Podcast Madness: East & Midwest, Round 4

Recap: 40 podcasts, single-elimination brackets — 1 winner will emerge!

If you’re confused, read the first post here, then come back for the results.

We’re down to 8 podcasts, everyone! I can’t believe it! Read on to see which of the elite eight will advance to the final four….

East: Crimetown vs. Criminal

This is becoming difficult, because all these podcasts are strong contenders. In episode 3 of Crimetown, Vincent “Buddy” Cianci goes from being a prosecutor to running for mayor of Providence, RI. He runs on a promise to clean up the town. Unfortunately, to get votes, he engages in some shady behavior and promises jobs to some men who help collect votes for him.

It’s fascinating to see how his good intentions came up against the real problem of getting elected, and he gave into some small corruption for a larger “good” cause. The ends might not quite justify the means….

In Criminal episode 68, “All the Time in the World,” Phoebe (the host) visits a “body farm,” where human bodies are put out in nature so researchers can observe their decomposition.

This was so interesting! It’s a little gross to hear about, but I’m sure it’s quite helpful to law enforcement when they’re trying to figure out how long someone’s been dead, and maybe establish a cause of death (or what’s just natural decomposition).

This episode doesn’t get too graphic, but they do talk about dead bodies and the stages of decomposition, (also, I’m sorry I’ve used the word decomposition so much in this blog post) so you’ve been warned.

Winner: Crimetown. I have to know what happens next.

Midwest: More Perfect vs. Stuff You Missed in History Class

This episode of More Perfect, with the catchy title Kittens kick the giggly blue robot all summer, was about how the Supreme Court started out with very little power, relatively speaking, but the appointment of John Marshall (apparently a nemesis of Thomas Jeferson) changed all that. Marshall found a way to make the court much more powerful — making Federal rulings hold more weight than State rulings. This seems pretty obvious now, but back then, it was almost revolutionary (yes, that was on purpose).

While this podcast has been great, it had a short run and I’m almost at the end of the episodes.

In Stuff You Missed in History Class meanwhile, I listened to the hosts wax rhapsodic on the topic of cheese. The hosts took occasional detours to talk about how much they love cheese, and I really don’t blame them. Cheese is delicious.

They talked about what conditions would have to come together to make cheese, and I’m glad smart people figured out how to make that happen. Listening to the conditions that have to be right makes it sound near-miraculous that we have cheese today. Some would say cheese is miraculous, and I wouldn’t argue with that.

Winner: Stuff You Missed in History Class

Next time: West and South face off with some very different podcast genres.

Photo from Unsplash.com

Podcast Madness: South, Round 3

Recap: 40 podcasts, single-elimination brackets — 1 winner will emerge!

If you’re confused, read the first post here, then come back for the results.

South, Game 1: What Should I Read Next? vs. the West Wing Weekly

In What Should I Read Next? I listened to episode 80: Books that make you want to skip dinner, work, and life. Host Anne and guest Cori talked about a charming library near the ocean, and of course, favorite books! They discussed how hard it can be sometimes to explain to someone else why you love (or hate) a book, exactly.

I think my taste is much more in line with this guest than the previous one I listened to, and I appreciated hearing some titles by authors of color to expand my reading horizons.

The episode next up for The West Wing Weekly was season 3, episode 8, the Women of Qumar. This was a heavier episode: prostitution, trafficking, and an episode that in general one of the hosts was a bit critical of.

But Allison Janney finally made an appearance — hooray! C.J. Cregg might be my favorite character on the show, so it was great to hear from the woman who brought her to life on screen. I love this podcast, but since I already listened to it before this challenge, I’m going to have to move on to something else, plus, I want more book recommendations….

Winner: What Should I Read Next?

South, Game 2: The Bright Sessions vs. Random Trek

In The Bright Sessions episode 3, the continuing logs of Dr. Bright, Chloe, a girl who can read minds — or maybe read subconscious thoughts/ feelings comes for a session.

This episode was interesting, as the unflappable Dr. Bright becomes flustered by this girl, the daughter of the first “atypical” the doctor worked with…what does this mean? What is the doctor hiding??

I listened to episode 148 of Random Trek, discussing Critical Care (Star Trek: Voyager, S7 ep. 5). Hey it’s Jason Snell (of the Incomparable podcast fame)! Scott and Jason discuss this episode of Voyager that focuses on the Doctor. Apparently, seeing as it’s a season 7 episode, neither of them had seen it before, which was interesting. They were heartened to hear it focused on the Doctor, as those episodes tend to be strong.

They talked about how the content is even more interesting in today’s political climate with healthcare in and out of the spotlight, and how Trek at its best brings up big questions like: how do we handle ourselves and prioritize (or de-prioritize) people when there are limited resources?

Winner: So close, but I’m giving it to The Bright Sessions

Podcast Madness: West, Round 3

Recap: 40 podcasts, single-elimination brackets — 1 winner will emerge!

If you’re confused, read the first post here, then come back for the results.

West, Game 1: The Road Back to You vs. Sawbones

First up this time, The Road Back to You, episode 3: Interview with Nadia Bolz-Weber (an 8 on the enneagram). This was an interesting interview with a Colorado pastor on how her strengths and weaknesses work with her vocation. It’s interesting to hear about personality typing in this way that explores deep-seated fears and weaknesses as identifiers.

Thankfully, they discussed strengths as well as weaknesses, but it’s such an interesting approach. I’m not 100% sure what my enneagram type is, and while I find this podcast interesting, it’s a little frustrating to listen to the interviews while trying to simultaneously figure out what my type is. I’d probably enjoy learning about the other types more if I had that question settled. I suspect I may be a 5, but more research is needed.

Next up, Sawbones. I listened to the episode on Fluoride. The topic reminded me of a Parks and Recreation episode in season six:

Ok, now back to the podcast. This was a live episode, which is always interesting. Sydnee and Justin talk about how dentists figured out that fluoride is good for teeth, and how water is a great delivery system. Apparently too much flouride causes teeth to turn brown?! Gross, but interesting.

Their podcast style remains informative and entertaining, and I just now made the connection that Justin McElroy is related to the other podcasting McElroy brothers (of My Brother, My Brother and Me and other podcasts). Yes, it really took me that long. I enjoy this podcast though.

Winner: Sawbones

West, Game 2: The History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps vs. Truth’s Table

In the History of Philosophy our host finally got to the famous Ockham’s metaphorical razor! I learned about Ockham’s simplification of entities and I appreciated that he wanted to boil things down from a complicated system to a smaller, more manageable system.

Honestly, it’s been a while since I’ve done heavy philosophical thinking/ lifting, so this podcast requires more attention and focus. I think it would be good to have more challenging educational materials in my roster, but I’ve still got a ways to go in this bracket challenge, so I’m simplifying (sorry, Nathanael). Ockham might approve of simplifying? Ok, this is nothing like what he was doing. He probably would frown on intellectual laziness.

The ladies of Truth’s Table talked about Malcolm X in the episode I listened to, and how his legacy impacted them personally. They also talked about how good he was at diagnosing cultural problems in America, and his towering position in black American culture.

As a white American, I don’t have the same kind of connection or knowledge about Malcolm X, but I like hearing this perspective and learn more about places I know little about.

Winner: Truth’s Table

Podcast Madness: Midwest, Round 3

Recap: 40 podcasts, single-elimination brackets — 1 winner will emerge!

For the thesis, read the first post here, then come back for the results.

Midwest, Game 1: More Perfect v. Top 4


First is the Radiolab spinoff, More Perfect. I listened to the episode “The Political Thicket,” covering how much power the court should have, basically. At least, how much political power the Supreme Court ought to have.

It’s about a case that broke two justices because it brought the conflict between liberal and conservative justices to a head. The case in question, Baker v. Carr, a 1962 case was about voting districts, which seems fairly innocuous, right? Well, any case that goes all the way to the Supreme Court isn’t innocuous, and I appreciate about the podcast that they laid out the case from both angles and really brought it to life.

Next we have Top 4, this time, ranking holidays. This was an interesting episode, because it reminded me that if you aren’t a religious person, a religious holiday probably isn’t going to mean a lot to you. I mean, this should be obvious, and of course, everyone is different, so a holiday can still be a special time to people, but it was a reminder that the things I love about my favorite holidays aren’t shared by everyone. Unless you bring some meaning or have something behind a holiday, it can be a hollow day instead. Or it can be a downright anxiety-producing nuisance, bringing family arguments and insecurities to the fore.

The episode made me a little sad for the hosts, because I feel like I have so much to celebrate compared with their characterization of major holidays. I am very thankful to have a faith that includes deep celebration, and a wonderful family who enjoys each other. This is rare, I know, and this episode made me appreciate that and long to extend that to others as well.

Winner: More Perfect

Midwest, Game 2: History Chicks v. Stuff You Missed in History Class

The History Chicks tackled the life of Agrippina the Younger (daughter of Agrippina, which reminds me that I dislike people giving their children the same name — the paperwork is a nightmare, you guys! It’s so hard to keep everyone straight!). Politics in Ancient Rome were not for the faint of heart, or the squeamish. Or those without access to poison. Agrippina didn’t hesitate when it came to ambition for power.

She married several times (the last time to her uncle…who was the emperor at the time), she was the mother of another emperor you may have heard of (Nero), and her life ended in a Greek-tragedy-approved manner.

The hosts were fairly matter-of-fact about all the drama, but yes, Agrippina had a complicated life!

After this, I listened to the Stuff You Missed in History Class podcast on Copernicus. I knew that Copernicus was an astronomer, but I didn’t know he also studied (and practiced) medicine! Like many who go against popular theories of their day, Copernicus had his work devalued and somewhat ignored during his lifetime, and the church was against his theory that the earth is not the center of the solar system with the sun revolving around us.

So interesting, and science and religion have a complicated history, which is really a shame, as science can help illuminate the amazing universe we live in.

These two podcasts were very close — it was hard to choose between them, but I think Stuff You Missed just edged out the History Chicks, Agrippina’s fascinating life notwithstanding.

Winner: Stuff You Missed in History Class

Next time, West, Round 3!

Podcast Madness: East, Round 3

Recap: 40 podcasts, single-elimination brackets — 1 winner will emerge!

For the thesis, read the first post here, then come back for the results.

East, Game 1: The Tim Ferriss Show v. Crimetown

Thanks for hanging with me thus far, everyone!

In this round, we have first the Tim Ferriss Show. This is an interview show where Tim asks questions of people who are experts in their field or who have accomplished something that interests him.

This podcast (episode 230) was an interview with Debbie Millman. Apparently this was the second interview, and the format was a little different — Tim gave an intro and then she recorded answers to listener questions (and a few Tim Ferriss questions), so it was mostly just her talking. She’s an artist, designer, and teacher, and had interesting things to say about coming “late” to her career path. I enjoyed listening to her talk about that a bit, and especially enjoyed her answer to Tim’s question about what she does immediately after waking up.

Next up, Crimetown. Episode 2 continues to dig into the life of the former mayor of Providence, RI, this time examining the context into which he started his political career. The episode focused on the recruitment (in a maximum security prison) of two of the crime family’s enforcers. The whole thing seems like a movie — the head of the crime family, Raymond Patriarca, basically had a nice apartment in prison with his own tv, telephone, glass glasses and fine scotch…. Apparently the prison was a great recruitment center, and when your reach is long enough, the prison guards let you do what you want.

While both the Tim Ferriss interview and the Crimetown story were interesting, I think I’m more drawn in by the Crimetown story. Sorry, Tim, you had a good run.

Winner: Crimetown

East, Game 2: Criminal v. the TED Radio Hour

In Criminal this week, another story that shows fact is stranger than fiction. This story (episode 66: Bully) is about a man who single-handedly bullied an entire small town into letting him do what he wanted and avoid consequences for about 20 years.

The story shows how isolating fear can be, and how it can break down the justice system if someone is able to intimidate everyone into submission. It’s hard to believe something like that could go on for so long — police, judges, and juries lived in fear of retribution , and it took a long time for anyone to do anything about the town menace.

Next, I listened to the TED Radio Hour episode on the 7 Deadly Sins. Right off the bat, the first presenter says lust isn’t a sin and can be good. Maybe he’s unfamiliar with how much trouble lust has caused throughout history? He claims our ancestors were probably polygamous, and they were more ok with open relationships, but I think there’s a reason lust is on the list of deadly sins.

I agree with the presenter that equating sex with a deadly sin is a problem, but lust unchecked can pull relationships and families apart.

The other 6 talks were ok — just very short treatments on each topic and how they can be destructive, or else interesting stories of people trying to overcome various of the sins.

I thought this was a little meh for a TED talk. I think tackling 7 sins was a little much for one 52-minute episode.

Winner: Criminal

In case you’re interested, here’s a look at the standings:

Next time, the Midwest, Round 3!