What I’m Listening to Now – March 2017


It’s more than halfway through April so it’s about time I get this post up for March.

Podcasts of the Month

99% InvisibleChurch, Sanctuary part 1

Sanctuary churches have been in the news.  Here is how it works in practice.

BackStoryTaking it to the Streets

A history of mass protests in the United States.

Best of the LeftLiving in an empire of lies (Propaganda)

Stepping back from the headline news and taking a deep dive into the history of propaganda in the United States.

To the Best of Our Knowledge – Every Time You Troll Me, A Scientist Gets Her Due

Emily Temple-Wood decided the best way to get back at misogynist trolls on the internet is to write a new entry about a woman scientists on Wikipedia every time they attack.

RadiolabShots Fired, part 1

An investigation into police shootings of innocent or unarmed individuals and the networks of the families and friends left behind.

Fresh Air – An ‘Intimate Portrait’ Of Dorothy Day, The Catholic Activist With A Bohemian Past

An interview with Kate Hennessy, author of a new biography of her grandmother, Dorothy Day.

Song of the Month

Frank Turner adds another song to the rapidly growing Resistance Mixtape, “The Sand in the Gears.”

Albums of the Month


Artist: The Feelies
Album: In Between
Release Date: 24 February 2017
Favorite Tracks: “When to Go,” “Stay the Course” and “Turn Back Time”
Rating: ***

The Feelies are a band that seems to have always been around, but this is only their 6th album in 40+ years.  They managed to both influence R.E.M. and be beneficiaries of R.E.M.’s popularity in the 1980s.  The jangle pop of this album is reminiscent of the 80s, not in the 80s Nostalgia Industry way but in the type of music you’d hear your older sibling’s cool best friend listening to in the car in the 80s.  The songs appear laid back, but grow in lyrical and emotional intensity.


Artist: The Shins
AlbumHeartworms
Release Date: 10 March 2017
Favorite Tracks: “So Now What” and “Cherry Hearts”
Rating: ***

The Shins return with their typical high harmonies and wall of sound arrangements.  This album appears to do some genre hopping – ska to EDM to psychedelia – but all within The Shins’ framework.  Definitely a good return to form after a long 5-year hiatus.


ArtistPeter Mulvey
Album: Are You Listening
Release Date: 25 March 2017
Favorite Tracks: “D.I.A.,” “Are You Listening,” “Just Before the War,” “The Details,” and “Oh, The Rain”
Rating: ****

Peter Mulvey is who I’d want to be as a singer-songwriter. On this new album produced by Ani DiFranco, Mulvey’s bass voice resonates and his profound lyrics are full of thought and emotion.  Definitely an album you’ll want to check out.

#TryPod Day 9: Decode DC


All this month, I’ve heard about the campaign to spread the news of podcasts called TryPod.  As I am a voracious listener of podcasts (you can see the complete list of my current subscriptions and other recommendations on my podcast page), I figured I ought to participate while I can.  So I will post about one of my favorite podcasts every day for the last 9 days of March.

Decode DC is a different breed of political podcast, less focused on horse races and hot takes on breaking news, and more interested in delving into political culture, in depth behind the scenes stories, and the history that informs today’s politics.

#TryPod Day 8: Have You Heard?


All this month, I’ve heard about the campaign to spread the news of podcasts called TryPod.  As I am a voracious listener of podcasts (you can see the complete list of my current subscriptions and other recommendations on my podcast page), I figured I ought to participate while I can.  So I will post about one of my favorite podcasts every day for the last 9 days of March.

Education and the politics of public education are big issues for me so it won’t surprise you that I’m recommending the podcast Have You Heard?  Journalist Jennifer Berkshire (formerly EduShyster) and education historian Jack Schneider discuss the hot button topics of market based education solutions and the real world effects they have on students and communities.  Episodes are short and released infrequently but pack a powerful punch.  While waiting for the next episode, make sure to read Berkshire’s blog, also called Have You Heard?

 

#TryPod Day 7: Best of the Left


All this month, I’ve heard about the campaign to spread the news of podcasts called TryPod.  As I am a voracious listener of podcasts (you can see the complete list of my current subscriptions and other recommendations on my podcast page), I figured I ought to participate while I can.  So I will post about one of my favorite podcasts every day for the last 9 days of March.

Best of the Left is one of the more recent additions to my podcast subscriptions.  I think of this as kind of an audio Reader’s Digest collecting progressive political commentary from radio and tv programs and from other podcasts.  This is a podcast that requires a time commitment as episodes are usually around 90 minutes long and they’re released 3 times a week.  On the other hand, if you’re trying to keep up on political events and seeking a variety of opinions on the issues, this podcast can save you some time.  What I like about Best of the Left is that each episode is arranged around a theme – usually a current event – but in some cases a broader idea is explored such as in a recent on propaganda called Living in an Empire of Lies.

#TryPod Day 6: The Irish and Celtic Music Podcast


All this month, I’ve heard about the campaign to spread the news of podcasts called TryPod.  As I am a voracious listener of podcasts (you can see the complete list of my current subscriptions and other recommendations on my podcast page), I figured I ought to participate while I can.  So I will post about one of my favorite podcasts every day for the last 9 days of March.

Today’s podcast is a music podcast.  I’ve always been a fan of Irish music of all types dating back to my childhood when I went with my parents to pubs from County Kerry and County Galway to County Kings and County Bronx.  The Irish and Celtic Music Podcast presented by musician Mark Gunn allows me a weekly wallow in jigs & reels and the occasional rock & roll rave-up for an hour or so.

 

One great song I discovered through the podcast is “Tired By Kids” by the band Poitín, who are from the Czech Republic!

 

#TryPod Day 5: BackStory


All this month, I’ve heard about the campaign to spread the news of podcasts called TryPod.  As I am a voracious listener of podcasts (you can see the complete list of my current subscriptions and other recommendations on my podcast page), I figured I ought to participate while I can.  So I will post about one of my favorite podcasts every day for the last 9 days of March.

BackStory is an American History podcast where a topic (usually “torn from the headlines”) is discussed from the historical perspective with experts in 18th, 19th, and 20th century history sharing how that issue was addressed in their time period.  It’s a good way to be reassured that some intractable problems in our history have been resolved while at the same time realizing the deep roots of the contentious issues of today.
Favorite episodes include:

  • “Pass/Fail: An American History of Testing”
  • “All Hopped Up”
  • “The Pursuit: A History of Happiness”
  • “Another Man’s Treasure”
  • “American Horror Story”
  • “World Apart”

 

 

 

#TryPod Day 4: The Story Collider


All this month, I’ve heard about the campaign to spread the news of podcasts called TryPod.  As I am a voracious listener of podcasts (you can see the complete list of my current subscriptions and other recommendations on my podcast page), I figured I ought to participate while I can.  So I will post about one of my favorite podcasts every day for the last 9 days of March.

The Story Collider allows scientists to tell the personal stories of their research, discoveries, and personal journeys in a way that allows them to share scientific knowledge with a novice audience as well as give a human face to scientific researchers.  It’s a great project to bridge scientists with the general public, and there are some spectacular stories.

Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Rochelle Williams: “Potential”
  • Daniel Engber: “Distracting Mark Cuban”
  • Meghan Groome: “Being Brave About Sex-Ed”
  • Layne Jackson Hubbard: “Still Myself”

#TryPod Day 3: Maeve in America


All this month, I’ve heard about the campaign to spread the news of podcasts called TryPod.  As I am a voracious listener of podcasts (you can see the complete list of my current subscriptions and other recommendations on my podcast page), I figured I ought to participate while I can.  So I will post about one of my favorite podcasts every day for the last 9 days of March.

Maeve in America stars Irish-born comedian Maeve Higgins who interviews a different immigrant to the United States learning their stories and struggles in the anti-immigrant mood of present-day America.

Some favorite episodes:

#TryPod Day 2: 99% Invisible


All this month, I’ve heard about the campaign to spread the news of podcasts called TryPod.  As I am a voracious listener of podcasts (you can see the complete list of my current subscriptions and other recommendations on my podcast page), I figured I ought to participate while I can.  So I will post about one of my favorite podcasts every day for the last 9 days of March.

99% Invisible is one of my absolute favorite podcasts.  It’s a podcast about design, which is kind of vague and misleading, because this podcast encompass a wide variety of topics.  Each episode, host Roman Mars leads the listener through the unoticed architecture and design that shape our world.

Some of my favorite episodes:

  • Frozen assets” – The story of Frederic Tudor, the Ice King.
  • Project Cybersyn” – Fascinating story of a futuristic room designed to be the place where the economy of Chile would be controlled under the Salvador Allende government.  It would be destroyed by the Pinochet dictatorship with only one photograph surviving.
  • On Average” – It’s a cliché to say that no one is average, but the science bears it out.  Not only that but it’s actually dangerous to assume that an average can define a human characteristic.  And who knew that the military was behind the sizing of everything?
  • Photo Credit” –  This episode is about the photographer Lucia Moholy who documented the architecture and designs of the Bauhaus movement basically keeping the style alive when World War II and the Eastern Bloc prevented access to the original works, but she received little credit for her art and contributions.
  • A Sea Worth It’s Salt” – The unlikely story of California’s largest body of water, created by accident in the early 1900s, turned into a tourist resort in the 50s and 60s, and today scorned for it’s unaturalness even within the environmental movement, despite being home to scores of unique species of birds.
  • Structural Integrity” – The story of how a New York City skyscraper almost fell over.
  • “The Shift” – dissecting baseball’s defensive strategy.

#TryPod Day 1: The Memory Palace


All this month, I’ve heard about the campaign to spread the news of podcasts called TryPod.  As I am a voracious listener of podcasts (you can see the complete list of my current subscriptions and other recommendations on my podcast page), I figured I ought to participate while I can.  So I will post about one of my favorite podcasts every day for the last 9 days of March.

The first podcast I think you should try is one I’ve been listening to for quite some time. Host Nate DiMeo tells stories of little known historical events in United State’s history in a soothing tone of voice.  DiMeo’s strength is providing vivid descriptions of the sights, sounds, and smells of an event, allowing the listener to experience events as they unfold rather than from hindsight.

It’s a short podcast, so if you don’t want to commit much time to listening to podcasts it’s a good place to start.  Here are some of my favorite episodes:

 

Haunting” – The story of Washington Phillip’s mysterious gospel and blues music
Numbers” – This podcast dramatizes the first nationally televised Draft Lottery on December 1, 1969.
Oil, Water” – Whenever Cleveland is mentioned, one hears about the Cuyahoga River catching fire, but until listening to this podcast I was unaware that there were multiple fires over decades and the considerable damage that they caused.
“Dreamland” – Coney Island’s great early 20th-century amusement park.
“Victory” – The story of a an untalented baseball player taken on as a good luck charm by the 1911 New York Giants.
“Harriet Quimby” –  American aviator from the early days of flight.

What I’m Listening to Now – February 2017


Better late than never, here is the report of what I was listening to in February, a short month punctuated by a delightful vacation where I mostly listened to the laughter of my children.

Podcasts of the Month

Fresh AirThe History of US Intervention

A discussion of the United States involvement with the rest of the world from isolationism to the world’s police to the more sinister activities of imperialism and corporate hegemony.

Jacobin RadioWe Can Do Better

What is capitalism, what role does it play in our lives, and is it really the best we can do?

To The Best of Our KnowledgeA Borderless World

Borders and immigration are a key issue of our times.  These stories illustrate how the idea of borders is becoming an outdated one.

BackStoryWorld Apart

The divide between urban and rural populations is one of the major causes of political disagreement in the US today, and one that goes back throughout the history of the United States.

This American LifeIt’s Working Out Very Nicely

Stories of the confusion and struggle that arose in the wake of Trump’s executive order banning travel from seven Muslim-majority nations.

Twenty Thousand HertzAudio Descriptions

Movies have a track of audio description intended to help the visually impaired and this podcast describes the art of narration and how audio descriptions can benefit all viewers.

Decode DCHow cops can legally take your car, home, or cash

The chilling law of civil asset forfeiture that allows police to take property from suspects even if they’re not convicted or even charged with crimes.

Have You Heard?You’re Fired

All about why school turnarounds – a theory of fixing low-performing schools by firing the teachers and staff that has widespread, bipartisan support – is an idea that doesn’t work, and what actually does.

Song of the Month

Chicago singer-songwriter Zeshan Bagewadi (aka Zeshan B) provides a powerful interpretation of the 1970 protest anthem “Cryin’ in the Streets” by  George Perkins that ties together generations of protest for justice and equality in the United States.  Learn more about the song The World interview.

 

Albums of the Month

Artist: Tinariwen
Album: Elwan
Release Date: 10 February 2017
Favorite Tracks: “Sastanàqqàm,” Ténéré Tàqqàl,” “Assàwt,” and “Nànnuflày”
Thoughts: The Northern Africa Desert Blues band from Mali’s most recent release includes guest appearances by indie artists like Kurt Vile, but the band itself is the stand out performer of this collection of melodic, resonant, and politically-charged tunes.
Rating: ***1/2


 

Artist: Clap! Clap!
Album: A Thousand Skies
Release Date: 17 February 2017
Favorite Tracks: “Ar-Raqis” and “Elephant Seranade”
Thoughts: Clap! Clap! is a project of Italian producer Cristiano Crisci, who creates instrumental dance tracks relying heavily on indigenous percussion.  An earlier Clap! Clap! recording, Tayi Bebba,  made my 2014 favorite albums list.  While not as strong as its predecessor, A Thousand Skies is equally enjoyable as festive ambient music for a party or for getting through a gray day at work
Rating: ***1/2


Artist: Visible Cloaks
AlbumReassemblage
Release Date: 17 February 2017
Favorite Tracks: “Bloodstream”, “Place,” “Valve (Revisited)”
Thoughts: Somewhere between Phillip Glass, a church organist, and a lullaby lies this lovely collection of ambient tunes.
Rating: ***


Artist: Molly Burch
AlbumPlease Be Mine
Release Date: 17 February 2017
Favorite Tracks: “Fool”
Thoughts: A collection of retro, country-tinged tracks sung sweetly by a barroom singer.  It’s pretty and well-produced, and while there’s nothing wrong with Burch’s album it’s nothing we  haven’t heard before from Patsy Cline and singers produced by Phil Spector among others, so it’s just a tad bit dull.
Rating: **


 

Podcasts of the Week for the Week Ending November 27


Okay, it’s been several weeks since the last Podcast of the Week, and I’ve decided this will be the last installment of this feature.  In the future I may do a monthly roundup or an irregular schedule of posts.
To start of this final post, here are three new podcasts feeds I’m subscribing to:
  • Maeve in America – Irish comedian Maeve Higgins interviews a different immigrant to America in each episode
  • Hub History – a new podcast on one of my favorite topics, Boston history, which has already covered topics ranging from Cotton Mather’s smallpox innoculation and the Great Molasses Flood
  • Stranglers – a 12-part documentary focusing a particularly notorious time in Boston history, the strangler murders of 1962-64
And here are some good episodes from the past motnth or so:
  • Planet Money – Bad Form, Wells Fargo – Career destroying practices for employees involved in the Wells Fargo scandal
  • 99 Percent Invisible – The Shift – the history of baseball’s revolutionary defensive strategy
  • Politically Re-Active – W. Kamau Bell and Hari Kondabolu  with guest Roxane Gay  on Anger After the Election
  • Sounds in My Head – Special Post-Election Episode with a playlist of very sad songs

Podcasts of the Week for the Week of October 30


SidedoorTech Yourself 

I added another podcast subscription to my stable for this new production from The Smithsonian Institution. The debut episode explores various aspects of the human relationship with technology. 

Politically Re-ActiveDr. Jill Stein on Investing Your Vote

W. Kamau Bell and Hari Kondabolu interview Green Party Presidential candidate, Jill Stein. 

The Specialist – Blood Girls

Did you know that there’s a job for someone to make fake wounds on volunteers participating in first responder training? Learn all about them in this podcast.

BackStoryAmerican Horror Story

Just in time for Halloween, a cultural
history of horror in
the United States

Podcasts of the Week for the Week Ending October 24


An eerie story of a woman’s experience waking up in a hospital with a head injury and no memory of how she got there. It’s well-told with details revealed in the order she learned them.
Neil Degrasse Tyson interviews the ever charming and poetic French performance artists about his high-wire walks.
An exploration into the first type of residential architecture designed with the idea of immediately selling it to someone else and thus creating a style that no one likes.
Mike Pesca interviews the Green Party candidate for President.  While Pesca is critical of Stein, nevertheless it’s good to hear her get a chance to speak and bring up some issues not being addressed by the major party candidates.
Despite being a hot button issue, voter fraud is exceedingly rare in the United States today and especially difficult to carry out on a large scale to effect national elections.
An interview with Eric Liu who wants to bring back civic pride and celebration to elections.
A short history of how the District of Columbia has been denied Congressional representation and how non-voting Representative  Eleanor Holmes Norton is trying to change that.

Podcasts of the Week for the Week Ending October 16


To the Best of Our Knowledge – Time Travel
I’ve always been obsessed by time travel.  Here are some stories of other obsessives and the possibilities of making time travel a reality.
Planet Money – The Wells Fargo Hustle
An insiders’ view of the latest scam in the banking and finance industry
To the Best of Our Knowledge – The Problem With Men’s Locker Rooms and Women’s Restrooms
This short episode takes on topical issues, but is most fascinating when discussing the Dutch culture of teaching children about sexuality and the history of segregating spaces by gender.
The Replacements were a great band of the 1980s who were “five years too early, and ten years too late.”  This is their story from their biographer.  I need to listen to more of The Replacements.  Perhaps a Musical Discovery?

Podcasts of the Week for the Week Ending October 9


A Far Cry performs at the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum with pieces featuring a performance on the toy piano and an arrangement of “Amazing Grace” for clarinet.
Political narratives champion the “good” immigrant but still punish many people who make positive contributions to the country.
Fascinating story of a futuristic room designed to be the place where the economy of Chile would be controlled under the Salvador Allende government.  It would be destroyed by the Pinochet dicatorship with only one photograph surviving.
Fascinating interview with a hip-hop activist, community organizer, and former Green Party VP candidate touching on a lot of important issues the major parties are ignoring in this election.

Podcasts of the Week for the Week Ending October 2


This is another Podcasts of Two Weeks since I failed to get up a post last week, but these podcasts are all still timely enough to be worth listening to:
The Memory Palace – “Haunting
  • The story of Washington Phillip’s mysterious gospel and blues music

The Gist – “How Do We Fix Down-Ballot Elections?

  • 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.
To the Best of Our Knowledge – Locked Up
  • 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.
Have You Heard? – Peanut Butter and Persistence
  • 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.

Podcasts of the Week for the Week of September 18


Too tired to write up descriptions but here are the best podcasts I listened to last week. 

Podcasts of the Week for Labor Day


I neglected to submit a POTW post last week, so here are two weeks worth of podcasts worth listening to!

99% Invisible – On Average

I’m once again recommending 99PI, because while it’s a cliche to say that no one is average, the science bears it out.  Not only that but it’s actually dangerous to assume that an average can define a human characteristic.  And who knew that the military was behind the sizing of everything?

I always thought the frantic cross-country travel by Presidential candidates to appear in as many states as possible was a waste of time in the era of mass media, and science bears it out.
The story of the ethics of triage revisits Hurricane Katrina and the difficult choices faced in a hospital of who to save and who to let die.  It’s the most heart-wrenching podcast I’ve ever listened to.
This podcast dramatizes an incident I’d not been aware of, a nationally televised Draft Lottery on December 1, 1969.  Still not clear on how this was different from conscription that occured before that date.
The science, the ethics, and the culinary arts of disgust.  Also, a great piece about bat conservation.
All about defining Americans by our work ethic, or lack thereof.  The concept that colonial Americans defined liberty by being able to have other people do their work is a fascinating one.

Podcasts of the Week for the week ending August 21


Fresh Air – “Creamed, Canned and Frozen

The interview with Jane Ziegelman and Andy Coe, authors of A Square Meal, discusses culinary history of the Great Depression when food choices were informed by the science of nutrition and new food production technologies, but not by taste or cooking traditions.  A fascinating topic.

Science Talk – “Grand Canyon Rapids Ride for Evolution Education

Robin Lloyd and Steve Mirsky discuss their boat trip on the Colorado rapids through the Grand Canyon, and now I want to pack up and go to Arizona right now!

99% Invisible – “Photo Credit

So, 99% Invisible is basically a POTW recommendation every week.  This episode is about the photographer Lucia Moholy who documented the architecture and designs of the Bauhaus movement basically keeping the style alive when World War II and the Eastern Bloc prevented access to the original works, but she received little credit for her art and contributions.

Code Switch – “Struggling School, Or Sanctuary?

School closings disproportionately affect black children. This podcast documents the final year at a middle and high school in Wilkinsburg, PA.