Attention Span Expander: Serial

Serial Podcast from the creators of This American Life

Like so many others, I’ve noticed my attention span shrinking. When you spend a lot of your day communicating in one-to-two sentence blips, as I do, having the patience for longer-form things can be difficult. It’s like my attention muscle is flabby and focusing on anything for too long seems like a chore. I pin while watching TV. I send emails while I’m cooking. It’s getting a little ridiculous.

So it’s into this micro-economy that the This American Life team has debuted Serial, which tells one story over a series of shows. The story they’re currently telling is spread out over a dozen episodes! If you’ve never listed to This American Life, the shows are all based on a theme, usually with several different stories in one show. The word “story” can refer to many different things–essays, radio journalism, short stories, occasional songs, etc. They’re all so well told and beautifully produced, and suffice it to say that I’m madly in love with everyone who works on it because it’s made my life richer and happier and more beautiful.


Serial Podcast from the creators of This American Life

Anyway, the stories on TAL are always surprising. James and I went to see Ira  Glass speak (twice!) about how they choose stories for the show. The stories usually follow the format: this happened, then this happened, then this REALLY SURPRISING THING happened. Serial takes the pieces of radio journalism that can’t fit into a few minutes, or even an hour, so there’s time to look at every facet; every perspective.

The current story is about a murder that happened at a high school in Maryland 15 years ago. A girl was killed and buried in a shallow grave, and her ex-boyfriend took the blame. Only, there are so many holes in the case–including an alibi–that no one is really sure if the right person was convicted. Sarah Koenig masterfully navigates all the facts, interviews everyone she can find, and even re-creates the event, in order to try to figure out what really happened. Who’s lying? Who’s telling the truth? And why do we suddenly care so much about these people?

I started listening to Serial last week and I was immediately hooked. Binge listening may be my new thing. All five episodes were gone in a flash and now I have to wait until Thursday for the next one. It feels like an eternity.

Serial is a podcast available at or on iTunes.

Photo Credit: Better Homes and Gardens

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This American Life’s Contract Ending

How This American Life Has Changed My Life + Save TAL // Frock Files

One of my favorite things in the world is the radio show This American Life, which I only discovered when I moved to Boston in 2006. So, as with any good thing that you discover late, I had a good run of binge listening for a long time. The show introduced me to David Sedaris (who I knew about but hadn’t heard, which I think is key to falling in love with him), Mike Birbiglia, Tig Notaro, and a host of other funny, insightful people I now adore, including Ira Glass himself.

How This American Life Has Changed My Life + Save TAL // Frock Files

Amazingly, Public Radio International (PRI) has decided not to renew TAL’s contract, after a relationship that has lasted for seventeen years. PRI has explained that their vision for the future of the show is different than the vision expressed by the TAL creators. Since the show brings in 2.2 million listeners every week and is the most downloaded podcast on the internet, you’d imagine they would be willing to roll with the show’s evolution, right? Guess not.

This American Life has made it clear that they’re not going off the air; they’re just not going to be syndicated by PRI any longer. But I think this is a good wake up call for those of us who love the program. This show, which has opened my eyes to so many facets of the world, explained things that I would never otherwise understand, and made me laugh even when laughter has seemed impossible — it needs continuous support. We all hate public radio fundraising, but we need to contribute to the things we love. So I’m making a donation to TAL today. If you love the program, I hope you will too.

Here are a few of my favorite episodes:

My Pen Pal
Dead Men Tell No Tales
Switched at Birth
Fear of Sleep
Americans in Paris

And to end on a bright note, the one of the funniest stories from TAL came from this live show featuring Tig Notaro:

I’m So Done With Winter + Weekend Links

Frock Files // Weekend Links To Cheer You Up

Earlier this year, I wrote about how I’ve managed to stave off seasonal depression with exercise and the necessary evil/blessing of dog walking even in bad weather (which delivers all that Vitamin D). But after being hit by one snow storm after another, things came to a head this week. On Wednesday morning, halfway through a particularly harrowing drive to work, I pulled over, called James, and burst into tears.

Despite living in Massachusetts for a cumulative six years, I still haven’t quite figured out how to deal with the six months of coat wearing, the slippery sidewalks, and the sheer terror I feel every time I lose some control of my car because of ice. Which is what kept happening to me on my way to work, and then because of a surprise afternoon storm, on my way home. If I can be really, totally, brutally honest for just one second, I’d like to say this: I love living in Massachusetts from April through November. I don’t really even mind it in December. And there’s hope, at least, in March. But January and February? No redeeming qualities. None. Okay, one: sometimes it’s sunny.

But since we don’t have any plans to escape the winter physically (and, hey, maybe it’ll be over soon…?), I’m turning to the kind of escape that doesn’t require a plane ticket: entertainment. If you, too, are in need of a vacation from this winter, perhaps you’ll want to get absorbed in another world as well, even if just for a few seconds.

What happens when everything is just right Except For That One Thing.

The new wave of Americans in Paris?

Completely obsessed with Orphan Black.

Food and charming stories by an author named Banana? In Japan? Perfect.

Louis CK on trying to impress his daughters, screwing up, and impressing them anyway. Adorable. (This whole series is awesome.)

P.S. I promise I’ll be in a better mood next week. It will have a lot to do with the floral DIY I’ve been putting together for you!

Friendship & Pie

{a la}

Are you thrilled or saddened by September’s arrival? I’m of the former contingent, ready to say goodbye to the hot days and eager to pull my coats out of storage. This past week seemed like a difficult one for many — maybe it was the moon cycle (there was a blue moon!) or something in the air — but I feel like September is all about fresh starts and new beginnings. As Gretchen Rubin tweeted, September = January. I suggest celebrating with some fresh notebooks, a new pair of shoes, and all of these funny/gorgeous/delicious things that I wanted to share with you this week:

A really funny & adorable song about friendship (and pie). If you don’t know who Reggie Watts is, you should. He’s hilarious, such a talented musician, and and so quick. His music is composed of layers that he creates on the spot. In this video he’s accompanied by the ever-deadpan Michael Cera.

Get ready to love Target even more! Check out the 50 high end designers who have created gifts you’ll want to give (and get!) this holiday season.

It’s not chilly yet, but I can’t wait to make this soup. Andean potatoes? Cheese? Corn? Oh autumn, welcome!

Wine is my favorite color of the season, and it’s everywhere. This coat is gorgeous — a must have, for sure.

A few unexpected tips on staying happily married (or happily committed). My favorite suggests openly adoring your partner, which I sort of did here.

I can’t wait to see this film.

This is my wish for all of us this autumn. And if I could, I would do this for all of you too.

xoxo, J


Really Funny Stuff

There’s nothing better than having a big, hearty laugh at least once a day. Really, if you can’t get to the gym for the day the least you can do for your mind and body is to find something to laugh about! I’ve recently come across some hilarious clips that I think you’ll love — every time I watch/hear/read them I’m in hysterics all over again. Not only are they really funny, but they’re also deeply clever. So here’s a healthy dose of humor for your weekend:

Tig Notaro on This American Life: If you couldn’t make it to the live cinema event, you can listen to the entire show on the TAL website. Tig Notaro basically stole the show with her story about running into 80s pop star Taylor Dayne (repeatedly), who she “loves, in a non-ironic way.” Listen all the way to the end of the clip — Tig gets the shock of a lifetime. (Act 2: Great Dayne)

Seven Minutes in Heaven with Paul Rudd: Mike O’Brien does a series of celeb interviews in a tiny closet, and the one with Paul Rudd is by far my favorite. The screen capture shows Rudd’s self-satisfaction in creating a segue between two unlikely thoughts. He also shows his skills in the paranormal realm and answers some very personal questions. If you don’t love Paul Rudd now, you totally will after watching this clip. If you still don’t, it’s possible that you’re missing your funny bone. Also, definitely check out the episode with Reggie Watts, who is the definition of awesome.

“In the Waiting Room” by David Sedaris: In this piece, Mr. Sedaris talks about his misadventures in Paris that occur as a result of not grasping the French language. He pretends to understand what’s being said to him by answering everything with “D’accord” the English equivalent of which is “Ok.” As I write this, I realize I’m not doing it justice, so here’s a bit to tickle your taste buds:

On the day of my appointment, I returned to the hospital, where I signed the register and was led by a slightly less cheerful nurse to a large dressing room. “Strip to your underwear,” she told me, and I said, “D’accord.” As the woman turned to leave, she said something else, and, looking back, I really should have asked her to repeat it, to draw a picture, if that’s what it took, because once you take your pants off d’accord isn’t really O.K. anymore.

Have a laughter-filled weekend! xoxo

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