#OnTheBlock

Episode 73 - Tom Krattenmaker

krattenmaker.jpg

Been a while since we've been with you, lovelies. The world continues to end. Or is it just continuing to transform itself? This show has always been about borders. About intersections. About the boundaries out on the edges of the Self where subject and object, self and other, start to blend. Now, it seems more than ever, we need to engage the great, maligned and feared "other" rather than succumbing to the constant barrage of media that seeks to make us demonize and simply dismiss that which isn't "Us." Our guest this episode is a person that seeks to change that orientation. 

Tom Krattenmaker is a writer specializing in religion in public life and author of the new book Confessions of a Secular Jesus Follower (Convergent, 2016). His first book, Onward Christian Athletes (Rowman & Littlefield, 2009), examined Christianity in professional sports. The book was a winner in ForeWord Review’s 2009 book awards and a finalist in the Oregon Book Awards. Krattenmaker’s second book, The Evangelicals You Don’t Know (Rowman & Littlefield, 2013), on the “new evangelicals” in post-Christian America, was a winner in the best books competition of the Religion Newswriters Association in 2014.

Krattenmaker writes regularly for USA Today’s op-ed page as a member of the newspaper’s
editorial Board of Contributors. His column-writing was honored by the American Academy of Religion in its 2009 Journalism Awards program, receiving praise for challenging popular misconceptions about evangelicals “and showing that something new, something more complex and subtle is going on — a great goal for religion commentary.” His work has also appeared in recent years in the Washington Post, Religion News Service, and Huffington Post, among numerous other media outlets.

Krattenmaker’s numerous media appearances include Fox & Friends, the documentary “Lord Save Us From Your Followers,” National Public Radio, the New York Times “Idea of the Day” website, ESPN’s “Outside the Lines,”  the Christian Broadcasting Network, The Nation, Christianity Today, Air America, the Michael Smerconish Show, the Michael Medved Show, Portland Monthly, and radio networks/stations including Fox, the Canadian Broadcasting Company, and numerous regional and local outlets.

Named the 2009 Mendenhall Lecturer at DePauw University, Krattenmaker has also spoken at college campuses including Yale, Harvard, Georgetown, Baylor, Lewis & Clark, Willamette University Law School, the University of Portland, Portland State University, Missouri State University, and Springfield, Swarthmore, and Haverford, and Kilns colleges. He was a recipient of the 2009 “Friend of MET” award from the Portland-based Muslim Educational Trust and, in April 2013, was honored by Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon with its Hunderup Award for Religious Education. He resides with his wife in New Haven, Connecticut, and serves on the Board of Directors of the Yale Humanist Community

We recorded this episode a few months ago. Before the Trump era had fully taken hold. It is interesting to listen to the perspective of a cultural critic sitting on the front end of what was to come. We tend to avoid the overtly political here at OTBR. But in these times, even the exploration of consciousness seems to be a political enterprise (in that it involves people coming together to build consensus and mutual understanding). Tom is a great example of what a version of this understanding and mutuality might look like going forward. We were delighted to speak with him. 

Episode 71 - Dan Merchant

Dan is many things including a radio host and the former voice behind “Sheila and Dan” in the morning at KINK.FM

He’s also an Emmy and Iris award winning television writer/producer/director who’s working on SyFy’s zombie hit Z Nation. Over the top, hilarious and scary, Z Nation is bringing fun and mercy to the zombie apocalypse with a fresh and surprisingly reflective approach to the current zombie craze.

In 2009 Dan made his debut as a feature film director with the theatrical release of his documentary, Lord Save Us From Your Followers.The critically acclaimed film was the result of an amazing three-year journey behind the front lines of America’s so-called Culture Wars. USA Today called Lord, Save Us… “Michael Moore-meets-Monty Python. A humorous and heartfelt examination of the culture wars.” Variety proclaimed: “Admirably bold…It would take a hard heart indeed not to be moved.”

Besides being a producer and writer for Z Nation, Dan is also known for Lord, Save Us from Your Followers (2008) and Strange Frequency (2001).

Dan's also a friend and a caring, transformative soul. He shows us that one doesn't have to choose between fun and faith. He is the embodiment of a necessary truth: anything is possible when we allow our creative forces to join together. With an open mind and a full heart, Dan Merchant is hungry to engage a dying world with his art, his passion and his perspective on our received wisdom.  

Episode 70 - Andrew Harvey

Andrew Harvey is Founder Director of the  Institute of Sacred Activism, an international organization focused on inviting concerned people to take up the challenge of our contemporary global crises by becoming inspired, effective, and practical agents of institutional and systemic change, in order to create peace and sustainability. Sacred Activism is a transforming force of compassion-in-action that is born of a fusion of deep spiritual knowledge, courage, love, and passion, with wise radical action in the world. The large-scale practice of Sacred Activism can become an essential force for preserving and healing the planet and its inhabitants.

Andrew was born in south India in 1952, where he lived until he was nine years old. It is this early period that he credits with shaping his sense of the inner unity of all religions and providing him with a permanent and inspiring vision of a world infused with the sacred. He left India to attend private school in England and entered Oxford University in 1970 with a scholarship to study history. At the age of 21, he became the youngest person ever to be awarded a fellowship to All Soul’s College, England’s highest academic honor.

By 1977, Harvey had become disillusioned with life at Oxford and returned to his native India, where a series of mystical experiences initiated his spiritual journey. Over the next thirty years he plunged into different mystical traditions to learn their secrets and practices. In 1978 he met a succession of Indian saints and sages and began his long study and practice of Hinduism. In 1983, in Ladakh, he met the great Tibetan adept, Thuksey Rinpoche, and undertook with him the Mahayana Buddhist Bodhisattva vows. Andrew’s book about that experience, Journey in Ladakh, won the Christmas Humphries Award.

In 1984, Andrew Harvey began a life-long exploration and explication of Rumi and Sufi mysticism in Paris with a group of French Sufis and under the guidance of Eva De Vitray-Meyerovitch, the magnificent translator of Rumi into French. Andrew has written three books on that subject: The Way of PassionThe Celebration of Rumiand Perfume of the Desert, an anthology of Sufi mysticism. With Llewellyn Baughn Lee, he founded the Sufi Conferences, which have played a prominent role in uniting Sufis of all persuasions during the past six years. He has close connections with great Sufi teachers in America, Africa, India and Pakistan, and a very clear, comprehensive grasp of the state of modern Sufism in both the west and the east.

In 1990, he collaborated with Sogyal Rinpoche and Patrick Gaffney in the writing of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. In 1992, he met Father Bede Griffiths in his ashram in south India near where Andrew had been born. It was this meeting that helped him synthesize the whole of his mystical explorations and reconcile eastern with western mysticism.

Andrew has since lived in London, Paris, New York, and San Francisco, and has continued to study a variety of religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity. He has written and edited over 30 books. Other honors he has received include the Benjamin Franklin Award and the Mind Body Spirit Award (both for Mary’s Vineyard: Daily Readings, Meditations, and Revelations). Among Harvey’s other well-known titles are: Dialogues with a Modern MysticHidden JourneyThe Essential MysticsSon of ManThe Return of the Mother and The Direct Path.

Episode 69 - David F. Walker

David F. Walker is an award-winning comic book writer, author, filmmaker, journalist, and educator. His work in comic books includes Shaft (Dynamite Entertainment), winner of the 2015 Glyph Award for Story of the Year, Power Man and Iron FistNighthawkFurySecret Wars: Battleworld(Marvel Comics), Cyborg (DC Comics), The Army of Dr. Moreau (IDW/Monkeybrain Comics), and Number 13 (Dark Horse Comics). In 2015, he wrote the novel Shaft’s Revenge, the first new novel starring private detective John Shaft in nearly 40 years. He is also the creator of the critically-acclaimed YA series The Adventures of Darius Logan.

Recognized as a leading scholar expert of African-American cinema who has been interviewed by such news outlets as The Los Angeles TimesNew York Daily News, and BBC, Walker produced one of the definitive documentaries on the topic of Blaxploitation films, Macked, Hammered, Slaughtered, and Shafted. His publication BadAzz MoFo became internationally known as the indispensable resource guide to black films of the 70s, and he is co-author of the book Reflections on Blaxploitation: Actors and Directors Speak. Walker’s most recent book, Becoming Black: Personal Ramblings on Racial Identification, Racism and Popular Culture, was released in winter 2013.

In addition to Macked, Hammered, Slaughtered, and Shafted, Walker has also directed and produced five other films, including the award-winning short film Black Santa’s Revenge. He has been featured on A&E, VH1, AMC, and E!, and he worked to develop a documentary with HBO. His body of work was showcased and honored at the 2012 Oakland Underground Film Festival.

Walker has worked on projects with filmmaker Quentin Tarantino, Aaron McGruder (creator of The Boondocks), and director/producer Reginald Hudlin (House PartyDjango Unchained).

As a journalist, Walker served as screen editor and lead film critic for the alt-weekly Willamette Week for seven years. He was the 2003 recipient of the prestigious Society of Professional Journalists Award for excellence in writing. He has written cultural analysis and commentary for MSN, DVD Talk, Giant Robot MagazineSavvy, Cinephiled, and Rap Pages.

As an educator, Walker has taught courses such as documentary filmmaking, writing for comics, and film criticism to youth through the Pacific Northwest College of Art, Northwest Film Center, Documentary Northwest, and Project Youth Doc.

Episode 68 - Dr. Rick Strassman

Dr. Rick Strassman was born in Los Angeles, California in 1952 (although presumably he wasn’t a doctor at that point, at least not a credentialed one). As an undergraduate, he majored in zoology before transferring to Stanford University, where he graduated with departmental honors in biological sciences in 1973. He attended the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in New York, where he obtained his medical degree with honors in 1977.

Dr. Strassman took his internship and general psychiatry residency at the University of California, Davis, Medical Center in Sacramento, and received the Sandoz Award for outstanding graduating resident in 1981. After graduating, he worked for a year in Fairbanks, Alaska in community mental health and private psychiatric practice. From 1982-1983, he obtained fellowship training in clinical psychopharmacology research at the University of California, San Diego’s Veteran’s Administration Medical Center. He then served on the clinical faculty in the department of psychiatry at UC Davis Medical Center, before taking a full-time academic position in the department of psychiatry at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine in Albuquerque in 1984.

At UNM, Dr. Strassman performed clinical research investigating the function of the pineal hormone melatonin in which his research group documented the first known role of melatonin in humans. 

He also began the first new US government approved and funded clinical research with psychedelic drugs in over twenty years. Before leaving the University in 1995, he attained the rank of tenured Associate Professor of Psychiatry, and received the UNM General Clinical Research Center’s Research Scientist Award.

He has published nearly thirty peer-reviewed scientific papers, and has served as a reviewer for several psychiatric research journals. He has been a consultant to the US Food and Drug Administration, National Institute on Drug Abuse, Veteran’s Administration Hospitals, Social Security Administration, and other state and local agencies. In 2007 he founded the Cottonwood Research Foundation, with Steve Barker and Andrew Stone,.

From 1996 to 2000, while living in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, Dr. Strassman worked in community mental health centers for Washington State in Bellingham and Port Townsend. For the next four years, he had a solo private practice in Taos, New Mexico. 

After two years working on the edge of the Navajo Reservation in Gallup NM, he returned to northern New Mexico in 2006, where he served at a mental health center in Espanola.  Since mid-2008, he has been writing full-time. And has completed THREE books and is working on another seven most likely. He currently is Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine.

Episode 66- Reema Zaman

Reema Zaman says this about her work: "Why else do we write or read but to invoke a loving voice in the dark, to alleviate our loneliness, to forge solidarity, to make sense of our inherent, stunning madness?"

Reema was born in Bangladesh, raised in Hawaii and Thailand, and moved to the US to attend college. She has a BA in Women's Studies, a BA in Theater, and a minor in Religion. After graduation, she worked as an actress and model in New York for 8 years. Now, she writes narrative nonfiction, is a life-coach and writes for "Dear Reema," where she responds to letters sent in by readers.

Her first memoir, I Am Yours, is written as though she's speaking to her imaginary best friend from childhood whom she never released. Some know their inner voice as God, a guardian angel, or a long deceased ancestor. Reema knows this as a presence she met when she was 3, a friend named "Love" - Love is her voice in the dark. "I Am Yours" is her story of stubborn perseverance through an unstable childhood, anorexia, disownment, rape, marriage, betrayal, divorce, the acting and modeling industry, racism, sexism, classism and more, with the help of ever loyal Love. 

For Reema, Life has not been simple but it has been full. I Am Yours is an intimate, comprehensive study in identity, loyalty, integrity, and authenticity. Zaman explore her past and present refracting selves: child, daughter, sister, wife, actress, Bangladeshi, immigrant, commodity, artist, woman.

On Dear Reema, the main intention is to serve others. She ceases being the main character and focuses on the reader's journey. Reema sources from her own life to explore similar topics as those found in I Am Yours: our connective, collective trials, childhood wounds, addiction, ambition, body image, sex, dating, love, relationships, self-empowerment, ownership, spirituality, recovery, healing, humility, purpose. For her, writing is service. Writing alchemizes our pain into poetry. Through it all, her mission is to be a conduit of love, a voice for those without one, to inspire and empower others to fill into their truest, boldest, brightest self. Reema believes we are one story and that all we truly need, we hold within.

"Pain, insecurity, trials, anger, confusion, the near-reckless desire to love and be loved deeply, these are our common specialties. Our fault-lines are where our paths intersect, where your shards align with mine. Reasons to never feel less or better than anyone. Reasons to never feel alone. How lovely that being human soothes the ache of being human.”

Episode 48 - Ramez Naam

Futurist, scifi author and former Microsoft executive Ramez Naam has some definite ideas about where we are heading as a species. And it might be in a different direction than you think.  

Ramez was born in Cairo, Egypt, and came to the US at the age of 3.  He’s a computer scientist, futurist, angel investor, and award-winning author.  He spent 13 years at Microsoft, where he led teams developing early versions of Microsoft Outlook, Internet Explorer, and the Bing search engine.  His career has focused on bringing advanced collaboration, communication, and information retrieval capabilities to roughly one billion people around the world, and took him to the role of Partner and Director of Program Management within Microsoft, with deep experience leading teams working on cutting edge technologies such as machine learning, search, massive scale services, and artificial intelligence.

Between stints at Microsoft, Ramez founded and ran Apex NanoTechnologies, the world’s first company devoted entirely to software tools to accelerate molecular design.  He holds 19 patents related to search engines, information retrieval, web browsing, artificial intelligence, and machine learning.

Ramez is also the award-winning author of five books:

Nexus, Crux, and Apex (fiction). This trilogy of philosophical science fiction thrillers look at the impact of an increasingly plausible technology that could link human minds, and the impact such a technology could have on society and on the human condition, for both good and ill.  

The Infinite Resource: The Power of Ideas on a Finite Planet (non-fiction), which looks at the environmental and natural resource challenges of climate change, energy, water, and food, and charts a course to meet those challenges by investing in the scientific and technological innovation needed to overcome them, and by changing our policies to encourage both conservation and critical innovations.

More Than Human: Embracing the Promise of Biological Enhancement (non-fiction), which looks at the science of enhancing the human mind, body, and lifespan, and the effects that will have on society. Ramez was awarded the H.G. Wells Award for his work on More Than Human.

Ramez lectures on energy, environment, and innovation at Singularity University. He’s appeared on Sunday morning MSNBC, repeatedly on Yahoo! Finance, on China Cable Television, on BigThink, and Reuters.fm.  His work has appeared in, or been reviewed by, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The Atlantic, Slate, Business Week, Business Insider, Discover, Popular Science, Wired, and Scientific American.  

In his leisure, Ramez has climbed mountains, descended into icy crevasses, chased sharks through their native domain, backpacked through remote corners of China, and ridden his bicycle down hundreds of miles of the Vietnam coast. He lives in Seattle, where he writes and speaks full time.

Episode 47 - Dorothy Allison

Dorothy Allison grew up in Greenville, South Carolina, the first child of a fifteen-year-old unwed mother who worked as a waitress. Now living in Northern California with her partner Alix and her teenage son, Wolf Michael, she describes herself as a feminist, a working class story teller, a Southern expatriate, a sometime poet and a happily born-again Californian.

The first member of her family to graduate from high school, Allison attended Florida Presbyterian college on a National Merit Scholarship and studied anthropology at the New School for Social Research.

An award winning editor for Quest, Conditions, and Outlook—early feminist and Lesbian & Gay journals, Allison's chapbook of poetry, The Women Who Hate Me, was published with Long Haul Press in 1983. Her short story collection, Trash (1988) was published by Firebrand Books. Trash won two Lambda Literary Awards and the American Library Association Prize for Lesbian and Gay Writing.

Allison says that the early Feminist movement changed her life. "It was like opening your eyes under water. It hurt, but suddenly everything that had been dark and mysterious became visible and open to change." However, she admits, she would never have begun to publish her stories if she hadn't gotten over her prejudices, and started talking to her mother and sisters again. 

Allison received mainstream recognition with her novel Bastard Out of Carolina, (1992) a finalist for the 1992 National Book Award. The novel won the Ferro Grumley prize, an ALA Award for Lesbian and Gay Writing, became a best seller, and an award-winning movie. It has been translated into more than a dozen languages. 

Cavedweller (1998) became a national bestseller, NY Times Notable book of the year, finalist for the Lillian Smith prize, and an ALA prize winner. Adapted for the stage by Kate Moira Ryan, the play was directed by Michael Greif, and featured music by Hedwig composer, Stephen Trask. In 2003, Lisa Cholendenko directed a movie version featuring Krya Sedwick. 

I spoke with Dorothy recently as part of my college's "Mouths of Others" creative arts speakers series. She is full of fire and story and looks right through you in that simple, razor sharp way that only Southerns can. I think you will dig this conversation. I know her writing will undo you. Transformation in a lightning bolt, presented for your enjoyment. 

Episode 46 - Kelly Carlin

Kelly Carlin has always been curious about the big questions of life. Watching her father, George Carlin, be an iconoclastic comedy legend certainly didn’t hurt too.  Like him she loves to use humor to question the status quo, and she loves to seek out the unique angle into any subject she tackles. But unlike him, she brings a more personal and emotional tone to her work.  With her personal story, pathos, emotion and psychological insight she reveals the joy and challenges that comes with trying to live an authentic life.

As a child, Kelly explored her own creativity by writing skits and doing imitations (her Ethel Merman was quite good for an eight year old), but began her professional life in her teens working behind the scenes with her father and mother, Brenda, on various shows for HBO that continued into her twenties.

In 1993, at the ripe age of 30, she graduated from UCLA, Magna Cum Laude, with a B.A. in Communications Studies.  While at UCLA, Kelly discovered her voice as a writer, which led her to a career in writing for film and TV with her husband Robert McCall.  After her mother’s death in 1997, Kelly found her true calling – autobiographical storytelling– through her first one-woman show, “Driven To Distraction.” In 2001, Kelly wanted to explore the intersection of human storytelling and one’s inner psychological life.  She pursued her masters in Jungian Depth Psychology from Pacifica Graduate institute where she studied mythology, Jungian psychology and the nexus of art and the sacred.

Kelly explores the big questions and the intricacies of being human in her many iterations.  She is a public speaker, hosts both “The Kelly Carlin Show” on SiriusXM, and “Waking from the American Dream” on SModcast Network, tours her newest one-woman show, “A Carlin Home Companion,” and is now an author.  Her memoir “A Carlin Home Companion,” was published by St. Martin’s Press to great reviews and success. 

In this episode, we talk about her ever-changing relationship to her father and his legacy, her path to rebirth through the myth of Demeter and Persephone and how because of her last name, wannabe comedians like me are driven to try out their shoddy "material" on her to solicit a laugh from the family of comic royalty. 

Episode 45 - Howard Bloom

“I know a lot of people. A lot. And I ask a lot of prying questions. But I’ve never run into a more intriguing biography than Howard Bloom’s in all my born days.”

--Paul Solman, Business and Economics Correspondent, PBS NewsHour

Howard Bloom has been called “next in a lineage of seminal thinkers that includes Newton, Darwin, Einstein,[and] Freud,” by Britain’s Channel4 TV , “the next Stephen Hawking” by Gear Magazine, and “The Buckminster Fuller and Arthur C. Clarke of the new millennium” by Buckminster Fuller’s archivist. Bloom is the author of The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition Into the Forces of HistoryGlobal Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st CenturyThe Genius of the Beast: A Radical Re-Vision of Capitalism, and The God Problem: How A Godless Cosmos Creates. And his book Global Brain was the subject of an Office of the Secretary of Defense symposium in 2010, with participants from the State Department, the Energy Department, DARPA, IBM, and MIT.

Bloom has founded three international scientific groups: the Group Selection Squad (1995), which fought to gain acceptance for the concept of group selection in evolutionary biology; The International Paleopsychology Project (1997), which worked to create a new multi-disciplinary synthesis between cosmology, paleontology, evolutionary biology, and history; and The Space Development Steering Committee (2007), an organization that includes astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Edgar Mitchell and members from NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Defense.

Bloom explains that his focus is “mass behavior, from the mass behavior of quarks to the mass behavior of human beings.” In 1968 Bloom turned down four fellowships in psychology and neurobiology and set off on a science project in a field he knew nothing about: popular culture. He was determined to tunnel into the forces of history by entering “the belly of the beast where new myths, new mass passions, and new mass movements are made.” Bloom used simple correlational techniques plus what he calls “tuned empathy” and “saturated intuition” to help build or sustain the careers of figures like Prince, Michael Jackson, Bob Marley, Bette Midler, Billy Joel, Paul Simon, Billy Idol, Peter Gabriel, David Byrne, John Mellencamp, Queen, Kiss, Aerosmith, AC/DC, Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five, Run DMC, and roughly 100 others. In the process, he generated $28 billion in revenues (more than the gross domestic product of Oman or Luxembourg) for companies like Sony, Disney, Pepsi Cola, Coca Cola, and Warner Brothers.

Bloom also helped launch Farm Aid and Amnesty International’s American presence. He worked with the United Negro College Fund,the National Black United Fund, and the NAACP, and he put together the first public service radio campaign for solar power (1981).

His bio has like 10 more pages of this shit. Unbelievable. We are so glad to have him on the program. You might not always agree with him, but you are sure to find him provocative, engaging and an agent of transformation. Enjoy!