Across the Margin: The Podcast


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.

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Episode 137: Marco Benevento's Benevento

This episode of Across The Margin : The Podcast features an interview with pianist, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and record producer, who has been a fixture of the New York experimental music rock and jazz scene since 1999, Marco Benevento. Marco’s music covers a wide swath of ground, seemingly connecting the dots in the vast space between LCD Soundsystem and legendary musician Leon Russell. His songwriting is smart and earthy, yet simultaneously pulsating with dance rock energy. Benevento’s high energy live shows — fronting a three-piece band currently composed by bassist Karina Rykman and drummer Dave Butler — have led to numerous high profile appearances, ranging from Carnegie Hall, to High Sierra Music Festival, Peach Festival, and beyond. Marco is the founder and recording engineer of Fred Short, a recording studio in Upstate New York, and a member of the groups Benevento/Russo Duo and Joe Russo's Almost Dead. In the studio, he’s collaborated with the likes of Richard Swift (The Shins, Nathaniel Rateliff), Leon Michels (Lee Fields, Freddie Gibbs) and Simone Felice (The Felice Brothers, The Lumineers) among others. While Marco’s work is prolific and all worthy of discussion, this episode focuses on his forthcoming album Benevento. Titled as a nod to Paul McCartney’s first solo album, what Benevento amounts to is forty minutes of small-batch psychedelia in which, with few exceptions, Marco played all of the instruments. He also produced and engineered the album, all from Fred Short Studios, located at his Woodstock, NY home. Deeply indebted to the West African psychedelia of artists such as Kiki Gyan, Francis Bebey and William Onyeabor, the songs are rhythmic and repetitive, built into thick mosaics of sound.In this episode host Michael Shields and Marco Benevento delve into the album’s influences and the manner in which it all came to life within his upstate studio. They discuss how the lyrics were created in collaboration with Al Howard, a San Diego-based poet, and what it was like playing all instruments on the album himself. They also discuss a festival Benevento is curating in Accord, New York this June called Follow The Arrow (tickets available now!), and much, much more.

Episode 136: My Fourth Time, We Drowned with Sally Hayden

This episode of Across The Margin: The Podcast features an interview withaward-winning journalist and photographer currently focused on migration, conflict, and humanitarian crises, Sally Hayden. Hayden has worked with VICE News, CNN International, TIME, BBC, the Washington Post, the Guardian, the New York Times, Al Jazeera, NBC News, Newsweek, the Independent, the Telegraph, the National, the Huffington Post and ITV News, and had stories and photojournalism republished on six continents by outlets including National Geographic, NPR, the Observer, ABC News, among many others. She was named as one of Forbes' "30 Under 30” in Media in Europe, in part because of her work on refugee issues. Her book My Fourth Time We Drowned: Seeking Refuge on the World’s Deadliest Migration Route — the focus of this episode — exposes a human rights disaster of epic proportions. One day, Sally Hayden was at home in London when she received a message on Facebook that read: “Hi sister Sally, we need your help.” The sender identified himself as an Eritrean refugee who had been held in a Libyan detention center for months, locked in one big hall with hundreds of others. The city around them was crumbling in a conflict between warring factions, and they remained stuck, defenseless, with only one remaining hope — contacting her.From this single message begins a staggering account of the migrant crisis across North Africa. With unprecedented access to people currently inside Libyan detention centers, Hayden’s book is based on interviews with hundreds of refugees and migrants who tried to reach Europe and found themselves stuck in Libya once the EU started funding interceptions in 2017. My Fourth Time, We Drowned is an intimate portrait of life for these detainees, as well as a condemnation of NGOs and the United Nations, whose abdication of international standards will echo throughout history. But most importantly, Hayden’s groundbreaking work of investigative journalism shines a light on the resilience of humans — how refugees and migrants locked up for years fall in love, support each other through the hardest times, and carry out small acts of resistance in order to survive in a system that wants them to be silent and disappear. In this episode host Michael Shields and Sally Hayden discuss the compelling story of how a cryptic Facebook message led to the revelation of atrocities taking place in detention camps in Northern Africa. They discuss the true scope of the migrant crisis taking place while expounding upon how the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN) are largely responsible for the ongoing emergency. They discuss the importance of documenting and paying attention to the suffering in the world, and much more.Grab a copy of Sally Hayden’s My Fourth Time, We Drowned here!

Episode 135: The 20th Anniversary of Personal Journals with Sage Francis

This episode of Across The Margin: The Podcast presents an interview with independent underground rapper Sage Francis, widely considered one of our generation’s greatest lyricists. His career derives mainly from gifted wordplay which creates vivid narratives to instigate as well as inspire. Dubbed as the “forefather of indie-hop,” Francis originally earned acclaim in the early 2000s by winning the most highly coveted titles of the emcee battle circuit. With little to no funding, Francis sustained himself by selling his innovative “Sick of” mixtapes, all made by hand on the floor of his Providence, Rhode Island apartment. These were essentially bootleg compilations full of select recordings from his 12” vinyl singles, demo sessions, live performances, and radio freestyles. The popularity of these tapes birthed Strange Famous Records (SFR); a meager, one-man operation in 1999. Despite having no official distribution, Francis’ unique brand of music spread like wildfire via the advent of file sharing networks. This resulted in him attaining a massive cult-like following around the world, creating a demand for his albums and live performances at which point the bigger labels took notice. With his first studio album, Personal Journals (2002), — the focus of this episode — Francis daringly set aside the more boastful side of rap by catering to his poetic leanings and scathing socio-political commentary. In 2005 Sage Francis was the first hip-hop artist signed to the punk rock label Epitaph Records and soon became one of the highest selling independent artists of his genre. Rather than abandon his day-to-day grind at SFR, he channeled all of his newfound resources into it, allowing the label to expand in staff as well as roster. Having fulfilled his contract obligations with Epitaph Records, Sage Francis has returned to releasing music independently as he gears up to defeat the odds. But, as alluded to, this episode focuses on where it all began for Francis, his aforementioned first studio album put into the world by the underground hip-hop collective Anticon in 2002. It’s a deeply personal album where Francis wears all of life’s suffering on his sleeve while inviting listeners to join in on a tour of the tortured, introspective mind of a gifted storyteller. While decisively weighty, Personal Journals is also witty, and full of hard-hitting old school boom bap hip-hop brimming with a slam poetry ethos.Personal Journals, like few hip-hop albums ever birthed, is an amazing display of fearless honesty and it’s easy to look at the lyrical offerings of Personal Journals as akin to Francis pulling wide his scar tissue and narrating a detailed, candid tour of their frayed innards. In this episode host Michael Shields and Francis discuss what Francis feels and about Personal Journals with twenty years of hindsight to consider. They explore the meaning behind a bevy of the tracks on the album while Francis shares stories about the Personal Journals recording sessions, how his intimate lyrics were received by those closest to him, and much, much more.Bonus Feature: At the conclusion of the episode you will hear a snippet of a demo referenced in the interview of "Runaways" lyrics over the Alias beat which would eventually become the "Keep Moving" song on Human the Death Dance!