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Sinners and Saints in a Pandemic

Sinners and Saints in a Pandemic

One of the oldest words in the history of hospital care is the French term “triage”—meaning, the sorting of patients. The practice of triage keeps a hospital organized (Intensive Care Unit here, Emergency Room there), but it also provides a way of prioritizing the care of patients. This is especially important on battlefields and in disaster zones, where the need for treatment can heavily outweigh the resources available. When the number of sick people is far greater than the number of doctors, triage provides a sieve for who sees the doctors first.

As you might guess, then, triage naturally moves medicine…

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Harry Potter, Cursed Children, and the Sins of Their Mothers

Harry Potter, Cursed Children, and the Sins of Their Mothers

I remember my entrance into the world of Harry Potter: I was in college and babysitting overnight in a house that contained the series-so-far, The Sorcerer’s Stone and The Chamber of Secrets, on its bookcase. Playing nearby on the floor, my charges gloriously ignored me while I dove into the pages of the first book. I was a skeptic: I hadn’t anticipated finding resonance in the story of a male British preteen wizard, and fantasy was not my jam. (Game of Thrones hadn’t even come out to legitimize dragon-possible worlds.) But I could see myself within Harry’s perennial search for identity…

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Being Boring on Beautiful/Anonymous

Being Boring on Beautiful/Anonymous

It seems like comedian Chris Gethard is everywhere I look. Like he’s emerging from the boundaries of his cult-following into the more public eye, showing up time and again on the old news feed. It’s probably because his sense of humor plays off the widespread anxiety that we all seem to have. This week he’s premiering his off-Broadway Apatow-produced play, Career Suicide, which retells Gethard’s own real-life suicide attempt–as a comedy. That tells you something about his sense of humor.

I didn’t know who Gethard was until a couple months ago when a friend recommended his podcast Beautiful Stories from Anonymous People, each episode of which is…

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Flannel Antinomians and a Satisfaction Guaranteed

Flannel Antinomians and a Satisfaction Guaranteed

If the pattern keeps going, we’re going to need Ethan Richardson to write volume two of This American Gospel. Ira Glass and crew at This American Life have given us some of our favorite stories and sermon illustration over the years, and episode 591’s exploration of LL Bean’s return policy joins the ranks. If you need a frank discussion about the role of antinomians in 2016, look no further.

Check the glossary for a fuller treatment, but the short spiritual definition of an antinomian is someone who, after encountering the Gospel of love and forgiven sins, “goes rogue” with the “un-Christian…

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The Good News of Knowing Nothing

The Good News of Knowing Nothing

I used to be a connoisseur of television, my DVR filled with hour-long nuggets of narrative brilliance, my Netflix recommendations apt reflections of a carefully-curated viewing history. Then I had kids and grew exhausted and, in the late hours of the night (read: 8-10 pm), developed a preference for more fun-sized and less emotionally-involving small-screen moments. I also began to receive more of my entertainment on the run, on the drive to my son’s preschool or during laps on the track at my gym, which is why podcasting opened up a welcome form of media diversion. Recently I caught the…

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For When I Am Strong, Then I Am Weak

For When I Am Strong, Then I Am Weak

I have a beef with the editors of Modern Love, and it’s not just about their polite refusal of my recent submission. It concerns a recent episode of their podcast, a reading of a column published almost seven years ago written by a woman who “saved” her marriage by refusing to suffer her husband’s rejection. By refusing to suffer, period.

The author of the piece, Laura Munson, recounts her husband’s mid-life crisis that spawned this rejection, and the announcement he made that he was leaving her and their children. What follows would read to many as an inspirational tale of…

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Tony Hale’s Awkward, Silent Prison

Tony Hale’s Awkward, Silent Prison

Tony Hale, who played Buster Bluth on Arrested Development and who we talked to in a 2009 interview called “Tony Hale Controls the World!”, sat down with Terry Gross on NPR’s “Fresh Air” last week. They discussed his role as Gary Walsh on HBO’s hit series Veep, which wrapped up its fifth season on Sunday. Here are some highlights.

During the interview, Hale didn’t shy away from admitting that he has a knack for playing anxious characters. He talked about his personal experience with anxiety, and his experiences with prayer and faith in response to it.

GROSS: You’ve said in the past that you…

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Nothing Weirder Than Honesty

Nothing Weirder Than Honesty

This one comes to us from Zac Koons:

An Appreciation of “You Made It Weird With Pete Holmes”

There’s a lot about Pete Holmes’s podcast that might put you off. For starters, episodes of “You Made It Weird” are long—like, Lord-of-the-Rings-long—and even more unwelcome perhaps, they’re almost entirely unedited. Its premise (comedian interviews comedian) doesn’t promise anything out of the ordinary, and he breaks almost every imaginable rule of interviewer etiquette: he indulges tangents, his research is from Wikipedia, and he constantly interrupts his guests to regale them with stories of his own. And then there’s his laugh, which is constant, lasts for…

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Not So Simple Math: The Story of the Prodigal Mother

Not So Simple Math: The Story of the Prodigal Mother

If you were driving on Mother’s Day just before 9am, maybe to breakfast or church, there’s a good chance you heard NPR’s reading of a story from the Modern Love Podcast, “A Mother’s Story of Her Son’s Adoption: ‘My Greatest Accomplishment & Deepest Regret’” (from January) (and voiced by one of my favorite actors, Sarah “Last Man Standing” Paulson, of American Horror Story). It’s about a young woman whose unplanned pregnancy leads her to give up her son for “open adoption,” an arrangement which gives her the ability to interact and have a relationship with him but not actually raise him.

In…

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The Sultry Sounds of Vin Scully and the “Jack Rabbit Resurrection”

88-year-old Vin Scully has been doing Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers’ games for 60+ years. He’s always been the “Garrison Keillor of Sports Broadcasting” – weaving yarn after yarn between pitches to keep listeners engaged (the vast majority of his work having been on radio). In this, his final season, Scully has become a social media phenomenon with this true tale he told in a Giant-Dodger game last week. Madison Bumgarner (pitcher pictured here) and his wife, are the story’s hero/heroine:

Unexpected Help from the World of Xanth

Unexpected Help from the World of Xanth

A few weeks ago, NPR’s episode of This American Life was called “Show Me the Way,” (a rerun from 2012) and it focused on stories of people in trouble who sought help in strange places. The main story was about a fifteen-year-old who, feeling antagonized by both his stepfather and his high school, walked himself eight miles to the airport and then flew off to Florida using several years’ worth of paper route money in search of Piers Anthony, his favorite author.

Xanth, the fantasy kingdom in Piers Anthony’s books, looks remarkably like Florida, and fifteen-year-old Andy used the maps in…

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Forgive Yourself, or Die Trying

Forgive Yourself, or Die Trying

Unless it has been replaced, the men’s room mirror at Manning’s Cafe in Minneapolis is a little worse for wear. Not broken, but scratched and pitted, and midway across the bottom the words are indelibly scrawled, “Forgive Yourself.” No telling who wrote it or how long ago, even less what they meant. Was it a pep talk from a weary (and likely inebriated) soul to his own downtrodden self? An encouragement to others? I know a former seminarian (no few have closed down Mannings at 2 am) who was observed, on occasion, to absolve half the room–did someone take offense? Whatever the intent, the message…

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