🤴🏼 Build-a-prince🎄 lesbian bars🍻John Candy✈️🚂 🚗 mall cop🚨 Pizza Hut 🍕Jezebel 🪦
🍭 👂 TRUST ME! 🌈 🤸♀️
Today is Monday, November 27. I was in Japan last week and spent way less time listening to podcasts and writing about podcasts! Maybe you won’t notice. In case this issue is too long…there is so much more than just booze in lesbian bars, one of my favorite podcasts is back, inject this royal Christmas rom-com into my veins now.
👋q & a & q & a & q & a👋
Simon Kent Fung
Simon Kent Fung is the host of Dear Alana,.
So how’d this whole thing get started?
I read about Alana’s story and immediately was shocked because of how many parallels there were with mine. And I started trying to research and learn as much as I could. It takes an insider to know about this stuff, and I felt like I recognized many of the groups Alana was involved with, even though I’m like 12 years older than her. I ended up finding her mom, Joyce, on Facebook. It was kind of a shot in the dark to reach out. I told her my story about conversion therapy, religious vocation, and some of the messages that I received in that part of the Church, and I said, if you need any support, please feel free to reach out. I didn't expect any response.
She got back to me and we connected a few months later by phone. And eventually there were more phone calls and texts. That began a relationship for the next year and a half. She certainly felt like nobody among her immediate family or friends understood, because it all seemed so odd. This was a very supportive, affirming family. Why would Alana do this? Why would she seek this kind of advice? Why would she be so involved in the Catholic Church? The kind of subculture of the Catholic Church Alana was involved with was pretty radical. People didn't get that part. Joyce felt very misunderstood and isolated and I think she just felt like, oh my goodness, somebody else understands a little bit about Alana’s experience.
I was working in tech and I got burnt out during Covid and decided to take a couple months off. I was at my parents’ house in August 2021, and one night at 2AM I couldn't stop thinking about Alana. Her story kept haunting me. I wanted to know what happened to her. And this idea came to explore it with audio. I thought it would be an interesting way to talk about some of the delicate aspects of her struggle. I had this vivid sense of wanting to capture the specific feeling of being alone in your room, writing in your journal, talking to God. That was the feeling I wanted to capture in the show. And it felt like audio was that feeling for me. So often we listen to things in the dark, it's so personal.
It almost feels like you're hearing from beyond or something.
Exactly. So that week I emailed her mother and her sister and their family attorney, and I just said, Hey, I have an idea. We got on a Zoom.
Had you listened to podcasts before? Were you a podcast listener?
Yes, yes, yes. And my first job out of college was in documentary film, so I had some understanding of media, and story structure, and production.
How do you feel about the Catholic church now? Are there any good feelings you have about it?
I mean, I've gone through so many stages and, and I think some of it is captured in a raw way in the podcast. But I think for me, one of the things that was interesting is that making the project has actually been healing in the sense that it's helped me look at my own story in a new way. I wouldn't have scrutinized everything to this degree. And that was unexpected. My plan was to make this in as detached a way as possible. To tell the story, be the voice.
Who was the first person that was like, you need to be in it?
My producer, Laurie. She and others who were giving feedback along the way were like, you know, we need to know where he's coming from. What gives him the right to tell the story? I ended up really restructuring a lot of the storytelling, in terms of how prominently I ended up in it. In so many ways, it is a coming of age story. It's a family story. And I think there was a certain amount of vulnerability that I had to show in order to maybe earn the right to be trusted with such a delicate, sensitive topic.
In putting up a magnifying glass to my life, and revisiting my own journals, I realized that both Alana and I didn't start out this way. We had an innocent and simple kind of faith as children and as young people. So much of my current relationship with the faith has been returning to that original place, where that relationship with God and with the Divine was so natural. I think what we've realized in making this show is that both Alana and I, unfortunately, in the process, encountered messages and ideas and theologies that kind of distorted that. Faith is a very important part of me. It's as much a part of my identity as my sexuality. And so I think the shame and the pity of this story is that we were forced to choose. How do we find integration? That's where I'm at now.
Do you still go to mass?
Yeah. It was actually in moving to San Francisco 10 years ago that kept me going. I ended up walking into this church with this incredible history. Prior to the 80s, it was an old, graying, Irish Catholic parish smack in the middle of what was becoming the gay neighborhood. There was no trust between the church and the gays. Then the AIDS crisis happened. And these young men around them were dying. Old parishioners ended up taking a lot of these men who had been abandoned by their families and providing hospice care for them and hosting funerals for them. And that kind of forged a relationship of trust between the Catholic church locally and this community. Ever since then, it's been a predominantly LGBTQ parish in what is one of the most conservative archdioceses in the country. And I walked into this and met all these people who had so many different experiences of the Church that I didn't have. Like they didn't go to conversion therapy. They may have struggled in other ways, and had different baggage. But they still actively chose to attend. That really opened my eyes to a practice of faith and a relationship to the Church that has been really healing. It's that sort of integration that I mentioned earlier that a lot of these people have that I continue to seek. That looks like going to mass, serving the community. I was on the Pastoral council of this parish and it's still an important part of my life.
When you're reading the journals, were you kind of like, “Aha, this is familiar language” or was it surprising to you?
So much of what Alana wrote, I have had almost identical writings. And, I pull up some of those throughout the season. Other people who have binged the show have shared similar stories. I think what's beautiful, the gift of this story, is the trust that the family has given us in disclosing this material. It's revealing a world that we rarely have access to. It's so private. I know we wrestled a lot with the ethical dilemma of how to respect Alana in this process and to be sensitive because she's not here. At the same time knowing that she had expressed in her journals a deep desire to be known and, as she writes, “found.”
It was like she was writing to you.
Exactly. Knowing that gave us some amount of permission and relief, knowing that she may have secretly wanted someone to find this. Alana had told her mother before she passed, “Everyone needs to know how bad it was,” and had even vowed to write a book. I think we were trying to be very sensitive about balancing what was essential and what was most core to her experience and not being unnecessarily salacious or scandalous about anything because that's not what this is about. It shows a window into a world that is so secret and vulnerable. Because it’s something people don't often hear about, it's hard to empathize and really understand what that conflict can feel like. And seeing how Alana captures that conflict so articulately also inspired me to be vulnerable with my own story. I feel like Alana sort of led the way there.
🚨If u only have time for 1 thing🚨
Eight new lesbian bars have opened in the U.S. since Cruising (the lesbian bar road trip podcast) launched in 2021. It’s back for season two, and Sarah Gabrielli, Rachel Karp, and Jen McGinity are taking us to every single one. But this isn’t just a road trip podcast, it’s a time warp. We go back in time, to 1930s San Francisco, to 1990s New Orleans, to meet lesbians in history who were hidden or forgotten, but in one way or another stuck out their necks to protect queer people and the spaces for queer people. Okay so it’s a history podcast on the road, about bars, but also packed with some of the most beautiful, gooey-ass love stories I’ve ever heard. The episode Femme Bar is about a cute couple, a loss, and the bar they built together to heal from it (I Google-stalked them.) The episode Charlene’s is sweet enough to make you believe in that kind of forever love that you’ll have until your very last breath. So yeah, this is a lesbian bar road trip podcast. But it’s really about love, with some cool as hell bars in the background, run by some amazing women in history.
🎙️Harry Duran had me on an episode of Podcast Junkies and it was a lot of fun. Listen here.
🎙️Sign up for my next Podcast Marketing 101 Radio Bootcamp here—I promise you’ll come away with so, so, much, and have a lot of fun. It’s January 22, 2024.
🎙️If you, like me, are already hooking the Christmas content IV up to your arm to inject as much sugar-coated shit into your veins as you can, binge the first two episodes of Build-a-Prince now. It’s the story of Princess Adelaide, who discovers she must be married by Christmas in order to be crowned queen, and decides to secretly create the perfect prince out of handsome American commoner, Hayden. They fall in love, but not everyone wants Adelaide to be queen. It’s a Hallmark movie for your ears. Listen to the first episode here.
🎙️I (along with millions of other Americans) watch Planes, Trains and Automobiles every Thanksgiving. This year I also listened to You Are Good’s episode about it, with Clementine Ford. It does what You Are Good always does, it finds beauty and humanity that we’ve overlooked in films we love. Sarah knows how to perfectly describe all of the emotion and nuance packed into what we’re seeing. (“Men are always boys in their pajamas that’s why they don’t wear them anymore.”) Sarah, Alex, and Clementine retell the story of Planes, Trains and Automobiles as a buddy-comedy customer service film about masculinity in the 80s and two lonely, broken-hearted men who fall in love with each other. Alex watched the 4 hour (???) director’s cut and reported back with a lot of context, stuff that maybe shouldn’t have been left out, stuff that makes that wild ending make a little bit more sense. (Like why Steve Martin’s wife looks like “a sad angel watching you commit murder.”) This is an episode about the good, the bad, of this movie, and why we love it so much, what we are nostalgic for when we watch it, how it’s delicate and a product of its time and contingent of the fact that Steve Martin and John Candy are in it. It’s an homage to John Candy. I miss John Candy. And my childhood, I guess. Listen here.
🎙️SAPIENS just finished a series on Margaret Mead, an anthropology rock star and author of the 1928 book Coming of Age in Samoa, which explored the cultural differences of adolescence in Samoa vs the West and argued that culture significantly influences human development. But what if she had it all wrong? This series is about Mead, her life and work, but also what happens when other people are telling our stories. Mead wasn’t really talking to the Samoa people when she was studying them. This SAPIENS series really does. It literally go to Samoa to ask Samoa people, “so what did you think of Margaret Mead?” (they think she’s full of shit) and clear up a few things, including some fuck ups from Mead’s detractors who were also wrong about Samoa people. Because again, this is what happens when we tell other people’s stories without asking them. This is well reported and will tweak your brain a bit. Start here.
🎙️Mortified is one of my favorite shows (adults read their teen journals aloud in front of a live studio audience) but it hasn’t dropped an episode in awhile. I had to do a double take when I saw it pop back into my feed. Yes, it’s back! With just one new story for now, but we can expect more stories in early 2024. The teaser story, recorded at a live event, was from Brett Freedman, a closeted middle schooler in the 1980s who kept killing his pet fish. These journal entries always paint such a beautiful, funny picture of what being a teen is like, or what teens want us to think being a teen is like, if they seem to be aware that they will have an audience. We hear these storytellers testing out who they want to be, how they want to appear. They parrot things they have heard adults say. (Somebody call Margaret Mead.) I don’t always love podcast episode of live events, but it feels like Mortified could not be made in any other way. Hearing the audience sigh and shriek and laugh and “awwww” with surprise and recognition and sorrow…they are on the roller coaster with you. Their reactions are part of the show, as is their relationship with the storyteller. “Do I really have to finish this sentence?” Brett asks them, in what feels like a footnote. “Oh, this is awful to read loud.” “I feel like fish are really hard to keep alive.” Listen here.
🎙️It felt a little disrespectful, but I was listening to the annual episode of Til Death Do Us Blart while I was walking around Kiyomizu-dera, a Buddhist temple in Kyoto, Japan. (This podcast drops only on Thanksgiving, so I’m always somewhere unusual listening to it.) On Till Death Do Us Blart, Tim Batt and Guy Montgomery (of The Worst Idea of All Time) and The McElroy Brothers review the film Paul Blart Mall Cop 2 (a film I have never seen) every American Thanksgiving. With the actor’s strike, I was getting a little nervous about whether we’d get it this year, but the strikes are over, nature is in harmony, and we get to hear commentary of the 9th rewatch of this movie. It’s an interesting experiment, to see how the guys change into relation to Paul Blart each year, the things they notice that they didn’t notice the first eight times around, the embarrassment their families feel for them that they’re still at it, and will be, until the end of time. Listening to this, much like watching Planes, Trains and Automobiles, has become a beloved Thanksgiving tradition and a way I mark the passage of time. Each year I will remember where I was when I hear the guys say in unison, “Not today, death.” This year, Kyoto. Next year, who knows. Listen here.
🎙️In 1990 (the year of focus for this season of One Year,) Pizza Hut made history by becoming the first American pizza restaurant chain to open in Russia after the end of the Cold War. It not only marked a shift in culinary preferences and consumer habits, but the entire socio-political landscape, as the country transitioned from the Soviet era to a more open market economy. The Russians were not the girlbosses the Americans were, and they had a lot to learn. So the first episode in One Year’s 1990 series is about the fall of the Soviet Union, the influence of Western capitalism and consumer culture in a changing world, but also about Pizza Hut. (Could we be more 1990?) Listen here.
🎙️I’m always impressed with how on Ear Hustle, Earlonne and Nigel are able to get their guests to open up about their most intimate moments in prison. But they’ve been dropping into women’s prisons more often, and for a recent episode they brought us into the largest women’s prison in the world: The Central California Women’s Facility. These stories from women were super duper intimate. From fighting and code switching and even helping each other in the shower, all of these stories felt like the most stripped-down and naked versions of what it’s like to be human when you’ve been robbed of privacy and freedom and so many things we take for granted. This episode wasn’t just about one thing, like some episode of Ear Hustle are, it was a collection of moments that happen when women are living out life sentences together behind bars. Listen here.
🎙️On If Books Could Kill, Michael Hobbes and Peter Shamshiri perfectly roasted The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, calling out Mark Manson for falling prey to the whole edgelordy and sweary self-help industry (“a mid-life crisis for all of society”) from ten years ago that doesn’t appear to be over. (Manson just launched a podcast, after all, that according to Podchaser, is getting 32k-47k downloads per episode.) Part of me wonders how much the editor sold their soul for to work on this book, part of me realizes that people actually feel like they need it—more than 12 million people, in more than 50 languages. (And those download numbers are both impressive and depressing.) Regardless, Manson’s advice is boring and nonsensical. This episode of If Books Could Kill is not, because of Michael and Peter’s perfect chemistry. I mean, these two are really different. I’m not sure I would have guessed they’d be friends. But they work! Peter is a good balance for Michael. And when Peter said “when someone's a little too sex positive, it kinda makes you a bit puritanical” I loled. I’m not sure I leave these episodes any smarter, but I have so much fun making my way through them. Listen here.
🎙️Offline is a regular listen for me, and in a recent episode Jon Favreau eulogized Jezebel.com, the feminist blog that launched in 2007 and just folded, with its founder Anna Holmes, and Erin Ryan one of its earliest writers. The story of Jezebel is an important piece of internet history—Jezebel tested the waters for so many things we don’t think twice about today when it comes to online writing, advertising, and community building. I worry that Jezebel will go away and that nobody will remember it. (Btw I both hated and loved it every day, depending on the day, at the height of its popularity.) If you’re too young to know about Jezebel, this is an important story to hear. And even if you lived through it like I did, its demise gives you a lot to think about. (Convo starts 37 minutes into the episode, listen here.)
🎙️The last documentary of this season of Lights Out, Dust, features this brilliant Icelandic writer Andri Snær Magnason, who looks at how language fails us as we try to hold what's happening to the planet in our imaginations. The piece is about scales of time you can reach out and touch with your hands and about the night sky above our heads. It also features the Scottish artist Katie Paterson whose made work like the Future Library (authors like Margaret Atwood and Han Kang and David Mitchell write books that won't be published in their lifetime to be printed from a Norwegian forest that's going to grow for 100 years...), she's bounced the Moonlight Sonata off the moon and built a phone line to a melting glacier (this one you hear in the doc!) Listen here.
🎙️I love you!
📦 From the Archives 📦
[From June 23, 2020] One of the most entertaining things I did this week was listen to the entirety of CrossBread, a hilarious mockumentary series from ABC Audio Studios about a Christian rap duo fronted by a brother and sister who are not Christian. The story is geniously told through the lens of their former social media manager, Ken Lim. It’s a fast-paced series with endless religious humor and puns, surprisingly complicated characters, and of course…the raps. I loved it all. And got emotional at the end, left with Ken Lim’s message that we are all just trying to do our best.
From the Desk of Tink
Today we’re talking to Beatriz Nour, producer and host of inbetweenish. Beatriz is Brazilian-Egyptian, born in France, and her perpetual identity crisis lead her to create her show. When she’s not podcasting, she’s designing products, furniture and everyday objects. Follow Beatriz here. Sign up to her newsletter here.
Describe the show in ten words or less: inbetweenish: it’s a place where we talk about belonging.
What does the word 'inbetweenish' mean?
inbetweenish is exactly what it sounds like:
it's about the space in-between,
where it's neither quite here nor there,
where you don't fit neatly into a box,
where you grew up with various cultural influences.
So, today you’re inbetweenish, a little bit of this and a little bit of that.
Who is it for and what do you hope listeners take away from your podcast? It’s for all those who have once questioned where they belong in this world: countries, cultures, ethnicities and faiths. It’s for those who are already confused, and it’s a place to discuss complicated emotions around home and belonging. If that sounds like you, then I hope you will hear fragments of your life reflected in the stories of others, and ultimately know, you are not alone.
Dream guest: Sadia from Pick Up Limes, I love everything about her, she also has a very interesting cross-cultural background. And Nathanial Drew, I find it fascinating how he deeply reflects on his life and identity.
Dream partnership: The School of Life, I would love to work with them and bring the angle of cultural intelligence to the table. With an increasingly globalized world, the future will have more cross-cultural people than ever before, and I think we need a space to understand, study, and talk about the confusion that comes with being inbetweenish.
Favorite podcasts that have inspired you: Unburnable: The People vs The Arctic Oil, Family Secrets, In the Dark — Season 1, Best Friend Therapy, إيه العلاقة؟ (Eh El-E’laqa?), Transfert, Forever Is a Long Time, I’m Not a Monster, The Happiness Lab, Scene on Radio — Season 3: Men.
On your podcast, you always ask guests to share an untranslatable word. What’s an untranslatable word you can share with us? Cafuné is one of my favorite words (and actions) of all time! It’s a Brazilian Portuguese word which simply translated means the act of running your fingers through the hair of someone you love. For me, it’s the embodiment of tenderness and captures this seemingly small act of affection that is so personal and intimate between two people who mean a whole lot to one another.