Podcast Roundup #2: Politics, Books, and a Social Experiment

We interrupt this program for a quick not so quick Podcast Roundup! Social media gurus, politics, books, an unplanned social experiment. You’re gonna love this. The “podcast” part of this post will be short compared to the glorious retelling of my travel day. There’s so much to tell you!

But first, we (my family and I) have a strange way of reading things like signs in this world. Words jump out to us in ways most people just don’t consider. That’s what I gather anyway, when I laugh hysterically at signs like this and everyone around me just looks at me like I have lobsters crawling out my nose.

“Santa Stop Here” We must STOP him, HERE! No further! I sent that picture the family group text immediately.

Yesterday, one of the first things I saw on the freeway made me laugh out loud in the car all by myself. It was one of those programmable signs that CalTrans sends messages to drivers on. It read, “Snow Chain Conditions Exist in the Mountains.”

I saw, laughed, and said to the empty car, “Yes they do! Dammit! And don’t try to deny the science!” I am aware of the meaning of the sign. I’m on the freeway, near the exits which lead to mountain passes. They’re warning you that you may need chains to get though. But… They exist! Just too funny.

Ok, settle down now. On the way into the city, I heard the following podcasts of interest:

BBC Thinking Allowed: Self-Improvement aired 1/4/2023 listened 1/11/2023 30 minutes

This one that I felt unsure how I felt about what they were saying. I couldn’t figure out what their point was. Are they for or against the idea of “self-improvement?” Both author’s interviewed had some valid thoughts about the idea of self-help being used as a consumer product.

With the invention of the internet and then social media platforms, the “leveling of the playing field” meant positives and negatives. Anyone could access helpful ideas far more easily and cheaply than ever before. But it also meant that anyone could share their ideas the same way.

That doesn’t mean I think there should be gatekeepers for knowledge shared, but it does mean that all of us have to become instantly far more discerning about what information we take to heart and use in our lives.

I think I’d like to read the books they wrote and see if their ideas are better expressed there than in the interview. Yeah… more books the TBR list.

Book: Confidence Culture by Shani Orgad

Book: Wellness Culture: How the Wellness Movement Has Been Used to Empower, Profit and Misinform by Stephanie Alice Baker

The second podcast was, Conversations with Coleman: The Problem of Democracy with Shadi Hamid Aired 12/22/22 listened 1/11/2023 90 minutes

This was good. I really enjoyed the ideas presented here. They’re thoughts I’ve had a lot lately: the differences between “liberal democracy” and “straight democracy” and respecting of election results regardless of the outcome.

Also, consider this: If we focus on internal “boogeymen,” change political opponents (game players) into enemies to be defeated, how do we live next door to each other? This has been the big change in how things are presented to us politically over the last twenty years of my adulthood. We don’t see both sides, come to an understanding, vote on what and who, and then go on with our lives with the results. We fight to vanquish out enemies (neighbors and fellow citizens) and then spend our time trying to keep the other half from winning again. This is not healthy.

Yes, Shadi Hamid wrote a book and it’s now on my list. The title of the podcast I listened to is different than the title of the youtube video I linked to, but it’s the same interview. Funny, I wouldn’t have been inclined to listen if it had had that title in my podcast reader. I wouldn’t have thought it relevant to me.

 Book: The Problem of Democracy: America, the Middle East, and the Rise and Fall of an Idea by Shadi Hamid

On the way home, I didn’t listen to anymore podcasts. I was flying high and wrapped up in my thoughts as I made the drive home, and I made my daily phone call to my brother as well to fill the time. What kind of excitement had me all wound up? I’m glad you asked!

First of all, I stopped at Barnes & Noble for a look around. Yes, I know I said I’d stop shopping there, prices are so high, but… you know… books and shopping and coffee. It must be done. But this time I found something you might like to hear about.

As I walked in there were books on the tables, like they usually have, but they were all books I wanted. Classics and novels related to classics. And then, as I browsed the fiction shelves, I found more of them. All my favorites, books I have on my TBR list, all interspersed with newer novels. I even found Doctor Zhivago right out front!

You know what that means? It means people are asking for and buying them. Be still my heart! Is there a classics reading revival happening?!

I bought two books, and even though I stuffed them into my shirt as I ran to the car in the rain, there was a bit of storm damage. It’s ok though. From now on, I’ll see those dried pages and know when and where I got those books!

wet books
I can’t tell you what they are! It’s a surprise!

PS Don’t make fun. It really was raining in Southern California, hard. Not that piddly “it’s just wet out” kind of rain we usually get.

Since I had some time between visiting dates, I decided I would stop for a sandwich and relax. Of course, I went to Panera, don’t be silly! But while I was there, another amazing thing happened: An unplanned social experiment was conducted.

I ordered my food on the kiosk (love that), got myself an unsweetened iced tea with a splash of strawberry lemonade, and found a table near the windows. I looked around the restaurant and realized something. Everyone around me that was alone had out a laptop, a phone, a book, or a journal. I was in a place filled with people like me. We congregated here, like instinct.

But then a thought occurred to me: What if I didn’t read or write while I ate? What if, instead, I looked out the window and watched the rain come down? What if, when people walked by, I looked up and smiled? What if I took in the whole experience of being right where I was at that moment?

It was freakin’ delicious!

Anxiety came up a few times. I started to itch to “do” something. People might think I’m strange just looking out the window like this. I took a deep belly breath and kept on. I thought… you know, this is the way to live. What if someone I know walked into this place? I’d notice. And what if, just like in the movies, some nice person came up and said, “Do you mind if I sit here and share your table?” And then we sat and talked, found out we were soul mates and were friends forever.

It could happen, but only if I didn’t look incredibly busy and focused on my own things. I’m never bringing reading material into a restaurant alone again!

One more thing before I go. On the way home, I saw this:

sunset with clouds

It was the single most spectacular sunset I have ever seen. I drove with it out my driver’s side window for some time. It had evolved out of the darkest storm cloud and exploded. It made me wish for traffic, so I could slow down and really take it all in. I did think about stopping, but that posed other problems, so I broke the law instead.

I hope you get a chance to stop and notice this beautiful world we live in today.

Here’s a link to last weeks Podcast Roundup, in case you missed it!

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