Podcasts of the Week Ending January 11, 2020


Welcome to 2020! Here is my first collection of podcasts worth your time for the new year.

Anthropocene Reviewed :: Auld Lang Syne

A touching story of the song we all sing at the stroke of midnight even if we don’t know what it means.

60-Second Science :: You Traveled Far in 2019

We’ve come a long way, baby.

BackStory :: Those Were The Days: Nostalgia in American History

Looking back at the “good old days” can have grave political consequences.

Wedway Radio :: Imagineering Disney: Soundscaping

A history of the uses of sound in Disney Parks.

The Cine-Files :: The Life and Films of Akira Kurosawa

An examination of the career of Japan’s groundbreaking filmmaker.


Running Tally of Podcast of the Week Appearances in 2020

2019 Year in Review: Favorite Podcasts


Happy Christmas! If you have some time off today or in the coming week, you might want to fill that time by listening to some podcasts!  To help you, here’s a list of my favorite podcasts episodes from 2019 ( you can also check the previous year’s list from 2018).

Before we get to the episodes, there are some podcast series I want to recognize as being the ones that I always want to listen to every episode, as inaugural inductees in my

Podcast Hall of Fame

  1. 99% Invisible
  2. Hit Parade
  3. The Memory Palace
  4. The Mortified Podcast
  5. Risk!
  6. The Thirty20Eight
  7. Throughline
  8. Twenty Thousand Hertz
  9. Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me

Short Series of Note

White Lies

A serialized documentary about the murder of Reverend James Reeb in Selma, Alabama in 1965 and how no one was ever brought to justice for the crime.

1619 Project  

This podcast debuted in August to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in what would become the United States.  The 1619 Project, created by the New York Times and hosted by Nikole Hannah-Jones, explores how

Dolly Parton’s America

This is a new podcast about possibly America’s most beloved living person, Dolly Parton, explores many aspect of her music and public persona.

You Must Remember This :: Disney’s Most Controversial Film

A history of Disney’s banned movie, Song of the South, from its origins, influences on culture, popular re-releases, and persistent presence to this day.

The Report

This 15-part podcast breaks down the Mueller Report for those of us who don’t have time to read the report and/or need an assist with the legalese.

Favorite Podcast Episodes

On the Media :: Africatown

Survivors of The Clotilde, the last ship to carry Africans kidnapped into slavery in the United States, created a community outside Mobile, Alabama after the Civil War (covered in the recently published Zora Neale Hurston book Barracoon). The community has been devastated by environmental racism but survivors still hope to preserve its history.

The Truth :: Meet Cute

A romantic comedy where one the members of the couple dies before the first date.  There’s a lot of clever twists in this story.

Decoder Ring :: Baby Shark

Everything you need to know, and then some, about this year’s viral sensation, “Baby Shark” (doo, doo, doo, doo, doo).

Code Switch :: When Disaster Strikes

Inequality rears its ugly head in America in many ways.  Code Switch explores how disaster aid is biased in favor of white, prosperous homeowners and against poorer, people of color who rent

Twenty Thousand Hertz :: The Booj

In a world where every movie trailer sounds exactly like every other movie trailer, how does one make their trailer stand out?  The story of The Booj and other elements common to the blockbuster movie trailer formula.  Confession:  I love the sound of The Booj, but can live without the cheezy song covers.

Hit Parade :: The Everybody Say YEAH! Edition

Hit Parade traces Stevie Wonder’s career from his first #1 single – ““Fingertips, Part 2” in 1963 – and his emergence as a song writer, producer, multi-instrumentalist, and recording artist into his imperial period of the 1970s.  Chris Molanphy’s description of “Little” Stevie Wonder improvising on the live performance recording of “Fingerpits” as a 12-year old doing everything he can to stay up later past bedtime, is absolutely perfect.

99% Invisible :: Play Mountain

Isamu Noguchi was a sculptor and designer with an interesting life story.  He designed an abstract playground structure for New York City but was rejected by Robert Moses, who became a lifelong enemy (and this makes me love Noguchi more).  During World War II, he volunteered for internment in order to design a humane camp for the Japanese-American internees, and then found himself both unable to influence the design and unable to leave.  Today, his legacy lives on in unique, abstract playgrounds.

Hit Parade :: The Invisible Miracle Sledgehammer Edition

If you turned on the radio in the mid-1980s, you were likely to hear music by members of Genesis (Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, and Mike and the Mechanics) while the band Genesis continued to make hits.  Chris Molanphy explains this unusual situation in pop music history.

Code Switch :: The Original ‘Welfare Queen’

The story of a con artist, child abductor, and possible murderer whose crimes were used to justify to slash welfare safety nets by the Reagan and Clinton administrations.

Decoder Ring :: Chuck E. Cheese Pizza War

My grandmother took my sister and I to a Chuck E. Cheese in the 80s when we were much too old for Chuck E. Cheese.  From this podcast I learned that the audioanimatronic shows were intended for adults and that they no longer exist at Chuck E. Cheese today.  And that’s just the beginning of a lot of strange stories.

Have You Heard? :: White Homebuyers, Black Neighborhoods and the Future of Urban Schools

Hit Parade :: The History of Show Tunes and the Pop Charts

A broad history of Broadway tunes and cast albums making it to the top of the charts, whether as original cast recordings, covers, or even samples.  I learned a lot, such as the fact that Natalie Wood did not sing her own songs in West Side Story, and that Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita were concept albums before they were staged as shows.

StoryCorps :: A Danger to My Country

Stories of the “Lavender Scare” in the 1950s federal government, and the gay man who had to enforce it.

Throughline :: Milliken v. Bradley

The effort to end school segregation by way of busing lead to this Supreme Court case decision that still affects our schools and communities to this day

Hub History :: Mayor Curley’s Plan to Ban the Klan 

Back in the 1920s, white supremacists hoped to expand their operations into Boston, but faced fierce opposition from Boston mayor James Michael Curley.  If only Boston’s mayor in 2019 was not a coward who appeases white supremacists.

The War on Cars :: Dying For Change

Bicycling activists stage more aggressive protests against politicians and the police as the deaths of cyclists increase in number.

This American Life :: We Come From Small Places

The immigrant experience explored through stories from the Labor Day Carnival and the West Indian American Day Parade in Brooklyn.

the legacy of slavery, segregation, and inequality have shaped American history.

The War on Cars :: The Problem with Public Meetings

Are public meetings the most democratic and effective way of finding common ground on the use of shared urban spaces?  Probably not.  This episode breaks down the problems of public meetings through the lens of a town hall forum in Brooklyn.

 

The War on Cars :: The Automotive Police State

Cars are often equated with freedom, but in this podcast we learn the mass production of cars lead to a massive increase in policing and the erosion of 4th Amendment rights. This is a must-listen.

Best of the Left :: Why We Cannot Have Nice Things (How Racism Hurts Everyone, Including White People)

This collection of stories from progressive news outlets takes “a look at some of the ways that conservative policies, willed into existence almost exclusively by white people, measurably hurt people and shorten life expectancies, including those who most fervently support the self-destructive policies.”

This American Life :: The Out Crowd

Important journalism for anyone who wants to know the extent of the crimes against humanity being carried out in our names at the border.

Hit Parade :: Rolling in God’s Royal Uptown Road Edition

Chris Molanphy expertly and entertainingly breaks down the trends in hit songs that charted in the 2010s.  The episode made me oddly nostalgic for the decade that hasn’t even ended yet.  Although, after having it broken down, I think I liked the hit music from the first half of the decade better than the second half.

Final tally of 2019 Podcast of the Week appearances

Podcasts of the Week Ending December 21


This is the last Podcasts of the Week post for 2019.  Tune in on Christmas Day when my Podcasts of the Year post goes live!

Throughline :: The Phoebus Cartel

The history of planned obsolescence told through stories of two common consumer products – light bulbs and automobiles. The waste and profiteering of this common practice is something we’re going to have address as our planet faces environmental crisis.

To the Best of Our Knowledge :: How Africans Are Building The Cities Of The Future

I’m fascinated by urbanism and this podcasts details the uniquely African development of some of the world’s fastest-growing cities.

What Next :: Black Voters Fight to Count in Georgia

There are numerous political issues worth fighting for, but in my opinion, the top priority is voting rights.  The other issues cannot be resolved until we can guarantee fair participation of all voters.

BackStory :: From BackStory to You: A History of Giving and Receiving

A history of gifts, including Choctaw support for famine relief in Ireland and Black Philadelphians aiding their white neighbors during a Yellow Fever outbreak.

Running tally of 2019 Podcast of the Week appearances:

Podcasts of the Week Ending December 13


Decoder Ring :: Murphy’s Law

Back in the 80s there were an endless series of popular humor books about “Murphy’s Law.”  This podcast seeks to find the origin of the story and discovers that it’s harder to document than expected.

Code Switch :: Reverse Freedom Rides

An incident in history I’d never heard of before occurred in the 1960s when racist Southern whites organized to send Black Southerners to Northern cities.

60-Second Science :: Linguists Hear An Accent Begin

I’m fascinated by accents and this podcast explores how accents originate.

Throughline :: America’s Opioid Epidemic

Opioid addiction goes back a long way in American history, at least to the Civil War.  Wars have been key in introducing new addictive drugs into the populace.  And historically, the response to addiction has always been racialized: healthcare and compassion for white people, punishment for Black people.

Running tally of 2019 Podcast of the Week appearances:

Podcasts of the Week Ending December 7


99% Invisible :: The Infantorium

Disneyland and Epcot are famous for demonstrating technology in order to provide a vision of the future.  But in the early 1900s the technology at American amusement parks and carnivals was incubators for premature babies.  This podcast explains how it came to be that parents of premature babies had to bring their children to amusement parks rather than hospitals.

Futility Closet :: A Kidnapped Painting

The story of the theft of Goya’s portrait of the Duke of Wellington from London’s National Gallery is unexpectedly amusing.

Twenty Thousand Hertz :: Historically Speaking

The history of language and how it shapes cultures and individual identities.

Running tally of 2019 Podcast of the Week appearances:

Podcasts of the Week Ending November 30


More or Less :: The world’s busiest shipping lanes

Have you ever wondered about shipping lanes?  Me neither.  But it turns out the management that goes into making them work smoothly is quite fascinating.

Lost at the Smithsonian :: The Original Muppets

Jim Henson’s Muppets redefined puppetry and the possibilities of television entertainment.  The Smithsonian holds 30 early Muppets that help the story of Henson and his colleagues.  Includes an interview by Aasif Mandvi with Frank Oz!

Hit Parade :: Rolling in God’s Royal Uptown Road Edition

Chris Molanphy expertly and entertainingly breaks down the trends in hit songs that charted in the 2010s.  The episode made me oddly nostalgic for the decade that hasn’t even ended yet.  Although, after having it broken down, I think I liked the hit music from the first half of the decade better than the second half.


Running tally of 2019 Podcast of the Week appearances:

Podcasts of the Week Ending November 16


99% Invisible :: Ubiquitous Icons

The story behind three symbols that have become mainstays: the Peace Symbol, the Smiley Face, and the Power Icon on electronic devices.  Note: Forrest Gump was not involved.

Best of the Left :: Why We Cannot Have Nice Things (How Racism Hurts Everyone, Including White People)

This collection of stories from progressive news outlets takes “a look at some of the ways that conservative policies, willed into existence almost exclusively by white people, measurably hurt people and shorten life expectancies, including those who most fervently support the self-destructive policies.”

Throughline :: The Siege of Mecca

The purpose of Throughline is to trace the history that shapes current events, but The Siege of Mecca of November 20, 1979 is something I’d never heard about before at all, and think it’s an important event to have knowledge of.

Radio Boston :: 60 Years Ago, A Folk Revival Began At Passim In Cambridge

Passim, the tiny folk club in Cambridge’s Harvard Square, was an important place for me in my 20s & 30s when I attended a lot of shows and even volunteered there quite a bit.  There’s a lot of great history in this interview.


Running tally of 2019 Podcast of the Week appearances:

Podcasts of the Week Ending November 9


Twenty Thousand Hertz  :: Baby Shark

The long history of the ubiquitous children’s song that became an unexpected hit this year.

Lost at the Smithsonian :: Archie Bunker’s Chair

Norman Lear’s groundbreaking show All in the Family depicted the real divisions within American family.  The famed overstuffed armchair remains on display at the Smithsonian as recognition of the show’s place in history. By the way, I’ve never before noticed how much Donald Trump’s vocal intonations resemble Archie Bunker’s.

Throughline :: No Friends But the Mountains

A history of the Kurds, a people without a nation.

Wedway Radio :: The Evolution of Disney Lands

Breaking down how Disney parks have created lands that evolved from a loose collection of attractions around a theme to fully immersive experiences.


Running tally of 2019 Podcast of the Week appearances:

Podcasts of the Week Ending November 2


Hit Parade :: The Lost and Lonely Edition

In the 1980s, a number of UK bands bridged the gap between post-punk and what would be called alternative music, with moody goth/emo lyrics and droning vocals combined with dance pop: The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Bauhaus, Joy Division, New Order, and the Smiths.  This is what the “cool kids” were listening to when I was in high school, so there’s a lot of nostalgia here.

The War on Cars :: The Automotive Police State

Cars are often equated with freedom, but in this podcast we learn the mass production of cars lead to a massive increase in policing and the erosion of 4th Amendment rights. This is a must-listen.


Running tally of 2019 Podcast of the Week appearances:

Podcasts of the Week Ending October 26


Best of the Left :: Why Prison Abolition is not Nearly as Scary as it Sounds

Twenty Thousand Hertz :: Virtual Choir

Radiolab :: Birdie in the Cage

WBUR :: Anthony Martignetti And That Famous Prince Spaghetti Ad, 50 Years Later

Dolly Parton’s America :: I Will Always Leave You

You Must Remember This :: Disney’s Most Controversial Film

The Memory Palace :: Late One Night


Running tally of 2019 Podcast of the Week appearances: