The Blog of Young America

Maximum Fun is your home on the internet for things that are awesome. Our blog will guide you, our family of podcasts will entertain and inform you, and our lively forum community will connect you with others. About

Podthoughts by Colin Marshall: "The New York Review of Books Podcast"

| 1 comment

Under the monocle in this week's Podthoughts is not a long-established podcast but a brand new venture. There are perils to early examination — the format or aesthetic of the program might not yet be fully formed, for instance — but none can deny the excitement of approaching a show still working through its experimental stages. The interest is heightened when, like the podcast in question today, it's a product of a journalistic institution as august as the New York Review of Books.

Since its June debut, The New York Review of Books Podcast [iTunes link] has provided a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Things started out strong with two early conversational 'casts on exquisitely fascinating subjects: Edmund White on the life of filmmaker Marguerite Duras [MP3] (nicely connected with his recent NYRB piece, "In Love with Duras") and the delightfully-voiced Times Literary Supplement classics editor Mary Beard on Roman jokes [MP3]. Ultra-solid stuff, especially for a program then only two or three episodes old, which makes it all the more a shame that the conversations are so short. Only twenty minutes spent on the life and work of Duras? Really? Really, now?

Length issues aside, there's been a reasonable serving of tasty meat on the NYRB Podcast's bones these last four months. True, it's difficult to make a conversation with Oliver Sacks uninteresting, so it's no surprise that his appearance [MP3] discussing his newly-paperbacked Musicophilia is a lot of fun. And as far as Edward Mendelson talking about [MP3] and reading from [MP3] the poetry of Frank O'Hara, I'm buyin' what he's sellin'. If he could report that this podcast delivers material of this caliber each and every week, your Podthinker would be a happy Podthinker indeed.

Alas, he cannot. There is a problem with the NYRB Podcast; unsurprisingly, it's the same problem the New York Review of Books has in print, writ small and much more aurally. Evidently, the editorial board of the magazine will not rest until a certain number of otherwise pleasing articles are dragged into the unseemly muck of political territory. Your podthinker has, in other venues, repeatedly reached the conclusion that when it comes to the place of politics in art, it doesn't have one. The Review believes differently; in fact, it appears convinced that, even when grand political speculation is inappropriate — which, roughly 99.9% of the time, it is — well, by gum, they're going to hold the upper lips stiff and engage in it anyway.

This ethos engenders such groan-inducing installments of the podcast as Darryl Pickney on the loathsome proposition of someone voting for John McCain [MP3], something about Iraq [MP3] and Michael Chabon phoning in from the Democratic national convention (yes, really) [MP3]. This tendency gives a sour aftertaste to what's otherwise a lively, fascinating cultural podcast. (Side note: the political episodes tend to be hosted by one Hugh Eakin, who sounds eerily like a slightly more weenieish Ira Glass. Separation at birth cannot be ruled out.)

Nevertheless, this Podthinker's official verdict is, thus far, a cautiously favorable one. Assuming it can beat down its own political tics, the NYRB Podcast — and, let's face it, the NYRB — could really make something more of itself. The conversation about reading between Pico Iyer, Daniel Mendelsohn and the inimitable James Wood [MP3], for instance, is one of the best hours of podcasting in years. Stay tuned.

Vital stats:
Format: cultural/political variety
Running since: June 2008
Duration: 10m-1h15m
Frequency: erratic
Archive available on iTunes: all

[Podthinker Colin Marshall keeps his art in this jar, and his politics in this one. Get him at colinjmarshall at gmail, suggest podcasts for Podthoughts here or submit your own podcast for the next by-Max-Funsters column here.]

Time Out for Earnestness


I actively avoid politics in public. I am a deeply politically engaged person, but I think The Sound of Young America and Jordan, Jesse Go! aren't the venue for my opinions. I occasionally hear from someone who thinks Jordan and I don't care about political or social issues, because we don't engage them on the show, or that I don't care because I rarely book explicitly political artists on The Sound. That's not the case, but I think there are others who cover that territory better than I, and I would rather offer a big tent than alienate folks who may not share my political values.

So, fair warning: I am about to be personal, political and earnest. You are welcome to ignore me if you so choose, and please understand that these views don't have to do with the editorial perspective of this blog, or my shows. Just me, personally. I also understand that reasonable people can disagree.

That said...

This is a presidential election year, and there has rightly been a lot of focus on presidential politics. Here in California, however, there is an issue which for me, personally, supersedes the presidential election: Proposition 8.

California Proposition 8 would amend the state's constitution to eliminate same-sex couples' recently affirmed constitutional right to marry.

One of the most important roles of our state and federal constitutions is to protect the rights of minorities. In a democracy, the majority rules, but on rare occasion, that majority can trample the rights and freedoms of a group which is smaller in number. One of the few things that can stand in the way of the trampling are the rights guaranteed to all in the central documents that guide our civil society. Maybe the majority didn't care for Brown v. Board of Education in the mid 1950s, but the constitution of our country guaranteed certain inalienable rights, and they didn't just guarantee them if the majority happened to agree.

When the state supreme court of California decided earlier this year that same sex couples had the same right to marriage as any other couple, it was a watershed decision that illustrated why we grant certain rights to all people, not just majorities. It was a decision that said, "these people, whether they are a majority or not, deserve equality." Proposition 8 takes the remarkable step of re-writing our state constitution to explicitly eliminate the rights of a minority. From my perspective, this is unconscionable.

This isn't just an abstract issue. Two of the couples who've been closest to me, family-wise, in my life, are same-sex. My aunt Gail and her partner Deb have been together for more than 20 years. They share an really amazing, vibrant love, and I'm so proud to have Deb as an Aunt. My own parents were married only briefly, and I've always seen Gail and Deb as a model of long-term romantic love. They respect and honor each other, love each other deeply, and are deeply committed to each other.

My mother's best friend, Eric, has been with his partner, Steve for twenty years. In fact, about two months ago, they got married on their 20th anniversary, with my mother serving as a maid of honor. Like my aunts, Eric and Steve are as committed as a couple could be. Steve's health has been poor for many years, and Eric has stood by him steadfastly. They appreciate each others greatest qualities and accept each others greatest failings. Their bond is as strong as any, and again, it is a model to me of how love can really work.

I got married recently, and I almost cried a few times thinking of my family members who could now share this right with me, because the supreme court of my state had affirmed it. Now, though, I'm terrified that it will be taken away.

If your church does not perform or honor same-sex marriages, I disagree, but I also respect its right to make that choice. I can understand that some people are members of faiths which considered homosexuality a sin. I disagree, but I believe it is their right to make that choice. The religious component of a marriage, whatever it may be for a given couple, should not be determined or proscribed by the state.

But let's be clear: we're not talking about what goes on in churches. We're talking about the law. Same sex couples deserve the same rights under the law as you or I. The right to marry in their own church, or in a courthouse or by some other non-religious officiant. The right to live, legally, as a married couple, with all the benefits and responsibilities that go with that.

All same-sex couples in are asking for is equality. They don't want to make anyone else gay. They don't want to do anything to my straight marriage. They just want to live as equals under the law.

When two of my wife's closest friends, Anna and Abby, were married a year ago in Massachusetts, one of the maids of honor made a toast to all the same-sex couples who couldn't share in the right Anna and Abby were enjoying by virtue of geography. I was thinking of my own state then, and that toast was the first thing I thought of when the court asserted that same-sex marriage was legal in my state. I was so happy for my family and friends who could marry, and I was so excited about the future. Now, all of that is gravely threatened.

If you agree, and live in California, I urge you to vote. Vote now, if you can, vote on election day, just vote. Your vote matters, and the race is very close.

Whether or not you live in California, you can help. Take action with No on 8, or with the Human Rights Campaign. Give, even a little bit, to help spread the word about what this measure is really about: using our state constitution, for the first time, to enshrine a denial of human rights.

Okay, I hope you'll forgive this digression into painful earnestness. It's my last word on the election. More comedy videos and stuff soon, I promise.

Wonderglen Productions: The Best Website

| 1 comment

In the search for the greatest website of all time, many websites were considered, but only one website could rightfully claim the championship. That is Wonderglen. Bathe in this website, and you will emerge soiled with amazement.

The PRI Arts & Entertainment Podcast

| 1 comment

PRI, my radio distributor, has launched a cool podcast that aggregates content from across their programming -- from The Takeaway to The World to Studio 360 to, now, The Sound of Young America. They've recently featured our interviews with Seun Kuti and Janeane Garofalo, along with interviews from Studio 360 with David Zucker (mp3) and The World with Sergio Mendes (MP3). It's a broad spectrum of content from the broad spectrum of PRI shows, and definitely worth checking out if you're looking for a hit of content every weekday.

Here's the show's feed.

Here's an iTunes link.

Podcast Coyle & Sharpe Episode 40: Mr. Rodent

| 1 comment

Welcome to season two of Coyle & Sharpe: The Imposters! In the early 1960s, James P. Coyle and Mal Sharpe roamed the streets of San Francisco, microphone in hand, roping strangers into bizarre schemes and surreal stunts. These original recordings are from the Sharpe family archive, which is tended by Mal's daughter, Jennifer Sharpe. You can learn more about Coyle & Sharpe on their website or on MySpace. Their recent box set is These 2 Men Are Imposters.

On this episode: This week on Coyle and Sharpe, a San Franciscan man gets the opportunity to meet the celebrity, Mr. Rodent, who is most famous for having an entire race of small creatures named after him.

Hear This Episode

Download This Episode (Direct MP3 Link)

Embeddable Audio Player Code (Copy and Paste)

Discuss the show on the forum

Subscribe in iTunes / Podcast Feed

MaxFunsters March on Washington: 11/15


If you're a MaxFunster in the Washington, DC area, then join forum superstars ebeth, Craxworth and Carol for an evening of awesome fun on November 15th. Ebeth and Carol will be visiting from points north, and everybody's headed to the Arlington Drafthouse to see the great Mr. Paul F. Tompkins. More info about the meetup here, and tickets for PFT here. I've met both ebeth and Carol, and nicer meetup hosts/guests you couldn't find. Will they meet R&B superstar Keith Sweat? There's no way to predict it... but last time, THEY DID!

Marianna Palka, "Good Dick" Writer/Director/Star Interviewed on The Sound of Young America


Marianna Palka, 27, is the writer, director and star (alongside Jason Ritter) of the film "Good Dick." The film, which was selected for dramatic competition at the Sundance Film Festival, is an unusual (and unusually sweet) love story between a porn-addicted young woman (Palka) and a recovering drug user (Ritter) who works at her local video store. Palka grew up in Scotland, with Polish parents, and emigrated to the United States at 17.

Listen to This Week's Show Online

Please allow our low-bandwidth server a little time after you click "play"

Download This Show

Embeddable Audio Player Code (Copy and Paste)

Discuss this episode on the forum!
Subscribe in iTunes
Please Donate to Support the Show

If you enjoyed this show, try these:
Terry Gilliam & Chris Elliott
Scott Prendergast
Nellie McKay

Podthoughts by Colin Marshall: "Movies You Should See"

| 1 comment

Podcasting, for whatever reason, has turned out to be a predominantly American (and sometimes Canadian) medium. Scrolling through the podcasts currently stored on one's iPod, one generally finds hours upon hours of yammering American accents. Being American, that's not something this Podthinker would normally notice — without, that is, having spent the previous week listening to the English film podcast Movies You Should See [iTunes link].

MYSS is a weekly conversation about film between Richard Smith, Allison Downing, Craig Bevan, Will Tristram, and Tristan Ofield — or at least most of them, given the normal absences — six English filmgoers with English accents, English sensibilities, English cursing vocabularies and what I assume are English preternatural cricket abilities, English stiff upper lipps and English senses of fair play. For the Yank, this requires some linguistic adaptation, since in England:

  • "Shit" and "balls" function as adjectives as well as nouns, and are employed often
  • The Carry On films are a thing
  • "Mate" has a different meaning
  • Rotten Tomatoes is pronounced hilariously

But this is nothing insurmountable for the U.S. listener willing to put in the hours. After the first few, Richard, Allison and the gang sound almost normal. What's somewhat more difficult is distinguishing one voice from another. That's always a problem with any newly-adopted group-discussion podcast, but the men here — Allison's, the crew's sole distaff element, is obviously easy to identify — sounds unusually similar.

Distinct voices, though, are less important in this type of enterprise than are distinct opinions. This is where MYSS really comes through. The panelists often refer to themselves as comprising an even representation of the full "spectrum" of cinema fandom, and nowhere in recent months has this been cast into greater relief than during their discussion of Bergman's Hour of the Wolf [MP3]. Allison, Craig and Will seem to have settled on "magnificent" as an appropriate descriptor for the film, but then, out of his 45-minute silence, emerges Richard, asserting that the movie is actually pretentious, elitist and likely to alienate the majority of those who approach it. A scintillating discussion of the validity of the whole "art"-"entertainment" continuum ensues.

While not every talk is at the same level as the Hour of the Wolf exchange, it's worth noting how nice it is that the vast majority of the episodes are solid discussions of similar lengths about individual pictures. Too many cultural podcasts don't get it right in this department, opting instead to jump around from work to work. That's not to impugn the very idea of jumping from work to work — the podcasters who do it well do it very well indeed — but it usually doesn't create as substantial a listening experience as when the depth is cranked up and the breadth is cranked down.

The MYSS selection process keeps it varied: they dissect the movies everyone "knows" but not everyone has watched (like Costner's Field of Dreams [MP3] and Wilder's Some Like it Hot [MP3]), the gems one might not otherwise hear about (like Jun-Hwan Jang's Save the Green Planet [MP3], which this Podthinker happens to have championed elsewhere) and the stuff everyone's seen thrice (like The Matrix [MP3] and This is Spinal Tap [MP3]). Good on ya, mates. (That might be an Australian expression, but never mind.)

Vital stats:
Format: group film discussion
Running since: August 2005
Duration: 40m-1h30m
Frequency: weeklyish
Archive available on iTunes: roughly 1/3, and you have to pay for the rest

[Podthinker Colin Marshall is also against poor, ganged-up-on Richard when it comes to Hour of the Wolf; agree with him at colinjmarshall at gmail. Suggest a podcast for Podthoughts here, or submit your own podcast for the next by-Max-Funsters column here.]

Triumph at the Debate

| 1 comment

The biggest laughs come from the closer, which has nothing to do with Triumph and is absurdly silly.

via Punchline Magazine

la Voz de América Joven


In Spanish class, Lonely Sandwich and I participated in an exercise in which we revealed our professions. This lead to much discussion and blackboard writing.

Syndicate content