This is Muira, your resident podcast reviewer, checking in. Thank you for flooding my inbox with your favorite episodes (from all imaginable genres and in many different languages!). Please keep them coming. This week’s podcasts take on other worlds and otherworldly people.
Just a reminder, about the column, ‘cause we’re super-duper new! I’m committed to:
- digging through the archives
- shining a light on marginalized and minority voices
- reviewing different podcasts each week
- listening to every podcast rec you send me (yep, I’m serious)
Please email thoughts, rambles, and wisdom to firstname.lastname@example.org or DM me on Twitter.
What could be more otherworldly than outer space itself? Why aren’t there any lawyers in Star Trek? In what ways is space the new legal frontier? Did you know that there’s something called the International Institute of Space Law? Just how challenging is it to make rules for unregulated places? How lost can you get in a legal black hole? This is a rare podcast—one of the few out there that debriefs the nuances of the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act and makes legitimately hilarious jokes about celestial bodies. It also has a wonderful anecdote about someone, who tried to sell pieces of solar real estate. Seriously. Want to buy the sun? You can spend time trying to do that, or do yourself a favor and listen to this podcast instead. You’ll walk away with shiny pieces of knowledge that warm your soul.
A line of note: “It involved a hypothetical case between two made up nations: the Sovereign Peoples Independent. Democratic Republic and the United Republic of Adventura.
The Clock Strikes Thirteen
Retaliation, rhetoric, rage. This podcast takes on trends and topics in a post-inaugural America, and delves into the new world that Donald Trump has forged during his first days in office. It’s got insight from a panoply of public intellectuals, activists, and others, who describe the ideologies underlying the nation’s new presidential administration. Journalist Naomi Klein warns against making the assumption that there will be a “spontaneous revolt of Trump’s space,” and reporter Seymour Hersh gives a multifaceted assessment of what Trumpworld might bring us in the next few years.
A line of note: “So anything’s possible. Anything’s possible. So we’re in a new world.”
Storming the Castle
Pranksters take us to new, unimagined places—in our minds and in our hearts. They alter our realities and what we see as possible and proper. Longmont Potion Castle is a musician, a Coloradan, and a prank caller. He represents the best of us, or maybe, the worst of us. It’s hard to say. But, regardless, this episode is bound to make you chuckle, because it talks about shepherds and swamp donkeys. Don’t know what a swamp donkey is? Don’t worry. Just tune in. It’s worth it. Plus, you owe it to Reply All host, PJ Voigt, who allegedly put in about fifty emails to Longmont Potion Castle just to get the interview.
A line of note: “He has this very strange relationship to language; listening to Longmont Potion Castle is kind of like listening to a person from another planet, who knows every word in the English language but has just learned how to speak it today.”
The Deep Story
How do our bubbles entrap us? What does it take to burst them? What prompts people to vote against their own ideologies? Shankar Vedantam tackles those funky things called feelings. This episode is a story about stories, an exploration of the complicated emotional terrain so many of us inhabit today. In this episode the renowned sociologist Arlie Hochschild talks about her research, her journey from Berkeley to Louisiana, and her many conversations with Trump supporters. She uses incredibly rich metaphors to describe anger and inequalities in the United States. This is a good episode to listen to while you’re on a short errand. It’s brief but so important.
A line of note: “The deep story has to do with people getting ahead of you unfairly, who probably don’t work as hard as you do and obey the rules as well as you do.”
Attack of the Clones Minute 1: Unrest in the Galactic Senate
We went looking for podcasts about fictional countries, and we landed on The Star Wars Minute. Let’s be clear: this is a bit out there. Each daily episode gives a rundown of one individual minute from the Star Wars movies. Can’t get your ___________ (girlfriend, partner, nephew, colleague, friend) to give Star Wars a chance? Want to give them an audio preview of what awaits? Warning: this might not get them hooked, but the hosts, Peter Bonavita and Alex Robinson, offer some jovial banter. Their conversations are peppered with tidbits and fun facts that’ll likely to make almost any Star Wars lover a happy camper.
A line of note: “At the time, I thought [the title] was dumb, and part of me still thinks it’s dumb.”
Punching the Gator
Yeah, yeah, we know, games transport us to other worlds. No biggie. No new news there, right? Well, sure. But, over at Waypoint Radio, the hosts are meditating on the future of games, the importance of flossing, and all sorts of shenanigans. The best part of the episode is without a doubt when they improvise a list of games that presidential candidates should play in 2020. It’s chock-full of all sorts of unexpected life advice like how to write a good essay about game culture (hint: take notes!), what to do when the games you love aren’t available in the United States, and whether you should subscribe to the Netflix of games. Want to be a writer? Want to be a gamer? It really doesn’t matter what you want to be; everyone should be listening to this podcast. Episode #34 (“Punching the Gator”) is a great sample of what the series as a whole sounds like.
A line of note: “Can you imagine a world, where let’s say, 2020, the presidential elections are in the air, and instead of the debates, we have the two main presidential candidates play a videogame sort of as a thought experiment to see what they do for an hour?”
Travel Ban Impact: 1/30/17
Rachel Nichols talks about how Trump’s executive order has hindered the sports industry and barred key athletes from entering the United States. This episode takes on the degree to which players with Muslim beliefs dot the NBA landscape, and looks at who has spoken out against the travel ban. Nichols offers an incredibly thorough roundup of the past week’s events and should be commended for keeping it real. She talks about the duty that journalists have to cover Trump’s America, and interview coaches and basketball players who are affected by his decisions. Amin Elhassen and Byron Scott join halfway through the episode to chat about the latest drama in the NBA.
A line of note: “But really for the NBA this goes way behind those two players; this is a league that perhaps more than any major American professional sport absolutely depends on the global community.”
Raised on a strict diet of NPR and C-SPAN, Muira McCammon is a war crimes researcher by day and a podcast reviewer for Paste Magazine by night. She can be found on Twitter @muira_mccammon or walking about the woods of western Massachusetts. Her writing has previously appeared in Slate, Waypoint by VICE, Atlas Obscura, the Massachusetts Review, and other publications.