La Specola

Alec Glassford’s blog

Train Delay

A Caltrain hit a car last night. There were delays. I recorded 21 minutes of my train experience. This is unedited: it’s lazy audio. But maybe you’ll find it oddly soothing, as I do. Beware of the sudden train noises that come on loud and quick, though. (e.g. 3:25). Have a listen.

Heard anything good recently? (vol 1)

It’s been over a week since I last shared my recent listenings at Open Meeting, and in the compression and release of the quarter’s end I’ve heard lots of great things. Here’s a roundup of some brilliant podcast episodes I’ve listened to this week.

  • “Monday, March 20, 2017 (‘No Knock at the Door’)” (17 min) from The Daily

    If you know me, you’ve probably heard me rave about how shockingly, consistently solid The Daily is. (More on this in another blog post soon.) Even among its riches though, I was floored by Monday’s episode about “no-knock” search warrants, which packs a lot of information, emotion, and narrative into its tiny frame.

  • “Police Videos: Flagstaff” (40 min) from Embedded

    There’s a bit of a police theme here, which surprises me. I don’t think about the police or feel as strongly about them as much as I should, though the world and people in my life have helped me cultivate growing skepticism, wariness, and fear of them. Because I don’t feel drawn to this topic, I’m especially grateful to this set of excellent podcasts for drawing me in and helping me become more conscious of the terrible harm police inflict on lots of people, how things can and ought to change, and also the difficulties of the officer experience. And not with any sort of false balance, I don’t think—and I don’t mean to add any myself: these stories simply succeed at conveying complexity alongside brutality, because they are real.

    The second episode of Embedded’s miniseries about police shooting videos investigates how the the killing of one police officer has been seen by other cops, as well as by the friends and family of the killer. The gaze is persistent and long and uncomfortable, and the perspectives of all these people are given serious personhood.

  • “Shots Fired: Part 1” (57 min) from RadioLab

    Last (and maybe best) of the police stories. The breadth of this reporting is really spectacular and immersed me emotionally and thoughtfully into the story. The sound design does a lot for this story too. There’s one moment in particular when we meet Sandra Bland’s mother, then go to flashback, then go back to the scene and the tape is repeated—and it’s just so much. It’s so well crafted to compel my caring into this narrative.

  • “Podcast Extra: The Stuff of Fiction” (17 min) from The New Yorker Radio Hour

    Claudia Rankine, Salman Rushdie, and Tony Kushner talk with David Remnick about 2017 America and artists’ role in it. I feel like this is the type of thing that someone who hates “liberal élites” (as the New Yorker spelling goes) could listen to and leave with their preconceptions very much reinforced. Is this a problem? Not necessarily, but maybe it’s something worth thinking about. The conversation is absolutely brilliant though. So many insightful and gorgeous strings of thoughts and words here, especially from Rankine.

    There are a few videos of this event too.

  • “Richard Spencer’s cotton farms” (55 min) from Reveal

    Several separate segments here, all following up somewhat on previous work by Reveal, all great reporting. The investigation into white nationalist Richard Spencer’s funding is important and upsetting (as is the case with most things having to do with this terrifying, disturbing person), and Al Letson handles the conversation with him well. And the segment looking at misogyny in the Marines taught me a lot about a world I know little about. The turn toward questioning and discussing the background and views of the journalist, Thomas Brennan, who investigated the story, is interesting and works well.

  • “65: Tunnel Vision” (37 min) from Hidden Brain

    An exploration of how scarcity affects our behavior in many situations: poverty, loneliness, hunger, time-starvation. The social science here seems like it should would be obvious, but it feels fresh and fascinating and important here.

    (I keep going back to the idea of surprise or revelation. I didn’t realize I cared so much about this, but I suppose it’s a particularly key move in audio storytelling, more than in other forms, due to the linear flow of how we track through the narrative as listeners (and the lack of the, em, lateral distraction of visual image). Maybe this is obvious: suspense, and all that. Whatever.)

  • “The Man Who Invented Facebook Ad Tracking Is Not Sorry” (20 min) from Note to Self

    A conversation with a former Facebook employee who is quite a curious and complicated character. An interesting peek behind the bizarre curtain/into the powerful cult. Kudos to Manoush Zomorodi for pushing him on the racist ad targeting.