Conversations with People Who Hate Me
As an outspoken blogger, social justice activist and gay man, Dylan Marron is an obvious target for trolls. Having fielded nasty missives from strangers for years, he's now determined to drag that hate into the light, shake it out, and ask: Who are you? And why do you hate me? In this podcast, he calls up the people who have left the worst comments for him online and starts a conversation. Armed with a relentlessly mild tone of voice and questions that end, innocently, with, "Do you agree?", he is able to connect with his haters in ways that are both blindingly obvious (e.g. the bullied will bully in turn) and totally unexpected. Marron insists that the point is not to debate the views of his guests, nor to legitimise them, nor to shoot them down. It is simply to enable a conversation between two people who don't agree and maybe stir up a little empathy. It's a modest goal, but one that seems increasingly out of reach in 2017. Two episodes are available, with more to come weekly.
Gateway episodes: Episode 2: Hurt People Hurt People (7 Aug 2017)
From: Night Vale Presents
This considered and absorbing series from the Canadian national broadcaster looks at all the ways in which drug-taking has influenced our modern world. What might at first sound like a limited premise is anything but, because drugs intersect with the way we live in manifold ways: in our attempts to resist pain; in our desire for pleasure; in our capacity to wage war. Host and producer Geoff Turner digs up a range of surprising stories about drugs (an episode about anti-anxiety drug Miltown, which was ubiquitous in 1950s America, is a standout), and picks the brains of doctors, scientists, makers and takers. New half-hour episodes weekly.
Gateway episodes: War, On Drugs (31 Jul 2017) / Miltown, On Drugs (7 Aug 2017)
Constitutional, Episode 2: Ancestry
Short on time (the standard lament of the podcast reviewer), we could only dip in and out of the Washington Post's excellent Presidential podcast last year. But their newest outing, Constitutional, will be a fixture in our regular rotation, having already proved to be unmissable listening. As physically distant but deeply interested observers of the US (i.e. Australians), we're not well-schooled in Constitutional history, but we do know that, for many, it's akin to a sacred object. This podcast sweeps aside the mythology that shrouds the Constitution to examine it more directly - as an imperfect, man-made product of its time, which nonetheless remains the beating heart of democracy. This second episode, in which Indigenous leader Chief Standing Bear establishes the Constitutional right of Native American people to be treated as people at all, shook and moved us. New instalments weekly.
From: Washington Post
Released: 7 Aug 2017
Attention HellMart Shoppers!
We were impressed by the execution in this independent comedy radio drama, which appears to be a one-man show. Protagonist Daniel Richmond is a former Wall Street guy convicted of predictable financial crimes. Out of prison on work release, he's dispatched to HelloMart, a suburban super-store that happens to be situated above the gates of Hell. HelloMart is staffed by criminal elements, small-town folk, and - wait for it - magical creatures, and the sour Daniel is not happy to be in their midst. It's unclear whether Daniel might in fact be dead and has entered a miserable (but suitable) purgatory, or if this is a satire about the awful slog of retail, or just a straightforward fantasy horror. Any which way, it's good fun. Characters are all, with one exception, voiced by Thoreau Smiley, who also writes, produces and scores the series. New episodes fortnightly.
Gateway episodes: Episode 1: Chekov's Shoelaces - Part 1 (26 Jun 2016)
Style: Audio fiction
30 for 30
Allow us to trot out a worn but useful metaphor: sporting narratives are the human condition played out in miniature. They're about power struggles, agonising losses, epic overcoming; they're about the failures of the body and the potential of the mind. Remarkable conflicts of various kinds are played out in this documentary podcast, an offshoot of the iconic television series of the same name. With contributions from the likes of Rose Eveleth (Flash Foward), Jody Avirgan (538 Podcasts) and Hrishikesh Hirway (Song Exploder, West Wing Weekly), each episode plucks an unusual story from the annals of sports history - covering a sweeping range of events, from decathlon to competitive gambling - and reveals it to us through sophisticated documentary storytelling. Wonderful, weekly.
Gateway episodes: The Trials of Dan and Dave (27 Jun 2017) / A Queen of Sorts (18 Jul 2017)
Homecoming / 11. Timeout
The Longest Shortest Time / #133 Alex and the Oracular Lamb
The Doc Project / Inside the first night of Trump's travel ban
The Weeds / Is Google in an ideological echo chamber?
Rose Buddies / Ep. 82 The Final Rose
Scene on Radio / White Affirmative Action (Seeing White, Part 13)
Reveal / The mystery of Mountain Jane Doe