#68 Boxed in
When you're backed into a corner, the only way is out.
This week: stories about close quarters, trick questions, and literal boxes.
Yours as ever,
PS: Did you guys hear about this new show "S-Town"??? Apparently it's pretty good!!!! Like 10 million other people, we spent last week in alternate states of deep absorption and abject awe as we tried to get a handle on its complicated beauty. We're going to write something longer about S-Town, which we'll post at theaudit.co. For now though, obviously, you ought to hear it.
The way we live is predicated on our ability to move goods from one part of the world - say, Asia, where so many of the things we like are made - to another part of the world - say, the voraciously consuming West. The vast majority of this movement takes place across our oceans, and we knew that, in a distant sort of way, but we hadn't given much thought to the complex logistics that make modern maritime shipping work, let alone the human capital and knife-edge financials on which they hinge. This documentary series reveals the cogs that keep stuff moving around our world - that get coffee beans, for example, from Ecuadorian farms and Kenyan auction halls to baristas in Brooklyn. But it also exposes the darker realities that attend our demand for cheap, fast goods, including air pollution, sunk ships, and the dehumanisation of men who spend most of their lives at sea, wondering when their jobs will be subsumed by automation. Who knew shipping could be this gripping? It's an eight-part series, with two still to come, produced by journalist Alexis Madrigal for Fusion and edited by Arrvls' Jonathan Hirsch.
Gateway episodes: Episode 1: Welcome to Global Capitalism (1 Mar 2017) / Episode 5: The America-First Ships (29 Mar 2017)
From: Fusion Media
Yeah, But It's Not As Simple As That
A restless spirit of inquiry powers this podcast from the bolshy team at VICE UK. Yeah, But It's Not As Simple As That addresses weird, hard questions, or sometimes the totally normal but very big questions we should be asking when scrambling our way through life. Like, is it sustainable to live in debt forever? Can you love someone when you don't love yourself? Should you quit your crappy job? The format varies, but generally these quandaries are mulled by VICE writers and special guests - former British press secretary Alastair Campbell, rapper MIA, artist Marina Abramovic - as well as everyday people who've lived the question's reality. With improving production values over the course of almost 20 episodes, this is both juicy and thoughtful, weekly.
Gateway episodes: Could you have sex with a stranger tonight? (6 Apr 2017) / Was 2016 really that shit? (13 Dec 2016) / Is my mental health problem affecting my job? (16 Nov 2016)
Starving Artist, #2 How to Negotiate a Raise
There's more than one way to make a podcast about having, extracting and managing money, but this new Australian show services the sort of listener who could really use the tips: namely, the creative type who spends a worrying proportion of their time just trying to get paid. A more sober effort than Bad with Money, and more widely applicable across creative pursuits than Kill Fee, it promises genuinely helpful advice from young artists who are already doing it. In this second episode, host Honor Eastly is in conversation with magazine editor Wendy Syfret, who is frank about her experience of being underpaid and the exquisite agony of asking for a raise in the Arts. Season 1 will comprise 12 episodes.
Released: 1 Apr 2017
A History of the Infinite
If you like your radio to straddle the practical and the divine, we direct you to A History of the Infinite. This is peak Radio 4, replete with references to the Classics, academics straight outta Oxford, and a nice British man explaining mind-boggling philosophical mysteries. We personally love a BBC history boffin and there's nothing dull about the excavation of humanity's understanding of the infinite. Surrender to the eminently reasonable charms of host Professor Adrian Moore as he leads you through 2,000 years of philosophy, from the Ancient Greeks' rejection of the notion that something can go on forever, to our conception of space and impressions of the afterlife. Comprising ten 15-minute episodes, the series concluded in 2016.
Gateway episodes: Horror of the Infinite (19 Sep 2016) / The Infinite and the Divine (21 Sep 2016)
These missives from inside the Stateville Correctional Centre in Illinois feel like they issue from another world. Each 10-minute episode features a brief audio essay, written by an inmate serving a long sentence for a serious crime, and performed by an actor. Inmates describe the everyday dramas of their lives: the problem of acquiring a true friend in an atmosphere of distrust; living under the shadow of administrative whim; the best way to tackle a cockroach infestation. The brainchild of award-winning journalist Alex Kotlowitz and produced by WBEZ, Written Inside's miniature narratives quickly achieve their apparent aim - to open a door between the closed world of a maximum-security prison and our own unimaginably free one.
Gateway episodes: Ep 3: On The Move ... Again (28 Mar 2017) / Ep 5: A Friend (4 Apr 2017)
Released: Every few days
Improvised comedy doesn't always translate in podcasting, but this clever little enterprise from Seattle-based improv duo Trust charmed us immediately. The two use a single word, suggested via Twitter, as their jumping-off point into improvised, alternative-reality podcasts: a philately show co-hosted by a general; a patriotic linguists podcast; or, in one of our personal favourites, a show about roofs in Witchita. Bizarre comedy ensues. Episodes are fairly short, from 10 to 30 minutes, and edited after the fact, which is a welcome touch. Though some instalments hit the funny bone more precisely than others, the effect is always one of game and merry mockery. Get 12 episodes now and new ones weekly.
Gateway episodes: 4. Rooftops of Witchita (31 Jan 2017) / 5. The American Way Podcast (7 Feb 2017) / 9. Stampede (14 Mar 2017) / 12. Textbook (4 Apr 2017)
Style: Conversation/Radio drama
An InExact Science / Aphantasia
Cosmic Vertigo / Where are all the aliens?
Reply All / #93 Beware All
I Have to Ask / Chris Hayes
The Competition / 4. The Youngest One in the Room
Pod Save America / "A garbage organisation that protects harassers"
Reveal / The Mystery of Mountain Jane Doe