Across the Margin: The Podcast
Episode 168: A House Made of Splinters with Simon Lereng Wilmont
This episode of Across The Margin: The Podcast presents an interview with director Simon Lereng Wilmont. Simon’s first feature documentary film, The Distant Barking of Dogs (2017), premiered at IDFA and was awarded Best First Appearance. It has since gone on to win 35+ awards worldwide. His latest documentary, A House Made of Splinters, the focus of this episode, made its world premiere at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival where it won the Best Director prize in the World-Cinema Documentary competition. The celebrated film was an Academy Award Nominee for Best Documentary Feature Film for the 2023 Oscars® and has continued to be a word-of-mouth success and essential to dialogues around crisis-caregiving amid the Russian-led invasion of Ukraine. A House Made of Splinters explores how the most vulnerable are caught up within institutional bureaucracies, generational traumas, and international flexes of power beyond their control and limits of understanding. It’s a film, as Simon Lereng Wilmont tells it, about “the long term, less visible, but no less devastating consequences that war has had on many of the small communities situated along frontline of the war in Eastern Ukraine. It is also a story about love, compassion and hope. This is what powers the dedicated, big-hearted caregivers working tirelessly to try and give the children a better future, and what makes these incredible children still want to reach out and dare to try and form close human connections despite the tragic circumstances of the broken families that they come from. In this episode host Michael Shields and Simon Lereng Wilmont discuss the psychological and emotional trauma that is inflicted upon children in times of war. They discuss how profoundly special the shelter at the heart of the film and those working there are. They talking about the generation cycles of trauma caused from war, coping mechanisms that kids are drawn to in dire situations, the power of hope , and so much more.
View all episodes
Episode 179: The Black Angels with Maria Smilios37:21This episode of Across The Margin: The Podcast presents an interview with Maria Smilios, a New York City native who has a Master of Arts in religion and literature from Boston University, where she was a Luce Scholar and a Presidential Scholar. Smilios spent five years at Springer Science & Business Media as development editor in the biomedical sciences, and has written for The Guardian, American Nurse, The Forward, Narratively, The Rumpus, and DAME Magazine. Her book, The Black Angels — the focus of this episode — tells the untold story of the nurses who helped cure tuberculosis. Nearly a century before the COVID-19 pandemic upended life as we know it, a devastating tuberculosis epidemic was ravaging hospitals across the country. In those dark, pre-antibiotic days, the disease claimed the lives of 1 in 7 Americans. In the United States alone, it killed over 5.6 million people in the first half of the twentieth century. Nowhere was TB more rampant than in New York City, where it spread like wildfire through the tenements, decimating the city’s poorest residents and communities of color. The city’s hospital system was already overwhelmed when, in 1929, the white nurses at Staten Island’s Sea View Hospital began quitting en masse. Pushed to the brink of a major labor crisis and fearing a public health catastrophe, city health officials made a call for Black female nurses seeking to work on the frontlines, promising them good pay, education, housing, and employment free from the constraints of Jim Crow. Spanning the Great Depression and moving through World War II and beyond, The Black Angels puts these women back at the center of this riveting story by spotlighting the twenty-plus years they spent battling the disease at Sea View. Using first-hand interviews and never-before-accessed archives, Smilios details how they labored under inconceivable conditions, putting in 14-hour days caring for people who lay waiting to die or, worse, become “guinea pigs” to test experimental (and often deadly) drugs at a facility that was understaffed, unregulated, and marred by rampant racism. Their narrative is interspersed with the parallel story of the tuberculosis cure, a miracle of public health policy that couldn’t have happened without the work of the nurses at Sea View. In this episode host Michael Shields and Maria Smilios explore just how terribly tuberculous was riddling the United States (and particularly New York City) and the birth of the Sea View treatment center in Staten Island where a cure was eventually brought into being. They celebrate the Black Angels, Black nurses who worked at the hospital who answered a call to help, and eventually changed the world. They discuss how racial discrimination affected the nurses, both in the deep South also upon their landing in New York. They also discuss the drug trials that led to the cure, the patent wars that followed, and so much more.
Episode 178: The Power Worshippers with Katherine Stewart48:58This episode of Across The Margin: The Podcast presents an interview with Katherine Stewart, an investigative reporter and author who has covered religious liberty, politics, policy, and education for over a decade. Her latest book, The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism, — the focus of this episode — is a rare look inside the machinery of the movement that brought Donald Trump to power. Stewart’s journalism appears in the New York Times op ed, NBC, the New Republic, and the New York Review of Books. For too long the Religious Right has masqueraded as a social movement preoccupied with a number of cultural issues, such as abortion and same-sex marriage. But in her deeply reported investigation that is The Power Worshippers, Stewart reveals a disturbing truth: America’s Religious Right has evolved into a Christian Nationalist movement. It seeks to gain political power and to impose its vision on all of society. It isn’t fighting a culture war, it is waging a political war on the norms and institutions of American democracy. Stewart shows that the real power of the movement lies in a dense network of think tanks, advocacy groups, and pastoral organizations, embedded in a rapidly expanding community of international alliances with like minded, anti-democratic religious nationalists around the world, including Russia. She follows the money behind the movement and traces much of it to a group of super-wealthy, ultraconservative donors, and family foundations. The Christian Nationalist movement is far more organized and better funded than most people realize. It seeks to control all aspects of government and society. Its successes have been stunning, and its influence now extends to every aspect of American life, from the White House to state capitols, from our schools to our hospitals. The Power Worshippers is a brilliantly reported book of warning and a wake-up call. Stewart’s probing examination demands that Christian Nationalism be taken seriously as a significant threat to the American republic and our democratic freedoms. In this episode host Michael Shields and Katherine Stewart discuss the distressing vision the Christian Nationalist movement has for Americans while considering the very real and important rights at stake. They talk about the lies about the history of the United States the movement are employing to further their cause (mostly from a man named David Barton), how the Christian Nationalist movement is going global, how Christian Nationalist are intent on stacking the courts throughout the country, and so much more.
Episode 177: Failure To Protect with Jeremy Pion-Berlin32:46This episode of Across The Margin : The Podcast presents an interview with innovative film and documentary Director and Producer Jeremy Pion-Berlin. Jeremy’s diverse skill set is reflected in the projects that he created: branded content for Samsung and Folgers, a docu-series Heartlandia (CarbonTV), and documentary chronicling professional football player, Derek Carr. His latest documentary — Failure to Protect — is the focus of this episode. Failure To Protect follows five parents -— Anna, Trish, Rheta, Ernst, and Rosa — as they fight desperately to reunify with their children taken by Child Protective Services (CPS). It’s an unwavering and nuanced look at the child welfare system where criminals have more rights than parents. Through these highly personal stories, Failure To Protect explores many tough questions, such as do parents whose personal struggles compromised their children’s safety deserve a second chance? Is the CPS system biased against minorities, LGBTQIA+ couples, and the economically disadvantaged? To avoid leaving a child in an abusive or dangerous environment, do social workers remove children first and ask questions later? The film offers an unprecedented, in-depth window into the grim realities of the child welfare system through the often ignored perspective of parents. In this episode host Michael Shields and Jeremy Jeremy Pion-Berlin discuss the surprising truth that a person has more rights as a criminal in the criminal justice system than as a parent in the child welfare system. They consider the amount of power social workers have while also acknowledging the immense challenges of their work. They talk about the profound trauma that affects both the parents and children in dealing with the foster system, potential changes that could make the child welfare system more just, and much more.
Episode 176: The Moth Project with Peter Kiesewalter30:54This episode of Across The Margin : The Podcast presents an interview with Peter Kiesewalter, who is the NYC-based composer and producer behind the new multimedia show “The Moth Project,” the GRAMMY nominated and Emmy Award winning East Village Opera Company, and Brooklyn Rundfunk Orkestrata’s song for song adaptation of the iconic musical “The Sound of Music” (titled “the Hills Are Alive”) — a project for which he received the much publicized blessing and support of the notoriously protective Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization. His prolific composition and arranging work (Film, TV, Theater, and commissions) balances formal classical and jazz studies with decades worth of experience performing and writing in many popular music idioms. "The Moth Project" is a multi-media production, music album, and book that marries art, science, and an innate connection to the environment. The Moth Project showcases how artists and musicians are stepping into the spotlight, collaborating with scientists to amplify the call of climate change in a captivating manner, filling the gaps where scientific data falls short. At the heart of "The Moth Project" lies two brothers. One, a passionate artist; the other, a dedicated botanist engrossed in our ecosystem. Amidst the 2020 quarantine in upstate New York, they, along with their six children, bonded over evening campfires, insightful dialogues, and the fascinating biodiversity around them. Inspired by the life cycle of the underappreciated moth, they crafted a narrative intertwining moth migrations with the immigration journey of Peter's family. In a world where millions are in constant movement, seeking new beginnings, it emphasizes the resilience of both nature and the human spirit, and highlights the interconnectedness between the two. In this episode host Michael Shields and Peter Kiesewalter discuss how the Moth Project began amid the depths of the pandemic, when Peter and his family left New York City for his family's cottage in Canada where his connection to nature deepened. The converse upon how esteemed botanist Robin Wall Kimmerer, the author behind Braiding Sweetgrass, lent her voice to the project's central piece (entitled “Reciprocity”). They talk about violinist Whitney La Grange’s unforgettable contributions to the project, the incredible diversity of moths and the common themes humans share with them, how learning about moth migration had Peter thinking about his family history, and much, much more.
Episode 175: Rivers in Our Veins with Allison Miller33:14This episode of Across The Margin : The Podcast presents an interview with lauded drummer, composer, bandleader, and teacher Allison Miller. Miller is a musician who has mastered a vast array of musical settings — from guesting on late night TV to keeping time for some of today's most beloved singer-songwriters (such as Ani DiFranco, Natalie Merchant, and Brandi Carlile). She has recorded six albums as a bandleader — 5 AM Stroll, Boom Tic Boom, No Morphine-No Lilies, Live at Willisau, Otis Was a Polar Bear, and Glitter Wolf — as well as working as a session musician. Her work with bands has included forming the band Honey Ear Trio with Rene Hart and Erik Lawrence, Holler and Bam with Toshi Reagon, and her own band, Allison Miller's Boom Tic Boom. She is also a member of the jazz supergroup ARTEMIS. Miller’s latest album Rivers in Our Veins — the focus of this episode — is a 12-song cycle embracing the concept of flow and renewal, and dedicated to the United State's crucial rivers, watersheds, and the organizations devoted to reviving and protecting them. Her band features a deeply telepathic cast of improvisers, including violinist Jenny Scheinman, Ben Goldberg on contra-alto and Bb clarinets, pianist Carmen Staaf, trumpeter Jason Palmer, bassist Todd Sickafoose, and a grouping of remarkable tap-dancers (learn more about this in the episode!). The captivating piece of American art that is Rivers in Our Veins was commissioned by the Lake Placid Center for the Arts and acts as a tribute to the natural environments we are blessed to live within and around and to those who make it their mission to protect them; In this episode host Michael Shields and Allison Miller discuss just how, specifically, her latest album was inspired by five American rivers and our nation’s crucial waterways in general. They talk about the phenomenally talented assemblage of musicians featured on the Rivers in Our Veins and the tap dancers who enliven a bevy of songs on the album. They discuss the tour which boasts an ambitious multimedia production, the curiosities of being a bandleader as a drummer, Miller’s musical inspirations, and a whole lot more.
Episode 174: Body Count with Ben Apatoff35:01This episode of Across The Margin : The Podcast features an interview with author Ben Apatoff, whose writing has appeared in Alternative Press, Loudwire, Ultimate Classic Rock, Metal Injection, MetalSucks, Daily News, The Deli, Electric Literature, Beyond Race, Outburn and MLB.com. He is the author of Metallica: The $24.95 Book (2021). His latest book — the 33 ⅓ dedicated to Bodycount’s Bodycount — is the focus of this episode. Drawn from years of research and dozens of new interviews, Apatoff’s book tells the story of a band of high school friends who revolutionized modern music, brought explosive live performances, and raised questions America's lawmakers didn't want to answer, overcoming some of the country's most powerful forces to reshape the world's cultural conversation. In this episode host Michael Shields and Ben Apatoff expound upon just how fast Ice-T’s fame was amplifying before the “Cop Killer” controversy boiled over. They talk about how the controversy began, how it swelled to a level no other music industry artist faced prior, and explore the fallout of the dispute on Ice-T, Bodycount, and Time Warner. The discuss the genius of guitarist/producer Ernie Cunningham, Body Count's enduring legacy, and how Body Count, ultimately, outlasted the politicians that scorned them and the record stores that banned them.
Episode 173: Louis Michot's Rêve du Troubadour46:21This episode of Across The Margin : The Podcast presents an interview with musician Louis Michot, best known as the fiddle player and lead-singer for the Grammy-award winning Lost Bayou Ramblers. Rêve du Troubadour, the first solo album from Louis Michot and the focus of this episode, is set for release on September 22, 2023. Special guests on these recordings include Nigerian Tuareg guitar wizard Bombino and critically acclaimed singer / cellist Leyla McCalla, among others. Although known as a fiddle player, Michot can be found performing on guitar, bass, T’fer (triangle), samplers, percussions, and accordion on the album. Some of the eclectic, captivating tracks feature him playing every part, while others find him backed by bassist Bryan Webre and drummer Kirkland Middleton of the Ramblers. Middleton also engineered and mixed the album at Nina Highway Studios in Arnaudville, Louisiana with various, talented musicians building on tracks Michot had recorded at his home, houseboat studio. Though Michot has published over 100 songs, he feels that Rêve du Troubadour is his first collection of “writing” as these songs tell their stories in much greater depth than he’s achieved before and utilize words peculiar to Louisiana French which seldom appear in musical compositions. Michot’s passion for Louisiana French and local folklore, and sustainability in the fastest disappearing landmass in the world, are what fuels his career as a musician. With over 20 LPs under his belt, his music career continues to push the boundaries of the Louisiana French music traditions. In this episode host Michael Shields and Louis Michot discuss Michot’s Cajun roots and the varied influences that helped shape his unique musical stylings. They thoroughly explore Michot’s latest album, how it was crafted in his studio which was built in a houseboat dry-docked on his property, and how many of the soundscapes on it were inspired by nature and the ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax. They talk about the amazing guests featured on the album, what to expect from Michot’s forthcoming tour, Michot’s work in scoring films, and so much more.
Episode 172: Jewish Space Lasers with Mike Rothschild28:05This episode of Across The Margin : The Podcast features an interview with journalist, author, and conspiracy theory expert Mike Rothschild. Mike has written two previous books, including The Storm is Upon Us: How QAnon Became a Movement, Cult, and Conspiracy Theory of Everything. He has been interviewed by CNN, MSNBC, NPR, the BBC, the Washington Post, and the New York Times, among many other outlets, to discuss conspiracy theories and has testified to Congress on the threat of election disinformation. His latest book, Jewish Space Lasers: The Rothschilds and 200 Years of Conspiracy Theories, is the focus of this episode. Jewish Space Lasers: The Rothschilds and 200 Years of Conspiracy Theories is a deeply researched dive into the history of the conspiracy industry around the Rothschild family — from the “pamphlet wars” of Paris in the 1840s to the dankest pits of the internet today. Journalist and conspiracy theory expert Mike Rothschild, who isn’t related to the family, sorts out myth from reality to find the truth about these conspiracy theories and their spreaders. Who were the Rothschilds? Who are they today? Do they really own $500 trillion and every central bank, in addition to “controlling the British money supply?” Is any of this actually true? And why, even as their wealth and influence have waned, do they continue to drive conspiracies and hoaxes? In this episode host Michael Shields and Mike Rothschild explore just how the Rothschild family originally became the focus of countless antisemitic conspiracy theories while considering how the story of the Rothschild conspiracy theories is the story of modern antisemitism. They talk about the “myth to end all myths” involving the Battle of Waterloo, how authentically dangerous the Rothschild conspiracy theories are, how George Soros has become the present-day stand-in for the Rothschilds, and so much more.
Episode 171: Mike Baggetta & mssv's Human Reaction25:52This episode of Across The Margin : The Podcast presents an interview with musician Mike Baggetta, one third of the experimental rock/punk band Main Steam Stop Valve (mssv). mssv recently released their second studio album, Human Reaction, a captivating collection of songs that is the focus of this episode. The band, composed of guitarist Mike Baggetta, Stephen Hodges on drums, and Mike Watt on bass, creates music that is an unimagined hybrid of a punk power-trio and a dreamy experimental rock band, though they prefer the term “post-genre.” Recorded mostly on May Day immediately following their last tour, Human Reaction traverses a deeply broad sonic landscape, as expected from this nearly unclassifiable group. With inventively churning drum textures from Hodges (an instantly identifiable sound honed in his days with Tom Waits and David Lynch) and the full-steam-ahead all-in attitude from Watt, (as he’s displayed throughout his storied career with MINUTEMEN, fIREHOSE, and The Stooges), there is still the impression of “pressure, combustion, power, and hissing clouds of sonic poetry,” as Premier Guitar puts it. Also evident is the more fearless exploring that comes from a band that has spent a lot of time together crafting their vision. In this episode host Michael Shields and Mike Baggetta discuss the origins of mssv before diving in deeply about how their second album came to life on the road. They discuss the band’s lyrical awakening featured on the album, working on music with Nels Cline, the forthcoming 58 date fall tour, and so much more.