In this episode, we continue the conversation with Janet Anderson and Stephanie van den Berg, who are the hosts of the Asymmetrical Haircuts Podcast. Their podcast covers all sorts of topics, including justice for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and international law more broadly seeking especially to highlight the voices of female experts and people involved in the field.
In the first episode, we focused on the behind-the-scenes of creating and running their podcast. In this episode, we speak more about what they’ve learned from doing the Asymmetrical podcast and over the course of their careers.
To hear the Asymmetrical Haircuts podcast, go to: https://www.asymmetricalhaircuts.com/category/episodes/
Don’t forget to rate us, recommend us and share on social media!
Asymmetrical Haircuts – Part 2
[00:00:00] Dr Miranda Melcher: Hello and welcome to Just Access. Too many individuals and groups around the world today are denied access to justice. Such access is vital for making human rights effective and securing human dignity, especially for those in situations of vulnerability, including women, children, minorities, migrants, or detainees.
[00:00:20] In this podcast, we speak to academics, international legal experts and human rights advocates about hot topics in international law. We also think about unusual or possible solutions to these issues, aiming to protect and enforce the rights contained in international treaties and raise awareness about these topics.
[00:00:38] My name is Dr. Miranda Melcher and I’m a senior legal fellow at Just Access. In this episode, I continue my conversation with Janet Anderson and Stephanie van den Berg, who are the hosts of the Asymmetrical Haircuts Podcast. Their podcast covers all sorts of topics, including justice for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and international law more broadly seeking especially to highlight the voices of female experts and people involved in the field.
[00:01:06] In the first episode, we focused on the behind the scenes of creating and running their podcast. In this episode, we speak more about what they’ve learned from doing the Asymmetrical podcast and over the course of their careers.
[00:01:19] So I think from listening to what you’re both saying, the answer is probably yes to my next question, but I don’t want to assume that and I’d love to know a bit more. Has or in what ways has the podcast opened new doors?
[00:01:38] Janet Anderson: Well, here we are on your podcast. So, I mean, there’s a door. I’d say, there’s this kind of a figure out there called Janet, Steph, Steph, Janet, that Kareem Kahn, the ICC prosecutor recognizes, I mean, I think he does actually know which one of us is which now, but we’re both, as you’ve seen from the symbol of our podcast, women with particular kinds of haircuts, both wearing glasses, both white, et cetera, et cetera.
[00:02:08] So we’re a little bit interchangeable sometimes for some people. And that hasn’t opened, I would say, doors for me within other news agencies, you know, I’m not pretending to be Steph or anything and like that, but it does mean that we could attend an event like the Assembly of States parties of the ICC and people will come up to us and say, hey, I just heard your voice, or I think I recognize you, are you, et cetera, et cetera.
[00:02:37] So I don’t know whether it’s kind of a door opening, you know, it’s not like a new job or something, but it means that there’s a whole range of people within this world who feel much more comfortable with us because they’ve heard us on the podcast than they would do if we were cold calling entirely.
[00:02:57] It means that you can send a message to somebody and they’ll say yes almost automatically, and we’ve never come across them, we don’t know them, et cetera, et cetera, but they’ve come across us in some form.
[00:03:09] Stephanie van den Berg: Yeah, we’ve become much more a known entity and indeed because we are pretty chatty on the podcast and pretty open about the stuff that we do, and that I have cats and Janet as a dog and makes people think that they know you also. What I get a lot of is hesitancy when I have to call people for quotes. There’s a lot of academics and especially female academics who in the beginning, or before I did this, were really like, I’m not sure that I’m an expert in this, I would want somebody to comment on the entirety of the trial of Dominic Ongwen, the former Lords Resistance Army commander who was at the ICC.
[00:03:48] I would call a woman who I know had monitored the entire trial. And then I would ask her to say something about the trial and she would say, well, you know, I’m only looking at the trial from the position of the victims, or only looking at the trial from the sexual violence angle. So I don’t know if I can say something general about the trial, and I would call one of the other commentators who are the kind of well-known people always on Twitter, giving their opinions men.
[00:04:14] And they would say, oh, I haven’t really followed it, but give me five minutes and call me back and got me, give me like a one line zinger. And so I think this has really made us more approachable and made people also trust us more, that if they do talk to me or Janet, that we’re not gonna sensationalize or screw them over with a quote.
[00:04:32] It’s got people the idea, perhaps even the illusion that we’re super knowledgeable about international law, which it doesn’t feel like that at all. A lot of this podcast to me feels like an excuse for me to ask the stuff that I don’t know. But I do recognize that I have a lot of experience and know how stuff went before that I can refer to.
[00:04:51] But yeah, that has made it easier for me. So that smooths the way kind of, and it establishes us as experts in a way that then also gets sometimes asked for on other podcasts or by other news outlets, which is interesting because it’s a kind of, for me as a journalist, it’s a very weird feeling to be an expert for another journalist because I feel that that’s probably not what I should be.
[00:05:19] Janet Anderson: I can also note how far our podcast doesn’t go. I went to a kind of a high level, kind of diplomatic receptiony type of thing, completely out of this area, nothing to do with international law and was introduced to somebody as a journalist, and they did that really, in my view, ridiculous, but very normal, like taking a step back and just saying, oh, you know, they just felt confronted by the profession and felt uncomfortable and weren’t too sure what they should say from then on, what my role would be. And that is just nowhere near the reception that we get in the world around justice and accountability anymore. We’ll still have people saying, this is confidential, that’s absolutely fine. But, uh, nobody is thinking that we are persona non grata.
[00:06:26] Dr Miranda Melcher: So the podcast has been around since 2019. You’ve done over 80 episodes on, as you said, an expanding list of topics. What from the backend has been the most surprising of, oh, we didn’t expect that episode to be popular, or, hang on, we’ve got all these listeners over in this country that we didn’t expect, or we’ve heard about someone using our podcast, perhaps in an educational setting that we hadn’t thought of.
[00:06:51] What kind of from, you know, you’ve done the thing, you’ve put it out there and the responses start to trickle in. What of those responses has been especially surprising?
[00:07:02] Stephanie van den Berg: I’m amazed that our Nuremberg Women and Russians podcast with two of the kind of brilliant experts on Nuremberg has remained the top of all of the podcasts that have been downloaded. And that was now recorded in 2021, as far as I remember, and it’s still top. And I am wondering whether there are generations of law students who are having it recommended to them.
[00:07:34] I can’t imagine any other reason why. I mean, of course, Nuremberg is a big topic and maybe it’s been kind of web called and categorized in the right way, that it comes kind of high up when you do some kind of a search for it. I can’t imagine that, but I imagine it’s been embedded somewhere in some kind of, not quite textbooks, but it’s been quoted somewhere or being put on lists for things.
[00:08:02] Sorry, I interrupted you, Steph. What did you want to say?
[00:08:06] No, I think for me it’s wild that law professors are recommending our podcast to students to listen. I guess that’s where the little of my imposter feeling syndrome kick in, where it’s like you cannot, you know, subject first law students to two women with, in that sense no legal background.
[00:08:24] What are you doing? And I think the, that moment that really hit home for me was when we were doing the sexual violence episode with Kim Thuy Seelinger. I was really happy to get her. I was really excited. She’s like, really big deal. I really wanted to know all about sexual violence and she’s the special advisor to the ICC prosecutor, so I was like, this is a really important person. And she got on and was like, oh, so wonderful to talk to you. I recommend your podcast to my students. And so they have something to do and it’s so good that you’re doing this because, you know, my lectures get boring.
[00:09:02] And I was like, how does this, you know, she doesn’t need to listen to us. She already knows everything. Probably there is to know about what we’re talking about. And she does listen and she enjoys it and she prescribes it to her students. So it’s been, for me it still feels, I guess strange that the academic community also embraced this quite a lot because you do as a journalist get a lot of kind of scorn from academics who love to point out that it’s not exactly the way you say or that, you know, international media says X or Y but they simplify it so much, you know, that’s the biggest complaint I always get is how much I simplify everything.
[00:09:41] And how media gives the wrong image of things. And of course I’m quite conscious that that’s righteous, is a big part of that and I try to make it as best as I can on my part. But I do recognize my colleagues also regularly fall for that trap of some lawyer in some country saying that they filed a case at the ICC and then they’ll report on it.
[00:10:06] At least now, I think with Ukraine my status has risen enough within the organization that I do get like a text message or an email saying, I think I should ask you if we should write it like this, so I’m making inroads. But it’s a process.
[00:10:23] Dr Miranda Melcher: Fascinating. On that topic, that idea of getting scorn and certainly there’s some obvious pathways, you know, oh, you’ve oversimplified that, or the worry, not the reality, the worry of a quote being sensationalized or taken the wrong way, with all of these episodes on all of these topics, have you ruffled any feathers?
[00:10:42] Has anyone come back at you and been like, you need to take that down or you need to edit that? Any sort of response like that?
[00:10:50] Stephanie van den Berg: Yes, when we did an episode on ICC in Israel and apartheid and we had Israeli scholars on because we thought it was really interesting to have people on that would also combat that idea, and someone on Twitter got really angry that we were not having any Palestinian voices.
[00:11:12] And I think I said in the episode that we also wanted to talk to people on the ground in Palestine, what it was like, and then got more scorn because it got presented as that we’re only wanting to talk to these people as victims. And that, that would suggest that we think that there are no Palestinian legal minds that we could talk to about this case.
[00:11:33] And I do feel that criticism in the sense. On the one hand, I think you can never really please everybody, but as Janet said before, we do try to more than in the beginning have more of an idea that there should be a little more representation of people that actually are involved in the conflict.
[00:11:54] So we do try to look at the kind of, no, not about me, without me, type of setting in as far as we can. So we do try to get people also just legal experts from the countries we’re talking about or from the situations, but that’s a real effort that we have to make because a lot of this is also, you know, we do this in our free time, we don’t get paid for it. I do recognize the privilege. I have a whole news agency behind me when I do Reuters stuff, I have the Reuters name, you know, I get paid for that work, that’s fine.
[00:12:28] But this is really what we wanna do and what we like to do. And I kind of forget that it’s gotten a bigger audience and that we should look at being more representative. Because also in the end, I’m sometimes, we’re just like two middle aged ladies talking about like the things that they really like, which for us is geeking out about international laws.
[00:12:49] Like everybody, you know, keep your pants on, it’s fine. We just wanna do it this way, and it’s my podcast, so I get to do what I want. But I do feel that that representation is important. On the other hand, we sometimes have people who wanna be on the podcast. I won’t give any details, but we had one person on the podcast that I was later like, eh, I’m not sure we should have given them that podium.
[00:13:15] And there was somebody else on the pod who wanted to be on the podcast. And then I was like, well, you know what? It’s my podcast. I am gonna just instill my own no assholes policy. And this person doesn’t fit my criteria, so we’re just not gonna, not gonna have them on.
[00:13:37] Janet Anderson: I think Steph’s covered it. In that sense. I mean, if there’s ever any factual thing that’s wrong, if we can correct it in the podcast, we will. We try not to get factual stuff done, or we’ll put a note onto the website to say, you know, whoops, we said this, we should have said that. But yeah, I mean, you know, we’re human, we’re fallible in that sense and we just, we behave humanly, I think, and just try and make sure that we do the best we can within the constraints that we have.
[00:14:08] Dr Miranda Melcher: Thinking then about the longer period, not just since 2019 with the podcast, but of course as you’ve discussed with us, you are many years covering this on all the different beats and areas from all the different places. Janet, you spoke about things keep getting more exciting, right, the scope keeps expanding, more keeps happening.
[00:14:24] What can you both tell us about general trends that you’ve seen over this time period, scale of proceedings, amount of public engagement, the mechanics of how the cases work, if we had to boil it down to general things that you’ve seen change over time, for better or worse, what are some of the things that immediately spring to mind?
[00:14:44] Janet Anderson: Well, I’d say that you had the International Criminal Tribunals in the 1990s, so it’s all about the first time since Nuremberg. It’s all about how do we actually put this into practice? What are the practicalities here? How do we make this work? And for good and for ill those existed and they’ve provided what they provide for us, you know, the examples long-term processes that we get.
[00:15:12] Also then various other processes go on in different parts of the world who provide another number of examples. So that’s where we get in the kind of the 90s and then the 2000s is constant creation, which culminates essentially with, woo, whoopee, whoopee -the I C C is now going to solve everything. It’s now gonna be the thing, the place, the everything.
[00:15:35] And then fast forward to the 2020, near the mid 2020s where we are now. And you can see that everybody recognizes that’s not it. This is not enough, it’s not good enough, it doesn’t work, because it partly reflects the bigger international inequalities in the world, that the Security Council is both run by the P5, which has a lot of inequalities in its makeup and also that that means that there is blockage by either China or the US or Russia mainly, for various things.
[00:16:16] So now I think that we’re coming into that next phase of like loads of attempts to see gaps being plugged, lots of ways of setting up things like the, we know as the IIIM which is the mechanism to investigate Syria, the one that’s doing Myanmar, the new one that’s just come out in July, for another one on Syria for disappeared.
[00:16:44] We recently, again, in July, had been doing a podcast about the mutual legal assistance treaty, which will enable governments who are not part of the Rome statute, the ICC system to put different people on trial, so it’s like this whole flowering of plug gapping, gap plugging, I don’t know how to put it, but, you know, trying to fill the gaps that are going on at the moment because the ICC is just this highly symbolic, but tiny little thing with limited budget, limited countries it can do, limited power, I mean, everything’s limited about it.
[00:17:23] So, that’s the way I see it. It’s like a change from up to gradual builds down to, oh shit, now what do we do? And now we’ve got some kind of practical ways forward to deal with the very difficult business , which is not an easy circle to square. You can’t do it. It’s a really difficult thing. How to get good investigations into atrocity crimes and how to end up with people in jail for them and how to enable that survivors feel that they’ve achieved something out of it.
[00:18:05] Stephanie van den Berg: I think also what changed from when we first started is that it’s no longer a question of if there should be accountability. We both started when there were these tribunals set up, but it was still a debate. In a lot of conflict there was the debate of if we don’t give immunity to some warring parties, it will be harder to achieve peace.
[00:18:27] Janet Anderson: That still there on Ukraine, it still comes up again, doesn’t it?
[00:18:30] Stephanie van den Berg: It still comes up, but it’s a lot less, I think from day one in Ukraine the question was not so much if there should be accountability, but how there should be accountability and that is a difference. In terms of the kind of things that you see at trials, I think what changed for me and looking at it as well is that defense has gotten so much better and it’s gotten so much more resources, thankfully.
[00:18:56] And I think that is really important. And I think when I just started reporting on it you have this idea that these people are here and they are indicted, so there must be something. And there was not a lot of attention into the particular types of defense that people had.
[00:19:13] And I am much more conscious now about you actually have to prove the charges you do, and there’s certain standards that they have to meet and if you have good defense lawyers, it’s really also fun to see how they work that. And there are, at least the ICC has had several acquittals, where you look at it and think, yes, you know, they make a good point.
[00:19:36] And I think that has gotten more attention and that is interesting, where before that was much more perceived as a failure. I mean, now still, you know, if I have to talk about the ICC for something like Reuters, it’s been what, 22 years and only so many convictions for core crimes.
[00:19:52] On the other hand I think it does say something about maturing of international law, that that has gotten more attention. And I think you also see a very widening kind of field that people want justice for. And so I feel that the ICC gets very much incorporated. It is in the minds of people as some institution that could give them justice.
[00:20:14] So there’s, you know, people who didn’t wanna be vaccinated for Covid wanted it to go to the ICC. And the half of the things where you think really this is not what it’s for, but it’s interesting to see that it’s grasped, you know, it’s something- an ideal in the minds of people, or it’s an entity in the minds of people in a way that it wasn’t even 15 years ago, for kind of weird anti-vaxxers to latch onto the ICC. That means they have a concept of what it could be, which I don’t think was there before.
[00:20:47] So in the kind of international consciousness of what you could do, international courts have started to play a bigger role, much to our amusement because the ICC and the ICJ get confused or people wanna take any human rights case to any court. I spend a lot of time now at birthday parties explaining what I do and what the court is not for much more than I have to start from the beginning saying what I do exactly.
[00:21:15] Dr Miranda Melcher: I’d love to ask you to move from talking about the past and how we got to here to thinking a little bit about the present and the future. Are there plans for the future of the podcast? Is it continuing as it is? Are there ideas for changing it up?
[00:21:29] Janet Anderson: Main, sort of underlying, idea at the moment is that we would like to enable those who work with us on the podcast. We often have interns who’ve been working on their masters in journalism, but, we want to enable them to be able to earn some money outta this as well. So we’ve started Patreon and a Tip jar on the podcast and we’re getting some regular little bit of money in there and which is really nice.
[00:22:02] We have, I think this started during the pandemic and it’s continued since then, that people have asked us how to create their podcasts, or ask for our technical advice. And it can be on a number of levels, whether it’s just an initial bit of advice, well this is how you do it, this is the equipment you need or actually, you know, fully producing a podcast for them.
[00:22:26] And those are kind of essentially consultancies, that enable also the rest of the people who work on the podcast to earn some money out of it. I’m doing one of those separately at the moment. Steph was involved to start with. Doesn’t need to carry on being involved because I’m working with a member of the team.
[00:22:43] So I think that’s something that I would love to do is to enable a wider range of people to get access to all of these interesting podcasts in this field. I would love to have that kind of a platform where if this is what you are into, whether it’s to do with women speaking, generally, or a degree of diversity or whether it’s to do with atrocity crimes or whether it’s to do with justice, that there will be a space where you could find a broad range of podcasts. So that would be my ideal. What’s your vision, Steph?
[00:23:24] Stephanie van den Berg: I mean, it’s a bit different for me because I have the kind of fixed job that sucks up a lot of attention, so I ensured that I could keep doing the podcast and I wanna keep doing it the way we’re doing it. But indeed, we’re very bad at monetizing the podcast ’cause we’re journalists and we’re not, I don’t know, marketing people or we’re just quite bad at selling ourselves.
[00:23:44] And we also understand that a lot of the funding that would come to us, for things like ICC you could also be giving that to, I don’t know, sensitizing affected populations in situation countries for those courts. And maybe the money is better off there than with two middle-aged women sitting in an attic in the Hague or in Vilnius as the case may be.
[00:24:06] But we do get a lot of interns who do a lot of work and that take a lot of work out of our hands. And you can only get a certain type of intern because we can’t really pay them, which I understand that that’s bad for internships, so I would really like to try and professionalize it a little more.
[00:24:26] Not so much that we get more out of it because honestly we don’t really need it, but to really be able to pay the people who help us and the interns an amount so that we could also get interns who wouldn’t otherwise be able to do this. So we get a little more diverse interns as well because the Hague’s not a cheap city to live in, if you wanna do it properly and you wanna see stuff as well and would be good if we could pay them more.
[00:24:52] So, yeah, I think that’s my vision for it apart also from trying to get them more, or not about us, without us, but I don’t think the basic premise of Janet and me thinking, oh, this is interesting let’s, we found a nice person to talk to this about. I think we’ll keep doing that.
[00:25:10] Janet Anderson: Absolutely, because that’s what it is. That’s the podcast.
[00:25:13] Dr Miranda Melcher: Well, speaking of the basics of what the podcast is, the title of it, asymmetrical Haircuts, does that mean you have to keep the hair like that? I mean, what would happen if one of you wanted change your hairstyle?
[00:25:24] Janet Anderson: No, I’m absolute on this. I mean, this is what I say to every hairdresser. Yeah. It’s the name of my podcast. This is it. I’m sorry. It cannot be changed. I think that Steph’s slightly more flexible.
[00:25:38] Stephanie van den Berg: I am slightly more flexible, but I also feel slightly guilty because Janet had all kinds of good ideas and sensible ideas to name the podcast and have it like be “Women on Justice” or something like that. But I had, I don’t remember what, I took some kind of course or I thought like, we should have a quirky name because people will remember that.
[00:26:02] And there was a, well, we talked about that. Janet and I have like an ongoing app conversation and there was a big joke that we did at that point. Both have the asymmetrical haircut and we noticed that a lot of the kind of similar type of women, like legal activists or like, go-getter lawyer types tend to have the same kind of, had the same kind of slightly punky, asymmetrical hairstyle.
[00:26:27] So we started joking that this is the hairstyle of international justice. And then Janet ended up in some strange justice conference, which somehow was presented by Sharon Stone, who had the same haircut as Janet.
[00:26:42] Janet Anderson: She and I joked about it, about having the same haircuts and Sharon Stone, my generation might know who she is, but young people have, you know, practically never heard of her. So, you know, a very old, but very famous at the time, Hollywood actress, known as a sex symbol, so very weird to be personally compared to a sex symbol ’cause that’s definitely not me. And yeah, she and I both had the same kind of short hair stuff.
[00:27:05] Stephanie van den Berg: And we joked about it and we thought let’s use this name. I am less adhering to the asymmetrical haircut now. I had an undercut for a while, but I’m also growing that out. And I’ve dyed it red now, so one of our frequent guests on the podcast, Molly, was joking that we’re now gonna have to force Janet to dye her hair red and then do redheads on justice. But as you see, we have not done that yet.
[00:27:30] Dr Miranda Melcher: Fair enough. Um, I’d love to ask you both the final three questions that you always ask on your podcast. So flipping the script a little bit. And the first one is, what should I have asked you that I didn’t?
[00:27:45] Stephanie van den Berg: Oh, this is really a hard question and everybody always tells me that on my podcast, and I really, oh, now I realize how I put people on the spot. Yeah. I’m a big talker, so I think the one thing I wanna say, and that is very important to me in the sphere of international justice, but also in the podcast, is that, and I see that now again, again with the ubiquitous Ukraine, this idea that international justice can solve things for people and that somehow it is a comfort for victims and maybe it is, but honestly when I look at something like Ukraine, I just see devastation and I know that the victims who are there, maybe some will get some small measure of an idea of justice when the person who committed exactly those crimes that they’re affected by is put on trial by some international court.
[00:28:41] But in all, I don’t think anybody who goes into war gets out of it any better. And I don’t think international justice can really solve a lot of the issues that people have, and you see people really dedicating years and years into getting justice. And then I think when they finally get it, you have to wonder, as some of the people who studied the Yugoslav tribunal very famously say, if you have a murder trial, also this idea that then if you do that, there’s some kind of clean slate that people then can build upon and reconcile with the people who did this to them.
[00:29:14] If you have the trial, if your child is murdered and you have a trial about the murder, you’re not expected to reconcile with the murderer afterwards. Why do you expect people in conflict to do that after an international trial? That’s not how it works. And I think that is also really important.
[00:29:30] I believe that there is a very much a use and that international justice is important and I mean, I have a whole podcast about it, I write about it all the time, I see the value of it. I just don’t think that we should make it bigger than it is. And I think we should really realize that there is an immense amount of grief that comes with conflict that no tribunal is ever gonna change anything about.
[00:29:54] And we should also be conscious of that and leave people who don’t want anything to do with justice or who deal with their grief in another way, in their respect, the way that they do that. Because that is also a choice.
[00:30:08] Dr Miranda Melcher: Fair enough. This might have been covered in fact by that answer, but I’m gonna ask anyway. What do people most often misunderstand about your job? And define your job however you like.
[00:30:21] Stephanie van den Berg: I think also as a journalist, what most people misunderstand is what Janet was also talking about earlier, is that I’m gonna write down everything that you say or that I’m somehow very interested in getting secret information out of somebody, especially people who have nothing to do with what I do ’cause it’s usually, you know, if I tell the hairdresser I’m a journalist, they go, woo, now I have to, you know, keep my mouth shut. This is not the kind of thing that I’m gonna be writing stories about. And, yeah, this whole idea about all, I mean, that’s much more conspiracy theory, but the whole idea that the mainstream media is kind of conspiring to bring out a certain idea or to work together with governments. If I could get that kind of a access and cooperation from the government, I would get a much swifter reply on all the times that I’ve asked for comment, and I don’t. So, you know, this is not, this is not what is happening, people.
[00:31:18] Janet Anderson: I think sometimes people listen to the podcast and it can sound quite effortless and they might not realize exactly how much work goes in to get there. I mean, it’s a very deliberate choice to try and sound as normal as possible, to try and be yourself as much as possible and that takes considerable effort in front of a big microphone. To write in a way that’s as you speak, to do the research, to choose the people, to set up all the logistics of it and then the physical business of editing isn’t exceptionally onerous, but it takes time.
[00:31:55] It takes a lot less time now than it used to when I started, which was with a razor blade and a sticky tape, so you can do it digitally now, but it still takes time to do all that, and I think people underestimate that.
[00:32:10] Dr Miranda Melcher: My final question, I think you’re gonna have some interesting things to say given how often you’ve talked about, we read all the things and we share them with each other. What are you each reading, watching, listening to, et cetera these days? Whether or not it has anything to do with international justice, that you would suggest people maybe look into?
[00:32:28] Janet Anderson: Well, we have a book club on Patreon, which means that at least once a month we have to read something to be able to discuss it. And the book for July has been the autobiography of what one of the international courts of justice’s judges, American judge, but originally born in Germany, I think, and went through the Holocaust, including Auschwitz as a child called Lucky Child by Thomas Burghental. And it’s actually a very “light” book in the sense that it doesn’t take a huge amount of time to read, but it’s, the themes are extraordinary and heavy. But what’s most interesting to me is the way that he links it to the life choices that he made later about being an actual human rights activist. And that kind of person ended up as a judge at the International Court of Justice, which is just an extraordinary, extraordinary journey.
[00:33:34] On the lighter side, I do tend to reread and rewatch sort of comfort material and I have various penchants including thrillers of different kinds and kind of romantic novels set in the second World War. And I can just kind of withdraw myself out from this world and just get lost in a completely sweet and silly other kind of work, something like Rosamund Pilcher, just, you know, grand romantic novel. So I enjoy the fact that I can have that contrast.
[00:34:19] Stephanie van den Berg: I’m in the same book club, so I read the same book, but I have a lot of the same recommendations as Janet on that are a lot of the same feelings about that. Now, because I’ve worked so much on the Syria special report I did for Reuters that I had to kind of learn an entirely new war, where I have this thing that while conflict is ongoing, I tend to not pay a huge amount of attention to the things on the ground and the kind of different atrocities that get the hype, because I, in a way, know that I’ll have to write about them eventually and I’ll get to see everything and have to hear everything at that point.
[00:34:57] And so with Syria, I’ve been holding it off a little, but now I had to really, this story was about the Shabiha militias pro Assad, so I had to learn about the beginning of the war and the protest and things. So I was reading a lot of that. And then to counterbalance it, I read a lot of fantasy novels. So, honestly, I was reading Sarah Moss’ books, yeah, very fantasy trilogies that have nothing to do with my actual things that I work on.
[00:35:25] I did start listening to new podcast, which is “five to four”, which is an American podcast about cases in the Supreme Court. I very much enjoy the Snarky lawyers on there because I think the tagline for their podcast is this is a podcast about why the Supreme Court sucks that we have, and they basically go through all the cases, and I enjoy that. And the lawyer in that case has another podcast I hugely enjoy and that my 13 year old son now also enjoys, which is called if Books Could Kill.
[00:35:58] Where they go through those airport bestsellers and they basically tear them down and explain why they’re all wrong. And so they went through Freakonomics, they do things like the secret or the thing that I was listening to that my 13 year old got really into was a total debunk and shredding of the rules.
[00:36:18] This kind of nineties dating book for women, which basically was treat him mean, keep him keen kind of situation and it was just hilarious and it was very fun to listen to with a 13 year old boy who was also like, honestly, did they really think that that would work? And it’s like, yes.
[00:36:36] So we also got to talk about how you approach people and possibly having romantic interests, which is something that 13 year old boys famously do not wanna talk to their mothers about. So, that was interesting and it was interesting that he liked it also because the hosts were being very snarky about it, but also very knowledgeable.
[00:36:55] They also have a lot of details. They really whip out the research. Found this and the research, found that, which I enjoy as well.
[00:37:02] Dr Miranda Melcher: I can see why you ask your guests that question. What a fabulous range of answers.
[00:37:08] Thank you so much Janet and Stephanie for speaking with us. Stay tuned for future Just Access interviews and do get in touch with us. If you have any suggestions for people or topics we should cover.