Acid Rain

George HW Bush

Mike tells Sarah how an environmental problem became a national rallying cry, a sticky diplomatic issue and, eventually, a conspiracy theory. Digressions include “Alien,” Field & Stream and NRA public service announcements. Both hosts are recovering from colds and at least one spends the episode under a blanket. 

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Gary Hart

Gart Hart Donna Rice

Sarah tells Mike how a dubious affair distracted from the real scandal of the 1988 election. Digressions include “Good Will Hunting,” People Magazine and Linda Ronstadt. Michael Dukakis is described, for the first time ever, as “the soulmate who was there all along.”

Links!

Corrections!

  • Lynn Armandt sold the pictures to the National Enquirer, not People. Sorry!

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Tammy Faye Bakker and Jessica Hahn

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“She only said one thing her whole life”: Sarah tells Mike how two decent women became scapegoats for the actions of one terrible man. Digressions include Larry Flynt, NPR tote bags and Playboy back issues. The co-hosts discover they have wildly different relationships with “Saturday Night Live.”

 

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Enron

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Mike tells Sarah how a “bad apples” explanation kept us from seeing the real scandal at the heart of America’s largest corporate bankruptcy. Digressions include “Casino,” Thanksgiving economics and corruption catchphrases. Neither co-host truly understands how the stock market works.  

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The Challenger Disaster

Challenger

It wasn’t an accident. Mike tells Sarah how the infamous space shuttle disaster came to be seen as a white-collar crime. Digressions include the Donner Party, George Lucas and “Jurassic Park.” Both co-hosts are audibly recovering from colds. 

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“A Dingo’s Got My Baby”

Lindy

Sarah tells Mike how a tragic story became a hacky catchphrase. Digressions include raccoon anarchists, flu remedies and late-night Arby’s. Sarah’s Google alerts will surprise none of our listeners.

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The 2000 Election

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Mike tells Sarah how a close election and an even closer Supreme Court decision established the political template we’re still living with today. Digressions include quarks, Ouija Boards and (sorry) moral philosophy. The “lemonade theory” turns out to be less fun than it sounds.

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Amy Fisher

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Sarah tells Mike about the sad reality — and the terrible man — behind the infamous Long Island Lolita. Digressions include software terms of service, the rise of beepers and Monica Lewinsky’s LinkedIn profile. Mike, a 36-year-old man, appears not to understand what pimps do. 

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Good World

laika

I had some free time over the holiday weekend, so I adapted a John Haskell short story that has been making me cry since 2004.

Here’s the audio:

 

Here’s John’s book, which is wonderful.

And here’s a video I made based on another one of his stories.

 

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Roe v. Wade

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Special guest Megan Burbank tells us about the history, limitations and loopholes of a landmark court ruling. Digressions include Betty Ford, “Maude” and naming conventions for anonymous defendants. The glories of Washington State politics are examined in depth.

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The Duke Lacrosse Rape Case

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Mike tells Sarah how a false rape allegation became a right-wing rallying cry and a left-wing conspiracy theory. Digressions include JonBenet Ramsay, “24” and “The Vagina Monologues.” Mike regrets not commenting on the metaphorical significance of being trapped in the closet throughout the episode.

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Lorena Bobbitt

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Sarah tells Mike how a case of marital rape and spontaneous mutilation became a national punchline. Digressions include Ron Jeremy, Alan Dershowitz, Motörhead and the tortures of self-reflection. Sarah reviews John Wayne Bobbitt’s later works.

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Stranger Danger

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How inflated statistics, cultural anxieties and moral crusaders turned a tiny number of missing children into a decade-long political project. Digressions include 1870s parenting, “E.T.” and the lack of parks in Los Angeles. Both co-hosts secretly believe that the popularity of TV movies in the 1980s explains all of America’s social problems.   

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Urban Legends Spectacular!

cryptkeeper

Razorblades in apples, babysitters on acid, killers in backseats and “rainbow parties”: In this episode, Mike and Sarah investigate the scary stories Americans tell each other and discover the actual anxieties behind them. Turn on your high beams for this one. 

Links!

Corrections!

The first two times Sarah mentions Miriam Forman-Brunell’s book, she calls her “Miriam Forman-Brunelli.” Sorry!

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Halloween Special! Ed Gein and Slasher Movies

Ed-Gein-slashers

Sarah tells Mike how Ed Gein became one of America’s most famous serial killers despite not actually being one. Plus, the cinematic villains Gein inspired and what the slasher movies of the 1980s were really about. Digressions include Freud, summer camp logistics and the T-1000. Mike continues to awkwardly insert his teenage crushes into every conversation.

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Shaken Baby Syndrome

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Mike tells Sarah how an over-simplified diagnosis, over-confident doctors and over-zealous prosecutors got thousands of innocent parents thrown in prison. Digressions include food poisoning, Sherlock Holmes and 1950s medical ethics. Mike wanted to mention Louise Woodward but he forgot. 

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Multiple Personality Disorder

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Sarah tells Mike how pop culture created a two-decade-long obsession with multiple personality disorder and repressed memories. Digressions include Dead Poets Society, restless leg syndrome and the low editorial standards of the American publishing industry. The Satanic Panic makes a cameo appearance.

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The Obesity Epidemic

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Mike tells Sarah that America has sent the wrong messages and done the wrong things about obesity for more than half a century. Digressions include height (again), sweatshops and Julianne Moore. Sarah and Mike’s mothers both make extended appearances. 

Here’s a link to Mike’s article!

The photo is Corissa Enneking, one of the people Mike interviewed for his article!

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Columbine

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Special guest Rachel Monroe (re-)joins Mike and Sarah to talk about all the myths surrounding the second-biggest news event of the 1990s. Digressions include car crashes, September 11, Diane Sawyer and the terrors of teenage journaling.

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Iran-Contra

Oliver North

Mike tells Sarah why the biggest scandal of Reagan’s presidency provides more (depressing) lessons about current politics than Watergate. Digressions include Mormons, Top Gun and the X-Files. Both co-hosts have considered what they will name their deliberately boring tax-shelter corporations.

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