On a recent flight I started to catch up with two of my favourite podcasts and discovered another one, too, in the process, so here are the three podcasts (I believe in quality, not quantity) I am planning to keep listening to this fall.
I have been a long-time fan of Racquet magazine, “a journal that celebrates the art, ideas, style and culture that surround tennis”. That’s exactly what I love about tennis, the whole picture, not just the game. And Racquet understands and celebrates that. Beautifully. And now they have their own podcast, hosted by Rennae Stubbs. She’s had some first-rate guests so far, from Kim Clijsters to Judy Murray, but my absolute favourite has been the Chris Evert episode. I love this woman. In a sea of feminism-oriented media I wholeheartedly disapprove of, 18-time Grand Slam winner and mother of three boys Chris Evert gave the soundest piece of advice I have been hearing in a very long time from a public figure: “I feel there is so much emphasis on women and little girls, but let us also add to that men and little boys and mothers who are bringing up little boys, let’s help them out a little bit.” As a mother of a little boy, I want to say: Thank you, Chris.
We seem to forget that we need to raise independent, self-confident boys, too, not only girls. Boys struggle, too. They are vulnerable, too. They are shy, too. They can be introverts, too. They need encouragement, too. They must be taught, too, that there are no two separate worlds, men and women, that we must love and respect each other. That rules are the same, for boys and girls, for men and women, and that whether you are Rafael Nadal or Serena Williams, you must follow the rules (please, do not even get me started on the Serena Williams moment at the US Open – what a crass display of lack of fair play and sportsmanship from both Williams and the American public). Chris, once again, thank you for your sportsmanship, grace, elegance, objectivity and genuineness.
I very much loved the episode with Judy Murray, too, in which she gives a very straight-forward insight into the world of tennis, advising parents to be prepared for everything the sport demands from their children. She also talks about her admirable efforts in educating a nation (Scotland) of the benefits of sports and an active life (and making tennis more accessible to more people), and also her pertinent and honest thoughts on why there are not more women tennis coaches – I am sure many hasty opinions do not take into consideration that women tennis players prefer to train with men coaches because they see it as a way to improve themselves and become stronger players. I have never played tennis professionally, but I have nonetheless been playing it since I was little and always with boys and later men for that same reason, to better my game. To this day, I have never played once with a girl or woman, and the boys and men I have played with have never complained or treated me as a weaker opponent. What I want to say is that I am sick and tired of this feminist viciousness based on nothing but social networks outrage and diatribe.
Not watching tv (I haven’t for years) has all sorts of benefits I can not praise enough. Besides affording me the time to get things done I would otherwise not be able to squeeze into a day’s schedule and helping my mind stay sane (I believe that 90% of television media is toxic), it has been partly responsible for my discovering Terry Gross’ Fresh Air. I do want to be in the know about the contemporary issues, arts and everything in between, and although I still read the written press, my go-to program remains Terry Gross’ podcast. She is a virtuoso with exceptional range. She interviews everyone from all different industries and backgrounds, from politics to cinema, and does it with such ease and diligence and candour and human touch that there really aren’t other more consistent interviews available on the medium. I have recently started to search the archive of the program and listened to the episode with Matthew Walker, neuroscientist, professor of Neuroscience and Psychology at Berkeley University, and author of the book Why We Sleep, which I am currently reading. I will soon talk about it on Classiq, but, for now, let me just say that it is a book that everyone should read, and that, until you do that, you should listen to Terry’s interview with the author mentioned above.
I have previously heard about Alec Baldwin’s Here’s The Thing, but I haven’t given it a listen until recently. And I couldn’t have started with anyone else but Patti Smith, one of my favourite artists and writers – she never wanted to be a musician, she wanted to be a poet and writer (“Books were my salvation”, she says about the magical worlds she found when reading hundreds of books in her childhood), she tells Baldwin, and what a writer she has become. Just Kids and especially M Train are two of the books I’ve become most fond of in recent years, and Devotion and Woolgathering are waiting on my bookshelf. But what I especially loved about the podcast is that I learned new things about Patti or that she shed new light on certain aspects of her life. “I wasn’t put on the planet to climb the ladder of success, I was put here to do some kind of work.” Then, at a question from the audience asking her about the women who have inspired her, Patti, who had just mentioned Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs and Gregory Corso as her mentors, went on to enumerate a few women, saying that she is truly inspired by many others, but then added: “I love being a girl, but I am partial to fellas.” And that is another thought I would love to be voiced more often in the times we are living. She ended the conversation with a few words about being an artist, naming hardwork and sacrificing happily as most important to the pursuit of being a true artist. “Being a real artist has nothing to do with fame and fortune.”
Another great Here’s The Thing episode was with Viggo Mortensen. A great actor with a low-key, no-star persona, who loves books and who, in 1999, founded his own publishing house, Perceval Press, which publishes indie books (in small-run prints) just for the sheer love of books. What’s not to love about the man? I am now on the mission to listen to as many episodes as possible as soon as possible. Alec is a very direct and lighthearted host and his conversations have that unpredictable factor that makes them genuine and sincere. And that’s one of the best things about his interviews with actors, he just shows us that Hollywood people are “just like everyone else”, as photographer Laura Wilson recently said in my talk with her. His guest range is however much wider than that, from artists to policy makers and performers, and Baldwin sets out “to hear their stories, what inspires their creations, what decisions changed their careers, and what relationships influenced their work.”