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What Podcasts are You Listening to?


I think we might need a post that isn’t about how the whole world is going to hell – or even about how we should be encouraged by the breadth and depth of this week’s social mobilization for racial justice and police reform.

Until relatively recent – when the weather got hotter and more humid and I got buried in work work* – I was walking a few miles a day. I find exercise pretty boring, and it didn’t take long for me to get really familiar with the streets of my greater neighborhood. So I started listening to more podcasts.

In this post, I’m going to recommend some of these in the hope that you all will recommend some more. Apologies as I’m sure I’ve mentioned some of these before.

Game Studies Study Buddies. Two erudite scholars discuss new and classic works in game studies, as well as articles and books they think are relevant to game studies.

What makes the whole thing work, besides the quality of the conversation, is that it presents a lot of ‘high theory’ in the context of video games. So if you’re not into social theory but play video games, you’ll be better positioned to follow the discussion. And if you don’t know much about games, but are familiar with contemporary and classical social theory, you learn something about video games.

My favorite episodes so far: Episode 2 (on Chess’s Ready Player Two, which is about gender and video games), Episode 6 (on Gaunt’s The Games Black Girls Play), and Episode 8 (on Bloom’s Gaming the Stage).

The episodes tend to run long but are pretty easy to listen to in installments. And yes, I ripped off the idea modeled Whiskey and International Relations Theory on this podcast.

New Deal Stories. This one is new, and there’s only one episode posted – on the Bonus Army – but it’s written, produced, and narrated by Eric Rauchway. So far it lives up to expectations.

In Our Time. The podcast version of a venerable BBC series in which Melvyn Bragg hosts a panel of academics on a topic of their specialty. The show is incredibly wide in its range. One episode might be about the Iliad, the next about the science of glass, and the next about the Thirty Years’ War. Quality varies from good to excellent.

The show suffers from two drawbacks. The first is that the episodes usually feel incomplete, as there’s so much more to discuss. The second is that Bragg often sounds like he’s auditioning for lead singer in a mumblecore band, while the guests are all over the place in terms of how loud they speak – or maybe how much they lean into the mic.

Bombshell. One of the highest quality “nat sec” podcasts around is also an all-female endeavor, featuring Radha Iyengar Plumb, Loren DeJonge Schulman, and Erin Simpson. Breezy, entertaining, and informative [updated: hat tip to “Tiger Champ Sport Kid“]

The Un-Diplomatic Podcast with Van Jackson. I’ve mentioned this before, as Van had me on to discuss progressive foreign policy and Exit from Hegemony. It’s a breezy (notice a theme?) discussion of foreign affairs oriented toward non-experts and younger – that is, not middle aged – listeners. I’ve come to really enjoy it.

Power Problems. A Cato joint featuring Trevor Thrall and Emma Ashford. I didn’t even realize that it existed before they had me on, but I’ve listened to enough episodes now to say that it’s very good. They generally bring on experts to discuss a specific issue in international affairs. The episode on the security dimensions of COVID-19, which features Gregory Koblentz, is particularly good.

Tides of History. I’ve listened to clusters of episodes, but in my defense there are a lot of them. This is Patrick Wyman’s follow up to The Fall of Rome. He’s a very talented storyteller who also sometimes brings on academics to discuss their books.

I also cycled through a lot of the “true crime” podcasts, largely because I wanted to listen to the series on the murder of Dan Markel, whom I knew slightly from college. Which means that, yeah, I listened to the podcast version of the Joe Exotic cl**t*r***k. The better ones are obviously quite good – I’ve enjoyed some seasons of Uncover, for example – but I find the whole genre a bit too exploitative to listen to consistently.

Obviously, there’s also the Lawyers, Guns and Money podcast. I know we’re still trying to get it on a regular schedule.

So what have you listened to that you’ve liked – or disliked – enough to mention. Are you one of those people who upped their podcast consumption during the pandemic, or who listens less than now than you did before?

Also, if you have constructive thoughts about the LGM podcast, please share them.

*Not a typo, and potentially a marker for a self-indulgent post about entering treatment for pretty severe, and formerly undiagnosed, ADHD.

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