April 8, 2020

Banana curry

Listen up, banana-bread-baking schmucks! I have levelled up in the avoiding-eating-bananas-in-their-natural-state stakes: today I cooked a banana curry. I ate one nearly 20 years ago at an excellent vegetarian Indian restaurant in Tooting called Kastoori, which soon after shut down, leaving just faint taste-memories.

UNTIL TODAY. I have a kitchen again after nearly four years of not having one, and a lot of self-isolation time to use it. And bananas.

Apologies for the vague sloppy way in which it is written; recipe-writing is, as I know from this Allusionist episode, is bloody difficult, and I’m not qualified. Also I’m staying in an Airbnb, with only such ingredients and equipment as I could gather in a brisk pre-shutdown shopping trip, so if you happen to have more spices in stock than I have, by all means bung them in. The amounts below are approximate, and many of the ingredients are substitutable; if you aren’t stuck with bananas you are trying to dispose of, I think the sour tomato sauce would be nice with chickpeas in it, or other veg – fried chunks of aubergine, or maybe a cubed squash, although the times I want to eat squash are very few.

The recipe is vegan. Serves two plus leftovers, or four if you had a side dish with it.

EQUIPMENT: Two saucepans; 1 frying pan; bowl; cutting board; sharp knife; wooden spoon; fork; tongs.

INGREDIENTS:

onions: either one gigantic one, or three medium-sized (I used white onions, red would work)
ginger root: 5cm piece, finely grated
garlic cloves x2, grated or minced
tumeric – I grated 8cm of root, but you could use powdered
coriander seeds – 1/2 teaspoon approx
ground cumin, 1/4 teaspoon
smoked paprika, 1-2 teaspoons
garam masala, 1 teaspoon (tbh, I only found this in the cupboard pretty late in the process, and would have added more if I’d come across it earlier)
red wine vinegar, 20ml
1 can of plum tomatoes
tomato puree, around a tablespoon
veg you’re trying to use up before it rots – I diced two sticks of celery and half a bulb of fennel and lobbed those in. A diced or grated courgette could work. There’s got to be something courgettes are useful for. SURELY. One day I will discover whatever that is.

bananas x2, ideally on the underripe side
around 3 tablespoons of gram flour (plain wheat flour or other flours would probably work fine)
a handful of cashew nuts, roughly chopped and toasted in a dry frying pan (optional)
a handful of fresh coriander, if you have it. I didn’t, so strew the top with some micro rocket and broccoli shoots I’ve been growing, because all the Facebook ads for growing your own microgreens finally got to me.
salt
flavourless oil – I used sunflower
water
rice (I cooked a mug and a half of basmati rice using the reduction method, but you do you)

There happens to be a curry plant in the Airbnb, so I chucked a couple of chopped sprigs of that into the sauce at the start. And a pinch of caraway seeds, because I like them. I served it with some pickled fennel I made the other day that was looking like it might be putrescent by tomorrow, so it’s non-compulsory but if you have something zingy and crunchy lying around, it might be a nice accompaniment. (Not if it’s a zingy and crunchy lemon Calippo, ffs be sensible.)

OK, now for INSTRUCTIONS!

1. Get the largest, heaviest-bottomed saucepan in your Airbnb, and put it on a medium heat with a spoonful of oil in it. Roughly dice two of the onions (or two thirds of one gigantic onion), and add them to the pan, stirring regularly. Add the garam masala, paprika, cumin, coriander seeds, grated garlic, ginger, tumeric, and a large pinch of salt (I used smoked flakes of salt); stir till the onion is covered in the spices, then keep stirring regularly until the onion is translucent. You’re not trying to brown it, just soften it.

2. Add the diced vegetables that you’re trying to use up before they turn to black slime in the bottom of the fridge. They’re really there to make up the numbers, rather than adding a great deal of interest in their own right. Stir till they’re softening too.

3. Mix in the tinned tomatoes, breaking them up with a spoon. Half fill the tomato can with water, swill it to move the dregs of tomato out, and chuck that into the pan. Add the tomato puree and vinegar, and stir in well.

4. Put the lid on the pan and leave it on the lowest heat to simmer very gently for at least an hour. Give it a stir every time you go into the kitchen to make a cup of tea, which is every 15 minutes if you’re me. Taste it, add more salt if your mouth says it needs it.

The sauce can then sit in the pan for several hours, until about 20 minutes before you want to eat. Then:

5. Turn the heat back on under the pan with the sauce, to heat it gently. Put the rice on to cook. Toast the cashews in a dry frying pan, then remove to a nearby plate; then heat a spoonful of oil in the frying pan; finely slice your remaining onion; fry it until brown and crispy, then remove to hang out with the cashews. Heat about 1cm of oil in the frying pan. Put a plate nearby with two sheets of paper towel on it.

6. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the flour with about the same quantity of water, vigorously stirring and adding more water until you’ve got a smooth runny batter the consistency of emulsion paint. Drop a droplet of batter into the oil; when it starts to brown quickly, the oil is ready for business.

7. Peel the bananas and slice into 2cm chunks. Drop the chunks into the batter and coat thoroughly. Fish them out with a fork and carefully deposit them into the hot oil frying pan so you don’t receive a hot oil splatter injury. Cook them in batches a couple of cm apart so your pan isn’t overcrowded; turn the pieces so that the batter on each side becomes brown. When the chunks are browned on all sides, remove them with tongs and place on the paper towel to drain, then put them into the sauce. Once you’ve cooked all the banana bits, drop teaspoonfuls of any remaining batter into the oil, flip them till they are brown on both sides, then send them off to drain on the paper towel. Add them to the curry pan just before serving.

8. Rice ready? Great! Time to dish up. Exquisitely dump rice and curry onto a plate, then top with the crispy onions, cashews, and coriander/microgreens/any peppery leaves if you have some around doing nothing. It might benefit from salt, pepper and a squeeze of lime; I don’t know your mouth.

9. Chase with a dessert of banana bread. Contemplate never buying bananas again.

All the food I cook is ugly, but here’s a picture. That’s the fennel off to the left. The yellow spongy-looking things to the right are the leftover blobs of batter.

March 19, 2020

Advice for working from home

I haven’t figured out yet how to stop the feeling that every organ is about to explode from anxiety, but I do have advice for you if you’ll be working from home and are concerned about adjusting to the solitude, absence of people and hubbub, and the significantly shorter commute (unless your home is huge, I guess).

I’ve been working from home on my own since early 2005. I had been prepped for it all my life – my model for employment was my father, who is a sculptor and thus has spent most days since 1973 by himself in a studio, welding bits of metal together and not even taking a break to mess about on Facebook. He’s not on Facebook. The nearest he has come to social networking was when in the 1980s he used to record letters onto cassette, send them to his old college buddies in South Africa, and maybe a couple of months later receive a response. THAT was his Facebook. Perhaps the sculptures are all the social contact he needs.

BTW: bear in mind, I do not have children. I’m sure working from home with children requires a specialised take. My dad dealt with it by marrying my mother and deciding it was her problem.

TIP 1: Get dressed.

Just because you CAN wear your oldest, stainedest pyjamas to work doesn’t mean you should. Your work isn’t less significant than usual, it’s just in different circumstances. Confer some respect for the task from the outside in. Garments with some structure will make you feel like less of a schlub – a waistband or shoulders with seams would suffice, you don’t need to wear a corset and ruff. Although, turning up on a video conference call wearing full Queen Elizabeth I garb would be one hell of a flex.

TIP 2: if you want to work in bed, work in bed.

A lot of the working from home advice tells you not to work in bed. “Don’t associate your bed with work, else when it’s time for bed you won’t be able to go to sleep!” However. I work in bed pretty often. For a start, it’s sometimes the only place warm enough that I can type. Plus, it’s acoustically absorbent when I’m recording. The morning commute is fantastic. The relaxed posture can beget a more relaxed state of mind for the work. But also, the past few years I’ve been travelling a lot, usually living in one room, so sometimes the only places to sit are the bed or the toilet. And “if you associate the toilet with work, when it’s time for toilet you won’t be able etc etc.”

TIP 3: If you don’t have to keep to a set schedule, figure out your own schedule.

Which times of day do you work best? And when are you most suited for particular tasks? Me, I’m shit in the mornings, so it’s best if I use that time for tasks that don’t require any creativity or decision-making, or if I do what other people might do in the evenings – life admin, socialising, watching TV, reading the internet. My brain kicks in around 3pm; my best time for creative work is really from around 7pm till 3am, which is very inconvenient but the later it is, I’m too tired to keep resisting the task I’ve been resisting during sensible waking hours.

I’m not recommending this timetable to you, I’m just relaying how it is.

TIP 4: Nap.

If you want. But only for 20 minutes. And not in bed, because that’s either for proper sleep or work (see above). I favour a sofa. My dad has a little wicker napping chair in his studio, I guess the creaking wakes him up before he gets in too deep.

TIP 5: Fake distraction

If you’re used to working with or around other people, working at home might feel eerily quiet or lonely. This can lead you to seek distraction, and therefore not get work done, so: preemptively create your distraction. Put on something like a radio or TV show or podcast that doesn’t annoy you but isn’t so interesting that you start paying attention to it. For example: reruns of Escape To The Country. Gentle music, shots of British gardens bathed in watery sunshine, Alistair Appleton in a nice clean sweater, househunters who always speak in pleasantly dull monotones; and you won’t get stressed because the biggest problem of the nice couple looking for a retirement home in Wiltshire in 2014 will be whether the house comes with an Aga or not. No danger of getting sucked into that. Now get to work.

(PS I hope you’re OK. I made a special episode of the Allusionist for self-soothing and anxiety-quelling; in case you need it, it’s here: theallusionist.org/tranquillusionist.)

September 5, 2019

New show! Live shows!

Hello again, hello! This year I wrote a new Allusionist live show, No Title, about gender in language, honourifics, pronouns – that kind of palaver. It’s very interesting! And fun! We sold out the tour in Australia and New Zealand earlier this year, and now it’s NORTHERN HEMISPHERE TIME. The shows are pretty soon: the London Podcast Festival is 14 September, then the North American tour starts in Boston in early October. Some dates are still TBA, but the ones that are already on sale are up at theallusionist.org/events, including NYC, DC, Durham NC, Dallas, Chicago, Minneapolis, Portland and LA. Come to see the show, do!

Since last we’ve chatted, I’ve done a lot of Allusionists, averted personal meltdown – maybe? – and, in the past couple of weeks, started a NEW PODCAST! In Veronica Mars Investigations, we recap every episode of Veronica Mars from the start, and the ‘we’ in question is me and Jenny Owen Youngs, fantastic musician and cohost of the podcast Buffering the Vampire Slayer (and she’s in charge of visual opps, making such magnificent things as this). It’s a romp! Get it on the pod apps and at VMIpod.com. There’s also some very strong activity at @VMIpod on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Clamber aboard.

October 2, 2018

Allusionist autumn 2018 tour

Hello!

It’s been an unusual few months for me. I’ll tell you all about it sometime, BUT there’s no time right now, because the Allusionist live tour is under way in the US and Canada!

Q: What is the Allusionist live show?
A: It’s a fun 60-75 minutes of language-related entertainment, with absolutely excellent musical accompaniment from Martin Austwick. (Plus, as you can see from these pictures, it’s a visually thrilling experience. I’m hiding my light under a bushel, making audio.)

Q: OK, but what’s it about?
A: Many things, including sedentary champions, political rebellion through foodstuffs, and some rotten portmantNOs.

Q: Can I stay at home and hear it on the podcast?
A: Most of it is new material, tailored just for the live experience, which I might never release on the podcast. This may be your only chance!

Q: Is it suitable for children?
A: There are a few swears in it, but overall, I think yes? My niecephews, aged 10, 11 and 12, saw it and enjoyed it (they are not particular fans of my work and the family tends to be critical, so they’re not biased in my favour). However, check with the venue in question whether they allow under-21s.

Q: Will it help me escape hell for a while?
A: Yes, yes it will.

Q: When and where can I see the show?
A:
3 October: Sleeping Village, Chicago. IE tomorrow! Hurry! Click here for tickets.
9 October: The North Door, Austin. We arranged the tour schedule around making it to Austin before the end of bat season. Click here for tickets.
12 October: the Miracle Theater, Washington DC. Click here for tickets.
17 October: Johnny Brenda’s, Philadelphia. Click here for tickets.
20 October: the Bell House, Brooklyn. Click here for tickets.
24 October: Arts at the Armory, Somerville, MA. Click here for tickets.
4 November: Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema, Toronto. Part of the Hot Docs Podcast Festival, which looks pretty great. Click here for tickets.
6 November: the Vera Project, Seattle. Where better to escape the midterms for an hour or so? Click here for tickets.
8 November: Mississippi Studios, Portland. Click here for tickets.
10 November: Rio Theatre, Vancouver, as part of the Vancouver Podcast Festival. Click here for schedule and tickets.
13 November: Bootleg Theater, Los Angeles. With a wonderful performance from a Special Guest that you should not miss. Click here for tickets.
16 November: St Paul MN. Click here for tickets.

(Little tip: if the booking fees seem A Bit Much, try calling the venue to buy tickets instead.)

All events I do are listed at theallusionist.org/events, so if you’re finding it a bit sleepy over on this website, check there.


Photos by Baraduin Briggs at Allusionist Live at SF Sketchfest, January 2018. instagram.com/bbamok

February 13, 2018

TED talk

Last April, I did a talk on the main stage at TED. It’s about the dot on the letter i, and my favourite typo of all time. TED just made it available on YouTube, take a look:

January 10, 2018

SF Sketchfest

Are you in or near San Francisco? Are you free at 10pm 12 January 2018, i.e. this Friday night? Then come along to the show I’m doing at SF Sketchfest at the Brava Theater in the Mission! It’ll be a live Allusionist thing, with fun new material that hasn’t been in the show yet (and may never be in the show), with exquisite live scoring from h(o)us(e)band Martin Austwick. Get your tickets here. You can pre-game with a nearby round of indoor minigolf beforehand.

November 3, 2017

Radiotopia quilt

I recently finished a craft project that I started nearly two years ago.

In Radiotopia’s 2015 fundraiser, I offered a bespoke quilt ‘featuring the short epithet, monogram or letter of your choice’, in return for a $1234 donation. The quilt was bought by the generous Leigh. She requested the phrase ‘The news is good’, which is something she and her husband say to each other, when reporting on their inner state.

I sketched out a few different layouts and colour schemes and Leigh chose this one:

And a mere 21 months and c.2,500 patches later, it turned into this:

Continue reading

September 8, 2017

Live shows! Imminent live shows!

Friends, the London Podcast Festival is imminent, and I’m involved in a shitload of events at it. In order of how much they’re stressing* me out:

1. The Allusionist. It’ll be brand new material that has not appeared on the podcast before, and may indeed never be on the show (or on stage again)! 2pm Saturday 16 September; click here for tickets.

2= The Bugle. Judging by the live Bugle we did a few weeks ago, when my brother Andy and I share a stage, there’ll be a lot of razzing. 2pm Sunday 17 September; click here for tickets.

2= Song By Song. My husband Martin Austwick and our friend Sam Pay make this award-winning podcast examining each song by Tom Waits. This will be their first live recording, and John Hodgman and I will be joining them to contemplate the first three tracks of Raindogs. 9pm Thursday 14 September; click here for tickets.

4= Radiotopia on Radiotopia. A bunch of Radiotopians are coming to town for the fest – get tickets for Criminal, The Memory Palace and Benjamen Walker’s Theory of Everything at kingsplace.co.uk/radiotopia – and in this panel, we’re going to interview each other and find out how the hell we each do what we do. If you’re a podcaster or interested in becoming one, we should say some stuff that is useful to you. 11.30am Saturday 16 September; click here for tickets. And there’s also a free Radiotopia meetup on the Friday.

4= Jordan, Jesse, Go! It’s always a fun time when I get to shoot the breeze with Jesse Thorn and Jordan Morris. 9.30pm Friday 15 September; click here for tickets.

4= Networks and Representation Plus Pitch-a-Thon. This is part of the Podcast Maker Weekend, at which there are numerous events for podcast producers/potential podcast producers – here’s the full lineup. I’ll be chairing this panel about podcast networks with Imriel Morgan, CEO of the ShoutOut Network, Jesse Thorn, founder of Maximum Fun, and Julie Shapiro, executive producer of Radiotopia (and, long before, coiner of the name). Then you can pitch your podcast ideas to them and receive sage advice. 11.30am Sunday 17 September; Click here for tickets.

Good news: it’s three tickets for the price of two at the festival! Come to it!

*Really I’m only stressed about the first one.

BTW I know, I know, this is the first I’ve posted here in a year. Update, and a recently finished large craft project, will appear soon. Meanwhile, find my regular work at theallusionist.org and answermethispodcast.com.

August 7, 2016

showtime

Hello! I’ve been moving house, and WOW has it been tedious. It did speed up when I just started throwing all our stuff away. Forget KonMari’s “Does it spark joy?” edict; my future bestselling tidying handbook will make you ask, “Can I be arsed to make a decision about this object ever again?” The upshot is, if you peruse the charity shops of Crystal Palace, you can recreate 50% of my old home.

But apparently, among all the packing tape and dirt and existential malaise, I did some work! There are a bunch of Allusionist episodes, including one with some Olympics-related etymologies, and a discussion of brand names and how we came up with ‘Allusionist’ for the show, and another about generational terms such as Millennial and Generation X. And a contemplation of small talk, which came out the day after the EU Referendum which, amongst its many other effects, obliterated small talk.

On 24th September at 4.30pm, the first live Allusionist will take place as part of the London Podcast Festival. A handful of tickets remain, get one HERE.

There’s a bit of a backlog of my appearances on other podcasts, too. Eg:

  • Talking about a night bus journey gone bad on Nocturne: ‘A Luminous Bubble‘.
  • Talking about jingles on Between the Liner Notes: ‘Jingle Brains‘.
  • Talking about a couple of my favourite books on Charles Adrian’s Page One, episode 109.
  • Talking Drinking about it on Let’s Drink About It: ‘The Promise of a Premise‘.
  • Making a brief cameo on The Beef and Dairy Network: ‘Rio Special‘.
  • Discussing burnout on Millennial: ‘Systems Check‘.
April 7, 2016

Podquest

Sound the fanfare, here are two pieces of Big Radiotopia News:

radiotopia-live-tickets_05-05-16_3_56f1dcfa1abaa1. Radiotopia is putting on its first ever live show! And if it goes well, there’ll be more – so if you’ll be in or near Los Angeles (specifically the theatre at Ace Hotel) on 4th May, get yourself tickets at radiotopia.fm/ace.

2. It’s Podquest time! Do you have a terrific idea for a podcast, and are you’re willing to work your arse off to make it (I’m reluctant to admit it, but this job is a serious blow to my natural laziness)? Radiotopia may be able to give you the financial and technical – and emotional, good grief – support to make it happen. We’re looking for new voices, new ideas, new talent, and hopefully a new show that’ll become a permanent addition to the Radiotopifamily. Podcasts that already exist are eligible too; either way, your show/idea will 100% belong to you, whether it wins or not.

Opportunities are scarce to receive money to make podcasts; this is a great and rare opportunity! Submit pitches to Radiotopia’s Podquest by 17th April – but read the FAQ thoroughly before you do, and also perhaps these tips from the committee. I’ll save you some time: two-hour episodes of unedited discussions with your friends will not make it to the semi-final stage.

PS This person knows too much:

February 9, 2016

love is in the air(waves)

Valentine’s Day approaches! It’s never been a festival I celebrate (at least not for the romance aspect), but nonetheless, the love-related audio abounds:

Answer Me This has just gone on paternity leave for three months, but we leave you with the new AMT Love album, an hour of not-been-on-the-podcast material about dating, sex and forked urethras. It’s for sale on iTunes, Amazon and our own Answer Me This! Store, and you can read all about it at answermethispodcast.com/love and hear a trailer below.

I’ll be honest: it’s probably one of the most unromantic things you could possibly listen to.

Then! There’s a fun new Allusionist double bill about dating ads – the history of lonely hearts over the last 300 years, in WLTM part I; and in WLTM part II, how one woman conduced a grand linguistic experiment to game the online dating system and find her perfect match (I love this story!).

It reminded me of how my friend Clare met her husband James: he filtered the dating site’s results so it only showed him women who specified that they liked drinking and smoking. Only two women made it through the filters, and one was Clare. They’ve been married for nearly four years now.



December 24, 2015

A very fruity Christmas

After the runaway train mayhem of me trying to teach Jane Garvey how to sew on Woman’s Hour earlier this year, BBC Radio 4 saw fit to reunite the double act, so I went over to Jane’s house and we tried to make Christmas decorations out of dried fruit. Frankly I showed little aptitude for fruit sculpting, but I had Great Fun Trying. You can hear it here, if you want to throw together some fruity decorations in time for Christmas.

There’s one last episode of The Allusionist for 2015, in which I tackle some of the listeners’ requests for etymology and word advice: theallusionist.org/bonus2015

And I’ve just finished the biggest editing job of the year: the annual Best of Answer Me This compilation. Assembling the montage of drunk, plaintive and misbegotten voicemails is my favourite task every year. Here are a couple from years past:


December 19, 2015

Podclub

If you’re a podcaster or a podcast enthusiast, may I recommend an exercise which has brought me (someone who is both those things) a ton of joy and interest this year?

Gather a few similarly podcast-focused friends and form a

PODCAST CLUB!

It’s like a fight club book club but for podcasts instead. When I’m listening to other people’s podcasts, if it’s a show I already like, I’m usually not all that critical – if anything I’m listening to shut up that part of my brain. So Podcast Club has has made me listen far more attentively, as well as to podcasts I would not have chosen myself.

Plus it means that one evening a month, I have to move away from the edit screen and go to the pub to shoot the shit with the PodClub: Eleanor McDowall who produces shows including the Radio 4 series Short Cuts; Sam Clements and Simon Renshaw from the Picturehouse Podcast; and my husband Martin, who makes a fistful of different podcasts including Song By Song.

Here’s how it goes: each month, we each choose an episode of a show that has not been discussed in Podcast Club previously. If you’re concerned about practicalities, we put the links into a shared spreadsheet on Google Drive. We listen to all of them in our own time, then gather to talk about each of them. Some months there’s a theme, eg shows that started this year, or for our Christmas fixture we each had to choose an episode of Desert Island Discs – it was very interesting to hear how the nature of interviewing and celebrity has changed over the 70+ years of the show. If Diana Mosley was interviewed now, I imagine she would be probed to admit more about her friendship with Adolf Hitler than just “He had lovely eyes.”

PS I got lucky in the PodClub Secret Santa: podcaster baubles!

IMG_5931
IMG_5929

December 15, 2015

new kid on the block

This was an incredible surprise:

iTunes Best of 2015

Being part of Radiotopia and making the Allusionist this year has been my best ever job anyway, but it was a real thrill for iTunes to pick it out thus. And Answer Me This as a classic! Classic like a car; classic like a 48-volume set of Sir Walter Scott’s novels…

I haven’t really sent Christmas cards for ten years or thereabouts, and accordingly, I now receive very few cards myself. The latest episode of the Allusionist will ensure that dwindles to nought. Though hearing Horrible Histories historian Greg Jenner describe Victorian Christmas cards (bacon! Killer wasps! Death!), I’m half inclined to get back in.

The episode is at theallusionist.org/christmas, and Greg also talks about why Father Christmas is called Santa Claus. Such a shame he narrowly missed being Captain Christmas…

PS This is your annual reminder to buy the Answer Me This! Christmas, if you crave an hour long special about different festive practices and problems. Helps drown out the sound of the traditional festive family argument.

PPS I know that people talking about sleep and dreams is pretty boring, but I tried to make it as interesting as I could in this interview with Van Winkle’s. Anyone know a cure for hypnopompic hallucinations? Please??

PPPS All the Radiotopians chose their favourite episodes they’ve made this year. Christmas party playlist!

November 24, 2015

Toki Pona

An ex-boyfriend of mine used to say, “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world”; that’s right, my ex-boyfriend was Wittgenstein. And yes, the casual chitchat needed improvement.

But then, in the latest Allusionist, I realised he/Wittgenstein had a point.

My Radiotopisibling Nate DiMeo of The Memory Palace decided we should learn the minimalist designed language Toki Pona. I last studied a new language half a lifetime ago and my brain has calcified since, so I found this one difficult to grasp – and then, without verbal communication easily at my disposal, my whole persona crumbled. Pathetically quickly.

You can find the episode and links to the language at theallusionist.org/tokipona; if you decide to learn it yourself, let me know how you get on. Better than me, I expect.

PS Thanks SO MUCH to you if you donated to Radiotopia! 19,500+ people have ensured we can keep on doing our shows for at least another year.

November 13, 2015

Radiotopia Forever: big non-cash prize

*** UPDATE: Someone donated for the quilt! Thanks so much, whoever you are. I’m looking forward to making something lovely for you. But I still wholeheartedly recommend donating to Radiotopia, for the other cool prizes and so that we can make shows for you for a long time. ***

It’s the final stretch of the Radiotopia fundraiser month, and Radiotopifans have been doing an excellent job of making our shows continuing exist for a long time to come. Awash with gratitude, I’ve got a special prize to offer one high-rolling donor.

Take a look at the picture below of the 100% OK quilt, which I made a couple of years ago to commemorate my friend Racton’s trademark expression of whelm-ment.

I will handmake a unique quilt featuring the short epithet – or monogram or letter – of your choice for the ONE person who pledges $1234.

You want the quilt? Get over to Radiotopia.fm and pledge.

quilt wall

I see you trying to sneak off with the quilt. Nice try, chancer. Supporting Radiotopia is the only way you can get it.
statue hides

Tags: , ,
November 13, 2015

Food Showoff

Hey! Do you like food? I’m helping run a food-themed gig, Food Showoff, on 27th November at Kings College. Click here for all the details and tickets. Watching people talk interestingly and entertainingly about food is a gluten-free, zero-calorie banquet. I’ll be wheeling out my mid-20th century cookbook collection, so prepare for your appetite to be destroyed.

November 8, 2015

lying and truthing

Thanks to everybody who showed up for my Reddit AMA the other day! I’m doing a similar exercise on Product Hunt in tandem with Radiotopiboss Roman Mars, so concoct more questions to fling at us on 12th November, 6pm GMT, 1pm ET, 10am PT.

Podcasting has reached Radio 4! I was on the first episode of Miranda Sawyer’s new series In Pod We Trust, which, incidentally, was one of the rejected titles for what became Answer Me This.

The Radiotopia fundraiser is just over halfway, and the weekly Allusionists continue apace, if ‘apace’ means ‘slightly late and showing signs of mental and physical strain’. Last week, for ‘Criminallusionist’, Phoebe Judge and Lauren Spohrer of Criminal stopped by to talk about the ethics of crime reporting, the effectiveness of polygraphs, and lies.

In contrast, the latest episode is all about honesty: Dave Nadelberg and Neil Katcher from Mortified visit to talk about keeping a diary. I’ve never really done it, because the thought of ever being confronted with written evidence of my own personality is too horrifying. But they almost made me wish I did.


October 26, 2015

Radiotopia Forever!

Here are the minutes from the past couple of weeks in my realm*:

1. I was recently on the lovely BBC Radio 3 show The Verb. The theme of the episode was ‘backwards’, so I was talking about false etymology and reverse linguistic engineering. There was also wrestling, and those backwards satanic messages in songs. AND they gave me four kinds of cake and free books. It was a great day. Here’s the show on the BBC’s site, but you can also search for it as a podcast.

2. I’m currently in the midst of a spate of weekly Allusionists, each in collaboration with another Radiotopian. Hrishikesh Hirway from the wonderful Song Exploder and charming veteran songwriter Tony Hazzard joined me to talk about vocables – the non-word words in songs like ‘la’ and ‘doo’ and ‘zig-a-zig ah’. You can hear the special Song Explusionist here. The week before that, Roman Mars popped up to talk about his beloved eponyms, so James Ward (founder of the Boring Conference and author of Adventures in Stationery) appeared to talk about the eponymous pens Bic and Biro. Hear here. Three more Radiotopial episodes are in the pipeline. The Podcast Broadcast interviewed me about all this Radiotopianism, which is happening because…

3. It’s Radiotopia fundraising time! A year after the record-breaking Kickstarter that made it possible for me to start The Allusionist, we now need listeners to step in and support the collective long term, with small monthly donations. (One-off donations are also extremely welcome. Even £1 is very useful.)

I don’t want to repeat what I’ve written about the fundraiser here and also last year, during the Kickstarter – those points still stand, but I will update to add that my excitement then at the prospect of becoming a full-time podcaster has only increased now that I am one. This has been the best year of my professional life, and The Allusionist is the most demanding and creatively fulfilling job I’ve ever had. I’d love to be able to carry on making it for as long as possible, so if you are able to chip in anything at radiotopia.fm or Paypal, I and the twelve other shows will be Very Grateful Indeed. And we’ll use your money very wisely. Promise. (Conceals order for platinum exoskeleton.)

Just one more thing: I’ll be doing a Reddit AMA this Thursday at 7pm UK time, 3pm ET, 12pm PT, middle of the night most other places. Please come along and ask me about Allusionist stuff, Answer Me This, or any old thing that’s on your mind. You know I live for it.

Here’s my AMA proof, as IF anyone would aim so low as to masquerade as me**:

HZ reddit proof

* which is slumped in front of a screenful of edit software for 12-15 hours per day, LIVING THE DREAM yes yes
** Seriously. Have some self-respect. At least go for someone who’s on telly.

October 9, 2015

Dance, Baby, Dance

Podcasters, it is a long time since last we met*, but there is now a date for our next London meetup: 25th November. There are full details over at the Facebook event. Come along!

*Because I’ve spent nearly all of this year in my flat, working. Here are the latest Allusionists:

They said you can’t have werewolves AND Step Up 4 in one podcast about linguistics. I said: try me. theallusionist.org/dance

Why do we talk to babies like we – and they – are idiots? We can’t help it! For REASONS. We’re wired that way. theallusionist.org/baby-talk

For the next month, I’ll be releasing new Allusionists every week. Argh! I’m excited but daunted by the amount of work, as Answer Me This will also continue apace. Let’s see if I make it to November with ears and eyes intact.

PS Allusionist T-shirts have just landed.

chopchop