36 Questions – A Podcast Musical

36 Questions is a three-part podcast musical by Two-Up Productions in which a couple, played by Jonathan Groff (aka Kristoff from Frozen) and Jessie Shelton, attempt to bring their marriage back from the brink of divorce using 36 revealing questions designed to make strangers fall in love.

Not being a fan of musicals, I was dubious. However, I adored La La Land, needed a new podcast to get stuck into and it had great reviews.

Whilst it took me the first episode to get into it because the format is so different to anything I’ve heard before, by episode two I was unashamedly hooked.

Maybe I really do like musicals after all.

Read reviews by The New York Times, The Guardian and Vulture.

Listen to the podcast.

Chilli Sin Carne – A Healthy and Fast One-Pot Vegetarian Recipe

This vegetarian one pot Chilli Sin Carne recipe from the Feel Good Food cookbook is fast, easy and healthy, making it the perfect midweek dinner. The majority of ingredients you can keep in the pantry so little planning ahead is needed.

It’s a cheap, low-fat, high-fibre and delicious dish. And it freezes well. The following serves four generously if you adhere to the suggested changes regarding the tomatoes and capsicum. It also works well without the guacamole if you’re wanting to keep it low fuss.

You will need:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbs tomato paste
  • 1 small red chilli, seeds removed, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
  • 1 red capsicum, seeds removed, finely chopped (we throw an extra green capsicum in to up the veg intake)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp sweet smoked paprika (pimenton)
  • 1 tsp thyme leaves
  • 2 x 400g can chopped tomatoes (the original recipe calls for one can but we prefer two)
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 400g can red kidney beans, rinsed, drained
  • 400g can lentils, rinsed, drained
  • Steamed brown rice, low fat thick Greek style yoghurt, guacamole and coriander leaves, to serve

View the full recipe.

Thanks to Paige for sharing this with me.

Podcast – Mogul: The Life and Death of Chris Lighty

Mogul: The Life and Death of Chris Lighty is a six-episode podcast from Gimlet Media that tells the story of Chris Lighty, a music industry and hip-hop heavyweight who was found dead at his home in the Bronx in 2012.

Chris Lighty was a giant in hip-hop. He managed LL Cool J, 50 CentMissy Elliott, Busta RhymesFoxy Brown and Fat Joe – anyone who was anyone worked with Lighty. His death left the music world reeling and left many questions unanswered.

Reggie Ossé, who came up through the hip-hop scene as an entertainment lawyer at the same time as Lighty, tells the vibrant story from the first breakbeat to the last heartbeat.

Whilst Chris’ story is interesting in itself, I love how the documentation of hip-hop history is woven through. Even if you’re not a hip-hop fan, it’s well worth a listen.

Read a review of the podcast.

Listen to the podcast.

Book: When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

When Breath Becomes Air is a moving and sad yet inspiring memoir by a young neurosurgeon faced with a terminal cancer diagnosis who attempts to answer the question, ‘What makes a life worth living?

At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, the next he was a patient struggling to live.

When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a medical student asking what makes a virtuous and meaningful life into a neurosurgeon working in the core of human identity – the brain – and finally into a patient and a new father.

It’s an emotional investment and although it is about dying, for the most part, the indelible impression it leaves is that it is more about living.

Read a review of When Breath Becomes Air.

Buy the book.

The Secret To Living Longer May Be Your Social Life – A TED Talk

Well, this is uplifting news for people that beat themselves up about not eating the right foods, not exercising enough and drinking too much.* It turns out that the strongest predictors of longevity are two features of your social life.

It turns out that the strongest predictors of longevity are two features of your social life.

The Italian island of Sardinia has more than six times as many centenarians as the mainland and ten times as many as North America. Why? According to psychologist Susan Pinker, it’s not a sunny disposition or a low-fat, gluten-free diet that keeps the islanders healthy — it’s their emphasis on close personal relationships and face-to-face interactions.

Learn more about super longevity as Pinker explains what it takes to live to 100 and beyond, and why social isolation is the public health risk of our time.

Watch or listen to the talk.

* I don’t condone reckless living but it is refreshing to hear about studies that have found there may be other factors at play with regards to a living a long life. 

Jon Ronson Uncovers Who Really Pays the Price for Free Porn in The Butterfly Effect

The Butterfly Effect by Jon Ronson is a seven-part series on Audible and is the most compelling audio I’ve listened to since S-Town.

Jon Ronson describes it beautifully:

“It’s sort of about porn, but it’s about a lot of other things. It’s sad, funny, moving and totally unlike some other nonfiction stories about porn – because it isn’t judgmental or salacious. It’s human and sweet and strange and lovely. It’s a mystery story, an adventure. It’s also, I think, a new way of telling a story. The flap of the butterfly’s wings is a boy in Brussels having an idea. His idea is how to get rich from giving the world free online porn. Over seven episodes I trace the consequences of this idea, from consequence through to consequence. If you keep going in this way, where might you end up? It turns out you end up in the most surprising and unexpected places.”

Here’s an excerpt, from This American Life.

Get it now on Audible for free or wait until November for iTunes and everywhere else.

See my previous post about Audible.

Ozark – TV Crime Drama on Netflix

Jason Bateman is best known for his comedy roles but there is nothing funny about his character, Marty Byrde, in the Netflix drama, Ozark.

It’s tense from episode one where it is revealed that Marty, a Chicago-based financial advisor, has connections to a drug cartel that go awry so he is forced to relocate his family to the Missouri Ozarks in an attempt to fix the problem (and escape death).

The series is well cast, with Laura Linney playing Marty’s wife, Wendy, who leaves her own mess behind in Chicago, and Julia Garner as the smart and fiery local, Ruth Langmore.

Ozark has been compared to the highly-awarded Breaking Bad (family man gets caught up in drug world and needs to keep his family safe) and whilst it’s not as groundbreaking, it is gripping and has just been renewed for a second season.

Watch the Ozark trailer.


The Discussion Around ‘Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?’

I have a love/hate relationship with my smartphone so was compelled to read the article Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation? that has been widely read and debated this week.

Through her research, Jean M. Twenge found that: “More comfortable online than out partying, post-Millenials are safer, physically, than adolescents have ever been. But they’re on the brink of a mental-health crisis.”

She calls this new generation that has grown up with smartphones ‘iGen’ and there are some startling facts and figures about how they behave and feel.

“The portrait of iGen teens emerging from the data is one of a lonely, dislocated generation,” she says. “In the next decade, we may see more adults who know just the right emoji for a situation, but not the right facial expression.”

Whilst this article was interesting and somewhat shocking (though unsurprising if you’ve witnessed teens on smartphones), I found the response Yes, Smartphones Are Destroying a Generation, But Not of Kids by Alexandra Samuel more helpful and insightful.

She paints a less dire picture and asks us to “Consider another possible explanation for why our kids are increasingly disengaged. It’s because we’ve disengaged ourselves; we’re too busy looking down at our screens to look up at our kids.”

She suggests we stop paying attention to alarmist attacks on kids’ screen time and pay attention to our kids. Her research suggests the way forward is to: “Embrace our role as digital mentors: actively encouraging our kids to use technology, but offering ongoing support and guidance in how to use it appropriately.”

Sage advice, though it does feel as parents and/or adults, we’ve been sucked into the smartphone void as well and need to find ways to get it under control in our own lives first.

Top of the Lake: China Girl, Starring Elisabeth Moss & Nicole Kidman

Top of the Lake: China Girl sees Detective Robin Griffin return to Sydney (after a lot bad stuff went down in New Zealand in season 1) and lead an investigation into a prostitute that was thrown over a cliff in a suitcase.

Uplifting, I know. It’s dark and seedy but intriguing and beautifully shot. Elisabeth Moss and Nicole Kidman are both excellent. Most of the male characters are sexist and repugnant and there is a particularly disturbing scene with a bunch of young guys on laptops in a cafe that will make your jaw drop.

It’s shot in Sydney and instead of seeing an idyllic city, which is usually how Sydney comes across on screen, we are shown a seedy underbelly. Jane Campion wrote and directed the series and fun fact: the character Mary (Alice Englert), who plays Nicole Kidman’s adopted daughter, is Jane Campion’s real life daughter.

Top of the Lake: China Girl airs on BBC First in Australia on 20 August or you can watch all episodes now with BBC iPlayer.

Watch the trailer.

Watch season 1 on iTunes or on ABC from 6 August.


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