I’ve listened to podcasts for a while, because I like taking long walks and have a low tolerance for boredom. I probably spend more time listening to people talk about issues and culture, than I do actually listening to music, so I thought I’d review the ones that made an impression on a one to five star scale, under the understanding that I’m typically not going to listen to something badly done, so low scores are going to be rare.
KCRW’s Left, Right and Center is one of the two political discussion shows I listen to that comes out on Fridays. I like the theme of having a reasonable discussion between a left-winger, a right-winger and a purported centrist, although it is suspicious that the centrist moderators tend to have liberal backgrounds (a former Clinton administration staffer, several New York Times reporters), and the unaffiliated special guests can ususally be described as liberals. For example, the special guest of the Friday September 11 episode “Iran’s Done Deal” was Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of The Nation. There were interesting discussions on the Iran nuclear deal, and the political ramifications of something that is unlikely to help the Democrats, but can backfire horribly. That was followed by a sober conversation on the Syrian Refugee crisis, with National Review‘s Rich Lowry making a good point “Yes, it’s understandable that people want to get out of Syria, but once you’re in Turkey, you’re no longer in dire danger of your life. There’s no reason to go to Hungary. Once you’re in Hungary, there’s no reason you have to go from Hungary to Germany, but if you tell most of the world, once you set aflight you’re going to end up in Germany, you’re going to have an enormous flow.” (****)
The other Friday politics podcast I listen to each week is Slate’s political gabfest. The most recent episode dealt with the same topics, as well as Hillary Clinton’s campaign troubles, although it wasn’t particularly memorable or insightful. (***)
Slate gabfester John Dickerson (who apparently hosts one of the Sunday Morning Political talks shows) also discusses campaign history in his Whistlestop podcast, and that had a particuarly strong episode on September 2 dealing with the Jimmy Carter/ Ted Kennedy presidential race. It’s always fascinating to learn about the strategies and manuevering for something that ended up being a doomed prospect: winning the Democratic party’s presidential nomination in 1980. I may have a different view on this as a Republican, but I paid particular attention to how Kennedy shoots the party in the foot, with an insistence on purity pledges after his loss. (*****)
On the Media’s September 11 episode “Enter and Return” dealt primarily with the September 11 museum, and the questions about how to discuss refugees or migrants from Syrians (there’s a significant difference.) There was also an interesting segment on a rarely discussed period of American history, where the Mexicans were kicked out under the guise of repatriation. (****)
The “Bullets or Exposition edition” episode of Slate’s Cultural Gabfest (September 2, 2015) had solid discussions on the Netflix drama Narcos, and the novels of Jonathan Franzen. My favorite piece dealt with the controversy of the Duke students who refused to read the graphic novel Fun Home. Stephen Metcalf has the best defense of the conservative students, trying to determine what the guys are trying to say, and to look at things from their point of view.
I come from a very different background than the one implied by the one in the book, and as a member of a supposedly liberal community have a right to that background and that set of views. I don’t have the right to argue ad hominem, or to argue without evidence. I will participate in liberal culture fully, and with the burdens of rational thought and common discourse, but you can’t assume on my part a certain kind of social or cultural unanimity, and by the way, I—prospective duke student—may be forced to spend four years with this kind of assumption that we all agree about X whereas I think of X as something that needs to be argued for within the disputatious culture within a liberal education. It should be part of the socratic encounter of all of us, and not the unconsciously shared assunptions, and by the way, the more aggressive and conscientious a university community is about this not assuming shared values, the less vulnerable they are to a reactionary argument that they are essentially hotbeds of political correctness.
He further notes that it’s different to have a book that’s recommended for every freshman, since that suggests an endorsement, and that unlike something that a student can come across in a humanities classroom, there won’t be anyone to guide them. He makes an interesting point that literature that is new might not function well in this way, because the issues haven’t been settled. I think Fun Home is a fantastic comic book memoir, and I’m happy to see a university promote it, but these are interesting arguments. (****)
Mark Steyn popped up in the Richochet podcast (September 10, 2015) which marked the first time I ever heard the guy. I thought he was doing a mock-British accent for a few minutes, until I realized this is how the Canadian actually talks. The most interesting parts of the conversation were those dealing with his new book, and the lawsuit that has the ACLU on his side. (****)
Episode 385 of the Spider-Man Crawlspace (September 7, 2015) had answers to the Q and A, a monthly feature that is basically just over an hour of intelligent mini-conversations on all things Spider-Man. That may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I liked it. (***)
My favorite of the National Review podcasts is Mad Dogs & Englishmen, a series of irregularly conversations between reporters Charles Cooke and Kevin Williamson. The 9/11 episode covered their experiences that day, with interesting anecdotes about what an apolitical British teenager, and the editor of a small town newspaper were doing on a day when no one knew what was going to happen next. (****)
I also listened to some much older podcasts.
“Why It Took 30 Years For Cosby’s Victims to go Public” from Cracked (August 17, 2015) dealt with rape culture, Bill Cosby and the difficulties faced by women encountering aggressive guys in real life or the internet. Two of the regulars were joined by comedian Dani Fernandez for a conversation that wasn’t all that funny, but was quite insightful. Fernandez recalled shady experiences she had, and blasted the justice system for its flaws in dealing with sexual assault and harrassment. There were some difficult questions that weren’t addressed—especially on the topic of reasonable doubt—although there was a powerful tangent on false accusations, a topic Fernandez worried about as the sister to two brothers, and a woman who has seen a friend get wrongly accused by a woman. (****)
I also listened to a May 2nd conversation between Rich Lowry of National Review and Charles Krauthammer in the Richochet podcast feed. Krauthammer had some good red meat bon mots, while discussing American exceptionalism and the failings of liberals. (****)
Finally, I also listened to the May 12 2015 episode of the Scriptnotes podcast for a discussion on “How Bad Movies Get Made.” This was my first exposure to the podcast, although I’ve been aware of it for a while. It’s a good first episode, with a wide ranging discussion on the most common mistakes in moviemaking (risks that don’t pay off, mismatches in casting or directing) by two guys who had made quite a few. (****)