24 Sep August Podcast Round Up
Right on cue, those familiar crisp hints of Autumn are conspiring to take over since the last podcast post. Is it strange that I’m taking stock of time and the changing of the seasons through podcast posts? Probably. I already feel a bit wearied just thinking of the pending darkness and freezing weather that’s just around the corner. I DON’T WANT SUMMER TO END.
Ahem. Anyway. Podcasts.
In August I found two podcasts that are the perfect length for my morning walk to work AND I actually learn things from them that don’t involve ghosts, demons or UFOs (if you haven’t been following my previous podcast posts, I’ve listened to a lot of horror podcasts this summer). Nonetheless, I had my fill of the unnerving during August in the form of a particularly fantastic true crime podcast.
Have at it:
They Walk Among Us
Why are humans so drawn to true crime content and TV?
I find myself confronting this question every time I finish an episode of They Walk Among Us – when I’m feeling thoroughly unnerved. In trying to answer this question, I remembered a book I read on the history of journalism. It outlined how the very first form of newspapers were focused almost entirely on exaggerated stories about murder. Rivalling newspapers would battle to publish the grimmest news stories because this is what people loved to read. Or, if they couldn’t read, they’d inevitably hear an even more exaggerated version told with relish by word of mouth.
Humans have a penchant for the morbid and disturbing. True crime documentaries, books or podcasts simply represent, and indulge, in this dark curiosity.
Any true crime podcasts I’ve listened to have generally been focused on crime in the US. Like Criminal in my June Round Up, for instance.
They Walk Among Us however is “dedicated to UK true crime”. A number of the crimes featured are actually familiar to me from news headlines in years gone by. This familiarity and “close to home” feeling heightens the overriding sense of dread that each episode is so excellent at conjuring.
The opening music is emotive but suggests a certain sense of intrigue. This sets the tone for the rest of each episode as distressing incidents in seemingly completely ordinary places occur. They Walk Among Us strips back that immediate, comforting familiarity we have with the suburban UK areas depicted, revealing an unsettling sense of things not being as they seem. The fact that the stories are true remains at the forefront of your mind as you gradually become increasingly disturbed by the nefarious capabilities of humans.
As the ominous title, They Walk Among Us, reminds us, the crimes depicted happen within the reality of our own lives. Most people are lucky, but you just never know who you might cross paths with.
The Briefing Room
Podcasts have become one of the main ways I stay informed about what’s going on in the world. The ability to multi-task is one great perk of listening to content – cooking and household chores become infinitely more interesting with listening material on in the background. My morning half hour walk to work is a time I oddly look forward to now because I tend to have an interesting podcast lined up.
BBC Radio 4’s The Briefing Room is one of my absolute favourite current affairs podcasts. Hosted by David Aaronovitch, The Briefing Room explores the important issues happening in the world today with input from a number of expert witnesses.
A highlight so far for me has been their episode The Far Right in America. Unsurprisingly, the photos all over Twitter of swastika wielding white supremacists charging through Charlottesville kinda caught my attention a bit. I always felt history rested the case as to why Nazism is bad. Here I am though trying to understand how a group of individuals feel inspired, in 2017, by Nazism and other radical symbols. It’s a very insightful episode with commentary from a long-term Charlottesville resident, Sandy Hausman and a former Neo Nazi, now anti-extremism campaigner, Christian Picciolini
Other informative topics have included “The AI Revolution” “The Problem of North Korea” and “Britain’s Broken Housing Market” among many others. All the episodes centralise on issues that make the headlines and that I often don’t feel fully informed on. This podcast is particularly good delivering a breadth of perspective on what are often incredibly complex, multi-faceted issues. And it’s all packed into one tiny half hour. Safe to say, I have a lot to mull over as I start my day.
Much like The Briefing Room, The Inquiry, a podcast by BBC World Service, explores the “trends, forces and ideas shaping the world.”
Each episode asks a question and in 20-25 minutes, teases out answers with the help of four expert witnesses. Naturally, the answer is never simple and involves taking into account many different layers of issues and considerations. I always enjoy hearing differing perspectives on current affairs. I feel that I’m broadening my mind as pretentious as it sounds.
The first episode I listened to was “What’s so special about Qatar?” I was amused by the fact that I was learning about a place I knew absolutely nothing about, all within the half hour it takes me to walk to work in the morning. I now listen to The Inquiry or The Briefing Room everyday (there’s a bit of a backlog of episodes to work through – which I love.)
Really interesting episodes have included “What can we do with our dead?” and “How do you fix someone else’s election?” What’s great about this podcast is the international feeling it has, offering a range of perspectives from around the world. For instance, I now know Athens has an extreme lack of space for burying their dead. And that the dominating religion in Greece is very much against cremation. An interesting if not slightly morbid fact to pick up before 9am.