Monday, July 12, 2010


Mondays used to be much less meaningful and enjoyable for me. The start of a new work week. Pulling oneself out of the typically joyous lethargy of a Sunday afternoon. All the issues/tasks that have piled up over the weekend. Then I got a new job and in this instance of being a librarian for a small college in upstate NY during the summer causes Monday to be much less frightening. This is quite enjoyable. There's another aspect of Mondays that I've not only come to greatly enjoy but to also anticipate with some degree of relish.
Two of my favorite podcasts drop on Monday mornings. I always, every single time, listen to them in the exact same order. Every Monday-without fail. There have a couple times where I will rearrange my to-do list so that I can have work at hand that allows me to listen and still get stuff done just so that I can enjoy this particular serving of Monday morning.
The first podcast is the NPR news quiz Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me. I have laughed out loud in my office and have used bits from the podcasts in the class that I teach. I hope one day to have Carl Cassel's voice on my cell phone voice-mail.
The second podcast is This American Life with Ira Glass. This podcast caries from a short story/essay format to spending the entire hour digging into and thoroughly exploring a complex issue throughout the full spectrum of human emotion and experience. Sometimes the program is simply funny or sad while also being deeply journalistic or simply just quirky. Like when the producers/writers put together a program based entirely off of ideas pitched by their parents for the show that the readers/listeners then voted for their favorites of that list. The other defintively endearing aspect of this podcast is what I think is a distinct lack of snarkiness. Rather, at least this is how I think they present their subject/material, the philosophies of the podcast attempt to communicate the stories in their own context with a desire for freshness/authenticity. So the interviewers will go spend time in the Mexican desert with those individuals attempting to assist the Border Patrol or visiting summer camp to talk about the impact of growing up through a camp or talk to Senators about the books they've written and how the book seems not to be born out of any real experience.(Glass mentions this in the interivew, referenced belwo) This whole enterprise is driven by Ira Glass's narration. His voice, which is quite distinctive and finely constructed, insinuates itself deep into my brain stem where it often, just as DFW's voice does, takes over for my brain voice.
Recently Ira Glass sat down for an interview over at Slate entitled On Air and On Error: This American Life's Ira Glass on Being Wrong. This interview is a lengthy and enjoyable read especially in the exploration of the growth through learning of mistakes and the flexibility of our identities as people seem to be tied much more into our abilities to fail and learn from those instances rather simply striving to be right ach and every single time.* Glass, by his own admission, spent about 9 years being hands-down terrible at the radio interview/performance before he was successful.
The other enjoyable aspect of htis interview is that is shifts about 3/4 of the way through into a dialogue where Glass actually asks the interviewer (Kathryn Shulz) a question and the text shifts very much like something out of Barthelme's short story dialogues where the conversation happens without names and identities are blurred by the switching of the call-and-response process. This is what Glass and the show are really good at. This is what makes going to work on Mondays that much better.

*There's this fantastic essay on dialogue from Stringfellow Barr, of St. John's College which deserves way more than a footnote. Barr gives several suggested tenets for successful dialogue, which he calls thumb-rules, and the second should be mentioned here. That in successful dialogue "the will of self-insistence give way to the will to learn." I think that one of the main, if not the, thing is the will to be right.

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