Podcasts Well Worth Your Time for Sept. 2019

I’m overloaded with podcasts! Take a few from me!

Here are a few more individual episodes from my recent listening that I enjoyed, and thought you might too.

(I could not find written transcripts for any of these, unfortunately.)

Decoder Ring: “Truck Nutz” (Website / Overcast )

…These plastic novelties have a powerful symbolic charge and are often associated with a crass, macho, red state audience.

But truck nuts are a surprisingly complicated signifier whose symbolic power is increasingly divorced from their real-world usage.

On this episode, we talk to owners and users of truck nuts, investigate the origins of the accessories, and deconstruct the meaning of these oft-joked-about symbols. We’ll also take a tour of other novelty testicle products.

Decoder Ring is a Slate podcast about “cracking cultural mysteries”.

In each episode, host Willa Paskin explores a common thing from our culture and figures out why it matters.

I have made fun of Truck Nutz before. I did not think there was much more to think about Truck Nutz. I dismissed them as coarse and stupid.

I am the audience, then, for this podcast. It turns out everyone else thinks they’re stupid, too, and that, indeed is the joke.

We, as a species, are bad at identifying when groups we don’t belong to are being serious vs. when they are being tongue-in-cheek. This is a compelling exploration of the way that boundary can be straddled by Truck Nutz.

(Sorry for any weird mental images there.)

The World in Words: “The Sci-Fi of Another Language” (Website / Overcast)

The meaning of science fiction stories are often tough to pin down.

Do they depict the future or the present? Are they personal or political? Imaginative or reality-based?

Also, is sci-fi global or local? Were H.G. Wells and George Orwell dreaming up specifically British dystopias?

Are the worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin and Philip K. Dick manifestations of American ideals and nightmares?

Reporter Lydia Emmanouilidou set out to answer some of those questions for The World in Words podcast.

Lydia has been reading Chinese sci-fi for several years and has watched it blossom from obscurity to worldwide sensation.

This podcast about language is less about etymology or word origins and more about language itself — particularly how the different languages we speak can affect our lives and filter our understanding of the world.

This episode explores how a story written in a particular language (and cultural context) can be freighted with meaning that is not always apparent in translation, or that can be impossible to translate.

Without Fail: “The Tragedy Expert” (Website / Overcast)

In the days after September 11, 2001, Kenneth Feinberg took on an unenviable task.

Congress had created the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, and it was his job to figure out who should receive money and how much they should get.

But much of his time was spent doing something else: listening to people’s stories.

Nearly two decades later, he’s still the person we turn to in the wake of our worst catastrophes.

This is a podcast about 9/11. So it’s a bit of a downer in moments.

It’s not about the tragedy itself, but rather how Mr. Feinberg was tasked with choosing who got compensation for losses sustained in the attack.

He is an enormously compelling speaker, and his stories from that time are fascinating and moving.

Miniseries recommendation: “The Dream” (Website / Overcast)

What if we told you that with zero experience and only a few hundred dollars down, this podcast could change your life?

Well, we’d be lying.

This season on The Dream, Jane Marie dives into the world of pyramid schemes, multi-level marketing, and all the other businesses that require their members to recruit their nearest and dearest in hopes of a commission. 

This mini-series explores a subject that’s truly an enormous piece of the national economy, but which is also a source of heartbreak for many.

Part history, part documentary, and part gonzo journalism, it’s a very compelling look at get-rich-quick schemes and the folks who pitch them at the needy and desperate.

Hope you enjoy the listens!

[Previous podcasts & articles worth your time.]

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