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Podthoughts by Colin Marshall: The Three Percent Podcast


Vital stats:
Format: two publishers talking books, and much else in the cultural space besides
Episode duration: 40m-1h20m
Frequency: 1-2 per month

Checking out any new bookstore, I head immediately to its world literature shelves. That is, I see if it has them at all. It usually doesn’t. Though small, the world literature shelf at Skylight Books here in Los Angeles so impresses me that, often, I don’t leave it for the entire visit. Not that I visit much anymore; shortly after moving to town, a broadcaster friend of mine — probably the best-known non-writing figure in the Los Angeles book world — called up Skylight and recommended they hire me, using some of the most gleamingly superlatively terms with which I will ever hear myself described. When I turned up to talk to the managers, they asked if I had a car, suggesting that maybe I could drive stuff around for events. I didn’t have a car. My applications to a few other such businesses met with the indifference of the universe. I did land an interview with one noted Pasadena bookstore, which proceeded to surround me with at least a dozen other, clammier applicants — supplicants, really — each more desperate than the last, and all more desperate than me, to convince the interviewers of their single-minded dedication to customer service.

That about sums up my contact with that side of the book business, though I do spend much of my time reading about books, writing about books, and interviewing the writers of books, especially books of the international variety. Hence my interest in The Three Percent Podcast [iTunes], the audio branch of Three Percent, a site from the University of Rochester meant to provide “a destination for readers, editors, and translators interested in finding out about modern and contemporary international literature” (which constitutes three percent of the business). Podcast co-host Chad W. Post teaches at the University, runs Three Percent, and also direct’s Open Letter, the University’s own literary publishing house. They’ve put out a few cool-looking titles from the likes of Alejandro Zambra, Mathias Énard, and Marguerite Duras. Tom Roberge, the podcast’s other co-host, works as the Publicity and Marketing Director at the long-respected press New Directions, whose spine logo — a “colophon,” I think they call it — my eyes zip right toward when I scan those world-lit shelves. I trust that little stylized man and wolf. Having introduced before to writers like César Aira, Yoko Tawada, and Enrique Vila-Matas, they probably won’t steer me wrong now.

I remember meeting Roberge a few years back, at an Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference. (I have nothing to do with any academic writing department, but I do get a fair few podcast interviews recorded there.) He sold me some books from New Directions’ table there at the conference’s book fair, and later mailed me a box of Aira’s work so I could do a radio show on the writer. I seldom buy new books these days; it felt weird, almost wrong, to exchange actual money from the handful I picked up off the table. I do, however, get a lot of them sent to me by publishers. The rest I check out from my friendly local library. This may not bode well for the publishing industry, but then, if you listen to publishers, things haven’t tended to bode well for them a century or so. Roberge and Post, two publishers, do tend to get into the nuts and bolts of the business of publishing on most episodes of Three Percent, and this fascinates me, though I do often find myself surprised by what surprises them. On one episode, Post, who teaches a class on publishing, sounded aghast as he described how his students think of the price of a book not as the price of a new book, but as the price of a used one, and as a used one on Amazon, no less. As a buyer of used books when I buy books at all, I can sympathize with the snot-nosed youngsters. Some of those new ones can cost, like, eighteen bucks! What do I have, oil wealth?

But they don’t always talk publishing, which I don’t think most readers will mind. Video gamers, say, thirst for news about the video game industry, but I suspect any given reader would die happy never again having to hear about thin profit margins, the complications of eBook digital rights management, or the latest wildly unappealing proposed alternative to the printed book. And these fellows don’t always talk books: Three Percent conversations weave all over the cultural space, from music to movies to sports, especially in the absence of a guest from the book world. A dubious prospect, you might think: who would want to hear a couple of “book guys” discuss whatever happens to come to mind? I may sound like an apologist for standard podcasting indiscipline, but hear me out: projects in this medium, experience has shown me, can more effectively be about everything than projects in most other media. I see the trick of it, especially for a podcast, as always seeming to be about just one thing. Only through ostensible specialization can a podcaster pull off actual generalism. So I do indeed want to hear Roberge and Post talk about everything, but to do it always through the lens of new literary fiction in translation, or to do it with segues from that subject so smooth and untraceable that I never even realize they went from Javier Marías to Eurovision or Quentin Tarantino or 45 minutes about their fantasy basketball leagues.

Come to think of it, I find that as true when reading as I do when listening: writing simply about one thing can never satisfy, nor can writing simply about everything. The Three Percent Podcast also has another lesson generalizable not just across podcasting, but across all forms of human communication. Virgil Thomson, as I recall, advised a young music critic never to make his personal opinion explicit, because “the words that you use to describe what you've heard will be the criticism.” I feel as if I’ve heard many, many of Roberge and Post’s personal opinions on the show, most of them strong and several surely worth noting, but I can’t for the life of me remember them. (I do seem to recall something about Malcolm Gladwell being The Enemy.) They might have made their way deeper into my mind had the conversations delivered them implicitly, rather than explicitly. I mean, jeez, after Podthinking for over five years now, I’ve heard guys sitting at microphones make many a judgment, when even my own opinions don’t interest me. But you know what does interest me? This English novelist by the name of Derek Raymond, whom either Roberge or Post mentioned offhand on one episode. I can’t remember whether they liked or disliked him, but they did say something about his having written thoroughly Thatcher-era crime stories. Sounds like a read to me.

[Podthinker Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture [iTunes] and writes essays on literature, film, cities, Asia, and aesthetics. He's working on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Contact him at colinjmarshall at gmail or follow him on Twitter @colinmarshall.]

My Brother, My Brother and Me 156: The Sound of One Hand Twerking


We're sorry for missing last week's episode, but we think you'll agree that the show has improved with one week's rest. Like, this week, we talk enthusiastically about horses. When was the last time we had the energy to do that?

Suggested talking points: Fat Pipes, Syncing Up, Horse Stack, Morrissey Hair, Ironic Tiesto, Whistlin' Sarah, Papa Pockets

Interview with Nat Luurtsema - Member of Team UK for International Waters Episode 15


Interview by Chris Bowman, edited by Chris Berube.

Nat Luurtsema is a busy stand up comedian with a penchant for extra curricular activities. Well, activity. Writing. She’s written a book Cuckoo In The Nest in which she recounts a time not that long ago when, at the age of 28 she had to move back in with her parents. There area lot of deep breaths involved with your parents hanging over your shoulder while you make tea, or banning microwave use because you set a bowl of Weetabix alight. She loves her parents but as you can imagine, there was a period of adjustment.

She’s just written a feature length screenplay called Lex Has Body Issues and an award winning short called Island Queen (in which she also starred). The film, directed by Ben Mallaby, is about a woman named Mim who has never left the island she calls home. She decides to do something drastic. She gets pregnant. What follows is funny, horrifying and sweet. Luurtsema claims she’s unaware of the workload until she stops to think about it. Which is understandable because she doesn’t seem to have enough time to stop.

International Waters: Your book Cuckoo In The Nest is about having to move back home. When did you realize that was the only option?

Nat Luurtsema: It was about 11 days before we had to vacate our flat, and I had spent 6 weeks saying “in a film everything happens at the last minute, so it'll be fine”. It was a flawed plan and when we hit 7 days before homelessness my boyfriend and I both agreed we'd have to go back home to our parents and try to find a flat from there. Given we'd struggled to find anywhere while we were in London I couldn’t see how relocating to Watford and Bath was going to improve our chances.

IW: Being a funny person did you see the potential for humour in the situation right away?

NL: It did seem ridiculous and I found the whole situation funny at first. Then after a month reality started to bite, I was a nocturnal person living with two people who got up at 7am and I was lonely and bored and couldn't see the situation improving any time soon. So I started blogging to smear my misery all over the internet.

IW: The sweet, affordable therapy that is blogging! Often our parents will treat us like the children we once were (and admittedly sometimes can still be). How did you get past that?

NL: I didn't! I just struggled against it for 6 months in an ultimately futile protest. That's why I took to blogging, because it's the only place I could ever get the last word. That's why I write. It's the only aspect of my life over which I can exercise any sliver of control.

IW: You wrote the screenplay for Island Queen. The story does really well to strike a balance between funny and touching. How did you come up with the idea?

NL: Thank you! That's so kind of you - Island Queen was the first short I've ever written and it taught me so much. I've just completed my first feature-length screenplay - it's a comedy thriller called "Lex Has Body Issues" and I can't wait to get it filmed. The story of Island Queen is really grotty and based on a story I read that said some very under-populated places in Iceland were having to temporarily shut their sperm banks… and I will say so more as I realize anything I say next is a big fat spoiler.

IW: You've written for the stage, a book, and now both short and feature length films. How difficult is it to switch from one style of writing to the other?

NL: I love it, it’s like a holiday from stand-up, where you have to present your whole self to an audience and hope they like you. That’s my biggest problem, I’m not an easily-likeable comic, so I love film and books because it’s just my writing I’m presenting to people and I feel safe to be bolder and nastier with my comedy.

IW: "Not an easily-likeable"? Why do you say that? Any stand-up stories?

NL: I was a very awkward, shy act when I started, and I think this was me at my funniest. Then I did 3 years of gigging around the country and trying to be one of those charming friendly acts (the bastards) and now I've realized I'm funnier just being uncharming me ;> As I say in my act, other comics can hop on stage and remark on how they look like a particular celebrity, I don't. I look like your ex's mate from work that you never warmed to. The laugh this gets makes me happy and sad.

IW: How would you describe your style of comedy?

NL: Argh. Gah. The hardest of all questions! I don’t know, I’ve never pinned it down - Really, I’ve written about 10 words here and deleted them - it just changes depending on what mood I’m in - the jokes are the same but I can be sweet or scathing or filthy or prim. Now that reads like a 'business card' in a Soho phone box! I’m sorry, I’m not trying to be difficult but I lack any objectivity and no one has ever kindly summed me up. That’s what I want for Christmas.

IW: Is stand-up something you still enjoy then?

NL: I love stand-up, it's the 'Thing' I always dreamed of doing and it's my main job. But it's funny how I get opportunities to do other things thanks to people liking my stand-up - things like writing, acting, voiceovers, and they are so much easier than stand-up. They're not easy, they're different challenges but stand-up is insane, it's like a constant fight with a prickly hedge. You're endlessly pulling your own personality apart to find and dissect your funniest bits, always working on new bits, and even the bits that always work can stop working without any warning and then you have to try to discover why. So "enjoy" is probably not quite the right word! But I'd be lost without it. Though if a boyfriend ever treated me this badly my mum would stage an intervention and an assassination.

IW: Loving something that doesn't love you back and pulling your personality apart sounds terrifying. It also sounds like something more people should do from time to time.

NL: Yes, it's like an emotional workout - it breaks your muscles to have them grow back stronger. Or leave you emotionally broken. I find I can enjoy it more when I have other things on which to prop my flimsy shriveled self-esteem. That’s where Jigsaw and my book and my films come in handy and make my stand-up much better. It’s like having a career harem.

IW: Chris Hardwick (@nerdist) has something he calls his confidence theory. Basically, he says that confidence comes from having options. In a strange way having a few projects on the go takes the pressure off.

NL: I agree completely! I get all my confidence from knowing when I step on stage that this gig cannot make or break me. I suppose I do a lot of things, it never seems so until I summarise it - but I write in a very focused, rapid way, my feature film reached a third draft within a fortnight, and I wrote a 70,000 word book in 5 months. If I enjoy writing something it comes together very quickly, which makes me want to abandon anything that happens more slowly, but I have to be disciplined as stand-up is so much slower to create, much more trial and error and fiddling with every single word. I also don't sleep very much, that might be the key to it. 1-4am are the most productive hours for me, then I sleep until 8am and that's enough for me.

IW: Those are some magical hours, the epiphany hours. What piece of advice have you been given that’s stuck?

NL: I think the most useful philosophy I've ever heard came from Sarah Millican, who said (and I'm sorry Sarah, I couldn't find the exact quote!) that you have 12 hours after a bad gig to brood about it, and then stop. And the same goes for gloating over a good gig. This is very useful if you often have to travel miles back from your gigs, you can do all your sulking/gloating in the privacy of your own car and emerge into decent society as a non-self-obsessed dickweed.

Go here for all things Nat Luurtsema and follow her on twitter @natluurtsema.

Wham Bam Pow Ep. 13 - Equilibrium and Studying up on Superman

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Wham Bam Pow

This week, Rhea drops some little known Superman facts on us to help us prepare for Man of Steel, we take a look at the richly premised, gun kata extravaganza Equilibrium, and we miss Ricky (he'll be back next week!).

Articles discussed this week:
Via - Stunning Behind-the-Scenes Photos Show Iconic Movies in a New Light
Via - Super-Weird Facts That You Probably Didn't Know About Superman

Follow us on Twitter! Cameron is @cameronesposito, Rhea is @rheabutcher and Ricky is @rickycarmona. Discuss the show using the hashtag #WhamBamPow!


One Bad Mother Episode 15: Father's Day, with guests Al Madrigal, Jesse Thorn, and Stefan Lawrence

One Bad Mother
Al Madrigal
Stefan Lawrence
Jesse Thorn

On this Very Special Episode of One Bad Mother, Biz and Theresa celebrate Father's Day! We talk about our own dads and discover that despite every single television advertisement we've ever seen, all dads might not be total idiots.

We call Al Madrigal, comedian, Daily Show Correspondent, and one of the hosts of the podcast Minivan Men, to talk dad stuff and get some advice. We're also joined by our husbands for a Very Special genius and fail segment this week!

Subscribe to One Bad Mother in iTunes
Join our mailing list!
Follow One Bad Mother on Twitter
Follow Biz on Twitter
Follow Theresa on Twitter
Check us out on Facebook and like us!

Share your genius and fail moments! Call 206-350-9485

Minivan Men, with Al Madrigal, Chris Spencer, and Maz Jobrani
Follow Al Madrigal @AlMadrigal on Twitter

Show Music
Opening theme: Summon the Rawk, Kevin MacLeod (
"But You Love Me, Daddy (with Jim Reeves)" by R. Stevie Moore (
Telephone, Awesome, Beehive Sessions (, also avail on iTunes)
Closing music: Mama Blues, Cornbread Ted and the Butterbeans ( and available on iTunes)

Jordan, Jesse, Go! - Live at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

08/22/2013 - 23:00
Edinburgh, Scotland
Venue Name: 
Pleasance Courtyard - Upstairs

Jordan and Jesse are taking the show to Scotland for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival! But they are only appearing for one night - so get your tickets soon! Tickets are available directly from the venue box office - which you can find here.

Judge John Hodgman Episode 114: Fitness for the Prosecution

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Melissa brings the case against her boyfriend, Henry. She's been looking for a way for Henry and her friends to bond, and thinks she's found the solution -- teaming up for a charity mud race. But Henry wants to opt out of the race, citing a forced atmosphere of fun and camaraderie. Must he join Melissa and her friends? Only one man can decide.


Special thanks to Philip Schaefer and Glen K. Amo for this week's title!

RISK! #437: Live From Charleston 2!

Camille Lowman
David Appleton
Nathaniel Bates
Shon Kennedy

Song: RISK! Theme by Wormburner and John Sondericker

Song: Feels by Giraffage

Live Story: The Storm by Camille Lowman

Live Story: David Appleton

Live Story: Nathaniel Bates

Live Story: Shon Kennedy

Song: Ghosts by Nonaphoenix

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Charlie Wilson of the Gap Band, Mark Frauenfelder

Charlie Wilson
Mark Frauenfelder

Mark Frauenfelder Recommends: "Good Dog" and Super Durak

Mark Frauenfelder, founder of BoingBoing and host of the Gweek podcast joins us to weigh on his latest obsessions in the form of geeky pop culture. This time, it's Graham Chaffee's Good Dog and the virtual version of Russian card game Super Durak, for iOs.

Chaffee's book, out this week, is a tour through a stray dog's life as he weighs a life of independence against the security of being a house pet, exploring the psychology of dogs in a vein similar to White Fang. Frauenfelder also suggests downloading the Super Durak app for a card game with a unique twist -- there are no winners.

Click here to share these recommendations with your friends.

Charlie Wilson: Creating Funk Jams with the Gap Band, Overcoming Addiction, and Recovering a Career

From his years as the frontman of the funk-R&B group the Gap Band, to singing hooks for rappers like Snoop Dogg and Kanye West, to his solo career recording R&B hits in his airy tenor, Charlie Wilson has been all about music. He grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the son of a Pentecostal preacher and a music minister mother. Wilson spent his early years singing for his father's congregation and formed the Gap Band with his brothers, Ronnie and Robert, as a teenager.

In the late 1970s and early 80s, the Gap Band took their signature funk and R&B sound and made chart-topping hits like "Burn Rubber on Me", "Outstanding", "You Dropped a Bomb on Me", and "Party Train". The band's management was rocky in the mid 1980s, and Wilson's life took a downturn. A few years later, he was addicted to drugs and living on the streets. But a love for music and sense of pride helped right the course, and he retooled his career into Grammy-nominated solo work.
Wilson talks to us about crafting the now-classic sounds of the Gap Band, encounters with Stevie Wonder and Sly Stone, and why he returned to music after years of isolation and addiction.

Charlie Wilson's newest record is Love, Charlie. He'll receive BET's Lifetime Achievement Award on June 30th.

Embed or share this interview with Charlie Wilson by clicking here.

Comedy: Al Madrigal Meets the "Cholo Soccer Dad"

There's a very specific kind of subculture you might encounter in East Los Angeles. Al Madrigal explains his encounter with it in this clip from his new stand up special, Why Is the Rabbit Crying?.

Al Madrigal is a stand up comic. You can catch him on the road in selected cities this summer and fall, and on TV as The Daily Show's Latino Correspondent.

The Outshot: "The Best Ever Death Metal Band Out of Denton" by The Mountain Goats

Jesse explores a song about two high school friends, a death metal band, and dreams. It's "The Best Ever Death Metal Band Out of Denton".

The Mountain Goats are on tour this summer. You can find those dates on their website.

Got a cultural gem of your own? Share your own Outshot on the MaxFun Forums.

Embed or share The Outshot on "The Best Ever Death Metal Band Out of Denton"

Throwing Shade Ep. 85 - Hands On Children's Museum, Equal Pay and Marsha Blackburn, The Purge, Interns


Year he, year he! The neweth episodic of Throwing Shade hath cometh! Witness stories like lesbians denied family rates at Hands on Children's Museum in Jacksonville, Florida, 50th anniversary of JFK's biggest gift to women, The Equal Pay Act, Representative Marsha Blackburn's inability to grasp the reasons for The Paycheck Fairness Act, and welcome new interns, Jamie and Kala! 
We survived the purge! 
See TSPOD live on our summer tour! Buy tickets here
Subscribe and Rate on iTunes
@gibblertron & @bryansafi #tspod
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