Archive for the ‘Radio’ Category


Monday, November 14th, 2016

Last week was not a good one for . . . humanity, I would say. And while I usually embrace darkness in art, literature, and podcasts, on Thursday I was tending carefully to my shredded nerves. I searched my podcast subscriptions for an episode of something that would cradle me in hope, and instead I found . . . something devastating that is also gorgeous.

Episode #7 of Heavyweight. Haunting. ¬†Unexpected. Gutting. And astonishingly relevant—although not literally. Highly recommended, unless you’re in emotional danger.

I’ve also been dipping into the work of Kate Braestrup, who told my single favorite story on The Moth. I started with her second memoir, Marriage and Other Acts of Charity, and now I want to read the rest of her books.

It might also be time to head back to For the Time Being, the Annie Dillard book that helped me through a dark year in 1999.

Sending out love to all of us who need it, which is, of course, all of us.

That Time o’ Year Again

Friday, December 4th, 2015

We’re in the countdown to Winter Travel (i.e., our annual 2+ weeks on the East Coast), so I’m lumping in my latest recs with my goodbye-for-this-year note.

Recently read and beloved:

1) The Story of My Tits, by Jennifer Hayden. Charming, funny, moving, and beautifully drawn graphic memoir that is much more than the story of Jennifer Hayden’s breasts. It’s the story of her life, more or less, told through the frame of her breasts—and the breasts, bodies, and souls of her mother, father, siblings, husband, children, etc.

I love the way Hayden depicts emotional experience, using dreamlike and visceral imagery to express what can’t necessarily be contained with words. I felt drawn in and held close, which was a privilege and a pleasure. Tits is densely packed with wit and keen observations, sometimes seemingly almost tossed away in tiny details. (I wish the frames were larger, actually, for that reason.) Anyway: highly recommended! A delightful and delightfully warm piece of work, full of tremendous heart and plentiful skill. YAY, YOU, JENNIFER HAYDEN.

2) El Deafo, by Cece Bell. Another graphic memoir, this one intended for young audiences, about the author’s experience as a deaf child in a hearing world. The drawings are incredibly compelling—brightly colored, adorable, and fully felt, with a spot-on sense of perspective and emotional richness. And everyone is a rabbit! Plus, the storytelling is pretty much perfection; it goes right to the heart with its emotional clarity. I wish I could buy this book for every 10-year-old on the planet. YAY, YOU, CECE BELL.

3) The podcast explosion is for real, and the embarrassment of riches can lead to magnificent experiences that are all too quickly forgotten. In recent weeks I’ve heard marvelous and stunning episodes on:

Sometimes, it’s good to live in the modern age.

Okay, peeps. That’s it until 2016. Hope your holidays are warm and bright or, failing that, that you don’t too much mind being in the soup. If you end up there, know that a large portion of humanity will be there with you. And maybe go outside and look at the sky and think about how big the universe is and how you don’t really matter anyway.

I find that helps.

September Culture Survey

Monday, September 20th, 2010

One excellent local show—In the Wound, at John Hinkel Park—and one very good one: Compulsion, at the Berkeley Rep.

I gave John The Bad Attitude about the former, having been warned that it was a retelling of The Iliad, one of my least favorite epics. (“He fell, and his armor clattered upon him.”) But it’s exceptionally well done, and smart, and moving. And memorable. With a lot to say about war, and a few other things. Though mostly war. LOVED Odysseus in a business suit, pure tactician. And the three goddesses on Taiko drums.

There’s a second part, Of the Earth, playing in December, and guess who’s going to that? This time without the attitude?

Compulsion has an intelligent script and a stellar cast (Mandy Patinkin included). I was not quite as gripped by the issues involved, but that’s likely a personal preference and not a statement about the strength of the play.

In film, I Netflixed A Single Man, most of which I ended up not seeing, because a) my eyes were rolled too far into the back of my head to catch what was happening on the screen, and b) I resorted to FFing in nearly every scene. People liked this movie? Colin Firth is fantastic, sure, but he has so little to work with! And every precious little art-directed-to-within-an-inch-of-its-life moment is so laborious and attenuated!

It reminded me of the work of all those self-styled freshman indie auteurs which, as a reviewer, I used to have to endure. And I guess technically that’s what Tom Ford is. But couldn’t he have found a better writer? Or, um, co-writer?

While I’m complaining, let’s have a word about Radiolab, ‘kay? I really want to like this show. I know a lot of people who, at least according to Facebook, like this show. And the content is almost always interesting. So why, why, WHY must they spoon-feed it to us in such mimsy morsels of chipper condescension?

They’re always self-interrupting and overlaying quotes, asking questions to which they obviously know the answers, fake-chuckling and nyuck-nyuck-elbow-nudging each other in an attempt to be chummy and natural. All of which adds up to a kind of over-smiley BSing I can’t stand the sound of. Just tell it to me, people. I have an attention span and a functioning brain.

Finally, Solar. I always have to work my way up to an Ian McEwan novel, because they tend to be dark and violent and even nasty, and I have a limited tolerance for that combination. But the writing is so good that they’re worth it.

Solar is dark, not violent, and a little nasty, such that while being very satisfying it also leaves something of a bad taste in the mouth—intentionally, of course. I suppose that’s what happens when your protagonist is utterly irredeemable, although still somewhat likable. I recommend it, and I enjoyed reading it, but I can’t say I’m fond of it. That’s almost always how I feel about McEwan—except for Atonement, in which I fell in love with Briony.

Maybe that’s the issue with McEwan—few lovable characters? Or maybe it’s more of a general tonal chill.