National / International News

My money story: Writer Sarah Mirk

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-07-18 10:57

Sarah Mirk is the Editor of Bitch Media and Host of the podcast, Popaganda.

The biggest thing I own is my mattress. Some people have trucks or boats or houses or heirloom chests of drawers or ambitiously large desks or impressive, ill-conceived contemporary art pieces, but the most impressive thing I own just this big, squishy rectangle.

It might not seem like much, but getting this mattress was a major life step for me.  When I first moved to Portland, Oregon six years ago, I was determined to furnish my room through only things I could get for free. This sounds like a bohemian ideal, but factoring into my ethics was the fact I was dang near broke.  It was 2008 and I had just graduated from college. I was working an unpaid internship as a reporter at a newspaper and the headlines were full of lines about bankers fleeing their offices as the economy went into freefall. Personally, the anxiety about not really having a paying job was compounded by the slightly more pressing concern of not really having a bed. So when a roommate offered me his old futon frame and pad from the basement, claiming it was like “sleeping on a cloud,” I gladly took him up on the offer.  That futon turned out to be a cloud made of stabby wooden railroad slats. But it was my accursed futon now, and I was grateful.

I used to talk about this lack of major possessions as a romantic thing: I wouldn’t want to own anything that I couldn’t throw in the back of a van at any moment, because—who knows?—maybe in a month I’d decide to travel through Latin America and change the world. Honestly, though, the truth is that even when I got a job, soon after Obama was inaugurated, I was scared to buy anything remotely nice—like a car or a sofa that didn’t smell like cats.  I know I’m supposed to view large, expensive items as investments. I feel like I’m supposed to go into debt for things because they’ll wind up helping me in the long run. But I came of age in a time when the absurdity of the whole credit system became tragically clear—the people running the economy reminded me of Gene Wilder’s version of Willy Wonka, mysterious men running around, gleefully pulling levels that unleashed sweet rewards on some and chaos on others.

When I was a kid, I remember debt looming over my parents like a silent, gloomy cloud. The day they finally paid off their credit cards, they cut them up in front of me and we ordered pizza to celebrate—they paid with cash. Years later, I spent a week helping teach down sodden houses in Mobile, Alabama, after Hurricane Katrina tore through and flooded whole neighborhoods. I spent days shoveling peoples’ possessions into giant piles in the gutter—sofas, entire moldy bookshelves, water-logged TVs.  Then when I moved to Portland, I often reported from the county courthouse, where every morning there was an auction of foreclosed homes on the front steps of the building.

All signs seemed to point to the conclusion that big possessions—requiring a mortgage and a car payment and a cable bill—would become an anchor, dragging me underwater. I realized, slowly, that I’m not a bohemian free spirit…

I’m a frugal cynic.

Back on that horrible slab of a futon, I toughed out the nights for two years, until my very sweet new boyfriend finally cracked. He told me in no uncertain terms that I either needed an actual mattress or he was never sleeping at my house again.

“But!” I protested, “I can’t just buy a mattress.” Since I’d been getting regular paychecks, I had enough money to buy something better than the filthy heap that haunted my floor. But I was nervous to committing to owning a real, adult thing that I might someday see ruined.   

But he had a point. So I dutifully took the bus to IKEA and walked up the trail to the bedroom section to the gauntlet of modernist bed frames, eyeballing pricetags. Around me, cheerful couples were buying mattresses, joyfully betting on a stable future full of new furniture and reliable middle-class jobs. That’s the IKEA spirit. I felt so out of place that I turned heel and left in defeat.

After another night, gathering my resolve while lying on the wooden planks, I gave it another shot, heading to a family-run mattress store near my house. It was empty when I walked in.  Without the oppressively upbeat surroundings, I actually liked looking at the beds. I flopped on one after another. They were so comfy. It dawned on me that a bed was not a dangerous luxury item that would trap me. This was a bed. Come bull market or bailout, you need a bed. It’s okay to buy simple things that I’ll appreciate for years and years, even if I don’t know what those years will look like.  

I paid $300 for a springy queen size mattress. And I felt good.

 I’ve had that mattress for four years now. At the end of each chaotic day, it’s nice to come home to stable and cozy place.

And besides, worst case scenario, it can always double as a life raft. 

Drug Sentencing Guidelines Reduced For Current Prisoners

NPR News - Fri, 2014-07-18 10:51

More than 46,000 inmates can petition for early release starting next year, unless Congress acts soon.

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'Human rights' school bid backed

BBC - Fri, 2014-07-18 10:48
Campaigners are backing a couple who say their human rights were infringed when they were fined for taking their child out of school during term time.

Ballance embarrassed by nightclub snap

BBC - Fri, 2014-07-18 10:43
Gary Ballance says a second successive Lord's ton atoned for the embarrassment of being photographed with his top off.

VIDEO: Garcia's stunning long-range eagle

BBC - Fri, 2014-07-18 10:27
Sergio Garcia holes out with a stunning approach shot on hole two of his second round at the Open Championship at Hoylake.

Dublin woman dies in plane crash

BBC - Fri, 2014-07-18 10:12
An Irish woman is among the victims who died on Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, the Irish government says.

Finding race seat difficult - Wolff

BBC - Fri, 2014-07-18 10:05
Susie Wolff admits it will be difficult for her to achieve her ambition of racing in Formula 1 with the Williams team.

Pope demands justice for Amia attack

BBC - Fri, 2014-07-18 09:36
Pope Francis demands justice for the victims of a bomb attack against the Amia Jewish centre in Buenos Aires 20 years ago, which killed 85 people.

VIDEO: The man who found life in total darkness

BBC - Fri, 2014-07-18 09:27
Dr Robert Ballard, explains why his expedition to the Galapagos rift in 1977, where he discovered life forms exist in total darkness, defined his career.

India strike after Ballance century

BBC - Fri, 2014-07-18 09:26
England's Gary Ballance hits his second Test century of the summer at Lord's, but two late wickets give India the edge.

Thor becomes a lady, and other changes at Marvel

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-07-18 09:25

Marvel announced earlier this week some changes to two of their most prominent characters. A woman will pick up Thor’s hammer and Sam Wilson — a black hero currently known as Falcon — will pick up Captain America's shield.

The current Thor will soon become unworthy of Mjolnir. Only a select few can wield the legendary hammer, and whoever picks it up becomes the new Thor. That change and the new Cap both came naturally from their series' respective writers, says Wil Moss, an editor at Marvel. Moss works with Thor writer Jason Aaron.

"It just kind of sprung from where he was taking the character," Moss said. "Thor has a tradition of other people holding the hammer and being Thor for a while."

Marvel has taken other steps to make its pages more diverse in recent years. When Spider-Man died in the company's separate"Ultimate" line, he was replaced with a black Hispanic teenager. The publisher also introduced an all-female "X-Men" comic last year and relaunched the series "Ms. Marvel" in February with a Muslim, Pakistani-American heroine. These shifts have drawn acclaim, but changes to Thor and Captain America might be the most sweeping and visible yet.

Moss says besides the creative reasons for shaking up these characters, these changes make sense as a way to build a new audience for Marvel.  

"It’s just a way to broaden our audience, to make characters that more people would be interested, to reach different groups of people."

This new Thor might look different, but Moss says she'll quickly jump into the same adventures as her predecessor.

"Right off the bat she's going to be fighting Frost Giants," Moss says. "She's getting right into the thick of things."

VIDEO: Nigeria's boom leaving many behind

BBC - Fri, 2014-07-18 09:21
Nigeria is booming, but a vast gap still exists between the growing middle-class and other Nigerians.

'Many dead' in Nigeria town raid

BBC - Fri, 2014-07-18 09:14
Many people are feared dead after suspected Boko Haram Islamist gunmen attack the town of Damboa in north-eastern Nigeria.

10 things we didn't know last week

BBC - Fri, 2014-07-18 09:12
Babies practise their first word silently for months before saying it, and more nuggets from the week's news.

What To Watch In Israel's Ground Invasion Of Gaza

NPR News - Fri, 2014-07-18 09:11

Israel has unleashed repeated military offensives in the Gaza Strip but has never permanently suppressed Palestinian rocket fire. We look at what is, and isn't, different this time.

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BBC staff strike action called off

BBC - Fri, 2014-07-18 09:04
Strike action by BBC staff planned to disrupt coverage of the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony is suspended after talks.

Row over 'pro-EU' immigration report

BBC - Fri, 2014-07-18 09:00
A report on immigration has caused a row within government because Conservative ministers believed it was too pro-European, Newsnight learns.

VIDEO: Zambia's dynamic Chinese romance

BBC - Fri, 2014-07-18 08:51
China and Zambia have strong trade and business links, but the romance has not been without controversy.

Polar bear boy death 'not neglect'

BBC - Fri, 2014-07-18 08:42
Failures by an expedition company did not cause the death of a British teenager mauled by a polar bear in Norway, a coroner says.

Syrians in prison 'despite amnesty'

BBC - Fri, 2014-07-18 08:34
Many activists in Syria remain in detention despite an amnesty declared last month, a group of 12 human rights and civil society groups says.
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