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  These stories illustrate how the idea of borders is becoming an outdated one.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