Paradox Project Podcast

The official podcast for the Paradox Project

Grant Gambling, writer and keen observer of foreign policy, joined Matthias and Jordan this week to talk about Israel, standup comedy, the millennial who is taking on the Middle East and the general “tomfoolery” of our times.

Terrible Opinions

Jordan: I don’t blame Trump personally for the White House not acknowledging Pride Month (as observed in June). I don’t think he has anything against gay people—I blame the administration around him for pandering to their baby boomer/evangelical Christian base by ignoring it.

Matthias: Andy Serkis is one of the greatest actors of a generation, but he gets overlooked because people don’t realize how much skill goes into being the actor behind a CGI character like Gollum in “Lord of the Rings.”

Grant: Jon Stewart was criticized by the left and ignored by the right for “Rosewater,” but it was a good film.

“What we’re told is very simplistic …”

Grant walks us through some of the situation in the Middle East as Israel tries to lay low while in the middle of rising tensions. He explains why Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and the White House adviser tasked with “fixing” Iraq, is the first millennial to be at the crux of foreign policy.

Americans generally don’t get an accurate, unfiltered view of foreign policy since news stories become so politicized. Under the Obama administration, the media added explanations and excuses, while the Trump era is characterized by antagonism.

Comedy in the era of political correctness

Speaking of the politicization of everything, we talk about standup comedy and why comedians are (mostly) getting away with pointing out political correctness and lampooning it in a constructive way. We debate the implications of Patton Oswalt’s “listen to their heart” monologue and remind people that it’s important to listen to others’ words in context and try to understand where they’re coming from – regardless of what “team” they’re on.


Mary Katharine Ham drops by to chat about political tribes, Disney princesses and more on this week’s episode of the Paradox Podcast. She explains why Twitter isn’t the best way to share your political views and what she thinks of people who line up out the door for cupcakes.

Terrible Opinions

Mary Katharine shares three terrible opinions for good measure.

MK: 1) I want to heckle people who line up for cupcakes as if it’s a rock concert when cupcakes aren’t actually good. 2) I like cicadas because they signify summer to me. 3) I’m a big fan of Cleatus the FOX Sports robot.

Jordan: It’s OK to mute people on Twitter to filter your timeline as long as you still see tweets from people from both “sides.”

Matthias: We need a Twitter option that alerts you when accounts you follow go silent for a long time.

Tribal politics

Matthias opens up the discussion about political tribes by talking about his own experience trying to live in two different worlds when it comes to ideology. He points out that the gap isn’t between social and fiscal conservatives but between people on the right who believe in a particular ideology and people who are simply partisan.

Mary Katharine talks about what needs to happen for people of all political ideologies to be able to talk to each other. Political rhetoric has only become angrier after the shooting in Virginia last week where a gunman seemed to be specifically targeting GOP lawmakers. Can we do better?

We talk about why the left needs to welcome liberal evangelicals instead of alienating people of faith by being illiterate when it comes to religion. Jordan mentions the case of the Obama White House staffer who used the biblical reference “the least of these” and was asked over and over if it was a typo.

‘How Far I’ll Go’

Time for the important topic: Disney princess movies. Mary Katharine details her theory that “Frozen” is Disney’s version of “The Shining.” Desolate winter landscape? Check. Volatile main character who is a risk to family members? Double check. We talk about how dark “Frozen” and its Oscar-winning song “Let It Go” actually are.

Mary Katharine talks about why “The Princess and the Frog” is her new favorite Disney movie and also explores the history of the classic “Sleeping Beauty.”


Adoption advocate, mom and blogger Sarah Stevenson joins us this week to talk about a calling to adoption, her experience bringing her son home from China and the best way to support families who are adopting. 

Terrible Opinions

Sarah: Even though I live in Texas, I can’t deal with modern country music.

Jordan: Kathy Griffin should not have lost jobs over the shocking Trump photo.

Matthias: I enjoy going to crawfish boils because it’s a fun ritual, but I don’t think I actually like crawfish.

Sometimes you just know

Sarah shares the amazing story of how she and her husband felt called to be adoptive parents and went to China to meet orphans in need of a home. One 6-year-old boy claimed her during their time there, and the rest was history. “By the end of the week, I knew this was my kid,” Sarah remembers.

Sarah discusses the importance of community and the people in her life who helped her through the adoption process. She also talks about the best ways to discuss adoption with families and brings a Christian perspective to the question of whether or not to adopt.

Yes, religion is about exclusion – all religions

We talk about Sen. Bernie Sanders’ attack on Trump administration nominee Russell Vought. Sanders took a quote from an article Vought wrote in January 2016 out of context and attempted to cast the nominee deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget as a bigot. We clarify the quote from Vought’s article and look at some ways that liberals are trying to edge Christians out of public life.

Find Sarah at her blog: Love Hope & Adopt


Terrible Opinions

Matthias: I thought Lin-Manuel Miranda was rude when I first heard the story about he talked to Vice President Mike Pence from the stage when Pence saw “Hamilton.” But now that I’ve enjoyed his musical work and looked at his remarks in context, I’m more inclined to be OK with what he said.

Dina: I hate Disney because I had terrible experiences at Disney World and also Mickey Mouse is creepy.

Jordan: I understand what Rachel Bloom was attempting to do with her performance on Bill Nye’s new show (even though she obviously failed).

Bill Nye’s handmaid world

The big news this week was the GOP’s healthcare bill, a swap for Obamacare that hasn’t made anyone happy. Matthias talked about some of the reactions to the healthcare bill, including the vitriol directed at people like Mary Katherine Ham who are trying to be reasonable.


One of the accusations against the GOP is that they are trying to take healthcare from women in particular and that they are targeting pregnant moms. We touched on a comment in TV host Bill Nye’s new Netflix show that showed how progressives target moms and children. The former “Science Guy” suggested that the government start taxing larger families with “extra kids” because they are supposedly bad for the environment.

“The Handmaid’s Tale” has been a rallying cry for a lot of liberal feminists who think Republicans are on the verge of outlawing abortion and cutting off access to birth control (Spoiler: They’re not). Dina analyzed the bigger picture, looking at the dystopian story as a reflection of our world today because 2016 was a dark year and 2017 hasn't been much better. As world powers shift abroad and changes like the new healthcare bill disrupt their lives here, people feel less safe than ever. Jordan noted that recent TV has become increasingly dark and emotionally dense, whether it's "The Handmaid's Tale," "13 Reasons Why" or even the surprise hit "This Is Us," which told the story of a real, relateable family that was funny and enjoyable but still included themes of heartbreak, tragedy and loss. 


Katrina Jørgensen stopped by for what turned out to be a millennial-centric podcast episode this week, joining the Paradox team to share her experiences seeing Sen. Lindsey Graham navigate a South Carolina town hall. 

Terrible Opinions

Jordan: Conservatives really need to stop jumping on every Chelsea Clinton story. Yes, liberal media cover her, but progressive voters honestly don't care. 

Matthias: Android's cutesy confectionary-themed operating system names are annoying and uninformative. 

Katrina: I liked "Ghost in the Shell." 

At least one politician is listening ... 

Katrina talks about a town hall in South Carolina that she attended shortly after the GOP healthcare bill failed. Sen. Lindsey Graham talked about Supreme Court nominee Judge Gorsuch and worked hard to manage a screaming crowd that seemed primarily made up of Bernie voters. He pointed out that he got into trouble with Republicans for supporting President Obama's Supreme Court nominees, but he is always going to support qualified justices. 

Sen. Graham addressed millennials specifically, something that is unusual among politicians. One of the problems he mentioned was the shakiness of social security as well as the late retirement age expected for millennials. 

Old school management vs. millennials

We then launch into a discussion of millennial issues, most of which stem from a poor economy. Millennials have a reputation for being disloyal to the workplace, but often it's because jobs won't pay enough for them to take care of student debt or have basic things their parents had. Katrina talks about average income for millennials, which doesn't even guarantee them a middle-class life in the suburbs. 

We talk about student debt and the struggle of college graduates who were told that they just needed to get an education and a good job and comfortable life would be guaranteed. Jordan sympathizes with those who want free college (while disagreeing that free college should become policy) because a common millennial problem is graduating with a college degree and then struggling to find a job that pays well. Matthias talks about some of the difficulties of navigating the job market when employers have so much power to pick and choose among millennials who desperately need work. 


Kemberlee Kaye, Legal Insurrection editor and baker extraordinaire, joined us this week to talk about the GOP healthcare bill disaster, analyze why Republicans failed to reach everyday Americans, and answer the all-important frosting vs. fondant question. 

Terrible Opinions

Matthias: I shut down my political Twitter account this week, and I'm so much happier with far less politics in my life. 

Jordan: People need to stop abusing the word "humbled" when what they really mean is "my life is awesome and I needed to tell all of you." 

Kemberlee: Conservatives shouldn't mock Huma Abedin; instead, they should be supportive when couples are dedicated enough to try to make their marriage work. 

The lose-lose healthcare bill scenario

Matthias points out that the failure of the GOP healthcare bill is bad in the long term for Democrats since the Affordable Care Act likely won't survive without extra government intervention on its behalf. Kemberlee analyzes why the bill failed, noting that even though the bill was theoretically Part I of a three-part initiative, most people had no idea there was more to the plan because the GOP failed to communicate yet again. We all sympathize with Speaker Paul Ryan, who seems to be trying to find a compromise solution in a thankless task. 

You should have a real life

The Paradox team has been encouraging more discussion about fun interests far outside the realm of politics. Matthias and Kemberlee talk about their experiences with baking and what inspired each of them to learn. There is a lot of important discussion about buttercream frosting. 


Shoshana Weissmann was our guest this week to talk about how much she loves tofu, why the GOP fails to reach urban voters, and what keeps her going when politics is just too much. 

Terrible Opinions

Shoshana: I actually really love tofu even though no one else does. 

Jordan: I was offended by the meme that took the Nike logo on a picture of a woman wearing a hijab and added "if my husband says I can" because 1) you can't group all Muslim women into one stereotype and 2) some women (of a range of religions) decide to dress according to what their husband says. You shouldn't demean them for that decision. 

Matthias: The walk sign where the pedestrian figure was wearing a dress not only wasn't really feminist but also promoted a dangerous gender stereotype that wearing a dress makes you a woman. 

"We have to start showing up." 

Shoshana talks about the GOP's problem with reaching urban voters and why in the long term, it's not enough to reach only rural Americans. "Don't campaign in cities ... you can't win," she was told. Shoshana analyzes some of the reasons why Republicans appeal less to city voters and encourages people on the right to reach out to urban communities and spend time actually talking to voters and finding out what issues matter to them. 

Sewing and baking 

We talk about interests outside politics, including but not limited to: sewing, baking, tattoos, hair coloring, dresses, buttercream frosting. 


Terrible Opinions

Jordan is frustrated with seemingly engaged conservatives who act very puzzled when they hear the term "cisgender" and obviously aren't venturing outside their usual political bubble. Matthias didn't understand "Moonlight" and thought "Hacksaw Ridge" and "Lion" were the strongest films this year. 

Better late than never

As we finally discuss the 2017 Oscars, Jordan breaks down "Moonlight" and persuades Matthias to give it another look. We go back and forth on "Hacksaw Ridge," which Matthias loved and Jordan hated, and analyze why "Arrival" didn't quite work but was still a great film. Jordan rants about "Manchester by the Sea" and Casey Affleck, and we both agree that Denzel Washington was robbed of Best Actor for his rich performance in "Fences."

Why they invented Netflix 

Netflix may have been beaten to a Best Picture nomination by Amazon, but it's still making incredible cultural strides by appealing to demographics that are usually ignored. "House of Cards," its first hit original series, doesn't appeal to everyone, but it doesn't have to. Everyone in Washington watches it because the show was designed for a specific (and influential) demographic of TV viewers. "House of Cards" helped Netflix get noticed, and the streaming platform kept creating original content targeted to very specific subsets of its audience.

Matthias details his theory that Netflix aims to "serve under-served entertainment groups," creating content that appeals to specific subcultures. We analyze several Netflix series, including "The Ranch," "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" and the "Veggietales" revival. "Unbreakable," a witty, quirky Tina Fey property, was obviously created for a female audience, while "Veggietales" returned as a Netflix original for Christian viewers. Aziz Ansari's "Master of None" shows the lived experience of an immigrant's kid, while "The Ranch" is about a rural family in Colorado. 


Journalist and author Emily Esfahani Smith joined the Paradox team this week to talk about her new book, The Power of Meaning, and share insights from her research about why your main goal in life shouldn’t be simply happiness.

Terrible Opinions

Emily and Jordan both contribute pop culture opinions, while Matthias gets somewhat political. With just a few hours to go until the Oscars at the time of recording, Emily pans “La La Land,” saying it was a nice film but overrated and not Best Picture-worthy. Jordan thinks Carrie wasn’t the true protagonist in “Sex and the City,” instead arguing that Charlotte kept the show anchored and quietly influenced all of the other main characters. Matthias wants Chelsea Clinton to “slide into the background” for a while since everyone is still Clinton’d out after the election.

Meaning >>> Happiness

Emily talks about pursing happiness versus pursuing meaning in life and how research shows that the latter is actually much more satisfying in the long run.

As her book details, people find meaning through four pillars: belonging, purpose, storytelling and transcendence. To find meaning, we need strong relationships with other people; a sense of purpose in the work we do; an internal narrative that makes our lives into powerful stories; and experiences of beauty and/or religion that make us part of something bigger.  

We get more in-depth with questions like “Do people find meaning by looking for it?” and “How do you move forward and find a sense of meaning again after failure?” Emily describes how a “meaning mindset” is more important than results in a meaningful life.


Attorney and writer Gabriel Malor was our guest this week to provide expert analysis on the “travel ban” executive order and to explain why virtual reality games are dangerous (for him at least).

Jordan starts Terrible Opinions with a rant about how both the right and the left are way too eager to cry sexism when a woman, any woman, is in the news cycle. Gabriel says that President Trump will serve as a check on the people in his administration with white nationalist sympathies. Matthias points out that enforcing immigration law is a normal thing, not cause for panic the way people panicked this week as ICE agents did their job.

Gabe explains ICE has so much trouble deporting illegal immigrants who have committed crimes. We then shift into the topic of the hour: President Trump’s executive order banning people from seven countries from coming into the U.S. Gabe gives a breakdown of the EO itself and then explains why the Ninth Circuit ruled against President Trump as well as why the ruling was made on shaky grounds and could be challenged in the near future.

We wrap up with some fun topics: “Resident Evil” and the survival-horror genre; virtual reality; and a quick preview of Oscar rants.  


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