Podcasts of the Week Ending January 5th


The Anthropocene Reviewed :: Teddy Bears and Penalty Shootouts

John Green reviews the history of the teddy bear and offers a solid defense of penalty shootouts in soccer games through the story of AFC Wimbledon.

Code Switch :: America’s Other Anthems

Songs that are unofficial anthems including “This Little Light of Mine,” “Whittier Avenue” by Chicano rock band Thee Midniters, and two songs called  “Fight the Power” by The Isley Brothers and Public Enemy.

Fresh Air :: ‘Punishment Without Crime’ Highlights The Injustice Of America’s Misdemeanor System

How the American criminal justice systems tangles up the poor in Kafkaesque web of debts and punishment.

This American Life :: The Room of Requirement

Stories about libraries and librarians.  I’m particularly touched by the woman is reunited with the children’s librarian who helped her when she was a homeless child.  I’m also a fan of Richard Brautigan and W.P. Kinsella, so I liked that story of the Brautigan Library.


 

Running tally of Podcast of the Week appearances:

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2018 in Review: Favorite Podcast Episodes


Are you on holiday break and looking for something to do in your spare time? Well then, check out this list of my 25 favorite podcasts episodes of 2018 for your listening pleasure!  These are arranged in chronological order having been culled from my Podcast of the Week feature:

1. Hang Up and Listen :: The 200 Seventh Graders Versus LeBron Edition

A whimsical year-end look at some sports conundrums such as how many seventh graders would you have to put on the court to defeat LeBron James playing solo.  Or, what would a NFL field or NBA court be like if they were built with the irregularities common in baseball stadiums.

2. 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.

3. The Memory Palace :: Hercules

With Washington’s Birthday coming up, a reminder that our first President held people in bondage because he enjoyed what their labor provided without having to pay for them.  The story of Hercules, a talented chef, who successfully escaped slavery.

4. The Truth :: Nuclear Winter

 A spooky story set in an outdated nuclear missile silo.  Don’t worry, it’s fictional!

5. 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

6. The Truth :: The Hilly Earth Society

A stunning one-person audio drama told entirely in voice messages from an angry recluse to a persistent journalist.  There’s a couple of interesting twists at the end, only one I saw coming.

7. Code Switch :: Location, Location, Location

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

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. 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.

11. Decoder Ring :: Clown Panic

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

12. 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.

13. 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?”

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

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

15. 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!

16. Afropop Worldwide :: Skippy White: A Vinyl Life

Checking in with a legendary soul & R&B record shop owner and entrepreneur, Skippy White.  His shop is located in Boston’s Egleston Square, not far from where I live, but this is the first I’ve heard of him!

17. 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.

18. Hidden Brain :: Bullshit Jobs

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

19. 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.

20. Twenty Thousand Hertz :: Classic Cartoon Sound Effects

How sounds effects for cartoons are made, reused, and become iconic signifiers.

21. 99% Invisible :: The Worst Way to Start a City

What if a city was born by just having 100,000 people show up at once and claim their spot?  That’s the weird story of Oklahoma City.  Listen to this just for the “Oh, Joe – here’s your mule!” part.

22. RadioLab :: Tweak the Vote

RadioLab explores how ranked choice voting makes elections more representative of the people and more civil in practice.

23. 99% Invisible :: Devolutionary Design

The story of how an image of legendary golfer Chi Chi Rodriguez ended up being used for the cover of legendary rock band Devo’s first album.

24. Code Switch :: The Story of Mine Mill

The history of a radical leftist union that organized miners and millworkers in Birminham, Alabama, bringing together Black and white workers at the height of Jim Crow in the 1930s-1960s.

25. 99% Invisible :: The Accidental Room

The absolutely true story of a community of artists secretly building a condominium in a vacant space within a shopping mall.

Some podcasts are of a specified length focusing on a single topic, a mini-series if you will, and worth listening to in their entirety:

    • Believed – the story of how Larry Nassar sexual abused women and girls at Michigan State University and with US Gymnastics, and the women who brought him to justice
    • Last Seen –– an investigation into story of how the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum was robbed of 13 priceless works of art in 1990 that still have not been recovered.
    • Nobody’s Home – an exploration into vacant homes in America’s cities and their effect on the larger community.
    • Slow Burn – forgotten history of the Watergate scandal as it played out at the time.
    • Unobscured – the story of the witch hysteria that emerged from Salem Village in 1692.
    • Upon Further Review – a tie-in with Mike Pesca’s book of the same name which dramatizes alternate universe stories of great moments in sports’ history.

Here are all the podcasts that were recognized as a Podcast of the Week with the number of their appearances:

  • 20 – 99% Invisible
  • 14 – Hub History
  • 11 – Twenty Thousand Hertz
  • 9 – BackStory, Planet Money
  • 8 – Hit Parade, WBUR News
  • 7 – Hidden Brain
  • 6 – RadioLab, To the Best of Our Knowledge, Code Switch
  • 5 – Have You Heard?, Memory Palace, Smithsonian Sidedoor
  • 4 – All Songs Considered, LeVar Burton Reads, Start Making Sense, The Truth
  • 3 – Afropop Worldwide, Decoder Ring, Fresh Air, Household Name, More or Less, Risk!, This American Life
  • 2 – Smithsonian AirSpace, Disney History Institute, Radio Boston, Re:Sound, Scientific American Science Talk, Snap Judgement, Sound Opinions, 30 for 30, Upon Further Review
  • 1 – Anthropocene Reviewed, Believed, Ben Franklin’s World, Hang Up and Listen, Last Seen, On the Media, 60 Second Science, Slow Burn, Song Exploder, The Sounds in My Head, StarTalk, StoryCorps, Tiny Desk Concerts

Podcasts of the Week Ending December 15


99% Invisible :: The Accidental Room

The absolutely true story of a community of artists secretly building a condominium in a vacant space within a shopping mall.

WBUR :: Hundreds Buried In Nameless Graves In Waltham ID’d By Local Historian And High-Schoolers

High school students work to identify the graves of people who had been kept in institutions for people with mental and physical disabilities from the 1940s to 1970s.  A horrifying glimpse into the recent history of the mistreatment of people with disabilities.

WBUR :: What A Boston Student’s Deportation Reveals About School Police and Gang Intelligence

Of course, injustice is still with us today, as this story of school policing and discrimination against immigrants demonstrates.

 

Podcasts of the Week Ending December 1


The New Yorker Radio Hour (via Re:Sound) :: John Thompson vs. American Justice

This podcast about the corruption and racism built into America’s criminal justice system was released in March, but brought to my attention by winning the bronze medal in the 2018 Third Coast / Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Competition.  John Thompson was tried and found guilty for two crimes he didn’t commit and spent 20 years trying to prove his innocence.  By the end of this story you’ll be cursing as much as Thompson.

Podcasts of the Week Ending November 24


HUB History :: Mary Dyer, the Quaker Martyr

The history of religious intolerance and persecution in early Massachusetts.

The Truth :: Murder at the Cakery Bakery

Anyone who has ever worked in customer service may feel an uncomfortable pleasure in this fictional revenge fantasy.

The Moth :: Dinner with Wonder Woman – Adam Linn

A story of a Thanksgiving miracle involving Skype and a full-sized pig.

Best of the Left :: Why Men Will Be Better Off Without the Patriarchy

Stories of how patriarchy harms men too.

Podcasts of the Week Ending November 17


Sidedoor :: That Brunch in the Forest

Myths and reality of Native Americans and the “first Thanksgiving.”

All Songs Considered :: How the Beatles Made “The White Album”

The story behind the Beatles strangest album.

30 for 30 :: Rickey Won’t Quit

The great Rickey Henderson plays one last season in professional baseball for an independent minor league team.

The Anthropocene Reviewed :: Tetris and the Seed Potatoes of Leningrad

Fascinating stories from the Soviet Union trace the origin of the classic video game Tetris and its unrecognized designer, and the people of Leningrad who protected a seed bank against Nazi invasion.

Have You Heard? :: Closing Time: In a Gentrifying City, are Some Students Expendable

A must-listen story of the effort to close, privatize, and segregate Boston Public Schools.

 

Podcasts of the Week ending November 10


Planet Money :: The Seattle Experiment  and Hot Dog Hail Mary

What if you could give more money to politicians running for office, and spend less money getting food at a NFL game?  Two different Planet Money podcasts focus on experiments, one in Seattle where voters were given money they could donate to their candidate(s) of choice and one in Atlanta where the Falcons are slashing concessions prices.  Find out how these challenges to traditional economics worked out – or didn’t – by listening to these podcast episodes.

RadioLab :: Tweak the Vote

RadioLab explores how ranked choice voting makes elections more representative of the people and more civil in practice.

99% Invisible :: Devolutionary Design

The story of how an image of legendary golfer Chi Chi Rodriguez ended up being used for the cover of legendary rock band Devo’s first album.

 

Podcasts of the Week Ending November 3


Household Name :: Sears: There Was More For Your Life

The story of the demise of the legendary store, Sears.  Turns out it is owned by an Ayn Rand devotee whose investments make a profit when stores close.  Go figure!

Smithsonian Sidedoor :: Seriously Seeking Sasquatch

You won’t find anything about Sasquatch, a.k.a. Bigfoot, at the Smithsonian museums, but you will find the skeleton a scientist who dedicated his life to researching Bigfoot. Find out why in this podcast.

30 for 30 :: Six Who Sat

The story of the women who fought for equality to participate in running events in the 1970s.

Twenty Thousand Hertz :: Theater of the Mind

The history of radio dramas from the War of the Worlds to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy to NPR’s foray into adapting Star Wars.

 

Podcasts of the Week Ending October 13th


99% Invisible :: Hawaiian Shirts: Articles of Interest #4

The ongoing series Articles of Interest goes to Hawaii to discuss the history of the Aloha Shirt, from colonialism to the tourist trade.

Hub History :: Riots Classics

This well-timed podcast collects three stories from Boston’s riotous past: the Boston Police Strike of 1919, the Broad Street Riots of 1837, and the Impressment Riots of 1747. If you think riots in Boston history are interesting, join me on the Bostonians Behaving Badly tour on Thursday night.

Radiolab :: In the No, Part 1

This is a RadioLab podcast but it collects material from another podcast called The Heart.  Kaitlin Prest takes a deep dive into the issues of sexual consent.

Podcasts of the Week Ending October 4th


Hit Parade :: The Nights on Broadway Edition

I’m not quite a fan of The Bee Gees but I am fascinated by their story, especially their versatility and ability to remain big hit makers over decades without people even noticing.

99% Invisible :: Pockets: Articles of Interest #3

This episode of an ongoing series about clothing focuses on the pocket, the unfairly gendered feature of clothing with a history dating back to its origin as a completely separate article of clothing.  I’m definitely a Pocketist.

Scientific American :: Where There’s a Wills There’s a Way to Explain the Home Run Rise

The science behind how subtle changes in the design of baseballs lead to a rise in home runs hit.

Twenty Thousand Hertz :: Classic Cartoon Sound Effects

How sounds effects for cartoons are made, reused, and become iconic signifiers.

Household Name :: The Amway Dream

Psst…it’s a pyramid scheme.