Okay, it’s been several weeks since the last Podcast of the Week, and I’ve decided this will be the last installment of this feature. In the future I may do a monthly roundup or an irregular schedule of posts.
To start of this final post, here are three new podcasts feeds I’m subscribing to:
- Maeve in America – Irish comedian Maeve Higgins interviews a different immigrant to America in each episode
- Hub History – a new podcast on one of my favorite topics, Boston history, which has already covered topics ranging from Cotton Mather’s smallpox innoculation and the Great Molasses Flood
- Stranglers – a 12-part documentary focusing a particularly notorious time in Boston history, the strangler murders of 1962-64
And here are some good episodes from the past motnth or so:
- Planet Money – Bad Form, Wells Fargo – Career destroying practices for employees involved in the Wells Fargo scandal
- 99 Percent Invisible – The Shift – the history of baseball’s revolutionary defensive strategy
- Politically Re-Active – W. Kamau Bell and Hari Kondabolu with guest Roxane Gay on Anger After the Election
- Sounds in My Head – Special Post-Election Episode with a playlist of very sad songs
Sidedoor – Tech 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-Active – Dr. 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.
BackStory – American Horror Story
Just in time for Halloween, a cultural
history of horror in
the United States
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.
Too tired to write up descriptions but here are the best podcasts I listened to last week.
I neglected to submit a POTW post last week, so here are two weeks worth of podcasts worth listening to!
99% Invisible – On Average
I’m once again recommending 99PI, because while it’s a cliche to say that no one is average, 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?
I always thought the frantic cross-country travel by Presidential candidates to appear in as many states as possible was a waste of time in the era of mass media, and science bears it out.
The story of the ethics of triage revisits Hurricane Katrina and the difficult choices faced in a hospital of who to save and who to let die. It’s the most heart-wrenching podcast I’ve ever listened to.
This podcast dramatizes an incident I’d not been aware of, a nationally televised Draft Lottery on December 1, 1969. Still not clear on how this was different from conscription that occured before that date.
The science, the ethics, and the culinary arts of disgust. Also, a great piece about bat conservation.
All about defining Americans by our work ethic, or lack thereof. The concept that colonial Americans defined liberty by being able to have other people do their work is a fascinating one.
Fresh Air – “Creamed, Canned and Frozen”
The interview with Jane Ziegelman and Andy Coe, authors of A Square Meal, discusses culinary history of the Great Depression when food choices were informed by the science of nutrition and new food production technologies, but not by taste or cooking traditions. A fascinating topic.
Science Talk – “Grand Canyon Rapids Ride for Evolution Education”
Robin Lloyd and Steve Mirsky discuss their boat trip on the Colorado rapids through the Grand Canyon, and now I want to pack up and go to Arizona right now!
99% Invisible – “Photo Credit”
So, 99% Invisible is basically a POTW recommendation every week. 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.
Code Switch – “Struggling School, Or Sanctuary?”
School closings disproportionately affect black children. This podcast documents the final year at a middle and high school in Wilkinsburg, PA.
Since I have some very basic instruction in being a mobility guide for a visually-impaired friend, I was interested in this story about a person who helps visually-impaired people to live independently by learning to use a cane.
There’s a fungus among us and it supports the Wood Wide Web. Some startling discoveries of the interconnectedness of species believed to be non-sapient in a forest.
Another new podcast, this one focused on urbanism. Appropriately the first episode discusses the legacy of Jane Jacobs.
Completely fascinated by the story of Rwanda where gender equality in the public sphere has been forced into being by a political strongmen as a result of the loss of men in the 1990s genocide. Also the sad truth that women’s subservience to men is still the expectation in the private sphere.
A snapshot of the lives of refugees in Greece – from the frightening to the frustrating to the completely boring.
Some historical perspective on one of the United States’ most contentious political debates.
A short list for the last week of July:
Planet Money – “When Women Stopped Coding”
An illuminating but sad history of when computer science moved from being woman-dominated to a “men’s only club.”
Politically Re-Active – “Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman Gives Us the Election Unfiltered”
A podcast I just started listening to that is hosted by W. Kamau Bell and Hari Kondabolu features an interview with the noted alternative media host who manages to keep a straight face amidst their goofiness.
The Gist – “Celebrating the Nerd Mentatality”
This podcast is worth listening primarily for Mike Pesca ordering a salad as if he were delivering a convention speech, but the stuff on nerds is good too.
Whenever Cleveland is mentioned, one hears about the Cuyahoga River catching fire, but until listening to this podcast I was unaware that there were multiple fires over decades and the considerable damage that they caused.
The much-maligned shark gets a fair shake. And I still love Jaws even if it’s wrong.
Insight into what may make a person commit horrible atrocities, and what we can do to counter that.
Not a typical Planet Money episode as it focuses on people tortured and forced to confess by the Chicago police, and the thorny issue of deciding on how much to pay in reparations.
Interviews with people affected by violence, both people harmed by police and officers harmed by suspects. Particularly interesting is the black man who served as a police officer and participated in protests to reform the police, sometimes on both sides on the same day.
Here are the podcasts I recommend listening to from the past week.
Code Switch – “No Words”
This extra podcast reflects on the horrible week of atrocity and death in Baton Rouge, St. Paul, and Dallas.
ProPublica – “How New Jersey Has Embraced ‘State-Sanctioned Loan Sharking’ to Students”
The title really says it all, but it’s really shocking to hear how one state’s student loan program is so exploitative.
Life of the Law – “Bail or Bust”
“There really are two systems of justice. There’s one for people who can make bail, and one for people who can’t.” So begins another story of how the incarceral state is rigged against the least privileged in America.
Ben Franklin’s World – “Age of American Revolutions”
Revolutions broke out across North and South America in the late 1700s and early 1800s. These are their stories, and how the United States – itself a revolutionary republic – responded or didn’t to their fellow seekers of independence.
Song Exploder – “Kill V. Maim by Grimes”
The amazingly talented Claire Boucher, who records as Grimes, breaks down the creation of one of her latest songs.
This week’s To the Best of Our Knowledge asks Do Protests Still Matter. I grew up inspired by the history of mass movements to use protest for Civil Rights, women’s equality, labor rights, and anti-war to bring about great change. In the 80s and 90s, I visited Washington, DC often and every time would see a protest of dozens, hundreds, sometimes thousands of people marching from some cause. It seemed that protests were so routine that they no longer received media coverage and certainly did not seem to be influencing elected representatives in the government. In 2007, as part of the ALA Conference in Washington, I went to the US Capitol and visited the offices of my representative and senators to advocate for libraries. I noticed that there were other groups working for other causes wearing matching t-shirts and carrying their own petitions. I never met any elected representatives, just their administrative assistants who politely asked me to drop my petition in an inbox. Again, I really wondered if protest was so commonplace as to have any affect at all.
In recent years, first with Occupy Wall Street and then Black Lives Matters, I’ve been inspired by mass movements innovating to get attention to their causes through long-term encampments, blocking streets, and other more “in-your-face” tactics. They seem to have helped stir conversation about inequality in our nation, but they’ve also met with police repression and a widespread commendation of “extremism” in tactics that ignores the severity of the problems they’re trying to address. It makes me worry about how in the future the people’s voices if protest is no longer an effective means of expression and resistance. I remain optimistic though, and if you read this blog you know I’ve participated in demonstrations and rallies for Boston Public Schools and plan to remain active in the future.
What do you think? Do protests still matter? In what ways can people express their voices and opinions to make change for the better?
I was impressed listening to former big league catcher and current MLB manager Mike Matheny discuss the culture of youth sports, the subject of his new book The Matheny Manifesto. He also had some fascinating stories of his major league experience and concussions. It actually made me like a St. Louis Cardinal!
This weeks podcast of the week is the music program The Sounds in My Head which offers up a special all-women episode.
There’s a lot of good music here, I am especially fond of Childbirth, Prince Rama, Colleen Green, Plush, and Habibi.
I just started following a new podcast bringing my total number of subscription up to 60! (Yes, I know I have a problem, but I don’t listen to every single episode).
Code Switch is an NPR project featuring discussions about race and identity, an interesting and important, albeit challenging topic.
So far there are two episodes: #1 discusses whiteness and #2 is about black and brown people being outdoorsy.
Check it out!
The Story Collider is a storytelling podcast for scientists to tell their stories – a great idea both for getting scientists to communicate and for the general public to learn about science. In this episode, Rochelle Williams tells the story of her experience studying engineering as a young, black woman.
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
The Podcast of the Week from
ProPublica strikes close to home as we’re dealing with serious underfunding of urban school districts in Massachusetts while other communities have invested in creating some of the top public schools in the nation. Sadly this is a problem throughout all of the United States.
For more on the issue follow the NPR School Money series
Two podcasts this week with a shared theme: the people who work to sell you food (that’s largely bad for you).
The first is Planet Money (Episode 700: Peanuts and Cracker Jack) which spent a night at Fenway Park to learn of the economy of concessions vendors at a Red Sox game. There’s a draft for products and sections of the ballpark and then it’s up to each individual to use their skills to sell as much as they can. The mystical Jose wears #1 on his back for his marketing skill. Surprisingly, vendors don’t seem to make much money for their efforts (although I supposed no one would have a job that’s only about 4 hours 81 times per year as their sole source of income).
More sinister is this week’s Decode DC episode (Episode 139: Big Sugar’s Secret Playbook) where tobacco industry marketing and legal tactics are used to get you eating (and paying for) more sugar in your diet.
The topic of this week’s Decode DC is the worst decision ever made by the United States Supreme Court. Korematsu v. United States validated interning Japanese-Americans during World War II, and has never been overturned. With the idea of surveillance and internment of Islamic-Americans under discussion in the 2016 election, a lot of people are asking if this Supreme Court decision could allow it to happen again. The discussion here is alternately chilling and reassuring.