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International Waters Episode 12: A Season for Milk-Floating

It's really cold in London.
Eliza Skinner
John Finnemore
Jonah Ray
Roisin Conaty
Julie Klam

Eliza Skinner, John Finnemore, Jonah Ray and Roisin Conaty join guest host Cameron Esposito, to uncover the British equivalents to hayriding and Kim Kardashian.

Special guest Julie Klam tells us about her new book Friendkeeping: A Field Guide to the People You Love, Hate and Can’t Live Without and is incredibly tolerant of Eliza’s latest comic character.

Engineered by Lindsay Pavlas and Chris Morris, written by Jordan Morris and Tom Neenan and produced by Colin Anderson.

Podthoughts by Colin Marshall: UnFictional


Vital stats:
Format: independently produced documentaries, mostly from Los Angeles and the U.K.
Episode duration: ~30m
Frequency: weekly

It’s not easy to title a show, granted, but avoiding fiction strikes me as a mark of no particular distinction in public radio. Indeed, in more judgmental moments I pin the blame for the creative malaise afflicting the industry on its upper ranks dominated by people who began in (or have spent a little too much time in) newsrooms. This produces a number of deforming forces, from flamboyantly pious J-school convictions about the truth all the way down to simple stodginess. What a pleasant surprise, then, to hear in UnFictional [RSS] [iTunes] very little stodge at all. Why, airing stories about colossally powerful car stereos, self-immolation, blind baseball, and the U.K. roller derby, it almost makes us describe it as stodge’s opposite — but let’s not go crazy. We’re talking about public radio standards here. In fact, I suspect I’ve already implied more radicalism than the show can realistically offer.

Despite no doubt having rattled a few cages here and there over the past three years, UnFictional comprises, for the most part, radio documentaries of the same basic type we’ve been hearing for three decades. (This tradition tends these days to favor things like “sound-rich” portraits of barrio life, which explains why I find so little support for my own projects, most of which are multi-hour conversations about Graham Greene.) The whole production comes as one of the newish offerings from KCRW, long the “cool” public radio station in Los Angeles. Don’t read those air quotes as sarcasm; KCRW really does have the coolest programming, in part due to shows like this one, though it also trades on “cool” as a vibe — again, public radio standards, mind. Yet as a listener, I’ve in recent years begun to glimpse a frown of deep discomfort behind the station’s Wayfarers. With its schedule split between music, news, and cultural talk — not to mention Tuesday night’s unmissable Santa Monica City Council meetings — KCRW probably fears the simultaneous eating of its lunch by predominantly newsy KPCC and music-oriented KCSN. An understandable fear, but one born, I would argue, of a framing mistake.

If I think of KCRW as cool, I do so because, at the risk of self-flattery, it attracts cool listeners. What’s more — and here comes the crucial bit — its schedule as a whole retains only the cool listeners. Anxiety about whether any given Angeleno will “stay with them” from music to news to film or book talk back to music thus strikes me as ill-founded since, as I see it, cool people can by definition shift cultural and aesthetic gears every hour or two — and want to. Even just taking UnFictional as an example, not only will a cool listener tune interestedly in for the high-dB amps and the Tibetan lighting himself on fire and the beeps of home plate and the Cockney lasses elbowing each other, they’ll come back for Irish train-hopping, lucid dreaming, and Whitey Bulger. Their engagement, to pull out a term admittedly sicklied o’er with the pale cast of marketing, goes broad and deep.

But seeing as the lame people, defined by the quintessentially lame practice of only being interested in their interests, outnumber the cool people thousands to one, the temptation to also attract assholes pulls strong. Yet I still recommend that quality-minded media outlets lash themselves to the mast, since now more than ever we find ourselves out of the three-channels-on-TV era and in the one where you can thrive on audiences that, while small, are actually good at life. But don’t let me hold myself up as some kind of paragon. Even I get into some KCRW shows more than others: I enjoy Michael Silverblatt’s Bookworm, for example, to the point of worship, whereas I also enjoy Good Food, but it occasionally induces flop sweats at visions a revolutionary horde of 38-year-old women in the same way that some fearfully envision vast Jewish conspiracies. Yet my ideal public radio station would let a hundred flowers bloom, of the Bookworm to the Good Food varieties and all in between. This imaginary station wouldn’t just carry one UnFictional; it would carry dozens, each going off in its own direction.

As it is, the show opens too wide an umbrella to make description easy. Theoretically, it showcases real-life documentaries fostered by KCRW’s Independent Producer Project, which aims to get independently produced content into listeners’ ears. For a recently launched mission, this has a queerly pre-internet ring — I can, and often do, get buried with millions of hours of independently produced content at the click of a mouse — but even UnFictional ditches the premise when it feels like it. This most often happens when the show gets a visit from satirist Joe Frank, who today delivers the same sort of amiably humorous, subtly discomfiting, and maddeningly digressive scored monologues that made him cultishly famous on NPR Playhouse in the late seventies and early eighties. On a just media landscape, would Frank possess the regard and renown of a Howard Stern? Impossible to say, but at least his work will always resonate with the cool people. One such cool person, former station general manager Ruth Seymour, brought Frank onto KCRW in the first place. Despite having never met the lady, I get the sense that she embodies everything I’ve said about playing only to the sharpest. I’ve heard she’s sorely missed.

Comment or suggest a podcast on the Podthoughts forum thread

[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.]

Judge John Hodgman Episode 92: Grow v. Blade


Brad brings this week's case against his wife Kyra. Brad and Kyra's 20-month-old son Winslow's hair has never been cut, and Kyra believes it's time to take the plunge. She claims his long hair gets in his face and the practical response is to trim it. Brad thinks his son's long hair sets him apart from other boys his age and would like to keep it untrimmed until Winslow turns 3. Brad also has a sentimental reason for keeping Winslow's hair long: he'd like to recreate a long lost photo taken of himself as a youngster with long hair. Do the ends justify the means, or should this toddler get a trim? Judge John Hodgman decides.


Special thanks to Nathan Seltzer for suggesting this title.

Throwing Shade #61 - Mormon Lady Pants, Azealia Banks vs. Perez Hilton, IUD's, Stubenville


Grab those panties and grab yo mamma, as we say in the deep South, because Bryan and Erin have the skinny on everything you need to know about the "Wear Pants To Church" Mormon feminist movement, the Azealia Banks vs. Angel Haze vs. Perez Hilton vs. GLADD vs. Taste, and the wonderful world of IUDs, DUIs, and UTIs. 
It's just a good vibration!
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@gibblertron & @bryansafi #tspod
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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Aimee Mann, Seth Godin, Jordan Morris

Aimee Mann
Seth Godin
Jordan Morris
Andrew Nosnitsky

New to Bullseye? Subscribe to the show in iTunes or via the RSS feed, or check out our SoundCloud page to share any or all of these interviews or recommendations!

Rap Picks with Noz: Mystikal and Mouse On Tha Track

Andrew Noz joins us this week to share a couple of his current favorite rap tracks. His first pick is Mouse On Tha Track's smooth and mellow "Get High Get Loaded," featuring Fiend. His second recommendation is Mystikal's incredible new song "Hit Me."

Andrew Noz is the proprietor of the blog Cocaine Blunts, and he writes about hip hop for Pitchfork, the Fader, and Hip Hop Pit Stop.

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Photo credit Sheryl Nields

Singer-Songwriter Aimee Mann on Rejecting the Life of a Pop Star

Aimee Mann rose to prominence in the 80s with the success of her new wave band 'Til Tuesday's single, "Voices Carry," but she found the limelight uncomfortable. Tired of contending with record companies' attempts to pigeonhole her and her work, Aimee struck out on her own. She joins us this week to discuss that transition from frontwoman to solo artist, the stresses of fame, and coping with uncertainty at a time in her life when she thought she would have had everything figured out.

Aimee's new album, Charmer, is available now.

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Jordan Ranks America

2013 is a whole new year chock full of things that want ranking -- who has the time to tackle that task? Fortunately, we have Jordan Morris to tell us what's what!

Jordan Morris co-hosts the podcast Jordan, Jesse, Go!, stars in the YouTube series Game Shop, and tweets at @Jordan_Morris.

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Seth Godin on Making Art That Markets Itself

Seth Godin is best known as a marketing guru, but he brings far more compassion and genuine insight to his work than the title might lead you to expect. And his observations aren't just valuable for CEOs. He makes his work for content creators operating on every scale. He joins us this week to delve into the "assets that matter" -- the qualities and values critical to creating great, meaningful work.

Seth Godin's new books are V Is for Vulnerable: Life Outside the Comfort Zone, The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly?, and Whatcha Gonna Do with That Duck?.

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The Outshot: Orson Welles's F for Fake

Trickery and deception are featured prominently in some of Orson Welles's finest works, so it is fitting that the existence of an objective truth and its relative importance is most thoroughly explored in Welles's final major film, F for Fake. Part documentary, part film essay, F for Fake features tricks and truths layered atop each other, creating a mesmerizing narrative.

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Stop Podcasting Yourself 251 - Mark Little

Mark Little

Comedian Mark Little joins us to talk midlife crises, haggling, and monster heritage.

Download episode 251 here. (right-click)

Get in touch with us at stoppodcastingyourself [at] gmail [dot] com or (206) 339-8328.

Brought to you by:

(click here for the full recap)

Sex, Death & High School

Kelly MacFarland
Dave Ross

Dave Ross and Kelly MacFarland share stories of innocence lost in their high school years.

Jordan, Jesse, Go! Episode 257: Sloganeering with Karen Kilgariff

Karen Kilgariff

Comedian, writer, and musician Karen Kilgariff joins Jordan and Jesse for a discussion of fish trucks, coin operated binoculars, the Philadelphia Mummer's Parade, and the KDOC New Year's Special disaster. Plus, Karen sings a song and they settle on a new slogan for 2013.

My Brother, My Brother and Me 135: Twenty-Dirt


We apologize for the audio in this week's episode -- not because we all sound bad, but because Justin sounds so good that it makes the other two sound like chumps. Also, we talk about Wienerville for about ten minutes, which probably also constitutes "bad audio."

Suggested talking points: Justin's Jaundice, Green Acres, Furry Church, Po-Ta-Toes, BIKE ME, Justin's Sidewalk of Stars, Visible Puppetry, A Glowing Piece of that Radical Rock

#413: Holiday Stories 3

Mara Wilson, Margot Leitman, Jefferson, Julie Threlkeld and Matteson Perry share more true tales of the Yuletide.
Margot Leitman
Mara Wilson
Julie Threlkeld
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