Areo Magazine's Two for Tea podcast is hosted by Iona Italia. For access to all full episodes, support us at https://www.patreon.com/Areo.
116 - Nev March - Murder in Old Bombay
Follow Nev on Twitter:
Buy Nev’s first novel ‘Murder in Old Bombay’ here:
Pre-order the sequel ‘Peril at the Exposition’ here:
The Rajabai Clock Tower deaths, upon which Nev’s novel is based:
Sample Vikas Adam’s reading of the book here:
Iona’s podcast with Dinyar Patel about the Indian independence pioneer Dadabhai Naoroji:
Nev’s account of visiting the Rajabai Clock Tower:
Interview with Nev by Marshal Zeringue, April 21 2021:
Sign up to Nazneen Engineer’s Zoroastrian survey:
3:04 Nev reads a passage from ‘Murder in Old Bombay’.
8:06 Nev discusses the historical details of the infamous Rajabai Clock Tower deaths and her knowledge of the story growing up. How the mysteriousness of the case intrigued her and inspired her to create a fictional detective and write a novel to ‘solve’ this old crime.
12:15 Nev’s love of the Sherlock Holmes stories and how this influenced her novel. Her other influences and the Easter eggs in the novel. Her protagonist, Captain Jim.
19:15 A comparison between Nev and other Raj-era historical fiction writers Sujata Massey and Abir Mukherjee.
24:33 Clashes of identity and problems of belonging in Nev’s novel, particularly around Parsi identity - and how this relates to Iona and Nev’s personal experiences. How dealing with such issues affected the novel.
32:29 Iona’s reading experience and Nev’s writing experience. The audio version of ‘Murder in Old Bombay’.
35:46 Nev’s style. The panoramic, cinematographic nature of Nev’s writing and scope. Comparison to Salman Rushdie - writers who span two cultures and who are concerned with hybridity.
37:27 Where/how did Nev plan and write the novel? Nev’s visit to the Rajabai Clock Tower and Iona’s memories of it from when she lived in Bombay.
45:22 Nev reads another passage from the book.
49:08 What did Nev mean when she said “Truly, we write to discover what we think” in an interview from last year? What did she discover she thought when writing her novel? Questions of identity and patriotism and Nev’s ‘middle ground’. Complexities and contradictions in human behaviour.
54:41 Good novels explore moments of tension and ambivalences in human nature.
55:40 Nev reads another passage from the book.
1:00:00 Iona reads a passage from the book.
1:05:50 Nev discusses the forthcoming sequel to ‘Murder in Old Bombay’, ‘Peril at the Exposition’. How the problems of the turn of the century period she sets her fiction in are reflected today. The types of historical events Nev is attracted to.
1:14:10 Nev reads another passage from the book.
1:19:50 Last words.
115 - Christopher Ferguson - The Influence of the Insane
Follow Christopher on Twitter:
Christopher’s Amazon page, with links to his books, including ‘Moral Combat: Why the War on Violent Video Games Is Wrong’, ‘Suicide Kings’, and ‘How Madness Shaped History: An Eccentric Array of Maniacal Rulers, Raving Narcissists, and Psychotic Visionaries’:
Christopher’s Areo articles:
Christopher’s article ‘My APA Resignation’ in Quillette:
More on the ‘Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders’
The Goldwater rule:
2:36 Christopher discusses the flaws of the American Psychological Association (APA) and his association with and resignation from it.
7:22 The new groupthink and monoculture among organisations and associations, including and specifically the APA, on ‘systemic/structural racism’: instead of focusing on their original missions, such theoretical and scientific organisations seem to be very focused on this newly fashionable issue (it is important to note that this is a separate issue from the truth or falsehood of systemic/structural racism itself). The problem of ‘institutional capture’.
12:39 The victory of politics and politicking (‘political correctness’) over scientific investigation. The flaws of the Implicit Association Test (IAT) and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) trainings: how the promulgation of these is based on business and profit rather than science.
16:52 Iona reads from Christopher’s Quillette piece on his resignation from the APA; discussion on the problem of political correctness over scientific integrity ensues, including how rapidly this has become an issue. How this will damage psychology and how it is perceived as a discipline.
21:58 The task of psychology, especially clinical psychology, with particular reference to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), versus this new consensus. Iona reads from Christopher’s ‘How Madness Shaped History’. Christopher discusses the problems, from a psychological point of view, with ‘lived experience’ and ‘safetyism’.
30:37 The differences between dealing with issues, both contentious and banal, on a societal level versus an individual, psychological level, with reference to sexual assault and obesity.
38:55 A discussion of more problems in psychology, with particular reference to the ‘Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders’.
49:12 How effective are pharmaceuticals in treating mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia?
54:28 The bureaucracy of mental health care and the relation of problems like homelessness, criminal violence, and police shootings to mental health issues. Why we need to return to some kind of state-sponsored asylum-like system (but one which is humane and rational)
1:01:02 The connections between mental health problems and violence and why we are so hesitant to talk about these. How do we deal with such issues?
1:06:25 A discussion of science denialism and opportunism by ideologues on both left and right: people adopt scientific positions that support their views and ignore ones that contradict their views.
1:13:57 Political tribalism in the pandemic versus science (on all sides).
1:22:05 The Goldwater rule.
1:28:34 Last words.
114 - Monica Guzman - The Power of Curiousity [Public Limited Version]
Mónica’s Link Tree with links to preorder her upcoming book ‘I Never Thought Of It That Way’, her website, and more:
Follow Mónica on Twitter:
Braver Angels website:
John R. Wood Jr’s previous appearances on Two for Tea:
Buster Benson’s appearance on Two for Tea:
3:05 Iona reads from Mónica’s upcoming book ‘I Never Thought Of It That Way’, leading to a discussion of the complexities of identity and expressing oneself and the temptation to use membership of certain groups as a shield in arguments.
12:53 Our interpersonal “internal assumption assistant”: positives and negatives.
14:38 Mónica’s lens when writing her book. What angle on polarisation and having better conversations does Mónica’s book have that other such books lack? The problem of “chaining.” “It’s all people.”
20:24 How our attitudes and beliefs arise from our particular experiences across time rather than rational cogitation. Why we must learn to ask where other people are coming from instead of arguing with people’s conclusions directly.
24:41 The process of changing minds: again, experiences and relationships matter most.
30:28 The benefits of listening to and learning from and being interested in other people. Mónica’s idea of “respect.” The importance of being curious and open. Mónica - reframing the way we interact with others.
36:55 The dangers of making assumptions about other people’s views when we interact with them. The dehumanising and destabilising effects of social media on our discourse: do we spend too much time in virtual reality?
42:41 The benefits of being surprised.
44:13 Mónica’s experience as a journalist and how this has informed her worldview. Her love of conversation.
48:48 The kinds of questions that are good to ask people, that they respond well to. The difference between questions that inspire openness vs. clamming up - specifics or the way in which we ask the question/who is asking us?
54:13 Iona’s main problem with Twitter: you don’t just talk to people, you can see, at the same time, what they’re saying *about* you to others. “Chaining” and the failure to be curious. How to be more open: small steps.
59:54 Our attachments to our beliefs and the ‘zealotry of converts’ paradox. The pain of changing our beliefs on big issues. Opinions as “snapshots.” How to loosen those attachments in conversation - and why we should do this. Listening to other people doesn’t mean you endorse their views.
1:05:40 Do our conversational difficulties come from a deep fear of being wrong? [‘Editorial’ note: the gif Iona mentions is from the British comedy Peep Show, not Inglourious Basterds!] How do we overcome this fear? The long, slow process of changing one’s mind - the distant and often unintended consequences of arguments.
1:11:52 Twitter question: are there any guests Mónica would refuse to have on the Braver Angels podcast and if so, on what criteria?
1:22:29 Twitter question: What had to be trimmed from Mónica’s book that she would have liked to have kept in? Is she planning a second book?
1:27:14 Is there anything Mónica wishes Iona had asked her or that Iona didn’t give her a chance to talk about?
113 - Christoper Hitchens - A Tribute
Follow Ben on Twitter:
Buy ‘Christopher Hitchens: What He Got Right, How He Went Wrong, and Why He Still Matters’ by Ben Burgis:
Follow Matt on Twitter:
Daniel’s LinkTree (contains links to his website, Substack, and more):
Follow Daniel on Twitter:
Daniel’s article ‘Naming the Unnameable: Salman Rushdie, Christopher Hitchens and the Defence of Free Speech’ in Areo Magazine:
Christopher Hitchens bibliography:
Channel 4 News report on Hitchens’s death, December 2011:
Hitchens’s Vanity Fair essay on J.G. Ballard and sci-fi, ‘The Catastrophist’, 2010:
The Brothers Hitchens debate God and Iraq, 2008:
The New Philosophers:
Hitchens’s Vanity Fair essay on ‘Why Women Aren’t Funny’, 2007:
4:34 Daniel reads from his Areo article ‘Naming the Unnameable: Salman Rushdie, Christopher Hitchens and the Defence of Free Speech’.
10:29 Matt reads from his forthcoming book ‘How Hitchens Can Save The Left: Rediscovering Fearless Liberalism in an Age of Counter-Enlightenment’.
13:34 Ben reads from his forthcoming book ‘Christopher Hitchens: What He Got Right, How He Went Wrong, and Why He Still Matters’.
18:40 Ben discusses why he was attracted to Hitchens in the first place and why he decided to write a book about him: rehabilitation of what Ben believes to be Hitchens’ best parts.
28:15 Matt answers the same question. Hitchens as a “first principles thinker”.
34:02 Daniel answers the same question. His seduction by Hitchens and subsequent maturation as an admirer. Some of Hitchens’s flaws from Daniel’s point of view.
39:29 A discussion of Hitchens the literary critic and how his literary views relate to his political and moral views. Iona’s disappointment in Hitchens’s dismissal of the sci-fi genre.
44:49 Ben talks about how Hitchens was and remains a figure who needs to be written about and argued with and the reason for writing a book about him: the story of someone who goes badly wrong is more interesting than someone who was right.
46:49 Matt on the irreconcilability of and tensions within some of Hitchens’s positions.
43:04 Daniel asks Ben and Matt their views on what Hitchens got right and what he got wrong/how he went wrong and an ensuing discussion on Hitchens’s politics, especially on Afghanistan, Iraq, and interventionism (and a comparison of Peter Hitchens’s views on the same).
1:05:57 Matt discusses Hitchens on the New Philosophers and the evolution of liberal interventionism.
1:09:14 Iona discusses the feasibility of communism some of Hitchens’s foundational (and consistent) values: universalism, liberalism, humanism, anti-authoritarianism, and the defence of free speech (and freedom in general). Hitchens’s “trollish” side: uncowed by political correctness or consensus.
1:14:14 Daniel talks about Hitchens on the civil war within Islam. An ensuing discussion on the relevance of this today: arguments over the hijab and the concept of ‘Islamophobia’. Ben compares the misuse of ‘Islamophobia’ with the misuse of ‘anti-Semitism’. Hitchens and Israel/Palestine. Plus: Ben discusses his upcoming book defending the radical left economic view in r
112 - Dorian Abbot - Earth 2.0
Dorian’s academic profile:
Follow Dorian on Twitter:
Dorian’s article ‘MIT Abandons Its Mission. And Me.’, in Bari Weiss’s ‘Common Sense’ Substack:
Dorian’s ‘Wall Street Journal’ article, ‘The Views That Made Me Persona Non Grata at MIT’:
Watch Dorian’s cancelled lecture, ‘Climate and the Potential for Life on Other Planets’:
‘Life on Mars: The Ethical Implications of Colonizing the Red Planet’ by Thomas Cortellesi in ‘Areo Magazine’:
‘Rare Earth: Why Complex Life is Uncommon in the Universe’ by Peter D. Ward and Donald Brownlee:
2:24 What makes a planet habitable and how we find exoplanets.
8:18 Dorian’s research on the cloud effects on tidally locked planets - and how these effects suggest these planets might be more habitable/Earth-like than previously thought.
14:10 How some exoplanets and their clouds provide a model for the possible future of climate change on Earth.
15:31 Dorian’s views on the Fermi paradox - where are the aliens? Why Dorian believes extraterrestrial life is more likely than not.
20:23 Why we should hope to find no life at all on exoplanets rather than finding lots of extinct civilisations.
21:10 Twitter question: what does Dorian think a realistic time scale and strategy for colonising exoplanets would be?
22:39 Twitter question: how useful is the Drake equation?
24:08 Twitter question: what are Dorian’s views on von Neumann self-replicating probes? (And a digression on ‘decolonisation’ and the possible impacts of us colonising other planets.)
27:50 Dorian’s views on the ‘Rare Earth’ thesis, which posits that complex life is very unlikely to be found elsewhere in the universe.
29:32 What does Dorian’s exoplanet work tell us about climate change? What does Dorian think are the main misconceptions about anthropogenic climate change? What we don’t know: the future of climate change
32:21 Dorian’s work on rogue planets - could these harbour life?
35:20 Has the atmosphere in physics departments changed recently? Is there pressure from the woke left and climate denialist right? Academia, cancel culture, and chilling.
39:52 Why science should be based on merit, not politics.
40:22 Who does Dorian think Iona should interview?
111 - Jack Rudd and Mansa Keita - Checkmates [Public Limited Version]
Jack’s chess blog:
Follow Jack on Twitter:
Jack’s Lichess account:
Mansa’s Medium blog:
Follow Mansa on Twitter:
Mansa’s Lichess account:
Lichess, free online chess website:
Information about AlphaGo:
Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy by John Watson:
Ludek Pachman’s Modern Chess Strategy: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Pachmans-Modern-Chess-Strategy-Pachman/dp/4871874966/
2:32 Jack and Mansa relate how they started playing chess and how it has affected their lives. How Iona recently got into chess.
7:46 How can studying chess benefit people? Does chess provide you with transferable skills? What can it teach you?
12:02 Favourite players both historically and currently.
13:26 How have computers impacted chess-playing? What has the impact of AlphaGo been? What are computers good for in chess?
17:06 Where do beginners go wrong? Mansa’s tips for beginners.
19:43 A question from Twitter: what is your favourite chess piece and why?
21:03 Advice on how to study and play chess. Jack’s current favourite chess book.
25:46 Another Twitter question: is chess computationally solvable? Is chess now doomed to always end in draws at the highest level?
30:04 The upcoming World Championship: will there be a draw or will it be more messy and exciting?
31:35 Another Twitter question: if it was up to you, what would the format of the World Championship be?
33:08 Thanks to computers, there are no longer adjournments in chess: what has been the effect of this on how games are played?
35:50 Blunders in chess.
38:34 Another Twitter question: will our increasingly short attention spans affect chess?
40:30 Another Twitter question: why is there a paucity of women in chess?
46:08 Another Twitter question: why has such a slow, cerebral game become popular in drama as a backdrop?
46:58 Would you encourage others to play chess. Why or why not?
48:10 Mansa: chess as escapism, as a unifier, as egalitarian, as meritocratic, as a demonstration of personal responsibility; the beauty of chess.
Melodious voice, brilliant mind, kind heart
I cannot stop listening to Iona. Her interviews are always interesting. This is a truly remarkable podcast that accomplishes what it promises: to hold open minded discussions in a time of increasing partisanship and nonsense orthodoxy.
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Maybe what you need is the soothing voice of a Parsis tango dancer and English professor turned podcast and letter writing peacemaker? Maybe you're thinking to yourself, "I don't need that." But if that's the case, you'd be wrong.
Iona and Helen are both extremely intelligent, very thoughtful and discerning, and tremendously articulate. These two are major intellectual talents. Don’t miss out on these valuable interviews and conversations.