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Davis, California

Thursday, July 18, 2024

Writer’s pick: podcasts I’ve been listening to


Self-proclaimed podcast geek dorks out about crime, Supreme Court, Pepe the Frog

Podcasts are not a new concept by any means, but their rise to popularity has ushered in the emergence of high-quality and stellar programs. And I, a lover of various media, have quickly jumped on the bandwagon of podcast-listening; I have found an appreciation for the intimate connection between listener and host. It is uncommon to hear a person’s tone of voice firsthand — a hint of their excitement or confusion — when covering a subject. The best podcast hosts today capitalize on the connection they make with their viewers, find new angles in everyday topics and mundane ideas and present them in a relatable and humble way.

It’s a little ironic, then, that I’m conveying my sentiments about the masterful connection with the audience via print. Maybe there’s another podcast in the making; I’ll put a pin in that idea for now. For the meantime, here are the podcasts I’ve been listening to.


  1. “More Perfect” from WNYC

A spin-off of the popular podcast “Radiolab,” “More Perfect” analyzes the Supreme Court: hot topics, specific cases and the complicated authority of the nine justices. With a debut episode about the death penalty, it’s clear from the get-go that the show doesn’t hold back.

I remember listening to that episode while I was on an airplane coming back to Davis during winter break, and how uncomfortable I felt hearing multiple interviews about the best way to kill a prisoner. While morbid, deciding how to to kill someone emerged as a controversial topic. Ultimately, the show discussed the ironic nature of a firing squad: is the death penalty any less humane than the actions of a firing squad?

The ability to discuss controversial topics — to examine them in a different scope — is what makes this podcast important. With the current political climate, this podcast sheds light on the omnipotent entity that is the Supreme Court.


  1. “Criminal” — hosted by Phoebe Judge

I was an avid fan of “Serial” season one when the wildly popular podcast aired in 2014. The opening song is still one of my favorite scores, and I stand by my claim that it is some of the best investigative journalism I have witnessed in awhile. But “Serial” is outdated and has not produced new episodes since 2015. Nonetheless, it sparked my interest in true crime podcasts.

“Criminal” is now a favorite alongside “Serial” because it shares the same mastery of investigation, as well as a creativeness of topics. It doesn’t only share information about specific crimes, but also concepts about crime. The last episode I listened to was about the process of faking your own death. Another was about a family of coroners which, as you can imagine, has quite interesting dinner table conversations. This podcast acknowledges the bizarre nature of crime with a rational perspective, but also in a haunting way that draws in listeners.


1.“Reply All” — hosted by PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman

I’ll start with this: the three-episode story “On the Inside” was beyond incredible. I don’t even want to discuss the plot — I want you to experience the totality of it by yourself — but the last fifteen minutes have stayed with me since I heard it last summer. “Reply All” masters the dynamic I mentioned previously: finding interesting concepts and creating an intimacy between the viewer, story and hosts.

Vogt and Goldman, specifically, are able to execute this connection well. There is a dorky relatability that coexists with their eloquence and their ability to ask thoughtful questions. On the surface this show is about technology; as a cognitive science major, I find that interesting in itself. What I didn’t expect was the show’s unforeseen turns. Yes, the show can be random, and I will disclose that one episode was about the popular meme Pepe the Frog. However, the hosts always seem to turn the conversation around to something bigger. It starts with an idea about technology, something random and strange that happened, and then the story turns human.

A prime example is the episode “Quit Already!” which started with the idea of “that guy on Facebook” who annoyingly involves him or herself in political debates. The same episode quickly turned into the story of a women who got the corrupt Vice President of Honduras to step down, while discussing what it means to be patriotic to one’s country.

Whether discussing grotesque meme frogs or political revolutions, “Reply All” is utter genius. It’s not just about technology; it serves the greater scope of our daily lives on a silver platter — the humanistic side of technology and its integral part in our contemporary culture.
Written By: Caroline Rutten — arts@theaggie.org


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