I did not get to read much in May. We were only home one weekend out of four, and we spent that weekend getting our house in order and setting up our new bedframe (which we ordered back in February (!) but that’s another story). So this month’s What I’m Reading is really going to be a What I’m Consuming, because it includes podcasts and TV shows as well. Enjoy!
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
I did not read this in school, somehow, so I was way overdue for this. I’m very glad I finally read it; it’s such an important piece of history. We lost an amazing person in Anne — she was funny, intelligent, deep-thinking, and a little arrogant in the way young people are. I don’t doubt she would have done incredible things had she survived.
As far as my perceptions of the writing itself, I think the key to reading Anne’s diary is going in knowing you’re reading the diary of an actual human, and so it’s going to be a little boring at times. The mundanity of life exists even in the most terrifying of circumstances. But her diary wasn’t written to entertain, and I know that. She wrote it first for herself, and then as a piece of history for posterity, to share her story and that of those hidden with her.
Image from Goodreads
I spent a few hours at work a few weeks ago stuffing hundreds of envelopes for a mailing campaign, so I had to combat the boredom somehow. Podcasts are also how my husband and I survived an 8-hour drive to visit my sister over Memorial Day.
Failed Missionary — I found this one because it’s co-hosted by Jamie Wright, who wrote The Very Worst Missionary, which I absolutely loved. This podcast is a collaboration between several former and/or disillusioned Christian missionaries. Some are still Christians, some are not, but the point of the podcast is for them to get together and discuss what’s wrong — and a little of what’s right — about Christian missions via their own personal experiences with it.
I listened to both Part 1 and 2 of this in one afternoon. It was addicting — some of the stories these people had to tell are kind of shocking, honestly. The negative effects of missions are not talked about in churches, so it was refreshing as well as a little difficult to hear. The first episode is very negatively skewed, which does make sense given the premise, but it did start to get to me near the end. Thankfully the second part is not as bad, although it’s still a lot of what is wrong and not a lot of ideas for solutions. I’m hoping they will discuss more of that in future episodes, and I do get that it’s necessary to fully set up the problem and not be bashful about laying out the many issues in Christian missions. If you’re interested, a few of the things they discuss specifically are: 1) in short term missions, how the emphasis is often on the benefits for volunteers rather than the benefits for the people they go to serve, and 2) the effects of short-term and long-term missions on the local economies (hint: it’s often harmful).
I also really appreciated how organized it was and how much work the producer put into these episodes. The main podcast conversation with the other two hosts was interspersed with clips from interviews that the producer had done with other missionaries previously. And it wasn’t just a stream-of-thought setup — the producer edited all of these conversations so that all the thoughts were organized by topic. It was more like a casual presentation than a conversation, with a thesis and supporting arguments, which I absolutely loved. There’s a lot to talk about within this premise, so that organization made it easier to follow.
My husband follows Destin, one of the hosts, on YouTube (here’s his channel, Smarter Every Day). Destin is a literal rocket scientist from Alabama, and he’s very into science and technology. Matt, the co-host of the podcast, is one of Destin’s friends (he also has a YouTube channel). Matt is a pastor who is into history and the humanitarian side of things. On No Dumb Questions, Matt and Destin pick a topic, research it individually according to what they’re interested in, and then get together and talk about what they found.
We listened to episodes “Siege Warfare” and “Visiting Israel.” Both were really engaging, although I enjoyed Matt’s side of things more than Destin’s. In “Siege Warfare,” he talked about the psychological strategies and effects of sieges, and a little about the societal power structures that allowed for that type of war. Destin discussed the technology behind trebuchets, ballistas, and other war machines of that age, and talked about the importance of engineering. There was also a hilarious ten-minute stretch near the end when they changed the lyrics to this song to give shout-outs to their Patreon supporters.
“Visiting Israel” was a bit of a departure from their normal setup; Matt visited Israel with his family and just chatted with Destin about the trip. It was interesting to hear about his experiences with the culture and his visits to some of the supposed locations of Biblical events.
The one thing about these podcasts is that at 2 hours each, they’re really long. They’re also just non-edited conversations, so if you’re not into the stream-of-consciousness format, you might not enjoy this much. (To be fair, both men have full-time jobs, families, and their own YouTube channels, so they probably don’t have time to be editing podcasts, too.) That said, listening to these was a great way to pass the time driving back from my sister’s place.
Evil Genius: the True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist
In 2003, in Pennsylvania, a man robbed a bank. Underneath his shirt, he was wearing a collar bomb, which later exploded and killed him. Upon investigation, police found extremely detailed instructions that had been given to the man prior to the robbery. The bank robbery was only supposed to be one stop in a longer scavenger hunt with the goal of finding the key to the collar bomb.
This 4-episode documentary was done by a journalist who took an interest in the story and started writing Marjorie Diehl, who was the main suspect in the murder. She was convicted, but no one ever really got the full story of what really happened, because there were around 6 people who seemed to be involved, and the man who died may have been involved as well. Watching this journalist try to figure out what really happened was fascinating, even though they never really uncovered the full story.
This is a show by Vox Media. It consists of 15-minute-or-so episodes where they discuss societal problems and their histories. We’ve only watched the first episode so far, on the racial wealth gap, but I think it’s a great way to squeeze some education into your day quickly and enjoyably. Are the topics enjoyable? Not really, but they’re necessary to talk about, and they’re presented well.
This is my guilty pleasure show currently, what I’ve been putting on when I get home from work and don’t want to use my brain anymore. It’s a body painting competition. I didn’t realize that body painting could be a career, but apparently it can be! If you’re looking for something artistic and creative to watch, this is a fun one.