Podcasts of the week ending September 15


The Memory Palace :: Lost Locusts

The sound design of this podcast really sells the panic and hopelessness of plagues of locusts in the 19th century plains, and a good explanation of why they ended.

99% Invisible :: The House That Came in the Mail

The history of kit homes sold by Sears, Roebuck from catalogs. Additionally, the story of how adaptive reuse is transforming the distinctive architecture of former Sears plants in cities throughout America.

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Podcasts of the Week Ending September 8


StarTalk :: The Stars that Guide Us

Discussion of the traditions of celestial navigation used by Polynesian voyagers to traverse wide expanses of the Pacific Ocean.

To The Best of Our Knowledge :: What’s Wrong With Work?

Work is bunk.  Find out why employment is meaningless and “work ethic” is just there to control us, along with some more human alternatives.

Hidden Brain :: Bullshit Jobs

Another podcast goes in depth on how meaningless work is wearing us down.  I sense a theme.

Twenty Thousand Hertz :: Jingles

Catchy tunes have been used to sell things since the early days of radio.  This episode also offers a good deep dive into the phenomena of earworms and how to defeat them.

Hub History :: War, Plague, and the World Series

I’ve long been fascinated by the great number of significant events that happened in Boston around 1918-1919.  This episode is an interview with Skip Desjardins who wrote a book about what in just September 1918.

99% Invisible :: The First Straw

Drinking straws have been in the news lately as they’re being banned for being a pollutant.  This episode explores the origin of straws, their beneficial purposes, and possible alternatives to straws.

99% Invisible :: Double Standards

Yes, a double dose of 99 P.I. this week! This episode discusses blepharoplasty, a controversial cosmetic surgery which makes the eyes of people of Asian descent look more “Western.”

Decoder Ring :: The Paper Doll Club

Paper dolls are a toy that has fallen out of popularity with children, but there are sizable communities of adults who collect and design paper dolls, and a surprising connection with queer identity.

Risk! :: Man at Hawaii

Risk! host Kevin Allison tells the story of how his Catholic high school missionary trip lead him to become a storyteller.

Podcasts of the Week Ending July 7


Fresh Air :: The Pediatrician Who Exposed the Flint Water Crisis

Interview with Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha who exposed the Flint water crisis.  She also discusses growing up as a child of Iraqi refugees.

99% Invisible :: Right to Roam

I’ve always been amazed by how Britain protects the rights of walker/hikers to cross land that’s privately owned.  Whereas in the US, one is liable to be shot for doing so.

Ben Franklin’s World :: Brian Regal, The Secret History of the New Jersey Devil

If you’ve ever heard the legend of the New Jersey Devil, you imagine it as a cryptozooligical creature inhabiting the Pine Barrens.   Turns out that the story originates instead with a 17th-century colonist named Daniel Leeds who published an almanac that ran afoul of the Quaker authorities!

Disney History Institute :: Winsor McCay and the Origins of American Animation

Early animation originated as part of a vaudeville act featuring a trained dinosaur.

99% Invisible :: Beyond Biohazard

A video podcasts explores the effort to let future generations know that something is dangerous without using language or symbols that won’t be understood.

Hit Parade :: The Deadbeat Club Edition

The first part of the story of how two very different New Wave acts emerged from Athens, GA in the 1980s.

Podcasts of the Week Ending June 9


RadioLab :: Poison Control

Ever wonder why there’s a number to call with questions about poisoning, who answers those calls, and what the experience is like on their end?  Here’s that story.

99% Invisible :: 77 Steps

99pi breaks down the history and design of the Emeco 10-06 Navy chair and its many impostors.

Decoder Ring :: The Johnlock Conspiracy

Investigating the role of shipping in the consumption of popular culture through the story of the controversy among fans regarding a possible romantic relationship between the lead characters on BBC’s Sherlock.

HUB History :: Wicked Proud

LGBTQ history in Boston and the local origins of pride.

More Or Less: Behind the Stats :: How Many Wizards & Witches are Britain and Ireland?

Statistical analysis determines the number of witches & wizards in Britain & Ireland based on the Harry Potter books.  Spoiler: J.K Rowling greatly lowballs the actual number!

Twenty Thousand Hertz :: Amen Break

A history of the most famous drum solo and it’s many sampled appearances across music.

Sound Opinions :: Give the Drummer Some

Speaking of drummers, here’s an entire episode of appreciation of great rock and roll drummers with some great analysis from Joe Wong.

Disney History Institute :: An Unusual History of Disney Audio-animatronics

How a 1934 World’s Fair exhibit inspired Walt Disney and what Gene Kelly thought of seeing his audio-animatronic double.

Podcasts of the Week Ending May 26


99% Invisible :: Curb Cuts

An important history of the disability rights movement and how curb cuts ended up benefiting society in a broader sense than originally intended.

WGBH News :: On ‘Melnea Cass Day,’ Remembering The Boston Civil Rights Activist And Her Legacy In Roxbury

A day for a great Bostonian.

Smithsonian Sidedoor :: Don’t Call Me Extinct

The story of rehabilitating the scimitar-horned oryx population.

Upon Further Review :: How Actor Jesse Eisenberg Doomed the Phoenix Suns

A funny story of how a young fan’s guilt over a letter to his favorite basketball player.

Podcasts of the Week Ending March 27


Radiolab :: Border Trilogy, Part 1

Stories of the Mexican-American border featuring a high school in El Paso where the students resist their harassment at the hand of the border patrol.

Risk! :: Babies

Mariah McCarthy’s story about her pregnancy, labor, and turning over her child for adoption is beautiful and weep inducing.

99 Percent Invisible :: Airships Future Never

I love airships and the future of airships that never was.

Levar Burton Podcast :: “A Fable with Slips of White Paper Spilling from the Pockets”

A humorous and touching story about a man who buys a coat at a thrift store in which slips of papers appear that have the prayers of people in the vicinity.

 

 

 

 

Podcasts of the Week Ending February 3


BackStory :: The Forgotten Flu

A deadly killer caused the deaths of half a million Americans – more than any single war – but is forgotten to history.  The stories of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic.

Planet Money :: The Shortest Super Bowl

A story about the Super Bowl ticket-selling markets that operate very much like financial markets, and how that market collapsed in 2015.

Song Exploder :: Bleachers “I Miss Those Days”

I liked hearing the creation story of this song that reminds of how I sometimes feel nostalgic for the times in my life when I was horribly depressed.

99% Invisible :: Managed Retreat

Saving the Cape Hatteras lighthouse from the forces of erosion.

Podcasts of the Week Ending December 9th


99% Invisible :: The Nut Behind the Wheel

A history of how the auto industry and road engineers avoided including safety measures in their designs in their cars and highways leading to countless deaths, and how they blamed everything on the driver.  Yes this should make you think of firearms manufacturers.

Fresh Air :: The Golden Age of Comics

An interview with Cullen Murphy who took over writing “Prince Valiant” from his father in the 1980s.  Murphy remembers how special the full-color Sunday comics section was for children, and the community of comic artists in Fairfield County, CT.  Not mentioned in the interview, Murphy and I went to the same high school, albeit he attended well before I did.

Hidden Brain :: What Can A Personality Test Tell Us About Who We Are?

Hidden Brain examines personality tests such as the Myers-Briggs.  Scientific or a glorified form of astrology?  Worse still, how employers are misusing these tests in personnel decisions.

Fresh Air :: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner

Daniel Ellsberg discusses “The Pentagon Papers” and top secret plans for nuclear war that he discovered as a national security analyst in the 1960s but was not able to reveal to the public at the time.  A chilling look into the United States’ militaristic past and present.

Hub History :: Boston and Halifax, a lasting bond

One hundred years ago, a collision in Halifax Harbor caused a munitions ship to explode, devastating the city and causing thousands of deaths and injuries.  Boston responded by sending a train with medical personnel and supplies to help the survivors.  To this day, Nova Scotia continues to thank Boston by providing a Christmas tree every year.

60 Second Science :: Yeti Claims Don’t Bear Up

Science disappoints us again by showing that evidence of the Yeti is genetically just a bear.  Well, not “just,” because bears are important to, and these studies tell us more about them.

The Bernie Sanders Show :: Our Budget Priorities with Elizabeth Warren

Two of our few remaining sensible Senators discuss important things that make sense.

Decode DC :: The Changing Race of Immigration in America

A history of immigration to America focusing on who was allowed to “become American” and who was excluded, and the government’s role in all of this.

Podcasts of the Week Ending November 25


Re:sound :: The Meet the Composer Show

Is there a difference between a producer and a composer in modern music?  This question and more are explored in this enlightening episode.

60-Second Science :: Salmon Sex Changes Entire Landscape

Come for the intriguing headline, stay for the fascinating geographical science!

Hidden Brain :: An American Secret: The Untold Story Of Native American Enslavement

A history of Native Americans being held as slaves even when that practice was technically illegal.

99% Invisible :: Money Makers

Filmmakers hoping to depict large amounts of U.S. currency on screen run into a problem that if their prop money looks too realistic they could be found guilty of counterfeiting, leading to many improvisations, including using old Mexican pesos.

 

Podcasts of the Week Ending November 11


Mortified :: Kids Who Teach

Stories of kids becoming teachers, including a stunning musical defense of feminism.

Have You Heard? :: What We Talk About When We Talk About the Corporate Education Agenda

An explanation of why major corporations have become big players in education policy and what it means for the rest of us.

Planet Money :: Your Cell Phone’s A Snitch

What personal information is gathered by your cell phones, how it’s being used by law enforcement and others, and what rights do we have under the Constitution to privacy.

99% Invisible :: Dollhouses of St. Louis

The sad story of  St. Louis’ historic black neighborhood, The Ville, where old houses are being robbed of their bricks for resale to salvage operations.

Podcasts of the Week Ending November 4


This is a big week for Podcast of the Week, because for the first time I’m able to recommend for your listening pleasure a podcast featuring me!

Five Questions With Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso :: Five Questions With Liam Sullivan

Yep, that’s me.  You’re probably wondering how I got myself into this situation.  You’ll have to subscribe to Betsy’s podcast to find out.  Better yet, you can listen to five questions with my wife.

Song Exploder :: “Stranger Things (Main Title Theme)”

Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein breakdown the creation of the theme song I can’t keep from dancing to.

Hit Parade :: Le Petty Prince Edition

Prince and Tom Petty both died to young in the past couple of years after emerging as superstar artists in the 1980s, and they even performed together in a epic Rock and Roll Hall of Fame rendition of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”  Otherwise, they wouldn’t seem to have much in common, but Chris Molanphy breaks down how their careers paralleled one another.

99% Invisible :: Oyster-tecture

Oysters helped create the City of New York and oysters may help protect the city from climate change.

Podcasts of the Week Ending October 28th


To the Best of Our Knowledge :: You Had To Be There

Stories of places that are gone that are difficult at best to experience vicariously – from movie palaces to a video game based on Walden.

Fresh Air :: The Life and Death of Eric Garner

The details of Eric Garner’s life and final moments when murdered by the police on Staten Island are filled in by Matt Taibbi, author of the new book I Can’t Breathe.

99% Invisible :: La Sagrada Familia

The ongoing story of Barcelona’s most famous landmark, the masterpiece of architect Antoni Gaudí, and the efforts of subsequent generations of builders to follow his vision.

The Truth :: The Decider

A mesmerizing audio play about how a woman’s life is changed by a device that makes decisions for her.

Podcasts of the Week Ending October 7th


What I’m listening to and what you should be listening to.

Have You Heard? :: Divided by Design: Race, Neighborhoods, Wealth and Schools

A history of racial segregation in neighborhoods and schools that is still feeding inequality to this very day.

To the Best of Our Knowledge :: What is School For?

I was worried that this would be peppered with corporate reform ideology and myths, but actually has some interesting stories on teacher burnout, multicultural studies, and the importance of the humanities.

The Truth :: Brain Chemistry

A funny/poignant audio drama about the life of a brain in a jar in the future, starring Scott Adsit of 30 Rock.

Hit Parade :: The Great War Against the Single Edition

It’s a good thing that Hit Parade is published infrequently, because I think I’m going to post every episode here.  This is the story of how record companies from the 1960s to the 2000s tried to make people by the more expensive full albums in order to get a copy of a popular song.  Deeply fascinating, with lots of Casey Kassem cameos.

99% Invisible :: The Athletic Brassiere

The hidden story of the sports bra (nee, the “Jock Bra”) and how it helped transform women in sports.

Snap Judgment Presents: Spooked :: A Friend in the Forest 

The Snap Judgment spinoff podcasts tells creepy stories for the month of October, and this contemporary ghost story from Ireland is particularly eerie.

Podcasts of the Week: August 26-September 8


This (two) weeks in podcasts.

All Songs Considered: All Songs +1: The Weird World Of ‘Feature’ Credits

Ever wondered what has lead to the great increase in songs with a “feat.” artist in the title over the past couple of decades? Or why the featured artists appears in the song title rather than the performer? Or what the difference between “feat.” and “with” or even “x” and “vs” all means?  Apparently, it’s all about metadata.

HUB History: Perambulating the Bounds

Local law requires Boston City Councilors or their designees to walk the boundaries of the city every five years, a practice that was often a boozy ceremony in the past, but has been ignored since the 1980s.  If the city is looking for citizens to take up perambulating the bounds again, I put my foot forward.

99% Invisible: The Age of the Algorithm

How algorithms, purportedly designed to replace subjective judgments with objective measurements, have been used as a cover for discrimination and  marketed for purposes they’re not designed for.

Have You HeardEducation Can’t Fix Poverty. So Why Keep Insisting that It Can?

The history of the most misguided myth about education, that it will resolve poverty with no other interventions required, and how it has set up schools to fail.

Finally, there are two podcasts that actually replayed episodes made by another podcast this week:

Code Switch: An Advertising Revolution: “Black People Are Not Dark-Skinned White People”  originally from Planet Money

An interesting story of the first African-American advertisement executive who showed how supposed free market capitalists were losing out on money due to white supremacy.

99% Invisible: Notes on an Imagined Plaque originally from The Memory Place

Nate Dimeo’s thoughts on what should be placed on a plaque on a Memphis statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest to mark the reasons why the statue exists.

Podcasts of the Week (s) (July 22-August 11)


I’m way behind on posting anything to this blog.  Here are some podcasts from the past few weeks that are worth your while:

BackStory – Are We There Yet?: Americans On Vacation

An interesting history of how Americans made use of their leisure time in the past.  Oh and try not to get fumed about the idea that people who worked with their brains needed vacations while manual laborers did not, an idea still well ingrained in labor policy today.

Ben Franklin’s World – Rosemarie Zagarri, Mercy Otis Warren and the American Revolution

Mercy Otis Warren – writer and revolutionary activist – is a remarkable women of her time and someone you should know more about.

Decode DC – Should Historians Be Pundits?

Doing a better job of comparing our present political situation with the past, and finding what in the past brought about the political climate of the present.

LeVar Burton Reads“The Second Bakery Attack” by Haruki Murakami

I’m really enjoying this new podcast series, which is basically Reading Rainbow for grownups.  In addition to LeVar Burton’s great reading voice, the production values are really strong.  This was the story that introduced me to Murakami over 20 years ago, and coincidentally I first heard it read aloud on a radio program.

99% InvisibleWays of Hearing

This podcast introduces a new series exploring the changes in sound between analaog and digital audio.  As an added bonus, there’s an appearance by Red Sox announce Joe Castiglione.

Politically Re-Active – Is this what democracy looks like? Jake Tapper & Jessica Byrd give their take

I enjoyed learning about Jessica Byrd who helps underrepresented communities engage in the political process.

The Story Collider Epidemics: Stories of Medical Crises

The first story by Ken Haller is a particularly powerful reminiscence of his personal experience of the first signs of the AIDS epidemic.

Twenty Thousand Hertz – Sound Firsts

Some of the oldest surviving recordings provide a jaw-dropping window into the past.  Check out FirstSounds.Org for more.

 

What I’m Listening to Now – April 2017


Song of the Month

“Cherry Blossom” by ALA.NI

Podcasts of the Month

Best of the Left Progressives Fight on Multiple Fronts

I hear too much infighting about the best way to conduct the resistance, so it’s good to hear this podcast the multiple fronts on which progressives are fighting for our country and our future.

Sound OpinionsMavis Staples

An insightful interview with the musical legend.

The Memory PalaceTemple

I’ve always enjoyed visiting the Temple of Dendur at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Turns out that the temple is not as old as I thought nor has it been in the Met for as long as I’d imagined either.  The stories of why it was built and how it ended up in New York are equally fascinating.

Ben Frankin’s World Paul Revere’s Ride Through History

Four scholars explore the history of Paul Revere and why we remember him today.

99% InvisibleSounds Natural

Viewers of nature documentaries expect that everything in the film comes directly from nature, but having microphones in the right place to capture sounds is so difficult and dangerous that most animal sounds are produced by foley artists.

StarTalk Radio – Baseball: Physics at the Plate

A baseball player, physicists, and comedians join together to discuss baseball at SXSW.  Good things happen

Planet MoneyGeorgetown, Lousiana

The story of a Louisiana town where many of the residents are descendants of 272 slaves sold to fund Georgetown University.

Albums of the Month

Artist: Charly Bliss
Album: Guppy
Release Date: April 21, 2017
Favorite Tracks: “Glitter,” “Black Hole,” and “Ruby”

Thoughts: The Brooklyn power pop quartet bring back a mid-90s sound reminiscent of  Letters to Cleo and Velocity Girl.  Eva Hendricks sings a bit nasally over fuzzed-out guitars and drums with lyrics that aren’t anywhere as sweet as they’re sung.  It’s a great throwback but having lived through it all the first time around, I’d prefer something new.
Rating: ***


Artist: Future Islands
Album: The Far Field
Release Date: April 7, 2017
Favorite Tracks: “Beauty of the Road,” “Cave,” and “Shadows”

Thoughts: I was not familiar with the Baltimore-based synthpop outfit, but the reviews of the album were good so I thought I’d give it a shot.  The sound is very 80s, reminiscent of Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark, but Samuel Herring’s vocals overlaying the synths are more growly than romantic.  Once again, I’m feeling that I’ve heard this all before. The highlight is the duet with Debbie Harry on “Shadows.”
Rating: **1/2


Artist: Alexandra Savior
Album: Belladonna of Sadness
Release Date: April 7, 2017
Thoughts: This debut from the Portland, OR singer-songwriter features moody crooning over 60’s style jazz-pop.  It’s a little bit reminiscent of Fiona Apple, not to mention umpteen singers from the swinging sixties.  There’s too much polish on this album and the raw talent Savior has is unable to shine through.
Rating: **


Artist: The New Pornographers
Album: Whiteout Conditions
Release Date: April 7, 2017
Favorite Tracks: “High Ticket Attractions”

Thoughts: I’m a long-time fan of The New Pornographers and I’m disappointed by their latest release.  There’s nothing new about it as the reliance on synthesizers seems to just water down their traditional sound rather then expand into new territories.  The emotion and variety of previous albums.  Perhaps the absence of Dan Bejar contributes to the lack of balance and feeling of incompleteness.
Rating: **


ArtistGorillaz
Album: Humans
Release Date: April 28, 2017
Favorite Tracks: “Ascension” (feat. Vince Staples),”Momentz” (feat. De La Soul), “Let Me Out” (feat. Mavis Staples and Pusha T), and “We Got the Power” (feat. Jenny Beth)

Thoughts: The band of animated characters is joined by an army of guest artists on this hip-hop, indie pop, electronic dance party album.  It’s all over the place and delightfully strange but there’s a little something for everyone.
Rating: ***1/2

That’s April!  If there’s something I should listen to in May, let me know in the comments.

#TryPod Day 2: 99% Invisible


All this month, I’ve heard about the campaign to spread the news of podcasts called TryPod.  As I am a voracious listener of podcasts (you can see the complete list of my current subscriptions and other recommendations on my podcast page), I figured I ought to participate while I can.  So I will post about one of my favorite podcasts every day for the last 9 days of March.

99% Invisible is one of my absolute favorite podcasts.  It’s a podcast about design, which is kind of vague and misleading, because this podcast encompass a wide variety of topics.  Each episode, host Roman Mars leads the listener through the unoticed architecture and design that shape our world.

Some of my favorite episodes:

  • Frozen assets” – The story of Frederic Tudor, the Ice King.
  • Project Cybersyn” – Fascinating story of a futuristic room designed to be the place where the economy of Chile would be controlled under the Salvador Allende government.  It would be destroyed by the Pinochet dictatorship with only one photograph surviving.
  • On Average” – It’s a cliché to say that no one is average, but the science bears it out.  Not only that but it’s actually dangerous to assume that an average can define a human characteristic.  And who knew that the military was behind the sizing of everything?
  • Photo Credit” –  This episode is about the photographer Lucia Moholy who documented the architecture and designs of the Bauhaus movement basically keeping the style alive when World War II and the Eastern Bloc prevented access to the original works, but she received little credit for her art and contributions.
  • A Sea Worth It’s Salt” – The unlikely story of California’s largest body of water, created by accident in the early 1900s, turned into a tourist resort in the 50s and 60s, and today scorned for it’s unaturalness even within the environmental movement, despite being home to scores of unique species of birds.
  • Structural Integrity” – The story of how a New York City skyscraper almost fell over.
  • “The Shift” – dissecting baseball’s defensive strategy.

Podcasts of the Week for the Week Ending October 24


An eerie story of a woman’s experience waking up in a hospital with a head injury and no memory of how she got there. It’s well-told with details revealed in the order she learned them.
Neil Degrasse Tyson interviews the ever charming and poetic French performance artists about his high-wire walks.
An exploration into the first type of residential architecture designed with the idea of immediately selling it to someone else and thus creating a style that no one likes.
Mike Pesca interviews the Green Party candidate for President.  While Pesca is critical of Stein, nevertheless it’s good to hear her get a chance to speak and bring up some issues not being addressed by the major party candidates.
Despite being a hot button issue, voter fraud is exceedingly rare in the United States today and especially difficult to carry out on a large scale to effect national elections.
An interview with Eric Liu who wants to bring back civic pride and celebration to elections.
A short history of how the District of Columbia has been denied Congressional representation and how non-voting Representative  Eleanor Holmes Norton is trying to change that.

Podcasts of the Week for the Week Ending October 9


A Far Cry performs at the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum with pieces featuring a performance on the toy piano and an arrangement of “Amazing Grace” for clarinet.
Political narratives champion the “good” immigrant but still punish many people who make positive contributions to the country.
Fascinating story of a futuristic room designed to be the place where the economy of Chile would be controlled under the Salvador Allende government.  It would be destroyed by the Pinochet dicatorship with only one photograph surviving.
Fascinating interview with a hip-hop activist, community organizer, and former Green Party VP candidate touching on a lot of important issues the major parties are ignoring in this election.