On Podcasts: The West Wing Weekly

West Wing Weekly


I absolutely love The West Wing. That’s not very impressive, I guess, since anyone that has seen it probably loved it too. 7 seasons of how the government operates with multiple plot lines, walk & talks, and ripped from the headlines type issues that the West Wing staff would need to deal with. The first four seasons were powerful, the last 3 were pretty okay with several moments of BAD, but all in all it deserves its place on the list of best television series.

Now let’s talk about the podcast.

It’s buddies Josh Molina (Will Bailey from the show) and Hrishikesh Hirway (Hrishi for short) talking about the episodes and what happens in them while adding extra commentary that, if you are a fan of the show, you probably already know. Listening to the first few episodes definitely made me want to go back and watch the series for a 6th time, but it did not make me want to continue listening to the podcast.

I have watched this entire series at least 5 times that I can remember. I have absolutely no interest in listening to these gentlemen explaining the episodes to me. What purpose does that serve? All the episodes are on Netflix, so just go watch the show. I have no interest in “behind the scenes” type commentary because, like I said, if you are a fan you’ve probably heard all they have to say, plus this series has been off the air since…2006? 2007? I’m not exactly on the edge of my seat to hear about the feud between Rob Lowe and Martin Sheen in season 3 episode 7 because Lowe didn’t get the cookies he wanted (I made that up, Martin Sheen is a saint).

Also, Molina didn’t join the series until…season 4 maybe? Let me look…yes, season 4. HOW ARE YOU GONNA COMMENT ON SEASONS 1-3 FOR ME, JOSHUA? You were on Sorkin’s other coke-fueled show, Sports Night, and they wouldn’t let you be Sam Seaborn because they wanted a sexier, non-nerdy gentleman. And don’t even get me started on Scandal. *walks away*

So while I was initially excited about this podcast, it’s just not as interesting as simply going back and re-enjoying the series for yourself. I’ll give them this though, with all those episodes and only publishing once a week, it’s fertile content ground. There are so many podcasts that rely on existing content for their survival (mine relies on books, so I can’t get too judgy on this score), and the husband said there is a podcast that does this same thing but with Simpson’s episodes. HOLY BALLS. That’s content for years if they can keep it up.

Seems gimmicky though. Podcasts that just describe something that’s already been done are always going to seem inferior in my mind to podcasts like Welcome to Nightvale that, while based on existing literature, offer a unique listening experience. I am probably not explaining this distinction very well, but I have no interest in listening to someone describe something to me that I can go and listen to/experience for myself.

On this one, it’s a soft pass. If you listen, let us know what you think.

Two Weeks In

I am so tired that if you gave me someplace dark and warm I would fall asleep at any time of day.

I have a routine in place that allows me to do my job without worrying about the stupid details of the job.

I am eating a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

I miss my dogs.

I miss my cats.

I am getting really good at Melitta pour-over coffee.

No one knows who I am. I stay under the radar.

My classroom is humming. No one knows this. No one comes to see. No one listens.

Two weeks in and my classroom is a community.

Two weeks in and my students are learning.

Two weeks in and I can’t make the screaming in my head stop.

I can’t make the dreams stop.

The memories are coming back.

I do what I have to. I do what I’m good at.

I’m an excellent actor. I’m an excellent liar. I’m an excellent teacher.

I’m surviving.

Two weeks in and this is just what’s happening now.

Memoir Monday: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me

Last week I found myself moving closer and closer to the line between caring what other people think and just being myself and telling everyone to deal with it. I know that for confident, successful people this might seem like a simple thing, but for me being who everyone else wanted or needed me to be up until this point was a survival mechanism. That’s how I kept jobs, got help, made friends – there was a point where I lied so much about who I was that I forgot who I was. For whatever reason different events last week started pushing me back to who I was before and while I’m not there yet, I can sense that time coming.

With that internal struggle and change happening, it was very appropriate that I would be reading Mindy Kaling’s first memoir: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns), because if there is one thing you should walk away with after reading this book, it is a sense for how important it is to know yourself and to be strong in that knowledge.

My only real exposure to Kaling was in The Office in her role as Kelly Kapoor. She was snotty and hilarious and I really enjoyed her acting. This book expanded my knowledge to include her writing and directing experience, which included neither at the outset. It was cool to see where she came from, hear about her educational background, and how she took the leap to try to write in New York (not necessarily with an acting focus).

It is probably true that Mindy was able to pursue her dreams because both her parents were successful and able to help her financially. We see stories that place her in stereotypically “poor” or POC-type situations, but all in all this story says “I made it” as opposed to “I made it THROUGH ALL THIS GARBAGE” and in this way this story was also exactly what I needed after so many struggle memoirs. I needed to hear someone say “It was difficult and frustrating, but I had people around me supporting me and I made it and I persevered.” Everything is so much garbage right now that reading this short, light-hearted recollection of her own experience was really refreshing.

So if you need something light that inspires you to embrace the things that make you, YOU, pick up this memoir from 2011. You will be glad you did.

On Podcasts: Pod Save America

Pod Save America


I absolutely love this series, because it is forcing me to listen to and try so many podcasts! And there are so many. Many of you know that I have my own podcast, Based on the Book (available on iTunes and Google Play Music and I link to them over in the sidebar on this site ——>) and since I am only on episode 8 this week I am painfully aware that (a) I am a small fish in a VERY big ocean and (b) EVERYONE HAS A PODCAST so being able to separate the good from the bad can save you a lot of time.

Pod Save America is hosted by four gentlemen and states that it is for people who are not yet ready to give up or go insane, so I’m hoping I’m still allowed to listen to it? *fingers crossed* In The Daily Show or Last Week Tonight style, they talk about the week’s news  and interview people with important views and information to share related to the happenings.

Something that is very important to me in a podcast is the sense that I am sitting in a room having a conversation with friends. I love The Read, not because of the pop culture stuff they touch on, but because I feel like I’m talking to friends about things they are interested in and I’m also learning about the world around me as I go. Pod Save America is a listening experience that simulates sitting around with friends screaming THIS IS FUCKING NUTS and it feels so good to hear them say it.

This is an informed and entertaining ~45 minute gathering that allows you to remember that you are not alone and that this is not normal. Sometimes watching MSNBC or CNN gives the sense that we are trying to analyze the After-Times with Before-Times logic and they aren’t willing to let go of that. Having a podcast like this or a show like The Daily Show or Last Week Tonight to supplement that approach can truly help you strip away the bullshit and stay sane in a world that is on fire.

If you are interested in politics, America, and staying aware in a society that seems to be tearing itself apart, add Pod Save America to your playlist. Right now. Go. Why are you still here?

Total Solar Eclipse 2017

On Sunday the husband and I traveled to Hartswell, GA (about 7-8 hours from where we live) and stayed at a Hampton Inn (thanks Hilton Honors points!) to be in the band of totality for the solar eclipse. On Monday we waited in the parking lot for the eclipse to occur. Here are some pictures I took. If you look in the picture you can find a pinhole image of the stage of the eclipse as we went.

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I had the special eclipse glasses, which allowed me to see the moon coming in front even as the sun continued to shine. As you can see by the pictures, if you actually looked up at the sun you would have no way to know what stage it was really in. The glasses are a necessity for the enjoyment of the eclipse as well as your safety.

This video was taken by my phone camera, but it’s pretty awesome. It’s the moment of totality and while it’s not as good as the videos you would see on the news or the Weather Channel, I’m glad I have it so I can remember how excited I was when it happened. Enjoy.

Memoir Monday: Born a Crime

Born a Crime

One of my favorite kind of books to read is one that takes me someplace I have never been and introduces me to a culture that I have never experienced. Trevor Noah was born to a Xhosa mom and Swiss dad while apartheid was still in force in South Africa. His birth was evidence of a crime, I’m not sure I would go as far to say that he was born a crime, but “Born a Crime” grabs your attention a lot better than “My Birth Was Evidence of My Parents’ Crimes.”

The beauty of this memoir is that you journey with Trevor from his childhood into his early adulthood, and watch how South Africa transforms as he grows. You see the transition from apartheid to Nelson Mandela’s government, and how all the different “homelands” adjusted to the shifts in power. My favorite stories that he tells are the ones from the different schools he attended. The clearest picture of how the different degrees of racial identity (white, colored, black) interacted with each other is painted by the behavior of these children.

With all the discussion of white supremacy and the need to resist the rise of Nazi influence in this country, it was informative and interesting to see how South Africa convinced the majority black and colored (Noah’s word) population to live under apartheid. The methods they used to reinforce infighting between the many different tribes that lived there, the way they exploited the existence of so many languages (South Africa has 11 national languages!) to confuse as well as encourage miscommunication and distrust, that level of confusion and infighting created an environment where whites could reign supreme. There is a lot that we could learn from this memoir politically, racially, and structurally in terms of power. If you are not familiar with apartheid and how it was overthrown, Noah’s book is a fantastic narrative to take you on a basic, open-bus tour of the phenomenon while you are also learning about the personal history of a rising star in late-night television.

At around 300 pages it’s a relatively moderate read, and the essays are so funny and enjoyable that you’ll find yourself reading through it quickly. If you’re feeling in a memoir mood, check it out. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Thursday Thoughts: Is Anyone Listening?

I have been giving a lot of thought to our current situation in the United States. As a long time scholar in the field of education, I have practice in trying to find solutions in a system that is so tangled and messy that any one solution might uncover 10 other problems.

One of the problems we are facing in this country is the idea that everyone is an “expert.” Is an actual expert telling you something you don’t want to hear? Google it and find someone who does! Have an opinion? Great! You have a right to your opinion, so people better not come along and try to educate you out of your beliefs. This idea of opinion > fact has been visibly festering in this country since Obama was elected in 2008 (note: America has ALWAYS been this way, but in our more social-media-run reality more people are coming to realize it). Those of us who believe in facts and “open dialogue” (sarcastic finger quotes intended) and thoughtful debate have become increasingly frustrated and angry as we have discovered the futility of “getting our relatives/friends.”

There are only so many times a smart, informed person can get into a research-paper-level discussion of proof with a person, either online or in person, and after laying out your case and the facts, the person says “you have a right to your opinion, and I have a right to mine” and that’s the most tame way the other person might respond. People in America right now do not want to be told what to think by people who actually understand facts. I am not sure why. If I was to hazard a guess it’s because the reality of so many Americans is so bleak right now that opinions and beliefs are more attractive than facts. Additionally staying the same is easier than changing, especially when taking racism, sexism, etc. into consideration. So when you tell grandpa that he shouldn’t call black people coons and you explain why and that times have changed and you show him the documentary “13,” he eventually tells you to get your ass out of his house.

When I see calls for white people to “get your relatives” or “get your cousins” or “get your friends” I wonder what I could say. How do you convince a white supremacist that they shouldn’t be that way? How do you convince someone that <insert non-white adjective here> people are the same as white people and deserve a system that treats them fairly and equally? And how do you do that in a country where the people that are willing to listen and hear you already understand this, and those that listen but don’t hear you need to change but won’t, and especially won’t if you’re “preaching” at them to.

No one is listening, and more importantly no one is listening to anyone that actually knows what they are talking about. Our garbage president said he grabs women by the pussy AND 53% OF WHITE WOMEN WHO VOTED STILL VOTED FOR HIM. HE WAS GIVING US ALL THE PROOF THAT WE NEEDED TO BE LIKE, NOPE. BUT HE IS OUR GARBAGE LEADER NOW. “But her emails” aside, people believe what they believe regardless of facts, so if what Trump said to them was aligned with what they believe, THEY SUPPORTED HIM. That’s why he can walk around lying all the fucking time. NO ONE IN THIS GODFORSAKEN COUNTRY CARES ABOUT ANYTHING EXCEPT WHAT THEY BELIEVE. If you tell them he lied, they will say “no he didn’t” EVEN IF YOU PLAY VIDEO PROOF FOR THEM.

So for 8 fucking years I have been engaging people online and talking to family. Once I literally kicked one of my in laws out of my house because he referred to Trayvon Martin as a thug and when the verdict came in he started to talk about it and I was like I SAID WE WEREN’T GOING TO DO THAT IN MY HOUSE so he went out and sat in the car until the rest of the family was ready to leave. NO ONE IS LISTENING. I know that sounds like a cop-out but I can assure you that it is not. I have been putting in that work, I’ve been talking and living and calling people out. NO ONE IS LISTENING.

The people who need to listen in order for change to happen are not listening. 

The people who are open to growing, changing, and learning already know what you are there to tell them.

When someone figures out how to breach that wall let me know. I believe in working smarter and not harder. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. I do not expect that engaging people in conversation about their bigotry or discriminatory beliefs will make things better. I have experiential proof. If you accept that proof, you probably understand where I am coming from.

I see a stalemate and I don’t know how to break it. I welcome your comments and suggestions.