Virtual Memories Show 367:
Whitney Matheson

“Music, film, TV, books: those are the things that tell you when you’re a kid that there’s a world out there.”

It’s the end of the world as we know it, and we feel fine! A few weeks before the COVID-19 lockdowns began, pop culture writer and REM maniac Whitney Matheson joined the show to talk about how she managed to blaze her own journalistic trail by writing about the music, movies, TV and books that she loved. We get into how pop culture writing and blogging have changed since she launched Pop Candy at USA Today in 1999, why she left NYC and why she had to come back, the importance of having great content on her Patreon, what it’s like being defined by work in her early 20s, how a post about a KFC sandwich remains her most-read piece, and how she has to do triage to figure out what to keep up with. We also get into her upcoming kid’s book about the Loch Ness monster, her most recent celebrity freakout, how she taught interviewing skills to students who are unused to talking on the phone, the importance of having a career plan (and trying to stick to it), and how parenthood introduced her to a different world of pop. Oh, and because she’s all about lists, we find out her top three American rock bands (including REM, of course). Give it a listen! And go support Whitney via Patreon!

“I just wrote about the things that I loved, and the things that I loved happened to be very different from what was being covered in a very large, mainstream publication.”

“The comics industry has the most kindness and camaraderie of any entertainment-industry I’ve worked in.”

“I love the things that aren’t getting much attention.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TuneIn, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Whitney Matheson is a New York-based writer best known for creating Pop Candy (1999-2014), USA Today’s award-winning pop-culture blog. She has appeared on MSNBC, VH1, BBC America, E! and Turner Classic Movies, and her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including Playboy, Mental Floss, Slate and The Hollywood Reporter. Her first children’s book, We Make Comics!, was released in May 2019. Subscribe to Whitney’s weekly pop-culture newsletter and get exclusive content like comics, short stories and more at patreon.com/whitneymatheson.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at a cartooning studio in Gowanus on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photos of Whitney by me. It’s on my instagram. Except for the one in the Automatic For The People T-shirt. That’s probably by her.

Virtual Memories Show 365:
Ben Katchor

“A dairy restaurant feels to me like an urban, walled Garden of Eden, but it’s in this world, so it gets trapped in the doings of this world.”

The great cartoonist Ben Katchor rejoins the show to talk about his brand-new book, The Dairy Restaurant (Schocken), a 500-page illustrated history of, um, dairy restaurants! We get into what drew him to the milekhdike personality, the remnants of Eastern European Jewish culture that call to him, why this book had to be prose-with-pictures rather than comics, the decades of research and interviews he conducted, and why these restaurants came to represent the history of how Jews moved away from their parents’ professions. We also discuss just what went wrong with the world, why his favorite books are old Chicago Yellow Pages directories, why just studying Jewish history can constitute a sort of Judaism, his fascination with interwar Warsaw, his plea for a controlled economy, and why The Dairy Restaurant had to begin in the Garden of Eden. Give it a listen (and check out our past conversations from 2013 and 2016)! And go buy The Dairy Restaurant!

“Text is about time, and pictures are about space.”

‘I miss the restaurants I never went to.”

“I think everybody for a few moments should think about everything they know, and say, ‘What do I know about it and how does it impinge on my life?'”


Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TuneIn, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Ben Katchor is the author of, among other books, Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer; The Cardboard Valise; Hand-Drying in America: And Other Stories; and The Jew of New York. He was the first cartoonist to receive a MacArthur Fellowship. He teaches at Parsons/The New School in New York City. His new book is The Dairy Restaurant.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Parsons on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photos of Ben Katchor by me. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 364:
Stoya

“Coming from porn you deal with a small slice of human emotion: lust, arousal, maybe some basic things. It’s a lot like sketch comedy: it runs on stereotypes and tropes.”

Writer, actress and adult performer & producer Stoya joins the show to talk about her upcoming NYC theater appearance in Dean Haspiel‘s new play, The War of Woo (March 19-April 4, 2020). We get into how she’s grown as an actress, why porn is like sketch comedy, her joy in the surprises of live theater, publishing Philosophy, Pussycats & Porn, and the mental benefit of moving the decimal. We discuss her vision for her online erotic magazine, ZeroSpaces, the history of labor exploitation in adult entertainment, running a monthly Sex Lit book club, what she’s learned as the sex & relationship advice columnist at Slate, her interest in higher education and the next stage of her career, the learning curve of identifying and interacting with different segments of her audience, the unexpected obstacles to intimacy with people outside the adult industry, and why reading a novel is her favorite escape. Give it a listen! And go buy Philosophy, Pussycats & Porn!

“One of the points of privilege for entertainers is that we get to be all of our selves.”

“Porn is an American industry; of course it’s exploitive. That’s not a porn problem, it’s an American capitalism problem.”

“I’m more interested in working with the reality we have, than in writing fiction or plays.”

“There’s trouble when you don’t have a connection to history: that’s true in sex-work and it’s true when I was talking to a reporter in Macedonia.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TuneIn, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Stoya has been a pornographer since 2006 and a writer since 2012. She was written for the New York Times, the Guardian, Playboy, and others. She has acted in a Serbian sci-fi feature, A.I. Rising, and three of Dean Haspiel‘s plays, in Brooklyn and Manhattan. She lives with two cats and a platonic domestic partner named Steve. Her first book is Philosophy, Pussycats & Porn (Not A Cult).

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Stoya’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photos of Stoya & Pixel by me. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 361:
Dmitry Samarov

“I’ve been very fortunate to have an undying inner need to keep expressing myself, in the face of fairly universal indifference. It just doesn’t discourage me; it might be some sort of insanity.”

With his new memoir, Soviet Stamps, artist & writer Dmitry Samarov explores his experience of emigrating from the USSR as a child, finding his way through late-’70s and ’80s America, and becoming an artist. We talk about the book’s winding path to self-publication, how his story does and doesn’t fit in to the history of Soviet Jewry, how he overcame the embarrassment of including his adolescent art in the book, his 4th grade autobiography and how it managed to predict much of his career, and the possible Dmitry-lives that could have resulted from decisions that were out of his hands. We also get into his notion that art requires disengagement, his gauge for the life and death of artworks, the value of the apprentice system over art school, why he’s writing fiction for his next book, and which self-promotional event he hates more: the book reading or the gallery opening. (Oh, and check out our previous conversations: 2014, 2015, and 2018) Give it a listen! And go buy Soviet Stamps!

“It’s mind-blowing to me to think about the chances my parents took, the leap they took into the unknown, and everything they had to give up.”

“I think I’m better at walking away from paintings than I used to be.”

“You can’t really see inside another person no matter how well you know them, and you can’t see what you’re looking at if you’re in the middle of it.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TuneIn, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Dmitry Samarov paints and writes in Chicago, Illinois. He’s the author of four published books: Hack, and Where To?, both illustrated memoirs of his taxi-driving days, Music To My Eyes, and Soviet Stamps. You should sign up for his weekly e-mail and listen to his occasional Blather podcast.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at the Society of Illustrators on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Painting of Dmitry Samarov by him, so it’s not on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 358:
Daniel Mendelsohn

“Achilles is a hero who is mesmerizing without being penetrable, whereas Odysseus I think I understand (perhaps hubristic to say that).”

His wondrous new collection, Ecstasy and Terror: From the Greeks to Game of Thrones (NYRB), brings a dizzying array of Daniel Mendelsohn‘s critical-essayistic-memoir pieces together. We sat down to talk about the work of the critic and the drama that makes for a great critical piece, as well as the temptation to make a name by going after easy targets, his need to criscross genres and categories with personal writing and criticism, and why his negative review of Mad Men got him more pushback than anything else he’s written. We get into his amazing 2017 memoir, An Odyssey: A Father, A Son, and an Epic, its gorgeous structure and its insight into Homer and our present day, while we try to suss out why the great Greek translators have either produced a great Iliad or a great Odyssey, but not both (he’s working on a new translation of The Odyssey). We also discuss the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the nature of contemporary mythmaking, my pet theory about the tragedy of Achilles in the Iliad, Emily Wilson’s question about Odysseus’ true homophrosyne, the role of erudition in criticism, how institutions like The New Yorker, New York Review of Books, Paris Review etc. handle succession, our love of the finale of The Americans, his one conversation with Philip Roth, and SO much more. Give it a listen! And go buy Ecstasy and Terror: From the Greeks to Game of Thrones and An Odyssey: A Father, A Son, and an Epic!

“When you start as a critic, there’s a great drive to make your mark and be noticed.”

“You need to be bothered a little bit by something, in order to want to investigate it.”

“There is no act of intimacy in the world of literature that is greater than translating.”

“Identity becomes more interesting the more multiplex it is.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TuneIn, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Daniel Mendelsohn teaches at Bard and is Editor-at-Large at The New York Review of Books. His books include An Odyssey: A Father, A Son, and an Epic; The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million; How Beautiful It Is And How Easily It Can Be Broken: Essays, and, from New York Review Books, Waiting for the Barbarians: Essays from the Classics to Pop Culture. His new book is Ecstasy and Terror: From the Greeks to Game of Thrones, also from NYRB.

There’s a longer version at his website.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Mr. Mendelsohn’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photos of Mr. Mendelsohn by me. It’s on my instagram.