LIFE

Six podcasts to follow the insanity that is current US politics

1. NPR POLITICS @nprpolitics

I mean, obviously.

NPR is the mother of all politics podcasts. It’s literally the only half-hour you need to keep on top of what everyone will be talking about for the week. It’s also a great insight into how the US political media functions (spoiler: not like in Britain).

Best for: Non-partisan (ish) analysis by super experienced political reporters who know a helluva lot about the complexities of US government.

Hosted by: It varies, but regulars include White House correspondent Tamara Keith and congressional reporter Scott Detrow, with appearances by political editor Domenico Montanaro.

Ignore if: I literally can’t think of a reason. Everyone should listen to this.

2. THE DAILY @mikiebarb

I covered the launch of the New York Times second attempt at a daily politics podcast for Forbes and I have to admit, I was kind of sceptical. It was billed as a sort of sequel to the hugely successful The Run-Up, but I worried it wouldn’t be able to differentiate itself from standard morning radio you might listen to while you get ready for work. Actually, it’s great. More of a deep-dive than a news bulletin, it gives you more information about the issue than you’re likely to pick up anywhere else, leaving you to seek out the rest of the news on your own which, let’s face it, anyone listening probably already has.

Best for: Knowing more than anyone else about the background to the front page stories.

Hosted by: Michael Barbaro

Ignore if: You’re not on EST. I mean, not really, I listen to it anyway, but if it was up at 7am London time that would be much more enjoyable. It just has a morning feel to it.

3. POD SAVE AMERICA @podsaveamerica

The first podcast from Crooked Media, which is basically the Gimlet of current affairs. Hosted by former Obama staffers, they unapologetically side with the Democrats on everything, and refer to the previous administration and the party in the first person. The exclusive and kind of dogmatic vibe (and the fact that it’s hosted by four identical-sounding white men, two of whom have the same name) is offset by its charming nature. It feels fresh, passionate and there’s banter aplenty, plus loads of inside knowledge on the workings of the White House.

*Apparently there’s also an adorable dog

Best for: Reflecting on the current administration in relation to the Obama years. And feeling vindicated in your indignance.

Hosted by: Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, Dan Pfeiffer and Tommy Vietor.

Ignore if: You think the media should always be objective.

4. BLABBERMOUTH @thestranger

Ah, The Stranger: the reason I got over my Meg Ryan trauma and decided I desperately wanted to visit Seattle, and the publication that gave us Dan Savage, without whom Santorum would still be a politician’s name and ‘pegging’ would conjure up images of cribbage and not… well, google it. Savage is arguably the best part of Blabbermouth. If you like the rants at the top of the Lovecast this one is for you.

Best for: Really good arguments you can file away and use on your weird right-wing relatives next Christmas.

Hosted by: Eli Sanders, associate editor at The Stranger.

Ignore if: You’re planning to listen around kids.

5. FIVETHIRTYEIGHT @FiveThirtyEight

Ah, Nate Silver. Remember him from the 2008 elections? How the mighty have fallen, as polls have become unreliable to the point of irrelevance. To be fair, he still predicted a much higher likelyhood of a Trump victory than any other mainstream analysis, but still gave Hillary a 71% chance of winning. That said, when you take the podcast more as commentary than as prediction, it has interesting insight.

Best for: Understanding the science behind the figures the media keeps referring to.

Hosted by: Nate Silver, technically, although the politics team at FiveThirtyEight often take over.

Ignore if: You’re more into the salacious stories about grabbing people by the pussy than the minutia of political data.

6. THE EZRA KLEIN SHOW @ezrklein

Vox is up there in my top five “new media” (urgh) companies, and its success cements Klein as one of the great digital news content innovators, alongside the likes of Jonah Peretti and Ev Williams (I know, I know, three white men — shoutout to Arianna, who started it all). Regardless, Klein is also a fantastic interviewer, and despite his ideological leanings manages to remain staunchly objective when discussing the White House lunacy with a variety of guests including Hillary Clinton, David Miliband, Ta-Nehisi Coats, Jessica Valenti, Malcolm Gladwell and, perhaps most notably, Barack Obama (yes, that Barack Obama)..

Best for: Listening to stupidly clever people talk about endlessly fascinating stuff.

Hosted by: Ezra Klein (obvs).

Ignore if: You’re short on time — they average at over an hour each.

 

*NOTABLE MENTIONS: Vox’s The Weeds, Slate’s Political Gabfest, and KCRW’s Left, Right and Centre — also great, not quite I-couldn’t-live-without status.

The three days that almost turned me into an unlikely nature lover

IMG_20151103_141549“I don’t do the countryside,” I claimed a couple of years back on my first date with my boyfriend, when he told me that his dream was to wind up living somewhere with a 360 degree view of green stuff.

I was being truthful: I’m not into trees, or mountains, or “peace and quiet” (inevitably a euphemism for “boring as drying paint”); until relatively recently I couldn’t remember ever having actually seen a cow.

Fast forward to last month and I woke up one Saturday morning after weeks of late nights, early mornings, 14-hour work days and a to-do list that just seemed to get longer and longer and started to see the appeal of a cottage in the middle of nowhere, with no wifi, no phone signal, no responsibilities, and no google calendar alerts. (more…)

Gilmore Girls might be back, here’s why it’s the best show it could have happened to

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Last winter I abandoned the housemate life to move in on my own and while it’s probably the best thing I ever did, it was also a little lonely, so I turned to Amy Sherman-Palladino’s dreamy hour-long comedy drama Gilmore Girls, which was just the right amount fairy lights, humour and comfort. I never got into it the first time round – it was just too quaint for teenage me, and perhaps too sophisticated in some of its humour and references, but now it’s absolute perfection.

The news emerged yesterday that Netflix may well commission a reboot, eight years after that last episode (best finale ever) originally aired. It’s so rare that TV excited me, but this is one of those occasions. Don’t do that thing that people do and decide it’s probably rubbish on the basis of little more than a guess. Here are five reasons to binge-watch it  ASAP.

It’s almost literally all about the women (more…)

Six podcasts for when you need some really good life advice

screenshot-docs.google.com 2015-09-30 11-01-151. DEAR SUGAR RADIO @CherylStrayed & @stevealmondjoy

The Dear Sugar column in online literary magazine The Rumpus is one of the most beautifully lyrical advice columns of all time, and it translates perfectly to audio. Sometimes episodes will focus on one single letter, sometimes on a theme, and sometimes they’ll draft in special guests such as author George Saunders or our generation’s most awesome teenager Tavi Gevinson.

The questions really range from relatively light and easy to pretty hardcore life issues, but Steve and Cheryl seem to wrap listeners in a quilt of rich voices, telling us we will be OK, no matter what. (more…)

Review: Killing Monica by Candace Bushnell (spoiler – amusing but problematic)

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As a disclaimer I should say I’ve never read any other Candace Bushnell books. I have no issue with the “chick-lit” genre (beyond its vomit-inducing nomenclature and wildly outdated reputation). My holiday luggage will often include a Marian Keyes or India Knight novel and I’ll savour them for their immersive writing and hilarious wit, regretting the fact that their label will discourage so many potential readers.

I picked up Killing Monica with a similarly open mind and curious about the plot, long-rumoured to be based on Bushnell’s tumultuous relationship with Sarah Jessica Parker, with a shocking twist in its final pages. The protagonist, Pandy, is sort of a Carrie Bradshaw 2.0: a writer with a penchant for fashion, cocktails and ill-advised romantic endeavours. Pandy has achieved success thanks to the notorious Monica, the fictional star of her novels which have been turned into Hollywood blockbusters, launching actress SondraBeth Schnauzer into astronomical fame and fandom. (more…)

Reasons to go and see The Overnight. ASAP.

The Patrick Brice sex comedy came to British cinemas on Friday. It’s super funny, smart, has great acting, an excellent script and it actually makes you think. At 70 minutes you leave wanting more, yet knowing you’ve had just enough. Here’s why you should make it your cinema treat this month, even though it is 30 degrees outside.

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Five podcasts to listen to if you’re obsessed by all things internet

screenshot-docs.google.com 2015-06-25 11-24-111. REPLY ALL @ReplyAll

“A show about the internet”, it focuses on a particular topic for its weekly 30 minute show, which is inevitably a fascinating tiny niche of internet culture which you never knew how desperately you wanted to know about, from who invented email to the Ecuadorian president’s Twitter presence.

There’s also a fantastic segment in which they unpack a weird tweet layered with ironic online cultural references that you’ll feel simultaneously relieved and embarrassed you didn’t understand.

Bonus points: For being produced by the awesome Gimlet Media, who do the best native advertising in the podcasting space.

Best episode: My personal favourite and the one I’ve pushed upon anyone who will listen is called We know what you did, and it’s about the man who did a terrible thing in the 90s, the consequences of which we’re still dealing with today…

Hosted by: the painfully charming Alex Blumberg and PJ Vogt (more…)

My tips for an amazing weekend in Riga, Latvia

 

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Where to stay

You have to stay in the old town. Wandering down little cobble stoned streets will give you that instant holiday feeling, and the main square is packed full of inexpensive alfresco bars and cafes. It’s about a 30 minute drive from the airport and within walking distance of most of the key tourist attractions.

Airbnb seemed like a better option than a hotel in Riga, and we stayed at this one. The pictures don’t actually do justice to the weirdness of the decor, although the mixture of derelict industrial with kitsch and bold seemed to be something of a theme across the city.

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I did ALL the exercise in the name of research, and it was actually kind of fun

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In exactly one month it’ll be Valentine’s Day. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a day to celebrate romantic infatuation, it is in fact a perfectly timed, commercially constructed not-even-a-bank-holiday day, designed exclusively to make 90% of the population feel like they’re not good enough.Instagram will prove everyone wore a cuter heart-themed #OOTD than you, Facebook’ll show half your feed is now engaged and Twitter will be bursting with cynics who have come up with a wittier way to decribe the day’s pointlessness in 140 characters. It is literally social media hell.If there’s one good thing to say about Valentine’s Day, at least it’s a landmark. By the 14th of February the festive season is well and truly over, and there’s no excuse for still being a slovenly, perpetually cheese-craving, sofa-festering ragamuffin. It’s kind of time to sack off the Netflix binge-watching, stop pleading post-Christmas poverty and get the hell out of the house. The days are getting longer and people actually want to socialise again. Weirdos.One month to Valentine’s day means four weeks to get fit before life actually starts up again properly. Or at least to make it up one flight of stairs without getting out of breath. As much as I like the feeling of being virtuous, full disclosure disctates I should probably list the things I’m not willing to do to achieve it:

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