Podcasts I’ve Been Devouring

For some reason, I’ve been more in the mood for podcasts the past couple of weeks. And I’ve been having better luck finding ones that are really engaging stories and relevant to my interests. Here are some I recommend:

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  • 18 Days (WUSA): 18 Days follows the disappearance of Relisha Rudd, an eight-year-old girl from Washington D.C. This case is maddening and so sad. Relisha was either given to or taken by a janitor at the homeless shelter she lived at with her family. She was not reported missing by her family for 18 days. Instead, she was reported missing by people at her school who realized that the “doctor” that was excusing her absences was not a doctor at all but the janitor, Khalil Tatum. In this three-part series you learn what police know (which is not much) and you hear from Relisha’s mother and grandmother. The saddest thing is that the people who would know where Relisha is are gone.

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  • Dr. Death (Wondery): What a podcast. In the same vain as Dirty John, Dr. Death follows a charismatic man who should’ve been stopped before he continued to hurt people. Unlike Dirty John though, Christopher Duntsch was not a fraud, he was an actual neurosurgeon. The host focuses not just on the doctor’s behavior, but also how the medical establishment let this doctor keep moving from hospital to hospital, continuing to hurt, maim, and kill patients. The podcast gives victims and doctors who stepped in a voice. It will be a six-part series total… currently there are four episodes out.

In the Dark

  • In The Dark (APM Reports): Probably the best podcast I’ve listened to in a good while. There are currently two seasons and each season follows a separate case. Season one is about the abduction of a young boy from Minnesota whose case goes unsolved for 27 years. The investigative journalists discover problems with the police investigation and why the killer evaded prosecution for so long. The second season is about Curtis Flowers, a man from Mississippi who has been tried for the same crime six times for the past 21 years, winning his appeal each time. The podcast focuses on the evidence and the District Attorney’s handling of the case. The reporting in season two is incredible.

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  • The Pope’s Long Con (Louisville Public Media): I was so sucked into this podcast. It’s only six parts and each episode is about 20 minutes. Plus, this podcast follows a bonkers story and a peculiar man, Danny Ray Johnson. He was an elected public official in Kentucky who lied about many of his qualifications and life experiences. He was a pastor of a biker church that illegally sold alcohol and where congregants could bring their guns. And that’s just the beginning. Hearing his tearful sermon stating that we must elect Donald Trump or face the worst America possible; hearing his sexual assault accuser who was 17 at the time speak her truth; and hearing how this story ends will have you on the edge of your seat. How could this man have been elected to public office?

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  • Septic (Roanoke Times): Septic is a seven-part podcast about the death of Noah Thomas, a five-year-old boy who was found inside of the family septic tank four days after he went missing. His mother, Ashley White, left her children unattended while she slept. Soon, everyone in the area accused Ashley’s negligence as the sole reason Noah died. This podcast is thoughtful and compassionate, taking into account the steps Ashley took to be a better mother and questioning the town’s social media reactions to her after the tragedy.


On my radar next:

  • 16 Shots (WBEZ / Chicago Tribune): About Laquan McDonald’s death at the hands of a police officer.
  • Missing Alissa: Looks at the unsolved case of a missing teen from Arizona. She’s been missing for 17 years.
  • The Teacher’s Pet (The Australian): About the disappearance of a housewife and mother in Australia. I started this one a few weeks ago but didn’t get too far.
as of late, books, history, podcasts

As of late | May 27, 2016

It’s been almost two months since my last “as of late” post, but that will be mitigated today! I have been keeping track of stuff I want to talk about on my Google Drive, but haven’t sat down and actually written the post. Alright, enough rambling, here’s what I’ve been into as of late…

Booktube’s influence in my life –> What Should I Read Next podcast

I’ve realized that booktube has been influencing the books I’ve been reading lately – more so than I really want it to be influencing what I’m reading. I don’t remember the last book I picked up that wasn’t even tangentially a recommendation from outside of booktube. YouTube is a great platform to get across to others that you love a book and that they should pick up said book and love it too. For this reason, I have been picking up more booktube recommended fiction and YA fiction than normal. There is nothing wrong with either, but I want my reading experience to be more diverse genre-wise and for my recommendations to come from more diverse sources, too.

As a result, I found a new podcast! Podcasts are the second most common way I find recommendations (typically On Point or Fresh Air or On the Media) will talk about books in segments they are doing, thus piquing my interest. Then, I’ll get the book, I’ll read the book, and I’ll love the book (best example: Matt Bai’s All the Truth is Out: the Year Politics Went Tabloid, which was a recommendation of On the Media).

I haven’t been following up on podcast recommendations lately, so I found “What Should I Read Next,” a podcast by Anne Bogel. She has guests with very different reading tastes and asks them about books they’ve loved, hated, and what they are currently reading. Then she finds them new books based on that. My favorite thing about this podcast is that Anne has “normal” readers like you and me on her show – it’s not a show with authors, or well-known people in the book world, so it’s very grounded.

So far I am really loving the format and the book picks. I shall get to reading some of them soon. (I need to find more reading podcasts that match my tastes, so if you have any you should drop them in the comments.)


booksareweapons 2Books as weapons

Librarians were important in the war effort during WWI and WWII. They provided books for soldiers to lift morale, to offer technical education, and often to help soldiers connect with the world they knew back home. During WWI and WWII, librarians were responsible for collecting 10 million and 17 million books, respectively. You should read the short piece on NPR if you’re a fan of libraries and history (hey, that perfectly describes me).

Recently added to my TBR

One of my favorite past time is adding new books to my monstrously huge TBR (it’s well over 200 books… I don’t have enough hours in the day and I don’t have enough years of life!!).

I have been fascinated by White Trash: the 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg. I first heard about it on On the Media and it pretty much has all the history things I find interesting: the intermingling histories of culture, race, and class. I’m also really excited to read Peggy Orenstein’s new book, Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape. Again, topics I find fascinating: culture and how it impacts sexual ideals and sexual pressures.  Another Jon Krakauer book (I read Missoula this year): Into Thin Air. I’ve been researching Mt. Everest a lot recently since in the past week a handful of people have died trying to climb or descend the mountain. I’ve heard Into Thin Air is gripping, so it might be the perfect non-fiction book to get me back to non-fiction. Ok, I will stop writing about TBR books after this one: Tiny Little Thing by Beatriz Williams. This one I got from What Should I Read Next as a “beach read” that still has great, well-developed characters you can connect with, AND a 1960s historical setting. We shall see if I like it!

A really fantastic YouTuber I found recently

Typically I watch either booktubers or family vloggers on YouTube. The other day I found a new YouTuber that is neither of those. Evelyn from the Internets makes more comedic videos based on stuff that happens in her life. I found her through the VEDA videos she was creating in April after I saw a link to her videos on Rosianna Halse Rojas’s Twitter. The one that made me laugh the hardest – like my belly hurt from laughing – was one about how Kanye West saved her life. Her video about Beyonce’s Lemonade album got featured at Beyonce’s concert tour. She also made a reaction to that a few days ago which is amazing (linked below). I haven’t watched all of the VEDA videos but hopefully I can make my way through them soon.

The cicadas are here

Have you guys heard? A brood of cicadas that have been in the ground for 17 years have started to come out. They are mostly found in West Virginia and Ohio, but will also make appearances in some parts of the surrounding states. David Attenborough’s video about these long-in-the-ground cicadas were my first introduction to what these cicadas sound and look like. I have already started to see them on the ground and on trees. Of course, nothing is as gross and aggravating as cockroaches, so I think I am good. However, the 17-year cicadas haven’t started “singing” to mate just yet. If you go to 1:52 in the David Attenborough video and listen to the noise the cicadas make you can get an idea… I don’t know if I am ready for that mental torture.

Great stuff in short

New currency featuring women and people of color. I am really happy they decided to not just re-do the $20, but to re-do a bunch of other bills. I love that Eleanor Roosevelt will be on the back of the $5! 

New national monument to women’s equality in D.C. I will be taking a trip to D.C. with my dad and brothers this June, so it’s definitely on the list of things I have to see.

Jeffrey Golberg on On Point with Tom Ashbrook about Obama’s foreign policy. This hour honestly explained everything I could ever imagine asking about Obama’s foreign policy and how he sees the world. If you’ve ever been stumped about how to think about Obama’s foreign policy, Jeffrey Goldberg explains it in terms we easily understand, and then we can compare Obama’s policies and ideologies with how we (ourselves) think foreign policy should be done.

The Lonely Death of George Bell by N.R. Kleinfield. This story is just, wow. It was first published in 2015, but I never read it until it was nominated for a Pulitzer. At first I was like, “This is way too long” but then I started reading and soon I couldn’t stop. A great piece of journalism, which also poses lots of questions about journalistic ethics (would George Bell have wanted this published?). 

This is what happens when I rack up all my favorite media things for a month and a half: 1200 words… hopefully I’m back sooner than this next time!


as of late, music, podcasts, television

As of late | February 4, 2016

American Crime – no not FX’s new “American Crime Story” anthology. The other anthology, ABC’s American Crime

I’ve been really into one-and-done television series lately. Television series with a manageable amount of episodes. Television series that I don’t have to put a lot commitment into. Next one for me: American Crime season 2. I watched the first four episodes available pretty much in one sitting (minus the first which I watched before falling asleep the night before). This series is just riveting. Its portrayal of sexuality and identity, privilege and money, and most of all: consent all have me super engrossed. I think the actors are doing such a fantastic job and the kinds of themes they are dealing with are so serious and important today. I can’t wait to keep watching this season. 

NPR’s Fresh Air has been on point

I’ve been really digging NPR’s Fresh Air lately. I only just recently subscribed but these episodes have been the most informative and insightful lately: An interview with Jill Lepore about the creator of Wonder Woman, who led an atypical life for the era he lived in, including an arrangement between his wife and his mistress to coexist. Or NYT reporter Trip Gabriel actually explaining and enlightening me on HOW THE HECK THE IOWA CAUCUS WORKS. Shout out to him (and Terry Gross for the questions non-politically savvy Americans would pose about the process). And finally an episode about China’s one-child policy with Mei Fong – what it meant for Chinese families and what happened when rules were broken.  I was really interested to learn that there is a 30+ million surplus of men who cannot find mates, that there were many children who went “unregistered” to the government and cannot even get a transportation pass, and how this policy unintentionally ended up helping a generation of women born in urban areas succeed in their academic and professional lives (if you were a daughter – and they kept you – all of your parents’ resources focus exclusively on you).

Stumbling upon a random fact about WVU’s favorite song

A really funny thing I learned recently totally randomly: WVU’s theme song (and since 2014, the state’s official song), Take Me Home, Country Roads by John Denver, with lines like “Country roads, take me home / To the place I belong / West Virginia / Mountain mamma, take me home / Country roads” was actually not originally a song about West Virginia but a song about western Virginia and possibly about some parts of Maryland. It features lines about the Shenandoah River and the Blue Ridge Mountains which don’t really cross into West Virginia. West Virginians love this song. Whenever I have been in public during a WVU game, I have heard West Virginians singing it. Regardless of this silly fact, the song is actually very good.

Why did Jubilee have to go?

You guys, Ben sent Jubilee home this week on The Bachelor and it’s depressing as heck. After all this talk about how The Bachelor franchise is going to push for more diversity, we dump one of the more interesting contestants this season and it’s what, week four? five? (Word on the street is that the next Bachelorette might be Caila, who is half-Filipina. Sorry, but you won’t get a better story than Jubilee’s – an orphan from Haiti, all of her family died except her, a war veteran… this is all you could ever want, Bachelor producers!) This piece from Fusion charts all black contestants in the Bachelor franchise. It’s not necessarily eye-opening because it is a well-understood fact that black contestants don’t do well on this show. I can even understand that the TV climate was different in the late ’90s and the ’00s, but seriously I can’t excuse 2010 to now at all. Look at all the cast pictures in the Fusion article and realize how little representation there is. I wish Fusion would do one for Latina girls in the future.

(P.S I’m still mad we got CHRIS so boring and so cannot formulate a complete sentence SOULES instead of MARQUEL last season. Still not over it…)


as of late, history, podcasts, television

As of late | January 19, 2016

Hello there! I haven’t made an “As of late” post in a bit so I thought I should. This post only focuses on TV and podcasts. I haven’t really been that connected with the news lately. So here’s what I’ve been watching and listening to that I would like to recommend.

UnREAL, a very unique television show

When I first heard of UnREAL as a concept, I was totally in. I watched the first three episodes when they aired, but then suddenly stopped watching the show altogether. This past weekend I’ve been catching up: I’m now on the penultimate episode of season one. I think one of the greatest aspects of the show is how it deals with and ultimately stomps on typical drama/romance tropes. Moreover, the contestant characters are three-dimensional and interesting (the LGBTQ character comes to mind).

Hands down, though, my favorite thing about this show is its main character, Rachel. Rachel’s constant back-and-forth between being a socially conscious and empathetic woman to a manipulative and conniving reality TV show producer is superbly handled by the actress (Shiri Appleby). I connect with Rachel in certain ways – I am not apologetic about my love for The Bachelor franchise, but I do know it portrays women and romantic relationships degradingly. Rachel, too, loves her job and is good at her job but knows it is not the best situation for those involved. Yet I keep watching The Bachelor and Rachel keeps working on Everlasting. I’m excited to see how this UnREAL season ends (and also how The Bachelor goes this season, too).

Mercy Street, a new period drama on PBS

I just heard about the new PBS drama Mercy Street, which focuses the lives of two volunteer nurses on opposite sides of the Civil War. In this article, the filmmaker/producer of the show discusses what it’s been like scouting and filming in Civil War-era location in Alexandria and other parts of Virginia. I had no idea this show was being made, but now I for sure need to watch the pilot. The producer/filmmaker, Lisa Wolfinger, is a historian by training, which is fantastic news to me. There are also some very interesting actor choices (including a bearded Josh Radnor) and a producer credit for Ridley Scott. So long as this doesn’t end up a soap opera a la Downton Abbey, I hope to see this show on air for years to come.  

Making a Murderer, after I watched it all in a few days

Yep, I’ve watched Making a Murderer like (it seems) everyone else. I think overall the series is fantastic. Some takeaways after I was done: 1) I’m still in shock that episodes three and four are things that exist and happened. 2) I have the utmost respect for the producers – this series basically took 10 years to complete and that is an amazing feat to accomplish. 3) One thing that Slate’s Culture Gabfest brought up recently about MaM is how interesting it is that there is no real narrator. For instance, Sarah Koenig tells us her point of view in Serial and we never really got to fully know any of the personalities involved in season 1 (what do I really know about Adnan, Jay, and Hae Min Lee? Nothing, really). I feel like I understand the complex personalities of MaM a little better by having them tell the story with their own words instead of having an outsider (like a journalist or filmmaker) telling me who he or she thinks is culpable. 4) Finally, if Steven Avery did not commit this murder (?), then these producers were nearby the real killer for probably 10 years. I wonder if we’ll ever really know what happened to Teresa Halbach.

Fresh Air’s recent podcast episode about a woman’s search to discover her family’s past

Fresh Air’s recent episode titled, “A Family Discovers Its Connection to an Escaped Slave” had me totally enraptured today. In the episode, the host interviews Regina Mason, the great, great, great granddaughter of a runaway slave widely considered the author of the first fugitive slave narrative. I can’t imagine what this search meant for her – it must be very emotional and harrowing but also very empowering and important to know who her ancestor was. It was a great hour – it reminded me a lot of PBS’s Finding Your Roots aka one of my favorite shows, but with someone who is not a celebrity. I am constantly gravitating towards stories about genealogy and family history, especially pertaining as to how individual stories can add to the fuller history of an institution (slavery in this case). If any of that sounds interesting to you, you can hear it here or download it wherever you get your podcasts.