The best podcasts you should listen to this week

By Jaclyn Schiff and Simon Owens

Do you love listening to podcasts but are overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices out there? Have you subscribed to way more podcasts than you could ever listen to and don’t want to miss the best episodes? AudioTeller is a weekly newsletter that tells you the can’t-miss episodes you absolutely need to download. To have this newsletter delivered to your inbox, sign up here.

Welcome! In this week’s issue you’ll learn about Jordan Peele’s pop culture obsessions, get a peek at Wikipedia’s troll army, and hear the story from a person who transitioned from being a woman to a man and then back to a woman again. Stay tuned…

From Jaclyn Schiff, AudioTeller co-editor:

A (newish) podcast you’ll want to binge listen to [link]

Podcast: Kismet

I often rely on podcasts to help me understand the news better and develop context for what’s going on in the world. Lately, information overload has gotten the better of me, and I’ve modified my listening habits accordingly. In with the soft stuff, out with the grizzled, hard news (for now).

Kismet, a newish podcast exploring human connections, came along at the perfect time. Six episodes are available and I randomly started with Dust, an episode about a New York City cop who meets his British stem cell donor. Powerful, direct, and well-produced, I listened to several other episodes in one sitting. If a mix of Radiolab and The Heart captures you, I suspect you’ll quickly find yourself binging on the show as well.

From Sriram Gopal, a DC-based writer and musician:

How a music ensemble finds a common vocabulary [link]

Podcast: Meet The Composer — Episode: The Performer — Part 1

As one would guess from the title, most episodes of this podcast involve host Nadia Sirota interviewing composers, most of whom come from the contemporary classical scene (also referred to as “new music”). The first episode of Meet The Composer’s third season takes a different angle and gives voice to the musicians who are charged with interpreting the writer’s work in a way the connects with the listener. The episode begins with Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, a group consisting of members who come from differing musical traditions that stretch from China to Europe, and examines how these artists work to find common vocabulary. The second segment spotlights composer Georg Friedrich Haas, and he discusses the relationship between composer and performer using a surprising aspect of his personal life as an analogy. The podcast concludes with examples of musicians putting themselves in performance situations the require extreme endurance, and the euphoria that results.

Baltimore is more than just the backdrop for The Wire [link]

Podcast: Baltimore: The Rise of Charm City — Episode: Protect Your Vital Morgan

As a longtime resident of the nation’s capital, I often get annoyed with people who conflate federal Washington and its political hot mess with the District of Columbia, a real place with real people who just go about their daily business like anywhere else. Similarly, it irks me when people regard Baltimore, another city I have great affection for, as simply the setting for The Wire. The fact of the matter is that for much of this country’s history, Baltimore was an economic powerhouse. Now, it shares many attributes with Rust Belt cities, despite being situated in a coastal state. Each episode of Baltimore: The Rise of Charm City, with host Stacia L. Brown, takes a deep dive into an institution, neighborhood, or landmark in Baltimore through interviews with the people that live in an around them. The latest episode visits Morgan State University, the oldest and largest African American college in Maryland, which celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2017. It explores the university’s founding, its legacy of social activism, and its impacts on the broader African American community.

From Adam Peri, a marketing consultant in Chicago:

Making Wikipedia kinder using big data (link)

Podcast: Linear Digressions

Imagine you’re an erudite scholar of say… Chilean history. You may think it would be altruistic to contribute to the Wikipedia entry for Augusto Pinochet. According to this week’s episode of the big data/analytics podcast Linear Digressions, about 98% of Wikipedia editors would agree. But a recent paper has dug up the other 2% from their trolling underworld. The hosts explore how Wikipedia can handle a significant troll problem, explicating the magnitude of ‘trolliness’ and the methods for weeding out editors that just can’t get along. The trolls may make up less than 2% of Wikipedia editors, but the podcast examines the toxicity and impact of their invective and ponders solutions for the more common, passive negativity that permeates the community. It’s a big deal for a massive system that relies on little more than benevolence. So don’t be too discouraged when you start contributing, we’ll all appreciate your erudition, just check your attitude at ‘Military Junta.’

From Simon Owens, AudioTeller co-editor:

Jordan Peele is the culmination of his pop culture obsessions [link]

Podcast: Nerdist — Episode: Jordan Peele

I haven’t yet seen Jordan Peele’s critically acclaimed horror film Get Out yet (I hope to this weekend), but this long interview with him was still well worth the listen. Both he and Keegan Michael Key, with Key and Peele, brought cinema-quality production values and racial commentary to sketch comedy in a way that completely subverted the genre, and the critical reception of Get Out indicates Peele’s genius isn’t sequestered to comedy. In his Nerdist interview he reveals his pop culture obsessions growing up, his creative process, and why he and Key decided to end Key and Peele when it was at its apogee.

What it’s like to transition from a woman to a man and then back again [link]

Podcast: Love + Radio — Episode: Understood as to Understand

This episode was fascinating enough when I just thought it was the story of a woman transitioning into being a man, but then halfway through the episode she (he?) transition back into being a woman again. Was she ever truly trans, or was she experiencing temporary gender dysphoria as a result of being raped in college? And how did she feel when she unwittingly became the cause célèbre of conservatives who used her story to claim transgenderism is a mental disorder? This episode is great because it constantly zigs when you expect it to zag.

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