Archive for February, 2015

Sweetness and Light

Monday, February 9th, 2015

Had an impromptu photoshoot with sweet, sweet friends yesterday at brunch. Here’s one of us I love:

Green Blue Love

Green-Blue Love

And one of them:

Bunny Secrets

Bunny Secrets


Talk to Me in My Ear Right Now Just Us

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

Is it possible that I’ve not yet publicly discussed my love of podcasts?

I love podcasts. At least, I love the podcasts I love, which include almost the entire arts/culture NPR suite (a few caveats, but basically), especially Pop Culture Happy Hour; WTF (but of course); The Longest Shortest Time; Death, Sex & Money (Anna Sale, YOU ARE THE DOUGHNUT); The MothStartUp; and some new ones I’m just ramping up on, like Yo, Is this Racist? (Brilliant concept, that, and finely executed, too.)

(Yeah, I did Serial. I did Serial so hard that I was lined up and waiting for it pre-release.)

I love podcasts so much that I am joining Pop Culture Happy Hour’s Glen Weldon in worrying that my listening time has cut into my novel-reading time, which doesn’t feel one bit of good. And which I would like to change, et rapidement. So, Self. Maybe pay attention to what you just wrote there.

ANYway, at the moment I want to say only one quick thing (okay, maybe a few things) about one podcast (okay, maybe a few podcasts), starting with Invisibilia, the new one from NPR. And that’s this: It is so very close to being what I love. And yet, those echoes of RadioLab! Those purposefully stuttering intros and reassurances that we’re smart enough to comprehend their complicated science and those mugging co-hosts (whom I really like anyway) (but wish they would stop mugging)!

I know I’ve documented my deep frustration with RadioLab, the short version of which is CONDESCENSION, so when I heard that Invisibilia was essentially a cross-polination between RL and This American Life, I wished mightily for the heavier hand of influence to fall from TAL. It . . . doesn’t.

But there’s an addendum to that, too. Which is: Is it me, or has TAL gotten progressively more smug (and pandering) (and condescending) over the years? I was a fan waaaay back in the beginning of the game, in the middish 90’s. And true, I was awfully young then (barely a kitten) (with the itty-bittiest of claws) (and less discernment), but my sense is that for many years, TAL didn’t use cloying tactics and was instead basically story-forward.

These days! I mean, in the latest episode, which features a fantastically intelligent BBC piece about William Burroughs (about whom I care, basically, not at all—but it doesn’t matter! because the piece is stunning!), Ira finds it necessary to say something like, “We’re going to start the audio right now, okay? Right now.”


One more thing: I think these shows, not unlike a certain TED juggernaut, have a tendency to vastly oversimplify the science and draw Big Life Conclusions that aren’t properly substantiated. Even Serial, which was admirably careful about substantiating any claims it made, did something that pained me in its inaccuracy, which was to ask people if they were sure about things that they remembered.

I guess it’s not common knowledge, but what I understand to be scientifically true, based on the very cool work of this guy, is that certainty has absolutely no relationship to the truth; in fact, in some cases, being certain can have an inverse relationship with the truth such that the more certain you are, the less likely it is to be true. So asking someone how sure they feel about whether something happened is literally pointless. (Try it with your husband! See for yourself!)

And and and, I think it is common knowledge, at least among people who study the criminal justice system, that memory is highly unreliable in any case, that we remake our memories every time we recall them, and so nobody’s memory should be relied upon to convict: There should be actual evidence. I get that there’s a need to try to establish a narrative, and you can do that fairly reliably when multiple people’s stories line up, but even then, there are so many ways those people’s memories can be polluted, including the way the question is asked, what they may have already heard about the case, etc.

Serial does a good job of discussing the problems with memory, but it still makes the mistake of, for example, saying that it’s “unlikely” that Asia McClain is remembering the right day if her memory of talking to Adnan is tied to her memory of snow (given that it wasn’t snowing on January 13th, the day that Hae Min Lee went missing). Well, no. Because as the Serial post says earlier, her memory could be conflating that day with another day—and/or, I’ll add, it could be conflating what she and Adnan talked about with what she talked about with someone else, on some other day. It happens all the time. It’s how memory works*.

And . . . this was supposed to be a short post. I guess I’ll save my opinions about Big Hero 6 (funny! charming! sob-inducing!) and Chef (simultaneously well-meaning and depressingly, obliviously sexist—plus! a primer on social media marketing!) for another time. Or, for just now, via parentheticals.

*Conveniently, The New York Times just printed a piece that bears, I believe, some relevance here.