Well that was a big week, and it looks like we’re set for yet another big week. (Maybe another one that brings a year’s worth of news?) In any case, today’s issue has some pods that speak to the moment — but also a pod that revolves around an icon.
Anything for Selena
I’m partial to the notion that objectivity is a largely unachievable thing in nonfiction narratives, whether we’re talking about a documentary, a feature, or whatever. There are times when I wonder if we might all be better off if we overtly accept that premise and simply present works with the explicit caveat that we’re only able to understand things the way we experience them.
That might explain, more or less, why I’m rigorously enjoying Anything for Selena, a new podcast series from WBUR and Futuro Studios that follows Maria Garcia, usually the station’s senior editor for arts and culture, as she embarks on a journey to revisit the legacy of Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, the late Tejano music icon better known to fans in the single-name form “Selena.”
Anything for Selena is perhaps appropriately described as part documentary and part memoir, in the sense that the podcast uses an intimate first-person disposition to ground its project of excavating a deeper understanding of its subject. This might not be all that unprecedented in narrative audio, as there are ways in which the construction of Anything for Selena reminds me of Missing Richard Simmons. Of course, the former doesn’t appear to come anywhere close to replicating the latter’s ethical meta-discourse, but the two projects do seem to share the functional reasons for handling its business in this way: You can’t truly present something new about this person unless you’re familiar with what that person means to me.
At any rate, Selena looms large over Garcia’s life. Her music is the tonic that Garcia turns towards for strength and inspiration; her biographical texture is something that Garcia draws from to solidify her identity as a Mexican American immigrant, growing up on the border with one foot in each world, never fully accepted by either.
I’ve only been able to listen to the first three episodes, but there’s already so much to sink your teeth into with those early innings. Selena’s biography is something that Garcia draws from to solidify her identity as a Mexican American immigrant, growing up on the border with one foot in each world, never fully accepted by either. Garcia seems distinctly interested in restoring the humanity of both the singer and other figures in her life, including Selena’s father, who has typically been reduced to a cartoonishly villainous figure in the icon’s mythology. (This renders Anything for Selena perhaps more worthwhile than the recent fictionalized Netflix series on the same subject, though again, I’ve only listened to the first few episodes.)
It’s thoughtful, it’s sensitively made, and it also features a bit of travel down South, which is great for listeners hungry to get out. I highly recommend it.
Bundyville Seasons One and Two
The reams of mostly white bearded men that descended upon the Capitol last week wasn’t an amorphous blob. They were, instead, a distinct coalition of white nationalists, anti-government ideologues, and ever-shifting conspiracy theorists, among others. They also weren’t the culmination of relatively new phenomena, but the continuation of something quite old … and something that has long been present in the lives of many Americans.
In recent days, extremist watchdogs have drawn a strong link between last week’s insurrection and the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, which took place five years ago and similarly resulted in death. That event — led by the anti-government extremist Ammon Bundy, his family, and his adherents — was described to be a “dress rehearsal” for what we saw last Wednesday. The echoes are easily identifiable, from the aesthetic right down to the very outcomes, albeit on a smaller scale. Of course, Bundy and his adherents make up just one slice of the mass that hit the Capitol last week, but the history of their activities and what they claim to represent are vital pieces to any understanding of how we ended up at this point.
Enter Bundyville. Led by Leah Sottile with producer Ryan Haas, the series — spread across two semi-contiguous seasons, the first of which dropped in 2018 and the second a year latter — offers a fantastic deep dive into the modern iteration of American anti-government sentiment as refracted through the infamous Bundy family: their rise and fall and rise again, their long-standing fights with the federal governments in the courts and on the ground, and the growing reach of their ideology. You’ll learn about what they purport to believe in, how government structures across the United States continue to enable them in frustrating and sometimes unexpected ways, and just how bad this can get, even if things seem pretty bad right now.
• If you’re still processing the events of last Wednesday, you can always find value turning to On the Media.
• I’m not a big fan of the “slap Celebrity A onto Fiction Podcast B” style of programming, but I’m moderately interested in diving deep into The Cipher, a new BBC audio series, if only for the reason that it’s directed by John Dryden, who directed Passenger List and Tumanbay (which he also co-wrote).
• Last fall, Duolingo — which, by the way, is a really interesting publisher of podcasts, if you haven’t already noticed — released the ninth season of its Duolingo Spanish podcast, produced in partnership with Adonde Media, and that season basically took the form of a serialized bilingual narrative that told the story of one of the most famous bank heists in Latin America. Today, Adonde Media is releasing the fully Spanish version of that season, and you can find it here.
And that’s a wrap for 1.5x Speed! Hope you enjoyed it. We’re back next week, but in the meantime: Send podcast recommendations, feedback, or just say hello at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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