Podcasts of the Week for July 21st


Hit Parade :: The Deadbeat Club, Part 2

This examination of the late 80s output of the two great bands of Athens, GA – R.E.M. and B-52s – fills me with painful nostalgia.

Have You Heard? :: The Problem with Fear-Based School Reform

Do schools work better when they’re “run like a business” and teachers and administrators are forced to work in a culture of fear where they’re expected to get results or else?  Or do we recognize the nurturing mission of schools and support reforms lead by educators who know the children best? And how much of so-called “education reform” is rooted in anti-labor sentiment anyway?  These questions and more are discussed on “Have You Heard?”

WBUR News :: Faneuil Hall, School Assignments

Boston’s ongoing history of inequality and racism are addressed in two current stories about Faneuil Hall, a building named for a slaveholder, and the lack of quality education for the city’s most vulnerable communities.

BackStory :: The Melting Pot

Stories of assimilation of immigrants, Native Americans, and hyphenated-Americans throughout our history.

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Podcasts of the Week Ending June 16


Here’s what’s in my ears for this week so now it may be in your ears too!

WBUR News :: Capuano’s Challenge From Pressley Is Called A Fight For ‘The Soul Of The Democratic Party’

Insight into the inertia within the Massachusetts Democratic Party that holds back new ideas and new blood.

BackStory :: The Camera Never Lies?

The history of the early use of photography in journalism and the challenge for it to get accepted by the public.

Twenty Thousand Hertz :: THX Deep Note

The history of THX, the certification process to guarantee a high quality audio experience for moviegoers created by George Lucas. It includes the story of how the famous deep note played before movies was composed.

Upon Further Review :: What if Tom Brady Never Became the Patriot’s Quarterback?

Backup quarterback Tom Brady became a Patriots legend when he took over for injured starter Drew Bledsoe midway through the 2001 season and lead the team to their first Super Bowl victory. This “what if” podcasts takes us to a world where that never happened in the form of a spot-on parody of a Boston sports radio call-in

Planet Money :: Ungerrymandering Florida

The effort to stop partisan gerrymandering and creating fairer representative districts.

Podcasts of the Week for Two Weeks Ending May 19


I’m not doing well at getting these podcast recommendations up every week, but here’s a good crop of podcast for your listening pleasure.

HUB History :: The Battle of Jamaica Plain

There was a gang shootout right here in my own neighborhood over a 100 years ago that had international implications and ended up involving Winston Churchill, and I’d never heard of it?!?

Hidden Brain :: Baby Talk: Decoding the Secret Language of Babies

It’s been a long while since I’ve had a nice chat with a baby.

Planet Money :: The Land of Duty Free

The mass quantities of liquor, cigarettes, chocolate, and perfume sold in airports has always fascinated/perplexed me.  Here’s the story of how the duty free shop got started at Shannon Airport in Ireland.  It also confirms my suspicions that duty free shop purchases aren’t really bargains.

LeVar Burton Reads :: “As Good as New” by Charlie Jane Anders

A live performance of LeVar Burton reading a hillarious/poignant story about a worldwide apocalypse, a genie in a bottle, theater criticism,  and the nature of wishes, complete with an interview with the author

BackStory :: Shock of the New

The history of World’s Fairs fascinates me and this episode commemorates the 125th anniversary of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, with special focus on women’s and African American perspectives on the fair.

Smithsonian Sidedoor :: Cherokee Story Slam

The stories and life of the talented Robert Lewis.

More or Less: Behind the Stats :: Tulipmania mythology

The Dutch tulip bubble always makes a good story about economics and finance, but the truth of the story is not as dramatic as the myths, albeit more interesting in many ways.

 

Podcasts of the Week Ending March 17


HUB History ::  The Curious Case of Phineas Gage

The fascinating story of the most famous brain injury.

Planet Money :: Rigging the Economy

Liberal-tarians agree!  The economy is rigged.

Planet Money ::  XXX-XX-XXX

The history of the Social Security number.

Afropop Worldwide :: Roots and Future: A History of UK Dance

Caribbean music traditions and US dance beats come together in the only place they can: the United Kingdom.  A history of jungle, garage, drum & bass, and grime.  This made very nostalgic for the dance tracks of yore.

Have You Heard? :: Strong: Lessons from the West Virginia Teachers Strike

Reporting from the West Virginia teachers strike, featuring interviews with many, many teachers.

Invisibilia :: The Other Real World

Using a reality talent show to counter Islamist extremism in Somalia.

BackStory :: Wherever Green is Worn: The Irish in America

Archbishop “Dagger” John Hughes, the Molly Maguires, and other Irish Americans of lore.

Re:sound :: Analog

When I was a kid I recorded myself as the DJ of a “tape radio” station called WLTS, so I feel a kinship with Mark Talbot. Also a repeat of the Ways of Seeing story I highlighted last summer.

 

Podcasts of the Week Ending March 10


BackStory :: Too Good to Be True

The American History guys discuss several of the myths of American history, looking for the kernels of truth among the flat-out fabrications.  Particularly interesting is the segment on the widely believed legends of Robert E. Lee that rarely stand up to historical scrutiny.

This American Life :: Five Women

A story that delves into the experiences of sexual misconduct from five women employed by the same man, which includes an exploration of their personal histories and how that affected their interactions.

Hub History :: Astral Weeks: A Secret History of 1968, with Ryan Walsh

An interview with Ryan Walsh, author of a new history book about Boston in 1968 through the lens of Van Morrison’s classic album Astral Weeks, inspired by Morrison’s time in Boston.

Twenty Thousand Hertz :: Hamilton

An exploration of sound design for a Broadway musical through the hit show Hamilton.

WBUR News :: ‘Get Our Voices Out’: Why 3 Students Will Walk Out To Protest Gun Violence

An interview with three Boston-area high school activists planning protests to reduce gun violence.

 

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 (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.

 

Podcasts of the Week Ending July 14


Late, but still worth listening to.  There’s a lot of terrific material this week, although to be fair several of my recommendations are repackaging previously released content, so think of this as a greatest hits package of greatest hits!

Best of the Left – The inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men

Several stories debunk the myths of poverty and ask why economists don’t ask the right questions about poverty.

Have You Heard – ‘I Quit’ – Teachers Are Leaving and They Want to Tell You Why

The stress and inequity of teaching in defunded and underesourced public schools is causing teachers to quit teaching, but some of them are prominently telling the world why they’re leaving in hopes of bringing positive change for future teachers, students, and schools.

StoryCorpsBetween June and September

Stories of Coney Island from people who kept the fun in the sun destination alive during its lowest points in the early 1990s.

Politically Re-Active – Street Heat w/ Congresswoman Barbara Lee & Linda Sarsour

Interviews with two amazing progressive leaders, both women of color, and their work fighting for social, racial, and economic justice.  I seriously had no idea that Linda Sarsour was so very Brooklyn.

BackStorySkin Deep: Whiteness in America

Slavery and segregation not only meant discriminating against black people, but also defining what it means to be white.  Three stories detail how the idea of whiteness played out in different periods of American history.

Re:SoundThe Smash the Binary Show

Three stories of the experiences of transgender persons, as well as an exploration of the “feminine” qualities of straight cis men.  I was particularly touched by the story of “The Accidental Gay Parents.”

 

 

 

#TryPod Day 5: BackStory


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.

BackStory is an American History podcast where a topic (usually “torn from the headlines”) is discussed from the historical perspective with experts in 18th, 19th, and 20th century history sharing how that issue was addressed in their time period.  It’s a good way to be reassured that some intractable problems in our history have been resolved while at the same time realizing the deep roots of the contentious issues of today.
Favorite episodes include:

  • “Pass/Fail: An American History of Testing”
  • “All Hopped Up”
  • “The Pursuit: A History of Happiness”
  • “Another Man’s Treasure”
  • “American Horror Story”
  • “World Apart”

 

 

 

What I’m Listening to Now – February 2017


Better late than never, here is the report of what I was listening to in February, a short month punctuated by a delightful vacation where I mostly listened to the laughter of my children.

Podcasts of the Month

Fresh AirThe History of US Intervention

A discussion of the United States involvement with the rest of the world from isolationism to the world’s police to the more sinister activities of imperialism and corporate hegemony.

Jacobin RadioWe Can Do Better

What is capitalism, what role does it play in our lives, and is it really the best we can do?

To The Best of Our KnowledgeA Borderless World

Borders and immigration are a key issue of our times.  These stories illustrate how the idea of borders is becoming an outdated one.

BackStoryWorld Apart

The divide between urban and rural populations is one of the major causes of political disagreement in the US today, and one that goes back throughout the history of the United States.

This American LifeIt’s Working Out Very Nicely

Stories of the confusion and struggle that arose in the wake of Trump’s executive order banning travel from seven Muslim-majority nations.

Twenty Thousand HertzAudio Descriptions

Movies have a track of audio description intended to help the visually impaired and this podcast describes the art of narration and how audio descriptions can benefit all viewers.

Decode DCHow cops can legally take your car, home, or cash

The chilling law of civil asset forfeiture that allows police to take property from suspects even if they’re not convicted or even charged with crimes.

Have You Heard?You’re Fired

All about why school turnarounds – a theory of fixing low-performing schools by firing the teachers and staff that has widespread, bipartisan support – is an idea that doesn’t work, and what actually does.

Song of the Month

Chicago singer-songwriter Zeshan Bagewadi (aka Zeshan B) provides a powerful interpretation of the 1970 protest anthem “Cryin’ in the Streets” by  George Perkins that ties together generations of protest for justice and equality in the United States.  Learn more about the song The World interview.

 

Albums of the Month

Artist: Tinariwen
Album: Elwan
Release Date: 10 February 2017
Favorite Tracks: “Sastanàqqàm,” Ténéré Tàqqàl,” “Assàwt,” and “Nànnuflày”
Thoughts: The Northern Africa Desert Blues band from Mali’s most recent release includes guest appearances by indie artists like Kurt Vile, but the band itself is the stand out performer of this collection of melodic, resonant, and politically-charged tunes.
Rating: ***1/2


 

Artist: Clap! Clap!
Album: A Thousand Skies
Release Date: 17 February 2017
Favorite Tracks: “Ar-Raqis” and “Elephant Seranade”
Thoughts: Clap! Clap! is a project of Italian producer Cristiano Crisci, who creates instrumental dance tracks relying heavily on indigenous percussion.  An earlier Clap! Clap! recording, Tayi Bebba,  made my 2014 favorite albums list.  While not as strong as its predecessor, A Thousand Skies is equally enjoyable as festive ambient music for a party or for getting through a gray day at work
Rating: ***1/2


Artist: Visible Cloaks
AlbumReassemblage
Release Date: 17 February 2017
Favorite Tracks: “Bloodstream”, “Place,” “Valve (Revisited)”
Thoughts: Somewhere between Phillip Glass, a church organist, and a lullaby lies this lovely collection of ambient tunes.
Rating: ***


Artist: Molly Burch
AlbumPlease Be Mine
Release Date: 17 February 2017
Favorite Tracks: “Fool”
Thoughts: A collection of retro, country-tinged tracks sung sweetly by a barroom singer.  It’s pretty and well-produced, and while there’s nothing wrong with Burch’s album it’s nothing we  haven’t heard before from Patsy Cline and singers produced by Phil Spector among others, so it’s just a tad bit dull.
Rating: **


 

Podcasts of the Week for the Week of October 30


SidedoorTech Yourself 

I added another podcast subscription to my stable for this new production from The Smithsonian Institution. The debut episode explores various aspects of the human relationship with technology. 

Politically Re-ActiveDr. Jill Stein on Investing Your Vote

W. Kamau Bell and Hari Kondabolu interview Green Party Presidential candidate, Jill Stein. 

The Specialist – Blood Girls

Did you know that there’s a job for someone to make fake wounds on volunteers participating in first responder training? Learn all about them in this podcast.

BackStoryAmerican Horror Story

Just in time for Halloween, a cultural
history of horror in
the United States

Podcasts of the Week – Week Ending August 14


BackStory – “Another Man’s Treasure

Several fascinating stories of the history of trash in America.

Have You Heard? –  “The Middle Class Myth: Why College Doesn’t Solve Poverty“>

Another myth of the meritoricracy busted.  Attending college actually creates debt rather than raising people out of poverty, especially if they’re unable to graduate

Sound Opinions – “Ska

I’ve always been a fan of ska music, especially the first and second waves, the third wave less so. Here’s a great historical background of this music, great for parties and political messaging alike.

Re:Sound – “The Whatever Suits You Show

Really liked the story of the business making custom-made suits for women and transmen. Also, a good 99% Invisible episode about police uniforms.

99% InvisibleA Sea Worth It’s Salt

The unlikeley 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.

Podcasts of the Week


I’m going to do something a little bit different this week and list some of my favorite podcast episodes from the past week with a blurb on each.

BackStory – “The Pursuit: A History of Happiness

This is a good episode overall, but the segment on the Okeh Laughing Records and the psychology behind their popularity was particularly engaging.

Decode DC – “Learning to Love The F Word: Federalism

The changing nature of state rights can be used to actually oppose discriminatory laws instead of uphold them.

The Gist – “Reduce, Reuse, and Re-Evaluate

Mike Pesca discusses with Maria Konnikova is recycling is really benefiting the planet. The answer is complicated and shrouded in myth and morality.

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Invisibilia – “Frame of Reference”

I was particularly fascinated with the second segment where children of immigrants internalize their parents’ disregard the daily indignities of children and teenagers in the United States because they pale in comparison to the problems of their home country.

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All right, your turn.  Let me know what you think in the comments.  Do you like this format for Podcast of the Week?  What podcasts did you listen to this week?

Podcast of the Week: “All Hopped Up” by BackStory


I love history because it so often provides perspective on current events that you don’t get from politicians, journalists, and your friends with short memories. The American History Guys at BackStory fill in the history of the use and abuse of recreational drugs, and when and why these drugs became illegal in the episode “All Hopped Up.”

Things I learned include:

  • Mexico’s historic squeamishness about drugs
  • America criminalizing narcotics because of their colonial empire in the Philippines
  • The cultural history of the “mother’s little helper” drug problem for suburban white women in the 1960s and 1970s
  • Sherlock Holmes cocaine use and how the cultural response to it changed over the decades