🪞 My father the narcissist 🏠 haunted house market 👻 buried alive ⚰️ thank you for being a friend 👵🏻
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Today is Monday, October 16. In case this newsletter is too long…shout-to all dads except for this one, the scariest thing about haunted houses that you didn’t realize here, Kid Fury’s favorite Golden Girl here.
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Rachel Belle is the Seattle-based creator and host of Your Last Meal, a James Beard Award finalist for Best Podcast that has been the #1 Food Podcast on Apple Podcasts. She is Editor-At-Large at Cascade Public Media, Seattle’s PBS affiliate, and writing a cookbook for Sasquatch Books, out Fall 2024. Rachel spent 20 years as a broadcast news reporter and radio feature reporter, winning the Edward R Murrow Award for Best Radio Feature, before leaving her job in November 2022 to pursue the podcast full-time.
Describe your show in 10 words or less.
Celebrity interviews about last meals + history, culture or science behind those dishes.
Okay let’s get this out of the way: what would your last meal be?
In this moment, I’d like an-all-you-can eat shrimp cocktail tower with billions of cold, plump shrimp, raw oysters I plucked off a Washington state beach and shucked myself, a Matchless Made Hazy IPA, grilled homemade sourdough bread rubbed with garlic and slathered with salted butter and a chocolate milkshake for dessert.
Which of your guests had the best last meal?
I love the last meals that are less about how tasty a food is and more about a story or a memory. Jack Johnson wants sauteed vegetables because it’s what he and his wife ate when they were broke 22 year olds, spending months traveling around Europe living in a van. Jewel wants bear biscuits made with bear lard; what she ate growing up on a homestead in Alaska. Lake Street Dive’s drummer, Mike Calabrese, wants chocolate covered pretzels because they remind him of the babysitter he had a crush on as a little kid. John Waters wants a single leaf of arugula so that he’ll be a tidy corpse.
Which of your guests had the worst?
There is no such thing as worst! A person’s last meal tells you something about who they are and I don’t believe in the concept of a food being gross or weird. But there is a last meal that is picked most often, so I get a little disappointed when someone chooses it! Mostly because it’s hard to find new angles on the same food after it’s been chosen 10 times. The most popular last meal is a steak dinner.
I love how your show isn’t just interviews, but sprinkled with history and facts. What’s something cool you’ve learned in your research?
Ben Cohen, of Ben & Jerry, has no sense of smell and can hardly taste. That’s why their ice cream is famously chunky – he needed texture to enjoy it! I’ve learned about the history of wedding cake, that breakfast cereal was invented to keep people from masterbating (!), about the existence of Mexican-style sushi in Sinaloa and the history of Jamaican food. I interviewed the designer who created Lady Gaga’s infamous meat dress (it was made from skirt steak!) and the guitarist from Warrant, who told the story behind the 1980’s hit song “Cherry Pie.” It goes all over the place!
Does podcasting about food all the time make you hungry?
Even before I started the show, seven years ago, I was always down to eat! But when I’m working on an episode, I’ll obsessively crave the food we’re focusing on. I’ve eaten a lot of tomato sandwiches thanks to Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam, know how to make a Banoffee Pie thanks to Top Chef’s Gail Simmons and made chicken parm because of Zach Braff.
Go big: if you want to book a famous guest, or someone you really admire, do your research, find their publicist and send a pitch email. If you never send the email, they can’t say yes. Celebrities usually only want to talk when they’re promoting something, so keep your eye on what’s coming out and strike in advance of the release!
Not checking social media or email while on vacation.
🚨If u only have time for 1 thing🚨
How to Destroy Everything is about a wild and complicated narcissist, a swindler, a crook, and a father named Richard Jacobs who ruined his life plus the lives of anyone who found themselves in his orbit. Hosted by Richard’s son, Danny, and his son’s childhood friend Darren, it’s best described as a docu-dramedy. Danny and Darren are trying to map out Richard’s life, to trace all the carnage and devastation that fell in his wake. There have only been a few episodes (episodes are coming out sporadically which is kind of driving me crazy but also makes me anticipate every episode more) but so far we’ve learned that there was a Richard Support Group of more than a dozen people who were screwed over by Richard (the group had its own newsletter) and Danny and Darren have tracked down a 16-year-old girl who now lives in the home Richard lived in before he died. Danny’s mom part of this show, and it’s not just about the wild story or the investigative aspect that keeps this podcast engaging…Danny and Darren are real childhood friends who know and understand each other. And Darren witnessed somed of Richard’s most bizarre moments. (Like scraping cheese/toppings off pizza and eating an entire pie without bread, in front of children who wanted to share that pizza. I couldn’t make that up if I tried.) This is a portrait of a monster but also about Danny, how he coped in big ways (getting sued by Richard) and small (Richard legally changed the family home address to The Royal Manor, which meant pizza delivery people would never agree to drop off pizzas.) But its’ also about his friendship with Darren, which makes this…potentially frightening and bummer of a podcast feel a whole lot lighter and more friendly.
✨NPR’s All Things Considered ran my story from My Unsung Hero about falling on ice, and the woman who saved my life.
✨For the season finale of Podcast 360, Amy Choi interviewed Arielle Nissenblatt about podcast growth. Not to brag but I totally nailed her two-truths-and-a-lie.
✨On Podcast Bestie, Tink’s Andreea Coscai helps offer tips for an indie tune-up.
🎙️Maddy, Mark, and Ryan have made a sci-fi and a rom-com, and now they’re making a horror. (Let’s Make a Horror.) Just like the previous seasons, they’re talking to film- and SPOOK-makers to figure out what makes a good horror film, and then they’re actually going to do it. (Unlike previous seasons, they’re going to actually make a short film based on the script they write.) Another twist: they don’t know anything about horror, and some of them (Maddy) don’t even like it. In the first episode, they talk to the director of The Blair Witch Project, Eduardo Sánchez and try to pinpoint what makes them scared. (Some things on the list…horses, “being alone in a field and someone comes running,” kidnappings, being buried alive…which got me thinking…would you rather be buried alive in a coffin or in straight-up dirt? So much to think about. I can’t wait to pee my pants to the final movie. Should we plan a watching-party? Listen here.
🎙️Rappers are great storytellers and have a way with words, but what we hear them talk about is often limited to their music. On Hip Hop Horror Stories, rapper Belly gets other hip-hop artists to share the stories that in some cases, make them shit their pants. (Symba’s story nearly killed me.) These guys are digging deep into their childhoods, getting vulnerable, and admitting why even now, they are afraid to walk by certain places or be alone in their homes. The sound design is immersive, there’s original music, and paired with the colorful storytelling, this podcast feels like a lyrical comic book. It’s like if ghost stories were rap tracks. Listen here.
🎙️Stories of haunted houses are scary, but why? On Imaginary Worlds, Eric Molinsky argues it might not be the ghosts, but the housing market, credit card debt, and real anxieties about home ownership. He talked with Alexandra West, co-host of Faculty of Horror, and Dahlia Schweitzer, author of Haunted Homes, about how movies like The Amityville Horror and Poltergeist are about much more than lost souls. We have an emotional obsession with home sweet home, but houses are increasingly becoming a bigger and bigger (and more unrealistic) investment. So what the fuck happens when we die and some assholes move into our house when we die? How would you feel (This is the premise of Beetlejuice.) These haunted house stories (soooo many “ancient burial grounds”) reflect the economy and housing market. Oooo, spooky. Listen here.
🎙️Kid Fury was on Black People Love Paramore to talk about how much he loves The Golden Girls—how he started watching it with his grandmother, which Girl he identifies with, how the show as aged freakishly well, and the revolutionary way it talked about AIDS, HIV, drug addiction, homelessness, gambling and drug addiction, race, homosexuality, and finding love at a certain age. And of course: why on earth so many Black people love it so much. This was a love letter to The Golden Girls, a great way to hear even more of Kid Fury (if you can’t get enough of him on The Read) and a reminder that The Golden Girls’ theme song slaps. (“If you threw a party, invited everyone you knew, you would see the biggest gift would be from me and the card attached would say, thank you for being a friend.”) Also: now that I know the Golden Girls were in their 50s (Blanche was 47) I cannot unknow it. Listen here.
🎙️Heavyweight is back, but if you still can’t get enough of Jonathan Goldstein, you won’t want to miss his long-running show Wiretap, which features Jonathan and his funny friends having conversations about everything from being a full-time Santa to having hope. They’re light-hearted, meandering, thoughtful conversations about topics big and small. If you ever wanted to hear what Jonathan’s private conversations sound like with his friends, listen here.
🎙️By exploring his obsession with obituaries and the dearly departed whose obits may have slipped through the cracks, Mo Rocca shares, on each episode of Mobituaries, a deep look into a pocket of history and the fascinating life of a person who we don’t know enough about. Every single time I listen to one, I become an absolute superfan with the subject of the episode, the same way a four-year-old gets obsessed with trains, until the next story comes out. (My June Foray phase is not over.) Before the Peggy Lee episode, I knew who Peggy Lee was (this will shock no one…I knew her as the voice of Peg in Lady and the Tramp and hardly anything else.) But Peggy Lee was frighteningly talented. Her signature sultry, cool, and nuanced voice made her as versatile as it did a revolutionary. Mo talks to her granddaughter, who spent time with Peggy transforming into Peggy Lee! (A four-hour process that included a bubble bath.) Peggy was not without her critics (some people said she was copying Billie Holiday,) her Broadway show was a flop though I would have killed to see it, and her career ended somewhat sadly. Maybe that’s why she didn’t get the attention she deserved? Listen here.
🎙️Obitchuary is an ode to those obituaries that make you go huh? Spencer Henry and Madison Reyes sit back and read the ones that seem to be written by…someone with an axe to grind. Spencer and Madison understand that reading between the lines of obituaries is a juicy exercise, and Obitchuary is like a fun-filled combination of Mobituaries and Beach Too Sandy, Water Too Wet. They’re the kind of people who I could listen talk about anything, but they’re really honing in on darkly hilarious stuff. They also bring in really strange history and facts about funeral traditions, odd cremations, and rituals from all over the world. Listen here.
🎙️The award-winning podcast The Heist is dedicated to exposing systemic injustices often hidden from the United States public’s eyes. (Season two, The Wealth Vortex, won the 2023 Excellence in Financial Journalism Award for best audio reporting and was nominated for an Ambie.) It’s back with a single, very personal story that focuses on a heist by the US government of land — and wealth — from America’s Black farmers and ranchers. April Simpson reports, and in her conversations with the show’s star Nate Bradford, whose ranching business was nearly killed by the USDA, you feel like you’re sitting in her pocket as she travels to his home and hear real-talk about the hardships of being a Black farmer in America. It’s undeniably racist, enraging, and eye-opening. The Heist perfectly combines meticulous reporting with deeply personal narrative, to blow open government secrets with a human aspect that makes us feel the pain. Listen here.
🎙️Radio Rental returned with two very scary stories about observations that cannot be explained. The first one, about a hunter in the woods, was so well written and oddly specific, I really felt like I was watching something with my eyes. Radio Rental always does a good job mixing ghosty scary with murdery scary. I loved these stories because they’re a reminder that even if you don’t believe in this stuff, fear is real. And the fear these storytellers experienced felt very real. When you’re hunting alone in the woods or on a lonely road at night, something could happen to you or to your imagination. One of those options is slightly scarier than the others, but when you’re terrified…does it matter? Listen here.
🎙️playing god? tells stories of people whose lives were transformed (and sometimes saved) by medical innovations, and the bioethicists who help guide complex decisions. The series kicks off with Andrea, a woman who nearly died in a car explosion—her father fought to keep her alive, her friends had a fit and insisted she wouldn’t want to live with the new life she would have. (Multiple surgeries, lost limbs, and facial disfiguration.) It’s an incredible story with a messy question of ethics. Who decides if Andrea should live? And how can we possibly prepare our loved ones to make this decision for us? You would think it would be awkward for Andrea, who is very much alive, and the friends who wanted her to die. But they’re still friends. She’s glad she’s alive. So, so glad. But tells them, “I would’ve let you die, too.” I guess she didn’t lose her sense of humor. Listen here.
🎙️I love you!
📦 From the Archives 📦
[From May 11 2020] I love The Boring Talks, which uses storytelling to prove that potentially boring things are actually beautiful and exciting. (One of my favorite episodes is about pencils.) A new episode is about breakfast cereals is hilarious and poetic. It’s a personal story about a narrator and the way breakfast cereals allowed them to explore their identity. Sounds lofty, I know, but trust me. It works.
Natalia Petrzela: working with primary sources and biography
On Thursday, October 26th, historian, author and host of Past Present and Welcome To Your Fantasy, Natalia Petrzela moderates a panel featuring the makers of podcasts working with primary sources and biography to shed light on historically marginalized communities and injustice. Panelists will include Eric Marcus of Making Gay History, Julie Golia of Flatbush+Main, Virginia Millington, Managing Director of Recording & Archive at StoryCorps, and David Brown of LBI’s own Exile.
The panel discussion you're moderating focuses on the process of bringing archives/archival collections to life for listening audiences. Why do you think podcasting is such a great medium for doing so?
Natalia Petrzela: Podcasting is an incredible medium for storytelling with primary sources, because there are so many ways to bring history to life. If you’re used to writing on the page, it feels like a whole new world to be able to use the audio directly rather than describe it.
For archives and research libraries that may be considering podcasting for the first time, what's one myth about the medium you hope to debunk with this panel discussion?
NP: I think that in podcasting in general - and in primary source research too - people really underestimate how much time and skill it takes to do it well. Of course, the first crucial step is having access to a repository, but it’s equally important that audio and video materials be clearly categorized, that there be available hardware on which to play it - yes, turntables, 8-tracks, cassettes, VCRs, etc - and that the researcher have a system for taking notes, which is harder for audio than written text. Also, not all audio is well suited for podcasts. You might have many hours of oral histories or school board proceedings, which can be very useful, but only when highly edited and written around. Very few people want to hear the full, unedited audio of this sort of material, and editing it down requires time and skill, even - especially - if the final product sounds smooth and natural. For an archive, that means really investing in the team who will make your podcast.
What prompted you to try podcasting as an extension of your work as a historian and educator?
NP: When I was first asked to be the third member of the Past Present podcast (nearly 400 episodes to date and going strong!) in 2015, I barely knew what a podcast was. I did know I loved communicating with a general audience outside the academy, and that I had to conserve my writing energy for the scholarly projects that were my priority. I quickly fell in love with the medium, and realized that it used a very different energy than writing, so I *could* fit it into my life, and that people related very differently, and in some ways more intimately to audio than written text. I was hooked! My experience making Welcome to Your Fantasy – a story about the Chippendales phenomenon – only convinced me further of the power of audio to immerse people in a historical moment, and to engage them in the kind of historical analysis that too often remains the purview of specialists. I have been teaching podcasts - and how to make podcasts - as well, and my students love learning this way.
What's one podcast based on an archival collection that you want more people to listen to and why?
NP: Let's start with Exile from LBI! One problem in the podcast space is that it is so diffuse - it is nearly impossible to keep up with all the great work being done, especially the shows that don't receive a lot of press coverage. Exile is a wonderful example of the artistry of historical podcasting. It draws centrally on the stories of Jewish refugees from the LBI archives, and also includes dramatic reading, thoughtful scripting, and really compelling sound design. It's really a model of the genre. I also must recommend Welcome To Your Fantasy. What is interesting about that is that through making the podcast, we actually created an archive - of Chippendales-related media. It did not exist, and we realized as we were assembling and organizing these materials for our own research, that it could be of use to future scholars.
Other than this panel discussion are there any other new or upcoming projects you can and want to tell our readers about?
NP: First, there is always an upcoming episode of Past Present, so please go and check that out. I am very proud at how evergreen many of the episodes are; while we always peg episodes to the news, many find our deep-dive approach makes for evergreen content. The paperback of my new book, Fit Nation: The Gains and Pains of America's Exercise Obsession, comes out in April, so stay tuned for that - or buy it now in hardcover or audiobook. I have a few new book, video, and audio projects in the works, and will have more to share in coming months. Please stay in touch on social media @nataliapetrzela to learn more!
ARCHIVES TO EARBUDS: TELLING OUR STORIES is a free online panel discussion.
Register to attend here.
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