Julia: my multilingual, smarty-pants, biscuit loving PodPal
Who is Julia?
I think Julia is the smartest person I know.
We met at university where she was studying Natural Sciences, and I was studying Biology, so we got to freak out about genetics and molecular biology together. We ended up being housemates, where we would study side by side, taking it in turns to have panic attacks about how stupid we obviously were to be finding functional genomics challenging.
I’m not sure how many languages Julia speaks, but let’s just say she decided to do a teaching stint in Georgia (former Soviet republic Georgia, not Atlanta Georgia) for a few months, just because she thought it would be interesting to try and learn a new language whilst also teaching with with it.
Despite her random and lengthy trips to different countries (she also spent a year in Switzerland to practise her German, only to discover that people would literally laugh in her face when they heard her weird accent), Julia is actually a huge home body. She reminds me of me in this sense - that I’d just throw myself at things in the hope that I would eventually start to enjoy them. This attitude was born partly out of curiosity but mostly out of a desperate desire to appear normal. Luckily, Julia and I have both grown out of this habit and we’ve found our own happy places in this world.
Oh boy the more I write about Julia the more I miss her. I could probably just write an essay about how great she is and how much she helped me find a way to be happy with the way I am. But this is a pod blog. So I will get to the pod part….NOW.
What should Julia be listening to?
If you like languages, you’ll love The Allusionist. Also, if you’re a fan of clever design and typography, you’ll probably get a kick out of the artwork, too.
Every episode (and there are 80 to date, and no I haven’t listened to them all) takes a different word/ acronym/ linguistic concept and spends about 20 minutes delving into its history, cultural significance and various contextual interpretations. It’s an etymological adventure!
The host is Helen Zaltzman, whose voice you might recognise from The Bugle, Answer Me This!, and, probably, a tonne of BBC Radio 4 appearances.
Julia should listen because…she likes words and history and stuff. Also this podcast is super light hearted and Julia has a one-year old, so she probably needs some stress-relieving content in her life.
Sum of all Parts
Julia CHOSE to study maths even when she was a GROWN-UP. This is a strange idea to a lot of us - if that includes you, you should probably listen to Sum Of All Parts (or SOAP…it took me an embarrassingly long time to understand the cover art…)
In a fantastically nerdy fashion, SOAP weaves together history, nostalgic personal musings, and academic insight to demonstrate the significance of numbers and their effect on every facet of modern culture. Music, sport, superstition, neuroscience all make their worthy appearances, as do some perhaps more mathematically conventional concepts like counting and measurement.
Obviously, numbers are cool. But if you disagree, give SOAP a go anyway: the love and enthusiasm which has been poured into this project by producer and host Joel Werner (I just googled him and OF COURSE he’s worked on RadioLab and Freakonomics! Wuuuuut) will make it worth your while!
Julia should listen because…she will learn something new and she likes learning. Also this podcast is Australian and Julia once asked me if green plants grew here. It would be very reassuring for me to know that Julia understood that we not only have plants, but also very good podcasts.
When it comes to international travel, Americans have a bit of a….reputation. Either they don’t do it out of a desire to never have to leave the “greatest country on Earth”, or they do it - then complain loudly about everything that isn’t American.
SIDENOTE: I am SURE there are MANY Americans who don’t travel internationally because that shit is expensive, and also there are many many other worthwhile things a person can do with their time.
Rough Translation chucks this stereotype right where most stereotypes belong: in the fucking bin.
Each episode of this clever little American pod takes a cultural or political issue which has been receiving major media attention in the US - then looks to examine that same issue in other countries and cultures. But don’t worry! It’s not patronising and there isn’t any “white saviour” crappyness here.
My favourite episode so far (and I recommend Julia starts on this one!) is about education in Ghana. The US, like Australia, is concerned about the “future of work”, and parents are enrolling their children into more extra-curricular activities, and at increasingly younger ages. It’s the same in Ghana - pre-pre-schools are popping up everywhere, where kids as young as one are enrolled to get a “head-start”.
We also learn about Fake News in the Ukraine, how to make a REAL apology in Japan, how to navigate online dating when you’re a refugee…it’s just all really insightful interesting stuff, OK?
Julia should listen because…she’s interested in different cultures, and I think she’d like the opportunity to learn about more of them without having to get on a plane. Because that shit is expensive AND being at home with a cup of tea, a biscuit (or in Julia’s case, an entire pack of biscuits) and a podcast is really quite lovely.
Language: check. Numbers: check. Culture: check. What else rocks Julia’s world? Erm, the same thing that should rock everyone’s world: MUSEUMS!
The Smithsonian is the world’s largest museum, education and research complex in the world. So yes, they’ve got some stories to tell.
Julia should listen because…museums are great.
I am going to stop typing because…I have been writing this for a week and it just needs to be uploaded, OK?