Podcasts for Fall

Citations Needed

Citations Needed is the perfect podcast for anxious Americans who feel worn down by the permanent political shit show – those who see the daily news headlines pop up on their phones and silently mouth expletives.

I should preface by saying that this podcast will not alleviate your concerns about, well, anything that’s going on. It will however, make you feel like a more savvy participant in the program of American nationhood.

The show is a weekly analysis on current trends in news media and politics that holds mainstream news outlets accountable by exposing how they frame and narrate the issues. Unlike the polished, metered style of podcasts produced by large media outlets, i.e. NPR, The New York Times, BBC, Vox etc. that have become staples for many listeners, (which I do listen to and enjoy on occasion) Citations Needed is a straightforward discussion without any of the trendy packaging and affected wokeness.

The show is hosted Nima Shirazi and Adam Johnson and together they confront loaded topics with casual crosstalk that is equal parts penetrating and unpretentious. Each show the hosts invite one or two guests, typically journalists, analysts, historians or activists- those working on the on the forefront and also the fringe- to discuss, in their words, “power, PR, and the history of bullshit”.

You can find citations needed on itunes or at citationsneeded.libsyn.com.

Food 4 Thot

Every episode of Food 4 Thot opens with Tommy Pico, an indigenous queer poet who was one of the recipients of last year’s Whiting Award, uproariously cackling into the microphone before he launches into an original one-liner.

“Food 4 Thot” he howls, “where every day is cheat day”, “Food 4 Thot…A Platter Smattering of Edible Nut-butters”, “you know you want to come butter our muffins”, “masturbate don’t equivocate” !

The other THOT’s (for the uninitiated, THOT is slang for ‘that hoe over there’) are already giggling and a little tipsy on rose. For me it feels like walking into a friend’s apartment and finding an already in-progress hang where you know and love everybody on the couch. Food 4 Thot is the sex-positive, queer, multi-racial podcast you did not even know you needed. There’s nothing quite like it out there and it warms my heart to imagine baby-gays outside of our country’s large metropolises having the opportunity to discover these highly-literate divas. For many of the next generation of queers it will be a game-changer. It’s the type of creative work that instantly makes the listener feel as if they are in on the joke.

Rounding out the panel is Fran Tirado, former editor at the sadly defunct Hello Mr., Joe Osmudsen, a Scientist and professor at NYU who also has an ever growing body of creative work, and Dennis Noris III, a writer and educator who’s received numerous literary fellowships. Their banter is raunchy, but also loving. The discussion can veer from Beyoncé to kinky sex stories to third wave feminism to literature in the blink of an eye. As a group they seem to genuinely admire each other, but aren’t above campy self-effacement. I recommend it constantly to both queer and straight friends because these are the voices I wish I heard more of in our mainstream discourse.

New episodes are out this month starting with their discussion of divas. In true Food 4 Thot fashion they both gab about which divas they admired growing up and dissect the meaning of “diva” itself while also critiquing a culture that has long used the word to dismiss powerful and creative women. Pour a glass of rose and join the boys!

You can find Food 4 Thot on itunes or at food4thotpodcast.com.

Serial, Season 3

When Serial first came out my boyfriend and I would race to our phones every Thursday morning to be the first to hear the new episode. Everybody I knew was rabidly listening to Serial and spending many a night going down Reddit black holes, reading various fan theories. Season two was quieter, but still an altogether well-reported story. Season three is something else entirely.

Sarah Koenig is easily the best long form radio story-teller working today. Her ability to weave disparate elements into an intricate, tightly paced plot is unparalleled (in my opinion she has even surpassed her colleagues at This American Life). Season three is an in-depth look at the United States criminal justice system. Koenig and her co-host, Emmanual Dzotsi (a former This American Life fellow) spent countless hours recording inside Cleveland’s court house. They talk to defendants, judges, lawyers, and family members in an attempt to illustrate how the criminal justice system “functions” on a day to day basis. There are moments that are truly difficult to listen to, such as victims of police brutality speaking in great detail about their assaults or one judge in particular who insists on making outrageously racist comments about the people who come before his bench.

These moments are the meat of the serial sandwich, but I think it is really the moments where Koenig becomes introspective that make it so listenable. In one of my favorite moments she takes the listener inside of an awkward elevator ride where a young black woman is listening to loud hip-hop on a portable speaker. When the white riders begin to turn to look at each other Koenig tries to diffuse what she sees as the tension by making an awkward comment and centering any looks on herself. It is these astute observations about how she operates as a watcher that compel me. She is not part of the story, but she is in fact there, deeply invested in the people she is interviewing, and getting to see the gears of her story-telling grinding give me the same pleasure as reading a particularly artistic flourish in a beautifully written fiction piece. I’ll listen to Sarah Koening for as long as she’s producing and so should you.