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 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.
Testing is a big topic of debate in education circles these days. Tests are increasingly been used not just evaluate what students are learning in class but to make high-stake decisions such as a student advancing in school, whether teachers are given rewards or are fired, and even to justify closing entire schools! With tests being given so important, a lot of classroom time is being given over to test preparation, and a lot of money is being given over to the publishers of the tests and test prep materials.
The American History Guys at the BackStory podcast provide an interesting historical background to testing in the United States. The first written tests in American schools only date to the 1840s. But there are other types of tests, and podcast examines the tests of faith for early Puritans, the civil services tests, and the questionable scholarship behind the IQ test and the Myers Briggs test. It’s a fascinating hour of history.
Gentrification is a serious issue for anyone who cares about the future of cities. For every neighbor “revitalization” there’s pressure on long-term communities to be pushed out.
How can we make cities places that don’t have winners and losers? Can we have housing that’s affordable in neighborhoods that aren’t derelict? Can more prosperous people move to the city and live side-by-side with the working poor?
The Nation and WNYC collaborate to ask these questions in an 8-part podcast series “There Goes the Neighborhood.”
Subscribe and listen at your favorite podcast source.
Show 534 of WBEZ Chicago’s music show Sound Opinions combines some of my favorite things: music, history, and social justice! Hosts Jim and Greg discuss the importance of music to the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s and play uninterrupted tracks of brilliant songs such as “Mississippi Goddamn” and “A Change is Gonna Come.”
This is a brilliant episode of a consistently good radio program.
Listen here: http://www.soundopinions.org/show/534
“My Damn Mind” is an episode of This American Life that tells the story that ties together several topical issues: Alan Pean, an African-American man living in Houston suffers from a delusional episode but in his lucid moments has the presence of mind to go to the hospital for help. Except, while at the hospital he doesn’t get a psychiatric evaluation and ends up being shot by the police!
The story is also covered by The New York Times.
How Did the Flint Water Crisis Happen? is an important podcast by the investigative journalism agency ProPublica about one of the greatest criminal acts performed by a government against its people in American history. This is an important listen for gaining better understanding of this still under-reported humanitarian crisis in Michigan.
I just started listening to a new podcast called The Specialist and the first (and so far only) episode I heard is the fascinating behind the scenes story about the staff at a zoo who prepare food for the animals. The series is described as “A podcast about work we don’t think about and the people who do it.” When I have time I’ll have to go back and listen to the earlier episodes.
This is a little bit different from my typical Song of the Week as it is in fact a podcast discussing music. That podcast is Radiolab, the show that explores curiosity and science through storytelling. This episode of Radiolab Shorts explores the music of Dawn of Midi who use an electronic approach to acoustical music that creates a trance-like state.
You can listen to the podcast here: http://www.radiolab.org/blogs/radiolab-blog/2013/aug/29/dawn-midi/
Tracks from the new album Dysnomia and others are on the Dawn of Midi soundcloud page.
This weeks song by Canada’s The Souljazz Orchestra brightens up a dark and dreary (but still unseasonably warm) day with samba and semba rhythms. And it’s about postcards, one of my favorite things.
I learned about this song through a podcast from Minnesota Public Radio’s Current Song of the Day. Other places I hear new music include:
Believe it or not, I even still find good music on the radio, especially thanks to the many college and public radio stations in Boston. My favorite is WERS, which you can stream online or through an app if you live in environs not accessible to good radio.
Where do you learn of new music?
It’s amazing what a major fiscal crisis can do to you. I’ve basically have no interest in economics. In fact I even managed to weasel myself out of the required economics course in High School by taking a special course in Japanese taught by a college professor (that worked out well as I know something like five words in Japanese).
I find it surprising that quite accidentally I find myself reading and listening to economics news pretty much on a daily basis. Here’s what I’m checking out:
So if you’re trying to figure out what’s going in our global financial system, check these out.
Edit on Sep. 25th:
Hah! This guy could be me:
I was listening to the To the Best of Our Knowledge podcast entitled Sturm and Twang and I had an epiphany on the perfect person to run on the ticket with Barack Obama.
This candidate brings to the table:
- Extremely popular with backcountry rednecks AND with freewheeling hippies!
- Would help bring in red states like Texas and Tennessee while also appealing to disenchanted progressives who lost interest when Dennis Kucinich dropped out.
- Brings the age and wisdom of decades of political activity, yet is still a Washington outsider.
- Should Obama win the election he’s going to have deal with the massive National Debt. This VP candidate has experience paying off huge debts!
- Would be greatly entertaining on the campaign trail and totally win any debates.
- Is pretty much already beloved by Americans.
If you haven’t guessed already, the candidate is none other than the Red Headed Stranger,
I doubt anyone from the Obama campaign will read this, but if you do make sure to tap Willie for VP. Oh do!
Three more episodes of podcasts worth listening too:
- “Disgustingly Adorable” – Colonial Williamsburg: Past & Present covers the annual spring lambing, a big event for Phi Pi fans. Previous sheeplore: Fuzzy Pigs and Out Like a Lamb.
- “News from Lake Wobegon” – A Prairie Home Companion is a classic radio show, although it’s a bit tired these days. I’ve heard about all the Guy Noir and Ketchup ads I care to hear. Luckily there’s a podcast just for the best part, Garrison Keillor’s monologue. The one for May 3, 2008 is particularly good with a reflection on why Christianity is hard and the great line, “Gas costs more than beer. Don’t drive, drink.”
- “The Beauty and Challenge of Being Catholic: Hearing the Faithful” – An episode of APM: Speaking the Faith I learned about via Dirty Catholic. This a great selection of interviews from a cross-section of American Catholics. More interviews and transcripts at the website
Here’s another edition of my irregular feature of spotlighting good podcasts I’ve listened to recently:
- Writing the World is a recent episode of the Wisconsin Public Radio show To the Best of Our Knowledge. It features interviews with several prominent and award-winning authors about their craft. What struck me is that while we often talk about a writer having a voice, due to the nature of their medium we rarely hear their actual voices. Toni Morrison’s voice is beautiful while V.S. Naipaul sounds insufferably pompous. Amy Tan is heartbreaking when she impersonates her mother speaking to ghosts. Other writers interviewed include Sherman Alexie, Alice Walker, and Orhan Pamuk.
- Pop Music– RadioLab is quickly becoming my favorite radio show podcast and this episode focuses on music getting stuck in our heads (WARNING: If you’re like me, listening to this podcast will leave “Downtown” stuck in your head for days!). Some people are unfortunate enough to get full-orchestrated and loud songs playing in their heads to their detriment (the work of Oliver Sacks is cited in this segment). Song writers on the other hand want to get music in their heads (and then into other people’s heads). While I’m unusual in my generation in that I am not exceedingly nostalgic for School House Rock (in fact I hated it when I was a kid), the interview with the songwriter who created them is pretty interesting. Finally, there’s the story of Ahmad Zahir, the “Afghan Elvis” who welded Western music to local tradition to become a pop sensation.
- Can Science Save the Banana? – I love bananas. In fact, I read a book about bananas called Bananas: An American History by Virginia Scott Jenkins. From this Scientific American podcast, I learned that in our grandparents’ generation, people were able to eat a larger, more tasty type of banana which is now extinct due to a fungus. Worse, the banana we’re familiar with now, the Cavendish, is now also suffering from the blight and may be wiped out in the next decade. Genetic engineering and/or switching American tastes to the red banana may be our only options. I’ll have to keep up on the banana news from the Banana Book Blog (http://www.bananabook.org/) by Dan Koeppel.
I haven’t promoted it yet, but I added a new page to the links at the top of this blog called “PODCASTS.” It’s basically a list of all the podcasts I (try) to listen to sorted into a few broad categories. Some of the podcasts appear in multiple categories. I probably should also add a simple A-Z list as well as some synopses of each podcast. Anyhow, for now it’s what I listen too, and each is recommended for anyone interested in those topics.
I want to highlight three individual podcast episodes (all radio shows originally) that fall under the them of Old Sounds:
- Ultima Thule is an Australian radio show that plays ambient and atmospheric music. A recent episode, UT 702 featured Christian religious music of the past including liturgical chants from the Coptic, Maronite, Melkite and Old Roman traditions. If you’re like me and are familiar with Gregorian Chant, but have not heard these other traditions, you will find it ear-opening. The history of sacred music is rich and diverse.
- WNYC’s Radiolab recently did an episode about Orson Welle’s 1938 broadcast of “War of the Worlds“. They play segments from the actual broadcast, including the eerie moment where a report from the field goes silent. They also provide some historical context that helps explain the ensuing hysteria – the brewing war in Europe, radio coverage of the Hindenberg disaster, and the recent innovation of news bulletins interrupting radio programing. They also cover two other occasions in which radio performers perpetrated the same hoax with disastrous results.
- Finally, for the oldest sounds of them all, recordings that precede Edison courtesy of the Antique Phonograph Music Program on WFMU. These recordings were made in 1860 not to be played back but as visual representations, however scientists were able to convert the images into sound! This is the earliest known recording of sound. The Antique Phonograph Music Program is always awesome as they play old records on their original equipment, but this episode goes above and beyond as they explain this great discovery.
I heard about this project on the Scientific American podcast “Science Talk“. It is no less than exhaustive, six-year project in the taxonomy of artificial plants. Be warned, the Ethnobotany Journal article (pdf) contains requires knowledge of Pig Latin. The publication date is interesting as well.