The 7th Avenue Project
The 7th Avenue Project
Robert Pollie
A podcast exploring questions in science, culture, music, philosophy and more. Life as we know it, or would like to. The content varies from episode to episode and includes interviews, music and the occasional sound-rich story in the tradition of This American Life or Radio Lab. Produced and hosted by Robert Pollie in California.
Remembering Comedian Garry Shandling with Paul Provenza
There are a lot of comedians whose work I'm partial to, but I have a special place in my pantheon for Garry Shandling. He was funny, unsparing, compassionate, psychologically acute and epistemologically astute all at once, an uneasy combination of entertainer and truth-seeker. When I learned of his untimely death on March 24, like many fans I felt bereaved, and I sought out someone to talk to who loved his work as much as I do: Paul Provenza. Paul is a comedian and a sort of comedy curator, chronicler and catalyst, and he was responsible for one of Garry's more memorable public appearances, which I was fortunate enough to attend thanks to Paul. We talked about Garry the person and the performer – and the complicated relationship thereof.
Apr 5, 2016
1 hr 1 min
Gravity Waves Explained by Physicist Anthony Aguirre
If the news coverage of recently discovered gravitational waves left you with lingering questions, you've come to the right place. Theoretical physicist Anthony Aguirre, our go-to guy on all things general relativistic, provides some great insight into the details and subtleties that popular accounts ignored or glossed over.
Mar 15, 2016
53 min
Gwendolyn Mok: Pianist and Musical Medium
Gwendolyn Mok may have flunked her first Juilliard audition at the age of 5, but that was just a speed bump en route to a distinguished recording and concert career. Gwen sees herself as a kind of medium, doing her best to channel the spirit and intentions of composers such as Brahms, Mendelssohn, Saint-Saëns, and particularly Ravel. Her brand of originalism extends to playing historic pianos like those the composers themselves knew and wrote for, and Gwen demonstrated with some exquisite renditions on an 1868 Erard and 1871 Streicher as we talked about her life as a student, performer and teacher. Also discussed: her school days with Yo Yo Ma, apprenticing with Ravel's last living student, performing with Astor Piazzolla, driving the Silk Road in a 1940 Chevy, making mistakes in concert, and the best place to listen to a piano.
Feb 23, 2016
1 hr 18 min
George Yancy: Philosophizing While Black
“As a black male in the United States,” says George Yancy, “to do philosophy in the abstract would be to deny the reality of my own existence.” Yancy grew up in a tough North Philadelphia housing project, where young men were far more likely to end up in early graves or jail than in academia. He beat the odds and now enjoys the status of a tenured professor at a major university, but he hasn't forgotten where he came from, or the racial realities that made his story so unlikely. George and I talked about his beginnings, becoming a philosopher and using his brand of "down to earth" philosophizing to explore the structure of blackness, whiteness and lived experience in a racialized society.
Nov 22, 2015
1 hr 16 min
Molecular Biologist Kevin Esvelt: Gene Drives, CRISPR Critters and Evolutionary Sculpting
It's one thing to genetically modify an organism in the lab. It's another thing entirely to spread those modifications in the wild, altering whole populations or even species. A new technology, the “CRISPR gene drive,” promises to do just that, giving human beings an unprecedented ability to fine-tune the natural world and nudge evolution in new directions. Malaria-resistant mosquitoes? Lyme-blocking ticks? Those are just a few of the applications floated so far, but the possibilities are endless. I talked to molecular biologist and “evolutionary sculptor” Kevin Esvelt, who first proposed the CRISPR gene drive, about its potential, perils and steps to ensure that we use our new powers wisely.
Nov 15, 2015
1 hr 25 min
Comic Book Artist Dean Haspiel: Superheroes, Antiheroes, Fantasy and Autobiography
If you're going to tell cool stories in comic books, it helps to have had a colorful life and interesting friends. Dean Haspiel has had both. His dad was a writer, occasional street vigilante and confidante of Marilyn Monroe. Mom's pals included Shelly Winters and the young Bobby De Niro, who was one of Dean's babysitters. Dean worked with Harvey Pekar and Jonathan Ames on their respective graphic novels, and won an Emmy for his title work on Jonathan's HBO sitcom "Bored to Death." He was also the inspiration for Ray the cartoonist, played on BTD by Zack Galifianakis. We talked about all of the above, plus Dean's beginnings as a comic artist, his love of superheroes and his own hero complex, his residencies at the Yaddo artist colony, and his latest comic memoir, "Beef with Tomato."
Oct 11, 2015
1 hr
Jonathan Gottschall: "The Professor in the Cage: Why Men Fight and Why We Like to Watch"
Jonathan Gottschall's career as a college English prof was on the rocks, and he was desperate to do something completely different. So in his late 30s he left the classroom for the cage, taking up mixed martial arts and training for an amateur bout. It was more than a mid-life escapade, though. Jonathan had some unresolved issues around bullying in his own youth, and wanted to better understand the relationship between violence and masculinity, including his own. We talked about MMA, male aggression and Jonathan's book "The Professor in the Cage: Why Men Fight and Why We Like to Watch," as well as his ill-fated stint as a literary scholar with an evolutionary bent.
Sep 27, 2015
1 hr 21 min
Jonathan Ames: From Writer to Sitcom Showrunner
“I was an obscure novelist and then I was given the keys to this production, and I had to learn on the spot.” And learn he did, helming HBO's "Bored to Death" for three hilarious seasons and now "Blunt Talk" on Starz. Jonathan Ames describes the delights and terrors of television auteur-dom, the dubious distinction of being TV's first showrunner to go Full Monty, being manhandled by Zack Galifianakis, his friendship with Jason Schwartzman, the comedic excellence of Patrick Stewart and more, while making decorous use of euphemism.
Sep 20, 2015
59 min
Is Most Scientific Research Wrong? Psychologist Mike Frank on the "Reproducibility Crisis"
It's been called the "decline effect," "the proteus phenomenon," and "the reproducibility crisis": the startling realization that a lot of seemingly solid scientific research doesn't pan out under repeated testing. The latest blow to scientific confidence comes from the Reproducibility Project, which attempted to replicate 100 published psychology studies and found that, when the experiments were repeated, half or more failed to uphold the original findings. So is it time to start doubting the credibility of research in general? Stanford University psychologist and Reproducibility Project participant Mike Frank joined us to explain what the results really mean, misconceptions about statistical rigor in science, the various ways experimenters blunder and sometimes delude themselves, and the gradual, cumulative nature of scientific progress.
Sep 13, 2015
1 hr 20 min
Policing: Myths Vs. Realities with Seth Stoughton
Cop shows and tough-on-crime rhetoric often depict a world so brutish that police have no choice but to play rough and kick butt, but Seth Stoughton says we've been misled. The former cop turned law professor and policing expert contends that civility, a cool head and patience are far more effective in fighting crime and reducing risks to the public and police than the warrior mentality getting so much emphasis these days in popular culture and some police departments.Seth and I talked about the psychology of police-civilian confrontations, alternatives to deadly force, and some recent cases where things went famously wrong, including the Walter Scott shooting, the Sandra Bland arrest and the McKinney pool party.
Aug 30, 2015
1 hr 18 min
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