Hey, hey! It finally got chilly in Austin last week (yes, it even snowed!), and I’ve been SO paranoid that this would be year #3 of having the Christmas Mouse come for a visit. Blanche started meowing at my coat closet door on Wednesday, and ever since then I’ve been so paranoid (not to mention I had a nightmare about a mouse flying out of the closet, and then woke up convinced there was a mouse on the kitchen floor – it was a dust bunny).
I proactively set mouse traps, and spent a good part of 2017 scouring my place for any holes that would allow unwanted guests – and filling said holes. I was confident, but it’s starting to slip. I would be lying to you if I said I wasn’t sleeping with my hallway light on tonight.
I need sleep. And this weekend was set not up to not be forgiving in that area… wah! But, ’tis the season, right? I know everyone is busy as heck this time of year.
So, let’s slow things down a bit and talk about this week’s book from Blanche’s Book Club! It’s “Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital” by Sheri Fink. Here’s the description from Amazon:
Pulitzer Prize winner Sheri Fink’s landmark investigation of patient deaths at a New Orleans hospital ravaged by Hurricane Katrina – and her suspenseful portrayal of the quest for truth and justice.
In the tradition of the best investigative journalism, physician and reporter Sheri Fink reconstructs 5 days at Memorial Medical Center and draws the reader into the lives of those who struggled mightily to survive and maintain life amid chaos.
After Katrina struck and the floodwaters rose, the power failed, and the heat climbed, exhausted caregivers chose to designate certain patients last for rescue. Months later, several of those caregivers faced criminal allegations that they deliberately injected numerous patients with drugs to hasten their deaths.
Five Days at Memorial, the culmination of six years of reporting, unspools the mystery of what happened in those days, bringing the reader into a hospital fighting for its life and into a conversation about the most terrifying form of health care rationing.
In a voice at once involving and fair, masterful and intimate, Fink exposes the hidden dilemmas of end-of-life care and reveals just how ill-prepared we are for the impact of large-scale disasters—and how we can do better. A remarkable book, engrossing from start to finish, Five Days at Memorial radically transforms your understanding of human nature in crisis.
I heard about this book on a podcast and I was sold when I heard: true story + Hurricane Katrina. This book uses sold investigative journalism to look into the days leading up to a criminal investigation in one of New Orleans’ most historic institutions.
It’s a glimpse into public health and the issues any hospital would face as a storm approaches – Do they stay or go? What about the patients? How could they logistically get everyone out safely and in time? What if the weather alert is really nothing to worry about?
The questions get deeper when you start to consider patients on life support. Will the generators hold up? How long might we be without power?
But the real question the doctors inside Memorial hospital faced in those five days were moral questions of life, death, and ethics.
This story is a chilling one, but it’s fantastically written. I’m recommending this to my true crime lovers, any students of public health, and all who love the great city of New Orleans.
The next book we’ll be reading is “Watch Me Disappear” by Janelle Brown.
I stayed up late last night baking cookies and finally watching “Home Alone” for the first time of the season. I was able to bake everything I wanted… minus the meringues. This is my second attempt ever making them and I can never seem to get the texture right. Anyone got any advice? I miiiight try it one more time before i just give up – they just look so pretty in the pictures!
Anyway, I’ve got another packed week ahead, but I’m going to try and squeeze in some more holiday movies before the holiday season flies by!
See? I told you I miiiight have a lot of TV posts this week – promise this will be the last one (until next week’s recap of “Southern Charm”). But, when I saw the previews for Investigation Discovery’s “Casey Anthony: An American Murder Mystery”, I could not look away.
I don’t like admitting that I LOVE true crime, because really I’m scared of basically everything. But, I get hooked on these sagas, and I know it sounds crazy because there are real people involved.
However, when this case hit the news, I know I wasn’t the only one that just couldn’t look away. I guiltily admit that I watched every minute of “Nancy Grace”, every chance I could get. Bad, I know.
What what it about the Anthony case that had Americans hooked? I can’t speak for everyone, but for me, of course it was the little girl, Caylee. She was so cute, and who would want her killed?
Secondly, it was the obvious (I mean BLATANT) evidence built up against Casey… there was no way she’d be a free woman. Or would she?
So yes, for the past three nights, I’ve sat a little too close to my TV and watched this creepy case unfold before my eyes yet again, and again, I’m shocked. Here’s a blow by blow of the 3-part documentary.
“Lies, Betrayal, and Murder”
Episode one kicks off with a 911 call Cindy Anthony (Casey’s mom) makes to Florida police, saying her daughter has stolen their car, and should be arrested. When police arrive, they quickly find out that Casey’s daughter, Caylee, has been missing for 31 days.
That’s right, 31 days, and Casey hasn’t told anyone because she was afraid. She simply tells police she dropped Caylee off with her nanny, Zanny, and hasn’t seen her since.
Casey takes police to Zanny’s apartment, where police discover she has been lying. Not only is Zanny’s apartment empty, but according to the leasing office, no one has lived in that apartment for 6 months, and no one in the complex goes by that name.
Casey tells police she works at Universal Studios, which also turns out to be false – she even pretends to go to work every day… but she has no job.
Meanwhile, police uncover yet another 911 tape from Cindy Anthony, where she is frantically saying that her daughter’s car smells like a “dead body”. Police recover the vehicle, and find a stained trunk with the stench of body decomposition. They send a piece of the trunk liner, along with two hairs, to the lab for testing.
The results are enough to arrest Casey for murder… and then, thanks to Florida law, we were blessed with those jailhouse tapes. Remember those? Of George and Cindy Anthony visiting their daughter, where she shows no signs of being worried about WHERE Caylee could be? Hmm…
“A Shallow Grave”
Without a body, it would be impossible to prove Casey murdered Caylee. So, it was considered a huge break in the case when an electrical worker came across a small human skull in the woods near the Anthony’s home.
It was Caylee’s, and there was a plastic garbage bag, a laundry bag, and duct tape, also recovered at the scene.
While there was no remaining tissue on the skull or bones, the laundry bag was matched to a bag at the Anthony home, and the duct tape contacted DNA evidence, and would serve as proof that the child was murdered, and did not die from an accidental drowning, as was suggested.
And then… the TRIAL. America was shocked when Casey’s attorney, Jose Baez, opened his defense stating that Caylee drowned in the Anthony pool, that George Anthony actually buried her, and that he had sexually abused his daughter.
“Ten Hours, Forty Minutes”
There was a ton of scientific evidence presented to the jury – including chemical proof that chloroform was used – and it was time for Jose Baez to present his side.
From his perspective, there was no body in the trunk. Instead, it was just old pizza boxes sitting in the sun’s heat. Basically, Baez takes all of the facts from the prosecution, and turns them into alternative facts before that was even a thing.
You probably already know this, but the jury finds Casey Anthony not guilty on all murder charges. She is charged on 4 counts of neglect, but since she had already been in jail for more than three years, she serves 10 more days, and is then a free woman.
The remainder of the documentary talks about what happened after – how she had to file bankruptcy after being sued from so many people, and that she was caught running naked from Jose Baez’s office, and later admitted to paying him with blow jobs instead of cash.
There was a little bit of new information offered, including an interview with George Anthony, where he says what he thinks happened – basically that Casey did kill Caylee, and that he is no longer on speaking terms with his daughter. He is still married to Cindy, who still claims that Caylee drowned in the family pool.
There are only two people who know the truth… and we may never really know.
For Christmas, I asked for an actual pair of headphones, as those awful earbuds were really starting to hurt my ears since I was listening to podcasts 8 hours a day! I got my headphones, and even though I have my own office at my new job, listening to podcasts has become a little bit of an out for me – a way for me to listen to fun or interesting things while I’m working on political things. And so, I’ve got another batch of podcast recommendations for you, if you’re looking…
Making Oprah – I kept seeing this one on the top charts, and finally decided to dive in. I have never been a huge fan of Oprah; I think she’s cheesy, and quite full of herself, if you want to know the truth. But this podcast made me understand just how important Oprah was to daytime television, and to the overall conversation in our culture. Here’s the scoop:
The inside story of a TV revolution. In this new WBEZ podcast, Oprah Winfrey tells the behind-the-scenes story of her iconic TV talk show, along with producers, staffers, TV executives, and ratings rival Phil Donahue. The three-part series chronicles the show’s scrappy roots in Chicago, its rise to daytime dominance, and the powerful sway Winfrey came to have in American life.
Yes, you saw that: “Three-part series”…I listened to it in about a day. But, there are several bonus episodes to prolong the goodness. Listen to the episodes here.
In the Dark – This is for my true crime lovers! No matter how much scary movies freak me out, I think I’ll always be a fan of crime mysteries. I hear about this podcast on another one, and it was one of those end-of-the-year roundup things. I made note of it and started listening last week, so I’m only a few episodes in. Here’s what it’s about:
Child abductions are rare crimes. And they’re typically solved. For 27 years, the investigation into the abduction of Jacob Wetterling in rural Minnesota yielded no answers. In the most comprehensive reporting on this case, APM Reports and reporter Madeleine Baran reveal how law enforcement mishandled one of the most notorious child abductions in the country and how those failures fueled national anxiety about stranger danger, led to the nation’s sex-offender registries and raise questions about crime-solving effectiveness and accountability.
When I was a kid, I was so afraid of robbers and getting kidnapped. And THIS was the case that scared us all – whether we knew it or not. It put laws in place that are still followed today. Now, I will say that some of the content in this podcast is difficult to hear. After all, an innocent child was the victim. However, hearing about the investigation is the part I really like – why, and how, did they miss so much? You can listen to episodes here.
Nerdette – I’m pretty sure I came across this podcast by searching for “Issa Rae” (sorry, I’m obsessed). There was a great episode where the hosts interviewed her, but then I started searching through other episodes and got to listening. While the show has great sound quality, and the co-hostesses are really good – the show is about lots of different things, which I enjoy. The “Nerdettes” are particularly known for their recaps of “Game of Thrones”, I haven’t listened to those episodes since I don’t watch the show. Here’s the overall gist of the show:
A safe space for nerding out about all the things you’re watching, reading, listening to and encountering in real life. Hosts Tricia Bobeda and Greta Johnsen talk to people about their obsessions: from science to science fiction, great lady nerds of history to Beyoncé. Because what the world needs now is not another superhero, but for the glasses-clad alter ego to make you a podcast.
The Minimalists – I’m honestly not sure how I came across this podcast, but I do know it’s ALWAYS on the top of the charts. I started listening to it around Christmas and have really learned a lot about the minimalist lifestyle, and have even started a “donate” pile in my apartment as I sort each corner of my place.
The hosts, Josh and Ryan, have really spread the word on minimalism, as they have a documentary on Netflix, two published books, and are always on “tour” hosting events around the globe. You can listen to episodes here.
What podcasts are you listening to? Any I should add to my list? I am always looking for more things to listen to, so let me know!
I am so excited to share the latest read from Blanche’s Book Club with you all! I’ll preface this by saying that the month of October was SO, so busy that sometimes reading felt like a chore to me, and that is a feeling I hate.
But, after this weekend, my schedule is clearing up more, and I’m looking forward to more leisurely reading time like I was used to during the summer months. I went to the library last weekend and spent a few minutes wandering through the stacks, instead of just running to the shelf of reserves and running back out – and I saw so many NEW, good-looking books that I immediately added to my list of bookmarks on my account. Having a full reading list makes me so happy; it’s unexplainable.
Anyway, the latest read is for all of my “Serial” podcast lovers – it’s “Adnan’s Story: The Search for Truth and Justice After Serial” by Rabia Chaudry. If you recognize Chaudry’s name, it’s because she’s the co-host on the “Undisclosed” podcast, which started shortly after “Serial” and also shared details surrounding Anan Syed’s case during its first season.
Chaudry is a close, family friend to the Syeds, and much like the rest of the community, was shocked when Anan was arrested and charged for murder. As an attorney (though not Adnan’s), Chaudry has always worked to seek Adnan’s justice and finally see him live a free life. Here’s the book’s description from Amazon:
In early 2000, Adnan Syed was convicted and sentenced to life plus thirty years for the murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee, a high school senior in Baltimore, Maryland. Syed has maintained his innocence, and Rabia Chaudry, a family friend, has always believed him. By 2013, after almost all appeals had been exhausted, Rabia contacted Sarah Koenig, a producer at This American Life, in hopes of finding a journalist who could shed light on Adnan’s story. In 2014, Koenig’s investigation turned into Serial, a Peabody Award-winning podcast with more than 500 million international listeners
But Serial did not tell the whole story. In this compelling narrative, Rabia Chaudry presents new key evidence that she maintains dismantles the State’s case: a potential new suspect, forensics indicating Hae was killed and kept somewhere for almost half a day, and documentation withheld by the State that destroys the cell phone evidence — among many other points — and she shows how fans of Serialjoined a crowd-sourced investigation into a case riddled with errors and strange twists. Adnan’s Story also shares Adnan’s life in prison, and weaves in his personal reflections, including never-before-seen letters. Chaudry, who is committed to exonerating Adnan, makes it clear that justice is yet to be achieved in this much examined case.
I don’t want to give anything away, but if you listened to “Serial”, this book presents that evidence and much, much more. In fact, the evidence in this case is compelling, and really makes me feel like this is a man that should not be behind bars.
And I’ll also say that I’m not someone who thinks everyone should be exonerated. Amanda Knox, Steven Avery? I’m not so much on their sides. But this case, Adnan’s case – it’s incredible the very small amount of evidence that was used against him, which was debunked from every angle.
This book also shows handwritten letters, scanned files, and the infamous cell phone records. All for you to see with your own eyes. Even though I knew how the story ended this time, I was hooked.
Currently, Adnan has served 16 years in prison, and is awaiting his retrial, which was granted in June of this year – big thanks to “Serial”. You can read the update here.
The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “The Regulars” by Georgia Clark. Want to read it with us? Contact me on social media @OrangeJulius7 and chat it up! There really are no rules in our tiny, non-committal bookclub.
As always, I hope you all have a great weekend planned. I’m performing in two shows on Sunday, so I’ll be practicing and weaving in hair extensions on Saturday, hosting a ladies’ night for my fellow stiletto performers, and rehearsing all day on Sunday prior to curtain call.
I took Monday off work to recover and give my brain a much-needed break. But don’t worry, I’ll still be blogging – you know I’d miss it too much not to. See y’all on Monday!
It should come as no surprise that I’m still obsessively listening to podcasts, particularly during my 9-5 M-F gig. This last month, I’ve really been crazy about some of these – thinking about them even after the podcast is over. It’s a little insane, but I just love hearing all of these stories. Here’s what I’ve been listening to recently:
Undisclosed. In short, here’s the description of “Undisclosed” from the website: “The Undisclosed podcast investigates wrongful convictions, and the U.S. criminal justice system, by taking a closer look at the perpetration of a crime, its investigation, the trial, and ultimate verdict… and finding new evidence that never made it to court.”
In the long, this is for fans of “Serial” – particularly season one’s case of Adnan Syed vs. The State of Maryland. “Undisclosed” was started by a woman named Rabia Chaudry, a friend of Syed’s, offering additional information on the case that “Serial” did not. Here’s the scoop:
“We started the podcast in April 2015 with a detailed examination of the State of Maryland’s case against Adnan Syed. We intended to revisit the case from the beginning, looking at all available evidence. Not only what was presented in Serial, but new evidence that we uncovered in our investigation. As attorneys, we pride ourselves on looking dispassionately at facts, analyzing those facts, and applying the appropriate law in our analysis. Our goal is to get to the truth of what happened on January 13, 1999.”
Ms. Chaudry has also written a book, “Adnan’s Story”, which will be featured in Blanche’s Book Club in the coming weeks.
In season two, “Undisclosed” covers the case of Joey Watkins, who is in jail for a felony murder that took place in 2000. If you’re missing “Serial”, you really need to plug into “Undisclosed”.
Millennial. Soooo, I’m pretty obsessed with this one. Like… listened to it day and night and whenever possible. I listed to all 28 episodes within just a few days and I’m anxiously waiting for a new one.
As explained by its host, Megan Tan, “Millennial” is a podcast about the things we don’t get instructions for – maneuvering your twenties. And no, I’m not in my 20s. I’m in my 30s. And I wouldn’t ever classify myself as a millennial. But I FEEL this chick so hard! Sounds weird, but you know what I mean.
She talks a lot about what it feels like when you graduate college and start job hunting; and once you find that dreamy job… it’s not so dreamy, and you start getting your side hustle on, and you fall in love with it, and then you’re working ’round the clock because you’re 9-to-5ing it and you’re 5-to-9ing it and then you experience burnout and…. YES, this is the story of my life, and apparently lots of people are feeling it, because hundreds of thousands of people are listening to this y’all.
IT’S SO GOOD.
Accused. Shocker, another true crime podcast (I can’t help myself). “Accused” is put together by the Cincinnati Tribune, and it covers the murder of Elizabeth Andes. Here’s the scoop:
When Elizabeth Andes was found murdered in her Ohio apartment in 1978, police and prosecutors decided within hours it was an open-and-shut case. Two juries disagreed. The Cincinnati Enquirer investigates:
Was the right guy charged, or did a killer walk free?
I’ll be honest, there’s not that many episodes, and I’ve already listened to all of them, but it’s well-produced, and it does a good job of looking into every lead up until the end.
Pantsuit Politics. I heard about this podcast while listening to another podcast, believe it or not. The concept is pretty simple – it’s hosted by two women, one from the left and one from the right, and they talk politics – and it’s civil and smart. Here’s a little bit about the hosts (from their website):
Sarah Stewart Holland (from the left) is a professional blogger and social media consultant. She has always loved politics, although her political opinions have changed drastically over the years. She worked in politics and on Capitol Hill before moving back to her hometown of Paducah, KY, where she is currently running for City Commission. She is happily married and the mother of three sons. Sarah likes her bourbon on ice, her romantic dramas with a British accent and her iPhone fully charged.
Beth Silvers (from the right) is a human resources executive and yoga teacher. After practicing law for six years, Beth decided to move into the business world. Her love for politics has been building for about a decade, and she’s loving the community that’s emerged around Pantsuit Politics. She’s married with two daughters and is addicted to cooking, M&Ms, watermelon, and bad reality shows.
Of course, they’ve covered all of the debates from this election, along with other happenings, but the podcast has been going strong well before this election season. In the off-season, they talk political news and often feature interviews. It’s good stuff!
I’m currently looking for new things to listen to, so if you’ve got ideas, put them in the comments pretty pleeeease!
The latest read for Blanche’s Book Club is for all the true-crime lovers out there! I saw this book on a reading blog I have liked for years, and I added it to my list. I love true crime books, but I have to be in the mood to read them, and frankly, this has been the summer of marshmallow reads.
But then I had lunch with someone who’d read this book and said I would absolutely love it. And they were RIGHT. The book? “Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery” by Robert Kolker. Here is the description from Amazon.com:
“Award-winning investigative reporter Robert Kolker delivers a haunting and humanizing account of the true-life search for a serial killer still at large on Long Island, in a compelling tale of unsolved murder and Internet prostitution.
One late spring evening in 2010, Shannan Gilbert, after running through the oceanfront community of Oak Beach screaming for her life, went missing. No one who had heard of her disappearance thought much about what had happened to the twenty-four-year-old: she was a Craigslist prostitute who had been fleeing a scene—of what, no one could be sure. The Suffolk County Police, too, seemed to have paid little attention—until seven months later, when an unexpected discovery in a bramble alongside a nearby highway turned up four bodies, all evenly spaced, all wrapped in burlap. But none of them Shannan’s.
There was Maureen Brainard-Barnes, last seen at Penn Station in Manhattan three years earlier, and Melissa Barthelemy, last seen in the Bronx in 2009. There was Megan Waterman, last seen leaving a hotel in Hauppage, Long Island, just a month after Shannan’s disappearance in 2010, and Amber Lynn Costello, last seen leaving a house in West Babylon a few months later that same year. Like Shannan, all four women were petite and in their twenties, they all came from out of town to work as escorts, and they all advertised on Craigslist and its competitor, Backpage.
In a triumph of reporting—and in a riveting narrative—Robert Kolker presents the first detailed look at the shadow world of escorts in the Internet age, where making a living is easier than ever and the dangers remain all too real. He has talked exhaustively with the friends and family of each woman to reveal the three-dimensional truths about their lives, the struggling towns they came from, and the dreams they chased. And he has gained unique access to the Oak Beach neighborhood that has found itself the focus of national media scrutiny—where the police have flailed, the body count has risen, and the neighbors have begun pointing fingers at one another. There, in a remote community, out of sight of the beaches and marinas scattered along the South Shore barrier islands, the women’s stories come together in death and dark mystery. Lost Girls is a portrait not just of five women, but of unsolved murder in an idyllic part of America, of the underside of the Internet, and of the secrets we keep without admitting to ourselves that we keep them.”
“Lost Girls” tells the stories of five women, all living seemingly normal lives, until they fall on difficult times – whether financial, situational, or emotional – and end up working as prostitutes.
Some of them start of in traditional escort houses, but all of them eventually end up online, particularly on Craigslist, because they make more money, don’t have to deal with a pimp, and most of all, they don’t have to stand on street corners to wait for clients.
What lures them into the business is the same thing that keeps them there – fairly easy money, big pay, the ability to provide for their families, and freedom.
That is, until they all get out of the business in the same way: cold blooded murder.
I loved this book for many reasons. Yes, it was a little scary and reading it after dark was not really an option (which is probably why I read most of it in one sitting on Sunday). However, Kolker really digs to find the stories of these women, who were basically forgotten by… everyone except their families.
Without blatantly saying it, Kolker tells another story: about how we (meaning society) tend to treat people in the sex industry, mainly based on stereotypes, and that is what I found to be most fascinating about this book.
My only disappointment? That this is Kolker’s first and only book! I’ll definitely be on the lookout for his next one (if it ever happens).
The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Who Do You Love?” by Jennifer Weiner. Want to read it with us? We’d love to have you! Share your thoughts on the book with us via the blog comments, email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or on Twitter & SnapChat @OrangeJulius7.