Favorites of 2020, Part 3: Podcasts

So I looked at things read and things watched, and this time I wanted to write about what I have listened to. This could conceivably cover music, but my listening on Spotify and iTunes this year was mostly random instrumental folk music that I used for background noise while working as well as Bruce Springsteen’s new album and the endless playlists of the Eighties and Nineties that I’ve curated for years. In other words, I’ve reached the age where I’m rather stagnant in my music choices.

But when it comes to podcasts, I’ve definitely branched out and always want to try new stuff. I’m a podcaster myself and a member of a greater podcasting community. I listen to my friends’ shows quite often, as we all do; however, I also listen to a number of shows that are professionally produced or are self-made in the way my own shows are but not part of my greater community. Those are what I am going to spotlight here in hopes that some of my fellow podcasting friends will find something entertaining or informative. Here are six shows that I listened to and enjoyed.

Wind of Change. Only available (as far as I can tell) on Spotify, this is a podcast that explores the urban legend about the Scorpions song “Wind of Change” that says the song was written by the CIA in order to stir up pro-democracy sentiment in the Eastern Bloc. There are moments in the podcast where the host is clearly looking to make something happen or force something to be “found”, but the podcast is great when it explores the background of the song and its popularity as well as times during the Cold War when the U.S. did send entertainers out into various parts of the world as cultural ambassadors. It’s incredibly fun and a great slice of Cold War History.

Slow Burn Season 4. Slow Burn has been a consistently great series across each of its seasons, covering Watergate on season 1, the Clinton impeachment on season 2, and the Biggie-Tupac feud and murders on season 3. This was a deep dive into the career of David Duke, who was someone I knew about when he was making his various runs for political office in the early 1990s, but only in abstract. The host takes his time following his career as well as diving into the culture of Louisiana and its politics as well as the influence of white supremacy on politics.

Behind the Bastards. An I Heart Radio podcast hosted by Robert Evans, each episode is about a single person who is absolutely awful (though a number are two-parters). Evans usually has a guest along with him and while he can be a little annoying at times, he has quite an irreverent sense of humor and really does his homework. I highly recommend his miniseries “Behind the Police”, which came out this summer. It’s an incredibly thorough look at a policing in the United States that is not full of surprises per se, but does give you a more in-depth look at some of those things you already knew.

All the Things ADHD. Hosted by Lee Skallerup Bessette and Aimee Morrison, this is a podcast about being an adult with ADHD, especially within the workplace and within academia. While it does skew toward that particular specialization, it’s great for understanding the whole idea of how someone’s brain “works” and a really good introduction to the idea of neurodiversity (which is a term that I just heard this year). Plus, the hosts themselves speak from their own experiences as well as their experiences in marriage and parenthood, which feels genuine.

IndoctriNation. Man, I watched at least three documentaries about cults this year, and that probably says something about me. But there was also this particular podcast, which is interviews with people who were once members of cults or high-control groups. Some people were born into them and others joined them at one point or another. It’s a straight, no-frills, one-on-one interview show that has the luxury of a long-form interview instead of having to be cut into segments, narration, or a storyline.

Keep It! This is one of the few “current events” podcasts I listen to, and while the hosts are very Millennial and Gen Z in their perspectives (sometimes comically so), I love it because it makes me feel like I’m listening in on a conversation of the “Cool Kids.” Plus, I’ve gotten a number of watch/read/listen recommendations from them that have proven very worthwhile. It’s a pop culture and politics show that is consistently entertaining.

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