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Midday Edition Special: Best Of KPBS Podcasts

December 24, 2018 1:30 p.m.


Beth Accomando, host, Cinema Junkie podcast

Margot Wohl, host, Rad Scientist podcast

Andrew Bracken, host, My First Day podcast

Justin Hudnall, host, Incoming podcast

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This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

It's Monday December 24th the longest running PBS podcast spotlights everything about the movies Beth Accomando cinema junkie offers film reviews in-depth interviews with directors writers and actors along with Beths take on Hollywood's controversial issues. And of course a focus on her favorite genre is Hong Kong action star wars and her KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando joins me. Hi Beth. Hey thanks for having me. You hopped aboard the podcast train a bit early on. What about that format appeals to you.

It's the Wild Wild West. Honestly it doesn't really have a structure or form exactly yet. So you can do anything. I've done podcasts that are six minutes long I've done ones that are two and a half hours long so it's a really nice way to tackle subjects and let the subject dictate how you're going to do what who you're going to talk to how long you want to go if it's an interesting conversation. Let it go long. If it's not cut it off a naked short.

So how long have you been producing cinema John. And what's your catalog like now.

It's pretty long. And one of the reasons why we started a number of years ago is that I've been doing interviews since 1987 and for NPR I've been doing collecting interviews since 97 so I have this archive of interviews where maybe a minute or two has been used and back in the old days they used to grant hour long interviews with people like John Wu and Wong Kar wai and Jackie Chan. And so I have these resources that I thought would be nice to put them somewhere so I do brand new content and then every now and then I dig into the archives for like an interview with David Cronenberg or Guillermo del Toro and post that up when maybe they have a new film.

Well we just heard some of the big names in film that you've spoken to. Are there some podcasts in the catalogue that really stand out to you.

One of my favorites is interviewing Sir Ian McKellen and this was ages ago. Ninety five I believe when he had Richard the Third out and we were back in the trailers and stuff on campus here at San Diego State and I remember he was so gracious because at one point he leaned back and hit the baffling on the wall and it fell off in the middle of the interview and he just smiled pushed it back up and went on answering questions about Shakespeare.

Security is a great image. Now let's hear an excerpt from cinema junkie and Beth set it up for us.

Sure Steve Lepre is a stunt driver and I went to see Mad Max Fury Road with him and he was so knowledgeable about movies and stunt driving and about what makes stunt or a car chase exciting on camera and what films made it work that I wanted to talk to him more extensively about film than just mad max so I had him pick the best car movies and car chases I've been speaking with PBS arts reporter Beth Komando and here's an excerpt from cinema Junkie podcast. Stunt driver picks best car movies as a stunt driver what kind of stunt work is really the most difficult to do.

I mean what as a viewer what we tend to get dazzled by is cars flying through the air a big crash or something but first on driver what actually is kind of the tough thing to do the difficult task.

You know there's a lot of yes the sensational stuff is like for example the Fast and Furious movie starring cars out of airplanes and things like that and it's great it's great escapist fun. It absolutely is. It's great fun. It's not that you have to set reality outside the door. And physics and physics when you walk into those things but they are they are great fun. Yeah the the the the one the one movie where the runway is about 23 miles long you know and they're constantly you know they're chasing that plane for 15 minutes.

Yeah ok you got to suspend reality a little bit but they are fine and there's some great stuff to me personally the the challenge and what I really like to see is a really well done complete 100 percent organic start. There's no S.G. there's no there's no Canon's flipping a car there is none of that stuff and really well done driving skills. That to me that's that's the challenge. I like to do things and I'm not a big you know fly car through the year set them on fire Piper ramp them over.

That's not that's not my thing. And I'm I'm old and fragile so I really don't like to do those things. Nowadays I'm much more about the threading the needle shot the really precise.

You know we're going to we're going to spin or cardboard and a spinning car between these two other cars and we're going to land it on that Mark with any change that to me. That's what I enjoy. And speaking of things like some of the scenes baby driver had some great stuff in there there was a really fun one where he spins that car in the opening sequence I believe was where he spins the car down the alley way under stuff on both sides and get spin in one way and the other and his 360 this way and back around itself.

That was great. I'm like that was so cool to watch because I know how hard that is to do and how to get that done and clean and so yeah those sorts I love that's the kind of stuff I'd love to see I love. Really well done in high speed precise and completely organic. There's no there's no C.G. we're not going to fix this in post.

You do it once and you do it. You do it spot on. Well I guess baby driver might be a good segue to go from the car movie to the car chase film because this is a recent film Edgar Wright directed it and it is really all about kind of this young kids connection with cars and with speed. And he ends up being a driver for some rather unscrupulous people but he's a nice kid anyway. So we mentioned some of that precision driving but baby driver does seem to be very much a film all about the car and about speed it was it was really it was a fun ride.

It really was as Guy enjoyed it was fun to watch I came away from there and it was like it's one of those for it's like OK go do that. Yeah that's a lot of kind of when I walk out it's like that was really cool. Marcelo is this gentleman right now that tells you about. On us. On.

One of the really neat things about that movie that I really thought was fun. That. Isn't really done very often. Was that this timing of the stunts to the music was really really was neat and it really it gave the movie a rhythm you know because it just there was a lot of. Time mediocre coordination of the beats of the music and the beats in the action and where they would actually have to time the action. A lot of times you do a stunt and it's like go hear them here than hear them here.

And. They wouldn't have to think about the delay the use of goal timing of hitting those marks on a certain beat. And so it was really it was really neat to watch it and know it took a lot of heart to make that happen. They had to be aware of the music when they're doing the stuff as well. Because the timing then all has to match up.

Yeah I was lucky enough to talk to one of the editors that worked on that film and he said he was literally Ahmed said with kind of a portable editing. And he would be editing stuff on the fly so that they could make sure that those stunts and those car chases and everything mapped out the music the way they wanted it to absolutely.

I'm sure that he had to because it's white. It was quite a feat to put that together.

So we already have talked about bullet as one of the pivotal car chase movies. What else is a memorable car chase for you.

Well there's a couple others we can since we bring out bullet. And one of my all time favorite stunt guys. Bateese is Bill Hickman and we'll tie him in to. He was also one of the bad guys in the seven ups with Roy Scheider as Rove. He drove the big blue Pontiac sedan and Roy Scheider is chasing him all chasing him all across New York. Another place that Bill Hickman comes up is the French kinna. He.

Is now the really interesting thing about that which we could never do today because we have way too meaning lawyers. Is that chase scene under that where he's chasing the train and that is Bill Hickman driving the car. So that's where he ties to. That chase under the train was done in live traffic. They didn't stop traffic. They didn't have really any police or anything like that. They just put the camera cameraman director in the car and said Go for it. And they ran through city traffic and there's just no way in the world you could do that today there's so many so many things could have gone wrong in that case.

And there's so many safety issues and things that would come up today that. That just will never happen again.

And there was more than one stunt driver at work during the course of that chase.

Yes there are some scenes. The baby carriage getting pushed out was a staged scene. There's a couple of near misses with cars that were stuntmen who those weren't actual just citizens driving through traffic. Some of them more but some of the really close calls were worse men who were staged in traffic who would pull out and drive through. And there is one case where he where he crashes into one of the cars it's a stunt man that I think got maybe a little stalled and was a little late on his mark and so he got hit.

And they kept it in the movie.

They kept it in. And that scene again is one that cars for me a car chase just seeing two cars chasing each other quickly doesn't do much. But there's they build in this motion to the car chase because you've got a cop driving chasing a criminal the cop doesn't want to hurt anyone. So there's things at stake while he's driving that make it that build that kind of emotional ties you have in kind of the intensity of what's going on because you know he wants to catch this guy more than anything but he's now willing to kill someone to defend innocent bystander.

You certainly in in those situations you don't want you don't want to hurt somebody you don't want to. You don't want to have an accident. You don't want to injure anybody. But first and foremost in his first his driving his his driving him a motion right there is I've got to catch this guy. So that's what he's totally focused on and really is kind of tunnel visioning right on that. And so that's they're just ripping through.

Have ripping through traffic. Your actual live traffic when they do it.

They're just ripping through traffic because he's got to catch that he's got to catch that train you can't let that guy get away because it's a scene like that catches you up in a very different way than something like to live and die in L.A. where you've got two people chasing each other which is intense. But the fact that neither one of them cares about. Anybody else besides themselves involves you in a very different way because you know that they're just going to plow through everything you know regard to live and die in L.A. is a good one to bring up.

There's an interesting point that a lot of people won't catch until maybe now that you hear it and you watch the movie. They drive on the wrong side of the road during that chase where they're flying down the freeway. If you look in it's extra disorienting they have reverse traffic and traffic is on the opposite side of the road. And so it adds an extra element of disorientation when you're watching it because it just doesn't look right.

Interesting you've been listening to an excerpt from the PBS podcast cinema junkie.

You can find the series at Cape PBS dot org or where ever you get your podcasts.

Coming up meet a San Diego scientist and step into the shoes of someone brand new to America. Had the Russian English dictionary in my hand because I was like OK that's going to help me buy the ticket. As our midday edition holiday special continues.

Live in the NEWSROOM. I'm Deb Welsh President Donald Trump has been meeting with his Homeland Security secretary and other officials to discuss border security issues. That is a partial government shutdown over the U.S. Mexico border wall entered Christmas without a clear resolution in sight though both sides have traded offers over the dollars. They remain far apart on the wall. The body of a 7 year old girl who died while in custody of the U.S. Border Patrol has arrived back in her native Guatemala. President Trump lashed out at the Federal Reserve today after administration officials spent the weekend trying to assure the public and financial markets that Jerome Pal's job as Fed chairman was safe.

The tsunami that roared ashore in Indonesia killing more than 370 people and injuring over a thousand was especially cruel. Unlike most big waves which typically follow earthquakes violent shaking. This was a stealth attack. There were no major ground convulsions. No sirens no text messages. A Massachusetts prosecutor says Kevin Spacey is scheduled to be arraigned next month on a charge of indecent assault and battery on allegations that he sexually assaulted the teenage son of a Boston television anchor in a Nantucket restaurant Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O'Keefe tells The Boston Globe that spacy is due in Nantucket District Court on January the 7th.

Now your updated forecast from the Weather Channel.

Seasonal temperatures here this afternoon with partly cloudy skies expected rains return to the forecast overnight as low pressure that is over portions of central Oregon big south into the Golden State wrapping up rain chances for us late tonight into Christmas Day system departs on Wednesday and sunshine returns in fine weather should remain with us right on into the new year with 60s during the day for daytime highs and nighttime lows in the 40s here this afternoon generous sunshine in the forecast high 61 to 68 for Christmas Eve increasing clouds of showers overnight tonight lows 45 to 55.

Christmas Day showers and thunderstorms high 60 to 65. Wednesday we're dry wood sunshine readings in the low mid 60s. More of the same Thursday and Friday. Weather reports made possible by Hornblower Cruises and events. You can reserve it on the water venue for parties or corporate events with 360 degree views of San Diego Bay visit Hornblower dotcom. We're true to weather the weather channel.

Scott bass is also here with our surf report.

Good afternoon light westerly winds 45 miles per hour plenty of fun waves and a low tide surf three to four feet with pluss let's call it waist to chest high for the masses. There are some larger waves up to head high on occasion in the south county in the low tide right at the sunset hour for 40 p.m. a negative one point three water 63 degrees. And we have a low pressure system bringing wind and rain this evening into tomorrow morning and some jumbled mess up bigger winds well six to seven feet surf reports made possible by Alaska Airlines.

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Some people think of this time of year and feel joy and cheer and others not so much. Nor McInerney the host of terrible thanks for asking. It's a podcast where we ask people to give honest answers to the question how are you. And this holiday season we're going to hear some really wonderful really terrible holiday stories that are anything but just fine. So join me for an hour of Happy Holidays from terrible. Thanks for asking. Christmas night at 9 9 PBS.

We're grateful for the many listeners who've decided to donate their vehicle to Cape PBS in 2018. You can join them by donating a vehicle you no longer need. We accept cars trucks minivans and more vehicles are sold and the proceeds Drive programs like midday edition. And Ken Cramer is about San Diego. Do it by December 31 to count it as a charitable contribution for 2018. We'll take care of everything with free pickup and great service. Call 877 Kỳ PBS car that's 8 7 7 5 7 2 7 2 2 7 or give online at Cape start car easy dot org.

This is KPP as midday edition I'm wearing Cavanagh.

There's a lot of science going on in San Diego. We are one of the research hubs in the country but you don't always hear about that research because well scientists aren't always very good about talking to nonscientists about their work. That's where the PBS podcast rad scientist comes in. Host Margo wall introduces us to the people behind the research and explores the passions that drive their work. Margo wall is a scientist herself working towards her Ph.D. in neuroscience at UC San Diego and Margo welcome. Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Scientists come up with such amazing things why aren't they generally thought of as a mazing themselves.

I'm not sure why. I mean they're not out in the public eye so their people don't really get to see them. They work a lot so you don't get to meet them that often. But I think you know we often think about the work speaks for itself and you see what they publish. But I think that the people themselves are pretty fascinating.

What kinds of things does rats scientists try to reveal about scientists.

I like people to see that they are very fallible but they're humans and they have other interests other than science as well that drive them. They're fun creative curious people and hopefully people hear that and think like oh maybe I could be a scientist.

What kinds of things besides science are some of the scientists you profile interested in.

I mean there are sports a lot of people are into music so I've talked to quite a few musicians and I love speaking with them.

I think that there are lots of other sciences that they're into so even though they might be very you know specialized in a certain subject they might think that this other science really cool. And so it'll be more of a hobby for them. Yeah lots of things. So do you have to be interested in science to like this podcast. No but I think that you do have to be interested in humans because it usually centers around a scientist and you know science doesn't take up the whole episode but I hope that maybe by being interested in the people themselves that you become curious about what they do and why they think it's so amazing.

Well coming up as an excerpt from the podcast rad scientist can you set it up for us. Sure. So this is focusing on a researcher at the J. Craig Venter Institute for NAMUS and MBA bahan and she studies this fungus called histoplasmosis that you often find in bird poo. All right then here's an excerpt from the PBS podcast. Rad scientist.

I'm sitting in the office of CNM Bejan at the J. Craig Venter Institute in Lokoya. She's an assistant professor of infectious disease here and she wants me to listen to a Johnny Cash song on her computer. It's a real feminist ballad about how his girlfriend has left him and now there's no one to clean for him or make him food. Cinéma sings along but she gets quiet when we get to the part she wants me to hear. Supposedly it has something to do about her research.

It's the wife who's the histo has mosts.

It's a disease caused by the fungus histo plasma capsule Leedom and send him studies it I guess it's famous because Johnny Cash sang about it and it was a mystery disease and the TV show House to be honest though I'd never heard of it but in some parts of America like the Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys 60 to 90 percent of people come in contact with it.

It's also found in Africa and South America and scientists aren't exactly sure why it hangs out in these areas. What they do know it likes to live around bird flu.

It's found in soil and when the soil is instructed you inhale spores and you get sort of introduced to the fungus you may be telling the soil or cleaning up a chicken soup as the soil moves around spores from the fungus are released.

And as you breathe they travel into your lungs and that's how the infection starts.

And depending on your immune status or the infectious those you can get sick immediately or it can go latent and it can get activated later in your life stage.

That means that some people will never know that they were infected. They may experience brief flu like symptoms and brush it off as a common cold. Their immune system stops the spread of infection. But for some people with weak immune systems histo plasma can be fatal. There's no vaccine no great treatments. The best we have are antifungals and antifungals are pretty toxic because they are in a sense similar to our cells treatments that are toxic to Fungai are pretty toxic for us. The basic makeup of Fungai cells and human cells not that different after all the animal kingdom parted ways with the Fungai about a billion years ago.

But it seems like nature doesn't reinvent the wheel if it doesn't have to. You need to come up with new drugs that can target the difference between these cells and our own cells. SName has one idea for how to target the fungi and it has to do with histo plasmas super power. It can change its form. So in the soil histo plasma lives as a mold. That's a bunch of fungal cells that act as one unit and molds are really good at living in soil and they make spores which can be carried by air.

But after the histo plasma is inhaled it transforms the temperature change from the cool air outside to our warm bodies triggers a change and each mold spore morphs into a yeast.

Here's why it matters. East live on their own and they're really good at living in the human body and their baby making machines. They just make tools themselves whenever they please. It's called a sexual reproduction and the yeast produced faster than immune cells can kill them. So psyllium wants to hit the fungus where it hurts.

In the asexually parts have it not reproduce in high density so that the immune system can take care of it.

Basically she wants to figure out a way to stop the yeast from being so good at colonizing our bodies go from a yeast Tokyo to a yeast Idaho.

With that hopefully even weak immune systems can battle the less populous East.

The name is one of only a handful of scientists studying this disease. So sometimes sufferers reach out to her.

E-mails and phone calls from people who have had this disease or whose loved ones have the disease and they don't know what to do.

That personal connection Polson's him out of the minutiae of the research and lets her zoom out for a second.

When you actually get to calls it's different. It makes it even more important for you to study and refocus as you sort of to research.

And with so few researchers studying this disease so NAMs research can have a big impact. Whatever I do would really contribute to the field of understanding the mechanism of this fungi sometimes contributing to your field means training the next group of scientists. And this is a huge part of a scientist job and it's a role that's an M takes very seriously.

That's I think the most gratifying thing about being a mentor to be able to train someone and learning from you and them appreciating your efforts.

We actually run into one of her mentees say Auri as we explore the campus.

She's really like a great mama to the love. It's not only the personnel issues.

The good scientists are so like when Nibo we are really talking about Josiah's we are not sure what to do. HUFFINE the troubles how to do troubleshooting. She's the aunt.

So nice. So did she play you hear that.

Cinéma is not just a lab mamma. She's a real mama too and that can be challenging to balance with an academic career.

I have a lot of work to do still to establish my research program. Go further in my field. I do feel more pressure and more responsibility and take care of a child and trying to perform my job its full potential.

But like many scientists she can't really think of doing anything else and so she makes it work.

I think nothing should be a barrier to do what you like to do.

Jewson him science is a way of seeing a world that is universal no matter where you come from it can connect her to colleagues and family who live in Turkey.

To the people living in the Ohio River Valley basin I feel like good science is just a language that you can speak with many nations. Amen.

You've been listening to an excerpt from the PBS podcast. Rad scientist you can find the series of PBS dot org or wherever you get your podcasts.

What do you remember about your first day in school on the job or in a new city. Those experiences are usually etched into our memories and form the basis of so much that comes after the PBS podcast. My first day is a series that explores those important days through people who came to San Diego from elsewhere and now call it home. Joining me is Andrew Bracken the creator producer and host of my first day. Andrew welcome. Thanks for having me. How did the idea of this come to you of making a podcast out of those first day experiences.

I think really just talking to different people in my neighborhood and friends. I think a lot of people the first season was about coming to San Diego specifically and you know I'm a transplant. A lot of people I know are transplants. It's a pretty common story in San Diego how people came here and it just kind of started from those conversations and hearing those stories organically and kind of turned that into what became the podcast and how did the series expand it's not just about communis San Diego anymore. Yes with the first season was the San Diego specific stories and the second season had some of those same stories but also we just wanted to kind of widen it out a little bit and expand those those other kind of key days that really have lasting impact on our lives.

How do you find people willing to share their experiences for the podcast.

That's always a challenge. I mean I think the way I work and I've come to accept it rather than beat myself up about it is that it takes time for people to open up. And for you to find the story in that that sort of thing. That's also my favorite part of it is just taking the time and listening you know. The interviews are not quick. Kind of you know sound bite type type stories. They take time to kind of discover and let them unfold with my approach. I'm always more about just question marks and exclamation points or statements.

You know I'm just really curious about people's stories and that's the heart of it.

We're going to play an excerpt from my first day. Can you help set it up for us.

Sure. In this episode Anna has come to the United States to California for a work program over the summer and she's struggling to buy a ticket in a bus station to get to her her job and meet somebody new.

Here's an excerpt from the PBS podcast.

My first day in the station I went to buy the ticket to the Lofland you know and I was standing in line and some guy just few a few people behind me in Russian asked me like if I need some help. And I I really I was really surprised because he was not looking like a Russian guy because he had like long hair and like kind of he'd been looking but I wasn't surprised. He asked me because I had the Russian English dictionary in my hand because I was like OK that's going to help me buy the ticket.

So I told him no. Because I'm kind of shy person so I'm like No thank you. And then they come up to the window to buy a ticket. And they realize like although I can understand English like the speaking and like comprising a sentence for me was very hard at that point. Yeah I was really how you say discombobulate discombobulate and couldn't even like buy the ticket. And so I I turned back I was like yes please i need help. And so he came over and he helped me to buy the ticket for me and my friend.

And then after that we just started talking and because we had another like I think we had six hours until the boss was supposed to take us and we couldn't go in and walk anywhere at San Francisco because we had our backs of us so we were just stuck there at the Greyhound bus station. We just start talking to this guy.

We just for hours while getting to know the stranger in the bus station and her friend peppered him with questions about what it was like to live in the United States. Suddenly their new acquaintance Oleg had an idea maybe like 1 hour before we're supposed to go on a bus.

He said Me and my friend have a car like you know we have few days like why don't we just drive you there. You know it would be nice for us to travel. And we're just going to drive you to live land and we're like OK. We we talk about it my friend. I know there's like sometimes you just go with your gut feeling and you just trust the people you know. I usually that's how I do. I just go there. My gut feeling at the time. That's how I felt.

I don't know why. We just trusted them and we just returned our tickets right then and there. And then when the two of them strangers drive to the Loveland's when they arrived in Laughlin they quickly realized this may not be the best place for them after all their new friends offered them another possibility just returned to San Francisco with them so after all this consideration which took like maybe half a day we decided we're going to go back to San Francisco because the life in Loveland. Yeah. It's not life. It's hot.

It's it's like it's Kadlec hell back on yet another road trip with her new friends and an old friendship quickly grew into something more.

Yeah I kind of like him right away. Kind of but it took us you know being a child there for like a week or so to kind of get attracted to really. To really get to know each other. Yeah.

As their relationship developed and focused on starting a life in San Francisco. Oleg though was about to move to San Diego for college and soon desperately wanted her to join him.

You know listening to my gut feeling and be kind of being very in love. And I said Yes I'll go.

And then we bought a ticket for Greyhound bus station then 1000 year get together did you guys have other friends here it was a pretty. No. Was nobody else I knew. And he knew it was me and him that said yeah he hadn't started school you know. And like you said was yes it was. But it was enough because when you start a romantic relationship you're just like really want to spend time to each other it's all you want to do. Pretty much. So you don't really need anybody else.

Yeah it was nice. I remember taking like a bus to the beach to Levoy Beach which would take you like an hour. Like right now driving is like you know 15 minutes. But there would take us hours to go and spend time at the beach but we were like it was so much fun.

As part of the matriculation process to start school Oleg went through a seemingly routine physical but it turned out not to be so routine after all it was like crazy like you have these.

Like everything goes so well and everything great. And yeah. And you just like do this like routine tests and they tell you you have a tumor and college is basically when we end up there. She told us that he has like a 50 percent chance of surviving this kind of tumor so they give him 50 percent prognosis. His mom came back came and I remember she when they gave him a diagnosis she kind of you know took me aside and talked of me and she said like you know it's a serious thing and I know you're just mad.

And you pretty much like you need to decide for yourself like nobody going to judge you. You leave right now. Pretty much. Because you know it's it's not an easy thing that he's going to go through.

I don't know. For me I was always a romantic person like I grew up on books like about like Romeo and Juliet. When you just you fell in love and that's that set you like you died together you know. It's like I don't know a lot of Russian literature is like that. It's a lot of like the romanticism of love and the relationship and it's the kind of you who find somebody and you stick the other for good or bad.

And especially because we were like in the beginning of this relationships and when this happened I remember just like just yeah. Crying crying and crying and being like so upset because his life was so sudden expected. But it's like it's never even in my mind once I fought like or now I can not like beat of him. No. It's like it was like yeah now I can lose this person they love but I'm not going to leave him now because of that. You know it's never crossed my mind. That's for sure.

I don't know. It's just like it's given you love somebody like you're not going to leave them out you know. Especially when the person looked perfectly fine you know like you. You cannot see the tumor he has no symptoms of a tumor. Like is it just somebody tells you he has it but like he doesn't look like she does.

You've been listening to an excerpt from the PBS podcast my first day. You can find the series at PBS dot org or wherever you get your podcasts.

Still ahead a Marine who is also a stand up comic talks about the fickleness of fate.

I for my life before but I've always believed that I could at least affect the situations. Now I'm at the mercy of the numbers. It all comes down to cornflour.

That says our midday edition holiday special continues.

Greetings. This is Modafferi. Join me as we celebrate Kwanzaa with stories poems and music on a season's scream from Piara public radio international.

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The holiday season means holiday parties. You make your friends catch up with old ones strike up interesting conversations. All things considered is a little like a holiday party. We introduce you to new people your perspectives and new ideas. So consider this your invitation to all things considered. Here the bigger picture. Every afternoon from NPR News.

This is PBS Public Radio. This is kape PBS midday edition. I'm Maureen Cavanagh.

There is no better place than San Diego to find stories about military life with a large number of veterans and active duty personnel in our region. There's a wealth of experience and truth to tap into. That's just what the PBS podcast incoming does. Its mission is to tell true stories from the lives of America's military told in their own words straight from their own mouths. Joining me is Justin Hudnall host of incoming and executive director of so say we all. Justin welcome. Thanks so much for having me. How did the incoming grow out of the storytelling and performance project so say we all.

Well so say we all offers storytelling arts and education to the public at large and particularly also to groups that we feel are talked about more than heard directly from and veterans definitely fall into that category especially several years ago as the wars were kind of being forgotten from the public's mind but still very much rolling on for the active duty military. So because San Diego is such a rich military base riddled city but also a place where a lot of military choose to stay after they rotate out. We have this great population and a lot of them are in community colleges a lot of them come to our way and part of that public misconception of the military that we hope to break down is that they they are these incredibly artistic creative individuals just like everyone else.

And so getting those stories getting those raw truths is just such a privilege. And we're happy to have them.

Is there a specific kind of military experience you want to highlight on incoming or is it the entire military experience.

We're open to pretty much everything that comes our way. But I think what particularly gets our interest and our writers interest up is the stories that no one gets to hear about the military. Right. I think the military in American media tends to be broadcasting like one of three stereotypes. They're either heroes or villains or victims of something. And that's the very surface narratives that we get across media. So we like to go deeper and find the surprising the human the complicated the shocking the funny the poignant experiences that the lived experiences of the military because you know as a percentage goes I think it's less than one person ever serves out of our country at any one given moment.

So a lot of people don't really know what the military does.

Well we're going to play an excerpt from incoming. And I've wondered Justin can you set it up for it.

Sure. You're about to hear from Brian Simpson a really good friend of mine who comes to San Diego by way of the Marine Corps originally from Baltimore. He is now a hilarious stand up comedian who just got past at the Comedy Store in Los Angeles as one of their perpetual performers along the likes of Steve Martin etc.. And so he's also a very talented writer. He has a lot of great insights about his time in Iraq with the Marine Corps and he's going to tell you about him right now.

I guess this is an excerpt from the PBS podcast incoming on March 17 2003.

I've been in Kuwait for a couple of months. I found myself fresh off my of and right in the middle of a heated game of TrueView I don't remember anything else about that night except the card I drew the question on the card was in 1996 the U.S. military tested all their gas for defects.

What percentage were found to be defective.

I lost the game because I guessed 10 percent. The answer was 50 50 percent. I reflected on all those trust building exercises that we've done for the last.

They showed us a video of a goat being vaporized by a gas that Saddam was most assuredly in possession of. When we were still in America we'd all went to the gas chamber to test our equipment against tear gas. Since we were assigned specific individual masks the exercise was supposed to help us build confidence in our equipment. But because we've ended up being a few mass short of the gas chamber a handful of Marines in my platoon myself included ended up not even being able to test the mass that we would ultimately end up deploying with told every single Marine I pass on the way back to my tent night.

Hey there's you know that gas mask might not work. It's a 50/50 shot.

They made us do all those drills and that damn thing doesn't even work. 50 percent of the time. I was like a manic Paul Revere running through tent city. I knew it. I knew it were nothing but a number of them. Agent Orange Vietnam LSD in World War 2. Gulf War Syndrome. And now this. I mean if the people that made Trivial Pursuit knew about this then how the hell could the military not.

Unless they did I have a whole situation pegged all wrong.

The military isn't a race to the top. It's a struggle to stay in the middle. A contest to see how far the system can fail before it's forced to admit that it needs change here I was trying so desperately to escape the fate of staying and nobody. I didn't see the alternative chosen in the Marine Corps you're not nobody your anybody. You're just another cog in the machine replaceable expendable number on some kernel spreadsheet. No one took my rants seriously because not only have we grown complacent about the NBC drills.

We've also grown complacent about the possibility of going to war with Iraq. I was put my revolutionary complex on full display out of outrage but not fear because the truth was I sleep like a baby. Confident that what I learned about my gas mask would never matter because it would never be tested. Never bet against Bush going to war.

The very next morning we woke up we called into formation and informed that the war had already started in the middle of the night.

From this moment forward there will be no more drills in the alarm sounded. Is the real deal almost immediately after we were dismissed.

This is I was starting to think about all the money I lostness bet be along sound in an instant the complacency of the past few months was exposed as suicidal behavior.

All the Marines moved like mad men scrambling to get the little bits and pieces of equipment. We come to take for granted trying desperately to remember all the procedures that might save our lives.

So now I find myself sitting in a ditch in the desert facing death with a good portion of the people I care about all around me and all I can think about is that damn trivial pursuit card in that damn good. I can't stop visualizing how the goat evaporated its skin falling to the ground like there were no bones organs in sight. I can hear the instructor's voice so clearly describing the symptoms of being infected by this gas. I'm not imagining this it's happening to me. I'm dying.

The pools of sweat build up around the rubber seals on my forehead my cheeks and on the back of my neck will start to burn at any moment right before I lose control of my bowels and my soul and evaporate into nothing like the victim of some mortal kombat finish.

I fear for my life before but I always believed that I could at least affect the situation in some way. Now I'm at the mercy of the numbers. It all comes down to two coin flips 50/50 chance the incoming missile contains bio weapons and a 50/50 chance that my math will work. If it did I'm supremely aware of every single sensation every single nerve ending in my body was vying for my attention while my mind disassociated. I scanned the trench line with almost smugness thinking to myself these poor bastards don't even know how close we are to death right now so confident in their protection I'm slowly losing my mind here.

I'm imagining how awesome it would be to not be about to die. What I would do for just one more breath of fresh air. It would feel like being born again. I want that breath of fresh air so bad. I couldn't stand it. The feel of the cool breeze on my face and the refreshing non-poisonous air filling up my lungs like being released from a hostage situation into a sauna and afterwards running right into a walk in freezer made of Alarian still in your peppermint patties.

I've already made my mind up. I'd rather go out like private power than that. Go.

I clicked my Im 16 from safe to unsafe put the business in under my chin put my finger on the trigger and wait for the gas to affect my nervous system and the resulting twitch finally to make me literally no one.

I've never wanted to be and that's when I heard the two sweetest words in the English language echo from the distance all clear all clear all clear