Link Love

Here are some of my favorite things I found around the internet this week:

  • I’m struggling this winter. I struggle with SAD every winter, but this winter feels more never ending than usual. Most of the DC region had a snow day on Monday and it both helped and hurt. So, I related to NPR’s Linda Holmes’ Monkey See article on Making Peace with Snow Days and Seasons.
  • Megan Amram, prolific Tweeter, writer for Parks and Recreation, and all around funny gal, wrote a book that I’m super excited to read! But in the meantime, I enjoyed this illustrated interview with her on The Rumpus.
  • BookRiot posted a fun article on Literary/Pop Culture mashups.
  • This American Life has done two fantastic shows about the issue of policing and race in America. Part one is here and part two is here.
  • This American Life also did a fascinating episode where they replayed a BBC documentary about William Burroughs (author of Naked Lunch.)
  • Time posted an interview with the wonderful Rainbow Rowell, where she discusses her upcoming novel, Carry On, which will be released in October!  Is it too early to start squeeing?
  • I recently discovered the podcast, Watch What Crappens, where Ben “B-side” Mandelker and Ronnie Karam discuss Bravo reality shows, and I’m SO glad I did. I’ve been a fan of B-Side ever since his TVgasm recaps of Laguna Beach routinely made me laugh until I cried, and Ronnie’s recaps of Real Housewives shows do the same. This podcast is snarky and hilarious and if you like Bravo shows, you will love it.

Happy perusing and happy weekend!

Podcasts I Love: Serial

Serial Podcast NPR Sarah Keonig Adnan Sayed

I haven’t been shy about my adoration of This American Life. So it will come as absolutely no surprise that when I heard there would be a spin-off podcast featuring extended stories in the same vein of This American Life, and that it would be headed by TAL producer, Sarah Koenig, I was more than a little excited.

Serial is even better than I thought it would be, and who doesn’t just love when that happens? I find myself replaying each episode, discussing the events with my husband, pouring over old articles, web forums and Reddit pages where other listeners are discussing it, and asking everyone I come into contact with if they’ve listened to it yet. I am HOOKED.

Here’s a description of the current story:

On January 13, 1999, a girl named Hae Min Lee, a senior at Woodlawn High School in Baltimore County, Maryland, disappeared. A month later, her body turned up in a city park. She’d been strangled. Her 17-year-old ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, was arrested for the crime, and within a year, he was convicted and sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison. The case against him was largely based on the story of one witness, Adnan’s friend Jay, who testified that he helped Adnan bury Hae’s body. But Adnan has always maintained he had nothing to do with Hae’s death. Some people believe he’s telling the truth. Many others don’t.

Sarah Koenig, who hosts Serial, first learned about this case more than a year ago. In the months since, she’s been sorting through box after box (after box) of legal documents and investigators’ notes, listening to trial testimony and police interrogations, and talking to everyone she can find who remembers what happened between Adnan Syed and Hae Min Lee fifteen years ago. What she realized is that the trial covered up a far more complicated story, which neither the jury nor the public got to hear. The high school scene, the shifting statements to police, the prejudices, the sketchy alibis, the scant forensic evidence – all of it leads back to the most basic questions: How can you know a person’s character? How can you tell what they’re capable of? In Season One of Serial, she looks for answers.

I just listened to an interview with Koenig where she speculated that there would probably be 12 episodes on the current story, which is still being investigated as I write this.

Episodes are released Thursday mornings, and episode five will air tomorrow.

Podcasts I Love: This American Life

Several years ago I worked in the Records Room in the HR department at American University, which licenses the local NPR station. It’s a source of pride for the staff, and you can hear NPR playing in many offices at AU. Because much of my time was spent sorting through papers and filing in a room by myself, I listened to music or books to help the day go by faster. It was a pretty great way to spend the work day. A coworker noticed that I spent a lot of time glued to my earbuds and recommended This American Life, which, (as you probably know) is a really fantastic podcast distributed by NPR. I listened and was immediately hooked. And not just on TAL. On podcasts.

I now listen to many podcasts, and thought it would be fun to recommend my favorites and the shows I enjoyed the most. And since This American Life was the first one I listened to, I’ll start there.

This American Life is basically the grand poobah of podcasts. It tops many “Best Podcasts” lists and has been the recipient of numerous awards. You’ve probably heard of Ira Glass even if you don’t listen to podcasts. (He was recently in the Veronica Mars movie!) It’s a weekly podcast that features real people telling real stories centered on a common theme.  It’s arguably the platform that made the wonderful and hilarious David Sedaris famous, and has featured many other well-known contributors, including Sarah Vowell, Dan Savage, John Hodgman and Mike Birbiglia. There are SO MANY shows I could recommend, but I’ll try to keep it relatively brief.

  • Switched at Birth tells the story of (as you probably imagine) two babies who were switched at birth in 1941. One of the mothers realized what happened but decided to keep it quiet rather than risk embarrassing the town doctor who delivered both babies. The other mother had no idea. The babies grew up and spent their lives wondering why they didn’t quite fit in with their families until they found out the truth, in their 40’s. Crazy and fascinating.
  • David Sedaris has contributed many stories to TAL. Most are hilarious. This one is not. You may have already read this story in the New Yorker, but it’s worth listening to him read it. Now We Are Five tells of his youngest sisters suicide and the ripple effect on his family.
  • TAL did a two part series on Harper High School in Chicago, where 29 students were shot in 2012. It’s heartbreaking and eyeopening.
  • The story on the Nummi car plant in Fremont, California was the story my coworker recommended and my first taste of TAL.  In 1984, Toyota was trying to break into the American auto market and formed a joint venture with GM. Toyota shows GM all of its production secrets; how to produce better quality cars for less money. GM didn’t exactly take the advice. This story will leave you shaking your head.
  • Dr. Gilmer & Mr. Hyde is probably my favorite kind of TAL story. One that blows your mind and keeps you completely glued to your car or headphones. Dr. Gilmer is hired at a rural general practitioner clinic. He soon finds out that he is replacing another Dr. Gilmer, who went to prison for killing his father. Patients speak highly of the imprisoned Dr. Gilmer and express disbelief that he would have killed his father, which inspires the new Dr. Gilmer to look into the case.
  • I always enjoy hearing personal accounts of those in a biracial or bi-cultural marriage, probably because I am in one. Emily met her husband when they were both living in Arizona. She is an American citizen, he is a Mexican citizen who illegally came to the U.S. They decided their best option was self-deportation for 10 years, and currently live in Cuidad Juarez, Mexico, just across the border. She gives a taste of what life is like in Juarez through in this show and keeps a blog about her experience that I’ve since added to my reader. I think my favorite thing about this show, and her in general, is how positive she manages to be and the obvious love she shares with her husband. Her outlook is inspiring and her story is moving.
  • I’ll admit it: I didn’t really understand the ins and outs of what exactly caused the housing crisis in 2008 or the collapse of the banks that led to the global recession. Until I listened to The Giant Pool of Money and Bad Bank that is. There’s also an update episode on the housing crisis.
  • TAL does creepy really, really well. If you’re into that kind of thing, you should listen to The Ghost of Bobby Dunbar, …And the Call Was Coming From the Basement, Halloween, and (my personal favorite), The House on Loon Lake. I like to replay all of these around Halloween.
  • But lest you think all the stories are serious, fear not! Santaland Diaries is the show that made David Sedaris a household name (for NPR listeners anyway.) Accidental Deception and Music Lessons make me laugh every single time I listen to them (which is fairly often, since I like to recommend these episodes when I recommend David Sedaris’ books.) The Seven Things You’re Not Supposed to Talk About is thought-provoking and fun. Hit the Road might inspire you to travel this summer. And finally, Fiasco! features hilarious recounts of a Peter Pan production gone horribly awry, and a showdown between a rookie cop and a squirrel.

I could go on and on. Needless to say, if you haven’t already, I highly recommend that you listen to This American Life. You can hear it on Saturdays at 1 pm on NPR or check out the archive here for FREE. There is also a pretty great app you can download if you have a smartphone.