Ep. #25 Mind/Body series: Eating disorders with Nicole Avila

Ep. #25 Mind/Body series: Eating disorders with Nicole Avila

Today’s episode is one of the most important topics we’ve ever covered on this show. A few years ago, someone I love very much was hospitalized near death because of an eating disorder. This struggle affected our whole family. The things I learned then about this disease - how it should not be dismissed as a phase or only affects a certain type of person - have stuck with me.

It’s not about the food, it’s never about the food. 

Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. It is a disease that is often not taken seriously in pop culture, sometimes even subtly encouraged in our society. In spite of the millions of people here in the US who suffer with an eating disorder, the research into this disease is still too scarce.

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Registered Dietician Nicole Avila is our guest today talking about the mind/body disconnection that happens and often leads to a person's complicated relationship with food. What our mind and body is doing as we develop disordered eating habits, but before it becomes a full blown eating disorder.

Nicole started off her education at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. Her dream had always been to become a doctor, but after her first nutrition class she fell in love with preventative medicine and aspired to be a dietitian. She went on to complete her masters in nutritional Science, and her dietetic internship, at California state university, Los Angeles. With a year left in my internship, she fell into disordered eating at The Bella Vita- a residential and outpatient treatment program for individuals suffering from eating disorders. From the Bella Vita, where she would work for 4 years, Nicole learned about the mind/body connection and the detriment to losing that mind/body connection.

Books mentioned in this episode:  

Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch

Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch

Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

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Ep. #24 Mind/Body Series: Paralympic Gold Medalist Mark Zupan

Ep. #24 Mind/Body Series: Paralympic Gold Medalist Mark Zupan

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Mark Zupan is known for a lot of things: his Gold Medal for rugby in the 2008 Paralympics. The documentary Murderball that features his life and sport. His inspiration for a character in the television show Friday Night Lights. His MTV appearances on Jackass and Nitro Circus and more. 

But even without all those accolades and extreme experiences, his perspective on the life-altering accident that rendered him paralyzed would be remarkable. 

In the first two episodes in this series, we talk about strengthening our innate mind/body connection. But what if that natural ability is permanently severed? What then? 

In this conversation with Mark Zupan, we talk about everything from the terrible circumstances surrounding his 1993 accident during his freshman year of college, to the one thing that was more beneficial to his recovery than therapy. I've been friends with Mark for years now, and he never ceases to inspire me and challenge my beliefs about my own able body. 

Here's the documentary Murderball that we discuss:

Murderball documentary

Murderball documentary

Here's the book GIMP that Mark wrote:

Gimp by Mark Zupan

Gimp by Mark Zupan

A few books that Mark recommends:

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho 

Why Do Buses Come in Threes? by Rob Eastaway and Jeremy Wyndham

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Ep. #23 MIND/BODY series: Acupuncture with Salena Hanrahan

Ep. #23 MIND/BODY series: Acupuncture with Salena Hanrahan

In this episode we are talking about acupuncture, the ancient Chinese medicine practice in which tiny needles are inserted into the skin to treat everything from pain to digestion to depression to fertility. Our guest Salena Hanrahan is a licensed acupuncturist and board certified herbalist here in California, and she is extremely patient with me as I try to really understand how acupuncture actually works.

Licensed acupuncturist and board certified herbalist Salena Hanrahan

Licensed acupuncturist and board certified herbalist Salena Hanrahan

Salena Hanrahan describes herself as an Irish-Polish girl from the Southside of Chicago. She has many fond memories of growing up in the Chicago suburbs, but her grandfather’s long struggle with Parkinson’s Disease cast a shadow over her childhood years. Later at the age of 19, she would lose her father suddenly to heart disease, and she believes her interest in helping people with health and wellness comes from making sense of the trauma caused by the death of loved ones. It wasn’t until Salena was in a major car accident in her 20s that she discovered for herself the power of healing available through acupuncture.

Salena Hanrahan is a nationally certified Diplomate in both Acupuncture and Chinese Herbalism by the National Certification Commission of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) and the California Acupuncture Board. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from the esteemed Pacific College of Oriental Medicine (PCOM) in early 2011 with a Master's degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine. She has currently completed to date 3,510 credit hours of clinical practice and theory toward her professional doctorate and looks forward to completing the remaining five classes to earn this merit.

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Salena is a Chicago native and first discovered the benefits of acupuncture during her former career as a personal trainer and coach. She was introduced to the effectiveness of Chinese Medicine through injured athletes and clients who were steadfastly rehabilitated by the integration of acupuncture therapy and herbal medicine along with their prescribed treatments per their physicians. She is passionate about introducing patients to the many benefits of Chinese Medicine and continues to be tenacious in her study and practice of eastern medicine and orthopedic motor point therapy (also referred to sometimes as ‘dry needling’ or ‘trigger point acupuncture’ by physical therapists and medical doctors.) 

In addition to orthopedic and pain management, Salena has provided many treatments in all areas of health and wellness ranging from depression and other psycho-emotional disorders to fertility support and women’s health. Salena steadfastly maintains that good health is the gateway to a harmonious life. In fact, there is a popular expression in Chinese Medicine that is at the heart of her treatment approach, ‘Where there is free flow, there is no pain. Where there is no free flow, there is pain.

Salena currently enjoys a thriving acupuncture and wellness practice in both Los Angeles and beautiful downtown Paso Robles, serving both Southern California and the Central Coast of California. She can be contacted with questions, or for more information about the benefits of Chinese Medicine, by visiting salenahanrahan.com or acupuncturecenterforhealth.com .

At the end of the episode, Salena speaks about this book:

The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

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Ep. #22 Mind/Body series: Pilates with Kerri Campbell

Ep. #22 Mind/Body series: Pilates with Kerri Campbell

This is the first episode in the Mind/Body series. 

I wanted to start this series with my own life-changing story. In my thirties, after two babies and a lifetime of bad eating habits, I didn’t even know how disconnected I had become from my body until a series of physical and mental ailments sent me looking for answers. It wasn’t something you could see on the outside, my clothes size stayed the same, my mental health patterns weren’t that different. But I just knew something was off.

I saw doctors and a therapist, and on the advice of a friend I decided to try a personal Pilates class. This was so outside the norm for me, I don’t like exercise and I’m self-conscious about my posture and my own movements. What I learned in just the first few sessions - like how I distribute weight when I stand, and how to align my spine in a way that eliminates aches and pains - set me on a path that has transformed my body and my brain. 

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The Pilates teacher behind this transformation is Kerri Campbell, the owner of the Pilates Body Shop here in Los Angeles. Under her instruction and friendship, I’ve become a Pilates evangelist, roping in my husband and friends to take classes. I learn something new every week from Kerri about how my body is affecting my brain and vice versa. Talking with her is exactly how I wanted to start the mind/body connection series.

Kerri began her Pilates practice over seventeen years ago. While working towards her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, she had a debilitating car accident. On the journey to heal her body she was introduced to the Pilates Method.   

After completing several teacher-training courses with some of the most respected names in the Pilates field, Kerri came to the work of Master Teacher Ron Fletcher. She discovered her most profound body transformations with Fletcher Pilates® and through the rigorous and demanding study of his lineage she finally found the depth of knowledge that she had been seeking. Kerri completed the Ron Fletcher Program of Study in Tucson Arizona with Kyria Sabin, Program Director. She has gone on to study and work with some of the best known teachers in the Pilates community, and is now a Fletcher Pilates® Faculty member. 

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Bringing Fletcher Pilates® back to Los Angeles, it’s birthplace, Kerri opened the first Fletcher Pilates® Studio in Los Angeles fully dedicated to Ron’s work, thirty years after original studio in 1972. Her first studio was a converted horse stall in a riding facility which catered to professional equestrians. 

To meet a growing demand for Fletcher Pilates® she expanded and opened The Pilates Bodyshop. Since the opening of the business Kerri has been featured in Horse and Rider Magazine, has been voted one of the top ten Pilates teachers in Los Angeles, taught the first full Fletcher Pilates® Teacher Training Program in Los Angeles, lead multiple licensing courses, has presented at The Fletcher Pilates® Conference, has been photographed as part of IC Rapport’s Pilates Pilgrimage, and has been on Pilates Anytime and Pilatesology.  She is currently working on a re-release of Ron Fletcher’s seminal book “Every Body is Beautiful” bringing it back to print for the first time in nearly forty years. 

She is deeply committed to teaching others to move well and achieve their highest level of physical health. It is her privilege and honor to be teaching this work, which has evolved directly from Joseph and Clara Pilates and to be a member of the Fletcher Pilates® community which is dedicated to sharing and preserving the work of Ron Fletcher. 

Books that are mentioned in this episode:

Return to Life by Joseph H. Pilates

Return to Life by Joseph H. Pilates

Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko

Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko

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New series: Mind/Body Connection

New series: Mind/Body Connection

We are super excited to tell you about our new series:

The MIND/BODY CONNECTION

Photo by Shane Rounce on Unsplash

Photo by Shane Rounce on Unsplash

This is the Mind/Body connection series. We’re exploring a topic that is relevant to every human on earth: how our minds and our bodies are intrinsically connected, much more so than we ever knew. We’re talking about this from an emotional standpoint and a medical one. It’s a subject that’s been getting a lot of attention lately, and for good reason. The truths behind the mind/body connection are changing lives. 

New episodes start next week! Make sure you that you're subscribed in your favorite podcast app so that you don't miss a thing. 

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Ep. #21: Books & Reading 2017

Ep. #21: Books & Reading 2017

It has been nearly one year since we launched Smartest Person in the Room, and regular listeners know that on every episode, I ask the person I’m talking with to share a book that has had a significant impact on their life. This is, of course, not by accident. As a life-long passionate reader, I know that the books we read have the power to shape the people we become, and I find it fascinating to discover which books have influenced the smartest people in whatever room I find myself.

And so this episode is different from the previous episodes we’ve released so far. Today, I’ve asked my friend Stephanie Newman-Smith from my real life book club to sit down and talk exclusively about books with me. We’re going to share the best things we’ve read so far this year and what is on our summer reading lists. We’re talking novels, non-fiction, light & fluffy, dark and deep. We hope our conversation today will help you discover the best book you haven’t read yet as well as inspire some meaningful book talk with the readers in your life.

Here's a list of all the books we discuss on this episode:

The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak 

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

Olive Kittridge by Elizabeth Strout 

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante (Book Three of the Neapolitan Novels)

So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson 

The Dry by Jane Harper

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan 

Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan

IT by Stephen King

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker

Grace and the Fever by Zan Romanoff

Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout

The Dream Life of Astronauts by Patrick Ryan

The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich

American Gods by Neil Gaiman 

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

 

Stephanie's picks for books that have made a great impact on her:

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

 

We also mention:

What Should I Read Next? podcast episode #68 where Laura was a guest

Laura's Secret Post emails. (Click to sign up!)

If you enjoy our show, please take a moment to leave a review in iTunes or share it with your friends. You can also follow SPITR on Facebook and on Instagram

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ep. #20 Viral series: Professional Bridesmaid Jen Glantz

Ep. #20 Viral series: Professional Bridesmaid Jen Glantz

Jen Glantz is a professional bridesmaid. That’s right, you can hire out the role traditionally held by best friends or sisters or cousins or old roommates. But this career STARTED with a craigslist ad going viral. After a long wedding season of being a traditional bridesmaid for friends near and far, one night Jen Glantz threw up a craigslist ad touting her experience and usefulness wearing taffeta on a wedding day. 

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By the next morning, her Craigslist ad had spread to major media outlets like Buzzfeed and the Huffington Post, and she was fending off offers to be on the national morning talk shows. Before long, Jen had parlayed that Craigslist ad into a successful business. You can book her as bridesmaid OR she can teach you how to start your own professional bridesmaid business. 

It’s a unique story, and fun to read about in her thoughtful book about the adventure called Always A Bridesmaid (For Hire). There are two things about Jen’s story that I thought were really interesting and pertinent to this series. First, she has managed to make something good and successful come out of a viral event. Not everyone can capitalize on viral success, even though many try. It can be so fleeting if you don’t catch it in the right way. 

Secondly, it highlights how significantly relationships have evolved using the internet. Even just a few years ago, it would have been unthinkable to have a stranger play such an important role in your wedding day. It makes me think about my own online relationships, people I’ve met through blogging and podcasting, people I actually feel really close to, even though we’ve never met in person. For better or worse, the internet has redefined relationship. 

Jen's pick for books that have made a great impact:

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

The Brooklyn Follies by Paul Auster

Self-Help by Lorrie Moore

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed 

You can follow Jen Glantz on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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Ep. #19 Viral Series: comedian and viral video star Steve-O Glover

Ep. #19 Viral Series: comedian and viral video star Steve-O Glover

WARNING: This episode contains adult language and humor.

This is the third episode in the VIRAL series

Stephen Glover is known around the globe as SteveO, a stunt performer and comedian famous for his provocative and death-defying work on MTV’s Jackass franchise and the Wildboyz television series. He is also recognized for his numerous appearances on the Howard Stern show and his competitive moves on Dancing with the Stars. In recent years, he’s risen to success as a stand up comic, and he is outspoken about his animal activism and his sobriety.

Professional Idiot: A Memoir by Steve-O Glover

I’ve known SteveO personally for over 15 years, and don’t let his antics fool you, he has always been one of the smartest people in the room. I originally thought that SteveO would be a good candidate for the VIRAL conversation because his videos and stunts perfectly lend themselves towards going viral and as an individual he has built an online platform with over 11.5 million fans on Facebook, and nearly 4 million subscribers to his YouTube channels. But instead of talking about the logistics of viral content creation like I’d planned, our conversation almost immediately took a deeper turn, about the quest for validation, being a different persona online than you are off, and the mental struggle to always have to top yourself. This is a personal side to the all-encompassing world of viral.

A few things we talked about:

Steve-O on Facebook

Steve-O on YouTube

Steve-O on Instagram

Big Brother Skateboard magazine

Roman Atwood

VitalyzdTv

Barely Lethal

The book that has made the greatest impact on Steve-O is Ishmael by Daniel Quinn

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Ep. #18 Viral series: Ridiculousness executive producer Shane Nickerson

Ep. #18 Viral series: Ridiculousness executive producer Shane Nickerson

This is the second episode in the VIRAL series. See the first VIRAL episode here.

My conversation is with actor and producer Shane Nickerson, who knows more than a little something about VIRAL content, as he’s spent years creating it through tv shows for MTV, CMT, and Nickelodeon.

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Shane is co-president of the production company Super Jacket with Rob Dyrdek, and together they're responsible for shows like Rob & Big, Fantasy Factory, The Dude Perfect Show, Jagger Eaton's Mega Life, and Crashletes.  

Today we delve into the show Shane helped create with Rob Dyrdek: Ridiculousness, which features remarkable short clips culled from the vast sea of the internet. Ridiculousness is so popular that it was responsible for roughly 23% of MTV’s total programming last year. 

MTV's Ridiculousness host Rob Dyrdek, the show is also created and produced by Shane Nickerson

MTV's Ridiculousness host Rob Dyrdek, the show is also created and produced by Shane Nickerson

Ridiculousness is a clip show a little bit like America's Funniest Home videos, where they feature hilarious amateur clips culled from the internet. I chat with Shane about how they find these videos, what they're looking for in a clip that will evoke a reaction from their studio audience, an what works and what doesn't in the current culture of sharing EVERYTHING.

I wanted to talk to Shane in particular for the VIRAL series because he is such an expert in knowing what kinds of content will make people laugh, cry, or cringe. But what happened towards the end of our conversation was a total surprise and I couldn't have asked for a better or more shocking story to go at the end of an episode. 

The book that has made such a huge impression on Shane:

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

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Ep. #17 VIRAL series: Buzzfeed editor and award-winning blogger Morgan Shanahan

Ep. #17 VIRAL series: Buzzfeed editor and award-winning blogger Morgan Shanahan

This is the VIRAL series, and we’re looking closely at something that permeates most of our internet culture: viral content. Videos, memes, tweets, graphics, these can take over our online experience and change our minds, culture, elections, or just make us collectively laugh. Things that go viral on the internet can have real power. 

Morgan Shanahan was born and raised in Southern California, so it's no surprise that she took up filmmaking. It was a childhood game show that awarded her with her first video camera, and an obsession with the 1994 movie Reality Bites that made NYU film school a natural path.

Landing back in L.A. after college, she was writing scripts and commercials and longing for a more personal outlet. She started the blog The 818 (a nod to the San Fernando Valley's area code) and her vulnerable posts about marriage and new motherhood made it a hit among the more "Pinterest-perfect" blogs that were popping up.

Her success as a blogger and her innate talent at social media and internet culture opened an opportunity at one of the biggest viral media giants in the world: Buzzfeed. As the parenting editor and now parenting video producer, Morgan reaches millions of people every single day with her creative content. 

In our conversation, we talk about what makes something go viral on the internet, what you should really be analyzing in terms of numbers, and what it's like to work somewhere that counts clicks by the BILLION. 

The book Morgan chose that made an impact on her life:

The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kay

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Ep. #16: Religion series wrap-up

Ep. #16: Religion series wrap-up

In this episode I’ve invited the producer/editor of SPITR Megan Tietz to join me in a wrap up of the RELIGION series. We talk download statistics, listener reaction, and the most surprising thing for each of us while making these shows. 

In the six episodes of the RELIGION series, we talked to people about their conversion, identity, and the life-shaping path around their religion. 

We started with a show outlining the deep divide between American Evangelicals and Mormons, we talked with a Jewish woman about her cultural identity, a man who converted from Catholicism to Islam during the political turmoil of the 1960’s, a Washington Post religion reporter, Indian Hindus living in the United States, and a man who became an atheist when he realized science didn’t match up with the Bible

One edited down conversation with each of these guests doesn’t begin to cover the expanse of these topics. Still, our hope is that we learn a little something and broaden our perspective with each episode. This episode is best if you’re all caught up on the religion series. 

If you enjoyed this series, please go give us a rating in iTunes! It helps grow our audience which means we get to keep making more shows. You can also spread the word about the show by liking or sharing any of our social media posts. You can follow SPITR on Facebook or on Instagram

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Ep. #15 RELIGION SERIES: When God goes silent

Ep. #15 RELIGION SERIES: When God goes silent

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Mike McHargue is known online as "Science Mike.” He regularly brings an intellectual yet approachable voice to both science and religion as the host of his podcast Ask Science Mike and as the co-host with Michael Gungor on the podcast The Liturgists. Mike released a book last year called Finding God in the Waves, a memoir about his journey from Christianity to atheism and the unusual events that led him back to God. I read his book in one sitting, I couldn’t tear myself away.

Finding God in the Waves by Mike McHargue

Finding God in the Waves by Mike McHargue

We’re closing the religion series on this story of LOSING one’s faith, something that rarely gets talked about candidly. In the last five episodes, we’ve explored growing up in a certain tradition and converting to a religion out of deep conviction. But what happens when you decide you don’t believe anymore? Often the stakes are too high to be honest about your doubts. Science Mike is making this conversation mainstream.

This conversation with Science Mike about the two years he spent as an atheist is probably the episode that resonates the deepest with me in this series. A lot of people ignore or lock away their religious doubts, our lives are too entangled to rock the boat. It's good to hear someone be really honest about the problems they have with a faith they love.

Two books that Mike recommends that have made an impact on his life:

How God Changes Your Brain by Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Waldman

Payoff: The Hidden Logic that Shapes our Motivations by Dan Ariely

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This is the last formal episode in the religion series. We'll do a short wrap up show next week and then we're switching topics entirely! As always, email subscribers will be the first to know about our new shows. Sign up below to be on this list:

EP. #14 RELIGION SERIES: The Mystery of Hinduism

EP. #14 RELIGION SERIES: The Mystery of Hinduism

Hinduism is the world’s third largest religion, with over 1 billion followers, about 15% of the global population. The word “Hindu” derives from the term “Hindustan,” which refers to the northern part of India. So “Hindu” was originally a geographic term and not a religious one. It is often called the world’s oldest religion, but without a savior, governing body, or binding holy book, it is sometimes difficult to get a grasp on exactly what Hindus believe. Many of the traditions and rituals passed down through the generations are family-specific or regional, but all fall under the umbrella of what Hindus call “the way of life.”   

Indian guests Vijay and Divya are patient in their explanations to me of the four Purusarthas - or four tenets - of Hinduism: Dharma, Artha, Kama, and Moksha. I really enjoyed learning from them.

We also discussed their arranged marriage, the daily rituals they incorporate into their practice, and the many things rooted in Hinduism that have become popular in the West, including Buddhism, yoga, and meditation.

Because they had welcomed me into their home, after our conversation I was honored to visit their prayer room and enjoy a traditional Indian lunch, where we were joined by their new baby.

This was unlike any experience I've had since recording the show and I came away inspired by the way this Hindu family was living out their faith.

Two books that have made an impact on Vijay and Divya:

The Secret by Rhonda Byrne

The Secret by Rhonda Byrne

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Ep. #13 RELIGION Series: Religion reporting in the time of Trump

Ep. #13 RELIGION Series: Religion reporting in the time of Trump

Sarah Pulliam Bailey is a religion reporter for the Washington Post. She's the former online editor for Christianity Today magazine and a former national correspondent for the Religion News Service.

In our conversation, we talk about what goes into religion reporting - both in-depth coverage and click bait stories - as well as how her own faith affects how she writes about religion for the Washington Post.

This episode is a mix of journalism 101 and personal opinion about the biggest and most important religion stories happening in America right now. Sarah has an interesting perspective as both a reporter and a person of faith herself.

Her favorite book surprised me and had me off to amazon to buy it right away:

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Thanks for bearing with the show while we've taken a bit of an unexpected break this month, but we still have a few episodes left in the religion series and then a whole slew of interesting topics and guests for 2017. 

Thanks for listening!

Ep. #12 Religion series: the political door to Islam

Ep. #12 Religion series: the political door to Islam

Salah Abdul-Wahid was born Daniel Hewlitt. He converted to Islam as a young adult in the 1960's, after growing up Catholic in a large Creole family living in Los Angeles. 

In the 1960's when Salah was in his early twenties, he found himself caught up in the political unrest within the black communities of Los Angeles. At the time, many people were seeking new answers to old questions about the history of white dominance in the United States and the various systems of oppression that affected people of color in this country. In seeking answers to these questions, Salah opened himself to a radical conversion, leaving behind the Catholic faith of his family and his youth and converting to Islam.

Salah talks about his intrigue with the Muslim intellectuals he observed as a student at the University of Southern California, while at the same time he was drawn to the writings of Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam

I was fascinated with Salah’s conversion story and why he changed his name and faith at such an important time in his personal life and in American history. I knew only vaguely about famous men who had taken a similar path - Muhammad Ali and Kareem Abdul-Jabar come to mind - but I was unsure of the meaning behind it. This was my chance to ask someone, and our conversation had my head spinning for weeks.

(It should be noted, based on several of the cultural references in this episode, that we recorded our conversation this summer, several months before the 2016 election results.)

Later in his life, Salah would travel the world and glean powerful wisdom about the role of religion in culture, and, as you’ll hear in my conversation with him, his comfort with asking hard questions and having tough conversations has been a consistent way in which he experiences the world.

Salah rattled off many books that had greatly influenced his life, including those by Mark Twain and Dashiell Hammett. But the two that caught my attention were the Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon and Freedom: Volume 1 by Orlando Patterson.

For a number of reasons, this was one of the most important conversations I had the entire year, and certainly in the making of this podcast. Thanks for listening.

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Ep. #11 RELIGION series: Judaism as a cultural identity

Ep. #11 RELIGION series: Judaism as a cultural identity

This episode is about Reformed Judaism as a cultural identity as opposed to a religion focused on worshipping God. The Reformed movement began in 19th century Germany, and today is the dominant denomination of Jewish people in America.

My conversation is with Sarah Kate Levy, a writer here in Los Angeles. Her fiction has been published by the Paumanok Review, Carve magazine, and Armchair/Shotgun, and has twice received notable mention by the storySouth Million Writer's Award.

Her essay "Super Couple" appears in the anthology Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys from Dutton Press, and she has performed other autobiographical work on-stage in the Afterbirth reading series. Most recently she cowrote the screenplay No Way Jose with Adam Goldberg.

Sarah is also the voice behind ChecklistMommy.com, a blog about parenting, marriage, and her attempts at home organization, which draws from her own experiences as a mother of four young children, including twins. She is currently at work on a novel.

In our conversation, Sarah Kate and I talk about several aspects of being Jewish in the United States right now, including living with the fear that the Holocaust could happen again at any time, appealing Jewish stereotypes in pop culture, and how sending her kids to a temple school in LA has deepened her appreciation for her heritage. What Sarah Kate candidly shares here mirrors conversations I've had over the years with Jewish friends, but she goes a step farther, answering questions I've always been scared to ask. 

Two books that have meant something to Sarah Kate: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith and American Pastoral by Philip Roth.

I do hope you enjoy our conversation.

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Ep. #10 of the Religion series: Mormons vs. Evangelicals: Can women bridge the divide?

Ep. #10 of the Religion series: Mormons vs. Evangelicals: Can women bridge the divide?

Welcome to the Religion series!

This episode is about the divide between modern day American Evangelical Christianity and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, otherwise known as LDS or Mormons. For purposes of clarity, in this conversation I refer to my guest Nish Weiseth as a “mainstream” Christian and to guest Emily Belle Freeman as a Mormon. Both living in Utah, Nish and Emily have partnered together to bridge the gaping divide between these two faiths that both follow Jesus.

With their combined influence in both the Evangelical and Latter-day Saint traditions, Emily & Nish have decided to take on the difficult task of getting Mormons and Christians to listen to one another and learn from each other. They work as a pair, speaking to both Mormon and Christian congregations, but they also spend a lot of time in their own camps, trying to dismantle some of the misinformation and stereotypes that each side has of the other. Their hope is that Mormons and Christians will eventually be able to put aside their differences in order to impact the world for good, together. Their online hub is called Multiply Goodness, which includes a blog, resources and more, on how people can start doing this inter-faith work in their own communities. 

Emily Belle Freeman is a bestselling author, nationally-known prolific speaker, and religious educator in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Her upcoming book, "Even This", is due for release in the Fall of 2017 from Deseret Book. Emily served on the board of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Utah Chapter and also the Board of Trustees at Lincoln Academy Charter School.  Emily and her husband, Greg, are the parents of five children and live in Lehi, Utah. Follow her on twitterFacebook, or instagram.

Nish Weiseth is an author, speaker, preacher and activist. She was the creator and editor of the popular site Deeper Story, which let writers share their Christian cultural experiences, whether entrenched or outlier. Nish’s first book “Speak: How Your Story Can Change the World” was released in 2014, and she is a sought-after voice in media and politics on the cultural influence of Christians. She has written pieces for and been quoted in publications including The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, The BBC, and Christianity Today. She lives with her husband and kids in Salt Lake City. Follow Nish on twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

Other links mentioned in this episode:

IF Gathering

As the Crow Flies by Jeffrey Archer

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

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Ep. #9 of the Hollywood series: A wrap up

Ep. #9 of the Hollywood series: A wrap up

The Hollywood series of Smartest Person in the Room has officially come to the end, but there's still a lot to discuss. In this wrap-up episode, host Laura and producer/editor Megan talk about the best and worst parts of creating the 8 parts of the inaugural topic for the show.

Laura and Megan talk about the most downloaded episode of the series and their personal favorites. They give a behind-the-scenes look at what was special and what was challenging about making the podcast.

They also address rumors and questions about the "lost" episode of the Hollywood series: Ep. #7, the interview with the high-powered talent agent that had to be removed 3 days after it debuted. 

This is a fun discussion for those who have already listened to most of the Hollywood series and want to hear more about the guests and the creative decisions behind the show. There's also a few hints about the next series topic, which will be hitting your earbuds soon.

You don't have to have listened to the entire Hollywood series to enjoy this wrap up, but those who have will get the most out of what Laura and Megan cover here. 

The new multi-part series will be starting up soon. If you want all the information first, including all the stuff you won't see anywhere else, make sure you're signed up for the email newsletter using the form below. We'd also love it if you'd follow Smartest Person in the Room on Facebook!

You can follow host Laura on twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

You can follow producer Megan on twitter and Instagram, and make sure to check out her show Sorta Awesome!

Ep. #8 of the Hollywood series: producer/director Jeff Tremaine

Ep. #8 of the Hollywood series: producer/director Jeff Tremaine

Jeff Tremaine is a producer and director. He is most well-known for co-creating the cultural phenomenon Jackass - the MTV show that spawned a thousand knockoffs and led to 4 #1 box office hits: Jackass the Movie, Jackass Number Two, Jackass 3D, and Bad Grandpa.

Jeff is also behind many popular tv series like Rob & Big, Fantasy Factory, Nitro Circus, Loiter Squad, and Ridiculousness. With friends Johnny Knoxville and Spike Jonze, Jeff co-owned the production company Dickhouse and now has his own production company, Gorilla Flicks. Jeff has directed or produced several documentaries, including The Birth of Big Air for ESPN, and The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia for Tribeca Film.

He has directed numerous national commercials, including the Super Bowl Bud Light spot titled “Up for Whatever.” One of his most recent projects - and the one he believes will be his most watched EVER - is the American Airlines safety video that plays at the beginning of every flight.

In this episode, Jeff mentions:

World Industries and Steve Rocco

Thrasher magazine

Transworld magazine

reestylin' magazine

Big Brother Magazine

Big Brother videos: Shit, Number Two, Boob

Spike Jonze's music videos and Being John Malkovich

Jeff's favorite show he ever made: Wildboyz

Travis Pastrana on Nitro Circus

The Magic Christian by Terry Southern

Ep. #6 of the Hollywood series: tv writer/director Julie Hébert

Ep. #6 of the Hollywood series: tv writer/director Julie Hébert

Julie Hébert is an award-winning playwright and a television writer, director, and producer. She began her career in the San Francisco theater world, and her plays have been produced across the country and won many honors, including two PEN awards for drama.

In the late 1990’s, a meeting with producer John Wells led her to television, where she has written, directed, and produced episodes for such popular shows as ER, The West Wing, Third Watch, Nashville, and The Good Wife among others. Julie is currently an executive producer, writer, and director on ABC’s American Crime.

Julie shared stories of her early theater days, and how her very first directing experience - in a directing class - was an AHA! moment for the rest of her career. 

We talked about the break John Wells gave her (and other women and minorities) with a program he started that allowed her to shadow tv directors in order to learn the ropes. At the end of program, you got to direct one of Wells’ shows - at the time this was ER and Third Watch. It was a breakthrough experience. After much hesitation, Julie ended up in the writers’ room for Third Watch, despite not knowing much about first responders in New York City. But she found the process of character and storytelling to be the same as her days working in theater, and instantly felt at home in her new position.

I asked Julie a lot of questions about HOW and WHY episodic television has a different writer and different director for each episode. She does a great job explaining the process, the jobs, and who gets what credit. This is a quick education in behind-the-scenes scripted tv.

Naturally, we talked a bit about the lack of female directors working in Hollywood, and Julie shared a few stories about the treatment she has received as a woman in her role as a director. 

Cut from the final audio, Julie told me about this site if you want to read more (funny/depressing) stories about discrimination against female directors. And here's an article from Vanity Fair about that site and why it matters. 

One of my favorite stories Julie tells is about Dr. Green from ER. The scene she describes is nearly 20 years old, but I still remembered it. This is what it like to make such compelling tv: you are influencing the thoughts and actions of those who are invested in these shows. Julie holds the responsibility well.

Another responsibility that Julie has taken on is the Look What She Did! project, which she created to highlight stellar women both past and present. It’s a simple idea: amazing women talking about amazing women, but it has caught on with universities and online, and their dreams are big for where the Look What She Did! videos might go. You can browse and share them here

Julie’s choice for a book that has made an impact on her life marks the first time that I have cried making this podcast. She reads a passage from No Author Better Served that brought us both to tears.

I loved this conversation with Julie Hebert, not just for the interesting things I learned about writing/producing/directing television, but because of the heart and spirit that she brings to the work. This is an episode I’ll be thinking about for months. 

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