Radio Diaries no. 49: Majd’s Diary: Two Years in the Life of a Saudi Girl

Radio Diaries:

Majd Abdulghani is a teenager living in Saudi Arabia, one of the most restrictive countries for women in the world. She wants to be a scientist. Her family wants to arrange her marriage. From the age of 19 to 21, Majd has been chronicling her life with a microphone, taking us inside a society where the voices of women are rarely heard. She records herself practicing karate, conducting experiments in a genetics lab, and fending off pressure to accept an arranged marriage. In her audio diary, Majd documents everything from arguments with her brother about how much she should cover herself in front of men, to late night thoughts about loneliness, arranged marriages, and the possibility of true love.

I’m not breaking any news by pointing out how awesome Radio Diaries is, but this episode is even more special than usual. In a time when some people want to build walls and close themselves off from the rest of the world, it becomes even more important to listen to something like this. To learn, to educate, to expand your mind, and to better understand what you don’t have experience with.


The Mind-Boggling Story Of Our Arcane And Convoluted 'Primary Politics'

Fresh Air:

Author Elaine Kamarck explains superdelegates, the difference between caucuses and primaries, what happens in a brokered convention and how the rules of primaries can sometimes change.

As of late, I've seen a lot of people questioning the primary process. That's good. The first step is admitting that you have a problem. Now take the next step, and inform yourself. Spend the forty minutes or whatever it is (less if you listen at 1.25x on your favorite podcast app) and you'll learn something here, I guarantee it.


The Story Behind the 99PI Challenge Coin

So you finally got your 99% Invisible challenge coin, but are not quite sure what it all means. Before your next coin check, brush up on both sides of your newly-minted coin by listening to these ten excellent episodes from our archives. First, some context for the coin itself; next, the origins of the mantra on its front; finally, all eight symbols on the back, listed clockwise and starting at the top.

For 99PI fans, this is pretty damn cool (I am proud to say that I would pass a coin check). But this also serves as a great primer for the show as a whole.


How to Recommend My Podcast in Overcast in 5 Easy Steps

Step 1

Download the podcast app Overcast. It’s free and terrific.

Step 2

Search for and subscribe to I Better Start Writing This Down by tapping the “+” in the upper righthand corner. Once you’ve done that, IBSWTD will show up in the main list of podcasts.

Step 3

Tapping the show in the list will bring you to a list of episodes. The “All” section will show you—yeah, all of them. Tap the “information” button to the right of the episode name.

Step 4

In the popover menu, tap the “Recommend” button.

Step 5

Repeat for all of the IBSWTD episodes that you enjoyed.


Public Radio Can Capitalize on Its Popularity Without Selling Out Its Mission

Ira Glass:

Two weeks ago I told a reporter that public radio is ready for capitalism. People have been commenting online about what they think I meant. I’m writing this to clarify.

The hardest part of being a liberal is dealing with other liberals who refuse to be pragmatic. Not surprisingly, I.G. drops a truth bomb here. Sure, he was talking about radio and podcasts, but the general theme—stop shirking from the fiscal responsibility of art—would be useful for many areas of our culture.


IBSWTD’s Favorite Podcasts: Radio Diaries: ‘Teenage Diaries Revisited: Melissa’s Story’

Having a podcast means getting other people to listen to your podcast. It isn’t easy. I’m always asking people to rate/review my show on iTunes, or tell a friend, or pledge a dollar or two on Patreon. I realized the other day that what I should also be doing is following my own advice by telling others about my favorite shows. So here’s my first IBSWTD’s Favorite Podcasts pick: the 3/10/15 episode of HowSound: ‘Teenage Diaries Revisited: Melissa’s Story.’ Here’s HowSound’s Rob Rosenthal, writing for

In 1996, Joe [Richman] produced Teen Diaries. He gave tape decks to teenagers to document their lives. The result, intimate portraits that, most likely, would have resulted in a very different piece had a producer been present during the field recordings. One of these diaries featured Melissa Rodriguez. It was called Teen Mom. Sixteen years later, Joe handed out recorders again to several of the original diarists, including Melissa.

A few things:

1. Radio Diaries, Richman’s podcast/radio show, is awesome. You should listen to all of the available episodes. ‘Walter the Seltzerman—It’s Not Easy Being Last’ and ’Strange Fruit—Voices of a Lynching’ come to mind as two of my favorites.
2. The Teenage Diaries Revisited series is also a must-listen. All of them, but especially the episode highlighted here.
3. HowSound, the podcast that is highlighting said episode, is also worth your time. It’s a little inside-baseball sometimes, but it’s worth it if nothing for the recommendations about other great shows.
4. Make sure you listen to the HowSound edition of ‘Teenage Diaries Revisited: Melissa’s Story’ that I’m linking to here, since you get to hear the story as well as an interview with Richman and Melissa.

So that’s my first IBSWTD’s Favorite Podcasts pick. I hope you enjoy it and if you do (or don’t) please feel free to let me know on my Twitter or the show’s Twitter.


I Better Start Writing This Down and Medium

I’ve resisted too much cross-pollination between my podcast and this blog, but with a week to go until Episode 4, I wanted to remind folks about the show’s presence on Medium. If you’re enjoying the show, I really think you’ll enjoy seeing the script. Episode 3 is right here. And while you’re at it, poke around on Medium. It’s essentially a social network for writers.


The Perils of the Personal Essay and My Podcast

Mensah Demary, writing for Human Parts on Medium:

Writers are, by our very nature, unsociable creatures. We hide ourselves in our rooms, or in our home offices, or in the corner of some crowded coffee shop, in order to do the work, conducted only in isolation and in solitude. Humans are, by our very nature, sociable creatures in that loneliness and isolation in large doses can cripple us, render us into hollow husks, and it might even kill us if the lack of communion drags on for far too long. Writing, then, is a balancing act: to isolate, but to connect as a matter of survival, hoping that the work we create matters to someone, anyone, even ourselves.

I’ve been thinking on this piece for a few days now. As I dig further into this storytelling podcast experiment, I keep asking myself something that Demary states perfectly:

The personal essay is, I suppose, the transmutation of a ho-hum life into meaningful art; it is navel-gazing solipsism at its finest.

I’ve been reading/listening-to far more nonfiction writing in the past few years than I have fiction. My response to writers like David Foster Wallace, Scott Carrier, and Charles D’Ambrosio is what finally compelled me to begin my podcast. I felt, and feel, strongly that by presenting a story that is uniquely my own in as honest a way as possible (along with some decent writing, of course), that I can allow others to a. empathize and b. have some emotion stirred-up within them.

I still feel like both of these outcomes are possible in fiction. I’m just concerned that the amount of artifice that needs to be built beforehand is untenable in our current culture. If people just don’t have the time to spend, at what point are fiction writers just wasting their time?

I don’t know. Maybe I’m overthinking it. But read Demary’s essay, for sure. And after, listen to the most recent episode of I Better Start Writing This Down. And let my own hype machine begin: Episode 4 comes out on 3/16 and a little birdie tells me that it’s my best one yet.


Exponent, Episode 034: The Story of Stratechery

Ben Thompson is one of the best tech writers around right now—his blog, as well as his podcast, Exponent, covers the tech world in a fascinatingly unique way. It’s tech and the current trends of tech, but from a business/marketing standpoint, all passed through a layman’s filter that is just slightly—and perfectly—beyond the understanding of someone who isn’t familiar with that arena. This isn’t just another Apple Blogger praising the iPad Air 2. I read Stratechery, and listen to Exponent, because at points, I feel like I only understand every third word or so—there are so many business/marketing terms that I don’t understand/am not familiar with.

But, like giving my daughter newer, harder books when it’s clear she understands her current books, that’s precisely why I listen.

On the most recent episode of Exponent, the episode I’ve linked to here, Ben lays out how and why he started his site. On the surface, sure, it’s a useful story for anyone looking to start a blog. But I feel like there are some really important lessons to be learned for any writer/artist out there, especially an artist trying to create and feel fulfilled while maintaining a family and some semblance of a professional life (read as: me). Keep a careful ear out for Ben’s breakdown of what content creators worry about when starting a project (spoiler: product), and for a real gem of wisdom that Ben’s cohost, James Allworth, throws in at one point about the best time to do something and the second best time to do something.

Extra Credit: Ben linked to this piece on recently, writing:

I think @exponentfm listeners will recognize many of Sheryl Sandberg's principles about life and career. Good stuff

For the non-MBA crowd, it’s a bit jargon-y; not nearly as accessible as Ben, but it’s worth the read for the same reasons I mentioned above.