Lend me your ears, part 5

And the discovery and education continues…

For the previous offerings: part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4.

50 Things That Made the Modern Economy

Coming to us from the BBC World Service, this one reminds me somewhat of my much-loved A History of the World in 100 Objects. It includes a wide range of products and services, from barcodes to insurance to paper. They explain where these things came from, why they were revolutionary, their broader influence and importance, and their ongoing value and evolution in today’s world. Episodes are fairly short, so good for a quick hit of smartiness, or you can save up a few for a fascinating binge.


Exposes the seedy underbelly of Providence, Rhode Island, and its fascinating and corrupt movers and shakers over the past decades. From New England crime boss Raymond Patriarca to dirty mayor Vincent “Buddy” Cianci and beyond. Classic mobsters, mayhem, and accents straight out of central casting.

The Infinite Monkey Cage

The longer format of the weekly BBC Radio 4 show, with Robin Ince as the straight man, and British science’s favourite media son, Prof. Brian Cox. Each episode irreverently tackles a science topic, from sleep to gambling to climate change, assisted by a panel of scientists, academics, writers, and comedians. The Christmas episode on ghosts was a particular highlight. 🙂


As advertised, these are long interviews (typically an hour or a bit more) with a variety of interesting folks, the key connecting thread being that they’re all writers or editors (or both). That’s a pretty broad category, though, as interviewees range from Ta-Nehisi Coates to Nate Silver to Malcolm Gladwell. I don’t listen to every one, but when you get a good one, man, is it interesting stuff.

Note to Self

This one styles itself as “the tech show about being human”, which is true, though it leans heavily at times on lifehacking and projects – things like making ourselves more efficient, establishing good habits, etc., which isn’t really my thing. (I skip that stuff.) It also tends to lean toward issues and lifestyles of the modern family, which can be pretty interesting, but since I don’t have kids, often more from an anthropological standpoint. It does also get into deeper issues, like privacy in the digital age, and dealing with racism and other bigotry online.

Only Human

This one wraps science and humanity around politics and currently events (US-centric). Like US “bathroom laws” and how they tie into real families with trans kids, and the clinics and medical staff that work with and treat those kids. Or medical care on Native reservations accompanied by centuries old well-earned mistrust of the establishment. Or accompanying a doctor whose mission it is to provide safe abortions in the south, and how increasingly difficult that’s become.

Revisionist History

Malcolm Gladwell’s 10-part series that takes a historical event, recounts it, deconstructs it, and then sheds new light and context on it. Binge listening to this basically saved my sanity during the madness of January (thanks, US politics). The first episode, for example, begins with an obscure female British artist who briefly shot to fame in the 1800s. It broadens out to a discussion of sexism (and other -isms) and explores the phenomenon of “moral licensing”, which is something you’ll have been aware of your whole life and will be immensely grateful to have a term for it. As global and historically broad as some of the stories and context are, some stuff, like the later episode involving the Mennonite church, hits remarkably close to home.

See Something Say Something

Buzzfeed is doing great things for diverse voices, a shot of sanity in this world, and just damned good, funny content. This one’s new-ish, and is about being Muslim in America (which gets more scary and relevant by the minute…) Often times I don’t connect terribly well with millennial-hosted or focused media, but this has been really good, and mixes pop culture with religion, anger, intelligent discourse, and irreverence. The range of guests has been smart, savvy, and eye-opening, from civil rights lawyers to university freshman teenagers. Much needed perspectives and a lot of fun, especially for this middle-aged white lady.

Weekly Infusion

Still relatively new to this one, and it’s a bit slick and produced for my taste, but it does also dig into medical issues, which is right up my alley. I was introduced to it via Nicole Angemi, who I follow on Instagram (she was a guest on an episode). I’ve never seen any TV stuff Dr. Drew has done, but suspect the podcast is more than enough exposure to me. They make things really accessible, and often have celebrities or notable people in areas, either who have a personal stake in a medical issue, or who are experts in a particular area. Topics range from conditions like anaphylaxis and epilepsy to synesthesia.

You Must Remember This

This has been my most consistent binge since I found it. Seasons typically follow a broad but consistent arc, like Charles Manson’s Hollywood, or the Blacklist/McCarthy Communist Witch Hunts, or Six Degrees of Joan Crawford. The general tagline is the exploration of the secrets and forgotten histories of Hollywood’s first century (roughly 1900-2000). There’s plenty of juicy gossip, sex, and scandal, as well as history, politics, and the development of the movie biz. Any delusions of glamour you ever had will be doused with booze and set on fire with a carelessly tossed cigarette. I have a feeling these binges are going to pay off well at future pub trivia nights.