Lynn Barber, the demon of Fleet Street, talks interviewing; the good, the bad and the bollocks
Barber started her career at Penthouse Magazine, writing about the parameters of sexuality. “It trained me never to be embarrassed and never to show shock or disgust.”
The secret to a good interview, according to Barber, is getting people to talk. “I am genuinely interested in them at the point I am interviewing, I want to understand them”.
But it’s not always plain sailing, the real disasters are never written up and the ones that make the cut are not always perfect.
“If someone else did it better, that’s slightly frustrating, or sometimes every conceivable question has already asked, what more is there to get?”
For Barber, contemporary artists are a favourite but can be difficult to interview. “The reason they are artists is they don’t trust words very much and they express themselves in other ways. To find a way of interviewing that isn't bollocks and has an attachment to reality is a challenge.”
Stewart Lee is a writer and stand-up comedian. He has written for radio, television, theatre, newspapers and magazines and performed as a stand-up comedian all over the world. His first novel, The Perfect Fool, was published in July 2001. He is co-author with the composer Richard Thomas of Jerry Springer: The Opera, which was denounced by the good folk of Christian Voice as “crude, offensive and blasphemous in the extreme”.
Edward Slingerland is an internationally recognized expert in both early Chinese thought and the links between cognitive science and the humanities.
He is Professor of Asian Studies, Associate Member in the Departments of Philosophy and Psychology, and holds the Canada Research Chair in Chinese Thought and Embodied Cognition at the University of British Columbia. He is the author of Effortless Action (2003) and What Science Offers the Humanities (2008). His latest book is Trying Not to Try: The Ancient Art of Effortlessness and the Surprising Power of Spontaneity.
Adam Macqueen has been a hack at Private Eye magazine on and off for 14 years. He was assistant, deputy and finally acting editor of The Big Issue between 1999 and 2002. He’s on the editorial team of Popbitch.com, and was an associate producer on Adam Curtis’s BBC series All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace. Adam is the author of various books including The King of Sunlight, and his latest is Private Eye: The First 50 Years.
First broadcast on 18th November 2011.
Aleks Krotoski is an academic and journalist who writes about and studies technology and interactivity. She is currently a Visiting Fellow in the Media and Communications Department at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and Research Associate at the Oxford Internet Institute. Aleks writes for the Guardian and Observer newspapers, and hosts Tech Weekly, their technology podcast. She presented the Emmy and Bafta-winning BBC 2 series Virtual Revolution, and more recently the BBC Radio 4 series Digital Human. Her first book is Untangling the Web: What the Internet is Doing to You. Also this week, critic Matthew Sweet on the Ealing WW2 propaganda film Went The Day Well?
First broadcast on 7th December 2013.
The annual conference of the Orange County Freethought Alliance took place over the weekend of 19 and 20 May 2012 at the University of California, Irvine. Neil Denny attended the conference on the Saturday 19 May and talked to some of the speakers. This podcast features five short interviews.
Richard Carrier is a writer for Internet Infidels and a historian of the historical Jesus; Aron Ra is an internet activist who uses phylogenetics to counter the claims of creationists; Heina Dadabhoy is a former muslim and a current writer for Skepchick; Dave Silverman is the president of American Atheists and organiser of the Reason Rally; Brian Dunning is the producer and presenter of the seminal podcast Skeptoid.
In this week’s podcast, Neil Denny travels to Oakland, California, to the headquarters of the National Center for Science Education to talk to Eugenie Scott. Eugenie Scott is Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education.
She has written extensively on the evolution-creationism controversy and is a past president of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists. She is the author of Evolution vs. Creationism: An Introduction".
While spending the day at Caltech, in Pasadena, CA. Neil spent some time talking with the former Director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory Edward Stone. Edward Stone joined Caltech as a research fellow in physics after receiving his Master of Science degree and PhD, in physics at the University of Chicago. Over the years, he has held a variety of positions, from assistant professor to Vice President for Astronomical Facilities. In 1972 he became project scientist for the Voyager mission, a position he currently still holds. He was the Director of JPL from January 1991 to April 2001, when he went back to teaching at Caltech. While Stone was Director, JPL’s Mars Pathfinder and its Sojourner rover sent back images that were seen by millions of people on television and the Web. Among other successes were the Mars Global Surveyor, Deep Space 1, TOPEX/Poseidon, NASA Scatterometer, and the launch of Cassini, Stardust, and 2001 Mars Odyssey.
Between 12 May and 9 June 2012, Neil Denny embarked on a 6000 mile road trip across America. The aim of the trip was to produce a series of podcasts which present a wide-ranging overview of science and skepticism from an American perspective. Neil interviewed scientists working on ground-breaking, cutting edge science, educators combatting the encroachment of anti-science and irrationality into politics and the classroom, and writers attempting to popularise amazing ideas and concepts to the wider public. He also explored some major scientific (and some not so scientific) sites of interest along the way. This trip was made possible by a travelling fellowship from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust. The theme tune of the podcast is a version of Black Top Blues by Acadian Driftwood.
In this episode, Neil visits the University of Chicago and spends some time in the company of Jerry Coyne. Jerry Coyne is a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago, where he works on diverse areas of evolutionary genetics. His research focuses on the origin of new species, using the fruit fly (Drosophila) as mode organism. A former student of the distinguished Harvard geneticist Richard Lewontin, Coyne has taught evolutionary biology for more than 25 years, and has contributed frequently to the public debate concerning evolution and creationism. He has published widely in research journals and is the author, with Allen Orr, of Speciation, now the standard academic text in the subject. He was elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2007. Jerry is the author of Why Evolution is True.
Johann Hari is a journalist who has written for the New York Times, the LA Times, the Guardian,Le Monde, Slate, the New Republic and The Nation among others. He was a columnist on the Independent for nine years and was twice named Newspaper Journalist of the Year by Amnesty International UK. He has also been named Cultural Commentator of the Year by the Editorial Intelligence awards and Gay Journalist of the Year by Stonewall.
This is the biography from Johann Hari's new book Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs. It leaves out rather a lot. In this interview Neil Denny talks to Johann about the book, but not before he has apologized to some other friends of Little Atoms.
Julian Baggini is editor of The Philosophers' Magazine. His books include Atheism: A Very Short Introduction (OUP), What's It All About? Philosophy and the Meaning of Life (Granta) and The Pig That Wants To Be Eaten and 99 Other Thought Experiments (Granta), Welcome to Everytown: A Journey into The English Mind (Granta) and Complaint (Profile).
His journalism has appeared in publications such as the Guardian, Independent, Times Higher Education Supplement, Times Education Supplement and the Sunday Herald. He is frequently heard on BBC radio in programmes including In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg, Off the Page and Nightwaves.
Cory Doctorow is a science fiction novelist, blogger and technology activist. He is the co-editor of the popular weblog Boing Boing, and a contributor to Wired, The Guardian, Popular Science, the New York Times, and many other newspapers, magazines and websites. A visiting senior lecturer at the Open University, he was formerly Director of European Affairs for the Electronic Frontier Foundation), a non-profit civil liberties group that defends freedom in technology law, policy, standards and treaties. He is currently on the advisory council of the Open Rights Group..
He has won the Locus and Sunburst Awards, and been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula and British Science Fiction Awards. His most recent novel was Makers, and his previous novel Little Brother, made it to the New York Times Bestsellers.
Bruce Hood is currently the Director of the Bristol Cognitive Development Centre in the Experimental Psychology Department at the University of Bristol. He has been a research fellow at Cambridge University and University College London, a visiting scientist at MIT and a faculty professor at Harvard. The author of Supersense, and most recently The Self Illusion, Bruce also presented the 2011 Royal Institution Christmas Lectures. Bruce has been our guest on Little Atoms twice.
Interview one first broadcast on 31st July 2009.
Interview one first broadcast on 28th September 2012.
Claudia Hammond is a writer, broadcaster and psychology lecturer. She is the voice of psychology on BBC Radio 4 where she is the presenter of All in the Mind and Mind Changers. She is also a part-time member of faculty at Boston University in London. She won the British Psychological Society's Public Engagement and Media Award in 2012, Mind's Making a Difference Award in 2011, the Society of Personality and Social Psychology's Media Achievement Award in 2012 and the Public Understanding of Neuroscience Award from the British Neuroscience Association in 2012. Claudia Hammond is the author of one previous book, Emotional Rollercoaster and in this interview we talk about her latest, Time Warped: Unlocking the Mysteries of Time Perception.
First broadcast on 9th August 2013.
George Orwell wrote some of his most renowned essays for the British left-wing publication Tribune between 1940 and 1947, including "Books vs Cigarettes", "You And The Atom Bomb" and the regular "As I Please" column. These works were compiled by Paul Anderson in the book "Orwell in Tribune."
Interview first broadcast on 18th August 2006.
Alom Shaha was born in Bangladesh but grew up in London. A teacher, writer and filmmaker, he has spent most of his professional life trying to share his passion for science and education with the public. Alom has produced, directed and appeared in a number of television programmes, and has received fellowships from the National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts (NESTA) and the Nuffield Foundation. Alom has represented the community in which he grew up as an elected politician and volunteered at a range of charitable organisations. He teaches at a comprehensive school in London and writes for a number of print and online publications including The Guardian. Alom is the author of The Young Atheist's Handbook.
First broadcast on 20th July 2012.
The 1st October 2009 saw the launch of The Atheist Guide to Christmas. This episode of Little Atoms features Neil and Padraig in conversation with 3 old friends of the show, editor Ariane Sherine, and contributors Natalie Haynes and Josie Long. We discuss the genesis (!) of the book, our contributions, the ideal christmas, and argue over the definitions of atheism, agnosticism and secularism, then the rubbishness of various ex-boyfriends gift buying skills are discussed.
Edited by Ariane Sherine, The Atheist's Guide To Christmas features 42 contributions from the world's most entertaining atheist scientists, comedians, philosophers, writers and journalists, including: Richard Dawkins, Derren Brown, Charlie Brooker, David Baddiel, Ben Goldacre, Josie Long, Richard Herring, Simon Singh, Brian Cox, Jenny Colgan, AC Grayling, Simon Le Bon, Claire Rayner, Robin Ince, Natalie Haynes, Zoe Margolis, Phil Plait, Mitch Benn, Lucy Porter, Adam Rutherford... and many, many more (Including Little Atoms own Neil Denny).
First broadcast on 25th September 2009.
Alex Cox is a film director, screenwriter, actor, and author. Among his features are Repo Man, Sid & Nancy, Walker, and Revengers Tragedy. Between 1998 and 1994 he hosted the BBC2 cult film series Moviedrome. He currently teaches film production and screenwriting at the University of Colorado. He is also the author of 10,000 Ways to Die: A Director's Take on the Spaghetti Western and most recently The President and The Provocateur: The Parallel Lives of JFK and Lee Harvey Oswald. Also this week, critic Miranda Sawyer on her love for the suppressed Rolling Stones documentary Cocksucker Blues.
First broadcast on 23rd November 2013.
Simon Ardizzone is a freelance editor and filmmaker living and working in the UK. Since graduating from the National Film and Television School in 1995, Simon has worked on over 50 films for English and American broadcasters. Hacking Democracy, his first documentary, co-produced and directed with Russell Michaels, was nominated for Outstanding Investigative Journalism at this year's Emmy Awards. Hacking Democracy which proved that vote-counting computers could reverse the results of an American election, was shown last year by HBO to widespread critical acclaim and has become a tool for election reform activists across the states.
Interview first broadcast on 7th December 2007.
Greg Jenner is the historical consultant to CBBC's multi-award winning Horrible Histories,Horrible Histories with Stephen Fry, and the various HH spin-offs. As well as contributing sketches and co-writing Stephen Fry's links, over the past four years he has been solely responsible for the factual accuracy of nearly one thousand comedy sketches with subject matter that has spanned the entirety of human history.
Greg studied at the University of York and, after dropping initial plans for a life in academia, has worked on historical documentaries and dramas for the past seven years. Greg's first book is A Million Years in a Day: A Curious History of Everyday Life from the Stone Age to the Phone Age.
Late last year, Little Atoms took part in an audio installation, Mind’s Eye, which consisted of a number of interviews with scientists involved in current space missions.
Mind’s Eye is now on tour, and can been heard from 16 to 22 February as part of Smashfest UK at the Albany Theatre in Deptford. Here are two interviews recorded for this tour. Dr Shoshana Weider was a postdoctoral fellow on NASA’s Messenger mission to Mercury, and Dr Matt Taylor is currently Project Scientist on ESA’s Rosetta.
J. Courtney Sullivan is the author of the New York Times bestselling novels Commencement, Maine and The Engagements. Maine was named a Best Book of the Year by Time magazine, and a Washington Post Notable Book for 2011. The Engagements was one of People Magazine's Top Ten Books of 2013 and an Irish Times Best Book of the Year. It is soon to be a major motion picture produced by Reese Witherspoon. Courtney's writing has also appeared in The New York Times Book Review, The Chicago Tribune, New York magazine, Elle, Glamour, Allure, Real Simple, and the New York Observer, among many others. She was a co-editor, with Courtney Martin, of the essay anthology Click: When We Knew We Were Feminists. Also this week, critic Robert Hanks talks about Comedians by Trevor Griffiths.
First broadcast on 18 January 2014.
David Stubbs joined the music magazine Melody Maker in 1986, and worked there for 12 years. His most famous creation, Mr Agreeable periodically reawakens over at The Quietus.
He has also written for The Guardian, NME, The Wire, When Saturday Comes and Uncut, and was a presenter of the Resonance FM football show Café Calcio.
David is the author of numerous books, including Fear of Music: Why People Get Rothko but Don’t Get Stockhausen. His latest book is Future Days: Krautrock and the Building of Modern Germany.
Brian Clegg is a science journalist and writer. He runs www.popularscience.co.uk and is the author of Inflight Science: A Guide to the World From Your Airplane Window. Brian's other books include Armageddon Science, Before The Big Bang, and A Brief History of Infinity.
First broadcast on 6th May 2011.
Charles Fernyhough is a writer and psychologist. The Baby in the Mirror, his book about his daughter's psychological development, was translated into seven languages. He has also written two novels, The Auctioneer a A Box of Birds. He is a Reader in Psychology at Durham University and has written for the Guardian, Financial Times and Sunday Telegraph. His latest book is Pieces of Light: The New Science of Memory.
First broadcast on 17th August 2012.
Conor Woodman is an economist, author, film-maker and presenter. He is the author of Around the World in 80 Trades - which had an accompanying four-part television series for Channel 4. His most recent book was Unfair Trade: How Big Business Exploits the World's Poor - and Why it Doesn't Have to, which we discussed on a previous episode of Little Atoms. In this show we talk about Conor's TV series, Scam City, which is currently airing on Wednesday evenings at 8pm on the National Geographic Channel. Conor has been our guest on Little Atoms twice.
Arthur I. Miller is emeritus professor of history and philosophy of science at University College London. He is the author of several acclaimed books, including Einstein, Picasso, which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, Empire of the Stars, which was shortlisted for the 2006 Aventis Prize for Science Books, and 137, which we’re discussed on a previous Little Atoms. An experienced broadcaster, lecturer and biographer, he is particularly interested in the relationship between science and creativity, and his latest book is Colliding Worlds: How Cutting-Edge Science is Redefining Contemporary Art.
Rebecca Skloot is a science writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Discover, and many other publications. She is the guest editor of The Best American Science Writing 2011, a contributing editor at Popular Science magazine, and has worked as a correspondent for WNYC’s Radiolab and PBS’s Nova ScienceNOW.
Skloot served for eight years on the Board of Directors of the National Book Critics Circle, where she was a vice president and judge for their yearly book awards. She has a B.S. in biological sciences and an MFA in creative nonfiction. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, her debut book, took more than a decade to research and write, and instantly became a New York Times best-seller.