Rank #1: Nostalgia Trap - Episode 157: Above the Law w/ Justin Rogers-Cooper
Justin Rogers-Cooper returns to continue our discussion of this Summer of Strangeness, this time taking on the Jeffrey Epstein case: who’s connected, why it matters, and what it reveals about the dynamics of power, authority, and punishment within the wider nightmare of global capitalism.
Rank #2: Nostalgia Trap - Episode 67: Matt Karp
Matt Karp is a professor of U.S. history at Princeton University, and the author of the recent book This Vast Southern Empire: Slaveholders at the Helm of American Foreign Policy. In this conversation, Matt tells me about the process of his politicization through various stages of academia, the roots of his interest in the Civil War era, and how the abolitionist project provides an important model for a popular revolutionary politics.
Rank #3: Nostalgia Trap - Episode 62: Sarah Jones
Sarah Jones is a writer and social media editor at the New Republic, where her work has focused on poverty, politics, feminism, health care, and a number of other issues. I wanted to talk to her about Appalachia, where she was born and raised, and how the particular culture and politics of this region shaped her identity as a writer and thinker.
Rank #4: Nostalgia Trap - Episode 83: AM/FM - The Deep State is Capitalism
What is the "deep state"? Does it really exist, or is it a specter in the minds of far-right conspiracy theorists from Jack D. Ripper to Alex Jones? In this episode, Justin Rogers-Cooper joins me to sort it out, exploring the "deep state" idea in the context of the opioid crisis and other contemporary signs of malignant capitalism.
Rank #5: Nostalgia Trap - Episode 65: Carolyn Eisenberg
Professor Carolyn Eisenberg was studying history at Columbia University during the late 1960s and 1970s, witnessing (and taking part in) some of the historic political activism that emerged from the campus during those critical years. In this conversation we talked about the intersection of academia, teaching, and radical politics, and how the dynamics of campus life have shifted since the Vietnam War era.
Rank #6: Nostalgia Trap - Episode 131: Capital's Final Frontier w/ Justin Rogers-Cooper
Justin Rogers-Cooper is here to explain how the robber barons of the 19th century stack up against the current crop of capitalist megalomaniacs in Silicon Valley and beyond. In the process, we talk about Marx’s labor theory of value, the shift from control of resources to control of debt, the colonization of the human soul as the final frontier of profitability, and the specific function of monopoly within the larger liberal project.
Rank #7: Nostalgia Trap - Episode 78: RE: Louis CK with Peter Sabatino
Peter Sabatino, the Nostalgia Trap's producer and sound wizard, joins me to unpack the recent revelations about Louis CK's abusive behavior. Our conversation attempts to put this stuff in context, discussing both Louis' disturbing comedic output and the wider problem of predatory men protected by their social, political, and cultural power.
Rank #8: Nostalgia Trap - Episode 122: Dunder Mifflin Nation w/ Justin Rogers-Cooper
Justin Rogers-Cooper returns to the Nostalgia Trap to break down the political and social significance of NBC’s The Office, positioning the show within the larger context of 21st century neoliberal capitalism. How does the evolving sitcom form reflect changing attitudes about labor, patriarchy, and other structures of oppression? And what does it mean for the future of work?
Rank #9: Nostalgia Trap - Episode 141: Centrism is a Disease w/ Chad Vigorous
Chad Vigorous is the host of a sharp and funny podcast called The Discourse, and one of left Twitter’s most acerbic political commentators. In this conversation, he shares his insights on the nightmarish landscape of American culture and politics in the 21st century, explaining how fascism and white nationalism are finding their footing within the socioeconomic despair and ideological void created by neoliberalism.
Rank #10: Nostalgia Trap - Episode 154: Generation Gump w/ Bill Black
Bill Black is a historian whose project Contingent Magazine (begun with previous Nostalgia Trap guest Erin Bartram) this month features a 25th anniversary retrospective roundtable on the film Forrest Gump. In this conversation, Black explains how the film’s particular take on boomer generation “greatest hits” hides the film’s deeper engagement with the politics of the 1960s and 1970s, and helps frame how some of Gump’s key characters and scenes often dangerously distort our view of American history.
Rank #11: Nostalgia Trap - Episode 156: Cartoon Reality w/ Daniel Pinchbeck
Daniel Pinchbeck is the author of a number of books that explore big subjects like human consciousness, psychedelic drugs, shamanic cultures, and the Mayan 2012 prophecy. Lately he’s been thinking and writing about UFOs, after a number of startling reports in mainstream media over the past year revealed the US government’s deep engagement with spacecraft of unknown origin. In this conversation, we talk about his latest book, The Occult Control System: UFOs, aliens, other dimensions, and future timelines, and explore the possible explanations behind the UFO phenomenon’s peculiar appearance at this specific moment in history.
Rank #12: Nostalgia Trap - Episode 74: Book Club, RE: Stephen King
Fifty years after publishing his first short story, Stephen King remains a powerful force in American popular culture. Claudia Moreno Parsons joins me to talk about what King's work has meant to us personally and his place in the wider spectrum of American literature.
Rank #13: Nostalgia Trap - Episode 93: Jason Wilson
Jason Wilson's coverage of last summer's "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which culminated in the murder of Heather Heyer, helped frame the rising presence of "alt-right" and white supremacist actors on the American political stage. In this conversation, Wilson tells me about his youth in Australia, years studying media theory in grad school, and how he became alternately fascinated and horrified with America's radical right-wing.
Rank #14: Nostalgia Trap - Episode 81: Yasmin Nair
Yasmin Nair is a writer and activist based in Chicago, known as much for her dynamic political and cultural writing as for her contentious social media adventures. In this conversation we spend a good amount of time talking about her amazing piece in Evergreen Review, a manifesto for an apocalyptic moment that combines analysis of neoliberalism with ideas about gentrification, queer culture, dystopian science fiction, and so much more.
Rank #15: Nostalgia Trap - Episode 76: Christian Appy
Christian Appy's work on the history of the Vietnam War has had an enormous influence on the direction of my own research and writing on the war. In this conversation, Appy joins me to talk about the Ken Burns/Lynn Novick documentary, The Vietnam War, which aired on PBS in October. We analyze the Burns aesthetic and discuss how the film avoids confronting the war's most troubling questions.
Rank #16: Nostalgia Trap - Episode 117: The Decline and Fall of American Cinema w/ Eileen Jones
Eileen Jones is a film critic and professor whose biting, polemical movie reviews are featured in Jacobin and a number of other publications. Her recent book Filmsuck, USA investigates the persistently horrific state of American cinema, while outlining Jones’ vision of a liberatory movie culture that honors the medium’s working class roots. In this conversation, she explains how her early experiences watching Hollywood genre films influenced her ideas about movies, why the Coen brothers are her preferred auteurs, and why she thinks the language of cinema can play such a vital role in challenging the organizing principles of capitalism.
Rank #17: Nostalgia Trap - Episode 138: Dreaming Liberation w/ Robin Kelley
Robin Kelley is a professor of history at UCLA and the author of a number of important books on a wide range of subjects, from communism in the American South (1990’s Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists During the Great Depression), to the political visions of radical black intellectuals and artists (2002’s Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination), to the history of jazz (2009’s Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original). He joins us to discuss his intellectual path from doctrinaire Marxism to “Marxist surrealist feminist,” and why he thinks aesthetics and culture are such vital spaces for the left to reclaim its imaginative vision.
Rank #18: Nostalgia Trap - Episode 130: Being Tony Soprano w/ Topical Fever
Before the Nostalgia Trap, David hosted a show called Topical Fever, which took on specific subjects from the worlds of politics, history and media. Sounds familiar, right? To mark the 20th anniversary since the premiere of The Sopranos, we’re sharing this Topical Fever episode from the vaults, featuring a conversation with professor of English Jeremey Cagle on the show’s relationship to another epic piece of American art: Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.
Rank #19: Nostalgia Trap - Episode 96: The Longue Durée of Modernity w/ Daniel McClure
Daniel McClure is a historian and writer interested in long term historical processes (like capitalism, imperialism, and the nation-state), connecting those big ideas to American popular culture and media in the postwar era. He explains how a theoretical approach to the study of history, while often met with skepticism in the academy, provides such an effective lens for understanding the current moment.
Rank #20: Nostalgia Trap - Episode 87: Eero Laine
Eero Laine is a professor of Theatre at the University at Buffalo whose work often focuses on the world of professional wrestling. He joins me to talk about how he came to study wrestling as both a performance and social/psychological phenomenon, and explains why the particular political economy of the WWE provides such a critical lens for understanding American history and culture.