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Dear Bellos,

It all started with a desire for longer musical interludes. I was listening to podcasts that had ~30 seconds of music between segments, and I found myself wanting to stretch these breaks to three or four minutes, so there would be entire songs punctuating the spoken segments. Then, I found myself noticing the silences more than I ever had before. So many of them seemed to be five or ten seconds shorter than I wanted.

Pretty soon, everything about my podcasts was feeling too fast. I’m usually a 1.1x or 1.2x listener—nothing too noticeable, but just enough to give my shows some extra pep and myself some extra time. And it works: according to my podcast player, I’ve saved 7 days and 11 hours through variable speed. But now, even 1.2x seemed unbearably quick. So I stopped speeding up my podcasts at all.

I don’t know if it’s podcasts that changed, or if it’s me. The world is heavy right now, and my heart can’t take too much, too fast. I'm more grateful than ever when a creator leaves long stretches of silence that give the story, and me, a chance to breathe.

This week, I took it one step further: I slowed my listening speed to .9x, then .8x. The voices distorted slightly, but it was worth it for what I gained. I gave myself the gift of time—not time saved, but time spent in a place I really wanted to stay.

Don’t get me wrong: There’s plenty of content to rush through and information that I just want to download into my consciousness. But for those other stories, I implore us all to slow down. Makers, give us more space and time. Stretch out your silences and music breaks, leave in more tape of your guest struggling for words, and trust that listeners want to linger in the worlds you’re building. Listeners, make that time for yourself. Take one more step into the world in your headphones and let yourself just be.

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Don't let the publisher fool you: Trace Materials may come from The Parsons School of Design's Healthy Materials Lab, but it's anything but academic. This second season explores plastic, from its futuristic origins, to the social cache of Tupperware parties, to the very real health concerns that come with living and breathing in a world made of plastic. Besides climate change, plastics may be our most visible contribution to the Anthropocene; if you want to say you're listening to a podcast about climate change without saying you're listening to a podcast about climate change, add Trace Materials to your queue. (Ashley Lusk)

I know not everyone is looking for podcasts about 9/11, but if you are, Long Shadow is some of the most compelling audio I've heard in a while. Host Garrett M. Graff is both an expert on this subject and a compelling storyteller. He does a great job of recounting what happened that day and putting it in the context of how the world has changed since then. (Jenna Spinelle)

On the latest episode of Strong Songs, Kirk Hamilton dissects every single micro-song in They Might Be Giants' "Fingertips," from their album Apollo 18. I didn't think I could love this weird song more, but Hamilton points out guest voices, familiar melodies, and the activity of John Flansburgh and John Linnell's voices, and proves that the progression of micro-songs tells a story that I hadn't before noticed. He writes about each element in a way that made me hear it differently, and I've been listening to this song for almost 30 years.

In 1964, Lucille Ball launched her radio show Let’s Talk to Lucy. Now, the original show has been released as a podcast, and it’s a little eerie—Ball sounds exactly like a podcaster in 2021. There is something so comforting and delightful about hearing Ball kind of wind down and ask “a few homey questions” to her guests, and to hear her crystal clear, authentic laughter. I wasn’t alive in 1964, but listening this is like a nostalgic balm for my brain.

Battle Tactics for Your Sexist Workplace isn't only for people who think their workplace may be sexist; it's for all of us. After all, hosts Eula Scott Bynoe and Jeannie Yandel are helping us navigate the workplace, and that's an inherently sexist place. They're back for a new season, and they kick things off with a longtime server in Illinois who talks about about how her job changed with the pandemic. She points out how many young women are tasked to work front of house to fend off anti-maskers and what it's like to scold people for not wearing a mask when those people will determine how much money you make in tips.

On season two of This Land, Rebecca Nagle tells the story of ALM, a Navajo and Cherokee toddler who was fostered by a white couple who wanted to adopt him, but a federal law said they couldn’t, so they sued. (ALM is the name used in court documents.) It’s an important court case, and its result will have an impact on the power of American Indian tribes. What looks like an icky white savior story that was probably already the plot of several Lifetime movies is actually a story about the way the far-right is trying to insert their noses where they don’t belong. (Lauren Passell)


Like so many, I’ve become a casual birdwatcher over this pandemic. Or maybe birdwatcher is too strong a word. Let’s just say I enjoy noticing the cardinals and blue jays that populate my neighborhood. So imagine my dismay when I learned that we have lost 3 billion birds in North America in the last 50 years! Luckily, Bring Birds Back is here to tell me (and you) why that’s not all bad news, and how we can help. In this new show from BirdNote, host Tenijah Hamilton talks to bird experts of all kinds about the many things we can do to help restore our feathered friends.

If you like shows like The Dropout (or, more recently, Bad Blood: The Final Chapter), I bet you’ll like The White Saviors, a new podcast from Canadaland that unravels the story of WE, a hyper-influential charity that “inspir[ed] children to rally around their charismatic leader.” I’d never heard of this particular organization, but I’m no stranger to voluntourism, a brand of “volunteer” work that often does more harm than good. This series definitely has true crime cult vibes, but what I like most about it is the looming threat of voluntourism and white saviorism more broadly, and the damage that do-gooders—and the systems and attitudes that they perpetuate—can cause.

Trigger warning: the first episode of Good Grief is so, so sad. It’s a tightly edited, first-person account of the life and tragic death of a young child, told by her father. It is, of course, about the father’s grief, but it’s also about the way that he continues his daughter's legacy for the brother she never met. This is the podcast I’ve listened to at the slowest setting—.8x. You might not want to go that slow, but I encourage you to give yourself the time and space you need after you’re done. (Note: There are a lot of podcasts with this name, so make sure you look for the one from Lemonada Media.)

I hate to hit you with two sad parent episodes in a row, but this one has a much happier ending. In HiberNation's "Go to Sleep, Little Baby," a woman learns that there’s an issue with her pregnancy, and finds comfort in a lullaby. But this isn’t a lullaby you’ve ever heard before—it’s a song the expectant mother finds inside herself. It’s a beautiful story of strength, hope, and the power of creating art together. (Galen Beebe)
Ashley, here. The last few weeks of August are always a quiet time for new releases—except this year. As we approach the 20th anniversary of 9/11 here in the U.S., our inbox started to fill with shows revisiting, reflecting on, or reassessing the events of that day (and the days that followed).

This made us curious: will you be listening to these shows? And if so, what do you hope to hear? We'd love to hear from you: whether you experienced 9/11 firsthand, or are experiencing it as a moment of American history. Hit reply and let us know.
  • Jon Stewart is nearly back on your TV, but this time, he'll also be in your podcast queue.
  • Vice looks at My Favorite Murder's summer break and its fandom's reaction.
  • Two reads on Apple's paywall experiment: For The Verge, Ashley Carmen looks at the challenged rollout. Darknet Diaries' Jack Rhysider details his first 45 days behind the platform's paywall.
  • Documentary studio XTR has launched a new podcast division: Radio XTR.
  • We wanted to point out a few really helpful learning tools for new producers: NPR's ear training guide, and its equally helpful headline writing guide.
  • Journalist Trauma Support Network is training its first cohort of therapists to treat journalist clients. They'll be accepting applications again this fall, so send the link to your therapist now.
  • Joe Rogan's influence is waning behind Spotify's paywall.
  • Real Life looks at host reads and the rise of "parasocial marketing."

The Bello Collective is edited by Ashley Lusk and Galen Beebe.
Meet the amazing writers who make up the Collective.

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