🛍 Malls 🍔 TGI Fridays 🧂 puppy mills 🐶 short fiction ✏️ slowdown strikes 📉
🍭 👂 You're in for a treat! 🌈 🤸♀️
Today is Monday, June 20. There are 107 days until my next Disney cruise.
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👋q & a & q & a & q & a👋
What is the recipe for a perfect FT Weekend podcast episode?
A perfect episode tells a small story AND a big story, like how games connect us to ancient human history, or what Cameo tells us about modern celebrity, or how a mix of proteins could help us age in reverse. It’s fun AND transportive, and draws you into a world with thought provoking questions, immersive field audio and storytelling. And it uses our global network of brilliant journalists at the Financial Times. I’d say it’s sweet and umami, like a chocolate chip cookie with, I don’t know, tahini and sea salt.
Why are you the perfect host for this show?
I’d say I’m a genial guide: when I joined the FT six years ago, I didn’t know about FT Weekend, and the Financial Times seemed like an unlikely place to come to for culture. But I quickly realized it’s the best place: quirky, creative, global and deeply informed. It’s been a delight to introduce listeners to all its best kept secrets. As an interviewer, I’m happy to have a beginner’s mind about things, but am good at harnessing the knowledge around me. And I’m an optimist! I think listeners leave our episodes feeling like they learned something, and there’s some hope for us yet.
Who are your fans? What are they like?
I love them. They’re extremely global: the biggest share are in the UK and the US, and the others are evenly split across the world. They’re smart, diverse, engaged, super curious. They send ideas, answer my questions, trust me down rabbit holes and tell me their own…I feel like they’re my friends. Some of them have become my friends.
Do you interact with your fans? Do they make suggestions for episodes?
Constantly—mostly on Instagram and email. I have a background in community journalism, so this dialogue is naturally baked into the show. They help me research, and we feature them a lot: they shared their predictions for 2022, and their thoughts ahead of our episodes on Disney and Peloton. Once I asked them to personify cities around the world and we decided Paris is sexy, New York is hot, London is a handsome dad with a nice watch, Seattle is a beautiful woman eating alone with a book and Melbourne has a mullet, a moustache, or both.
What is the episode you think people should start with if they’ve never listened to the show.
Lauren, I’m trying to not break this rule but we have a few styles of episodes so have to take you on a tour. Sometimes we'll take you on an episode-long journey—for that I'd recommend coming to Yorkshire to investigate a mysterious hum, or to find out if Silicon Valley is ruining Miami. Sometimes we interview people who are brilliant at their craft, like Turkish writer Elif Shafak or art icon Tracey Emin. Sometimes we make sense of a complex topic, like Russian disinformation or abortion rights in America. And often, we talk about travel and design and food! I love this episode with Mexican chef Pati Jinich.
Do you think podcasters should read their Apple Podcasts (or Spotify) reviews?
Good question. It’s a personal decision, but I like to. It’s data, and a helpful way to reflect the show back at you: sometimes the way listeners describe what they like about your show can help you understand what resonates and where to steer. The criticisms can be useful. And when they’re not, just breathe through it and think, ‘Nothing worth making is for everyone. It’s ok if it’s not for Steve.’
Know that fantastic feeling when you’ve just discovered an excellent podcast? Podshare’s app lets you discover new podcasts based on your friend’s listening activity and their recommendations. Curious? Find out more.
✨Feed the Queue featured an episode of one of my favorite shows of all time—teikirisi. Listen here.
🚨If u only have time for 1 thing🚨
Each June, Provincetown, Massachusetts swells from a city of 3,000 to a city of 60,000—essentially ushering in the summer. This pride month coincides with the launch of Welcome to Provincetown, where Mitra Kaboli brings us into the lives of seven locals, all with different backgrounds, different hopes, and different motivations. It feels a little like superbly made reality TV—just as enticing yet so well-produced you’ll feel like you’re on the beach. It’s like personal narrative on speed—each character gets their own rich treatment and storyline that serves as a portal into a loud and fun beach town you wish you were visiting, instead of sitting on your couch writing about.
⚡️News from Sounds Profitable⚡️
As monetization opportunities begin to expand all across the podcast industry for publishers, we need to start focusing on creating tools that allow ad buyers a more seamless buying experience while providing them the ability to execute from their own central tools. For Sounds Profitable, Bryan Barletta talks about the next evolution in adtech. Read here. Listen here.
🎙️You can take the girl out of Ohio but you can’t take the Ohio out of the girl I LOVE MALLS…and never understood why they were viewed as anything less than a cultural hub, a community forum, a place to stretch your legs and eat gigantic Sbarro slices and look at people and try on things you won’t buy, etc. The new way to shop—ordering $100 of fast fashion online, drunk, alone, before you go to bed, seems much more depressing. I simply BASKED in this 99% Invisible episode about malls, their history, why they are built they way they are built, and how they can be saved. (There is a way!) Roman talks to Alexandra Lange, author of Meet Me at the Fountain, for a piece about how malls can keep up with a shifting society, and how every tiny element of them has served a specific, useful purpose for one reason or another. Talking about malls is a wonderful storytelling tool and I’m still sad Mall Talk, ended. Listen to the 99% episode here.
🎙️The basic bitch in me is really out to shine with this mall stuff and now we’re talking about TGIFriday's on The Food that Built America, which explains that TGI Fridays was born out of the lack of nightlife options for women—they weren’t allowed in most bars—and was essentially America’s first singles bar, a way to bring mingling from the city into the suburbs, and kind of a result of the invention of oral contraception, too. Much like a bachelor who moves from picking up chicks at a bar to developing into an adult who wants to bring his family out to dinner, TGI Fridays matured too, going from a singles scene to an American family staple. Listen here.
🎙️This season of Connie Walker’s Stolen is a deep personal and gripping story about Connie tracing her family’s history to residential schools in Canada, the abuse they experienced there, and her attempt to better understand her father, who was attended one when he was a boy. For the episode Father Gauthier, Connie tracks down the priest who was accused by many residential students (including a few of her family members) of sexually harassing them through the Independent Assessment Process. Connie was warned not to run the interview—apparently Father Gauthier has dementia and nothing he says can be trusted? (And what he says is, “I could never have done this, it’s not my style,” but he does remember witnessing children being sexually abused.) But of course Connie goes full in, cracking open a conversation that is eye-opening whether Gauthier can be “trusted” (lol what does that even mean) or not. Listen here.
🎙️Kuper Island is also tackling the subject of residential schools, by focusing on one student of Kuper Island, Richard Thomas, who was sodomized and likely murdered for threatening to share about the school’s abuse, though his death was attributed to suicide. Host Duncan McCue talks to Richard’s sister Belvie, who attended the school but made it out alive, and she shares the pain of her remaining family members and the trauma everyone has been dealing with in the wake of Richard’s death. She says her brothers and sisters were on suicide missions to forget their time at Kuper Island. Out of 17 siblings, only two are alive. All Belvie wants is to know what happened to her baby brother. It’s incredible to hear from survivors who remind us this wasn’t so long ago and the lingering destruction Kuper Island has had on anyone who had a brush with it. Listen here.
🎙️Ever since I left book publishing, I’ve had to work hard to find time to take out my earbuds and pick up a book. I love love love a podcast that inspires me to do this, and the new Ursa Short Fiction is just that—Deesha Philyaw (The Secret Lives of Church Ladies) and Dawnie Walton (The Final Revival of Opal & Nev) are specifically celebrating all things short fiction, with an emphasis on spotlighting underrepresented voices. The first episode is a love letter to short fiction, and I found myself adding what felt like too many books to my to-read list. But these are short stories, so maybe I can do it. Listen here.
🎙️Reclaimed is telling the story of Mamie Till-Mombley, who helped spark the Civil Rights Movement by sharing the gruesome image of her 14-year-old son Emmett’s dead body after he was kidnapped, tortured and murdered for wolf whistling at a white woman in Mississippi in 1955. This is a hard listen, particularly the episode Guilt, which goes into great detail describing Emmet’s body. It’s the audio version of what Mamie was doing when she released those photos. We don’t want to hear this, but we must. Emmet was 14. Fourteen. Listen here.
🎙️This Is Uncomfortable offers a short history of “slowdown strikes,” when workers purposely work slower in an attempt to pressure their employers into settling an ongoing labor dispute. I didn’t know the history of slowdown strikes and this episode explains how people are doing it today by speaking to Adam, who was working at a bank and found his job was impossibly demanding. Instead of digging in (and possibly breaking down) he followed in the steps of a coworker, who had been kind of checked out, which annoyed him until he discovered it was actually an act of revolt. Listen here.
🎙️I’m not a huge romance person—love can be so boring sometimes! But I love Jo Piazza’s Committed because Jo isn’t cheesy—she’s like the cool girl dishing over love stories with you over a glass of wine. I was thrown off how flitter-fluttery my heart was feeling to hear about Erin and Jason’s love story, how on their third date they fell through a sky light, an accident that paralyzed Jason from the waist down. I realized the woman’s voice belonged to Erin Saenz of The Dumbbells. I knew that Erin’s husband was in a wheelchair but I had no idea what they went through together before they were married. This is an honest conversation about what it’s be like to stand by someone you kind of just met, and also what it’s like to not feel your penis anymore. Listen here.
🎙️”So let me get this straight. You’re a young, Black woman asked to pretend you’re a Confederate soldier running in a field to battle the Union, who was fighting to battle slavery.” “That’s right.” Thus begins the new season of Sounds Like Hate, a podcast from the Southern Poverty Law Center that tells the stories of people and communities grappling with hate and searching for solutions. We’re kicking off with a two-part series about The Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, a college embedded in Southern military tradition, which includes an unquestioning respect for the Confederacy. But in the spring of 2020, some students of color and alumni began to ask for change, and for the removal of some of the statues, which might seem like a no-brainer but not when up to 85% of the community sees any change as a threat. How do you battle hate when you’re working with that percentage, and what must it feel like to feel trapped by racism? Maybe you applied to VMI because you were promised a scholarship and had no idea you’d be reenacting the Civil War, which by the way…is so fucked up. Listen to part one here.
🎙️During their medal ceremony in the Olympic Stadium in Mexico City on October 16, 1968, Black athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos each raised a black-gloved fist during the playing of The Star-Spangled Banner. You can imagine how this went over—it made waves that are still being felt today. Pushkin’s Legacy of Speed is letting us get to know the runners who took the stand, the history of their act of rebellion, and in the first episode, the quirky Bud Winter, whose creative coaching style made his athletes relax, be fast as hell, and brave as hell, too. Listen here.
🎙️Season Four of Smoke Screen is here, this time wading into dangerous territory: puppy abuse. Not to sound crass, but I think we are all pretty numb to stories about human torture, but fucking with puppies is next level. Alex Schuman is getting into puppy laundering, the scheme to illegally sell puppy mill dogs, by exposing the crimes of Jolyn Noethe, a midwesterner who is the target of four lawsuits. There is audio of Joyn getting cornered by the authorities and it is truly validating. Listen here.
🎙️I love you!
This week we’re getting to peek into the listening life of Judy Cantor-Navas, story producer and lead writer of Punk in Translation, an Audible Original series about the history of Latinos in punk. She’s from New York originally and lives in Barcelona.
The app you use to listen: It varies: Stitcher is on the family iPad in the living room, I listen on Spotify for convenience, since on any average day I’m switching between listening to music and making playlists and listening to podcasts; and Audible of course, where you can all hear Punk in Translation! And I love Mixcloud too, and love looking around there for new things to listen to by international independent creators.
What speed do you listen to podcasts? 1x
How do you discover new shows? I listen to a lot of podcasts with a professional ear: narrative podcasts made by journalists, music-themed podcasts, podcasts that are bilingual or create in different languages simultaneously, and I most often hear about them from colleagues or friends – I’ve recently listened to the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Suave,” and “Collapse,” based on the reporting of the team at the Miami Herald, who also won a Pulitzer. I also seek shows out if it’s a subject I’m looking to learn more about. There are for sure also some ‘comfort’ items in my library, shows like “The Moth” and “Fresh Air” I’ve listened to before they came in podcast form.
One show you love that everybody loves. Definitely “Dolly Parton’s America.”
One show you love that most people don't know about. 10 Minutes to Less Suffering,” a podcast by Allison Carmen.
Anything else you want to say…I think career journalists like me have an important role in the creation of narrative podcast series to ensure the quality and originality of research and writing. (I find recent reports of plagiarism in podcasts disturbing.) I’m excited to work on more podcasts as a writer and producer, and challenges such as telling stories when your subjects speak different languages, and creating music-themed podcasts when licensing fees can make including the actual songs prohibitive.
That means, yes, I’m looking for new projects! Please get in touch through my website with any opportunities.