#65 Order and chaos
In all things and all people, order and chaos are at busy war.
This week: stories about systems, structures, and collapse.
Is It On?
Our American friends might find some respite in this new podcast about Australian politics of the day, which is rife with scoundrels and scandals of its own: a low-polling prime minister, a far-right insurgency, and the ever-present threat of a leadership spill, in which one party or the other dumps its leader and installs a new one. The latter phenomenon inspired the show's name - "Is it on?" meaning "Is there a spill in the works?" - but you don't need to be au fait with a tonne of #AusPol lingo to enjoy this pacy offering from Buzzfeed Australia (though a passing familiarity with key players will be useful). Our hosts, Mark di Stefano and Alice Workman, are two of the smartest young whippersnappers in Australian political journalism. In addition to offering us their insider commentary, they stride the corridors of power in search of interviewees; so far they've landed Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, Senator Penny Wong, and legendary journalist Laurie Oakes. Two episodes in, this already feels like essential listening for the year ahead.
Gateway episode: Episode 2: Gay Nazi Mind Control (18 Feb 2017)
From: Buzzfeed Australia
The Untold, Missing
Can't stop, won't stop endorsing this BBC podcast, which launched in early 2016 and has been opening tiny windows into "life in modern Britain" ever since. This special mini-series follows one woman's search for her missing husband, Zack. But this isn't your average missing person story. Just before Zack disappeared, he presented to police to tell them he was safe and well, and that if he was reported missing, he did not want to be found. Zack is bipolar, so it's possible he's really unwell - or maybe he just wants to delete his life. Solely responsible for the couple's newborn baby, and with no practicable help from police, his wife Kirsty sets out to find him herself. All five episodes are being released this week, one per day; catch up now.
Gateway episode: Missing: Episode 1
Intrigue: Murder in the Lucky Holiday Hotel, Episode 1
We've been waiting for the true crime genre to shift out of its default "pretty dead girls" mode, and this brand new BBC series is one among a handful of recent podcasts that feels like it's on fresh ground. Intrigue pulls us into the murky waters of Chinese business and politics, in which pay-offs, favours and nepotism are the norm. It's a world where a British man, Neil Heywood, found a comfortable niche as a 'fixer' for the elite and eventually met his death in 2011. Throw in some casual espionage, the demanding wife of a powerful man, and a bemused supplier of hot air balloons, and you've got the recipe for a murder mystery. Episode 1 is a promising beginning, describing our cast of characters and dipping a toe in the conspiracy to come.
About Buildings + Cities
This is an independent podcast of ravenous curiosity, peering at history, fiction and people through the lens of architecture. Episodes are hosted by two British architects, Luke Jones and George Gingell, whose conversations are animated as much by their natural charm as their comprehensive research. Subjects to date have included the dubious representation of architects (among other things) in Ayn Rand’s The Foundationhead, the architecture of famous dystopias, and the ancient Romans’ ideas about what makes a decent villa. The audio can be low-fi, recorded in what sounds like offices, but we were totally won over by the content, which is fascinating and delivered with aplomb.
Gateway episodes: 13 Ayn Rand's The Foundation - 1 of 2 (30 Jan 2017) / 05 Living the Roman Good Life with Pliny (5 Sep 2016) / 02 Strawberry Hill (25 Aug 2016)
Imagine a world in which a bombastic businessman has been named the President Elect of the United States. That was easy, wasn’t it? Now imagine that the incumbent Republican president is secretly working to prevent him from taking office, and that the votes of the electors are at the heart of his schemes. Listeners seeking complete escapism are unlikely to find it in this sleek melodrama from Wondery, which at times skates too close to reality for comfort. But if you’re in search of a topical, high-quality drama series, here it is. Each episode is around 15 minutes long, with the series comprising 13 instalments to date.
Gateway episode: Episode 1 - Election Night (20 Nov 2016)
From: Spoke Media / Wondery
Style: Audio fiction
There is something deeply comforting about listening to mild-mannered legal scholars discuss the arcane workings of the Supreme Court. First Mondays makes no bones about the fact that it's a podcast aimed at lawyers, but it's surprisingly accessible for all that. Hosts Ian Samuel and Dan Epps, both former Supreme Court clerks and now law professors, dig into the nitty-gritty of the cases before the court, analyse the art of argument, and try to get into the heads of the eight judges who currently uphold, and sometimes up-end, the law of the land. We are introduced to cases as varied as Hernandez vs Mesa (the shooting of a teenager on the Mexican-US border) and Expressions Hair Design v. Schneiderman (a debate over surcharges), while recent episodes have gone deep on newly nominated justice Neil Gorsuch. Episodes drop seasonally, weekly-ish, depending on whether the court is in session.
Gateway episodes: Good Behaviour #1: Grist of a Judge's Life (2 Feb 2017) / OT2016 #11 Close to Using a Swear (16 Jan 2017) / 101 First Street #1: Ser-shee-or-RARE-eye (27 Dec 2016)
Hi-Phi Nation / The Cops of Pop
Earshot / Australian Gothic
Trumpcast / Overt Madness, Covert Purpose
Who Weekly? / Spencer Pratt ft Spencer Pratt
Wrongful Convictions / Amanda Knox
99% Invisible / 248 Atom in the Garden of Eden