Podcasts Well Worth Your Time for Oct. 2018

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Here are some more podcasts (a couple individual episodes, and a mini-series) from my recent listening that I really enjoyed, and thought you might too!

(Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any transcripts for these first two episodes.)

Lexicon Valley: “The Rise of They” (Website / Overcast )

English pronouns are evolving. It’s time to embrace it.

Lexicon Valley is a podcast about language — often about how English has developed and changed — hosted by linguist John McWhorter.

In this particular episode, he traces the deep roots of the singular “they” in English, as well as the many ways “they” is used today.

Citations Needed: “The Media’s Bogus Generation Obsession” (Website / Overcast )

“Baby Boomers are bloating the social safety net!” “GenXers are changing the nature of work!” “Millennials are killing the housing market!”.

The media endlessly feeds us stories about how one generation or another is engaging in some collective act of moral failing that, either explicitly or by implication, harms another generation. It’s a widely-mocked cliché at this point, namely the near-constant analyses detailing what Millennials have “killed” or “ruined” lately — everything from Applebee’s to diamonds to top sheets to beer to napkins.

The first rule of drama — and by implication, the media — is to create tension. But what if tensions that actually exist in our society, like white supremacy and class conflict, are too unpleasant and dicey to touch — upsetting advertisers and media owners who benefit from these systems?

To replace these real tensions in society, the media repeatedly relies on dubious and entirely safe points of conflict, like those between two arbitrary generations. It’s not the rich or racism that’s holding me back — it’s old people running up entitlement spending or lazy youth who don’t want to work!

I appreciate listening to Citations Needed, because they cover issues and trends in media from a perspective far outside the mainstream of political thought. (A past episode on Modern Money Theory was particularly interesting.)

They’re very good at deconstructing “common sense” or “received wisdom” ideas — in this case the notion, so prevalent in mass media, that “generations” are any sort of accurate descriptor of anything, or useful for any purpose besides generating business for marketing consultants.

Mini-series Recommendation: Slow Burn (Website, with transcripts / Overcast )

Even recent history is rich with surprising subplots, strange details, and forgotten characters.

On Slow Burn, Leon Neyfakh excavates the strange subplots and forgotten characters of recent political history — and finds surprising parallels to the present. Season 1 captured what it was like to live through Watergate; Season 2 does the same with the saga of Bill Clinton’s impeachment.

I didn’t listen to the first season of Slow Burn (about Nixon’s impeachment), but I really enjoyed this latest season, about the Bill Clinton impeachment scandal in the late 1990s.

It’s eight episodes long (and some change), and describes the events surrounding the impeachment in methodical detail, including many new interviews with parties involved.

I was in high school during that time, and I remember hearing the broad outlines of the story as it unfolded without following many of the finer details.

The series walks through it in a way that clears up a lot of the blind spots in my recollection, which I think is useful just insofar as it’s nice to be well-informed about history — but it also looks at what happened with an awareness of how attitudes around sexual harassment and assault have evolved over the last 20 years.

Transcripts are available of each episode on the show page, and the season was introduced with an article in Slate.

BONUS LINKS: In a previous post, I recommended an episode of Futility Closet (a show which I still highly recommend, generally).

Last month, I also contributed a lateral thinking puzzle to this episode of Futility Closet, and submitted a piece of reader mail which was read in this episode.

I’m a participant!

[Previous podcast  episodes worth your time.]
[All previous things worth your time.]