There’s no podcast this week, but we know you need your fix of miscellaneous esoterica. How about trying one of these eight podcasts, video series, and websites we like?
The first season of Michael Lewis’s Against the Rules, which examined the problems of the modern world through the lens of sports metaphors, was a surprising breath of fresh air. The second season was just as strong. His best episode was probably season one’s “The Hand of Leonardo,” which dived into the mysteries of Salvator Mundi. Was it painted by da Vinci? Why did authorities change their minds? And where is it hiding now?
We’ve already recommended the Order of the Good Death’s podcast, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t also recommend Caitlyn Doughty’s Ask a Mortician series over on YouTube. She covers a wide variety of death and death-adjacent topics, from the sinister (the strange case of Dorian Corey) to the silly (grave of the secret porpoise!) to the surprisingly topical (funerals in the age of Coronavirus). Caitlyn presents each episode in an engaging and highly informative way. There’s a reason she’s America’s first celebrity mortician.
Gregg Taylor’s Decoder Ring Theatre presents audio dramas in the style of old-time radio serials, with snappy scripts and top-notch voice acting. We love the long-running superhero franchise “The Red Panda Adventures,” but #7 and #13 insist hard-boiled detective satire “Black Jack Justice” can’t be beat.
Jake Barton’s Historium dives into some of history’s most obscure corners to find lessons we can apply to our modern world. Some of his strongest episodes include “Plague of Corrupted Blood,” about a pandemic in the World of Warcraft, and
“The Dividing Line,” about the Chicago race riots of 1919.
Jill Lepore’s The Last Archive asks a weighty question — who killed the truth? We’ll never have a definitive answer to that question, but Lepore forces you to grapple with what “the truth” actually is. Some of our favorite episodes are “The Clue of the Blue Bottle,” “Unheard,” and “The Computermen.”
We all know the law is a(n) ass, but Lowering the Bar does a great job of refining that stupidity to pure comedy gold. Some of our favorite articles from the last year include “Man Claims He Lost 500-Pound Emerald in Fire, But Some Have Questions”
and “Lawyer Who Billed over 6,600 Hours Per Year Found in Nicaragua.”
We have to concede that National Geographic does audio essays just as well as they do photo essays. Recent episode “The Failing of War Photography” is probably the most thought-provoking, but we love the sheer weirdness of “Scuba Diving in a Pyramid” or “The United States vs. One Tyrannosaurus Bataar.“
The Institute for Justice’s Short Circuit podcast presents a quick roundup of cases pending and recently decided in the federal courts of appeals. We don’t always agree with the IJ’s libertarian positions, but always find them well-considered and thought provoking. Standout episodes include conversations about nationwide injunctions and excessive fines. (Also be sure to check out their “Bound by Oath” series on the Constitution.)
New Content from Old Favorites
Tim Harford’s Cautionary Tales presented an excellent mini-season with episodes that tied in to the pandemic.
Speaking of the pandemic, The Pessimist’s Archive dives into the last major pandemic with “Why We Hate Being Told What To Do” and then pretty much writes the template for every future episode with “What Will We Fear Next?”
Sometimes an idea is just floating around in the zeitgeist, like when The Constant (“The Cold Hard Truth” Parts 1 & 2) and The Omnibus Project (“Roald Amundsen’s Airship”) both took quick jaunts to the North Pole at the same time.
I love it when The Dollop covers current events, and it doesn’t get more current than “Jordan Goudreau vs. Venezuela.”
Lauren Ober’s Spectacular Failures returns for a second season with an excellent episode on Blue Apron. (Guess they won’t be advertising on this podcast any time soon…)