Across the Margin: The Podcast

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Episode 130: Democracy In The Time Of Coronavirus with Danielle Allen

In this episode of Across The Margin : The Podcast host Michael Shields interviews Danielle Allen, James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard University where she is also the principal investigator for the Democratic Knowledge Project. In 2020, she won the Kluge Prize for Achievement in the Study of Humanity, administered by the Library of Congress, that recognizes work in disciplines not covered by the Nobel Prizes. She is the author or co-editor of many books, including Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality, and Democracy in the time of Coronavirus, which is the focus of this episode. In Democracy in the Time of Coronavirus Allen untangles the U.S. government’s COVID-19 victories and failures to offer a plan for creating a more resilient democratic polity — one that can better respond to both the present pandemic and future crises. Looking to history, Allen also identifies the challenges faced by democracies in other times that required strong government action. In an analysis spanning from ancient Greece to the Reconstruction Amendments and the present day, Allen argues for the relative effectiveness of collaborative federalism over authoritarian compulsion and for the unifying power of a common cause. But for democracy to endure, we — as participatory citizens — must commit to that cause: a just and equal social contract and support for good governance. In this episode Michael Shields and Danielle Allen explore what exactly an ideal social contract that serves as the basis for a functioning constitutional democracy would look like while examining how currently that social contract is fundamentally broken. They discuss how important leadership is when dealing with massive crises, how the prospect of a "common purpose" could be the most powerful tool in the democratic tool kit, how federalism can be an asset in trying times, what the federal and state governments should have done to combat Covid 19, and much, much more.


More Episodes

11/23/2022

Episode 150: Gratitude — A Conspiracy of Goodness Simulcast with Dr. Lynda Ulrich

This episode of Across The Margin: The Podcast finds our host, Michael Shields, in conversation with Dr. Lynda Ulrich, founder of the Goodness Exchange, a website whose aim is to prove that the world is still a beautiful place, full of wonderment, discovery, and compassion. Dr. Ulrich is the author of the book Happiness is an Option: Thriving (Instead of Surviving) In the Era of the Internet, and is also the host of the Conspiracy of Goodness podcast. The Conspiracy of Goodness Podcast is designed to give listeners more joy, less fear, and present evidence that a bright future is possible. In each episode, Dr. Ulrich helps make sense of the world by interviewing those who are tackling some of the world’s most difficult and consequential problems. This episode distinctly combines the powers of Across The Margin : The Podcast and the Conspiracy of Goodness Podcast, and acts as a celebration of the diverse and inspiring guests they are both profoundly grateful to feature on their respective podcasts. To give listeners a taste of what both the Conspiracy of Goodness and Across The Margin podcasts have to offer, Michael and Dr. Ulrich take turns in highlighting a few of each other's episodes that resonate deeply with them. Episodes of the Conspiracy of Goodness podcast about the power of positivity, turning pain into a teacher, ways in which to overcome fear, and tips on how to make a good living while also making a difference in the world are celebrated, followed by a look at a bevy of powerful episodes of Across The Margin : The Podcast, such as Episode 125: The Other Dark Matter with Lina Zeldovich, Episode 105: Up From Nothing with John Hope Bryant, and Episode 100: How To Do Nothing with Jenny Odell, to name a few.
11/15/2022

Episode 149: Pearl Jam's Long Road with Steven Hyden

In this episode of Across The Margin: The Podcast, host Michael Shields interviews music critic and journalist Steven Hyden, the author of This Isn’t Happening, Twilight of the Gods, Your Favorite Band Is Killing Me, and (with Steve Gorman) Hard to Handle. His writing has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Washington Post, Billboard, Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, Grantland, The A.V. Club, Slate, and Salon. He is currently the cultural critic at UPROXX. Hyden’s latest book, Long Road: Pearl Jam and the Soundtrack Of A Generation, the focus of this episode, Hyden celebrates the life, career, and music of Pearl Jam, widely considered to be one of the greatest American rock bands of all time. Much like the generation it emerged from, Pearl Jam is a mass of contradictions. They were an enormously successful mainstream rock band who felt deeply uncomfortable with the pursuit of capitalistic spoils. They were progressive activists who spoke in favor of abortion rights and against the Ticketmaster monopoly, and yet they epitomized the sound of traditional, male-dominated rock ‘n’ roll. They were looked at as spokesmen for their generation, even though they ultimately projected profound confusion and alienation. They triumphed, and failed, in equal doses — the quintessential Gen-X tale. Impressive as their stats, accolades, and longevity may be, Hyden also argues that Pearl Jam’s most definitive accomplishment lies in the impact their music had on Generation X as a whole. Pearl Jam’s music helped an entire generation of listeners connect with the glory of bygone rock mythology, and made it relevant during a period in which tremendous American economic prosperity belied a darkness at the heart of American youth. More than just a chronicle of the band’s career, this book is also a story about Gen-X itself, who like Pearl Jam came from angsty, outspoken roots and then evolved into an establishment institution, without ever fully shaking off their uncertain, outsider past. For so many Gen-Xers growing up at the time, Pearl Jam’s music was a beacon that offered both solace and guidance. They taught an entire generation how to grow up without losing the purest and most essential parts of themselves. In this episode host Michael Shields and Steven Hyden discuss the unique way in which Hyden decided to organize the book and what a cassette known as the “Momma-Son Tape” meant to the genesis of Pearl Jam. They talk about how a fateful night at Red Rocks Amphitheater in June of 1995 helped shape the band's identity and how the Grateful Dead influenced Pearl Jam in the later stages of their career. They explore Hyden’s love for guitarist Mark McGrady, the singular way in which Gen-X often turns on their childhood musical heroes, how Pearl Jam found a way to survive and thrive well into their middle ages when so many of their peers crashed and burned, and so much more.Grab a copy of Long Road: Pearl jam and the Soundtrack of a Generation by Steven Hyden here! 
11/4/2022

Episode 148: Tom Waits and the Spirit of Los Angeles with Alex Harvey

This episode of Across The Margin: The Podcast presents an interview with the author of Song Noir: Tom Waits and the Spirit of Los Angeles, Alex Harvey. Alex Harvey is a producer and director of programs including Panorama and The Late Show for the BBC. His films include The Lives of Animals and Enter the Jungle. Based in Los Angeles, he regularly writes on literature, film, and music for the London Review of Books and Los Angeles Review of Books. His book, Song Noir, examines the formative first decade of Tom Waits’s career, when he lived, wrote, and recorded nine albums in Los Angeles: from his soft, folk-inflected debut, Closing Time in 1973, to the abrasive, surreal Swordfishtrombones in 1983. Starting his songwriting career in the seventies, Waits absorbed Los Angeles’s wealth of cultural influences. Combining the spoken idioms of writers like Kerouac and Bukowski with jazz-blues rhythms, he explored the city’s literary and film noir traditions to create hallucinatory dreamscapes. Waits mined a rich seam of the city’s low-life locations and characters, letting the place feed his dark imagination. Mixing the domestic with the mythic, Waits turned quotidian, autobiographical details into something more disturbing and emblematic, a vision of Los Angeles as the warped, narcotic heart of his nocturnal explorations. In this episode host Michael Shields and Alex Harvey discuss what Tom Wait’s Los Angeles of the 1970s was actually like, a LA that doesn’t exist today. They explore how the Beat writers like Jack Kerouac and Charles Bukowski influenced Waits’ songwriting and how the city eventually became more of a trap than means of escape for Waits. The expound upon the character of Frank that Waits brought to life over a trilogy of albums, his highly accomplished acting career, and so much more.