Way back in 2014, I wrote a blog post about this history podcast I’d recently discovered called The Memory Palace. In that blog post I described the show as “is all the reminder one needs that history can be not just fun, not just accessible, but freakin’ lyrical.”
In the time since I wrote that post, a good bit has changed at The Memory Palace. The show is now hosted by a different podcasting network, RadioTopia. Radiotopia in turn is run by PRX, the Public Radio Exchange, which—per the highest of authorities, Wikipedia—is the largest on-demand catalog of public radio programs available for broadcast and Internet use. So, that’s pretty exciting.
The show is also now released every other week. So, that’s pretty exciting.
The show also now has a Research Assistant. So that’s pretty exciting.
That Research Assistant is me.
So, that’s pretty exciting.
I am of the opinion that things happen for a reason, which is why I couldn’t stop thinking about a recent episode of The Memory Palace, which ended with a call for applications. The show’s host, Nate DiMeo, was looking for somebody to help him out. Shockingly, putting together narrative history podcasts based on archival work is kind of a lot of work, and he’d been doing it all by himself for all these years (which explains why, in the early days, the show didn’t come out very often). Now that he has an actual production schedule, he needed somebody to help him speed the process up a bit.
The announcement he made on the podcast specifically asked for a Ph.D. student studying history in the LA-area.
I am that thing.
I half-heartedly tweeted at Nate, and then promptly went back to the mountain of work under which I was buried at the time. I’m writing a dissertation, teaching two courses of my own in the next six months, and already do a pretty significant amount of extracurricular work—service to the department and the profession, public writing, and intensive pedagogical training. Adding another thing—even a really cool thing—to that list seemed, well, bat-shit insane.
But I couldn’t get the damned job out of my head. I finally did the thing I always do when I need to be talked out of a bad decision: I called my mother.
She told me I’d be an idiot if I didn’t go after the job. It was… unexpected.
After that, the process went fairly quickly. I sent in my C.V., and wrote up my various and sundry journalism credentials. I also fangirled out just the tiniest bit… and who could blame me? Not only had I listened to every episode of the podcast (going so far as to post about how much I enjoyed it on my blog), I’d gone to the most recent LA live show. I get the impression that even Nate was a little surprised by how freakishly well I fit the job description he’d put out. Short story shorter, I got the job, and now my name appears in the credits of a podcast I love.
I’d be lying if I said taking on a part-time job is easy, even when—like this one—you can make your own hours. It’s also not a choice for which a graduate student is likely to be commended. My advisor is quite possibly the best human on the planet, and she shares a great many of my political commitments. When I told her, her response was, “I’m of the opinion that’s it’s none of my business what you do with your personal life. If you’re happy, I’m happy for you. Just finish your dissertation.” And here’s the thing: I literally can’t imagine a nicer reaction coming from a graduate advisor, which is, to my mind, utterly hilarious. Ph.D. Comics, take note!
It’s not easy taking on part-time work in the home stretch of my graduate career, but I’m loving every minute of it. So, from here on out, in addition to posting about my academic work, and the trials and travails of graduate school, I’m also going to be posting episodes of The Memory Palace. My first episode, “Episode 85 (AKA Leo)” came out last week. Give it a listen if you want to learn about the incredibly bizarre, and dubiously fortunate life of Jackie, the second MGM Lion. And let me know if you have any questions about the work I’m doing! I’ll definitely post about MP again, so I’ll tailor my writing to your interests insofar as I possibly can.
“The Six Million Dollar Scholar” is the personal blog of Andrea Milne, a Ph.D. candidate in modern U.S. History at the University of California, Irvine. To get the story behind the blog’s name, click here.