Category Archives: Podcasts

See Sister Listen: The Moth Podcast

Now for the second edition of my podcast review series. I know you’ve all been eagerly anticipating this! This time I’m talking about The Moth.

I first heard of The Moth when my cousin commented on my original podcast post back in February and recommended it as one of her favorites. She said it regularly made her cry in public, which was pretty much all I needed to hear. Who doesn’t love a good cry on public transportation from time to time? And even better if it’s induced by a podcast and not personal tragedy/sorrow, right? I immediately subscribed, and I’ve been in love ever since.

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The Moth is a storytelling program, started by novelist George Dawes Green. The idea is to recreate the experience of hearing a good story told at a dinner party or a gathering of friends. All the stories are recorded live in front of an audience. The storytellers must tell a true personal story without notes. The podcast is simply a replaying of these stories for a wider audience. The stories on the podcast are mixed and matched from different events, so you’re not listening to all the stories from one event. 

As my cousin promised, I frequently cry when listening to them. The stories are often heartbreaking; but they are also hilarious, uplifting, intimate, inspiring, and always compelling. 

Given all of this, I was SUPER excited when earlier this summer at the end of one episode, the host mentioned that The Moth was coming to London for the first time! I am rarely on top of booking tickets to things that sound interesting, but I JUMPED at this chance and bought tickets as soon as I could. Which is how I found myself (together with three friends) at Union Chapel last Thursday evening for the first Moth Mainstage in London. 

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The theme was Eyewitness, and we heard five different stories. The adherence to the theme was a bit waffly (though I guess you can interpret “eyewitness” as “something that happened to me and therefore I witnessed”), but they were all captivating in their own way. George Dawes Green (founder of The Moth) spoke about the time he briefly lived in a graveyard; Lynn Ferguson spoke about receiving the devastating news that her unborn son had a severe disability; Andrew Solomon told us about his participation in the resistance to the 1991 August coup d’état attempt in Soviet Russia; Omid Djalili regaled us with anecdotes from his time on the set of Gladiator; and – most compelling of all – Noreen Riols spoke about her work with Churchill’s Special Operations Executive service during World War II, training men to become spies behind enemy lines.  

I loved being there as an active listener to the stories I’m used to hearing through headphones. I’m even more thrilled that The Moth seems to have some to London to stay. Besides this Mainstage event, there are several Story Slams already scheduled for the coming months. The Story Slams are events where anyone can come with a story prepared on the stated theme; hopeful storytellers put their names in a hat, ten are selected, each tells their five minute story, and a winner is declared at the end of the night. What fun!

So go check it out. And keep an ear out for the stories from London’s first Moth Mainstage. I’m one of those people shuffling and laughing in the background!

See Sister Listen: The Dead Author’s Podcast

You’ll all be glad to hear that my podcast listening continues apace. Over the past month, I’ve been figuring out which shows I really really enjoy; I’ve added new ones to my regular subscriptions; and I’ve started to drop the ones that I really just never get around to listening to (ahem, The Diane Rehm Show). A few shows have emerged as my top choices – the ones I listen to as soon as there is a new episode available. But of those, there is only one that I’ve enjoyed it so much, I’ve gone back and downloaded old episodes so I could listen even more.

That show is The Dead Author’s Podcast.

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The premise is simple: H.G. Wells uses his time machine to travel back in time and collect a dead author for a modern day interview. What’s that you say? H.G. Wells is dead? And he didn’t actually have a time machine, he just wrote a book about one?

Okay, so yes, it’s a silly and light-hearted podcast, but it’s for a good cause and it’s extremely entertaining. Comedian Paul F. Tompkins plays H.G. Wells as a genteel Englishman who considers himself (NOT Jules Verne) to be the father of science fiction. He asks his deceased literary guests softball questions in an effort to understand the experiences and inspirations that contributed to their works.

The podcast is recorded in front of a live audience at The Upright Citizens Brigade theatre in Los Angeles. The authors are played by various comedians and members of UCB. Sometimes they seem decently prepared for the role – they’ve obviously read up a bit on the author, bought one of their books, etc. Other times, they are undoubtedly completely under-prepared and unfamiliar with the author. The accents start strong and often deteriorate throughout the episode as the tone gets sillier and sillier. The episodes are always hilarious.

So far (of the ones I’ve listened to), my favorite has been Agatha Christie. Jessica Chaffin played her as a condescending English aristocrat, with a high opinion of her own talent and prolific literary output and a low opinion of Hercules Poirot and her first husband. Very entertaining.

The podcast is all in support of the Los Angeles branch of 826, a nonprofit providing support, tutoring and resources to teachers and students to improve basic and creative writing skills.

If you’re a big reader, you’re sure to enjoy the funny takes on famous authors, but even if you’re not a reader, the interviews will provide you with some good laughs. Go check it out.

See Sister Listen to Podcasts

Since the start of the year, I’ve become a major podcast listener…well, as “major” of a listener as it’s possible to become in just one month.

I’m not totally sure why I suddenly decided that now was the time to finally get on board with this trend (if something that’s been around for years and doesn’t really seem to be going anywhere can be called a “trend”). I know lots of people who listen to podcasts on the regular. My flatmate, Louise, has been telling me for months that I should get into them as a way to entertain myself on my walk to work.

For whatever reason, the idea just never gripped me until the start of January. Then one day, I just decided I was going to start listening to them, so I downloaded the iPhone app. I spent an afternoon reading various “Top Ten” and “Recommended” podcasts lists, perusing the Charts, reading summaries and reviews. I subscribed to 7 or 8 that first afternoon and started listening to different ones on different days to figure out which ones I actually really liked.

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I tried to subscribe to a good mix of programs with a range of topics – news, comedy, entertainment, culture, books, politics – as well as a good mix of British and American programs so that I got the view from both sides of the Atlantic. I had great visions of listening to news- and current-affairs-oriented programs that would enlighten me and make me both well-informed and more intelligent. I could see myself becoming a fascinating, intellectual being who was confident discussing a wide-range of topics and ideas. Surely this was the start of a new era and the first step to a new me!

Instead, I ended up subscribing to a ton of entertainment/pop culture/comedy focused podcasts; and lots of general human interest, story-telling style podcasts. And they are almost all American. So much for that balanced, well-informed, both-sides-of-the-Atlantic view of things. Instead, I listen to all the pop culture/human interest podcasts first, then I might take some time to check in on the current affairs/politics/news stories, but those are always a last resort…and to be honest, there are so many of the more fun ones to listen to, that I rarely find myself falling back on the “real” news programs.

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But actually, I don’t really care. I love pop culture, and I love a random human interest story. I’m definitely becoming one of those people who starts stories with, “So I was listening to this podcast…” I’ve already been one of those people with longform articles in the past. [Like for serious: I read more than my fair share at work during the slow summer months last year and then proceeded to tell anyone who would listen all about them. I learned about a fake serial killer, a super weird random bone disease, and a pair of twins who stood to inherit billions but were living in squalor.] And the power of a good story-telling voice over the airwaves cannot be overstated.

I’m constantly popping my earphones in these days to listen to another episode or finish up one that I started earlier in the day. It does mean that I am a little more clueless while walking down the street. I really have to pause and make sure there aren’t any cars coming when crossing the streets these days. I’m constantly bumping into people or jumping when they come up quickly behind me simply because I can’t hear them or I’m lost in the world of the latest story. And I’m afraid I look like a 100% crazy person more often than not these days – laughing at a really funny story or even crying at a touching one. People are starting to give me a wider berth on buses and sidewalks.

The long and short of it is: I love my podcasts. So much so that I am going to use them as a recurring post theme. I’ll be updating you all periodically with my favorite podcasts or specific episodes. I might even warn you to stay away from some bad ones (I’ve discovered a couple of those, too). So stay tuned to hear all about what I’ve been listening to and the interesting things I’ve learned!

What about you? Are you a podcast listener? What’s your favorite program? I’m sooooo open to recommendations!