Monthly Archives: September 2018

International Podcast Day



In honor of international Podcast Day and my inability to post regular blogs, here are some podcast recommendations nobody asked for. (“Writeups Nobody Asked For” could be an alternate title for this blog. So many blogs, really.)


I’ve already spent a couple years hyping a number of established podcast sensations like The Guilty Feminist, My Dad Wrote a Porno, No Such Thing as a Fish, The West Wing Weekly and Wooden Overcoats. Here I’m going to highlight some of my more recent and/or less-frequently hyped discoveries.


Griefcast: Comedian Cariad Lloyd talks to a guest (usually another comedian) about a loved one who’s died. The conversations include loving memories of the person, their life and relationships, as well as the circumstances of their death, and the aftermath. As she says in her intro, Lloyd lost her father when she was 15, and she since developed a borderline obsession (in a charming way) with death and how we handle it.


This podcast, too, is a big hit and an award-winner, and listening to these conversations week after week can really affect the way you think and talk about death and grieving. It’s heartfelt and earnest without being cloying, with plenty of levity because, y’know: comedians. It’s catharsis and a sense of expanded humanity, like an aural hug.


All of the eps are great, but go ahead and start with Robert Popper. It’s amazing.


Do The Right Thing: Also an established hit, it’s a comedy quiz show in front of a live audience pitting two teams of comedians trying to figure out the right thing to do in emergencies or socially awkward situations. As follows the British live comedy panel show tradition (or, say, our Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me), the quiz questions double as prompts for the comedians to do their thing, and through some kind of comedic wizardry, DTRT always winds up being frenetic and hysterical and frequently very very dark and dirty and sweary. It helps that the core team—host/creator Danielle Ward and “team captains” Michael Legge and Margaret Cabourn-Smith—are unequivocally ruthless with one another, so the comedy floodgates are always wide open from the get-go.


They haven’t released any new episodes since I discovered it last Christmas, but it looks like they’re recording more now, and there’s a big back catalog to go through in the meantime. Might as well start, as I did, with the most recent ep, which early on contains the phrase “vagina boat.”


Worst Foot Forward: Two comedian friends (Dubliner Barry McStay and Geordie Ben Van der Veld) and a guest (usually either a comedy performer or an expert on the topic—often both) pitch ideas for the world’s worst thing in whatever the week’s category—from the worst horror movie to the worst monarch to the worst cocktail. In a similar vein to NSTAAF, there’s something satisfying about a podcast that requires its participants to do research and come prepared, so you get a great blend of comedy and fascinating trivia.


World’s Worst Horror Movie and World’s Worst Actor are good pop-culture-y ways in, but even less familiar topics—footballers, for instance—result in fun, funny, fascinating chats.


Things Wrong With Things: I feel as though all of my one-sentence summaries of this one fall well short of its charm and instead sound reasonably unappealing:


  • Hyper-articulate meditations on utter nonsense.


  • A low-key Irishman and a chatty Brit discuss everyday annoyances and other issues.


  • A rambly drive-time radio talk show about…things.


  • Like if Rosencrantz and Guildenstern never got summoned to Elsinore.


I think those are all technically accurate, but you’d have to add “…in a lovely, funny way.” The two guys (Will Green and Michael O’Mahoney, whom the website describes as “a failed actor and a drunken poet”) start with a few topics in mind—their own, or things suggested by listeners—with the idea of highlighting, as it says, the things wrong with those things—could be a restaurant or a movie or just a thing that happened to someone once.


Still not sold? The thing is, they have an easy commitment to following their own conversations off into absurdity. Whereas in a normal conversation, suggesting that Birkenstocks have a sexuality would be its own punchline and then back to the topic at hand; here they follow through: If Birkenstocks have a sexuality, then what is the sexuality of other shoes? Like the most relaxed, easygoing comedy improv game of “Yes, and…” Like, you’re listening to two people have a casual, low-key chat and then find yourself going, “Hang on, why are we talking about how best to marinate our phones?”


There’s also something very satisfying about how articulate they are. No matter the ridiculousness of the statement, it will be well said. Or as Will says at one point, “That nonsense you’ve just spouted has a lot of charm to it.”


There haven’t been any new episodes after the original 10, but it seems a second season is afoot. Start at the beginning to hear the development of various gags (the WTF Slaw campaign, Jehovah Mathsman, etc.).

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And Just Like That

The rhythm from the tracks kicks up an afternoon din, the limping rattle-thump putter of an old propeller, and I’m out the door and up the road and into the open, trying to catch a glimpse of the three-car train over the trestle, the pong-pong-pong of crossing warnings, a swirl of racket like seagulls over a patch of churning ocean, startled-split by the burst of a whistle like a blowhole breaking the surface, one deep breath giving way to the slap of a tail disappearing into a twist of eddy, and just like that the great thing is gone again.

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To All-Beef Patties I’ve Special Sauced Before


I don’t think I’m a particularly picky eater. I can only think of one category of food I full-on can’t deal with: olives. If I were at a dinner party and the host served a dish fully infested with olives, the battle between my taste buds and my social self-consciousness would be epic. Just thinking about it makes me sweat. And spit.


But what else? I’m not a fan of salmon, smoked or seared or raw, but I don’t think I’d struggle to eat it at knifepoint. I tend to remove the tomato slice from my hamburgers, but I’m learning to tolerate—even enjoy?—little bites of it here and there, more and more, on nachos and bruschetta. I’ve enjoyed a few raw oysters over the last year or so. Chewed ‘em and everything. Saltines and horseradish are my gateway drugs.


I don’t mind the other end of the culinary culture spectrum, either; I can find sustenance in a pinch: ballpark hot dogs. Pretzel hot dogs. Deep-fried hot dogs.


So if my culinary adventurousness is not to be overly praised, per se, neither is it to be dismissed.


And yet I’ve never had a Big Mac.


Way back when I was a Happy Meal tot, I couldn’t do McDonald’s cheeseburgers. I had a thing about American cheese (which I’ve since overcome) (not that there’s much merit in that). The gentle, unobtrusive creaminess of processed cheese freaks me out. See also: avocados. But in adulthood I’ve learned to love both Haas and plastic-wrapped Kraft horror—albeit both need to be paired with something assertively salty and firm to keep them in check. Otherwise, it’s like they’re up to something. I’m still worried those creamy little bastards are angling for some creepy, subversive flavor-groping.


And Big Macs, when I was a child, were like cheeseburgers for grownups. (I had to google them just now to make sure the cheese was automatically included—and no don’t sing the damn song at me I don’t care.) The sheer volume of the sandwich, yes, but also the “special sauce.” Oh, that Special Sauce. A mystery goo whose only identifiable ingredient is relish, a substance that brings dubious tang and horrifying texture to an otherwise creamy condiment? No thank you. No thank you very much.


Hang on, did I compare avocados to pedophile grooming up there? Huh. I…I might have, yes.


Anyway. All this to say, none of my childhood aversions are really factors anymore. I can get behind American cheese. Relish is fine in tartar sauce and Thousand Island dressing—the latter being, essentially, Ur-Special Sauce. I no longer have reason to fear Big Macs. (The scariest thing now is that, according to Wikipedia, Special Sauce is made with “store-bought” mayo, which seems sketch as fuck.) I’m even starting to find them, as a concept, vaguely appealing.


I still haven’t tried one, but where once I’d ruled it out altogether, now that First Big Mac experience feels imminent. And my culinary universe will be that much wider.

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