Once I was driving from Toronto to New York and I saw a turnoff for a town called Damascus. I was really excited by this but the driver, more familiar with these parts, told me it was nothing special. There’s a lot of towns across the states named after biblical places. So many there’s even a Wikipedia entry on it, in fact (omg Half Hell, North Carolina!!!). Anyway, this story is about a Lebanese man’s plan to visit the 47 American towns named Lebanon. He doesn’t quite get to all of them because is in Lebanon South Dakota, he comes across some particularly interesting roots. This episode introduced me to Kerning Cultures, who describes itself as a podcast “made by children of the Middle East, telling the kinds of stories in which we can actually see ourselves”.
No fancy production here, just a fascinating conversation with Eric Klinenberg, author of Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life. My favourite part is how he expresses his wonder at the fact libraries exists, by asking us to imagine there are no libraries and how we would have to put it to the local mayor to establish them: “We want to have these things called libraries. We are going to set up buildings, we’re going to put them in every single neighbourhood, fill them up with comfortable furniture, let’s throw in a bunch of computers, and let’s put wifi access in there, why not? And let’s have lots of books and DVDs and there will be people we will hire as public employees, called public librarians, and their job will be to open the door and say ‘how can I help you?’. We should make sure everybody in the city can use it regardless of their age, social class, or their race or ethnicity. And let’s make sure people who are not citizens feel especially welcome here and we will have ESL classes. Oh and we want all this to be free?”
(I’m paraphrasing a bit because sadly the Kitchen Sisters does not post transcripts de16).
He is so right. Libraries are these AMAZING places and their very existence seems to defy all neo-liberal reason. If you love libraries as much as I do, have a listen to recent episode of This American Life – The Room of Requirement.
The Dropout – ABC Radio (USA):
The story of Elizabeth Holmes and her failed biotech company, Theranos. The company claimed it would revolutionise blood testing by reducing the amount of blood required from test tubes full from an intravenous needle, to a couple of drops from a finger prick. When Theranos was on the rise, Holmes was heralded as the next Steve Jobs. She was profiled in the New Yorker, she was on the cover of Forbes and Fortune magazine. And then, in 2015 the Wall Street Journal published a piece detailing the fraudulence of most of the company’s claims. It catalysed the end of the company. Holmes and former Theranos COO Ramesh Balwani have been indicted on several counts of fraud. This podcast’s production is overblown, they’ve made some dubious sound design decisions, but the story is a cracker and I whipped through it in a couple of days.