This American Life
Random Acts of History
This is one of my favorite stories of the last year. It was reported and written by B.A. Parker (who is working with Invisibilia now!) and it tells the story of a class of African American students who were taken on a field trip to see Schindler’s List and then were thrown out of the theater because their behavior was seen by the primarily Jewish audience as disrespectful. There are so many things that I love about this story, but one of them is that the writing and reporting puts you in a state where you cannot decide who in the story is the guilty party. Hard recommend.
Everything is Alive
Bar of Soap
Everything Is Alive is a podcast which looks at life from the perspective of inanimate objects like a can of Coca-cola and I first heard this episode detailing the psychological life of soap while I was in the bathroom washing my face and getting ready for bed. Boy was that meta. Suddenly I saw the bar of soap I was turning in my hands as this thing involved in a complicated journey, and as the story wore on, I found myself so moved. All of the episodes of Everything Is Alive are incredibly closely observed. They’re like a really good novel… except about stuff like soap and diet soda. Anyway there’s this surprise thing that happens towards the end of the soap episode which I found so beautiful I actually teared up. No spoilers here though, you will just have to listen.
The Good Guy
There are MANY phenomenal episodes in this series, but the first one sets the bar for navigating a very difficult story. A story that many people probably THOUGHT they already knew – and unspooling it in a way that made you dig your fingernails into your iPhone case. Hosts Kate Wells and Lindsey Smith make this story feel intensely personal because they start by introducing the Larry Nassar of the 1996 Olympics, the “baby-faced up and coming trainer” with the Olympic team, helping gymnast Kerri Strug off the mat. With each voice painting a picture of this ‘typical suburban dad’ who had one rule (“gymnast first”), listeners get a step closer to understanding how in the world something like this could have happened.
A Very Fatal Murder
The Perfect Murder
From the grim logo thumbnail, to the stark scoring, to the question-laden introduction from the host, this is TRUE CRIME TROPE HEAVEN. Turns out if you plug in unsolved crime, female victim, and decline of middle class in America you get…EVERY true crime podcast we’ve ever listened to. Thing is - not every podcast can make you laugh til’ you snort AND critically question your listening (and in our case, writing/producing/reporting) habits, but this one does!
Here Be Monsters
How Do Crows Mourn Their Dead
Here Be Monsters is not well known but some of the work that they do is incredibly beautiful like How Do Crows Mourn Their Dead. I am not a huge bird person, but this podcast by Jeff Emtman made me realize that crows are ridiculously dope. ONCE THEY SEE YOUR FACE THEY CAN REMEMBER IT FOR LIKE EVER! They’re face geniuses like George W. Bush, except they have wings and don’t start wars in Iraq. Here be Monsters is generally really cool. It’s experimental and interested in things unknown. A good podcast to try if you want something engaging and different.