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.

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Podcasts of the Week Ending August 3rd


Re:Sound :: Tsunami Song

The true and complicated story of the Confederate anthem, “Dixie.”  Also, tsunamis & migraines, and Romeo and Juliet texting in the afterlife.

Fresh Air :: Documenting Hate in America

Journalist A.C. Thompson’s investigative work into the white supremacist organizations of America.

The Truth :: Bonus: Everything is Alive

This is actually a preview of a new podcast where inanimate objects get interviewed, in this case a can of generic cola.  This sounded like a one-note joke, but the story went into some very odd places.

Hub History :: Boston’s Pickwick Disaster and the Dance of Death

A building collapse at a popular Boston nightclub in 1925 causes the death of 44 people and leads moral crusaders to campaign against the dangers of dancing the Charleston.

 

Podcasts of the Week Ending July 28


Hit Parade :: The Feat. Don’t Fail Me Now Edition

The history of the “featured artist” credit on number one singles.

To The Best of Our Knowledge :: Jeff Kripal at the Edge of Belief

Unconventional thoughts about religion, science, and the paranormal.  Not that I necessarily endorse this, but it’s interesting to hear something outside of the typical.

Back Story :: Elementary, Mr. President

Robert Bork, Benjamin Spock, and Sherlock Holmes and their ties to American history.

Planet Money :: Yes in My Backyard

The radical and controversial solution to America’s housing crisis: building new housing in existing neighborhoods!

Podcasts of the Week for July 21st


Hit Parade :: The Deadbeat Club, Part 2

This examination of the late 80s output of the two great bands of Athens, GA – R.E.M. and B-52s – fills me with painful nostalgia.

Have You Heard? :: The Problem with Fear-Based School Reform

Do schools work better when they’re “run like a business” and teachers and administrators are forced to work in a culture of fear where they’re expected to get results or else?  Or do we recognize the nurturing mission of schools and support reforms lead by educators who know the children best? And how much of so-called “education reform” is rooted in anti-labor sentiment anyway?  These questions and more are discussed on “Have You Heard?”

WBUR News :: Faneuil Hall, School Assignments

Boston’s ongoing history of inequality and racism are addressed in two current stories about Faneuil Hall, a building named for a slaveholder, and the lack of quality education for the city’s most vulnerable communities.

BackStory :: The Melting Pot

Stories of assimilation of immigrants, Native Americans, and hyphenated-Americans throughout our history.

Podcast of the Week Ending June 30


Decoder Ring :: Clown Panic

A history of clowns and how they’ve gone from funny to terrifying.

Hidden Brain :: Looking Back: Reflecting On The Past To Understand The Present

There are times when a song, book, or tv show I loved leaves me with a feeling of crippling nostalgia, so I was interested in this examination on how our brains reflect on the past.

To The Best of Our Knowledge :: Is Guilt A Wasted Emotion?

Speaking of reflecting on the past, how about an unhealthy dose of regret and guilt.

The Sounds in My Head :: “Hey, the 80’s called…”

A podcast full of current music that sounds like it was made in the 1980s.  But the good New Wave sounds of the 80s, not the crumby songs that actually made the top 40 in the 80s.

HUB History :: Immigration in Boston

Present day anti-immigrant prejudice and hysteria has long historical roots as seen in these three stories from Boston history: the Sacco and Vanzetti case, Chinese tongs in Chinatown, and the destruction of the Ursuline Convent in Charlestown.

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 of the (Two) Weeks Ending May 5


Twenty Thousand Hertz :: ASMR

Oh my goodness, this podcast made my head tingle!

Hidden Brain :: Emma, Carrie, Vivian

A scary story of American eugenics, racism, and misogony. And not as far removed from today as you’d want it to be.

All Songs Considered :: At 70, Smithsonian Folkways Is An Antidote To Music Algorithms

A history of one the most important record labels.

Hit Parade :: The You Give Rock a Bad Name Edition

I’m not much a fan of “hair metal” but Chris Molanphy does a fair job of evaluating Bon Jovi’s role in pop music history even as he admits how much he hates them.

Hub History :: Tent City

In 1968, Boston residents fought to stop luxury development and parking in the South End, winning community-informed affordable housing instead. Something we need to do again.

99% Invisible :: The Laff Track

I always hated the laff track on tv sitcoms, but this show made me appreciate why it exists, how it’s done, the artistry of syncing the right laugh, and why laff tracks have vanished today.

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 April 7


The Memory Palace :: Junk Room

An examination of the the National Statuary Hall in the US Capitol: who is there and why?

Hub History :: Original Sin: The Roots of Slavery in Boston

The reality of unfree labor in 17th and 18th century Massachusetts.

Code Switch :: The Road to the Promised Land, 50 Years Later

The legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. 50 years after his assassination.

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 January 27


A good crop of podcasts this week featuring Parliament and owls, but not a parliament of owls.

Twenty Thousand Hertz :: Six O’Clock Soundtrack

I always liked tv news music as a child too, particularly the Action News theme.  Here’s the story of how news music is made.

Sound Opinions :: New Wave & Alison Moyet

Another defining musical style of my childhood, New Wave, is examined along with an interview with New Wave musical great Alison Moyet.

Code Switch :: The ‘R-Word’ In The Age Of Trump

An exploration of when it’s appropriate to describe someone or something as racist and why some journalists are hesitant to do so.

All Songs Considered :: George Clinton & The P-Funk All Stars

Parliament Funkadelic are back and as funky as ever.

LeVar Burton Reads :: “The Truth About Owls” by Amal El-Mohtar

A sweet story about a girl from Lebanon who immigrates to England and finds her place through the study of owls and Welsh mythology.

Snap Judgement :: Senior Year Mixtape

The touching and heartbreaking of three students at a San Francisco high school over the course of their senior year.

Hit Parade :: The B-Sides Edition

The first live-audience Hit Parade episode features pub trivia questions about b-sides that became bigger hits than their a-sides and a performance by Ted Leo, “the nicest guy in punk.”

2017 Year in Review: Favorite Podcast Episodes


I’m trying something new here. If you read this site regularly, you know I’m obsessed with listening to podcasts. So I’m making a list of my favorite podcast episodes of 2017. But before that I’m going to list my 10 favorite podcasts, the ones that always fill me with delight when I see that they’ve downloaded into my podcatcher:

Okay, so here are some of the great episodes that you should make time to listen to:

And of course, my first and only appearance on a podcast: