Episode 4: Sounds of the subway

Lawsuits, spare change and a No. 1 hit featuring a New York subway singer: Join us as we go inside the world of street performers in two major American cities, and ask what role public art should have in modern urban planning.

Hosted by Eric Brandner and Davin Coburn, The Underscore is a podcast exploring and explaining the quirky side of American culture. On this week’s episode, we look at the life of a busker in the era of Spotify, the lawsuit one Washington, D.C., performer brought against the transit system to be able to play in the Metro, and the New York City program overseen by the MTA to bring music to the masses there.

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Our favorite busking videos

Finnish_bluegrass_buskers_Rautakoura,_Helsinki

In Episode 4, we introduced you to performers Alex Young, and Damon C. Scott.

There are, of course, thousands of other buskers the world over—and perusing their music makes for a wonderful YouTube rabbit hole to fall down. But to save you a little time, here are three of our favorite street performances.

In June 2013, Henri Herbert, the keyboard player for the Jim Jones Revue, sat down at a public piano on the concourse of St. Pancras International railway station in London. Then this happened.

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Episode 3: Marrying off your friends

An open-door philosophy, a SEO battle and a guerrilla wedding at a New York City landmark: Welcome to the crazy world of online ordination, where you can start a church, then make money by enabling people to officiate their friends’ weddings. And at a time in American life when the role of religion is becoming more malleable and individualized by the day, it’s (almost) all legal.

Hosted by Eric Brandner and Davin Coburn, The Underscore is a podcast exploring and explaining the quirky side of American culture.

On this week’s podcast, we look at where these online ministries originated, how Google search results became a major battle ground in modern-day religion, and the way one Brooklyn-based entrepreneur has carved out a unique spot in his friends’ lives—by performing their weddings.

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Want to officiate a wedding? Start here.

marriage

Thanks to the power vested in us by the Internet, almost anyone can become a minister these days. If you’re thinking about it, it’s likely because you want to perform a marriage.

We’re not about to tell you which Internet-hosted religion to pledge your allegiance to (and there are some interesting — and sometimes ridiculous — choices out there), but to help get you started, we can recommend the following course of action.

  • Step 1: Get a little background. Want to get a better understanding of the cavernous world of online churches? Start with Aaron Sankin’s story for The Kernel on the history of the Universal Life Church. It’s fascinating and weird (in the best way possible).
  • Step 2: Is this legal everywhere? The answer is “almost everywhere,” which also means you can’t skip this step. The best way to find out the local laws is to call the appropriate government office in the jurisdiction where marriage will be performed and ask. A few marriages have been challenged in courts (and declared invalid) over ministers who were ordained online. For a quick, unofficial check, try this map at themonastery.org. But nothing replaces going straight to the government source.

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Episode 2: An invisible girlfriend

Could it be true that in this fast-paced technological era, the best way to forge a real connection is by creating a fake girlfriend? We’re not entirely sure — but it turns out, there’s an app for that.

Hosted by Eric Brandner and Davin Coburn, the Underscore is a podcast exploring and explaining the quirky side of American culture. On this episode, we go behind the curtain of the Invisible Girlfriend phenomenon, speaking to the people who actually power a text-based imaginary-partner service — and looking at what keeps its users coming back.

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Episode 1: Ruckus and how slang spreads

How does slang spread? And can the average person set out to make a term go viral? Oh, and we have a word in mind …

Hosted by Eric Brandner and Davin Coburn, the Underscore is a podcast exploring and explaining what makes American culture interesting. On this episode, we talk to a quartet of word experts and dig through the history of how exactly language moves from the street to Twitter and a lot of unexpected places in between (including the dictionary).

And if you could all start punctuating your happy tweets with #ruckus, that’d be really great. (Listen and we’ll explain.)

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