55 minus 08: Ten podcasts I’ll listen to again and again

Posted: 9 August 2019 in 55 minus, movies, one-offs
Tags: ,

OK, on the past few weeks, I’ve written about stuff I like re-reading or rewatching, about individual episodes of tv shows, individual comic book issues, and pilots, and two on old movies ,then one on old-ish movies, I’ll happily rewatch.

But given how much audio I listen to, it’s kind of surprising to me that I’ve not mentioned that at any point… No, not albums; I rarely listen to a whole album. Very occasionally, but only very occasionally.

If I listen to music, odds are it’s my favourite songs from an artist, or a soundtrack if I’m listening to an album.

The stuff on repeat that I listen to is often adaptations of books and plays. I’ve listened to the Radio 4 version of Lord Of The Rings so many times… much my favourite, and the Radio 4 versions of Tinker Tailor Solider Spy are not necessarily my favourite versions, but damn, they’re both very good.

Or podcasts. (What the BBC for the longest time insisted on calling ‘downloads’, which makes sense since their podcasts are usually downloadable versions of radio shows that have been previously broadcast on the network)

Note: these aren’t the podcasts I listen to when a new episode is released. There are some I listen to regularly, whenever new episodes are released, and I’ll talk about them next week.

The list below contains the podcasts I’ll save once listened to, and then I’ll listen to them again, on another occcasion. And again. And again.

And I realised earlier this week that I’ve got at least ten.

So why not?

Oh, by the way, the titles and images are linked to the Apple podcasts. Obviously other podcast apps and stores are available. But I trust that if you’ve read so far, you know how to find podcasts.…

OK then. In no particular order:



When I first got online, back in the distant and now ancient times of the mid-1990s, I found a home on CompuServe. And once there, I learned about trolls. All of the above is true, and entirely useless these days since the word meant something different back then. A troll wasn’t in my experiences back then someone who disparaged a single person, nor someone who posted obscene messages about someone, nor someone who had a political point – legitimate or otherwise – to make. They were shit-stirrers, people who came into the Jewish Forum to proselytise, who went into the Police Forums to claim all police were bastards, who went into comics forums to claim all comics people were immature babies… And as a general rule of thumb, although there were many of them, they weren’t ‘a group’, with a single aim, other than to disrupt. There were plenty of words to use for people who did post racism and homophobia and who did target individuals, but it wasn’t ‘troll’. But as I say, that was in the dim and distant past. Trolls these days seek out people of an opposing view and shit on them; whether it’s by posting racism/antisemitism, or just because they don’t like a celebrity’s political position, or religion, or that they’re gay, or trans.

Tracy Ann Oberman is an actress. (She was in Eastenders, and Doctor Who, and Friday Night Dinner, and plenty of other things, but if you’re reading this, you’ll probably recognise her from those.) She’s Jewish, and a few years ago, the trolls, the antisemites took objection to her saying ‘enough. I will not put up with this any more’. She’s got experience of trolls, and this podcast – about 40 minutes per episode – is her interviewing others who’ve been trolled. How do they deal with it? What do they think of their trolls? Is there any commonality? Is there anything to learn from others’ experiences? Have you ever trolled yourself? And is it better to block, or mute. And why? They’re always fascinating discussions – yeah, discussions more than interviews, to be fair. In the main because I find myself pondering the same questions, partyciley the ‘block or mute?’ one. My own answer for that is simple: whichever I think will piss off the other person more. Tracy Ann talks to Luciana Berger and Gary Liniker in one episode and their completely different ways of handling it are fascinating to listen to. (Liniker deliberately blocks on the ground that ‘you no longer deserve to read my feed. I want you to know that you’ve been blocked. Berger on the other hand mutes, so they waste their time unknowingly whingeing into the ether…) Other guests include Frances Barber, David Baddiel journalist Oz Katerji, and Al Murray.

The History of Rome

I don’t know when I first learned about Rome. Probably at school, when I learned about the emperors. Then, later, I discovered the tv series (and bought the book) of I, CLAVDIVS. And was fascinated but no more. Then, a few years ago, someone recommended this podcast to me. And I was hooked. 180 or so short-ish episodes, it starts out at about 15 minutes per episode but end up at about half an hour per show. It commences with the legend of the founding of Rome, and through episode after episode tells you the legend, what bits are true, or true-ish anyway, and what’s just pure fiction. You’re 50 episodes through it before we even get to Augustus, and not a minute has been wasted. Mike Duncan is an engaging presenter, sticks to what’s known, or what’s come down through history anyway, and only occasionally editorialises. And it’s because they’re so occasional that when they come, he makes them matter. His views on the ‘wicked stepmother’ trope attached to Livia are worth listening to. As is his that story about “That story about this general? That may sound familiar? Yeah, it didn’t happen… instead the noble and heroic feats of Lucius Liminus that took place 300 years earlier were attached to this fella because a) Rome needed a hero and b) hardly anyone remembered Liminus,..”) The podcast is educational, informative and entertaining. I listen to it at least once every couple of years.

Sport and the British

I’m not a sporty person. Not only do I not take part in sport, nor do I watch much sport. I really don’t like it that much at all. (And yes, before you ask, it’s a lot to do with how I encountered it at school. Shudder.) So why do I love this podcast – 30 episodes of about 13 minutes each – that Clare Balding did for the BBC in 2012 preparing for the London Olympics? Because they play a glorious trick on the listener. It may be called Sport and the British, but there’s precious little actual… y’know, sport occurring in it. There’s the occasional sound effect, sure. But in the main, it’s a history podcast, that happens about be about the history of sport. And it’s fantastic. Covering dozens of sports, and sporting fixtures, it shows how sports started, how they developed, why they developed in the way they did, introducing the listener to names they might have faint memories of, and explaining why that’s so. And covering subjects such as the splits between professional and amateur, between men and women, between sports created for adults and sports that developed from schools. And throughout, where the British influenced, where British influence remains, and where it no longer does. The perfect length for a series like this, I recommend it to everyone, sports lover or no.

50 Things That Made The Modern Economy

I mentioned Mike Duncan as an engaging host. And he is, but he’s an aloof statue compared to Tim Harford, The Financial Times‘ Undercover Economist. Presenter of Radio 4s More Of Less, about the use and misuse of numbers. This podcast is fairly self-explanatory. Harford gives a potted history of things that affect (more than ‘made’, although it’s a moot point often) the modern economy. Sometimes the affect is obvious – the barcode, banking, paper money, the contraceptive pill, tax havens; sometimes the item chosen is a bit ‘huh?’ But Harford takes you through it step by step until you realise the item – the Haber-Bosch process, the shipping container, the disposable razor, pornographers, the spreadsheet – has very bit as much a consequence on the modern economy as… well, as the humble brick or double- entry bookkeeping. It’s entertaining, informative and you learn a shed load of new information every 12 minute episode. Thoroughly recommended. (We’re on season 2, right now, 50 more things, and it’s every bit as good as season 1.)

The Reith Lectures Archive

The Reith Lectures started in 1948, and were commissioned by the BBCto mark the contribution made by Lord Reith, the BBC’s first director-general. Every year, the BBC invite a leading figure to deliver a series of four or five lectures on the radio. And they’re glorious. My personal favourites, which I’ve listened to so many times are the 2003 lectures by neuroscientist Vilayanur Ramachandran about The Emerging Mind, but even in the past few years, you’ve had Grayson Perry on Playing To The Gallery, Stephen Hawking on Do Black Holes Have No Hair, and this year’s by Jonathan Sumpter on Law and the Decline of Politics were among the best I’ve heard. Each lecture’s about half an hour, and there’s often a Q&A afterwards, which is always interesting. My favourite columnists, my favourite pundits, are the ones who make me think, whether or not I agree with them. These lectures always make me think. Download and enlighten yourself on stuff you’ve never thought of… you won’t regret it. 

Bag Man

Rachel Maddow is my favourite US presenter on US politics. A self-confessed policy wonk, her nightly tv show is fantastic… if you’re interested in US politics. And the same applies to her first podcast. It’s about a US Vice President caught up in a pay-for-play scandal; corruption. corruption at the highest level of US government… while the President is also caught up in obstruction of justice and Watergate. I’m a student of Watergate and yet I was completely unaware of most of what Maddow lays out in this seven part documentary about Spiro Agnew, Nixon’s first VP. The episodes – about 40 minutes each – are gripping, contain interviews with many of the people who were tracking down the corruption and set the scene superbly. Not a sentence is wasted. Maddow doesn’t treat it nor present it as a thriller, but with the material herein she could have. It was a wise decision not to do so. The mixture of matter of fact presentation contrasted with the shock felt by the investigators as they unconverted more and more… contrasted again by the White House – consumed with Watergate – having to deal with this as well? Beautifully laid, out superbly presented. A slice of recent-ish American history you didn’t know about, but really should know.

This, by the way, is the only podcast series in this list that I listened to, then immediately listened to the run again, to catch what I missed, or hadn’t realised how important something was, the first time.

David Baddiel Tries To Understand

I like David Baddiel. I like him on Twitter; I like his work, his writing. And he was very kind to me once when I needed some advice. That said he’s an idiot. He freely admits as much in this series of 15 minute episodes when he tries to understand… something. What? Well… Electricity, say. How it works. Why it doesn’t fall out of the the sockets. How it’s created, and how it gets from the generator station to his computer. Or ‘derivatives’. The financial instruments. What the hell are they? And when people buy them, how do they operate? Or Wifi. Or ‘the cloud’. Or The US Electoral system. Or Bitcoin. Or The Kardashians. What are they? Why do people care? Why should people know?

Either way, David tries to understand them. Some of the episodes are about things I know about. It’s a useful check for me, to know whether the subject of the episode – treated exactly the same as in others – is explained correctly. It is. Sometimes David does begin to understand. Sometimes he doesn’t. They’re fun to listen to, and you too might understand something you previously didn’t. Like TV broadcasting; how does the tv show get from the studio to your tv? Or crying? Why do we cry?

All the subject are suggested by people on Twitter. David sorts through them and then picks subjects that a) he doesn’t understand, b) he thinks the audience might not either. Then he is.. educated. And finally he explains it back to the person who asked, sometimes with more success than on other occasions.

The Mitch Benn Music Podcast

Not a surprise in the least, this one, is it? I’ve previously mentioned The Distraction Club. In part, Mitch and the others set it up because you don’t tend to see more than one musical comedy act on a comedy bill. It’s as if promoters think all musical comedy acts do the same material, have the same style, are the same. The Distraction Club is a comedy evening that puts the lie to those views. And this podcast does the same. Mitch puts out a request on Twitter: send me original comedy songs. Only two rules; you must own the rights to the song, and no filking, no ‘funny words to someone else’s tune’, a derivation of the first rule, to be fair. And then Mitch puts together a dozen of the best he’s been sent, links them, and puts out an episode. And it’s great. It’s funny, silly, smart as hell and you get to listen to comedy songs you won’t have heard before.

The Moral Maze

This is probably the closest I get to the original ‘one-offs’ that this series of posts started as. As there are episodes of those show that I can relisten to repeatedly, while others I listen to once, then never again. But the show itself is clever, and at least until relatively recently, provides as much light as heat into a moral discussion on everything from ‘should we trade with other countries, despite their human rights’ abuses’, ‘is religion more important than treating everyone with respect?’, ‘the right to offend vs the right not to be abused’, the morality of leadership’, ‘what IS the moral duty of MPs?’ And so much more. The moral arguments about abortion, the death penalty, is it moral to lie for the ‘right’ reasons? The morality of international aid, of equality, of taking a holiday… of the public sector. Of social housing, of the welfare state, of war.

Four panelists quiz four ‘expert witnesses’ on the morality of their positions.

It’s rarely anything other than fascinating. And often makes you ponder the morality of your own position.

Round Britain Quiz

There are three Radio 4 quizzes that share this podcast, and they’re broadcast consecutively. Brain of Britain, I’ll occasionally listen to when it’s broadcast but only occasionally. Counterpoint – a music quiz – I’ll even less occasionally listen to; it’s really not my thing. But Round Britain Quiz, I’ll listen to whenever it’s on, and I’ve saved previous series to listen to for pleasure. The questions are fiendish, the answers complicated, and the irritation of the contestants at themselves when they missed a clue, or just couldn’t find the right word, or couldn’t remember who wrote that, or sung. this, or acted in the other… Glorious.

Something different tomorrow. It’s Saturday so the last of the Saturday smiles. And it should be a good one as well…

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-fifth birthday on 17th August 2019. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

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