Across the Margin: The Podcast


Episode 142: From The Hood to The Holler with Pat McGee

This episode of Across The Margin: The Podcast presents an interview with Pat McGee, a documentary director in both film and television who works to unearth character-driven stories that push to find common ground. Most recently, McGee directed and produced the award-winning From the Hood to the Holler — the focus of this episode — a feature on political activist Charles Booker of Kentucky, one of the rising stars of the progressive political movement. McGee’s other film credits are notable. Also this year he executive produced and directed the soon-to-be-released project about Warren Jeffs, the leader of the Former Latter Day Saints, for Warner Bros. / Discovery. His debut feature documentary, American Relapse, won feature documentary honors at film festivals across the country. In 2018, Vice TV launched the original Pat McGee Pictures series Dopesick Nation, a 10-part documentary about the opioid epidemic in Florida. In early 2020, Pat McGee directed and produced the feature documentary Bernie Blackout for Vice TV. Other documentary feature credits include The Deported featuring Rosario Dawson, From The Hood To The Holler finds political activist Charles Booker working to unite people of all socioeconomic backgrounds while fighting against big money in politics, voter suppression, and systemic corruption. Running in the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate seat held by Mitch McConnell, Charles Booker attempted one of the biggest upsets in political history by challenging establishment-backed candidate Amy McGrath. From The Hood To The Holler follows Booker’s campaign across Kentucky, from the most urban to the most rural settings, with Booker and his team rewriting the campaign playbook. Instead of exploiting divisions, they lean into the idea that average Kentuckians have common bonds, united by their shared day-to-day fight to survive. Booker works to represent Kentuckians, both Black and White, who feel entirely left out of the political process. In From the Hood to the Holler, McGee captures a young man finding his voice as a leader and his incredible journey against the odds. Booker’s message is simple: Whether you are from the city “hood” — like Booker — or the Appalachian “holler,” you are not invisible. In this episode host Michael Shields and Pat McGee discuss what makes Charles Booker such a special candidate, one that is particularly suited for tackling the problems facing Kentucky in these uncertain times. They discuss how genuine of a human and public servant Booker is, and how painful losses in his life and the Black Lives Matter movement affected his campaign and life. They expound upon Booker’s “New Southern Strategy,” his uncanny capacity to thoughtfully listen to his constituents on the campaign trail, his forthcoming electoral face off with Rand Paul in November, and so much more.

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Episode 146: Harvard’s Quixotic Pursuit of a New Science with Patrick L. Schmidt

This episode of Across The Margin: The Podcast presents an interview with the author of Harvard’s Quixotic Pursuit of a New Science (The Rise and Fall of the Department of Social Relations), Patrick L. Schmidt. In Harvard’s Quixotic Pursuit of a New Science, Schmidt tells the little-known story of how some of the most renowned social scientists of the twentieth century struggled to elevate their emerging disciplines of cultural anthropology, sociology, and social and clinical psychology. Scorned and marginalized in their respective departments in the 1930s for pursuing the controversial theories of Freud and Jung, they persuaded Harvard to establish a new department, promising to create an interdisciplinary science that would surpass in importance Harvard’s “big three” disciplines of economics, government, and history. Although the Department of Social Relations failed to achieve this audacious goal, it nonetheless attracted an outstanding faculty, produced important scholarly work, and trained many notable graduates. At times, it was a wild ride. Some faculty became notorious for their questionable research: Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert (reborn as Ram Dass) gave the psychedelic drug psilocybin to students, while Henry Murray traumatized undergraduate Theodore Kaczynski (later the Unabomber) in a three-year-long experiment. Central to the story is the obsessive quest of legendary sociologist Talcott Parsons for a single theory unifying the social sciences — the white whale to his Captain Ahab. All in all, Schmidt’s lively narrative is an instructive tale of academic infighting, hubris, and scandal. Patrick L. Schmidt is an attorney in Washington, D.C. He received a BA, magna cum laude, from Harvard College, a JD from Georgetown University, and an MIPP from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. He first examined the history of the Department of Social Relations in his undergraduate honors thesis at Harvard, meaning that he has lived with and examined this story for many years now. In this episode host Michael Shields and Patrick L. Schmidt examine why a group of some of the most distinguished social scientists of the twentieth century embarked up the controversial yet noble endeavor of birthing the multidisciplinary, innovative Department of Social Relations at Harvard. They discuss the famed thinkers that were members of the department such as Timothy Leary, Ram Dass, Henry Murray, and Talcott Parsons. They explore the exciting rise of the Department of Social Relations, it’s controversial downfall, and ultimately expound upon the legacy and lasting impact of the movement and those a part of it. Grab a copy of Harvard’s Quixotic Pursuit of a New Science here!

Episode 145: Chris Forsyth's Evolution Here We Come

This episode of Across The Margin: The Podcast presents an interview with musician Chris Forsyth. It isn't hyperbole to describe Chris as one of rock’s most gifted improvisers. Chris got his start in Brooklyn's experimental circles in the early 2000s and promptly grew into a masterful technical player. As the bandleader of Chris Forsyth & the Solar Motel Band, he composed mostly instrumental pieces that channeled both the psychedelic jamming of the Grateful Dead and the precision of art-punk guitar acts like Television. Whether with the Solar Motel Band or on his other solo projects, Chris sources from an extensive pool of influences — psychedelia, folk, noise, classic rock — melding the varying influences into Chris’s own brand of cerebral improvisational rock. Chris’s latest album — the focus of this episode — is entitled Evolution Here We Come, a largely instrumental album and a powerful and driving work of art. Featuring contributions from Douglas McCombs (Tortoise), Marshall Allen (Sun Ra Arkestra), Steve Wynn (The Dream Syndicate), Linda Pitmon (The Baseball Project), Tom Malach (Garcia Peoples), Ryan Jewell (Ryley Walker), and co-producer Dave Harrington (Darkside), Evolution Here We Come is seven sprawling sonic journeys that exhibit just how talented of a guitarist Chris persists as. In this episode host Michael Shields and Chris Forsyth discuss how music from the 80s and bands such as ZZ Top influenced Evolution Here We Come while talking about what it was like co-producing the album with Dave Harrington (Darkside). They recount how Chris was able to get Marshall Allen (Sun Ra Arkestra) to play on the album, what it meant to cover Richard Thompson’s “You’re Going To Need Somebody,” his forthcoming tour with Meg Baird, and so much more.

Episode 144: Kenny Roby's Kenny Roby

This episode of Across The Margin: The Podcast presents an interview with Woodstock, New York via North Carolina singer-songwriter Kenny Roby. Roby is the former lead singer of 6 String Drag, which he formed with bassist Rob Keller in the early 1990s, a band which quickly became one of the more notable bands of the Americana movement. The band's style ranged from old style country with a hint of soul and gospel to rock. While 6 String Drag broke up in the late 1990s, Roby continues to make records and play live shows with the Mercy Filter, which includes Scott McCall of $2 Pistols. Roby has released seven solo albums, his latest album — the focus of the episode — is self-titled and written and recorded in Woodstock, NY. Throughout Kenny Roby, the gifted storyteller embraces the spirits of songwriters who once inhabited the very same hills like Fred Neil, Van Morrison, Tim Hardin, Karen Dalton, Bobby Charles, Levon Helm and, of course, Bob Dylan. Over the album's dozen tracks, Roby — supported by a cast including Daniel Littleton (guitars), Jeff Hill (bass), Tony Leone (drums) and superb guest vocals from Amy Helm and the legendary John Sebastian on harmonica — takes us on a sprawling walk through the neighborhood of his mind. In this episode host Michael Shields and Kenny Roby discuss Kenny Roby’s genesis and the themes present in the album. They talk about the outstanding players on the album such as Amy Helm and John Sebastian while exploring how living in Woodstock, New York led to who contributed to the album’s enthralling sound. They discuss Roby’s friendship and working relationship with Neal Casal and the gifts that deep acquaintanceship still award Roby, and so much more.