Podcasts of the Week Ending July 2


 

Decoder Ring :: The Invention of Hydration

How bottled water became a mainstream commodity and the questionable claims of the wellness industry that undergird our collective thirst for hydration.

Decoder Ring :: That Seattle Muzak Sound

The history of Muzak, first created to provide background music to encourage productivity, how it diverged from popular music in the 1960s, and its strange intersection with the 1990s grunge scene. When I was a DJ at my college radio station, I used to play selections from Grunge Lite in the background when I talked.

Radiolab :: The Vanishing of Harry Pace

This 4-part series (with perhaps more episodes to come?) is the story of Harry Pace who founded Black Swan Records, a successful and influential Black-owned enterprise, a century.  He also worked to desegregate Chicago neighborhoods. And yet his grandchildren grew up knowing little about him and believing they were white!

This Day in Esoteric Political History :: Mandela in Boston (1990)

Nelson Mandela visited Boston in 1990 as part of a thank you tour for anti-apartheid activists in the area as well as because he had family in Boston. The podcast also touches on how Mandela became a figurehead for the American Civil Rights movement at a team when there weren’t clear leaders within the country.

Running Tally of Podcast of the Week Awards for 2021

Podcasts of the Week Ending June 12


 

The Last ArchiveChildren of Zorin

A history of “fake news” through the story of a Soviet journalist who covered the United States in the 1970s with a conspiratorial bent.

Radiolab Breath

Stories about breathing from the miracle of a baby’s first breath to the history of teargas to the crash of breath mints during the pandemic.

This Day in Esoteric Political HistoryOllie!

Oliver North ran for Senate in 1994 and almost won, a terrifying preview of the Republican Party’s rightward lurch into neofascism.  I remember this election well.  I even saw John Warner and Marshall Coleman at a restaurant.

This Day in Esoteric Political History –  Those Pesky Fenians

If you don’t want to read When the Irish Invaded Canada, check out this short podcast about the history of the mid-19th century efforts of Irish American Civil War veterans attempting to bring the fight for Ireland’s independence to Canada.

Running Tally of Podcast of the Week Awards for 2021

Podcasts of the (Two) Weeks Ending May 29


I think I need to pare down the podcasts I subscribe to, because I don’t have a time to listen to all of them much less write about them.  If you’re a podcast creator and churning out multiple episodes per week and making them longer than ever, do me a favor and ease up!

Lost MassachusettsThe Long Ditch and Mother Brook: Secrets of Dedham

On this podcast we go on a paddling journey along some of the Commonwealth’s hidden and historical waterways. As an added bonus, the host calls out Panorama of the Mountains and the fact that I listen to way too many podcasts.

Radiolab – The Rhino Hunter

Despite being a vegetarian much of my life, I’ve long had respect for hunters.  People who hunt tend to be conservationists and have reverence for animals that people who just buy their meat packaged at the store don’t have.  This podcast deals with the complicated intersection of hunters and conservation of some of the earth’s most endangered species.

Slow BurnFour Dicks (and Vice President Cheney)

This season of Slow Burn deals with the decisions made leading to the U.S.-lead invasion of Iraq.  This episode  is informative and infuriating as it deals with the elected members of each party who put politics ahead of intelligence in justifying the call for war.

The Tomorrow Society – Author Bill Cotter on the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair

I’ve long be fascinated with the World’s Fairs in New York so I enjoyed this interview with Bill Cotter, an author who specializes in histories of World’s Fairs.

Twenty Thousand HertzProgression Obsession

An examination of chord progressions that make up many of the most famous songs in popular music.  Also, did you know that the ubiquitous Pachelbel’s Canon was virtually unknown until just over 50 years ago?

Running Tally of Podcast of the Week Awards for 2021

Podcasts of the Week Ending April 3


Fresh Air :: The High Stakes Of Amazon’s ‘One-Click America’

The vote to unionize an Amazon warehouse in Alabama and what that means for labor in America.

Planet Money ::  Socialism 101

A primer on a widely misunderstood economic theory.

Radio Boston ::  New Study Supports Suffolk DA Rollins’ Focus More On Serious, Violent Crimes

Rachael Rollins ran for and was elected as Suffolk County District Attorney promising not to prosecute many nonviolent offenses and focus on more serious crimes.  Newly released data is proving her approach to be correct.

Radiolab :: What Up, Holmes?

Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes originated a metaphor for free speech as “the marketplace of ideas,” but is there a better way to conceptualize freedom of speech?

This Day in Esoteric Political History :: Three Mile Meltdown

A partial nuclear meltdown at a nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania was apparently not as bad as it is always made out to be.

Throughline :: Our Own People

The story of a social justice activist I’ve never heard of before, Yuri Kochiyama. A Japanese-American woman who fought for Asian American equality, Kochiyama allied herself with numerous liberation movements. She was friends was Malcolm X and held him as he died.

What Next :: Can a Highway Be Racist?

There’s a long history in the United States of working class BIPOC communities being leveled to build and enlarge highways.  The freeway revolt against this practice continues in Houston.

Running Tally of Podcast of the Week Awards for 2021

Podcasts of the Week Ending January 30


Have You Heard? ::  Reopening a Can of Worms

A deep dive into the debate over sending children back to school during the pandemic.

Lost Massachusetts :: The Lost Corner: AKA Hells Acre, The Oblong, Etc.

I’ve always been fascinated with “The Oblong” on the CT-NY border but had not known of the lawless settlement that once was in the corner of Massachusetts.

The Memory Palace :: The Stone

Long before the fears of a “9/11 Mosque” were stoked by prejudiced Americans, another fear of an outsiders’ religion manifested in protests and violence over a stone for the Washington Monument.

Radiolab :: Smile My Ass

Candid Camera created “reality television” by redefining how we viewed reality itself.

What Next :: Did the Media Fail the Trump Years?

Yes.

 

Running Tally of Podcast of the Week Awards for 2021

Podcasts of the Week Ending December 26


Welcome to the final Podcasts of the Week post for 2020.  Stay tuned for the Podcasts of the Year post on December 29!

Radiolab :: A Terrible Covid Christmas Special

Is Santa an essential worker? This and other questions are answered about Christmas in Covid Times.

99% Invisible :: Mini-Stories: Volume 9

Some short pieces on topics such as the process of novelizing a hit movie, Switzerland’s strange defensive measures, and ABBA’s outlandish outfits.

 

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Podcasts of the Week Ending December 19


Ben Franklin’s World :: The World of the Wampanoag

A two-party history of the indigenous people of Eastern Massachusetts who encountered the Puritan settlers of Plymouth in 1620.

Planet Money :: We Buy a Lot of Christmas Trees

A behind-the-scenes look into how the Christmas tree market works.

Planet Money :: The Case Against Facebook

A suit filed by the federal government and 46 state attorney generals against Facebook is stirring up the long-dormant history of anti-trust action in the United States.

Radiolab :: The Ashes on the Lawn

The purposes of protest and why they can’t be modulated to avoid offending people as seen through the story of the ACT UP protests to support relief from the AIDS crisis.

Smithsonian Sidedoor :: Edison’s Demon Dolls

Talking dolls are creepy and have been so since they were first invented in the 1890s by Thomas Edison himself.

Snap Judgment :: The Crossroad

A true story of a good Samaritan in the time of COVID 19.

RUNNING TALLY OF PODCAST OF THE WEEK APPEARANCES

Podcasts of the Week Ending October 10


Hit Parade :: One and Done Edition

We all remember the artists and bands who are famous for their one big hit, but defining a “one-hit wonder” is surprisingly controversial. Men Without Hats and Vanilla Ice officially have multiple hits, while Jimi Hendrix and Lou Reed are actually one-hit wonders. Chris Molanphy puts forward some parameters for defining a one-hit wonder that take in account cultural relevance as well as actual chart performance.

Planet Money :: Rethinking Black Wealth

A notorious government report in the 1960s held families headed by Black women as responsible for poverty in African American communities. Dr. Andre Perry reanalyzes the data and finds that Black people actually suffer from “devalued assets” and that Black women are actually not the problem but the solution.

Radiolab :: No Special Duty

The purpose of the police force is famously “to protect and serve,” but some shocking legal decisions revealed that the police actually have no requirement to protect the public.

The Truth :: Married Alive

A fictional story about a couple going through marriage counseling while literally buried in an avalanche of snow.

RUNNING TALLY OF PODCAST OF THE WEEK APPEARANCES

Podcasts of Two Weeks Ending September 12


AirSpace :: Me and the Sky

The story behind the musical Come Far Away which draws upon the life of one of the first women to become a commercial airline pilot, Beverly Bass, and the grounding of 38 passenger planes in the small town of Gander, Newfoundland on September 11, 2001 (a story also covered in the book The Day the World Came To Town).

The Moth :: All Together Now​: ​Fridays with The Moth​ – Caroline Hunter & Anne Moraa

I’m sharing this particularly for Caroline Hunter’s story of working at Polaroid in Cambridge, MA and discovering that her supposedly progressive company was aiding the Apartheid regime in South Africa, and how she lead the fight to stop it.

99% Invisible :: Podcast Episode

This podcast traces the rise and fall of generic supermarket products in the 1970s & 1980s through the story of the Canadian chain Loblaws.

:: Where Do We Go From Here?

The controversies over transgender people using public restrooms is only the latest issue related to toilet facilities that has split the American people.  Designers in this episode note that public restrooms are actually poorly designed for most people and introduce a new design that would address the problems faced by transgender people, disabled people, and many others.

Planet Money :: The Old Rules Were Dumb Anyway

The COVID-19 is changing many of the rules from medical practices to restaurants. This podcast episode argues that the rules should not revert to normal when the pandemic ends.

Radiolab :: Translation

Several stories that address the idea of translation and attempting to find truth and meaning.

Sound Opinions :: The Replacements & Mission of Burma

Two of my favorite bands in one podcast.  The Replacements get the biographical treatment, with the help of the author of Trouble Boys Bob Mehr, and then we hear an in-studio performance by Mission of Burma.


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Podcasts of the Two Weeks Ending August 15


I subscribe to too many podcasts while simultaneously having less time to listen to them. Forgive the interlude as I catch you up on two weeks of podcasts.

Brattle Film Podcast :: Behind the Scenes on Boston Movies

The Brattle Theatre in Cambridge had a great series on Boston Movies and all four podcasts are worth listening to, but I particularly liked this final podcast where they interview on-set dresser Adam Roffman about the behind-the-scenes production of movies in Boston and how they’ve changed over time.

Fresh Air :: Jeffrey Toobin On The ‘Tragedy’ Of The Mueller Report

How the Democrats were out-maneuvered by the Trump administration allowing him to get away with obstruction of justice.

Radiolab :: Uncounted

An episode on voting rights focuses on the District of Columbia’s non-voting delegate to Congress and the movement to lower the voting age to 16.

This American Life :: Nice White Parents

A public middle school in Brooklyn with a predominately non-white student body deals with an unexpected influx of white students and the effects that of white parents involvement in the school operations.  This is the first episode of Chana Joffe-Walt’s series called Nice White Parents that is both fascinating in its exploration of the changes at one school over time and cringe-inducing by the careless and clueless behavior of white parents (and the school districts who cater to their interests).  I particularly like that Joffe-Walt asks tough questions and doesn’t let people get away without answering them.

Have You Heard :: Pandemics Pods: Parents, Privilege, Power, and Politics

Speaking of Nice White Parents, you may have heard of the latest trend of “pandemic pods” where parents pool together funds to hire a teacher or tutor to educate a small group of students at home instead of returning to school during the Covid-19 pandemic. This podcast explains the devastating effects this latest form of “white flight” will have and how it opens the doors to the worst offerings of disaster capitalists.

99% Invisible :: Policing the Open Road

A century ago, the rise of the automobile as a predominant form of transportation led to an increase of policing to enforce road rules. The changes lead to a vast increase in ordinary peoples’ interaction with the police, increased police power and professionalization, and even the loss of Constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizures.

Throughline :: Reframing History: The Litter Myth

In the 1950s, industry leaders organized to create Keep America Beautiful that produced public service announcements against littering. The seemingly benign ads had the effect of transferring responsibility for the environment from industries that made disposable single-use packaging to the personal responsibility of consumers. This conflict in how to deal with environmental issues persists to this day, and corporations still rely on “greenwashing” to make them look environmentally responsible.

Code Switch :: Kamala, Joe, And The Fissures In The Base

If you listen to pundits, and the Democrats 2020 presidential candidate, you might come to believe that Black Americans are a monolithic voting bloc.  This myth is dispelled in Code Switch where the diversity of opinions and conflicts even within Black families over politics are strong.

Decoder Ring :: Mystery of the Mullet

The mullet hairstyle, short in front and long in back, is worn by a diversity of people ranging from macho men in rural communities to lesbian women, from hockey players to heavy metal heads. But the Oxford English Dictionary traces the use of the term “mullet” only to 1994, surprisingly late for a hairstyle identified with the 1980s.  Willa Paskin investigates this linguistic mystery.  Personally, I never heard the term mullet until the late 1990s and had heard them called short-longs prior to mullet gaining popularity.


RUNNING TALLY OF PODCAST OF THE WEEK APPEARANCES