#63 Vital signs
Rising panic, churning gut, righteous indignation - these are the signs that we are still alive.
In Issue 63: signals from the inside.
The offshore detention of asylum seekers who attempt to reach Australia by boat is a national shame and an international scandal. For the average Australian, it's also out of sight and out of mind. The notion that our government maintains camps full of desperate people on distant Pacific islands sounds awful, but with these centres closed to media and their residents prevented from communicating with us directly, there are few first-person accounts that help us form a realistic picture of life on Manus or Nauru. In this new podcast from the Wheeler Centre (who uncovered this story through its inaugural So You Think You Can Pod contest), that narrative is smuggled out in the form of thousands of voice memos sent between Abdul Aziz Muhamat, a Sudanese man on Manus who has been detained for more than two years, and Melbourne-based journalist Michael Green. Reception is too weak for Aziz to take phone calls (not to mention that his phone is contraband), so the two send each other audio clips. The value of the clips themselves - their affecting intimacy, and spy-hole view into a secret world - cannot be understated, and the show is assembled with the care and class one would expect of the Wheeler Centre's team. Hear Episode 1 as soon as possible.
Gateway episodes: #1 Aziz, Not a Boat Number (23 Jan 2017)
From: Wheeler Centre
We fell hard for this twisty serial thriller starring the criminally underrated Romola Garai (you might remember her as the sharp-witted heroine of BBC drama The Hour). Garai plays Dr Helen Ash, who in Episode 1 witnesses a plane crash in which her estranged father, also a doctor, is thought to have perished. As it turns out, the dead passenger who was carrying her father's boarding pass was not her father at all, and the circumstances surrounding the crash are distinctly mysterious. When Helen tugs at these threads, a tapestry of body-horror conspiracy begins to come apart in her hands, with her father's experimental medical research at its centre. It's been a while since we had a binge-listening experience quite as satisfying at this one; we consumed the complete nine-part series over the course of two dizzying days.
Gateway episode: The Nervus Vagus (9 Aug 2016)
Style: Radio drama
Released: Concluded (nine parts)
Hi-Phi Nation, The Wishes of the Dead
In this new narrative podcast Dr Barry Lam, an associate professor at Vassar, wants to make philosophy feel human. In Hi-Phi Nation's premise and form, we were reminded of Revisionist History: like Gladwell's 2016 hit, each episode is inspired by real-world events that reveal and test (in this case) philosophical ideas; it's hosted by Lam, an engaging academic who translates philosophy into story; and it's out in 10 meaty parts. Episode 1 asks why we allow the dead to exert their wishes on the living and looks at the strange case of Milton Hershey's charity school for orphan boys. Future episodes will dig into the study of ESP, soldiers reckoning with the question of war, and the morality of mash-ups. The show is even more impressive, given its ambitious scope and quality, for having been produced independently. Hear this winning first instalment now and subscribe for the rest of the series.
This surprisingly lively and accessible show looks at well-known works of art through the lens of history. Each week, Oxford University's Dr Janina Ramirez (who has previously presented for BBC television and radio and sounds like she was born to do this), takes a specific piece as her subject and teams up with an expert on the artist in question. Together, they dig into the life and times of the maker to ask what the work says about those times, and how it speaks to us now; her subjects range from The Mona Lisa to Sir Anthony Caro's modernist classic Early One Morning. These conversations clock in at 20 to 30 minutes and are released weekly.
Gateway episodes: Gin Lane by Hogarth (11 Jan 2017) / Elizabeth I - Armada Portrait (14 Dec 2016) / Early One Morning by Sir Anthony Caro (4 Jan 2017)
From: History Hit Network
The Dark Room
If you're looking to crack a few windows in your echo chamber, this show is one way to make a start. Through interviews with compelling characters, hosts Paul Salvatori and Jordan Randall explore controversial subcultures and people. Their subjects might occupy the borderlands of sex and relationships (e.g. a dominatrix, a polyamorist) or gender and sexual identity (e.g. a man who believes in "reparative therapy" for gay people) or the law (kleptomaniacs, graffiti artists, the wrongly accused). Our hosts attempt to stand out of the way and allow these stories to be told freely, which can be hard to hear, especially when the views espoused are in conflict with one's own deeply-held beliefs. But in our increasingly siloed world, the hearing of views with which one vehemently disagrees begins to feel like responsible fieldwork. A year's worth of weekly episodes are available now, with Season 2 due to launch early in 2017.
Gateway episodes: #50 Wrongfully Accused: Raffaele Sollecito (13 Sep 2016) / #21 Linda Redgrave (27 Apr 2016) / #63 Dominatrix: Mizz Barbie Bitch / #69 - Men's Rights Advocate Karen Straughan
Released: Weekly, when in season
Criminal / #59 In Plain Sight
Reply All / #86 Man of the People
Home of the Brave / Listening to the Winners
The Love Letters Podcast / Waiting
The Truth / Ice Music & Mirror Lake
Game Plan / Lean In Isn't Working. Now What?
Secrets, Crimes & Audiotapes / The Handmaid's Tale - Part 5