Welcome to the Nerdette Book Club! Where we read a book a month and chat about it with a rotating group of panelists. It’s just like a normal book club except no one shames you when you don't do the reading. This episode is all about Kiley Reid’s excellent debut novel, Such a Fun Age. It’s an incisive look at race and class in modern America, (and it also happens to be really funny.) Join Nerdette host Greta Johnsen, New York magazine advice columnist Heather Havrilesky and The Morning AMp and Making Beyoncé host Jill Hopkins. And hey! Next month, we’re reading Anna Wiener’s Uncanny Valley, a memoir about working in the bro-heavy tech industry. Read the book and send us your thoughts by recording your voice with your smartphone, then email the audio file to firstname.lastname@example.org. And tune in for the conversation on Friday, Feb. 28!
Nerdette has always been a podcast for book lovers, but for the first few months of 2020, we’re doubling down. Join host Greta Johnsen and a rotating cast of panelists as they discuss the year’s buzziest books. Whether you can’t wait to dive in or just want to sound like you know what you’re talking about with your book nerd buddies, this is the podcast for you. First up: Such a Fun Age, Kiley Reid’s debut page-turner about race and class in America. Read it, and share your thoughts by recording yourself an emailing the file to email@example.com! Then tune in Friday, Jan. 31 as Greta discusses it with The Cut’s Ask Polly columnist Heather Havrilesky, The Morning Amp’s Jill Hopkins, and YOU!
Books! Books! Books! Greta read 72 books this year, and today she sits down and ranks her 10 favorites. (Plus, she speaks with the author of her favorite book of 2019, ‘Such A Fun Age’ by Kiley Reid.) Here's her full list, and you can get more details on each title at this link: 10. Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes 9. The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman 8. The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo 7. Miracle Creek by Angie Kim 6. Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson 5. Wolfpack by Abby Wambach 4. Little Weirds by Jenny Slate 3. She Said by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey 2. Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson 1. Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid
Good gravy! It's George R.R. Martin! If you're unfamiliar, he's the author of that little book series that became one of the most popular TV shows of all time, Game of Thrones. These days, he’s in the midst of writing the final two novels in that series. Before he sat down with Greta, his team told us that he couldn’t answer the question on everyone’s mind ("So, like, when’s the next book coming out?"). So we didn’t ask that one, but Martin did tell us plenty about how writing is going, how he’s managing fan expectations and what he expects for the future of fantasy TV. Plus! We have a super-special announcement at the end of the interview!
To celebrate the approach of another wonderful two-day break, Nerdette host Greta Johnsen talked with Alison Roman, author of the new cookbook Nothing Fancy, about three ways to make sure you host the most badass dinner party possible (she prefers to call it “having people over”). And did you know that the largest 3D printer in the world just printed the world’s largest 3D-printed boat? We talk to Habib Dagher, the executive director at the Advanced Structures and Composites Center at the University of Maine. His team was responsible for this accomplishment, so we asked him why they did it, how much pizza it took to do it, and what it might mean for the future of innovation and manufacturing. Plus, if you’re a grammar nerd, this episode may tick you right off. Gretchen McCulloch is the author of Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language, and she explains how the internet has given us all access to the writings of normal people, which has led to more and more people writing with less formality and more creativity — and without obeying grammar rules. Then she goes on to tell us why that’s awesome. You'll either love it or hate it! (And oh yeah: Check out this week's Nerdette newsletter and sign up!)
We’ve finished The Testaments! Press play and join Nerdette host Greta Johnsen, New York Magazine’s Heather Havrilesky and Vocalo’s Jill Hopkins for this final installment of the #NerdetteBookClub. You’ll hear how each of us rated the book on a scale of 1-10 warm milks (10 being the best, obviously), what the professional reviewers thought, and how much your fellow book club members liked it! Plus, if you need post-Testaments-reading recommendations, check out this week's Nerdsletter (and subscribe)! And hey! Thanks for being a part of our inaugural book club. Did you enjoy it? Please send feedback, good or bad, to firstname.lastname@example.org. We want to know what you thought!
We’re two thirds of the way through Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments, and we’ve got a lot to talk about. This week is all about chapters 24 through 46, and our panel of intrepid feminists questions whether these storylines are just a little toooo convenient, whether it’s really possible to rip a person apart with your bare hands … and what the deal is with all that warm milk. Want to be a part of the #NerdetteBookClub? Easy! Just press play and join Nerdette host Greta Johnsen, New York Magazine’s Heather Havrilesky and Vocalo’s Jill Hopkins. Just make sure you finish The Testaments before next Friday, October 4. That’s when we’ll talk all about the ending. And we want to hear what you thought about the book! (Please tell us how you felt on a scale of 1 to 10 warm milks.) Share your thoughts with us by recording your voice with your smartyphone. Then email the audio file to email@example.com, preferably by Tuesday evening. You may hear yourself in the final episode!
Our reading of Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments has commenced! This week, we’re talking about book chapters 1 through 23. So … spoilers abound. Join Nerdette host Greta Johnsen, New York Magazine’s Heather Havrilesky and Vocalo’s Jill Hopkins as they contemplate the motives of Aunt Lydia, wonder what’s in that darn safe and talk smack about the mean girls of Gilead. To follow along with us, read The Testaments through chapter 46 (pages 124-282) before next Friday, September 27. And hey, we want to hear from you too! Share your thoughts with us by recording your voice with your smartyphone. (Please be succinct!) Then email the audio file to firstname.lastname@example.org, preferably by Tuesday evening. You may hear yourself in an episode! And when you need to tweet or Instagram something really important about the club, just use #NerdetteBookClub on the internets, and so will we.
Welcome to the Nerdette Book Club! It’s just like a normal book club but in podcast form, and you provide your own booze. In this episode, we're taking a look back at Margaret Atwood's 1985 dystopian novel 'The Handmaid's Tale' before sending you out to read Atwood's brand new sequel, 'The Testaments.' What are the rules of a book club podcast, you ask? Well, after this 'Handmaid’s Tale' refresher, we're all going to read 'The Testaments' together over the next three weeks — and talk about what’s happening, why a sequel to a 35 year old book is relevant today and whether the bastards really will get us down. And we’ll do it in three chunks. Here are your assignments: By Friday Sept. 20, read The Testaments through Chapter 23 (pages 1-133) By Friday Sept. 27, read The Testaments through Chapter 46 (pages 134-282) By Friday Oct. 4, finish The Testaments (pages 283-end!) Listen to this podcast each of those Fridays! Joining Nerdette’s Greta Johnsen is the wonderful Jill Hopkins, host of the Morning Amp on WBEZ’s sister station Vocalo, and the delightful Heather Havrilesky, who writes the Ask Polly advice column for New York Magazine. And hey, we want your crazy interpretations too! Share your thoughts with us by recording your voice with your smartyphone. (Please be succinct!) Then email the audio file to email@example.com, preferably by Tuesday evenings. You may hear yourself in an episode! And when you need to tweet or Instagram something really important about the club, just use #NerdetteBookClub on the internets, and so will we. OK let’s do this!
September is right around the corner, which means fall is coming. To celebrate, Nerdette host Greta Johnsen talks with Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks, author and illustrator of the new graphic novel Pumpkinheads. It’s about Deja and Josiah, two high schoolers who love working at an amazing pumpkin patch every autumn. But the story starts on their last day of work as they try to enjoy everything the patch has to offer one last time. We also check in with an atmospheric scientist who’s about to head north — way north — for the world’s biggest climate study. And then, for your weekend enjoyment: Booksmart is now available to stream in your home, a recipe for the best chocolate chip cookies ever, and a song to help you groove through the day.
Abra Berens is a Midwest born-and-bred farmer-turned-chef. And her cookbook, Ruffage, is a gorgeous A-to-Z guide to vegetables. The idea, she tells us, is this: You go to the grocery store, buy what inspires you and then you go home to look up meal ideas in her cookbook. Abra’s not a pretentious chef who poo-poos comfort food. Instead, she’s all about meeting people where they are (and encouraging you to enjoy your veggies). She talks with Greta about how she approaches cooking, why her book is called “Ruffage” and why cabbage is her favorite vegetable. (Weird, right?)
Chicago Magazine called this novel "a Midwestern Big Little Lies — an intimate character study of a group of affluent, secretive women." In this bonus interview, Greta talks with author Claire Lombardo about her debut novel, ‘The Most Fun We Ever Had.’ It’s the story of four radically different daughters from suburban Chicago. And it’s about love, family, forgiveness and the importance of showing up.
These days there are more and more celebrations of women who might have otherwise been relegated to the footnotes of history. As you can imagine, here at Nerdette we’re all about that. Totally into it. Zero complaints. But what is equally as wonderful is when the spotlight also lands on accomplished young girls. And that’s what author Kate Schatz and illustrator Miriam Klein Stahl have done with their book Rad Girls Can, which tells the stories of inspiring young women who have made positive impacts on the world before turning 20. We talk with the author and illustrator about some of their favorite stories of young ladies who changed the world, and how you can be one too.
Is summer a great time for watching TV? Heck yeah it is. So we caught up with New York Times TV critic Margaret Lyons to get recommendations for the best of the best summer TV, including shows that are dark and mysterious, bright and fun, and also the throwbackiest throwback binges.
When anyone at WBEZ needs book recommendations, they go to Greta Johnsen, the station’s resident bookworm. So please enjoy Greta talking about some fantastic reads that you might want to pick up this summer. Contemporary Romantic Fiction Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren Fantasy Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey Mystery/Thriller Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok Biography/Memoir More Than Enough: Claiming Space For Who You Are (No Matter What They Say) by Elaine Welteroth Historical Fiction Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid The Thomas Cromwell Trilogy by Hilary Mantel Historical Non-Fiction When Women Ruled The World by Kara Cooney
If you know NPR’s Linda Holmes, it’s probably not as a novelist. She’s a pop culture correspondent, she co-hosts NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast, and her recalcitrant dog Brian is mildly famous on Twitter. But she always wanted to write a novel. And at 48, she did. It's called Evvie Drake Starts Over and it is excellent. “This is what I think my story does actually prove,” Holmes tells Greta on this episode of Nerdette. “The fact that you haven’t gotten something done by a certain point in your life does not mean you’re not going to.” Listen up ... and then go write that book!
What’s it like to give people hallucinogenic drugs and study what happens? How might these drugs be used for therapy? And what causes people to take drugs in the first place? That’s what we asked Harriet de Wit, who runs the University of Chicago’s Human Behavioral Pharmacology Laboratory, where she administers drugs like LSD, ecstacy and psilocybin to volunteers in an effort to learn more about the human nervous system. “The whole world of researchers is feeling very cautious,” de Wit tells us, “cautiously optimistic — that if the drugs are used under controlled circumstances, they might have some potential benefits.” Let’s get funky.
Greta gives 'Booksmart' four out of four Gretas, a new rating system we've devised specifically for this wonderful new movie. Why's it so good? Well, it’s smart, funny, a little raunchy, and it embraces so many gorgeous, gut-wrenching elements of what it means to be a smart, funny teenage girl. This week on Nerdette, we talk with the wonderful Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein (the stars of the film) about the movie's themes: Friendship, growing older, sexuality, feminism, and dealing with high expectations. Bottom line: GO SEE IT.
Bill Nye says that when he was in high school, the big skill that students had to learn was how to find information. “But the challenge now is to sort out the information that may not be true.” Greta talks to Bill from the stage at The Collider’s Climate City Expo in Asheville, N.C. Their conversation focuses on climate change, Bill's new Netflix series (called "Bill Nye Saves the World") and combatting dubious scientific claims with critical thinking and an abundance of evidence. And also: Fake tree octopi, bow ties and moon rocks.
Lizzo recently landed on the Billboard 200 chart for the first time with her new album ‘Cuz I Love You,’ making now the perfect time to revisit her 2016 conversation with Nerdette's Greta Johnsen. Lizzo and Greta talk about what inspired her 2016 EP 'Coconut Oil' and how Lizzo became Lizzo. And your homework after listening to this episode is, of course, to play ‘Cuz I Love You’ on repeat, forever? P.S. Get in on our lovely new tote bags! One’s for Nerdette and one’s for Nerdette Recaps Game of Thrones with Peter Sagal. Find them here: https://www.wbez.org/nerdalert
Scientists around the world are trying to figure out how to mitigate the potentially disastrous impacts of climate change. Among the innovative ideas? De-extinction. “De-extinction is a scientific movement that’s aiming to recreate close versions of extinct species,” said Britt Wray, the author of Rise of the Necrofauna: The Science, Ethics, and Risks of De-Extinction. Wray says the idea is to create close facsimiles of “keystone species,” or animals that had a profound impact on their ecosystems. As you can imagine, de-extinction brings up a lot of questions, including: How on earth do you replicate an ancient zebra-horse? What happens when countries can create patents for lab-grown animals? And why would we want woolly mammoths to roam the arctic again? Wray tackles all those questions, and more, on the latest episode of Nerdette. Click the “play” button to listen to the entire conversation, which was produced and adapted for the web by Justin Bull.
Sahana Srinivasan is the host of the Netflix kids’ science show Brainchild, a series that’s all about exploring interesting questions about the world in which we live. On Nerdette, Sahana talks about what makes her show different from the kids’ science shows of the ‘90s, why it’s so important for kids to see a woman of color talk about science and what she’s going to do after she graduates from college.
Oh hey it's Lindy West! Lindy's the the executive producer of Shrill, a new Hulu series starring SNL's Aidy Bryant that's based on Lindy's 2016 novel of the same name. And we talk with Lindy about a few of the delightful scenes from the series (including an epic pool party), why Lindy left Twitter, and her forthcoming new book called The Witches Are Coming. She also tells us about how her new Hulu series subverts a common TV trope. “Usually what we get are weight loss narratives and makeover narratives. And these sort of sad sack stories about either people trying to lose weight and succeeding or trying to lose weight and failing and being sad,” Lindy says.“The whole idea is that there are other ways to live and that you deserve a life that is bigger than that — and that has a scope beyond your body and what it weighs.” Lindy West y'all!
At WBEZ (and maybe at your office too?) it seems like a lot of folks get sick at almost exactly the same time. But why?! Simple: People in our office are sick because sick people are in our office. “I think that is probably the single biggest thing that we could do to reduce the incidence of a lot of diseases,” says Sarah Cobey, an evolutionary microbiologist from the University of Chicago. "Just self-quarantine." On this episode of Nerdette, Sarah takes a walk through our open office and guesses why people might be ill — and what we can do to stop the colds from spreading. She also talks about sneezes, vaccines and all the real heroes out there: people with good hygiene. Wash your hands, people! Sheesh!
Yep. Podcats. Not a typo. This week we take a journey back to 1994, just after an astronomer named Heidi Hammel — as well as the entire scientific community at large — learned that a fragmented comet named Shoemaker-Levy 9 was going to crash into Jupiter at a speed of more than 130,000 miles per hour. "We have witnessed other impacts,” Heidi tells us. “What was really special about the Jupiter one was we had warning that it was going to happen.” This moment was huge for Heidi, who was just a young astronomer from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology at the time. She was asked to lead the team that would analyze photos of the impacts taken by the still-relatively-new Hubble Space Telescope. Oh yeah, in this podcast episode Heidi also compares planets to cats and herself to a veterinarian so PODCATS!
Winter is still here! (At least in the nation’s midsection.) And that means you’re looking for stuff to do when you’re stuck inside. And who better to recommend some good nerdy activities than Nerdette co-creator Tricia Bobeda?!? She did just that on WBEZ’s Morning Shift last month and we’re bringing it to you now because we love you. So please enjoy this binge-watchers guide to navigating the winter cold, featuring excellent TV, movie and book recommendations. Bonus: This interview was conducted by Morning Shift host (and former all-star Nerdette guest host) Jenn White. Need more Jenn White in your life? Subscribe to her daily local news podcast, Morning Shift Podcast. (And check out Making Oprah and Making Obama if you haven’t already.) Extra Bonus: Use this as a reminder to re-subscribe to Nerdette Recaps Game of Thrones with Peter Sagal which is returning to your ears in two short months.
Dana Czapnik has always been drawn to wanderers and wonderers, the kind of fictional characters who are always contemplating who they are and the world around them. But aside from the work of Virginia Woolf, Czapnik said she hasn’t come across many female characters who get those kind of opportunities. “That was one of the things that I was thinking of when I was working on this,” Czapnik says of her new novel, The Falconer. “That I wanted to write a female character who has the space to just be and wonder.” Salman Rushdie called The Falconer "a deeply affecting tale of a young woman coming of age in a man’s world." The book has been favorably compared to The Catcher in the Rye. And the main character, 17-year-old Lucy Adler, is "a much better person than Holden Caulfield," according to Nerdette's own Greta Johnsen. Czapnik talks with Greta all about the book, the nuances of feminism, and nostalgia for the 1990s.
The Nerdette team recently moved next to the crew at Sound Opinions, WBEZ’s long-running rock n’ roll talk show. We bring that up because last year that team reviewed Dessa’s latest album, “Chime,” and not only did they call it “brilliant,” they called Dessa “a renaissance woman in the truest sense.” That’s because Dessa is a rapper, singer, author, poet, and whiskey co-creator. And she even participated in an “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”-type procedure in an attempt to remove memories from a painful relationship. Greta talks to Dessa about all of that. And we listen to some of the amazing tracks on “Chime.”
How does one ask their employer for more money? The short answer, according to Refinery29's Lindsey Stanberry, is just do it. "It’s hard. And it’s not fun," Stanberry tells Greta this week. "I mean, you just have to ask." It's a new year. And now — RIGHT NOW — is the time to get your finances in order. So we're talking with a financial expert who's going to tell you to know your numbers, to know your worth, and — most importantly — to get out there and get that money. Stanberry is the author of "Money Diaries: Everything You've Ever Wanted To Know About Your Finances... And Everyone Else's." She's also the work and money director at Refinery29, an online magazine. She's full of invaluable tips for taking charge of your money situation. So get excited: You're about to be the boss of your bank account.
The year is at its end. And in 2018’s honor, Greta talked to four people who’ve made some amazing things about their favorite thing of the year. Make sense? It’s kind of like a miniature phone tree but for books, music, and TV. Or like a binder’s worth of homework dumped on you hours before the end of the semester. (You're welcome!) Here are our guest professors: Celeste Ng, author of the 2017 novel Little Fires Everywhere Curtis Sittenfeld, author of a 2018 collection of short stories titled You Think It, I’ll Say It Dessa, a singer, rapper, and writer responsible for both an album called Chime and a memoir called My Own Devices in 2018 Jenny Han, author of To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, which became a smash-hit Netflix movie To make things as easy for you over-achievers as possible, you can find a list of all their recommendations here.
Nerdette host Greta Johnsen has a rare genetic disease that CRISPR might be able to fix. As a four-year old in Juneau, Alaska, Greta was diagnosed with an eye condition known as "Best disease." That name is somewhat of a misnomer in that "Best disease" causes premature macular degeneration — but curiously it happens to be among the best diseases for experimenting with CRISPR, a genetic engineering tool that can be used to edit DNA. CRISPR has been in the news a lot lately (Google it) so we're rebroadcasting this very special episode, one that follows the story of Greta, her father, and Dr. Bruce Conklin, a scientist who's currently developing a CRISPR system to inject into some Johnsen family eyeballs. Plus, you can't have a conversation about experimental gene editing without discussing the ethical implications of making irreversible changes to human evolution. “We’d be permanently altering the course of evolution if we decide that we think it’s OK to edit human embryos," says Megan Hochstrasser, a science communications manager and CRISPR expert. "Is that something we want to be able to do as a society?” That's a great question. Let's talk about it.
In a curious twist, venomous, killer sea snails are helping scientists make some incredible biomedical advances. Dr. Mandë Holford is the head of the Holford Lab in New York City, but her line of research often means she’s taking nighttime scuba dives in seas and oceans across the globe. “Yes, a snail can kill you,” Holford tells Greta. “But a snail can also help you! In various, various ways. And that’s what our lab is investigating: The power of these snails and the venom that they have to transform organisms and to transform lives.” Holford is also an associate professor in chemistry at Hunter College and the Graduate Center at City University of New York, with scientific appointments at the American Museum of Natural History and Weill Cornell Medical College. She tells us how snail venom can help relieve pain and treat cancer, how she’s giving back with a line of science-based board games, and how it feels to be on a “Top 100” list that includes Beyoncé.
A little while after Glory Edim created an Instagram account under the name Well-Read Black Girl, she said she started getting a lot of messages from young women thanking her for creating a space that offered reflections of themselves. “It’s not only just an Instagram account, but people don’t see themselves reflected in their libraries, in their bookstores, in everyday conversation,” Edim says on Nerdette podcast. “The common theme is: People don’t feel fully heard. And I’m doing my best to change that.” Well-Read Black Girl has since become a wide number of things, including a collection of essays, a Brooklyn-based book club, and an online community “that celebrates the uniqueness of Black literature and sisterhood.” Edim spoke with Nerdette host Greta Johnsen (and special guest host Arionne Nettles!) about how she got to where she is and what she’s still trying to accomplish. Music: This episode features music from The Marching 100, Florida A&M's precise and innovative marching band.
Barbara Kingsolver says her new novel, ‘Unsheltered,’ is “my love letter to millennials.” “Today’s problems can’t be fixed by yesterday’s people,” she tells Greta. “They’re going to be fixed by tomorrow’s people.” Kingsolver is the author of several award-winning books, including ‘The Poisonwood Bible’ and ‘The Bean Trees.’ ‘Unsheltered’ is set both in the run up to the 2016 presidential election and in the aftermath of the American Civil War, and she says it’s about “how people behave when it seems like all the old rules have stopped working.” Kingsolver tells us about the end of the world, why she's still optimistic, and what it's like to narrate the sex scenes when she records her own audiobooks. (“You just try to get through it all in one take”). She also answers one of Greta’s more poignant questions: “Are we just %#&!ed?”
Samin Nosrat is the chef behind ‘Salt Fat Acid Heat,’ a book and a new Netflix series of the same name. She’s also a proponent of articulating your dreams. "I do think taking a little bit of time, a couple times a year, to articulate your goals and your dreams and your desires is helpful because it helps orient you toward them," Nosrat says. She also tells Greta about the culinary value of those four primary elements, the importance of embracing your cooking mistakes, and she gives great homework!: Write down your goals in a manifestation journal, "Even if they change or don’t come true, that’s fine. It’s just nice to have a record."
Hey! Today we're talking with Jodie Whittaker! She is the first woman to play the lead role in the long-running, time-travel-based BBC television series Doctor Who. You'll hear her tell Greta the story of how she got the role, how so many lovely Doctor Who fans have reacted to her casting, and why she thinks her character’s gender, “more so than probably any other role I’ve ever played, is irrelevant.”
If you were bored by Homeric epics and Greek mythology in high school and college, Nerdette highly encourages you to reconsider. “There is a reason these stories have lasted for 3,000 years,” said Madeline Miller, author of Greta’s favorite book of 2018, a novelization of The Odyssey called Circe. “[These stories] are incredibly insightful about human nature,” Miller said. “Culture has changed and the way we go to war has changed, but the stories we tell about war and about loss and grief – even things like post-traumatic stress disorder – the Greeks understood all of that.” Miller said she novelized the story of Circe, a witch from The Odyssey who turns men into pigs, because she wanted more freedom to explore the character. “There were things I couldn’t answer in papers that I wanted to answer in a different way,” she said. Miller talked with Greta about the book, what makes literary canon, and more about turning men into pigs.
Aileen Rizo was working as a math consultant at the Fresno County Office of Education when she discovered a recently-hired male colleague was being paid significantly more than her for the same work. Aileen had more experience and education than this colleague. What then began as a fight for herself quickly turned into a fight for equality for women everywhere. Aileen talked about the tough decisions she's made for herself and her family on a recent episode of the WBEZ podcast The Trouble. On this week’s Nerdette, you’ll hear that exceptional episode of The Trouble in full, followed by a conversation between Shannon Cason, host of The Trouble, and Nerdette’s Greta Johnsen. Plus, a suggestion for you, dear listener: Ask for a raise.
U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois is one of only 52 women to ever serve in the Senate. There are currently 23 female senators, which is an all-time high. “There are not enough women,” Duckworth tells Nerdette host Greta Johnsen. “We’re 20 percent of the Senate. That’s it. That’s wrong. We’re 51 percent of the population, yet 20 percent of those who make the laws that govern our lives.” Duckworth also recently became the first sitting U.S. senator to have a baby while in office when she gave birth to her daughter Maile on April 9. She tells Greta about motherhood, political polarization, and her interesting personal obsession: extreme couponing.
... Well, technically it's Pysc 157. This week Nerdette host Greta Johnsen speaks with the professor responsible for the most popular class in Yale University's 316-year history. Laurie Santos created a course called "Psychology and the Good Life” and about 1,200 students quickly enrolled in it. Put simply, the course teaches students how they can be happier. “The good news is that we can do it,” Santos tells Greta. “The bad news is that like all good things in life, it takes a lot of work.” First, listen in as Santos gives us three main recommendations (1. Socialize; 2. Prioritize time over money; and 3. Remember you're too blessed to be stressed). Then, take the course yourself! It's free online via Coursera.
Here at Nerdette, we've wanted to visit Argonne National Laboratory for MANY YEARS. Why? Because it's a massive research facility, it's just outside of Chicago, and it shares many similarities with Hawkins National Laboratory, the fictional government science complex from the Netflix show Stranger Things. Greta, Tricia and our trusty guide Justin Breaux take a tour of Argonne, where we talk with a bunch of super-smart scientists about the stuff they're working on and the questions they're trying to answer. Questions like: If you had one of the fastest supercomputers in the world, what problems should you solve? And if you could solve those problems, how would you go about doing it? And what if one problem — a problem you've dedicated your entire career to solving — isn't solvable for centuries? Also, can we see the Upside Down? Guests:Katherine Riley, director of science at Argonne’s Leadership Computing Facility Rajesh Sankaran, computer scientist at Argonne's Mathematics and Computer Science Division Lei Cheng, chemist with Argonne's Joint Center for Energy Storage Research Matt Dietrich, experimental physicist at Argonne's Physics Division
Hey! Nerdette is about to go on a little summer break, but before we do we wanted to share this lovely conversation Greta had with WBEZ’s Jenn White and the owner of Volumes Bookscafe in Chicago, Rebecca George. They talk about what makes a good summer read before offering an INUNDATING LIST of killer summer books. You can check out the full list of those recommendations at this link. Enjoy! Have a KAS and see you in a few weeks!
Super-talented singer-songwriter Neko Case is not immune to self-doubt. In the years before becoming “an adult,” she tells us she had a complicated relationship with ambition. “I wanted to be in a band and I wanted to play music, but I couldn’t have even told you that then,” Case said. “I wouldn’t have even thought that I was capable of that, even though I was completely obsessed and had been my whole life.” Her work has gone on to receive a lot of critical acclaim over her 30-plus years of making music. Her newest album is called Hell-On. She stopped by WBEZ to tell us how she maintains her sanity while touring and how she’s not superstitious — even though she learned her house burned down on the same day she recorded the vocals for a song called “Bad Luck.”
“I’d been patronized as a child,” Dame Stephanie Shirley — a.k.a. Steve — tells us this week. “I wasn’t going to be patronized as an adult.” The kind of company that Stephanie Shirley wanted to work for didn’t exist in 1962, so she created her own. “I wanted a company that was suitable for me [and] that I would like to work in,” Shirley says. “And I knew there were lots of women who had also hit the glass ceiling and were completely and utterly ignored by the industry.” She’s talking about the software industry, which was even more of a boys club in the sixties. So Shirley started her own business, hired a bunch of women from IBM, and even changed her first name from Stephanie to Steve — in order to get the attention of potential clients through promotional materials. Shirley tells us her incredible story, which includes creating a company that would later be valued at $3 billion, being made a dame by Queen Elizabeth, and keeping herself mentally and physically fit in the midst of life's many hurdles. Power Up is a Nerdette project where fascinating people explain how they set themselves up for success in an exhausting world. Tell us how YOU power up by recording yourself on your phone and emailing the audio file to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Speaking out about traumatic incidents can sometimes be more traumatic than the incidents themselves. That was the case for one reporter after she documented rampant sexual harassment at a recent music festival. Vera Papisova is the wellness editor for Teen Vogue and runs the magazine’s sexual assault awareness campaign. After Teen Vogue published her explosive article about sexual assault at Coachella 2018, Papisova became the target of internet trolls. “People usually say, ‘Ignore the trolls,’ and ‘Don’t read the comments,’” Papisova tells Nerdette. “I went against both of those. I broke both of those rules.” Papisova tells us about her experience at the festival, how she’s been responding to her online harassers, and what she’s doing to maintain her sanity. Power Up is a Nerdette project where fascinating people explain how they set themselves up for success in an exhausting world. Tell us how YOU power up by recording yourself on your phone and emailing the audio file to email@example.com.
Audie Cornish says she had something like an epiphany after posting a photo of herself and her new baby on Twitter in April. "I realized, oh my god, I’m part of the problem," Cornish tells Greta Johnsen. "Because there is absolutely nothing worse than opening up a glossy magazine and seeing a picture of some woman with, like, a pet and a 3-year-old, everyone’s groomed to the nines, and she’s like, ‘I woke up like this.’” Cornish is the host of NPR’s daily news program 'All Things Considered.' She talked with Nerdette host Greta Johnsen about all the people not pictured in that photo that are helping her navigate motherhood for the first time. They also talk about finding forgiveness and having children during times of strife. "There’s always something difficult in the world," Cornish says. "But it’s so worth it. Because I look at him as being somebody who’s going to be a part of shaping his own world, not that he’s arriving a victim of it." Help support Nerdette! Any gift, no matter how small, is truly, sincerely appreciated. And we'll give you swag! Donate here: www.wbez.org/nerdalert
If you’re looking for a way to combat the online trolls and bots fomenting unrest in the U.S., comedian Negin Farsad might have a solution for you. It’s a philosophy she calls “Being aggressively delightful.” You might think that sounds exhausting, but Farsad says not so! “I also think rage is exhausting,” she told us in February 2018. “I might think rage is more exhausting than trying to be friends with people.” It’s genius I tell you! We’re replaying this great moment in Nerdette history because we’re turning five years old and we need your help! If you like Nerdette, please donate to support the show’s future. Any amount really, REALLY helps. And as a thank you, we’re offering some pretty sweet gifts. Like mugs, sweatbands, buttons, and even Lady Nerds of History posters. Read about what you can get (and donate!) here: www.wbez.org/nerdalert Seriously, thank you. (And if you want to hear the full version of our interview with Negin Farsad, check it out here.) This special rebroadcast was produced by Stefania Gomez.
On Nerdette, our guests assign us homework. It’s usually something to read, watch, or do — like a great book, a compelling TV show, or a life-changing daily routine. We’ve been lucky enough to have famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson on the show TWICE, and both times he assigned homework that essentially asks you to save the world. “If I were to give homework, the homework would be that there are problems society faces — civilization faces — that cannot and will not be solved awaiting the next app on your smartphone,” Tyson told Nerdette co-host Tricia Bobeda in 2017. “Ask not what your cell phone can do for you,” Tricia replied. “Yes!” Tyson said. “Ask what you can do for civilization.” Kaboom. Why are we replaying these bits of homework right now? Well, our little program is turning five years old — FIVE — and we’re asking you to join the team. These last five years of Nerdette wouldn’t have been possible without you. You’ve listened. You’ve told your friends to listen. And maybe, on occasion, you’ve kicked us a couple dollars to show us how much you appreciate the voices we bring you. Well this is one of those occasions. If you like Nerdette, please donate to support the show’s future. Any amount really, REALLY helps. And as a thank you, we’re offering some pretty sweet gifts. Like mugs, sweatbands, buttons, and even Lady Nerds of History posters. Read about what you can get (and donate!) here: www.wbez.org/nerdalert Oh yeah, one more thing. THANK YOU YOU’RE THE GREATEST. (And if you want to hear the full versions of both of our interviews with Neil deGrasse Tyson, check them out here and here.) This special rebroadcast was produced by Stefania Gomez.
On a scale of 1 to famous, Tom Hanks is off the charts. So how did we land this amazing interview? Easy! We put a 1939 Underwood Champion typewriter into a recording studio and lured him in Elmer Fudd style! (Bugs Bunny:Carrots::Tom Hanks:Typewriters) The reason we're rebroadcasting part of this episode right now is because our little show is celebrating a birthday. We've been around for FIVE YEARS! To celebrate, we're showcasing some of our favorite episodes AND we're asking you to support the future of the show. These five years of Nerdette have been made possible by you. You're a part of the team. And if you donate today, we're going to thank you with some killer swag. We've got mugs, sweatbands, buttons, and even Lady Nerds of History posters. We really hope you contribute and join in on the magic. Here's the place to go: www.wbez.org/nerdalert and seriously, thank you. (If you want to hear our full interview with Tom Hanks, check it out here.)
Nerdette has been around for FIVE YEARS! And we're celebrating our birthday by showcasing some of our favorite parts of our favorite episodes. Did you know that writer Roxane Gay has a fascination with Channing Tatum's neck? You're about to! Because this special episode is from our 2017 interview with the amazing author of Difficult Women. Roxane Gay also tells us about her love of Thor, her co-authoring of a little Marvel comic called Black Panther, and how she never reads anybody's Goodreads reviews of her work. Real talk: these five years of Nerdette have been made possible by you. You're a part of the team. And we're asking you to support the future of Nerdette. As a thank you for donating, you'll get some fun gifts! Like mugs, sweatbands, buttons, and even Lady Nerds of History posters. Read about what you can get (and donate!) here: www.wbez.org/nerdalert THANK YOU! (And if you want to hear our full interview with Roxane Gay, check it out here.)
In 2016, Grace Bonney spoke with 100 women doing creative work and turned those interviews into a book, In the Company of Women. It became a New York Times bestseller, and earlier this month, Bonney released a follow up: a biennial business magazine called Good Company. Plus, while she’s out promoting her new publication, she also runs the creativity website Design*Sponge. Like so many of us, Bonney is busy. So how does she refuel? “That’s one of the things I think everyone has a really pithy answer to, like yoga or meditating,” Bonney told Nerdette host Greta Johnsen. “I don’t do any of those things. I think I ask for help.” Bonney tells us what asking for help looks like. PLUS: The Nerdette Rummage Sale IS NOW OPEN! Support Nerdette right now and get some sweet, sweet swag — like mugs and buttons and sweatbands for instance: www.wbez.org/nerdalert
We brought brothers Hari and Ashok Kondabolu on Nerdette to talk about making time for self-care in what can be a grinding, freelance economy. Instead, they unpacked their relationship. “Do you look up to me at all?” Hari asks his younger brother, with host Greta Johnsen listening in the wings. “No, we have completely different lives,” Ashok immediately responds. “This is not relaxing!” Hari says. Well, we tried. But Hari and Ashok DID give us some wonderful ideas about how to recharge your batteries by ignoring the phone, taking aimless walks, and selling your clothes. About our guests: Hari’s a comedian with a new Netflix special, Warn Your Relatives, and Ashok’s a former member of the rap group Das Racist who’s now producing the show Hey, How Ya Doin? The pair also co-host Earwolf's Kondabolu Brothers podcast, where they debate current events, share odd stories, and further unpack their relationship. PLUS: The Nerdette Rummage Sale IS NOW OPEN! Support Nerdette right now and get some awesome swag at a special discount!: wbez.org/nerdalert
Near the end of STS-125, NASA’s final space shuttle mission to the Hubble Space Telescope back in 2009, bad weather in Florida initially stopped the seven-member team from returning to Earth. The two-day delay that followed presented the astronauts with some unusual but much needed downtime. So what did they do with it? Looked out the windows. “I liked to listen to music and watch the world go by,” said Megan McArthur, a mission specialist on the Space Shuttle Atlantis. “It was pretty awesome.” For our new project, Power Up, we're asking fascinating people to explain how they set themselves up for success while living in (and, in this case, off of) an exhausting world. McArthur told us about the seemingly difficult task of relaxing in outer space. She also described her role in helping the American Girl doll company create Luciana, a Chilean-American who is an aspiring astronaut. “It helps for people to see a role model who represents them, right?” McArthur said of Luciana. “[Someone] who looks like them, maybe who has a similar experience as they have, in order for them to imagine themselves in that same kind of environment.” McArthur described her own experience meeting a role model: astronaut Sally Ride, who McArthur says she met when she was 16 years old. She says the 20-minute conversation with Ride, the first American woman to travel to space, was “a special and unique experience for someone just starting to think about what they want to do with their life.” Tell us how you power up!
Let’s be real: life can be hectic sometimes. You don’t need to tell that to Amy Schumer and Aidy Bryant, two of the nation’s top female comedians. Who better to kick off our new project, Power Up? For the next few months, we're asking fascinating people how they set themselves up for success in an exhausting world. Knitting? Bowling? Researching the presence of alternate dimensions? “I literally will say to myself out loud in the mirror, like, ‘You got this, bitch,’” Schumer tells Nerdette host Greta Johnsen. Schumer and Bryant also talk about what drew them to their new film, I Feel Pretty, which is now in theaters. We also want to know how YOU power up. Record yourself on your phone and email the audio file to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here at Nerdette we’ve been thinking a lot about how much the world can wear us down. Which has led us to a very important question: How do so many successful, inspiring people have the time and energy to be so successful and inspiring? Power Up is a new project where we ask fascinating people how they set themselves up for success in what can be an exhausting world. How do amazing (non-robot) humans recharge their (hypothetical) batteries? We want to know! Because we all have the same number of hours in a day — even the scientists, poets, astronauts and adventurers — and as Oprah might say: You need to LIVE YOUR BEST LIFE. Subscribe now and get the first episode of Power Up delivered to you on April 27. Click the play button above to hear a preview. We also want to hear how YOU power up. Send us an email — or, better yet, record yourself on your phone and send the audio file to email@example.com. This project is for all of us, which means it’ll be even better if you weigh in.
The 90s TV drama 'My So-Called Life' had a profound impact on Nerdette host Greta Johnsen. (“Jordan Catalano still holds a special place in my heart,” she said of the fictional Liberty High School heartthrob played by Jared Leto.) Jason Katims helped create that TV show, along with other heart-wrenching dramas like 'Parenthood' and 'Friday Night Lights.' Now Katims is the writer and executive producer of another dramatic network TV show set in high school: 'Rise,' which combines football, musical theater, and plenty of high school teen angst. “I mean, I’m clearly stuck in my own progression in life,” Katims tells Nerdette. “I got stuck at 17 and never moved on.” Katims talked with us about 'Rise,' why so much of his writing examines adolescence, and what a busy Hollywood showrunner does to recharge. (Plus, get hyped for plenty of TV clips featuring PEAK teen angst.)
Tomi Adeyemi is the 24-year-old author of 'Children of Blood and Bone,' a new young adult novel that — in terms of pop culture blockbusters — could be on par with 'The Hunger Games' or 'Harry Potter.' The book, the first in a West African-inspired fantasy series, hit shelves earlier this month — more than a year after the movie rights were picked up by Fox 2000. Adeyemi tells Nerdette that part of her motivation to write the book stemmed from racist reactions to 'The Hunger Games' movies. “There were people online being like, ‘Why’d they make Rue and Cinna black? Why’d they make all the good characters black? It wasn’t sad when Rue was speared to death because she was black,’” Adeyemi says. “Seeing that level of racism applied in a fictional world heightened it for me. Because yes, The Hunger Games isn’t real, but the fact that someone could feel that strongly and have that much hatred for something that isn’t even real? I’m like, if that’s what you feel for fake things, then what do you feel about me?” Adeyemi talks with Nerdette host Greta Johnsen and special guest-host Jenn White (of WBEZ's Making Obama and Making Oprah podcasts) about how she came to write a fantasy novel that simultaneously depicted the modern black experience.
As a four-year old in Juneau, Alaska, Nerdette host Greta Johnsen was diagnosed with an eye condition known as "Best disease." That name is a misnomer for several reasons — the big one being that "Best disease" causes premature macular degeneration — but curiously it happens to be among the best diseases for experimenting with CRISPR, a genetic engineering tool that can be used to edit DNA. This very special episode of Nerdette follows Greta, her father, and Dr. Bruce Conklin, the scientist who's currently trying to develop the perfect CRISPR system to inject into some Johnsen family eyeballs. Plus, you can't have a conversation about experimental gene editing without discussing the ethical implications of making irreversible changes to human evolution. “We’d be permanently altering the course of evolution if we decide that we think it’s OK to edit human embryos," says Megan Hochstrasser, a science communications manager and CRISPR expert. "Is that something we want to be able to do as a society?” That's a great question. Let's talk about it. Special thanks this week to the Innovative Genomics Institute as well as the Institute for Human Genetics at the University of California, San Francisco.
Anna Deavere Smith might be best known for her acting roles on NBC’s The West Wing and Showtime’s Nurse Jackie. But she’s also one of the most prolific playwrights of “documentary-style theater,” where she uses verbatim interviews as source material in hopes of pushing her audience toward “an adjustment in the way that they think.” Her latest work is a one-woman show called Notes From The Field, which was recently released on HBO. It examines how minority students living in poverty often end up incarcerated. To make it, Smith interviewed 250 people affected by the school-to-prison pipeline, including inmates, educators, and witnesses to injustice. Smith told Nerdette co-host Tricia Bobeda about how she made Notes From The Field and what she hopes it will achieve.
If you’re looking for a way to combat the online trolls and bots fomenting unrest in the U.S., comedian Negin Farsad might have a solution for you. “I guess if I were to name it, it’s a philosophy called ‘being aggressively delightful,’” she tells us. Farsad, an Iranian-American Muslim, is the co-host of the podcast Fake the Nation, the author of the book How to Make White People Laugh, and sometimes you can hear her on our very own WBEZ as a panelist for NPR’s Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me! She told us how she manages to be aggressively delightful, even when confronted with intolerance.
Ilene Chaiken has been a showrunner for TV hits like Fox’s Empire, an executive producer for Hulu’s The Handmaid's Tale, and a writer, producer, and director for Showtime’s The L Word in the mid-2000s. In other words, she’s a boss. “I don’t like the word that much,” Chaiken said on Nerdette. “I mean, I like it as in, ‘Oh, she’s a boss.’ You know, ‘She’s a badass. She’s a boss.’ But I don’t like the kind of hierarchical aspect of it.” Chaiken talked with Nerdette co-hosts Tricia Bobeda and Greta Johnsen about the upcoming reboot of The L Word, her recently greenlit pilot project with Fox, and about how she became a boss. She also had some important homework for you: “I want to know who hasn’t seen herself — and I’ll just make it gendered — who hasn’t seen herself represented on television, and what would she like to see?” If you’ve got an answer, tweet them to @NerdettePodcast and @IleneChaiken.
When Teresa Woodruff started working for a biotech company fresh out of graduate school, her employer revealed that the first studies for a new heart attack treatment had been performed on 50,000 men. “And so I kinda raised my hand and said, ‘That’s interesting. Where are all the women?” Today, Teresa is an expert in ovarian biology and a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University in Chicago. We ask her why so many prescription drugs were tested only on men for so many decades, what that’s meant for women’s health, and what’s changed. Plus, Teresa tells us about Repropedia, her encyclopedia for reproductive health, and “A New You, That's Who” (think “Schoolhouse Rock!” but instead of conjunctions, it's about puberty.) More info on Teresa Woodruff’s work can be found at www.woodrufflab.org.
Comedian John Hodgman, longtime fan of the lovingly-reviled Swedish spirit called Malört, tells Nerdette, “I’m fascinated with things that are still regional in an increasingly non-regional country.” He also calls the disagreeable beverage "“a delightful, heady blend of pencil shavings and shame.” Nerdette's Tricia Bobeda talked with Hodgman about his new book, Vacationland, before inviting in Sam Mechling, director of marketing for Jeppson's Malört, to better help us all understand this unique, wormwood-based liqueur. Prost!
Jennifer Egan won a Pulitzer Prize in 2011 for her novel A Visit from the Goon Squad. Her most recent novel, Manhattan Beach, was among 10 works of fiction long-listed for the 2017 National Book Award. Not too shabby, right? But Egan told Greta that an early draft of Manhattan Beach was so bad she almost scrapped the whole thing. “I probably came as close to abandoning this as I have to any project I’ve worked on,” she said. On this week's Nerdette, Egan explains why things got rough, how she powered through, and the evolutionary advantage of forgetting how hard things can be. Plus, we get some help from Andrew Berman, the executive director of the Greenwich Village Historical Society, to break down Egan's nerd obsession: Out of place buildings.
“I think it’s going to last more than a moment,” said the celebrated author on this week’s Nerdette. “But how much more than a moment, it remains to be seen." Nerdette co-host Greta Johnsen talks with author Margaret Atwood about the recent TV adaptations of her novels Alias Grace and The Handmaid's Tale, how her take on feminism has changed in recent years, and what needs to happen to make sure the “Harvey Weinstein moment” isn’t just a moment. Plus, we explore one of Atwood's nerd obsessions: The 1982 sci-fi film Blade Runner.
Daveed Diggs says starring in the hit musical Hamilton opened a lot of doors for him. One of those doors? Meeting hip hop legend Busta Rhymes. “Like, I can text Busta Rhymes right now. That? That is a crazy thing to me.” Diggs stopped by WBEZ to talk with Greta about his first feature film, Wonder, out in theaters Friday. They also talk about Hamilton, his ABC TV series The Mayor, and his rap group Clipping. Note: In the audio of this week’s episode, we state that a groundnut is “an acorn that has fallen.” This statement is actually quite false.
Knitting can be dangerous. Just ask author, scholar, and (of course) knitter Eve Ewing. She explains what she calls “the sweater curse” to Nerdette hosts Tricia Bobeda and Greta Johnsen. They also discuss the impact of the late music icon Prince, the rise of Afrofuturism, and why Ewing can’t wait to get off social media. Plus, an excerpt from Ewing's new book of poetry Electric Arches.
In her seminal work on 'Muppet Theory,' Slate reporter Dahlia Lithwick once wrote that "every living human" can be categorized as either a Chaos Muppet or an Order Muppet. On this super-special Supreme Court edition of Nerdette, lifelong SCOTUS-nerd and Nerdette host Tricia Bobeda asks Lithwick to apply her Unified Theory of Muppet Types to each Supreme Court Justice. The results are pure madness! Then Greta talks with Bryant Johnson, who is Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's personal fitness trainer. He recently wrote a book about RBG's hardcore conditioning routine. Waka waka!
Like the Flintstones meeting the Jetsons, Betty and Veronica taking down the Predator alien, and Sabrina the teenage witch dating Eric Matthews on Boy Meets World, nothing beats an epic crossover. That’s why Nerdette hosts Greta Johnsen and Tricia Bobeda sat down with Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow, hosts of CALL YOUR GIRLFRIEND, the premiere podcast for long-distance besties everywhere. They talked friendship, feminism, and bodily fluids before playing a Newlywed-esque game to determine which pair of co-hosts knows each other better. It's the podcast mashup you didn’t know you needed — but definitely do.
It’s a "dinner and a TV show" kind of night for Nerdette this week. We talk to Jane the Virgin actress Yael Grobglas about what it’s like to play your own twin and creating a villain who people love to hate. Then Iron Chef winner and Chopped judge Alex Guarnaschelli joins us to help dive into Grobglas’ obsession with food.
To celebrate the arrival of Star Trek: Discovery, we decided to talk to the biggest Trekkie we know: On The Media co-host Brooke Gladstone. She told us about her all-time favorite characters, why science fiction is so good at capturing a moment in time, and where Star Trek-beginners might want to get started. Oh yeah, and what better way to keep the party going then by calling up Star Trek legend Kate Mulgrew? Captain Janeway herself helped us talk through some of Brooke’s favorite episodes, including “Tuvix.” She also channeled James T. Kirk and Jean-Luc Picard to tell us how a former captain might feel about a new iteration of Star Trek.
In a conversation with Nerdette host and known Whovian Tricia Bobeda, Alex Kingston discusses her role on ‘Doctor Who’ as fan-favorite River Song, which helped pave the way for the show’s first female Doctor.
Nadia Sirota is Juilliard-trained violist who hosts Meet The Composer, a podcast that shifts the conversation around classical music by featuring interviews with modern-day composers. She’s also worked with artists ranging from Kesha to Paul Simon. Plus, she explains how being on tour led to a love of aquariums, and Nerdette connects her with the Senior Curator of Fishes at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium.
It might seem increasingly difficult to separate fact from fiction these days, but Studio 360 host and author Kurt Andersen says the dilemma is old — and one that’s exacerbated by unique characteristics of America. Oh, and cosplay and the Internet. Andersen sat down with Nerdette to discuss his new book, Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History. He's also obsessed with maps, so we put him on the phone with geographical expert Anne Knowles, who told us all to get lost — in the literal sense.
As the 22nd United States Poet Laureate, Tracy K. Smith wants to make poetry more accessible to people across the country. So WBEZ’s Greta Johnsen put Smith to the ultimate test by having her analyze this summer’s hottest hit, “Despacito” featuring Justin Bieber.
Everest climber, guide and mountaineer Melissa Arnot Reid is the first American woman to ever summit Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen — a feat only 7 women worldwide have accomplished. Arnot Reid joins Nerdette host Tricia Bobeda to talk about the mindset of a high-altitude climber, what happens when you have snot frozen to your face, and how to train your body to reach Everest’s peak. Plus, Arnot Reid reveals her secret obsession with true crime stories, so we bring in former FBI Profiler and Real Crime Profile host Jim Clemente to talk about what it takes to crack unsolved cases.
Nerdette host Greta Johnsen reveals that she has a secret nerdery: she used to play the bassoon. So this week, in one, grand, bassoon-filled extravaganza, Johnsen and co-host Tricia Bobeda bring back the bassoon. First, they talk with culture writer and bassoonist Eileen Reynolds about the history of the bassoon. Then, they call up the self-proclaimed “Bassoon King” Rainn Wilson. Plus, Chicago Philharmonic Principal Bassoonist John Gaudette plays a familiar tune.
Jessica Pimentel, known for her role as Maria Ruiz on Orange Is The New Black, isn’t just an actress. She’s also in a band ... a death metal band. Nerdette’s Tricia Bobeda sat down with Pimentel to talk about what it’s like to lead an alternate life as a death metal frontwoman and how her music, which is heavy and hardcore, is inspired by her Buddhist faith. Pimentel also talks about what it’s like working with one of the most diverse, majority women casts on what she originally referred to as, “that computer show about jail,” and what’s cooking for Maria’s character next season.
Actress and comedian Jenny Slate has played many memorable characters on shows like Parks and Recreation, Kroll Show, Girls, and Brooklyn 99. She also wrote and voiced her web series Marcel The Shell. Her most recent role is alongside Edie Falco and John Turturro in the film Landline. But from all of her work on TV and film, few people know about Slate’s one true love: houseplants. Nerdette’s Greta Johnsen talked with Slate about why she loves houseplants, what she names them and how they play into her future goals. Then, a plant expert answers all of Slate’s most pressing questions.
Samantha Irby released her third book, We Are Never Meeting in Real Life, this year, but it’s her first collection of essays that is being turned into a TV show. Last year, FX bought the rights to Meaty, Irby’s first collection of essays. Now Irby, who grew up in Evanston and lived in Chicago, is working with Broad City’s Abbi Jacobson and Inside Amy Schumer’s Jessi Klein to write for television for the first time. For Irby, almost everything is on the table when it comes to her work — whether it’s body image, digestive issues, or applying for The Bachelorette.
The best part about the summer? Plenty of extra time to do homework! Guests on Nerdette always assign listeners homework, and we’ve compiled the BEST OF THE BEST into this hour-long Nerdette summer homework special. Tom Hanks talks typewriters, Jane the Virgin actor Jaime Camil recommends a show about aliens, and Jessamyn Stanley explains why yoga is meant for all body types. We’ll also hear from Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!’s Peter Sagal, space doctor Sheyna Gifford, astronomer Jill Tarter, and many more. Do your homework!
Astronomer and former SETI director Jill Tarter talks about the future of our planet and why she ate so many ice cream cones when she worked at NASA. Tarter’s career was the basis for Carl Sagan’s 1985 science-fiction novel, Contact, which was later made into a film starring Jodie Foster. She talks about what it’s like to have Sagan fictionalize her life, why we need to listen more than we talk, and why it’s important for us to think of ourselves as earthlings.
TV director Lesli Linka Glatter started her career as a choreographer, but after a serendipitous series of events, Glatter found her way to film and television directing. Since then, Glatter has directed a spate of well-loved shows, including Homeland, The Walking Dead, Justified, Mad Men, True Blood, Weeds, ER, The West Wing, and Gilmore Girls. Tricia Bobeda and Greta Johnsen sat down with Glatter to talk about the differences between directing film and TV, working on shows with strong, complex women leads, and why some days she thinks about opening a 24-hour coffee/poetry/shoe/book store.
Stand-up comedian W. Kamau Bell is the host of CNN’s United Shades of America. He’s also the author of a new book, The Awkward Thoughts Of W. Kamau Bell. Nerdette’s Tricia Bobeda talked with Bell about why awkwardness and comedy go hand in hand, what it’s like to be a blerd (black nerd), and why the TV show Blackish is so great.
This week is all about looking for pieces of space, whether they’re in orbit or in Antarctic ice. First, asteroid hunter Carrie Nugent talks about chasing down elusive celestial bodies and why she doesn’t like talking about what it’s like to be a woman in science. And then we talk about meteorite hunting with the hosts of Undiscovered, a new podcast from NPR’s Science Friday team.
Sean Gunn is known for playing the ever-eccentric Kirk on Gilmore Girls and space-pirate Kraglin in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies. On Nerdette, he talks about what it’s like to be in a movie directed by his big brother, and how intense Gilmore Girls fans are. Plus, Sean shares his little-known obsessions with math, cats, and rap.
Jaime Camil plays the dramatic, charismatic, slightly self-absorbed yet extra-endearing Rogelio De La Vega on the CW’s telenovela-style comedy, Jane The Virgin. Camil, who has starred in many Mexican sitcoms, films and telenovelas, tells Nerdette’s Greta Johnsen why Jane the Virgin is so relatable and how it’s changing the game for people of color on American television.
Yoga enthusiast, expert and internationally recognized teacher Jessamyn Stanley breaks all the stereotypes of a yogi. Nerdette’s Greta Johnsen and Tricia Bobeda sat down with Stanley to talk about her new book, Every Body Yoga; how yoga is for everyone (and not just the models drinking coconut water in the Lululemon ads); and why yoga is more than just a way to burn calories.
Rebecca Skloot talks about the long journey of turning her book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, into an HBO film starring Oprah. She also discusses the importance of storytelling in science and why, even after 18 years, she’s still traveling the world to talk about the life of Henrietta Lacks.
Author Roxane Gay talks about writing her most recent book, a collection of short stories called Difficult Women, and why Beyoncé, Law and Order SVU and Channing Tatum’s neck are mentioned in the book’s acknowledgements. Then, “reformed librarian” Kelly Jensen on why feminism isn’t always fun — but should be accessible — and how her new book is helping girls (and boys!) everywhere.
Orthodox Jewish sex therapist Dr. Bat Sheva Marcus founded one of the largest women’s sexual health clinics in the country. From taboos to vibrators, Bat Sheva talks about how she helps women embrace their sexuality. She also discusses her approach to solving specific challenges for women in the Orthodox Jewish community.
Amy Smeed, the leader of the animation team for Disney’s Moana, talks about what it’s like to build a character who is decidedly not a Disney princess, how the animation process works, and why deadlines are important.
YouTube’s queen of crappy robots, Simone Giertz, tells us how she got in the business of making the world’s best crappy robots, like an alarm clock that slaps you awake in the morning with a robotic arm, a robot that very terribly applies lipstick, and a vegetable chopper with 8-foot long knives. In an interview with Nerdette hosts Tricia Bobeda and Greta Johnsen, she talked about how building terrible robots is a constant learning experience.
Hugo Award-winning author N.K. Jemisin talks about how all of her book ideas start with a simple question: “What if?” She also explains the unusual circumstances surrounding her Hugo Award victory and how science fiction is evolving for the better.
Derek Thompson, senior editor of The Atlantic, tells Nerdette's Tricia Bobeda about his new book Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in an Age of Distraction. He explains what makes Adele’s "Hello" and Drake’s "Hotline Bling" top hits and how Star Wars was almost totally unknown.
Dr. Sheyna Gifford tells us about her year living on a volcano in Hawaii with just five other people as part of HI-SEAS IV, a NASA project to simulate life on Mars. Sheyna was the space doc on the mission, accompanied by a physicist, an architect, an engineer, a biologist and a commander. Living in a 1200 square foot biodome and going outside only in their space suits, the crew studied the psychological effects and group dynamics that could be at play when astronauts make it to Mars. On Nerdette, Sheyna tells Tricia what the year was like and how she got through it. She also gives some excellent homework.
Maria Popova, the creator of the website Brain Pickings, explains how her job is to reflect on everything from literature and physics to astronomy and art. She tells Nerdette hosts Tricia Bobeda and Greta Johnsen about her rigorous daily diet of reading, writing, tweeting, and reflecting, as well as her newest guilty pleasure: Playing bridge.