#64 Borrowed time
All our clocks are running out.
This week: precious time and the repeating past.
With best wishes,
This ambitious Laurence Fishburne and Larenz Tate-helmed series is a thing of narrative scale and substance. It's set in the Chicago neighbourhood of Bronzeville in the 1940s, a time when the community's primarily African-American residents wield an unusual degree of autonomy and power. Illegal lotteries are all the rage and the Copeland brothers have made their fortune running wheels; in fact, they basically run this town. When our story begins, Everett Copeland is doing prison time, and wants retired number-runner Curtis Randolph (Fishburne) to keep an eye on the business. We also meet Everett's sister, a black college graduate who dismisses the condescension of her white landlady and fellow students with elegant disdain. Meanwhile, another young black man is on the run from the law. Fate brings him to Bronzeville, where he is drawn into the Copelands' world. Written by Oscar-winning screenwriter Josh Olsen, and produced by the people who brought us We're Alive, the passion in this project is evident; we were plunged into an immersive, precisely-imagined world, and we look forward to exploring it further over the course of this 10-part drama.
Gateway episode: Episode 1 (7 Feb 2017)
Style: Audio drama
In 1990, Stanley Liggins was accused of brutally murdering a nine-year-old girl, Jennifer Lewis. He's already been convicted for Jennifer's murder, twice. But (of course there's a but) both those convictions were overturned, and in 2017, he's being tried again. To understand how that's possible, and to unpick the tangled threads in this case, reporter Scott Reeder brings us this series from WVIK and NPR. The case is a personal obsession for Reeder, who was at the scene when Jennifer's body was discovered in 1990, and has followed it ever since in hopes of finding justice for the little girl. His reporting forms the basis for this series, which is hosted by WVIK's Lacy Scarmana, and raises questions about the investigation that saw Liggins receive his two convictions, and sent him to prison for 26 years. Eight parts are available now.
Gateway episodes: 01 Evil in the School Yard (10 Jan 2017) / 03 A Suspect Conviction (10 Jan 2017)
The World in Words, What The Cuck?
This PRI show about language is an underrated treasure, consistently uncovering unique stories that fall within the scope of its wheelhouse. Now the rise of Trump sees The World in Words look to the language that has attended that rise. And what rich linguistic fodder we find in Trump! There's his mangled, circular syntax, his team's Orwellian coinages, and - in this episode - the dog-whistling slurs deployed by his supporters. "Cuck" is used by the alt-right to describe a weak person, usually a man, who has sold out on conservative principles (see also: cuckservative). Layers of racist and anti-woman animosity are encoded in the word, too. As an insult, it has ancient roots from "cuckold", but the path to its current iteration was a fascinating one, and host Nina Porzucki speaks with linguist Michael Adams, sex columnist Dan Savage, and recently-punched alt-right spokesperson Richard Spencer in an attempt to nail down where, why and how the right uses "cuck".
Released: 15 Dec 2016
If you were a hip young thing in the late nineties or early aughts (or at any time since then), chances are that you met and fell in love with the music of Elliott Smith. Now, 20 years since the release of his seminal album Either/Or, and 14 years since his mysterious death at the age of 34, we have this tender podcast, produced by his record label Kill Rock Stars in collaboration with The Guestlist. Deliberately non-linear in structure, it revisits Smith's origin story, reexamines his particular genius, and asks what his music has meant to other artists. Slated guests include The Flaming Lips, Regina Spektor and Gus Vant Sant, and we'll also hear a previously unreleased interview featuring Smith. One episode is out now, with five more to come.
Gateway episode: 1. Kevin Devine, Sadie Dupuis, Jessica Lea Mayfield (3 Feb 2017)
From: The Guestlist and Kill Rock Stars
The High Street Abduction
This BBC mini-series (and we do mean mini; in the vein of The Body on the Moor, it comprises five eight-minute episodes) documents the abduction of a toddler child from a busy high-street fashion retailer by two teen girls. The child's mother quickly notices that she's missing and the city's law enforcement enters a state of high alert: every CCTV camera is being checked and every police officer is swarming into the inner city. But every minute that passes widens the radius of the unknown, and with the case evoking vivid memories of James Bulger, panic is rising on all sides. It's a pacy thriller and a fascinating procedural, which unfolds in close to real time.
Gateway episodes: Episode 1: Lost child (24 Jan 2017)
Released: In five parts, concluded
The Folger Library is the home of Shakespeare scholarship in the US, and the largest Shakespearean collection in the world; they've got more First Folios than The British Library (82 vs. 5). They're also expert in building bridges between the plays and the public, whether it's through performances, exhibitions, or this regular podcast. Whether it's developing our understanding of the man's life and times (what do we learn from an excavation of Shakespeare's home in Stratford-upon-Avon? What does his writing about girls and medicine and religion tell us about Elizabethan England?), or looking to the way we interpret and repurpose his work today (in prisons, in sign language, and all over the world), it's an accessible portal into centuries-old texts that have never, ever stopped giving.
Here Be Monsters / HBM072: Ant God
Indivisible / Week 2: Are We Losing Our Country?
Reveal / Trial by fire
You Must Remember This / 93: Peg Entwhistle (Dead Blondes Part 1)
Someone Knows Something / S2 Episode 11: Blackmail
Trumpcast / Live from Washington DC