Monday, November 04, 2019

October Podcast Roundup

Have we ever talked about what a heathen I am? It actually doesn't look like we've covered my religious background here on this blog because I am essentially areligous. It just doesn't cross my radar. I know other people go to church/synagogue/mosque because I'm not a moron, but I never have. I don't even THINK about religion. My celebration of religious holidays is so secular my mother-in-law used to sob at my soul. My husband's family is quite religious and I've been to a lot of Catholic ceremonies, but beyond thinking of it as a familial obligation, it's not a thing I think about.

But because I've never had an interest in or education of religion, I miss A TON of allegory in modern life

The King James Virgin is the podcast made JUST FOR ME. Two dudes, Alan and Adam, who grew up in Protestant homes, going to church, Sunday school, and religious schools in their childhoods, tell their heathen friend Nick stories from the Bible. It has been so eye-opening for me that I can't even tell you. I was even able to win a Bible-based argument with my husband about how many times Jesus spit on someone in the Bible (a conversation I provoked because I knew the answer and I was SO PROUD) because of this podcast.  It is three. He spit on people three times to heal them.  As you do.

Anyway, I don't know if I wholeheartedly recommend this to everyone. If you, for instance, are a true believer, you might find the whole podcast a bit heretical. If you already know your Bible stories, this will not be your cup of tea. But if you're an ignoramus like me, go forth and finally understand why the dove always has an olive branch!

Last Day is a podcast about the opioid epidemic in the United States. Our narrator is Stephanie Wittels Wachs, whose brother Harris Wittels (an actor/comedian that many may know from Parks and Recreation, but I know because he was friends with Mike Mitchell, one of the co-hosts of my beloved podcast Doughboys) died from a heroin overdose in 2015.  It's a hard listen, but since every person in this country is impacted by the rise in illegal drug use, particularly heroin laced with fentanyl, it's worth it. I especially found the episode in which the host talks to doctors about what it's like to OD (does it hurt? how long does it take?) incredibly powerful.

I don't always like to listen about drug use. There's a moment when a recovering addict basically says that people blame addicts because addicts put the needle in their arm for the first time and, honestly, that's sort of how I feel. But we all make mistakes. And a one time bad choice shouldn't lead to such terrible consequences. The whole show is making me rethink how I feel about treatment and how society treats people who are chemically dependent. Also, let's be real.  Addiction doesn't JUST impact people who are addicted - our entire society suffers.
I love to talk about the census and, luckily for me, so does Code Switch. In the episode "Political Prisoners?" the team looks at a small town in Wisconsin in which prisoners make up half the population, but the alderman who represents those prisoners has never been to the prison or talked to anyone incarcerated there.  Counting people is hard, yo, and this raises lots of ethical questions.  This town is getting more money because it's counting these prisoners, but it's not really giving them any services.  Should they be counted as members of their home districts?  I mean, that doesn't make sense since their home districts aren't giving them services, either.

Maybe, just maybe...the solution is that politicians should listen to prisoners and represent them?

Reveal recently had an episode called "Catch a Killer with your DNA." Joseph DeAngelo was identified as the East Area Rapist/Original Night Stalker (EAR/ONS), a man suspect of committing at least 13 murders, more than 50 rapes, and over 100 burglaries in California from 1974 to 1986 through a process known as genetic genealogy.  Law enforcement had his DNA (more than 50 rapes!) from his crime spree and they uploaded it to a website that allows people to upload their own DNA profiles to help them identify family members.  From this, they were able to narrow down the suspect DNA profile to DeAngelo or his brother.

This sounds great, right?!  DNA solving crime! Woot!

Well, this podcast delves into what happens when genetic genealogy goes awry.  And I'm here for it. (Over Christmas, I almost got into fisticuffs with my brother-in-law the DA and my brother-in-law the cop over this very topic.)

"The Lynching of Thomas Finch" tells the story of a man who was shot and killed by an Atlanta police officer who later became the leader of the KKK.  The man's body was later drug through town and then lynched. Not much was known about the case, but the investigator telling the story digs into it. The granddaughter of the victim just wants to know what happened; the grandson of the perpetrator wants you to know that his grandfather was "only" the Imperial Wizard for a brief time of twelve to eighteen months.  It's quite revealing (not to make a pun on the name of the show or anything) how your race can color how you view an event more than 80 years after it happens.   
One of the hosts of Radiolab, Jad Abrumrad, put together a limited run podcast called Dolly Parton's America. The podcast focuses on the uniting nature of Parton, whose likeability as measured by her Q score, is off the charts. She is popular with the left and right, urban and rural, educated and non-educated.  Frankly, I'm not sure this podcast is in her best interests (I recoiled when she recoiled and said she wasn't a feminist in the first episode and, frankly, lost some of my respect for her), but I like that the podcast takes what I thought was going to be an annoying trope (big boobs - heh heh) and actually engages with Parton as a businesswoman and artist.

So far I've lost respect for Parton as a person, but gained respect for her as an entertainer.  Give it a listen.

StartUp was Gimlet's OG podcast.  The first season chronicled how the founders started the company, got funding, and started creating podcast shows.  It has recently released three episodes about the selling of Gimlet to Spotify and how the original owners and employees dealt with this huge change from start up to part of huge entertainment company. They're saying this is the last season of StartUp and I appreciate how the show has gone full circle with the company. I was happy for these update episodes and they were fun to listen to and reminded me of the early days of the show, but I'm glad to see it end on a high note.
Do you know the story behind the song "Monster Mash"? Well, I didn't either. Frankly, I didn't know I wanted to know the story until Nate DiMeo told it to me.  DiMeo is a national treasure. He is the storyteller I want to be.  Listen to "Late One Night." You won't be disappointed. I honestly can't get it out of my head.
I just did a search and I don't think I've talked about the podcast Criminal on this here blog! How is that even possible?  Phoebe Judge does an amazing job in this podcast in which she examines all facets of crime, from criminals to law enforcement to everything in between. Each episode is completely standalone, so there's no barrier to entry and no huge backlog you have to listen to to get all the jokes. Here are a few historical Criminal episodes you should listen to.

1) "Dropping Like Flies" - There's a black market for Venus flytraps in North Carolina. Judge goes to figure out what this is all about. This episode is FIVE YEARS OLD and I still think about it.
2) "Final Exit" - A woman goes around the country helping people kill themselves in a humane way.  I believe wholeheartedly in what she's doing, but this lady...she was abrasive.
3) "He's Neutral" - A man comes up with an interesting solution to a pervasive litter problem in his neighborhood.
4) "Money Tree" - A woman's identity is stolen and she's surprised to learn who is responsible for it. I also think about this episode all the time - almost every time I use a credit card.

So, all of that is just context for me telling you about the episode "The Less People Know About Us." Apparently I'm not the only one who can't stop thinking about the lady in the "Money Tree" episode.  Judge follows up with her, learns more about the identity theft, and how this impacts her life to this day. It's powerful, sobering, and yet still hopeful at the end.  Great podcasting.

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