Links I loved, vol. 3

Need a reason to go to Tokyo? Here’s two: a bookstore-themed hotel and a stuffed animal cafe.

Think twice before you ask me where I’m from, or why I hate this question, even though you mean it so well.

Why the History Channel programs so many blue-collar survival shows, and what it says about America.

For all you library nerds out there: the editors of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books share their library memories.

What highbrow scholars read on the beach.

For all my Mormon readers: a 1978 take on the pioneer story by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. Worth reading, I promise, and probably the only time I’ll tell you to go read the Ensign.

“Knees up like a unicorn!” It’s a Mattel commercial worth watching.

And two podcasts on Halloween: one from This American Life (spooky raccoons, parental jokes gone wrong, and more), one from Backstory (for those of us who like to intellectualize our holidays).

Have a great weekend!


what I listened to, mid-October edition

This week’s recommendations for your listening pleasure:

–are you curious how monstrosities such as the Double Down come to be? (If you don’t know, God bless you, keep it up. The Double Down is a chicken ‘sandwich,’ but it uses fried chicken as a bun instead of bread. Yes, really.) Listen to the first story on This American Life here.

–Want to know how cultures interact? Listen to Backstory’s episode on Chinese-American relations, and hear how fusion Mexican-Chinese food came to be, what it means to be a model minority, and the role pingpong played in bringing Nixon to China.

–Radio West ran an episode with journalist Michael Isikoff, about the American government’s war on gays and “sexual deviants.” Worth knowing about. You can listen here.

–I’m spending time in California this week, so this was good timing: Planet Money’s episode on Silicon Valley called “Bubblelicious” in true economy nerd fashion.

for your listening pleasure

via. Josie listens with me, but isn't nearly as engaged as this bulldog.

via. Josie listens with me, but isn’t nearly as engaged as this bulldog. I’m pretty sure Mara sleeps though it all.

I listen to a lot of podcasts: while cleaning, or cooking, or walking the dog, or just while getting ready in the morning. This week’s highlights:

On KUER Radiowest:

Bad Faith. Dr. Paul Offit talks about the relationship between faith and medicine in America, delving into legal issues, but also theological ones (arguing that neglecting to get your child medical help is actually anti-Christian, not just unethical).

The Mormon Struggle for Whiteness. I took a class from Dr. Paul Reeve at the University of Utah and it was highly enjoyable experience. This serves as an introduction to his new book and comes highly recommended for anyone interested in Mormonism and/or American racial norms.

On This American Life:

Game Face. The whole episode was interesting, but especially act four on chronic blushing. I don’t blush as much anymore (teaching beat that out of me, frankly), but ask me a personal question in a group of people and all bets are off.

I also have such an overload of empathy that watching TV is an ordeal: when something embarrassing happens to a character, I get an almost unbearable load of second-hand embarrassment. I’ve taken to watching TV with the remote close by, and can find the mute button with my eyes closed, or in a white-hot panic, as it may be. Luckily L. doesn’t mind watching with closed captioning, and some shows I just let him watch by himself because I’d have to mute 3/4s.

Other favorites include Planet Money, Backstory, Ask Me Another, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, and Stuffed You Missed in History Class.


I listen to lot of podcasts. Mostly because I like words more than I like music, and also because I like to keep my thoughts occupied, so I’ll put on a podcast while cleaning or getting dressed or walking to the store. Because I’m probably not the only one that likes to stop the brain hamsters with spoken word, I though I’d share my favorites with you.

I’d have to start with This American Life. It is the podcast that got me into other podcasts, and I never skip a week. Some of them, like “81 words” or “Babysitting” or “Act V” I’ve heard time and time again. I love Ira Glass, I love all the other contributors, and I love the stories they come up with every week. American life at its best.

Savage Love – the sex advice column turned podcast. Couldn’t be more different from TAL, except for the human interest factor. I listen to this one, frankly, for its entertainment value and sex positivity factor. It also helps me keep up with the latest political issues and scandals. Also, I’m glad my life isn’t as complicated as those of the callers. (As an aside, a couple months ago, Ira Glass was on Savage Love. My two favorite podcasts came together and it was amazing.)

KUER RadioWest. This is a relatively late addition, but I love it. The host (Doug Fabrizio) is charming, smart, and knows how to field even the most random question from callers. They cover all kinds of issues, ranging from dessert to Jeff Warren to inquisitions. Also, it’s a daily podcast, so there’s always something interesting in my iTunes folder.

Slate’s Lexicon Valley. This one I adore for the nerdiness alone. They talk about grammar, and make nerdy jokes, and sound kind of uncomfortable on air. Awesome.

NPR’s Planet Money. I don’t like economics. I don’t understand money issues. I skip over the economics pages in the newspaper (also sports, by the way). But Planet Money gets me to care. They put together short shows explaining the workings of the economy, everything from the housing crisis to why taxi medaillons cost $1 million in New York City.

So this is what I do when I can’t read. How about you? What do you do when there’s nothing to keep your mind busy? Or do you revel in doing nothing? (And can you teach me how to do that?)

Sherlock Holmes

Last year, the BBC came out with three Sherlock Holmes stories, all set in modern London. Holmes has a cell phone and texts (cell phones actually play crucial roles in almost all the stories), Watson blogs, rather than writes, and the horse cabbies are all motorized now. It’s really wonderful, and B. and I have watched the episodes numerous times. This January, the second season begun, and we’re now two episodes in. Our only complaint is that it can be really complicated to follow the multiple story lines, but since that just means we have to watch them twice, there’s no harm done.

On a related note, while scrounging around the Internet for inspiration for a conference talk I’m giving later this month, I happened upon the KUER podcasts from PRI:Radio West, hosted by Doug Fabrizio. The first episode I listened to was about Sherlock Holmes, and it was riveting. Leslie Klinger was the guest, and I really want a copy of his book, The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes. They talked about a lot of things, including an almost secret society of Sherlockians, made up of Holmes experts (I think most of them are scholars, and they like to treat the Holmes stories as biography, instead of fiction. That’s intruiging, right there, and the inner academic in me wants to play along). But they also talked about Watson, and they were spot on in saying that Watson is central to the stories. Sherlock Holmes is fascinating, but you’d never want to be his friend and hang out with him. No, you come for Holmes and stay for Watson, and it’s only through him that the stories are accessible.

I’d go as far as to say that most of the humanity that Holmes exhibits is accessed through Watson. It’s a very different relationship than, say, Poirot and Hastings in Agatha Christie’s novels. Hasting muddlings are a neat counterpart to Poirot’s vain murmurings, and you need him to access the story since everything happens in Poirot’s head, but Poirot can (and does) exist without Hastings and yet be Poirot. Holmes can’t, not in that way. Not even in the modern, virtual version. Okay, enough with the literary criticism.

Anyway, if you like podcasts, go add this one to your iTunes. It’s accessible, smart, engaging, and, as far as I can tell, about any random thing that can happen on this earth. This should make for a neat array of interesting tidbits you can drop into any awkward social situation, ensuring that while you still seem awkward, you at least seem smart and awkward. That’s a win, right?

does reading this count as quiet time?

I was in Amsterdam last week to attend my sister’s graduation and of course, had to step inside the American Book Center for a moment. I have rhapsodized about the wonder that is the ABC before, and I will do so many times in the future. I love the fact that they have a large selection of half-price books, as that means I can get two for the price of one..which is what I did. I can’t write about the second book I bought, as it’s a present for my sister, but I can write about the first one.

I know Jonathan Goldstein from This American Life (what did I ever do before I listened to that show?!) and knew of this book, but I didn’t know it was out yet. And I most definitely did not expect to find it for half price! But I did, and I bought it.

Goldstein retells some of the famous story from the Bible (Jonah in the whale, Adam and Eve, Jacob and Esau, Samson, David, even Joseph and Mary) from a new perspective. Some of it is funny, some of it is tragic, and some is in between. I liked it, but not excessively so. If I had to rate it, I’d give it 7 out of 10. I think it’s especially good if you’ve grown up hearing these stories because you then appreciate the contrast a bit more, not to mention that you actually know how Goldstein is inverting the story as it is traditionally told.

The cover reminds me of an art book I also saw at the ABC, which I loved and almost bought. It’s called Little People in the City, and if you go check out this blog you’ll see why. I highly recommend it!

where the wild things are made into a movie and novel

I grew up with Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are. First, it was read to me, later, I read it to myself countless time. It’s one of my all-time favorite childrens books, so I was really excited when I heard a movie is being made. And then I found out Dave Eggers wrote a book, called The Wild Things, loosely based on Sendak’s book. I have to read that.* And then I have to read Sendak’s book again, and then I have to see the movie.

*and I don’t even like Dave Eggers that much! I read A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, which was okay, but a bit too long and rambling for my case. Although I’ve heard Eggers a couple times on This American Life, and that made me appreciate him more. I haven’t dared try What Is the What, but maybe Wild Things is exactly what is needed to make me a fan. Either way, I can’t wait till the book comes out on October 29th.