Podcasts of the Week Ending November 9


Twenty Thousand Hertz  :: Baby Shark

The long history of the ubiquitous children’s song that became an unexpected hit this year.

Lost at the Smithsonian :: Archie Bunker’s Chair

Norman Lear’s groundbreaking show All in the Family depicted the real divisions within American family.  The famed overstuffed armchair remains on display at the Smithsonian as recognition of the show’s place in history. By the way, I’ve never before noticed how much Donald Trump’s vocal intonations resemble Archie Bunker’s.

Throughline :: No Friends But the Mountains

A history of the Kurds, a people without a nation.

Wedway Radio :: The Evolution of Disney Lands

Breaking down how Disney parks have created lands that evolved from a loose collection of attractions around a theme to fully immersive experiences.


Running tally of 2019 Podcast of the Week appearances:

Podcasts of the Week Ending March 2


Afropop Worldwide :: globalFEST 2019 at the Copacabana

Every year I hear the great music from globalFEST and think I’ll need to go to New York for the festival next year, but it hasn’t happened yet.

Memory Palace/Radio Diaries :: When Nazis Took Manhattan

The story of the year Hank Greenberg hit 58 homeruns, the strongman The Mighty Atom performed to captivated audiences, and 20,000 Nazis rallied at Madison Square Garden.

99% Invisible :: Beneath the Ballpark

Chavez Ravine was a tight-knit Mexican-American community, one of the few places in Los Angeles where Hispanic people could own homes.  It was destroyed in the name of progress, but instead became home to Dodger Stadium.  The scars still remain.

Throughline :: The Forgotten War

A short history of the division of the Korean peninsula, the continuing war between the two Koreas, and the role of the United States in all of this.

Decoder Ring :: Baby Shark

Everything you need to know, and then some, about this year’s viral sensation, “Baby Shark” (doo, doo, doo, doo, doo).

Radio Boston :: W.E.B. Du Bois Turned Data Into Art, And Used It To Humanize The Black Experience

Data visualization seems to be a current trend, but W.E.B. Du Bois used it to illustrate the African-American experience in the United States at a showcase at the Paris World Fair in 1900.

The Truth :: The Other Fran

Going to a school reunion can feel like “reminiscing with strangers,” and this fictional drama takes that to the next level.


Running tally of Podcast of the Week appearances:

Baby Shark: An Appreciation


This week, the Billboard Top 40 chart included an unusual debut song, with “Baby Shark” ranking at 32 on the list for January 12.  If you’re not familiar with “Baby Shark,” it is a children’s song sung at camps and preschools about a family of sharks accompanied by appropriately shark-y hand gestures.  I first heard this song in the early 1990s on a college beach trip, and since the people singing the song remembered it from their childhood, it goes back to at least the 1970s.  Stranger still, the version of the song on the chart is not by a famed popstar, but is from a video made by the South Korean education company Pinkfong in 2015.  The popularity of the song has been aided by the viral meme of the  where people film themselves performing the song’s choreography.

I’m tickled by the “Baby Shark” song’s chart success, because we expect the Top 40 to be filled with finely crafted pop recordings from internationally famed musicians.  “Baby Shark” instead is a song performed everyday by hundreds of thousands of ordinary people, especially children.  It turns everything we know about chart success on its head.

More personally, when my son was a baby, my wife & I sang a version of this song we called “The Magic Shark Song,” because sometimes it was the ONLY thing that would soothe him when he was fussy.  Our version had a slightly different tune and lyrics.  Most significantly, instead of the famed/notorious “doo doo doo doo doo doo” chorus, we sang:

“Baby shark, baby shark, ba, ba. Ba, ba, ba, ba, ba,
Mommy shark, mommy shark, ma, ma. Ma, ma, ma, ma, ma…”

And so on, with the repeated sound being the first syllable of each member of the shark family.  As time went by, I varied the song to sing it in the style of Ethel Merman and Carol Channing (RIP).  Trust me, singing “shark teeth are a girl’s best friend” was a hit with the infant!

So, I lift a fin to “Baby Shark” this week.  Long may it chomp!