Only one podcast this week, but a good one from the National Air and Space Museum on what it takes to become an astronaut today. If you’re of an advancing age like me and still hold out hope that NASA might have a job for you, take a listen.
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.
A story about the Super Bowl ticket-selling markets that operate very much like financial markets, and how that market collapsed in 2015.
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.
Saving the Cape Hatteras lighthouse from the forces of erosion.
The final Podcasts of the Week post is all Christmas content.
StoryCorps :: Cynical Santa
This story is from 1990 and it’s hard to imagine that there could be a Cynical Santa in today’s New York, at least at Rockefeller Center.
Tiny Desk :: Hanson for the Holidays
Hanson is a band of brothers who had big pop hits in the 1990s and I hadn’t thought of them since, but I heard this concert of Christmas music and … I liked it.
Tiny Desk :: The Big Tiny Desk Holiday Special
If Hanson wasn’t enough, here’s a collection of holiday music concerts from the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, The Polyphonic Spree, and Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings, among others.
Irish and Celtic Music Podcast :: Joy on Your Celtic Christmas Day
If you prefer your holiday music with a Celtic flair.
Sound Opinions :: The Sound Opinions Holiday Spectacular 2017
A collection of arcane holiday tunes collected by Andy Cirzan called Snowbound Soliloquies.
A reluctant field researcher finds purpose in showing drunk 17-year-olds how to tag bats with microchips, and a bee researcher who is allergic to bees. Science!
Research into the effects of negative stereotypes and the difficulty of replicating that research.
Things I learned about Boston’s own Donna Summer: 1. she got her start in the Munich production of Hair where she became fluent in German, 2. she wrote or co-wrote most of her songs, 3. she and her producers basically invented electronic dance music, and 4. she continued to have club hits into the 2010s.
A brief but beautiful story of funk with many funky classics and interviews with Bobby Byrd and George Clinton.
A new podcast that tells the story of the Watergate scandal with an as-it’s-happening approach focusing on long-forgotten key players in the scandal.
The story of the contentious battle between theChicago Cubs and their residential neighbors to install lights in Wrigley Field in the 1980s.
The story of a legal case that underlies our current crises in policing in America, and the legal fiction of the “Reasonable Man.”
A story about how faith and science are in conflict, but how people who disagree can come together in dialogue (and still disagree).
An overlooked aspect of the Disney theme park experience: sound design.
Trayvon Martin was murdered during a broadcast of the NBA All-Star Game. Five weeks later, his hometown team the Miami Heat posed for a photo with their hoodies up. This is the story of that photo and the rebirth of athlete activism.
A scene from the opiod crisis with a visit to a hidden tent community in the Boston region.
An interview with Father Gregory Boyle of Homeboy Industries and how to care for children in gangs. You can also read my review of his book Tattoos on the Heart.
Stories of kids becoming teachers, including a stunning musical defense of feminism.
An explanation of why major corporations have become big players in education policy and what it means for the rest of us.
What personal information is gathered by your cell phones, how it’s being used by law enforcement and others, and what rights do we have under the Constitution to privacy.
The sad story of St. Louis’ historic black neighborhood, The Ville, where old houses are being robbed of their bricks for resale to salvage operations.
This is a big week for Podcast of the Week, because for the first time I’m able to recommend for your listening pleasure a podcast featuring me!
Yep, that’s me. You’re probably wondering how I got myself into this situation. You’ll have to subscribe to Betsy’s podcast to find out. Better yet, you can listen to five questions with my wife.
Song Exploder :: “Stranger Things (Main Title Theme)”
Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein breakdown the creation of the theme song I can’t keep from dancing to.
Prince and Tom Petty both died to young in the past couple of years after emerging as superstar artists in the 1980s, and they even performed together in a epic Rock and Roll Hall of Fame rendition of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” Otherwise, they wouldn’t seem to have much in common, but Chris Molanphy breaks down how their careers paralleled one another.
Oysters helped create the City of New York and oysters may help protect the city from climate change.
Stories of places that are gone that are difficult at best to experience vicariously – from movie palaces to a video game based on Walden.
The details of Eric Garner’s life and final moments when murdered by the police on Staten Island are filled in by Matt Taibbi, author of the new book I Can’t Breathe.
The ongoing story of Barcelona’s most famous landmark, the masterpiece of architect Antoni Gaudí, and the efforts of subsequent generations of builders to follow his vision.
A mesmerizing audio play about how a woman’s life is changed by a device that makes decisions for her.
What I’m listening to and what you should be listening to.
Have You Heard? :: Divided by Design: Race, Neighborhoods, Wealth and Schools
A history of racial segregation in neighborhoods and schools that is still feeding inequality to this very day.
To the Best of Our Knowledge :: What is School For?
I was worried that this would be peppered with corporate reform ideology and myths, but actually has some interesting stories on teacher burnout, multicultural studies, and the importance of the humanities.
The Truth :: Brain Chemistry
A funny/poignant audio drama about the life of a brain in a jar in the future, starring Scott Adsit of 30 Rock.
Hit Parade :: The Great War Against the Single Edition
It’s a good thing that Hit Parade is published infrequently, because I think I’m going to post every episode here. This is the story of how record companies from the 1960s to the 2000s tried to make people by the more expensive full albums in order to get a copy of a popular song. Deeply fascinating, with lots of Casey Kassem cameos.
99% Invisible :: The Athletic Brassiere
The hidden story of the sports bra (nee, the “Jock Bra”) and how it helped transform women in sports.
Snap Judgment Presents: Spooked :: A Friend in the Forest
The Snap Judgment spinoff podcasts tells creepy stories for the month of October, and this contemporary ghost story from Ireland is particularly eerie.
This (two) weeks in podcasts.
All Songs Considered: All Songs +1: The Weird World Of ‘Feature’ Credits
Ever wondered what has lead to the great increase in songs with a “feat.” artist in the title over the past couple of decades? Or why the featured artists appears in the song title rather than the performer? Or what the difference between “feat.” and “with” or even “x” and “vs” all means? Apparently, it’s all about metadata.
Local law requires Boston City Councilors or their designees to walk the boundaries of the city every five years, a practice that was often a boozy ceremony in the past, but has been ignored since the 1980s. If the city is looking for citizens to take up perambulating the bounds again, I put my foot forward.
How algorithms, purportedly designed to replace subjective judgments with objective measurements, have been used as a cover for discrimination and marketed for purposes they’re not designed for.
The history of the most misguided myth about education, that it will resolve poverty with no other interventions required, and how it has set up schools to fail.
Finally, there are two podcasts that actually replayed episodes made by another podcast this week:
An interesting story of the first African-American advertisement executive who showed how supposed free market capitalists were losing out on money due to white supremacy.
Nate Dimeo’s thoughts on what should be placed on a plaque on a Memphis statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest to mark the reasons why the statue exists.
Once again, I’ve gone two weeks without posting the must-hear podcasts. But lucky for you, podcasts are asynchronous so you can listen to them any time!
First, I want to promote a couple of podcasts I recently started listening to that I think are worth subscribing to:
- Five Questions With Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso – This is the first podcast I’ve heard created by someone I know, an old friend from college. As the title aptly applies, Betsy interviews everyday people, asking them not just five questions but also providing five facts and asking to list five items on topic. The answers are always insightful and I seriously want to get to know and become friends with every single person interviewed in these podcasts.
- Slate’s Hit Parade – This podcast is actually part of a larger anthology podcast called the Slate Culture Gabfest and appears once per month in that feed. Host Chris Molanphy dedicates about an hour each episode to investigating where art and commerce intersect on the popular music charts by delving into the background of how certain songs become #1 hits. So far the podcast has told the story of UB40’s “Red Red Wine,” the circumstances behind The Beatles occupying all of the top five spots in 1964, the Elton John & George Michael’s “imperial periods” when they ruled the charts, and how “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” and “We Are the World” made big hits out of charity megasingles. Every episode is detailed and absolutely fascinating.
And some other podcast episodes you should listen too:
- Politically Re-Active with W. Kamau Bell and Hari Kondabolu – this podcast remains a go to source for insights on our political climate, and the three most recent episodes deal with removing Confederate monuments, Charlottesville and the aftermath.
- The Gist – The Politics of Police Unions – I’m extremely supportive of labor organizations but equally troubled by how police unions have become vehicles for racism, right wing politics, and protecting the most violent and corrupt in their ranks. The interview with former Boston cop Tom Nolan gives some background.
- Hub History – Canoes and Canoodling on the Charles – this Boston history podcast introduced to me the history of the late nineteenth century recreational canoe craze and how kids used it to perform scandalous behavior.
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!
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.
Stories of Coney Island from people who kept the fun in the sun destination alive during its lowest points in the early 1990s.
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.
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.
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.”
- The story of Washington Phillip’s mysterious gospel and blues music
- Reid Wilson and Mike Pesca discuss the importance of congressional, state, and local elections and how they can be overlooked due to the hype of the Presidential election, an issue I’ve focused on here before.
- My grandparents lived their final years in Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania, a city that was already suffering economically and growing derelict when I visited in the 1980s. This podcast shows that Mahanoy City has taken an even more turn to the worst.
- Mass incarceration has caused the United States to lead the world in the number of citizens in prisons. Here are some stories of people behind bars and some alternatives to locking people up.
- The title says it all in this analysis of how immigration restrictions have hurts agriculture in the United States by depriving farms of seasonal migrant workers while at the same time making it more likely undocumented people will stay in the country permanently rather than returning home.
- The latest episode of this public education podcast focuses on a San Francisco school carrying out the types of reforms necessary in education but rarely endorsed by the so-called reformers.
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.
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.
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?