Hey folks! Turkey week is over, I’m stuffed with glory, let the season of SAD lamps begin.
When Hollywood and small-town America collide
Available on all platforms. Listen here.
Well, I certainly didn’t expect 2021 to be the year where I was made to think way too much about the stardom of Bruce Willis. I have two specific podcasts to blame for this. The first is TCM’s The Plot Thickens: The Devil’s Candy, which I wrote about recently, that spent a good portion of its time recounting The Bonfire of the Vanities’ calamitous film adaptation on Willis’s rising star and increasingly hostile relationship with the media. The second is Haileywood, which, in many ways, can be read as a sequel to the Willis thread in The Devil’s Candy.
Haileywood goes over what happened in the tiny town of Hailey, Idaho, over the course of the ’90s, when Willis, ascendant in his fame, had increasingly sought refuge away from the bright lights. Over time, however, peace and quiet wouldn’t be the only things he pursued in pastoral Idaho: He would eventually attempt to radically transform the area in his image, using his movie-biz riches to fund a series of real-estate projects meant to reshape the foundations of Hailey.
Published by iHeartMedia and led by Dana Schwartz, who you can usually find in podcast-land as the host of Noble Blood and Crooked Media’s Hysteria, Haileywood is a kinda campy and immensely interesting look at what happens when a particularly showy kind of extreme wealth steamrolls an existing community. It’s an “are you serious?” kinda story. It’s also the kind of story that’s been playing out in small towns across the United States, among them: Marfa, Texas; Aspen, Colorado; and Jackson Hole, Wyoming — all small towns that, over the years, have become playgrounds for the rich at the expense of everyone else.
A fun dive through sports fandom and a legendary piece of gossip.
Available on all platforms. Listen here.
Call it a trend, call it a trope. Whatever it is, there’s a throughline running across a cluster of popular narrative podcasts that’s best described as “some guy” — and it’s almost always a guy — “expending an impressive amount of resources going down a deep rabbit hole about something that may or may not matter much at all.” The most dramatic example of this is probably Wind of Change, and it shares DNA with the likes of Missing Richard Simmons, any number of classic Reply All episodes, and maybe even Dead Eyes, among others.
Anyway, I lay all this out to frame how I’m thinking about The Rumor, a shaggy dog of a project from the sports-centric Blue Wire Podcast network, which follows two men, the audio producer Sam Dingman and the writer Mac Montandon, as they chase down a lead that may or may not bring them to the truth behind one of the spicier rumors in baseball lore.
In the summer of 1997, a Baltimore Orioles home game with the Seattle Mariners was abruptly cancelled following reports of unexpected lighting issues at the stadium, owing to “a problem with one of the electrical cables leading into the ballpark,” per a Washington Post report at the time. Seems like a perfectly understandable thing that can happen, except, of course, that’s not the kind of thing that sports fan-brain tends to accept at face value. (I say this with love, as I, too, have sports fan-brain.) A more extravagant theory begins to circulate among the Oriole faithful: that Cal Ripken Jr. caught his then-wife in bed with Kevin Costner, and the player ended up being so badly injured in the resulting physical confrontation that the team had to find a way to cancel the Mariners match-up in order to preserve the record streak that Ripken had been on. So they literally pulled the plug on the game.
It’s a ridiculous theory, but it’s no less ridiculous than any other sporting myth. (See, among so many others, the ongoing NBA gossip around Paul Pierce’s “wheelchair game” in 2008.) The nature of that ridiculousness is, in part, what Dingman and Montandon are attempting to unpack and meditate upon over the course of their adventures in The Rumor. Whether or not they are successful in this deconstructive romp remains to be seen, but if you’re looking for a fun and relatively low-stakes podcast adventure, one that’s propelled forward by occasionally convincing self-doubt of two lifelong sports fans, this is probably a good listen for you.
And if you do end up checking out the series, do also hit up Joe DeLessio’s interview with Dingman and Montandon on the site.
➽ Here’s a fun little trend: podcast creators releasing music from their shows. In October, You Are Good, the “feelings first” film podcast by Sarah Marshall and Alex Steed, released a companion album of music written for the show by its producer, Carolyn Kendrick. It’s available to stream and purchase on Bandcamp. Meanwhile, Martin Austwick, who co-create the experimental “generative podcast” Neutrinowatch with Here Be Monsters’ Jeff Emtman, is releasing one of the show’s experiments as a single: “The World Outside My Window,” a song that was re-released each day through the podcast feed with slight variations, resulting in a track that possess over a million variations. A canonical version of the song has now been made available for purchase, also on Bandcamp.
➽ I was a judge on the ninth annual KCRW Radio Race, where producers around the world are made to construct a short audio piece within a 24-hour time limit. The winner of this year’s edition, which took place in mid-November, is Jude Brewer, whose submission, “Buzzy,” is a remarkable piece about memory. Brewer can usually be found as the host of Storybound, a show that presents readings of short stories, done up with assorted sound-design bells and whistles. You can check out the full list of winners and listen to their entries here.
➽ Speaking of KCRW, this caught my attention: Josh Barro is leaving as the host, moderator, and “center” of KCRW’s politics panel show Left, Right, and Center at the end of the year to launch his own political-media thing. (Producer Sara Fay is also leaving the show, and will be following Barro to the new venture.) This means, of course, that the Santa Monica station is now on the hunt for a new host and moderator, though I suppose it also raises the question: What counts as a political “center” these days, anyway?
➽ Random observation: As listeners of The Ezra Klein Show know by now, the podcast is currently going through a series of guest hosts as Klein is on paternity leave through the end of the year. I’m liking the guest-host rotation so far, and as a longtime listener, I was particularly excited when I heard a few episodes were going to be hosted by Rogé Karma, who has researched for and produced the show for a very long time, going back to its original incarnation as a Vox Media podcast. This is the first time, so far as I can tell, that Karma is behind the mic, and it’s fascinating to hear the extent to which Karma sounds almost exactly like Klein during his guest episodes: from intonation to question style to ways of pausing to various verbal affectations. Interestingly enough, I think you can detect a similar thing happening whenever someone subs in for Michael Barbaro on The Daily. Those guest anchors, too, tend to take on Barbaro’s pauses, “hmms,” intonations of speech. Makes me wonder about the ways in which producers are shaped by hosts, and vice versa, and whether that “verbal house style” is something you’d actually want to cultivate within a production, or whether it’s something you’d want to push back against.
➽ Speaking of random: Aaron Lammer, host of such fine shows like the Longform podcast, Coin Talk, and Exit Scam, has been hired by a hedge fund backed by New York Mets owner Steve Cohen as a very specific kind of crypto-trader. According to Bloomberg, Lammer had caught the attention of the hedge fund after going on the Odd Lots podcast to talk at length about his speculative investment hobby. Like I said, random!
➽ Finally, a development from inside the Vox Media family. Today, Explained, the daily news podcast by our siblings at Vox, announced a new co-host yesterday: Noel King, formerly a host on NPR’s flagship Morning Edition. Vox Media also announced that it has struck a partnership with WNYC, which will now help distribute Today, Explained over public radio stations across the country. Sean Spicer isn’t a fan of that news, apparently.
Reader Pick: Lecker
Available on all platforms. Listen here.
“Is it just me or does seasonal stress often reach its boiling point in the kitchen? But why? Is there something about this room?
Whether you love spending hours in the kitchen or loathe that room entirely, we all have some kind of relationship with it. We make food, memories, and connections there. Some of us turn into Gordon Ramseys, others like to channel their inner Nigella Lawson. But what role is the kitchen itself playing in how we act in it? Lecker is a podcast about how we eat and its fourth season is all about kitchens. It explores all of those dynamics with a blend of personal stories, sometimes baffling historical nuances, and sound design that treats the ASMR of cooking like music (literally!). Lucy Dearlove, host and producer of the show, explores her own relationship to the kitchen as she interviews historians and everyday cooks. If kitchens are the most important room in the home, why are they also the least unique?” — Devin A.
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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