Ep. 66 – with Sarah Milov – Lisa Birnbach’s Five Things That Make Life Better on October 11, 2019


Today’s guest is historian Sarah Milov, the author of a fascinating new book about the history of the cigarette and its role in shaping American commerce and polity.

I find it’s a little hard to go to sleep at night during this particularly chaotic moment in history.  New information, breaking news, news alerts – my phone dings me at all hours, not once but at least twice (I get messages from the Washington Post and the New York Times in twos.). It’s hard to keep up.  Sometimes sleep seems pointless.  It’s not that I think I need to know everything immediately because I can do something about it.  I don’t have those delusions.  Sometimes I find myself missing pieces of stories, and then have a harder time catching up.  Complicating all of this is that news only is extruded through partisan filters.  I know it.  You know it.  And we’re being told not to believe what we see or hear.  These are crazy times, but we will plough through.  Right?

We have to locate our true selves and our true norths, and try not to get too swept up in the events of the day/hour even though we are paying attention.  We can try to avoid the news, but realistically I just won’t be doing that.  I like to know.  Like Chauncey Gardner, in “Being There”,  I like to know.

NOTE: If you are reading this, this is my written Blog. To listen, PLEASE SUBSCRIBE to the Podcast at Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio – or wherever you get your Podcasts. It’s the ONLY WAY get my podcast noticed. And if you’d like to rate it as well, PLEASE DO!


NOTE: If you are reading this, this is my written Blog. To listen, PLEASE SUBSCRIBE to the Podcast at Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio – or wherever you get your Podcasts. It’s the ONLY WAY get my podcast noticed. And if you’d like to rate it as well, PLEASE DO!

This week I appreciate my five things even more than usual.

1.  Learning to write a little more personally.  I have resisted the trend to write memoir and until recently haven’t had this itch to scratch.  However, I’ve been dipping my toes through this blog, and it’s not always horrible, and I don’t feel I’m giving too much away.


2.  Dresses.  I find myself becoming more attracted to wearing dresses.  Yes, I throw on jeans most days of the week, but a dress is so easy.  No figuring out what goes with what, what shoes go with that, and so on. 


3.  My very verbal #Exhibits ™.  They know how to express themselves, which is a great gift.  Each has a distinctive voice, both in their written and spoken expressions.  It’s been noticed that talk has been somewhat competitive in my family of origin.  For worse (not really better) I may have passed that along to my spawn.

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4.  Malbec.  A lovely “spicy” red wine, mostly – or only – grown in Argentina.  Good for  watching the news at night, or over a big juicy Impossible Burger.


5.  Nancy Pelosi. Our Speaker of the House.  What a cool leader, and by cool I mean calm, in control, and focused.  I have a lot of faith in her. 


 Sarah Milov’s 5 Things:

1.  Daycare

2.  New Mexico

3.  My students

4.  Archivists and librarians

5.  Getting dropped off rather than driving




Ep. 65 – with Norm Ornstein – Lisa Birnbach’s Five Things That Make Life Better on October 4, 2019

Happy October, friends and neighbors and near and far away –


 I guess it really is fall, the 90 degrees my thermometer showing notwithstanding.  Because the climate is a damaged thing, outside doesn’t feel like it’s “supposed to” feel.  What does a fall day feel like?  Or a Spring day?

If I’ve told you this before, I apologize, but when I was growing up, there were four distinct seasons in the mid-Atlantic region.  Spring was a WHOLE SEASON; not a day or a week.  I’m serious!  Would I lie to you?  I owned a garment called a “spring coat.”  Because sometimes it was very blustery and you just needed more than a sweater.  (I grew up in the olden days, before jean jackets, and quilted jackets were stylish.). I also had a heavy winter coat.  Which meant wool.  (Parkas, in the 60s and 70s were for skiing and snow sports only.). Don’t @  at me.  I didn’t make the rules. 

Wherever you live or wherever you are while you’re reading or listening to these thoughts, if I sound sermony – and I don’t mean to – it’s because I have just celebrated the Jewish new year, and I am full of some wise words I’ve heard.  Happy New Year to all those who observe.

NOTE: If you are reading this, this is my written Blog. To LISTEN, please SUBSCRIBE to the Podcast at Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio – or wherever you get your Podcasts. It helps get my podcast noticed. And if you’d like to rate it as well, PLEASE DO!

Norm Ornstein, Resident Scholar - American Enterprise Institute

Norm Ornstein, Resident Scholar - American Enterprise Institute

This week’s guest is someone I’ve long admired.Norm Ornstein is a long time expert and pundit known to anyone who consumes news on television and in print.As the scholar in residence at the American Enterprise Institute, an essentially conservative think tank, he’s studied the way our government was intended to work, and is not afraid to call people and institutions out, regardless of party or orientation.He is the co-author (along with Thomas Mann) of It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism.

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Now on to my five great things for the first week of year 5780.

1.  After hearing a wonderful sermon about the environment and sustainability from a rabbi whose mother is a long time lawyer for the EPA, I want to thank my friend Diane, and my partner’s daughter Izzy for being the people who patiently remind their friends to be extra conscientious.  Using reusable glass bottles instead of plastic, being smart about the dishwasher, and so on.  I appreciate you two, even if it doesn’t always seem I do.


2.  A shout out to my longtime partner, Michael, for being the kind fellow he is.  Never have I felt as supported or known.  I hope he feels the same from me.


3.  The art of conversation.  I know it is an important feature of my life, but it feels like it needs to be reiterated:  R U Coming? is not a conversation, nor is K.  We have come to rely on texts as a painless and static free way of connecting, but it’s not really connection.  In person is the very best way.  Your eyes, your body language, your words….  It seems practically intimate. As my friend Susan Bird says, face to face conversation has become a luxury. But it’s something we’re missing.

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4. This Venn Diagram says it all to me vis a vis my current earnings.  I am kidding, but I spend most of my life choosing projects based on how interesting they are, not based on what income they will generate.  It seems that resonates with a lot of my friends.  (To be clear, I have nothing whatsoever against earning a living.)

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5. Using the good china and flatware.  I usually keep them wrapped up in their felt pajamas.  In fact I put them back already into their hibernation, but I exhumed them for our holiday dinner, and they made our table so much prettier.  I think they made the food taste better.  It’s lovely and fortunate to have nice things, but I’m resolving to use them more often.  They do not serve any purpose when they are stored.

Norm Ornstein, Resident Scholar - American Enterprise Institute

Norm Ornstein, Resident Scholar - American Enterprise Institute


1.  Twitter – for three reasons:  One, it is cathartic. He can rail against the horrors and get reaction from a lot of people, instead of yelling at the television or the wall; two; he has made a lot of great friends on the medium; and three, he can learn a lot from them.

2.  His foundation work on debate. The Matthew Harris Ornstein Memorial Foundation His late son was a national champion high school debater. For five years, he has funded a summer debate camp for public school kids in the DC area—this summer, two weeks, with almost 200 kids, mostly Title 1 schools, from 5th grade through high school. Teaching life skills. Very rewarding.

3.  His foundation work on mental health. He is doing a documentary on a remarkable judge in Miami-Dade County who has transformed the way the criminal justice system deals with people with serious mental illness, saving lives and saving money at the same time. It will air on PBS in April 2020.

4.  His son Danny’s startup., with its guide, makes it easy for him to find whatever TV show or movie he wants to see and get to it immediately. No more searching on cable, which drives him nuts!

5.Red wine. Good red wine, from the US, Australia, Italy, France, Argentina. Or a lot of other places!



Resident Scholar – American Enterprise Institute

 Contributing Editor, The Atlantic


The Matthew Harris Ornstein Memorial Foundation —


One Nation After Trump: A Guide For the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate, and the Not-Yet Deported

By E.J. Dionne, Norm Ornstein and Thomas Mann

It’s Even Worse Than It Looks:  How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism

By Norm Ornstein and Thomas Mann

Book Cover 3 - One Nation After Trump .jpg

Podcast produced in New York City by The FieldTV

Book Cover - Its Even Worse than it Looks.jpg



Ep. 64 – with Diana Weymar – Lisa Birnbach’s Five Things That Make Life Better on September 27, 2019

One thing I think we can agree on:  we are well into 2019.  It’s been a blink of an eye, hasn’t it?  A blink of an eye with a stye, with pink eye, an eye that’s got a torn retina, and is puffy from crying, but still just a blink.  Oh I kid.  All is well.

Lisa Birnbach with Tiny Pricks Project creator and curator, Diana Weymar

Lisa Birnbach with Tiny Pricks Project creator and curator, Diana Weymar

But if you’re feeling helpless and unsatisfied, let’s talk about doing something with your hands instead of your brain.  Focusing on cooking, or mending something, or baking – something like this might even be a therapeutic way to get out of your head.


I saw a photograph a year or two ago on FB that showed a sampler that said…. “I’m so angry, I stitched this just so I could stab something 3,000 times!”

I loved it. 

Now I’m one of the thousands of strangers who have submitted an embroidery to this week’s guest, Diana Weymar, founder of Tiny Pricks Project.

As you will hear, she tired of reading the out of control tweets of a certain American leader, and couldn’t get his lies out of her head.  So she started a kind of resistance practice (for herself at first) which was to make textiles with his quotes.  And you’ll hear more about it in this week’s conversation.

It’s time for me to list the five things that made my life better this week, but first a reminder to subscribe to the podcast - if you’re a listener.

NOTE: If you are reading this, this is my written Blog. To LISTEN, please SUBSCRIBE to the Podcast at Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio – or wherever you get your Podcasts. It helps get my podcast noticed. And if you’d like to rate it as well, PLEASE DO!

 My 5 Things:

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1.  I had lunch with my friend Janie, whom I hadn’t seen in too many months.  Here’s what happened that was so shocking.  I asked her if she wanted to have lunch by text.  She said yes and said which day.  In 2 more texts we had our restaurant, our time, and we met.  It seemed so simple compared to most social transactions.  And we had a good long talk.  And some good food.  It’s so great when you don’t have to plan and cancel and reschedule and cancel…. Life happens though, to me as much as it does to others.


2.  This dance video, of movie musicals set to “Uptown Funk”.  The editing is impeccable, and what moves!  I practically felt the endorphins myself.


3.  This statement by former Federal Prosecutors, many of whom served in Republican administrations.   Published on, it is open to be signed by other former prosecutors, should they want to.  At press time there were 1027 signatures.


4.  Greta Thunberg, Greta Thunberg, Greta Thunberg.  The passionate pro climate protection crusader at 16 years of age puts a mirror in front of all of us and we feel embarrassed for not taking enough action to protect the world in which we live.  As she herself said, she should be in school instead of having to take on this fight for the planet.  How dare we depend on the young to do our work?  (Much like the gun control issue, now in the hands of the youth while our doddering legislators greedily take NRA money and point of view as if they had no choice in the matter.)

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5.  I’ve eaten at a lot of my favorite restaurants this last week – it was filled with birthdays, including my own.  Palma, Mishiguene, The Mark, Belle Harlem, Rotisserie Georgette, Red Farm – when I see them all listed there, I feel like a pig.  Someone has to say it, let it be me.  My favorite morsels:  the tagliatelle with lamb, the baba ghanouj, slow-cooked salmon, the fried chicken and waffles, the roast chicken, and the pastrami spring rolls.  What a week!  All I can say, before I waddle out of the studio is, the austerity kicks in now.  Salad till Thanksgiving.

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This week’s guest, Diana Weymar, of the Tiny Pricks Project, had an idea that at first felt small and personal, but she has had to grow into a kind of spokesperson in its service as it got bigger.IT is a growing collection of hand embroidered, sewn, and needlepointed textiles, with content provided by Donald Trump.The first exhibit, at Lingua Franca on Bleecker Street in NYC is coming down this last weekend in September.Another huge grouping of Tiny Pricks is at Speedwell Projects in Portland, ME until November 3rd.

Diana Weymar

Diana Weymar

Diana’s 5 Things: 

1.  My childhood in the wilderness because I know how to be alone and how to play with my imagination and because growing up without electricity or plumbing makes you less fussy and more resilient 

2.  My children because they challenge, question, and push me to be a better listener and have more empathy, they have my back by sharing with me what I can do better, do differently. They're like the old men in the Muppets in the balcony, always offering a joke or a quip to help me focus on what I'm doing on and off stage. They also point out the silly things I do and my poorly-formed arguments. 

3.  My friends who make things for me: the year I lived in Maine a friend in Princeton knit a blanket for me and sent it to me for Valentine’s Day. 

4.  Instagram because without it Tiny Pricks would not exist.

5.  Watching animals: our yard in Victoria BC is often filled with deer, herons, raccoons, rabbits, the neighborhood cat, the other night I opened our front door into a quarter acre of "unlandscaped space" and our dog stared straight into the darks with her ears up. I turned on the porch life and 10' away, facing us, was a huge deer with antlers. The three of us stood there for more than a minute just staring at each other. Animals remind me that there is other work to do and other ways to live. 

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Ep. 63 – with Lisa Taddeo – Lisa Birnbach’s Five Things That Make Life Better on September 20, 2019

Lisa Birnbach with guest, author Lisa Taddeo

Lisa Birnbach with guest, author Lisa Taddeo

Every day I hear about another podcast I must listen to.  Every single livelong day.  I understand there are about 800,000 of them at the moment, give or take 20,000.  Since some of you listen to mine, thank you.

You could be listening to a grisly series about a real-life murder, or a grisly series about a real-life sociopath who terrorized a community, or a grisly series about love gone wrong, but no, you’re here.  Listening to me and my guest talking about small things we like and big things we like, and stuff we appreciate but never spoke about before in public, and about how in taking small steps we can gain a form of control over this wildly out of control moment.  September 2019.   If you also listen to the podcast, I’d like to ask you a favor.

Would you please rate this podcast on whichever server you use?  at Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio – they all want to know what you think.  As do I.

If you haven't heard of writer Lisa Taddeo before, you will now and then again and again.  She spent eight years crisscrossing the country to understand desire in the American female psyche.  The resulting work, Three Women, was published this summer.  I am delighted she could drop by our studio.

Now onto the five things that made this week better.


1. Public Art, in particular the Alex Katz cutouts of the walking pedestrians on Park Avenue in midtown. The walking pedestrian is on several medians on the avenue. They are flat, but they are fun. Who is that woman? Do I know her? Didn’t I just see her? She looks familiar. When NYC installs art on the streets it always adds excitement to our treks through our crowded city. I wish there were more of it.

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2. Eyedrops. Soothing, especially after a long blinkless slog on the computer.

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3. The humility of being rejected for a position, and being reminded of that rejection 3 months later. I get it! I get it! A college that rhymes with “Giddlegury” doesn’t really want me to teach a writing course there this January. You might be asking, “why is this a good thing?” Do I need a reminder that I fail or don’t connect or am judged to be lacking? No, but I was amused to be waitlisted for a teaching gig. I hadn’t been waitlisted in let’s see…. many years.

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4. Cooking no longer scares me. For years the most important implements in my kitchen were the menus from local restaurants that delivered. Now, when faced with a last minute dinner plan vacuum, I head to my refrigerator and freezer and cook dinner. I still find it shocking, but I also feel competent in a way that I didn’t as a panicked new mother or an overwhelmed single mother of three. (Sorry, exhibits ™).


5. I attended a friend’s birthday lunch last weekend. As I looked around the table at women – some of whom I’ve known for 40 years and some of whom I just met – and saw everyone’s reading glasses, and maybe a few wrinkles or grey hairs I felt grateful that we had something positive and optimistic to celebrate. We’re still here, dammit!

Author Lisa Taddeo

Author Lisa Taddeo

Lisa Taddeo’s 5 Things:

1. The little rubber animals that are like 25 cents each. She gets them for her daughter but then her daughter forgets about them or loses interest and Lisa lines them up in little soldier or ballet formations around her workspace. She currently has three unicorns, one fox, one Labrador, one dragon, one moose, one rabbit, one dachshund and one rhinoceros. By extension, these animals are her daughter.

2. Space heater under her desk. Even in the summer. Her feet are always cold and the heater she says is Dickensian.

3. The family dog. Since her child has come, she’s been back-burnered. The usual thing. Sad but now it’s changed into something different and lovely. Lisa works every night and it’s only she and her dog downstairs. The dog keeps her company; she watches Lisa go to the kitchen and waits to see if she will get a slice of turkey and what part in that dance her dog will play. She feels like the dog is the only person who knows how hard she works. And Lisa is the only person who knows how quiet and trusting her dog can be.

4. Chick’n Sliders, by Gardein. She’s not vegan but these make her want to be.

5. The quilt that one of Lisa’s oldest and best friends, Jan, made for her after her parents passed away. She took several of their items, ties and dresses and scarves and denim skirts and corduroy pants, and she patchworked them into something Lisa can hold.

Lisa Taddeo and Lisa Birnbach (L-R) in  The FieldTV  studio

Lisa Taddeo and Lisa Birnbach (L-R) in The FieldTV studio

Follow Lisa Taddeo at:


THREE WOMEN - By Lisa Taddeo (Pub date: 7/9/19)

Twitter:  @LisaDTaddeo

Instagram:  @LisaDTaddeo

Instagram:  @threewomen_book

Instagram:  @avidreaderpress




Ep. 62 – with Jacqueline Novak – Lisa Birnbach’s Five Things That Make Life Better on September 13, 2019

If you’re reading this on Friday the 13th – 2019 or any other one – don’t be afraid.   I don’t entirely believe in spooky things, though I love the word spooky.

Lisa Birnbach with author and comedian Jacqueline Novak

Lisa Birnbach with author and comedian Jacqueline Novak

I once went to a place called the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, CA.  It was the house of old mother Winchester of the rifle company, and it had oddball wings, and trap doors, and stairways going  nowhere.  It was said that the widow enjoyed seances and the paranormal, and after her mediums and fellow Ouija board enthusiasts left, she’d commission a new room or building project.  Anyway, they say there are ghosts in the house, and I think I saw one and got really scared.  But I also thought I saw a UFO on a school camping trip in the 8th or 9th grade, so I’m not trustworthy. But I am scared.

 I’m telling you this because our guest this week, the fantastically funny Jacqueline Novak, star of the off-Broadway comedy show, “Get On Your Knees” is a fan of the paranormal.  And I’m trying to win her over.

It’s time for my five things, but first a reminder to subscribe to the podcast, if you’re a listener. NOTE: If you are reading this, this is my Blog. You must SUBSCRIBE to the Podcast at Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio - or wherever you get your Podcasts.  And don’t do it out of pity.  Do it because it’s the right thing to do.

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1. “To Kill A Mockingbird” on Broadway. Harper Lee’s quintessentially American novel has been adapted by Aaron Sorkin, and for the next few months Atticus Finch is being played by Jeff Daniels. (Ed Harris will replace him this winter.) You must put Gregory Peck out of your mind, and you can. But the giant star turn here is 9 year old Scout, played by the luminous 41 year old actress Celia Keenan-Bolger. You read that right. She runs across the stage – she careens across the stage and you believe she is the precocious child narrator. She’s a wife and mother, for God’s sake! Maycomb, Alabama in the 1930s is as much a character in the play as it is in the book, and the ripe heat of long summer days is felt and felt. See it if you can. (Also, full disclosure – Celia is a dear family friend.)


2. The book tables in my lobby. We have two elevator banks and neighbors leave books they’ve finished on both of them. Sometimes you find something you’re dying to read. So now, instead of waiting until I have a big stack of books to donate to a school or shelter, I sometimes put books there too.


3. John Early dance videos.  John Early is a comedian, an actor, and a director.  He directed “Get On Your Knees,” my guest Jacqueline Novak’s off Broadway show.   My daughter, #ExhibitB ™ has over the years sent me videos of his dancing on the street.  They make me laugh when I’m in a bad mood.  Here’s one.


4. You all know how I love the Netflix show “Shtisel,” right? Is there any doubt whatsoever in anyone’s mind? I think it’s the most interesting and nuanced of dramedies I’ve seen with subtleties and textures that provoke me to think for days. Last night we went to a presentation by some of the cast and one of the creators/writers of “Shtisel.” I was excited to hear them, as all of the players come from a different world from the religious one they depict. What is the show about? Neta Riskin, who plays Gitti Weiss said – in perfect, unaccented English, by the way – “If Seinfeld was about nothing, Shtisel is about everything.” There were hints of a new season, by the way.


5. I’m going to highlight a non-profit organization this week that does great work I admire. It’s called The Student Leadership Network, and it started in 1996 -97 with a single school in East Harlem, NY, for girls serious about a college preparatory education. Now there are approximately 20 public girls’ schools across the country, as well as. Thousands more girls and boys who are helped to get into college with giant scholarships. My friends Ann and Andrew Tisch founded this remarkable foundation, and I have had the privilege of meeting their students over the years. They are inspiring young girls who take nothing – no opportunity to learn – for granted. I have volunteered at two of the New York campuses, and they make you appreciate how education is the one thing that can lift and change a life.


Jacqueline’s 5 Things:

1. Korean skin care regimen

2. Books about metaphysical weirdness 

3. Iced Americanos

4. Taking baths/naps liberally

5. Marco Polo app


Follow Jacqueline Novack.

GET ON YOUR KNEES • The Lucille Lortel Theatre in NYC until October 6, 2019

Instagram:  @jacnov

Twitter:  @jacquelinenovak




Ep. 61 – with Paul Tough – Lisa Birnbach’s Five Things That Make Life Better on September 6, 2019

I know I’m not in school, but September feels like the beginning of the year to me.  I don’t know that I’ll ever be over semester timing.   And isn’t it crazy how Labor Day is always a weather show?  Rain, Dorian, cooler temperatures…. How does it know (to do that)?

Speaking of school, I have a marvelous guest today, who writes frequently about education. He is Paul Tough, and his new book is called The Years That Matter Most: How College Makes or Breaks Us. Together we’ll discuss the mania that can get parents to commit crimes and mortgage their homes: the hope of their children to matriculate to a prestigious college or university. And how it feels to be a kid applying to college now.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned this in a week or two, but I have a baby grandson! I have trouble saying the “grand” part, but this little creature creates joy whenever he smiles, which is more and more. I saw him a lot last week, which tops my five things

Lisa Birnbach and Author Paul Tough

Lisa Birnbach and Author Paul Tough


1. BABY. Love, good smells, the feeling I’m soaring when he smiles at me. His soft skin. His innocence. His chubby legs. His tiny toes.


2. Lake Tahoe. I know it’s shared by Nevada and California. I know the water is clear and clean and cold and crisp.


3. Homegrown ranunculus.


4. Jaffa restaurant in Los Angeles.

Great eastern Mediterranean food; wonderful service. Not just your grandma’s hummus. Interesting, fresh combinations. Loved the charred eggplant, in particular.

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5. Have I got good news for you. The play I raved about all winter, The Lehman Trilogy, is finally viewable to all of you who couldn’t grab a ticket to see it in New York when it was here for just a short visit. It will be live simulcast at theaters around the country on September 15th.

The Lehman Trilogy: Academy Award-winner Sam Mendes (Skyfall, The Ferryman) directs Simon Russell Beale, Adam Godley and Ben Miles playing the Lehman Brothers, their sons and grandsons.

Author Paul Tough

Author Paul Tough

Paul’s 5 Things:

1. The Penguin Modern series of tiny books

2. The iNaturalist app

3. My sons' imaginations

4. "Heavy," by Kiese Laymon

5. The remarkable selection of inexpensive fizzy waters in Austin's supermarkets

You can reach/follow and see upcoming events for Paul Tough here:


twitter: @PaulTough


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Episode 60 – with Chip Fisher – Lisa Birnbach’s Five Things That Make Life Better on August 30, 2019

Lisa Birnbach and Chip Fisher

Lisa Birnbach and Chip Fisher

I feel I have to talk fast because summer is ending fast.  I’ve never sensed a brisker summer.  Maybe it’s because in our family, we front-load our season, heading off on a big trip in early June before the crowds and the heat become oppressive.

Or maybe – as is the reason for so many things – it’s just age, and the perception that there is less and less time.  On that happy note, I want to tell you that today’s guest is Chip Fisher, the chairman of Fisher-Wallace Laboratories, maker of a therapeutic but drug free machine that alleviates symptoms of PTSD, insomnia, and depression. 

Meanwhile, back at headquarters, life has been sweet.  My son, the redoubtable #ExhibitA™ has been back in New York on a work trip, which means he’s staying with us.  Which I love.  I love to take care of my exhibits and of course, their exhibits.  Whether it’s cooking for them, putting out fluffy towels for their use, or just turning on the air conditioning before the arrival, it’s a warm and happy feeling.

Onto the week’s 5 Things:

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1. I’ll say it before and I’ll say it again. I love the hybrid stone fruits of summer. I know they are somehow wrong, like having a pet liger, but they just taste so good. And it’s not like I’m breeding them or anything. Pluots, plumcots – both mixtures of plums and apricots have their own partisans, of course. Plumcots were invented by the great American botanist and agricultural scientist, Luther Burbank, who gave us many species of fruit, vegetables, and flowers. Anyway, nectarine, shmectarine – I eat them and love them and they are a big part of my love for the summer.

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2. Poetry. Yes, it’s sometimes hard to read. Yes, you might have to be in the right mood – which is hard to establish. But poetry is a powerful art form, and I think it’s good for our souls. (I don’t have a study to prove it, but please hear me out.). To really focus on what is written, you have to tune everything else out, which is good for us. If you prefer, you can hear poetry read on line, which is also great and moving. Here, at Poetry Foundation, there’s a poem of the day for your enjoyment and enlightenment, as well as a treasure trove of other verse. If you haven’t listened to our episode with Erica Jong (Friday, August 16, 2019), you might listen to her read her own poem, “Poetry is Better than Xanax.” Just read one a day – maybe part of your meditation or intent setting. It’s like vegetables – good for you!

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3. Recently, I shared with you how excited I am about the forthcoming of the movie sequel to the series of “Downton Abbey.” Today, I join that with the anticipation of the next season of “The Crown.” For those of you who are not already fans of actress Olivia Colman, the star of “The Favourite,” and last year’s best actress Oscar winner, well I predict you will be soon. She takes over from the magnificent Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth in her middle years. I have never seen any production for tv with such lavish production values and extraordinary attention to detail. Awaiting this pleasure will sustain me through the next few months.

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4. Kim France discussed this in her 5 Things, and I need to reiterate that the Amazon series “Fleabag” is terrific.  It took me a few episodes to get into it, especially as the title character is cranky, angry, and not too sympathetic.  But Phoebe Waller-Bridge who wrote it and stars is too smart to create a one-dimensional character, and she certainly doesn’t let her off the hook.  The cast of supporting actors do a lot of heavy lifting and they are all – especially Olivia Colman – fantastic.

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5. The Beach! I’ve been to the beach three or four times this summer, besting last year’s record. Oh so wonderful! Most recently, we got to spend an afternoon on the strictly beach pass monitored Lucy Vincent Beach on Martha’s Vineyard, and though the water was too cold for me the breezes and the company of my brother, sister in law, and nephew were all I needed. Rx. Beach.

And now, please welcome Chip Fisher.

Chip Fisher - chairman of Fisher-Wallace Laboratories

Chip Fisher - chairman of Fisher-Wallace Laboratories

Chip’s 5 Things:

1. Backgammon

2. Watercolors

3. Licorice

4. Wet Dogs

5. Hot Dogs


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Episode 59 – with Rich Cohen – Lisa Birnbach’s Five Things That Make Life Better on August 23, 2019

Journalist Rich Cohen

Journalist Rich Cohen

While reading The Last Pirate of New York, the newest book by this week’s guest, the journalist Rich Cohen, I realized that we are not the first generation of Americans to say things are terrible.  Duh.  No one had it easy, ever.  It’s the challenges and how they came about that provides grist for the mill.  I often think that if I had been born in an earlier century I’d have died in a carriage accident thanks to my nearsightedness. 

And that doesn’t take into account my lack of upper body strength. 

Yet, no matter what I read, I find something disturbing:  Iceland is losing glaciers as the planet warms, and the country predicts all of its glaciers will eventually disappear. Young Greta Thunberg, the 16 year old Swedish climate activist is sailing to North America in a small craft with a small crew, in order to call attention to the extravagant waste of carbon fuels, among other issues.  She is heroic but people are trashing her.  WHY ARE PEOPLE SO CRUEL?  She’s a kid with a great heart and great communication skills.  But a kid. 

This is why I decided to find 5 things that make life better.  No matter how anodyne or common, these little markers remind me that not everything is terrible.

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This week’s guest has written a slew of wonderful nonfiction books and was a co-creator  of HBO’s series Vinyl.  Rich Cohen is attracted to tough guys, and The Last Pirate of New York:  A Ghost Ship, A Killer, and the Birth of a Gangster Nation brings great reporting and storytelling talent to a man who was considered the worst monster alive… in 1860.

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So without further ado, my five things:

1. The new or newish thing our phones and computers can do, which is to give their password to another person – almost by magic. The person who has the password is asked if they want to share it, and instantly the other person’s device is online. I think this may be a feature of Apple. Preemptively, the negative among us may say our phones are spying on us. Who cares? This trick is a delight.


2. Because so much of our world is digital and virtual, I’ve returned to doing crafts. By hand. No matter how good or disappointing the outcome, it feels good to make something real and palpable by hand. And of course, what’s better than knitting, or doing embroidery, or needlepoint or painting? Doing it while listening to a book on tape or a podcast or two. That is an hour well spent.


3. Speaking of the real and not the virtual, I would be lost if I didn’t carry a notebook with me everywhere. At the moment it’s a small Clairefontaine notebook, which is easy to stow in any of my purses. And it’s colorful so it’s easy to find. I do mishmash my notes for everything in it – so there are pages I don’t quite understand any more, but it’s nice to write things down; those things do stay in my brain longer.

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4. Lancome’s “Le Stylo Waterproof” eyeliner. I was looking for a new eyeliner that didn’t run or disappear, and a salesman at a Sephora, calling me “Miss Thing” told me it was the best. Full stop. I don’t wear it every day, but when I do, I’m always surprised that at the end of the night when I’m washing my face, the liner is still where I put it in the morning.


5. This video of 2 Canadian women out in the country. Watch it and enjoy it. A simple pleasure. Okay a simple pleasure recorded by 21st century technology, but still…..

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Rich Cohen’s 5 Things: (Click above to listen to the podcast - for more about his five things!)

1. Jumping off the dock in Maine.

2. David Lynch’s narration of his audiobook “The Big Fish”.

3. Bubble Baths.

4.  Right Field bleachers at Wrigley Field.

5. Fonzie.

You can find out more about Rich Cohen at:  and on Twitter @RichCohen2003