"Before everything, before even humans, there were stories.A creature, at a fire, conjuring a world with nothing but its voice and the listener's imagination. And now me, and thousands like me, in little booths and rooms at mics and screens all over the world doing the same for a family of listeners connected as all families are, primarily by the stories we tell each other. And after, after fire, and death or whatever happens next, after the wiping clean or the gradual decay... After the after, when there are only a few creatures left...
There will be one. At a fire. Telling a story to what family it has left.
It was the first thing and it will be the last.
Stay tuned next for more stories being told to you aaaaalll of the time whether you are away of them or not.
& from whatever fiction it is that we happen to be living together tonight:
Good night, Night Vale, good night."
-Welcome to Night Vale
Nothing calls my soul higher than an exceptional piece of radio. This nerdery is more and more open ever since Serial broke the internet in a way Kim Kardashian's (gorgeous) bum never could and I see more and more podcasts getting the cred they deserve, which is beautiful. But that being said, all of the top ten lists I see are always the same ones, over and over, and honestly I don't love most of them.
There are very few shows that I like that are two people blabbing about one of their lives. Interviews are fine, but also... confining. I am aware that I am sitting at my desk or on my run or cutting vegetables or trying to fall asleep at night as people who are cooler than me talk about how much cooler than me they are in a series of semi inspirational quotes that frequently sounds like a pinterest board given a voice.
I love stories.
Hearing other people's stories is the fastest way for me to travel, the only chance I get to escape my life most days. I love learning through what other people have learned. I love ideas that are shown through a collage of human voices. Fiction is great, but that's not quite what I'm talking about. I love hearing about lives that give each other context, that help me see a bigger picture in the world.
I love road trips.
I love pulling over because I need a sunflower, I love my linen shirt sticking to the back of a leather seat. I need to stop at the very old bowling alley on the way, and I will go kayaking even if we reach our final destination a little too late. I love the thin red stripes on the boxes all fries seem to come in, the pulpy green cartons that hold roadside raspberries. I love the #AllisonSparlingLemonSquareTourOfTheWorld hashtag, which is a thing. I love the freedom of following through on whims.
So you've heard a lot about how great podcasts are, how cool, how hip, the skinny jean wearing cousin of your concept of public radio. Here are some ones you can download that give you a taste of what the shows themselves promise. And then when you arrive wherever you arrive you can download every single episodes of your favourites.
Here are the pieces that I like most, the ones you probably haven't heard of already. The samplings of them I picked are about adventures physical and emotional. This is my attempt to try to celebrate the beautiful & the badass.
I hope these stories are great friends to you. Have a great summer.
Bayard Rustin: Who is this man? by State of the Re:Union
"Bayard Rustin was a man with a number of seemingly incompatible labels: black, gay, Quaker . . . identifications that served to earn him as many detractors as admirers. Although he had numerous passions and pursuits, his most transformative act, one that certainly changed the course of American history, was to counsel MLK on the use of non-violent resistance."
Al Letson's voice ties up the most phenomenal tribute to a man who deserves to be heralded beside Martin and Malcom. State of the Re:Union usually visits geographic areas, but this broader concept of community is one of it's greatest.
400,000 Stars by the Memory Palace
"These women ordered the heavens without ever having to look up."
If you're ever having trouble seeing the magic in math, listen to how what we know about the world was discovered by some truly badass mop wielding women. Play this around a little girl you love a lot.
Riss Park by The Heart
"In the summer of 1960, Joan Nestle was 20-years-old and in love. At the time, she lived in a Lower East Side tenement. The city was hot, sweaty and humid. Joan and her girlfriend Carol would ride the subway for an hour-and-a-half to Riis Park. Riis Park was, and still is, an easily accessible queer beach in New York City."
Young love in a time that's sweet & scary.
Mystery Man by Snap Judgement
You thought Serial was good? Listen to this story about a guy who discovers who his father actually was... maybe.
Fried Chicken: A Complicated Comfort Food by Gravy
"Fried chicken has both been the vehicle for the economic empowerment of a whole group of people—and the accessory to an ugly racial stereotype. How can something so delicious be both?"
Food politics peppered (HAHA GET IT?) with the stories of some truly inspiring female entrepreneurs.
What do Txts do to Actual Writing? by Note to Self
"In answer to the question of whether the digital age has changed her process, novelist Margaret Atwood simply said, “Do chickens have beaks?”
But there's plenty of (metaphorical) ink to be spilled on the subject of why writing has changed. To answer this question, we've decided to talk to a guy who wrote a pretty big deal book on the subject."
Manoush Zomorodi is the friend you wish you had.
The Compton's Cafeteria Riot: It was so more than Stonewall
Sylvia Rivera: Uncompromising Trans rights activist
Maria Tallchief: First grand ballerina of the United States
all by Stuff You Missed in History Class. I could listen to these charming ladies talk about absolutely anything, and the amount of effort they put into researching each episode really comes through in the careful way they explain even the words they use and their historic context.
Hark! Kate Beaton by Canadaland
Cartoonist Kate Beaton is an exemplary weirdo. Her webcomic about Canadian historical figures and literary ephemera has gained a global following of one million monthly readers. She has published an acclaimed book and her work has appeared in The New Yorker, but she still is largely a self-published online creator. Jesse tries to learn her secrets.
I don't love a lot of Canadian media circle jerks. I expletive-ing love Kate Beaton.
Case #2: Britney by Mystery Show
"Andrea's a writer no one reads. Then she makes a shocking discovery."
I never thought an episode centered around tracking Britney Spears would make me feel like my heart was smiling.
Dinner at the Afterglow by Lore
"Deep in the forest at the northern tip of a small island near Vancouver Island, there is a stone monument standing amidst the trees. How that structure came to be, and what it meant to those who built it, are both interesting stories. But it's the unofficial reports — the sightings and experiences of those who visit it — that truly deserve to be told."
Some Summer Stories by Home of the Brave
"These stories from the Home of the Brave archive have nothing in common, really, except they remind me of summer."
Well Scott, that's great. I also love his recording of Bernie Sanders.
The Friendliest Town in Texas by Here Be Monsters
"Shoppingspree Clark showed up on the side of the road outside the “Friendliest Town in Texas” with nothing more than a sketchpad and the burnt-out ruin of the RV he’d just bought.
Coleman, Texas’ self-claimed title is true because it used to be on a billboard above the highway. And the people that live there are diverse, troubled, religious, unusual…and friendly."
I've closed this off with what might be the boldest attempted road trip of all time. Here's to you, Shoppingspree Clark.