Saturday, November 22, 2008

Podcasts Picks of the Week - 11/23/2008

I've been a subscriber to the Merriam-Webster Word of the Day feature for a few years now, literally.

I just noticed that they've updated it. In addition to the definition, an example sentence and the other stuff you'd find in a dictionary, they now have an audio podcast section. You can go to iTunes and subscribe, but I'll just keep letting it arrive in my email box daily and listen to it from there.

With all the excitement that the election brought, I honestly just neglected to listen to the This American Life podcast. I'd been subscribed to it for awhile, but chose to skip it to listen to politics. I've been catching up this week, and oh wow, I've missed some good ones. Home Alone, this week's episode was just so touching and quite sad in some episodes (if you've not listened to their broadcasts before, they break the hour into an introduction and three acts). The first act of Home Alone was so sad and touching that I was close to tears on the subway.

I tracked back to listen to some other episodes. You can listen to the older episodes by going to their website. David Sedaris features prominently in This American Life, and that's fine. I just don't think he's all that funny. He makes me laugh from time to time. With that sort of lukewarm attitude for him, I just scroll over his parts most of the time. However, if you like him, then you ought to become a regular listener. If you don't like him, then do what I do, just fast forward ;) In contrast, I wish they'd feature Sarah Vowell more than they do. Hearing an episode she'd done for This American Life is actually what inspired me to subscribe. So more Sarah!!! Maybe she's just too busy being brilliant all on her own. Who knows?

Slate's Cultural Gabfest, the Identity Crisis edition, was really good this week. I got a bit heated when they discussed Rebecca Traister's recent piece on the mommification of Michelle Obama. I won't get very deep into what I think except to say I'm always very disappointed that feminists feel the need to attack another woman's choices. Maybe I'm misreading Traister's perspective, but reading what she wrote gave me the impression she just doesn't get it when it comes to how hard it can be to grow up black in America. I say that as someone who had many perks and I don't say that to imply that other children, including white children, don't have difficulties.

I just don't think Michelle Obama has been strong armed in any way to make her daughters her primary focus. It strikes me as cynicism in overdrive to read her actions as soley to benefit her husband's bid for president (yes, that was part of it), but I also truly believe her daughters are her number one priority. I know and I think any other black woman knows, if they've managed to get into and out of college and grad school and into a professional career that support is crucial. Anyway, Traister's framing of the issue is offensive in that if it's a smart woman that chooses to put her kids front and center that it's something to be questioned.

Last is a great fashion podcast and website I discovered this week. is the creation of two L.A.-based fashion journalists. I don't care too much about what celebrities wear. I just have a deeply ingrained resistance to celebrity worship in any form. However, I do like their trend analysis and how they present the looks they discuss. Here is the link to WhoWhatWear on iTunes.

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  1. On Michelle Obama;

    Focusing on her kids demonstrates her intelligence. Most people say that their family is more important than their career but if someone actually tries to demonstrate that with their actions, they are criticized. His ambitions are bigger than hers right now. She will have a rare life experience of being First Lady which will give her lots of influence and ability to do projects without being employed full-time. She has already been professionally successful and wants to ensure that her family is personally successful during this experience.

    Every choice has positive and negative aspects and different challenges and opportunities. By doing things the way she is doing, she will have the best chance at personal happiness and her talents will not be wasted. She is just not exposing herself for attacks by publicly talking about policy the way Hillary did when she was First Lady.

    The author may be lamenting the fact that society forces you to make a choice between home and career and though I do think society is harder on women than men, I think she is making the choice to live by her priorities and that really isn't a sacrifice at all.

    On a much smaller scale, I turned down a full scholarship to Howard law school in order to get married and live overseas. I decided that I wanted to go to law school more than I actually wanted to be a lawyer and didn't want to start my marriage with a three year separation. My husband would have gone along with either decision, but what's the point of getting married to be separated that much? Combined with wanting to have kids and travel, it just made sense to delay that. Kid #1 is two and kid #2 is due in March and we are living in our second overseas assignment. My son is hilarious and fun to hang out with and there is nothing I would rather be doing right now. Law school can wait another few years.

  2. The author may be lamenting the fact that society forces you to make a choice between home and career and though I do think society is harder on women than men, I think she is making the choice to live by her priorities and that really isn't a sacrifice at all.

    I think you're right about this. Society is definitely harder on women than men. I wouldn't know first hand because I've put off family indefinitely and, at this rate, probably permanently.

    It just seems that Traister is truly overstating it. We've had a career woman in the White House before, Hillary. She was the first First Lady with a graduate school level education and she had pains adjusting to those expectations.

    I say criticize society, but why write a two page essay implying that Michelle has somehow compromised herself? Realistically speaking, yes, she rolled back on the opinionated topics. Hell, I've done that just in my day to day life. It's easier when you're not seen as that "intimidating black woman" and they were trying to make her out as some crazed America-hating militant.

    It just to come after her because she's chosen to focus solely on her daughters attacks the fundamental goal of feminism: choice for women.

  3. This American Life is one of my favorite shows. In 1997, I lived in Boston. I didn't have a radio in my house, but I did have one in my car. Each week, whatever night it was on, I'd get in and drive around listening to the show. Being a west-coaster and not familiar with New England, I ended up exploring wonderful areas that I never would have otherwise.

    I have recommended the show to many people who are planning to move to the US or have kids who live there. It is a place where you can hear real stories of real people. Some wonderful, some awful. Many bring tears to my eyes while others make me laugh out loud.

    When people ask me if I miss my home, I say that sure, I miss my friends and family, but with resources like the internet at our fingertips, and podcasts of shows like This American Life, I think I'm able to stay fairly connected to American culture in a way that wasn't possible a decade and a half ago.

  4. I miss my home enough that I'm wrapping this roadshow up pretty soon.

    This American Life, however, is great. I love the stories. However, the stories of my friends and family is just as entertaining even if they're not as well spoken ;)


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