Podcasts of the week ending September 15


The Memory Palace :: Lost Locusts

The sound design of this podcast really sells the panic and hopelessness of plagues of locusts in the 19th century plains, and a good explanation of why they ended.

99% Invisible :: The House That Came in the Mail

The history of kit homes sold by Sears, Roebuck from catalogs. Additionally, the story of how adaptive reuse is transforming the distinctive architecture of former Sears plants in cities throughout America.

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Podcasts of the Week Ending September 8


StarTalk :: The Stars that Guide Us

Discussion of the traditions of celestial navigation used by Polynesian voyagers to traverse wide expanses of the Pacific Ocean.

To The Best of Our Knowledge :: What’s Wrong With Work?

Work is bunk.  Find out why employment is meaningless and “work ethic” is just there to control us, along with some more human alternatives.

Hidden Brain :: Bullshit Jobs

Another podcast goes in depth on how meaningless work is wearing us down.  I sense a theme.

Twenty Thousand Hertz :: Jingles

Catchy tunes have been used to sell things since the early days of radio.  This episode also offers a good deep dive into the phenomena of earworms and how to defeat them.

Hub History :: War, Plague, and the World Series

I’ve long been fascinated by the great number of significant events that happened in Boston around 1918-1919.  This episode is an interview with Skip Desjardins who wrote a book about what in just September 1918.

99% Invisible :: The First Straw

Drinking straws have been in the news lately as they’re being banned for being a pollutant.  This episode explores the origin of straws, their beneficial purposes, and possible alternatives to straws.

99% Invisible :: Double Standards

Yes, a double dose of 99 P.I. this week! This episode discusses blepharoplasty, a controversial cosmetic surgery which makes the eyes of people of Asian descent look more “Western.”

Decoder Ring :: The Paper Doll Club

Paper dolls are a toy that has fallen out of popularity with children, but there are sizable communities of adults who collect and design paper dolls, and a surprising connection with queer identity.

Risk! :: Man at Hawaii

Risk! host Kevin Allison tells the story of how his Catholic high school missionary trip lead him to become a storyteller.

Podcasts of the Week Ending August 25th


BackStory :: In the Shadow of the Mushroom Cloud

Stories of the United States and nuclear weapons, including the hotel with the secret bunker for Congress, nuclear bomb testing and the birth of the Las Vegas tourist industry, and women in the Manhattan Project.

To The Best of Our Knowledge :: Being Sincere in the Cynical World

Different stories of maintaining sincerity among the world’s cynicism.

HUB History :: Amelia  Earhart in Boston

Before Amelia Earhart become a famed, groundbreaking aviator, she was a social worker in a Boston settlement house.

Radiolab :: Post No Evil

The evolving document that guides what is allowed and what is forbidden on Facebook.

Start Making Sense :: Democrats: Centrism is Not the Answer!

Podcasts of the Week Ending August 9


Radio Boston :: Capuano And Pressley Face Off In 7th Congressional District Debate

An important primary election race happening right here in Massachusetts.

Household Name :: The Last Blockbuster

The story of two surviving Blockbuster Video franchises in Alaska during their final days, and the strange nostalgia the store engenders.

AirSpace :: The Ninety-Nines

A group of 99 women banded together to advance the cause of women in aviation in 1929 with Amelia Earhart as their first president. There’s some fascinating stories of the accomplishments of women in this organization that still exists today!

Code Switch :: Talking American

The origins of the “Standard American Accent,” it’s racial implications, and the discrimination against people who don’t speak it.

Start Making Sense ::  Has Trump Ushered In a Golden Age for News Media?

Contrary to glowing reports of a new “Golden Age for News Media”, media consolidation, budget cuts, and layoffs have deeply hurt journalism in our times, especially reporting on local news and politics, thus making people more susceptible to sensationalized news.

Podcasts of the Week Ending June 23


Another week of audio delight for my earbuds.

The Truth :: Fish Girl

A tale of a girl and her friendship with a puffer fish.

Have You Heard? :: A La Carte: School Choice, Segregation and Gentrification in an Unequal City

Interview with Carla Shedd on how the “school choice” movement is undermining public education while promoting segregation and inequality.

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 Ending May 26


99% Invisible :: Curb Cuts

An important history of the disability rights movement and how curb cuts ended up benefiting society in a broader sense than originally intended.

WGBH News :: On ‘Melnea Cass Day,’ Remembering The Boston Civil Rights Activist And Her Legacy In Roxbury

A day for a great Bostonian.

Smithsonian Sidedoor :: Don’t Call Me Extinct

The story of rehabilitating the scimitar-horned oryx population.

Upon Further Review :: How Actor Jesse Eisenberg Doomed the Phoenix Suns

A funny story of how a young fan’s guilt over a letter to his favorite basketball player.

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 April 14


Code Switch :: Location, Location, Location

The history of housing segregation and how it underlines every serious social issue in America today.

60 Second Science :: Old New England Underground May Be Spry after All

Uh-oh! Tectonic activity underneath New England!!!

AirSpace :: 2001: An AirSpace Odyssey

1968’s weirdest science fiction film and it’s long-lasting affect on the culture of space exploration.

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 24


Twenty Thousand Hertz :: Emergency Alert System

I’ve always had an fascination for those tests of the Emergency Broadcast System. I taped one off the radio as a kid, I actually did them as a college radio DJ, and about 20 years ago I heard one that was NOT a test (warning for intense thunderstorms, which was both a relief and a bit underwhelming).  Here is the story behind how they work.

Planet Money :: The Blue Pallet

Pallets are ubiquitous, overlooked, and seemingly hard to improve.  This is the story of how CHEP pallets revolutionized the industry.  My wife writes about pallets and her enthusiasm is infectious, so I loved this story.

The Nation – Start Making Sense :: It’s Time to Break Up Amazon

Reporting on the dangers of Amazon’s monopoly powers, as well as how mandatory non-compete agreements have helped corporations keep low-wage workers from getting better jobs.

Slate’s Hit Parade :: The Year Rap Music Broke

1986 is a significant year in rap music history, mainly due to RUN-DMC’s crossover hit “Walk this Way” which inadvertently helped revive the fortunes of the rock band Aerosmith (I was one of the kids who knew RUN-DMC well, but never heard of Aerosmith before their collaboration).  Chris Molanphy tells the story of Def Jam Recordings, founded by Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons, and how in 1986 they unleashed not only RUN-DMC’s hit album Raising Hell, but also Radio by one of rap’s first solo acts with wide appeal, LL Cool J, and Licensed to Ill by the bratty white kids the Beastie Boys.  Molanphy doesn’t end the story in 1986 though, but follows the ongoing careers of all four acts.

 

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 Ending December 23


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.

Podcasts of the Week Ending December 2


The Story Collider :: The Bats and the Bees

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!

Radiolab :: Stereothreat

Research into the effects of negative stereotypes and the difficulty of replicating that research.

Hit Parade :: The Queen of Disco Edition

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.

Afropop Worldwide :: A Brief History of Funk

A brief but beautiful story of funk with many funky classics and interviews with Bobby Byrd and George Clinton.

Slow Burn: A Podcast About Watergate

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.

30 for 30 Podcasts :: The Lights of Wrigleyville

The story of the contentious battle between theChicago Cubs and their residential neighbors to install lights in Wrigley Field in the 1980s.

More Perfect :: Mr. Graham and the Reasonable Man

The story of a legal case that underlies our current crises in policing in America, and the legal fiction of the “Reasonable Man.”

Podcasts of the Week Ending November 18


Radiolab :: Match Made in Marrow

A story about how faith and science are in conflict, but how people who disagree can come together in dialogue (and still disagree).

Twenty Thousand Hertz :: Disney Parks

An overlooked aspect of the Disney theme park experience: sound design.

30 for 30 Podcasts :: Hoodies Up

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.

WBUR News :: An ‘Underground World’: This Urban Tent Community Is Dangerous For Heroin Users

A scene from the opiod crisis with a visit to a hidden tent community in the Boston region.

Fresh Air :: Priest Responds To Gang Members’ ‘Lethal Absence Of Hope’ With Jobs, And Love

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.

Podcasts of the Week Ending November 11


Mortified :: Kids Who Teach

Stories of kids becoming teachers, including a stunning musical defense of feminism.

Have You Heard? :: What We Talk About When We Talk About the Corporate Education Agenda

An explanation of why major corporations have become big players in education policy and what it means for the rest of us.

Planet Money :: Your Cell Phone’s A Snitch

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.

99% Invisible :: Dollhouses of St. Louis

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.

Podcasts of the Week Ending November 4


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!

Five Questions With Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso :: Five Questions With Liam Sullivan

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.

Hit Parade :: Le Petty Prince Edition

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.

99% Invisible :: Oyster-tecture

Oysters helped create the City of New York and oysters may help protect the city from climate change.

Podcasts of the Week Ending October 28th


To the Best of Our Knowledge :: You Had To Be There

Stories of places that are gone that are difficult at best to experience vicariously – from movie palaces to a video game based on Walden.

Fresh Air :: The Life and Death of Eric Garner

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.

99% Invisible :: La Sagrada Familia

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.

The Truth :: The Decider

A mesmerizing audio play about how a woman’s life is changed by a device that makes decisions for her.