steven Johnson’s new book The Ghost Map


    Steven Johnson launches


    Steven Johnson’s fave books about plagues

    SHARE /

    TWEET /


    report this ad

    —Huffduffed by AndrewHazlett

  7. Gangrey: Wil S. Hylton


    This week on the podcast I talk with Wil S. Hylton. Hylton wrote the book “Vanished,” which focuses on the modern-day search for one American bomber that crashed over the Pacific Islands during World War II. That bomber carried 11 men, who for decades, were listed as missing in action. Finding that lost bomber gave closure to the families of those men, but it also took an amazing feat of detective work and amazing modern technology.

    “Vanished” out in November 2013 and has garnered praise from newspapers and magazines around the country. Time Magazine said the book contains “passages so expressive that we’re constantly reminded we’re in the hands of a phenomenal writer.”

    Hylton is a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine. His work has also been featured in Harpers, GQ, Esquire and Rolling Stone, among many others magazines. He’s profiled US Attorney general Eric Holder among many others and written about the doomed Air France Flight 447. He’s also written about mothers who make the agonizing decision to abandon their children at safe havens.

    You can also find out more about Hylton by visiting

    —Huffduffed by AndrewHazlett

  8. Episode 120: From MFA to JOB: Making a Living, Making a Difference

    (Jen Benka, Kenny Kruse, Monica Prince, Kenyatta Rogers) While tenure-track teaching and publishing are often the dream of MFA candidates, the competition is increasingly competitive. The creative and nonprofit sectors hold alternative employment possibilities for writers while making a real difference for communities. This panel ignites the imagination around the journey to meaningful careers that allow MFA graduates to work within a community of writers and artists, cultivate and curate artistic experiences and opportunities, and make a living. Published Date: June 1, 2016

    The AWP Podcast Series features recordings from our annual conference.

    —Huffduffed by AndrewHazlett

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