🏰 Deep Skirt speaks 👹 monster hotties 💀 twelve foot skeletons 🪄 hexes 🐎 horse play 💃 dancing slow🕺🏻
🍭 👂 TRUST ME! 🌈 🤸♀️
Today is Monday, October 23. In case this newsletter is too long…the podcast I have been waiting for my entire life is here, this podcast is confusing the shit out of me and I love it, and this was so beautiful and delicate I felt like I was holding a bird egg, if that makes any sense.
Thanks for reading Podcast The Newsletter! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
ps If you are pleased with Podcast The Newsletter, please spread the word.
👋q & a & q & a & q & a👋
Faith E. Pinho
Faith E. Pinho is the creator and host of Foretold, a Los Angeles Times podcast.
How was the final result of Foretold different than you thought it’d be when you started?
The beautiful thing about Foretold is that it is really a story about the evolution of a woman and her culture – and, on a meta level, our evolution in covering this story. When I first began interviewing Paulina, I was a pretty green reporter at the Daily Pilot, a community newspaper in Southern California. I had barely worked on a story for longer than a couple weeks – never mind several years!
Then we started adding to our team.
I remember senior producer Asal Ehsanipour buried in brightly colored sticky notes to sketch out the initial structure of this massive, winding and multifaceted narrative. Alex Higgins, our producer, composer and sound designer extraordinaire came up with quirky, memorable mnemonics to make the story sing – like my personal favorite, the dial-up Internet in episode 3. Assistant editor Lauren Raab picked over every fact, making sure we had checked everything down to the smallest detail. Our editors Sue Horton and Avery Trufelman molded every piece of our reporting and writing – from editing cold call emails to spinning a narrative from a mess of tape. We learned so much storytelling gold from our edit sessions, including one nugget from editor and executive producer Jazmín Aguilera: “Poetry is for concepts. Simple language for plot.” Heba Elorbany, our executive producer, always came to listening sessions with fresh ears for plot holes and unanswered questions. We could have never created this piece without the brilliance of Dr. Ethel Brooks, our cultural consultant who brought her expertise as a scholar and lived experiences as a Romani American to shape the story. Sound engineer Mike Heflin offered up his personal recording studio on countless occasions and made the tape sparkle, giving that final sheen to each episode. And without our composers Vadim Kolpakov and Alex PGSV, we wouldn’t have had such bright, evocative music transporting listeners from place to place throughout each episode.
I’d always hoped to tell one woman’s story while weaving in lots of context and education about fortunetelling and the Romani American community. But I was blown away by how each of these people brought their skills and life experiences to shape this story into a true masterpiece. (I’m not biased at all!)
What has the response been? Any interesting listener feedback you’ve gotten?
I’ve loved the responses we’ve received from listeners – some who were just drawn in by the storytelling, some who valued seeing and hearing Romani perspectives from a mainstream news organization and others who saw themselves in parts of Paulina’s life story. One line from a listener who emailed, Amanda, really stuck with me: “My point is, listening to Paulina's story—albeit absolute dimensions away from my own—helped me to realize that our identities are our own, that it's okay to explore and to try and to not know, that no one can (nor should) make these decisions for us, and that there is so much liberation to be found in exploring/owning/rejecting who we are in our own ways.”
How hard was it to get people to talk? What would you say to them? Were you scared or uncomfortable?
Given the legacy of media coverage about the Romani community, many people were understandably hesitant to talk for the podcast. We approached every conversation – including cold calls – with as much sensitivity as possible. That usually meant acknowledging what we didn’t know, asking for their help in providing context or information and promising to be fair and accurate. Building trust with some sources took years. Some only spoke to us on background. Many still would never talk to us. I tried everything I could think of with hard-to-get sources – calling, emailing and texting, yes. But also DMing them on Instagram, driving hours to knock on their doors, having mutual contacts vouch for me. In one case, I even left homemade brownies at someone’s home. In the end, the silence and the hesitancy to talk became part of the story, and a lesson about what centuries of harmful journalism can do to fray the relationship between a community and the media.
Did you ever get your fortune told? What were you told?
A couple weeks before Foretold launched, Paulina pulled three tarot cards about the podcast. They were the eight of cups, five of wands and three of pentacles. I won’t even attempt to explain the cards as well as she does! But my takeaway from that reading was that, essentially, the eight of cups represented a journey, prosperity and celebration – a great, smashing success. To me, that encapsulated episode 1 – a big, splashy start. Then the five of wands brought in some controversy and backlash. That’s when we start to reexamine things in episode 7. The three of pentacles represented, as Paulina put it, “The end is kind of the beginning. The podcast is over but … we’re left with more work to do.” And, to me, that perfectly sums up the episode 9 finale – we’ve come a long way over th course of this story and learned a lot. So where does that leave us?
What’s one podcast you love that everyone else loves, too?
My colleagues Asal Ehsanipour, Alex Higgins and I are suckers for Normal Gossip.
A hot bubble bath with a good show / movie and a tub of Ben & Jerry’s.
🚨If u only have time for 1 thing🚨
I was so excited to listen to Keys to the Kingdom that I was nervous to press play. On it, audio power couple Matt Gourley and Amanda Lund take us backstage of our favorite theme parks to hear from surviving characters, performers, and fans, getting the juicy details about what it’s really like, sans pixie dust…perhaps what places like the Disney headquarters doesn’t want us to know. (In fact, this seems like a pretty gutsy move. I think many people are afraid to spoil the magic of Disney—they have been warned not to, with threat of lawsuits.) Matt and Amanda interview ex cast members (Disney lingo for…anyone who works there) Deep Skirt, White Glove 1, White Glove 2, and Scott Aukerman about the strange things they have to do to please guests and stay sane. (If a dad is getting handsy, princesses are instructed to hold their arm up and say, “let me pose you like a prince!” which means…get your dirty hands off me your family is watching. This also works if a kid is barfing on your costume or covered in ice cream.) Episode one covers princesses, episode two is dedicated to the cast members in the fuzzy costumes. This is my dream podcast. Matt and Amanda are delightful, funny, and they are not holding back.
Ever wondered why we drink milk? Or what we used before passports to cross international borders? What can oracles of the ancient world tell us about technologies of the future? The new podcast Don't Drink the Milk delves into the hidden histories of these familiar things. From zip codes to beer, we travel the world to find out how these everyday things made their way to you – by force, by chance or by choice – linking events of the past to today's debates along the way.
✨Read my article The Scariest Horror Podcasts to Listen This Halloween from Lifehacker.
✨Read my article The 15 best movie podcasts for film critics and buffs from Descript.
✨I was on Book Marketing Mentors talking about how authors can use podcasts to boost their book sales.
🎙️I stumbled upon The Karen & Ellen Letters, a podcast I cannot tell is real or fake (I think it might be a combination of both) and I couldn’t stop laughing, but I was also confused about what I was hearing. Here’s what I have figured out: The Karen & Ellen Letters started as a blog, when Josh discovered this pile of letters between two kind of dimwitted young women and their landlord that dispute rent money, apartment renovations, and jurisdiction in the Bay Area in the late 80s. The blog, which reads like a comedy skit, gained popularity and was then released as a podcast voiced by actors, which was then deleted, and I think only recently partially rereleased. (New episodes are leaking every few days.) I’m only a few episodes in. They feel out of order, which adds to my confusion and obsession, and an interview with Josh and a reader of the original blog leads us to believe there are two seasons, that things are murky, that some of it is true (but what!) and that some of it is sad. And that once you know what happens (what happens!) it will change your outlook on the whole thing. I listened to the available episodes fast, too fast. I will have to listen again. I was literally desperate to try to figure out the context for this story. I have no idea what will unfold (I suppose I could read the blog, if I wanted to spoil it for myself) but I do know that even if this is completely scripted, it’s hilarious. Karen and Ellen are privileged, write with the intelligence of seven-year-olds, and seem to have no idea what it means to rent a house or live in an adult world. Mark, their exasperated landlord, is trying to catch them up to speed, denying their requests for thousands of dollars of reimbursements, insisting that they pay for the refrigerator they damaged when one of their boyfriends smacked it with a ribeye steak, and repeatedly asking them to stop painting the walls and covering the furniture with fur. If this review is confusing it is because I am confused, and the experience of listening to The Karen & Ellen Letters is confusing. But it’s the best kind of confusing I’ve ever experienced. Listen here.
🎙️Lights Out is back with an episode by Talia Augustidis, who you might know from her brilliant Everything List for Audio Opportunities, the All Hear newsletter or her Third Coast win for Best Short Documentary. Dead Ends is her first ever half hour doc for the BBC, and it feels like a project she’s been working on for almost her entire life. Talia’s mother died tragically when she was three—she was drunk and fell off a cliff. Talia pulls out old tapes from her childhood that documented her mom’s short life (including a haunting clip of her mom warning her to “not go too close to the edge” (of what?) to create a dreamlike soundtrack of memories and moments. You can feel the effort to find her mom, listening. It’s, as Talia says, a conversation with a ghost. At the end, she revisits the place her mom died with her dad and sister and tries to capture with audio what happened, which would have been an emotional way to cap off this project. Something happens that’s either tragic or absolutely perfect. I think it’s perfect. The whole piece is. Listen here.
🎙️A few years ago, I fell in love with Beyond, comedian and self proclaimed “energy expert” Mike Kelton’s podcast about his own life, and his own problems, and how he tried to solve them via spiritual means instead of therapy. (He was really convinced a doorman on the Upper West Side was his guardian angel, a storyline I was super invested in, and he also tried to get a hypnotist to cure him of his Diet Coke habit. He even tried to use his powers as an empath to exorcise a demon from a thrift store in the East Village.) Beyond is a personal diary that is so funny and relatable and New Yorky, I felt it was made just for me, and felt personally offended when the feed went dormant. Almost four years later, Mike is back for more hexes, hypnosis, and hauntings. It doesn’t matter what Mike talks about, he is funny, and the podcast is uniquely personal. When I listen I feel like I am in a sitcom with him. For the first new episode, he consults a witch and performa a hex (that works???) on a woman over a rental dispute. It’s a story almost too nuts to be true, but I almost don’t care. I was laughing my ass off. Mike also got me thinking about energy in new ways. This isn’t just comedians telling strange stories, this is one comedian living them. Listen here.
🎙️On Meddling Adults, Mike Schubert invites two people to compete to solve children’s mysteries from Encyclopedia Brown, Scooby Doo and more, for charity. Full disclosure: I can never solve the mysteries, that were intended to be solved by children, but this is still one of my favorite shows. Mike is a kind and funny host, and putting people to this kind of kid detective test ends up feeling like improv with a twist. Something that never occurred to me before was how hard this show must be to make. Mike has to read the stories himself and distill them into quiz format. (He’s not skimping on the writing, it’s great.) Can you imagine reading an entire Nancy Drew book only to discover it won’t work for the podcast? Nobody is saying that reading a Nancy Drew mystery is a waste of time, but I’m laughing picturing Mike finishing one and saying, “that’s it?!” and chucking it on the ground. We didn’t get any Nancy Drew in this episode (Encyclopedia Brown stories are pretty short, making them perfect for the show.) But the more you listen to these mysteries, the more you learn what an illusionist Encyclopedia Brown’s Donald J. Sobol was—the tricks he uses to distract young readers (and you,) the tactics that keep coming up, the characters that return again and again. It’s Encyclopedia’s world, we’re all just living in it. Listen here.
🎙️Decoder Ring’s episode on slow dances (and the disappearance of them) was unexpectedly brilliant. We get a full history of dancing slow, starting with the waltz, examining how we went from dance chaperones literally pulling awkward teenagers apart on the dance floor to wishing they’d get a little closer. The introduction of grinding is one reason that face-to-face slow dancing is dwindling, but it’s much more than that. Dancing evolves and is a reflection on our culture and how we relate to one another. Teens aren’t slow dancing (they literally aren’t…and it’s not just teens—nobody is) because they aren’t as comfortable to do this pretty vulnerable thing. Post covid, and with our reliance on social media to maintain our friendships and relationships, it’s not hard to see why. This wasn’t a look at the “good old days” and how life was better when kids were willing to slow dance. It’s a reminder that putting yourself out there to connect with someone in a slow dance is an art we are losing. Slow dancing breaks ice, it challenges us, it makes us more comfortable with our bodies and other people’s bodies, too. It’s not silly, it’s a crucial part of what it means to be a person in this world. Slow dancing has evolved from waltzing to grinding and it will evolve again. But into what? Listen here.
🎙️On The Pitch, you’re a fly on the wall as real entrepreneurs approach real investors to pitch their products for real investments. It’s always fascinating to hear how venture capital works and the thinking that goes into what might make a startup succeed or fail. I’m going to be honest. When I saw the episode Ride iQ: Peloton for Horses in my feed, I thought it was completely idiotic. Horses do not need Peleton, of this I am sure! But Ride iQ is audio lessons for horseback riders—they listen to experts coach them through their rides (the coaches are riding horses while they record.) After I realized what Ride iQ really was, my next thought was: (Tink’s resident equestrian) Anne is going to hate this. I used to ride horses, too, and cannot imagine wanting to listen to a class while I was trying to enjoy my ride. But the equestrian field is small, and (entrepreneurs (and sisters) Kinsey and Jessa Lux seem to have a great grasp on their niche. People seem to really want this—I guess it’s a great way to brush up on skills between classes, or just an easy way to learn. (I also wonder if Ride iQ coaches are nicer than my tough-as-nails riding instructor Lynn, who used to shriek “just do it, you wuss!” at me (I was ten) and beat my horse Rainbow with a whip—with me on it, in front of a jump—if Rainbow misbehaved.) Plus, this seems to only scratch the surface of what we can accomplish with audio learning. What else would you like to learn via audio? (This is why I think you’ll be interested, audio nerds.) Okay so now I’m sold, take all of my. money, Kinsey and Jessa. But wait. There is a lot of back and forth that goes on, a lot of good questions about the market, a bumpy and tense due diligence call, and a miscommunication that throws everything off the rails. (Or should I say trails? There are oodles of horse puns in this episode.) Listen here.
🎙️American Hysteria’s Halloween special is a banger, looking at how we’ve used skeletons in culture, art, the medical field to come to grips with our mortality, and how all of that evolved to that 12 ft Giant-Sized Skeleton with LifeEyes(TM) LCD Eyes that has been flying off shelves so fast Home Depot cannot keep them in stock and people are reselling them for thousands of dollars online. Chelsey explains how the Home Depot team came up with the idea and how marketing and meme culture sparked the craze (and near sexual obsession with) the internet bone daddy of 2023. It’s the newest way we can use humor to deal with knowing that we are all just ashes to ashes, dust to dust, or slightly smaller versions of 12 ft Giant-Sized Skeleton with LifeEyes(TM) LCD Eyes, to help get closer to death. It’s a joke about ourselves, our very own bodies. We’ve always required sacred rites around skeletons and death. Crossing your neighbor’s lawn to snap a selfie with their 12 ft Skeleton is the new pilgrimage. Listen here.
🎙️Donny Dust, Marine Corps veteran and world-renowned survival expert, is telling astonishing rescue stories on Rescue…but he isn’t just talking about them, he’s talking to the people who were there. I love it when shows allow the stars of the stories to do the talking. It’s hard to produce, but worth it for the listener. (Listeners of This Is Actually Happening and What Was That Like will love it.) The first story is a two-parter about a mine flooding that trapped nine miners, and how the entire community came together to pull them all out, despite the fact it all seemed so impossible. Have you ever heard a bad ass mother fucking miner cry? You will on Rescue. The miners have what I’d call a new zest for life, and Donny takes you through every second of the rescue, from the moment it was discovered the miners were under someone’s house to the moment they were safe in the arms of their families. This show is called Rescue, I figured they’d be rescued. But I was still on the edge of my seat and crying like a baby (or now I guess I can say, “crying like a grown man who has been rescued from a flooded mine”) when I learned the men had been saved. I was kissing the ground, too. Start here.
🎙️Do you believe in magic yet? If not, or even if you do, go immediately to Cirque du Sound, the new podcast from Cirque du Soleil, particularly to an interview with Luis Alberto Urrea, author of one of my favorite books, The Hummingbird's Daughter. Cirque du Sound is all about creativity, and listening to Luis talk about the magic and mystery and miracles he sees in the world, and can remember vividly from his childhood, is a beautiful thing. (Also: why we must ask old people to tell those stories again and again and again.) The conversation made me look back to so many of my own memories and see magic in them, too. Listeners are active participants in this interview. Luis is obviously an amazing storyteller, but he’s asking you to think about your own stories. You may notice I don’t listen to too many interview podcasts, and when I heard this show was about spotting creative ideas I thought it might be platitude-packed. I was wrong, surprised, and delighted and I plan to listen again. Listen here.
🎙️Are you sexually attracted to monsters yet? Ashley Hamer had an episode of Taboo Science on monster fuckers (that is literally what they call themselves) that made me go from what? to aha! Guest Ella Gallego, who researches monstrous desire, explained how attraction to vampires, werewolves, and other tentacled beasts is common, especially for queer communities who are more comfortable shedding heteronormativity and embracing kink. If you feel like you’re othered in any way, you’re more open to otherness. Of course I must mention this episode’s Disney reference—a huge number of people Ella surveyed were sexually attracted to Beast, and not the prince he turned into (or from.) Beast is strong and intimidating, but also kind, and his illustrators spent much more time developing his character. They spent like zero minutes thinking about the human prince. (This reminds me of a fact mentioned on the Luis Alberto Urrea episode of Cirque du Sound that I also remember from reading The Hummingbird’s Daughter—that in the Sonoran Yaqui dialect, Yoribichi means naked white man and is a huge insult. That was very hard to Google, La Gorda Yori is the name of a Bichi wine, I wonder if they know this fact.) Ella mentioned that she discovered her own love for monsters while watching The Lighthouse, a movie about lots of magical realism and fucking, and tons of jerking off. I saw The Lighthouse with my entire family on Thanksgiving, which felt wrong at the time, but is now a Passell family tradition. Honestly, I left this episode feeling sad for people who aren’t monster fuckers. I think they’re missing out. Listen here.
🎙️I love you!
📦 From the Archives 📦
[From June 1 2020] Femlore’s two-part series on Mulan felt so fun and important and special. Mindy, Rachael, and Lauren (also the host of A CRISPR Bite) read the ancient Chinese poem that influenced the Disney animated movie, and talk to Gio Santiago, a transgender military veteran. Gio’s connection to Mulan is fascinating, he considers Mulan trans. This adds depth to Mulan’s story—if they were trans, that meant they spent twelve years in battle, defeating the Huns, identifying as male, and then had to return home and abandon their true identity. I want a sequel. I especially loved hearing Gio talking about Mulan’s song Reflections, which has special meaning to many in the trans community.
Jessica Alpert: for the culture
On Monday, October 30th Rococo Punch Co-Founder Jessica Alpert will moderate a panel of creatives and producers from Antica Productions, Pod People, Capacity Interactive and Christine Ragasa Global on how cultural institutions have used podcasting to advance their missions. The online discussion, ARCHIVES TO EARBUDS: PODCASTING FOR CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS, will be hosted by The Podcast Academy and is the second of three panel discussions presented by Leo Baeck Institute (LBI).
You’re moderating a panel discussion about podcasts for cultural institutions which can include everything from community archives to museums to performing arts organizations. What interests you about working with cultural institutions to produce podcasts?
Jessica Alpert: My original interest in storytelling is rooted in oral history. I spent a Fulbright year in El Salvador collecting the histories of that country’s 60-family Jewish community and this experience transformed how I understand the wider consumption of content. I was sitting on such incredible stories but due to their format and distribution structure I had a feeling that no one in the world would ever access it. I attended a PhD program in History but eventually left after my Masters because I was determined to figure out a more consumer-focused distribution method for my work. I studied audio storytelling and documentary and then started working in radio and eventually podcasting.
For cultural institutions that may be considering podcasting for the first time, what's one myth about the medium you hope to debunk with this panel discussion?
JP: Just because you are an expert in a field doesn’t necessarily mean you know how to connect with an average listener. I realize that the barrier to entry to podcasting is low and most people think they can do it. And they probably can with some good YouTube tutorials and a mic or two. But if you want to truly elevate your materials, work with someone to help you think through your content strategy. Are the same people that donate to your institution going to listen to the podcast? Do you want to reach a new audience? What is the goal of this effort? Development? Awareness? Action?
Can you share one "best practice" in podcasting or audio documentary you hope cultural institutions take away from the panel discussion?
JP: A host is very important. I know there is a lot of diplomacy involved in choosing a host but if you are investing money and time into something, it’s worth having that sometimes complicated conversation around who might be the best fit. This takes us back to our question about goals. If this becomes a vanity project, that is ok. We know that this is sometimes an inescapable reality but it’s important for institutions to set expectations if a host is lackluster. People are very busy and will sometimes give you just one chance to capture their attention. Use that wisely.
Other than this panel discussion are there any other new or upcoming projects you can and want to tell our readers about?
JP: We are always working on some really fun projects and I’m excited about an upcoming limited series that will be released in early 2024. I cannot say much more than that except that it involves a DNA sleuth, and a lot of different fathers.
ARCHIVES TO EARBUDS: PODCASTS FOR CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS is a free online panel discussion.
Register to attend here.
Thanks for reading Podcast The Newsletter! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.