Podcasts of Interest

I’ve been listening to podcasts like mad right now!

In addition to my all time favorites (see previous podcast posts), I’ve just enjoyed a few episodes of the following new ones.  I’ve been enjoying the break from politics into something new, and the sound of rich voices in my home that are not part of a screen.

Perhaps you want to explore these as well.


20k Hertz has a superb episode about the THX sound that plays at the beginning of movies since the 80s.  This was the brain child of George Lucas, who was looking for his new movie Star Wars to be played with great sound across the country.




Serial has had 2 previous seasons.  The first season was amazing, a crime murder mystery.  The second season was less fine.  This eason is a deep dive into the criminal justice system in America, and it is fascinating what she is finding.





Slow Burn is a new-ish podcast about Watergate.  It’s a long form podcast, with tons of information that puts this story in the context of characters and people and drama.  It is spectacular.

Librarians Listen: Last Seen

Image result for last seen

I hadn’t heard about the huge art heist in Boston before this podcast, but it has certainly sucked me in now.  At the Gardener museum in Boston, 13 irreplaceable works of art were stolen 28 years ago.

This true crime podcast dives into the characters, the places, the situations, giving us a true sense of the crime and the impact it has left.

I’m loving the editing and radio-like atmosphere of this podcast, and highly recommend it for most ages.

Librarians Listen: Ologies

Image result for ologies I have been absolutely loving this podcast called Ologies, with Alie Ward.  It is an independent podcast about science and scientists, and the host (Alie), spends one episode on a different branch of science.

I got hooked from a recommendation from a friend who told me to look up the postcards ology, which was perfect for a letter writer like myself.  I was sucked in with Alie’s humor, side bars, entertaining backstory, and her asking dumb questions to smart people.

I highly recommend this podcast if you are looking for a way to escape some of the political news and find something more joyous.  She does have the occasional curse word, so be wary with too young children!

Podcast Special: Opportunity Costs

I’ve greatly enjoyed this series recently called Opportunity Costs.

This podcast series deals with class and opportunity in five short episodes and conversations. One deals with class and fertility, one about education and work, one about the 1%, and one about divorce.  I found the conversations to be fascinating given the world that we inhabit, and the class that I come from and have found myself in.

If you’re interested in hearing something about class and opportunity and the challenges that it presents, give it a listen.

K’s Holiday Reads

K read a handful of books over the holiday, both in audiobook and in print, and here are some of the reviews!

Audiobooks and Podcasts:

Dissect Podcast
This series of Dissect is dedicated to Kanye’s album My Dark Twisted Fantasies. Dissect does long form. complex analysis on the popular hip-hop of today.  His first season dealt with Kendrick Lamar, and he brings information and history from a variety of sources to give a new found understanding of the music and the style. His critique is excellent and well-produced despite him being just a guy on his own.

The Daily by the New York Times
This podcast gives a half an hour of morning news (often focused on one or two topics) from the NYT.  The episodes that I enjoyed the most over the break, though, were the year in review episodes.  They devoted one week to revisiting their year’s stories and one episode to This Year in Sound, which was phenomenal.

The Heart Podcast: No Series
This series deals with consent and the grey areas that surround it.  She talks about her experiences with men at various ages, with being pushed farther than she wanted, with her discomfort with the word no, with her partner’s views of how they were with her.  It’s short and has a beautiful story arc that I couldn’t stop hearing.

The Notorious RBG (Ruth Bader Ginsburg)
I had no idea how incredible this woman was, and how much she brought to the law through her work.  I had become interested in her with another podcast (More Perfect, by Radiolab) talking about how she argued her cases in a way that 9 men would be keen to support, and followed up with this book.  It was fantastic and full of anecdotal stories.

Red Moon Rising: Sputnik and the Hidden Rivalries that Ignited the Space Age
If you are interested in the space race and the remarkable stories that built it, this book would be for you.  The man who designed and ran the Sputnik exploration was such a personality, full of temper and fire and passion for the shiny satellite that he had designed.

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
Mary Roach is always a favorite, with her well-researched and authentic information texts.  She talks about cadavers as donations for medical science and research, through the death business, with pets, and in other research.  There are pieces about the history of the cadaver business, and about how it became what it is, and the whole book is interesting, if at times gory.

Juvenile and MG Books:

The Witches of Benevento:
Sweet and delightful, this book is set in the villages of Italy, with artwork and fantasy that moves the story line.  It would be perfect for a young reader interested in reading something of fantasy that doesn’t shy away from the dramatic.

Sit: Stories by Deborah Ellis
Each of these stories starts with a child sitting.  One sits at a diner watching her family argue silently.  One takes a seat at a park bench avoiding her abusive parents.  One walks through the radiation to save her mother’s pet. It was heart-wrenching and diverse and full of beauty.

Adult and YA Books:

What Girls are Made Of
The front cover of this book has a mention of the “gore of grace of growing up female” and I find that to be remarkably accurate of this book.  At times, it was messy.  At times, you didn’t understand what was being told or why.  But the end hits in a certain way that makes you appreciate the story as a whole.  The girl at the center is a mess, full of mistakes.  Her mother is a similar and different sort of mess.  Her friends are the same.  And it is not all sugar and spice and everything nice.  Recommended to mature YA readers.

Labyrinth Lost
This book was on one of the top lists and I decided to pick it up for its diversity and interest.  The lead of the story is a bruja, a female witch from a long line of Mexican witches, and she is about to have her Death Day, where she will welcome the members of her ancestry to protect her and watch out for her.  But, of course, nothing will be so easy with all the power she wields, and she may find herself in an alternate realm protecting them from evil. Recommended for any YA reader.

The Fact of a Body
This book was also on several lists as a must-read non-fiction book.  I found it to be my favorite read of the holiday.  The story is written by a lawyer, a woman with a strong mind and long family history.  She talks about her belief against the death penalty, her will to fight it at any cost, her opposition to the very idea of it and where that comes from.  She talks about her childhood, which had exposure to both good things and bad things.  And she talks about the case she worked on as a law intern: where a man with a history of pedophilia strangled and killed a boy in a small town in Louisiana.  Mostly, though, she talks about the intersection of all of those things and how they overlap to a complex and working narrative. Recommended only to adults or mature readers.

The 57 Bus
This book was a stunning non-fiction read, full of suspense and detail that was unexpected.  This book’s catalyst was a crime, between two teens: one a young black man, and one a gender fluid white person.  On the bus, he sets their skirt ablaze, and it results in a hate crime.  But there is so much more to the story, and this book fleshes out the lives and worlds of both of these people and where they come from.


New Podcast to Try!

In listening to some of my favorite podcasts from WNYC Studios, I’ve heard some adverts for a new podcast for kids: This Podcast Has Fleas.

WNYC Studios makes spectacular podcasts like Radiolab and Death, Sex, and Money.  Now, they have a comedy podcast for kids from the perspectives of a house cat and a house dog, competing against one another in the same house.  Check it out wherever you get your podcasts!

This American Life: Expect Delays

Are you looking for a short enjoyable hour podcast?

Check out This American Life’s most recent podcast: Expect Delays.

The podcast talks about being in travel, in transit, something we are all familiar with.  They do a story about a comedic pilot who does some quick stand up before she flies, the multiple day traffic jams in China, and how some drivers deal, and a small town in Ohio that keeps twisting laws … for better or worse.

Check it out! As a traveller, I greatly appreciated the humor.

Elvis & Nixon

Elvis & Nixon tells a (mostly true?) story of the legendary meeting between The Most Powerful Man in the World and The King. The story is the stuff of legend: Elvis Presley, concerned with the direction that his country was headed, decided to meet with the President to discuss what could be done to rectify the situation. Of course, Elvis being Elvis, he simply pulled up to the North Gate of the White House and handed the guards a hand-written letter addressed to Richard Nixon and then went back to his hotel to wait for the invitation. Needless to say, the President had far more important things to worry about than meeting some pop singer, but with some persuasion and outright manipulation the meeting of giants took place on December 21, 1970.
The photograph that was taken during this meeting is still the most frequently requested photo from the National Archives.
Frankly, I don’t know much about Elvis or Nixon, and perhaps that’s why I was able to enjoy this film. I read reviews by the experts in politics and pop-music critisizing the film for its lack of historical accuracy, its absurd tone and errors in casting. But to me the movie felt entertaining and just absurd enough to be believable.
Michael Shannon looks nothing like Elvis, and Kevin Spacey beares a little resemblance to Nixon, but that doesn’t stop them from delivering stellar performances and perhaps even breathing new life into these familiar figures. Shannon does an especially fine job in conveying the two sides of Elvis: the quiet, lonely boy from Memphis who is yearning to be taken seriously and seen for who he really is; and the larger than life King of Rock’n’Roll who revels in his own brilliance and believes himself to be greater than any man, even the leader of the free world. Kevin Spacey has less material and screen time to work with, but he does a great job in portraying Nixon as a three-dimensional character who balances being the President, a father and a simple man from humble beginnings.
Elvis & Nixon is an interesting blend of fact and fiction that is able to strip away the superficial status symbols and show an intimate portrait of two great men relating to each other on a basic human level.

John Wick chapter 2

John Wick was a surprise hit of 2015, a slick stylish jam-packed action movie that relied on hand-to-hand combat and actual stunts rather than resorting to over-edited fight sequences and CGI effects of many contemporary action films. The sequel was bound to happen and I would say the results are mixed.
John Wick chapter 2 is bigger, louder and bloodier than the original and, for an action film, that’s usually great. However, in this case I was surprisingly bored with the action that repeated the sequences of the first film, making them longer and – dare I say it? – boring. My main problem was with the seeming invincibility of John Wick – yes, we’re told that he’s the best assassin there is, but with all the underworld trying to kill him, with assailants coming at him from every side, his constant recovery seems utterly unrealistic, even by action-movie standards. John Wick 2 felt like a Marvel movie where the stakes are kind of high but also meaningless because you know none of the main characters can die so the action loses its thrill.
Keanu Reeves is still impressive in the title role, performing almost all his own stunts while also flexing his acting muscles. There are some welcome cameos and knowing winks to the audience who are able to spot them. And we are given more access to the underworld assassin network, in case you were wondering about those coins and markers from the original film.
At the end of this over-long chapter in John Wick’s life the stage is set for the third and hopefully final movie, which I am still planning to see if only to complete the trilogy.