While the vast majority of what I read is young adult literature, when I make time for “grownup books”  I tend to read particular fiction genres like fantasy / science fiction / mystery / horror, or else I read nonfiction.  I’ve been a fan of nonfiction books for many years, and true crime stories often have a special appeal. I’m easily swayed by excellent writing (In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt) and/or fascinating subjects (Jack the Ripper, Lizzie Borden, celebrities, etc.).

I often find documentaries engaging and informative, even though a lot of them will bring me to tears and a lot of them make me angry.  I’ve walked out of the theater after watching some of these films feeling educated and frustrated at the same time.  Films like Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple, Blackfish, and Capturing the Friedmans (directed by The Jinx‘s Andrew Jarecki) have pushed a lot of those emotional buttons in my brain.

If I’m flipping through the TV stations and I see an episode of Dateline, it can catch my attention within the first 30 seconds and then I’ll be hooked for an hour.  The same can be said for the Law & Order franchise with its “ripped from the headlines” stories.  Although in that case I might be multiplying that hour by however many hours the marathon is running … BUT I’m also factoring in who’s starring in each episode.  Is it an episode featuring Jerry Orbach or Vincent D’Onofrio?  Then I’m definitely sticking with it.  Does this episode feature Linus Roache as the super-annoying ADA?   Hmmmm … let’s flip over and see what’s on Dateline instead!  Or maybe I can find a rerun of 48 Hours, or even City Confidential!

And yes, I’m a big podcast fan, so one of the many podcasts I listen to is Serial.  I enjoy the format of listening to a controversial case unfolding one episode at a time, and that’s been another series that has been getting a lot of media attention lately.  I enjoyed the smaller scope of the first season (a 1999 murder case) and I found the transition to season 2 (a bigger case that was in the news a lot more) to be a little jarring.  But they just announced that they’re moving from a weekly to a bi-weekly format because they have so much new information coming in about the case of Sgt Bowe Bergdahl, so I look forward to seeing how this will affect the story and if it can help uncover the truth about what really happened to him.

I’m giving you the background of my true crime / “true” crime reading, listening, and viewing habits so that you’ll understand my mindset when I first started watching the HBO documentary The Jinx about Robert Durst last year.  I watched the series week by week when it originally aired, and that inspired me to rent Andrew Jarecki’s earlier fictionalized treatment of the Durst saga All Good Things, which is what originally set the wheels of The Jinx in motion.  Then I recently read Jeanine Pirro’s new book He Killed Them All: Robert Durst and My Quest For Justice, and THEN I checked out The Jinx series on DVD and watched it all over again.  Along the way, my opinions about the Durst cases and the subjective reality of true crime coverage have been slowly evolving. (more…)

I usually schedule a few days off in December to catch up with last-minute Christmas shopping.  Today I went to midtown and visited the holiday shops at Bryant Park and Grand Central, and visited UrbanSpace Vanderbilt and the Fashion District holiday shops. I did some Christmas shopping and bought too much food, as usual.

Then I came home and did some laundry, recorded and uploaded a podcast, and caught up with watching the latest episodes of Fargo and At Midnight.

Oh, and I also caught up with various podcasts throughout the day.  Did you know that there’s a podcast called The Worst Idea of All Time, featuring two comedians from New Zealand who foolishly decided to watch the same bad movie every week for A WHOLE YEAR?  And that season 1 was all about the Adam Sandler fiasco Grown Ups 2 (which I watched last year for my Razzie Project) and season 2 is all about Sex and the City 2?

Well, there is, and you’re welcome!

Anyway, after all that happened I updated our library’s Tumblr posts.

And NOW it’s time to go to bed!

I just found out that the downside of getting paid for a magazine article is that I now have to fill out a bunch of paperwork.  However, the upside is that instead of using my article as an online feature as originally intended, they decided to make it a feature article in the print edition, which means a larger check!  Woo-Hoo!  Oh, and my boyfriend suggested that we go out to dinner to celebrate, and that we have the article framed.  Because he’s a great big sweetie 🙂

I’ve been doing so much walking around the city lately that I’ve been feeding my pedometer with lots of steps.  However, it seems that in my travels I’ve also been exposing myself to a lot more STUFF than usual … or I’ve been so wiped out and run down that my immune system has been screwy.  I thought I’ve been dealing with allergy symptoms for the last few days, but now I’m thinking it might be something more.  And I haven’t been sick in so long that I’m all out of the echinacea I would usually add to my tea to boost my immune system (I threw out the old stuff months ago because it had expired).  Right now I’m drinking a cup of Wild Berry Zinger herbal tea (because it is THE BEST) with lemon juice to break up my congestion and sorghum syrup because … well, because it was right next to the honey at the farmer’s market, and apparently my boyfriend isn’t always great at paying attention to labels (I’m not even going to MENTION the time he bought dog food for our cat!)  So I’m drinking the tea, plus taking some over-the-counter stuff that works for colds or allergies to try to cover all my bases.  And I’ve added honey and echinacea to our shopping list.

While I’ve been doing all this walking, I’ve tried to multitask and catch up with my podcasts.  I’ve found episodes of Spontaneanation With Paul F. Tompkins to be great company on my walks, although it’s sometimes problematic when the improvisers make me burst out laughing and suddenly I have strangers giving me very odd looks.  I’ve also been listening to episodes of Welcome to Night Vale, and the last several episodes, while chilling / awesome / hilarious as ever, have also incorporated music that is GREAT for walking.    I’m telling you that “Matches” by Sifu Hotman got me through a huge portion of my walk through the Northwest Forest of Van Cortlandt Park.  I might need that song on an endless loop whenever I go walking ANYWHERE.  Or it would even be good for dancing alone in my apartment … uhm … you know, hypothetically …

What else?  Oh, I got a kick out of this article my boyfriend sent me from the frigging NY Post: Women Are Not Capable of Understanding ‘Goodfellas.’  Because yes, that is one of the many movies that renders the remote control suddenly useless in his hand whenever he’s flipping through the channels.  And I’m all, like, Um, how many times have you SEEN this?  You really need to see it AGAIN?  And then I’ll be exposed for the upteenth time to the scene of the guy getting the crap kicked out of him to the song “Atlantis” by Donovan.  Which USED to be one of my favorite songs, except now it conjures up that damned scene in my head, which always takes it down a few notches.   Oh, and FWIW, the scene where Russell Crowe fights the tigers in Gladiator also has a very similar “can’t change the channel” effect on my boyfriend.

I stopped by work today to drop off and pick up books, and to bring in some cupcakes and good cheer for my colleagues.  Tomorrow night I’m having dinner out with friends.  The rest of the week should be pretty low key.  I’ve got laundry to do, and website stuff to deal with, and books to read, and reviews to write, and more walking / podcast appreciating.  Oh, and I have a work-related meeting, plus a YA book club meeting.  And maybe this weekend we’ll go to see Jurassic World?

So anyway, I should be busy, but not too stressed out.  Now all I need to do is break through whatever crap is clouding my head so that I’ll be back in fighting shape when I have to go back to dealing with our patrons next week …

I went and ordered a Welcome to Night Vale t-shirt for myself today, which reminded me …

Welcome to Night Vale Shirt

If you’re not already listening to this podcast for the reasons I’ve previously shared (it’s hilarious, it’s creepy, it’s Lovecraftian, and the librarians are especially evil) then I’ve got a few more reasons for you:

10 Reasons to Listen to Welcome to Night Vale

While I sometimes listen to podcasts that will make me cry, I also listen to podcasts that are informative about different subjects, that provide a fannish connection to favorite books or TV shows, that review good movies or terrible movies, or that make me laugh.  Since my recent “podcast appreciation” post was about the ones that make me cry, I promised that I would balance that out with a post about some of my favorite comedy podcasts.  So here we go, just in time to generate some happy thoughts for the new year.  If you ever need an emotional pick-me-up, here’s a good place to start!

Podcasts

The Adam Carolla Show

While I’m definitely a fan of the one-on-one interviews that Adam does with different guests, my favorite episodes are the ones featuring the rest of the crew reading and discussing the news, playing games, etc.  Sometimes the hilarity content will depend on the news topics, the general vibe in the room, or the personalities of the guests (Dana Gould and Larry Miller are two of my personal favorites).  I took my boyfriend to a live recording of this podcast earlier this year, and he got a big kick out of it even though he’d never heard the show before.  So I think that means that this podcast is pretty easy to jump into at any point.

The Bugle

John Oliver of The Daily Show fame and Andy Zaltzman put an international spin on the news of the day, which means that I’m more likely to hear jokes about Silvio Berlusconi here than anywhere else.  These guys spend a lot of time cracking each other up and making each other groan.  Speaking of which, watch out for those pun runs!

Comedy Bang! Bang!

This show is hosted by Scott Aukerman and features a variety of funny guests who play themselves or play different characters.  If you’ve seen the Comedy Bang! Bang! TV show on IFC, you’ll have some idea of the comedy dynamic but the structure of the shows are different.  On most episodes of the podcast, Scott starts by talking to one guest and then their conversation is interrupted by a “surprise” drop-in guest who is a comedian with great improv skills playing a famous or not-so-famous character.  There are a lot of great guests on this show, but James Adomian and Paul F. Tompkins are two of my personal favorites.

The Long Shot Podcast

Four comedians get together and make each other laugh while they talk about their lives, their experiences performing stand-up, and different topics each episode.  The dynamic is best when Sean, Eddie, Jamie, and Amber are all there at the same time, and especially good when they have a great guest who can keep up with them.   This is one of the few podcasts that I always try to listen to as soon as the episode is downloaded because I can’t wait to hear these guys again.

Stop Podcasting Yourself

Graham Clark and Dave Shumka are frigging hilarious.  They have different comedians visit them each week, and they have a great group dynamic together.  I enjoy the way they make me laugh, and I’m a fan of their segments, especially “Overheards” and “Hulk Hogan News.”  BTW, these guys are from Vancouver, so get ready for some Canadian accents, Canadian comedians, and Canadian humor!

This Week With Larry Miller

This show has been on hiatus for several months while Larry was on the mend after a fall, but I’m happy to announce that he’ll be returning with new episodes in January!  I’ve loved Larry since I was a teenager watching his appearances on stand-up comedy shows and late-night talk shows.  Then I thought he was enormously cool on his Law & Order episodes.  And then I loved his appearances on the Adam Carolla show, and I got in on the ground floor when he got his own podcast on Carolla’s network.  Anyway, Larry is great at telling stories about his family, about his experiences acting, and about the good old days when he and his friends were “baby comics.”  Larry is one of the best comedians out there, and his podcast is always worth a listen.  I would drink to him any time, but hey … Nominem Quid Geminus?

The Todd Glass Show

HEY … IT’S TODD!  This could be called The Todd Glass Show, or it could be called The Todd Glass Experience, or it could be called Todd Glass Laughs and Sings With His Hilarious Friends.  Now, I should warn you that once in a while Todd gets serious, for bits and pieces of an episode or even (once in a while) for an entire episode.  So if he’s in the mood to talk about bullies, or homosexuality, or child-raising issues it’s not going to be funny but it is going to be both emotional and informative.  But when Todd is in funny mode, he and his friends (especially Daniel Kinno and Rory Scovel) can make me laugh a LOT.  Oh, and this show is especially notable because of its use of music and jingles.  People have written in to complain that he uses too many jingles, but those people are wrong.  I swear to George Carlin, I’ll definitely never listen to the Golden Girls theme song the same way again!

The Mental Illness Happy Hour

This podcast, hosted by comedian Paul Gilmartin, features interviews with comedians, musicians, actors, podcasters, and ordinary people.  Paul has suffered from mental illness himself, and each of his guests has dealt with mental illness directly and/or indirectly.  He’s spoken to people with eating disorders, with depression, with anger management issues, with addiction.  He’s spoken to people who grew up in dysfunctional families, who suffered from sexual abuse, and who had post-traumatic stress order.  Paul talks to each person about their experiences and how they dealt with them afterwards.  Some of them went to therapy, or took medication, or started blogs about their experiences, or channeled the negative energy of their childhoods into comedy routines years later.  Some of the interviews that had the most impact on me were the interviews with Mike Schmidt, Nikki Glaser, Morgan Murphy, Mike Carano, and Katie Yeargain Palacio.  But the one that made me cry the hardest was the interview with Teresa Strasser.

This American Life

This show, the podcast version of the NPR radio show, covers a plethora of different topics.  This is a very intelligent program, and most of the episodes make me feel uninformed while I’m listening to them and smarter afterwards (kind of like watching Jeopardy).  I can definitely say that this program has led me to reserve lots of books from the library so that I can learn more about the topics discussed on the show.  Right now the biggest backlog of “new” episodes on my iPod are from This American Life, because I will only listen to this podcast from home.  That seems to be the safest option, since I never know which episodes will make me cry, and strangers tend to give you weird looks when you start crying on the bus.

RISK!

In each episode, participants (both famous and ordinary) tell true stories that they never thought they’d dare to share.  That means that the stories they tell are usually interesting, sometimes explicit, sometimes hilarious, and sometimes tragic.  Some episodes will include all of these types of stories, so listening to each episode can be like riding a roller coaster.  Another added component that strengthens the impact of these episodes is the use of music between the stories — sometimes funny, sometimes tragic, sometimes the kind of music that makes you want to dance.  The music is so important that they will occasionally release episodes featuring just the songs that were used on previous episodes, and when you listen to one of those all the way through you can really appreciate what an unusual mix of music they use.  And on a related note, I’m grateful to this podcast for introducing me to the slow, quiet, and amazing song “Riverside” by Agnes Obel.  I recommend watching the music video once so you can appreciate how cool and artsy it is, but afterwards when you need to hear the song again just listen to it through your headphones … and close your eyes.

And yes, in answer to your next question, I will be following up very soon with a post about podcasts that make me happy, and often make me laugh out loud.  I don’t want to be a TOTAL downer, especially not on Christmas.  So how about I cheer you up for the new year, okay?

Okay, first thing’s first.  Have you heard the song “Somebody That I Used to Know” by Gotye, and have you seen the music video?  If not, go check it out over here.  It’s the first video on the page (we’re going to talk about some of the others a little later), and it will take up four minutes and four seconds of your time.  [ETA: If that Mashable link is acting wonky, you can always find the videos through Google instead.]  Don’t worry; I’ll wait … (more…)