👮♀️ Cop camp ⛺️ business woman specials 👔Christian rock 🎸 arrest the children 👧 Me Te Doiughty Walker 🏠
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Today is Monday, October 30. In case this newsletter is too long…a true-crime/ghost story hybrid that is likely pissing the host’s family off here, a sensational murder trial with modern language here, why Reliant K is stuck in my head here.
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👋q & a & q & a & q & a👋
Adam Gidwitz is the creator and narrator of the #1, award-winning podcast for kids Grimm, Grimmer, Grimmest. He is also a Newbery Honor winning author of bestselling books for kids, and the producer of an Emmy-nominated animated series based on his book A Tale Dark & Grimm.
Can you explain the show in 10 words or less?
Real, funny, scary Grimm fairy tales told live to kids. (Nailed it!)
Why are you the perfect host for this show?
There is nothing about me that’s perfect. But as a teacher for seven years, I found that the only way I could get kids to be quiet and listen to me was to tell them stories. When you’re a teacher, if you can’t control the kids, you might as well quit. Then, when I became an author of books like A Tale Dark & Grimm, I traveled around the country speaking at a hundred schools a year, telling them fairy tales. And when you have two hundred fourth graders in a cafetorium, you have to keep them, quiet or soon there will be a riot and you will be found three days later floating lifeless in a vat of sloppy Joe. So keeping children’s attention through a story is really a matter of life-or-death for me. And the best way to keep a kid’s attention with a story is to make it equally funny and scary. That is, for me, the magic combination.
Which kinds of stories do kids love the most?
They love stories that are scary and funny at the same time. Scary stories make them feel brave, allow them to test their own boundaries. Funny stories make kids see things in a different way: when a kid is laughing—not passively smirking, like at most TV shows, but actually laughing out loud—it’s because they’re learning something new about the world. And delighting in it.
What have the kids taught you?
I have encountered some fierce and inspiring young feminists. There are some girls out there who listen to my stories about princesses and heroines, princes and heroes, and can point out every injustice in that fairy tale world—especially the gender inequities. They are not afraid to shout things like: “We are women and we are terrifying!” Which was one of my favorite moments of Season 4.
What’s your favorite podcast that everyone already knows about?
The Dan LeBatard Show with Stugotz. Actually smart, truly funny sports talk.
What’s your favorite podcast that not enough people know about?
The History of Rock in 500 Songs. Maybe it’s starting to get some buzz, but most people don’t listen to it—perhaps because it’s insanely detailed. But this telling of the history of music through songs and stories is unparalleled.
Writing outside, first thing in the morning, every day. It is both meditative and productive! And it gets me away from the internet, which is eeeeevil. Except, of course, for this excellent website!
🚨If u only have time for 1 thing🚨
Tristan Redman is a serious journalist who doesn’t believe in ghosts…except for the one who may have been living in his childhood bedroom when he was a teenager. Fast forward a decade or so, Tristan is married and discovers that his wife Kate’s great grandmother Naomi Dancy happens to have lived (and was murdered) next door in 1937. For his podcast Ghost Story, has started gathering stories from other people who have lived in his old bedroom that report seeing the ghost of a faceless woman. Naomi was stabbed in the eyes, allegedly by her brother, which would make this a grisly true crime story. But Tristan believes the faceless woman is Naomi, and that she has a message: it wasn’t her brother who killed her, but her husband. And so the true crime story turns into a ghost story, or maybe it’s the other way around. Episodes two and three begin to take a darker turn. The biggest mystery of all: did Naomi watch Tristan and Kate have sex? So many terrifying things going on.
✨A few years ago, I was working at Hark, a platform that shares the best moments from podcasts in “Harklists” based on themes. Every day they produce something called Hark Daily, a roundup of the most interesting conversations, stories and ideas on the day’s most relevant topics. These brilliant podcast clips are introduced by the hosts of Hark Daily, podcasters Avery Trufelman and Jody Avirgan. For awhile, it was my job to make these lists, it was a job I felt like I was born for. Hark is my dream app. I don’t make Hark Daily anymore, but I did make a lot of them. To celebrate the 500th edition of Hark Daily, Hark has pulled together a playlist of some of the most popular moments from Hark Daily over the years. These include perfect clips from podcasts both big and small, ranging from SmartLess and Song Exploder to The Allusionist and Written Inside. Listen here. Congratulations, Hark!
✨Read my article 12 Cozy Podcasts to Warm Your Mind, Body, and Soul from Lifehacker.
✨Read my article The 12 best fitness podcasts to pump you up from Descript.
🎙️In Downtown Manhattan, in the middle of the Yellow Fever Pandemic in the early days of 1800, Elma Sands was found beaten and drowned in a well not far from her boardinghouse on Greenwich Street. The trial of Levi Weeks, her lover who was accused of the crime, was the first of New York City’s sensational murder cases, the first American murder trial to be transcribed, and the first defense council “dream team” made up of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, who insisted Elma killed herself. Erased: The Murder of Elma Sands reimagines the trial in modern language, narration from Allison Flom, and dramatized courtroom reenactments based on historical court records, taking us back to 18th century Manhattan. The format is really compelling and the cast is full of colorful characters—Elma’s gutsy cousin Catherine Ring, Catherine’s idiotic husband, an uneducated kid who took the stand, and of course Hamilton, Burr, and prosecutor Cadwallader David Colden. The modern language move is risky but it works—I actually found myself laughing out loud, only to remember that everyone was bickering over the death of a voiceless woman who was gone and unable to tell us…what happened? This podcast offers a fascinating true-crime story, a unique presentation of history and a revolutionary trial, and is a conversation with Elma. I could picture her sitting in the court room. And as I listened to this, walking around my neighborhood in the East Village, the story was pulsing through my body. I love a good New York Story that introduces me to its ghosts. Erased has so much to offer. I’m obsessed. Listen here.
🎙️On the podcast, radio series and live show Movement, Ethiopian-American singer Meklit Hadero uses music to tell stories of global migration. She gets to the art of big things like citizenship, identity, belonging, and borders, but with a scalpel, using personal narrative to paint a picture of artists whose experiences drive them to create. She recently talked with Mexican-American singer San Cha, who subverts the tropes of popular culture from her Mexican roots to make something new. Her story could be a movie—she partied in the Bay Area before making somewhat of a retreat to her Aunt’s farm in Mexico. Her aunt seemingly couldn’t have been more different than San Cha. But her time on the farm inspired her song hijo pródigo, prodigal son, and is about returning to the farm and returning to herself. Beautiful music pulses though this lively conversation, co-produced by Ian Coss (Forever Is a Long Time.) Listen here.
🎙️I always turn on Sentimental Garbage expecting to bask in love and appreciation for things I adore like Dirty Dancing and Girls Just Want to Have Fun, but the show is so smart and always gives me so much to think about—why I love these things and why they actually are under appreciated and important. The episode about Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion, with guest Richard Makin, offers both basking and a near academic lecture on what made this movie unique and why it became so beloved by women, the queer community, and non-dumb people. (“Only a dumb person would say this movie is dumb—it’s a Rosetta Stone for understanding who we are.”) This episode is a sharp look at Romy and Michele as textured characters who discover, in the end, that they were fine how they were all along, which bucks the trend of so many of the movies we were consuming in the 90s, and how quoting the movie (“do you have, like, a business woman special?”) became like a pop culture version of the hanky code. It definitely over-intellectualizes the film, which is what I come to Sentimental Garbage for. It’s a reminder that what got so many of us through high school ends up being what gets us through life later on, and why loving things that other people think are trashy is glorious. Listen here.
🎙️It took me way too long to listen to the first two episodes of Rock That Doesn’t Roll because I had to keep switching to Spotify to listen to Amy Grant, Reliant K, and MXPX, artists I thought I knew so well but had no idea were Christian. On Rock That Doesn’t Roll, Andrew Gill and Leah Payne (author, God Gave Rock and Roll to You) look at the effect this music had on evangelical kids in the 80s, 90s and early 2000s—something worth examining, considering the way music is able to influence and well, manipulate anyone, especially emotional, impressionable teenagers. It became kind of a sneaky way to communicate with people via a quirky sub culture that was able to insulate them even more than they already were. It was a way teens could feel edgy without denying their faith, and when Amy Grant songs were topping the charts, they were doing victory dances. Their sub culture had broken through. The first episode is all about youth group culture, featuring an interview with the hilarious Steve Hernandez (who I fell in love with from his now defunct podcast Who’s Your God, which he hosted with Amy Miller.) Steve became disillusioned with his work as a pastor so he quit, and was kicked out of the church, and he reports how singing brings young people together and why this specific type of music resonates with them. Longing for God is a very human thing—this music figured out a way to harness all that energy and proliferate Christian messages. Listen here.
🎙️The Kids of Rutherford County is a four-part narrative podcast builds on a joint investigation with ProPublica and Nashville Public Radio that takes us to a Tennessee county that was arresting and illegally jailing children for over a decade and two juvenile delinquents-turned-lawyers who are trying to do something about it. Host Meribah Knight maps out the stories of kids being jailed for truly just being kids (the series opens with a story about kids who were jailed for not stopping a fight,) in conditions that we’d expect to see grown-ass people who committed much more heinous crimes. In the opening scene, when the cops are slapping handcuffs on eight-year-olds (can you imagine?) the cops don’t even remember yelling, yet everyone can remember all the kids crying. This isn’t even registering for the cops in Rutherford. But the real culprit seems to be Judge Donna Scott Davenport, who time and time again, threw out the constitution to put kids in solitary confinement and worse. The wrong people are ending up in juvenile detention, and it’s psychotically traumatic. The Kids of Rutherford County is about what’s behind Rutherford County’s DIY justice system and what’s behind it. There’s great storytelling and reporting here, Meribah will pull you in with the opening sequence and she never lets you sit down for a breather. Listen here.
🎙️Keith Morrison is famous for voicing stories on Dateline NBC, and podcasts like The Seduction and Murders and Magnolias (a personal favorite.) There are more true-crime fanatics than there are stars in the sky, but people flock to Morrison’s stories for his voice, which is deep, calm, and has a distinctive cadence. Every holiday season, Dateline drops an episode of Morrison reading ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas… for good reason. I like a man who leans into his strengths. Which is why I’m thrilled about Morrison Mysteries, which has Morrison narrating classic fiction, beginning with Washington Irving’s 1820 short story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. I cannot tell you how much, from the lips of Morrison, this fictional story sounds like a real true-crime story that actually happened. If I didn’t know any better, I’d be convinced that a superstitious and lanky schoolteacher named Ichabod Crane must contend with the Headless Horseman in order to marry his crush Katrina Van Tassel and either mysteriously disappears or was murdered by this other guy named Brom Bones. Listen here.
🎙️I was underwhelmed with the first episode of Normal Gossip’s new season but episode two seems to be back to the stuff I loved from season one (so if you, too, were meh, don’t give up!) Josie Duffy Rice (Unreformed: the Story of the Alabama Industrial School for Negro Children) was on for a story of horny teens at cop camp, it was dorky and adorable, and like my favorite episodes of Normal Gossip, included Kelsey’s signature style of storytelling that pulls you slowly and super descriptively through the story in a “choose-your-own adventure” style. (“What would you do?” “What do you think happened next?”) The story includes a guy manipulating some girl from Tinder to be his employee and secret booty call, and who cares how much of this is true. Listen here.
🎙️The first season of Missing Pages was a true-crime / publishing hybrid (inject this directly into my veins) and the new one, just launched, is about a splintering happening in the world of publishing, where book publishers are losing their power as industry gatekeepers and authors are publishing their books in untraditional ways, harnessing the power of social media. I come from book publishing, this is totally up my alley, but I think everyone will be fascinated to hear the story of Colleen Hoover, who broke all the rules to create a book empire through self-publishing and her social media influence. She was the first self published author to hit #1 in the New York Times best seller’s list. (It’s a really cute story that starts with Colleen trying to help her grandmother download a book on her Kindle.) Bethanne Patrick gets the full story that explains this new publishing pipeline and how power is shifting to the readers. It’s something that’s unsettling for the book industry and authors who have succeeded the old fashioned way, and it’s already impacting what’s making money, getting published by big houses, and what is getting marketing support from those big houses. The lesson: write the book you want to read. Make the podcast you want to hear. Listen to that here.
Related, I just discovered that Queen of the Beach Read Elin Hilderbrand (I’m obsessed, have read all of her books several times and particularly love her Christmas series) has a podcast, Books, Beach, & Beyond, which was bittersweet for me to learn because she announced in in parallel with her retirement from writing. She interviewed Colleen Hoover here.
There’s a fascinating episode of Thoughts From a Page about Hugh Howey, who also broke the mold and self-published to grrrrrreat success. Listen to that here.
On The Assignment, Audie Cornish talked to the owners of The Ripped Bodice about how romance writers are bucking another trend in publishing, by giving voracious romance readers the stuff they really want to read. Listen to that here.
🎙️Each Halloween, I revisit an older podcast, Scary Stories to Tell on the Pod, a show I was drawn to for two reasons: #1 I love Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and #2 I love Anna Drezen. On Scary Stories to Tell on the Pod, Anna and comedian Andrew Farmer go through these classic books, adding really funny commentary and highlighting some of the strange and wondrous things about the stories we might not have noticed as kids. It’s become a comfort listen for me. Once Anna and Andrew made it through all the stories, it became more of a chat show. They admit this isn’t one of those scary shows that is incredibly researched, edited, and produced. At one point, Andrew describes the vibe as “the end of a campfire, all the stories have already been told, everyone’s off kissing, and we’re like Have you guys heard about vampires?” The feed has been dormant for awhile but that hasn’t stopped me from revisiting every year. Now Anna and Andrew have returned to the feed for more chatty, “a little bit not great” spookiness, pulling stories from Reddit. It’s very funny. And I advise you to go back to the beginning when they go through some of the best stories from Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, like “The Hook,” “Tap Tap Tap,” “Me Te Doiughty Walker,” “The Girl Who Stood on a Grave,” “A New Horse,” and “Harold.” I’m getting hit with nostalgia just typing that. Listen here.
🎙️On Business Trips, (ex-brothers-in-law) Mike O’Brien (Trey) and Brad Morris (Goldy) host improvised conversations with comedians (road warriors) who have advice to offer people who travel a lot. This show is new, but already Mike and Brad play off each other perfectly, with awkward pauses and a format that feels like they’re reading off a script that’s so bad it’s good. They are bumbling, pretty clueless hosts who encourage their guests to play out outrageous sketches about hotel toiletry suppliers, the best food at American airport restaurants, and the guy at the airport who stands by baggage claim saying “Taxi!” The Langston Kerman episode killed me, and the most recent one features the funniest woman of all time, Lizzy Cooperman. The ads are hilarious. I couldn’t stop listening and was laughing out loud (partially while walking across the East Village, hauling a 28.5 pound pumpkin on my shoulder like a boom box.) Listen here.
🎙️I love you!
📦 From the Archives 📦
[From June 1 2020] Welcome to LA has the origin story of the Black Stuntmen’s Association, a group of badasses in the 60s who have paved the way for Black stuntmen and stuntwomen to enter the world of stunt work, which was a dangerous but LUCRATIVE opportunity for them. I can’t believe I didn’t know this important (embarrassing “painting down?” seriously?) piece of Hollywood history! That, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, includes Bill Cosby as a sort of hero. But it makes the story even more interesting.
Ben Naddaff-Hafrey—The Medium is the Message
On Thursday, November 2nd Ben Naddaff-Hafrey, who hosts and produces The Last Archive, moderates a panel discussion including Bill Healy (Somebody, You Didn’t See Nothin), Mary Kidd (NYPL, Preserve This Podcast), Natalia Petrzela (Past Present, Welcome To Your Fantasy,) and Renate Evers (LBI, Exile), who will discuss how organizations, scholars and podcast creators can utilize podcasts and safeguard them against digital obsolescence.
The online discussion, ARCHIVES TO EARBUDS: PODCAST AS CULTURAL ARTIFACT, will be hosted by AIR (Association of Independents in Radio) and is the third of three panel discussions presented by Leo Baeck Institute (LBI).
Podcast The Newsletter: Tell us a little about some topics you hope to explore in your panel discussion.
Ben Naddaff-Halfrey: We've got an amazing group of researchers, storytellers, and archivists on the panel, so I'm hoping we can talk about the role of the archive at both ends of a story's life cycle. How do we make stories out of archival material, and then, how do we preserve our audio stories for posterity?
PTN: At what point do you think podcasts began to be recognized and/or valued as cultural artifacts? Is there any individual or organization you credit with facilitating that recognition?
BNH: We're so fortunate to have had a strong public radio ecosystem in this country for as long as we've had it. Member stations are often very good at preserving their newscasts, so those collections amount to a sonic record of our history, or at least the past half-century or so. They laid the groundwork with archiving broadcast radio, and then I think that makes it easier to make the case for preserving podcasts. None of this is a given — broadcast radio was seen as ephemeral and so was digital media. It takes foresight and effort to save this stuff, and we're constantly losing a lot of it.
PTN: When you think of podcasts as cultural artifacts, is there a particular podcast that comes to mind first? Why?
BHN: This is a bit of a non-answer, but I truly think you can make the case that every podcast is a cultural artifact, and so is everything else. A digital article is built for social media or it might feature certain kinds of targeted ads in ways that make it an artifact of a whole economic system and moment in time. You write an email, and our culture's communication norms & technological affordances are baked into that email. But as far as podcasts go, there are a few that come to mind as cultural artifacts in different ways. There are the ones that make a point of chronicling contemporary life — like This American Life — the ones that create or capture a zeitgeist — like Serial with True Crime or Start-Up with the beginning of the podcast boom — and the ones that preserve valuable oral histories that correct or accent mainstream narratives — like You Didn't See Nothin or Welcome To Your Fantasy — and then the chat shows that reflect the national mood for better or worse — like [redacted].
PTN: Other than this panel discussion, are there any other new or upcoming projects you can and want to tell our readers about?
BHN: I'm working on a few stories now I'm looking forward to sharing — on pilot voices, PTA culture wars, and a mysterious scientific agency among other things. They'll show up in a few places, but if you're curious about them I'll feature them on my newsletter when they're up!
ARCHIVES TO EARBUDS: TELLING OUR STORIES is a free online panel discussion.
Register to attend here.
Podcast The Newsletter is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.