#66 Your wildest dreams
This week: big dreams, bad trips, and strange twists of fate.
We remain, your friends,
Those who loved last year's small-but-perfectly-formed The Hiss will thrill to this new show from its creator James Kim. The premise is so obviously good that we're surprised it hasn't been done before (the closest thing that comes to mind is Ilya Marritz's addictive 2015 hit, The Season). In each series of The Competition, Kim will document one contest from beginning to end. This time it's the Van Cliburn, one of the world's most prestigious competitions for young pianists. Success in the Cliburn virtually guarantees a career as a professional pianist. Failure dooms one to obscurity. And just to ratchet up the pressure another notch, this thing is a ticking clock: the contest only takes place every four years and competitors age out at thirty. In two instalments to date, Kim has introduced us to a few of the 146 young pianists who will compete in this year's Cliburn and their specific, high-stakes world, while subsequent episodes will follow them through the elimination rounds to come. Listen now and join us in the impatient wait for more.
Gateway episodes: 1. The Stakes (6 Feb 2017)
This accomplished offering from one of the producers of Memory Motel is, on its face, a straightforward proposition: it's a podcast about how people meet. But it draws on an historically deep well, namely our collective fascination with the notion of chance encounters. It's about pairs of people - often unlikely pairs - who are drawn together by unseen forces, or by luck, and whose lives would have been unimaginably different had they not met. These 15-minute stories interweave first-person accounts from both parties and cunning editing underlines the moments when their perspectives overlap or collide. Stand-out episodes feature a bone marrow donor and recipient, and a professional wrestler and his amateur fan, but each one has been moving in its own mysterious way. Hear five available now.
Gateway episodes: Double Knees - Colt and Grado (28 Feb 2017) / Dust - Greg and Sue (14 Feb 2017)
Just Words, History vs Denial
2SER is a stalwart of Sydney's community radio scene, but Just Words is the educational station's first original podcast, and it's an ambitious undertaking. The seven-part series will examine a fairly innocuous-sounding clause in Australia's Racial Discrimination Act. Specifically, Section 18C prohibits acts that are "reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people" because of their race. 18C was dragged into the spotlight during a 2011 court case involving right-wing commentator Andrew Bolt (see also: Episode 2 in this series) and it has since become a conservative talking point, with some campaigning for its removal. This first episode tackles Holocaust denial, which ought to be prohibited under 18C. A group called The Adelaide Institute insists on its right to propagate "alternative facts" about the Holocaust despite its founder already having been prosecuted under the Act. The story is contextualised in fascinating detail through the accounts of holocaust survivors, historians, legal advocates and deniers themselves.
Released: 27 Feb 2017
Say Why To Drugs
This worthy project from Dr Suzi Gage, a British psychologist, comes with the cool kid endorsement of her co-host, rapper and podcaster Scroobius Pip (the show is part of Scroobius' own podcast network, led by Distraction Pieces). In it, Gage dispenses clear, science-based, judgement-free advice about every drug you can imagine, from alcohol to amphetamines, caffeine to ketamine. The aim is not to endorse drug use, but to clear away the folk knowledge that has grown up around these substances, and address their properties and risks directly. Gage is bracingly frank, as she ought to be, while Scroobius plays the part of the audience, reflecting on his own experiences and often awed by the science. More than 20 comprehensive episodes are available now.
Gateway episodes: Benzodiazepines (23 Feb 2017) / Heroin (3 Nov 2016) / Psychedelics (28 Jul 2016) / Alcohol (16 Jun 2016)
From: Distraction Pieces
Missing Richard Simmons
It would be neglectful of us to pass over the top-of-the-charts elephant in the room, so we won't. Let the record show that you should be listening to Missing Richard Simmons, which in pure entertainment value lives up to the hype that has attended it. Documentary filmmaker Dan Taberski is a friend of the colourful fitness guru - or at least, he thought he was. A couple of years ago, the extroverted, super-connected, media-savvy Simmons withdrew abruptly from public life, and stopped responding to emails or phone calls from nearly everyone. For Dan, this is an incomprehensible puzzle, and he is determined to solve it. The motivation behind this quest does at times raise uncomfortable questions (as one interviewee puts it, "He might have been done, and he doesn't owe shit to anybody ... He's allowed to go away."). But it's impossible to resist the adventure that unfolds, which takes us down a Wonderland rabbit-hole, revealing new characters at every turn and sketching a loving portrait of a misunderstood Mad Hatter. Don't miss it.
Gateway episode: 1. Where's Richard? (15 Feb 2017)
From: First Look / Pineapple Street Media / Stitcher
Scene on Radio / How Race Was Made (Seeing White, Part 2)
Hi-Phi Nation / Hackademics: The Control
The Documentary / Where Are You Going? Tijuana
The Leap / Out of the Pond
Love + Radio / Understood as to Understand
All The Best / Black Sheep
CBC Doc Project / Lessons in Long-Distance Love