Unanswered 21: Empathy v. Sympathy

Empathy in a world of sympathy must feel like an apologist in a room full of outrage, whilst sympathy in a world of empathy must feel like a narcissist in a room without a reflective surface. It’s just as well the world is much larger than a four metre squared patch of carpet otherwise the complexity of humans could get a bit noticed.

It’s a heady mix of the silly and serious as tragedy, charity, plasters, Harvard, and privilege checking are all quickly examined, before Steev and Nick push the concept of empathy into tougher territory—asking is it possible to have empathy with the most loathed people in our society, and if so what does that say about us?

Download Show 21 [MP3, 24.1 MB]

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Unanswered 20: Procrastination

It took Steev and Nick thirteen months to record their first podcast after deciding they would make one together. Twenty episodes of Unanswered later they get around to tackling procrastination as a topic. They are well suited to discuss it.

Is procrastination a manifestation of boredom, distractibility or fear? What are the barriers procrastinators build for themselves to avoid doing the things which really matter? Can displacement activities themselves be productive? Steev and Nick ask a lot of questions of themselves in our most personal episode so far.

Download Show 20 [MP3, 30.9 MB]

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Unanswered 19: Home

Header image for Unanswered Show 19 "Home" featuring a riff on Ikea packaging design

Returning from a month’s hiatus turns out to be a tricky thing, thanks to the disruptive power of moving home. Steev’s moving moving experience is the starting point for a discussion on what home means to us.

We look at the various places we call home, and try to figure out what turns a collection of bricks and stuff, or roads and places, into an emotional connection.

Download Show 19 [MP3, 22.9 MB]

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Show Notes


Unanswered returns 5th February 2014


The next episode of Unanswered will be released on Wednesday 5th February 2014.

The Christmas break, illnesses and a home move impacted on our ability to schedule a recording for January’s show. Rather than rush out a late offering, we’ve opted to skip this month.

In the meantime

If you now find yourself with an odd-shaped hole in your podcast listening for January we have some suggestions for you:

  • Why not create your own special-edition, long-form Unanswered clip-show by picking an episode from our archive and listening to it in its entirety, from start to finish?
  • Pick an episode from the Unanswered archive, download it and open it in your favourite audio editing software package; then reverse the audio and report back with any hidden messages.
  • Or how about listening to a podcast from friends of the show:
    • MOMBcast—The MOMBcast is the long-running comic book podcast from the people at MOMBcomics.com, co-hosted by Unanswered’s own Nick, with James and Jane. Occasionally Jon.
    • 2 Grown Men—Nick’s other other podcast with MOMBcast’s James, this time about being a man-child with child.
    • Psycomedia—Psychology, comedy and media. Tim and Ben take a look at the odd, quirky side of psychological research.
    • Stacey’s Pop Culture Parlour—a monthly podcast where Stacey and guest flail about around the latest happenings in pop culture. Both Nick and Steev have been guests in the past.
    • Friendship! Effort! Victory!—Max takes a look at the history and inner workings of the stories inside the pages of Japan’s long-running manga compendium Shonen Jump.
  • We’d also recommend you take a listen to Unanswered’s spiritual parent, Back to Work, from Dan Benjamin and Merlin Mann. The show discusses issues around productivity and getting back to doing the things we love.

Thanks for being a listener. We hope we make part of your balanced podcast diet.

Passing it on

If you’ve enjoyed one of our shows don’t be afraid to tell either Nick or myself (or even the Unanswered account) on Twitter, or by leaving a comment here on the site. If we’ve moved you to blog about a topic we’ve discussed, send us the link and we’ll share it. We’ll be your best friend forever if you spread the word about us wherever you are online.

Reviews on iTunes or your podcatcher of choice are also gratefully received.


Unanswered 18: Happiness

Header image for Unanswered Show 18 "Happiness" featuring a Ken Dodd EP cover from 1964

We are all prone to bouts of wondering what it is we’re supposed to do with our lives, and it seems one of the most popular answers is to be happy. Our governments and corporations wish for us to be happy as much as our nearest and dearest do.

Whilst all this goodwill is lovingly received, can we even begin to understand what our pursuit of happiness really means? Why is happiness the emotion that wins out amongst all others, and do we risk confusing it with a sense of contentment?

It’s a densely packed hour as Steev and Nick discuss emotions, the value of dogs, and share their own perspectives and experiences from their happiness pursuits.

Download Show 18 [MP3, 27.4 MB]

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Unanswered 17: Spoilers

Header image for Unanswered Show 17 "Spoilers" featuring a still from the movie "The Sixth Sense"

“You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression” so the infamous phrase goes, and whilst you often have it told to you before a job interview or going on a date, it also applies to a good book or this year’s must-watch box-set TV show.

Inspired in part by the fuss whipped up around the farewell of Breaking Bad, Steev and Nick delve into the dangers of time-shifting our entertainment diet, either by circumstance or by design. If everybody is talking about a thing you haven’t yet seen but want to check out at some point, is it possible to enjoy it unspoiled by others steamrolling their experiences over it? Is it your fault if you chose to do something else instead of grinding through the popular culture checklist, and do you deserve to have the kimono flashed open in your face for not keeping up with the rest of the class?

We try very hard not to spoil the TV shows and movies we cite along the way.

Download Show 17 [MP3, 27.9 MB]

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Further material



“A Free Background Check for Every Applicant” by Nick!

Unanswered’s own Nicolas Papaconstantinou has been thinking aloud on his blog, and it has some pertinence to our discussion about privacy on Show 15.

Nick wonders how we’ve come to accept informal snooping into the parts of our personal lives we choose to share online as A Thing That Happens Now when looking for work. If we wouldn’t accept actually being followed around as we go about our private lives, how is it fine to lurk amongst our digital shadows?

…how is it okay for an employer to Google an applicant or look at their Facebook account and use information they see there, existing outside of a working context, to inform their decision about whether or not they will employ that person?

I’m not strictly talking about those cases, often reported in the media or shared in offices as hilarious cautionary tales with black-and-white causality, of hapless applicants writing criminal nonsense on their Twitter account, or Facebook galleries full of photos of them getting drunk and disorderly in University bars with their friends. However, these are worth addressing.

My stance on the former is: if the things they are writing are actually criminal, we already have a legal system that can penalise them quite effectively.

On the latter: yes, most places have some sort of public decency clause in their employment contracts, and employers want to protect themselves from “bad” public behaviour, but here we’re faced with the conflict between what is possible or not possible, and what is right or wrong… The “real world” analogue of Googling somebody—seeing what they’ve left out in the digital wild about themselves—is following them on the street; seeing what they do out in public or pseudo-public where anyone can see. Resources-wise, the social internet makes one a matter of a couple of minutes and a half-dozen easy searches, while the other is far more labour intensive, but the goal and result are pretty much the same.

If that analogue is right, can it be inferred that the reason companies don’t do this in meatspace, and didn’t do it before the social internet, is because it wasn’t practical, rather than because it’s actually a bit icky and outside the bounds of what an organisation should be doing?

Food for thought and a read which is absolutely worth your time.