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History, Podcasts and the Craft of the Metanarrative

Episode seven of “The Magnus Archives” has been one of my favorites, weaving together the horror of war, historical figures and folklore in a tragic haunting manner.

Set during World War I, “The Piper” tells of the narrator’s experience with Wilfred Owen, who was an English poet and soldier. He was one of the leading poets of the First World War, writing on the horrors of trenches and gas warfare. His poem “Dulce et decorum est” condemns the rallying cry that “it is sweet and proper to die for one’s country.”

Owen was killed in action during the crossing of the Sambre–Oise Canal, exactly one week (almost to the hour) before the signing of the Armistice, which is fictionalized in the archive statement in this episode along with the calling of the Pied Piper as almost a god of death who stalked the battlefields. It is said that his mother received word of his death while the bells of the nearby church tolled for the end of the war.

I haven’t read very much of Owen’s poetry but this episode did a great job capturing the bleakness and horror of which he wrote.

“The Magnus Archives” is not a new podcast, but while I may be four years and about 180 episodes behind, just in case I wasn’t the last person to ever hear of it, I wanted to share how creepy, thought provoking and thoroughly enjoyable the show has been.

I hope more of the episodes begin to play with historical events or figures as connections between archive statements and subjects begin to appear as this episode was one of their best. From a pure entertainment standpoint, this podcast has been great, but even more than that, the structure of it and the storytelling had been excellent with a fine balance between the individual stories and the connecting story arcs.

Definitely worth checking out as much as a short story anthology as a lesson in crafting narratives.



Margaret Atwood & the Happy Face Killer


Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.” 
― Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood was born November 18, and is a poet, novelist, literary critic, essayist, inventor, teacher and environmental activist. Among the seventeen books of poetry, sixteen novels, ten books of non-fiction, eight collections of short fiction, eight children’s books, and one graphic novel, Atwood is perhaps best known at the moment for her novel, “The Handmaid’s Tale” and it’s adaptation as a tv series with Hulu.

There are a number of reasons why the quote at the top is relevant today, and tomorrow there will be even more examples.  Whether that means another shooting at a yoga studio, or a rapist gets off because of his victim’s clothing, or a rapist who let his victim die while he played video games gets off because he had no prior record, or, or, or, or….. 

While its become one of the more popular and visible Atwood quotes, I thought to share it since it was fresh in my mind because of a podcast I’ve been listening to, ‘Happy Face’.

It’s produced by the daughter of the Happy Face Killer, Keith Jesperson, who raped and murdered eight women, and only turned himself in because two other people had been convicted of his crimes. He wanted the credit. While in prison Jesperson did interviews and spoke calmly and thoroughly about his victims, about how he raped and murdered each woman, and how he disposed of their bodies.  And he spoke about how it was ultimately their fault he killed them. If only she hadn’t spoken that way about men, if only she hadn’t provoked him, if only she hadn’t made him do it.

If only she hadn’t laughed.

Listening to “Slow Burn”

IMG_8479(1)Chuck Grassley once wore a “Free Lisa Myers” button to pressure NBC in 1999 to air an interview with Juanita Broaddrick about her twenty year old allegations against Bill Clinton. It’s interesting how the search for truth regarding decades old allegations and the standards the Republican Party and their supporters choose to apply can shift so dramatically. Grassley clearly demonstrated his party’s malleable morals with his complete disinterest investigating allegations against Brett Kavanaugh, while Juanita Broaddrick openly discounted Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony. But these details about recent events are not the most intriguing moments in the final episode of the second season of ‘Slow Burn.’

Episode 8, “Move On”, was a fascinating and disturbing episode from ‘Slow Burn’, one of the best podcasts around. The first season is about Watergate, the second is on the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, and you need to go listen to both. They’re both a shocking look into how history repeats itself, especially when those who made that history are still in power and allowed to manipulate the course of society and politics.

The first season of ‘Slow Burn’ focused on Watergate and was shocking in everything that I had never learned went on. I was born a decade after Watergate and only knew the general bullet points; the break-in, the secret tapes, Woodward and Bernstein, looming impeachment, resignation, Roach from ‘Point Break’ wearing a Nixon mask and yelling, “I am not a crook” while the Ex-Presidents rob a bank.

IMG_8481(1)Leon Neyfakh goes much farther beyond that, introducing us to Martha Mitchell and Wright Pattman, as well as the team behind the special prosecutors looking into the whole thing, and ties the events of the 1970s to what is happening today.

But where season one introduced a wealth of previously overlooked or forgotten facts, season two was fascinating in how it rewrote what I thought I knew and how the people involved have been portrayed.

It also demonstrates the hypocrisy of the Republican Party, and probably the Democrats too for that matter, and reinforces the idea that when it comes to politicians and those in power, it’s never about the crime or allegations, and it isn’t about justice for the victim or a platform for truth. It seems instead to come down to whatever is convenient to maintaining their grasp on power, even if it means Chuck Grassley has to hide his Lisa Myers button.

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