Summary: Nerdette is a safe space for nerding out about all the things you're watching, reading, and encountering IRL. Interviews with your favorite (or soon-to-be favorite) authors, artists, astronauts, and more.
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.”