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TSOYA Classics: Vendela Vida (February 14, 2007)

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This TSOYA Classic takes a look back at Jesse's conversation with writer Vendela Vida. They discuss her work as co-editor of The Believer magazine, and the then-recent publishing of her book "Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name."

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Subscribe to TSOYA Classics: iTunes / Feed

Podthoughts by Colin Marshall: Rumpus Radio

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Vital stats:
Format: comedian, author, filmmaker, etc. interviews
Episode duration: 35m-1h
Frequency: once or twice a month

If you have any investment in the internet’s literary world, you’ll have encountered The Rumpus, which offers all kinds of stuff above and beyond its distinctive old-timey-guy-in-a-basketball-hoop logo: interviews, reviews, columns, links, and goofy-type pieces. The site contains, from what I can tell, an imposingly huge amount of content, much of it to do with books and writing, but a decent-sized chunk to do with non-book forms of culture that I assume I would know about if I lived in Brooklyn. Yet The Rumpus, masterminded by San Francisco-living writer Stephen Elliott, does not quite fall under the usual, ever-expanding category of “Brooklyn-y internet things.” I think of it as... something else, but not something easily described.

I have enjoyed The Rumpus’ sensibility enough to want to contribute to it, but every time I check their writers’ guidelines, they say that “we don’t have any money and can’t pay for writing.” This would keep me with the burgeoning Gen-Y norm of working my eyeballs out on non-remunerative projects, but I have grown tired. So very tired. (I foresee most of my generation dying young, of starvation, especially if they live in the first world.) Still, when I learned that The Rumpus had extended its non-moneymaking brand to the even more non-moneymaking medium of podcasting with Rumpus Radio, I had to check it out. I downloaded all its episodes with extra speed when I saw that they fell right into my personal wheelhouse by being long-form interviews.

Max Funsters, I return from my listening excursion bearing news of talks with comedians — Kyle Kinane! [MP3] W. Kamau Bell! [MP3] Marc Maron! [MP3] — and pretty meaty talks at that, ranging between 35 minutes and an hour. This might come as a surprise from the offshoot of an ostensibly literary site, but, as I learned from listening to this podcast, The Rumpus puts on live events in San Francisco which get comedy in your literature and literature in your comedy. Given the recent-ish rise of more cerebral stand-up comics with more unusual material — aided, I rush to assume, by podcasting itself — this mixture seems to nail a certain sub-sub-zeitgeist right on. As a writer I like once said, the interesting lies in the in-between; I don’t know about you, but I want few things more than comedians with a literary sensibility and literati with a comedic sensibility.

Though sometimes joined by a sidekick, Stephen Elliott does most of the interviewing himself. I’d thought of him as less the interviewing type than the gritty novel- and confessional memoir-writing type, but his conversational style actually sounds like it springs straight from his authorial persona. What a relief, given that, when some writers take up the microphone, they wrongheadedly ditch exactly what makes their books so compelling — themselves — and camp it up with their idea of what an “objective journalist” sounds like. Elliott makes himself, to whip out a vague term but the only suitable one, present. This sometimes results in his guests ribbing him about his troubled sexual life, but I call that a small price to pay. It makes perfect sense that Elliott talked with Maron so early in the show’s run: neither of these guys come from an interviewing background, but both succeed at it by being so very actual.

When not interviewing comedians, Elliott splits his time between authors like Steve Almond [MP3] (who has, shall we say, choice words about publishing and book reviewing), filmmakers like Blue Valentine’s Derek Cianfrance [MP3], and other cultural types of whom you may or may not have heard like “female hip-hop artist” (a say what now?) K. Flay [MP3]. All these conversations make me feel good about what we’ll all have to read, watch, and listen to in the next few decades. I wonder if anybody’s getting paid. Should we all form a 7-11 robbery collective?

[Podthinker Colin Marshall also happens to host and produce The Marketplace of Ideas [iTunes], a public radio show and podcast dedicated to in-depth cultural conversation. Please hire him for something.]

My Brother, My Brother and Me 49: More Power

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So, let's get this out of the way from the get-go: It's an odd episode. Justin's rapping on death's door, Travis is reading questions and Griffin is, as ever, high on peyote. We're not saying you should skip it, but ... well, let's temper those expectations, shall we?

Suggested talking points: A cameo from Tom Waits, Art Installations and Angel Tests, Straight Cos', Danny/Joey/Ghost Alpaca, Full-Body Spanx, Khakis, Strategic Home Improvement Reserve

WEINBACH!

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Jim Real, "The Master of Would You Rather," called me with exciting news. An old favorite of ours, Brent Weinbach, was in a Honda commercial. As if that wasn't enough, he was also destroying the audience at Lopez Tonight.

BRAVO, WEINBACH. BRAVO.

April Underwriting Update

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This month, The Sound of Young America and Maximum Fun are fortunate to continue to have the wonderful support of Ask MetaFilter.

On Ask MetaFilter, members ask and answer questions on a wide range of topics, from careers to travel to relationships to technology. Even if you're not a member, you can find solutions to everyday problems by searching MetaFilter's vast database of questions and answers. To learn more, visit Ask.MetaFilter.com.

Underwriting The Sound of Young America includes announcements on our weekly, nationally-syndicated public radio program and our 7+ monthly TSOYA podcast episodes, as well as credit on MaximumFun.org and a place in the banner ad rotation on our active forums. If you, your business, or someone you know is interested in underwriting The Sound of Young America, visit our sponsorships page for more information.

Judge John Hodgman Episode 18: The Colbert Rapport

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Andrew and his girlfriend Britt attended a Hollywood party, at which they spotted television's Stephen Colbert. Britt requested assistance in taking a photo with Colbert, but Andrew refused to comply. He argues that when it comes to photographs with celebrities, discretion is key; Britt claims that accepting adoration by fans is part of a celebrity's job.

You may view the evidence for this case after the jump.

Not subscribed to this podcast yet? Use in iTunes or this feed.

Stop Podcasting Yourself 159 - Nicole Passmore

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Guests: 
Nicole Passmore

Improviser Nicole Passmore returns to talk tattoos, chest hair, and ice cream.

Download episode 159 here. (right-click)

Brought to you by: (click here for the full list of sponsors)

TSOYA Classics: This American Comedy (February 9, 2007)

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This TSOYA Classic features comedy from Maria Bamford, Jonathan Coulton, and Clifford & Kidd.

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Subscribe to TSOYA Classics: iTunes / Feed

Podthoughts by Colin Marshall: Mike and Tom Eat Snacks

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Vital stats:
Format: two dudes eating and evaluating snacks, with tangents
Episode duration: 30-40m
Frequency: weekly

I tweeted this tweet:
What podcast should I review on Podthoughts this week? Open to all suggestions, except those involving "pop culture" or two dudes yammering.
In rapid response came suggestions of one show compulsively concerned with pop culture and another composed of, yes, the yammering of two dudes. These dudes, comedians Michael Ian Black and Tom Cavanagh, host Mike and Tom Eat Snacks [iTunes], or, if you prefer, MATES. But here’s the thing: they don’t just yammer; they chew. They eat snacks. Mike and Tom eat snacks.

At first, I didn’t hear much promise in that either. As a comedic ignoramus, I’d never heard of Cavanagh — he seems to have acted in Yogi Bear — but I remembered a couple distant media scrapes with Black. My irritation at the him-voiced Pets.com sock puppet (“Because pets can’t drive”) singing “Spinning Wheel” still burns, over a decade later, though time has cooled it a bit. I mainly associate him with an appearance on one of those VH1 shows about the eighties, on which he’s evidently made a whole mini-career out of turning up. I tuned in knowing they would talk about the Delorean DMC-12, one of my favorite automobiles. At the end of the segment, Black said something about John Delorean snorting too much of the “cocaína.” He used a really cartoonish South American-type pronunciation, but just on that one word. I could never figure out why.

As I foresaw from it hours of nothing but “Spinning Wheel”, cocaína, and Ranger Smith, this podcast could only pleasantly surprise me. I keep my expectations low for any show that could easily devolve into just one more TTWGBAC (Two Twenty/Thirtysomething White Guys/Girls Bullshitting About Culture) atop the heaping pile, but Black and Cavanagh turn out to use a couple of ingeniously, near-stupidly simple tactic to ward off the evils of that genre. First, though perhaps not by design, one host has reached his forties and the other has nearly gotten there. Second, they assign themselves a task, give themselves something to do, besides ridicule the coming Footloose remake: they have to eat snacks.

On each episode, Black and Cavanagh eat, react to, and evaluate Combos, cocktail peanuts, Blueberry Muffins, what have the snack aisle. They take their snacking seriously, or at least as seriously as you can take anything when two-thirds of the sentences you speak about it sound purely ironic. (Here we have another example of the relatively venerable podcasting tradition of Ridiculousness Uttered Flatly.) They discuss whether one particular manufacturer’s example of a snack can or should act as a representative of that snack. They get into such directly snack-related debates as whether the set “chips” contains the set “pretzels,” or if they share nothing. They slowly realize that, the more rigidly you try to define the boundaries of the concept “snack,” the less of a division you perceive between snack foods and all other foods.

Wine lovers consider favorite beverage as a nexus of subjects, offering gateways into discussions of subjects as various as history, geography, aesthetics, business, and botany. Black and Cavanagh seem to feel the same way about pizza-flavored crackers. Though their tangential discussions take them through exercise regimens, Canadian identity, life in the entertainment industry, and the Footloose remake, the hosts always return to the snack at hand. It anchors them. It’s just like in meditation, when your mind inevitably wanders from the object of focus; you just guide it back, leaving your practice none the worse for wear. When such freeform podcasts lose their anchor — or, more likely, never bother getting one — they lose their way. As long as Mike and Tom keep Eating Snacks, they’ll retain their compass.

[Podthinker Colin Marshall also happens to host and produce The Marketplace of Ideas [iTunes], a public radio show and podcast dedicated to in-depth cultural conversation. Please hire him for something.]

My Brother, My Brother and Me 48: Math Blaster

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After two weeks of terrifying change, we've managed to get the show back on its regular schedule. Though our brief tryst with Tuesday was exciting, we know that there are some folks out there who need a booster shot of wisdom to start off their working week. Well, here you go, wisdom junkie.

Suggested talking points: Hot Pocketism, Citizen of Jamaica, Wake and Cake, Deed to the Boathouse, Dad's Rig, Bongotron 3000, Math Boner, Present Fight, No Rules Just Right, Tickle Prostitute

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