2020年11月20日 星期五

The Daily: Transporting You Far Away

How we use non-English tape to take you to new places. Plus, our recommendations for your upcoming holiday weekend.

Hey, hey everybody. Happy Friday! We hope you’re getting some time off next week, wherever you are. Because the newsletter will be off next week, we wanted to make sure we loaded this week’s edition with our ideas of things to do (and cook!) over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Before we get into that, here’s a quick recap of what we covered this week on The Daily:

If you’re looking for a break from the news, be sure to check out this week’s episode of Modern Love.

Also, as we near the end of 2020, we are hoping to create a tribute to our year in sound — and we’d love for you to be a part of it. We want to know: What did 2020 sound like for you? Whether it was the sound of kids on your Zoom calls, the way masks muffled voices or the quiet of streets that were once loud, we want to hear what the world around you sounded like. Please fill out this form and we may reach out to you.


Tape in translation

Taliban members gathered under a tree in March in Alingar District of Laghman Province, Afghanistan.Jim Huylebroek for The New York Times

This week on The Daily, you may have heard some words in French, German and Pashto spliced into our shows.

In our episodes on Tuesday and Wednesday, we used non-English tape to help us tell stories about the coronavirus in the European Union as well as the Taliban in Afghanistan. Michael Barbaro has explained how The Daily approaches using tape: to offer color from a scene, as a storytelling sidekick or to “transport listeners to a time or place.”


And to accomplish the latter, we think it’s often essential to let non-English tape live on its own. “I think there’s something really important and powerful in hearing someone in their own language, even if you don’t understand it,” our producer Clare Toeniskoetter said. Daniel Guillemette, another producer, added, “I always want to leave as much as possible in the clear so you can feel the person through their voice, the emotion that’s present, the texture of it.”

If we need to explain what is said in the tape, we usually rely on our reporters, who spend much of their time perfecting the translation of emotionally rich material. “Reporting on the E.U. is a polyglot’s adventure,” Matina Stevis-Gridneff, our Brussels correspondent and guest on Tuesday’s show, said. While Matina speaks multiple European languages, she often partners with professional translators (or a bilingual taxi driver) to navigate her reporting in the Union’s 24 official languages.

Still, creating an episode with tape gathered in far-flung places requires close collaboration between reporters and producers — attentive listening for the sounds that need no translation. Stella Tan, a producer for our episode on the Taliban, describes this balance below:

By Stella Tan

If I could choose a superpower, it would be to speak every language. I felt that desire acutely while working on Wednesday’s episode, in which we hear tape of our reporter Mujib Mashal in a rare meeting with Taliban fighters in eastern Afghanistan.

This is how it worked: Mujib sent us a couple hours of recordings from his journey, most of it in Pashto. Usually we listen through raw tape to pick out the most revealing parts of a conversation. In this case, without the safety net of English, I was listening for something else.

A rustle, a sigh, a seat belt unbuckling. Someone turning on a radio — or wait, was that just a cell phone ringtone? Every sound felt like a sign, and I tried to read them. When I heard the thick whoosh of traveling inside a car get crunchy, I imagined Mujib driving from a smooth road onto a gravelly one. When I heard footsteps and labored breathing, I pictured him walking with the fighters uphill. And when I heard voices grow loud and animated, I hit rewind, straining to decipher whether this was anger or merely excitement.

I was dying to know what was happening. I marked all the moments in the tape that stood out to me and brought them to Mujib to translate, along with other parts of the day he deemed significant. Our producers Luke Vander Ploeg, Rachelle Bonja and I built our story around the most striking quotes, and we asked Mujib to narrate through them so we could weave the original tape in between his lines.

As an audio producer, working with a language you don’t understand can be an exercise in low-level panic. Even with Mujib’s meticulous translations and timecodes, there were pitfalls while syncing up the languages for the episode. “At 27:55, he is talking about a girls’ school,” Mujib texted me upon listening to a draft of a scene about Taliban fighter casualties. “So it feels a bit unrelated.” Why does this seem to take three seconds to say in Pashto and two minutes to say in English? I found myself shaking my fist at the unrealized ideals of Esperanto.

But what stayed with me, more than the dissonance between languages, were the moments of recognition I experienced in that initial listening session, all the more soothing, perhaps, amid the dark cave of inscrutable sounds. The sound of a stretch when you get out of the car after a long ride. The sound of politeness — one person insistently offering, the other person insistently demurring. The laughs that made me laugh even when I had no idea what was being said. You can hear this texture in the second half of the episode. And I’m guessing that you, like me, will find those sounds unmistakable.

Talk to Stella on Twitter @stellatan.


Passing the time at home

Amid the uncertainties of 2020, the folk duo Gillian Welch and David Rawlings have been writing songs about “the slow, challenging, beautiful heat of living.”Kristine Potter for The New York Times

The Daily newsletter will be off next week for Thanksgiving break, so we asked our team to share what they’re looking forward to doing over the holiday. (Basically everyone will be binging “The Queen’s Gambit” and the new season of “The Crown.”) We hope the ideas below will be a boon for a week that will probably look different than it did in years prior.

Here’s what Mike Benoist, an editor behind The Sunday Read, has been watching and listening to: “I ripped through “Truth Seekers” on Amazon. It was so purely escapist and well made. And in a world where everything seems so pressing and heavy, it didn’t take itself too seriously.” Mike said he’s also been on a “Gillian Welch and David Rawlings bender” since our Sunday Read about the duo, written by Hanif Abdurraqib, aired. “Her voice is a balm. And her songs … well, Hanif writes about them much more eloquently than I ever could.”

Kelly Prime, a producer, plans to spend Thanksgiving with a scary story and mango pies: “I’ve been reading ‘Leave the World Behind,’ by Rumaan Alam. It’s about a family from Brooklyn that arrives for vacation at an Airbnb in the countryside, and suddenly a mysterious couple shows up in the night claiming that something is very wrong in New York City — and quite possibly, the world. It’s weirdly soothing to feel so much tension about an imaginary disaster as it distracts from our actual real life one. I also plan on baking as many mango pies as I can. Below is documentation of me baking a mango pie on my living room floor, because my sweet little Brooklyn kitchen doesn’t have enough space.”

Stephen Acerra
“The pie on the right is a ginger mango cream tart (rich and a little spicy), and the two on the left are very sweet mango pies. I prefer the rich one!” Kelly said.
Kelly Prime

What else are we cooking?

  • Sofia Milan, our special projects manager, is going to make arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas), a popular dish in Puerto Rico: “My family likes to cook this over mashed potatoes,” she said.
  • Sindhu Gnanasambandan, a producer, is sticking to recipes that call for five ingredients or less. “I can never call up the ambition for those 27-ingredient recipes,” she said. She suggests this three-ingredient Dorie Greenspan cookie (and replacing the egg with a chia egg) and this five-ingredient molten chocolate cake by Mark Bittman.
  • If you’re “looking for veg stuff that feels like meat stuff,” Alix Spiegel, a senior editor, recommends this one-skillet, creamed greens potpie. And if you’re craving “the meat stuff,” Brad Fisher, a senior technical manager, recommends this instant-pot friendly beef stew: “I made it a few weeks ago and it was incredible. I’ll be making it again as the temperature drops!”
  • For dessert, Wendy Dorr, an executive producer, will be baking this apple cranberry slab pie, which is large enough “to last the whole weekend.” And Robert Jimison, a producer, is whipping up brownies with this recipe, sans the nuts: Between covering a couple of campaign events in the Georgia runoff elections, “I will be spending my break doing at least one jog — to work off these brownies,” he said.
These brownies claim to be “as dark and dense as a chocolate truffle.”Robert Jimison

That’s it for The Daily newsletter. See you next week.

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