👅 Devious lick 🤖 robot athletes ⚽️ Andrew Wyeth’s Helga paintings 🎨 mom comes out of the closet 🌈
🍭 👂 You're in for a treat! 🌈 🤸♀️
Today is Monday, November 15. There are 204 days until I go on my next Disney cruise. In case you don’t have time to read the whole newsletter: this was the best coverage I heard about the tragedy at Astroworld, this mother’s coming out story had me laughing out loud, and here’s a spoof of a show you probably love.
This week we’re getting to peek into the listening life of Laura Joyce Davis, the host and creator of Shelter in Place, an arts and wellness podcast about reimagining life as we know it, and the founding director of the Kasama Collective, a training and mentorship program for women and non-binary audio storytellers. Laura recently won the “Changing the World One Moment at a Time Award” at the International Women's Podcast Awards, and has been featured on The Pod Broads, Future Hindsight, Emerging Form , Out There, and elsewhere.
The app I use: I love listening apps that are making it possible for podcast listeners and creators to connect. I’ve recently started using Podchaser, because you can reply to reviews, which is something I always wished I could do with our Apple Podcasts reviews. I’m really intrigued by Goodpods as well, because I love the potential to grow little communities of like-minded listeners.
Listening time per week: So many hours! Since Shelter in Place is a weekly and we do a lot of sound design, admittedly most of my listening time is inside my headphones working on episodes. But it’s a rare day when I don’t squeeze in listening time to at least a couple of other podcasts.
When I listen: I love listening anytime I’m moving: in the car, on walks, on runs, even while I’m bike riding if it’s not too windy and I’m on a route without much traffic. Before I was a podcaster myself, I used to listen to complete episodes while I was cooking dinner, but these days I’m often listening in shorter spurts since my youngest daughter (who is 4) likes to “help” me with dinner. Oh, and pretty much every night the last thing I do is listen to Jeff Warren’s Daily Trip meditation on Calm.
How I discover: I subscribe to a lot of podcast newsletters, and so I’m constantly checking out new podcasts. My go-to places for recommendations are Podcast, the newsletter (of course!), Earbuds Podcast Collective by Arielle Nissenblatt, POD.DRALAND by Alexandra Cohl, the Bello Collective, and also a few newsletters by podcasters that are about podcast-related topics (and often end up leading me to some great podcast they mention): Giving to Strangers by Anya Marchenko, Playing Favorites by Jay Acunzo, The Audio Storyteller by Clare Wiley, and Creative Wayfinding by Jeremy Enns, and Narrative Beat by Karen Given. SUCH good stuff in every single one of them!
I’ve also made a lot of great friends in this industry, and I love guesting on other podcasts and doing promo swaps, so often I’m listening to podcasts to find kindred spirits who I’d like to collaborate with or who I just want to reach out to and let them know I appreciate their work. I just got back from being a speaker at She Podcasts Live, so now I have a very long list of new podcasts that I can’t wait to check out!
Anything else? If you love a show, reach out and tell the people who make it, either by leaving a review or just sending an email (or both!). Most of us are making our shows for the love of it, because we want to put something good into the world that feels like a gift to our listeners. One of my favorite Shelter in Place episodes was “Welcome to the Party,” where we created a virtual party soundscape complete with live music, dancing, and voice memos from listeners and past guests. As a podcaster, there’s nothing like hearing from your listeners!
And if you’re a podcaster yourself (or want to be), check out our Kasama Collective training program. My top two joys in life are creating episodes and teaching and mentoring our kasamas. I’d love to hear from you at www.shelterinplacepodcast.org!
ps If you are pleased with Podcast The Newsletter, please spread the word.
👋q & a & q & a & q & a👋
How did you get introduced to the audio space?
I was working in New York City as a bartender when I got a push notification from Spotify for Mogul. I had never listened to a podcast before and I immediately fell in love. I grew up in South Central LA, listening to Dr.Dre and Snoop Dogg, and the show sounded like people I recognized. I applied for an internship at Gimlet and got a meeting through a friend of a friend. They were launching their first kids show, and I had been working with Sesame Street for a couple years, so the timing was perfect. Three months later, I came on as a freelance AP and the rest is history.
Did you grow up watching telenovelas?
Yes! Telenovelas were a big part of my life growing up - it was bonding time with my sisters, my mom and my grandmas. All the women in the house watched telenovelas.
How much of the story was set in stone before you began recording, and how much of it changed as you made your way through?
The scripts were all done, but I started every session by telling the actors “This isn't Shakespeare, this is a guide, so just have fun with it.” We would usually do a pass that was as written, then let the actors improv their way around scenes. In the editing process, we cut everything together and the result is a mix of the two. Some of my favorite lines were improv-ed on the spot.
Princess of South Beach is funny, but it also touches on some serious socio-economic issues. Why did you decide to add the more serious stuff?
I wanted to write the telenovela I wished existed. Telenovelas are super fun, but they are also historically SUPER problematic - I wanted to use the existing format and bring it into the present with a more modern point of view. And by making it a comedy, we could go further with the social commentary - one of our characters basically dies from toxic masculinity.
Can you give us a hint about something exciting that’s to come in the show?
The character Estrella becomes VERY important to the story. She was maybe my favorite character to write because the sassy maid is such a tired trope and I wanted to give that character agency and depth.
How many voice actors do you use? Do some of them overlap characters?
Some of the background characters overlap (meaning, the same actors did voices across the show), but generally everyone only played one role (obviously Sheryl and Rachel pulled double duty given that they played twins!). All told it was over 30 actors, recorded in 8 different cities, across the two productions. I say two because the show really is different in English vs Spanish and it had totally different casts.
If you were going to start another podcast, don’t worry about the logistics or whether or not anyone would like it, what would it be?
It would be a blended fiction piece about my family, and generational trauma. I really admire the work of folx like Sayre Quevedo, James Kim and Eric Mennel, who are able to bring their personal stories into their work.
How is Princess of South Beach different from other fiction shows?
It’s fun! The fiction space in podcasting is overwhelmingly dominated by horror and suspense. I love those shows, I've worked on those kinds of shows, but I wrote this show specifically because I wanted something silly and fun to listen to. Plus, it’s bite sized (episodes average 10-15 minutes), and you can jump in at pretty much any episode. Each episode starts with a 30 second recap of everything you missed, so the barrier to entry is super low.
Can you tell us about Sonoro? What is it?
Sonoro is a Latinx focused Media company developing and producing work in English, Spanish and Spanglish. I first partnered with them to make Princess of South Beach, and I was so excited by the company’s mission that I came on board as head of development. I’m now overseeing a slate with dozens of projects across all genres and it’s the most exciting work of my career. Some of our other shows I think folx would love: Tejana, a police procedural starring Stephanie Beatriz as a Latina Texas Ranger and Toxicomania, starring Luis Gerardo Mendez as the Mexican doctor who legalized all drugs in the 1940’s.
🚨If u only have time for 1 thing🚨
In the wake of the terrible tragedy at the Travis Scott concert, Popcast hosted a fascinating conversation about mosh culture and how ‘raging’ came to hip-hop. Roger Gengo, founder of Masked Gorilla and Masked Records, joins Jon Caramanica to explain how the energy we usually associate with hardcore and punk music has leaked onto the hip hop scene, and how in the wrong hands, this kind of crowd energy can be deadly. To point out what moshing and raging looks like in the right hands, they talk about Tyler the Creator, who was penalized when he let things get too wild at a show, and how Tyler’s response was to make his events more peaceful. Travis Scott, on the other hand, encourages his fans to get rowdy and fuck people up. It’s almost like he didn’t understand the power he held in leading crowd behavior. Roger points out that it wasn’t moshing that caused 9 people to die, but crowd surging, which can feel like you’re getting swept up by a current in the sea. The young kids at the Travis Scott show are too young to understand the danger of crowds, but Roger predicts that this concert will go down in history and change their thinking. Young concert-goers, he says, will remember what happened on November 5, and it could impact their behavior at future shows.
Kids these days, amirite? They know nothing about nature! So out of touch with the planet, what with their app packs and cell totes. That is why for Christmas this year I am buying all the youths on my list a subscription to Bark Box, the only subscription service that sends you boxes of bark every month. Bark Box even has their own forest where they grow trees just for the bark, then they chop down and burn all the trees. So you know you’re getting fresh bark, not USED bark. (That’s just nasty.) If the kid you give this to gives you flack, rolls their eyes, or tells you that this is a boring gift or an enemy of the environment, just tell them they don’t appreciate nature enough and to go to their rooms and play with their bark until they give two shits about Mother Nature. That’ll teach ‘em.
They can look at the bark, pet the bark, or hold the bark samples next to each other. If they are ever in a Donner Party situation, they can eat the bark. Just go to barkbox.com and select a 40 or 80 month plan.
🎙️Do you remember when kids were stealing stuff from school and posting their booty on TikTok? Oh, kids. Reply All dove into the story that happened afterward, that you might not have heard. Someone in an educator Facebook group posted a calendar that they had supposedly stumbled across—it was a school year’s worth of pranks, month by month. (“Kiss ya dude’s girl at skook.” “Deck the halls and show your b***s in school halls.” “Jab a breast.” “Flip off the front office.” “Smack a staff member on the backside.” “Grab some ‘eggz.’”) This whisked everyone into a panic until someone noticed that the wording was a little off. (Backside? Seriously?) This made some wonder if the list was truly created by kids. Follow the mystery to the source of this rumor and hear kids react when they learn about the ridiculous tasks they were supposed to be doing in school. It’s easy to get mad at the teachers who planted and believed this nonsense, but when you think about what they’ve been through this year, it’s hard to blame them. As one teacher put it, “We don’t have a reliable way to gage the size of problems.” h/t Jason Feifer…I haven’t been paying attention to Reply All in awhile and this was worth it.
🎙️Jordan Morris hosted a great interview with John Flansburgh and John Linnell of They Might Be Giants on Bullseye. TMBG fans will have so much to grab onto here, from why Mink Car is known as a “lost album” (news to me! but interesting!,) why Flood’s success continues to mystify the Johns, and what TMBG songs have to do with street photography, and why the two decided to use it in their new book. Also: the secret to 40 years of success is a kind of rocking out that the Johns don’t quite understand, either. If you’ve never heard these guys talk, this is a great way to get to know them. And if you already love them, you’ll love them more. (I can’t envision a world where you do not fall into one of those two categories.) Bullseye always has the most interesting interviews, with hip hop artists and actors not getting enough attention. Interviewing is hard, not everyone is good at it. These interviews are always must-listens.
🎙️After listening to the most recent episode of Flash Forward, I read my notes, and they scared me. “SPORTS HAVE ALWAYS BEEN TECHNICAL…HOW FAR WILL WE GO?” “ROBOTS ARE BECOMING ATHLETES AND VICE VERSA!” “WE EXPECT ATHLETES TO BE ROBOTS!! NAOMI!!” “WHY DO WE WATCH SPORTS?!?” If you can’t tell from my detailed notes, the episode is about robots and athletes, and how athletes are using technology to improve their performances, and we are looking to robots to perform sports. It’s a very wow episode, forcing us to think about why we value athletes and whether or not we could possibly be satisfied by watching robots do their jobs. It’s like I said, what is the fundamental reason we watch sports? Will watching robots play soccer to the same things to our brains as when we watch real people? In the episode, Rose announced that this is the first in a series about robots, which will mark the end of Flash Forward. Wow. She kindly asks we leave her an Apple Podcasts review if we haven’t, since this is kind of our last chance.
🎙️Mystery Solver is a fiction show that tells the story of Sunnie Huggs, the host of Mystery Loves Company, a popular podcast where she investigated mysteries for her minor celebrity friends. When her show got canceled for going insanely over budget, Sunnie launches Mystery Solver, her new podcast, to squeeze answers from her former co-workers, roommate, landlord, horoscope writer, and more. This show isn’t being coy, it’s replicating the true story of Starlee Kine and her beloved Mystery Show. Even the artwork similarities will make your jaw drop. If you loved that show, I’m sure you’re curious, so listen to episode one. There are so many blatant pulls from Gimlet for a podcast lover to appreciate. Whether you want to keep listening is up to you. It’s so on the nose there isn’t a lot of room for creative liberties, and the point seems to be that Mystery Show was ridiculous and overly twee. (Which even if it was, I don’t know how you could deny that if there was a podcast museum, Mystery Show would be a main installment.)
🎙️I was just talking about Sarah Shourd, who told about spending 410 days inside Iran’s notorious Evin prison on Ear Hustle, when I was passed along the podcast 544 Days, which tells the story of Washington Post Tehran Correspondent Jason Rezaian, who was held hostage and interrogated there for 544 days in 2014. Due to a misunderstanding about avocados (listen to episode one) he was believed to be an American Spy. Jason tells his story in great detail, sharing his thoughts and private moments with a humor that makes you sometimes forget you are listening to a horrifying story. It’s intimate and warm, somehow, as much about his personal experience as it is about freedom of the press, and a married couple used as bargaining chips in an international dispute. (Jason’s wife Yegi was being held hostage, too, and the conversations between them are heart-wrenching.)
🎙️Sonia Delgado had a bad marriage, like a really, really bad one. I hope her husband isn’t reading this, but…fuck it. If you are reading this, man, what the fuck? You wouldn’t allow Sonia to keep the money she made and shat on her dreams, holding her hostage in your marriage, which is fortunately over. But that’s not all—when Sonia built up the courage to divorce you, you leaned heavily into laws that allow “alimony for life,” a law that makes sense in some situations but not yours. An episode of This Is Uncomfortable maps out Sonia’s life, from young, pregnant bride, to ambitious woman trying to make it on her own, and the repercussions of the $800/month life-long alimony she is being forced to pay her ex. (The amount was later lowered to less than $400/month.) It’s an interesting interview that exposes the cracks in the alimony system by illustrating the story of one woman who is really getting fucked by it.
🎙️The history of the New York City suburbs unfolds on Eyesore and a Plague, a show about the millionaires who started moving to Long Island and Westchester County in the 20th century. This coincides with a flock of ordinary, middle-class New Yorkers moving away from Manhattan, too. Poor people!? What’s a millionaire to do? On Eyesore and a Plague, we hear about what the rich did to protect their properties, exclude outsiders, dodge local taxes, and attempt to recreate feudal Europe in the New York suburbs. The first episode is about the village of Saddle Rock, about 22 miles from midtown Manhattan, and explains what a village really is and why so many of them have sprung up. It’s like realitiy-tv pulled from history, and is fantastically edited and researched.
🎙️In the summer of 2019, a farmers market in Bloomington, Indiana became a battleground between liberal elites, progressive organizers, antifascist activists, right-wing militias, farmers, customers, police, Black Lives Matter leaders and White nationalists when it was discovered that two sellers, Sarah Dye and Douglas Mackey, were members of an organization classified by the Southern Poverty Law Center and Anti-Defamation League as a white nationalist hate group. Kicking white nationalists out of a farmers market ended up being more difficult than anyone could imagine. An Indiana University grad student named Abby Ang is the one who dug up reports incriminating Dye, but she received zero support from the city when she tried to publicize her findings. This story is full of blurred lines that smudge the boundaries of the identity of the protesters, Antifa, and the White Nationalists (who preferred to be called White Identitarians, arguing that they were protecting America from Antifa) and what happens when the practices of something as seemingly innocuous as a farmers market are challenged. When an Asian American professor was arrested by Bloomington Police for protesting, it became clear the power white people have and where their priorities lie. Self Evident has a well reported two-parter about what unfolded in Bloomington that will make your head spin.
🎙️Though Jury Duty is in season three, I have only just discovered it, and find that it’s the most in-depth coverage of a trial I’ve heard. This season Oscar and Emmy-winning documentary filmmaker Kary Antholis is tackling the trial of Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael, and William "Roddie" Bryant, the suspects in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery. If you’re interested in law, you will be fascinated to hear the details of every single move made by both sides of the case. Episode by episode, Kary takes you through what happened in the court room and why, and what it means for the eventual outcome of the trial. Like The Drop Out, this podcast feels like true-crime happening before your eyes, but it offers more audio of the trial and more nitty gritty about the strategy of the lawyers. This story is a test of our criminal justice system—the McMichaels and Bryant couldn’t have been more blatant in their crimes (besides murdering Arbery, they didn’t call 911 after they shot him and called him a slur when he was dead on the ground.) Hearing the tactics of the defense and how they could very well work will introduce you to outdated laws and incredible loop holes that might get the defendants off the hook. It’s wild to hear such stupidity and ignorance discussed in a legal setting, and to hear the actions of the defendants credited. Jury Duty is following the case along and by listening, you feel like you’re sitting there in the court, every day, watching every move made by both sides, with Kary as your guide to how something so seemingly cut and dry could be so complicated. It’s interesting to be listening to this show at the same time I’m listening to. Mississippi Goddam, which is a story of a murdered Black man who either committed suicide or was murdered by police (but was probably murdered by police.)
🎙️Spectacular Vernacular is one of my favorite new (or refreshed) shows. I can never anticipate what I’m going to get—the subjects aren’t things I’ve heard about before. From the language in Squid Game to Fauci’s New York accent, episodes always are culturally relevant and treat language as this alive, evolving thing. A recent episode shows the difference between interrupting and cooperative overlapping, things that might seem the same but come from very different places. Professor Deborah Tannen is on the show to explain how New York jews might sound like they are interrupting you but are really trying to engage with you. Knowing this explains what might be behind a conversational interruption, and might change the way you interpret conversations go for the rest of your life.
🎙️Molly Whiskers and the Blue Tentacle is a new kids’ comedy adventure podcast that features multi-award-winning Imogen Church (she’s worked on Doctor Who, Harry Potter, and Bridget Jones’s Diary) as Molly, a rabbit PI whose newest case involves a number of disappearing hamsters. Molly joins forces with two police cats, and together they are working against an obese pug and his canine henchmen. It’s a universe of colorful characters and sound and voice that shine. This show is for kids but all audio drama nuts will love it, it’s oozing with humor and sweetness. It will make you feel like a kid again.
🎙️Death Sex & Money’s What I Live With talks to people who caused accidents that have killed others, a group of people whose lives are shattered, but are often offered little or no support. Anna Sale interviews John, who killed a pedestrian in 2017. Though he wasn’t charged with a crime technically, he (understandably) has put himself in his own prison. Anna also talked to Theresa Ruf, whose case did enter the legal system when she hit and killed a motorcyclist, and then started a group to help people like her cope with “living with what they did.” This podcast poses a question I haven’t been able to stop thinking about—how to we punish good people for terrible accidents that could happen to anyone?
🎙️On Storytime with Seth Rogen, Seth interviews comedian Ashley Ray-Harris about growing up gay and her mother’s confusion surrounding it, which led to even more confusion when, as an adult, she got a jokey text message from her mom (with a Kermit the Frog gif and the words, “Hey, Me!”) announcing she was queer, too. (And not leaving time for any questions.) Ashley’s mom credits the main character from the OWN TV show Queen Sugar with inspiring her to come out, not her own daughter, who had thought she was the living embodiment of out and proud. I laughed throughout this entire story, because of the momness of it all, the exciting audiowork of Richard Parks III, and Seth’s goofball laughter made me fall in love with him a little. (This episode also features Ava Duvernay!) I don’t know how Seth helps his guests choose which stories to tell, but each one feels like the perfect sliver of weirdness and heart. I always have a big smile on my face after listening.
🎙️Jamie Loftus was on You’re Wrong About to give the hidden history of the Ed and Lorraine Warren, real people who have been popularized in movies like The Conjuring and Annabelle movies. When we watch these movies, we are aware that the writers have taken liberties with some of the spooky material, but what in some cases is equally scary is when you start to learn who Ed and Lorraine really were, the ethics behind their work, the way we have told their stories, the messages they end up imparting on us, and what was going on behind closed doors. Jamie is the perfect host for this format, and Sarah, as always, is so wryly hilarious while at the same time making points that stop me in my tracks.
🎙️When did my best friends get together and start a fiction podcast called What Can I Get Started For You without me? That is what this podcast feels like. It’s a dip into the work lives of four baristas working in a high power New York office. It’s funny and meta and self-aware.
🎙️Decoder Ring has returned with the true story behind Andrew Wyeth’s Helga Paintings, which were 15 years in the making, featured the same nude female who was not Wyeth’s wife Betsy James, and were a total surprise to Betsy when she saw them on the cover of Newsweek and Time. Or were they? Willa unlocks the mystery of the paintings, offering a story as both a scandal and hoax, that includes twists and turns that will have you googling pictures of the Helga Paintings and Betsy, looking for clues yourself. There’s a strong love triangle here to untangle, but it’s all about Betsy. And you’re not sure if she’s a victim or part of the duping, if she was the head of the operation, or the neck. Still to come on this season of Decoder Ring: Stories about a set of joke books that changed the bestsellers charts by reprinting the most tasteless, racist, sexist jokes possible; the psychology and origins of a mind game that can never be won; Alberta, Canada’s claim to be completely rat-free; and more of the cultural objects hiding in plain sight waiting to be explored.
🎙️Michael Hobbes was on The War on Cars to give cars the “You’re Wrong About” treatment. Michael ties people’s outrage with cyclists to a larger story about moral panics. Much of what is happening in the pedestrian vs. car war, reporters are completely misreading statistics and relying on outlier anecdotes to make humungous assumptions about bike accidents and cyclists’ interaction with walkers and cars. I am a pedestrian in New York City and have flicked off a cyclist more than once —but this conversation made me realize the enemy isn’t the cyclists. (And when I get yelled at or almost run over…I was actually hit by a bike just this morning!…I am not a target.) It’s our city structures and the lack of support they give for anyone who isn’t a car. Michal was also on an episode of Cancel Me, Daddy, to discuss the newly formed (and unaccredited) University of Austin.
🎙️While Rodney King was being assaulted by the police in a remote intersection just outside of L.A., a bystander named George Holliday was across the street and decided to record the scene on his home video camera. This decision helped spark the LA riots that followed, and changed George’s life forever. This is how season six of Slow Burn begins, which explores these riots and the events that unfolded on March 2nd, 1991. On episode one, Joel Anderson talks to George, who died shortly after the interview from Covid complications. George set the groundwork for citizen journalism, something that has impacted how we report stories of police brutality today. Slow Burn’s treatment of stories from our history is always thorough and eye-opening, even for people who think they already know the ins and outs of what happened. In this past these series have changed the way we think about things like Watergate and the Clinton impeachment by getting deep into the nitty gritty, so I think we need to buckle up for something that might change the way we think about the LA riots and Rodney King.
🎙️Hats off to Cody Johnston, who, for Some More News, did his homework in attempt to answer the question: why are conservatives not funny? I think we all know it to be true, but why? I have never wanted to be the one to actually sit and listen and think about it. But Cody has done that for us. He breaks apart jokes from Greg Gutfeld and The Babylon Bee, proving that the left finds these jokes unfunny not because they are ice queens or biased, but because the jokes literally do not follow the rules of jokes and are therefore not jokes, and instead of being funny, are often just plain confusing. Cody examines why places like The Babylon Bee is unable to master satire like The Onion, and breaks it down in a way that is pretty scientific.
🎙️Arielle Nissenblatt spotlighted The Defense Diaries in her newsletter and podcast. Explore the twisted mind of serial killer John Wayne Gacy through the use of 15 hours of never before heard pre-trial interviews with Gacy and his attorneys as they prepare for the trial of the century.
🎙️I love you!