🔍 Disappearing Venice 🤣 Chief Laugh Officer ⚾️ a salacious sports rumor 🦻 too much money 💰
💌Podcast The Newsletter is your weekly love letter to podcasts and the people who make them.💌
Today is Monday, November 1. There are 212 days until I go on my next Disney cruise. If you don’t have time for the whole newsletter: this scared me half to death, this had my husband’s eyes going wide when I told him about it, and this was a smart conversation on poop.
This week we’re getting to peek into the listening life of Shweta Watwe, a writer and audio producer, most recently for the ACLU's At Liberty podcast about social justice issues and solutions.
The app I use: I mostly use Spotify. I like that my music and podcasts are in the same place. I usually search up the podcast I want to listen to rather than looking at my subscriptions because my listening habits are very mood-based.
Listening time per week: Probably between 5-12 hours a week.
When I listen: I like to bookend my days with my podcasts. While I get ready in the morning, I listen to newsier podcasts like Post Reports, Marketplace, or Up First. Depending on how much time I have in the morning, I might listen to multiple morning news shows or catch up on some of my other weekly shows like How to Save a Planet or Throughline. In the evenings, I like to listen to more narrative shows or limited series shows to transition out of work time. Radiolab and 99% Invisible have been two of my staple shows for a long time. I also fit in the limited series I love like Wind of Change and Fireline while I'm driving or doing errands around my house. When I listen on weekends, it's usually to shows that aren't newsy but have a fun concept like My Favorite Friendship or Song Exploder. Because the way I listen to my non-news shows is so mood-based, I usually catch up on a lot of episodes of a particular show at once. For example, now that autumn weather is settling in, I'm looking forward to catching up on On Being. And, now that Succession is back, listening to the Succession podcast with Kara Swisher.
How I discover: Word of mouth recommendations, newsletters, and Twitter. When multiple people I admire tweet the same podcast recommendation, I get very curious about that show. I follow a lot of podcast people on Twitter so I feel like I'm always hearing about a new and exciting show. I just wish I had more time to listen to them all!
Anything else? Now is a really exciting time for podcasts and I've loved seeing the breadth and creativity people have shown with audio. If you haven't listened to At Liberty, check it out!
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👋q & a & q & a & q & a👋
Ellen Lee Scanlon
Ellen Lee Scanlon is the host of How to Do the Pot, where her mission is to empower women to make more informed choices about their health with cannabis. Follow her on Twitter here. Follow How to Do the Pot on Twitter here.
How did you get into cannabis?
I had a bad bike accident and broke 16 of my teeth. (Hear her tell the story here.) It was a tough recovery, and I took a lot of Advil for chronic pain. The side effects of so much medicine caused even more health issues. A few years later, I was trying to have a baby and struggled with several years of infertility. My perspective shifted to consider cannabis as an alternative for a myriad of health challenges. I learned that I have endometriosis, and cannabis is an incredible treatment for its painful symptoms. When California legalized adult-use cannabis in 2016, it was easier and more fun to consume cannabis in ways that clearly improved my well-being. I want to make that path easier for women all across the country as we enter this new paradigm of safe, legal access to cannabis.
Why a cannabis show for women?
First, the cannabis industry faces massive challenges in marketing. Most digital platforms won’t accept ads from cannabis companies and accounts are frequently shut down by social media platforms. Podcasts are generally free from the restrictions on digital advertising and social media channels faced by cannabis brands.
Second, women make 80% of household purchasing decisions, and eighty million women in the U.S. have legal access to cannabis, but women have been an underserved market in the industry. Speaking directly to women with our accessible, practical, and fun episodes is a discreet way to teach women all across the country how to confidently bring cannabis into their lives.
I know you never intended to be a podcast host. How do you like it so far?
It has been quite the journey. In the beginning, my trick to keep from feeling very self conscious was to pretend I was talking to just one friend. It helps that I’m so passionate about sharing all I’ve learned about cannabis. It’s an incredibly exciting and challenging industry, and way more complicated than I ever imagined. I hear so often from friends and listeners that my tips have helped them find new ways to combat stress, sleep better, and have better sex - just a few examples of ways cannabis can bring more balance to women’s lives. That really helps my confidence as a host and inspires me to stay at the mic!
Who is How to Do the Pot for?
I want the stories on the show to be relatable to all women, whatever your relationship is with cannabis. Cannabis legalization is showing that you don't have to be a certain kind of person to like weed or to have cannabis in your life in a positive, fun way. We talk a lot about demystifying cannabis for women and I realize there is still stigma, especially in states that don’t have legal access yet. It may not be for everyone, but I think it’s super important that all women know that for instance, CBD and THC can help with painful menstrual cramps. The show is about giving practical tips, finding common ground through stories, and being open to developing a more nuanced view of cannabis and those who consume it.
Every week you publish an episode that’s part of a mini-series, “my first time buying legal weed.” Why do you think it’s so popular?
Soon after adult-use legalization in California, a good friend brought me on a dispensary shopping trip because I was too scared to go by myself! In case you don’t have a friend to go with, the 1st Time I Bought Legal Weed series shares the stories of women all across the country who are taking that first step to shop for weed. I think it’s been popular because it helps make an intimidating situation feel easier and more fun. The stories are a diverse ‘how-to’ guide for the curious, so women feel less afraid and more prepared. I can’t resist a quick tip - always bring a government-issued ID and cash or a debit card.
What are some shows you love?
My all-time favorite podcast is Happier with Gretchen Rubin. She brings so much joy and intellectual rigor to understanding happiness and helping her listeners with practical ways to make every day better. It’s a huge inspiration for How to Do the Pot. I love Radio Headspace for the short, daily reflections. As a busy mom & entrepreneur, I’m definitely drawn to short shows that help with my goals of prioritizing happiness and mindfulness while maintaining a sense of fun.
If people haven’t listened yet, where should they start?
We recently celebrated 100 episodes, so I hope there is something for everyone! Our website, dothepot.com, has a section called New To Weed with tips for new listeners. If you are new to cannabis, I recommend our episodes about CBD, edibles, and cannabis for period pain. Our newest series, Weed Words, gives context for all the cannabis words you think you should know, but maybe don’t. Sex is always a popular topic, and women love our 12 Essential Strains series. If you’re looking for health-related episodes, we share how cannabis is showing promise for Migraines or treating conditions like Lupus, Crohn’s Disease, and Endometriosis. We have episodes about sleep and cannabis, and stay tuned for a new series about how women are consuming cannabis to fall asleep, stay asleep, and not feel groggy in the morning.
🚨If u only have time for 1 thing🚨
The Fifth Siren is a historic, artistic, cultural, and environmental look at Venice and the danger it faces of disappearing. The Fifth Siren represents the siren that has yet to be sounded—in the past there have been four to warn Venetians of the incoming danger, each one indicating a threat worse than the one before. A fourth siren was sounded in November 2019, but now the city braces for a fifth, and with The Fifth Siren, we are bracing ourselves along with it. Venice is fragile without the climate crisis, and now after thousands of years of a city rich with catacombs and palaces and maze-like streets and ancient canals, a fifth siren could wipe it all out. This podcast perfectly encapsulates this mysterious, dream-like place. The podcast feels like a dream. But it also offers a history that is lesser known, a history that seems even more important now. From a Pink Floyd concert to cruise ships crashing into its borders, to an all-encompassing tourist economy, Venice is taking hits from everywhere, it seems. In the before-times, I traveled to Venice once a year for the Venice Film Festival and at first I disliked the chaos but got to know the streets and the people and the food and honestly cannot imagine losing it, even though it is certain we will. I binged the whole show.
I’m a pretty busy girl, and I don’t know how any of you could possibly expect me to have the time to zip up my pants every day. So I don’t. And sometimes I get arrested for this. OR I USED TO. NOT ANYMORE! Zip Recruiter recruits zipping professionals to fly to the rescue to zip you up after you use the bathroom, get your clothes on, or when you’ve just put your pants on in the middle of the day at your desk at work for some reason. They’ll zip up that zipper faster than you can say THANKS ZIP RECRUITER! Never again will you expose yourself at your niece’s baptism, during a video conference call with the London office, or while you are podcasting. Think of the embarrassment this will save, not to mention the legal fees. Sorry, lawyers! You won’t be needed so much now that Zip Recruiter’s in town. Enter offer code podcastpodcast and get your first zip-up for free.
🎙️Jesus Fucking Christ Radio Rental usually scares me, but after listening to the The 100 Miler in Episode 19, I have never felt at such a loss for a logical explanation for the story. An extreme runner is mid-race in Hawaii when she uncharacteristically quits—something inside her was telling her to stop. A friend running behind her took a photo that has what some say is a Night Marcher, or a ghost of an ancient warriors in Hawaiian mythology. There is photographic evidence of this hard-to-explain event. Look at this photo, and if you have the strength to not listen to this episode immediately, I applaud your strength. The story does not stop there—when the storyteller posted the picture, she received backlash from unhappy Hawaiians who felt the photo was a jab at their beliefs. (They thought it was a meth addict.)
🎙️The most recent episode of This Is Uncomfortable feels almost like a choose your own adventure story. Picture this: you’re an undocumented immigrant struggling with money and your partner is a sex worker. Behind the wall in your rented apartment, you find a huge amount of cash—I’m talking Uncle-Scrooge-diving-into-a-pile huge. What is the first thing that pops into your mind? This is what happened to “Oscar,” (not their real name) and the first thing that came to their mind is “whoever this money belongs to is going to try to murder me.” Not sure what your next step would be, but Oscar’s was to call the police. Which left Oscar and their partner back to where they started: broke, yet wondering about all the things they would do if they had kept the cash. All the things that could have happened along the way. (MURDER???) And whether or not they think they made a mistake.
🎙️Invisibilia’s Poop Friends takes you to some surprising places, I promise. It begins with a tweet from Tracy Clayton, who wonders aloud if anyone else has a friend to talk about poop with. This opens us up to a conversation about how friendships allow us a safe place to talk about anything we are shameful about. And for reasons they discuss, poop is a topic considered with the most amount of shame, especially for women. But then there is a poop story that I think could be analyze with the scrutiny that “Couch Guy” was picked apart on TikTok. (A woman asks her friend if she can poop in his house, and he basically ends the friendship, and I have so many questions.) In a way, poop talk is a friendship test. Your poop friend is probably also your best friend. This episode was odd, smart, and inspires us to find our own poop friends.
🎙️Underunderstood’s Chief Laugh Officer episode sounds like the premise to a comedy movie that I might even rush to the actual movie theater to see. Richard Bowen entered a contest (that almost nobody else entered) for a chance to win $10K and be named Laffy Taffy’s Chief Laugh Officer. If you don’t know what that means, don’t worry. Laffy Taffy didn’t really, either. Richard won the competition by spitting some pretty funny jokes during a standup routine, but when he won, his prize was not what he had anticipated. He got the money, but nobody at Laffy Taffy was taking the “Chief Laugh Officer” part as seriously as Richard was. This story is over-the-top funny—even the cynicism of a big company setting up a marketing scheme to mislead people. This is a story of crushed dreams, shady corporate America, and the comedy profession in general. (I bet lots of comedians have nearly identical stories.)
🎙️We were introduced to the new season of You Must Remember This last week, which will focus on Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., and the Rat Pack, using their stories to paint a portrait of 20th-century hipness, masculinity, racism, and ethnic hatred, and the culmination of power in Hollywood, politics, and the mob. The first episode goes back through Martin and Davis’ origins, highlighting their similarities, differences, and star power. Karina offers the context you need to understand how these figures rose in Hollywood. They each, in their own way, were othered by society, each had to create a persona that would be accepted by the film industry in order to make it anywhere. Karina is skilled in going deep into niche topics that speak volumes about early (and current) entertainment. The personal stories Karina mentions are perfectly woven together with the historical background we need to not just get a better picture of Dean and Sammy, but the racist back-end of old Hollywood.
🎙️A brilliant episode of Throughline struck me because it was so succinct, so beautifully crafted, and so engaging it made me think about Throughline’s ability to make almost anything in the world make sense. I finished this episode of the history of Halloween not just its history, but how cultural, political, and religious forces have been shaping the holiday of Halloween for centuries, and it clarified not just Halloween, but our entire history that surrounds it. With Lisa Morton, author of Trick or Treat: A History of Halloween, Rund Abdelfatah and Ramtin Arablouei piece the story of Halloween together with a clarity that goes beyond a bunch of fun facts (like what you hear on most Halloween episodes) and gives you a crash course in Irish history, fairytales, and American settlement.
🎙️Heavyweight always packs an emotional punch, usually with one story, one moment that is spread out across the episode, with enough build-up and resolution to be able to swish it around in your brain a bit. The recent story didn’t not have build-up (Jonathan took two episodes to tell it) but it was layered with secret and surprise and I needed a minute to process it when I finished it. Justine is in search of something about her own truths, but ends up revealing irreversible secrets about her brother, Stephen. These are two of the most complex episodes of Heavyweight I’ve heard and I’m still thinking about them.
🎙️On Sick, award-winning journalists Jake Harper and Lauren Bavis dig deep to share shocking personal stories of medical injustices. The first season circled around Dr. Donald Cline, the Indiana fertility doctor who used his own sperm on patients. The new season is an investigation into health care in prisons. On Crime Writers On…, co-host Lara Bricker always indicates which shows set her on “rage walks,” and I always laugh a bit picturing her storming around her neighborhood listening to shows that deal with social injustice. This story isn’t funny, but I imagine Lara will be rage-walking to this one. In Screaming in the Shower, Jake and Lauren tell the story of a teen named Princola Shields, who was imprisoned and after hours being ignored, screaming threats of suicide in the shower, took her own life. Why a high-risk inmate was left alone is a mystery, and her family is left to make sense of things.
🎙️The new season of Smoke Screen, The Sellout, opens with an unforgettable scene: In a park in LA, the Boyle Heights high school band was practicing in a park, when a limo pulls up and starts pouring out dressed-up white people part of a “mobile opera” who start singing over the band music in a battle-of-the-loudest with the kids. The band kids wouldn’t back down, so what you get to hear is this chaotic, aggressive mix of their instruments and the opera singers. This moment pulls you into The Sellout immediately, and stands as a symbol of the corruption and gentrification that is central to the show. The opera singers had paid to be there, they were under the impression they were welcome to sing in the park and considered it their own. This detail is tied to a long story of corruption which all leads back to a guy named Jose Huizar, who eventually became a Boyle Heights councilperson. Huizar was respected by the community until he wasn’t, and stands accused of taking bribes from luxury developers as his constituents were displaced from their homes. This podcast, which explores Huizar’s crimes and how on earth he got away with them, is as fun as a podcast like this could be—full of energy and intrigue and humanity.
🎙️The War on Cars has an episode with someone who was a bit unexpected—Alicia Kennedy, a food writer whose weekly newsletter covers the way food culture intersects with politics, media, labor rights and climate change. The interview with Alicia highlight how the plant-based movement overlaps with conversations we are having about transportation and urban planning and what electric cars have to do with lab meat. Whether you’re railing against cars or meat, you’re probably receiving a lot of flack. But these are two lifestyles that aren’t just necessary, they are lifestyles that most of us will inevitably be forced to embrace at some point. They are part of the same conversation about consumption.
🎙️On Nice Try!, Avery Trufleman outlines the fascinating history of the crock pot, which served as a gateway between fast and slow cooking. (And why the crock pot is a hot item once again.) Avery goes deeper than just the origins of the kitchen tool, exploring how its invention gave women all this extra time…but for what? There is also an interesting story about the dish Cholant, which is commonly served on Shebbat when Orthodox Jews, in following the Biblical verse "You shall not kindle fire in any of your dwelling places on the Sabbath day,” avoided cooking during their time of rest.
🎙️On The Rumor, Sam Dingman (Family Ghosts) and Mac Montandon are on a quest to get to the bottom of a salacious sports rumor set up in episode one—that in 1995, a Baltimore Orioles game was postponed because right before the game baseball Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr. had gone home to find Kevin Costner in bed with his wife, and a physical altercation had left Ripken unable to play. It’s something that has been vehemently denied by Ripken and awkwardly by Costner. who went on a lengthy radio rant with real the-lady-doth-protest-too-much-methinks vibes. Whether you care about the outcome of this investigation depends on how much you love Orioles baseball, but it’s the journey, not the destination, right? And if it’s not true, the fact that the rumor has spread is arguably more interesting. American baseball defines nostalgia and we all have our own version of it. Sam Dingman is a talented storyteller, Family Ghosts is one of my favorite podcasts. We are in good hands, here. And it’s like I always say, I love sports drama when there are no stats or numbers involved. This is the kind of real housewives shit even I can get behind.
🎙️The BBC’s The Verb is a “cabaret of the word,” featuring song, poems, writing, and performance based on a word. It feels a little like a live magazine and reminded me of Chicago’s The Paper Machete. The talented speakers take one word and see what they can make of it. This week’s word was “puddings” and I cannot believe the creative places Ian McMillan, Lorraine Bowen, Joseph Coelho, Kate Fox, Frances Atkins and Fariha Shaikh are able to take us by starting with this one, weird word.
🎙️I was completely transfixed in Radio Atlas’ A Late Blooming, but it was only partially because of the story (which did have me transfixed.) The story is told in Danish and has subtitles, so you are forced to really sit with it and take in each word one sound at a time. This was an exercise in paying attention. Some of us (me?) listen to shows at 3.5x speed, doing ten million things at once, when we should be giving certain stories our undivided, slowed-down attention. You hear from 95-year old Jørgen who after 52-years of marriage and being a father, came out as gay.
🎙️The best podcast episodes are truly immersive, but if you’re hard-of-hearing, you’re being robbed of much of the storytelling. Vox wanted to fix this problem and create content that made their podcasts more accessible to deaf and hard-of-hearing audiences with the use of an immersive transcript. More Than This, hosted by Danielle Prescod, can be seen, heard, and felt, telling the stories of people who have dropped everything and started anew. The digital experience is a solution to a problem that provides a better experience for everyone. (Check it out.) After being transfixed by the Radio Atlas piece that had me reading subtitles, I can say that listening to More Than This on the site is an experience all its own.
🎙️Borrowed has a mini-series about Brooklyn, telling us stories of Gowanus, the Navy Yard, Sunset Park, Eighth Avenue, and Canarsie. These episodes take you right to the streets via time machine. The Navy Yard one includes an interview with Jennifer Egan, who researched the area for her book Manhattan Beach, and she reminds us how important oral histories are. ”Alternate memory banks, a feeling, a sense of a time and a place and details and voices that would normally be my own.”) The stand-out episode was about a ten square block area in North Gowanus which was home to the largest Mohawk settlement outside of Canada and the people who lived there, the Lenape.
🎙️It must have been tough when NPR journalist Kitty Eisele had to became a full-time caregiver for her dad when he got dementia. And in Demented, she is opening herself up to tell that story. Demented is full of short, piercing episodes that share her own inner-thoughts and conversations with her dad and conversations with people going through the same thing. She has found the most heart-wrenching thing to talk about in such an intimate way, while touching upon the problems with our healthcare system that aren’t just expensive or tricky, but are emotionally devastating. And chances are, we’ll all go through it in some way. The audio with her father gives this show huge heart, and is instructive about some of the things you might never have considered. (Did you know they make a special razor that people can use to shave other people? I took note of this but I doubt my dad would ever let me come near him with a razor.) This is is another one I binged, partially because it’s short but partially because I was completely invested.
🎙️Some of my cutest, most flammable outfits are from Shein, the Chinese fast…no super fast…fashion company that sells items at such a low price point it is impossible not to be suspicious. I have done the math. Every time I get a haul (if you spend $50, you can get about 10 pieces) 80% of the pieces I get are pretty cool, some of them have gone on to be staples of my wardrobe. They have some really weird stuff, and since it’s so cheap, I don’t feel like I’m taking a huge risk by buying, say, a pink and red collared shirt with the devil printed all over it. The remaining 20% does not even resemble clothing and must be disposed of immediately. There is always an extra item you did not order. (Thanks, Shein! But once I wore one of these pieces to work and it was half-way through the day before I realized I was wearing a pink, silky cat robe as a top.) I have thought more than once: what the fuck is going on here. Business Casual has the answer. They talked to Terry Nguyen, who recently wrote a piece called Shein is the future of fast fashion. Is that a good thing? Terry breaks down exactly how Shein is able to send me free pajamas, and the marketing tactics they use to keep this unbelievable business alive and thriving.
🎙️On Legally Judgy, lawyers Alexa and Nicole unpack the hottest legal issues in pop culture, from celebrity lawsuits and contract disputes to stars dodging the law and threatening courtroom showdowns. It’s funny but seriously interesting. And when you think about what a typical laywer’s hourly rate is, this show is a bargain. A recent episode covers Scarlett Johansson’s battle with Disney over Black Widow profits. This isn’t flippant gossip, it’s real legal conversation. I love the segment at the end, where Alexa and Nicole answer listener questions, offering their legal knowledge to a variety of pop culture topics.
🎙️Keeping Records wins for getting the most literal LOLs from me, every week.
🎙️I love you!