Local Reviewers Share Podcast Recommendations
New York Times
Reviewed by Anita Bowser
As most of us watched in disbelief, a mob of enraged extremists, set on disrupting the outcome of an election, attacked the U.S. Capitol Building in early January. It looked like newsreel from a fledgling democracy in the far-reaches of the globe. But, it was not. It was here. It was us.
And, there were signs it was coming.
For an eye-opening deep dive into the role of the internet in our current uncivil discourse and polarization, I recommend Rabbit Hole, a podcast from the New York Times and hosted by tech reporter/columnist Kevin Roose.
The 8 episode docuseries explores the power of the internet, particularly YouTube, to influence and sometimes radicalize users.
The series follows the internet experience of a 26-year-old college drop-out who, through YouTube recommendations, became progressively more radical in his ideology, mired in a world of conspiracy theories and hate.
I highly recommend Rabbit Hole to anyone who is interested in current events, the influence of media, conspiracy theories (especially QAnon), or simply understanding what is going on in this crazy world.
Reviewed by Rhiannon Bowser
Oh No Ross and Carrie is a podcast about fringe science, the paranormal and spirituality. The hosts, Ross Blocher and Carrie Poppy, have investigated cults, pyramid schemes, and snake oils.
Carrie and Ross don’t just talk about these subjects, they go out and experience them. The show’s tagline is “when they make the claim, we show up so you don’t have to.”
The hosts are most famous for investigating the Church of Scientology. Although neither of them became high-ranking members of the infamous cult, they were able to provide information about the organization that often gets glossed over by more mainstream sources. They also shared information - and hilarious commentary - on the group’s founder, L. Ron Hubbard. This nine part series resulted in the pair being banned from the Church of Scientology.
What did they find that was so controversial? You’ll have to listen to find out.
If nine episodes sounds intimidating, the show has plenty of shorter investigations to listen to. Their single episode investigations are just as interesting and some even feature prominent figures as guests. If you’re a fan of the extremely popular podcasters Justin and Travis McElroy or actor John Hodgman, you’ll be delighted to hear that all three have been in various episodes of Oh No Ross and Carrie.
My personal favorite investigations include the Await the End Times series, where they encounter a group of Seventh Day Adventists masquerading as a different group to convert people to their church; the Synthetic Pheromone episode, where they test out the titular pheromones to see if they really work (the results will shock you); and, the series on the Conscious Life Expo, where they found many baffling, magic “cure all” products.
The primary focus of this show is informational, but it’s also highly entertaining. Ross and Carrie are able to make jokes about their subject without being disrespectful or degrading. They may criticize charlatans and poke fun at ridiculous claims, but they don’t make fun of the people who truly believe them. This is what I love most about Oh No Ross and Carrie.
They go into investigations with an open mind and they only ever condemn the subject if it’s harming someone. For example, in their Wim Hof Method investigation they were able to admit that some aspects of the method were true. They discussed scientific findings on the method and how some of the studies may have been biased. They only criticized Wim, the inventor, for indirectly telling people that his ice baths will cure cancer and for making other harmful claims.
If you enjoy humor, science, and learning about unconventional beliefs and theories then this is the podcast for you!
Review by Tiffany Harkleroad
Have you ever found some type of media that you just never ever tire of? A book you could re-read endlessly, a movie that virtually plays on a loop in your mind, a show that you watch no matter when it is on or what episode it is? For me, it is The Office; I will forever be a fan.
The Office was on television during a really formative time in my adult life, times when I also felt trapped in office jobs, times when I was seeking (and eventually finding) the Jim to my Pam. So it makes sense that this show really struck a chord with me.
I have watched the entire series of The Office numerous times, and each time, I find something new to love. Which is why it is no surprise that I have now found a podcast that not only supports my fixation on The Office, but also teaches me new facts about the series and the actors.
Office Ladies is not just a fan podcast, or your typical episode by episode recap. The Office Ladies podcast is actually hosted by two of the original cast members of The Office; Jenna Fisher (who played Pam) and Angela Kinsey (who played Angela).
Over the course of filming the show, Jenna and Angela became real-life best friends. They realized they missed working together, and working on The Office, so Office Ladies was born. We join Jenna and Angela as they rewatch the entire series, in broadcast order, and reflect on their experiences filming that episode.
One of the things I most appreciate about the podcast is how genuine the hosts are; it is clear that Jenna and Angela really care about each other, and have fond memories of their time on the show. The entire vibe of the show is lighthearted and earnest.
I also love that they both share trivia tidbits (Fast Facts according to Jenna) about the show in general and the episode being covered specifically. I have already learned so much behind-the-scenes information, within just a few episodes. I like that they have frequent guests on the show, in the form of other cast and crew members from The Office.
If you were a fan of The Office, I really encourage you to give this podcast a listen. It is just a feel good experience, and really, who could not use more good feels?
Pineapple Street Studios, Crooked Media & Spotify
Reviewed by Anita Bowser
I listened to Wind of Change on a lark. This podcast seemed like a light, whimsical romp through the familiar soundtrack of my youth, with a dash of silly conspiracy theory thrown in for laughs. What I got was a fascinating exploration of cold war propaganda and covert CIA cultural operations. It sounds a little dry, so let me explain.
In the early 1990s, as the Berlin Wall was coming down and the Soviet Union was on the brink of collapse, a power ballad – Wind of Change – was released by the English-speaking German band the Scorpions. The song, about hope and unity, was a huge hit, especially in Eastern Europe, and remains linked, for many, to the end of the Cold War.
Years later, author and New Yorker staff writer Patrick Radden Keefe heard a rumor that the song wasn’t written by Scorpions front man Klaus Meine at all. Some gray-haired spooks claim the iconic ballad was simply a CIA propaganda piece.
As with all conspiracy theories, this story starts out with some kernels of truth and a (sort of) plausible premise. The CIA did do some overt and covert manipulation of artists to use them as part of its anti-communism campaign, and the agency has a long history of shady psyops activities. Also, who better to take a message of western freedoms behind the iron curtain than a West German rock band with big smiles, flashy guitars and leather pants.
Though it was front loaded with fun stories of intrigue, spies and celebrities, my favorite parts of this podcast came toward the end in a series of poignant interviews that really brought home the gravity of the story. Manipulation, propaganda and deception, so long accepted by Russians as part of the KGB playbook, was all along used against them as tools of the West. Though many Russians hoped that, in time, their government would become more like ours – democratic, free and transparent – in the end, the reality was rather disappointing.
This podcast was informative, fun and thought-provoking. I recommend it to anyone interested in history, politics, propaganda, spies or rock & roll.