Monday, January 14, 2019

The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis


I teach in a political science department. I feel like this is a dark secret I sometimes don't want to share with people, particularly on the internet. And, yes, my friends, I am exactly what your parents warned you to watch out for in a political science professor. I am a social welfare loving liberal who thinks the government is responsible for shaping culture and discourse. I'm obsessed with (in no particular order) the census, housing, policy evaluation, crumbling infrastructure, and social inequality. If you take a class from me, regardless of the course title, you will be forced to do a unit on at least one of those topics and you'll have to deal with it because I'm in charge and power hungry. No, it's not because I'm power hungry. It's because these things are important.

Because the government is important, my friends. I can't think of a single thing that I do on a daily basis that isn't in some way the product of some governmental policy, regulation, or funding. My life is a series of governmental handouts. I received free lunch when I went to school at public grade and high schools. I received benefits from the Veterans Administration when I went to college and grad school thanks to my status as the child of a disabled veteran. I received a full academic scholarship to a state university as an undergraduate and my entire graduate school was paid for at yet another state university through assistantships.  My husband and I work at a state university.   

So, yes. I believe in the welfare state and I'm a product of the welfare state. 

I don't know what I expected from The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis. My neighbor recommended it to me after we'd had our second discussion in a row about the crumbling state of our road* while we were shoveling.  The book basically confirmed what I've been teaching my students all along - the government is responsible for just about everything in our lives and we need to respect it more. The professional bureaucrats who run the executive agencies are incredibly knowledgeable and we should be sending our best and brightest to work in the government and treating them like precious fragile works of art, but instead we we treat our government workers like crap, pay them nothing, and criticize them for every little mistake they make.

Lewis also brings into this hopeless morass of institutional instability the idea that Trump did (does?) not know all that the government did, tried to cheap out on his transition team, and still doesn't have a lot of people in roles that require presidential appointments.  The people who are in appointed positions frequently do not care what the professional bureaucrats have to say, don't use the materials that those professionals have created to ease the transition, and seem single-mindedly focused on dismantling all research having to do with science. 

This book is an easy read, as far as non-fiction goes. Lewis is funny, his writing is clear, and his message is fairly straightforward. But it's not easy in that the knot you've had in your stomach since November 9, 2016 is only going to get tighter and tighter with every page you turn.  And, if you've been worried about infrastructure issues since before the 2016 election, you'll be sad to learn that you were right all along and it's only going to take one terrorist attack to destroy the electrical grid or contaminate the country's water supply and no one is preparing for that eventuality because there are no political appointees to lead the direction.

I don't know that I learned that much in this book, but I'm actually supposed to be an expert on this stuff. What I did learn is that people who are not policy wonks are also interested in this stuff and if you want to add to the catalog of things that are keeping you from falling asleep at night, you might find this book an interesting read.

*Not too long ago, a guy who lives a few houses from us rang our doorbell to ask us to sign a list of signatures he needed to collect to run for reelection to the city council. As we signed, we asked him about our road. It's a major road in town, with a lot of important public services on it, including the fire and police departments, the public library, the post office, and (during warmer months) the Farmers' Market. He sighed and said it was because our water and sewer lines are some of the oldest in the city and if they redo the road they'll have to redo the underground bits. But our water and sewer lines get some of the fewest complaints per capita in the city, so the city council is unwilling to mess with it too much. So that's the explanation. 

Thursday, January 10, 2019

2018 Pop Sugar Reading Challenge

I finished the Book Riot challenge pretty early in the year (May) and decided to attempt the 2018 Pop Sugar Reading Challenge. I did not reuse books from the first challenge in the second.

1) A book made into a movie you've already seen: The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks (library)- This book really is terrible. I expected it to be because of Sparks' reputation, but I didn't expect it to be quite as bad as it was.  The movie is so much better.

2) True crime: Ghettoside by Jill Leovy (library)

3) The next book in a series you started: Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch (library)

4) A book involving a heist: The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch (library)

5) Nordic noir: The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen (library)

6) A novel based on a real person: The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy (library) - Dark. Real dark. I'm not much of a fan of noir and this was a bit too gritty for my tastes.

7) A book set in a country that fascinates you: The Likeness by Tana French (library)- I like French's style, despite the fact that I still think her first few pages are always overblown and pompous. I'm going to continue reading these books, even if I am a little late to the Dublin Murder Squad bandwagon. I didn't love In the Woods, but I did come to love this one.

8) A book with a time of day in the title: Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. Sullivan (library)

9) A book about a villain or antihero: Snape: A Definitive Reading by Lorrie Kim (Kindle purchase)

10) A book about death or grief: Final Chapters: How Famous Authors Died by Jim Bernhard (library)

11) A book with your favorite color in the title: Garden of the Purple Dragon by Carole Wilkinson (library)

12) A book with alliteration in the title: The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells (free on Kindle) - Slow to start, but how was it that I didn't get spoiled on this ending somewhere in popular culture?  The ending was so smart!  This is a must read classic.

13) A book about time travel: Time Salvager by Wesley Chu (library)

14) A book with a weather element in the title: Smilla's Sense of Snow by Peter Hoeg (library)

15) A book set at sea: In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick (library)

16) A book with an animal in the title: The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery (library)

17) A book set on a different planet: Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey (library)

18) A book with song lyrics in the title: I Never Promised You a Rose Garden by Joanne Greenberg (library) - A tough read about someone living with mental illness. It was well done, but super hard to read. It sort of made me sick to my stomach the whole time I was reading it. Mental illness is not for the faint of heart.

19) A book about or set on Halloween: The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury (library) - I really liked the idea of this one, looking at Halloween from different eras and different cultures, but it was a bit enigmatic for me.

20) A book with characters who are twins: Dead Letters by Caite Dolan - Leach (library)

21) A book with a female author who uses a male pseudonym: The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (book I own on my bookshelf)

22) A book with and LGBTQ_ protagonist: Stray City by Chelsey Johnson (library)

23) A book that is also a stage musical or play: Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel (library) - I think it might be sacrilegious to admit this, but I thought this graphic novel based on Bechdel's childhood and her relationship with her father to be simultaneously too honest and forthright and too chilly.  I think it's brave of her to put out the good and the bad, but I also found it hard to care.  Eh.  It's a book for another reader.

24) A book by an author of a different ethnicity than you: The Changeling by Victor LaValle (library)

25) A book about feminism: The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley (library)

26) A book about mental health: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (library) - In the same way that Catcher in the Rye is not the book for me, this is not a book for me. It's a very superficial look at mental illness and suicide, coming out, rape, molestation, and bullying. The way the author dropped in trauma after trauma without dealing in any way with any of them was discouraging. I thought I Never Promised You a Rose Garden did something similar in a much better way.

27) A book you borrowed or that was given to you as a gift: Dynamic Lecturing by Christine Harrington and Todd Zakrajzek (book I own! given to me by my workplace!) - I did a book club at work in which we met every other week for a semester discussing this book and its strategies. It was a bit repetitive, but had lots of good suggestions for fast, effective active learning techniques. I thought it was helpful and enjoyed meeting with other people who are thoughtful about teaching. 

28) A book by two authors: Caliban's War by James S. A. Corey (library) - The second book in The Expanse series and I love it just as much as I love the first one. I found the plots of the books to be quite similar, but the humor in the second book is delightful. Big thumbs up.

29) A book about or involving a sport: Pigskin Nation by Jesse Berrett (library)

30) A book by a local author: Murder in Wauwatosa: The Mysterious Death of Buddy Schumacher by Paul Hoffman (library) - This is a true crime book about a murdered child in 1920s Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. It's well-researched, but terribly written.  There were a lot of sentence level mistakes in this supposedly edited volume. Also, the crime was not particularly interesting, although the details about what it was like in Tosa in the 1920s were sometimes illuminating.  Props to Hoffman for being a local history buff, but this wasn't something I'd recommend to anyone.

31) A book mentioned in another book: All the Rage by Courtney Summers (library) - This book came up as a recommendation in Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World. I think Just Listen by Sarah Dessen deals with the topic of date rape, toxic friendship, and PTSD much better.  Read the Dessen book and skip the Summers book.

32) A book from a celebrity book club: We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates (library)

33) A childhood classic you've never read: The Railway Children by E. Nesbit (library)

34) A book that's published in 2018: Leverage in Death by JD Robb (Kindle purchase) - Before this book was released in September, I pre-ordered it on my Kindle like I do for all the Robb books. I find myself more and more dissatisfied with the books as they become more and more formulaic and nothing new happens in the personal lives of our characters. Plus, I still really think Roarke is abusive. Still I will continue to read each and every book in this series because that's how I am.

35) A past Goodreads Choice Awards winner: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard (library) - This book was fun to read, but seemed quite derivative when you take into account The Hunger Games, Divergent, and The Selection. Eh. It was a fine rainy Saturday afternoon on the couch.

36) A book set in the decade you were born: The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah (library)

37) A book you meant to read in 2017 but didn't get to: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (library)

38) A book with an ugly cover: Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover (library) - Generic love triangle story with the added complication that a profoundly deaf person plays guitar professionally, a plot point that stretched the limits of my credulity.

39) A book that involves a bookstore or library: The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman (library)

40) Your favorite prompt from the 2015, 2016, or 2017 Pop Sugar Reading Challenges: Ha ha. I actually just did the previous prompt again because I accidentally ordered two books for that prompt from the library. So another book that involves a bookstore or a library: The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell (library)



Advanced list!!
41) A bestseller from the year you graduated high school: Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood (library)

42) A cyberpunk book: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick (library) -  I know I'm going to be in the minority on this one, but why is Dick's writing so bad? zzzz

43) A book that was being read by a stranger in a public place: Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver (library)

44) A book tied to your ancestry: Faithful Place by Tana French (library)

45) A book with a fruit or vegetable in the title: The Tattooed Potato and Other Clues by Ellen Raskin (library)

46) An allegory: Watership Down by Richard Adams (library) - This book is about rabbits at war. But only male rabbits.  I found it incredibly snooze inducing.

47) A book by an author with the same first or last name than you: Five Past Midnight in Bhopal: The Epic Story of the World's Deadliest Industrial Disaster by Dominique LaPierre and Javier Moro (library) - This is an important book that tells an important story. Union Carbide, an American corporation, builds a pesticide plant in Bhopal, India and eventually there's a chemical leak and the results are tens of thousands of deaths and countless injured or disabled. LaPierre does a lot of continuing work in Bhopal, running a clinic and donating proceeds from this book to causes supporting victims of this disaster. But it's terribly written. Many sentences are confusing because they have misplaced modifiers and pronouns with unclear antecedents. It's worth a read, but don't be too disappointed by its distinctly pedestrian writing.

48) A microhistory: Coal by Barabara Freese (library)

49) A book about a problem facing society today: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson (library)

50) A book recommended by someone else doing the Pop Sugar Reading Challenge: I recommended to myself that I reread the entire Gansett Island series by Marie Force over the week between Christmas and New Year's because I was struggling to find the holiday spirit and these lighthearted romances were just breezy enough to break me out of a post-holiday funk. (Kindle purchases)

Books I loved: The Lies of Locke Lamora, Red Seas Under Red Skies, In the Heart of the Sea, Leviathan Wakes, The Mists of Avalon, Caliban's War, We Were the Mulvaneys, Alias Grace, Just Mercy

Books I liked: The Likeness, Snape: A Definitive Reading, Final Chapters, The War of the Worlds, Smilla's Sense of Snow, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, The Cuckoo's Calling, Dynamic Lecturing, Station Eleven, Faithful Place, The Tattooed Potato and Other Clues, Five Past Midnight in Bhopal, Coal, Gansett Island series


Books I thought were fine: Ghettoside, The Black Dahlia, Garden of the Purple Dragon, Stray City, Fun Home, Pigskin Nation, All the Rage, Red Queen, The Great Alone, Unsheltered

Books I thought were terrible: The Notebook, Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore, The Soul of an Octopus, The Changeling, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Murder in Wauwatosa, The Railway Children, Leverage in Death, The Diary of a Bookseller, Watership Down

Books I forgot ten minutes after I finished them: The Keeper of Lost Causes (I wrote a pretty glowing review in May, but now in December I don't remember it), Time Salvager, The Halloween Tree, Dead Letters, Maybe Someday, The Invisible Library

Monday, December 31, 2018

Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver

Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver was our book club book for December. I'm sort of torn on it.

On one hand, it really resonated with me. An academic who does everything right and ends up, at the end of a career, with nothing to show for it and an inability to retire? That resonates with me, as it is one of my greatest fears.  A couple ends up with a house that is slowly disintegrating around them as they watch with no money to pay someone to fix it and no ability to fix it themselves?  That resonates with me, as it's not so much a fear in my life, so much as a reality.

I also really thought the historical fiction parts of the book were about an interesting place. Vineland, New Jersey was the utopian vision of Charles Landis, a man who preached prohibition and practiced otherwise. I thought the way the novel showed the hypocrisy of the entire town (and contrasted with modern hypocrisy) was actually interesting.

But at the same time this book didn't really resonate with me. It's full of lectures that range in topic from religion to politics to plant biology. Don't even get me started on the free speech rants.  And those lectures came from characters who didn't necessarily earn my trust. And, while I generally agree with Kingsolver's political views, I could imagine that those who don't agree with her would be turned off by the repeated diatribes.

More importantly, though, I just felt that the characters were poorly written. Particularly the women. One woman knows her husband has cheated on her and holds a bit of resentment over it, but he's just sooooo dreamy she can't stop loving him. Another woman dies and is treated as little more than a prop throughout the entire book. Another woman's husband leaves her and she actually becomes very successful in her own right, completely without him.  But you know that by the end of the book she ends up with a man because no woman could be happy on her own. I just...it made me mad.

Kingsolver has something, she really does.  But this book just didn't come together for me.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

2018 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge

Last year I did the challenge and thought it was a great way to push myself to read outside my normal comfort zone.  This broadens out what I read so much that whenever I meet someone I find something I have read that meets something they're interested in (my husband was really impressed when I met a medieval historian who specializes in castles and I was able to talk to her intelligently mostly based on Pillars of the Earth.) So here it is in its 2018 form.  If I wrote a separate post about a book, I linked to that book. If I didn't write a separate post, I linked to the Goodreads page with a brief description of what I thought.

1. A book published posthumously: I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara (library book)

2. A book of true crime: People Who Eat Darkness by Richard Lloyd Parry (library book)

3. A classic of genre fiction: Foundation by Isaac Asimov (library book) - This is an interesting idea, but sort of flawed execution. It's a piece of its time, which means women don't exist and the entire world is made up of "great men" who make decisions. I think the scope of the world building is impressive, but the switching from one boardroom of men to another boardroom of men was not especially attention grabbing to me.  I'll stick with I, Robot from Asimov.

4. A comic written and drawn by the same person: The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (library book)

5. A book set in or about one of the five BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) countries (library book): Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

6. A book about nature: H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald (library book)

7. A western: Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurty (library book)

8. A comic written or illustrated by a person of color: In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang (library book)

9. A book of colonial or postcolonial literature: The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (library book)

10. A romance novel by or about a person of color: North to You by Tif Marcelo (Kindle purchase)- This had a lot of tropes I don't care for in a romance novel. Hero saves the day (sexual assault by his friend - he has terrible choice in friends) and all the conflict they have could be solved with a simple conversation. Not my cup of tea, but I was happy to buy this and support a new author who will, I assume, get better in her next novel.

11.  A children’s classic published before 1980: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle (library book) - I wasn't smart enough for this book as a child and I'm pretty sure I'm not smart enough for this book as an adult. I understood the plot on the surface, but I'm not sure I got whatever it is that makes people love this book.  Eh.  It's for other people, like Star Wars and Fox News.

12. A celebrity memoir: Kanye West Owes Me $300 and Other True Stories from a White Rapper Who Almost Made It Big by Jensen Karp (library book)- I'm notoriously anti-memoir, but I had heard Karp on two podcasts, Doughboys and Totally Beverages, and he seemed likeable enough. I passed a pleasant few hours on the couch with his pretty funny memoir. I recommend it if you, like me, don't care about famous people. Almost famous seems to really suit me.

13. An Oprah Book Club selection: The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett (library book)

14. A book of social science: White Folks by Timothy J. Lensmire (paper book I own!) - This author was on our campus and I was involved in a book club that met once a week for most of the first quarter of the year reading this book preparing for his visit.  Lensmire interviewed a bunch of people who live in a small Wisconsin town and he then wrote this book about how white people gain their racial identity.  Mostly this book is about fear - fear of the "other," fear of losing privilege, and fear of losing approval of the ones you most respect and love.  I don't love interview-based work and I kind of think Thandeka did a lot of this same type of work in Learning to Be White more than fifteen years ago, but this was fine. I don't think I'll take much away from it, but I read it and enjoyed the book club.

15. A one-sitting book: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (library book) - Two hours from start to finish. Okay book if you don't mind drug-addled unreliable narrators who happen to be the worst sort of entitled brats. The book starts by telling you there's a twist, so when the twist comes...you're not surprised.  I'm maybe too harsh. It was fine. It was a fine book.

No, after months have passed, I have to tell you the only fine thing about this book was how amazing the characterization of the golden retrievers in the book was. I still occasionally think about those dogs and get annoyed when I think about the stupid main character.  

16. The first book in a new-to-you YA or middle grade series: Starstruck by Brenda Hiatt (Kindle purchase, but purchased when it was free) - It takes a really long time for our main character to cotton on to the fact that she's a Martian, but then hijinks ensue. I thought this book could have been cut down by 25% to really propel the plot and I think the characters were cardboard cutouts of what people DREAM teenagers are like, but it was free on Kindle, so I got what I paid for, I guess.  I will not be reading any more of the series.

17. A sci fi novel with a female protagonist by a female author: Ammonite by Nicola Griffith (library book)

18. A comic that isn’t published by Marvel, DC, or Image: Bolivar by Sean Rubin (library book) - An adorable graphic novel with great images. It tells the story of the last dinosaur in New York City, a dinosaur who manages to hide in plain sight as everyone else rushes around the city around.  The illustrations were amazing, the story was delightful, and I would highly recommend this to anyone with children. It would be a fun read aloud book, I think.

19. A book of genre fiction in translation: Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata, translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori (library book) - Weird little book about a thirty-something woman in Japan who works at a convenience store part-time and is considered odd, unambitious, and vaguely unsettling by others around her. She appears to be asexual and unable to feel emotions. I found myself unable to stop reading it because it was interesting, but it was also weird. I'd definitely recommend it, but it's a bit out there.

20. A book with a cover you hate: Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate (library book)

21. A mystery by a person of color or LGBTQ+ author: Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett (library book) - Funny read. I wasn't actually all that invested in the mystery, but the cast of characters was wonderful and interesting.  I'd read more Garrett for sure.

22. An essay anthology: Here We Are edited by Kelly Jensen (library book)

23. A book with a female protagonist over the age of 60: A Twist of the Knife by Becky Masterman (library book)

24. An assigned book you hated (or never finished): The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (free on Kindle) - This book is terrible. Lord Henry is an evil villain and I was legitimately surprised by the ending, but the endless prattling of boring people was like a sleeping pill to me. I'd read half a paragraph and be out like a light. This is the third time I've tried to read it and I'm never reading it again. (Also, for all of my life I've been calling it The Portrait of Dorian Gray, which is not actually its title. Education fail.)


Books I loved: Lonesome Dove, Pillars of the Earth

Books I liked: H is for Hawk, Poisonwood Bible, Kanye West Owes Me $300, Bolivar, Convenience Store Woman, A Twist of the Knife

Books I thought were fine: People Who Eat Darkness, Perspepolis, Shantaram, North to You, White Folks, Hollywood Homicide, Here We Are

Books I thought were terrible: I'll Be Gone in the Dark, Foundation, In Real Life, A Wrinkle in Time, We Were Liars, The Picture of Dorian Gray

Books I forgot ten minutes after I read them: Starstruck, Before We Were Yours, Ammonite

Monday, December 17, 2018

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson is memoir of sorts from a lawyer who works primarily on death penalty cases. One of my ACT students recommended it to me and she sort of jokingly commented that as a person of color, she'd rather just be shot dead while being arrested by police than end up as an innocent person stuck in the continual wheel of death row, court appeals, and lack of hope that many of the people in this book went through. I was very moved by her comments and repeatedly checked this book out of the library, but just couldn't bring myself to actually read it because it sounded so bleak.  And it is bleak. It's bleak, powerful, scary, and a complete condemnation of the criminal justice system.

I feel like I was once a fence sitter about the death penalty. I sort of understood the emotional impulse of an eye for an eye sort of justice. But as more and more innocent people were released (164 as of right now) after spending years and years of lives on death row, as the costs of the death penalty increase, both in terms of dollars and cents and international reputation, and most importantly, as I became more and more uncertain of the morality of forcing someone to take a human life, I have become less of a fence sitter and more of a confused mess about why we, as a nation, allow this to continue.


Anyway, here we are.  Stevenson  writes about cases in which he was pivotal in getting someone released from prison, but he goes beyond that. He talks about the cost of those years in prison. The failed marriages, the children who don't know their parents, the years of income lost, the relationships that drifted apart, the dreams deferred and lost. It's about so much more than the process of filing legal briefs and arguing before the Supreme Court. It's about people and lives.

The book was pretty riveting.  Stevenson is a solid writer. I don't always think lawyers write particularly well, but every page of this book held my attention and kept me wanting to turn the page. I highly recommend this book, maybe especially if you're a fence sitter.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Coal by Barbara Freese

Coal: A Human History by Baraba Freese is a fascinating little read.  It's not exactly a "human history," since it really only talks about Coal in the UK, US, and China, but if you think about as Coal: A Look at Three Countries Industrializing, it'll be just fine.  There was rarely a page that I didn't make one of those "hmmmm" sounds and make my husband stop whatever he was doing so that I could read him something I found interesting.

As happy as Britain was to embrace steam technology, it resisted another form of technology that would have greatly reduced its pollution problems: the stove...The British...couldn't bring themselves to adopt the abhorrent devices. They hated to lose sight of the cheery flames in their hearths, and it's likely that the smokier and darker the city grew, the more attached they grew to the brightness of their fires.  (96-97)

Dr. BB and I formed a whole human history from the above quote. There's a technology that's terrible for human health and the environment, but that does provide some important life maintaining function.  Humans use it, they go all in on it. Then someone develops a technology that does something similar to the original technology, but better, but humans are resistant to use it because it's too expensive or because of some superstitious reason. And that's the story of technology.

Anyway, Freese is an environmental attorney and, as such, has a definite political point of view. I agree with her political point of view, so I didn't think it is too much a part of the book, but based on the Goodreads reviews, climate change deniers do think it is. 

If you, like me, believe in science but don't know very much about the coal industry, outside of stereotypes about canaries and headlamps, this might be the book for you.  It certainly wans't a laugh a minute, but there are definitely interesting pieces to it. 

Monday, December 10, 2018

Interesting Podcast Episodes

For a while I sort of gave up on podcast round-ups because I wasn't listening to anything I could recommend wholeheartedly. But in the last few days, I've stumbled upon some super interesting episodes, so here goes.

The BBC World Service worked with the Louisville (KY) Courier Journal over the course of a year to create a three part series on the opioid epidemic in the greater Louisville area. I'm actually kind of burnt out on these stories, but the first two episodes of this series really resonated with me.  They really did cover the story from angles I had never heard before (people hurting their pets to get medication for their pets only to use the medication for themselves!) and they did it in a thoughtful way. I kind of like it when outsiders come into the United States and are so quick to pick up on policy imperfections and solutions.  It's a tough listen, but I think it's worthwhile.

Reveal did a two episode series called "Case Cleared" that looks at how many sexual assault cases are "cleared" by the police, which essentially means resolved, without an actual arrest being made. The Center for Investigative Reporting does some amazing data collection from large metro areas in the United States about what happens when victims report sexual assault.

It's an interesting, nuanced looked at policy analysis. What does a "successful" sexual assault case look like?  I thought this piece was particularly interesting because in the police officers make some really interesting points in their favor during the interviews.  This series also reinforces my belief that the criminal justice system is broken since victims are just re-victimized throughout the entire process.  If I were a victim of a sexual assault, I would never report it. I would feel terrible, especially if I thought the offender were going to reoffend against someone else, but the whole process is demeaning and requires you to really talk about your own sexual history as if it was relevant.
Death, Sex, and Money had a very frank conversation with a married couple who are dealing with the aftermath of an accident that left the husband paralyzed in "Married, Paralyzed, and Moving On." I think it really rare to hear inside a couple's sex life in a public forum, and this episode does that in a typical Anna Sale empathetic but insistent way.  The wife was crying at the end of the episode and, if I'm being honest, I was a little teary, too.
 
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