#74 Lost time
It passes, and it never comes back. In Issue 74: the powerful, unbearable, relentless press of time.
On 16th June, just a few weeks before the one-year anniversary of the killing of Philando Castile, a jury acquitted the police officer who, after an interaction that lasted precisely 74 seconds, shot him dead. But that verdict does not explain what happened to Phil, a gentle, smart, beloved cafeteria worker. The impossible facts remain, and still demand a reckoning: the awful, eerie politeness of Diamond Reynolds' live stream after the shooting; her four-year-old daughter reassuring her, "I'm here with you"; the 74-second route from life to death. This immersive series from Minnesota Public Radio gives a blow-by-blow account of the events that led up to Philando's death and the recently concluded trial, and examines the case through the wider lens of police killings and race in America. Twenty 10- to 30-minute episodes comprise this essential series to date.
Gateway episodes: 1. The Driver (25 May 2017) / 3. The Traffic Stop (25 May 2017)
Two-Up, 36 Questions - Part 1
Allow us to elevator pitch you: musical theatre meets podcast! Some of you will receive this news with foreboding. The rest of you might be thinking, Well, obviously. Either way this meeting of mediums is here, and in the case of 36 Questions, it feels irresistibly natural. The premise introduces Jase (Jonathon Groff, latterly of Hamilton) and Natalie (Jessie Shelton), a young and estranged married couple; he left Natalie when he discovered she'd lied about her identity since the day they met. In Part 1 of this three-part series, Natalie's tracked him down with a plan to explain herself, and to make him fall in love with her again by way of the 36 Questions. We were seduced by this: the script is tight, the songs constructed with wit, the action artfully evoked. Setting aside a few clumsy notes (if more audio dramas could resist the impulse to constantly frame and justify the act of recording, that'd be great), this is an easy endorsement. Note also that it comes via a new audio channel from the creators of the 2015 hit Limetown, who promise more genre-bending productions ahead.
Style: Audio drama
LeVar Burton Reads
Well, this does what it says on the tin. Listening to LeVar Burton (of Reading Rainbow and Star Trek) read short fiction is a pleasing and occasionally surreal experience. Over the course of each 30-minute to hour-long episode, Burton reads a short story he has selected himself - sometimes contemporary and sometimes a classic, always in the speculative and science-fiction genres. These readings are relatively unadorned, making use of minimal sound effects and music, the real attraction, obviously, being Burton's honeyed pipes. The man is clearly delighted with this project and his glee infects the whole. Six episodes are available now.
Gateway episodes: Episode 5: "What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky" by Lesley Nneka Arimah (11 Jul 2017) / Episode 1: "Kin" by Bruce McAllister (13 Jun 2017)
Our Man in the Middle East
The BBC's Jeremy Bowen has been reporting from the Middle East since the 1990s. As such, he's borne witness to one of the most important and volatile periods in the region's history. In this 25-part series of short episodes, Bowen reflects on his long career, recalling the many characters with whom his path has crossed (from Muammar Gaddafi and IS jihadists to ordinary citizens and fellow journos), shares his observations of significant political and cultural events, and offers insights about what might lie ahead, often making use of clips from his previous reportage. He's an intelligent guide to a complicated history, and equally complicated present. Or as he puts it: "History doesn't stop. It goes on."
Gateway episodes: Part 2: All flesh is grass (16 May 2017) / Part 6: Crossing the divide (22 May) / Part 25: Through a glass darkly (30 Jun 2017)
Gone at 21
We highlight this podcast with multiple caveats. It is independent, raw, unpolished. Our first listen was excruciating as we waited for a standard true crime narrative framework to fall into place - which never came. But as a loose, rambling investigation, it is weirdly compelling, like tipping head-first into a private detective's coffee-stained case files, as well as into a certain vision of drug-addicted small-town America. Host J. Ryan Green is, literally, a P.I., hired to investigate the death of Katelyn Markham, who disappeared in 2011 and whose body was found two years later. In the process, he interviews the people who knew her; examines the evidence in deadpan detail; and skirts, perhaps unwittingly, the larger context of the opium crisis. We suspect it won't end with concrete answers (we're halfway through, with last Saturday's final episode on the horizon). But for true-crime-heads, this is unusual fodder.
Gateway episodes: Introduction #1 (The Beginning) (4 Jan 2017) / The Investigation: Episode #1 (3 Feb 2017)
Homecoming / 7. Terminated
The Infinite Bad / 2. Secrets of Drakelow Hall - Part 2
Pod Save America / "Hack away, China."
Rumble Strip Vermont / Plain Life
Guardian Long Reads / The Age of Banter
Imaginary Worlds / World War EVE