🍝 Cursed spaghetti sauce 🧙♀️ generative semi-fiction 🤖 The Guy Fieri appreciation mixtape 🔥
💌Podcast The Newsletter is your weekly love letter to podcasts and the people who make them.💌
Today is Monday, July 19. There are 310 days until I go on my next Disney cruise. This week we’re getting to peek into the listening life of Shaquille Anderson, the Marketing Manager of Audience Growth at PRX. When Shaquille isn’t whipping up an amazing marketing strategy, you can catch him traveling to different countries (so far he has been to Cuba, Barbados, Nicaragua, Spain, Puerto Rico, the UK, and Thailand) or streaming himself playing video games on Twitch!
The app I use: Honestly, I hop around a lot because different apps have different functionalities I like, but I usually stick to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher.
Listening time per week: Oh man, honestly I feel like I’m always listening, but let’s say about 15 hours per week? I love great storytelling, true crime podcasts, or super engaging non-fiction pods; they kind of take me from my current reality into a new world, which I really enjoy.
When I listen: As I said, always listening lol, but I take a daily walk to get 10-20K steps in and that’s when I do a lot of my listening. If I take a road trip, that’s also a great time to listen to a story.
How I discover: Working in the industry, I feel like many people you meet have about five different mainstream podcasts they are thrilled to share, but I also like listening to compelling shows from smaller, independent creators. I enjoy connecting with BIPOC podcast creators in social media groups to see what they are working on. I love consuming stories from diverse teams, with diverse content - those are the folks that really push the needle.
Anything else? I love working in this field because of how innovative it is and the people you meet who are incredibly talented. As someone who thinks about starting his own podcast one of these days, I’m excited to learn from everyone. If you’d like to connect, please reach out to me here!
ps If you are pleased with Podcast The Newsletter, please spread the word.
Hey Podcast People! Welcome to the newest podcast on PRX’s TRAX network, Cultureverse! Cultureverse is an immersive audio drama, hosted by Kelly Marie Tran & Yara Shahidi, that celebrates our collective cultural past. In each episode, an ordinary kid encounters an extraordinary creature or folk character from their culture, embarking on an exciting journey of self-discovery. You’ll hear stories from China, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Mexico, Vietnam, and many more! Step into the Cultureverse Universe and Listen wherever you get your podcasts or head over to trax.fm/cultureverse to learn more!
👋q & a & q & a & q & a👋
Anna Seregina and Kyle Mizono
What was the inspiration for the tone of this show? It's funny but in a way that I think is pretty unique to podcasting.
KYLE: Anna, you take this one way, I think.
ANNA: Thank you, Kyle. A significant part of it is actually incredibly UNunique to podcasting: a very, very broad and general “investigative journalism” cadence. I (perhaps foolishly) think I am almost fluent in it, because of the number of straight, un-comedic investigate podcasts I listen to. Sometimes, when we’ve been, like, immersed in editing, I’ll think we’ve veered very far away from this cadence. Then, I’ll listen to one of the many podcasts I’m subscribed to, and be blown away by how similar our narrating is. Like, it actually doesn’t feel, to me, like parody. Then, of course, there’s the other part: the tone of our friendship, which is… let’s say “funky.” So I think it’s an intersection of something very unique -ourtone-, and something very familiar -an entirely plagiarized tone-.
What does each of you bring to the show? How are you different and what do you share?
KYLE: We both share a love of life. Anna brings smarts, gorgeousness and humor. And I bring money and admin skills.
ANNA: Honestly, we perform together a lot in comedy, and I think we have become very, very good at developing each other’s ideas. Like, one of us with think of a very general idea, and the other will immediately see an opportunity to elevate it. And this totally switches off - there isn’t, like, the idea person, and the editor person.
Isn't Anna Hossnieh the best? How. Does. She. Do it?
KYLE: She is the best! We love Anna! Hi, Anna if you’re reading this!
ANNA: And I’ll just go ahead and agree: we love Anna.
Why was the episode about being late first? Is that the first episode you thought of?
KYLE: We thought the Late episode would be a good introduction to the show, and what we were trying to do. Our first idea was probably “koo-koo bananas,” but at a certain point, we took a step back. We were like we need people to get on board with us before we go absolutely nuts. But we will got nuts. It’s coming.
ANNA: It’s very funny, in retrospect, that we were like, “This will earn people’s trust and make them respect and trust us to be serious and keyed in.”
I ask this because I have social anxiety...do you have social anxiety? And if you do...how did that impact your podcasting? Does podcasting help with social anxiety, or does social anxiety make podcasting more challenging?
KYLE: Oh yes, I sure do! Podcasting definitely helps, because I can engage with people but you can’t see my face. Hopefully, this makes sense.
ANNA: Kyle, that makes perfect sense. I also want to add that we are both very shy-friendly. In our “calls to action,” interviews, whatever, I think we both try to create a very comfortable environment for the people participating for this very reason!
What's your advice for other people who also want to be Truth Hounds when they grow up?
KYLE: Just make sure you do not have a lot going on.
ANNA: Yeah, make sure you’ve got a lot of free time.
🚨If u only have time for 1 thing🚨
Last week I told you I binged The Invisible Hand, and that led me to another Casefiles Presents show, Silent Waves. The topic couldn’t really be more different—instead of rhino poaching it’s untangling the messiness of a family story in a completely raw way. But it sounds like the shows are in the same family—great sound and writing, plus a literary feel. Raquel O’Brien is sharing some big family secrets (her own childhood sexual abuse, the discovery that her dad was a pedophile) to examine how the how the cycle of abuse has repeated in Raquel’s own life, four years into her first serious relationship at age 25. This podcast is her attempt to break the cycle, but a chance for us to feel like we’ve joined a family to try to put together the pieces of their trauma. I don’t want to become “the pedophile podcast girl,” but I do love seeing people open up about this topic—not enough people do. It’s helpful to hear Raquel’s honest and complicated feelings about her dad and I can’t imagine what it would be like to go through this process of examination with a therapist or alone, let alone in front of the entire world of audio consumers. Adding this to my library of good pedophile storytelling—This American Life’s Tarred and Feathered, and Ear Hustle’s Sorry Means Nothing.
🎙️I think I have thrown the phrase “unlike anything else” around on this newsletter in the past, and before you start making Boy-Who-Cried-Wolf jokes about me, let me assure you…I mean it this time! I’m talking about Neutrinowatch. Martin Zaltz Austwick (Answer Me This, Maddie’s Sound Explorers and Song by Song) and Jeff Emtman (Here Be Monsters) have created a podcast that uses computer code that gathers the day’s headlines, the positions of the planets in the solar system, and new music to form a podcast episode that is different every single day. (Wendy, the computer who needs to be included in the credits, explains it better than I can in the trailer.) I am reminded of episodes of Flash Forward that played with this idea, but as far as I know, nobody has made an entire podcast from it. It’s a departure from thinking of a podcast as a static thing, and instead is something that will evolve with the listener. Listening is an incredible, dream-like experience. If you’re looking to push your listening to the next dimension, download and listen to Nautrinowatch, and then download and listen to it again later.
🎙️On My Momma Told Me (best podcast artwork ever?,) Langston Kerman opens us to the world of the strange, funny, and sometimes problematic Black conspiracy theories, and the episode with Carl Tart got me thinking. (And laughing, these are all funny episodes but anything with Carl Tart, including his podcast The Flagrant Ones, is pure gold.) Carl talks about how his momma told him that you shouldn’t eat spaghetti sauce made by a woman you don’t know, and how this is tied to the myth that all women are witches and will cast a spell on you by mixing their menstrual blood into spaghetti sauce. This seems too whack to be true, but I’m Italian and have always been told that women shouldn’t be allowed to make spaghetti sauce on their period and I never thought about why. So it’s a nutty idea (that many people still subscribe to—there was an episode of Real Housewives of New Jersey in which Teresa Giudici wasn’t allowed to help make sauce when she was menstruating) tied to the idea that women hold special powers that allow them to put a curse on someone. We all know that women have special powers, and here’s a myth that tells the history of men dealing (or not dealing) with that. Are there any other cultures you know of who are suspicious of women making spaghetti sauce?
🎙️Latino USA has a two-part investigation looking into LA County’s Department of Children and Family Services, the largest child welfare agency in the U.S., and how it ends up hurting children of color while trying to protect them. (There are more than 670K children in the foster care system in the US—and they’re disproportionately Black and Latinx.) The episode is about Leah Garcia, who called the police when her husband was being violent with her, and when DCFS took her baby away to protect him, he died shortly after being placed in foster care. This wasn’t the first baby who died in this foster home, which raises so many alarm bells I can’t hear myself think. (Be careful not to grind your teeth to smithereens while listening.) They talk about how the DCFS doesn’t seem to know the difference between neglect and poverty—kids that look poor are often assumed to be neglected. And kids who appear well-cared for on the outside are perceived as safe and fine and good. And what a terrible mix-up that is. This is a heartbreaking story that shows us the tip of the foster care iceberg, and explores just one more way we punish people of color in America.
🎙️The very funny Marcella Arguello (Woke Bully) and Niccole Thurman have a new podcast from Headgum, The Scroll Down, which goes deep into internet rabbit holes to unpack the digital vibes and juicy topics from the week. It’s kind of like what you missed on Twitter explained by your funniest friends, who talk about Twitter like it’s a fantastical world full of heroes, villains, wacky neighbors, and troublemakers. There are lots of strange segments (like “women hating women”) and conversation that’s fun enough to make you want to jump in. I would listen to anything Marcelle decided to dedicate energy to and am excited I’ll get to listen to her every week. (She makes occasional visits to The Daily Zeitgeist, where she brings real woke bully energy.)
🎙️I am always looking for book podcasts that take on book culture, publishing, reading life, or any alternative to straight-up book reviews or author interviews. Why, here’s one now! Book Dreams is a show all about reading life and culture and the stories behind the books we love. This episode about the secret life of Harper Lee gets to the mystery behind one of the greatest books of all time, the woman who wrote it, and how on earth she could be the same person responsible for Go Set a Watchman, which was fucking terrible and made me question everything I know about literature. Something smells fishy and I love to hear people talk about it, even if it’s just speculation. (This makes me think I would love an entire podcast on literary scandals and gossip. Let me know if you know of one! Print Run does this well.) Anyway back to Book Dreams. The episode with David Levithan was a fun trip back to the days of peak Babysitters Club, when David was a 19-year old intern for Scholastic and tasked with coming up with a Babysitters Club bible, keeping track of all the small details of the characters so that the world of The Babysitters Club would always make sense. David played a big part in why these books went big, and I liked hearing about how they resonated with him. (As an at the time young, gay man.)
🎙️Four years after Cat Person shook up the internet comes an addition to the story—Alexis Nowicki’s Cat Person and Me, which published last week. In it, Alexis drops a cultural bomb: Kristen Roupenian’s fictional story that went viral was based on Alexis’s life. Cat Person’s “Margot” was her, and “Robert” was a real person she knew, someone who has since died. Cat Person and Me isn’t really tsk-tsking Roupenian for stealing from Alexis’ life, it’s more about the strangeness of seeing your own story fictionalized by someone else. This Culture Gabfest interview with Alexis is great and brings up a lot of interesting things about fiction, publishing, and internet viralitiy. I was among the zillions intoxicated by Cat Person but am more fascinated by the story behind it. A Cat Person film is in the works but a Cat Person and Me story would be better.
🎙️Radio Diaries tells the story of the song “Ain’t No Grave Gonna Hold Me Down,” which was written by a 12-year-old boy about to die but did not (just yet) and instead when onto become a Pentecostal preacher known as The Gospel Ranger who influenced Elvis, Johnny Cash, and the future of Rock and Roll. Before I listened I almost felt defiant that Radio Diaries could NOT convince me that there was a straight line between Pentecostal church music and Rock music. Now that I see it, I will probably never listen to rock in the same way again. Lots of great music and storytelling in this one! (Duh, it’s Radio Diaries—what else would you expect!?)
🎙️HiberNation is a podcast from Headspace, and you know I am always skeptical about branded podcasts. (Sometimes they are great! And sometimes they are not.) But HiberNation is one of the good ones, telling stories rooted in sleep. Slumber Party talks about the way nighttime adventures bond us (and made me want to start having sleepovers with my friends again,) and Big $leep talks about how sleep technology is supposed to help us sleep more, but is actually a sleep hinderance. Odd that a podcast coming from a sleep app company would do this, but shoutout to anyone shouting the truth from the rooftops, even when the message could impact your bottom line.
🎙️On Celebrity Book Club, Chelsea Devantez and Kenzie Elizabeth dive into Sinéad O'Connor's Rememberings, which introduces us to a Sinéad you probably didn’t know. I knew about her tearing up a photo of the Pope on Saturday Night Live, but I had never bothered to investigate why she did it, or how it impacted her life. On this episode, Chelsea and Kenzie get into some fascinating shit, like how losing your mind sometimes looks like feminism, and how often women we think are “crazy” are often just fighting to survive. (See: Britney.) I love to pretend that I’m in a book club with Chelsea (I’m the girl who shows up but never reads the book.) Hearing about these memoirs is always interesting enough, but hearing Chelsea & co piece together what they mean to the people reading and writing them is way more fun.
🎙️70 Over 70’s interview with Nikki Giovanni opens with the story of Howard Kakita, who survived the atomic bomb in Hiroshima and explains the surprising way it impacted him (and specifically, his ability to eat meat and spaghetti. Hear a clip here.) And then you get the interview with Nikki Giovanni, who takes the interview to many wonderful places. (She doesn’t want to learn social media, she wants to learn how to make biscuits and eat with chopsticks. She’d rather teach naked than armed. Her favorite class is her 8am class because her students arrive half-dreaming. She is certainly a poet.) I got this feeling, that in some of her responses, she was saying, “what a silly question, Max.” There were things she would not answer and things she seemed exhausted to talk about—Nikki says she is too old to be an activist and is ready for the next generation to take over. She will sit in her chair, hopefully holding the hand of someone she loves, there to support them in the more passive way an older person should.
🎙️Chris Gethard has made the podcast rounds, and as a Gethard fan, I listened to ALL of them. (The award to funniest goes to his appearance on Keeping Records.) His appearance on American Hysteria was the most interesting. Chelsey and Chris focus on Action Park, the wildly dangerous New Jersey amusement park that caused hundreds of serious injuries and deaths, and was the focus of Class Action Park, a documentary that Chris was a part of. (Oh do watch it!) What does Action Park have to do with American Hysteria? It was born in a decade when parents were panicked about their children being raped by witches at daycare, or being kidnapped on the way to school. But they were not worried about sending their kids to a dangerous, illegal waterpark that was sending people to the hospital on a daily basis. By investigating the Why of Action Park, we start to understand they Why of so many of America’s fears, and the wrong reasons we are often spun into hysteria.
🎙️The curated streaming service MUBI has a podcast that, in its first season, spotlights movies that were massive cultural phenomena in their home countries, but nowhere else. The host is Dinner Party Download’s Rico Gagliano, who gets into the history of the films and talks to people who were involved with them to understand how they got made—and how they became hits. In one episode, Rico talks to the writer/producer and director of Living in Bondage, an independent direct-to-video film distributed on VHS cassettes that launched Nigeria’s “Nollywood” and cost about $10K to make. Full of Nigerian history, this is the story of a movie that could have easily been forgotten forever, but got picked up and ended up changing the future of film because the perfect storm of it striking a chord in the zeitgeist.
🎙️Written Off is a new show from Lemonada that spotlights the creative writing of formerly incarcerated young authors by having people like John Legend and Issa Rae read the stories they’ve written. It feels special to hear the writing from kids faced with these incredibly adult situations. When I saw the trailer I thought, ‘why not have them read their own stories?’ But that was before I listened. Hearing the writing is only part of the story—we get to hear the authors of the pieces react to their works being read. I was unprepared for how this would effect them—to remind them of the fear they were feeling, how they thought of themselves, and what they were thinking about their homes and their futures. So I get it, Lemonada. The first episode is the story of Inside Out Writers Executive Director Jimmy Wu, whose writing is read by Randall Park, and includes an interview with the show’s host, Walter Thompson-Hernández. (Podcast nuts will remember him from his fantastic project California Love.)
🎙️I have been enjoying Jamie Loftus’ Aack Cast so much, and how it is both so Jamie yet different than all of her other projects. (My Year in Mensa was personal and felt like cooler-than gonzo journalism, Lolita Podcast was more dense and academic.) Aack Cast’s latest episode gives a thorough history of feminism, told through the lens of the Cathie comics. Why have feminists been so opposed to aligning with Cathy, who was speaking truthfully about what it was really like to be a woman in the ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, and 2000s? And today? This episode feels like an important piece to the Cathie puzzle and explains not just feminism, but so many of the lingering questions about the Cathie comics in general.
🎙️Are the cool kids still listening to This American Life these days? In case you have forgotten about it, let me remind you that it’s still so good. I find myself listening slowly on Sundays when I feel like I’m caught up with everything in my queue. The Weight of Words opens with a segment so amazing it feels like a modern-day fairy tale. It’s the story of an imprisoned woman who ends up reading Little Women thousands of times as a way to let her mind escape her situation, and the impact this has on her life today. I also just sent the Amusement Park episode to my mom—it’s wonderful and I urge you to listen to it if you haven’t.
🎙️I made a Harklist about how AWESOME Guy Fieri is. It’s a collection of funny and interesting clips about the mayor of Flavortown (From Good One, The Sporkful, Sway, The Daily Zeitgeist, Thrillist Explorers, and more,) his huge heart and personality, his business prowess (he started a pretzel stand when he was 10.) It also grapples with the question: why do we hate this wonderful man so much? What is wrong with us? Listen if you hate him, listen if you love him, and join the lovers in appreciating the real man underneath the flame shirts.
🎙️I love you!